Op Ed: A Community is Judged by It’s Conduct says al-Kasani

Please read my op-ed in today’s Orlando Sentinel. Comments on my WordPress page are welcome.

ʿAlā al-Dīn Abū Bakr al-Kāsānī (d. 1189) in what might be a throw away line in his Badāʾiʿ al-Ṣanāʾiʿ fī Tartīb al-Sharaʾiʿ, The Immaculate Calling in Ordering Normative Traditions really startled me. He wrote: المذاهب تمتحن بعبادها/ al-madhāhib tumtaḥanu bi ʿibādihā vol 3:466, Kitāb al-Nikāḥ. I translate this as: schools of thought or moral orders are tested by the their followers. Kāsānī’s editor writes, bi fasād ʿibādihā, by the corruption of its followers. I thought this man’s insights required commentary and he shares a common sense sensibility over time. So I started my op ed by channeling the insight of Kāsānī.

Posted in Ethics, Islam in America, Islamic Law/Ethics, Islamic studies scholarship, sacrilege, scholars, scholarship | 1 Comment

Tribute to Professor Shahab Ahmed (1966-2015)

s200_shahab.ahmedEver since I heard of Shahab Ahmed’s illness, a few weeks ago, to say I was terribly unsettled, would not be an exaggeration. A particular malignant form of leukemia overwhelmed his body. I was praying for a miracle, but the hour finally came.
وَلَنْ يُؤَخِّرَ اللَّهُ نَفْسًا إِذَا جَاءَ أَجَلُهَا ۚ

His passing is surreal and still painful to comprehend, but then some things are beyond our control. And with pious resignation, we say innaa lillaahi….

I did not know Shahab as well as many other people knew him. Many others knew him better. I met him through a friend, Shamil Jeppie who studied with him at Princeton. But we bumped into each other occasionally. I can recall clearly now, we once met briefly at a Middle East Studies Association meeting in San Francisco in the late 1990’s, then in Marrakesh somewhere around 2006, thanks to an invitation from Kambiz GhaneaBassiri of Reed College, where Shahab and I walked endlessly in the old city, talking about ideas and he shared with me the larger project of his Satanic Verses book. If, I recall correctly, he had something to say about how the hadithi-fiqhi movement did the work of consensus building and in defining what Islam is, just as the various early councils decided the nature and meaning of Christianity. Again, when he visited the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle area, when I was still teaching at Duke, we spent some time talking about scholarship. I encouraged him to get his book published, since from what he told me, he had more than enough material for several books. But Shahab, by the look on his face, that pensive smile mixed with irony, let me know by way of his body language that he was not ready to let his work go yet.

He sent me a kind email last year, February 1, 2014 after I posted something on the Islam list of the American Academy of Religion: “Dear Ebrahim,I hope this finds you well. Long time no see! I am very glad that this thread has provided you with a reason to post these articles of yours, in which I am much interested, and of which I was not aware. With all good wishes,

Now there is silence, but his words will resonate, as will his brilliant thoughts, in the forthcoming work, What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015, and we also expect another book of his to be published, Before Islamic Orthodoxy: The Satanic Verses in the Thought of the Earliest Muslim Community (ca. 632-800), Cambridge: Harvard University Press (forthcoming, 2016). At the end of the day, Shahab did it his way. And, in hindsight, he did indeed have the last word.

In her message announcing his death, his wife Nora Lessersohn, wrote that “Shahab always loved this quote, which he has put at the start of the Conclusion of his forthcoming book.”

“What account of my deeds, to anyone, could I give?

All the questions were wrong; what answers could I give?”

—Munīr Niyāzī (1928–2006)

Imprinted in my mind is his animated telling and enthusiasm during our walk in Marrakesh: “Ebrahim, I want to get back to literature. There is a lot there.”

So I mourn him with a selection of literature.

From al-Mutanabbi:

إذا رَأيْتَ نُيُوبَ اللّيْثِ بارِزَةً فَلا تَظُنّنّ أنّ اللّيْثَ يَبْتَسِمُ

وَمُهْجَةٍ مُهْجَتي من هَمّ صَاحِبها أدرَكْتُهَا بجَوَادٍ ظَهْرُه حَرَمُ

رِجلاهُ في الرّكضِ رِجلٌ وَاليدانِ يَدٌ وَفِعْلُهُ مَا تُريدُ الكَفُّ وَالقَدَمُ

وَمُرْهَفٍ سرْتُ بينَ الجَحْفَلَينِ بهِ حتى ضرَبْتُ وَمَوْجُ المَوْتِ يَلْتَطِمُ

الخَيْلُ وَاللّيْلُ وَالبَيْداءُ تَعرِفُني وَالسّيفُ وَالرّمحُ والقرْطاسُ وَالقَلَمُ

“When the lion bares his teeth, do not / fancy that the lion shows to you a smile.
I have slain the man that sought my heart’s blood many a time. / Riding a noble mare whose back none else may climb,
Whose hind and fore-legs seem in galloping as one / Nor hand nor foot requireth she to urge her on.
And oh the days when I have swung my fine-edged glaive / Amidst a sea of death where wave was dashed on wave!
The desert knows me well, the night, the mounted men, / The battle and the sword, the paper and the pen”
(A YouTube rendition of this poem might appeal to some:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1C68vc8plVI )

And from Rainer Maria Rilke, The Sonnets to Orpheus: First Series

“Is he one of us? No,
his wide nature grew out of both realms.
Whoever’s known the roots of the willow
is better trained to bend to the willow’s limbs…..

…But under the mildness of the eyelid
let him, the magician, let him mingle

their look with all that can be seen;
and let the spell of earthsmoke and of rue
be as true to him as the clearest chord.

Nothing can ruin the genuine sign
for him; whether from graves or rooms,
let him praise the clasp, the ring, the gourd.”

Farewell, Shahab, farewell friend…

From your long-distance friend,

Obituaries to Shahab Ahmed can be found here:



Posted in Islam in America, Islamic Law/Ethics, Islamic studies scholarship, Middle East, scholars, scholarship, South Asia, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

My Op Ed Piece in the Washington Post: My madrassa classmate hated politics. Then joined the Islamic State.

My madrassa classmate hated politics. Then joined the Islamic State.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My interview with Diffused Congruence: The American Muslim Experience

Diffused Congruence: The American Muslim Experience.

Posted in Ethics, Islam & Democracy, Islam in America, Islamic Law/Ethics, Madrasas, middle east, Muslim Ethics, Pakistan, US Politics | Leave a comment

Review of What is a Madrasa? by Prof Aslam Fataar Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition), 24 May 2015.

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition)
24 May 2015

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition), 23 May 2015. Page17

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)
23 May 2015

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition), 23 May 2015. Page17

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition)
23 May 2015

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is a Madrasa? is published…invitation to read and offer comments here…

My new book What is a Madrasa? is published.  I invite everyone to read it and I will be happy to pursue a conversation about my book with you on this blog space. Please feel free to comment. Books can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble stores.

What Is a Madrasa Cover Image

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

New book: The African Renaissance and the Afro-Arab Spring A Season of Rebirth?

Just published, my new co-edited volume titled The African Renaissance and the Afro-Arab Spring A Season of Rebirth? Charles Villa-Vicencio, Erik Doxtader, and Ebrahim Moosa, Eds Foreword by former South African president Thabo Mbeki

– See more at:http://press.georgetown.edu/book/georgetown/african-renaissance-and-afro-arab-spring#sthash.Sd9ozu0g.dpuf

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

My Madrasa Book is published

Prof Mattson is not only a great scholar but an extraordinary human being. Her enthusiasm and care rejuvenates the author!!

Posted in Islamic Law/Ethics, Madrasas, Media, Pakistan, Personal, South Asia, Uncategorized, US Politics | 2 Comments