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making sense of islam with tarek Elgawhary

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7 April 2021

Islamology and the Making of Fake Islam, Part 4: The Political Activist

A citizen of a Western republic or commonwealth nation is familiar with the concept of having their voice count. From a young age it is ingrained into us that without having our voices heard, our rights will be trampled upon and that we have a civic obligation to vote and actively participate in the political process. This type of rhetoric might be even more common if, like me, you are part of a minority community. However, this concept is not 100% accurate. In fact, it’s a common misconception that Westerners, both minorities and majorities alike, have regarding their government. Our individual voices really don’t count for much because there are existing political superstructures that control the political process. Maybe our voices can count within these superstructures if they are numerous enough. However, to get to that point you have to compromise so much that by the time you have a critical mass of voices within an existing superstructure, your individual opinion is lost in the new majority. If you don’t believe me, read this Princeton study that demonstrates that the Unites States is no longer, by definition, a democracy.

3 April 2021

Advice for all Seasons by Sayyid Muhammad Siddiq al-Ghumari (d. 1354/1936)

Of all the types of Islamologists that I will cover in this series, this type is perhaps the most numerous, making their damage the greatest and most threatening. The danger of the untrained person is not in the lack of training and study. In fact, many of them have undergone a degree of training. The danger, rather, is that their training is not complete and comprehensive. They know a little about a little, and since they were touched by the experience of learning, even if incomplete, they mistake this feeling with a notion that they can handle most aspects thrown their way. Specialists in the Islamic sciences are few, especially in the English-speaking world, and it is easy for these untrained Islamologists to parade themselves as the real Mckoy and be taken by the general population as experts (this is essentially a lengthy restating of the hadith quoted above).

23 March 2021

Islamology and the Making of Fake Islam, Part 3: The Untrained

Of all the types of Islamologists that I will cover in this series, this type is perhaps the most numerous, making their damage the greatest and most threatening. The danger of the untrained person is not in the lack of training and study. In fact, many of them have undergone a degree of training. The danger, rather, is that their training is not complete and comprehensive. They know a little about a little, and since they were touched by the experience of learning, even if incomplete, they mistake this feeling with a notion that they can handle most aspects thrown their way. Specialists in the Islamic sciences are few, especially in the English-speaking world, and it is easy for these untrained Islamologists to parade themselves as the real Mckoy and be taken by the general population as experts (this is essentially a lengthy restating of the hadith quoted above).

1 March 2021

Six Books that Introduce Islam

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I am asked a lot about what the best books are to read about Islam. To be honest, this question is a lot harder than it might seem to answer. People have different interests and what might be good for one, is not necessarily good for another. That being said, I do make an effort to make recommendations that I feel offer a fair 360-degree view of the tradition.

27 January 2021

40 Acts of Paradise

‘Abdallah Bin ‘Amr Bin ‘Āṣ said that he heard the Messenger of God (God bless him and give him peace) say, “There are forty acts, the best of which is giving food, if any are done seeking their reward and believing in their promise, God will grant them Paradise by this act.” (Bukhari). Shaykh ‘Abdullah Bin Siddīq al-Ghumārī (d. 1993) wrote a small book enumerating these forty acts and finding all the supporting hadith for them. I took the liberty of distilling this book in the following list, finding the appropriate modern English equivalent of the Prophetic expressions so as to make these acts easy to do and incorporate in our day-to-day life.

12 January 2021

Traveling to Japan

About two years ago, an opportunity to travel to Japan emerged from some of the consultancy work I do. Since my approach to preventing violence and extremism is unique and effective (I hope to share something about this soon), and since my background in comparative religions is well known amongst the people I work for and with, there was interest for me to travel and meet with Japanese religious leaders, especially Muslims, and share information and lessons learned. It was supposed to be a simple, straightforward trip, and from a business point of view it was. However, even though I travel frequently, at that point I had never been to Japan, and since this seemed like a onetime opportunity, I decided to make the most of it. What follows is how I took this simple opportunity and developed it into a long-term, fruitful relationship that will forever be a part of me.

7 December 2020

Hadith Reading List

For many people life is an endless quest for the elusive. We seek success, advancement, and wealth. We crave ultimate and unending happiness through the acquisition of material things. We desire the perfect companion, friend, and lover. The list goes on, and on. Without having a map, however, and without having rules and principles to guide you along the way, this can oftentimes lead to the opposite desired effect: frustration and grief. You never seem to actually get what you want, so you give up believing that the quest is impossible, and the dream is unachievable. However, if you understand that the quest itself is the reward, you can shift your paradigm and dramatically alter your relationship with the things you want. The key is in understanding how to be mindful of the process instead of the goal

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