O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware. (Holy Qur’an 49:13)
If anyone has had the chance to read ‘The Broken Chain Upon the Neglect of a Tradition‘ -by Aftab Malik you will see a very brazen and brash promotion of the concept of racial hierarchy in Islam.
Our brother Aftab Malik berated reformist movements that seek to bring Muslims closer to Western thinking in his book “The Broken Chain Upon the Neglect of a Tradition” looking rather dapper in western attire above.
Allah-willing I will be doing a book review concerning it, soon.
I will be doing a series Allah-willing exposing some very insidious undercurrents that are being promoted in the guise if learning ‘traditional Islam’.
These things need to be brought into focus especially in light of what Shaykh Hamza Yusuf stated at the recent RIS 2016 conference in Canada.
Latinos, African Americans, Euro-Americans and indeed anyone who is seriously considering Islam as a religion, way of life, spiritual path need to be very cautious when considering which particular interpretations and understanding of Islam that they end up throwing their weight behind.
I will submit that people like Aftab Malik and his cadre are as a matter of fact asking Muslims to reject one form of domination (Western,European , Caucasian) only to replace it with another, (Arab supremacy).
In return people like Aftab Malik and those who promote this view will be giving a ‘pet like‘ status among wealthy Arab donors, among others who have overlapping geopolitical interest in the promotion of this view.
In a recent entry I made a brief mention about the word ‘adaab‘ -the word is often used to explain etiquette, and protocol and proper behavior in certain situations.
Etiquette and protocol is something that all cultures and all people’s have. What may or may not be appropriate can depend on situation, and culture.
However; humanity as a whole has recognized the dangers of promoting any type of racial hierarchy and racial superiority.
If we do not as Muslims stand firm against the promotion of racial hierarchy by so called “traditional Islam” than what moral high ground do we have against any in the Alt-Right movement who promote white racial hierarchy? What moral high ground do we have against those who promoted (and still promote) eugenics?
It is very important that Muslims look into this and take this matter seriously . After all part of ‘Adaab’ according to Aftab Malik, Naquib bin Ali Al Attas and others is knowing your place.
Or to speak in a language that many young Muslims today may understand to quote WWF personality ‘The Rock’ we should all just “know our role and shut our mouths.”
So if you as a Black man, African American, Hispanic, Caucasian, Indian, Somali etc want to know your place in the ‘greater scheme of things‘ than Aftab Malik and co. sure have a surprise in store for you!
So let Aftab Malik make it very clear to you what he understands by his teachers concerning ‘Adab’.
“I am referring to the loss of adab. Adab does not simply imply ‘manners’ but more so to discipline-the discipline of body, mind and the soul. Adab in the true sense of the word includes the discipline that assures the recognition and acknowledgement of one’s proper place in relation to ones self, society and community; the recognition and acknowledge of one’s proper place in relation to one’s physical, intellectual and spiritual capacities and potentials, the recognition and acknowledge of the fact that knowledge and beings are ordered in degrees, levels and ranks.”
“I am not trying to infer a hierarchy nor want to draw the parallels where oppression, exploitation and domination are legitimized, and certainly not in the English sense of the word. In stark contradistinction to this, I point to the ranks and degrees in the order of creation, the cosmic essence and the display of divine Wisdom.
Allah is The Just and He fashions and deploys all of His Creation in justice so that we might recognize and acknowledge His just order.” Source: (Page 16 The Broken Chain)
Yet low and behold Aftab says,
“It is all about hierarchy even among the disbelievers, some being closer to belief than others. Hierarchy In Islam is decreed by Allah Most High: When Allah loves someone, He decrees it to Jibril who then announces it to the angels who then announces it in the heavens and the earth, and that person becomes beloved , their prayers answers, as mentioned in the Hadith Qudsi:” (Page 17 The Broken Chain)
So Aftab says, “I am not trying to infer a hierarchy …certainly not in the English sense of the word.” Oh pray do tell in what sense of the word do you and your teachers envision for us all?
So Aftab tells us “I am not trying to infer a hierarchy” and than in the next paragraph says plainly: “Hierarchy in Islam is decreed by Allah Most High.”
“Abu Dawud and Al-Hakim reported as an authentic hadith that Maymun Ibn Abu Shabib recounted that a beggar stopped the Prophet’s wife, Ai’sha and she gave him a piece of dry bread. At another time, a properly dressed, well groomed man asked her for food, and she let him sit and offered him a meal. When asked about this, she replied that the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, had said: ‘Treat people according to their status”.
(Page 17 The Broken Chain)
Why do I get the feeling that Right-Wing U.S political commentator Rush Limbaugh would have this hadith on plaque right next to some quotes from Ayn Rand’s ‘fountainhead‘?
“When the Angels prostrated to Adam, upon whom be peace, were they worshiping him? Indeed, they were obeying Allah, and recognizing and acknowledging the superior knowledge bestowed upon him. It was Iblis who did not recognize nor acknowledge Adam’s superior nature.” (Page 17 The Broken Chain)
A very sinister if not useful interpretation that could be used to ill effect. To equate those who do not recognize the superiority of others as being equal to Iblis could be used to quite ill effect.
“Allah Himself mentions that He does not burden a soul more than it can bear which reveals that even souls themselves are not equal in their capacity.”
“Adab refers to the right and proper place of things-a loss of it would result in an inability to recognize and acknowledge that there are degrees and levels of righteousness and knowledge, which in itself would result in an improper self-appointed rank. In respect to the individual, the confusion that exist around adab and knowledge allows the society to breed an overwhelming sort of individualism; he thinks himself equal to others-when in fact they are superior to him. He thinks he knows, when in fact, he knows not his relation to others.” (Pg 18 The Broken Chain)
Aftab reveals to us that “not even the souls themselves are equal” I cringe at the thought of a Hindu polemicist using such statements to devastating effect against Muslims.
So much for Muslim arguments against the caste system! RIP!
“In the Qur’an we are reminded in many places of the various ranks and degrees of people that exist due to their actions, piety and knowledge. For example, in Sura al- An’am (6:132) we are told that:
“For all [of them] there will be ranks from what they did. Your Lord is not unaware of what they do”
And also in 58:11,
“O Believers! Make room in your assemblies when bidden to do so; Allah will raise to high ranks those that believe and those who have knowledge among you. Allah is aware of what you do.” (Pg 70 The Broken Chain)
“These ayats indicate that people can be raised higher than others, and this is more explicit in the following ayats:
“He it is who has placed you as vicegerents of the earth and has exalted some of you in rank above others, that He may try you by that which He has given you” […] (6:165)
“See how We have bestowed more on some than on others; but verily the Hereafter is more in rank and gradation and more in excellence” (17:21)
Allah also informs us that circumstances can actually qualify your rank:
“And why should you not spend in the cause of Allah, when He alone will inherit the heavens and the earth? Those of you that gave of their wealth before the victory and took part in the fighting are not equal [to those who gave and fought thereafter]. Their degree is greater” [..](57:10)
Concerning ranks in knowledge:
[…] “Whomsoever We will, We raise in degrees. Over every man of knowledge is one who is more knowing” (12:76) How could you have a hierarchy established with a never ending chain of someone above someone else. Aftab doesn’t care to explain this to us.
“Say: ‘Are those who know and those who do not know equal'” (39:9)
There are other ayats that enumerate upon this theme, such as 9:20, 12:33, 20:64, 20:75, 25:25, 25:50, 27:17, 27:19, 27:83, 37:1, 37:164, 39:65, 40:15, 41:19, 43: 32, 52:20, 57:10, 78:38, 81: 20 and many more
Other areas in which we can see that creation has been ordered in ranks include:
The Angelic Realm
Amongst the Angelic realm, we find the degrees and levels evident as well. There are so many angels in creation that they are countless, that ‘ None knows the warriors of your Lord but Him [74: 31]. There are angels that act as guardians [6:61], angels that record details [43: 80], and angels that roam the earth seeking people of dhikr (Bukhari and Muslim). Some angels have two, three or four wings [35:1] and in one hadith, it was mentioned that Jibril (Gabriel) had six hundred wings and the distance between each wing was the same as the distance between the East and the West! [Sheikh Kishk, Abdu 1 Hamid, op cit p 6] .
There are those angels who are closest and nearest to Allah
and then there are those who are not: There is none of us but has an assigned place (37:154) and, They seek the means of access to their Lord, whoever of them will be nearest (17: 57) are such indications found in the Qur’an.
Out of all the angels that exist, Jibril, Mikail and Israfil are considered as the leaders [Ibid, p 15]. Jibril is entrusted with Revelation, Mika’il is entrusted with the plants and the rain, and Israfil is entrusted with the Trumpet that he will blow three times – the first being the blast of terror, the second of swooning, and the third being the blast of The Rising for the Lord of the Heaven and earth [Ibid, pp 14 – 15].
In Heaven, there exists levels that correspond to the ranks of the inhabitants that they earned whilst living on earth; ‘ See how We preferred some above others: the Hereafter will be even greater in degrees and greater in preferment’ [17:21]. In a hadith mentioned in Sahih al-Bukhari, we are informed that Paradise has 100 grades [Dr al-Shimemeri, ‘Abdullah Abdurraheem, Descriptions of “Paradise, (Abul Qasim publishing house: Saudi Arabia, 1994) p 45] while in Sahih al Muslim it is mentioned that ‘the people of Paradise will look to the upper apartments of Paradise in the same way as you see planets in the sky’ [Ibid, p 46]. Concerning the lowest rank of Paradise, the Messenger of Allah is reported to have said:
I know the person who will be the last to come out of the Hellfire and the last to enter Paradise. He will be a man who will come out of Hell crawling and Allah will say ‘Go and enter Paradise. ‘ He will go to it, but will imagine that it has been filled and he will return and say, ‘Oh Lord, I have found it 6111/ Allah will say, ‘ Go and enter Paradise, and you will have what equals the world and ten times as much (or, you will have as much as ten times the like of the world).’ On that, the man will say, ‘Do you mock at me (or laugh at me) though you are The King?’ I saw Allah’s Apostle (while saying that) smiling [so] that his
premolar teeth were visible. It is said that that will be the lowest in degree among the people of Paradise. [Ibid, p 47]
As like Paradise with its degrees, Hell too has its levels for its denizens; ‘Surely, the hypocrites will be in the lowest depths of the Fire, and you will find no helper for them [4:145] . ‘For all [of them] there will be ranks from what they did [6: 1 32] . ‘Abd ar Rahman Ibn Zaid (a tabi’ tabi’in) stated that, ‘The levels of Paradise ascend, and the levels of Hell descend [al-Shaybani, Muhammed Ibrahim, Hellfire described in the Quran and Sunna, translated by Idris Ibn Stanley Palmer (Jam’iat Ihyaa’ Minhaaj al Sunnah: Ipswhich, 1993) p 18].
In a hadith recorded in Sahih al-Muslim, Abu Hurayra narrates that:
We were in the company of Allah’s Messenger when we heard a terrible sound. He said: Do you know what (sound) is this? We said; Allah and His Messenger knows best. Thereupon he said; That is a stone which was thrown 70, 000 years before in Hell, and it (has) been constantly slipping down and now it has reached its base and you heard its sound. [Ibid, p 19]
Times, places and people
Even times and places themselves are not equal: We have times of a day that are better to offer your du’as than other times, we have places that are better to go and offer your prayers than others; we have days that are better than other days; and then we have people that are higher than other people – the Awliya, the Shuhada and the Mu’minin.
Surat al-Kahf enumerates for us of the degrees and ranks that exist:
The Anbiya -The leader of the community of Prophets being our Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.
The Sidiqin, – The highest Sidiq after the Prophet being Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, and the highest Sidiqa being Maryam, may Allah be pleased with her.
The Shuhada -The highest according to some scholars being the shahid to deny the Dajjal [some say that this is Khidr, may Allah be pleased with him], and then
The Mu’minin – There is a report in the Musnad of Ahmad Ibn Hanbal (1:112) that explicitly singles out a group of Muslims as being above those of the ordinary, but neither being martyrs, Messengers nor Prophets:
Source: (The Broken Chain pages 71-74)
The hierarchies romanticized by people like Aftab Malik in the previous text, were actually used in the past to support ‘racial-ethnic‘ hierarchies.
Now when it comes to races or people’s “traditional Islam” is filled with some rather disturbing view points, that come to us from Imam Shafi’i and Ibn Taymiyyah.
If you want to know about Imam Shafi’i and Ibn Taymiyyah promoting racial hierarchy in Islam than I would encourage you to read the following:
The whole idea is that the Arabs are a race superior to other Arabs. However, many so called ‘traditionalist‘ and I will come to them (Allah-willing) have taught also a racial hierarchy in Islam.
The racial /people hierarchy in Islam goes like this.
#1) The Banu Hashim tribe/clan being superior to anyone else among the Qurash
#2) The Qurash tribe being superior to all other Arab tribes.
#3) The Arabs being superior to all other people’s, races, tribes. The Arabs are superior to Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Jews, Chinese, Indians, Malays, Somalis, Turks etc…
#4) The Pseudo-Arabs. They could be people like converts who have a good grasp of the Arabic language, or Muslims who have adopted Arab customs etc. The Arabs in category #3 know full well these people are not ‘true‘ Arabs, yet they are a tolerated class of pseudo-Arabs. Arab hopefuls (sad but true).
#5) At the bottom of the pecking order would be Pakistanis, Bengalis, Somalis, Turks, Indians, Malays, Blacks, Berbers, Jews, Caucasians, Chinese etc…
#6) Would be those Muslims, such as myself, which could be equated to Iblis (given Aftab Malik’s reckless interpretations) that would refute any notion of racial hierarchy in Islam by using very clear evidences from the Holy Qur’an and the life teachings and example of the Blessed Messenger (saw).
Needless to say there are issues with egalitarianism and some of the assumptions held by egalitarianism but to promote full on elitism is both ridiculous and antithetical to Islam In toto!
Message to you the reader. I think that you the reader owe it to yourself and owe it to your consciousness and owe it to truth to press people like Aftab Malik, Naquib Al Attas , Muhammed Al Yaqoubi and ask them point blank: “Do you believe that Arabs are a race superior to other races?”
Ask them to swear by Allah (swt) and to swear off taqiyyah (subterfuge) and swear a most sacred and solemn oath before the Lord of all creation.
Muslims need to be very careful and considerate that when studying and promoting ‘traditional Islam’ that we are not promoting one system of racial supremacy only to trade it in for another.
“O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another.Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. Behold, God is all-knowing, all-aware.” (Holy Qur’an 49:13)