Thursday, 28 February 2019

Problem with MSAs and Their Affiliation with Ikhwan al-Muslimun

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
والصلاة والسلام على نبيه الامين
وعلى آله واصحابه اجمعين
During my first year at college, I began offering my prayers at the multipurpose chapel or prayer room in York University. Naturally, this space was dominated by Muslims because of our religious obligation to pray several times throughout the day and night. Nevertheless, it was not a space in the custody of any single organization or sect of Islam. Once, I was approached by a black Muslim brother who instructed me to stand up and read a Hadith to the congregation after one of the prayers. I printed off some Hadith regading the virtue of charity and intended to read it aloud after one of the congregational prayers, but I was beaten to it by a member of the Muslim Student Organization (MSA) who stood up immediately and stated something the content of which I have long since forgotten. Only after he finished his statement did I share a Hadith and give a general exhortation to the Muslim worshipers present about offering donations. Before I departed the facility, I was approached by a member of the MSA who politely told me that I was in the wrong for publicly addressing the congregation without authorization from his organization. As I was too young and immature to realize I had done nothing wrong, I did not argue with him but merely pointed to the black Muslim brother and told this MSA member that it was that individual who had instructed me to do so. The MSA member then immediately turned his attention toward that person and approached him, no doubt to chastise him instead, letting me off the hook. Now, over a decade later, having remembered this incident, I am writing to connect it to a broader problem that we have in our community with the MSA phenonemon and the various so-called “Islamic” organizations that presume to represent us. It is well known that the MSA is a gateway to the Ikhwan al-Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood), an organization I am deeply critical of because of its attempt to monopolize the narrative of Islam, and to politicize our beautiful Religion for its own narrow, self-interests. The attitude of the Muslim Brotherhood, and likeminded groups which are often closely or loosely affiliated with it, is that the organization alone represents Islam in every way, and only it is authorized to organize and discharge religious activities, especially preaching, collecting donations, and the like. Furthermore, the Muslim Brotherhood and its brand of Islam essentially states that the very objective of our Religion is to establish a state, which naturally shall be lead by the organized leadership of the Brotherhood. After the “Arab Spring” in Egypt, where the Brotherhood originated and is strongest, it easily formed a government and won the presidency through democratic elections. However, the Brotherhood, true to its nature, began empowering itself and focusing on cementing its domination over the country rather than solving the social and economic issues for which the people voted them into power. This is sadly what gave ammunition to secular forces within Egypt to launch a coup and overthrow the democratically elected government. Consequently, for the past several years Egypt has been suffocating under the repressive military dictatorship of General Sisi, a far worse figure than the old and ailing Hosni Mubarak, the original target of the “Arab Spring”. The Brotherhood is extremely intolerable of any alternative Islamic narrative that opposes its own. Likewise, our local MSAs that operate on campuses across North America and Europe insist that they alone represent the Muslim students and their Religion on campus, and so naturally they overstep their bounds in seeking to dominate spaces to the exclusion of any other group or narrative within Islam, including any individual effort or religious activity directed to the congregation at large. True to their Ikhwani affiliation, the MSA pushes a very toxic political narrative on all the Muslim students. For example, they strongly focus on the Palestine issue, regularly organizing demonstrations and seminars around it and expecting all the Muslims to participate in this so-called Palestine movement as an expression of religiosity. Connected with this issue is the boycott of certain products like Coca Cola that are allegedly funding the State of Israel. The authoritarian and exclusivist streak within the Ikhwan and MSAs effectively results in any “dissident” from their policy being treated worse than an innovator who innovates into the Religion. If the principle of adhering to the Jama’a of the Muslims and their Imam is invoked, it proves that the Ikhwan considers itself the Jama’a, and its murshid al-aam or “general guide” as the Imam. The truth is, after the caliphates of Abi Bakr al-Siddiq and Umar al-Faruq (radi Allahu anhuma), while the Sahaba (radi Allahu anhum) remained attached to the institution of Khilafa, individuals among them, in the effort of Islamic revival, acted individually and independent of the institution of Khilafa. A great example of this is sayyidina Abi Dharr al-Ghifari (radi Allahu anhu), whose individual effort against the corruption and greed of Muslims in Syria and elsewhere was independent of the caliphate of sayyidina Uthman (radi Allahu anhu). Tragically and regrettably, the latter had the eminent sahabi Abu Dharr exiled into the desert for his independent ministry of religious and moral revival. This set a bad precedent which lasts till this day. The idea that there can be no “privatization” of Islam has done great damage to the faith community known as Muslims. Ironically, in Egypt and other parts of the Arab world, the Ikhwan itself is the victim of statist Islam. In principle, the Ikhwan has no right to protest the persecution it suffers in parts of the Arab world, because it would seek to do the same to other religious streams within the world of Islam if it had the opportunity. For this reason, I strong discourage Muslim students from joining the MSA or any other student organization using the name of Islam or Muslims which operates in this way or which is affiliated with the Ikhwan and its false narrative. There is no such rule or principle in Islam which forbids Muslims in their individual capacity to engage in any genuine and true religious activity, independent of the established organization or system, including the system of Khilafa. In fact, the institution of the Mujaddid proves the contrary, i.e., that Muslims should be encouraged to openly question and express protest against the “official” and “sanctioned” practice of Islam in the spirit of prophetic revivalism. This has been exemplified by such revivalists as Abu Dharr al-Ghifari, Sulayman bin Surad al-Khuza’i, Ahmad bin Hanbal, Ibn Taymiya and so many others. In our own time, “official” or “sanctioned” Islam, usually associated with the state or with powerful “Islamic” organizations in the lands where we are a minority, are the most corrupt and far from what is true and genuine Islam. The work of revivalism is never aligned with or authorized by the official religious establishment.

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