Channel: Jonathan Brown
Istanbul University Faculty of Theology
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All right. Welcome again. Much. Okay. Hi, everyone. Welcome once again to our session in which we started at the ELI yet on the international speaker series. Today, I am very grateful that a good friend of mine and colleague and a wonderful academic Professor Jonathan Brown, who most of you probably already know, but if you don't, I'm going to go through the bio, not that it's necessary, but I just think that that's what we ought to do. So, Professor Brown is the Al Waleed bin Talal, Chair of Islamic civilization in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown. And he did his BA in history at Georgetown University, and then got a PhD in the eastern Languages and Civilizations at
Chicago. He is the publisher of many books, and many works of which more recent, some of you may know, and his works on Hadith and more particularly on resource solemn So Muhammad a short introduction, but more recently, Professor Brown has indulged in works in regards to Islam and slavery and Islam and blackness, which I think was supposed to come out this year has come out this year, I'm not too sure this year has been very difficult. I doubt the book is physically out. I don't know when it's gonna go into stores. But I mean, it's, like, physically exists now. Okay, fantastic. So what we're going to do today is we're going to cover some of these topics as a way of
interacting with Professor Brown, what we'll do is we'll have a 40 minute session in which Professor Brian and I will have a conversation so you guys can listen attentively. And then we'll open up the last 20 minutes for q&a. If that's okay, once again, thank you very much, everyone, for being here. I really appreciate it on a personal level, that so many of us are willing to share and partake in the study of it's something that is part of our tradition and culture. And I hope that this continues, and I'm really grateful that Mr. Brown has, has chosen to be the first speaker of this semester, in terms of this session. So thank you very much, Professor Brown and Sam aleykum.
Alright, so let's, let's, let's begin. So one of the interesting things that I found in terms of your work and in terms of your life journey, somebody who myself who writes was working on biographies and so forth, is that traditionally Muslims who have entered Islam and decided to study Islam have gone down the traditional route of going to the US higher or to Medina and so forth. But you chose the route of academia. And you chose that you wanted to be an academic. And what I wanted to know is what was your choices very early on in your life about going down that direction?
Now, it's actually a really interesting way to put it.
I mean, it's, so I became Muslim when I was nine, teen.
basically I started to learn about Islam in the second semester of my first year of college, so I was 18. And then that summer, I thought a lot about it. And when I went back to school, in the fall, I
became Muslim. You know, I formally became Muslim who was like, October that year.
I learned about a song room like, hang on, is there a voice that my computer's House computer?
Were on mute, so it's probably really, I should do. Maybe I should just reduce the volume my computer. Sorry, this is not very interesting, but
I'll try this. Hello, can you hear me? Yeah. Okay.
So I became one of you. I learned about Islam. I really learned about it through
reading books of fuzzer of mine. And Hamid, I said, we read in that class I took on Islam when I was a freshman, we read you know, Fellsmere Juan's book on Islam. We read Muhammad asides, translation of the Quran, and we read Muhammad Assad's road to Mecca.
And so, Muhammad Assad or him who Allah is, you know, in some ways, quote, unquote, conservative, you know, I think he'd probably be considered
politically conservative today in the sense of being, you know, an Islamist but he was in terms of his like theology and his fifth he was, or more even in his theology. I think he was very quote unquote, liberal. Right. So he was his, his law might not have been actually his fifth might have been, he was like, sometimes it's sort of been described as zaharie.
I'm just going to reduce
okay, maybe. So, in terms of his his fit
It was like more, maybe not. So maybe a little bit darker. But where I think it was really kind of unquestionable on your unorthodox for lack of better word is in his theology his
opinions on gin his opinion on
you know things like punishment of the grave and a lot of these he was sort of a very almost like an extreme early Morteza light I think.
But my point about all this is is where I learned about Islam I learned about it really from a essentially as like modernist perspective, basically right.
And I didn't really know about
like traditional Islamic scholarship like when when I read about it so and then I read the other classes I took from one Muslim professor who really influenced me a lot. Her name was Haifa, Fela Fela. She
she actually dedicated my most recent book to professor who taught me the first class on the psalm Mason with Oakley and then Hezekiah holofoil and then also my grad student advisor without Licchavi. But so first of all, a follow up we she really choosing your dissertation on Mohammed Al Ghazali, the scholar who died in 1996, Egyptian scholar, and you know, Muhammad Al Ghazali Rahim Allah was also he wasn't, he was a modernist, but he was really maybe
kind of wasa T
men Hajj but maybe like a continuation of Muhammad shelterwood Rahim Allah Allah or
maybe like Rishi, the red dot a little bit. And so And Chef karma Dawei Rahim Allah so it's like he was
he was traditional in the sense that he came from the kind of the traditional or loom he function within the tradition of fit under the soil. But he was not you know, balanced to a madhhab like he was a little bit more I kind of plastic more willing to like go between med hubs or even question positions that he felt were had been wrongly taken as as also shift Kadalai would sometimes do, right.
But my point is that I didn't know everything I knew about Islam, I knew from either Osama kind of like modernist, or maybe we could call it sort of reformist, slightly reformist, traditional view. So I didn't actually know that, like when I, when you if you read books like this, right. Or lemma are usually it's usually like they're talked about as this bunch of idiots. They're sort of, they're either stupid, or they are they're kind of stubborn, and they need to reform, they're often talked about in the past tense, they're sort of like this, this historical, either they're historically, you know, just extinct, or they're essentially a relic of the past that needs that is not has no
real role in the present in their current state. If they want to be involved, they have to reform quote, reform or something, right. So that's really I didn't understand that you could actually go and learn from Muslim scholars in a way that would be productive. So I was really when I was in
going to Egypt to study Arabic, by the way, I'm sorry, I'm like taking a long time to tell you the story. But I think it's actually interesting. I mean, I think it's great, as you I'm gonna guess, I'm trying to say is I actually didn't know, you could go to Syria or Egypt or Mauritania or anywhere like that. And study, like Sheikh Hamza Yusuf was just kind of becoming famous.
You know, I just heard like him give a lecture once at a time, I didn't never I didn't know anything about his life. I didn't know he'd said in Mauritania, I didn't know you could do this stuff. Maybe I should have just
done more reading or something. But my point is that I really, I had a very, and that the attitude of kind of Islamic modernist perspective, really, it wasn't just that that's how I learned about Islam. It really influenced me in the sense that I, I considered the the obligation to reform to be essential. And I looked at the kind of traditional Muslim world quote, unquote, from perspective, essentially, I was condescending towards it, right. So when I went to Egypt to study Arabic for a full year in this program called Casa, which is just like, basically 24 hour Arabic for one for 12 months in Cairo. My professor foster Hala fella said okay, go when you go go to Allah's har and
there's a chef there named Ali Juma and you're going to go and you know, tell him I sent you and you're gonna go and you should attend his lessons.
So I you know, I did that. And I started to I was like learning Arabic and I really I couldn't speak almost no Arabic when I got there. So I was learning Arabic as I as I did this, but I sort of got to know some of the this Sherif Ali drummer and then his senior students as well.
a doctor saw them and a chef a meadow.
or himolla. And Chef sama. Sama said, My God, and to say a joke tooth and others. So I,
when I went, when I finished my when I finished that year in Cairo, I went to apply to graduate school in us. And it didn't actually occur to me this is I'm sorry to give you a bad answer to your question. But it never actually occurred to me to go and study quote, unquote, traditionally, because I didn't know that you could do this. Like I didn't know there's something that actually I mean, for me, it was just obvious that I wanted to keep learning on my own. I wanted to keep learning about Islam. That's all I knew I didn't have a plan. I wasn't planning to become a professor. I wasn't really thinking ahead. I was just knew I wanted to keep doing what I was doing.
And it's the only step that seemed to exist was to apply to PhD programs. So I applied to PhD programs in the US went to University Chicago, and the first year I, what happened? The first year in the summer, I was I wanted to go to Iran to slay Persian, but the I didn't get my visa. And so I said, I was like, Okay, I'm gonna go to Egypt. And I'm just gonna go to these other or Druze and I'm gonna, like, whatever try and benefit, whatever, something something. And so I went and I spent, I think that summer about month and a half or two months in Cairo. And I just went everyday to these open door oohs and ahhs Hamas with a chef how to Joomla and others. And I was just like, blown, I
was blown away. I mean, I really, completely changed my perspective. Because what I realized now that I actually want to be really clear, I don't agree with like Sherif Ali Juma, politically, I don't agree with most of the students politically, I completely disagree with them. But you know, I would, it would be complete a complete lie, if I said that I didn't think they were extremely knowledgeable. I mean, they're the some, like Cefalu mazzucco. Sama said, Muhammad, I really don't agree with them politically, but they're
some of the smartest people I've ever met in my life. And definitely the most knowledgeable people I've ever met, like, I just, I cannot, there's nothing.
Maybe someone like
Che, dead do would be some similar like that just in the the amount of material they have in their mind and the amount, their ability to draw on it, and focus it in different kind of analytical processes. It's just, I mean, I was, I felt like a worm, you know, I felt like a little worm on the ground in front of them. And that I when I realized I was like, I was like, Okay, well, yeah, you know, you and the east, quote, unquote, you like, memorize stuff, but I'm from the West, quote, unquote, and I have an analytical reasoning. Right. So I mean, this is literally the stuff I was thinking, right. I mean, that's like, actually how I was thinking, it's kind of embarrassing to say
that now. But then I would be like, well, like, you know, let me analyze this, and you know, you and then they would just, like,
turn me into pulp. They would just obliterate me, they would, they would, they would demonstrate how I was the one who had failed to reason properly. And they do so using these like, traditional like, quiet, quiet,
What you would call, like, you know, monthly with Victoria and things like clear seemed like they would just
really completely dismantled my view of the world, you know, of my, of myself and of the world. And when I came back to grad school that summer, starting my second year of PhD, I was, I had a completely different view on the world. And it was before that I had always been, like, embarrassed to be Muslim. I didn't want people to know, I was Muslim. I was sort of hide it. I wouldn't. You know, people would kind of stay snarky things about Islam. And I'd be like, ah, you know, and,
and what I realized during that summer, Egypt were like, holy moly, like, this is being Muslim is not a liability, a liability, being Muslim is a massive asset, like this is like these, you know, I was sitting in class and people would be like, reading Arabic texts, and you know, not really understanding them, and then they would not really know, like, the Qur'an they wouldn't know, Hadith, they wouldn't know, you know, poetry, they wouldn't know filk they wouldn't know all this stuff. And yet they were this was supposed to be like, the pinnacle of, of learning about Islam. But what I realized is like, all that stuff was just basic, was not was just taken for granted amongst
senior scholars in the traditional circles, like that was just this was like child's play to them, you know, and it
even limited exposure to those traditional scholars had given me capacities and knowledge that
I just felt like oh my god, like this is this is actually I'm I have an advantage. You know, this is this is something that that makes, it has made
me a better scholar than I ever would have been before. Right as your question on this. Yeah, sorry. Go ahead. Do you want to ask? What I find interesting about your journey so far in this part of it, which is interesting is that your introduction to Islam is has been in itself, it's been knowledge. I mean, usually people will say, I met a particular person, I met this guy at the mosque you and but your interaction from the inception has been something you read a character who was probably a charismatic writer, charismatic person in Islam, someone like Muhammad as a asset and federal man. And then you go to Egypt. And once again, you're, you're dealing with this meta institution, who are
the Aloma who are in base and so forth. And that seems to be how you interact with Islam, which is fascinating for me. Because once you interact with that sort of like knowledge base, you then took it upon yourself to say, You know what, I'm not ashamed to be Muslim. In fact, I'm going to now take this, and I'm now going to defend it or not necessarily defend it, but go back to academia, and then say, Okay, this is how I'm going to now. Do it. Yeah. I mean, I'd say it's, I mean, I understand what you say what you mean, when you say, defend it, but I think that,
like, it doesn't need defending, because it's, it's, it's it defends itself, if it's deployed properly, right. I mean, it only needs defending if the people, if the people who are talking about it have an audience that doesn't know what it is, right? Now, of course, and this is, you know, look, if you go to a tar, and you grab, you know, the first 90 people you meet, they're probably going to be stupid. Like, I mean, that's, that's true. By the way, if you go to American University, you grab 90 people off the campus, they're probably going to be, you know, not, they're not going to be the top minds at the university. Right. And it's just, that's just statistically, likely, at a
place like Aadhaar, as you know, and like, or in Pakistan, or Egypt, or other places, you know, people who are really talented usually don't go into these sciences, they go into other fields, so but, you know, you don't judge the Islamic sciences by the average person, you judge them by the excellence by people who are excellent examples, right. And so that's what I was very fortunate. And I stumbled, I stumbled into it, you know, just, you know, ask backwards or whatever is they say, like, I mean, I just totally stumbled into it, I had no idea was doing, I just happen to meet people who are amazing examples of this tradition. And so that really, what I realized is like, that's,
this is not to be a being a good learning to be a good Muslim scholar is not something that just is about Islamic scholarship. It's about that means being a good thinker. It means being a good historian, it means being a good editor of manuscripts, it means being a good, critical reason, it means being a good debater, right. So what I, what I realized was that what I wanted to do is be a good Muslim scholar, because that was also mean, that was also to be a good scholar in general, even in that Academy. And so, from that point on, everything I did,
was really trying to meet that level of excellence that I'd seen from these from these scholars. And to, I mean, yeah, like when you write an article for, you know, Islamic law in society, or something, probably the premier journal and Islamic law and in the West, right? If you, if you write an article, you don't start out by saying this mockumentary and misogynist, and I'm gonna say, you know, like, and you don't say,
even hijo haimo alighted like you don't, but you but almost everything else in my scholarship, I don't think actually would be different. If it were, if I were Muslim, or not Muslim, you know, it, I think,
I think a lot of these sort of faith
in collections or faith based elements are really products of studying early Islamic, just like if you studied early Islamic history, then you're going to be wrapped up in a lot of presumptions, everybody who goes into that, whether they're Muslim or not Muslim, or whatever, is going in with a lot of presumptions, and reading their own worldview into a history that you can you have to be reconstructing right? We don't actually have someone who's sitting there during the time of the Prophet writing down like today, the Prophet did this and then puts it into a sealed box and like, you know, we pick it up 1400 years later, right? So we don't, we're but
I mean, once you get to the, let's say, time of, you know, the, what are the sort of late second century imagery late mid seven hundreds of the Common Era, at that point, I mean, you have text and like, you know, you can interpret Texas where you get your projects that way, but you're being Muslim or not Muslim is not going to change like it doesn't you know, it doesn't, someone who has faith doesn't like read the mob stewards of a surrogacy and, you know, I'd say because I'm Muslim, I say you know, like, you're obviously your your perspective is gonna influence you but the day
itself, the material you're looking at doesn't change for the Muslim or non Muslim right. So can I ask something
interesting is when we look at Hadith literature itself, that is, usually Muslims are very closely guarded in the Hadith literature that is something which is instructive in the life. That is something that gives them meaning that is something that they they implement. And in regard to Hadith literature in academia, I mean, one of your earlier works was misquoting Mohammed, clearly you were aware that there is some sort of misconception in the way that the Hadith literature is being presented and so forth. In that sense. Do you feel that the way that hadith is looked at by scholars who may not be Muslim or the infrastructure that has doesn't have the same level of
interaction or decorum regarding the Hadith literature, that the outcome in of itself lends to it? To be Yeah, definitely. Right. So you know, when you're looking at Hadith, that's I consider that part of early Islamic history.
But there's a so I don't I've read I almost have written I've written almost nothing about early Islamic history and Hadith, right? So what I mean is that everything I almost everything I've written about Islamic thought or hadith is actually about Hadith, after the time of, let's say, the motha. Right? So I don't really,
I'm just not interested. I mean, I like for example, my introduction to Hadith book, I spent a long time did a whole chapter on Western, the Western methodology for the study of Islamic history. And I, you know, I take issue with certain things, I give my opinion on certain things, right. But I'm not engaged in these debates, because I find them to be this is essentially a theater for purposes of theater of colonics. Right, this is where people basically go, and one group people are saying, Islam is not special. Islam is not authentic, Islam is not intact. Islam is blah, blah, blah, whatever, like the different things they want to say. And they're just using pieces of, they're just
putting like Mr. Potatohead pieces together to make that argument. And then other people are going into Islam is authentic, Islam is intact, Islam is special. Now we're doing there are you right, but neither of these two groups is able to demonstrate to the other group, that they are correct, based on evidence that the other group would accept, right? So for me, I'm not like I'm happy people who want to do that, God bless them, you know, etcetera, etcetera. But that's not how I just find that to be a not a super useful waste of time, a super use of time. Again, I have written about it in migration instruction of the Prophet, I have written about it a little bit in my book on Hadith, but
if you in my book, so it's a misquoting Mohammed or it's the slavery book, or this long blackness book, I spent almost no time on the issue of the authenticity question because I find it to be.
Look, we have the Koran, there's no real debate about that. We have the basic outlines of the prophets life lays out to them are evident in non Muslim sources, right? So
after that, like Okay, once you put that aside as settled, then you know, okay, if if, if a Muslim, if a non Muslim thinks the Prophet didn't say this, or I think the Prophet did say this, that's fine, but I'm not interested. But what I'm interested in is how Muslims understand their religion. So my book misquoting Mohammed, mean that the title is actually just there because the publisher thought it would make money like that. So they just gave me a contract. They said, write a book called misquoting Mohammed like we don't care what's in the book. This is the title right? The actual title for me the book is the subtitle, which is the the challenges and choices of
interpreting the prophets legacy. It's really about how Muslims have engaged in understanding their religion over the centuries and how what challenges they face, especially with modernity, etc. So I don't I don't really feel that for me, at least I don't find a lot of value in engaging in
a wrangling over the authenticity. Question on Hadith. On the Koran, I think it's relatively easy to get settled, I don't feel the need to engage in that a lot. Other people have, have already done the work. But the Hadith stuff that sort of, in fact, it's kind of fruitless. Can I ask you a question? In terms of your work and your career and so forth? Have you seen, because you said you wrote misquoting Mohammed for Muslims. And I'm assuming even the other words that you're writing, even though it's within a particular Western academic framework was written in English, but it is aimed for Muslim audience who can read what you're saying? Or even read between the lines? Is that
something that they can pick up and it can empower them in a particular way when you actually are speaking to them? Have you found in the Muslim world in particular, in terms of the interaction of your work, how things have maybe changed where Muslims in Western academia in particular, and now writing works on Hadith? And it's having an impact in the Muslim world, whereas usually authenticity is assumed, where knowledge is coming from the Muslim world.
So I would say Well, first of all, I would say a couple of things. One is, you know, when Muslim scholars, you know, when Elvis Ali or even rushed or
Cavan Tamia or you know, when these scholars were writing, I don't think they thought of themselves as like, I'm writing from Muslims, not non Muslims, but they were writing with me. And when they say, and they don't say like LM Islami, they say this is knowledge like that. And the rules that they use to analyze and collect and parse and reason they see as actually universe, I mean, essentially universal rules, right.
And I think they were mostly correct about that.
So I really what I tried to do in my, after I wrote my first three books, is when I wrote The misquoting Mohammed book, what I really want to do is to say, I want to write, I want to be like these guys where I want to write a book.
That, yes, it's about the Islamic tradition. Yes, it's going to be helpful for Muslims. But what I really want to do it, I want to show the world how Muslims have thought about big questions. And I want people to read this, who are not Muslim and say, Hey, I'm learning about Islam. And I'm learning about the way Muslim scholars thought and stuff like that. But also, I wanted them to read it and say, like, Hey, this is actually Hey, this is how this is an interesting way to think about freewill. This is an interesting way to think about the role of law in society and to what extent law is supposed to shape society versus shaped by society? or to what extent you know, what is
truth? You know, is it if your kid comes and ask you a question, you tell them a lie? Because that's the best thing to tell them at that moment? Is that a betrayal of truth? Or not? Like these are, these are big questions that have have Vax humans throughout history, and Muslims have answers to those questions where they have ways of approaching those questions. And I wanted to do is to say, Muslims are involved in all these conversations. And here's, here's, like, an example of their their contribution. So in some way, they wanted to try and live out or channel
you know, inhabit the confidence of a person like US ally or even Taymiyah. And showed offer that as an example, to a broader audience, both Muslim and non Muslim. And then similarly, with things like the slavery book, like this is,
I mean, we're really for what motivated me, what drove me to write that book was like, the fuel for me to write that book was
what I saw is like the incredible
close mindedness and
willful ignorance that was embraced by academics, not not most of them have not necessarily Muslim academics, academics, period, on this topic, right, and the public square period on this topic. And
so I think that my, my book on slavery, I actually think, I mean, it's really interesting if you want to learn about Islam and slavery, but for me, the core of the book is actually the part to deal with the ethical, what is the historical, moral, historical and epistemological consequences of the way we talk about this, about slavery for our worldview, and where we get our values and what we think about our species and our future and our past, right, and that as the I think this is actually just as applicable to non Muslims, as is Muslims.
So that was, you know, for me, like that was more of a contribution to discussions around, you know, history of morality and slavery, generally, the Islamic part was just, like, added on. As interesting to me. I thought it was like a complete contribution. Similarly, the issue of, of asana and blackness, like,
a lot of that book is designed to oh, sorry, did I interrupt you just these two points, because I find it interesting in terms of these last few books that you worked on this notion of ethics and morality. So I think which is coming up more and more in Islamic Studies, and by many Muslim scholars, in particular, trying to raise the question of the idea of ethics and morality, both in terms of grappling with it, in the contemporary world that we live in, in regards to some of the challenges we're facing, just not only in regards to Islam and, and the lived experience, but generally, the sort of like fissures that exists in the world today, but also trying to go back into
the tradition and sort of speak about ethics and morality, again, are you finding that that's taking place in regards to the current place we're in in academia at the moment?
So, I mean, in some ways, there's two there's sort of a debate here, which is big in the West as well. It's just sort of like what is the role of an academic
I mean, in or tick tick, what is the role of let's say, like religious studies, which I don't have a lot of affection for, but is a good example for this for this, right? So one argument is that, you know, academics are supposed to explain, understand, explain things that they kind of, they stand outside of what they're studying. And they what they're studying is sort of,
by the fact that it is being studied is sort of lesser than that. It's something that is either part of the past, it's been superseded by the present, or it's been superseded by a better version of thinking and spirit, you know, thinking about life, the meaning of life and all this stuff, right? So.
And that you kind of have to be objective about that, and that you're not our job is not to, you know,
our job is not to teach Islam to people, but to teach people how Islam as a religious tradition developed that are those that are right.
The other argument is this sort of activist approach, which is that you actually want to teach
you the job of a professor is to teach truth to people, and almost like, preach to them. Now, of course, if you think about Western universities, you can, it's not doesn't take a long time to think about what that truth can and can't be right, I can't come out and say, like, I am here to tell you that we must all do jihad, like, like, you can imagine, that's not going to be acceptable understanding of Islam, right. So, but if I come out and say, Islam is just about, like, everybody's a good person, and we need to, everybody has to embrace their, their own truth and about, like, sexuality, and identity and all this stuff. Like if I come out and say that it's all like,
capitalism sucks, and, you know, down with the man, by come out and say that it was, wow, like, this is like, really good. You know, that's terrific. So
when I, when you when people talk about like, essentially doing theology in the academy, you can imagine what most of that, quote unquote theology or that preaching is actually going to be angled towards in terms of its content in terms of its aims and objectives.
So that's a big debate, even among your non Muslims, when we talk about what the role of a professor is, especially what the role of professor is, when we talk about religious traditions.
that I think is is a kind of area where you see this issue of like, ethics, and what's the role of the of the scholar, and I think the problem in the western Academy is there's a lot of schizophrenia about what universities are supposed to do, but what professors are supposed to do, and I'm not going to be able to resolve that in this talk, or, you know, this is a bigger issue, which has a bigger issue, probably in our society overall.
Now, in terms of like, how I, how do I think about this?
I tried to be very clear about when I'm doing
what, right. So a lot of my, let's say, if I write a book, I might write a book. And let's say like, this is Islam and blackness books. So I might write and in large segments of the book, just be describing historical processes and analyzing things like these are different schools of thought and emerge, and this school of thought today and the school of thoughts, I'd be right. And then at the end, I might say, I think x and this is why I think x and now I'm going to make an argument for that. But that, in my opinion, that's very clearly, that's very clear. In the book, like, it's very clear that now the author is going to tell you what he thinks, and he's going to make his argument.
And you can take that, and you can just not read that chapter, or you can leave it out, or you can criticize it. But it's very different from the rest of the book. So that's what I try to do in my work. And my writing is to be both kind of descriptive and analytical, and able to shift perspectives for the sake of the reader and the students. But then also, don't be afraid to give my own views when I think it's appropriate.
And this will be my final question, and then we'll open up to the q&a. So when you're writing your last two books, which is obviously time and slavery, and then blackness, I mean, I'm sure you're aware that the subject here is we're going to be controversial for an academic in this current climate, but you were still willing to engage in that subject area, what was it that drove you to say, you know, what, I find this subject area interesting. I know I'm gonna get some heat from this subject area, but this is what I want to put out there. This is what I want to contribute to the conversation. And this is generally what I think I should be permitted to do. What was the reasoning
behind you willing to do that because we both know that you have taken heat from some of these subject areas, people sometimes don't understand what academics are saying.
And there's we have to continuously clarify ourselves even within our
I mean, I think that
honestly, every topic what I actually was motivated to write the book because of heat I taken before I wrote the book, I didn't intend to write a book on slavery in Islam or anything like that. I mean, it was because it was,
you know, it was because of what I saw in the way that academics dealt with the topic and the way that the broader American society was dealing with the issue of slavery, like, that's, I was, I was, so
my, I was so stunned by what I consider to be, like, amazing cog level of cognitive dissonance. That ADAT I was like, I need to, to
explain, I need to explain why I need to look into this. And if I'm correct, I need to explain why I think this issue is such as you know, it's such and such a thing, right. So it was more like I wanted to, I was driven to do it, because of what I thought were real failings in the way that scholars and general public square discussions on this issue worked in the world that you know, in, in, in America, in America, basically, in the broader West, and even maybe globally.
So, then the blackness book really came out of it was, in some ways, extension of the slavery book, like I had my own questions still lingering from that. But also, it was because of the what I saw
happening amongst scholars, like there were scholars who were writing, you know, professional historians were historians at really good universities in the West, writing in academic journals, that Islam as a religion, as a religion, like at its scriptural basis, was anti black.
And I was like, What the heck is this? You know, how can somebody say this, about my religion, right? And, but also, like, here's the evidence they're giving, and if I can't address that evidence, then I just need to share. So what was happening was people weren't addressing the evidence and Muslims, or people who were defending Islam against this would just be like, that's wrong, or you know, that's, and then they would tell like a essentially fairy tale about Islamic history, where no one was racist, and everything was great, etcetera, etcetera. And they weren't actually able to deal with the evidence that was given by these people were arguing this song as
anti black at a scriptural and kind of historical normative level. And so I want I want to do is really go and, and address all of these issues comprehensively. So that's what I did.
And by the way, when you talk about getting kradic people, the people who give who attack, well, at least attack me, you don't actually read anything, right? Like they know no one. No one is someone actually reads my books, and criticize me, I would be happy. Oh, that'd be like, That's great. Like, I'm so honored that you read my book. Like that's really, really flattered. When people don't do that, they just go.
You wrote a book and yours, you're a jerk. And you said this, and you're obviously in slavery apologists, or you're racist on that stuff. Like, that's just the level of discussion. So it's kind of stemming, yeah, it hurts because you'll get, you know, 2000 people's telling you this on Twitter or something, but it doesn't hurt in the sense that none of those people have actually ever read anything that I've written. So I mean, like I it just sort of, you sort of doesn't really, there's no substance.
Thank you, Ashley, you know, I was going to continue, but I know that I don't want to take up time for everyone who's here. So for my perspective, I just want to say thank you very much for engaging with some of the questions that I've asked you.
I can honestly say that, I wish we had more time in which we can pick your brain a bit more. But the reason why I sort of appreciate this format to some degree is often we get scholars talking on the technicalities of the work that they do, but very little off, we don't often get the opportunity to just get the insight behind the thought process of what it is that they they were going through while they were doing the work that we're doing. So that was basically my intention here. So thank you very much for engaging with me. In that sense, Jonathan, I do a pleasure anytime I'm happy to come back and even in person I would love to come and
when you come down to this sample, please pay us a visit. And I do want to apologize as well. They may have rudely interrupted you in a few occasions, so I apologize for that. No, no, no, it's not rude. Okay, go ahead. We're not questions. Let's hear questions.
For the q&a q&a section, anyone who's interested in asking Jennifer Professor Brown a question please do raise your hand so that we can see it and then we will pick an order. And if you want to write your question, please feel free to do that as well.
The floor is open.
Okay, I have to do like this or you can see
okay, there's a question from LSU Elgin. She says salam aleikum? I have a specific question. I want to hear Professor Browns opinion about the Hadith related to women's being deficient in intelligence and religion. Okay, fair enough. Jonathan, over to you.
Okay, why are you? Well, why don't people ask a few questions and I can answer them. And usually it takes usually more efficient. So that's one What about the next one? What uh
who's next? Met fatty Arslan has his hand up.
Do you know well, actually, before the default method, five theologia we will probably ask a question. Why don't you answer this one? Because I think that's the last one individual format. And then we can do like, okay, yeah, so the Hadith knock us out October Dean is, it's really interesting. Like, I've been writing on this. I've been doing research on this for like, three years. I, someone asked me this question, I was gonna write something on it. And like, I'd spend three years doing research on it.
It's, I'll tell you why this is a
I find this really challenging. Okay, so one argument. So basically, everybody knows a hadith, right? So the Prophet at least comes out and tells these women he's preaching a preacher. He goes and tell these women specifically given charity
you you're not knock us out afterwards. Like you have deficiencies deficient in your intellect and your religion. And then if someone says, What about my how is this and she said, Well, don't you women, not pray some of the times they're menstruating? And isn't the so that's in religion, and isn't like the testimony of one woman worth that of two women worth that one man so that's intellect right.
And there's also a different versions that are kind of blend in with one another, like about the Prophet saying that
women are the majority of people hellfire, or that women wives
are sort of cursing their husbands a lot, and they're ungrateful to their husbands.
Which, by the way, is maybe one of the most accurate has one of the most accurate sentences ever included in history of, of humanity, which I'm sure I'm gonna get over saying but it he says, you know, it's a damn illogical hire.
What are eight men men who shave at minutiae matter hmm, cat shape? Height on cots right? So if even if the husband's like always good to his wife makes one mistake and the wife says, I've never seen anything. Do anything good for me. Right? i I'm willing to bet this is been heard by many people in the world. Based on what I've heard, I've never heard it myself. To be very clear. No one's ever said spoken like this to me. Because, you know, everybody, my anyway, you have no understand. So the point is that
this is very,
this very controversial number of reasons. Okay, first of all,
why is the prophet Lazar saying that? Essentially?
menstruation is not is a knocks? Knocks, right? So why if if women didn't men straight, then humans wouldn't be born?
So that's like, it seems weird to say that it's like a deficiency when it's, it's, it's clearly like part of how God designed us. And it's absolutely essential for our species.
Correct. So, and there's some wording in the versions of the Hadith that I find I haven't really, like, analyzed this fully. But strikes me as interesting because it it, it suggests that there's more going on and what the Prophets saying than what seems he seems to be saying, well, I'm not sure exactly what it is. So I don't want to say anything.
The second thing is that
the, the idea of one woman's testimony being worth half a man's is clearly not about their intellect, because there's all sorts of other areas in which women are intellectually just treated exactly the same as men. Right?
And even you see this with even Taymiyah. I'm gonna claim that Josie when they talk about this, and they say like, this has nothing to do with witnessing. This has to do with, you know, to hammer to hammer the shahada, like essentially no being a notary
And what is considered, you know, authoritative in one society over another in actual rational capacity men and women are, are you know, there's no like there could be a really smart woman and a really stupid man or these stupid movement really smart man like there's no doesn't break down along gender lines.
that now, let now here's the other thing like let's say that we that this hadith had been, like missin misinterpreted or something. Or let's say this it's not I don't think it's true. But let's say that this hadith actually was unreliable. We have this revelation like, oh my god, we looked at the snatch, it turns out this had to be totally unreliable. I'm not saying this. That's what I want to be clear. I'm saying let's say we thought we saw that
it still wouldn't solve our problem, because if you look in the like bedheads reasonings, they'll frequently cite this hadith as evidence for why they come with a certain rule. So even if the head let's say that IDT was either false or had been misunderstood. It's already been built into baked into certain reasoning on madhhab issues. Now, you could say that,
okay, now, for example, Sheikh Mohammed Saeed Ramadan, Butera hemel Allah
in one of his books, that this thing the Prophet said, was sort of like a joke. Which Act actually is pretty convinced. I think that actually makes sense to me. Because it's not clear again, why you would say that. menstruation is a knock like, it's sort of he's like, almost like teasing the women a little bit. He's talking to them, like, you know, as, as often people would do you know, when they're talking to you, but like, kind of teasing them and having fun with them a little bit as he's teaching them.
But then that raises two questions, one.
The, I mean, if the profit is a waste of time, he's joking. But med had rules were being built on this joke, then we have an issue, which is how do we explain the Prophet joking when his words are the basis for rulings? So shouldn't he not be joking? And then also, if he was joking, the bedheads had built rules based on a job. Right? So, um, so that's, I think there's, like so many issues around this hadith that I, it's like, you know, extremely, you know, and I don't wanna say not, but there's just a lot of like, ramifications for, you know, going back and looking at things you have to deal with, like, what that would mean, what's the what would the consequences of that be? How
would you deal with those consequences? So that's why it's taking me so long to look into this because it's such a fraught issue. And I will ask me about this idea. I dread it because I don't have an easy answer. Unfortunately, I just tried to give you an insight into like some of the things I've found around the city.
Thanks for that. So. So Maya did have a hand up, which I missed. So I apologize for that. So as a manager, you can go first, and then maybe five times you can go next and then I think that will be it for a lot. So please vote no to manager. Okay. Okay. Then.
Is Matt reflective Virginia, he is also a bit lost him as well. So it looks like
join a video up, you feel free?
I know. I can read it. Yeah, sure.
So as you said, Being Muslim is not a liability, but it is a massive asset and what way ways would a similar statement of being Christian or Jewish differ? I mean, I think that's an interesting question. I mean, like so. I mean, I think obviously, that being that believing in the God is an asset. Like, I mean, to believe in the Creator is an asset.
In terms of scholarship, I'd say you know, it's It depends, like I think if you were to someone like Thomas Aquinas or my Montes or something like that, you know, they
embody a lot of the same strengths and traditions of excellence and the combination of like memorization and analytical rigor that I think Jack has has this one line he says, if
the neck had thicker will have the wool Adela IG. So when kind of
thought and, and Memory Mate, wondrous things are born from this, you know.
So, but here's the thing, like there's, I just don't think that the Islamic intellectual tradition has any peer. It doesn't. I mean, and you see that, you know,
it's interesting Muslims actually
Write about this. Even. I was taller than Mechi. In his booth at Columbia writes about this, he says that we're the only community, that memorizes scripture word for word. And then we're the only community that has any snad back to the founding of the religion, like other traditions don't have any snap back to Revelation and the possessor of Revelation. And he brings up he talks about the Torah, and he talks about like the oral transmission of the rabbi's. But he says this does not go back to the to like they can't trace this back to Moses in a way that we can trace our teachings back to the Prophet.
So I think that the no tradition has the volume and the kind of volume and high standards general high standards that the Islamic one does, as far as I know, at least not in the pre modern world.
Yeah, but I mean, that's in some ways of.
Yeah, that's how I would answer.
Thank you. Let's see if there's any more questions. I'm not really good at navigating. Zoom, to be honest with you.
Anyway, anyone else someone can raise? I don't see any hands raised? Who's gonna raise it?
Okay, from Asha, would you recommend academia in the US, for example, as a core path to gain knowledge about the faith? No, definitely not. No, I say this. I don't know you don't, don't learn about Islam. If you want to learn about your religion, do not go to a US university.
Doing it, in fact, you'll probably end up learning the opposite, you'll probably end up getting, you know, becoming disenchanted or something. So go find qualified scholars, in teachers and where you live or online. And then this is a way to learn.
Mid fatty are slow. Okay, perfect.
Thank you very much for letting me at least I guess I am not interrupted the third time. Right. Can you hear me? Yeah, go ahead. Okay, thank you. I'm sorry for the pollution behind me because I was on my way just arrived at home. I couldn't miss this speech. So I have one comment. And one question. As you already stated that you said that you are not interested in someone who is trying to force for, or questions for authenticity of Hadith. And I totally agree with this. I think according to Islamic sciences, the hierarchy has it even doesn't have to bother about it, because it's not a domain to substantiate that or justify that profit was already alive. And then he said this and that
and then he was really prophet of God, this this is a domain of Melilla, whether you evaluate Piola you whether you name it Kalam or philosophy, anyways, somewhere else. So if someone is looking for this kind of question, he has to look for somewhere else in my understanding of Hadith. And then the other question is that you told that there are many academicians especially like who are at least at a certain level of proficiency in their job and they are
smearing Islam thing that Islam in its core,
anti black or racial, or,
I don't know,
at least has a certain backbone of racial statement and Quran includes this kind of thing. My question is that, do you think that this is
like, an attempt coming from an
actually, from a bad intention or coming from ignorance like, we used to have like, academicians who are not Muslim working, which we call Orientalist who were really has a depth of knowledge and Islamic Studies someone like shot or Gods here, but in these days, you can hardly find someone who is well educated in Islamic Studies rather than they are will they will work on Islam in America sex, gender racial statements. So do you think that is this as currency on Islamic studies like down leveling it rather than focusing on really actually what is in Islamic studies in its essence?
Yeah, I think it's at least on these so I think when you look at the issues, you know, Islam and slavery and Assam blackness
these are the things you're describing i Well, like anything, right?
If there's a let's say, there's a politician who says something, you know, he might have intentions but you know, the regular people will find them don't know they're ignorant, right? So they're just ignorant. They're just following somebody who says something, right. But so there's yeah, there's a lot of ignorance but I think at the, the where, where these issues are generated, it's
Definitely intentional, and its sources are clear, its sources are extremely clear, right? It comes from basically
Western what you might call like Western supremacists, who want to focus on Islam and slavery and Islam as oppressive to black people, because it helps Western society, especially America.
exonerate itself from or distract other people from its own
legacy of slavery and racism. So that's one thing. The other thing is
kind of some aspects of African American society, especially Christians, and then sharing actually
sending that back. And now like in a kind of dialogic relationship with Christians in places like Nigeria, where there's this whole idea of vilifying Muslims as not part of Africa, as oppressive as not indigenous to like, quote unquote, Africa, right. And then the third is basically American conservatism, essentially, like aggressive American, conservative foreign policy. And then also and this is I simply demonstrably true, Israeli Foreign Policy propaganda, essentially husband, right, Israeli foreign policy, public diplomacy, which has, which sees this as a way to one split third, quote, unquote, third world solidarity to split kind of Arabs and Muslims away from Africans, and
then say that the real people who are racist aren't the Israelis, it's the Arabs and the Palestinians. They're the real racists see how that much they hate black people. So they, this is I think I demonstrate this all very clearly in my recent book I have has a whole chapter on this.
Come off, Donnie Bauer.
I unmute unmute. Unmute. Come on
Oh, come on. I was having technical problems. Like going tomorrow. Maybe you can do right or? You can Okay. Talk. Go ahead.
Yeah, good day. How are you doing?
Good. Thank you. I'm joined here from Nigeria.
Unfortunately, I came late, because of the time factor.
So mine, I have a question. Based on what I have read on the topic on Hadees. The purpose Allah Allah, Allah, Allah, I tend towards the main idea of the talk is based on the Hadith of the Prophet Muhammad service. Am I right?
This talk today? No, this is more about my own my own life and work, which is seems it seems kind of self indulgent. But that's what they asked me to do. I mean, I'm just answering questions. I don't know what to do. Yes, I'm very self involved, I suppose so. Kemal, you may not have missed, what you missed, may not have been as valuable as you thought. So I recommend if you're interested in this, and you want to know what I have to say about you can read my book, Hadith, Muhammad's legacy in the medieval modern world.
With the red cover, if you can't get a copy in Nigeria, email me, I'll send you a copy of my book misquoting Muhammad, and my book, Islam and slavery, which are all I think books. Okay, maybe I'm not sure if Sorry. Go ahead. So maybe I can share my email so that I can be able to have a copy. Yeah, you can just email. Give your email in the chat. Yeah.
So thank you very much. Maybe in the process, now we'll be joined the process I might have versus later time.
Okay. Yeah. Thank you that much. Ashraf, yeah. Okay.
Just to follow up on my question about studying in an academic situation, because as you know, it's very difficult to, I guess, in the modern world to gain knowledge in terms of
you know, having access to shoe or more importantly, having access to a specific curriculum and going through sort of a tech team of, you know, attaining knowledge. So, my question, I guess was, how do you like, how do you see as a way forward for Muslims in terms of gaining knowledge and then, more importantly, in terms of like passing that on or
practicing that, do you think that it's sufficient? So for example, you want, like you mentioned, at the beginning of your talk, you went to the US HUD and you met with people such as, you know, Sage shut to and
Santa say that as he and
these people who they have a very research and academic rigor to them as well. And,
you know, they were sort of doing it ad hoc with with shahadi Joma.
But how is that? How is that something that can be sort of replicable and sustainable
in terms of how we function as Muslims, like, I guess, all over the world in terms of how we take the knowledge and how we, you know, how we how we would transmit that?
Because it just seems, it just seems to me from like, my experiences as well. It's just sort of, it's just done so haphazardly. And you have to do a private study here, or you have to just look into finding a good teacher there. There is no really like at an institutional level to sort of attain attain knowledge, and then again, pass it on to, to, you know, next the next generation. I mean, I think unfortunate, I mean, one, I think that
there actually are a lot of
sort resources. You know, if you live, you know, if you're lucky, if you live in Dallas, for example, there's column seminary, there's actually a lot of good Institute's in in,
around the world.
Darla looms has a lot of really good doll looms, you know, from South Africa, to Canada, to the UK to the United States, right. So
I think that people, you know, if you really, if you want to go and get like a basic grounding in Islamic sciences, it's, there are, there are institutions, you know, and if you can't get there, then you can watch that lectures online. I mean, there's so the internet, I mean, it sounds like sound like kind of stupid old saying this, but like, the internet has really made some things available to us. So you can watch lectures by really great scholars, even hold lectures, even like doing a whole shot of them what the or the shot of some Maliki film, you can watch the whole thing, you know, as if you were there. Yeah, you can't ask questions. But other people are asking
questions, and they're getting answered, and maybe your questions are gonna get answered in the process. And just that that's an incredible resource. Now, of course, the issue there is a lot of stuff is based on language.
Definitely, knowing Arabic is really important for a lot of it or Urdu, but certainly Arabic. So
but that, you know, and then it's just a matter of learning Latin language, and there's a lot of resources for that as well. So I think that it's not as you know, it's always hard to find great minds, and to learn from them. But that's going to be hard, no matter where you are in the world and no matter what, but we have more access to them now through the internet than we, we I think ever have in the past. Folks, I unfortunately I have to go.
But I if you have questions, you can email me and if I don't reply, then email me again. And if I don't reply, email me again. Don't don't, I might have missed that. You're gonna ask for the emails, I get a lot of emails. I forget about things. Okay, gentlemen, thank you very much for your time.
And your energy and effort we really do appreciate it. Inshallah, I'll get to speak to you soon again, Inshallah, when you come to Istanbul would be great to have your vector department that will be fantastic. I would love to thank you very much. I really do so like everybody awesome. And as
presented on Islam and Bosnia, and then Dr. Obama on June, we'll be talking about the Constitution of Medina. So please do stay in contact with our socials and
remain connected and we will put up the details online. Inshallah. Thank you very much, everyone, for being here today. We really appreciate it. And this is just the beginning of the new semester. So hopefully, we can continue to do that. So please pray that this is successful. And thank you very much. Take care and Salam Alikum. Thank you.