Sherman Jackson – An Intimate Conversation

Sherman Jackson
AI: Summary © The speakers discuss the importance of finding safe spaces for Muslims to share in realities, and the challenges and opportunities for them to confront and confront problems in a way that is not cultic. They emphasize the need for understanding of reality and theological and political understanding to address issues of racism and the physical world. The speakers also discuss the concept of "Gramsci" and the use of it as a way to address problems and avoid negative consequences. They encourage people to be honest and courageous about their issues, and to avoid negative consequences and find ways to address one's problems.
AI: Transcript ©
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I want to begin by thanking Dr. Jackson and his family for surprising us with this visit we,

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one of the parents of the faculty to call them was to ask God for good surprises, and just refuge in Him from from bad surprises. So this this visit, and this evening, it was really, really a very special and very pleasant good surprise for us. We did anticipate such an honor having not been dragged into this family with us this weekend. But we feel that a lot of answered that prayer. For us, it gave us this beautiful surprise. And and it's a very good it's an honor to always. Anytime you're in the presence of scholars, it's an honor. But it's particularly for us technique collective an honor to be in the presence of Dr. Jackson because he's one of the people who in a very real way

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is behind a lot of what we do here. And so Dr. Jackson, maybe we'll just get right to the point. Why this text why now?

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Can't be learned in a hurry. Whenever the biller is rude and fusina men say it I'm Melina and you have the love for Allah. Allah hurry Allah, wa shadow Allah ilaha illAllah wa stealership color eyeshadow and Muhammad Abdul Rasul allah sallallahu alayhi wa ala alihi wa sahbihi wa salam. Now we should actually saw that we still remember a while ago the Tamil is any of our Kali replenisher and FC philatelists any one other ODL

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that you already have Kira Bella anime we're back Salam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato.

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First of all, I want to say, in all sincerity, that

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it is really

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a blessing to be here. And when I say in all sincerity, I mean that because

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what this gathering represents to me, is the fact that we are succeeding and moving beyond a certain stagnation, that continues to grip certain segments of the community, wherein we don't have the kinds of safe spaces, that tat leave, both aims to and actually succeeds at providing for Muslims to be able to come into and to share in the journey of Islam. And and to do so in a way that is not cultic. And by not cultic, I mean, that

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Islam has to be understood and lived in a matter, that it empowers human beings, to live life as it is, not just live as we would like it to be. And any religious movement that takes people away from reality, as opposed to empowering them to confront and deal with reality, that is closer to a cult than it is to a religion.

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And what we need are safe spaces where we can come. And we can put on the table, the everyday realities. And by that I mean both the challenges and the opportunities, because I think that oftentimes, you know, we've learned a certain rhetorical style. And that rhetorical style has, in some ways, even morphed into a way of thinking, especially, you know, for Muslims who live in this part of the world, we always think about reality in terms of the problems that it poses, and far less often in terms of the opportunities that are before us as well. But both in terms of the opportunities and the challenges. We need, both to understand Islam, and to understand reality, in

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such a way that Islam can be made to address that effectively. And that Islam empowers us to confront and to face anything a human existence has to offer. And I think that one of the things that we need to sometimes remind ourselves of, is that the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, you know, his life was not the most, you know, hunky dory life that you can imagine. And point of fact, he in his own personal life,

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face challenges that many of us

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could not think of facing once, let alone repeatedly,

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you know, repeatedly having loved ones die, and die and die, be injured and be lost, etc. And yet,

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this does not bring him to despair. This does not bring him to instrumentalized religion whereby, you know, God has turned to some grand Santa Claus, you know, he's only worth worshiping when we get what we want. And when we don't we sort of stomp our feet and walk away. You know, we need to be reminded that, you know, Allah will test us with good

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And he will test us with evil. And part of our role as a community is to be able to mutually enjoying one another in ways that enable us to confront all of that with a sense of dignity and humility, knowing that our job is to recognize that all that we have, in all that we don't have, this is ultimately up to God.

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And we can never allow ourselves to forget that fact. And it reminds me of one line in this book,

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where even a thought Allah says that a person

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who sees the source of his difficulties

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in other created entities, other human beings, political systems, whatever they happen to be,

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if he sees the ultimate source of his problems in created entities,

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he's like a dog, who a man hits in the head with a brick.

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And then the dog goes and bites the brick.

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Because he doesn't understand that the man is not the ultimate source of whatever happened to him.

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And an A person who sees the ultimate source of their bounty, their wealth, their education, their riches, their beautiful family, who sees the source of this, and anything other than God is like a horse, who, when its trainer appears on the scene, he wags his tail, and happiness. But when his owner shows up, he pays him no attention.

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This book,

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not really a part of a sustained plan.

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And in some ways, it's sort of impose itself on me.

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When I wrote Islam and the black American, and then Islam and the problem of black suffering,

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these are not books that were designed or written, to be limited to a black experience.

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And I hope that those who actually read the books will, we'll see that.

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But again, for me,

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Islam has to deal with concrete.

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And we cannot stay on the level of abstractions.

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And in terms of the Convert community, in America, and I'm one of them.

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That community is one that is predominantly people, by individuals of

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African descent, black Americans are the majority of the Convert community in this country.

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And I don't say that, you know, as sort of some sort of bragging point.

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But that's the reality.

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That is a fact.

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And you don't have opinions about facts in terms of whether they're facts or not, they are, what they are. And for me, Islam has to deal with concrete facts. That is a fact. And if you think that, you know, we can talk about Islam, as an abstraction, I was sort of reminded, when you said that, you know, you asked, Well, why am I doing this? Well,

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the Muslims,

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abroad, abstractions, anybody can say that?

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Anybody anywhere in the world anytime.

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But if we're going to get concrete, and deal with the real live realities, the real live history, the real life culture, the real life situation, alright, of Muslims living in this part of the world, we have to get concrete.

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And that was the whole point of dealing with Islam and the black American.

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In part, the other part was that in America,

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I said what?

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In America?

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I think that

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one of the

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civilizational failures of America

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one of the historical failures, let us say of America,

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and most Americans recognize this now this is not a complaint. It's not a sneer. This is not a

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a nasty criticism of America, simply

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recognition of a fact. But one of the historical failures of America has been

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the manner in which America has dealt with the issue of race and racial hierarchy.

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And any religion

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that has ambitions to become a religion that

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inspires the best of any society.

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It has to be able to deal with that society's very concrete illnesses.

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And so Islam and the black American and Islam and the problem of black suffering is not simply addressed the black American Muslims, but it is addressed also to the broader American society, with the aim of trying to highlight and model the way in which Islam can address a concrete historical reality in American society.

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And I believe, personally, again, that any religion that aspires to any kind of broad based societal recognition in a society like America has to come to terms with the issue of race. And that has to be a part of its moral repertoire, it has to be a part part of its theological repertoire, it has to empower people to get beyond a problem in moral terms, in ways that can be grounded in religious teaching.

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This book,

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in a sense, goes beyond the last two, because it goes in a sense, from the more specific to the more general without getting out of the specific

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you know, I just came back.

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from overseas, I won't say any country, so it won't sound like any kind of critique. In fact, if I, if I mentioned, the country would be misleading, because although what I'm about to say, took place in this country, it was it was a conference that included people from all over all over the Muslim world.

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But one of the things that

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I noticed, and it's not the first time

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is the extent to which

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the world over

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remain saturated

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with the sensibilities, with the presumptions, were the presuppositions with the ideals and the vision

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of the dominant civilization in the world today. And that is sort of Western liberalism.

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And these sensibilities continue

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to very fundamentally shape the way that Muslims think. But not only how they think, but how they actually feel, what it is that they actually aspire to.

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And this is across the board. This is whether we're talking about the Muslim world, or we're talking about America.

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And it appeared to me that in very concrete terms, what this reflects is

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the need to get beyond such externals as fit

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and theology

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to the nitty gritty of the issue,

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our social reality as Muslims is not determined by our faith

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our faith

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may tell us

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we must do this.

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We must not do that.

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We should do this. We should not do that.

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But that fifth will not determine what we actually do or do not do.

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I can learn

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Babel Salah

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and I can learn what time fighter

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that won't get me up

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and to think, therefore, that Fick

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and theology

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and all of these things that deal with externals and I'm not saying it all deals with externals, but the bulk of it deals with externals to imagine that, that

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this course, will somehow change our social reality. That's a misguided notion.

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At the expense is give me 30 seconds at the expense, because I want to, I want to say this in a way that that, that you can take this away. That's the takeaway point. It's something that you can you can process me remember, I'm thinking about

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an Italian thinker. I named him Antonio Gramsci. Some of you may have heard of Gramsci, those who haven't, Gramsci was an Italian Marxist.

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And he was imprisoned for his activities.

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And while in prison,

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he wrote the prison notes.

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And he developed this theory of hegemony, basically, it went like this, grab cheese sort of turn marks on his head, Marx had been of the opinion that society was shaped by those who monopolized the means of production, the means of producing things, and therefore wealth.

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All right, those who have the ability to control wealth control society.

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Gramsci, however, looked specifically, among other things, at America, he was an Italian and Italian prisons, but he looked at America before and after the Great Depression.

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We all know that during the Great Depression,

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people who monopolize the means of production, what happened to them?

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They lost those means

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the whole stock market crashed. Right? People went from riches to rags overnight. And yet, Gramsci recognized something.

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Society basically didn't change.

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The same kind of deference I used to give to you, as a rich industrialist. Although you will no longer a rich industrialist, I still continued to look up to you, and treat you with the same deference that I had treated you with before.

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If the means of monopolizing production, is really what controlled that, then that should have ceased to be a reality, but it did not.

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So grab, she came to the conclusion that it is not those who control the means of producing things. It is those who produce those who control the means of producing and disseminating ideas and images.

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Because ideas and images deal with the pre conscience

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by following I mean by that, in other words, you know, they can hit you in such a way that they get beyond all your rational defenses and push you from behind the by fall when I'm, this is a little abstract. I don't want to be too abstract. But it's why we want the things that we want.

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Why do you want those Nikes?

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Let me just just think about that.

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Right? Pairs zoom zoom sneakers

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Why do we want the Nikes?

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It's not the quality of the sneaker.

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Right? Why do we want the Nikes

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is because we have been infused right? By pre rational forces that attribute a certain value to those Nikes they may follow what I mean by that.

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And so there is this pre rational

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reality. All right, that thing that pushes me from behind, okay.

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And I began to see that we teach fit. We talk about fit, we've got to be blue in the face

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and nothing changes

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You know, the rights of the husband and the rights of the wife, the rights, nothing changes, or very little changes. Why?

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Because the pre rational animators, that knifes

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has, in a sense, been marginalized in our discourse.

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And so for me, in order to be able to try to introduce something that would bring the neffs, the self, the pre rational self, back to center stage, where we as a community could recognize the importance of addressing data as well. And this book is not designed to be the end all the grand solution to our problems in that area. It is simply designed to initiate a process whereby we as a community can begin to recognize the importance of addressing our knifes.

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So that when we talk about our problems, we don't just talk about them in terms of the apparent problem. When we talk about what it means to be a community, we don't simply talk about we're having lessons and Fick and having lessons in theology, but having nothing that deals with the refinement of the self.

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How do I train myself? How do I align my desires? All right, with obedience to Allah, how do we do all these things, both individually, and collectively. And so for me, this book, stemmed out of a sense that if we don't acquire the ability to address these kinds of issues, effectively, then again, very little is going to change in our individual or collective lives. Because the added accumulation of information more and more and more and more fit, does not necessarily make me a better Muslim. Tell me a little bit about the title because there's interplay between 50 and two. So for spiritual cultivation, yeah, obviously, when you title the book, you title it with something

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that catches our attention. Yeah, you Sufis. And in your in the introduction, you talk about some of the historical development of Sufism, you describe it, but I'll tell you about the approach to Sufism as a minimalist approach. So there's, you're highlighting the fact that there have been these kinds of conversations amongst the scholars historically about what is Sufism, how it is properly practiced, and you obviously title it in a way that automatically highlights some of that kind of tension. Yeah, if you could tell us a little bit about the title. Yeah, very briefly.

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As you, as you probably noticed, from both Islam and the black American, and Islam in the problem of black suffering, I am one of those who believes that Islam is a storied enterprise. That means that Islam is the ongoing attempt on the part of the Muslim community in the world, and through history, to understand and to self police itself.

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And the point of departure in that regard, is the cumulative effort of the Muslims to do that I eat tradition.

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But tradition is only a point of departure. And it is a grand mistake for us to imagine that tradition has all of the ready cut, ready made answers for realities that people in the past that we've been faced before.

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It's a point of departure.

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Sufism, as a part of that tradition, has come into the modern world, and certainly into communities in the West as a very controversial entity.

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And I don't think I have to go in into very much detail about about that fact. And for me, this is problematic because Sufism is the repository of some of the most profound, some of the most valuable some of the most effective discourse about refinement of the South, not only in Muslim history, but in human history.

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And I say that, you know, not just as a Muslim, but as but as a scholar, when you read what Muslims have had to say, in this area and compare that with virtually any other tradition in human history. These guys are giants and yet because of the controversial nature of the controversial reputation, let us say of Sufism. All right. Much

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While the community in the West has been cut off from that entire tradition.

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So what I tried to do was to highlight a point that I initially made in Islam and the black American and that is the following,

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that Sufism has traditionally

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included a mystical element or a mystical dimension

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and a non mystical dimension, a dimension that deals with precisely the self, the refinement, the training, and the disciplining of the self.

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It is the mystical dimension that sometimes has gone to access to the point that it has engaged in certain forms of pantheism. And I'm just being blunt and explicit here, because that my understanding is this so called reality, what is pantheism just for those of pantheism, whereby

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the dividing line, the boundary, the distinction between God, the Creator, and creation, is blood.

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And this whole notion that somehow we can

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ontologically UNITE WITH GOD become literally one with God.

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That is the notion of pantheism. And there have been expressions of Sufism, that advocate that and I'm not being polemical, here. I'm just describing the situation as it is. And that is precisely what has made Sufism problematic for many for whom Sufism is problematic.

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However, that's not all of Sufism.

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And what has happened in modern times, is two things. One, voles who want to attack Sufism,

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equate Sufism as a whole with its most extreme expressions of mystical pantheism.

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So if you accept Sufism, that means you accept what are

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the most extreme expressions of pantheism.

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And in that way, Sufism as a whole is what is banished to the margin, if not excluded. On the other hand, those who want to apologize for Sufism, say that Sufism simply what?

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It's only spiritual refinement, it's only

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it's only disciplining yourself.

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And in that way,

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they can say about people who are opposed to Sufism, that they're opposed to what

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they're opposed to spirituality. They oppose the discipline in the south, they're opposed to spiritual refinement.

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By far what I mean by that, and so the average everyday Muslim ends up lost in the sauce confused,

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not really knowing where to go. But given the decibels of the controversy of Sufism, and it's pretty loud, it's scary. It can scare lots of people away from it. Okay. And so, what I tried to do was point out that there are these two aspects of Sufism.

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One has been known to engage in access, not all forms of mysticism are pantheistic. I want to be clear about that. All right. But there's this whole other dimension of Sufism.

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That is spiritual refinement, disciplining the self dealing with the pre rational, the pre conscience, all right,

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that should be made accessible to all Muslims. Because they all need it. We all need it. All right. This text

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stuck out for me, because it was my understanding that that is exactly what Allah was trying to do in this text. For that reason, virtually all of those aspects of Sufism that have been traditionally a cause for controversy, and attack are eliminated completely from this world.

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There is no pantheism there. There's no there's not even there's not even necessity for sufficient.

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There is no specific world.

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Concepts like finat because they don't exist. Concepts like Toba or rather, you know beseeching saints for favors or be beseeching, that saints for favors, doesn't exist there. And so to me, it appeared that what Immanuel Tala was trying to do was

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To strip Sufism down of all the controversial elements, that is the self refinement side of Sufism, so that the everyday average Muslim, all right, could freely and openly access that without fearing all this controversy and attack and an intention within the community.

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And that's where I refer to the minimalist approach of eminent Allah in this book. In fact, he's not even saying the word Sufi itself doesn't exist, that doesn't appear there. And what he wants to do is to say, Look, we all need to refine ourselves, we all need to establish a proper relationship with God. And that all

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entails a regime of disciplining the self.

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We have a tradition that has very effectively done that. There are other aspects of that tradition, however, that render it inaccessible. All right, to the average everyday muscle. I want to put all that aside, and present this to the everyday but his or her own personal and communal use. This is why this one second, this is why, you know what I'm trying to do here with this question mark.

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That bigger question mark.

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is, I'm trying to be true to him in a PA Allah? Because he does not affirm any Sufism for non Sufis. All right, I want to keep it as a question.

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That by far what I mean by that, rather than take some doctrinal position, and then plunge us into yet what another controversy. All right, that defeats the whole purpose of what we're trying to do.

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All right. So what I'm trying to do is to make this as accessible. All right, and to do so through translation. All right, because, you know, if I were just to write a book like this on my own, I might be seen as one of the parties in the controversy.

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The by far what I mean by that, well, this ain't me.

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This ain't me. This is even aka. Hola. All right. Can I read just one little, it's your

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introduction. I want to give you a sense of what I'm trying to do here.

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I'm sorry, I'm getting a little older. I got it. It's so great.

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To be here.

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I wanted to share with you what I'm what I'm trying to do here because

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this is scary stuff. I mean, why do we need safe spaces? Because so many of our spaces are songsterr.

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And what I'm trying to do is to show that well, this interest on the part of m&r Pa, Allah is not just given up on Allah's interest, there are other great, enormously important stylist who has the same interest,

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even Taymiyah

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who was supposed to be for many people what

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the arch enemy of Sufism

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This is a quote from him in Tamia. All right.

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The correct doctrines and practices that have affected these people have caused some groups to reject the way of the Sufis altogether, root and branch such that those who veer from the proper course in this regard fall into two groups. One, a group that accepts both what is true and what is false of the Sufi way and to a group that rejects both what is true and what is false of the Sufi way.

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Sir, such as many groups of theologians and jurists, and the right position, Zoom contain me

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and the right position is simply to accept of this way, as well as any other way that which is consistent with the book and the Sunnah. And to reject of it, as well as other ways that would violate the book and the Sunnah.

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This even came here.

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m&r thought Allah was from the 70s or an ever hasn't shared any

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question of Allah was known to be very sober and assumed you

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To have no patience for those who felt that Sufism was some kind of alternative to Sharia. He had no patience for that. In fact, he was not one of those who even believe that Sufis as the run around, you know, as poor, you know.

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mendicants you know, you understand what I mean by that.

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In fact, it's reported that

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00:35:33 --> 00:35:35

used to dress well.

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One time a Sufi came into the masjid when he was teaching. And after his lesson, he went up to share the me and said, shit,

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God is not worshipping these kind of clothing that you are wearing. What is going

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on shabbily, and this sushi was dressed in a very coarse woolen like matte set,

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right. And he reached out and grabbed shot the guy that's not worshiping the sonically a Shabbat, he looked back at him and said, he reached out and sampled the mass burlap sack and said,

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God is not worshipped and the kind of clothing that you are wearing my clothing, tell the people that I don't need anything from them. Your clothing, tell the people that you are in need of them. Association TV.

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This is Shannon.

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This is shattered Sharia Straight No Chaser. All right.

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I mean, they're very seriously because this is part of the controversy. You know that that comes into Sufism, that Sufism, you know, Sufis believe that you don't have to ask any. Yeah, of course, that's not true. There was some Sufis who advocated that, but that's not what Sufism as a whole was ever about. All right, but these are some of the kinds of controversies that have come down to us and have left us in a position where we feel very hesitant, right, about accessing this tradition, that holds the key to so many problems that we are having, because so many of us, even in terms of the Sunnah of the Prophet.

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I would suggest that, you know, we stop playing these games.

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If you don't know yourself, and if you're not honest with yourself, the sooner Muhammad sallallahu alayhi wa sallam is not likely to do you very much good at all.

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Yeah, no. Oh.

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Because if you are a coward, or if you are stingy, you cut your nails and shave your underarms, all you want

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is not going to deal with your problem.

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And so many of us do. As the Sudanese say

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he looks at the elephant, but he only curses his shadow.

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We refuse to address our own internal flaws, I have my flaws, I have my issues. I have my weaknesses. They are very different from yours. And I need to address mine I need to identify them and they become front and center with them. I need to be honest and courageous about them.

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And then I need to seek ways of addressing them.

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All right, and, and to just focus on those aspects of the Prophet, sunnah Sol Allah when he was setting them up that had nothing to do with that. All right, is to make mockery of his sin

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is to make mockery of his sin.

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Because what is that going to do? I want to be that person who's constantly sunnah. sunnah, sunnah, sunnah, sunnah. And because I'm not addressing my real issues, I'm not going to develop as a human being, I'm not going to develop as a muscle yet. I'm going to be the person who represents what

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what reputation is not going to give some numbers.

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The worst people become the representatives of a Sunday.

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I'm not saying this is the case in any.

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I'm not making making charges here. But you understand the point that I'm trying to make. And so we have to be honest, and courageous and humble about who we are. And my problem is that I'm I'm stingy, that I need some regime of, of charity.

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Right? You follow what I'm saying? I mean, courage. I got courage. I don't need to deal with that. But that's what I want to deal with. Because that's easy.

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All right. This is about getting us honest and getting us created the courageous with ourselves.

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