Channel: Sherman Jackson
File Size: 38.68MB
her and professor of religion and American Studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. He is the co founder of the American Learning Institute for Muslims, otherwise known as olum, as well as past president of Sharia scholar Association of North America. He is the author of a plethora of books and has written a number of thought provoking articles. Please welcome Dr. Jackson.
Rahim Hamdulillah. This day no one has to fit or want to study. When Urdu be lame and Shula and fusina women say it I'm Melina Miyagi lephalale Mottola. I mean you're a little further ahead the Allah wa shadow Allah Allah Allah Allah Allah. Allah wa shadow anna muhammadan Abdullah solo sallallahu alayhi wa sallam rubbished back knee surgery we still remember a family sending a family to finish university with a letter is any other Odle
beside hotkey Rabbil Alameen wa salam aleikum wa rahmatullah wa barakato.
I've been asked to talk on the issue of reform, modernity, and Islam, exploring the fault lines, and part of the description leads me to believe that I'm supposed to be talking about the question of how Islam can sustain its relevance, its efficacy, and its power and strength in the modern world, given the changes that have come about in the modern world,
and I'm going to take in so doing attack that is somewhat different from JTS is in fact, I'm glad that he focused on what he focused on, because I'm going to look at not so much reform of the actual tradition of Islam in terms of details, but look at what it is that has placed the Islamic tradition in the tension with modern reality that it has come into.
Now, to start off, there are basically two ways to destroy a living organism.
The first way is simply to attack it directly, stab it in the heart, kill it.
The second way, however, is to attack that organisms ecosystem.
Once a living organisms ecosystem has been degraded, has been ravaged, has been destroyed.
No amount of tending to the organism itself, will be enough to save or rescue that organism permanently.
If a river is polluted, to the point that it becomes
impossible for a fish to live in it, no amount of feeding that fish are injecting it with with that without ever will be able to sustain that fish on a permanent basis, you have to clean up the ecosystem of the fish, or the fish will die.
differs from living organisms in that religion is not a physical entity like a fish.
And as and so religion does not directly sort of rely on a physical ecosystem.
like Christianity and Judaism, for example, I mean, Islam can survive in the Arabian Desert, as a physical environment just as easily as it can survive in a modern metropolis. In the West religion is not dependent upon any particular physical ecosystem.
But religions do require a certain kind of social cultural biosphere
in order for them to be able to live and to thrive.
The sociologists of religion Peter Berger, he calls this religions, plausibility, structure,
religions, plausibility structure.
Now, basically, a plausibility structure is the overall social cultural context within which a system of meaning an institution or a set of beliefs, is able to sustain its status as real, valuable, normal, and even true.
People who live in this particular social cultural context are not likely to
Define or reject the reigning beliefs and institutions that define their socio cultural context. Instead, they're more likely to take these things for granted, and ultimately accept them as their own. If we take the social political environment, let's say in the United States from, for example, the President of the United States is said to be the most powerful individual in the world. And yet, because of the social political ecosystem in which he or maybe she don't know,
lives, I'm not trying to be political here.
Can you imagine an American president using the N word, publican?
Can you imagine American and American president standing up and saying, I'm an atheist? publicly? Why can't they say that? They can't say that, because the social political plausibility structure won't allow for that.
They won't be able to survive in that kind of a social political environment.
And so what we have to look at in terms of Islam in the modern world,
the relationship between Islam as a religion and the prevailing social culture and the social political environment, what relationship have those two come into.
And my contention here is going to be that
one of the problems that we have, as modern Muslims
has to do with our overall understanding of Islam as a religion. And I'm not talking about any particular battle, or any question of Aikido or anything like that. I'm talking about how we understand Islam as a religious construct.
And what I mean by this is the following. There's a Jewish professor at the at Princeton University, she wrote a book entitled, How Judaism became a religion.
Sounds like a strange title. Right? Because we automatically think of Judaism as what, as a religion, she wrote a book entitled, How Judaism became a religion.
And in this book, she writes the following.
Prior to modernity,
Judaism was not a religion.
And Jewishness was not a matter of culture, or nationality,
rather, Judaism, and Jewishness? Well, all of these at once. religion, culture, and nationality.
In other words, Judaism was the whole kit and caboodle. Not simply religious beliefs, and practices.
Now, another way of looking at this, and I believe that this applies to Islam, and this is part of our problem.
Islam, traditionally speaking, was not simply a matter of religious beliefs, and practices, Islam included beliefs, and practices, and also it's all plausibility structure.
It included those things that would keep it relevant, that would keep it meaningful, that would sustain the value and the efficacy of its teachings.
And what happened with modernity, and this is why this author talks about how Judaism became a religion. Because what modernity has essentially done
is separate religious belief and practice, from plausibility, structure,
religious belief and practice. religious communities can have that you can have your prayers, you can have your doctrines, you can have your fasting, Ramadan, etc.
But the things that keep those things relevant in the lives of human beings, that plausibility structure that is now the property of modern society, and the modern state.
And so religions are left now to try to keep themselves relevant, without the ability to and pollute the water that they exist in.
This is what we're dealing with.
In terms of Islam in the modern world,
now, I'm going to
tax a cameraman,
if I can, because I think that it may be easier for me to make this a bit clearer to you visually.
If the cameraman can get this right, quick, can I see this?
You can't see this.
I mean on the screen
what is it?
I can't hear you
tonight. All right.
This one in the middle. What is this now?
No, no, what's the middle one?
Tonight? Sure. All right.
All right. What's this middle one now?
What is it?
Huh? What does that say?
It says what? Ego? How do you spell ego with a nine?
Now the point that I'm making here is this.
As long as that nine stood alone, it was very clearly a nine.
one, I added a seven on one side, and an eight on another side. That made it what? Even more clearly
Did I do anything to the nine
your perception of the nine was totally concerned. Um, so I was totally determined by what surrounded the nine by its environment.
And when I changed the environment, to that the nine was no longer recognizable as an icon.
And what we have to understand is that modernity has placed certain things in the social cultural ecosystem. That makes it very difficult to recognize the value of religion for what it is, including Islam.
And what we have to understand
what we have to understand is this.
I don't care how much
is that any clearer an eye now?
he? What does that say?
William, and how was it more clearly a nine than it was still says ego.
My point to you is this, we will not make the nine clearer by simply focusing on the nine.
If we want to make the nine clear, we have to do what
we have to focus on the plausibility structure that surrounds the nine.
And until we are able to do that, we are likely to have difficulty recognizing the nine for what it actually is.
If that nine, is Islam, we have to understand that we will not be able to restore Islam to its proper place by simply doubling down and tripling down on the Religious Sciences per se.
We're not going to be able to do it. We have to get back to an understanding of Islam that says Islam is not only religious beliefs and practices, but it also includes its own plausibility structure.
And that means that means that it is not simply and has never been simply religious scholars who maintain and sustain the relevance, the efficacy and the power of Islam in the world. You out there, you know, I've always wondered something. I hope you'll indulge me for a moment here. Maybe some of you can give me an answer.
Because I always wondered this. I mean, you take somebody like I will no as
I will know as was an Arab poet in the Bassett period.
And the guy, how can I put this and still be rated PG?
The guy. I mean, he has poems on wine drinking, the guy loved one, Allah first any
either I'm kind of, I mean, pour me some wine and says wine and don't hide if you're able to do it in public.
The guy liked boys.
It was known about
the guy was involved in all kinds of
And I asked myself,
Why did was not just leave Islam?
That question makes sense to you.
Why didn't he just just leave?
Someone who had those proclivities today would be more likely to do what?
why did why did
Because for him, Islam was not simply rituals, doctrines and practices, it was part of a civilization with which he identified as a human being,
to be a Muslim was to be part of a civilization,
including its plausibility structure. And when the doctrines and the practices didn't hold people in the plausibility structure would, because the plausibility structure is what maintained the value,
the status, the prestige, of the teachings, and the practices. And people wanted to identify with all of this. And I wonder why us ended up near the end of his life, writing poems about what
that's what actually happened.
So what we have to understand, we tend now to think of Islam as having been established by Malik, and Abu Hanifa, and all of the religious scholars. But that's not what made Islam, the civilization that it was, they played their role, a very important role. But Islam as a civilization, as a plausibility structure, included not only religious scholars, but poets, and architects, and fashion designers, and scientists, and philosophers, all of those things that are needed to make up a civilization. And what those of you in this room have to understand is that you may not be a religious scholar, but you have a role to play and reestablishing the plausibility structure of
Islam. We need poets, we need architects, we need fashion designers, we need interior decorators, we need business people, we need all of the things that go into a plausibility structure that would highlight the value, the prestige, and the profundity of the teachings of Islam.
That's what we need. And until we get that, as long as the prevailing plausibility structure or ecosystem remains in place, Islam is going to continue, like Judaism and Christianity, to atrophy. It's going to continue to hemorrhage, we must understand that we have a civilizational role to play here. Now, in terms of the actual social cultural context
has come to constitute the modern sort of ecosystem in which we all live.
This is a huge topic. But I want to just talk about three elements of sort of the modern eco system and which we all live. And those three elements are the following. One is liberalism.
Two is secularism. And three is scientism.
All three of these
apart part of the ecosystem
when you go to
grad school, today Oh,
All the way up through college. You are educated and socialized in such a way that these three entities become a part of your being. They become the part of the prism through which you see life. you internalize them.
And in fact,
those of us who are more successful in life, the more prestigious school we send our children to,
the more powerfully concentrated these entities tend to be.
And what we're facing is that we are getting socialized, educated, determined by liberalism, secularism, and scientism, and then turning around and trying to make sense of Islam.
That's like trying to see this
that's like trying to see this as what,
as a nine.
That's what that's like. So let's talk about these three, for just a few minutes. So that we might get some sense of how we might
engage upon a project that will restore Islam's Paul plausibility structure, and its ecosystem. And here, I want to be very clear about something we Muslims have got to get out of the habit of being so short sighted.
We tend all the time to think about problem solving in very short increments.
If we're talking about the restoration of his lambs plausibility structure of an ecosystem in which Islam can thrive, we're talking about a transgenerational project,
something that we have to be in for the long term, we need to understand that because we're not talking about just establishing something that's a flash in the pan that will deal with certain little pop up problems, and then disappear. We're talking about something that has some permanence. Alright, so let me talk about the first element,
liberalism. And here I want to be very careful
on two levels. First of all, when I say liberalism, I'm not talking about liberals and conservatives.
I'm not talking about political liberalism, that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about liberalism, as a philosophical ideal.
All right, and that ideal
includes lots of things, but the three main things that includes the following liberalism is based on the value of liberty.
And it then privileges the following one, autonomy to individualism and three, public reason and what does that mean?
autonomy. Autonomy literally means auto nomos. It literally means self law.
When I am autonomous, that means I do not recognize any law, outside myself.
Also know most self law, I am the one who determines how I live, I do not recognize any authority outside myself, that has the authority to tell me how to live
individualism. What's important, is not how the community
or the family or the group is doing. What's important
is how me as an individual is doing.
What we are looking for is maximum or maximum individual freedom and that freedom cannot be sacrificed for anything beyond the choice of individuals.
And a liberal society believes that if you just leave people to be free to choose what they want to do, then society will somehow it will find this equilibrium and it will be a good society. Right? The last thing is
Public reason says that when we
Come into society.
We all come from different backgrounds, different religions, etc.
So, in order to keep us from falling into conflict, I can't use any arguments from my own religion and public space. Why? Because you don't believe in my religion. So have I come argue on the basis of Quran and you're not a Muslim? Right? There's nothing for you to discuss with me.
And therefore, we might end up in conflict, maybe even bloodshed.
So what public reasoning says is this,
no one can use their own specific religious teachings in the public square,
we all have to put those aside.
And we can only argue on the basis of reasons that we all share, regardless of our religious background, or any other background.
And in that way, whatever we agree upon, it's agreed upon by us all.
What public reason seeks to do
is to come up with quote, unquote, neutral justifications for how we structure society. And this is why arguments that are made on the basis of things like equality, are so powerful, why? Who differs on the value of equality?
Who differs on the value of freedom?
Okay, now, what we have to imagine is this.
How can I reconcile being a Muslim, with the idea that no one outside myself has the right to tell me what to do?
As a Muslim, I believe what,
that God has a right to tell me what to do. And why do I believe that? Because my fundamental premise is that my life, my very existence, my very being, is a gift.
And I have a debt of gratitude to the one who gifted me life.
And because of that, he has the right to tell me how he would like that gift that he has given me to be used. How do we reconcile that, however, with a notion that says, Nobody outside me, has to tell me or can tell me how to live? Liberalism says that the fact that I choose it,
period choice is sacred. The fact that I choose it, is enough to validate it.
And what we have to understand is that we are all being socialized about this, this is one of the reasons. And I hope you'll indulge me here.
You know, one of the things that I have discovered over the years, as I've traveled across the country, and in fact, even the world is I can't tell you the number
of particularly young Muslims that I've met,
who identify as Muslims,
and some of them identify even as practicing Muslims.
But when you get into, you know, a conversation with them,
it's not long before you discover
they are scared to death of their own religion.
They are scared to death of their own religion.
Because they see their own religion as nothing but constraint and an encroachment upon their autonomy.
Because they've been socialized to place autonomy in the top spot.
And everything else has to be reconciled with that.
Now, as Muslims, in fact, even as religious people, we have to be honest about something. Liberalism didn't just come out of the woodworks, liberalism was a response to religion. And this is one of the things I showed you as a test upon it. When religion is done badly, society will respond by trying to come up with alternatives to religion.
When people are given the sense, that to be religious, is to be miserable, to be religious, as Imams or whoever say you can't
Smile, to be religious, you cannot live fully. People will then look to alternatives to religion.
That is a fact.
Liberalism came about because religion would not allow people to live fully.
And one of the things that we need to understand about Islam is that Islam is fundamentally about allowing people in fact empowering people to live both fully
and righteously not just righteously. This is the problem. Not just righteously,
righteously and fully when a man comes to the Prophet and says, what?
I'm gonna pray all night mathlete.
I'm going fast every day. I'm not going to marry, what did the Prophet tell him?
You're not of Me.
I pray some of the night I sleep. I fast some days, I don't fast some days, and I married. The Prophet was living what?
righteously and what?
The problem that we have now is that when people think of freedom, when people think of liberty, they can only think of it in Liberal terms. Why? Because religion has failed to put forth a believable, empowering understanding of freedom. People see a contradiction between religion and freedom. And in the modern world, people want to be what?
People want to be free.
Let me share with you. I mean, this is part of what we have to do. We have to show that Islam not only supports but empowers us to be free
on on an individual and a communal basis. Just an example because I'm running out of time. You know, that the companion of EVA hymnody a man, he married a Jewish woman.
And it's reported that Ahmad came to him once and said,
I heard you married a Jewish woman.
His first response was this
Are you saying that this is haram?
What is Jose for saying,
I am free to exercise my choices within the parameters that God has set, and that you omit them meaning or anyone else has the right to deny me that freedom. I have a freedom that comes from God. And nobody can deny me that. And one of the challenges that we have as a religious community, as a Muslim community, we've got to give people back the freedom that God has given them.
And the name of all kinds of things. We take people's freedom away from them unjustly. And then wonder why they then find difficulty being a muscle. By the way, this is not simply, you know, freedom on the individual level, or just freedom for Mafa freedom for non Muslims as well.
And I'm going to share with you something
that I hope
unlike the popular perception, and and tragically, this is even the popular perception among many Muslims. Islam has no problem recognizing that non Muslims are free to practice their religion and their way of life according to the way that their religion defines it. Islam has no problem with that.
And let me read something to you from the Madonna
was American scholar North Africa. And he went to El causa
who study was medic in Medina for about 20 years.
And God man its teachings from the milk Casa
and Samuel would ask him in a costume and say what do you say about someone so and then we will call someone said Maddox that X amount x&y Sometimes at no cost, I must say
I didn't hear this from Manny. But this is my opinion. All right now in the cost of die in the year 198.
That's over, what?
1200 years ago
1200 years ago. I want you to listen to what they said.
Who's that? I said, Who's that
is that can you say Hey Lauren if he Dini him? He can't help imati was a Hawaii we've been
to Collingham with Erica
Carla in the Casa
La you know home feed Dini him, Omar whom Allah, Allah He, for Allah human or Omen delegate either Kana Delica mega Hey Luna, feeding him.
I asked him, they'll cost him about these non Muslim religious minorities among us,
according to whose religion is permissible to marry your mother
or your sister, or your knees? What do you say about this?
It will cost them says he asked them, Do you allow them to do this? It will cost them says
My view is that we do not intervene
when they practice anything that their religion has made permissible for them to practice. We don't intervene. And we allow them to practice according to what their religion says. How much more freedom do you want?
Islam doesn't no freedom on the individual level, for Muslims, for non Muslims.
This is 1200 years ago. Part of the reason that liberalism is so popular, so powerful, and so pervasive, is that no one thinks that there's any alternative to liberalism, in order for people to have any freedom.
And this is a part of the ecosphere, the ecosystem that we now all live in,
I want to move on very quickly to secularism.
Because the other two are secularism, and scientism. And I promise, I'll be a good boy today and on my time.
But secularism is
really quite easy. Secularism is basically the idea that we want to separate religion,
or certainly the religious establishment, from society, and or the state
that religion, and the state must be separate.
And as I tried to articulate last night,
again, one of the reasons for this is that people think that religion dictates all kinds of things, that it doesn't dictate.
And for that reason, they want to separate it. Because if they don't separate it out, it will dictate everything.
Well, Islam, Sharia does not dictate everything.
Why did secularism not emerge? In the lands of Islam?
Why did they not emerge? Why did it not emerge in the lands of Islam? Because there was no need for it. Because Islam always recognized, there are things that we like to do. And there are things that we like to dunya
and for things that are related to Deen, there is one there are sources and there are things for things that are related to dunya. There are other sources such as our minds, our experience, science, all kinds of things, there is no need to separate religion from the state because religion is not trying to dictate everything. And unfortunately, unfortunately, we Muslims have been the last ones to articulate this first to ourselves and then to society at large. Moving on then with my last couple of minutes to scientism.
scientism is a problem because it does two things. First of all, as I said, and Dr. Omar talked about this yesterday. scientism
basically, deny denies everything beyond the physical world.
There is no mystery in existence. There is no human soul. There is no
There is no here after.
There is nothing miraculous about us.
There is nothing miraculous about this creation.
And that leads to two things. One, my life is not a gift.
It's an accident.
Just biologic things coming together. It's an accident. As a result, what do I have to be thankful for? And whom do I have to thank for?
Scientific atheism undermines religion fundamentally. Because it undermines the idea that this creation, including us is a gift.
Second, it undermines religious ritual. There is no soul to purify, because I don't have one. I'm just a bunch of chemicals, etc. This is part of the ecosystem in which we live, in which our children are have a socialized and have to try to make sense of Islam in the context of that. We Muslims have to address this ecosystem, and we will not survive, we will not thrive, we will not be able to translate transgenerational, sustain ourselves, if we don't get back to an understanding of Islam, not just as a religion, but as a religion and its possibility structure as a civilization does that come along here? Solomonic.
Thank you very much, Dr. Jackson. I must confess that I