This was before Sami Yusuf responded to her, but Azhar Usman (Muslim Comedian from the Allah Made me Funny Tour) wrote a letter about a month ago to Yvonne regarding her little rant. Mecca2Medina also responded to her a while back.
Azhar Usman writes:
It is a rant written by a new convert (who saw the “beauty of Islam” at the hands of the Taliban, incidentally), based on a literalist and highly ideological, fundamentalist understanding of the religion of Islam.
Sadly, the notion that “the world is so terrible and Muslims are being bullied and killed all over the world; therefore, they should be sad, crying all the time, and never enjoy happiness” is a common fallacy believed in and advocated by countless Muslims. As a matter of fact, many new converts (and born-Muslims who come to religion later in life) get sucked into this short-sighted, irrational sort of thought almost immediately after their conversion. Invariably, the vast majority of such people either give up on the religion (b/c such a state is neither healthy nor sustainable), or they temper their views over time. See, e.g., Islamic Spirituality: The Forgotten Revolution, by Abdal Hakim Murad (in which he details the problem of the “Salafi burnout” syndrome all too common among activist Muslims these days): http://www.masud.co.uk/ISLAM/ahm/fgtnrevo.htm.
Is it true that “eminent scholars throughout history have opined that music is haram”? Of course it is. Does that mean that Sami Yusuf and artists like him are condemned? Of course not. This type of simplistic analysis serves no worthwhile purpose. Besides, eminent scholars such as Imam al-Qarafi (may God have mercy on him) also commented as follows:
“Persons handing down legal judgments while adhering blindly to the texts in their books without regard for the cultural realities of their people are in gross error. They act in contradiction to established legal consensus and are guilty of iniquity and disobedience before God, having no excuse despite their ignorance; for they have taken upon themselves the art of issuing legal rulings without being worthy of that practice….Their blind adherence to what is written down in the legal compendia is misguidance in the religion of Islam and utter ignorance of the ultimate objectives behind the rulings of the earlier scholars and great personages of the past whom they claim to be imitating.”
Ibn al-Qayyim (may God have mercy on him), commenting on al-Qarafi’s position, opined thus:
“This is pure understanding of the law. Whoever issues legal rulings to the people merely on the basis of what is transmitted in the compendia despite differences in their customs, usages, times, places, conditions, and the special circumstances of their situations has gone astray and leads others astray. His crime against the religion is greater than the crime of a physician who gives people medical prescriptions without regard to the differences of their climes, norms, the times they live in, and their physical natures but merely in accordance with what he finds written down in some medical book about people with similar anatomies. Such is an ignorant physician; the other is an ignorant juris-consult but more detrimental.”
I do not wish to engage in a debate about the specifics of the religious legal disagreement, as I am neither a religious scholar nor a trained researcher in the field. I would, however, point interested readers to the following article, where the above quotations are included, cited, and explained in context: Islam & The Cultural Imperative, by Dr. Umar F. Abd-Allah: http://www.nawawi.org/downloads/article3.pdf.
As the above-referenced article convincingly argues, the religion of Islam has never been a culturally predatory religion. The problem of fanatical Islamism –that insists on irrationally emphasizing Arabized elements of early Islam as the normative practices of the religion– is an entirely modern phenomenon. Classical Muslim society, scholarship, and civilization celebrated Muslim art, artists, and creativity. In spite of the so-called “prohibition on music” under religious law, historically Muslim society produced beautifully moving and powerful music, with Muslim musicians even being credited with inventing countless musical instruments.
As for Sami’s respect for and pride in his home country of Britain, this is neither here nor there. The notion that Britain’s being the “third most hated country in the world” as a proof for anything is categorically unpersuasive. By Ridley’s logic, all Muslims should abandon their faith–or at least be ashamed of it– since Islam is the most hated religion in the world. Public opinion on such issues should not become the basis of pride or lack thereof. Instead, one’s pride in one’s culture, tribe, or country should be understood in context. I highly doubt that Sami Yusuf is proud of the terrible things that the British government and law enforcement has done throughout its history. Obviously, this is not what he is referring to. Just as conscientious and PROUD Americans condemn the wrong, immoral, and brutal actions and policies enacted by their government throughout its own bloody history. Just as conscientious and PROUD Muslims condemn the acts of vigilante violence carried out by Muslim terrorists in the name of Islam, as well as the political violence and senseless killings that have been a hallmark of the political history of the Muslim world, pride in one’s country or religion is by no means an endorsement of bad actions done by others in the name of said country or religion; this is clear to any thinking person.
And finally, as for those out-of-control sisters. Sure, we can sit here and analyze their behavior and judge them, but I would much prefer to leave that judgment up to God. Could a bit more restraint and self-control be a good thing and more becoming of righteous servants of God? Sure. But if people cut loose and lose control from time to time, guess what; it might be a little thing called love? I know Sami Yusuf personally, and I believe him to be a good man, with a good heart. He sings beautifully, and his voice makes people love him, which, in turn, makes them love God. If loving God and screaming and crying about it are crimes, then I am sure all of those sisters would be happy to admit their “guilt”!
Here’s a thought: If you feel so uncomfortable about pop cultural works and art forms at “so-called Nasheed concerts,” then just don’t go. Perhaps it’s a better use of your time to stay home and try developing a more nuanced understanding of the world and the role of religion and art in it. Maybe then you might understand that the same human being is capable of being a Nasheed singer, a fan of pop culture, a rebellious activist, and one who cries like a beggar before his Lord every night for forgiveness and mercy.
Oh, wait; but that would require one to dispense with a black-and-white view
of the world. And God knows that Bush, Blair, and Bin Laden –the Unholy
Trinity– don’t want that.
In any case, it is my prediction that Yvonne Ridley herself will go back and read that article she wrote in five to ten years, and feel embarrassed by its judgmentalism, narrowmindedness, and lack of nuanced understanding. As such, I do not fault her for her erroneous understanding or commentary.
Ironically, Sami Yusuf, if he wasn’t the star being talked about in the piece, as well as his label (“Awakening”), would probably agree with much of the writer’s sentiment. They are avowed supporters of the so-called “Islamic Movement,” which is basically built on the Islamist ideology of The Muslim Brotherhood –hence his fascination with “My Ummah” (which is the title of his second album). Similarly the boy band 786 has also released albums replete with Islamist notions about religion, not the least obvious example being their hit track “Palestine.”
Oh, Yvonne Ridley, being a Muslim is not about becoming a member of a tribe called “Banu Islam” (The Tribe of Islam); it is about achieving spiritual illumination and connectivity with the Divine through upright conduct, behavior, morals, and ethics. Of course, Muslims must have concern for the affairs of their fellow believers, but this is not the primary purpose of the religion. Once you’ve divorced the religious ideal from a politicized understanding of Islam, it becomes clear that much of this rant is just hot air.
May God and the reader pardon me for any errors in my analysis, for God knows best, and truly success comes only from The Most High.
With fraternal love and respect,
I remain, at your service,
Yvonne Ridley responds:
Salaam Alaikum brother Azhar,
I read with interest your response to my column and was mildly amused by the pompous invective which poured forth. Firstly, I did not come to Islam through the Taliban, a major inaccuracy based on a common false assumption, several of which you express in your article by the way. Secondly, I do not rant. I am a columnist and therefore am expected to be provocative and write in a manner which will make people sit up and take notice –object achieved, I would say without doubt, judging from the literally hundreds of emails I have received. By the way, you might be interested to known that 90pc are in support of my column. I certainly do not ‘blindly’ follow Islamic texts, but I do respect the scholars and, by your own admission, you are not one nor ever likely to be. Finally, the reason I embraced Islam had nothing to do with the behavior of the present-day Muslims and everything to do with the Qur’an and the example given to us by the Prophet (pbuh). And, contrary to your belief, I actually do like a good laugh and so shall make it my business to go along to one of your performances; although, please do not expect me to jump out of my seat, cartwheel around the auditorium, or chant your name. I certainly will not applaud you brother, but I might just laugh.
Your Sister in Islam,
Source: click here