Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Discourse on Wahhabism

Gayyash asked me what I meant by Wahhabism in my mufti post, and I guess this is my philosophical discourse on Wahhabism.

Wahhabism for me I guess is the uncompromising fight against "idolatry", and by this meaning I also include the similar aspects of Protestantism. Wahhabism for me is also the total decapitation of the human mind and its submission to the rulings of a man whose aims are directed to that end...or even if they aren't, all the same. In the first column the man asks if it's okay for his brother to deal in a dog farm, and the mufti in his serious thinking face that is illustrated above the column, gives him this long technical answer that I find difficult to understand. Although the mufti says it's okay in this case, I find the whole process absurd; the asker and the column and the answer...they are all equal participants but I blame the mufti here as the role model for engaging in this dance. So the mufti's role here is a pendulum of authority swinging between the purity of Islam on the one hand and the native culture on the other, decidedly moving in the direction of the former and away from the latter.

You can say in some sense that this is Islam, and arguing against the mufti's most well intentioned interpretation of the spiritual purity of Islam (which I think wahhabism originally intended but went terribly wrong) is therefore rejection of Islam. This Islam degraded of native culture, interpretation and traditions is not the Islam that Egyptians have proudly and lovingly borne for all these years. When Islam was planted in Egypt it sprouted a different product of nomadic interpretation of spiritual unearthliness, the Egyptian Islam was different; it was one of saints, festivals, and even miracles and magic. It was one that celebrated the Christian saints and even the animist ones all the same. This was the natural product of Islam to the Egyptians. Now when you ask any mufti, no matter how open minded he is, if it is ok to celebrate a Muslim, Christian or non-Christian saint, is he even allowed to say it's ok? He will be legally bound to say no. But it was always ok before for Egyptians to do all these things; this was their Islam that they loved and the Islam that they knew, not the one of today which they are meeting as if anew, and this I think is why Egyptians are pouring in with their questions to ask the Mufti what is ok and what is not ok with their new religion.

The interpretation you give of the Mufti's job is interesting; an authority similar to that of a lawyer arguing cases bound among other things by the precedents of his predecessors. But I'd like to think of the highest interpreter of the word of God as something higher than that, but that is probably too much to ask for, and maybe that's exactly the point; Maybe the native Islam that I speak of above was never the individual product shaped by a succession of men embodied in the capacity of mufti, but the shared collective product of a culture as a whole. This was the age before television and mass communication.

I've spoken of this mufti sometimes positively and sometimes neutrally before, but what tipped me over to the negative here is the second column where he says it's not preferred to visit the dead in the eid. In whose favor does he rule this? Are the dead grouchy and unwelcoming of their living family to visit them at their tombs? Egyptians have been doing this as tradition for thousands of years as a festive and spiritual experience, what is the harm in this? Is it against the Islam of this new mufti? It was never against the Islam of these people, and such a thought would have never crossed their minds.

I love your blog by the way and hope to see you here more often. Kol sana winta tayeb. (Hey you know what, I just re-read the mufti's words in the second column and they're better and different than what the title makes them out to be, but I'll keep what I wrote anyway as I think the concept still applies in one sense or another.)

* * *

It didn't take long after my return from the holidays to find more examples of what I am saying here. The scene does not involve the mufti this time, but one of those other celebrity sheikhs that co-guest in their own talk show programs where people call in and talk to them bel sout wel soura. The channel was el qana el saqafiyya, and the sheikh was not one dressed in the elegant gibba wel oftaan of the Azharite sheikhs, no no...this was a man in a purple suit and a moderne stubble beard.

These are the two consecutive questions I heard before the end of the show:

Lady Caller # 1: "lama gozi ye2oul inno ghadban 3alayya, da yibtil el sala bita3i?"

Just like that the woman so simply puts her husband not only in equal footing with God, but in a position superceding Him as the gatekeeper of what He accepts of her prayers and what He does not. And even though she must have engaged in some level of thinking to take the initiative to ask this question, her mind is so incapacitated that she needs the blessings of this man to tell her, "la la ya madam, rabenna el awwel, we ba3dein gozik."

Man Caller # 2: "lama emam el mossalleen yitwaffa asna2 el sala...ne3mel ehh??"

Now this was a good sheikh as I was told by my aunt who regularly follows his show. He received both questions with smiles (as I imagine trying not to laugh), and gently gave them logical answers to both questions which I will leave for you to deduce yourselves.

But being a "good sheikh" here is not enough. My idea of good here is for such a respected authority as this man or the mufti to come out and say: "Sorry ladies and gentlemen, but in your own interests I decline to engage in these kinds of questions; God gave you the greatest gift of all, called the human brain...I encourage you to use them before these precious organs in your bodies atrophy and your lines of offspring mutate into lemmings [this may not be physically feasible, but metaphorically I think this has happened already]. We fel akher ya gama3a, el deen yusr mish 3osr."

More proof that we are turning into lemmings.


Egyptian Patriot said...

Dear Seneferu, I can see no email link to you so I'm going to write to you on this. Check out this little gem,
...observe half way through the page one of your and my worst nightmares. Check out the bit where it says 92 % agree that Saudi Arabia is friendly to Egypt.

Seneferu said...

Thanks EP, I linked to an arabic version of this report at the end of the post.

Carmen said...

My father, sadly, has been afflicted with the stupidest family members that have ever existed on God's green earth. Your little quote in the end that you wish the sheikh would've said is what my father says ALL THE TIME.

Seneferu said...

Hi Carmen, it's nice to see you here. I like your father then:)

Mohamed said...

Ok take those three questions which were obviously ravaging the minds and souls of those who asked them so much that they even had to ask them, what's better yet are the answers,
Q: When someone on the TV or radio says assalamo aleikom, should I answer them back?
A:Yes (then he went on citing an infinite number of a7adeeth and stories to support his answer).
Another Q: What can I do to satisfy the conditions of a "sadaka gareya" after my death.
A (after some deep thinking, as obviously this question did stretch the limit of the imagination of the retarded sheikh): You can dig a well to benefit the faithful (I swear this was on tv).
Q: On judgment day, what would be the language of 7esab.
A:Gomhoor el fokaha2 agma3 that the language of 7esab is el seriania (whatever that is)
Not to mention a genius statement by an imam here in San francisco about having a hot shower in the morning and fasting, anyone who finds the relation, is a genius.

Seneferu said...

Very funny. Where did you get these from?