Compassion, Care, Cure
I listened to another episode of the Imam Marc Manley Show (title mine) this morning. Rather, I reached about the quarter mark and decided against continuing. Let me say that I used to enjoy listening to the episodes; however, recently, it seems he has a vendetta to fulfill against the likes of Daniel Haqiqatjou (understandable: I don’t like his games in Cancel Culture either.), but now even against common Muslims.
It is his right and his scope to advise the common folk (I lay somewhere between the two being a student of knowledge.) as he sees fit within the dictates and recommendations of Islam; that is part of his role as Imam within the American context. He has been given that authority by virtue of the time put into studying and learning and by virtue of those who put him as their Imam. (Another issue, but later for that.)
He has been reflecting on this concept he names “performative Islam”. Admittedly, I don’t have a clear definition to offer, likely because I’ve tuned out at certain points in each episode. It seems to have begun in defense of his friend which is an honorable activity, but it also seems to have devolved into this vendetta. What has stuck with me though is the idea of common Muslims living vicariously through limelight Muslims and the idea of validating Islam through these celebrity Muslims.
This made me recall Dr. Sherman Jackson’s brilliant class on White Supremacy as a form of shirk, setting up a divinity other than God, in which he lectures at length about validating Islam through White authority. (I don’t say White people as White people does not equal White authority as many of the Critical Race Theorists would have us believe.)
Both Imam Marc and Dr. Sherman are correct in their respective assessments; however, I think we need to dig deeper. In m own efforts to guide my son, I see this issue of validation surface. While saying that he wants to be his own person regardless of what anyone says, he really wants to be validated as his own person; he seeks approval and acceptance. I, being the father of a twenty-something year old child (and children) have struggled with this myself. I have often not been the one in authority; rather, I have often been the one seeking validation through whatever figure I saw as the authority whether that was Arab Muslims in my early years of being Muslim or the self-appointed “Shaykh” I followed for years or countless other things I saw as authoritative over the years.
What we have here, in my own opinion, is a natural human tendency, a sickness of the heart that needs curing, a sickness that drives some of us to seek validation through other than Allah when it is He Who told us, “Verily, We have ennobled the offspring of Adam.” He has ennobled us with the intellect and it is through this intellect that we must find principles on which to stand firm despite the hurricane of confused ideas surrounding us. This perspective is something I have learned from and something I love about Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, i.e. he always brings it back to the soundness, the purity of the heart. He sees the sicknesses of the heart at play in the myriad human problems and self-imposed sufferings.
To conclude with my two cents, see this for what it really is, that is another sick human being in need of compassion, care, and concern.
And Allah knows better.