One More on Salafis and Wahhabis

My friend Sean Foley pointed out to me there is one other major difference between Salafis and Wahhabis.

Wahhabism is a hierarchy with something akin to clergy (to say Sunni Islam has no clergy is both simultaneously true and false; it’s complicated and I won’t go into it here), and Muslims within the Wahhabi system are bound (on some level) to hear and obey to decisions of the scholars who are properly educated and themselves situated in the tradition. Ijtihad (إجتهاد), the ability of Muslims to engage in independent reasoning on religious or ethical matters (this comes from the same root جهد JHD, which means “to struggle” — yes, that kind of struggle) is limited in the Wahhabi system scholars. Continue reading “One More on Salafis and Wahhabis”

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Why Salafis Aren’t Wahhabis (And Vice Versa)

One of the things that regularly steams my potstickers (makes me mad) is the confusion of Wahhabis with Salafists. They are not the same thing. Not by a billion miles.

A couple of blog entries ago, I wrote a little bit about Brother Ahmad, an African American convert to Islam who would occasionally show up at the MSA masjid in Columbus to worship and annoy people. One of the rants Brother Ahmad went on one time was an invective against the Saudis and Wahhabis, calling them “false Muslims” who mislead and beguile. Continue reading “Why Salafis Aren’t Wahhabis (And Vice Versa)”

How Islam is Different

A lot gets said about the difference between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Or the difference between the Judeo-Christian heritage and Islam. (I don’t necessarily like that last one, since it conflates Judaism and Christianity in was no one really did until the 20th century.)

Some folks talk about love (I do a bit in my book), some folks talk about violence, some folks talk about the nature of God. There are a lot of differences, and a lot of similarities. Islam draws heavily on biblical stories and shapes them to some very similar, but also some very different, ends.

But if there is a single difference that matters today, it really has to do with the meaning of suffering and the meaning of history. These arise in scripture but also move out and beyond scripture. (In any scripture-bound community, scripture is where to start, but scripture is only a framing story, and it’s only a starting point. Much of faith and practice arises outside scripture itself.) Continue reading “How Islam is Different”

This is Why I’m Not a Theologian

Every now and again, I have to remind myself that theology grounded in philosophy is a legitimate way of doing theology and is deeply rooted in the Christian tradition.

And I have to do this because I hate theology. Or rather, I hate the kind of theology rooted in philosophy and Greek thought, as opposed to, oh, I don’t know, the story of God’s people in scripture. Continue reading “This is Why I’m Not a Theologian”

Not the Solution

Oh David Brooks, you are so funny!

Since when is the state ever engaged in “humane and productive ends”?

Ah, but that’s the anarchist in me laughing at his latest column, “The Nationalist Solution,” which proffers a reinvigorated love of nation and country as a way of channelling the spiritual ardor, the aspirations of so many young Muslims, to be part of something bigger than themselves. Continue reading “Not the Solution”

On Being Muslim and Modern

There’s a lot of heartburn in some places over Graeme Wood’s piece in The Atlantic, “What ISIS Really Wants.” Getting some traction is H. A. Hellyer’s piece over at Salon, which seems to claim (at least in the headline) that Wood is calling ISIS “representative of Islam.” This seems like something of a straw man, and I see little nonsense in what Wood wrote.

(I cannot speak for the New York Post.)

Wood makes sense to me. He’s written an insightful work that fairly well describes how I understood and experienced Revolutionary Islam (and Muslims who aspired to be revolutionaries) when I worshiped in Columbus, Ohio. I didn’t see much nonsense in Wood’s analysis, especially this: Continue reading “On Being Muslim and Modern”