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I wanted to share a tremendously informative piece of writing that came into my inbox yesterday — an essay by Omer M. Mozaffar about the passing of Warith Deen (often referred to as W.Deen) Mohammed titled “American Islam Enters its Next Phase.” Mohammed was a gentle but towering figure in the history of Islam in the U.S., yet remains little known in the culture at large.

Fully one-third of U.S. Muslims are African-American, with a noble, fascinating history and theological trajectory all their own. We first waded into these waters when we did an early post-9/11 program on “Progressive Islam in America.” (If you listen you will find that it sounds quite different from the programming we do now, though it remains kindred in spirit and intent.) One of the voices in that show is the supersmart fast-talking Precious Rasheeda Muhammad, a third-generation African-American Muslim. I will never forget discovering her, and discovering all I learned about African-American Islam as I prepared to speak with her.

I’ll boil my most surprising learning down to this: although Louis Farrakhan is still to this day known best and heeded in U.S. culture as the face and voice of African-American Islam, he has long spoken for only a sliver of this movement (tens of thousands as opposed to millions). The vast majority of the African-American Islamic community went through a profound mini-reformation, which W.Deen Mohammed led and exemplified and which mirrored the conversion Malcolm X underwent near the time of his death — away from the more militant, racially separatist roots of Farrakhan and Elija Muhammad (W.Deen’s father) and towards a universalist, orthodox Sunni Islam. To put a finer point on this: Farrakhan speaks for tens of thousands; but the gentle Mohammed embodied a religiosity of millions who, as Mozaffer says, will now move into their next phase as a community formed by his example.


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5 Comments

This is a very different picture than that of Robert Spencer, who argues that there cannot be a true revision of the Islamic heritage, since the life of Muhammed is held to be infallible for the period after his reception of purported revelation. (This life includes consummating a marriage with a 9-year-old girl and murdering enemies, as I understand it). And since the Qur'an is held to be unrevisable in itself, and has no central leader to lead an authentic development of doctrine (as opposed to "nominalizing" Islam into something it is not and has not truly been). Are you aware of any objective flaws with Mr. Spencer's argument? (His book is "Islam Unveiled").

According to christian tradition Joseph was well into his 30's and Mary 12 when baby Jesus was born to this couple and they had more kids shortly after. Joseph would have to register as a sex offender today. The Old Testament is full of prophets like Muhammad killing enemies right and left.

"Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them. Know that God is with the righteous" (Sura 9:121). What do you do with such verses, Ms. Tippett, and the passages in the Qur'an or Hadith which sanction polygamy, spousal abuse, pedophilia, and even rape? I'm curious. Aren't you trying to "nominalize" this religion, Islam, into what only a certain group wants it to be, even though the Qur'an and Muhammed's life cannot be changed? Don't you risk turning "Islam" into a word that means virtually nothing? Why not take a realistic approach by seeking truth?

I don't know you from Adam. I can only try to appeal to your highest and best self and recommend you read the book 'Muhammad' by Martin Lings. Your charges are completely false and do nothing to contribute to the common good. That isolated quote Sura 9:121 has historical context and can only be understood in that context. May I suggest that you sophisticate your stereotypes by informing yourself with knowledge and facts, while holding in check your outbursts which are unfortunately you obviously truly believe. I'm sure you will impress others of your ilk with your emotionality, but in the eyes of civilized knowledgable people you sound..... Even to those who don't subscribe to the tenets of Islam. Ms. Tippet is doing a marvelous work to broaden the the dialogue and foster better understanding between us all. What are you doing? I'm going to donate right now and I hope you, who seem to prefer a more myopic social dynamic and conversation, will do the same. Greeting you with the greeting of all the Prophets: Salaam, Shalom,
Peace.

If possible would you add this addendum to my comment for the sake of peace?:

I want to be clear that I'm not in the least impugning the dignity of individuals who identify themselves with the good aspects of Islam. I only question whether they should continue to call themselves "Muslim" rather than return to the Judeo-Christian evidence. In other words, I only want them to return to the objective basis of their religion, which is the Judeo-Christian religion: namely Catholic Faith which is founded on historical facts, is unified, and has been constant in dogma and moral teaching (despite great human frailty and the growth of the seeds of doctrine). The moral difficulties of the Qur'an and Hadith stem from the fact that Muhammed was not a true prophet--though I think he saw something--since there is no adequate, objective evidence for his claim. Whereas the same cannot be said against Jesus, who is thoroughly attested as the Resurrected Messiah of the Jews and the Gentiles by normal historical standards (see Kreeft and Tacelli "Handbook") So, if W.D. Mohammed is promoting the search for objective religious truth and worship of the one true God among "Muslims"--as opposed to a blind, prejudiced trust in Muhammed's teachings and life-- then he indeed deserves great support. And I think that is awesome.

apples