In the last 25 years, I’ve seen a high number of Islam’s converts get sucked into a self-righteous mindset that’s largely promoted by Saudi oil money. Many of us have been through it. Some found the way out and began learning Islam, while some didn’t.
Through Saudi funding, the ideas of Wahhabite doctrine spread like fire through the U.S. in the 80’s and 90’s. Most of that doctrine is specifically aimed at criticizing Sunni Islam, our Beliefs, our Scholars, and our practices. They have funded speakers, TV channels, learning institutes, and lots of books in English. For converts seeking to learn Islam, those books seem like useful resources to the English-speaking freshman who is hungry for knowledge.
Arab speakers seem authoritative. They are able to quote the Qur’an and Ahadeeth, which seems to make their lectures and books authentic. It’s because of this that so many Palestinians in America ended up with Salafi ideology. They arrived without knowing Islam, and latched onto the Arabic speakers they heard, giving them preference over the Indo-Pak, SE Asian, Turkish, European, and African scholars who were actually teaching Sunni Islam. The unsuspecting convert, who has no basis of knowledge in Authentic Creed or Jurisprudence, soaks-up the indoctrinating ideas of the Salafi propagandist like a sponge. The gist of some of this indoctrination may be as follows:
I’m an “authentic” Muslim
I follow the Salaf (the early Muslims)
I don’t follow Schools or Imams, I follow Sunnah and the Prophet
I follow THE MINHAJ !
I don’t do like the Jews and Christians, taking Scholars as my Gods
My scholars are AUTHENTIC
Sound familiar ? It’s been so thoroughly propagated over the last 40 years, I doubt if any Muslim hasn’t been doused with it. It’s a cult-like brainwashing that puffs up the Salafi with a sense of superiority, such that some will even say “I am from the saved sect”. They’ve even written books stating that. Once the Salafi begins looking down his/her nose at the Sunni Muslims, there’s little knowing what limits of conduct they will recognize. The most extreme among them have killed Sunnis in the past, and are killing them today.
And so we witness the disgusting assaults and insults, such as that which recently came from Yusha Evans against Imam Suhaib Webb, and many others of us working for Islam in America. And the man was utterly so blinded by his own hate, he couldn’t realize that there were no facts supporting his assault. So blind, he could not fear Allah in the matter of insulting and slandering a fellow Muslim. Such a rant could be enough to nullify ones good deeds, as Rasulullah s.a.w. said: “The servant speaks words for which he is sent down to the Hell-Fire farther than the distance between the east and the west.”
It was a strange reading. It’s obvious that Brother Yusha is no scholar, as he never quotes any direct sources to support his claims, and has no logic in his insults. It’s purely his perspective that there is a “modernist” conspiracy to destroy Islam, and it’s coming from America. I think I may have discovered the source of this perspective.
Reading through his blog, I found a lot of references to Deobandi websites that are hosted overseas. My attention was particularly caught by a post of a QA response from Mufti Ebrahim Desai of South Africa. Mufti Ebrahim had been asked about attending Imam Suhaib’s gatherings in the US. It would seem an odd question to ask, except that Deobandis would easily be considered extreme by our standards. And guess what: we seem overly lackadaisical in our Islam to them, and that’s exactly what Mufti Ebrahim expressed. He was horrified that an Imam would dare speak to a “mixed gathering”. Oh, My Lordy ! A MIXED GATHERING !!!??? May Allah save us from such profound evil !
And that’s why you don’t go asking for a judgment of someone’s culture from someone of another culture ! Mufti Ebrahim is a pious man who has probably never seen his own shins because he doesn’t allow that much of his body to be uncovered. It’s likely he’s never seen a woman unless it is a wife or a mahram. These are very observant Muslims, living in a nation where they have different challenges than ours. They have a lot of Muslims who are walking away from Islam, and doing whatever they see in American magazines. Yes, those scholars hate “modernism”. The word “modern” terrifies them, because it comes with ill derivatives. Alcohol, drugs, pornography, adultery – all coming to them from the “modern” world.
As a matter of fact, the Deobandi establishment began as a resistance to the British presence in India in the 1800’s. The British had conquered and colonized, and eradicated the Muslim education system. They replaced Muslim educators with secular schools, and replaced Islamic Law and courts with secular rule. Not only had the people been militarily subdued, but they had been stripped of their culture and their institutions. So, a few of the scholars made a tremendous effort to keep Islam alive in the sub-continent. And that’s where Deoband had its beginnings: fighting Western “modernity”.
From that perspective of history, I can’t blame them. And honestly, the Deobandis have done much for Islam worldwide. They have schools and muftis on every continent, their Tableegh effort has helped revive masjid life around the world, and many of our imams in the US are Deobandi educated.
But they will never understand men and women learning Islam or doing community work together. When they learned that about Imam Suhaib, they were appalled. I can see them shaking their heads and hear their “tisk-tisks”, and “a’udhu billahs”. I know them well.
The question is: how does an American convert become so caught up in the worldview of the Deobandis, or Saudi, that he no longer has any respect, love, or empathy for Americans doing what Americans do ? America is not a segregated society. I doubt Br. Yusha lived a life like Mufti Ebrahim where he never saw a woman. How has he adopted a Saudi mindset to such an extent he spews vitriol at fellow Muslims, including those who have worked for Islam longer than himself, and to those who are far superior in knowledge and spiritual training ?
It’s precisely for that which he accuses Imam Suhaib of: selling-out. He has a bizarre, paranoid belief that Suhaib and others have “sold out” Islam and are replacing it with secular American culture. This isn’t true. Many of our leaders are trying to teach that you don’t have to be Saudi or Pakistani to be a Muslim ! They’re trying to solve the exact problem that has destroyed Br. Yusha up to this point in his life. And coming from the exact opposite direction, Br. Yusha has sold himself: he’s no longer the American convert, raised and educated in a free-moving, scientific, pluralistic society. He’s “Sheikh Yusha Evans”, the Saudi celebrity wannabee. Superior to others, because he’s the “real Muslim”. Although you can’t tell he’s ever cracked open any of the classical works of Sunni Islam. Going down the same dark road as Bilal Phillips, Yusuf Estes, and countless others who fell into the wrong crowd, and the wrong mindset, right after entering Islam.
Dear Brother Yusha: if you’ll quit hating your people long enough to remember who you are, you’ll have a better chance to learn Islam, do a much better service to Deen and humanity, and elevate yourself in Allah’s Esteem. We don’t need another hate-monger like Abu Mussab Akkari, especially on American soil.
May Allah Guide all of us. Ameen.
Here’s Yusha’s blog post that set off this firestorm. http://muslimmodernists.wordpress.com/2013/08/09/10-reasons-why-imam-suhaib-webb-should-be-avoided/#comments
Here’s the response from others that work daily with Imam Suhaib: http://ellacollinsinstitute.org/addressing-the-10-accusations-against-imam-suhaib-webb-sheikah-hafidhah-al-azhariyah-maryam-amirebrahimi/
Here’s another response from Ustadh Umar Dunlap : http://theletteredwayfarer.wordpress.com/2014/10/01/why-yusha-evans-is-being-hypocritical-in-his-slandering-of-imam-suhaib-a-personal-story/