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November 15, 2013

‘MJQ?’. ‘No, thank you.’


North American people have an uncanny ability in coining short and effective labels, which I believe is due to love for abbreviations (and a general tendency to abbreviate greatness) running deeply through the veins of their culture.
It was by chance, therefore, that I came across a witty North American Muslim using matter-of-factly, in a perfectly understandable and understood way with his fellow social network acolytes, the term “groupie” to define today’s believers in Rūm’s lands who fondly and often fanatically attach themselves to guides and movements.
I was astonished by the terse accuracy, the felicitous brevity of that expression which I, Mediterranean exiled to the world of English nomenclature, had been unacquainted with until that moment.
Faithful to the Prophetic recommendation of verbalizations comprising minimum letters gifted with expressive potency, I decided at once to appropriate it as part of my descriptive lexicon.

Wikipedia has this to say:  

The term groupie is derived from group, in reference to a musical group, but the word is also used in a more general sense, especially in casual conversation, to mean a particular kind of female fan assumed to be more interested in relationships with rock stars than in their music. A groupie is generally considered a devoted female fan of a band or musical performer. The term originates from the female attaching herself to a band. A groupie is considered more intense about her adored celebrities than a fan and tends to follow them from place to place. A groupie will attempt to have a connection with the band and may seek sexual or intimate contact. Obsessive groupies will almost certainly involve themselves sexually with any members of the band including the roadies. Further, there are now groupies of sports teams and other types of celebrities.

True, nowadays the motion is less the pursuit of star orators’ campers than the gleeful tracking of their steps in cyber space; and yes, any carnal consummation of the love affair operates purely on a metaphorical plane, or so we hope.
What matters to us, however, is the similarity with fervid adulation, and the underlying idea of atomized rivalry.
A groupie devoted to the Doors cannot be simultaneously attracted to another band, even though he (we will use the masculine pronoun throughout, in a gender-neutral sense) has a liking for other similar popular artistries. The level of absorption is too acute to make room for ecumenical participation across the stardom scene.
The Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, called the malady gripping the ummah in the age following the disintegration of outer Islamic authority (the Imām, and the polity he presided over) factionalism.
The word used in the famous authentic hadīth of Hudhayfah b. al-Yamān is firaq = factions and groupings.
When praising the group of Muslims victorious by the truth and upon the truth in every age, undeterred by the censure of any human censurer, he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, resorted to the different word tā’ifah (“tā’ifah min–ummatī”)
Fans and groupies enthrone factionalism. They are as endemic to the divisiveness engendered by their beloved stars as Hamās is endemic to the continuous all-out violence of Israel.
Furqah means separatedness and disunion. Factionalism breeds separation, and thus the delay of reconstructed Imāmate and community.
Dr. Rūhī al-Ba`labakkī, in Al-Mawrid – A modern Arabic-English dictionary, translates firqah, the singular of firaq in the said hadīth, as: “Group, band, troop, company, body, party, faction, squad; detachment, team”.
It has an innately sectional impulse, like a soccer team or a separatist militia or an ideological coterie.
Hans Wehr and Cowan translate firqah as “part, portion, division, section; band, company, party, group”.
It is a partitive force like a political organization or a parliamentary caucus.
A jamā`ah, by contrast, is innately monistic at its centre while leaving ample space for legitimate multiplicity of expression.
Mu`āwiyah, may Allah be pleased with him, ruled over an integrated community, and within it a varied array of schools (in jurisprudence, doctrine, syntax, hermeneutics and so on) was granted right of existence without central interventionism or panicky suppression.
A firqah, instead, is opposed to the other parts in a relentless contest of reciprocal exclusion and annihilation.
It is anti-synergistic.
That is not so in absolute terms. One can have troops of a single army suffused with blessed harmony and moving in perfect synchrony towards a shared goal.
It is however so in a centrifugal reality such as post-Caliphate ummah, where the pull is visibly orientated to fragmentation and dissolution.
The fastening bonds of the Dīn have to be loosened, and accordingly dissolved, one by one.

The obligation resting on the elite of strong believers is thus to resist the pull; to resist the temptation of succumbing to its siren chant.
The strong believer is at the same time conscious of the fact that the seducing strength of the pull is extremely vigorous. It casts its spell not only on the commonality of Muslims, and not just on the middle stratum of their mild intelligentsia. It has irresistible charm for a great number (if not most) of the special talents as well; which is where the main problem lies.
While it is easy to isolate and then castigate the most conspicuous and irritating phenomena of cult-like fanaticism we daily observe in Muslim groupies (many of whom frankly appear to be like ghosts inhabited by the projections of the group leaders they idolize, whose very faces they adopt in their cyber profiles), the tragedy is less immediately discernible among exemplars of superior humanity.
What does the fascination rest upon?
That stalwart of sound Islamic knowledge and action, the shahīd polymath from Spain Ibn Juzayy, synthesized it brilliantly in his masterful exegesis of the Book, At-Tashīl li-‘Ulūm at-Tanzīl: It is found right at the starting line of the text, within the folds of his examination of the act of seeking refuge, the isti`ādhah.
“The agents of severance from Allah are four:

•    The Shaytān. The cure against him is to seek shelter in Allah from him and to oppose him;
•    The self. The correct therapy is to subdue it;
•    The dunyā. It is treated by doing without its superfluities (zuhd);
•    Creation. Curing it is by shutting oneself from them and by seclusion”.

This quotation should be a manifesto to constantly affix onto an imaginary wall fronting your inner eyes.
It is a talisman of guidance.
Charismatic orators and propagandists know the frailties of human beings. They target their weak points.
There is nothing esoteric and unheard of in their strategies.
They simply exploit the four entry points of evil listed by Ibn Juzayy. If they sever you from Allah, Who is your goal, they are for sure the evillest evil.
Founders of divisive groups and movements in the post-polity ummah of our days are very skilled in steering believers towards those perilous entry points.
Direct partisanship to the Shaytān is a most rare occurrence among the higher talents we alone are examining and at the same time addressing.
We have repeatedly made clear that we do not write for or to the commonality. They are a closed planet to the likes of our words of advice.
Please pay close attention, as we are enjoined to get to the springhead watering our realization of why the best Muslim intellects find it indigestible to submit to the truth.
We have already abundantly pointed out that the truth is Islam pure and simple, what centuries of uninterrupted mainstream correctness held onto, victoriously, without any contamination.
If so far you have been unconvinced, give yourself a rest or leave these conceptual lands of ours altogether. We would be wasting each other’s time.
As the genial Khalīl b. Ishāq wrote in his Abridgment, discarding every novelty introduced by innovators is a non-negotiable imperative.
[When I interact with people of knowledge from traditional Muslim lands, there is no obfuscation: The call is as Muslims to Islam, for the regeneration of Ahl as-Sunnah, without the interposition of any separate name, group, leadership or agenda]
There is nothing to discuss. We must discard, that is all:
Whether it is the Miniaturism so rampant in “the West”, which uses controlled spirituality (an inward-looking purification) and tokens of a pristine path (the madhhab, praying with hands loose by the sides) to inject the poison of “moderate”, post-9/11 Islam (as if that event had anything to do with Islam for it to serve as partition line), of a “progressive neo-traditionalism” which shatters the fencing boundary between īmān and kufr and pushes Islam firmly into the humanist encampment (humanism tempered by tawhīd, naturally of an easygoing type);
Whether it is the elitist “Salafism” of an indefinable “original Madinan madhhab”;
Whether it is the cerebral Cambridge depiction of “the saint” as the sole legitimate authority in the contemporary ummah emerging from the mists of the Amman Declaration (as done quite perversely, Buddhist-like, by a renowned Muslim academic from the UK);
Whether it is some other exotic innovation packaged in glamorous colours.  
Company is a primary need of the human species.
The human being is a natively social creature, as Ibn Khaldūn emphasized.
Never mind loneliness itself, the fear of it is sufficiently paralyzing.
We must not lose sight of two arch-realities which are peculiar to this age:

•    People who have come into the Dīn from milieus of kufr have left their organic social spaces behind. They have no primordial ‘asabiyyah any more, yet they need, desperately need to belong. They therefore search for an ideological surrogate just to stay alive as the divinely fashioned gregarious creatures they are. Humans live as part of families, clans, tribes and nations. If an organic unit is abrogated, some “futuwwah” must step in as the abrogating new unit.
•    People raised in traditional Muslim settings and disillusioned by the insular aridity thereof crave to join another, fresher social entity where they are free to breathe the centrality of Islam in their lives. The alternative is a split-up condition, torn between fossilized ethnic identities and the lure of assimilation into the secular lifestyle of the countries they are citizens of. The natural choice is to join an existing grouping, better still if led by a Muslim descendant of those countries: He in fact visibly epitomizes these Muslims reaching out to greener pastures of commitment to the Dīn beyond the suffocating enclosure of ethnic lines.
Which options emerge into the view of these two classes of Muslims?
•    Joining one existing group, and turning into a more or less enthusiastic groupie;
•    Holding, Abū Bakr-like, onto the uncompromised and uncompromising truth. It was after all Abū Bakr who told his close associate ‘Umar that he would have sided with truth and waged war against the withholders of zakāt regardless of whether any one had joined him in the just war. That would mean to proceed as if nothing had changed in the Dīn, since nothing has in fact changed, and to zealously lay down the foundations of the pleasant tree of mainstream Sunni Islam without any later accretion.

The latter choice, though the only acceptable one, is fraught with difficulties:
•    It entails swimming against the tide.
•    It is too mobile, too “formless” for the children of this age. It is hard to spot its edifice. ‘Where is it? How do I join? Who tops its leadership structure? In which way will people realize I am in? What is its level of visibility? How many fellow travellers will accompany me in that journey?’ = Will I have fun? How quickly will I become gratified? What room does it make for my ego and for my popularity?
You can immediately intuit that the path of revival is indeed a path of strangers who do not fear aloofness while traversing the desert of present-day decadence in search of the truth, Salmān al-Fārisī-like.
His figure permeates the age just as much as the figure of Ark-building Nūh, peace upon him, which is why the Messenger of Allah, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, informed us that the supplication of Nūh, peace upon him, would be the only one at the time of stratified fitnah.
Whether the Muslim is a “new” one arising from a milieu of kufr or is a “born” one dissatisfied with his ethnic likes, he is restlessly journeying out of his home territory like Salmān al-Fārisī. From without, he wants to converge onto the region where the good news has emerged; save that his contemporary successors often get derailed from their original itinerary, as they find temporary shelter too comfortable to decamp from.

Groups are temporary shelters of the talented Muslims, which have silently lost refugee status to become permanent domiciles for all intents and purposes.
Groups grant a sense of familial affiliation, but they enforce a mask upon you, a mask of distorted servitude to Allah, and entrap you in it.
Serving only Allah, His Dīn, the Law, the broad path of Ahl as-Sunnah, a recognized madhhab, all of that frees you. Provided freedom is treasured by you more than masquerades, it should in theory tilt the scales in its direction.  
While direct partisanship to the Shaytān is a most exceptional phenomenon, the ego, as we have seen in “A Whiter Shade of Pale”, tricks those talents away from the choice of simply associating with the well-trodden mainstream path without anything added to it.
Groups grant a sense of familial affiliation, but they enforce a mask upon you, a mask of distorted servitude to Allah, and entrap you in it.
Serving only Allah, His Dīn, the Law, the broad path of Ahl as-Sunnah, a recognized madhhab, all of that frees you. Provided freedom is treasured by you more than masquerades, it should in theory tilt the scales in its direction.  
Titles and positions galore (Emir, Mufti, Muqaddim and myriad others) are on offer in groups.
There is an adequate worldly lot of fame and glory, however tiny and macrocosmic in nature it might be: it is the same whether you are the US president or the man of the moment in one of the thousand bands the ummah has broken into.
The self does not only mean egotistical crudeness.
The dunyā does not only mean material aggrandizement, although that is a reiterated manifestation when it comes to group founders and their inner circles of supporters.
A person might be totally hostile to the idea of benefiting financially from his participation in Islamic groups, yet be swayed by other self-centred urges such as flattery of local crowds or love of manifestation.
As a sharp intellect pointedly mentioned in recent times, groups (unlike the “form-free” revival of pure mainstream Islam) create the feeling things are happening, with all that it is a mere optical illusion. Studying is a hard, multi-phase process, whereas a lecture is instantly gratifying, a shortcut packed with the impression of quick forward motion.
End of the quote from that sharp intellect.
That is why we have so many fantasy sightings of jihād or Caliphates in such areas as Syria.
There is a cornucopia of quick-fix solutions, sold more or less legally, at more or less affordable prices, while none of then provides any cure.

Assuming that, unusual as it might be even among special talents, the Shaytān has been overpowered, the self subdued and the broadcast from the covetous dunyā silenced, and all associated perils have been safely negotiated, the last obstacle obtrudes on the way to Allah: Creation, the basic exigency of company, the human necessity to belong.
A few years ago, I was invited to set up and join, in a significant role, a “mu`āmalāt group”, detached from more popular and thus more corrupt factions, and quite disinterested in monetary gain or (more or less adoring) followers; a group which would have hit the road and engaged in some edifying programs to recreate, among Muslims, awareness in the significance of transactional justice which has nearly been expunged from their daily life.
The clever rationale was that, even if no name had been chosen by its founding fathers, the group would have been assigned one by the other Muslims, by the outsiders learning about its existence.
Let us briefly analyze the pros and cons:

•    “If one speaks in the name of Islam pure and simple, no one listens. There is, generally, no recognized ground founding your authority to speak on its behalf among fellow Muslims”.
•    “If, however, one gives itself a brand, he acquires a recognizable voice. He can then persuasively address receptive ears, while the reaction of hostile ones will entrench its notoriety and thus existence on the ground”.
•    “Yes, Imām Mālik might have rightly objected that whoever calls himself by other than the Abrahamic “Muslims” has initiated an ugly innovation, but the tide has changed and any measure of success can only be achieved by following its course. It might not be the pure version, nay, it will necessarily come out diluted, but at least I would have added something beneficial to the ummah which might be built upon later and purged of the adulterating elements”.
•    The problem when deviating from the truth, in the name of realpolitik (the refrain “we must dirty our hands” to justify pleasing creation, this life or the self), is that once the diluted product is released, it will only increase in dilution. If it is partly bātil to begin with, it will not miraculously be cleansed at some unspecified point in time: The irresponsible “play now and let the next generations pay later if they do not find a way of washing the debt of its stains”. When it was in fact suggested to the Prophet, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, to compromise a bit, realize immediate gains from the Meccans and accept the forfeiture of possible higher gains if subsequently victorious, he, Sallallāhu ‘alayhi wa-Sallam, was in no doubt as to which route to tread.

If the “indecent proposal” of founding a brand new country rock group playing the mu`āmalāt tune had been lodged with you, how would you have responded? 



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