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

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

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

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

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

Not Just Last Century’s Tweets or E-mail

I’m the curator of this other blog, Stuff Found in Library Books. I say curator because this isn’t a collection of things I created, but rather things I found, in old library books, kept, took pictures of, and post on tumblr.

I recently posted a piece about a very fragile Western Union Telegram blank from the second decade of the last century. To find out a little more about how telegrams worked, I consulted this charming little booklet from 1928, How To Write Telegrams Properly. Because I’ve never sent a telegram.

Some have, for a while, complained about what tweets, e-mail, and SMS messages have wrought upon the language. How informal they are making English, and how people who use them are not learning how to use proper English. Or at least complete English. Continue reading

Giving Up on the “Church”

I meant to do more blogging this week — especially on the lectionary, and a piece I’ve had rumbling through my mind about mid-century liberalism — but never quite got around to it. And then Rod Dreher asked me to read his upcoming book, How Dante Can Save Your Life. So I’ve been a little engaged this week.

Part of this comes, actually, in response to reading Dreher’s book. (And in response to a letter I received from a longtime seminary friend and fellow pastor.)

I’ve been I’m limbo for the last few years, doing a lot of waiting. In fact, Michaela told me recently — and rather pointedly (I’m not sure she entirely approves) — “Ever since I met you, you have always been waiting.” And yes, I have. At first, it was waiting for… well, God knows what. I had been denied approval for ordained ministry by the ELCA’s Metro DC Synod, with no hope there would be a second chance at anything. After some work on my part, persistent and patient work, and some serious agitating on my behalf by some reasonably well-connected folks, I got a second chance, as was approved. Continue reading

The Nature of American Conformity

Just finished reading Sinclair Lewis’ Babbitt. A fun read. I’ve only read one other Lewis novel, It Can’t Happen Here, and I suppose at some point I really should read Main Street.

So, I’ve gotten through George F. Babbitt’s crisis, the end of his rebellion, and his recommitment to the Good Fellows, and his joining the Good Citizens’ League. Which prompts this lengthy quote from chapter 34: Continue reading