Was Michael Jackson a Muslim?

Probably not. Anyways, moving on to more important matters.

There is a brilliant American magazine called The Atlantic (formerly known as The Atlantic Monthly) that has been around since 1857. The Atlantic published an article recently called ‘What ISIS Really Wants’ by Graeme Woods. This article is fast becoming one of the most talked about and commented about articles of the last few years.

The Atlantic ISIS cover

If you have a spare hour or two, I would urge you to not only read the original article, but to also read some of the responses generated. These articles are collectively fascinating, very well written, and in depth in their analysis of the current crazy situation that is ever changing before our bemused eyes.

All links are provided below. Enjoy!

The Atlantic ISIS image

Original article…

Some responses to the article…

Furthermore, a good and learned friend of mine said the following (in an email), which I found to be very helpful and insightful…

Hisham Hellyer’s article is the better response, in particular his comments on the sanad (chain of transmission) which I also wanted to make, but ended up deleting. He is a good guy, and was studying in Birmingham a few years ago. His comments on the sanad are important to understand, and this is where ISIS and all modern and Wahhabi movements fail, in that they are attempting to engage with 14 centuries of scholarly tradition through the written word alone without the intermediary of people who understand and have internalised the tradition (the sanad). Essentially, what we are witnessing is a Muslim version of the protestant revolt against traditional authority which says: “we have the Quran, we have the hadith, so we don’t need to rely on anyone to interpret the religion for us.”

ISIS, and all Wahhabi movements, are very modern phenomena, despite their appearances. Traditionally, someone who wanted to learn the religion would keep the company of a teacher and would not be permitted to teach until his teacher recognised the appropriate qualities in him and authorised him to teach others. This goes beyond outwardly knowing the facts, but internalising the teachings until Allah opens a door of wisdom to him. Traditional scholars to this day will have a chain (sanad) going back to the Prophet sallAllah ‘alaihi wa sallam. For example my own teacher…has a sanad which extends back to the Prophet sallAllah ‘alaihi wa sallam, through generations of sheikhs. This jars with the modern “democratised” approach, where everyone has some entitlement to be listened to. It demands a little humility which doesn’t really fit in with the tweeting, Facebook using, look at me, listen to me approach of modern man.

Islam is not in the pages of old books, and neither is it on Facebook or twitter or the internet, but in the hearts of the righteous, and this is how it is transmitted – from heart to heart, in other words, the sanad.

ISIS are a very modern democratised perversion of the religion, with an authority established by violence not sanad, and the Atlantic author is one of the few people who have studied their motivations and ideology in depth by actually speaking to their supporters. Yes we need to make it clear that it is a perversion of Islam, as everyone is saying, however we also need to acknowledge that the ISIS ideology is made of the same stuff that normal Islam is made of. This is why three innocent girls decide to go to join them – until we acknowledge that, I don’t think we will be able to defeat them ideologically.

One thought on “Was Michael Jackson a Muslim?

  1. […] And here we are again several months later talking in the same breath about Paris, Islam, and murder. I write this blog with the aim of showing how un-Islamic I think ISIS are, despite what people like author Reza Aslan may say from an academic perspective, or indeed what Graeme Wood may write in the Atlantic. […]


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