Monday, November 14, 2011

Who is a progressive Muslim?

Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, I thank you for writing this piece. Your writings have been an inspiration to me since I have known and met you in Dallas some 17 years ago. Several of us have attempted to define the word progressive in so many ways including my friend Mirza Beg and me, who have written similar pieces, but this is a master piece and I am pleased to share this treasure with the Muslims who carry the banner Progressive Muslims.

A few, just a few traditional Muslim scholars hate the word progressive, they are stuck, kind of stick in the muds (Urdu: lakeer kay faqeers). Progressive means stepping out of the religion to them. Religion to them is their own private club, where they determine who qualifies to be a member and who is not, they are too eager to opine and too quick to deny the Mussalmanity (Muslimness) of others, if the others do not comply with the prescribed length of their pants or the inches of hair covering for women.

The title Progressive could also mean conservatives sticking to the Quraan, a paradoxical way of defining it. Indeed, Prophet Muhammad was also a progressive reformer who changed the world, who changed the ways people lived their lives and who helped them step out of the little fiefdoms in conflicts with each other into a large Aalameen where they all can co-exist with their own cultural uniquenesses.

Each one of us is indeed a part of the big pie, just like the other parts with all the imaginable labels from Wahabbi, Sunni, Sufi, Shia, Ismaili, Bohra, WD Muhammad, Ahmadiyya, WAhle-Hadith, Ahle-Sunnat, Deobandi, Salafi and every possible label.   You will find a similar distribution amongst Jews, Christians, Hindus, Buddhist and even among religions with a fewer numbers like Sikhs, Jains, and others as well. A majority of Muslims are moderates and shy away from titles like progressive. We need to understand the word progressive and you have done a fabulous job, it is not a separator! Thank you.

When I chose to label myself as Muslim, I chose the label “Muslim” and nothing but Muslim.  After 9/11, we fought hard about the prefixes like Terrorist and other uncouth and reckless words.

I had resisted all temptations to be labeled with a pre-fix. However, when I was attacked by a few among us while defending another label, I yielded to add Sunni to my label to let them know that I am not an Ahmadiyya-Muslim, but I am right in defending their right to believe and practice their tradition.

All of us are one of the 73 tribes that Prophet Muhammad had rightfully predicted based on human fitra (nature). We need to respect that and honor the Prophet, he could not be wrong.  The arrogant ones among us believe that they are the righteous ones and the other 72 are not. What was said was that all the 73 have to compete in doing good, only one will be the first rank and the other 72 will pass the exam in the school at varying grades. How many times you have been surprised that in your school,   the one you thought will not make it did make it with “flying colors”. Let Allah be the judge and remember we have to be free from Prejudice that is what makes us Muslims and this was one of the many driving reasons for me to be a Muslim.

As an activist, I humbly request fellow Muslims to resist the temptation to label yourselves or label other Muslims when you talk about them. Can you do that? Don’t worry what others do, do your duty and let God be the judge. We need to come together to create a better world for the entire humanity, lets us become Mukhlookhul Aalameen. Amen!

Jazak Allah Khair

Mike Ghouse
Muslims together committed to building cohesive societies.  

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Who is a Progressive Muslim
By Asghar Ali Engineer
AT the Asian Muslim Action Network (Aman) assembly which took place in Pattani, Thailand in February this year, a discussion took place as to the prerequisites of being a progressive Muslim. I was asked to speak on the subject, and the following is what I had to say.
A progressive Muslim is one whose actions are firmly grounded in the Quranic values of truth (haq), justice (adl), compassion (rahmah), wisdom (hikmah), and he or she does service to others rather than being served by others. A progressive Muslim does not believe in sectarian Islam (Sunni, Shia or Ismaili, Deobandi or Barelvi, Ahl-i-Hadith or Salafi streak), but rises above all these sects and gives importance to the Quran above everything else.
Adhering to progressive Islam one does not adopt a sectarian approach, but is respectful of entire humanity, and of human dignity as per the Quran: “We have honoured the sons of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favours, above a great part of our creation” (17:70).
Thus, one leaves ideological and theological differences to Allah alone and does not condemn anyone who differs with oneself as kafir, as often many sectarian-minded Muslims do. Such an approach widens the differences and intensifies conflict. A progressive Muslim uses, as per the Quran, wisdom (hikmah) and goodly words (mawizat al-hasanah) in discussions. He does not try to be judgmental.
A progressive Muslim is least influenced by personal prejudices and always gives more importance to knowledge than his own opinion. The Quran condemns prejudiced opinion (zan) and promotes knowledge (ilm). Also, openness of mind is a seminal quality which helps avoid arrogance born more out of ignorance than knowledge. Those who have little knowledge are more arrogant and those who have a greater degree of knowledge know the limitations of their own knowledge and hence tend to be humble.
A progressive Muslim first of all studies his/her own religion in depth and tries to understand as objectively as possible the causes of differences between different religions while showing full respect to the beliefs of others. It is those who do not know their own religion, much less that of others, who condemn the religion of others. The Quran says, “And abuse not those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest, exceeding the limits they abuse Allah through ignorance” (6:109).
Further in the same verse, Allah says, “Thus to everyone people have We made their deeds fair-seeming; then to their Lord is their return so He will inform them of what they did.” Thus ultimately it is Allah who will judge. We human beings, when we judge, we judge more out of ignorance and arrogance of our own ego than based on knowledge and selflessness.
The key words in this verse are that for ‘every people’ ‘We made their deeds fair-seeming’ to ‘them’. Then who are we human beings to condemn the beliefs and deeds of others? Let Allah alone be the judge of who is right and who is wrong in their beliefs.
A progressive Muslim celebrates pluralism, as diversity is the creation of Allah. If Allah had desired He could have made entire humanity one community. (5:48). The Quran also says, “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your tongues and colours. Surely there are signs in this for the learned.” Thus, a progressive Muslim will never have any prejudice against the speakers of any language or the people of any colour or creed, for they are all creations of Allah.
Likewise, both men and women are the creation of Allah and both need to be treated with the same degree of dignity. Allah has created all species in couples and it is necessary for survival of all species. No species will survive unless it is created in couples. Thus the feminine of the couple is as important as the masculine, and in human beings both genders must be treated equally. Gender relations reflect social and cultural constructs while equality and fair play are Islamic values.
A progressive Muslim knows this and treats both men and women with equal dignity, ensuring equal rights to both. In today’s context, gender equality becomes a crucial test for a progressive Muslim. Female servitude was purely a feudal cultural creation; Islam opposes it and pronounces the doctrine of gender equality in clear terms (2:228). A progressive Muslim knows that certain Sharia provisions establishing male superiority were in response to the cultural needs of a patriarchal society rather than based on the Quran and Sunnah.
Thus, a progressive Muslim will give importance to Quranic pronouncements in gender-related matters and not condone the feudal female servitude, considering such provisions of existing Sharia laws as eternal and unalterable. A progressive Muslim, therefore, would strive to reconstruct Sharia laws today in order to accord rights to women which the Quran gives them. One believer cannot be superior to another believer. Male superiority is a human construct and human construct cannot override divine injunctions. Also, physical differences, i.e. bearing children, etc. should not result in determining who is superior or inferior.
A progressive Muslim would also accord seeking knowledge priority, as knowledge has been equated with light, and ignorance with darkness (zulmat). Allah brings out believers from darkness to light. The Prophet (PBUH) has said that a moment’s reflection is more important than a whole night’s worship (ibadat). Thus knowledge has priority even over worship.
These are some of the characteristics of being a progressive Muslim. Those who imbibe these characteristics will survive the challenges of time and not face difficulty in keeping pace with changing reality.
Source: The Dawn

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.