Rejoinder to Dr Morrow's article on Hamza Yusuf

Developing Just Leadership

Abdul Razzaq

Rabi' al-Awwal 15, 1439 2017-12-04

Daily News Analysis

by Abdul Razzaq

[A long-time reader of Crescent International and a student of sacred knowledge, attempts to present another perspective on issues raised by Dr. Andrew Morrow in his article titled Hamza Yusuf: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly]

In the Name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.

Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was recently criticized in an article by Dr. Andrew Morrow. The main concern of his was Shaykh Hamza's lack of support for the Covenants Initiative, and indeed deliberately impeding its promotion in his institution, Zaytuna College.

Unfortunately, this very real concern has been obfuscated by Dr. Morrow with the infusion of stories of personal slights and perceptions of brazen arrogance on the part of Shaykh Hamza. To the neutral reader, the article could come across as vitriolic, hyperbolic, and vengeful. Regardless of Dr. Morrow's otherwise good intentions, for many, this is how it comes across, and it seems to permeate the entire tone of the document. Needless to say, it is not for anyone to attribute these qualities to Dr. Morrow's person, as Allah alone knows the hearts.

Yet, it must be stated frankly: the adab was lacking from an Islamic viewpoint. There is name calling and sarcasm every other line, which serves to take light away from his legitimate grievances and no doubt will serve to only increase animosity in both Dr. Morrow's and Hamza Yusuf's supporters and detractors.

Furthermore, there are a few statements in the article that on the face of it are of questionable to put it mildly.

Dr. Morrow writes:

"Considering that he has reportedly received millions of dollars from the Turkish government, my attacks against ISIS and its financial, political, and military supporters pose serious problems."

Except Hamza Yusuf publicly denounced ISIS countless times. This is insinuating Shaykh Hamza a) is a tacit ISIS supporter or b) he would like to see ISIS continue in order to advance Turkish state political interests because of the money he/Zaytuna receive. The underlying idea here seems to be that if someone funds you, they own you entirely. This is false. If someone is funded, then they must operate within a series of red lines and what one might call yellow lines - if they wish to continue receiving funding. Criticizing ISIS is not a red line. In fact, it's not even a yellow line. Furthermore, on certain fundamental issues of conscience, one might be willing risk being denied further funding in order to speak freely, regardless of the consequences; thus the idea that because someone is funded, they are owned entirely is false - one always has a choice. Lastly, even ardent Wahhabi, Saudi-trained, Saudi-funded scholars have decried ISIS. On the whole, this constitutes a groundless accusation which serves to cast a shadow upon Dr. Morrow's legitimate points.

Another issue is the following:

"My denunciation of Saudi Arabian political sins is a source of annoyance to some Shi‘i scholars whose income depends, in part, on the lucrative trips that they organize to Makkah and Madinah for Hajj and ‘Umrah. According to them, I should be attacking Israel, and not Saudi Arabia."

With due respect, this does not sound remotely credible. Ignoring the fact that the Shia clergy are organized hierarchically (effectively rendering the opinion of any non-Marja scholar as worthless), the grassroots Shia are the most ardent anti-Saudi, anti-Wahhabi group in the Ummah because the fatwas justifying the killing of Shi'as and the actual terrorists who enact these murders come from the Saudi state infrastructure. Were these Shi'a scholars who make their living off of hajj trips casually ignoring the anti-Shi'a hate literature being pushed on the pilgrims, or were they oblivious to the religious police that beat and arrest anyone who dares to send salaams at the grave of the Prophet (s)? If indeed a Shi'a scholar said what Dr. Morrow alleges (and his integrity is not to be doubted), it is clearly misrepresentative of what virtually every Shi'a thinks. It is difficult to understand why this was included in the article as if it were a legitimate opinion floating around in Shi'a spheres - it's not. In any case, the statement is at best misleading.

As Muslims we must analyze things always with reference to Allah and the ākhira first. Thus we must ask, what is the heavenly value of the article - what is it helping achieve? Convincing people Hamza Yusuf is a "bad guy" - okay then what? What's that helping achieve, and what's the alternative being proposed? It's difficult to see any higher value goals here, or any serious call to action. If the intention was to get a reconciliation then a public attack will not make that happen, and if the intention was to get a debate the invective will prevent that.

From an otherworldly perspective, one might advise Dr. Morrow to desist from mentioning anything pertaining to the personal slights and sins of this brother Shaykh Hamza, and to forgive rather than publicize his faults. One might also then advise that Dr. Morrow, if he believes it will do more good than harm, should draw attention to the legitimate issues which one might decipher from the article. These include: a) the alleged sectarianism of Shaykh Hamza (which is particularly unfitting for an American-Muslim college that he hopes might one day become the equivalent of Harvard) and b) the refusal to support the Covenants initiative. Everything else is petty, worldly, and beneath a believer. Yusuf's character is not under question, only his public actions.

One might also advise Dr. Morrow to retract the sarcasm and jabs. These simply serve to incite the ghaḍabīyyah, or irascibility, of the parties involved, and cause individuals to simply "take pride in the sin" as the Quran describes.

The present article is intended as an attempt to fulfill the commandment of Allah ta'ālā that Muslims should reconcile between our quarrelling brothers.One can only hope that it is accepted it in that light, and that both parties consider it as the council of a believing brother meant to encourage the fear of Allah, rather than as judgment or personal criticism.It is important for individual Muslims who may have caught wind of the controversy to remember their own imperfections before having the temerity to attack either party. Instead, more positive actions should be taken to reconcile the aggrieved parties, whether it be in privacy through du'ā, or through wise council if one knows the individuals involved.

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