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IN 1871,THE English anthropologist and social Darwinist E.B.Tylor formulated the generally accepted and classical

By: Ahmad Shakur

definition of the term ‘culture.' "Culture is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capability and habit acquired by man as a member of society."

The terms are compelling, but particularly intriguing is the idea of culture as a "habit acquired by man." Habit implies a behavior performed without thought, a nearly knee-jerk reaction to stimuli, something akin to an acquired collective instinct. It is this aspect of culture that allows us to survive threatening conditions and perplexing circumstances within our environment.

And environment is, after all, crucial when we talk about culture. For as Tylor's description of culture makes clear whenever we speak of culture, we are actually labeling the complex mindset of a people, and specificall true that we are enriched because we are surrounded by the aesthetics of world cultures, for culture is active and reshapes itself to express the fashion in which the human condition will react to a universe of seemingly eccentric elements. In this sense, culture is the relationship between man in civilization and the natural mysteries of his geography and life struggle, whether these complexities are adversarial or synergistic. Yet while the modern consciousness of world cultures shows us many things, it gives us particular insight into how the cultural diversity of a nation becomes integrated, and, especially, how the variety of human imaginations that contain and express individual cultures actually become resources serving the purposes of communal survival and flowering. Maulana Wahiduddin Khan puts it this way: "The beauty of the garden of life is actually enhanced if the flower of unity is accompanied by the thorn of diversity." If we apply this very basic understanding of culture to Muslims who have emigrated to America from the lands of Islam, we see at once that Muslims transplanted in the West have married "habits" inculcated by traditional Islamic cultures to distant, dichotomous Western contemporary social mores, that is, the customs and habitual practices of the mainstreams within which they now swim.The result, at least as far as we can generalize, has been an apparently highly educated and gainfully employed, yet oddly marginal, group very much enjoying the luxury of steady assimilation in North America.An intricate blend of "silent" cultural compromises and assimilations into the "freedoms" wrought by the technological and (at least nominally) market-driven fruits of capitalism has created in them two overriding ethics: An emphasis on personal accomplishment, and a desire for collective growth.This has opened a door, not of possibility, but probability to a sub-cultural experience for their second-generation offspring who have been forced to adhere to a split tread:They hear and are responsive to the rhythms of popular culture, but with a loud backbeat of demands arising from their history of cultural transplantation.

Against this backdrop, moreover, echo the passionate universal voices urging Americans in general to progressive contemporary Western lifestyles. But these increasingly pressing calls clearly depend on "reformed" and "culturally compromised" modern religious values in the name of ever higher and evermore common ground. Both history and contemporary wisdom, however, suggest that this may be a contemptuous example for us to follow. Indeed, when we examine the current culture of the Muslim American community (what I will call the national Ummah), a rather solemn conclusion looms up before us from the confluence of past experience and present reflection, if we care to see it.The fusion motif that the immigrant Muslim leadership and their children are now following-a paradigm of a new or alternative human, material, and universal model-is a dangerous pattern now penetrating the American and Muslim American communities. The emerging shape of this new Muslim American community is being justified on the basis of a suspect historical delineation of two communities and two disciplines. As for the two communities, they are the age-old competitors in new guise-the advantaged and protected versus the vulnerable and disenfranchised.The two disciplines are the secular and scriptural. Secularism encourages "independent" discovery and demands converted religious values and rehabilitated morality from its rival, namely, revelation or Holy Scripture. Both these movements, the communal and the ideological, are directly contrasted against the traditionally accepted religious schools of thought. What this restructuring tells us by implication, however, is something we Muslims ought to pay particular attention to. American life and culture have always been dramatically affected by religious thinking traceable to the pre-Enlightenment period in Europe. It also wordlessly cautions us about something else:There is a traditionally Western, non-religious "anti-attitude" that is reasserting itself under secularism:The notion of racial superiority, which has, in our time, reinvigorated an old civic movement but with a twist. It continues to verify the concept that some people are inherently better or meaningfully different than others based on skin color, but it has re-deployed this idea through people of a new and widened set of pop-culture demographics and psychographics. This is a mainstream movement that existed prior to the dramatic increase in the American Muslim population, but it is one in whose wake Muslims may have allowed themselves to unconsciously flow into.This attitude represented by American identity politics and culture has produced a significant revival of segregated and, what Robert Putnam in Bowling Alone terms, "personalized American communities," based upon race, religion, sexual preferences, recreational activities, business, and political loyalties. Such a notion flies in the face of community as expressed by the Heavenly Books and the prophets who conveyed them.

THE EMERGING LOOK OF THE MUSLIM COMMUNITY

IN THE PAST decade,America has experienced tremendous growth in the immigrant Muslim community. Some of those who have put down roots have reflexively allowed their cultural fabric to become an isolating, segregationist wedge between them and Ahl-al-kitab (Jews and Christians), on the one hand, and among Muslims of various racial and cultural backgrounds, on the other.This phenomenon seems to hint at pernicious segregationist patterns from the last century sneaking back into the American communal landscape, and into the national Ummah. Whether consciously or unconsciously assimilating into this blueprint, Muslims are simultaneously disconnecting from the tradition of Islamic diversity, retarding the momentum of a new consciousness which has been developing in American society, and diverting the direction of Islam in America that it must eventually be forced to traverse, if it Islam is to be successful here.This dilemma compels us to continually and systematically lessen tensions and lower the walls of defense between Muslims and non-Muslim Americans, and, first and foremost, between different Muslim groups.

Culturally based mosques that are conspicuously Arab, Indian-Pakistani, Malaysian, African, African-American, or Eastern European on the surface display no special reason for curiosity or alarm.They appear only to demonstrate that people of similar cultural value structures have affinity for one another, a proposition with few serious detractors or critics.There is significant space, however, to misinterpret this movement as mechanically re-creating a historically dramatic and significant impediment in American class relations-namely, segregation, justified by racial, religious, or political propensities.

planning for culturally oriented groups of people. This can only give way to an (albeit subconscious) personalized and segregationist thinking. Innocently, the planning and execution of Muslim community events, the formation of tafseer (Qur'an explication) study groups, the organizing of community entertainment, the inception and operation of schools, and the dictates of shura councils have, in practical terms, really been for the personal enjoyment of a select few. While this observation may seem exaggerated and unduly harsh, the reality is that this thrust has been co-opted by a disinterested and thus inept leadership that is largely unable to grasp the depths and certainly the history of existing American social problems.

It is within this frustrating precedent that we find the indigenous Muslim of color confused. If this unplanned personalization of our institutions and communal expression goes unchallenged, then the greatest potential for future Islamic delineation is being forecast, not by our empty calls for cultural unity, but by the incitements of a relentless reality of cultural divisiveness.

To be effective in building bridges over differences within and without the national Ummah, Muslim leadership in the United States must be acutely aware of the history that led to the racially and religiously separatists culture of living in post-colonial America, as well as the trends in the direction of separation which prevail within contemporary Islamic movements. More importantly, leadership has to recognize and use our Muslim community's diverse peoples, talents, and experiences to communicate in and with a complex political and social environment with the specific goal of producing an unprecedented unity, comity, and godliness, within American society and within all streams of the Muslim American communal presence. To be genuine and effective, however, such an effort must be clearly, openly, and palpably guided by revelation-the doubtless guidance of the Qur'an and its human exemplification in the Sunnah.

THE CASE FOR COMING TOGETHER

ALLAH REMINDS US in the Qur'an that we need to understand two things to develop a wise methodology toward social cohesion. First, Allah has intended for all people to become acquainted through culture, to integrate racially, intermingle to celebrate life, cooperate to solve the universal mysteries, and co-exist as a sign of submission to Him alone. Second, in verse two of Surah Al-Ma'idah, we are forewarned that hatred for people will likely lead to transgressions. Famously, as the story of creation in the Qur'an unfolds, a dialogue with the angels ensues. The angels ask Allah if man will spread bloodshed on the Earth.

Implied in this inquiry is the insinuation that coexistence will create troubling complexities in life on Earth. Allah's response is to demonstrate that the true nature and genius of divinely guided man equips him to transcend a destructive focus on earthly difference-the emphasis here being on ‘divinely guided man.'

Islam has never excluded, discouraged, or misperceived the place of culture within religion. Historically, as Muslims spread geographically, Islamic culture formed a contiguous earthly presence. From the Qur'an and Sunnah, the comprehensive logic of Islamic culture emerged. Strengthened by that intensifying presence and breadth of knowledge, Muslims proceeded to expand and build mosques and schools that left the footprint of Islam,

mounted the least resistance to Islamic penetration. Islam in Africa, even as was the case in many areas of the Middle East, was initially an urbanized religion, primarily attracting the powerful elite merchant classes and political community. African traders throughout the continent who controlled the trade routes through deserts and forests were a leading element within society, and it was their relationships with traveling Arab merchants that initiated the first waves of Islam in Africa. Having homed in on the trading routes and urban centers prior to colonial expansion in Africa, Arab traders ignored the interiors of its nation states. Consequently, Islam, until recently, never successfully penetrated remote native cultures because of their uninhabitable and difficult to traverse terrains.

The African capacity to contain dualities enabled them to accept Arab religious and thus cultural reflections, though their own culture remained immersed in pagan reverences. This is the communal context that manufactured the hybridity of African-Islamic culture, the influences and appearances of which remain today. Regional chieftains played a mainly political task of achieving a cultural and transactional equilibrium between indigenous religions and Islam.The point is Islam was not considered a threat to displace indigenous "cultural" structures but an adjunct to the development of trade opportunities and the extension and solidification of power.

J. Spencer Trimingham, a noted twentieth-century scholar on Islam in Africa, traces the development of Islam throughout the continent and explores reasons for its spread and decline. In The Influence of Islam Upon Africa,Trimingham, though mechanical in his analysis of traditional African structures, plausibly represents how the ruling classes and traders were the political backbone of developing pre-colonial life.

Here he cites Sudan as an example:

Islam was brought to this country (Bornu) by traders and travelers.Whoever wished adopted the faith; some practicing it as sincerely as they were able, others mingling it with elements that nullified it. Such was the case with the majority of the kings of the country; they adopted Islam, confessed to the unity of God, observed ritual prayer and fast, yet never got rid of their inherited practices, nor abandoned one

and a universal cultural bridge, across the center of the Earth.

This did not happen because of a kinetic religious energy proceeding through an inertia of history, a certain compulsory social evolution, contrary to Tyler, the British social Darwinist's theories. Emissaries sent by the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, to spread the Message of the new religion encountered unforeseen obstacles and resistance to the "new" belief.Yet in Islam's wise and divinely guided human relations, where those emissaries failed to convince, there is no historical data to conclude Muslims forcibly altered local religious configurations or violently desecrated cultural expressions in contradiction to tenants manifested by the Sunnah. None whatsoever. The spread of Islam by the elite leadership classes of precolonial West Africa illustrates how the slow integration of the new religion began in the eighth century. Although Ethiopia in East Africa was the first area outside of Arabia selected by the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, to receive Muslims, Africa reaching to the Sahara, prior to the nineteenth century, exemplified the coexistence and balance of native religions and cultures while facilitating the emergence of Islam.

What I am saying is that what gave Islam in West Africa its uniqueness was that of the four most influential Islamic geographical zones on the continent-the unrestrained Sudanic spread, the vast East African corridor, the Arab dominated northern Maghrib, and the West African district-the latter

mounted the least resistance to Islamic penetration. Islam in Africa, even as was the case in many areas of the Middle East, was initially an urbanized religion, primarily attracting the powerful elite merchant classes and political community. African traders throughout the continent who controlled the trade routes through deserts and forests were a leading element within society, and it was their relationships with traveling Arab merchants that initiated the first waves of Islam in Africa. Having homed in on the trading routes and urban centers prior to colonial expansion in Africa, Arab traders ignored the interiors of its nation states. Consequently, Islam, until recently, never successfully penetrated remote native cultures because of their uninhabitable and difficult to traverse terrains.

The African capacity to contain dualities enabled them to accept Arab religious and thus cultural reflections, though their own culture remained immersed in pagan reverences. This is the communal context that manufactured the hybridity of African-Islamic culture, the influences and appearances of which remain today. Regional chieftains played a mainly political task of achieving a cultural and transactional equilibrium between indigenous religions and Islam.The point is Islam was not considered a threat to displace indigenous "cultural" structures but an adjunct to the development of trade opportunities and the extension and solidification of power.

J. Spencer Trimingham, a noted twentieth-century scholar on Islam in Africa, traces the development of Islam throughout the continent and explores reasons for its spread and decline. In The Influence of Islam Upon Africa,Trimingham, though mechanical in his analysis of traditional African structures, plausibly represents how the ruling classes and traders were the political backbone of developing pre-colonial life.

Here he cites Sudan as an example:

Islam was brought to this country (Bornu) by traders and travelers.Whoever wished adopted the faith; some practicing it as sincerely as they were able, others mingling it with elements that nullified it. Such was the case with the majority of the kings of the country; they adopted Islam, confessed to the unity of God, observed ritual prayer and fast, yet never got rid of their inherited practices, nor abandoned one whit of their customs...it (Islam) was a religion of chiefs...with a professional class of clerics, but it did not become the religion of the people... their particularist societies did not feel the need for a universal religion. By the mid-nineteenth century, the European colonial intrusions had swept through Africa. Ironically, it was this dramatic cultural trauma that set the stage for Islam to be spread by Muslim jihads, for such an onslaught made clear the need to establish universal moral scales in the violence of the modern world. In the teeth of the colonialist project, the movements that rose up to counter it had the side effect of increasing the presence of institutional Islam: Mosques, schools, congregational salah, religious rites, ceremonies. This extended the role of Islam from an exclusively rulingclass religion thriving along trade routes to one now shaping interior village life.

In primarily west and central Africa, excluding the sub-Saharan regions, Islamic states emerged at the expense of traditional cultural and religious structures. African-Muslim jihads began as an attempt to unify multi-linguistic and ethnic entities with diverse religious manners, but did so, in many cases, with intolerance for cultural "others" and an imprudent blindness to indigenous ways of life. This was a hasty mistake by some of Africa's Muslim leadership for which Islam, that is, its reputation, has continued to suffer. The spread of Islam during this time constituted a unique wave of expansion. This, of course, needs much further discussion, but the lesson taken is that there is a seminal difference between this example and that of the character of diplomacy and concession encouraged by the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, in Madinah. Ira Lapidus writes at length, if not entirely reliably, about this development and its results in a chapter entitled "Islam in West Africa" in his book A History of Islamic Societies. "While Islam had frequently been adopted as an imperial cult without being spread among the subjects, the nineteenth century jihads created Islamic states which sought to include the whole population rather than a limited aristocracy, and to create a political people out of smaller groups of diverse racial, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds. Though great numbers of people were converted to Islam, the process of conversion was slow and the change in institutions and beliefs variable. The result was not the formation of a uniform Islamic culture but a plethora of local variations of Islamic practice."

The quasi-sectarianism that was the inadvertent product of the impatient, politically minded spread of Islam-as opposed to the deeper and more accommodating prophetic method-is no approach to be repeated among cultures in the West long smitten with the virus of segregation.

BACK TO THE FUTURE AND AMERICA

IN THE POST-MODERNWest, there are a number of significantly challenging social and ethical dilemmas lingering in American society, strengthened by racial and cultural stereotypes that simmer and continue to sanction discriminatory attitudes toward minorities and cultural others, remnants still meandering through the culture from the last century in American history. Sadly, modernity, for all its intellectual and technical prowess (and self-proclaimed virtue of progress), has digested neither the lessons of culturally segregated societies to the East, nor politically and religiously segregated societies in its own Western-originated midst.

In these latter years, Muslims in America-enticed by the rewards of an American society founded in its ideal upon beliefs similar to the ethical constructs enjoined by Islam-have conveniently overlooked its actual moral relativism.Yet the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, forewarned his followers of the futility and complexity of the kind of regressive "morality" now loosely defined as "Western," as well as of the inevitable tragedy of tribal hegemony (represented today in national interest), which promotes the growth of separate "worlds": Powerful, first-world (urban elites) and an impoverished third-world of (rural folk) that today scar and imbalance our quite singular world.

The primacy of these twin problems of secularism (moral relativism and an urban elitism) have rendered the broadest and best-intentioned American social policies and solutions incapable of producing either a colorless or classless society.They have, however, created a very definitive cultural society that is unforgiving and poised to deflect (defeat?) any perceived opposition.The rise of Islam in the West is driven most of all by recognition of this, and by the deep human longing to broaden the options and solutions to these intractable, pain-filled social enigmas. In human terms, the entirely unanticipated awakening of Western peoples to Islam is animated by people asserting the values and sensibilities that energized the first Ummah.

Thus it is the Islamic history of struggle against class dominance, secondary citizenship, and stereotypical racial and cultural attitudes that should medicinally compliment the political consciousness and growth of the Muslim community, not a politics of personalized American community, which is segregationist in its premises.This is the historical landscape that Muslims (particularly those close to their immigrant heritage) must immediately conceptualize and in which they must take a position. The Islamic community is not designed to be a monolithic cultural entity and that is not the concern of Islam or this essay. Nonetheless, in our attempt to engage the Islamic community in critical planning, and to clinically shape a complimentary religious presence and public image, we Muslims have inflicted ourselves with a plethora of social attitudinal-behavioral problems already crippling the American national discourse.

Traumatized by America's virulent xenophobia, of which Muslims are now the direct target, we have duly taken up passive positions that only feed into the complexion of our crisis.Yet none of the many serious things that are wrong with our community do we subject to serious critique and critical dialogue-not the negative emotions (perhaps more submerged now) that we harbor about interacting with the People of the Book, not inter-cultural marriage, not our lack of refinement in the sensibilities required for estimable social intercourse, and not the methodologies that might make our religious institutional education meaningful.

Muslims that perceive the perplexities of these issues should strive to discuss and create a Qur'anic and prophetic

methodology that will equip them to confront the new contemporary crisis in modern religious life-namely, Islamic diversity in American society. Ready or not, Islam in America, in the West, in the world-and we Muslims, its living representatives-now stand in the intellectual vortex of Western thought and life.

In light of this compelling reality, what could be plainer than the fact that the crux of Muslim sentiments and the focus of our concerns with diversity and inclusiveness must now migrate in our Muslim American community. It should leave the realm of a feckless and degrading theoretical debate that tries to convince the gatekeepers of the American mainstream that America needs to accept Muslims as a legitimate religious unit.The history of human struggle against oppression exposes this effort as hopelessly minor in the wider mission to undo the suppression of humankind, to relieve man's suffering, and to strive in the universal cause of his liberation.Anything less in our conceptualization brings us at best to the selfsame, nameless and, therefore, insidious impasse currently experienced by oppressed American minorities.

The new paradigm shift suggests that Americans and the Muslims among them broaden their political and religious sensitivities so that we may accept loyal, productive citizens, as did the first Ummah.America is a composite based upon citizenship, not Islam, which is currently perceived as another foreign-valuing special interest group. Re-structuring our focus to allow the nation to accept all people protects the rights of succeeding, suppressed religious, cultural, or racial entities that simply appear to be different.

high percentage of Muslim leaders have migrated from countries without concerns for heterogeneity. Hence, Muslims remain rudderless on the local and national levels when it comes to the central American conversation of racial inclusiveness and cultural compatibility.The Muslim community suffers from a lack of informed, grassroots leadership that has a vision based in American historical memory. From the insight that this memory provides, a crucial discourse must emerge among us that is committed to producing the strategies needed for a modern Islamization of leadership grounded and trained in contemporary America.

The cultural posturing of a largely immigrant leadership that seeks to ingratiate minorities is in reality pejorative and intolerant and, therefore, unacceptable when compared to an operative, living Sunnah, by which I mean the cultural mores and sensibilities xemplified by the Prophet Muhammad, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, in the early Islamic but diverse Madinah.The model of human coexistence demonstrated by the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, came slowly into existence starting in early Madinah with a Jewish community that saw no need to accept another prophet or a universal religion. Jews had experienced a line of prophets and at that time had no intentions of accepting another emancipator. Equally significant, and resistant to the idea of a new prophet, were surrounding tribes skeptical of any new concept of religion that deviated from that of their Arab forefathers.The truly revolutionary ideas of hijrah,

prophethood, and equality among people brought out aggressive and violent reactions against the people of Madinah, even by some of their own who secretly leagued against the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. How to react to and treat with tribes of other lineages was the initial challenge-barrier presented to the spiritual Émigrés once they migrated from Makkah to Madinah. And the prophetic answer was an exceptional autonomy and impeccable justice. Madinah had few similarities, for example, to Islamic Spain except that again Muslims faced oppositional cultures and administered a society comprised of a large number of Christians and Jews.The latter were prosperous merchants who the Muslims did not dispossess of control of the lucrative trade of Spanish-grown fruits and vegetables, known throughout the world for their quality and size.The former continued to live well among the Muslims and maintained the social status they enjoyed prior to the Muslim opening of Spain.

Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived under one law in the ninth through approximately the twelfth centuries.The longevity, as well as the fall, of Islamic Spain was due in part to how the scales of tolerance shifted from sovereign to sovereign. The sagacious management of cultural diversity is the model by which Islamic Spain burgeoned, while mismanagement of a transforming cultural milieu was a factor in its decline. All major business, education, and arts were conducted and centered in the larger cities, where, again, Islam became largely an urbanized religion.This eventually proved fatal, as throughout the outer, sparsely populated border frontiers, like Gallacia in the north, Muslims lacked a sufficient presence.This contributed to the fall of Islamic Spain. Muslim Spain, of course, famously became an intellectual and cultural conduit between the Middle East and Europe. It is instructive that this was a direct result of such an admirable ethic of integration. Muslims borrowed their social and political models from the Middle East, which they mirrored and reshaped into the Islamic Spanish model.They accommodated Berber influence from North Africa to augment and reflect Middle Eastern Arab dynasties. Included in this unique kingdom were the sensitive juxtapositions of the religious scholars and society, Middle Eastern agricultural landscape and architectural design, the reflection of the Arab royal courts, and an industry that published creative literature blended with lavish Arab poetry, producing a dynamic new style.

The assimilation gave birth to the composite Mozarab identity and dialect that captured native cultural strains, folkloric replicas, and elements from North African, Middle Eastern, and the Muslim worlds.The early Muslims showed an affinity for the erudite, for the spread of material prosperity, and had the foresight to attract and support practitioners of the arts and sciences.They spent lavishly to import costly and rare artifacts from the Middle East for the sake of refining their culture. Poets and artists (among them the renowned Ahmed Ibn Al-Irrif, a Sanhaji Berber, adept at poetry and philosophy) educated Islamic Spain's sensibilities, while courtesans were for the first time treated as royalty and paid handsomely to host courtly ceremonies. Muslims imported exotic animals and were admired throughout the world for sponsoring and constructing regal edifices beyond compare in all Western Europe.The point here is that cultural sensitivity, liberality, and an ethic of acceptance work, for they are as native to human happiness and development as they are to the spirit of Islam from its primary revealed sources.

To foster such humane relationships and maintain the flower of civility for half a millennium, Muslim leadership had to be well acquainted with the customs, values, and jurisprudence of its protected Christian and Jewish citizens. Although commerce and trade supported this coalescence and fluorescence, social integration existed with minimal intervention from the state.Accommodation from the state was, however, afforded to those Christian and Jewish merchants seeking a level playing field in commerce.They needed to be, and were, confident in the inclusive treatment insisted upon by Muslim statesman.

On the other side of the parabola, the opposite was also true. Leaders of Muslim Spain who chose to govern outside the accepted limits of Islamic law, who left the interpretation of Islam, in many cases, to Jews and Christians that claimed scholarly familiarity with Arabic and Islamic legal tradition but no spiritual affinity, who engaged with local, urbane society to the neglect of the regional scope of the agrarian kingdom, who underestimated and remained cavalier about Jewish and Christian cultures, who ignored what was extremely important to both religious groups-namely, the sacred-who had little patience for the political ambitions and wisdom of the scholarly community, who were exceedingly distracted by pomp and circumstance as opposed to sovereign substance, who indulged in consuming the exquisite wines of Spain's historic vineyards by then prohibited in Islam for hundreds of years-leaders such as these severed crucial inter- and intra-communal connections, destroying their society's avenues to integration.

It is notable that such practices always led to a decline of genuine revealed justice and liberality and the eventual increase of communal tensions that continued to weaken the social structure and loyalty of the protected classes, the Christians and Jews, along with the Berber populations. Prejudice and the segregationist mentality soon ensued, and in due course its aggressive fallout became yet another central reason for the decline of Islamic Spain. Unfortunately, Islamic Spain has been mystified to the degree that many Westerners now associate this period with religious suppression and social servitude. Lack of familiarity with this and other pluralistic models in history has led some Americans, including some Muslims, to deny the possibility of living in community and nationhood with cultural, racial, or religious "others." It may be fair to say that the demands of social inclusiveness that we Muslims must place on our leadership today afford us less hope for success than what our early Muslim predecessors achieved.

THE PROPHETIC MODEL IN THE AMERICAN MILIEU

THE BREAKDOWN OF the current integrative, communal vision of Muslims in America is evident in the contemporary attitudes among some of us who contend that the philosophies, technologies, politics, mores, attitudes, and increasingly the education of the West should be seen as inherently debasing, adversarial, and contentious to Islam. The consternations and cautions go further to include commercial transactions, inter-religious dialogue, debate, and cultural interactions with the West. The Islamic community is unadvisedly encouraged to segregate itself from people of other persuasions. We are even warned that the community of Muslims should be geographically isolated from "the world of Satan."

These specious arguments grow out of an historical oversight that the early Muslim model and Islamic Spain were segregated and focused on the transactions and rights of Muslims. On the contrary, these world models indicate tolerance in abundance for substantive diversity, for the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, declared-not the exclusive liberties of Muslims-but the inclusive rights of humanity.There is no evidence to support the practice or any instruction from the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, to segregate either himself or his Companions from people of other cultural expressions or some so-called "Satanic world" of others.We must not misinterpret prophetic exhortations to distinguish ourselves as Muslims as civilly or socially isolationist. Among the very first acts of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, in Madinah was the mutual compilation of the governing document constituting the fundamental integration of the diverse communities of Madinah into a distinct, unified polity. This written constitution is known as Sahifah of Madinah.There are points embedded in the Prophet's constitution that send a clear message to posterity.The first one speaks to the definition of citizenry in an Islamic state. Occupants of the geographic areas surrounding Madinah became official residents of the "one community," regardless of tribal or religious affiliation, neither of which prevented citizenry in Madinah. Madinah is, therefore, the birthplace and seminal origin of pluralism, a model the West has, knowingly or unknowingly, borrowed from the first Ummah. Second, regarding accession to leadership, the covenant of Madinah disavowed any notion of nepotism (which our own American experience tells us remains so prevalent in the modern world). Consistent with the human message of Islam, social competencies dictated one's involvement in participating in or dispensing with communal affairs in the early model. Neither did cultural differentiation negate the potential for conversion to Islam, civic involvement, or commerce. Third, the constitution of Madinah explicitly eradicated the cruel and oppressive treatment of minorities and members of weaker tribes.This was in reaction to the pre-Islamic practice of treating local and regional minority tribes in a manner analogous to "second-class citizens" today in the United States.

In Makkah, a number of the original Companions of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam, were the victims of severe social discrimination. The daily pressures of being

communally ostracized and persecuted weighed heavy in the decision for some to migrate and seek political-religious asylum from the Christian Negus (King) of Ethiopia, known for his just and even-handed treatment of people not of his cultural or religious background. Daunted by desert terrain and unruly rivers, beset by savage animals and food and water shortages, the first Muslim émigrés yet undertook the voyage to safe haven at the Prophet's behest. This in itself is meaningful. Equitable social accommodation is worth striving for. Ja‘far ibn Abi Talib was the small group's spokesman, and his appeal for justice before the Abyssinian king is an utterly instructive reminder for Muslims today of the human need for fairness and communal integration. It merits rereading. We were a people steeped in ignorance, worshipping idols and violating the peace, the strong among us devouring the weak. Such was our state, until God sent to us a Messenger from among ourselves whose lineage is known to us, and whose truthfulness, faithfulness, and purity we well-recognize. He called us to God, to bear witness that He is One and to worship none but Him, discarding whatever stones and idols we, and our forefathers, worshipped instead of God. He commanded us, moreover, to be truthful in word, to render unto others what is due them, to stand by our families, and to refrain from doing wrong and shedding blood. He forbade fornication, bearing false witness, depriving the orphan of his legitimate right, and speaking ill of chaste women. He enjoined us with the worship of God alone, associating Him with no other, as well as with the practice of fasting.

Jafar's summation, in essence, laid bare the moral architecture of the new society, outlining its spiritual, jurisprudential, and societal substructure. It is a vision attained in Islam that yet escapes our modern societies, an allegorical mountaintop that the West's greatest social reformers have dreamed of ascending and died for.

Any Muslim who has studied American history, and who has examined also the project of world colonialism and the subjugation of peoples, should easily be able to spot the malignancy in our own Muslim American midst-when we allow our communities, mosques, schools, and other institutions to be built and operated based upon the spurious criteria and excuses of language exclusivities, social class and economic disparities, racial commonalities, and political worldviews. Managing a diverse social and racial body politic successfully has become a conundrum in, and the grail of, American history.The reasons for this failure are embedded in the deep-seated Western attitude that despairs of cultural and religious cooperation between peoples of differing ethnicities and disparate resources. It will not due, then, for us Muslims to simply follow suit-consuming the luxuries and benefits of American society but abstaining from freely providing it and building it with the egalitarian spirit and wisdom of mutual community that is bound up with our own (freely given) divine inheritance, spiritual patrimony, and prophetic communal experience.

Absent from Western civilization has been the "alien" idea of impartiality and compassion, so salient in the Madinah model.The new religion came to Madinah and transformed it in word and deed into a community of religious and human, rather than tribal, cohesion, in direct contrast to the idea of a dominant or chosen people.This concept of social inclusiveness is reflected in the first and oldest known constitution, that of Islam, drawn up under the guidance of the Prophet Muhammad, himself, sallallahu alayhe wa sallam. As we prioritize our own approach to unifying the national Islamic community, the principles of comprehensive integration and preservation of diversity must preoccupy our strategic thinking and critical dialogue. Harnessing our intellectual capacities, refining our senses of modernity, unleashing our imaginations, and restoring the balances and primary contents that must constitute our education of the generations-all these facets are pivotal to building a principled, inclusive, and universally beneficial Islamic community in the West. In this regard, the doors of the Islamic institution of ijtihad, independent, revelation-based reasoning, become our salvation.

Ijtihad postulates that if we seek to understand a world continually reinventing itself, we must persistently apply our human intellects, the techniques of research, investigations, and mutual discourse in order to enable us to confront the intricacies of living with one another and the People of the Scripture in our space and time.The doors of ijtihad, therefore, on a much broader scale than mere juridical reasoning, must remain open to discern and access the prospects for new community relationships. So essential is this component that Muslims must transform this pragmatic mechanism from an academic instrument of the discipline of usul al-fiqh (the principles of law) to the practical social, political, and ethical realms that may seem to some to lie beyond it. History suggests that our predecessors' reluctance to utilize this tool in this way precipitated our Ummah's intellectual decline and social stagnation. In his juridical work Umdat Al-Salik, Ahmad ibn Naqib Al-Misri sheds light on this question of ijtihad: "No age of history is totally lacking people who are competent in ijtihad on particular questions which are new, and this is an important aspect of Sacred Law, to provide new solutions to new ethical problems by means of sound legal methodology in applying the Qur'anic and Hadeeth primary texts."

Perhaps, it is useful to remind ourselves that in preparing to discuss very fragile, critical issues, prudence captures the higher objectives of the Shari‘ah, and this sentiment is augmented by reliance on Islamic social models from history. When approaching subjects difficult to measure objectively, wisdom dictates that we apply Islam's native methodologies to address matters of severe import and urgency, which, for us, include topics of race and the isolation of minority voices, building a broad-based, diverse coalition, and being vigilant about intellectual and actual remnants of divisive segregation, whether such ideas are promoted unconsciously or preserved through traditional cultural proclivities. For a culture of belief ultimately emerges from the habits that indwell our only-human hearts-and over these, we have been commanded to remain ever vigilant.

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