Appalling level of public discourse

What the affair of the Archbishop and his thoughtful talk on the Shari’a has underlined is the appalling level of public discourse in the media today. This applies to parliamentarians, journalists and writers, intellectuals, artists, and a wide range of public figures. They were simply incapable of handling his nuanced arguments, and I am not saying that I agreed with everything he said, but they did not even understand it. They disagreed before taking the trouble to understand. But what brought about this disgraceful conduct of people many of whom have high educational achievements? It is something more than ugly prejudice, although that certainly figured in the equation. It relates very strongly to our previous theme, for this is the information culture par excellence. Not only do people not know the difference between information and knowledge, but they would furiously deny that there is any difference. Knowledge and concepts in this society are second-hand. It is the difference between going to the tailors and buying mass-market clothing off the rack. Our intellectuals, with honourable exceptions, use ready-made concepts, which they have subjected to no scrutiny. They choose them on the mere basis of whether they suit their fashion, for this is the age of fashion. All that marks them out as intellectuals is the abundant supply of concepts on which they can draw and with which they play. This exposes the rottenness at the heart of the information society, the mediocrity of people who regard the intellect and culture as higher forms of consumerism, who go shopping for culture as they would for a good wine, but when the chips are down are barbarians.

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Abdassamad Clarke is from Ulster and was formally educated at Edinburgh University in Mathematics and Physics, and in Cairo in Arabic and tajwid and other Islamic sciences. He accepted Islam at the hands of Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi in 1973. In the 80s he was secretary to the imam of the Dublin Mosque, and in the early 90s imam khatib of the Norwich Mosque, where he is currently an imam and teacher. He has translated the Muwatta of Imam Muhammad by Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybani (jointly with Muhammad Abdarrahman), which was published by Turath Publishing at the end of July 2004 and a number of other works from Arabic: al-Qawl al-mu'tamad fi mashru'iyyat adh-dhikr bi'l-ism al-mufrad by Shaykh al-Alawi on the standing in Shari’ah of using the divine name in dhikr, which was published by Diwan Press as first part of The Two Invocations and since republished by Madinah Press, The History of the Khalifahs (the chapters on the Khulafa ar-Rashidun from as-Suyuti’s Tarikh al-Khulafa), the Complete Forty Hadith (translation of Imam an-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith along with the Imam’s explanation of their fiqh and linquistic usages) and Kitab al-Jami’ by Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani (published as A Madinan View), Rijal – narrators of the Muwatta of Imam Muhammad, all published by Ta-Ha Publishers of London, Kitab al-athar by Imam Abu Hanifah and transmitted by Imam Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ash-Shaybani (Turath Publishing 2006), The Compendium of Knowledge and Wisdom (a translation of Jami' al-'ulum wa'l-hikam by Ibn Rajab al-Hanbali, published by Turath Publishing 2007). In addition he has edited Aisha Bewley's translation of Ibn Hajar's abridgement of at-Targhib wa't-Tarhib, Ibn Taymiyyah's al-Kalim at-Tayyib both published by the UK Islamic Academy, Dr Asadullah Yate's translation of al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah, published by Ta-Ha Publishing and a number of other works. He is currently engaged with Suád Østergaard on a translation of the Qur’an into Danish, the first volume of which translated in collaboration with Jakob Werdelin, comprising Surat al-Fatihah, Surat al-Baqarah and Surah Ali ‘Imran, was recently published as Den gavmilde Qur’an: en fremlægning of de tre første suraer by Havens Forlag of Copenhagen. Translations yet to be published include Traditions of the Sunnah (Athar as-sunan) by Shaykh Muhammad ibn ‘Ali an-Nimawi (jointly with Mawlana In'amuddin), to be published by Turath Publishing Ltd. Among his unpublished translations are the Sciences of Tafsir comprising portions of Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbi’s Qur’anic commentary at-Tashil li ‘ulum at-tanzil, in particular his introductory sections on the essential elements of the sciences necessary for tafsir. He is author of a number of children’s books, The Year of the Elephant, The Great Victory and The Last Battle all of which are on the sirah of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, as well as The Story of Stories about the Prophet Yusuf, peace be upon him, in which he drew a great deal on the commentary of Ibn Juzayy, may Allah be merciful to him. He has also a poem God is Dead published in the Minaret journal of Stockholm, Sweden, and an as-yet unpublished collection of short stories called Tales Are Like That, and a novel called The Wings of the Butterfly. Abdassamad is a teacher of both adults and children in Qur’an recitation (tajwid) and meanings, Arabic language and the deen in general, most recently having organised and taken part in a conference under the auspices of Islamic Events of London on the History of the Islamic Khalifate, and having given discourses in London, Edinburgh, Dublin, Jena, Weimar, Copenhagen and the Midlands. 18 April, 2007 0:03

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9 Comments

  1. Wa alaikum as-salam,

    In the original post, I was talking about public figures, pundits, journalists and MPs etc.

    The truth is something electric and alive, vibrant and clear. Most people are peddling formulas, particularly scientists and economists and including some of the ulama. However, the ulama have extenuating circumstances, since, if they so choose, they transmit the tradition and they must do so accurately and carefully. In that case they are like custodians of a museum. But Islam has to come out of the museum and into the marketplace. For that another kind of intellect is needed, and needed very badly.

  2. I know, its just in your presence my words i.e seems useless… Do you have on-line classes for both males and females?

    Oh you say another kind of intellect is needed, but from this I infer a having a deeper level of faith. Is that what you meant? What would be the criteria…being like Malcom X?

    Also, I want to change the name “Urafa” soon, as recently discovered the intensity of its meaning. Imagine that, and assumed only just made it up….lol.

  3. On-line is not the place for classes. It is important to sit with each other.

    Another kind of intellect? Intellect with us is of the heart, while with them it is of the head. So, yes, it would mean a deeper faith as well.

    For change of name sit with people of knowledge and right action. Is Urafa your given name? And what does it mean? It looks like the plural of ‘areef.

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