June 02, 2011

The Electric Mufti!

Let me start this by clarifying one small thing: I am Muslim.  Not a perfect one, probably not even a good one.  But a Believer, a God-botherer, bacon-free, a Barbican-ist.  Ich bin ein headbanger.

In that context, I'm as aware as anyone of both the risks and the potential of the media in the battle of ideas.  The internet is full of pornography and BS.  Some of it also has erudite, informed, interesting and educational content, and some of that is about Islam.  Cool.  And Robert Spencer can kiss my halal butt.  Metaphorically speaking, obviously.

So this post is aimed at brothers and sisters all over, especially here in the Gulf where I see a lot of the Electric Mufti.  I will get on with this in a minute, I promise, but in the mean time, I note that readers of this blog are from an amazing diversity of countries and backgrounds.  So just so as not to be exclusive, I'll just stop a moment and put this "Muslim" thing into context for those who are less informed (you infidels out there and the like).  Here is a brief digression:  The Beginner's Guide to Islam in three paragraphs - feel free to share with anyone who is ignorant, and has a short attention span:

1. Islam's the straightforward, uncomplicated, practical expression of religious duty to mankind.  Basically, it starts with the Holy Qur'An, which is the direct world of God, transmitted via the angel Gabriel (you might remember that name from the Bible - same guy, OK?), to the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him), who then recited each part as it came along to the people around him.  Between them, those same people wrote it down, and although a few years later, it was those same contemporaries who got together and agreed a written version of the whole thing.  That's the Qur'An.  Straight from source, as we see it.  Unchanged since the time of Mohammed's (pbuh) contemporaries - and original copies are still in existence.  OK, so that's the main part.

2. The second part, in the mainstream view at least, is all that the things that the Prophet (pbuh) said and did during the many years of his prophecy, are worth imitating: we call the things he was seen to do the sunna and the things he was heard to say the ahadith (sing. hadith).  Now these are not "straight from source" as it were like the Qur'An, so there are some disagreements over what's true and what isn't.  But the majority of people agree, more or less, on which are from the most valid sources and therefore most likely to be true.  There are a couple of sets that most people agree on.  So, overall we have the Qur'An that tells us everything really important, straight from God.  And then we have the deeds and words of the Prophet (pbuh), in less perfect form, but a pretty good base of quality material for reference.  We look at the first, the answers are pretty much all there.  But if we want to try extra hard or get into fine print (and who doesn't, right?), we can refer to the other things for specifics of what to do in certain, very human, situations.  Cool.

3. So that's it.  That really is Islam in a nutshell: obey the Qur'An - that's "submitting to the will of God" (what the word "Islam" means), and try to live your life in the example of the Prophet (pbuh) too, which is what the other material is for.  No other texts, no church, no clergy, no book of common prayer.  That's it.

OK, infidels' guide over - back to the point.  I've always had a bit of an issue with the elevation of certain "sheikhs", "muftis", "scholars" and the like to reverend-status.  One of the most basic truths of Islam is that there are not intermediaries between man (or woman!) and God.  No popes, priests or rabbis.  Sure, people have their reasons for "following" an individual, in that they might respect his knowledge as superior, or feel it's safer to follow the best example they can find rather than try to work it out for themselves.  But I have felt for a long time that it's a weakness in the Muslim Umma now - the fear of contradicting a celebrity sheikh, the fear of debate and innovation, etc.  It's starting to look an awful lot like a church, and that's a bad thing.  At least I think so.

Personally, following another man's view (and it's always a man, let's face it) without question, makes me nervous - I don't want to say on Judgement Day that I took a decision to follow some guy rather than think for myself because someone said I should.  Or because he was on MBC.  Or because he had a really impressive beard and other people seemed kind of scared of him.  I think that might suddenly feel a little thin, as defences go.  Maybe it's my nature, but I always want to think about it and make my own decision.  At least then there's no doubt who's to blame.

Anyway, what I think is irrelevant to most people.  And after all, as I'm opposed to the veneration of scholars I can hardly set myself up as one.  I'm not at all, just a child trying to learn.  What I am going to talk about is what I think of the Electric Mufti.  Even if you do follow Sheikh Al Falani, or Imam Shismoh or whoever, he's got a big rival.  Enter the Electric Mufti!  But who is he?!  Well I will tell you, because he's been on my case lately and it's starting to annoy me.

The Electric Mufti is a mythical creature.  He has no name.  He has no address.  No office.  No masjid and no sabla.  There is no feedback, no interactivity, and no refund.  The Electric Mufti just broadcasts, through your email, your social media account, and even to your phone.  And he uses your friends, acquaintances and business associates as his delivery boys.  The Electric Mufti has a LOT of servants.  And let's look at his work:

- The Electric Mufti sends to your email, a detailed explanation of how the end of the world is nigh.  In Arabic, or occasionally in hilariously broken English, you will see in detail how the erection of Burj Khalifa, the level of the tide in Somalia and the number of people in the news whose names begin with "B" add up to an unerring indication of the imminent end of days.  The Electric Mufti must therefore be a genius, and indeed a prophet.  At least that's what he's saying without using the words.  The Electric Mufti knows when the end of the world is.  That's a big claim.

- The Electric Mufti tells you on Facebook exactly how many points you score for walking to the mosque, saying certain voluntary prayers, cursing the Devil and cutting the toenails on one foot before another.  The Electric Mufti is extremely well-informed, and can add up exactly how your actions, prayers and obediances to the tiniest details of his code, can affect your celestial sin rating.  The Electric Mufti is heaven's accountant.  That's an even bigger claim.

- The Electric Mufti, in his generosity, wants you to be fast-tracked to the highest level of the afterlife.  So he is sending instructions to your Blackberry on how you can jump the queue: here is a du3a ("supplication", infidels) that gets you a VIP pass through the side entrance.  Just recite this long screed, and forward it to ten other people, and all your sins will be wiped away.  There might even be several different ones sent in the same day, each with different bonuses: "This one will help you with money problems."  "This one is very powerful".  "This one will bring forgiveness for everything you've done in the last six months".  Some have a catch, too: "Forward this to at least ten other Blackberry users or it won't work".  Which sounds a bit like the old "chain letters" game of decades ago "if you don't forward this, you will die!".  But it can't be like that, right?  This is from the Electric Mufti!  The Electric Mufti can get you a discount on the afterlife.  That's a huge claim.

- The Electric Mufti doesn't need to refer to any sources or evidence, as it's all right there in his electric head, so he can ping out a fatwa (meaning "scholarly religious opinion", infidels, nothing scary) as quickly as you or I can change our MSN Messenger status.  The Electric Mufti can tell you why you need to pick your nose with a certain finger.  He can tell you that there is a conspiracy manifested in butter from New Zealand.  He can tell you that putting your left foot first into your car causes accidents.  And he can tell you, unequivocally, categorically, with no justification or explanation, exactly which tiny details of your life are pleasing or displeasing to the Almighty.  The Electric Mufti knows the mind of God.  That's the mother of all claims.

The Electric Mufti is a mysterious character, working behind the curtains, with no name and no accountability.  He could be real.  He could be one person, working for good or  for evil.  Or he could be a million people just writing down stuff that's in their heads, things from blogs and obscure sectarian websites.  Creating, quoting, mis-quoting, cutting, pasting and fabricating.  Day and night, working feverishly to propagate the Electric Mufti message around the world.

So ask yourself: are you working for the Electric Mufti?  Are you sending stuff from sources you don't really know?  Are you making yourself a messenger for an invisible voice?  And if so, why?  Aren't the Qur'An and the Sunna enough for you?  Don't you have a brain, God-given and amazing, to reflect and understand and "seek the fatwa of your heart"?   And didn't Islam tell you that is more than enough?

The Electric Mufti is a liar and a charlatan.  If you're working for him, forwarding his messages and promoting his ideas, then I think you should resign for your own sake, and stick to the Qur'An and the Sunna.  If you're the following type, you're taking a gamble that the voice you follow is one more informed, more wise, and more righteous than you are.  Maybe.  But if you're wrong, then at some point you're thinking that if he's wrong, it won't be your fault because you followed in good faith.  Maybe too.  But how is that going to work with the Electric Mufti dude?

After all, if you're planning on blaming the Electric Mufti for your mistakes in the next life, how are you going to point your finger at an invisible man?  Maybe you should just pull the plug, and you can stop forwarding it to me anyway.


P.S.  If you are the active type, maybe you can send this link in reply to any messages you get from the Electric Mufti.  I'm sure he would not appreciate it.  And I don't care.


Balqis De Cesare said...

I don't think many pay attention to chain emails and messages if that's what you talking about, for the simple reason they're just annoying
About the reverend status, yes some, mostly females, seem to be dependent on sheikhs and imams but it is not the same which is done in christianity for example
We have the Quran and the sunnah but cant know them deeply so we need somebody to explain. I personally follow a couple of sheikhs in particular not because I think they are demigods, but because i respect them for their knowledge and the way they unfold their reasonings Many have websites and accounts on twitter and facebook and participate to discussions with us in a very human way :P

MaRia said...

This is my first comment on your blog since I discovered it yesterday through MM's blog mentioning your Arab's got prostitution post. which is a very good post by the way with a great amount of truth that many tend to go all defensive about it rather than trying to talk about the real issue. this should have been posted in that post I guess but anywayz.

Regarding the legendary electric mufti, I can not agree more with you on your representation of this creature/thing/mind-sets behind it!!!
at some point of my life I just recognize these e-mails/texts from the first line and I press delete immediately!
it always frustrates me as it always doesn't have trusted sources or any for that matter! -_-

very well written, well done. I like your blogging style, I'm a fan :)

keep posting.

The Linoleum Surfer said...

Balqis - I understand that respecting other people's opinions is a positive thing. There are some wise people and I believe there's something to learn from pretty much anyone. I just think it's important to make sure that I feel equally free to disagree with them when they say something stupid. Anyway, you know I respect your opinion. Even if you are insane. We're still friends, right? ;)
MaRia: Thanks - kind words are always appreciated, and I read them twice usually. Anything you like, please share any way you can...that's better than anything.

By the way, a big thank you to the five (at least, so far) bloggers who re-posted this in some way: my good friend mimi ("howtolovedavey"), Mr systhe of "muscatmutterings"), Nadia of "Dhofari Gucci", the Italian lady "lettersdalloman", and others I can't recall. You guys are the bomb (can I say that on a Muslim blog? Ah, never mind...)

shanaz@RS said...

Congratulations, you've become one of my most favorite blogger online. I like the clarity of your thought, the way you convey wisdom and wit through simple words.

FYI, I've been trolling your blog since the past few days. I loved your thoughts about prostitution and driving styles of Arabs.

I will be coming here for more fun read. :)

Take Care!

A Malaysian admirer.

The Linoleum Surfer said...

Oh Balqis - sorry I meant to say: yeah people do pay attention to chain emails. Otherwise there wouldn't be any - someone's forwarding them right? That's why they disturb me.

Balqis De Cesare said...

no now you are on my black list :)
Well I still have a lot to learn so I need those scholars but still considers them human beings
And I think it depends also on the subject
In Islam there is little flexibility at least concerning the rituals, so we go to those scholars waiting for them to give us gold

Omani Princess (not Omani LOL) said...

Of all the OPNOs past and present (besides one non-muslimah) we're all but one converts. So we learnt early the importance of at least STUDYING the Islamic sources so one can get a hint of whether or not the Shiekh/Mufti/Scholar has any idea what they are talking about and so as to be able to ask questions to make sure we understand. I think it is soooooooooooo lazy of people just to take what someone is saying and never study it for themselves and not make sure it is correct. I have total respect for scholars, but that is if they have an understanding of all the available daleel, AND IF THEY ARE OPEN to questions, and disagreements don't make them "curse" others and the like.

bosnishmuslima said...

This is a topic I often think about. When discussing some issues with other muslims they start to bandy the statement of this and that scholar for every triviality kinda can I pray in loose pants or not (as a woman). And that's the point which really annoys me. Most things can be found in Quran and Sunnah and for almost everything else just use your brain.
For me personally it's kinda exhausting to figure out who the scholar actually is, what aqida is he following etc. And for sure you will find always more than one opinion among the scholars. So again you have to chose your brain and decide.
Actually there are topics where a fully qualified opinion is needed to ease a decision like some medical issues or the like.

As for the chain emails, someone taking them roughly serious have earnest brainwaves problem!

By the way, love your blog and will stay a loyal reader inshaallah!

♥ααℓiα♥ said...

So ask yourself: are you working for the Electric Mufti? Are you sending stuff from sources you don't really know? Are you making yourself a messenger for an invisible voice? And if so, why? Aren't the Qur'An and the Sunna enough for you? Don't you have a brain, God-given and amazing, to reflect and understand and "seek the fatwa of your heart"? And didn't Islam tell you that is more than enough?

This is why I stopped blindly following just any fatwa/scholar/some random person claiming to have knowledge. It's been a while and I feel much more stronger in my faith :-)

TripleTee said...

Balqis: you're learning from the wrong sources.

Mimi: he has not gone crazy, he has started using his brains to understand his religion. it's a step further.

AZ said...

You're most welcome. Keep up the great blog: in the meantime your post on the local driving style is all over my friends' Facebook profiles :)


Mimi said...

Well you're right TripleTeee

Nadia said...

Yes! YES! YESSS! You seem to channel my thoughts for me. I will re-post again!

Kitten said...

Like Balqis, I do respect scholars and Muftis, only the reasonable ones with fatwas that match what's stated in both the Quran and Sunna. I respect them because they've gone through a subject and used their brains for it. That doesn't necessarily mean I'd follow whatever they say just because of respect.

Your blog tackles interesting issues, keep writing.

Olga K. said...

I promise to find the time a little later to comment on each post separetly but for now I just wanted to say how wonderful your blog is! Its fantastic to read something to upfront and fresh! Great job! I have only been reading for a few days but I will certainly become a dedicated fan in the long term!

Omani Jewel said...

Dear LS :-), you make me laugh.... as a child before technology came into its current form today :-), i just asked a fleshy mufti something and was called an infidel, i was 12 or 13, personally I delete the electronic mufti's mail and messengers :-)its a rule.... and any one else....who preaches without asking :-)

candy olive said...

i almost started a facebook group called ISLAM AGAINST RELIGIOUS CHAIN LETTERS AND TEXT MESSAGES.

Yeah almost did.

i received 2 sms in 5 mins telling me to forward some made up dua or else bear the wrath of the Electric Mufti.

I couldn't take it anymore, since I know chain letters are unIslamic. Even bordering on SHIRK.

So I emailed all my contacts the reason why chain letters, even religious ones, are bad (spammers use them to collect email addresses) and haram (bordering on shirk). I also told them I will not forward them and I don't want to receive them. I went on to tell them that if i do get one in future from a contact, i wil be forced to block them.

Never received a chain letter, religious or otherwise since.

Ah happy me!


The Linoleum Surfer said...

Thanks - now go start the Facebook group (once you've "liked" the TLS FB page and "followed" through Google. If that's not too much to ask!) ;)

Anonymous said...

this would have been so much easier to share if it were a video. hmm.. maybe an idea.. start making videos.. your articles are excellent! I would totally stalk you on youtube.. ( I swear i am kidding)

The Linoleum Surfer said...

I have a face much more suited to radio so I'll stick with the written word for now, but thanks for the thought!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know how a person becomes a mufti. Is there an exam? Any female muftis?

Blewyn said...

Why, would you like a shufti ?

bibi saira naeem said...

to be a mufti of islam or alam you need to take admission in a madrassa...........for mufti it takes 8 years of studies, and for alam it takes 5 years.
this period includes exams....and you r given an equivalent ma degree!