And finally, Nafs-ul Mootmaina, when the self has, …is no longer is bound by the Amara, it is literally been freed of the commanding self. And now is in a state of <Arabic>, and the way to achieve that is, according to the Quran, through the dhikr of Allah Subhanawatallah. It is through the conscious remembrance of God, so that when one literally is remembering God, in the highest way, then one conquers the lower self. And Then the lower self becomes a beast that the human being can ride and is not ridden by it. And this human being is worthy of being the Calipha, or the vice regent of God. Because that human being has conquered the self. Which is now a vehicle, and no longer controlling them.
Now, the way in which, and I think this is really, this book, which is called “A is for Ox”, a brilliant, some brilliant insights, which I think are applicable to Islam. And that, … Because he sees, he views the crisis as a… separation from oral tradition, and literate tradition.
And Because there is no more an oral tradition in this culture, due to television and electronic media, children are no longer really capable of being truly literate, which he believes is creating a conscious, in other worlds that literacy is one way in which conscious emerges from the human self.
Now, Islam is, one of the most fascinating things about Islam, is that it introduces a book into an oral culture. So, that the Quran is literally a bridge between orality and literacy, in fact, it took an oral people to becoming the most literate human beings that have ever existed on the face of the Earth; by the testimony of not just the Muslims, but by the testimony of the Non-Muslims. And you can read the “Age of Faith” by Will Durant, in which he talks about the the really peerless civilization of books and knowledge, that was created during what is usually termed by orientalists, as the Golden Age of Islam.
So, the Quran and the Hadith tradition, have uniquely bound us to the oral tradition. In other words the Quran is learned orally, before it is learned literally. And it is a reading before it is a book. It is a Quran before it is Kitab. You see, which is a book.
So the oral tradition, of Islam, is honored and nurtured. Now, one of the things that is important in every culture, is the act of storytelling, “Riwaya” in Arabic. A Riwaya in Arabic, literally means to quench the thirst . It comes from, If you look at the root word, it comes from a word to “Quench the thirst”. And a story, we are in need of stories. We are in need of narratives, as human being we are in need of narratives. And the Quran, is a narrative, <Arabic>, it’s literally telling us a story, there are Qasas in the Quran. So human beings need stories in which meanings literally emerge, and so really, this is one of the main functions of education, is to present the divine narratives, in which all other narratives are literally, put to the test by.
In other words, the Quran is the touchstone of reality for all narratives. If the narratives do not harmonize with the Quran, then they’re invalid. And this is why the Quran is “Mohamin”, it is an overseer of all the previous narratives.
So, the Narratives of the Greeks, the narratives of the Jews, the narratives of the Christians, of the Magians, of the Buddhists, of the Hindu’s, all of the narratives must be placed before the authority of the Quran itself. And this is the Islamic worldview, and from that, wisdom can be derived, and this is what the Prophet Muhammad (sallalahualayhiwasalam) said, “Wisdom is the lost beast of the Mumin, wherever he finds it, he is more worthy of it.”
And so, we’re inculcating the Quranic world view into children. And this is why from the age of about 6, late 6, which is…and really educating children prior to that is…criminal. In a sense, because they are, really not intellectually ready for that. And they can learn to read and write, you can teach children, 3, 4, some children learn even earlier then that. But, it is depriving them of that right of “Luab”, of “play”. And this is what needs to be nourished, during that time.
And children that are taught before that age, you can see a qualitative difference in their being and behavior. They don’t look as healthy, as other children. They’re often times, not as bright as other children. Just In terms of bright, I don’t mean intellectually. I mean bright in a spiritual sense. You know that children radiate this brightness and when they don’t radiate it, it means something’s putting it out.
And So, the, traditionally in the Muslim world, children literally memorized the Quran. And this is, I personally believe, the effect that this will have on the developing brain, is something phenomenal.
And my own experience with people who memorize the Quran in their youth, is that, although often I’ve met many, that are like tape recorders in the sense, that they don’t know what the book means, and they might not have reflected on it a lot. But they just, they’ve got it there.
But the people that have, who went on to develop their intellects, are just the most phenomenal intellects that I’ve personally ever met. And I,… And I think that’s a testimony to the power that the Quran literally presents, to the one who has internalized it, and become a “Hamil”, a barri…a bearer of the Book of Allah, “Subhanawatallah.”
And so, the, …from that, from the basis of this Quran, this divine narrative, then a child emerges into the world of abstraction. Which is where the narrative begins to emerge as a understandable, element in their lives. And the interioralization of the ethics of the Quran, of the spirituality of the Quran, and what the Quran is actually calling to. And the Quran says, <Arabic from Quran >,
“This Quran guides to what is upright, and it gives good news to those who believe in it, who do right actions, that they will have a great reward.“
And their reward, is not simply in the next world, but also in this world, in terms of realizing of Quranic civilization. Which is a high ideal, and has been realized more then once in human history. And if people are severed from the Quran, then they enter the crookedness of other narrations.
And the Quran reminds us, that it is a book without crookedness. There is no crookedness in it, and thus, what emerges from it, is the “istiqama”, or the uprightness, or the straightness of any society that takes it on, has the grand narrative of the society, and what has been lost in the West, is what they call the “Grand Narrative”. What they call, quote unquote, idols, have fallen by the way side, and they’re left in this freefall, of nihilistic tendencies, and banished to cyberspace. Where they, will roam down the information superhighway, going, really to what, Stephen J Gould called, an eloquent dance to nowhere, and it’s not even eloquent really, it’s just a kind of pathetic, aping, of the worst human characteristics and tendencies.
So, with that, I’m going to ask Muhammad Sharif, and I would just like to say, that Muhammad Sharif and I, have a reasonably long history, in terms of
our Islamic experience, we become Muslims at the same times. He went to what’s called the “Bilad us-Sudan”, which means, the “Land of the Blacks”, in
Arabic, and I went to “Bilad un-Naydaan”,
which means the “Land of the Whites” in Arabic which I was in
And we studied, in similar types of institutes, with very similar texts and things like that. And we, what we did, was both of us, we had a taste, and it was a short but extremely intense and sweet taste, of really what the Islamic madrassa is like, and the type of people it produces.
Now, having said all that, I have to admit, there are very great short comings in it, and and, there are reasons for the historical stagnation of the Islamic intellectual tradition, but the fact is that in many ways, there are very vibrant and dynamic elements of it that still exist in the Sahara, and the sub-Sahara, and I think that’s what he’s going to talk about, so, I would just like to ask him, and thank you very much.
Muhammad Shareef (0:)>
Takbir! Takbir! Takbir!
I’ll briefly try to make a gloss over what Sidi Hamza Yusuf …
Inshallah, this is now, time for questions, we’re going to entertain questions from the audience, we’re now asking Br Yusuf to collect questions, and then we will filter them out and...
Shaykh Hamza ()>
<Question>I can feel conflict, in what you’re saying here, are we, not to seek the best education? How about <Arabic>
What of…<> seek knowledge, even onto
knowledge, even in
But, like I was saying earlier, is that, every every system of education will have a world view that goes with it, and unfortunately, the Western system of education will not produce the individual that, Muhammad Shareef was describing, in his talk.
And My proof is, in the society that these higher systems of education have created. This does not mean that there’s no benefit in the University systems, there’s no….there is. And if there wasn’t, of course, you know…it wouldn’t work. And that’s important, because every, every falsehood, every false doctrine, has to have some element of truth in it.
Every…I mean, this is the nature of existence. Christianity there has to be truth there, the same with any religious tradition. If there wasn’t truth there, you certainly would not have the masses of people that follow it, do. And…but it is the admixture of truth and falsehood which is so dangerous, you see. This is what the Arabs traditionally call, <Arabic>, it’s the poison in the honey. You see, because if it wasn’t sweet, you would spit it out. And this is why, I think that…there are many brilliant critiques of Western Educational systems, you just need to read the books, and things like that.
Also, its difficult, for someone who is in Stanford, when they hear some. I mean its hard, if someone suddenly gets their PhD, and then you tell them, it was a big waste of time, although, I think , after a period of time, they come to that realization on their own. To be honest with you.
Most of the people that I’ve met, who have PhD’s, like Shaykh Ahmed here, <laughing> they will tell you, in the depths of their inner honesty that, it was all a waste of time, usually. And that’s really tragic. Because a lot of effort and work went into it. And a lot of time the students do believe in the system. And I’ve found this is consistent not just with the humanities, which end up creating the most inhumane people, but also the sciences as well. Because a lot of people become very disillusioned with the sciences, including Medicine, interestingly enough.
<Question> In terms, of grading, why not, Allah Subhanawatallah give us, each one, his place, or status or Grade, when we enter heaven, based on what we earned on this life?
<Answer> Well, this is a good point, you see, in other words, who is grading you. Is it the institution? Or are you learning for Allah, Subhanawatallah? If you’re learning for Allah, let that grade be between you and Allah Subhanawatallah.
And ultimately, we will not know our grade until the Day of the Big Test. Which is “Uom ul-Kiyama”. If you want to look at it, in those metaphorical terms.
But, an institution that is grading you, encourages knowledge to be sought for other then for the sake of Allah, it it, engenders in the student, actually the desire to impress their teachers, their peers, and those are all unfortunate side effects.
But I think the worst aspect of it, is that, …is just what I said. When you put people on a continuum, and this person is an A student, and this is an F student. This is an arbitrary way of judging these people. And it’s simply not true. It’s not true. Many A students, are some of the worst students and, in the class. And many of the students that get poor grades are actually some of the best students. And that, I’m not making this up. This is true.
Students often times have a much better understanding, but because they haven’t memorized all the stupid facts and figures, they don’t do well on tests and examinations. And students that are brilliant at memorizing, and putting all these formula’s in their head, although they don’t understand it. If you slightly change the variation, suddenly they’re…they can’t, they have no creative responses.
So grading is just, … measuring just one aspect, of, it’s what’s called sensible memory actually. And it does not measure understanding. And these quantifiable examinations, like the SAT and things like that. Really, you can go to take tests, and learn how to work out a lot of their so called reasoning systems. So,
Uh….uh huh? <talking in background>
<Question>Is it possible to attend a university and retain ones innocence of soul. How? What if I want to go to an Islamic school, where can I go, how do I get there?
<Answer> Well, this is part of our crisis. As Muslims, now I’m talking to people in here who are Muslim, which I think are the vast majority.
Part of the crisis, of the Muslim ummah, has been an educational crisis. And most societies, really their crisis is ultimately, a crisis of education and world view. And part of it is our educational systems were dismantled, and one of the things that happened in the late 19th century, is this attack on Taqlid, and this attack on studying all these old texts that were written a thousand years ago, and attempts to revise ijtihad, and this was a reaction by Scholars who we will have good opinions of, anyway, because it’s probably better. People like, Muhammad Abdu, uhmm, that you know, Allahualim what their intentions were, but, you know they may very well have been, good intentions , but… like Shakespeare said, “Sometimes good intentions, pave the way to hell”.
So, Because good intentions have to have Tawfiq as well, which is a whole other theological excursions.
So the idea, that our, you know,
universities were dismantled, and literally al-Azhar,
“Niyameeya”, the universities in Samarqand, in
And the same with the Khairoun, in North Africa, and the Zaytuna in, and these institutions, also studied other things, it wasn’t simply religious institutions, but the idea of secularizing knowledge, and creating institutions where secular knowledge was learned, without any foundation in our spiritual tradition, leads to an individual, in the muslim culture, that is, they’re very unhealthy. And these are the people that end up, unfortunately, being the, people that run the societies, and work in the ministries, and work in the, and this is a lot of where the crisis’s come.
So, we need to create, literally, Islamic schools and universities. And this is a challenge of our age.
<Question> Who can teach me the Quran and Arabic, I don’t even speak Arabic. Even If I did, how could I comprehend something so complex.
<Question> Uh…What else does it say?
<Question> Ohh..You mentioned something about time being God, please elaborate.
<Answer> Well, that Hadith is <Arabic “Shabihat”> but the general interpretation of it is in, one narration where it says, <Arabic>, “In the <Yad> of Allah is the night and the day”.
In other words, God is the possessor of time. And time is not something to be cursed, because the vicissitudes of time are, from God, and one of the things the Arabs used to do, was curse “Dhaar”, time was like this bad thing that brought tragedy, and things like that. So, what the Islamic teaching was, to accept that even tragedy is a test, from Allah, Subhanawatallah. And that one should not curse time, because time is part of Allah’s creation, and not something extraneous or outside of Allah’s creation.
<Question>Someday, I will…uhmmm….Where should we go, if we really want to study Islamic.
<Answer> That’s another really good question. I mean unfortunatly, the you know the Muslim world, what Khalid Blankmanship says is that really you can’t trust any book written after 1860, in the Islamic world, because of the insidious effects of Modernism.
Modernity, had already began to influence, very seriously, the outlooks and views of Muslims. They were already redacting their tradition, or reinterpreting it, within the constraints of the, what is known as modernity. Which is the, You know, the exaltation of rationalism, & the idea of progress. Which is utterly false idea in the Islamic tradition.
The idea of progress, and if you call this progress, all this stuff we have out here, talking to a microphone, I mean, you have a warped understanding of what “things getting better” mean. Because…
<Question>In today’s classrooms, how do you propose to change some of the problems, you mentioned in your talk. Grades, grading systems, technology, Jazakullah Khairoon.
<Answer> Grades again, I personally don’t believe that grades are a good thing. I think they are a very negative thing. I think children need to be, should not be quantified by numbers.
There is, encouragement and giving children feedback is important.
But I think numerical grades, and telling a child that their work is excellent, and another childs is average, children should be looked at as individuals, their work should be looked at as an individualist work, and not in comparison to other children. Because that is not the point to education. You should not be comparing them to other children, they are a thing unto themselves, and they have a right to be treated with that respect.
And this is that beautiful, what Muhammad Shareef mentioned about that Scholar being patient with the dim-witted. You know, and not being,…and that’s so beautiful because, it’s just a recognition that Allah has given people different gifts. Some people have, can acquire things intellectually very quickly. And other people take more time.
And I know a beautiful story, I was told in
And on the ninth time, he just decided to give up, and he would quite studying, and go look after sheep or something.
And he was sitting down, thinking about this, all the energy he had put in, and he saw a little ant, going up an anthill carrying a piece, a crumb, of bread. And each time he would, right before he would get to the top, he would drop the crumb, and it would go down.
And he watched this ant do this 9 times, and on the 10th time, the ant made it over.
And he said, “Subhanallah, should I let an ant have a higher himma, a higher aspiration then me?”, and he decided to try it one more time, and he had an opening on his tenth time.
And again, this is indicative of the Muslim belief that Knowledge is an unlocking that takes place from God. Allah Subhanawatallah, is the one <Arabic>, you know, Allah is the one that opens up things. In Suhratul Fatiha, is the opener, and what do we ask for? <Arabic>, you’re asking for God’s guidance.
And, beautiful story of Ibn Sina, who, despite his faults, we should look at some of his good qualities.
Ibn Sina, whenever he had a difficult thing, that he could not solve, he would start doing “Rakat”, and he would not stop doing the Rakat, until the solution came to him.
And this was something, that these scholars knew, that Knowledge is from Allah Subhanawatallah. It’s not, Allah is the giver of knowledge. And the teacher is really like a midwife, whose whose, literally, is just helping the knowledge emerge from the child, from the student.
I mean that is what a teacher is. A teacher is a murabi. And a murabi is the one that nurtures, that pours the water in, but allows the plant to grow as it would. It just gives the sustenance to the..thing.
So, you know, a grading system, again, I think, just throw them out, I really do.
Its an innovation, it’s a Bida.It’s a Bida from…everyone
talks about Bida, Now that’s a Bida. Nobody wants the... It’s an innovation from some
<Question>And technology, the thing about technology, “Why not learn about cyberspace”?
<Answer>Because you will literally be I mean, like in
I mean, <Arabic>…, this is, “Allah increase me in Knowledge”, is not about cyberspace, I guarantee you that. It’s not, Cyberspace is actually a really frightening.
The World wide Web. Just listen to what words mean, Bait ul-Ankhaboot, in Arabic, I mean seriously, I’m not…I don’t think that’s a joke. Just look at it, in the Quranic vocabulary, what a web is, what the nature of a web is.
A web is meant to trap people. That’s what it does. And the thing is, is you’re just flying
along, you know, and you get caught in a web, and before you know it, you’re
the spiders lunch.
And that’s what it is, And that’s what they say, “Get online”, you know, there’s amazing commercials they do, this is part of it. Because, they want to sell technology, so they have this commercial where There’s this guy comes in and says, “Hey John, how you doing”
“Oh great, just, I just got online here.”
And he said, “Oh, listen, I have to go because I need to get flowers for my mom, its Mothers day, and then I need to get tickets to such.”
“Oh don’t worry Jack, we can do it right here, online, you know?”
And he says, “Really? Well what do you do? “
And he says, “Oh here, let me show you.”
“Oh no, I can’t do that”
“No no, it’s really easy.”
And before you know it, they’re both there,, having a great time, and this is, this is …utopia, this is the great, …uhmm…
<soft conversation in the back>
<Question>Were you implying in your speech, that the only way to preserve your childs “fitra’ is to educate him or her in an Islamic environment?
<Answer>Absolutely, absolutely, that is the only way.
And at best, we will only have that one, have on the thing, with the
child and the parent, but the society is going against them, this creates a
state of confusion. And that’s at
best. There’s still going to be, and
I’ve seen this all over the
Go to Muslim conferences and see the, and I
can see Muslim
youth in here, and I know, they they, it’s very
difficult trying to work out what all this means. And what we should do, and where do we go?
These things, I mean, somebody said to me, you know it’s good since he got to
Well that’s the whole point! <soft laughing>, that you don’t have to think about that stuff. You know, that the butcher is a Muslim, so you can think about higher things. <soft laughing> Instead of your stomach.
Which seems to be a major concern, people in this country, Muslims that come here.
Oh, I would just say about Audrey Shabaaz, who came here, uhmm, who, if people are aware of her organization, which is called AWAIR, A-W-A-I-R, and, you know, what Audrey does, is she’s a teacher who literally goes all over the US, and other places as well, and gives talks on Islam, and I’ve seen her presentations, and they’re very impressive, and she’s had a major impact in in the field of, introducing some Islamic, perspectives, into dealing with Islam, in the school system, because now Islam is taught in the 7th and the 9th grade. And her organization needs the Muslim Communities support, and I think they’re going to be handing out, ways that you can help them, and it’s certainly a very worthy cause.
<Question>: If you have a choice of going oversees like
<Answer>: I would….based on what I’ve seen on the curriculum’s
of Virginia and Chicago, I would go to …
Muhammad Shareef ()>
Shaykh Hamza ()>
Well, that is a good answer, that ..certainly, we, one of the, and I mentioned on my talk on this, on the shortcomings of the system education.
First of all, we have to realize that Muhammad Shareef and myself were, was actually a very primitive form of the classical madrassa system.
In fact, because it was in, such areas the colonialists, it took them a long time to get there, due to…malaria, because of the terrain, because they really weren’t that interested, in terms of exploiting those countries, so there was a preservation of those traditions from there.
But the universities in
Now there is no doubt, that initially there was an extraordinary, resurgence of that , especially during the Mutazila period, because to the emphasis on rationalism, and on the intellect itself. And that began to die down, and I think that …there’s very sound explanations on why that happened. And there’s no doubt that the, two emphasize strictly on the religious training, and to neglect the aspects of these other sciences, is very dangerous to the balance of a society.
But what I would say, that the Muslims, view these sciences as inherently sacred in themselves, as a “Fard Khifaya”. In other words, mathematics and all these, are religious sciences, so Islam does not separate from the secular and the sacred, in the same way as the Christian has done.
Somebody asked in here, explain how a Muslim can have the qualities of a Jew or Christian, you mentioned in the beginning.
Now, if there are any Jewish or Christian people in the audience, I just want to say , again, I’m talking at a archetypal level, not about individuals.
And, basically the Quranic archetypes it presents for the Jewish archetype, is that of people that know the truth but don’t act according to it. And the other aspect is is gross materialism. And part of that is due, that the dominant Judaic tradition was that there was no afterlife.
In other words, the purpose of the Judaic tradition was the historicity, of the community itself. That the community was maintained historically. And the continuity of the Jewish tradition. This is why in the Jewish tradition, the sacred rituals, actually the sacred rituals, are historical rituals. Like the Passover, and these types of things, celebrating the exodus.
So, what happens when that is taken to extremes, is materialism. And in a sense, Isa Alahissalaam, was an antidote, to materialism, because he was pure, spirituality. In fact, he was called Ruh-Allah, <laughing>, that’s his name. If you don’t get the point…you know.
Uhm…He didn’t have, a place where he put his head. The man was a complete aesthetic. He had left the world completely, and that was a cure. And sometimes medicine has to be an extreme, in order to cure the social sicknesses.
So he came, with a cure. This is why his teaching is not complete in itself. It must be taken into historical context. In other words, the Christian aesthecism, must be seen in the light of the material extremism of the age, when he came.
And to take it out of its historical context, perverts it.
And so what happens is you get the other thing, which is the extreme leaving the world. So, In other words, the Christian went astray by completely ignoring the world, and eventually the world came back with a massive, Now they’ve gone to the opposite, which is pornography everywhere, it’s a complete indulgence, in the sensual.
And a, a complete forgetfulness about the Akhira. Which is Surah ur-Rome…
<aside> Yeah, Inshallah.
Surah of the Romans, That Allah says, <Arabic from the Quran>,
“They know the outward of this world, most people don’t know anything.
And then Allah, he negates their knowledge, then he confirms their knowledge, by saying, they know the outward of this world. But, as the next world, they are in heedlessness about it.
So, What happens, I think, is that when Muslims neglect although they know the truth, they neglect the religious traditions, and emphasize the materialism, or material aspects, this is that archetype that deviates, which is the Hebrewaic deviation. And when they go to the extreme of the other worldliness, and forget the concerns of this world, then they deviate in that other matter.
So, and then the Magian, in the sense, is an interesting, dichotomy of the two. Believing in the two Gods of the … The God of light of the next world, and the God of Darkness in this world.
So, the ideal is to be a balance between of the two.
<Question> What happened to the golden age of Islam, when the Muslims were at the forefront of Mathematics, Science and Literature? Some blame the Mualim, who focused on ritualistic practice, while staying away from secular subjects, do you agree?
<Answer> Again, to just blame, I mean, the point is.<Arabic>,
The nature of civilization is to rise, and to fall. And what the Quran is, is an articulation of Sunnan, of why that happens.
Because, the Quran is trying to teach us, “Why”, not so much, “how”. Because we can learn the how.
But the why is the important thing, why do nations…?
And Allah gives us very clear reasons for that. And certainly not due to emphasis on Ibadaat. <laughing> I guarantee you, and that’s one of the reasons civilizations get Tawfeeq, or benefit, from Allah.
So the emphasis on Ibadaat, is not what is the cause of the Muslim decline. I think, part of it is, actually is the Kibir, or the arrogance, that began to manifest in the Muslim societies, where they saw themselves as superior to other societies, and some of the letters the Muslim rulers began wrote to write to Christian rulers and other rulers, were so denigrating. I Instead of, the Prophet, who use to write letters like <Arabic>, to the Great Emperor of the Romans, as a way, because he wanted to make dawah to them.
Whereas, you know, less then 500 years
later, you have the Sultan, you know, sending a letter: <Arabic> From the
Dogs of the dogs of
So, I think that has more to do with it, then other things. And also a descent into the world, and leaving Jihad. And leaving the struggle, that Allah demands for people.
Anyway, I, there’s a lot of question, and I’m actually starting to collect questions.
<Aside> What’s that?
Oh alright, great…
I’m afraid this is the end of the Question period. Really I hope you will understand, there are so many questions, wonderful questions, that we just can’t entertain…
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf()>
They’re actually very good questions
Yes, wonderful questions really, On a positive note, I hear we have a sister outside, who wants to take shahadah, so it will be a wonderful thing for us to close this session this evening with a Shahadah.
So may the person, just, come upfront, Inshallah?