AZ Progressive Muslims

Arizona Progressive Muslims advocate for the core original concept of Islam that is based on equality, social juctice and dignity of all human beings (women and men), and reach out to other progressive religious groups to bring peace to this world. It's time to re-claim our stolen Islam from fanatic religious groups that are introducing themselves as the only school of thought in Islam! Progressive Muslims of the world, Unite!

Sunday, April 17, 2005

From APM Blog

Originally posted on

The Concept of Progressive Islam

Last Fri 4/8/2005, I spoke to a crowd of more than 100 activists at the Unitarian Church of Providence, RI on the issue of Progressive Islam.
My talk started by focusing on some needed general information about Islam for non-Muslim activists. Then I focused the rest of my talk on Political Islam and how it has been hijacking our religion for the past 15 centuries. The role of Muslim, non-Muslim fanatics, and the western intelligence in distorting the image of Islam and Muslims took great part of the lecture.

I presented my argument that progressive Muslims should draw clear line between the ‘religious’ and the ‘political’ in Koran and Sunna. Fanatics Muslims do not get this clear message of Islam. For example, the Prophet Mohamed (and Koran) had been dealing with specific political situations when he (or the Holy Text) had condemned some acts of the Jewish tribes of Meddina. That condemnation should not be taken against/extended to all the Jews (or Christians) of the world in our time.

The same argument is to be used in any part of the Koran/Sunna that seems to be contradicting with any basic civil and human rights of our time. This especially in the case of women status in Islam. The conservative Muslims are disserving Islam when they arrogantly claim that one man equal to two women. When The Koran and Sunna advocated this 1500 years ago it was a very progressive thing for women who almost had no similar rights.

I would like to pursue this discussion more in our next meeting

Mohamed Elgadi

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

An Africana View of Progressive American Islam

September/October 2004

An Africana View of Progressive American Islam
by A.S. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad

The humanist and multicultural battle for the soul of Islam
Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, Sudanese scholar and Emory University professor of law, puts it very clearly: the need for peace in the global community is a humanist message that Muslims must recover as a banner under which modernist transformation can proceed (Chronicle of Higher Education, 9/13/2002).
For Muslim Americans, the events of 9/11 contributed to heightened focus on the age-old tensions and political struggles within Islam between the forces of puritanical reaction, non-imaginative orthodoxy, and entrenched tradition and the more liberating tendencies in Muslim philosophical theology, theosophy, and religious practice—historical tendencies that have all along had a contentious relationship with both extremist and conventional variants in Islam.
Yet black American Muslims have long formed a sturdy backbone of Islamic dissent.
Non-indigenous, newly arrived, or second generation Muslim public intellectuals have just been waking up, over the past twenty-odd years, to a critical consciousness of American realities. Black American Muslims have been well aware of them for a long time. (It's estimated that upwards of thirty percent of the Native Africans whose bodies and labor were stolen to build this country were in fact Muslims.)
Thus while Africana Muslim intellectuals with a progressive bent join with their non-black Muslim counterparts in advancing a liberationist project to get free of the control mechanisms of a reactionary and all too frequently puritanical Islamic hegemony, it must never be forgotten that black American Islamic dissent is a lot more than two decades old, and much deeper than a knee-jerk response to the aftermath of 9/11.
It is African-American Muslims who are historically situated as the moral voice of the voiceless and weak within the American system. It is this same cultural Islam that has been the vanguard of oppressed peoples' struggles for years—years in which Muslim immigrants in their collective and individual presence remained curiously quiet and reclusive, except when US policy positions affected their mother countries. Yet however early or late, progressive American Muslims as a group are now ascertaining how we can actively struggle against dangerous backwardness in religion using a historicist, liberation oriented and faith informed orthro-praxy and critical methodology. Let me summarize this project as follows.

Toward a Progressive Reformation of Faith

Progressive Islam:
* Understands that the Qur'anic message is essentially universalist regarding salvation, while it remains unitarian regarding the Oneness of God. The string of prophets mentioned in the Holy Qur'an up through Jesus and Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon them) is a short list pointing toward thousands of others who have brought God's revelations to humankind. The divine message has remained essentially the same, with degrees of cosmetic modification fashioned for differing cultures, languages, needs, and times. And in the post-Muhammadan period, according to the experiential insights of the great illuminationist philosophers, Sufi saints, and mystics, God's infinite self-revealing continues in extra-scriptural forms.

* Distinguishes the unconditional faith in Allah's Oneness and the voluntary submission of self to God's sovereignty from historically- and politically-conditioned beliefs, and practices informed by such beliefs. These remain open to rational investigation and possible change in the context of hard-fought social struggles.

* Emphasizes free will as a gift to humankind from God, rather than fatalism in religion.

* Declares white supremacist ideology and its twin, Christian triumphalism, along with their strategies of violence-based domestic social control, imperialism, and militarism, as manifestations of spiritually darkened hearts in need of social and political repentance and a long process of religio-psychological rehabilitation. Reparations in some form are an essential element of this rehabilitation.

* Takes into thoughtful consideration the idea that religious experience has an ideological basis in material reality. The class-, race-, gender- and authority-based ideological underpinnings of all religions must constantly be exposed and assessed.

* Insists on a historically conscious praxis. For progressive African-American Muslim thinkers especially, it is never enough to merely project logically consistent religious thoughts, beautifully articulated in some abstract way. Critically informed and organized action is paramount for qualitative social change.

* Respects the Jeffersonian dictum of church-state separation as promoting religious pluralism, and liberal religious tolerance as in keeping with an authentic and liberative Qur'anic hermeneutic.

* Lifts up the meditative and theosophical Islamic sciences/practices. The works of the Muslim spiritual masters are voluminous and hold out much hope for religious universalism based on a grasp of the oneness of reality.

* Advocates nonviolent resistance to oppression as the morally superior equivalent of the militarist notion of jihad. Shaykh Amadou Bamba of Senegal and Abdul Ghaffar Khan of India have credentials equal to those of M. Gandhi and Martin Luther King. Malcolm X's politically righteous slogan of "by any means necessary" must be read in an ethically consistent way that does no violence to the exhortations and limits of sacred scripture.

* Advances the spirit of internationalism and regionalism by use of the ideas in human rights conventions.

* Enters into coalitions with other progressive religious and/or secular activists in support of civil liberties and qualitative social change.

* Uplifts Islamic philosophical inquiry and the unrestricted use of reason in the practice of ijtihad (personal judgment of religious matters). This point assumes that a narrowly conceived traditionalist orthodoxy is problematic.

Agenda: thinking outside the box

It follows from these principles that progressive Islamic thought must ever regard its doings in the world as tentative and subject to change. God's plan, and the guidance we receive as creatures of the Universal One, are not to be boxed into some neat and tidy or permanent explanation and practice. The only real and lasting thing is submission of self to divine guidance. This is unavoidable. All creation must, at some point in its journey or evolving, submit to its Creator's Will. But we, in our limitations, may not in this life ever comprehend that Will.

If this sounds heterodox, that's a function of history. Theological and jurisprudential orthodoxy in Islam were not established without protracted political and ideological struggles fairly similar to Christianity's own wars of establishment.. The only "Inquisition" in Islamic history was initiated, not by conservative traditionalists, but rather by "free-thinking" rationalists (the Mu'tazilah, encouraged by the 9th century caliph al-Ma'mun). However, at most other points in Islamic history it has been the puritans and/or traditionalists who have wielded the greater power.
The brute social power of organized traditionalist schools of thought and their influence on particular Muslim rulers were used to compel discipline in the rank and file. Rebel movements too, such as the very early Kharijites, set themselves up as judges and executioners of other Muslims who disagreed with their ideas on right governance and the political succession to the Prophet. Spiritually intoxicated Sufi mystics and critical Islamic philosophers alike have been hounded and killed (and after their deaths, often celebrated) as the power of "orthodoxy" grew or subsided.

This association of religious orthodoxy with brute force and frequently the police power of the caliphs is informative. Medieval Islamic history demonstrates that Muslims who get obsessed with "being right" are not above employing compulsion in religion, no matter what the Qur'an may teach. If we want to take Qur'anic teaching seriously, we have first of all got to let compulsion go. And that means there can be no enforceable orthodoxy.

Secondly, Muslim women leaders, many of whom are highly engaged in academic and professional discourse, must not be consigned to a religious space exclusively reserved for mothers and children: their expert voices are needed in the public square. The decades-old movement among African-American Muslims to elevate women to public religious leadership roles is exemplary, yet still unheard of in most other sects and/or schools of Islamic thought. Elsewhere, at the popular religious level, there has been a long tradition of Sufi women saints being venerated equally with male saints. And the contemporary liberationist writings of Fatima Mernissi, Niamo Mu'id and Riffat Hassan, among many others, are impressive here as counters to male domination.

Thirdly, we would do well to follow the examples of leaders like Imam W.D. Muhammad and Minister Louis Farrakhan: more interfaith dialogue with progressive partners in the other faith traditions is requisite for the success of our project.

Fourthly, we must embrace the findings of science, yet insist on its ethical and non-racist practice. An uncritical appropriation of modern science and technology would be a disaster for the faithful, who rely on Muslim thinkers to think and not merely react to Western gadgetry. Some forms of postmodern and deconstructionist philosophy are very well suited to progressive Muslim intellectual inquiry, while a deepened critical theory of the anti-democratic technocratic state, a là Herbert Marcuse and Jergen Habermas, also works well for the struggle to overcome the fetters of "scientifically generated forms of unfreedom."
Finally, more emphasis is due on the arts, music, poetry, sport, play—and the spirituality of cooperative physical work as a unifying, self-affirming, and economically productive strategy. Black jazz masters like Pharoah Saunders can put our minds and hearts into a reflective mode and draw us toward a deeper apprehension of the sublime. Here, again, the masters in Islamic theosophy, gnosticism, and mysticism can be called upon to demonstrate that there is a different way for us to be.
Jalaluddin Rumi said it: "Philosophers' legs are made of wood; legs of wood are infirm indeed."
The progressive Muslim movement ought to be able to dance.
A.S. Mahdi Ibn-Ziyad, Ph.D., is chair of the Africana Islamic Institute and co-chair of the Philadelphia Area Black Radical Congress. He is an ecumenist and longtime religio-political theorist, concerned about world peace and restorative justice. A former member of the executive committee of the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, disarmament coordinator of Clergy and Laity Concerned, and peace activist within the Rainbow Coalition, Ibn-Ziyad is currently an adjunct professor of Islamic and Africana philosophy and criminal justice at Rutgers University's Camden, New Jersey campus, and a world history teacher at the high school level.

Monday, March 07, 2005

About the Names of Allah

Asra Nomani, author of "Standing Alone in Mecca"

99 Precepts for Opening Hearts, Minds, and Doors in the Muslim World
By Asra Q. Nomani

I am a Muslim woman who lives with her parents and young son in Morgantown, West Virginia. The men who are the leaders of my mosque are considering banishing me for attempting to claim the rights of a Muslim woman at the mosque and to stand up for a tolerant and inclusive Islam. Facing trial for disturbing the peace of these men, I have reflected on how we need to restore our Muslim world to the principles of Islam that the prophet Muhammad practiced in the 7th Century, transforming an ancient desert town called Medina into "the City of Enlightenment."
My experience teaches that Islam must redefine the way it expresses itself so that modern-day Cities of Enlightenment will shine throughout the Muslim world. We have inspiration in the names for God in Islam. Among them: compassion, truth, tolerance, justice. I present " Precepts for Opening Hearts, Minds and Doors in the Muslim World," modeled after those names and the essential messages of a book I have written about my ordeal at the mosque, Standing Alone in Mecca.To realize these precepts for women, I offer two charters of Muslim justice -- an Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in Mosques, and an Islamic Bill of Rights for Women in the Bedroom.

The precepts or the bill of rights call not for "reform of Islam" but rather restoration of Islam. The Loving One. Live with an open heart to others. The Only One. We are all part of one global community. The One. All people - women and men, and people of all faiths, cultures, and identities - are created and exist as equals. The Self-Sufficient. All people - women and men, and people of all faiths, cultures, and identities - have a right to self-determination. The Creator of Good. All people have a human right to happiness. The Generous. A fundamental goal of religion is to inspire in us the best of human behavior. The Expander. Religion isn't meant to destroy people. The One Who Gives Clemency. We aren't meant to destroy people. The Absolute Ruler. We are not rulers over each other. The Owner of All. No individual or group of individuals may treat any of us as property. The Mighty. Spirituality goes far deeper than mere adherence to rituals. The Appraiser. We are the sum of our small deeds of kindness for others. The Inspirer. It is not for human beings to judge who is faithful and who is not. The One with Special Mercy. Humanity and God are best served by separating the "sin" from the "sinner."

The Finder. Virtue doesn't come with wealth. The Supreme One. All people are created with an inner nature that seeks divine nature and is disposed toward virtue. The Doer of Good. Thus, live virtuously. The Greatest. Have the courage to take risks. The Possessor of All Strength. Have the courage to stand up for your beliefs, truth, and justice even when they collide with the status quo. The One Who Honors. Respect one another. The Magnificent. Glorify one another with kind words not harsh words.

The Forgiver. Forgive one another, and ourselves, with compassion. The All-Compassionate. Be compassionate with one another. The Compeller. Love the soul even when we don't love the "sin." The All-Merciful. Be motivated by love of God, not fear of God. The Compassionate. Be kind, respectful, and considerate with one another. The One Who Rewards Thankfulness. Appreciate the freedoms you enjoy. The Governor. Know that we are all accountable for how we treat one another. The Gatherer. Know that anyone you wrong will testify against you on your judgment day. The Reliever. Be friends to one another. The Exalter. Win the greatest struggle - the struggle of the soul, jihad bil nafs - to good. The Highest. Rise to the highest principles of Islam's benevolent teachings. The Giver of All. Rise to the highest values of human existence, not the lowest common denominator. The One Who Opens. Live with an open mind. The One Who Enriches. The Qur'an enjoins us to enrich ourselves and our communities with knowledge. The Subtle One. Islam is not practiced in a monolithic way. The Forgiver. We allow ourselves to be more positively transformed if we accept, not despise, our dark side. The Maker of Beauty. Islam can be a religion of joy. The Maker of Order. In any society governed by oppression and senseless rules, there will be rebellion, whether expressed publicly or in private. The Guide to Repentance. Evil is social injustice, discrimination, prideful rigidity, bigotry, and intolerance. The Nourisher. We were all created with the right to make our own decisions about our lives, our minds, our bodies, and our futures. The One Who Withholds. Certain traditions and ideologies betray Islam as a religion of peace, tolerance and justice. The Constrictor. Repression creates fears that are manifested in dysfunctional ways. The Generous. Women possess to the same human rights as men. The All-Comprehending. Chastity and modesty are not the sole measure of a woman's worth.

The Last. Puritanical repression of sexuality and issues of sexuality is self- defeating, creating a hypersexual society. The Seer of All. The false dichotomy between the "private" world and the "public" world leads us to avoid being completely honest about issues of sexuality. The Majestic One. The Qur'an tells us: There is no compulsion in religion. The All-Aware. The Qur'an enjoins us: Exhort one another to truth. The Knower of All. Thus, seek knowledge. The All Powerful. Do not put any barriers in front of any person's pursuit of knowledge. The Ever Living One. Reject ignorance, isolation, and hatred. The Truth. Live truthfully. The Praised One. Praise worthy aspiration, not destruction. The Manifest One. Be the leader you want to see in the world even though you lack position, rank, or title. The Perfectly Wise. Lead with wisdom. The Originator. Open the doors of ijtihad, or critical thinking, based on istihsan (equity) and istihsal (the needs of the community). The One Who is Holy. Honor and respect the voices and rights of all people. The Sustainer. Empower each other, particularly women, to be self-sustaining. The Governor. Do not allow anyone to unleash a vigilante force on any man, woman, or child. The Hearer of All. Be honest about issues of sexuality in our communities. The Expeditor. Lift repression. The Guardian. Reject a sexual double-standard for men and women. The Restorer. Reform our communities to reject bigoted, sexist, and intolerant practices. The Righteous Teacher. Question defective doctrine from a perspective based on the Qur'an, the traditions of the prophet, and ijtihad, or critical reasoning. The One Who Resurrects. Know that we all will face a reckoning for our deeds. The Guide. We must open the doors of Islam to all. The Creator of All Power. We are in a struggle of historic proportions for the way Islam expresses itself in the world. The One Who Is Witnessing All. The Qur'an is clear: "Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even if it may be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin." The Satisfier of All Needs. Political expediency does not override our morally compelled duty to tell the truth. The Responder to Prayer. Spiritual activism is a noble pursuit. The One Who Humiliates. Sexism, stereotypes, and intolerance are the common denominators of all extremism. The Giver of Life. We cannot accept murder in the name of Islam. The Inheritor of All. Racism, sexism, and hatred are unacceptable in God's world. The Taker of Life. Dogmatism and intolerance lead to violence. The One Who Abases. Making women invisible is a defining feature of violent societies.

The Just. Women and men are spiritual and physical equals. The Equitable One. Women's rights are equal to men's rights. The Witness. Nothing we do is without a witness. The One Who Prevents Harm. Rejecting injustice is more important than protecting honor. The Delayer. Honor can be worst expression of ego.

The Judge. Justice is not what the majority believes is right. The Forbearing One. We are not judges upon each other. The Ruler of Majesty and Bounty. If change will come tomorrow, we should not wait but should create it today. The Trustee. Thus, know women have an intrinsic right to be leaders in all capacities in our Muslim world, including as prayer leaders, or imams. The Capable. Reach inside to create the change you want to see in the world. The Forceful One. Stand strong for justice. The One Who Subdues. Stand up to extremists and all forms of extremism. The Self-Existing One. Break the silence sheltering injustice and intolerance. The Originator. Create a new reality. The Glorious. Stand up to the forces of darkness. The Watchful One. Question the source of hate in order to dismantle it. The Protector. Respect women's equal rights and human dignity from the mosque and the public square to the workplace and the bedroom. The Avenger. Use principles of social justice to define our communities. The Everlasting. Stand up to create an everlasting Muslim world that will enrich our global society. The Patient One. Exercise patience as a virtue, not as an excuse. The Source of Peace. Live peacefully with others. The Light that Guides. Create cities of light to overpower the darkness in our Muslim world. The Hidden One.

Ultimately, our choice is only one: we must create communities with open hearts, open minds and open doors to all.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Breaking News!

Muslim Women Reclaim Right to Lead Prayer

New York City is Next Stop on Muslim Women’s Freedom Tour

What: Muslim Woman to Lead Historic Mixed-Gender Friday Prayer

Who: Dr. Amina Wadud will lead Jumah/Muslim Friday Prayer

When: Friday, March 18, 2005

Where: Sundaram Tagore Gallery
137 Greene Street (between Prince and Houston)
New York, New York 10012

Time: 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm

Contacts: Asra Nomani Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur
304-685-2189 ; 404-352-9975
See you there!
Mohamed Elgadi

Monday, February 28, 2005

Progressive Muslims of the World, Unite!

Dear fellow progressive Muslims and non-Muslims,

We welcome you here in the newest Blogger for progressive Muslims. We are a group of concerned Muslims from out here in Arizona, the deep west (!!) of the US who are inspired by the growing movement of Muslims all over the world to bring a different image of the current one on Islam portrayed in the mainstream media.
We, as Muslims, responsible in a way for this distorted image! We let fanatics speak on our behalf and dominate all media outlet by their anti-islam viewpoints. It's time to wake-up and speak for ourselves. We oppose all these violent acts of some Political Islam groups (Al-Qaida and others) and the world should know they do not represent Islam. They are political factions manipulating Islam for their own interest.
Timothy McCvie, the Oklahoma killer, is not representing all Christian people. Why should Osama Bin Laden represents All Mulims?
We are not terrorists!
AZ progressive Muslims Team