Book Review: Standing Alone In Mecca

When I first picked up the book, I truly believed that this was a Hindu woman attacking Islam and poking fun at its’ theology. It was not until I opened the cover and read the dust jacket that I realised that Asra Nomani seriously claims Islam.

Claiming lineage to Shibli Nomani (is that good?), Asra Nomani used part of her lineage to leap frog her way into legitimacy when discussing Islam. The tone of her discussion smacks of such clear deception as to be obscene.

We find no one claiming to be a carpenter after reading Bob Villa’s handy workmanship guides; no one claims to be a doctor and to remove that troublesome appendix after reading JAMA Magazine;

no one claims to be an aviator or capable operator of an F-16 after viewing the film Top Gun and humming the soundtrack.

Yet with Nomani, because she was born into a family from Pakistan, had a Muslim name and happens to have lived around brown people a significant period of  her life, she somehow has a unique authority to discuss the legal principles of the religion of Islam and the foundational precepts that undergird the theology.

Someone reading the words of this journalist turned DIY theologian and mujtahid will ultimately have to come to the following conclusion: Asra Nomani is a truly shattered woman who has no idea would she is taking about and should not be on the public stage in any sort of manner.

Her problems may have begun when she met a Lutheran boyfriend who was willing to become Muslim to marry her but her family stopped her and roped her into a dead end marriage that led to a nervous breakdown (Standing Alone in Mecca, pp. 12-15).

Perhaps it was when she fornicated with her next boyfriend after the collapse of her marriage and upon revealing her pregnancy to him, she was promptly discarded:

“A pregnancy test confirmed my suspicion. I was shocked. I had never gotten pregnant before. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t wear a wedding ring, but I didn’t feel as if I had done something wrong.

I had loved my boyfriend deeply and surrendered myself to him. Even if my assumptions had been wrong, I loved him when I made this baby.

He had abandoned me, but that was not because of my failure. It was because of his fears. I called my boyfriend and asked him to visit me. He arrived that night, and I took him to my bedroom. ‘I am carrying your baby,’ I told him, sitting on the edge of my bed.

He looked at me stunned. In a pause that I filled with so many dreams he sucked his breath in hard and said, ‘I have to go.’” (Standing Alone in Mecca pp.19-20)

After having thrown caution to the winds and decided that her relationship had to be right and being unrepentant, she was shocked to be reduced to nothing but a plaything (one has to wonder what effect this had on the liberal Nomani’s democratic psyche.

Much dirt has been thrown at Muslims regarding our situation, but in majority Muslim countries, we still feel obligated to take care of our children; and also to be married before conceiving them).

Sadly, Nomani did not learn from this tragedy. Not only was she unrepentant but admittedly and unashamedly in gross violation of the Revealed Law:

“I knew of what he spoke. I didn’t pretend to be a model Muslim according to Islamic standards for rituals and external appearances. I didn’t pray the requisite five prayers a day. I didn’t cover my hair. And, yes, with my baby as evidence, I had sex outside of marriage.

Although I had a firm faith in a divine force, I didn’t invoke the name of a God who judges, punishes, and rewards. I tried simply to live as a good Muslim with humanitarian values, in the same spirit as a good Christian, Jew, Hindu, or Buddhist. I didn’t lie. I didn’t cheat. I tried not to hurt others.” Standing Alone in Mecca, pp.22-23

Her faith continued to dissolve in her claim that the chief god of Makkah was Hubal or al-Lah (Standing Alone in Mecca, pp. 58-59). Conflating between Allah and Hubal contravenes all historical evidence that we possess on the topic (please see As-Sirat un-Nabawiyyah, vol.1, pp.71-81)

Finally, Nomani reached rock bottom when she uttered, “In my heart, I felt fear and loathing for my religion. Could I remain in a religion from which so many people sprang spewing hate? Could I find speace in my religion for my kind of woman? Could I remain a Muslim? (Standing Alone in Mecca, pp. 21-22).”

This was particularly frustrated when dealing with a religion whose adherents brought us streetlights, skylighting, indoor plumbing (English people were still using chamber pots in the 1960s!), hospitals (70 built in Baghdad by AD 1000), immunisations (free and universal in the Muslim world by AD 1651),

the artificial heart valve (thanks to a fatwa by two great scholars, one Hanbali and one Maliki), the only successful operation where a parasitic cephalic infant was removed and the surviving child lived for two years (again, a fatwa from one of the great Hanbali scholars delivered in AD 1992).

Besides the Green River Killer, Charles Manson, the nuclear bomb, serial killers, Cap’n Crunch, Pop Tarts, NAMBLA (North American Man Boy Love Association), Jehovah’s Witnesses, the LDS Church, live BBQs with lynchings, pickled Japanese penises sold in the South Pacific during WWII

(someone attempted to sell one of these trinkets to my grandfather at a 2 for 1 when he was fighting the Americans and the Nazis near the Phillipines), what on Earth has the United States ever given her or any of us?!

As a single mother, the author of  Standing Alone in Mecca, is bitter and also looking for some way to justify herself. Read her statement: “But my internal reality was very much in sync with what I knew about Hajar.

I felt such compassionate empathy with her. I had made a choice, like her, to raise my son alone, contrary to the traditions of our cultures (Standing Alone in Mecca, pp. 65-66).”

Let us understand something very clear. Our Mother Hajar, peace be upon her, was married when she conceived her son, not alone with no ring, commitment or sacramental marriage.

Our Mother Hajar, peace be upon him, was left as she was to raise her son, who was a prophet, and from his lineage would come the Final Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.

Not even the Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, is spared Asra’s wrath when she ignorantly jots down in her yellow journalism style: “In today’s society, Abraham’s abandonment of mother and child in the desert would make him a deadbeat dad, sacrilegious as that sounds.

He didn’t wire Western Union child support payments to the desert. In my home state of West Virginia, social workers would have moved to dock his paycheck. I felt angry at Abraham and wondered if I could ever forgive him and feel compassion for him (Standing Alone in Mecca, pp. 65-66).”

No…The Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, was commanded by the Lord to take his family there and have them set their lives afresh there. It should be remembered that he visited them frequently and even was responsible for rebuilding the Ka`bah with his son, peace be upon both of them.

So there is no way this can be reconciled for a woman who “submitted herself” to a man who was not even committed enough to pop the question before receiving all the sacred aspects of a married life.

This should really be of no surprise, however. If the reader should scan the next line, the picture becomes even clearer: “According to the Qur’an, Allah ordered Abraham, in a test of faith, to take Hajar and Ishmael to the parched desert in the valley of Mecca.

Then called Bakkah. Hajar placed Ishmael on the same ground that now lies beneath the marble floors of the Sacred Mosque in Mecca. Abraham walked away from her after placing a bag of dates and a skin full of water beside Ishmael (Standing Alone in Mecca, pp.60-61).”

Those with an inkling of the knowledge regarding the history of the Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, and the Ka`bah, will know that the historical information surrounding Hajar and her leaving to the desert with her son are found nowhere within the Qur’an. It is actually mentioned on the hadith and tarikh literature.

Yet in spite of this Asra Nomani receives accolades from other spiritually dead activists like herself, without cross examining her on her claims (this is similar to the now discredited Amina Wadud, complete with Fatihah recitation riddled with errors while leading a mixed prayer in NYC. These things happen for a reason).

Upon comparison, I much prefer Ayan Hirsi Ali’s abrasive but openly hostile writing style. Hirsi (or perhaps Magan, depending upon which story she uses when she travels) is atheistic, does not claim to belong to the religion and is bold in her rebellion.

Nomani for some bizarre and sociopathic reason still claims Islam although by her own admission she wants nothing to do with it, does not believe it and does not respect it. Yet she made the Hajj?

In closing, I advise that we should pray for Asra Nomani to be guided. Yes, pray for her…before the time comes when someone has to pray over her. If she dies in this state, there will be nothing that we can do.

Book Review: What I Believe

I would classify Tariq Ramadan’s work as perhaps part of the Capitulation Series. These types of works are not designed to alert Muslims to the present dangers facing them and then begin the work of renewal;

but rather these works are designed to push their readers to reconcile with the world rather than try to reform and change it; pray for change, as long as it hurts no one; talk about peace and justice as long as it changes nothing; campaign for peace as long as it changes nothing.

Ramadan offers a number of anecdotes regarding his life, the theological and spiritual changes that he has undergone but nothing practical that will radically change the world around him.

His programme for change is summarised in what he calls the seven “Cs”: confidence, consistency, contribution, creativity, communication, contestation and compassion.

Yet again, of the seven “Cs,” not one of them is control, caliphate, command or any other mechanism that would lead to ruling by the Revealed Law once again. At heart a secularist, Ramadan offers one of the most frightening defences for secularism that I have read from someone claiming the testimony of faith…

“Moreover, their perception of the meaning and fundamentals of secularism stemmed from a historical misunderstanding: for North Africans, Middle East Arabs, Asians, and Turks, secularization meant an imported system imposed by colonists or implemented by such heads of state as Kamal Ataturk, Habib Bourguiba, Hafiz al-Assad, or Saddam Hussein through dictatorial policies.

Secularism and religious neutrality have mainly been perceived as processes of “de-Islamization,” or opposition to religion, entailing repressive measures: it was historically and factually impossible to associate “secularism” or “religious neutrality” with freedom and democratization.

When arriving in the West, the first generations carried with them those perceptions and that negative burden (and they often still do). [What I Believe, pp. 30-31]

Thus secularism has been accepted. It is not to be resisted but embraced. The foundational theology of secularism – its’ torchbearer being the United States – has not been sufficiently tackled by Tariq Ramadan and one often gets the impression that he is confused about how to deal with the process of renewal among the Muslims.

As per usual, he blames common Muslims for much of the world’s woes, castigates them, calls their culture in whole as not bearing fruit, in addition to claiming that a moratorium on the judicial laws of the Revealed Law is timely and necessary.

After all the ripping and tearing at all the things holy in Islam, the question to ask is…what’s left? Well, nothing. A Western, English or American Islam is being built. Let the reader cross reference this with another work: To Be A European Muslim.

Islam or Muslim as an adjective seems to be the core aim of Ramadan in the pages of his book. Citizenship is the noun, the basis, while someone may merely “happen to be a Muslim” or just happens to have been “born in a Muslim household.” What is important is national identity and contrived and written declarations on values clarification.

Tariq Ramadan states, “I have since been calling for a strict implementation of France’s 1905 law on secularism, both in letter and spirit, equally for all citizens be they Muslim or not.” (What I Believe, pp. 97-98)

Be sure to also compare this with his daring and outlandish insistence on recognition of homosexuality as a valid expression of love among Muslims (What I Believe, pp. 102-103). Even bringing this to the table for dialogue is not only dangerous but irresponsible in the great cultural war that the Muslims are engaged in with the forces of darkness.

What I Believe is not a defence of Islam against all the wicked peddlers of pornography, avarice and vice, the droppers of daisy-cutters on common believers throughout the world; rather it is a surrender.

What I Believe is nothing short of a desire to tell the bullied to stop resisting the bully, the rape to desist with struggling against the rapist.

Readers of What I Believe will find nothing new if they have read Sayyid Qutb, Maududi on the radical right fringe or Irshad Manji, Sayyid At-Tantawi, Mahmud Shaltut and Muhammad `Abduh on the radical left fringe.

The only difference is Tariq Ramadan claims that secularism and Islam are synonymous. We ask that the Lord save us from digesting such poison.