RSS feed for Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

May 20, 2003


I have been reading Fatimah's blog Disaffected Muslim for a few weeks now and I've been struggling with competing impulses. There has been much critique of Fatimah from other muslim blogs, on the basis that he writings are well-received by others who are outright hostile to Islam (such as the comment threads at LGF). This is the wrong kind of criticism to make, it is tantamount to guilt by association, and Fatimah deserves to have her writing evaulated on th basis of their own intrinsic content, not how it is received by other parties.

That said, Fatimah does expose herself to a reasonable critique, namely that she examines a very narrow interpretation of Islam and then proceeds to critique it as if it were representative. The entire theme of her blog is that of someone struggling within the faith against its inherent flaws, rather than someone who is trying to criticize muslims for betraying their religious principles. As such, her critiques often stray beyond the boundaries of Islam, and approacjh these topics from the perspective that the basic axioms of Islam are even false. For example, in her "glossary" for muslims, she writes:

Logic, logical reasoning, rational -- Islamic texts often talk about how important it is to be "rational" and use "logic," but this generally is taken to mean that Islam is so self-evidently true to the writer that they could not concieve how anyone could not see it as the truth--look at all the proofs in the Qur'an, it must be the truth! In any case, it derives directly from the acceptance of Islamic doctrine about how the Qur'an is the direct word of Allah (and if you used your Allah-given sense of reason, you would see how eminently reasonable this truth is!) and the sunnah (example) of Muhammad is the model for behavior. Any reasoning that does not accept these a priori assumptions isn't going to get much traction among said Muslims, especially not a "rational discussion" about whether it is reasonable to accept the Qur'an as the very word of Allah, or about the existence of God, or the historicity of the early Islamic history.

This would be a masterfully concise statement of critique if neither the author, nor the intended targets of the critique, were muslim. But part of the fundamental definition of being Muslim does indeed require the basic commitment to faith that the Qur'an is the Word of Allah. What she dismisses as circular reasoning is actually a matter of faith. It's almost abusrd that I even have to mention this. Elham, another female Muslim blogger, has a very detailed response to Fatimah's glossary post which I highly recommend.

In another post, Fatimah states authoritatively that:

Islam comes from a totally different worldview [from the West], one that states that the highest value is to submit oneself to the will of Allah, to follow His rules (the shari'ah), and to fight for the triumph of Islam, which could mean fighting to bring non-Muslim nations under the dominance of Islamic law, fighting to replace a corrupt Muslim ruler with one who more fully follows the Shari'ah, or working to spread Islam.

I mean Fatimah no disrespect, but to assert that Islam and the West are "totally different worldviews" is to be ignorant of 1500 years of history of cross-pollination between Islamic and Christian nations. And "fighting to bring non-Muslim nations under dominance of Islamic law" is straight from the Wahabi extremist handbook. Has she no interest in the vast landscapes of the Mu'tazili, the Hanafi, the Maliki, the Ismaili, the Fatimi, the Ithna Ashari, etc. schools of thought that lie beyond the tiny pool of blackness that is Osama bin Laden's transcript?

And it certainly does not bode well for Fatimah's faith that her sources on Islam include noted polemical sites like I wonder if she has ever been to It seems she would like it a great deal.

On the whole, Al-Muhabajah is perhaps the supreme example of a muslim who is engaged in jihad against defamation of the faith by outsiders and misuse of it from within. Comparing al-M to Fatimah's writing is like yin and yang. Al-M ably embraces much the same goals as Fatimah, to reveal the misuse of Islamic ideology, but does so firmly within the framework of Islam. I respect Fatimah's right to write as she pleases on Islam however she sees fit, but her blog is not useful to me as part of the dialouge about Islam that is now 1423 years old. I leave her to her version of the faith with best wishes.

UPDATE: I tried to leave this comment on Fatimah's blog, but was prevented by a server error. I will try again later. For now though here's the text.

I believe that Fatimah's ideas should be judged on their own merits, not by character assassination ("she's just LGF-lite") etc.

I disagree with much of Fatimah's impressions, because I feel her viewpoint of Islam is extremely narrow (perhaps, because she uses sites like LGF and as sources).

As a Shi'a I'm only too happy to agree that the Caliph Umar was a poor leader and cruel tyrant. I can suggest looking at the Fatimid Caliphate instead for a more true-to-Islam example of tolerance. And as Bill Allison has noted, many Jews fled Europe to the Ottoman Empire's protection in eth late 19th and early 20th centuries.

These are just as valid examples for a religion that is vast and has spawned many societies, cultures, nations, and empires. Fatimah's entire data set appears to be the early caliphates between Muhamad SAW and Ali AS. And after - who can honestly say that Yazid or the Ummaiyads were good muslims!

This is what I mean by a narrow view of Islam. Fatimah does her own quest or knowledge a disservice by selectively choosing which aspects of Islamic history to focus on and proclaim as representative.

I urge you to see Zack's summary of this debate

and Bill Allison's posts in particular:

Shi'a Pundit |

permalink | posted by Shi'a Pundit


Nahj-ul Balagha

About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

traffic stats -

html hit counter