You look at the Muslims in the West and you can see the hierarchy we currently have setup. And I wanted to take a look at what we have going. This list ignores the fools out there who are either Islamophobes or progressives but rather the focus of this list is in regards to those who actually are doing something proactive. Along the way I talked about the advice-giving or in business terms, consulting that you have to do, because that is the natural complement to this discussion. 🙂
What we got
These have their own set goals and will rarely move away from them. There are a many knowledge-based institutions out there such as AlMaghrib, but not too many action based groups. YM is an excellent example of activism based groups as well as other groups such as ICNA and ISNA, although I don’t know too much about ICNA and ISNA they are like the father and mother of Muslims in North America. The one thing that will lead to their collapse is losing sight of their goal–what they originally wanted to achieve. Internal politics will eventually lay waste to this group in the course of ten years, if not quicker.
2) Movement Leaders
These are the REAL leaders. I wonder if anyone of this caliber exists currently and I doubt anyone does. Malcolm X is a good example of someone who would fit in this category. Visionaries who possess the ability to change the world almost instantly, through the power of Allah. The media listens to them and at times has a level of hope in them. These visionaries have the ultimate strength of being activists, intellectuals while having a strong base in spiritual knowledge not to mention powerful speaking abilities.
Generally these brothers have studied abroad and come back to the West to teach and preach. Some of them lose a bit of themselves when they go abroad and come back with the mentality that the way things work overseas will work over here. They will either be small-scale leaders or big-time leaders. In either case their influence is only spiritual and if your lucky intellectual (and those are the REAL McCoys of the Ummah). They typically have a base locally and a following internationally. They will generally shy away from politics and will stick to their Dawah. They will often preach knowledge, but as they themselves did not have a basis in activism they will not implement such a desire in their followers. They will not choose to push up higher to the Movement Leaders category for whatever reason. All-in-all these are the vanguards of the Ummah and if there are major issues they will have to address it, because no one else will.
These are the brothers who will follow any of the above three. They will be fierce and fiery at times. They have a bad tendency to be ‘blind followers’ and the keen shaykhs are aware of this so they will remind them not to be blind followers but think. They will react negatively to criticism and advice seeing it as offending rather than a warning of things to come. When the shaykh steps down these brothers may ascend the position but often will not do nearly as good as a job as the shaykhs did since they never earned that position, but merely inherited it. They will quote people left and right…but never come up with a piece of knowledge on their own. If they do then they will shift into the next category.
These are brothers and sisters who are more or less freelance. They go in between the other groups but they generally work on their own. They feel uncomfortable following anyone and so they do their own research. I am definitely in this category. They work as observers and operate as the bridges between organizations, shaykhs and followers often working within these groups but having their own work.
All in all you will find you can rarely change people. You can advise each of these as to how to improve. But you will find that people can only do what they do. You will find that many shaykhs cannot become movement leaders–it’s simply not in them. They choose to function a certain way and that’s it. No, that’s incorrect–Allah made them function in a certain way and they will function in that way. They don’t know how to function in a different way.
One thing that people forget to ask when receiving advice from an outside source is: “What interest does this brother have at heart? Why is this brother telling me this?” And the truth is the brother has nothing at heart except the well-being of the Ummah. Often you will have to simultaneously convince them that you do indeed have Islam’s interest at heart because the mind is curious. And if you don’t you probably won’t get your advice accepted.
What we need
What we need is someone who has a activism background to run an organization or at least get to the shaykh level. Then this brother will be able to get people moving both physically and spiritually. Not only that but they must have a very open attitude to other Muslim groups so as to give them versatility. Allah will make this happen eventually, insha Allah.