One man’s passage through Wahhabism and the beef with pigs

[Reposted because I'd left out the link to the article in question.]

There’s a another interesting article in the Washington Post series on Wahhabism in America.  It looks at the ups and downs of Wahhabism among American Muslims through the spiritual journey of one person, fellow blogger Khaleel Moore. [HT: Koonj]

In case you’re wondering, I’m not obsessed with the W-word.  It just keeps coming up in my surfing these days.

Just noticed that Br. Khaleel’s legal name is "Christopher".  That’s rich.   Keep it no matter how much Muslims object, I say.  A name like that is better dawah than a thousand Ahmed Deedat tapes.  And so much more entertaining.

Since I’m commenting on amusing names and am at UGA I guess I must point out the ironic connotations of the last name of one of UGA’s best known professors of religion (not to mention scholars of Sufism), Alan Godlas.  Yes, it’s pretty much pronounced "God-less".  Dr. Godlas has maintained a huge, highly informative website on Islam and Sufism forever–as in since the prehistoric days of Lynx and Mosaic in the early 1990s–and I’ve been haunting Islam-related Internet fora for over a decade so the joke was an old one for me when I arrived on campus this summer, but every semester it inspires an irruption of chuckles and quips among new students in the department. 

I highly recommend Godlas’s site, btw.  It’s an amazing resource with which you can happily  (and unlike most websites profitably) while away hour upon hour.

Speaking of unpopular animals, I’m reminded of the beautiful Sufi tradition of praising dogs, which Darvish pithily sums up as follows:

This book [Dogs from a Sufi Point of View by Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh --Svend] presents the image of the dog as portrayed in Sufi literature, and is illustrated with Persian miniatures. In contrast to the prevailing Islamic view of the dog as a foul, vicious and unclean animal, the Sufis held the poverty and wretchedness of the dog in special esteem, considering themselves to be dogs — or less than dogs — in the lane of the Beloved. These stories communicate the value of humility, loyalty, and other praiseworthy qualities of the base animal nature of their own ego, and emphasize the value of training that tames wildness and makes even the dog useful to society.

Interesting.  I haven’t heard of Sufis praising the real underdogs and objects of worldly derision, swine.  Not even the Malamatiyya.

I suppose there is considerably less about a pig that lends to poetic portrayals of love and loyalty–The image of wallowing and snorting in the mud of adoration for the beloved doesn’t really warm one’s heart, does it?–but given the scorn heaped on him our snouted friend would at least seem a pretty compelling symbol of humility, self-abasement and rejection of worldly norms. 

While I’m riffing on pigs, as I’ve mentioned before ("Is Swinophobia Islamic?") I’m not convinced we’re required to hate pigs.  Just pass them over at dinner time and use another critter to make our footballs.  The ban for food applies to many animals (dogs, bears, …) yet we do not harbor comparable animus towards them. 

A question to my esteemed readers and serendipitous visitors:  Is the violent reaction against pigs commonly seen among Muslims today truly rooted in Islam, or is it more the result of the way Islamic cultures have come to demonize the beast in connection with the traditional ban on pork and pig-derived products (which I’m not questioning btw)?  For example, are there ahadith that necessitate rancor towards this much maligned creature? Or should we be updating and nuancing our attitudes towards pigs as we update our views on the environment and nature in general in light of the scientific knowledge we possess today?   


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