"…Muslims in and from the Muslim world routinely look to God as divine anti-imperialist and just as often equate the mere rejection of Western ways with the establishment of a normative Islamic order."
— Sherman Jackson from Sufism For Non-Sufis? If Muslims, in particular America and other Western Muslims, are going to work towards a functional relevancy in their Islam it will become crucial to first unravel and unpackage their troubled, complicated and myriad history;
"To the extent that regimes of normalized domination exist, clearly the preservation of ‘reason,’ [حفظ العقل] or ‘the ability to know,’ would have to go beyond the mere proscription of drugs and alcohol. For the ability to know is clearly affected by more than the essentially private acts of self-administered corruption of the mind. Indeed, regimes of normalized domination corrupt reason on a far grander scale and provide in many instances the very incentives for drug and alcohol abuse. In this context, hifz al-‘aql, if it is to be effective, would have to deal not simply with individuals but with political, social, cultural, educational, and economic institutions.” Sherman Jackson.
In his seminal and pioneering work, al-Risala, al-Shafi’i, the founder of juridical usul al-fiqh, laid down the following maxim:
"God has obliged us to follow everything the Prophet instituted (sunna). And He has rendered adherence to this obedience to Him and turning away from it disobedience [to Him] for which He excuses no one."
Al-Shafi’i’s discourse in al-Risala suggests that the ultimate aim of these words was to confirm the Prophet’s authority as an independent source of law whose legislation was binding even on matters about which the Qur’an was silent. Because, however, his aim was merely to establish rather than define the Prophet’s authority, al-Shafi’i’s formulations remained broad and imprecise. This imprecision raised in turn a number of perduring questions: Was indeed everything the Prophet said and did binding upon the Community? Or was there a distinction to be made between what he said and what he did, or between “binding” (wujub) and some other legal category, for example, “recommended” (nadb) or “licit” (ibaha)? Did this sunna, which al-Shafi’i identified as binding, consist only of the Prophet’s statements and actions concerning public matters, or were his statements and actions in his private life equally authoritative? What about purpose and intent; were those statements and actions in which a clear purpose was discernible equal to those that yielded no such inferences? And what would become of those actions from which no clear purpose could be inferred? If purpose and intent were material, was the Prophet to be second-guessed where he made no explicit declarations about purpose?
I have often wondered about the way Muslims use the word “ummah.” In a technical sense, it clearly refers to the entire Community, the unqualified collective of all who espouse, “There is no god but God and Muhammad is His messenger.” And yet, it commonly manages to connote certain parts of the world to the marginalization if not mild exclusion of others. The Middle East, South Asia and South East Asia clearly make it in, while America, Canada and Jamaica are barely brought to mind. Ultimately, of course, numbers play a role here. Where Muslims are a majority or even a ‘significant minority’ (as, e.g., in India or parts of Africa), it is simply easier to see their sufferings, obsessions, preferences and even sensibilities as reflecting the pulse and interests of the “ummah.” Where they are a small, marginal minority, on the other hand, (as, e.g., in America or Canada) this is far less likely to be the case.