Sunni Traditional Scholarship and the Third Resurrection of Blackamerican Muslims

I am currently reading “Islam and the Blackamerican: Looking Toward The Third Resurrection” by Sherman Jackson.  I am enjoying the intellectual stimulation it is providing especially on how Dr. Jackson frames the Immigrant Islam, which has me thinking a lot about how that overall mentality is a suppression of a possible/truer future American Muslim identity.

Dr. Jackson focuses on framing the Blackamerican Muslim experience and its future.  He defines it as part of a wave of resurrections, almost like a wave of rising incrementally with each new development.  The first resurrection according to Dr. Jackson was when Noble Drew Ali introduced an alternative spiritual understanding to that of the oppressive Christian doctrine that at first justified slavery and then it maintained Jim Crow and segregation.  The second resurrection was that after the death of Honorable Elijah Muhammad in 1975, where the community found itself under the divided leadership of Minister Lois Farrakhan and Imam W.D. Muhammad who were both charismatic leaders guiding the community out of the post-Elijah void.  According to Dr. Jackson the Third Resurrection appears to be dawning as the charismatic leaders have disappeared and the future of Islam in the Black community will involve authenticating agent is going to be a discourse of Sunni traditional scholarship and its coupling with the Black experience.

One thing I wanted to type and share with folks was what I thought was a great cliff notes summation of Islamic legal development (or the historical development of the sharia and its use in Muslim life).  Read- with a few editorial changes by me, enjoy:

It was not theology but law that achieved primacy in classical Sunni Islam.  Islamic law, however, was not a creation of the early Muslim state.  Rather, private Muslims during the first two centuries after the death of the Prophet [SAW]…succeeded in gaining recognition for their interpretive efforts as representing the most reliable renderings of divine intent.  By the early decades of the [3rd/4th] century, a full-blown interpretive methodology (usual al-fiqh) had emerged, with the Quran, Sunna (normative practice and supplemental commentary of the Prophet [SAW]…) and the Unanimous Consensus (ijma) of jurists as primary sources and analogy (qiyas) as the main method of extending the law to unprecedented cases.  During this same period, the jurists began to organize themselves into form interpretive communities or schools of law, known as madhhabs.  By the [4th/5th] century, the madhab had emerged as the exclusive repository of legal authority, and from this point on, all interpretive activity, if it was to be sanctioned as “orthodox,” would have to take place within the boundaries of a recognized school.  By the end of the [5th/11th] century, based on the principle of survival of the fittest, the number of Sunni schools would settle at four.  These were the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i and Hanbali schools, all equally orthodox, all equally authoritative.  This would be the number at which the Sunni schools would remain all the way down to modern times.

Parallel to these developments, Sunni Islam would also embrace a doctrine of prophetic infallibility (is mat al-anbiya).  According to this doctrine,t he Prophet [SAW]… (like all prophets) was deemed to have been protected from sustaining errors in interpreting revelation.  Even more important than the substance of this doctrine, however, was its corollary: namely, that only the Prophet [SAW] was infallible.  on this understanding, from the time of his death up until the coming of The Hour, no individual, including the Caliph, would be able to claim interpretive infallibility.  For Sunnism, this divine favor passed not to any individual but to the interpretive community as a whole.  On this understanding, only those interpretations upon which the interpretive community unanimously agreed could be deemed infallible and thus binding on the entire community.  Where, on the other hand, their collective effort resulted in disagreement, competing views simply had to be left standing.  To be sure, this is not an exercise in relativism.  In fact, most medieval Muslim jurists would agree with Stanley Fish’s distinction between relativism and pluralism: “[T]he absolutely true…exists, and I know what it is.  The problem is that you know too, and that we know different thins, which puts us…armed with universal judgments that are irreconcilable, all dressed up and nowhere to go for an authoritative adjudication.”  In sum, for the Muslim jurist, in the absence of Unanimous Consensus or the Prophet [SAW] coming back and declaring this or that view to be correct, there was simply no fair and objective basis for binding the community to one over another view.

Dr. Jackson goes on to discuss Islam and Race along with Immigrant Islam being neither rooted in Los Angeles or being found in Karachi, therefore settling someplace in the Atlantic ocean useless to everyone and everything it has the power to be.

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