بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
I’ve seen inaccurate portrayls both in Daniel Haqiqatjou & Friends’ recent article on Yaqeen Institute and in responses to their piece. I’m not sure why people can’t steelman their opponents instead of strawmanning them. It is very disappointing to see.
Daniel and Co’s Strawmanning
One such example is the following:
On the issue of the right of husbands to physically discipline their wives as mentioned in the Quran [4:34], Yaqeen published an essay that outright denies that such a right exists and calls it a “myth.”
In fact the section is called “Islam does not instruct men to beat their wives” and the word “right” is not used once in that section. This is a subtle distinction, because to say that Islam does not instruct men to beat their wives is not the same as saying Islam does not permit men to beat their wives. “Does not instruct” does not mean “prohibits.” It means it is not wajib or mustahab for one to beat their wife; at best it is mubah, but it may also be makruh or haraam.
Daniel & Co’s claim is false, and here is what the article actually says:
Historically, this word was understood by premodern Muslim jurists and exegetes to indicate that in limited circumstances men could physically discipline their wives just as they would physically discipline their children—which, without further qualification, may sound like Sean Connery’s view of male authority.
Indeed, the presumption of male disciplinary authority in the household was common to most pre-modern cultures. In the pre-modern world, societies tended towards collectivism over individualism, and were thus hierarchically structured with the family as the basic unit, and the male breadwinner as the de factoleader of the family responsible for the discipline of the children and his wife. Thus, writings in diverse civilizations often spoke candidly on this authority.
It goes on:
Despite accepting the common notion of a husband’s disciplinary authority, classical Muslim scholars maintained a strong aversion to violence; historical court records demonstrate that Muslim judges routinely ruled that husbands who caused any physical harm to their wives were to be punished.
So here we have an explicit admission in that article that the classical position, is, indeed, that a man has disciplinary authority over his wife. In fact, the article mentions it more than once:
If the preindustrial economic context influenced classical jurists to apply 4:34 as a license for a very limited form of physical discipline of one’s spouse, does that apply to the modern socioeconomic context or would it result in greater harm?
I don’t see how it’s really possible to miss the point that they are making, which is that the classical opinion is X and we are looking to modernize by saying X no longer applies. Yet, this point is never addressed even in the in-depth research portion provided by Shaykh Haytham Sayfaddin. In fact, all he does really is show that the classical opinion was that striking was permissible, something that Yaqeen authors already admitted to several times. The crux of his argument should have been to show why striking is still permissible and that this command does not change with time.
That said, Sh Haytham did a good job in showing that Yaqeen authors significantly exaggerated classical scholars’, or even the Prophet (s) himself’s discouragement of striking by taking hadiths out of context or mistranslating them.
It should be noted that I personally don’t buy modernists’ thesis about changing laws like striking with the times. The law is as the Quran revealed and we have no reason to capitulate to modernity on this issue, other than those living in the West who face the threat of legal action against them were they to discipline their wife. My complaint here is that DH & Co don’t actually address the argument that was made; rather they strawman, mudsling, and miss the target completely.
Yaqeen Defenders’ Strawmanning
This article titled “Five Blatant Misrepresentations in Daniel Haqiqatjou’s Dishonest Attack on Yaqeen Institute” was linked by Asadullah Ali, although the author of the piece is not affiliated with Yaqeen in any official capacity. Here is an example of him strawmanning, under the subheading “Daniel’s blatant lie about Yaqeen author’s view on Hudud”:
Somehow Daniel again characteristically transforms this into saying something completely different, i.e. that the hudud themselves are obsolete which is completely different from affirming that their physical implementation is subject to stringent conditions.
In fact, Daniel does not strawman here. The title of this section in Daniel et al.’s article is called “Hudud Are “Symbolic” and Have No Place in the Modern World.” This basically is Yaqeen’s position. Here is what Daniel et al. actually said:
Again, if there are stringent conditions on applying the hudud, does that mean the hudud are “essentially obsolete”? And where did the Prophet say that the hudud were “primarily psychological deterrents” and encourage Muslims not to apply them?
Like Khan, Brown emphasizes the fact that the Prophet tried to identify ambiguities before application of the hudud. This is true of course. But it is not true to interpret this as meaning the Prophet discouraged the application of hudud. Being extremely careful and circumspect about application of the hudud is not the same as reluctance to apply them.
Note here, that the bolded portion is where Daniel et al. criticize Khan’s actual position, contrary to what the Yaqeen defender claims. They did not strawman.
The Ego is Strong, the Adab is Weak
I cannot emphasize enough how detrimental ego is to scholarly debate. Allah SWT cites this as the primary reason for disagreements occuring among the people of knowledge.
وَمَا تَفَرَّقُوا إِلَّا مِن بَعْدِ مَا جَاءَهُمُ الْعِلْمُ بَغْيًا بَيْنَهُمْ
And they did not become divided until after knowledge had come to them – out of rivarly among themselves. (42:14)
It is absolutely absurd for Daniel et al. to come at Yaqeen with this level of ego, personal attack, and slander, and then expect them to converge on any kind of consensus, or even to make concessions. The logical outcome of their approach is division, the fostering of hatred, and the creation of an impasse whereby no concessions can be made.
We expect cooler heads to prevail in Yaqeen’s response to this animus, but I fear that some among their ranks will eventually given to the pressure to engage in childish polemics, as they have in the past.
What is clear is that Yaqeen has modernist tendancies, but on the whole I am of the view that they do more good than harm. Daniel seems to be under the impression that Yaqeen is converting people in the traditionalist and reactionist (salafi) camps towards modernist revisionism. This might be the case, but my suspicion is more so that Muslims who are having doubts – likely because they’ve already internalized modernism and liberalism – are going to Yaqeen and then coming to a position inbetween modernism and traditionalism. In other words, they are saving people who are already on the opposite spectrum from people in the traditionalist and reactionist camp.
One might be tempted to say “Who cares? Just tell people the truth, and if they can’t handle it, then goodbye. There’s no point in keeping people in Islam when they aren’t actually accepting what Islam teaches.” I am sympathetic to this view, but I am not sure it is always the wisest.
I had a friend who was a student of knowledge and he was talking with a young guy who had doubts about Islam due to its apostacy laws. My friend talked to him for hours, but no matter what he was adamant that he couldn’t accept that Allah would not allow someone the freedom of conscience to believe what they want. He had drawn a line in the sand. My friend was forced in this situation to pull the “not all ulema agree on this” card, and he cited some ulema with modernist tendancies who are lax on apostacy law. This move kept that youth upon the shahadatayn.
Lastly, the following meme is savage, and I got a good laugh out of it. Yaqeen would do well to take note.