Who are the hypocrites?

I’ve noticed a trend in more Sufi-oriented social media towards religious condemnation of the ummah’s reaction to the YouTube short, “Innocence of the Muslims”. Specifically, I’ve seen a rise in the application of the term hypocrite/munafiq to those who burn (literally and figuratively) with rage at the blasphemy. Usually it’s Western converts throwing the ummatic towel in – often followed by a more embodied/native born Muslim shrugging off the actions (as frustration due to colonial injustice etc). The convert’s exasperation is palpable, more so than ever.

The religious aspect of this exasperation is interesting: bringing the Islamic term munafiq into the game, throwing it back against a percentage of the ummah. To use the term in this context is always to adopt a prophetic mantle, of the stranger versus the tradition. I’ve even seen several converts recently come clean, that they consider themselves to be the new “guides” for the ummah, kindly offering their leadership up to the blind masses (presumably with a recipe for ridding them of these unruly hypocrites).

It’s a difficult position for the convert – I’ve been there myself – you read the Quran with your fresh Kantian eye and are astounded the rest don’t do the same. How can the ulama not get what I am getting from this book? I see love and light – they see rules and war. I see metaphor, they see the literal. Well then, I must be chosen, it is I who must educate.

Here, the hypocrites are those who have hidden the core truth from the ummah – and hypocrisy is defeate by education, by guidance.

That’s the (prophetic) convert’s fantasy.

But who are the hypocrites? There were no doubt back stabbers in Muhammed’s time – historical records attest to that. The ones in it for the money and power – and would eventually kill Muhammed’s family to get more of it. The Prophet sensed them, and their presence is felt throughout the book.

But who are they today? They are ghosts, memories – what gives them form? They are an echo of that historical group, and that echo is universalised only as a form of paranoia. And paranoia is a ghost given form, an echo crystallised, only out of an individual’s repressed, Real anxiety. Paranoia is a totem that universalizes the individual’s anxiety, projects it on to an external actor’s mask.

In my case, my anxiety was of Kali’s destruction – the mother-void coming to destroy my faith – the beat of her drum, drawing nearer, her guillotine on the horizon. As a convert, I knew my position was tenuous: one crack of Kali’s whip and all my hard earned imaan would be cast into the wind.

And that tenuous position, that anxiety, I repressed – in order to give life to that imaan. This repression meant I could live an outwardly religious life and possess a religious ego. But repression leads to all kinds of unconscious processes – with paranoia emerging as a symptom of that.

And the paranoia must have a face, a totem to latch onto. Aligned within the orb of Priesthood/culture, I adopted the mask of the hypocrite as a crystallization of my own fear.

In this way, I could condemn hypocrisy – ostensibly decrying the nonsense some Muslims get up to (and they sure do get up to some real bullshit nonsense).

But the hypocrite didn’t exist for me as a person: it was a symptom of my own repressed anxiety, a repression necessary for imaan to exist, a repression of the convert’s anxiety, Kali’s imminent arrival.

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3 thoughts on “Who are the hypocrites?

  1. Well to answer your question, “Who are the hypocrites?” Well, there’s me. I don’t want to go on because dealing with my own hypocrisy is work enough. Fortunately, my hypocrisy is perfectly balanced with my foolishness. I swing this way and that between the two. Rather more fortunately, there is a point in the centre, the balance point or fulcrum, that never moves. It is infinitesimally small but perfectly still. I know that with the same logical certainty that I know that a child’s seesaw has such a point half way between the two children. All I need to do now is to find that still centre. But of course, I am more like the two children with their seesawing in my alternate hypocrisy and foolishness than I am like a still point of calm. Now I will read what you have said about it. 😉

  2. Yes, a good point. Personally I think the urge to teach is covered well by Shah in ‘Knowing How To Know’ and other books where he says that people alternate between two modes he calls, “Loading and Unloading”. People confuse these two nodes with, “Learning and Teaching” when, of course, they are neither. When I read something, I may call it learning but I am just loading myself, like a greedy animal. When I feel full, I switch to the unloading node and subject some poor innocent to my crap, my half digested material and I might call that teaching. Obviously, these are foolish and hypocritical tendencies to be resisted. Nasrudin stories demonstrate how they are in all of us. A real teacher is able to stay at the still small point of calm and watch a would be student’s earthquake, wind and fire until it dies down and the student becomes calm. The teacher’s own serenity helps the student to achieve such calmness and at the point where they are in harmony, when the two calm centres – the teacher and the students – merge, that is where teaching takes place. I think your point about converts and the Umma and so on is very pertinent here. I will contemplate your theme and I hope I have managed to make a sensible contribution and not just had a session on my seesaw!

    Good wishes,

    Zawia

    1. What you say makes sense, Zoe. I re-read Shah after your comment, certainly pertinent. But I think Shah is speaking about a particular group dynamic, albeit covering a range of cases: the kind that you might find in, for example, an office workspace (where someone’s insisting on a particular idea) or a political/economic forum, or a Sufi discussion group (where one mureed is speaking over another).

      I’m talking about a disjointed subject/group dynamic, where the speaker certainly has a desire to unload information — but with an underlying intention that is not recognized — the fear of that unload completing (and Kali/the Void coming to smash everything up).

      In this case, it’s useful to remember Shah’s point — but, from the speaker’s perspective, they can benefit from reflecting on what it is that was driving the impulse to unload (fear of Kali) — probably after the unload has occurred.

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