Doesn't that sound like these sufi shaykhs? Read the rest of it and be amazed that the so-called "Islamic" cult of these Sufis is so much like the Christian cults that they escaped from.
Looking back on how the pastor expected members to ask him for advice on everything from where to shop to what to watch on TV, Sapp keeps asking herself the same questions: Why, and how?
"It's not as if you join a church one day and promise to do everything they say," Sapp said. "It happens slowly. I would have done anything for the church."
Sapp was wrestling with the fine line between obedience and what is called "spiritual abuse," in which congregants follow the demands of their faith leaders to the detriment of their well-being. The dilemma isn't new, but the increased awareness is.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
The Daughters of Patriarchy: Spiritual Abuse
Another article from Quivering Daughters, an excellent Christian blog. This is about spiritual abuse in the family. When you survived Sufis, you understand this is an important issue, because of the children being raised in these cults.
Spiritual abuse in the family
This is also from a Christian website, but it covers what we are told about quitting the tariqa-cult - that you put your soul in everlasting danger. There are some in the tariqa, and you know who they are, who say that leaving Nuh is the same as leaving Islam - they will takfir you for quitting tariqa. I guess he is their real god. A'udu billah!
They told me if I left...
The rest of this website actually has some pretty good articles that applies to our lives as sufi cult survivors. So check it out.
"Get over it!" That is what the cult followers were saying to the survivors who were posting on Salafi Burnout and Umar lee's blogs. Here is an article on what "get over it" means and doesn't mean.
Eight signs of an aberrational group Not all of this applies to an Islamic cult, but you can read it and gain some insight as a companion to the BITE model.
The stages of leaving a cult
It's complicated a post by a woman who was married to a spiritually abusive man in a spiritual abusive version of Christianity. I think people can relate this to Besa, Hedaya and Nuh, or even to their own husbands of the tariqas.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Several weeks ago, someone began to publish a blog with little sayings of NK, such as excerpts from the suhba, or things he said in the Latifiya lessons. More than anything else that has been put online about the cult, this is the blog that had people in Kharabsheh in an uproar. His own words were what provoked a response from them, and they were quite angry with that person, judging by some of the comments left on the blog imploring him to take it down and threatening to sue him. I even had it on good authority that Nuh himself had browsed the blog and this is a guy who never bothers with the internet. And that he was telephoning people demanding to know who it was. This is a man who pretends there is no criticism of him, that he is above needing any naseeha from the common people, that he does not make mistakes. This is a man who told us in the majlis that his parents "raised a perfect child."
Why are they scared of his teachings? Aren't his teachings meant to be public? This is a guy who teaches that Islam allows for women to be beaten by their husbands and we need to "just accept that." So shouldn't they be proud of what he teaches and tell the rest of us to "just accept it?" What is there to be ashamed of? That they reacted this way should show us that they do believe a few things that they deny. One, that they are ashamed of what he teaches, that they know it is not mainstream Islam and definitely not palatable to non-Muslims. Two, that what he says is slightly crazy and can be used against him. Three, that he does not have the level of knowledge or taqwa that he claims to have. Four, that there are levels of teachings that are meant to be secret - for the initiated and not "for everyone" like they claim. It reminds me more of Scientology than what Islam is supposed to be.
Did he say "send her home to her mother" about a woman who was watching religious shows on the shaytan box (TV)? Yes, he did. Why doesn't he want people to know about it? Just accept it. Is he ashamed of what he said? They openly disparage Muslims who watch television in the neighborhood, so what is the problem with that being known outside of it, if it is the right and good thing?
People who go to Jordan spend thousands of dollars for the privilege. Plane tickets, visas, rent, food, utilities, and all of that. Some people out there might be parents who are thinking they are sending their children to a place where they will become more pious, more knowledgable Muslims. You are paying for your kids to go there. Some of you are leaving a job or taking months off from a job to go there and benefit your lives. Don't you want to know before you step on the plane exactly what is taught in Jordan and if it is something that you want in your life?
All of these blogs, mine included, and the random posts here and there across the internet about the tariqa have gotten some attention. Mostly from the non-murids, some of whom are exploiting these stories for their own personal (and financial) gains, in my opinion. But I also know that there are people reading these things who are murids, who are in Kharabsheh or other places, I know that ex-murids read these things too. Most of what I know about the internet postings came from other people telling me, not from me finding it on my own.
People like Amy, Fazia and some others also wrote to me with their own stories and observations from their time in Jordan - even though I have left no means of contact on this blog. People in general simply want to share their story. And the motivations are pure - to protect others who might want to join the tariqa or go to Jordan. They are motivated by care and concern for other Muslims, to spare them the heartache they went through.
I think the question is, what now?
After months, even years, of people complaining about strange goings on in the tariqa, about the bad marriages and ugly divorces, about murids being sent home on planes completely out of their minds, finally they have sat up and responded. But instead of maybe admitting that they need naseeha themselves, or instead of saying "Yes the murids have a problem, we didn't know about it" (which was always the excuse in the years past - blaming the murids for the excesses of the shaykh and his two women), the response now is "I'm going to sue you unless you shut up."
So it is clear that they will reject the naseeha of the Muslims to rectify themselves. It is clear that they will make no move to tawbah. It is clear that they will do nothing to apologize to and make right the lives of women that were ruined in the divorces. It is clear they are never going to repay the monies that trusting people invested with them, and when they were asked to write contracts "Oh there is no contracts between Muslim brothers, do you think you can't trust us?"
I realized a long time ago that there is no rectifying Nuh, Besa and Hedaya. They are what and who they are and they will continue to do what they are doing as long as they can draw in unsuspecting Muslims with money. Only Allah can turn their hearts towards Him in repentance and help them change their deeds. I do believe that at this stage, Nuh is totally convinced that he is as perfect as he and his wife say that he is, that he is above reproach, that he does not sin, that he has become like the prophet (saws) in that way. That everything he says is wise and true, that everything he utters makes sense. He is a man who is completely out of touch with the real world. His wife and her friend have their eyes opened. They know exactly what the score is, but why they do this, I don't know. Love of money and power can be intoxicating once you have had a taste of it. It must be hard to let go of that, to feel the shame of knowing you have ruined people. It's easier to ignore those tuggings of conscience and continue on, surrounding yourself with yes men and yes women who tell you that everything you do is precious and wonderful and godly and right.
Those aren't your true friends, Hedaya and Besa and Nuh. Your true friends were the ones who tried to warn you, who you had ruined, whose reputations you trashed. Yes, they said things that were hard for you to hear, but they were your friends, because they wanted good for you, they wanted to see you correct your mistakes and continue on the path of guidance. And you know this and that is why you continue to slander them and even now making bayan against one of them.
I do think that they all sincerely believe in Islam, so I wonder if it pains them at night knowing they have driven people out of Islam, and that some of the murids have become Shia and Imaili after having been with them. (I don't think there is anything wrong with being Shia or Ismaili, but they DO think it is a MAJOR misguidance, that is why I say that).
But I don't think that they really believe that what they are doing is right, and that is why they have driven out their good murids who challenged them and questioned them. That is why they ignore the call to public mubahela from an esteemed shaykh. That is why they remain silent on their khalifa quitting them. Nuh Keller doesn't operate in public, for as many websites, businesses, blogs, and online academies that operate in his name and disseminate his version of Islam.
By Allah, Nuh, Besa, Hedaya, Ashraf, and your people - the inner circle, the ablahs, the sidis - you should repent to Allah today, because you are not promised tomorrow. You are not above me as a Muslim that you do not deserve to hear sincere naseeha. Your mistake has been in thinking that you are better than all else. You are not perfect, and you are not of such high station that you can't be brought down by your own hands. The grandshaykh of the tariq sits up in Damascus and makes khidma to those who are lower in station than he is. He asks them for their duas for his sake -- he asks US to pray for HIM. He does not hold himself above others. Look to shaykh Shukri for your guidance in this tariq, and if you can't do it, then be honest to yourself because Allah will be honest with you and leave the tariqa life to those who can handle it.
Give back the money to those who invested with you and wanted to close their investments out. Sell the properties if you have to do it, but those people, by Allah, those people have a right over you. Even in your own naseeha for living in Jordan, you tell people to make contracts between themselves when lending money. So you should do the same. But even without the paper, you know who invested what and how much in what venture. And when those people need their money back you should return it without delay. You have on your hands the financial ruin of several families and individuals. You have to answer for this on the day of judgment! Rectify it now, make tawbah. Don't go before Allah with this on your tablets! I am imploring you to do the right thing, before you stand in front of Allah as they testify against you for usurping their rights and taking money from their children.
Ask Allah to forgive you for the things you told people and the games you played that caused them to lose their senses. One of those people was a mother and you knew she wasn't well, and yet you led her down a path that almost caused the destruction of her body, her mind, and her spirit. You encouraged her in ever more extreme spiritual and life ventures, and then blamed her family for it when she fell apart. How unfair you were to those children.
Ask forgiveness from the women you slandered, who you said were dangerously close to leaving the deen, who you said were crazy and bad Muslimahs, because they had been divorced by one of your murids. You know that you made life extremely difficult for many of these women, since your murids, your followers who entrusted their spiritual life to you, have slandered these women outside of Jordan in their own hometowns. How can you? How can you accept such a magnificent trust from people and use it to send them into major sins? By Allah, Besa, Hedaya, and Nuh - I believe you will bear some responsibility for the sins of those who were slandering and talebearing the divorcees of your tariq, for they never would have run around calling those women crazy and bad Muslims if you hadn't told them so. Turn to Him now because tomorrow may be too late, yes even for you Nuh Keller and even for you Besa Krasniqi and even for you Hedaya Hartford. Not even YOU are promised tomorrow. All you have is TODAY to make it right with the Muslims and more important, with Allah. And if you have made the mistake of thinking you are perfect and above human faults and sins, then make tawbah again for this reeks of shirk.
You have the power and know you have it over your murids. Do what is right by Islam and Allah and tell your murids to pay for the support of the children they had with their ex-wives. Stop encouraging them to skip out of their responsibilities. That you were angrier over that blog with some of Nuh's speeches on it than the woman who was writing blogs about how her husband refuses to pay her a dime at YOUR orders, shows me how little you care for children. You will take from those children's mouths as a punishment to that woman and all those women for being divorced and not being "good murids." You were angrier on your own behalf than you were on behalf of those innocent souls. Are you honestly okay with being known as the tariqa of bad marriages, bad divorces, and deadbeat fathers? More importantly, do you think Allah is okay with it? Because we know the other shadhilis aren't!
The people that you forced to divorce - beg their forgiveness. You ruined them for no good reason, and you KNEW that they did not want a divorce. You told them and many of us that if we did not want to obey what you were telling us to do, we were disobeying Allah because all of these things, from divorcing to not supporting children, all of it came from "the shaykh's istikhara." So Allah told him and if we don't do it it is as if we are disobeying Allah Himself! Why doesn't Allah tell us if he really wants us to divorce or not support our children? Are you now the intercessors, the intermediaries, the priests? Stop with these things that are flirting with shirk. You are not the voice of Allah on this earth!!!
Beg forgiveness from the men whose professional reputations you have harmed. That family - you know who it is, the one you said was driven by a giant ego - beg his forgiveness before you are begging for his on the day of judgment. You ruined him for the sake of your own desires, and then tried to cloak it in the words of asceticism. All of the men that you did this to, you should feel shame in front of, just for the sake of their children.
Don't think that nothing you have done and are doing will catch up with you! Don't think that you can outstrip the justice and judgment of Allah!
Every child you have hit, every child you have slandered (even children, Besa, are not safe from your tongue, mashallah!), every mother you reduced to tears from your tongue lashings about something you have no experience with (parenting), the child who claimed she was molested by a man YOU endorsed after you forced that mother's group to stop teaching children how to protect themselves - beg their forgiveness, make tawbah to Allah on them. The older children who tell us, the adults that they trust, that they can't wait to leave you and they hate the life you have forced upon them, the 11 year old girls in niqab, ask them to forgive you because you are planting the seeds of hatred for Islam and tasawuf in their hearts.
I am telling you, enough is enough. Now is the time for you to do what is right. Make tawbah to Allah today and put an immediate end to the things you are doing. If it means withdrawing from giving bayah, if it means closing the zawiya and sunnipath and rayhan and sending people home, then do it. I believe you are sincerely believers in Islam, and sometimes we are asked to do the hardest things in our dunya to save our akhira. EVEN YOU.
And I am relieved of my duty and responsibility towards you as a Muslim. You have received my naseeha and I am free from warning you away from your sins.
To the visitors from Jordan - and you are the majority of my readers - I give you a warm salam.
I want to point out that I never once linked to the blogs where the fitnah was out of control and false stories were told about the sufis' practices (like drinking certain substances). I blocked comments so that those people who created trouble could not do it here. There is no dilution of the story, no distraction that you or them can create here. I will not provide you a space to discredit the women whose stories I have told. Nor will I provide people with a space that they can use to call all sufis misguided. I still believe there is a difference between a cult and a genuine tariqa, although my personal choice is to part ways with all tariqas.
This is about human beings who were destroyed, taken advantage of, and abused. If we wished to do so, the ex-murids of the tariqas could fill blogs with stories of heartache. You have your sites where you can polish these guys up and make them look shiny and wonderful. You have amassed considerable financial advantages over the ex-murids -- usually through using the murids, ex and otherwise. You post a bayan or say a word and a person finds himself without friends.
This is one person saying no to you, helping others say no to you, and calling upon you to rectify yourself with Allah before He rectifies you on the day when there is no shade.
This is one person calling on you to wake up.
People who spread lies about the former murids are bad enough but those of you spending your Ramadan doing it are dipping toes into something you should shrink from. Think about it. Have some shame with Allah, because He knows the truth and you know He does! Just spend your Ramadan concentrating on sincerity with Him and He will show you the straight path, inshaAllah. So concentrate on your sincerity and tawheed for the rest of Ramadan, and let the dogs stay sniffing nether regions, like they're prone to.
I again call upon Noah Keller to answer the call of public discussion from the Arab shaykh, who Noah claims has no qualifications. Let the matter be clear and on the record! Ask him to clear this matter up with the shaykh himself, with witnesses on hand, so that there is no doubt. There should be none to fear but Allah, and who is right with Allah doesn't fear the light shining upon him. You can write to Noah here, encouraging him to make sure that his words are recorded clearly and accurately in these and other matters. There is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the public gaze or the scrutiny of other scholars, right? And after all, the shaykh has shown no hesitation when it comes to warning against others who say they are scholars or promoting debate about scholars in writing. Oh shaykh, bring your proof to him if you are truthful in what you are saying!
None of them is above the call to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and none of the Muslims are absolved from giving them this call when we see wrongdoing. If the other shaykhs choose not to do it - or if they are ignored when they give their naseeha, which has happened - then it should come from us, the commoners. They are our brothers and sisters in Islam, and they deserve the care and guiding hands of the Muslims, even those of us who are supposedly not equal to them. Don't fall into the mindset of the followers of other religions. None among us is without sin and wrongdoing. Not even them. Not even if he says he is without sin. Such words should raise in our minds alarms of concern for his state.
I again join with those who call on Noah, Besa, Hedaya, Ashraf, and the rest to turn to Allah in repentance, because you are not promised tomorrow. You are not promised tomorrow Hedaya. Besa, your hour can end at any moment of Allah's choosing. Stop with your threats. Stop the abuse. Do you love Allah or do you love power? Please, go to Allah with this, and give up that which you cannot handle, Noah. Is this a test that you will fail? Or will you do all that you must do to pass it? I want the best for you, even at the end of all this. I don't want you to suffer the testimony of all of us that you have abused and wronged on the day when the words of the oppressed carry so much weight. Please think about what sicknesses you are imparting upon the murids, Muslims, when you teach them to revile and despise the sincere naseeha of the Muslims, and when you teach them to violate the strong words of Allah in the Quran when he forbids spying, slander, backbiting, arrogance, and abuse. You are leading these people into sin. Please, I am begging you - do what you KNOW is right, because you are not too good to have no shame before Allah.
So, with that, I sincerely pray for all of you reading, including yes you in Kharabsheh even Noah and Besa and Hedaya, that you continue to have an amazing Ramadan full of blessing and opening from Allah. True openings.
By this I mean that after this, any continuation of the blog becomes a rehashing of the same charges. I don't see what the point is in recounting how pitifully brainwashed some of these people have become, especially when people are using that for their own ends. I do not want to feed the appetites or arsenals of the Muslims who want to use the misfortunes of Kharabsheh for their own personal, professional and financial gain. The stories are known.
Continuing this blog would be like allowing them to continue to control my life. Keeping it up here in its original form is like encouraging people to gawk a car wreck. The purpose is served.
You have been given the clues, the tools, the means to do your own digging and decide not only what is best for you, but what is best for the Muslims in regards to these people. The last three years have been stormy ones for the tariqas, not only Nuh Keller's, as people move away from their shaykh and tell stories of spiritual, sexual, physical, and economic abuse by Muslim leaders. So what are you going to do?
It's time, I think, for the Muslims, especially our leadership, to acknowledge the existence of deen-based cults and the harm they are doing. Even if it is just a minority of the Muslims who are being affected, the ramifications are far reaching. We have seen how some people have left Islam altogether after experiencing Nuh Keller and his friends, and he is not the only shaykh who claims to live by the Shariah who has driven people from Islam. That one thing alone should be enough for all of the Muslims and our leaders to give pause and reexamine our ties to these groups.
Wake up, Muslims.
Who was approached? Everyone. People in the leadership have been talking about Keller for years, and other people have had problems with Yaqoubi since he first showed up in the US. But when survivors went to leaders for help, the result was silence. No one wanted to help. Many turned away. Some apologized in private, but refused to do anything in public. No one brings aboard speakers who are seen as being boat rockers.
Like quilters, we have learned that we must patch our support together from what scraps, what resources we have available. Some parents and ex-murids went to a journalist. Most of us don't have that, all we have are our friends & relatives, and the internet.
You can start a blog, a Facebook group, a ning group, a message board forum, or an email support group. Using social networking allows people to come together from all geographic regions and get support.
If you write a journal of your experiences, it can be a big help. It doesn't have to be a blog, it can be a notebook. Just something that helps you make sense of everything that you lived through, and how you are moving past it.
Stop financially supporting them. Don't weep over what happened to the people there and then turn around and give them your money.
The embassies of several of our countries over there know about this already. They can't do anything about it, but awareness of harmful activities by citizens of their countries, directed at citizens of their countries is being raised. If you are in a position of being abused or you need help, the embassy can work with your family or friends in your home country to get you out.
I dare just one of you self appointed Muslim leaders to be brave enough to get on a stage, to set pen to paper to do something to say "No more of this. This is not acceptable. This is not the way the deen should be taught and practiced." I ask just one of you to live up to the leadership titles you are so quick to accept. Your silence is approval for what they are doing. When you remain silent, you are saying that this is a valid understanding of Islam in the eyes of the Muslim public. Just because you have told some of those close to you to stay away doesn't mean that everyone gets that message. Do you fear these self appointed shaykhs more than you fear Allah?
And to you, the parents, people who are considering going to Jordan, people who are losing a friend or relative to them - stick together. Find friends and share your sorrows. If we have learned anything from the last year it is that there are others out there who want to listen and reach out.
Never give up on your relative or friend. Remember that the way they treat you and the things they are doing are under the influence - like an addict. Someday they will probably suffer severe regrets and heartache over what they are doing now. Always let them know that they will find a safe harbor with you, whether it's tomorrow or three years from now. Leaving a cult is a process that takes a long time. It takes a long time to free yourself from the brainwashing, and even when you are finished and through with them and recognize them for charlatans, many of the concepts and ideas that they teach you stick for a long time. Be patient with your son, your daughter, your husband or wife, your friend. Losing the cult in some ways is like mourning the death of a friend. Yes, it was a false illusion, but it represented friendship, spiritual growth, and bonding. Even if you know what these guys are, you are still sad to have lost what it pretended to be.
For me, this is not about revenge. I don't have any desires to get even with anyone. It's like they say in the recovery movement, you let go and you let Allah. Allah is more than able to take care of people who do wrong! But I'm frustrated because I know that other people in the ummah, shaykhs and leaders, have been approached by victims and victims' families who want some sort of help and nothing has been done. If these people that harm Muslims don't feel any shame because everything is being kept quiet "out of adab" then they have no cause to stop what they are doing or apologize and make restitution for what they did.
If you think about it the idea that a blog or internet posting is "revenge" on these people is kind of stupid and must come from those who have no clear idea what really happened and how much was lost. Not just money. It wasn't just money that was lost. Some people lost their minds. Some people lost their Islam. People lost their husbands and wives, some people lost their children. You think a blog is "revenge" for that? That's pretty penny ante revenge. There's no "revenge" for this stuff. There's nothing you can post on the internet that would bring these people's family's back or put their daughter's mind back to right, or bring their financial stability back. "Revenge." That is the black and white simplistic mindset of the tariqa. That's the thing - those of us who are out are out because we have risen above that. Because we reject that.
When it was months and months, and even years that went by and none of these great leaders wants to touch this, and I see more people suffering - that is why I made my journal public. A sister who used to be in Jordan told me, "You know, I bet other people would feel a little at ease if they were able to read your journal and know that they weren't the only ones. Because we survivors have to look out for each other." I want to point out that you didn't see me posting links to this on that "big fitnah" blog or the blog of the other man who was writing about Keller. I could have done that easily if it was just looking for some attention to get some "revenge". I didn't advertise my blog, and only my friends knew about it. Other people who were there, people who wanted to tell their stories. I didn't say "Hey, look at me! Look at this! I'm talking about Keller, get your juicy gossip here!" If people told other people, that's their business. For me, this was just for my friends, for the people who needed and wanted to know, there is someone out there.
Only when I started getting dozens of readers a day from Amman did I post my calls, because then I knew, you guys are listening. And if you are an honest person, then you see what my call is. For Noah, Hedaya, and Besa and the others involved to make themselves right. With the people they wronged and more important with Allah. If it means selling the z building and not being tariqa people anymore, then do whatever it takes. If they repaid everyone who lost their money, I wouldn't benefit from that either. I just think they should do what's right. Do what it takes to make things right with Allah before the time comes that you can't make it right. Do I get any benefits out of that? No, I don't. I don't get any benefit out of Noah Keller turning to Allah and begging forgiveness and making repentance. Think about it. I don't get anything out of Besa changing her ways, and humbling herself. I don't get anything out of any of that. It's for their benefit, and the upside is that no more people would be harmed.
So let's be clear. This isn't about revenge, and I don't think that "revenge" is the motive for anyone who is doing anything, not the "big fitnah" blog, not the other guy, not the blog of quotes, not even the woman who put her ex's business out there. Not "revenge". Calls for clarity, for justice, for transparency. If you are right you aren't afraid to come out and put it out there. That is why I believe Nuh Keller should answer the call from the Arab Sufi shaykh and deal with that business in public. Then there can be no mistaking as to who said what - surely Keller has nothing to fear, right?
That's all I want. For the truth to be out there but also, because our Muslim leaders have FAILED to live up to their responsibilities as leaders, then I felt, once I knew I had your attention, that I had the responsibility to be the one to tell them - please repent before it is too late. I am their Muslim sister. I want only for them to have good by doing good. I want to see Nuh and Besa and Hedaya and the rest of them doing the best thing so they have no fear on the last day.
If you think that's revenge, you have serious issues.
But friends told me word is spreading about my blog and some of my ex-murid friends have written to tell me that people are talking about this blog - outside of Ktown of course where you guys have been reading all along.And I've seen some of the comments or questions that people have had. Again, I'm not here to have a conversation with you. People whose hearts have not been sealed and who are sincere seekers of truth even when it goes against their desires, Allah gives them the truth. If you are led by desires, your heart will remain sealed.
I would say that if you intend to spend your Ramadan lying about this, that is pretty sad. Think about it. The murid wife who was telling her story is being slandered in a major way - will you continue this into Ramadan, claiming she made threats or encouraged threats against other people's lives? Have some shame with Allah, because He knows the truth and you know He does! Just spend your Ramadan concentrating on sincerity with Him and He will show you the straight path, inshaAllah. Maintaining sincerity is harder than it sounds, because we naturally default to what we want, what works best for us, what will increase our prestige or what feels good, even if we have some feeling that it isn't really the best thing. Or worse, we tell ourselves that what we want is what Allah wants. Isn't that a type of shirk? So concentrate on your sincerity and tawheed in Ramadan. I will.
So a few things from what I was hearing about the blog.
1. This is not "complaints of women about having to wear niqab." The problem is that the niqab becomes the sole barometer of a woman's faith, her standing as a good or bad Muslim, and also, that Muslim women who don't wear niqab are portrayed as, well, slutty. And for murids who don't even live in Jordan to join in on trashing the Kharabsheh sisters is pretty rich. Some of you aren't even in proper hijab when the murids aren't about ot see you, and you know it. And so does Allah. In our preschool in the neighborhood the kids are taught that women who don't wear face veils are bad women, bad Muslimas. If you have't been to K, then you might not know this, but it is the obsession of the women and UK and US, I would say, as far as their control of the women. Wearing niqab is not the problem. It is niqab = all of a woman's faith and value. A woman is never asked if she made her wirds that day or if she stayed awake part of the night for tahajjud, or if she read a part of the Quran that day, but she is questioned constantly about her clothing and admonished constantly for her clothing. You need to reevaluate your understanding of Allah if you think that piece of material is the most important thing about a Muslim woman.
I notice it seems to be the men who are saying this. Of course - you don't have to wear it, it's easy for you to tell a woman who has concerns about the niqab obsession that she's just being disobedient and willfull. (I thought we submit to Allah not to men and women). Maybe you'll rethink it if you ever manage to go to K and it's your wife or sister who is struggling and being called a show off who wants men to see her face and her reputation is questioned as if she is a street tart just for showing her face.
2. As for "Well, Muslim women have to obey their husbands anyway," again, that is not the problem. The problem is that "nose in the dirt" is used to silence women who are being abused in their marriages, including physical abuse. Are you saying, o enlightened murids, that this is what the obedience of women in Islam truly is? That women aren't allowed to say no to abusive husbands, or leave a marriage where their murid spouse is downloading gay porn and maybe even having gay sexual relations on the side? Again, it's all men saying this, as if all men are righteous and the problem is bad women. I guess it's easier than I thought to drink Nuh's misogynist Koolaid from outside of Jordan! Is this what Islam and being in the tariqa has done to your heart? Truly, in the depths of your soul, do you think that the one true creator the supreme being means for women to suffer all manner of abuse and that if she tries to escape from it or speak up about it, then she is sinful for not keeping her nose "in the dirt"? Do you think the prophet (saws) would tell the woman who cried out or any other woman to shut up and take it? SubhanAllah if that is your Islam. SubhanAllah that your "allegiance" to Keller would outweigh your allegiance to the truth and to what is required of you in terms of the obligation to stand up for the oppressed.
3. As for "this is only what the women say", that is simply not true. First, just because it is mainly women who are out here, that doesn't mean that these experiences have no value. And that is what you are doing. "Oh, it's only women." As if it doesn't matter if it's women, but only men. When it's men, then it will be important to pay attention?
The problem is that, ironically, it is mainly only women who have been standing up to tell our stories. And those who don't go to K don't know who lives there and don't know who the "big murids" are. But please, do ask around about some of the murids from people who were in Jordan. Ask about the driver, the personal assistant, the man whose business was known and respected internationally, the man against whom a bayan was put up, the one who substitutes for the imam, the one whose relative was the reciter of the Quran in the z for some time, the elder Arabs. Why not find out where his own khalifa went? You brothers who didn't go to Jordan didn't even know he has one, and you say that you know what happens in Kharabsheh better than some women who just "didn't want to obey"?
The men who have actually sat with Noah and Besa and who have served him in Jordan, rather than from afar are speaking amongst themselves. That is why more men from the tariqa are leaving overseas. If they choose to have a blog or something, that is up to them. And some men have written about the tariqa online, so be honest and admit that you know there are men who are writing about the problems, starting with those first posts on the blog back in January. I have seen posts online that I know were written by brothers. So don't try to say "It is just women" as if it doesn't matter when women object to something, as if women are liars or, say, mentally ill hysterics whose words are not to be trusted. Again, take a step back from the misogyny and think about what you are saying.
4. Please, by all means, encourage your shaykh to answer the call of discussion from an Arab shaykh that Noah says has no qualifications. Let the matter be clear and on the record! Ask him to clear this matter up with the shaykh himself, with witnesses on hand, so that there is no doubt. You can write to him here, encouraging him to make sure that his words are recorded clearly and accurately in these and other matters. There is nothing to be afraid of when it comes to the public gaze or the scrutiny of other scholars, right? And after all, the shaykh has shown no hesitation when it comes to warning against others who say they are scholars or promoting debate about scholars in writing.
5. O murids who never went to Jordan you should ask yourself why do the local Jordanians dislike the murids and the shaykh himself so much? Yes, they have some few friends but in the city as a whole, they are reviled and even cursed for their bad manners and for being tight fisted. And not just the murids but the shaykh as well. Where is the sign of excellent character upon these elite that the so-called laypeople do not recognize it? Shaykh Shukri inspires love and respect among the "common people" and they have love and respect for the murids in his care. In fact, he makes it a point to seek the duas of the humblest Muslims and is known to serve them, unlike Noah who absolutely not known for any of these things in Jordan.
None of them is above the call to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and none of us are absolved from giving them this call when we see wrongdoing. If the other shaykhs choose not to do it - or if they are ignored when they give their naseeha, which has happened - then it should come from us, the commoners. They are still your brothers and sisters in Islam, and they deserve the care and guiding hands of the Muslims, even those of us who are supposedly not equal to them. Don't fall into the mindset of the followers of other religions. None among us is without sin and wrongdoing. Not even them.
6. For those who did not go to Kharabsheh, the word used in Kharabsheh is "murid." Not any other terms. Sometimes they say "dervish" or "darwish", and a few times "fuqara," but mostly the word they use and the word we used for ourselves is "murid".
Again, I continue call upon Noah, Besa, Hedaya, Ashraf, and the rest to turn to Allah in repentence, because you are not promised tomorrow. You are not promised tomorrow Hedaya. Your hour can end at any moment of Allah's choosing. Stop with your threats. Stop the abuse. Do you love Allah or do you love power? Please, go to Allah with this, and give up that which you cannot handle. Is this a test that you will fail? Or will you do all that you must do to pass it? I want the best for you, even at the end of all this. I don't want you to suffer the testimony of all of us that you have abused and wronged on the day when the words of the oppressed carry so much weight. Please, I am begging you - do what you KNOW is right, because you are not too good to have no shame before Allah.
So, with that, I sincerely pray for all of you reading, including yes you in Kharabsheh even Noah and Besa and Hedaya, that you have an amazing Ramadan full of blessing and opening from Allah.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
The people who were upset said said, "This same things can be said about the religion, so you can't say it about tariqas." In other words, you could apply these same negative things to socalled "traditional Islam" (the bigger cult) or to Islam or christianity, etc. so therefore you shouldn't say it because they want to hint that you could be making a big sin with Allah.
I can see where they are coming from, but that is a terrible reason to try and keep people quiet. They're just trying to stop the criticism of their idols, their shaykhs, and the path that they have chosen. Maybe their choice isn't strong enough to withstand criticism and questioning. The tariqas are cults. Maybe religion is just cults that have come to be accepted by society, but the point is that if your faith is too weak to withstand an examination of negative, destructive factors that certain religious or other groups have in common, then maybe you should work on yourself instead of trying to censor and shut people up. Maybe you should rely a little more on Allah and a little less on trying to bully people or on your so-called shaykh. I have read the BITE checklist many times and thought about it and I am still Muslim, so alhamdu-lillah, I don't think that it will make you have a bad thoughts about your imaan as a Muslim if you are committed to it.
About 8 months ago, I received this checklist in email from a fellow survivor; it was written by another ex-Kharabsheh person as a means of examining and realizing what we had been involved with. Saying the word "cult" about the tariqa, or anything to do with Islam, was difficult. Partly because we believe that these are things that happen to other religions and partly because it is difficult to understand why Allah might give us a test of this magnitude. In talking to other former members, it seems that the moment we realized it was a "cult" and used this word was a momentous one. One of awakening, in a way.
For some people, the reality of its existence as a cult does not take value from whatever positive or enlightening experiences they had in the tariqa. For others, nothing that was good about the tariqa can overcome it's problems. This journal which is now a blog is meant for the survivors, the parents, the siblings, the friends who are concerned about someone who is in the cult and are concerned about them. Who miss them. I want to reassure you that I do not think that a single person in the cult other than those who have pre-existing mental illnesses are in any physical danger or serious psychological danger. I don't think it is a Jonestown type of situation, and I don't think that the murids or the leaders would have people physically harmed. At least I hope they wouldn't! But there will be long term psychological, spiritual and financial damage for many people who go to Kharabsheh or who are otherwise involved in the cult. Others suffer financially, professionally and socially. There is harm and it's taking place. It's just not as urgent as poisoned Koolaid.
One thing is for sure, until the members of the cult are at the point where they are ready to recognize it as such, then all of this is pointless. For example, when I made the choice to share my journal here as a blog, I wanted to share it for the sake of other ex-members, not as a means of trying to wake up those who are still in it, whether they are in Jordan or not. I think those who are in Jordan have a better chance of waking up, because you are in the heart of it right now. It's all around you. But as we know, it is Allah who guides and misguides one along the paths of life. You may be a Muslim who is misguided. Certainly, we are taught this in our masjid and in the tariqa itself. And I am telling you this and it is nothing you've not heard before. People who don't want to believe, who have turned their hearts against the truth, then no truth will be recognized by them.
Originally, I had planned to post it back at the beginning, but then I held off while the story developed. Then my friend emailed me and said that the original writer was okay with it being used by any ex-murid who finds it useful, but that she wanted to fix it up a bit. She sent me back a "cleaned up" version of it and here it is for you.
Steve Hassan is a counselor who specializes in dealing with those who are recovering from cult movements. In his book Releasing the Bonds: Empowering People to Think for Themselves, he lays out the BITE model of cult control. B stands for Behavior Control, I stands for Information Control, T stands for Thought Control and E stands for Emotion Control. Hassan explains that the cult leader or leadership employ a broad range of manipulative techniques to exact total or near total control over their followers. I recommend this book to anyone who is leaving the Kharabsheh tariqa or any other destructive Sufi tariqa or who has a family member or friend in an Islamic cult. Until the day that our Muslim leadership recognizes and develops methods to recognize, deprogram and help heal survivors of Islamic cults, then there is no problem referencing the beneficial works of non-Muslims. This is even something that the tariqa itself teaches, as Um Khayr teaches people how to conduct themselves in marriage using the works of non-Muslims.
Note that Hassan says that it is not necessary for every single component of the model to be present in order for the group to be recognized as a cult movement. My comments highlighting what parts of the BITE model I found present in Kharabsheh are interspersed.
- Regulation of individual's physical reality, including: "Where, how, and with whom the member lives and associates, what clothes, colors, hairstyles the person wears, what food the person eats, drinks, adopts, and rejects, how much sleep the person is able to have, financial dependence, little or no time spent on leisure, entertainment, vacations."
As for leisure & entertainment, this is forbidden or highly discouraged. Television, music and movies are forbidden across the tariqa, but especially in Jordan. However, even some of the "very good" murids are secretly swapping DVDs and watching YouTube and then they experience some guilt about this, or they end up having these "big secrets." People who sit outside of Jordan and say that only weak murids can't follow this rule would be surprised at the names in the tariqa who listen to music or watch movies and TV. Books waver between forbidden and not forbidden (he tells you the "best" kind of books to read), and people who have "too much fiction" on their shelves or the "wrong kinds" of books about tasawuf, etc. are gossiped about or reported.
- Major time commitment required for indoctrination sessions and group rituals
Yes, you have to spend time in "suhba" with him. If he comes to your town, you should spend your time with him; if you live in Jordan, you should attend his majalis. To not do so is bad manners. If you don’t live in Jordan, you need to attend the weekly dhikr or however often it is held. This is true in all Sufi groups, but they are known to punish or ostracize and "follow up" with people who are absent from their gatherings. The main exception is, these days, for women with children or women whose husbands are forbidding them from leaving the home. If there is no separate accomodation for women with small children apart from men and women without them at the latifiya, then the women with children are required to stay home. That is the worldwide rule for the tariqa, not only Jordan.
- Need to ask permission for major decisions
All murids, or at least many of them, ask him before getting married; many ask him what they should name their children. Some people do not marry except who Besa or Hedaya tells them to marry. Some ask him about moving or taking on a new job or leaving their current job and going to university. This is true in other Sufi groups too. With our tariqa, though, the marriage thing is on a level not seen in the Damascene Shadhiliya or any other tariqa except those who are rooted in the West. The shuyukh in Damascus have expressed dismay and disapproval regarding the marital customs of our tariqa, saying that it is not usual for a sheykh to be so involved in this area of a person's life and that it is an area that is meant for the dervish's parents and family to be involved in.
- Need to report thoughts, feelings, and activities to superiors
Not so much, but you are encouraged to go to the big four to talk about your hard times and your struggles, which sounds completely benign and could be, were it not for everything else.
- Rewards and punishments (behavior modification techniques -- positive and negative)
Big time in our tariqa. Those who are good or are otherwise having an "in", get put in khalwa, isolation, which they’re told will bring them to the "next level" spiritually speaking. They get to live in the newly built apartments near the sheikh, or they get put in special rankings in their town. They may find themselves recommended for marriage to favoured murids. Although they deny the existence of the "inner circles" it exists in Jordan and in some of the other cities, and every murid knows this. Those who are bad, who do not obey, who do not conform or are in some other way "undesirable", are snubbed, shunned, and eventually blacklisted. Women are subject to intense gossip which is spread about them online, mainly of the sort that they are mentally ill.
- Individualism discouraged; "group think" prevails
I believe this is could be the hallmark of our tariqa, even outside of the Jordan group. You are encouraged to think a certain way and have the same opinions on different issues. Conveniently, Sunnipath.com is set up to tell us all how to understand and follow Islam. Over the years, we have been discouraged, subtly and not so subtly, to stop following some of the sheykhs in fiqh, something that has hurt and angered those outside of the tariqa.
You are encouraged to seek out its teachers, your muqaddams and others to make sure that you have the "right" thoughts and dress. If the sheykh expresses pleasure about something, murids will run out to copy it, be it food or a book. And if he expresses displeasure, we run out to rid ourselves of it as well, as though following this man's likes and dislikes in food or home decor will give us entry to Jannat al Firdaus. Sometimes, as a means of showing us favour, one of the big four would mention to us something that they liked or didn't like in a more private setting, the implication being that they were showing us some favourable advantage by telling us something they like or dislike that we could implement or get rid of and thereby gain spiritual advantage over our peers.
- Rigid rules and regulations
I think this is well established. First, there is an entire manual available for the tariqa as a whole, if not several (one of which is out of print I think). Second, there is an additional manual meant for those who are coming to Kharabsheh. In addition to this, there are many rules that are relayed verbally, in the durus, over the internet on the suhba lists, or via personal communication. At all times, you are told that to follow these rules of the sheykh and his wife is to please Allah.
- Need for obedience and dependency
It is all about getting into Jannat because you obeyed him and thereby pleased Allah. They are known to tell you "the sheykh's istikharah said such and so" as a means of convincing you to undertake something, be it a marriage or divorce or what have you. This gives you the illusion that if you do not do what they are telling you to do, you are literally disobeying Allah, and is giving rise to the hereforto unstated belief that Allah speaks through him - and I say Astaghferullah.
- Use of deception
I believe this is true. Many of us believed the sheykh was an ijazah bearing authority in fiqh, which he is not. This is something literally thousands of Muslims believe! There is the more general deception of the tariqa being portrayed as something it absolutely is not, in the end. Of course, many stories are floated around the suhba groups or the neighbourhood in Kharabsheh to put out misinformation about a murid who has fallen from favour.
- Deliberately holding back information, distorting information to make it more "acceptable," "outright lying."
I believe this is true on an Islamic sense, as well as a more general sense. The same as above.
- Access to non-cult sources of information minimized or discouraged
- Media (books, articles, newspapers, magazines, TV, radio), critical information, former members, keep members so busy they don't have time to think and check things out.
- Hassan also makes mention of communication with former members being forbidden or discouraged.
The hallmark. These things are a “waste of time” and it is not pleasing to Allah for you to read the paper or watch the news. You are not supposed to read books written by other than his approved list (including fiction books, but most people disregard this openly). You cannot get any Islamic knowledge from other than those he approves of, even other sheykhs in the same tariq, and including parenting information, even though he has no children. Very famously, many of us tossed out or gave away all of our Sheykh Hamza materials when he told us to, and that had led to a well-known rift between the Muslims in some places. People who read news, etc. are seen as not spiritually striving, touched by the dunya, etc. This is true all over the world, depending on the tariqa's standing in that city and how close a murid is to the latifiya group.
As for communicating with former members, this is well known and apparent in what is going on today. People who leave the tariqa are vilified to the point where people have left friends they have had for longer than they were in the tariqa. They also fear that if it is known they remain in touch with someone who has left him, then they will be kicked out.
- Compartmentalization of information; Outsider vs. Insider doctrines: "Information is not freely accessible, information varies at different levels and missions within pyramid, leadership decides who "needs to know" what and when."
- Spying on other members is encouraged including: "Pairing up with "buddy" system to monitor and control, reporting deviant thoughts, feelings, and actions to leadership, individual behavior monitored by whole group."
- Extensive use of cult generated information and propaganda
They are getting better at this with their recent websites, with the jewel in the crown being the spath website. They have been disseminating their tapes and now CDs to members through semi-exclusive channels for years, although this website now has some materials available to the general public. They also have a private website where they are told to download and listen to all of his audios. People outside of Jordan listen to these things at their weekly or monthly gathering.
- Unethical use of confession, including: "Information about "sins" used to abolish identity boundaries, past "sins" used to manipulate and control (no forgiveness or absolution)."
Not in public. However, sometimes people confess things privately in email or conversation that is then repeated or sent to other people in the neighbourhood, so that then everyone knows about someone's problem or issues. In this way a person is ostracised from their friends and the general company and can be moved "out of the way".
- Need to internalize the group's doctrine as "Truth", such as: "Adopting the group's map of reality as "Reality" (Map = Reality), Black and White thinking, Good vs. Evil, Us vs. Them (inside vs. outside)."
Yes. Not only about Islam, but about tasawuf, and then ultimately, our tariqa as the "only true Shadhilis". This is increasing in the past years, especially after Sheykh Shaghouri passed away, rahimullah, and the rift with the rest of the tariqa sheykhs in Damascus.
- Use of "loaded" language (for example, "thought-terminating clichés"). Words are the tools we use to think with. These "special" words constrict rather than expand understanding, and can even stop thoughts altogether. They function to reduce complexities of experience into trite, platitudinous "buzz words."
Yes, this is well, well known. He takes the words of Islam and tasawuf and uses them to achieve these things.
- Only "good" and "proper" thoughts are encouraged.
- Use of hypnotic techniques to induce altered mental states
Yes, and some may take issue with this because it all falls under the rubric of "Sufi practises and rituals," but it is being done nonetheless, every Wednesday and Friday for starters.
- Manipulation of memories and implantation of false memories
Not that I am aware of as far as implanting false memories. However, I would say there is definitely maniuplation of people as far as what they recall about specific incidents or even things like their own marriages, including their feelings about those things.
- Use of thought-stopping techniques, which shut down "reality testing" by stopping "negative" thoughts and allowing only "good" thoughts
Other than standard Islamic practises meant to keep the whispers of shaytan away, I am not aware of this being used in the tariqa.
- Rejection of rational analysis, critical thinking, constructive criticism. No critical questions about leader, doctrine, or policy seen as legitimate
Absolutely. After the rift with Damascus a few years ago, mention of the Damascene sheykhs prompted sneers or "who is that individual?" questions with arched eyebrows. Brothers who have attempted constructive criticism and critical questioning about business practises and other things in the tariqa have been kicked out. We are taught to think of him as perfect, and he himself says that he does not commit sins. He says that a directive from his wife should be considered as a directive from himself and is therefore to be obeyed by all murids. His wife has spent a lot of time complaining to the murids that they are not obeying her.
- No alternative belief systems viewed as legitimate, good, or useful
Absolutely. Of course, some may say that this is true of Islam as a whole, but for us, even other sheykhs in our own tariqa are seen as illegitimate, let alone those who have no tariqa at all.
- Manipulate and narrow the range of a person's feelings.
This seems to be more with the women than with the men. Definitely the women were strongly pushed and taught to suppress their feelings about issues relating to their marriages, such as if they were unhappy in Jordan, if they felt their husbands were inattentive or were otherwise unhappy or if they were abused. We were taught that these things should not be talked about or discussed with friends, and especially not with relatives such as mothers.
- Make the person feel that any problems are always their fault, never the leader's or the group's.
Yes. Anyone who struggles with their directives, from marriage and divorce through the way they educate their children, and how they eat is made to think that this is their shaytan and their hawa speaking, and not the perfect sheykh. He never, ever makes a mistake and you are never to question what he or his wife tell you to do. Even people who question their parenting directives are made to feel that it is their fault for being evil enough to question, and not legitimate to question that they don’t know anything about raising kids.
- Excessive use of guilt: identity guilt (who you are, not living up to your potential, your family, your past, your affiliations, your thoughts, feelings, actions), social guilt, historical guilt.
Yes of course this is present - that is why you need him!
- Excessive use of fear: fear of thinking independently, fear of the "outside" world, fear of enemies, fear of losing one's "salvation", fear of leaving the group or being shunned by group, fear of disapproval.
Yes, so much so that even some people who have quit the tariqa because of the behaviour of the big four and their friends still think that he holds their keys to Jannat. People outside of the tariqa are misguided and too much time with them could lead you astray. We strive to win the approval of the big four, because they tell us many times that they are our leaders to the akhirah.
- Extremes of emotional highs and lows.
Yes, this happens, but depending on your situation in the tariqa. I don't think it happens very much for the average person.
- Ritual and often public confession of "sins".
No, this is not done in public and was not encouraged at all as it is in other cults. However, people are told they can confess their problems and sins to the big four, and the two women in particular take pleasure in revealing to an individual that they know all about their "secrets" such as having DVDs or whatever - which they are told by those who have engaged in spying and tattling. Sometimes these sins or problems are revealed in a semi-public setting.
- Phobia indoctrination: inculcating irrational fears about ever leaving the group or even questioning the leader's authority. The person under mind control cannot visualize a positive, fulfilled future without being in the group. Including: No happiness or fulfillment "outside"of the group, terrible consequences will take place if you leave: "hell"; "demon possession"; "incurable diseases"; "accidents"; "suicide"; "insanity"; "10,000 reincarnations"; etc. Also, shunning of leave takers. Fear of being rejected by friends, peers, and family. There is never a legitimate reason to leave. From the group's perspective, people who leave are: "weak;" "undisciplined;" "unspiritual;" "worldly;" "brainwashed by family, counselors;" seduced by money, sex, rock and roll.
Yes of course. Many people who leave are "blackballed", which means you don't talk to them or do business with them. All of the above things are said about us - that we are worldly and unspiritual, misguided in Islam and mentally ill. Sometimes if someone leaves the implication is that the person is straying from Islam as a whole. And some have. Allah has seen fit to reveal the reality to those who are knowledgable and sincere enough to ask him continuously for the truth, even when it hurts. And it is never too late to leave the destruction of this tariqa-cult behind. Even if it costs your marriage or your money, the freedom that you have spiritually and mentally cannot be compared, not to mention the knowledge that you are leaving behind misguidance. Ask Him, always, to lead you straight, and away from misguidance and harm. Accept that He tests you.
If you remember, I wrote about a friend of mine named Amy. Even though Amy left Islam after leaving the tariq and divorcing her husband, I am still in touch with her. So she wrote to me after the last post and said that a friend of hers, Fazia, wanted to write her "testimonial" on the blog. She sent it to Amy and Amy sent it to me. She allowed Amy to tell me her real name, and I do remember this person as someone who lived in Kharabsheh. Fazia is not her real name. Anyway, here is her story, and I have to warn you it's a little long. I was going to post it in part 1, part 2, etc but I decided against that. I only edited it for spelling, to make it uniform with my American spellings, and for punctuation and my trademark, "once upon a time." (Because these are our stories.) Just because I am including it here doesn't mean that I agree with everything she says. I am saying that her story should be heard, especially from those of you who least want to hear it - the ones in Kharabsheh. Don't turn away now.
Once upon a time --
I came to Jordan to study Arabic, and planned to be there for about 9 months or a few months longer if I could get the money to stay for a year. I lived in a flat with other unmarried women who were in Jordan for Qasid or to study with the shaykh. Like everyone else, I felt it was such a big baraka to be in Jordan and be around these great people of himmah.
The first problems for me began after a few months. I would attend all of the dars of the shaykh in English, as well as the hadras. When I was able to, I would attend the lessons of Um Khayr and Um Sahl, and the hizbul-bahr in the afternoons. I was very much a part of the zawiya life, it was the center of my life, more than Qasid I would say.
In the beginning I didn't have much of a problem wearing the niqab. I had a little bit of a harder time with the color rules, but I got over it soon enough. One murid used to say that the nour on the face of the murids after a hadra or session with the shaykh was so bright that if the women weren't covered, the brothers would find themselves powerfully attracted to us. As strange as that sounds now, it made some sense at that time, because like most murids who were from the UK or America, I didn't question the niqab rule before I got there. To say that we were developing nour and that was the reason why seemed to be in line with what we were to expect from our time in Jordan.
We initially had a flatmate who wasn't a murid, and she had a very hard time with it all. She didn't like Um Sahl and that created friction with some of us because we thought, "What's not to like, then?" Shaykh had said that Um Sahl was the authority of the women and anything she said to you was as a word from him, so for her not to like Um Sahl felt like she was against the shaykh. She also did not wear the niqab unless she was going to the hadra. At that time, it wasn't an iron clad rule for the Qasid students to wear it unless they were murids, but it was "encouraged" for them to do so. Many people hoped / expected that the other Qasid students would naturally become murids. She mostly kept her opinions to herself, and she did attend the hadras in the beginning of her stay. After a short time, the situation between her and the two ladies was too tense and she stopped coming to the hadra. Our flatmates also had some tension with her.
When she decided it was time to go home, I helped her pack. She was under some pressure, and she told me all of her opinions on the tariq. I didn't say much, I just let her vent. I didn't feel the defensiveness and anger that I had felt when she first got into it with Um Sahl.
After she left, things felt peaceful and "back to normal" for us. But then I started to notice things. Like how the niqab wasn't about our "nour" but about us being walking sex objects. The rules, at that time, became much stricter about clothes. Even to have your pants peek from the bottom of your abaya was frowned on. I didn't think a normal man could get turned on by this. I started to feel like I was being controlled and suffocated and that as a woman it was what I should expect and what I deserved in the name of Allah.
This blog has already covered some of the rules about women, and I'm not going to do that.
I realized, I would not wear the niqab on my own. I did not feel that it was a necessary thing. In all of my life, even being in Muslim countries where one can generally wear the niqab without a lot of stares or harassment, I didn't wear it and to that date (or even to today) a man has never lost control of himself sexually at the sight of me. I hated the way that the Jordanians made jokes about us in Khawaja's and Mo'aidh's or in the street. I hated the way that the taxi drivers would say "Oh more Kharabsheh" and curse Kharabsheh people for being cheap and snobby. Even in the malls in West Amman, people would know who we were and make jokes or say things about us, even in English.
I began to see that the people in Jordan did not like us, did not welcome us. I actually did have a conversation with a nice young woman who spoke English in the mall near Qasid and I asked her, "Why does it seem like people in Amman don't like us?" She said, "Well there are many complaints about you. That you are unfair to the taxi drivers and don't tip them. Many Jordanians don't give big tips either, but we usually do give a little something, especially for the taxi driver. They feel like you think you are better than us. Also, some of the women come into the malls or in the stores and expect people to speak English to them, rather than trying to speak Arabic. You come to our country you should learn our language." She seemed embarassed to have to tell me these things but as the conversation continued, she also seemed a little angry. She told us that the locals called us "the Nuh people", "the American sufis" and that they all called Kharabsheh "hay al ajanib," or the foriegner's neighborhood -but in a sarcastic way.
She lived in Sports City and told me that there have been stories between the Arabs about men and women from Kharabsheh meeting outside the neighborhood, kissing in alleyways and things like that. Even if you are married in Jordan, you don't kiss or do these things outside of your home. She told me a story that happened shortly before I came about a woman dressed like a murid who had taken a taxi with a man that might have been her husband. When he dropped her off - only one block from the zawiya - she leaned over and kissed the man and not in a brother-sister sort of way. The man did not get out of the car, and the taxi drove away. There were Jordanian people who saw this and they were very upset and this lady told me that the story was all over Medina Riyadiya as an example of "the Nuh people" coming in and doing whatever they liked in Jordan with no regard to the feelings of the people who live there.
Even though I did not do these things and I never saw anyone do those sort of things, I was very embarassed because many of the murids did not have good feelings towards the Jordanians. They believed that they were bad Muslims, that they were not as good as us in Islam, they were less intelligent, that they were all money hungry and there for our service. But yet we were the guests in their country.
So I started to see the murids from a different view, not as exemplars of the prophetic character, but as stuck up snobs or some of us as stuck up snobs.
Um Khayr stopped giving her lessons, and while I was at first disappointed, after a while I noticed that I felt lighter in my heart when I thought about it. And as I thought on it, I realized that I did not like the things she was teaching about women and men and marriage, but I did not think that I had the right or place to dislike it, spiritually, even in my own head. So I was pushing my own opinions down and silencing them, even though I felt, to my core, that some of what she was teaching was really, really wrong. And I didn't like the way some of the wives there were treated, or how they glorified staying at home and not visiting with friends. These women were almost totally isolated and cut off, even from other super religious women in their own tariqa. So first, non-Muslims weren't okay to have as friends, then non-murids, and soon it was visiting with anyone was as if it was a waste of time and an offense to Allah. A lot of the women, physically, looked very tired.
About that time I made friends with two Qasid students who were not murids. They had just arrived. A lot of people left, and new people came in all the time. Not just Qasid, but murids as well. We went to the Friday market one day, and one of them said something making fun of the tariqa and the other one laughed. I was very hurt and offended, and turned away from them. I didn't talk to them very much for the rest of the outing. I guess they sensed this, because that day or the next day, the one who made the joke came to see me.
She apologized for hurting my feelings, but she said that she felt that there were problems with the tariqa or things she disagreed with and she wasn't going to pretend otherwise just to keep from offending people. Especially because she felt that they had no fear of offending and hurting people who were not murids and saying things about the West. So I asked her, "Well what problems do you think the tariqa has," because at the time I was still thinking she was just not really understanding the depth of the tariqa. That is what they say, when people say things against them or say that they don't like something, the response is "They don't understand how complicated and intricate this is" or some teaching is hidden from them by Allah and so on.
She told me some of the same things that are already on [the] blog, such as the spying and tattle taling. I was skeptical and I told her I would have to think about these things. She also passionately gave me her argument about the way women are treated in Kharabsheh and I did not disagree with her completely. "Well maybe you should talk to this person," and that was a person I knew from the tariqa.
After a few weeks of these things gnawing away at me, I went to see the other person. That person repeated the same things she told me and more, like about people who lost their jobs, that a man was blackballed personally and professionally because his "ego is too big", and about a family that had lost their inheritance. I said, "Why are you still here then if you don't like it?" and the person told me that their own finances were deeply tied to the shaykh and Um Sahl and they were unable to leave yet.
I was just a simple student, I'm not even married. I don't have inheritance sor savings for much of anything, so the financial complaints were very new to me. Actually I was puzzled that they were so involved in the money of their murids, and yes it bothered me. I felt that if they are saying how they are here for our akhira, and spiritual guidance, then why the big interest in everyone's money?
[The blog writer] mentioned a party at which a woman suddenly began to talk about her husband sexually abusing her. I was at that party. Everyone looked away. It was like she was shouting it, it got so quiet in the room, yet she was speaking at a normal tone. I was sitting against a corner diagonal from her. I remember her voice got really quiet when she said, "And everyone thinks I'm so lucky." Then people began to talk about other things like nothing had happened. I think that was the moment when it struck me that this is not something that can be called excellent or with taqwa or tawfeeq. Because even if the shaykh didn't know about it - and according to what's on the writings now, he did - no one in the room felt moved to help her or comfort her. I saw these woman and how many of them looked run down, beaten down, and I didn't want to be like that. I didn't want to be a woman who was following all of Um Khayr's advice and was run down by her tariqa husband to the point where she had nothing to offer a woman who was crying out for help. I saw women who were empty of anything to offer except their khidmat to their husbands and the tariqa. I didn't see Islam in that room that day, no matter what prayers we prayed together or singing the burda.
I underwent a serious spiritual journey at that time. I would say that I was full of turmoil, on top of preparing for my Qasid finals. I had decided to go home 3 months early, as I missed my family and my home. I also felt no desire to be around the tariqa anymore. I was attending the hadras on and off, but it all began to feel like a pointless form of aerobic exercise. Where I had told myself previously that the shaykh's voice was the essence of calm and thoughtfulness, he now sounded clumsy and unsure of himself with his mumbling low tones. I noticed some of the women would fall asleep when he talked, and some even had little poses for their heads and hands to make it look like they were in deep thought. That is how practised they were at this.
After I arrived home, my spiritual journey continued. I did not go to the majlis of the murids at all. I was very busy with my family and other things. I made myself busy. I decided to take a course at sunnipath.com but I had problems with it, in that I no longer felt like I wanted to hear what they had to say. I would think, "And are they teaching us something that makes us more open to handing over our money" and things like that. I didn't tell anyone back home about my experiences and what I had learned.
My distrust of the website led me to wonder how accurate they were in general. It seems like most of the things about women are meant to promote shaykh Nuh's version of women - in the kitchen, silent and unheard, even by themselves. I did question their motivation and no longer looked to the site as a source for my Islamic knowledge, and that finally led me to wonder why I was using Reliance and a few of those other books as my end all definitive guides. My parents are not particularly religious so it was the murids who really introduced me to this way of understanding Islam. I had no tradition of my own to draw from and compare it to in that sense. I could only compare it to the Salafi version of Islam that was popular for some time, and in the end I felt that there wasn't much of a difference, because the way Islam is taught or lived in Jordan is the way that they (shaykh, two ladies) feel it should be lived at all times: women in veils in black, men in charge, obedience to the shaykh or the leader, making many mubah things into haram, staying away from and hating those who don't follow your way, etc.
Anyway, Amy, who I was friends with Kharabsheh, got in touch with me after she left Jordan. I was very, very surprised when she told me that she divorced her husband and wasn't Muslim anymore. We began to talk about what led her to that point. She was - is - the only person I am in regular contact with who left the tariqa, so I poured out to her all of my struggles with it, all of the terrible things I learned, my anger. She had many of the same issues. We did not lead each other, but just provided a listening ear for the other one. Understanding and support. She never pushed me to do anything, but after some more of my own researching and soul searching, I also decided to leave Islam.
So that is the reason that I am writing my story for you, so that people can hear first hand from someone who was brought from certainty in the deen outside of it by the shaykh and his women. I don't have the time to go into everything and it sounds spurious from the outside. "Oh she saw a woman who had a problem and quit Islam" and things like that.
Nuh Keller, his wife, and Um Khayr and their friends at the website had offered me a foundation in Islam that I thought was built on solid ground. Then, with the tariq, they give you a vision of Islam that is intoxicating - all of society's problems could be solved if we just followed the tariqa and the tariqa's interpretations of Shariah. But what did they call to? People investing their money in their pet projects? How is that going to change the world? If we want something better for women, then why are they ignoring abuse in the neighborhood, and pushing teachings on their website that are often unfair to women and very callous? Even before I went to Jordan I felt that way and many of my friends would privately complain about the teachings on their website about women.
You are made to feel that if you disagree with them, then you are no better than a shaytan or a kafir who follows his own desires. Your intelligence - that they say Allah gave you - is useless. You do not know, inherently, what is right or fair. If you disagree, they will ruin you.
I don't blame Nuh Keller for me leaving Islam. In a way I thank him, because to blame him would be to say that I am unhappy with where I am and I'm definitely not. I know you are still Muslim and from what you are saying, most of the former murids you are in touch with are as well. I have no problem or complaint with that. But I thank him and Um Sahl and Um Khayr because their behavior to people, the behavior of the murids, especially the women you wrote about as "the ablahs", all of that tied in as an example and a pointing of the way. At every step I was sincere and fervent in my duas. I wanted him to be revealed to me as a wali, but he most definitely was not. If not for that, I may not have had the strength of mind and will to address things within the religion that struck a deep part of me.
I won't blame you if you don't print these last few paragraphs because I understand it is hard for you, but I hope you do. Unlike you and the other married women, I did not have the same sort of access, and I did not see many of the terrible things in people's lives that you did. So I know that my story as far as expeirences in Kharabsheh is not as bad as some peoples, but it is still one that I think the readers will benefit from, even if -- especially if -- they disagree with my choice to leave Islam.
I want you to know that I feel more at peace with myself and the world around me now than I did in those first few months in Jordan when I thouht everything was wonderful.
Thank you for your time and for letting me share my story.
I know I said I was posting these in chronological order from my journals and recollections of friends, emails, but they are a little out of order. I decided it can't really go that way. It's whatever seems the most important thing to say at the time. Sometimes I really don't have much of anything to say.
Sometimes people want to talk about the inability of Keller to pronounce Quran correctly, or whatever. I don't know if it's a "woman thing" but I am more on the effect of Keller on people's minds and hearts. I think that those shortcomings or problems of his should be and will be addressed by a man, the guys who were with him more often and saw that up close.
As I read some of the blogs that were written about the Ktown group, about Keller's effects on people, one thing that surfaced several times was this idea that many of the ex-murids are quitting Islam altogether.
I can tell you that this is true, there are people quitting Islam after their time in the cult. I'm not sure it's as many as some people want you to believe it is, but if it's just one person, isn't that enough? Maybe. Or maybe not.
There was someone, we'll call her Amy, who did quit Islam after being around the group, being married to a murid. I have been able to talk to her a few times about her experiences - which were really awful - and how she came to quit Islam. I asked her point blank, "Did you quit because of the tariq?"
She said that the answer is really yes and no. She had some personal things, some questions of her own, that I guess she felt Islam couldn't answer. However, she did say that really, a lot of the blame is to be laid at the feet of guess who? Hedaya. Besa. Nuh. Why?
Because, she said, they taught me a version of Islam that was ultimately the only way that one could not only follow Islam but live in the entire universe. If you fail to live up to it, then you are a failure - bound for the hellfire, a person of bidah, a worldling. She said, in their world, there is ONE way to be a Muslim, and one way only. I will say, that it is true that no matter what you hear outside, inside of the tariqa, it is believed that if you're not in a tariqa, you are in a serious spiritual and perhaps moral / fiqh failure as a Muslim. For as awful as they could be about non-Muslims, they were just about as nasty about Muslims who don't have tariqa.
I said to her, well when you left (your husband and the tariqa), didn't you want to explore Islam without them looking over your shoulders and find a "different" way to be Muslim?
Yes, she tried that, she told me. But in a way, she said that the tariqa "ruined her" for other understandings of Islam. There is such an exacting focus on how do you arrive at this conclusion and a dismissal, a real demolishing of scholars outside of the traditional sufi understanding of Islam - whether it's Nawawi or Ghazali - that the others look like "kindergartners playing" (her words). In other words, she's saying that the legalistic way that the tariqa forces you to understand Islam, the intellectual rigor involved, makes it nearly impossible to consider other understandings as remotely valid.
And yes, she said, the way she was treated by her husband in the name of the tariqa, by the "big ones", the things she saw, "Yes that had a huge negative impact on the way I viewed Muslims and then Islam. But it was not the only thing."
Amy had other issues that have nothing to do with the tariqa, and made the choice to leave Islam. And other murids, quite a few from what I know, have done so as well. BUT....
not all ex-murids quit Islam. I think it is just a little unfair to say "ex-murid of Keller is an ex-Muslim" or "all of them quit Islam." It is bad enough that Keller insinuates that anyone who leaves him as a shaykh is leaving Islam.
Some of the ex-murids continue on with the same sort of legalistic, more intellectually driven understanding of Islam. Some of them have become very liberal Muslims. I have not heard of any becoming Salafis.
So it seems that you either keep on with the same understanding of Islam, but quit him; or you find different understandings of how to be Muslim, which veer towards much more liberal ways ; or you quit Islam altogether. And I think if you talk to people - the ex-murids - you will find that people have many different reasons.
Because the way you understand Allah, the deen, the world is a fluid thing, it's changing over time. You have your culture, environment, work, health, anything that contributes to how you see yourself and the world around you. I wouldn't blame everything on "She left Keller and now she doesn't wear hijab", even though that might be her primary reason.
But having said all of that, I think that we as Muslims need to seriously, seriously look at why people who leave the tariqa are leaving Islam in such noticeable numbers. If it was one, even two people, you m ight say "well it's them," but when it's so many that even people who don't know anything about Keller associate him with apostasy, it's time to raise questions about what is going on in the tairqa and in Kharabsheh - no matter how much you love him or Besa. You MUST ask, it is your duty towards yourself and other Muslims. In fact, I think it is a duty to Allah and his messenger (saws) to ask "What are you doing to people, teaching them, saying to them that has caused this many people to quit the deen after they've been around you?"
Even if you don't like them, you should ask, because as Muslims, they will share some responsibility for driving people away from Allah and his religion! So as their Muslim brothers, we should be concerned for their souls, because we know that we ourselves would not want that burden hanging over our head. Enjoining the good and forbidding the evil in speech and behavior - he says it has rules because he tells us that people form the past have said so. But that attempt to shut down the common man does not mean that he, his wife, UK, the ablahs, and any of the rest of the people in the tariqa are above scrutiny. Not when it comes to people leaving Islam and risking their akhira.