Jehangir and the New Deen

(Originally posted 11/16/11 on

Recently, I posted my review of The Taqwacores, a powerful film about the clash of old time religion and the younger generation’s progressive paradigms, namely classical Islam vs. progressive ideas of a young Muslim punk movement. If you read my review, you’ll see that I was quite inspired by the film and the ideas it presents. The book by Michael Muhammad Knight that the film is based on (which I have yet to read :cough: birthday present :cough:) was originally supposed to his final divorce with the faith, but instead launched a new subgenre of music and a personal rediscovery for Knight (check back for an interview in the next month or so). Here are some of the thought I have had since screening the movie.

My faith and ideas about faith are routinely challenged. Sometimes a great Bible study challenges me and recharges my battery. Other times, a challenge may be presented by a book, an article, or some other piece or art or media… my afternoon viewing a Netflix double feature of The Taqwacores and Taqwacore: The Birth of Punk Islam (a documentary about Michael Muhammad Knight’s first journey back to Pakistan after his writing The Taqwacores) was one such example in my recent life.

Since that day, I can’t stop focusing on the l sermon given by Jehangir Tabari, a central figure in the film who serves are a leader in the Muslim punk scene in the film. The sermon is below… irreverent and yet, very reverent all at once, it is a challenge to all persons of faith, not just Jehangir’s faith group:

Allah’s arranging things beyond all our grasps. The earth isn’t spinning because you told it to. Your intestines aren’t digesting by your command. You’re made up of a trillion cells that don’t ask your permission before offering their rakats [daily prayers]. And we think submission’s about applying a strict discipline to our worship? We think surrender’s about not eating a pig? It’s not that small to me. I can’t fit my deen [religion] in a little box because to me, everything comes from Allah… Allah’s too big and open for my deen to be small and closed. Does that make me a kafr [disbeliever/blasphemer]? I say Allahu Akbar [God is Great/God is Bigger]. If that’s not good enough, then fuck Islam, you can have it…

I don’t think than Jehangir’s primary message is that discipline is a bad thing, but rather than Allah/God is much much bigger than any box we can try to put Him into. We all know what extreme fundamental zealots have done in this world… 9/11, the Crusades, holy wars, etc. etc. But, in a much more frequent forum, we use our own versions of God to explain away our decisions, support our actions, and crucify others… don’t we? I know damn well that Pat Robertson’s version of Jesus and George W. Bush’s version of God are not the same as mine… and, of course, I believe that my “progressive” understanding of Jesus is more correct. But this message in the film is as much to me as it is to Dubya or Mr. 700 Club!

There is a spiritual leader type in the film who smokes pot and even goes as far as to support it scripturally. There are views presented by both sides of the fence, the fundamental Muslims and the progressive-minded punks, in The Taqwacores, that put Allah in a box. Understanding that God is in everything and everyone sometimes feels very “Eastern religion” yet it is, in fact, very important to any persons of faith, Christianity certainly included.

Reflect on this sermon and tell me what you think it means “surrender” is. Tell me what it means to say that “God is Bigger”. How do we avoid putting God in a box? How do we keep our deens “big and open” rather than “small and closed”?

Justin has been running websites since his first Geocities site in 1994, but only did he ever start covering anything of substance years later. After he stopped regularly running local concerts in Northern NJ and the greater Philly area, he knew he needed to step up his writing game if he expected to continue to get free music to listen to. He writes regularly here and at Cinapse, as well as contributing to a few other sites on occasion. He likes music, film, the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers, talking about Criminal Justice, reading Intelligence Report, and his family... not in that order. His beautiful wife is far more talented than he is and his kids far more adorable... and crazy.
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