Irshad Manji: That’s Not Islam

It was brought to my attention that Irshad Manji was on the Glenn Beck show recently speaking as if she were a Muslim. Sister Ruth has a post with a clip to the video interview on her site.

I commented that:

I am not one to criticize a person’s faith without proper evidence but from reading Manji’s website and the articles linked by her on it we can find out that of the 5 pillars of Islam she believes the following:

1. Declaration of Faith – Claims to believe in it but negates this belief with her negation of other pillars.

2. Ritual Prayer – Doesn’t believe she needs to follow the prayer described by Prophet peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. She believes in saying her own made-up prayer which she claims has more meaning.

3. Fasting – Claims to fast in Ramadan

4. Zakaah – (annual charity from one’s wealth) claims to give a portion of her wealth each year.

5. Hajj – (Pilgrimage) claims hajj is not obligatory for her as long as her female Christian partner is not allowed to join her in Makkah and Madinah.

All five pillars form the foundational core of a Muslim’s belief system without any pillar, a person’s Islam collapses, so what of a person that is missing three pillars? Such a person cannot be called a Muslim.

As Abu Eesa mentioned a better name for her would be Idhlal.

The best thing I can say about Manji is that on the question of homosexuality, she says she is not sure whether or not it is allowed in Islam. She would do well to read the articles by these brothers.

The Arabic language is a part of this religion. Manji freeely admits that she does not know Arabic and so one wonders how she intends to carry out her Project Ijtihad using an English translation of the Quran and hadeeth.

There was a time albeit (and alhamdulillah) short-lived after I accepted Islam, where I was in that convert super-learning mode and I thought like Manji that after reading an English translation of the Quran and hadeeth and some fatawa and articles in books and online that that made me competent to speak about Islam, its history, and its rulings, as if I were a mujtahid.

Then alhamdulillah, Allah the Mighty and Majestic guided me to people of knowledge and good companions and I learned just how little I knew and from that came humility, and re-assessing my intentions, and from that small pockets and openings in this knowledge of the deen were opened to me.

I think this is a peculiarly Western phenomenon of reading one book or article or listening to a lecture and to arrogantly think we are now competent to compete and debate with the scholars of the deen past and present and even with the Companions. And for some of the so-called progressive reformers their levels of arrogance and ignorance has led them to even try to compete with or reject outright Allah and His Messenger peace and blessings be upon him.

In the west, where talking heads with seemingly little or no real scholarship permeate on ubiquitous news shows just reading the newspaper and doing a quick search on Google is enough to sound as if you know what you are talking about even if you don’t know anything at all.

But Islam is not like that, the ulama, the real scholars (an example here) and people of knowledge are humble and careful in their manners and speech and the depth of their knowledge of the sciences of Islam is like an ocean compared to the few drops of knowledge of the average lay person.

A shout out to: Musings of a Muslim Mind


  1. SubhanAllah, that was gut-wrenching. I feel as though she is using Islam for some type of benefit, but i’m with you about not critizing a person’s faith.

    Remember in Tasfeer surat Al-Baqarah, Umm Eesaa was talking about hidayatul bayaan–everytime I see someone critizing islam or rasul Allah salAllahu alayhi wa sallam or just plaining state ‘it’s not for them’, I can’t help but ponder over the fact that Allah is not unjust to His slaves, and only He azza wa jal choses whom He Guides.
    I remember a couple of years back when I would see videos like this, or books, articles, I would get angry and think “who do they think they are?! They’ll see one day!” etc etc etc. But now alhamdulillah it reminds me of how easy it is for us to become misguided, wa na’audubillah, and how we must always ask for Allah to keep guiding us until we pass the siraat and enter Jannah inshaAllah. It’s as though seeing or reading pieces like these brings us closer to Allah, like it humbles you knowing that Allah ta’ala has chosen you to be among those who taste the sweetness of faith–and knowing that you would give up this world and whatever is in it to keep that faith.

    Kind of a side note, but I remember br. Safi during one of his classes was talking about sunnah and bid’ah. He mentioned that the ulamaa divide bid’ah into 2 segments: innovation in belief and innovation in action..furthermore, innovation in action is divided into another 2 segments: innovation that affects others and actions that affect you directly. Innovations that affect others includes those in your immediate area and people in other times. Rasul Allah salAllahu alayhi wa sallam said, Whoever introduces into Islam a good practice, not only will they be rewarded for it, if anyone after them commits it, they will also be rewarded. Whoever introduces into Islam a bad practice, not only will they be written down as committing a sin, anyone who comes after them and commits the sin, they will also be penalized.
    Br. Safi kept mentioning how there are people among us today who preach that they are muslim, but call others to do what is against Islam–and people actually follow them. Example: not necessary to wear hijaab. He mentioned that they will not only be carrying their sins, but the sins of those who followed them.

    It’s scary.

    ربنا لا تزغ قلوبنا بعد اذ هديتنا و هب لنا من لدنك رحمة انك انت الوهاب
    Our Lord! Let not our hearts deviate from the truth after You have guided us, and bestow upon us mercy from Your Grace. Verily You are the Giver of bounties without measure. (3:8)

  2. Asalamu alaykum,

    I tend not to watch any of that stuff because so much of it is filth but I was asked to respond. And that side note is scary. SubhanAllah.

  3. I would add that I see it as an amazing sign of the izza (nobility and honor) of Islam that even these media darlings like Manji self-described Muslim refusenik, Ayaan Hersi Ali self-described lapsed Muslim, Salman Rushdie self-described atheist and so on only have izza or notoriety in front of the people due to their connection no matter how tenuous to Islam. Even apostates are referred to as ex-Muslim. Without the connection to Islam they would not garner the attention that they do.

  4. As-salaamu alaykum, this is a good exposure masha’allah. Might blog about this and I also intend to comment about it on another blog which I have just revamped.


    – MENJ

  5. I’ve been wanting to comment on this for a very long time but I was wary of offending some people. Anyway, so I won’t be too bold but only mention something on the five pillars of Islam point that you have raised very well here.

    I worked with Ismailis for five years and learnt a lot about their religion. Manji is one. Their kalima is different. They don’t pray five times a day. Theirs is more like a Sunday mass but done every evening in what they call a “jamaat khana.” 98% don’t fast during Ramadan and they don’t have the 2.5% zakat system. They offer alms only to Ismailis and their causes and they don’t go on Haj.

    This is where she is coming from and I don’t mean to offend or attack Ismailis but I’m only trying to show why she does what she does.

  6. Thanks Suroor, I was aware that she was from an Ismaili family as are many Muslims of subcontinental extraction living in eastern Africa but she doesn’t even seem to follow Ismaili doctrine.

    She picks and chooses which parts of Islam suit her and leaves those which do not or makes up her own version that is most certainly herIslam that she is following.

    On a side note, Hersi Ali now says she is an atheist but when speaking about Muslims she say “we” and “us” as if she is one.

  7. They only want fame and that too at the cost of religion. It is sad they need the God to make them famous Whom they denounce frequently.

  8. Salams,

    Thank you very much for dissecting the pillars of Manji’s faith. As with Ayaan Hirsi Ali I contrast this woman with Hind Bt. Utbah. I think Manji needs to see a shrink, no I am not joking!

    I say this because you see she has had a violent past according to her. Then, she is disconnected with her father, her sister is married to a non-muslim, she herself is a lesbian. I pity the so-called western liberals who give her so much attention. This just shows that how successful Islam is Masha’Allah.

    Truth can be distorted but those who are really interested can find it, God Willing. Once again thanks for this entry.


    there is a picture of her with Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali.


    ps: i cant believe how incredibly hypocritical this woman is, shes going on about how Muslims both ‘moderate’ and ‘extreme’ exploit the Quran and look at what she is doing? Its one thing to try and get people to think more about their religion its completely another thing to go and change everything that makes it what it is. And of course everyone in the West is giving her such recognition and praise, she espouses their own screwed demented views!!! Pahlease! Ive just about had it!

  10. Asslamualikum
    I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated this article especially the part about trying to act like mujtahids and such with so little knowlegde. I also feel this to be a western or atleast a non islamic way of looking at things. Alas Manjit is not the 1st, there are many like her. May Allah guide us all.

  11. First of all, Irshad Manji is not Ismaili, so comparing the practices of that sect of Islam to decipher Irshad Manji’s faith is ignorant and inaccurate.

    Secondly, there is a significant number of Muslims in the world do not live in Arabic-speaking nations, and a majority of them do not speak the language. Does this mean that, in your elevated position of judgement, that these hundreds of thousands of people, are not Muslim?

    You’re dissecting her beliefs in the five pillars?

    Praying five times a day is nothing more than ritual. What purpose is saying namaz punctually daily, but at the same time calling for the murder of others? Pillar or not, there are fundamental concepts that take precedence. There are Islamic clerics that preach hatred and violence against people of a particular nationality or religion, who you would deem more “Islamic” because they pray five times a day? Why are you not as verbally opposed to “clerics” like Abu Bakar Ba’asyir or Sheik Feiz Mohammed?

    The exclusionary practices of Mecca and Madhina are bigotry – plain and simple. Imagine a “Western” city that prevented those of a particular religious belief from entering – discrimination at its forefront. If you think that the Qu’ran states no non-Muslim should be allowed in the civil jurisdictions of Mecca and Madhina, you are simply incorrect.

    I feel that Muslims attack Irshad Manji because self-criticism within Islam has not been accepted as it has in other religions. I’ve had a conversation with another anti-Manji person who, after give very lengthy conversations, acknowledged that Islam needs more internal criticism – the lack of it is the reason why extremism and militancy have gained Islamic credibility in large parts of the world!

  12. Slaman.

    One: The trouble with Irshad is that her beliefs are not recognizable as Islam and yet she embraces the label of being a Muslim spokesperson.

    Two: I as an English speaking convert to Islam have never thought speaking Arabic was a requirement of Islam and believe Islam to be a universal religion not one solely for Arabs.

    Three: If a public figure wants to claim the label of Muslim then critical analysis of that assertion is valid. The Islam I know and subscribe to is the Islam is based on the five pillars.

    Four: From your asinine and wrongheaded claims in your comments I can tell that you probably missed the fact that am I opposed to terrorism. One can be opposed to both terrorism and people that claim to be Muslim but refuse to observe any Muslim norms.

    Five: I feel that you attack anyone who opposes Manji just because you like her. Manji is not synonymous with self-criticism within Islam. She wrote a book, has gotten a lot of press, but is not an authority on all things Islam.

  13. “I think this is a peculiarly Western phenomenon of reading one book or article or listening to a lecture and to arrogantly think we are now competent to compete and debate with the scholars of the deen past and present and even with the Companions. ”
    Wow you have no probem making sweeping generalizations. Nobody but a Westerner is capable of being a know it all? I don’t think so. This is untrue in this instance and also generally untrue.

  14. Amatullah said:

    “it humbles you knowing that Allah ta’ala has chosen you to be among those who taste the sweetness of faith–and knowing that you would give up this world and whatever is in it to keep that faith.
    Allah chooses you? Or do you choose Allah? By the way Allah is the same Allah for Christians, Muslims and Jews.

  15. Katie: Anyone is capable of reading one book and thinking that makes her or him an expert on a issue. I don’t think the generalization is too broad or incorrect and anyone familiar with Muslim communities in western lands knows that within the western Muslim context imbued with an ingrained sense of western normative values that this is a common phenomenon. In this specific context, Manji is thoroughly western as are many of the popular pundits on Islam, who have very little to show in the way of recognized scholarship in Islamic sciences.

  16. This post written five years ago makes me cringe, I’m thinking of deleting it. It’s not something I would have written or even agree with now. But we’re human and we make mistakes. The important thing is to acknowledge the mistake and learn from its lessons as we move forward.

    1. Salaam Ify,

      I have been following your blog for a while now. I really enjoy your insights and while there are some things I agree with and others not so much. I don’t feel you should delete this particular post (even though I don’t agree with it!) as its a reminder of how we change our views, stances and its good to see how we keep growing and are able to be more open to new ideas or willing to just agree to disagree without feeling defensive.

      Wish you the very best and look forward to more of your views and experiences.


  17. Salam Maliha, thank you for reading and for your thoughts. A friend recently told me that she was pleasantly surprised by the evolution of my views over the years. Reading over previous posts does help me understand where I’ve been as I move forward. It’s challenging to break away from the groupthink mentality of the mob and to say what one really believes.

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