Donkeys Carrying Books or Just Donkeys?

I sincerely thank both Wietske Merison and Shayan Parsai for these angelic adhans. Gratitude should be given where it is due, and these adhans are just supernal and beautiful.


An enduring image is found in Surah al-Jumu‘a, where God describes a people who inherit the word of God. They inherit the linguistic practices of a thing, but, substantively, they are entirely removed from the meanings of the words that they are supposed to have inherited. Surah al-Jumu‘a describes such people as if they are donkeys carrying books (Q 62:5), because one of the most powerful and vain temptations is to assume that just because you have inherited a linguistic practice and a phraseology, just because you have inherited a system of phrases, words, meanings, and values, you are in any way an authentic representative of what you have inherited.


God alerts us that so often, the bearers of knowledge, the bearers of norms, the bearers of the message, the bearers of guidance, the bearers of the memory of a prophet or prophets, the bearers of the memory of ahl al-bayt, without realizing it are, indeed, like donkeys carrying books. Their state is such that just because they engage in the symbolism of the thing, just because their parents, Shaykh, or Islamic organization treats them as if they embody and represent the substance of what is in these books, just because of the outer appearance, they are actually tempted to feel that they are knowledgeable, ethical, and good Muslims. In short, they are tempted to think that they are people of God and bearers of the light. In reality, however, they are no more than donkeys carrying books. The system of moral norms that they are supposed to embody, as inheritors of the books, is no longer effective or meaningful to them. So they have become donkeys carrying books. 


But remember that what God says in Surah al-Jumu'a is generalizable to any people who fail to embody the substance of the moral message. More specifically and explicitly, God is talking about the example of the Israelites who, at one point, were the bearers of the message of monotheism and the bearers of rebellion against slavery and oppression, who once represented the rise of the persecuted against the persecutor, who were once the living embodiment of how injustice and oppression cannot be tolerated. But the Qur’an is telling us that through the years, these people became committed to rituals that no longer meant anything. They became committed to an ideology of exclusivity, selectivity, and entitlement. They became committed to the notion of historical promises even if their belief in the historical promise leads to the extermination of tribes and peoples, which did happen, as we read in the Bible. God tells them, "Do not dare think that you are the bearers of something real, you are but donkeys carrying books." 


There are two prongs, two aspects to this khutbah that are equally important. In our day, we see so many Israelites embody the metaphor of donkeys carrying books. At the same time, we see so many Muslims embody the exact same metaphor. 


Let me be very clear about things. Since I last stood at this podium, since I gave my last khutbah, I have come under the most vicious and virulent attacks by Zionist extremists in the United States and all over. I have stopped counting the number of publications talking about the UCLA law professor who is an antisemite and the concerted attempts to get me fired from my university. Or, if not get me fired, then at least to stain my reputation. 


Of course, when you say about a professor of international law and of international human rights that they are nothing but an antisemite and a Jew hater, the implication is clear: they are not in any way driven by the nature of the evidence before them; they are driven by a pathological hatred that does not respond to reason nor evidence; it is simply irrational, unjustified, and inexplicable, like all prejudice and bigotry. I am accused of holding unjustified and inexplicable hatred for the Jewish people. “The Jewish people are doing nothing wrong. They are just defending themselves. They are just minding their own business, exercising the most natural right a human being can have, the right to self-defense.” They are accusing yours truly, and people like me, of acting upon a blind, pathological hatred. 


All those who hear this khutbah should know that there is a concerted effort to malign me, defame me, and get me fired from my university. There are threats of pulling donations. But it is not just threats to the school that employs me. I have educated generations of law students, including generations of Jewish law students who have gone on to have brilliant careers worthy of their Jewish identity and the Jewish tradition. In all my years of teaching, I challenge them to find a single Jewish student who will say that Khaled Abou El Fadl was unfair to them, marginalized them, or did not give their opinions and points of view a fair opportunity. They will not. They may well invent a student, of course, but if we are talking about playing fair, they will not find such a student. 


But this brings us back to something critical. They are livid because they know that I have touched upon a truth that has escaped my fellow Muslims who, for all their rhetoric, are as if donkeys carrying books. Donkeys carrying books are not threatening to anyone—after all, they are just donkeys. They may think they are intelligent, but the outsider knows that these donkeys do not understand or know a thing. 


So, what finally triggered these people after so many years of trying to ignore my existence? Once upon a time, when I was a presidential appointee, Zionist organizations were extremely concerned. I will never forget how, after Bush left office, Daniel Pipes wrote an article, bragging, “Khaled Abou El Fadl used to be an important person, but we have succeeded in marginalizing him. Now, he is nothing more than just an imam giving khutbahs.” In other words, he is no longer any threat or concern, for he no longer represents prestige and legitimacy within society. Daniel Pipes wrote this gleefully, and the Canary Mission removed me from their lists, as if to say “He is no longer relevant.” What is sad and tragic is that Pipes had a point, but my marginality did not come from the fact that Pipes and company had managed to convince the powers that be in the White House, Congress, or the federal government. He was right for a very different reason, a reason far more tragic. He was right because of the ignorance of Muslims themselves, Muslims who are truly donkeys carrying books.


Those who marginalized me were my fellow Muslims. But they did not marginalize me because they disliked what I said about the record of systematic human rights abuses committed by the state of Israel against a people under occupation. No, my fellow Muslims marginalized me because they are donkeys carrying books. Because they do not read. Because their relationship to the books on their bookshelves is merely for display. When my fellow Muslims encounter someone who actually understands the books, instead of just carrying them, they are stumped. My fellow Muslims marginalize whoever represents anything beyond the status of a donkey carrying books. So, while Daniel Pipes was gloating about how I had become irrelevant, if Pipes was honest, he would have thanked Muslims. He would have said, "Thank you, Muslims, for being donkeys carrying books." Thank those who speculate about how Khaled Abou El Fadl is a Shi’a, a liberal, a Mu'tazili, and then, as a result, pretend that the voice of Khaled Abou El Fadl does not exist. Have you seen a more idiotic group of people than us? 


How many Muslims meet the standard of professional competence, whether through difficult universities, legitimate degrees, or serious intellectual production. This man before you has won an award that was never won by a practicing Muslim, not before and not since. I am referring to the Oslo Human Rights Award. The Oslo Human Rights Award has gone to plenty of secular people, and the few Muslims to whom it has been given were thoroughly secular Muslims. Yours truly was the only believing and practicing Muslim. Do you know who expressed concern, anxiety, and fear? Yes, the Daniel Pipes of the world. Do you know the reaction of my fellow Muslims? Not even a “congratulations.” Nothing from the Hamza Yusufs of the world. Nothing from the imams in Bayan and Zaytuna. I am the only practicing Muslim to have been honored by the American Academy of Religion (AAR). The AAR is the organization for true scholars who work on religion. So, when the Academy honored a Muslim for his contribution to religious thought in our modern world, do you think that there are Muslims who congratulated me? Do you think I received email after email from my fellow Muslims saying, "Mabrook, brother." No! Think again. It is as if Khaled Abou El Fadl never won that award.


Again, the Daniel Pipes people became worried, concerned, and agitated. But as I said before, “Sweethearts, why bother yourself? Why are you so worried? You do not know how useless we are, how we are but donkeys carrying books.” Not a single Muslim, even Muslims that I have known all my life, like the people from the Islamic Center of Southern California, the people from MPAC, the people that were raised by Maher Hathout who I consider to be a second father, not a single one of them said congratulations.


Here is some of what I have been receiving. Someone wrote about how it is disgusting that this is what legal education has come to. He says that I spew vile and racist rants that teach hatred and bias against Jews. Another guy is a little bit more colorful. He wrote, "What are you? Who are you? Why are you so sick? Do you have a family? How would you like your family members to be tied to a tree and raped from the front and back? How would you like babies in your family to be placed in kitchen ovens at 450 degrees? How would you like to watch your family members be dismembered while you sit and watch? You can take your twisted sick ideology and shove it. You can take your progressive law protection at UCLA and think you are safe. Well, you are not. Going after Hindus and Jews. Whoa, you are a tough guy. Anytime you want to meet at Janss Steps to have a discussion, you let me know. Best, J.D."


There is more. There is a man that I have known for 30 years, a man who, at one time, I hoped to educate about Islam and to receive an education about Judaism. A man who, a long time ago, I used to sit in his Talmud class to learn about the moral lessons and moral anchor of the Talmudic tradition. This man is Chaim Seidler-Feller, the head of Hillel at UCLA. He is a very influential man. Not because he has any academic post of substance, but because the synagogue from which he ministers and the religious establishment that he controls has the ear of many influential people at UCLA. This man, who has known me for 30 years, who I used to consider a friend, wrote me a very sweet and short message: "Your recent fulminations are nothing less than the disgraceful rants of a raging lunatic. What a shame. You have now joined the ranks of those who are committed to fomenting hatred and divisiveness."


It all gives the impression that they are not donkeys carrying books, but that they represent a substantive thing. What are they upset about? “How dare you say that Israel is creating a roadmap for the racist, fanatic Indian government? How dare you say that they are creating a roadmap for how to commit genocide and an ethnic cleansing and get away with it? How dare you say that the Indian authorities themselves have repeatedly praised and supported Israel for its lessons in how to implement the same exact thing in Kashmir?” The clear implication is that I am just a donkey carrying books.


Let us just go through samples of headlines. This one comes from The EurAsian Times, "Indians ‘Join’ Israel's War On Gaza! Scores Of Emigrated Members Serve IDF To Fight ‘Terror Group’ Hamas." The article goes on to explain why Indians are so excited about Israel's “war against Hamas,” but it is really against the Palestinian people. Another headline reads, "India's Hindu nationalists are using the Israel-Hamas war to their advantage." Here is another headline, this time from The Jerusalem Post: "Over 200 Indian Bnei Menashe Jews join IDF's fight against Hamas." Another article from India Today: “Why people from India are armed and ready in Israel to fight Hamas.” There was a video published by the Hindustan Times: "Israel In Awe Of ‘Influential Power India’; Thankful To Indians Volunteering To Fight Hamas." There is an article from Al Jazeera: “Modi’s lesson from Israel: Demolish Muslim homes, erase their history.” “Report on ‘India’s Impunity in Kashmir’ Reveals Israel Connection.” "India's impunity in Kashmir surveillance counterinsurgency and the politics of fear." “Israel-Palestine war: Why Hindu nationalists are backing Israel against Hamas.” From Middle East Monitor, “‘Enlist us to fight Gaza jihadis’ - Hindu extremists urge Israel.” It is well documented by human rights organizations that Hindu nationalists are volunteering to join the Israeli military so that they can have the pleasure of murdering Muslims. “India bars protests that support the Palestinians. Analysts say a pro-Israel shift helps at home.” There is another article from New Delhi News about how Indian mercenaries who joined the Israeli army were killed and their bodies retrieved. Another article: “Indian-Origin Soldier, 34, Killed In Gunfight With Hamas In Gaza Strip.” Another article from The Washington Post by Rana Ayub: “India’s ruling party is using the Israel-Gaza war to demonize Muslims.” Yet another article comes from The Diplomat: “India’s Digital Footprint on the Israel-Gaza War: Pro-Israel content – including disinformation – is being widely shared on social media by Indian nationals, more significantly by right-wing Hindu nationalists.” 


Article after article is discussing the obvious. Israel loves to claim that they have the most moral and ethical army in the world. This is like donkeys carrying books. If this is the most moral army, then ethics and morality mean nothing whatsoever. This is an army that bombs indiscriminately. This is an army that targets medical workers and ambulances. This is an army that shoots people point blank and prevents anyone from coming to their aid until they bleed out to die. This is an army that has been caught, time and again, arresting people and shooting them while they are handcuffed and blindfolded. This is an army for which there are so many testimonies of families saying, "Our fathers, our children, our brothers were executed before our eyes." 




This is a picture of one of the first Hindu military units. The unit has a horrible human rights record. It fights with the Israeli army and is responsible for numerous atrocities committed against Palestinians, including rape and the murder of children. 





These are Indian soldiers who are laughing and joking after murdering Palestinian children. Laying in their bed, laughing among the blankets that these poor Palestinian children used to enjoy. The Israeli army knows full well about the atrocities committed by the Hindu extremists, but they do not care. There is a video of a woman talking about the massacre of her family, and there are numerous videos just like that one. There are videos in which mothers and grandmothers testify. You can see that the men were clearly killed execution style. Even a child was clearly killed execution style. The mothers, grandmothers, and sometimes female neighbors are left to testify how these men were gathered and killed right before their families.


What is the response of the great moralists in the Israeli army? What is the response of Chaim Seidler-Feller? What is the response? "Do not believe Palestinians. They do it to themselves. It could be all an act. They are pretending to have died, and they are setting up Israel by saying the Israelis killed these people in front of us. As soon as the cameras go away, these people will spring up, play soccer, and enjoy a nice cold drink." But if these people actually look truly dead, and if it is clear that they are not going to get up, play soccer, and enjoy a cold drink, "They were terrorists killed in combat. We know Palestinians lie, because that is what Muslims and Arabs do. That is what colonized people do. That is what subaltern people do. That is what indigenous, annihilated populations do. They lie to frame their colonizer and oppressor. Do not dare believe a Palestinian when a Palestinian tells you about their suffering. A Palestinian can never be believed because a Palestinian is born a liar, lives a liar, and will die a liar." Guess what? For all you who continue to threaten me and try to get me fired, this is precisely what the Nazis said about the Jewish victims as they exterminated them. “Jews are liars. Jews are conniving. Jews hurt themselves. They kill themselves. We do not kill them. Do not believe Jewish propaganda, it is all a lie. Do not believe them when they tell you that they are being exterminated en masse.” This is precisely what the Israelis say about the Palestinians, and that is precisely why the Israelis are indistinguishable from the Nazis who were responsible for the Holocaust. But these people are such donkeys carrying books. The Netanyahus and Ben-Gvirs of the world actually believe the lie about their own morality.


What did these people get so upset about? They got upset that I said that Israel is using pornography as an instrument of war against Palestinians; Israel has learned that a steady dose of pornography weakens the faith of the Palestinian people, making them less than eager to resist and stand against oppression. They said, "How dare you? We are the moral and ethical Israeli army." So, let me share this from Evie Magazine: "Porn Is A Weapon Used In Psychological Warfare."  The proof is in this article that discusses how Israel is using porn as an instrument of warfare against Palestinians. From The Sydney Morning Herald: "Porn run on seized TV channels." The paper explains that Israel went into Ramallah, seized Palestinian television stations, and started broadcasting pornography. But these people do not care whether it is true or not. They know that it is easily verifiable, but they are like donkeys carrying books.


The truth does not concern them. It is all about image. To them, it is all about posturing. Here is a detailed article from Medium: "Pornographic Weaponization Against The Palestinians By Israel." It is a detailed study about how Israel uses pornography as a weapon against Palestinians. If you wish, you can also read this book by E. Michael Jones, Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control, published in 1996. The book starts with a detailed discussion of how Israel has turned pornography into an instrument of war against Palestinians. E. Michael Jones is not an antisemite, and I do not even think he cares much about Israel or Palestine.


It is like Nicole Jenes said, "You cannot threaten someone who is not afraid to die." So, go ahead. Threaten me. Do what you want. Try to shut this voice up. Go ahead. I fear only God. But there is another thing you should know about me: I do not care what anyone thinks of me, including all Muslims. So, go ahead and malign me with Muslims all you want. Invent whatever information you can invent about me. Go ahead and engineer whatever scandal your heart desires. So long as I know the nature of my relationship with God, I do not care if every Muslim on the face of this earth hates Khaled Abou El Fadl. It means nothing to me. Go ahead, take your best shot. You are criminals. You have no ethics. You have no morality. You are donkeys carrying books, just like most of my fellow Muslims, sadly. 


Is it not profound, does it not speak volumes, that it is South Africa that brought the case before the International Court of Justice? To bring forward a case like this costs money. South Africa does not sit on billions of dollars like Saudi Arabia or the Emirates, but they still spent money out of their own pockets. The International Court of Justice, in its typically constrained and political language, said, "Yes, there is a plausible case that a genocide is being committed and Israel should stop immediately.” Of course, Israel essentially responded, "Screw you," because Israel is supported by the U.S., which gave the same response: "Screw you." All the countries that pretend to be countries of moral books are, in reality, nothing more than donkeys carrying books. These countries feign a very weak display of concern. We have presented piles of evidence before Karim Khan, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, yet the same man who could not indict Putin fast enough has done nothing. He could only write a shameful, embarrassing, idiotic op-ed in London that has left international lawyers puzzled, asking, "What the heck is this man saying?"


As a result, the most prominent and distinguished international law professors signed a letter telling the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, "You are derelict in your duties. You have breached your obligations, and you must promptly resign." Here is the open letter: Open letter to the Assembly of State Parties regarding the ICC Office of the Prosecutor’s engagement with the Situation in Palestine. It is signed by prominent professors of international law and international human rights, all of whom I am sure the Chaim Seidler-Fellers of the world will accuse of being antisemites. These distinguished professors who have played a critical role in educating the world about the evils of the Holocaust are now saying that the International Criminal Court has failed miserably in its duties after evidence of Israeli war crimes has been presented to it, time and again. Yet Karim Khan, who cares about his political career in Britain more than anything else, is doing nothing. 


I do not care what Muslims think anymore. I am done with pretending. What does the dear United Arab Emirates do? Do they help South Africa bring Israel to accountability? Do they use their substantial wealth to punish Israel for the genocide it is committing? Do they do anything remotely helpful to their fellow Muslims? No, instead they hire American mercenaries to kill Yemenis. Then, on top of that, the Hamza Yusufs and Zaid Shakirs of the world publish little cartoons saying, "A Muslim should not mock another Muslim." Do you hear a peep from them about the disgusting immorality of the UAE? No. Do you hear a peep from them about the disgusting immorality of Saudi Arabia that has just opened the first bar in the Holy Land? No, of course not. Is there a chance that you will ever find the Canary Mission or any of the Zionist organizations targeting Hamza Yusuf, Zaid Shakir, or any of these people? Of course not. 


But let me tell you how it goes with people like me. I built my career alone with God’s aid. No Muslim ever helped me. I went through school earning scholarships and fellowships paid by non-Muslims. My education was paid for by non-Muslims. My law degree, my PhD, and even my undergraduate degree was paid for by Jewish donors, atheist donors, and donors of all types, but not Muslim donors. None of my education was supported by Muslim money. Even now, as I come under attack, as these organizations seek to get me fired, and as these organizations threaten my family, where are Muslims? Nowhere to be seen. 


Do you think Muslims are saying, "Brother, just tell us, how much can we donate to support you?" Nothing. Muslims, once upon a time, a man in California named Safi Qureshey, talked the big talk. "I am a wealthy Muslim who donated millions to the University of Irvine, who has donated to the Bayan Institute and the Islamic Center of Southern California. Look at me, I am a wealthy Muslim. Praise me, treat me like a king." In the end, he supported us with nothing. In Columbus, Jawad Shah told me, "Oh, you have been carrying the burden for so long, it is time that you let us carry it with you, brother." "Mashallah, what do you want, Jawad?" "Give me your library and I will support you, brother." "No, you cannot have my library, Jawad." And with that, I received not a dime of support.


So Daniel Pipes and the Canary Mission can be happy and rejoice. I stand alone with my God because my fellow Muslims do not exist. My fellow Muslims do not help or support. My fellow Muslims are only interested in whether or not I am a Mu'tazili, Shi’a, or liberal. 


This is my testimony. I do not know if I am going to be alive next week, the week after, or the year after. I do not know how long, but I can tell the end is near. I know that the end is near and there is no more time for lies, theater, or for donkeys carrying books. It is more honorable that we just be donkeys. It is more honorable that we put the books aside, admit we are donkeys, and bray like donkeys. Zaid Shakir, Hamza Yusuf, and Bin Bayyah are all pretenders. So, too, are all the wealthy Muslims who have let generations of people like Khaled Abou El Fad perish alone, unsupported, without help. All the little players in the Islamic Center of Southern California, the dentist, the guy who owns a sports store, who go around pretending, "Oh, we are Muslim scholars, we were taught by Maher Hathout,” are donkeys carrying books. Set aside the books and just be donkeys, for God’s sake. That is my testimony before God. 


May God forgive me and forgive you, and especially forgive those of us who are on the erroneous way. May God forgive our sins and forgive us for being donkeys carrying books. God, inspire in us the strength to put the books aside and just be donkeys. If there is no hope that we are going to read these books, that we will be intelligent and actually be something useful to this world, then at least give us the strength to put the books aside and just be donkeys.

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