Analysis of “Fallout”: Using Ruqya for Sexual Violations, and The Cult Justifications

Analysis of “Fallout”: Using Ruqya for Sexual Violations, and The Cult Justifications

Below are 20 points from the Fallout Story that deserve an analysis and explanation.  The story revolves around a shaykh forcefully kissing and touching multiple women and the group justifying it through bogus spiritual reasoning. “Ali” who was once a murid of the shaykh took a stance against the abusive shaykh and was outcasted and demonized. The group’s defense of the shaykh’s actions, and blame for victims and the person speaking out are a typical theme in such situations. The points below are beneficial for anyone who seeks to understand and guard against vicious group mentality.

 

  1. Ruqya (spiritual healing)

While dealing in ruqya the prohibition of touching a non-mahram remains. It is not permissible for a male to ask a woman to  undress or to touch her for ruqya. Ruqya is often used as an avenue for fondling and sexual assault, and this includes male perpetrators to male victims.

The analogy of a raqi (spiritual healer) to a doctor is invalid from several angles, namely a doctor’s treatment requires some physical contact, while ruqya does not require it.  Recitation from a distance is sufficient.

Here is a related excerpt:

APPENDIX E

IMAM ‘ABD AL-WAHAB AL-SHA’RANI (D. 973 AH)

The Muhammadan Covenants

Covenant Eighty-one
Below is an excerpt from The Muhammadan Covenants by Imam al-Sha’rani.

ON SHAYKHS TOUCHING WOMEN WHILE ADMINISTERING RUQYA

“A general covenant has been taken from us by the Messenger of Allah s that we never seclude ourselves with an unrelated woman with whom we fear falling into temptation (fitna), even if we are the most righteous of the righteous. This covenant is neglected by many of the naïve Sufis, especially those from the Ahmadi, Burhani, and Qadiri orders. They take the covenant (‘ahd) from a woman according the etiquettes of their spiritual order, but afterwards they will visit her privately in her husband’s absence. This is a clear-cut example of delusion. And to any of the Sufis who say “All praise is due to Allah, we are protected from such things!” we say that one of two possible conditions apply to you. You are either naïve in heart, and if so, there is nothing that will prevent you from falling into what is forbidden. Or you are intelligent and comprehend matters.

   If you are the former, Iblis has used a stratagem against you as he did against your forefather Adam, when he swore a solemn oath that he was of those who give sincere counsel. And if you are the latter and can grasp the disrepute [that seclusion can result in], then you are from the Party of Iblis, and it is inevitable that you will fall into immoral acts.”

   The Sacred Law’s prohibition [of seclusion] is general and applies to all people; if someone claims a state that excludes him from the general prohibition we belie him, for Allah (Glorified and Exalted is He!) never forbids anything upon the blessed tongue of His Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) while secretly permitting any of his followers to do what contravenes the Sacred Law of His Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace). Know this and be on guard against that which Allah Most Exalted has warned you against.

 Shaykh Abu Bakr al-Hadidi (may Allah benefit us through his blessings) once saw Shaykh Muhammad al-‘Adl placing his hand on the stomach of a woman as he was reciting (ruqya) over her to treat an illness she had. Upon seeing this, Shaykh Abu Bakr yelled at the top of his lungs, “O our Din! O Muhammad! How dare you place your hand on the stomach of an unrelated woman! Are you divinely protected from error (ma’sum)?” Such was his response even though both were from the Friends of Allah (Awliya).

Beware, therefore, of secluding yourself with an unrelated woman. Beware! And should you forget this, send the woman away until she either brings another woman along with her or brings a Mahram [spouse or unmarriageable male kin]—“and Allah is All-Knowing, Wise.”…

  1. The response to the allegations implied that the assaults against Aisha were justified by those in positions of power because they were occurring for the tarbiya (spiritual edification) of the women.

Tarbiya must be halal. The means for guidance and edification are known and may not contravene the sacred law. Just as a parent is not allowed to nourish their child with unlawful foods, a spiritual guide cannot provide what he feels is tarbiya through unlawful means.

  1.  M1 went on to insist that the average Muslims (‘awam) would not have the capacity to understand the spiritual reality of the Shaykh’s actions.  

Here we see the distinction drawn between the average Muslim and the ‘elect.’ Indeed, special spiritual matters,unveilings, or stories are not supposed to be discussed carelessly as they may confuse people. The fear is that Muslims not advanced in their understanding of Islamic law will assume that spiritual understandings override the law because they don’t understand how the law is not contravened. In this story, however, and in many abusive groups, the group believes that spiritual ‘realities’ (haqiqa) do in fact override law, and that is a higher level of understanding that cannot be understand via the sharia’. This is total misguidance. Haqiqa is being used to justify actions that are not in sync with sharia’. Never in our religion is violating the sharia’ accepted based on reasoning from spiritual experiences. The khaas and awaam distinction here falsely suggests that elite Muslims have understood that the sacred law may be overridden in matters of haqiqa.

In the absence of an objective moral code and criteria for judgment (the sharia’), anyone can commit an immoral act and avoid blame by appealing to the ‘awam-khawwas’ dichotomy. Unfortunately, this is very common in spiritual groups, and even those who acquire a reputation of sticking to the sharia’ do this when it comes to their own shaykh or even muqaddams. They then blame victims and those who stand to defend the sharia’ as being veiled. Simultaneously, the shaykh’s actions have hidden wisdom and justification that the victim and onlookers cannot comprehend due to low spiritual stations.


  1. Shaykh ‘Adil began talking about a murida who has sexual feelings when she sees men and asked if she also gets the same feelings. S5 replied that she didn’t, but Shaykh ‘Adil continued to hound her about sexual feelings.  

This is one way sexual predators break barriers with their targets. They insist on opening uncomfortable topics and continuing sexual conversations, while making them seem mundane or purposeful. Casually speaking about sexual matters without change of facial expression confuses the target. Taboo topics become commonplace, and the barriers to prevent escalation are not identified as being broken. Here, Shaykh ‘Adil asks these uncomfortable questions to open a conversation about sexuality and S5’s own sexual feelings. Such a conversation may itself prove stimulating for Shaykh ‘Adil, but it also allows for future discussions of a sexual nature. When S5, feeling uncomfortable, wanted to end this conversation, he kept going, attempting to uncover more private feelings.

  1.  Shaykh ‘Adil admitted to kissing her on the mouth, but claimed that he did not intend anything evil, nor did he experience anything sexual, nor was he aroused.

Intentions do not matter in haram actions. The prohibition of touching a non-related member of the opposite sex is not conditioned by the presence of sexual desire, experience, or bad intentions. This lie is consistent with the tariqa’s separation of sharia and haqiqa, where the alleged state of the Shaykh is a justification for a haram action. Moreover, it is critical not to suspend our better judgment. Just ask yourself, why would a man would even kiss a lady on the mouth if he has no sexual desires?

  1. He also asserted that the Shaykh is not infallible, and that he personally categorized what had transpired as nothing more than a ‘mistake in the shaykh’s ijtihad’ (legal reasoning).

In such cases, the first defense is usually denying the accusations. Then, once the action is proven or admitted, being fallible is used as an excuse. This premise minimizes predatory and abusive behavior as if they are minor slips and mere human imperfections. When someone is hurting others, we must take the means to prevent that harm and not treat it as if it is a private matter that doesn’t damage others. For example, if the Shaykh were to have drunk alcohol, there would be a stronger argument for the obligation of covering the sin rather than exposing it. Likewise, if he consumed haram meat and repented, there would not be a need to expose it. However, when he harms others, protecting others from his harm and helping victims seek justice takes priority.

Furthermore, ijtihad cannot turn a haram matter into halal.

  1. He went on to insinuate that these women lacked moral value in the sight of the spiritual leaders involved, asserting that ‘one woman owned a dog and the other smoked cigarettes,’ thereby invalidating anything else either woman had to say.  

Even if it were true that the targeted women “lacked moral values,” this does not serve as an excuse to violate them. There is never an excuse to sexually assault another person- ever. One does not have to reach a piety benchmark to have the right not to be attacked.

It is common to use victims’ shortcomings, whether totally false, grey areas, or true, to justify abuse against them. This is total nonsense, but something I’ve come across a lot. For example, I have witnessed religious leaders dismiss women who wear tight clothing or do not wear hijab that were duped into secret or temporary marriages where their rights were clearly violated. They are said to be “not all that innocent.” This is after acknowledging her allegations as true, and confirming the specific raised allegations. Right and wrong quickly become only as crucial as the empathy extended to those wronged. Justice is not predicated on feelings. One does not have to be perfect to have their rights protected.

Another tactic used against those raising allegations of abuse is to interview their friends or acquaintances––asking them questions in such a way as to paint the victim as either mentally unstable or unsociable. Not only do such sham investigations slander victims and cover for the abusers, but they capriciously dismiss the fact that vulnerable people are targeted precisely because of how easily they can be dismissed.

I use the term ‘tactic’  here because it connotes those actions or strategies that are carefully planned or executed to achieve a specific outcome, while simultaneously acknowledging in other circles that they are in deep trouble because they know the allegations are truthful. The ‘investigation’ becomes a public relations effort rather than an attempt for justice. An organization, after realizing the depth of crime that took place, may decide to retell the victim’s claims to discredit them. This strategy involves inventing gray areas for dispute or claiming the victim ‘has other extenuating issues’ ––implying that they are mentally imbalanced. Lastly, when relationships are consensual, but the wrongs existed within the context of a consensual relationship such as not giving the agreed upon bridal payment, the premise of consent is used to drop the issue as ‘private matter’ ––therefore making the accusation something to be handled in-house.

  1. This was not the first time Hassan was told that Shaykh ‘Adil had behaved inappropriately with women.  

Abusers often have long histories of abuse that are covered up by loyalists.

  1. As a result of Ali’s tenacity and persistence in seeking truth to secure justice for the wronged women, Ali and his wife have become the target of vicious slander and reproach from Hassan for daring to speak out against such a noble shaykh.  

The standard procedure for those who speak out against abusers in their group is as follows:

  1. Attempts to clear up the ‘misunderstanding.’
  2. Apologies by the guilty parties or compromises that will prevent any further speaking out or warning against them.
  3. Shaming for speaking out and not respecting the shaykh. Often coupled with blaming the person for speaking out and not seeing the ‘greater good.’
  4. Ostracizing and slandering the one speaking out. What was once shared as private information among friends or matters confided in the Shaykh is now used against the one speaking out to discredit.
  5. Sometimes threats are made, and far less common, those threats are followed up on, turning violent or harmful in other ways.

Usually, even while in stage one, the shaykh and those around him have already gone on the offensive, and there is a private slander campaign taking place behind the scene. Steps 1 and 2 are generally done insincerely and seen as quick solutions used to placate the one speaking out before disposing of them. 

  1. Despite the fact it had been emphasized several times during the exchange that what Shaykh ‘Adil did was wrong and his behavior could not be justified, leaving any question as to the veracity of accusations made whatsoever, the blame remained solely on Ali for not letting the issue go. 

Unfortunately, whether an Islamic institution, a Sufi tariqa, or a group, scandals are typically viewed as ‘inconvenient’ rather than morally reprehensible. These groups often function as social clubs, and those not affected turn the lone moral voice who refuses to let the party continue into the new target.

Those not targeted are happy to ignore the abuse and preserve all the positive memories of their nasheeds and retreats. Their own spirituality is cultivated in venues which distance themselves from their own victims. Blocking out and ignoring oppression that one can change, and instead focusing on yourself, is seen as a lofty spiritual station.

Furthermore, the heinousness of sexual assault is sometimes minimized as if it is just a ‘slip’ similar to a consensual lustful act where both parties just fall victim to their own temptations.  Sexual assault, by definition, is not consensual but is minimized when viewed on the same spectrum as a man succumbing to ‘temptation.’

Finally, when those targeted are all women, the unaffected women will often encourage a man speaking out to forget the issues among women, share anecdotes about women not being able to get along and all being crazy. I’ve experienced this personally many times, and have had countless others share similar experiences. The shaykhas and ustadhas in these groups are often the leading aggressors against abused women.

  1. Adam, had taken in the past a strong collective stance against other corrupt religious figures.  

Often people will take stances against abusers they don’t like or don’t have a particular loyalty to. Many of them will still be defensive of other abusers. Therefore, it is vital to not make heroes out of people or assume those who have done the right thing in one instance are beyond doing the same actions in another scenario.

  1. They also informed Adam that the Shaykh had since made tawba (repentance) and took steps to ensure that he would not be alone with women again. 

Ali tells me that “their story keeps changing and that all but one of the victims was contacted and apologized to; they continue to be slandered for speaking the truth.”  Furthermore, even if he made tawba and apologized, it is a violation of trust that makes it impossible for him to serve as a Shaykh of tarbiyya. A murid’s relationship with his Shaykh cannot continue if there is a break in the amana.

Furthermore, tawba also requires outward signs of change and remorse. Unfortunately, in cases of child sexual abuse in particular, it is still common for organizations not to take any meaningful action, allowing the predator move from one organization to another, and at best, claim they will contact other organizations and not let him around children.  Fourteen times I have directly spoken to those expressing regret for not taking the necessary steps the first time they learned of a perpetrator’s child sexual abuse. In most cases this conversation was in the context of another incident arising. This includes religious leaders who thought the perpetrator would be remedied by spending time with a shaykh.

I know directly of a handful of tariqas where the leading shaykh was made aware and acknowledged secret temporary marriages by murids. Each shaykh stated they would ‘discipline’ their murid. This shows the shaykhs acknowledged the actions of the murids were wrong and that the morality of the actions were not a point of dispute.  In the best case, the murid was ‘banned’ from teaching women, but even that was a short-lived ‘ban’ that lasted at most six months. Even other religious leaders who want justice for those wronged are often reluctant to bring up the case to the leader of a tariqa and understandably see it as pointless when one figure has the only and final say.

Conference organizers or institutions associated with perpetrators may claim to keep a ‘watchful eye,’ but the reality is this is impossible. Furthermore, why should they even promote a figure who needs such surveillance? We have to be realistic that such surveillance is nearly impossible and a major circumventing of justice and responsibility.

  1. The zawiya paid for by public donations made in good faith ended up being registered as Shaykh ‘Adil’s private property.  

It is very common for a zawiya or purported endowment or communal property to, in reality, be the private property of the shaykh. We must always follow the Quranic injunction of transparency and accountability in financial transactions.

  1. Adam told Ali that the Messenger Allahis now “after you.”

This is a lie against the Prophetﷺ and it is a claim that Adam directs the Prophetﷺ about who to go after.  Adam also pled to the Prophetﷺ to deny Ali from drinking at the hawd and deny him intercession on the Day of Judgment. Bold claims like this are unfortunately seen as correct solely because of the confidence with which they are delivered. What outsiders correctly see as delusional, insiders see as charismatic.

 

Aisha’s account:

  1. Then the Shaykh confronted me in front of the other women, and said, “Do you know how old I am? And you’re not even that beautiful!”

This is another example of how the Shaykh denies the serious allegations against him by expounding upon his age as if this is a viable excuse as to why he should not be considered guilty for his egregious behavior. The Shaykh then compounds his trivializing indifference by cruelly besmirching the victim’s physical appearance (the implication being that no man would want her), making her look like the liar––not him.

  1. I laid on my bed in physical pain the whole night. He had convinced me and those around me that I was the one wrong, and how dare I backbite a wali.

It is not backbiting to warn others about harm, nor is it backbiting to inform those in a position of power to make a change, such as Ali or others in the tariqa.

  1. “I kissed you because this is haqiqa,” he had said. “You don’t know anything about haqiqa.”

    Shaykh Adil is not only defending his violation behind false spirituality, but he is further insulting Aisha by insinuating blame for her discomfort on her alleged ignorance
  2. Everyone remained convinced that I had backbitten a wali. I prayed to Allah to forgive me for backbiting an inheritor of the Prophet.

It is extremely common for victims of abusive marriages, sexual assault, etc., to internalize blame and feel there is something wrong inside them for feeling anger or speaking out about the abuse.  Many remain convinced their abuser is a wali, and symptoms they suffer after the abuse is sometimes assumed to be divine chastisement.  Furthermore, any station of being a “prophetic inheritor” must be consistently lived up to rather than assumed to stay constant.

While in abusive groups, the logic of the group will be permissive to abuse. The entire group exists and revolves around the lead figure, so it is unlikely to find support within it.  It is important to seek opinions outside of the group.

  1. It was incredibly humiliating to be asked something like that, but under husn al-zann [holding a good opinion] and adab towards the Shaykh, I replied to him even though he could sense my uneasiness.

A shaykh is supposed to be a guide for his students. Therefore, it is easy to exploit the concept of being a spiritual healer and guide to those who sincerely want to improve by getting them to open up about uneasy topics.  Murids/muridas will often feel that although conversations are uncomfortable, they are needed for growth. Likewise, they may make excuses as to why an otherwise inappropriate conversation would be appropriate since the aim is to heal and progress spiritually.

  1. Final word:

What may seem ‘ridiculous’ and ‘obvious’ to outsiders of such a group is often not obvious to those inside. When leaving abusive groups, one of the most important steps to recovery is to become rooted in a healthy community. Excuses of haqiqa and even statements of the Prophetﷺ being after someone is laughable to many reading this, but we have to understand that there are many Muslims who believe such arguments, and that should not make us callous towards them. We have to empathize with those who will believe rationalizations or be lured into abuse with what may be ‘obvious’ non-sense to us.

Many intelligent and learned Muslims, including high-achieving Islamic scholars, have been fooled by charlatans. Some reasons for even the most learned Muslim leaders being fooled include spiritual experience, including the transference of spiritual states, seeing breakings of the norm, and doubting oneself while seeing abuse by someone certified with an authentic chain from pious scholars. In other cases, students were vulnerable, naïve, or sincere to the point where they did not assume someone would so maliciously plot against them for no apparent reason.

Haram and abusive behavior is easily normalized in such groups when other credible figures vouch for the abuser or when others accept it as normal.  Haram behavior is generally justified through ta’weel (far off interpretations), not statements disregarding the importance of the sharia. Charlatans know the importance of paying lip-service to follow the sharia, which is why they have to justify their actions as still being halal. The normalization of strange ta’weel, such as using haqiqa to justify clear haram, slowly shifts group members’ thinking and makes them doubt themselves about matters that would have been obvious to them previously.

We become compassionate and can seek justice when we internalize the fact that that no one deserves to be abused, no matter how ‘ridiculous’ of a proposition a person may accept or how ‘naïve’ they were.  Only the abuser should be blamed for the abuse.

 

 

Related links:

Backlash
Sufi Tariqas

To contact, please email Danish@inshaykhsclothing.com

 

 

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