Supporting #HappyMuslims?: A Letter to Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad
BismillahiRahmaniRahim. La Hawla Wala Quwwata illa Billah. Hasbunallahu wa ni’mal Wakil.
I offer asalaamu’alaykum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh to Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad.
I pray this letter reaches you in the best of health and iman. I write this in a public setting given that I feel it is beneficial for others to see this address. I would also hope that you don’t mind, given that the issue I am writing to you about has already been openly endorsed and explained from your end. I suppose then that this letter is not simply directed towards you, but also everyone else that has supported the #HappyMuslims project.
I also wish to ask for forgiveness in that I personally feel I am unworthy of engaging you in a critical way, as I am nowhere close to your level of learning in our faith — and even matters outside of our faith. This address may seem then to be hypocritical, but I’ve felt compelled to write because of this annoyingly unsettling feeling I’ve had since I saw you in the #HappyMuslims video, which was a matter of shock and confusion for me. If it is of any compensation, I pray that my critical questions might be accepted on account of my Shaykh, Umar Vadillo, and his Shaykh, Abdalqadir as-Sufi, from which I’ve learned much of what I know today; my perspective being reflective of what they have taught me. I have always believed it is better to be a medium for others of greater learning, than to preach of my own views. If this is, please continue, as I have profound respect for you and I would genuinely like answers to my inquiries.
Recently, I purchased a wonderful and enlightening book written by you called The Commentary on the Eleventh Contentions. I was particularly taken in by Contention 39, which I agree with completely:
The challenge of modern Muslimness is to combine a confident dissent from the global culture with a sense of service and humility. Triumphalism is no less damaging to the soul than an inferiority complex. Where loyalty is to God, and love is for what humanity is called to become, the believer can combine pity for the monoculture’s shrunken victims with gratitude for God’s guidance.
Part of that gratitude and humility takes the form of a wise awareness that not everyone has the strength to be different. Human nature is conformist, and the monoculture increasingly demonises Muslim distinctiveness. Browbeaten Muslims, anxious to please, are everywhere; they are no use to their communities, or, ultimately, to their hosts, since they cannot function as healers, but only a chorus of frightened eulogist. Allah is testing us through them; and the only successful response to this test is to be forgiving, and to try and find an ointment for the scars inflicted by the melting-pot, as it grows hotter, year after year.
What confuses me is how different your statements here are to your participation in #HappyMuslims, as well as your recent clarification on the matter. A few things immediately stand out to me in the latter, which raises the question as to whether or not you’ve changed your position since the writing of Contentions, or contradicted yourself. The first issue I have may seem minor, but I feel it is difficult to ignore. You admit quite openly that:
I have no tie myself to this video, not having known the song or even heard of the singer before the final version appeared, or played any role in its editing. I did not know what it was! I appeared to be ‘happy’ in my own way, not in the way of the others, however that may be judged.
This is startling, in that your previous writing and speeches exude a profound sense of disciplined planning and knowledge. While I am certain no one will judge you for being “happy” — and I find it interesting that you would even think so — I am certain others will ask as to why you took part in something you had absolutely no knowledge of. I’m also confused as to how you were convinced to give your image and indirect support to those whom you knew little about regarding their intentions — or more importantly, their concept of haya, which you also openly opposed when you said:
There is much in the video that I would personally take issue with, as the kind of conservative who values the hadith, so quintessentially Muslim, that insists that ‘every umma has a particular quality, and the quality of my umma is modesty.’ (Ibn Majah) Gravamen and public restraint are surely part of the charm of Islam. In an age of unrestraint, we need to consider carefully the ways in which our traditions of modesty, for both genders, might be used as instruments by which a sad humanity can be called back to the truth. Modesty should not obstruct da’wa, but should facilitate it.
I do not mean to point these things out as a means to make a cheap shot. My intentions rather are to ask you how your lack of knowledge on the matter and your future condemnation of much of what was in the video itself — now also a vindication for many people who opposed the project — is related to the above quote in your Contentions. You call on us all to reject the monoculture and to be brave in the face of conformity. You also ask us to have mercy on many of those who lack the courage to do so– but you never say to join them, or “sit with them” in such a way as to vindicate their methods. The creators of #HappyMuslims used your image and your name for just that, and they saw themselves as “right” and their methods as productive. Why? Especially after you have said of such people that “they are no use to their communities, or, ultimately, to their hosts, since they cannot function as healers, but only a chorus of frightened eulogist.” 
I agree with you my respected Shaykh that these people deserve our mercy, our forgiveness, and our guidance for giving in to the monoculture, but I’m afraid I don’t understand why you’ve allowed them to include you in it and still do.
 Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad, Commentary on the Eleventh Contentions (Cambridge: Quilliam Press, 2012), 68.