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Muslim Syndromes

December 25, 2008

kr’s note: Over the years, I’ve often alluded to and referenced several “Muslim Syndromes” in speeches that highlight cultural peculiarities and social idiosyncrasies displayed by the American Muslim community. Several of you have asked me to describe these syndromes in greater detail–this post below is the result.

The term “syndrome” is often used in reference to a collection of notably recognizable clinical phenomena, signs, symptoms, and occurrences that often run together.  In fact, the word syndrome is derived from a Greek root and itself literally means “to run together.” Syndromes are aptly named so that the clinician may identify a salient symptom and in turn recognize the existence of others.

Syndromes manifest in different ways depending on a given time-space within the American Muslim community. Some are innocuously funny, while others approach the downright pathological. One’s observations may lead one to identify and diagnose these phenomena when they occur. While the cures are many–and perhaps best dealt with in another post–the first step to curing a disease is to identify it. What follows are several of my diagnoses of a chosen few syndromes that afflict the American Muslim community.

1. ISNA Saturday Night Syndrome (ISNS): This syndrome is marked by an intense zeal and enthusiasm shown after a lecture or conference by attendees, classically seen after the Saturday night main session at the annual ISNA convention for which this syndrome is eponymously named. Subjects feel overwhelmingly hyped up after a session, but when questioned about, for example, what exactly Shaykh Hamza Yusuf said in the talk, subjects often only remember a few buzz words, or more often, remember nothing at all. All they feel is that a lecture was  “the greatest ever”, but then when asked what they plan to do as a result of listening to such an inspirational talk, they often have no idea or goal as to where the aforementioned hype should be directed towards. Oftentimes, subjects state that they can’t wait till the next conference so they can be hyped up again.

2. MSA Caliphate Syndrome (MCS): A common syndrome in many campuses throughout North America, this syndrome results when MSA members, especially leadership, begin to think that the MSA is a mini-Islamic state or pseudo-caliphate on campus. They give themselves cute titles like “Ameer” and “Ameera” and salivate over the faux-power they now wield. MCS often causes subjects to fight over essentially meaningless positions and topics that then lead to division amongst MSA members. The MSA Qadi variant of MCS (like how there is a Miller-Fisher variant to Guillain-Barre Syndrome) often goes hand in hand, wherein MSA leadership feels they have the right to excommunicate members they disagree with, demand that members follow their specific version of Islam, or seek to impose rulings (and even punishments, in rare cases) that only a real Qadi in an Islamic state may mandate. MCS often alienates the vast majority of campus Muslim students away from the MSA as a result of either not feeling welcome in the MSA, or experiencing extreme nausea as a result of MSA drama.

3. Crowded Iftar Plate Syndrome (CIPS): This syndrome draws its name from an outward phenomenon of a common practice in Ramadan, overloading one’s iftar plate in the buffet line with food (as if this is the first time one has ever seen a samosa), which denotes an inner reality for many Muslims who have too much on their plate in terms of self-imposed roles and responsibilities. CIPS is notably seen on campuses or one of the possible sequelae of ISNS wherein a desire to accomplish many goals quickly is followed by spreading one’s self thin in fulfilling the obligatory responsibilities in one’s religious, familial, and personal life, usually resulting in failing to meet said obligations. Like the crowded iftar plate that often gets discarded with half the food still on the plate, CIPS results in many tasks unfulfilled. Treatment for CIPS begins with the patient “biting off only that which he can chew”, and returning for more later.

4. Irrelevant Prophet Syndrome (IPS): In this syndrome, patients are convinced that the Prophet (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him) and the early communities were mythical figures whose lives bear little or no resemblance to their own. As a result, drawing inspiration and devising practical solutions to one’s current challenges in the light of this blessed history becomes a lost art as it is deemed no longer relevant to modern times. In the Madinah Legend variant (yes, a tongue-in-cheek reference to my previous post for those of you paying attention at home), the seerah remains a legend that is told around campfires and only has entertainment value at best. It is to be told only at meetings and conferences (sometimes leading to ISNS) and has little practical value outside of these settings.

5. Muslim-centric Universe Syndrome (MUS): A syndrome that afflicts much of the Muslim world too, this syndrome is marked by the unwavering belief that because Muslims are “the best of communities that has been raised up for mankind,” that they are therefore entitled to exclusive perks and benefits. This syndrome is especially defined by the idea that the universe should revolve around the affairs of the Muslims, and that because they are God’s chosen people, they should be protected from the trials and tribulations of the world. Some have facetiously asked: “How many Muslims does it take to change a lightbulb?”, to which the answer is, “One. He holds up the bulb and expects the universe to revolve around him.” This syndrome arises when patients forget that the world runs according to the Will of Allah alone, and not according to theirs, and that despite what occurs in the world, the world is still under His control, and that trials and tribulations are ” the Tradition of God, and you will find no change in the Tradition of God“. Oftentimes, MCUS is a sequela of IPS as the patient fails to realize that no matter how bad one’s situation may get, the Prophet (may Allah’s perpetual peace and best of blessings be upon him and his family) and his Companions (may Allah be pleased with them) went through far worse, and they were far more beloved.

6. Sunday School Panacea Syndrome (SSPS): Like the red sulphur sought by mystics of the past which was said to treat all diseases (similar to the elixir of life, the philosopher’s stone, and other such themes in various cultures’ histories) and grant immortality, this syndrome results when American Muslim parents drop their kids off to Sunday school for two hours each week and expect that this is sufficient into making them all-star Muslims that have learned everything there is to know about Islam and are protected from any temptation in the future. Oftentimes, these parents drop their kids off, go watch a Bollywood movie at the theater, and come pick them up after the movie ends, leaving with their children before the Zuhr congregation prayer. Patients become convinced that they need not themselves teach their kids or follow-up what was taught on Sunday because the Sunday School should a cure-all for everything.

7. Cultural Convenience Syndrome (CCS): This syndrome results when patients selectively pick and choose aspects of culture according to their convenience. The irony in most situations is oftentimes, Muslims choose from a culture they bash and denigrate when it suits them. A classic example is Pakistani Muslims who hate on Hindus (and often hate on their Indian Muslim brethren because of this as well), but then conveniently adopt Hindu customs, such as mehendis and dholkis, as their own.

8. Muslim Ghetto Syndrome (MGS): This disease state occurs when Muslims living in the West willfully isolate themselves from “the kafirs” and remain esconced in their little enclaves and communities that essentially becomes ghettos in the larger landscape. As a result, the patient no longer feels the need to communicate with his American brethren and convey his Prophet’s message to them. As he imagines himself to be living in an Islamic country (or in cases where MCS never resolves, a pseudo-Islamic mini-state), he becomes completely irrelevant and marginalized, and then begins to complain when his rights are trampled upon (it is not uncommon to find patients simultaneously affilcted with MGS and MCUS), ignoring the fact he has done nothing to validate himself (or his heritage) in the eyes of the American people around him.

9. Halal and Hilal Syndrome (HHS): This syndrome is unique as it strikes across ethnic, gender, and economic spheres as patients are wont to discuss the two burning issues that American Muslims feel must be discussed at all times–usually to the extent that more serious issues pertaining to salvation are ignored. Patients are often convinced they are the “shaykh al-Islam” of the time and speak with boisterous authority regarding the unquestionable authority of their opinions and the indisputable error in the opinions of those who disagree with them.

10. Muslim Empire Building Syndrome (MEBS): MEBS occurs when a group of patients, often as a result of being hyped up and/or afflicted with ISNS, engage in a long, passionate discussion about the best ways and methods to change the state of the Muslim ummah. The mode of conversation may range from healthy opinion-sharing to fierce diatribe that may seem to require physical confrontation to resolve–after all, Rome wasn’t built in a day either. Such discussions may last hours and days, fascinating ideas may be elucidated, and many cups of coffee imbibed, but usually such discussions end without a clear objective of what to do or how to accomplish it, instead resulting in everyone feeling happy they have accomplished something and at least agreeing on one item for the evening: to use someone’s iPhone to find out when the last showing of Quantum of Solace will be that night.

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11 Comments
  1. There could also be Muslim Abbreviation Syndrome. Everything has to be abbreviated. Like the various syndromes listed in this post.

    At least that’s how it is in Chicago. I’m gonna pray Jumu’ah at IFS, then hit up ICN to drop off some fliers, then gotta go to a nikah at MEC followed by a fundraising dinner at ISNS.

  2. I felt inspired, so I came up with one of my own – IPRC (Indo-Paki-Regio-Centrism). The afflicted patient suffers from the delusion that the region of the Subcontinent from which he, his parents, or grandparents originated is vastly superior to every other locale on the planet including the place where he currently resides. I used the pronoun “he” for the sake of simplicity but women are just as susceptible to IPRC. Those who are not afflicted cannot understand a)why the patient does not simply move back to the part of India or Pakistan he or she claims is so wonderful and b) why the patient feels so adamant about only marrying another person from the same region excluding all others even if she had the beauty of Beyonce and the heart of Mother Theresa.

  3. kr156 permalink

    saqib: hahaha, true, its the same thing in medicine, everything is abbreviated as well… also, and probably completely unrelated is how everything at UIC is abbreviated as well too (CCC, SSB, SEH, SEL, etc)

    asad: nice, im loving the IPRC, definitely qualifies as a syndrome. please add more!

  4. lt786 permalink

    what about the CBS? crappy blog syndrome…from which you are suffering from? haha sorry man I just had to stick that in there…

  5. kr156 permalink

    ^hater.

  6. lt786 permalink

    haha oh please…I just call it how it is…NUH for life

  7. Feroz Ahmed permalink

    Alim Syndrome — Just because one is a Muslim and landed in US. They feel they know almost everything about Islam.

    Example of Desi Alim statement: “I do not pray 5 times daily – But I have never missed a Jummah” I am so particular about Jummah salat. Everyone should focus on Jummah Salat — according to the “Alim”

    Mufti Syndrome: Just because someone is a Physician and a Muslim they feel they can give any religious decree. After all they are “DOCTOOR”.

    Example: Rasool (SAW) was not exactly correct (nauzbillah) when he decreed that the apostate should be punished. Decree by a Doctoor in Cincinnati.

    Golfing is Haram and Cricket is Halal. Another Fatwa by a Hyderabadi Doctor.

    Not an Alim or Mufti – they just happened to be Physician. This disease is very prevelant among Muslims.

    Superiority Syndrome: Just because we have a college degree and some money we are the most smartest. We understand how the car engine works, we understand how the stock market works and we also know all the world politics. Hear these discussions, could work as live Comedy Channel on Cable TV

  8. Assalamu alaikum brother kamran:

    This is quest from http://www.questfortherightone.blogspot.com

    I came across your post and really enjoyed reading it with all its abbreviations. I wld lke to thnk u 4 sux an insprng blg pst and … uh-oh, wut is this … I mst be suffering from the famous SDSOMB syndrome — sister dares speak on a male blog symdrome! Got a cure?

    Wassalamu alaikum,
    Q

  9. Syndromes indicate the existence of an illness or disease. So to the medical professionals above, what, per your professional judgement, do we Muslims have that causes us to have the above symptoms/syndromes? And what anidote would you prescribe for us?

    In traditional Chinese medicine, notes that illnesses or diseases are caused by an imbalance of ‘yin’ and ‘yang’ in the body. In other words, a person is healthy when these two elements in the body are balanced.

    Further, the yin and yang of the physical body are also affected by emotional balance, as well as the body’s harmony with nature. For example, anger causes yin/yang imbalance, which will affect one physically. And if one is physically weak at that point in time, one will become ill.

    A note about Chinese medicine is that the treatment of an illness usually takes a long time; however, it aims to cure the cause, not only the symptoms. For example, some eye disorders are linked to imbalance of the liver. When a patient has these issues, the Chinese doctor would not only prescribe treatments that help rid the eye disorder, but also to balance the yin/yang of the liver, and may even suggest to the patient to improve in anger management (the negative energy of anger affects the liver, and then is outwardly manifested in the eyes)

    These Muslim syndromes mentioned in the post and ‘comment’ section (which many of us have, I am sure), indicate a sort of imbalance in us as individuals, as well as the community.

    But an imbalance in what? What are the root causes of these syndromes? And is there a cure (or cures) for these root causes?

  10. Mufti Snydrome is too prevalent in society. I think we need to amputate a few people to preserve the rest of the “body”

    Perhaps I suffer from HHS?

  11. Sadiq permalink

    lol @ LT’s comment.

    That’s all I have to contribute at this time.

    Good day.

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