MuslimMatters: Celebrity Shaykhs and Spiritual Abuse

Shaykha Zaynab Ansari delves into what she calls a toxic environment involving our religious leaders — one where boundaries are crossed and women are deceived. At the center of this toxicity? The celebrity Shaykh.

I believe the celebrity Shaykh is a victim of his own success, a product of the techno-obsessed culture that dictates that every ‘alim, school, and institution market its “authentic,” “classical” and “traditional” Islamic “products and services” or perish. Moreover, the celebrity Shaykh has become enthroned on a pedestal, the pedestal of unimpeachable piety and character, the pedestal of “see no wrong, do no wrong,” in which we, the adoring students, have cast this very fallible human being as larger than life …

… these individuals are using their positions in circles of sacred learning to groom, recruit, and entice female followers with promises of marriage, access to Shuyukh, study abroad opportunities, and entrée to exclusive socio-spiritual networks. Under the guise of mentoring, these individuals are engaging in private, unsupervised conversations with marriageable members of the opposite sex. These conversations, carried out in the relative anonymity of cyberspace, appear to run the gamut from fairly innocuous exchanges of biographical information (à la pen pals in the pre-computer era) to material that is merely suggestive to thoughts and sentiments that are wildly inappropriate …

… Typically, these women start out as eager students who strike up an online relationship with the Shaykh (or with whom the Shaykh initiates contact), which then descends into banter and flirtation, then promises of commitment, talk of marriage, etc. In some cases, the Shaykh proposes marriage, in other cases, it is the women. The common denominator though, in all situations, is the existence of the first wife.

Read more here.

1 Comment

  • sebkha says:

    Annnnd the comments section there immediately devolves into a bunch of huffy manboys braying about manly, manly men not needing no first wife’s permission to get married again. Not that the article was about that or anything. Oh, MuslimMatters, don’t ever change…

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