"Souls are like conscripted soldiers. Those familiar with each other get on easily while those who don’t know each other feel mutual estrangement.” From the very moment Imam Sohaib Sultan and I met we got on with easy familiarity. Something about his posture and demeanor immediately disarmed me. Usually, a kind of ritual “feeling out” takes place when Muslims with public profiles meet. In addition to the semiotics regularly associated with dress and presentation; the manner in which a person deploys classical Arabic, the scholars they cite, their take on certain contemporary issues, etc. places them in some category or another: Traditional, progressive, Sufi, reformist, liberal, conservative, woke, apolitical…whatever. My encounters with my brother Sohaib were never degraded by the issuance of such litmus tests. We always spoke as friends.
Dr. Sherman Jackson is very eloquent, mashallah. In fact, so appreciated is his ability to “turn a phrase” that we jokingly use the term “Jacksonian” to describe the rhetorical flourishes for which he’s known. However, the most eloquent I’ve ever heard him is in response to a question about the “essence of Ramadan.” For Dr. Jackson, such a broad, open-ended question was like a pitch right down the middle of the plate. So in his simple response, “Ramadan is about being hungry” he appeared to bunt. A slight chuckle could be heard among the audience. For many, he had either ironically or jokingly stated the obvious.