I have been a part of some (possibly) insightful discourse recently. I gave an advice to adhere to a particular command from ALLAH, and it was disputed first by a non-Muslim- which is totally understandable, and then by a Muslim; the latter is also understood, but not acceptable. In the discourse, the other party believed that advising the public about this, imposes a (my) rigid understanding of al-Islam, and it is offensive to a demographic to which I do not belong.
In the dialogue, I was asked if I believe that my interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah is the only correct understanding. I clarified that the particular issue we were discussing is a basic one, and does not require additional interpretation. I then had my own questions, but I kept them to myself, to address here:
- Why does everyone have to have their own interpretation? Is the truth what it is, or what we want it to be?
- If there is so much about the Qur’an and Sunnah on a face value that is so distasteful, why are we Muslims?
- To people who do not like following Islam according to authenticated tradition really believe in Islam as it is read in the Qur’aan and Sunnah?
- Why do the above mentioned people not create a new religion of their own that is loosely based on Islamic virtues but permits those things which they but which Islam forbids, and not call it Islam? Why do they want to be called Muslims if there is so much they hate about it?
It may appear that this inquisition could encourage apostasy, when in fact, it is encouraging internal reflection, repentance, and admittance of wrong doing.
In that discussion I had, I did not mention that I once belonged to a different demographic, and one which might have been offended by my message. They way I once thought of being a Muslim before and also during my adolescence was different, but during those times, I went through some developmental changes because I had an intention to do what ALLAH loves, whatever that was, provided proper evidence was presented. Umar Ibn al-Khattab, may ALLA H be pleased with him, reported that the Messenger of ALLAH, peace be upon him, said “Actions are but by intention and every man shall have but that which he intended. Thus he whose migration was for Allah and His messenger, his migration was for Allah and His messenger, and he whose migration was to achieve some worldly benefit or to take some woman in marriage, his migration was for that for which he migrated."(Bukhari and Muslim; Hadith 1/40, an-Nawawi) Good intention is the first half, not the whole. If the intention to please ALLAH were all we needed the prophet would not have said what was narrated on the authority of his wife ‘Asisha, the mother of the believers-may ALLAH be pleased with her, “Whoever innovates something in this matter of ours that is not a part of it will have it rejected.”(Reported by al-Bukhaari, Fath al-Baari, no. 2697) From this and others proof it is understood that ALLAH only accepts those deeds which are intended to please him and what is already according to the established Shari’ah, the Qur’an and Sunnah. I cannot recall if I knew both of these ahadeeth when I was part of my former demographic, but I understood that as being commonly sensible if I wanted to practice a religion that I did not create. I understood Islam to be the correct path, for various reasons, and I knew that this path was established by ALLAH and his Messenger, and the companions knew him and what he taught best. In spite of this, there were circumstances present which can hinder adherence to or corrupt this understanding, because after all humans are influenced by their environment. The demography of my former environment was comprised of:
- Growing up since birth in what is believed to be the best Western and vastly non-Muslim country in the world.
- Not having many close Muslim friends in my circle of peers; more inclined to follow the more dominant group (non-Muslms)
- Being in a non-Muslim school
- Subscribing to non-Muslim mass media
- Not understanding basic Arabic
- Being under elders who varied in their understanding of Islam
- Some valued argumentative (philosophical) thought over sound proof
- Some valued proof, but did not have communication skills to convey to westernized youths
- Some dismissed the authenticity of hadeeth, believing them to be compromised, which dismissed the obligation to adhere to a ruling brought in them (a refutable notion; see my second blog post “Basics in Understanding the Religion of al-Islam”)
- Some had very radical views, and valued emotional response with the intention to please ALLAH and defend the honor of Muslim people, over everything
- Being a young person in post 9/11 America.
Parents can only do so much to influence their children when they have an entire country to compete with. It is only by the mercy of ALLAH that a child can understand on an intellectual level
- why eating pork is bad, even though the majority of people around them on a daily basis eat it
- why they do not get Christmas and birthday presents
- why they cannot date girls or boys, and have to wait until they are married to enjoy romance, and cannot be close friends with members of the opposite gender (due to danger of pre-marital romance)
- why they have to pray and fast so much when their friends don’t even go to church anymore
- why all the other girls can look pretty outside, and I have to cover so much
- why so few people in the world are Muslims, and most of the world is something else and has such a free lifestyle
There are extremes to be wary of. There are sincere Muslims who:
- accept anything that someone they trust presents to them and says that it pleases ALLAH, without proof, and without knowledge
- who do not take anyone’s word, and try to learn everything by themselves without guidance of experienced traditional scholars, and who are affected by invented controversy about traditional Islamic scholarship and it not being suitable for the present and future, and are overly skeptical about issues which are in contrast to certain aspects of secular and western life
- a subset of this extreme are those who believe the Qur’an and Sunnah are not permanent and can be changed to allow those things which it forbids, simply because it is common practice to do them today; these people imply that opposing this notion also opposes advanced and innovated technology, but this is a rejected and extreme notion because ALLAH and his messenger were specific enough when they forbade something, and some issues of daily human life had no such legislation applied to them
- who put so much faith in scholars, they do not apply thought to the religion at all, and remain in perpetual ignorance, with later manifests into stubbornness