Sunday, July 28, 2013

Form and Spirit in Islam

It seems a lot very pious dressing and acting Muslims find it necessary to tell others how to practice their faith in the guise of dawah or tarbiyyat but they end up telling those brothers and sisters that they're kufr or hinting at them going to it and other similar "threats".

It's quite apparent that the Muslim ummah is in quite a bit of disarray due to centuries of degradation and the strengthening of ignorant religious leaders and fanatics. It is in ahadith too that a day would come that there would be 72 sects, that all of Islam that would be left is the forms but no belief, that the clerics would be the worst creatures under the heavens, and so forth.

I'd like to focus on the second prophecy because it really shows in such people who like to label other kuffar and tell others what is right and wrong. Without all the judgmental and forceful nature, they might actually be really good people but instead they come off as arrogant and hypocritical. There was a particular incident recently which I'd like to share to make my point.

I saw an argument escalate on twitter where a friend told another who was worried about having waxed her eyebrows that if you're not worried about covering your head or wearing makeup, eyebrows shouldn't be a serious issue. She proceeds to take offense that she's judging her but in reality, my friend who was giving the advice was trying to make a point that there many other things she can work on little by little aside from her appearance.

The offended person goes on to say my friend wasn't a real Muslim and used several profane words alongside being quite angry. Forget her appearance, she was doing all this and judging others all while fasting. She couldn't see that she had bigger issues than having her eyebrows waxed could send her to hell. From what I can gather, she was either a convert or previously liberal Muslim who "found God" and became super "religious" and started hanging out with the "holier than thou art" crowd who probably influenced her to start practicing such things.

I wont get into whether or not plucking eyebrows is "haraam" b/c a woman's body is her business and there's more I look for in a woman as a person than her eyebrows. My point is that in her search for truth and Allah taalah, instead of focusing on self-improvement, she focused a lot more on the practices of the faith and from the looks of it, those that suited her best. This isn't unique to her but she showcased it quite well IMO.

People have forgotten, as the ahadith prophesied, that Islam isn't just forms, you need the spirit and passion as well. They forget that when Islam was revealed, Muhammad (saw) didn't just tell all the men to have beards and the women wear abayas, the teachings revealed early on in Mecca and the early part of Medina were mainly those of improving and strengthening the spirit and will of the Muslims so that they could ease into the practice. He didn't tell them to smash their containers of wine and free their slaves the first day but when that time came, the streets flowed with wine and slaves were freed in the hundreds and eventually the thousands.

Another friend of mine who's in my community wear's a bushy beard (trimmed mind you) and that's uncommon in my community b/c it is usually associated w/ extremists, especially those who shave their mustaches off (he hasn't). However, he said that he went through a lot of truth seeking and self-improvement before he decided on it. More specifically, he stated that when a person delves into something he believes to be true enough and his faith strengthens, he will automatically want to adopt the forms and practices also.

I have seen this in another twitter friend who did not wear the hijab and all these people kept pushing her to do it and she eventually told them to back off. Much later though, after much prayer and soul searching, she picked it up of her own accord and belief in Islam, not by anyone's force or guilt tripping. That I believe is what many of these haughty and judgmental Muslims fail to see. It is because of this Islam is seen as some extreme faith that seeks to subjugate others and they hurt both the cause of Islam and their own spirituality by judging others and only practicing things that make them look more righteous.

Form is meaningless without the spirit and it's because of people who act otherwise or think that form alone leads to spirit that many liberal or moderate Muslims who have much spirit but lack in form don't improve it because they see these staunch "defenders of the faith" and they don't want to become that. If people believed and behaved more moderately and with more tolerance, they would show a better example to everyone but instead, they drive away others in their fanatical beliefs and goals.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hadrat Khadija (ra) was the Exception, not the Rule

Someone mentioned on twitter how if Hadrat Khadija (ra) was the prototype of pre-Islamic women, then Muslim women today are worse off then the women then.

It makes a number of general assumptions which are used to support its absurd comparison.

First, not all Muslim women are oppressed today; certainly, many women in villages in Pakistan/Afghanistan or more dictatorial societies like KSA or Iran are oppressed but in the same societies, you'll find many women from feudal families or families w/ big businesses or political pull who have a lot of wealth, education, and freedom and many don't even practice hijab. In the west, you'll find even more professional women, hijabi and non-hijabi, who are middle class, independent, and educated. Similarly, to just assume off of one individual that all pre-Islamic women were better off w/o Islam is downright ignorant and insensitive to those women who suffered before Islam and suffered at the hands of pre-Islamic people for joining Islam. There were women who were given an opportunity thanks to wealth, status, good men, etc. and were free but many women were also quite oppressed as they are today in Muslim countries.

Second, the baseless assumption here is the Islam practiced today by Muslims everywhere is practiced the same way it was 1400 years ago. The reality they ignore, and probably why they left Islam, is that much of the oppression stems from cultural practices of pre-Islam. You look at the abusive nonsense they do in Pakistan for example, it's very similar to what Hindus or Sikhs do but no one would ever assert their religions made them worse off than before. Even how KSA implements Islam can be traced back to the restrictive bedouin roots of the House of Saud. That in itself shows that the state of Muslims around the world but mainly in the Muslim countries has not remained stagnant and has in fact reverted in some places to pre-Islamic practices. In India and Pakistan for example, some people abort their babies while in the womb b/c they find they are girls or they feel shame from having a girl; before Islam, they would wait for them to be born, then go out back, and then bury them.

Third, why would the woman who had it all before the advent of Islam stick with the man who taught the faith that was allegedly more oppressive than pre-Islam? She still had her business and family to fall back on and if the society was so enlightened, they'd have helped her b/c a good bulk of them already hated Muhammad (saw) for preaching Islam. Yet, she pushed for him to preach Islam and carry out the message for 9 long years in which she gave birth to many children.

On a final note, I'd like to take a moment to discuss how a woman like Khadijah (ra) may have come into the position she was in. She had a lot of wealth and property and she was a widow so it's possible her husband may have been a good natured person who loved his wife. Alternatively, he may have been a Christian and not have believed in the super patriarchal culture of the Arabs; after all, she had a cousin named Waraqa and perhaps have had no issue w/ differences of belief, something which may have gotten her in the position she was in.

Other women in her time whom were prominent were the wives of the uncles of Muhammad (saw), some of which not only led and incited the persecution of Muslims but after many joined Islam, they became very active amongst Muslims. Hind, the wife of Abu Sufyan who at one times was the greatest enemy of Muhammad (saw), pre-Islam had a slave assassinate one of Muhammad's (saw) close uncles and then had his body mutiliated; post-Islam, she forced the return of retreating Muslims to battle.