If you are to read this entry please read it in its entirety so that you do not misunderstand anything. A request, thank you.
Notetaker wrote a a post called Am I Conservative Yet? Or, Feeling Like a Stranger Amongst the Muslims that didn’t get as much talk around the blogosphere as it should have. Her post really made me think about my local community, the online Muslim community, and communities throughout the world, Muslim and non-Muslim. It brought to mind the abundant ignorance in our community about basic Shari’ah. It made me think about the spread of irreligiosity and the celebration for living a life without any sort of guidance. I want to share some of my thoughts that I couldn’t really get together when I first saw the feed on deenport…
When I first took my shahadah, I understood I had to undergo a lot of changes in my life. I knew I would have to start wearing a khimar (headscarf), learn to pray and pray 5 times a day, watch carefully who I befriended closely. I knew the whole boyfriend thing was a no no. I knew that controlling our anger was encouraged, etc. These are just examples. It was clear to me that accepting Islam meant I’d have to change my lifestyle. It didn’t mean it was going to be easy but I acknowledged it. I wanted to change my life because I believed in One Creator. I didn’t know about Ihsan but it was as if I already understood that Islam had a higher purpose… one that I had hoped would lead me to a better life. Ramadan came around and it wasn’t hard for me to just acknowledge that I had to control my anger. I remember telling my parents that if they angered me I might break my fast! It was so exciting. Maybe it was that I was so young, only 14, and hadn’t experienced much. My parents did shelter me, although at school it was a different thing. Maybe because I was still growing up and still very impressionable, maybe that is why it wasn’t hard for me to accept that I had to change and find my identity through my deen… Allah knows best.
What I see from American Muslims a lot, and part of the reason why I prefer to go to the smaller Masjid in my community, is an internal rebellion. It is quite apparent by the things that are said and done. I’ve been in Masaajid where Muslims fight certain basics of the deen, such as having to cover their bodies properly to make salah and having to lower their gazes. You can’t tell anyone anymore, it seems, even in private, that they have to cover their neck/chest and ears to pray because their prayer will not be valid. I’ve prayed next to women who do not cover anything at all and have felt horrible inside for not saying anything. I’ve said things in the past and have spoken to women in private, kindly, but I always feel like I’m walking on eggshells. It’s as if I can already hear the “I don’t care what you have to say! I’m American and I can do what I want!!” And it has happened.
I feel like a stranger in my own community. I go and I pray and that is what I am there for. There always seems to be some uproar about something, something that always starts because of ego. Really, this is the problem. As Muslims, we must be willing to re define ourselves and abandon old principles when we accept this faith, and this will happen if we are sincere. We can’t call ourselves Muslims and fight our faith at the same time. And I’m not saying that this means we are going to be doing everything and not struggle. We are going to struggle, some things will take a longer time, some won’t, some we may never get to. But we can’t fight them. We must acknowledge our faith and what it calls to. We can’t go on rejecting aspects of our faith simply because we are too weak to put them into practice. I struggle with my prayer but I can’t use that as an excuse to say its not obligatory or that I can pray whenever I just feel like it. Believe it or not, Muslims say these sorts of things. There are discussions even online about why women don’t have to cover at all and many people really do try to give da’wah to this and get offended if anything is said otherwise.
Those Muslims who stand up to this ignorance, even if its kindly, after waiting for the right moment (you know, with hikmah), do get called names, such as extremists, and told that they are ignoring more important issues. The truth is that these are cheap excuses to ignore the real issue at hand. I also think this points to deeper problems.
A lot of American converts who accept Islam are given da’wah by people and organizations who themselves don’t seem to see Islam beyond the 5 salawat at the Masjid. It seems that a lot of times the focus of the American Muslim community is to defend itself against attacks, suck up to people (this is exactly what it is!), and try to find new ways to fit in, even if it means going further and further from the proper way of doing things in Islam. How then will we as American converts get the message that our faith must become our new identity? The people around us themselves don’t get it! The responsibility that we have when we give da’wah is to call to tawheed and part of that is submission to the command of our Creator. What does submission mean to us anymore? La ilaha illa Allah by tongue and it stops there?
Again, we will struggle, and we may struggle a lot with basics, but we must atleast acknowledge the need for change and not fight it. It’s a scary line to cross. We should be encouraging each other to be more faithful, to hide our sins, to come together more for His sake. Our gatherings should have more conversation about Allah and ways that we can improve in this dunya. We should talk more about defeating the ego, accepting advice humbly, controlling our anger. We should be looking for the solutions in the Qur’an, the hadeeth books, books of tafaseer, and going to our scholars when we do not know.
I do feel like a stranger in my own community and sometimes I find myself sitting on my couch just thinking how it could be like if things were a little better. It would be easier to bring my children along more often and let them get to know more people… but I fear what people will tell them at this young age. I’ve heard so many horrible things from Muslim adults. We don’t even want to watch our tongues around our children. I fear that my children will become confused at this tender age and ask me why it is we do some things that other Muslims don’t… or why we don’t do some things that other Muslims do. It’s happened before many times and it has confused my 6 year old.
The Messenger of Allah (SallAllahu Alayhi wa sallam) said that his ummah (community), are like the bricks of a building, each strengthening the other. Our building is so weak and needs strengthened. I think it can start with our own small circles. We can come together more and talk more about ways of improving when we come together. It’s not always easy to be the first to bring it up when people don’t seem to care but its a struggle worth taking.
I don’t want anyone to misunderstand me and think I’m looking down on people who do not cover. This IS NOT what I am doing at all. Women struggle with hijab, prayer (I do!), and other basic things for many reasons. What I am saying is we must acknowledge our deen and what it calls to. Islam is about submission and obedience to our Creator. If this is understood from the beginning, what will be problem? It’s difficult, especially in the American context as this culture teaches us to think about I, I, I… but if it is Islam we are accepting then we need to realize that Islam and a lot of the American principles are complete opposites of one another and not compatible. Islam is what builds our identities. This also doesn’t mean that we abandon our cultures but that we should be vigilant and try and live a life that is pleasing to Him. It’s a blessing to be able to take the good and leave the bad.
Alhamdulillah for the blessing of Islam.