Monday, July 19, 2010

Footsteps of Shaytaan

O you who believe! Enter into Islam whole-heartedly; and do not follow the footsteps of Satan, for he is to you an avowed enemy. (2: 208)

So we’ve probably all heard this Quran ayah many times before, but recently something hit me when I read this ayah again.

As we can see it says “do not follow the footsteps of Satan.” When we remember the words of Shaytaan to Allah:

"Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies)." [15:17]

Thus Shaytaan will find any way to guide us and mislead us. So one trick of Shaytaan is to not blatantly whisper “Go do xyz sin” rather he will lead you gradually towards that sin i.e. you will follow his footsteps towards that sin. So what exactly do I mean by this?

Ok as an example (I’m going to get a lot of flack for pointing this out, but whatever :P) , let’s mention the gender relations between guys and girls. So we may say “salaam” to a certain brother or a sister with pure intentions (that’s ok). However, what happens sometimes is Shaytaan whispers to us and says “ask for his/her email/screenname, etc.” (got to email her) And then you ask her for her number (got to ask her for notes). And then you ask her to meet you somewhere for a project (got to do school work). And then you start chilling outside of an MSA atmosphere. And as you see these are all ways Shaytaan tricks us to lead us down into temptation and sin. These are the footsteps we follow and don’t realize until it’s too late.I’m not saying we can’t work with others in a halaal manner, but often times it reaches that point where it becomes questionable.

We’ve all done this to a certain degree and we’re all guilty. Maybe not this specific scenario, but we have fallen into sin similarly. For others it may have been cheating on a test, justifying lying, etc.

I’ve heard so many excuses for some actions, one of which was “it’s ok we’re liberal” or one was “only God can judge.” People will come up with every excuse to justify their action and will be around those who support them in their sin or disobedience. Think about it… you won’t hang out with pious people and feel compelled to back bite or slander people. But you will feel more comfortable with those who are backbiting and slandering as you are. Those people will not keep you in check or call you out for your backbiting. People’s egos sometimes are far too strong for them to receive naseeha (sincere advice) from others or perhaps they may be having trouble overcoming that sin. Therefore it’s crucial for them to find better company to pull them away from that sin and also pull them up spiritually and increase their imaan. Sometimes giving naseeha to someone who is not ready can backfire and cause more harm than good if not done in a positive manner.

That was just one example, extreme maybe, but it’s a scenario that happens frequently. As for other examples, there are plenty. We just need to do some soul-searching and self-evaluation to see that we ourselves justify. It’s a slippery slope from when you initially make the haraam seem more halaal.

Another further example is when we can’t control our tongues when we keep company with the wrong people. Certain groups of friends may engage in backbiting, slander, or mockery of other people and you either join in or keep silent. Most of us join in and end up accumulating sins—very rarely do we step in to tell our friends or family to refrain from this. We may be the best of Muslims and pray, fast, pay zakah, even stay up all night in prayer but one sin such as backbiting might eat up those good deeds immediately, thus negating all of our good deeds.

We sometimes become lax in the commandments of Allah and find short cuts to fulfill some commandments. We pray salah late or in a rush, we sin and say “Allah is Merciful” and have this arrogance that somehow we are entitled to jannah, we lie, cheat, and hurt our own brothers and sisters (Islamically and biologically), fathers, mothers and relatives and think that in the end that we will be forgiven. Little sins eventually build up and will become a huge burden on the heart of a Muslim. We claim to be Muslim yet we neglect foundational commandments of Allah and His Messenger. How can we claim to be Muslim when we neglect to tell the truth, treat our own families and friends harshly, and commit the most heinous of sins with no remorse. The Prophet SAW’s character was the reason many turned to Islam and heart’s were inclined to the Truth. If we neglect to purify our character and continually justify smaller sins then who is to say we won’t justify the larger sins? Who is to say our smaller sins won’t lead us to Hell?

It’s a scary thought if we think about it. We’re essentially representatives of Islam and most importantly of the Prophet SAW and his message and if we are not acting in accordance to his teachings and the commandments of Allah then we are not adequately representing Islam in its truest form and are doing a great disservice and dishonor to the sacrifice of the Prophet SAW and his efforts to give us the beautiful gift of Islam.

Let’s not be those mentioned in this ayah:

And others have confessed their faults, they have mingled a good deed and evil one; maybe Allah will turn to them (mercifully); surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful (9:102)

We need to check our intentions as well as our actions when we approach any situation. Because what we may think may be innocent may actually turn out to be completely haraam or dangerous for us spiritually. Once you justify that sin or bad deed it leads to further bigger sins and problems for you spiritually and it can lead to diseases of the heart which are often hard to cure. Small sins will essentially chip away at our imaan and ultimately fall into Shaytaan’s trap and move farther away from Allah.

We should never say that “Allah is all Merciful and will forgive us” thus sin and do everything against Allah’s commandments and disobey the orders of His Messenger (SAW). If even the Sahabah (Companions of the Prophet SAW) trembled and were fearful of whether they’d be permitted into Paradise and forgiven for the smallest of their sins where does that put us in relation to them and their fear? Has our fear of Allah left our hearts? I speak to myself first and foremost when I say that we need to check our intentions, be careful of our actions, and lastly and most importantly ensure we are not following the footsteps of Shaytaan, rather we should follow the footsteps of the Prophet SAW.

Enemies from Within

Muslims today face not only so-called “Islamaphobia” and hatred for Islam, but rather face a new enemy (or enemies). These enemies are what I call "enemies from within"(within Muslims) who are working to undermine and destroy the foundation of Islam and Muslims.


First and foremost the most obvious are the extremists (Salafis, Wahaabis, etc.). Often these extremist ideologies are due to ignorance, political agendas and a mix of culture and Islam in some areas of the world. The danger of these extremists is their destroying of Islam’s image, turning Muslims and non-Muslims away from Islam, confusing the masses to what Islam truly is among other problems. Unfortunately, this mentality has trickled down into some of the Muslims living in Europe and America. We see overzealous brothers in our college campuses going haywire when they even see a sister as if her very existence is an insult to them. These people are ignorant and think they know Islam and Quran, when in fact these people are the most ignorant about Islam. These people turn not only Muslims away from Islam but also non-Muslims in these ignorant actions.


This problem can simply be solved by education. In Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other nations in the Middle East and Africa that are so-called “Muslim” nations need to implement education systems that address the masses of uneducated individuals there. This is needed in rural and third world countries such as Sudan and Pakistan in their respective regions of cultural mixes of Islam and native cultures. This however, is more easier said than done. So what do we do as Muslims living here in America? We can just say “No, no that’s not Islam” or we can SHOW people that it’s not Islam in our actions and character. In fact most of the reasons people converted to Islam in the early history of Islam was due to the Prophet’s SAW actions and character. Think of how big of a change that would be. I’m not downplaying the impact of dawah, we should in fact step up the dawah and start spreading the message far stronger in order to educate the masses here in America. The old adage is true “Knowledge is power.” If we educate Muslims and non-Muslims about the truth about Islam, we can truly change the perception of Islam and improve our situation.

This can create ripple effect perhaps overseas as well. If we look into American history the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s caused a worldwide change of the perception of African-American. So we as Muslims have a lot to learn from the struggle of the African-Americans causing change here in America.


Secondly, the second enemy is the so-called “progressive” Muslims. I’ve seen this as a growing trend here in America and abroad. We see these movements such as “Anti-Shariah” and Project Nur amongst others and also the recent phenomenon of masjid "pray-ins".
These groups seek to undermine the foundation of Islam by what I like to call “watering-down” Islam to make it seem more acceptable to others. For example, many of the events sponsored by Project Nur are not Islamic at all in any sense. They seek to create an image of Muslims as an “ethnic” or “cultural group.” Seriously, if you pick and choose your religion is it Islam anymore? They seek to downplay some core Islamic beliefs under the guise of “building bridges.”

I’m not saying interfaith is not important, but when you’re not giving the full picture of your religion, aren’t you deceiving the other side of the truth of your religion? Islam doesn’t need a reformation like Christianity did. We are perfectly fine with the message Allah has sent to use and the Sunnah (way of life) of his Prophet (peace be upon him). We don’t need to change a letter or a verse to please anyone----this religion rather way of life, is God-given. Why should we have to change ourselves and our beliefs to please others ---are you not losing your identity?

As for the new phenomenon of "pray-ins" in the name of gender equality and women's rights is totally counter productive. If change is to come it will come in the form of dialogue not disturbing the peace at masjids and hurting other Muslims by labelling them "extremists" and "wahaabi." What good is that going to do? Yes, masjids and largely the Muslim community do have cultural/traditional issues that do clash with Islam and the women's prayer sections do have problems at some masjids. However, to "pray-in" in a masjid and disturb the peace in the House of Allah and disturb other worshiper to make a political statement is totally unacceptable. This is not how the Prophet SAW operated when he saw an issue arising within the Muslims in Madinah (refer to the incident when the bedouin urinated in the masjid). Let's not try to pander to others in the name of "human rights" or "women's rights." If progressive claim to believe in the perfection of Islam, then they should not approach their fellow Muslims with such harshness. Islam is perfect, Muslims aren't.

Somehow it is in the minds of some progressives that Islamic principles make Muslims feel inferior or not as open-minded as other communities. Islamaphobes call on Islam to condemn or take out certain beliefs or verses from the Quran in order to be accepted in modern "civilized" society. We do not change Islam for anyone or any time to please anyone. Yes there are differing schools of thought, but when it comes to the very foundational principles of Islam---those do not change. The touchy subject of homosexuality has somehow been thrown on the Muslims as yet another attack on the "strict" and "backward" nature of Islam. However, if we look at other religious communities they do not accept homosexuality either, so let's not be so quick to point fingers. I do agree Muslims need to address the issue and not push it under the rug, but to allow for the permissibility of homosexuality, no that is changing foundational beliefs of Islam.

The very undermining of core Islamic principles is not Islam at all if progressive Muslims are seeking to help Islam and Muslims it’s about time that they gave people the truth about Islam and the full message, not a half-truth. Islam has nothing to be ashamed about---we have nothing to hide. If we begin to pick and choose what we like and don't like, then does that really mean that's Islam? When we argue that women are not equal because they stand behind men in prayer is that not changing the sunnah of the Prophet SAW? To argue that men and women should pray side by side to show equality---is that not changing the sunnah of the Prophet SAW? How did the way we worship Allah become a political issue? Sometimes I feel that the progressive Muslims get confused with the attacks on Islam and seek to mold Islam into a religion that pleases Islamaphobes. This is clearly an insecurity amongst progressive Muslims. Islam did not come down to please Man's ego or his desires, rather it came down to improve his spiritual state by submitting himself to a Higher Divine Being and overriding his desires/ego by following the Divine's orders even if they go against his ego or desires. That is Islam.


Now, how do we solve the problem of so-called “progressive” Muslims? There are way too many "progressive" groups out there that have different agendas (there's Al-Fatiha that supports gay Muslims and homosexuality in Islam and then there's the whole pray-in movement which seeks to place women and men in the same prayer space and have women lead salah). So it's a rather challenging question with the numerous agendas out there, I really don’t have a solid answer for , but one thing we can do is contact these groups and help them realize their mission statements and goals are flawed. If they truly want to help Islam and Muslims they should do so with ISLAM in mind, not personal and political agendas. I’ve met quite a few self-proclaimed “Muslim activists” who say they are working for Islam, yet at the same time when they climb the corporate/political ladders and reach their positions they sell their souls and lose their Islamic identities quite fast. So let's all get back on the same page and not be so hasty to jump when someone tells us "Islam is so backwards." THINK PEOPLE. THINK!


All in all we need to realize the danger that each of these enemies are both extreme cases. One is extreme Islamically(strict conservative mixed with culture) and the other is completely anti-Islamic(liberal and a-religious). The Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade/warned of going to extremes:

Indeed the deen is ease. And anyone that goes to excess( ie extreme) will not be successful, he will be defeated. Be of middle ground without going from one extreme to another (being too strict or too loose) and stay close to what’s right.


Thus we have two Muslim groups on either side of the spectrum destroying Islam and Muslims’ image. In the Quran we are a “ummah justly balanced””:

"Thus we have made of you an ummah justly balanced, that you might be witnesses over the nations, and the Messenger a witness over you." (Quran 2:143)

We need to save the future of Islam and Muslims. We should fight extremism in whatever form it may come in and fight for our own destiny and not let others determine our future---be they backward Salafis or “modern”/“progressive” Muslims here in America.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Tales From the Battle of the Popals

The war started over dishes.

A woman said to another "I will wash the dishes!"

The other said "No! Do not shame me! I will wash the dishes!"

The first, obviously offended, shook her head and reached for a dish.
The other quickly reached for another and ran for the soap and sponge.

The first, in a rush of anger, and the other, also full of rage, both exclaimed at once
"By Allah I will wash ALL these dishes!"

The ladies of the tribe all gasped at the oaths that had been taken.
Who would wash the dishes, and who would die trying?


note: It is tradition in the Pashtun culture for guests to try to wash the dishes of the one who has invited them. Even if they don't really want to...they still pretend like they do...
They will say things like "no no you think i am old? is that why you won't let me wash them?"
Much oath making takes place..usually on things they shouldn't make oaths over (Quran, their expensive dishes, their children's heads)
Eventually one overcomes the other, usually by swearing by Allah.
Then the one who washes dishes listens to the other say things like "I can't believe you are washing them...sister you have shamed me, I swear you have...tsk tsk tsk...ok now you've done enough...i swear you have...ok just let me do go sit and have tea...go! go!