The past few days, a voice within petitions me, “If you won’t reform yourself now, when will you reform?”
Isn’t it strange that Muslims celebrate so much when a person embraces Islam? Because there seems to be nothing Muslims delight in more than declaring their fellow believers heretics, apostates or adherents of a sect destined for the hellfire, on the basis of assumed beliefs, imagined alliances and a large dose of group think.
Here’s a hint: if you believe you’re a member of The Saved Sect, then guess what, you’re a sect.
Yes we heard you! You alone are true Sunnis. Congratulations! Who cares? Who said you had to call yourself a Sunni? What’s wrong with Muslim, the only label out of the multitude of labels that has any basis?
Sunni sectarianism is as vile as every other kind of sectarianism, with its ever decreasing circles of belonging. It is no different from Wahabi sectarianism which they so deride – and which they declare every other believer to be.
Why celebrate the latest celebrity to allegedly embrace Islam, when you cannot embrace your fellow Muslims on their journey of faith? Who would want a slice of the odious arrogance which characterises our interactions today?
Not me, that’s for sure. If your way is so great, invite to it, don’t chase people away. As for me: too late, I’ve seen it for what it is.
I have a friend afflicted with a particularly virulent strain of Convertitus. Anyone know the best treatment for this insidious condition? I’m minded to just put him in quarantine until it goes away, but his strain of Convertitus is unfortunately manifesting itself in extremely unpleasant ways, with terrible effects on all who come into contact with him. Is there a known cure?
If you went out to buy a car and a salesman tried to convince you that the car you were buying was a Tesla Model S, when it was in fact a Ford Mondeo, we’d commend your discernment if you rejected his proposition.
To the casual observer, it might look like you’re turning down the Tesla. But in reality you’re merely rejecting a Ford you were told was a Tesla. In fact it’s good that you’re rejecting the Ford, because it is not the car you wanted. Even so, you might earn a reputation as the man who rejected a Tesla Model S when it was offered to you. And you may even convince yourself that you rejected the Tesla as an inferior car, based on your experience of the Ford you thought was a Tesla.
These adventures of faith and the heart are not dissimilar. You might reject ideas, which you have always been taught are fundamental aspects of your beliefs, which lead you towards a truer reality. You might then arrive at a sounder destination than the one who appears to believe in those ideas without question. You might reject an idea which has no basis and find yourself the true believer. Conversely, you might insist on an idea which has no basis and find yourself a disbeliever unbeknownst.
In these times, people are asked to believe in all sorts of things which are not fundamental beliefs, and which may even be contrary to core beliefs. Their rejection of them may be bad news for these wooly concepts of orthodoxy, but might ultimately be good for us in the long run, if they mean a return to a purer, less obscured faith, uncompromised by cultural and political accretions.
What is religion? Or a life of faith? To some it is the pursuit of truth, honesty, goodness and virtue. But for many it the realm of power, of abuse and vanity. Hence our disarray.
Why is it that the more religious people get, the harsher they become? It’s meant to be the other way round. You’re meant to embody mercy, become a softer, nicer and better person all round.
Do not be rude in speech (3:159)
Restrain your anger (3:134)
Be good to others (4:36)
Do not be arrogant (7:13)
Forgive others for their mistakes (7:199)
Speak to people mildly (20:44)
Lower your voice (31:19)
Do not ridicule others (49:11)
Be dutiful to parents(17:23)
Write down what you owe in debt (2:282)
Do not follow anyone blindly (2:170)
Grant more time to repay if the debtor is in hard times (2:280)
Don’t consume interest (2:275)
Do not engage in bribery (2:188)
Do not break your promises (2:177)
Keep your trusts (2:283)
Do not mix the truth with falsehood (2:42)
Judge with justice between people (4:58)
Stand out firmly for justice (4:135)
Do not devour the property of orphans (4:10)
Protect orphans (2:220)
Do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly (4:29)
Try to make settlements between people (49:9)
Avoid suspicion (49:12)
Do not spy or backbite (49:12)
Spend wealth in charity (57:7)
Encourage feeding poor (107:3)
Do not spend money extravagantly (17:29)
Do not invalidate charity with reminders (2:264)
Honour your guests (51:26)
Order righteousness to people only after practising it yourself(2:44)
Do not commit abuse on the earth (2:60)
Fight only with those who fight you (2:190)
There is no compulsion in religion (2:256)
Do not burden a person beyond his scope (2:286)
Do not become divided (3:103)
Think deeply about the wonders and creation of this universe (3:191)
Do not be miserly (4:37)
Shun envy (4:54)
Do not kill each other (4:92)
Do not be an advocate for deceit (4:105)
Do not cooperate in sin and aggression (5:2)
Cooperate in righteousness (5:2)
Be just (5:8)
Don’t reduce weight or measure to cheat people (6:152)
Eat and Drink, But Be Not Excessive (7:31)
Protect and help those who seek protection (9:6)
Never give up hope of God’s Mercy (12:87)
Invite to God with wisdom and good instruction (16:125)
Walk on the earth in humility (25:63)
Repel evil with good (41:34)
Decide on affairs by consultation (42:38)
Save yourself from covetousness (64:16)
Seek forgiveness from God. He is Forgiving and Merciful (73:20)
The temptation of those traveling the spiritual path is to yearn for and struggle to recreate those visions of the romantic past. The real challenge is to be a man of your time.
And so, once more, the sheikhs and their followers are invoking apocalyptic traditions; the events of the day, they tell us, are the certain fulfillment of prophesy.
And so it seems, unless we put our cultural amnesia aside to recall the history of these sacred precincts.
So it seems if we forget that a group of militants who believed the Mahdi to be amongst them seized the Grand Mosque in Mecca for two weeks in 1979 during Hajj, leading to the deaths of 250 people.
So it seems if we forget that the Kingdom of Hejaz in alliance with the British Empire laid siege to Medina, then held by the Ottoman Empire between 1916 and 1919, causing heavy loss to life.
So it seems if we forget that Medina was occupied and laid waste by the descendants of Muhammad ibn Abdal Wahhab in 1806.
Indeed, so it seems if we overlook a millennia of history all the way back to Yazid’s siege of Medina and destruction of Mecca not even seventy years after Hijra.
But we are not supposed to familiarise ourselves with the past, to ask questions or seek context.
We are not meant to ponder on the long list of supposed saviours who came and went over a thousand years, each one the prophesized Mahdi to their followers.
We have been here before, over and over, but the sheikhs in their circles know better than last time. This is the time, they tell us. This is the time.
And the madness enfolds as prophesized.
I am being interrogated by a child at the mosque. Are you English? Why are you here? How can you be Muslim if you’re English, it doesn’t make sense? I think you’re a Patan. Are you a Patan? What does English Muslim even mean? You mean a Muslim who speaks English? Are you sure you’re Muslim? You don’t have black hair. Are you sure you’re English?
I laugh it off, but sometimes I ask myself those questions too.