Problematic

“Muslim converts,” declares yet another enlightened believer, “are the worst problem of Islam.” It seems to be a popular sentiment these days. There can be nothing worse than people choosing to believe in the faith you have inherited: damn their pursuit of truth! Ah, but rejoice in that certainty: blame that pesky, eccentric minority in your midst for all of your problems. In certainly won’t do to review mis-invested petro-dollars and the perpetuation of ignorance. Stop bringing religion into religion.

Hidden innards

Couplets that keep on returning to mind:

To London Imam Faustus came to learn
The sciences of Islam and Iman.
But in his heart-of-hearts already burned
A darker and a more Satanic plan

— from The Demise of Imam Faustus

Don’t choose

It is becoming every more apparent that the little people are being forced to choose sides in the clash between the two behemoths of Ikhwan ul Muslimeen and Salafiyah. To side with Turkey and Qatar, or UAE and Saudi. To believe in the gospel according to Al Jazeerah or the last testament of Al Arabiya. To side with one group of scholars against another. To filter our affairs through the prism of one or the other. Many an activist has already chosen their side, and we are supposed to follow suit. Dare we say that these are not our battles?

Best frenemies

Beware of men who publicly spar and argue with famously hostile opponents — rousing passions on all sides — who in private are the best of friends. You might be surprised, but there are many like this. Men who seem to be the foremost vanguards against the rising tide of Islamophobia, adopting the most veracious stance against proponents of hatred, who, it turns out, laugh and joke with the very same folk when the cameras are off and the microphones have stopped recording.

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In the mirror

It is true that I condemn in others what my own soul harbours. It seems to be a human trait that we vehemently rebuke those who hold up a mirror before us, showing us the demons that haunt us within. Many a man has been found guilty of sins he ascribed to others. It is good for the heart, I think, to articulate contempt for our own evils that we see in others. The difficult part is to avoid being blinded by the mirror and our own reflection, which prevents us from addressing our own inner demons. May the evils we see in others be our impetus to reform, rather than camouflage for the diseases we harbour within. May the mirror allow us to truly beautify ourselves, rather than increase us in conceit. For, indeed, it has just occurred to me that I condemn in others what I find within.

Cease

He rebukes us for not disappearing, as we rightfully must. He cannot stand bloggers who write unceasingly, he writes unceasingly on a public forum, granting himself permission to do the opposite of what he says, for his own sentiments are profound and important and true. If only we would just disappear, when we say we will, instead of continually swinging from pole to pole, like manic depressives shunning benzodiazepines. If you are going to go, he yells, just go. Don’t return to pen another epistle when backs are turned, deciding not to become a hermit after all. Leave the about-turns to wise sages, whose gold embossed volumes decorate the homes of the truly enlightened, with their spiritual quest and authentic faith, that we modernites could never comprehend. Go, he demands, and leave us in peace, and purify your heart, and vanquish your attention-seeking ego, and disappear for good, and don’t come back, and remember your place, and be silent. Yes, cease, he urges unceasingly, returning to the forum he promised to abandon once more, to rebuke the returning writers who cannot keep their promises when they say they will put down their pens. Cease.

The best of things

It changes you, even if you think it won’t. A year ago, virtual intruders injected my website with a malicious script that defaced one thousand published and unpublished posts and caused them to redirect to a website filled with spam. It was upsetting, but nothing I could not fix with a little patience and perseverance. Sure enough, the momentary paranoia subsided and I moved on.

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Inconsistency

Dear leader of men: just last week you wrote a very long post, reminding us that your brother’s honour is sacrosanct: that we are required to give them the benefit of the doubt, to protect their reputation and not rush to judgement on claims about their actions or conduct. Is it not then strange that today you have utilised your public platform to write a new post, casting aspersions about the character and actions of an imam you consider an opponent? Why is it that you exhort us to caution only when it conforms to your agenda? Why do you petition us to self-restraint, warning us against the sin of slander, when your own posts constantly attack fellow believers, highlighting their shortcomings, supposed heresies and character? The honour of your brother, I have noticed, is a moveable feast. Useful for silencing critics, but otherwise completely ignored.

Spreading virtue whilst immersed in vice

“There is no doubt of the existence of wars against Islam and conspiracies against it in more than one place on earth today. But the greatest war against Islam, and the most dangerous conspiracy against it, is to carry its banner by those who are spreading virtue whilst immersed in vice.” — Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti (translated)