Going off at tangents

It is interesting where my frequent digressions lead me. I have a tendency to see in other people’s writing what they did not intend, or never could have intended: the little snippet, the sentence or the word, which leads me off in an altogether new direction.

Late last night I was thinking about that article on nasheed pop-culture which led me off on another irrelevant foray two days ago. I had considered it rather harsh at the time, but it has got me thinking. This journalist was not alone in expressing her concerns; indeed in this month’s Q-News, Suma Din reports on the growing concern that the nasheed business has lost its bearings as it becomes increasingly efficient and corporate. All across blogistan and cyberspace, fingers are tapping out thoughts on the subject.

That something is efficient, or corporate, or well organised does not have to be a bad thing. It would be wonderful if the teachers in Muslim schools received a decent wage, for example, the management respecting their teachers’ efforts. But I do appreciate the concern: there is that fear that we might just be diving head first down a lizard hole.

As I pondered the whole topic late last night – initiating thoughts that led me to search out some ahadith about the signs of the hour – it occurred to me that this concern could equally be applied to any media we are engaged with today. Muslims have sought a voice over recent years in print, through the internet and now satellite TV, primarily as a means of countering the representations made by what we commonly call the “mainstream media”. Just as we may have legitimate concerns about where a culture of nasheed performance may take us, it is reasonable to ask whether everything is sound in these other media.

Personally I find that I am caught between two poles. On the one hand I am anticipating an Islamic renaissance in the West – our Cordoba moment when our community will flourish in culture, art and literature as a light to humanity. On the other hand, considering the realisation of many of the signs of the Hour which Muhammad – peace be upon him – announced for us, there is a sense that this dream of regeneration is mere delusion.

Many engaged with the various communication media available to us today have high hopes about the former. There are growing numbers of glossy magazines and weekly newspapers circulating today. Thousands of us maintain weblogs and take pride in our contribution to… what? To the Muslim community? To literature? To humanity? To ourselves? We maintain them for some reason anyway. There are also thousands of traditional websites. There is the growth of Muslim publishing. And of satellite TV. I have been trying to look on the bright side too.

But the journalist’s contribution has left me thinking. When we write, do we do so with the proper adab? And do we respect knowledge as we should? Do we say we do not know when we do not know? Do we write about that about which we have knowledge? And when saying nothing will do, do we feel we must write something just to fill up the column inches? The journalist asked us not to listen to what is haram: similar could be said of our engagement with writing. Do we lay people have the ability or capacity to write about that which we are writing about, and if we do not, is it halal to continue doing so? I do not know the answer.

The signs of the Hour are in many minds these days. The violence, brutality and widespread killing remind us of our blessed Prophet’s warnings about the latter days. The once barefooted Bedouin are now racing one another to construct the highest building, just as he – peace be upon him – said they would. All of us are touched by the dust of usury, even as we try our best to avoid it, just as he foretold. We know that every word that our blessed Prophet Muhammad spoke was truthful. As Ibn Majah, Bukhrai and Muslim all reported, “The Prophet said, ‘Just before the Hour, there will be
days in which knowledge will disappear and ignorance will appear, and there will be much killing.'” As I witness the fulfilment of many a prophesy, I feel quite afraid of others.

Our noble Messenger Muhammad, peace be upon him, told us of the days when ignorance would increase, when an opinion would be sought from the most worthless of us, when writing would be widespread, when the matters of public life would be discussed by ignorant people, when the leader of a people is the worst of them. All of these have implications for those of us involved in one medium or another. So how are we to conduct ourselves if we are to engage at all? If we see an evil action, we have been commanded to fight it with our hands, but if we cannot do that we should fight it with our tongues, and if we cannot do this we should hate it in our hearts – and that is the weakest of faith. So we know there is a role for us – but how we conduct ourselves is the question.

I know that we should not read ahadith in isolation and we should really study under a teacher, for we are not qualified to interpret knowledge for ourselves. Still, I gave myself such a fright last night as I sat reading before my Isha prayer. To turn in repentance was the only response I considered appropriate. The Prophet’s words reminded me that even if Allah t’ala has granted me a vocation, He requires me to act within the framework of the Shariah with wisdom. When I do not know, I should be silent. If I am asked for my opinion on something about that which I have no knowledge, I should say I do not know. If news reaches me, I should endeavour to verify it. And if I see an evil, I should uphold Allah’s law above all, being a witness to the Truth and not a slave to the latest trend.

So for this weblog journey of a self-centred soul, it may mean some re-evaluation of my direction. Perhaps a return to those idealistic postings of early 2001 which were more dawah focussed. I’m not sure yet. I may just post less frequently – but then I have said that before. Whatever I decide to do, I pray that Allah t’ala grants me wisdom and protects me from those whispers that lead us astray so quickly. We all should, for the consequences do not bare thinking of.

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