Fix yourself

Honestly, converts and the newly religious are their own worst enemy.

From knowing nothing, suddenly you know it all. Yesterday you did not believe, but today you are the truest believers of all: yours is the saved sect, free from error and misguidance, purified of the heresies that disable all other believers everywhere. It is time to publish a hundred books, to establish a dawah website, a YouTube channel and that persistent social media presence. All of a sudden it is time to teach, and to guide, and to lead others into the light.

Never mind that your attempts at dawah are cringeworthy, founded on presumed facts you have not even bothered to check. Never mind that most of your claims are spurious and without grounds. The earth is flat, you tell us, with assured certainty. Everyone’s favourite scholar is a Freemason. The affairs of the Muslims are overruled by the Illuminati. A popular preacher is a Satanist, whose sole aim in life is to misguide Muslims away from true faith, which all Muslims except you are grossly ignorant of. Homeopathy becomes the sixth pillar of Islam. Conspiracy theories become articles of faith. True knowledge lies in your hands alone.

In the early days, whatever you are taught by whoever you are with sounds convincing. It is natural, I suppose, to believe that you have been guided to your final destination; that your sincerity has been rewarded with entry into the house of true Islam. Perhaps you believe that your prayers have been answered, as you embrace the faith of your self-satisfied companions, who have congratulated you on coming to the truth; it is amazing how often people congratulate you for finding true Islam and not succumbing to those deviant sects. No doubt you have already learned in great detail what it is that all those heretics believe — and thank goodness you are not one of them.

In the early days, there is no avoiding that smug self-satisfaction, as you rejoice in the purity of your faith. How much better you are than the Christians, whose books were not written down until seventy or eighty years after the mission of the Messiah, and how flawless your works and so free of contradiction. You will have already embraced Sahih Bukhari, mining it for hadith with which to blast your opponents. In your mind, it is a pristine work without doubt. History, politics and political violence are no concern of yours. You are on the truth, and it is your job alone to bring all others to that truth, whatever it takes. You are the true Muslim, after all.

Nobody wants to hear this, but it has to be said: sit back down. Put those pamphlets away that brought you here. Clear that YouTube playlist brimming with proofs. Don’t engage with the polemicists and proselytisers who bamboozle you with information, which in years to come will turn out to be only partially true, if not patently false. Have some humility.

I must say I am continually impressed by the vast followings converts and the newly religious attract, as they set out on their mission to impart their privileged wisdom to the world. But don’t be deceived by those followings: for every supporter you will have two dozen detractors, who resent your claim to superior knowledge. And rightly so. For if you do not channel your enthusiasm inwardly, this new found faith of yours will soon whither away and die. It’s no fun performing for the crowd, when inside you are empty.

So go easy with that conviction that you hold special knowledge. Hold off on imparting everything you know about secret societies, grand conspiracies, the imminent arrival of a saviour, heretical sects, misguided scholars and true Islam. You may be surprised to learn that we have heard it all before, on slickly produced audio cassettes in the 1990s, and before that in halaqas and tariqas, spanning decades, if not centuries.

Have a little humility. You have learned a little. Alhamdulilah. Now put away those certainties. Get ready to probe, ask questions, research, delve deeply. The proselytisers who reached out to you knew only a little too. Some of what they told you was true. Some of it was false. Some of it requires more investigation and further work. Some of it was but a shadow of reality. What you have found is but a slither of what is to come.

Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves while you recite the Scripture? Then will you not reason? — Qur’an 2:44

Look within, and fix yourself. This smug, self-righteous arrogance of ours is no part of the true faith we are called to.

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