To be successful

Muslims are just people like anyone else. Some are good, some are bad. Most of us are somewhere in between. Religion can be used for both good and bad ends. This applies to humanity in general. The same applies to political ideologies. The history of the twentieth-century teaches us this much.

Even apparently benign social constructs, promoted to us daily as the ideal state for mankind, have been used to justify the subjugation of citizens elsewhere, their brutalisation justified in the name of civilisation.

I don’t subscribe to the romantic school of thought which views the Muslim enterprise as glorious and great, flawless in its pursuit of justice and virtue. Muslims have had good rulers, and they have had tyrants. We have had those who pursued peace, and others who were just killing machines.

Likewise for our communities. I am under no illusions as to the problems in many Muslim communities. For many years I sat on the management committee of a charity which aimed to help Muslim women in crisis. I am all too well aware of issues from domestic abuse to neglect.

But to acknowledge all that’s going wrong isn’t to claim that there is no good in Muslim communities. Domestic violence is prevalent across cultural divides, perpetrated by those of all religions and none at all.

Some men behave as tyrants in the home, others are gentle and kind. Some men neglect all responsibilities to their wives and families; others go above and beyond. This applies to people in general. Muslims are no different from any other people; we have the same foibles as anyone else.

I suppose each of us takes from religion what we want to find. For me, it is a path towards realising the best version of ourselves. To become more merciful and more kind, to be caring of others and responsible in our actions. To be stewards of the natural environment, to pursue justice and act with fairness in our transactions with others.

But if another wants to justify the opposite, they will find it. The texts of millennia can easily be mined to justify anything. If your heart inclines to hatred and oppression, then it will be easy to find a scholar of the past who made statements in support of that. This goes for all traditions and ideologies, for it is a characteristic of the human being.

I find in the path I walk an inherent mercy. For me, it is all about taking yourself to account, to striving against your own ego. Of course this is not unique to this tradition; it’s found in Sanatana dharma, Sikhi, Christianity and many other faiths, suggestive of a shared ancient prophetic ancestry.

For me, it is a path towards achieving a state of safety, health and fairness in our lives. That’s a process which starts from within, as we strive to remove pride and conceit from our being. If you cannot or will not do this, then it will be hard to realise all that follows on.

If you cannot remove arrogance, then it will be hard to treat a spouse with mercy. There follows all the diseases which afflict many a community. But be humble and by necessity you must be gentle, always willing to see good in others, whatever you may have personally experienced.

This is a path which must be experienced. It’s not a theoretical construct found printed on a piece of paper. You have to make is alive by attempting to live that way. If you look for ideals in people, you will always be disappointed. We have our good days and bad, buffeted by the trials and tests of life.

For the path to become real, you must live it. You don’t need qualifications to do so. There is no need to declare yourself something or other. You just start practicing it in your life. It’s between you and your Lord. It starts from within and moves outward.

Everyone is a project in the making. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It takes time to reform your soul and purify your heart, but it is an essential task.

By the sun and his brightness, and the moon when she follows him, and the day when it reveals him, and the night when it enshrouds him, and the heaven and Him Who built it, And the earth and Him Who spread it out, and a soul and Him Who perfected it and inspired it with awareness of what is wrong for it and what is right for it, he is indeed successful who purifies it, and he is indeed a failure who neglects it.

Qur’an 91:1-10

There, the path we are called to. Here the task for all people, Muslim or not. To be good, if possible, or at the very least, somewhere closer to good than bad.

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