To believe

“Are you a believer or not?”

I am a believer… in the One, the creator and sustainer of all things… in all of the messengers sent to mankind, and in the revelation revealed to them. Daily, I behave as believers do. In the twenty-four years since I first uttered the testimony of faith, I have observed every one of the five daily prayers, fasted every month of Ramadan and annually paid my alms. In 2006, 1427AH, I performed the hajj pilgrimage. All of these: the outward manifestations of the Muslim faith.

Yes, I am a believer in the One, and in divine justice and mercy. I believe in the path of mercy and forgiveness, of justice and truth, of good-living and compassion. I am a believer in this active path towards achieving a state of communal safety, health and fairness. But this pursuit naturally leads one into conflict with others who attribute other meanings to the path. Hence that question: “Are you a believer or not?”

I am not a believer in the righteousness of all Muslims. All of mankind, Muslim or not, has to decide how they are going to live their lives. To proclaim yourself Muslim does not make you automatically just and fair; you have to choose to behave this way. Declaring yourself Muslim does not induct you into the fraternity of the chosen people, after which you can then do as you please. Our book is very clear what is required of us:

Indeed, the Muslim men and Muslim women, the believing men and believing women, the obedient men and obedient women, the truthful men and truthful women, the patient men and patient women, the humble men and humble women, the charitable men and charitable women, the fasting men and fasting women, the men who guard their private parts and the women who do so, and the men who remember God often and the women who do so — for them God has prepared forgiveness and a great reward.

Quran 33:35

A Muslim who lies and cheats may still be considered a believer, but it remains a blameworthy state. Can the one raised a Muslim who never prays, who defrauds others in his business dealings and acts ruthlessly towards others be considered equal to one who acts justly between people and gives them their due?

It is true that in my writing I often seem to be very critical of the influential amongst us. For this, my faith is found wanting. But, in truth, this is faith in practice. We are not asked to slavishly follow great men, regardless of how they behave. On the contrary, we are asked to uphold truth and justice, whatever the personal cost.

O you who have believed, persistently stand firm in justice, witnesses for God, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, God is more worthy of both. So follow not your personal inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort your testimony or refuse to give it, then indeed God is ever, with what you do, acquainted.

Quran 4:135

I believe in the One, in the path, the book and righteous guidance. But in identity politics, whitewashed histories, communitarian expediency, defending injustice, undermining safety, covering for those doing wrong: in all of this, I absolutely do not believe at all. I believe we are called to stand for the truth, whatever our personal circumstances.

“So are you a believer or not?”

That’s for you to decide. But, for me, that’s between me and the One alone. He will justly hold me to account for the good and bad I do, and will judge me fairly. And so it is for all mankind; all people will be asked that question. Do you believe in the One, and in truth and justice, fairness and decency, and in striving for communal wellbeing, safety and healthy living?

“Are you a believer or not?”

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