To believe

The self-congratulating activist, revelling in his mastery of identity politics, can’t help but boast of his radical hatred of the Muslim convert — those irritating upstarts everywhere held in contempt — rallying against their pretence of belonging or their claim to the prophetic inheritance. Real Muslims are sick of Muslim converts, they remind us to great acclaim, their declarations liked, reposted and quoted all over.

Thus does the activist forget that the prophets and messengers were first sent not to the righteous, but to the lost and broken. Over and over, we discover that clear refrain, addressing those yet to believe, calling them to faith in the One.

Have those who disbelieved not considered that the heavens and the earth were a mass all sewn up, then We unstitched them and of water fashioned every living thing? Will they not believe?

Quran 21:30

Ours is a universal message, addressing all of mankind, calling them to believe in the Lord of the universe, alone without partner. It is not a call to particularism, or belonging to a particular tribe. It is a path for all who have the humility to take it up, be they the descendent of multiple generations of Muslims, or the first in their family to believe. The path is there for all who wish to take it up, regardless of the demands of nationalism, identity politics or family belonging. It is a path of reform for all who wish to purify and transform their hearts.

Islam is not the property of any one nation or people. If you wish to believe, all you need to do is sow that seed in your heart and utter a few short words on your tongue, confessing that there is no god but God — that nothing is worthy of worship except the One who created all things. You are not then called to become an Arab or a Pakistani, identifying with whatever it is which exercises them. Yours is a spiritual migration; a call to something higher.

I have Jewish friends who decades ago moved to Israel to live and work on a kibbutz, who instead ended up embracing Islam in the heart of Jerusalem. Through the years, I have known converts of every background: Christians, Hindus, Sikhs, Atheists. I count amongst my friends, people of every ethnicity, some born into Muslim families, some the children of converts, some converts themselves. It is a way of life for all, no matter if that makes you a minority within a minority.

One day, the activists will have to acknowledge that their identity politics are not helpful. I know of folk who recognise the truth of the path, but they feel unable to embrace it due to the politics of belonging. Consider the Armenian who knows it is the truth from their Lord, who nevertheless feels it would be treachery to embrace it due to the crimes perpetuated against their forefathers by those outwardly associated with our faith.

Consider those who lived through the horrors of partition seventy-five years ago, and the long-lasting traumas it inflicted on families for generations. Will it be easy for the grandson or granddaughter of one who witnessed barbarity to take up a path onto which has been projected so much scorn? Not at all, and yet people still do, for they are able to separate the actions of people from the beliefs they are associated with.

Those who know in their heart that it is true will ultimately embrace it, whatever the personal cost. And, yes, there is always a personal cost of some kind. So leave the Muslim convert be. Let them adopt the faith as they feel fit. Let them express their faith however they please. They owe you nothing; you did not call them to faith. God did. God alone can demand commitment from them: not vocal activists, demanding that they toe the line or be gone. We did not answer the call of communitarianism; we answered the call of truth.

This is a path meant to make you humble. It’s way that calls you to mercy and kindness, fairness and justice. You’re meant to make things easy for people. To call them with wisdom and beautiful preaching. As our Book clearly says: God does not love the arrogant and boastful, so don’t be people like them, belittling those who wear their faith differently. Perhaps your scorn is unbefitting of your activism.

The servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk humbly upon the earth, who when the ignorant address them say: “Peace.”

Quran 25:63

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