How easy it is to find fault with the other. It is always our opponents that have entered the proverbial lizard hole, while we ourselves cling firm to authentic faith. Our orthodoxy is palpably correct, while the beliefs of our foes are obviously suspect. Thus do we wield in our armoury words famously attributed to the Prophet, peace be upon him, with which we trounce our opponents: Continue reading “On lizard holes”
The people of old find our bold proclamations of self-importance peculiar. What a strange thing, this annual celebration of the new orthodoxy, fostered in every nation on earth by the high priests of the age. In times past it was thought of as a chronic disease, associated with the tongue of Iblis:
He said, “I am better than him. You created me from fire and created him from clay.” — Qur’an 38:76
It is curious indeed: this self-glorification, self-exaltation, self-advancement which afflicts us. The good man is the one who is good in the sight of God, an unknown to mere mortals like us. The arrogant man confounds when dispensing advice, and rude when on the receiving end. Our belief that we are better than others is pure, unadulterated ignorance.
This bitter pride of ours is poison. The great man in the one who is great in the sight of God alone, and only He can judge. Until we stand before Him, gathered together at the end, we have no idea how we will be judged ourselves, let alone our companions on the road.
So shun this new-fangled Eid, devised to glorify the self en masse. We are but dust; no, less than an atom, or a quark. God guides whom He wills and leads astray whom He wills. Our state today could change tomorrow, or in an instant in between. So why this boastful declaration of pride, celebrating ourselves and our own? May our Lord make us humble, recognising that none of us is greater than the unknown servants of the Most Merciful, the Most High.
One of the first lessons most of us learn when we set out on the path is, “Actions are by intentions.” It hardly needs to be said, for that is the primary concern of most seekers: to believe sincerely, without that prevailing sense of hypocrisy that gave birth to our search in the first place. But it provides a sound foundation for the journey ahead. It is one of a handful of narrations we know by heart, always quickly recalled. Continue reading “The hidden self”
Don’t turn your religion into a source of income, because in time you’ll inevitably be forced to follow the money.
Traditionalists and new believers everywhere love eschatology: it is the promise of the end times which keeps their faith alive. Whatever the Qur’an says about knowledge of the Hour being with Allah alone, the allegedly clear signs described in a multitude of others sources apparently being fulfilled before our very eyes are just too beguiling to ignore. So in circles of knowledge it is the chatter of students, as their teachers become animated with such tales. These are certainly the end times, they preach, oblivious to the same preaching of their predecessors in every generation for the past thousand years. Certainly the Hour will come — about that there is no doubt — but its timing is with God alone:
They ask you, [O Muhammad], about the Hour: when is its arrival? Say, “Its knowledge is only with my Lord. None will reveal its time except Him. It lays heavily upon the heavens and the earth. It will not come upon you except unexpectedly.” They ask you as if you are familiar with it. Say, “Its knowledge is only with Allah, but most of the people do not know.” — Qur’an 7:187
‘Let him without sin cast the first stone,’ they retort repeatedly, quoting that little-known Islamic ruling from St John’s Gospel, reserved for the rich and famous. Full disclosure here: I am indeed a sinner through and through, so far be it from me to judge another. I just find it a wondrous thing that the common man is condemned for misdemeanours great and small, while the murderous caliph, alcoholic sage and adulterous scholar are free to do as they please, and the masses still celebrate and laud them for their contributions to civilisation and defence of the realm, convincing themselves that for the rich and famous, their religion is all peace and love and forgiveness, and it is only the common man who must take himself to account and be careful what he says. Fear not: the oppressor is oppressed, a victim of a terrible assault, harassed to commit sins by zealous followers. Have mercy on them, for it is not easy being rich, famous and widely celebrated. Let him without sin cast the first stone.
The hippie Muslims who embraced Islam in the 1960s and 1970s are so much more refined than us modern converts. I wonder if we will ever become chilled like them as our hairs turn white, or if we will forever remain bitter, cynical, conspiratorial and on edge. Hope there’s room in the inn for us sinners.
It is not religion that we defend, but a man. A man, we say, who defends religion, forgetting:
“Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth exalts God, and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do? It is most hateful to God that you say what you do not do.” — Qur’an 61:1-3
But still we persist, for he is a man that represents religion, and he is our just cause. To defend him is to defend religion.
That is why we say, ‘Why bring religion into the affair?’ It is why we say, ‘Religion has nothing to do with it.’
It is why we ignore what religion teaches as we defend this defender of religion. For he is a man who defends religion, but is above religion. A saviour of religion and its followers, though unbound by its sacred laws and precepts.
Revealing, without a shadow of doubt, that it is but a man that we defend and nothing more.
I do not really know anymore what this Islam is that people hold to and preach. All of a sudden sins are not sins. The teachings we always held to are no longer our teachings. It is just an identity, its moral precepts relegated to an ancient backwater, out of sight and mind. Our leaders and activists are profoundly dumbstruck or, worse, preaching Original Sin as cover for the misdemeanours of friends. It perplexes me absolutely. Are we so bankrupt?
Here are my two core, intertwined Ramadan goals: to be less cynical and to be more grateful.
How will I achieve this? I will try to ignore and cut myself off from both Muslim and anti-Muslim propaganda. I will try to minimise my exposure to politics, media and sectarian self-righteousness. I will try to see goodness with my eyes and utter gratitude with my tongue. I will try to find the good in others and overlook their mistakes or assumed intentions.
I will try to withdraw on social media from all who light the spark on cynicism by posting unfounded, bombastic or ridiculous claims, and where not possible, to resist the urge to comment or respond, and instead content my eyes with photos of rivers, gardens and areas of outstanding natural beauty.
And in my home — though this will take much more effort — I will try to see goodness in place of constant provocations, to reward good behaviour and not just censure transgressions. To become more tolerant of noise and more forgiving of the daily riots; to praise more and condemn less. I will try to be more mindful of blessings, more grateful in my actions, more humble in my opinions, less easy to anger, and I will, if the Most Merciful wills, try to be more truthful and more sincere, and rid my heart of the hypocrisies which overwhelm me.
Oh dear. What a mammoth task I have set myself!