Spreading virtue whilst immersed in vice

“There is no doubt of the existence of wars against Islam and conspiracies against it in more than one place on earth today. But the greatest war against Islam, and the most dangerous conspiracy against it, is to carry its banner by those who are spreading virtue whilst immersed in vice.” — Mohamed El-Moctar El-Shinqiti (translated)

 

Wakeup call

Three years ago, alone in a little house on a hill overlooking the Black Sea, I found myself in the midst of a tumultuous tempest. All night and all day, it rained without relent, but instead of falling down on my face to pray for reprieve, I listened to the inner voices that frequently petition me with their calls to evil, teasing nefarious plots and plans out from my soul. As the hammering rain on our steel roof grew ever louder, so too the rhythm of the scheming nafs, invoking malevolent contrivances within. And then…

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Bound by the truth

A lesson encapsulated, from November 2015:

We are bound by the truth only. And it is the truth that we seek wherever it is.

Muslims are just like other people. Some of them are good people. Some are wicked. And there are all those in between. This applies to us at any point in our history.

In seeking the truth, struggle is of essence. It is not a rose that one just plucks with ease.

Better than us

Isn’t it vulgar that believers continuously minimise what we believe God in our religion severely censures? How many times must we hear believers say, “We all make mistakes,” as if to say that what has been described is the norm or trivial? Is it because we have made loyalty to men and community our judge, in place of God and His book? How peculiar. A woman who uncovers her hair must immediately feel the full force of the wrath of the digital ummah without relent. But the beloved sage who, it turns out, has abused his position, status and authority to engage in acts which our religion teaches are amongst the worst? How restrained our retort: “Who are we to judge?” Amr bi al-Maruf wa’l-Nahy an al-Munkar, all of a sudden no longer recalled. It is true that God is forgiving and merciful, and we have no idea who of those who return to Him in repentance He will forgive. Yes, none of us is without sin, and all of us seek His aid, desperately hoping for the forgiveness of our Lord. But our failings do not isolate us from the demands of our tradition. Our sins do not change what God praises and proscribes. Even if we ourselves fall short of the ideals we hold to, that is no reason to downplay those ideals. We have to do better than that. Our tradition is infinitely better than us.

Toxic realm

I suppose I should remind myself not to confuse Islam online with faith itself. The rise of internet demagogues, with their mass followings growing a thousand week by week, is undoubtedly presenting a skewed portrait of the religious realm. Here, the environment is toxic, capable of driving many away if they take it too seriously. Perhaps that is why I am becoming a hermit, cutting myself off from the virtual ummah. If only I could recalibrate my compass, to rediscover like-minded travellers on the path, who might inject some sanity into our affairs. Until then, I must retreat.

Let him without sin speak…

She recites words from the Qur’an: “…and do not conceal testimony, for whoever conceals it — his heart is indeed sinful, and God is Knowing of what you do.”

She recalls another verse: “O you who have believed, stand firmly for justice, witnesses for God, even if against yourselves or parents and relatives, whether one is rich or poor, God is more worthy of both. So follow not own inclinations, 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.”

She recalls: “O you who have believed, persistently stand firm for God, witnesses in justice, and do not let the hatred of a people prevent you from being just. Be just; that is nearer to righteousness. And fear God; indeed, God is acquainted with what you do.”

And she reminds us that the servants of the Lord of Mercy are “those who do not testify to falsehood, and when they pass near ill speech, they pass by with dignity.”

But hearing all of this, her brother in faith immediately responds: “Let him without sin cast the first stone!”

Thus do words first found in Codex Bezae’s rendering of the Gospel of John, dated to the 5th century, supersede the words of the Qur’an for those who claim to speak for the Muslims today.

The illusive critical mass

Last weekend I met an elder-statesman of the convert community, a respected English gentleman who has been Muslim for over forty years — for more years than I have walked on the earth, in fact. He talked about his experience in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when English converts were small in number, and few and far between: eccentric aberrations in the space-time continuation of the Muslim community. Contrasting then and now, he recited Surah An Nasr from the Qur’an:

“When God’s help comes and He opens up your way, and you see people embracing God’s faith in crowds, celebrate the praise of your Lord and ask His forgiveness: He is always ready to accept repentance.” — Qur’an 110

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Those who cover

In a way, I am glad that many of our activists have decided to take a dishonest and one-sided approach to covering certain controversial and politicised cases, because it has helped reveal who those that cover are. So clear has it become that I know not to take their claims seriously anymore, and can happily ignore them without thinking myself a heretic or turncoat. The promoters of communitarianism have convinced many that we must all stand together, even if we are wrongdoers perpetuating evil in the earth. But our religion does not teach that at all.

Exploiting imagery

Oh how we love to exploit imagery, to forge just the right associations in the minds of our audience. Every itinerant scholar in the making knows that to be taken seriously, their library of gold embossed volumes must feature as the backdrop to their latest YouTube video. Every rising star of social media knows who to be photographed with, and where and when. Place a politician before a library of classical works and the connotation is clear: here is a pious man, a scholar, embodying the religion of God. Continue reading “Exploiting imagery”