Monday, May 14, 2007

The Trouble with Muslims

Yes, how often we've heard about the so-called troubles with Islam, and the need to reform and modernize ourselves to suit the New World. We've seen the various struggles between traditional Muslims (classified as extremists by some), and the modernists who want to shun everything that doesn't appeal to them in Islam, which is almost everything.

But what is the problem with Muslims? I mean, you have to admit that there is some problem, right? Why else would we all be (violently) bickering amongst ourselves and be portrayed by outsiders as thobe-wearing, beard-growing, burqa'd fanatics weilding guns? I mean, what is lacking in Muslims that we've allowed ourselves to be distorted and completely bent out of shape in the eyes of so many people?

I have a theory (I tend to have many unsubstantiated theories, but this one makes a little more sense). This theory can adequately be summarized by this article about religious enforcement, so to speak, in Tehran. My favourite part of the article is:
Police are cracking down on barbers giving Western-style haircuts and shop owners wearing T-shirts with English slogans. They are looking for women wearing headscarves that are too small or colourful.

Authorities also recently announced they would filter mobile-phone messages that they deem to be "immoral."
Look at us. Look at what Muslims are doing. Don't tell me that the biggest problem that Muslims in Tehran have is women who wear colourful hijabs or men who have western haircuts (and by the way, what does a "western haircut" even mean?). I'm not picking on Iran here, I just happened to come across this article today. These things happens in various "Muslim" countries all over the world.

So getting back to my theory that is illustrated by the above example: Muslims have lost a sense of what the essence of Islam is. And if we don't even know the essence of Islam, why do we expect non-Muslims to respect what we believe? We don't know what we believe or why.

Last time I checked, Islam wasn't about forcing women to wear black or men to wear their hair in a certain way. Rather, it's about devotion to God. And through that devotion, being a good person, I mean really good, not just having the appearance of being good. It's about being kind to your family and neighbours, serving the needy in your community, and wishing the best for your fellow man. Where along our path have we forgotten this?

Muslims are so caught up in images. Like, making sure that women dress just so. But this is only because we are so afraid that if we didn't uphold the image, everything would fall apart because of its superficiality. Think about it, if a woman in a pink hijab upsets the balance of an "Islamic state," what kind of confidence and basis does that state have? Insecurity causes people to do strange and unnatural things.

The Qur'an repeatedly issues statements such as, "those who believe and do good deeds, We will admit them to gardens (Paradise) in which rivers flow, lasting in them forever" (Qur'an, 4:57). It always says those who believe and do good deeds. Islam was never about just doing good deeds, it was always about the sincerity of belief that is the cause of the good deed. And yet we've lost the core, the sincerity, but held on with our teeth to superficial goodness.

What's the point?


fathima said...

i knew there was a reason you were wearing that pink hijab.

but yeah, i agree, with one qualification. idiocy is inevitable, which means that rooting out silliness like the eradication of "Western" haircuts is a ceaseless job. but the fixation on our failures to the exclusion of our successes not only creates the impression that we are all weirdos with something against pink, but it also encourages further such idiocy, as some Muslims will internalise these reports and believe that these outward markers are genuine markers of piety.

Mars said...

Well said.

Elizabeth said...

"Insecurity causes people to do strange and unnatural things."
Very poignantly put, Asmaa.

And I strongly believe that forced virtue is no virtue. If the goal is holiness, it is much better to let each one come to that in themselves.