by Ibaad Sadiq
Once, there was a father, a son, and a donkey journeying to a distant land. As the father rode on the donkey and the son walked, they came upon a town. The people of the town said, “What is wrong with this father who rides on his donkey comfortably while making his child walk?” So the father made his son sit on the donkey and they continued on their journey until they reached another town. The people of this town said, “What is wrong with this son who rides on his donkey comfortably while making his father walk?” So then the father and the son both decided to walk alongside the donkey until they reached another town. Seeing them, these townspeople said, “What’s the point of having a donkey if they’re not going to use it?” Frustrated, the father and the son both decided to sit on the donkey until they reached yet another town. The people of this town said, “What is wrong with these people, why are they abusing the poor donkey with all of their weight?” Finally the father and the son resolved to carry the donkey until they reached the last town, where the people said, “What the heck is wrong with these people? Who carries a donkey?”
I hated Rutgers MSA. I remember the first time I came to an MSA meeting, it was memorable…but not in a good way. The members were cliquey and unwelcoming to say the least. I remember thinking to myself I definitely did not want to ever be a part of it. Many Muslims on campus don’t want to be part of MSA because they also feel unwelcome and judged. When I asked a sister why she doesn’t come to MSA, she said, “I would come, but I’m not gonna put on a hijab just so I could be accepted by MSA.” I lost count of how many times I heard similar responses over the past few years at Rutgers. Alhamdulillah, I think the situation got better since, but there’s a reason I chose to still write about this.
It seems everyone is worried about getting judged nowadays. I used to think “the judging problem” was uniquely an MSA problem, but then I realized many people don’t go to their local mosques because they feel judged there too. They don’t get involved in Islamic organizations because they feel they’ll be judged, they don’t take Islamic classes because they feel they’ll be judged. Forget that, I learned from many of my non-Muslim friends they have the same issue within their own religions—they feel their “religious” crowds are judgmental.
You know what? It’s true. There are some from the “religious” crowd that are judgmental and some that are unwelcoming. But honestly it’s not just the religious crowd that’s judgmental and unwelcoming—the whole world does it. One time when I attended an academic organization on campus, everyone was in his or her own clique, no one tried to greet or include me. In high school, the popular crowd excludes the not-so-popular crowd, the rich exclude the poor, the jocks exclude the nerds, the list goes on. Actually, as Muslims in American society in a post-9/11 world, we’re judged all the time. And even more recently, the #NoRice crew was judged and labeled by the opposition as exclusively liberal, politically driven, etc. People judge all the time, we need to realize that. I ain’t sayin’ it’s right, just sayin’ it happens in more than only religious organizations. (And we all need to make a conscious effort to make sure we’re not guilty of it.)
But let’s be real, sometimes we think others are judging us, even if they’re not. I think it’s actually a defense mechanism for ourselves to legitimize the freedom we have in our actions—even wrong ones—and that mentality is a huge problem. Sometimes we do something wrong, and because we don’t want to admit it, we push the blame on others. I say this mentality is a huge problem because I’ve seen what it sometimes leads to—justifying wrong. We all sin because we’re human, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m saying sometimes when we keep pushing the blame on others, we get to the point where we justify our sins and change the law of Allah to make acceptable what we know in the deepest part of our hearts is not right. Wrong is not wrong because me or you said so, it’s because Allah deemed it so.
So cut out the “stop judging me” mentality from your mind. I know sometimes it’s valid, but it doesn’t help you or the community. It’s a self-destructive mentality. It leads to ill feelings towards each other, which divides our Muslim community.
We all need to work together to improve ourselves. It doesn’t matter how bad you think you are, get involved in the Muslim community, and try to sincerely do good. If you make the effort, don’t you think Allah will help you get better? Stop worrying about what others think—you can never please everyone (hence, the donkey story in the beginning)—just try to please Allah, sincerely. Remember, the lone sheep gets eaten by the wolf, and if college isn’t a prime example of that analogy, I don’t know what is. It’s near impossible if you try to be a good Muslim alone, that’s why Allah orders us to do it together. We all have our own problems and our own sins we struggle with, but together, we can overcome all of that.
Times are not getting easier, they’re getting tougher. Our Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa sallam spoke the truth: he said one of the signs of the Last Day is it will be as difficult to hold on to faith as a man holding on to a piece of hot coal. That’s why now more than ever we need to work together to do good. I talked about this when I gave khutbah at the church: When we pray, we all ask for guidance together by saying, “Guide us to the straight path,” and that’s because it takes all of us. The rich, the poor, the pretty, the ugly, the smart, the not-so-smart, the pious, the struggling, we’re all in this together for the sake of Allah. Ain’t no politics, no personal agendas, just the good old-fashioned ideals the Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa sallam envisioned for our ummah—remaining united to help one another please Allah.
I didn’t write this as a member of MSA, I wrote this as a Muslim of Rutgers to the Muslims of Rutgers. My Prophet salAllahu alayhi wa sallam ordered me to call myself a Muslim, and that is who I try to be, one who submits his will peacefully to God. Even though I have another semester here, I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to be around because of my senior design project and work, so consider these some parting words, truly from the bottom of my heart.
Oh, and I don’t hate Rutgers MSA anymore.
وَاعْتَصِمُوا بِحَبْلِ اللَّهِ جَمِيعًا وَلَا تَفَرَّقُوا ۚ وَاذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتَ اللَّهِ عَلَيْكُمْ إِذْ كُنتُمْ أَعْدَاءً فَأَلَّفَ بَيْنَ قُلُوبِكُمْ فَأَصْبَحْتُم بِنِعْمَتِهِ إِخْوَانًا وَكُنتُمْ عَلَىٰ شَفَا حُفْرَةٍ مِّنَ النَّارِ فَأَنقَذَكُم مِّنْهَا ۗ كَذَٰلِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللَّهُ لَكُمْ آيَاتِهِ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَهْتَدُونَ
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you – when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” [Qur’an 3:103]