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Awakening Reflections

Unity

By: DH

A popular buzzword amongst Muslims nowadays is the concept of “brotherhood”. “The event is for brotherhood purposes…” “This is great for creating brotherhood”, and other similar statements are often heard as the tagline for organized events, and has become almost something of a subculture for Muslim youth (represented by groups like YM and that cheesy “chill yo Islam yo” t-shirt, for example).

You may have noticed that “brotherhood” is being placed in quotation marks here. Why? Isn’t it a key part of our deen? Indeed, Allah establishes it in the Qur’an by stating, “Verily and exclusively, the Muslims are brothers” (49:10). Isn’t this something we should be trying to nurture? Unfortunately, our definition of “brotherhood” is no longer in line with its true, Islamically established meaning: a bond, stronger than blood, that exists between two people who say “la ilaha ill-Allah”. Take a moment to consider that: the only condition for this brotherhood is the declaration of the Shahada. It sounds so simple, how could our definition have corrupted that? It is by introducing extra conditions which, believe it or not, almost all of us are guilty of at one point or another.

You might immediately ask what that means, but in your heart you already know the answer.

“That guy is a hardcore salafi, you could grab his beard in 5 fists.”
“Watch out, that girl is a sufi. The only word in her vocab is ‘dhikr’”.
“He’s a shi’a, he prays on a rock, doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

How shameful is it that these are not exaggerated scenarios, but actual sentiments Muslims voice? How shameful is it that we have created artificial boundaries in a system based on unity? Ikhtilaf (difference of opinion) exists in Islam, and discussing which opinions have a basis and which don’t is a whole subject on its own…but since when has it become the criterion for determining who to associate with and who to avoid? Aren’t we one ummah? Isn’t there such a thing as discussion in Islam? Naseehah (advice)? Where does ikhtilaf come in to diminish the bond so clearly and simply established in the aforementioned ayah? And on top of categorizing other Muslims like this, why do we insist on categorizing ourselves? Why isn’t it enough to say we’re Muslim anymore?

Your label, whether you realized/intended it or not, separates you from others. You are now different. You’re a shafi’i. A hanafi. A salafi. Sufi. You have created a subcategory for Muslim when there aren’t any, and thus have created fragmentation when there should be solidarity. Ikhtilaf should be the source of discourse, not distance. We should be brought together to learn and teach one another about our deen, but instead we have done the exact opposite. Our Ummah is literally bleeding to death, and we’d rather criticize (from a distance) and avoid our own brothers and sisters who happen to hold a different idea (wrong or right). Until we realize and internalize the true meaning of brotherhood, not “brotherhood”, we will stay in the weak broken state we’re in now. Our Ummah has worked together and lived in harmony for centuries despite ikhtilaf existing even during the time of the Prophet (saw), so clearly our disunity is a product of our own ignorance rather than something innate in Islam (wal ‘iyathu billah).

Wake Up

By: DH

We must be sleeping. It’s probably a very deep sleep, too, the kind that explosions and gunfire and screams don’t penetrate. How else could we be so calm in the face of our brothers and sisters being annihilated? Surely we couldn’t be willfully sitting by idly, right? The rest of our Ummah that isn’t occupied with being massacred must also be sleeping, then. Jordan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the other “Muslim” nations couldn’t intentionally be ignoring the cries of agony and death from the Middle East, could they?

Imagine watching your innocent brother or sister getting lost in an explosion. Being riddled with bullets. Snatched away, never to return. Could you bear it? Would you do nothing? It seems like we would, because that is our reaction to what’s happening every day to people who ARE our brothers and sisters. People with whom we share a bond stronger than blood are being brutally slaughtered, and we do nothing? We must be sleeping.

Some of us might think of some charity thing or other and feebly answer, “we are doing something”. Well, ask yourself, what is that, exactly? Will it really help? What solution have we presented and actually enacted? More on point: what are the subjects of our discussions now? For surely we must be talking about how to resolve this urgent issue, right? More urgent, of course, than talking about trivial topics like the validity of Valentine’s Day and the Prophet’s birthday, right? I certainly wouldn’t care to waste time on Jeremy Lin and Whitney Houston while my siblings were being murdered, would I? This must be a very deep sleep, indeed.

If you’re going to argue that you’re not sleeping, then my answer to you is that you are, but not in the sense that you think — we, my brothers and sisters, are in a state of intellectual slumber. Our minds have been completely shut off and shut out from the sorts of ideas and issues we need to be discussing, and I promise you that that is not by chance. Those of us taking the time to look past the media cesspool of worthless information and see our Ummah crying in the distance need to ask not how to merely stop the oppression, but how to stop the force that made that oppression possible. Syria’s problem is not Bashar Al-Assad, as Egypt’s problem was not Hosni Mubarak. The real problem is the system that allowed such wretched men to take power in the first place.

We need to look at the bigger picture. We’re not just Muslims in our community, in this country. We’re Muslims in an Ummah: one body, one banner, one family. These talks about the fiqh of beard length and how best to get married for the umpteenth time are somewhat important, sure, and have their place, but if we don’t widen the scope of our deen to encompass more than ourselves, we will lose on all fronts. Islam is a complete way of life that includes all aspects of our existence, down to how we conduct ourselves on a global scale. Alhamdulillahi rabbil ‘alameen, our Lord did not leave room in this deen for men and their house of cards social systems. So then, why do we let such systems propagate and take over our lives? How is it not a crime to watch and let Man establish every terrible idea they can come up with (at the expense of our blood) while ignoring what our Creator already gave us?

We must be sleeping, brothers and sisters. And it’s time to wake up.

The Clock is Ticking

By: DH

Almost all of us are guilty of procrastinating at times in our lives; whether it’s beginning to study at the last minute of the day before an exam or catching up on a semester’s worth of homework halfway in, we’ve all done our fair share of not doing anything. It seems almost natural to repeatedly find ourselves in the situation where we’ve put things aside so much to the point that we’re scrambling to finish what would have been a simple task and now has accumulated to hours and hours of work. In the end, we find ourselves promising never to make the same mistake of saving things for later, but we eventually end up slipping once again down the slippery slope of procrastination. What’s important to realize, however, is that procrastination is not just dangerous to keeping up a good GPA, but it is also hurtful to our eternal fate in the Akhirah.

In fact, in our preoccupation with worldly matters, we usually tend to turn a blind eye towards this type of procrastination, simply because we don’t really see the direct consequences of our actions. We push aside studying Islam in depth and staying up for qiyaam with the mentality that we’re going to have so many more opportunities later on in life to fulfill these tasks before we meet Allah (swt). What many fail to realize is that Allah (swt) will ask us of how we spent all of our time in this Dunya. When you really consider it, as Muslims, we don’t have the concept of “free time” wherein we can justify being unproductive; we are accountable for every minute and thus do not have a minute to spare. When taking a final for a class, we exert so much effort in making sure our answers are correct and are constantly checking to make sure we have enough time to finish the exam. Would you consider it okay to stop and take a break, look around, sleep, talk to the person next to you, and so on? In that situation we would all agree that we have absolutely no time to waste doing any of those things; every minute that passes is one less minute we have to ensuring that everything is correct. Why don’t we treat the biggest exam of our lives – this test from Allah (swt) – the same way? Moreover, in this case there is no option of retaking the class if you fail; your result stays with you for eternity. We are given such a short amount of time in this life to begin with, and what’s even scarier is that we don’t even know how much time we have. Imagine taking an exam with that sort of pressure? Thinking that we can spare a few years of our life for “fun” and then get serious about the deen later in life is really just a sign of not understanding the pressure that’s on us. Allah (swt) warns us against people who waste their time when he says, “Until, when death comes to one of them, he says:

“My Lord! Send me back. “So that I may do good in that which I have left behind!” No! It is but a word that he speaks, and behind them is Barzakh (a barrier) until the Day when they will be resurrected.” [23:99-100]

Time only moves in one direction, but you can have it work for you or against you. Would you rather struggle and push aside your desires to “chill” for a few years in this Dunya in exchange for an eternity of bliss, or would you instead give up the precious time given to have fun in turn for an eternity of regret? The choice is up to you…the clock is already ticking.

Rethinking the Method of Islamic Revival

By: DH

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It doesn’t take much thought to realize that the Muslim Ummah today is in a declined state intellectually, spiritually, and politically. Once being the world’s hyperpower, the center of enlightenment and education, and the best when it came to their understanding of their deen and what it asked of them, living in a society which was in accordance to all the rules of Islam, it has fallen so far as to be merely a shadow of its former self. Presently, the Muslim world is destitute, downtrodden, and barely retains its identity with Islam as cultural and secular influences plague the minds of the populace and corrupt leaders alike. Its civilians are being massacred daily and the rest of the world stands by idly as they sink further and further. When looking back to the “Golden Age” of Islam, and comparing it to the sorry state Muslims are living in today, it really makes one wonder: “Why did this happen? How did this come to be?” Determining what exactly the differences are is the key to comprehending the cause.

To start with, many Muslims seem to be aware of the fact that we as an Ummah are oppressed. What they may not realize, however, is that it is not simply physical oppression taking place; through laws, conditioning and control over the flow of information, there is a strong intellectual suppression that has been in effect. The very fact that Muslims are forced to live under laws other than the ones set forth by Allah (swt) is a form of oppression itself (for only Allah is “al-‘Adl”, the just). Nationalistic ideals and loyalty to the nation rather than Islam are enforced. There are kings and dictators in power when Islam accepts neither. People are told to identify as “Palestinian” or “Indian” or “American” first, and the deen inevitably comes second, if at all. Islam is treated as an abstract concept, a generic set of guidelines that determine one’s relationship with God and nothing else. Attempts to learn or speak about it in any other sense results in a “dangerous” label and many Muslims (overseas in particular) end up disappearing. Being divided and ignorant makes any sort of physical oppression easy, for without knowing and understanding a cause to strive for, Muslims will never be able to unify and resist. A very telling example is the recent failed “revolution” in Egypt wherein people demonstrated their ability to fight for change, but because they never had any clear change in mind, everything relapsed.

For us here in the West, some of us do in fact realize the spiritual and intellectual decline of the Muslims, but our approach is unfortunately rather self-centered. We tend to focus solely on bettering ourselves as individuals, treating our deen as our personal connection to Allah only. The concept of the Islamic connection which spans the entire world is lost in our isolative practices. While we ought to acknowledge that reviving one’s heart and one’s intellect is key to bettering ourselves as Muslims, focusing only on the individual aspects of Islam (such as personal ibadaat) while neglecting the socio-political realm of it will ultimately prevent us from ever getting back to the supreme state we were once in.

One of the main aspects of Islam that sets it apart from other beliefs is the fact that it is an ideology: a way of life. It covers every aspect of one’s life, which includes the way our society should function. Therefore, it naturally presents laws that range from individual aspects of worship and laws that are meant for the Muslim body at large. We, as Muslims, should realize that it is expected of us to not only ensure that we are fulfilling the individual obligations upon us, but that we are also carrying out our obligations (fard’ kifayah) when it comes to being a part of a Muslim Ummah. There is no “bettering ourselves first”; we need to work on ourselves while simultaneously taking an active role in changing the situation of the Muslim world and fixing the injustice that our brothers and sisters are facing on a daily basis.

Many of us are familiar with the hadith in which the Prophet (saw) said: “The Muslim Ummah is like one body. If the eye is in pain then the whole body is in pain and if the head is in pain then the whole body is in pain.” We need to analyze, however, what this really means for us. Are we just supposed to feel bad about that pain, or are we supposed to do something about it? We must actually treat ourselves as one unit and challenge the oppression of foreign ideologies and systems that surround us and that are forced upon us worldwide. In order to move forward as an Ummah and to revive Islam, we must have an active role in society. Islam has all but become a mere set of rituals now, and we must do everything we can to fix that. For those who claim we should “fix the nafs” first, we need to think: we can “work on ourselves” forever and the need for it will never end, so at what point would we declare “we’ve worked on ourselves enough, let’s work on the Ummah next?” How long are we going to limit ourselves to the individual efforts in order revive this Ummah? Let’s truly see ourselves as one body and start the Islamic awakening of not only the heart and mind, but of society as well.

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