Note: This is a reminder to myself first and foremost. May Allah protect us all from the traits of hypocrisy and the acts of hypocrisy and may our words match our actions. Ameen.
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, if you were a people who did not commit sin, Allah would take you away and replace you with a people who would sin and then seek Allah’s forgiveness so He could forgive them.” [Sahīh Muslim (2687)]
It’s apparent that Mankind is created imperfect and that we will fall, we will make mistakes and we may stray. The key however is to always turn back to Allah, repent and ask for forgiveness from Him.
“A servant [of Allah’s] committed a sin and said: ‘O Allah, forgive me my sin.’ And He (glorified and exalted be He) said: ‘My servant has committed a sin and has known that he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes for them.’ Then he sinned again and said: ‘O Lord, forgive me my sin.’ And He (glorified and exalted be He) said: ‘My servant has committed a sin and has known that he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes for them.’ Then he sinned again and said: ‘O Lord, forgive me my sin.’ And He (glorified and exalted be He) said: ‘My servant has committed a sin and has known that he has a Lord who forgives sins and punishes for sins. Do what you wish, for I have forgiven you.’”
Allah has created Mankind with proportion and beauty that He placed in us. We are unique beings that Allah created with Allah’s perfection, but what makes us imperfect is our nafs, desires, lusts and human needs and wants. We are not angels who are pure, but strive for purity and closeness to Allah.
Muslims are those who believe in Allah and His Messenger the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and strive to better themselves every day. This is the very basic definition of a Muslim. Yet we are fallible, we make mistakes and will fall in our lives. However, our community makes it hard for those who sin, fall or make mistakes to forgive themselves and also seek the forgiveness of Allah. We’ve become a community that is quick to condemnation and anger, but slow to mercy, leniency and forgiveness. The Prophet Muhammad SAW was a mercy to all the worlds, yet we fail as a community to exhibit this virtue of mercy. We demand perfection from imperfect individuals and when they do slip up or make a mistake we jump on those individuals without even giving them a chance to explain themselves or defend themselves. We fail to look for excuses for our brothers or sisters. Thus, we see our Muslim brothers and sisters repelled from the masjid at first, then the Muslim community, then Islam all together.
Our community is facing immense pressures and is not immune to the challenges and problems other ethnic, racial and religious communities are facing. The Muslim community has issues ranging from domestic violence, drug addiction, pornography addiction, failing family structures, divorce, and the list goes on and on. We fail to understand that Muslims are not immune from these issues. We cannot naively think that “A Muslim would never do ______.” It’s a reality that Muslims are human beings with weaknesses just like anyone else. We will fall, we will make mistakes and we most certainly will sin. What makes it difficult for Muslims to recover from sin and their shortcoming is the quick condemnation or repulsion by their fellow brothers and sisters. This is further complicated and amplified by social media. A person can say one statement and it spreads like wildfire and may become a fitnah (trial) for someone’s faith in Allah or Islam. Thus, we need to watch what we say not only in person, but also online.
Imagine for a moment on the Day of Judgment Allah asking us about a fellow Muslim brother or sister who was seeking to come closer to Allah but through our actions we repelled them from Him and either stopped coming to the masjid or left Islam all together. This is the reality we are facing. The 10% of Muslims who are practicing Muslims who bicker over trivial issues, while the 90% of Muslims are struggling with their faith is not productive at all. Now the percentages aren’t scientific or based on research, but are only to illustrate a point. It’s not to say that we shouldn’t’ have discussions or education about Islamic rulings on certain topics regarding actions and worship, but at the same time we need to be ensuring we’re not insulating ourselves and making an exclusive club of practicing Muslims which totally neglects other Muslims who are struggling with their faith.
We need to have scholars talking and educating the practicing Muslim community, but scholars and the Muslim community shouldn’t have a Haram Police attitude towards the 10% practicing community and the 90% of Muslims who are non-practicing. This repels everyone away from Islam and Allah. This is not to say we need to totally ignore any haram actions or accept any non-Islamic actions, but we must realize that everyone is on their own spiritual path and is struggling in their own way, thus we need to be sure that we are bridges to Allah and not obstacles to Allah. When people see us they should be reminded of the Prophet SAW and not repelled and disgusted by Islam due to our actions.
We must take a nuanced approach to giving beautiful advice to correct our brothers and sisters in a way that is genuine and done with the intention of their well-being. Our community has a long way to go when it comes to discussing and creating safe spaces to discuss various challenges our communities are facing and creating warm and welcoming communities that welcome the 90% of non-practicing Muslims.
Below are a few tips on how we can create a more welcoming and merciful community:
1) Work on Our Own Spiritual Condition
“To put the world in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order; we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right.”
Before pointing fingers at anyone we need to start with ourselves and take inventory of our strengths and weaknesses and where we are on our spiritual path. Change comes from within and starts at the individual level. Educate yourself more about Islam via legitimate sources of knowledge.
2) Think Well of Others
When we do step 1 we’ll realize that we have a lot of weaknesses we need to work on and the next brother or sister may be dealing with more or less the same weaknesses you are, thus sympathize or empathize with them at least and realize that we’re all on a spiritual journey and the key is to keep each other on that path of self-improvement and self-discovery.
3) Realize We’re all Imperfect and at Different Levels of Understanding of Islam
We need to realize that we’re all imperfect and have different understandings of Islam. We all don’t have a perfect understanding of Islam and learn something new every day and should seek to understand the Quran and Sunnah better. However, if someone does an action that isn’t in line with the Quran or Sunnah we shouldn’t be quick to condemn them and repel them completely. Rather, advise with a beautiful reminder and do so privately without embarrassing them.
4) Avoid Rushing to Issue a Fatwa or Condemnation/Avoid the Emotional Knee-Jerk Reaction
If you’re reading this chances are you’re not an imam, scholar or a mufti. If you are, then this advice doesn’t’ pertain to you!
Yahyaa ibn Sa’eed said: Ibn ‘Abbaas said: “Everyone who issues fatwas to the people concerning everything that they ask him about is crazy” (Malik)
Sahnoon ibn Sa’eed said: the most audacious of the people in giving fatwas is the one who has the least knowledge; a man may have a grasp of one branch of knowledge and he thinks that all the truth is to be found in this branch.
Thus, most Muslims are in no position to issue a fatwa or condemnation of another Muslim without knowledge. If we truly want a fatwa from a legitimate scholar, go ask for one from various scholars and make your decision based on those fatwas. Also, we need to not react emotionally or in a state of anger towards certain issues, but must do so with wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
5) Advise Your Brother or Sister with Sincerity (If You Care for their Well-Being)
The Prophet SAW said: “Religion is (sincere) advice.”They said, “For whom?” He replied, “For Allaah, His Book, His Messenger and for the leaders of the Muslims and their masses.” [Muslim]
We need to ensure that when we do give advice to others we are doing so with good intentions and with the intention to see our fellow brother or sister’s spiritual, emotional, psychological and social well-being. If our intentions don’t meet those criteria then it’s best not to give advice.
6) Advise in Private
The Muslim for another Muslim is a mirror, but also shields his or her faults from public. Thus, if we truly love and care for our brother or sister we should advise them in private and not embarrass them in public. This is adab is lost quickly on social media with it being extremely easy to type a few words of spite or condemnation of our brother or sister.
7) Realize There are Legitimate Points of Views on Different Matters
We need to avoid taking a “my way or the highway approach” when it comes to Islam. Obviously this doesn’t pertain to the core beliefs of Islam: Allah’s oneness, not associating partners, belief in the Last Day, etc. However, when it comes to other issues that are interpreted differently by legitimate scholars we need to humble ourselves and not become arrogant and flippantly try to say our way of thinking is correct and everyone’s is wrong.
8) Keep it Humble
The biggest problem we have today is keeping ourselves humble and ensuring that we don’t become arrogant when dealing with others. This is easier said than done and is a constant and daily struggle. A simple way to keep it humble is to totally humble ourselves in front of Allah and increase our taqwa.
Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ’alayhi wa sallam) said, “One who weeps out of fear of Allah, will not enter the Hell till milk returns back in the udder; and the dust raised on account of fighting in the path of Allah and the smoke of Hell will never exist together”.
9) Avoid Backbiting, Slander and Gossip
This happens all too often on social media with one link or video which may be taken out of context or may outright be fake or false information. We need to ensure that we steer clear of these conversations online and offline as well.
O you who have believed, if there comes to you a disobedient one with information, investigate, lest you harm a people out of ignorance and become, over what you have done, regretful. (Quran 49:6)
10) Speak Good or Remain Silent
Lastly, it’s best to always be aware of ourselves, our words and our actions because we don’t know the weight of our words or actions and the impact it may have on someone or ourselves.
Abû Hurayrah relates that Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak a good word or remain silent. And whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his neighbor. And whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his guest.” [ Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim ]
.The Prophet (SAW) said: “A man might speak a word without thinking about its implications, but because of it, he will plunge into the Hellfire further than the distance between the east and west.” [ Sahîh al-Bukhârî and Sahîh Muslim ]
This is not to say we shouldn’t speak up for justice for ourselves or others or to condemn evil, but when it comes to criticisms of people it’s best to speak good or remain silent because or words very well may repel them from Allah and disgust them and have them reject Allah and His message all together.
11) Discuss Don’t Debate
Debates are a waste of time and lead to ego-boosting and bad-blood. This is not to say we should totally throw out debates, but there is a time and place for them. Discussions however are much more productive than debating. We need to try to have discussions with those with opposing views than ourselves and seek to find where our brothers and sisters are coming from rather than approaching them with a heavy-handed approach.
12) Be Quick to Forgive, Show Leniency and Mercy
Our initial reaction to an un-Islamic act is to ridicule, mock or condemn an individual. We need to avoid this.
Anas Bin Maalik said:
While we were in the masjid with the Messenger of Allah, a Bedouin came; he then urinated in the masjid.
The Companions of the Messenger of Allah said, “Mah Mah (An expression used to severly scold someone, to indicate the graveness of a matter).”
The Messenger of Allaah said, “Do not put a halt to his urinating, but instead leave him.”
They left him alone until he finished urinating.
The Messenger of Allah called him over and said to him, “Any kind of urine or filth is not suitable for these masjids. Instead they are only [appropriate] for the remembrance of Allah, the Prayer, and the recitation of the Qur’aan,” or this is near to what the Messenger of Allah said.
He (saw) then issued an order to a man from the people, who then came with a bucket of water, which he poured over the [effected] area [of the masjid].
[Related by Muslim in his Saheeh, 285]
Our brothers and sisters have done lesser than this, yet we’re quick to fight them, argue, debate, scold and condemn them. We must exhibit mercy, wisdom, love and caring as the Prophet SAW did. Reflect on his seerah, live his life. Be a walking Quran!
13) Build Up, Don’t Tear Down
If you see a problem within an organization or a brother or sister don’t be quick to tear them down, ridicule or mock them. We will move nowhere as a community if we continually tear each other down, viciously criticize, mock, ridicule and condemn our own brothers and sisters. If we truly loved for our brothers (and sisters) what we love for ourselves we must give positive criticisms in a beautiful manner.
14) Be Mature about Accepting Criticisms and Difference of Opinions
Lastly, we must show maturity when it comes to accepting criticsms and and differences of opinions and different viewpoints. We are all created differently, have different life experiences and yes we will have different points of views and opinions on things. The key to accepting criticisms is to accept them with grace and dignity. When one responds with rejection of the criticism or acts or responds defensively it isn’t productive at all. Regardless if the criticism is done in an inappropriate manner one must not stoop to the level of their critic. If the criticism is genuine and for your wellbeing say alhamdulllilah that one cares for your wellbeing and thank them.
15) Don’t Hide Behind “Don’t Judge Me”
As a community we will get no where if we continually seek to ignore our weaknesses and faults and hide behind the phrase “don’t judge me.” For more information about this topic please read this article by Dawud Walid.
16) Create Safe Spaces and Dialogues
We must create safe spaces in our masjids or outside our masjids in our MSA and at our homes to discuss challenges facing our community. Communication and dialogue is key to solving challenges facing our community. We will never truly understand where we are as a community and what personal problems people are facing if we don’t create environments in which people can seek help and at the very least mercy, love and caring in a warm and welcoming environment.
17) Make Islam Relevant to the Lives of Muslims
Lastly, we need to begin making Islam relevant to the lives of Muslims and begin understanding Islam within people’s socio-cultural contexts and personal conditions. We cannot afford to give blanket statements regarding the entire Muslim community without fully understanding their spiritual, emotional, political, emotional, social and psychological conditions. We have so many youth who are confused about Islam’s relevance to their lives—-we need to start providing them solutions to the many problems they face on a daily basis and give them the confidence in their Muslim identity and their religion to face the world.
18) Pray for Your Brothers and Sisters (And Yourself!)
Lastly, pray for your brothers and sisters and yourself. Ask for guidance, understanding of the Quran and Sunnah, wisdom, strength, taqwa, sakeenah, peace and happiness for you and your brothers and sisters. We all need more duas in our lives and the world needs it too. It is the least we can do for our brothers and sisters.