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Choosing divine pleasure, favour

By Dr Shariffa Carlo


Last night, something happened to me. I was out with my husband and I was harassed by a group of young men, who to me looked like a bunch of gangsters (then again, all young men today seem to make me fear that). One of the young men came up to me, arms up, and screamed into my ear like he was fighting off some monster. Normally, I am not affected by this type of childish behaviour by ignorant Kafirs, but this time, it got to me. I thought about all the experiences I have had over the years in this country, the United States, from the time a group of young guys tried to run me over to the stupid, silly ninja jokes I hear almost every time I go out. I felt weak, and I was tired of being a freak.

When we were talking about the incident, we started to come up with options, like changing the colors I wear -- avoiding black. We felt that maybe that would help. But after really thinking about it, I doubt it will help. When I was almost run over, I was wearing a headpiece, jeans and a long top.

This was back in my first days as a Muslim, when I did not know that this was not proper hijab. The dress did not matter. The colour, I believe, does not really matter. It seems, in most cases that what matters to them is that I am different. In other cases, it is that I am Muslim.

The reality is that this society that publicly applauds individuality, is actually one of the most repressive societies that exist. Individuality is good as long as that individuality matches what the other individuals are doing to express their individuality.

If all the young people are rebelling by growing long hair, donning beads and doing drugs, then it is acceptable to be individualistic by behaving the same way.

But if all the youngsters are doing as I just mentioned, it is not appropriate to put on a hijab and fear Allah. That is aberrant behaviour!

Allah warned us that the non-believers would not accept us until we give up our Islam. We have to become just like them to be accepted by them. Then, they will be happy. Allah says:

"And the Jews will not be pleased with you, nor the Christians until you follow their religion. Say: Surely Allah's guidance, that is the (true) guidance. And if you follow their desires after the knowledge that has come to you, you shall have no guardian from Allah, nor any helper." (2:120)

At first, I thought it would be wise to tone down my appearance. But I realized that too often, we use the term 'Hikmat' (wisdom) to justify watering down our religion. But when we do that, we lose the true flavour of Islam, we lose the sweetness of the faith. Wisdom does not involve throwing aside the beliefs in Allah in order to please the population that surrounds us.

Ibrahim Abu Khalid wrote: "The word Hikmah (wisdom) has been misinterpreted for too long. It means to approach the people in the best way possible, to act in the most appropriate way taking that particular situation into account."

"It has never meant to give a false image of Islam for personal or community welfare. When Muslims are willing to compromise in all aspects of their lives, we lose the favour of Allah, emit an image of weakness to our enemies, and lose that dignity in the sight of our Creator." (Nida'ul Islam magazine August-September 1995)

Last night, as I reflected on what happened, and my weak reaction to it, I felt ashamed. Am I better than Prophet Muhammad (SalAllahu alaihe Wasallam) and his great companions? Of course not! And when I look to what they had to endure, I am ashamed of my impatience with such a minor incident.

The companions of the Holy Prophet (SalAllahu alaihe Wasallam) endured torture, humiliation, starvation, and even death. All that happened to me was a guy screamed in my ear. Where was that patience I preach about, the pride in my religion, the opposing attitude? If this was a test, I failed miserably. Allah forgive me!

Now, how does this apply to me as a Muslim? Well, I think it was a lesson for me. I think that I was meant to learn that it is easy for Satan to open the door to our hearts to make us want to compromise to please society.

Attempts were made to tempt the Holy Prophet (SalAllahu alaihe Wasallam) with lucrative offers that were made to him. He was offered to become a ruler in Makkah, but he did not falter. He did not compromise one iota of Islam for these people, and neither should we.

I know that wearing black hijab is not necessary. I would be committing no sin if I switched to blue or green or white. I know that it could possibly be easier on me if I change to another colour. But, will I ever be able to respect myself again if I allow the inconsequential bullying of a kafir scare me into giving up one act (Sunnah or Fardh) from my religion?

On the Day of Judgment, will I be able to honestly say to Allah that I was willing to sacrifice my life for His sake if I am not even willing to withstand a little taunting for His sake?

When I first became Muslim, the idea of "fitting in" was drilled into me. I was told that I should modify my hijab in such a way as to blend in. "Use the patterns that are 'in fashion'. Modify them, so they are more Islamic," I was told. I did that. I compromised my religion by trying to look more like the non-Muslims, so that they would not be intimidated by me.

The result? When some hijackers, who were assumed to be Muslims like it was this time, hijacked a plane and killed the pilot, a group of young men decided that the proper retaliation for this was to kill me because I was a Muslim like those terrorists. They aimed their car towards me and gunned the engines. They missed me only by the Grace of Allah.

All I remember is jumping, and when I landed, the car was fishtailing over the spot where I had been standing! It was then that I realized that compromise is useless. It does not matter what I do. I am different. I am a freak, and I am a slap in the face to all their values, morals and culture, so they are never going to accept me!

So why should I lose any chance I may have at paradise, just to make them feel less intimidated by me? Over the years, I have read Ahadith like the one narrated by Jabir bin 'Abdullah, which says:

"The Holy Prophet (SalAllahu alaihe Wasallam) said, 'I have been given five things, which were not given to any one else before me: 1. Allah made me victorious by awe, (by His frightening my enemies) for a distance of one month's journey...'" (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 7, Number 331)

And I have thought about the meaning of this. Why would fear be good? Do we want the non-believers to fear us? Isn't it the fear of us that makes them hurt us in places like Bosnia and Kosovo? Isn't it the fear of us that makes them harass us?

Maybe! But it was also fear of us that made them respect us when we were strong in our religion, when we did not compromise it. When we were strong in the religion, we were leaders of the world. We had the religion and the power because Allah was on our side.

When we started to compromise, we lost the power. Then we were left with only the fear from a group that was stronger than us. We lost the benefits of that fear, Allah's protection, because we were willing to compromise. Ibn-e-Khaldun said, "I knew Andalus would fall when I saw them imitating the Kuffaar (non-Muslims)."

They were a strong nation, but they sacrificed the favour of Allah for the favour of the non-Muslims, and the non-Muslims rewarded them with contempt and Muslim blood flowing like rivers in the streets. The Bosnians and the Kosovars blended in, now the price they pay for being good neighbours is having no home.

Allah also warned us what would happen when we stopped practicing our religion, when we sacrificed the next world for this one: "The nations summon each other upon you as you call guests to eat from a plate of food", they said, "will we be few in number on that day, O Messenger of Allah?" He said, "no rather you will be many on that day, but you will be like the foam on the ocean. And Allah will remove the fear in the hearts of your enemies and place in your hearts 'al-Wahn'." They said, "what is 'al-Wahn', O Messenger of Allah?" He said, "Love of this world and hatred of death."' (Hadith)

I know, it is a small thing, a colour. It is easy and Halaal for me to change from black to something else, but Insha-Allah, I will not give them the satisfaction! We, as Muslims, have to take a stand somewhere. When will the compromise stop?

When will the love for Allah above the love for this world cause us to act? When will I stop cowering and fight back? When will I say, "Enough! My way is the right way; it is the way of Allah and what you are doing is wrong?"

When will I become a caller to Islam - all of it - without compromise, without sugar-coating, without reservations? When will I finally accept that what Allah has commanded - either as a Fardh or a Sunnah is the best and compromising it compromises me? When will I stand in the face of evil and say, "Enough!"?

This is my battlefield. It is small, I admit, but this is where I draw the line. I will not compromise on what I know to be the best to please those I know to be in error.

Allah accept from me this small deed for Your sake and give us all the strength to say 'Enough!' Ameen.

Incline to peace, the spider quotes,

To the unsuspecting fly.

A familiar tale unfolds itself,

So does a familiar lie.

How many times must we succumb,

To the spider's bloody thirst,

Before we realize the truth,

We must defeat him first.

Only achieved on our own terms,

Can peace be considered peace.

Only when we've reached this goal,

Can any hostilities cease.

For if we withdrawal under any plan,

Our enemy can engender,

What we will have achieved will not be peace,

We'll only have achieved surrender. 

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