Sunday, 2 January 2011
Who is a "Moderate" Muslim?
On December 18th, 2010 the Toronto Star published an article that advocated the banning of not only the Niqab (face covering) and Burqa (full body covering), but also the Hijab (head covering).
The article stated, "The burqa and niqab represent a tradition that views women as sexual objects, temptresses who, with the flash of an ankle, can bring men (weak creatures incapable of resisting this temptation) to their knees. It's a repugnant value system and I reject it. So should all Canadians who embrace secular feminism. So let's ban the burqa, the niqab, and while we're at it, the hijab."
The article used the term "moderate Muslim" to describe the person who stated that, "The law of the veil is not only humiliating to women, but it is an insult to men."
"Moderate Muslim": An Islamic Measure?
The article gives an opportunity to examine the practice of the media, opportunistic politicians and others who praise some as "moderate Muslims" and denounce other Muslims as "militant," "radical" and "extremist." It can be tempting to present oneself as part of the camp that is not cast in a negative light. However, before using terms such as "moderate Muslims" and "extremist Muslims," we need to understand what each of the terms mean.
What does it mean to be a "moderate Muslim"? Who exactly are the "extremists"?
Some may argue that these words are harmless, and that they are simply a way to distinguish between "good" and "bad" Muslims. CNN labeled Algeria as "extremist" for banning the import of alcohol. Prior to this ban, Algeria was considered "moderate."
To analyze this (or any) issue, we must first refer back to the Qur'an and Sunnah. Did RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم divide the Sahaba (ra) into "moderates" and "extremists"? Did the Sahaba (ra) measure each other by scales of "moderation" or "extremism"? Allah سبحانه وتعالى revealed:
إِنَّ أَكْرَمَكُمْ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ أَتْقَاكُمْ
"Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous of you." [al-Hujraat, 49:13]
Therefore, the measure of people is not in how extremist or moderate they are, but rather in their righteousness. Dividing Muslims into "moderates" and "extremists" is an innovation in Islam. It was never professed by the early generation of Muslim scholars, and has been only recently introduced into the Islamic discourse.
Making Islam Look Undesirable
The reality of this discourse is to make Islam look undesirable. The media, think tanks, and politicians denounce Islam as "militant," "radical" and "extremist" so that Muslims feel threatened when they practice their Deen. Some examples include:
Abstaining from Alcohol: Muslims are considered extremist for forbidding Muslims from purchasing alcohol within the Muslim lands! CNN reported: "A surprise vote by Algeria's parliament to ban the import of alcoholic drinks in the moderate Muslim country marks the return of Islamic extremism..." We can see that the media considers consuming alcohol as the hallmark of a "moderate" Muslim. Conversely, one who forbids Muslims from consuming alcohol is an "extremist."
Wearing the Hijab: The Toronto Star - a left-leaning paper in one of the most tolerant cities in Canada - demonized the Hijab and called for it to be banned! The Star article cited earlier praised the "moderate Muslim" for despising the ruling prescribed by Allah سبحانه وتعالى for women to cover their hair, wear the Jilbab (body covering), and for men and women to maintain their modesty when dealing with one another. Allah سبحانه وتعالى revealed:
يَا أَيُّهَا النَّبِيُّ قُلْ لِأَزْوَاجِكَ وَبَنَاتِكَ وَنِسَاءِ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ يُدْنِينَ عَلَيْهِنَّ مِنْ جَلَابِيبِهِنَّ ۚ ذَٰلِكَ أَدْنَىٰ أَنْ يُعْرَفْنَ فَلَا يُؤْذَيْنَ ۗ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ غَفُورًا رَحِيمًا
"Oh Prophet! Tell your wives, your daughters and the believing women to draw their cloaks all over their bodies. That will be better, that they should be known so as not to be annoyed." [Al-Ahzab, 33:59]
وَلْيَضْرِبْنَ بِخُمُرِهِنَّ عَلَىٰ جُيُوبِهِنَّ
"And (for women) to draw their head-coverings (khumur) over their necks and upper chests (Juyub)." [An-Nur, 24:31]
Abandoning the Khilafah: A RAND Publication, "Building Moderate Muslim Networks," states: "Whether a political philosophy derives from Western or Quranic sources, to be considered democratic it must unequivocally support pluralism and internationally recognized human rights...Support for democracy implies opposition to concepts of the Islamic state... Muslim moderates hold the view that no one can speak for God. Rather, it is the consensus of the community (ijma), as reflected in freely expressed public opinion, that determines what God's will is in any particular case."
This directly attacks the concept of Khilafah as established by RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم. We are well aware that the Sahaba (ra), who succeeded the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم, established the Khilafah, where the State applied the Ahkam Shar'iah based on the Qur'an, the Sunnah, Ijma-as-Sahaba, and Qiyas. They never implemented laws based on the collective whims of the people.
Therefore, think tanks, media personalities, and certain politicians define a "moderate" Muslim as someone who is willing to abandon the commands of Allah سبحانه وتعالى whenever it conflicts with liberal values that emanate from the secular creed (Aqeedah). On the other hand, a Muslim who abides by the commandments of Allah سبحانه وتعالى is deemed an extremist and someone who should be shunned by society.
Dangers of Compromise
We should also be aware of the dangers of compromise. We may be tempted to curtail our Islamic practices in the hope of being considered moderate. However, Allah سبحانه وتعالى has warned us against such a practice:
وَدُّوا لَوْ تُدْهِنُ فَيُدْهِنُونَ
"They wish that you should compromise (in religion out of courtesy) with them, so they (too) would compromise with you." [al-Qalam, 68:9]
Although this tactic of promoting "moderate Muslims" is recent, it is in actuality nothing new. The colonial powers have been working for centuries to make the Muslims adopt secularism as their sole reference point. This vision to engender a colonized mentality was articulated in 1854 by Mountstuart Elphinstone, who said, "we must not dream of perpetual possession, but must apply ourselves to bring the natives into a state that will admit of their governing themselves in a manner that may be beneficial to our interests..."
Muslims today have fallen upon severely trying times. We cannot pick up a newspaper, turn on the television or surf the internet without being exposed to accusations and lies leveled against our Deen, our Prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم, or our Ummah. This pressure has compelled some to explain Islam in a manner that appeases its critics - with the hopes of being considered "moderate" themselves. We must not fall into this trap. Instead, we must first strengthen our ties to Allah سبحانه وتعالى and recall that Allah سبحانه وتعالى has warned us about such trials:
وَلَتَسْمَعُنَّ مِنَ الَّذِينَ أُوتُوا الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ أَشْرَكُوا أَذًى كَثِيرًا
"You will certainly hear much that is hurtful from those who were given the Book before you, and from the Mushrikin (polytheists)." [al-Imran, 3:186]
أَحَسِبَ النَّاسُ أَنْ يُتْرَكُوا أَنْ يَقُولُوا آمَنَّا وَهُمْ لَا يُفْتَنُونَ
وَلَقَدْ فَتَنَّا الَّذِينَ مِنْ قَبْلِهِمْ ۖ فَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ اللَّهُ الَّذِينَ صَدَقُوا وَلَيَعْلَمَنَّ الْكَاذِبِينَ
"Do people think that they will be left alone because they say: ‘We believe,' and will not be tested. We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allah will certainly make (it) known (the truth of) those who are true, and will certainly make (it) known (the falsehood of) those who are liars, (although Allah knows all that before putting them to test)." [al-Ankaboot, 29:2-3]
And RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم warned us that: "A time is going to come on people when remaining steadfast on Deen will be like holding a burning coal in one's hand." [At-Tirmidhi]
In this climate of Fitna (trial), we must reaffirm our commitment to Allah سبحانه وتعالى, work hard to maintain our Islamic identity, and be confident in that which the Messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه وسلم brought us. Allah سبحانه وتعالى promised us:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِنْ تَنْصُرُوا اللَّهَ يَنْصُرْكُمْ وَيُثَبِّتْ أَقْدَامَكُمْ
"O you who believe! If you support Allah, Allah will support you." [Muhammad, 47:7]
We should also recognize that the real goal of our existence is to attain the pleasure of Allah سبحانه وتعالى and be resurrected amongst the companions of RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم. Consequently, we must endure whatever trial we may be afflicted with and remain steadfast on the duty that we have been entrusted with. A believer is never at loss when he or she endures for the sake of Allah سبحانه وتعالى, as he or she is working for a reward that is eternal: Jannah.
RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم said: "The affair of the believer is amazing! The whole of his life is beneficial, and that is only in the case of the believer. When good times come to him, he is thankful and it is good for him, and when bad times befall him, he is patient and it is also good for him." [Muslim]
If we look to the Sahaba (ra), we will find in them excellent examples of persistence and steadfastness. They were faced with trials similar to ours where the disbelievers used tactics of labelling Islam. The People of the Book attempted to make Islam look crooked in order to create obstacles for the message of Islam. Allah سبحانه وتعالى revealed:
قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لِمَ تَصُدُّونَ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ مَنْ آمَنَ تَبْغُونَهَا عِوَجًا وَأَنْتُمْ شُهَدَاءُ ۗ وَمَا اللَّهُ بِغَافِلٍ عَمَّا تَعْمَلُونَ
"Say: O followers of the Book! Why do you hinder him who believes from the way of Allah? You seek (to make) it crooked, while you are witness, and Allah is not heedless of what you do." [Al-Imran, 3:99]
Quraysh also used propaganda to label RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Sahaba (ra) as extreme elements of society. Although the terminology they used was different, their goal was similar: to put pressure on the Muslims so that they would conform to the Kufr thoughts, emotions, and laws of the Quraysh. For example, Al-Waleed bin Al-Mughirah led the effort to devise a propaganda strategy to isolate RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم. Some ideas (e.g. labeling him a poet, soothsayer, one possessed by Jinn, etc) were rejected because they were unrealistic. They settled on labeling him a sorcerer with words who broke up families.
Despite this climate of Fitna and fear, RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Sahaba (ra) stood firm in their Deen and did not buckle under the pressure. Instead the sahaba (ra) displayed great courage. For example, when RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم and the Sahaba (ra) were living in Makkah (i.e. before the Hijrah), Abdullah bin Mas'ood (ra) said that he would make Quraysh listen to the Qur'an. So, one morning he went to the Ka'aba and read the Qur'an aloud, whereupon the people of Quraysh attacked him. When he returned to the Sahaba (ra), they said: "This is what we feared would happen to you." He said, "Allah's enemies were never more contemptible in my sight than they are now, and if you like I will go and do the same thing again tomorrow."
Allah سبحانه وتعالى eventually made them victorious over their enemies in this world, and granted them His pleasure in the Hereafter:
رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمْ وَرَضُوا عَنْهُ
"Allah is well pleased with them as they are well pleased with Him." [at-Tawba, 9:100]
If we desire Allah's سبحانه وتعالى pleasure, we must follow the example of RasulAllah صلى الله عليه وسلم and his companions (ra) and, inshAllah, we will be amongst those whom Allah سبحانه وتعالى is pleased with.
May Allah سبحانه وتعالى give us the strength and resolve to endure the tribulations of our times and always be at the forefront of carrying the mission of Islam and returning the implementation of the Deen of Allah to this world. Ameen.
وَلَا تَهِنُوا وَلَا تَحْزَنُوا وَأَنْتُمُ الْأَعْلَوْنَ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ
"So do not become weak (against your enemy), nor be sad, and you will be superior (in victory) if you are indeed (true) believers." [al-Imran, 3:139]