If you click on this article thinking I was about to start a multi-religion propaganda that triggers a lot of people from various school of beliefs, I am sorry to disappoint you. I have just been waiting for a really long time to have an article with a pop culture reference as a title (once again, sorry). I don’t have that big of an audience to start anything anyway, just to be frank. The thing I’d like to touch does have a correlation to a fantastic belief, however.
Islam – a fantastic belief. My fantastic belief. A religion with followers almost a quarter of the whole globe, yet still largely misunderstood by the other 3/4 of humanity. To be fair, a significant chunk of muslims do not even know the very religion they follow in detail (despite the strong emphasis on the importance of education in one’s life by arguably the wisest man to ever walk the earth and the fact that the very first Quranic verse sent down was about reading which highlights the necessity of learning).
Back to the subject at hand, it is not an exaggeration to say that we muslims as a people is in quite a pickle for the last century. From the fall of the Ottoman Empire to the illegal occupation of Palestine, we just cannot seem to catch a break. In an era where information can be spread in mere milliseconds, some authorities see media as a chance to spread misinformation, for whatever reason they deem fit. Now with the availability of Internet access to some 65 percent of the world’s population, the danger of misinformation is more prominent than ever. We may have heard a lot about how muslims are portrayed in the western world over the last century. Images of men with turbans and long beard wearing white robes and a dusty AK-47 in hand might come across their minds whenever the word muslim is heard.
Misinformation will lead to one of two outcomes; ignorance or enlightenment. It depends on what the individual decides to do when they are confronted with information (or in this case, misinformation). The ones wise enough will begin to question the legitimacy of such information and do some proper research. Bear in mind that ‘proper research’ here includes in-depth, multiple points-of-views analysis by reliable experts and or experienced people regarding the subject related to the information. Not the ‘whatever I came across my in my Instagram, Twitter and TikTok feed‘ type of research. Blessed are those who have the capacity to do such thing, as they (with the will of Allah) may find enlightenment. On the other hand, those who believe in everything they see through media would more often than not fall into the unforgiving palms of ignorance.
There does seem to be light at the end of the tunnel, however. We are beginning to see some changes in recent times. People are starting to see the propaganda played by certain authorities for whatever agenda they have against muslims. Westerners are now more than ever, has been more open to the views of Islam as a religion and deem that it be respected and accepted in
today’s society. After a long period of massive misunderstanding between the West and Islam, everything seems to be falling in place at the moment.
Or are they?
The acceptance of the religion of Islam into the Western world on the surface is a pleasant sight to see. Muslim minorities in the West are reaping the benefits; people are now no longer afraid of muslims, they are being more tolerant and kinder to each other. Muslims are seen as equal to any other law abiding citizen. However, it is questionable whether they really understood what being a real muslim is. The danger here is the normalization of changing the original teachings of
Islam to adapt into a society in order to be a part of it. By definition alone, anybody submitting their will to only one God is considered a muslim. When we are talking about a practicing muslim, it is a whole new paradigm to look at. Until that full understanding and clear cut differences are understood by both muslims and non-muslimes alike, clashes will always happen. Before I make my next point; consider this analogy:
A man comes to a workshop with a flat tire. There are 2 mechanics present, and both have different opinions on the solution. One thinks that it is best to replace the tire with a new one, so that it is more secure. The other says it is best to just patch the hole and continue using the same tire. He believes that it is safe enough and more affordable. The scuffle continues for quite a long time with the car owner just sitting there, listening. He then decided he has had enough and took his car to another workshop to save himself the trouble.
Both of the mechanics had different ideas, obviously. More important than that, their ideas have different fundamental purposes. The first mechanic thinks safety first, above all else. The second one takes into account economical aspect as well, and analyzed the risk from the safety aspect. So all in all, they were never going to agree with each other. So how did the argument escalate to the point they now lost one valuable client?
In a debate/argument, it is most important to lay down the basis overall course of the debate. This is to prevent the debate from going further from the original subject that needs to be debated in the first place. Another important consideration in a debate is to determine the end goal of the argument. Is it to achieve a middle ground that both sides agree on as in a civilized thought processing? Is it to convince a jury as in a trial? Or is it to find the best speaker as in a talent show? This end product is vital so that everybody involved knows what to say and how to achieve whatever they are aiming for.
A lot of the time, people tend to neglect these differences before starting an argument. An example I would like to bring forward is the ongoing Islamic versus Western view of life in general. The very fundamentals of the two are absolutely different. The Islamic point of view is objective; in which its main goal is to please Allah. Islamic way of life depends on two
unchangeable sources: the Holy Quran and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). These sources have proven to sustain its authenticity in the test of time and will remain to do so until the end of time (Imam Malik). The Western POV on the other hand is subjective and ever changing. Hence the reason their view on certain practices are different now compared to a few decades ago.
The sole purpose of pleasing the will of Allah has provided a crystal clear framework in which the Islamic way of life operates. In other words, we muslims believe that Islam is not, will not and never has been tampered by the hands of men, since the completion of the Holy Quran some 1400 years ago. The Western ideology evolves from time to time, and influenced by various factors. Subjective morality has always been a controversial topic to talk about, as it involves the perception of ‘society’ to a particular practice. And even if a vast majority of said society agrees upon something, there will always be a portion that does not. There will always be resistance if a decision is to be made. For objective morality as such that has been imprinted in Islamic worldview, the rules, regulations and ultimate purpose are laid down first and foremost. From there, all practices, rulings and arguments are formed.
Mind you, arguments still do happen even without the understanding of these differences. They happen every day, especially in this digital age. However, how fruitful the argument becomes is up to everyone’s imagination. If both sides arguing have absolutely no room in accepting the other’s arguments, then what good is the debate? To argue just for the sake of arguing is a waste of time. When both sides understand these differences, they either have to convince one another that their preferable point of view is better, or just agree to disagree.
Only these two agendas can actually bring a debate into a productive outcome. If it fails to do any of that, then it’s empty. And that is one of the reasons for so much hate in this world: The failure to understand one another. Some who did understood, unfortunately, completely disregard and disrespect what others have to say. Thus, it is important to realize that because these 2 ideologies are fundamentally different, clashes are bound to happen. And that is perfectly fine. We can still have a meaningful dialogue of two completely opposing ideologies.
A peaceful world is not a world where everyone agrees on everything. It is a world where people have different opinions but choose to settle those differences in a civilized way.
Now that we are clear on the clash between Islamic and Western POV, let us discuss the effects of such differences. The effects can be categorized into 2; outward and inward effects. Outward effects are the consequences on the image of Islam on the eyes of the non-muslims. Inward implies the effects happening to fellow muslims. I would not touch on the outward effects of the differences because it is of lesser importance to us compared to the inward effects, which we are about to discuss. However, this does not mean that muslims take lightly how our religion is perceived by others or care less about the honor of this religion, it is just that I believe that no matter how big an issue we are looking at, it is not worth anything if we fail to reflect it back upon ourselves. At the end of the day, every man is still for himself.
Westerners have long been pushing the idea of liberation of the human being. This idea that ‘as long as you do not hurt anybody, you are free to do anything you want’ is clung onto so tightly even when there is a certain cost to be paid in the long run. With the Westerners having control of media nowadays, the extent in which they can influence people from all walks of life to this ideology is even further. And muslims are falling for the gambit in droves.
The religion of Islam is one of peace, serenity, security and honor. However, when studied half heartedly, like many other field of knowledge, Islam will eventually be misunderstood. The act of
i. cherry picking the teachings that are deemed ‘fit’ for personally preferable practices, ii. taking one passage of the Holy Quran out of context, and
iii. neglecting the reliable scholars of Islam in the understanding process are only some of the examples of how Islam can be misunderstood.
Now, we have generations of muslims that do not fully understand their own religion, labeling it as ‘barbaric’, ‘restricting’, and even ‘conservative’. The scariest part in today’s world is that these people are sometimes regarded as ‘revolutionary’ and ‘progressive’ by other muslims that like what they have to say because it fits their preferred lifestyle.
If we are not careful, our faith may erode slowly day by day. Our confidence on our own belief system becomes weaker, and our dependence on Allah, which is the only dependency we need, will become thinner.
How thin is the line between ‘fighting for women’s rights’ and ‘hijab is a form of oppression’? How long does it take to go from ‘combat extremism in religion’ to ‘Sharia law is barbaric’?
How much are we tolerating the things people say toward our religion, and how far are we willing to go to defend the honor of Islam?
If you tolerate everything, then that just means you stand for nothing.
“… Rather, on that day you will be many, but you will be like foam, like the foam on the river. And Allah will remove the fear of you from the hearts of your enemies and will throw wahn (weakness) into your hearts. Someone said: “O Messenger of Allah! What is wahn?” He said: “Love of the world and the hatred for death.” [Abu Dawud]
As a fellow muslim, it is a humble responsibility of mine to remind myself and others around me to always be careful on the things that influence us every day especially those that affect the way we perceive this beautiful religion. Because when the misguided cannot make us turn to their belief, they make us see our own belief as misguided.
Looking back at the content, I guess I did (in some way) complete this article with some relation to the title.
By: Fikri Halim