Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
Today I am jumping back in with a guest post from my dear sister Liz, who blogs over at www.voiceofsalam.wordpress.com.
Firstly, I highly recommend you go check out her blog! She writes about current events, her personal experiences as a revert, and other topics that need to be brought up in our communities. I love her strong point of view, and I always look forward to reading her posts!
Today’s guest post is actually kind of a substitute for another post I was dragging my feet on, but I daresay I like this one better! I was planning on writing the post I mentioned in my last post on different homogenising pressures within the community, but then I got to talking to Liz about these kinds of things and it turns out she has just as much to say about it as me!
So she kindly agreed to share her own thoughts, and a little bit of her own experience with the pressure to be a certain way within the Muslim community and, spoiler alert, how she overcame that pressure and rediscovered her self confidence.
Ok enough intro from me, read on, leave your thoughts in the comments, and go follow Liz’s blog!
A dear sister of mine recently wrote to me expressing the relief she felt after reading a recent blog post of mine about “mainstream” popular Islamic preachers/scholars who promote intolerance, extremism and dogmatic forms of Islam. She too had witnessed just how easily well-intentioned Muslims – including reverts – would follow quite literally, the interpretations of certain scholars who promoted a soulless, obsessive like, medieval form of Islam. It was a relief myself to know that there were like-minded sisters out there, for I myself had come “full-circle” in my faith, accepting with renewed confidence that the beauty and peaceful nature of Islam which I was first drawn to was in fact legitimate, worthy and in essence representative of the “real Islam”.
Whilst I myself had to learn some lessons about Prophet Muhammad (saw), moderation in faith, ritualised practices, self-worth, confidence and forgiveness, I realised, through a spiritual and physical journey across time and continents, that not everyone was aware of this peaceful, tolerant form of (real) Islam. You see a convert may often come with a clearer view of Islam, devoid of patriarchal cultural baggage and possibly full of experiences of cultural mediation from having grown up in a multicultural, multifaith society, despite perceptions within the mainstream Muslim community of converts as “less knowledgeable”. Likewise, reverts (as other “born Muslims”) can often be drawn through a new energy and “vigour” within their (new) faith, towards rigid, medieval forms of Islam peddled as “The Truth”, despite possibly having the best of intentions.
Reflecting on the way I came to Islam itself, gives me a clear sign that such an intolerant, harsh, rigid and soulless form of Islam was not the way Allah (swt) intended us to treat our own souls and our brothers and sisters in both faith and humanity. It was not this soulless, dogmatic, intolerant form of Islam which was introduced to me from what are now some very dear sisters in Tunisia. What I witnessed and experienced from my encounters with Muslims prior to my conversion was devotion to their faith, in combination with tolerance, respect and love for one’s (non-Muslim) neighbours. The four weeks I spent in Tunisia living and working with Tunisian students of a similar age were some of the happiest of my life. It was my love for foreign cultures, languages and intercultural dialogue that in fact first brought me to Tunisia. The same goes for my Arabic classes and my understanding that Muslims were not terrorists (thanks also due to my upbringing and parents), despite what the post-9/11 “War on Terror” narrative would try and lead the public to believe. It was this passion, love and respect for – and understanding of – other faiths and cultures, that led me to focus a large chunk of my studies and my entire MA thesis on the very topics of the War of Terror, the Iraq war, Islamophobia and issues surrounding identity and migration, including referencing a hadith by Prophet Muhammad (saw) himself. This was all before I specifically converted to Islam.
It has become repeatedly clear, that the natural fitra that Allah (swt) blesses us with – our conscience and common sense – is incompatible with such ultra-orthodox interpretations of Islam, which state that you must leave your non-Muslim friends, that all non-Muslims are “kafirs” doomed for the Hellfire, that a kind respectful word at Christmas, birthdays and other non-Islamic gatherings automatically signifies disbelief, that you cannot attend a family wedding in a church etc. These are the same narratives that say you should not vote, that you must hate non-Muslims, that you must cloak yourself in guilt, paranoia and obsessive behaviours and that ultimately you must live in a dictatorial theocratic Islamic state akin to the current “state” run by ISIS, when in fact Islam is a rational, tolerant faith with preaches moderation, love, respect and tolerance for everyone in a world where Allah (swt) is the ultimate (and sole worthy) judge of character and faith.
Now, had I met such forms of “Islam” which I have since seen pedalled across online fatwa sites and social media, which do not teach us these values of tolerance, respect and loving those different from ourselves, then I may well have not become Muslim. Only Allah (swt) knows. It’s only logical. There is a clear hypocrisy in warmly admiring the Islamic faith and the beautiful Muslim sisters I met through the generous friendship they offered, yet becoming an uncompassionate dogmatic Muslim, intolerant of non-Muslims and unable to offer the same level of friendship to others outside of the same faith. Allah Himself is the best of planners. As I embarked on my subsequent journey to becoming a Muslim, I simultaneously commenced a Master’s degree in human rights. Now five years on, I am an active human rights campaigner and none the less Muslim for it – even though I still have a lot to learn!
You see, a revert sister said to me recently something which sums up the very essence of Islam: “Islam is so easy, it’s people that make it difficult”. This is so very true but something I had to really learn… Sisters, I urge you to think, reflect, read authentic sources, pick carefully who you listen to and look inside your heart and soul and listen to Allah (swt) with full confidence in yourself. For only love can attract love. Hatred can only attract hate. Islam is the deen of Allah (swt), the Creator of the Universe, of our souls, our hearts and minds – of our own perfect body designed to be in perfect harmony with itself. Look inside yourself and you will see that Allah (swt) has blessed us with the means to think, reflect, analyse, forgive, love and converse with one another. For reverts especially, ask yourself what attracted you to Islam. Was it hatred, intolerance and darkness or peace, love, tenderness and understanding? Islam has not changed; we Muslims have. So, it’s up to us to follow the peaceful, compassionate path of Prophet Muhammad (saw), not the slippery downward slope of intolerance towards extremism.
Voice of Salam
Founder, Copywriter, Web Content & Social Media Manager
This post is dedicated to Amina, Hajer, Houda and Nouha, as well as all the lovely people of Tunisia who I’ve been blessed to have met. Thanks also go to my friends and family and all of those who have continuously supported me on this journey.
Lastly, thank you sister Ashley for your honesty and generosity.