I was watching a YouTube video of a Muslim comedian. She was wearing a hijab and that's where the Islam began and ended. Her jokes, which were directed to a Western audience, tried to show the lighter side of Islam, but ended up being distasteful and crude by any standards. It was embarrassing to watch, because she was so desperate to seek the validation of non Muslims, that she lowered herself to offensive standards, while claiming to be speaker for Islam.
We have become so insecure of our Muslim values and teachings, that often, when dealing with non Muslims, we are eager to find a common denominator to coax them to relate to us. Unfortunately, many of us look for the lowest common denominator which does not symbolize anything of Islam. There are many Muslims who love to swear and use foul language in the presence of non Muslims, because it makes them look open minded and modern. There are Muslims who practice Islam behind closed doors, but behave in a socially open way before non Muslims, in order to prove that one can be Muslim and "liberal" at the same time.
Recently, a local masjid opened its doors to a particular ethnic sector of the community to raise cultural awareness. However, in doing so, Qur'an and Sunnah etiquette was all but forgotten.The masjid organisers consciously adopted certain cultural traditions of that ethnic race – some of these being totally repugnant to if not absolutely forbidden by Islam. These included elements of superstition, astrology and deafening music. It was well intentioned, but it is doubtful that any of the non-Muslim guests left feeling any wiser about or any more impressed by Islam.
The issue here is that while Muslims try to make non Muslims identify with our values, we overlook the basic principle that Islam is intended to raise people from darkness to light, and to perfect our moral character. We do the reverse. We debase ourselves to standards far beneath what Islam teaches to achieve approval of the non Muslims, and this in itself cheapens the very notion of us being beacons for humanity.
Did the Prophet SAW or any of his Companions participate in pagan festivals, tell dirty jokes or dress in the style of non Muslims, in order to warm the kuffar towards them?
We try so hard to find social common ground that fundamentally, we have forgotten that Islam exists to give mankind an alternative – not more of the same corrupted standards which have caused the ongoing moral decline in mankind. Islam is meant to show people that there is another way – a higher road, a more honest, noble and dignified alternative to everything that we do, from our manner of speech, environment to values.
Yet many, even in Muslim communities, feel ashamed, and think that the only way to fit into society is to conform. It should be the other way around. Our role in society is to elevate others. We should not apologise for being the bearer of different values. We should be the one setting the standards for others, rather than being pressured to adopt cultural and social norms which we know will plunge us back to darkness. Being "open minded" does not mean succumbing to peer pressure and downgrade into accepting standards which we know do not belong in Islam.
Much of this insecurity is caused by basic lack of Islamic education. Our parents, especially if our countries were previously colonised, only had rudimentary and ritualistic Islamic education. Much of it was eradicated by the colonists who then brainwashed our parents and grandparents to adopt a more secular psychology and lifestyle. Even in terms of Islamic literature, until the last two decades, most Islamic publications were in Arabic, while 80% of the Muslim world are not native Arabic speakers. My forefathers knew how to recite the Qur'an but understood none of it. The effect is that we can perform Islamic rituals to perfection, but the lack of knowledge and implementation is glaring from our behaviour, lack of identity, self confidence and way of thinking.
We claim that Muslim values are superior to secular ones, but our behaviour, from our clothing, conversations, hobbies and ways of life, favours secular values and confirms that in reality, we do not care much about the values that Islam asks us to maintain.
This is why instead of having Muslims defending Islam, Muslims tend to be apologists, are unable to hold on to Muslim ideals or even support Islamic instruction. This is perhaps why many choose to take the easier road and go with the flow – to immerse themselves rather than to be the leaders and pioneers in showing others that there is a better way to live life, achieve happiness, and be secure about who we are. We should be proud to uphold the banner of Islam, but instead, we are ashamed, and are thus part of the reason the ummah is in a state of disgrace and disarray.
As a result, when dealing with non-Muslims, we have nothing to offer them except for the window dressing. It is said that a glass can only pour out what is inside, whether it is water, water mixed with dirt, or nothing at all if the glass is empty. Hence when we reach out to non Muslims, our offerings to them are either corrupted, or non existent. We talk about hijab and cultural tolerance, because we have nothing more to offer them from the treasure chest of Islam. To fill the gap, we reduce ourselves and our values to much lower benchmarks in order to make them realise we are not that different. And truly, if this is how we carry on, this will be the case, because apart from some rituals, we will have nothing in terms of our internal core values to differentiate us from non believers. We will carry the same spiritual diseases that Islam was meant to eliminate.
Brothers and sisters, please end this cycle of behaviour. Take the time to understand your deen, and proper Islamic teachings. Study the Qur'an and Sunnah, and strive to implement their meaning instead of being satisfied with perfecting its diction. We have been given the honour of upholding and spreading Allah's words, but how can we do that if we are defeated and uneducated about its teachings? Once you become acquainted with the beauty of Islam, you will realise that all these pressures to conform are another form of prison, from which you can break free if you have the courage, integrity and conviction to understand and live out the message of Allah.
May Allah grant us knowledge, wisdom and dignity to spread His light of guidance, ameen.