.بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
ت is quite afraid of animals. Currently, I am house-sitting for one of my neighbours (J) while she is away on a trip [she said that it’s fine with her if I have friends around. No crazy parties though, she joked]. J has two cats: Misty and Trout. ت is terrified of both Misty (who is adorable, Maa Shaa Allah. She has these gorgeous blue-rimmed eyes, and a shy-graceful demeanour) and Trout (male, more territorial. He almost scratched me when I went to open up their kitty-litter tray. Feline guardian of this house).
ت and I talk about fear: specifically, about certain self-proclaimed ‘Muslims’ who seek to cause people to be… afraid of them. In how they speak; in the words they use. They seek to practise and call to ‘Islam’ not through beauty and wisdom, but through… threats, arrogance, and intimidation. Yes, today, ت and I spoke about extremism...
…which, by nature, I consider to be a strange word, when it comes to speaking about Islam. Because the closer one comes to the heart of this Deen, and the meanings of the Qur’an, the more absurd (harsh/violent) ‘extremist’ Muslims’ attempted expressions of Islam come to seem.
‘Extremist’ Muslims do not tend to care very much for what centuries of Islamic scholarship has encapsulated and preserved.
لا يَبْلُغُ عَبْدٌ حَقِيقَةَ الإِيمَانِ حَتَّى يُحِبَّ لِلنَّاسِ مَا يُحِبُّ لِنَفْسِهِ مِنَ الْخَيْرِ
“The servant [of Allah, God] does not attain the reality of faith until he loves for people what he loves for himself, of goodness.”
— Prophet Muhammad (SAW), Sahih Ibn Hibbān
For the jumpy, cold, argumentative,
harsh, and (ultimately, perhaps quite insecure) ‘extremist’, the works of, say, Imām Mālik, or Al-Ghazali, do not seem to matter very much. Even many of the expressions of and about love from Muhammad (SAW) himself: would these people even be recognised by our Prophet (SAW), if he had come to the world at present and seen them?
He (SAW) was (and, in Eternity, is) a man who taught us that harshness in things makes them ugly, while gentleness beautifies. When it comes to our comportment towards animals, and when it comes to our behaviour with fellow people. He (SAW) had even been gentle with inanimate things, because there is beauty therein. From the Qur’an, in Allah’s own (well, an attempted translation into English,) words… [underlinings my own.]
“So, (O Prophet) it is through mercy, [lovingkindness] from Allah that you are gentle to them.
Had you been rough and hard-hearted, they would have dispersed from around you.
So, pardon them, and seek Forgiveness for them.” (3:159)
ت is interested in Islam, Psychology, and Forensics. She had to self-study for her GCSEs, as a result of illness: in and out, in and out, of hospital. Had to change schools several times. Studied Islamic ‘Uloom (branches of Knowledge) for six years, and has graduated as an ‘Aalimah. Is now pursuing further studies in Psychology, In Shaa Allah.
And, in terms of Islamic Knowledge, ت seems particularly interested, for some reason, in the topic of Talaaq (divorce). Talking about Talaaq seems to… make her smile…
“It’s so interesting!” she says. “I love it so much!”
“You know if a man says [to his wife,] ‘Go to your mum’s house, and don’t come back!’, that’s a form of Talaaq.”
With things like the above in mind, some five years ago, fifteen-year-old ت ‘informed her parents that they’re technically divorced’. [I found this so funny].
“Mum, you know what you and Abbu are doing right now is Zinaa, because you’re not married.”
But then she learnt that we’re not blameworthy for what we didn’t know.
She said if she could, she would become some sort of family advisor or something in the future, In Shaa Allah.
To love, and be loved by, the ones who love — the One who created us, and them.
I really have found some people’s behaviour to be quite repellent, instead of merciful, gentle, and pardoning, when it comes to demonstrating ‘Islam’ (which is all about submitting before the Creator. It reminds me of that beautiful, humbly majestic moment when a horse might come to accept a person as its master: submission). Belittling others, with the goal of feeling ‘superior’ themselves. Finding and harshly expressing fault, seemingly in others, but seldom in their own selves.
The Muslims who have inspired me to come closer to my Deen: smile so much. Seem to just radiate Noor (light). Care, and in a caring way. Are easygoing, considerate, serving, and just… quite beautiful, in whom and how they are, Maa Shaa Allah.
I think: some find themselves to be servants of the Almighty. While some others find themselves to be servants of their own selves (the Nafs), whether this is in the ‘liberal’ (i.e. ‘couldn’t-care-less’) sense, or, that other branch of ignorance: the harsh, arrogant, aggressive ‘zealot’ sense.
But the true servants of the Most Merciful, according to His Book:
“And the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily (i.e. gently, with dignity but without arrogance) and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace (or, safety, i.e. free from fault/evil).”
— Qur’an, (25:63)
The Muslims with true faith in Allah are the ones who: “humble themselves in prayer.” [Qur’an, (23:2)].
“Avoid idle/ill speech.” [(23:3)].
“Give Zakāt (alms-tax to the needy).” [(23:4)].
“Guard their chastity, except with their wives…” [(23:6)].
“And they who are to their trusts and their promises attentive.” [(23:8)].
“…who carefully maintain their Salāh (ritual prayers).” [(23:9)].
ت decided that she’s “not trynna get rid of [her] phobia [of cats] today.” She looked under the table a few times, looking out for her feared (feline) things.
Extremism, according to her, is all about people “interpreting things in their own way”. Not being particularly “peaceful” or “kind”.
She uses the word vengeance, in relation to them. ‘Muslim’ extremists, white supremacists, and so forth: there are things that they have in common. Clinging to showy markers of ‘identity’, and being aggressive as a result of them.
“Allah is Kind, and loves kindness, and He rewards it in a way that he does not reward harshness. And Allah rewards in a way unlike any other.”
— Muhammad (SAW), Sahih Muslim
According to ت, ‘Muslim’ extremists “don’t look at Madhabs*”. They don’t seem to care for the various learned opinions within the parameters of truth. They look at “the Qur’an, [by themselves, without humility before scholars, without taking their time,] and that’s it“.
And, when it comes to learning Islam, indeed the Qur’an is sufficient. But we are not. Islamic scholars spend lifetimes learning Arabic: morphology, syntax, rhetoric, classical Arabic expressions and such, before daring to call themselves learned scholars of Allah’s Book. Just yesterday, I walked into an Arabic language library for the first time: books upon books.
I’ve heard about an Islamic scholar, I think, who used to do Wudhu (wash, ritual ablution) and change into better clothes before even attempting to answer questions pertaining to the Sacred, and I think such things show humility, which one requires, in order to be taught.
To understand the Qur’an, one needs to know about the Arabic language. In depth. Contexts, in terms of Judaism and Christianity: those who came before us. Contexts, in terms of Muhammad (SAW)’s own life: the Seerah. And so forth.
Personally, I do not know that much, in terms of Islamic Knowledge. But slowly slow, as Allah guides my learning, I learn that… the star that is mentioned by name (as well as the Sun) in the Qur’an, is Sirius:
“And He alone is the Lord of Sirius.”
— Qur’an, 53:49
[Nice name for a cat, perhaps: Sirius.
الشِّعْرَىٰ, in Arabic.]
The specific type of bird that is mentioned in the Qur’an is… the hoopoe.
A wise, humble, and powerful queen whose story is mentioned by God in the Qur’an: Queen Bilqiis of Sheba.
The Qur’an is a book like no other.
And I have a strong feeling that if I were to ask an ‘extremist’ about any of the things above, they’d be… quite clueless about them. Biblical parallels, references to the natural world, linguistic devices…
I kind of think ‘Muslim’ ‘extremists’ are comparable to groups like… the Mafia, perhaps. Drug cartels. But their ‘drug’ of choice: (a very ego-based, cheap, form of) religion. And, perhaps, always (power-and-) status-driven. Trying to seem ‘cool’, ‘untouchable’; some of what I have heard about extremist groups just reminds me of… groups of little boys playing Fortnite or something. Tribal, somewhat obsessive, channelling masculine energies. Extremism seems sort of childish, in that sense.
ت, by contrast, Allah hummabārik, is a more learned Muslim, even at this age: she is not yet twenty. Six years of study: Fiqh, Tajweed, Arabic language, and so on…
“They [the extremists] take bits of it. Bits of the Qur’an, bits of the Sunnah, bits of the Hadīth, and they put it into their own… ways.”
Somewhat arrogant, and ‘pick-and-choose’. But the believer, to be a believer, must be
“When we [Muslims] speak about Islam, [we do so in] a beautiful manner, right? Allah said, Spread Deen [through] beauty. But they [extremists] look at it as: spread Deen through terror and fear.
There’s a big difference between terror and fear, and beauty and kindness.“
ت says that extremists seem to really like the idea of being feared. They like to be dramatic and showy, rather than easygoing, and gentle.
Although there is a big emphasis on forgiveness and pardoning in Islam, ت says that extremists seem to like to try ‘taking things into their own hands’.
“But they would never, ever accept that they’re arrogant.”
An ‘extremist’ finds, over and over again, intense ‘faults’ in other people. A believer, more so, examines the flaws within him/her-self. Is preoccupied with seeking forgiveness and purification from Allah.
Extremists are “so detached” from the Qur’anic paradigms, and from Islam (horse to human master. And we, to Almighty Master). And, according to ت, they are “so delusional“.
Without knowing about (or, perhaps, caring to find out about) the prerequisites, conditions, contexts, of Jihād in the form of war, for instance: many extremists become obsessed with it.
Well, this evening, I made a quick trip to Waitrose to get something. On my way in, a group of young white men had been saying something racist, loudly, near me [that thing about a ‘horse in a barn’, and that’s why brown folk ‘can’t be British‘. I’ve heard that one before, and people like that tend to be racist and anti-Muslim unabashedly.] I turned around and (accidentally. Blame adrenaline, perhaps) gave them a death stare. I hope this doesn’t render me an extremist.
My neighbour J has a very nice house, Maa Shaa Allah. The main view is of: a marina of yachts (yep, still East London!) and it is a cottage, with some bare-brick wall structures inside. This strongly appears to be one of those houses: makes passersby curious. They peer into the kitchen, look at the door. Even turn around to look at this house as they pass [I’ve been wearing my headscarf while in the kitchen, since people can, and do, look into it. And I don’t know how to explain to those curious examiners that this isn’t my house: I’m just livin’ in it!]
Curiosity, and people looking: on Friday, I went into a busy London train station, wearing a Jilbāb (full-body covering). And sometimes, when people stare, my mind defaults to thinking: they either think I’m an extremist, or just a very weird person in general. But these are just my anxieties. And yes, when you look different in a crowd, you naturally stick out more.
Is that always such a bad thing? It’s not, by nature, ‘wrong’, to stick out a little; to be you. And even in your unique insecurities: they are strengths, through the right ways of looking.
You bring something to the world (and so do others). You are you; they are they.
I realise: I am just as valid, I have just as much of a right, to walk upon the Earth as any of those fellow commuters. Waitrose-shoppers. As anybody in Allah’s entire world. And everybody else has their own strengths and flaws, and stories. Loves, experiences, and uncertainties. I truly have mine too.
Sometimes, it might feel tempting to let up on some religious duties and choices, for the sake of seeming ‘normal’, and thus ‘acceptable’, to others. But if you choose what is better in the Sight of God, He facilitates, and places Barakah (blessings) on your journey.
ت, for example, chose to go to an Islamic girls’ school, for sixth form: especially after completing her Islamic Studies course, she did not think it would be best for her to go to a mixed one, even though she had to make this decision at a time when “girls and boys really want to have ‘fun'”. [A crucial aspect of this faith: that of Self-overcoming]. She likes that she has experienced a balance: between ‘Deen’ and ‘Dunya’, in her studies.
In a similar vein, when I first started wearing Jilbābs outside, I really liked it, personally. They generally look nice to me, and they help me to express and reinforce my identity. But then… I didn’t like wearing them, for a brief while, mainly fearing what some other people might think.
The right eyes, however, (like my friend Samaiya, who compliments it quite a lot) told me that it suits me. And I really like it, and it’s okay to choose to like what many others might not approve of.
Extremists seem like deeply angry people, to me. Insecure people: in the sense that insecurity tends to lead to individuals seeking to aggressively vocalise their ‘identity’, to make up for the internal solidity, security, that they lack. It reminds me of that idea that materially wealthy people, for example, tend to wear ‘understated’, though expensive, clothes. Meanwhile, some less wealthy people will wear designer upon designer: Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Boss, and the rest, (and sometimes inauthentic imitations,) with the logos clearly on display.
I think ‘religious’ extremists are trying to show a ‘religion’ (a personal connection with the Most Merciful) that they do not truly have. But maybe they want to feel like they have it, and perhaps they want status, before the people, from it too. Sometimes ‘respect’, sometimes purely fear. Vocalising something, roaring about it, to compensate for the lack of it; the internal security that they lack.
Many of these individuals would appear to detest women. When, in Islam, there is an emphasis on honouring women.
But they’ve got it wrong. They focus on particular rules, rules, rules, for example, without considering their essences: the principles underlying them. For example, a rule in Islam is that men had been forbidden from making their clothes trail below the ankles, out of arrogance. An extremist might look at any man whose trousers go below his ankles, and aggressively condemn him. Without considering that: a) people hold different opinions within Islam; b) this man may have simply momentarily forgotten, or perhaps did not know of this rule yet; c) in Islam, the essences and intentions behind actions are what matter. If an action is out of arrogance, then it is wrong. If it is out of human error, or even a lack of any ill intention, then it isn’t blameworthy.
Arrogance: a most dire sin, in Islam.
Humility: a very big virtue.
“These people [extremists], they actually look [frightening], and they’re not afraid of it.
They love it. They get [a rush] from it. Like how Mafia men go around killing people, shooting people, and they don’t feel any sort of guilt. That’s literally extremists. But they do it ‘in the name of Allah’.
And they go around calling everyone ‘Kuffār’.”
You’re a ‘Kaafir’, you’re a ‘Kaafir’. ‘Jaahil’. ‘Faasikh’. And so forth.
[The word ‘Kaafir’: such an interesting one, the more I (slowly, gradually) look into the Qur’an. ‘Disbeliever’ seems to be an erroneous translation: a ‘Kaafir’ is one who knows the truth, but still rejects it. Shaytaan is labelled a Kaafir in the Qur’an, and Allah directly links his Kufr to arrogance; a haughty refusal to follow Allah’s Command.]
“They label [people, in these ways] and can’t look at you any different”.
“They don’t want to gain Knowledge. They think that what they have is enough.“
And just because those ‘Muslims’ might be the ‘loudest’ ones, we should not mistake this as meaning that they are the truest ones.
Education. In terms of vocation, in terms of what fascinates us, in terms of religion: ت thinks learning is so important because it is “the foundation of life”. It is about whom we find we currently are, and about where we want to go; how we want to be. In terms of our religion; our place[s] in society: relationships, career, status; how to be, and take care of and maintain ourselves and what is ours.
“There’s so much more than just Forah [a Bengali term used to refer to rote-reading the Qur’an. Which is still valuable, but understanding is crucial].”
“There’s so much more to understanding the Deen. Who you are. What you have to do. What a Muslim man has to do, what a Muslim woman has to do.”
There are classes, lectures, Islamic learning institutions, Islamic mental health support places, dotted around. If we (sincerely) seek them, Allah will make them known to us.
ت believes that her Islamic educational background really rooted her [she thinks she might have become a “rebel child” if it had not been for that education]. She likes that she has studied some of the material sciences and so forth too [and these aren’t ‘secular’ studies: Maths, Physics, and so forth. Because this is Allah’s Universe, and everything is connected as result of its Creator]. But she thinks that some people become excessively “glued to the Dunya” as a result of explicitly favouring worldlier studies.
Some parents grant such (evident) importance to worldly schooling. Fearing consequences [“the school will call me!”] and so forth. But they might be fine with their child missing weeks of Islamic learning.
This seems to be an issue involving both parents and teachers: some parents do seem to actively favour Dunya over Deen. And some teachers simply fail to inspire and actually attract their students to Islam: they might just be teaching because they have some knowledge, and mainly want to make some money out of it, perhaps.
As aforementioned, when we choose with Allah in mind, Allah facilitates. In Pakistan, for example, there are individuals who [I overheard this from a Muslim Student of Knowledge, on Friday] give up their general studies (GCSEs and so forth) for a while, to commit the Qur’an to memory. Then, upon completing this objective, they return (to GCSEs, A-levels…) and end up still doing really well in their exams. ‘Easy‘, and often even better than their counterparts who had remained in that line of education all along!
Allah facilitates. [Then one of our teachers remarked something along the lines that a person who can memorise over six hundred pages of Arabic: for them, learning for those other exams would be easy. In fact, there was a well-known scholar in Muslim history who used to be able to memorise and comprehend pretty much any page of anything that he briefly looked at, apparently.]
Another nice thing I overheard from the aforesaid student:
“Allah has planted you where you will be most fruitful“. It’s all intentional.
According to ت, a truly good Muslim is one who finds himself/herself preoccupied in the remembrance of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Kind. Reads beneficial things. Gives Da’wah [calls to Islam, in the right ways]. A person who is close to Allah might: cry in their Salah; demonstrate humility before God. Pray Duha Salāh (a voluntary prayer) and so on. Do good things not for show, and even (perhaps, especially) in private. Are “nice and humble” with other people; “soft-spoken”. Speak about God often; speak good words.
“I feel like [those] are the people who are very sincere.”
ت says that the Prophet (SAW) advised us to do the most we can for Dunya (this world) and the Deen (religion, the Islamic Way of Life). “Our end goal is to please Allah.
When you’re able to conjoin both the Dunya and the Deen… isn’t that [conducive to] the best result?”
You can put “both of them together”. Mind, (and wealth, and societal status etc.) and heart (love, considerations of Allah’s Promise and so on). We’re not supposed to “pray until [we] kill [ourselves]”, and nor are we meant to become so mired in the stuff of this Dunya (career, money, and so forth) that we forget, and kill ourselves spiritually. ت says:
Don’t we realise that we are going to have to stand in front of Allah, one day?
And, ‘What will people think/say?!’ A deep-rooted, intergenerational and obsessive line of questioning. To tether our self-view so much to what people might say. But, who are you, and:
‘What does Allah Know?‘
ت is somebody whom I love very much: may Allah love and bless her always. She is a very strong, intelligent, funny and thoughtful young woman, who loves Islam, Psychology, Forensics, and cookie dough with ice-cream. Didn’t even know ‘house-sitting’ exists, except in movies. Likes to draw ‘diagrams’, to explain things. Does not like, at all: cats, animals in general, and extremists.
“God is Beautiful, and loves beauty.”
— Muhammad (SAW), Sahih Muslim
And the antidote to ignorance (darkness) is nothing other than:
Truth, Beauty, Goodness:
*Madhab — school of Islamic jurisprudence. This religion has a rich and broad scholarly heritage!