Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatu. May the peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you.
I am a convert to Islam and have been for several years. I converted because I know that Islam is the truth. The truth that I had been searching for over many years.
What I quickly learned upon embracing Islam is that many people who were born into Muslim families, and have grown up identifying as Muslim, often don’t truly understand Islam. Many fall into practicing what they think Islam is through their culture, and pick up traditions along the way that are not part of Islam. They do not follow the example left to us all by Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
As time goes by, and the distance in years and in knowledge expands, confusion of cultural practices intertwine within Islam. Some people choose which parts of Islam to embrace and which to ignore for their own benefit. People loose the connection to the teachings and manners of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). This is very unfortunate. Unfortunate for those who cling to untruths and lead others to practice inaccurately, and unfortunate for new Muslims who have been searching for the truth for years who become confused by what is seen in everyday practice.
This is not at all unusual. Prior to embracing Islam, I identified as a Christian. I picked up traditions and adopted many of the practices of my family. However, I was not following the religion as far as the belief system. Many of the people who I associated with did the same as me. Take Christmas for instance. People go through an entire year without giving a thought about going to church, or learning more about their Creator, or about Jesus (AS). But, when December hits, it’s all about Christmas (for everyone, Christian or not!). People of faith and people of no faith put up a Christmas tree, buy the presents, bring the children to visit Santa Claus, spend way too much money, and focus on the traditions and the culture which now surrounds Christmas. Everyone seems to jump aboard the Christmas bus. Christmas Day comes and goes and it’s back to business as usual. It’s sad and disturbing because the Christian holiday of Christmas is no longer about celebrating the life of Jesus (AS), it is about family, parties, and presents.
Leaving that hypocrisy behind and embracing Islam, I made an assumption. I had an unrealistic vision of the behavior of Muslims based on my study of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
Many converts begin their journey through Islam by learning about the life of our beloved Prophet (SAW) and this is where our dilemma begins. We learn about the best of the best, the most influential man in history. We learn about his upbringing, his years prior to becoming our Prophet, and his years as the most beloved Prophet of Allah. We learn of his companions, their journeys towards embracing Islam, the hardships, the loss, the persecution, the hope, and the beauty of Islam.
We also learn the basics of Islam through classes at local masajids (Islam 101), through online resources, and through a plethora of books on Islam, about Allah (SWT) and about Prophet Muhammad (SAW). We may find someone who will take the time to teach us how to pray and help us to learn our prayers. We learn, we understand the beautiful gift we have been given by embracing Islam….. and then we meet Muslims.
There is a famous quote, often attributed to Muhammed Suleman Khan that says:
“I am Muslim, Islam is Perfect but I am not. If I make a mistake blame it on me, not on my religion.”
This quote is true. Our mistakes are ours and we alone are to blame for our actions. Our religion is not to be blamed for our own indiscretions. However, I have observed that many Muslims only look at part of this quote and use it as an excuse for their behavior, as an excuse to not follow the Qur’an and Sunnah. They say “Islam is perfect, Muslims are not.”
Islam is perfect, Muslims are not perfect.
Yeah, I get that but shouldn’t we all be striving to follow the teaching and behavior of Prophet Muhammad (SAW)? Shouldn’t we be striving to be as close to the example of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as we can while we are here in this world?
Aren’t we supposed to follow the commands Allah has prescribed in the Qur’an?
Shouldn’t we be learning from current role models within our communities?
I am uncomfortable and offended by the “norm” that many Muslims are using as an excuse to not follow the teachings of Islam. The old, “don’t follow my example, I’m just a Muslim” song and dance.
I am offended and uncomfortable that many Muslims use this to excuse their behavior and to send us off to learn about Islam by going back in history (over 1400 years of history) to find the examples and role models.
I am uncomfortable and offended by the fact that we have, at our disposal, the example of the best role model in our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and that all of this rich history is ignored by many.
I am uncomfortable and offended by the fact that IT IS NOT HARD to be Muslim and follow the Sunnah, yet many Muslims make it seem impossible by their own actions.
Yes, we are all imperfect! But we should not use the “don’t follow my example” excuse.
We should use this absurd thought as a reason to change. As a reason to strive to follow the example left for us in the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad and his beloved companions.
I am an uncomfortable Muslimah.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not uncomfortable with Islam in any way. It is the absolute truth and I have no doubt in my mind about this. The Qur’an is the word of Allah!
Sarah Al Baqarah begins with “This is the Book of Allah, there is no doubt in it; it is a guidance for the pious, for those who believe in the existence of that which is beyond the reach of perception, who establish Prayer and spend out of what We have provided them, who believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you, and have firm faith in the Hereafter. Such are on true guidance from their Lord; such are the truly successful.”
I absolutely believe in the Qur’an and Sunnah. I believe in Allah (SWT) our Creator, Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and all of the prophets of Allah including Ibrahim, Noah, Moses, and Jesus, May Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon them all.
Yet, I am an uncomfortable Muslimah.
Why? Because I want to be around like-minded people who are examples for us all. I want to be around Muslims who to strive to be the best that we can be! I’m not looking for perfection. But I no longer want to be uncomfortable.
Again, I am uncomfortable and offended by the “don’t learn Islam from us” thought. This is just a way of saying, “don’t look to Muslims as role models because we aren’t going to be good for you.”
Shouldn’t we expect Muslims to be our role models? Why the hypocrisy?
Where is the disconnect? Certainly it is not in the Qur’an and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).
I read the Qur’an, learn the Sunnah, and take my advice from it.
Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? Stop me if I am mistaken!
Converts have embraced Islam as strangers to the Muslim community, and we are often treated as strangers for years. We have given up a life where we followed a different religion, or no religion. Our families are now distant or non-existent, many friends and social interactions are no longer acceptable, our food and drink options have changed, our clothing options have changed (especially sisters), and our way of life has changed.
We have changed our former everyday!
Although we leave many behind, we anticipate a welcoming community that will take our hand, nurture our understanding of Islam, be role models for us, and create a sense of belonging.
The reality is that this often is not the case. Many masajids in America are still very foreign to a new Muslim. Often, English is not the language spoken within the community itself and converts are left out of celebrations, of conversations, and basically left out! After the initial “Allah Akbar” is shouted when we embrace Islam, we are left to figure things out. Some wonderful community members may reach out and help us as we stumble along. But we still feel as strangers, outsiders who are not truly accepted by the community. When we feel unaccepted, we look to others to help us and those who we may discover, those who may reach out to us, may lead us to incorrect practices and falsehoods.
Based on the teachings in the Qur’an and the life of Prophet Muhammad, converts also make the assumption that Muslims are the best of role models and we are shocked when we see people who are rude, disrespectful, and have an attitude of arrogance. In my own experience, I was (and still am) shocked by behavior I have witnessed. Converts often find it embarrassing and very unsettling because we chose to embrace Islam expecting to find communities that are filled with the best of the best. However, we have witnessed mistreatment of others and the disrespect of Allah’s house of worship. It is baffling to us. Baffling, embarrassing, and uncomfortable!
New Muslims who have witnessed this behavior either disappear and choose to practice Islam alone, or leave Islam altogether because they connect the behavior of the Muslims they observe to Islam itself. This is a sad state of affairs within the Muslim Ummah. I find it to be an embarrassment and quite frankly, a disrespect to Allah and His messengers.
Let me stop here to acknowledge that I have met many wonderful Muslims who practice the true teachings of Islam. I have seen communities that are true communities who work together for the sake of Allah. But, I have also seen and experienced quite the opposite. And, I know that I am not alone in my experiences.
I know that many born Muslims as well as converts to Islam are struggling with the disconnect within the Muslim Ummah.
Why this disconnect? Why this disconnect between Islam and Muslims?
Everything has been laid out for us all in the Qur’an and Sunnah!
What has happened? What is the answer?
Is anyone else uncomfortable?
It is our duty as Muslims to our community, and to the rest of the world, to spread the truth of Islam. The best way to do this is THROUGH OUR EXAMPLE. We are failing at this. We are facing an uphill battle due to the rise of Islamophobia throughout the world and the misconception of Muslims and Islam based on the untruth that is being spread. We are failing ourselves and our youth.
We are not supposed to sit idly by and do nothing. Doing nothing means that we are comfortable with the state of the Ummah. I am uncomfortable!
The easiest thing to do is to LEAD BY EXAMPLE, to be role models within the community and within the rest of the world. This is not hard to do and this is why I am uncomfortable.
Who else is uncomfortable? It’s time for Muslims to embrace the discomfort and start the real talk about this Ummah. Where are our role models? Where are our examples for the rest of the world?
I am uncomfortable and want to see change. I DO expect Muslims to be role models for our Ummah and for others. I expect to find role models, examples everywhere I look.
Perhaps reflecting on this hadith, will help.
On the authority of Abdullah ibn Umar (May Allah be pleased with them both), he relates that the Prophet (Peace be upon him) once held my shoulders and said:
“Live in this world as (if you are) a wayfarer or a stranger.” And Abdullah ibn Umar (May Allah be pleased with them both) used to say: “If you live till night, then do not wait for the next day (i.e. do not have hopes that you will live to the next day), and if you wake up in the morning do not have hope that you will live till the night. And take (advantage) from your health before your sickness and take advantage of your life before your death (i.e. do every possible obedience in your life before death comes to you for then no deeds can be performed.)” (Bukhari and Tirmidhi)
Maybe, just maybe, we should take advantage of our ability to be a role model each and every day. If we live for today, doing our best knowing there is no guarantee for tomorrow, perhaps…
Perhaps, I will feel comfortable.