"In Islam, you..." "Islam teaches that the state
is..." "A Fatwa issued by a scholar in..."
This is what you hear on a daily basis when you travel in Muslim circles. There is
always someone propounding on what Islam teaches, how Islam shapes our behavior and what
Islam says about halal/haram issues. This is all well and good. However, as is my habit,
I'm going to poke some holes in our usual assumptions so we can see what we really need to
do to improve ourselves.
Picture this: you're in a Muslim convention, Masjid or at a local function where there
are a lot of people. Some people are talking about politics, others about
"religion" while others are gossiping about whatever (or whoever). Some of the
people will be recognized "scholars" or known for their Islamic learning. They
may even be distinguished by distinctive clothing, or they're just wearing expensive suits
You sort of feel like you're in a Muslim society. There's "Salam" every where
you turn and you can reasonably expect a certain conformity in behavior and modes of
expression. Group activities such as the Salah and dinner solidify this feeling.
there will be some speeches of interest to the attendees and maybe a little bazaar with
books, clothes or whatever.
But for all the knowledge, for all the hierarchies based on religious" knowledge
and for all the talk of what Islam says about this, that or the other thing, the simple
truth remains that when everyone leaves, they are returning to a world dominated by
non-Muslims and their culture. Even if you were in Egypt, Arabia or Malaysia, the dominant
culture is not necessarily "Islamic" as much as it is based on tradition.
So the woman who asked a question about women's rights "in Islam" to the
speaker on the podium, and received an answer that women's status "in Islam" is
wonderful, will leave the gathering and return to the "real" world where Muslim
women are either not welcome in the Masjid near them or are at best a tolerated evil
The man who talked to his brother about building an Islamic community will return to
his home where he is the only Muslim in the neighborhood. Likewise, the kids who were
forced to sit in the lecture hall by their parents are going to return to their public
school to see their girl/boy friends, talk about the latest Madonna album and laugh and
joke like any other non-Muslim.
For all the talk about building brotherhood or sisterhood, there will be none of it
outside the convention hall or lecture forum. For all the talk about "in Islam
this" or "in Islam that", the truth is that outside the place, their is no
"in" anything except kufr.
I know of a sister who wanted to divorce her husband. She knew about the divorce
procedure in the non-Muslim court system, but what about in Islam? She went to one big
Imam from a wealthy Arab country and laid out her case. She was often beaten and abused by
her husband and he didn't even support her or their children. She was the one who worked
and paid the bills, in addition to being hit all the time! This "Imam" gave her a
religious ruling telling her she should just stay married to him and never mind the
So the sister went to another Imam from a poor African country. He was more sympathetic
and advised counseling for the couple. The husband refused to come to his office for
counseling and the Imam tried his best to contact this man and even sent a message that he
would be willing to come to their house and counsel them there. The man didn't budge. He
wanted no part of any counseling. The Imam could have pursued the matter, but he was also
counseling hundreds of other Muslims who had social problems. The wife finally gave up and
decided a secular divorce was her only option. She couldn't find a way to arrange an
Of the several Masjids that I've had close associations with, one startling factor I've
always taken note of is the lack of Islamicity in many of the sisters. (Not all sisters so
don't get mad at me.) You know, the wealthy women who wear the dynamite Shalwars,
heels, gold jewelry and expensive hair-dos. (Hijab is unheard of for many women.) Their
main activity seems to be gossip, endless gossip. Although the Prophet counseled us to
never talk about others, all they do is feast upon the rumors, gossip and
"juicy" tid-bits of info on this or that person or family.
I've known many sincere sisters in these different Masjids, some were converts, others
were immigrants who had strong Islamic awareness. One complaint they would give is the
lack of real sisterhood they felt. Many were sick of the gossip-mongers (who often held
power positions in the women's activities in the Masjid) and they felt powerless to stop
it. A few sisters I know of tried to confront the gossip-mongers, but they were treated so
cruelly and viciously that they haven't returned to their respective Majid's yet.
I remember one of the sisters telling me, "Who is my community?"
Here's the problem: We always talk about the theory of Islam; what Islam teaches in
regards to personal, social and political behavior. But we never seem to move beyond the
theoretical. If Islam says a person shouldn't back-bite, we parrot this phrase from our
mouth. But then we engage in back-biting as if we never recognized it was wrong! We say
that the Imam is the leader of the community, but then we "hire" Imams from
third world countries, bring them here to lead prayers and teach Arabic, but then give
them no respect or authority whatsoever!
My favorite issue is that of the "scholars" who have their heads in the sand.
You know, all those guys with degrees from Madinah, Syria, India or wherever, who act and
talk as if they were in 13th century Baghdad or Damascus. They'll wear their little
"scholar's" uniforms, issue fatwas left and right, talk about the theory of
Islam and act is if they are part of a monolithic Islamic state which is functioning and
healthy. Yet, they are devoid of a practical plan or
conception for how to revive Islam.
But there is no Islamic state anywhere in the world, the level of knowledge among
Muslims about Islam is extremely varied, there are no authorities to verify or study the
merits of fatwas, Muslim countries were conquered completely and are now places where
Islam is suppressed and many "scholars" are more influenced by their cultures
than by Islam.
Think about the Taliban, for example, where they have forbidden sisters to work, study
or even go out without a tent on their heads. As one Taliban spokesman was quoted as
saying, "This is our culture for over a thousand years."
There are also a lot of Arabs, Indo-Paks, Africans and converted Muslims, both black
and white, who also are influenced by their cultural values over Islam as well.
I mean really now, a lot of Muslim Americans have taken it as
an article of faith that "Rap" music is an integral part of Islam. (Also
think about all
the permissive fatwas issued from "American" Muslims in recent years.)
The simple plea remains: "Who is my community?"