This is a two-part post dedicated to a very important topic. It is especially pertinent as many Muslims, after having an incredible Ramadan experience maashaAllaah, will turn to the Deen and join the group referred to as ‘practicing Muslims’. This is of course a wonderful thing, it’s a miracle from Allaah that multitudes of Muslims who were previously astray, or just in a ‘religious rut’, return to their religion and turn to their Lord. However there is a sort of blessing ‘byline’ that needs to be written and discussed. What is it? Well, from my very short stay on this earth, I have learned one thing: extremism and negligence are two roads that are very tempting to walk while moderation is a less traveled path. It’s easy to abandon prayers or even the entire religion altogether. Just the same it’s easy for one to fall into extremism in terms of implementation of the Deen. In this post, I will highlight some of the pitfalls faced by Deen-driven individuals who due to lack of grounded knowledge, good role models, foresight, patience (or all the above) end up with burnout or even worse pushing others away from the religion. The first three are DON’Ts – things we should avoid on our journey to perfecting our Deen:
- Foundational Knowledge vs Fiqh Debates – One of the traps of the newly practicing is to get stuck on minor details in terms of knowledge-seeking. For example, engaging in debates about differences of opinions in minute issues. Although this is by no means a useless quest, it is one that is best left to those who are more learned. Whereas a person who just became serious about the Deen, their priority should be learning how to perfect their prayer and other obligatory actions. To fulfill the requirements Allaah stipulated for them individually (fard-ayn) versus that which is required from the community at large, or from the scholars (fard kifayah). It’s very easy to get into very lengthy, seemingly never-ending debates about anything these days, but wouldn’t that time be better spent perfecting our khushoo’ (concentration in prayer) or learning the fundamentals of our Aqeedah (beliefs)? In the beginning at least, this should be the number one focus.
- Appearance vs Intentions – Another downfall to be aware of is separating good appearances from good intentions. When one gets more serious about the Deen, it’s natural that others start to take notice. You’ll hear the maashaAllahs as they enter the Masjid, the praise from the elder community and sadly comparisons (to less practicing children) and even the notice of the opposite gender. As we all know, intentions are everything in our religion. To quote the famous hadith, Innamal ‘amaalu biniyyah’ – verily all actions are by their intentions. Without good intentions, our deeds are useless and in vain. It’s important that we do not let the perception of others, and our outer appearance, preoccupy and distract us from perfecting our niyyah (intentions). Riyya or showing off one’s good deeds for the sake of others is referred to as the minor shirk for a reason. It is considered minor shirk because in reality we are devoting a religious action (ibaadah) to someone else – for their pleasure, for their acceptance and praise. Growing out a beard, wearing hijaab/jilbaab/niqaab and donning ‘Islamic clothing’ is maashaAllaah a great first step, as are performing public and private good deeds, but let us remember in addition to that, we need to work on our interior: our hearts, minds and souls.
- Qeel wa Qaal (He Said, She Said) – Here’s another troublesome area which is very easy to fall into. Even before practicing the Deen, or getting serious about it, Muslims generally know gossiping, spreading rumors and slander are very major sins. It’s a shock therefore to see a fully Hijab-ed, bearded-ed kitaab-carrying, thobe-wearing Muslim speaking ill of others while using the Deen as an excuse! I’ve witnessed Muslims say the most horrible things to each other while thinking they are making Dawah, or ‘defending the Haqq’ (truth). For example, one time I was in engaging in a discussion with someone about not blacklisting every single Muslim with the sole evidence of snippets from a video/audio lecture. One of their comments, or more like insults, really startled me. They told me, ‘you and your Sisters wouldn’t know bid’ah (innovation) if it BIT you in the nose!’ At first I laughed, thinking this is something I would hear from an elementary school child but then it hit me, this person considers themselves in the right and is bullying others in the name of the Deen and that is very scary! We have to understand that the obligation to abandon others, declare who is or who is not an innovator, or other controversial matters and grey areas are not on our shoulders. In fact, if we spend our time perfecting our worship, focusing on gaining foundational knowledge and implementing what we know, that is enough! We do not have to turn into community/keyboard warriors or make alliances with certain Shaykhs or groups. As a layperson, this is not our duty. Our duty is to perfect our own Deen. I learned this after years and years of silly debates, fruitless online and in-person discussions / debates. One thing is for sure, if we do not to want to experience early burn out, or compromise our imaan, we should do our best to avoid he said / she said and instead focus on what Allaah and His Rasool (sallallahu alayhi wa salam) said.
Stay tuned for the second part!