This is a question that has weighed heavily on my heart for some time. Why has showing kindness and compassion come to mean openly supporting sin and wrongdoing? Why does it feel as if the ummah is gradually becoming two camps—the “judgmental” and the “compassionate”?
No, I do not mean we are becoming these two groups in front of Allah. I mean we are becoming these two groups in front of ourselves. Just as we have divided ourselves into manmade sects regarding which “version” of Islam we want to follow, we have divided ourselves into groups based upon how we respond to open sin and wronging our souls. Sometimes these transgressions go as far as to risk taking us outside the fold of Islam.
When I wrote “I’m Muslim and Don’t Pray. What Should I Do?” I received both private and public messages from Muslims expressing their disagreement with my “strict” and “judgmental” position that a Muslim is required to pray five times a day, no matter how difficult consistently praying may become. One woman whom I loved dearly wrote me an angry message saying that she didn’t want to speak to me ever again and that reading my “strict” perspective made her feel like she didn’t want to be Muslim anymore.
Yet the position I shared is not mine. It is Allah’s.
I have no idea if I conveyed this position in the best way, or if there was someone else who could have done a better job. But because I am a human being who is full of faults, I would imagine that the answer is, Yes, you could’ve conveyed the message in a better way, and there is definitely someone else who could have done a better job.
However, as time goes on, I’m noticing that the root of many complaints about Muslims who are “judgmental” is not in how they’re saying what they’re saying, it’s that they’re saying anything about our faith at all.
Some professed Muslims have even turned following Islam itself into “religious deviance,” whereby Muslims who obey the rules of Islam and remind others to do the same are labeled traditionalists, fundamentalists, and extremists. And this, for no crime other than praying five times a day, wearing hijab, adhering to the Islamic limits regarding sexual behavior, and encouraging others to do the same.
They refer to this obedience of Allah as being “rigid” and “judgmental,” and they often assume that the Muslim “guilty” of this has no idea what it means to struggle in one’s faith.
My Response To a Critic
Here is my response to a commenter who criticized my piece on Salaah for being traditional, rigid, and judgmental, allegedly due to my lack of understanding of what it means to struggle in my faith:
Some “traditional perspectives” are correct perspectives, even though we might think of them as “rigid.” If you think of the definition of the word “pillar,” it is by definition something “rigid,” in that it must remain in place at all times. Some people think the requirement of Tawheed to get to Paradise is rigid, and maybe it is. But it’s still an inflexible requirement to enter Paradise. As a general rule the foundations of any faith are “rigid.” This is because they form the very definition and foundations of the faith itself. It might appeal to our hearts and weaknesses to read articles that effectively tell you that the foundations of our faith aren’t really the foundations of our faith, but that doesn’t make them true. Personally, I’d rather risk sounding “rigid” than risk speaking falsehood about Islam because it “sounds better.”
Salaah is a foundational pillar of Islam, so it is not subject to an opinion that says anything differently. As such, Salaah can never be about “What works for one, doesn’t work for all.” However, if what you mean by this is that one author’s method of explaining the truth may be more appealing or more inspirational than another author’s way of explaining the truth, then I agree with you wholeheartedly. I claim no perfection in my ability to explain the truth and beauty of Allah’s religion. Like all humans, I am deeply flawed and will certainly say or write something in a way that another believer can do a much better job. And for that, I ask Allah’s mercy and forgiveness; and I pray more believers will help me and each other upon the lofty goal of speaking the truth in the most beautiful manner.
In any case, what we share with each other must be truth, and what was spoken about in the other article [saying it’s okay not to pray if you intend to pray eventually], from an Islamic standpoint, was not correct, even though it was beautifully written and heart-moving…
[Regarding your saying] “If you haven’t struggled with Faith beyond the occasional dip, as much as you try to empathize, you won’t be able to understand the struggles of someone who has struggled being Muslim from the get go. Don’t judge nor condemn.”
This is very true. But remember, this goes both ways. A part of not judging and condemning is recognizing that you have absolutely no idea of anyone’s struggles, even people who appear to have it all together. Personally, I definitely know how it feels to struggle with my faith far beyond the “occasional dip,” hence my video “I Never Thought It Would Be Me” in which I talk about thinking I could no longer be Muslim.
And one of the things that consistently made my spiritual struggles worse was hearing false information about my faith, like what I read in the sister’s article. Her article reminded me of my weakest points in which my nafs and Shaytaan were pulling me away from being Muslim by using “step by step” methods that sound nice at first but ultimately lead me to trivialize important parts of Islam.
You Don’t Have To Love Righteousness
One of the advices people give to support their definition of “compassion” as disobeying Allah is that we should really want to or love to do a righteous action before doing it. Thus, we erroneously believe this “tingly happy” feeling alone is what represents doing something for the sake of Allah. However, this is not the case, as I explained to the critic of my Salaah blog:
I find that filling the heart with love of Allah before praying (or doing good) is one of the most impossible and stressful pieces of advice I’ve ever heard. Personally, hearing this only makes me feel worse, like I’m a bad Muslim since I don’t feel that all the time and certainly not every time it’s time to pray.
But knowing that Allah doesn’t require me to be perfect when I stand in front of Him in Salaah is a much more merciful perspective. And, alhamdulillaah, it also happens to be the true, Islamic perspective. So that’s what I prefer to hold on to, the merciful truth, instead of an impossible, stressful standard I could never uphold.
Your Hurt Feelings Mean Nothing
Unfortunately, we are a generation that has been raised upon narcissism more than righteousness. Thus, anything that hurts our feelings or bothers us in any way is automatically viewed as wrongdoing or lacking compassion. Some of us have taken this so far that we now believe that anything from Allah or His Messenger, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam, that we find difficult, burdensome, or uncomfortable is automatically “rigid” or “extreme” in the religion of Islam itself. Thus, we can leave off the five prayers, deny the authority of hadith, violate (or support violating) the limits Allah has put on sexual behavior, and remove (or support removing) hijab; and then call this “compassion” and “moderation” in practicing our faith.
Is Being Compassionate a Means or a Goal?
We know that being compassionate and non-judgmental is definitely rooted in the teachings of Allah and His Messenger, sallallaahu’alayhi wa sallam. However, where things become befuddled is in answering the question why. When we look at the actual divine teachings, we see that everything in our faith—without exception—is rooted in calling ourselves and others to the purpose of our creation, worshipping and obeying Allah.
“And I have only created jinn and humans, that they may worship [and serve] Me [alone].”
—Qur’an (Adh-Dhaariyaat, 51:56)
Thus, it is inconceivable that any divinely instructed behavior or emotion, whether in rigidity or compassion, has a purpose that deviates from serving Allah.
Every day in prayer we ask Allah to guide us on the Straight Path. In supplicating to Him regarding this, we are asking our Creator to allow the means (i.e. the roads we take in this life) to lead us to the ultimate goal: pleasing Him and thus entering Paradise.
Therefore, to view showing compassion as a goal in itself—instead of a means to take us to Paradise—is about as sensible as viewing learning to drive on physical roads as having no relation to reaching an actual destination.
So when we use the necessity to be “compassionate” and “non-judgmental” as a license to abandon Salaah, to reject hadith, to engage in or support haraam sexuality, or to remove (or support removing) the hijab; then we must realize that this use of the terms has no relation to the religion of Allah. Rather, it relates only to viewing “compassion” and “non-judgmental” as synonymous with supporting sin and wrongdoing.
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