Reflections

Reflections on Islamization

Reflections on Islamization

Islam seems to mean something very different to people today compared to a thousand years ago. Over the past two centuries, Islam in the minds of many Muslims has become nothing more than a cultural religion; a series of do’s and do not’s. The religion for these people is nothing more than their sect and its interpretation; a strict unforgiving set of rules and beliefs, any deviation from which is pure evil and blasphemy.

This sectarian attitude has spilled over into every other facet of our lives, and in an attempt to Islamize life, too often we over-complicate it. The desire for everything we deal with to be Islamic has caused us to think too narrowly and in doing so, to make narrow that which Allah has left unrestricted and open to diversity. The result of all of this is a strict black-and-white worldview in which everything is categorized as Islamic on unIslamic.

Muslims these days fight with each other over whose organization, product, or website is more Islamic than the other. Each trying to prove the other is somehow deviant, misguided, or evil. Even though, in many of these cases, both sides are doing things that are simply permissible. The need to label everything as Islamic, and for everything that is labeled Islamic to be perfect, has caused a lot of animosity and division on issues that are not really important at all.

This seems to be a new phenomenon, a product of our times. We are obsessed with labels of Halal and Islamic, even when they are not needed. Do those socks really need a Halal label? Does that holiday to Spain really need to be packaged as an Islamic Holiday? These are just some questions we need to ask ourselves before we stick a label before something. Is that label even necessary to being with?

Early Muslim Paradigms

Any study of Muslim History will reveal that this divide between Islamic and unIslamic is almost non-existent in the minds and lives of early Muslims. it is true that Muslims advanced Algebra, but they never tried to create an Islamic Algebra or an Islamic Math. Math was Math and Muslims just used it for religious reasons when necessary, eg: when calculating Zakah and Inheritance.

The early Muslims made tons of contributions to medicine and science, but they never looked at these as Islamic Medicine or Islamic Science. Medicine was a shared field between people of all religions and Muslims contributed to it because of Islam’s overall emphasis on health and hygiene. They did not see the need to categorize it as Islamic or the necessity to justify it by linking it to specific verses of the Quran. It was simply permissible and a recommend field that many Muslims pursued.

The early Muslim empire did not have a division between school and Islamic School. There was simply the Madrassa, a place where people learned Math, Language, Science, Fiqh, Hadith, and other subjects without needing to label any subject as Islamic. Their worldview was a simpler one; Islam is our way of life and it allows us to pursue anything that is not explicitly prohibited or harmful to society. With this worldview, the Muslim world flourished and grew into a magnificent civilization.

They viewed the world more from the paradigm of “Everything is permissible until proven otherwise”. Because of this paradigm, they did not feel the need to Islamize everything they did. As long as it was permissible that was good enough. Not everything in life is going to be Islamic and religious, a lot of life is simple permissible and optional.

Do we need Islamization?

Why then today do we have Islamic Schools, Islamic Banking, Islamic Travel, and (yes, ironically) Islamic Self Help? Are these labels even necessary? Can’t we simply have good schools, banks and travel options that are permissible and exceptional without attaching the label Islamic to it?

I believe the label Islamic is really a product of our times, and many of these ideas develop from Muslims living as minorities in Non-Muslim lands. To differentiate ourselves from others, we needed a label. Our schools did not support the secular liberal beliefs of others, so they are essentially Islamic. Our banks are not supposed to engage in interest-based transaction, so we called them Islamic. (Although technically, they are just Halal, not Islamic.)

Likewise, when I started Islamic Self Help, it was with the same ideas in mind. Many ideas in the self help industry stem from materialism, capitalism and new age theories that contradict Islam. To promote a healthy version of self help literature that agrees with the teachings of Islam, I started Islamic Self Help.

However, this label isn’t always needed. This same work can be done without the label Islamic, and sometimes that may be better. In the case of banking, calling our banking system ethical or humane could help it become more mainstream, as it is simply ethical halal banking, and not Islamic in itself.

Even with our school system, too often we try so hard to be Islamic that we force our teachers to find ways to relate every single math, English, and science lesson to Islam, even when there isn’t any need or link. The result feels forced and unnatural. Why not just teach these subjects as they are, and only bring Islam into it when it is natural and necessary? Not every Math class needs to include a discussion on how al-Khawarizmi invented Algebra. Sometimes, you just need to teach Algebra!

Conclusion

Sticking the label Islamic in front of everything we do isn’t how early Muslims interacted with the world. It is a product of our time, living in Non-Muslim lands, and feeling a need to differentiate ourselves. Sometimes it has its value, sometimes we go overboard with this label. Not everything we do needs to be labeled as Islamic, as the majority of things on earth are permissible anyway.

As we grow as a community, we should consider using this label sparingly and only when necessary. Some things need to be called Islamic to differentiate from opposing ideas. A good example of this Islamic Psychology which has a very different paradigm from Secular Psychology. But not everything needs the label. We can have a good business, without the need for calling it “Islamic or Halal (Insert item here)”. We can contribute to the world without naming our organization “Islamic Muslim’s (Insert synonym for organization here”. And we can excel in both worlds without having to label everything we do as Islamic.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Islam, 0 comments

On Turning Thirty – Thirty Lessons Learned

Turning ThirtyTurning Thirty

I turned thirty today. I know I may seem much older to many people, but that is because I started living my life much younger than most people do. Alhamdulillah, my twenties have been very productive, and I have set goals to make my thirties ten times more productive with Allah’s Help.

As part of reflecting on the passage of time, I decided to list thirty important lessons I learned during my thirty years on planet earth. Enjoy!

Four Reflections on life

  1. Starting young gives you a head-start in life. I started studying Islam at age thirteen, started doing Dawah at age sixteen, got married when I was twenty, became a father when I was twenty-one, and published my first book when I was twenty five. The younger you start, the more you can get done in your life.
  2. The pain of being an orphan never goes away. Twenty-one years ago, my father was murdered. He was twenty nine year old. It still hurts even today, and I still miss him every day. Treasure your parents if they are still alive. Make due for them if they have passed on.
  3. Bad times are just as much a part of life as the good times. Don’t be obsessed with one or the other. During good times, thank Allah and during bad times, seek His Assistance through patience and Salah. Neither will last forever. Maturity is getting used to that and accepting it as a part of life.
  4. Life really is short, so make use of whatever time Allah has blessed you with. My father passed away when he was twenty-nine. During the past two decades, I have seen many other loved ones leave this world. Don’t waste your youth in mindless entertainment. Be productive and make a difference in this world.

Six Reflections on Relationships

  1. Your family should be a priority. Your spouse, children, parents, and siblings are gifts from Allah. Value them and treat them all with honor and love.
  2. But also make time for yourself. Don’t lose yourself in work and taking care of the family. Take care of yourself too. Make time for personal hobbies and personal development, because you need it more than you realize.
  3. However, your relationship with Allah is most crucial. Be regular with your Salah and live your life in obedience to Allah.
  4. Temptations never end. Marriage does not mean the end of tests. Become a parent does not mean the end of tests. Getting older does not mean the end of tests. This world is a testing ground until we leave it, so never become complacent about sources of temptation.
  5. Nobody is perfect and that is okay. What matters is that you are sincerely trying your best and seeking forgiveness for your lapses along the way. Treat your mistakes as learning experiences and grow through them.
  6. So forgive others. Life is too short to hold grudges, and nobody is perfect. Overlook genuine mistakes and help people grow.

Ten Reflections on Personal Growth

  1. Invest in yourself. Make time to grow intellectually every day. Whether it is through books, courses or personal training. You need to grow in order to be able to do well in this ever changing world.
  2. Books are your friends. Whether they are eBooks, audiobooks and physical books. Invest in them and always have a never-ending book list to read through.
  3. Set goals and work towards them. Without goals, life will just pass you by without you really living up to your potential.
  4. Make those goals really really high. You only have one life in this world, so why aim low? Squeeze the most out of life with ridiculously high goals.
  5. Self-Confidence is necessary to accomplish your goals. Build it up and don’t allow others to break it down.
  6. Time Management is just as necessary. You must know how you are spending your time and find ways to spend it productively.
  7. Keep it Halal. Whatever goals you set or paths you take to accomplish those goals, make sure they are Halal. Because no goal is worth displeasing Allah for.
  8. Be picky about your close friends. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to be the best you can be. Avoid negative company, toxic company and especially company that encourages sin.
  9. Remember that each year that passes is a year that you can’t get back, so don’t waste any year of your life.
  10. You should be able to look back each year and say, “Wow, I can’t believe I was like that!” because of how much you have grown in a person within that year.

Ten Reflections on Religion

  1. Islam is a gift from our Creator. Study it, love it, live it, grow deeper into it, and never abandon it or take it for granted.
  2. Over the past fifteen years, I have, at different times, been a part of many sects, and I have seen faults in all of them. Now I just focus on being Muslim and obeying Allah and His Messenger (peace be upon him) without getting involved in sectarianism.
  3. Sectarianism is time consuming and a never ending debate. Seriously, how much of your life will you waste in the Facebook comments sections debating that one guy?
  4. Our purpose in life is to worship Allah, not refute every individual we disagree with. Pick your fights carefully. Not every disagreement has to turn into a fifty page PDF refutation.
  5. After a decade of studying, you realize there will always be things you don’t know and opinions you are unsure about. You realize that Fiqh issues are not worth fighting people over, except when its clear deviation. There will always be differences of opinion in Fiqh, so learn to live them.
  6. Good character and good manners are essential parts of our religion. Over the past decade, I met too many ‘practicing Muslims’ who have forgotten that.
  7. We need thick skins to practice and preach Islam. Islam is never going to be politically correct, as long as those politics are governed by Nafs (desires) and secularism. We must get used to being politically incorrect. Allah’s pleasure is worth far more than any person’s opinion of you.
  8. The path of Dawah is lonely and full of tests. You will make more enemies than friends, and will be misunderstand even when you speak clearly. It seems many people want to misunderstand you, and there isn’t anything you can do about it.
  9. Everything on this earth is a test. Often, the test of success, wealth, fame and popularity are harder than their opposites. Remain steadfast on the truth in every situation.
  10. In the end, we will all leave this world. What matters is not whether people liked us or not. It is Allah’s acceptance of our deeds that truly matters. So live your life focused on that.

I know. These points are a lot, and each require an article-long explanation. However, I’ll leave them as they are for you to ponder over. I end by asking Allah to grant us all productive lives that are pleasing to Him.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Positive Thinking, 15 comments