In the name of Allah.
I find it difficult to suppress these niggling thoughts any longer. I must express them somewhere, somehow. My dear reader, bear with me while I present to you the reality of many of us today. From my own lens. My own, young, naïve, inexperienced lens – but that doesn’t mean I am shorthanded when it comes to observing matters like these. You may find that it makes sense along the way or you may see this as plain, baseless arguments. Either way, we will benefit our portion of anything as Allah has decreed, for the wise word is the lost property of the believer – it is better for him wherever he finds it, and He is the all-Wise, most Beneficent.
It cannot be denied, that to be swayed and overwhelmed are consequences of jumping into things we aren’t prepared for. This holds true for everything in life – be it in studies, relationships, and so on. This state of bewilderment is easily detected in some contexts but not others – and by ‘others’ I mean specifically in religion and zealousness. One can be perfectly aware that he is stepping into a relationship he isn’t prepared for – but arrogance and unbalanced judgment prevents this consciousness when one ventures into the ocean of sacred knowledge. (or perhaps, not even venture, but merely witness its vastness. Perhaps.)
I must first clarify, that the enthusiasm shown in attaining piety which I have seen in some individuals I’ve been honored to meet is astounding and admirable.
But know this – the idea of religious knowledge and the one who seeks it, is like the parable of an empty jar in which, when you drop a single coin, produces a loud, unpleasant clamor, and this is so until more coins are added to muffle the noise. The will to preach and exhibit religiousness comes easily at the beginning of the journey. When the path is in sight but hasn’t been trodden – yet its beauty and magnificence compels and deludes one to think that he is already on it. I do not mean (at all) to say that I am on the path, no – delusion is an experience. One must have been there to recognize it.
Let’s begin with the surface. The shari’a, the halal and haram. Of course, it is important to understand first the meaning of the word shari’a itself. It is a road to attaining God consciousness, a tool and means of reaching it. It is on the surface of religion and represents a manifestation of the faith within. When one dwells on the surface too much he will fail to experience anything beyond it. He finds himself enraptured in debates on whether this or that is permissible – caught, unfortunately, in contempt for others who do not adhere (by his standards) to it, and also in fear, much deeper down, of torment and consequences. This is exactly what happens when one has not fully comprehended the shari’a, and has not begun to understand the One it came from. This results in treating the dalail (holy proofs, texts) and araa’ (opinions of the scholars) like ammo in a religious shootout – which, I believe, is rather degrading and shameful.
The purpose of religion is to ultimately build a relationship with God – not ruin relationships with His creations. This sheds some light on my second point. To attain an unbreakable, infallible relationship with God takes a lot of time and effort – one does not become a Wali (pious man) overnight. The path to this is full of hardship, sometimes to unimaginable extents. How do I know this? The tests and tribulations in the life of our Prophet pbuh, the beloved of Allah, never ceased till the day of his death. It is because of our failure to recognize this that we feel a dire need to express and call others to what we think is already ours. When this happens, we begin to have a sense of ownership over such actions and this, in turn, breeds superiority and arrogance in our hearts – which we eventually try to deny, yes. But we all know also, that humility is never something you can claim to be.
It is important to know also, that degrading other belief systems or exposing their shortcomings (as we see them) does not make ours look any better. Many of us, in our eagerness, tend to resort to this. Personally, I believe that as Muslims we should be the first to seek the best in everything we encounter – the Prophet pbuh himself always prioritized peace. This fundamental aspect in a Muslim’s conduct is oftentimes overlooked when we are caught up in our own limited, self-righteous contemplations. Embracing Islam as a deen should enable you to see God’s Greatness and Beauty in everything before anything else, and not the other way round.
In the end, it isn’t about how accurately we cite a ruling or how many hearts we try to move, much less how righteous we appear to people. It is about realizing the Divine presence in everything – in ourselves, and in everything else – to acknowledge it and act upon it, for the one who recognizes himself has recognized God. When this is in focus, everything else ceases to matter. And Allah knows best.