The Distracted Ummah

A few more memories surfaced after my last post about my visit to the Haramain in Makkah and Madinah, leaving me somewhat disillusioned about the state of Muslims today. Here’s a few experiences from that same first visit of mine that you may or may not find disturbing. 

I was making tawaaf one evening with a surprisingly small crowd, when I passed by two young ladies also making tawaaf. Only difference is that they were taking a leisurely stroll around the Ka’aba with designer handbags slung fashionably over their shoulders. I don’t recall clearly if they were also absorbed in conversation or not, but focused on tawaaf they definitely appeared not to be.

Before I could fully absorb this scene and while trying to turn my gaze away from them, a young man passed me by. He was tall, very well groomed, sporting a really fashionably shaped beard, gelled up hair, and had his cell phone firmly pressed against his ear while also performing his tawaaf. That just seemed wrong on so many levels, it left me really sad.

Fortunately this was set aside by the sight of a woman in full niqab performing tawaaf, and suddenly jerking to a stop at the fear of accidentally touching a male that was walking in front of her. The man was obviously oblivious to others walking around him, but the motion of her hand that clearly indicated her concern and restraint remains clearly imprinted in my mind whenever I think about that moment. It had all the hallmarks of piety and modesty captured in a single gesture. Whether that reflected her true character or not is really irrelevant to me. But if I had to choose between the three incidents, the latter is definitely the one that reminded me of Allah, while the other two made me cringe.

Then there was the time that I was walking through the souk in Madinah just after Dhuhr salaah, gaze firmly fixed on the ground in front of me as is my habit when walking in public (mostly out of shyness rather than modesty). Suddenly, from the side of me, I heard this deep throated grunt, quickly succeeded by this gob of discoloured mucus being spat out in front of me in the middle of the walkway, followed by a single flowing motion of the culprit stepping on it and spreading it wafer thin into the pathway as if that eliminated its disgusting presence. It was art in motion. Disgusting art at that.

I won’t even go into the details of the woman that defecated on Mount Arafat at the time of Hajj a few years ago, as described by someone I knew that attended Hajj that year. Or so many other disgusting images and actions of impiety and filth practised openly by Muslims of all walks of life, and of all nations that I have no doubt that this is not restricted to any specific sect, or madhab, nor do I have any reason to believe any group is immune to this behaviour either.

I look at many posts on Tumblr where people are sharing intriguing photos, often in real time, about their visit to the Ka’aba, and I wonder how far gone we really are that we can be standing in the single holiest place on earth, and instead of taking advantage of that nearness to Allah by focusing on dua and istighfaar, instead we’re thinking about looking cool and sharing cool photos with others, and wondering where we’re going to find that really cool gift for ourselves or someone back home. 

The point I’m trying to make is that if we bothered to step away from our social networks for long enough, we’ll realise that the problems with the Ummah run far deeper than differing opinions about rituals, or sects formed by misguided zealots in the name of some innocent scholar. The real problem with the Ummah is that we’ve lost our self-respect, let alone the respect of what is sacred in Islam. We’re so distracted that we assume that our ability to focus on a single distraction at a time is in fact meritorious, forgetting that we’re actually still distracted from what’s important. 

Look closer to home. Look in the masjid and see how many men of all ages engage in laughter, loud conversation and worldly distractions while waiting for salaah. It’s gotten so bad that at the place where I regularly perform Dhuhr salaah close to the office, some elderly men continue talking right through the Iqamah and only stop when the Imam begins the salaah. 

So we really should stop trying so hard to focus on rectifying everyone else and convincing everyone else that we’re the only rightly guided ones because we ascribe to the sect that is closest to the correct path, while completely forgetting our manners, modesty, respect, dignity and so many other basic virtues that far outweigh our ability or responsibility to refute the opinions of the ill-informed in ways that expose our own arrogance and pride. 

This post drips of the same condescension, rhetoric and generalisations that I despise hearing in the Friday khutbahs. But it’s not intended that way. It really is just reflective of how overwhelming the reality of this is when I consider the futile debates about theoretical perspectives while we’re holding on to our faith through token reference points that appease our conscience only, leaving us wondering in agony why our duas rarely appear to be answered. 

2 Replies to “The Distracted Ummah”

  1. I love this post, it is such a reminder for myself to be more aware & conscious of my actions. I think what most people fail to remember (myself included, ofcourse) is that we are all ambassadors of Islam. & as ambassadors of our sacred religion, we need to beindful of our actions / demeanour / outward appearance, always. Most people are fabulous at representing Islam in the face of non Muslims, they’ll adjust their attire & speak of the fantastical elements of Islam, but fail to hold up in from their own Muslim brothers & sisters.

    I’ve noticed that we are at our lowest & worst when we are around each other, that is, around other Muslim people. We forget that we are still representing Islam even though there are other Muslims around us! & because of this memory loss, we lose our Islamic identity & character in the most holiest of places!

    1. Couldn’t agree with you more. And the insistence on establishing sects under the guise of madhabs only further drives that wedge of superiority between groups and individuals. We’ve established hierarchies and structures not dissimilar to the Christian church, yet we’re always ready to profess to being the revivalists of the Sunnah, while sowing discord between Muslims because we don’t know when to stop questioning issues relating to rituals, whilst completing ignoring the underlying principles.

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