A regular debate that I find myself caught up in is that of the views of interpreted Islam versus what I naively would like to believe is the simple and straight forward way of practicing Islam. I’ve always argued that the views of the scholars, especially the big four, were taken to the extremes by their students or adherents, rather than intended to start up what we have today which is nothing short of a clash of sectarians.
Again naively speaking on my part, I always maintain the belief that Islam is the ultimate simple way of life. It is a way of life that should not be so complex that a simple man without an education must be able to engage and practice its wisdom without falling foul of the tenets of the faith. As always, there is a middle ground, and that middle ground must be based on practicality rather than academics. Unfortunately, from my experiences both online and offline, the implementation of the simpleness of Islam has been relegated to one of academic discourse rather than beautiful principles.
I keep reminding myself that the companions were not the most educated lot, and in fact, nor was the beloved prophet (pbuh) either. Then I consider the current level of debate and debunking that happens in their names or from their efforts to maintain a simple guide to a wholesome life, and I really wonder if we’re over complicating a really simplistic and peaceful way of living? I think we are. Our debates are most often about the detail of rituals rather than the value of the principles being reflected in those actions. The logic behind the beauty of Islam becomes manifest when we reflect and we seek to understand the nature of man, not the nature of rituals.
Another deeply held belief that I have is that Islam is closest to our innate nature than any other way of life we may encounter. History is replete with philosophers, scholars, students, and others trying to uncover the secrets of the most balanced lifestyle that would lead to inner peace whilst immersed in a chaotic world. Islam already has those answers, yet the majority of Muslims are struggling to cope with modern pressures because Islam is presented as a set of rituals that is independent of our basic needs.
When we view prayer as a ritual, or charity as a burden, or when we view children as an expense or an heir rather than a gift, then we lose the very essence of that natural way of life that is so beautifully balanced in Islam. We fail to see that Islam is not a set of rituals, nor is it a law book. It is a guide to achieve the most meaningful balance in this lifetime that is possible. We complicate that balance, in fact we compromise our ability to ever achieve it when we try to implement Islam as a set of rules separate to that of our daily lives where the focus is on compliance rather than benefit.
Heaven and hell shouldn’t feature in our considerations of what we choose to do or how we engage with others. At the risk of appearing deluded or arrogant, I honestly believe that if we viewed Islam correctly, we would see Islam in the light it was intended, which is a system so beautifully balanced, that it allows us to literally achieve the best of both worlds. We’ll find peace and fulfillment in this lifetime, while also inherently earning the best that the hereafter has to offer. Being indoctrinated with the pervasive culture of ritualistic compliance instead of principled guidance, it becomes exceedingly difficult to find that balance that was shown to us to begin with.
The never ending sectarian arrogance of the Ummah doesn’t help either. We’re all so focused on proving that we know it better than anyone else, that proclaiming believers to be disbelievers because of a differing of opinions has become an international sport. Worse than this, we can easily relate to this concept of international relations between Muslim countries because as is evidenced in current affairs, nationalistic pride, and similarly cultural pride, has taken front stage compared to the universality that Islam offers us. Religious arrogance and excessive piety lies at the foundation of the current rot in the Ummah. While there is a hint of tolerance starting to be reflected in the tone of the statements made by various Muslim leaders, these are so few and far between that we’re still generations away from this becoming the norm.
Muslims are in strife today even as they become the most dominant religion in the world, because that is exactly what they’ve done to Islam. They’ve turned it into a religion, a set of rules, a set of rituals, and a set of fear-infused standards of compliance, and have largely lost sight of the true beauty of Islam. May Allah guide us all, Ameen.