Before you can be honest and open with others, you must first be so with yourself. Who are you? What are your values? What do you stand for? Who do you rely on? Do you rely on yourself and your cunning and wits, or to you rely on Allah? These are simple questions but they form the basis of who we are and on which foot we will start off on in life.
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If you answer the above questions and find that you are a Muslim and have clear values that mean you will not (for example); drink alcohol or take drugs, engage in premarital relationships, have anything to do with riba or corruption… And that you will (for example); stand up for people who are being treated unjustly, be honest, sincere, punctual… Are these values so difficult to live, especially if we truly believe in them and do them for the sake of Allah?
Now, if we know who we are and what we are striving for and we know that Allah will help those who turn to Him sincerely, why should we ever pretend we are not ‘religious’? Are we to be swayed by how people think
(remembering people change their minds all the time!)? Are we to be changed from the course of our life by people who are themselves lost? Come on! We know who we are as Muslims and the test, the really hard test, is putting that into action among people who think differently. But do it, because you can if you are sincere and trust in Allah.
I do believe that as Muslims, we should maintain our identity; who we are, what we do and why we do it.
So much of this subject revolves around where we are and who we are with, as undoubtedly there will be some people and places that we will just not go to.
However, taking ‘isolation’ as a general means of maintaining our identity, I believe, is a big mistake. As human beings seeking to spread goodness wherever we are we must learn to interact positively.
To do this requires that we have a solid relationship with Almighty Allah through our prayer, thikr, Quran and generally trying to fix ourselves. Once this foundation is laid, the outward behavior will adjust naturally and the following step, should be, to be the ‘good guy’ wherever you are. Maintaining an Islamic identity is not just about insisting on having a place to pray or not eating during the day in Ramadan or not mixing with people whose behavior is questionable. It is about being proactive; getting out there and having a
voice and organizing things, interacting, discussing, helping out – it’s about
If our inner self is developed and strong – as it should be – then everywhere we look we should be seeing Muslims who are involved in environmental issues, family and social issues – the whole spectrum.
Our values include reaching out to others, being the voice of the voiceless, and getting involved in life. What is the point of our values if we keep them
hidden away? This is especially so in a world that is crying out for insight, wisdom and positive behavior. Islam grooms us to be such.
However, this is rarely seen in the world, even though it does happen from time to time and in places here and there. The problem is that human beings have this problem with ego (nafs); and unless we can control it, indeed, it will control us. If the ego dominates, the person will feel haughty, selfish, superior, and seek to dominate others.
I firmly believe, that it is our duty as Muslims to work toward the common good with all the insight, knowledge and resources we have. The basis of this, is of course, our faith and trust in Almighty Allah and seeking to be close to Him and earn His pleasure. We must also understand what it is that pleases Him. And we will not be able to do any of this if we lock ourselves away as if we are living in isolation. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said (the meaning of which is) that the Muslim should put up with the harm of the community.
Dealing with people will inevitably result in challenges and problems but part of working toward the common good and establishing Islamic principles is being part of positive change, respecting each other and allowing each other the space to agree to disagree. Almighty Allah tells us in the Quran (what means) ‘unto you your religion and unto me, my religion.
Just because people disagree with us and even confront us about our being different from them, doesn’t mean we have to buckle under the pressure. We should go out into the world expecting some people to be hostile, some people to ridicule, some people to disagree and some people not to care. But that shouldn’t frighten us and push us back into isolation. We have our Islam to strengthen us inwardly so we can handle all this pressure and still be ourselves and do all this with calmness, dignity, compassion and wisdom Âjust like the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did.
Islam is a way of life – it is the beliefs we cherish; our trust in Allah and seeking to please Him. It is the code of ethics we follow that should color our lives with beauty and grace. It is the balance that steadies the other aspects of our lives, like our job, culture and so on. Our hearts should be able to tell us (if they are on the right way) that we are being aggressive, or harsh or extreme and recall us back to the middle way which is the way of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and his Ummah. Doing this, is a struggle – a continual struggle within our own selves.
When we speak about ‘fighting’ for our identity, what do we mean? Does it mean actual hand to hand conflict? Our identity exists in our own selves and then manifests itself in our words and actions. The dilemma comes when people oppose or confront us, telling us to not be who we are. Now resisting that is a human value, and people all over the world will agree that this is something we should not give in to.
We simply refuse to change our values and ethics and we take what comes, trusting in Allah. Not an easy thing to do.