Divided Muslims

At about 5 PM yesterday, my power just shut off for no apparent reason. There wasn’t a thunder storm or anything, but everyone else on my block had lost power too. It wouldn’t turn back on until 10 PM! In those 4 or 5 hours, I went out with my mom to a local Halal Pizza & Grill restaurant. I usually like going here, not just because of the delicious food, but also because I have a very friendly relationship with the Egyptian, Palestinian, and Hispanic people who work there. I always feel welcomed, I’m always greeted by name, and it’s just impossible to leave the place without a smile.

But last night, as I was enjoying my pizza and halal buffalo wings (lol), a young Muslim man dressed in traditional Arab garb and fashioning a long black beard stormed into the restaurant loudly, “Asalaam ‘alaykoum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu!” Of course, my mom and I returned the “salaam” and then watched him sit at the table in front of us. He was accompanied by another young man who also had an olive complexion, but was wearing a short-sleeved collar shirt and jeans. The Muslim man walked to the counter and gave his order loudly in Arabic — this doesn’t bother me and it’s nothing new either; I mean we Punjabis are very loud too. I don’t like how non-Arabs or non-Muslims think that the Arabic language is an “angry” language. Just because people speak loudly doesn’t mean they’re “angry,” they’re just very passionate about their language.

Anyway, I just wanted to clear up that stereotype/misconception. So, the two young men take their seats and the Muslim man starts giving his friend a lecture about Islam. My guess is that the second man was a convert to Islam, but I don’t know that for sure. My mom and I were silent while we ate because we were listening to the speech that the Muslim man was giving behind us. At first, I liked the things he was saying. He was talking about how Muslims don’t worship Jesus (peace be upon him) and then he explained why. He also spoke about how Allah is everywhere, sees all things, watches over us, etc. He discussed how Allah has no partners, and that associating partners with Him is the greatest sin (“shirk”). He was very passionate and knowledgeable about what he was saying, but then he started bad-mouthing other Muslims. That’s when I really wanted to leave. Did he forget about this verse?

“Surely, those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; anyone who (1) believes in GOD, and (2) believes in the Last Day, and (3) leads a righteous life, will receive their recompense from their Lord. They have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve.”
[Qu'ran,
2:62]

He said, “there are a lot of ignorant Muslims out there. Very few Muslims really follow Islam. They think that just accepting the Oneness of God means you are a Muslim. This is false! This is not true! You can believe in the Oneness of God, but it must be Allah subhanna wa ta’ala.” Ok, that wasn’t too offensive, but I started to detect the arrogance in his voice. He continued, “there was an Arabic Sufi — may Allah bring him back to us — who innovated a lot of things, and innovation is a huge sin in Islam. He tried to unite all the monotheistic religions; obviously this is an innovation!” I really couldn’t believe I was hearing this and I honestly felt the urge to interrupt him and ask him why he was so offended by the Sufis. He spoke about how Christians and Jews are “ignorant” and “misguided” and worship “different gods.” I understand that Christians may argue that they do in fact worship a “different god” by worshiping Jesus, but that doesn’t mean we should criticize their faith, especially when teaching a young person. I know I wouldn’t like it if I were in a public place and I heard a priest teaching someone that Muslims are “misguided” or “blind to the Truth.” Then I heard the man talk about the “way of the Salaf,” which is supposedly all about following the way of Muhammad, peace be upon him. The interesting thing is that all the different sects in Islam claim to be following the way of Muhammad!

His complaints against other Muslims continued: “You see so many young Muslims who are ignorant and misguided. They know the stats of Kobe Bryant and other sports players, and they wear their jerseys, when in actuality, when the Day of Judgment comes, those celebrities will want to be in the place of a Muslim.” I think we’re a little unfair to celebrities most of the time; just because they’re famous, does that mean that they’re sinful? Does it mean that they have no spiritual foundation in their lives? Then I heard him speak about the various forms of “polytheism” — one example he provided was someone who prays or gives charity in the Mosque just to show off. This is called “minor polytheism.” I wonder what the man would have thought about me if he saw the black t-shirt I was wearing. The front reads: “I Know My Role Model.” And on the back, it says “He was Merciful, Forgiving, Compassionate, Patient” and the many other attributes of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Would I be accused of “showing off” just for wearing this shirt?

Other than the accusations against other Muslims, this man placed so much emphasis on Islamic scholars. More so than the Holy Qur’an itself. I have read the works of many scholars, but I could never follow every single thing that they preach because I find many things to be innovated. I’m sure I would be accused of blasphemy here by many other Muslims, but God knows what is in my heart. For example, I was debating with a Muslim brother on Facebook, but I was really taken aback about how arrogant he was behaving towards me. Even when I cited other scholars and sources, he would say that their works aren’t “credible.” He gave me a link to the website “SunniPath” where many scholars say the following about Shia and Sufi Muslims: “[They] are without a doubt out of the fold of Islam…therefore, Salat behind a Shia should not be performed. If one did so, it must be repeated, as it may not be valid.”

Wow. Masha’Allah. This is our Ummah (Nation/Community). This is what our Imams and “leaders” teach to build a better, stronger, and united Muslim society. This kind of close-minded attitude is what ruins our Ummah and tears it apart. I would condemn Shia and Sufi scholars who said the same thing about Sunni Muslims. How could I follow a scholar who teaches this kind of separation? I was born Sunni, so does that automatically make me better or superior to another Muslim from a different denomination? I Love the writings of Rumi and I follow much of what he teaches, but even he says things I don’t agree with. Why should I be expected to follow everything that a human scholar teaches? What happened to following the Word of God: The Qur’an?

Just this morning, i saw a shirt on Zazzle.com, and it says “Discrimination against Muslims is racism. Muslim discrimination against others is religion.” Of course this upsets me, but then I think about these scholars and the Muslim man who I saw last night. Are we surprised that non-Muslim people feel this way? What saddens me is that we don’t know how to accept one another. I would rather just call myself “Muslim,” not Sunni, Shia, or Sufi. I can’t swear allegiance to one school of thought, however I believe I can learn a lot from all schools of thought.

Last night, when the power turned back on, I picked up my Islamic book “The Ultimate Action,” which my mother brought from Pakistan, and read something completely related to what happened in the restaurant! Sobhan’Allah! I decided to share an excerpt from the book, but before you read it, keep in mind that this is from a Sufi scholar, and Sufis are often associated with drinking alcholol and using intoxicants. Although this scholar mentions alcohol, he condemns it throughout the book (because it has been declared impermissible in the Qur’an) . He only brings up alcohol to make a point. He first cites a poet and then delivers his commentary:

Ostentation as permissible you consider, while wine as impermissible.
Is this the code of the nation, is this the action
prescribed on the Path?

“He is referring to the dry ascetics who consider intoxicants to be impermissible while a reprehensible sin like show, which has been referred to as minor polytheism, they consider to be permissible and are constantly involved therein and it does not even cause them to flinch even the slightest. Do not be fooled by this self-claim to obedience. Our condition is such that outwardly, we appear to be the epitomes of purity and abstention from sin, we are scholars and men of letters, we are spiritual guides and all else to boot, but our inner state is known to Allah alone. Far greater than our outward accomplishments and capabilities are our souls plagued with spiritual ills.”

I just wish we could learn to accept one another for who we are. We may interpret the Qur’an differently from each other, but does that mean we should be divided and bad-mouth each other? I feel very uncomfortable around fellow Muslims who behave as if they will determine whether or not I go to Heaven. I find myself inclined to Sufi texts, not because I’m Sufi, but because of how spiritually moved I feel after reading. The book I mentioned above asks: “How is salat (prayer) not an act of Love?” It reminds me of how the Universe was created and why Allah created all of us. How is that not Love?

Salaam/Peace

~ Broken Mystic ~

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6 Comments

  1. Aafke said,

    June 11, 2008 at 8:45 pm

    I like this post very much, it’s a pity that it’s mainly the guys like you met at the restaurant get into the limelight in ”the west” and not more reasonable people like you instead. They give Islam a very bad name.

    I am confused about the use of the concept of polytheism, both by the obnoxious bloke, as well as the excerpt you shared. If polytheism means solely the worship of multiple gods, surely it is not apposite in the context of showing off? That is just vanity.

    I think I’d love the T-shirt you described.
    It would be interesting if you had politely confronted the beard. But possibly he would just have started a programmed rant.
    And what a ridiculous notion, that *Salat behind a Shia should not be performed.*!!! And how would anyone know? Does that mean you’d have to ask (as sunni) before prayer, ”Excuse me, are you shia? Would you please move behind me?” ?

  2. Pari Jaan said,

    June 11, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    Salaam brother – hope all is well. Really informative post, as always. It brought to my mind a lunch I was having with some friends a long time ago that I’ve never forgotten – one person asked my friend (who was new to the group) what “kind” of muslim she was (I really couldn’t believe that question was asked!)….and my friend, so sweet and quiet gently said “I was born into a Shia family, I married into a Sunni family, but I now consider myself just a muslim and don’t label myself or my boys because that’s what we all were when the Prophet (pbuh) first revealed the Qur’an to us – right?”….I will never forget the stunned looks and total silence at the table. :) It was the most wonderful moment and I was so proud of Arien to state her truth so eloquently. Really put that guy in his place!!!! :) Anyway, super post….thanks! Khoda hafiz…

  3. Chickadee said,

    June 12, 2008 at 12:45 am

    Wow. I wouldn’t have been able to contain my mouth, barodaram. Good for you.

    Muslim is Muslim is Muslim. God decides the rest.

    Irritation: Discrimination against Muslims is ISLAMOPHOBIA.

  4. brokenmystic said,

    June 12, 2008 at 3:05 am

    Aafke — Thanks for stopping by! I’m not sure exactly why it’s called “minor polytheism”, but I know it’s referring to those who do religious things just to show off how “pious” they are. I guess this is considered a form of “self-worship” so that’s probably why it’s called “minor polytheism.”

    Pari Jaan — Wa salaam, sister. I think that was a great response! I don’t mind if people are sincerely trying to learn something, but when they ask in a very accusatory way, then of course I’ll take offense to it. I think every Muslim should respond in the way that your friend did :)

    Chickadee — I was going to speak up, but with my mother there, I didn’t want to deal with her possibly telling me to be quiet. In the eyes of the common man, I don’t look “qualified” to speak to him. But without a doubt, if my mother wasn’t there, I would have spoken up. Politely, of course.

  5. Krishna.N.C said,

    June 12, 2008 at 9:50 am

    My Dearest B.M,
    My humblest salaam :) Hope you are doing fine and all is well at your end. I loved this post, extremely informative and has such a strong message for all those people who belong to the same religion but still insists on building barriers rather than bridges.
    I feel that an attitude of Supremacy towards one’s own religion or towards one particular sect or creed doesnt make him/her more closer or dearer to God. And Allah hates discrimination among His own children.
    Though i am born a Hindu by birth but i so ardently admire and follow the Sufi philosophy…Forget the Drop and be a part of the Ocean :) And i too am i muslim and have deep respect for Islam coz i believe in total submission to the Will of Allah, God or The One :)
    Does that make me an outcaste from the Kingdom of Divinity?
    Names, sects, castes, religions, are mere labels designed by this immature human mind to create so much of hatred and rift between followers of the same Divine Power…Muslim brothers (be it the sunnis, the shias or the sufis) how does it matter when you all bow down at the call of the Azaan, you all read the same Holy Koran or you utter the same blessed “Bismillah” before you put a morsel into your mouths? I feel any discrimination done in regard to the follower of any religion is a Sin.
    Thank you so much dear one for bringing this matter into light so beautifully through your writings. May Allah enlighten all of us for having a stronger religious tolerance towards each other who are in Truth our own blood and flesh. Ameen :)

  6. Demetric Muhammad said,

    June 12, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    As-Salaam-Alaikum,
    Great post brother. The link to your site came up in my Google Alerts for Holy Qur’an. I am happy that it did.

    I am a member of the Nation of Islam and I can relate to your sentiments very much so. Many in the world of “orthodox” Islam feel about us the way you described the brother feeling about the Sufi’s and Shia’s. This is despite the view of many others in the Muslim world who see the honorable minister Louis Farrakhan as a mujeddid type figure.

    Nevertheless I am glad people like you are out there. As a chaplain with a correctional institution I have dealt with the same issues of brothers questioning whether or not their prayers are valid if they make salaat behind me. I show them that, that kind of predjudice is unIslamic and not founded in the Holy Qur’an.

    Allah admonished the Muslims the be wise for he “created you into tribes and families so that you may know each other.” Allah says in the Qur’an that He and He alone is the judge. Yet so many as you have stated go against the Qur’an when it says “those who take their doctors of law and monks as lords besides Allah.” They believe more in the scholars words than Allah’s words.

    Keep up the good work

    As-Salaam-Alaikum
    Bro. Demetric


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