Today, everything is porous and transient. For many, everything is understood as being subjective, and resultantly this has led to major instability – not only within communities and amongst them, but also with individuals themselves. What is truth, and what is falsehood? A lot of the time, what we intuitively know to be inconsequential issues (such as the unfrutiful debates on the nature of God, or traditionally sectarian topics) still manages to take up much of our time, and that’s in between the bouts of mild depression or deep frustration evoked by our presence on social media.
Brexit and the rise of ethnic nationalism is causing people to lament our ‘fractured society’, or the idea that people are losing faith in democracy. Anti-facist activists feel overwhelmed by a trajectory they don’t seem to be making headway against. Corbyn’s rise saw the mainstreaming of socialist ideas, with Keir Starmer allegedly attempting to ride that wave in the hope of garnering support from the left. Boris Johnson and Trump with their palpable bafoonery became world leaders. And the muted Arab reaction to Trump’s (really Kuschner) so-called peace plan in the Middle East, particularly by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and others has left Muslims who’ve taken the Palestinian issue as their raison d’etre perplexed and anxious. Now coronavirus has taken over the world!
Muslims in the British political realm, as elsewhere, seem to be lost: What does it mean to be a political “Muslim”? For many, it means to fight (and advocate) for BAME rights. Some equate it to championing liberalism and advocating for all deemed minorities. Others have taken it as an obligation to fight racist securitisation, particularly the PREVENT strategy. In public discourse, we’ve moved from “being a Muslim” to espousing “Muslimness” – largely an ethno-cultural identity that reflects Muslim practices from the Muslim-majority countries British ethnic communities have immigrated from.
I believe that in the midst of all this noise, the truth will gloriously emerge. “…they will realise that God is the Truth that makes everything clear.” (24:25) An Abrahamic overview is what we need which will then contextualise everything else. “God speaks the truth, so follow Abraham’s religion…” (3:95) And the final shari’ah revealed to Abraham’s descendent, Muhammad b. Abdullah, from the lineage of Ishmael, is the only structure of thinking that can emancipate us and provide comfort in such unsettling times. It is a sophisticated system of thought God wants us to wholeheartedly embrace, one that interrelates all things and makes sense of what the universe is, and what goes on in it. The believers are morally obligated to learn this system of thought in varying degrees, the level of the required knowledge varying in accordance with aptitude and the practical requirements of daily life. Inevitably, all people will not be the same nor seek the same depth.
As I’ve written before here, God is not subject to the diverse and banal interests of His creation, fleeting views and ideologies that come and go as fads. Rather than assuming He is caught up with our moment, culture, or context, we ought to recognise that He has an elevated perspective over all of time: past, present and future. And when we ascertain what God wants of us in our moment, we must recognise that His will is not bound by the nature of Muslim or non-Muslim populism, the battle between ideologies (secular or religious), and the politicisation of what is meant to be subservience to Him (both in wider society and amongst Muslims themselves). Waqi’ b. al-Jarrah said: “Whoever seeks hadith as they come, is a person on the path of prophetic understanding, but whoever seeks it merely to strengthen his argument/opinions is a person of deviation.”
In the end, all that will ever makes sense is God’s account of reality, it’s the only way we’ll square the circles and meaningfully address the necessary contradictions that life and society raise. Most things will never equally be achieved, and priorities will always have to be chosen. From the most mundane to the greatly significant, in our personal lives as well as in politics, how will we choose? To be God’s helpers (ansar’Allah – see 61:14) and members of His successful party (hizb’Allah – see 5:56) we must overcome our baggage and embrace both what gives relief but might even be somewhat uncomfortable at the start.
Everything meaningful to attain is a challenge to begin with, and the truth is no different.