In my current obsessive thinking about #MuslimFails, something I find to be super consistent on a communal level – of course as individuals they can be highly talented and civilised – I’ve been wondering why #MuslimFails are the norm, with a hope to identify solutions. Across the board Muslims don’t do well, and there’s always some external excuse: “He did this…she did that…they don’t like me.”
Whether we like it or not, nothing important is an easy ride and there are always hurdles. God tells us to suck it up, look inwards and take ownership, achieving as much as we can in the constrained environment. Yes, external variables might mean you can only achieve 70% of an objective. But Muslims will achieve 20% (instead of the 70%) and put down the rest to impediments from others. And then they expect the help of God. It is a credal belief of mine that when believers achieve the 70% (or whatever the maximum % possible in a constraining environment) God literally does the rest – do you to your fullest extent and then leave the rest to God: the definition of tawakkul (trust) in practical terms.
The current complaint and reactionary culture is inspired by the devil. How so?
Well, the drive to be productive: being tolerant (flexible and easy to work with), commanding what is right (focusing on positivity), and paying no attention to foolish people (being coldly focused on getting that 70%) is something righteous that the devil despises (Qur’an 7:199). So, he prompts you to emotional reactions and to behave recklessly, to forget the bigger picture and what your own responsibilities are (Qur’an 7:200). You will be asked about what you do, not what they did. So God tells you to seek refuge in Him, not only because God is the supreme helper and protector, but because seeking refuge also reminds you of your priorities and responsibilities to God.
Now Muslims are easily tempted. They’re triggered by the most mundane issues. There are two reasons: 1) lack of cultivation, and more nefariously 2) being riled up and emotionally spiked by their leaders – always in a defensive stance with a village pitchfork mentality. They’re made to believe that everything revolves around them, yet God consistently reminds them of their insignificance, and wider society cares less for what they have to say or complain about. Maybe it’s me, but I find that consistently putting yourself in a situation to be undermined and belittled is quite embarrassing (I’d rather punch myself repeatedly in the face). So rather than look inwards when things clearly aren’t panning out well, they blame ‘outsiders’ even more. The more they fail, the more they blame. Clearly, it’s not a very productive response.
A relatively recent example of this was a debate on social media about the eschatological event on Jesus’ return. Some people erroneously advocated that he certainly won’t be, and many went berserk. Now usually social media tends to stay virtual, but this time I was left fielding questions about it in mosques and after my Friday sermon. It consumed conversation for months, especially when we had far more important things to resolve, and where in reality it’s an insignificant debate. So why were people so crazed?
- Because people are bored. With little going on it provided good religious entertainment and dinner table conversation.
- Because people are obsessed with everyone else – they got to police who’s ‘in’ and ‘out’.
- Because they were told it was disbelief and they worried about a (dis)belief they don’t even have.
Now interestingly, there weren’t many scholars that got involved. It was all bluster between personalities. Scholars (in the context) saw it generally for what it was – the next pitchfork hype. Why isn’t it important? Because righteous action cannot be built on it, and as such it is a talking point. But then the theology police came out and sounding like medieval Catholics they made out like the world would crumble and the masses would deny Jesus and his return if this wasn’t addressed right away. Given that the normative view has lasted around 2000 years, a reasonable person recognises that a couple of personalities on Facebook wouldn’t be a serious challenge. But the amount of energy people put into reading about it, discussing it and arguing (not to mention misunderstanding, mischaracterising, and speaking without knowledge) they could’ve completed a degree in physics. Or learnt Arabic and memorised a third of the Quran.
Another example: Offensive cartoons that intend to represent the final Prophet (obviously they’re not really him).
So, the disbelievers say: “Let’s rile up Muslims so that they’ll do something stupid or behave in a way that undermines their standing even more amongst wider society.”
Muslims openly acknowledging that they’ve realised that this is the intention: “Let’s react recklessly and give the disbelievers what they are after. And yes, we’ll win!” Does anybody on God’s green earth play into the hands of the opposition, fall for their game, and assume that’s a winning strategy?! Can the inanity get anymore surreal?
“But…but…but…it’s the people of kufr who hate us!” Well then why are you acting so surprised? Do you expect anything less nefarious?! Do you expect your antagonists to stroke you and sing songs about how wonderful you are? And if you logically conclude that they’ll repeatedly try to provoke and undermine, where’s your strategy to gain the upper hand in such situations so it backfires for them each and every time?
The saga around the Return debate (and there are many other case studies) exemplifies the uncivilised ways in which impoverished impulses, childishness, and ignorance drives a lot of Muslim public culture. And like kids, when people are easily triggered, they don’t question their own juvenile impulse, they blame what’s often an innocuous trigger. When people are told about their behaviour, they blame someone or something else (and often through mischaracterisation). In politics it’s usually the Tories or the right, in society it’s the racists/Islamophobes/kuffar, and on Christ’s return it was the ‘deviants’.
Believers do not afford anyone but God such levels of power, and they take proactive ownership:
“Those who responded to God and the Messenger after suffering defeat, who do good and remain conscious of God, will have a great reward. Those whose faith only increased when people said, ‘Fear your enemy: they have amassed a great army against you,’ and who replied, ‘God is enough for us: He is the best protector,’ returned with grace and bounty from God; no harm befell them. They pursued God’s good pleasure. God’s favour is great indeed. It is Satan who urges you to fear his followers; do not fear them, but fear Me, if you are true believers.”Qur’an 3:172-175