When we think of public ventures, we think of concentrated efforts in particular realms. The problem, however, is that such efforts can only be conducted fruitfully where we’re motivated by:
- an accurate understanding of our deen,
- what it means to be a Muslim and a true believer, and
- what shar’ī objectives precisely look like.
The sharī’ah is the key to human flourishing, normative guidance that works for all people, everywhere. As an abstract concept it is not centric to a time, a place or a people. It is guidance and a collection of standards that can be applied to any context: generating/producing specific solutions, remedies, or direction that’s specifically action-guiding.
But Muslims in the West have narrowed the scope of the sharī’ah of Allah and stripped it of its relevance. What God sent as guidance in Revelation is for all of mankind. Yet we’ve created an “Immigrant Islam” defined by its minority status and foreignness (for an extended discussion on Immigrant Islam, see Sherman Jackson’s Islam and the Blackamerican). We have prioritised ethnic interests of representation (both social and political) of immigrant Muslim communities.
This vision of sharī’ah does not concern what God wants but focuses exclusively on group identity: whether framed as conformity in minutiae so as to belong to a social group, or active differentiation from mainstream British culture to maintain its minority status. As opposed to arguing for and articulating universal standards of godliness, the sharī’ah has become about group think, conformity, and participation in familiar forms. These “familiar” forms are restricted to specific times and places, which for many people are no longer viable realities. Moreover, to legitimise and rationalise this, we’ve turned that guidance into a set of incontestable irrational doctrines beyond the purview of reason. The sanctification of time-bound, arbitrary, cultural standards wholly distinct from and unrelated to revelation has led us towards human-centered means of measuring godliness. We have not looked at ourselves as carriers of truth and advocates of God’s account of reality, but as people who’ll use it as an artificial ‘identity’ for our own gains.
And what’s allowed this to happen? How has our deen been so reductively reduced to some sort of ethno-political identity accompanied by insipid ritual practices?
Very simply, it has been down to an undermining of God’s universal message, and the inability to contextualise its universal nature to our situation. Of course, I don’t put this down to the unfortunate layman, but those who’ve actively advocated such inadequacy in the name of higher learning and the inheritance of the Prophets!
Putting it plainly, what has been lost is that:
1. What we follow is far bigger than is commonly conceived – it is the faith of Abraham. That’s how God characterises it. “Who but a fool would forsake the religion of Abraham?” (2:130). Of course, we’ll make out that Abraham was also a Muslim, as if to bring him into our camp. But it’s the other way around – we’re in his camp. Yes, we are Muhammadan in the law, but we’re Abrahamic in our creed, as God put it.
2. The founder of our faith is not Muhammad. There is no founder. And to believe there is, is to play into an anthropological (and thus secular) understanding of religion, not to mention that it undermines the force of the message, which is why God directs us to do otherwise. There has been truth from the beginning and God repeatedly sent messengers to different groups of people to remind them of that truth. Muhammad didn’t bring a new and different message and even the generality of the Qur’anic message is the same as before, “This is a warning just like the warnings sent in former times,” (53:56) “it is in the earlier scriptures,” (26:196) “the scriptures of Abraham and Moses.” (87:28)
3. Muhammad is not our Prophet. Unlike those before him, he is a messenger that was sent to all people. He is everyone’s Prophet, whether they like it or not. With him was sent a law and a way that’s responsive to individual cultures and brings the best out of them. But in our context today, Immigrant Islam uses the faith to uphold the ethnic culture of the immigrant group and undermine the local one.
4. Now God didn’t only tell us that we’re on the faith of Abraham, but that when engaging Jews and Christians, Abraham is the starting point as the common reference point. When two sides engage (on any issue) they have to share some point of reference otherwise they’ll never agree on anything! God tells us:
“They say, ‘Become Jews or Christians, and you will be rightly guided.’ Say, ‘No, [ours is] the religion of Abraham, the upright, who did not worship any god besides God.’”Qur’an 2:135
However, instead of appealing with “the religion of Abraham” as well as actualising it like we’ve been directed, we weaponise an ethno-centric Islam that is devoid of truth and full of posturing and ethnic protest. God even appealed to the Arabs with Abraham saying, “Strive hard for God as is His due: He has chosen you and placed no hardship in your religion, the faith of your forefather Abraham. God has called you ‘the subservient’ both in the past and in this [message]…” (22:78)
So where does our disservice stem from? Well due to immigrant anxieties and an post-colonial obsession that bizarrely places people in a cognitive struggle with the historic British Raj, we do not see ourselves as ‘helpers to God’ (أنصار الله) – as in His cause, but ‘people of colour’ in a battle against the ‘White Man’. So instead of seeking accord on truth and appealing to the nominally Abrahamic identity already existent here (which developed over more than a thousand years) – in the way God commands us to, as well as advocating the final Abrahamic revelation in a way that celebrates a productive marriage between western culture and shar’ī norms, we become eastern-centric Mohammedans with narrow political interests that reductively orbit ethnic minority rights and foreign policy.
“So be mindful of God, you who have intellect – He has sent you the Qur’an!”Qur’an 65:10
For people that have been given the source of all guidance and direction – revelations from God – which is quite explicit on how we ought to be, how does it continue to go so wrong?!
True believers need to discard the baggage and rediscover themselves, realigning with the religion of Abraham as we were commanded to, and studying the scriptures in an intelligent way. And in order to do so, we need an overview of what the religion of Abraham is.