Preserving the Deen in its Outward Manifestation and in its Essence
On May 17th of this year, Western University made an Instagram post to commemorate their “International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia”.
The post included, amongst other scenes, a painting of 2 women in hijab leaning into a kiss, and what appears to be a bearded man in a kufi wrapped in a rainbow flag while embracing another man.
The post caused an uproar online, with Muslims organizing a petition with over 30,000 signatures asking for the university to remove the post and apologize to the Muslim community for the offense caused.
The Canadian Council of Imams, ICNA Canada and the Muslim Association of Canada put out a statement strongly condemning the university’s post and clearly stating Islam’s position on homosexuality. Amidst the uproar, the university took down the post, acknowledging that offence was caused, but not apologizing and restating their commitment to “queer Muslims”.
What can we learn from this incident, and how should we prepare ourselves from such messaging directed towards our community?
An Isolated Incident?
Western University’s offensive post is not an anomaly, it is part of a larger ecosystem. There is a concerted effort in the media and institutions of Capitalism to incorporate the symbols of our deen into their own system of values, retaining a semblance of their form, but stripping them of their substance.
Who can forget when Justin Trudeau, when the Gay Pride Parade coincided with the day of Eid in 2017, took the stage at the Pride Parade and greeted the crowd with “Pride Mubarak”, while wearing Eid socks?
Or when, at the Women’s March in 2016, the symbol of resistance against Trump became a woman wearing an American flag, a banner of death and destruction across the Muslim world, as her hijab.
Or when a hijabi modeled for Playboy magazine. Or the hijabi who starred in a Music video showcasing different women dancing with a male pop singer.
Or the hijabi sister who was featured in a shampoo commercial, only to be fired when her support for the Palestinian cause became apparent. Politicians quote verses of the Quran, and the words of our Beloved Messenger (saw) to entice us to vote for their secular parties (which is haram).
The hijab is a potent symbol of Islam. Our sisters who wear it are immediately identified as Muslims and have received the lion’s share of harassment and intimidation because of their commitment to it.
And while there are still openly bigoted politicians, who campaign against it, and in Quebec have even succeeded in getting the hijab partially banned, the more common response is one of apparent tolerance to this symbol of the deen. More than tolerance, there is even an eagerness to have the hijab represented in the ads, political messages, and advocacy campaigns.
What is behind this aggressive acceptance, and what is motivating it?
The Cost of Representation
The reality is a portion of the Capitalist elite have come to accept that the enduring commitment of Muslims to the practices and outward symbols of their deen cannot be challenged. The Muslims are too persistent in their defense of the deen.
So instead of opposing hijabs, kufis, and ritual prayer, the elite distorts them by separating them from the ideology. They recast the outward forms of the deen under the influence of their own values and beliefs, reshaping them in their own ideology i.e., Capitalism.
This is how the hijab becomes a choice, an expression of personal identity, as opposed to a binding obligation revealed by the Creator. Prayer becomes an act of mindfulness as opposed to an expression of our slavery to the Creator. Fasting becomes part of a healthy diet, as opposed to a command from the Lord of the worlds.
Marriage becomes merely a partnership, as opposed to an institution in which each gender has their rights and are assigned their own roles. The Islamic command to enjoin good and forbid evil merely becomes social justice activism and charity, as opposed to a call to the people to establish Allah’s (swt) law.
This is the cost of being represented in the media and the institutions of the elite. They may accept our outward practices but will never accept the coherent ideology of liberation from the rule of man through enslavement to the commands of Allah (swt) that underpins it.
Their eagerness then to represent us can be understood, all they have to do is make us feel accepted by championing the outer forms of the deen, while actively shaving down the meaning and function of these forms to conform to their own liberal norms. They have nothing to lose in this interaction.
Liberation from the Rule of Man
It is not surprising that the only way in which the Capitalist elite can represent our deen is either through explicit vilification or extensive dilution of our values. The message of Islam is one that they cannot leave as it is. That is, demonization or dilution are their only options.
This is because our deen does not sit well with the Capitalist elite who are not ready to submit to it.
While their system is built on freedom from the deen, Islam teaches us to restrict our freedoms for the sake of our individual and collective well-being, in the Dunya and the Akhirah. While their economic fortunes are tied to interest (riba) and the casino that is the financial markets, Islam restricts economic activity to the production of real goods and services, and human-centric partnerships (i.e., no artificial corporations).
And while their relationship with the rest of the world is built on resource theft, mass exploitation, an international network of torture sites, and a bloody war machine, the Ummah is striving to unite its people, resources, and abilities under the banner and protection of Islam
The Capitalist elite cannot accept this message without making major changes to themselves and their society, so they would rather openly oppose it, or subtly pay respect to its form while trying to dilute and distort its substance. We cannot let them do either.
Preserving Our Ideology
It is imperative for us to understand, that as a Muslim minority, our most precious resource is not our masjids, Islamic schools, or educational institutes. Our most prized achievements are not the school grades our children get or the positions they are able to secure in the Capitalist economy.
Rather, our most precious asset is Allah’s guidance that we hold, passed on from generation to generation all the way back to our Beloved Messenger in the cave of Hira.
As a result, we should be aware of the secular politicians that come into our masjids inviting us to vote for them and to rule by other than what Allah (swt) has revealed. As pointed out earlier with Trudeau’s “pride Mubarak”, They are there to impose their values on us. So, we should reject this call and abstain from this haram action. It is all harm and has no benefit.
Instead, we should be concerned about preserving the Islam of our youth.
Are our children rationally convinced in the existence of the Creator, and His authorship of the Quran, or do they just accept this blindly?
Do our children understand the importance of ibadat, or do they see them as mere rituals?
Do our children understand that our relationship with the Creator is not based on material benefit and harm in this life, but rather on the promise of eternal reward in His Company in the Hereafter?
Do our children see the deen as merely an individual experience, or do they understand it to be a commitment to the uplifting of an entire Ummah, and an effort to bring guidance to all of mankind? And do we understand these things ourselves?
It is essential for us to be honest in answering these questions, and to be committed to rectifying our situation.
We live in a time when we are exposed, as a community, to an endless barrage of ideas and questions that directly challenge the authenticity and authority of our deen. We are also facing those who tell us that they understand and accept us, but are still committed to attacking the values, rules, and intellectual foundations of the Islamic worldview.
We cannot shy away from the challenge of addressing the controversy head-on and shaping a community of youth who are able to tackle the issues and challenges. What more, they need to be ready to convey the Islamic vision for a society with wisdom and care to all people.
It is this community of believers, who trust and obey their Creator completely, who should be shaping how our deen is represented.
So, if they believe like you do, they will be rightly guided. But if they turn their backs, then they will be entrenched in opposition. God will protect you from them: He is the All Hearing, the All Knowing. And say [believers], ‘[Our life] takes its colour from God, and who gives a better colour than God? It is Him we worship.’ Say, “Would you dispute with us about Allah, while He is our Lord and your Lord? We are accountable for our deeds and you for yours. And we are devoted to Him [alone].” [TMQ 2:137-139]