“As a group, I want you to pen down, how do you perceive an ideal Muslim youth in Singapore’s context?” The question reverberated across the room during a work retreat that I attended with other mosques’ officials who are involved with youth work from the East Mosque Cluster. The moderator, Mr Mohksin, who is also the CEO of Majulah Community, reminded us about the difference between idealism and realism and how our perceptions are shaped by that.
The answers that rang forth were very typical and clichéd: modern and up-to-date, good morals, knowledgeable and so on. Nevertheless, the question is one that is important to be asked and answered, especially in this modern era where the line between what is religiously acceptable and what is not becomes increasingly blurred, leaving many Muslims in a sea of confusion about their own religion.
The word “Islam” has oft-times been misconstrued and mistranslated to mean “peace”. In actuality, Islam means submission and subjugation. Being a Muslim means first and foremost, a person willingly and out of his own volition submits and subjugates himself in front of Allah the Almighty. He humiliates himself in front of Allah, putting aside his desires, his wants, his ego, all to seek Pleasure and Acceptance from the One whom he believes in.
In a world where total freedom of individual rights and demands are revered and venerated, it is easy for one whose roots are not deeply embedded in Islamic creed to be swept and washed away by the tides of agnostic liberalism masked as progressiveness, modernity and being forward-thinking. I have seen time and again on social media, how some former classmates and schoolmates who had spent more than a decade studying Islam in full-time madrasahs, only to become liberals who question their own basic beliefs and accept doctrinally-impermissible acts and beliefs such as homosexuality and pluralism, all in the name of freedom of individual liberties.
In the midst of all that, a Muslim has to learn to separate emotions from rationality, and learn to understand his deen (religion) properly, so much so that he wouldn’t easily by swept away by the waves of liberalism that would derail his religion right off the tracks.
How does one understand Islam? On one extreme, we have rigid literalists who understands Islam as a set of beliefs and rituals, nothing more, nothing less. On the other hand, we have revisionists and progressives who insist that Islam is all about believing in a set of moral and ethical values, and that Islamic law and jurisprudence must follow the current trend of ethics and morality. Which interpretation rings true?
Islam is more than just a set of beliefs and rituals, and also more than just a set of moral values. Islam is a way of life, and its influence affect every single aspect of the lives of its adherents. The Prophet has taught us everything that is needed to succeed in this life and the next, even including, as a sahabah (Companion of the Prophet) once put it not-so-subtly, the manners of going about to use the restroom.
The problem is when we seek to go further from what the Prophet has taught us, all in the name of revising the religion to be “on par” with modernity, to prove to naysayers that Islam is indeed compatible with current times.
For example, the Prophet once stood up when the procession for a Jewish funeral passed by him, as a mark of respect. However, some Muslims took it one step further by going to attend the funerals of non-Muslims, in clear contravention with basic tenets of Islamic creed. The Prophet encouraged us to give food to our neighbours regardless of their race or religion. Some Muslims today take it a step further by taking part in the festivities of neighbours who are adherents of other faiths despite explicit religious texts which prohibit such actions.
As Muslims, we need to learn on how to draw the line between which matters in Islam are fixed and writ in stone, and which ones are flexible and malleable to suit the contexts and subcontexts of the different places, cultures and era.
What does it mean to be a Muslim in today’s socially-sensitive landscape? In today’s world, is Islam still a mere religion, or is it more of a culture? A cult? A namesake? A set of personal beliefs?
I am a Muslim. I believe in Allah as the One True God, the only One deserving of worship. I believe that Muhammad the son of Abdullah, the descendant of Abraham, is the last Prophet and Messenger of Allah, sent to the world as a mercy for us.
I am a Muslim. I believe that Islam is the one true religion for mankind. However, that does not mean that I treat adherents of other faiths with hatred and contempt. As Allah has taught us Muslims in the Quran in the Chapter Al Mumtahanah verse 8, we must be fair and just to those non-Muslims who do not wish harm upon us and do not hurt us in any way, shape or form.
I am a Muslim. I believe that Islam is compatible and relevant for all races, cultures and time periods. We must submit our will to the laws in Islam, not submit the laws of Islam to our own desires and wants.
I am a Muslim. I believe in the sanctity of traditional scholarship and chains of narration, and that interpretation of religious texts should always be referred back to those scholars who have tirelessly dedicated the better parts of their lives to learn and study the religion from those scholars before them, whose chains of knowledge are proven and whose mastery of religious knowledge is well-acclaimed and established.
I am a Muslim. I believe that Islam never had, and never will, be spread by the sword. As the famous Quranic verse go: “There is no compulsion in (converting to) Islam!” Violence and bloodshed is never the go-to solution for Muslims to solve their problems or spread the good word of Islam. Extremism and terrorism has no place in Islam.
I am a Muslim. I am on a journey to attain a state of tranquillity, both internal and external, to achieve the goal of every other Muslim: entering the Jannah of Allah the Almighty.
I am a Muslim.
Written by Abu Muhammad Abdullah Mukhlis/Alumni of Muhammadiyah Islamic College