While I’m on my little soapbox I wanted to share my thoughts on another subject. I wanted to discuss shirk, or putting partners with Allah. I don’t want to discuss the Arabic meaning, breaking down the semantics and linguistics of the word. I don’t want to discuss people who worship idols or those who say Allah is part of a trinity. No. What I want to talk about is the way in which some Muslims give dawah to other Muslims. Or offer advice to other Muslims about the religion supposedly using the words of Allah. (Far too often speaking for Allah).
Here’s the scenario: You attended a lecture, halaqah or simply had a discussion with another Muslim who was trying to educate you about the religion. During the course of the lecture/halaqah/conversation you challenged what the person was saying or disagreed with them and were told, “Subhanallah, you are rejecting the words of Allah!” But you weren’t challenging or rejecting the words of Allah, you were responding to the person’s interpretation of the words of Allah. See the difference?
Far too often it seems like some Muslims use the “words of Allah tactic” in order to convert you over to their way of thinking. Other times it’s used to silence a dissident. (There is a beautiful story- I think it’s called ‘The Sheikh’- in Reshma Baig’s book The Memory of Hands which very eloquently captures what I’m trying to say. ) And of course, there are people who do not have sinister motives who engage in this type of behavior. Sometimes the individuals speak for Allah (and don’t even perceive themselves as doing such a thing) because they really and truly believe what they are saying are Allah’s words and not an interpretation of them.
One time I was in the masjid and as soon as I salaamed out of the salah this sister was tapping my shoulder. She wanted to tell me that I cannot pray without covering my feet. I just smiled and said thank you for letting me know. Then I went on to pray the sunnahs. As soon as I finished she was back again. This time I got a little firmer with her. I told her I heard her the first time and I really had other things I was struggling with at the time. (I was dealing with some VERY heavy stuff and I had come to the masjid seeking a moment of peace). She went on to tell me how Allah says I should “hear and obey” and how her husband does not let her leave the house without her feet covered. I just looked at her. I didn’t say anything and eventually moved away from her. As I was driving home that night I was struck by a thought- she wasn’t saying I should hear and obey Allah, she was saying I should hear and obey HER. See the difference?
One of the things that I don’t want to do is use the Quran as a weapon against someone. I am seriously wondering what has happened to being kind or delivering a message with compassion and humility. No one wants to be beat over their head with religion. Sometimes if a person feels like that they may reject good advice simply because of the manner in which it was delivered. I think of the story of Musa (s.a.w.) in the Quran. He was told to go to Pharoah- a wicked ruler, a tyrant, a man filled with the love of himself- and speak to him using kind words. If a tyrant, a transgressor is extended such a courtesy, shouldn’t the same (or an even greater) level of respect and kindness be accorded to your brothers and sisters in Islam?
I remember when I was just coming back to practicing Islam. I was at the point where I decided to wear hijab again so I drove to an Islamic clothing store to purchase a few hijabs. That day I had on a long, ankle-length skirt and a matching tank top. (It was the most modest thing I owned at the time). Anyhow, I entered the store and the sister who owned it asked how she could help me. I gave her salaams and then explained what I was looking for. We talked for a little while before she asked me my name, how long I had been Muslim, and a series of other questions. (Her line of questioning did not feel invasive to me at all because she was so polite and spoke to me from a place of concern). We talked for another 15 minutes before she said something along the lines of, “Sister, you know in Islam there are certain areas that you need to have covered.” I told her I knew that. We went on to discuss why I was there- to purchase hijabs- and my spiritual development. Again, I was not at all offended by her words. They actually motivated me. Imagine if she started out with “Allah says” and proceeded to preach to me about Quran, Hadith, sin etc. Would she ever have known that I was just coming back to the deen or that I was in her store because I wanted to start covering? Better yet, would she even have known my name? (I went on to become one of her best customers, lol.)
I take solace in the fact that Allah (s.w.t.) is Ar-Rahman and Ar-Rahim. Sometimes if I did not remind myself of this I would think he’s only about punishment and judgment. It’s unfortunate that we sometimes reduce Allah in this manner without even realizing it. May he guide us all…