Who’s speaking? Allah or You?

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…

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10 responses to “Who’s speaking? Allah or You?

  1. I think every muslim has a bagfull of stories about those type of people. The phrase “blinded, rather than guided by the light” is particularly applicable.

  2. This is good. I mean, the fact that other see it. I have been to a number of muslim countries, and lectures, and discussions with a myriad of people who love love love to evoke Quran, Sunnah, Personal Opinion and other.

    They tended to get offended when I asked them to justify something without starting off with a quote from the Quran or Hadith. And, when they do this anyway… I say, SHOW ME.
    Pull out your Quran, show me the Arabic. Show me the Hadith.

    Sorry, a bit of a rant, but I feel you on this one.

    I guess I miss a community too, to go off of an older post. Im here in a supposedly Muslim country with Arabs and everything :), but have I grown more religious, nope…Phil Collins, losing my religion. Im thinking I should go back to Morocco or Senegal and get back to basics…

  3. Salaam Jamerican:

    Another great post! Yup, can’t stand it. I always think of this as insecure people looking for ways to boost their own egos through religion.

  4. Nice post as usually I agree and can relate with it 100%. Since I read ur other post to I will comment about it on here as well. You know we all go through our ups and downs in our faith. I KNOW, been there done that…….I also know to find that feeling of community you have to really look hard and work hard at making and keeping it. I spent 4 years in those so called Muslim countries and felt less Islam in some ways than I did at home. So it is not about the place and the amount of Muslims it is all about findign a few that you can connect with and feed off of and grow with…..that is the only way I survived as long as I did…….

  5. As salaamu aliakum , sister , really good read ,thank you for posting this I have had similar things happen to me along this line , one thing it’s taught me was to never be like that sister or sisters by having this type of approach toward other sisters, insha Allah. I also agree with what sister samira said , Masha Allah, As salaamu alaikum.

  6. DunyaDoesntMatter

    I’m sorry that the sister did not seem polite to you when she told you about covering your feet but sometimes when we feel attacked we get defensive automatically. She was probably just doing what she thought was right, and got too over excited. To say that she was wanting you to do what she wanted and not what Allah wanted is not really fair. She is right. Even if the way the message was presented stung a little, she is right.

    Sometimes when we want to do what we want to do we have that syndrome that little kids have when they plug their ears and say ‘la la la la la la I can’t heeeaaarrrr youuuuuu’. We don’t want to listen to what the person is saying and find excuses not to…… like she was a big meanie or something along those lines.

    So that being said, don’t take such offense to what she did and reflect on what she said…

    • Sister I don’t think you understood the overall message of my post. It’s not about whether the sister was right in the example I gave but about people imposing their view onto others claiming that they are “using the words of Allah.” There is a method and approach when you offer advice to someone in Islam. You have to use wisdom doing so. (And I gave an example of another sister doing so). Besides, shouldn’t someone be more focused on their own worship rather than looking at someone’s feet and waiting to approach them as soon as they salaam out of their salaat?

  7. DunyaDoesntMatter

    Sometimes is hard to focus when someone’s bare feet are in your face.

    I am aware of the method and approach, but was she really rude? Did she yell at you? It seems like she gave you advice and backed it up with Quran and Sunnah…

    • Dunya, I’m not going to have this go round with you. I still say you’re missing the point. You’re missing the spirit of my post.

  8. Sometimes, we are not in a mood of hearing the advice and in those moods, we do mistake or misunderstand someone’s words in a wrong way. And when the other time, the same words said by someone else feel like a breath of fresh air. Yep, it is moods 🙂

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