Monday 24 April 2017

Muslims and Disagreement with Respect

I got into a rather heated debate this week, not heated as in we got angry and came to blows. Heated because although I kept came and explained my approach, I still felt my blood pressure go up very quickly because my beliefs about something very important to me were being challenged in quite a dismissive way.

I often find that there are some aspects of Islam that Muslim’s don’t practice, but are also quick to ridicule or dismiss when others practice. I could name a handful of these that would get all sorts of opinions thrown up:

Niqab (the face veil)
Gender segregation for non-Mahram’s
Islamic education for our children
Dealing in interest.

For many of these things we have a clear ruling or position in Islam, for others there is discussion or a difference of opinion amongst the scholars. As an ordinary Muslim I try to implement Islamic guidance into my life as best I can. In some aspects I am better than others, in others I have far to go.

There are different things I try to do to improve in my practice of Islam: having good intentions, trying to gain knowledge, trying to be in the company of those who are better than me and will help me improve. Sometimes you don’t know the importance or benefit of a good deed until you have gained knowledge or experience. An example is niqab. There is a variety of opinions on whether wearing niqab is fardh (obligatory or not). People will often look at it as something that is hard to do. But very few people talk about the benefits. 

A friend of mine that wears niqab once told me that the feeling that you get from wearing niqab, of your own choice, for the pleasure of Allah (SWT), is something that cannot be described in words, there is a sweetness in the heart that come about that is a gift from Allah (SWT). The point is that there is a lot of misconception about niqab. It is hard enough to wear it in the West, but what makes the situation more painful for me, is the way many Muslim’s will dismiss it, make fun of it or outright try to convince people that it is not necessary. I don’t wear niqab, but I have immense respect and I look up to the sisters who do wear it. I also feel quite protective of them. Perhaps one day I will have the courage to wear it.

I understand that many Muslims will not practice many of these aspects if Islam themselves.  They may not believe in it or see the benefit of it. Sometimes they feel that there is not clear evidence of it. Sometimes they will try to make excuses for why a deed is not valid because they don’t want to make the effort (like the occasional person I have come across who makes excuses for not praying, because they are waiting for Allah SWT to turn their hearts to it…ahem). These things I understand and perhaps these things are part of their faith journey.

The thing that upsets me is the people who refuse to implement these actions, but then also try to convince others there is no need, or make fun of them.
Like the Muslims who make fun of sisters wearing niqab. 
Or those who don’t pray and tell non-Muslims that people who do are just extreme.
Those that make fun of brothers that have beards
Those that make fun of or look down on people who try to dress in the sunnah way (in a way that follows the tradition of our beloved Prophet, sallallahu alaihi wasallam).

I have a lot less understanding for these people. I think they are either too weak to act on some of these things themselves and try to cover it up by making fun of others, or they are apologists who are scared of everything including being grouped with Muslims (“Don’t worry, I’m not like those people who look and act a bit different” or “This is the 21st century, we don’t need to do this anymore”). I think they must lack self-awareness into their own fears or insecurities.

My husband once came across a Muslim brother in Ramadan who was enjoying a nice meal sitting out on the street. My husband’s advice to him was that if you cannot fast or choose not to fast that is your personal business and between you and Allah (SWT), but for a Muslim to eat openly during Ramadan is to mock the faith, and to mock something that is known to be part of Islam constitutes kufr (disbelief). He encouraged the brother to take care and be discreet. 

“If you ask them (about this), they declare: ‘We were only talking idly and joking.’ Say: ‘Was it at Allah, and His Ayaat (proofs, evidences, verses, lessons, signs, revelations, etc.) and His Messenger that you were mocking?’ Make no excuse; you disbelieved after you had believed…” ~Quran (9:65-66)

So if there is some aspect of Islam that you find too hard at this time, may Allah SWT make it easy for you.

If there is some aspect that you cannot see the benefit of, then have patience and gain knowledge. Consider, how many things are there that have not been clear in the past, but with time and experience have become clear? May Allah (SWT) bring knowledge and clarity to you.

If you think it is ok to make fun of Muslims who are not harming anyone, or make fun of their practice of Islam, then perhaps it is time to take a long, hard look at yourself. There are other ways to disagree – with logical argument about why your approach is different or by being honest and laying out clearly that you don’t understand something. But it is not too much to ask that people disagree respectfully and that Muslim’s treat the commands of Allah (SWT) with respect. If even these things are beyond you, then perhaps silence is truly golden

Abu Hurairah relates that Allah's Messenger (sallallahu alaihi wasallam) said: “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak a good word or remain silent. And whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his neighbour. And whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should show hospitality to his guest.” (Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim ]

speak a good word or be silent


  1. It's quite ridiculous what your husband did to be honest. Why is it any of his business if someone was eating openly during Ramadan: and if he is "disbelieving", why is that a problem? Maybe he decided he didn't believe in Islam anymore. Maybe he was feeling ill on the day. In any case it was none of your husband's business, unless he was threatening him that disbelief would have consequences.

    1. Are you just trying to be rude? Or are you trolling me?
      I'm immensely proud of what my husband did, he was not threatening in any way.
      He was simply giving naseehah, or good advice, as is beneficial for the Muslim
      He did it as a caring brother, never assuming kufr, but praying for the best for others.

  2. Dear sister Umm Salihah,

    I've been pondering what to comment on this post for some while because it is such a important but touchy subject. I do recognise your points but I wonder what would be our best response, in line of the example of Rasul Allah (saws)? What would he do? Not get drawn in argument, and brush off harsh remarks or being made fun off? Should we respond to this or should we let it slide of our shoulders, have sabr and let Allah deal with it?

    I certainly struggle with this myself too, especially when you're treated differently because you are more 'conservative' in practicing our faith. Ironically, I myself as a converted muslim, who can't be mistaken for an Arab or someone from the Middle East as I have very light skin and blue eyes, are usually looked upon with awe by other muslims, even though I dress quite conservatively (some might say extreme). But my sisters-in-law, especially the one who wears niqab, do get questions about the way they dress and are being said they should tone it down a bit. And mind you, this is in Tunisia. My sister-in-law with niqab faced a lot of negative remarks from people she knows well when she started wearing it, with even one woman trying to tear it off her head.

    1. Subhaan Allah, just this morning I was listening to tafseer on Surah Al Lahab and it dealt with this issue. If you want to listen to it, it's in the first five minutes of "111 - Lahab pt 2".

    2. Assalam-alaikam Dear Sister Maryam,
      I have come across something similar both here and in Pakistan where women in niqab or hijab are sometimes looked down on by other Muslims.

      I don't advocate arguing or fighting, but sometimes I am drawn to stick up for myself and at others to let people's behaviour or comments go.

      Jazakh'Allah-khairun for the link, I am off to listen insh'Allah