Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nafs in the way

I really love talking about Islam... answering questions, or just discussing things and learning more. A friend of mine and I were eating lunch on Tuesday, talking about two situations I've seen just recently. She and I both do the da'wah table on Mondays and have enjoyed talking to different people about the beauty of Islam. The two situations were interesting questions I received over the weekend. The first was from a woman who is considering Islam... it was, can I be a Christian Muslim? I'm not going to answer it here, but it's such a beautiful question to me... perhaps because I was in those shoes and I wanted the best of both worlds or some kind of compromise for a while. The other question was more difficult actually, and was not one I was prepared to answer.

Why am I not ready to take shahadah?

It had some setup, a list of beliefs I had set up with a particular progression I'd learned about at the ICNA Convention over the summer. A logical progression, I believe in this, and this, and this, etc... and the questioner sympathized with the beliefs I had listed (only one God to Muhammad as a Messenger and the choice to follow them) but the question (above) remained.

I looked into my self first, what kept me from taking shahadah? It was fear. Fear of this that and the other, you name it. And I hate being afraid of things... in fact have challenged my fears in order to conquer them. But I did my share of shaking and quaking before I was ready, definitely. (Who knew?)

Discussing this with my friend, her immediate response was the nafs. The internal self, resisting the more spiritual inclinations we have, the self that is clinging to this world and not the next, the self obsessed with the hear and now, not reflecting on it to learn and progress. I consider this to be a more comprehensive response than the one I came up with, because ultimately that fear is a result of the nafs.

And I hate to say it, but I've seen the nafs, lately, get in the way of someone's deen, and it is an ugly smelly beast called arrogance. When we think we have knowledge and wisdom, we think we have the answers, don't we? Convenient, that nobody can tell us we're wrong! We rely on our own understanding and experience to judge the world, instead of... and this is huge... trusting God, and the wisdom of the Messenger. I think it is the nafs that makes us say... I want this, and I know better so I should be able to have this, even if it's wrong in Islam!!

I am obsessed with Islam in a pretty interesting way that has baffled many of my friends and family. I just love it... but as a religious way of life, not any specific culture. It's not Arabs I fell in love with, head covers, camels, or the desert. And I force myself to see this life on earth as only (and nothing other than) a doorstep to another world. What I want in this world is only things that will help me in the next, that's what I should want, right? (Not saying I'm perfect because I'm definitely not.) Why would anybody want different? I don't understand why anyone would claim that he knew better, that sliding outside of this tradition was a good thing if he was really focused on the next life. Or how anyone could try to dictate someone else's life by his own experiences--saying I had this therefore you need to have this. And anyone who doesn't have that... what? The "this" I'm referring to is a cultural upbringing. Being raised Arab does not make one a Muslim, I don't care what values of Arab culture you (the reader) may see, it does not imply Islam. God didn't make us all Arabs, and not all Muslims are Arabs. Having a culture that has Islam existing within it does not imply any superiority of your upbringing, and it is not enough for Paradise, that much is certain.

So saying that everyone needs this culture that is really not Islam, that in fact in many ways actually contradicts Islam, is foolishness. What people need is Islam, and it can be compatible with so many other cultures. What kind of nutjob really thinks that he'll get into Paradise because he was raised as an Arab, and someone else won't make it because he didn't have that upbringing but converted? And does he think his children will be fine because he is raising them Arab, without any Islam from his wife? Does he think they will be better off than children with two parents more concerned with Islam than any culture? I don't think so. In fact, I think it's about the biggest mistake a person could make, and it only comes from one place--

It comes from the overwhelming temptation and allure of this life, over the next. Finding superiority in our own selves, finding satisfaction only in our own desires--what is this but nafs?

May God save us from our selves!

1 comment:

Gold said...

First of all, I miss Hamayoun that much!

Second of all, yes it is a very true point of view about why "X" is not able to take shahadah, that is from a perspective that a certain ytpr of people would appreciate, and afterwards feel a little bitter about themselves, which is good for the type of people who ARE honest with themselves..

Another perspective might be "Because God wants you to take it only when you are well enough able to hold its responsibility.. Can you get married before you are ready? Can you have children before you are ready? What happens if you do? Well Allah doesn't want you to hold a responsibility unless He knows you will be able to hold on to it, it takes some sweat, some dedication, and alot of prayers"

Something like that might work for the more philosophical people i guess *scratch scratch*

Hmm.. Then about the culture thing, can't say anything but i totally agree with you, but the more the time, the thicker the layer dust.. ie : the older they are the more arrogant they become..

Cheers ;)