Thursday, March 24, 2011

In What Order?

I recently heard a convert say that he was an "American Muslim, in that order." I took issue with the point because it seems to force a collision between two ideas that needn't collide. It seems to say that if he had to choose only one, either American or Muslim, that he'd choose to be American. I don't even think most Americans would put their country above God. Don't they say "God, family, country," in that order?

Personally, I don't think the sequence of the words should extend their meaning. One might call himself an American Muslim to distinguish himself among Muslims from other countries, while one might call himself a Muslim American to distinguish himself among other Americans. The two terms describe different spheres by which a person can identify himself, and affect different parts of his life. You could say, for example, that a woman is a teacher and a mother, describing first her career path, and also her role in the home, while both make up parts of her identity.

Similarly, we can describe a person's identity without having to prioritize either nationality or religion. But forcing one to supersede the other undermines at least one of these components. In this case, Islam is undermined, as if the speaker were saying that he was only Muslim insofar as it was compatible with whatever he valued as being "American."

I consider myself to be an American Muslim (or Muslim American--whatever) without conflict. But I know that when I die, only one of these will matter, and that's my priority. In fact, I think that's what makes me a Muslim in the first place.


Shamsuddin Waheed said...

As salaamu 'Alaikum. Another thought provoking post. It's obvious that the speaker referred to in this article was struggling with the notion that many Muslims [and non Muslims alike] that somehow, being an American and being a Muslim have to be exclusive, contradictory stances.

I agree with you that "American Muslim" or "Muslim American" are not objectionable, in any order. The most important object, as your posts point to- is that our entire existence and life-pattern revolves around the guidance of Allah, as found in the Book of Allah and the example of the Prophet, Allah's final Prophet- Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam.

That meaning is simple- anything from our personal habits or culture that conflict with Islamic values- we should [a] make sure that there truly is such a conflict. [b]If there is a conflict, go with the ISLAMIC guidance, for Islam is applicable and useful in any situation or location.


Anonymous said...

"But I know that when I die, only one of these will matter, and that's my priority." I enjoy reading your blog, especially for simple, concise statements like this. You often put things in clear perspective, and I appreciate that in your writing style.