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After Becoming Muslim - What Is Next?

22 Aug 2005
After Becoming Muslim - What Is Next?

Shamim A Siddiqi, New York

  Islam is to be understood in the true perspective of the Qur’an and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (S). The condition of the existing Muslims is also to be judged on the same criterion. At present, there are about 1.2 billion Muslims on this earth, but nowhere in the world the Deen of Allah is in a dominant position. This is the greatest tragedy of human history. The Deen that could deliver justice, peace and security to mankind is nowhere visible as a political entity. Though “struggle” is going on in different parts of the world for the establishment of Allah’s Deen, the success appears to be a distant dream at almost all the places. To find out the cause of this desperate situation, we have to examine what the Muslims constitute today and what they are displaying?  What are their basic beliefs and what they are demonstrating in life?  What is their understanding of Islam, where they lack and what are their short-comings? Is their life compatible to what the Qur’an demands and where it differs from the life-pattern of Rasulullah (S)? These are the fundamental questions that must be discussed about the Muslims as what they were, what they have become and what they should have been in terms of the Qur’an and Sunnah.

 In the present context of the world and on closely watching the condition of the Ummah, Muslims can be categorized into two distinct groups. They are either traditional or the re-born Muslims. I will discuss some of the important features of each in order to make them clearly identified from each other. This division attains more significance when the issues of each are to be resolved in American perspective.

 Let us first take up the position of the traditional Muslims and examine as: 1. What believes and convictions they hold?  2. What they follow or demonstrate in their personal and public life?  3.  How far their life-style is controlled by the Qur’an and Sunnah and how for it is contradictory to its teachings and directives? These are very serious questions on which hinges the fate of the resurrection of the Ummah.  If we can make a proper and a true diagnosis of our existing position, it would be easier to find out the cure.

 I.  THE TRADITIONAL MUSLIMS:   

 A traditional Muslim is one who is born in a Muslim family and whose parents are Muslims.  He or she gets the first lesson of Islam in his or her home by his or her parents or elders as a tradition from father to sons and daughters. Where emphasis is given on learning and reading the Arabic text of the Qur’an, memorizing some small Surah of the 30th Chapter for recitation in regular prayers, learning some basic believes [Aqeedah], some rituals of religion to practice as a routine in life, learning some day today Fiqh problems about Wadhu, Taharah, Salah, Sawm, Zakah, Hajj, dress code, eating manners, some Islamic etiquette in their respective cultural back ground, etc. A scratchy life history of Prophet Muhammad (S) is taught along with some account about Khulafa Rashedeen [the rightly guided first four Caliphs] and significance of some days of Islamic calendar. More or less that is all what a traditional Muslim or Muslimah gets in his or her family environment.

 It is nothing but a very limited concept of Islam. This limited understanding of Deen squeezes the concept of Deen Al-Islam into a religion as other religions like Judaism, Christianity or Hinduism are. These traditional Muslims and Muslimah follow mostly what they learn about Islam in their family traditions and background. What they learn from their parents and forefathers in a continuous process, these traditional Muslims preserve, protect, profess and promote as sacred trust and pass on to their progenies for onward  transfer to their future generations. It is going on for centuries together. But the position becomes worst. The tragedy of the traditional Muslims is further aggravated when one finds that most of them are involved very often in practices like sectarianism, Qabar Parasti [grave worshiping], “pir parasti” [saint worshipping], Rasum Parasti [custom worshiping, A’ba Parasti [parents worshiping], Qaum Parasti [tribal, clan or national worshipping] and many more evils of Jahiliyah like that.

 Islam in its truest form as ordained in the Qur’an and Sunnah is perhaps never brought before the traditional Muslims. They recite Kalimah but unfortunately don’t understand what it demands from them. The mission of Prophet Muhammad (S) and how he accomplished it always remains obscured from them. The revolutionary aspect of Kalimah is never taught to them. They do not care to learn and understand Islam as the only way of life for mankind till doomsday and the Qur’an is the only book of Guidance from Allah (SWT) to follow in its entirety till eternity.  They are never told or taught that they are the “salt of the earth”; they are the “Best of the Nations” and have been raised as “Ummatun Wasata” [the Balanced Nation] on earth. Their assignment from Allah (SWT) is to establish “Al-Qist” [Justice] amongst the people and nations. They are to display to humans the practical demonstration of Islam as a way of life.  They are to show to the world what is honesty; what integrity of character is; what is justice and fair-play; how promises are fulfilled when commitments are made at different levels of life and what trustworthiness is in its accomplished form.  They are to demonstrate to their  respective countrymen and women  what is a benevolent neighbor; what is a peaceful citizen; what is rendering selfless services to the suffering humanity; how to make the society clean by fighting against Munkar (what is prohibited) and promoting what is Ma’roof (what is permitted). 

 Equally they are never told, taught or reminded that their mission on this earth is to free the humans from the slavery of man and bring them back to the obedience of their Creator Allah (SWT). They know little about that the assignment from their beloved Prophet Muhammad (S) is to carry out his (S) mission of Dawah Ilallah [calling the people to the fold of their Creator and Sustainer] to every nook and every corner of the world. The mission of their life is to get the Deen of Allah introduced and spread on this earth. The culminating point of their mission is to get the “Kingdom of God” established on this earth. For the whole of their life they are to struggle in the way of Allah for His pleasure and be prepared to give it up for His sake as and when it is necessary or the situation warrants. This revolutionary aspect of Islam for which Rasulullah (S) and his beloved companions struggled for the whole of their life is rarely taught to the Muslims whether traditional or otherwise. Thus, the very objective for which Islam stands in this world as the last hope of suffering humanity is lost or remained obscured to Muslims.

 That is the reason the Muslim Ummah nowhere stands today. If a nation or a people who hold an ideology for the deliverance of mankind forgets or ignores the very objective of its existence, how can it hold her head high with honor and dignity in the community of nations? As such, Muslims have no say in the affairs of the world and they have become a true example of what Rasulullah (S) foretold in one of his Hadith It is narrated by Sauban (R) as under:

 “Rasulullah (S) addressing his companions said that a time will come when the multitudes of Kufr [idolaters] will prevail upon you and they will invite each other to pounce upon you as if invited upon a feast. A Prophet’s (S) companion inquired, “will it be due to our shortage in numerical strength”. Rasulullah (S) said, “At that time    you will be in great numbers but will be like foam of the flood water. The Batil will not have any fear of you” Allah will seed “Wahan” in your hearts”. Upon this the companions of Rasulullah (S) asked, “O Prophet of Allah, “what is Wahan”? Rasulullah (S) explained that it is nothing but “the love of this world and the fear of death”.                                                                                               

 [Narrated by Abu Dawood, Baihaqui and Mishquat Vol. II Hadith # 5135]                                                                                                                    

The entire Muslim Ummah from Casablanca to Indonesia and from Eden to Caucasia, though it contains 56 independent Muslim states, but the Deen of Allah is nowhere in a dominant position. The rest of the world is treating them as disgraceful beggars with bowel in the hands of each, begging financial aid, technical know-how and political favor and support from Washington, London, Paris or Moscow for the protection of their respective despotic un-Islamic regimes. Almost all of them are just Muslims in name, traditional in approach, hypocrite in practicing Islam and completely reluctant to bring and establish Islam as a way of life as a political entity in their respective countries. Rather, each of them is very enthusiastic to introduce the cultural values of the secular West and establish the social, economic and political system of Europe and America. In terms of the Qur’an, all the regimes of the Muslim world and their henchmen are the oppressors [“Zalemoon”] and the transgressors [“Faseqoon” –Ref: Al-Maidah - 45, 47] In fact, they have only lip sympathy for Islam. They do not want to go beyond the concept of a traditional Muslims who keep Islam limited to some rituals and some Ebadah [worship] only. The rest of Islam is totally obscured to these rulers, monarchs, dictators, Sheikhs and the so-called elected heads of the states. They are just the traditional Muslims and their Muslims population is sailing in the same boat.

 Traditionalism has now become the greatest curse and hindrance in the way of progress towards reconstructing the Muslim societies on the lines the Qur’an and Sunnah ordain. Traditionalism is a sickness of mind and a sign of litharginess towards Allah’s Deen. It has made the Muslims inactive, indolent and “blind” to understand the conspiracies going on around the world to annihilate the Ummah altogether from the surface of the earth and “subjugate” their lands for good. Traditionalism should be accepted as a sickness by Ulama and the learned scholars of Islam should deal with it seriously on war footings. Unfortunately, the brute Majority of the Muslim Ummah is traditional. They need correct understanding of their Aqeedah [creed] and its comprehensiveness, Islam as a Deen, as a way of life detaching it from their respective cultural background, upholding and implementing it in the body politics in every country where Muslims are inhabited. This is the most important job of the Muslim leadership everywhere. If the task of reconstruction is not undertaken as seriously as it is envisaged above, the fate of Ummah cannot be revived.  Equally, the traditional Muslims are the stumbling blocks of the Islamic Movements in the Muslim world. It is they who are being exploited by the secular regimes of the Muslim world for their nefarious ends. The top most priority of the Muslim leadership is to re-build the Ummah on the same pattern as it was raised by Rasulullah (S) and his beloved companions in the first fifty years of the advent of Islam.

 The Muslims of America are no exception to it.  Most of the immigrant Muslims are traditional Muslims. They bear all the signs and symptoms of the traditional Muslims that I have discussed above. They demonstrate their Islam in their respective cultural background from where they originate. As such, they have become problematic to be understood by the re-born Muslims of America. Traditional Muslims are found both amongst the immigrants and the re-born Muslims of America. I will, Insha Allah, now discuss the condition of the re-born Muslims and their issues that need immediate attention.

 II. THE RE-BORRN MUSLIMS: 

 The re-born Muslims are those who accept the Deen of Allah and come into His fold on their own accord. They recite Kalimah, take Shahadah and become Muslim. They are re-born Muslims because when they were born, they were born as Muslim, physically obedient to their Creator and Sustainer by nature. By birth they were Muslims but it is the environment, the society and their parents who make them to follow a Deen [a way of life] other than Islam. It may be Judaism, Christianity or any pagan fold. When they become Muslim, they actually go back to the Deen of Allah on which they were born. It would be, therefore, correct to pronounce them as “re-born Muslims.” The verdict of the Qur’an is very clear in this respect:

“---The nature (frame) of Allah, in which He had created man---” [It means that all are obedient to Allah by birth in the physical aspect of life]

                                                                                                  (The Qur'an:30:30) 

                    
Thus, all humans are born as Muslim, obedient to their Creator and Sustainer physically but coming to maturity they adopt different ways of life [Deen] in their optional [moral] life where they have a freewill and a choice of their own They become Jews, Christian, Hindus and what not. But when they enter into the fold of Islam consciously, the most appropriate name to be given to them must be “re-born” Muslims.  Some brothers call the new Muslim bothers and sisters as “born-again” Muslims.  Fundamentally, there is no difference between the two.                                                                        

Dawah efforts are going on more or less in almost every country where Muslims are living in Asia, Africa, Europe and America.  But the Muslims who are rendering Dawah work to their respective native non-Muslims carry with them the “limited” concept of  Al-Deen as discussed earlier with a few exceptions here and there.. As a result, the outcome is the same as that with the traditional Muslims. The brothers and sisters who are involved in Dawah activities have an obscured or a very limited vision of Islam as a Deen, as a way of life. Equally, they do not understand, very often, the concept of Dawah Ilallah. To them Dawah is just to distribute some flyers/booklets on the street, at market places, at malls, Public gatherings, subway stations and rallies, talk about some basics of Iman and Islam and they think that the job is done.

 

Mostly they do not understand that Dawah Ilallah is a determined, an organized and a continuous effort to call the people to the fold of their Creator and Sustainer till the time he/she [the Dawah contactee] accepts the Deen of Allah as a way of life, commits to change his/her life pattern and undertakes to live, act and behave like a conscious Muslim and Muslimah. The process continues till it engulfs the entire mankind in its fold. In this situation when a person accepts Islam through taking Shahadah, giving witness that he/she accepts the authority of Allah and Prophet Mohammad (S) as His Messenger, only the first stage of Dawah Ilallah is completed. The process does not end here. His or her understanding of Islam remains incomplete and his/her onward vision remains blurred. He/she is rarely taught that, after accepting Islam, he/she has to live by Islam and be its model in a gradual process. Ultimately, he/she too has to carry out the mission of Islam to his/her countrymen and women and struggle hard for establishing the authority of Allah on self, family and in the society in which he/she lives.  If the case is not so, after the initial acceptance of Islam as faith, the quantum of his/her education remains more or less the same as that of the traditional Muslim. Here the blame does not lie on the re-born Muslim but on the “Da’ee”.

 

There are two big tragedies that are running simultaneously parallel to each other. The so-called traditional Muslim is “blind” to his restricted faith by birth but the new Muslim is devoid of the total concept of Deen by circumstances in which he is placed. He is not properly educated by the person or the institutions that have brought him or her to the fold of Islam and then left him/her to remain obscured from understanding the depth of their Deen and what it demands. What he should give up after entering into Islam and what is the mission of his/her life now onward. In the case of re-born Muslims, the tragedy is more disastrous as they are made “blind” to true Islam due to their ignorance not on account of their fault but to the ignorance of Muslims who call them to the fold of Allah and are involved in Dawah work “enthusiastically.”

As a result, the re-born Muslims soon become ritualistic in their manifestation of Islam as the total concept of Deen is missing from their approach. Mostly they do not enter into the Deen of Allah in its totality.  Islam is mostly accepted by the new Muslims as their moral, spiritual and social need. Their respective cultural background remains the same as with the so-called traditional Muslims. In consequence, they carry their cultural backlash to their new faith as it is whereas Islam by itself is a complete code of life or a code of conduct for the entire human life. Islam remains with them only as a belief not as a complete system of life. Perfection of Iman and what it demands from a Muslim or Muslimah in most of the cases is not attained. The need and urgency to bring their entire social, cultural, economic and political life, both at individual and collective levels, under the control of the Qur’an and Sunnah is never realized.  As such, Islam remains, unfortunately, as a ritualistic faith consisting of some Ebadah and some religious practices as “dogmas,” with the re-born Muslims in the same proportion as with the traditional Muslims with only a few exceptions here and there. It matters little and makes no difference whether they are living in Asia, Africa, Europe or America.


This is not only the case in the context of the modern world. It had happened in the past too. After the conquest of Madinah, people entered in Islam in multitudes. Later on, during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman and Ali [may Allah be pleased with them] nations after nations entered into Islam. The Islamic education and the concept of Deen of the new comers could not be polished the way it was done during the time of Rasulullah (S) on person to person basis. As such, the “conquered” nations and people brought their cultural and social backlash with them. The process of reformation and education of Deen could not keep pace with the extraordinary growth of new Muslim Ummah at that time. The legacies of those “lapses” are still visible in the body politic of Ummah. It affected the purity and quality of Islamic way of life subsequently a lot. And I have no idea as how long the Ummah will suffer on this count. This is one of the reasons that Muslim Ummah could not resurrect itself to its original format again after the time of Guided Caliphs and its dark shadows are still lingering.

 

On my visit to Japan in 1982, I was told to my utter astonishment by a very responsible brother of Islamic Movement in Tokyo that Professor Saito of Japan University who had accepted Islam some time back was of the opinion that their economic and political systems are OK. They have accepted Islam as their social and spiritual need only. This kind of amalgamation of Islamic believes with cultural backlash is visible everywhere in the USA, Europe, Africa and Indian sub-continent and the Muslim Ummah is paying a heavy toll for this inherent shortcoming. It could not revive itself to take the leadership of mankind due to these pull-backs every where. A new culture is being developed or is in the process of formation in these societies. It is neither western not Islamic. As such, Islam is not showering its promised blessings and inherent benedictions both upon the Muslim Majority as well minority societies.

The tragedy of our re-born Muslim brothers and sisters does not end here, especially in European and American perspective. These re-born Muslims, after accepting Islam as their faith, need proper mentorship at least for four to six months for understanding and learning Islamic Ebadah [worship], manners, etiquette, norms and ethical values as a practical demonstration when passing some time in close brotherly atmosphere daily or weekly at least with a Muslim family in a formal way. It would have practically perfected their Islamic education that mere books and lectures cannot provide. This brotherly environment is essential when he or she is cut off from his/her fraternal relations. It gives him or her basic feelings that he/she is not alone in the Muslim society but there are many brothers/sisters to look after him/her. Similarly, the re-born Muslims need relocation of their position in the society, financial help to continue their incomplete school/college education and some honest means of living in changed circumstances. The Muslim society must provide and see that he/she is absorbed with honor and grace in the Muslim community. Muslim Ummah would have to create special funds to cater these basic needs of re-born Muslims as priority # one of their Dawah efforts

Currently, Dawah efforts are going on extensively in correctional facilities around the USA/Canada. A lot of non-Muslims inmates are being converted to Islam but when they get out of jail, there is practically no one to look after their education, attend their relocation process in the society and transform them as useful Muslim/American citizens. In consequence, very often they, after sometime, land again in some other jail. It needs building “half-way” house in each big city to cater these basic needs and impart some vocational training to enable them to stand on their own legs within a year or so. It needs million of dollars to absorb the Muslim inmates from Jail in order to transform them into good and effective Muslim Da’ees for this country while living in half-way houses. The Muslim Ummah of the USA should and must think on these lines and use its Zakah or general funds to this effect – a perfect source of “Sadaqah-e-Jariyah” [continuous charity] with enormous Ajar [reward] in Akhirah.

Thus, the Muslim Ummah is passing through a very serious and alarming situation both at home and abroad. The problems are our own creation due to “inculcating” and promoting a truncated and incomplete concept of Allah's Deen.  It needs immediate attention.  It exhorts us to make a detailed analysis and dig deep into our beliefs and conviction to find out the causes for such a deplorable plight which is contradictory to the prophecies of the Qur’an and Sunnah. Muslims have to realize that their despondency and ignominy is only due to the fact that they are not true Muslims and Muslimah as they ought to be in terms of their Deen. For their disrespectful condition, they are to blame none but themselves and the Muslim leadership that is oblivious of the fact: where Ummah stands today and what it needs to revive its fate as “Ummatun Wasata” at the time  when global efforts are in full swing to “enslave” it all around..

 It is, therefore, desirable that we must make a genuine effort to find out what Iman is? What declaration a Muslim or a Muslimah makes when he or she realizes that he/she is a Muslim by birth or claims that he or she is a Muslim, by reciting Kalimah and taking Shahadah? What connotations this “realization” or “declaration” of Iman in Allah entails and what affirmative actions it demands “After Becoming Muslim”? A realization of the concept of Kalimah and what it demands will make a big difference when it will be accompanied by dedication and devotion to the mission which it undertakes to profess and accomplish as his or her life-long pursuit in the way of Allah. This realization on the part of Muslims and their adherence to live and die for it, Insha Allah, will be the turning point of the fate of Ummah

* This is the Introduction to my forthcoming Book: After Becoming Muslim –What Next?

 (Shamim Siddiqi Can be reached at tsidd96472@aol.com)

 

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