“Is it halal brother?” – The fallacy of the outward sciences in the absence of the inner

by britishmisk

A few months ago a good friend of mine had the following as his facebook status:

“Live your life by taqwah, not fatwah.” – WORD!

Though it may not seem it from the outside, what he quoted was a very profound statement. Indeed many of the best ahadith of the Prophet (SAWS) are very short, as per his description in the Seerah as having excellence in short speech, and it is a quality that is unfortunately lacking amongst many of the scholars of Islam today.

After this facebook post a couple of ideas were bounced between me, him and another mutual friend in an attempt to try to understand and make benefit out of this statement. What initially came to my mind when I first read this was the profound and vitally important hadith of the Prophet (SAWS):

None among you will attain salvation purely because of his deeds. A man said: O Messenger of Allah, even you? Thereupon he said: No! Not even I, unless Allah wraps me in His Mercy. (Muslim 5036)

No one will enter paradise or gain salvation through his or her deeds. This is a stark contrast to the common Christian idea that all you need to achieve salvation is to ‘be a good person’. If an individual spends their entire life worshiping a stone, but is charitable, kind, well-mannered etc. it is of no consequence. Because he did not acknowledge The One Who created him, enshrouded him in His Mercy, blessed him with his faculties, gifted him with life, gave him the ability to give to charity and be the good person he was, and all other manner of things that cannot be counted.

Muslims living in the west today will be aware of the great importance that our community places on ensuring their food is within the bounds of Islamic law, and this is commendable. Unfortunately many of our people have taken this to be the only real facet of their faith, and end up demeaning Islam, thereby losing the real beauty of our religion, which is to have a personal relationship with one’s own Creator. Most Muslims in Great Britain will always insist on eating halal food, but many will also easily forgo prayers and not make an effort to perform them, even if they are just sitting around at home not doing anything of any real importance. What then becomes the basis of ensuring that one’s own sustenance is how Allah (SWT) wants it to be, when we do not even acknowledge Him as the One who has given us these codes of conduct in the first place.

It should also be mentioned, that just because one prays, it is not an indication of a person’s belief. Prayer, like the divine laws, form part of the outward sciences, and in the absence of an affirmation of one’s heart to accepting Allah (SWT) as the Lord and Creator of all things, all outward sciences become pointless. These actions must also be performed with the intention that they are done for the sake of Allah (SWT) alone, as He is the One Who has commanded them. This is as per the hadith of the Messenger (SAWS): “Actions are by intentions”. The reason why I mention prayer is because it is the one outward action that is always performed with rigour by those of true belief, and one of the first things an individual will run to when they have accepted Islam as their path.

Going back then to this issue of halal food, we find many Muslims who are, apparently, raised in their religion have only ‘Make sure you eat halal food and don’t drink alcohol’ as the only real connection to their faith. Many will fast in Ramadan, and during that time some of them, may somehow get a kind of a spiritual uplifting, mainly due to the fact that Shaytaan has been chained away. But they can’t understand their experience, and many will just spend the month feeling hungry and thirsty out of compulsion. The adverse effects of this environment are plain to see. Take for example a Muslim work colleague of mine. He was very insistent on making sure he ate halal food, and when it came to the work Christmas party, although he was sat quite a distance away from me, I could see him asking the waitress if the food he was given was the vegetarian option, after she confirmed it was, he was satisfied and began to continue drinking the beer he was given a few moments earlier. A clear example of someone who did not understand the reasoning and the value behind our divine laws, and only followed them because of the way he was raised, resulted in him being confused about the true nature of the religion. Thus inadvertently undermining verse 256 of Surat al-Baqarah: “There is no compulsion in religion”. I recall once when the same colleague once visited where I was staying and took an interest of a copy of the Qur’an I had in English, after looking at the back cover briefly he asked me something I didn’t quite expect: “What’s it about?” was his short but highly surprising question. This was an individual who had told me he had gone to a madrassa in his local Mosque as a boy and was even given the task of occasionally leading the class in prayer. Highlighting the fact that the realities and beauties of Islam are not only absent in homes, but also in some of the Madrassas of the UK as well.

It’s all well and good complaining about this and giving anecdotes, but what is the solution to this dilemma? Well first of all it has to start with ourselves. Are we thinking about the intentions behind what we do everyday? Are we scrupulous over our food simply because that’s what our parents taught us, or is it a recognition of the relationship we wish to beautify and enhance with Allah (SWT)? Are we aware of what is required from us on the inside, to make sure what is on the outside is true and complete? Every single Muslim today will know the five pillars of Islam, but how many remember the six articles of Iman? I don’t think it’s very unlikely if you asked a random Muslim on the street about the 6 articles of Iman, he might think you’ve got it wrong and think there should only be 5, as he no idea about Iman. This is something that is very poignant to the topic, as Iman deals with what is on the inside, and Islam with what is on the outside, and the fact that people are not aware of the true nature of Iman is one of the core reasons why we are suffering from this issue. Secondly, we have to reform the way we teach our children. Most general South Asian Islamic educational institutions are a sham. We need to change the way we are teaching our children, and place it within the context of understanding, so we can enable our children to flourish in their religion. This means teaching children Arabic, rather than making them practice reciting the Qur’an like parrots. It means rather than starting their education with the ‘Six Kalimas’, of which they will soon quickly forget, we need to start it with al-Fatiha, both in Arabic and English. Rather than starting with halal and haraam, it needs to begin with Allah (SWT).

We in general as a community are slowly making progress. As second and third generation migrant Muslims are raised into an environment of open thinking, discussion and dialogue, and away from a homegrown mentality of ‘be quiet and listen’, Muslims are beginning to find deeper meaning and richness to their faith. But there are all too many stark reminders, such as my work colleague, of the people who have not yet truly tasted the sweetness of faith. And it is for people like that that we need to continue with our struggle and keep reminding ourselves that progress is not a means to an end, it’s something that does not, and should not, ever stop.

And to Him is our return.

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