I wanted to reflect on a number of issues that many of us struggling Muslims face as we try to reconcile our own personal challenges, diseases of the heart, weakness of character, and our desire to be near our Lord.
Devout Muslim scholars, and their followers, have taken various stances on lax and non-practicing Muslims. In some texts, non-practicing Muslims are considered hypocrites. But to me, the Arabic term for hypocrite, munafiq, has such harsh connotations that I don’t think the term fits a non-practicing Muslim. But for the most part, Muslims accept somebody else as a believer and member of the community upon declaration of faith ( saying: “There is no Deity but the One God (Allah is the word for God in Arabic) and Muhammad is his messenger.”)
But let me reflect on the term hypocrite or munafiqun. From what I understand in the early history of Islam. The hypocrites, who are referred to in the Quran, were the groups of people in Medina who joined the Muslim community. They took Shahada, but did not believe in Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) message. Some joined the Muslims for financial or political gain and secretly they worked with the Meccans who wanted to stomp out the Muslim community. Muslims believe that the hypocrites are damned to the lowest depths of hell, lower than those who outright rejected Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) Message.
Main Entry: hyp·o·crite
Etymology: Middle English ypocrite, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin hypocrita, from Greek hypokritEs actor, hypocrite, from hypokrinesthai
1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
– hypocrite adjectiv
Here’s a definition of hypocrite that I picked up from USC MSA Compendium
a hypocrite, one whose external appearance is Islam (praying, fasting, “activism”, etc.) but whose inner reality conceals kufr – often unbeknownst to the person themselves. (See Al-Baqarah: 8-23). A Munafiq is more dangerous and worse than a Kafir.
According to Sahīh Bukhārī, the Prophet said, “Whoever has the following four (characteristics) will be a pure hypocrite and whoever has one of the following four characteristics will have one characteristic of hypocrisy unless and until he gives it up. 1. Whenever he is entrusted, he betrays. 2. Whenever he speaks, he tells a lie. 3. Whenever he makes a covenant, he proves treacherous. 4. Whenever he quarrels, he behaves in a very imprudent, evil and insulting manner.”
So, the lax Muslim may reflect #2 of the English definition of hypocrite. Some devout Muslims are completely intolerant of lax Muslims. I have always wondered why it was so threatening for some people. But I will explore those issues throughout my blog. Definition of lax:
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin laxus loose — more at SLACK
1 a of the bowels : LOOSE, OPEN b : having loose bowels
2 : deficient in firmness : not stringent
3 a : not tense, firm, or rigid : SLACK b : having an open or loose texture c : having the constituents spread apart
4 : articulated with the muscles involved in a relatively relaxed state (as the vowel \i\ in contrast with the vowel \E\)
synonym see NEGLIGENT
Some people still believe that a non-practicing, sinning, or selectively practicing Muslim is a hypocrite. But there is a better Arabic term for a Muslim who openly violates Islamic law, Fasiq or fajir, an evil doer. But I remember reading a famous text, I’ll leave the name out for those who are still a fan (despite disregarding the appalling consequences if you follow the logic to its fullest extent). I remember the author finding hypocrites everywhere. Hypocrites could be secular Muslims, hypocrites could be non-practicing Muslims, hypocrites could be Muslims who wanted reforms in the way Islam was instituted in public life. But this mid-20th century definition of hypocrite, and eventually the takfir movement, would come to have dire consequences for the state of our Muslim community. The kind of hard core takfiring going on reminds of me of the Kharijites.
During the time of the Righteous Caliphs, a small group of fanatical Muslims believed that if you sinned you were no longer a believer, and therefore an apostate. They took this to the extreme and believed that a sinner could be executed. Their fanaticism led them to assisinate, the Prophet Muhammad’s (s.a.w.) nephew and son and law, Ali Ibn Abi Talib. They believed he sinned because he gave up his position as leader of the Muslims in arbitration. So, they murdered one of the best of among us. Through their terrible actions, the Kharijites, as they are known in historical record, sparked discussion by some of the best scholars. Many asked:”What makes somebody Muslim?” Shahada got you the club card, but how does one stay a member? Scholars came up with different positions. Only the Kharijites really took the stance that sinning, whether eating pork, drinking wine, or fornicating, equated disbelief. Some scholars argued that only Allah knows if someone is a true believer and it is not for humanity to judge. Others argued that a sinning Muslim was a hypocrite. The dominant position, and most reasonable opinion, seems to be that there are gradations of faith. There are weak Muslims and strong Muslims. Faith can change at a given time, for example Imam Ghazali (d. 1111) wrote about his own crisis of faith. From that crisis of faith, he returned and became the consolidator of sunnism. His works still inspire us to this day.
I hope to reflect on my journey from devout Muslim, to fallen Muslim, and my several attempts to find myself and my way again. I hope it will be an honest and informative blog. While I hope to keep it real, I will try my best not to reveal anyone else’s faults. I will only expose my own in hopes that some of you will avoid the pitfalls that I have been trapped in. For those who have navigated the treacherous dunya without backsliding or falling off, perhaps you can learn a lesson too. My main lesson that I hope to teach yall is the lesson of tolerance because Allah is truly the Best of Guides.