Diary of a Lax Muslim Woman pt. 1

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
Pronunciation: ‘hi-p&-“krit
Function: noun
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:

LAX
Pronunciation: ‘laks
Function: adjective
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.

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9 thoughts on “Diary of a Lax Muslim Woman pt. 1

  1. Salaams Margari,

    Thank you for sharing this. A very informative, and bravely honest diary. May Allah bless you and all that you do.

    I’ve been in similar places myself at time. This business of islam (in the sense of doing it) is hard work. A real change came for me when I promised myself that I would never again knowlingly rubbish another human being’s spirituality. May Allah forgive me.

    I also suspect that our iman doesn’t so much turn in circles, but in spirals. That is, as we think (and act) it through it gets deeper – to the point where we can actually start looking at the motivations behind certain character traits/approaches.

    Sorry for the length of my response.

    Ma’as salama,

    Abdur Rahman

    PS – I’ve added you to my blogroll. I hope that was OK, insha Allah.

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  2. Salaams,
    thank you for sharing your thoughts. I am definitely going to add your most informative site. As my sister Nineveh has stated, sometimes we are threatened when people seem to reject something that we love and hold dear. But once we are secure in our faith and way of life, we no longer become angry and threatened. There is no compulsion in religion, and unfortunately people are more interested in group conformity, rather than understanding that there are various levels of faith and practice and that this Deen is expansive. This does not mean that we are not accountable, for we all are. But instead, when we try to define who is and who is not Muslim, we walk a fine line between invalidating our own faith. I believe that , ultimately, it is up to Allah.

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  3. Salaams Margari,

    Thank you for your kind thoughts. May Allah bless you and all you do.

    I have a number of blogs.

    My main one is Abdur Rahman’s Corner (I’ve posted a few of my academic papers here – see Academic Matters and Roman Papers)

    http://www.thecorner.wordpress.com

    My poetry blog is The Corner Reloaded: http://www.muslimcorner.wordpress.com

    My Islamic History blog (you’ll find papers and history resources there):

    http://www.islamichistory.wordpress.com

    Ma’as salama,
    Abdur Rahman

    PS – I can’t seem to see the comments on this thread!

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  4. As-Salaamu ‘alaikum,

    There is a formal definition of a munafiq, which is someone who outwardly professes Islam but inwardly rejects it. This was the condition of a particular group in Madinah at the time of the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam), who may well have been plotting against Islam among themselves but to the real Muslims pretended to be among them. The foremost among them was Abdullah bin Ubayy, who gave sermons enjoining people to follow the Prophet (sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) but, after leading an armed division towards battle with the Muslims, turned them round and took them home, leaving the Muslims to do battle with the enemy without them. Ibn Ubayy was also behind the slander against Umm al-Mu’mineen A’isha (radhi Allahu ‘anha).

    However, there are some Muslims who are stronger in imaan than others and some who waver in their belief from time to time. There is also such a thing as a partial hypocrite, i.e. one who is given to acts of hypocrisy, like lying, but is not concealing rejection of Islam. A Muslim who is lax in their practice, but does not reveal any misgivings about Islam itself, is a Muslim even if he or she does not pray, according to the vast majority of the classical scholars. It is a major sin, but major sins do not entail disbelief except for those which reflect disdain for the deen or are idolatrous in themselves.

    Unfortunately, in our time, there are a lot of people who aggressively articulate the opposite position – that anyone who does not pray is a kaafir – but it is the position of a small minority commonly associated with the Hanbali school. However, even in the Hanbali school, Ibn al-Jawzi (and probably others) held the majority position.

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  5. Salaam ‘Alaikum

    Looking forward to reading more from you. It seems like honest explorations of our faith (personal or in a general sense) without ad hominem (or ad nauseum) attacks are becoming rarer and rarer in the Muslim blogosphere.

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  6. Salaam ‘Alaikum

    I mean to say ad hominem / nauseum attacks on other Muslims (or non Muslims, for that matter). I don’t know where my mind is today.

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  7. Walaikum salaam,
    I look forward to your feedback, critique, and input. I was just thinking about what I’m going to write about for Diary of a Lax Muslim Woman Pt. 2. I think it is likely going to be on how lax Muslims get all self-righteous accussing stricter Muslims of hypocrisy. They claim to be so spiritual, when it is clear that spirituality really requires self-discipline, self-work, and an honest look at one’s self. I am really irritated with lax Muslims who try to hold on to Sufism, even though the Wali Allah were almost always devout and sincere Muslims. Anyways, I’ll begin drafting that blog. But it may have to wait because I have to get some work done. 😉

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