Is Islam relevant? How is Islam relevant to my life?
These are questions I was asked recently. I proceeded to give an answer in terms of how Islam gives life purpose where an atheistic, materialistic understanding of the world does not and how the negative impact of lacking purpose can be seen in the rates of depression and suicide affecting the secular, post-religious world of today.
But this answer wasn’t really adequate for or convincing to the questioner. After thinking about it for a moment, I realized the problem. (You see, sometimes if you are asked a wrong question, you are all but forced to give a wrong answer.)
So, Islam doesn’t have to be relevant to you. The Truth does not need to be validated by its utility to your personal, individual life. The Truth by its very nature is relevant — in fact, it is the only thing that is relevant.
Honestly, what is the standard of relevance we’re operating under? Are professional sports relevant? Are popular culture and music and movies relevant? Are political debates and world events relevant? Why? If that’s our standard of relevancy, then of course Islam will not seem relevant because, unlike those other things, Islam actually means something and is about something and has true, lasting significance.
Thus, the problem for us is two-fold. We have a mis-calibrated standard of relevance on the one hand. On the other, we judge importance on the basis of personal utility in the first place. We order the world according to a subjective framework that assigns value according to: “What looks good, feels good, sounds good TO ME?”
In other words, we have put our egos at the center. That’s the only context in which the question “Is it relevant?” makes any sense.
No one asks if biology is relevant, or nuclear physics, or economics, or anything else related to the sciences or academic investigation. In those domains, the question of relevance has no sense. Of course, those are subjects we assume to be concerned with truth and, as such, are not attached to any individual’s personal feelings.
Well, your Maker is al-Haqq: the Highest Truth. Submission to Him — Islam — should be at the center of our paradigm. With respect to that core, we can judge the (ir)relevance of everything else.