Story time…

Muslims often speak very definitively about what will or will not alienate other Muslims or what will or will not push other Muslims away from Islam. These claims are often made in very general and vague terms and are inherently impressionistic and without any kind of solid data to back them up.

I encountered this most forcefully in context of my college MSA at Harvard. The MSA was restructuring into a committee based format. There was a committee for internal relations, a committee for external relations, and so on. I thought it made sense to also have a committee for Islamic knowledge dedicated to things like halaqas, organizing Friday prayer, holding educational workshops, etc.

But what seemed like a reasonable proposal to me was seen as a terrible idea by many others. Their main argument was that the mere existence of such a committee would alienate Muslims on campus. The MSA would be seen as too religious and too serious and then those nominal Muslims who were less in touch with their religion would be scared away, thus losing the opportunity of coming to MSA events and getting closer to Islam. In other words, by supporting the creation of this committee, I was directly threatening the Islam of God knows how many Muslims on campus. How could I ever live with myself?

In reality, the argument was not based on any actual analysis or survey of the Muslim population on campus. Most likely, these MSA board members had a few friends they knew who they based their opinions on and generalized accordingly. It didn’t occur to them that maybe the lack of an Islamic knowledge committee might be what prevents many Muslims from getting involved with the MSA. Maybe this committee will actually contribute to an increase in beneficial knowledge on campus which will result in more people being interested in the MSA. Or maybe the baraka of sacred knowledge by itself will lead to all these things. Or maybe, just maybe, the end all, be all of every single MSA decision shouldn’t be how that decision will affect the number of people that show up to its events.

There are many other examples of how Muslims simply presume what will push others away from or even out of Islam. And I’m not saying that that is not an important concern or that it should not be carefully considered. We do have to think long and hard about how our actions in the community context affect others’ faith. No doubt about it.

All I am saying is we have to think about things in a broader way and be aware of when our perspective is heavily influenced by a handful of anecdotes or some bad impressions or a loud, outspoken voice or even stereotypes and cliches about how things play out and how people react. There is often a lot at stake in these discussions, so it is only fair that one does his due diligence before making a highly charged claim about how someone else’s actions will impact people’s iman.

 

Story time…Muslims often speak very definitively about what will or will not alienate other Muslims or what will or…

Posted by Daniel Haqiqatjou on Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Daniel Haqiqatjou

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