Who are the Compassionate Imams? These are some Muslim preachers who claim that it is necessary to present views that are technically incorrect Islamically speaking in order to be as “compassionate” as possible. Why?
Because, according to them, if the correct position is presented, weak Muslims will lose their faith. These preachers view themselves “compassionate” and as doing a great service to the Ummah by bending, breaking, and distorting Islamic teachings as well as facts about the sirah in order to make them more palatable to youth teetering on the brink of apostasy.
This is a terribly misguided approach for many reasons. It implies that Islam itself is not “compassionate” enough and requires editorializing to be palatable. This is a terrible belief and pretty much the exact opposite of the real compassion that Islam requires of us. Nothing is more compassionate than speaking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
But the sad part is the fake “compassion” doesn’t even work!
All this approach does is get those Muslims struggling with faith to become accustomed to Islam bending to satisfy their whims and preconceptions. These Muslims get comfortable with the idea that Islam accommodates their every ideological commitment: liberalism, feminism, secularism, social justice identity politics, etc. The idea of submitting and reigning in one’s emotions and sentimentality in accordance with the Sacred is completely foreign to them. The tarbiya that is so critical to spirituality and getting closer to Allah is completely absent. Meanwhile these preachers knowingly keep feeding them nonsense, pandering to them, appeasing them.
But these poor Muslims can’t remain sheltered forever. They slowly start realizing that things are not what they want them to be. They start resenting other Muslims and begin to lash out, calling them names: “extremist,” “wahabi,” “misogynist,” etc. Many of them become very bitter, burn out, and some even leave Islam.
An example is on the issue of men’s leadership within the family. Some preachers “compassionately” fudge the shar`i facts on this and present a fiction of husband and wife having equal authority within the family. This panders to Muslims who for one reason or another have internalized Western feminist norms on this issue. But inevitably the truth comes out, whether they hear it from legitimate teachers, they get married themselves, or something else. And when they do find out, they feel like they’ve been lied to, which leads to anger and resentment.
I know many examples of this and it’s very sad. The Compassionate Imams who play into this dynamic deserve much of the blame. Many of them, in reality, are just protecting their reputations and their popularity but want to pretend that it’s actually for the benefit of others.
They’re fooling no one except themselves.