There has been a growing trend among the religious communities that some of the people try to use religion in order to satisfy their own desires. These people try to satisfy conflicting desires by creating their own ways in the religion and redefining religious values and teachings. By doing so, they think that they are fulfilling religious duties as well as their desires. This way, they remain religious but also liberal / secular. This helps them in their social circles. People consider them as “moderate” not extremist, “flexible” not rigid, “open minded” not narrow minded, “progressive” not backward.
The Christian world has been far ahead of Muslim world in adopting the above ways of life. Muslims are trying hard to catch-up with their Christian fellows.
During the week of “World Youth Day” I was in Toronto. The Catholic Church organized World Youth Day. The Pope himself traveled to Toronto to attend week-long gatherings. Thousands of Catholics came from various parts of the world to attend these “very religious” celebrations.
Media called the attendees of World Youth Day as “pilgrims”. As a Muslim, I had a picture of a “pilgrim” in my mind. This was a perfect opportunity for me to see the gathering of “Christian pilgrims”. I walked near exhibition centre, Lakeshore Blvd., and University Ave. where most of the World Youth Day ceremonies took place. I watched these Christian pilgrims. I realized, how much different a “Christian pilgrim” was from a “Muslim pilgrim”. When a Muslim pilgrim goes for pilgrimage to Makkah, he/she leaves ” all worldly fun” behind and tries to connect with almighty God (Allah). During few Days of Hajj, vast majority of the pilgrims do nothing but pray to almighty Allah, remember death and the Hereafter. The gathering of Muslim pilgrims is very sober and simple. There is no sexual relationship even among legally married couples during those days.
On the other side, the World Youth Day gatherings were not different than a gathering in a pub or a nightclub. You may think that I am Muslim therefore I am biased. You may be right but these are my observations. When media reporters (non of them were Muslims) interviewed some of the unmarried pilgrims, sex during the week-long ceremonies was on their mind. Catholic Church had to distribute flyers asking these pilgrims to stay away from having sex without marriage during Word Youth Day.
The World Youth Day pilgrims gave me a very different understanding of Christianity compared to what I know about Christian faith through the Bible.
Christians have changed their religion significantly. Especially during the last century, the followers of Christianity have become so flexible that they have compromised on the basic teachings of Christianity. Now, you may find gay pastors, lesbian priests, and homosexual marriages in churches. Common Law relationships are a very valuable practice in Christian world (interchangeably western world). In Christian world (western world), having multiple sexual relationships is a sign of open mind person.
Having said that lets see what we (Muslims) are doing. Unfortunately, I can not just sit and finger point on my Christian fellows. Muslims have started similar treatment with their religion of Islam. The process of modernizing the Christian faith started few centuries ago with the industrial revolution in England. Muslims are just three hundred years behind in this process. However, our pace of modernizing Islam is so fast that if the current world order continues, Muslims will soon catch-up with their Christian fellows.
Recently, I have found out that there is a Muslim gay group in North America. Are we surprised? There may be more. I do not know. How a person can call himself / herself a “Muslim” and be a homosexual? Remember that I am not talking about committing a wrong. Any human being can do wrong. I am talking about justifying wrong.
In Pakistan, there is a growing trend that the singers sing NAAT (poetry to praise Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him) just like any pop music song. Pakistan television and radio broadcast these so-called “Islamic songs”. This is a big sin, according to the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). However, this kind of singing satisfies the desires of a singer to sing pop musical songs and still claim that he/ she serving Islam. How someone can even imagine that Allah or His Prophet (peace be upon him) will be happy with these pop musical NAAT?
Muslims who really understand Islam and know Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) must try to stop this evil in Pakistan. These musical songs (I can not call them Naat) are very disrespectful to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Naat is a beautiful poetry. Many of the companions Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) wrote poetry to praise Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) but singing like an Indian song with music is not a Naat. Government of Pakistan must put ban on such songs.
There are several, apparently, Muslim Sufis or Peer who claim that they are the spiritual leaders but they themselves do not know the true spirit of Islam. These so-called Sufis or peer have lot of following in many parts of Pakistan and elsewhere. Islam, which these self-claimed Sufis are preaching and practicing, is comprised of their own desires and ideas.
Please remember Tasawuf and Sufis are integral part of Islam. In Qur’anic terms Tasawuf is called TAZKIYAH-TUN-NAFS and Sufis are called AUWLIA-ALLAH. There were great Sufis of Islam such as Imam Hasan Al Basri, Ba Yazeed Al Bustami, Junaid Al Bughdadi, Sufyan Althouri, Fozail Ibn Ayaz, Ali Al Hajwairi, Sayyidna Abdul Qadir Jilani, Sayyidna Shahabuddin Umar Soharwardy, Sayyidna Bahauddin Naqshabandi, Sayyidna Moinuddin Chishty and many more (May Allah be pleased with all of them). These Sufis followed the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) and followed Islam in its entirety. We must be very respectful towards the true Auwlia Allah. But there are many wolfs and thieves of Eiman (faith) and we must be aware of them
Let me give you few examples that I have observed myself.
- There are several peers and some of them have came to North America as well. They organize gathering of Dhikr (Zikr). In these gatherings men and women (non-Mehram) not only sit together but they touch and shake hand with each other. The peer touch women. Women kiss the hands of their peer and peer kiss these women. This is all HARAAM and a big sin. Muslims must stay away from such people.
- Some self-claimed peers do not offer mandatory five prayers. When they are asked why they do not pray. They say that they have spiritually offered their prayers and does not need to join Muslims in prayers. This is absolutely wrong. No one is more worthy of spirituality than Allah’s Messenger, Muhammad (Peace be upon him). He always prayed with Muslims and asked us to pray five times a day. The spiritual prayer does not exist in Islam. Such peers are fraud.
- These self-claimed Peers force people to become their followers (MUREED). They create so many temptations for human beings to accept them as spiritual leaders and let them wipeout their wealth and dignity. Any person who desires or asks people to become his Mureed (followers) is not a peer. He is fraud.
- These self-claimed Peers present themselves as the problem solvers of the world and move Muslims away from relying on Almighty Allah. This is the destruction of faith.
- There are few spiritual Muslim leaders. They have asked their followers that they do not need to pray five times a day, no need of fasting in Ramadhan, no need to go for Hajj and no need to pay Zakat. However, they ask their followers to pay their leader a mandatory charity. Again, these people are trying to create their own religion but using the name of Islam. No one has the right to redefine Islam and Islamic Shari’a. Allah has completed His DEEN (way of life for human beings).
I can go on and give you hundreds of examples of distortions, which Muslims are creating in Islam. Once, a Christian friend asked me “when will Muslims modify Islam as we (Christian) did during the past four centuries”. My answer to him was that “You had to change because you could not have survived without those changes. But Islam from its birth is so natural and normal that it does not need to be changed or modified”. For example,
- When the Christian world considered women as person? Less than a century ago. Islam considered women from its birth as person and very honorable human beings.
- When the Christian world ended hate, violence and slavery? Just few years ago. Islam created human society based upon tolerance, mutual respect, freedom and coexistence.
- When the Christian world became environmentally sensitive? After destroying the ecology of the world, Christian world became environmental friendly few years ago. Islam from its birth is environmental sensitive and protects environment from all kinds of pollution.
Now, in apparent openness and show of flexibility, Christian world have become very tolerant and receptive towards the ideas and values which contradicts with the basic teachings of Bible and Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him). The Christian world may find few Muslims who will be willing to adopt the life style defined by the western world however, a vast majority of Muslims will adhere to the original teachings of Islam. Because Islam is natural, normal and complete.
Islam is not in danger from USA, India or Israel. However, Islam is in danger from Muslims that want to redefine Islam as Christians redefined Christianity.
May Allah keep Muslims on the right path. Ameen
Prof. Imam Syed B. Soharwardy is Founder and President of Muslims Against Terrorism (M-A-T)