Circles of Dignity
“O people, by AllÃ¢h I have visited kings. I went to Caesar, Chosroes and the Negus, but by AllÃ¢h I never saw a king whose companions venerated him as much as the companions of Muhammad venerated Muhammad (peace and blessings of AllÃ¢h be upon him). By AllÃ¢h, whenever he spat it never fell on the ground, it fell into into the hand of one his companions, then they wiped their faces and skins with it. If he instructed them to do something, they would hasten to do as he commanded. When he did wudÃ»’, they would almost fight over his water. When he spoke they would lower their voices in his presence; and they did not stare at him out of respect for him.” ( al-BukhÃ¢rÃ®, 3/178, no. 2731, 2732; al-Fath, 5/388).
Muhammad ibn `Umar said: “(Imam) Malikâ€™s circle was a circle of dignity and courtesy. He was a man of majestic countenance and nobility. There was no part for self-display, vain talk, or loud speech in his circle. His reader would read for all, and no-one looked into his own book, nor asked questions, out of awe before Malik and out of respect for him.”
Is it possible to take the typical second, third, fourth generation Muslim and shoehorn them into the circles described above? What would be their experience?
More than likely it would be filled with boredom, confusion, and criticism all stemming from how very different this circle is than any other gathering they have participated in earlier in the day.
Sitting cross legged is already difficult enough for us, much less being surrounded by air which is infused with odd things such as ‘awe’, ‘nobility’, ‘dignity’, ‘respect’. We don’t know how to handle or envision such words in literature, and we certainly are unprepared to be faced with the practical reality of them.
Which movie prepares us for this environment? Which show? Which video game?
In this void, awkwardness fills us and most peoples chests are pressed with an instinctive reaction to remove ourselves from the heat of uncomfortably.
Surrounded by people that are genuinely devoted to another individual on the basis of their superior knowledge and religious practice is disturbing in a culture which raises us towards complete self-reliance and the total equality of all men in all aspects.
Add a dash of some form of group expression of faith that we are unfamiliar with, and the field is ripe for the ego to rebel.
There are just so many ‘outs’.
The convenient (yet arbitrary) distinction between religious life and the life dedicated to this world, especially when it is intertwined with the buzzword of ‘innovation’ gives us the most convenient of explanations to categorize our reaction.
*I don’t like it, because it feels weird.*
Self knowledge tempers this.
When one realizes the weakness of ones own faith, prayer, worship, it makes it more difficult to come to grandiose conclusions condemning people who dedicate themselves to the same. Humility dictates to us that we aren’t good judges, much less good prosecutors of others.
It is only when one confronts their own bias, in which one finds the reflection of sworn self-esteem and pavlovian pride, that one get past this haze which limits spiritual awakening.
The arbitrary categorization of ‘innovation’ when applied to worldly life vs religion, contains within it the supposition that life is separate from religion. A conclusion which has far hitting impacts.
In this model, watching TV feels quite alright, at least if you try to avoid some ‘bad scenes’. And watching 25 pictures per second on a wall mounted LCD screen is for some reason, so much harder to complain about than having a picture of a holy man who reminds us of prophecy, faith, improvement.
Under this mentality we think: Rock groups haraam? Let us have Islamic pop stars. Let’s have Muslim comedians. Muslim fiction writers. Muslim movie studios. Muslim news channels. All the while, we don’t exclude ourselves to the ‘Muslim’ version of these institutions of mimicry. So they do not help in creating a Islamic culture in the West, what they do is create a bridge of acceptance.
To watch a ‘Muslim pop star’, you still have to enter a concert hall. And to see a ‘Muslim film’ you still have to sit on a couch. There is still a stage for the ‘Muslim comedian’.
These issues reflect the implicit approval by the Muslim community of dramatic shifts away from the cultures which underwent a millenia of Islamization. Instead, we’ve accepted the inclination towards that which has challenged those cultures at every turn.
Islam was so much more than a filter of existing cultures, it brought something new. And these accomplishments are written in sand swept stone of Mughal architecture to the grand prayer halls of the Ottomans, to the poetry of Mevlana Rumi (ks) and the ironic statements on humanity from Nasruddin Hoja (ks).
This system has put the final wall up between knowledge and practice. It’s done this by actually turning Islam away from traditional values and a culture in which people of dramatic faith and unique characteristics were raised and nurtured.
Modern institutions catering to Muslims have been continuing the century old transition from Muslim culture and values to Western ones, all under the name of preaching Islam. And its not always so obtuse and obvious as the recent Azhari ban on niqaab. Pay-as-you-go ‘Islamic classes’ have cloaked an entirely foreign idea of Western style instruction in the mantle of religiosity.
And when examining this issue of cultural adoption, what we have chosen is not hamburgers over curry. We have settled for abandoning circles of dignity.
- 06/07/2010 • Living Islam in America – Graduation Season – Pictures
- 06/05/2010 • Pope Benedict meets with Sheykh Maulana Nazim Adil Al-Hakkani Al-Kibrisi
- 04/28/2010 • On Backbiting – Sheykh Maulana Muhammad Nazim Adil al-Hakkani
- 04/21/2010 • Diwan Lughat al-Turk – “Learn the tongue of the Turks, for their reign will be long.”