Now we that we know what ‘izzah is and its importance, let’s examine how we lost it, and how we will insha’Allah once again attain it.
If it is Islam that elevates us with ‘izzah, and turning to other than Islam for honor that humiliates us, then given that we are in a state of humiliation, it stands to reason we’ve been turning to other than Islam to raise ourselves, to obtain honor, for some time now.
Just as Abu ‘Ubaydah feared for ‘Umar’s honor based on the state of his clothing, we have also committed the same error, well-intentioned as we are. How often is the argument made that as Muslims in the West, we must look to how other groups arrived as minorities, struggled, worked their way into the system, and finally gained acceptance? How often have we heard that we must observe the history of the Jewish community in America, learn its lessons, follow its footsteps, and rise to some fashion of power as they did? How often have we been told, if only we had a true democracy in our own countries, or if we were just better equipped with secular knowledge, that we would rise to prominence?
All of this is predicated on the theory of modeling successful people – observe, model, and replicate their behavior to achieve their results. There is a time and a place for this framework when discussing the modeling of nonMuslims and their success in certain arenas, but as it relates to the matter at hand, returning the Ummah back to its stature of prominence, modeling the nonMuslims both privately and publically will not take us where we want to go.
Why? Because for us, the Muslims, acquiring honor through the material or the political when there is no foundation of the spiritual means we will fail, and fail, and fail, and keep failing until we go back to setting our foundation of Islam straight first, and then, with that spiritual base and strength of character, assessing which options are viable.
Indeed, Allah warned us against falling into this trap of seeking honour in other than Islam:
Give glad tidings to the munaafiqeen (hypocrites) that there is for them a painful punishment – those that take disbelievers as allies instead of the believers. Do they seek with them ‘izzah (honor)? Rather, to Allah indeed belongs all honour! (An-Nisaa’ 4/138-139)
Today’s housing and credit crisis stands as an amazing example of this phenomenon – how many Muslims, knowing full well that Allah has forbidden interest transactions, bought homes on riba, claiming, “But if I rent, I’ll lose money!” How many Muslims, for the sake of status, would max out their credit cards, max out the mortgages they could take out to get the best homes with the most lavish (and often gaudiest) options, or take out home equity loans to spend even more money on unneeded “luxuries”.
My question to those people – are you still making money now? Where is your status? Where is your ‘Izzah? You copied the nonMuslims, set the standard of ‘Izzah according to their rules, and now you’ve lost the game both materially and spiritually, and your debts are piling high, ready to fall upon and crush you.
So won’t you turn back to Allah now, asking Him to forgive you? Won’t you set the standard for your actions according to His Criteria, not “their” criteria, whoever “they” are? Let us all make a concerted effort to turn back to Allah, to understand what He wants from us, and to do our best to make it happen – that’s where our ‘Izzah, our strength, our satisfaction, and security will truly find root, insha’Allah.
You may then say, ok, so how long do we wait after initiating this process of return? When will we know we’ve hit critical mass in our return to Islam so that we can move our focus to the next level? Admittedly, it’s difficult to pinpoint, but here’s a thought – when ‘Umar sent the Muslim armies to fight the Egyptians, a spy from among them observed the Muslims and returned back with the following description:
“I have seen a people, every one of whom loves death more than he loves life. They cultivate humility rather than pride. None is given to material ambitions. Their mode of living is simple… Their commander is their equal. They make no distinction between superior and inferior, between master and slave. When the time of prayer approaches, none remains behind…”
Today, our collective religious practice looks nothing like this. Instead, we send out emails to boycott Starbucks and McDonald’s while the tax money to pay for Israel’s American arsenal falls from our own pockets. We hold rallies and demonstrations in front of nonMuslims to show how angry we are when we ought to hold rallies and demonstrations in front of our mirrors and put on displays of outrage at the ones who are the root cause of our loss of honor.
And perhaps worst of all, we write letters and make phone calls to congressman, begging them not to support, even symbolically, the slaughter of our brothers and sisters, or to add insult to injury and call their slaughter “self-defense”. As the resident scholar in our masjid said in his khutbah, this is humiliation upon humiliation – we are already in a humiliated state, but then we lower ourselves to beggaring for symbolic support at the feet of our ummah’s butchers and their supporters?
The time has come for us to break free from the shackles of inferiority that have imprisoned our minds, teaching us that Islam is backwards, out-of-touch, impractical, and if not properly modernized and sanitized, barbaric, medieval, dishonorable, and outright embarrassing. The time has come for us to turn our attention away from that which raises a nonMuslim in this world to that which raises a Muslim in both this world and the next.
And the answer to your question is a resounding no, we cannot multi-task this one when the overwhelming majority of “Muslims” don’t know well enough to even pray 5 times a day to their Creator. We know what we have to do – we have to model the best example of bringing Islam from Jahiliyyah, that of the Prophet and the Companions, and we need a practical way to get it done. We need to plan out an Iman stimulus package of epic proportions.
In the next part of the series, Siraaj presents the “Iman stimulus package of epic proportions.”