By Shaahima Fahim
For most, the onset of Ramaḍān is heralded by the sighting of the moon. Here in the Middle East the sands are alive with the sound of Oudh strings in the form of un-innovative radio adverts, and it's the mounds of Ouzi and vats of Sharbat being marketed to the masses as though a famine/drought's about to hit, that truly signals the arrival of the Holy month.
We Muslims sure do know our spirituality.
That being said, there is another sign. A surge of the sanctimonious. A pandemic of self-righteousness, if you prefer; and that too one that seemingly peaks to its most destructive during the month of Ramaḍān.
Manifestations of which include the thinly veiled ahems of “Ramaḍān *cough* Muslim” when a brother decides to start frequenting the masjid for all five of the obligatory prayers.
The behind-the-palm whispers between veiled women when a sister decides to don ḥijāb for the month. The exchange of not-so-innocuous comments about how the masjid seems fuller during Fajr, and even the hawk-like scrutiny of another's prayer for the sole purpose of haughtily pointing out a misstep that wasn't even so disastrous to begin with.
For most Muslims, both actively practicing and the not-so-much, Ramaḍān is that annual reprieve through which we at the least attempt (if not successfully achieve) to mend in ourselves a shortcoming or two. And with Qurʾānic assurances that the Devil and his accomplices are chained up for a good 30 days, this is the very break our battered nafs has been waiting for to reassess and redeem.
But when punctuated, rather punctured, with the snide condescension of the holier-than-thou, it is understandably more discouraging than spiritually energising. And instead of motivating the other to fortify his/her faith, these vocalised presumptions and baseless attacks on the character only serve to drive people away.
More ironically, this self-proclaimed piety by the sagacious few is in fact a tri-trait step ladder leading only to Allāh's displeasure.
Arrogance —> Judging another —> Gheebah/slander
Each trait is so detrimental to the faith that it is backed by numerous Qurʾānic and Prophetic admonitions.
On Arrogance/Possessing Kibr:
Qurʾān: “And do not turn your face away from men with arrogance, nor walk in insolence through the earth. Verily, Allāh does not like each arrogant boaster.” (Sūrah Luqmān; 18)
Hadith: The Prophet is even recorded to have said “One will not enter Paradise, if one has an atom's weight of arrogance in his/her heart.” A man then asked, “One may love his clothes to look good and his shoes to look good?!” The Prophet replied, “Allāh is beautiful and loves beauty, arrogance is: rejecting the truth and looking down on people.” (imām Muslim and Tirmidhi)
On Judging another Muslim:
Qurʾān: O you who have believed, when you go forth in the cause of Allāh, investigate; and do not say to one who gives you [a greeting of] peace “You are not a believer,” aspiring for the goods of worldly life; for with Allāh are many acquisitions. You [yourselves] were like that before; then Allāh conferred His favour upon you, so investigate. Indeed Allāh is ever, with what you do, acquainted. (Sūrat'l-Nisā'; 94)
Hadith: The Prophet himself is reported to have said: “I have not been ordered (by Allāh) to search the hearts of the people or cut open their bellies” (Bukhāri)
Backbiting (Gheebah)/Slander (Buhtaan):
Qurʾān: “O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion, for some suspicions are a sin. Do not spy on one another, nor backbite one another. Would one of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? Nay, you would abhor it, [so similarly, avoid backbiting]. And fear Allāh. Indeed, Allāh is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful.” [Sūrat'l-Ḥujurāt; 12]
Hadith: It has been defined precisely by the Prophet as, “Your mentioning your brother with something about him that he dislikes [being spoken about].”
A companion then asked, “How about if my brother contains that [characteristic which I am mentioning]?”
He replied, “If he possesses that which you mention, then you have [indeed] backbitten against him. And, if he does not contain that which you say, then you have slandered him.” [imām Muslim and Ahmad]
The above wisdoms/decrees are a summary of one of the primary tenets of Islam; that accountability is reserved for Allāh and Allāh alone. Where actions are judged solely by Him, and that too on the basis of its intention. Only He has access to what is in the hearts of men, and with this knowledge He is both (among other beautiful traits) Al-Hakam (The Judge) and Al-Adl (The Just).
“O you who believe! Let not a group scoff at another group, it may be that the latter are better than the former; nor let (some) women scoff at other women, it may be that the latter are better than the former, not defame one another , nor insult one another by nicknames. How bad is it, to insult one's brother after having Faith. And whosoever does not repent, then such are indeed Zalimun (wrong-doers, etc.) [Sūrat'l-Ḥujurāt; 11]
For all we know that one prayer in the masjid by the 'Ramaḍān Muslim' is worth more to Allāh than the entire congregation of regulars combined. Who's to say that that sister's intention behind covering up isn't stronger than those having decided to do so before her? Who are we to condemn another to Hell?
An acquaintance once mentioned an instance where on entering her workplace prayer room, she found the woman who appeared to have just finished her ṣalāh removing her covering cloth to reveal a mini skirt and a rather snug top. In mid mental 'tch tch' said acquaintance was then hit with the realisation that in having already finished her worship, this woman was in fact quicker to answer the call to prayer than she. Who was she then to judge?
Having said that, da'wah is of course encouraged for every Muslim. But it should be intended and achieved without an infusion of one-upmanship.
“Call to the way of your Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and have disputations with them in the best manner; surely your Lord best knows those who go astray from His path, and He knows best those who follow the right way.” (Sūrat'l-Naḥl; 125)
With a month so blessed and yet so fleeting, time is better served assessing one's own shortcomings, than having all the good one has acquired eradicated on account of a loose tongue. And if any judgement is to be passed at all it is best reserved for the self.
May Allāh help us witness our own shortcomings before another's. May He protect us from the evils of arrogance, any inkling of condescension and from speaking ill of other Muslims, but instead help us perfect our da'wah to have the best of intentions. Āmīn.