Good Muslims Do Bad Things Too

Inaya’s Struggle

Inaya is sixteen years old. She’s memorized Qur’an and is an inspiration to youth and adults alike. She’s inspired other girls to wear hijab and respect the rules of Islam. She even teaches Qur’an to children on the weekend. But there’s only one problem. When her mother isn’t looking, she removes her hijab after leaving for school, and she hides her Islam from teachers and classmates…and she likes a non-Muslim boy.

In other words, Inaya is living a double life.

And to make matters worse, Inaya’s mother, who converted to Islam when Inaya was a child, thinks the only real Muslims are those who favor women wearing all black and niqaab (the face veil). When Inaya’s Arab stepfather asks Inaya’s mother Veronica to consider making exceptions to covering her face in America, Veronica becomes indignant and vents to a friend. Incidentally, Inaya overhears part of the conversation after she returns home from school, where she’d secretly removed hijab for the first time:

“What about Inaya?” Veronica said, the question halting Inaya’s steps after Inaya closed the front door and stepped inside. “If I take off my face veil, how do I explain that to her?” Veronica groaned. “Next thing you know, he’s going to ask me to start wearing colored hijabs.” Silence followed for several seconds before Inaya heard her mother moan in exhaustion. “I know, ukhti,” Veronica said. “I’m not saying it’s haraam. I’m just scared he might ask me to take off hijab eventually.”

Inaya dragged herself to the kitchen, sadness weighing on her.

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“I’m not overreacting,” Veronica said defensively. “Why should I uncover my face? Even if niqaab’s not obligatory, what’s the point of taking it off? I fear Allah, not the people.”

Inaya glanced at the clock. It was almost four o’clock, and she hadn’t even prayed Dhuhr, the early afternoon prayer, and it was almost time for Asr.

“Because that stupid Arab culture made Sa’ad ashamed of his wife.” Veronica’s tone was indignant. “And now I’m supposed to feel ashamed for practicing the Sunnah?” She huffed. “They can keep their on-off hijab crap to themselves.”

How Could You Portray a Good Muslim Like That?

The above excerpt and storyline are taken from my latest novel Muslim Girl, and although the response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive, the story has received its share of criticism. How is it possible that a Muslim author could take such a praiseworthy act like memorizing the Qur’an and associate it with a girl removing her hijab behind her parents’ backs, hiding her Islam at school, and liking a non-Muslim boy?

Well, it’s not the memorization of Qur’an that is being linked to Inaya removing her hijab and living a double life. It’s her humanity. It’s just that this particular human being happened to have also memorized Qur’an and is generally viewed as a “good Muslim” in the community. The point of this complex scenario is simply that our humanity and obligation to strive against our faults and sins does not magically disappear just because we happen to love reading Qur’an and inspiring others to do good.

But more than that, in my view, presenting real-life struggles—which often include pretty shameful behavior—demonstrates on a practical level why we do righteous acts like memorize Qur’an and wear hijab in the first place. We do not engage in righteous behavior because we are already pure. We engage in righteous behavior because we hope to be purified.

However, we live in a pretty confusing time, especially for Muslim youth, who are often thrust into contradictory environments simultaneously. On the one hand, their parents teach them to be good Muslims, have righteous companions, and put Allah first in everything. On the other hand, their parents leave Muslim lands and communities and enroll the youth in public schools and secular colleges, and they genuinely expect actions like wearing hijab and memorizing Qur’an to act as fool-proof shields against any human weakness and sin.

On top of that, even when these youth seek out Muslim company and environments, whether online or in their local communities, they find that the culture of “religious” Muslims is often cliquish, uppity, and hostile. The Muslims who consider themselves more knowledgeable than others feel free to dictate not only what “weak” Muslims should be doing, but also what “good” Muslims couldn’t possibly be doing.

On the surface, it might appear as if these practices are aimed at simply commanding good and forbidding evil. But in practical reality, this is not what is happening. Many of these “religious” Muslims announce and publicize others’ faults. Many storm social media sites and Facebook pages by posting Qur’anic verses, hadith, and threats of Hell Fire to “advise” those they disagree with—even regarding matters in which there are legitimate differing opinions. Many spend an inordinate amount of time obsessing over the “right” hijab such that even women who are already fully covered are subjected to constant criticism and harassment. And even when Muslims are doing nothing visibly wrong, these Muslims dig for evil to forbid. Then they openly question and reproach others for trivial decisions like having a profile picture or posting a status or link unrelated to the suffering in Palestine and Syria.

Why then does it come as a surprise that some youth who are genuinely striving to be good Muslims stay away from other Muslims, avoid Islamic activities, and minimize their trips to the masjid itself? For certainly, if those who are committing no clear sin are berated for being “bad Muslims” just because someone holds a different fiqh opinion than they do, where in the world do youth go who are committing clear sin and merely want a spiritually safe environment to get back on track?

What Is It That You Really Want?

In this suffocating environment, it often feels as if the decision to become visibly Muslim is simply a public announcement to other Muslims that they now have the right—and “Islamic obligation”— to make your life miserable until they appoint themselves as overseers of every detail of your life, from your decision to wear a certain scarf pin to your decision to pursue a certain career path or even marry (or not marry) a certain person.

What is it that you really want? I think this is a question that each of us must honestly ask ourselves. Do you want your brother and sister to live a life dedicated to pleasing and serving Allah? Or do you want them to live a life dedicated to pleasing and mimicking you?

This might sound like a rhetorical or even sarcastic question, but it really isn’t. Most of us, myself included, would like to think that we genuinely want our brother or sister to dedicate his or her life to pleasing and serving Allah when we “advise” them on certain matters.

But what do our hearts and actions attest to?

This is a difficult question to answer, at least for those who truly wish to be honest with themselves. Many of us have enough Islamic knowledge and life experience to understand that, outside of adhering to foundational and clear, indisputable requirements in Islam, pleasing and serving Allah simply will not “look” the same for each individual Muslim. Why then do we keep perpetuating “Islamic” environments that are more focused on creating clones of ourselves than on fostering close relationships with Allah?

No, it isn’t right for a girl to memorize and teach Qur’an then turn around and remove her hijab, hide her Islam, and try to hook up with a boy. But it also isn’t right for us to tell Muslim girls and boys that they can’t wear hijab or memorize Qur’an if they have these struggles or inclinations. Being human is a part of life. And our humanity doesn’t disappear simply because we love doing righteous deeds.

Yes, we need to remind and advise each other toward good and away from sin. But we also need to understand that as we strive to do good and avoid sin, we should feel free to memorize Qur’an, wear hijab, and engage in any righteous action, even as we’ll always have faults and sins to tend to. These righteous actions just might one day be the means through which we overcome the very faults and sins that people say a hijabi or memorizer of Qur’an couldn’t possibly be doing.

And yes, we could even benefit from more Muslim Girl-type fiction stories in books. Because we have more than enough Muslim girl [and boy] true stories in real life. And given that so many Inayas of the world feel suffocated by modern “religious” culture, castigated by Islamic preaching, and unwelcomed in masjids, I think they at least deserve the opportunity to sit alone in their homes, open a book, and learn that yes, pleasing and serving Allah is possible after all—and that even if you’re a “good Muslim,” you’ll sometimes do bad things.

And, even then, so long as you don’t give up on your soul altogether, Paradise is for you too.

 

 

 

 

 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy. Her latest novel Muslim Girl is now available. To learn more about the author, visit ummzakiyyah.com or subscribe to her YouTube channel.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Al-Walaa Publications. All Rights Reserved.

WRITTEN FOR MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG

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33 responses to “Good Muslims Do Bad Things Too”

  1. Joyce Larsen says:

    All glory be to Allah…this article spoke so much truth. Love it, so much to think about.

  2. As-Salaam-u alaikum, Read in the name of your Rabb: Surah An-Nisaa’, 4:28, then in its context 4:26–32. We are His representatives to His creation as guided by the Lights of His Qur’an and the lifestyle, not just the ahadith, his uswah is what we are to be emulating, of His final Messenger to “man”, study the meaning of that word, Muhammad ibn Abdullah of Arabia some 1,400 years ago. We perfect ourselves through sincere practice and repentance to those we harm and to Allah for being disobedient, this purification prescription allows Allah to fulfill His statement in 4:28.

  3. Hyde says:

    “The problem with religion is that it only helps religious people”

    Really good post. One thing does stand out: if a girl likes a boy, then she is considered of “loose moral” yet if a hafiz fell for a girl, it would be he was tempted: why the double standards ?

    And there is nothing wrong with liking the opposite gender (thank God). I have liked girls all my life and will continue to do so.

    • Fahim Abdullah says:

      Because guys fall in love 100000 times easier than girls. You keep a Tom Cruise in 100 girls. Perhaps 2/3 will glance. You keep a Megan Fox in 100 guys. 99 will ogle their eyes out.

      • Not so simple! says:

        To Fahim:

        As Salamu Alaikum!

        I just wanted to note that love/lust/infatuation amongst the sexes is much more complex than can be summarized with simple statements…

        Yes, conventional wisdom tells us that men fall in love (I would say infatuation) easier than women…

        But…have you ever attended a rock concert with a ‘hot male lead’ or ‘a boy band’ – whether its the Beatles, or Justin Bieber or whoever the latest ‘crush’ of the day is?

        The crazy screaming reactions of the girls in the audience is much more than glancing, and much more than ogling!! They totally loose it…

        The Quran actually highlights this bizarre behavior in Sura Yusuf…when the ‘ladies of the town’ go absolutely crazy when they see Prophet Yusuf and start cutting their hands with their dinner knives!

        Anyway, whatever the reality is regarding the sexes and lust/love, the Quran and Sunnah do not endorse double standards when it comes to llicit loves/relationships, and neither should we. Its wrong for both sexes, and thats that.

        Of course, we are all prone to error…we all need to turn to Allah and repeatedly ask for him to forgive us and purify us…and we all need to remember generosity and forgiveness amongst ourselves….

    • Hyde says:

      This article will do well in this discussion…
      http://bloggingtheology.org/2014/08/10/they-mess-you-up/

  4. Sarah says:

    Assalamu alaikum,

    I’m a religious teenage/college-age girl who has already lived away from home and been placed in many positions of trust by my family, and I can testify to the truth of what is written in this article about how Muslims often ‘search for evil to forbid’ – if you protest and say this is untrue, kindly take one look at the type of websites that a person my age, interested in their deen, will encounter when trying to search for information.

    Having seen life in both Muslim and non Muslim countries, I want to sharply emphasize something to ALL parents – these problems with youth (taking off hijab, going behind your back) would NOT go away if you attempted to protect them through controlling them. It does not matter if they go to a segregated Islamic college in Saudi, or a community college in the USA – they WILL encounter haram (I saw MANY example of things happening in Muslim countries that would make elders’ hair curl – they simply don’t see them). My mother has taught in an Islamic school for years and years, and she constantly complains that parents seem unable to find a balance – you can’t forbid everything (haram! no! never!) OR be completely lax and leave your children to their own devices. Both these parenting styles simply mean one thing – you will be wringing your hands when your kids grow up and they rebel. The true solution is to be flexible, and to give your children the tools they need to make those hard decisions, and understand the societal issues that are around them – because when they grow up, no matter if they live in the safest, most comfortable bubble ever – they are going to have to make those hard decisions.

    • Hyde says:

      Excellent response with clarity and truth :)

    • What was the picture of the environment that all of the early Muslims lived in? They did not have TV or the radio they saw everything in living color and sometimes people living as the “Hippies” of the 1960s in the USA lived with no shame. And Allah states that He did not prescribe for people to become “monks” withdrawn from the temptations of the world. How else can one perfect one’s faith, and trust in Allah, Whom they are to be His willing, obedient, representatives agents to His creation? WAKE UP, AND STUDY AL-QUR’AN as Allah instructs us to? Ameen.

  5. Hurt but Hopeful says:

    You teach them what you consider the truth but the day will come when they must make their own choices. And sometimes those choices are much different than you choose for yourself!! It hurts like hell to see your children leaving Islam when you fought so hard to become and stay a Muslim. Just remember Guidance comes from Allah!! It is not transfered thru DNA or even a wonderful home enviroment or even an Islamic school.
    People will judge you by what your children do..it does not help!! InshAllah We can be more kind with each other.

    • Sidra says:

      Kindness and compassion are more effective in changing a person or at least making them want to take steps in the right direction than harshness and condemnation.

    • Sara says:

      As Khalil Gibran said: “Our children are not from us, they merely come through us”

      Our children are souls on their own unique individual journey

      Would anyone say that Prophet Nuh did not do a good job preaching Islam for so long?

      And in the end, his wife and his son denied the message of Islam ie Oneness of Allah.

      So many muslim youth leave the religion and eventually come back. Keep the doors of your love open for them.

      And mashallah this was an amazing article with amazing insights

  6. UmmHady says:

    If someone does not do good and right from their own heart but in fear of parental punishment then ultimately there wil be a point when they choose to go against what they are told, either openly rebel or by sneaking around. Many parents focus on teaching their kids memorizing Quran and praying because they are told they HAVE to. Few delve deeper into teaching understanding Quran and loving Allah SWT and Prophet SAW for his sacrifices and amazing character. Obedience is never true without love. The modern Ummah has focused far too much on rules and less on the nia (spirit) of Islam. They are both important but if one does not do good out of love and fear of Allah SWT then we are missing the most important point of all. We all sin. We all have chances to redeem ourselves. If there is not mercy in that then I don’t know what else to say.

  7. Saf says:

    loved your comments Umm HAdy. FInally the most important lesson to teach kids and ourselves is, it always between me and God. Because God decides whether u need punishment to put u on the right track or be forgiven right away. In my opinion, the carrot the stick comes to us, and both are in AllahuSubhanaWataala’s Mercy. And we must consider ourselves to have received Allah’s mercy, when our heart turns towards Him, whether out of fear or favor or just plain love. Kids need to be taught that what if u do not get forgiven right away and end up being punished,before you get forgiven? So teach them enough fear,and yet give them hope of compassion from Allah, and their conscience will take it over from there. We cannot control anybody, not even ourselves by just berating or spying really

    • UmmHady says:

      Alhamdulillah, we do not know the state in which we will die. The ” religious” who judge another may fall out of grace and the other rise to a purer state of iman. It is better to sin and sincerely repent and beg Allah SWT for forgiveness than to do good and feel pride in it. Allah loves to be asked for forgiveness. Likewise He afflicts those He loves with adversity in this life I imagine so that they may be given a chance to face it with patience and earn Jannah after having been purged of their sins with such adversity.

  8. sayf says:

    But who on earth is really in the position to make the call that someone is a good muslim, yeag we give benefit of doubt, byt even Rasulillah sallallahu 3layhi wa salam, warned muslims be careful in your praise of others. Is not Allah the one who will decide who is good and not, and do think the salaf would have married their children to a girl who doesnt do the fardh of covering? Im not judging her, but the fact is she is not doing the fardh, and thats not the worst thing ever she could be a lot worse in her practices. And to completely memorize the quran doesnt makr someone good, I knoe many of the youth in my local masjids quran class, that say themselves thr didnt wish to enroll in that, not that they hate it, but it was really only the8r parents choice. Good muslims do bad things too, we alreadt know the only perfect human was rasulillah, this sounds like a statement to please and make people content with their sins, or please the west I dunno

  9. […] Good Muslims Do Bad Things Too “They can keep their on-off hijab crap to themselves.” How Could You Portray a Good Muslim Like That? The above excerpt and storyline are taken from my latest novel Muslim Girl, and although the response to the book has been overwhelmingly positive … Read more on MuslimMatters […]

  10. Abu Haazim says:

    Masha Allah good article! My teacher teaches me not to judge other people(Muslims and non-Muslims included) and the time spent searching and fixing one’s own mistakes and shortcomings is time worth spent.

    This has helped me tremendously given the fact that I consider myself practicing(Alhamdu lillah) and my wife wears a niqab and somehow in my head I used to consider sisters who didn’t wear a hijab less Muslim. May Allah Ta’ala forgive me! I hope I had spent that valuable time fixing my own shortcomings instead of commenting(to my wife) about other Muslims.

  11. Yasmine says:

    Great article mashallah

    Jazakallah khair for that

    But as someone who has published a few books on amazon, let me say that your Kindle price of $9 is too high.

    In fact, we can see from your books ranking that you are only making a few sales a week

    I am sure that the content of the book is great, but to stand out your marketing efforts should be just as good

    I would suggest lowering the price of the Kindle version to $2.99. And you also need a better book cover.

    Finally, as you already may know….the Kindle format allows you to offer the book for free for 5 days every 3 months

    I urge you to use that to boost your rankings. Amazon will then feature your book more prominently and you will make more sales inshallah

    Finally…when you do offer your book for free for those 5 days, make sure you list them on websites that feature free kindle books

    one of those sites is http://www.worldliterarycafe.com

    I wish you success in this life and in the next inshallah

  12. Qasim says:

    Mashallaah great article from an excellent author I enjoy reading from. I however disagree with this premise.

    “We do not engage in righteous behavior because we are already pure. We engage in righteous behavior because we hope to be purified.”

    Looking at the backdrop of the article, it seems to suggest many Muslims are dealing with insecurity issues.

    While I agree that some Muslims are over zealous in calling others to the deen… we shouldn’t lose sight that while the methodology may be wrong and flawed, the are often correct in their criticism. Often I see people talk about the “Nosy Uncles” and “Nosy Aunties” but we don’t often talk about what got the “Nosy” people irate in the first place. I havent read your story I would love to inshaallaah.

    But A question I would ask is… Why would some that memorized the Quran… a real Haafidah “fall” for a non-Muslim… She most likely was coerced to memorize or didn’t understand what she’s been memorizing and reading on a daily basis (Retaining Memorized verses is easier than the first memorization). This is a major problem we have… our disconnect with the verses that we read.

    • Sarah says:

      I agree with your statement that ‘memorization without understanding’ is a big problem for Muslims – but saying “Why would a REAL hafidha fall for a non-Muslim” demonstrates the very problem that the author is trying to point out. Why would Allah SWT order us in the Quran to not marry non-Muslims, if this was something SO unthinkable to the everyday Muslim? Also – just because one has memorized the Quran, doesn’t mean that a person cannot get a crush. Crushes are blind – your hormones don’t say “Authubillah! A non-Muslim!”, they say – “Hm, someone attractive who can provide companionship”, whether pursuit of that attraction is right/good in the long run or not.

      • Qasim says:

        Baarkallahu feek Sr Sarah

        An Haafidhah is not an everyday Muslim… Some that have memorized (protected) an Ayaah that says the NonMuslim are impure or has memorized(protected) that marrying a slave is better than a Mushrik, wont fall for a Non-Muslim. Someone that has memorized restraining their gaze and their desires. The key is having memorized and understood what was memorized.

    • ZAI says:

      Br. Qasim,
      I agree with Sarah.
      You’re setting up hafiz e quran e sharif as an abstract ideal.
      They are human beings like anyone else and susceptible to whatever the rest
      of us are. Even if they UNDERSTAND it does not mean they won’t make mistakes or
      just have feelings man. They’re insaan…not robots. Understanding Quran
      has nothing to do with encountering attraction, temptation or any struggle. Ultimately we USE
      Quran and other sources of the deen to overcome the temptations and struggles…doesn’t
      mean we will never have them. Imam Ahmad(R) DIED while combating his ego. Many
      Sahaba made mistakes. That’s what tawba is for.

      I’ve had non-Muslim girls attracted to me, etc….and it if I said knowing the Quran’s
      stance on extra-marital relationships meant I wasn’t tempted, attracted or ever
      considered it, I’d be a liar. Fact that I overcame in the end doesn’t mean it wasn’t
      a struggle or thought never crossed my mind. Quran and hadith are clear that
      only the act is judged as wrong if carried out..and even then there is tawbah.. and thank God for that. Why are
      we expecting angel-like perfection from people?

      • Qasim says:

        Br Zai… An Haafidhah is not an ignoramus….If we read Surah Yusuf, we see that Yusuf was inclined if not for the fact that he didn’t want to be among the Jaahiliyeen.
        As portrayed by the abstract..this had a little more than a mere inclination…
        We cant compare the actions of an ignorant and that or a learned person.

      • Qasim says:

        Additional Br Zai, I’ll understand why non Mulsims are attracted to you… You are Muslim… so you should be Honorable, trustworthy, honest…. all the many desirable qualities in a responsible man.

        What qualities will attract a non-Muslim to an Haafidhah… Kufr?

      • Hyde says:

        Hmm, what Zai is a handsome chap ? Or drives a sports cars ? Or is eloquent in speech ? inclination ? It could be super real attraction and even worse !

  13. Farheen Ghaffar says:

    Jazak’Allah! Needed to read this SO much right now! Love your blog/website. Indeed, Allah knows best the matters of the heart and He alone will judge – what we need to remind ourselves ALL the time.

  14. Mursaleen says:

    Jazak ALLAH for such a Great Article :)

  15. Isa says:

    Thanks Umm Zakiyyah, Inayah’s case definitely applies to many people I know, and your perspective is totally true. Why categorize people as either ‘good Muslim’ or ‘bad Muslim’ when all that does is if you’ve commuted sins that ‘good Muslims’ don’t do then you’re branded as a ‘bad Muslim’ and you fall into a spiral of not caring about sins anymore. People may do many good deeds but will also commit bad ones because they’re human, and we should help each other as best as we can.

  16. […] post Good Muslims Do Bad Things Too appeared first on […]

  17. Kamran Khan says:

    You teach them what you consider the truth but the day will come when they must make their own choices. And sometimes those choices are much different than you choose for yourself!! It hurts like hell to see your children leaving Islam when you fought so hard to become and stay a Muslim. Just remember Guidance comes from Allah!! It is not transfered thru DNA or even a wonderful home enviroment or even an Islamic school.
    People will judge you by what your children do..it does not help!! InshAllah We can be more kind with each other.

  18. simin says:

    Nice…Mashallah.. Really an inspiration fr the younger generations….

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