The Mawlid and the 5 Ms of Confusion: Overcoming Theological Complexes in Our Community

We live in turbulent times— there’s no doubt about that. Yet in this era of confusion, we’re witnessing a moment of revival for Muslims when it comes to religion— not just as individuals but also as communities.

We see many returning to the faith, others entering the faith, and even more so, many are battling to understand where they fit within the faith. In an age where  people of all faiths are seeking answers on how to balance the complexities of life and what role religion plays, Muslims are also increasingly trying to see how their faith can bring them such balance. When seeking answers to questions of how to balance life in a modern context, how can we stay true to the principles of our faith in its practice? The “R word” is often thrown around – relevance.

Oftentimes, these questions are more like reverberations of a deeper rooted scream of desperation to understand, “How do I live?” Let’s not lie, it’s a hard process. We’re all trying to stomach how we can be functional Muslims. Heck, even writing the first few sentences in this article spiked my blood pressure. We all have this anxiety. We all feel it.

But, maybe we’re not adjusting properly. Maybe our shortsightedness constantly blurs the bigger picture. Maybe in the process of focusing on mechanics, we lose functionality. And maybe, at other times, we delve into metaphysics to such an extent, we lose sight of workability. Maybe we collectively get so worked up over discrepancies, that we forget the purpose is to in fact … enjoy Islam.

Perhaps for many of us the practice of Islam we are following may not be based on a correct application of its essence, but rather has become a religion of complexes.

In the Pursuit of Islam

Islam is easy.

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Come on, in how many contexts have we heard this statement? “Islam came to bring ease and remove hardship; Islam came to remove difficulty; Islam’s practice is meant to be simple.” What does all this really mean?

More importantly, how should we understand it?

Theological Complexes

Based on how Muslims go about seeking these answers, it is apparent that segments of our community do a poor job of empowering its members to understand their individual roles and responsibilities when it comes to practicing their faith. People often don’t have any guidelines about how, what, and whom to ask.

In addition, we as Muslims have a tendency to make Islam about “issues,” rather than impart a narrative so anchored in understanding that the issues are only a means to achieving the objectives of Islam, that the issues don’t become our theology.

For many of us, unfortunately, it has become the opposite. Our Islam revolves around a theology of complexes. A theology of arguing over issues These issues have become our faith rather than a means to fulfilling our faith.

I call this theology of complexes and the issues many have convoluted with the faith of Islam the 5 Ms of confusion.

The 5 Ms of Confusion

In our time where communication is built around constant social interaction, we’ve seen that this theology of complexes is magnified. It’s everywhere, among Muslims of different backgrounds, locations, and demographics. Year in and year out, we see the same complexes around the same issues. We see arguments, heated debate, trolling, sectarianism, and complete engrossment of said issue to such an extent that the purpose of Islam’s injunction behind the issue is completely lost. This is something we all witness (if you haven’t, just look at the comments section of any article, YouTube video, Facebook post, or Twitter discussion).

The 5 Ms:

  1. Meat – The issues of halal, zabiha, ingredients, and molecules. Does the pursuit of pleasing our Creator by wanting to digest what He’s permitted call for heated excommunications of Muslims who don’t choose to grill their burgers with meat from the same source we use?
  2. Mawlid – Does our love for the Prophet (peace be upon him) call us to hate others based on how we love him? Does this make sense to you?
  3. Marriage – Does the way we seek to balance our culture with our faith really call for us to have tribal/urban wars with families/parents/between genders on gender relations and marriage issues?
  4. Madhabs – Is the way in which we practice Islam according to a particular juristic school of thought call for us to harbor enmity toward others who follow a different, but just as valid, scholarly method?
  5. Moon-sighting – Does the approach we choose to commemorate our holiest of days call for disparaging those that don’t choose to sight the moon the way we do? As Ramadan nears and “moon-fighting” erupts, does this really embody the experience of this amazing spiritual month? Does it fulfill its spirit when we begin and end it in such tasteless discourse?

I’ve only chosen to include these 5 Ms, but there are definitely more. I chose to call them the “5 Ms of Confusion” because these particular issues are constantly highlighted in our communities as reasons why Muslims disparage one another. No doubt, there is an incredible amount of intra-faith disagreement, disparagement, and unneeded argumentation amongst Muslims over these issues.

The reality is that, for many, these issues have become Islam to the extent that there is an ideological war waged over them. Islam, in fact, is against this ideology of resentment and blame over issues with valid differences of opinion. Period.
Those who take part in any way, shape, or form in dividing Muslims along these issues have lost the plot, missed the boat, live on a different planet, need a new eye prescription, hit the tree and missed the forest, focused on the ink mark instead of the painting, failed the test, and undeniably… still don’t understand the objectives and purpose of Islam.

 

The Blame?

The blame, no doubt, goes back to all of us: regular people, teachers, and institutions. Although each of us have a portion of blame, there’s certainly more blame on those who should know better— teachers and institutions.
It’s a shame that any Muslim is involved in causing rifts based on these issues, but it’s a greater disaster when teachers of Islam, who should know better, who supposedly  have gone through the formal training so as to not engage their congregations, students, and Muslims at large in this theology of complexes, do so.


Causes

Firstly, let’s not disregard people’s efforts. Much thanks, appreciation, and prayers are owed and go out to all those sacrificing and constantly striving to disseminate the message of Islam. Our moral standard doesn’t call for negating people’s achievements, sacrifices, and service to the faith due to some shortcomings or mistakes. Our ethos is above and beyond that.

In fact, it’s an integral part of our faith to address shortcomings with sincere advice and prayer and not question people’s sincerity and intentions. This advice goes to ourselves before anyone. Our purpose is to bring awareness of a collective responsibility. We are more in need of rectifying our mistakes before we look to the mistakes of others, especially those who have outlived us in service of the faith, sacrificed more than we can imagine, and been blessed by God. We may critique a few shortcomings only apparent to us, whereas their actions and deeds in the sight of God outweigh these shortcomings in spades. Let us not lose sight of that, let us remain humble. May God bless those working tirelessly in the service of faith, elevate their status, rectify their faults, and benefit others through them.

Criticism of a segment does not negate the good work that others are doing with excellence. God keep you strong and bless you. The criticisms that will follow are a way for us to build and grow as a community, and do not negate the appreciation and realization of struggles. With that said, some of the causes for these theological complexes go back to the following:

As teachers and institutions: We have a serious shortcoming in imparting true Quranic teachings of the holistic objectives of Islam in our message through the Prophetic example. We don’t emphasize the purpose of rituals in our teaching. We falter in highlighting what will increase the quality of our worship. We don’t stress enough the importance of the ethics of interaction and building upright moral character. We fall short in leading by example through our actions, in defining unity. In short, we teach the ‘how’ with the ‘why’, in an imbalanced way. So when the discussions come around teaching these particular five issues, we must impart the understanding that they are a part of a whole – the meaning of Islam isn’t fulfilled except by respecting what is valid, understanding what is not, and learning to deal with fellow Muslims over differences that are not reconcilable.

Some of us have lost people to the mechanics of Islam, where the infinite minutiae is taught but the objective is lost. Others have lost people in the metaphysics, seeking to instill the spirit of Islam without true practical guidance, causing people to follow a ghost, rather than the spirit they claim to be seeking. Both of these extremes have led to name calling, partisanship, and cult mentality among people who otherwise theologically agree on orthodoxy.

We struggle to teach and instill the proper Islamic concepts of discipline (tarbiyah) and self rectification (islah and tazkiyah). We lack true genuineness when it comes to disagreeing.  We have instead instilled in our students and congregations a ‘movement mentality,’ where our Islam is according to a particular movement. Some of have even taught disparagement of those Muslims with whom they disagree.

And there’s much more.

A good example of  how to correctly deal with the issue of the Mawlid was exemplified by a great scholar who taught the matter academically and discussed all the relevant evidence used to debate the legislative merit of holding a feast and celebrating the birth of the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). He ended with one single beautiful comment,  “It’s impossible that any person who has faith in Islam, love of God and His Messenger, and seeks to be in their companionship, that these days go by and they not feel that expression of love and sincere longing for the Prophet (peace be upon him), regardless of whether they attend a celebration. These days are unlike any other days when a person reflects over them and in the heart of someone who is attached to his beloved, the Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him).’‘

As regular people, we need to learn how to ask questions. We need to learn how to have the patience and perseverance to seek out knowledge regarding our faith systematically as well as the etiquette in doing so. We need to invest in ourselves to build our characters and moral standards. We need to learn how to solicit our scholars, understand our roles, and know our responsibilities. We need to stop wasting energy complaining, being apathetic and negative, and constantly criticizing, with no regard to etiquette or understanding.

We need to know how to be instruments  of change. We need to know how to empower ourselves so we do not live in the dichotomy of ‘masjid life’ and  normal life. We need to reach out to our families, friends, co-workers, communities, and neighbors. When we seek to hold others responsible for their failures, we should also hold ourselves accountable. We need to understand how to define  religious authority: who is a teacher, who is a scholar, and who is qualified to give fatwa?

Islam does not have a clergy. The faith, in fact, obligates seeking knowledge at an individual level and highly encourages fulfilling the needs of the community by seeking deeper scholarship. That said, most people are not qualified to have in-depth scholarly discussions on detailed issues. The reality is  there is religious authority in Islam which must meet  one condition – one must have the requisite level of knowledge.

The irony is, as a society, we accept the right to choose specialists in any field. We even seek to understand what’s related to our needs in their fields when we petition them, and we actively engage with them. Yet, we understand that there is a limit to our depth of knowledge. We realize that at some point in the discussion we don’t have the qualification to understand the minute details in the final recommendations they make for us. We do our research, ask them until we’ve established trust, and accept their recommendations. We do this with doctors, engineers, financial and psychiatric counseling, and more. Ironically, we don’t exercise this same process when it comes to Islamic issues.

We often don’t even know how to differentiate between those who are teachers and the scholars who should be petitioned. Not every person teaching Islam, preaching Islam, or representing Islam is qualified to give religious guidance on these issues (called fatwa). What’s even more ironic is that, in Islam, conditions of scholarship, etiquette of seeking answers, and the responsibilities and roles of the person asking as well as the one giving the answer, are all clearly defined.  It’s just a matter of us attempting to understand ourrights and responsibilities.

Notice that in the first category I used the word teachers and not scholars. It’s become a habit for many of us to criticize all of scholarship and the work being done by all religious authorities with no-holds-barred criticism.

Not to exonerate scholars from their responsibilities, but the reality is that the burden scholars face in the sight of God outweighs all others. Islamic scholars (‘ulama) are defined as those that not only speak with outlined qualifications, but also lead by example when giving religious direction. They are people of God who balance the needs of people by directing them to benefit, and not taking them away from the essence of faith. They are those who direct people to application, never lose sight of objectives, take into consideration individual circumstances and social context, and cater to the specific and unique experiences of each individual. Most importantly, they have the requisite level of knowledge. Oftentimes we do not consider that the speakers and teachers in front of us are there to remind us of or teach us what is needed. If we, as a community, fail to seek appropriate scholarship, we are just as responsible for failure as those who answer our questions without proper qualifications.

The Way Forward

We have to recognize that the masses are led by ideologies disseminated by institutions and teachers. The source of the disarray that we see definitely has historical background outside the scope of this particular article. Some of the important factors nonetheless have been highlighted, and it is clear  that we, as a community, should no longer accept a dissemination of a theology of disparagement, a theology of complexes. We, as a community, have to understand how to disagree. We have to understand the difference between valid disagreement and unorthodoxy — which should not be accepted regardless of who supports it.

This starts, first and foremost, with people understanding their rights, responsibilities, and how to solicit scholars who are qualified when asking questions regarding their faith. This is outlined by scholars in books dedicated to the Etiquettes of Soliciting Fatwa.

Next Page Ten Points for People Asking Questions:

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15 responses to “The Mawlid and the 5 Ms of Confusion: Overcoming Theological Complexes in Our Community”

  1. Avatar GregAbdul says:

    May Allah forgive me, but we need to be honest. there is no group of Muslims hating other Muslims because they do not celebrate Mawlid. There are some intolerant Hanafis, but most, if they are educated are not. Non Muslims love to jump on Salafis and I met a brother who was so good and he was Salafi so I don’t like to say they are all bad, but there are many of them off the deep end and totally in love with all things Saudi. It’s like the Shia. If someone is hating you, but you are not hating them or what they like, it’s not fair to call the disagreement two-sided.

    • Avatar Mustafa says:

      Shia, Sufi, Barelvi and so on. The all commit practices I consider deviated(like Mawlid). But in this age where the best to walk the earth is more slandered and abused then ever before I can’t help but appreciate the intention behind what they do. As wrong as I consider them I recognize we are brethren of one Ummah who testify la ilaha illAllah Muhammadur Rasulullah, we pray salah in a similar form to the Messenger sallahualayhiwasalam in the direction of the Qibla and agree on the basics like the finality of Islam, it being the only path to Jannah along with deeds to accompany it.

      In this age of tribulation and strife I think one way forward is to show Allah “I united with other Muslims on every front possible.” Where we can agree, lets remain in agreement and thank Allah we haven’t disagreed further than it. I recently read that there are something like 40 thousand(yes 40k!!!) different Christian groups. Alhamdulilah we have far fewer disagreements and when we do disagree it is usually over issues that aren’t of the absolute minimum.

      There isn’t any doubt that these are all serious issues because everything legislated by Allah is a serious matter. But so is unity and if we can tell Allah “we did the minimum required we were commanded by you to stick together” then that’s one more responsibility we fulfilled before the we leave the earth.

      We Muslims are commanded to obey Allah and His Messenger and that Muslims are passionate about these issues is no doubt a good thing insha Allah because it’s coming from a good place. The 5 M’s all have to do with what Allah and His Messenger commanded. However sticking together and unity is from the commandments of Allah and His Messenger so where we agree on the truth we ought to stick together.

      May Allah guide us and save us from all evil!!!

      • Avatar Jamshed Hasan says:

        Assalamu Alaikum,
        Ya Nabi Salam- Alaika for everyday.. every moment of our time…as Allah and His Angels are sending Durud and Salam all time….with all respect and love.. Mohammad SAW is the Mercy of Creation…
        Sura Al-Azhab – Ayat 56, please read and research , Mawlid, Reciting durud, Kiyam, Nasid, any praising, Salam, durud is for everyday , we should fast on every Monday as this is great Sunnah as well.
        ” Inna Allaha wamalaikatahu yusalloona AAala alnnabiyyi ya ayyuha allatheena amanoo salloo AAalayhi wasallimoo tasleeman”

        Meaing: Undoubtedly, Allah and His angels send blessings on the prophet the Communicator of unseen news, O you who believe! Send upon him blessings and salute him fully well in abundance.

        English (Yusuf Ali): (Recite)
        33:56 Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect.

  2. Avatar Mahamoud Haji says:

    Jazakallah Kheir Brother Hasib. Weighty matter indeed in an age of confusion, intolerance and labeling. Ultimately it is the seeking of true knowledge with the aid of Allah, and not blind following, that will free us. May Allah guide us to the right path.

  3. Avatar Habeeb says:

    We are Muslims Canadians and love and respect all Muslims alike and tolerant to all faiths and cultures alike like Madina. Thanks

  4. Avatar FM says:

    You lost me as soon as you started to preach that thorny “who has authority” and then lamenting lay Muskkms like me on our shortcomings. We hear this everyday anyway. What we need is questioning of “authorities” on promoting cult like thinking. What do you do when one “authority” says that the other “authority” actually has no authority? How do we know who do we trust?
    Yes, we need specialties and we go to professionals to seek answers when we need them as you stated in your piece but we are not legally or morally bound to accept their professional advices. They are no “go between” between us and a supreme being.
    Just two days ago I read the fatwa from a very respected looking scholar that those who celebrate Mawlid are evil and Satanic. Now, I am against celebrating Mawlid as well but just as overwhelming majority of lay Muslkms do in these situations, I do not have any problem with those who do. In fact, I have attended quite a few on the invitation of friends who do celebrate. So now based on the evidence from this scholarly opinion, I am supposed to believe that those who are celebrating Mawlid are evil and satanic? Okay, I won’t but there will be many others who will. And do I have the right to challenge this scholarly authority? Or I would be told in step 1 that “you do not have the authority” or “you cannot understand the deen because you do not possess the KNOWLEDGE, so you should surrender to this fatwa”. What is the mechanism for lay people like us to challenge the authorities? And are they ever taught to listen to these challenges with open mindedness even if it means questioning what they have believed?
    i can go on and on but the point is that no real change can come in the Muslim community until either the authorities change or the community makes them accountable for what they say and how they act without the fear of being called “kafir” or “astray Muslim” (later is only a kinder way of saying the former), or in worst cases, fear of getting a permit to hell by a so called riteous Muslim who wouldn’t mind taking the fatwa against you to the next level where you don’t deserve to live anymore.
    I hope this will be published but I have my doubts based on past experiences :)

    • Avatar Mustafa Mahmud says:

      Fuqaha are not what they used to be. Nowadays an actual heresy will run rampant and some daees, scholars will be ranting about raf ya dayn which is a fiqh issue or mawlid which they strongly believe to be innovative.

      On Al Jumuah (website) there is a good article on how it is absurd to blame laymen alone and excuse certain members of the religious classes.

      • Avatar Mustafa Mahmud says:

        BTW I strongly believe Mawlid should be avoided but subhanAllah we’ve got an onslaught of kuffar telling us to not give our Messenger his due status, to abandon Sharia to believe that they can go to Jannah and more.

        Refute mawlid raf ya dayn or whatever. But for God sake take some time out to talk about what is actually relevant and of far greater severity(kufr vs bidah it isn’t hard to tell.)

  5. Avatar Yacoob Vahed says:

    I think it was Ali (RA) who said that when people know a little about something they concentrate on the minor issues.
    Let’s look at the Bigger Picture always – we will then learn to appreciate the good and leave out the small differences with respect and dignity. We should however always strive to practice evidence-based Islam but always remember the TOLERANCE and CHARACTER of the Prophet (SAW) when guiding others. Let’s have Mercy unto one another and unite against the Kuffaar as the Quraan instructs us to do. Look at the overall good in the Muslim and inshaAllah he/she will learn from you without your instructions.

  6. Avatar Steven says:

    Perhaps the problem is that so many people are seeking to learn about the religion in order to use it to chastise others instead of learning it to increase their chances of entering paradise. If we really wanted to make it into paradise we would never, with all our faults, have the time to worry about what others are doing.

    • Avatar M.Mahmud says:

      Muslims are commanded to simultaneously enjoin on what is right and forbid what it wrong, to affirm what is true and to reject what is false, all while fearing for ourselves and for others.

      This is the way of the Messengers and whoever followed guidance.

  7. Avatar javaid says:

    I was relatively tolerant of Mawlid even though I considered it a Bidah. I was tolerant because I thought to myself that they do it for the love of Prophet(sa) and because we had more things to worry about.

    But I realized that Mawlid celebrations are getting insane by every passing year with huge cakes, models of Madinah, disco songs, even inviting women-dancers and what not. Now I think that Mawlid is a Munkar which must be warned against and stopped. Not just ignored.

    Another fact to mention is that some people quote Ibn Hajar Asqalani and others, even by their standards and by the standards of the genuine classical scholars who allow this, the Mawlid of today is a far bigger deal and clearly a Munkar.

    • Avatar Ghufran Ali Muzaffar says:

      Its a great blog and really leraned alot from this blog. I think Their is another M you should include and that is “Money”. Which is the biggest cause for discrimination between different sects and culture

  8. Avatar Ali says:

    As Salaamu Alaikum

    The Purpose of the Kuffar was to divide and conquer and they have successfully done so!
    As we see the Muslims being constantly defeated by the western forces today, as well constantly arguing amongst one another!

    The current Saud Family is a tribal Family put in power by the Kuffar, remember that tribalism is forbidden in Islam, the split began with Abdul ibn Wahhab, he was the one who caused the rift which lead to the Ottomans leaving Arabia and the beginning of the SalafI movement.

    If Islam was the way the Saudis are running the blessed Cities than Nabi Muhammad (saw) would have elected Hazrath Ali as the 1st Caliph and it would have stayed within the family of Muhammad peace be upon upon.

    Islam is about Just and fairness not who has the most money will be in power!

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