Monday, February 07, 2011

The Muslim-ness Measure

I sometimes wish there was a scale. Like the bathroom scale. Or like measuring in grams or litres. A measure where we could determine the Muslim-ness of a person. So we’d get up in the morning. Hop onto our Muslim-ness scales and gauge.

Hmmm… yesterday, I spoke 1 lie. That lost me 2 Muslim-ness kilos. BUT I gave a beeeg sadaqah! Yaaayyyyy! Back on track!

It would make life so easy, not so?
People with high Muslim-ness ratings would set up exclusive clubs.
Admission criterion: 100 Muslim-ness kilos and over only.

But wait, even without this scale, we have these exclusive groups. And even without an ‘Actual scale’ we have our mental checklist that gets ticked off every time we meet a person.
For a man:
 Beard
 Kurta
 Pants above ankles
 Namaaz mark

Or in the case of a woman:
 Scarf (dupatta = bonus points)
 Decently covered (cloak = double whammy bonus)
 Niqaab (triple whammy bonus *comes with a voice that says “you are guided, sistah’*)
Note : even among niqaabis there are degrees. The latest trend being a jilbaab and dupatta artfully draped over the head. Very stylish ;)

Yes, I know, I sound sarcastic. Even a little bitter. And perhaps, yes, I am. But see, I was once there. Comfortably enrobed in my .25 m² of extra fabric in the form of a niqaab. Looking down my long nose at people who walked around without a scarf on their heads. Making dua for their hidayat. Even as I sported a range of spiritual ills of my own. Really, what right did I have to make decisions regarding their level of Allah consciousness? And that too, based on what they didn’t look like?

Okay, rewind here. What prompted this post?
An argument. A very messy one with a friend about a post on FB. A post where the discussion veered from why Imams need not bother mention Egypt in Jumu’ah khutbahs to the importance of Sunnah. And people’s attitude regarding sunnah.

The argument was put out that today we have relegated sunnah to the back burner. That people have no regard for, no respect for sunnah. The beard was singled out for special attention. The true mark of a Believer! The thing that sets us apart from the Fire-worshippers (so it was said – though I was tempted to point out the orthodox Jews pride themselves on keeping big beards too).

It was further said that it was pointless for our Imams to discuss Egypt in their khutbahs when we have Muslims turning Murtad. And that should be given primary attention.

I bristled at these comments (okay, that’s a euphemism - I became pretty confrontational).

See, at no point would I ever be dismissive of the importance of Sunnah. It is an expression of our love for Allah and by extension, of Nabi SAW. BUT, it is NOT all of Deen. And to ostracise someone because of the length of their beard, to bring it on par with Fardh is a South African illness. To take it as the mark real Muslim is for me, a prime example of South African “Appearance Fixation”. Men have been refused Imaamat in our Masaajid because they have beards that cannot grow!

Allah says in the Noble Quraan:

فَلاَ تُزَكُّواْ أَنفُسَكُمْ هُوَ أَعْلَمُ بِمَنِاتَّقَى

So, ascribe not purity to yourselves. He knows best him who has Taqwa
Surah 53 – Verse 32
And what is this Appearance Fixation, other than us feeding our already bloated egos? Revelling in how “guided” we are, compared to the misguided masses.
Does it not make us think when we see people who boasted none of the external ‘signs’ of ‘Piety’ being granted blessed deaths? Do we not question the value of these “external’ signs when we find an e-mail in our inboxes where a Muslim man, mubaarak grey beard, in full “Islamic regalia’, getting ‘some’ from a hooker in a side street somewhere, ‘unlucky’ enough to have been caught on camera.
Surely, the change begins within. Surely our Muslim-ness is about much more than what we look like.

Friday, February 04, 2011


i try to make myself real
pretend i have an anchor
tethered to the earth
even as i feel myself drift
hover above life
pretend i'm living it

yet the me i knew
she lived
through you
for you

And this woman
who's inhabited her body
would seek to deny you
pretend that you
never touched her soul

held it in your hand
held it to your own
and seen
how the lines
so perfectly
they fit