The Spirit Of Islam
IN a society which trains its citizens in the art and philosophy of achieving instant self-gratification, of becoming thoroughly submerged in one’s own bubble of pleasure, it becomes dangerously difficult for one to develop a world consciousness and concern for others. The intensity of this struggle is signified by the fact that one has to cultivate his concern for society without the help of society, and consequently, many will often be left aside to froth around in the artificial sands of their own world. Yet, for the most part, that world too is not even their own, and is rather the mass amalgamation of what the rest of the world, as they know it, appearing important and popular in the eyes of other people (assisted through mediums such as Facebook), to engaging in intense debates on the most frivolous of issues that have no actual connection to their own life (including sports), their mind and efforts become wholly tied in a struggle and existence that is not theirs.
Although there are profound exceptions to the portrait painted in the first paragraph, it can be said that instant self-gratification is certainly one of the loudest messages sent out by American culture. Indeed, the lingua franca of popular American culture is actually the entertainment industry with all its various manifestations. The stars who dominate the scene are envied in almost all aspects of their lives, and Americans will feel proud to buy their expensive memorabilia. This is not to say that all Americans have souls made of plastic, as indeed the world does poke holes in their bubbles of life and pleasure – but still, the ubiquity of the concept of (superficial) fun, as manifested in almost all aspects of society, from social networking to buying cars to even finding love, (as promoted by the equally superficial medium of television and visual imagery, which depends more on arousing our base instincts than appealing to rationality) significantly indicates the level of importance Americans attach to the concept of fun, as well as how vulnerable they themselves are to such stimuli.
Tragically, the Muslim community is not immune to such inhibiting cultural influences. The first wave of immigrants, indeed, mostly came to fulfil this very quest, to find the material success that was glamorised for so long in their own home countries. Yet there were a few who actually were passionate for the Muslim community and from their Herculean efforts, Islam managed to strengthen as their children were born. Now, as they themselves begin to recede back into old age and return slowly to their Creator, it is their children who are starting to assume responsibility and control the affairs of their communities. Though the older generation still retains a key grip, it should not be long before that too subsides, and leaves the world to their children. Yet for the Muslim world to progress forward, these children will also have to move past the thinking that has plagued most of the elder generation, as well as overcome the new challenges presented by alien culture.
Muslims, in their zeal to ‘integrate’ often become afflicted with the same disorders as other Americans do. Our attitudes towards love are a clear example of our succumbing to the power of fun. Why does love have to be fun? Tying love with fun actually severely handicaps the power of love, as exemplified by our difficulty in loving someone for the sake of Allah. This often extends dangerously towards our level of love towards Allah and His messenger (PBUH) – how many times do we lose concentration because we are ‘bored’ in prayer? This attitude also extends to our love of the Muslim world: one can gauge the seriousness of the issue by simply looking at how deeply Islamic charities nowadays depend on holding concerts for raising funds for humanitarian causes, and how they sadly have big name Muslim celebrities entertain the Muslim crowds, in order to squeeze out money from the pockets of Muslims.
Social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter serve as another example of this phenomenon. The ideas of fun, frivolity, redundancy, and sheer narcissism promoted by these sites completely redefine our attitudes towards our lives. Before Facebook, one could feel perfectly content to have a sum total of dozen or more friends–but now, 12 looks likes a terrifyingly tiny number, and can become a cause for losing self-esteem. Yet if a person has a thousand friends, they will feel like an accomplished person of great importance and relevance, even if they are doing nothing on the grander scale of contributing to humanity or serving God. The “like” feature also ties into the same concept, serving as nothing more than fuel for narcissists on their personal pages. In essence, Muslims need to be aware of the inherent orientations of the tools they use, and realise that technology, just like ‘culture,’ is not as neutral as it may sometimes seem to be – and to embrace everything in the zeal to ‘integrate’ may not be in the best interests of the Muslim world.
If one truly believes in Islam as a whole, one must believe that the needs of the Muslim world supersede his or her own needs. Our enormous energies and talents deserve not to be wasted away in corporate offices, but rather in the service of the greater good of humanity. Becoming doctors, engineers, or accountants is certainly not inherently wrong- but we must realise that building the character of a nation, that curing them of spiritual diseases, is much harder and requires ten times more resources than building the infrastructure of a nation. Obviously, as long as the bulk of all individual energies are being used to secure personal careers, Muslims on a whole will never tap into their potential to bring reform and prosperity. Islam, though, is not meant to be taken up as a hobby, but as a life calling – and until we forgo our individualistic dreams and build grander dreams for the Muslim world, one cannot have high expectations for the future. This is the fundamental mistake made by Muslims today, and in reality, it is this mistake that threatens ruin and destruction on the Muslim community. — Courtesy: Albalagh.com