One of the best and most invaluable lessons from my childhood is: tolerance. My parents had a very strict rule, in that, we were not allowed to ask the religion of our classmates and friends. During my younger years, I followed this rule just because it had to be followed. All these years later, I realise how important that lesson was. By not asking, I stopped caring about how ‘different’ my classmates were. This made me neutral and more tolerant of other people and the choices they make with their lives.In the current context, it’s a much more relevant quality than ever. Since 9/11, when being a Muslim was enough to bring you under the spotlight, I have observed so much. The staunch believers, the moderates and the liberals. At this point, I don’t want to address what others think about us as Muslims, but I am writing this post to talk to the Muslims, to shake them up and say: what’s wrong with you? These days, it is challenging to find people with a balanced view and who don’t attack or judge you for who you are. I find Muslims these days to be either too ‘open-minded’ or too ‘close-minded’. Most are either the liberals: people who merge themselves in a crowd, do as others do and consider themselves ‘modern’ and open-minded. They do the obvious lifestyle don’ts: eat pork, gamble, and drink alcohol. On the other side of this argument are those people who cannot stop lecturing you on Islam. They have a way of making you feel guilty if you don’t insert a religious phrase after every two words and if you don’t cover yourself up in a shroud, and thread your eyebrows. Many of you will agree with my classifications and many of you won’t. What have I just done? I have judged people too. This is precisely the mistake that we all make. The answer is very simple: we need to return to basics. We need to focus on being a good human being; embrace those qualities that sound so boring–kindness, forgiveness, good speech, refrain from backbiting and judging people. It’s easy to shrug this off but in reality, it is incredibly difficult to be a good person. It’s much easier to be the opposite. Yesterday on TV, an Islamic scholar said: “Praying five times will not take you to heaven. If you are a bad person outside your prayer times, you will be a bad person even while praying. If you’re a bad person outside the mosque, you are a bad person inside the mosque too.” I think this sums up everything that we are doing wrong. People indulge in black magic, killings, rape, theft, bribery and all forms of injustice, but they think that they are a great Muslim at heart because they give Zakah (alms) and pray five times a day. To qualify as a Muslim, you need to be a better person first. You cannot smother others with religious choices that you have made for yourself. Please stop being those people who pull daggers out just because THEY think that Islam disagrees with it. And even if Islam does disagree with it, you have no right to attack anyone for it. Let’s preach within before we preach outside. Religion is a personal journey. You are never perfect in it at any point. We change with circumstances and it causes fluctuations in our belief system as well. So, instead of pointing at someone and accusing them of not being a ‘good enough’ Muslim, why not give them their space to learn, realise and embrace the religion to fit their lives?
The sad state of our times is that despite having our religious values, we are still headed towards the Dark Ages. For a religion that pulled us out of it, it is abysmal to know we are doing the reverse.Live and let live. That’s the new mantra for Muslims.