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What Kindof MuslimAm I

Posted by Ginny on November 22, 2009

Assalamu alaikum, Iíve been doing a lot of thinking about what kind of a Muslim I am. Or, I should say, what kind of a person I am. Muslim only being part of that. The thing is, I have a way of seeing both sides of things, of seeing the gray area, of seeing the nuances in things. Perhaps thatís why the one-size-fits-all approach to Islam that some people have, or the Salafi/Wahhabi strain of Islam, with its attendant harshness and severity, and lack of flexibility, never appealed to me. Though at the same time, itíd not be fair to clasify me as some kinda liberal Muslim who is watering down the religion either. Though Iím sure some would put me in that cateogry and thatís OK.

See, some things, Iíd be considered to be a Liberal on (such as issues of social justice), whereas with other things, Iím quite Conservative, and then I have an opinion that says that maybe for me itís not OK, but for someone else, that opinion might be different. There are many issues like that. For example, I think abortion generally is wrong, except in cases where the life of the mother is in danger, and possibly in cases of rape or incest. I donít, however, think that abortion should be freely available to anyone who wants it. Having said that, though, Iím not going to go on any kind of pro-life march, Iím not going to picket abortion clinics, and Iím not going to seek to change the laws one way or another. I just donít feel the need to do that, as at this point, my opinions donít fit into either of the camps campaigning on either side for a change to the law as it stands now.

Homosexuality is another topic that I kind of have a nuanced view on, because itís obviously not right, so Iím not going to campaign for gay marriage, but Iím also not going to be a vigilante and try to find out what people are doing in their own bedrooms either. And I also donít think people should be targeted for being gay either. Because until our country truly becomes a ďChristianĒ or some other ďreligiousĒ country, and while weíre a secular nation, people can pretty much do what they want.

But I canít support gay marriage on religious grounds. I just canít, and I can see where that issue is compared to the civil rights issue, etc., but I just donít agree with that, except if youíre talking about violence or discrimination against gays, then perhaps I could get behind that. But saying that preventing anyone other than a man and a woman from getting married should be a civil rights issue, and is an act of discrimination in and of itself, I donít agree with. Saying that you donít think that homosexuals should be mistreated is not the same as saying you support gay marriage. Just as saying that Muslims in the military should be supported, or that what Nidal Hasan did was dispicable, is not the same as saying that itís OK or encouraged for Muslims to serve in the military, and I donít know of any Muslims who are actually encouraging Muslims to serve in the military. As I said in my previous post, Iíd like to know who has said this and on what show so I can look it up. And as Iíve also said before, given that you have many US military installations in so-called ďMuslim landsĒ, it doesnít make the issue as cut-and-dry as it would seem to appear to be.

I also donít have some kinda narrow definition of manhood or womanhood thatís based on my neighborhood, upbringing or what the latest pop or rap song tells me it should be. And then try to apply that to Islam. If some of the Mothers of the Believers (may Allah reward them all) fought in battles, and if the Prophet (peace be upon him) was reported to have helped with the household chores, then who am I to go around accusing other Muslims of not being man enough, or being too feminine. My husband does the majority of the cooking in this house, and farbeit for me or anyone else, for that matter, to question his manhood just because he cooks. I think before we talk about what being a ďmanĒ is and what being a ďwomanĒ is, we need to get to the heart of what weíre talking about. Because sometimes you have very emotional men, and sometimes you have very stoic women, that doesnít mean that thereís something wrong with them, and it most certainly doesnít mean theyíre ďgayĒ.

And while Iím aware of Al Fatiha (the gay Muslim group) and certain ďprogressiveĒ Muslims, I donít think they represent the majority of the Muslim community, anymore than the extremists do. And while some media outlets may give them a voice that isnít proportional to their influence in the community, it doesnít mean that theyíre taking hold or taking over or anything else. And groups like Zaytuna, etc., are not ďprogressiveĒ in the sense that they want to water down Islam, they donít condone homosexuality (though it seems many want to hold on to this falacy even though itís been proven to be patently false), etc., and if there are any ďgay MuslimsĒ at the ďwhite house iftarĒ, Iím certainly not aware of it. Perhaps groups like Zaytuna realize the world we live in, that while they donít want to water down the religion, that perhaps talking about Jihad all of the time might not be such a good idea, given the climate that we find ourselves in and given the weak state of the Muslim Ummah in this day and age! This doesnít mean that theyíre hiding the truth or not speaking the truth, itís just that, well, how can we fight any kind of Jihad when our own souls and communities are in such a shambles (remember weíve got the ďkuffarĒ in ďMuslim landsĒ no doubt). What good is talking about ďjihadĒ when it would make things worse for the Muslims? Perhaps that is the angle that it should be looked at, and not from the ďoh those Muslims are just a bunch of feminized and/or gay Muslims who want to water down Islam to make it pallitable to George W. Bush and the Rand Corporation, etc.)

Anyway, I digress. So anyway, here is the kind of Muslim I amÖ I am a Muslim who strives to adhere to the Qurían and Sunnah the best way I know how. I strive to perfect my character and purify my heart the best way I can. I do this by following Maliki fiqh, and a tariqa, though the tariqa part isnít necessary but optional (and as far as Iím concerned the madhhab part is optional too, though based on those Iíve asked and my limited research, I have come to the understanding that itís necessary). And just because I do the above doesnít mean Iím somehow trying to water down or ignore the Qurían and Sunnah, itís just that I donít have the knowledge to make rulings for myself so I defer to those who have that knowledge, in issues that I donít have the answer for. And Muslims serving in the military is but one example of one of those answers that I donít feel I can make a ruling on.

I am the kind of Muslim who thinks that celebrating non-Muslim holidays isnít necessarily haram either, as long as said holiday doesnít have a religious connotation to it. For example, Iím getting ready to celebrate Thanksgiving on Thursday (in fact Iíve been planning the menu today, Iím having turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, rolls and pumpkin pie). Now I understand why some would not celebrate such a day given its history, but I tend to look at it as a day to spend with friends and family, to take time to give thanks for what I have, for what Allah has given me (and I sheepishly have to admit that I also get to eat a bunch of food and watch football, too), and I canít see how that could be wrong/a bad thing. Now of course, Iím not going to celebrate Christmas, Easter, Valentineís Day, or Halloween. Again, providing perspective is key here. If you feel that you yourself shouldnít celebrate a certain holiday, then donít. But in areas where there may be a difference of opinion on the issue, why canít we just live and let live, and let those who celebrate, celebrate, and those who donít, donít. But thatís just something that some of us Muslims canít do. We donít feel quite right unless weíre ďharam-ingĒ someone, ďtakfir-ingĒ someone, ďkuffar-ingĒ someone, or otherwise issuing cyber/insta-fatwas to one and all, with absolutely no knowledge or qualification to do so. Some of us canít be satisfied unless weíre sticking our fingers in someone elseís plate, so to speak.

And perhaps thatís why I donít know about supposedly all of the Muslims whoíve been going around on all of the TV/radio programs telling Muslims itís OK to serve in the US military, or about the ďgay Muslims at the white house iftarĒ, because Iíve just not been paying attention. Iíve kinda been busy and stressed with work, Iíve been dealing with my own issues of self-esteem, self-worth, etc., the same issues Iíve always struggled with. Iíve been completely dissatisfied with myself lately. Because Iíve completely lost the spiritual progress that Iíd made during Ramadan. Iíve been struggling with a lowness in Iman lately, though Alhamdulillah itís gotten much better. Basically, Iíve kinda been too busy to notice what other Muslims were doing, and I tried to ignore what Nidal Hasan did, because honestly, take the ďMuslimĒ out of it and he just seems to be a man who had severe mental issues that unfortunately werenít dealt with soon enough to prevent the injury and loss of life that ended up happening. ďIslamĒ or ďbeing a MuslimĒ doesnít seem to have much to do with it, except that he didnít want to go to Iraq/Afghanistan, though shouldnít he have known all of that before he joined? Or couldnít he have gotten out when it became clear that weíd be fighting in those places, if fighting in those places made him so distressed? Anyway, these are questions that I, personally, donít have the answers to.

And Iím digressing again. Basically, I tend not to look at things as ďblack and whiteĒ, because many times, there is a lot of gray area. I mean, clearly, there are certain things that are unanimously known to be haram, so Iím not saying that thereís a gray area regarding zina or alcohol or anything like that. But once you get passed the five pillars, and the things that are by unanimous concensus of the scholars known to be halal or haram as the case may be, then you get into a lot of the gray area, that perhaps Muslims in the US military, or listening to music, or celebrating non-Muslim holidays might fall.

And Iím generally the kind of Muslim who tries to live and let live, even if thereís something that I donít agree with. Because there could be something going on behind-the-scenes, out of my view, that I donít know about. And I sure donít want to pop off at the mouth about something that I thought I knew, then find out later that I had no idea what I was talking about, that there were perhaps things going on that I didnít know about. I mean, I canít talk about the ďcoffee shop Muslims in the Bay AreaĒ, because Iíve never been to a copy shop in the Bay Area, and Iíve only been to California once. And the Muslims I saw there werenít what youíd call ďliberalĒ or ďwatered-downĒ Muslims, I can most definitely assure you. And as far as ďwhite house iftarsĒ go, Iíve never been to DC or the White House, so again, canít speak on that either.


My experience of the Muslim community has been quite limited really, and perhaps not that representative. And I have indeed made the mistake of speaking about certain aspects of the Muslim community that I indeed had no knowledge of, and got called on it quite severely. So I truly donít want to make that mistake again. And itíd sure be nice if others didnít continue to make that mistake either.


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