I'm in the midst of my routine visit to my parents home these Christmas hols. It really has become routine, as as the Christmas holidays have dawned over the last few years, we have packed up our belongings, our woolly scarfs and several warm jumpers, jumped into our car ready for our relaxing break in the Welsh plains. The period of time here has come to characterise excesses of wonderful food, all the Christmas television and most of all rich amounts of family time as everyone is home, cuddled around the coffee table and blazing heaters. The ritual sale shopping where I try to buy all the things I need for the coming year, along with the wonderful time I spend with my family, who appreciate it to the nth degree, always brings with it a urging question for me on what life really is about. Without getting to mushily philosophical, every year I get a window into the world which could possibly be if I didn't have the central hearth of Islam in my life.
Alhumdulilah I can put my hand on my heart and say the time with my family, all the practical things I need to buy and do, has for me a strong link to my Creator; as clearly we all know the weight Islam places on pleasing the parents and keeping ties with kin. My ritual shopping even has a link (however tenuously some may assume!) it's all the stuff I need to get for my family and my kids to keep us going for a while inshaAllah. But it's that link that keeps me feeling cool. As without that link, I contemplate how would I really feel?
For me this link is what keeps me feeling content that the actions I do have some sort of weight and value, as Allah SWT has clearly told us in Surah AdhDhuriyat that the purpose of the creation of mankind, is for the sole purpose of us to worship him - not to shop, chill or let our life drift away trying to just even be happy.
But I think alhumdulilah alot of us, many of us who have had the honour to re-find Islam again, can intellectuslise this link. The understanding that unless our lives are led in accordance with Allah's rules and laws, then there is no meaning or use for us. But my understanding of this deen tells me that the Islamic purpose in life means more than this, and this is something I think we all find a battle to embed in life. And what concerns me more for the Muslim community I see living around me, is a more recent phenomenan which I feel challenges the desire for us to live purely for Islam.
A sister I remember once said to me that the biggest obstacle for the Muslim community in the West to regaining and working for the vision to resestablish just Islamic rule in the Muslim world, is that we have been lured by a lifestyle, the British Muslim lifestyle which acts as separating us and our aspirations from the rest of the Ummah. The fact that we now have supermarket halal meat, even halal organic meat now I hear, a growing abundance of masjids, the mushrooming of Islamic fashion, the whole new ethos of Islamic shopping, Islamic entertainment - both music and TV(!!) and even the opportunities to engage in British politics with your Islamic(ish) agenda; has meant for many Muslims who live by Islam today that we feel that this is it. We have an Islamicised version of almost everything on the mainstream British market. We have everything we need just around us and our goals become to develop this British Islamic lifestyle over anything else, whichI feel replicates the concepts of escapist entertainment culture we see in the West. We bury ourselves in material things and ideas which give us our kicks and take up our time, and ultimately help us escape the stark realities of this world and life. Things happening abroad then aren't really our problem as much, as we feel we belong here in the West and this is where our allegiances, worries and goals should lie. Alhumdulilah many of these things are good for the Muslim community in one sense as they have aided us to live by Islam and retain our Deen, but I fear that there are more dangers in this phenomenan than can be at first perceived, if the community do not treat this whole new revolution appropriately. I fear that we will just become hijab wearing and salah practising versions of our British counterparts we live with and amongst.
I'm not a traditional isolationist, if that's what you are now thinking. I don't believe in shunning everything with a taint of what is Western, but what I do believe is that we not only have to distinguish between the haram and halal in this society, but also the key ideas and concepts. Our Prophet SAW, throughout his entire Prophethood never sought comfort, whether material or emotional as his goal in life and neither did his Sahabah. Rather his goal throughout his life was always to make Islam superior and to protect his Ummah, as he famously said to Abu Talib 'If you put the sun in my right hand and the moon in my left, I would not leave this struggle until it is victorious or I perish therein'. For him SAW, not only would he sacrifice his comfort and the comfort of his family for Islam, but even his SAW life he SAW was willing to give. And if this is the example, of our best example, then is this not we should follow?
The beauty of the Deen of Islam is that it does not require us to follow a life of asceticism where we renounce everything and anything material, it does not even view wealth as something which is innately evil; but what Allah always does ask us to question, is why we are in this world in the first place. That are we here to seek comforts, pursue an individualistic lifestyle as our non-Muslim counterparts are urged to, looking out and living for ourselves and only those close to us; and getting our kicks in life out of material things? Just because some of these things maybe cloaked in an Islamic appearance, does not mean our use of them are not any less dangerous than the popular culture and fashion races of the West.
The abundance of evidences in the Quran and Sunnah highlight that the reason why we wake in the morning, all the kicks and what we dedicate the most important parts of our day to, what we get excited about - all that - should be for Islam, nothing else. As the Prophet SAW said 'None of you truly believes, until your desires conform with what I have brought.' We must therefore take the time out from our all engulfing lives to think. Think about what being a Muslim really means, that we live to carry Allah's word to the world and make Islam superior. That we are a vanguard of Islam and the Ummah and that this brings a duty and responsibility. It's not just about praying, fasting, having your Islamic mortgage and getting your kids into Islamic schools. We need to contemplate about this beautiful Deen of Allah SWT and how it is gathering dust in the auspicious Qurans on our shelves and is deemed, astaghfirullah, not good enough to rule over us in this so-called modern world we live in. And the effects of this being manifold - we have a global economics which has gone past breaking point, social systems where rape, crime, murder are in their multitude, and a world where abusing and oppressing the Ummah is just part of life.
With this turbulent reality around us, it is not normal for any follower of Islam or servant of Allah SWT to be able to live a life of comfort, content with all the Islamicised provisions we have gained and that's about it. The fact that even one mother of this Ummah yesterday in Gaza experienced the death of all her children should be cause for us all to dedicate our efforts and energy and time and sweat to work in the correct manner for the reestablishment of Allah's law and the shield of a righteous ruler for this Ummah. The Prophet SAW said: 'The imam is a shield from behind which the Ummah fight and are defended.' And the pain of this should be as sharp as the pain we would feel for our own mother or sister, as the Prophet SAW likened our relationship with the Ummah, wherever they are, as being part of the same body - if they hurt, we inevitably feel it too.
To live in this dunya is right and good as our bodies, our families all do have a right over us, as prescribed by our Creator. However this should not become our sole purpose in life as this was never the mission Allah SWT set for us, from the moment he set mankind onto this earth. Rather Allah's pleasure, and the promise of Jannah, we know only is rewarded to those who live to make Allah's deen the highest, sacrificing as much as we possibly can of this dunya - Not those who simply live by the basics of what Allah has forbidden and enjoined. It is living for Islam, not simply by Islam which is the pathway into Jannah, and who would want to risk it being any other way?
'Say: If it be that your fathers, your sons, your brothers, your mates, or your kindred; the wealth that ye have gained; the commerce in which ye fear a decline: or the dwellings in which ye delight - are dearer to you than Allah, or His Messenger, or the striving in His cause;- then wait until Allah brings about His decision: and Allah guides not the rebellious.' (9:24)