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Being Religious Without Being a Jerk

“There is nothing that has gentleness in it except that it is beautified, and there is nothing that has harshness in it except that it makes it ugly. So be calm, O Aisha!”

The above words were spoken by our beloved Messenger ﷺ to his wife, `A’isha radi allahu `anha (may Allah be please with her). A group of people had passed by the Prophet ﷺ and our Mother `A’isha, and said to him: “As-sa’amu `alaykum” (death be upon you).”  It was a wordplay on “As-salaamu `alaykum (peace be upon you)”, with the intent of ridiculing the Prophet ﷺ. `A’isha (ra) became so angry that she rose up and began yelling at them that death should be upon them, and the curse of God, and so on.

At this, the Prophet ﷺ turned towards her, and spoke these words, telling her to calm down, and not to lose her composure, even in the face of personal insult. This man, our Messenger ﷺ, was the pillar of tranquility in an ocean of chaos. Our mother Aisha (ra), did this out of a pure, sincere, and unyielding love for the Prophet (saw). Not out of any arrogance or pride. For her it was an anger rooted in love, a desire to protect her Prophet from those who hated him. May Allah be pleased with her.

Unfortunately however, many of us react with harshness when faced with religious differences, especially WITHIN our own ummah – not out of love, but out of arrogance. When we examine ourselves today, especially those among us who are students of religious knowledge or believers striving to better ourselves, a tragic observation can often be made: Religiosity often turns people into jerks.

Many have witnessed this story: A young man or woman who used to be friendly, well-mannered, who treated people well, sadly turns into someone who shows mild annoyance upon meeting people who follow a different religious opinion. He shows anger when presented with arguments against his or her own point of view. Finally, he or she begins to pronounce judgment against others—pronouncing minor differences in opinion as proofs of disbelief.

When told to calm down, to stop being judgmental—the response comes in one of many flavors:

  • “Brother, I am enjoining the good and forbidding the evil!”
  • “We are defending the Sunnah!”
  • “When people are harsh against the Sunnah, we will be harsh in defending it!”

And so on.

Over what kinds of issues? Not the serious lack of counseling services in the community. Not the difficulty that our youth are having in protecting their faith from intellectual attack. Not the issues of domestic abuse, poverty, family breakups or homelessness afflicting non-Muslims and Muslims around us.

But the length of our pants and whether or not they are above our ankles, the lengths of our beards, etc. Perhaps one’s adherence or lack thereof to a group or organization. What we think about pseudo-philosophical concepts about the essence of God’s attributes.  Such meanness and harshness occurs not over what is physically affecting people, but over a disagreement between opinions in our minds. Over varying textual interpretations that result in different legal opinions or a creedal points unknown to the majority of the world’s Muslims.

Why does this happen to us when almost nothing is more important in our religion than the subjugation of our egos to the Power and Oneness of God?

The Remedy

“Islam takes us and throws us so we fall totally in love with The Creator. Yet, somehow some of us turn it into a way to look down upon the creation.”

This happens because somewhere along the line in striving to love God, the ego—the innermost part of our soul which continuously wishes to be glorified and exalted over others—made our religiosity a means of doing just that. The religion exists to crush the ego, and enslave it towards the worship of its Creator.

When we say AllahuAkbar (God is the Greatest), the true meaning of this, when one explores Arabic grammar, is “God is the Greatest Above All Things”—including our loves, our hates, our desires, our weaknesses, our dreams, our hopes, our very essences. Success in reaching our desires is only through His permission, and the power to overcome our weaknesses is only through His Mercy. This phrase is formulated to remind us of Allah’s greatness over ourselves and over every element of our lives. It acknowledges the overwhelming power that is Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He).

On the ego’s path to enslavement and the realization of recognizing Allah (swt) alone as the sole object of adoration and love, our ego sought a way out so it would not have to undergo such tribulation and destruction; so that it would not have to give up its position as the one that is praised and feels valued.

That ego essentially hijacks the religiosity of the individual and takes it on a detour. What is that detour? Rather than letting Islam be Islam and allowing the soul to get lost in the wonders of Allah’s power, the limitless nature of His love, the magnanimous breadth of His Mercy, the immeasurable depth of His knowledge, the care and affection that He showers upon His creation—the ego detours the soul into LOVING ITSELF.

When the soul begins to love itself, it becomes dissatisfied with not only God, but with God’s creation. It sees its own knowledge, opinion, and worldview as superior to all others. In order to maintain its false notion of being humble, it will even fake humility to those on the outside: “I’m nobody, I’m not knowledgeable”—while secretly harboring contempt for all those who follow different opinions or ideas about Islam. It is easy to recognize this tendency in ourselves. It happens when our religious discourse, our religious speech, and our religious vocabulary become less about loving God, adoring his Messenger ﷺ, bettering ourselves and more about creedal disagreements, legal fine points, and how one group is bad or another is good.

When religion becomes more about how one person does not practice the way that pleases us  (even if we are correct in expressing the opinion of orthodox Islam) than about how we can please God, the religion has essentially turned into a tool to make us feel better about ourselves.

This does not mean we should turn off legitimate criticism in religious discourse. Enjoining the good and forbidding evil means that we must take an active interest in our communities, and in striving to develop our communities and our religious practices in a way that is healthy, natural, and allows Muslims from all backgrounds to be included and non-Muslims to feel welcome.

Rather, it is time we examine our deeper motives and feelings when we criticize and put forth negativity: “Am I criticizing and putting forth negativity because my criticism and the way I am putting it forth will actively help to prevent harm and bring benefit? Or am I criticizing to ridicule, make myself feel better, and make others see me as superior?”

Answering this question correctly and being sincere is the difference between the religious jerk and a servant of God.

About the author

Abdul Sattar Ahmed

Abdul Sattar Ahmed is a young IT professional from Chicago, IL. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2006 with a Bachelors in Finance with a second Major of Management Information Systems. He was a member of Young Muslims of North America for over ten years, serving in roles at the local, regional, and national levels with a focus on the organization’s educational program.

He currently works in the Software Engineering field in Chicago, and is receiving training in the Islamic sciences part-time at Dar ul Qasim Institute and the Islamic Learning Foundation’s Chicago Campus, and studies Islamic subjects independently with other scholars. He is a board member of the Islamic Learning Foundation and teaches Arabic and Islamic studies there under the lead of his teachers. His interests include software development, the study of the Qur’an, Islamic education, law, and history.

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  • slms.

    well said, great post!

    Sadly, many loose common decency and sunnah of greeting and simply yell out “astaghfirullah! how can you do this and that”

    Make salaam, be gentle, try not to sound condemning in your tone.

  • I love the Messenger of Allah our Beloved prophet, Muhammad saw. I wish I could be like him, by doing the best to live my life, and meet him in heaven. Amin.

  • Mashallah, beautiful article! Before reading the actual article I thought that the title didn’t make sense but after reading the article I completely understand the authors point and inshallah we will all benefit from this article. Truly, Allah (swt) does not love those that are arrogant!

  • Profoundly amazing article MASHA’ALLAH! Hits the concept of religious bigotry right on the head, and unfortunate disease associated with being “more religious” in our communities. May Allah protect and purify our souls, and keep us open-minded, humble servants for his cause!

    Jazak’allah khair for writing this article and speaking the truth :)

  • Great timely article. I believe the concept “enjoining the good and forbidding the evil” is the most misunderstood by most Muslims. We need to do it with role modeling not by lip service. There are manors (etiquettes) in Islam for every thing one does (how to behave in almost any situation and at any place) and we need to go back and learn those.

  • Masha’Allah very articulate and beneficial although I wanted to point out; there’s a lot of flexibility in differing over issues of fiqh whereas when it pertains to issues of belief, there is only one way to correctly believe in God.

  • Very well said. I appreciate the article. No doubt Allah is Greatest of All and is greater than anything else that exists. I thought Allahu Akbar phrase means, Allah is greater than ‘….’, where fill in the blanks could relatively mean anything a person is doing/seeing/exploring at the moment and saying Allah is greater than what I am doing. Allah is greater than what I am seeing. So its universal, timeless phrase glorifying Allah’s attribute, his kibriyai’ as they say in Urdu, and is one of the attribute Allah does not like competition, even worth an atoms weight.

    wassalam

    • salam Br. Abdullah,

      From my understanding, what you have said is accurate and is the same as the spirit of adding “above all things”.

      The idea of leaving a statement open for us to fill in a very powerful device in the Quran and Islamic adkhar to allow us to reflect personally on the meaning.

      jazakAllahu khairan for your reflection!

  • Masha’Allah very beneficial points. However, I would like to humbly mention that when dealing with matters of fiqh, there is a lot of room to accept differing views; but when discussing matters of belief in God and His attributes, there is only one correct way to believe.

    Ya’ni there are things we don’t compromise in and we can’t differ about, because it simply comes down to right and wrong.

    JazakAllahu khayran

  • Subhan Allah, great article :)!

    I’m still struggling to practice this myself…

    I think the point shouldn’t always be whether we are right or wrong – in key matters of fiqh, even belief.

    Not that we compromise – but, rather, what should our response be if we see something wrong? – should we start yelling and cursing, or, these days, get into endless battles on the internet?

    Or, rather, should we calmly, and kindly give a reminder, and, if not listened to, go on with our own lives, knowing that we gave the reminder, and now its up to Allah? And that we have our own faults and issues to be concerned with anyway?

    And how about modeling good behavior?

    I’m going to bring up hijab here – for it is an issue that is argued a lot today, and often very poorly. I dare say that most arguments probably actually distance sisters who are not wearing hijab rather than win their hearts to the practice.

    For years, I was one of those sisters who was against wearing hijab, and would argue against it all day long online and offline.

    What convinced me to wear it was not arguments, but the fact I was blessed to be in the company of some amazing sisters who were some of the best role models one could ask for.

    They never told me to wear hijab, never condemned me for not wearing it – rather, they were just their beautiful selves. I decided that I wanted to be like them, Al-hamdu Lillah.

    And gradually, my arguments (which I still haven’t fully settled for myself) didn’t really matter that much…

    • Al-Hamdu lillah… I am considering wearing the hijab myself insh’a Allah in the near future…. it is nice to know that there are other sisters out there that understand that forcing the issue is not the right way of bringing people closer to Islam… The only way is to explain in a decent and calm manner and re-iterate what has been taught to us by following the Quran & the Sunnah :-)

  • ASA,
    Wallahi, I needed to read this. I just had this experience with someone coming at me crazy because of the eid. Some masajid in the area broke fast with Saudi and the rest of didn’t because the moon wasn’t sighted in North America. Anyways, I saw one of the brothers who broke with Saudi. He told me his eid was great. I said, ” Alhamdulillah so was mine.” Then he says, “Bid’a!!!” I asked him why he made that accusation. He said cuz we didn’t break when Saudi saw the moon. So I calmly explain my position based on the hadith of Kurayb(RA) in Sahih Muslim. He still felt my position was wrong, because it wasn’t what he was taught. May Allah bless us with tazkiyyatun nafs. Ameen!

    • Salam Br. Muhammad,

      Definitely not inshAllah. The stances and phrases mentioned are commonly used by “religious” brothers and sisters from all denominations.

      Change it to urdu and it will remind you of another group. Change to english or Arabic and it will remind you of another. Many of us are guilty of saying these statements with some pride or arrognace, rather than with humility before Allah (swt). May He protect us from ourselves.

      ws
      AS

    • Hello Br. Muhammad,

      I would say that attitude affects all of us at times – I do not consider myself a Salafi, but have been guilty of having a egotistical attitude.

      I also have been on the receiving end from – both Salafi’s and non-Salafis (relatives for example who are not Salafi, random people in the Mosque, etc).

  • Assalamu alaikum!
    I’m very happy that finally this important topic was addressed. Alhamdulillah!
    I’m a convert, my knowledge of Islam is very limited compared to the other sisters at the masjid I attend, but somehow I feel that many of them are more concerned in studying the religion and learning the Quran than into practice the very basics of the religion. Studying Islam and the Quran is extremely important, please don’t get me wrong. But putting everything into practice in all areas of life should also be considered.

  • very important read for the youth of today. Is this not related to being extreme because the people you speak of are wasting their energy and breath by speaking if insignificant issues rather than putting their energy on more pertinent issues. I had a brother go to Imam and complain about why some people are eating and drinking with their left hand during iftar. Why would imam speak about that when we have people that don’t understand what is being said during taraweh. The imam should instead focus on khusu in prayer not small issues like that. Wast

    • Salaam

      I agree with what the brother has said. I feel the message is directed more at sincerely advising people of what we feel to be correct. However if the other party choose not to agree with our position based on evidence, then we should respect that. The moment we start harboring ill feelings for the people who differ with us, and then we should really check our own intention.

      I would like to draw attention to what our Br Abdullah mentioned about the brother complaining to the Imam about people eating with their left hands. Muslims eating with their left hands is not good. Rasoolallah SAW commanded eating with the right hand, and this is something as Muslims we should strive to do. Therefore if I witnessed this I would advise the people eating with their left hands to use their right ones instead. The only difference is that I would not complain about it nor make the persons involved feel inferior. I would advise them in private at an appropriate time. I would mention the virtue in obeying the Messenger of Allah, because the Sunnah is divine in origin and there is deep wisdom and ultimate benefit for us therein. Now if the people do not like my advice or do not agree with me, it should not matter, because insha’Allah my advice was sincerely for the sake of Allah SWT. Additionally I know there is benefit and great reward in observing Allah’s law, so by me giving genuine advice, I would be observing another Sunnah by loving for my brother I love for myself.

      In the pursuit of unity, respect and humility, I do not want us to develop an internal arrogance by looking down on others who find these Fiqqi and Siffat issues pertinent. Additionally I do not want us to stop propagating the truth out of fear of arrogance or what we deem relevant. Rather, we should see these scenarios as an opportunity to gain the pleasure of Allah SWT.

      Therefore I propose sincere discourse, humility for the truth, engrossed in the highest of ethics and manners. We must all recognise that we can be wrong, hence we constantly asked Allah SWT for guidance.

      Please forgive me if I have offended anyone. I am always open to sincere criticism and welcome discussion.

      I ask Allah to guide us and keep us balanced.

      Wa Salaam

  • An amazing insight into our soul searching!!! Realy I can say safely for myself that Arrogance does come very easily to me whenever i start practicing any of the religious ways. May Allah help us all be guided to the right path WITHOUT BEING A JERK!!! Amen! :)

  • Hopefully we can all stop the urge to say, “Hey, I know somebody like that!” when reading this article. This article is about each and every one of us, unfortunately.

    • I agree. If you say someone else is arrogant, riya’ etc etc and you’re free from all that, you’re doing exactly that: being arrogant, riya’, proud.

      We should all be careful and fix our intentions.

      • This reminds me of a quote from the wikihow website on , “How to be humble”

        “In reality there is perhaps not one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself…For even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.” – Benjamin Franklin

  • Unfortunately, as Steven pointed out, it is all of us. It just takes some honesty and a bit of security to admit it and work on it. It doesnt make the person bad, but this reminder should helpus eradicate this tendency from our systems..

  • Mashallah! Very well said. On this note I would like to get your opinion on something,a phenomena i observed, in ramadan non-muslims get extreme penalties and punishments for walking secretly with a bottle of water down a corridor. I expect people not to eat in public and show respect toward those who are fasting, but I feel chasing people and seeing who is carrying what, can make people misinterpret our intentions behind fasting, I personally feel it reflects an ugly image about islam, and the meaning behind fasting. Thank you all

  • MashaAllah, really enjoyed reading your articulation of a really common problem. If I may, I would like to add something here.

    People often become aggressive when they feel the frustrations of failure. In the same way, in discussion, people become aggressive when they feel that what they have said has not had the desired effect on their audience/ counterpart. In addition to being unaware of their own false supermorality, they are unknowingly responding to their lack of knowledge. Since they have nothing else to say that can take the debate forward, they can only take it louder.

    My Mother taught us, when were younger, ‘If you have to swear or shout to make your point, you have lost.’ Alhamdolillah, my supermorality phase lasted about one debate. Sad to say, among all the Muslim brothers and sisters in the room, I was the only one to realise the poison caused by my lack of knowledge, whilst by many I was commended as a wonderful ally to Islam. I was too ashamed to admit what I had realised, so I could not even go back and educate them on it. It is an event that bothers me to this day, as I know I cannot ask the girl I had debated with to forgive me for the insulting manner in which I spoke to her. I still cannot forgive myself, nearly 20 years on.

    The event also highlights one other issue- I have heard many religious speakers (not only Muslim). One of the ways that they have become accustomed to, is showing their religiosity by barking what they want to say. Rather than being eloquent and powerful in content, they try to show their fervour through the sweat on their brow as they preach. This creates a cultural approach to Faith and the dissemination of Faith, which is obviously not one of humility, and again demonstrating that false supermorality that such people fall into the trap of perceiving as projecting their closeness to God and truth.

    I am not saying that these people are- but there are few words that better describe how those people come across- jer*s.

  • JazakAllahu Khairan for a beneficial article

    However I think we need to view things a lot more positively, as a positive outlook ultimately improves relations between communities and guides others to more beneficial outcomes.

    Suspicion and negative impressions of others on the contrary damage relations and produce more negative effects.

    I think alot of these brothers/sisters who make this transition of being well mannered to becoming religious and intolerant of other opinions are GENUINELY sincere in wanting to please their lord by commanding the good and forbidding the evil, and GENUINELY wish for others guidance to the prophetic path.

    But, they are ignorant and lack wisdom. This is the fundamental reason. Also they may have sincere intentions.

    Accusing them of being intolerant to other opinions only so they feed their ego would amount to suspicion and fuel contempt against them. Our hatred and bad taste against them becomes personal, as sensing arrogance in ithers infacts challenges our egos.

    Let us pray for their guidance, and realise they mean good, but are going about in the wrong way.

    • Salmaan,

      You make a very good point mashAllah and add nuance to this issue that we should all be more aware of.

      However, my thoughts in the article are trying to imply that the nafs, the innermost part of the human being, shows this arrogance without the person even realizing it. It sneaks up on us and affects us while the whole time, we thinking that we are serving Allah (swt).

      Thank you for making this point though and reminding me and all of us – it is critical that in all this, we don’t turn into finger pointers ourselves, and focus our religion on Allah (swt).

      -Abdul Sattar

  • Aslamualikum

    Great article mashAllah. Yes in Islam we not allowed to arrogant or to look down on any one.
    But to practice the point made by the author is very hard in this day and age. I mean people are doing such silly things on the name of religion that one really gets angry straight away.
    I understand this anger could be just because of my lack of knowledge of Islam and Sharia but trust me sometimes you come across things that defy common sense. And on seen things like that its get really hard not to be angry.
    But i totally agree with the author’s point of view. And we should leave the job of criticising faults and innovations in Islam with Scholars.

  • Peace and blessings be upon you all.

    Having good manners and being patient with others is a virtue that takes a lifetime to mold.

  • Yes yes yes! I was recently doing some Lupe Fiasco stalking: he quoted the Qur’an, and a fan in response said ‘f the Quran.’ The reaction of Muslims in their so-called defense was appalling and embarrassing, things like ‘go f yourself (or your mother) or go suck a whatever, or go kill yourself, things to that extent. Aoudubillah…who dealt with more criticism than our messengers? And yet there is not a single example of them losing their tempers to such an extent. What kind of impression are we leaving in an age where our religion’s image is already severely tarnished? The phrase ‘practice what you preach’ comes to mind – it is indeed difficult for anyone to believe that ours is the religion of peace when we react so strongly, emotionally, and unrestrained.

  • This article is addressing a very sad but true problem with our ummah today. I would like to see similar articles adressing the diferent forms of harshness we are seeing in various ways today in the ummah. One that deeply disturbs me is the way this is done on the internet/emails. You get these emails with tabloid like subject lines – “Proof that the Deviated Tablighi Jamaat are Going to Hell” Or you see these blogs/chat rooms where people spend hours and days refuting, debating, arguing, etc. over minor issues. Several years ago a few sisters made hajr(ban) against me upon guidance from some web group claiming to be “salafiyyah” because I wanted to attend my non-muslim sister’s wedding. Our youth often get drawn into these groups looking for guidance and advice about their religion,and end up more confused and misguided than they were to start off with. Our local masjids have to start openly addressing issues and providing general guidance and support specifically to our youth who depend so much upon internet and social media.

  • SubhanAllah. I needed to address an issue regarding religious differences with someone later this week, and my plan would likely have caused me to be the title. Alhumdullilah I have been rethinking my approach since, and since I just read this article, it has renewed and backed up the fact that “There is nothing that has gentleness in it except that it is beautified, and there is nothing that has harshness in it except that it makes it ugly.” Insha’Allah.

    JazakAllahu Khayrun.

  • MashaAllah, what a great article. This is such a tough topic to explain and elaborate on but you did a terrific job. May Allah (SWT) accept all of your hard work and allow us all to derive benefit from this much needed article. Ameen.

  • I have faced this problem sometime ago .. but to work on this I have remained silent for a while till I have reminded myself enough before I want to help someone out. Inshallah, I hope to learn more from this article. Jazakallah khairun brother!

  • “There is nothing that has gentleness in it except that it is beautified, and there is nothing that has harshness in it except that it makes it ugly. So be calm, O Aisha!”

    Please let me know the source for this hadith.

    Thanks

  • It was a good read and good reminder; however I’ve got one question … Why do you say “our mother” to aisha?? I don’t like how that sounds; especially for dawah purposes.

    Is there a hadith or such that states that we should call her by such?

    • salam Curiousness,

      Please see 33:6 in the Quran. The excerpt is:
      “and his (the Prophet’s) wives are [like] their mothers”.

      This means that this is the kind of relationship, respect, honor, nobility, and dignity that the Muslims should afford to the Prophet’s wives. Hence the title “Ummahat ul Mu’mineen – Mothers of the Believers”.

      Thus, calling referring to a wife of the Prophet (saw) as “Our Mother” is simply a sign of respect and honor.

      Checking 33:6 and looking at the explanation will inshAllah provide more detail.

      ws
      AS

  • Wow! that’s deep and powerfull! What you said is a true and sad description of the scenario of what’s happenimg here today in Malaysian politics! Esply those who called themselves ‘ulama’! My God! The way they turn and twist Ayah’s from surah’s to suit their purposes and intentions is so demeaning..it’s so appalling! How do you handle ppl with this kind of attitude?

  • yh u shud deff do it 4 allah and not other people {}and wow my brother act religious but such a jerk sumtimes lol

  • thanks for this article brother!

    I fear this impulse of being a jerk is so embedded within us that our first reaction on reading this article was to think of others. I admit, I did it too. But actually I suppose we should all look at ourselves. Much food for thought. SubhanAllah. May Allah protect us all.

  • “For her it was an anger rooted in love, a desire to protect her Prophet from those who hated him. May Allah be pleased with her.”

    If Allah was pleased with her, the Prophet of Allah would never correct her.

    And also, what’s your point? She was right because her anger was out of love? So we can ALL be angry and rude if it’s out of love?

    • I don’t think that was in fact the point. In this case Aisha() wanted to do right, but in the end did wrong, so the Prophet() corrected her.

      She was a beautiful example for us, because we often do the same thing, intending to do right, but for all these reasons not fulfilling our intention and ending up doing wrong. Also her good intention and bad action prompted this beautiful hadith, which offers us an excellent lesson and reminder forever. We can be grateful for that. We want to fulfill our good intentions with good behavior. May God have mercy on us all.

  • This is a very ironic and sad article because it hits on the right and direct nerve,unfortunely very true and many can not make out the difference between being religious with a wide wide horizon which very much islamic qualities and being a painful jerk.

    • Yes, I agree people find it hard to be religious without being rude but that’s besides my point.

      My point is why bother saying “May Allah be pleased” if the Prophet himself wasn’t pleased?

  • Just the other day on Eid night, our masjid decided to do local sighting and not follow Saudi. Then this jerk stands up in front of EVERYONE and goes on and on and on about Hadith and Quran and this and that. He caused such a commotion in our masjid and people were really upset on how he behaved and then some others joined in as well to back him up. What jerks! How intolerant people have become! Even the Saudi scholars tell us not to follow them and people still follow them which is fine. But why do you have to be such an extremist in your view and act like a jerk! Just accept that there are other valid opinions and go home and do your Eid at the other Masjid! If you don’t like a view, then that’s fine. Instead of acting like a jerk, become a member of the Masjid and try to change the Masjid stance through a democratic way! Getting angry on Eid night will not force the Masjid to change their view! So don’t try to push your view down our throats! Great article! I loved it!

  • Allah bless you overwhelmingly! It suprises me how we often leave d plank in our own eyes and see the speck in others’. Our Prophet is sublime in characters and that alone attracted converts to the religion, but what is the character of the muslim of today. We often don’t ask: can this character of mine soften the heart of even the most mild-hearted non-muslim.
    ‘Say salaam when u meet ur brother’, ‘food for 2 sufficient for 3′, but these simple rudiments of faith appear too difficult for our brothers, yet they’re quick in passing fatwahs at the slightest provocation of their faith. Religiosity, not religiousness, is what is common.

    Sincerely, I think Islam’s biggest problem today is that we neglected that ‘inner jihad’ we neglected — not the West! Islam used to lead the pack, then suddenly we lost it all. What happened?

  • bottom line is……Allah sent down the perfect revalation. whether one chooses to follow it or ignore or misinterpret it……is another matter…….this is a way of life for one who thinks/resons…..
    this physical world was made perfect by the Creator, it is human beings that make it imperfect. On the day of judgement, everyone will have to answer for his/her own deeds.

  • Salam,

    With the reference to the below question:

    “Am I criticizing and putting forth negativity because my criticism and the way I am putting it forth will actively help to prevent harm and bring benefit? Or am I criticizing to ridicule, make myself feel better, and make others see me as superior?”

    I was really worried about my own as i feel that I’m committing mistake while preaching someone of our Muslim, i beg ALLAH now to grant me his grace to help our Fellow Muslims just for his Sake and not for a Show off or for proving myself superior.

    ALLAH bless us his pious mercy and grant us the pious grace to be the true Muslims in real means without being Hypocritical.

    Aameen

  • A MUCH needed article. We definitely know such people. In my pakistani culture, they make sarcastic remarks, indirect comments, looks or jokes to make judgments!! Extremely unhelpful attitude to say the least.
    It is really depressing to see this on youtube. So called defenders of Islam using extremely inappropriate language and expressions!!

  • Ma’sha’allah, beautifully expressed. Indeed, it is an important issue that we are facing in our communities. This is a great reminder of all of us. Jazak’Allahu Khairan.

  • Very nicely said!! But I would comment on the Title of the article, that it shouldn’t be too harsh, when one is prompting tolerance…

  • […] Suhaib Webb’s Blog Posted on September 13, 2011 by Farhan To our readers, I would highly suggest checking out Imam Suhaib Webb’s blog. I generally dislike “Internet Islam“, but Imam Suhaib’s blog is one of the few good ones out there. They openly discuss topics such as Divorce, Politics, Sex, Spirituality, Law and more. They have an article titled “Being Religious Without Being a Jerk“. […]

  • This article reminds me of the one (saw) who said: Inna mal amaalou bin Niyaat” i.e “Whatever you do is based on its intentions”… May Allah always guide us to the path of His pleasure. Ameen

  • SubhanAllah this was a much needed article!
    I seriously act like a jerk when i ask my lille brother not to listen to music. I forget how i was a year ago, i should tattoo that on my mind and start doing things with love.

    Love solves everything. I can be a jerk and say those words or i can be sensible, emulate the kindness and mercy shown by Habeeb Allah sallallahu alyhe wa sallam and say those words with love.

    jazakAllah khayr!

  • Salam,

    Thanks for the article and may Allah bless your efforts. However, can you please clarify from where the hadith at the beginning of the article originates? I find it hard to find on the net. I even came across a similar speech but for a different event and occasion completely.
    I am sorry, I don’t mean to find faults, but I liked the story told about being gentle and would love to share it, but without a proper source, it is dangerous as we may fall in the category of people whom is deemed as ‘lying in the name of the Messenger PBUH).

    Salam and may Allah bless us all.

    • The hadith is from various sources including Sahih Muslim. In Sahih Muslim, the Prophet (saw) says this to our Mother in response to some harshness towards a camel; subhanallah!

  • it is a beautiful article…it reflects the reality…and in today’s world it is am common thing…thnx for writing such an exceptional piece..may Allah swt bless u…

  • Salaam!

    This was a fantastic article mashAllah that really hit home for me. But, I have a question regarding destruction of the ego in favor of remembering “Allahu Akbar.” I suffer from my ego as everyone else does, but I also sometimes put myself down too much and completely reject my own needs in favor of a group, etc.

    Does anyone have suggestions as to how to find a middle path on this issue: subduing the ego enough to remember Allah is greatest while still remembering the uniqueness of myself as a creation of Allah (without thinking badly of myself)?

    JazakAllah khair

    • ”Does anyone have suggestions as to how to find a middle path on this issue: subduing the ego enough to remember Allah is greatest while still remembering the uniqueness of myself as a creation of Allah (without thinking badly of myself)?

      JazakAllah khair”

      The way I understand it is that you either feel like you are self obsessed or completely self oblivious. Try to be kind to yourself…if you find something difficult, then don’t harm yourself in the process, just do a little, what you can. And if you feel that you have been blessed with piety, then show gratitude by being consistent’
      the little good done consistently is pleasing to Allah, by whose mercy alone will we be saved.
      hope this helps…:)

  • Salam. Thank you for posting this article. I have a friend who is encountering this problem this very minute and it’s hurting us all.

    It started a while after she first wore the hijab. I remember in another article (Taking Off The Hijab) that the author mentioned about an ‘iman rush’ that Muslims encounter when starting a new practice in Islam, for example wearing the hijab. I used to think I was a bad person for noticing her ‘iman rush’. I was confused between what was real and what was only inside my head…until I read your article. I’m not stereotyping this situation to all the Muslimah’s out there, but I just wanted to point out that it is something -real- and it does happen to people in -certain- circumstances.

    Back to my story, it all started sometime after she wore the hijab. She started to be more interested in knowing Islam in general. I noticed that she read up on materials relating to ibadah and she started reading a lot of hadith too. Maybe it was because of this iman rush that, unfortunately, she started becoming really insensitive towards people’s feelings when advising them.

    The examples are endless. Calling people/their choices unIslamic..criticizing people on Twitter..and even sounding a little ‘holier than thou’ on certain occasions.

    I must say that her attitude is also a result of immaturity. Maybe she is still emotionally immature, therefore cannot tell when her opinion sounds like a criticism, or when an advice sounds like, well, bashing.

    I plan to tell her soon about her attitude. I already scripted some of the things I want to say to her.. yes, gotta be prepared! and maybe even use this article to help me in the process. So again, thanks brother for this article. InsyAllah it will help bring the best out of this predicament of mine.

  • What about the people with too much pride to take in criticism? To me they are the ones who should lose the ego and change, and not the one respectfully telling him he is wrong

    Also, Assam alaykum does not mean “death” be upon you, it means poison be upon you. Let it be clear to all the non Arab readers, not misleading

    • Br. Mohammed, that’s what the article means here, be respectful when you tell somebody that they are wrong, when you are respectful there’s no question of pride from the other side and even if it’s there that person will go home and feel sorry about it.

      When we want to guide people to what is right we need to have lot of patience, just the way Prophet(peace be upon him) had.
      May Allah guide us to what is right.

    • Assalaamu alaykum warahmatullah wa barakaatuh,

      just read this wonderful article a couple of mins. ago and was surprised to find this comment on the meaning of “Assam” . According to the classical arabic lexicon the meaning of as-Saam is infact death.

      معنى السام في قاموس المعاني. قاموس عربي عربي

      السَّامُّ – سَامُّ:
      السَّامُّ : كلُّ ذي سُمَّ كالثعبان . والجمع : سَوَامُّ .
      وسامُّ أَبْرَصَ : ضربٌ من الوَزَغِ .
      وتقول : سوامَّ ، دون أَبرص ، أَو بِرَصَة وأَبارِص ، دون سوامّ .
      45 .
      المعجم: المعجم الوسيط –
      السَّامُ – سَامُ:
      السَّامُ : الموتُ .
      و السَّامُ الذَّهَبُ .
      و السَّامُ عروقُ الذهب والفضة في الحجر والمعدِن .
      و السَّامُ السبيكة من الذهب والفضَّةِ .
      و السَّامُ .
      الخيزرانُ .
      واحدته : سَامَةٌ .
      المعجم: المعجم الوسيط –
      السّام :
      الموت .
      المعجم: عربي عامة –
      اللّبْلاب السّامّ :
      ( نت ) نبات ذو أوراق مركّبة وأزهار خضراء صغيرة وثمار بيضاء ، يسبِّب طفحًا جلديًّا عند لمسه .
      المعجم: عربي عامة –
      والسَّامَّةُ الموتُ، نادر، والمعروف السَّامُ، بتخفيف الميم بلا هاء.
      وفي حديث عُمير بن أَفْصَى: تُورِدُه السَّامَّةَ أَي الموت، قال: والصحيح في الموت أَنه السَّامُ، بتخفيف الميم.
      وفي حديث عائشة، رضي الله عنها: قالت لليهود عليكم السَّامُ والدَّامُ
      Hope this clears the issue.
      req. your Duas

    • Maybe so, but whether they lose their ego and change, or not, shouldn’t be the focus or excessive concern of someone who is religious for God’s sake. If you start to get angry or resentful, or contemptuous or have these kinds of strong emotions when someone does not change following your advice, EVEN IF that advice was correct, then *something* is wrong about your inner motivation. that’s what the article is saying. because correct motivation will not result in any of these emotions in such situations, but instead will result in emotions of hope, compassion, love, concern, worry-sadness, just like the Prophet experienced for his people.

  • I’ve gotta say, I’m pretty judgemental myself when it comes to religious ‘jerks’. Mostly because I think the majority of people (or atleast those I met) who are very religious tend to be obnoxious and have found myself actually not wanting to associate with anyone who looks too religious because of it. It’s crazy since my own mother wears a niqab and is quite religious. I know it’s wrong of me to be this way since I’m sure some of them are wonderful people to know but there you have it. It’s human nature for people to be repelled by such behaviour.

    This really became worse when I went to the middle east for university. Example of my run ins with the ‘religious folk': You go into a taxi, and if the driver has a long beard, and one of your friends isn’t wearing a hijab, he’ll put in a cassette of a sheikh talking about how women are now dooming the Ummah. I have been in so many of these taxi’s, even though I am a hijabi, but for some reason most of the time, the islamic lectures they’re listening to, talk about how horrible women are nowadays.

    The niqabi’s at uni, (usually the least sociable you’re ever to come across, and who refuse to speak to guys at all and will turn around and walk off rudely if a fellow male student asks them a question) will give out flyers or cards to non hijabi’s, that will talk about how they will be dragged to hell for not wearing a hijab. They forget that so many of our youth don’t even pray…but religious jerks have never been good with priorities.
    Alot of the friends I made are more ‘moderate’, and pass this same harsh judgement on anyone even seemingly religious. People are divided because of it. I became a broken record telling people not to judge so harshly and that being religious IS a good thing, but that these people can’t truly be religious if they have this higher than thou attitude. Rationally I know this is the truth, but it’s very easy to forget when you encounter such a person.
    I found just one sister who restored my faith during my time there. She was the only one who did not judge, go around making criticisms and tell you what was right and wrong. I know technically we should warn against evils and such, but to be honest I’ve found her method much more effective. She was the nicest purest person I met, noor would radiate from her face and I found myself wanting to be a better Muslim just by knowing her.

    Sorry for ranting…I’m only human, hehe. May Allah guide us all to what’s right.

  • AS-SALAM-WALAIKUM,THE ARTICLE IS SUPERB IN ISLAM THERE SHOULD BE MAJORITY AMONG MUSLIM.MUSLIM SHOULD NOT DO PARTIALITY HELPING ONE AND DESTROYING THE OTHER THIS IS HOW WE BREAKUP WITH THE PEOPLE IN ISLAM IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG SHOULD FIND OUT HOW THEN TAKE ANY DECISION IN ISLAM WE SHOULD NOT GIVE TOO MUCH IMPORTANT IF HE OR SHE IS OUR RELATIVE,FRIEND ETC.BECAUSE EVERY HAS THE SAME RIGHT TO LIVE IN ISLAM AND WOMENS ARE OUR PRECIOUS JEWELS WE ARE NOT ALLOWED TO SEE WOMEN WITH A BAD INTENSION ITS A VERY BIG SIN ISLAM IS VERY DELICATE RELIGION IF WE FOLLOW IT PROPERLY-THIS IS HOW WE FIND JERKS IN ISLAM.JAZAKALLAH KHAIR.

  • NOWADAYS THERE ARE HARDLY SOME MUSLIMS LEFT WHO FOLLOW ISLAM SINCERELY.
    YA- ALLAH PLEASE BLESS OUR UMMAH AND THOSE WHO HELP OUR UMMAH SAVE OUR MUSLIMS FROM DOING SINS AND IMPROVE OUR AKHIRRAH.

  • Subhanallah-I LOVE this article. It’s amazing how Allah plans things for you :) I am a “student of knowledge” per se, and I attend a DarulUloom program-anyone heard of these? Basically, though the whole thing is run by Salafis who although shine in some areas…I disagree with them on a lot of things. I don’t wear niqab,I watch movies, I don’t think that talking about something other than our books and lessons is completely useless, I don’t think that eating at a table and chairs is a sin(I know!) etc,etc. At the same time I believe that music is haram(after finally finding a saheeh hadith to prove it) and I’m pretty strict about what I wear,and I know that I need to follow the sunna more,and I follow a pretty regular schedule every day in my islamic actions.
    Anyways…I’m actually not an adult( early teens) and that’s pretty much the age range of my 3 other classmates…and,like, I agree completely with D. D,you and I are kindred spirits,honestly.When I entered the program I believed that everything in it was 100 percent true. I will not point out specific examples because everyone has already seen some of them. The more I told my mom about some of the more…stricter stuff the more upset she got. My mom is an easy-going convert who doesn’t really agree with this program in several things,and even with me.Not to blame my mom but eventually I started getting really fed up with some of the more AARRGGGHHH aspects of this program. I mean up till now(I’m in my third year)it was just my mom pointing out these negative things but eventually I started recognizing them for myself,and would’ve gotten sick of them eventually whether she was there to do it or not.And so..now I am really very prejudiced against a lot of my program. I kind of have a negative sunglasses kind thing and I know it’s not good,I get upset at myself when I think stuff like “Well, no duh,obviously EVERYTHING that they do they makje sure to do it the hard way” or “That lady’s Indo-Pak and goes to the Indo-Pak masjid next door. She is DEFINITELY a Hanafi follower,no doubt,who believes that a good Muslim girl should stay at home,not work and serve her husband only.” Things like that.

    To the point.. Two of my friends in this program have very recently begun on an “islamic betterment’ program.Which is supposed to be good. But I feel like lately they’ve become more judgmental..especially the older one-one of them even told me that I HAD TO,HAD TO get married whether I liked it or not,I got so mad I went home,my mom interrogated me,I had to cry and she called the teacher.Both of them,especially the younger one who turned 13 about a month ago,are obsessed with marriage and want to get married at the age of 19.Both think that going to college and high school,rather than this program,is very very wrong.The older one… my relationship is becoming more and more strained with her every day, she thinks to laugh is wrong but smiling is sunna,and so gives me see-through smiles and tries to help me with my bags, and when she hears the new ten year old recruits laughing or something she goes and tells them to “do something beneficial.” Both girls have been getting on my nerves lately but I keep my mouth shut in order to avoid World War III, both get so worked up when you disagre with them and attack you with sayings of our pious predecessors and ahadith till you have no choice but to agree. I feel that ever since they’ve gone on this whole islamic betterment thing,MY Islam has paid the price,and MY iman has been going down.

    In short. I just needed to vent,but at the same time I can’t backbite…I love,love,this article,I need it too cuz lately my mom thinks I am getting more arrogant-but it’s going to be a huge source of relief to me in the months to come,at least till I go to highschool.

    And that’s that..Sorry folks..Move on with life! Nothing to see here! Salam WRWB and JAK!

  • Salaam Brothers and sisters!

    Firstly what a great article! Definitely one needed! And Sister Kawthar I can understand that feeling – you feel soo condescended and small, that no matter what you do for these sorts of people, they’re going to belittle you in subtle ways or quite overtly.

    When I was in my late teens, I was fascinated to do martial arts, and I thought best thing to do is to go to a Muslim martial artist. So off I went thinking things will be smooth and exciting. I reach there, and he has 2 students with him. One of his students told me he did jihad in Bosnia…I thought nothing of that and said “cool”. When he started speaking to me, he told me his style of martial arts is Mongolian-based. He said “To enhance our bone density we could either condition our bodies to make them rigid and tough (by kicking against a hard bamboo tree for example) but obviously that will take ages and years, OR we could take (and hear this) a serum of elephant’s testicles and apply it on our skin, and the cost of that will be £30,000″. I felt uneasy by what he said, for one thing the price was a bit too expensive if you ask me, and secondly I didn’t want to apply semen of an elephant onto me (just in case it attracted a female elephant from afar!). So I left, and being a muslim I called him up and kindly declined to become a member of his club (can’t understand how those other students managed to fork up that amount of cash!). He immediately started insulting me! Then he said “Its because of people like you that the ummah is weak!…your family are shaitaans!” then he had the audacity to read verses from the Quran and belittle me! I was soo furious that I wanted to swear at him, but he put the phone down on me! Appearance-wise the guy had a beard and wore the Islamic cap. I was soo upset by this guy’s reaction. Interestingly I did end up doing martial arts but in a non-muslim’s club, and you know what he acted much more better and with respect to me, than that foolish brother who insulted me!

    Now onto something else, we might have brothers and sisters getting a bit too self righteous to those who don’t have beards or wear hijabs etc etc. but there is a flip-side to that – where, brothers and sisters who don’t have beards, hijabs etc etc, looking down on those with beards, hijabs etc…assuming these people have become extremists or become too self-righteous in the process. So it is safe to say one party could be reacting just the same way as the other. If that is so, then certainly Iblis is performing well because he not only focuses on our weaknesses but also on our strengths. Arrogance has no place in Islam and certainly shouldn’t be in us. We as an ummah have become disintegrated not due to non-muslims kicking our backsides but because we judge each other harshly.

    It is about time we stop that!

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