When new Muslims come to Islam, it is almost inevitable that besides their attraction to the monotheism seen inherently in the faith, they find a higher purpose of life, when finding the intricate balance between this life and the hereafter.
So many stories are told of new brothers and sisters being fed up with consumerism and its evil spawn – materialism – and finding solace in pleasing Allah – by giving up a chunk of these desires – and scoring credits to their accounts in the Afterlife.
However, when new siblings come to the faith, they tend to find a dichotomy of values practiced by many Muslims, and in some cases, there isn’t much of a difference of the lifestyles of these Muslims and the previous lifestyles of new Muslims prior to embracing Islam. One may beg to wonder, why this is so.
This is a multi-layered issue when it comes to religion and its followers, and this is true for any religion, not Islam alone.
In the olden times, religious scholars were traditionally seen as people of knowledge. There was always the wise old Sheikh/ Preacher/ Priest of the village or region, and people would journey far and wide to have them answer their questions or troubles.
However due to abuse in some very staunch religions, to the point that these “scholars” began to be equated to “god,” revolts began to take place, in lieu of the abuse.
Without realigning the faiths to the original texts, the revolt began to eliminate religion from life as a whole, (this is an extremely simplified version of the revolution), and the concept of believing in God became extinct in many cases, laughable, and mostly “subjective,” at best.
This has manifested in the growth of atheism across the world, and even those who still hold on to religion, by far majority, see religion as part of a sub-set of life, not really encompassing an entire way of living.
Even though Allah has preserved the Quran in the most original form, and scholarly discourse on the Hadith are still intact, representing the perfected religion for all of mankind (through the practice of the principles in the Quran and practice of the Sunnah), Muslims have not been spared from this modern mindset of segregating religion from their daily lives.
This can be mostly seen with how Muslims define “success,” and it revolves mostly around the worldly sense.
The Modern Mindset of Success
While this mindset perpetuates and infiltrates the next generation, it is unfortunately normal for new Muslims to observe many of their Muslim peers define success the same way a non-Muslim would define success. A cursory look at families is enough proof of this.
Modern Muslim parents often define success for their children as those who are able to attain education at tertiary level, regardless of the field that they are studying, even if it is explicitly haram, like conventional banking, or dubious in nature, like drama and music. Success no longer revolves around praying five times a day, and from a young age parents impress on the Straight A report card, rather than waking their children up for Fajr.
The number of degrees a person has also translates into success, as well as the acceptance into the Ivy League Universities, or other institutions of prestige, without much heed to the person’s understanding, let alone fluency, in reading and understanding the Quran.
Here alone, communication with Allah becomes a secondary priority – without prayers and the Quran – the two facets of open telecommunications with the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth. This may be something to think about. How successful can someone be without being able to articulate him or herself either way?
Many Muslim children are also encouraged at best, or allowed, to idolize TV personalities, celebrities, obsess with sports and emulate their basketball or football idols, follow successful entrepreneurs closely to build upon their business models, but are rarely well informed of the lives of the Prophets, the companions, and the generation after that – all of those who put their blood, sweat, and tears before themselves to sacrifice for Islam.
This list doesn’t even include them not knowing important screenshots of Prophet Muhammad’s Seerah, who is the ultimate role model for all of humanity.
Then there are families who are so inclined to keep elitist circles and keep up with aristocratic lifestyles as part and parcel of their success, but at the same time, not look into the future with an open mind in search of potential “good” spouses for their children. In many cases, the match for the spouse is also materialistic in nature, if not completely overlooked until it is too late.
Losing things like prayer, the connection to the Quran, the love for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), all his predecessors and all of his companions (may Allah be pleased with them all), and averting important directions laid out in the Sunnah (such as (early) marriage), set off alarm bells that the definition of success has ultimately changed.
Due to the fact that Islam is an all-encompassing religion, even the lines of halal and haram become unclear. This is obviously a serious side effect but does happen in unfortunate circumstances where the understanding of Islamic principles begins to pale.
Read Part 2.