When I was seven years old, I used to attend a halaqa (Class that teaches religion) of what I would call today “the Islam of No’s”.
One summer day upon entering class, my stoic teacher and I got into this dialogue.
“What is this?” My teacher glared at my hand. A shinny bracelet wrapped around my tanned wrist.
“It’s a bracelet; my grandmother got it for me.” I said nonchalantly.
“Didn’t I tell you jewelry is haram?” He formed a plastic smile.
“But it’s silver. Boys can wear silver. My grandma got it for my birthday.” I replied.
“Didn’t I tell you celebrating birthdays are haram?” His face went straight.
“But all we did was go to McDonalds and eat chicken nuggets.” I said with some hesitance.
“Didn’t I tell you McDonalds is haram?!”
Seriously, that’s what happened. Growing up, many Muslims constantly heard the word “No.” No you can’t do that, no you can’t eat that, no you can’t see, listen or touch that.
For sure, boundaries are necessary in life, but what happens if we only emphasize the unallowable stuff? I heard a joke once that some mosques should be relabeled as “No Happiness Allowed Centers.”
The Other Side
When we are constantly reminded of not doing something wrong, we develop a fear and anxiety based relationship with God. Psychologically, a self-destructive trend develops.
A trend of fear of getting punished, worry about going to hell and experiencing guilt in our lives more than the blessings and joy of God in our lives.
Some of our brothers and sisters have developed a sever obsessive and compulsive disorder around their practice of Islam. The term is called scrupulosity and it is dangerous and sad.
I once consulted a brother who would take almost one hour to make wudu and two hours to pray. He would repeat rituals over and over again until he got them perfect.
He did this out of fear that his prayer would not be accepted by the powerful judgmental God he grew up with. I have personally worked with clients that had psychotic breakdowns due to this mentality. May the Divine help us.
One of the ways I help such cases is by helping clients reframe their perception of Islam as a “Yes Religion.”
Everything is actually halal except for what is haram.
Islam is not merely a religion of regulations, discipline and deprivations. We have to look at the yes side, the plus side, the blessings and gifts God has actually given us. Living Islam is a path that gives more than it takes.
Reflect on this:
• Yes we get 24 hours a day. Approximately 25-30 minutes a day we are expected to connect with our Creator through prayer. That’s 0.017% of the day in prayer. The rest is “our time.”
• Yes we have twelve months a year. Only one month a year, God asks us to practice self discipline through fasting and make Him a focal point.
Through this fast, we still get to eat and drink by sunset and gain physical and psycho-spiritual benefits. That’s 92% percent of the year left to us to eat when we wish!
• Yes God asks us to give approximately 2.5% of our wealth to those in need and those God did not give as much as He gave you! You still get to keep about 97.5% of your wealth and assets.
• If we have the means financially and physically, God calls us to make pilgrimage only one time in our whole life to receive forgiveness!
Not once a year, once a decade, one time in our whole life. If you live to be 80 years old, and perform one hajj, you spent approximately .00017% of your life in pilgrimage.
• Yes we can eat and drink everything with exception to a few items like pork, alcohol and predator animals (like lions, tigers and bears which are uncommon in all cuisines anyways) 99.5% of all food and drink can make it into your belly!
There are many more examples that show Islam is a “Yes Religion.”
The prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said YES to….
– Forgive people and be patient with their wrongs towards you
– Having flexibility with people’s customs
– Give people time to accept da’wah and not be punished
– Nearly all requests that came his way
– Help and support others
– Being optimistic and smiling
There is a saying that says if it was not for the “La” in La ila ila Allah ( There is no God but Allah), the prophet would never have said “no.”
I encourage you to reframe your perspective and make your own list of how Islam gives more than it takes. Focus on what Islam offers than forbids.
Let’s get back to this “yes mentality.” Let’s acknowledge the gifts, the blessings and appreciate all that God has granted us. Let’s move towards God with love, let’s pray because we want to, let’s find joy in existence and look forward to meeting our Lord.
First published: November 2015