To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and on earth, and to Him is duty due always: then will ye fear other than Allah? (Quran 16:52)

A common phrase that is heard when trying to tell people to be honest is “Be real!”  As Muslims we should “be real” with our submission to Allah and fear only Allah.  The opposite of real is fake. Being fake would be pretending to fear Allah and fearing something else. This came up in a discussion at the 2011 Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) convention with Dr. Jasser Auda, Dr. Maher Hathout, Shaykh/Dr. Yasir Qadhi and the moderator Haris Tarin. You can view the full clip below this post.

Dr. Hathout alluded to something extremely important and interesting when discussing how an Islamic government should be. Summarizing what he said is that the government policing and forcing people for not praying is not real Islam because it creates a situation where people would be praying not because they want to connect with Allah but not to get in trouble with the police/government.  Dr. Auda also suggests that the government needs to differentiate in Islam between crime and sin.  This is very interesting because from the Sharia we can see there are sins that have criminal punishments whilst there are other sins that have no punishments.  Obviously Allah is the final judge and all sins will be held accountable on the Day of Judgement, but in terms of an political Islamic system there are sins that aren’t prosecuted by it as defined by the Sharia.

I really liked this because I feel that some Muslims feel that part of Islam is to be the sin police. In some Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia there are police who are paid by the government to go around and enforce the Sharia based on their interpretations. If people aren’t praying or aren’t covering properly, they would be fined or jailed. In a much harsher example we have a extreme type like the Taliban in Afghanistan where they beat people publicly for not following the Sharia according to them and even destroy private properties for not following the Sharia like a barbershop that cuts beards since cutting beards are forbidden according to them. This creates the environment in these countries where the citizens are forced to surrender to the government and not to surrender to Allah.

Could it be possible that fearing other than Allah would be like worshipping other than Allah? I don’t know if I would take it to that level since it’s a very dangerous path to lead towards, but regardless the hypocrisy produced by an environment in which Islam is used to force Muslims to submit is dangerous in it of itself. It’s also hard to judge whether or not an individual is doing it for the sake of Allah or for the sake of the police but using our common sense we know hypocrites exist like how Dr. Auda said the women would take of their hijab upon leaving Saudi Arabia. There needs to be a balance between the state and the people when it comes the prosecution of sins versus crimes.

Now I know in the video they were talking about a specific niche of Islam that espouses this type of legislated prosecution of individual sins – the Salafis in Saudi Arabia.  We should not be offended when using labels in these type of discussions, because we all know we are all Muslims.  No one is not denying that, but in an academic intellectual discussion labels are often used to simply organize thoughts and opinions to properly define the subject. I was once considered a “salafi” (and some might say I still am).  I have many family and friends who are Salafis and I love them dearly.  In fact I love them all.  I just simply disagree with them.  We agree to disagree.  So we shouldn’t be afraid to use terms in a specific context such as this.  We should also be merciful with our words when using labels like this.  It should not be a in derogatory sense.

Give the political Salafi groups a break!

With that said, there was another part of the disucssion about “Salafism” and the political Salafi movements particularly in Egypt and what they are about.  Shaykh Yasir did an excellent job breaking it down:

I agree with this. We should give the Salafi political parties a break.  They are very new to this.  In fact the Salafis across the Red Sea were against the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya.  I saw tweets, facebook statuses and articles all quoting the hadith about the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) saying that Muslims should not rebel and fight against a Muslim ruler from many Salafis. So even the political Salafi groups face opposition in their ways from the homebase of Salafism. These new political Salafi groups are learning and evolving, so we shouldn’t be harsh on them.  After all, America wasn’t built over night.  It took them decades to abolish slavery then another century to establish civil rights and women couldn’t even vote until the 20th century.  These Salafi groups as well as all Islamist groups don’t even have decades on their resume, and many of us want instant freedoms like America has.

I hope and pray for a better future in these parts of the worlds and generally worldwide where our scholars, governments and leaders aren’t judging our sins but helping us to learn and love our Creator, Allah and his beloved messenger, Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him). I also pray that we look at our differences, accept that we are different but still pray side by side leaving the final judgement to the best and final judge, Allah.

Islamic Movements: Help or Hindrance?

Here is the full video of the entire session from the 2011 MPAC convention: