Half Your Faith

A brilliant début from an exciting new contributor to the site, ‘YAK’. He eloquently and irreverently articulates something I fear nearly all Muslims can relate to…I’m sure that like myself, you Dear Reader will be looking forward to more from him

By YAK

The old adage ‘Marriage is half your Religion’ is expounded ad infinitum as soon as we Muslims grow facial hair (that doesn’t include the sisters). The constant barrage of this is bashed into our skulls as if we’re going to die. That mentality is exacerbated by our youth today, as if getting married will magically resolve all your problems and you’re now a full Muslim. Prior to this you were of course half a Muslim. Sitting at home doing half the things other Muslims do. Reading half a prayer and half your Ramadan, half your beard and half your istinja. With fervent fever and a restless soul you want to get married quicker than you can say ‘You ain’t no Muslim bruv’.

Therein lies some of the problem. We’re at a cultural crossroads where the old pressures of being forced into getting married to somebody back home who looks like a goat are practically going away. However, we’re living in strange times. A new religious revival has risen and our youth are eager to get married to the nearest convert or lighter skinned person. All for righteous purposes of course. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t got a penny to your name, Allah will provide! We all know that couple who live at their husbands parents’ house whilst they exploit the ‘kuffar’ system. Perhaps living in the garage of their parents house and watching good old fashioned talks from their favourite celebrity Muslim scholar. Ah, good times. All the while, the wife barely gives salaam to her husbands father whilst covered head to toe in a black post office box. I personally know of a brother who scolded his father for coming into his room to say salaam to his wife.

Marrying is indeed half your religion. In essence, to quote a local colloquialism, it is in effect ‘your other half’. He or is she isn’t miraculously making you a full Muslim or completing your religion! That’s absurd. Marrying someone you want to get married to and can afford to be married to is completely normal. To have heartache and a longing for someone to love is perfectly normal and healthy. Yet we’ve turned our process into something far more formulaic and clinical than the previous process of getting married to the village idiot back home. Lest we forget Hazrat Khadija (as) fell in love with the Prophet (saw). A woman, 15 years older than the Prophet(saw) proposed to a man in medieval Arabia. That is the first act of revolution that Islam set. Something which we have all forgotten. It’s vital we reflect on this as both did something out of their traditional mould.

Our whole idea of faith and Islam are so skewed that we’ve turned things into this difficult step by step ‘IKEA’ process. Looks easy, but half way through you realise you don’t have all the screws and then you fall flat on your face whilst you’re whispering to your Mrs in bed with ‘halal pillow talk’.

Marrying is half your faith means simply to treat your partner with equal courtesy, respect, love and patience you would give to your mother (or perhaps your girlfriend that you never will marry). It’s a two way hair pulling frustrating process. It’s tough, incredibly tough. But that’s the baptism of fire so to speak. Yes I said baptism, please don’t crucify me. Damn, I said crucify. Bida brother! 

Our tradition lately has been hijacked by literalists and people who allow no independent thought or open inquiry. I’m of course talking mainly of the Salafists/Wahhabis who turned all of this into who can quote the most hadith and the most scholars. You know, the ‘what’s your daleel [proof] bruv’ crew. However, it’s not exclusive to Wahhabis. Many of our other sects have the same irrational hormonal need to marry for the deen.

I have so many wonderful examples around my family and friends who are Muslim but have somehow escaped traditional and cultural Islamic indoctrination. They rebelled and married someone they wanted to be with and more importantly, when they were ready to be with them. Contrary to that I also know many people who have married for the deen, married to become ‘100% Muslims’ and are unhappy. I won’t mention ‘that guy’ we all have come across. The one with a converted white wife, 2 children. He now wants to get married again. His justification is simply that’s he’s allowed and it would make him a better Muslim! Does that make him 200% Muslim? I’m unsure of the ratio, I would be fascinated to hear percentages of what makes you a ‘super Muslim’ if you have four wives.

Effectively, I am imploring for a common sense approach. Marry someone you want to be with. Marry him/her for whatever they are, love comes first and then the hard work. Not the weird other way around. Marry when you can afford to. Take your time. Breathe. In the meantime, if you have any urges control yourself like an adult and stop acting like it’s the first time you’re going to Alton Towers. Then, and only then, will you realise what completing your religion is like. When you are fulfilled, you’ve understood the religion as it was meant to be understood. Then you can whisper to each other in ‘Jerry McGuire’ cheesiness that ‘you complete me’. Loving and sharing is half your faith.

You have to want to do things for each other, not because you’ve read it in a scholars book somewhere.

It was only a few years ago I heard a couple say to each other, ‘I love you for the sake of Allah‘. I almost had an aneurysm. The meaning of term isn’t bad, but the context is absurd. Surely, loving someone for a higher purpose doesn’t need to be said. True devotion to the divine isn’t through imitation of words. It’s loving someone for their sake, without judgement or expectations. That would de facto be loving someone truly for the sake of the Almighty.

This brings us to the core of the problem. Our myopic interpretation of verses and sayings is perpetuated by some of our esteemed teachers, in the past and today. Unfortunately, we’ve put these scholars, or academics on a pedestal – protected by this unseen mental mechanism that permeates our community as if programmed.  We’ve elevated them to such a level that they are in effect ‘masoom‘ (infallible). They are of course to be respected due to the efforts they’ve put into research and methodology. However, this is a grave error that is oft repeated and instilled in us to uphold their hegemonic control over the masses. That error to protect their intellectual mechanism is not to use your intellect or common sense. In other words they encourage imitation. The amount of times my brain has burst a blood vessel hearing, ‘this is a religion of imitation and not common sense!‘ This is the very mentality that does not allow critical analysis within the confines of our faith. Granted, I’m a layman and I may be wrong. More often than not I’ve been rained upon by brothers shouting at me, with have fresh curry breath splattering on my face, telling me ‘you’re not a scholar!‘. I might be very wrong in my approach. That’s fine. I’m ready to accept that if your argument is logical and without random hadith and random academic book referencing. Challenge me on a common sense and intellectual level. This is exactly my point here.

The above topic was just an exercise to demonstrate the reactions that you may get if you share this. The point isn’t necessarily to share an opinion on marriage being half your religion. We Muslims across the board are suffering from an intellectual drought. We don’t have much broad education in worldly affairs and instead we become experts and fixated with theological arguments.

The information age has allowed us access to almost every single opinion, translation and academia such that nobody could have ever imagined. This means many extremes exist in our community. On one hand a complete rejection of scholars and hadith and on the other the utter, blind and wilful ignorance of quoting hadith as if it’s scripture. My criticism is of the latter party. The dangers of puritanism are effervescent within our communities. Our obsession to copy the Prophet (saw) is often impeded by our own narrow vision of what constitutes as good behaviour. If your prism of assimilating information has changed which I hope it has, then so should your prism of theological thought. If you view the Quran has a universal and dynamic message and the Prophet (saw) as a mercy to the worlds, then anything which contradicts those basic tenets might just be false.

I follow a path not dissimilar to the Hanafi Maturidi school of thought. Traditional scholars of the Hanafi school of thought had a very rationalistic approach to hadith. If it were at odds with common sense or reason, the hadith were rejected. Today, we’ve raised hadith quoting to a binding contract, which once quoted you cannot back away from. The traditionalist Hanafi approach has always been by distilling the hadith through the prism of the Quran. Which is why apostasy and stoning are rejected. The chain of narration has nothing to do with authenticity. Aisha (may God be pleased with her) rejected a narration by a companion saying women, like dogs, broke the prayer – on the basis of comparing women to dogs! We have a influential and heretical group of Wahhabis who actually believe the notion that God has hands and a face. They may as well believe in Zeus. That’s the sort of mentality we’re dealing with.

More importantly through this prism of rational thought, we can come to sound conclusions about sunna. For example, if I tell you that when it’s cold, go outside wearing a thick addidas track suit bottoms like my brother does, it doesn’t mean that you should go out of your way to buy the same addidas bottoms, wear them and go outside when it’s cold. Is the miswak important or brushing your teeth? The principles behind the sunna are important, not the literal representation of clones we see today. All of them dressed very similarly in a homogeneous, monolithic way (although all of them disagree with each other, as to who looks more Muslim). When people say, ‘you can’t talk about Muslims as a monolithic entity’, we’re not a monolithic entity, but we’re becoming that way. The principles are important, not the actual act itself. I appreciate there might be exceptions to this, but generally speaking you’re not going to be seen parking your camel in the town centre are you?

Our scholars are not immune from constructive criticism and discussion. My proposal is more open inquiry and logical debates should be more transparent. This “protectionist” racket is intellectually dishonest to our very belief system which consistently tells us to ponder and scrutinise.

Of course, in the above I’ve been satirising some truths that are extremes in our community. Nevertheless they are truisms that do exist. The reality is that we’re so literal in our understanding of sayings from the hadith or Quran that it defies logic. Our minds have been held captive for years from leaders and scholars that we don’t question for one second what they’re saying, however absurd it is. In any case, the modern tendency amongst Muslim groups to disparage the intellect is a dire innovation.

In conclusion, we live in strange and frustrating times. We have whole chapters in Bukhari about window cleaning and cleaning the toilet, hygiene and other trivial matters which can be replaced by other methods in today’s age. In the same note we have a passive and intellectually incapable scholarship who will not/cannot challenge rulings on apostasy and other bloodshed in hadith. Parallel to that we have scholars and other Muslims who will declare takfir on you for celebrating the Prophets’ birthday or listening to music. These are are same people who lay silent when it comes to extremities and contradictions within our rulings but will turn into bloodthirsty marauders, who would like to correct us and bring us to the ‘pure’ Islam. Ironically, these are the same people who’ve turned the Almighty into a Zeus like figure.

Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are like livestock. Rather, they are [even] more astray in [their] way.

(25:44)

Advertisements

22 thoughts on “Half Your Faith

  1. I really appreciate the main gist of this article. One does hear of some pretty outrageous stuff going on in certain areas. Also, the font is excellent! Perhaps this should be the default font of the blog.

    There’s an issue that I will pick on. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    “Aisha (may God be pleased with her) rejected a narration by a companion saying women, like dogs, broke the prayer – on the basis of comparing women to dogs!”

    Is this established? From my reading of the hadith (which you can find at http://sunnah.com/bukhari/8/161), she rejected the hadith, but on the basis of her personal experience living with the Prophet ﷺ, and not merely the comparison of women with donkeys and dogs.

    • That begs the question what gave her the courage to speak up and reject the statement being made. In my humble opinion her rational may very well have been of discouraging the comparison of women to Dogs and Donkeys, but the epistemic justification upon her rational for her belief was simple, the Prophet NEVER compared women to Dogs and Donkeys and he never stated that women annulled prayer, and through her example she gives evidence for her statement regarding the prophetic attitude. In a way she was discouraging a form of bidah, which is the unnecessary adding of beliefs or practices not established by the prophet himself or found in the Quran.

    • She said to Abu Huraira when he narrated it ‘are you comparing us to donkeys and dogs?’, so that makes it clear.

      Anyway, rejecting things based on reason is established by Quran in 70+ places where God praises the intellect. So rejecting intellect is rejecting Quran (= Kufr). And the only reason we know Quran is true is by intellect. And worst of all, those people who said that intellect is subservient to text also decided that using intellect. So there is no escaping intellect.

  2. I too appreciate the topic which the article takes but I must question the actual mentality of people who claim the half your deen approach. It is a well established FACT that western cultures have become highly Sexualized, however humans have not (and will not) reached a level of maturity capable of handling that. The dichotomy is simple, we have Muslim Males AND Females who are having their most primal desires tempted on an everyday level and must constantly have self control or risk committing Zina. The Islamic answer of course is to fast or get married, the later being the preferred choice among young people mainly for more Nafs based reasons than Iman based reasons, however as most Modern Western Muslims are neither mature enough or dedicated enough to face the reality of marriage (in comparison to older generations of non-western Muslims) they ultimately treat it as another paradigm of the first world and place little effort in maintaining a well meaning human relationship as God has commanded.

    My main point of contention lies not in the mentality of marrying young and or living with ones parents, it is mainly that people do not seem to have a well thought out plan regarding the matter. Generation X and Y are woefully ill-equipped to handle marriage let alone an Islamic concept of the matter. I do agree with you that some scholars force this aspect a little to much, but I feel they do it out of intention to stop people from committing one of the harshest sins. Rather than stopping the practice of marrying young, people should realize first if they are capable of the matter of marriage and IF THEY ARE they should not put it off for a later point.

    • I know it’s hard to believe, but sexual intercourse wasn’t invented in 1963, and desire and the representation of desire – visual, musical, literary, performative – is as old as civilisation itself. We don’t live in a more sexualised culture than the Greeks or the Romans or the Japanese or the Renaissance Italians – we do, however, live in a popular, democratic culture in which the technological and material means for the representation, reproduction and transmission of the products of popular culture are ubiquitous. You don’t need to have the wealth of a Medici to commission Botticelli to do you a fabulously sexy selfie with your girlfriend these days.

      Complaining about “sexualised” western civilisation being pernicious to the moral well-being of muslim youth is cliched, lazy and historically illiterate gobshite – clerics in general have always complained about the vulgar and concupiscent urban masses ( who were bawdy and had sex that they disapproved of ) and muslim clerics ( with some honourable exceptions ) have a disastrous track record when it comes to art and culture.

      The reality is that for the most part Western societies are pretty successful and decent places when it comes to interpersonal and sexual relationships. And that’s the real issue here – contemporary sexual and relationship morality works well for most people most of the time; moreover this is evidently the case to young muslims who know and interact with peers who routinely have functional, non-abusive and mutually satisfying romantic relationships. This has nothing to do with sexualisation of culture and the other lazy excuses that get trotted out.

      What is presented as Islamic advice or Islamic solutions is laughable, unworkable and simply productive of neurotic misery, hypocrisy, abuse and worse. Asking teenagers to ask themselves whether they’re capable of marrying a near-complete stranger to whom they have formed no substantial attachment and then follow a painting-by-numbers series of clichés about the roles and duties of an Islamic marriage is utterly pointless – the honest answer is invariably going to be no, and it doesn”t address the fierce urgency of teenage or young adult sexual and relational longings. At some point someone is going to have to wrestle with the dilemma that the paradigm is broken.

      • Superb points – people would do well to think on these.

        I would not accept that contemporary ‘Western’ or rather liberal sexual morality is an unqualified success by any means though (I know you didn’t say that it was) – much misery is to be had due to so-called ‘rape culture’ if you believe feminists (I don’t), what Oliver James and other have called ‘gender rancour’ is rife, the divorce rate is >70% for first marriages in the US, teenage pregnancy etc and of course, in the final analysis, the object of sex and interpersonal relationships is either happiness or mutual benefit, and there is no way to quantify that, but there are a lot of studies that show people are more unfulfilled today than in the past (for example, before the sexual revolution and ‘Second Wave’ feminism).

        I would also add that many of the ‘advances’ of the West – the decline of the nuclear family, gay marriage and adoption etc are novel and as yet have no long term ‘testing’ i.e we don’t know what the impact will be, it is merely assumed to be good as per the modern belief in progress. Likewise with the precipitous drop in fertility and female child bearing in Germany, Italy, Singapore etc and the concomitant need for immigration.

        Furthermore, a lot of these ‘advances’ have only been possible due to 1) The Pill 2) Abortion 3) Antibiotics and antivirals to treat STD’s. As I am sure you know, these things are not as widely available nor accepted in other cultures. So getting Gonorrhoea in the UK = no big deal, in other places (or times) it can still be fatal. Same with HIV. Abortion and the Pill allow women and men to behave in non-traditional ways, as does the ‘Welfare State’ (which has only really existed since WWII) and state sponsored childcare and welfare. So people have less children, as they don’t need to use children as an insurance policy for their old age or for labour and can uncouple sex from setting up a family and child care because now getting pregnant is not a big deal – although many women are still irresponsible enough so as to not use the widely available methods of contraception, in the past pregnancy could be a death sentence due to high maternal mortality. So you could not just ‘fuck ’em and duck ’em’ if you will pardon the expression. Abortion was also previously very dangerous.

        So to some extent, there ARE big changes that happened in the West in the 60’s due to the Pill, which allowed people to be more promiscuous whereas frankly, beforehand, the risk of disease and pregnancy made that a dangerous option. And we have to remember that religion claims to prescribe for all humans at all times, not just Western Liberals. Even homosexuality in the past, in a hunter gatherer or tribal society, was a limited option. So to an extent, modern sexual norms are a ‘First World Problem’ and do not necessarily make people happier than in, say the 1950’s nor are they generalisable to the rest of the world, unless we want to bring them up to our standard of living, which we clearly don’t want to, or make them follow our culture (which we clearly do, unless they are China or Saudi Arabia, in which case trade trumps everything).

        I would also add that where I live, up to 90% of sex workers are undocumented migrants. To what extent the modern Western sexual lifestyle depends on sex workers, and sex tourism (just as it does on cheap foreign labour and raw materials in other fields) as well as cheaply available prostitutes, strip clubs, masturbation aids such as pornography and how fulfilling these are as a substitute or alternative to girl meets boy is an open question (to put it bluntly, there are 6 million unaccompanied male Western tourists – and loads from Middle East and India too – in Thailand every year. How fulfilled they would be if they didn’t have these kinds of outlets is hard to say. Likewise, people from the Third World don’t have this option). I used to live in SE Asia – Westerners and Arabians with wealth thought it was great – most had no trouble in having sex or serious relationships and finding a wife, because of their perceived status. Locals, not so much. So how good a system is depends on your marriage pool, perception in the hierarchy of the ‘sexual market’, availability of options abroad etc.

        It must be noted that Muslims are now getting so sexually desperate that ‘finding a partner’ features as a prime motivation for joining ISIS for both men and women – who can find on-line catalogues of Jihadi husbands. So something has indeed gone badly wrong with Muslims. I know a few ‘English’ people who may go to Ibiza or other places for a lay – but I don’t know anyone who is so desperate that they would joint ISIS for that reason and go live in a warzone, but British Muslim men and women are indeed doing just that and are open about their sexual motives.

        Of course, none of this takes away from your point and lest you think I am trying to minimise that, I agree completely: if we compare the Western model with the Muslim ‘model’ as it exists in the UK (or even as it is alleged to have existed in the frankly difficult to believe narrative of the past) and as you so aptly described – it is a complete ‘no contest’. In fact what Muslims claim to have in terms of both setting up and maintaining sexual relationships is actually vacuous and non – existent. For all it’s flaws, the Western model is the only show in town. It took me a long time to realise that. Anyway, I cannot put it better so I won’t try, this sums up my feelings and experiences perfectly (except I am sure no one will wrestle with the broken paradigm unfortunately):

        What is presented as Islamic advice or Islamic solutions is laughable, unworkable and simply productive of neurotic misery, hypocrisy, abuse and worse. Asking teenagers to ask themselves whether they’re capable of marrying a near-complete stranger to whom they have formed no substantial attachment and then follow a painting-by-numbers series of clichés about the roles and duties of an Islamic marriage is utterly pointless – the honest answer is invariably going to be no, and it doesn”t address the fierce urgency of teenage or young adult sexual and relational longings. At some point someone is going to have to wrestle with the dilemma that the paradigm is broken”.

        Here here!

      • Also, spot on about the historical context – if anything, society was MORE sexualised in the past – availability of slaves for sex and in the Islamic sources, Lady A’isha describes a type of marriage practised at the time of the Prophet or just before where 10 men would have consensual sex with a woman in a single sitting.

        You don’t see that today. Not even in Essex.

        It’s also funny how all these British Muslims who join ISIS can go from zero to rape in under six seconds – these are the same Salafis who demand strict gender segregation and not listening even to the voice of a woman – but then they are cool with raping some Yazidi girl they just met.

        Some messed up psychological stuff going on there. Usually though, the people who go on about something puritanically are the ones doing it the most. At least in Muslims, Puritanism invariably masks hypocrisy and unbridled licentiousness

      • I feel as if I did not fully elaborate my point, by highly sexualized I did intend to express that the saturation and level of sexual materials availability to the masses has risen as you pointed out via the democratic culture of the modern age. As for the point of marrying teenagers I again did not express my views correctly, youthful marriage as I propose is from the ages of 21-25, around the time individuals complete college education. This is often the approach more educated Muslims take when discussing marital time frames, so it is not unfair for an individual of this age to ask themselves if they are indeed prepared to marry in relation to their financial, educational, and maturity levels. NEVER did I say that marrying a complete stranger was a correct Islamic paradigm and it should not be enforced as one, instead this is a viewpoint of a collectivist tribal society, as is the case of most of the Muslim world (even if an illusion of Westerness prevails in some aspects). As for the rest mmmclmru articulates the rest.

  3. “The Islamic answer of course is to fast or get married, the later being the preferred choice among young people mainly for more Nafs based reasons than Iman based reasons”

    From my Christian perspective, I feel there are more reasons to that.

    In Islam, while celibacy or virginity is not exactly frowned upon, there is no religious significance attributed to it. In great contrast to Christianity, the islamic view of purity (including sexual purity) is not connected to celibacy or even monogamy. There are no celibate or virgin role models in Islam (while there were consecrated virgins even in the pagan Roman religion). Compare this with the Catholic Church where the superiority of the virgin state over the married state (let alone the impure, “fornicative” state) is a point of dogma, the denying of which automatically turns one into a heretic. And Christianophobic
    Muslims are only too ready and happy to join the atheist/liberal mob in saying things like celibacy or monogamy is bad for health, that the Church represses natural desires etc.

    One could say that virginity is half the Christian religion.

    • Yes virginity is an important concept in Christian doctrine, the Islamic equivalent however is vastly different in the spiritual sense. Nafs is roughly translated to “Primal State” in English, essentially the raw instinct of humans aside from their rational thought. Islamic doctrine and philosophy hold that this Nafs is an innate part of human beings but should be controlled as commanded by god. Since Islam does not prescribe any sort of Monasticism, the essential quelling of the Nafs was through lawful acts deemed appropriate by god. Essentially committing sexual acts outside of marriage is seen a form of self-worship which relegates absolute human pleasure above divine decree, so the rational thing to do was get married when the right time came. In the modern age this has become somewhat more difficult due to the global business landscape we live in as more resources are needed to garner a successful marriage, so more self restraint is required on the hand of young Muslims as to not fall into the frivolities of sexual liberation.

      As for virgins in Islamic text, Marry is mentioned highly for her chaste nature mainly in relation to how she spent her time praying in the temple instead of prescribing to other more material acts.

  4. I think nobody would really say that something that goes against the objective intellect can be true according to Islam. But different people perceive different things as rational. I saw many cases where someone appealed to rationality but it was in fact only an emotional argument.
    But I agree in cases like in this Hadith.

  5. I’d like to share some of my own personal experiences

    Growing up in the UK (I’m a college student), I’ve had to follow some extreme thinking within the Sub Continental Asian culture. Unfortunately, its left its mark. I know many people, including myself, who are led to believe that women are nothing but a source of temptation and fitna and required to delay any interaction until marriage. As a result, there are practically no interactions on any level. I mean I can’t even speak to a women at all and having to go to therapy sessions (amongst other reasons) to try and sort this out. It is frankly embarrassing on many levels that Muslims, not just subcontinental, have reached this point and no longer using intellect to consider the harms that such thinking can do to an individual; loneliness, lack of love etc. The worst thing is that interactions are required nowadays considering educated Muslims compete with one another for either a man or women of a similar intellectual standing (my perspective).

    • Well done for sharing this – you are courageous and many Muslims, especially myself, relate to this and know exactly where you are coming from. Please consider turning this into an article.

      • I wouldn’t mind contributing but I understand I’m still on my own journey in this life and have much to learn. Perhaps when I’ve ‘matured’, I can post more experiences insha’Allah

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s