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By Tabassum Mosleh Bushra

Bismillahi-r-Rahmani-r-Rahim.

In today’s world of materialism and secularism where religions in general, and Islam in particular, are seen as unnecessary, backward and unscientific, it is a great honour from Allah to be among those few who truly learn and practice the teachings of Islam in their lives despite facing social difficulties because of it.

The Prophet  (saws)said, Islam initiated as something strange, and it will revert to its (old position) of being strange. So, glad tidings to the stranger! [Muslim]

The above hadith makes those of us who place ourselves in the category of “strangers” to feel special, and there really is nothing wrong with that. The problem starts when we begin to misuse Islam to fill up this void of self-esteem.

We start by developing the desire to show off to others and begin to regard those whom we consider “non-strangers” as inferior, or as the “losers” mentioned in Surat al Asr. This is a huge test for the student of knowledge, as the great scholar Sufyaan ath Thawri (rahimahullah) has said: I did not treat anything more difficult than my sincerity. [Phillips 20]

How the Problem Begins

The problem can begin in either of two ways. Firstly, the person who is trying to learn about Islam and implement the knowledge in his life receives a lot of praise from those around him who may or may not be practicing Islam themselves. He is seen as almost an alim, and he is asked questions about fiqh and aqeedah which he proudly answers, sometimes without sufficient knowledge to answer such questions.

Thus his feeling of being special and knowledgeable is fuelled. Soon he begins to forget that the reason he is special is that Allah has made him special, and not that he is special because of his own talents or accomplishments. Then he begins to criticize other people’s practice of Islam, even scholars, and if it diverts an iota from his own opinions, those others are labeled as misguided or innovators.

Secondly, the person suffers socially because of the outward manifestations of Islam in his life. He is criticised by parents and he is seen as being “weird” by friends and relatives. He is either laughed at or openly scorned. His ego is thwarted again and again. Soon he begins to reciprocate the same attitude towards those people and begins to scorn them for their apparent lack of Islam and ridicule of the true Muslim identity.

Consequences of Developing the Problem

The arrogant person does not enter Paradise, as the prophet (saws) said, No one who has the weight of a mustard seed of arrogance in his heart will enter Paradise. Someone said, Indeed, a man loves to have beautiful clothes and shoes. So the prophet said, Verily, Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty. Arrogance means rejecting the truth and looking down on people. [Sahih Muslim]

Showing off (riya) is a lesser form of idolatry: Among the first people to enter Hellfire will be a scholar. Allah will say to him, You have lied because you learned religious knowledge so that it would be said you are a scholar and you recited the Quran so that it would be said you are a reciter.[Sahih Muslim]

The prophet (saws) said, “Verily, what I fear most for you is the lesser idolatry.” They said, “What is the lesser idolatry, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, It is showing off. Allah the Exalted will say to them on the Day of Resurrection when the people are being rewarded for their deeds: Go to those whom you wished would see you in the world and look, do you find any reward with them?[Musnad Ahmad]

Developing a hard and argumentative nature is also forbidden: The prophet (saws) said, Whoever seeks knowledge in order to show off to the scholars, or to argue with the foolish, or to attract the attention of people, then he will go to Hellfire. [Shu’b Al-Iman Al-Bayhaqi 1635]

Allah has said about the hypocrites, They think that every shout is against them.[Quran, 63:4]

(to be continued)

My name is Tabassum Mosleh Bushra. I’m from Dhaka, Bangladesh. I am currently studying BA in the Islamic Online University, giving my fifth semester finals. I did a BEng Honors in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nottingham and went on to studying Islam and psychology. I am currently studying the latter at Saylor Foundation. I also have a diploma in CBT counseling and am pursuing another in hypnotherapy. Alhamdulillah for everything.

Although I have never had an article published in English before, I write at a Bengali Islamic blog: www.ahobaan.com.

Works Cited

http://www.dailyhadithonline.com/ 5 Dec 13

Zayd, Bakr Aboo, The Etiquette of Seeking Knowledge,  Trans. Abu ‘Abdillah Murad ibn Hilmi Ash-Suweikh

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