Religion on Sale

Figure 1A: The cutting of a cake shaped exactly like that for secular birthdays and Christmas holidays that has now been dubbed the "`Eid Meelaad cake." It is curious that the expression being used by these people is actually the word for Christmas, celebrated by Arab Christians throughout the world.

Figure 1A: The cutting of a cake shaped exactly like that for secular birthdays and Christmas holidays that has now been dubbed the “`Eid Meelaad cake.” It is curious that the expression being used by these people is actually the word for Christmas, celebrated by Arab Christians throughout the world.(Photo courtesy of http://www.burhaniguardstrust.com)

A concern of mine has always been the giving of form precedence over function. By this I mean that I have always worried about Islam in the West in general (and the Anglosphere in particular) at some point being reduced to feelings and actions rather than used in its’ essence. Some people when they speak of Islam, will often use expression such as, “I started practicing” or “I am more practicing” or even the more perplexing, “I am a non-practicing Muslim.”

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 10:  Patty Anton, an American who is a practicing Muslim, attends a rally in support of religious freedom on September 10, 2010 in New York, New York. Over a thousand people attended the rally on the eve of September 11 to support American Muslims and to call for the building of the Park 51 Mosque in lower Manhattan.  (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Figure 2A: NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 10: Patty Anton, an American who is a practicing Muslim, attends a rally in support of religious freedom on September 10, 2010 in New York, New York. Over a thousand people attended the rally on the eve of September 11 to support American Muslims and to call for the building of the Park 51 Mosque in lower Manhattan. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

(What exactly are you practicing? Since when did Islam become like tennis?)

Language is important and people speak from what is in themselves. When I heard these expressions, I started to wonder: Is this a matter of form over function? Why is it that some individuals are using more to do with “doing Islam” than becoming? Identification rather than embodiment? What then happens in these cases is that people associate their self-identification with Islam more than with what is really required to become a Muslim.

Some of this may come from the belief that since one is brown and from a majority Muslim country that they are “Muslim for life,” since this is all they know. “Once a Muslim, always a Muslim,” curiously burrowed from Judaism. Well, melanin. That’s for life; but you may change your faith. You might reject the faith and become something else.

Someone might be as dark as midnight from a majority Muslim country but if they do not belief the key principles necessary to become/be a Muslim, then they are not part of that faith. Belonging to a faith, rotary club, guild and so forth has an exclusive aspect and if one does not meet those requirements, he or she cannot belong to whatever that may be.

There are a number of responses one could have to this contradiction when he or she is trying to grasp what Islam is in reality:

  1. To find out exactly what it is and then reject it. This is not unusual as some people when they come to find out what Islam really stands for, they cannot bear the weight of the matter.
  2. Claim of birthright Islam, which was already covered above. Self identification trumps reality (“Don’t confuse me with the facts. I’ve already made my mind up.”)
  3. Religious syncretism

This last one is the most disturbing as it involves a type of cognitive dissonance in some way. In situations such as this, the origin, essence and core of what is at stake can sometimes be lost but the husk or outward form is left in place.

There will be people who abandon aspects of Islam, its’ theology, laws, worship and whatever else what enter or maintain one in the religion, but still demand to receive the courtesy of being called a “Muslim.”

Still another aspect would be that the Believers in Allah maintain the faith, but then they intermingle other aspects of a foreign faith into their own. This could initially start out as something valid but then be transmogrified over time into something completely unrecogniseable.

Worship is just one example. The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is celebrated the world over by believers and by even some non-believers. No one disputes these matters in the least. The commemoration of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, is one of these examples. No one disputes the significance of this at all and marja` people have discussed this already.

What was just mentioned is the function, the basis, the core, the very marrow. Who of Muslim Orthodoxy disputes this? No one. Unfortunately, what comes after this is the form. Accretions can sometimes develop over time and the original message gets lost. It is for good reason that Imam Abu Muhammad Al-Barbahari (d. 329 AH), may Allah have mercy upon him, said, “Beware of small innovations as they lead to large innovations.” Sharh us-Sunnah, pp. 26-27, Maktabat us-Sunnah, Cairo, 1416 AH

The problem with small things that begin in this fashion is that if they are left unchecked they then grow in strength and more is added to them. As the 12th of Rabi` ul-Awwal 1437 AH came this year on 24 December AD 2015 (which is Christmas Eve), we have seen some startling examples of religious syncretism. In no way was this more apparent than on any normal street corner in the Angloshere.

Take a look below.

Figure 1B: A perfectly normal expression of Christmas cheer in a Christian country as performed by a Christian.

Figure 1B: A perfectly normal expression of Christmas cheer in a Christian country as performed by a Christian.

One would expect this in a country such as England, where Christianity is indeed the religion of the state as indicated in constitution records and so forth.

Now take a peek below.

Figure 2B: A stunning example of religious syncretism. This is the house of a practicing Muslim, but notice the resemblance.

Figure 2B: A stunning example of religious syncretism. This is the house of a “practicing Muslim,” but notice the resemblance. If the reader looks just past the left window (which appears to have some sort of charm in the shape of a sandal or waffle), a Christmas tree can be seen in the right window.

This sycretism is not only locally induced but extends to the rest of the West, on account of the fact that some have actually declared this action licit as indicated below.

When one sees the pictures above and also watches peoples speak on these affairs, it should be little wonder that something permitted could become distorted over time. Over time, a foreign religion advertises itself like this:

Figure 3B: Another festive Christmas design.

Figure 3B: Another festive Christmas design.

And if members of the other religion allow, they fall into syncretism, like this:

Figure 4B: Another example of a practicing Muslim house.

Figure 4B: Another example of a “practicing Muslim” house.

We have to remember that as time goes on, these accretions increase and more and more of the foreign religion finds its’ way in the host faith and the two become nearly unrecogniseable at some point. Just look at a passion week march:

Figure 1C: An example of a Holy Week procession.

Figure 1C: An example of a Holy Week procession in Spain.

And then compare the above with this:

Figure 1C: A function carried out by practicing Muslims, cryptically called the `Eid Meelaad un-Nabi Juloos.

Figure 2C: A function carried out by “practicing Muslims,” cryptically called the “`Eid Meelaad un-Nabi Juloos.” Notice how both groups have the distinctive head wraps and the ubiquitous presence of green.

The only way to avoid all of this blending and syncretism is to keep both of these religions separate. Christianity is Christianity and Islam is Islam. Let us remember the words that we read in the revelation.

Maida-3

Today I have completed your religion and perfected my favour upon you. And I am pleased for Islam as your religion. (Surat ul-Ma’idah (5), ayah 3).

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One response to “Religion on Sale

  1. Assalamualaikum,
    I understand what you are saying, especially with regards to celebrating Christmas. But the lights and the processions are common in the sub continent (hence England due to the large third generation migrant community) and don’t relate to religious syncretism. Vocal and public displays of happiness and celebration are a part of the sub continent’s culture during occasions of happiness such as weddings and also during Rabi ul Awwal. Your comparison with the Holy Week Procession in Spain is extremely unfair and unfounded, it seems to be some obscure event that none of those you accuse has probably ever seen or heard of. You know full well what the green represents for Muslims and accusing them of copying Christians is ridiculous. I’m afraid parts of this article don’t seem well researched and are unfair towards the muslims of the sub continent – the outward form of islam that you talk about in the west is a separate issue. I fully agree with your views on celebrating Christmas but you’ve accused Muslims of many things. The form of celebration is open, as long as it doesn’t contradict sharia, surely.

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