I used to think Islam was all black and white. Black robes, white thobes. Lengthy beards and women who didn’t know how to speak – or, who just didn’t want to try.
Monochromatic, five daily prayers. Reciting words one does not know the meaning of, to a Supreme Being so far away from us. The fear of breaking a rule and subsequently breaking familial bonds. The fear of tripping up, and of being human, a woman – what a wrong way to be.
I thought Islam was about not asking questions. People manipulating religion to befit their own desires – for control and for power. For a grander sense of themselves – for territory, for respect they so clearly did not deserve. A way of life dependent on skins and appearances, under which people engineer their outsides, neglecting the life-giving stuff of what lies within.
But religion without soul is a body without its heart. It is cold, a cadaver. The arms and legs are there, but no blood rushes through them.
Wear a Selwar Kameez, or a black Abaya. Or else. Pray right now. Or else. Rotten tongues concerning themselves with the inadequacies and faults of others, building for themselves imaginative thrones. Abusing those beneath them – under their authority and care – and then proceeding to perform acts of worship.
Do they not know about the dire sin that is arrogance? Do they not know that the best of people are those who are best to the people?
See, Islam is meant to be a (the) religion of the heart. Gentleness, modesty, justice, justice, justice. Kindness, fraternity. Sincerity. Purity, gorgeous simplicity, good manners. Like an old mosque-turned-university, brick walls, cold to touch, yet so warm to walk through. The sun shines through its windows after Fajr prayer, illuminates every single bookshelf it is home to, with a religious urgency.
Where the heart is beautified, and when the blood of sincerity and knowledge and Taqwa are allowed to gush copiously and zestfully through it, all other things do follow. The skin becomes radiant; the follower becomes a smiler with a most beautiful smile.
Islam is the warmest of embraces. In this life, we are thrown upwards from the embrace of the One who created us. A moment of panic – just a moment. And back to Him we fall, and with such grace.
Islam – in its unadulterated forms – beautifies whatever it touches. It is the poetry of the Qur’an, the spiritual harmony brought about by forehead touching ground. It is loving not through the ever-fluctuating vessel of the ego, but instead loving transcendentally, for the sake of God.
It is the knowledge that Muhammad (SAW) sat and counselled little children whose pet birds had passed away; that he did not act in a harsh manner even towards inanimate objects. Islam is the acknowledged knowledge that we are so very human; that a man who considered committing Zina was gently comforted and guided by this most noble man. It is the fear of being arrogant in any way; knowing that a prostitute whose ticket into Heaven was the fact that she had given a thirsty dog some water. Islam is mercy and authenticity. It is not the ‘modern’ ways of power politics and pretences.
Islam is an entire way of life. The limbs and skins of rules and routine are undoubtedly important. For they allow us to move, they shield us from much danger and rottenness. But if the Word of God does not enter the Heart – the organ of love –
then an extremely, objectively, beautiful thing becomes distorted. Worship of God crumbles, devolves rather unfortunately into worship of the Self. [Look around us]. And what an ugly thing it can then become.
Islam is not black and white. Joy is yellow, and Truth is green. Generosity is pink, and Knowledge is golden. To love and be loved by the Creator is a colour that is beyond our current scope of imagination. And I so wonder what the colours of Jannah might be like, too…