‘Everyone starts his day and is a vendor of his soul, either freeing it or bringing about its ruin.’
The world is getting smaller day by day. From our small-knit communities, we now have networks that reach all ends of the globe. Instead of being in our comfort zones – where our ideas, beliefs, opinions, thoughts are conformed to by everyone, we now live in different corners of the globe where diversity prevails. Far from the sheltering hand of our beloved families and communities, we now live in a society where our culture, faith and principles are constantly challenged by those different from ours. To coexist peacefully (which is Islam’s way), we have to practice caution, patience, tolerance and perseverance towards other people. The Qur’an says “To you be your Way, and to me mine [109:6]”. Live, and let live.
The above quote is narrated from the Holy Prophet (SAW). It is interesting to note how our lives apply to this narration, in the context of the multicultural societies we live in. It is unfortunate that we take our birth as Muslims for granted. We expect everyone to see things as we do, we expect it to be ‘easy’ for everyone to see that Islam is the right way. Instead of being the vendor of our own soul, we attempt to be the vendor of the souls around us. Judgment is reserved only for Allah (SWT). We have no right to point fingers, whether it’s at Muslims or Non-Muslims for their actions. For instance, women not observing the physical hijab come under a lot of attack from Muslims as they do not cover their ‘dignity’. What is important to grasp here is that not all of us come from the same background, not all of us had the opportunity to listen to stories about the great Lady Zainab (AS), and not all of us were raised with the idea of covering oneself engrained in our souls. Moreover, Allah (SWT) tells us in the Qur’an, “Verily, the most honourable of you with Allah is that (believer) who has At-Taqwa.” And no one knows what’s in the heart of a person except the Almighty. We may have the external appearance of the ideal Muslim, but our hearts may be blackened with pride. On the other hand, people may not appear to our eyes as the best Muslims, but their hearts may be distant from sins and even closer to God.
At the end of the day, we will not be answerable for other people’s actions, only our own. Act on the Prophet’s teaching, be a vendor of your own soul and minimize your judgment of others. A giant pitfall of expressing your judgment is an unnecessary feeling of superiority over others. “Pride enters the heart like a black ant crawling over a black rock at night.” By acting as a guardian to other people’s souls, one loses the security of his own. Instead of judging oneself – by constantly being wary of one’s actions – we tend to be more interested in preaching, as opposed to practicing. What’s worse is, this portrays Islam as an unwelcoming religion, where one who is unfamiliar with Islamic practices is discriminated against and belittled.
However, despite the fact that we should avoid establishing opinions about people, or expressing/discharging judgment based on their actions, we do have an obligation to spread the teachings of our beautiful religion. But we must ask ourselves, what is the ideal way to do this? Is it to tell people to perform certain actions and avoid others? Would stating the ‘Halals’ and ‘Haraams’ make sense to someone who has had no Islamic background whatsoever? In my opinion, we have to follow the path of Islam’s holiest personalities. If we adopt their approach, then we cannot go wrong. The Holy Prophet (SAW), for forty years (longer than the time he actually preached Islam) just portrayed the best of character and morals. He epitomized the spirit of humanity, and it is this that drew his greatest companions to the religion of Islam. He’d established such a supreme character in the eyes of his Ummah – that to those whose hearts were pure –they were attracted to his religion as soon as he declared it.
I believe we should adopt the same approach. Depict the best of morals. Be accountable for your own soul, judge yourself rather than others. Do not preach what you do not practice. Strive to increase your honor in the eyes of Allah(SWT), rather than pointing out the wrongs in others. Express Islam as a welcoming religion, where anyone can visit the doors of the Almighty, and he or she will not return, disappointed. And if you are concerned about justice being made, know that Allah(SWT) is Al-Hakam, the best of judges.