May 7, 2015
“An angel won’t come to your house if you have a dog.” “It’s a sin to eat with your left hand because the devil eats with left hand.” “The Prophet hated women who pluck their eyebrows.” These are just some of the declarations people have made to improve me and make me a better Muslim. Inquisitive rebel that I am, I always have questions. Why is an angel afraid of a dog? Why does the devil need to eat? When the Prophet went to see a sick woman who used to throw trash on him every day, why would he hate a woman who does something that has no effect on him? For that matter, I can’t see him hating anyone.
Furthermore, does a divine, merciful God who created the universe and all things in it really care about trivial matters such as these? Does he care if I paint my nails, cut my hair, or shave my legs? All things I’ve been told could cause me trouble in the afterlife. Plenty of actions I have committed may lead to a bumpy afterlife, but the ones I just mentioned sure as hell aren’t those. Truth be told, I really think the Creator of the Universe does not care, not even a little bit.
So why do people care so much? Why do people give me injunction after injunction when, in my mind, all I’m really doing is breathing? I find many conservative, religious types quick to point out the wrongs people do in everyday things. What someone eats and how they eat, there are rules governing that. The foot I land on when I enter the bathroom and when I leave the bathroom. Someone’s got something to say about that.
Then, there are jinn. One of my favorite topics. For those who are unfamiliar with the Quran, I will give clarification. Jinn are an invisible race of beings made of fire who live among humans, though most never see them. Some think they live with us in our houses, and we don’t know it. Consequently, I have to be very aware when I go to the bathroom, get undressed, or have the audacity to walk around my own house naked when it’s just me and the dog. There could be a jinn around. Therefore, when I am not seeping my immortal soul deep into the quicksand of sin, I have to be aware of jinn latching on to me or otherwise doing me some sort of harm just for existing in my own space.
Why am I alive then? If everything I do is detrimental to my ambiguous afterlife or a potential catalyst for supernatural mayhem, am I just doomed, in this life and the next?
Here’s a radical concept: I am not doomed. The declaration of faith, the first pillar of Islam states: In the name of Allah, the beneficent, the merciful. The Divine who is beneficent and merciful is not looking to damn me or anyone else.
It is people who damn and doom each other. Anytime someone doesn’t like or agree with what someone else is doing they like to label it sin. I once heard a sermon where the Imam addressed that directly. He told people you can’t call it sin just because you don’t like it. I agreed with him 100% and appreciated useful advice instead of caveats to avoid hellfire.
The Sin Police love to think of themselves as guiding when all they are really doing is judging. Giving someone unsolicited counsel in the matter of religion because you assume they don’t know better is not guidance. It is judgment. It’s also condescension.
It’s also a form of control. Let’s scare the masses, so they will just fall in line like the sheep they are. Religion can be the greatest means of enlightenment in the right hands, but it can also be the greatest yoke in the wrong ones.
Interpretation can be diverse and heterogeneous, just like humans themselves. Most people don’t need to be policed. They need to be guided. The Sin Police can have their interpretation. Sinners, the righteous, and everyone else in between can have theirs. Let us all be guided where we may.
Until next time…look behind and beyond the veil…
Sameena K. Mughal, Author, Freelance Writer