Words like "Muslim"

After starting this blog, visiting numerous forums, and talking to some people in my life about possibly converting, I’m worried about something. A very dear, very wise person said to me, “If you want to be part of a religion, that’s fine. But don’t half-ass it or make a joke out of it”. This was also following a conversation about a mutual friend who considers himself Jewish, but eats bacon and only practices on holidays… but still claims to be “more Jewish” than other friends who are Jews in name only.

I have read so many conflicting things about what it means to be Muslim. Then there are the different sects, each of whom is convinced is the only correct path. The Quranists, for example, believe the only correct Muslim path is the Straight Path outlined in the Quran, but they are a tiny minority. The big sects have their own beliefs too, legitimized by centuries of evolving tradition. The Islam that I want to follow is that which is outlined in the Quran, not the traditions that sprung up after… but is that really Islam? Islam today has pillars and special hygiene rules and religious figures to inform me of what I should believe… perfectly legitimate religious practices, but not what drew me to Islam… the Quran did that all by itself.
I want to call myself “Muslim”, but is that an accurate definition of how I understand Islam vs. how the majority of Muslims see it? Words label us, and that can be a good thing: it provides a sense of safety and understanding. But if I label myself a Muslim, what if all I am doing is confusing and alienating others who hold their Islam dear and don’t want some newb coming in and shaking up definitions? How compassionate is it to piss people off with just one word?
Originally, I thought that if people born into a religion can question it, then maybe converts can too. But maybe thats too simplistic, or even just misses the point. I want to be Muslim to be closer to God and to be a better person… just studying Islam has already made me a better person in small but significant ways: I care less about makeup, I’m letting negative emotions go more often then I used to, I’m being more considerate of others, I’m placing more value on my family… the list goes on. My motivation to become Muslim was not to simply give myself a new label. And if that label creates animosity and confusion in others when I apply it to myself, maybe its a bad idea to use it at all. The flip-side, of course, is that if I keep this label and re-define it for myself I won’t be alone – many Muslims are re-examining what it means to be Muslim. They are a small group and maybe they could use one more person to re-define the label. But is that a religious imperative, or a political one?
Anyways, thats what I’m musing about. Do I continue here, a Muslimah-to-be, or do I become something else? Blue-Eyed Monotheist just doesn’t have the same ring to it…
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6 responses to “Words like "Muslim"

  1. I have thought about the label a lot and my conclusion is that anyone who wants to call themselves Muslim can and I might disagree or agree, but I will accept a person's right to use the label if it means the right thing to them. Who really is or not a Muslim, only Allah knows because no one else can know if they have submitted to Allah as they should.Personally, for me to feel it's right for a person to use Muslim in this human life (without confusing people too much, that type of thing), a person needs to be monotheist, needs to believe that Muhammad was a messenger of God, and needs to believe that the Qur'an is from God (in whatever way they want to believe this part). It's what I consider the basics.

  2. salameveryone gets confused once in a while. Like i used to be a former deobandi/sufi and well as a deobandi i found it really awkward that i asked a dead *saint* for help cause i didnt get this at all and i starting doubting it and good thing that Allah(swt) guided me and i found some great lectures on this issue by preachers such as bilal philips and zakir naik who regarded this issue as shirk ! … Then i got confused in the marriage of Aisha(rad) and the slave issue which i couldnt understand for sooooo long but u know what it needed? … patience …. again i finally found a lecture on telling how it was so and so AND i FINALLY got over it There are a lot of sects out there that are going to hell as per hadith Islam will have 73 sects and 72 of them will go to hell. That 1 sect is the orthodox Islam , the followers of the Quran and Sunnah. Of course people sin but the doors of repentance are open till ur last breath as Allah(swt) is the most mercifultake care .. salam

  3. Thank you for posting, Candace, I couldn't agree more. I do believe in one God, that Muhammad was gifted with a divine message, and that the Quran is the resulting gift to humanity. But I can't get behind certain aspects of the religion that, lets face it, the majority of practicing Muslims believe to be critical elements. I just don't want to be a walking "eff-you!" to a large group of people. Especially over something that is ultimately between me and God. Thanks for the personal note, blackb3ard911. Which collection is that hadith in? I keep finding people paraphrasing it online but I can't find a direct translation.

  4. the part on the 73 sects? …. well its a whole hadith actually …. this is a sahih hadith due to its isnadDawud :: Book 40 : Hadith 4579 Narrated AbuHurayrah:The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: The Jews were split up into seventy-one or seventy-two sects; and the Christians were split up into seventy one or seventy-two sects; and my community will be split up into seventy-three sects. Wahb ibn Baqiyyah told us from Khaalid from Muhammad ibn ‘Amr from Abu Salamah from Abu Hurayrah who said: the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Jews were divided into seventy-one or seventy-two sects, and the Christians were divided into seventy-one or seventy-two sects, and my Ummah will be divided into seventy-three sects.” This was narrated by Abu Dawood in his Sunan, Kitaab al-Sunnah, Baab Sharh al-Sunnah.It was reported from ‘Awf ibn Maalik who said: the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Jews were divided into seventy-one sects, one of which is in Paradise and seventy are in the Fire. The Christians were divided into seventy-two sects, seventy-one of which are in the Fire and one is in Paradise. By the One in Whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, my Ummah will be divided into seventy-three sects, one of which will be in Paradise and seventy-two will be in the Fire.” It was said, O Messenger of Allaah, who are they? He said, “Al-Jamaa’ah.”continued below explaining this hadith

  5. Sunan Ibn Maajah, no. 3982.What is meant by al-Jamaa’ah is the ‘aqeedah and actions of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and his Companions.Among the sects that claim to belong to Islam are those who are misguided with regard to the Unity of Allaah (Tawheed) and His Names and Attributes; they say that everything that exists is Allaah and that He is incarnate or present in His creation – glorified be He far above what they say. On the contrary, He is above His heavens, settled on His throne, distinct from His creation.Others are misguided with regard to eeman (faith) and say that deeds are separate from faith and that faith does not increase or decrease. The correct view is that faith consists of words and deeds; it increases when one does acts of obedience to Allaah and decreases when one commits sin.Others are misguided by their declaring that the person who commits sin goes beyond the pale of Islam and is doomed to eternity in the Fire. The correct view is that the one who commits a major sin – apart from shirk and al-kufr al-akbar – does not go out of Islam.Others are misguided with regard to the issue of al-qadaa’ wa’l-qadar (divine decree), and said that man has no choice in what he does. The correct view is that man has freedom of will on the basis of which he will be called to account and will bear the consequences of his deeds.Others are misguided with regard to the Qur’aan, and say that it is created. The correct view is that it is the words of Allaah, revealed not created.Others are misguided with regard to the Sahaabah, whom they revile and denounce as kaafirs even though they are the companions of the Prophet among whom the Wahy (Revelation) was revealed, and they are the most knowledgeable and the most devoted in worship among this Ummah, and they strove in jihaad for the sake of Allaah and Allaah supported this religion through them – may Allaah be pleased with them all.And there are other groups who deviated from the path of Islam and innovated matters in the religion of Allaah; each of them rejoices in what they have, but they have followed the ways of the Shaytaan and gone against the words of Allaah (interpretation of the meaning):“And verily, this is My straight path, so follow it, and follow not (other) paths, for they will separate you away from His path. This He has ordained for you that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)” [al-An’aam 6:153]We ask Allaah to make us among the followers of the Sunnah who will be saved from the Fire, and to admit us to Paradise among the righteous. May Allaah bless our Prophet Muhammad.

  6. and to understand it better a video makes it better than reading according to my bias opinionhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6MHEeqUhnwsalam

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