I am not the speechwriter for General Kayani nor indeed do I believe that Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff would have plagiarized material from my writings. This stated, the similarity between our two perceptions is uncanny.
For one, we both believe that the decision whether one is a good or bad Muslim is solely within the purview of our Creator. Fellow mortals neither have the right or the ability to assess others. I actually go one step further than the worthy general; I do not believe that there can be good or bad Muslims.
One is either a Muslim or not. If you are a Muslim, you are, by definition, good.
And yet there are those who would make this pronouncement on their fellow beings. There are those amongst us who take a perverse delight in labeling others as being good or bad Muslims and it is for these individuals that I write this piece. There are those who would consider me a ‘bad’ Muslim and it is these self-righteous, misguided and misinformed individuals that I address. I need them to know why I choose to behave the way I do.
I am a bad Muslim because I fail to understand why some Muslims can celebrate religious events on different days across the planet. I fail to understand why a motley group of bearded individuals huddle together in a windowless room to determine when religious events will take place. Why do we fail to recognize the Quranic edict that He has placed the heavenly bodies in preordained, predictable orbits and that there exist today scientific means and instruments for figuring out moon phases. I fail to understand national frontiers present insurmountable barriers to Islamic beliefs. Why is it that if the new moon is visible across the Wagah border but not in Lahore, this is an invalid sighting? Most of all, I am at a total loss to understand how the event of Hajj can be observed by Muslims as taking place on a day different from the one on which it is actually happening in the plain of Arafat. This really boggles my mind.
I am a bad Muslim because I do not subscribe blindly to the social practices that were in vogue when Islam was revealed.
I do not ride around on a camel. I earnestly believe that had Mr. Henry Ford lived and invented his horseless carriage prior to the advent of Islam or indeed if Mr. Kiichiro Toyoda had started making Land Cruisers circa 600 AD, the Arabs, including my glorious Prophet (may peace be upon him) would have opted for that mode of conveyance in favor of the horse or the camel.
It is for the same reason that I do not sport a flowing beard. Had Mr. Gillette lived and invented the safety razor before Islam, the tedious and hazardous chore of shaving would have been overcome; shaven faces would have been in vogue. I do not subscribe to the belief that a free flowing beard enhances religious stature.
I do not wear my trousers above my ankles simply because my dress does not trail along the ground as I walk. Nor indeed do I tread ground that is undeveloped or soiled as it used to be before pavements and concrete were invented. Indeed I find it amusing that many, obviously good Muslims, hike their trousers above their ankles but wear socks that extend well above those joints. Or, remove shoes and then stand on them at a Namaz e Janaza. By the way, I also find it unacceptable to say my prayers in golf shorts which are, surprisingly, very Islamic in design.
I do not use stones and lumps of earth to cleanse my body after relieving myself. Muslim showers and toilet paper; nonexistent then are now available. Likewise, I have no religious reservations about using all technological advances to ease my worldly existence.
I am a bad Muslim because I cannot reconcile with the concept that I can take a Christian or a Jew to be my spouse but I cannot befriend either one.
I am a bad Muslim because I pray only the ‘Farz’ rakats.
I am a bad Muslim because I have performed only one Hajj and have no intention of doing so again.
I am a bad Muslim because instead of repeated Umrahs, I prefer to give that money to charity or send someone else less fortunate on this noble journey.
I am a bad Muslim because I do not give alms to professional street beggars.
I am a bad Muslim because I do not use the phrase ‘Inshallah’ knowing full well that I cannot or will not honor my commitment.
I am a bad Muslim because if I come across a suffering human being, I do not stop and ask if he or she is Muslim or not. I help in whatever way I can.
I am a bad Muslim because I prefer to be a good human being.
Let Allah be the judge of my “Muslimness”. Let Him decide.
I have until Judgment Day to prove to Him my worth.
I have a sneaky suspicion that He already knows.