I was speaking with a Brother the other day, and he mentioned something I have also noticed, even in myself at times. With some Muslims, there seems to be a contest to see who can prove himself/herself as the most strict, or most “conservative” as we say in the West. When he mentioned this, I added the word “jackasses” to our conversation, knowing full-well I’m guilty of this myselfl.
Rasulullah mentioned in several Ahadith the presence of a sector within the Ummah who would display tremendous Zeal, and then he, sallAllahu ‘alayhi wasallam, exposed their reality. Here’s one such Hadith from Sahih al-Bukhari:
Narrated Abu Sa`id Al-Khudri:
While we were with Allah’s Messenger () who was distributing (i.e. some property), there came Dhu-l- Khuwaisira, a man from the tribe of Bani Tamim and said, “O Allah’s Messenger ()! Do Justice.” The Prophet said, “Woe to you! Who could do justice if I did not? I would be a desperate loser if I did not do justice.” `Umar said, “O Allah’s Messenger ()! Allow me to chop his head off.” The Prophet () said, “Leave him, for he has companions who pray and fast in such a way that you will consider your prayer and fasting negligible in comparison to theirs. They recite Qur’an but it does not go beyond their throats (i.e. they do not act on it) and they will desert Islam as an arrow goes through a victim’s body [too fast to leave any traces].
And from at-Tirmidhi:
“In the end of time there will come a people young in years, foolish in minds, reciting the Qur’an which will not go beyond their throats, uttering sayings from the best of creatures, going through the religion as an arrow goes through the target.” (Sahih)
In similar narrations, Rasulullah said that such people would kill Muslims and spare the idol-worshipers. In other narrations, he described them as using the most elegant speech. In other narrations, Rasulullah called them “the dogs of hellfire”. In the following narration, it is described that they mis-apply the words of al-Quran, accusing Believers of disbelief and idolatry.
Fath ul Bari Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, Publish: Dar Taybah, Beirut, Lebanon
Bukhari relates from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar (Allah be well pleased with him) “Ibn `Umar considered the Khawarij and the heretics as the worst beings in creation, and he said: They went to verses which were revealed about the disbelievers and applied them to the Believers.[Fath ul Bari, Chapter of Killing the Khawarjites and Mulhideen, Volume 16, Page No. 164] —- In Commentory of Chapter Imam Ibn Hajr al Asqalani (Rahimuhullah) writes in Fath ul Bari under this hadith: Imam Tabari (rah) has mentioned this hadith in Musnad of Ali with the chain of Bakeer bin Abdullah in Tahdhib al Athaar, He asked Nafi’ about the opinion of Abdullah Ibn Umar (ra) regarding Haruriya (Khawarij). He replied that he (Ibn Umar) used to consider them the worst creatures because they applied ayahs revealed for disbelievers on believers. (Imam Ibn Hajr al Asqalani) said: This Hadith has “SAHIH” chain. It is also proven from the Sahih Marfu hadith of Imam Muslim which he narrated from Abu Dhar (ra) in charectersitcis of Khawarij, the hadith states: “They are a creation of the worst kind”, and Imam Ahmed has also narrated a similar hadith from Anas bin Malik (ra) with a strong chain. Imam Bazzar (rah) has narrated the hadith from Aisha (ra) who narrates from Prophet (saw) that he said: They will be the worst of my ummah and they will be killed by the best of my ummah, The chain of this hadith is “Hassan”[Fath ul Bari, Sharh Sahih ul Bukhari, Volume No. 16, Page No. 168-9, Published by Dar Taybah, Beirut, Lebanon]
But this isn’t to deny that there is healthy “zeal” in Islam. Rasulullah said that the strong Believer is better than the weak Believer. Allah ta’ala has told us “And hasten forward to the Forgiveness of your Lord, and a Paradise that is as wide as the heavens and the earth, prepared for the Righteous”. The word “Sabiqu” (hasten) is also used to indicate a race between contestants, and to indicate the vanguard of the Ummah who press forward for the needs of Deen.
Hazrat Maulana Ilyas Kandhalvi, Rahmatullah ‘alayhi, used to explain that the lack of zeal for Islam he noticed in the Ummah was his primary concern, and that reviving that zeal, to re-create the Group of the Prophet (Muhajireen and Ansaar), was what he wanted to see.
The difference between the two “zeals” may be open to reflection and opinion, but to me it’s obvious that one group seeks to promote themselves, having a zeal of inner whims and self-idolatry, while the other zeal is to seek Allah’s acceptance, by striving and self-sacrificing to raise the Deen of Allah on this earth. Or a zeal for temporary status in dunya versus the Permanent Abode. Or a zeal for the success of Muslims versus a zeal for the oppression of Muslims. Wa Allahu ‘Alam.
Reflect on this verse from Surat al-Fath (Victory), if you will:
“Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah ; and those with him are forceful against the disbelievers, merciful among themselves. You see them bowing and prostrating [in prayer], seeking bounty from Allah and [His] pleasure. Their mark is on their faces from the trace of prostration. That is their description in the Torah. And their description in the Gospel is as a plant which produces its offshoots and strengthens them so they grow firm and stand upon their stalks, delighting the sowers – so that Allah may enrage by them the disbelievers. Allah has promised those who believe and do righteous deeds among them forgiveness and a great reward.”
Yaa Allah !
And so, for me at least, there is that struggle in defining ones self and ones purpose. To preserve the Deen of Allah as it was revealed is a requirement of Iman. There is a required “conservatism” in that. But on the other hand is the need for relevance within society, living among a large variety of people, allowing others to be as they are, while being hopeful and encouraging our mutual improvements. It’s not an easy balance to maintain. And it’s an amazing spectacle, seeing some people successfully calling towards Deen with zeal, and others pushing people away from Deen with their version of zeal. May Allah guide all of us.