I remember getting upset when a friend of mine used to send emails with Islamic topics . My religion is my personal matter I thought and she doesn't have to forward them to me. Ironically, these are the very emails that were my first glimpse into Islamic teachings apart from the usual Islamiyat lessons we had all though out my school going years and eventually I became more and more interested in learning about Islam.
I remember there being something deeply disturbing about a reminder related to Islam, like someone had invaded my personal space, mocked me or was trying to patronize me. Again, religion is my personal matter it is between me and Allah and He is there to judge me not you. Alhamdulillah, the way I see Islamic reminders now is different and in no way do I feel hurt or insulted by the act which I know is an attempt to revive our beloved Prophet Muhammad's (pbuh) Sunnah.
Nowadays, I see a fierce debate always going on amongst the Muslims and many times it surrounds this very issue of reminding one another. In the wake of 14th February ( I had told myself I wouldn't talk about it but here I am) there was an array of material condemning the day and Alhamdulillah there were even some billboards placed here in Karachi reminding us that our haya was at stake and to give up emulating the non- Muslims all for the sake of expressing some "love" . I am sure there were at least some people who got upset when they read those messages and articles that didn't support their liberal and open-minded views about celebrating a day about love. I can almost hear someone say "Oh! so now we can't even express love? is that un- slamic too?" "Come on man! Don't be so narrow - minded, I don't necessarily have to express love for my girl friend, it can be for my mom, my dad, sister, my cat.... etc". An array of excuses are given and everyone debates about the potential "losses" of celebrating one day that that rest of the world celebrates too ( well almost all of the rest of the world)
So, I want to take a moment to try and explain a few things to the people who start getting upset and scoff at people for not celebrating Valentine's day, birthdays, Christmas, new year or take the time out to speak out against mockery of our religious beliefs for the sake of freedom of expression. I am also talking to those take do speak out against wrong doing and myself above all:
Every time you hear or see a reminder at it doesn't sit well with your views on morality, spirituality or sense of dignity its a good idea to do or remember the following:
1. Do your own research: and read up on all the different points of view on the matter and see for yourself what the evidence is against something being wrong or right. Also it is wise to consult a scholar who is upon the Quran and Sunnah.
2. Make dua for yourself: that Allah swt guides you to what is right amongst the jungle of rights, wrongs and half truths. Only He is able to truly open your heart towards understanding Islam and practicing it properly. And believe me a sincere dua really does help open hearts and minds.Alhamdulillah!
3. It's nothing personal: if someone takes the time out to tell you that something is right or wrong from an Islamic point of view, its not because that person has a personal grudge against you or is trying to make your life miserable. He/She is only doing his/her duty to forbid evil and enjoin good in the best way he/she can. That person only wishes what's best for you.
Alright, even if the message is given in bad taste and you feel harassed then remove yourself from the situation and forgive the person we all make mistakes , its best not to argue about it it will only make matters worse.
4. We all need reminders: no matter how much knowledge you gain about Islam we all need reminders to help stay focused on being good Muslims. The reminder may be of something as trivial as not taking something without its owner's permission but nonetheless it is important for all of us, there is some hikmah in receiving that particular reminder at that particular time, Allah knows best.
5. The choice is yours: you may choose to believe what you want to believe and disagree with what others have to say but being upset about it and calling the other person backward and narrow- minded doesn't make you very open- minded either. Your getting upset will not change some one's belief and views, most probably its you who will ruin their mood. At least hear the other person out. Wouldn't you want the same if you had something important to say?
6. Religion a personal matter: this is a cliche that is repeated time and time again: "my religion is my personal matter you have no right to tell me what I should and shouldn't do!" There is some truth in the statement that yes you are responsible for doing your own worship and no one can pray for you, fast for you or intercede for you in front of Allah , unless He allows it. But our beloved Prophet (pbuh) came in this world and he was always reminding people to follow Islam properly , if he had just left the matter for us to sort out on our own where would we be today? There will be no Prophet after him and now it is up to us to carry on his legacy of enjoining good and forbidding evil, in the most civilized and ahasan (good) manner.
It is a religious duty rather then an attempt to patronize someone. And its easy to think that someone is looking down upon us when they tell us something we don't know related to Islam or try to stop us from something forbidden in Islam . Its even more difficult to remember that Shaitan lives in our midst he lies in wait for the opportunity to ignite hatred and mistrust amongst us. He makes simple reminders appear as personal injuries that make us angry and upset.
7. Differences: each one of us is wired differently. Naturally we are all allowed to have our own point of view but that doesn't mean we can't share what we believe and what we feel will benefit someone. Each one of us not at the same level of spirituality and we need to give one another the benefit of doubt. Maybe someone doesn't wear Hijab properly or recite Quran properly just yet that doesn't mean they will never improve. Maybe someone seems too "religious" to you but that doesn't mean that he/she is incapable understanding what you have to say. Reach out, talk it out and try and be there for your brother or sister in Islam . We all need each other's support.
Once we look beyond reminders being attempts at denying someone their freedom , we will realize that they are acts of charity. Necessary acts that help us to understand something we are missing out on, thus the reminder. :) May Allah swt allow us all to benefit from the acts of giving reminders and being reminded. Ameen