How Extremists Saved My Deen
I realized this Ramadan that I owe a debt of gratitude that has been five years in the owing, and since Eid just about upon us, I think it’s best to go forth and thank. Now, this may seem like sarcasm, but it is not. I am truly grateful that I spent nearly two years within the local wahabbi community (also called ‘salafis’ because they are under the delusion that they are imitating the early community of Muslims from the time of Muhammad -saw). I am grateful to Allah for putting me through that, and even more grateful that He pulled me out of it, life and mental health in tact.
Many converts and born Muslims spend time going through stages of rigidity and extremism. This is not limited to Islam, of course, ‘born again’ Christians are a clear example of extremism that some Christians feel the need to explore. What I have found with the wahabbi community is that it tends to have a shelf life… not many can stay in that space of anger, hate, intolerance and rigidity for too long, and thankfully most sisters I have known who went through that have successfully come out the other side. Some, sadly, have not. I still run into sisters around town who have been dedicated to that empty way of life for many, many years. Sisters who are educated and should know better, just as I am educated and should have known better. And deep down, even when I was in the thick of it, I did know better. I just didn’t know how to escape.
When a person first begins practicing a religion, any religion, there often comes periods of insecurity and questioning. And too often, out of a fear of stepping over the bounds into ‘wrong’ behaviour, we believe any ultra conservative advice that comes our way; never questioning it and never wondering whose interpretation this is. Of course, for Muslims, this advice comes to us couched in ‘it’s the sunnah’ or ‘its in the Quran’ but that neglects to explain to us the context in which the Quranic verse was revealed or whether the particular sunnah they are quoting is sound, truly sound. And we have to remember the stock in trade of the wahabbis is that they both quote Quran totally out of context and they hadith hurl. Meaning that they pick any verse out the Quran to prove a point, even if the verse has no relation, whatsoever, to the point they are trying to prove, and they just throw out randomly picked hadith out of hadith compilations, in an attempt to control people’s choices and opinions. They take their moral directive from ‘scholars’ in Saudi Arabia and they follow the opinions of western ‘scholars’ who have been funded and educated by Saudi petro-dollars.
I found my time as a wahabbi to be extremely stressful and oppressive. I was constantly told by other wahabbi sisters who to be friends with (or not friends with), what to wear, what to say, how to talk to Allah, what to do and what not to do, right down to the most ridiculous of actions. One sister was so concerned that I stopped plucking my eyebrows, because even if I prayed every prayer, on time, fasted all of Ramadan, gave charity and made Hajj, it would mean nothing if I continued to pluck those Slavic brows… I was hell bound for such aberrant behaviour. Can you imagine such ignorance? Such absolute hatred of Allah? Yeah, well, I was living it 24/7. There is no Mercy or Divine Love in this way of life, and I learned it, time and again. In the end, I became an oppressor too, may Allah forgive me. And may all the sisters whom I oppressed also extend their forgiveness towards me.
But still I am grateful. I am grateful to Allah and to every single sister who oppressed me with her demands. For if I had not gone through this terrible experience, I might never have known the Truth.
What is the Truth, you may ask? Well, I am glad that you have… The Truth is that Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom and Mercy, has not created a deen, a way of life, that is rigid, austere, full of hatred and intolerance, that is oppressive and driven by rules and regulations and little else. But no! Allah in His Infinite Wisdom and Mercy has instead blessed humanity with a deen of love, peace, tolerance, kindness, gentleness, acceptance, inclusiveness, and the ability to be grateful. We can develop an amazing relationship with Allah, both in our submission to Him and in our daily conversations with Him. We know He is Most Merciful so we know that He created humanity with much capability for logic and reasoning. We never have to worry that He is so petty that He will cast a believer who is striving, in any way that they can, into the Hellfire for ridiculous reasons, like eyebrow plucking, or any other of the litany of silliness that extremists throw at us. Allah is above all that junior high school foolery. Allah is not capable of contradiction, so we know that when a ‘sunnah’ contradicts the Quran, that the sunnah is false. Period. This is very liberating. To know that Allah is steadfast and Forgiving, full of Peace, is calming, it is soothing, it is reality.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.