How do we measure our faith? Is it by the amount of zikr we do in a day? Is it by the amount of surahs we memorise? Is it by the length of our beard or hijab? Or is it by zabibah, the mark on one’s forehead (which actually might be caused by the body’s resistance to insulin, really, Google “aconthosis nigricans”). I think that we can all agree that it is virtually impossible, if not impossible, to measure faith, because faith is something that is within our hearts and only we and the One who created our hearts know what dwells in it.
Still, we will find on social media all kinds of videos and posts on how certain personalities are not “Muslim enough”, or even deemed “unislamic”. If faith is almost impossible to quantify, how then do some ‘critics’—who tend to over emphasise their خ and غ for some reason— deem other Muslims “not muslim enough”?
Thus, driven by curiosity (and perhaps even skepticism), I went down the Youtube rabbit hole and watched a couple of videos about individuals being critical of the way other Muslims practice their faith. Often, such videos would judge the levels of others’ faith based on their actions. What is common amongst these ‘critics’ is that they have a lot of videos judging other religious Muslim figures. These ‘critics’ would often call out other Muslim figures’ actions as being “contrary to Islam”. Yet, instead of being constructive in their criticisms, they are in fact distinguishing their own “brand” of Islam from others. It often seems that in their minds, there can only be one type of “true Islam”. I am not saying that we should not call out a prominent figure if he is advocating values or practices that are outside the fold of Islam. However, most of the time, these ‘critics’ use mental gymnastics to argue that so and so is not teaching “true Islam”, when really the basis of their arguments is that anyone who does not follow the ‘critics’ form of Islam is deemed wrong.
The call towards “true Islam” is a prominent theme in such posts and videos. Whenever I come across such a term, I wonder which “Islam” is being referred to? Is it Nusantara Islam which emphasises reading Yaseen for a passed one? Is it Indonesian Islam which uniquely advocates educating Islam through their pesantrens? Or is it South Asian Islam which is known for their tablighi jamaat, amongst other things? “True Islam” is a paradox because Islam itself is a transnational movement that is not confined to the boundaries of a nation state. More often than not, Islam takes the shape of the local community with its foundational beliefs at the core of that development. There will inevitably be different interpretations of Islam based on the demographical and geographical contexts, amongst possible others.
Shaykh Abdal Hakim Murad explains this notion of different Islams beautifully:
“Those who come to Islam because they wish to draw closer to God have no problem with a multiform Islam radiating from a single revealed paradigmatic core. But those who come to Islam seeking an identity will find the multiplicity of traditional Muslim cultures intolerable…That there should be four schools of Islamic law is to them unbearable. That Muslim cultures should legitimately differ is a species of blasphemy”
Allah SWT also says in Surah Hujarat, the Holy Qur’an :
“O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may get to know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you. Allah is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware” (Al Qur’an, 49:13)
Furthermore, narrated by Abu Musa, Rasulullah SAW once said “Some people asked Allah's Messenger (ﷺ), "Whose Islam is the best? i.e. (Who is a very good Muslim)?" He replied, "One who avoids harming the Muslims with his tongue and hands." (Sahih Bukhari, Book 2, Hadith 4)
These verses and sayings concretise my belief that Allah SWT shows that Allah SWT not only made us a part of various cultures, but He also created us as different individuals with unique challenges. With unique challenges and contexts, different people would then have different approaches to Islam. While some may prefer a particular approach, they should not be quick to label an approach “unislamic” or “not muslim enough”. By distinguishing a single brand of Islam, we would only create ‘in groups’ and ‘out groups’ and those who are not in the ‘in group’ are to be rejected.
We, as individuals are at different spectrums with regards to faith. Perhaps someone is drawn towards the poetic side of Islam and hence would embrace not only the Qur’an, but also Mawlana Rumi’s “Masnavi”. Perhaps someone is drawn towards the side of Islam which brings about social justice and equality and hence would support minorities’ rights. Or perhaps someone is drawn towards Islam’s call for cleanliness and would like to make themselves seem proper and neat through modest fashion.
Whatever approach we may choose, there really is no true measurement for our faiths. As long as they are grounded in the teachings of our Prophet and our Lord, our hearts should ultimately be filled with divine Love by the One who made it. For indeed, “How could He not know His Own creation? For He alone is the Most Subtle, All-Aware” (Al Qur’an, 67:14).