Here I am self-examining the tone and content of my teachings, some will think that I am being hard on myself and the poor audience, and others perhaps will say ‘on your bike,’ it’s time you got off the Mimbar! The preacher is cool, mealy-mouthed and beats around the bush and is liked by the cold congregation. Here is a candid reminder about what’s at stake. I wanted to stress that Islam offers a powerful alternative to an increasingly godless society.
I have been preaching and teaching Islam for more than 50 years, alhamdulillah. I wrote books, articles and blogs, and taught children, teenagers and adults on prayer mats, in halls and classrooms. It’s been a terrific journey of learning and teaching.
I have assumed that the people in my congregation are true followers of Islam. A safe assumption, why would anyone come to my gatherings in the mosque, and the Friday congregations? So, I’ve been cool, providing a comfortable environment, never seriously challenging. No wonder some hard-headed cynics say, why are you so cuddly, cosy and cool? Where are those intense emotions and feelings of truth and justice?
You may think that I am being cynical and just poured out a disgruntled litany. However, I believe the hard-headed cynics have a point, there is a difference between wearing Muslim traditions/Pakistani-Arab rituals and following the Sunnah of the beloved messenger (peace be upon him). As someone who spent decades teaching, inviting and showing a positive attitude towards everyone who entered through the Masjid door.
Accentuating on the positives
Yes, I have always been ‘seeker-sensitive’ treading carefully, not to upset anyone. After all, the Messenger (peace be upon him) did say “Have a good opinion of your brother and sister.” I wanted to provide a safe environment, and an enjoyable experience, so I always sought to insulate my audience from tough and challenging issues. Rarely talked about Hell, sins, adultery, evil ways, and their punishment, overemphasising promises and ignoring the pitfalls. The Imam’s job is to develop the fear of Allah in peoples’ hearts, and boldly describe the horrors of hell if we disobey.
It can be observed that society has gradually become godless in various ways. The prominence of materialism and the pursuit of worldly desires has overshadowed the spiritual aspects of life. We have turned away from the faith, neglecting our religious obligations and forsaken the guidance provided by the Quran. Moral decay has become prevalent, with unethical behaviours and actions being normalised and even celebrated.
The influence of secularism has played a significant role in eroding religious values, as religious beliefs and practices are often marginalised or ridiculed. Additionally, the spread of atheistic ideologies has contributed to a declining sense of spirituality and a diminishing reverence for the Divine. In such a society, the remembrance of Allah and the adherence to His teachings have taken a backseat, leading to a growing detachment from the purpose of life and the pursuit of eternal salvation.
Nonetheless, it is essential for Muslims to remain steadfast in their faith, striving to revive spirituality and provide positive examples for others in an effort to counter the prevailing godlessness and restore the prominence of religious values in society.
Do we need horror-filled speeches?
The fact is that Islamic teachings can be uncomfortable, challenging and provocative. They can challenge you, and urge you to confront yourself, your shortcomings, your family and your society. It can be awkward. Asking people if they would like to take up such a counter-cultural way of life is tough. So, I often avoided asking tough questions, naively assuming that everybody was fully on board. So, for decades I have continued to offer an inoffensive, bland Islam. Isn’t it time to rectify such a position?
I think one way to do this would be, to be honest. Just ask people earnestly whether they are willing to follow the way of Islam, the way of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and to be honest in their lives. One way of doing this would be to ask them if you have decided to follow Islam and to believe and accept the way of Muhammad (peace be upon him) then raise your hand in the air for everyone to see. So, the big question is how can I be an intelligent, practical, and reflective teacher? Now let the cosy, cuddly, and cool Islam be bygone.
Despite all these shortcomings of mine and yours, I am not about to give up my sermons anytime soon, why? Well because The Majestic Quran tells me, “Keep reminding, the reminder benefits the faithful” (Al-Ala: 12). When the Divine Writ gives an order it is a guiding principle, and it has a track record of being beneficial. Allah’s words are worth listening to, even if I don’t find them appetising or challenging. So, when the Quran tells me to teach, preach and remind people, I must. Furthermore, teaching was what the beloved Messenger (peace be upon him) did best. He always guided, lead and taught both by example and by speech.
So, again I cannot excuse myself, I must carry on preaching. All said, and after clearing my chest of decades of inadequacies let me tell you my purpose wasn’t just to be provocative but, to remind you candidly about what’s at stake. I want to stress that Islam offers a powerful alternative to an increasingly godless society.
I don’t say this to alarm you but rather to urge you to get your laptop out and send me your suggestions on how I could do things better. What topics do you want me to cover, what subjects interest you? I eagerly await your feedback.