“There will come a time when holding on to your emaan (Islamic faith) will be like holding on to hot coals.”
—Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him (Tirmidhi)
I never knew that the hot coals in my hand would be enflamed by my very own brothers and sisters in faith. I never knew that I would live in a world surrounded by professed Muslims whose entire goal in life was to dismantle the true teachings of Islam. And I never knew, until recently, that so many Muslims are con artists, spiritually and professionally.
Muslim Con Artists At Work
The spiritual con artists sell to people the mercy, kindness, and justice of Islam only to shamelessly transgress these people’s boundaries in both private and religious affairs. In people’s private affairs, they seek to micromanage everything from Muslims’ clothes choices to their personal marriage decisions. And these con artists will even engage in public and social lynching of people who deviate from what they say must be, even in matters that Allah has permitted both privacy and choice.
In people’s religious affairs, these spiritual con artists will emotionally manipulate Muslims into following their opinion on every matter of permissible disagreement, sometimes even lying about the Islamic evidences for (or against) their preferred opinion. Meanwhile, they will openly deny any part of Islam that doesn’t fit neatly into the lifestyle they’ve chosen for themselves. Not surprisingly, they also give themselves permission to disobey Allah, and then they’ll rationalize this disobedience by claiming it serves some “greater good.”
In their emotional manipulation and spiritual abuse of others, these con artists remove from fellow believers the right to both choice and personal privacy, thereby transgressing people’s personal boundaries at will. But they’ll claim they’re just “commanding the good and forbidding the evil” (the euphemism they use for their spiritual abuse and daily harassment of Muslims they disagree with). Meanwhile, they will host and sponsor da’wah campaigns speaking to non-Muslims about the mercy, kindness, and justice of Islam.
The professional con artists often run Muslim organizations which they claim they founded “for the sake of Allah.” But they arbitrarily break contracts after they have convinced sincere Muslim men and women to do business with them. To add insult to injury, they will then verbally abuse any men and women who stand up to them and insist that the contract is fulfilled. In their verbal abuse, they will continuously use the term “for the sake of Allah” to mean that “good Muslims” accept oppression from others without complaint or seeking justice. They will further accuse Muslims of having sick, hard hearts if they don’t silently accept being wronged. Furthermore, in an effort to get away with their wrongdoing, they will claim that “good Muslims” are forgiving of any wrongs done to them.
These professional con artists also use the term “for the sake of Allah” to emotionally manipulate Muslims into working for little or no pay, even for events and projects in which they themselves are hoping to earn money. If someone doesn’t agree to work “for the sake of Allah,” they will insult them by stating or implying that the person is greedy and fixated on the dunya. Meanwhile they are insulting this Muslim for the expressed purpose of convincing him or her to do very tangible, specific “dunya” work.
“I thought you worked for the sake of Allah!” they’ll complain if someone wants to be financially compensated for their time—or if you won’t let them get away with breaking a contract.
Meanwhile, they couldn’t care less whether your bills are paid or whether you have food to eat. So long as you are working “for the sake of Allah” (i.e. doing slave labor for their business projects), they neither ask nor care what that sacrifice “for the sake of Allah” means for you personally. This is because these wrongdoers only have the ability to calculate their gains and risks, and only then do they ask that you work “for the sake of Allah.” In this, they completely ignore the fact that paying people their due falls under the most basic implementation of working in the service of Allah.
The Sacrifice is One-Sided and Benefits Only Them
What shocks me is that neither the spiritual nor professional con artist considers that Islam’s mercy, kindness, and “for the sake of Allah” starts with what we demand of ourselves, not what we demand from others. I’m also shocked that not a single con artist, many of whom run Muslim organizations, understand that paying people their due and fulfilling contracts reflects the most fundamental aspect of emaan, which forms the very foundation of “for the sake of Allah.” It is what we do beyond our obligations that reflects any true sacrifices “for the sake of Allah.”
No, there is nothing wrong with asking for a discount or respectfully asking if someone is willing to work as a volunteer. But it is wrong to tell someone that they’re a bad Muslim if they are unable or unwilling to work for free.
The Affair of the Believer Is Always Good
On a positive note, dealing with these spiritual and professional con artists has made me more determined to respect people’s private and religous boundaries, no matter what I think of their decisions, especially when they are doing nothing forbidden by Allah.
These repeated experiences with Muslim con artists have also made me more grateful for those rare souls who actually live the mercy, kindness, and justice of Islam. Today I also appreciate those professional Muslims who rush to compensate believers for their work, even when they themselves have very little to offer. And I love those Muslims who never consciously and boldly break a contract, let alone insult their Muslim brothers and sisters for demanding that those contracts be fulfilled.
In a recent video interview, I reflected on how I almost left Islam and how till today, being a part of some Muslim communities feels like an abusive relationship that I cannot escape. But by Allah’s Mercy, He always sends in my path at least one kind Muslim soul to remind me that, though the true believers are few in these Last Days, there is hope for true Muslim sisterhood and brotherhood after all—even as we won’t taste it fully until Jannah, bi’idhnillaah.
Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of twenty books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, His Other Wife and the self-help book for Muslim survivors of abuse: Reverencing the Wombs That Broke You. Her latest novel His Other Wife is now a short film.
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