As I discussed in the introduction video “I Never Thought It Would Be Me,” I was inspired to start UZ Reflections videos, blogs, and podcasts due to my own spiritual struggles after I witnessed so much of the “religious tug-of-war” going on in many Muslim communities—until I doubted I even had the ability to be Muslim.
Preserving Our Psychological and Emotional Health
Anyone who regularly works with youth and converts to Islam, especially women, can attest to the widespread spiritual crisis amongst these groups. Far too many are confused, overwhelmed, depressed, and frustrated—because they are desperately trying to reconcile all the conflicting and overbearing messages they receive about how to be a “good Muslim” and implement this into their lives.
For UZ Reflections videos and blogs, I hope to contribute to reviving the true definition of Islam, which is based first and foremost on proper belief in and worship of Allah while avoiding kufr (disbelief) and shirk (associating partners with Allah). If we die upon proper belief in Allah, we have hope for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness—which is the ultimate goal in life for every believer, righteous or sinful.
And I pray that my blogs highlight the fact that “being a good Muslim” is simple, clear, and liberating; and it preserves our psychological and emotional health. It doesn’t compromise it.
Who I Write For
Though my prayer is that anyone who comes across this blog will benefit from it, this blog is not for everyone. My intended audience is the Muslim (or non-Muslim) looking for spiritual inspiration and clarification in a simple, non-scholarly format. It’s for the Muslim who knows in his or her heart that practicing Islam is simple and rewarding but needs reassurance that it’s okay to not be okay with defining one’s Islam and righteousness based on obscure, non-foundational matters. This blog is also for the Muslim hanging on by the last thread, who simply wants to worship Allah in peace and die as a Muslim, nothing more, nothing less.
Who I Don’t Write For
Because my reflections are informal and non-sectarian (i.e. independent of Muslim groups and sects), this blog is not meant for strict adherents to a particular ideology, imam, scholar, madhhab, or sect. It’s also not meant for Muslims who have made up their minds about who is on the right path and who is bound for Hell. My outlook on spirituality and life is more complex and nuanced than that, and I hope to use my blog to share my reflections on the simple yet complicated reality in which we all live in today’s world.
Authentic Islam Is Not In Groups and Sects
As I alluded to above, Islam is based on definite concepts about Allah, proper belief, and authentic worship. However, in today’s world, no physical Muslim group encompasses all that authentic spirituality entails.
Some have correctly identified Islam’s core beliefs but are tragically disconnected from the soul-enriching experience that defines Islam as a lived experience. Others have correctly identified the need for soul-enriching spirituality but are tragically disconnected from the foundational concepts of Islam itself. Some are so fixated on identifying with the “authentic” Muslim label that they have lost sight of what authentic Islam is supposed to actually mean. Others are so fixated on what authentic Islam is supposed to mean that they spend their entire lives sifting through books and attending classes, searching for the path to Paradise on the printed page or on the carpet or chair in a scholar’s lecture.
The Prophet, peace be upon him, taught us that there will always be Muslims who adhere to the authentic teachings of Islam. However, these people are known only to Allah, and we can only strive, pray, and hope to be amongst them. But we should never get comfortable and think we’ve somehow “found” this group, no matter how impressed we are with our books, classes, and teachers—and ourselves. The righteous who live Islam properly are not a physical treasure to be discovered or “found” in this world. They are a spiritual treasure to be discovered within ourselves, as we strive to embody Islamic spirituality through finding that “middle ground.”
As such, it is my prayer that my blogs help striving Muslims realize that this middle ground is not a static reality that can be attained and then sustained, but it is an ever evolving journey that must be renewed with each breath of life.
My Language: “I Believe” and “I Think”
Unfortunately, we live in a time of two prevalent evils: Muslims assuming the worst about each other’s words and actions, and Muslims effectively creating their own Islam, independent of religious scholarship and authority. And when these two evils mix, we have overzealous Muslims who wish to root out the latter evil by falling into the first.
As I mentioned to a critic of my blog “Is Beauty Evil?”, my frequent use of the terms “I believe” and “I think” has nothing to do with any personal conjecture of divine texts aimed at replacing, challenging, or rejecting religious scholarship and authority. Other than their obvious literal meaning (i.e. in reference to brain processes occurring in the mind), these terms are meant as a respectful approach to discussing my own view on a matter of permissible disagreement while respecting that other permissible views exist in Islam.
In essence, my saying “I believe such and such” or “I think thus and so” is no different from two friends discussing hijab and one says to the other, “I believe the face veil is obligatory”; and the other says, “Well, I think it’s optional.”
My Approach to Controversial Issues
I believe that every person has not only the right but the intelligence to decide what they think is best for their soul. As such, my blogs are not meant to convince any reader what they themselves should believe about any matter of permissible disagreement.
However, I will occasionally share my own views on a controversial matter if I believe that the general culture amongst Muslims today has become dangerously one-sided and that the voice of reason has been essentially sapped out the discussion, hence my blog “Is Beauty Evil?” In this blog (about the increasingly popular “no beauty is spiritual beauty” view amongst Muslims), I shed light not only on the view that some of a woman’s beauty can indeed be seen in public, but on the psychologically and spiritually destructive view that the goal of a woman’s modesty is to be un-beautiful—at all costs— even if it means fabricating “Islamic rules” and overburdening oneself to achieve “Islamic righteousness.”
As can be deduced from my blog “Is Beauty Evil?”, I do not intend for my reflections and writings to be conclusive sources on any subject; nor do I wish for them to be construed as contributing to the already-existing scholarly discussions on these matters. For this reason, I intentionally do not provide extensive “proofs” and citations for every point I make in a blog, and instead mention permissible points of views in the hopes that readers will seek extensive knowledge on the subject for themselves.
For a detailed explanation about why I do not delve too deeply into Islamic evidences and proofs, see Part 2 of this blogpost: “Why Islamic Proofs Are Not My Focus.”
Basic Guidelines to Keep in Mind
Finally, in understanding my reflections and blogs (as with anyone else’s), it’s important to keep three basic guidelines in mind:
1. I am not a scholar. I am merely a Muslim whom Allah has blessed to study and travel seeking knowledge for more than fifteen years. This study—coupled with my wide range of experiences in America, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia—has given me a much deeper understanding of human life, as well as invaluable lessons about Islamic spirituality, that I would not have gained otherwise. And it is these insights and valuable lessons about life and faith that I share with you here.
2. This is a blog, not an “Islamic site.” You will find no fatwas, Islamic rulings, or exhaustive information on any subject in this blog. I claim no ultimate authority on any matter, and I encourage every reader to question, doubt, and research anything you read here—whether you are convinced of its authenticity or not. In this way, you take responsibility for your own life and soul, as I (nor anyone else) can do that for you.
3. Allah is the ultimate authority on any matter. No layperson, scholar, madhhab, or sect can replace the authority of Allah on any subject. So before you alter your outlook (or remain firm) regarding any personal or spiritual matter, consult Him through sincere supplication and Istikhaarah. And always be prepared to change for the better based on His guidance.