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We are in a time where identity politics, identity crisis and gender identity seem to be trending terms in the news headlines, on YouTube and in social media debates. Debate about these contentious topics occur in places as intimate as around the dining table amongst family, to social media platforms amongst influencers and laymen, to intellectual forums amongst academics. Nonetheless, the topic of personal identity is one which requires and calls for much robust discussion and a sincere effort towards clearly defining.
This is particularly the case for those of us from the Muslim community, who no doubt, largely strive to ascribe to an ‘Islamic identity’, despite the unfortunate reality that we in fact, have very little to articulate and demonstrate of our comprehension of what it actually means to have one.
With much to be said about Islam and their poor and largely ignorant interpretations of it, modern day Muslim social media influencers and tik-tokkers are swift to express their own perspectives of what important foundational Islamic concepts and laws ‘actually mean’. Many are totally unaware of the disciplines and methodology required to interpret the religious texts and teachings.
Therefore most of the social media interpretations and depictions of Islam and the Islamic identity have largely become free-for-all, interpret-how-you-wish and, in extreme cases a ‘rainbow’ smorgasbord (pun intended) of curating one’s personal and religious understanding according to one’s own whims and desires. I would brazen enough to say that many are being purely inspired, directed and misguided by the devil himself.
To self interpret the Islamic traditions is a grave act, likened to self-worship and is a grievous sin we are warned about falling into in the Quran as Allah SWT says: “Have you seen he who has taken as his god his [own] desire, and Allah has sent him astray due to knowledge and has set a seal upon his hearing and his heart and put over his vision a veil? So who will guide him after Allah? Then will you not be reminded?” (Quran 45:23)
With misguided influences and influencers from all communities and walks of life preaching and purporting that ‘You can be who and what ever you want to be’ and to ‘Never let anyone tell you who you should be or what you should do’, the online populations are left with empty phrases to define their precious and sacred identities.
Being who and whatever you desire to be at any given moment is a pure recipe for disaster. To live without boundaries, constraints, limitations and structured guidance is setting people up for a future of chaos and total disorder.
We are in a state of perpetual identity weakness and confusion. Statements and memes that claim ‘You are enough’ and to ‘Be true to you’ only help to create further self stagnation and self victimisation, particularly if left without the follow up of spiritual guidance and extrapolation.
The reality is that you and I are not ‘enough’ and that life MUST be an ongoing journey of personal and spiritual development and the pursuit of higher objectives. How can we ever be good enough, worthy enough for our Perfect, Omnipotent and Mighty Lord and Maker? Our focus needs to be on being true and obedient to Allah and not make excuses for our blind, sinful and largely ignorant selves.
And ironically, it is through the humility of acknowledging our weaknesses and wretchedness that we can then become beloved to God.
As Muslims who claims to both believe in and submit to Almighty God, we are left with no other option but to accept His orders and commands as the ultimate truth and, in response to that recognition for us to then make our best effort to submit to that truth in thought, speech and action.
Dr Yakoob Ahmed, an Ottoman Historian states in a lecture about the Decolonisation of History: “It’s not for us to determine what Islam ought to be, it’s for Islam to tell us who we are.”
It is not for us to miraculously or randomly figure out and define who we are, why were here and what we’re meant to do with this life. We are infomed and instructed about the matters of the who, why and what through clear and precise Divine Revelation from Almighty God Himself.
Much of the largely ignorant and excessive questioning and guesswork attempt at defining identity, purpose and direction needs to take a back seat when it comes to such matters. Conjecture has no place when it comes to Divine Truth.
God indeed knows best and God has not left us unguided and without instruction and direction.
I implore you to look into your sources of influence and knowledge and take action to eliminate any undeserving and potentially misguiding voices from your circle of influence.
Clean up your news feeds, your social circles, your bookshelves and TV channels.
Let Allah SWT, His Prophet SAW, the Islamic teachings and truly righteous scholars and role models be your sources of identity, purpose and direction. All other sources are undeserving, largely questionable and corrupted misguiding methods of defining the identity of your mortal soul.