I have been asked to rant on the topic of born Muslims vs converts by a dear brother/sister, due to some comments he/she has seen come from some converts.
Some converts it seems have had a few bad experiences with born Muslims. Some of them go on to say that had they judged Islam by some of the born Muslims around them, they would have never become Muslim. Some of them say that they became Muslim NOT BECAUSE OF the born Muslims they had met BUT IN SPITE of them. Some of them make these kind of remarks but do clarify that it is not all born Muslims that they are criticizing, but only those who were directly responsible for their unsavory experiences, while some might make blanket statements.
Whether it is a small subset of born Muslims or the entire collection of born Muslims, they are patently wrong to make such conceited, pompous, condescending and disgraceful comments.
For the sake of argument, let us assume ALL born Muslims are the eyesores that they so despise. NOT BECAUSE I think all of them say so AND ALSO not to use reverse psychology and trap them into emotional blackmail getting them saying good things about us born Muslims (you know how you say something negative about a person, and he goes off on a guilt trip with, “yeah, I’m the worst thing that ever happened to you.” and then you EITHER feel guilty and say, “no, i’m just talking about [that one bad thing], otherwise you’re a great guy”, OR if you’re someone like me, you will call their bluff and say, “yes, you are. I’m glad you realised it.”) BUT BECAUSE as born Muslims, we have to be more self critical and also because a lot of what they say IS true, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY BECAUSE, going with the WORST CASE scenario makes the case of presenting the argument and refuting this senseless claim a lot more simpler.
Again and this is not for the sake of argument, but an honest truth, NOT ALL CONVERTS say such things but only a few foolish people who just have larger issues to deal with, as people. And again, here we are going with the BEST CASE scenario, because it will simply make the case of presenting the argument easier, in addition to it being the truth. Not that this side of it matters, as the claims were made against born Muslims, and the entire argument will be centered around them and their defense. So this rant is only directed towards the foolish converts who make such comments!
So let’s see where to start.
FIRSTLY, all said and done, we HAVE TO congratulate them for becoming Muslim DESPITE us born Muslims. No, I’m not saying this to sound rude or smart. I mean it. They had the reasoning to see that they should look for PEOPLE IN ISLAM, NOT ISLAM IN PEOPLE. They need to be congratulated for this because despite the media campaign and the times of flawed reasonings and compound ignorance that we wallow in, this simple basic truth of life did not escape them. And MOST IMPORTANTLY, because Allah has blessed them with the ni’mah of Islam. It is none other than Allah’s mercy, blessing and guidance alone that guides one to Islam. For us born Muslims, it is again none other than His mercy that He granted us a birth in a Muslim home and we had our Islam handed to us on a silver platter. In ALL cases, it is none other than His Mercy and all praise and glorification belongs to Him alone.
Now for the rest.
A few ahadith and/or sayings of elders and creedal points to start. What are stated as ahadith are meanings of ahadith, not direct translations.
1) He who doesn’t thank people doesn’t thank Allah as well. – Hadith
2) If all one’s parents did was just give birth to him, and left him alone, he STILL wouldn’t be able to repay his parents. – Hadith/saying of sahabi/scholar
3) One of the finest acts of goodness is that one treat one’s father’s friends kindly after his death. – Hadith
4) Every person has three fathers. The biological father, the one who gave him his daughter in marriage, and the teacher who taught him knowledge, and the third one deserves more respect than the former two. – Hadith/saying of sahabi/scholars (forgive me for not verifying, I’m writing this post extempore on request from a dear brother/sister. Also note knowledge here refers to religious knowledge, and in the case of woman the “second father” would obviously be her husband’s father)
5) If one of the Muslims of the latter era gave gold as much as the mountain of Uhud in charity, we would still not achieve the status equal of one tiny good deed of the sahaba. – Sahih hadith
6) The status of the Muhajirun (the migrants to Madinah) is higher than that of the Ansaar (those in Madinah who helped the Muhajirun). – proven by numerous explicit texts, no difference of opinion by scholars.
7) The status of the mujahideen of Badr is higher than that of the mujahideen of Uhud. – again proven by numerous texts, no difference of opinion by scholars.
What’s the point of mentioning all of this?
That Islam is carried forward from people to people, and those who get their Islam from their seniors, owe it to them. Needless to say, of course all mankind owes our Master Rasulullah, our Islam, and of course, it is all by Allah’s Will and Mercy. But we are talking about the means by which Islam is propagated.
The sahaba learnt their Islam from the Prophet and owe it to him, sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. The tabi’een learnt their Islam from the sahaba and owe it to them. So it trickles down until the chain reaches us worthless sinners.
Addressing those 7 points:
There is a reason why the status of the warriors of Badr is higher than that of the warriors of Uhud, eventhough they are both from the esteemed companions. Badr is the first battle of Islam. All other battles of Islam owe their success to Badr and stand on its shoulders, doesn’t matter how high and mighty they were, be it the conquest of Istanbul, or Jerusalem or Delhi or anything else. Nothing beats Badr. Period.
Likewise the status of the Muhajirun is higher than that of the Ansaar. These are the people who are praised in the Quran for leaving everything behind only for the sake of Allah and His Messenger. These are the people who suffered the worst afflictions at the hands of the kuffaar. These are the people who are the very first torchbearers of Islam.
Likewise, the status of the sahaba is greater than any of the tabi’een, regardless how great he is. These are the people who took care of the ummah after the Prophet left this apparent world. These are the people who prayed behind both qibla’s, Jerusalem and Makkah. These are the people who learnt Islam directly from the Prophet and passed it on to the rest of the world. Everyone who comes after them, owes his/her Islam to the sahaba. The Islam of the tabi’een stands on the shoulders of the Islam of the sahaba. No wonder, our Master Rasulullah said that we are next to nothing compared to his esteemed sahaba, radi Allahu ‘anhum.
Likewise, our Islam stands on the shoulders of those who taught us. This is why our scholars deserve more respect than our parents. Because we owe our Islam to them. This is why a person who taught us Islam is also called our father.
As for the biological father, we owe our very existence to him. Even if he was the worst father on earth, it is ONLY because of him that we exist. He is the means by which we came to this earth. (Not speaking in a creedal sense, of course the only reason we exist is because of Allah’s creating us). This is why we simply have to acknowledge and respect our parents and obey them, except in matters of disobedience to Allah and if they are kafirs, we can’t respect their religion. If a parent is a hostile kafir, then one has to go against them too because loyalty to Islam precedes loyalty to one’s kith and kin.
Likewise, we owe the happiness of our lives to our father in laws who give us their daughters in marriage. We owe our marriages to them. If it isn’t for them giving their daughters to us, we would not be able to continue our blood lines and family names.
Such is the status of one’s father that sahih hadith ask us to acknowledge, respect and honor our fathers’ friends too after they die. Sahih ahadith again ask us to honor and respect our aunts and mothers’ friends after they die. Why? Because it is simply HUMANLY IMPOSSIBLE to repay one’s parents, as ahadith state.
This is why hadith says that he who doesn’t thank people, doesn’t thank Allah as well. Thanklessness should simply NOT be from a Muslim’s character.
In sahih hadith the Prophet, sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, has said that one of the signs of a hypocrite in religion is bearing a grudge against the Ansaar, the helpers of the Muhajirun in Madinah. Any guesses why? Our Master Rasulullah was always compassionate and thankful to them for all they did for his and the Muhajirun’s sake in Madinah and helped Islam shine.
Coming back to the issue of born Muslims vs converts and us bad apples who have been responsible for the kind of comments I have seen from converts, let me just say:
You wouldn’t have even KNOWN half of what you know about Islam, if it wasn’t for us bad born Muslims. A bad Muslim is STILL Muslim, which means he is STILL a carrier of Islam. There is a reason why it is a BASIC ISLAMIC BELIEF, an ‘AQIDAH POINT that THE WORST Muslim is still far more exalted than any kafir. In fact there simply is NO COMPARISON between the statuses of a Muslim and kafir in front of Allah. They are exact opposites even a bad Muslim being ultimately good because of his Islam and even a supposedly good kafir truly being bad because of his kufr.
Yes we acknowledge every single one of our character faults, be it the drug dealers in the ghetto, the closet drinkers, the wife beaters, the evil vixens who abuse their husbands, our uncultured kids, every single one of those faults we humbly acknowledge.
But DESPITE all that, you STILL owe your Islam to us born Muslims. Note, I am NOT talking about status here. The sahaba have established statuses amongst themselves as there are primary texts pointing to it. Likewise we know from primary and other texts that the status of sahaba being above and beyond the rest of the ummah. The higher status is by knowledge and taqwa, yes. Nonetheless, it does matter in some sense. It is not for nothing that a born Muslim girl’s kufw is not a converted male in matters of marriage and one’s generation in Islam IS one of the factors considered in matters of kafa-ah!
Leaving status (in front of Allah) aside, you converts owe your Islam to us bad born Muslims. DESPITE all our badness. Islam has been passed on from people to people. It has reached you ONLY because of us.
Mind you, we are talking about mediums of propagation, da’wah and teaching of Allah’s religion as revealed to His last & final Messenger – here, when we say A owes his Islam to B, not arrogantly boasting that we humans are capable of anything, al ‘iyadhu billah. It is not except by the Will & Mercy of the Creator of the Worlds, Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala. Of course we all acknowledge Allah’s divine mercy and guidance, but Allah’s Will has dictated that things happen through certain mediums of propagation. Allah could have created all humans and jinn as Muslims. His Will is that His Prophets are revealed His Message and religion and teach Islam to us people and we act as mediums of propagation and da’wah and carry it forward!
Those of you who are married to born Muslims, you owe your marriages to us born Muslims too. A lot of you marry born Muslims with the sole intention of growing in Islam. Acknowledge that, and be humble and thankful about it. Some converts who have born Muslim spouses, whinge and cry over how they were turned down by a few born Muslim fathers, yet they fail to acknowledge and thank the one father who did end up giving their daughter to them.
Those sisters who married born Muslim men and had bad experiences at the hands of their mother and sister in laws, STILL owe their Islam to born Muslims. All said and done, they got their Islam because of the efforts of born Muslims’ propagation. Every book you’ve read, every translation of the Quran, and even all the “SELF-STUDY” you did on Islam, rests on the shoulders of us born Muslims.
If it wasn’t for our efforts, you would not have even been capable of the “SELF-STUDY” you gloat over!
VERY true, we lack hikmah many times. Note that in the beginning we had agreed on the premise that ALL of us born Muslims in our times are bad apples. We are fools who do not know that the very first thing a Muslim child or a convert must be taught is how to pray and read the Quran properly for the purpose of prayers. It is simply an overkill to talk to a new convert about the fiqh opinion on the length of the beard, or the Sunnah of trimming one’s nails and applying perfume.
But my dear convert brother/sister, why don’t you see the silver lining in all of this and notice that what ever is told to you is STILL Islamic knowledge, AND with a good intention. Besides, it has something to do with basic Islamic mannerisms and culture. You became a Muslim. It is your duty to learn about it as much as possible. It is understandable some advanced things might be tedious for you, but do you only teach your child to read and write as he is growing up and learning to speak? No, you potty train them too. You also teach them table manners, how to ask for things from others, simple little basics like “thank you” and “please”.
Do realize Mr. Convert that all said and done, you ARE a BABY in Islam. It is the job of those around you to tell you about every single detail about living as a Muslim. This is how the Prophet was with the sahaba too. Once again, we born Muslims acknowledge that we miss our and your priorities by a 100 miles. Even according to the knowledge given to us by the Muslims better than us, it is simply unwise to talk to you about the spacing between elbows during prayers, but insha Allah you can learn to see that experience is not something one has existing stock of. It is well possible for the person doing such to have none other than good intentions and your best as a Muslim, at hand.
So while you ARE a “baby in Islam”, you DO have the choice to be “an adult as a human” about it and take it well with good cheer, without letting it either hurt your ego or feeling overwhelmed with all the knowledge. You can just calmly tell those brothers to first teach you the very basics, reading the Quran in PROPER Arabic and praying, followed by other integrals, and then build up your knowledge base. It really can’t be that hard!
I’m not a black belt in Tae Kwan Do. To the sensei, I AM “a baby in Tae Kwan Do” but I am also “an adult as a human”. There’s nothing that the sensei tells me that I can possibly take as an attack on my ego, if I wish to earn my black belt eventually.
I state again and with no arrogance what so ever, we don’t just lack hikmah in our affairs with you, we also lack it in our affairs amongst ourselves. Tell me, did your parents do everything perfectly when you were kids? On certain occasions, you knew they were out of whack then and you only know it better now. But you also know full well that people are not perfect. You also know full well that despite all their faults and shortcomings, your parents always had your best interest in mind and only meant well. Do you spew venom against them in a similar manner? You know full well that despite all their shortcomings, they STILL are your well-wishers and carers. Even if you had bad parents, you still SIMPLY CAN’T deny that they are the means by which you exist.
Likewise, despite all our shortcomings, you simply can’t deny that you owe your new Muslim identity and knowledge of Islam to us born Muslims – even if we are all criminals! Even if we did the absolute worst job of propagation and delivery, it is still US born Muslims who are the medium by which what ever it is that you know, reached you, EVEN IF you do know well that you need to find PEOPLE IN ISLAM, NOT ISLAM IN PEOPLE – because – if it wasn’t for us bad born Muslims, you would not have even seen half of the Islam you have seen.
Just as your fathers were your providers at a duniyawi level as you were growing up, one of the means by which your rizq reached you, WE ARE the providers, one of the means and tools in duniya – of the knowledge, practice and culture of Islam, that you THINK you have mastered after just Jumu’ah-to-Jumu’ah 8 days of saying the shahadah!
I say, again, this is not from an arrogant perspective. It is Allah’s Will that different things reach different places through different means He created. He ALONE is The One Who TRULY provides rizq, and He ALONE is The One Whose Will dictates who shall be guided and who won’t. But it is His own Prophet, sal Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, our Master Rasulullah, who is assigned to deliver His deen to us – who has taught us to be thankful to NOT JUST our Creator and Owner, BUT ALSO every single one of the means He has lined up for you for His Mercy to be delivered to you!
As for the “all I’ve been through since becoming Muslim” line, sorry but that line simply smacks of a cry for emotional welfare to me, for a lot of reasons, 2 main ones being:
1) You would STILL be having your routine problems and tests in life had you remained a kafir. There is no human life on earth free of inter-personal issues and trials and tests. We born Muslims face them too, but we simply can’t attribute some of those trials and tests to a category, while you can easily fit them into the “convert” category. Are you telling me us born Muslims (or born kafirs too for that matter) don’t have inter-personal issues? If they do, what is the point categorizing your issues into a separate “converts” folder?
2) If you’re talking about how hard it is for you to cope with all that is out there to learn/practice, so what? While we born Muslims have a few basics handed to us, the rest of the stuff is hard for us too. Knowledge and practice don’t come easy for anyone. Any non-Arab scholar has to work twice as hard to learn Arabic. Any common person has to work hard towards becoming a scholar. Any seeker of the path has to do the hard yards before he is granted an ijaza to actually represent the tariqa and take students.
You became a Muslim didn’t you? You do realize that you wrote your life off to Allah and His religion in the best manner you possibly can? So why all the complaining? You do know that complaining about one’s adherence to religion, diminishes/destroys the rewards of the good deeds, don’t you? There’s a direct verse in the Quran for it:
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ لاَ تُبْطِلُواْ صَدَقَاتِكُم بِالْمَنِّ وَالأذَى كَالَّذِي يُنفِقُ مَالَهُ رِئَاء النَّاسِ وَلاَ يُؤْمِنُ بِاللّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَمَثَلُهُ كَمَثَلِ صَفْوَانٍ عَلَيْهِ تُرَابٌ فَأَصَابَهُ وَابِلٌ فَتَرَكَهُ صَلْدًا لاَّ يَقْدِرُونَ عَلَى شَيْءٍ مِّمَّا كَسَبُواْ وَاللّهُ لاَ يَهْدِي الْقَوْمَ الْكَافِرِينَ
Sorry, I won’t paste the translation. I’m sure with your superior knowledge of ‘aqidah, fiqh, tasawwuf, aadaab, and akhlaaq you can translate it yourself, or well, we all know how google works! Just remember, what ever you see in the google search results too is probably more likely than not, the fruit of some born Muslim’s labor.
Islam is VERY hard work, for EVERY ONE. It is not meant to be a bed of roses. Read up on the trials and afflictions faced by the Prophet, by the sahaba, by the tabi’een, by the mujtahid scholars who went to jail, and so on. In fact have a good look at all the suffering faced by born Muslims in not so fortunate circumstances, like Afghanistan, or Nigeria. I’d really like to know how exactly did you suffer so miserably? As the Prophet has said in sound ahadith, this world is a prison for the believer. Another hadith says that this world is hell for believers and heaven for kafirs.
Seriously, what exactly are you referring to by “all that you’ve been through”? And what exactly is the point of it? What outcome are you looking to achieve by stating it? I’m not denying that you would have had a truckload of challenges after becoming Muslim or interacting with Muslims of a culture probably different to yours. A different set of problems need a different solution perhaps, but I fail to see how it can be something so overwhelming someone needs to flash the “do you know what I’ve been through?” line in people’s face. I do not believe ANY human being at all has the right to use that line to ANY other human being. It is because our Master Rasulullah has told us to look at those in worse circumstances than us and always thank Allah.
Also know that ANY CHANGE, in any aspect of one’s life requires some paradigm shifts and coping with. So please know well that after your conversion, you need to be ready to shift a lot of your paradigms.
Without sounding arrogant or pompous, and I can’t because I am NOT speaking at a personal level, remember, you simply CAN’T survive by yourselves in Islam. If all the born Muslims were sent off to a deserted island, and you had no connection with them, you wouldn’t be able to as much as read the Quran in Arabic with the rules of recitation, a requirement for salah. You wouldn’t be able to make sense of just 10 ahadith and their chains of narrations! You couldn’t tell which translation of the Quran is more accurate and which is not or what MEANINGS some words imply in Arabic since NO literal translation in English would ever do it justice. You wouldn’t be able to make sense of 99% of the rulings you see in fiqh books, even if you managed to be literate enough to come to terms with the fusha Arabic therein! Those amongst you who say they can learn all this from other converts who are qualified, please do ask those qualified convert teachers where they learnt from!
Those few flash buzzwords that you THINK you understand, and that you flash back in our faces after learning them from us, like “aadaab”, “hikmah” “tawakkal” and “fiqh” are nothing other than Islam’s and Arabic language’s gift to us and WE passed them on to you, even if only with a friendly slap on the face to wake you up while you were sleeping in the mosque! Don’t EVER forget that! (By the way, it’s makruh to sleep in the mosque unless one is a traveler. But then again, “hikmah” demands that we first teach you the basics of how to read Arabic of the Quran and how to perfect your salah. Then again, you can’t be caught up on the basics your entire life, right?! Ok deal, we won’t tell you all these things for the first 2 weeks 🙂 )