Redefining “Practicing Muslim”
Posted Nov 1, 2005

Redefining “Practicing Muslim”

By Farzana Hassan

The accusations and denunciations reverberated across the length and breadth of Queens Park, Toronto on Sunday Oct 2nd, when a crowd of angry pro-Shariah Muslims gathered to challenge Dalton Mcguinty’s decision banning all faith based tribunals in Ontario.  Of the countless verbal assaults hurled at those opposing Shariah, was one that captured my attention most, since it came from a very young woman.  Shouting at the top of her lungs, she announced that opponents of Shariah were either Non- Muslim Islamophobes or non practicing Muslims.  Although a lesser accusation than the usual apostasy charge, the “non practicing:” label assigned to Shariah opponents nonetheless invoked feelings of frustration and resentment in me for a number of reasons.

It was apparent for example, that Muslim practice as understood by the young sister would be confined to the five daily prayers, fasting during Ramadan, the performance of Hajj, or observance of the hijab.  It seemed that integrity, compassion, the abstinence from vices such as fraud, debauchery or dishonesty would all get sidelined under her definition of Muslim practice, as these were not tangible in terms of outward display of religiosity. The young Muslima who hurled such allegations at other Muslims seemed quite sure, that anti Shariah Muslims exercised negligence in upholding the above Islamic ideals.

Religious practice, let it be known, is far greater than the outward expression of piety or religiosity associated with the performance of daily rituals or the attire one chooses to adopt. A Muslim who is careful not to lie, cheat, steal and deliberately cause hurt,  is just as practicing, if not more, than one who performs certain rituals mechanically, but abandons Islam’s eternal principles of justice, peace, tolerance, harmony and egalitarianism.  Islamic practice is far more comprehensive than the mere ritualistic exercise some have reduced it to be.

Due to their exclusionary mind-set, many Muslims accuse fellow Muslims of anti-Islamism, pandering to the West, or conspiracy. They do themselves great disservice by exposing their narrow-mindedness based on an outdated understanding of religious precepts.

Perhaps our young sister can be excused her indiscretion due to her tender years, but those injecting such ideas into her yet impressionable mind, certainly need to reevaluate their understanding of their faith. They are advised to refrain from any future insults aimed at their coreligionists, who may be well-intentioned and sincere in terms of religious observance, which undoubtedly encompasses more than mere rituals.

Let them also be reminded that only Allah can be judge between people.

Farzana Hassan is a Director of the Muslim Canadian Congress.