Posted by: Dawud Israel | May 28, 2009

Wannabes, Fantasies and Replacing Islam with the Idea of It

Bismillah, alhamdulillah wa salat wa salam ala rasulullah

Islamism replaces Islam with the idea of it

-Shaykh Abdul Hakim Murad on Islamism or militant Islam

But, this applies to a great deal of our ummah, not just the violent among us.

You find we are becoming like the kuffar, fighting for the idea of Islam, but not living it. We are like those who fight for communist or Marxist ideas, for an idea, not for an achievable reality. Islamists then aren’t fighting jihad but using Islam as the ultimate justification to do anything and everything, even if it violates Islam, in order to establish Islam (when they are ready to accept it fully?). In a sense, its the jihad for hypocrisy- you fight for a cause you don’t understand, nor do you really have any understanding of real Islam, but rather have an idea of it. Its a recipe for confusion and chaos.

What this means, is we are the donkey which someone rides by dangling a carrot in front of it. We will always be running after this fantasy and in doing so, become more and more distanced from Islam. How? We will do everything in our power to come and get it and so our frustration will increase, we will feel justified in doing things we shouldn’t. And it will worsen even more, the more we can’t eat the carrot dangling in front of us, the more we’ll speed up- the more hostile and violent we’ll get.

The Map is not the Territory

Perhaps a better way of understanding this is the map vs. territory analogy. The map is not the territory and land it represents. The map is not to be taken as the territory. But what we have in our communities is the map of Islam is taken to be the land of Islam, so to speak. I don’t know if this is an accurate comparison but it should give you a better idea and make this less abstract. The point is some of us will get suckered into buying the map for the price of the land without ever knowing we got ripped off.

Here in the West, you see this phenomenon of replacing Islam with the idea of it as obsessions over religiosity. Some will spend more time warning others about shirk than in actually worshiping Allah SWT. We are hungry for Islam and hungry people will eat anything they can to survive on, but in doing so we are poisoning ourselves. There are a lot of wannabes who aren’t the real deal, but pose as if they are. This is why in circles of non-Muslims or not-so-practicing Muslims all the “religious” people are seen as jerks…because few of the religious actually LIVE Islam, but instead talk about it. The Shariah is meant to exist in peoples hearts but instead it is made external- something we have to strive for, like a physical goal. Yet we all know we can cling to the Shariah, in our hearts, and resist sins and do good deeds- that its as much internal as external. If you make it only external, where a state needs to apply Shariah Law then you are searching for Atlantis, a place that doesn’t exist because the Shariah was built in the hearts of the Sahabas before it became tangible and societal law. Islam will lead to an Islamic State, not Islamists striving for the idea of Islam (which therefore, will never be achieved).

60% Islam?

The very idea of replacing something with the idea of it, is unnecessary because we already have Islam- why do we need to strive for something we already possess? Although not all of us practice Islam fully, Muslims in some parts of the world DO live Islam through and through, and so rather than strive for the idea of Islam we should strive no further than following them. But we would end up becoming deluded by our own ideas perhaps thinking these men who live the real Sunnah are following strange ideas. I think due to globalization we have become as confused as the kuffaar and they have shipped confusion into our communities. If you see how kaafirs deal with racism- always raving on about it, and talking about the ideal eliminating prejudice, but nowhere do they have living role models exemplifying their ideals- the ideas of racial equality are everywhere, but no where do they actually exist! Do we want Islam to be like that? All talk but you never actually see it existing? There is a word for this in the Quran: munafiqeen. Hypocrites, worse than the kuffaar. Do we want to become munafiqeen?

Many sincere people I know will tell me in all honesty they know how society is set up to go against their deen, because its the nature of the dunya. They KNOW its shaytaan who has driven them to have girlfriends and do drugs, but they feel weak and powerless because they can’t leave this stuff- all their family and friends are a part of the system. If you try to live Islam 20%, there is only so far you can go. Even the practicing Muslims are living Islam maybe 60%, and if you want to go further, you have to travel far and search hard. In places like Saudi Arabia, there you will see Shariah law isn’t fully applied and Islam is at that same 60%- the idea of Islam permeates the area, but its not a Khilafah- just the Saudi-spin on an Islamic state. And so the best virtue and redeeming quality my friend has is clinging to the idea of Islam, his understanding of what needs to be done even if he can’t do it, and this might count for something, especially if you love Allah and His Rasul (salallahu alayhi wasalam).

Fueled by Fantasies

In fact, I think its very common for the ideas and dreams of Muslims to be nothing more than fantasies. They are fantasies and dreams because they will never be achieved simply because we envision the idea of something, not it itself. One psychologist mentioned something once about pornography, how watching it creates an idea of sexual intercourse in a persons mind, one which is so out there and unrealistic for spouses to fulfill, or perhaps any human being, and so it drives a person further into pornography and damages their relationship with their spouses. Similarly, the image of Islam is what we conceive Islam should be is becoming unrealistic because we are driven by ideas of what we think it should look like. We are driven by a distortion or exaggeration of the Sunnah, not the Sunnah itself. Its to the point, if the Sahabas were alive today, I think many people wouldn’t believe these men are Sahabas. We imagine the Sahabas to be on spiritual steroids and don’t understand they simply relied solely on Allah and struggled, just like we have to. One shaykh commented in a talk, how Muslims act as if they expect as soon as a person converts to Islam, that their beard will start growing faster and faster by the second until its fist-length. If  you actually monitor what we say to each other- the assertions, points and problems we say to each other (even in what I say), you quickly will pick up we give people unrealistic expectations to achieve. What do you expect people to say in response? I often ask myself this question and if I’m not being realistic, then I know I am still not quite in “the world of Islam,” but rather I am still in “the world of what I imagine Islam to be.” The idea of what you think Islam should be, and Islam itself are almost NEVER the same in our part of the world.

Ilm or Illusions of Ilm?

In short its a delusion. This is why it is important to learn Islam from someone who embodies the spirit of Islam. This is one reasons why I prefer a Traditionalist Islamic knowledge, ones following the ijazah system, who are alims, so they know Islam as comprehensively as possible and understand the reality of Islam, not an imagined Islam. They carry with them not just Islamic knowledge, but their adab, their mentality, their thinking process and their attitude are real- those are things you cannot get out of a book. But, if you go to someone who teaches the “idea of Islam” they may do enough for you to get you acquainted with the basics of Islam and so they are good enough for simple dawah, but beyond that, they will make things unrealistic, unpractical and hard to follow. This is why Progressives and non-Muslims have attacked Islam as archaic and backwards, because they are looking at men who do not show the pragmatic nature of Islam and show its practical examples- they don’t live Islam, but rather preach the idea of it. So when people say, “search for Ilm,” it is important to see if you have found someone who is all about an “imagined Islam” or a “living” Islam. You will know when you find the real deal, because they will exceed your expectations and your heart will feel it, just as it feels it when you read the Quran or recite the kalimah.

As the saying of Imam ash-Shafi’i goes (in Punjabi):

Neem Hakeem khatrey jaan, neem mullah khatrey iman–

A half-doctor is a threat to your life, a half-shaykh is a threat to your faith.

So its important we try and strive to learn real Islam, and not ideas of it. In order to do so, we must get as intimate with the deen as possible or else we risk censoring the Sunnah. If we keep following this path of obsessing over the idea of Islam and thus pushing real Islam out of the picture, we will end up growing further from the deen.

Subhana kallahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la illaha illa anta astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.


  1. “Neem Hakeem khatrey jaan, neem mullah khatrey iman–”

    I don’t think thats Punjabi. Maybe Pashto?

    And what kind of threat are the people who are half Shaykh, half doctor?

    Anyways, in all seriousness a much needed article, a lot of hardcore Muslims are springing up with more accusations, and less solutions. They’re in a realm of hypothetical ideology, and don’t have anything tangible to offer.

    And the ironic tragedy is that those Muslims who are really making a difference and making an effort for our community are usually the ones who get accusations and slander from the hypotheticals.

  2. A half doctor…will give you a bad prescription. And some medicines can be poisonous if given wrong. Similarly, the work of a half-shaykh can do more harm than good.

  3. Since brother Usman brought it up, I thought I’d add that the same kahawat is very common in Urdu, and I guess technically it’s Farsi, though a quick Google search suggests it’s not really used in that language (all the results are Urdu or Punjabi.) I don’t think I’ve ever heard it attributed to Imam al-Shafi`i though. That’s interesting.

  4. “And what kind of threat are the people who are half Shaykh, half doctor?”

    lol- i guess digital text sucks for my crappy jokes.

  5. As Salamu alaykum wa rahmathullah,

    Firstly I ask forgiveness if this post/comment offends you/concept of ur website. I am a muslimah who has been accepted to IlmSummti 2009 and desperate need of financial aid. Pl help me either by supporting financially /spreading the word insha Allah. Pls visit– for sadaqa -e jariya insha ALlah. Jazakumullah Khayr.

  6. The saying is 100% Persian 🙂 … Indo-Pak used to be a Farsi speaking region, thus many sayings have remained in the vernacular.

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