Belonging to an Ism

Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society Values: Contentment Views: 3212

Every human on earth seems to be in search of an identity for itself that can last a lifetime. I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, an identity can really set our preferences straight and keep us steadfast on one path. However, the problem arises when we confuse the pursuit of an identity with that of limiting ourselves within the bound of 'isms'.

A little study of philosophy will reveal to mind the idea behind any 'ism'. It portrays a thought that must encompass all. In other words, an 'ism' does not simply entail appreciation of a school of thought. Rather, it portrays absolute belief in a theory that bounds all reality within itself. In effect, belonging to an 'ism' conveys the belief that all incidences, all phenomena and all occurrences can be defined and explained from within a thought. Any prescription or proscription external to it, thus, would be regarded as false and inconsistent.

If one takes notice of the fame that Marx has achieved in the past, one can be astounded. For even though the man condemned religion and regarded it only as a product of the oppressed class, he seems to have created a new religion for his followers - 'Marxism'. There is no denying the fact that the man was a thinking individual, that he had the capacity of luring men towards himself and therefore, towards his thought. However, in order to be appreciative of one element of his philosophy does not mean that we must enslave ourselves to everything he ever had to say. For no matter how intelligent and noble a man may be, he will remain a man after all. Just as many philosophers argue for 'rationality' as being the basis of differentiation between a man and an animal, the difference between God and man may be highlighted as well. Whilst man can commit errors and make mistakes on account of his limited knowledge, God remains All-Knowing and unbounded by any shortcomings. God is 'infallible', man is not.

If one is to admire Marx's explanations regarding the demise of Capitalism, to me, there seems to be no harm. However, the moment we respond to the calls of our excitement and relief by declaring ourselves Marxists, alarm bells begin to ring. For such a declaration implies that we are, in fact, ascribing an attribute of infallibility to all theories resting in the cradle of the Marxian thought. It follows then that belief in Marx's critique of a political economy does not necessitate belief in his definition of religion as the 'opium of the people'.

Another 'ism' that seems to have clutched our youth is that of Freud's theories. Having read through the works of Sigmund Freud, many people claim to be thoroughly impressed. Again, as far as I see, there is nothing wrong with being impressed with what is read. However, an affirmation of each and every word within that book and all others by the psychologist, is not a requisite for any admirer. That remains a requisite only for the believer with the divine book in his hands. Yet again, the urge of having an identity for ourselves wins the battle, and we begin to laud ourselves on acquiring faith in Freudianism.

Care and caution is required in appreciating a philosophy because, in many cases, it is the innocent admiration that gradually leads to the extreme - that is, enslavement of the mind. The same rule ought to be applied concerning Islamic thinkers and scholars as well. This concern first sprung to me after attending a lecture on Muslim philosophers. Walking out of the class, a friend began thinking aloud: 'Should I be a Rationalist? Or should I be a Traditionalist?'. Regardless of what fate she would decide for herself, I thought the question itself was wrong. Of course, when we studied Ash'ari's criticism on the Mu'tazillite approach, the appeal was immense since he wrote with much conviction, all the while, strictly adhering to the traditions of religion. On the other hand, when we analyzed Ibn Rushd's essay aimed at compelling men to use their sense of reasoning, it appealed greatly to the intellect. However, such appreciation certainly does not mean that one should either become a traditionalist and remain a die-hard loyalist to the Ashariite school of thought, or that one should definitely hail the God-cosmos relationship as purported by the great Averroes. Because to do so would amount to a grave error: assigning an unerring quality to man.

The only quality that we should try to equip ourselves with is that of realizing the infallibility and absoluteness of God - and only God. And the only identity that we ought to be satisfied with is that of being His servant.


Saadia Malik writes for Renaissance Islamic Journal

  Category: Faith & Spirituality, Featured, Life & Society  Values: Contentment
Views: 3212

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Older Comments:
there is no ism in creation. ism is a man-made creation. the great spirit is infinite, has no begining and no end and as such it can not be put in an ism box. likewise for all human to be free we must remove all such boxes from our own minds and approach The Creator with our hearts for that is where He has put His sign. only through the heart one can reach God. ala bi dhikr allah tatma'in al-quloob. taf'fakur or mental deliberation can only take us thus far intellectually but the key to unlock His secret is only thro the heart. there are many scholars in religious sciences none of whom has seen God. Sure they have written many books but none claim communion with God, yet He plainly tell us that He is nearer to us than our own jagular vein.

A. D. FROM USA said:

MashaAllah, that was a very well-written and organized essay. It was very intellectuall and thought-provoking! I enjoyed it. I think it would have been a stronger peice, however, if you stated your point clearly... just a thought. Again, it was beautifully written, mashaAllah. Wasalam.

Whilst having no real problem with the article, we'd like to share the thought that the turn to "isms" of Muslim youth, is necessarily because of the power, rationality, truthfulness or otherwise of the different schools of thought. It is because of the paucity of understanding Islam as a Deen (a precise and scientific Law) and the role of Insaan within this Law, and not only of Islam but within the Law of Creation.
What is the role of Insaan in the scheme of creation? it is precisely what the Creator (Glorified be HE) defines: "Khalif-ALLAH fil ard (Emissary, Representative, Ambasssador of ALLAH on earth)as well as:"Certainly WE created Insaan in the best of mould and makes. Then WE render him the lowest of the low." (GMQ Surahs 2&95). If we analyse the role of Insaan, we discover that infallibility is not beyond human achievement. Why? because we represent HIM who has placed us in the situation of achievement by Revealing to us a "Perfect Law" sending "Perfect Examples" and subjecting all of creation to us. A diligent implementation of the Perfect Law, a studious emulation of the Perfect Examples and a scientific and progressive utilisation of all created resources would and must lead to perfection which is equivalent to infallibility, and this infallibility to infinity. Infinity is nothing short of creative energy. This is the ultimate purpose of the creation of Insaan. Many more can be said, but unfortunately time does not permit. If further clarification on this topic is required please to not hesitate to contact us.
Was Salaam.

as-salaamu alaykum,

insha'allah as Muslims we should aspire to belong to only one "ism", ISlaM. the article was right in stating that we should reflect on the fact that only Allah is un-erring. this leads us to the opposite conclusion that man is erring and hence we cannot take any normal man's words as all-truth or all-encompasing. the Prophet (sas) is our sole exception. not because of what he was sent with (Qur'an), but becuase of what he was, a Rasool of Allah. so we accept his words only because it is derived from divine wisdom granted to him. if we follow his (sas) sunnah, then we will avoid the trap of falling into flawed "ism"'s and philosophies. he was a Muslim, plain and simple and that is what we should ascibe to be. he labelled himself such and did not use the terms that many muslims today would use (e.g. sunni, shia, sufi, hanafi, shafi'i, hanbali, maliki, etc.) it is through our belief in Allah's unity and our following of His Prophet (sas) that we as Muslims are unified. to add any other appelations only leads to division, confusion, and fitna. As is narrated in Bukhari,

Narrated Ibn Mas'ud:

I heard a person reciting a (Quranic) Verse in a certain way, and I had heard the Prophet reciting the same Verse in a different way. So I took him to the Prophet and informed him of that but I noticed the sign of disapproval on his face, and then he said, "Both of you are correct, so don't differ, for the nations before you differed, so they were destroyed."


The gist of the Message of Islam may be found in the following ayat which is one of the many ayaat on the subject.
Surah 3 ayat 64, which says that we should not set up lords from among ourselves. that leaves no place for any ISM, which is produce of human intellect, for people who believe in God, the Creator.

In God's Name, Perfect In Knowledge, Glorious In Compassion
I support awareness, using our God given intellect, the quest for Truth, in other words the suratal mustakeem, the straight path.
The Holy Prophet Muhammad is the ideal example, peace be upon him now and always. He recognized faith is precious. He did not develope faith in Christianity, with its man-god, nor Judiasm, with its denial of the phenomena of Jesus(peace), and each religion had developed other quirks, superstitions, etc. As he learned about these he only developed faith in obvious facts, like God, that good is good, and even took up some Judeo-Christian practices like fasting and meditation.
Perhaps he was the first person, after Christian revelation, to correctly go about seeking the truth, investing faith only when truly justified. Therefore Islam came when it did, because Allah responds to such beautiful struggle for Truth. AFTER CHRISTIAN REVELATION'S CORRUPTION NO ONE RESPECTED FAITH AS IT SHOULD BE RESPECTED EXCEPT MUHAMMAD, OTHERWISE ISLAM WOULD HAVE COME SOONER AS ALLAH'S RESPONSE TO THE SINCERE LOVER OF TRUTH.
His life is full of unwritten Ayats, so also the phenomena of man-God Christianity. Let's learn from them.
"I am Sunni Muslim", Shi'ite Muslim, Hanafi Muslim, Ghazali Muslim, drible-drable Muslim, kookookaka Muslim. WHAT IS THIS?!
Brothers and Sisters, please do not have faith in something because your parents do. Don't beleive Saheeh Bukari is infallible just because your parents and friends do. Beleive in it if you have struggled and prayed for the straight path and it gained your conviction in the heart of your mind.
Learn from Muhammad, he lived in a whole world where no one had the purity in their faith, except him. Why is that Surah called Purity of Faith? Why do some Muslims say music is haram? Why are there sects when the Quran is clear about this? Should you faith in something just b/c all Ummah does?

Sorry if not organized no more r

This article focuses on a fundamental problem afflicting present day Muslims. For example, instead of considering the four imams as great research scholars who have made great contributions for the understanding of Islam, their writings are considered infallible, and are stated to be the foundations of four different "madhabs". Muslims are encouraged to strictly follow one or the other madhabs. Instead of giving their writings almost divine standing, Muslims need to treat their writings as great research materials, to be used for further research for the benefit of present day Muslims.
Thanks is due to the author for a very nice article on a very pertinent topic.

Asalaamu-Alaikum. I couldnt agree with you more because I know from years of experiences in dealing in/with Marxiist politics as well as being a former Atheist,due to lack and rejection of devine revelations its no wonder the Marxists place a heavy emphasis only on things that can be physicly seen or touched. If you were walking along a vacant beach and you came upon a sand castle,you wouldnt think that the wind and water created it,would you? The Kaffir scientists will tell you that all existance was formed by the powerful BIG BANG explosion yet nuclear explosions are less powerful and produce wanton death and destruction. If apes truly evolved from man,why are the apes still here? Today we see apes and man but no"ape-men" yet the ape-men are more evolved in evolution than the apes which means the ape-men should exist and not the inferior apes. I'm sorry for getting a little strayed but Darwinians as well as Marxits base their godlessness on the same matter. There's no God but Allah and without Him nothing could exist.

Amen; It certainly does not take much to reallize that no matter how impressive our analysis or interpretation may seem at a given point,it is vastly based on our meager knowledge that is in turn determined by our personal worldly experience.It a fact the the more knowlwdge and exposure one gets, the more they reallize, how little, they really know. The paradox of the "intellect" is that while it provides certain basic and necessary tools of understanding it carries within it inherent fallacies,born out off the necessity to make assumptions about time and space. To consider "isms" as anything more, than an idea of today that most likely will be irrelevant tomorrow, is a grievous mistake.God is a much larger issue than any intellectual can undertake with any level of authority.
Allah maakoom.

The article, Belonging to an Ism, was great. It made me realize just how easily an individual can become brainwashed by adhering 100% to a particular philosophy. Islam, i believe, contains both the traditionalist and rationalist view to life, right? Well anyways, I really like socio-political/philosophical articles like that, esp. about Darwinism, Marxism, Communism, Fascism etc. I have one question about the article though, who are the Ashariite's and Mu'tazillite's?

Ma Salaam, Omar Shah

please send me information and tell e if i could receive free material to know more about the islam and i'm very interesting in this

Ass.Al. Vr>VB. I would like to send these article to my other friends. How can i send ? pl. keep on line so that i can easily forward all these at a time to other friends KHUDA HAFIZ

MY comments are.1 question ..2 request:
may non-muslims do ask questions about the black stone in the holy qaaba...that, what does it stand
for and also we the muslims are worshipping stone.
I want have more details about it.
2...I am demanding englih transliteration and translation of Holy Quran for `feesabidilahi` the seek of Allah.Looking forward to hear from you....WASALM.


My problem with the definition of "ism" here is that in a way it portrays, in the author's word, a thought that encompasses all. What about Islam? Where does it leave Islam out? Isn't Islam a system of life that encompasses all? Or is there a distinction between a system of beliefs and a thought? And what about Islamism?