Guarding Our Identity in Today’s Individualistic World07 Nov 2021
When analyzing the current system of our world, there is a pronounced philosophy by which Western society proudly operates on: individual expression.
Individual expression has been advocated through the creation of several widely recognized movements in the name of normalization, acceptance, civil rights and representation. The motive of such campaigns serves the interests of individuals who come together with mutual identity struggles or objections against time-honoured principles. The reason for these identity struggles or objections is because they challenge the dominant constructions of traditional society concerning gender roles, equality, identity and more, all of which impede the family structure. As a result, there has been a rapid paradigm shift of societal norms, roles, laws, several variants of personalities and identities. Who does this serve? The individual.
Today, there is less emphasis on consciously nurturing the society, and more emphasis on negligently satisfying the self, disregarding the impact this has on society as a whole. Consequently, this shift has severely overlooked the direction in which society is developing.
In what way can this impact a believer? Because we have shifted into a world that is so deeply submerged within individual expression through an abundance of identity-labels, one may feel vulnerable or estranged in the midst of it all. This estrangement can cause a person to question their values, way of life and identity as a Muslim. One major reason for this is because these campaigns all commonly resist against Islamic traditions and fundamental Islamic values.
It is of utmost pertinence that we navigate through these challenges with insight. Insight comes through establishing within our lives a system of guiding-principles that are self-transcending rather than self-submissive; this will correctly move us towards understanding our identity as humans, our ultimate purpose and destination. Insight is gained when we perceive through a lens that is beyond our self and free from the bias of our desires.
Today, the world champions surrendering to our carnal desires and insinuations under the pretext of individual expression and self-discovery. In reality, this surrendering is but handicapping mankind from tapping into the realities of their own being – preferring short-term pleasures at the cost of long-term societal growth, let alone eternal prosperity. This is precisely why a believer may feel estranged or as though this world is against them, because Islam seeks to transcend these secular issues, to raise the believer out from their own darkness and to become shrouded by divine light. But most people do not recognize their darkness and have thus deprived themselves of divine light. How do we recognize our own darkness? By knowing the light.
God has placed within the spirit of mankind the breath of His divine Being, “…I have proportioned him, and I breathed into him My spirit,” Quran, 15:29. The spirit of God that lives within us is the light, or in other words, our natural disposition; a transcendent entity which defines the pure celestial worth of a human – it cannot coexist with worldliness, and this is our greatest honour.
The world has taken the guiding-voice of our natural disposition and waged a battle against it. One of the dangers of this self-indulgent society is the ways in which it aims to secularize Islam and only accept or honour Muslims who fit their secular agenda. But, as mentioned, Islam is a transcendent path and this world is a heavy anchor – the two cannot coexist within one heart. Islam has honoured women through a timeless divine obligation seeded through the natural disposition: Hijab. And this is a major battle the world has waged against tirelessly for years. The Hijab is not merely a religious and spiritual symbol, but a political one in the eyes of the system. Because the Hijab resists the secularization of Western society, the sexualization of the body and capitalist system, they have sought to defame it in every way. They have built campaigns which advocate for women’s rights, yet in the same breath they exploit and objectify women, turning her femininity into a commodity. What honour comes from participating in this? What honour comes from diluting the divine symbol of the Hijab, or any Islamic value and obligation, to conform to the secular system? If there is one stance we must take, it is to observe our religious duties proudly, in a way that does not compromise nor lower our values. Carry yourself with honour and encourage others in this way too, for God has chosen to honour you, while this world only seeks to exploit for its own vain indulgences.
Such battles are waged and participated in due to an inability to perceive beyond worldly veils. When we fall short in perceiving beyond worldly veils, we will succumb to the worldly form of anything that comes our way. For this reason, insight is vital.
When this society targets the female’s Hijab, preys on the discipline of a male, twists the biological creation of humanity, desensitizes us from animalism, abnormality and irrationality, or dishonours the divine role of the two genders, we must not capitulate to its efforts nor compromise the values of Islam in order to conform, for Islam is far more exalted. It is important to live through the eye of insight for the purpose of recognizing the essence of things and discerning truth from falsehood.
The very criterion for any successful leadership is spiritual adequacy. Spiritual consciousness will lead to moral consciousness. Looking at the state of the world now, we can see that it has been displaced from being God-centric to now being heavily self-centric. Because today’s system operates on self-power, it is completely spiritually inadequate, thus morally insufficient and corrupt. What caused this? When we gave permission for the glimmer of this ephemeral world to tamper with the guidance of our natural disposition and instead normalize subjective morality, then our hearts no longer became receptive to truth – unless it is in compliance with our worldly desires. When the inner ear of the heart is constantly exposed to the noise of worldliness, then we deafen ourselves from the voice of divine guidance.
Let us not be fooled by a society that is spiritually desensitized and yet wishes to speak on morality or identity. Self-discovery under the pretext of subjective morality is but shackling oneself to carnality. It is not liberation; it is self-enslavement.
Morality is rooted in the natural disposition that God breathed within every spirit, and this is the truest identity of any human which we must maintain and protect if we seek prosperity. Just as the system of nature is disturbed when there is extrinsic intervention, so too the spirit in its natural disposition. The more we mute the voice of worldliness, the more we will heed to the voice of our natural disposition which strengthens the breath of God within us and will turn into a guiding wind. Let us therefore awaken our spirits, let us be attentive to the signs of God within us and build our identity in Him alone – for surely, “…all things will be annihilated except the face of your Lord,” Quran, 28:88. “O’ mankind… verily, the most noble among you to God are the God-conscious,” Quran, 49:13. Our nobility with God is measured by our God-consciousness, and no possession will be of use except “…he who meets God with a pure heart,” 26:89.
So long as this world is operated by those who are spiritually inadequate, there will be moral corruption. It is upon us to carry ourselves with insight and not entertain the secular system by reducing our Islamic identity to fit in. Consider the ways in which self-indulgence has shaken the balance of society and allowed immorality to become normalized. When there is inner balance through nurturing our natural disposition, there will then be balance within society. The vastness of these issues began with one individual and spread rampantly into such movements. Similarly, it will take one individual at a time to restore balance, peace and honour among humanity. Let us be among these individuals. Let us advocate for the truth and be united under its Oneness. Carry yourself with insight, gratitude and confidence in the identity that God has endowed upon you. Although at times we may feel a sense of estrangement, there is no greater sweetness than to know that truth sides with you, and so, may you always side with truth.