Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Are Islamic Forums Really Islamic? Do Muslims Act UnIslamic?

I have been a Muslim for over two years now. Whilst I am deeply satisfied with Islam on an intellectual and theological level, much too often I have been far from happy in my experiences with fellow Muslims on a practical level. I have faced considerable difficulties in my attempts to develop as a Muslim. Although I have made the acquaintance of many Muslims, this has been mostly only on a superficial level. I have to admit when I first converted to Islam the first thing I did was look for friends and information online. I went to "Islamic forums" and joined some yahoo groups thinking it was the best way to find the Muslim community. Well I should have gone somewhere else because both of these online communities turned out to be a very big mistake. In the yahoo group I joined I found myself sticking up for a new sister who had a dog, only to be attacked by another member who said I wasn't a Muslim and should say my shahada over again because nothing would be accepted of me, the moderators of that group let this woman publish all her hatred towards me and my opinion not even caring that I had just become a Muslim a few months back and was still learning. The forums if anything were much worse. The first forum I ended up joining was not moderated and had people putting Islam down using the most unintellectual words I have ever heard in my life, as well there were people airing their dirty laundry around about their husbands or boyfriends and that was coming from Muslims!!!! I went back to that site to see if anything has changed, only to find out it was closed, thank God!! You see even though that was a horrid site, I did meet 2 wonderful people there, unfortunately one of them I completely lost contact with. I moved on to other forums, I will not name them but I will say that it became very disheartening when I was seeing topics called "Deviated Sects, And Callers" and threads such as "Protect Yourself Against Suffism and Sufis", and "What Happens to Women Without Hijab".
There are many excellent sites out there, but I would caution the new Muslim not to accept the information on all sites blindly, particularly if they have an arrogant, strident or unpleasant tone or stray from plain facts and concentrate on controversial opinion or on an overtly political agenda. I would also urge new Muslims to avoid email forums or chat rooms about Islam absolutely. There are some nasty people lurking there - self-styled pseudo scholars preaching hellfire, doling out personal abuse and decrying sincere Muslims as non-believers. I was left utterly demoralized at one time and very, very angry on several occasions. I have now unsubscribed from all such forums. New Muslims should keep in mind the Hadith: "Verily, Allah is mild and is fond of mildness, and He gives to the mild what He does not give to the harsh." (Muslim) If a website or e-group you come across is far removed from the above, then remove yourself from it! There are also nice, well-meaning people who offer advice about matters of faith and practice without being in any way qualified to do so. If they get things wrong, they could unwittingly be leading the uninitiated astray and doing more harm than good. Be wary of accepting anything without a quotation from the Quran or authenticated hadith to back it up. Having said that, if it is one of the nasty brigade who has come seemingly armed with references, firstly check the actual quotation in your Quran. Have they really only quoted what is there or have they embellished it with their own interpretation? It happens. And, if the quotation is genuine but sounds harsh to your ears, then use a commentary to become aware of the context in which the verse was revealed. Read widely. For every hard-line, unpleasant interpretation, there is usually a mild one from a serious writer or scholar. Based on my personal experience, my advice either to new Muslims or anyone considering the possibility of accepting Islam would be simply to judge a religion not by its adherents, many of whom may fall far short of the ideal in a variety of ways (and I include myself in that!), but rather by the theology and teachings of the religion itself. Only a handful of people have been of any help to me and quite a few hard-line politicos and joyless, uptight puritans have been a real hindrance. However, despite my great disappointment at both the lack of organized support available to new Muslims rather than God-centered Islam so prevalent today, plus my intense dislike of the nasty behavior and attitudes of some of the Muslims I have encountered in person but mostly online, I have most definitely found in the religion of Islam an intellectual and theological satisfaction that I never knew in Christianity. And at the end of the day, one's beliefs about God are what truly matters.


Amie said...

Salam sis,
I'm totally with you on this. I converted in Jan. 05 (and I'm also 23 - we should hang out!!! : D ) My first reaction was to try and surround myself with as many Muslims and Islamic things as I could. Since I lived in a small community, I turned to the internet. I found the same things: bitterness, hatred, tribalism and just utterly disgusting things being spoken to and about other Muslims. To say the least, I was beyond appalled and couldn't believe my eyes. I had people telling me what I should and shouldn't do and that, like you, I "wasn't a Muslim," etc. etc. etc.

For me, I've grown a little jaded towards online forums and the like when it comes to religious discussion. I pretty much don't accept anything anyone says about Islam (on or off -line) without direct proof because I'm blatantly outraged and have grown very tired of being lead astray by people who say they do and supposedly know more than I.

That's the end of my rant : D

eyes serene said...

Assalamu alaikom,
Yes, I agree with what you've written here, although I made some nice friends online. A newly converted Muslim needs to take everything quite slowly and do his or her research!