I often feel frustrated over the absence of ‘Islamic’ role models that I could look up to and seek guidance from. This world is confusing enough as it is without trying to formulate a working belief system that does not clash with the present day global mindset. We muslims have a long way to go before we can adapt entirely, as Muslims to the modern world. As it is now, a Muslim CEO of a Fortune 500 company (is there one, btw?) would run the company in a completely secular style without his Islamic beliefs entering any part of his daily working life. The company would be professionally run, because doing so otherwise would cost his job. He would have to be honest, because otherwise he might get thrown in jail for coporate fraud. It would donate to charitable causes, because of the tax benefits of doing so. There is no Islam to that. All these actions, while admirable are in place simply because of a well-evolved financial system, not because of any moral scruples on the part of the Muslim CEO. If that be the case, then its not surprising that the CEO would easily be able to detach himself from his Islam when making business decisions. His Islam would come into play in his 5 daily prayers, his personal charity, etc… etc… It would be a wholly private thing. Is that the way it should be? I don’t know, I don’t really have anyone to look up to for guidance.
There was this one medicine professor in Peshawar that I befriended. He is retired and I visited him several times in his home. The first visit was business, I needed his help with something and someone referred me to him. Subsequent visits were mostly social visits where we discussed religion for hours. He’s quite a legend in Peshawar (as a doctor) and I found him to be an extraordinary man. A devoted, pious Muslim with a large library of Islamic books, but a very compassionate, openhearted man as well. These days, the piety of a Muslim seems to be considered directly proportional to his beard length, his ‘strictness’ as to his interpretation of Islam, and his hatred for the West. It also helps if he’s got a maulana
prefixed to his name - that seems to add to his piety, apparently. There is no shortage of such ‘role-models’ but this ‘brand’ of Islam doesn’t resonate with me at all. This kind of Islam seems to be full of conflict, hardships and hating rather that about inner peace, reconciliation and dialogue. This brand of Islam seems to suffocate one into a rigid, immutable way of life. I’m not buying it. I can’t believe this is what Allah intended for us.
It’s difficult to live in this secular world without a role model to walk you through it teaching you how to incorporate Islamic values into a largely secular world. How do you go about being a good Muslim without seeming like an anachronistic outcast in today’s world? Those who blindly say ‘Islam is the answer’ paint a very complicated world in black and white. It’s not that easy, I’m afraid. The millions of Muslims out there who are loosing themselves to a ‘western’ way of life aren’t stubborn or stupid that they can’t see the ‘answer’ right in front of them, they are confused. Some can never reconcile their religion in the first place, seeing it as outmoded and backward in today’s world. Some try their best to adopt what is generally considered an Islamic way of life and feel they just can’t do it.
I don’t have any answers here. I’m just as confused as the next guy. It’s one thing to have clear concepts on what your religion is all about, and I believe I’d got that settled quite well. It’s another issue altogether trying to translate those ideas into practice. As any doctor will tell you, it’s one thing to study medicine from books and another thing to practice it proficiently. We’ve got residency training programs, professors, medical colleges and universities to help us with medicine, but where do we learn to practice Islam?