By Abubakar Suleiman
Many topics that have been generating rancour or heated arguments on Facebook or any other platform today have been discussed or debated exhaustively in the past. Lately, even if I have an opinion about a topic today, I do tarry a while before I write because I have this strong feeling that someone must have written virtually all the things I have in mind. This gives me the pleasure of saving myself the stress of writing; hence I mainly read opinions and sometimes laugh.
One such controversial topic raising dust today is the celebration of Mauludun Nabiyy (S.A.W). Some respected writers, ‘elders’ and creative minds took exceptions in discussing maulud and all it entails, particularly on social media. Maybe they find it counter-productive or think it won’t change anything because people will keep celebrating maulud and embracing anything that comes with it while others won’t celebrate it. Some would say regurgitating this topic or argument year in and year out is needless. I beg to disagree.
This logic or take, in my opinion, is flawed. The fact that some people will keep celebrating Maulud while others won’t should not make us shy away from discussing its legality, Islamically or otherwise, whenever the need arises. A replica of this kind of skewed opinion is Christians should not call Muslims to Christianity and vice-versa hence let’s just concentrate on politics and economy. Impliedly, da’wah is needless.
For sure, people will keep being Christians, Muslims, Atheists etc., and divisions in the understanding of religious diktats will continue till the end of time, but that shouldn’t hinder a sincere call or an honest critique of a creed, ideology or religion. It should also not stop us from enjoining people to do what we believe is good or the truth and forbid what we believe is bad or falsehood based on our understanding. I think discussions on religious matters, and even other matters, should be done with the utmost wisdom, refined words, and sincerity of purpose, and they should also be devoid of ad hominem.
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was reported to have said: “Whosoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hands; and if he is not able to do so then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of faith.” Yes, one should choose his audience wisely so as to avoid unnecessary ruckus, and one should know when, where and how to say the truth and even who to tell the truth. Thus, one must not force his/her ideology or creed down someone’s throat.
In his book, “Think Again,” Adam Grant espoused that “our opinions can become so sacred that we grow hostile to the mere thought of being wrong, and the totalitarian ego leaps in to silence counterarguments, squash contrary evidence, and close the door on learning.” In another place in the book, he informed us that, “wisdom is also recognizing that we are wrong more often than we’d like to admit, and the more we deny it, the deeper the hole we dig for ourselves.”
Therefore, we should be open to discussions around some ideologies we hold so dear and be willing to stomach an honest critique of these ideologies, especially when these discussions are premised on mutual respect, wisdom and verifiable evidence or facts. Overall, we learn more from these kinds of discussions and/or dispositions. But insulting or talking down on people with a contrary understanding of our ‘cherished ideology’ will only yield a fertile ground for extreme tendencies, and this will further push us away from objective truth.
Unlike political or economic views, you don’t just seek religious knowledge; you practise it and call people to it while you embrace patience in doing so. Consequently, it is not an effort in futility to engage people in such discussions. And what does one gain after discussing all the political or economic issues on earth and ending up in hell for going against a religious teaching rooted in Islamic primary sources of knowledge.
We seem to underestimate the power of information put out on social media platforms and the influence it carries. We have gullible people who join these platforms, and they could be lured into any kind of creed or sect. In fact, these days, more people get radicalised or lured into a sect through social media than the masjids. On these platforms, many people have had discussions with some people, and such has led those people to denounce or accept their religion, maulud etc. However, we can peacefully stay away from toxic discussions after putting out our understanding.
Therefore, it is not about proving to be more intelligent than anyone who holds a contrary religious view or trying to be the gatekeepers of heaven or hell. It goes beyond that. It is about discussing our differences for a good understanding of our religion. Let us simply embrace sincerity and decorum in our discussions while we stay away from toxic people who aren’t ready for honest and open discussions.
Interestingly, opinions or ideas could change due to contexts or circumstances. Over time, people learn from exposure, old age or new knowledge. We may find ourselves opposing some views or ideas we hold so dear today. Conversely, we may be less hostile to contrary views when we continue to seek knowledge or begin to rethink our stands on many issues in the future.
May Allah show us the truth and give us the conviction to embrace it, and may He also show falsehood and give us the courage to turn away from it.
Abubakar Suleiman writes from Kaduna and be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.