We are living in a time and a place where the role models are easily available and span across nations. This is especially true of the youth as they are now able to access people through internet and social media.
For those who aren’t aware, social media has now made role models of ordinary people. These are people, often without any real talent, who have followers in the millions and views in the tens of millions. We even have terms for them as the internet has named them influencers.
The Muslim Ummah is facing challenges unlike ever before. We are amongst a crowd of followers and to stand firm is often near impossible as it goes against the grain of the rest of society.
However, the notion of critical thinking or independent thinking is not a new one. Nor is it something that is discouraged in Islam. As Muslims, most of us may have been born into the faith and this is an immense blessing, but we are told to question and use reasoning to have faith.
The principle of the Quran, from numerous ayats, is to encourage us to think about the Earth and the Heavens, to ponder over life, existence and the meanining of our creation. The imam mentioned the 10th ayat of Sura Al-Mulk which is translated to say:
And they will say, “If only we had been listening or reasoning, we would not be among the companions of the Blaze.”
Dear brothers and sisters, we need to recognize that following the masses is not something that befits a Muslim. We are taught from Allah SWT and from the Messenger of Allah SWT, peace and blessings be upon him, that we are blessed with a mind and that we must use it to reach our own conclusions.
This is true also of our parents. We must not rely on tradition or handed down beliefs without sound reasoning we conduct ourselves. After all, if this were true then how can we successfully invite others to Islam as they would simply counter with the fact that they are also blindly following what their parents have taught them.
Allah SWT speaks of this in Sura Al-Maidah, ayat 104 which is mentioned by the imam in today’s reminder. It is translated to say:
And when it is said to them, “Come to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger,” they say, “Sufficient for us is that upon which we found our fathers.” Even though their fathers knew nothing, nor were they guided?
Dear brothers and sisters, we need to understand that we are now encased within a form of living that is heavily leant towards no critical thinking. Whether it is the social media superstars mentioned earlier, or the political parties and their agenda or the mainstream media news we are fed, we live in a time where everything ought to be questioned and it begins with questioning ourselves.
But having independent thought and becoming a nation of thinkers does not mean that we alienate ourselves from others. First we must recognise within ourselves if we are followers or thinkers and then share with others the critical thinking that leads us to calling ourselves Muslim.
If we ponder over the example of Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, we are taught that the attempted to guide his father to the truth but did so with love, compassion and respect. We as Muslims, also need to be wary of our role and how best to carry it out.
And so, this reminder concludes with 3 step plan that we can all implement today in order to be of those who are leaders in critical thinking and reasoning and not followers of others.
- Look within ourselves and see if we are followers or leaders. Dear brothers and sisters, the temptation of social media is great. Most of us have a ritual of looking at the news feed in these channels. The question is, even if this is something that we are engaged it, are we using these tools to boost our knowledge and our roles as Muslims and as leaders of society?
If we are to fulfil our roles in this time as place as a representation of the truth then we need to first see who our influencers are? Is it someone we’ve never met on YouTube or is it a respected scholar or speaker on Islam? Who we put in the place of a role model will ultimately dictate who we become.
- Are we referring to the ultimate tool at our disposal when it comes to independent thinking? All of us are aware that the Quran is a timeless miracle, capable of delivering guidance and wisdom to help us become worthy representatives of Islam. But how many of us are making an active effort here? As mentioned today, in Sura Muhammed ayat 24 it says:
Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an, or are there locks upon [their] hearts?
Dear brothers and sisters, each of us ought to make a sincere and consistent effort to dedicate time towards reflection on the Quran. Whether it’s through learning Quranic Arabic to help understand, or through a translation or through respected scholars teaching lessons from the Quran. This ought to be part of our ongoing learning process in life.
- Recognise that we are Muslim and that we are put here for a purpose beyond being a Muslim. Dear brothers and sisters, we are here not only to follow the religion of Islam but also as representatives of this faith. Only on the day of judgement will we realise who we impacted as Muslims and what trait of our behaviour and our character they adopted or interpreted as being something belonging to Islam.
We need to understand this fact and therefore not only perform the mandatory but also to aim to follow as many sunnah acts as possible so that we are recognised as Muslims. So many reverts to Islam recognize traits in Muslims around them that brings them to Islam and so we must be wary of our impact and act accordingly in our everyday lives.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are living in a time and a place where the need for critical thought is as important as ever. The internet may be the source of many problems, but it is also a source of accessible information that can help guide us towards critical thinking and becoming true ambassadors of Islam for others to follow.