As-salamu alaikum. I am finding difficulty in understanding the basics of islam. Firstly, which sects are correct? There is so much difference in their beliefs e.g. Hanafi, Salafi, what are all these?
Basic things such as watching movies listening to songs, going to cinemas, watching comedy, cracking jokes etc., all these things I have mentioned are prohibited according to Islam if I am correct? All these concerns make me feel that following Islam will make one a loner and more miserable. Everyone needs some kind of entertainment. I don't mean to insult Islam it's just that these things really bother me. Ultimately why all these regulations?
Salam Brother, Thank you very much for your question.
Smile: The First Lesson
Contrary to what you seem to think, Islam is anything but dull and it is so simple to understand. Unfortunately, though, we often complicate things so much that ordinary people find them difficult to understand. As Muslims, we sometimes give a very poor Islam of what Islam is really like by the way we behave.
In the place where I teach, for example, I spent the first few weeks wondering why everyone looked so miserable. No one seemed to offer "As-salamu alaikum" (peace be unto you) to you unless they knew you, and everyone looked so serious all the time.
I told my students that the most important rule in my class was that they should smile. And you know, just by saying that, many of them began to look less serious around the corridors and even began to greet strangers with the Muslim greeting of peace.
It seems as though many of them had this idea at the back of their minds that Islamic scholars should not laugh, although none of them could actually tell them where such an idea came from. In such a mindset, anything that is fun is wrong. But such a mindset has no basis in Islam.
The Islamic scholars from long ago, when Islamic knowledge was highly valued and was the basis of life, traveled throughout the world calling people to Islam and continuing the search for knowledge. From this situation eminent scholars emerged who answered the complex questions and issues of their place and time.
Diversity Is Not a Malady
The four schools, Hanafi, Shafi`i, Maliki and Hanbali, were the most prominent, but they held each other in the greatest respect, since each of their opinions is acceptable within Islam. The whole point of their study was to help people to follow Allah more closely. The rules they made were not rules just for the sake of it.
In a dynamic faith like Islam, it is natural to have different schools of thought and movements, and they differ only on the very detailed issues of Islam, not the major ones.
The problem does not come from benefiting from their research and knowledge, the problem comes when people align themselves with one of them to the exclusion of the others and compete for who is the best. What is worse is when followers of one particular school look upon others as rivals and not really living the real Islam.
You are quite right that Muslims can become confused. And there is really no need to. Islam is very simple. Islam asks people to declare that there is no god but Allah and that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. If we can take these things into our hearts and not just proclaim them with our lips, and if we can live what we proclaim, then Islam will speak with a very clear voice.
There is an Arabic proverb which says, 'What comes from the lips reaches the ears, but what comes from the heart reaches the heart.' As Muslims we ought to take this proverb into our own hearts and let others benefit from it. We should not just tell others how they should behave, but we should show them.
Fun and Celebrations
Our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) was the best of men ever to have lived. He was not only good and kind, wise and a great leader, but he was also full of fun with his friends, and very tender.
There are so many occasions when we see the Prophet laughing and joking. There was the famous time, also, when he was interrupted at prayer by the young Hasan and Husain. Rather than tell them to go away, he allowed them to play with him, and then he made up the prayer later. Is this the all-too serious Islam that many would have us believe in?
Muhammad was also easy to forgive if it was right to do so. If there was any slight to Islam, he would fight it with all his strength, but if the insult was a personal one he would most often overlook it. And by doing that he won so many hearts to Islam.
We need to distinguish what is from Islam and what are the cultural practices which people have come to observe in different parts of the world. I am sure that there are many Muslims who would agree with you that it is forbidden to watch comedy or to crack jokes, but they would find it very hard to show you where such an order comes from. It certainly does not come from Islam.
There is a very simple truth which Muslims should remember. Everything is permissible in Islam, except that which has been expressly forbidden. There are too many Muslims who are quick to tell you that such and such is forbidden, but they have no basis in the noble Quran or the Sunnah of our Prophet for making such claims.
The things in Islam which are actually forbidden to Muslims are very few. They include the eating of pork and the drinking of alcohol, for example, because Allah has declared that these things are harmful to us. Cracking jokes is not one of the forbidden things.
No Excuse for Being Miserable
There are many nowadays who declare 'we will die for you Muhammad' yet what we need nowadays is for Muslims to live for him. The Sunnah of our beloved Prophet makes life easier, not more difficult. His example brings us closer to Allah and closer to other Muslims, not further from them. May the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him.
The rules which we observe as Muslims are there for our own good, to help us live the lives that Almighty Allah wants us to live. They are not just rules and regulations for the sake of it. Unfortunately, some of those who tell us how to behave in such a way and how not to behave in another, have missed the point of what is allowed and what is not in Islam.
Muslims should be the happiest of people. We should be recognized by others by the way we speak, the way we act and by the cheerful and pleasant way we interact with others. There is no excuse whatever for Muslims to be miserable and none whatever for being loners. Islam is a community religion. We are brothers and sisters to one another and we pray best when we pray together in the mosque in congregation.
I know a lot of Muslims who are very serious. I even know some who are miserable. But the vast number of Muslims I know are cheerful people who are trying their best to live good lives in the service of Allah and of their brothers and sisters. Just read the life of our Prophet to see how Muslims should really behave. Do not let the miserable ones spoil your understanding of what Islam is really like.
Hopefully this can give us benefits in looking foward to be a better Muslim... chak de!!!