Selfishness: The loss of Religious Empathy and Compassion

One time a brother and I were discussing, and as I began deriding his fetish about ‘ọmọ pupa’, he turns to Islam and said a man should marry women that attract him. No doubt, I said. But what would you do when you already have four wives, and still have an unsatisfied fetish? He smiled and said, ‘Simple. I will just divorce one, and marry another one.’ I was flabbergasted. So, you will just divorce her without a reason?

Here’s where the conversation turned interesting. He said yes he would divorce her without a reason. Angry, I asked how could he even think of that. Then he said in a gentle tone: “in Islam I don’t have to have a reason.” And this leads to the point I want to make in this post…

Any good student of Islam who reflects know that there are loopholes in the fiqh, and without the purification of the heart, empathy and adab, some people may hurt you in disastrous ways without necessarily breaking the halal or haram rules.

So my message goes to the sisters who have been fed the cliché of ‘marry the brother on the Deen’, and who sadly understands this to mean those who are purportedly “on the manhaj” or who keep hefty beard or have arabicized names and kunya. Yes, it is is essential that you marry a man who cares about the Deen, who has taqwa of Allah. But who is this man?

For most of us this will mean, a person who has sound aqeedah, and attends the halqah of our favorite shaykh, but I tell you sister, be really careful. Religiosity sadly comes in different shades nowadays, and we have people who focus only on the technicalities of Islamic fiqh, forgetting altogether the human side. They care about not breaking God’s law, but when there’s a loophole they can find, they will break you into bits.

There are many people who don’t understand that something might be halal but unislamic. They do not approach Islam with maqasid in mind, they don’t imbibe the spirit of this beautiful Deen, all they do is focus on the exact and minuche laws. We’re not saying laws are not important.

So how do you know this type of religious person? I wish I have a comprehensive answer to this. A response which will make you able to better see this person before you become involved with him.

The brother from the above does not drink, he never misses his daily prayers, he attends halqah. In fact, he’s close to one of the prominent scholars in the South West who hosts halqah every weekend. He’s “on” the sunnah, and he, to some extent, knows his fiqh. I couldn’t technically rebut his stand that he’s within his rights to divorce at will. I had no daleel to refute him; and in the religious gathering he attends, not having daleel – is the end of discussion.

Interestingly, reflecting on our previous conversations led me to look deeper into the psychology behind this phenomenon. The brother once told me that he believes it is a sin for a woman to travel from Lagos to, say, Osogbo, without a mahram. He’s to the letter on this ruling. And so from this, one can infer that he cares about the ruling, not necessarily the woman on whom the ruling is on.

How can we spot people who appear religious, follow the laws to the texts, but discard the spirit behind the laws?

1. They care about the ruling more than the person. For example, they care about hijab than the feeling of woman under the hijab.

2. They care about abstract theological concepts than the positiive, unifying daily actions that the theological concepts are supposed to bring.

3. Everything is black and white, no space for nuances.

4. They are quite tight, and down to the tee on rulings. Your hands must be this way. Your beard must be this exact size. Your hijab must be this precise, that exact, and any slight deviation is regarded as nullifying everything.

5. They demand fatwa for every simple thing. They ask religious questions over and over again.

This is not an exhaustive list. May Allah purify our hearts. And guide us to the Message of the Prophet of Mercy so that we deal with the world through the lenses of justice and compassion.

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