Okay all, here's part 2 of this series: my bound-to-come-short attempt at the definition of a Muslim. It was brought on by discussions on Twitter as well as, believe it or not, walking through a Saudi mall!
One thing that must be stressed here is that this is NOT meant to represent that I'm walking around with a checklist of Criteria To Be Met if someone Claims To Be Muslim - "or else". I'm just kind of annoyed at the extent the 'Muslim by name' phenomenon has reached. Here in the Arab world specifically, Saudi Arabia especially, it's getting kind of ridiculous. I once was speaking to a girl in my class; she mentioned that she didn't cover her hair when she traveled. I asked her, "Do you really believe that you should?" She said "Sure!" – and, when asked further about why she didn't back up her beliefs with actions, simply shrugged.
So is this a case of words not matching up with actions? Beliefs not translated into real, live, factual stuff? I think it is. I think it's an attitude of carelessness, a kind of laissez-faire picked up from the general attitude about religion nowadays. "It's what in your heart that counts." Of course it is – but what is in your heart and words and intentions are NOTHING without deeds to back them up, as well as vice-versa. That's just common sense. Why else is "those who believe" always, always directly followed by "and do good deeds" in the Qur'an?
So I really detest this attitude of "I know what I'm going to do but I'm too lazy to do it"… which is the first category of non-practicing Muslims. Frankly, if the girl had told me "no, I actually don't believe I should cover my hair" because she had researched the actual subject and had come to the conclusion (as many have) that covering one's hair is indeed unnecessary, I would've respected her far more.
This brings us to the second category: Muslims who claim that their interpretation of the sacred texts has enabled them to follow Islam as they see fit. Naturally and as a matter of course there are different understandings of how Islam ought to be practiced. As mentioned in Part 1, that's the beauty of it, and re-interpretation MUST be done if a true Islamic Reformation is to be accomplished. It's part of Islam and refuting the, unfortunately, all-too-often outdated, misogynistic, patriarchal, *insert synonym of BAD of your choice here* system and edicts Muslims have been following blindly for centuries because someone told them the door of interpretation was closed and that's it. I'm of the opinion that the decay and downfall of the Muslim world was in part caused by that cursed idea. It needs to be rectified, immediately – and responsibly. Let's not get carried away here.
So excuse me if I regard with a jaundiced eye the claims of people who drink, who don't pray, who have sex without being married. It's just, how exactly do you 'interpret' (impolitely: 'twist around') direct orders? Nothing ambiguous, just "do" and "don't do"?
Don't drink alcohol.
Direct punishment for those who have sex outside of marriage.
PRAY, for God's sake!
Do I really need to get verses in the Qur'an to back this up? Really, guys? (As always, I'd love to hear if you've got an interpretation that says it's OK for any of the above.)
(continued in Part 3 - I'd get sued for length otherwise.)