It is rare indeed to come across anything in the media that is positive or happy about Muslims and Islam. On the atypical occasion when you do find something (for example Muslims dancing along happily to Pharrell Williams) rest assured that other Muslims will hurl a fatwa grenade, hoping to end such silly secular shenanigans.
I know the common perception is that Muslims are a miserable lot but, speaking from personal experience, I can assure you that we Muslims are indeed a happy bunch, on the whole, no different really from any other group.
So whilst you have negative articles out there in the electronic ether (see here and here), you do occasionally come across positive articles, such as Islam Is A “Yes Religion!” and To Believe Is To Love.
Watch out for the inevitable fatwa grenade…
In order to bring further focus to this very hard sell, below are two quotes, one from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and one from a guy on Facebook called Tobie Allen.
The Tobie Allen quote speaks of kindness, a topic I have blogged about on many occasions previously.
The Shaykh Hamza Yusuf quote mentions Prozac and Prozac Nation. Prozac is an antidepressant drug that many in the States are addicted to. Prozac Nation is a book, the autobiography of Elizabeth Wurtzel, also known as Young And Depressed In America: A Memoir. It was later made into a movie, also called Prozac Nation (2001), starring Christina Ricci and Jessica Lange.
I thought it appropriate to present a quote from a Muslim and a non Muslim, hoping to provide some form of balance to the discussion. Anyways, here are the quotes. Enjoy!
Food for thought – I now live in an Arab country. Based on Islamic principles and religion. I hear the call of prayer 5 times a day. I can’t drink in public, I can’t watch sexual material, I can’t kiss in public, I can’t drink in public if I wanted to, even e cigarettes are banned. I come from the UK and I think I’m proud of it – a supposedly first world country. We were programmed by the media that the Middle Eastern way of living doesn’t fit the mould of our supposedly perfect way of life – I come from a country where I get free health care, free benefits, free housing, a supposedly tolerant country with freedom of speech. I have lived in this supposedly oppressive society for 9 weeks. I have not heard a single police siren – not seen a single fight – not seen a single drunk person smashing beer bottles down the street calling their next door neighbour a **%£. I see on the front of newspapers the success of kids as headline news. I see kindness of humanity on a daily basis. I can leave a mobile in a cab and they will find out where you live and return it. People say hello to me on the lift in the morning. I get a ‘good morning’ from random people in the queue of Costa. I leave my front door open throughout the day and when sleeping. I see people with smiles on their faces on a daily basis. If these supposedly oppressive third world Islamic rules create a society tolerant of others around them and create kindness and happiness then to be quite frank I sort of like Islam. My heart is from my birth place and my beliefs will remain the same but should we really believe everything in the media till we’ve experienced it ourselves? Because for today I know where my soul is happier. I just think before we condemn others make sure our side of the street is clean. Have an awesome weekend to all of you. J
– Tobie Allen, from a Facebook post dated 30th May 2014
The idea of the joyless Muslim is definitely a modern stereotype. One of the things that I think strikes anybody that goes to the Muslim world, or visits a Muslim home in America or anywhere else, is that Muslims are extraordinarily happy people. We are not called the Prozac Ummah…some people call America Prozac Nation.
If you see Palestinians, despite the fact they’ve been bombed, they suffer daily abuses and everything else, I’m always struck by the fact that they can still smile…they still hold to that humanity. It’s just something extraordinary. That’s why something that Ismail Farouqi said really struck me. He once said, when somebody was talking about Muslims being those joyless people: “Have you ever seen Muslims suffer? Have you ever seen the dignity of the suffering of Muslims?”
And that’s something really for people to think about, because I lived in one of the poorest countries in the world, which is Mauritania, and I swear to God, and Imam Zaid Shakir has also been there, if you go to Tawaymirat, the people there have permanent smiles etched on to their faces. They’re some of the poorest people in the world, and yet I saw joy in them.
I took a trip once with a man I knew, it was about a 6 hour drive and he literally recited the Quran the whole way, and that was just his habit, but the whole time he was reciting he had a smile on his face and he was happy.
Unfortunately religion is seen as a dower, sour type of endeavour, but the Prophet (SAW) talked about the great joy of worship. One of the things Imam Abu Hanifa said about study is: “If the kings knew the pleasure that we are in, they would fight us for it with their armies.”
The pleasure of study, of sacred worship, the pleasure of reciting the Quran, and art, music…all these things have their place in Islamic civilisation.
I recently read something one of these secularist humanists said: “No religion was ever founded by a man with a sense of humour.” When I read that I said: “Well you don’t know our Prophet (SAW). He had a wonderful sense of humour.”
We have jokes that the Prophet (SAW) told that are still mentioned on mimbars today. He had a court jester, Nu’ayman, whom he loved. If Nu’ayman existed today in the Muslim community they would chase him out of the masjid. Nu’ayman is the man who took Umm Makhtum, a blind man, to someone he had had an argument with and told him it was that person, when it was actually Uthman praying. Umm Makhtum went up to Uthman and started hitting him. When Uthman finished his prayer he said to Umm Makhtum: “What’s going on?”
Umm Makhtum said: “Oh my God, I thought you were so and so.”
Uthman said: “Who told you I was so and so?”
Umm Makhtum replied: “Nu’ayman.”
Nu’ayman was there snickering. Imagine if we had a character like that in the Muslim masjids today! But the Prophet (SAW) not only put up with Nu’ayman, he laughed with him, he smiled with him.
Imam Suyuti records that one of the names of the Prophet (SAW) is At-Tahaaq, the Laughing Prophet. When the Prophet (SAW) smiled people could see the molars of his mouth. The Prophet (SAW) never boisterously laughed, he didn’t make loud sounds, but he would really heartily enjoy a good sense of humour.
– adapted from a speech by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf entitled Are Muslims Depressed?