What would be your reaction if a youth of the community sat confidently in front of you and lectured you on how irrational it was to contend the presence of a God? Would you take time to understand his logic behind uttering such frightening statements or would you instead fight him and eventually banish him? Worse still, what would you say to a youth, who through short years of experience, challenges our norms (not rituals) and selects virtues as they apply in his own life, ignoring the merits of equally lofty commandments to act in a certain manner? And mind you, this predicament can present to you in the form of an elderly man as well, then what?
Whereas we would like to presume, almost complacently, that there exists perfect faith following in us, the truth of the matter is a little more different than meets the eye. With the oncoming rush of material life and for East Africans in particular whose only surviving ambition is to set foot in the “holy” states of the West, religion has taken a totally different form. Today, we have young people, who by plain confusion, have stated sometimes publicly that they are now in a state of godlessness, perhaps carefully dodging the word atheists. They are then quick to admit that they are still “exploring” and that they are in search of the truth, but for the moment they find little contribution from the existing practices of our brethren to convince them that there really is God. And even if you did tell them that even if, for arguments sake, we disagreed with many of the malpractices of our community, it did not warrant the blanket condemnation of the faith itself, they would cleverly maneouvre around you by quoting a famous theologian. On the other hand, we are now giving rise to a generation of “American Muslims” (pun). This is in no offence to our brothers already living in the West, because soon, even Upper Volta will be another American state. The pace at which we now move towards a common fulfillment of absolute desire and the attainment of absolute power and matter, we are inevitably going to unite in material faith. And if care is not taken, we are bound to produce this new genre of Muslims. By the way, like in American politics, they are the kinds who regard lies (recall Clinton’s perjury) of greater punishable consequence than to, say, illicit and promiscuous behaviour. We have already in our community people who will stick to one code of conduct not only overm but also frequently at the expense of another code. And as the West makes them busier in all the time deciphering where exactly halaal meat can be obtained, they have little value to offer besides the halaal/haraam scenario.
But a question that we must address ourselves to is whether we should necessarily succumb to such a new breed that will in time overturn the precincts of Islam solely because of selectivity of applying knowledge. In addition, you will get hoards of Muslims who will remind people of forgiving others and resort to “wisdom”, but are poor in self-practice. When a calamity befalls them, they act equally “irrationally”. It is this brand of unequal behaviour and hypocritical thought that we should be wary of.
Imam Ali (as) said, “If there was an associate with your Lord then he would have sent his messengers to you.” It is not sufficient that we believe in God, but it is equally important that we apply equality in practicing His decree. It is imperative that we disassociate those of our practices that are creating doubtfulness in the minds of people, otherwise our actions will be answerable for beguiling a generation that had otherwise sought only truth. And in any case, when the 12th Imam does reappear, we do not want to have Muslims around who indulged in the political theory of the West, would dare to advise the Imam against “bloodshed” as peace was more important than truth itself.