"The Wisdom of Illness and the State of Muslim Instagram"

Alhamdulillah and in the name of God, the anchor for all that is and will be and all that was. God, the beginning without a start and the ending without a last. God, the One and Only. Alhamdulillah for everything, Alhamdulillah for God, and Alhamdulillah for the certitude of the truth and the certitude of wisdom and the certitude of justice. And Alhamdulillah for health and Alhamdulillah for illness, and Alhamdulillah for life, and Alhamdulillah for death, and Alhamdulillah for the very fact of being able to say, “Alhamdulillah.”


Some know that I have had health issues. When God gifted me with health and allowed me the pleasure of feeling as if I was entitled to health, I am sure - as a matter of certainty - that I did not live up to all that I could have lived up to with health. And when God takes away health, all gratitude to God for the wisdom of illness. Illness is a reminder for precisely the opposite of illness. Illness is the way that you can understand all the ways that you are indebted to your Lord from the moment you gain consciousness to the moment that you lose consciousness.


Illness is a simple reminder that this body, although you inhabit it, is not you. There are many moments in life that we experience what our body goes through as outsiders. Only those that God has blessed with the true test of being able to disassociate from their physical selves - because what the physical self is going through is beyond the limits of consciousness - have the blessing of being able to reflect on that. Your body can go through whatever it goes through, but it is not you. You may be tempted to live your life with the delusion that your body is you, simply because you do not have an incentive to think otherwise, but ask any human being that has been inflicted with a degenerative disease; ask any human being who has lost the ability to will their body to do what they want it to do, and they will know precisely what I am talking about. Your body is not you. Your consciousness is separate from your body, although on this earth, the two come together to create an illusion of unity and sameness.


Our bodies are a blessing, gifted to us by God. A Muslim deals with all affairs as if God has left in their hand a trust to honor and handle. Whether it is their intellect, their body or their wealth, it is all but a trust from God that is placed in our hands for our discretion. So often we forget that, and we pretend like the money that we have is actually ours, the intellect that we have is actually ours, the body that we have is actually ours, and whatever other blessings God has given us is actually ours. Therein lies the fallacy, and it is precisely what opens all types of doors to the demonic in one’s life.


Illness is a blessing, as it reminds one precisely of this point. You are entrusted in this body, but you are not this body. Now, we are in an age in which the point of our consciousness and our physical body is not merely an abstract or philosophical point, nor is it simply a point for the spiritually gifted or people on the Sufi path; it has become the heart and soul of our very existence.


Human beings rely on what we call the consciousness, which learns to be dependent on sensory perceptions, though consciousness is not their sensory perceptions. A person’s eyesight can be taken away, their sense of smell can be taken away, their hearing can be taken away. They can even lose the ability to touch, but they still have their consciousness. Their consciousness still works. We learn in life to rely on our sensory perceptions to develop our consciousness. We often have but the illusion of independent consciousness. We think we are free, independent thinkers. But precisely because we are so dependent on our sensory perceptions, what we believe and what we desire is often dependent on what flashes before our sensory perceptions.


In other words, by manipulating what a human being sees or hears, what they actually believe or how they define the self can be easily manipulated. The problem in the modern age with the communication revolution and the means of communication that it has brought, is that we have turned information into a sure venue for money, wealth, and power. By directing information, we directly influence the consciousness of human beings. We influence the way that they relate to the body and the way that they relate to the self. We manipulate their sense of wellness, their self-sense of unwellness, their sense of satisfaction, and their sense of dissatisfaction. We manipulate their sense of fulfillment, and their sense of desperation.


In the modern age, those who have gained the ability to yield the flow of information are a select, very small group of people, yet they control the flow of information for millions around the world. And by controlling the flow of information, they also control what human beings believe they need, and what they desire for themselves and their loved ones. What we call the materialist problem in modernity is simply that there is often a single incentive working behind the way people's desires and incentives are manipulated, that incentive being financial motivation. Those who control the flow of information manipulate it to maximize profit, ultimately making profit the basis for which our consciousness is formed.


But this entire way of stating things, as many people have said it before, is somewhat deceptive as it pretends the elite that maximize profits have no ideological plan other than money for the sake of money. What we realize is that while most of the time it is true that what motivates the elite is the desire to make money - and they manipulate the consciousness of the masses in order to make money - the elite are often driven by their own ideological priorities that emerge out of their own cultural and sociological commitments, with these commitments often having to do with race, ethnicity, religion, and culture itself.


Look at the fact that an institution like Facebook puts at the head of one of its most important businesses a young man of American and Israeli dual citizenship; he is the chief executive of Instagram. And as many Muslims know, Instagram itself, like Facebook, is not ideologically neutral.  We have seen very recently several experiences that affirm precisely what I am talking about. A 14-year-old can post virtually pornographic pictures of herself on Instagram and it is not flagged as problematic content, but if a Muslim posts something about Palestine or posts something about the Khilafah, it is immediately flagged. Do you think that Instagram, before flagging posts about Palestine, thinks about profit and loss? Do you think that when Facebook freezes the accounts of pro-democracy activists in the Muslim world, activists who oppose the governments of Saudi Arabia, the Emirates or Egypt, do you think Facebook cares about profit and loss?


This is one of the biggest lies that we Muslims have been led to believe: to think of an ideologically neutral elite. When we think that there is an ideologically neutral elite, we become like the Emiratis or Saudis. We begin to believe that as long as we play the game of profit and loss, it is a world of equal opportunity. This is one of the biggest fallacies of our life. The elite is not ideologically neutral. The remarkable thing about the elite that controls the flow of information - and therefore controls the consciousness of most of the world - is that it is an elite that has enough money to not care about the loss of billions of dollars in profits, as long as their ideological project moves forward.


It is no coincidence that the most ignorant shaykhs receive the most traffic in these same electronic mediums. One may think, "It is just that people are attracted to the stupid," but that is only half the truth. The truth of the matter is that since 2011, I have been noticing how the same venues that control information also control despotic, idiotic discourses in the Muslim world. If a Muslim shaykh posts a video about the importance of eating chicken during suhoor in Ramadan, it suddenly, inexplicably receives millions of views. Conversely, when someone else speaks online about how on this date years ago, the Khilafah was lost, suddenly those who were supposed to get notifications are not getting notifications.


The elite is staunchly pro-Israeli. The elite is staunchly pro-colonialism. The elite is staunchly Islamophobic. The elite is staunchly in favor of a world in which Islam does not represent a civilization, value or a political power ever again. The elite is staunchly pro-despotic for the Muslim world and staunchly anti-democracy for the Muslim world. The elite values everything that makes Islam look stupid and cheap, and celebrates anything that makes Islam look idiotic and pedantic.


In the recent Olympics, the German women’s gymnastics team refused to wear the traditional, revealing outfits when competing, and so there was a huge controversy because the Olympic committee wanted to punish this team. Why do you want to force these women to wear revealing clothes? They have a right to cover their bodies in whichever way they see appropriate. Ultimately, the team got its way. But around the same time, there was a lawsuit of critical importance. We all know that Germany has banned the wearing of hijab in any public office or public institution, and France did the same. We also know that Austria did the same. But around the same time that this German team was making a point that no one has the right to expose women's bodies when they are playing a sport, there was a lawsuit of the most critical importance for Muslims and indeed, for civil liberties and human rights.


A woman cashier, in a privately owned business, was told to remove her hijab. She refused, and so she was fired. The case eventually went up to the European Court of Justice, and the Court ruled that a private business in Europe has the right to fire an employee for wearing religious garb, as long as there is a business reason. Let us pause here for a moment. You could be a doctor. You could be an engineer. You could be a cashier. You could be a garbage collector. As long as a business can say, "My clients do not want you to wear a hijab, it affects the image or the profits of my business," they can lawfully fire you simply for wearing hijab.


But the decision made by the European Court of Justice does not stop there, because according to that decision, a business can say to a Sikh man wearing the turban, "You do not affect business, but her hijab affects business," and that would be entirely lawful. You can discriminate. There could be a Jewish woman who wears a scarf, and you could say, "Well, the Jewish woman who wears a scarf does not affect business, but the Muslim woman wearing the hijab does," and so you could lawfully terminate the Muslim woman, but not the Jewish woman.


It is a horrible decision, because the standard for the business necessity test, as enunciated by the European Court of Justice, is so low that it basically means as long as you are intelligent enough to claim anything rational, you are allowed to discriminate against Muslims. You can discriminate against them for wearing the hijab, you can discriminate against them for wearing a beard, you can discriminate against them for having a prayer mark on their forehead. You can single out Muslims, but not Sikhs, Jews, or Hindus.


I spent a couple of days trying to track people that I know would be interested in this matter, to ask whether they got notification of the videos that were made by people that I personally follow about that court decision. To my surprise, none of us received notifications of any sort. We all received notifications about the German team that was making a point about the right of women to cover if they wish, but none of us received notifications about the court case that affects the lives of millions of Muslims in Europe.


The elite are not ideologically neutral. The elite has its own ideological commitments, perceptions and worldview that is anchored in their own tradition; a tradition of privilege, racism and classism. While at the same time, what are we anchored in?


I asked a friend an innocent, possibly even naïve, question. If the person who runs Instagram is a known committed Zionist, why are so many Muslims on Instagram? It then struck me how naïve I am. Muslims are willing to say, "We will not listen to this tafasir because the woman who does the introduction is not wearing hijab," yet they cannot sacrifice a moment of pure egoism in posting their pictures and having people admire the way they look. They will not sacrifice that relationship with Instagram, despite Instagram's clear ideological biases.


Often, I feel my time in this world is running out. Of course, God controls who lives, how long, and under what circumstances. I often think to myself how many puzzling things I have confronted in this world, and I find that the worst confusions that I suffer from are a direct result of my interactions with my fellow beloved Muslims.


Yes, illness reminds you that your body is not yours. Illness reminds you how quickly your body can shut down, and that your presence on this earth can easily be terminated. Illness reminds you of a lot of things, but illness also makes you reflect upon so many things that confuse you and you simply cannot understand.


Recently, people have brought to my attention some truly remarkable things. One being a Muslim couple who made it their business to keep posting videos about Muslim married life. In videos, they answer questions about what is Islam, what it means to be a Muslim, and their experience being married as Muslims. The woman in this video used to be a hijabi, but has since taken her hijab off, which is her right.


However, what is not her right is after taking off the hijab, to make tabarruj (displaying one’s body) as if it is an Islamic value. So with time, her videos go from, "I am a married Muslim woman who wears hijab," to: "I speak about Islam, and I wear very revealing, tight clothes." So many Muslim women who even wear the hijab post pictures of themselves on Instagram in clothes so tight that it leaves nothing to the imagination.


So many Muslim men post pictures of themselves as if they are in a fashion show. What has Islam taught us about tabarruj? The whole point of tabarruj is that this body belongs to God. Whether you are a man or a woman, you do not have a right to bring attention to your body, because you have no ownership over the body that you inhabit. You have no ownership over any of the things that I see Muslims displaying and bragging about on an ideologically biased platform.


If you are good looking, that is God’s gift to you. Did God tell us, "Share it with other human beings so that they can tell you how beautiful you are?" Show me where in the Sirah of the Prophet that it was Islamic behavior for a pretty face to display itself so that everyone could say, "You are an angel. You are wonderful. You are so beautiful." What values do we represent as Muslims if we are indistinguishable from the ideological commitments of materialism, classism, and racism?


Muslim Instagram honestly makes me sick. Do you know that if you are pretty and you post a picture of yourself and you burn the heart of a woman who was not born with beauty, you will be responsible for her anger and jealousy in the Hereafter? Do you know when you post a picture of yourself in tight clothes, whether you are wearing the hijab or not, and every time a young Muslim looks at this picture and thinks that it is appropriate for a Muslim to dress that way, you carry that sin until the Hereafter? When you pose in tight, revealing outfits, do you think that you can eventually go to Hajj and God will just forgive it? When you know what God's law is and intentionally choose to violate it, it is taking God for granted to the extreme.


We Muslims are a paradigm shift from darkness to light. God’s path is clear, it is the path of removing humanity from darkness to light. When we ignore the ideological commitments of the elite, when we ignore the rights and the dignity of a Muslim, when we live a life oblivious to ethical standards and morals, when we affirm the values of materialism and superficiality, when we affirm the concepts of vanity and envy and jealousy, ask yourself: Are you truly willing to face God with every person who has commented on your posts, positively or negatively, with the full consequences?


Illness and pain are beautiful things, because it gives one moral clarity. You see everything with such pristine clarity. While the supporters of Israel and the supporters of Jesus Christ know what their priorities are, we see stupid Muslims preoccupied with their looks.


While we go on building a civilization; we take over the world; we fund Israeli settlers; we take over Jerusalem forever; we continue suffocating Palestinians to death; while the world continues to ignore the holocaust against the Uyghurs and Islamophobia continues to reign supreme; there are Muslims busy with posting pictures of themselves drinking tea, showing off their makeup and fancy clothes. Until when? I ache for something that I can testify to when I meet my God and say, "God, at least we got this right."


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