Islam. It means peace. Muslims are those who submit to the will of God. Submit. I think I’ve heard this definition in every single Sunday school class I’ve attended. Everyone says it. Everyone tells you like you should know exactly what it means. And until recently I had never even thought to think about it. What does it mean to be a slave of Allah (the arabic word for GOD). What does it REALLY mean to me?
The first few things that have always come to mind is obedience to Allah (SWT) are: Praying five times a day, fasting in Ramadan, giving Zakat, listening to your parents, being kind, helping others. Each of these actions have defined submission to Allah (SWT) thought out my entire life. Doing. The actions that speak more than words. I was following my religion, my intuition told me I was doing something right, however it wasn’t until recently I felt something was missing something big.
And what was missing was key understanding. We are slaves of Allah. Slaves of God. But I didn’t understand what it meant to be a slave of Allah.
Slave was a word darkened by the history of my country the United States. I grew up with one understanding of slavery, that it should be abolished in all it’s forms and never imposed upon a person. When I began to understand what it meant to be a slave of Allah (SWT), I realized that THIS form of slavery frees one from any other form of slavery in the world. That if a person viewed the Creator of the universe as his or her Master, they will never be a slave to man, money, or desires. While history says we have moved away from the days of slavery to man, money and desires, society today proves otherwise. The only cure for this is knowing your Creator, and how to submit to His will.
Marketing and media are heavy influences on society. Telling us what is, and what is not socially acceptable. Showing us the perfection we should strive for in our family, friends, work, school, and especially in ourselves. While we know we should be grateful, the world that surrounds us suggests otherwise. You’re not perfect, you’ll never be until you (if you are a girl) have the perfect hair, skin, height, weight, etc. I’ll never be as beautiful as that girl in the magazine, my life will never be perfect. So the big question is, who are we trying to please? Yes, I’m happy when I look nice. I’m happier when I look better, but at the end of the day all this physical self-examination causes a lot of dissatisfaction and depression. At the end of the day, I am a slave to a media world telling me “you’re not good enough until you BUY something to make yourself better.” At the end of the day, I have just become another slave to the market.
Dissatisfaction results from enslavement to the media. When we look at someone who has more wealth then us, we think they are lucky and that they are by all means better off. If only we had that money, how much easier would our lives be? And yeah I may have a car, but a nicer car would be better and a nicer clothes would get me further in life. While money is an extreme necessity for life, we don’t want to fulfill our needs, it is the luxury that we want. The luxury that we dream about achieving. We become slaves to our dream of living in excess.
The question we never seem to ask is how far in life are we planning to go? Hasn’t time shown us that we all end up in grave? That one hundred years from now we will have gone the furthest in life so far that no one can reach us. We will have died. But we don’t think about that. Death isn’t something that is to be dealt with, our culture is all about cheating death, about surviving. And surviving is winning. Our culture would rather have us strapped to breathing tubes alive, then die in peace. Life is the golden glory over the inevitable death. So when we are struck by the sudden emptiness of life, trying to “live up” every day we find our lives plagued with anxiety, disappointment, and depression. We ask ourselves–is this all to life? And when we can’t answer that question, we either wallow in darkness or turn to alternatives such as drugs and alcohol that have the ability to dilute reality.
Now add into this equation: Submission to God. Allah (SWT) is the Master of the Heavens and the earth. What has changed? How do slaves view themselves in front of their master? We wouldn’t know-because we each think of ourselves as our own master. We are our own king and queens and we don’t realize that while we think we are free, we are tied to worldly materials and desires and we are their slaves.
So I tried thinking as a slave of God. Using this mind set to assess situations.
Well as a Muslim woman I am commanded by Allah (SWT) to wear a scarf and dress modestly. So now I can’t compare myself to that swimsuit model in the magazine. Not only that, no one else compares me to her-or any other woman who is being made “sexual” for media marketing purposes. Society itself cannot classify me. While overall there is a “image” that says a covered woman is oppressed, my personal experience that people understand that I am covered to preserve my modesty and they respect that. In fact people go as far as to apologize to for swearing in front of me. Yes, hijab is my choice. It is my choice to follow a command of Allah (SWT), but as a slave I am obligated to do so and I see the benefits in my society of doing so after following the command of Allah (SWT).
Also, as a slave I can’t complain about things like the size of my waist or the pudginess of my nose. Slaves are not ungrateful quite frankly they are grateful for anything they have. I know that God has innumerate blessings on me. And as a slave of Allah (SWT) I should be grateful. SO grateful because as a slave I am at the mercy of Allah (SWT) who has not only blessed me with mental and physical health but with education, with a family, with food, with entertainment. In fact it would be terrible ungrateful of me to say things like “My arms are too big, this sucks” because I didn’t pick my arms and their lengths. Allah (SWT) fashioned them, and for them they are therefore perfect for me. And this thought process brings satisfaction. I was not created to be perfect, but to worship Allah (SWT).
While I want to “further” myself in life I do so in order to please Allah (SWT) not a person or a society. And unlike society and people, God takes our intentions into account, our situations, our effort. He rewards us and sustains us no matter what good or bad we have done. He has given us free will to do what we please-so it would in our benefit to do what pleases Him.
A slave works to please his Master some for the sake of getting a better position and others because they are close to their Master and wish to be closer. I think both of these are good explanations for why we do the things we do (prayer, charity, etc) but the second is better. Getting closer to Allah (SWT) should be our goal when we display our obedience to Allah (SWT). And when I understand this relationship that we as slaves have with God, I realized how important it is to know Allah (SWT) to better serve Him. It gives meaning to all those things I’ve been doing for years. In serving humanity to serve my Lord, I am doing no one favors except myself.
So the world will keep spinning, telling us what we should do, how we should act and dress, who we should be, but the slave of Allah (SWT) will always look for a way to please His lord. Never think of himself or herself as better than another person or worse because they know their position. They serve no one. No authority with any great sum of money, and no desire no matter how deep controls them. They know their position in this world no matter how many successes and how many trials they go through is as a slave of God.