Day 22: On performing Muslimness for the applause

I’m going to begin with a caveat: The following is a reminder and message to myself before anyone else. Just as all my previous posts, I’m the first one who needs to learn these lessons.

There are many, many ways to be Muslim. There are people who drink, smoke and party, but still identify themselves as Muslim. And I’m not going to be the one to judge them for that. There’s the famous parable of the sex worker who offered a starving animal a drink of water, and will be rewarded with paradise for that, while, a pious woman who spent her days worshipping God, but abused an animal, will be punished in the hell fire.

So, there really is no judgement that can be passed on someone from the likes of me.

At the same time however, there is an onus on Muslims, to promote good and forbid evil. And indeed, the lowest level of faith is to see wrong being done, and to do nothing about it, except for deploring that action in your heart.

So, it is in this context that I want to talk about social media.

Social media is, of course, a whole devil in itself – it’s addictive, promotes consumption and sucks up time better than a Hoover sucks up the crumbs on the mosque carpet after iftar. But that’s not the issue at hand here. What is the issue is something else that’s been annoying me about social media – and that is the way that it is used to construct façades and carefully curate a persona, that bears no resemblance to reality.

Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about people creating false profiles, or just criticising DJ Khaled for saying “bless up” in one snap and popping champagne bottles in the next snap – I’m talking ordinary, everyday Muslim people who construct a sense of religiosity on Fridays and in Ramadan, while showing no awareness of their own contradictions, as displayed in their Instagram profile.

There is a sense of our Muslimness being a public performance that is reliant on the applause. And this is where social media has made monsters of us. Sure, social media is fantastic. It has changed our lives. But social media has also created an aesthetic in which people do things only for the photograph, the status update, the tag on Facebook. It has hollowed out any sense of meaningfulness from what we do, so we’re all show, no substance.

So in conclusion, I entreat you all to join me in making this du’aa: O Allah! Cleanse our hearts from hypocrisy and our actions from showiness and our tongues from falsehood and our eyes from cheating. And You know the theft of the eyes and concealment of hearts. Aameen.

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