I sank further into my seat, wincing helplessly at the ugly threads unspooling, weaving across the world wide web like wildfire, witnessing the scene unfolding in quiet. The brouhaha that had transpired over the past few weeks had involved a name I respect and admire, now thrown around in a smear-fest circus circling our global Muslim community, with the rest of the world looking on from the sidelines. I logged off the net for a moment and made du’a to Allah to protect our entire ummah. I needed to eschew the negativity. I needed to breathe.
Countless of people have criticised our brother to death, with comments that reek of a sense of twisted satisfaction at the downfall of a fellow Muslim. People who have never mentioned his name prior to this incident suddenly started spreading vile comments and articles that paint him in such negative light, taking every opportune moment to tear him into smithereens, like wolves devouring a fallen prey.
Throughout the entire time, I felt nothing but major disappointment. I was let down mainly by the extreme reactions of the ummah. “What is happening to our community? Look at the kinds of things fellow Muslims are spouting…” I ranted to my good friends who were as concerned as I was. The anti-NAK camp adding fuel to the fire, rejoicing at his reputation being destroyed. The pro-NAK camp hurling hurtful comments to the shuyookh who spoke about the matter. For a brief moment, it shattered my idealistic hope of our growing, progressing community. Seems like there is still a lot of work to be done for this ummah. Moreover, my heart couldn’t help but feel a certain heaviness because all of the good work and service to Allah’s book that he has devoted his life to, were being easily dismissed by people who are so quick to judge.
I had first heard about Brother Nouman on Youtube through his Quranic Gems series. I downloaded the Bayyinah Podcast to listen to his khutbahs during my commute. I have a Bayyinah account which I frequently log on to learn more about the exegesis of a particular surah. I have attended his lectures the few times he visited this tiny island, the last one being ‘Amazed by the Qur’an’, where my heart found healing after the devastating loss of my mom, from the Quranic gems he and the shuyookh have shared. I recommended his videos to my Hindhu friend who wanted to learn about Islam. I have read his books. I religiously listened and made notes from his lectures every day for the past two Ramadhans. I, my family members, my friends, and a large number of Muslims have felt so much comfort and gained a deeper understanding on the words of Allah which he had effectively shared. And as a student of linguistics, I was truly inspired by his approach towards Arabic, in the context of the Qur’an. He made learning about Allah’s words so accessible and relatable. I endeavoured to acquire the level of knowledge he had gained from years of studying.
And all along, Brother Nouman constantly reminded his audience that he was simply a student of the Qur’an, and I admired his humility and determination in studying the book of Allah. I remember the story about how he found Islam after straying away during his teenage years, and I remember that, because that was me too. And I know that that means he is capable of sinning too, as commonsensical as that might be. I have always understood the fact that nobody – not even the scholar you profusely admire – is infallible. It’s the people who tend to treat them like saints, putting these figures on a pedestal. These lofty expectations. When all along he had always put across the fact that he had never wanted any of this limelight, and that he is human too.
I have watched videos of him sharing Quranic reminders with his sons sitting on his lap, I sat through episodes of ‘Arabic with Husna’ where I studied the language through him teaching his daughter. For this reason, the first thing I think of when I heard of this controversy was his children. May Allah protect them. I felt disturbed and hurt when I read extensive criticisms and gossip mongering on my newsfeed. How can anyone even find entertainment in such an incident? How can anyone not think before clicking the ‘share’ button so mindlessly? Will that post they share bring benefit and bring them closer to Allah (swt)? Or are they simply busy fulfilling their selfish desires and furthering their own agendas, losing sight of their true purpose on this earth?
This incident does not mean that you can discredit his teachings of Allah’s Book which millions of Muslims have benefitted from. I have always had this ingrained in my mind: Brother Nouman is merely a medium. A vehicle. A vessel. My Hadith teacher had explained it perfectly by means of an analogy of a carrier. When we purchase something, like a pack of rice or a box containing jewellery, we only use the thing inside the carrier, and we would put aside the carrier. In the case that the carrier is faulty, or has a gaping tear at the bottom, then the things that it carries inside will still retain its value. I wouldn’t throw away the jewellery if it comes in a box that’s slightly dented. The thing of value is what we keep, the carrier is simply a carrier – if it is faulty, then it does not make the item it holds any less valuable.
The main reason he has a large following is because he is an effective vessel – he speaks the language of the masses, relates with the youth, utilizes social media and is a good teacher who explains profound concepts using analogies. And he is definitely gifted with such eloquence, understanding and deep passion in the Arabic language that I sometimes envy and that I am still very inspired to achieve.
Can we simply take what is good and leave what is doubtful? Can we discipline our hearts to see the truth as truth and discard what is not? Can we simply go back to the Qur’an?
This incident will not make me terminate my monthly subscriptions with Bayyinah, because that’s just ridiculous (Will you stop learning from your super effective Maths teacher and start coming up with your own formulae just because he/she happened to have done something immoral in the past? But I digress). He is not the only teacher I learn my deen from; there are many other teachers I learn from (online or offline) but I will never stop listening to his lectures because I have benefited from it immensely and I feel myself becoming a better Muslim through the knowledge he had shared about the Qur’an.
Also, when I study under a particular teacher, I do not care if he is married, how many wives he has, whether he drives a car or rides a bike, how many children he has, let alone his past sins. All I genuinely care for is if the things that he teach is beneficial, authentic, does not deviate from the true path and improves my character and knowledge of the deen. The rest is of no particular concern to my existence on earth and to my journey of seeking knowledge.
I find it a concern that people seem to see Brother Nouman as an infallible saint and cursing the other scholars for talking about this issue (this shaykh celebrity culture – or any other celebrity worship for that matter – have GOT to go). He’s neither a saint nor a celebrity, he’s just like anyone of us who’s extremely capable of sinning. At the same time, it is troubling to see people so quick to pass judgement and criticise someone they barely even know. Seriously now, unless you’re a close friend or a family member who has every right to be concerned with this situation, will this issue affect you personally in any way? I think not.
We need to know that ultimately, والله أعلمُ بالـصـواب (only Allah knows best). May the oppressed be given their due justice and may those who have wronged recognise the sin and seek immediate forgiveness from Allah (swt).
Let’s all focus on our own akhira now, shall we. Less quizzical queries and more Qur’an, please.
I’ll rest my case by ending this post with another timeless Hadith.
“Part of the perfection of one’s Islam is his leaving that which does not concern him.
– Hadith Hassan, narrated by Imam Tirmidhi
Priorities. Let’s all learn the fiqh of priorities.
We are better than this.
PS. phew. finally got it out of my system. been clogging my mind with much negativity i needed to escape it all and writing is the only way i know how. now MOVING ON.