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FaithSociety

Opinion: Herd Spirituality and the Problems of Our Society Today

“And help one another in goodness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and aggression; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in requiting (evil).” [Quran, 5:2]

In these historic times, new terminologies have come to the forefront as part of the global efforts to end the spread of the pandemic. One such definition that has spread like a wildfire is the term “Herd Immunity”.

The term Herd immunity is “achieved when large percentages of a population become immune to a disease and therefore indirectly protect those who do not have immunity”. In other words, to protect someone with compromised immunity from a disease, it is necessary for a large population to become immune to that disease.

This concept pertains to the physical wellbeing of the human being. However, this novel term also relates to a deeply rooted disease that has affected millions of believers over many decades.

The existential necessity of herd immunity reminded me of something that has strong relevance to the concept of collective spirituality, or collective morality, when grappling with issues of the compromised immunity of believers against immorality and corruption in society. 

The Problem

You see, there are many people in our communities across western countries who have contributed a great deal in the service of Allah (swt), whether it is related to establishing the centers or establishing a community some forty-fifty years ago.

Though they may not be alive today, their selfless actions serve as a reminder to everyone and testify to their sincere intentions. However, sometimes we see that some of the Muslims who migrated to the West have children who lack the enthusiasm and passion like their parents. Some are indifferent to the principles of Islam.

Sometimes, such contrast between the parents and children begs the question, is such contrast normal or expected? How is it possible that there are youth who are openly justifying atheism or adopting homosexuality or questioning morality itself or denying faith?

There must be something that we may have overlooked, or may have not done right, or not done enough. We will attempt to understand possible reasons that may have contributed to the current state of Muslim families in the western world.

Unhealthy Family system

One of the most preeminent reasons that are causing deviation among the new generation of Muslim families is the gradual downfall of the family system.

Among many families in our communities, we see parents who are either separated or divorced. We see parents who were either completely indifferent to religion or were indifferent in their youth but now have become religious. We also see parents who outrightly consider religion as an impediment in their lives, and the situation was foretold by the Prophet (saw).

The Prophet (saw) once looked towards some young children and said, “Woe be upon the children of the latter days from that which their fathers will do (to them).” Someone asked, ‘O Messenger of Allah! From their fathers who are polytheists? He replied, ‘No! From their fathers who are believers however they do not teach them anything from the (religious) obligations and whatever they teach their children from the (transient) world, they only teach them that amount which will allow them to “get by” with ease. Indeed, I am not from them, nor are they from me.” [1]

The idea of a family has now evolved in our minds, from two parents (man and woman) with kids, to a single-parent family from a divorce or a separation. The idea of an Islamic family system is gradually taken over by the broken family system of the West.

In this society, men and women are encouraged to abruptly call for separation or divorce, or to make self-centered choices without empathy for the family. Some even prefer the idea of cohabitating like husband and wife without marriage. While Quran says (24:32): 

وَأَنْكِحُوا الْأَيَامَىٰ مِنْكُمْ 

Marry the single (man and woman) among you.

The Prophet (saw) also said: “Marriage is my tradition, he who turns aside from my tradition is not from me.”

So, if we consider ourselves as Muslims, then we must emulate the path of the Prophet (saw) instead of emulating the path of this society. The reason marriage is given so much importance is because it is the primary means through which religion and faith are transferred from one generation to another. It is the most effective institution of teaching humanity and moral values to the next generation.

Hence in Islam, the system of a family is considered as the fabric of a society where human beings can reach their full potential in this world and prepare for the hereafter. It is important to know that a cumulative effect of a good family system leads to social, economic, and political justice in society.

However, such equality becomes undesirable to the oligarchs and ruling echelons, who seek profit through the policy of exploitation and expansion. Hence, in history, we see many psychological blueprints used to gradually corrupt the aura of spiritual and mental nourishment found in a family system.

In one of the census, it is noted that the percentage of children living with two-married-parents has slid from 73% in 1960 to 46% in 2013, while children living with single-parent has gone up from 9% in 1960 to 34% in 2013. 

The reason behind the rise in single parenting in the United States was not because of a war or poverty. It was because of the effect of a systematic movement that aimed to uproot the family system from society. 

Desacralization

When a family system – that consists of a man and woman married in a sacred bond – is compromised, then in the long-term, it will create a population that easily becomes a slave to a corrupt system that dictates its decision in the name of democracy. 

The agenda of “modern world imperialism” is not different than classical imperialism where societies and states are driven by the mission of subjugating the weak societies and nations for exploitation through force and aggression. The biggest hurdle to that objective has always been the doctrines of the Divine.

The historical example of this situation is when the Prophet (saw) migrated to Yasrib (current day Medina), the society was ruled by the elites and weak population was exploited for centuries. The Prophet (saw) brought the teachings of Islam which broke the chains of exploitation – the result of which caused constant battles and confrontation between them and the Prophet (saw).

To overcome the Islamic teachings, the imperial states, authoritarians, autocrats, and absolutists have methodically designed an approach to discredit the idea of faith and religion itself. The biggest strategy that was employed to campaign against religion was to downplay religion by labeling it as an illogical and irrational idea that opposes empirical science.

In the history of such efforts, the famous philosopher from the Enlightenment period, Immanuel Kant, was found saying, “I have to deny reason in order to accept faith”. 

This period was marked as the “desacralization” of religion, a special term used to discredit and discard religion as a fool’s paradise. Those who were trashing religion from the 17th to 18th century and so on, by using rationalism and “science” as a pretext, were totally unaware of the science of human embryology [2] and the scientific stages of human development and birth which the Holy Qur’an was talking about hundreds of years before them. 

As the Holy Qur’an says (22:5): 

“We (Allah) created man from a quintessence of clay. We then placed him as a nutfah (drop) in a place of settlement, firmly fixed, then We made the drop into an alaqah (leech-like structure), and then We changed the alaqah into a mudghah (chewed like substance), then We made out of that mudghah, izam (skeleton, bones), then We clothed the bones with lahm (muscles, flesh) then We caused him to grow and come in being and attain the definitive (human)form. So, blessed be God, the best to create.”

There are many more scientific phenomena mentioned in the Holy Quran that human beings discovered much later, but it is not in the scope of this writeup. 

Digital Entertainment

In addition to the desacralization of religion, the modern tool that is chosen to break the relationship between man and God is “Electronic Entertainment”.

The tools that entertain us, like social media, cinematics, screenplay, theatre, novels, sitcoms, music, etc., have played a strong role in damaging the system of family. Every tool of entertainment that is available in society today has an ulterior motive with subliminal messages that are carefully carved to influence the Islamic way of living.

The axial message that gets surfaced and repeated at any given opportunity in the various entertainment mediums is the question “Why Not?”. Initially started as a trend, it later became a sign of a free society. The real intention was to encourage human beings to become a slave to his own desires, and a slave to the trends that are set by the society.

Carnal desires take over free-thinking and righteous decisions. In the end, the definition of a good human being in this society is a person who just pays taxes and follows the law, other than that, all those who practice their faith are considered faulty.

These tools of entertainment have played a very instrumental role in reshaping the idea of how we see religion, ethics, family, and the idea of accountability in the hereafter. Every tool of entertainment that is now available in society today has ulterior motives packed with subliminal messages that are carefully carved to influence the way our mind perceives realities.

The purpose of any entertainment medium is to engross its subject in such a way that the intellect spins inside the whirlpool of thoughts and remembrance of that entertainment medium. Whereas the purpose of intellect, according to Islam, is to comprehend realities that exist within the human being and recognize these realities and then connect with God through the means of the divine guide and the divine book.

The realities that exist inside of human beings cannot be denied – like the fragile and perfectly balanced process of life and death that cannot come into existence except by a truly complex design. The metaphysical aspects like the “instinct” of a mother towards its young born, both in animal and human beings alike, are ethereal but irrefutable, all we need to do is to reflect on it.

Hence the holy Quran constantly emphasis this idea (30:8):

أوَلَمْ يَتَفَكَّرُوا فِي أَنفُسِهِم

Do they not reflect within themselves? 

The sole purpose of the apparatus of entertainment that exists today is to seize the faultiness of comprehension and reflection. And to top it off, its purpose is to contaminate the mind with profane pictures and thoughts.

The direction of entertainment is driven by consumerism and greed, where a young person exhausts his potential of attention and reflection in a game of brutal fight of survival in a virtual reality world interacting with characters who have explicit sexual characteristics. These gaming interfaces cause the brain to cripple over a period, whose continued use causes its user to become an addicted slave who stands for hours waiting in line in front of the store to buy the new gaming console. 

Academic Curriculum

The most fundamental effort towards reshaping the minds against faith, divine law, and spirituality is the academic curriculum. Whether it is biological science, physical science, ethics, or history, there is a constant onslaught of arguments and literature in proving religion as an artificial idea that was created to control society.

It seems that the whole theory of evolution was created only to emphasize that man has evolved from a monkey. In ethics, irrational questions are raised to misguide those who are already skeptical, questions like: “Is God not responsible for all the disasters?” 

The curriculum includes discussion on Greek gods like Hades (God of the underworld) and Aphrodite (Goddess of love) or includes analysis of some vulgar painting of the renaissance in the name of arts and literature. Not to forget the compelling need to teach sex education as early as elementary school and all the way to high school.

Take the subject of history or religion, the narratives that are chosen are always defaming Islam as a religion of brutal force by relying on fabricated historical events.

In short, religion is looked upon as a barrier to rational thinking and science, and atheism is the key to free the intellect – whereas the Quran mentions the word (Aql) intellect 49 times in various forms, and (ilm) knowledge for 704 times. Not to mention the several scientific phenomena which were discovered by science much later.

Popular Culture

The power of influence leads a person to truth or can misguide the same person to complete falsehood. There is a tug-of-war between the two types of influences.

The example of a child is like a rope that is held by two opposite groups in the world. One group consists of parents and siblings, extended family, and community. The other group consists of people of the world, for whom, intoxication, fornication, profanity, homosexuality, gender transformation, suicidal instincts, etc. neither has any accountability to anyone nor falls short on their standards of morality.

Each group is actively pulling the child towards itself by the frequency and intensity of their influence on the child. The child is most likely to incline towards the group that can make an impact on him through their influence. This is the battle of the time that we are inadvertently fighting, and because most of us are unaware of the opponent – who will kidnap our children into the darkness of falsehood – we are neither prepared nor proactive in this struggle.

During the past forty years in the West, we were able to successfully teach our children to refrain from Haram (prohibited) fast food, but we were not able to teach our kids to refrain from the aforementioned vices that corrupt our faith forever.

In comparison, the frequency and intensity of the influence of popular culture are higher than the frequency and intensity of the influence of the family and community. It is because the child spends more time at school and on the internet than he spends with his family and community.

The personalities on social media like musicians, artists, fashion designers, actors, models, vloggers, etc. are directly influencing the children to emulate them. As a result, the effects are devastating to the children and to our families and communities.

Any emulation of ideologies, habits, behavior, or culture that goes against the principles and values of Islam is detrimental to the survival of Muslims as a community in the world.

Resolution

As we have provided possible reasons behind the deviation among Muslim children, it is needless to talk more about examples, as it cannot be encompassed by the scope of this article in any way.

To control the pandemic experts have concluded that it is necessary to have “Herd Immunity”, where large percentages of a population become immune to a disease and therefore indirectly protect those who do not have immunity.

Similarly, if we work in a group to spread spirituality, eventually the majority of believers can achieve immunity from deviation and misguidance, and thus indirectly guide those who do not have immunity to widespread deviation.

This idea can be called Herd Spiritualty. Rationally, if the spread of the virus can be stopped through Herd Immunity, then why not the spread of misguidance be slowed down through Herd Spirituality? The indication of herd spirituality is mentioned in Quran in the following verse (5:2): 

And help one another in goodness and piety, and do not help one another in sin and aggression; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is severe in requiting (evil).

If we proactively influence one another in goodness and piety, starting from our own families, and extend our effort slowly to the level of the community, then we will be able to preserve our faith and religious values, and successfully pass them on to the next generation.

The example of Herd Spirituality can be compared to livestock that is safe from the attacks of wolves as long as it stays in a herd. But as soon as one sheep separates from the herd, it becomes prey to wolves.

Before any remediation, the most critical thing is that we must acknowledge the perils of electronic media, the influence of popular culture, and the atheistic syllabus that is taught in academic institutions. If we consider these as the source of all the religious diversions that we see today, then we must regulate and micro-manage the usage of electronic media by the family members.

Elders in the immediate or extended family must try to become role models for the children instead of allowing celebrities to become their ideal. Parents must engage with the teachers on regular basis to know and understand the syllabus, and if needed exempt their children from certain classes. 

However, all the above suggestions are only possible if we understand the importance of the Islamic family system and try to preserve it through strengthening the relationship between husband and wife. As the family becomes strong, the parents must recognize their responsibilities to teach their children about Islam, as the Messenger of Allah, (saw) said, “Acquaint your children with religious teachings (of Islam) before the disbelievers get to them.” [3]

As a family, we must collectively practice faith and implement religious values consistently. The compounding effect of such collective practice will automatically start transforming the community at large. The circle of influence will spread far and wide to the point that the amount of outside influence becomes nominal.

Such compounding influence across families and communities can be called Herd Spirituality, which will save us and prepare our children as believers for the coming times. If our children are separated from the Herd then (God Forbid) they may end up as an atheist, or adopt homosexuality, or fall in the endless pit of depression, or commit suicide, or become addicted to narcotics or drugs.

In the supplication for children, Ali ibn Al-Hussain (as) teaches us to seek the mercy of Allah (swt) for our children: 

وَاجْعَلْهُمْ أَبْرَاراً أَتْقِيَاءَ بُصَراءَ سَامِعِينَ

Make them pious, fearing, insightful, hearing, 

مُطِيعِينَ لَكَ وَلأوْلِيَائِكَ مُحِبِّينَ مُنَاصِحِينَ

and obedient toward You, loving and well-disposed toward Your friends,

وَلِجَمِيْعِ أَعْدَآئِكَ مُعَانِدِينَ وَمُبْغِضِينَ آمِينَ

and stubbornly resistant and full of hate toward all Your enemies! Amen!


References

1. Jamia al-Akhbaar, Mustadrak al-Wasa’il, Jam’ia Ahadith.

2. Human Embryology and the Holy Quran: an overview: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3068791/.

3.  Al-Kafi, Tohuf al-Uqool.

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