Culture, Current Affairs

Keeping up with… celebrity culture?

“Who is Lord of the heavens and the earth? Say: Allah. Say: Take ye then (others) beside Him for protectors, which, even for themselves, have neither benefit nor hurt? Say: Is the blind man equal to the seer, or is darkness equal to light? Or assign they unto Allah partners who created the like of His creation so that the creation (which they made and His creation) seemed alike to them? Say: Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, the Almighty.” (Al-Ra’ad, Verse 16)

If you’re someone like me, who has all forms of social media and keeps up with the news regularly, I’m sure you’ve heard about Kim Kardashian’s recent misfortune – a heist that saw the robbers getting away with £8.5million worth of jewellery, including her engagement ring. Don’t get me wrong, no one deserves to go through that, but should something like that be headline news 11 days on?

I’m sure there are more important things that have happened in the past 11 days that deserve headline news, such as the massacre in Nigeria, or Afghanistan, maybe Yemen, or the hurricane damage in Haiti.. but maybe I’m wrong on that one. Who cares about lost lives in this day and age, when our favourite reality star has been left traumatised after a robbery?

So what is the problem that we are facing?

We’re suffering from the idolatry of celebrities that really add nothing to our lives, apart from jealousy, self-loathing and depression; even the Quran refers to people of such calibre as having ‘no benefit or hurt,’ because quite literally, there is nothing about them that serves the interests of the general public. That being said, I am not undermining the aid work of some celebrities, or thosekylie-lip-kit who give back to the world. It’s those that do nothing with their status that we need to be addressing.

Now of course, when we look at it, no one will admit that they follow the lives of celebrities, because we all know that there are more important things in life, right? (I can almost see you rolling your eyes on that one) However, if I ask you which is the hottest lip kit out there now, or who the cutest couple are at the moment, or which player recently got a new shape up, we’d all have a name or two to fling about. And yes, I’m guilty of it too… thank you, social media and Snapchat stories.

With this, things like that have filtered so deeply into the very fabric of our society that it’s deemed to be the norm to admire such a thing. Let’s think about it: am I really going to spend some time reading a piece on a regular man who feeds his neighbours, or obsess over the next hottest thing to buy? It’s lead us to such a place that we now feel inadequate if we don’t look, or dress, a certain way. Who remembers the Kylie Jenner lip challenge? If anything, it did nothing but reinforce how far we will go to look like our favourite celeb who, in-case you’ve been living under a rock, needed cosmetic surgery to achieve perfection.

My issue here is the exaltation of such figures, and placing them on a pedestal ahead of all else in the world. In Surat Al-Dukhan, Allah (swt) describes to us what happens if we don’t do so. He says to those that set themselves above others:

وَأَن لَّا تَعۡلُواْ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ‌ إِنِّىٓ ءَاتِيكُم بِسُلۡطَـٰنٍ۬ مُّبِينٍ۬

“And do not exalt yourselves against Allah; Surely I will bring to you a clear authority.” (Verse 19)

Try to avoid it, and you will see that there are people of real importance and authority, examples who you can look up to and exemplify, in their behaviour, actions and modesty. The Quran provides examples of these kinds of people, the ones of high moral calibre who we should embrace as role models; the beauty of this is that it does not give names for these people, but rather suggests what attributes these people should have, for us to take them as leaders and examples (from Surat Al-Anbiyaa’: Verse 73)

  • They will do good
  • They will keep up the prayer
  • They will give alms/charity
  • They serve Allah (swt) alone

So when we take others as role models, we need to really take into consideration, do they follow these attributes and have them engrained into their lives? Are they the embodiment of what a true ‘leader’ should be? Use this ayah as a litmus test, and I promise that it will become easier to distinguish right from wrong and to pay attention to the kind of people who we should draw inspiration from.

The reason this is important is because, if we mirror the actions of celebrities by taking the negative things they do and accept them to be morally correct, we will be help accountable for it all. When we are to justify our actions on the Day of Judgement, those that have taken leaders other than those of which Allah (swt) would approve of are suggested to say:

رَبَّنَآ إِنَّآ أَطَعۡنَا سَادَتَنَا وَكُبَرَآءَنَا فَأَضَلُّونَا ٱلسَّبِيلَا۟

“Oh, our Lord! We obeyed our leaders and our great men, so they lead us astray from the path.” (Surat Al-Ahzab: Verse 67)

The worst part is at that stage, pointing the fingers of the blame or trying to shift the accountability of our own actions to others will go to waste. Let each of us take a pledge, and I speak for myself first, to actively seek to extract such negative role models from our lives, in order to ensure that the values that they stand for do not filter into our daily lives.

Let us make a conscious choice to emulate regular people who do the things worth following, and what bigger example than those who are from our own communities and better yet, those immortalised in the pages of our rich Islamic history.

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