In the early 90s, my parents enrolled me in Federal Government Girls College, Sagamu. This was my first major experience with Islam. Prior to my secondary education, my parent enrolled us (myself and my siblings) at Madrasah. I remember how we would yell Arabic letters and how other students were flogged for various reasons. Learning about Islam from FGGC Sagamu was a game changer. Our IRK (Islam Religious Knowledge) teacher, Alhaji Lawal was a down-to-earth and knowledgeable man. He rarely resorted to abuse which was different from the madrasah. He taught us the stories of various Prophets and also introduced us to the Noble Prophet Muhammad PBUH.
During Ramadan, he would lead the taraweeh prayers on the assembly ground and give soul moving sermons. Every Sunday, we would attend MSS (Muslim Student Society). This was a religious organization created for building our Islamic faith. Alhaji Lawal was the patron. We would work on our spiritual growth by singing various Islamic hymns and learning about the Prophet’s histories, the Hadith/Sunnah and the Quran. Alhamdulillahi for his mercies.
This association needed executives to function to help with retention of members, sermon organization and other activities. The key executive positions like Amira, Assistant Amira, treasurer, secretary were often meant for spiritually minded sisters. Over 10 years after graduation and with the emergence of social media, most of the past MSS members were able to reconnect on Facebook. Many of the regular members and some of the executives including the assistant Amira had converted to other religion. Subhanalahi!!! How? What? Where? How did this atrocity happen? What were the driving forces behind this high conversion rate? After brainstorming for a few days, I would like to give my opinion on the key reasons why there is a decline of born Muslims as they transition into adulthood.
1. Low Fundamental Teaching
In Nigeria, most children are not taught the fundamentals of the religion. We are taught to just accept everything without concrete reason as to why it’s done. We are almost like programmed zombies that are taught never to ask difficult questions. When one goes against that thought process and asks the difficult questions, one is told that it is sinning and hell scare tactics are introduced. Many children and even adults, don’t understand why some religious rites are done.
Why Islam? What makes us special? Why are we Muslims? Why do we observe salat? These are fundamental question that should be understood by every kid before they attain puberty.
Most are sent to madrasah to read and memorize the Quran but very few understand the teachings. Knowing Islam is not just by reading the Arabic version but understanding the core values of being a good human being and assimilating the various Ayahs and Hadiths in their full context. It is difficult, if not impossible to change one who understands the core fundamentals of his/her religion.
Many of our teens are swayed by manipulators all in the name of religion because they lack knowledge. All muslims are advised to seek knowledge. Abu Hurairah (May Allah be pleased with him) reported: The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wa Sallam) said, “Allah makes the way to Jannah easy for him who treads the path in search of knowledge.” Ignorance should not be used as an excuse in this computer age.
2. Fear Factor
Islam is frequently taught with fear. While growing up, every preacher uses hell (Jahannam) to force people to obey Allah. People do certain religious things, not because of love for their creator but for the fear of their destination. Let’s use a general example. If a woman is forced to stay with a man out of the fear of being alone, there is a high chance she would feel choked and either lose her self-esteem or run to the next man that shows her attention. However, if she were in love with the man, she would be unshakable and loyal.
Is it possible to love something and be extremely fearful of it? Love isn’t war. Love is peace. Peace is acceptance. Acceptance is forgiveness. Let us teach our kids and youth on how to love the religion and stop using fear as driving force so they won’t succumb to external pressure. When one loves something or someone, they would never want to see it hurt. They would do all they can to adhere to its rules.
3. Unattainable Al Jannah
I heard so many people say things like: Attaining Al Jannah is hard work, if not impossible. Do you think jannah is easy? Al Jannah is not for everyone. It makes me wonder why people need to try when we keep preaching how it’s impossible getting to Jannah. Why should anyone waste their energy when Allah is advertised as a tyrant and unforgiving God? Fellow Muslims are quick to judge and write off their fellow brothers and sisters that have obvious signs.
Some of us make these ‘sinners’ believe they are undeserving of Allah’s mercy and love. Have we forgotten how a prostitute was granted Jannah for an act of kindness during the Prophet’s (SAW) time? We forget we are also sinners and our hidden sins might be greater than others we pass judgement on. We forget the Greatness of Allah SWT (Al Kabir). Allah is also Al Ghaffar (The All-Forgiving) and Ar Rahim (The Compassionate, The Merciful). Quran 15:49 states “Inform My servants that I am the Forgiving, the Merciful”.
Quran 39:54 also says “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves [by sinning], do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Indeed, Allah forgives all sins. Indeed, it is He who is the Forgiving, the Merciful. He is the one who sent down the Quran, filled with verses of how he is willing to forgive all sins.
We discourage people from seeking Allah’s forgiveness because of our judgemental attitude. These individuals find solace in the arms of others that advertised attainable destinations. Jannah is attainable if you can submit yourself to Allah and be a good human being to every living creature. Allah is ever forgiving and compassionate to everyone as long as we are remorseful.
Few tips to welcome people back to Islam are as follows:
- Remember that smiling is Sadaqa.
- Be tolerant and kind to everyone.
- Don’t discriminate because someone hasn’t reached your level of Iman.
- Preach forgiveness by forgiving others.
- Stop judging because only Allah knows everyone’s destination.
- Respect boundaries and don’t try shoving religion down anyone’s throat.
- Everyone assimilates at a different pace.
- Always live by examples so people can see islam in you.
This article encourages us all to understand and teach our kids, the fundamentals of our religion. It is very important to understand the “why(s)” so we can be firm in our faith. Islam is a religion of peace that should be taught with love and understanding. There are so many ayahs that explains the beauty of Islam. Those ayahs should be used to teach people about Islam. There is no compulsion in Islam as stated in Q(2:256) so we should encourage and not force. Threatening people with Jahannam encourages people to seek solace elsewhere.
People embrace religion at different rates so it’s important to respect people’s pace and journey. One should be the best human (one who treats others with kindness and love) because its the surest way to Jannah. Regardless of how religious one looks (hijabite, niqobite, scarfite, capite and people with uncovered head), only Allah knows who is worshipping him.
Alhamdulilahi for the foundation instilled in me by Alhaji Lawal. Insha Allah, I would always show Islam in the best light and tolerate others. I hope you would do the same. ©muslimahsvoices