There have been times in my life as a Muslim when I have had low iman and when I have had high iman.
My iman has been high when I have been around the brothers and been close to the Masjid. There may be Muslims out there who do not need the comfort of the community but I am not one of them. I need the brothers and they help my iman increase.
It is not just that it is good to go to the Masjid because there are more blessings in praying with the group, or that it is good to be around people that mention the name of Allah and try and practice the Sunnah even if they are not perfect; but it is about being with people who have the same struggle that you do and generally the same world view.
When you go to a large Masjid you give everyone the greetings and you are all brothers. Some may not like you because of your background or you views of issues but in general we are all brothers. However, within this Masjid, brothers who have similar interests learn to click. In my younger days I clicked with brothers who shared similar religious views and an attraction to the Salafi Dawah in some stages or political Islam in other stages; but today I would rather hang out with a brother who wants to come over and watch the fight or the game or go to the gym together and really don’t care if they share my views as long as we are on the same team.
In past years I was with brothers who were interested in impressing me with how much Arabic they knew, how many hadith they had memorized, how many suras they knew, and those were all good things; but outside of that we never really got to know one another. Like Tariq Nelson has stated before these were brothers I saw everyday and I didn’t know anything about heir parents, siblings, children or wives. When they wanted to be real, and not put on some act, they hung around either non-Muslim friends or family.
That is no longer the case with me. Today I hang out with brothers who are real. We are honest with each other about our virtues and our faults. They know not to invite me to a class on the Fiqh of Janazah on fight night and I know not to invite them to a lecture on Muslims in Rwanda during the NBA Finals. It is not that we are not interested, we are, but we are no longer robots.
In the past I think we lost our humanity. We walked around in a constant state of agitation mad at one thing or another thinking all Muslims were in a lesser state than us and all non-Muslims wanted to kill us. We had big chips on our soldiers, especially the American brothers and did more frowning than laughing.
These days I know that some Muslims are bonkers and many non-Muslims hate all Muslims (especially on the political-right); but that is not what I walk around thinking about all day. I am more concerned with family, making money, life after a failed nikah, pursuing my life goals, etc. Through all of this I can implement Islam in my life. Back in the day when we talked Islam we didn’t walk Islam, because the deen is more than about quotes and memorization. Our lives were going nowhere fast and falling apart and we didn’t care because we could hang out with the brothers and the Muslim community was all that mattered, and then the Muslim community fell apart because we fell apart. Sometimes we looked for salvation from our failed lives in one glorious act; but the life of a believer is about your heart and soul and not just a commitment to some cause.
What am I saying? I guess it comes back to the fact that I need the brothers, especially when the family situation goes sour, and I am weak. My imam is fragile. That is why it is important to be married to a sister who is serious about the deen; because with no Muslim family, scattered Muslim friends, and living in a society often hostile to Muslims, the believer can be weak.
When we are weak we can run to what we know and what you run to depends on your background. When you come from where I do what you run to is not good and that is why I can’t afford to be alone. I need the reminders; I need the Muslims, at all times.
Sometimes thoughts like this make me think about hijrah, and in the right circumstance economically it would not be bad, but I also have visions of beating down a group of mutawwa in Saudi Arabia, waking up in the middle of the night broke and overheated in Pakistan, asking Turks if they could stop telling me tales of their greatness, and asking Indonesians if they could please speak louder. In all honesty I also think about rotting in some jail in a Muslim country on trumped-up charges per the request of Uncle Sam because of past associations.
At the end of the day, in my financial situation, America is where I am going to be and America is where I love even if I have a troubled relationship with her and am looked at as less than American by a sizable percentage of Americans. So, I am just going to have to deal with it; but what is important to me, more than anything else, is maintaining my deen and as a socio-political minded Muslim engaging in the debates of our time helps me maintain my deen and it draws me closer to my brothers and sisters.