By Ekram Haque,
From time to time, we hear about some Muslim celebrities in India engaging in practices that is akin to compromising their faith. A recent case in point is news reports of cricketer Zaheer Khan worshiping in a temple. There are also several cases of young Muslim men and women marrying spouses from other faiths. This is a serious problem, and the Muslim celebrities in the sports and entertainment world as well as the Muslim youth must be reminded about the implications of their actions.
As is well known, the Muslim testimony of faith – “I testify that there is no god, except Allah” – begins with the negation of all deities and affirmation of Allah as the only God. Worshiping anyone else, whether for political correctness or expediency, breaks this covenant. The struggle of all prophets throughout history, including the Prophet Muhammad (S), was to invite people to the worship of one true God. In the pursuit of this goal, some of the prophets and their followers went through severe persecution, including expulsion from their homelands.
The very first pillar of a Muslim’s faith is to testify to Allah’s lordship with the tongue, believe in it in the heart, and manifest it through actions. Faith without action is meaningless, and action without faith is deficient. It is often the last part where people fall short the most.
The pagans of Makkah had pleaded with Prophet Muhammad (S) to worship their gods in return for them worshiping Allah. In response came a small chapter of the Qur’an completely rejecting any bartering of the faith:
“Say: O disbelievers, I worship not what you worship,
Nor will you worship what I worship,
Nor will you worship whom I worship,
And I shall not worship that you are worshipping,
Nor will you worship whom I worship,
To you, your religion, to me, mine.” Sura 109, verses 1-6
In another famous incident, some of the nobles of Makkah offered the Prophet Muhammad (S) the kingship and wealth of the Quraysh if he renounced his faith in one God. The Prophet response: I will not do that even if you gave me sun in one hand and moon in the other.
Islam acknowledges the existence of other faiths and encourages cooperation with them for the common good. The Prophet Muhammad (S) worked with the pagans of Makkah before his prophethood to maintain a treaty of common goodwill, known as Hilf ul Fudhul. Many years later as a prophet he said that if he were to be invited to join such an endeavor again he would gladly do so.
While Muslims are encouraged to have good relations with people of other faiths, they are forbidden to worship anyone other than Allah. In Islam, there is no sin greater than associating partners with God. The Qur’an categorically states that while Allah can forgive all sins, there is no forgiveness for those who die on polytheism, called shirk in Arabic.
In all fairness, the celebrity world is a study in contrast. On the one hand we have seen some Muslim celebrities engaging in unislamic practices, at the same time we have witnessed several high-profile non-Muslim figures embracing Islam. Cases in point: Kamala Das, Maulana Umar Gautam, Malcolm X, Yvonne Ridley, Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens), Imam Jamil Al-Amin (H. Rap Brown) and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. In fact, there are far more examples of the second kind. These celebrities found Islam to be the self-evident truth and liberator.
So for the Muslim celebrities who have worshipped in temples or taken spouses that Islamically are not allowed to them, it is time to take a fresh look at their priorities. It is possible that some celebrities and Muslim individuals in general may be put in a situation by the non-Muslim friends where they are expected to participate in their rituals. These Muslims may oblige with the intention to not hurt their sentiments. Instead, these celebrities should use wisdom and convey politely to their non-Muslim friends that they cannot participate in any ritual that is contradictory to their Islamic faith. They will not only earn the respect from their non-Muslim friends for adhering to his/her religious belief but also avoid such situations in the future.
These celebrities should learn from the great example of Caliph Umar (R). He was invited by the Christian leaders to directly negotiate the handover of Jerusalem to which he had agreed and entered Jerusalem in 637 AD on foot without any bloodshed or massacre. When it was time for prayer, the priests offered him the Church of the Holy Sepulcher to perform the prayer. Umar refused to pray in the Church, Had he done so, he explained, the Muslims would have wanted to build a mosque there to commemorate the first Islamic prayer in Jerusalem. So, he made it clear to the Christian priests without hurting their sentiments.
In conclusion, life and its pleasure are short-lived and temporary – for everyone. Someday, entertainment careers will end and sports prowess will wither away. The fans they care so much about will desert them. The only companion and helper that will remain with them is a faith they had not contaminated with disbelief.