Shame has superb manipulative power, yet it probably remains the most destructive among all tactics we use to influence others. When a whole generation has been raised into religiosity using the flock of shame and intimidation, you can expect the worse to emerge as a result. You will end up having a whole herd of religious zombies and vampires who only thrive on the flesh and blood of others. Judgmental, negative, and full of anger and shame such so-called religious folks can only see religiosity in terms of enmity, judgment, and punishment.
The heart of Islam is love. The very concept of worship essentially means love as clearly stated by Ibn Taymiyyah among other great scholars. The spirit of Islam is so beautiful and heart-warming. However, when external actions are induced by a deep sense of shame and intimidation, the beautiful essence of Islam is profoundly compromised and violated. Empty simulations of good deeds are not the same as good deeds. They are a fake replica. When a whole generation is raised with the impression that what matters is the external simulation of actions, be ready to deal with hypocrisy and forgery in their ugliest face.
Behaving like a kind person is not the same as being kind. Showing interest is not the same as being interested. Similarly, praying is not the same as being in a state of Prayer. I can almost hear that voice inside you saying so I shouldn’t pray unless I get into this state of Prayer? Well, this is the voice of shame inside. I simply said they are not the same. And this is the point you should try to grasp before you think of any further implications. The Prayer is a holistic experience. And so is kindness and interest. They are not merely external demonstrations or lip service. The inability to see the difference is pretty much a product of a culture contaminated with shame to the bone.
When a culture equates externalities to the real thing, its members will live on the fringes and experience life merely as a shadow. Life becomes more of a show game and ethics will turn to mere slogans while they are being violated at all levels.
You often meet people who claim the highest level of religious purity and spiritual piety yet when you come close enough, you find them toxic. You can read more about those monsters here. They are careful to the point of perfection in performing external actions yet can commit major sins that are subtle without a blink of hesitation or regret. This is a mindset of hypocrisy that is heavily focused on the visible aspects of religion while leaving the more important inner actions to last place.
Such examples are products of what I call Shame-Induced Religiosity. It is not genuine love and devotion to Allah but a psychological defence mechanism that only mimics a chosen form of religiosity in its external manifestations.
What is Shame?
Shame is a state of mind wherein a person sees himself as flawed and defective. One sees herself as as essentially evil and should strive to abandon that nature by means of wearing a righteous garment of external actions. A shame-filled person sees themselves as filth that they need to abandon. They believe they should pursue a state of goodness that is alien to their original nature. Thus one needs to beat himself down and condemn their thoughts and inclinations while adopting an external model of religiosity and righteousness. This leads to the idealization of role models to the extent where some divine qualities are subtly conferred on them.
This culture produces two types of religious people: those who are overly humble (actually humiliated and ashamed), and those that are very judgmental and critical of others in a way that makes them live in a warfare of religious persecution and retribution.
Being in the company of anyone who suffers from this condition is a heart-sickening experience that I personally do not wish on my enemies.
There are individuals who exhibit both features. They are timid and meek among other more aggressive counterparts. And among other innocent people they turn into wolves bullying people around because they are part of the “religious crowd.”
Why is This a Serious Matter?
Worshipping Allah is the heart of this life and the ultimate mission in life. When a counterfeit version of this mission is forced onto our generations, the real meaning of worship is lost and a fake simulation of it takes its place in the hearts and minds of those seeking the path to Allah. This comes with countless problems and serious consequences. The essence of worship seems absent from what is actually a mere mimic of its external form. In order for this external form to exist without the true essence, manipulative and coercive methods are used to bully people into this external garment. Such methods lead only to rotten hearts and pour souls. They create a bubble effect rather than the real Eeman Allah wants for humanity. When loyalty is wrapped around this futile facade, those who call people to the real thing are labeled as blasphemous and deviant. They are depicted as enemies who deserve inhumane treatment.
Such an approach to religiosity will only create hypocrisy and monopoly. People will be keen to perform acts of worship to the level of external perfection while compromising on more important aspects of worship and religiosity that are more abstract and subtle. For example you will find a person who is obsessed with performing the Prayer in exact details as prescribed and he would tell off others who fail to reach that level, yet he finds it fine to slander or backbite someone he disagrees with. Or you will find his heart full of jealousy and contempt for another Muslim.
You will find someone who sees it a great sin to fail to wear so-called Islamic clothing while he has no sense of Tawakkul on Allah whatsoever. Rather you find his heart is full of doubts and questions about the Qadar and wisdom of Allah. And on and on goes the list.
Such people appoint themselves as the ultimate judge. They ascribe to themselves religious infallibility in a passively aggressive way, and strip everyone who doesn’t agree with them from religious merit. They give themselves the right to judge peoples’ actions and intentions while their sick self vanity hides behind such an attitude. It is a proper bullying game but in the name of religion.
Some of the Outcomes of Shame-Induced Religiosity
Such an approach to Islam produces very weak Muslims. The way they relate to Islam will only be either purely dry intellectual endeavours that are free of any spiritual nature, or a controlling attitude that turns them into religious police, or by hiding and shaming themselves to sickening levels that hold them from functioning as healthy human beings.
These products will end up falling into one of the following categories of people: dry intellectuals who deems Islam merely as a subject for debate and intellectual ability, or the extremist who will pour anger to the external world in the name of Islam, or the timid person who is disconnected from society and real life.
Among these three types of people you will find today those who are leaving Islam.
Muslims in the West today struggle with this problem. If we are to raise more confident and practical generations, we must offer them a proper introduction into Islam than mere control and intimidation. Shame takes human beings to the darkest places within. Islam thrives on loving Allah and having a healthy fear of Him.
If you have any thoughts or question on this topic please share them by commenting here. And if you know someone who may be able to relate to this subject feel free to share it with them.