The phrase “American Muslim Split Personality” concerns a double standard in our behavior. It is not unique to us, the American Muslim, nor is it a new issue. The wives of prophets Nuh [Noah] and Lut [Lot] lived by double standards; and so did one of the sons of Nuh.
I have named it the “double standard game.” It can be divided into two categories: nifaq al-‘amal, hypocrisy of deed or action and nifaq al-i’tiqad, hypocrisy of belief. We are concerned with the former only. The latter is the hypocrisy that leads to the fire: those who are insincere concerning their belief in the shahadah. Praise be to Allah we are not guilty of this, and I am, categorically, not implying this for us.
Nonetheless, every human being has the potential to be very good, even angelic, or not be good and even satanic in certain instances. This duality may be found in various types of people: scholars, imams, professionals, men, women, educators, students and more. We probably have observed and know some people, for example, who interact well and have good behavior with their friends and peers but behave poorly and disrespectfully toward their parents. Some of us advise people to do good things but we may not do those very same things ourselves. There are Muslim men who may not converse with Muslim sisters in our gatherings – even to the point of not saying ‘as-salaamu alaykum’ – but they will engage in social conversations with women at work, go to lunch with them, or even flirt with their female co-workers. Some Muslim sisters may not return salaams to their Muslim brothers but will cheerfully return greetings to their male co-workers. Indeed, there are Muslims who are too shy to say ‘as-salaamu alaykum’ to other Muslims in their work place. It may be argued that since we as Muslims do not control our work environments or have authority within them, we should follow the norms of courtesy. However in our own Muslim community gatherings, we control the environment; therefore, we can maintain the proper Islamic atmosphere and etiquette. This argument is erroneous.
One may question, “Who says that exchanging salaams or conversaton with the opposite sex is haram?” My answer involves Umar ibn al-Khattab (ra) who spoke to Sawdah (ra), one of the wives of the Prophet (pbuh). Sawda (ra), the daughter of Zam’ah, was heavyset and thus easily recognizable. Once, after the hijab was prescribed, Umar (ra) saw her walking and said to her “O Sawdah we can easily recognize you.” Indeed, he spoke directly to her. Is there anyone of us who has the taqwa and the knowledge of Islam anywhere near that of Umar (ra)? The knowledgeable among us are aware that Ali ibn Abi Tablib (ra) asked ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab’s permission to talk to his wife, a woman who was a widow. She had composed poetry about her former husband when they were married. Ali spoke to her about some of her verses. He asked “Didn’t you state in your poems that you would never get married after the death of your husband?” Her answer was “O Abul-Hasan (the father of al-Hasan) you are a man with a sense of humor or you like making jokes.” The point is that the action of two of the greatest followers of our Prophet, may Allah bless and exalt him, prove that it is permissible for Muslim men and women to converse as long as proper etiquette is observed.
I am not comparing us to the Sahaba nor am I advocating for any type of behavior or action that leads to illicit relations. The examples of the Sahaba, particularly the rightly guided khalifahs, are examples that the Prophet, may Allah bless and exalt him, said for us to follow. Muslims are allowed to give salaams and talk to those of the opposite gender as long as they are done in a manner which Islam prescribes. Thus, modesty and courtesy are foremost. Vain talk, flirting, etc. are prohibited. On the other hand, acting in an angelic manner just with Muslims but interacting with others in a bad way or even disobeying Allah when alone is dangerous; such behavior may lead to unpleasant consequences on the Day of Judgment or in this life.
Some of the reasons or causes for bad behavior:
Some suggestions that may help to overcome the double standard game:
Finally, the challenges that we Muslims face today should encourage us to be firm and proud of our Islam. Let our actions – not our words – speak to the people about our beliefs. Moreover, our actions must confirm our beliefs. It is far better if both our words and actions speak the same good language: the language of Ihsan.