Yusuf / Cat Stevens
The striking similarity between the two recently departed Muslim souls, Shuhada Sadaqat (Sinead O’Connor) and Professor Shabir Akhtar, became clear to me a few days after their passing: both of these formidable intellects were equally bold and fearless in stating the Truth as they saw it, and able to nobly suffer the horrendous barrage of criticisms which followed.
Yes, I have stated things which went against the grain on occasions, but the backlash forced me somewhat to temper my outbursts as time went on. Perhaps because I didn’t state my beliefs clearly enough, and allowed brash ‘soundbites’ to broad brush over my inability to articulate the Truth as I perceived it.
What’s upsetting is the fact that the media and establishment which controls and shapes it, is becoming more and more distant from the freedom it claims to champion. How can it be true to the principle of freedom of speech when it continuously leans towards the suppression of alternate points of view? Who’s interest is it guarding? Not the public’s. They rightfully deserve to know the whole picture, particularly if an issue is raised in public view but but is only partially exposed or explained.
It made me furious to recently read an article on the BBC’s website about the impact Sinead O’Connor’s life made on Ireland, without it even once mentioning that the great and influential lady had embraced Islam. She was a Muslim and taken the name Shuhada Sadaqat (literally, Witness/ Martyr of Truth). Barefaced and shameful journalistic dishonesty. That’s what it was. And it regrettably remains so.
When Sinead declared that her whole life she had been a Muslim without realising it, she was expressing the same incredible enigma which I also discovered when I too was exposed to the teachings of Islam – at long last. Not the Islam of journalistic headlines or hearsay; not the Islam as seen through ethnic prejudice, distortion or bias but the Islam which is revealed to the true seekers of knowledge.
Confronting one’s ignorance is not easy, particularly in public, but once it is faced, the experience can be truly liberating.
Sinead or Shuhada, call her by whatever name you wish; it’s the same person! Simply do not ignore the principle reason behind the massive transformation of mind and heart which happens when a person of stature and influence, like her (or myself for that matter), finally chooses a faith to follow, and adjusts their lives in accordance with it.
God never left Sinead, she simply found a path back home to Divine Oneness, though educating herself in the dark with only the light of inquisitiveness within her heart to guide the way. Do not turn off the light and vital attention from her life after she has left us, by concealing the who she really was, what she wanted to be and remembered as.
The only remaining postscript to her life and story is the unexplained mystery, as to how she actually died; Fifty-six is not a common age for people to pass unless it’s for medical reasons. Information which could help the public to understand better the circumstances and causes of her death has been little or nothing. I just pray and hope, when more is revealed, it will not leave further room for distortion, misunderstanding or silence on the part of the powerful press in pursuit of its own prejudicial interests.
As for the late Professor Shabbir Akhtar, may God grant him peace, he was the lone voice that could speak eloquently and with intellect and challenge the media during many moments of crisis. Known for his – sometimes – controversial views, he fought boldly against Islamophobia, and was highly gifted in predicting the trends within the modern world and its impact on the Muslim psyche. In 1989 he wrote that it would be Muslims next to face genocide in Europe. Srebrenica happened not long after that.
He was also extremely articulate in the debate surrounding the Satanic Verses, and was also been highly critical of the Muslim academic’s failed response to technological and scientific challenges in the post-modern era. A bright a luminous intellect and star, which only few were able to have glimpsed during his short period here on earth.
We pray for the families, to find peace and comfort in patience with God’s will. Surely the heaven we seek, for ourselves and for souls like Shuhada and Shabbir, is one and the same, so let’s unite with that thought in the ultimate, undying hope of God’s Mercy and forgiveness/Amen.