A few years ago there was a burst of blog activity chronicling the rise and fall of the Salafi movement in the U.S, this started on Umar Lee‘s blog and even led the creation of a blog, Salafi Burnout, which was dedicated to this event.
Many stories were told in the comment sections and elsewhere. That something created with the intention of bringing people closer to Allah had led to such misery was deeply saddening.
Sadly, some used the events to further a sectarian agenda, preferring to focus on the type of Islam involved, rather then the pain of their brother and sisters.
This year both Umar Lee’s and Salafi Burnout’s carried new stories of those caught up in the movement mentality, but this time it involved the Shadhili tariqat of Nuh Ha Mim Keller and Muhammed Yaqubi.
It is notable that most of those speaking out against the tariqa are women. This is significant.
There was some hostile and indeed misogynistic reaction to these statements, with the familiar tropes of “crazy” and “nafsi” women who weren’t submissive enough.
Also there was the implication that silence is the best adab. Since then, much of the dialogue as moved into sectarian criticism of Tasawuuf and the tariqa system.
Again, those most damaged are being overlooked and the chance for real change is being lost.
For these events are not caused by types of Islam, aquida or fiqh. They are caused by an Unhealthy Group Mentality (UGM).
Some might call this cultish thinking, but the word cult is a loaded one. Most cult are obviously so, from their inception. Whereas the groups named above did not begin with the intention of cult-hood, but became that way through the activities of those involved.
This is why we must be careful to avoid sectarian figure pointing. UGM can develop very slowly and be imperceptible to those inside or outside of the group.
So what is an Unhealthy Group Mentality(UGM)?
Put simply, it is the behaviour and attitudes of any group which is likely to be damaging to those in the group.
How can UGM be prevented?
- Always, always remember that you alone will be accountable for your actions on the Day of Judgment. As you have the sole accountability for yourself, so you should have the final say. Seeking advice is one thing, but letting others make decisions for you is another.
- Allah gives people different blessings, some are visible, others are not. Whatever blessings someone may have, it does not necessarily indicate that they are a good person. Beware of assuming that someone is sinless just because of their status, knowledge or background. Only Allah knows the true reality of things.
- Unless there is abuse or another type of dangerous situation , then any marital problems should be solved by both spouses, together. One spouse talking about problems, alone to an outside party, rarely results in a positive solution. You both are the experts on your marriage, not an outsider.
- Step away from the fatwa websites. Unless you are seeking a solution to a specific religious query (e.g, does using toothpaste break my fast?), fatwa sites can be at best unhelpful and at worst destructive, if not actually dangerous.
This is because they encourage people to put their problems into the hands of people who do not know them personally, may come from a very different culture and cannot get an accurate insight into the situation from one letter or email. Knowledge, religious or otherwise, does not equal wisdom. As consulting fatwa sites discourages personal responsibility, this is a dangerous practice.
- Judge the situation, not the status of those involved in it. If the members of a group have numerous disputes, divorces or other fitna, they may not be as pious as they claim. Look at what people do, not what they say.
- Keep a wide social circle, as this prevents isolationism and help maintain personal perspective.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. Additions and advice are welcome.