Prophet Muhammad once said that the most beloved of deeds according to God is that you bring happiness to your fellow Muslim. Perhaps this is why he also said that even a smile is an act of charity.
So, it comes of no surprise to discover that a group of young Muslims who have adopted anonymity fear of the expected and now apparent ‘backlash,’ took one of this year’s most popular songs,” Happy”, by Pharrell Williams, and re-edited it into a sequence to include British Muslim men and women, with and without head scarves, with and without beards; dancing to the music.
There exists today a considerable dichotomy in Muslim interpretative theology, which stems from a singular point of view that everything is haram unless it has been stated as being halal. All the while, the correct position is the opposite that everything is halal except that which has been specifically mandated as haram.
UK Muslims speak out!
Speaking on this subject matter, Adam Deen, founder of the Deen Institute, who was one of the stars in the video writes, “ Often Puritanicals ask for evidence to deem such actions as halal. The question is based on a false premise namely that 'every action is haram until sharia permits'. E.g of a question, I had someone ask me "where is the evidence during the prophet’s time of the women of Medina dancing publicly?" Completely upside down and leads to absurdities.
This principle is true for ibadat not for anything else. The correct view regarding fiqh of actions is 'Every action is halal until texts restricts ' Thus, the onus is on the puritanical Muslims to find the evidence to deem dancing haram. There simply isn't clear cut evidence to make it haram. It's based on myth and an obsession with sex, women and control. At most a 'difference of opinion' if one wants to be charitable.”
At the same time, claims circulated that the well-known and respected scholar Abdal Hakim Murad (Timothy Winter), the Dean of the Cambridge Muslim College, whose contributions include extensive engagement between the Muslim and Christian communities and who also stars in the production distanced himself from the video stating that it appears improper for Muslims to “jump around in that way, whether or not they are on camera.” These were however inaccurate.
Sheikh Murad has actually said, "I'm delighted to see the outcome of the Happy British Muslims video, which has unlocked a remarkable tide of goodwill around the world, and significantly tilted the image of Muslims among many skeptics.
Islamophobes must be grinding their teeth to see Muslims of different races and age-groups united by happiness. No-one will produce a Sharia argument against jumping for joy! I look forward to working with The Honesty Policy on future productions." Sheikh Murad told a friend of mine.
Is it religion or traditions?
There exists a clear division between traditional conservatives whose interpretation of faith tends to be somewhat restrictive and reflective of certain Arab customs. For example, on the one hand, ‘dancing around’ in certain sufi rituals under the guise that it is a form of worship is somehow acceptable, all the while dancing around to demonstrate one’s happiness is not.
Coining the phrase, “to have spring in one’s step,” if the conservatives are to be believed, I find it odd to imagine that none of the early Muslims would exert such: ‘to walk energetically, in a way that shows you are feeling happy and confident.’
Remember despite the selective use of certain hadith literature, Prophet Muhammad is the same man who told off some of the early Muslims for not having a singing girl at a wedding; that’s right, a singing girl. No one would dare suggest that by having entertainment at a wedding the Prophet was endorsing improper behavior.
But under the guise of protecting ourselves from improper behavior we as Muslims are given a very one sided image of early Islam with a focus on the struggle and suffering, ignoring the wider moments of joy and happiness.
It is true that communities and cultures do differ, as do expectations. For example, I would not imagine such a video to work in countries such as Pakistan. But even in the Middle East we see iterations of this song becoming popular: the Dubai version for example includes Muslims and non-Muslims, in and out of scarves, with and without beards, in various states of dress, from suits to very low cut shorts on the beach.
Speaking from continental Europe, Ferukh Ahmad, a Holland born Muslim professional of Pakistani origin who is heavily involved in supporting the local Muslim community writes, “"I LOVE the video with the British Muslims, the song is all about positivity, being grateful and smiling, you can't hate on that. In the words of one of the best rappers we know, the same who all these hating "brothers & sisters" love(d) and quoted Tupac Amaru Shakur: "Only God can judge me". "
Have we wondered why it is that so many of the most hospitable people, so many of the happiest people are those who do struggle? How then can we focus so much on one aspect, the struggle, but ignore the other aspect, happiness, and ways of expressing happiness?
To suggest as some have espoused that by creating such videos and presenting ourselves as British Muslims in such a way so as to mimic ‘western ideals’ as a response to oriental influences. To those, I would suggest they need to snap out of their self-righteous diatribe.
When God creates a world full of cultures and customs and you chose to reduce your faith to a handful of Arab customs, all the while God invites us to explore the diversity of humanity. It is not those of us who embrace the diversity of humanity who are in error, but those who reduce the richness of the Islamic message.
My only sorrow in this entire episode is that as one of the happiest British Muslims out there, whose efforts at dancing resemble those of Carlton’s from Fresh Prince of Bel Air, that I wasn’t involved. But for those who were, may God bless you for showing that while so many Muslims would have us believe that conservatism is what we crave, that in reality, the wider Muslim community is indeed, Happy; as stated by another star from the show, writer-journalist Myriam Francois-Cerrah, who said “I took part, Because I’m happy.”