In Arabic, the word human, insan, shares a root with nasiya, meaning forgetful. It is in our God-given nature to forget and fall astray, without Allah’s guidance, wisdom and mercy. This is Allah’s gift to us, His human creation. We forget, we slip, Allah reminds us of Him and our purpose (to serve Him), and we stand, again. This is what He loves from us, the slipping and the standing, again and again, until we meet Him.
Allah’s reminders in the Qur’an often take the form of repetition. The same stories are told repeatedly, reminding us of the trials and triumphs of Allah’s chosen ones. In Juz’ 27 (51:31–57:29), what stands out is Allah’s constant reminder to His blessed messengers, may Allah reward them all with the best of His rewards: “You are not a sorcerer or a madman.” (52:29)
There is much to be taken from this refrain. Allah chose His messengers for their outstanding character that He had placed within them. Their conviction, their faith in Allah’s Truth, kept them going through persecution and degradation. Their stature rose with Allah as it fell with the people. They, chosen above all other humans to receive and disseminate Allah’s message to humanity, held the ear of the Almighty; yet they, too, experienced doubt. Why else would Allah need to tell them, remind them, that they were not crazy? Who wouldn’t question their own sanity when the same people who claimed to love and respect you not only rejected your invitation to Allah’s mercy, but ridiculed you and the message?
Some of us, like myself, came to Islam on our own. We may be the only or one of few Muslims in our families or in our communities. Or even if we do, alhamdulillah, come from generations of Muslims, sometimes our dedication to Islamic faith and practice may be mocked or pitied if our families don’t accept Islam as a full way of life.
The disbelievers asked for proof. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) split the moon. “The Last Hour draws near and the moon is split asunder. Yet when they see a sign they turn their backs and say, ‘The same old sorcery.’” (54:1–2) Prophet Musa (as) delivered the message to Fir’aun, “but he turned his back and said, ‘This is a sorcerer or a madman.’” (51:39) Prophet Nuh (as) warned the people of the flood. “They belied Our messenger saying, ‘He is mad.’” (54:9) Salih’s people, the Thamud, scoffed at him for the very reason they should have trusted him, his familiarity. “‘Are we to follow a man from among ourselves? We would surely then fall into error and madness.’” (54:24) Not only was Salih crazy, to his people; he might also infect them with his madness.
The disbelievers demand proof, though they have nothing to verify their own falsehoods. “Let them produce a scripture like it, if what they say is true.” (52:34) Allah strengthened His messengers with His reminders. “Continue to give warning, for by the grace of your Lord, you are a not a sorcerer or a madman.” (52:29)
These reminders to Allah’s messengers are also reminders to us, the believers, the spiritual lineage of Allah’s messengers. Some of us, like myself, came to Islam on our own. We may be the only or one of few Muslims in our families or in our communities. Or even if we do, alhamdulillah, come from generations of Muslims, sometimes our dedication to Islamic faith and practice may be mocked or pitied if our families don’t accept Islam as a full way of life. Whether it is said out loud or expressed through looks, we may find ourselves saying to ourselves, I’m not crazy. Allah’s truth is real. Why won’t they believe me? Sometimes, may Allah protect us, we may even ask ourselves, Am I crazy?
We may experience doubt when our faith is challenged, whether internally during a time of turmoil, or externally when we go out in the world. I was a college student when I became Muslim, just one month after 9/11. My personal decision became everybody’s business, partly because I chose to wear a headscarf to represent my faith and be in communion with Allah, and partly because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut if somebody was criticizing my religion without facts to back them up. I recognize now that there were times I could have abstained; there’s dialogue and then there’s debate, and my beliefs are not up for debate.
Did I wonder if I was crazy sometimes? Did I ever indulge the debaters and begin to doubt my own convictions, my own spiritual contemplations that led me to my knees before God…
Did I wonder if I was crazy sometimes? Did I ever indulge the debaters and begin to doubt my own convictions, my own spiritual contemplations that led me to my knees before God as the most natural reaction to receiving His Mercy through iyyaka na’budu wa iyyaka nasta’in? (1:5)
Yes, I asked myself if I was crazy. I ask myself that sometimes now. And maybe I am. But not because what I believe is not The Truth, but because I continue to stand in my beliefs as my spiritual ancestors did before me, in defiance of the doubts that creep in and the many, many voices out there that say we are all mad.
What were the prophets and messengers denounced as “mad” for saying? “Hasten to Allah. Truly, I am sent by Him to give you clear warning. Do not set up another god, along with God. I come from Him to warn you plainly.” (51:39) If you are deemed crazy for believing that, then know you are in good company.
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Ambata Kazi-Nance is a writer, editor, and teacher born and raised in New Orleans, LA and currently living in the California Bay Area with her family. She holds an MA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of New Orleans. She is the Senior Editor at Sapelo Square. Her writing has been featured in Torch Literary Arts, Muslim American Writers at Home, midnight & indigo, CRAFT, and other publications. Links to all of her writing can be found here.