At Juma’ [Friday prayers] today I sat/stood behind a bearded young chap wearing a thauwb with a hoodie on top. On the back of the hoodie was emblazoned the slogan “Only Allah to Fear”, if that wasn’t bad enough the typography [font] used was a “horror” font more associated with evil, heavy metal and horror movies than religion.
OK so, masha’Allah, this kid is deen focussed and “fears” Allah and that is good and to display that slogan in a exclusively Muslim environment where the context and understanding of that statement is known and accepted is generally not a problem even though the wisdom of a slogan can be questioned. However, to walk around in public, in a non-Muslim environment, where there is already fear and misinformation/misconceptions about Islam, Muslims and Allah, you have to question the intelligence and wisdom of such people and especially those who manufacture these items.
The two most repeated attributes of Allah in the Qur’an and in Muslim daily life are al-Rahman and al-Rahim – The Merciful and The Compassionate, why pick something that has negative connotations? What is the purpose of such a slogan except to agitate and provoke a response amongst non-Muslims? There is also an element of machismo here, it’s in your face, it’s saying “yeah so what, you want a piece of me, I ain’t scared of you?”, it makes the wearer feel “hard as nails” but ultimately it inflates the ego and using the name of God for trivial matters such as these is something that should be avoided and condemned.
The other issue here is the rendering of the Arabic word “taqwa” literally and absolutely as “fear” without taking into account the nuances of the Arabic is highly inaccurate and highly irresponsible. Some commentators stress that whilst it does connote “fear” it also can mean “being conscious or aware of God”. Hans Wehr renders it as godliness, devoutness, piety coming from the root waqa (wa qaf ya) – which means to guard, preserve something or take good care of it.
Let’s look at it from a non-Muslim point of view: “Only Allah to Fear” – what will that mean to a non-Muslim down the High Street, how will it come accross? They already think that “Allah” is the god of the Muslims, they don’t see Allah as God, they already fear Muslims and Islam and this will compound that, slogans like this will give the perception that “they” are taking over.
The manufacturers of such clothing must think about the affects such slogans will have on the wider community, they will make what is already a bad situation for Muslims worse, these people need to put wisdom and commensense before profit.