Three Key Cues

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

الحمد لله ربّ العالمين و صلى الله على سيدنا مُحَمَّدٍ و سلم. اما بعد:

All praise is due to Allah who inspired the souls of man with that which would purify and protect them and that which would corrupt. May the best benedictions and peace be upon the best of creation, Muhammad, who demonstrated the way to live this life according to the guidance of Allah. To proceed:

In the course of a recent interview a question was posed concerning the perspectives that need to be changed in order for any deep rooted change to come within the Muslim communities in the west. The response came down to three fundamental mind sets of western thought that has pervaded hearts and minds, not only in the west but all around the world. These are three concepts which much be understood and altered, replaced with Islamic perspectives, if one seeks to change the state of affairs in our lives, in our homes and in our communities. As long as problems are continued to be viewed in the same frame of reference, the results will not change, it is in this light that we have named this article:

Three Key Cues

To Reframing our Views

Wm. Halim Breiannis

One could easily point out substituting the various forms of disbelief and corruptions in faith for the pure Truth as is found in Islam as the key starting point. Similarly, one can point out the substitution of living a life filled with willful disobedience for one in which the guidance of the Qur’an and sunnah as a key starting point. It is not that this is incorrect, of course, but rather this thinking falls short for two reasons. First, it fails to take into account that it is often pious, believing Muslims who have succumbed to the mind sets which prevent the deep rooted change that they, themselves, yearn for. Second, it fails to look at the deep seated perspectives that permeate the propaganda launched as a form of psychological crusade against faith itself.

The aim should not be simply to believe and act aright, rather it should be to become agents of change in our societies. If we look at the beloved of Allah (May the best benedictions and peace be upon him) we find that he believed and acted aright and he called his people to reform. One could say, fairly enough, that this was his blessed mission (May the best benedictions and peace be upon him), but we also find this amongst his companions and their followers. They worked, not only on themselves, but to spread the light of guidance. In our time, we see the light receding. Instead of the light of truth being spread out from our societies, from our communities, from our masajid, from our homes – we find instead a defensive stance where there is a sense of accomplishment if belief and right action is found and maintained.

There is a sense of stagnation instead of growth, with convenient divisions so that each faction can blame the other for the inertia. It is this lack of growth, this inability to change, the inability to act as agents of change that must be looked at. Part of the problem is viewing things through the same frame over and over yet expecting a different outcome. If a hamster is running on the wheel for hours, how can it hope to get its food except by first stepping off of the wheel? And so there is a need to reframe our perspectives if we really hope for any kind of deep rooted change.

So then, what are three concepts that must be understood and altered? They are individuality, materialism and freedom. To be clear, when these terms are used in this way, it is in specific reference to the western perspectives of these terms and it is in this perspective that they will be briefly examined.


As for the mindset of individuality, this is the idea that every individual is a sovereign unto themselves. There is a nostalgic sense of the term of a time when Americans were known for their self determination and independent spirit and it is this nostalgic sense that is used in the propaganda to spread this mindset. Sadly, this is not the meaning of its current usage. Instead, when one says individuality it carries more of the meaning that the interests of each individual is more important than the interests of the community in which they live. It is only self interest of what will benefit the individual or bring to them more benefits or pleasure that is to be taken into account and so there is no room for sacrificing on any level for one’s community, let alone the greater good. Individuality once referred to the individual’s sense of responsibility and the accomplishments earned through hard work and sacrifice which helped to define their identity. Today it carries more of a reference to selfishness and a demanding of rights and privileges.

It is in the modern usage of the term that the family unit has been deconstructed in the west so that, rather than having traditional families we find groups of individuals sharing a habitat, each one vying for their independence from the rest of the unit. So much so that there have even been cases of children “divorcing” their parents. So, with the breakdown of the most basic cell structure of society, what do we expect to find within the communities? Neighbors that do not assist one another, do not visit one another…don’t even know one another’s names, let alone family or occupations. And if this is the state of the communities, what then of the society as a whole?

Interestingly, as the cry goes out for individuality, the reality is far from it as there is a leveling of language and culture so that once there was diverse regions within the United States itself, now everyone is shopping at the same chain stores, which carry the same commercialized products; they all listen to the same corporate produced music and watch the same movies, shows and viral internet videos; and so we find where there was once diversity, now there is homogeneity. It seems as though even the social rebels are all alike.

If the Muslims want to find deep change in their own lives and that of their communities this western concept needs to be purified and altered. The Individuality that was known in the past, that which developed in a person a sense of independence, responsibility and self worth is good and beneficial and is part of what it means to have manliness (this is not meant as a slight to our sisters as this is a defining characteristic of strong womanhood). It is the corruption of that that needs to be altered. To begin with, we, human beings are NOT sovereigns unto ourselves, we are khulafa upon the Earth. Allah is the only true sovereign and we are but vicegerents deputed with authority by The Lord and Sovereign of all creation. As such, we are responsible for our actions. Our rights are given to us by the same Sovereign who entrusted us with responsibilities and though we are in no position to demand our rights, we will certainly be held to answer for our responsibilities.

What is more, we were created as nations and tribes, not as individuals. Mankind is a social creature, dependent upon one another. Allah, the Mighty and Majestic says in the Qur’an,




It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the east or the west;

but righteousness is (the quality of) the one who believes in Allah,

the Last Day, the Angels, the Book, the Prophets

and gives his wealth, in spite of love for it,

to the kinsfolk, to the orphans, and to the poor, and to the wayfarer,

and to those who ask, and to set slaves free,

performs As-Salat, and gives zakat, and who fulfill their covenant when they make it,

and who are the patient ones, in extreme poverty and ailment and at the time of fighting.

Such are the people of the truth and they are Al-Muttaqun


And we find in the collections of Hadith many ahadith about the role of the Muslims to aid one another and society as a whole such as the report that the prophet (May the best benedictions s and peace be upon him) said, “The people most beloved to Allah are those who are most beneficial to the people.” And lest someone think that this only pertains to aiding Muslims, do not forget Allah revealed surah Ma’un (107) while the believers were a persecuted and oppressed minority. We are called on to be a people who give and serve society, not a people who have their hands out; we are called on to be a people who, rather than being selfish, understand that the more we help others, the more we benefit; the more we help our families the stronger we become; the more we serve our community, the more we will benefit as a part of that community. We are a people who do pride ourselves on an individuality that holds us accountable for our responsibilities to our communities.


As for the mindset of freedom, it is the understanding that one is not compelled in their societies by political and economic constraints to live under disabling circumstances which limit political and economic liberties. It is that one is, again, a sovereign unto themselves with the capacity to exercise political and economic possibilities. This is the mindset that America was supposed to have been built upon and it is this mindset that makes many nations great today. Indeed, it is a lack of this mindset that has been a source of much corruption and oppression in our world.

Unfortunately, though that is the proper understanding freedom in the west, it has become to mean something very different for most people in the world. It has been marketed as a hollow slogan that has lead to lawlessness and bloodshed. The Mcfreedom of America today is something perverse and diseased. It is now understood as a freedom, not of politics, but of entertainment. One understands their freedoms as a right to shop where they like, eat wherever they like, watch what they like, listen to what they like, and play what they like. On the surface, this sounds good, but when all that is pumped into your psyche is mass-market propaganda to desire mass produced goods, foods, programs, music, etc., a person becomes only one thing in life – a consumer. But don’t worry, you are free to consume what you like.

Add to this the lack of consideration of others and you see the ill effects of such freedoms. People can wear whatever they want regardless of the harms it may cause to society…and the clothes are mass produced and so whatever style is marketed that season, for each sub-culture, you are left with the choice of brand and color, etc.. People are allowed to choose which brand of cigarettes to smoke, regardless of the harm to themselves and others. People have the freedom to choose between a myriad of labels of beer, wine and spirits despite the number of crimes, destruction of property and loss of life occurs while an individual is intoxicated. You are free to give the corporations of your choice your business and you are free to conform to whatever subculture you wish…and as long as you have these freedoms, you will not notice, or perhaps even mind, the loss of political freedom.

This mindset must be changed in the Muslim. In a Muslim nation there should certainly be a level of political freedom but the Mcfreedom is an entirely different matter. Again, it goes back to the Islamic understanding that we are not sovereigns but rather we are caliphs, vicegerents. We are responsible to the true Sovereign, Allah, the Mighty and Majestic. We are free but our understanding of freedom is an ability to move within the boundaries. What boundaries? The boundaries of the Qur’an and Sunnah, the boundaries of the shariah. We are free to eat whatever we want, as long as it is not prohibited in the shariah. We are free to wear what we like as long as it does not differ with the principles of the Qur’an and sunnah. There is a real freedom in Islam, a true freedom as it is governed by Allah and His messenger (May the best benedictions and peace be upon him).

The mindset that the Muslim needs to generate for themselves is one that holds that they and others are free to do anything they want, as long as it is not prohibited by Allah and His messenger (May the best benedictions and peace be upon him). And then, as a person betters themselves they will also choose to stay away from what is disliked in the shariah. And the truly successful will aim, strive and struggle to only choose that which is beloved according to the Qur’an and Sunnah…while not judging others. To be clear, this does not mean that one remains silent in the face of disobedience – this is the boundary at which people are stopped. It also does not mean that there is no advising people to leave that which is disliked, we should want what is best for one another and seek to uplift and inspire. But understand that the freedom within the boundaries of the Qur’an and sunnah is a reality in Islam and it needs to be respected even if others live differently than ourselves. [For more on this, visit “Freedom and a Coming to Terms –


As for the mindset of materialism, it is the understanding that happiness can be had through buying, selling, accumulating and consuming materials goods. It is this mindset that seems to be the new “American Dream” and sadly, it is, perhaps, the most heavily marketed of western ideologies. If only one has the latest smart phone, the newest car, a bigger television or a bigger home to put it in, surely they would be happier; if only only you had more wealth your problems would just melt away – this is what is pumped through lyrics, television, movies, and of course commercials. It is the idea that new is better, more is better, bigger is better.

Despite the fact that attaining the things of our desires is supposed to elicit happiness, materialism seems to be one of the greatest causes of anxiety, discontent and misery. The criterion of a person’s self worth is directly attached to what they own rather than who they are. If a person has an old car, an old phone, etc., they feel, or are made to feel, as though there is something inadequate with them. It is the drive to consume that leads to stress and anxiety, and it is lack of a certain object of desire that leads to discontent. Unhappiness, worry and actual clinical depression are wide spread in the world and a large part of this can be directly tied to a yearning for the adornments of this life.

The problem with materialism is that it is not just a mindset, it is a condition of the heart. The hearts are attached to the products; there is a love for it, a yearning. Did Allah not warn the believers,





Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement,

pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children,

as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller;

afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw.

But in the Hereafter (there is) a severe torment (for the disbelievers, evil-doers),

and (there is) Forgiveness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, good-doers),

whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment.




“Verily the promise of Allah is true

So do not allow the life of this world to deceive you…”


The believers must be on guard. We must watch what we allow into our hearts. But with this, we must also have a clearer understanding of what is occurring. Understand that before you are sold a product, you are sold a desire for that product. You are sold, by the advertisers, to the corporations. You, the consumer, are a product produced by the advertising agencies which earn billions of dollars a year to fatten you up with desire, driving you to the stores, shopping centers and malls. In this way, the consumer is consumed…consumed by the advertisers, the corporations, their desires and then they seem to become possessed by the very things that they now possess. So what is left? More loneliness, more sadness, more of an unexplainable emptiness. And so they seek to, again, buy that comfort, buy that happiness, by that satisfaction and so the cycle continues.

It has already taken its effects on our families and communities. The saying goes, “gain the world but lose the soul” we must turn this on its head. If we want real deep rooted, sustainable change, we must change the mindset to “attaining purity of soul, even at the expense of losing the things of this world.” We should be mindful of what we purchase as well as why we purchase it. Is it something that will assist us in our ultimate journey or is it something that will be detrimental? Frugality is a virtue as Allah has said,


And let not your hand be tied (like a miser) to your neck,

nor stretch it forth to its utmost reach (like a spendthrift),

so that you become blameworthy and in severe poverty.


One of the greatest fears of the prophet ( May the best benedictions and peace be upon him) was “the abundance and beauty of this world will be readily available to you.” It is for this reason he (May the best benedictions and peace be upon him) advised, “Look to those who are inferior (in wealth, property and appearance) than you and do not look to those who are superior (in wealth, property and appearance), for this will keep you from belittling Allah’s favors upon you.”

So much can be said about the disease of materialism and its cures. The aim here however is to speak about reframing our perspectives. The western mindset is the more one has the better they are. It is this mindset that lead to the corruption of the understanding of both freedom and individuality so that it is understood, the more a person has, the freer they are and the more individuality they can purchase. So then what is the alternative mindset? If you expect the answer to be austerity or increasing in giving charity and the like you are mistaken…though these are good and encouraged.

The way to over come this mindset is not with outward actions but by reframing. Changing our perspectives is from the greatest and most effective actions we can take. We need to see the creation of Allah in its truest light – as indications which point us back to Him. We need to see people, and weigh them according to the truest of criteria – according to their virtues and vices, according to their piety and uprightness. We need to judge others, not by the content of their wallets but the content of their character. The way we view things must be principled, based upon our values, our collective values – the values according to the Qur’an and Sunnah. If we look at everything as a manifestation of the names and attributes of Allah, as signs of Allah, how then will we interact with it? If we interact with others, measuring them according to their character, how then will those interactions be? Who then will we choose to be close to? Who will we take as close friends and associates and who will we leave from around us? If we live a principled life according to our value system how greatly will your consuming habits be effected? (Ex. “As a principle – ‘I don’t eat fast food’ or ‘I don’t wear commercial brands’ or ‘I don’t shop at megastores’ or ‘I don’t drink soft drinks’ or ‘I don’t purchase anything that will distract me from my Lord,’ etc.”) When we reframe our views of this world, our fellow man and our own value based principles the materialism mindset can not persist.


There is a saying, “what man has done, man can do.” This is very important. How many times in the Quran does Allah remind us of the stories of the prophets of old (peace be upon them), their communities, and the righteous believers? This stories are not there to entertain, they are there to teach…but they also show that these things have been done. One can, erroneously, point at the prophet (May the best benedictions and peace be upon him) and say, “well he was a prophet, he was different, I can’t do that.” This is incorrect as he was sent to guide us, to be an example; this is why Allah sent to us humans bearing the message and not angels. Still, if one tries to make such a claim, what then do they say about the companions? Those who came out of a state of ignorance, those who changed the world due to their reframing, based upon their certainty in Allah and His messenger (May the best benedictions and peace be upon him)? Change for the better can be made. There is proof. We have examples to follow…but we must follow. Did Allah not say,


“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people

Until they change what is within themselves”


Until we leave off the western way of viewing ourselves, others and the world, how can we expect any real change in our lives, our families and communities? Until we adopt an Islamic way of seeing things, of measuring, of being, how can we hope to spread the light of truth? Deep rooted, sustainable, real change does not come with an increase in outward actions. Rather it comes, along with a manifestation of outward actions, through a healing of our hearts and minds, a rectification of our mindsets, a reframing and purification of our perspectives.

And all success is with Allah alone.


About hvsmrspct

Brother Wm. Halim Breiannis was born and raised in Baltimore, Md.. He accepted Islam in 1996 and has continued studying Islam since that time. Brother Halim has studied with various scholars being a direct student of Sheikh Khalil Majdalawi for ten years and has been a student with the Cordoba Academy since 2011. He is called upon to lecture, teach and act as the khateeb at masajid and universities in the Baltimore area where he continues to reside with his wife and children.
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