I was recently asked, “Where do you get the inspiration to write your blog posts?” To be honest, for the most part, I rarely plan what the conversation for each week will be. My inspiration usually occurs during an epiphanous moment I have in the middle of a casual conversation with someone or when I reflect on an event that has just passed.
Today is no exception. My musings arise from an online meeting I had earlier in the day with members of a small Muslim charity. I believe I was the newest member of the team. I was simply struck by the ethnic diversity represented in that one body of people – from Singapore to Sudan and Ireland to Iran. I was just spellbound! Aside from the main purpose of the meeting itself, I sat in secret awe at how wonderful Allah’s creation truly is, SubhanAllah (praise be to Allah). My mind drifted to how I can see what amazing things humans can achieve if they break down their own stubborn stereotypes or insularities.
As Muslims, we are united by the commonality of our faith. We understand that Islam is the way of life that abrogates all other previous Abrahamic dispensations. We do not deny the previous prophets. In fact, we revere them and the validity of the core tenets of those faiths. What Islam achieved, however, above and beyond any other religion, was to teach that there is no superiority of one race over another, of man over woman, or one tribe over another, except in piety and obedience to Allah. We know this is true as it is a statement that formed part of the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) final khutbah (sermon) during the Farewell Pilgrimage or Hajj. No other prophet had singlehandedly delivered a message that was universal to all humankind.
From my own experience, having married into another culture altogether, I knew I had been freed from the stifling shackles of my own. Aspects of any culture which discriminates against other people based on superficial criteria, such as appearance and social status, is in direct conflict with Islam. Although culture per se as a manmade construct is not inherently in conflict with religion, it is true that the undesirable parts of it have to be weeded out. Weeding is a regular process. It takes constant introspection to remind ourselves not to succumb to our own prejudices and preconceptions.
Upon learning that my marriage did not survive, I heard others insinuate that it was precisely because I was naïve or had too much of a lofty ideal about crossing cultures; I was trying to pretend it was not a contributing factor in the death of my marriage. I take a strong stance against that view simply because I know a good many monocultural marriages that have also not stood the test of time. There is no rhyme or reason to these things. Whatever my own personal story is, I will always maintain that Islam has taught me open-mindedness and tolerance towards others – even those who are not Muslim or of any religious disposition. Faith should not beget arrogance or any kind of complacency. I know it is only Allah’s mercy that keeps me tied to my faith. It could all change in the blink of an eye if I take my finger off the pulse for even a brief moment.
Having lived on both sides of the fence, so to speak, I can confidently say that finding my faith and trying to delve deeper into understanding it, has actually liberated me of so much nonsense in my life. Today, I have friends who are Muslim and of such a beautiful array of ethnicities and colours. I have friends who are not Muslim too and we respect one another and agree to disagree. We all add to each other’s nuanced perspective on life itself. My world is not the distorted and ugly picture played out on the media – of Muslims constantly in a default position of hatred towards everyone else. This is absolutely the antithesis of what I have come to learn and love.
From my tiny platform here, I hope I am heard loud and clear by all that I have learnt to see beauty in all things – in people, in nature and in Allah Himself. I could not have done this had Allah not taught me how. Insha’Allah my voice, with many other rational Muslims, will drown out the pitiable moans of the antagonists, those who claim to speak about Islam without even ever having lived it. Unfortunately, that group extends to even those who stand reluctantly under the banner of Islam because it is a spot they inherited from their parents, rather than earned it for themselves.
Alhamdulillah, I have seen critics of my own life choices finally eating their words. It has been a great test of my patience to have had to wait for that day but I can testify that the fruit is very sweet. And it is not a question of victory for me. It is a victory that belongs to Allah alone.