Bismillah Rahman ar-Raheem
Firstly I wanted to say a little “hello” to all the people that have been reading, liking and following what I have been writing. Thank you for reading! Funny to think someone out there might have an interest in hearing about my quiet desert life and theological musings. This blogging world is very new to me, and starting my blog has been most interesting. I have very much enjoyed discovering people’s varied & engaging blogs.
Following a recent “conversation” with a born Muslim (ansarallah) I would like to write a series of posts about one aspect of my journey into Islam and about how Allah softened my heart to Islam through the actions of born Muslims.
Born Muslims receive a lot of criticism, and no doubt there is a lot of room for improvement in the Ummah.
However, there is a lot of (read between the lines: more : D) room for improvement in the non-Muslim world too…
As a non Muslim I had no idea what the standard was (for Muslims). When I was first exposed to Muslims, the people I met impressed me, because their grace and manners were so much “better” than what I was accustomed to from my background.
I don’t want to lecture anybody or try to teach anybody anything because I am far, far from perfect. I have some knowledge about our Deen, but there is a vast ocean in room for improvement!
I would like to share some of the positive experiences I had before I became a Muslim because Insha’Allah, the born Muslim can feel encouraged and understand how the smallest actions on their part can affect another person positively. Then for all you know Allah may then lead that person to revert to Islam, Al-hamdulilah.
There is an English saying:
actions speak louder than words
While the things that happened were not the be all and end all of my reversion. They made me interested in the people, and made me as an outsider view the Muslimeen positively. I see these experiences as little seeds that Allah sowed in my heart in preparation for my reversion.
Travels in Indonesia
I was 17 yrs old and I had left the UK to travel alone. Spiritually I was rather lost, but sincerely seeking answers.
I had rejected Christianity about a year before (practicing Christianity for about 3 years before that). I had had a moment of epiphany in the school Chapel.
While reciting the Creed (as we did every morning) I suddenly realised I no longer believed what I was saying. From that moment I stopped saying it. Interestingly, I did continue to say the ‘Lords Prayer’ when I was trying to connect with God.
After I finished school I went travelling. First to India (my choice) for 6 months, then to Indonesia to meet with my Mother (her choice because she had just reverted to Islam, Al-Hamdulilah). While in India I was volunteering at an Ashram/ Orphanage and then travelling. I spent a lot of time learning about Hinduism and Buddhism, and I was full of lots of “spiritual” but anti organised Religious sentiment.
My thinking at that point in my life was:
From what I know about all the Religions I have researched, all Religion seems to contain some kind of core inner ‘truth’ which is the same in each Religion plus a lot of variance and human made corruptions as padding. Therefore, all Religions are the same (corrupted with the same core truth). Therefore, I can follow any Religion, or no Religion at all, it is inconsequential. My assumption at that time of my life was that Islam was an organised Religion and therefore will have the same corruptions as Christianity and Judaism.
Any Muslim reading this should find that outlook really interesting. Of course the only Religion I had not researched was Islam, and of course once I did research it, I was amazed to discover what Islam says about the very same subject.
I have digressed.
My mother and I were in Indonesia and had boarded a very dodgy Ferry boat (think overloaded, not enough lifeboats, sputtering engine etc), after a long bus journey through rain-forest and what looked to me like a awful lot of illegal logging. We were not feeling that positive about the journey to our destination. Even discussing our plan of action in case the boat capsized.
The murky river water and skies heavy with rain, swirled around us.
We had taken our seats in the Ferry and I had an older man of perhaps 45-50 yrs on my right, my Mum on my left, and my Mum was sitting next to a younger man maybe in his early twenties.
Somehow along the way I got talking to the man next to me. He was a Muslim professor teaching in a University and while we were talking together, the subject of Religion came up. We had a really positive and interesting conversation about our respective beliefs.
So what impressed me about him? Well I had come from a very evangelical Christian church, and I was used to Religious people. I also somehow had a knack of attracting the Religious “nuts” that loiter on train stations, and in public places trying to “con”vert people. I loved to debate so I usually told the “preachers” I came into contact with, that I was an Atheist or a Pagan. That would really set them off, which I thought was funny.
This man however, was genuinely interested in what I thought. He listened, digested and responded in a thoughtful and sincere way. When I expressed my views he did not start telling me I was going to hell (which the Christians did, and didn’t work with me at all), and he didn’t get all “preachy”.
I remember clearly saying that I had decided all Religions were at core the same, but with corruptions. I also remember that he agreed with me. What I now wish he had said to me at that point was Islams position on this very topic, because it would have astonished me, but he didn’t.
However, Allah(swt) is the best of planners and I conclude I was not ready to hear that yet.
This man didn’t judge me, lecture me or reject me.
His attitude towards me actually had a very profound positive affect on me, and I really hope any Muslim out there engaging in Dawah can bear this in mind. Very often people are stubborn in their beliefs and it is only gentle actions and through the experience of seeing someone practice Islam which slowly add up and affect a person.
Talking about this point reminds me about a story I heard from the life of Mohammed(pbuh). I have no idea the correct reference and would really love to know it if anyone does. It is described how there was a Jewish lady who would insult and throw rubbish at prophet Mohammed(pbuh) when he walked past her house on the way home everyday. He tolerated her bad behaviour. Then one day she wasn’t there. He went to her house to see if she was okay. She was really sick. He asked to come in and went to ask her about her health. When he did that, despite how she had been treating him everyday, she realised that he was a prophet of God and reverted to Islam. SubhanahAllah. This is a wonderful example of actions having a greater affect than actual preaching.
After our talk on the Ferry, this man went on to invite my Mother and I to his house to stay with him, his wife and daughters.
His offer of kindness – of hospitality – is the moment that a lot of travellers rave about & wish for.
The chance to stay with locals. To make a connection with the place and people.
Many travellers even seeking out ways to get “invited”. There is a responsible travel post on this subject but not today!
At this point I would like to say when you are in your home town and you see a tourist – how many of you out there stop and have a genuine and sincere conversation with the person let alone invite them to your home to stay, and give them a meal (plus add in to the mix that you are stretched for money)? I need not answer that.
We were treated with respect, tolerance and welcome. The family had no other motivation in inviting us other than they wanted to please Allah. No request for money was made, nothing inappropriate happened. It was pure and simple. Humans connecting. He saw us as people – human -bani Adam. Then when he treated us that way, we saw him and his family as people – human – bani Adam.
We no longer saw them as a collection of strangers to be observed.
When you travel you are an outsider, a stranger, observing people and places strange to you but for the short time we spent with him and his family we were part of a family.
To be continued…..
Subhana Allah (glory to God) the world is a wonderful, fantastical place.