Last Friday I got an opportunity to bring my FSCJ class, Introduction of Religion to the Islamic center. As a part of curriculum, the teacher wants all the students to visit to the Mosque. Before coming to the mosque, every one in the class was discussing several etiquettes regarding praying and entering into the mosque particularly what to wear and what not to wear, how to behave, segregation of men and women, to touch Quran or not for some of them these things were so daunting and unacceptable. Because the teacher was keep saying you have to be modest in your dressing, you can’t bump men, you have to be very respectful of Quran, and you have to take off your shoes. During that time, I was closely observing the reactions of my classmates and some of them had a big question mark on their faces. Their reactions amazement was unavoidable. At that time I was deeply thinking, is that what Islam is all about? That’s the only impression one can get about Islam. Or I’ll say this is sort of introduction of Islam. Ultimately, my mind was constantly thinking what kind of picture we are portraying about Islam. If that is the only premises of Islam understood by non Muslims then how they will even dare to visit to the mosque. If they are so fearful and lost in the realms of respect and regularities then how they will come to know the real Islam: The religion of peace and fitrah. Not only that, how will they will put their first step in to the masjid to even inquire about Islam. How will they even dare to eradicate the negative feed back by media? As we know only media and so called Muslims who themselves don’t know the true meaning of Islam are their easy source .Anyways, keeping this in mind, I stood up in front of the class and consoled them that no one will kill you if you couldn’t follow the etiquettes. So don’t sweat yourself by these things .After a while, some people were breathing and felt little comfortable. Then I continued that I think we don’t know what real Islam is , the basic faith is to believe in one God, the fundamentals of tauheed .Islam tells you to believe in one God and Muhammad is his messenger. If you truly truly believe that everything is easy for you, everything starts falling in its place. So it seemed that class was absorbing my message. Then I briefly introduced our imam that how he came to Islam and how he reached to the stage where he is now. That was the most striking part for them. At that time I could see their enthusiasm.
Finally, the day arrived Friday prayer came and some people showed up. They attended the sermon and saw everyone praying peacefully. When the prayer was over, they got the opportunity to sit with Imam Joe Brad in the library where he gave the brief introduction of Islam followed by the question and answers session. To my utter astonishment, everyone was quiet and listening through all ears. The way they were questioning in class was totally shifted to a new gear. The theme of their questions from women’s niqaab , hijaab , to date or not to date, oppression of women and male dominance all were vanished after they heard brother Hud’s story of coming to Islam. The one thing which struck me was when some of the student asked him, are your parents Muslim, what was their reaction toward your conversion, how long it took you to learn Arabic. He replied, “At first they were hesitant but when they saw my kids getting up at Fajr and praying so early then they thought there is something behind this religion which make them waking up at 5:30 in the morning. So they didn’t have any objection.”I think that was so powerful for them that after that they didn’t have any further questions. At that time I was thinking, what is that power which makes them up so early, what is that force behind this action, going back to the sermon earlier the same day about prophet Ibrahim and his sacrifice. The words from the sermon were echoing in my mind love leads you to obedience, and obedience leads you to action. Subsequently, i got the answer of my earlier thought in my class what Islam is all about, it’s all about the love of Allah, the nearness to Allah, its obedience and then actions. So the actions were the result. Nowadays, we just keep talking about the dos and don’ts, what to wear what not to wear, how to talk how not to talk. Who to talk, who not to, look into the eye or lower your gaze. All these things are also part of religion but my question is, “Is this only interpretation of Islam, is this the only face of Islam?” No I don’t think so. Going back to the sacrifice of Ibrahim, what made him do those “Love of Allah” .I really think that this key factor is missing in our lives. This seed has not been sowed so how we’ll see the tree growing.
To conclude I ‘d say that, I think I was very much nervous how my classmates will react , what impression they will take from our Islamic center to share with their fellow beings. But my worries were gone when the question and answer session was brilliantly and eloquently handled by our Imam. I‘ll end up with one of the response of my classmate who was the most inquisitive, most curious in my class about Islam. After the discussion, I asked her, “What happened to you, you have so many questions about the women in Afghanistan, about the veiling of women and tons of documentaries you have seen about Islam on Tv. The smile on her face, the contentment of her eyes was enough to show me that the power of faith to change one ordinary white man into fluent Arabic speaking imam, quoting Quranic verses, leading the Ummah, was sufficient for all her unanswered questions .Similarly, it should be sufficient for us.