6 In Living

The Impact of Religious Difference – by Abdul Mateen

Since the fallout of 9/11 ‘beauty’ is a noun rarely, if ever, associated with religious difference. 

As a Muslim residing in the West, debunking fallacious arguments and sweeping generalisations under the prayer rug has become a full time – regrettably unpaid – second job. Extinguishing the fire of prejudice and dismantling stereotypes can be an exhausting task but is one of paramount importance in such a polarised world. At times I feel thrust under the microscope of suspicion; presumed guilty until proven innocent.

Satan rejoiced when Adam (pbuh) came out of Paradise, but he did not know that when a diver sinks into the sea, he collects pearls and then rises again.

Ibn Qayyim (famous Islamic scholar)

I am a fundamentally different, radically unique, and extremely sincere individual who loves to smile in the face of adversity; however the media would tell you otherwise. Whether I like it or not I am commonly perceived as the Other. I have a long conspicuous beard – the kind that attracts a myriad of curious and leering eyes on the subway. My fuzzy appearance becomes a topic of conversation so I take the opportunity to remind people that 5 o’clock shadows have embellished many prominent Western figures throughout time. Did Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg address fall on deaf ears? The inauguration of Obama would suggest not; but the notion, all men are created equal, is not nearly manifested enough in my experience. Some 14 centuries ago, Muhammad (pbuh) informed us that our Lord is one, our father (Adam) is one, and no individual – irrespective of race – has superiority over another, except by way of piety.

The frequently discussed but seldom understood topic of women in Islam has become an indirect assault on the Muslim male; that is to say, every word of commentary on the so-called oppression of my wife, whether general or specific, implies a significant degree of wrongdoing on my behalf, and is ultimately attributed to a religion perceived as inherently misogynistic. Refuting baseless claims is the simple part; upholding good manners and adhering to Islamic etiquette is the real test.

Invite (people) to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good counsel. And argue with them in the best of manners.

[Noble Qur’an 16:125]

I am a firm believer in connecting with people at a grass-roots level. Earlier today I went to the city with the intention of providing clarity on common misconceptions enshrouding my religion. I assembled a small table and displayed a placard which poses the question, what do you really know about Islam? I spent the afternoon engaging with numerous individuals and enjoyed some fruitful discussions. I was approached by a young lady who was keen to learn more about the treatment of women in Islam. After citing copious examples including renowned British journalist Yvonne Ridley – a Taliban prisoner who converted to Islam after the kind treatment she received in captivity – the young lady smiled and conveyed her gratitude.

In an authentic hadith narrated by al-Tirmidhi, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said “…the best of you is the one who is best to his wife.”

It deeply saddens me to discover there are some people who are genuinely surprised when they meet a Muslim man capable of holding a constructive and civil discourse; almost as tho they anticipate an aggressive medieval figure wielding a sabre. I can assure you that the closest I have come to blood-thirsty behaviour was vehemently opposing those who describing the Twilight series as a literary phenomenon.

In an authentic hadith reported in Sahih Al-Bukhari, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said; The strong is not the one who overcomes the people by his strength, but the strong is the one who controls himself while in anger.

This is not a thinly-veiled attack on the Western world. This is not academic penmanship grounded in objectivity; This is not an excusatory or apologetic piece on behalf of the ummah; This is, simply put, the modest expression of one Muslim man influenced by a unique set of circumstances and experiences; This is the beauty of difference.

About the Writer:

Abdul Mateen is a 26 year old hajji (title given to a Muslim person who has successfully completed the pilgrimage to Mecca) who currently resides in Melbourne, Australia. Abdul has a business degree in Marketing & Management and is certified in the field of Islam da’awah. Abdul currently delivers lectures and works closely with the AMSSA (Australian Muslim Social Service Agency).

Read more from The Beauty of Difference series:

Undifference – exploring my disability

The beauty of difference

Religious Difference

  • Roy A. Ackerman, PhD, EA@Cerebrations.biz
    October 28, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for an informative piece. Glad to meet you.
    Salam Aleikhem.

  • Tambre Leighn/coaching by tambre
    October 28, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    Absolute poetry. Thank you for sharing your experience as well as the energy you put into educating others. It is understanding and compassion that breaks down walls, not assumptions. Really beautiful post.

  • Penelope J.
    November 10, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Beautifully written piece that highlights the difference, the uniqueness and also the similarities of Islam vs. our Western way both of viewing it and understanding it. I went into the link to Yvonne Ridley and found her blog fascinating. Both here and there, I found insightful POV’s that help me and would help others to understand Islam more. Except, I fear, that this will fall on many deaf or uncaring ears. Too many Americans especially tend to regard unknown cultures and Islam, in particular, with either doubt or fear or dislike, and are unwilling to change their views or even consider/look at the other side.

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