The Beauty of Difference

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 living in the West, debunking fallacious arguments and sweeping generalisations has become a second job.

Extinguishing the fire of prejudice and dismantling stereotypes is an exhausting task but 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’m 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.

I am commonly perceived as the Other.

I have a long beard that attracts a myriad of curious and leering eyes. 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?

Fourteen 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 through piety.

The often discussed but seldom understood topic of women in Islam has become an indirect assault on the Muslim male, with the commentary on the so-called oppression of women, whether general or specific, implying a significant degree of wrongdoing. It is ultimately attributed to a religion perceived as inherently misogynistic. Refuting baseless claims is simple; 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 intending to provide clarity on common misconceptions shrouding my religion. I assembled a small table and displayed a placard that asked, what do you really know about Islam? I spent the afternoon engaging with many people and enjoyed some fruitful discussions.

A young woman keen to learn more about how women in Islam are treated approached me. 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.”

I am saddened to find there are people still surprised to meet a Muslim man capable of holding a constructive and civil conversation. Almost as though they expect an aggressive medieval figure wielding a sabre. I can assure you the closest I’ve come to blood-thirsty behaviour was opposing those who describe 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.

Neither is it an accusatory or apologetic piece on behalf of the ummah. Simply put, it is a modest expression of a Muslim man influenced by a unique set of circumstances and experiences; This is the beauty of difference.

About Abdul Mateen

Abdul is a 26-year-old hajji* who resides in Melbourne, Australia. Abdul has a business degree in Marketing & Management and is certified in the field of Islam da’awah. He currently delivers lectures and works closely with the AMSSA (Australian Muslim Social Service Agency).

*hajji: the title given to a Muslim person who has completed the pilgrimage to Mecca


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