Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Any Mistakes Are Made By Me Alone, Not By My Religion"

Assalamu Alaikum

A wonderful Brother on my Facebook page:, sent me a link to the article I am going to share with you below.  I really love reading about experiences such as the first time a person visits a mosque, or meets and befriends a Muslim.  After reading this article, I would love to hear back from you on your first time entering a mosque!

This article is shared with you from:


I’ve never been a prejudice person. I’ve always mixed with different races and religions. So when my partner asked me to attend a mosque with him, I was interested. Especially giving the fact that a year ago, he was the type to have picked a fight with a Muslim for simply that, being a Muslim.

What had opened his mind, was working with a group of Muslim’s and a group of Christian’s, in constant (but friendly) debate. Being caught in the midst of these religious discussions and being atheist, he was somehow pulled in to the conversation and decided he’d like to view the way both religions work in order to gain a better perspective. After all, in Britain and today, there is ongoing media coverage over the ‘war’ between British culture and Islam.
What caught the attention of my partner the most, (and not to mention mine) is the fact that all the Muslims he knew, were converted, they were not born into or forced to be a Muslim, they were from other religions or were not religious at all. One individual being in fact so against Islam, that he actually intended to attack his sister’s boyfriend on discovering he was Muslim, yet now, he is sending me messages about Allah through Face Book. The change is miraculous. The change in my boyfriend is miraculous. I had to check out for myself the religion which is so publicly damned, yet seemed to be turning prejudice ‘thugs’, into peaceful citizens.
Friday came and upon hearing I was to be separated from my partner and had to worship in a separate part of the mosque, I was slightly put off and intimidated by the thought, but reassured by one of his friends offering to bring his wife so she could help me and keep me company. I wasn’t fully aware of the reasoning behind this separation, but John told us that when you are in worship to Allah, you’re mind and body should be solely focused on worship alone, yet if men and women are in a mosque together, they will distract each other from doing so, as John put it, “If some girl is bending over in front of you, you’re not really going to be able to concentrate on praying to Allah are you?”- The boy has a fair point.  So at 1pm, we went down to Baker Street and followed the mass of Muslim’s attending worship. Upon entering, I was blissfully unaware John’s wife couldn’t make it until one of the others asked another attending woman, Selina*, if she would accompany me in. I was then ushered off in a midst of confusion and slight panic, but was automatically comforted by her gentle presence and guidance. She was incredibly kind, and said she would answer any questions I had.
On entering the female section, I was asked to remove my shoes (luckily I decided to wear socks that day-I’m not a big fan) and I had brought a scarf which I was very nervous I’d wear wrong, but was told not to worry and just to drape it round my head in any way. This surprised me, because I thought my mass of long curls and swept over fringe would surely offend a religion that ‘oppresses’ women so blatantly according to reports we read in the media. I tried to cover up to what I felt was respectable, without jeopardising my love of fashion and all things indie and punk 80’s. Donning a pair of black leggings and huge oversized jumper which drowned me to almost my knees, I felt fairly comfortable that I was adequately concealed, even though I was the only female out of hundreds, not wearing a floor length skirt.
We walked up a flight of stairs and peaked through a door where I could see hoards of women and young girls kneeling on the floor, but not much else. I was incredibly interested to see what the prayer hall (musalla) looked like in contrast to the many Church’s I had attended through my life time, but I barely caught a glimpse before we headed back downstairs. We walked past a tiled area which had taps and shallow water, and I assume, if I’ve heard right, this is where you can wash your feet, but at the time, I was still too shy to begin firing questions (I have since learnt this is the wudu, where Muslims wash their hands, forearm, face and feet before prayer). We then moved on past the ladies and into a small squared room, which didn’t have a door, just an open entrance, and we sat down amongst a crowd women already in worship. The khutbah (a public address or speech) was seeping through the speakers (spoken by the Imam, who I suppose, is similar to the Christian’s Priest), although I wasn’t aware where they were. Apparently, sometimes the musalla is so full, you have to find another area, like the one we were in, and the prayer is played out throughout the mosque for all to hear. I thought this part would be very strict, and I’d have to sit in absolute silence, confused over what to do next and attempting to pathetically copy my new found Muslim friend.  But instead, we sat down and children played amongst us quietly, whilst she explained that this prayer is said first in Arabic, and then in English, for those who do not understand. This prayer seemed to go on for quite a while, and I felt lost and did not sense any inner peace which I get upon entering a Church. I felt no atmosphere of sacredness or quiet, yet I knew this was mainly due to my bewilderment of my surroundings and my lack of understanding on the culture and religion. If I understood the prayer (even in English, I struggled to comprehend over the accent) then I could focus on that and grasp some meaning. However, Selina went on to continue talking to me and explained what I think she felt was wrongly perceived in Britain, she spoke to me about their reasoning behind not eating pork or drinking, and said that she even researched for evidence behind the claims (Islam believes that pork and alcohol are damaging to the body over the years) and was surprised to find out there is evidence behind their claims (this is debatable according to reports on the net). She also advised me over the so called ‘oppression’ of women and the covering of their body from their wrists to their ankles, but revealed what isn’t so publicly documented, that men also have to dress to portray modesty, by wearing loose and clean clothing that doesn’t reveal their figure. I have since researched this and found the following:
‘Islam requires that its adherents wear clothes that portray modesty. As a result, although many mosques will not enforce violations, both men and women when attending a mosque must adhere to these guidelines. Men are supposed to come to the mosque wearing loose and clean clothes that do not reveal the shape of the body. Likewise, it is recommended that women at a mosque wear loose clothing that covers to the wrists and ankles, and cover their heads with a hijab or other covering. Many Muslims, regardless of their ethnic background, wear Middle eastern clothing associated with Arabic Islam to special occasions and prayers at mosques.’
‘Modesty in Islam is encouraged for both sexes. For the women they can wear whatever they like so long as it is modest. Modesty is outlined in the authentic text of Islam. You can wear Western clothing and be modest. However many Muslims will have different views on modesty. In the mosque however it is compulsory to cover the hair and the body. However there are many Muslim women who do not wear the hijab 24/7. This does not mean they are not good Muslims. Everything in Islam is done by choice. You are not forced to do anything and God is the Ultimate Judge. Intention is the most important thing in Islam. You have to make a genuine intention in your heart when perform any act or worship or good deed for it to be accepted by Allah.’
So just like in Christianity, there are ‘rules’ you are advised to follow, but some do not follow them so strictly. We must also remember, those who follow Islam or Christianity by the ‘book’ so to speak, are devoted followers such as Nuns and Monks, who after all, wear floor length attire that often cover their neck, checks and hair and up to their wrists, which is similar to the way in which Muslim’s are advised to dress, yet not so publicly damned.
Selina also went on to explain how Islam is not so different from Christianity, and that they do not hate other cultures or Christians, but simply, like other cultures, they have extremists who unfortunately portray a hate which is deemed as the attitude of all of Islam, which is not the case. She told me how they do believe in Jesus, but they do not believe He was the Son of God, that instead they believe He was another prophet, and that it doesn’t make sense to say you shall not worship anyone else but God, yet Christian’s are told to worship Jesus (although to Christianity will argue this with the claim that Jesus is God). Islam in fact believes Jesus was a prophet and even believes He will return to us towards the end of the world. I have outlined Islam’s beliefs of Jesus below:
In Islam, Jesus (Arabic: عيسى `Īsā) is considered a Messenger of God who had been sent to guide the People of Israel (banī isrā’īl) with a new scripture, the Injīl (gospel).[1] The Qur’an, believed by Muslims to be God’s final revelation, mentions Jesus 25 times.[2] It states that Jesus was born to Mary (Arabic: Maryam) as the result of virginal conception, a miraculous event which occurred by the decree of God (Arabic: Rab). To aid him in his quest, Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles, all by the permission of God. According to Islamic texts, Jesus was neither killed nor crucified, but rather he was raised alive up to heaven. [3] Islamic traditions (but not Qur’an) narrate that he will return to Earth near the day of judgment to restore justice and defeat al-Masīḥ ad-Dajjāl (lit. “the false messiah”, also known as the Antichrist).[4][5] Like all prophets in Islam, Jesus is considered to have been a Muslim, as he preached for people to adopt the straight path in submission to God’s will. Islam rejects that Jesus was God incarnate or the son of God, stating that he was a mortal man who, like other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God’s message. Islamic texts forbid the association of partners with God (shirk), emphasizing the notion of God’s divine oneness (tawhīd). Numerous titles are given to Jesus in the Qur’an, such as al-Masīḥ (“the messiah; the anointed one” i.e. by means of blessings), although it does not correspond with the meaning accrued in Christian belief. Jesus is seen in Islam as a precursor to Muhammad, and is believed by Muslims to have foretold the latter’s coming.[5][6]
However, when she explained this to me, there was no anger, determined grit in her voice, she was calm and simply allowing me an insight into their beliefs. I never once felt from her that the faith was being forced upon me, merely that I was given information and could freely decide what I wanted to do with it.
We discussed a few other aspects before she had to pray (called the salaah) and at this point, I was advised to sit and watch. I was made to feel incredibly welcome, but did wonder what people thought of a white girl, with a badly wrapped head scarf and leggings, sitting in the corner, not joining in on prayer. I felt the need to explain to everyone I wasn’t disrespecting them, I was just trying to learn, yet funnily enough, these were all misconceptions in my head, and was never once implied by anyone else present. On the contrary, I was welcomed with open arms, especially when at the end of the service, my Muslim friend approached 2 white girls (she called them sisters) and spoke to them briefly, before they came over to me, and warmly hugged me, kissed me and fussed hugely over me with big smiles and honestly, some of the kindest eyes I’ve seen. They explained they both converted to Islam a year ago, although they didn’t know each other before, instead had met through their new found faith. They seemed ecstatically happy, at peace and incredibly willing to help me and guide me. We discussed how they both felt Christianity left a lot of questions unanswered, yet were told to believe and not debate any of these. One also mentioned how she tried Buddhism, Scientology and Spiritualism amongst others before finally finding peace and belief in Islam. We all exchanged numbers and face books, emails, etc and it was nice to be so readily accepted by a group of girls, which I will be honest, is not that often in a westernised society (you’ll more likely to get dirty looks!). I encountered my first issue at this point, a much older woman, with a thick accent I could barely understand, began to get very heated about us writing on paper inside the mosque, asking to see what we had written and telling us to write outside. I later discussed this with the girls, and learnt that this is due to reporters sneaking in on several occasions, and writing damning reports on Islam (at this point I had no intention to write a feature-I swear!). The same woman then spotted my leggings (I knew I’d get in trouble for this) and began touching my leg and feeling the fabric, I think to emphasise the tightness of them or something and demanded I go and buy a skirt from the clothes shop at the mosque. I couldn’t really understand what was happening but my new found friends whisked me away and explained some people can be ignorant and shouldn’t react that way, instead it is a Muslim’s duty to welcome another into their faith, but again, I was more than aware this was the only individual I met displaying such an attitude. I researched into this duty of Islam and have been advised the following:
‘It is the duty of ALL Muslims to convey the message of Islam to all of humanity. It is usually the Muslims who are knowledgeable about their religion who are most keen to help. The ones that do not are usually very ignorant as they are not educated thoroughly in their religion.
Most Muslims know that Islam is a universal religion, meant for ALL mankind. Allah (God) is the Lord and Creator of the entire Universe, and Muslims have been entrusted with the duty of conveying the message to ALL mankind. Alas, most Muslims have become callous to this duty! While accepting Islam as the best way of life for ourselves, most Muslims are unwilling to share this knowledge with those of whom the message of Islam has not been conveyed. This is just through ignorance. The lady that helped you is obviously caring and following what she has been commanded by Allah (God) in the Holy Qur’an.
The Arabic word called Da’wah means a CALL or an INVITATION. In the Islamic context, it means to strive for the propagation of Islam. The Glorious Qur’an says:
“Ah! Who is more unjust than those who conceal the testimony they have from Allah? But Allah is not unmindful of what you do!” (2:140)
Da’wah can be done in many ways but the best way is to set an example by living a life of righteousness, charity, good manners, kindness and humility to our brothers and sisters in humanity.
The Qur’an says:
“Invite ALL to the way if your Lord, with WISDOM and BEAUTIFUL preaching, and argue with them in ways that are BEST and most GRACIOUS!” (16:125)
I am aware that there are Muslims who are dishonest, unreliable, who cheat, etc. And the media projects this as though all Muslims are of this character. There are black sheep in every community. I know Muslims who are drunks and who can drink most of the non-Muslims under the table. There are the ones that hold extreme views that cannot be justified by the authentic scriptures of Islam. However you cannot say that the whole family is bad just because of the black sheep. Islam is perfect in my eyes but Muslims are not.
Any mistakes are made by me alone and not by my religion.
Salaam alaikum (Peace be upon u)’
Myself and the lovely ladies chatted away for so long that by the time we left the prayer hall area, I had 4 missed calls and my partner was waiting for me with a tub of food John had bought me from inside. Apparently, this was all part of the duty to be welcoming, etc. The girls commented he was great husband material and that the men are supposed to provide and care for you and if you wished, you wouldn’t have to work (although I had something to say about that!) He then went to explore the mosque further and I wandered off with the girls who wanted to buy me some books to help me learn if I wanted. All the books appeared very complicated and they suggested they’d send me the books they first began reading instead, but I then turned round to find that John had kindly purchased 2 books for me already, 1 being the Qur’an, and one being on women in Islam. The books equated to somewhere around £25 and I was constantly surprised by the level of giving and kindness I was receiving.
Eventually I said my goodbyes and I left with my partner and is two work colleagues, and discussed Christianity, Islam and random conspiracy theories further on our way to Victoria. They explained how it wasn’t their job to convert us, they wouldn’t hold it against us if we didn’t, but it was their job to pass on the message of Allah, and it was up to us to decide what we wanted to do with the information. They even said, if we became Muslim, it’s up to us how far we take the guidelines of Islam, and he wouldn’t judge us for our decisions.
I left the service, and the guys feeling very knowledgeable, refreshed and incredibly glad I decided to attend. My perspective had increased enormously and I was in awe of the people I met and their kindness. I was almost proud of what I had learnt and wanted to share it, but upon telling others, I was met with responses of ‘Did you check your pockets? They might have slipped a bomb in there.’ amongst many many others comments. An angry debate erupted, but try as I might, I could not get my flat mates to see above their ignorance and just listen to my story.
I suddenly felt hugely ashamed that my culture was disrespecting another culture who had welcomed me so kindly and were doing so blindly. If people were educated more, and gave me a logical argument, I could respect their opinion, but with no evidence behind their accusations, and with such childish comments, I felt very frustrated that this is what so many western civilisations were thinking due to media manipulation. With an estimated 2.4 million Muslim’s living in Britain, surely we’d have some severe issues than we have now if they were all as extremists, as my flat mates appear to believe?
I’m not writing this to convert the readers, or myself. To be honest, I have a love of fashion too much to ever fully follow the religion in its entirety and I don’t feel like I yet know enough about it to make that decision any way. But what I am writing this for, is to bring an awareness to those who believe everything the media pumps out (yes I am fully aware we are the media, but the guys with the power haven’t got to us just yet!) and before making an assumption of Islam, or any religion, culture, individual even, do your research before you believe second hand information. Find out for yourself and make your own decision. It is about time we stopped allowing our Government to dictate what we think, you may argue with me on this, but it happens unconsciously. If they put out certain messages in the media you believe, they have already altered your mentality and likeliness to make an assumption or belief on that information, without actually finding out the truth for yourself.
The UK is fast becoming a mindless nation. Don’t let it prejudice and hate breed any further. We are all one world.
*name protected.
Illustrated by Tom Dench-Layton

Friday, December 3, 2010

SubhanAllah- The Great Outdoors!

Assalamu Alaikum!

I hope you all enjoyed having a little time off, this past Thanksgiving holiday, and maybe even a little turkey!  As an American I truly love getting together with family and friends for dinner and giving thanks to Allah for our time together. This year Hassan and I spent Thanksgiving at a cabin with another couple, in a forest in Oklahoma.  I shared the story of our trip on, another amazing Muslimah blog I write for, along with my two closest friends.  Check it out, you will see some amazing photos of the beauty and nature Allah created and the great time we had on our adventure!

Check out the full story below @