Monday, August 31, 2009

Thoughts on a lecture

One of my goals during Ramadan is to make good use of my time. Decreasing my time on the Internet and cutting out T.V. has made more time to listen to lectures and read one of the many books I purchased and then shipped home from Kuwait. I watched a lecture the other day where a non-Muslim woman expressed her thoughts on Islam. I thought the scholar did an excellent job responding to the question and found myself amused by how I was able to relate to both the person asking the question and the scholar giving the answer.

The woman wrote in to the Deen Show (a very popular T.V. show in Muslim countries and one I used to watch in Kuwait) saying that she couldn’t understand how people could be Muslim.. That there seemed to be too many restrictions and it was “boring”.

Astaghfirullah (I seek forgiveness from Allah) I can remember feeling the same way when I first started learning about Islam. The scholar explained that there are two main reasons why people fail to enter Islam. Doubts and desires. It wasn’t that I doubted the religion because everything I read and learned made sense. It was my desires that got in the way. For me it was giving up bikinis, my running shorts, and the idea of having to be covered up while on the beach that held me back and made me doubt if I could ever become Muslim. Looking back on that now, I feel incredibly silly. I also feel ashamed to think that I had used clothing as an excuse.

There is a beautiful hadith (saying of the Prophet peace be upon him) in which he said: "Every Deen has an innate character. The character of Islam is modesty." (narrated by Abu Dawood) I now realize that Muslims, both men and women, cover their bodies as a way to express humility. Once we have acknowledged that there is a higher power and our time spent here on Earth is a test and a time to submit to Him, how could one not be humble? One of the most profound things I noticed after deciding to wear hijab was how it impacted other parts of my life. It was as if placing the piece of cloth over my head helped me focus on my speech, interactions with men, how I deal with my family, spend my time and whether or not my actions will count for or against me on the Day of Judgment.

The scholar went on to say that the overall problem with the woman’s question is that she was looking at Islam from the point of view of, “what can I get out of it?” or “how will it serve me?” He goes on to explain that the fundamental question in Islam is, “how do I serve Allah?” He went on to say that once you come to that realization, that our purpose here on Earth isn’t to obey our desires but rather to submit and work to please our Creator, you are showered with benefits and favors that you could not have imagined.

Alhamdulillah (All Praise is due to Allah), this is what I am experiencing now and have been since taking my shahada (statement of faith in One God and that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is His Messenger). The scholar went on to explain that one of the best benefits Islam provides is a sense of peace in your heart. If you know my mother, then you’ve most likely heard her reference the meaning of my name… Rebecca means peacemaker. I’ve always avoided confrontation and looked to be a people pleaser and I’ll admit that those qualities still hold true. However, it is the peace I experience when in sujood (a position in the prayer when one is closest to the ground), hearing the athan (call to prayer), feeling an instant bond with a stranger who also wears hijab, hearing someone say “Asalaam alaikum” (the greeting exchanged between Muslims meaning peace be onto you and) as they pass by on the street and taking that first sip of water and bite of a date after fasting that makes me grateful that I was given the opportunity to exchange my worldly desires for a more peaceful purpose.

Click here if you’re interested in watching the lecture for yourself