Sunday, January 25, 2009
We're not so different after all- a mind riveting interview of Peter Sanders, Famous British Convert to Islam
As a young Muslim living in this modern world filled with hate,distrust,suspicion and misunderstanding for Islam, I have always been excruciatingly hassled by questions like "If you are a non Muslim-although it does not make sense to the essence of Islam-regardless of your deeds(good or bad)does it mean you will end up in hell?" Something was wrong.
Then the other question that hassled me was "Will I never be a good enough muslim if because of the way I was brought up, could not pray complete all the religious duties specified in Islam like praying 5 times a day and wearing the Hijab?" The second question haunted me like a nightmare and made me feel as if no matter how good I was in terms of deeds, no matter how kind I was to people according to the hadith of the Holy Prophet or the Quran, if I faltered and fell short of flawlessly observing prayers or wearing the Hijab, I would never be a true muslim in the eyes of God. I love Islam and believe in God but sometimes questions like these that conflict with the very essence of Islam tear at my heart and soul constantly.
It is due to the inefficiency of jurists, the general consensus and lack of knowledge and intellectual think tanks that ordinary muslims like me who try very hard to implement Islam into our daily lives are discouraged...being made to think we'll always be stuck as 2nd class Muslims. Because they made us believe outward appearances were more important, dogma ran rampant and overly critical hypocrites expounded the belief that there is only one category of Muslims-a very narrow one.
Whoever fell outside of that ambit was disqualified. It is indeed the root cause of consternation and confusion when the very people who are supposed to uphold Islam do not understand how to interpret and apply those rules in a reasonable manner into daily life.Having said that of course I'm not trying to justify my lack of diligent religious observation. On the contrary I'm just trying to give myself breathing space and improve without being condemned through absolutes, what Islam ordains that our forgiving God would do...
The following an interview of the world famous Muslim photographer Peter Sanders(a British man who converted to Islam at the age of 24.Before that he used to photograph the great rock stars of the 1970s)is like heaven sent balm to my troubled heart and makes me belief that there is more than one way to be a good Muslim,co-existing in Peace and Respect with non-Muslims...
Q: DO YOU COME ACROSS A LOT OF INSTANCES WHERE CULTURE SKEWS RELIGIOUS INTERPRETATION?
A: That's been one of the biggest problems in England. People have totally mixed up culture with religion that even they don't know what Islam is. We have people that think you have to be Pakistani to be Muslim. They said that to my daughters at school. "You can't be Muslim, you're not Pakistani."
I'm not talking about a certain sector, and it is in these sectors where you've got all the kids that are so confused.
You have people who justify stealing from the government; they will lie to get welfare benefits, and say," Well, they're not Muslim so I can do it.
I read an amazing article, written by a friend called " Who is the unbeliever?" and he started the article with: "I know many Muslims who behave and do things totally against Islam and I know many non Muslims who act like Muslims."
His take on the belief that non-Muslims will go to Hell:
He observed that the word "kafirun"(non believer) is bandied around and the belief is that non Muslims go straight to Hell. He says some scholars say that's not true; YOU HAVE TO BE PRESENTED WITH ISLAM PROPERLY. THEY HAVE TO HAVE A REALLY SERIOUS EXPLANATION AND UNDERSTANDING ABOUT WHAT TRUE ISLAM IS,WHAT PROPHET MUHAMMAD WAS LIKE.IF THEN THEY REJECT IT, IT'S UP TO ALLAH.'
BUT IF THEY MET A MUSLIM AND THAT MUSLIM DID SOMETHING TERRIBLE LIKE CHEATED OR STOLE FROM THEM,HOW WOULD YOU SAY THAT THEY ARE GOING TO THE FIRE BECAUSE THEY DIDN'T ACCEPT ISLAM?
On why he retained his British name even though he converted to Islam:
When i became a Muslim I was given another name( Abdul Adheem). And I kind of used it and was proud of it. THIS IS FINE IF YOU LIVE WITH MUSLIMS;BUT ONCE YOU GO OUT INTO THE WORLD,USING THOSE NAMES CAN BE VERY OFF PUTTING TO PEOPLE BECAUSE IT PUTS A BARRIER BETWEEN YOU AND THEM.
On the belief that external appearances or proof that you are Muslim dictate whether you will go to Heaven or Hell:
Muslims now are very obsessed with EXTERIOR THINGS. THAT'S WHY AS MUCH AS I REALLY RESPECT THE HIJAB AND WOULD LIKE TO SEE PEOPLE IN IT, I GET WORRIED IT WILL BE THAT,IF YOU WEAR A HIJAB OR HAVE A BEARD, YOU'RE DEFINITELY A MUSLIM.
It can't be just that, it has to be something on the INSIDE. It's about the INWARD CHANGING. If it's the outward it's easy because someone could just dress up and that makes them a Muslim? NO! It's the inward transformation.
There is a tendency now with Muslims to push ISLAM DOWN PEOPLE'S THROATS. BUT YOU CAN'T FORCE PEOPLE TO BECOME MUSLIMS. PEOPLE BECOME MUSLIMS BECAUSE YOU'RE INCREDIBLY GENEROUS AND KIND AND COMPASSIONATE AND LOVING AND THEY GET DRAWN INTO IT BECAUSE OF THIS.
His take on what constitutes a person who has Iman(faith) and is a Muslim:
Why wasn't I a Muslim before? It gets defined when you become a Muslim. I had iman(faith) BEFORE I HAD ISLAM. People think that YOU GET ISLAM AND THEN YOU GET IMAN. But I think Westerners have Iman. They just haven't found Islam.
Q: ISLAM IS NOT ALWAYS PORTRAYED IN A POSITIVE LIGHT. IS THIS BECAUSE SOME MUSLIMS ARE NOT DOING A GOOD PR(PUBLIC RELATIONS)JOB?
A:Yes. You can't say " Islam means Peace and then go out and bomb the hell out of people. You can't say we're religious, pray 5 times a day and fast all Ramadan; and then try to cheat the Government and be horrible to everyone else who is not Muslim.