Written by Brother John Matthew
The following is a story that some Muslims consider controversial. That’s good. Controversy among intellectuals stimulates discussion; which encourages progress.
The time is the 1980s. Smartphones didn’t exist and computer monitors still came in monochrome. The place is the Big Apple. It’s summertime hot; in an area filled with old cookie cutter brownstones, project housing and single family homes; a fantastic menagerie of people, places and income separated by parks and patches of commerce; all wrapped up in a well designed layer of concrete under the vast skyline.
African American, Latino, Oriental, Middle-Eastern and White all rolled up into one super ecosystem of human diversity; that is the beauty of places like New York. People from all over the world live side by side with very little problem considering the millions that live here. I was in my late teens; a whole 125 pounds of lean bone like muscle soaking wet; a homegrown American and as apple pie as one can be. On this particular summer day my life would change forever.
I made my way by foot past various 1950s style brick housing over to my relatives’ apartment which was about 5 blocks from my house. As I was hanging out in front of the complex this young girl caught my eye. Like any normal teenage boy, I did everything I could to get her attention.
From the logical, to the absurd and though she was very reluctant at first, I slowly was able to scratch the surface and I was blessed to get to know more about her. The more I came to know her, the more I fell deeply in love. She was a very religious, intelligent, enormously kind, thoughtful young lady from a part of the world I had barely read about in the news.
During our communication I learned more and more about Islam, (becoming more intrigued and closer to Allah than I ever was) and the people of her land. She worked very hard to educate me on Islam and her culture. We worked very, very hard to convince our families to acknowledge our desire to move forward together.
We tried to do the right thing, though our relationship caused both sides great pain. I cannot write to you that we are together today. Not all great love stories have happy endings. The cultural differences and other highly complex social factors that even now require deep study; were ultimately too much for the two of us to overcome; thus is the will of Allah. After several years of struggle our relationship was no more.
It fell victim to cultural bias. It is until this very day; one of the most difficult periods of my life, full of wonder, joy, sadness, hope and despair. Out of it all, I learned more about her welcoming and generous part of the world, more about love and more about introspection than probably 99% of young persons at the time.
Most of all I became closer to Islam and in fact during our time together I took Shahadah with an area Imam; I became what is traditionally known as a convert.
I am conveying my story to you so that you will know that the advice that is to follow comes from an authentic source. A source that has lived the life from which the advice originates through the will of Allah, with the best of intentions to help you if you should require and desire it. Read it well and take it to heart. Insha’Allah it will benefit you.
“In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”
Allah’s guidance is unending; without exhaustion, without limit.
Allah’s’ lessons can take a lifetime to play out in your mind. It is incumbent upon you as a Muslim to continue to learn from your experiences and use them to grow as a gentle, tolerant human being practicing the faith of Islam. Just as a Doctor practices medicine or an Attorney practices law; do not forget that one “practices” Islam because there is always room for learning and improvement.
Allah’s gifts are not to go unopened.
If you are a person in a mixed Muslim relationship; Muslim in love with a non-Muslim or a non-Muslim in love with a Muslim; Allah has brought you together for a reason. Allah is all merciful and kind. Use your gift of love to become closer to Allah and your love for each other will grow strong; helping you to fend off doubters. Seek out a well versed, experienced Imam and talk to him about your situation. Ask for guidance. Do not and your love will not.
Allah places great indescribable value on women.
Anyone that thinks otherwise is not an educated Muslim. I was personally introduced to Islam through the love of a women. I can think of no higher an indication than that.
You must use your faith to help others.
At some point in time during my experience as a youth, if someone, anyone would have stepped in and took care of our young souls, through the teaching and love of culturally unbiased Islam, I can’t help but think that we would have been able to overcome our challenges. Allah provides us with the tools in Islam, but we must use them well and help those less educated and experienced. Seek guidance from others.
Do not use Islam or your culture as an excuse to push people away or to reject others.
If you think you are better than someone because you are Muslim with a different culture and they are not the same as you; you are arrogant and prejudice. You are ungrateful that Allah has chosen you and not them. Being grateful is to recognize your gift and to make attempts to gift it to others. Use the teachings of culturally unbiased Islam as a platform for communicating it’s beauty and benefits to others who will listen. If your enemy approaches you with arms down, stay alert but use that opportunity to build love and trust and soon that enemy will be your enemy no more. That is real victory.
Insha’Allah this text will help you as you navigate the wonders of this life.
– Brother John Matthew
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