Written by Theresa Corbin
Islam is not meant for a specific nation, a specific race, or a specific place. Islam is meant for all mankind for all time.
It can be amazing to see young and old, rich and poor, people from all corners of the world praying together as one, breaking fast together as one big, happy family, and sharing thoughts and knowledge with one another as beloved companions.
It is truly beautiful, and I look forward to this kinship in the masjid (mosque), no matter what city I happen to be living in. And I feel like my home town has a very blessed community with brothers and sisters of great humility and sincerity.
However, I have, in the past seen and heard terrible tales of astounding acts of ugliness that come with the pride of culture or nationalism.
I am referring to any person born into a Muslim family who feels the need to treat converts as if their faith is less valid, always eyeing them as if they cannot be trusted and will apostate at any moment, always excluding them as if they are not “Muslim enough” because they don’t have a certain last name or skin tone (and unfortunately this kind of ugliness is not only dished out to converts).
As many converts have before me, I came to Islam loving the example of the Prophet (PBUH) and his companions (RadiAllahu Anhum: May Allah be pleased with them) and hoped to meet their present day heirs, the Muslims.
I am sad to say that sometimes I and other converts cannot find them. While, I advise new Muslims to be patient and gracious as they navigate the politics and culture of raised Muslims, I do not excuse this kind of behavior.
It must be easy for those who are born into Muslim families to practice, while we converts have to struggle against what feels like the entire world just so we can be practicing Muslims.
Don’t be arrogant, you had no choice in where you were born and to what family. Had you been born in the West to a non-Muslim family, would you have made an effort to look for the truth? Would you have been open to the truth of Islam in the face of all the lies your culture and community have told you about it? Would you have the courage to stand up and say you are a Muslim, even if you were the only Muslim in your school, in your town, in your state?
Perhaps it is the convert that should question the faith of those who claim Islam through their parents and have never had to fight for it. Perhaps it is the convert who should question the faith of those who call themselves Muslims, but only practice what their culture dictates, and then only when it is convenient for them.
No, perhaps not, it is not for anyone to question anyone else’s faith, whether convert or otherwise. Let us leave this to Allah, and we can only know each other through our actions. We will never be able to see what is in each others’ hearts.
BUT Don’t be confused. You may be an Arab, but that doesn’t make you the owner of Islam.
Don’t get it twisted. You may be Asian, but that doesn’t make you the keeper of the faith.
All too often converts come to the masjid to find that it is nothing more than a cultural center. Arabs going to the Arab masajid and Asians going to the Asian masajid.
Brothers and sisters take it upon themselves to become the “haram” police with no manner of tact or gentleness. And for the few fortunate converts that are accepted into an almost tribal clique, the leaders try to impose their own culture (which all too often is confused for Islam) upon the newly converted.
There is nothing wrong with having a cultural community center, but don’t call it a masjid if you are not open to all Muslims. Do not call it a masjid if you are not there to help the Muslims in the community. Do not call it a masjid if you are not there to create a multi-ethnic/cultural, Muslim community.
- Stop asking converts if they know how to cook some dish from your country or dessert your mother made back home. This doesn’t make anyone more or less Muslim. This is your culture.
- Stop telling newly converted Muslims that they must wear the thobe, abaya, or a shalwar khameez, because “this is how Muslims dress”. This is your culture. As long as men and women dress modestly, they can wear the clothes from their own culture.
- Stop grilling converts about their stance on all aspects of politics in the Middle East and “back home”. They didn’t come to Islam as if it were the Democratic Convention. Teach them the religion. Then discuss politics as a separate matter.
While it is true that if you are Arab, you are from the same general area, ethnicity, and you speak the same language (kind of) as the Prophet (PBUH), but did you forget that it was also the same people from that same ethnicity that tried to kill the Prophet (PBUH)?
While it is true that the Asian persuasion boasts the biggest percentage of the Muslims in the ummah. It is also true that in the Prophet’s (PBUH) last sermon he urged his followers to understand that:
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.
Say “Salam” to a new Muslim. Even if they aren’t from your tribe, they are still your brother or sister. Don’t be ignorant. Don’t be exclusionary. Don’t be racist. And the fact that I feel the need to even say this reflects the seriously sad state of the ummah.
Have you forgotten that ALL the companions of The Prophet (PBUH) were converts?
And you are supposed to be the Ansar (the helpers).
Truly think about that. If you have had the occasion to meet a convert, have you tried to help them? I mean truly help them by offering protection, financial assistance if needed (many converts lose everything when converting), your time, and effort to teach them how to pray? Or have you spat out a list of haram and halal, and then just lectured them about how they aren’t “doing” Islam right?
Just like those who make dawah (invite to Islam) and give the message of Islam to the people will be rewarded for their efforts, so too will the people who push folks away and out of Islam be rewarded with a punishment from their Lord for their evil actions.
Arrogance, national/cultural pride, haughtiness, etc. have NO place in Islam. We are all Muslims however we came to our faith, in whatever part of the world we originate from, we are all one community, one ummah (nation of Muslims).
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