Indeed you stand on an exalted standard of character. [ Surat Al-Qalam, 68:4]
I love Muslim reverts. They are the best of all the Muslims because they come to Islam with humility, with awe, with a fever to learn and to practice their Din but most importantly they come to Islam without any hang-ups. They come hoping to find the promised and fabled “brotherhood of Islam.”
My question to all native-born Muslims is: Do you find it easy? Do you freely, generously and consistently offer it to them?
When guests come to our homes, we are very careful to extend every courtesy to them with generosity, withholding nothing. We take great pride in the reputation of hospitality that our cultures and nations have built. This wonderful heritage seems to stop at the doors of the masajid. I often hear native born Muslims say with pride, “Al-Hamdulillah, Subhanallah, ”Look how many flock to our faith. We are truly the fastest growing religion on the face of the earth.”
We boast of this, yet I often see Muslims—who are not of the majority ethnic group—being left quite alone with barely an “Al-Salamu Alaikum,” said to them. They need to learn many things—the very cornerstone of which is how to establish a Muslim lifestyle and identity. How do they get help learning their prayers, knowing how and when to give Zakah, or to understand the Noble Qur’an? Who are they to talk with about the reactions of their friends and family or their day-to-day difficulties in weaning themselves away from profoundly non-Islamic habits and environment? What are they supposed to do when a book can take them only so far? How are they supposed to do this without establishing friendships with other Muslims to support them?
It doesn’t just stop at the newly reverted, but to Muslims that have found their way home from secular upbringings and couples that have crossed the ethnic, racial divide and have a desire to build a Muslim community around themselves and their children. I recently heard a Muslim family friend bemoan the fact that her daughter (an Egyptian) was to be married to an Iraqi, along with other mean spirited snickering about the Algerian marrying the Bangladeshi, or the Egyptian marrying the African American or the Pakistani who is fair marrying the Pakistani who is dark. I wondered why.
If we happily identify ourselves as Muslims first does cultural identity and race take a higher priority than the goodness of a soul? Do we really expect these Muslims to walk up to us and say “Be my friend, please. Can you be my friend with no judgment calls?” We do not benefit our life experience by only allowing people just like ourselves into our personal sphere. Truly, it is our personal loss, yet a greater loss for the Muslim Ummah that we profess to care so much for.
I see mosques that are unofficially designated the Pakistani masjid, the Egyptian masjid, the Albanian mosque, the Yemeni mosque etc. To be fair it is human nature to want to identify and remain with what is familiar and comfortable. It is also our nature to want to feel that we are better than other people. We should be ashamed, not self-righteous, when we do not consciously extend ourselves for no other reason than because someone is different. We turn ourselves into what we do not want to be—hypocrites and the worst representatives of our Muslim faith.
It is these very actions and inaction that causes people not to come back to our masajid, to separate themselves from the Islamic community, to leave their faith for another and it assists in extinguishing the precious light of Islam that may just be starting to shine in their hearts.
There are many hadith that indicate the high place of manners (akhlaq) in Islam. Yet, where are our manners toward each other? Non-Muslims with even the tiniest speck of knowledge regarding Islam characterize us by our manners. These are the very things that Muslims are identified by the world over. They watch us and suppose they should say, “If your religion has not made you a good person, how can it be a good religion for us?” What then is to be our response? This question is made even more compelling when new or returning Muslims ask it.
Does a true Muslim change once this has been brought to their attention? With all my heart I hope so. It is our responsibility to make them welcome, to make everyone welcome when they come inside a masjid. Yet when I look around I see deeply rooted racial and cultural prejudices within the Muslim Ummah, and this breaks us. It breaks our pride, it breaks our honor and we consciously minimize the Muslim experience for us all.
Let me remind you that the practice of division based on color began with European colonization and enslavement that has spanned the entire globe, leaving barely a country untouched. Inevitably, this has resulted in a deep color and ethnic bias that has infested all of our cultures and weakens our great Ummah. Muslim unity cannot begin until this conversation becomes forefront in our masajid, our homes, our intellects and our consciences.
I call on all Muslims to reflect and to act toward those who are alone or unfamiliar. The better of you will stand and extend yourselves by saying, “My name is so and so, welcome to our masjid.”The best of you will say, “I would be very happy if you would come for tea or to dinner or join us for Eid.”
And should you find one who is new to Islam or is trying to find their way back, take them under your wing as much as you can. Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, will reward your kindness, and in your heart you will also feel rewarded. You get the idea.
Our great Ummah is under scrutiny and attack from all sides; can we afford to push away those that would be one of us? For those that say, “This does not apply to me,” think again: Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala, takes note of even the smallest things. I can leave you with nothing better than the words from the final sermon of the Messenger of Allah:
All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; also, a white has no superiority over black, nor does a black have any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every other Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.
Remember, one day you will appear before ALLAH and answer for your deeds.