A man told the imam of an Islamic Centre that he wanted to marry a Muslim woman. The man asked, “Can I marry her without becoming a Muslim?”
The imam was curious. “Why wouldn’t you want to become a Muslim?”
The man said: “Sometime ago, I rode in a taxi in a Muslim country. Then the call to prayer came, the taxi driver asked me if I would allow him to stop at a masjid nearby and pray first. I said Yes. I was impressed. I thought, ‘Wow, I wish I have a religion like that where I know exactly how to structure my life. I don’t have to worry about what to do, how, and when to do it.’
“Soon the taxi driver returned, and as soon as we resumed our journey, he pulled out some trash, and threw it out the window! I was shocked and thought, ‘Whatever religion this man has, I’ll never become part of it. How could his God allow him to do that?’” If I hadn’t heard this story firsthand from the imam himself, I’d have dismissed it as fiction.
Social media makes it possible for us to hear the latest news updates, be it political, intellectual and the like. On the positive side, we learn about the efforts and achievements of those who really care about the human race. On the other hand, news abound of laws and policies created by ‘powerful people’, some of which add to the pain and suffering of the world.
We may become too absorbed by what we think as the ‘big picture’, over time we feel more and more powerless, drowning in anxiety by the actions of those we see as the authorities, the lawmakers especially in our home country. We blame every single thing that goes wrong around us, to those who are in power. We forget that no matter who we are, no matter how small we perceive our place to be in society, the influences we have on others is far bigger, just as the story of the taxi driver and the non-Muslim passenger goes to show.
In my mind, I see two camps. One full of people who choose to gripe, moan and groan about things around them. The other camp belongs to people with a different mindset, who opt to make a difference. They know the realities of the world they live in. But they also know fully well that their words and actions are shaping and painting tomorrow’s realities. And they use this knowledge to their advantage.
“I was at the check-out counter,” said a lady speaker at a recent program I attended in America. “The next thing I knew, the woman at the check-out counter threw my credit card right into my face, obviously because I wore the hijab.” This speaker, a professional at Silicon Valley, chose to use her experience to advise other Muslims on ways and means to foster better understanding of Islam. Equally important, what she went through didn’t make her bitter, neither does it stop her from interacting positively with her colleagues, the majority of whom are nonMuslims.
“I realized,” said an imam from New York during the same program, “that most people who reacted adversely to Muslims really have had no contact with Muslims. What they’ve been seeing are Muslims in videos getting angry, and unreasonable over things.” Whether these videos have been edited to portray Muslims as such, we’ll never know.
If you’re a Muslim and you feel a sense of helplessness growing inside of you, ask yourself: “Why would God create me if I can’t make a difference?” Doing what we can in our unique way is a choice we make every single day. If you truly believe that the coolest thing to be is a Muslim, prove it with your actions and words, how you carry yourself, by being the best YOU. As poet Ashish Ram says:
One voice can speak with wisdom,
One heart can know what’s true,
One life can make a difference,
You see, it’s up to you!