Saturday, August 23, 2008
Last night I was invited to an intimate dinner by my Italian friend, who incidentally is marrying a Brit whom she met here. She and I started out as work acquaintances but since she’s quit her job, we’re finding more time for friendship. It really was a multicultural evening, cos she invited a few other people, none of whom I’d met before. There was a Greek, a couple of more Brits, a Canadian, a Norwegian and a Trinidadian, all of whose bits of their lives that they cared to share with us over dinner made for rather interesting conversation.
I was a tad bit late in getting to Gabriella’s place (couldn’t decide what to wear), but thankfully I wasn’t the last to arrive – the Greek and Norwegian were, they were probably getting all romantic in the moonlight on the way, seeing as they just got engaged. As I walked the room introducing myself to the other guests, Gabriella’s partner, Nigel offered me a drink, and then suddenly backed up and said “oh oh orange juice ok or water or soda” (in his annoying pommy accent). I guessed that Gabriella had told him that I’m Muslim and would not take any alcohol. But it just gets on my nerves (and it’s not the first time I’ve met such a person) when they make a fuss and an issue about it.
The worst experience in that department was when an Arab guy came to me as I was leaving a dinner reception, saying “I’m so sorry you didn’t enjoy the evening”. I was quite surprised at the remark since I had a lovely time, but then he finished his sentence with “seeing as you didn’t have any wine” urgh! And then there was the time when I got nauseatingly ill on a flight when the jerk next to me wouldn’t stop with the red wine! And worse still, trying to chat me up, breathing that smell onto me….. I think I got a hangover that day. At least the cabin crew were sympathetic, although they had no where to move me to.
Anyway back to the story of last night’s dinner. Somehow my muslimness intrigues people. I don’t think it’s just in the aftermath of 9/11, because I used to get the odd questions even before. I wonder if it’s because I don’t always fit the picture that they form in their minds of what Muslims, especially Muslim women should look like. I used to take it as a challenge to attract people to Islam, get them more interested and maybe even offer to send them some literature. These days it just gets frustrating. I am baffled at the ignorance of people and I sometimes wonder if I sound as stupid when I’m asking them questions about aspects of their lives. I am far from the ideal Muslim woman (and am definitely judged at home in the community for going against the grain) but these people thought I must be a Mullah or something! They were like: “wow, you’re so staunch and dedicated. You fast? You’ve done the pilgrimage? Wow you really are strict. Are all Muslims like this where u come from?” In addressing some of their curiosity, I spoke about the relationship I personally have with AL Mu’Min – The Inspirer of Faith. I was unaware that there was a “faithless” one amongst us until Gabriella nudged me under the table. This person proclaimed their atheism but before we could delve into healthy debate on the subject, Nigel took Gabriella’s cue and carefully shifted the conversation away from religious (or non religious) beliefs to cars and petrol prices and inflation.
I suppose people are always sensitive about their faith (or lack thereof) and it is a very personal choice but try as I might, I just don’t get the whole atheism thing! I can understand agnostics, cos I also find myself from time to time questioning religion and God. I have respect for all other religions because in essence they acknowledge and respect the existence of a higher power. I even get the “devil-worshipping” Yazidis and their ideas of Malik Taus having passed the test of not bowing to anyone besides God. And then a strange thought occurred to me…. which when I shared with a friend of mine, she rolled her eyes and cackled at my “insanity” because that’s the only thing that could explain the crazy workings of my mind! (Read on to find out what the freaky thought was). It dawned on me that atheists are really insecure people who are so afraid to admit that they are not completely in control of their own lives. They’re always trying to explain miracles as “science”. But when something distresses them or they hear bad news, how quickly the words “Oh My God!” are uttered from their lips!
It’s so sad because they cheat themselves of the beauty of finding a Constant Companion, who is inside of you, and hears your every thought and feels every emotion of yours, who is your soul, and your Creator. How can they appreciate the softness of the rain, or the coolness of a breeze, or a starry sky, or the crashing of the waves? I can’t imagine a world without Al Musawwir – The Shaper of Beauty. My prayer is in my wonder and amazement at Al Khaliq’s – The Creator’s creation – in my breath, in my sleep, in watching the sunrise, or the sunset, in curiously following the little ants that I share my abode with, in the shifting of the sands outside my door, in the wafting of the clouds, and the song of the birds, in the cosmos, and beyond…. SubHanAllah! We are within it all, and yet there are people who fail to realise this!
Sura 2 verse 164
Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which Allah Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.
What was the thought that occurred to me that was so strange?
In all of his arrogance, in his refusal to follow the command, in his commitment to turn others astray – in all his evil – even the Devil himself believes in God!