Approaching Islam - a Personal Experience
05 February 2007

A good friend of mine called Ayaaz recently returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia having back-packed there for a few weeks. He returned a devout Muslim, keen to share his new-found faith with friends and family alike. His having grown up with a devout mother and far older siblings, with varying degrees of devotion to Islam, it did not come as a huge surprise to me that he would at some stage take time to explore his family’s beliefs and cultural origins.

However, before this trip, he was as far from practising a particular religious faith or belief system as you could imagine. A recreational drug user, he often dabbled in more serious habits of heroin and cocaine, and though crime wasn’t required to fund habits, it became more of a challenge and thrill. He is a very talented individual, receiving top grades at school, yet the application of his intellect was easily distracted by more unconventional interests (often questionable money-making schemes). Sex was as big a part of his life from his young teenage years and this change in his perspective and practice, in particular, was somewhat of a surprise to me and his closer mates. It was initially accepted as a fleeting change before an eventual return to his previous lifestyle.

However, along with this initial surprise came a sense of grave mistrust from his friends in general. We joked about the genuineness of his beliefs, but as it became clear they were authentic there was certainly an underlying distrust, not only in the sources of his change in perspective, but of Islam itself. I observed large changes in his life-style: he prayed five times a day, stopped using any drugs (tobacco aside) and no longer slept with his girlfriend. Searching for the source of these changes I was drawn to his change in character. He took on increasingly compassionate, empathetic and critical surveillance of his previous lifestyle and with this came visible signs of strengthening and certainty of what the content of his character should be, and not only a purpose, but a reason to strive towards leading a virtuous lifestyle. I am sure such a change in personality should be generally widely welcomed in society, whatever the source.

The reason why I share this story is that I believe the news headlines today of horrific world events and their strong association, however perverse, with Islam (referring to terrorism specifically), have established a strong sense of distrust of Islam in modern British society. Surely not only tolerance of others’ belief, but also sharing knowledge and experience through any media, and very importantly discussion, personalizes the realities of religious faith, which are so often misconstrued with sweeping generalizations and misrepresentations in the media today. For example, the general focus of news stories on the negative elements of 'religiously fuelled' conflict especially leads to a negative precedence for articles on Islam as a whole.

The virtues I had rarely witnessed in my friend were now becoming predominant aspects of his life, and I realized it may be a challenging goal to strive for strength of character and stand up for and share what you believe in, but a worthy cause nonetheless.

This goal is attainable for every individual, of whatever faith or association with a particular belief system that promotes the adoption of such virtues (such as compassion). It is important to tackle this common distrust of Islam, to engage with the faith and try to learn from it or just understand and personalize it, rather than alienate and isolate it.




COMMENTS

A timely sotry for 2007. I wish it could be in the newspapers and on TV and radio, so that the fear and distrust so many people have of people of the Moslem faith can begin to be changed to the reality and truth of the foundation of the Moslem faith.
Gwen McLean, 09 February 2007

Many thanks to Richard Craig for his understanding of Islam.In todays life,a lot of so called literate people do have the sense to respect other's beliefs while maintaining their own.The story will be an eye opener for those all.
A K Mohiuddin Ahmad, 08 May 2007


SEARCH OUR SITE
Unless stated otherwise, all content on this site falls under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence 3.0