Saturday, February 11, 2006

"How Not All Muslims Are The Same - Diversity In The Ummah - Culture, Language and Race"

I could never ever remember where this dream started, but I have always wanted to be on my own, far off in a distant country, studying in a university, being excellent, beautiful, happy, with friends. Maybe this all originated from my stay in the United States. I had the time of my life, meeting different kinds of people and seeing so many different kinds of sights and sounds. Seeing my parents so successful and making everyone proud at home. This inspired me. How could I forget the beautiful autumn, the white winter, colourful flowers in spring and the hot, hot, happy summer days with many barbeques in parks? Running carefree with my family down the hills and hitting trees on the way down when sledding on a hill, they are all memories etched in my mind forever. Everything seems picturesque, ideal, and beautiful..

And of course I could not also forget the many trips to the local mosque which was quite far away but we will always make an effort to go regularly. For the first time, I realised, Muslims are not only brown like me. Back home in Malaysia, all Muslims were generally Malays. But in the United States, Ma’sya Allah, they speak distinct exotic languages, have different skin colours, they even have different ways of celebrating Eid. However despite these distinct physical differences, I realised we are all spiritually the same. Especially during prayer times, all of us would gather and join the Imaam to do our obligatory prayers. At that moment, there was no difference between any of us, we were all speaking the same language, performing the same actions and in our hearts glorified the same Creator. The power of faith transcends nationality, culture, gender and race. In essence every human being would like the same things, peace, happiness and prosperity.

Fast forward from reminiscing, I am in London, eventually coming to the point in my life which I have always dreamed of. I am in an exciting city with melting pot of cultures, doing a great course in a well renowned university that will surely make my country and family proud. However I feel a sense of lost, confusion, overwhelmed. It seems like the dream is shattered by reality. You realise that being away from everyone you love and away from everything you are familiar with is not as wonderful as you initially thought. The great course and well renowned university in reality does only offer you the status and prestige, it thrusts to your face challenges and teaches you independence. The loneliness sometimes breaks you down but then it teaches you the meaning of survival and strength. Despite the bleakness, there are bright days, moments when I am in the prayer room. I find again that familiar sense of comfort, like when I was in the United States, the similar unity in diversity. We are all sisters and brothers no matter where we have come from or what language we speak. And with this support, I go on. Cherishing life and thanking ALLAH for this precious gift, our Muslim ukhwahh (brotherhood and sisterhood).

This article written by Qurratul Ain Zainul. She is a GPTD Europe representative and Deputy President MISG-ABIM UK. She is currently study in London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom.