It’s one thing to be respectful when speaking, but it’s an entirely different thing to constantly be apologetic whenever explaining the beliefs of this most beautiful religion as though it is something forced upon us. “Say: ‘O unbelievers! I do not serve that which you serve, nor do you serve Him Whom I serve. Nor am I going to serve that which you serve, nor are you going to serve Him Whom I serve: You shall have your religion and I shall have my religion.'” (109:1-6)
As a peer from school asks if you’re going to the widely advertised music concert that’s in town, you shrug sheepishly and apologize, “Sorry, I can’t – I’m not allowed to in Islam.”
So what’s wrong with that?
It’s one thing to be respectful when speaking, but it’s an entirely different thing to constantly be apologetic whenever explaining the beliefs of this most beautiful religion as though it is something forced upon us. Needless to say, as Muslims, we are taught to have the best manners we possibly can, and that includes being polite when explaining our beliefs to others – yet we must have strong faith, and that means that we must be confident about Islam as well.
One would normally think that the phrase “I’m not allowed to in Islam” would seem acceptable, but the phrasing does in fact need working on. On a personal note, I’ve realized the different reception between saying, “I’m not allowed to in Islam,” and “As a Muslim, I don’t…” when speaking with others. The difference seems subtle, but it is there. One phrase implies a set of beliefs that one has to follow but doesn’t truly agree with or understand. The second phrase, however, is more inclusive and treats the religious beliefs and personal beliefs as both one and the same.
Besides the actual wording one uses, everything from the tone, posture, and facial expression points towards the strength of a person’s conviction in what (s)he is saying. Are we reddening out of embarrassment by having to explain ourselves, when we rarely get embarrassed over other things? Does our posture suddenly change to one that says “I wish I didn’t have to explain”? Are we speaking in the same tone as if saying, “My mom made me take out the garbage”? Are we shying away from our Islamic identity and all that it entails?
Let’s get it out in the open: we are Muslim, and with that identity come certain responsibilities which require us to sometimes take a path different from what is considered “the norm”.
Confidence in our religious beliefs comes from heightening our awareness of our religion. If we know what we’re talking about, then it makes things much easier in explaining it to others. Gaining knowledge is a lifelong process, and we need to ensure that we do not concentrate only on “secular” knowledge and completely ignore our religious education; building up on our stock of knowledge leads to building stronger our faith.
As the last verse of Sura Kafiroon say, “You shall have your religion, and I shall have my religion.” It is not necessary that we fit ourselves into the mould of our peers, and that fact need not create huge rifts – your beliefs may differ from mine, but that shouldn’t be a cause for embarrassment.
It is important that we be strong in our faith – not just that we follow it, but that we have pride in what we believe. As we work towards getting closer to Allah, as we prepare for the arrival of our Awaited Saviour, we need to build upon the strength of our faith. We must know our religious way of life – we have to truly believe in it to truly follow it. If we learn to understand our Islamic identity, confidence will come easier insha’Allah.
Alhamdulillah, we are Muslim.