In the name of Allah, Most Gracious and Most Merciful.
[note: This entry touches about religions, please don't read if you are sensitive to such issues. Thank you.]
I replaced my supervisor, Silipi, last night at workplace. She and her husband Ligo took a day off for the day. Last night was a good day with just little confusion at the start of work.
During break time, I sat quietly at a corner on the corridor where we WCC cleaners always hang out during break. With my back against the wall, I was savouring the break time - dipping the cream crackers into hot drink like an old man. On my left was Razif, and Yusman on my right. Further on the right was Joe and near him was Eshetu, an Euthiopian guy. They were talking but I didn't pay any attention to them at all (what else can you ask when you already have cream crackers and hot drink? :'P) until I heard Eshetu asked Joe something which diverted my attention from the irresitible cream crackers and hot drink combination, to them.
Eshetu: Hey you guys! Do Muslims believe in Mary (Jesus' mother)?
Joe: Yup, we believe in Mary.
Eshetu: How can you guys call yourself Muslims when you believe in Mary? Mary is the holy virgin, you know. Mother to Jesus, God's son.
Joe: Yes, we believe Mary is Jesus' mother. We believe in Jesus too. But we believe that Prophet Muhammad is the last messenger, not Jesus. And . . .
Eshetu: Hey, listen. *ascending tone* You guys are Muslims. You can't believe in Jesus and Mary. I'm an Orthodox. I believe in both Jesus and Mary.
And Eshetu went on describing about the faith of an Orthodox, stories from his childhood and few other things he tried to relate. I shook my head listening to this conversation but I remained quiet. Because I know Eshetu and the kind of person he is. In fact, I thought it was not yet time for me to speak up.
Eshetu went on about his background (which we could care less about) until half past eight.
Joe: *stood up* I need to get going. The security is here to take me and Api to CEO.
I looked blankly at Yusman and Razif. Honestly, I wasn't in the mood to speak up.
Razif: Eshetu. Are you a good follower?
Eshetu: What is it, man?
Razif: Are you a good follower of Christianity?
Eshetu: I told you, man. I'm an Orthodox.
Razif: Do you . . . engaged in illegal sex?
Eshetu: What do you mean?
Razif: Pre-marital sex. Do you?
Eshetu: Of course, man. I f*cked lots and lots of girls . . . [descriptions omitted] . . . before I'm getting married.
All of us shook our head.
Razif: Isn't your religion against pre-marital sex?
Eshetu: Yeah, man. But our religion is easy. You have sin, you go to church and confess to the priest. Father will ask forgiveness from God. It's in the Bible.
Razif: You know, Eshetu. I've studied your Bible and your religion back in Malaysia and when I was in Palmerston North. These guys *pointing at me and Yusman* know about your religion too. You can check Ahmad Deedat from the Internet for comparative religion between Islam and Christianity.
Eshetu was quiet for one second.
Razif: It's okay to talk about religion. But don't get angry and accusingly say other people's religion is wrong. We're not angry. But it is a sensitive issue. You talk like this at the public, you might get your ass kicked.
Eshetu: I know about your Muslim (referring to Islam) and your Bible too. I read about them from the Internet.
Me: Correction, man. Ours is not Bible. Ours is Quran.
Eshetu: Yeah, I read about your Quran from a website. What is it called . . . urm.
Me: Let's get this straight, Eshetu. You shouldn't talk like that about other people's religion. About Mary you talked with Joe earlier, yes, we believe about Mary. That Mary is Jesus' mother and that she gave birth to Jesus as a virgin. But we believe it differently from you. You Christians believe that Jesus is God's son but we Muslims believe that Jesus is just a normal human like we all are besides the fact that he was a prophet and given some miracles. The same with our beloved Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was a normal human like we all are. He eats, he sleeps and he gets married like other normal humans.
Eshetu: No, he didn't.
Me, Razif and Yusman: Yes, he did.
Me: You see, Eshetu. This is the difference between your Christianity and our religion Islam. You guys believe that there are three Gods: The God, His Son Jesus and The Holy Spirit, which are believed as One God. But we Muslims believe in The One and Only God, and that the prophets be it Muhammad or Jesus, are just normal humans bestowed with prophethood in order to lead us humans to what we Muslims call, the right path. Other than that, we actually share almost the same value. Be it Christians or Muslims, all of us believe in feeding the hungry people, help those in need, love each other and promote peace. Isn't your religion promotes the same things?
As always, I have reconstructed the conversation in order to make it more readable and with the purpose to omit unnecessary things discussed which might be too sensitive of an issue to be written here.
Please don't get me wrong.
I'm not against discussing about religions. Honestly, I love talking about different religions comparatively, if I have the chance like I sometimes do with Api (a friend working with me at WCC which I have mentioned a number of times in this blog).
1) The discussion always strengthens my faith in Allah and His religion, Islam.
2) I get to know other religions from different perspectives aside from Islamic perspective I learnt.
However, it depends on what kind of discussion it is. The discussions I sometimes have with Api are for the sake of knowing and to quench our curiosity - somewhat an informal type of academically intellectual discussions. The conversation I shared above, unfortunately, sounds more like a competition to prove which religion is right and which is wrong. This is not the kind of discussion I favour.
I am a Muslim and I am proud as one but I also respect other people's religions. Had not the Prophet (peace be upon him and his family) taught us to do that? To respect the non-believers' religions and their places of worship. He taught us to love our brothers and sisters in Islam yet he never preached to hate the non-believers nor to desecrate their religions or their places of worship. It is because, every place of worship is sacred to their believers. Umar al-Khattab proved this by performing a prayer in a church.
For me, faith and religion are things personal to the person embracing it. Do you like your faith be desecrated? Of course you don't. So please, never ever desecrate another person's faith if their faith does not resonate with yours. It is as easy as going back to the Golden Rule.
And most importantly, Imaan and Hidayah (Allah's Guidance) belong to Allah and they are His alone. He bestows them upon whosoever He wishes and He may take it back from anyone as He pleases. That is why a Muslim should not desecrate or curse the non-believers (unless they openly initiated it like the invasion of Gaza etc. But still, patience and forgiveness always worth more than vengence. Isn't patience part of Imaan?) because we never know if Allah wants to bestow His Hidayah upon that non-believer and in the future, he might be even a better Muslim than we are?
But it is also true that people from some religions will never be satisfied with us Muslims unless we follow them, as Allah reminded us in surah Baqarah verse 120. That is why we together as Muslims have to remain steadfast with our Faith [3: 103] and not follow the non-believers because their way is theirs and our way is Islam [109: 1-6]. Wallahua'lam.
"O Allah! We beseech Thee the steadfastness of our hearts on Thee and this Faith brought to us by our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and we beg of Thee, to never ever lift this ni'mat of Imaan from us. Frail as we are, we have no one to turn to but Thee - The One and Only, the Exalted in Power. If Thou wert to turn away from us, perish be our lives without Thee."
"As for the non-believers, O Allah! We beseech Thee to bestow upon them Guidance to whomsoever Thy pleases. To our best effort shall we defend Thy Religion, with our hands and our tongue and our blood, if Islam were be desecrated. We may strive but we would never thrive without Thy Help."