Prejudices Against Religion. Time for a new Perspective!

Learn something new today.

Sidra Ansari
Jun 24 · 8 min read
Photo by Ali Arif Soydaş on Unsplash

What are your prejudices about religion? What comes to mind when I say ‘Islam’?

Do you think of a peaceful religion where everyone gets on with life quietly, trying not to harm one another?

Do you see a big smile, good character, altruism and generosity?

I think not.

You may be surprised when you find out what Islam really stands for.

Islam has a population of 1.8 billion people. Muslims form 24.1 % of the whole world’s population.

And we are largely people who will be happy to meet you. We would probably befriend you if you met us on the street.

Muslims are not only a bunch of people who dress a certain way: we are such a diverse and dynamic group. Nearly a quarter of the world’s population! A large part of society- so fully immersed and integrated that you’re not even aware that we’re there.

Muslims believe:

• Everything in life has a purpose.

• You are being looked after.

• Justice will be done in the end.

• The hereafter is better than this life,

Belief in this puts things into perspective for us. It helps us with the realisation that this world is not perfect, nor is it meant to be. It helps us tolerate the lower aspects of this world. The hardships, trials, suffering, injustice and malice that life in this world possesses.

It has helped us immensely during Lockdown to focus on the wider perspective. Instead of feeling down, Muslims have used this time to make a better connection with our Creator. In fact, you may be aware that Muslims celebrated Ramadan last month.

The idea of Ramadan is to look inward and ‘starve our stomachs to feed our souls’. By shunning the material world, Lockdown provided a much-needed chance to reflect. Many will say, Ramadan 2020 during Lockdown was our best Ramadan ever!

Why am I telling you this?

No, I’m not trying to convert you!

Once, a very mature 16 year old student of mine challenged me with a thought. He said, ‘We would have peace in the world if there were no religions to tear us apart.’

I beg to differ.

Those who don’t have a faith, may be of the philosophy that:

‘We live and we die and nothing kills us but time’, as the Pre-Islamic Arabs once said.

If the Earth is a better place without religion or faith of any kind, would we be compelled to do anything of value while we’re here?

Tell me:

  • Why should you put up with a spouse or members of the family who hurt you sometimes?
  • Why should you want for your brother what you want for yourselves?
  • Why should you care for animals or the environment?
  • Why should you care about the legacy that you leave behind? The world, our progeny.
  • Why should you try to make the best of your time in this world?
  • What spurs you on?

Religion teaches us that there is a bigger purpose to this world. A perspective that can change one’s experience massively.

  • How do you endure life’s tests if you believe this world to be futile?

We were created to live in harmony together and live the best life we can.

Faith serves a purpose and Islam is not the religion you think it to be.

I don’t mean to write against agnostics or atheists. My point is that without people who believe in a faith, an atheist or agnostic wouldn’t be on this Earth either. For how can one exist without the other?

Faith may not be for all of us but people of faith, atheists and agnostics all have their place in our lives on Earth. Nothing is futile.

To be a Muslim today is a tricky thing.

You might think that to be an outwardly practising Muslim is unnecessary. You may also think that Islam divides us as human beings but the Quran teaches that,

‘Mankind is a single nation’

It explicitly states ‘that whosoever takes an innocent life… it is as if he has killed all of humanity, and whoever saves a life it is as if he has saved all of humanity.’

This is huge.

It is not something that should be taken lightly. A good Muslim believes that we should treat others how we’d like to be treated. She values human life and is always reminded that we all come from one source.

A practising Muslim is not a danger to you

or your family

or your society

or your values.

A practising Muslim cares about her community.

She respects her community.

She cares about you!

Yesterday a lady read one of my articles and responded with this wonderful message.

I am so thankful that she reached out to me in such an honest and direct manner. Why would she fear me if she saw me on the street? Because of the way the media portrays me.

It is because of the movies that do not portray a true Islamic identity. The movies that are stuck on terrorism in Islam and blame Muslims for staying quiet.

Hang on a minute! Who says we’re quiet? There are plenty of Muslims that are speaking out.

Burhana Islam has written a book published by Penguin called, ‘Amazing Muslims Who Changed The World’. Her relevant and insightful research just goes to show that we are out there. We have always been there, but the world has turned a blind eye to the positivity we have garnered here on Earth.

A massive influence for me, and a lot of other Muslims in my generation, is a scholar called Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. Through his teachings of the Quran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad I was compelled to believe in Islam. Before this I was a Muslim because I had an amazing feeling of peace that descended upon me when I prayed, even as a young girl. And also because this is the religion my parents passed down to me.

After I’d heard Sheikh Hamza’s lectures, I felt my belief expanding and my conviction and love of Islam growing. You see, I had also been ignorant of the true essence of Islam before this.

We were brought up as British Pakistanis in North West England. There were many coflicting views on what Islam stood for. Folklore mixed with Bollywood and a smattering of misinterpretations of the Holy Book. As you can probably guess, Shaikh Hamza and his teachings were refreshing to behold.

Yusuf Islam, Zain Bhikha and Sami Yusuf played a huge part in supporting me in my identity. They helped people who were like me, grounded in faith but also living in the West.

I’d also like to mention these amazing inspiring muslim women:

Yasmin Mogahed

Dalia Mogahed

Nadiya Hussain

Ayisha Malik,

Onjali Rauf

Remona Aly

Mariah Idrissi,

Bushra Shaikh,

Farhana Shaikh.

Also well done to all the other fantastic Muslim women out there who refuse to bend to the stereotype.

Thank you for being such a huge inspiration and for being yourselves.

These awesome artists and influencers are still doing a fantastic job of spreading the message of peace in Islam.

Do click the links and look them up- they are making huge waves in our world.

The question is: Can you see them? Or are they just talking to themselves?

What do you know about Islamic tenets of faith?

Islam is a monotheistic religion. It is closest to Judaism and Christianity. It is one of the three mainstream religions which have Abrahamic roots. In Islam, Jesus is believed to be a prophet and not the son of God and Adam was our forefather and the first man on earth.

Islam didn’t carry a new message.

The message of belief in One God transcends time.

Messengers were sent with reminders. The spiritual message of these Messengers was the same. Everyone stressed the importance of God’s love, obedience to His will, and love of his neighbour.

The essential teaching on attaining good character revolves around one basic principle. Everyone should treat others as they would like to be treated themselves.

These days people speak loudly about how they want Muslims who live here in the West to adopt the cultures inherited from their new Western homes. They don’t want to see us clinging to our own cultural beliefs and backgrounds.

I say, it’s a shame these days that people can’t see beyond the way someone dresses when looking at integration.

I, for example, was born and bred British, I grew up in a loving Islamic, British environment. Our childhoods were spent building dens, strawberry-picking and collecting ladybirds, to name a few pastimes. We grew up with TV programs like Grange Hill, Neighbours and memorable adverts for milk (‘It’s what Ian Rush drinks!’), beans (Heinz builds Brits!) and Quality Streets (Magic moments!).

I went to a multi-cultural high school in North-West England and then moved to London in my teenage years.

I am not only fully integrated, I am immersed; this is my home.

I don’t belong anywhere else.

To think that people have told me to ‘go back home’, have judged me, are judging me at this present moment and will continue to do so in a ‘free’ society, is shocking in this day and age.

I think what binds us together in the end, is that we are made up of the same mettle. We are all humans. We feel the same emotions and go through similar trials on this earth. The least we can do is be there for each other when the going gets tough. Live and let live.

Be open-minded and leave your expectations at the door. Chances are you’ll find common ground even with the most unlikely candidate.

We have to be careful when people become labels and stereotypes in our minds. Nobody has the right to judge or discriminate someone because of their religion. Or indeed colour of their skin.

In fact, Islam teaches us tolerance.

To love one another no matter where we come from or what we believe.

‘All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab. Also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action.’

Prophet Muhammad

All mankind. Not just Muslims.

Learn something new today? I sure hope so.

Leave a comment below or contact me via my blog.

I’d love to hear what you think.

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