Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|My First Year As A Muslim|
|01/19/02 at 22:06:56|
|I think we can apply this to ALL communities...|
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My First Year As A Muslim
An open letter from Jeremiah D. McAuliffe, Jr., Ph.D. to the Pittsburgh
Muslim community one year after he embraced Islam
My dear brothers and sisters,
I pray Allah grants you His peace in your minds and in your hearts. I
am somewhat nervous about writing this letter because of two reasons.
One is my lack of depth of Islamic knowledge, the other is because of
attitudes and behaviors in our community that I have found very
disturbing. I have only been a member of this community for one solar year, but
frankly, I see little difference than in the Christian communities of
which I have been a part. Like those communities there is a small group
of people, always the same people, who try to organize and run
activities and day-to-day operations. Others either criticize or simply do
nothing at all. I have heard Muslims question the piety of other Muslims,
indeed, have heard Muslims implying (and saying outright) that another
Muslim is "kafr". I have heard so many truly hateful comments about
certain communities among the People of the Book that I don't know quite how
to respond. I have watched men run outside, play frisbee and football,
socialize and have fun while two sisters sit for hours all alone and
with nothing to do and no one else to talk to. This was supposed to be
"protecting them". From who? From what? I know personally about sexual
assault-- two members of my family are victims of such crimes, yet with
my Muslim brothers I feel like I am not trusted. Honestly, what I saw
was not "protection", but a form of cruelty and meanness. I walk to the
masjid and see on the grounds: diapers, tissues, popsicle sticks,
partially eaten food, cigarette butts, coke cans, cups, candy wrappers, etc.
and I think, "How many Muslims walked by this and didn't pick it up?
Why wasn't it thrown in the garbage in the first place?" I have taken on
the editing of the newsletter, and I have received complaints which is
fine. I ask the person to write the complaint-- I'll publish it (yes,
even if critical of what I am doing) but I get nothing. When I am here
working on the newsletter only two or three people are ever here for
prayer. To a new Muslim, sorry brothers and sisters, you aren't setting a
very good example! I tell you, if this is Islam I want nothing to do
But I know this is not Islam. Islam is kindness and compassion. Islam
is strong faith in the existence of Allah, though unseen, and belief
that the Qur'an is a revelation from the One True God to us. Islam is
following the best example of Muhammad (PBUH) but what is the Sunnah
exactly? Is it how he wore his clothes or his facial hair, or is it the type
of person he was. And if it is both which is more important? None of us
use rocks to clean ourselves with, but isn't that Sunnah?? Muhammad
(PBUH), to my reading, was so very, very kind, flexible, sensitive, easy.
It just seems like many of us emphasize the outer form of the Sunnah at
the expense of the inner form-- and thus our inner form is filled with
But of course, that is only one small group of Pittsburgh Muslims.
Because I have seen many people who are what I would think Muslims would
try to be. Their personalities are gentle and kind. They have smiles on
their face-- smiles that cover up pain as they see what a state our
ummah is in. They are often trying their very best to do whatever they can
and they bear the slings and arrows of others' criticism with much more
patience than I have! How hard they seem to be trying to go beyond
their cultural conditioning into the universally human life-style of Islam.
They are examples to me. Without them I would have stopped coming to
any masjid in Pittsburgh months ago. How sad that so many of them come
only to jumah prayer. When I ask why they don't do something to change
things they sadly shake their heads and walk away. How did they get so
I have three suggestions. 1. We must stop centering our attention on
what is wrong with the other person and concentrate on what is wrong with
us as individuals. We need to take our own moral inventory rather than
concentrating on the defects of others. Only Allah and that person can
take their moral inventory. As part of this we need to foster the
virtues of patience and compassion in ourselves. We need to ask "what can I
do" rather than "what is the other person doing". 2. The administrative
structure of the masjid needs to be changed: how people are nominated
and chosen to serve on the Executive Committee needs to be updated.
Perhaps people need to serve in these positions for two years and should be
people who live here permanently. 3. We need to read, read, read! We
need to learn, learn, learn! We need to know about sociology,
anthropology, and psychology so we can confront the challenges that face us when
so many different cultural groups have been thrown together. We must
have the courage to reject aspects of our own culture that is not Islamic
and adopt those from other cultures that may be more in line with
Islam. This will take incredible amounts of courage and open-mindedness.
Allah can give us these gifts if we ask and are sincere.
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