April 27, 2001

Proud to Be a Stranger


Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported that the Prophet (saw) said

“Islam began as something
strange, and it will revert to being strange as it was in the beginning, so good
tidings for the strangers”.
Someone asked, “Who are the strangers?”
He said, “The ones who break away from their people (literally, ‘tribes’)
for the sake of Islam”
[Muslim, Ibn Majah].

There is an incredible lesson in the above Hadith, which we need to repeat to
ourselves over and over again. As a 20-year-old Muslimah, I find my practice of
Islam feeling stranger by the day. There is a norm that we have to live up to in
this society, and if we don’t meet it, we will be called strangers.

Did amazing in school and could talk my way out of anything

When I was in high school, I was an average, overachieving teenager, with a
serious superficial streak. I did amazing in school, could talk my way out of
anything, and had to look as though I belonged on the modeling runways, that
were called the high school hallways.

A great education and an even better career lay ahead of me. I was the master of
my own destiny, what more could I ask for?

I was no longer in control

While I was planning my ‘Sweet 16’ bash, my grandfather, who I loved a lot, fell
ill and passed away.
Suddenly I wasn’t in control. I saw someone moving on to the unknown. I had
never been so near death before. The realization hit then, that the tangible wasn’t the ultimate reality. I could
no longer find reason, purpose or consolation in good grades, praise or even
good looks.

Everything lost its meaning for I saw my grandfather, without his worldly
possessions, in a shroud. The only things he could take with him were his deeds
and intentions. Everything finally made sense, for as I prayed for Allah to give him ease in his
grave, I thought of mine, as I prayed to meet him again in the Akhirah, I had to
think of preserving mine.

All I had ever strived for fell to pieces. As the Qur’an replaced my pointless and juicy novels, I realized that of all
creation, Allah has created us with a conscious, and free will. Why would we let
our free will work against us?

Family, friends, and fortune are all relative, they would go as easy as they
came. We had to take everything as a teacher, and learn to do better for the
sake of our souls.

Could not be alone with myself

With all of this it became apparent, that living with the norm of society, I
wasn’t allowed to be alone with myself. I had to be surrounded with friends, or
be reading some novel or other, and the music was always blaring in the

Feeling strangeness

Silence was deafening, and noise was the only peace. To communicate with Allah,
and to pray, I felt strangeness when there was silence accompanied by peace as
my heart turned to my Lord. Working to please myself, would’ve only given me peace in this life, but just
the mere intention of doing things for the sake of Allah, would preserve this
life and the next.

Other young Muslims who were once with me have lost the strangeness. Five years have passed since that
epiphanous age of mine and now I find my
brothers and sisters, who had commenced the search with me are now leaving the

The folds of Islam are not satisfactory any more. When I ask them why their only
answer is that Islam did not give anything back to them as a social system as a
community. It did not feed their needs and their spiritual thirst. It had to do
with the harshness of other Muslims.

I wonder about this a lot since it affects my faith as well as the faith of
those who say it. Even though Allah has created us and has preferred us as a
the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) still acknowledged the time
when there would be people struggling alone for righteousness.

And the only answer I can come up with is that this world is mostly a sowing
ground. We can?t reap everything here. That?s why there is a day of
accountability which will restore justice and mercy.

The strangeness does go away

Now as I struggle to maintain my Islam, I find practicing my faith in this world
feels strange only so long as I surround myself with worldly things and people.
When I turn to Allah’s creation, I feel the strangeness fade away.

If nature, as it is subservient to the Will of the Creator, has harmony when the
wind blows and rustles its leaves, I don’t see why our souls and hearts can’t
move to the same command. In our time, and our part of the world, if nothing is strange and nothing
immoral, I guess it’s only good then, if we feel connected to the strange.

‘Good tidings for the strangers’.

(courtesy of http://www.soundvision.com)

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