It was soon after 9/11, my husband and I were coming home to Dallas after our vacations in Pakistan. We were detained for many hours at the airport for security clearance. It was a time of great confusion and suspicion. It seemed almost everybody had been entrapped in the dust of the mighty fallen towers. When we finally reached home I could not shake off the trauma of being treated as a suspect. With the fallen towers, my world as a Muslim, was falling apart as well. My life, as a Muslim, had been stripped away from its human dignity and reduced to a specimen under a microscope in a lab open to all scrutiny. It became difficult going to places and proclaiming my true identity. I could understand why Muslims were treated so. But my hurt was deeper than that; the terrorists had hit me at the root of my beliefs. I could not understand the rationale behind any kind of terrorism that resorted to Islam. I was no longer sure of what religion actually meant to me. If religion could not make me live a worthier life, what was it there for? Since childhood, I read and listened to the stories of the prophet with deep love and veneration. My prophet had been my hero. I knew him as a man who took care of the orphans, who would give his own food away to the hungry and despite being the virtual leader of all Arabia, he lived modestly. If one looks at the glossary in the Quran there are overwhelming references to the mercy of the Lord to mankind and peace as compared to very brief and specific references to jihad and they too deal with much of the personal struggle to achieve spirituality. Where were those teachings that justified the terrorists? Why did not jihad as an armed struggle ever feel that central to me while I read the Koran?My world as I knew it was breaking down.
But as deeper hurt brings deeper understanding, I realized slowly that guidance and mercy reach them only who desire it. God’s compassion is like the rain that falls equally on the rocks and the land but the fertile land receives it readily and becomes fruitful and the hard land remains impotent. I received my part of the grace.
I still believe Islam is a religion of peace. I believe that everyman gets what he seeks. Man has both good and evil in him. Goodness is in his capacity, should he desire it. For me religion has been a way of becoming a better human being by realizing my own insufficient self in front of God’s majesty and mystery, it has made me humble before His creation.
I still love dearly the stories of the prophet of Islam. They still inspire me to seek goodness.
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