There are some things in life that will never make sense, no matter how old one gets. Some emotions and belief systems have strong reasoning behind them, whilst others have none whatsoever. Yet when it comes to this issue, there is no reasoning. There is no logic to justify its origin. It is blind and irrational. Once fuelled, it has the potential of unknown devastation. It is because of this completely unreasonable hate and its perpetrators having no sound rationalization behind their thoughts that it is so destructive. This disease I am speaking of is none other than pride. Pride based on race, culture, ethnic origins, wealth and all sorts of other relatively worthless materialistic values.
People who know me can vouch for the fact that being a Muslim and Islam is an identity I treasure. I cherish the beliefs which have been a guiding light in many tough times through the years. Whenever found at a junction in life requiring deep thought and decisive action it has always been Islam and its principles which have carried me through the turmoil of challenges and disputes. It may sound clichéd but I know of no truer conviction than the fact that Islam is not a religion, it is a way of life.
Perhaps you are wondering what the link is between an abhorrence of pride-fuelled hate and one's fundamental love for Islam is. I too have also been only recently so closely acquainted with the link. I am currently a fifth year medical student at the University of Witwatersrand. Since my first year at campus, the many lessons I have learnt and new experiences encountered have changed the person I used to be in first year quite drastically.. I quickly became aware that many of my conceptions regarding life and people were prematurely formed and, simply put, very wrong.
One thing which I observed and very clearly learnt with campus life, and which can most definitely be applied to the community at large, is that at the current moment our Muslim Ummah is not living up to its potential. One of the main reasons for this is that we find ourselves preoccupied with petty issues, with our lives dictated by race lines; caste divisions and insignificant rulings which make no considerable contribution to the bigger picture. I was faced by a truth which I was hardly ready to accept, until it became so apparent and obviously clear that I could no longer pretend to ignore it. We pride and distinguish ourselves on aspects which the Almighty will never consider when meting out our fates. The blessed Quraan [30;22] mentions "And one of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and colours; most surely there are signs in this for men of sound knowledge." My accounts at campus were proving that certain individuals were not paying any heed to the one book that could lead us out of this dark abyss.
We are always eager to boast about our flawless faith. One of the most intriguing things about Islam is the fact that there are people living on the other end of the earth and yet one can feel a deeper connection with them than with your neighbour, only because of your equal and constant belief in the same Supreme Being and his Prophet (S.A.W). To find the youth then, as well as Muslims in general, living in such close proximity to one another and yet passing such quick and harsh judgements on one another is heart breaking. I have heard countless personal accounts and witnessed even more of Muslims ill-treating each other based solely on superficial barriers erected on the foundations of pride and artificial superiority.
I must mention that it would be wrong to include everybody in the category I have just described. I am thankful to be friends with some of the most tolerant Muslims and in them I have found some solace. Discussing this issue has never been a problem, even though I do recognise that speaking of it is a taboo subject amongst the youth and the Muslim community at large. I do not write this account only to be a vessel of gloom however. On the contrary, I see that there is hope for redemption.
We are fortunate enough to be an established Muslim community in South Africa and if we resolve that this will not be an issue, then God willing it may be overcome. Returning to the simple, yet flawless, practices of our Prophet Muhammed (S.A.W) when he said: "There is no superiority of an Arab over a non-Arab, nor of a non-Arab over an Arab or white person over a black person or a black person over white person except through piety. Verily the most honoured of you is the most righteous." Recognising that at a time when Islamophobia is no longer just a big word and is rampant in all parts of the globe, this is the time for us to draw together and strengthen the ranks of brotherhood. It is time for the youth to drive the small changes by making their character like that of steel, so that the Ummah may rise to heights as has never been seen before. I have faith that this is a change which can be accomplished, and abolishing discrimination in all its forms may be the starting point for an awe-inspiring revolution!
- Aayesha J Soni is a fifth year medical student at the university of the Witwatersrand. She is also the vice chairperson of the media review network, a south African based NGO committed to fighting injustices and human rights violations across the globe.