Although I was born a Muslim here in America more than 65 years ago, I did not stress that fact in my life as a child. My goal was to fit into a world that did not understand and accept me as a person of color who was not a Christian and whose parents were seeking to have him learn a strange language. Those things only made me more of an outcast. In short, I had three strikes against me before I came to bat. I did not reject my faith. I kept it hidden and sought to be like the white students in my class. At that early time in my life, my white classmates in public school were released on Tuesday afternoons to attend religious services and I remained behind with my teacher. I was given the job of washing the blackboard as she babysat me while her colleagues were relaxing in the teacher's lounge. So you see there was not a large incentive for a black child to be proud of the fact he was a Muslim. As an adult, I acknowledged my faith but I did not think it was an important aspect of my life as I pursued the American dream and acceptance. I was wrong.
The events of September 11, 2001 forced me to confront my faith in a way I had not anticipated. First,I heard and read the awful things people said about Muslims and my faith. I became angry at them in their ignorance. My response was to become more observant as a member of my faith. I focused on my holy book and made an effort to study the faith of others. Over the years I had approached my faith from two perspectives: my spirituality was the acknowledgment that there is something in this universe that is so much more than me. My religion was my effort to know that something better. Islam served that end for me. Recently,when I was attending the mosque I noticed young people learning to recite the 114 Suras of the Quran. Those who have accomplished that effort have truly taken on and succeeded at a wonderful task. But I could not help but think that understanding is as important as reciting. For my understanding allows me to recite the whole of the Quran in under five minuets. It is simply "I am the Lord thy God and I am a jealousy God. Worship me and me alone." The rest is footnotes. I say that because I see man as pursued by the four horsemen of destruction: arrogance, ignorance, greed, and jealousy. As I look at man's history I can assign all the wars, human abuses, and man's indifference to suffering to one or more of these horsemen. It is only when we "worship" the one God as my holy book instructs that we remain humble. The sad tragedy is that so many of my brothers and sisters in the Muslim world who have had this wonderful book fail to understand its meaning. Often the leaders who can recite the 114 Suras are the greatest abusers as witnessed in Iran's recent election. Sadly, I look at all the Muslim countries and I am unable to find one that I consider to have values that I would trade for. The leaders of those countries fear the West and they have a right to do so. For it is the Western world Mu`slims who love their holy book and value the freedoms they experience that present the greatest threat to those who have found other "gods" to worship.
More information about text formats