Are You Really Religious or Do You Just Look The Part?

SubhanAllah... God really works in mysterious ways. I just found this video of Moez Masoud's programme, Stairway to Paradise, and it explained everything I wanted to say in my recent post about my epiphany and reaching out to fellow Muslims the right way. Moez said that a lot of people are too focused on the outward results and actions that they forget the spiritual growth that requires these results to take place. He expressed that he was turned off by religion and Islam in the past because of such people. He was inspired to learn more about Islam after he met a person who embodied the faith. This person was a blind 19 year old who didn't complain about being blind and was a humble follower of Islam.

That's it, that's exactly it. Islamic beliefs and teachings come to life when people start practicing it the way it is meant to be practiced - peacefully and genuinely. Da'wah isn't just the spoken words that are used to preach others but also who you are as a person and how you incorporate Islam in your life.

Why can't we approach people and advise them out of genuine love instead of in a patronising manner? How does it make you feel when someone speaks to you condescendingly? It certainly doesn't make you believe in them or what they have to say, that's for sure.

I'll tell you a little story about one of my experiences wearing hijab when I was 16. It was my first year living in New Zealand and I was still getting to know people and I was also slowly settling down in a new city. My sister was a voluntary teacher for Sunday Islamic classes for children at the time and she told me about a class for teenage Muslim girls that were also held on Sundays at the mosque. So I decided to go because I was curious and I wanted to get to know the Muslim girls better. The class was held in the mosque library at the back of the mosque and there were 2 Muslim sisters in their mid-20's teaching the class. At first the class went well and I was enjoying learning about the interpretation of the Qur'an by the 1st teacher, Sister M.

Then the 2nd teacher, Sister J, came in. She wore one of those huge hijabs that go right down to the waist. She saw me and suddenly shouted, "You!". I looked around and it was obvious that she was looking at me so I said, "Yes??". She replied in front of the entire class, "You're not wearing proper hijab! Go inside the prayer area and get a prayer outfit then only come back in here." I was stunned and speechless. Then after a few seconds I got up, left the room and looked for my sister who was also teaching in a different room at the time. She was surprised to see me and especially so after I started bawling my eyes out. I told her what had happened and how I felt so humiliated. I told her I just wanted to take my scarf off and leave. It was then that Sister M came to me and apologised for what happened earlier. She told me Sister J shouldn't have approached me like that and coaxed me to come back to the class but my heart was already set on leaving so that's what I did. I didn't attend a single Islamic class at the mosque after that. By the way, I donned the hijab like this on that day.

I attended Islamic talks and lectures at the mosque after that but I refused to be around Sister J, who by the way, ironically enough no longer wears hijab today. I didn't think much of her as person and as a religious person, honestly. She was rude and very patronising. Thank God I went on to study the Qur'an and Islam on my own after the incident because otherwise Islam wouldn't play a big role in my life  today. Yes there are negative associations with being religious in the post-modern world. Some we have no control over such as  media manipulation but most of the time, these negative associations are caused by Muslims. Moez Masoud's message is simple: purify your intentions. Do you really have concern for your Muslim sisters and/or brothers or are you simply projecting a 'holier than thou' attitude'?

P.S. I didn't mean to go on and on about this issue but it's something I feel strongly about so I just had to write about it again.


-Amina said…
Thanks for sharing the video Sha!

I think that people who are considered "more religious" than the rest usually have this eagerness to communicate the message of The Almighty, that they sometimes forget to do it with the adab and humility that is required, and that is what forces some people to distance themselves from Islam, and the message.
Maryam said…
This is an awesome video. He's a great speaker and I agree with him.

"Stairway to Paradise" good phrase.
Ive noticed that the teachers at islamic schools as well as the sunday school teachers are rude and patronizing to the kids. They beat them and shout at them and show them no respect (or at least the masjids in the area I grew up). There is a way to approach someone, and the best example is the way our prophet (pbuh) dealt with people. He would never make someone feel bad about themselves or embarass them. Most times muslims are so quick to point out others outward flaws that they forget to reflect on their own. I know lots of men who have long beards, go to the masjid daily yet drink alcohol, cheat on their wives etc. I also know women who wear niqabs or long abayahs and seem the perfect muslim who backbite against one another, never pray, and just wear it for others. Then there are some sisters who dont wear hijab who are very knowledgable about islam, have good manners, and good character. Which is better? A sister who dresses a way to please others but has a horrible character, or a woman who doesnt dress islamically but has good character and morals? Once, I had a friend who was at the masjid and was not praying and had nail polish on. She was there to pick up her kids. A woman approached her and started lecturing her how she cant pray with nail polish on. She never once tried to find out why, not that it was her business or anything.She just assumed. A lot of muslims feel it is their duty to point out everyones mistakes and if they dont they will be held accountable, however there is a tactful way to do it. That individual makes the best dawah when they have good character, morals, etc. When someone sees that they will eventually be influenced to be more like yourself and change. Nice post!
Anonymous said…
Thank you for sharing. I am saddened that so many girls have stories to tell about similar incidents.

I too have had experiences of ridicule and judgment while I was taking Arabic classes at the Mosque. I wasn't in the actual Mosque where people pray, but there was a school connected to it. I tried learning Arabic and instead was only seen as someone wearing jeans and no hijab. To be tolerant and compassionate, one cannot tell a woman her jeans are haram when that is what she has worn all her life.

I also have issues with our Mosques here in America. They are narrowly and strictly segregated where genders do not even see each other. Women must enter through a back door, separate from the men, and cannot go to the main area of the mosque that is the most beautiful. I only saw the real part of the mosque when I got married. ! Women walking through the front door are ridiculed by the men.. It was ridiculous at the mosque I first attended.

Long story short I stopped going. Even now I refuse to go. I will not support segregation, especially blatantly unequal segregation. Anyone who is keen to all that people fought for in America, the civil rights marches and people dying to end segregation, will know why it is a tough pill to swallow for a western woman.

Anyways, I have spit that pill out.

I am blessed though because of the people in my life who are the most wonderful Muslims and the sweetest, genuinely good people I have ever met. I am lucky to have such good friends and acquaintances who really are the ones who inspire me and show me what a good Muslim is.

I hope all Muslim women can have a glimpse of the real beauty of Islam, and it is not found in a Mosque.
Anonymous said…
P.S. I just want to add, I am not against Mosques, but I am against narrow minded people who have run the Mosques I have attended. Certainly I would go to the Mosque happily if I can find one I agree with.
S. H. said…
I'm just learning but i had been told that the best place for a woman is her home, when it comes to pray is better doit at home,if you want to learn and your teacher doesn't respects you...what are you doing there??...there are alot of resources on internet for free, you can also practice with some one who speaks arabic and have conversations online, i mean in this way you have control, is just my coment, i actually do it..

about hijab in your other posts...well i'm not compleatly agree with the colorfull and many styles are not designed to cover all, so I have this magazine and in this issue i make a bridal hijab special...but i'm warnning the girls if you are using one style that not cover compleatly your head,well is up to you do it right or not...I actually wrote this on the magazine if you want to take a look at it at
i'm not profecional but is something i like it and thanks to this blog i realice that i been going more to the fashion side(but because is something really adictive) so i have to correct that inshallah
i hope you like it
Shahirah Elaiza said…
Amina: No problemo hun! Always happy to share =) Everybody makes mistakes, inshaAllah we all learn from our own mistakes and that of others.

Maryam: He is and it's so easy for me to relate to what he's saying! I enjoy watching his shows because a lot of 'lightbulbs' light up when I do so lol

Rene: Thanks! I agree, we need to follow the ways and sunnah of our Prophet peace be upon him a lot more. He was firm with his commands yet gentle in his approach. Nobody is perfect but we should all strive to better ourselves.

Sara: I think people should have understood your position as a new Muslim. As Moez said, people forget about the heart and they start focusing on the outer results too fast. Hopefully, soon you'll be able to find a mosque that makes you feel welcomed =)

That's me: In many ways I do agree that the best place for a woman is her home... where she feels comfortable and secure. I completely understand where you're coming from in everything that you wrote. But people understand religion differently and there needs to be some sort of tolerance for those who are still learning about Islam.... it's a lifelong process and it's a struggle (jihad) which every individual faces.
J. Faison said…
Interesting topic and fine points, masha'Allah.

May we remember the kindness of Rasullulah (peace be upon him), in our dealings with each other and ourselves. May we draw closer to Allah through this beautiful faith and exude mercy, patience, and compassion. Ameen.
Shahirah Elaiza said…
J.Faison: Ameen. Thank you for dropping by! Lovin' all your photography work =)