At my first school assembly when we were about to recite a doa the kid beside me slapped my hand down and said: “Engkau bukan Islam, tak boleh doa”.
I didn’t look Muslim enough apparently. Muslims didn’t have my nose and my skin tone.
Later, still in primary school, I was laughed at because I couldn’t read the Quran. I had to write the sounds down using the alphabet and memorise it so I could pass off as reading the Quran:-
“Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem
Al-hamdu lillahi Rabb il-‘alamin
Iyya-ka na’budu wa iyya-ka nasta’in
Sirat al-ladhina an’amta ‘alai-him
Ghair il-Maghdubi ‘alai-him wa la-d-dallin.”
That’s how the Fatihah looked to me growing up.
Later, I was told that the novels that I loved to read were syirik because they involved magic and magicians and swords and monsters and ancient Gods.
“Kenapa baca buku-buku syirik ni Fareez? Nanti terpesong aqidah. Kau tu dahla baca Quran pun tak tau!”
Still later, I was told that the action figures I collect should be kept hidden or thrown away:
“Kamu ni sembah berhala ke apa? Tau tak malaikat nanti tak masuk?”
These experiences with Muslims in my beloved country helped shape me. And today, as I woke up, I realised something.
The way a majority of people approach Islam in this country is fundamentally flawed.
We value form over substance. We value ritual over intent. We value the beard over the mind. We seek to enforce and dominate rather than to tolerate and to educate.
We race to divide ourselves over petty issues while larger issues like poverty, education and corruption remain at the sidelines.
Our jubahs and baju Melayus get shinier and more elaborate but our mosques are as empty as our hearts. We do not love. We are incapable of it in the face of constant bombardment to be more Muslim than the next guy.
We have Quran classes in the sky, we charge into hotel rooms crusading against zina, we offer prayer services at the Kaabah, we seek to imprison, whip, scold, shout and even kill in the name of Allah… The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful.
And yet our poor have nothing to eat, there are still children who lack basic education, there are women who face abuse, there are politicians who continue to lead while being corrupt to the core.
This is not the Islam that my heart knows. This is not the tears that I shed when I read about the sirahof the Prophet Muhammad SAW. This is not the gentle, kind and righteous religion that I believe in.
May Allah grant us peace and ease our burdens. And may Allah grant us His mercy and guidance in this world and the next.
Fareez Zahir is an FMT reader.