Islam … between the poles of Arabs and others

As I am still reflecting on my trip to Nigeria, I found myself tuned in my thoughts about the global reality that we live in. How interestingly things are connected, yet sadly, in a bad way. I would have wished for this aspect of globalization in how the globe interacts would be more of positiveness. However, it remains important and useful to see the resemblance.

Being a Muslim, maybe the reason of my certain observations, and in many ways, the resemblance that occurred must be that of Islamic.

I was highly impressed and humbled by the Muslim people I had the chance to meet over there. My discourse has never been that of racism and religious provocations, and yet, I feel I need to write about that side of how Islam or Muslims are treated in a country that Muslims form more than half of its population, and are obviously, coming of what forms the elitist side of the social aspect of Nigeria. Even though, victoriously feeling, they know the time of their recent marginalization is over. But that consciousness of knowing that they are sieged under a corrupt non Muslim government and a terror Muslim organization, made their behavior more of that mixture of wisdom and patience…. and I am happy that era is over.

I definitely found in the behavior of the hosting family and my personal friend, those times I lived as a child or maybe of earlier youth as a Muslim, among extended family and friends. A side of the society that made me always bow with respect, but admittedly, I never wanted to live. A certain yearning to the roots, but yet expectations to the spread of the branch

As I saw the lifestyle, of what seemed a bit of rural Palestine in their living, that which brings you closer to your roots and consequently closer to your own self, and at the same time marks a clear line between the current way of living that is expressed totally in a different matter. A life that I may enjoy idealizing and I will always make sure will never become mine.

What I saw in their lifestyle was a real and genuine attempt to preserve and maintain their own heritage. They do not lack the money, the means or education. All of them come from rich backgrounds, studied to the highest levels abroad, and know well how life can be with what they can afford. But they intentionally preserved it in an attempt to remind themselves of who they are.

At the same time, on the other side of the continent, where those growing invitations in Egypt to demonstrate against wearing the Hijab. I was thinking of how much of confusion Islam under Muslims like us has become. While our world is sieged by terror groups under the name of Islam within book haram and Da’esh (isis), we Muslims are not making it any easier. What I observed in Nigeria among Muslims was the contrary of what is happening in the Arab Islamic world. As I am very aware that the few I met are exceptional, educated and mature. The essence of their belief had grounds that we here lack. That essence of knowledge. Real education. Real aspiration to learn. Is that we lack.

The attack or the controversy that occurred upon what the young Muslim scholar Islam buheiri’s statements about the Hadith and the Sahih of it only pushed us again towards this fundamentalist aspect of our tradition and culture, that by time became our religion. It is not if the man was right or wrong. It is about accepting the controversy of the discourse in the first place, and then, and what is important, to understand what he was saying. What happened instead was, that every Muslim became a theology scholar and hermeneutics expert and all waved the Quran raised by a sword. The refutation and the acceptance of his discourse were led without a single real research. We just agreed or opposed and in all ways extremely.

And then to make the controversy even worse, a call for removing the hijab is screamed out, and using Huda Sharawi as a name has been unacceptably exploited. Again, in another attempt to raise a discourse with no understanding. Not even an attempt to learn about the history that we all deliberately hold and exploit, each claiming he knows it all.

No a single time have I heard anyone in all those attempted discourses discussing real resources. When refuting or accepting a given book, most don’t know except the name of the author or the book. The rest is the job of the preacher that we accepted to assign as the messenger on behalf of those who delegated before themselves the messengers of the messenger. All insisting that they follow the order of god and his prophet.

As my Muslim brothers and sisters in Nigeria, brought me back to those good old days, when islam was cautiously discussed with utmost care, and yet, our discussions led each of us to stop when he or she didn’t know and hurry to look for a resource where we can contribute to our discussion. Whereas what is happening in Egypt, as much as what is happening elsewhere in the Muslim world, we stand in rallies of refutation and support to a certain preacher or against him, without any attempt to go and search for ourselves the answer.

It saddens me even more, when we live in the world of open resources, that one can get in a click, a world that is full of so many of us who are “educated” and yet, we still insist to catch on to what someone else has said or decided. From that school or another.

What I saw and experienced among the Muslim friends I met, was something I rarely encounter in my own country or other Arab countries as I walk with my naked arms and half exposed legs. I was able to dress however I want in a part of the world were I looked like a part of exotic creature that was dropped in that black land, whereas I cannot even think of wearing a dress as I go to my work in the university everyday. Everywhere I walked, I haven ever noticed or felt a moment of annoyance or disrespect or hungry looks. Whereas I try to avoid such looks and sentiments every moment I walk in the street of my own city.

While I was in the mosque, I felt the safety and the welcoming I never felt in the Dome of the Rock. The place I call and insist is home.

It remains that there is always this side of Islam, that somehow, non Arabs seem to understand it, cherish it, and insist on preserving it, while we Arabs continue to exploit it day in day out, and insist on claiming that we are the people of the Book.


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