The West Wakes Up to Islam
by Abdalhaqq Bewley
That morning Mr. Smith got up a little earlier than usual. There was something unfamiliar in the air, it definitely did not sound like a normal Monday morning. He went over to the window and drew back the curtains. He could not believe his eyes. There in front of him, instead of the familiar row of houses he was used to, was an encampment of richly decorated tents and pavilions. A group of turbaned horsemen riding beautifully caparisoned steeds galloped into view, shouting in a guttural language to each other. They were waving curved scimitars and their leader had flung over his saddle two severed heads tied together by the hair. He threw them down on the ground, laughing as he did so and two black slaves appeared with a silver salver to place them on. The men dismounted and a bevy of flimsily veiled, giggling slave girls gathered to escort each to one of the tents. Meanwhile in the distance the sun could be seen glinting on the domes and minarets and arches of a distant city, and between the tents and the city palm trees were swaying in the breeze. 'Goodness me! I've woken up to Islam,' said Mr. Smith to himself.
This ridiculous caricature, or one similar to it, is unfortunately, courtesy of the Crusades via Hollywood, more or less the picture that most people have at the back of their minds when Islam is mentioned and unfortunately the Muslims here and elsewhere have so far been able to do little to dissipate this view in the public consciousness.
Islam is viewed at best as an exotic import, something foreign, something from somewhere else and it is vital to address this misconception before it can be seen for what it really is.
Islam is in fact nothing other than the best way to worship God - that one God who everyone in their heart of hearts and their hours of greatest need knows to be there; the one who created and sustains the Universe and everything in it and beyond it.
When I became a Muslim, it was not because I wanted to put on fancy dress or change my nationality. It was because I knew and had always known inside myself that God existed and wanted to do something about it. I was looking for an outward form to correspond to an inner awareness that things were not what they superficially appeared to be and that there must be a way of living my life in such a way that my daily existence would complement and confirm what I knew inside myself to be true.
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"I am a slave. I eat as a slave eats and I sit as a slave sits.", Beloved, sallallahu alyhi wa-sallam.