Friday, May 16, 2008
Sectarian garbage... Can we throw it out???
I went to do a presentation on the holidays we celebrate in Islam yesterday at my children's school for the 2nd and 3rd grades. Now, the topic was holidays... But the question and answer time went in a different direction. Of course I got the usual, "Why do you wear that thing on your head?". But a 3rd grader asked me a question that took me by surprise. And remember I was a teacher so it is pretty hard for a kid to say something that surprises me.
This little boy asked me... "Is it true that there was a fight when Muhammad died and the Muslims couldn't decide whether a more experienced guy or a guy who was related to Muhammad should lead them? Is it true that Muslims are still fighting about it?"
And whenever I hear something like this from a non-Muslim, I feel like the soft underbelly of the ummah has been exposed. Our weakness laid bare before people who may very well use it to harm us.
Of course the answer had to be yes. The kid even knew that the two groups were called Shia and Sunni... The only thing he didn't know was which was which. The only thing I could say after my yes is that we are all Muslims, regardless of what we think about this matter.
But I don't think that we all feel that way really. The divide between the sects runs deep. And if we truly want to end the fighting we have to admit that first. There is a reason that we are divided, there are differences between the two sects... But, insha'Allah, in the end what I said to that boy is true we are all Muslims.
We can all ignore it for as long as we want. We have avoided coming together for what 1400 years now??? But in this country and in this time when we have our face in the dirt and the rest of the world has its' foot on our back can we really afford to? Can we afford to let these differences keep us so busy fighting amongst ourselves that progress is impossible? How long will we let our own self hatred hold us back? You know how the worst fights are with the people closest to you?
So let it start with me. Hi, I'm Sunni. But I promise not to judge you or hate on you because you are Shia. Promise me that you will give me the same respect. I'm not going to front... I think you are a little off about some things, I've wondered if we are even following the same religion when I read books about it from the Sunni perspective and I know you think the same about me... I hope that we can talk about the differences in our interpretations of the religion and try to understand each other better. I hope you know that if you are next to me in the Masjid you can hold your hands to your side as you read Al-Fatiha and I will cross mine on my chest knowing that we are making these gestures with the same intention, the worship of Allah(swt).
We can't make peace with the non-Muslims until we make peace with ourselves. Just my two piasters.