Azfar, a new immigrant, got on the bus and took a seat. Glancing around he saw that people appeared busy, with their heads bent over their own little devices, avoiding conversation with each other. Across from where he sat was a boy about his own age. Being the social kind, Azfar made eye contact with him and tried to smile. The reaction from the boy was surprising. He turned his head away so fast you could almost hear his neck snap! It seemed like he wanted absolutely nothing to do with Azfar. Curious, Azfar glanced at him again. He did not want to startle the boy, but he remembered the Prophet’s tradition of greeting everyone he passed. Their eyes met again, Azfar smiled and waved. The boy was taken aback. His face looked like he was trying to say ‘Are you serious man? I don’t even know you,’ But then, his general courtesy kicked in and he nodded back. Azfar wasn’t looking to start a conversation with him, but the boy took the first step and asked “Do I know you?”

Azfar thought that this was the perfect opportunity to share the beauty of Islam, so he answered “No, it’s just that my Prophet used to greet everyone he passed, and I like to do the same.” The boy asked Azfar, “and which Prophet would that be?” Azfar answered “Muhammad.” The boy then asked, “So you’re Muslim?” Azfar nodded. The boy continued, “I’ve been learning about your religion in World Religions.” To Azfar’s surprise, his follow up question was “Did your prophet actually fight, and like, kill people to spread his religion?” Azfar was shocked. He replied “No, the Prophet only ever fought in self-defense. It’s too bad his military career was the only thing they taught you, there are a thousand things you could have learned about his life.” The boy was curious and asked, “Such as?” Azfar jumped at the chance to properly introduce the boy to the man he loved so much.

“Well, I suppose that if there is anything that you need to know about him, it was his kindness. He was soft-spoken. He always had a big smile on his face. He loved everyone, animal or man, Muslim or non-Muslim. He even treated the people who hated him with respect. Once, he went to a city to preach to the inhabitants and explain Islam but in return they pelted him with rocks until he was bleeding. God then gave him the choice to have that city crushed in between the two mountains that surrounded it. But instead he made a prayer for the people of that city to receive faith. He was so sincere in his love for people that even though he was promised heaven from God, and he had nothing to worry about, he still spent all his nights standing up in prayer, and crying so that God would forgive anyone who ever took Islam as their religion and even for those that didn’t accept Islam.” At this point, the boy interrupted and said, “Wait…so you mean to tell me that your Prophet was concerned for people who didn’t convert?” Azfar replied, “Well, yeah, he was sent as a mercy to all of mankind, not just Muslims.” The boy said “Really? My impression of Muslims is very different. I thought they are rather impolite people, always aggressive and fighting. When you first waved to me I had no idea you were Muslim – I never imagined a Muslim would be so friendly.” He said slightly embarrassed.

Brothers and sisters, if you are surprised by the impression of the boy on the bus, you should realize that it is our fault that people have such impressions about Muslims. We have forgotten to follow the best example in history. That of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh). Does his perfection deter you from following him? If you don’t set your goals high to be like him, how will you even come close? How can we as Muslims, not smile at everyone regardless of religion or race? How come we cut people off in traffic and break lines and cues? We are the Ummah of the Prophet! We should never act in a disrespectful manner.

The media is constantly hammering us in with anti-Islamic news and movies. They have done that with other nations and races until everyone thought badly of them and now it appears to be Islam’s turn. Now that Muslims are in that limelight, even the slightest human error from us becomes a reason for others to hate Islam.

But forget being rude to non-Muslims. How we treat each other is even worse! We scare each other away from our own faith by our actions. My friends and I go to pray at a mosque that is further than the local one nearby. Why? Because at the local mosque we go to, we witnessed acts that kept us from wanting to continue to attend the prayers there. One such example was of a man who was so adamant in creating the perfect line for prayer, that even after the prayer had started (when we should be focusing on speaking with God) he came in front of us, grabbed our shoulders and squished us together to create the ‘perfect’ line. The man focused on the hadith* of standing shoulder to shoulder, but did not bother about the hadith that says not to cross another person when they are in the middle of prayer!  Actions like this deter people who may already struggle with going to the mosque in the first place.

Now, you might be thinking ‘How could someone possibly consider him or herself a good Muslim when they are breaking the ground rule of being nice to others?’ Well believe it or not, some people do not realize that something as simple as being a nice person is part of Islam. They think they can pray five times a day, read Quran, and then they are free to do whatever they want, so long as the Quran did not say it is Haram. This mindset is rather contradictory to what Allah has to say. The Prophet was the perfect man. He was honest, kind, loving and more. Allah says about him in Surah Al e-Imraan, verse number 159, “And it was by Allah’s grace that you (O Prophet) dealt gently with your followers, for if you had been harsh and hard of heart, they would have dispersed from you.” Can you imagine? The Prophet is perfect, but if he simply did not have one attribute, and that was kindness, people would not have become Muslim. This attribute of kindness was shown by Allah in the Quran to be higher than all his other attributes. So how can anyone think that they can be Muslim without being nice? So if Muslims are going to sport a beard or wear a hijab in public, we have to make sure we are just as Muslim on the inside as we are on the outside.

So how can we get rid of the negativity within ourselves? There is one solution that Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) provided, and if we follow, will give us success in this world and the hereafter. That is sticking to two things: Allah’s Book and the Prophet’s traditions. Yes, the Quran and the Sunnah. When Muslims followed them in the past, they were successful and respected. They were a prosperous civilization because they were ethically and morally conscious.

The solution lies within us. We do not need a miracle. The change starts with you!

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