It was a very crowded day at the park. My 2-year-old son was playing happily from one end of the park to the other. As he was climbing a small staircase, he happened to slip and bump his knee. I started to walk towards him to see if he was alright. He was not crying but had just sat down to check for any possible “damage” on his little knee. As I approached him, I saw a young Caucasian non-Muslim girl, no more than five or six years old, run right past him. Then she quickly turned back around and sat down next to him.
“What’s wrong? Are you okay?” she asked my son. He looked up at her and without any hesitation he responded, “I hurt my knee. See,” he said showing her his knee. “Aw. You poor thing. It’s okay. It looks alright to me,” she said and rubbed his knee gently. Then she smiled at him and helped him get back up. He was up and running again like nothing had ever happened, and he did not even need his mommy to make him feel better. A sincere little stranger did my job for me.
I was so touched by what had just happened. It made me realize how innocent and oblivious children are to all the differences that exist amongst us human beings. Out of the goodness of her heart, that little girl came to my son’s rescue despite his skin color, religion, or gender. She probably did not even notice any of those things. As children get older, they become more aware of people’s differences by the influences of their families, peers, and environment around them. Unfortunately, over time we begin to judge others just by how they look instead of who they really are.
It is easy to consider ourselves as the victims of prejudice and false judgments these days with Islamophobia on the rise. However, there needs to be a more proactive approach we take towards dealing with non-Muslims. Before someone can pass the wrong judgment on us, we need to make sure we have been heard and noticed in a positive light first.
For example, when we go to the grocery store and approach a cashier at the register, we always make proper eye contact and greet him/her by name.
“Hello, Sue. How is your day going?”
If there is no name tag, then just greet the individual nicely and ask how he or she is doing. It is rare that the individual will give you bad service in return to your sincere kindness. This is also a quick and easy form of outreach. A smile goes a long way, and in Islam, the reward is equal to that of giving charity. By recognizing that person as someone who is worth being noticed, we will leave a lasting impression on the heart. Instead of us expecting to be served and addressed with respect, we should take the initiative to pay respect to the cashier, waiter, or bank teller waiting on us. We should also keep good relations with our neighbors and let them know we exist in peace and not in hiding.
The Qur’an states, “Serve Allah, and join not any partners with Him; and do good to parents, kinsfolk, orphans, those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer and what your right hands possess: For Allah loves not the arrogant, the vain.” (Surah Nisa 4:36)
As Muslims, we should strive to become the perfect strangers. The little girl who helped my son in the park is a great example of who we should be at all times. Remember, for Allah tells us in the Holy Qur’an, “And the servants of the Most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say, ‘Peace!’” (Surah Furqan 25:63)
Tayyaba is a freelance journalist from Illinois. She has been featured on NPR and writes for numerous publications. She also speaks about marriage and family. Most importantly, she is blessed to be a mother of two little adventurers and blogs at www.tayyabasyed.blogspot.com.
*”Perfect Stranger’ was first published in MBMuslima Magazine. Permission to reprint was given by author.