There is room for you in Islam.
How can I say that? How can I say that you can be a part of my faith as I stand here in my all-enveloping robes and my hair – do I even have hair? – hidden under flowing fabric?
How can I even approach you, think we have anything in common?
How can I look at you with your skin exposed and inked, poured into skinny jeans and teetering on stiletto heels?
How can you ever have anything in common with me? Why would I even bother to ask?
Because my religion teaches that you have to have the wisdom to look beyond what is displayed on the outside to see what resides within.
For instance, you with vivid dragon decorating your arms. You look like a tough cookie, but I know that you visit your mom, who has dementia, every single day to make sure the nurses are taking care of her, to put a little makeup on her the way she likes. You sit with her and let her tell you the same stories of her girlhood over and over again and never show impatience. That’s an Islam thing:
“Your Lord has decreed that you should worship none but Him, and that you should show kindness to your parents. Whether one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say “Ugh!” to them out of irritation, and do not be harsh with them; rather, speak to them with gentleness and generosity. Take them under your wing, out of mercy, with due humility and say: “O Lord, show mercy to them as they did in looking after me when I was small.” (Surat al-Isra’: 23-24)
And you, the one with the piercings that quite honestly make me wince a bit when I think about how it must have hurt when they went in. I know you are working two jobs to support yourself and pay for school and you still make time to volunteer to feed the homeless downtown. You man the soup ladle, hand out blankets, and offer a smile for people who too often are invisible. That’s an Islam thing:
Give to the near of kin his due, and also to the needy and the wayfarers. Do not squander your wealth wastefully; for those who squander wastefully are Satan’s brothers, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord. (17:26 – 27)
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The believer’s shade on the Day of Resurrection will be his charity.” – Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 604
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98
And you, the one with the high heels which would make me turn my ankle in a second. I know that you are a single mom and you haven’t had a night out in a year because you have been spending your evenings making up for the shortfalls of the crappy school your kids go to. You read to them, help them with their handwriting, demand excellence from them and lose sleep worrying about them. You give them the best food and content yourself with little if there’s too much month left at the end of the money. That’s an Islam thing:
It was narrated that ‘Aa’ishah the wife of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said: A woman came to me with two daughters and asked me for food, and I could not find anything except one date which I gave to her. She shared it between her two daughters, then she got up and went out. The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) came in and I told him what had happened. He said: “Whoever is in charge of any of these girls and treats them well, they will be a shield for him against the Fire.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5649; Muslim, 2629
So you see, I see you. I see YOU. Yes, I see the tattoos and the piercings and the tight clothes and the high heels. Honestly, I might click my tongue and think to myself how inappropriate that looks, because I’m only human and there are teachings in Islam about all that stuff. But then I remember that “all that stuff” is not the essence of my faith. The essence of my faith is the belief in One God, and following on the heels of that are teachings about the values that make us moral human beings. Cherishing parents, helping the less fortunate, nurturing the children. And you ladies are all over that. So I tell you, there is room in Islam for you.
Some of my brothers and sisters might disagree. They might self-righteously sniff and say “She looks like a whore / tart / biker chick / kaafir”. But if we are to reach out, who are we gonna reach out to? Am I only going to try to share the beauty of Islam with someone who passes some visual test of what a person who believes in God should look like? That would be the worst kind of arrogance and for me in particular it would be hypocritical too. I wasn’t born wearing these robes. I didn’t grow up in a Muslim family. I have worn the heels and the hair and the other stuff. I have been lost and I didn’t even know I was lost. Yet someone was able to look past the “infidel” exterior and reach out to me and share this beautiful faith with me. They told me that there was room in Islam for me.
Room for me. Room for a crazy, opinionated, loud-laughing punster who used to fight with swords and shields and spears and sing along to Stone Temple Pilots at the top of my lungs. A silly, sentimental gal who cries every time a sweet commercial comes on TV. Someone who can’t clean house worth a darn and who never bothers to separate the whites from the colors. Someone who is disorganized to the nth degree, who loves cats but hates cleaning the litterbox, who loves football and Nascar and still wishes she could go camping and who was contemptuous of Islam before she knew what the heck she was talking about. Room for even me.
That’s how I know there’s room for you in Islam. So don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. You want to learn, you learn. There is room for you in Islam.