‘Please could you guide me to the Interfaith Workshop?’ I ask.
‘I am very selective about who I choose to speak to. I am the daughter of a consultant and belong to a very prestigious family,’ came the reply.
A conversation form the era of the Civil Rights Era, one might think. In fact, a conversation had outside a college of the University of Cambridge, right in the heart of one of the most elite western academic institutions, a powerhouse of intellect and learning.
I’d driven for over two hours in rush hour traffic, in the dark, navigated wondrous streets in the town centre trying to find somewhere to park, running late and still having to find my destination and as a recipient of bad news forwarding some bad news, this conversation was not what I expected to hear, rather not something I wanted to hear. I absorbed what I had heard, even though it wasn’t to my liking, and said nothing.
I turned and scanned my surrounding, looking for something else to direct me to where I needed to be. Tired and rushed for time; fearful that had I said something maybe I wouldn’t have done justice to what I wanted to say in that given situation, I decided that it was best to stay quiet.
I turned and walked away as the lady continued to shout abuse, probably aggravated by the fact that her statement had not been deemed worthy of a response. As I shut the door and entered my host building I took the opportunity to renew my intention as to why I was there.
During the course of the evening I enjoyed the company of others, Jews, Christians and Muslims in an atmosphere of mutual respect, further tolerance. In particular, I was taken by a gentleman who wanted to know more about the guiding Philosophies of Islam. Having evaluated his own faith, he was keen to explore the workings of another. His inquisitiveness and respectful enquiry given the constant media onslaught was testament to the fact that people do retain the ability and capacity to observe, think and consider matters independently, despite the constant islamaphobic onslaught and that we as Muslims, must actively provide and promote the counter narrative and reveal the beauty of our faith.
The contrast between the natures of these particular interactions on that evening serve to provide a wonderful reminder of the nature of social interactions and the importance of self reflection.
If in doubt for what to say, we should remain silent. However, could I have approached and engaged in the earlier conversation in a better manner? Nobody can imbibe perfection, however it is important to create within oneself a process of self reflection evaluation, in order to continually improve ourselves, but safeguarding against being hypercritical to the point of destruction.
It is important not to allow negative experience to hang over us. We should look to balance our negative experiences against the positive experiences we accrue, allowing ourselves to approach each interaction anew.
We are at test in all that we do. The arduousness of our tasks and resulting frustrations are kept at bay when we act with a clear sense of purpose. Clarity and renewal of intention are instrumental in achieving this.
Ustadha Naima Umme Ubaydullah
Al Lahun Ul Quraan
12 Muharram 1436 / 5th November 2014