One Concordian’s honest portrait of what his faith means to him
As a Canadian-born Muslim, I’ve learned to live and grow in this country during one of the most trying times for Muslims around the world. Faith seriously entered my life when I was eight years old. My father had just been diagnosed with lymphoma and leukaemia, and his situation was quite dire.
We had been a relatively religious family up until this point, going to the mosque most Fridays and spending time within the Muslim community. However, my father’s sickness deepened our faith. We heavily relied on God and on our knowledge of the Islamic faith to get through that hard time.
At the worst point of his sickness, it seemed not much more could be done, so my father planned a visit to the holy city of Mecca. There, he performed the Islamic hajj pilgrimage—a must for any Muslim before they die. After his pilgrimage, my father had a miraculous recovery, which further solidified his faith, and our family’s faith.
Religion is all around us. For thousands of years, it has been a driving force behind civilizations and understanding societies and the people who fill this planet. Sadly, it has also been the cause of many acts of war, genocide and persecution—whether it is a group of people using religion as a front to further their own political motives and agendas, or a group being persecuted for following a particular religion.
It seems to me that, these days, people increasingly dislike the concept of religion. Many cite it as outdated and the cause of the barbaric acts of violence we have all seen throughout the world.
I have found it difficult to refute these ideas in discussions with nonreligious or atheist people. Many who don’t practice any religion know very little about religion. As such, I believe when people see images and videos of people carrying out acts of violence in the name of religion, they paint a picture of that religion based solely on the brutality—ignoring all the positive sides of religion.
Islam is based on five pillars all Muslims should adhere to. The first pillar is “ shahada,” a declaration that there is only one God, and the Prophet Muhammad is the last of his messengers. The second pillar is “salat,” a prayer Muslims perform five times a day. The third pillar is “zakat,” which means giving charity to the poor and to those in need. The fourth pillar is “sawm,” which is the act of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan. The final pillar is “hajj,” the pilgrimage to Mecca.
These pillars represent the basis on which Islam was created. Growing up, my parents really emphasized the importance of kindness and generosity.
“This should be the focus of your time here on earth,” they’d say. Islam’s pillars reinforce kindness. This is why faith plays such a big part in my life. Many people say: “What if it’s all fake? And you’ve lived your life trying to be good all for nothing?” Yet, that is the point of Islam and many other religions in the first place—to sacrifice, and live your life for others, having faith that this is your purpose.
For me, regardless of whether it’s all fake or not, religion has taught me these key principles. To be kind, generous, empathetic, honest and to help people, regardless of their faith. Living with these ideals and trying to uphold them regularly is, in my opinion, a good way to live your life—this is regardless of what you feel happens after we die. This is why I find religion so powerful.
On Jan. 29, in la grande mosquée de Québec in Quebec city, six men, four of whom were fathers to young children, were massacred as they stood for evening prayer. The term I want to introduce here is “shahid.” This word is used to denote a martyr, a person who has died fulfilling a religious commandment.
Though people will say these men were not fighting for Islam in the typical way we think of today, these men are the brightest and most valued of Muslims—innocent, humble and hardworking fathers who were taken from this world and from their children too early. We must not forget what happened almost 10 days ago, we must not forget the names of these men, and we must always remember what they and their families were forced to go through in order to shed light on the problems our society faces. May they find their way into eternal paradise and may their families be lessened of the burden they now face.