This is Episode from the “My Generation, The Millennials Series. The first installment actually. Created by yours truly, Khulthum. Do note that some may see this as too lengthy but it is totally worth it, I promise. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @khulthum_muse to join the conversation. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic so Don’t forget to drop comments and share. Happy Reading.
“Are you a Muslim or a Christian?”, if only I got paid every time I hear this question regarding my Religion. *sighs*
Being a new student at whatever level is never easy, it is especially hard in tertiary institutions. I don’t know any one here, and Zaria is so cold. Minding my business in this place has become like a second nature as I can count on one hand how many people I have spoken to since resumption.
I don’t have friends yet as I do not interact well with people and my roommates already made friends with each other. Its harder I tell you, to get in with a group of friends than it is to just make your own friend.
But I digressed. Back to the main gist. On Saturday night I was on my bed trying to download the new episode of Vikings. I knew my roommates were gisting about something but I wasn’t really paying attention to them. I think it is imperative to state that in a room of eight, seven of them are Christians, whilst in the room just beside ours, they are all Muslims.
The girls were talking about their secondary school days, when my bunk mate suddenly looked at me and asked,
“babe, are you a Muslim or a Christian?”
This question knocked me out for a second and I had every right to be. You see asides our first introduction, we have spoken way less than 10 words to each other despite being BUNKIES . Just as I was about to tell her that I was Atheist, just to see the expression on her face, I remembered that they were all people I would be spending a whole year with. I thought it best not to equate myself to their version of the devil. I told her I was Muslim. With the name Ummul-khulthum, I assumed that would be obvious.
Thinking that was the end of it, I went back to what I was doing, but then she quickly added,
“toh, you know since you came I haven’t seen you pray, that’s why”
My immediate reaction was to defend myself. I was about to explain that I was on my period, and as such could not say my Salat but then another girl asked her what business of hers it is. That was when I caught myself, what business of hers is it really, I owed her no explanation at all.
They went back to talking about their choirs groups back home, like nothing happened, but I was still bothered. I don’t know if it was because of her question or the fact that I didn’t give her a suitable answer. It wasn’t the first time I was hearing that type of question though, in fact I hear it quite often.
Growing up, private schools were too expensive, Islamic schools were practically non existent and public schools were, well, too public. Missionary schools should have been too Christian and Catholic, but mom, a single mother, did not have much of a choice. She tried to balance her child’s exposure to Christianity by simultaneously getting me admitted into Islamiya (Islamic recitation schools).
Hence, even my childhood was a contradiction. After reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Angelus in school, I go to Islamiya to recite the Quran. I learnt about Jesus alongside the prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Even though Christian Religious Studies (C.R.S) was my best subject, I had no problem finishing the Quran. Whilst at school I was ashamed to call myself a Muslim. At Islamiya I couldn’t say I went to a Catholic school. Long story short, I have always struggled with my identity as regards to Religion.
Although, there were many instances where people asked of my religion, I brushed it off easily. Going to a secular secondary school where neither Christianity nor Islam were prominent helped me create a comfort zone for myself. There, I could put my identity issues on a back burner.
Maybe the reason why this girl’s question bothered me so was because, whilst my identity issues might have been dormant for a while, they weren’t gone. You see, I came into a room with seven Christians and immediately saw myself as different. Disregarding all we had in common, as new students, studying the same course, leaving home for the first time, i immediately focused on our one difference- Religion. I unconsciously secluded myself and they let me, because they too focused on our difference. It wasn’t about liking people or them liking me, it was all about religion.
This prompted me to think of all the times I found it easier to ask the lady in Hijab for information rather than the girl standing beside me. I remembered, how, when in an argument with a Christian friend, trying to understand the concept of the Holy Trinity, he turned and said,
“Khulthum, you are not Christian, you can’t understand”.
Like we don’t read the same Bible. As if his being a Christian gave him a higher understanding of the Bible.
Hence I began to see our generation in a different light. Even though we claim to be nondiscriminatory, we often, though subtly, highlight our differences. We can’t do away with our self righteousness, so we just mask it. We do so not realizing that we are just spraying perfume on a casket. Carrying religion around, whilst forgetting that we are first humans.
Let me clarify, yes, I believe in God. I love Jesus and the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH). I believe in the last day, but I also believe in our shared humanity. Vehemently refusing to argue or even talk about the shortfalls of our religions, we continue to stand upon the altar of self imposed ignorance. Well, I suppose God blessed us with intellect and the ability to reason for all other purposes but this topic.
Understand that am not here to criticize your belief. As one who has been intimately exposed to both, believe me, I understand the disagreement. The problem I have is with the division. How being one and not the other, automatically defines how you are being seen and treated. The question shouldn’t be if one is Muslim or Christian, your being human should be enough!
After so many years, now I can take a breath of fresh air. I can’t say i completely blame my roommates, as the system also highlights our differences too. I doubt there being seven Christians in one room and non in another is just a coincidence. It seems my very Muslim name doesn’t sound Muslim-enough to many people.
I guess what I am trying to say is that God and Religion are on opposite spectrum. Religion tells us we different and better than those who do not share our beliefs. God created us as one, with no disparity among us.
We seem not to understand that just because you call me blind, doesn’t automatically give you sight. The fact that we disagree doesn’t make any one of us right, neither does it make us wrong. I believe Religion is a man made invention in the sense that while God is the cure, religion is more like the infection.
We all should remember,that if something were to happen to our beliefs, another Religion will just crop up . After all before there ever was prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and Jesus, Religion still existed. This having to do with the Human’s innate need to believe in a higher being. In the view of this, understanding our shared humanity, accepting it and being able to overlook our differences should be our priority.
We followers of Religion do so with Faith and Love, forgetting the most prominent and common characteristic between these two features; Blindness.