Us Muslims are strange, but in a good way. We have so many little things taught to us by our Prophet (peace be upon him} which we try our best to implement in our daily lives. Obviously, most of these things are not very apparent to outsiders. However, sometimes you may come across a Muslim who is practicing his or her religion, but you find the act or behavior very strange. I'll mention a few things that we practice that might appear strange to Non-Muslims.
One very important rule in Islam is that Muslims cannot shake hands with the opposite gender (or touch them, for that matter). So, say, if you are a male interviewer and a Muslim lady in hijab and jilbab (the long outer garment that covers the body) walks in for the interview, it's best not to extend your hand. But, let's assume you forgot or you weren't aware of this, and you offer the handshake, please don't be offended if she politely refuses the handshake. It's not that she's having a bad day or she thinks your fingers are odd-shaped, she's just trying to follow her religion. (Just to let you know, we actually practice how to most politely refuse the handshake without appearing to be impolite, in case the interviewer is of the opposite gender). Same thing goes for men, too. They can't shake hands with women.
Of course, we can shake hands of our mothers, sisters, aunts, etc., (for men) and fathers, brothers, uncles, etc., (for women) because they are our close relatives. And, obviously, women can shake women's hands, and men...yeah, you guessed it. So, what's the reason for this? Imagine, if you had a very rare diamond, you most likely wouldn't want people touching it, except those who are very close to you. Well, our mothers, sisters, wives, etc., are even more precious to us than all the diamonds in the world! We believe women are so precious that only their close relatives have the right to touch them.
Another thing that you might encounter is a Muslim praying. If you have never seen a Muslim praying, you can just look it up on YouTube to familiarize yourself with it. So, don't be alarmed if you see a bearded man bowing and prostrating several times. Relax, he's just praying. I've heard people even call the police just because they thought a group of Muslim men praying was "suspicious activity." When it's time for prayers and we're not at home, then really, we can pray almost anywhere - on the sidewalk, at the office, public park, the beach, the airport, even the airplane! Oh, and we're not allowed to talk while we're praying.
Prayer is one of the most important act of worship for a Muslim. So, when the time for prayer comes in, stop, drop (everything), and pray!
Something else you might see is that Muslim men wear their pants above the ankles. This might not be very obvious and not many Muslim [men] practice this, but it is something taught to us by the Prophet (peace be upon him). So, there is a chance you might come across a Muslim man who, on a cold day (or any day), is wearing his lower garment above his ankles. This is how the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to wear his lower garment and we love him so much that we try to emulate him in every way we can. The best part is, all of this is rewarded!
These are some of the "strange" things we do. But, in reality, they are not really that strange if you understand the purpose behind them. So, I hope this brief article has given you some insights in to Islamic lifestyle. More to come on Part II, Insha'Allah.
Carrying on from Part I on the list of "strange" things us Muslims do, here are some more things that you are likely to find very interesting.
Remember us praying? Well, before we pray we have to make (wudu) ablution to spiritually and physically clean ourselves. Just like praying, you can even look this up on YouTube (what can't you look up on YouTube these days?) To be honest, you might never see a Muslim making wudu, unless you work with a Muslim in an office environment or go to school/college with lots of Muslim students. Nevertheless, since making wudu is a prerequisite of praying, and like I said, we can pray almost anywhere, we need to find a way to make wudu.
I, personally, have made wudu at work and in college. I don't think anyone has seen me making wudu at work, but at college, it's very common. Non-Muslim students come in and out and they see us washing our face, hands up to the elbow, the head, and...the feet! It's so common that even if someone is on the next sink, they don't even look at you like you're doing something strange, which is a very positive thing about living in a large diverse city. People are generally open-minded.
When it comes to eating, like Jews who are supposed to eat only Kosher food, Muslims only eat Halal food. I am sure, if you live in New York City, you have definitely seen those halal carts, right? That's exactly what I am talking about.
So, now for example, let's say you have a Muslim friend and you both waltz in at your local McDonald's. You are standing there ordering bacon and chicken, while your friend is ordering a veggie sandwich, he's most likely doing that because he can't eat that meat. For meat to be Halal, it has to be slaughtered according to set Islamic guidelines. Very few fast food chains in the West offer Halal meat. There are, however, many Muslim owned restaurants and they are growing. Alhamdulillah.
By the way, halal meat and "un-halal" meat taste the same, if you were wondering what's the difference. It's just that we slaughter the animal differently.
Also, alcohol, beer, wine, vodka, all of these things are out of the question, as well. They are impermissible and we all know the harm in them. Some time back, I was offered to come and have lunch with wine with someone at work. I told him I brought my lunch (or in other words, "No, thanks, man!"). My lunch was Chicken Gyro from halal cart!
Another thing that I can think of, and also very important, is that we are commanded to lower our gaze. By "lower our gaze," what I mean is that we are not allowed to look at the opposite gender. Yes, this is very difficult for almost all of us. I'm sure you can imagine how hard it can be to try and avert our sights when there are men and women walking everywhere. The hardest part is that, living in the Western world, it's very usual to see people dressed in revealing clothes during the warmer part of the year. This is one of the biggest challenges for us.
The reason for this? Well, amongst other reason[s], as a man, it's right for me to respect the body of another woman. This is one of the reason why Muslim women cover their bodies. So, for those women, Muslim or not, who do not cover their bodies, it is our responsibility to lower our gazes as a sign of respect.
Lastly, and this might sound really, really strange, Muslims are NOT allowed to have boyfriends or girlfriends. Now, you're probably thinking, how do you get married, then? There are things we are allowed to do when it comes to marriage and there are things which are outside the boundary. For example, one can meet, see, ask questions, discuss relevant issues, etc., to a potential spouse just to get to know them. However, there's a fine line between meeting someone and having any sort of pre-marital relationship which we all know can lead to a lot of other "things."
In marriage, the love, understanding, trust, happiness, security, comfort, and of course, children, all come after marriage when the couple live together. Now, some people might think that if you don't know someone beforehand, then your marriage is likely to fail. Well, that's not the case. I and hundreds and thousands of other Muslims can reassure you that our families and other couples we know have successful marriages without dating or having any sort of pre-marital relationships.
And, let's be honest, there are thousands of couples who have done everything from dating to having kids before tying the knot, yet these marriages end up in divorce. Plus, the divorce rates are insanely high nowadays.
I hope you enjoyed this mini-series on "strange" things Muslims do and I am sure it has given you a different perspective on many of the things we do. So, next time if you come across someone doing any of the above, you know why.
Article submitted by Brother Anonymous.
- See more at: www.islamicteachings.org/forum/topic/20057-those-strange-...