Fake Friendships to Phenomenal Friendships- My Story
Growing up I have always been surrounded by white people and a culture so alien to mine. But, if I’m being real here, being surrounded by these people is what has made me the person I am today.
I often see Muslims build friendships with other Muslims and stick to that ‘inner circle’. But for me, being brought up in a predominately white area where we were the only brown family, this was never an option. The closest thing I had to Muslim friends were my brothers and sisters.
First there was primary school. No big deal – didn’t really face any hurdles in making friendships. However, those friendships were subject to school and only school. In my personal experience no one really cared about skin colour, what you wore, what kind of things you had etc. So, life was somewhat easy.
Then, secondary school is where life got hard. Again, had that stable friendship group, but this time I noticed people started caring about more things. Secondary school is the whole ‘coming of age’ stage. People cared about what they looked like, what they wore, who they were seen with and so on. The list was never ending. This was the stage in my life where I faced the most complications. Now these friendships were not only subject to school but out with school too. My friends were constantly in with the latest trends – wanting to go out places, were wearing the latest ‘trendy’ clothing and going to the ‘popular’ parties.
Now me, a Muslim girl, living in a strict, Pakistani cultured household, abiding by the rules of my religion and the rules set by my parents, this was hard. Friends were lost, friendships were broken, and ties were cut. I was basically left out. I couldn’t wear the clothes they wore. I couldn’t go to the places they would go. I couldn’t do the things they done. And I lost the people I called my ‘friends’ because of it.
Now don’t get me wrong. Not once, did I ever wish that I could go do the things they were doing that were strictly against my religion and beliefs. I only wished that they didn’t cut me out because of it. I mean, I still had some levels of common ground with these girls. I could still be friends with them and continue to hold on to my religion at the same time. But unfortunately, they didn’t see that.
Now there’s university. New city, new faces, new opportunities. For the first time, I had been surrounded by what I would call quite a lot of Muslims. My initial thought was to try becoming friends with them. But unfortunately, that didn’t really work. I never really met anyone that I properly got on with. You know, like that instant connection. However, the ones that I did meet at the time were so lovely – but it was more like a kind of ‘hi, bye conversation’ I would have with them passing by in the university mosque. Whereas, the people that I did very much get on with were all of different ethnicities and religions to mine. But that didn’t stop us from becoming friends. It actually brought us closer.
As time went on, I then started to pick up on some things. I noticed I was on the receiving end of constant stares of disapproval from my fellow Muslim brothers and sisters. Then I started to hear things. People who didn’t even know the slightest bit of information about me or my life, let alone my name, suddenly had these perceptions of me and were conjuring up all these assumptions for a reason that I am still trying to figure out myself. This is all happening, simply, because of the contrast in colours of mine and my friends’ skin. As well as the cultures that came along with it. In other words, stereotyping.
Let’s be real here for a minute. Muslim to Muslim. How many times have you seen a fellow sister/brother, friends with someone of a different race and/or culture and thought they had let go of their own religion whilst building said friendship. And that’s just me putting it into general terms. When really, I am sure that we all can think of phrases/words that are usually used to describe the person/friendship. Yes, I have friends from different backgrounds and cultures. Yes, we have different beliefs and opinions. Yes, they do things that I do not and vice versa. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t respect and accept one another for who we are. For me, I think that respect and acceptance are not just required to build a stable yet true friendship – but are vital characteristics a Muslim should possess. Mufti Ismail Menk, a Muslim cleric, once said – “when it comes to helping others, religion is irrelevant”. My friends, who are of all different religions and ethnicities, have helped me in so many ways possible, that it makes me feel so blessed to have such people in my life. That, to me, speaks volumes.
For me, my friends have always been so respectful towards my religion and culture and have always been so accepting despite our differences. My friends know and understand much more compared to the friends I had in secondary school. And this is simply from them wanting to expand their knowledge on Islam and my culture. I tell them one thing and then they are instantly intrigued and want to know more. I love it when they ask me questions regarding my religion. It shows me that they are interested and accept me for me, no matter what my boundaries are. The more we learn about each other the closer we become. I am the only Muslim friend in my friendship group. So, no doubt, there will be times where I cannot always partake in their activities, but unlike my secondary school friendships, I would never lose friends because of it.
And the same goes for me too. My friends do things that I don’t due to my beliefs and culture. A few of these things include drinking alcohol, smoking, going out places, attending music festivals etc. Now the thing is, these ‘disapproving looks’ I get from my Muslim sisters and brothers are all correlated to the people that I have built my friendships with. And for some reason, this causes them to assume that in order for myself to be friends with these people, I must be taking part in said activities that are strictly prohibited in my religion. Hence, the ‘disapproving looks’. Now this is my point exactly. For a long time, I had never felt comfortable with the friends I had throughout my school years. But remember, this is my personal experience. Times have changed. Things could be different now. However, I am finally now at a stage in my life where I am more than comfortable with the friends I have today. And that is simply from spreading the message of Islam.
I think some Muslim brothers and sister just think that what I am doing is just a complete no go. But that’s not the case for me. I am trying to educate those around me to make it easier for us all. Friendships don’t always have to revolve around having the same colour of skin, the same religion or always having the same opinions. It’s about having mutual respect and acceptance for one another. You can still be friends with people but have differences and not have to let go of the aspects of your life that make you, you.
In secondary school, I had ‘friends’ that didn’t accept me for me and made it out like being friends with me was a chore. Now, I have friends that come with me to the mosque and wait so I can pray in between lectures at university. Sometimes they even remind me to pray if I ever lose track of time. Whenever we plan to go out to eat some where they always make sure that there is a halal option and are always the first ones to ask before I can even get the words out myself. They make sure that I am never left out and will always come up with an alternative solution that stays within my boundaries. The list of things my friends do for me is literally never ending. However, no doubt, there have been times where my friends are doing things and going places that I cannot. That is the point where I choose to take a step back and sit out on those moments. Yet, I still do not feel left out whatsoever. That is where the mutual respect comes in to play.
I understand that there will be times where I’ll need to sit out and they also understand that. Yet, they never have and nor will they ever force/persuade me into doing the things that they do. With the friends that I have at the moment, not once have I ever felt like I was missing out or felt inclined to take part in their activities to feel included and feel worthy. I already feel like this all without having to let go of my religion and beliefs. And that is the beauty of the friendships I have made. The friends I have do not push me away from my religion. They bring me closer to it. These are true friends. Everyone always says that the friends you make at university are the ones you are going to have for life. I didn’t realise how true this statement actually was, only until after I met the friends that I have today. They are my brothers and sisters. They bring me closer to Allah.
There is a verse in the in the Holy Quran that states – “For each of you we have made a law and a method. Had Allah willed, He would have made a single community of people, but (He did not), so that He may test you in what He has given to you. Strive, then, to excel each other in good deeds. To Allah is the return for all of you.” – Surah Al-Ma’ida [5:48]
This can be interpreted in many ways. But from what I’ve gathered, this section mainly focuses on how much of this temporary life of ours is actually a test. All these temptations have been placed right in front of us. So, as Muslims, it’s all on us whether we act on it or not. Now this probably won’t be news to us fellow Muslims. However, Islam is the epitome of peace. The word Islam itself is literally derived from the Arabic word meaning peace. So, surely, as Muslims, we should all act on this in every aspect and understand that it is possible to live in peace and harmony alongside people of other religions and beliefs – yet not get swayed onto the wrong path of life. But for some reason, that’s not the type of vibe I get from my Muslim brothers and sisters. Yes, I may be friends with such people. But that does not mean that I have let go of myself in order to do so. As long as I am staying true to myself and true to my religion then I really do not see what the problem is.
Our differences in faiths and opinions is something we must acknowledge and welcome with an open mind. Just think, life would be so boring if we were all the same. In no way am I saying that it’s necessary for all Muslims to befriend someone of a different religion to theirs. But instead, what I am saying, is just not to look down on those who do so as if it’s a sin. Allah had the ability to make us all one. Instead, Allah made us different for a reason. We are being tested to not fall on to the wrong path of life. As Muslims, our sole purpose in this life is to worship Allah. So, if I have people in my life who are helping me do so, then what is the problem? Friendship and companionship are both important in Islam. The Prophet Muhammad PBUH – the last messenger of Allah, often spoke to his companions and emphasized how we should surround ourselves with good people and how important good companionship actually is. Friends that bring you closer to Allah are friends that you should hold on to – regardless of religion. To be kind and respectful to one another is the very basis of Islamic morality.
The Prophet Muhammad PBUH, looked at every non-Muslim as they were a potential Muslim and stated that their treatment was of the upmost importance. He treated them with such respect and honour that it in turn attracted them to Islam. The Prophet Muhammad PBUH, was upon the highest level of character that a human being could ever possibly get to. So, what makes us think that it’s acceptable to act in any other manner different to the Prophet PBUH did towards the non-Muslims? We all come from different cultures. We are taught different, worship different, dress different, have different lifestyles and we even judge different. But at the end of the day, we’re all still human. We were all created by Allah and we all have the same destination. And as soon as we all begin to realise that and start accepting each other for who we are, then the better life will get.