I nodded slowly, affirming to what he had just asked. He gave me his most adorable smile and greeted ” Assalammuailaikum,” So I politely asked him the same question as he did after replying ‘Waalaikummusalam’, and added, ” Where are you from?,” he replied, “Oh, no. I’m from Sweden. I’ve never met someone like you before and I like your pendant,” Instinctively, my right hand reached out to it as if making sure that the pendant was actually ‘there’. After exchanging the usual pleasantries between two strangers, we got to chit chat for a little bit and it all came down to this: he has never encountered a Muslim woman that looks like me. For most of the time, my gold pendant is a dead giveaway to others; that there is a very fair chance I am a Muslim. It is of my name spelled in Arabic, so go figure right? He was quite fascinated with my appearance, wondering if all Muslim women in Malaysia have a similar taste in fashion? What he actually meant was whether all or majority Muslim Malaysian women go around living their lives without having to wear a headgear/scarf and not be frowned upon by the members of society. Not wanting to be presumptuous, I asked him whether that was what he really wanted to ask? He smiled sheepishly. Aww. What an adorable kid, carrying his backpack around with a map of the city in one of his hands that looked as if it has seen some better days. I tried answering his query as simple as i could without needing to explain much in detail but my mind went ‘blank’ in mid sentence and i ended up staring at his face not knowing how to continue any further. He must have realized that i’ve zoned out somewhat because the next thing i know; he was flashing yet another smile and said ” You must be a liberal Muslim”. That remark most certainly zapped me back to reality and I had the sudden urge to shake my head uncontrollably just to prove a point.
So, what does that even mean? A liberal Muslim? Frankly, I have the faintest idea on what it entails to be deemed as one. You are either a Muslim or you are not. What takes place in between is your own personal affair. I wish I could say that it doesn’t matter what others may think when it comes to how the religion is being practiced, but people will always have something to say, questions that require answers, curiosities that need to be satisfied, and there will never be a definate end to it. I find myself constantly battling with this dilemma; on where i truly stand in my faith in Islam, not because I do not believe in the religion but more on whether I am fully embracing for what it truly is – a religion for all mankind regardless of all material and immaterial aspects in life. I know for certain that i am not the role model of what or how a Muslim is/ought to be, in fact, how i lead my life and practice the religion might sometimes confuse the non believers but I do try to uphold its teachings and remain true to the fundamentals. I came across this blog post, azeemambalan awhile ago and found myself enlighten by its content. We (Muslims in Malaysia, in this case) tend to make a molehill out of non issues, causing unneccessary ruckus and discontent amongst the people when it is so obvious that the attention should be focused to where it is most needed; the well-being of the people, especially the less fortunate ones without the means to defend for what they rightly deserve.
I was half thinking of telling the kid the thoughts that were running through my mind, but as i gained control over my temporary speech spasm and after returning his smile, all i said was, “I am a Muslim but not without flaws”. He nodded, looking like he is trying his best to understand what i had just said and we continued chatting for a little bit more, but as we were getting ready to part ways, he hesitated for a nano second and asked me, “Where is the nearest subway station located?” I nearly burst out a laughter as it hit me then that was probably what he had been meaning to ask me since he first smiled and said “Excuse me”. I showed him the way, bid goodbye and walked towards the opposite direction, beaming like a silly girl.