In 2010, I was on an expedition across the Amazon, from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Caracas, Venezuela. Both cities host the two largest mosques in South America. I witness something which was unpleasant at Mezquita Shaykh Ibrahim al-Ibrahim in the capital city of Venezuela. It is located next to a Christian Church and a Jewish Synagogue.
I’ll get to that shortly. First, the trip.
With a group of mostly Malaysians above 50 whom I’ve never met before. We went in about 10 cars covering 18,000km I think, in 26 days – half of which we slept in tents. I was kind of the youngest in the group and was treated a little like their son or very young brother. I assure you this is a privileged position to be in if you’re keen to learn from elders.
Our route was northwards. From the winter in #BuenosAires, ending at the tropical climate – but high altitude of #Caracas – after dropping by the #Caribbean sea. We didn’t go via the Brazilian coast but cutting almost straight up, via interiors of #Paraguay and #Brazil. Iguazu Falls and #Manaus, as key points basically.
Of the 30 or so people, only a handful were Muslims and despite this, the kitchen team made effort to accommodate to us when possible. Such admirable character, led me to occasionally volunteering at that department. Both halal meat and mosques were only to be found in the two key cities at beginning and end.
I managed to catch Friday prayers in both. In Caracas, the sermon was in #Spanish and they’d handout the English version on paper. There was an heated discussion between two after prayers, about the apt time to be reading the sermon. They parted un-harmoniously. For those familiar with the manners of congregation during sermon, will understand why this may be an issue.
But that’s not the point here.
What I observe then with them, is what can be see now. People speak about Islam and what it teaches, but do not speak like how it taught them. Whenever #Muhammad (pbuh) Messenger of Allah spoke, it was with care and affection to whomever he addressed, be it a tree, an animal or a human being. Nothing that sought Truth, left his presence feeling unsettled.
We seem to be engrossed with what (we feel) needs to be said, with the assumption that it is our words will change things. The Qur’an are indeed full of words, but the Messenger was full of great character and manners. His state made people listen and trust his statements.
It is said that scholars of Islam would not engage in debate unless he was convinced that him and the other party was entering it with intention to seek something that brought both closer to the Truth. Today when we discuss religion, politics or sports, it’s often done at the expense of patronizing another person one way or the other, with poor manners – out of anger and ego.
These are the same people seeking justice, peace and a better world. And they wonder why we aren’t getting any closer. We can do things our own way and they are not necessarily wrong. However when the one most beloved to God, showed us the best example, and we choose to not follow – surely good don’t come from us who are arrogant.