By Louay Benaabdelaali
By Louay Benaabdelaali
Morocco World News
Sale, March 7, 2013
I have heard this question so many times in Morocco, as well as during my travels from (usually) non Muslims with whom I lived or travelled, or had coffee, or just have broken few words. Every time I had to stop and think about this quite tricky question and wonder about its meaning.
Once I was flying back from a small break in Morocco to the UK as I was in the middle of writing my thesis. When I arrived in the airport, I was walking through the path already designed for my passport cursed by its colors. I wasn’t as lucky as others who just scan their passport to go through. I was aware that there are some people waiting for me for a warm welcome. I was ready for my small interview with a big smile as usual. I was questioned by a mid-aged lady. Where are you coming from? What is the purpose of your visit? etc.
I got an A+ answering all these questions, then she asked me if I was Muslim, then she says: “are you a religious person?” When I asked her about what she means by this, she proceeded: “Do you go to the mosque? How often do you go?” Seriously? I was astonished by the way she defined religion (specifically Islam) and the link she put between being religious and how frequent one goes to the mosque. I smiled. I answered without sarcasm. She noticed still my surprise about these questions. Afterwards, she apologized about asking too many and sensitive (to her definition) questions, then the conversation took a rather informal pattern. We talked about the wedding she was invited to in Shishawa near Marrakesh and she expressed her excitement about it. We waved goodbye with smiles and that little good feeling about a pleasant conversation with a stranger, yet totally free from disappointment about how Islam is viewed and how religion is interpreted.
When I was in India, I lived for a while with people who believe there is no God. Their belief was full of doubts and unanswered questions. They noticed I was Muslim so they haven’t waited for more than two days after their arrival to show their curiosity and share their doubts. I was showing them around the neighborhood as I had spent quite a longer time in India. I was showing them where to shop, where to take the bus, the price of this and that etc. Then, one has asked me again the same question:” Are you religious?” The other one told me: “are you religious or open-minded”? Pretty intriguing questions. It is quite challenging to explain or debate on religion with an atheist person. Here is how I break down my answer, which is the core of this article.
Religion has two main pillars, one as important as the other: the spiritual dimension and the behavioral dimension. The former is where religions differ, yet all of them have more or less a great similarity when it comes to the behavioral dimension, which provides an ethical framework that can govern people’s behaviors and way of life. The perfect balance in life, in my opinion, is to find balance between both spiritual and behavioral dimensions.
“In order for the religion to have an impact in making the world a better place, I think it’s important for the individual practitioner to sincerely practice the teachings of that religion. One must integrate the religious teachings into one’s life, wherever one is, so one can use them as a source of inner strength.” Dalai Lama, The Art of Happiness.
The spiritual aspect should inspire goodness, to oneself and towards others. It is only when religious teachings guide the lifestyle of the person and govern one’s relationships with other people, that religion takes its full meaning.
It’s important as well to respect other traditions and religions and understand that they have brought some positive things to the humanity. In such a manner, one can increase compassion, tolerance towards others from different religious backgrounds.
“I have only been sent to complete (perfect) good morals (manners)” The prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Having said that, being religious, therefore, means being good and inspiring goodness. It is about constructing an ethical framework that is inspired from religious teachings which organizes relationships with other human-beings (our parents, children, cousins, neighbors, colleagues… strangers). One practices religions when you smile to strangers, treat them with kindness not to get something from them but for genuine goodness, when you deprive yourself and give to the poor, when you respect, and forgive, when you visit your family, respect your parents, listen to your brothers and sisters, when you visit an ill friend, when you make a child happy, when you respect woman, and elder people, when you wish for others what you wish for yourself, when you are tolerant and compassionate, when you make a positive impact on someone’s life…etc
So, are you religious?
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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