"They tink I'm a strange Rasta, ma sisters be lookin' at me strange for what I say and believe. The metaphysical, my Jaja, The Man Upstairs be knowin' what's in me heart".
I'm sat at the reception desk of an immigration office, talking to, listening from and gaining wisdom from an old[er] soul that converted to Rastarianism. Rosalind the client is a Jamaican singer/songwriter, currently putting in an immigration application with my help (I'm "the assistant"). I'm wearing my purple Hijab and blazer. She's wearing her wooden prayer beads around her wrist with dreadlocks rustled up into a bun. I type away her information while she hums her tunes in-between. After a few minutes she politely asks about my headgear, ethnicity and faith. Why is is that way? What does it mean? Light-bulb moment. Yayy, Potential Dawah Opportunity (PDO)! She begins to interrogate me and listens in to the language I use and praise and peace I'm believing in. She's too interested in matters of the soul. Let's finish the application later. She's surprised at the beliefs I have. A journey filled with tests, the roller-coaster life that stops at death, an afterlife and heaven. She eventually paused our interview to begin sharing why her faith is more like mine than she thought.
Rasta, my companion tells me, is 44 years young in Britain, the same age as her. A prophet, another form of Jesus, came to warn the Jamaican people over 70 years ago about the "future of the house". The house is a symbol, a metaphor for faith. Or an even better description is the important structure of the house. This structure is made up of the instructions which the prophet of Rastafarian told the people to follow.
We compare divine language revelations and the continuous morals forwarded from prophet to prophet. Her prophet is black, beautiful, soulful and a master with words. My prophets are of all colours, for all people and sent with action plans.
"These instructions are like those Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, came with," I added. "He too was a wake-up call but a blessing to help people realign their lives and to self-reflect."
Rosalind the Rastafari: "You're correct. Withou' me faith I feel a hole, a void in me heart. Y'know, I sometimes just sit and tink about the joys, the good tings in my life. Blessings... that's what they are."
I nodded, waiting to follow her intrigue.
RTR: "You got the Koran, in your language? I'm always learnin' about other words and the deeper layers of my faith. So how do you say blessing in your language?"
Me: "The Quran was revealed in an older form of Arabic and my family language is Urdu. So I'm not very fluent in Arabic I'm afraid. I think blessing translates to 'Baraka'."
RTR: "How do you say thanks?"
Me: "Shukr for thanks, Shukr-Allah for thank God, Shukran for thank you".
Rosalind has heard these words. She wants to use them for her song lyrics.
I wrote out these words in Arabic with their phonetics and meanings. She took the paper I gave her, folded it into a booklet and made a note of what I was translating.
RTR: "How do you say... Is der' a word for showing that you're at peace, y'know, with love for thee world and that you're happy with tings?"
My mind scuttled through the basics. Salam, Salamatu, Rida...
RTR: "Sakeena, peace and calm and love. I want to use that in my songs. I'm not 'ere to keep the words, I need to pass them on."
We are a storage system, I contributed. What we learn we need to use and then let others inherit. That is the only way goodness continues.
She called herself batty.
RTR: "Other people think I'm a strange woman 'coz of 'ow I talk and the tings that I say to tha' other sisters. But I think I'm more open. There's more. There's more than this.
'The Man upstairs', is watching us. He will bring us back to life and 'number us', or account us for what we have done."
Me: "A day of judgement".
RTR: "That's what we're heading to. So I tink to meself, why not spend the time leadin' up to it in peace, in Sakeena. He sent us here and He is callin' us back."
Me: "To God we belong to Him we return."
RTR: "Exactly. How amazing, the joy to be returnin' home, the contentment!"
Rosalind's been to the office a few times now. Every meeting is a sharing of faith, I add to her spiritual vocabulary and she reminds me to remember God.
Spending time with people of other faith, or no faith at all, doesn't need to be a conversion or dawah exercise. Usually when I'm with a group of Muslim peers and I mention a Jewish, Christian or Atheist friend, they raise their eyebrows ever so slightly in an I-Don't-Believe-She's-Hanging-Out-With-Kuffaar face. Then I have the fantastic opportunity to publicly address the 'us' and 'them' mentality'.
Nobody is asking you as a Muslim to change your faith, to downsize, compromise or hide it. The superiority game has to stop too. Yes, theoretically, a Muslim is the greater believer, the final sequel in the religious evolution, and without the believing heart, there is no entry to Heaven. But is that really the first expression you'd want to make to an outsider?
Say insha-Allah in your conversations, tell your Chinese, German and Russian friends it's time for your prayer, mention God's name in a good context, outside of the 'Omigod's'. Remind people when they look at you that you're in a spiritual jihad, that you believe in God.
I always think that if I'm solid in my belief in God Almighty and I try to love Him, I will automatically show the prophetic example of loving what God has made. It's not my job to convert others and I don't lower my belief by listening to the beliefs of others. Plants, planets, people, they are His. The best Muslim is the one who shows people through action, that God loves them.
Glory be to God, the Compassionate and giver of peace, and all praise belongs to Him, the Creator of all.
May God bless our Prophet Muhammad, the best worshipper, reminder and the one with the best character, and send peace upon him, his family and his companions.