“Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself” – (The Bible)
In the midst of chaos a little bit of Mercy goes a long way. It is month 4 of my father’s battle with cancer and he has been through 4 hospitals, 3 rehab centers and too many sad days away from his home. Our family has experienced, pain, love, fatigue, immense hope, sadness, tranquility, fear and Grace all in these last few months. Sometimes God really shows you His Mercy and reminds you that you are okay and that people love you for who you are. A reassurance that I recently felt and noticed which gave me hope in humanity all over again.
It is one thing to be the recipient of kindness from someone who shares your faith but to be honored and recognized by someone who is not, holds a lot of weight. My mother is a typical desi aunty,(of Indo-Pakistani decent) who immigrated to America in the early seventies with her Urdu accent and national dress called the shalwar kameez. She has been a pioneer in her own way for Muslim Americans who had to learn how to live in non-Muslim lands within the guidelines and teaching of Islam. A task that was not easy in her youth as many did not know what Islam was in those days. She came here with my father and no other relative of hers to give her guidance, but was able to preserve her own identity and be able to maintain her dignity and individuality as a naturalized American Muslim.
As a teenager I used to feel embarrassed at the fact that my mother always looked and appeared more Pakistani than American. I used to feel that my mother did not do enough to integrate into the American society or improve her English or make any effort to make non-muslim friends. Today I was proven wrong. My parents moved to Southern California about 27 years ago and they have lived in the same house in the same neighborhood since then. They are still surrounded by the same neighbors that they had back in the eighties. Though my mother may not be very worldly, one thing she is for sure is true to herself, her faith, her people and her God. She is who she is and that is all that matters. It is so great to get to know my Mom through the lens of our old neighbors of 27 years. Today this Thanksgiving weekend I was shown how much my mom was loved for who she is and what she stands for.
Our neighbors who live right across from us are wonderful Christians who invited my mom and gave her the honor of inviting us to their home and having her light their Christmas tree to kick-start the mark of the Christmas season in their household. They picked my hijabi (one who covers her hair) mom, who barely speaks English and never has been inside a Church; to honor her and to also remind her that she is not alone and that there is always hope. I cannot tell you how special we all felt as her children and how proud we were of her and how she always maintained her dignity, her honor, her culture, her religion. I came to realize that not only did she maintain her culture and religion but she also was successful in maintaining relations with her neighbors despite her differences with them. All along I was wrong in my belief that my mom was not integrating into her society. In fact, I was completely wrong about my mom, she is the sole person who has always been a true “Samaritan” and always had maintained ties with all of her loved ones, her relatives, her community members and her neighbors. Every Christmas holiday, Eid Holiday, birthday, my mom was the first in sharing gifts and baking goodies and distributing food to the neighbors for the last 27 years consistently. She not only did that but also anytime there was a reason to morn or to visit someone in time of need my mom was the first one there and the first to offer her help to others. She never looked at their ethnicity or religion but just cared for others because her Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) always emphasized the importance to be good to one’s neighbors as they have rights over us. Today I realize that Mom has done a lot for Islam and today our neighbors will always remember that Mom is just as precious as any other member in our street and that being a Muslim is as special as being a Christian, Hindu or a Jew. We are all people of the same God, if only everyone would get it!!
Sayings of our Prophet (pbuh) about relations with our neighbors:
- Look how the Prophet (pbuh), exhorted Muslims to be good to their neighbors and to honor them when he said: “… and whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, should serve his neighbor generously.”
- The Prophet (pbuh) said: “By the One in whose Hands  my soul is, no slave of Allah has true faith unless he likes for his neighbor what he likes for himself.” A person who is good to his neighbor is the best of people in the sight of Allah The Almighty, as the Prophet (pbuh) said: “The best companion in the sight of Allah is the one who is best to his companion, and the best neighbor in the sight of Allah is the one who is the best to his neighbor.”