There are two important aspects of being a Muslim, says Sameer Khan. “Firstly, by lip profession. If you profess with your mouth that there is no deity other than Allah and that Mohammed is Allah’s messenger, whoever professes that is a Muslim,” he said.
“But, to transform, you have to act out of your heart – to be a good father, a good son, a good employee.”
Sameer (“Call me Sam”), 40, of Warwick Farm, grew up as part of a Muslim family. But his religion was little more than a formality until seven years ago.
“I always did the rituals, some of them. I prayed when I felt like it, during times of pain. I didn’t do all the fasts. I did kinda what was required of me.”
But he didn’t put his heart and soul into until he was 33. What happened?
“I was laying on the sofa after another big night out partying and drinking. I was listening to a conversation my mother was having with a lady in the kitchen. She was from India and doing some work with my family.
When she said ‘It’s hard to buy diapers for the baby’ some sort of special light went through my brain into my heart, like someone knocked me off the sofa.
“She was saying ‘It’s so hard to be away from my child back in India. I need to earn money but it’s so hard to be separate.’
“That touched a special spot deep within me. And when she said ‘It’s hard to buy diapers for the baby’ some sort of special light went through my brain into my heart. It was like someone had knocked me off the sofa.”
“Here I was spending $300 a night partying and lusting after women.” He glanced over at his wife Wendy. “I can say that in all honesty.
“Well, I went out to Ikea immediately and bought a study desk and that night I started to read and study the Koran, really looking for meaning.”
I used to curse God. Why did you put this Holy Koran in front of me and I can’t understand it?
That was the start of the transformation of his life and his relationships, including with his wife-to-be, Sam said. He got nothing earth-shattering from the holy book for quite a while, and it was frustrating.
“I used to curse God. Why did you put this Holy Koran in front of me and I can’t understand it?”
His uncle came through as a spiritual mentor. “Have patience and tolerance,” Sadru Sahu Khan told him.
Sam smiled. “It took the prophet Mohammed 23 years to reform all of Arabia and here I was getting impatient after two weeks.”
That frustration lasted a couple of months.
Gradually, things became clearer. He learnt there were two types of verses in the Koran, allegorical and decisive, and that the first should not be read in isolation and should be understood with the guidance of the second. This was when he began to enjoy the reading the Koran.
If you work and don’t get paid a cent what’s the point? If you pray and don’t get an answer what’s the point?
Does God answer prayer? “Strongly I say yes! If you work and don’t get paid a cent what’s the point? If you pray and don’t get an answer what’s the point?
“Even non-believers, when they’re desperate, like on a sinking ship in a storm, they pray but when the seas subside they forget God.
“He has saved us, my wife and I, in so many ways. But prayer is just a vehicle to help you become a righteous person. Even if you pray five times a day it doesn’t mean everything's going to be OK. I pray to be a better father, husband, son, citizen, neighbour. It’s not just the rituals, transformation comes with actions.
“I’ve lost my job, and I’ve come close to losing my job. And our daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy.”
Their daughter is Aisha-Rose Khan, 4. Did prayer help with her epilepsy?
“It was prayer and faith,” Wendy said.
Said Sam: “Prayer and faith. And also God gives knowledge of medicine to doctors.
“In that situation we could have run to others, rather than to God. We decided this was a trial and that we had to trust him. We promised we would not let go of our faith.”
Said Wendy: “That was the first seizure she ever had. And she hasn’t had one since. I strongly believe that is God looking out for us.”
That was the first seizure she ever had. And she hasn’t had one since. I strongly believe that is God looking out for us.
If she had another seizure would that lead to a crisis of faith?
Said Wendy: “I was definitely afraid, scared. But I still had a sense of calmness as well.”
Said Sam: “In the Holy Koran it says, and this was important to me, in the middle of distress that calmness in my heart is from him.
“When Mohammed fled Mecca several tribes wanted him killed. When he saw them coming for him he hid in a cave with his friend Abu Bakr and just as the Meccans entered the mouth of the cave his friend was scared and Mohammed declared ‘Fear not! Allah is with us!”
“At that moment Allah put tranquility in their hearts.
I can tell you right now I would’ve been beside myself if not for prayer. Prayers deepen my faith and I’m a better person for it.
Said Wendy: “I can tell you right now I would’ve been beside myself if not for prayer. Prayers deepen my faith and I’m a better person for it.”
We discussed tranquility being a tangible answer to prayer, replacing anxiety and despair.
Said Sam: “Islam is not just for Muslims it’s for humanity. That’s where it’s different to many religions who say their God is only for them.”
Have Sam and Wendy experienced any anti-Muslim attitudes?
Said Wendy: “Nothing directly to us but it does sadden us, what’s going on in the media and the news. That’s not true Islam.
“If I was wearing a hijab I might get some comment. The only time I wear it is when I pray. On the other hand my mother wears a hijab and when I go shopping with her we get dirty looks. That’s been the last few years. People don’t understand.”
Said Sam: “No, they don’t understand. It’s probably not their fault. You mustn’t judge real Islam by the actions of a criminal minority.
ISIL are completely contrary to the teachings of Islam.
“ISIL are completely contrary to the teachings of Islam.
“Muslims are only to go to war if they’re oppressed, forced out of their homes, persecuted or at the point of being killed.
“These groups are formulated purely for political purposes, taking verses out of context to encourage blind followers. They might be Muslims by lip profession but not by action. Has faith entered their heart? No!”
What’s the hardest thing about being a Muslim?
“Ian, sometimes I feel, I guess, not scared but uncomfortable going to a park and knowing my prayers start at 5 o’clock and I have to actually pray.
“I have to kneel and face Mecca and there are four positions which are part of that, going from the transcendent state to the humility position. And yes, I feel uncomfortable doing that in public.”
Said Wendy: “We can’t help feeling people passing by might think ‘Oh my God, he’s a terrorist!’ ”
Said Sam: “Remarks could be hurtful. In the Holy Koran it says freedom of speech should never hurt or insult anyone.
“We’re teaching our daughter to understand that. One day Wendy was crying and Aisha-Rose went up to her and said: ‘Mummy, why are you crying? Allah will help you.’ She already knows there is someone greater and higher.
“Society is like a brick house. And every brick is a family unit. If every brick is solid, society is strong and healthy.”
- Sam subsequently sent these Koran verses which we’d spoken about during our interview:
- As Wendy and I shared, God puts tranquillity in our hearts while we endure trials and tribulations so he can strengthen our faith. Without tranquility Wendy and I would’ve been in despair and we can appreciate why people suffer from mental illness:
- “He it is who sent down tranquillity into the hearts of the believers that they might add faith to their faith. And Allah’s are the hosts of the heavens and the earth, and Allah is every knowing, wise”. (Koran 48:4)
- God even helps non-Muslims. We know If God can help non-Muslims then Wendy and I believe he can help us more because we’re devoted to him. “. . . away go those whom you call on except he” refer to people of other faiths. The pronoun “he” is one God and “whom you call on except he” refers to those who worship another deity besides the one God. A true picture is drawn here of human nature, which turns to Allah in affliction but forgets him in ease:
- “Your Lord is he who speeds the ships for you in the sea that you may seek of his grace. Surely he is ever merciful to you. And when distress afflicts you in the sea, away go those whom you call on except he; but when he brings you safe to the land you turn away. And man is ever ungrateful.” (Koran 17:66-67)
- We talked about hateful speech and though Islam encourages freedom of speech, God asks us to do it in the best of manners. The Koran states “God likes not the uttering of unseemly speech in public.” (Koran 4:148). Good manners is to be the guiding principle. “Call to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and goodly exhortation and argue with them in the best manner” (Koran 16 :25). So, although Muslims have freedom of speech they must refrain from uttering anything offensive or insulting or blasphemous against any religion or tradition because it is immoral.
- I said once I understood how to read the Holy Koran ’an I feel more in love with it. Some of the guidelines on how to understand the Koran are from the book itself.
- “He it is who has revealed the Book to thee; some of its verses are decisive — they are the basis of the Book — and others are allegorical. Then those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part of it which is allegorical, seeking to mislead, and seeking to give it (their own) interpretation. And none knows its interpretation save Allah, and those firmly rooted in knowledge. They say: We believe in it, it is all from our Lord. And none mind except men of understanding.” (Koran 3:7)
- Criminals like ISIL who are Muslims by lip profession only but faith has not entered their hearts, take verses out of context to fulfil their political agenda by brainwashing the weak, destitute and poor which motivates them to kill innocent people. The verses on defensive war in Islam are taken completely out of context.
- The Koran doesn’t condone unfettered freedom of speech as it explicitly prohibits Muslims from hurting the feelings of others by insult or abuse because it is simply wrong. The Koran states: “God likes not the uttering of unseemly speech in public.”