Written by: Binte Syed Shamsuddin Rizvi Pharm-D (2015), Jinnah University for Women, Karachi
“Assalam o alaikum..Is this Miss Qurratulain?” a strange voice came from the other side. “Walaikumassalam, yes?” I replied wondering who it might be. “Well ma’am you have been shortlisted for an interview in our school as a teacher. Can you come tomorrow at 10 a.m. sharp?” I thought for a while then answered, “Yes I’ll be there in sha ‘Allah, but can you please tell me the location?” “Ok. It’s on University Road. When you are close to the area you can call me for further guidance,” the lady on the other side replied.
These were the days when I was really worried and searching for a job of my interest. I had applied in some schools for a part time job even. After the call ended, I decided to assemble my documents file once again and then the next morning around 9 a.m. I left for the interview.
When I reached the school, there was a lady sitting in an abaya at the reception desk who asked for me my documents. She asked me for a brief introduction too. Having done that, the lady told me that I could remove my niqab as there was no male staff in the school. Then she gave me an employment form to fill. “After you have filled this form sister, you have to do this test. When you pass this test then you will be taken for a demo.”
Now this was something unique to hear that when a demonstration is enough then why a test? I thought that the test would be very easy and I will be able to do it quickly. The receptionist told me to sit in the examination room and complete the form and test there. When I went there, I saw many other candidates also busy in completing their test. They were cheating too, which at this level, was astonishing.
I sat down and started filling the employment form. Starting with my name, nationality, qualification, professional experience I moved downwards where it asked whether I had read certain books, the names of which I had never heard before but they seemed to be Islamic.
Then began the test which was easy at first. There were grammar questions and then an essay to write and a letter and last of all translation of a few sentences in English.
Same pattern was followed for Urdu portion too. After I finished my test I was called by the administration head, a senior lady for the interview. At first she asked me to introduce myself, my qualification and professional experience and then expected salary.
This lady seemed to be very surprised that I wanted a job as a teacher though I was so qualified. I very humbly told her that I’m struggling a lot to find the job of my interest, meanwhile I wanted to do a part time job. After the general questions she asked me whether I was bayt to some religious person or who was my Shekh. Then she asked me very strange questions like whether I have been going to some sort of religious ijtimas or not. To this I replied in the negative. Then she asked me, “If you are selected, you will have to wear a certain burqa, the kind that we wear. Do you agree?” Since I looked at her appearance it looked alright, it had a niqab too so I agreed.
Then she asked me whether I had read certain books. This thing really made me worried because I had never heard such names and this was my first experience with such strange interview questions. Then she asked me whether I watched certain Islamic TV Channels, whether I participated in Friday ijtimas. My answer to all these were a complete NO.
Then the lady who seemed to me quite strict asked, “Sister what is your sect?” I replied, “I am a Muslim.” She said, “No. What is your sect?” I didn’t get what she wanted me to answer. I again inquired, “Sorry ma’am I didn’t get you. Can you please explain your question?” She said, “Sect means Maslak in Urdu, like deobandi, barelvi, shia, wahabi etc. Which one do you belong to?”
Swallowing these bitter lines, I just answered what I didn’t wanted to say… a word that discriminates… a word that creates a boundary in this Muslim Ummah… the name of the sect to which I belong… “Deobandi.” She asked me to write Deobandi in the column of religion in the employment form.
Nobody can imagine the pain that I felt at that particular moment; tears came in to my eyes which I could hardly control. The lady told me to that I can leave and if I were shortlisted I would have to come with all my documents etc.
From the moment the lady asked had me this question till the time I reached home, this question echoed in my mind and literally it felt as if someone had shot me with a gun and shattered my heart into pieces. Then the same evening when I was discussing the whole scenario with my mother. She told me to let it go and do not think much about it.
After Asar prayers, when I was reciting Durood-e-Ibrahimi I just couldn’t hold on my tears, due to the thought that why we all being Muslims kept differentiating each one of us on the basis of sects, on the basis of wealth, on the basis of language and on the basis of complexion.
Is any sect superior to the other? Or the sect to whom I belong is inferior? Is a person greater in wealth or in order words a person who is rich, has more money, and has different cars for each day is superior to a person who is lesser to him in wealth, like a person who is poor, earns on a daily basis, and leads a middle class life? A person who knows different high class languages, can talk with different accent, is superior to a person who doesn’t know these languages? A person who is educated is superior to a person who is illiterate? A person with a fair, white complexion is superior to a person with a rough dark complexion?
These thoughts were making me just burst in to tears. When I’m a Muslim, living in a Muslim country, Pakistan, the Paak Sar Zameen, the clean land, the basis of which is the religion Islam, which clearly declares false all racism, it strongly opposes such beliefs that leads to discrimination amongst Muslims.
Our Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم never taught us to create boundaries for such reasons. One thing I would like to ask whether Hazrat Mohammad صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم ever declared himself a deobandi, whether he ever said himself a barelvi, a Sunni, a wahabi, a shia?
The answer to all these questions is a big NO. He always taught us what he was sent by Allah Almighty, he always preached the religion Islam from what was revealed to him, the Quran and ordered to him by Allah. So he never preached a particular sect, right. So all dear Muslims, these sects are being made by our own selves. These inhuman discriminations are being made by us. We all are Muslims, we all belief there is no god, but one that is Allah Almighty and the Hazrat Mohammad صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم is the Last Prophet.
When I was crying while reciting Durood-e-Ibrahimi, the one thing that by the grace of Allah came in my mind was the last sermon of our Prophet صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم which I would like to write here.
Prophet Muhammad صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم delivered his last sermon (Khutbah) on the ninth of Dhul Hijjah (12th and last month of the Islamic year), 10 years after Hijrah (migration from Makkah to Madinah) in the Uranah Valley of mount Arafat. His words were quite clear and concise, addressing to the entire humanity. After praising and thanking Allah he said,
1. Communicate, knowledge, management:
“O People, lend me an attentive ear, for I know not whether after this year, I shall ever be amongst you again. Therefore listen to what I am saying to you very carefully and take these words to those who could not be present here today.
2. Social and Economic justice:
O People, just as you regard this month, this day, this city as sacred, so regard the life and property of every Muslim as a sacred trust. Return the goods entrusted to you to their rightful owners. Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. Remember that you will indeed meet your LORD, and that HE will indeed reckon your deeds. ALLAH has forbidden you to take usury (interest), therefore all interest obligation shall henceforth be waived. Your capital, however, is yours to keep. You will neither inflict nor suffer any inequity. Allah has Judged that there shall be no interest and that all the interest due to Abbas ibn ‘Abd’al Muttalib (Prophet’s uncle) shall henceforth be waived
3. Protection of your Faith:
“Beware of Satan, for the safety of your religion. He has lost all hope that he will ever be able to lead you astray in big things, so beware of following him in small things.”
4. Family Life:
“O People, it is true that you have certain rights with regard to your women, but they also have rights over you. Remember that you have taken them as your wives only under Allah’s trust and with His permission. If they abide by your right then to them belongs the right to be fed and clothed in kindness. Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers. And it is your right that they do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve, as well as never to be unchaste.”
5. Relationship with the Creator:
“O People, listen to me in earnest, worship ALLAH, say your five daily prayers (Salah), fast during the month of Ramadan, and give your wealth in Zakat. Perform Hajj if you can afford to.”
6. Human Fraternity and Equality & Muslim Ummah:
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety (taqwa) and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim whichbelongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves.”
“Remember, one day you will appear before ALLAH and answer for your deeds. So beware, do not stray from the path of righteousness after I am gone.
8. The Guidance to follow:
“O People, NO PROPHET OR APOSTLE WILL COME AFTER ME AND NO NEW FAITH WILL BE BORN. Reason well, therefore, O People, and understand words which I convey to you. I leave behind me two things, the QURAN and my example, the SUNNAH and if you follow these you will never go astray.
All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others and those to others again; and may the last ones understand my words better than those who listen to me directly. Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people”.
Last I would like to say that the message Prophet Sallahu Alehe Wasalam conveyed to us in his last sermon are important attributes and acts we need to implement in our daily lives too. There’s nothing like class, racism in Islam. It’s just something we have created on our own. Better to purify your souls from such thoughts that create boundaries and feelings of hatred amongst each other. We all are Muslims and we must love and respect each other.