I neared a parking spot and saw another person getting out of their car. As I parked and started walking, I realized it was my classmate. “Hey!” I greeted enthusiastically. She stared at me and with a flare of anger, she retorted, “You almost hit my car!” At first, I thought she was kidding; I hadn’t driven near her car. I then realized she was serious, and I hung my head in shame.
This was the second bad incident this woman had with a Muslim. Just a week prior, another Muslim girl in our class had acted extremely rude towards this classmate. I was not there, but was told of the incident, and I confronted the sister who had committed the crime of horrific da`wah (calling to Islam) through horrendous behavior. However, the damage had been done to our classmate and I had hoped I could present another image of Islam.
But I had already lost my opportunity. I picked driving at an illegally fast speed over improving this woman’s perception of Islam. I racked my brain on what to do, making istighfar (asking for God’s forgiveness), hoping Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) would forgive me and guide me.
The final to which I sped comprised of dropping off a project and returning within a couple hours to retrieve it and receive the grade. I realized I may have some time to make something happen, with Allah’s Help. I found the nearest popular juice place and I bought a gift card for my classmate. I then began writing a sincere apology letter, hoping to make up for my immense shortcoming in her measure. I returned to the class, anxious for her to come back, hoping I hadn’t already missed her.
Finally, I saw her walking and I swiftly went to approach her.
“Excuse me?” I began. She turned around and stared at me, annoyed perhaps, apathetic at best. “I just wanted to apologize to you for today,” I began. “You’re right, I should not have been driving that fast.” She scolded me and I accepted full responsibility; she was completely in the right and I was completely at fault. I then offered her the gift; I told her that I know she had an unfortunate experience with another Muslim in our class, and that she also had an unfortunate incident with me, a Muslim woman, that very morning. But I wanted her to know that we are both simply humans who make mistakes; that what we had done was not condoned by Islam, that what we had represented wasn’t the perfection of morals, principals and character taught to us by the Qur’an and the example of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him). That we simply slipped; that we are human.
The woman was visibly moved by my action. She accepted the gift and then slowly replied, “I am so glad that you stopped me and spoke to me. I am one of those people who try really hard not to listen to the stereotypes in the media. But after what I experienced with both of you, I thought, maybe Muslims really are that way.”
People are carefully watching our moves in order to make a decision on their own notions of Islam and the Muslim community–this includes Muslims who feel they have been pushed out or turned off by other Muslims. If we cut corners and try to get away with things that exude sub-standard character, why would our fellow citizens want to be like us? Who do you naturally lean towards? Someone who is upright in character, who admits fault and tries to fix their mistakes? Or someone who, when they are caught red-handed, blows you off and cusses you out?
We often make excuses for our own lapses in character; we sometimes compromise things we see as non-issues in the bigger picture when it will benefit us. However, let us remember that our lapses affect our lives and the lives of those around us.
Next time we make a mistake, let’s think about ways we can fix it. With repentance, continually seeking forgiveness and striving to compensate for our shortcomings, perhaps we may be the reason someone reconsiders their negative perceptions.