Breaking Down Walls & Growing Together

           When in a moment that I feel to be overwhelmingly beautiful, life changing or powerful, I get chills.  In this moment, meeting with the Imam, in his home, I got chills.  As we walked in, he greeted us saying “welcome” in Darija Arabic. And to our surprise, as we took off our shoes and walked barefoot across the beautifully crafted carpets, we did feel welcome.  This feeling continued as we sat on the colorful, traditional, patterned couches lining all of the walls. This man, the Imam, who welcomed our small group of girls from a private Christian university into his home is a leader in the Islamic religion.  To us though, our first impression was that of a kind, warmhearted human being.
Before we knew it, the Imam himself was pouring a cup of mint tea for everyone and an array of cookies was passed around the room.  The pouring of the tea stood out to me as a powerful symbol of reconciliation.  He could have had the other men do it, but he did it himself.  We were already being welcomed into his home, and now he was serving us, continuing conversation and tenderly smiling as he made eye contact with people throughout the room.
When we started asking questions, Iman our translator and friend of the Imam, was very helpful.  We asked him questions about everything from the Quran and the structure of Islam, to his feelings on worldly events.
We wondered if people on Earth, especially those in different religions could ever truly coexist and live in peace. To this, he said,

“One of the goals on Earth is to get to know each other, even though we may be different”

This is so powerful, especially coming from a man who is so religious in his own faith but seems to be so respectful of others (we can all take notes).  Many have the perception of Islam as a violent religion that shuns all non-believers, but that is just not true. Sitting there with the Imam, in his home was a true testament to that.
As the conversation continued, the Imam himself walked around and refilled everyones cup of tea.  When the questions kept rolling, there were a few things he said that really stood out to me regarding what he believes the path to happiness entails.

He said,

“Some people are looking for happiness in power and money and there is no happiness there”
“Good deeds are the best happiness”
I don’t think that these quotes are hard to interpret or need any explanation.  What surprised me was, in the path to happiness he didn’t mention following certain rules or religions.  He made overarching statements that can fit into everyone’s religions/lives.
Throughout life, we hear or get a feeling from our media/society that Islam is a violent religion.  We learn to feel uncomfortable when talking about it.  There are so many stereotypes, especially with the recent growth of Isis.  Many correlate Isis with Islam.  The truth is they are extremists and most Muslims would never associate themselves with the group.  If that doesn’t break down stereotypes and walls, I will leave you with these quotes from the Imam.
“I don’t understand Isis”
“Isis has nothing to do with Islam”

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