When my uncle asked me what the film (Nur) that I made and won the mokhtar award was about, I just told her that it was a film about a Muslim girl that tried to dispel the stereotypes about Muslims. But it was not really the truth. Nur was made with the intention to glorify God and share my love for God with those feeling the same.
When my dad asked me what my research thesis was about, I said it was an examination of the ways Australia history textbooks taught Asian history. It was not a lie, but at the same time it was not particularly specific. My thesis was not just about Asian history in general; it had a focus, and that was Islamic civilisation.
When somebody asked me what the mokhtar was about, I replied: “it’s a film festival in France.” Again, it’s not a lie. But it’s not the exact depiction of this festival. Mokhtar is special because it’s a festival organised by Muslims with the intention to use visual arts, especially films, to discuss Islam. It’s one of a kind and comes from the sincere love for God of a group of young people in France.
As I reflected on the way I responded to questions about what I was doing, I felt upset at myself. There was nothing wrong with what I did, but for some reasons, I made deliberate attempts to conceal the fact that what I have been doing is often related to Islam or Muslims. It was as if my passion for Islam were a shame.
Why did I respond that way? Probably because I feared that my parents and relatives, who still did not fully accept my Islamic identity, would be enraged and depressed by the topic “Islam”. Probably because I did not want people to make judgement of me – that I’m a religious extremist/fanatic. After all, loving a religion – or living for the sake of God – in a this secular age makes you sound like an idiot.
However, the truth is that my passion is really Islam and Muslims. I love reading books on Islam; I love contemplating on the teachings of prophet Muhammad (pbuh); I love exploring the long lost Muslim civilisations that I have never had the chance to study. My dream is also to make films about Islam and Muslims. As much as I want these films to be able to reach people’s heart, I want to create films because for me, that is how I consolidate and manifest what I have learned and be inspired by the Books of God, which include the Qu’ran, the Universe and prophet Muhammad (the living Qu’ran).
Yet, it’s disheartening to see myself trying to avoid sharing my passion with other people. It makes me realise how I still try to seek approval and acceptance from the world, and in doing so, I become apologetic and miserable. My religion, as a result, appears shameful, too.
It was not how prophet Muhammed talked about Islam when confronting adversities. It was also not how his Companions reacted to the unbelievers’ mockery of the Prophet and His message. Rather, regardless of whoever or whatever affronted them, they still expressed their pride in the fact that they were struggling for the sake of their faith and for God’s pleasures.
Not only their bravery touched my heart, but also their sincerity made me feel ashamed of my own self. How could I say I love God if I hesitate to express it? How could I say I love God when I treat Him and His beautiful message as something to be hidden? How could I say I love Islam when I even look down at myself?
I could make thousands of excuses about why I hesitated to tell people about my religion. But ultimately, the core reason was that I still crave for this world – the acceptance of people, the status and the security. And because of that love, i have done injustice to the most beautiful religion in the world.
In this modern world, many people laugh at the notion of “living for God’s pleasure”, while some use this notion for their ideological and political agendas. Ordinary Muslims also talk about it, even though several times it is limited to praying and attending mosques. But for me, living for God’s pleasures is the highest purpose of life and something I want to direct my heart to. Laugh at me if you’d like; call me stupid if you’d like, but I pray that I can taste that sincerity (Ikhlas)- the pure sincerity to do things for God and earn His pleasure.
For now, I know I am not sincere. My love for God is compromised by my attachment to this world although I know its transitory and fleeting nature. After all, knowing is one thing; understanding is another matter.
InshaAllah, one day, I can gain sincerity to proudly say to my parents and my friends: “I am a Muslim. I am making films and doing a thesis about Islam, because I love it. I hope you watch it and can see its beauty, too”.
Surely We have revealed to you the Book with the truth, therefore serve God, being sincere to Him in obedience. (Holy Qur’an, 39:2)