Written by Raghdai Agha, Year 12
Winner of the Tutors SA Harmony Day Essay Writing Competition 2019 for the Upper Secondary Category
When a young girl called Fatima moves from her country to Australia, she faces the mixed blessing of opportunity and prejudice. When she meets Sia, an Australian girl, a new friendship develops ultimately bridging the gap between their different religions revealing how much they have in common.
It was a Saturday morning and Fatima was sitting in the library studying for a Math’s test. When she looked up, she saw a girl walking through the library on her way to the printer to collect some work. Suddenly the girl came up to Fatima and she said “Hello, my name is Sia and, if you don’t mind, I would like to ask you a question…”
Fatima said “Hello, yes why not? And anyway, my name is Fatima.”
Sia asked why Fatima was wearing a head scarf as it was very hot in there. Fatima was silent for moment. She was shocked. However, this was not the first time that she had been asked this question or a question about her religion. But Fatima replied in very polite way as her religion teaches her to be respectful to others.
Fatima replied “I wear head scarf because I’m Muslim.”
Sia said “I know that you are Muslim but what is the purpose of wearing a head scarf? And does anyone force you to wear it?”
That’s how a very important conversation began between Sia and Fatima about religion. The girls began to talk for hours but then Sia realized she was in a hurry as her mother came into the library, calling out: “Sia, we have to go now!”
However, Sia was learning so many things she didn’t know before and still had many questions to ask Fatima: Why is she wearing a head scarf? What does she believe in? Are all Muslims terrorists? Sia had heard so many things about Islam but had never actually met a person who practiced the faith.
When Sia arrived home, she was questioning her mother if she had any ideas about the Muslim faith. Sia really wanted to get to know Fatima more, so she told her mother that she would like to return to the library next Saturday morning to see if Fatima was there studying. She hoped that she could further meet with Fatima to learn more about the Muslim religion and faith. However, in the meantime, Sia began researching about Islam on her computer.
Meanwhile, when Fatima finished her studies in the library, she was very tired, so she went back home to rest. As Fatima was packing up her books, she was thinking about the way Sia approached her and that she had never been asked this question in such a polite manner. Since Fatima had been in Australia – she arrived two years ago – she had experienced people yelling at her when she would walk home after school, throwing things at her and swearing because she was wearing a head scarf. Fatima had just landed into her dream country, nervous and extremely happy, but had not expected people to act that way towards her. Fatima didn’t understand why people always thought that all terrorists were Muslim. It always made her feel sad that people saw her in that way – except Sia was different.
The next Saturday, Fatima returned to the library to study, secretly hoping that she would encounter Sia again. To her delight, Sia appeared and ran to Fatima with excitement.
“Oh, my goodness, it’s Fatima! Hello!”
“Oh Sia! I didn’t know you were coming to the library again.”
“Yeah, I know, I came to the library because I knew you were going to be here.”
“Well that’s great, do you want to continue our conversation from last week?” asked Fatima.
“Yes of course, I was thinking about you and talking to my mum about the conversation.”
Sia was really excited to start the conversation with Fatima.
Once again Sia asked, “What do you believe as Muslims?” In a compassionate tone, Fatima answered that we believe that there is one God (Allah) and in the prophet Muhammad as his Messenger. Fatima continued by sharing the five important pillars of Islam with Sia. “If we don’t follow the five pillars we are not connected to Islam.” Curiously, Sia quizzed, “Could you please explain what are the five are for and why it is important to practice them in your religion?”
Again, Sia said “Sorry Fatima, and also what is the meaning of Islam?”
Fatima replied, “Yes of course I will try my best to explain.”
Fatima began to outline the five pillars: Shahadan, Salah (Prayers), Fasting, Zakaah (Charity) and Hajj (Pilgrimage).
“So Sia, in Islam, Shahada is the most important because without faith you can’t practice the other four elements. Shahada is the belief in only one God and Muhammad as his Messenger. The second is prayer, Salah.” As Fatima knew how important prayer is for Muslims, she went on to explain it further. “The number one reason for prayer is to develop and maintain a connection to our Creator, so Muslims pray five times day. The next pillar is Zakaah, a type of charity, given to the needy.” Fatima also explained how Muslims fast in the month of Ramadan as fasting makes Muslims remember the needy who suffer from hunger and deprivation. “Finally, pilgrimage(Hajj) is the fifth pillar where Muslims greatest desire is to visit holy city of Makka as people go to achieve a sense of enlightenment at least once in their lifetime.”
As Fatima spoke a sense of wonder and respect overcame Sia who realized they shared similar values.
Sia left the library a few minutes later carrying her bag. As she was walking she thought about what she had learnt. Fatima and Sia both believed in one God but called them different names. Both used prayer to talk to God and worship. Sia realized that not only Christian people give charity to the less fortunate, but that Fatima and Muslim people also give charity and treat people equally. They both see all people as humans, without regard to colour or culture. A Muslim does not only help Muslims, but helps all people whether Christian, Hindu or Muslim. And this was because, as Fatima explained, Islam is about peace as is Christianity.
The initial barrier between Sia and her understanding about Muslims had diminished. Her conversation with Fatima had bridged the gap between their differences allowing them to forge a beautiful friendship. Meanwhile, Fatima was really happy to know that people in her new country were full of love for each other as well and she slept well that night, knowing she had found a new friend through a connection of faith.
The views, information, or opinions expressed in this essay are solely from the author and do not necessarily represent those of Tutors SA and its employees.