Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day to my non-Muslim Father

As salaam alaikum,

First, a shout-out to one of the editors of Love, InshAllah, Ayesha, and the ladies of the anthology (and their fathers) as mentioned in this HuffPost piece, "Father's Day: A Love Letter to Muslim Fathers." This is a lovely piece about real Muslim fathers, real Muslim men who are loving, compassionate and accommodating of their daughter's loves and aspirations. And though I love my Christian father like none other and could not love him any more, reading the piece made me feel the continued void of Muslim men, real Muslim men, in my life.

My grandfather was the primary Muslim man in my life, and even then, his practice has always been very private. The only other practicing Muslim man in my family growing up was one of my uncles, my mother's youngest brother. But growing up, when I visited my family in Flint, the Muslim men I saw praying were the men at the Islamic Center and the local masjid were all unrelated black men in the community. But I was mostly exposed to practicing Muslim grandmother, one of my aunts in particular, and my mother. These were the people I witnessed pray the most, read the Qur'an the most, reflect on their spirituality the most...

I was, however, exposed to the praying, beliefs and devotion of a Christian man. No, my father did not attend church, which is considered by most Christians to be integral to one's faith. But as a child, I watched him read his Bible, his King James, Jesus (as) text in red Bible, I watched with him sometimes his favorite televangelist, Reverend Price (Evidence! Evidence!), I listened to his Mormon Tabernacle Choir some Sundays, I prayed with him as he led prayers over our food and before journeys. My father is, in fact, the most practicing religious man that I know.

And yet, I aspired to marry a Muslim man, without too many examples of Muslim men in my life. I do, however, have an example of a good man in my life, and that is my father. A man who loves God, who is humble, sometimes to the point of being self-deprecating, one who is striving actively in the way of God as he believes to be fit, who provides for his family, who loves us all dearly, who is dedicated to his responsibilities as husband and father, who is a diligent and tireless worker, who is fiercely intelligent to the point where I'm convinced he's a genius (and I'm not just saying that because I'm his daughter), who is patient, who is gentle, who loves and respects my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins as his own blood...

And so many other attributes. I never demonized my father for being Christian, though I am often frustrated by his seeming intolerance of my being Muslim sometimes. As a matter of fact, as a gift to him on father's day, I'm listening to several of the sermons from his church, as he always wants me to do, so we can discuss it if he wants. I couldn't help but open my Islamicity Qur'an search to find those parallel ayat in the Qur'an that speaks to essential theological differences that scream out to me as I listen to his pastor. I can't fault him. This is the man who taught me to blow my nose in a very specific way...closing one nostril and then blowing out one, then repeating on the opposite side. Because he blows his nose that way and he was convinced that was the most efficient and effective way to do it.

Of course he's going to try to expose me to his way of believing and approaching God, because he is my father.

I do sometimes, often times, wish I had more good Muslim men in my life, including a Muslim husband. But, no contest, I'd rather have my father in my life, exactly as he is, and as he's always been.

I love you, Daddy. Happy Father's Day.

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