About religion

A few months ago, 

“Are you Sunni or Syiah?” ask my friend, not long after we know each other but barely.

I’m confused. Not expecting this kind of question.

“Neither.” I answer.

“No! You gotta be one of it!” My friend responds forcefully.

I’m surprised. Why does she respond so strongly? And why does it matter so much?

“In my country, we don’t really divide Muslim by Sunni or Syiah. But there are 2 big Islamic groups, maybe one of them is Sunni or Syiah, I’m not sure.”

After I answer that way, she becomes a little bit calmer. Then, she ask another Muslim friend of mine,

“Are you Sunni or Syiah?”

“Sunni.” he answered. “And you?”


Honestly, I’m not really into the debate of which Islamic ‘genre’ is more right.

My ‘genre’ is the one that my parents taught me since I was child, Rukun Iman and Rukun Islam. And that’s what I’ve learned in school, too. We do Syahadat, Shalat, Zakat, Shaum, Hajj. About how to perform each action, yes, there are many differences (even my father’s and mother’s) but we have never made fuss about that. As long as it’s not substantial, then everyone can choose what they think is best. But if it’s very principle, we correct each other and provide Dalil to strengthen the argument.

What’s so different about other Islamic ‘genre’? Isn’t it common to have different way to perform our religion? Shalat Jamaah for Idul Fitri, which is usually broadcasted live in television, gives a very good example for this. We can see a lot people from different nation and ethnicity has their own stance to do Shalat.

Gradually, I found out that she is indeed in different ‘genre’. I can’t understand why the other genre do it that way, for example not doing Shalat and Shaum as similar as us, but then I remember that religion is something private between each individual and God. So, we let each other do Islam in our own way and respect each other belief.

This makes my other friends curious.

“Both of you are Muslim. But why is one of you wearing hijab and one of you not?”

I answer very carefully.

“It depends on each belief. It comes to my senses that wearing hijab is a good thing for Muslim woman and I do it willingly.”

My (other ‘genre’) friend then adds,

“In my country, the laws obliged Muslim woman to wear hijab but that makes us feel forced. So it doesn’t come naturally like she did.”

“Yes, even though most population in my country are Muslim, but our law is not purely Islamic. So, government doesn’t make woman wear hijab like in her country.”

That answer makes them even more confused. And they continue to ask other things.

“But why there are also Muslim who did this, that, this…?”

“There could be some people who do not perform it as well as the other, we call it Islam but only in identification card (I want to say Islam KTP).”

“What?! You have religion statement in your ID?! Why? We don’t have that because it’s private issue and not government’s business, blablabla..” (Just like the current debate about this in Indonesia) And with that, the topic changes to another religion.

A few months after that discussion, I went to Eastern Europe and in one country, I met a friend of friend. He is very smart and also a lecturer in a well-known university there. He has been to my (other ‘genre’) friend’s country and have an idea of how Islam is performed there. The thing is, he generalizes and thinks that the right Islam way is the first one he witnessed. Others are just not right. That is why it bothers him so much that me and my Indonesian friend reject his offer to drink non-alcoholic beer, (not like my (other ‘genre’) friend who willingly choose to drink that) and ignoring the fact that he already gives his best effort to find the most suitable place for us to eat. He argued that he understand the reason why drinking is forbidden if it makes you drunk, because you will act stupid and careless then regret many things later. But what if it doesn’t make you drunk? The workers in his country drink to make them energize, finish works faster and still, it doesn’t make them act stupid or careless.

I answer to the point because he’s been questioning us for some time and we can see that he’s a little bit offended though not obviously.

“If you drink, your prayer won’t be accepted for 40 days.”

“…whether you’re drunk or not.” My (other ‘genre’) friend adds. I think she’s feeling a little bit guilty because his friend judge us based on her standard. He accepts that answer and not making further argument.

But the next day, he questions us again about religion. I really don’t feel comfortable discussing it too detail, because it’s very private and there are many different ways to do it. But he doesn’t realize our uncomfortable face and body language, and continues asking,

“Have you ever read New Testament?”

“What??? No.” We answers very immediately. Me and my Indonesian friend exchange glances and wonder why does he ask this.

His face is a little bit puzzled. In his understanding, people should proceed in same stages as him (through many studies and researches) to decide on a religion to believe. But for us, we’ve been Muslim since born, and we have no doubt about our religion. We learned about Shalat, Shaum, and how to read Al-Qur’an since child. The biggest weaknesses of me, or us generally are the lack of eagerness to continuously study and research more about Islam which can strengthen our beliefs.

“But how do people learn religion in your country?”

“We have religious school. I myself, have been learning to read Al-Qur’an since 3 years old.”

That makes both of them surprised.

Then he asks again,

“But you’re not really doing all that He told, right?”

“He told???” I’m not usually address our God by gender.

“Yes, they are.” My (other ‘genre’) friend adds again then she explain something else.

I think this friend is in pursuit to decide which religion to believe. He expresses many doubts about all religions and opposes many beliefs. I feel a little bit annoyed but also pity for him. I wish God open his heart to accept any Iman.

That reminds me of something. Before I leave for Germany, my mother reminds me many times to keep my religion in mind, to do shalat, shaum and read Al-Qur’an. I nod to her request, but I still have no idea how much different is it here, until I met many people who asks about Islam like earlier, started my classes and season changes to autumn and winter.

Classes usually started at 12 PM and keep on going until 4 or 6 PM. It’s not easy to find some time and some place to do shalat. That is why usually I do Dhuhur and Ashar together before or after class. Still, it’s difficult if it’s not yet Dhuhur and you have class until afternoon. And because the season is much more dynamic here, you have to check everyday about the time, if not, you will think it’s still Dhuhur even though it’s already Ashar, Ashar even though it’s already Maghrib, etc.

Especially when you do a trip to some different countries in Europe, checking the time is really important. First we are in Prague then we move to Warsaw, which is located more eastern. We think that the shalat time won’t be that different but when we checked, it is really different by an hour earlier.

Being Muslim in Germany doesn’t feel that different. Yes, we are minority but I can find so many Muslims here, in the end it doesn’t make you feel so minor. Yes, it is not like in Indonesia but many times I just feel thankful for being a Muslim here. For example, once, I got a free doner kebab for wearing a hijab which the seller adored. Yeay!

Living in an international environment, I keep on receiving a lot of questions about Islam. This is a really good, encouraging me to keep on learning and doing my religion, for my own good, and for everyone who want to know more about Islam through me. I realized I could be delivering false signal about Islam with my inappropriate answer, response or attitude, particularly in the Eastern Europe guy-case. When I think about it again, there could be a possibility that he is interested in Islam but because of me, he withdraw himself. I regret it a lot, really. Like any other religion, Islam teach kindness and positive things but many times it’s me who did wrong and could be making other people misunderstand about Islam. I hope I can fix my attitude and become a better Muslimah, amiin..