Navigating the Pandemic with Faith – Mukadas Abdullah

Ever since the Pandemic started, so many unknowns have entered our lives, more than ever before. It seems as if things that were certainties, like our fall semester in college that includes game days, hangouts, and sitting on the terrace with friends, have forever changed. With mask mandates, social distancing, and limited gatherings, the way we celebrate and socially interact is adjusting. In these times of uncertainty, I lean even more on religion as no one seems to have the answers and things are always fluctuating. Leaning on Allah (the word for God in arabic), for me during this time makes me believe it will be okay even if I don’t know what tomorrow may be like.

As a Muslim woman who was born and raised in predominantly Christian nations such as Russia and the USA, I have always interacted with those who are of different faiths. My religion of Islam has always brought me comfort in times of uncertainty, hardship, and loneliness. Whenever I have felt let down in life or alone, I have come to realize there was a being greater than me, Allah (God) who I could lean on. To me, my faith has meant hope and throughout my life I have met others who find comfort in leaning on something that is greater than them and the circumstances they are in.

This pandemic has made it harder to meet new people due to fears of contracting COVID-19. Despite these circumstances, I am excited that I will have an opportunity through the CRGC fellowship to interact and meet with new people. I am looking forward to understanding what others lean on for support in these uncertain times, and engaging in dialogues with people of different faiths. Discussing faith can be polarizing at times but I want to learn how to facilitate discussions that instead bring us to a greater understanding of one another’s faiths. Having friends who are of different faiths like Christianity, Hinduism, and other sects of Islam, I have seen how most faiths are united in their concepts of believing in a being who is greater than us, who made the world, and helps those less fortunate. Seeing the similarities in the religions I encountered, especially the ones that are monotheistic or of Abrahamic tradition, I wondered why it is so difficult to engage in respectful conversations and coexist.

This feels particularly potent for me as a Muslim, as I see my religion so often misunderstood and misrepresented, especially in the media. As a Muslim I believe we are representations of our faith and this has made me want to become a CRGC fellow, to teach others about it. Many people don’t know Muslims personally and have only heard of the religion when it has been associated with violence. This has made me feel like my faith, which has brought me so much peace and comfort and taught so much good, has been hijacked by extremists. So along with learning about other religions and belief systems, I hope to show a different perspective about my own faith while engaging in civil and respectful dialogue.

How does your faith or belief system help you navigate this pandemic? What life experiences led you to become a CRGC fellow? Growing up did you meet others of other faiths, or only hear about them in the media?

 

5 thoughts on “Navigating the Pandemic with Faith – Mukadas Abdullah”

  1. In response to the last question asked, I did not know many people of other faiths than my own as a kid. I went to a Catholic school, so most of my friends were Catholic and those who were not were some other sects of Christianity. I also lived in Mineral Point, WI, so there was not much diversity at all. My main outlet to learn about other faiths was through television news, so did not mention non-Christian religions in an even-minded sight. My worldview was incredibly myopic. It was not until college that I made friends from other faiths outside of Christianity. I joined WUD-Film on campus and made friends with people from across the globe who practiced numerous faiths. I am eager to learn about more faiths and that was a central motivation for me to apply to the Interfaith Fellowship program.

  2. Mukadas, you bring up some excellent points and I enjoyed reading your post! I also feel that during times of uncertainty, faith can be a source or comfort and normalcy. To respond to your final question, I feel that growing up I was surrounded by people who either practiced the same faith as me or had practiced in the past and later became agnostic. When I was younger, I grew up in Texas an area that was predominantly non-denominational or evangelical Christian. After moving to WI, I lived in an area where Catholicism was practiced by most religious individuals. My interaction with individuals who were not either Christian or agnostic was very, very limited. My knowledge about other religions growing up did typically come from media. As you said, media usually misrepresents religions so there is so much that I do not know about other faiths. This is one of the reasons that I wanted to participate in the CRGC fellowship this year, I have not participated in interfaith dialogue before, and I feel that it is so valuable and important for developing understanding. I look forward to hearing from you and others about your experiences with faith and religion this year!

  3. Thank you for your comments, Mukadas! I have also found great comfort throughout my life when choosing to lean on God and trust Him. During our current pandemic I have been extremely grateful for the perspective and purpose that I find in my beliefs. The perspective that everything will be okay has given me great hope and helped me keep moving forward, even when things are tough. Throughout my life I have always been interested in learning from others of different cultures, religions, and backgrounds. That interest deepened as I had the opportunity to live in Russia and Kazakhstan for two years and really gain an appreciation and love for connecting with others and learning from them. I felt that my experiences there have influenced my life immeasurably, and I hope to be able to continue that growth by engaging with the other CRGC fellows throughout this year!

  4. Hi Mukadas! I enjoyed reading your blog post – I found it extremely relatable! I have also felt the effects of not being able to see people in real-time, and have found the need to lean on my religion even more now than in the past. Sometimes, I feel that it is the only thing that provides some consistency in my life. The last few weeks have been rapidly changing to the point where something new changes everyday. Thus, my faith provides me with a sense of stability in my life. I found your discussion about the mis-representation of your religion of Islam to be very engaging. To answer your question – I have learned about other religions primarily from friends, history teachers and the media. Many of my friends growing up believed in Christianity thus, I learned a lot about Christianity from them and their families. Some of the major world religions such as Hinduism, Judaism and Islam, I learned about through history teachers and the media. However, I practice Sikhi and found that my religion was rarely talked about and if it was, it was compared to Islam and Hinduism rather than being viewed as its own entity. As I have interacted with people who practice Judaism, Hinduism and Islam, I have realized that portrayals of religion in the media are not accurate. This was confirmed in some courses I took here on campus. For example, in a Middle East women’s politics class, we discussed how Islam is often falsely blamed for the oppression of women in this region, and in fact, this is not the case – rather, there other societal factors at the state and government levels that are to blame for the oppression of women and other groups of people. Blaming religion and defining a religion by the actions of extremists is not practical, and I am so glad you raised this point Mukadas. Rather, mis-representation of religion can cause divide when the purpose of religion should be to promote understanding and celebrate our differences. Great post – I look forward to working with you and talking about our experiences with the mis-representations of our religions!

  5. Hi Mukadas,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. I too, like you have leaned more towards our faith during these difficult times. An important lesson in Islam is the idea that “After difficulty, comes ease” and it is for this teaching that I am not as anxious about the pandemic as other people. What you said about their being a bigger picture with Allah resonated so heavily with me because whenever I do anything in life or whenever anything happens to me I always rely on Allah. With my faith I am able to go through these difficult times and trust that after these difficult times will come easy times that everyone will enjoy. As for your question on hearing about other religions, I mostly learned about other religions through my personal experiences with friends that practice different religions, of course I have heard about other religions through the media, but I take everything that the media says about any religion with a grain of salt since I have seen how much they have misconceptualized my religion. I can only imagine how much they have misconceptualized other religions.

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