The Woman at the Coffee Shop


2943953133_d63dd8c32e_bHe looked straight at her as he called her profane names, loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Dude, you’re embarrassing me! Stop. Besides, I don’t think she is Muslim,” I said.

“She is Palestinian, isn’t she? What is she doing? Going out with a white guy…” he said conspicuously in Arabic, adding in several more profanities.

This took place about thirteen years ago and has stuck with me since. She is someone I met through the Arab Students’ Association on campus. She is Palestinian but, as I recall, barely spoke Arabic. From our very brief encounter, I suspect that she is not Muslim. The hot-blooded friend of mine took it upon himself to call her out in the middle of a coffee shop by stating that such indecent behavior is unbefitting of a Palestinian woman.

You might look at this and wonder why assume that the man she is sitting with is her boyfriend? Could he be her husband? Maybe he is a cousin, a family friend, a classmate? They were not holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes, or making out. They were having coffee at a coffee shop on campus.

Being eager to protect the sanctity of Muslims is admirable, but one must understand what Allah tells us in Surat Al-Hujurat:

49:12

“O you who have believed, avoid much [negative] assumption. Indeed, some assumption is sin.” (Qur’an, 49:12)

Negative assumptions only give the shaytan (Satan) easy access to our hearts and minds, making us lose control.

Even if it was not an assumption but factual, and the relationship was truly illegitimate, yelling profanities at someone is not going to set them straight. Is this the way the Prophet ﷺ preached the message of Islam? He was definitely strict and unwavering when it came to the halal (permissible) and haram (impermissible), but he was also kind and wise in how he delivered the message. As Allah says in Surat Ali Imran,

3:159

“And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you.” (Qur’an, 3:159)

This is a lesson for us by way of the Prophet ﷺ. Allah says: “(O Mohammad) had you been harsh, ill-natured, and fierce of heart, brutish and coarse towards them, they would have dispersed, split away, from about you” (Tafsir al-Jalalayn).

So yelling at your child to pray without any proper teaching is not going to get them to pray. Belittling the iman (faith) of your spouse or your friends is not going to encourage them to learn more about their religion. Spitting nails while giving a khutbah (sermon) about the haram-filled life in non-Muslim lands is not going to be of benefit.  We must be conscientious of how we approach people and how we give advice because a person’s faith is so volatile that saying the right thing the wrong way might prove destructive. Allah says in Surat Al-Nahl,

16:125

“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best.” (Qur’an, 16:125)

That incident at the coffee shop also indicates an alarming phenomenon in the Muslim Ummah (community). His anger over her assumed actions was precipitated by the fact that she was Palestinian, or Arab, and not because she could be Muslim. By perhaps having a boyfriend, especially a white man, she had insulted him and his Palestinian heritage. Culture, lineage, and tribal mentality have resurfaced since the fall of the Ottoman Empire; we are regressing to the days of jahilyah (ignorance) in which die-hard nationalism and unquestionable allegiance to the flag take precedence. If we do not return to our religion then we will be divided and conquered by our own ignorance.

But you know what the most frightening thing is about this incident? I have since learned that my hot-blooded friend was infamous for preying on drunken girls at bars. Immediately what comes to mind is what Allah says in Surat Al-Baqarah,

2:44

“Do you order righteousness of the people and forget yourselves?” (Qur’an, 2:44)

It is frightening because anger, assumptions, brutish behavior, and misconceptions about religious and cultural interactions can all be corrected, but hypocrisy that is masked by self-assumed righteousness is a cancer that would soon consume the body of the Ummah.

I pray that Allah forgive my sins and guide me to His righteous path and I pray that His mercy has led him and her to repentance and forgiveness.

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15 Comments

  1. umm yusuf says:

    Masha’Allah a very nice article

    I like the ayaat you have chosen from the quraan. We can become quite arrogant at times in the name of “religiosity.” I definitely benefitted from this.

    Jazak’Allahukhayrn

  2. mike says:

    true that… thats so idiotic. I just used to judge silently but once I lived a bit… I realized I am no better… We all have done things we regret it. Allah(swt) is the only judge. Plus if we start judging; humans can be quite merciless; look at the world bombing hospitals, mosques etc…

  3. stuck in traffic says:

    So true about the hypocrisy. Once a boy at school saw me sitting with a pet I had and wanted to just ask me a question about it. My brother saw him, started pushing him around because he talked to me. My brother, on the other hand, saw no problem in talking and dating other girls. May Allah save us from hypocrisy and extremism!

  4. Maryam says:

    inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi rajeeon….Jezak Allahu khayran, great reminder Alhamdulilah, that last section about your friend was a trip, Allah yahdihi wa yahidna jameaan, may Allah guide him and guide us all

  5. sabirah says:

    Mashallah! This phenomenon is on the rise world wide
    May Allah protect us from it and I hope everyone stands up against it if noticed. it is just not right. Unfortunately there is this feeling amongst muslims that they have to correct the bad behaviour of others forcefully, but they don’t consider this bad behaviour themselves. may Allah cure them of their extreme arrogance

  6. Aziza says:

    Jazak Allah khayr Nomad for this great article!

    It reminds me of something Imam Ahmed Zarruq said: “O my eye do not seek the faults of others, for people have eyes too”

    Kinda stops you from judging other people. We should rectify ourselves first (if we ever succeed!)

  7. Interesting incident but not necessarily deserving of an entire post on an Islamic blog. Not every incident of boorish behavior by a Muslim or Arab is indicative of a larger trend in the Ummah. Nevertheless you make good points about not judging our brothers and sisters harshly; not being hypocritical; and the dangers of nationalism.

    • Marya says:

      I think br. Nomad used this example to talk about larger issues of character, Islamic manners, etc.

    • Maryam says:

      Although sometimes it depends on your location. I’ve had many encounters individuals who make judgmental remarks and have massive issues to work on themselves. I do think it’s a problem worth addressing. Ask those who are at the other end of crude, judgmental remarks. See how many of them really want to turn back to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala after such encounters with ‘religious’ individuals. Jezak Allahu Khayran Br.Nomad for your post.

  8. Kelly says:

    Thank you very much for this post. I think it is very bad territory to tread when you accuse the reputation of a woman without all of the facts — ESPECIALLY a woman. Saying something like this in public is degrading to any woman and will push them away from Islam — there are better, and more “Islamic” approaches.

    May God bring us nearer to the Good and more far from the Bad
    Ameen wa jazak Allah Khair

  9. Amatullah says:

    may Allah protect us from this. jazak Allahu khayran for the reminder.

  10. Ahmed says:

    Ma’sha’allah this was a great post. Great reminder that we all sorely need, myself included, as it is hard sometimes when you see those you love especially or those that you wish to look out for do things that are not befitting of them as a Muslim, but to do it in a correct, loving and gentle manner. Of course, also to remember to first look at yourself then correct others.

    Jazak’Allahu Khairan.

  11. Mariam says:

    Salam alaykum

    Br. Wael,

    The incident simply was a means to point out something all Muslims can fall into every day. It can be the interaction between men and women, a business transaction or the purchase of a home that draws negative and unwarranted judgements. We need to be much more careful about how we view people and the assumptions we make.

    Salam

  12. wow says:

    this is an amazing post. i wish comments like this were posted on the webpage everyday. i can totally relate to this and this is amongst the best of advice and what’s best is that it is cited straight from the most sacred of text, al-qur’an.
    thanks a lot.

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