A few days back, I encountered an incident which has brought new meaning and outlook in my life. It happened in the morning around eight o'clock. I was about to get into my car when I saw a woman, non-Muslim, walking on the other side of the road. Naturally, I smiled to her. And she smiled back. I continued to put my laptop bag into the car when I heard someone say "hello."
I turned my head and saw the same woman now standing beside me. "Will you pass by the bus station?"
I actually was not going to pass by it, but then I remembered something, the words of Allah Almighty and some hadiths:
[Worship Allah and do not attribute partners to Him. Be good to your parents and relatives and to orphans and the very poor, and to neighbors who are related to you and neighbors who are not related to you] (An-Nisaa' 4:36)
Ibn `Umar reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, Jibreel continued to advise me to be good to my neighbor until I thought that he would have me make him an heir." (Al-Bukhari)
Ibn Al-Munkadir reported that he heard Jabir saying, "The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was never asked for something to which he said 'no.'" (Al-Bukhari)
"May I get a lift from you?"
"Sure, no problem. Hop in!"
This is when something amazing happened. We got acquainted and she made a remark that sank my heart to the bottom of the sea. She said to me, "When you smiled to me across the street, I saw kindness in your smile. That is why I had the courage to come to you for help. Many people passed by me, but none of them smiled, so I didn't ask any of them."
One line was enough. One line from her and I realized how true and wise the words of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) are. He showed us the manners and ways to the heart of people using the smallest and simplest way: smiling.
The Prophet said, "Do not think little of any good deed even if it is just meeting your brother with a cheerful countenance." (Muslim)
`Abdullah ibn Al-Harith said, "I never came across a person who smiled as much as the Prophet. The Prophet regarded smiling with a brother as an act of charity." (At-Tirmidhi)
Suddenly, it struck me: If we cannot follow the manner of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) in doing night prayers, for instance, can't we follow him in smiling? Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) loved to smile. By just smiling, we Muslims are being rewarded and are regarded as doing charity work. Is it so hard to smile?
I am used to observing people's expressions when I walk around. I can actually see almost every expression — you can see angry, upset, rushing, expressionless, lost, happy, and tense faces. Yet I rarely see a person with a smile as their default face. Maybe we do not want people to think we are crazy, wondering why we are smiling for no reason.
Reflecting on that day's incident, it makes me wonder how many times I have not acted according to how our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) commended us to behave. How many times have I failed to portray the Islamic manners and morals? How many times have I forgotten that I am an ambassador of Islam? How many times have I ignored the fact that I am a window to Islam for non-Muslims?
Being a window to Islam has bothered me enough, but, what freaks me is that what if I am the ONLY window to Islam that they have?
I remember reading a story sometime back about an imam who almost sold his Islam. Let me share it with you:
Several years ago, an imam moved to London. He often took the bus from his home to the downtown area. Some weeks after he arrived, he had occasion to ride the same bus. When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him twenty pence too much change. As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, "You'd better give the twenty pence back. It would be wrong to keep it."
Then he thought, "Oh forget it, it's only twenty pence. Who would care about this little amount? Anyway, the bus company already gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a gift from Almighty Allah and keep quiet."
When his stop came, the imam paused momentarily at the door, then handed the twenty pence back to the driver and said, "Here, you gave me too much change."
The driver replied with a smile, "Aren't you the new imam in this area? I have been thinking lately about going to worship at your mosque. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change."
When the imam stepped off the bus, his knees became so weak he had to grab the nearest light pole for support. He looked up to the heavens and cried, "Oh, Allah, I almost sold Islam for twenty pence!"
I keep thinking of this imam's story and ask myself: Have I ever done that before? Have I ever sold my religion by being a bad window?
Do I follow the Prophet's manners and advice on being punctual, being truthful, smiling, speaking good words, being patient, dressing modestly, and dealing with my friends? Oh dear, what if when I was doing all the wrong things, my bus driver was watching me closely and judging Islam through me, his window? I hope that I don't have any bus drivers watching me.
What about you? Is your bus driver watching? You will never know. But that is not the question. The question is what are you going to do now, knowing that maybe someone is watching and judging Islam through you?