'I am beautiful, no matter what they say'

Category: Americas, Life & Society, Nature & Science Views: 15223

Some may object that I find such solace from the song of an American singer. They may say that the only sources of solace should be God's Word and the Prophet's hadith. Of course this is true. God's word and His Prophet's wisdom is supreme. But the Prophet has also taught us "Wisdom is the 'lost animal' of the believer. Wherever it may be, the believer belongs to it." This means that we must find the wisdom to live our lives in accordance with God's will wherever it may reside.

In my constant search for wisdom I have come across the lyrics of the song "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera. Very few songs have shot straight through to my heart. The song brings to the forefront the struggles of being a Muslim in America, especially one who has been born and raised American. Ever since I first stepped foot on the school bus at the age of five, I faced dislike for my skin color. The first time I boarded the bus and sat next to another child, he frowned. I had never met him before. Another time, two girls said in unison, "I don't want to sit next to Hesham!" Yet another time in the first grade--and this I will never forget--one of my schoolmates pushed me, with red-blooded hatred in his voice and eyes, and screamed "Go back to your country!" This is my country.

As I grew older, this hatred persisted, although it did die down as I entered high school. Yet, the sneers about my skin color were replaced with ridicule for my religious beliefs. I tried to stay true to the teachings of Islam: I did not date; I did not drink or do drugs; I did not go to parties or clubs. As a result, I stuck out like a sore thumb. The fact that I did not date was the source of much of that ridicule. I remember being surrounded by my classmates--with astonishment in their eyes--and being questioned about why I had not had sex yet. I was waiting for marriage, like my Lord and my Prophet told me.

These childhood experiences, I speculate, are very similar to those of a good number, perhaps a majority, of Muslims born and raised in America. They contributed to a process of alienation from the greater American society, which was truly unfortunate, because Muslims need to be actively and inextricably engaged in their country's affairs. Since the attacks of September 11, I had to endure more pain: seeing Islam demonized by pundits and "experts"; having my loyalty and patriotism questioned solely because of my faith; witnessing an horrific act of mass murder in the name of the faith I love and cherish dearly.

This is why the song strikes such a nerve for me. The chorus goes:

"I am beautiful/No matter what they say/Words can't bring me down/I am beautiful/In every single way/Words can't bring me down."

I wish I had this song growing up ... words can't bring me down. Words such as "camel jockey," "sand ni--er," "towel head," "brownie" can not and should not bring me down. Yet, the song has more meaning than just comforting an ego bruised by silly suburban children.

It is very hard being a Muslim, especially nowadays. Every day, there is more bad news associating Muslims and violence. More terrorist attacks, more be-headings with the shahadah tacked up on the wall, more videos and threats by Al Qaeada in the name of Islam. On top of this, there are near constant attacks on Islam from members of the right wing in this country. Islam is "evil," "violent," the Qur'an espouses "violence against non-Muslims." Whenever we try to explain that this is not the case, we are accused of lying, trying to "whitewash" the true dark nature of our faith. I know what they say is not true, but it gets tiring to defend against the same charges over, and over, and over again.

Enter in Aguilera's lyrics, especially the first stanza, which embodies how I feel:

"Every day is so wonderful/Then suddenly, it's hard to breathe/Now and then, I get insecure/From all the pain, I'm so ashamed."

Every day, it's "so wonderful" to be Muslim: to follow the faith of Abraham and the Prophets; to worship the One God and serve Him; to pray, fast, and give charity for His sake. I am so blessed and grateful to have had the opportunity to visit His Holy House in pilgrimage. Then comes the bad news about Muslims: two "mosque leaders" in Albany, NY are arrested on terrorism-related charges. Funny, a non-Muslim was also arrested on the same day--for a plot to blow up the Federal Building in Chicago, no less--yet the word "terrorist" hardly shows up in the news reports about him. Every time a terror alert is issued, my stomach hurts. Not just because I do not want more innocent Americans killed in a senseless act of terror, but because American Muslims will have to contend with an unfair backlash from their American neighbors.

I hear the lyrics "I am beautiful, no matter what they say" and I am strengthened. I remember that Allah has blessed me by making me a Muslim. I remember that, in the end, Allah will be there for me. I am reminded not to worry about the charges of others, as the Qur'an also told me. The chorus reminds me to keep going on the path, Allah will be there at the end, welcoming me into his fold, as he told me: "(To the righteous soul will be said:) 'O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! Come back thou to thy Lord,- well pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him! Enter thou, then, among My devotees! Yea, enter thou My Heaven!'" (89:27-30). All I have to do is strive to stay straight on His path.

When I think about these issues I am reminded of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). The Prophet is dear to my heart. I never tire from reading about and listening to his life story. Every time I study his biography, a new aspect of his gentle and wonderful nature, his wisdom, his forward thinking, his sheer beauty, is revealed to me. He suffered so much to bring the message of Islam to me; He suffered so much because he cared about me, even though he would never see or get to know me in his lifetime. Thus, when I hear him called by the most demeaning words I get upset. I know that these are words of hate and human sickness that does the greatest injustice to one of the most beloved by God and sent as a mercy to the worlds.

The lyrics of the song are, "You are beautiful, no matter what they say. Words can't bring you down." I am reminded that he is beautiful, no matter what they say. The Prophet was called worse things by the Meccans during his lifetime, yet this did not take away from his power and beauty. Even his worst enemies could not speak ill of him when pressed to be honest about him. Even some of his worst enemies, Umar (R) and Abu Sufyan (R), eventually became his followers. "Words can't bring you down," O Messenger of God.

The song continues to uplift:

"No matter what we do/No matter what we say/ We're the song inside the tune/Full of beautiful mistakes/And everywhere we go/The sun will always shine/But tomorrow we might awake/On the other side."

Allah will always be with us, as long as we stay true to Him. He will help us and He will come to our aid, because He loves us. We just have to have hope and keep the faith. Just as Allah has reminded us in His Holy Book.

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago physician and writer. He is author of "Why I Love the Ten Commandments," published in the book Taking Back Islam: American Muslims Reclaim Their Faith (Rodale Press), winner of the prestigious Wilbur Award for 2003 Best Religion Book of the Year by the Religion Communicators Council.

  Category: Americas, Life & Society, Nature & Science
Views: 15223
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Older Comments:
Everybody were born Muslims but were raised in different religion.

Article is great, in my limited knowledge in the Hadith teh word is used "treasure' not "animal".

Alhamdulillah,i am really impressed about this article and the same time felt bad about the way muslims were been treated in everywhere most especially united states. But i believe that truth shall always prevail.May Allmighty Allah continue to protect all we muslims throughout the world.

I am an American Christian. I was led to your words as in my school I am learning more about Islam. I just wanted to tell you that I appreciated your words so much, as so did my daughter. I feel sorry for what Muslim's must go through because of the events in New York. Even in Christianity the treatment of good to all people is the right way to be. My heart feels for those who suffer because of the wrong of others. All people are created by God and beautiful. This is what I believe. I am glad you found beauty in a song that could touch you and speak to you.

Assalamualaikum, I am a muslim from Malaysia and this article touched me deeply. We muslims in Malaysia takes things for granted since Islam is the official religion here. But I believe there are many muslims in Malaysia who share the suffering of other muslims from other parts of the world and we can only pray to Allah to help them to be strong in their faith.

Asalamualykum This article is wonderful for the muslims living in USA,especially for youth.Those who follow the path of Allah and our beloved Prophet(PBUOH),you will notice they look beautiful in all respects of life,no matter what they say.May Allah bless you for opening up yourself and what you have gone through.Wasalam Muzaffar.

Peace Hesham A Hassaballa

Children are born beautiful and innocent.

They learn their prejudices from their environment, without the experience of empathy learned through life.

Children are our future.

Peace is beautiful for all.

P.S. Recently I was disturbed to hear a 4 year relative saying 'I HATE AMERICANS'. He is 4 yours old and has never met an American...

Assalamualaikum. You spoke for so many many american muslims, who grew up in this country. It is through such beautiful words and insights, that we drive strength and pull together in our struggle to survive through slander to the most beautiful and righteous way of Al-islam. Truly we are so very blessed to be muslims. jazzakumallakhair. Amina

You are absolutely right. It's definitely beautiful to be a Muslim , No matter what the say.

May Allah blessed and help us. Insha Allah

Assalamu alaikum,
"You shall certainly be tried and tested in your possessions and in your personal selves; and you shall certainly Hear much that will grieve you, from those who received the Book before you and from those who worship many gods. But if you persevere patiently, and guard against evil,-then that will be a determining factor in all affairs". Q 3:186


Assalat was salam 'ala khairi khalqihi wa nour 'Arshihi Sai idina Mohammed.

"Do what is beautiful! Surely Allah loves those who do what is beautiful" (Quran 2:195)

This is a beautiful article.

Here in France there is a lot of controversy and ill feelings about Muslims. I will share this with my other friends. It will help us be more strong in our faith.

Thank you for a well writen article.

The only thing I have to say is that living in America today is increasingly difficult for people devout to their faith. The Moslem community is definitely taking the majority of the ridicule. It seems everyone is abandoning God for what is "hip" and has forgotten how we should live. It seems that being a person of faith is not acceptable to a large number of people in the world. Who gives them the right to ridicule, even hate someone for thier faith. I'm glad that you found strength in God and yourself to overcome what you had to endure. The only one to judge us is Him. Many still stuggle with that kind of hateful slander on religion, and suffer because of it. We should pray for them and their families.