Muslims from all different backgrounds and fields find themselves united on one very essential matter—their love for the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He was a man concerned for our wellbeing in this life and the next more than we are concerned for ourselves. He dedicated his life to spreading the message of God, no matter what torture and torment came upon him as a result. For that, we are ever indebted to him. Muslims try each and every day to walk in his beloved footsteps.
Over the next few weeks, WhyIslam will share conversations we had with Muslims around the United States about what they do and what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) means to them. Below we hear from Ayesha Sultana, a young woman who has memorized the Quran, studied Islam extensively, and is currently enrolled in college pursuing psychology. Sultana observes the niqab, or face veil, and makes a point to dress modestly when outside her home. Throughout her studies and daily interactions, the Bengali American Muslim tries to emulate the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) by acting with God-consciousness, dignity, and open arms.
In a few sentences, tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a Bengali American Muslim. I grew up in New Jersey. Raised in a fairly practicing household, I was sent to an Islamic school and enrolled in a full-time Quran memorization course. Alhamdulillah (all praises to God), after completing high school and Quran memorization at 15, I had ample time to pursue the Islamic sciences in depth. After studying the Islamic sciences for six years, I enrolled in college.
I’m extremely extroverted and have a deep passion for nature, adventure, learning, teaching, creative writing, activities that promote personal growth, and connecting with good-hearted souls. As of now, I’m set on pursuing a degree in psychology with the hopes that I can positively impact the lives of all those struggling spiritually and mentally. Currently, I’m a full-time student and an Islamic studies teacher. I’m a bit unconventional and was never too keen on following the latest trends. I feel like the only people worth emulating are the righteous scholars and beautiful-hearted people of faith. They remind me that imperfections will exist, but through imploring God and perseverance on our behalf, we can make transformative changes in our hearts and lives. Connecting my heart to God and introducing Him to others is what I live for.
What motivated you to study both religious and worldly knowledge?
In this age of confusion, it is crucial to have strong foundations in our faith. Initially, my parents encouraged me to study Islamic knowledge. During my mid-teens, I silently went through an existential crisis. I realized the farther from God I was, the emptier I was feeling. The void would not leave me no matter what I did to escape it, and the thoughts only grew louder. Coming from a devout family, one would expect me to be well-grounded in my faith, but I wasn’t. Though Alhamdulillah, my belief in God was always there, passion and true connection were missing. I made a conscious decision and effort to make a few positive lifestyle changes that I hoped would allow me to draw nearer to God. Among those decisions was the resolve to devote my mind wholeheartedly to understanding this beautiful religion of Islam. The more I studied, the more my eyes and heart opened. For the first time, I realized what my life was missing—spirituality, love, and God-consciousness. My righteous mentors, scholars, and teachers had the greatest impact on my life and were a great source of my inspiration. They were truly living Islam and displayed the most beautiful character. I came to the conclusion that such a life was what my heart truly desired. Now that I’m in a co-ed college in a very secular environment, with God in my heart and life, I feel that I have the tools to navigate myself through my ongoing journey of knowledge and life.
How has the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) inspired you?
The entire life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is a source of inspiration. From the way he led with dignity and honesty, the love he showed towards all of creation, the way he forgave his enemies, accepted the repentant sinners and the righteous with equally open arms, to the sacrifices he made for all of humanity to hear the message of God, his life story is extraordinary and worth reflecting on and emulating.
How do you apply what the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) taught you in the day-to-day hustle and bustle of life? Is there a specific story you can share?
Once you really analyze the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him), you realize his lifestyle was exemplary and meant to be emulated by all of humanity to the end of time. He truly achieved the middle path in all that he did, making him the golden mean unlike any other. Whatever aspect of life that we need answers for, if we open the eyes of our hearts, we will find the answers we seek in his life.
Whenever I’m faced with any decision, I try to remember, “What did the Prophet (peace be upon him) do in a similar situation?” I remember once I was shopping when a woman made a few negative remarks towards my face veil and modest mode of apparel. Instead of being upset, I remembered Prophet Muhamad (peace be upon him) taught us to conquer enmity and evil with kindness and goodness. I kindly spoke to the woman and explained to her Islam’s stance on modesty. When she saw I did not reciprocate her negativity, naturally, she felt ashamed and apologized to me for the way she behaved. I realized that there are always blessings in the prophetic way.
What keeps you connected to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and your religion?
Reading the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and always reading his sayings allows me to remember him in my life. Reciting the Quran helps me recharge my faith regularly, as it is filled with life lessons and ways to constantly become a better human being. I also love to frequent gatherings of authentic and righteous Muslim scholars and make it a task to constantly surround myself with beautiful-hearted people who inspire me like no other.
What do you find most touching about the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) life or character?
The most touching aspect of the Prophet’s life (peace be upon him) would be his unconditional and unadulterated love, acceptance, and respect towards all of creation. He was merciful and kind such that he never verbally or physically abused any living being, whether plant, animal, slave, or even an enemy. He never rejected anyone nor treated them like an outcast regardless of their background or what point of life they were in. One of his companions had a habit of drinking, and his other companions verbally abused the man for his flaw. The Messenger (peace be upon him) advised his companions to refrain from demeaning him and informed them that surely this man carried the love of God and His Messenger (peace be upon him) in his heart. The Prophet (peace be upon him) treated him with love and care. It’s heartwarming to think how loving the Prophet (peace be upon him) was even towards someone who society would be quick to judge and dismiss. We learn from this that a person can be a true believer, yet still make mistakes as we are not angels. It teaches us never to judge anyone based on their outward actions, for God sees our hearts first.
What do you wish more people knew about the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)?
I wish people would read the biography of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and realized how much of his life he sacrificed for God. He was the very man whose tears to God for his people watered the floor every night. If only those who are spiteful realized that the one they are reviling was the very man who was chosen to be the prophet of love, mercy, and light for all of creation until the end of time.