The Islam I Know

Sometimes I have moments working with my international students that are just transcendent. After my dad died, I received heartfelt messages containing prayers to Allah, one of them saying “may Allah lead his soul to paradise.” It was utterly lovely and so comforting.  I could repeat a hundred variations on this anecdote from the past 15 years of my career.

Today, I had one of the best Afghan moments of all time. We were in a meeting telling the students about optional and mandatory graduation events. After we presented the calendar, one student sitting next to me, an Afghan judge who I’ve had in several classes and who is smart, wise, and a total crack-up, said “I have noticed that we have not been invited to a professor’s house for a final celebration dinner. I know that in the past, this has been a part of the graduation festivities.” Then he turns to me and winks. I say out loud “I usually do it.” He says, “I know.” Then I say “I’m just very, very tired this year. I didn’t think I was up to it.” And he says, loud enough for everyone in the big classroom to hear: “The thing is, Professor H has lived in Afghanistan, and she knows us, and she knows about Afghan hospitality…….” Big mischievous grin. I roll my eyes, laugh, and get firm promises that they’ll all bring pot luck dishes from their home countries and babysit my wild toddler. Now I’m planning either a pre-Ramadan event or an Iftar .

On the way out, he and a senior female prosecutor from Afghanistan, who is a total badass on the inside but all dimples on the outside, tell me that they are going to be praying for me at Ramadan. They say that prayers have special power then. I say “Good! I need it!” And he says “Professor, you don’t need to write a formal technical proposal, but a nice detailed list would be helpful so we know exactly which blessings you need.” I get heartfelt smiles from both of them and they walk off laughing.

Graduation every year is a bitter-sweet celebration for me.  Saying good-bye to these students is extremely tough.  And this is reason #4671 that I have zero patience for anti-Islam bigotry.


  1. This is the Islam I know too, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia to Kyrgyzstan to Idaho. Thank you.

  2. D Christian Harrison says:

    Thank you so much. Such a tender memory.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Thank you for this.

  4. This is beautiful. I have said on many occasions that some of the most “Christian” people I’ve known – meaning they embody a Christlike life especially in how they treat others – are adherents to Islam. They truly live their religion in such overwhelming acts of care and concern.

  5. This is such a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Aussie Mormon says:

    Sounds a lot like the Muslims that I’ve interacted with over the years. I get along with Muslim colleagues better than I get on with many other colleagues.
    Interesting you should say that Alain, I had one Muslim friend (knowing I’m Mormon) tell me that I was a good Muslim (due to the way I was following the word of wisdom).

    And for those that haven’t tried it, Pakistani marinaded goat is delicious.

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