“My religion says it is important to have as many followers as possible and it is one of my duty to make sure it happens but, with you, it is more important to have a friend who will help me find the truth.” Seyyed Hamed.
I came to Iran with several disturbing questions about faith and spirituality. Spending two hours of conversation with people like Seyyed Hamed, a scholar in Nasr el Molk Mosque, was one of the goals of this trip. He said this is the first time he met an Indonesian tourist and getting insights about Indonesia was more important than being a missionary.
Before we said goodbye, he said “At the end of the day, we do not want to be a zombie. Religion, any religions if practiced correctly, will wet our dry soul.”
Nicely said, Seyyed.
Here’s the edited version of my conversation with Seyyed Hamed, a scholar at Nasr ol-Molk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran.
As a scholar, one of his duty was to assist visitors to this touristic mosque including addressing questions about the mosque. We ended up having this interesting conversation when I asked whether I could enter a part of the mosque which became the background of our picture. Seyyed mentioned that this was the first time he met an Indonesian tourist. Surprisingly, he said this conversation was the longest he ever had with a tourist. He wished to see more tourists with curiosity on Islam, not just the rituals but also the spiritual aspect of the religion he most proud of.
ATTENTION: There are parts of our conversation that I omit on purpose because it might be sensitive. However, I suggest to digest the conversation below by finding the goodness and positive values (if any). If you are used to finding mistakes and negatives in people outside your group, you can go to the next postings. Really.
Endro Catur (EC): Why does religion matter to you?
Seyyed Hamed (SH): We, as human, are capable of doing many things, but sometimes we are not capable of finding the meaning even though we are doing it continuously day by day. My religion provides the meaning to what I’m doing during my time on earth, even before I purposely seek it.
EC: Responding to Nasheema’s question, why do you think some people in Indonesia hate Syiah people?
SH: There are two reasons, one is the basic belief. Second, the media. As far as I know, all of us – the Muslims – believe in God, Prophet Mohammad and the afterlife. Given those similarities, I think all Muslims should be brothers and sisters. It is the small but significant difference that made the Syiah and the Sunni seem to can not get along well. But I do not want to preach about what we believe, you can read that elsewhere. My point is, if everyone treats everyone else as human first, we all should do well on earth. The second, the media focuses only on the difference between the Syiah and the Sunni. And some of us – both the Sunni and Syiah – were consumed by those media. Sadly, it is those people holding leadership in their communities were the ones to get carried away, instead of really find the truth and teach on compassionate based on similarities, instead of differences.
EC: So you’re saying, based on the similarities the Syiah and Sunni can live peacefully in the same country?
SH: We have proven it. No Sunni people will get caught, jailed let alone being forbidden to practice their rituals. I have heard about different news in other countries, which made me sad. I wish I could do something to change this.
EC: Iran, or Persia, was a great nation – empires upon empires – before Islam. How does it matter to Iran today?
SH: I can’t say on behalf of all Iranians, but I don’t mind living among people with different beliefs. Islam was expanding exponentially when the last empire of Sasanid converted to Islam. But that doesn’t mean that other believers were jailed or something. They could continue doing their own rituals.
EC: What about Nikbanou?
SH: Oh, that. We can not really proof whether the legend was true, that’s why it’s called legend. But as far as I know, Prophet Mohammad will never attack people because of their different beliefs. If it did happened, as legend said, I’m sure it was driven by fear or greed instead of peace. We wouldn’t do that today.
EC: The first day I arrived at Tehran, I had to sneak to the toilet to drink and had my snack to respect my host and his friends. When I returned, they had their lunch. When I asked them, most of them were Muslims and seemed okay with not fasting. Why is that?
SH: You see, in Iran, our religious leaders are above the government so they have, in a way, control over government. However, the current government is more loose compared to the previous one. Objectively, this is not what the religious leaders wanted, but our government said that to keep the young generation faithful, we need to make it less severe to practice religious rituals.
EC: Less severe? Does practicing rituals is considered severe here?
SH: Now, you see that lady? I personally don’t think it is the appropriate way of wearing hejab; it’s not even a hejab. To me, it is more disturbing than not wearing hejab at all. But the government said it is okay as long as their body is covered. So, as you can see, nobody will be punished from eating and drinking in fasting month, even though it is punishable. Again, I’m not happy with it, but instead of hating and opposing our government, we the scholars, especially our leaders, do the smooth way.
EC: You mean, advocating the government?
EC: So, you miss your previous government?
SH: Personally yes. But if you ask majority of Iranians, they don’t miss Ahmadinejad. That’s why Rouhani was elected.
EC: Imagine all the Muslims in the world are Syiah. How do you feel and when do you think it will happen?
SH: I can’t even imagine now. And I don’t think it will happen in my life on earth.
SH: I’m sure it is tempting to imagine. But we, I, was not educated to imagine that. As the Quran says, our duty is to deliver the message not pushing people to be like what we are.
EC: So, you don’t want me to be a Syiah?
SH: My religion says it is important to have as many followers as possible and it is one of my duty to make sure it happens but, with you, it is more important to have a friend who will help me find the truth.
EC: For those people out there, finding their faith, what do you want to say to them?
SH: At the end of the day, we do not want to be a zombie. Zombie has brain, but not mind. Zombie has heart, but not souls. Religion, any religions if practiced correctly, will wet our dry soul.
When we embrace this kind of ‘local’, it doesn’t matter what accent people speak, as long as they communicate seamlessly. It doesn’t matter who eats what for lunch, as long as they can share their dining table. It doesn’t matter who enters or leaves, as long as the community maintains, shapes and keeps redefining their locals.