This was a very new and obscure word to me as a child. I was so used to “Hello” as a form of greeting when I was young that having any other former of greeting was just misplaced. What on Earth was Salaam? Who used this word? Regardless of these questions, I quickly brushed them off and rapidly adapted to a new vocabulary while staying at my Father’s cousin’s house in Laudium.
Laudium is a suburb in Pretoria with a high density of muslim inhabitants who are very steeped in their cultural roots. the suburb was littered with Mosques and schools specifically for Muslim members of the community. It wasn’t only a muslim Suburb, there were many Hindu’s and Christians in our area as well, but I would say that there was a higher density of Islamic inhabitants than other religions and cultures.
Growing up from a very young age in Laudium caused me to adapt to being Muslim. This was my first exposure to religion at all. As a child from Midrand, living with my grandmother and parents, as well as constantly seeing my aunt, uncle, and cousin (who were Christian), I was never really exposed to a specific religion. My parents were never extremely religious in those days and didn’t care about praying five times everyday. the religious connotations connected with Islam could however, be seen in their values and morals.
Living with my Father’s side of the family in Laudium required me to grow accustomed to a plethora of new words that were commonplace for many muslims of the community to understand. These words were in Arabic. As a youth I was unaware of this, as it was never revealed to me that these words were as such, and so I had filtered them through as just a way of speaking english. Words such as “Assalaamualaikum, Jazakallah” and “Inshallah” were commonplace. All were used to replace the words I had become accustomed to for years. While some of these were hard to adjust to, it was easier to remember their meanings than their pronunciations. “Jazakallah” was essentially a replacement for “thank you”, and “Assalaamualaikum” was the only way of saying hello to my muslim family.
After a few months I began to understand that this new lingo I had been cast into was part of my religion. It was just the way things were, and I would have to get used to it. As the years went on, I had become fluent at reading the Quran (Islamic religious scripture) and reciting and writing in Arabic/Urdu. I attended a muslim school for my first three years of primary school, and then attended Madressa (the equivalent of Sunday school for christians) every weekday during grade four and five, as I had changed schools due to being bullied in the muslim school. (Ironic that I was bullied by my fellow brothers and sisters no?)
What fascinated me most was that, majority of the people who I went to Madressa with, as well as myself, had no idea what we were actually reciting, or why we even did it. Sure it was for our religion, but why? What was wrong with reciting it in english, the very language we spoke in and communicated with the rest of society with? This is what boggled my mind, yet everyone around me grew so quickly with their learning abilities and recitations of these prayers and words. We all learned at an extremely fast rate. Some were slightly slower than others and there were of course the overachievers who could recite everything off by heart before anyone had even learned how to read it, but not a single one of us had ever embraced the language. We simply repeated it, and never spoke it out of it’s normal perimeters with others.
This is something that I have learned about children. We learn how to quickly imitate and copy, but with little purpose or reason. We are quick to learn how, but so slow to ask why. After a few years I had grown defiant to the teachings of this language, not because I didn’t value it’s existence, but rather it’s use in my life. I grew further away from the religious teachings and began to delve further into the belief of people and emotions. I strongly disagree with the need to learn a language in order to be accepted in a particular religious group. If your belief system is strong, then it does not matter what sort of language it is recited in, but rather your intent. That’s about it for me on this one.
Keep your faith strong, keep adding value to yourself, and Keep Chasing Dragons, Souro.