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Meet The New Muslim, Hasegawa Mamoru!
Today we are talking with a new Muslim, Hasegawa Mamoru about his journey to be a Muslim and his daily activities as a Japanese Muslim.
Hasegawa Mamoru, a 20 years old university student in Tokyo reverted on May 2020 in the holy month of Ramadhan, at a mosque in Akihabara. He was called “Hasan” by his Indonesian part-time mate, which became his Islamic name after shahadah.
“As I learned about Islamic teachings, I felt that my thoughts became clearer”, he said.
Background of His Shahadah
According to Mamoru, he has two reasons that encourage him to revert to Islam; his interest in the Islamic teach and the great feeling he felt when interacting with Muslim friends.
Gaining Interest in the Islamic Teachings
Mamoru was immensely impressed with the common greetings of “Assalamu’alaikum” and how Muslims learn the same Al-Qur’an, that are connecting all Muslims worldwide.
“In Islam, people are helping each other because we as human beings are considered as “family” regardless of countries, backgrounds, religion, or age. It touches and attracts me a lot”, he adds.
Interact with Muslims Friends
Learning something new is apparently not easy stuff, especially if it is directly connected to our daily life like religion. The feeling of insecurity, whether we can do all the things correctly, sometimes strikes us in learning new things.
Mamoru was having that insecure feeling in the first place. He was clearly having an interest in Islamic teachings but was not confident to practice all the teachings. At that moment, he made friends with Muslims and was impressed with how they enjoy their life.
Most Japanese might think that Islam is something from abroad and for people abroad. Mamoru also thought so. But then everything changed when he met another Japanese Muslim, who was born and raised in Japan and speaks Japanese like him, who practices Islam in the same Japanese society that gives Mamoru a sense of closeness.
Becoming a Muslim
In 2019 when he was still not a Muslim, he challenged himself to do Ramadhan fasting for 3 weeks. Then in 2020, he did 5 times prayer a day aside from Ramadhan fasting. He found himself fell in love with Islam and found peace in his heart by practicing the teachings, but was feeling strange about the fact that he doesn’t do shahadah yet. It pushed him firmly decide to do shahadah at the Akihabara mosque.
Reaction From Family and Friends
Japanese with a specific religion is not a common thing in Japan. So how were Mamoru’s family and friends react knowing he became a Muslim?
Mamoru’s family had been doing a host family for international students from abroad, including Muslim students, so his family has a tolerance to cross-culture, including when Mamoru decided to be a Muslim. He even mentioned to his family that he is going to do shahadah before he went to the mosque. Furthermore, her mother who works as a nutritionist has an interest in halal foods.
Knowing Mamoru did the shahadah, he was welcomed warmly and joyfully by his Muslim friends. At the moment, Mamoru said that his friends were very cheerful for him like welcoming a new family. Meanwhile, there were some of his Japanese friends who were a bit confused about the revert, because having a specific religion is not a thing that you usually find in Japanese society and is considered rare. However, they tried to understand Mamoru’s new faith and his needs.
It is not much information about religion in Japan and sometimes lack of information leads to misunderstanding. Mamoru found it as a blessing and a chance for him to give a clear and right understanding of Islam to his non-Muslim friends.
What does Mamoru felt before and after revert?
Mamoru mentions that he felt his world has expanded and feeling more relieved, much better than before after the revert. Learning Islam gives Mamoru a new insight and perspective that leads to the richer value of him, makes him way stronger than before and his heart full of the feeling of thankful for many things.
On top of that, the revert gave him a stronger connection to Muslims worldwide and wider yet various insights about the way of life and thinking.
The verses in Al-Baqarah “Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you” and “Allah does not require any soul more than what it can afford. All good deeds will be for their own benefit, and all bad deeds will be to their own loss” are the main phrases that makes Mamoru like today.
Practicing Islamic Teaching in Japanese Society
Mosques and halal restaurants are surely increasing in Japan, especially in the big cities and surrounding areas where a lot of Muslims from various countries are living. Even Japan is not a Muslim-majority country, Mamoru finds no significant troubles in practicing Islamic teachings.
“I’ve never been living abroad so, unfortunately, I can’t compare, but I think it is quite convenient (practicing the teachings), even on some occasions we might find difficulties in finding halal foods or space to pray,” Mamoru says.
Talking about food, Japan is a country blessed with delicious and fresh fish as you can find a lot of seafood meals, in addition to convenient access to halal meats, especially in Tokyo where Mamoru is living. Arranging meals to halal does not significant trouble at all, on the contrary, it gives simple options for him to decide which meals to have and encourages him to explore international foods more, especially foods from Muslim-majority countries.
Since he is living together with the family, he mentions that it is not easy to strictly manage foods at home, but he manages himself to have foods without pork or its derived ingredients.
Place to Pray
Even mosques and prayer spaces are increasing this and there, but there is still a chance where you don’t find one near you. In that case, Mamoru asked a facility nearby to lend him space and allow him to do prayer there. If by a chance he is with his non-muslim friends, he looks for less crowded place and prays there by himself so that his friends can explain to other people while he is praying.
Be a Better Muslim for a Better Muslim-Friendly Japanese Society
Japanese Muslims who were born and raised in Japan and understand how Japanese thinking, gives a sense of closeness to non-Muslim Japanese and are more likely to explain and describe the religion in a good manner that is easy to understand by non-Muslim Japanese.
“Most Japanese do not have a chance to know about Islam except information from the media, so actually, rather than scary to Islam, they tend to have an interest in asking and listening”, he says.
Clearing the misunderstanding about Islam especially in the Muslim minority society is extremely important. According to him, the actions of each Muslim are very important to reduce misunderstandings.
“I think, doing good things each self can improve the image of Islam among non-Muslims in Japanese society as much as possible. To that end, I want to continue learning about Islam and be able to explain the teachings in my own words. I will never forget to thank God for giving me an environment where I can continue to learn, and I would like to continue volunteering as I can”, Mamoru mentions.