Muslim Photographer’s Ambitious Project Seeks To Showcase Islam’s Diversity

Source: Huffington Post

By Carol Kuruvilla

Carlos Khalil Guzman is exploring how Muslims in all 50 states practice Islam.

A Muslim photographer is working on an ambitious project that he hopes will tackle stereotypes about American Muslims and showcase the community’s rich diversity.

Since the fall of 2015, Carlos Khalil Guzman has been using his free time and his own funds to travel across the country to interview an array of Muslims. In the series, titled “Muslims of America,” Guzman is attempting to capture portraits of Muslims from all 50 states in the country. The series includes people of different sects of Islam, ethnicities and backgrounds ― from Native American Muslims to Syrian refugees to queer Muslims.

Frustrated by a lack of diversity and representation of Muslims in the mainstream media, Guzman said he decided to create a project that would help people learn about the many ways American Muslims practice their faith.

“I wanted to be proactive about it,” Guzman told HuffPost. “We need to find our own ways to educate people.”

Guzman, a 28-year-old photographer from Brooklyn, New York, is an activist and a Latinx convert to Islam. He started exploring the religion in college, after getting to know Muslim activists through different networks on his campus. He found in Prophet Muhammad an example of what it means to be tolerant, charitable and compassionate ― and realized that Islam reinforced his own beliefs about social justice.

Five years after his conversion in 2012, Guzman is putting that passion for social justice into practice with his project.

Osoul, Nursing Student, New Jersey

nursing student.jpeg

“Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.” – Quran Chapter 2 / Verse 286

“This specific ayah has gotten me through so much in my life, Alhamdulillah [Praise be to Allah]. I have had to deal with a lot growing up, whether it was family, illnesses or loss. In a way I was forced to mature at an early age and growing up I always wondered, ‘Why!’ You know, like why things happened the way they happened. But once I started getting closer to Allah, I realized that asking why things happen the way they do is the wrong approach to life. Instead we should ask Allah to make us strong enough to handle any obstacles thrown our way. Now every time something happens, I read this ayah and I remember that Allah will not burden me with anything I cannot handle. Allah won’t burden me with something that will destroy me, it will only make me stronger for what is ahead inshallah. It is kind of like a little hope, you know, the light at the end of the tunnel.” – Osoul

Yousef, High School Student, Chicago

Yousef

Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended. Whoever migrates with an intention for Allah and His messenger, the migration will be for the sake of Allah and His messenger. And whoever migrates for the worldly gain or to marry a woman, then his migration will be for the sake of whatever he migrated for.” – Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him)

“This hadith has had a great impact in my life. When I was a little younger, I loved to give charity to others in front of people. I wanted to be seen in the public eye as a good kid; it mattered what people thought of me. Little did I know I was only looking to gain the pleasure of the people around me and not the pleasure of Allah. I was not thinking whether or not what I was doing made Allah be pleased with me. Then one day I heard this hadith and I knew I had to change the way I did things and my intentions toward doing them. I realized that the way I thought was wrong and that if I wanted to do a good deed, I needed to do it for the sake of Allah only. I understood that only through the pleasure and love of Allah I could gain the love of the people.” – Yousef

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