Islam · Self-love

Islam and (My) Identity Politics

I have recently found myself caught up in a lot of thinking about the concepts of race and identity and so on, perhaps due to being bombarded with a lot of news and events that centre on these issues. Not infrequently, I wondered where I could place myself in the mesh of labels that exist, because codifying my existence in such specific ways within the human race is “important”, apparently.

Yesterday, after neglecting to pick up the Qur’an and recite from its passages for a while (May Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala forgive me, please don’t do this, dear readers) I decided to do just that.

A photo of an open Mus-haf, a copy of the Qur'an, seemingly with tafseer (exegesis) written on the sides of the page with a black background.
I was reading passages from Surat Aali-‘Imran, where many figures from Islamic tradition were mentioned, such as Maryam (Mary) radi Allaahu ‘anha (May Allaah be pleased with her), her parents Radi Allaah ‘anhum (May Allaah be pleased with them), Prophet Zakariyyah (Zachary) ‘alayhis-salam (peace be upon him) and Prophet ‘Easa (Jesus) ‘alayhis-salam (peace be upon him).

My mind wandered into the concept of identifying with figures in Islamic tradition based on geographical region. I knew that this was a flawed approach, even while engaged in thought. Then, thought about the fact that in Islam, labels like that don’t mean anything, and that human diversity was created by the will of Allaah Subhanahu wa Ta’aala and was a sign from Him, as He tells us in the Qur’aan:

“And among His Signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the difference of your languages and colours. Verily, in that are indeed signs for men of sound knowledge.” [30:22]

“O mankind! We have created you from male and female and have made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Indeed the most noblest of you with Allaah is the one who has the most taqwaa.” [49:13].

It felt refreshing to (re)realise that what ties people with the figures that we revere in Islamic tradition is not any of the worldly things such as ethnicity, colour, wealth, tribe or social status, but it’s the belief and the acceptance of the message with which they came. That is where brotherhood in Islam comes from, nothing else.

photo credit: Al-Qur’an by Ibn Ar-Rashid via photopin (license)

Body Positivity · Growing up · Islam · Self-love

Reflections last week, empathy, beginnings and time, oh my!

So I know, I didn’t post on Wednesday and I know that the gap-long week between this post and the one before it is rather abhorrent, if you will, so my apologies to you.

Despite all of that, I still have the audacity to try to clue you in on the happenings of this past week, and you know what? I’m going to do just that.

Between this week and the last, a very long game of ping-pong was taking place inside the mushy mass of stuff inside my head that common-folk like to refer to as “brain”, and in the midst of thinking about too many things, I feel like I have learnt a lot about the way I see things and picked up some gems (I hope) along the way.

We all, and let’s admit it, have things that we are too embarrassed/feel too uncomfortable to admit to ourselves, or we’re in denial about something that’s not exactly going the way we think it should. Either way,  we’re not being very truthful to ourselves sometimes and it’s pretty understandable. We have a set of principles we to which we ascribe ourselves, and even at the smallest scale, for example, when we tell ourselves that something is “cool” to be/think/feel or not. And sometimes, just sometimes, we flout them and then we beat ourselves up about it.

Well, during this whole week that just went by (hello Monday!) I realised that there were emotions that I had that I tried to gloss over in my thought process, and I was doing things in ways that I actually don’t think are OK. And I needed confrontation and so I confronted myself, and I realised that my thought process is a lot healthier and deal that I deal with things a lot better when I am truthful to myself, because let’s think about it, I can’t really find solutions to problems that I refuse to acknowledge. And could  I really get the whole picture of something that I’m refusing to look at? Not really.

So my conclusions about related things had come to these: it’s okay to admit that you’re not completely okay with something you’re trying to convince yourself that you are. It’s okay to admit that there are issues you haven’t worked through yet and that you need time. It’s okay to admit weakness or defeat. It’s okay to admit that things are not going as planned/that your thoughts aren’t going as planned/that circumstances aren’t as linear as predicted/that you might have to change your game-plan. It’s also okay (albeit many people see this as taboo) to admit that there are parts of our character that need work. And it’s okay to not get it right from the first time.

In relation to the above, another thing that I have been getting huge doses of lesson-things from is empathy.  And honestly, when looking at things from a more empathetic lens, I feel that they just become a lot easier to work through. When you’re being empathetic,  you’re not necessarily succumbing to a circumstance, but you understand it a bit more, and that can save you heart-break. I’m not saying that it’s wise to go out there and scratch everything raw trying to find out why things worked out the way they did in a bid to “understand” them, but a bit of understanding can be a strong guiding light which will be there when you need it. And this applies to ourselves as individuals. I realised that many a time, when we are empathetic towards other people’s behaviours and ideas, we forget about our own and we go on to senselessly punish ourselves for thinking and behaving a certain way.

While I am a strong patron for self-improvement and I do believe in bettering oneself, I wholeheartedly believe that approaching yourself with understanding can clear so many things up and finally give you a kick-start on changing things for the better. No change, to my knowledge, has ever been fully effective if it came from a place of shame. Shame brings anxiety, which brings high expectations, which bring even more anxiety, which brings shame. I think you catch my drift.  If you understand yourself and work through your issues through a loving lens, you can only serve yourself better. May God Grant us all understanding, Amen.

Of course the product of that  sense of understanding towards will differ from person to person and situation to situation, and those products are up for modification as well. But, you won’t really know any of this until you actually start looking for solutions that way. Now I am not saying that what I say is the best, and I certainly won’t tell you to take it wholesale, but this is just my showing you what conclusions I have come to about certain things, and I would certainly love to hear yours.

It’s quite ironic how this post has come about now, Glory be to God, seeing that the Islamic New Year began just yesterday (I’m Muslim, in case you haven’t got the memo), and it seems like everything is coming together to show just exactly at what rate things are changing. I’m not, nor have I ever been one to have New Year’s resolutions of any kind, and I think that everyday is good for a new beginning, but this does give me a bit of perspective on time and how fast things are happening and effectively, how I must make use of it in the most efficient way possible because it’s not really waiting for me. I don’t think it’s really waiting for anyone, for that matter.

I hope you all keep sticking around for more updates and posts on this blog because soon, I’ll be doing more of the “journo” stuff that I know a lot of you want to see. I will be talking with people who do cool things around the interwebs so you’ll be getting a lot more than just my ramblings, God Willing.

Watch this space!