It feels good to finally be able to breathe.
In the midst of going through life’s routine, I have failed my voice and myself. Only in the past few days was I reminded of the reason I have written religiously in an online journal since ten years ago—this is the only place where I am afforded my own space without being cut mid-sentence and ridiculed for having a personal opinion.
All my life I have been stifled. They make me think as if I’ve been allowed to speak up when I wasn’t. Should I dare to have a slightly non-conformist idea, it would be made known loud and clear that my opinion doesn’t count because it is simply wrong. Maybe when I was younger I ate up their lies because it was the only reality I am made aware of, but now I know better. I’ve seen the world. I’ve experienced different dynamics. There are people out there who value differences of opinion; more importantly, there are people out there who value my opinion. I’ve realized that the reason I seek a life in academic is because my thoughts—however juvenile or misguided—are always respected and taken into consideration in an academic setting. How do I know this? I have just graduated from one of the world’s best universities, and even if I don’t make sense in class sometimes, never once was I put in the awkward position of questioning my own worth, or worse, my ability to express myself. For those who find it difficult to accept another person’s point of view, maybe consider doing what all my teachers in the US and the UK used to do, and start your reply with, “You have a good point, but maybe also consider…” Being in class was my safe haven. School and this blog are the only recourse I have when it comes to articulating my ideas.
Sometimes it feels surreal that I seldom say anything to those around me regarding matters that are close to my heart. For example, I have massive passion for the Middle East, politics in Islamic countries, Shariah law, racial politics, religious issues affecting Muslims, etc. But when they discuss these subjects, I choose to stay silent. Sometimes I feel stupid, because I obviously have an opinion on each of these topics, but I know if I say anything I will be opening a can of worms. It would be too much to expect a civilized discussion from these people. They would raise their voice and that’s it. I’m not a fan of heated discussion. If you can’t converse in a civilized manner, you’re not worth conversing with. When someone is angry for being challenged, you know they don’t have enough meat to back their ideas. I am not trying to convert people to my way of thinking, but making things worse, never once did they ask for my opinion when ironically, there are people halfway across the world who would tweet me asking for my reaction to current world events. So when I sense these people are not ready for an open discussion, I withdraw and keep silent. Because a wise man once said, “Sometimes silence is the best response.” In my case, silence—and the aid of food in front of me—is the best response every time. It is not worth my energy to debate with people who have not master the method as taught by the people before us.
It also boggles my mind when these are the same people who claim to be better Muslims than others. One becomes a Muslim when one takes the shahadah, or the proclamation that “There is no other god but God, and Muhammad is a messenger of God.” They can repeat the shahadah multiple times a day, but if they do not internalize it, it makes it difficult for me to respect the things that come out of their mouths. When you say, “There is no other god but God,” this should be enough to put you in your place in the grander scheme of things. We are nothing but one of the many, many, creation of the Creator. Saying—no, internalizing—the shahadah should make one humble, including in forming an opinion. If only you realize that you are but a blip in God’s bigger plan, you would realize that there are many things out there that are out of your grasp and understanding. Thus, there is a chance that you might be wrong. It does not matter how many books you’ve read or own; you would not be able to even sniff the scent of Truth, because it is far beyond the capability of any human being. I’m not just talking about religion. Even when you’re talking about science, was it not the brightest of minds who once thought that the earth is flat? Nobody knows the Truth, and that is the truth. So, your arrogance to not allow your opinion challenged goes against the shahadah that you proclaim every day and night.
Internalization of the second part of the shahadah, “And Muhammad is the messenger of God,” should also make one humble, and patient, because that was how the Messenger of God led his life. If you believe in Muhammad, then you would want to lead a life as taught by him. It is easy to say “I heart Rasullullah”, but to practice his sunnah? I’m not talking about keeping beards and eating with two fingers—those are easy because it involves our exhibition of faith to others. When we feel others are judging us, it is easier to keep the Prophet’s sunnah. But I’m talking of those which you cannot externalize to your friends and neighbours, such as being patient and grateful. It is not about saying Alhamdulillah, but it is about showing your gratitude by not complaining over the tiniest little thing. Remember that there are others worse off than us. So the waiter mistakenly takes the wrong order, so the doctor is ten minutes late, so there’s a traffic jam right before your exit—why can’t we take a more positive approach and think that it might be a blessing in disguise? Why can’t we show a little gratitude by saying/thinking, “Better late than never.” I have been ridiculed by some acquaintances over my discipline to follow these rules of men, but the way I see it is, if you can’t even abide by man-made regulations, how do you want me to believe that you are able to abide by GOD’s rules and regulations? Everything that God asks of us requires not just faith, but also discipline. How can you be disciplined in your prayers but not when it comes to traffic rules? It’s a contradiction that you cannot see but is an embarrassment to other Muslims. After all, “The best dawah is your manners, and the best naseeha is your example.” (Imam Osama [not bin Laden])
What is the point of all this rambling? As much as it is my own form of PSA, it is also a gentle reminder to myself. I am about to be a mother. In six months, I will no longer just be responsible to my husband and my parents, but there will be this little person whose views of this world will very much depend on how my husband and I raise him or her. When my baby is big enough to talk and to question everything around him or her, I hope that I will remember this post. I hope that I will teach my child to have faith in others, and especially in God. Sometimes—most of the times, actually—neither my husband nor I will have all the answers, but I think that the most courageous thing a parent can do is to say, “I honestly don’t know, baby, but mummy will try to find out about it and we can learn together.” There is no harm and humiliation in admitting that despite the age gap, there are things that my child may have more knowledge on, because he or she may have thought of something that never crosses my mind. Rather than berating my child for a different opinion, I will try my best to be a parent who will embrace his or her unique ideas about the world, because their future will be different from when I was a little kid—it would be immature for me to expect him or her to agree with everything I believe in. I pray with all my heart to Almighty God that I will be a force of positivity in my child’s life so that he or she won’t be as timid as I am, afraid to speak up in fear of being mocked. I pray that the home that we’re making for ourselves—the one we are moving to in a week—will be a safe space for my children to express themselves, because if their home is not safe, I dare not think of the world outside.