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Step One

Bismillahi Rahmani Rahim
(In the Name of ALLAH, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful)
How do I begin?
As I pondered on how to start this new entry, I realized my question was something that has actually been posed several times in dialogues I’ve been blessed enough to have.
How do I begin?
Perhaps, it sounds absurd for some—even a ‘no-brainer’, so they say. However, admit it or not, there indeed comes a point in our lives when we feel paralyzed by unexpected situations or overwhelming expectations. It could be that sudden loss of something or someone so valuable that we are left wondering how we can possibly take another step, let alone another breath. Or, it could be the realization that we’ve committed a major mistake that has now caused significant people in our lives so much pain—thus, hurting ourselves as well. Or, it could be finding ourselves being given that opportunity to get our biggest dreams yet it also feels like the whole world’s breathing down our necks, telling us we cannot afford to make a mistake. SubhanALLAH (Glory be to Allah), three scenarios that are different yet are also quite the same. Why don’t we ponder on them a bit?
Loss. It never is easy to lose hold of those we’ve come to consider as life essentials. Yes, maybe we all know that sooner or later losing them was bound to happen (after all, nothing in this world is permanent). But, let’s admit this: as we get attached even more to this world, we unconsciously forget that loss is inevitable and it is something that we can and will experience. We forget this basic truth that when it finally does happen, we often feel devastated—how can something so wonderful end just like that? And, how can others expect us to begin anew? Speak to an old lady whose better half for almost 50 years passed away and you’ll realize how difficult beginning could be: first morning without him…first breakfast, first step out of the house, first trip to that familiar supermart to do the groceries, first chat with old friends…first of everything once again—without him. And we suddenly grasp why lines like “you can do it” or “you’ll be ok” can sound so meaningless for the bereaved. How do we begin, so they wonder…but…inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajioon, remember? To ALLAH we belong and to HIM is our return.
Mistake. It’s easy to demand or expect our loved ones to make amends immediately when they hurt us. Yet, when it’s the other way around, especially when we realize the gravity of our mistakes, the acts we know we should do to make things right become difficult. How do we begin to say sorry? How do we take away the pain they feel? How can we expect them to forgive us after the things we’ve done? The simple is suddenly blurred by the complex and exaggerated thoughts of what would happen next. And, before we know it, selective amnesia sets in—we remember so well what we’ve done wrong but we’ve forgotten the timeless essentials that would help make things better. We’ll expound on this some more in a separate article. For now, suffice it to say that the i-am-beyond-redemption mindset makes us forget that it is actually possible to tread on the path towards a brand new start. La taqnatoo min rahmati Allah, remember? “…despair not of the mercy of ALLAH.” (see Holy Qur’an 39:53 for complete verse)
Risk. It’s quite ironic how we pray so hard that The Most Gracious gives us our hearts’ desire yet when an opportunity to turn those dreams into reality is presented, we freeze. What are we going to do next? What step must we take? What if things go wrong? What if we fail our loved ones? What if we fail ourselves? Imagine that. We’ve been brought this close to our dreams by The All-Powerful One yet we now forget to trust that HE will continue to guide us in our next steps. Hasbiyallaahu laa ‘ilaaha ‘illaa Huwa ‘alayhi tawakkaltu wa Huwa Rabbul-’Arshil-’Adheem, remember? Allah is sufficient for me. There is none worthy of worship but Him. I have placed my trust in Him, He is Lord of the Majestic Throne.
There…three different life events that make us ask how to begin. Events that reveal our fears—fear of getting attached too much only to lose, fear of never being forgiven, and fear of failing to reach much-wanted goals. And, if we ponder on them some more, fears tell us how afraid we are of experiencing pain. After all, it is painful to lose something or someone we’ve considered an extension of ourselves. It is painful to realize it is our own selves who’ve caused the very ones we love pain. And, it is painful to not get those much-wanted dreams in life. Fear and pain. Indeed, different scenarios yet the same—always a test of faith. Fear reveals how strong our faith is in The Best Planner, The All-Wise. And, pain can actually be a blessing in disguise; a way to remind us of the purpose of our existence.
How do I begin?
Others quite often say, you just do it…just begin. It may sound absurd, but then again, think of it. Each moment of our lives is a beginning. I mean, who would’ve thought we’d make it to the next moment? Had HE willed, this could be our last breath, subhanALLAH. But, we’re still here, Alhamdulillah (praise be to Allah). In fact, wherever you are right now, if you’re still reading this, then that’s more than enough to say, “Alhamdulillah.” (And we’re not yet even reflecting deeply on the air, the sun, the electricity, the computer you’re using, the sense of sight, and all the what-have-you’s that we often take for granted) Some of us may not have wanted to still be breathing right now because of how tragic life seems to them, but hey, we’re still here. Alhamdulillah. And, whether we like it or not, life goes on as long as HE wills it.
Hence, if each moment is a beginning which HE lovingly gives, then we are left with only two options: to either begin by giving it the best we have or to begin by letting our fears and all the negativities get in the way. Reflect. If you wake up and you tell yourself “It’s too difficult” or “It’s no use” or “I won’t make it”, then that’s already how you chose to begin your life at that very moment—and seriously, it’s going to affect the next moments you may be given unless you decide to change. So, which option is it going to be?
Still finding it hard? Perhaps, it’ll help if we modify the question:
How do I want to begin this moment of my life?
There. We’re not even talking about the rest of our lives; just this very important moment given to us—the here and now; the (gift of the) present. One moment at a time. One step at a time. Step one. And what matters is the kind of step one we make out of the moment HE lovingly gives, in shaa ALLAH (God willing).
Difficult? Perhaps—when faith wanes…but may we remember that with HIM, it always is possible. And, truthfully, may we pray that each of us decide to begin each moment with our lips, our minds, and our hearts saying,
Bismillah. In the Name of Allah.
In the Name of Allah. In the Name of The One Who’s lovingly created you and me. In the Name of The One Who never tires. In the Name of The One Who Hears even our hearts’ unspoken prayers. In the Name of The One Who gives peace and light. In The Name of The One Who bestows more than what we can ever imagine.
Bismillah. In the Name of Allah.
Don’t you just love how that sounds? I honestly hope we find our hearts smiling much, in shaa ALLAH.
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“Bismillah is the start of all things good.” – Bediuzzaman Said Nursi
 
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Posted by on April 21, 2017 in reach UP

 

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inherently empowered

Yes, it’s women’s month, and last 8th was International Women’s Day.

I am a Muslim woman in a predominantly non-Muslim country. I am a Muslim woman married to a man who, although a Muslim as well (Alhamdulillah for that), comes from a different culture. I am a Muslimom–in progress, mind you. I am a daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, niece, friend, student, and so much more. I am a woman–a Muslim woman.

Why do I often add ‘Muslim’, you ask.  I can’t help but smile…

Isn’t it funny that we got to a point where we observe or celebrate such days? If you ask me, everyday is women’s day or men’s day or grandparents’ day…yes, everyday. Why did we get here? How did we get here?

Reality bites. Eyes are blind. Minds have numbed. Hearts are still muted. Spirits…worn out. There goes another walking wounded.

There’s so much confusion and chaos in the world that we’ve forgotten what it means to be humane. There’s so much violence…so much abuse that sometimes–or is it often?–one of us whispers it’s no use.

I am a woman. And, to make it more complicated, a Muslim woman in a predominantly non-Muslim society. Yes, I’ve been called a terrorist. Yes, I’ve been asked to remove my headscarf. And, yes, media often portrays me as oppressed. (No, I will not say they are completely wrong because a lack of true understanding of Islam among some of us who call themselves Muslims do exist–leading to prejudice, discrimination and yes, more specifically, oppression.  Yes, they are not completely wrong but they often just highlight, even sensationalize, abuses. Abuses that happen even among non-Muslims, right?)

And if that wasn’t enough, the pull on the other side wants to ’empower’ me by inviting me to join the age-old “battle of the sexes”–there’s nothing a man can do that we women can’t…we are the greater of the two. Feminism that has forgotten beautiful complementarity.

I am a Muslim woman married to a man who, although a Muslim as well (Alhamdulillah for that), comes from a different culture. And, accomplished as I am in my chosen field, I just have to say I am truly fascinated how empowered the women from my husband’s circle are. I love to call them the Ottoman women–beautifully confident and empowered, ma shaa ALLAH. Home management to the next level, indeed. No sitters, no playschool drop offs, no househelp–yet still make great meals, not to mention sweets like baklava! More importantly, however, I realized there’s this difference from our cultures that one should take note–men didn’t mind helping out and were groomed to help out whenever they can. Men tried their best to earn a living so their queens could stay home and manage home affairs without having to worry about finances. My first trip to the pazar had me seeing an almost all-men fruit-and-vegetable market. Most of the wives and moms were there only to decide what to buy, but the carrying and all were done by men. I am reminded of how our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) helped out his wives and spent time with his children.  Secretly, I realized how in my country, the marketing and the chores were almost always all given to women that some men don’t even know what a certain vegetable is or if the chicken is expensive or not. What happened? Why have we allowed our boys to stay as boys? (And, this is so accepted in my society that even most of the women allow it to happen) 

Yes, women in my husband’s circle are probably not the type who would often meet up and discuss social issues (the world’s problems and how we can solve them, harhar)–admittedly, it was something I missed a lot especially during bouts of homesickness; but, they do support noble social projects and can be as socially conscious as my girl friends. I noticed, however, that it’s the main role they played that their networks appreciated and supported so much–i.e, their role as home managers. Noble role, indeed, and it was a career (that, technically and legally in our society, is not considered a profession or career and has no financial compensation) that they passionately pursued–for the sake of Allah. Ma shaa ALLAH. I was fascinated with these Ottoman ladies but, admittedly, also pressured that it will take years for me to even be half as good or half as fast as them in performing certain tasks. Alhamdulillah, my husband reminds me I need not be like them. I simply have to confidently be the best me I can be. Still, having ladies to inspire me helps and makes me remember how Muslim women managed homes especially during the time of the Prophet (pbuh). I pray I can perform this role to the best that I can, in shaa ALLAH.

I am a Muslimom–in progress. I say in progress because there is (and will always be) a lot to learn as a mother. You, dear fellow mom, know this: it is NOT easy. BUT, it is possible and will always be so meaningfully worth it, in shaa ALLAH. I must confess, another important factor that makes it difficult for me in adjusting to this role is this: my lack of training in home work (read: multitasking the chores and what-have-you’s). Conversation with my dear friends had us admitting that we grew up being trained more to pursue a career. Yes, while most women in our culture allowed girls to do most of the chores (if not all), most mothers also excuse their daughters in doing a lot of chores so we can focus more on our studies. And, society (at least, the one in which I grew) had us unconsciously giving less importance to being a full-time mom or housewife. I remember a friend quipping after hearing I intended to give up teaching or emergency psychosocial response once I marry, “so magiging housewife ka na lang (so you’re just going to be a housewife?)?”. He didn’t mean anything bad, really. It was so unconsciously casual. I ended up telling him that yeah, that was my plan; but I also made sure he’d get to correct himself by stating, “hey, it’s not bad. sige ka, so mom mo housewife lang?” With that, he suddenly had a different view of housewives and shared how proud he is of his mom. Are you relating with this? I am reminded of the status of women in Islam–how highly regarded they are. I remember that the beloved Prophet (pbuh) said Jannah lies at the feet of our moms. Ma shaa Allah. SubhanAllah.

Woman. You. Me. They. We.

Sad to say, so much negativity has happened that an international observance of women’s month or women’s day had to be put into place to remind people of our real value. It’s nice to have this kind of month. But, personally, I really hope every woman remembers that everyday is our day–no one should make us think otherwise. Everyday is our day, and we have every right and responsibility to promote what is good and prevent what is evil. What I mean is, let us not allow ourselves and other women to be abused; but if it happens no matter how hard we try, then let us not allow ourselves to give up and give in to our fears. Let’s keep trying, in shaa ALLAH. Everyday is our day, and we don’t need to compare ourselves to or to be defensive against men to make us feel that way; but at the same time, we don’t need to depend on another–a man, for example–to feel it’s our day.

Everyday is our day. Beautifully given. I am a woman–a Muslim woman. Again, why do I keep adding ‘Muslim’?

I am a Muslim woman, and as such, I am empowered much to know that my worth is neither diminished by definitions others try to impose on me nor by my decision to agree to other people’s views or wishes should there be truly nothing wrong with them. As such, I am empowered much to know that my worth is never dependent on the other whom The All-Knowing can, at any time, take away from me. I am a Muslim woman, and as such, I know my worth is reflected on how I make use of everything with which I’ve been blessed, under any circumstance, to serve and to give thanks to The One Who created me.

I am a Muslim woman…and in this often unfair, chaotic and confusing world, my being a Muslim makes that much-needed difference. Alhamdulillah ala kulli hal si wal kufri waddalal.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2016 in I + You = WE

 

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