Assalamu Alaykom (Peace be upon you),
Recently, I had to come to the sincere reality of my life. We can sometimes get so wrapped up in the immediate issues facing our everyday survival that we forget the bigger picture. I remember my Philosophy professor telling my class that we are all a part of a system. Life is a system. We are parts that make up the system. So, we have to understand the importance of parts. As I began to think about this, I knew there was wisdom in this.
As a Black American Muslim Feminist, I know very well the importance of understanding systems. Every piece of the puzzle plays a vital role in the proper functioning of the system. For example: The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would remind the people that the heart is the source of goodness and once this source is corrupted then you become corrupted. It isnt something to take lightly. For a very long time, my heart became hardened to Islam. I stopped going to the mosque, praying the five daily prayers, stopped participating in Islamic events because my heart was so hardened in sin. Yes, Allah (God) is the only one that Muslims confess their sins to. There aren’t intermediaries in Islam. Muslims go straight to the source. In understanding this blessing, I will not confess specific sins, but I will talk about the reality that many of us go through, Muslim or non-Muslim.
We all deal with the issue of finding peace in our lives. We all desire things and maybe even people. However, desiring something or someone may not be the best thing for you. For example: In the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), a young man wanted to go out and fight in a battle, but the prophet Muhammad asked him if he had parents and the young man said yes. So, the prophet redirected the young man to go back home and to take care of his parents since this is a better act than fighting in a war. In this instance, the young man understood that helping the prophet establish Islam was important, but he didnt understand that one’s parents are more important. In another example, the prophet Muhammad’s close friend, Abu Darda, would often pray and fast frequently. In being devout, he didn’t find fault in this. However, Abu Darda was a married man. Yes, he was married. So, from an Islamic perspective, Muslims are reminded to give everyone, including animals their due rights. In the case of Abu Darda, he would forget that his wife had rights over him. His wife was owed the right to spending time with her spouse, along with having sexual intimacy. The Prophet Muhammad told the people that if they commited a bad deed then this would be a sin and punishable, but if a spouse had sexual intimacy with their partner than Allah (God) would deem this as a good deed and a reward. So, Abu Darda, in having good intentions, was stripping his wife of this. So, the Prophet Muhammad reminded Abu Darda that he wasnt fulfilling the rights of his wife. He must balance his religious acts of worship with his marital-life. He must strike a balance and take into consideration the whole picture. He must remember that his wife is a part of the system within his life. If he disregards his wife then the system will not function properly because she will be unhappy with her husband. In pulling some stories from the Islamic tradition, it makes me realize the importance of looking at the bigger picture. In both stories, the young man and the husband were thinking small and not large. As people, we sometimes focus on the small and we should. However, we should look at small parts in relations to the bigger picture.
As of late, I had to remind myself that the world we live in is a system. The lives we live consists of being in a system. In documenting the various stages I have gone through with Islam, I can most certaintly say that true conviction sometimes mean waging war against yourself. You have to perform jihad of the nafs. I am a person of definitions. I think we should have a working definition for a few terms:
Jihad: to struggle for or in the path of God
Nafs: lowly desires; temptations
One of the things I decided after some intense thought is that I am the only one that can determine the proper functioning of my life, by the will of Allah. I have control over the parts within the system of my life. I can determine the happenings of my very being. I am the captain of my own ship. Allah constantly reiterates in the Qur’an to reflect, to ponder and to think. One of the reasons that Islam doesn’t have a true hierarchy of clergy people is because Allah gave people the ability to think and to formulate their own lives. Yes, the Quran (including the past scriptures revealed to the People of the Book) are given to people as guidance. However, the ultimate person to determine your life is you. After years upon years of being Muslim, I never really thought about this. I was solely focused on small matters, such as: color of my headscarf, wearing makeup, wearing jewelry, and trying to do every last thing perfectly. Yes, a Muslim should aim for perfection. Nonetheless, the Prophet Muhammad reminded the people to not overburden one’s self or others with the religion. The religion is easy and simple. Not only this, but Allah tells the people in the Qur’an that there is no compulsion in Islam. You cant force anyone to practice Islam. It is forbidden to force someone to practice because at the end of the day it is between them and God. Simple.
So, I had to put this into perspective. I was constantly focusing on the small things. I had failed to realize the big picture. I was getting lost in my own desires coupled with external pressures that I was slowly backing away from Islam. I felt so disconnected from my identity as a Muslim that I began to forget the bigger picture. One thing that every Muslim should know at the minimum is that God is Ar-Rahminir Rahim, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful. God is more merciful than our own parents. I had totally forgotten all of that. The system (my life) was no longer working properly because the major part (Islam) was becoming separate from me. This part of the system was providing me with peace, guidance and stability. However, as my Islam began breaking down then the system, my life, started falling a part into shambles. I will be honest and say that I had other immediate issues facing my life which in turn, caused me to distant myself from Islam. I had failed to realize that I shouldve leaned on Islam to provide me with strength. So, I had a variety of parts breaking down in my system. I was most importantly losing Islam. Islam was my life and is my life. Now, I have to fix the system at-large and make the appropriate alterations to get the gears working again. In a bit of my nerdiness, I need to make some adjustments.
So, I hope this will help someone just as much as it has helped me. Sometimes it just takes self-realization to come to terms with yourself and your reality. It doesnt mean you are inadequate. It doesnt mean you are a bad person. It just mean we have some adjusting to do.
Now, I will not say I regret the past because I have learned from it. I just know now that I have to advocate for myself, and you do too, as well. We just have to advocate for the life we want. The hardest thing to do for many of us is to deal with our internal desires or issues. So, we end up getting further and further in the hole. We never end up getting out. So, take a moment out of your day and find out what part(s) of your system isnt fuctioning well. It may be the best moment you could have ever taken in your life.