Aja Monet: “Mobilizing a Movement of the Mind”

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The Right to Love and Be Loved

One of the things that I admire is the right to love and to be loved. I don’t care who you are, where you come from and where you’ve been, we all want to love and be loved. It is this right to love that compels us to enter into friendships and relationships. It is this right that compels us to forgive those that have created hurt in our lives to move on in loving another person again. It is this right that makes us risk everything to love even after the pain of losing a friend or lover. This choice is one of strength. Yes, if you’ve ever decided to love and be loved after the past drama of a friendship or relationship then just know that you are truly on your way. Fear is created by us. We create fear and we allow it to stop us from doing the things that we want in life.

In seeking to love again, we have to make the choice to love. We decide for ourselves what we want. We decide on who we want to engage with in a relationship, how far it goes, where it ends, what we want, what we dislike and what we need. We hold this much power within our grasp. In reading some lectures by Anais Nin, I remember when she stated that she creates the relationships that she enters into. This startled me. I didn’t really understand this until I reread this. As individuals, we hold friendships with people and relationships. We determine when enough is enough. We determine how far we want to take things. We determine if we will strive in a relationship of love or a relationship of misery. This is how we create the friendships/relationships that we enter into. It doesn’t create itself. The reality is that we can either be active or passive participants in the relationships we choose to engage in. So, in saying all of this, we decide on the right to love and to be loved.

The right to love and to be loved is a choice. We can sulk around in our past and think about all of the the things that could’ve change, but this will not help the present. The present-moment is where we are at. This is where we are. We are not yesterday, five years ago, twenty years ago, or even five minutes ago. We are here. We are in the present moment. In “How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life” by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, it is said that ” under no circumstances should you lose hope. Hopelessness is a real cause of failure. Remember, you can overcome any problem. Be calm, even when the external environment is confused or complicated; it will have little effect if your mind is at peace. On the other hand, if your mind gives way to anger, then even when the world is peaceful and comfortable, peace of mind will elude you”. So, the pain and misfortunes that we have dealt with in the past should remain in the past. We shouldn’t become hopeless in the face of the present moment. We can truly move pass the pain of yesterday or even a few minutes ago. We shouldn’t allow this pain to keep us from functioning. We can and should still love and seek love. This is magnificent. We are able to do this. Not only are we able to do this, but we should demand this of ourselves.

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” – Anais Nin

Assalamu Alaykom (Peace be upon you),

So, I thought I would attend the Friday-prayer( Salatul Jumu’ah) with another Muslim-woman that lives around the corner from me. In being indoors for the last few days, I invited my dear friend to attend the khutba(lecture) with me. She accepted my invitation. So, we departed from our apartments, got into the car and was on our way. We were definitely excited about this. In going to the mosque, we found ourselves in a long line of cars awaiting for a chance at a parking-spot. In our short wait, we giggled and chatted about trivial matters. Once we were able to get a parking-spot, we quickly jumped out the car and headed towards the women’s entrance. We finally made it removed our shoes.

Once the lecture started, we sat quietly in anticipation for an enlightening afternoon. However, this quickly changed. The lecturer began with a narration by the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stating that:

“A Muslim community will stop being on the straight path once the: youth go astray, rebellious women appear, and men stop going out to perform jihad”

So, my dear friend and I sat flabbergasted and in awe. This particular lecturer went on and on about ‘astray youth, rebellious women, and men going out to perform jihad’. However, he failed in refusing to discuss the causes of the youth going astray or the reason(s) behind rebellious women appearin. I’m still not sure what ‘rebellious’ women are. Also, jihad in the context he spoke of was inappropriate. Jihad is Arabic for struggling for the sake of Allah (God). The biggest struggle we can undergo in battling is our own individual selves, our desires. We struggle everyday in being upright people. We struggle everyday in giving everyone their due rights. This is true jihad. This is more of an appropriate form of jihad that should’ve been dealt with, instead of talking about going out to fight.

I’m sorry, but some of these lecturers need to get themselves together because American Muslims are living in a different culture that is distinct from other places. The problems that an American Muslim will face will probably be different than an Afghani or Pakistani Muslim and vice versa. It is this constant rhetoric from these lecturers that throws me and others for a loop. Why don’t these men understand that second, third, and fourth-generation American Muslims do not hold the same cultural-baggage as recent immigrants. The happenings of now should be attended to. There must be a new look at how Islam is practiced in America. We cannot continuously bring along cultural-baggage to a country that is different than ‘back home’. So, many American Muslims continuously sit through countless lectures hearing things that they can’t relate to due to this cultural-barrier. The youth isn’t going to listen to some random person that is ranting about things they can’t relate to in their daily lives.

Also, we must turn away from this obsession over obedience. Submission belongs to God and God alone. A fruitful and well-grounded relationship is rooted deeply in mutual partnership. If a relationship is built upon tyranny, obedience, and a power-struggle then it may not last long. There should be equality between the two individuals. If not, then you may have someone within the relationship rebel against the other. It is rather absurd to believe that someone rebels for no reason. No, there is a reason behind this. Instead of ranting on and on about rebellious women, why not talk about why a person would want to rebel in the first place. Let’s talk about the behind-the-scenes stuff that occurs. I’ve heard some dynamic lectures from some great imams discussing: domestic violence, sexual assault, women’s rights, marital love, and etc. However, there aren’t enough of these lectures happening. Unfortunately, there are many communities that are firmly rooted in compliance. Compliance doesn’t cut it for me. It isn’t about blindly obeying or submitting to anything or anyone. One must ask questions and seek for those answers in order to be at one with themselves. If an answer isn’t satisfactory then you continue on in your search. You don’t just sit back and accept something. Oh no, never that. The first word that was revealed to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was ‘iqra’. Iqra means to read in Arabic. So, we must move away from this blind-following of individuals, no matter what their title may be. In Islam, one turns to the Qur’an and the example of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In Islam, there isn’t a central authority. The Qur’an legislates for one to use their reasoning, their logic, the example of the prophet Muhammad and the ayats(evidences) from the Qur’an to live a satisfying life. Islam doesn’t restrict one from being an active learner or from asking questions. No, you are told to bring your questions. You are told to reflect and to ponder. You shouldn’t just sit back and listen. You must not be like heedless cattle in a herd. No, you use what God has given you- your intellect. So, I am saying right now that we have to move away from simply complying to lectures that aren’t applicable to right now.

As an American Muslim, my experience(s) are centered on my daily life in America. It isn’t dependent upon anything else other than my experience(s) as a Black Muslim American woman. I’m sorry, but I can’t accept someone’s cultural-baggage from elsewhere as being my baggage. This can’t be the case for me. I just hope that some of these imams and lecturers will begin to understand that the American Muslim experience is different from a Muslim’s experience(s) in another country. American Muslims have their own problems and qualms to deal with on a daily basis. It is time to allow for American Muslims to create their own narrative. There’s nothing wrong with being an American-Muslim. It is just problematic when American Muslims are being told as a collective body to abide by cultural-norms that aren’t applicable to right now. This is America and American Muslims are trying to find their way. The last thing we need to hear is how things are ‘back home’. I’m sorry, but your cultural-baggage doesn’t cut it here. So, don’t try to spin Islam to make your cultural-baggage legitimate. Islam doesn’t oppress. Islam liberates. So, take that crap you think is Islam and throw it in the trash.

Anyways, I will go back to the hadith that he selected for the lecture. If he really wanted to do something beneficial, he should’ve elaborated on this issue of youth going astray, women becoming rebellious and men going out for jihad. In too many lectures, I hear about problems, but I rarely hear about solutions. Or I hear about consequences of actions, but never the causes. We shouldn’t dance around issues, but we should have a well-rounded talk about them. Instead of constantly complaining about this, that and the other, we need to just cut to the chase. We need to develop better ways of handling issues instead of giving things a cultural-slant. Why can’t we just focus on being good people? Islam is a full way of life, but someone too many lecturers focus on these trivial things. And too many times, people walk out of mosques not learning anything because the lecturer was so far from the reality of the people. Let’s get things in check the next time we want to go to the minbar to speak about something. Let’s have a real conversation that talks about causes and effects. Let’s discuss how we can help alleviate these problems and how this is apart of Islam. Islam is about being a mercy to the people. Islam shouldn’t be a burden. Islam should never be burden or else we’re doing something wrong.

So, our Friday-prayer experience was interesting. It was only one experience out of several, but hopefully from this one experience someone can think about the importance of connecting to their audience before speaking to them. It is very important to understand the reality of your audience before delivering a message. I mean…what good is a message if you’re not conveying it and your audience is unable to connect to it? So, let’s look at Islam as a way to alleviate burdens instead of being a burden. Islam is a way of life that is beautiful, but when a man/woman takes it upon him/herself to educate a group he/she should think twice about the message he/she intends to deliver.

Saturday Night's Final Thoughts

Assalamu alaykom (Peace Be Upon You),

Over the last week I have found myself going skating on a daily-basis to let off some steam, but it wasn’t until I pulled out my prayer-rug and read Qur’an that I found true contentment. It was a different kind of contentment. It’s a kind of contentment that is reassuring. I’ve thought about the Eid and how I may have to pass on attending the Eid-prayer on Tuesday, inshALLAH due to a science-lab that I have on the morning of the Eid. I’ve never missed an Eid’s prayer since I’ve been Muslim, but I guess this time will be an exception. It kills me, but it’s just a choice I may have to make, inshALLAH. I absolutely love celebrating the Eid (the day of happiness/festivity) with others. I usually get a new outfit, go out to attend the morning-prayer, and do things afterwards in celebration of the day. InshALLAH, I will still celebrate the Eid, but I may just miss the prayer- which is the best part for me. It’s so moving and exciting. I absolutely love it. It’s a beautiful beginning for the start of an Eid. So, I’m not sure what I’m going to do. Allah knows best! I will pray about this.

However, I read Surah Hajj and Surah Muminoon over the last two hours and found myself just startled. Why startled? I don’t know. Just reading Qur’an just makes you slow down and think about the bigger picture. We are all going through our own issues and problems and Qur’an reminds us that life on Earth isn’t a paradise. We are here to strive and worship. However, don’t get it twisted and think we have to be angels because we aren’t. We are human-beings dealing with the trials and tribulations of life.

“To Him (God/Allah) belongs what is in the heavens and what is on the earth. And indeed, Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy” -22:64

I’m not perfect and will never claim to be, but I am very much an individual that seeks to live a life in a way that offers meaning. There’s this reality that while we enjoy the life of this world there is the life of the hereafter. In Islam, there aren’t saints. There aren’t monasteries or convents. So, there is no such thing as withdrawing from the world because a Muslim should be able to balance the world and their spiritual-life. And this is a trial for many because some have taken much of this world as their final resting place when it’s not. In between living life, there are the five-daily prayers. In between having a good time, there are obligations we must give to others. Our spouses have rights over us. Our neighbors have rights over us. Our children have rights over us. Our parents have rights over us. Our pets have rights over us. Our Lord have rights over us. We have to always strike that balance, so right now…I’m trying to strike that balance.

Sometimes I find myself dipping my hands in too many things at once. In doing this, I cause myself to get burnt out and to just withdraw from people. Many times when I get overtly stressed out, I just write, skate or just listen to something. It’s my therapy. In many ways, this is my reason for blogging. It’s a form of therapy. It’s a form of self-expression. Not only is it self-expression, but it’s something that I enjoy. And sometimes, I just like to be by myself. I like to sit out in nature and just watch the world around me. I do many things, but I also isolate myself too. I like to seek that balance between my social and personal-life. It’s quite important for me to reflect on my personal-life. I believe I am like this because of Islam. Islam really humanizes me. It makes me look at the world as a whole. Also, it causes me to look at my own life and the relationships that I have with others. It strips me of everything and causes me to think critically about myself. And this is what I need. This is what we all need. We just need to sometimes be real with ourselves and not lie about the reality of our lives and how we live them.

Just some Saturday night’s thoughts.

On That Day In Which We Meet

I just want to kiss your words
Inhale them carefully
Let them penetrate my heart
and just lay next to you
breathless
these hands of mines
would hold our secrets
and this heart of mines
would only pump this intense love that I have for you
I would leave the door to my heart
open for you
let you walk in and settle
ride upon my inner-most secrets
leaving me exposed and vulnerable
because I love you
and I want you to know that
this delicate heart of mines will be yours
for exploration
letting our lives become one
allowing our love to intensify
creating a world of our own
I want us to make melodies
to last a lifetime
covering me in this endless bliss
I want to know you
know what makes you cry, what makes you scared, what makes you nervous
So take me as I am and call me your only love
I beg you to carry me off to distant lands
so I can spend more time with you
have moments to get to know you
I just want to get lost in you
and find myself in you
I want you to hold me
and never let go
become my world
and I becoming yours
I am dying to compose our song
our lyrics to our song without an ending
put on our dancing shoes and dance our pain away
holding each other so close
so intensely
that nothing
that no thing/person
can intervene
Take my hand, my love
Gather your life and let me gather mines
and let us get lost in each other’s hearts
allow the rhythms of our heart beats
drive us to listening to the beauty of life
I want you to hold me
and let our hearts
beat together
as one
finding nothing/no one
coming between us
for that day in which we meet
we will create an eruption upon the lands
a tidal wave in an ocean
rock the earth with an earthquake
create a resurrection
in which you and I
will transcend/ascend
to a world where angels dance
and fairies laugh
where love is endless
and without pain
where I will become you
and you will become I
where we are one
that nothing/no one
can separate us
because on that day
we will be more than two people
seeking another
we will be one seeking only each other

Where Do You Stand?

Assalamu alaykom,

Where do you stand? The question isn’t about your current, physical geographical location. The question is philosophical. As a consumer in our global-community what are you doing to better this planet? Are you one of those people that just sit around for a better day to come? Are you expecting “those” activists to come on television to change the world? Unfortunately, you are mistaken to think that activism is specific to a special person. We are all activists- some of us are just simply inactive. As long as we are here and living we are playing a role. We are either making the world better or not.

The state of the world is in disarray. There are children being killed on a daily-basis from war, people living under the poverty-line, homelessness, starvation, sex slavery, lack of education, gendered-crimes committed, rapes, and etc in our world. All of these crimes against humanity is happening in our neighborhoods, cities, villages, countries, and regions. These crimes against humanity can be stopped if you stand up for those that can’t do it alone. Oppression can be fought, so never think you can’t help a cause. Everyone can do something- small or big. It is our choice to be lazy or to be active in the world in which we live in on a daily basis.

Do not stand on the wrong side of the fence. Do not choose to straddle between the two sides. Find your side and hope that it’s the right one. There is never an excuse for oppression. Figure out where you stand right now. Elevate your knowledge of the world by reading, interacting, asking questions and seeking out truth(s). Be willing to change your line of thinking for what is in the direction of truth and honesty. Never settle for idleness and doubt. Find certainty in your heart. Allow the knowledge that you seek become penetrable into your heart. Let it sink in and stay. Growth sometimes come with pain and in that we develop as individuals. The world simply need people with big ideas and drive. Get others to help in a cause or causes. Spread the word. Inspire others with your knowledge. Share it wherever you may go.

The road you may tread upon may be hard at first, but remember that the struggle is worth the end result. It may be a little foggy and dark, but remember that knowledge is true freedom. And down that road is light. So, as you travel down this road to enlightenment never give up. Always cling to your heart for the heart is never wrong.

So take a stand right now.