Tales of a Female Nomad: Being You

For the last month or two, I have found an unrequited interest in living a nomadic-lifestyle. Now, I must give a quick definition of a nomad. According to the online Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, a nomad “is a member of a group of people who move from place to place instead of living in one place all the time”. So, this may sound like a stretch for people that holds onto stability for dear life. However, I guess I have always wanted to experience a feeling of living life in its totality and entirety.

I met a friend a year ago, named Ibrahim and he would tell me about his explorations to Africa and throughout the Middle-East. In his explorations, he told me of his own self-discoveries and revelations. He started to see life in a different lens because of the different lifestyles he was being exposed to throughout his frequent travels. Ironic enough, he is still nomadic and doesn’t stay in one place. He frequently leaves to visit various countries. He describes his adventures as being liberating and refreshing. I would occasionally argue that his nomadic-lifestyle isn’t very nomadic, but he usually disagrees. However, I have found this need or this want of being liberated…common. Many people in my life have told me that they need an outlet, a place to rest their worries, a vacation, or a step away from reality. Now, I am not advocating that people should walk away from their unresolved problems, but I do see the validity in stepping away from our daily-routines.

So, as I was reading this book about the female nomad, I stumbled upon a quote that really stuck out to me. The author, Rita Golden Gelman, is 47 years old and experiencing a failing marriage. So, in seeking to reconcile the marriage, her and her husband agreed to a two-month break-up. However, she only wanted to separate for two weeks. Nonetheless, she thought it would be good to travel a little bit to clear her head. In being an anthropologist, she sought out Mexico. In her adventures within Mexico, she found herself transforming and blooming into someone else. In being independent of her husband, she had found herself one evening looking for a companion to eat dinner with at a restaurant. In feeling self-conscious about being alone, she ate with two men she had met at a hotel. After having dinner with the men, she stayed with one of the men over-night and said, “The next morning, I am confused as I walk back to my hotel. Who was that woman who just spent the night with a stranger? Two days ago I could never have done it. In twenty-four years, it has never happened. Is it possible that leaving the country has turned me into someone else. I try to look at myself from another dimension, detached and nonjudgmental. This person is not wife, other, daughter, writer, anthropology student, L.A. sophisticate. She is, of course, all of these things; but alone, without the attachments, she is a woman in limbo, she is someone she doesn’t know” (11).

In reading this quote early-on in the book, I began thinking to myself about the state of being nomadic. I feel nomadic, but I have never traveled to another place. Well, I did travel to Texas when I was a toddler. However, I never feel as if I fit. I feel like an outcast. As a nomad, you’re always moving. You take what you need and you just go. You are never really grounded. And being a nomad is about going against your typical view of living a stable life. You are constantly uprooting yourself and becoming displaced. So, in the quote by Gelman, she feels displaced. She is caught in limbo, as she called it. She understand the various roles that she plays, but she wants to know herself outside of those conventional roles. I think this is really important and interesting. How do we define ourselves outside of: mother, father, sister, brother, daughter, son, aunt, uncle, friend, lover, and etc? Are we comfortable with where we are? Are we satisfied with the life that we are living? Are we existing or are we living?

In asking these questions, I wonder if we should only accept the question that the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary gave us. Sometimes we can be nomads in our own lives without traveling. We can sometimes become so disconnected to our own realities, to our friends, and family-members that we aren’t stable. I’m not really sure where I am going with this, but being a nomad doesn’t always mean traveling. It could mean, simply, that one stops the act of simply existing and move towards living. Maybe it isn’t even about stability or being disconnected from people. Being nomadic can simply mean not weighing one’s self down with unnecessary baggage. It could simply mean…starting to be you. Starting to live life.

To leave you something to think about:
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”
— May Sarton

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.

Marriage: Why the problems? Disconnect? Taboos? Choice?

Assalamu alaykom everyone,

It is easy to look at the stories of people’s marriages and get deterred from getting or going forth in being married. However, Allah and the example of the prophet Muhammad sallalahu alayhe wasalam (peace be upon him) gives us the ideals of marriage and ways to go about in creating happy homes, families and marriages. Sometimes we have a rigid understanding of marriage and fall into believing that marriage can only occur at a certain place, in a certain time, with a certain person, and under certain guidelines. We don’t always look at Islam from a broad sense, but we sometimes limit ourselves due to parents, cultural, and societal norms. However, what does Islam say? What options do Islam give to us?

I believe this video by Khalid Latif is self-explanatory and informational. I believe this was the first lecture I have listened to that allows an individual to see the various ways of getting married. Also, it looks at realistic issues that are facing various Muslim communities. I think it is important for communities to have this conversation because many things are going unsaid about things that are happening on a day-to-day basis. The issues that we hear about and see are problematic because many of these issues are preventable and solvable. However, if we stay ignorant and close-minded to these realities then we can never solve the problems that we see and hear about within our communities.

She is Revolutionary

She is her own president, legislature, and citizen

Keen to set forth her own solutions to problems

Never eager to sit back and wait for action

She is the follower of the Prophet Muhammad (Peace and blessings be upon Him)

A follower of the truth

A follower of a revolutionary

A follower of justice

Never weak or scared to tackle important issues

To face the reality as it stands

She is own president

Proceeding forth in making life-changing decisions

Deliberating on how to execute them

Proceeding to put forth issues that need solutions

She is own her president, legislature, and citizen

Never to sit back

Never to wait until the next revolution

For she is the revolution

She is the change

Never will she wait for issues to be brought upon its charges

Never will she wait until the legislature deliberate

Never will she postpone an action until the president signs off

Her hands will be the change

Her voice will speak about the change

Her dua will guide her in seeking the change

She is her own president, legislature, and citizen

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