Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,
I’ve been going through a period of introspection lately, as I often do, every few months or year or two but this time it’s been much deeper and broader in scope than anything I’ve probably done since I said my Shahadah nearly 16 (lunar) years ago and indeed has lasted months not the days or weeks it has before.
Normally I pause, I reflect, maybe do a bit of research and ask people I trust around me and I correct my course slightly but still moving onward and upward again in the same direction more or less but this time it I find myself unable to move on again, I am frozen in place, and think I must choose a different path to what I’ve been on before.
Do they not think deeply about themselves? Allah has created not the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, except with truth and for an appointed term. And indeed many of mankind deny the Meeting with their Lord.
Quran translation, Surah Ar-Rum, 8:8
I’ve come to realise the image of myself I have in my head, which in some ways is a reflection of what others think of me in the community and that I’ve taken their word for is not actually true. It is not me as I know me truly or a accurate reflection of how I feel in my interactions with others and I am not being honest with them, or my family or myself to continue this lie, and it is a lie in part at least.
Until now I thought myself in some ways a deep thinker, an activist, a Da’ee, a caller to the truth, the community reformer, even if only on a very modest scale but the truth is I am far from these things, I barely have mastery of my own household and it’s development or reform, or indeed of myself which is where the heart of this problem I think comes from.
Like many other reverts, almost since I said my Shahadah I’ve been pushed into this role, and that’s not to blame others, I’ve relished it, and ran with it from the beginning, and the mistake of faking becoming this thing I am not, of fooling myself is my own and no one else’s.
This has really hit home this ramadhan and especially last night at a community iftar meal, when I was speaking to an elderly brother who I know thinks a great deal of the work I do in the community. We spoke about family, and also homeschooling and he made mention how it must be good for the kids to benefit from a father who is able to teach them so much in terms of the deen and life.
I had to be truthful, tell him straight up this is not me, I do a little, but barely anything in terms of my kids Islamic education, or indeed other educational needs other than offering words of advice as any father would, that such lessons are taken up by my wife, my children’s devoted mother who has in her efforts to become a better home-schooler educated herself in ways I have not over the years.
This conversation, though brief prayed upon me all night, stopped me sleeping even the little hours I had to sleep, though the migraine which came in the middle which jammed the on-switch on my brain probably didn’t help, but this discussion played over and over in my mind summed up neatly my thoughts through many wakeful nights these past few months.
I know my own weaknesses, I cannot allow the assumptions of others that I am someone good or great at what I do to hide the truth, at least to myself that I am not that person they think I am. Allah knows the truth, I know the truth and I am not really helping anyone, least of all myself to continue to pretend otherwise.
In the past I’ve fooled myself I would change, become this person as time went on as I lived it, but looking back to my recent past this has just not happened, and I think for the past few years I’ve known this and hidden it deep within myself.
“It is in the nature of the human being to seek a justification for his actions.”
– Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago, 1918-1956: An Experiment in Literary Investigation V-VII
I am only child in the fields I dabble in, fundamentally lacking in anything more than basic knowledge and so unable to enact change in anyway like the effectiveness I wish I could achieve.
My self development over the years has been severely lacking, forget learning arabic I am still struggling with reading the Quran fluently after 16 years of Islam and though languages is the one major area of learning I struggle with, I’ve allowed this difficulty to stop me even trying in anything like a meaningful way.
This Ramadhan has been the first time in years I have regularly prayed my sunnah prayers, rather than just the fard ones, my practice and knowledge is severely lacking yet the classes, the access to knowledge and skills was out there, I allowed myself to be distracted by being busy, but in an ineffectual manner.
In other fields I have a cursory understanding and knowledge, and being the one eyed man I’ve allowed myself to be setup as a ruler or at least and adviser among the blind when I know I can be, and should be far more.
In every aspect of my life I am falling short, deeni and other education, health and fitness, character and moral fibre, family and home, community and social life, career and wealth.
I am spread thin, running from area to area, helping this person or that project at an individual or small scale yes, but failing to build systems which could help enact change on the level on which it needs to take place.
It’s just not enough. I need to withdraw, reeducate myself, strengthen my being, redefine who I am internally and then have that reflected externally, so I become the man I know I could be, which others now wrongly think I am.
If I don’t the alternative is to know I ultimately fail in life. Myself, my family, my community and ultimately Allah who has the parameters of my being and how far I could truly go if only I pushed myself as I should and who knows how short I fall in reaching those limits.
So I am not running away, not exactly. I cannot stop everything which I have been doing, the need is too great and others are not yet willing to pick up those burdens but I am over the coming months going to be withdrawing from some activities where I can, taking up less new projects, freeing up the time I need, the space I need to grow and learn and become who I know I need to be.
I need my space each month, my time away in the cave of Hira, relaxation and reflection and not to be so busy with life and activism that I am stuck in being the role rather than becoming the man who can truly fulfill it as it needs to be filled.
For those worried about such things, I am not burned out, far from it, I am more determined than ever but I know continuing the way I have been for so long would ultimately lead me to that end, I’ve seen enough activists fall over the years to see the warning signs in myself and to take steps to avoid them if Allah wills it.
Writing is also something which I have neglected and I’ll probably be blogging more over this time also, I find I need to vent, and find the truth in what psychologists say, that far from thinking before we speak, instead giving word to my innermost thoughts helps me clarify what is true and good for me and others. I need to hear the words, or see them written to see the truth in them or not.
It is my sincere hope, that if Allah wills it, I can come back in a few years as a better man, someone people can genuinely look up to but I am not willing to keep living right now as someone I am not and if not at least I will have tried.
Assalaamu Alaykum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu,
“What we’re seeing on the streets of Birmingham and tower hamlets has not come out of the blue. It’s been building for generations. When we have drug dealers in our communities poisoning children the community turned a blind eye, some glorified them, others praised their mansions in Pakistan, the mosques happily accepted their money and prayed their funerals. When they acted out violence on the streets, we gave them respect and reverence, we looked up to them and we stayed silent. Then the younger generations saw them as their role models, we praised them fighting dogs, didn’t question where their money was coming from, the drugs, the fraud, the extortion. These criminals posed with local councillors, supported them and sometimes were from their extended families.
We were quick to take the moral high ground about atrocities around the world but remained silent on the thugs among our midst.
What we are seeing now is what we have been complicit in for years. Harsher sentencing and tougher policing won’t solve this. The solution must come from the communities where these people live and act unashamedly.”
~ Assed Baig
Assalaamu Alaykum brothers and sisters,
I saw the above image on my facebook feed and it really struck me as being totally true and the answer to so many of our problems in life, whether with others or even ourselves.
Yes, often people are stuck in terrible situations they just cannot get out of, either ones they’ve made themselves, or been trapped in by others, and in such situations sabr is the solution alongside turning to Allah in du’a and other means.
But too often, when we are looking at a problem objectively it not becomes clear there are opportunities along the way to stop the abuse, or evils taking place, to actively remove a harm but that the victim’s sabr in the face of problems actively contributed to it’s continuation or even makes things worse.
Advising sabr in such a situation as a long term ‘solution’ is not helpful, it’s absolutely harmful but it’s the first response, almost the default response from so many imams, community leaders, elders etc.