As a ginger person, I am glad scientists are finally getting around to debunking many of the racist myths about my ancestors 😀
Okay, so I may possibly have a tiny fraction of Neanderthal DNA according to some scientific theories, but the way Victorian and even later scientists have literally de-humanised our larger browed hairy cousins says a lot about the way people view ‘the other’ and the racism of past and present and how we can all easily fall into such thinking.
One by one, the myths about Neanderthals are getting tossed out of the window as archaeological evidence shows rather than being savage, cannibalistic primitives, they showed just as much art, culture – including care for the dead and cuisine as homo-Sapiens of the same time period.
Assalaamu Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu my few readers,
I am writing this primarily for myself, few people come to this blog anymore, well even fewer than before and that’s okay, this is being written mostly for my own benefit, to get my thoughts in order, set them down so I can read this later in life and if I help others sort out the mess in their own heads that is a bonus.
It’s been over a year since I semi-retired from this blog, as well as most of my da’wah activities and events and withdrew myself somewhat from life to reflect and think about where I am going, how I am moving forward or not in life.
I did at the time write a long ish post on the matter, linked in the pic here –>
Since then it’s been been dark but interesting times as I’ve gone through every section of my life, evaluated it and ruthlessly thrown out everything which was not True or didn’t bring any genuine benefit to me.
But on the truth, it’s so often the case that we’re all lies, deceptions, built upon half truths, built upon misconceptions and we rarely truly do anything of real value because we are not willing to admit how much of that surface stuff and even a lot of the under surface stuff is just false facing for others and more often to ourselves.
O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. Quran translation, Surah An-Nisa, 4:135
So I’ve scrapped, pulled, cut and at times ripped mask after mask away to see the person within. Peeling back layer after layer to see new layers of lies underneath because Allah knows all this other stuff was not true and how much I was harming myself and being unable to help others around me because of the years of crap built up which just wasn’t me and wasn’t true.
It’s also been a painful time, lying is always wrong but I have found the hardest lies to admit to are the ones we tell ourselves. Some of them really didn’t want to go, they seemed a part of me and in a way they were, they’re comforting but anything not true had to go.
So I told myself I was a da’ee, a caller to Allah and that this may compensate for my shortcomings in other areas of the deen. Now when I look back, I’ve examined my actions truly and deeply so much of it was riya, showing off either at the time or I would destroy my deeds later by talking about them to draw attention to myself, or allow others to do so on my behalf and big me up in a way which was not at all justified.
These stories we tell ourselves and tell others are how we interact with the world, but that doesn’t make them true or useful and they can often be the barrier holding us back from doing anything meaningful.
I told myself I was morally a good man, but much of the good I did I did out of an expectation that others would behave likewise towards me, it was selfish and often self destructive emotionally when it was not reciprocated, causing me to lash out and hurt others which in turn I think showed people at times on some level my good deeds lacked sincerity.
How often can we say we truly do a good deed just for the sake of seeking the reward of Allah and not in seeking reward or praise from others? In that I would also include self-praise, self-deception, fooling ourselves, flattering and fattening up our egos which is one of the most long term damaging forms of showing off.
In failing to be a ‘good man’ I also admit I was also not much of a man, falling short in my obligations to myself, my family and my community. I am not a good man, or much of a man at all, and I am okay with that because acknowledging that is the first step to changing and learning what manhood really is again then living that.
I am having to slow things down for a time, I have to reexamine every deed I do now to see if I am genuine or not, then correct my intention and if I cannot then don’t do it because there is no reward in this action.
Now for the last couple of months after what has seemed like an age of effort I finally feel I’ve hit bedrock, the real me below all the other crap and hitting rock bottom is actually not such a bad place to be if you’ve prepared for it and aimed for it deliberately and there is a purity of vision, a simplicity that has it’s own beauty and attraction.
I can also with out all the fluff in the way see the hurt and damaged parts of myself I need to fix, and more easily see negligence and even malice that caused or still causes me that hurt and I have become much less tolerant of it.
I am cold, naked and vulnerable, it’s kinda uncomfortable but it is the real me. Being uncomfortable is valuable, it tells us something is off, we shouldn’t be avoiding such feelings or smothering them down but embracing them, contemplating them and finding out how to change ourselves to make sure we’re not uncomfortable with that aspect of ourselves in the future because we’ll have achieved permanent change.
An easy example of this is my physical health, my body itself is not just a bit out as I would convince myself previously for many years. I am not just fat, I am technically in the obese range, I am a fat man’s fatty. I have to lean forward to see my toes.
I was gifted with a frame which allowed for physical strength, fought my way through school, played rugby but I have done nothing since, I am not strong or tough and the inner impression of who I was was off, way off with who I actually was in reality.
I absolutely should feel that is wrong, it’s uncomfortable knowing I’ve let things go so far, so do I allow myself to push such feelings down, go for good quick emotional highs with time with others, or food or escape in a book, documentary or computer game or do I get out walking, do some jogging on the spot or some weights?
I am not who I should be. I know now given I’m in my early forties I will never be the man I could have been but now I must concentrate on being the best man I can be from here on out.
For those who know me personally I may seem withdrawn but that is because all the other stuff I did or said was not me and now I am ready to start growing again in a more productive way.
This time without all the lies, to others and to myself.
I am going to try to write more, on this blog and elsewhere to document my growth and it is this potential growth that allows me to see my failures, my product of past lies and see a way forward, that I am going to be able to choose a different path this time if I keep myself spiritually, emotionally and mentally strong.
Though it is addressed to the Muslims in America, every single aspect of this khutbah could be addressed to the Muslims of the UK or any other western country.
He talks about the racism in wider society, and how as Muslims living in the west we will never help fix this problem until we first address the racism in our own community, and how the racism among Muslims is worse, YES WORSE than the wider society.
We need to fix ourselves up, start setting the example for the rest of society and not keep wallowing in cultural and islamic nostalgia, may Allah swt guide us, and to to the straight path, ameen.
O children of Adam, take your adornment at every masjid, and eat and drink, but be not excessive. Indeed, He likes not those who commit excess.
Quran translation, Surah al-A’raf, 7:31
Assalaamu Alaykum brothers and sisters,
We’re all used to hearing about an unrealistic body image being promoted for women in the modern world and yes this is a terrible problem, leading to depression, anxiety, eating disorders (over as well as under eating) and suicides among many, including our young (and sometimes not so young) sisters. We cannot deny how huge an issue this has become but are we not guilty as a society of the same when it comes to men?
THE UNACHIEVABLE MALE BODY IMAGE
Given these same eating disorders are now affecting males, as well as physiological problems relating to health and fitness I think it’s fair to state now that modern media, social media, artwork and overall society is promoting just as an unhealthy body image of men as they’ve done in the past with women. Body images which are just as unreachable as those female equivalents that are now so widely recognized as so damaging on the minds and bodies of women that we see some city authorities wanting to ban from the public space so should we not recognize the dangers to men also?
STRUGGLING WITH DEMOTIVATION
This unachievable male body image was something which disheartened me recently as I’ve looked into getting back to a more healthy state. I just knew I am never going to be thin nor will I ever be the right shaped human to get that V upper-body figure most men crave.
I’m a human being, and as I read article after article on health and fitness it affects me on some level seeing the accompanying images (most likely photo-shopped), a body image I’ll never achieve no matter how long or how often I worked out or did sports.
This was something which can be a huge downer and as I read others blogs and online material I know it is something which can make many, men and women, want to give up almost before they start. I think if it was not for the fact I know I’m failing in my Islamic obligations by being so out of shape I’d have been far more tempted to give up myself by now after just a few weeks or eating more sensibly and a wee bit of regular exercise.
Narrated by A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) who said: “The first calamity for this nation after the Prophet’s death is fullness of their stomachs; when their stomachs became full, they became obese and their hearts weakened and their desires became wild.”
Sahih al Bukhari
Thinking about all of this brought my wandering and desperate thoughts back to my favourite part of the Quran, a couple of verses I come back to again and again when faced with difficulty in life.
Do think the people that they will be left because they say, “We believe” and they will not be tested? And indeed, We tested those who (were) before them. And Allah will surely make evident those who (are) truthful and He will surely make evident the liars.
Quran translation, Surah al-‘Ankabut, 29:2-3
So I knew I just had to keep going, even with the occasional slips, and disheartening as it is get to the best I can be and in every instance of being tested we have difficulties, and I find if you keep looking at a problem from different angles you’ll find a way through the problem.
AN EPIPHANY THROUGH FACEBOOK
So I kept walking as I do when I want to think, or just to relax and still this problem would trouble me, I couldn’t think of a way through until one day on opening facebook in the morning the following image came up.
I looked, and looked again and it hit me that the 1st image on the left, that is something I can never achieve, but the 2nd image, the one of the right, yes I could see myself looking like that after plenty of work.
Guidance from Allaah comes sometimes in the strangest places, one conversation, one quote, one meme or picture can change our perception for us, Allah opens up our minds and allows us to view things from a different perspective.
As I continued to think about the problem I realized there is no one ideal body shape, or even just a few different body images, each difficult or almost impossible to achieve for myself and most others. Instead each of us has our own ideal size and strengths we can work towards.
As I read more about this topic I realized more and more the ‘healthy’ body image given to us is actually unhealthy, and almost impossible to achieve hence why men are now increasingly resorting to plastic surgery to get that ‘perfect’ muscle structure implanted into their bodies.
You may be small, wiry, you’ll also never achieve that V upper body, but maybe you’ll run marathons one day which I’ll likely never do. You may be large like myself and aim to be strong and healthy in a different way. Each is good, none is wrong, none are ideal for everyone, each of us needs to tailor our health and fitness to best suit the hand we’ve been dealt.
Though the Sahabah all sought to be healthy, as taught in the Quran and by our beloved Nabi Muhammad ibn Abdullah (Sallallahu alayhi wa salam), they were a differing bunch of people as we all are today.
Some thin like Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (may Allah be pleased with him), some large like Umar ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him), some tall and some short, differing looks, differing physiques, they strove and struggled just as we do today and by living a moderate life according to the guidance given to them and us they achieved a balance in such matters of health and fitness as they sought balance and a moderate path in all areas of life.
So for myself I know I need to keep working hard, striving for the sake of Allah and know Allah doesn’t measure me against others but against myself, knowing what I am personally capable of doing.
My health didn’t get so bad in just a matter of weeks, it took years of neglect and it will take many more months and years to get back to something approaching acceptable and I have to accept that and keep going.
For those of you in the same boat as me, all need to remember it’s not just a physical battle we’ve got going on here, but a mental, emotional, even spiritual battle as well to get ourselves and keep ourselves in the best possible health and I think we need to put to one side and maybe ignore many of the things we see around us, instead aiming for a body image which is personal to us, the best each of us can be.
So I do actually have a job, it’s not well paid but to make it clear I’m not one of those dole-wala types chilling all day online because I should be paid by society as I’m doing ‘dawah.’
I am not one of those guys, and I do love my job working in a community centre, they pay me to help people which I’d happily do for free if I was rich, but unfortunately I’m not. Rich that is, I am happy most of the time Alhamdulillah.
But not being rich, the charity sector not paying well, the cost of living going up, as well as house rental costs rising at an alarming rate I’ve found myself facing the prospect of being on the job scene after many years away.
Times are tough, and only going to get tougher, the country is effectively broke and living off it’s credit cards due to spending tonnes of money we didn’t have on public services, disastrous foreign adventures and of-course bailing out all those toff merchant bankers who almost pushed the world economy off a cliff a few years ago.
So cuts are biting for everyone, the benefit caps coming in in November which is going to hit so many people, prices are rising and I am finding myself looking for part-time work at a time when everyone else is probably deciding it’s a good time to do the same.
What is more, to make matters more difficult in finding extra work, it needs to be something which will fit around my existing position and I am totally looking forward to going from the jolly flexible role in the charity sector to the strife and struggle of trying to find time for family, shopping, friends, studies, going for salaat with working 2+ jobs.
APPLICATIONS DUTY SENT
Applications have been duly sent in to usual agencies, the job centre, subtle and not so subtle queries made to friends and family and I also applied for a number of call centre positions in my city. Yes I’m probably a bit old for call-centres but it’s something I’ve done before and let’s be honest, though it also doesn’t pay well it is easy money.
I must have applied for 200+ jobs in the space of the past 3 weeks, had a few call backs from agencies for entirely unsuitable jobs, either the hours were not right, they were expecting me to go self-employed (Been there, done that, never again), or they wanted me to work in places as a Muslim I’d rather not go near.
“No thank you for the kind offer, but as a Muslim I really don’t want to work in the head office for a pub chain, nor do I want to work in HR in a Pork Pie factory.”
But then out of the blue I got a call back today from the very first job I applied for on that first day of looking. I had assumed I’d failed somehow as not heard anything back and they’d had a totally evil online application form and devilish mathematics quiz attached which I assumed I’d failed.
The call took about 40 minutes and despite my mobile sound cutting out and being crackly all the way through I managed to pass the dreaded phone interview and I’ve been invited to an further interview and work based assessment tomorrow morning, look, here is the confirmation email!
DAVID BRENT NEVER GOT FIRED HE JUST GOT MOVED SIDEWAYS TO HR
If Allah wills it and I am successful tomorrow, I’ll begin training later this month which will be lots of fun… think if they try to make me do that ‘trust-exercise thing’ where someone drops backwards I’m thinking of moving to drop them straight to the floor.
Well maybe not… unless I really don’t like the guy then I am up for it but really cannot stress enough how much I cringe at these training days, but at least if I’m successful I’ll have more money coming in, and maybe, just maybe I’ll finally have a bit left over to start saving up and getting ahead in the financial stakes.
Would appreciate if those reading this can raise their hands and make a quick dua for me to be successful tomorrow, or even a long dua, or even setting your alarm for tahajjud and getting up and making lots and lots of dua for me, and the rest of the ummah as well of-course. Please?