Sunday, August 31, 2008

Ramadan Mubarak with a twist

Ramadan Mubarak to all you random readers :) May the tranquility of this month be reflected in your lives, and may God accept all your good actions.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

God is Great(er)

Sometimes I forget God. Allah.

I am too engrossed in life. Oh, life. The ins and outs, the ups and downs. Even making my daily prayers doesn't seem to snap me out of my forgetfulness.

Then suddenly there are moments we find buried under the dirty laundry of life, moments of clarity and truth. And we remember "Allahu Akbar," literally, "God is Greater."

It's easy to keep our heads in the clouds blaming others for our pain and taking credit for all the good in our lives. But it's difficult and humbling to remember that God is the source of it all.

We say it everyday. It's the start to each of our prayers, meant to separate your unimportant life from the importance of prayer. Because God IS Greater.

Greater than you or I. Greater than the talents and achievements we claim are of our own doing. He is above what paltry pain we feel in this world. Above the mundane things that we believe constitute a life.

I'm trying to remind myself, God is Greater.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Educating the Muslim Female

I've been trying to sort these sentiments in my mind for quite some time, so writing them out clearly will be difficult. Kindly bear with me...

I grew up with a clear path of education. It was naturally expected for me to go to university, and to pursue higher education. It was never simply an "option." I was pushed to do the best at whatever endeavours I decided to undertake.

In university, I was indoctrinated with the notion of individuality, empowerment and self-determination. I was taught that what and who I wanted to be, was completely in my hands. So I made myself in those four years, out of a combination of valuable personal relationships and classroom education. That was followed by a year in the workforce. Which was both scary (at first) and enlightening. Soon I embark on 2 years of graduate school.

And yet there was something missing all along. And that is true empowerment.

The more I contemplate it, it seems to me that Muslims educate their daughters with the intention of producing educated housewives. In short, education is about theory and not practice. In my limited experience, an incredible amount of concentration is put on marriage in a young woman's life - as opposed to truly empowering her and allowing her to make choices about her future.

For example, if a woman of education reaches her late 20's and is still unmarried, it seems there is suddenly a "too-empowered" stigma attached to her name. It's as though marriage defines women, and without it we are unnatural. I do not deny there is a natural desire for partnership, but I question our community's perception of what a woman is without it.

I often feel frustrated being in a Muslim family. I'm not proud of these frustrations of mine. Believe me, it's a conflicting and negative feeling to have. (Perhaps the phenomenon is also found in non-Muslim families, but I speak from experience only.)

Though we've been taught to make decisions on our own, I find that being female and Muslim sometimes means some of our decision are made for us, and not by us. And thus there can only be one product of that: an ever-increasing frustration with the situations we find ourselves in.

It may be arrogant of me to presume these frustrations are born out of education. But being educated gives rise to the notion that one has full jurisdiction over one's life. But there's the Islamic notion of the "wali" (guardian) to reckon with.

I don't mean to be "blasphemous" with these words, I apologize if anyone feels offended. All I mean to do is express myself in a way that I feel is honest and true to reality.

It's not that I desire rebellion in any serious way. My rebellion is minuscule and quiet, often taking form in wholly insignificant things like buttons, the way I dress, or the sometimes humourous manner in which I address people. So no, it's not that I want to go out and do something my family and community would hate, just to prove I am independent. Not at all.

It's simply a bewitching concept to know that no matter the extent of your education and experience in this world, there are limits set upon you simply because of your sex. But what to do? Either you not educate a woman, and thus legitimize your control over her, or enrich a woman's mind and deal with the consequences of her new-found power.

I personally have these conflicts in my psyche - perhaps I am alone in this. Nonetheless, I have yet to determine what a proper psychological solution for it is. I am wary of extremes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Home

I got home a few days ago, to the quiet roads of Toronto. To the home with reliable hot running water. To quiet mornings and quiet nights.

But it seems the tumultuous Egyptian landscape has followed me home. Internalized chaos I suppose. I didn't quite notice I had any conflicting or chaotic feelings when I was there. Mostly because there was so much external chaos that the internal didn't quite show.

I thought coming back to Toronto would be this immense relief. A load off of my mind and heart. But it isn't quite what I hoped for.

They say home is where the heart is. I used to look for my home in physical places. I used to think that familiar surroundings and in-depth knowledge of how things around me function, constituted a "home." I'm starting to see that I'm wrong.

Don't think that it's a simple question of whether my home is in Egypt or in Canada. Physical space and landscape is relatively irrelevant in the grand scheme. It's not about countries. It's more complicated than that. Home is about love and people.

And then the natural question that follows is: if your "home" disappoints you, how do you just get up and find another? Relocating your body is easy. It's the relocation of your heart that's the hard part.