Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dhulm: putting stuff where it really shouldn't go.

The Arabic word "dhulm" is usually translated as "injustice/oppression." Linguistically, dhulm means to place something where it doesn't belong...

In times of reflection, I often marvel at the hurtful situations I sometimes used to find myself in. It's interesting how when we are young, we go through life doing and saying things without realizing it will all have an impact on us later in life. It will impact our self-esteem, our psychology, the way we maintain relationships, etc. The things we do are not singular items that are lost in space and time. They actually build up and eventually make us into who we are. Upon thinking about this for some time, I've come to the conclusion that we cause ourselves so much pain by committing dhulm upon our own souls.

For example, in the past I've gotten my heart broken (like the majority of people alive). In reference to the concept of dhulm, I now know it's because I committed injustice towards my own heart by putting it where it did not belong - giving it to people who didn't deserve it/weren't sanctioned to have it. I think this is quite a serious form of dhulm considering the status of the heart as the centre of life - the piece of flesh that houses a spiritual essence that cannot quite be captured in human words.

It's a simple concept, but I've been analyzing my life and so many things can be explained so succinctly and adequately by using the definition of dhulm. You may not think it's mind-blowing, but the reason I've adopted this element into my framework of thinking is because I used to try to find excuses as to why things in my life weren't turning out the way that I wanted them to. I would rack my brain and sit alone for hours just trying to figure out how to fix different problems.

And now I see, I was being messy and negligent. Like I still do with the things in my room, I was just putting stuff where it didn't belong. But instead of physical items, they were emotions and thoughts and beliefs. I was putting my trust in people and things and myself, whereas I should've put my trust in God. That's major dhulm towards myself.

Notice how in the Qur'an, God often refers to some people as having wronged their own souls, even though He is referring to their disbelief in Him. So why are they being referred to as committing dhulm or oppression against themselves? Well, they took the natural desire to believe in a higher being (our fitrah) and buried it in some deep hole within themselves where it definitely didn't belong. And the results of that are devastating.

We don't often think of the concept of "oppression" being towards oneself. Rather, we externalize the blame and let ourselves think we are victims of others' dhulm towards us. But chances are, just as we lose track of our possessions, we do the same to various components of our souls. And that is root of disappointment and I believe, the root of so many evils we find in our lives.

So just put your stuff where it belongs.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Control of the "Feminine"

I'm not shy to say that I ascribe to a mainstream Islamic framework. I try my best to follow the Qur'an and Sunnah and not mix my beliefs with doubtful elements or unreliable sources. I guess you could call me an "orthodox Muslim." Within this framework, I understand that Islam is widely applicable to different societal contexts - and its rules (although they remain unchanged), apply differently in each cultural context. So within my "orthodox" views, there is still room for flexibility and acceptance of other opinions.

Don't worry, this blog post isn't about my aqeedah, rather I needed to write that preamble so that the rest of this entry can be put into context and read through that lens.

I have a problem with the way that some of our (respected) scholars interpret the "feminine" as a concept, and how they extrapolate those understandings into their discourses. I say they are respected, because that is what they are. In most matters, I can look up to their opinions and interpretations and feel confident that I can take most of what they say at face value.

But for some reason, when it comes to women, there is a deep chasm of misunderstanding and misrepresentation that happens in some Islamic literature. I was recently reading a book on the Fiqh of Marriage and I was shocked to read some of the hurtful and unsupported generalizations that the author put forth. He cited a quote by a respected scholar which literally equated a wife with a slave/servant/captive in order to prove that it is obligatory on a wife to serve her husband just as it is obligatory for a slave/servant to serve his master.

Granted, the author was quoting a scholar from many generations ago - and we know that they lived in a different era where such analyses were acceptable and normal. It is disheartening though, to see someone include something like this in a book written just a few years ago. This isn't the only example of broad generalizations made by scholars and authors alike. Women are constantly referred to as one homogeneous group which has characteristics like jealousy, overzealous emotion, and a lack of logical thinking power ascribed to it.

I have a problem with this. And this is where you need to refer back to my first paragraph. I am not a "progressive" Muslim who seeks to abandon what the Qur'an and Sunnah and our respected scholars have established. Nor am I an apologist who tries to make difficult issues look rosy and lovely. But still, I have a problem with the way that many of our communities receive and think about women. The way in which communities interact with their female population is not to be blamed on the community itself. Rather, there is an overarching system that perpetuates certain beliefs and ideologies.

Although our communities have changed drastically over the past centuries, we are still quoting dated sources when it comes to social contexts. As I mentioned before, the rulings and principles are the same, but how the topic is approached needs to change.

If I'm seeking knowledge about the fiqh surrounding marital issues, and I feel saddened after reading about how my entire sex is emotional, jealous, and lacks ability to make logical decisions, then there's something wrong. I consider myself to be a practicing Muslim woman who assesses and makes her life decisions in reference to Islam. So where does it leave me when I can't turn to these sources to obtain the knowledge that I need and crave?

It's unfortunate and dangerous - I might know another source where I can go to get information. I might have the resources available to me. But for women who don't have those options or are unaware of alternatives, something like this can be a major repellent from adhering to Islamic principles. Islamic principles are beautiful and have an immense amount of wisdom behind them, but if you present them harshly, that beauty is greatly diminished.

I hope that each woman reading these things can come to realize that a man's unsubstantiated words are not superior to her own thoughts and interpretations of her life and her role in society.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I was at the library last year and I picked up a book called "Women, Food, and God." I will admit that I judge books by their covers, and it seemed like an interesting read. I thought the book was quite intuitive and one of the author's points was that we should look at our relationship with food as a microcosm of our relationships with our emotions, loved ones, and life events.

Her argument was that our eating habits (especially for people who over eat) are deeply related to our emotions, family roots, and even our spirituality. For example, someone who grew up in a poor household or one with many family members may have experienced scarcity when it comes to food. If they didn't quickly get their piece, they wouldn't get anything. The emotions around scarcity could push someone to over eat later in life - even if those thoughts or emotions are subconscious.

Although this idea isn't that new, I found it pretty fascinating, and started making connections in my own life - not necessarily related to eating, but just related to other personality traits or characteristics.

It's one thing to think about your quirks and personality traits coming from nowhere, or somewhere, or something in a random, disorganized way. But if you stop and think about how you were raised as a child, and consequently how that upbringing deeply affects your current's pretty cool. I don't know why I'm just discovering this now.

Actually I do know why. I was having a conversation with a friend, and she was telling me that it's easy for some people to engage in argumentation and discussion, while others become easily upset and simply remove themselves from a situation that is uncomfortable. She said that she's noticed that people who have larger families and who have had to share a room with a sibling at some point will have an easier time compromising and adjusting to others' personalities, even if they find it challenging to do so. Those who were able to remove themselves from their families whenever they faced a dispute (i.e. had their own room), may have a more difficult time accepting others' arguments now.

I don't quite know if this is true, and it's definitely not a generalization, but it did make me stop and think about all my personality traits that I kinda thought came from nowhere. And now I know they came from somewhere. Trying to put together this puzzle is pretty awesome.

So maybe you got your mom's nose...what else did you get? JIGSAW TIME.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Have you ever just sat there and thought about the sun? Everything that's living benefits from it's presence - plants, animals, YOU (especially those of us who are vitamin D deficient, we get it). But having too much of it can be extremely damaging to your health.

Just think about it for a moment; how balanced it all is - not just the sun, but a lot of other elements in our lives as well. Think about how God entrusts you to create a balanced life out of the natural tools and perfect resources that He's given you.

It's mind-blowing.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Delirious Story Writing

Once upon a time there was a girl named Hankousha and a boy named Muzz. The young children were neighbours in a small village, and they used to play hide and seek in the forest beside their houses. Hankousha was very white - so white that when the sun was shining brightly, it would be hard to see her because she would blend into the sunlight. Muzz, on the other hand, was a hairy, gruff child who was a little bit scared of wolves, fires, and some kinds of birds.

Although the children were very different from one another, they still enjoyed one another's company every day after school. They would run home holding hands. Whenever they had to cross the street, Muzz would tighten his grip on Hankousha's hand and quickly run across to keep her safe. Even though he didn't say it, Hankousha had known Muzz was in love with her since they first met when Muzz's family decided to move to their town.

One day Muzz was sick and Hankousha didn't see him at school. As she hurried back from school to check on him, she ran into a duck covered in gold necklaces. She was shocked to see such a sight in the middle of a crowded street. So she stopped and asked the heavily adorned duck "ducky, why are you covered in gold?" The duck began to speak in a clear British accent saying "you see my child, ancient Egyptians used to worship me during the night..." she quickly interrupted "err, why just during the night?" The duck rolled its eyes and said "silly child, because they worshiped the sun during the day, so once the sun went down, they needed something to occupy their time." Hankousha stared at the duck incredulously. She began to doubt her sanity, so quickly continued on her path home.

Once she was home, she threw her school books on the table and told her mom she was going to visit Muzz. Her mother, who happened to be a very large fish who could magically walk and breathe regular oxygen turned to her and said: "okay honey, but don't be late because we're having your favourite food for dinner: chocolate-stuffed spinach!" Hankousha was happy that she would be eating the best food on the planet, but decided to visit Muzz first.

She skipped to his house in a pink and yellow dress, singing Mariah Carey songs out loud. She was out of breath by the time she arrived to his house and knocked on his door three times. She waited and waited but nobody answered the door. Now she started getting worried. She ran to the back of the house to see if they had left a window or door open. Luckily, she found a tiny opening in the window, so she transformed into a snake and slithered into the house. Once she was inside, she turned back into her pretty girly self and started looking around. The house smelled lovely, as though Muzz's mom had just baked cupcakes. But all the lights were off and it seemed like nobody was home. She ran upstairs only to find that all the beds were empty. She started to panic...what could've happened to Muzz? Where was he? Was he so sick that they had to take him to the hospital?

She ran down the stairs so she could race out the door to keep searching for him. Before she opened the door to leave, she noticed a note sitting on top of the dining room table. It had her name on it! She took it into her hands and opened it slowly, afraid of what she might find inside. As she unfolded it, she began to sweat and feel her surprise, the note only had one word in it: "BOO." For a second, Hankousha was very confused. Then she felt two hands grab her violently by her shoulders, the fingers digging into her skin. She twisted to get away and a scream was right about to exit her throat when she saw the hands that were on her. They were a bit dark, hairy, and she recognized those nails that needed to be clipped. She turned around gasping, it was Muzz.

He grinned and said "boo."

Sunday, March 06, 2011

why I can't write a book

My friend tells me that I should write a book. I suppose I could write a book(let). I tried to write a book in 2008 and I got writer's block after approx 700 words & I subsequently quit. I think I've gotten used to this blogging style of writing - i.e. short snippets of thoughts, random pictures, descriptions of moments or emotions...but no consistent thread to keep it all together.

I'm missing that brain thread. It's all ripped up in my mind and I'm not sure if I can make it proper again.

Anyway, what would I write about?

Friday, March 04, 2011

Every human being needs to feel useful.

To be loved is great, to be sought after...sure. To feel intelligent or worthy, okay. But the crux of it all is usefulness. Sure, you can be the smartest person on earth; but if you can't put that intelligence to work or do something amazing with it, then what's the point of even having it?

Usefulness is a base human need. Forget Maslow's hierarchy of needs or whatever other theories are emerging in your thoughts right now. A person needs to be useful. And right now, I feel useless. And that's on of the most destructive and suffocating states of mind a person can be in.

I'm choking on my uselessness.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011