Monday, April 25, 2011

happy birthday to...

My blog! Randomly Placed turned 6 today. I've seen it through some tough times - its innocent birth and rebellious adolescence. I think RP is turning into quite the mature little thing, and it has been both strange and interesting to watch this brain child of mine develop.

Excuse me while I go eat some cake to celebrate...mostly just because I want to eat cake.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Female Leadership: The Queen of Sheba

I have spent much time ruminating about the intricacies and challenges that come along with being a leader and being female. By "leader" I do not necessarily mean the leader of an entire nation. Rather, I mean it in more of a subjective manner - a position of influence and authority regardless of how small the scope.

For a large period of my life I was lead to believe that women are inherently inadequate leaders. Perhaps it was the idea that women were overly emotional and had fewer "logical thinking" skills as men. Sometimes these things were actually said out loud (i.e. "women are ____" and you could fill in the blank with every possible generalization to be made about women). And sometimes it wasn't said, but implied through people's actions.

Needless to say, I have always had a problem with these ideas. Being in various positions of leadership over the years (and finding that - by the will of God - I was able to contribute positively in those positions), I couldn't for the life of me understand how some people could sincerely believe that females had very little to offer in this realm.

I still struggle with the barriers that are put up to discourage females from active participation in (real, influential) decision-making. I see in the eyes of females so much passion and willingness to contribute to the betterment of our community, and yet their skills are taken for granted. And it's only a matter of time until those females become tired of the dismissive attitudes they're exposed to in their own communities and move on to other places that will accept and value their abilities. That saddens me.

I was listening to Surat An-Naml, and the story of the Queen of Sheba caught my attention. I've been thinking about these verses quite a bit:

(The queen) said: "Ye chiefs! here is delivered to me - a letter worthy of respect. "It is from Solomon, and is (as follows): 'In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful: "'Be ye not arrogant against me, but come to me in submission (to the true Religion).'" She said: "Ye chiefs! advise me in (this) my affair: no affair have I decided except in your presence." They said: "We are endued with strength, and given to vehement war: but the command is with thee; so consider what thou wilt command." She said: "Kings, when they enter a country, despoil it, and make the noblest of its people its meanest thus do they behave. But I am going to send him a present, and (wait) to see with what (answer) return (my) ambassadors." (Surat An-Naml: 29-35)

I love these verses - they teach me so much about the difference between male and female leadership and the value that a female leader could potentially have. The Queen of Sheba asks her advisors for their opinion regarding Prophet Sulaiman's letter that calls them to worship the One God. Her advisors say they are strong and willing to fight. She disagrees with their take on the situation saying "Kings, when they enter a country, despoil it, and make the noblest of its people its meanest thus do they behave..." She eventually decides to handle matters with Prophet Sulaiman very differently than the advised violence of war.

What I take from this is simple: the story illustrates the potentially different leadership qualities that males vs. females possess. That is, the Queen of Sheba was concerned for the well-being of her people and land such that she did not want to instigate unnecessary war. How novel that idea is! She demonstrated a level of wisdom and foresight that would be admirable in any leader - male or female. She brought to the table a different skill-set that set her apart from other leaders, and that made her nation strong and meaningful enough to be mentioned in the Qur'an as a parable for us, the readers.

I do believe that men and women are inherently different beings, each with their strengths and weaknesses. I also believe that there is a reason that God created two different beings - and that is, that they compliment one another. Perhaps leadership styles are different amongst men and women, but those differences are precisely what make a strong community! Gathering both men and women to decide on the direction the community needs to head in will yield a balanced and positive outcome. When women are pigeonholed and only "allowed" to participate in ways that are deemed adequately "feminine"...well, everyone loses, and our community becomes imbalanced and unable to progress properly.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Students are Lazy

When I was in university (for a total of 6 years), I never missed a test or exam & I only ever handed in 2 assignments late. The 1st paper because the due date was Eid day, so I got my prof to delay the due date by a day. And the second was because the late penalty was only 1% per day (and if you ask me, any prof who makes the late penalty 1% is just asking for late papers - it felt wrong to hand it in on time).

My point is, when I observe the university students around me, I find that they're handing in papers late, asking for extensions, missing exams and forging doctor's notes. As if they can't gather the threads of their lives together long enough to do anything on time. And I just don't get it. Sure, it was always a struggle to do things on time, sure I'd pull painful all-nighters and perhaps neglect other things in life that weren't school related...but it got the job done, and it got it done on time.

Why is everyone so lazy these days? If something causes hardship, apparently it's not worth doing anymore - or it's worth faking an illness.

(I wish I was rocking back and forth in a rocking chair as I said this:)

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Getting what you Deserve

We live between two very precarious and seemingly contradictory frameworks of self-identification: one being a type of self-loathing taught to us by the capitalist market that seeks to sell us any and all types of products to enhance our beauty, intelligence, stamina, etc. The other being a sense of entitlement whereby our excessive accumulation of things does not bother us because we truly believe we deserve all possible good in the world. It's quite the conundrum; on the one hand, we hate ourselves to the point where we buy absolutely ridiculous things for exorbitant prices hoping they'll makes us love ourselves. On the other hand, we believe we are at our very essence worthy of all of these things and more.

When we encounter difficult situations in any sense, our initial reaction is to say or think: why me? What did I do to deserve something so hard, difficult, and painful in my life? Perhaps we don't often think about the essential problem from which these thoughts spring - i.e. that we are somehow entitled to a life free of pain, or that we deserve a certain level of happiness.

The fact is, we deserve absolutely nothing. There is no "life-for-dummies" manual that dictates that good things will or should come to us regardless. There is no guarantee that anything you have now will last til tomorrow. I think one of the reasons we're so unhappy as a nation is that we believe we do deserve things, when we really don't. That isn't to say that we are all horrible people who have done things that put us in the "undeserving" category. No, but there is only one category - undeserving.

One of God's Names is "Al-Wahhab" which means The Bestower of Gifts. He gives us gifts for different reasons. He may give a gift solely out of love for His slave. Or He may see that His slave is far from Him, so He gives her a beautiful gift to bring her back to thanking Him.

Allah is also "Al-Razzaq" meaning the Sustainer and The One Who gives Rizq (sustenance). But there's a difference between this name and Al-Wahhab. Allah's Name "Al-Razzaq" insinuates that a person puts forth a certain effort to sustain him/herself, and then God allows that person's sustenance to be placed upon him/her. Whereas Al-Wahhab is a Name that indicates that God is the giver of gifts without toil, simply out of a love of His slaves.

If you think about some of the amazing and unexpected things that have happened in your life that you don't believe you really deserve, like having a beautiful healthy baby, or suddenly being able to go for Hajj when you thought you couldn't afford it, or whatever it is; those things came from Al-Wahhab. The Bestower of Gifts, not because you did something to deserve it. Rather, He is fulfilling His Name and Attribute through giving these things to you.

For me, it was my husband. For the life of me, I didn't understand why I deserved to be married to someone that was so perfect for me. Just months before I'd met him, I had totally given up on marriage and no longer wanted to pursue anything related to it. But Al-Wahhab was adamant about bringing him into my life because He knew it was a gift that I would be so grateful for. Alhamdulillah.

The point is, we need to understand that in essence, we do not inherently deserve anything. God says in the Qur'an: "If Allah were to punish men according to what they deserve. He would not leave on the back of the (earth) a single living creature" (Qur'an 35:45). Clearly, if God were to give us what we truly deserved, we would no longer be here.

In order to achieve true happiness and thankfulness that is sincere and lasting, we need to come to terms with our undeserving nature. We need to know that when something good happens to us, it's not because we have self-sufficient talents that have brought the event about or true "entitlement" to that good thing. Rather, it's because Allah chose this for us for reasons that we may not understand; He is the one who empowered us to achieve any of the good things in our lives.

When we accept that all good comes from God and reject the conceited notion that we have raised ourselves up through self-sufficiency, we can begin to embark on the journey of becoming truly thankful for every day of life.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The First Shoots of Spring...

I stumbled upon this happy sight today while out on a walk with a friend of mine:

It reminds me of love.