Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ramadhan 2014--goals and hopes

A blessed month of Ramadhan to all; May peace and blessings of God be bestowed upon you.

As The Holy Month of the revelation of the Holy Qu'ran begins, I wish to share what my experience will be fasting in my small town as well as some goals and hopes I have for this Holy Month. First, let me ask for forgiveness for my shortcomings and thank God for allowing me to see another Ramadhan.

As most of you now know, Ramadhan is a personally special time for me as the Greatness of God and Islam was revealed to me through the act of fasting during Ramadhan 2009. I then studied greatly for 3 years and proclaimed my faith in One God and belief in His prophet Mohammed during Ramadhan 2012. Two years later, I find myself far from where I first learnt about Islam and devout of a Muslim partner or Muslim community--my faith, however, is still strong of God's love and guidance.

As every year when Ramadhan is in the summer, the fasting hours will be long. In my community, the fasting days will last an average of 18 hours. As I am currently on medication, I will attempt to fast full days but will have to modify the schedule if my medication was to react negatively with the fasting.

It's difficult to image a Ramadhan where I am not able to connect with God through fasting. With that said, I have taken to, once again, read the Qu'ran in it's entirety and hope to be sharing passages with you throughout the holy month.

My goal is also to accomplish all 5 daily prayers, which I must admit I have failed to do during the year.

I also hope to visit neighbouring Muslim communities and do some prayerful isolations at neighbouring mosques as there are none in my locality.

Lastly, I hope to do some charity work or donate funds from small money-making endeavours.

If by my example, I can inspire believers to strengthen their own relationship with God, I pray and hope that this Ramadhan will help me find my own inspiration.

May this Holy Month provide you with strength and solace.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

From the kindness of my heart...

I have a hard time letting go of grudges. It's not a pretty thing and I am not proud of it but I let myself care about people so deeply that, when hurt, I can never regard them in the same way again. Time may pass and memories may fade but I hold onto hurt and anger like buoys, reminding my heart to steer away from pain. Worst than the grudges I hold is my desire to get even; to hurt those who have hurt me in the same way, as deeply and as long as I'm hurting. Some people don't hold onto pain as long as I do, which often serves to make me resentful and feel I should punish them some more. This is not a pretty side of me. And try as I may to forgive and forget, in my heart and my mind it is hard to let go. This is not an Islamic part of me. It's not even a kind and compassionate human side of me but I must admit to this side.

Sometimes, not often, I am able to let go of some hurt and anger and feel the need to share my forgiveness with those I have felt wronged me. That is not always smart. The people who wronged me may not have realized that I was hurt or entitled to hurting me; regardless, it often leads to further hurt and anger.

Recently, after overcoming a hard challenge and achieving an important milestone, I felt a place of peace and kindness in my heart, able to let go of hurt from the past. I reached out to someone that I had love kindly and who I've hurt and hurt me deeply, and expressed my forgiveness. He received it in kindness and forgave me in return.

I cannot say that I will ever forget the hurt nor will I ever feel for him what I delt in the past, but my heart is grateful for his humble acceptance of my forgiveness and his kind forgiveness of my own shortcomings. I haven't changed; I am still feisty, fiery and sometimes even nasty  in situations of injustice, hurt and pain, but my heart is lightened by holding a little less resentment in it for someone who has also done me great good.

I pray that all those who have wronged and been wronged can taste the sweetness of forgiveness and may we learn from the hurt and use it for good. May it enlighten and empower us rather than detract and stifle us and may we find in each other kindness.

Friday, January 31, 2014

World Hijab Day and the half-jabi'ed experiment

 Peace and blessings everybody,

Today was an interesting day at my small-town government office: World Hijab Day. Two of my colleagues and myself underwent a hijabi/half-jabi transformation. The goal? Start a dialogue about women's rights to cover or uncover as they please, inner beauty reflected in comfort and confidence and the realities of body-policing as a universal but detrimental phenomenon against women's agency. In simpler term: most societies care more about what women wear than who women are--and that's wrong!

Many studies will tell you that people are generally happier when they feel good about themselves. That's often the ruse used by the beauty industry to sell beauty to women: they attempt to sell them happiness. The problem is that this same industry put their standards just out of reach so that they can continue to sell. This standard, while increasingly true for men, has been part of women's reality for a lifetime. Women have been, at the hand of misogynous attitudes and patriarchal societies, the subject of discomfort established by companies aiming at a profit.

I'm not going to be a hypocrite: I buy in the happy/beauty myth ALL. THE. TIME. I have enough makeup to repaint my apartment; enough dresses, skirts, pants, tights, tops, jackets and cardigans to dress the entire town; and more hair products, scarves, jewelry and other accessories to decorate an 8-feet tall Christmas tree. You're selling beauty? I'm probably the first hypocrite buying into it. That's one of a number of reason I started to wear hijab a year and a half ago: it gave me the ability to fit into various standards of beauty without ever compromising my own physical esthetics. You see, I am one of those people who has a number of tattoos and often have crazy-coloured hair (I've had everything from blond to black to blue and purple) but I insist that those are strictly for myself. Even without hijab, my tattoos rarely showed (they are conveniently place for discretion) and I was extremely shy to wear my crazy hair when I had to show it. Now, I do as I please with my body--haraam police be damned--and no one is the wisest! Only God can judge me.

Having this freedom came at the price of some of my pride: my hair, once sacred, became hidden. This self-imposed modesty forced me to explore different facets of my "beauty" which once relied between my breasts and my rear-end. I will admit having a certain pride in my body but in the last year and a half, what's superseded my pride is my self-expression: my desire to show the world who I am through style and colour/pattern-coordination and, more importantly, through my actions.

So today, I let a part of that go; I told myself that this discussion was much needed and took off the piece of cloth which has enabled this re-orientation of my focus towards myself. I took it off "come what may" and would allow whatever conversation to happen. What happened, was a wonderful show of support from friends online and off but also a surprising hatred of being called "pretty" without my scarf.

Since the morning, I was incredibly uncomfortable with removing the head scarf: I knew I was doing it for a good cause and for good intentions, but all the while I resented that this actually mattered. At the dawn of the Charter of Quebec Values banning religious symbols (including hijab) in the provincial public service, as neighbours and less culturally-diverse province, I knew a statement had to be made that I *can* take off hijab but am uncomfortable doing so, because it should be my choice, not my government's choice what I wear!

So I enlisted the help of two of my wonderful colleagues and we roamed the office in a strange switcharoo: hijabi'ed/half-hijabi'ed. As the (usually) only hijabi in the office, these women constantly got mistaken for me and I got some interesting looks throughout the day. Most were simply puzzled about the change, some in "awe" of my hair--of which I only showed  my well-groomed bangs and my favourite ones were from those who simply could not put a finger on what had changed. The latter were my favourite because they'd taken such an interest in who I am that what I wore never crossed their minds or imprinted their memories. I *love* those people!

There were also the few and far between who tried to convince me that I was "much prettier" without my scarf. Some time after the third or fourth similar comment, I came to terms with my rage and anger. I felt disrespected when my colleagues valued conforming with societal ideals of "beautyh" above my comfort, but that in no way took away from my beauty. I *am* beautiful, hijab or not, and if wearing hijab is my choice then I am beautiful wearing it, if I were to decide not to wear hijab, I would still be beautiful without it. What I eventually saw in my colleagues' statements were their limitations when it came to acknowledging beauty.

It might come off as condescending, and I must admit it is to some extent, but I came to pity these
limitations. I came to wonder if they notice these limitations in other respects of their lives. I am fairly artistic and try to see beauty in everything and every one, I wonder if those who only see physical beauty in what they know would be unable to perceive beauty similarly in regards to inanimate objects, scenery and animals?

Regardless, I remain my own self; a hijabi-artiste with a flair for the unusual, unconventional, culturally diverse beauty. Monday, I will be back to work, hijab secured and bangs covered; I pray and I hope I will have had some impact on my colleagues and my community because this country is too beautiful, too great to be soiled by bigotry and body-policing.

[NOTA: While this article is written solely from my perspective wearing half-hijab for the day, I have yet to get my colleagues' experience wearing hijab--another article for another day!]