Today a person lives two lives: their real life, and their life online. Sometimes those two lives match up; other times, one life is merely a persona for the other—and sometimes it’s hard to tell which.
September 16, 2015
I went back to wearing my Canadian attire. Jeans, cargo shorts, t-shirts, hat. I feel like I can just present myself as I am now. God doesn’t look at the clothes you wear, or the colour of your skin. He looks at your heart. You can have the nicest thaub with the most rotten heart; you can wear rags and have a heart of light. Perhaps my Umrah had something to do with that. Sheikh Tamir said something powerful: with ihram, you can have the nicest hair, but for a while, you have no hair at all. You can wear the nicest clothes, but for a while, you’re wearing the simplest and most humble clothes imaginable. Ihram puts everyone on the same level. It lowers you into that state to remind you that you are a servant. Continue reading “20. “Clothes” (The Hajj Journal)”
September 12, 2015
I also experienced how it feels to be “the other”. In my jeans and button-up shirt and hiking shoes, I felt like an oddity among the sea of white thaubs and kurtas. At least 90% of the people wore some form of Arabic clothing. For so long I fought against the notion of having to “Arabize” myself. But now it’s pretty much become a necessity. And I mean that quite literally, because even with my tolerance for warm temperatures, I’m nearly dying in my jeans, shirt and socks. I bought a couple thaubs and a kurtah... [which have] helped me to feel more comfortable (both physically and emotionally –these things pretty much breathe when you’re outside).
September 9, 2015
Here I am, at the Edmonton airport, closer than I’ve ever been to my dream of Hajj. It’s 9:30 PM and I’m tired. Around me, families are gathering –no doubt part of our group—to see their loved ones off. My Dad dropped me off, hugged me, and wished me a good trip…
Part of me is still in awe that it’s happening. God willing I’ll be on the other side of the world, in the holy city of Medina, in a few days’ time. We leave at midnight, land in Toronto at about 7 AM. Then depart from Toronto at 1 PM and land in Jeddah at 7 AM the next day. After that, a 7 hour wait to fly to Medina. After that, jetlag. However, there’s still many miles—sorry, kilometers—to cross between here and there. Anything could happen in that time.
Am I afraid? Only as much as is reasonably necessary. I think my life post-Hajj is more frightening to me. Who will I be when I come back? Where will my life go? I keep hearing how Hajj is a transformative experience. How it’s a completion of your faith. But what will that mean for me?
Preparing to leave for Hajj is like preparing to leave your life behind. In the days leading up to Hajj, it was like I was planning on checking out of my life for good: I had to eat all perishable food in my place, I tried to see all my friends at least one more time before I left, and yes, it was even recommended to write up my will—which I did. The last thing I did was drive to my parent’s place and drop my car and my cat off. I had to square with the notion that I may never be coming back home. And that’s something that plagued me more during my trip than I thought it would.
But assuming I made it home safely, it was my post-Hajj life is what worried the most. A general fear of change has always hovered over me, especially on the verge of life-changing decisions like this one. I knew that it would take some readjustment going back to my normal life. But the question I wondered was: who was I going to be? Whether it was Hajj or even just attending a conference, one fear that always plagued me is that I would somehow come back as a hardcore, humourless extremist. I didn’t fear so much a change in my life as a change in my personality and, by extension, my identity.
I remember every English teacher I ever had—even back in the Elementary school days when it was called “Language Arts”.
It shouldn’t be surprising that English was my favourite subject. But in addition, I was also blessed with a good run of English teachers throughout my academic life (with one exception in Grade 8). I can say with confidence that the teachers who were the most influential, and most responsible for shaping my mind and inspiring my imagination were my English teachers.
This is you.
Being a Muslim convert means you’re almost constantly balancing this strange in-between world, living neither here nor there. On the one hand, you have your old life: your family, friends, habits, and actions that were around prior to you accepting Islam. On the other hand, you have your new life: a life of God, brotherhood, mosques, imams and worship. And to each you are, in a way, an oddity. Continue reading “The In-Between”
Today, the mosque in the town of Cold Lake, Alberta was vandalized. Windows were smashed, and the vandals spray painted the walls. “Go home” was scrawled in crimson red. And if you were to ask the vandal what they meant by “home”, they would probably be as specific as “Saudi Arabia” or as vague as “the Middle East”. Never mind that the highest concentration of Muslims is in Indonesia, the implication is that somehow by virtue of being Muslim, our home is across the ocean, in a land many of us have never visited with people we have never met. That we are strangers due to our race and creed, foreigners in our own land.
It must be easy to be a LEGO figure.
For starters, you know exactly who you are: you’re Johnny Thunder, or Flex, or the Brickster. Even superheroes have it easy: Peter Parker and Spider-man are each their own person. No need to deal with secret identities. No identity crises. No need to go on self-discovering journeys or intense soul-searching. Continue reading “Made of Plastic”
A month ago, I interviewed four Muslim women about the hijab and why they chose to wear it. Each one told a unique and fascinating story about how they came to wear the hijab, and what it meant to them. To these women, the hijab is not something to hide behind, but rather an outward expression of identity, faith and dignity.
Head over to Modern Equality and read the rest of the story!