Being Muslim British Asian and Female.
So, I’m ready. I’ve prepared for this for ages, I am not going to give up now and I simply can’t give up now. I’ve got thoughts flying through my head as to what my family will think, the community around me and the wider world. What will they think of Muslims? But I’ve got to do it, I need to please Allah. At the end of the day, it’s between me and God and I’m willing to do what’s necessary to attain Jannah.
You see, we all make decisions, we are all responsible for our own thoughts and actions.
What did you think when you were reading this through? What do you understand of Jihad and what kind of Jihad did you think I was speaking about?
Jihad means to ‘struggle’, it means to ‘commit in the way of Allah’. But there are two types of Jihad, the lesser and the greater Jihad. Although it seems the wrong way round, the Jihad we hear about is the ‘lesser’ Jihad, although NOT in the way we hear about it. The greater Jihad, is that of the self. This is known as ‘Jihad al Nafs’, fighting against the self, psyche and the ego. Battling with yourself where you’re being told to take the easy path, often the ‘bad’ path that leads to no good. We fight against this all the time, every single one of us.
Fighting against the ego.
The reason for the difference is quite clear. Going out to fight on a battle field is relatively easy (let me finish, please), in the sense that others will see and consider you an instant hero. They will remember you and what you’ve done, yet deep down you might not agree with it. With the lesser Jihad, that of the self, it’s between you and God only. No-one else knows about it, and the decisions you make are for that reason alone. Kind of like when we do actions in public, who do we do them?
In fact, if I consider for a minute my love for football. It’s the Champions League Final, Manchester United are drawing 2-2 against Barcelona, and it’s the 90th minute. Just then, you hear it. The Adhaan, the call to prayer. It’s time for the fourth prayer of the day, and it must be prayed before the sun goes down. I can’t stop watching now, there’s bound to be another goal, because, well, Manchester United ‘always score‘, but, the time for prayer is passing too. My mind is telling me the football game will only last another 2 minutes, and there’s twenty minutes for prayer.
But that’s utter madness. How can I claim to love God, how can I claim to be a Muslim and then put something materialistic like that ahead of Him? Exaggeration I know, but what if I’m eating something, choke on it and die, the last decision I would’ve made was to place football ahead of prayer. We’ll assume we have no Sky so can’t pause the game. But I have to pray, I can always watch the game again later, it’ll be on YouTube or something. But the time for prayer will not come again. We are commanded to pray. There’ll be plenty of football games.
I love football, but it’s my third love, it comes after my love for Islam and my family. I’ve made ample sacrifices and would again. I know for some it’s the be all and end all, and I will probably not be considered a ‘real supporter’ for many, but at the end of the day, it’s just a game. For me as a Muslim, it will be have no purpose in the afterlife.
Actually, I remember when I was younger and would come home and slouch infront of the TV. My mum would come and remind me it’s prayer time. But ‘oh my goodness Mum, just one minute, and now look, I didn’t hear what they said!’ I’d murmur something and tut and carry on, say I’ll go pray in a few minutes. My dad would walk in later, one glare and I’d be gone. How wrong of me, looking back, this makes me feel sick. The importance of parents cannot be underestimated in Islam at all. The have a right over us. Allah says in the Quran:
Thy Lord hath decreed that you worship none but Him and that you be kind to parents. If one or both of them attain old age with thee, do not say a word of annoyance (Literally, “Do not say Uff! (an expression of annoyance) to them.” (Trans.)) to them nor repulse them, but speak to them in gracious words and in mercy lower to them the wing of humility and say, My Lord, bestow Thy mercy on them, as they cherished me when I was little….(17:23-24)
And even above that, I was ‘scared’ or probably showed more respect to my dad when I was growing up than I did to my mum, yet Islam has such an esteemed status of women in Islam, particularly mothers. There is a hadith which states:
Abu Hurayra reported: “A man came to the Prophet of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and asked, ‘What do you command me to do?’ He replied, ‘Be dutiful towards your mother.’ Then he asked him the same question again and he replied, ‘Be dutiful towards your mother.’ He repeated it yet again and the Prophet replied, ‘Be dutiful towards your mother.’ He repeated the question a fourth time and the reply was, ‘Be dutiful towards your mother.’ Then he put the question a fifth time and the Prophet said, ‘Be dutiful towards your father.'”
The emphasis on the importance of mothers in Islam simply cannot be underestimated. This is a personal Jihad in itself, this is an inner struggle, to hold your tongue. How many of us think we know better than our parents? And even if we might be right, they brought us up when we were young, so they have a right over us, we must speak to them with respect. How difficult it can be in some situations to hold your tongue. Yet we must, this is part of our journey of Jihad.
How hypocritical of me would it be to carry on watching the game? Islam has five pillars, these are the core beliefs that make you a Muslim,
Shahadah – This is the declaration of faith, this is where you state that you believe in one God and His final messenger, Muhammad (peace be upon him)
How can I say I believe in one God, and then miss a prayer to watch a football game. Talk to a friend. Or do whatever else it is I’m doing. Surely, I am then putting a ‘worldly pleasure’ above God? Surely, I am then saying I worship this instead? ‘Shirk’ in Islam is associating partners with Allah, ‘Tawhid’ is believing in the oneness of Allah. Both of these are extensive philosophical subjects to discuss, but associating partners doesn’t necessarily mean just idols, in this context it can mean celebrities and whatever else has taken preference in your life.
Salah – The obligatory five daily prayers. Crucial in the daily life of a Muslim. If I explain obligatory as being ‘fard’, over the day there are ’17 fard parts’, which span out over the five prayers. It takes on estimate a minute to pray each one. So what, I claim to believe in God but I can’t give Him 17 minutes of my day? There are other ‘sunnah’ prayers which are associated with the 5 too.
Zakah – This is the requirement by all Muslims to share their wealth, 2.5% at the end of Ramadhan to the poor. Cleanse your wealth, your soul, show your gratitude to your Lord for what you have and give in His way. But, you don’t just give. A hadith by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) states:
“There are seven whom Allah will shade in His Shade on the Day when there is no shade except His Shade… a man who gives in charity and hides it, such that his left hand does not know what his right hand gives in charity; and a man who remembered Allah in private and so his eyes shed tears.'” (Abu Hurairah & collected in Saheeh al-Bukhari (English trans.) vol.1, p.356, no.629 & Saheeh Muslim (English trans.) vol.2, p.493, no.2248)
See, the importance of intention and consciousness is crucial. As Muslims, we CANNOT and should not tell others of the good deeds that we have done, just like we like to hide the bad deeds we have committed, in the same manner we hide our good. Because, they are between us and our Lord. Compare that to the society we live in, people like to tell the public how much they have given in charity. But why? If you’ve given it, you have given it for yourself, not for others.
Sawm – The obligation to fast during the month of Ramadhan. Again, there is a saying from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that:
Abu Huraira: Many people who fast get nothing from their fast except hunger and thirst, and many people who pray at night get nothing from it except wakefulness (Darimi).
Again here, it is about change in your inner self. Allah does not accept the fast of the person who was simply hungry for the entire day, He wants us to change. And reap the rewards of the blessed month. Likewise when it comes to praying, there is no point in fulfilling the actions of prayer if all we are doing is moving up and down, like a yoga lesson, we must find a connection within ourselves towards Allah.
Hajj – The pilgrimage to Makkah, in relation to that which was acted by the Prophet Ibrahim. (I will go into more detail on this in another blog, as it is now Hajj season 🙂 )
It is pretty easy for me to see someone an old woman on the road and help her cross, but why did I help her cross? Was it because someone was looking? Or was it because my inner self told me to? Was my consciousness alive, and I did this act for the sake of Allah? In a similar manner in Islam, if you do an act because you want to be ‘rewarded’ for it, then it doesn’t hold the same purpose or weight, actions you commit are out of the goodness of your heart and for the love of Allah. Would we stop and pick something up from the road if no-one was watching? (On that note, another favourite hadith of mine:
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.” He was then asked: “From what do we give charity every day?” The Prophet answered: “The doors of goodness are many…enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms–all of these are charity prescribed for you.” He also said: “Your smile for your brother is charity.” – Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98
I remember reading a quote once, ‘The websites we visit, are a reflection of us,‘ and this couldn’t be more true. How many times have we as people visited a ‘dodgy’ website because we thought no-one was looking, but when people are around we’re on ‘intellectual’ websites, because it makes us look good. What’s the point, we’re lying to ourselves.
Being a Muslim in Britain, has many advantages, and I would be here all day listing them, but there are also disadvantages, which we can work to our advantages as we struggle towards the path that Allah wants of us. For many females, this struggle comes in the way of a headscarf. Wearing a headscarf to cover the hair of a woman is considered obligatory. But you know, that is NOT what a headscarf is all about. As a Muslim woman I consider myself as something like a diamond, we wouldn’t keep them uncovered in view of everyone, so why should I keep myself uncovered? But with the headscarf comes a responsibility. It’s about being a good Muslim, and not just wearing modest dress but being modest in your dealings with others. Modest in your language, approach and the way you speak to others. One of the reasons I find it incredibly hard at interviews, because I don’t really like sitting there saying how amazing I am (not that I am saying I am).
It’s not just the headscarf though, another issue close to the Muslim youth is that of the opposite sex, Islam strictly prohibits relationships before marriage (again, this is another upcoming blog so I won’t go int detail), so when we come into contact with them, we need to show self restraint. Allah tells us to ‘lower our gaze’, when speaking to another. Consider their personality not their looks. We’ve become so absorbed and obsessed in the celebrity culture that Muslims are beginning to lose their identity. I don’t consider myself a cultural person, despite being Pakistani, there are many things I disagree with, however the stress placed on the involvement of family both in Islam and the Pakistani culture is key for the youth. They need the self-esteem and they need to know that others are there for them.
Even the simple things in life are a struggle, often an inner struggle. How many times have we broken up with a friend, and not spoken to them. We don’t want to speak to them because we feel they wronged us, yet in the eyes of Allah if your intentions are pure and repair the friendship with that person, lower your ego, then you have also made a struggle and won over the ‘nafs’.
I mentioned repercussions of my actions and what the community around me will think at the beginning for a reason, often, we will do something which others feel is entirely wrong, yet in that moment it was the right thing to do. It was what you needed to do for your relationship between you and God. I know plenty of females who have been shunned by their families for wearing a headscarf, because it’s ‘not the done thing’, I know plenty of people who have reverted to Islam and have been shunned by their families. But this was their inner struggle. They did this because they believed in it.
I remember when I first started working at a school, the teachers went for a ‘drink’ in the pub. And invited me along, they said just come along, it’s only an orange juice and besides the ‘other Muslim teacher’ is going. Now you’re in two worlds, but you shouldn’t be. I politely declined and was never invited out again, which was fine by me. I didn’t want to go to a pub, I wasn’t going to have an orange juice, I can go home and have one. There are plenty of places where we can socialise that fits everyone without it being a pub. I mean, no-one would’ve known, at least I don’t think they would’ve. But, it was between me and God.
I have waffled on so much, and you’ve made it to the end thank you, I’ve almost lost the purpose of the blog. Mainly to explain the ‘devil and angel’ inside us is there for a reason, our ‘nafs’ is within us, often wanting to lead us on to the easier path, but the easier path isn’t necessarily always the best path for you. It’s easy to live on benefits and not get a job, but it’s not the best path to choose, it goes against your own personal ethics and moral code too.
This is particularly difficult sometimes, because practical actions means you often see the results instantly, whereas when you’re doing something good inside you, as Muslims we believe this will be rewarded in the hereafter. Though, as Muslims we believe in destiny and that Allah will do best. A popular phrase is ‘tie your camel, then put your trust in Allah,’ which means, do whatever you can for a specific circumstance and if its meant to be it will be, Allah will ensure it happens. This is why sometimes as a Muslim football fan its easier to swallow a defeat, at the end of the day, it was meant to be. Allah has greater plans for you.
Hasan al-Basri said: “Two thoughts roam over the soul, one from God, one from the enemy. God shows mercy on a servant who settles at the thought that comes from Him. He embraces the thought that comes from God, while he fights against the one from his enemy. To illustrate the heart’s mutual attraction between these two powers the Prophet (s) said: “The heart of a believer lies between two fingers of the Merciful” [Muslim, Ahmad, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah]… The fingers stand for upheaval and hesitation in the heart… If man follows the dictates of anger and appetite, the dominion of shaytan appears in him through idle passions [hawa] and his heart becomes the nesting-place and container of shaytan, who feeds on hawa. If he does battle with his passions and does not let them dominate his nafs, imitating in this the character of the angels, at that time his heart becomes the resting-place of angels and they alight upon it…
Escaping from the materialism of the modern world.
Jannah – Heaven
Adhaan – The Muslim call to prayer
Hadith – A saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)
Nafs – The ego inside you.
Tawakkul – Achieving Tranquility of the Heart
Original Image – Struggle