Tag Archives: courage

Courage to be different

Peace!

We are different, that is a fact of life. You and I, are different. The way we look, the way we were brought up, our experiences, our likes and dislikes, our beliefs and opinions are different.

Yes, there may be quite a lot of similarities between you and me, we may have been friends for the past 15 years, you might have grown up in the same city as me, our parents may have similar backgrounds and may indeed be friends, we may have gone to the same Qur’an school when we were kids, and I may have moved to the same country as you did, you may even be interested in a lot of the same things that I am too or you may be my blood sibling and still we are different. You aren’t me and I’m not you and that is perfect, we may learn a lot from each other. God created us, you and I, to be different.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another…” [Qur’an 48:13]

Still, as a child you don’t really set out to think about what makes you different from everyone else, you just want to have fun like all the other kids do too. I grew up as a black Muslim in Germany, a minority in a minority.

My whole class knew that I was a Muslim, I didn’t hide it and my being black was not something I could really hide. They knew when I was fasting and what Ramadan was, I showed them how we pray during a visit to the mosque, I chose to play a Nasheed (Religious Song) when we gave a small presentation on our favourite music and gave a presentation about a river that was the namesake of the country my mother was born in and my father had roots in. My mother would make sure to tell my best friends mother not to feed me any meat when I stayed over at their little farm during the summer and we’d play Zelda, Mario Party or tag the whole day.

I have been quite privileged in the way that I have been brought up, that my parents are both academics/professionals and knowledgeable in the religion, for me to grow to be comfortable in my being different and still I sometimes hesitate. Hesitate, to speak out and take a stand, to break the silence. In such a moment of hesitation and inaction, I might as well have been dead.

 “Sometimes I feel like my city is a graveyard.“  
[Suli Breaks]

In his video The Graveyard, Suli Breaks expresses how we might as well be the walking dead, as we sacrifice our happiness for our salaries. The imagery of a city as a Graveyard is powerful, signifying the death of society, stagnation and truly painful silence permeating through each crook and cranny of the ruins of our city.

While the rows of gravestones tell the stories of those that have passed, their voices have died. Their words however still reach us, because they refused to be silenced. Still, we too often choose to ignore them, when empathy is lost, xenophobia rises, injustice and aggression is left unopposed, problems swept under the rug and conversations stifled. Resulting in exclusion and segregation or expression.

Expression in a hostile environment however requires a lot of courage. Courage to break the silence, to express yourself and stand up for yourself, your rights, your thoughts, your aspirations, your dreams and those of others around you. By being different and confident with yourself, the image that you project of yourself will invigorate the dead around you and inspire them to help break down the wall of silence.

Being humble, ascetic and conscious doesn’t mean staying silent at all times. It means choosing the right time to be silent and when to speak up and so while the Prophet (saw.) said:

“Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day should speak good things or keep silent.” [Muslim: Sahih]

The hadith often becoming our go-to narration to tell someone to shut up. Keeping silent, here is predicated on not actually having anything good to say, that is to engage in speech which we would regret later. When acts of injustice are however carried out, that is when our silence makes us complicit as Dr. Martin Luther King said:

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” [Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story]

We need to speak up. The Qur’an also says:

“Allah does not like the public mention of evil except by one who has been wronged. And ever is Allah Hearing and Knowing.” [Quran 4:148]

In our journey to emulate the noble characteristics that Allah (swt.) describes Himself with, we also have to listen and yes we have to be silent at times to get to know and fully understand the situation of those who are oppressed to be able to express it.

Will we face opposition? Yes, absolutely we will, but we will face hate whether we speak out about our grievances or not, whether we integrate or assimilate or not. Experiences of racism, xenophobia and of injustice of whatever kind whether from our teachers and classmates,  or even parents can shatter self-confidence and scratch at our self-esteem, our sense of self-worth and our self body-image.

That is why it is so important that one, we have the courage to be different and proud of it and second, to know that we are not the only ones alive in this graveyard that there are others that are different too, who are not just stuck in the work/eat/sleep cycle and are trying to break down that wall with you. While our expression alone may at times cause us to be isolated within the status quo, it needs the courage of the one, to shatter the silence of the many.

 

#bemore

Be more courageous

Peace be with you!

Malcolm X once famously said, “If you don’t stand up for something, you’ll fall for anything.” Finding the courage however to do that is hard. It is hard to stand up for that something you believe in, to put yourself behind an idea. An idea that may cost you your livelihood, your job, your financial security, your family, friends and indeed your life.

Exactly that however is what Allah (swt.) asks of us, as  He (swt.) records the advice that our Prophet Luqman (as.) gave to his son in the Qur’an.

“O my son establish prayer, enjoin what is right, forbid what is wrong and be patient over what befalls you. Indeed all that is of the matter requiring determination (courage)”

[Quran 31:17]

Remember that trepidation you felt, when you established the prayer in a public place? That fear-excitement cocktail of adrenaline rushing through your body, the creeping thoughts of what the passerby might think?

As you stand up for the prayer wherever you are, you stand up for Allah, for your right to exercise your Belief. This fundamental act, will give you the courage to stand up for what is right, for truth and justice and against what is wrong.

Courage according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Courage comes from the heart, quite literally, the word coeur in French meaning heart from the Latin Cor.

Our heart is in constant flux, it continuously pumps blood in and out and on a spiritual, metaphysical level it also keeps changing. Khushoo, Taqwa, Iman, our intentions all of these according to our tradition are within our heart and increase and decrease constantly with the situations that we are faced with daily.

As in the story of Moses (as.) when his mother was about to see him again for the first time, since letting go of him to save him from the infanticide of Pharaoh’s oppressive regime. She was about to call out to him and thereby put him and herself in danger of being killed, Allah (swt.) describes her heart in that moment as Fuad. Fuad is a heart, that if taken literally is on fire, overwhelmed with emotions ( of love, anger, fear, grief, stress, excitement etc.). In that moment only God was able to stop her calling out to him, by strengthening her heart to its normal state, Qalb.

However, in our daily lives we will also be confronted with situations where our hearts turn into Fuad and we will have to choose whether we act on what our Fuad tells us, or what would be the right thing to do in that situation, because Allah (swt.) will asks us about our choices in that moment.

“Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart (Fuad)- about all those [one] will be questioned.”

[Quran 17:36]

Courage, is acting righteously despite the emotions that grip our heart. It inspires us as Ibn Al-Qayyim (rah.) said,“ to have a sense of self-esteem, to emphasize high and noble manners and to make it a part of our natural disposition. It also encourages us to exert ourselves to be generous, which is in essence, true courage and it leads to strong will and self-determination. It encourages us to distance ourselves from our ardent lowly desires, to control our anger, and to be forbearing, because by such, we can control our temper, take it by its reins and curb our violent and destructive behaviour, just as the Prophet (saw.) said: “The strong believer is not the one who can wrestle his opponent to the ground, but rather the strong one is the one who can control himself when he gets angry.”

This is genuine courage and it is the sole trait that the slave utilizes to conquer his opponent.

Courage, is standing up to an oppressive system, a tyrant, husband, parents, family member, friends, strangers and the hardest of all yourself, despite the fear, despite the quite possible repercussions, and being patient with those repercussions, that befall you.

Plucking up the courage needed is hard, I know. How often have I stayed silent when I should have said something or tried to ignore those less fortunate than me. It is however something that can be trained by testing and expanding our boundaries.

Where and what are your boundaries? Is a lack of knowledge the reason you did not speak up? Then educate yourself on how to intervene, take part in Bystander education programs, such as the Intervention Initiative. Is it your physical ability? Then start your journey in getting more active. Put yourself in situations that require a certain degree of courage often, such as prayer in public or standing up for your siblings and it will get easier to be courageous and to be confident doing so.

Finally remember that Allah (swt.) is in control of our hearts, He is the changer of our hearts, and so as the Prophet (saw.) prayed “O Changer of the hearts, make my heart firm upon Your religion”, pray for Him to grant us courage in all of our affairs.

Be more courageous, because in a time where hijabs are being ripped off of our sisters, where women are being sexually harassed left, right and center,  where racism and xenophobia is normalised in our society, we can not stay silent in the face of injustice anymore.

Peace.

#bemore