Archive for the 'Muslims' Category

08
Jun
10

Today…

Today I called in for a mental health day. I worked until late last night; and I woke up feeling like a steam-roller had been flattening the living daylights out of me…my boss said-“Girl, relax and get some vitamin D- its beautiful outside.”

Therefore, I took the dog, my laptop, my specs, some munchies, and headed for the park. Caesar and I have been sunning ourselves all day… Well actually he has, I have kept to the bench under a tree! Watching some online videos from Link TV- a channel that in my house we see more often than not, because of the variety of programming it offers. I have posted a link in my Alternative Views on Life blog roll among the projects I belong to- Global Oneness Project and HelpOthers.Org…

I recently read an Op-ed from Arab News, courtesy of a link from Susie of Arabia…thanks Susie! This piece is an article on the Youth in Saudi Arabia- and I honestly agreed with him whole-heartedly. However, what always disappoints me are some of the comments that pop up in response to what needs to change – and how it needs to change in Saudi Arabia. I truly have an issue in seeing people reduce everything to sex and the mixing of the sexes…and of calling for even stricter rules that are already agonizingly harsh on the youth of Saudi Arabia.

When the author asks the youth to be educated in the sciences, in philosophy, in the arts – the responses of some were to spill the beans, again to put more weight on what the West has done wrong to justify why they need to live caged. However, historically Arabs and Muslims broadly have made magnificent contributions not only to their societies, but also to the world. When I look at the abstract art, the calligraphy, the geometric art for which is specifically an Arab art-form that has been spread across the world- I wonder why some people would find objection in teaching the Saudi youth to find their roots in these art forms and revive it to the next level? Even photography of the abstract is something that many artists do with success, as well as film- Check these video trailers Susie of Arabia posted in her blog showing the awesome creativity of Saudis.

So why go back to the tired old argument of sex and the mixing of the sexes? Can’t they get past it? Are they so sexually induced in mind and body that everything has to end there? Why would philosophy be haraam, why is thinking so reviled? Why is there so much emphasis on regulating every single aspect of life to the point that there is no living, only existing?

I guess because I don’t believe in such close-minded, locked, and caged needs-which I find it so hard to comprehend. As a Muslim – which many will find some fault in my ways because of the influence of Buddhism has in my life- I believe Allah SWT gave us a clearer message than we currently live out today. We are His creation, and as such, we are to be of service to humanity only for His Sake. Do I as a person find contradiction in believing in Allah SWT with basic Buddhist tenets? NO! Why? Because what I have taken from the teachings of Buddhism is the understanding that we as Allah’s creation are all interconnected. This is demonstrated in how we feel the pain of a child not our own. In how we can empathize with those friends, and people we don’t even know personally in their time of need; in how we can love another not of our family.

I have learned and kept alive in my life the command to seek knowledge and universal wisdom that I can apply in my life, and I marvel at the beauty of Allah SWT’s creation. In nature Allah SWT shows us what power created this universe that shines at night, makes waves of electric forces in the night sky, that shows us the remarkable creatures that swim, walk, fly in our world whose sole purpose in life is to BE. They ARE just, as Allah SWT has decreed. In oneness, they live in natural balance.

Only humans have decided, with the intelligence Allah SWT gave us, to use it to separate ourselves from creation. We want to stand apart; we want to put up walls, rules, regulations that keep us from being the humans that are interconnected at the biological level with the rest of creation. Why? Some will say because their religion states it- that they are different. In what way? All religions teach that we come from a creational power greater than us. So we have in common the thoughts and ideas that a force created us…in that alone there is oneness. Some will say that only with strict rules can we be perfect. Well I am sorry to tell you, that if the force that created us wanted us to be perfect we would not have been called humans. To want to reach perfection is to want to be Allah- and that can never be. We don’t have the power to do one inth of what that power can create. What we have is what Allah gave us, not a bit more.

So in our pursuit of perfection, we become ever more separated from each other by putting up the barriers of race, gender, social status, particular religious beliefs. We hate, we disparage, we divide, we one up each other. And we create a tension that is not natural. There is nothing natural, in the case of Muslims; of killing the mind- making us auto bots that do in prescribed steps to further avoid us from challenging the unnaturalness of those steps. There is nothing natural in people believing they are in different categories, when Allah SWT explicitly states we are all equal. We have put fear in all our hearts so that fear can rule us. But isn’t it Allah SWT that rules us? Where does this fear come from? From knowing ourselves imperfect and not admitting it? Our being is, to state Buddhism, is perfect as it was created. Not that we are perfect beings, but that our BEING is perfect. Allah SWT created us to be humans. So why do we want to be something more than what we were created to be. Why do some want to attain demi-god status through ritual perfections, rituals that we created to make us stand apart. Not higher, just apart.

Believing that you should castigate yourself and others because you believe you need to be a perfect being, not a human, is ridiculous! We have been given the gift of discernment for a reason. Do you know why? Have you sat in a quiet place to see your place in Creation? Have you analyzed what your life means in the fabric of Creation? What is it that you need to do to be human? Not just a member of a religious group- as a member of Creation.

When I see across the world ideas of human endeavors that seek to bring us closer to one another regardless of our particular belief systems, and other human embellishments, I feel that life is more than we want to make it out to be. Yes there is hunger, wars. But we made these things, and honestly we are all responsible at the individual level. Because we don’t believe our blood is one. We don’t see how our human features are replicated across continents… Take a few days and look at people’s hands and feet. I mean really look at them, and you will find in people who are not in the most remote a part of your family to have hands and feet you recognize as the hands and feet of a family member. Voices that you hear that remind you of someone who is a family member. No matter what ‘race’ you will find features that are known to you personally. The color of the eyes, the sweep of a brow, the dimple, the walk, the laugh… That demonstrates our interconnectedness. We have come from one single place- the genetic markers that make us human.

So why does the Saudi youth have to suffer discrimination? They are all connected by the very fact of their humanity! They breathe, feel, think (though the “powers that be” would want to take that off the list), aspire, and dream… yearning is not a sin. To yearn for the space to live out our humanity is not wrong; it doesn’t go against our principles as Muslims. But from reading the few comments on that Op-ed you would think that mere existence is all you have a right to. Because when you turn off the gift of intelligence, of expression- you reject what Allah SWT gave us in Creation. NOW THAT IS A DAMN SHAME!

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02
Jun
10

my love affair with India…

My Hindu friends tell me that I must have been an Indian in a previous incarnation. Why? Well I truly enjoy Indian culture- its food, its internal variety of people, customs and languages; its social values, even the way that they keep their tradition (parampara, I believe is the word) and their religion in most everything they do. Also I have come to understand how Indians absorb others and give it their “twist” making everything they accept truly theirs. It becomes Indian. A very unique characteristic.

Like any society, there are pros and cons, but when you concentrate on the positives you tend to learn a lot. And if you are secure in who you are you will learn even more.

Believe me, many people wonder at my fascination; I can’t explain it. This fascination propelled me to try to learn to speak the language when I started watching Hindi Films, and later Hindi television. Why? Well, I’m a ‘cultural mutt’. I no longer have what some might categorize as a ‘pure blood-line’. And that alone allows me to explore and absorb. I can be very Spanish, very Arab, and very ‘American’ while still feeling completely at ease among a group of very religious and proper Hindu ladies. I have learned of the many similarities we share regardless of culture, religion, or even language.

The women I have sat with to embroider, have taught me about saris, about their views on marriage, child rearing, work, widowhood, and divorce. Their opinions about religious practices have taught me a valuable lesson. Beyond all the barriers we may put up out of fear or ignorance, or arrogance we are all human; feel the same emotions, and our thoughts are really very similar if we are willing to just talk. Simple conversations without the ‘mine is better than yours’ or the ‘I know more than you’- when we suspend these, the world opens up to us.

The other day I went to a Sisters’ Prayer Circle. All the attendants but two were Pakistani; myself and another Turkish muslimah married to a Pakistani completed the group. I enjoyed myself tremendously. One, because I have enough grasp of the language to participate in all the conversations. The other, because all these women, professionals in their own rights, brought ‘something’ to the event. They were all able to suspend judgments and honestly be present in the moment.

One of the social high points after readings from the Qur’an and prayers was, of course, home-made Pakistani food- the hostess is an absolutely, excellent cook! We gathered around to talk about social issues. Two of those present spoke of the work they are doing to bring to the US Afghan women’s art work and crafts- namely purses as part of a cooperative that started in Dubai, where one of them had been living for the past four years. We talked about marriage, about baby names-laughing about some of the oddest names out there. We talked of fashion, as two of the women are designers; one part time (she is also full time in investment banking) and the other who has an established and very well known International line. I have seen her work at the Kingfisher ‘Fashion Week’ events televised from India. That led us to Indian Fashion. Most of us agreed we had a penchant for Rajput era embroidery, beading, and quilting- I absolutely love the ‘coats’ worn over tight white pants and bejeweled nagras. And what’s Indian fashion without saris! The hostess remarked that I was the only non-Indian woman she had ever met that only used one pin in her sari. That called for a demonstration, the hostess bringing out a few saris in brocades, antique, and the modern tie die versions. So there I was teaching grown-up Pakistani women how to wear the various styles of saris I like- with only one broach pin! We all giggled over the fact that the older ‘aunties’ would be very angry with them, and probably shame them a bit because they had been ‘out-sari’d’ by a non-Indian!

I guess when you feel comfortable in any culture and learn while you experience it, you become a Global Citizen. My aim is to go through cultures assimilating the best of each, absorbing it, making those good parts a part of me.

A lot like being Indian…

01
Jun
10

veiled voices… a film by Briget Maher

On Link TV- a publicly owned channel for unsensored, and unbiased television programs from around the world, broadcasted the short film ‘Veiled Voices’ by Bridget Maher. This film documents the life of three public, and influential, women of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt who are making strides in empowering women through their teachings of Islam in mainstream, contemporary Arab society.

Each of these women is different from the other in age, social status, and family composition, yet all share a common passion and goal to empower Muslim women through their teaching of Islam- Qur’an, Jurisprudence, etc.

From Egypt is Dr. Su’ad Saleh- widow, mother to a journalist, and grandmother. She is a high standing graduate of Al-Ahazar University, teaches, has her own talk show, and even put in her application to be considered for the category of female- the first, Mufti. Sadly her application only received one vote, but I find it a remarkable accomplishment because it was not rejected outright. She states that Islam means a balance to everything, to be in Islam you need to balance all aspects of inner and outer, public and private life. She says she is sadden to see the potential of Islam reduced to hijab, niqab, beards and men. She has about 20 books published, teaches regularly -saw her in action as they filmed one of her classes- she is no joke. She says Islam has been so reduced that women limit their studies to the superficial level of anything because they have been taught they won’t be able to realize their full potential. Her daughter, who is married with children and is also a full time journalist in economic affairs, says that having her mother also work full time during her childhood taught her self reliance. That a working woman can be an excellent or terrible mother based on her personality alone. Dr. Saleh states that even those women who dedicated their whole lives to their families must also be considered as important and should not be belittled or feel belittled- each has a responsibility; each fulfilling it to the best of their abilities. That no woman should be forced to be one or the other exclusively.

From Lebanon is Sheikha Ghina Mahmoud, mother of twin girls, divorced, and head of a female Islamic Center- she teaches and organizes charity work to benefit women. Her classes are always full. This woman as dowry ask her husband to not stand in the way of her calling to teach Islam. Sadly, at the peek of her career she divorced and her daughters were taken away. Her husband being the instigator of malicious rumors that cost her, her daughters, her students, and her following. Since then she has rebuilt her image and reputation, but she states the stigma of being divorced is so strong- as high in intensity as the divorce rate. She cries over the situation of not having her daughters and states there is nothing in Islam that allows for this separation of mother and child. One of her twin girls when asked, started crying because she misses her mother terribly. Sheikha states Islam doesn’t force women to marry who they don’t want to. That parents should talk, discuss the issues and giving advice but never forcing. But having experienced first hand what happens to women when they divorce, she now feels a woman should try at every cost to maintain the marriage. She also does private tutoring. One of her students, who does not wear hijab, stated she trusts the Sheikha because she is a teacher first and foremost. That even when she knows, in this woman’s case, that hijab is out of the question; she still teaches her all other aspects of her religion. The Sheikha states that her calling is to serve, to teach and not pass judgments on anyone- that it is not her prerogative.

The third is Huda Al-Labash from Syria. She is married with children, one of her daughters is studying International Affairs in a University in Georgia, USA- . Al-Labash teaches and encourages open dialogue from her students because it allows for deeper understanding of any concept in Islam. She does travel quite a bit and her husband says that he is supportive because he believes in her work. He says that many a times she can be gone for a month traveling to other Middle East countries and he does everything that is required in the household in her absence. Her daughter says that living abroad has taught her that we don’t educate people enough about Islam, because we do not study it with enough intensity to be able to have meaningful discussions; and that her professors know even less of the regions they supposedly teach about, meaning the cultural and religious aspects that complete the picture of Muslims [and therefore make them three dimensional] . The Mufti of Syria says that no where in Islam is it stated a woman cannot be a public figure. The only thing she cannot do is lead the Friday prayers in Jummat. He reiterated that while there is nothing in Islam that limits the role in society a woman can perform, she is given the commandment like men to maintain her modesty.

So tell me then, when did the female scholars of Islam start to lose their importance, when the wives of the Prophet SAW taught some of the very scholars whom Muslims read and respect. Among the top three scholars of Islam is Aisha. Her ahadeeth are the strongest based on her intimate and immediate connection with the Prophet SAW. So what happened, when did things slide into oblivion? Why did they slide into oblivion? I remember seeing a video of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf where he cried as he denoted with decreasing numbers the female scholars, teachers, and scribes that disappeared off the annals of Islam in the last 1400 years, century by century. And he said he was ashamed of the level to which women have been relegated in Islam, saying truly Mohammed SAW knew who were and would be the best among his people.

We are not who we’re suppose to be, simply because we have taken away (and have allowed it to be taken) a precious component of the synergy in Islam- a woman’s place in it.

These women of mainstream Islam with their hijabs and jilbabs look no different than their contemporaries, but their minds are founts of wisdom and learning that I wish I were able to tap. I remember many years ago studying with a group of Jordanian women who were as strong in conviction and passion as the women depicted in this film. They were as inspiring because theirs was a gentleness of approach but a thoroughness in delivery, that you couldn’t help but to want to be in their presence.

Now these are truly Muslimat!

31
May
10

service…be the change

I’ve been thinking in the ‘small wave”, wake-effect of the “Lactation” fatwa, of what some ‘scholars’ are doing to our religion, and the changing face of Islam they are presenting. The differing of opinions in my mind are good for creating dynamic discussion. But when one person or group undermines our humanity and tries to curtail our quest for understanding, belonging, and being in this world; putting us into spaces we would naturally feel uncomfortable or oppress and debase us – then I question that person or group’s intentions.

From the little I know about, for example, of Saudi society; I get the sense that there are two undercurrents flowing in opposite directions. Is it a reflection of the rest of the Arab world? I’m not so sure. Because other societies of the Muslim world are more open. Even in Yemen where there is still considerable illiteracy you still know of women in the public sphere- politically, socially, economically, etc. Women who work and are not stopped from striving. But then again, for everyone of these women who received an education and can fully function in society; there are countless other who don’t or can’t. In Saudi Arabia where education is at a higher level, it seems to be much harder to fully function because of all the ‘man-made’ additions to how Islam is practiced there. You would think this should not be the case. Unfortunately, as the ‘Lactation’ fatwa demonstrates- the basic problem created by such strict sex-segregation has a few ‘learned’ creating convoluted propositions to get around the fundamental issue they imposed on a society that no longer needs it, and would greatly prosper from it being loosened- sex segregation and tight control over the population’s ability and potential to create their own space within the structure of Islam.

Personally, I have stepped away from people or institutions that preach women are confined M&M’s -married and mothers only. Why? Well because these people are out of touch with reality. The world as we know it is far beyond tents, sands and prodigious amounts of offspring roaming the desolate and sometimes barren deserts. We have to understand for example that if a woman becomes a widow and she has no children from that marriage, she should not be subjected to total loss of the family and possessions she had come to care for. She shouldn’t have to feel obligated to completely fend for herself or remarry just because. Her new station means in Saudi her life loses meaning and she is left with memories only. The same goes for divorced women. Why should a woman lose rights to her children, even partial custody can be lost. Why should she be ostracized when divorce is a natural option in Islam, where the condition that now is never met is that of separating in a kindly manner without force or oppression. With Roman Catholics divorce was totally forbidden, in some countries until recently you couldn’t get a divorce if you had had a religious wedding ceremony- getting an annulment was nearly impossible- because it was literally ‘until death do us part’ married. But in Islam divorce is codified- so why do we castigate women when clearly it states both men and women can seek to sever their ties to their spouse? The ones that always seems to end up with the short end of the stick that is to beat them, are women. This concept is very non Islamic.

As Ummah, for it to mean something more than mere letters, we need to create spaces of inclusion and acceptance. Come to understand every situation by putting yourself in the shoes of others to gain some insight. Not blindly accepting every thing that is force fed to us- either by questionably motivated clerics or by social stigmas that have no bases in Islam. The other critical piece is this holding on to our nationality like a vice that only serves to isolate and strangle us; unable to hear the voices of sound reason. I say this because many people blame the West for all their problems, and at the same time use the West for all its endeavors- be it to keep us angry and humiliated or ignorant and despondent. To say ‘I’m 100% Saudi is meaningless. What does it really mean? That you are pure 100% Arab of the Arab Peninsula? Well good for you! But what does saying it do for your fellow Man? Does it help the destitute? Does it help empower the youth that have no avenues to let out steam by creating their own way in life? No, it doesn’t. All it does is just state you are separate from the rest of humanity. You’re isolating yourself from the rest of the Ummah, only seeing the walls you are building to confine and limit yourselves.

There are countless ways that a 100% Saudi can also be 100% Muslim of the Ummah, and 100% human of the planet Earth- its called inclusion. The are many more Muslims out here than there are 100% Saudi Muslims. Wake up!!! Smell the coffee! Yes, I know you don’t like Yemeni. But what did they do that you haven’t already done? I happen to want to learn more of this Saudi society with a penchant for closed doors and high walls. No wonder no one understands them completely- they won’t let you in! And at the same time they throw rocks from their inner walls as if they were being besieged. Not so…the world is smaller now because so many of us occupy space. The Village of Earth is very small indeed- you guys must be claustrophobic in there!

When I ask what would, could Saudis do to help themselves- some just point back to us as the culprits, using side tracking techniques of highlighting our short-comings and therefore trying to hide theirs. Well if we are the culprits, when will you pick up the courage to stop being the victim? What are the concrete things you can do to better your society? Not the individualistic mind set answers please. Even the ‘let the women do what they have to and we men will do what we have to’ is already creating a rift. Why? Because it rips apart a society, fragmenting and weakening it further. A House divided, Shall Fall.

No truer words have been spoken. And our houses are divided. We divide everything we do into ‘we versus them’. That is just as ‘individualistic’ as ‘every man for himself’.

-So if you’re so full of ideas, what would you do?- you might rightly ask. Well start with what you have. Start where you are right now:
If you have circle of friends, pool your resources to serve the poor.
Buy food or clothing for those who can’t. Create ‘soup kitchens’ for the hungry and destitute, and empower them by helping out to cook and clean- an honest day’s work for an honest meal.
If you have cars (this would apply to the men who are the only ones currently allowed to drive in mainstream Saudi society) get together and do a ‘Car Wash Day’ in another less affluent area and have the teen boys volunteer their time, donating the funds to the kids soccer team.
Heck put together ‘little league’ soccer teams!
Create cooperatives that would in turn benefit women in creating cooperatives of indigenous crafts that can be sold at markets.
Donate some of your time to teaching kids a new skill-
Since you men all drive why don’t you a group create a “Remedial Driving schools’ in your area for new teenage drivers teaching them the correct way to handle cars.
Men again could be better voices for their counterparts- stop the young guys from prowling- give them something to do- and while you’re at it- teach them better manners, be examples- role models.
Those of you who have studied or worked abroad hold informal meetings or ‘socials’ to answer basic questions your younger set may not know- Mentor them!
Get permission to do a street by street beautification drive- clear the trash-see a piece of paper or rubbish on the floor-pick it up and through it in the trash.
If you see a street hasn’t had its trash picked up, call the company that is suppose to and state the location; have your friends call too!
Finished eating and there is still lots of food on your plate- prepare or ask for it to be packaged for take out and give it to the first elderly and hungry person you find.

Fellow bloggers take a corner of your blogs to dedicate to posting any and all ideas you have to create an atmosphere of giving, of being better humans, better Muslims in the Ummah and the world.
Encourage others to do good for their fellow citizens and ask them to ‘Pay it Forward’ coming up with more ideas and implementing them.
Have brainstorming sessions, at home, with friends, with colleagues on a few things you can do today to make someone feel empowered, appreciated, loved.

Let the ideas flow, some will be possible now, others will become possible when you believe them possible. Help others and you’ll help yourself. Dare to be different- dare to believe you can benefit society even in the smallest of action, and ask the person down the line to pay it forward.

I’ve started a page to connect us to other people around the world. There are two ‘vehicles of change’ I recently joined that are extremely helpful, created by groups of friends that want to be of service. Teach, learn, strive- if you can’t change the system change yourselves. ‘Be the change you would want in this world’.

www.helpothers.org
Its all about Random Acts of Kindness and Paying it Forward

Global Oneness Project
Helps identify and highlight all the global thoughts out, by theme, on giving all of us a chance to be one and to be of service. ‘Think globally, act locally’

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

22
May
10

Marriage…redefined or clarified?

“According to one Islamic model, the soul has three stages. In the first seven years, it is known as the appetitive soul. The primary concerns of children in this stage are eating, and wanting attention. The second stage is the next seven years, the age of anger, when kids react strongly to stimuli and are annoyed easily. The third is the rational stage, [notice no time limit] when reasoning and discernment reach their full capacity…In the third stage parents should befriend them, form a relationship that is amicable and full of kindness and companionship. After this, their children, now adults are set free.” **

If my math is good I would then have to say that a person is not considered an adult until after they reach their full capacity of discernment and reasoning. Meaning, a 15 or 20 year old is not discerning and reasoning at full capacity.

If marriage, in many societies, is based on notions that the younger the better for “proper molding”- then the parents are relinquishing their responsibilities to someone else who has no emotional, paternal/maternal bond. Nice cop out huh? Especially when its directed at girls only!

The following link is to a video filmed in 2009 speaking of Domestic Violence. What I found very enlightening are the explanations that are given with regards to the whole foundation of marriage. What it signifies and its purpose.

I think this video gives a means to redefine- or should I say re-clarify what marriage in Islam is supposed to be about. You tell me…

http://www.youtube.com/user/Zaytuna#p/u/12/BDEKJDgXO-U

**Purification of the Heart, Hamza Yusuf

21
May
10

readings…

Lately, to counter an almost inundated barrage of information I have to process, do, strategize, and delegate to; I try to read other things in “my time”. That space of time I dedicate exclusively to myself- to the exclusion of even my dear and lovable hubby! He has his own “my time” that we set up years ago because otherwise our lives would truly be work, kids, home, marriage responsibilities, etc. The individuals that we are would fade and that was a scary prospect to say the least.

So we headed to a therapist early in our marriage to help us develop solid coping skills, and tools to help us move forward- continuously as a result renewing our union. But we are human, and to err is most definitely human- so once in a while when the fabric of our lives starts to bleed one into the other we renew those skills and stick to our ‘my time’ with determination.

The books I have been re reading range from C G Jung, to Thomas Moore, to Robert Gerzon, to Mark Epstein, to Rumi, Hafiz, and Hamza Yusuf with his book Purification of the Heart. I have found that all talk about the Soul, Beginner’s Mind, and Fitra. All have different terminology, all come from different ‘religious’ traditions- but all speak to the one thing that we have that is endless, enormous, and with a capacity to help us life full, solid lives. Our Soul.

Being Muslim has never stopped me from reading the insights other religions offer. I have always encouraged my children because it breeds tolerance towards others. Mine isn’t better than yours. Mine is mine, and Yours is yours. Why because I feel secure in my faith that is based on spirituality and not on dogma. Gotten me into hot water for sure- but hasn’t shaken who I believe myself to be- Allah Knowing better than I.

This has allowed me to read with an open mind. And the expansion in me is worth every moment I spend solidifying my core beliefs. It most definitely helps with the stress of daily life- which everyone deals with at varying degrees. But it has also helped me view, say a diamond from each of its facets. None less than the other, all equally brilliant. And when ‘my time’ is over and I get back to the daily world, I come into it much more serene. Less knee jerk reactions- though it hasn’t stopped me from occasionally suffering from ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome! LOL

15
May
10

Beginner’s Mind…

“It is more important to create than to be a creator, in any inflated sense of the word. Creativity means to create, to add something worthwhile to the world. A theologian [Christian] would say that a creative person participates in the Creator’s work. The creation of the world is an ongoing project, and part of the divinity of the human being is to add to that process.” [Thomas Moore]

But do Muslims have, or allow themselves to have what the “Zen Masters” call “beginner’s mind”, the spirit of the child who is relatively free from cultural contamination? Or is our sense of religiosity so constrained and limited that it is out of the reach of our soul’s fulfillment?

I can still remember asking a friend- eons ago – that I felt as a convert I had lost some of my soul to ritual; to rules; to dogma. My walking through the doors of Islam seemed to have stripped me of something I had always felt was my God-given right. The person did not know what to say to me at the time; we are all in our own worlds and sometimes can’t come out and sit long enough to hear beneath a cry for help. I didn’t take offense; I used it to explore what was for me important in Islam. I am not a scholar, nor would ever aspire to want to know everything there is to Islam.  That to me would be a dangerous position to put myself in. I prefer like in a previous post, to hold on to some simple things that I know I will keep steadfastly and fulfill me as a person; as a human; as a Muslim human.

So when it comes to participating in Islamic “dogmatic” debates- I am a silent watcher. I keep my opinions to myself. Mostly because I feel that I don’t have the knowledge to go bat someone’s comment or references out of the ball park. To me it is not important. Its enough that I listen to both sides of the argument and then apply what I feel for my person would in the long run make me feel more human. Because I have learned in Islam the aim is to keep you human. Keep you open and receptive in that “beginner’s mind” full of “child”.

Not the forced man-made childishness many scholars would ram down your throat- usually aimed at keeping women stupid and barefooted and men prisoners of their own self-imposed limitations. Of which I think this whole “Guardianship” mantra is all about. Or the one thousand and one rules and regulations, with as many amendments, articles and side-bars on everything you could possibly imagine. What, we can’t think on our own and come to an understanding of what a situation means to us as an individual and go from there? No, many would say that leads to chaos, to “fitnah”, to uncontrollable urges, desires, and actions. Control. No, that is not what I see Islam stands for. Yes, there will always be hard choices out there in the world that need to be made. One will “win” the other will “lose”; but I would prefer a compromise. A balance. A space to Be. Not just Do this, that, or the other. Doing is repetitious, can turn mindless, and somewhere down the line it loses meaning.  It loses validity in my eyes. Why? Because nothing is static, every changes. Nothing is permanent.

I would rather do as one of my Buddhist “uncles” would say, “What ever you are, be like a newborn; unafraid to explore;  unafraid to wonder; unafraid to learn.” Beginner’s Mind.




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