Friday, September 29, 2006

Opening

Well... I decided to finally create a blog on Blogger. This is my first time using this service, so don't be alarmed if things look a little messy (my brain is all over the place at times too). My first blog was created on MSN spaces and I became very comfortable with the way that worked. You can visit it here: Realm of Mystics and Seekers. You must be wondering, "if you already have a blog up, why are you creating another one?" Well, my other blog is mainly filled with poetry, spiritual writings, and short stories of mine, and there are times when I would just like to be more open and talk about every day things in life. But then I think: "No, it wouldn't be suitable on this blog" So here I am, creating another one :)

I like to tell my close friends that my life is an open book. Ask me anything and I'll answer. Anything except: Who are you? It's a difficult question to answer, isn't it? It's a question I often ask myself, mostly during times in my life when I'm stressed over what may be perceived as "small" things or when I'm upset about something that was most likely created in my mind. Sometimes I ask myself this question when I'm around other people and immediately notice how I change my behavior for whatever reason. I would like to be "simply me," but who is "me?" There are so many different masks we wear and most of the time, we're not even conscious of it. These are the masks I wear: Muslim, Pakistani (a highly confused one), Son, Brother, Cousin, Filmmaker, Student, Romantic/Mystic, Poet, American? Sometimes I'm shy, sometimes I'm not, sometimes I'm peaceful, other times I get angry... I can think of a countless other "masks" I wear and it only develops more questions. Perhaps all these things make up who I am.

I struggle with my identity a lot. Maybe I shouldn't consider "Muslim" as a mask because being Muslim means being human to me. The word "Human" and "Muslim" are ultimately the same to me, because "Muslim" means one who submits to God, and I believe all human beings come from God. But then what does it mean to be "Pakistani?" Some say that culture interferes too much with religion, so it should just be dropped all together, while others say that culture is more important than religion. I can't side with either of those views. If anything, I would like to be in the middle. I believe God created me this way for a reason and because of that, my ethnicity is special, but it doesn't mean that I should be a blind patriot and behave indifferently towards others just because they're not Pakistani. Sure, I was born in Pakistan, I've been there many times, but I never lived there. I grew up in the United States and finished grade school in a predominantley white area, so I never really bonded well with a fellow Pakistani. I was picked on many times when I was in school simply because of my skin color, ethnicity, and religious background. I remember a couple of kids who did the "Apu" (from the Simpsons) accent around me and try to provoke me. I ignored them all those years, and there are times when I think, "I should have said something." After September 11th, I became more outspoken. The usual statements were "these terrorists have weird names," "what kind of name is that?" "Arabic? Isn't that like Osama bin Laden language?" I even had someone call me Osama bin Laden and an "Afghanistanian Terrorist". Yeah, "Afghanistinian." So instead of being associated with Indians, I was now being associated with terrorists. For all they knew, Apu and Osama bin Laden come from the same part of the world. I made an effort to tell people that not all Muslims are terrorists, and some people listened, others didn't. I got upset one time in class when a student made a comment about Arabs, I scolded the teacher after class for not saying anything. Ironically, 9/11 made me more passionate about my faith and ethnic identity. I didn't want to fit in anymore, I started listening to world music, I started reading the Qur'an, praying more, and I even changed the way I behaved. For example, I stopped using curse words, I abstained from looking at girls, I distanced myself from certain people in my life, and just became more serious on developing modest and true character.

Anyway, sometimes I'm not sure where I fit in. I understand Urdu and know enough to get by, but I can't speak it as well as I would like to. I really like languages and I would Love to learn so many different ones, but I'm always haunted by the fact that my Urdu isn't what I want it to be. Then I start questioning if I'm capable of learning any language at all. Haha, I don't even think my English is that good either! But I really need to take one thing at a time... See, I jump around a lot! I like to believe I'm a passionate person; passionate about languages, cultures, religions, and of course, God and Love. There's an Arabic singer named Natacha Atlas; she does a lot of cross-cultural work, particularly with Middle-Eastern and South Asian music, and I was really inspired by one of her quotes where she said that multi-culturalism and inter-cultural relationships need to be promoted more to counter racism, and she used her music to celebrate diversity. I truly believe multi-culturalism is the future of our world, and people need to adjust to it because it's only going to progress more and more. I became very passionate about mixing of cultures for many different reasons. One of the reasons being that it would symbolize more unity in the Muslim community, and also in the world. Right now, the Muslim world lacks unity, and to see more inter-cultural marriages would be a good sign for us. Instead of people remaining exclusive about their cultures and languages, why not share them? Maybe this kind of thinking will help us become better human beings too, no?

Ultimately, it all depends on the "L" word, doesn't it? Love has no boundaries. What is True Love? I believe everyone has their own Love story. Some people say that True Love is not real, and it's just a dream. So much goes into Loving a person... it's not Happy and Blissful all the time. There are challenges, there are compromises that must be made, sometimes you have to go through hell with someone and then come back. But I question: Why? Why do things have to be this way, why can't people be happy all the time with one another? My personal belief is that if two people truly believe they are united under God, then they'll live a happy and healthy life. People need to believe that the impossible is possible, people need to be in touch with their feelings, interact more with the Unseen Beauty that surrounds and exists within us, because all these things will help us understand more about who we are.We are currently in the Holy Month of Ramadan now. On this month, the Holy Qur'an was being revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. I probably shouldn't be talking about Romantic Love or Marriages right now, lol, but it's weird how it's not distracting me as much as I thought it would. I attended the Friday prayer today in Paterson, New Jersey, and the Imam was making a speech about eliminating desire, and putting it in shackles. What if my desire is to be at One with God? I understand what he was saying and I know what he was referring to. Spirituality is wholly self-discipline and when one indulges impatiently, he/she is only doing harm to his/herself. The comfort we can find is of course in God, and how He is always forgiving and merciful, but don't use that as a cushion, because He knows what is in your mind and in your heart. If you just go out and indulge, but then say 'it's okay, because I'll just pray for forgiveness," you'll be missing out on the whole point, not to mention the Beauty. Fight with yourself, wage war on the army of your ego. I remember in Pakistan, I learned from an Islamic scholar that God is not telling us to abstain from the joys and pleasures in life, He is simply telling us to fulfill them in a responsible way.

I believe there is so much Love and Passion in the religion of Islam, just like in many other religions, but this side of the faith is rarely spoken of in Orthodox communities.When the fast is broken with a date fruit, it symbolizes how all the patience and struggling was worth the wait. Why do people spend more time preparing food during Ramadan? Because they want to satisfy themselves and their families for the fasting, right? I don't like the word "reward" because I'm always mindful of the famous Sufi, Rabia al-Adawiyyah, and how she said, "I will not serve God like a laborer expecting wages." Don't think of praying or fasting for the sake of getting a reward, or "oh, if I do such and such, I'm going to get a good place in Heaven," instead serve God from your heart and Truthfully. Suppose God didn't give us anything in return, what then? Do we stop worshipping Him? Anything God gives us is out of His Love and Mercy. When two people abstain from shameful acts before marriage, isn't it all worth the wait? You can associate that with how people take so much time and passion in preparing food for the time of fast break.Keep Loving, keep giving. You give to God, He gives to you, it is not "I do for you, you do for me," throw those thoughts out the window, it is simply: it is what it is. It's not expectation, it's not a demand, it is just the way the Universe works. Those who share Love with one another are mirrors to each other. So always smile, because the mirror will smile back :)

Thanks for reading,

~ Jehanzeb

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Prenez contact avec moi:

swpninja@netscape.net

song said...

as I so struggle with mine..peace to u dear brother song~