By: Farah Mehboob
One of the most mistreated blessings of Allah (subhanahuwata’la) is ‘life’. It seems that as humans are progressing in technology and science, the digression between the way we live and the way we are supposed to live based on our natural disposition (fitrah) is also increasing. Despite the great claims to sophistication and the technological triumphs witnessed in no other era in history, we are still struggling with depression, increasing suicides and alarming divorce rates.
Even as Muslims, it is sad how we have become women who chat with their lips closed, walk on stationary treadmills and click away quality family life in liking, sharing and commenting on useless social media posts. We pretend to be who we are not in order to please people that we do not like, with the money that we do not have, for the reasons we do not know. From being graceful muslimahs covered in simplicity and dignity we have transformed ourselves into hangers of well-known brands. Our existence is reduced from being the Abd of Allah to the dollar value rate, the money that we receive every month for not reclaiming our identity as Muslims.
Isn’t it high time we learned to prioritise our roles as Muslim women above all others? Life will always be full of temptations and traps that will constantly try to ambush us in order to snatch away our true assets of time and imaan, while making us exist under the delusion of being rich and important. It is time to reclaim our true identity in the light of Islamic values and commandments. Life is indeed a struggle; the choice we have to make is whether to struggle in the path of Allah or against it.We need to stop trying to somehow fit in, in this dunya; it was never really meant for us to own. We have been sent here for a very short time to shape up ourselves for our eternal abode, Jannah, insha Allah.
So what can we actually do to reclaim our Muslim identity in the all consuming contemporary world that seems to have ensnared most of us today? Let’s see…
1. Take ownership and stop the blame game
Some of us might acknowledge our fatal lifestyles but still do not struggle against them. We have accepted the inevitability of our doom without putting up a fight. To get rid of the guilt of not taking ownership of our own actions, we simply put the responsibility on the ‘invisible hand’ which is forming the dynamics of the society that we live in. We first need to acknowledge the dangers to our faith that modern society poses and then resolve to do something about reclaiming our faith and our lives.
2. Take control of your life
We need to take control of every passing minute of our lives by developing a physically, intellectually and emotionally healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle demands that whatever we do, we engage all our senses to their maximum potential to give the job at hand its due significance.
Our deen has outlined clearly what is expected of us and the lives of great muslimahs of the past further elaborate what we need to do to please Allah (subhanahuwata’la). Therefore, instead of being lost and scared, we need to use the shield of our faith and Quran to combat the corrupt forces around us. We, the Muslim women, are fully able, intelligent and sophisticated human beings who, if true to our faith, are trained to defend ourselves from psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual attacks. So take the first step in taking control of your life by holding on to the Quran, the manual of life given by the Creator and learning His deen.
3. Question yourself; What am I doing?
We need to know the purpose of our actions and be clear about the desired outcome.This is essential to keep a check on our daily activities. If we open our mouths, it should be because we have something good to say and not because we have a free mobile package to talk on the phone with all night. If we eat, it should be to satisfy hunger and nourish our bodies rather than to just satisfy our taste buds and fill up our bellies uncontrollably. When we dress, it should be to cover up modestly rather than to show off our financial status. Question all your actions and carve the best course of action for yourself in every sphere of life.
4. Real food: What makes you strong?
Our days do not start with the dhikr of Allah but with a sip of coffee. All day, we eat synthetic food with artificial flavours and unhealthy preservatives and we end our day with a sleeping pill. After this continuous maltreatment of our fitrah and nervous system, we are still deluded that we are more intelligent and advanced than our ancestors.
There is a momentary escape and relief in drugs for the challenges in life but life is to be lived, not escaped. The tests of life teach us essential lessons required to attain qualities of sabar (patience). If we will not face the trials, we will never reach the level of humanity that every Muslim must acquire. The intake of anti-depressants and sleeping pills lets us live in the delusion of a perfect world although the Messenger of Allah (sallahualaihiwasalam) and the Quran came to us to stop this delusion.
Dhikr, remembering Allah and remembering the rewards that lie with Him for each and every good deed done here, that is indeed a Muslimah’s anti-depressant. In the short term, things can be different but these trials keep us close to our Rabb and open up an opportunity to practice what will help us in the akhirah; that is, tawakkal(reliance on Allah).
5. Practicing Islam today; Is it possible?
On your path to reclaiming your Muslimah identity, you might be faced with the dilemma of whether it’s even possible to practice Islam these days. The thing is that when we start practicing Islam and try to move closer to Allah, we are faced with our own set of challenges. For instance, our jobs, family commitments and social requirements might keep us away from a lot of ritual worship that we crave to do. As women, we face lots of challenges from our cultures, marriages or otherwise. Here, one important point to remember is that wherever Allah has placed you in life (as long as it is not haram), you can stay there, align your intentions to the pleasure of Allah, and try to be as righteous as you can while staying in that very position.
Our greatness does not lie in competing with men in being like them.We have our own distinguished place in the scheme of things.
6. The media onslaught; Maintaining perspective
Reality is as Allah has chosen reality to be.We do not have a choice as to how reality should be. Our only choice is to submit to the way things are and in doing so, we come to understand certain aspects of reality. TV programs make us believe that there exists a perfect world where everything is the way we want it to be. Lo and behold, there is no ‘perfect’ world. Perfect will be the life in the next world if we make it to Jannah.
We have to decide from the choices that Allah (subhanahuwata’la) has given us as to how to respond to reality and not slip into delusions or get trapped by the deception of the virtual world. Isn’t it a wonder how everyone is rich, happy and beautiful on social media? It seems like everyone is going out, enjoying themselves with friends, with perfect make-up o and just the right husband by their sides in perfect moment clicks. This is not a coincidence. These people also go through phases of depression and the perfect picture of the happy couple was probably one from a hundred shots that somehow worked. Stop idealising people on the worldwide web. For all we know, they might be in need of help to get rid of the mounting loans that have trapped them in their desperation to look happy and rich.
7. Leave the rat race
We are trapped in the rat race for jobs, status and money while sometimes ignoring our family commitments. As Muslim women, we need to get ourselves off the sales rack. Our belief is the strongest foundation of our personalities. Our focus should be to have a strong control over our own selves and our homes, so that our bodies, souls and minds are always engaged in worshipping Allah through obedience.
It seems many of us have concluded that there is no other way to live, not realising that loss of hope comes from Shaitan who took an oath on Allah’s Honor to lead us astray. It is only the righteous people who can escape his deception and stick to the commands of Allah as His faithful servants. Our lifestyles have become so materialistic that we can barely find room for spiritual nourishment but this lifestyle is of our own making and can be replaced by us.
8. Say no to vulgarity
We all claim to be disgusted by filthy advertisements in the media yet we shamelessly watch these advertisements that challenge our very self-respect. How can we maintain haya (modesty) and ghairah (sense of honour) when we watch such advertisements with our fathers, brothers and children, all the while helplessly blaming the media? The essential quality of haya needs to be embedded in a Muslim’s character so deeply that it takes firm roots and even a small deviation towards immodesty should become unacceptable. There has to be no compromise on this spiritual asset and saying no to it is an important step towards the goal of reclaiming Muslim identities for us and our families.
9. From haram to halal
It is every Muslim’s desire to be among the loved ones of Allah, yet we go against Allah and His Prophet (sallahualaihiwasalam) by supporting a riba (interest) based economic system. We need to put our trust in Allah as He is the sustainer. We cannot dodge Him and the only way to success is in obedience. Riba is haram and there is no barakah in haraam and thus no contentment in wealth so obtained.
Therefore, it is better to learn to take from this world only as much as needed. Ask yourselves, why is it that our closets are full of clothes and yet we have nothing to wear? Maybe it is the dress of taqwa that is missing from our lives and until and unless we acquire that, we will always have something missing. So worry about acquiring the most essential of all clothing; consciousness of Allah. This will help us migrate from haram to halal, impure to pure, in every aspect of life in sha Allah.
10. Prioritising the hereafter; a new perspective
Our sources of joy determine our fears and regrets.When we make this dunya our biggest joy, the loss of even a small portion of dunya upsets us immensely. Dunya, by its very nature, is a waste. Until and unless we rid ourselves of the desire of acquiring dunya for the sake of dunya, we will be surrounded by fears and regrets that will keep us away from Allah.
If our concern becomes the Hereafter, then we will be able to cry for Allah, smile for Allah, fear Allah, regret sins and seek Allah’s pleasure. We need to dwell in dunya but not let dunya dwell in us. Our lifestyles can truly change if our aim becomes success in the hereafter and this world becomes only a means to reach Jannah. Our lifestyles will then become simple and such that facilitate practicing Islam.
In short, we need to reclaim the Muslim way of doing things; the right way to earn a living, to enjoy being with our families, to shop with dignity and to raise our children based on Islamic values. We need to find a way to smile without typing a colon and a closing bracket, we need to learn to feel beautiful without applying tons of make up to our skins and undergoing painful surgeries. We need to start the journey of self-discovery. This journey of our souls starts from within as soon as we accept Allah as our Lord, Prophet Muhammad (sallahualaihiwasalam) as our prophet and Islam as our religion. Let’s embark on this amazing journey of self-actualisation.