Losing My Mind and Finding It Again: A Muslim’s Journey With Bipolar Disorder

“I seem to have fallen out of time.”

It’s my final year at high school. We’re watching part of The Hours, a film adaptation of Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway.

Like Richard, I’m walking through some fractured timeline, where my long days and blurs of my past have all blurred into one. Once the girl who would dance and sing and speak poetry, I am a ghost cowering in a corner. I am in limbo, stagnating and lost — and I can’t place why. It’s frustrating and disappointing and hopeless.

I am always praying. Even as I’m praying, I’m feeling an emptiness that nothing can fill.

I am a dead girl, falling into a bottomless pit.


It’s my penultimate year at university, and I start up a conversation with a student on campus. When she turns to ask about my endeavors, she seems enthralled by them: pursuing two passion project start-ups, opting out of my program to move toward my “real” purpose, applying to exciting jobs and master’s programs interstate.

In my rambles, I mention that I’m torn apart despite experiencing what others would find exciting. This eventually turns into a confession to a kind stranger on campus:

“I just want someone to tell me that something’s wrong.”

Why aren’t I centered when all these beautiful things are happening for me?

Stepping forward with newfound courage to share my burden, I meet with a best friend and mention my bad dreams about suicide. I’m flustered and looking down at my feet. Calmly, she says,

“What’s so bad that’s happened to you that you want to kill yourself?”

I’m deserted.

It is horrible to say, but it’s much simpler to place depression on the repercussions of childhood trauma. When I think nothing particularly bad has happened to me, I feel even less worthy of labeling my sadness as depression or feeling at all worthy of that title.

Being told to “cheer up,” to “not make contact until you feel better,” shows me that I am sick in some way.

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Digital note, 26.05.18. What it looks like to beg for mercy during heartbreak.

It’s the beginning of my master’s year. I receive a pamphlet about counseling to one of my alias email addresses. I walk into the clinic to a hijab-wearing Bengali Muslim woman smiling back at me. A version of myself, only older.

“I don’t care what happens to me,” I stutter.

It’s a feeling that permeates sad times, self-sabotage and experiences when I would put myself at risk. When I’d make elaborate plans to run away from home and leave behind everything I know. When I’d plan to do things that could harm my well-being. When I would reject sincere expressions of love to me because I couldn’t imagine myself deserving of love and attention.

We perform a body scan and I start crying in the first moments of the exercise. I’m ravaged by guilt. I’m a burden on my family who once saw so much promise in me. I don’t deserve their prayers for me. Whatever I’ve achieved is not my own. When she asks me to meditate on my shoulders, they hurt. When she asks me to meditate on my chest, it aches.

She asks why I had such an extreme immediate reaction, but I feel like a broken heart without knowing a cause. How did this happen to me?

Diary, 26.06.19. This is the sound of my own heart destroying itself. Can you hear it?

It’s still close to a year that I see a psychiatrist, after a GP ticks beside “crisis situation” on my referral form. I wait a few months for an appointment with a renowned psychiatrist at the Black Dog Institute, one of the most prominent mental health institutes in the country.

I describe my persistent melancholy like a “veil of sadness washing over my life,” feeling guilt and shame while struggling with hopeful experiences in my personal and professional lives. I feel “volatile.” I feel a conflict, a “resistance” within that I can’t place.

The psychiatrist is nodding and jotting quickly on his notepad. I can see myself being measured and like a game, I wonder what score I’ll get. Just how screwed up am I?

He confirms that my counselor was right in wanting to treat depression; I exhibit obvious symptoms like “brain fog,” poor memory, lack of concentration and, at my lowest, suicidal thoughts. From feelings of being “torn apart,” he probes my sudden bouts of hope with characteristics like creative excitement and reduced need for sleep, contrasted with my usual fatigue and comatose.

He then starts elaborating on bipolar II disorder.

As if to convince me, he pulls out fact sheets detailing its common emergence in mid to late teens, when I’d felt my moods and personality had drastically started to change.

I’m told that most people with bipolar II reach out when they are in tough depressive episodes — that their bouts of elevated mood and activity can go unsaid, unrecorded and untreated. To me, experiences of hopefulness and confidence, increased goal-directed activity and excitement are not things you complain about; rather, they are hopes for healing and becoming better.

As our conversation grows deeper, I start to understand that my “highs” are more grandiose or destructive than I’ve led myself to believe. These “hypomanic episodes” are recognized in hindsight: a million rummaging ideas; spending dusk till dawn working on projects that would never fully manifest, come into being; planning to jeopardize my life when I only felt I was “newly enlightened” and meant for better things.

In hindsight, I feel like such a conflicted, “neurotic” person because I have these “up” moods when I feel immensely frustrated or enlightened — often both — then back down to my “lows.”

Oftentimes, these moods of hope and despair will happen all at once and manifest in a frustrated, conflicted endeavor that crushes my heart.

Even after relating to the fact sheets I’ve been given, I struggle to accept my diagnosis. I still feel like I’m making things up. My mind is fighting a frustration that I might have needlessly suffered for all these years.

The reality is: now in my early twenties, I feel like I’ve already reached rock bottom. I can’t steep any lower. There’s no reason for me to resist medication, despite a quiet fear that side effects will sabotage what I have left of my mind.


It must be by the grace of God that from the first night of taking medication, I feel brighter. I feel this is too soon and wonder if I’ve placebo-ed my way to feeling better. I get up for Fajr with no complaints, when I’ve been unintentionally missing prayers from being stuck in my comatose. I’m being beckoned to hold on and have faith in my healing. I’m being shown that there is hope.

Bipolar II is still not very well understood; at this moment, there is no conclusive cause or cure. Through genetic links, I may be able to identify my experiences with those of relatives, but that’s all.

It’s early days, but I can feel my memory improving. I can feel that it takes less effort to focus my attention and feel productive — no longer hopelessly dysfunctional.

After having described myself as a “dead girl walking” with fractured memories time and time again, I feel like I’m finally a living thing.

At last, my mind is my own.


Some of our best lessons are learned through pain and suffering. These are a few things I’ve come to know:

1: You can be a grateful person and a suicidal person at the same time.

I consider myself a grateful person by “Islamic standards”: prayer, dhikr, duas for myself and others. I have been suicidal as this grateful person, to the point where my dreams and daily thoughts are infested by it.

Mental state can in part be remedied or confirmed by improvement in iman, but it can also be completely separate from it. For me, no amount of praying and talk therapy will keep my health at bay. I am being medicated, and that’s what helps me.

Now, my prayer and practice feel better than they have ever been. Now that I’ve confronted my health and been active in dealing with it, I feel even more devoted and at one with my Creator.

2: Remember what you’re here for.

We all have a void within us that can only be filled by our Creator. We are here to do our best, both in our practice and worship and in our efforts to leave the world better than we found it. This requires mental strength and willpower. This means you need to feel well to help someone who is not feeling well. Help yourself and then help your neighbor.

If you are praying as best you can and your mind still isn’t settled, go to the root and treat it. Your practice and daily efforts will improve, and you will be better for it — in this dunya and the akhirah.

Subpoint: You are here for a reason.

Your Creator put you here for a reason. If you are still here, there is a reason for you. You are good at things. Maybe a lot of things, or maybe a few. You can do great work to help others with these things. You can feel like a fulfilled human with these things. You can be grateful for these things and ask to become better.

What matters about us are our character and doing. It goes through all scriptures; I’ve heard a priest say, “We are love and good deeds.” It’s a universal craving and what keeps us going. Find purpose not in others, not in entertainment, not in fleeting things — but in yourself and your actions, both worldly and spiritual.

Remember that your voice matters. What you are going through right now can become part of the story you tell that saves someone else.

3: We’re better together.

The best things happen when societies and humanity as a whole are united for a cause and in action. The sooner we stop fighting about the legitimacy of mental health issues, the sooner we can heal as a community and help people understand their health as separate from their faith.

It also needs to become much more widespread that imams are trained in counseling and know what to maturely advise depending on the circumstances of those who go to them seeking help.

4: Things will get better.

Things will get better: that thing that people always tell you. Open your heart to turning the page.

Image quote, sent to me by my dad on 29.10.19 at 1:04 PM, eight days before my psych appointment.

Even if you don’t trust the advice of flawed people, turn the pages of your Creator’s words to find comfort.

Hope

Ash-Sharh (The Soothing)

94:5 With hardship comes ease.

94:6 With hardship comes ease.

With every difficulty there is relief. So important that He tells us twice. Believe in your better days. May Allah ease your heart.

Peace

Ad-Duhaa (Morning Light)

93:1 By the morning light.

93:2 And the night as it settles.

93:3 Your Lord did not abandon you, nor did He forget.

Just as the dusk turns to dawn, your life is in phases of dark and light. You have not been abandoned. This chapter will end and a new chapter will begin.

93:4 The Hereafter is better for you than the first [life].

93:5 And your Lord will give you, and you will be satisfied.

It’s okay to find peace in the final resting place. Remember the beautiful life that awaits beyond this one.

Protection

Al-Baqarah (The Heifer)

2:186 And when My servants ask you about Me, I Am near; I answer the call of the caller when he calls on Me. So let them answer Me, and have faith in Me, that they may be rightly guided.

He said: “Do not fear — I am with you.” You are calling Him, and He is near.

When you feel a tension within, remember that He has not abandoned you. Take care of your health and you will become closer. Take care of yourself, for your self and your Creator.

Infinite mercy

Az-Zumar (Throngs)

39:53 Say, “O My servants who have transgressed against themselves: do not despair of God’s mercy, for God forgives all sins. He is indeed the Forgiver, the Clement.”

For the innocent bystanders to your self-sabotage. For the soft targets to your moods and sadness. To the people who have hurt and neglected others from the ways that they have acted or treated themselves.

If you are haunted by a past, there is always a light. Remember your Creator’s compassion.

Whatever mental state you are in, for whatever reason, remember that you are worthy of forgiveness. You are worthy of mercy.

Turn the page. This is the beginning of the rest of your life.

Written by Numa

The Key To Getting Through Hardship

The past few months have been trying for me. The past few months have indeed been trying, but alhamdulillah for it all. I kind of took a pause on writing simply due to the fact that I felt like I just didn’t have it in me. I’ve been feeling overwhelmed and defeated. I started a new job the first day of Ramadan. On the second day of Ramadan, my family and I lost someone very dear to us (may Allah SWT forgive her and bring her family peace, ameen). Throughout everything, I’ve also been going through an immense amount of heartache for various other personal reasons. The feeling of being so overwhelmed by grief, sadness, confusion, and anxiety has really, truly been such a challenge for me. However, I’m still here, alhamdulillah. If you’re going through tough times and you’re reading this, I wish I could help make them better. There are two pivotal mental/spiritual actions that have really been helping me cope and find my balance again, and they are: #1 – remembering that Allah (SWT) is with me and #2 – truly thinking about every single blessing (big and small) that I have.

We all have fluctuations in our iman (faith), and that is perfectly normal and okay. The key is to keep pushing through the phases where you feel the most distant from your faith and Allah (SWT) – keep pushing yourself to pray salah or to read an ayah from the Qur’an or to make a simple dua’a even. By doing this, you will never go too astray. During my times of stress and difficulty, I’ve been reflecting on one particular ayah from Surah Ash-Shu’ara. The ayah actually is a record of Prophet Musa (AS) saying, “Indeed, with me is my Lord; He will guide me” (26:62). This statement is abrupt, short, simple, but very powerful and reassuring. When I think about this ayah, I truly remember Allah (SWT) and feel His assurance, peace, and might. I feel so lost and alone at times, but this ayah is a strong reminder that Allah (SWT) really does have me; He is quite literally with me and will guide me so long as I seek Him out, even during my lows. He is the best protector and friend there is. This ayah also reminds me that this dunya (worldly life) and all of its worshippers are just not the ones to be losing my mind over. People are guaranteed to bring inconsistencies and disappointment.

I’ve never experienced someone close to me passing away. I had never been to a janazah or a burial until this past Ramadan. The burial process absolutely shook me to the core. It has been almost three months now and I am still in complete awe. From everyone reciting Surah Al-Fatiha, and continuous recitations of “La Ilaha Illallah,” over the grave and then finally the complete closure of the body deep into the ground. SubhanAllah. This was such a stark reminder for me. It was a reminder for me to step up my game with my Creator, the One, Ar Rahman, Ar Rahim, Allah (SWT).

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un. To Him we belong and to Him we shall return. He is our one and only return. These worldly pleasures and stresses aren’t the ones to be worshipped or to waste our time over. Our hearts and souls are with Allah (SWT) and He is forever with us. We must constantly seek Him out in our times of peace and in our times of need. It’s absolutely easier said than done, especially when we have so many accessible distractions surrounding us. However, this is the ultimate test. Honestly, no matter what, Allah (SWT) is the only source that can bring true contentment and peace of mind. He is constant, while this world and everyone that is in it, are not at all.

In times of sadness, anger, and impatience with certain situations in my personal life, I’ve recently learned to look at all that Allah (SWT) has given me in my life, all that His boundless mercy encompasses. Actively seeing the beauty and love that He has surrounded me with, automatically removes that frustration that often grows within me. I never realized how easily and how often I really overlook such blessings in my life. It’s only when I lose it, that I remember how great I had it – whatever ‘it’ is. I am ungrateful and forgetful, but I am trying to work on this. I find myself to be in much more of a pleasant state when I step back and see what I am blessed with, whether it be something such as the flowers I see outside or a restful night’s sleep, remembering these “little” aspects of life really puts everything into perspective and forces you to see that these are the blessings that truly do end up being the “big things.” Our mind just becomes too enveloped within the demands of this dunya that we so quickly are able to forget the reality that is around us and that Allah (SWT) has destined for us.

If you’re going through difficult circumstances right now, know that you are blessed and that Allah (SWT) is with you, closer to you than your jugular vein.

“And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.” Surah Al-Qaf (50:16)

Even though it’s hard to remember and sometimes to even fathom, keep in mind that having good thoughts of Allah (SWT) is an act of worship and an obligation of tawheed. You are never truly alone in your hardships.

Ramadan Mubarak: Remembering Allah (SWT)

I don’t know if this holds true for anyone else, but lately, I’ve been really going through it with life. These past few months of 2019 have been so trying, so unpredictable and such a whirlwind, I feel like I’ve had to face so many challenges and go through so many changes all at once, especially pertaining to my ability to stand up for myself, create boundaries, as well as having to make major decisions regarding my career. It’s so easy to become consumed by everything and to let the stress of continuous decision-making take you away from remembering your purpose.

So much constant change and “adult-ing” can really exhaust the soul and take a serious toll on your overall mood and personality. We never stop to think about how everything affects our hearts and our relationship with Allah (SWT). When we forget Allah and become too consumed in this life to remember our purpose and our Creator, life becomes bitter and draining and we begin to feel this looming sense of vacancy within us. It’s far too easy to forget how simple the remedy for feeling so overwhelmed, sad, or stressed can be. We live in an era where everything is so accessible, the knowledge truly is at our fingertips and the will to seek it out and implement it is within us.

So how can we really restore our faith and start remembering Allah on a constant basis again? Going back to basics here, but an under consumption of salah (daily mandatory Islamic prayers) and reading and/or recitation of Qur’an is guaranteed to take a real big toll on your spirit. Allah (SWT) reminds us of this reality in the Qur’an:

“And whoever turns away from My remembrance, indeed, he will have a depressed life, and We will gather him on the Day of Resurrection blind.” [Surah Taha 20:124]

With the month of Ramadan at our doorstep, there’s no better time than now to actively try and refresh our faith by taking heed in the mandatory aspects of Islam such as salah and dhikr. Just by practicing these two acts alone with sincerity and patience, we are promised to see and feel a significant difference in our daily lives. What also helps me is by simply looking outside and seeing the life around us. Everything is in motion, has life because of Allah. Allah (SWT) is sufficient enough for us in whatever our needs are and in whatever problems we come to face. He is always with us, we just have to remember Him and it will get easier. Allah (SWT) reminds us:

“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.” [Surah Al Baqarah 2:152]

Who wouldn’t want to be remembered by Allah? I think one of the most important facts to keep in mind is that it doesn’t matter if you don’t feel “good” enough, Allah does not ask perfection of us, He only asks remembrance and in exchange for this, He will heal the broken parts of you with His light and in ways that nothing in this world can. You don’t have to be the most righteous person to call upon Him or to make sujood, you just need to be humble and sincere in your connection. We all constantly need Allah (SWT), so we’re kind of already designed to be in the perfect state of receiving His all-embracing mercy and His immediate help and superior compassion. Thinking positively and greatly of Allah (SWT) is so key in changing your entire outlook of life. Once you see Allah (SWT) in the best possible light, you will feel so much more secure, confident, and content.

As we enter into Ramadan, let’s remember to remember that Allah (SWT) is near and that He is the ultimate Protector, Helper, and Friend. Reflecting upon some of Allah (SWT)’s 99 Names can also prove to be highly beneficial in re-connecting your faith and finding a balance between this life and your spiritual self.

Some of the 99 names of Allah include:

Ar Rahman (الرحمن) The Beneficent 

Ar Raheem (الرحيم) The Most Merciful

Al Ghaffaar (الغفار) The Ever Forgiving

As Sabur (الصبور) The Patient

The pursuit in knowing Allah and his true greatness will allow us to better our own flaws and thus increase our taq’wah and actions. Don’t be too hard on yourself when life gets tough, we are only human and our emotions and faith fluctuates throughout time. Be patient and kind with yourself and others, and it will get better insha’Allah.

 

New Zealand Mosque Terrorist Attacks: Should We Be Afraid?

“Friday is the best of days. It was on this day that Hadrat Adam Alaysi salaam was created, it was on this day that he was granted entry into jannah, it was on this day that he was removed from jannah (which became the cause for man’s existence in this universe, and which is a great blessing), and the day of resurrection will also take place on this day.” (Sahih Muslim)

Friday. Jummah. This was the day that an Australian born citizen felt compelled to walk into Masjid Al-Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand and murder innocent Muslims observing their Friday prayer. I can’t seem to fully digest this reality. I can’t believe that we live in an age and society where violence is so normalized and allowed to the point where someone can massacre a place of worship with one hand, while live-streaming it in the other. Social media moves fast, it hasn’t even been a full 24 hours since this terrorist attack was committed, but I feel like we’re always so quick to move on to the next news story. We need to stop moving so rapidly and understand how attacks like this affect our psyche and lifestyles as Muslims living in the West.

This terrorist attack has shaken us all on a deeper level. It’s shaken us to the core, not only because it was an attack in a Western country, but also because of how much we can see ourselves in the same position that these Muslims were in right before their lives were taken from them. The intent of this terrorist was to not only terrorize the Muslims in this local masjid, but to also terrorize the rest of the world by creating an entire Facebook Live video of such a violent act. He not only wanted to inflict fear, terror, and violence in that masjid, but he wanted the world to fall into fear and compliancy. This fear is the kind that pushes people towards compliancy. Compliancy of forsaking everything that makes you different in order to be more “acceptable” and palatable. Forsaking the most precious things that we have: our iman, faith, and Muslim identity.

I’ve been seeing so many posts flooding all social platforms today, all understandably fueled by anger, sadness, and confusion. Some speak to how we should remove our hijabs and not go to the masjid or “look” openly Muslim, in order to remain safe, while others are ready to physically put up a fight against the Islamophobia. It’s a slippery slope with social media because it’s so easy to get consumed and influenced by other people’s opinions, so much so that we lose sight and density of the real issues at hand.

On this Friday, let us just take a moment to not be so reactive with our hurt, but to reflect on not only the Muslim lives that were taken as a direct result of ignorance, irresponsibility and racism from powerful world leaders as well as western mainstream media, but let’s also remember how fleeting this dunya and our lives really are. It has been about 18 years since 9/11 happened, and Islamophobia does not indicate slowing down in the slightest. When events like this occur, it’s easy and almost innate to become fearful by default, but let us not let go of our faith and purpose so easily. Yes, we are targets, but we must not become consumed within a cycle of fear, that either results in us catering to what they want or becoming just like them. Additionally, let us not forget that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions endured so much violence for believing and spreading the truth of Islam, however they never backed down in their faith. If we look closer, we’ll see that the ones, who remained strong in their faith and worship, were always the most successful.

Let us also not forget that Allah is with us, closer than we can imagine. He is always watching, he is the All-Knowing and has a superior wisdom that we cannot comprehend.

Remember to take time out of your day to remember Him greatly, and appreciate those closest to you.

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“Indeed, those who have said, ‘Our Lord is Allah ‘ and then remained on a right course – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.'” Al-Quran [41:30]

Am I The Ideal Muslim Woman?

Feeling out of place within your identity as a Muslim, let alone a Muslim living in the west, let alone a Muslim woman living in the west – is something that isn’t uncommon. It’s easy to feel displaced even if that can be hard to admit sometimes. So often, us Muslim women are facing struggles that no other group of people seem to go through or understand. Whether in our communities or in the public space – our self-worth, and empowerment can feel like it’s fleeting at a constant rate. What helps me find that inner strength again and feel genuine ease is remembering my heritage of being a Muslim woman and the strength that is woven in that history. We have so many resources that connect us back to the great women of Islam – empowerment is at our fingertips.

In today’s society, where we see others abusing women in unimaginable ways, it truly can become almost involuntary to envelope in these feelings of self-loathing and doubt. We begin to get stuck in this mindset that our personal growth as individual Muslim women is stagnated and limited within both our own Muslim communities as well as our larger society. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed by the superficial portrait of the “ideal Muslimah.” I mean, who even is she? Does being the “true Muslim woman” mean succumbing to the male-controlled cookie cutter woman? Does it mean unconsciously assuming stereotypical attributes assigned by non-Muslims and western media? Where does my individual spiritual reality lie in all of this? Does it even belong to me as a Muslim women? Why must we have this strange feeling of unfamiliar self-consciousness when wanting to pursue personal spiritual goals? Am I inevitably striving to fit into this one-dimensional, non-existent image of a “perfect Muslim woman?”

Does being the “true Muslim woman” mean succumbing to the male-controlled cookie cutter woman?

So many questions, but the answers are not too far away. All it takes is looking back into the very first real women of Islam. Yes, real, living, breathing women – each with her own individual differences, mind, strengths, and weaknesses. They were simply humans, just striving to the best of their abilities to please Allah (SWT). It’s important to remember that the priority of the first women of Islam was always to stay near to Allah (SWT). Yes, they were daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers, but ultimately those priorities were secondary to obeying Allah. They didn’t fit into that one-dimensional image painted by today’s patriarchal culture and society. In fact, they more often than not inadvertently rebelled against those “norms.” Amongst them were great scholars, teachers, poets, entrepreneurs, and health-care providers to name a few. They are heroes and it’s important to consider them as nothing less than that.

As young Muslim women growing up or even as more mature Muslim women, we have been so accustomed to having to feel like we are a burden or “un-Islamic” for dreaming big, for speaking up, for striving for our deen individually. We begin to blame and often “feel bad” about wanting to further our professional careers or personal growth. Perhaps even the toxic patriarchal cultural mindset kicks it up a notch and we begin to internalize rhetoric such as, “Why would a Muslim woman even bother to aim high when Allah has ‘commanded’ her to remain at home permanently and not be seen or heard in any sense?” We begin to internalize these false ideas and this is what ultimately shapes our outlook on our potential. We need to start actively flipping the questions, like, “Why can’t a Muslim woman have an impact on the community?” Enough of being unkind to ourselves, because this is not what Islam teaches us. Eliminate harmful cultural thinking that ambitious women are un-Islamic or “too modern.” I’m not “too” anything. I’m just enough.

They are heroes and it’s important to consider them as nothing less than that.

This is detrimental behavior to feed to our young girls especially. To teach the youth to perform merely the obligatory aspects of Islam is theft. We must not teach let alone act upon Islam in such rigid, violent manners. Our Lord is nothing less of the Most Merciful, so why does our own practice not reflect that? It’s so easy to feel alone in today’s age as a Muslim woman. Not only are there a number of stereotypes that work against us, but standards are being lowered while expectations are being raised. This faulty and imaginary definition of the picture perfect Muslim woman does not exist. It only hinders us on a global level from striving to be better as it’s counterproductive in its messaging towards us.

I’m not “too” anything. I’m just enough.

What I don’t think I will ever truly understand is why do they want so badly to deny us of our basic humanity? It’s as if Muslim women can be nothing more than an object of ultimate obedience. Sorry, but I’m not a dog. Our predecessors were genuinely liberated by Islam and empowered by Allah (SWT). Strength and valor was a result of their practice and dedication to the deen. Because of their true belief and following of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Allah (SWT), were they able to grow and live fulfilling lives. This is the very reason why we need to go back to our own roots now more than ever. We need to change our cultural narratives and stop hiding behind the comfort of these norms that seem so “set in stone.” When we look back at the powerful people who carried out Islam in the best of ways, we will then be able to thrive in this dunya just like they did. Honestly, without us looking back at our own history, it becomes so much easier to fall victim to cultural restraints, thus being overcome with the sense of a distorted identity. That is how we become brainwashed and manipulated. It sounds lame, but knowledge truly is power.

Why do they want so badly to deny us of our basic humanity?

If you’re conflicted about how you can live Islam in a way so that your character genuinely speaks to it, seek out knowledge. Seeking out self-knowledge will always bring you to your authentic character. When you become self-assured in your identity as a Muslim woman, that vibe will manifest in all areas of your life. Always remember, “perfection” is not a part of our duties as Muslims. We can only strive to do our best, ask Allah (SWT) for His Mercy and Forgiveness, and try again.

And yes, you can still make a lit cup of chai for your family and also dominate the professional world.

Surviving Corporate America

I woke up one recent Sunday morning feeling strangely anxious and overwhelmed. This feeling is kind of foreign to me or at least has been foreign to me ever since I’ve become closer with Islam and Allah (SWT). I’m usually always able to pinpoint and trouble shoot these feelings by reflecting upon my current relationship with my daily prayers and the Qur’an. I always try my best to stay on top of these things in order to keep my imaan (faith) at bay while working in the cold, heartless “heart” of New York City and corporate America – but let me just say, it is tough out here for people like us. Striving for the deen, maintaining a level-headedness and mindfulness while working in corporate America, where people only care about making their sales and pleasing business partners. It’s exhausting in all aspects, to say the very least. You almost begin to adopt this false, unrealistic mindset that everything in life is a business deal – even your relationship with your family and Allah (SWT). We have to take a step back and truly realign ourselves and our motives when we begin to develop this type of outlook.

I often think about just quitting work altogether. It’s not an entirely bad idea, but this is also a test that Allah has placed me in. I’ve always been a very strong believer that we need more Muslims permeating different industries. It’s great to have Muslims in the medical field and in social activism, but we need to be visible elsewhere. I’ve always been the only Muslim working in my office. I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to clear misconceptions of Islam and the Muslim community to the people I work around. It’s a nice feeling to explain the simplistic teachings of Islam to people who don’t really know anything about it aside from what the media teaches them. This is always a weirdly rewarding aspect of being able to work in corporate America, but its definitely not all peaches and cream. People are nasty, horrible, and soul sucking in very creative ways.

Sometimes (most times), corporate life just takes a toll on you. It makes you feel inevitably trapped, hopeless, and completely consumed within a monotonous lifestyle. Whenever I’m feeling down about work, the best action I feel I can take is mentally step back and remember my purpose – our purpose here on Earth. Our purpose on Earth is not to slave and work and kill ourselves over corporate America – no matter how practical/popular that might seem. Our purpose and our worth are far greater. Our potential is greater and our existence is so much more than getting stressed daily at a 9-5 office job surrounded by white people whose values are so far from your own.

What is our purpose then? I mean I’m just a twenty-something year old girl, how am I supposed to answer this existential question that we all ponder about? I do know one thing for sure: our purpose is to follow Allah (SWT). Seek out knowledge actively, build bonds, be kind, explore this planet, and to love. I’m really not trying to sound all hippy here – but we must re-examine and reflect upon ourselves and our Creator in order to heal from the anxieties created by our jobs or anything for that matter. It’s so easy to feel lost and paralyzed in fear due to harsh and stressful work environments. Just remember to protect your heart at all costs. Don’t let them take ownership of who you are. It’s not worth it.

“Our purpose and our worth are far greater. Our potential is greater and our existence is so much more than getting stressed daily at a 9-5 office job…”

Whatever job you have, I beg you, please do not take what people say to or about you (whether it be your manager, co-workers, clients, etc) so personally to the point where you feel as though you are not worthy or good enough. Do not take their mannerisms and words so heavily to your precious heart and soul. Do not allow them to burden your spirit or change your character for the worse. If you are not a negative person, do not become one. Do not become them. Resist the common behaviors that enslave you to this worldly life. Do not beat yourself up about all of your “flaws,” that you forget all of your immense blessings. Do not hold on to their negativity so strongly. Do not bring it into your home. Do not let their words and their perception of who they think you are, alter who you really are. You can do it. Allah (SWT) created you for a far superior and more significant reason. Do not worship these people or the workplace. It’s not that deep. This life ain’t the one.

Exploring Allah’s 99 Names: Ar-Rahman

Most Muslims say this name multiple times throughout our daily lives: before we eat, when we pray, when we’re scared or worried, and countless other times. There’s even a whole surah in the Qur’an dedicated to this name. So, how much do we really understand the meaning of one of Allah’s most well-known names? How much do we really know about, Ar-Rahman? Or has it been so normalized, so watered down from our daily habits that its divine meaning has gotten a bit blurred? What truly matters is that we actively seek out knowledge and forgiveness any time we catch ourselves slipping and becoming forgetful or stagnant in practicing our deen. When we do our best to comprehend Allah’s divine attributes, we truly do begin to feel closer to Him in unexplainable ways.

Many of us have come to know that Ar-Rahman is a name associated with Allah’s great, unmatched and intense mercy. What does this mean to us and why is this significant to our lives on Earth? If you think about it, mercy is a characteristic that enables all other qualities. It embraces all other attributes. For example, you can’t love without having mercy, nor can you help someone if you don’t have mercy. However it’s important to remember how all encompassing, ultimate and superior Allah’s mercy is over any other. We can see Allah’s mercy everywhere, starting from our own lives, our very own existence, and then pondering the planet in which He created sustenance for us to live on.

The Qur’an mentions Ar-Rahman 57 times and there is an entire chapter named after it. In Surah Ar-Rahman (55), Allah speaks to us about all of His creations. From the sun and the moon, to mankind and jinn – Allah has placed mercy in these creations in diverse ways, and has undying mercy for it all. What this surah is most known for is its repetition and the intensity it builds through this literary element. Allah repeats the ayah:

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Fabi ayyi aalaaa’i Rabbikumaa tukazzibaan / So which of the favors of your Lord will you deny?

This repeating ayah heightens the power and message of not only the surah, but also the meaning behind Ar-Rahman. It’s even interesting to reflect upon the structure of the entire surah from beginning to end. This surah is intense, there’s no doubt about that, but if we look closely, it’s noteworthy to see how the surah evolves and softens up as Allah begins to describe to us what Jannah is like and the people of Jannah, whom also embody a different level of mercy in order to have earned a place there. This surah is so beautiful in its reminder to us all. Allah (SWT) has placed His bountiful mercy all around us and He is always with us, showing us mercy in ways that we don’t even think of most of the time or can even comprehend. From being able to feel refreshed from drinking water, to being able to express our emotions through language, to witnessing the sunrise and sunsets and to even being able to have the capability to read and comprehend this very post. All of this is from Allah and His mercy. All of these activities didn’t have to be enjoyable for us, but everyone, both believers and nonbelievers, are able to enjoy even the tiniest things in life, due to Allah’s mercy.

I recently had a conversation with someone and they wholeheartedly believed that “all religions have one thing in common: if you sin, you will be punished, point blank.” How could this be a concrete truth if Allah is Ar-Rahman? The thing is – Islam has more depth than the aforementioned opinion. Islam is different and teaches us about who Allah really is. Islam does not teach us that if we make a mistake, Allah hates us and punishes us and that’s that. As humans, we are highly critical creatures, and often times very unforgiving of ourselves and of each other. However, it’s extremely important to know that Allah does not embody human characteristics. Allah’s mercy surpasses our intellect and our own capacity to forgive. Allah is waiting for us to ask for help, and waiting for us to seek forgiveness and comfort within Him. Just knowing that is a mercy within of its self.

All of these mercies from Him are so wonderful, so blessed, but far too often overlooked and forgotten. As mentioned earlier, we are only human and it is within our nature to be forgetful as we try to maintain the balance between dunya (worldly life) and deen (religion/faith). This will always be one of our greatest tests. In these times of forgetfulness or hopelessness, it’s key to remember that no matter how many times we sin or walk away from our faith, when we come back searching for answers, He will always be waiting for us and rushing towards us – vast mercy and all. When we are seeking forgiveness, call out for Ar-Rahman, the Most Merciful.

As always, it’s easier said than done, but if you think about it, there is beauty and peace in knowing that you are not as invincible as you might think or hope to be. There is a much greater power that is responsible for it all – your health, your knowledge, your trials, and your blessings. Knowing that it all lies within the care of Ar-Rahman, is a mercy on its own, an ease on our minds when we believe wholeheartedly.

Are Muslims Islamophobic?

You know that saying, “If everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you jump off too?” Many times we hear this when we are caught imitating foolish acts of others. The question is rhetorical – we all know we would not physically jump off a cliff just because others are…or would we? Continue reading “Are Muslims Islamophobic?”

Why We Should Be Like The Bee

Working in the city full-time can really take a toll on the way you think and perceive this life and the world around you. Being surrounded by not only people who worship the work place and their salary, but also commuting within an environment that is gated in 100 foot concrete buildings, it can become a real challenge to maintain a mindset that is in a constant state of reflection and remembrance of Allah (SWT). Inevitably, with a lack of remembrance of Allah, our hearts begin to harden which alters our character and frequency of virtuous acts. Especially living in the West, where a majority of the population lead highly secular lifestyles which tend to be selfish, cruel, and focused on only living for the dunya (worldly life and its immediate pleasures). It becomes easy to be consumed within this fast-paced, impatient mindset that can often times be naturally unforgiving towards others. Being placed right in the middle of this chaotic way of life is truly a test in itself. How do we reflect upon our own behaviors and our dedication to Allah (SWT) when everything and everyone around us is doing the exact opposite?

We begin to question, “is it really that important to be kind and patient with others?” As the capitalist world progresses, we become accustomed to this singular mindset that every relationship we have is that of a “business deal” format or from a “consumer” point of view – even our relationship with Allah (SWT). We’re all very familiar with the basic business structure: you, as the consumer pay for something and immediately receive it. We are always seeking out a reward, an immediate effect to our cause. We work, we get paid or we pay the cashier and receive our groceries, we pay the waiter, we get food – we live in a world where this is the basic mechanism of how our society functions, so it’s no wonder we inevitably develop a type of mindset where we are always in a state of expectancy. It has become easy to lose faith in Allah as we become accustomed to this mindset that our duas (prayers) should be answered immediately and if we don’t see them being answered right away, then we begin to question Islam. This mindset has also trickled down to how we treat others. This way of thinking encourages us to make good and kind actions exclusive to those we deem as “deserving” of them. This behavior is highly contradictory to what Islam teaches us. One hadith that I love to ponder upon is one that urges us to reflect upon the behavior of the bee. Yes, the bee, one of the many insects that we all normally freak out in fear of being stung by it. This beautiful hadith, narrated by Imam Ahmad, states that, the messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

“By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the believer is like a bee which eats that which is pure and wholesome and lays that which is pure and wholesome. When it lands on something it does not break or ruin it.”

This hadith is so profound and truly is one to reflect upon daily. Often times we don’t really think about bees and the nature in which they live or their dutifulness and importance to sustaining life on Earth. We also don’t realize the fashion in which they inhabit various areas by the will of Allah. They are truly admirable creatures, so admirable that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) swore by Allah (SWT) that they are creatures of great importance and relevance to the believer. In this hadith, we learn that we should mimic the bee in eating wholesome and pure food and drink, unlike other insects that consume repulsive and impure things. We also learn that the bee lays on that which is also pure and wholesome – this could be interpreted as how bees lay on and excrete honey, which is also something that is free from impurity. For a believer, we can view this as all of our actions, words, and intentions towards others as well as this Earth, should also be pure and good. The last part of the hadith is truly remarkable. “When it lands on something, it does not break or ruin it,” this is so significant to us as believers as it urges us to reflect on the way in which we handle our affairs and our relationships. We should embody the nature of the bee in that it is gentle and does not disrupt wherever it lives. It takes what it needs for the greater good, leaves that place in the condition that it was. As believers, we should handle our affairs with that same gentleness and softness. The believer should be temperate in his/her dealings with the creation, meaning we should not ruin or cause difficulty or pain to any life on Earth whether that is to humans, animals, or plants. We should find ways to carry out justice and should practice remaining patient even in situations that may often ignite anger within us. These instances are tests for the believers, as we should remember Allah (SWT) and ask Him for guidance and patience to always speak a good word and do good deeds. Being consciously aware of our emotions and knowing that we are in full control of them can help the process. We should aim to not be negative or overbearing, but rather kind, understanding, and merciful towards others. Who would actively want to be the type of person who constantly causes distress to others with their words or actions? We were given the will to be far much better than that.

Our surroundings and living situations can influence our behavior, but in the end, we are responsible and in control of how we choose to react towards others and the environment around us. It always seems easier to lose our patience and see the bad in people, but if we just try to keep our calm for a few more seconds, we will find that it is more rewarding and fulfilling than bursting out in any rage of anger. Wherever you are and wherever you go, strive to make the people around you at ease, or at least do not leave them in a more difficult state than how you met them. Seek patience through prayer and remembrance of Allah (SWT), and you will find yourself naturally gravitating towards a calmer lifestyle.