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.

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?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about that aforementioned rhetorical question and how it comes into fruition in our daily existence, especially those of young Muslims living in the West. As we progress into a highly innovative society, I feel that many of us feel as if we are at a crossroads with Islam and Western culture and ideals.

Growing up in a highly anti-Muslim, Islamophobic era truly does have lasting psychological affects on us: the youth of this marginalized community. Our outlook and overall practice and closeness to Islam have been, inevitably, attacked. The fundamentals of Islam – hijacked. I recently stumbled upon a very well put video created by Yaqeen Institue. Within this video we see several young Muslims (from children to young adults), who are expressing their experiences as a young Muslim in a Western society that continuously challenges their standing in Islam. Most of us have probably thought about such questions ourselves. Questions such as, “Why do women have to wear hijab, but men don’t?” or “Why did God make it so hard to be Muslim – why can’t I eat or wear whatever I want?” and even “Why are there so many Muslim bad guys?” These questions are not wrong to ponder about. In fact, Allah (SWT) urges us to seek out the truth in Islam. However, the real problem lies in the fact that our youth are continuously getting slammed so viciously with micro-aggressions towards Islam so much so that 23% of Americans raised as Muslims, no longer identify with Islam. Of course, we are all about free choice here, but is it really free choice if falling away from Islam wasn’t truly your own genuine decision, but rather a decision facilitated by the desire to “fit in” with those who have made Western culture their inherent “religion” to practice and worship?

Allah (SWT) urges us to seek out the truth

Our youth are ultimately suffering; we are all truly suffering through internalizing Islamophobia. Islamophobia is such a broad term that we’ve heard thrown around in multiple dialogues and contexts. Can a Muslim even be Islamophobic? Is new atheism Islamophobic? When someone makes an inaccurate comment that puts you in a state of pressure and doubt about Islam, is that Islamophobia as well? We are being attacked from so many different angles in ways that are truly posing to be a challenge for us to keep up with our genuine beliefs. It’s become easier to slip away from Islam and its core teachings just because it seems like the majority of people are doing the opposite of what Islam says. Whether it be the clothes we choose to wear, the food we eat, or the way we act towards others – it’s evident that our youth are highly impressionable and influenced by what their peers and mainstream media deem as “normal.”

23% of Americans raised as Muslims, no longer identify with Islam.

Maybe the key is figuring out the balance in life. Even our own beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) emphasized how our existence is about balancing our spiritual obligations and the worldly life. It is also so important for our youth to have the proper resources and understanding on the teachings of Islam. Having a sound understanding on the reasons behind why we do and do not practice certain things within Islam, quite literally makes us or breaks us in this world. We need to accept that not every single Muslim is going to be at the same level of worship or iman (faith), and we need to be strong enough to not let our anger and judgment towards one another, defeat the power of properly advising each other. It is our duty in Islam to help a fellow brother or sister out, but that duty does not entail publicly or even privately humiliating another, or making them feel inferior, incapable, or sinful. We are only here to serve as a reminder of what Islam teaches and how Prophet Muhammad (SAW) brought people to the deen. Do you think he brought people to Islam by making them feel bad about themselves? Do you think he got impatient or angry with them? Spoiler alert, the answer to those questions is a solid no.

Islam is about community, and we need to hold on to our community and help make it stronger. We need to educate ourselves with sound knowledge, real knowledge of this deen and who Allah (SWT) is. This dunya will always be a disappointment, this dunya will never have the answers, and abandoning or denying the single divine source that makes sense out of all of the nonsense, is an injustice against ourselves. If we don’t help each other, then who will?

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.

Stop Romanticizing Exhaustion

It was Sunday night and I was doing the dishes while listening to the soundtrack of my favorite Disney princess movie, Tangled. I was singing along to “When Will My Life Begin” when suddenly a conversation about “when your life begins” started among my siblings and myself. What my 10 year old brother had to say, took me by surprise. Continue reading “Stop Romanticizing Exhaustion”

Reflections: Is Hitting Women Permissible In Islam?

Knowledge is everything. When you are constantly seeking to gain knowledge and questioning everything, that is when you are truly utilizing the gift of thinking for yourself. When you don’t seek out knowledge, that is how ignorance manifests itself. Some of the main issues that people (both Muslims and non-Muslims) have about Islam stem from pure ignorance and utter lack of knowledge on a given subject. One of the most “debated” subjects in Islam is how people genuinely believe that hitting women in any form has a place within the religion. Astaghfirullah. Continue reading “Reflections: Is Hitting Women Permissible In Islam?”

An Open Letter to My Twenty-Something Girls

Make your own path. Who cares if it’s not conventional and what people expect of you? All your life people will give you advice, sometimes advice that doesn’t apply to you at all. Continue reading “An Open Letter to My Twenty-Something Girls”