Sunday, October 24, 2010


As salaam alaikum,

{Currently Listening: "Visions" - Stevie Wonder}

"People hand in hand. Have I lived to see the milk and honey land where hate's a dream and love forever stands, or is this a vision in my mind?" - Stevie Wonder, "Visions."

Never more has there been a more prolific artist and musical genius as there was Stevland Morris.

As my life unfolds in front of me, decisions yet to make, some of them good ones, some of them mistakes, the both of them formative for my future self, I think to what would be the ideal. What would be the ideal existence for my future self? What would be the existence in which I wouldn't feel for want of anything, an existence in which I would never wonder about the other side of things? It would be a veritable utopia, except not utopia, because that place can't it would be mytopia. My own Visions.

I see myself living in a community, tight-knit though diverse. Diverse how? Ethnically diverse. I actually see myself living in at least two communities simultaneously. One is ethnically and religiously diverse, but homogeneous in the sense that everyone is accepting (not tolerant...I dislike that word and its connotations) of each other. I also see myself being part of an ummah within my community, also ethnically diverse and not only accepting of this diversity, but enamored of it...embracing it with open arms, purposefully promoting it, not to the exclusion of those who would tend to cling to their home countries and all that is familiar, but opening them gently to a broader view of what it means to be Muslim. I see that.

I will be one of the physicians of the community. I will care for families, mainly women and their children. I will deliver some of their children, insha'Allah, help to promote health. Insha'Allah, I will be married, to whomever. I will have children, however they are. I'm not as concerned about how my children will be, in terms of their ethnicities, as it may be. I just grew up in a diverse place and I want my kids to, as well. I don't want to shelter them to a world of difference...a world of different faiths, beliefs, worldviews, perspectives. I want to shelter them from danger and preserve their childhood as much as I can, but I also want to school them such that when it is time to go out on their own, they go forth as tranquilly as I did. All insha'Allah.

I've already arrived so they don't have to. No one has to be a doctor or an engineer or go into law or business. I will, however, make sure that they are the best at whatever they want to do. Although I'm the child of an immigrant, I'm afraid I lack that immigrant perspective that caused our parents to have such staunch expectations. If I didn't become a physician, I could have done something else. The choice was never between education and carrying sacks of rice, as my father's reality was, or so he says.

Visions. It's a simple thing. I don't want anything magical. I just want safety, security to be as I am, to practice Islam as I see fit, practice medicine to the best of my ability...

I laugh on the inside. My husband, whoever. I lie a little bit. I've always seen my husband as Muslim, from the time I was a teenager when I first imagined my husband, that's what I see. After B asked me out, actually, I had a dream where I got married and could not have a nikah, which is what I've wanted since I first became more practicing in 2003 and learned more about Islam. And I was so sad in the dream, because then the marriage didn't mean as much to me. I didn't know who I was marrying (as with the dream I had in 2002, at 17, when I dreamt I got married in my high school building), and I didn't see him at the end of the dream, either. I didn't care.

I've been examining this week, these past couple of days, why I was so intent on marrying a Muslim. I mean, besides the obvious reasons, my being Muslim, my being a Muslimah, wanting to please Allah (swt), not wanting to end up like my mother who is isolated in Islam (though she has me, I don't want to count on giving birth to my best friend), all that jazz. But I realize...

Part of mytopia (which is reminding me of eye, diplopia) has always been wanting to raise children in Islam. It's never mattered to me the ethnicity of my husband. In fact, I've always been attracted to people who were racially or ethnically different from me, not at the exclusion of black or Nigerian men, but in addition to, I guess. Islam is overarching. In fact, I almost preferred to blur racial, ethnic and cultural lines so that Islam was the strongest, so there was nothing to compete, unlike me, the Muslim Igbo girl, the oxymoron.

And I guess it still is part of my vision for myself, my future...but prayerfully, I tuck that away. Not because I've given up, but because it's irrelevant right now. I'm just setting myself up to be disappointed. I don't doubt that I could still marry a Muslim man, but children, as I tell my roommate, will burn your house down! I was talking literally, but also figuratively.

I would be silly to have not learned that lesson from my relationship with my father. Though my father taught me nothing about Christianity as I was growing up and somehow expects me to learn about it at my age, after a lifetime of being exposed to Islam and after doing my own study in college, I would plan to immerse my children in Islam while exposing them to other faiths positively (unlike how I was exposed to Christianity by my mother, which probably unnecessarily polarized my parents and the faiths in my mind at a young age). But...there is always the possibility that one of my children would come to me, tearfully as I did to my father, and tell me that they will never be Muslim, as my I told my father in 2005 (shortly after I started my xanga) that I would never be Christian.

So that's why I tuck mytopia away, prayerfully. With each step I go in life, including my life now as I agree to meet B for coffee, I will step forward prayerfully. The farthest I'm thinking forward is going to the Djavan concert with B. I do want to raise my children Muslim, knowing that whatever they do in life, they'll always have my love. I do want to have a nikah. I want to marry for the sake of Allah (swt), go forward in my life that way in the name of Allah (swt)...I shouldn't have told my father that I'd never be Christian. It was ugly, I was crying, and it was a negative way to go about things.

I should have told him, I am Muslim, and I will always be Muslim.

But thinking too far into the future, I've found, has always made me worry unnecessarily. It makes me cry sometimes, gives me a headache, makes me withdraw within myself. So I tuck my visions away until they become more relevant, until I am to marry, until I have my first child, until it's time to decide where I am to live...until...

"I'm not one who makes believe. I know that leaves are green. They only change to brown when autumn comes around. I know just what I say, today's not yesterday and all things have an ending..."


1 comment:

  1. wa alaikum assalaam

    we had a fundraiser dinner saturday night for a proposed new islamic center in nyc (not park 51, this is going to have a masjid, an elementary school, athletic center, family counseling, islamic studies, etc.). i waited outside for hours to help guests, resolve parking issues and direct them inside. an indonesian brother accompanied me. a brother from my college (must've graduated years ago, too) arrived at a decent time and left pretty early.

    while on his way out we basically started having all sorts of islamic discussions because of how few people were showing up. amongst the discussions was how to approach parents. we're talking about muslim children to muslim parents who have some sort of issue with the deen, whether it's strange practices, lack of immersion beyond ritualistic 'ibadah, there is something really off with their deen that unnecessarily sets children apart from parents.

    the brother had some advice.. he started off with, "Lead them..." and I didn't let him finish. I thought he was going to say, "Lead them by example." Immediately my issues with my father came to mind, the memories just flashed (though my family is Muslim I only got into the deen in 2007. like your father mine didn't teach me anything about Islaam, apparently he knows stuff, but I didn't know that. What he did do though is get us to learn to read Arabic without comprehension when we were very young.). The first time I ever gathered the courage to speak out against something I knew was likely incorrect I did the right thing first then confronted him. That was disasterous. I told the brothers a bit about that and we all laughed before I could even finish and all of us were like we're basically in our diapers before them, when we're 50 we'll still be 5 to them. The next issue I tried to tackle was basically resist giving in to something I know is wrong, I manage to get them to acknowledge it was wrong... yet they still persist because, "It's not practical."

    So I let the brother continue finally and he said "Lead them to the answers by guiding the questions." Basically asking them simple questions they already know the answer to until they land on what's right. That second confrontation with my dad was terrible. I tried my best to keep my cool, which for the most part I did, but... things are okay now but no apologies were ever handed out.

    i try to not give certain details but i wanted to share that stuff hoping there might be something useful in there for your case. from daughter to dad must be much more tough... but forgiveness should come easier, too, when it does come... inshAllaah. it's not that you said something wrong rather it's how we say things (10-15% communication is verbal) and i suppose there's a sort of learning curve in how to give everyone their rights, Allaah swt, His Messenger, your parents, others, your very own self.