Constant reminds that I am not alone at looking at what others have, comparing what others have, and wanting for myself when I really have in my possession access to the truth as they do not. They may enjoy their life, and some of them may marry sooner, but I am a striving believer, and I have the Qur'an, and even if I were to be single for the rest of my life, which I know that God does not intend but I burden myself with that thought, anyway, I have what the Prophet (saw) shared with us all, for generations beyond what he himself could imagine:
"And, indeed, We have bestowed upon thee seven of the oft-repeated [verses], and [have, thus, laid open before thee] this sublime Qur'an: [so] turn not thine eyes [longingly] towards the worldly benefits which We have granted unto some of those [that deny the truth]. And neither grieve over those [who refuse to heed thee], but spread the wings of they tenderness over the believers, and say, "Behold, I am indeed the plain warner [promised by God]!" (15:89)
I usually felt justified in my angst about not being married because I figured that was a less worldly thing than desiring money and fame and those sorts of things, but it is still a worldly thing. I mean, technically, if I knew I wouldn't have a spouse in this life, I know I'd have ample companionship in the next life...and I know that my destination is my own and not mine and my spouse's together. So it doesn't matter in that sense. But at the same time, I know it will be better for me, given my nature (and I'll leave it at that) to have a spouse at some point...so I felt justified, whereas I have angst for nothing else. I don't need money, fame, a big house. I would be content knowing I would spend the rest of my life living in a small apartment, relying on public transportation. But that was the one thing...I think entitled is the word I was looking for. I don't feel so entitled anymore, no more am I justified in my angst, though at the same time, I have been convinced that this prayer, my oft-prayed prayer, will be answered sooner than it ever has been, because He promises that to us.
"God's judgment is [bound to] come: do not, therefore, call for its speedy advent! Limitless is He in His glory and sublimely exalted above anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity." (16:1)
At the height of teenage angst, or probably more adeptly, at the depths of teenage angst, I used to wish to die, pray to die. Even now, as life gets hard, sometimes I feel like going somewhere to hide, hibernate for a while, and return when it's over. It's pretty much the same as rushing God's judgment, and I can only say that, as one who strives to be a good believer, we must believe that if it's not our time yet, it's because we have work to do, and some of that work may just be earning our place near God in Paradise, so...keep on stepping! It may seem hard, I tell myself, but that I'm still here is testament to the fact that I can do this, God knows better than I do. Giving up is calling forth judgment that shall not be hastened. I at least know I'm not in the state I want to be when Judgment Day rolls around, and although I feel like we should be ready at all times...let's just say I want to be more ready.
"Now as for those who forsake the domain of evil in the cause of God, after having suffered wrong [on account of their faith] -- We shall most certainly grant them a station of good fortune in this world: but their reward in the life to come will be far greater yet. If they [who deny the truth could but understand those who, having attained to patience in adversity, in their Sustainer place their trust!" (16:41-42)
Here I think of religious persecution that persists today, big things and little things. I've definitely had trolls on this blog posting hateful comments that I don't post before. Probably people praying for all of us in our faith's demise. To that, I don't bat an eye, because God told me that no one can do me harm except by His leave, and by His leave I'm returning to Him. I don't bat an eye...in fact, say more about me! Curse me, call me ethnic slurs (although honestly, I don't get as much flack as a black American Muslim...to speculate on that would only be a waste of spiritual energy)! It'll only make my faith stronger and set me up with rewards from God, because I'm not forsaking my faith for nothing in this world! Makes me want to do more good in the name of my faith and fear less!
"And God has brought you forth from your mothers' wombs knowing nothing--but He has endowed you with hearing, and sight, and minds, so that you might have cause to be grateful." (16:78)
I think I mentioned this in a previous entry, but I think the challenge of our time is arrogance at feeling self-made. Throughout this surah, An-Nahl, God mentions the various signs for people to believe, which seems dated to the modern reader, since most of us do not own livestock and we no longer depend on seafaring and caravans (well, of the livestock variety) to get where we need to go. God then harkens to creation that these people cannot even fathom yet, which I think is a sign for our time. Even so, human beings got to be feeling like they're all that and a bag of chips from time to time because of their inventions. Everything around me right now, from the purple paint on my bedroom wall to the paper of my Qur'an to my alarm clock, the plastic in my trashbags, the light bulbs in my lamps...the computer I am typing on are all space age technologies compared to the time of the Prophet (saw), and they are all "man made." So man has got to be feeling all great. Man has got to be feeling self-made...
Except for the fact, as I mentioned before, that we cannot carry ourselves in our own wombs and feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, keep ourselves from dying like our mothers did, and without God could the little curly legged babies we were grow up and have the mind to create and invent as we do the conveniences that has made life easier for us than it was for anyone, believers or non-believers, in the time of the Prophet (saw)? And yet most of us self-made men and women barely approach our parents with the humility they deserve, the mother that nursed and carried us, let alone God who created us and made a way for us to grow from ova and sperm that chanced to meet into purposeful, fleshy, nubile, rational human beings. I mean, alhamdulillah already! Masha'Allah!
"Verily, that which is with God is by far the best for you, if you but knew it: all that is with you is bound to come to an end, whereas that which is with God is everlasting." (16:94-95).
That's why I know that nothing good can come from anything that I feel I cannot do in the name of God, whether it is a place that I am to go or a relationship I am to forge with someone. Especially for marriage...how can I do other than the will of God if I want it to be everlasting?
"And most certainly shall We grant unto those who are patient in adversity their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did. As for anyone--be it man or woman--who does righteous deeds, and is a believer withal--him shall We most certainly cause to live a good life; and most certainly shall We grant unto such as these their reward in accordance with the best they ever did." (16:96-97).
The best we've ever done, huh? I pray that God allows me to live long enough for me to do the best that I can possibly do, for His sake, for my own sake, and for the sake of the people around me who will benefit from whatever good I do.
That's a great concept for an extemporaneous du'a!
And this is important, Satan, "has only power over those who are willing to follow him, and who [thus] ascribe to him a share in God's divinity." (16:100)
There are so many ways that one can ascribe to someone a share in God's divinity...from morally presupposing clear commandments made in the Qur'an with one's own or someone else's moral reasoning, thus elevating that person (or yourself) to a level of sharing in God's divinity to giving Satan a share (which is wow, reprehensible). I guess that's another way of thinking of your sins...giving Satan, that evil force, a share of God's divinity, making you thus among the disbelievers.
An-Nahl was one of the suwar my mother often read to us when we were kids. Several others were, but I remember liking the names of the suwar...bees, and thunders and heights...it all seemed majestic to me.
I was sitting in my room and looked across, towards my windows, to where my mirror leans against the wall. I leaned over to place my house shoes on my feet. I gazed at my chest and realized that I had the breasts I'd always wanted. I wonder why it took me so long to realize that.
I had been menstruating for at least two years and I was an eighth grader. I had gone through puberty early. I expressed my breasts to take off in growth, any day then. Other girls who were flat when I was already wearing an A cup were now surpassing me. I was just a B cup, barely. It felt like grand cosmic injustice! I was a big girl and other women had large breasts in my family, including my mother, with age. So I had broad shoulders and very little chest. I began to sing the "I'm ugly" song that very many teenage girls learn in middle and high school. I was too fat, my hair as too short, my breasts were too small. My profile didn't look quite right. My thighs were too big. My butt was too big or too small, depending on the population. Nothing was quite right. Why was I relegated thus?
To top it off, at the time I felt for some reason that I was destined for hell. I reasoned that if God already knew who was a wrongdoer, how did I know I wasn't among them and God would close my heart?
Excuse me, but I can barely rationalize through this all now. I'd like to blame it on the teenage brain, but I'm not sure the frontal lobe has anything to do with it.
But I've seen myself in the mirror before, as I dress for the day in clinic or in the hospital. It's perhaps with age, experience and a little bit of womanly wisdom that I'm satisfied with everything I see. I do aspire to lose a little weight, continue to grow out my hair (which is hard for the woman with the most fragile hair in the world), but I like what I see. Unfortunately, it took a few amorous serenades and similar fawning for me to get to the point that I realized...I really do have the body I always wanted, the body I will keep healthy for the sake of God, the source of pleasure for whoever will be my husband and I...and wow, I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that.
My mother's favorite term for society is "materialist, sensist." It didn't matter that my mother dressed me modestly as a child and made sure I continued to do the same as a teenager. I did not bear my breasts, but I knew if I wore such clothing that could, I would have no cleavage. The beautiful women on television had cleavage, and I wanted to be as desirable as possible, because that's how one got a man to be interested, and the absence of enough boobage to have cleavage was just one more count out of my favor. It didn't matter that my mother taught me against it. Sure, it was somewhere in the back of my mind, but television, movies, my classmates were in the forefront of my mind...
So I needed the boobs, the rest of the body to boot, the hair, the profile...
Things changed a little when I graduated high school and entered college with the express goal of becoming a more practicing Muslim. I oversimplified things, though. Somehow, Muslim men were greater than all men, and they would want me as a wife for my character and my piety and not for what I looked like, as evidenced by the fact that they will select women while only seeing face and hands and not the rest of their bodies. I did not realize, however, that Muslim men were men. In hijab and no longer so constrained by materialism and sensism, I unintentionally gained 30 pounds. The thought of ugliness returned as I was now obese...
Some women say that they don't alter how they dress because of men, and maybe it's because I think very simply, but okay, I change the way I dress because of men. I always have. Covering my chest because of men, hijab because of men, cute skirt because of men. I would love my body at a comfortable weight if I weren't constantly wondering if my looks weren't optimum for getting the man best suited for me.
Men men men men...one of the reasons I'm not yet married is probably because God, knowing all of the things I've done for the sake of attracting men, is waiting for me to stop and start doing things for the sake of God, and therefore myself. Maybe that's the hangup...
I don't know, only God does. Because in striving towards God would be the ulterior motive of...marriage.
What I've always wanted. Marriage. I think as a teenager, if someone told me that I would have the best man in the world while being flat chested, I would have longed for a flatter chest. If someone told me that I could have had the best man in the world even while being bald, I would have cut my hair shorter. These days, I can't be so influenced. Honestly, I want a lot more out of marriage as an adult than generic man. I want partnership and help through this life which I've discovered, yes, is difficult.
So maybe that's why I'm finally satisfied with myself, everything I am...maybe I'm finally realizing that God not only wants us to marry but since I've prayed for it for the past 14 years and he gives us all that we ask for, by some transitive property, it will come to pass.
My not believing it will happen is a little bit of disbelief hidden within me that has been in the making for the past 14 years (yes, starting from when I was 12) that is unmerited, not only because I was a child for much of the time but also, because disbelief is always unmerited.
So like that, this Ramadan, I have what I always wanted. I will insha'Allah, someday, get married, and I'm going to work on believing that, and then it will come to pass, and I have that gut feeling, that God feeling, that it will be sooner than soon has been before...