As salaam alaikum,
First of all, Eid Mubarak to my Muslim family!
In 2002, I was introduced to the hauntingly symbolic song and video by OutKast, "The Whole World." What could be dismissed as just another goofy OutKast song for me as a 17 year old was full of social commentary. The song's chorus for me symbolized the plight of the black man in the United States over time.
The whole world loves it when you don't get down...Michael Jackson, by then no longer remembered as the Prince of Pop but as a child molester.
And the whole world loves it when you make that sound...every eye-bucking, shucking and jiving or just trying to make a living in the guise of buffoonery black comedian ever.
And the whole world loves it when you're in the news...OJ Simpson (umm, who can write a doctoral dissertation on the racial dynamics of the OJ Simpson trial? Many of us can...).
And the whole world loves it when you sing the blues...
I'm not sure why it struck me so much as the black man at that time, but I realize it could also apply to other celebrities. In general, people love to be entertained by the lives and misfortunes of others. And the video, with the all-black circus backdrop and the mainly white male cooperate audience clapping in unison really gave me that feeling...
Meanwhile, while the show seems to be all for the entertainment of this off-putting audience, Dre and Big Boi (can't say much for the guest artist who wins the prize of fitting as many sexual references and as much double entendre as he can into his section) drop a lot of critical analysis at the time.
The one lyric that hit me recently that has a lot to do with where I am now, spiritually, is the following:
"The only liable limitation is yourself."
The only liable limitation is yourself, huh?
Let me tell you about me being my only limitation for becoming all I want to be...
I think that, in the years since becoming a more practicing Muslim, I've too often looked outside, to others, to complete my identity as a Muslimah. I came into practice seeking a community to help me. There were many communities that I've been a part of or was at the fringes of, but none of them in particular helped me. I tried to hard to be a part and in the process lost some of myself and my original motivation for practicing more along the way. I ended up spending many years morphing myself into what I thought others wanted me to be instead of actually nurturing my natal spirituality.
While God reminds us that we are in loss, "except for such as have faith, do righteous deeds and join together in the mutual teachings of truth," that joining together in the mutual teachings of truth does not have to be within a discrete Muslim community, and it does not have to be with Muslims only. We Muslims, after all, do not have the market cornered on Truth. Truth has many dimensions, and as a Muslim without a Muslim community at this point, it would be negligent of me to ignore those other dimensions of Truth while not in the company of my coreligionists.
I can live the Truth that is our purpose in life...to help each other through life, with others than Muslims. Insha'Allah I do this daily through my profession.
I am my own liable limitation. I should not have waited with bated breath for a community to embrace me for my identity and practice as a Muslimah to be complete.
When a community that I fit into seemed out of my reach, I then looked to marriage. I didn't need a Muslim community per se if I acquired a good Muslim husband and therefore built a Muslim family. Maybe the husband would come with a community I could thereafter fit into. Then not only would my identity as a Muslimah have been complete, but I would be fulfilling my duties as a Muslim...to marry and build a household dedicated to Allah (swt).
I didn't realize that this had nothing to do with my practice as a Muslimah, either.
I am not limited by a lack of community or the lack of a good, pious, egalitarian, professional, whatever other adjective Muslim man seeking me for marriage. I didn't seek practice as a Muslim to join a group or to get married. I thought they were necessary, but really, we are born alone and we die alone. The community or husband I wait upon to complete my life will not be there to vouch for me when I die, that I was a good Muslim. It just is and has always been me, myself and Allah (swt).
My non-Muslim co-residents, when I talked about my long-standing discomfort in praying in public places that are not mosques or my own home, offered 5 locations on campus where I could pray. And I've been using them with comfort, alhamdulillah. Some of these people who offered me places to pray don't even believe in God, and yet they respect me and my beliefs. And we can be colleagues together, living the Truth that is the guarantee of health care for all.
I love being in the company of a man who has always respected my beliefs and practices and perhaps has a greater understanding of them, having been raised with a Muslim background
It has never been more evident to me that I am my only limitation in being the Muslimah I want to be. I may never have that Muslim community or that Muslim husband that unifies my practice, but I will have a community and insha'Allah a husband that complement, not supplement, me as I nourish my natal spirituality.
I have always been my own limitation. I drew boxes on a plane in two dimensions and tried to fit myself into them, but I'm three dimensions. God have mercy on me if the way that I choose is errant and leaves jagged edges on my soul, but God please guide me aright anyway, though I err. Ameen.