Unity

The prompt “together” reminded me of a story I had been told as a young girl. The story that has stayed with me since today. A story which had implications I hadn’t thought about.. A story of a lumberjack and his five sons.

There lived a lumberjack who was extremely old and knew he was to die. He had five sons who never got along. He wished to teach them a valuable lesson so he told them each to go and get two sticks.

Being obedient sons and knowing their father would not live long, all the sons went and got two sticks. The father then asked each son to break one of the sticks that they had gathered into two halves. Each son easily broke one of his sticks.

Then the father asked them to hand the remaining sticks over and tied these sticks with a string. He handed the bundle of sticks to his oldest son and asked him to break it. He tried as hard as he could but could not break the bundle of sticks. The father asked the bundle to be passed onto the second oldest and asked him to do the same. He, too, could not break the bundle.

The bundle of sticks made its way from son to son but none of the sons could break the sticks. After the last had tried and failed, the father smiled and asked the sons if it was easier to break a stick at a time or five together. The sons answered one at a time and the father said, “There is power in unity”.

The sons lived as one even after the father’s death.

This story is one of my favourites to this day because I truly believe in the power of unity. I had once been made to question the validity of unity when in freshman year of high school, I learned that Mussolini’s symbol of fascism was the fasces: a bundle of sticks tied together to  depict the strength of unity. I don’t remember if I laughed or choked. I think it was some mix of those.

It is fascinating to see the two depictions of the very same concept. I am not one to say that one is right and the other is wrong. I just know that to me, there is power in unity. There is beauty in unity. But just because something is part of a whole does not mean it is not whole itself. 

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Radical… The Elections?

Not joking here: the first thing that came to mind when I read the prompt was the presidential elections that are about to take place. Let me just tell you: they worry me.

I am not fond of Hillary. I hate Trump. Like many others, I too am going to choose the lesser of the two evils. But I want to assert that the evil I have chosen is a much lesser evil than the one I reject.

Trump will “make America great again”. He will make it his version of great. He will turn us into a sexist, racist and fearful society of hate. A society that does not tolerate. But I should keep my political opinions aside and focus on the radicalism of this election: the two party system.

We all have probably heard enough times that voting for a third party is equivalent to wasting our votes. And I want to rebel against that notion.

But the stakes are too high. Especially as a person of color,a Muslim, and a woman. The stakes are too high. 

I recently heard that voting for a third party system and being able to say “My vote counts and is not wasted” is a privilege only white people can afford. I did not quite understand it at first, but thinking about the stakes for us, it makes sense.

My optimism and desire to believe that there is hope are fighting against my fear of what could go wrong (because a lot could go wrong). The third party is the only thing that does not seem radical in this radical election. But is it worth the risk?

Comment your thoughts below! I would love to hear more perspectives!

 

Eid Mubarak

Today was Eid. Since “life doesn’t stop for anyone” (especially if you are a college student), I went to school regardless of the fact that it was Eid today. Even though Islam is the second largest religion practised in the world today, few people know of Eid or its significance. Questions like “Didn’t you have Eid this past summer?” and “Why are there two Eid’s?”So today I will share a story that my first-grade teacher shared with me a long long time ago. The story of why we celebrate Eid-ul-Adha, the “Festival of the Sacrifice”.

One day, Prophet Ibrahim A.S. (Abraham) had a dream. In this dream, he was told by Allah to sacrifice the thing that is nearest and dearest to his heart. He thought long and hard about what was nearest and dearest to his heart and decided that his son was, in fact, nearest and dearest to his heart. Prophet Ibrahim A.S. did not hesitate a single moment and went forth to tell his son, Ismail, about Allah’s command. Being a believer, Ismail did not hesitate either and they set forth for the sacrifice. Ibliis (Satan) was there every step of the way, trying to  mislead Ismail and scare him into disobeying God’s command. Ismail’s faith did not shatter, however.

They went to the man who was to sacrifice Ismail and Ismail lay down on the table, ready to die for Allah. The man blindfolded Ibrahim so he would not have to see his son suffer and brought down the knife as hard as he could to Ismail’s throat, but the knife just would not cut through. He tried again. He could not bring the knife down. Then he tried once more and the knife did go down all the through. Ibrahim removed his blindfold and found that instead of his son, there was a dead ram on the table. He was afraid that he had somehow disobeyed Allah. But then came a voice that told them that it had just been a test for Ismail and Ibrahim to test their faith and they had passed. From that day onwards, we sacrifice an animal, such as a lamb, goat, or cow and human sacrifice was forever forbidden.

To me, this is a story of faith. It is a story of Islam, of submission. It is not a story of violence, nor is it a story of killing blindly. And it breaks my heart when people make it out to be one. 

I have had FREINDS who have argued with me that it shows the violence that Islam is “deeprooted” in when I have told them this story of faith that I learned as a first grader. Perhaps it is because of that itself that I am afraid to tell them that it’s Eid anymore. But I want us all to be aware, of holidays and traditions all around the world that those around us celebrate.

Eid-ul-Adha is not celebrated right after Ramadan but after the first ten days of the holiest month. It is often accompanied by Hajj, which has another story behind it that I encourage everyone to look up if they can. I apologise if I have gotten any part of the story telling wrong but I strongly feel the need to share the story of Eid.

I felt like I met my people whenever someone smiled and said “Eid Mubarak”. Heck, I contemplated starting wearing a hijab so that more people would be able to tell that I am Muslim when Hijabis would greet each other and not realise that I too am Muslim. I wanted to claim my identity. 

I want to say “thank you” to everyone who took the time to stop and wish me Eid Mubarak today. I want to especially thank the two girls in the bathroom who went so far as to stop me and give me a hug. I may not remember your names but that gesture meant a lot to me.

I hope to see a world someday where more people are aware of religious holidays and festivals that those of other cultures and religions around them might be celebrating. Eid Mubarak.

 

Why I Don’t Post Pictures on Social Media

I don’t post pictures on social media. It is not because I do not want my friends to know what I am up to. It is not because I don’t care too much about social media. It is not because I am too busy to do so. It is not that I don’t like to have all my pictures be in a place where I can easily share AND access them in the future. In fact, the prospect of that idea sounds very appealing.

Yet I don’t post pictures on social media.

I simply do not post pictures on social media because I realise I have a lot to lose. The idea of nazar, or the evil eye, was introduced to me as a young child. I have grown up hearing my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles talk about the losses they faced and how they think it’s because so and so was impressed by the object they have lost. I have lost too many things to nazar to risk it again.

I clearly remember the time I was given the task of delivering dishes to our neighbour’s house. It was a bit dark outside but their house was right across the street (the streets were not quite as big as they are here). I remember the look on their face when they opened the door. The look of surprise and awe. I was 7 and what many would call “chubby and adorable”. A step in and that was all it took for our neighbours to pull my cheeks, offer me candy, and pack a bag of fruit for me to take along home. I had a fever and could not get out of bed for the next week. I had been subjected to their nazar.

Whenever I told any of my friends about this, they gave me that look. That look that says “do you really believe that?” That look with the worried eyes that the forced smiles are trying to hide that says “they didn’t get in trouble, did they?”, believing my beliefs to not just be foolish but harmful.

No, my neighbours did not get in trouble. In fact, I think of them even today with fondness and tenderness. They have given context to the word “nazar” for me. A context my American friends have not been blessed with.

With this context and incidents just like that one, I have grown extremely cautious about anything and anyone I love. I have found myself losing things that I valued because I boasted about them. I have found that whenever I am quick to share my good luck, it often vanishes.

I make an effort to not share pictures of my brother being his excessively cute self or to tell anyone about that sweet gesture of the person I love because I can’t bear to lose these things or have them be hurt. And when I do share them, I do it with a prayer to Allah to protect us from the evil eye and keep us under his protection. I quietly whisper “Mashallah” whenever someone praises a loved one. If anything, I wish I could whisper it aloud and with confidence.