Sunday, March 28, 2010

From deep inside - 1

I grew up in a pretty religious family. My parents have somewhat 'found' the religion themselves, so they wanted to save us the trouble of seeking. My mum struggled against her family and society to wear the hijab. Even though she lived in a country largely populated by Muslims, people thought that the reason she wanted to cover herself was because she was 'married off'! (it wasn't until a year later that my dad and her found each other...) Then she copped a lot of problem after she married my father, because most of his family were Muslims in the traditional sense, and didn't want to break out of the conventions. This was only a small obstacle of many.

To ease life, my parents decided to bring us up according to what they believe to be true. Every week, we sat down and discussed a little bit from the Qur'an. We kept tracks of how we are going by filling out a grid every night. Among many other practices, we prayed with them, fasted with them and started to dress the way they do. The good that came out of this was that some of these practices became ingrained in us. It is much easier for me to do certain things than someone who has not been brought up this way. Someone told me once - all parents try to bring up their children as best as they can. And I truly believe my parents tried their absolute hardest to give us the best life they possibly could! They are still trying, and they are being very successful. Inside, I am very, very grateful to have them! (even though sometimes my actions prove otherwise...)

But where there is a positive, there is also a negative. I don't know about my siblings innermost thoughts, so I shall just speak for myself. Because I have been brought up in that environment, at some points in my past teen years, I started to hate certain rules. High school shrunk my world. I had a few dangerous combinations in me - a) I did not know much about the religion. b) I still believed that whatever I am told to do regarding the religion, I must do it. c) A rebellious self started to emerge from myself. These contradicting thoughts messed with my mind and drove me to do things. I regret them to a certain degree because they pushed me to lose some of my innocence, but, I am also glad that they happened because they taught me what not to do. Often, I went back and made the same mistakes, but, I've realised, each time, I learnt something different. On top of that, I was surrounded my closed minded teens who thought life was all about clothes, boys and a few other objects. (They did 'objectify' the opposite gender to a great degree!) From year 7 to 12, the basic idea stayed the same. By the end of year 12, people became crazy about getting a good grade so that they can get into a course that led to a high paying job. Boys turned into men, but they were still objectified. I guess most teens in our society go through that 'rebellious' phase. Which can be good in some cases, but in my case, it was a disappointing time. I have been quite ungrateful at certain times and I was not ashamed to express my dislike.

Because of the ingrained guilt of doing something 'bad', I often turned around after a while and felt 'bad' for doing it. But of course, guilt trips do not last long. I guess the first time that I honestly started to look at Islam from a completely different perspective was in year 10. I went to a course (which I have talked about a zillion times in this blog!) that showed me people who visibly, honestly, utterly, believe that Islam is the right way. You can see it in their eyes, you can see it in their actions. And it wasn't just something they knew they 'should' follow, (which is what I have done in the past), something they took to be one of the possibilities, but it was something that they knew to be a fact. The lecturer grew up in a traditional Muslim family, who wasn't very religious until his 2nd year (or was it 1st? 3rd?) of university. He was studying medicine in the best university for medicine in Australia. He left that, left the country to learn Arabic, learnt it, studied and tried to understand the Qur'an. Then he came back and finished his studies at a different university, while caring for his family and working for what he believes to be true.

The course was held by Al Kauthar. (My most recent one was just this weekend. I can feel myself renewing already!)

I was feeling very vulnerable to life's pointlessness at that time of my life. I was stuck in a cycle. I knew the songs, I had the friends, I satisfied my carnal desires as was possible at that age. Then, this life opened up to me. It was as if a window had been opened out of my closed box and into the world! I quit some of those pointless and regretful things. I started studying for my school certificate about a week before the exams. I prayed well, ate well, felt well. I felt like I had no hope in doing well in my exams, but, fortunately, I witnessed a miracle in the results!

My next turning point followed closely. Of course, because I saw the results of my prayer in my life, I started to lean closer to God. I experienced God's words as He told us - "Take one step towards me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you." And really, I still experience it now. And every time I do, I can feel my faith get a little bit stronger. By that time, I also knew that I had gotten in to a selective school for my senior years. Despite liking English, I knew that my vocabulary is very limited, and I wanted a head start into this new and exciting school. So as soon as the holidays came, I started to read To Kill a Mockingbird. Believe me, I found the language in that novel difficult! I also started to read this non-fiction book that my sister had at home - Critical Lives: Muhammad, by Yahiya Emerick. Every day, I sat with my dictionary on my lap, and took turns to read a few pages from each book.

Emerick's book is supposed to be for non-muslims. It goes beyond the spiritual aspects of Muhammad (pbuh)'s life and looks at the logical causes and effects. Soon, I became mesmerised with his life and he began to seem more like a 'person', rather than just a 2D description from an oversimplified text (which is just what I used to read before that...). His life began to make more sense to me.

Now, Islam has 3 major aspects in belief - God, his messenger Muhammad, and the concept of a life after death. By that time, I had instilled the second part of the three in my mind. Like I said, my belief in God became stronger after the 'miracle' in school certificate. I wasn't too worried with the life after death yet. Naturally. I didn't know very much yet.

In my senior years of high school, especially in year 12, my mind became an emotional roller-coaster. I started to edge very close to the boundaries of Islam, then I crossed them, then I rolled very, very far from them, on the other side. In my heart, I often lost sight of where I was going. I was thrown together with these hard working, beautiful, multi skilled girls and I was struggling to keep up. I also discovered that a lot of my friends had alcohol, and having a boyfriend was not uncommon. These things contradicted with what I saw at home. I tried to convince myself to like life, but at times, I simply couldn't. Looking back, I see a lot of words from myself in this blog - words that were trying to convince me to go a certain direction with life.

HSC finished. I started to think about life ahead of me. Results came. I was disappointed.

For the second time in my life, I received a score from a set of tests that were unknown to everyone and which will remain unknown. Yet, I think this was the first time I really understood its implications. During HSC, I honestly felt like I couldn't 'see' life after the holidays. I didn't know what was coming. I knew something was, but I didn't know 'what'. This fact hit me hard. I finally began to understand a little bit of what 'life after death' means. We can't imagine it now, yet, its a fact. Whether you deny it or not, it'll happen anyway.

I also realised that life is much harder to live when it isn't lived absolutely personally. As soon as you introduce another person, or a few more people, who you know might have huge impacts on your future, even the next generation, you start to feel responsible. You feel like you have to veer them to 'what should be done' because it'll benefit the people around you later in life. Consequences become much more real, and you feel like you have to be an example to that person, or those people.

Then, when something huge happens, you realise that life is a roller coaster. Anything can happen at any time. A decision that you have been thinking of taking for a very long time can be dissolved in a matter of a few minutes. Confusion can turn into tears. What you thought was permanent starts to seem like it never existed after a few modifications.

Then I felt these verses in my life:

‘Whoever fears God, He will find a way out for him and He will provide for him in a way he had never reckoned on. He who puts his trust in God, God will suffice for him. God is sure to bring about whatever He decrees.’ (65:2-3)

'It may well be that you hate a think which is good for you, and love a thing although it is bad for you. God knows, whereas you do not know.' (2:216)

'God does not change a people's condition unless they first change what is in their hearts.' (13:11)

I took a few steps. Some steps were thrust upon me. Yet some of those steps allowed me to happily take a few more steps. I've learnt to regret less, so, I'm grateful that they happened! I am grateful that my parents brought me up in a strict manner, I am grateful that I got sick of it, I am grateful that my life took twists and turns. I think I see life a lot clearer than I ever did.


  1. "I also realised that life is much harder to live when it isn't lived absolutely personally"
    - depends on who you are sharing your life with. It might be easier to beat your Qareen with someone's help.

  2. I often feel the same. I feel that if I never felt bitterness, I couldn't appreciate sweetness and love. Of course, when live is hard and bitter, it doesn't feel nice. But sometimes I look at the people around me, girls of my age, boys of my age and I can't help but feel that I'm blessed with the knowledge that they are far from. My knowledge came from my experiences and my family. And I never actually appreciated this fact until I fell in a pit and struggled out of it.
    .... Sometimes when people of my same age and even people who are older than me, ask for my advice or opinion I thank Allah for letting me have a little more inner-sight than them.
    When I was reading this blog of yours, I was thinking how similarly we felt (of feel) at some points of our lives, despite our different circumstances. :) Looks hilariously amazing!
    Oh by the way, it was "worth a read"!