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Archive for April, 2012

After the Rains comes the Sunshine
After Winter comes the Spring
But the Blossoms of Spring
Depend on how well we’ve used the Winter.
I am still going through the Rains – through my Winter
I don’t know how well but I’m taking a day at a time so
I hope my Spring will bring Blossoms.

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What better way to begin a book circle than by paying tribute to the people of the land we are in? That’s exactly what JAAN did. JAAN (Justice and Arts Network) is a branch of Mission of Hope which launched its first reader’s circle on Sunday 22nd April 2012. The chosen text was “Islam Dreaming” by Peta Stephenson which tells the stories of Australia’s Indigenous Muslims.

The participants were privileged to have two women who were interviewed for the book present at the event. Aunty Halima is a 70 year old Aboriginal Muslim from Thursday Island whose sharp wit and wisdom belie her age and Alinta Smith is a half German half aboriginal woman who reverted to Islam in her early twenties. These women were kind enough to share their stories with us in clear and matter of fact tones and imparted their wisdom and experience for us to gain a better understanding of how identity and religion have been working together in Australia throughout the ages.

The book states that “Indigenous Australians are increasingly finding in Islam the possibility of reconnection with lost Indigenous traditions and a model of community unavailable elsewhere. But this is not a new story. From the Makassan trepang fisherman of Arnhem Land, the Malay pearl-divers of Broome, through the Afghan camel drivers of the interior, Muslims have lived and worked in Australia for over three centuries, and were among the earliest peoples to form connections with Indigenous Australians”.

The facilitator, Rabea Khan, took us through readings of select passages in the book which opened up discussion regarding identity, hardships, stereotypes and family ties. Aunty Halima recalled how community bonds and ties of kinship dictated relationships and friendships and people were accepted based on their lineage. She recalled how her family practiced Islam and how she deviated from those practices because she had no understanding of what they meant. Aunty Halima then described how she found Islam again through her studies and efforts to reacquaint herself with an old religion with new found meaning and how it helped her feel closer to her family who had the same practices. She described how the white man tried to separate and disable the black man and discourage his practices which encouraged kinship and ties of love and equality and the discrimination she experienced decades later in the streets of Sydney.

In comparison Alinta says she was very fortunate to have a loving family that supported her through her journey and a husband who is also a revert and helps her learn about her deen and practice it. She felt she could impart to her children her Islamic lifestyle and her Australian culture simultaneously as she herself is able to imbibe both into her personality and lifestyle. She emphasised the importance of family support in being able to find ones identity and practice ones religion with confidence. Both women spoke of the little challenges of living with aboriginal culture where it clashes with Islamic practices such as make female interaction and showing affection to non –mahram family members

 Their experiences inspired the participants to share their own stories of how they embody being Muslims and Aboriginal and count how many ‘chairs’ they sit on and discuss which decisions should be made from which chair and what impact it would have on the decision made. We all came away from the discussion feeling so inspired by these strong resilient women and their experiences of how they have upheld the deen while simultaneously ‘being Aboriginal’ and accepting it as an undeniable part of themselves.

Looking forward to the next book and then next discussion! If you would like to Join us please see details on JAAN’s facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/171910842862624/ 

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I was in the garden the other day cutting some roses. As I held a stem to cut a beautifully formed rose, I inadvertently pricked myself and before I knew it – I had let go. It constantly amazes me how wonderfully intuitive and resilient Allah swt has created our bodies. There was obviously a process by which the nerves in my finger relayed a message of pain to my brain, which in turn sent back an order to disassociate. This process occurred so fast that I could say, ‘I didn’t have time to think’ But ‘think’, I did. My subconscious self overruled the need to acquire a beautiful rose in order to preserve my body from the pain it registered however fleetingly.

As kids we are taught to stay away from fires and sharp things and what the consequences are if we don’t. As kids our curiosity overcame us and we all felt pain in experimenting with fires, knives, needles or whatever ones choice of intrigue was. As we grow up that curiosity diminishes and is replaced by the wisdom of experience. We know fire is hot, we know knives are sharp and we know what we have to do to stop feeling pain – let go. So why is it that even as adults with so much experience and wisdom under our belts – we find it so hard to let go when it comes to certain aspects of our lives? Why am I so attached to my 10 year old purse that is so tattered I am embarrassed to take it out at the shops but too attached to throw it away (even though I’ve gone ahead and bought a replacement!) Why do certain people come into our lives that form such an attachment with us that we find them clouding our judgement and sense of self? People we know we should let go of but we hold on anyway – oblivious to the pain they are causing us and we may be causing them for the desperate hope of acquiring that figurative rose?

If you haven’t guessed by now, yes – I am trying to let go. I realised that I form attachments too quickly and easily and hold on stubbornly when the best thing to do for all involved would be to let go. For some reason even though my brain registers the pain and orders disassociation – I don’t comply. This has caused much grief and I was determined to think it through. I am a very opinionated and stubborn person. I like things a certain way and when things come my way that I like, I tend to form an attachment and hold on – in some cases so strongly that it is alarming to others. I give love and expect it back in copious amounts. This attribute of mine extends to everything. I hold onto clothes I haven’t worn in years or that no longer fit me because of the good times I had in them or the attachment I have formed to them and I have an expectation that they will fit me again someday. Shoes, purses, people. I form attachments and from those attachments I form expectations. And these expectations lead to disappointment. Because really – which purse, shoe or clothing is going to give you eternal happiness? Which person will always make you happy no matter what? People and purchases can only give you fleeting elation. Constancy in Happiness comes from knowing when to stay and when to walk away. But when do you know when to walk away? When you prick yourself on a thorn it’s easy enough to let go – but in other more intangible situations where people and emotions and relationships are involved – how do you know when enough is enough? Through my experiences I think the first thing to do is to let go of your ego. When you can put aside the expectation that ‘this person owes me’ or ‘So and so should love me as much as I love them’ or ‘they should do this because I did this’, it’s easier to assess a situation objectively without a sense of entitlement clouding your judgement.

When you see that you are meeting someone more than halfway and they are not making the effort in return – Let go. When you can see that you’re over investment and emotions are making someone uncomfortable – Let go.
When you know you’ve lost – Let go.
When you feel yourself losing your own self-respect – Let go

Letting go of something or someone you love is harder than I ever thought and it made me realise one has to be humble to achieve a state of emancipation that alleviates pain. When I stopped expecting, when I stopped feeling a sense of entitlement, when I stopped believing I was right, when I stopped believing that if I tried hard enough I could make everything go my way… that’s when I realised the best thing to do is to let go. Forming attachments to worldly things or people will always end in disappointment because they are not perfect. But if you form an attachment to Allah swt – to God and religion – then how can something so perfect ever let you down? And if you base your attachment to people and purchases based on your love for Allah swt then your expectations will be aligned to God and not to things or people. And God never lets you down.

That’s easier said than done though – sometimes even when you know that letting go is the right thing to do – you don’t do it. You cling to the familiar even though it may have become painful. In such cases something has to give. And something does. Relationships go sour, friendships end. Families fall apart. Because people think with their egos, act and speak in anger and most of all – refuse to let go. Imam Al-Ghazalî’s advised that anger “is acceptable only at the right time, in the right place, for the right reasons, and with the right intensity.” And in 99.9% of cases we overestimate the required intensity and overreact leading to self-centred actions, reactions and fights. It is only when we are forced to overcome our ego and our anger that we can truly let go and it is only when we truly let go that we become aware. And to become aware of oneself is a step towards knowing oneself, and “whoever knows himself he knows his Lord”

As Muslims if we have the ultimate consistent belief that Allah swt is always looking out for us, that whatever happens to us happens for the best, that if we ask of Allah swt with genuine earnestness, He will never refuse – then we will be able to put into perspective anything that happens to us as a fleeting occurrence in our finate lives. And that will make letting go easier. Because as Joseph Campbell said, “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us”. But when you let go to something that consumed you – what do you replace it with?

  1. Keep busy. If you are busy doing things then your mind will remain occupied and have less time to replay those fights, those words said in anger, those regrets of the past and the healing process is expedited. Cleaning is the best way to stay busy because focusing your attention on those dirty dishes, or messy cupboard helps. Physical cleaning is the best catalyst for a mental cleaning
  2. Look at it differently – stop the woe is me nonsense and have faith that whatever happened was Allah swts will and that even if you do not see it now, there was a reason it happened. Be grateful and move on.
  3. Cry – Sleep and crying. Two of the most underrated things in the whole wide world. Cry it out and sleep it off. It’s been scientifically proven that crying away your negative feelings releases harmful chemicals that build up in your body due to stress. Have a good cry or rant to your best mate. But makes sure you don’t overdo it. Wallowing in moderation is the key.
  4.  Make a change – retail therapy isn’t called therapy for nothing. Buying something new, getting a haircut, applying for a job – positive actions to discontent mitigate negativity
  5. Move – Do some Yoga, Run. Exercise will make you more aware of the present and helps to prevent dwelling on the past
  6. Be nice to yourself – Don’t yell at yourself or berate yourself. Most of our inner voices always call us an idiot. Tell us we are good for nothing. But is that anyway to speak to yourself when you should be your own best friend? Be nice to yourself. Speak to yourself kindly. List your positive attributes and achievements and when your inner voice fills your head with positive thoughts you will find it easier to push away the bad thoughts.
  7. Give more and expect less – Whenever you find yourself expecting something from someone. Stop. You are not entitled to anything. Be charitable to others and have no expectations so that whatever comes your way will be a pleasant surprise.
  8. Take responsibility – No it wasn’t the other person’s fault and no hating them will not solve your problem. Focus on what YOU did and how YOU can improve. Empowerment will always negate bitterness and lead to self-respect. When you realise what you did it puts in perspective what the other person did as well and empathy is the key to letting go.
  9. Pour it out – Express yourself and your feelings in whatever way helps. Write it out, sing it out, paint it out – but let it out. Bottling things up inside never helped anyone. Overcome, don’t avoid. You cannot run away from yourself.
  10. Laugh – Laughter really is the best medicine. Watch a funny movie; hang out with your mates, hear yourself laugh and feel it cure you.
  11. Have faith – Have faith in God and the abilities He has endowed in you. Enough said.

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