Yalla, Egypt! Well done, much love, prayer, and support, may the future be blessed for you and for us. I’m so happy for Egypt, could hardly contain my joy as I sat at my desk Friday morning and saw the news on my phone in my email and on Twitter that Hosni Mubarak had resigned. My colleagues many still celebrating the Super Bowl were largely oblivious to my joy and to the news of the year thus far. Thursday was so disappointing so the news on Friday came as such as surprise and welcome revelation.
AC360 Reporter’s Notebook: Fear Has Been Defeated. While Anderson Cooper was being punched repeatedly in the mayhem that engulfed Cairo’s Tahrir Square (loved hearing people try to pronounce this all week) he could be heard trying to calm the crowd saying, “insha’Allah” (God willing) but he later explained that he had meant to say “salam,” which means peace.
There are so many lessons for us in the recent revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and from revolutions throughout history. One cannot help but be inspired by the revolutionary spirit of fearlessness, pride, honor, strength and determination on display in the scenes from Tahrir Square and elsewhere. Fear has been defeated, there’s no turning back.
While I’m not in Egypt, fear is also being defeated daily in my own life, there is no turning back. I’ve lived far too many years in fear, fear of different things, both internal and external. Fear has been used to keep us in check and undoubtedly some fear can be beneficial.
Help Keep Fear Alive
I remember once shortly after I converted, I stayed up quite late into the night, which was not at all unusual, engrossed in reading and learning about my newfound religion. Either I forgot to set my alarm or did not hear it, and I woke up for the first time in a state of complete fear and panic in brightness of the morning and quickly rushed to make my ablutions so that I could offer my fajr early morning prayer. I prayed hurriedly and then checked the time and saw to my amazement that I had not missed the salah and was still within the timing before sunrise. I did not feel relieved, I had cried while making my ablution and while praying and even after I completed the prayer fearful of the consequences of missing a single salah in Islam.
At that time, I remembered a hadith where the companions had overslept for a prayer and they looked upward toward the heavens fearful that destruction might rain down upon them for this singular act of disobedience and I too fearfully looked upward. Thankfully, Allah is Most Merciful and I didn’t miss that salah and Allah has made it easy for me to guard the prayer since then, masha’Allah tabarak’Allah. May we be from amongst those who guard the salah in our lives. Ameen.
On a personal note, I long ago realized that the salah is challenging for many, may Allah make it easy for all of us, however if you don’t pray, please don’t tell me about it. I don’t want to know because it’s something very hard upon me to hear from anyone. I was asked to write a post on some tips that have worked in my own life so hopefully I’ll get to that in the near future, insha’Allah. Here, love and hope and fear combine to keep me in check.
Fear has kept me and keeps many people I know from expressing their views openly. Many of the writers on Muslim Matters will tell you that they experience varying levels of anxiety before one of their posts is scheduled to publish or they simply avoid writing about certain issues out of fear of the harm from the commenters. Some nerves and anxiety is to expected but there’s also a fear of the haterade brigade of mostly anonymous, brash and cowardly commenters who it does not suffice them to critique your arguments if they even read but they will quickly move on to personal attacks, character assassinations, and excommunication from the fold of Islam. In response to the heavily biased article from the Muslim Link about PrayinProtests, one commenter opined that converts like myself should convert out of Islam. Wow! I didn’t convert to Islam for you and I will not leave it because of you. Fear has been defeated, there’s no turning back.
Behind the text, each writer is a human being with feelings and emotions, and no matter how thick your skin is, some of the comments may cause harm. I’ve worked hard to try and develop a thick skin and it has served me well in discussions and debates. Try to think well of human beings in general even your critics, accept their criticism when valid, don’t take everything personally, and try to return their harm with good. It’s hard work and some idiots can and should quite rightly be met with an equal level of contempt and derision.
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) has many statements counseling us to good. “Whoever believes in Allah and the Last Day, let him speak good or remain silent” and “The believer is not a person who hurts others with words, or curses, or swears, or is foul-mouthed” and “Indeed, Allah is gentle and loves gentleness, and gives due to gentleness that which He does not give due to harshness” and so many more. Also there is a statement from someone perhaps a hadith or from Imam Malik that if someone tries to find fault with you in a characteristic which you do not possess then do not find fault with him in a characteristic that he does possess. Very tough, who can do this? It’s almost second nature for some of us to begin looking for faults in the other person, may Allah protect us.
The copy/paste everything’s haram overseas fatwa brigade has been trying their best to intimidate others into accepting and agreeing with their opinions on my Thanksgiving Day post (haram for them), on posts about Egypt and Tunisia (haram to protest), Taseer murder (I think these blasphemy laws and their implementation are haram) and recently on gender interaction on a Facebook group for Muslim converts that I belong to. In the past, I might have been remained silent allowing such narrow and sometimes dangerous views to go unchallenged but not any longer. Fear has been defeated, there’s no turning back. I cannot allow some of these views despite whatever evidence is claim to go unchallenged in my presence. I know the harm I’ve experienced in trying to implement an Islam largely imported and alien to the culture here that is presented as some monolithic true and most correct expression of modern orthodoxy. Fear has been defeated, there’s no turning back.
Fear Has Been Defeated, There’s No Turning Back
PrayinProtest, it just works! Last week, I posted on my twitter feed @PrayinProtest about the situation in one local mosque, which I used to regularly frequent that decided some time ago to kick women out of the pink musalla (prayer area) specifically designated for them to make way for the expected overflow of men on Fridays and other occasions. The women and children were given shabby classrooms to pray in. This launched some discussion on my Facebook profile and word quickly got back to a board member at that mosque who then commented on my photoblog post highlighting the situation: Prince George’s Muslim Association in Lanhan, Maryland. Changes are underway, two Friday prayers will begin from March, insha’Allah and women will no longer be kicked out of the space designated for them and have been extended an invitation to pray in the main musalla, no doubt I intend to take them up on this offer. Fear has been defeated, there’s no turning back.
It’s been just over a year since the publication of my controversial The Penalty Box: Muslim Women’s Prayer Spaces post, which stirred quite a bit of discussion. Threats, insults, banning notices, and physical violence is the norm for some of the most ardent defenders of the status quo. Others in their silence, quietly acquiesce to the injustice. But more and more, I’ve seen that revolutionary spirit and courage of conviction from individuals willing to take a public stand and bear the inevitable harm that comes with challenging the entrenched status quo, which treats women in our communities as second-class believers, neither respecting their spiritual nor emotional nor physical well-being. Fear has been defeated, there’s no turning back. Working on a post, insha’Allah about the un-mosqued. Imam Johari had a good quote at last year’s Muslim Public Affairs Council’s (MPAC) annual convention. “They may be un-mosqued but they are not un-Muslim,” indeed! Pray-in and pray on, I will. Fear has been defeated, there’s no turning back.
To be continued, insha’Allah…