Posts from May 2015

How does that make you feel?

May 31, 2015

How does that make you feel?
Introspection is a very important part of the work of a psychological. Talking about king the silence, explaining emotions, reflecting on reactions are all valuable to move the clinical process forward. That does not mean it has a place in life outside the clinician’s room. Even in the clinician’s room the process is frustrating and akward. Having a spouse ask you ‘how that makes you feel’ or to reflect on a given emotional action is less valuable in real life. In real life the primary goal is not merely self reflection but creating better relationships -which self reflection enables you to do. And example is when some says “I’m sorry I you felt that way” instead of acknowledging the hurt you are responsible for, rightly or wrongly, you place the focus on the person who is hurt and their responsibilities for the emotions. Self reflection on why things make you feel the way they make you feel is a valuable to for self growth but in a relationship acknowledging the other person is hurt without acknowledging your role in their hurt can lead to rejection and distance.

Childhood connection
Lots of people I the psychological field *don’t* care about a person’s childhood and don’t think it’s necessary in understanding someone or helping them change. Not everything is connected to your childhood and trying to connect everyone’s bad behavior to that time long ago is not only painfully annoying but shallow and deterministic. Over the course of several sessions -sometimes lasting years, psychologists concerned with childhood connection can do so in a valuable way that frees the client and help them to reflect and heal. Casual conversations about so and so being like such and such because of their childhood do neither and are too often and excuse rather than a starting point for change.

Psychological parlance in everyday language
Islamopobia, homophobia, transphobia, etc. Why?!? A phobia is a psychological disorder, none of the “phobias” listed above are. I suppose people think they’ll be taken more seriously if they use scientific language. People may very well be afraid of Islam, homosexuality or transgender and I’m not against it having a word but why conflate clinical psychological disorder and the everyday dislike or even hate for a particular group.

In short, be a normal person and just make things better when you’ve hurt someone instead of assessing their psychological state, be empathetic with the person you have in front of you instead of with their assumed childhood, hate can be taken seriously without giving it pseudo scientific names….

Some Commentary

May 29, 2015

tumblr_np1w181Lwq1qapk2qo1_500I saw this on my FB friend Ben’s status and wanted to give some commentary on it, he’s quoted fully in italics and my comments are underneath.

“Just some thoughts I wanted to share. I apologize ahead of time for the length. To know and understand the degree to which a painting has been marred and disfigured must be based on knowing and understanding what the painting was designed to look like in the first place.

Similarly, human beings should properly understand themselves as image bearers of God – hence have intrinsic value – in order to understand the gravity and perversion of sin and its effects on the human person.”

The 99 names of God –though there are more, are reflected in humanity. His names like The Merciful, The Compassionate, The Beautiful, though you will not find its exact likeness in humanity there are similar attributes within humanity. The difference is God’s attributes are absolute and not dependent on His creation or even His action. He was The Merciful before the existence of creation whereas a human being would only be said to be merciful after showing themselves to be so.

“We are valuable intrinsically because God made us in His image. He pursued and died for us because we were worth dying for unlike the rest of creation. If our value and worth cannot be quantified, then it’s of a complete different kind of value from other objects in the universe.”

The human being has certainly been elevated above other creation as the “vicegerent”. When God told the angels he would create humans on earth they responded, “will you create those who spill blood on earth?” He said you know not what I know, he gave the human being a level of intellectual capacity he did not give the angels and he gave us the ability to worship him through free choice, which he did not give the angels, this elevated us above all creation. The reference to death is, I believe to Jesus Christ. God further explains to us in the Quran that Jesus Christ did not die but God made him appear to die, took him up to heaven, and that he is waiting to be sent down in the last days. This of course does not belittle Christ’s sacrifice for us in his life, but a clarification that God did not allow him to die. In the fundamentals of Aqidah, faith, we know that God does not die, one of his attributes is that he is All Living, Eternal.

“Hence God didn’t pursue us because some or most of us behaved well. If our value and redemption and representation in Christ at the cross were exemplified and based on our behaviors, Christ could _not_ have died for all humanity or represented every human being in the Incarnation. Why? Not all human beings have equal instances of behavior. But all do share one thing in common without differentiation: bearing God’s image.”

This is a valuable point, the differential treatment/ outlook we must apply to human behavior and the intrinsic human self. My own spiritual guide, may God preserve him, was born a Christian, became agnostic and later became Muslim. The reality of a person is never truly known through the mere observing eye. God’s mercy for a person is not solely based on behavior. Yes God has mercy for all human life, and he has another for particular human beings in the next life. Christ on the cross is a powerful image and though an image of Jesus is disagreeable from a law standpoint the power of the image is undeniable and a reminder of his sacrifice. Jesus Christ and all prophets did in fact “die for our sins” in that they gave their lives to save us from them. The literally death of one person to free many souls from sins is inconsistent with the accountability we must all have to God. Intercession, prayer, and great sacrifice can alleviate sins from others but a savior who completely washes our sins doesn’t seem compatible with our individual responsibility to God.

“God pursued us because His image is borne in our natures. If God wanted restoration and redemption for us, He’d need to come with a complete, unadulterated nature of the divine as well as a complete, unadulterated nature of human beings. Both God and man had to be simultaneously present in the God-man Jesus Christ.”

It is a good explanation of the concept. One attribute of God is that he is not like anything in his creation. Divinity, Godliness, etc. embodied in sainthood and prophet-hood is possible. Jesus Christ was a man, a prophet, which makes him a highly refined version of a human being, one might even say he reached the heights of humanity surpassing even the angels. God is not imitable and so Jesus Christ could neither be nor become God. God gives us a chance at redemption in every instance of prophet-hood, sainthood, and messenger. Also in ever prayer and ever act of worship; the chance for redemption is available.

“Sin wasn’t brought to justice at the cross and death at the resurrection because bad and wicked behavior was rampant. Sin was put on Christ because He bore the impact – concerning the totality of the human race – of the damage on the imago dei that sin had wrought.”

Jesus Christ certainly bared the sins of humanity as every prophet did; it was their sole job to save us from our selves. They truly bore our entire burdens on their back, though this alleviated much of our sins -God warns the prophet about worrying himself to death. Through their prayers for us, we still has the freedom to adhere or not to their message, the ultimate relationship and responsibility is with God and each individual human being, something the prophets cannot alleviate us from.

“Hence not mere behavior modification will do the trick but a reorientation of the spiritual component of man that was originally designed to relate to and know God. Since God designed it, only God can fix it and He calls sinners to repent and yield themselves to Him by allowing Christ to re-orchestrate that part of human nature. Sin is so perverse because of what it does to something that good.”

This is a beautiful reminder. My spiritual guide has said to us many times, it is not about doing something but about being something. Someone can outwardly be a saint but inwardly be ruined if they don’t embody (or strive to embody) the spirit and servant-hood of Christ (or Muhammad, or Mary or Asiyah, or several other of our saints and prophets). Doing is not the only task but being, being someone in alignment with God’s will.

“I hope NOBODY thinks I’m elevating man above what he actually is. Man, while much more valuable than the rest of creation, is finite and limited. While human beings are the crown of God’s creation and design, they are also very sinful.”

Another important point. Human beings while being the Caliph (leaders) on earth are still human beings. We are not God; we are imperfect and flawed both in ability and character.

“I’m just trying to give a picture of how we can understand the effects of sin in light of our understanding of the imago dei. Mankind is that valuable that God should pursue him unsolicited. Man is that wicked that God isn’t obligated to rescue him given man’s deliberate and conscious choice to reject Him. But God esteemed and valued man regardless of his condition and deemed man worth pursuing, dying for, and being raised from the dead.”

Seeking understanding is a valuable part of being a human being. Taking sin seriously and attempting to understand it and avoid it is one of our most valuable purposes on earth. Islam is a continuation of monotheism on the same path of Christianity and Judaism and whatever other names were given to the belief in one God. As a Muslim, one accepting this final form of monotheism, I don’t see myself at odds with Christianity I simply believed there is an error in their belief that Jesus is the literal son of God (or God himself) and in their rejection or ignoring of the final messenger who came with what Jesus Christ came with. I will end with the words of negus, an Ethiopian king who provides safety to the Muslims who were being persecuted in their homelands he was at the time Christian. This is his reaction when learning of the prophet’s teaching about Jesus Christ.

“We say about him that which our prophet, peace be upon him, has brought, saying, he is the servant of God, His Prophet, His Spirit, His Word, which he breathed in to Mary the Virgin”

The Negus took a stick from the ground and said, “By God, Jesus, the son of Mary, does not exceed what you have said by the length of this stick” (Seerah of Ibn Hisham)

Book Review: Tinkers

May 26, 2015

tinkersFor better or worse an usually both, our parents affect us. It’s easy to make a political statement in light of this book, fathers matter. And so do mothers but because fathers are more often the ones who abandon than mothers and the one who abandons in Paul Hardings’ book, it is painfully clear that fathers matter. Few say, though it does seem to be getting more and more repetition, mothers don’t matter, whether directly or by example. But fathers for time immemorial have been told they don’t matter because fathers so often are given the strict role of provider, maintainer an leader when that role becomes impossible or simply difficult for them to accomplish they -sometimes, vanish. In my own life I’ve seen this happen. I can recall two women specifically whose children’s fathers simply disappeared either for a period of time or indefinitely. They were both men unable to provide financially for their families and their non relationship or negative relationship with the mothers only compounded the issue, so they left. Women are given so many routes by which to mother -financially, emotionally, physically, etc. Anyway despite this, fathers matter. Whether low life, deatbeat or indifferent we don’t forget. George didn’t forget.

George is the center of Paul Harding’s Tinkers. The story takes place in his room as he lay dying surrounded by his loved ones. His mind drifts back to his childhood and his father who disappeared when he was a young boy. The story also takes us further back to his fathers childhood and his memories of his own father, a three generational tale of how of fathers shape us. I mention his father specifically because there is sometimes an urge to pretend as though a decent childhood has little to do with our mom and dad but merely our being loved but an absent parent is still an absent parent. George’s life went on, he got married, had children and a successful job but it’s not merely the outward that counts. His father may not have hurt his ability to become decent but his abandonment left a mark, a memory, that wasn’t simply washed away with time.

Something draws us to our parents for neither good nor bad but in itself. We long to know who they were before being parents, what their life and their childhoods were like, when they met each other, when they decided to get married, when they were silent, why they yelled, their smiles both faint and wide, their undying love for us or the burning questions when it all goes wrong -why didn’t they love us? why didn’t they stay? George’s dying memories take him back to those painful times of unanswered questions but it also simply takes us back. Tinkers is a book you have to be patient with, it won’t come out all at once and it is at times, painful. Not solely in it’s events but in the depths of it’s details, its long trailing off in to nothingness, a slow an purposeful reflection on the most minuscule of things. It is the kind of book that will sometimes have you screaming “get to the point!” but if you’re patient and sit with it you’ll realize it (the moments of uneventfulness) is also the point. Life is not merely filled with high points and low points there are lengths of spaces in between that make us question if this is really it.

In my own reflection I think Harding takes these long slow uneventful moments to bring us deep inside the life and mind of George. To take us from event to event would be to cheat us, that’s not how life works, that’s also not how death works and George is dying. Family lineage and death are two of the least meditated issues of modern society. Scientists continue imagine that they are only moments away from discovering a cure for death and the latest political movement tells us love -not mom and dad, is all you need. Yet with all the talk of the modern world, death and lineage cannot just go away. Every soul is given life by the union of a woman and a man, a mom and a dad whose stories are a part of us. And every soul has reached death, chances are every soul will.

The matter of George’s death bring us to both at once, I found it to be a deeply valuable book.

Where are the women scholars? A non- reactionary approach

May 22, 2015

At some point I thought I might like to be a scholar. I suppose when I started studying Islam more actively I began to realize the dearth of female scholars. Outside of my life 123402881now, where I am blessed to have  four main teachers in my life two of which are women, there were distinctly two times I recall women on a panel for an Islam specific issue that would require Islamic knowledge and possibly five times in all for an Muslim specific issue that didn’t required knowledge (a cultural issue). Speaking on the knowledge specific lectures only, one was excellent and the other literally made me fall asleep.

The negative first, in a long three-day intensive -which I will never do again, one woman took the stage. The talk required intricate knowledge of fiqh points -it might have been on usool al fiqh, but it was painfully boring, I fell asleep and so did the people around me. Though the days were long I can’t remember any other painfully uncharismatic speaker besides her. I say this for a reason since as a former teacher myself I certainly don’t think I’m super exciting either. When she was done speaking I remember a woman coming to our table, one of the women who was present for the talk gloated to the incoming woman “There was a woman speaker!” “Really! What was she talking about?” “Um, I don’t know -but it was really good”.

This is what I hope we will avoid in a sudden zealous to have female speakers: speakers who aren’t qualified, aren’t good public speakers and/or situations in which the speakers are forced in to immodesty. In the same above talk the woman was sitting before and after her talking next to the men on the panel. As they chatted it up like speakers will intermittently I kept wondering -Is she married to that guy? This is admittedly far too judgmental (as instant reactions usually are) but I was uncomfortable with their proximity and would not want to be in such proximity if the role were mine. Should she have sat on the other side? Should there have been more space? Does it even matter? Well, maybe. It could be that some female scholars are simply turned off by the idea of having to be uncomfortably propped before an audience and seated beside men. Yes I know, don’t we do it everyday in life? Yes, but outside of a Muslim framework there is a degree of just putting up with the world as it is, inside the Muslim framework there is a desire to make things as they “should be” which will of course be different for everyone.

When me mom and I threw an event last year we had both male and female speakers, in the end my dear sister and my fiqh teacher sat to take questions. They were next to each other but at least a seat apart and maybe they should have been even further apart than that but I did not feel the distinct discomfort I felt in the previous scenario. My sister is in fact a good example, she’s an excellent speaker and has acquired some knowledge from her Islamic studies, she’s not a scholar but I think she has the proper foundation in Islam, qualifications and talent to stand before others and give an “Islamic lecture”. But maybe our idea about what an Islamic event should entail needs to change as well. Most Islamic events are just feel good Muslim fun. Serious knowledge doesn’t happen in lectures but in longterm studies with shuyukh who are not interested in entertaining you and the finishing of classical books. I realized this a few years ago when I abandoned the lecture circuit for more series study.

On the other hand (besides my sister) the second lecture I went to (where the speakers required religious knowledge) was excellent. The woman wouldn’t claim herself a scholar, she was still fairly young, but she was learned. She was an excellent speaker, engaging and interesting. Her and the shaykh present both sat in front but on opposite ends. It was a great lecture, I certainly remembered what she said and appreciated every word of it. I left the lecture wishing I knew about this sister sooner, she was at the time of the speech very pregnant and would not be giving lectures for some time.

Really the solution to there being no female scholars can’t be a simple-minded let’s find the closest female to us solution as may have happened in the first scenario. Here are a few issues:

What does it mean to be a scholar? I don’t consider someone with solely a ph.D from Yale or any other secular school an Islamic scholar someone else might. But if I or someone like me is organizing an event and you suggest a “scholar” based on your definitely and I say they’re unqualified it’s important that we realize we’re using the term differently. For me and the teacher’s I’ve learned from Islamic knowledge is transferred from “heart to heart”. Meaning you learned from a scholar who learned from scholar who learned from a scholar, etc. back to the prophet, peace to him. It’s a knowledge meant to transform heart, mind and action, not simply pass on information. People acquiring knowledge from atheist teachers of Islam are merely gathering information and are not scholars according to this definition.

The scholarship -by the definition of my teachers, takes time: Unfortunately if you’re beginning your scholarship journey at age 18 you’re about 16 years too late. If you read the biographies of great scholars they began their journey young. If we really want to see more female scholarship we need to turn to our youth and possibly be wiling to sacrifice a formal Western education for a formal Islamic one. Most of the people we consider scholars are not scholars if you compare them to past scholars they are simply smarter than the rest of us. You can learn later in life of course but don’t imagine you’ll become Imam Al Shafi’i.

This is particularly true for girls. Most of us want to be married in our 20s/30s. Once you’re married with kids unless you are extremely strict on yourself in setting aside time for studies and have a supportive husband your scholarship dreams may unsurprisingly vanish. Or they may no longer be your dreams or you may take a different approach to learning and teaching outside of the realm of being a “public scholar”.

Do women want to be scholars? We have to face this question or we’re fighting a losing battle. We may fight for equal space on the panel but do women actually want to be there? Whether it’s about modesty, shyness or simple disinterest in being a public person we can’t afford to overlook this possibility. 

Do we actually need more scholars (for these events)? Maybe we don’t need more female scholars on our panels -though I’d argue we need more (female) scholarship in general, maybe we just need more diversity in our events. Islamic lectures are not (often) places of real Islamic scholarship, they are cultural feel good events. A woman who is a good speaker and knowledgeable in either her field or her experience also deserves, if she will take it, a valid space on the Islamic lecture panel. Scholarship is one way to contribute to the wider Muslim community but it is by far not the only place. If we merely open the space to more voices that may be the greatest solution to seeing more women on our panels and feminine voices (issues) dealt with in our lectures.

Lastly let’s be helpful instead of hurtful, if it is so upsetting to you that there aren’t women speakers at a given event, make sure you let your voice be heard (please not in the Q and A at a given event), suggest women speakers and be as active as you can during the next Islamic event to make sure some are included. We shouldn’t intensify the problem by pledging to boycott all male panels, that’s just spite, not a solution.

I wrote on this topic previously: here


Even then, praise God

May 21, 2015

There’s something about being disappointed that is always a bit heartbreaking. When you envision things going one way and they end up going another. It’s strange really since as believers we know everything is in God’s hands. I knew that my trip to Qatar today was completely up to Him yet I still moped about when innumerable unplanned circumstances forced me to head back to my apartment without stepping foot on to a plane. Why do we do this? Why complain when things don’t go our way when we knew all along that you plan and God plans but God is the best of planners? Why do we complain when life is miserable when God hasn’t promised us heaven on earth? Why do we complain about the evil in the world when God told us it would be so? Our only job on earth is to hear and obey, we are not self directed being, we plan -yes, but God’s will is the overarching reality.

“Thy kingdom come they will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
“If it was meant for you the whole world could not come together to keep it from you, if it is not meant for you the whole world could never come together to give it to you”

Promises we can’t keep

May 21, 2015

Promises we can't keepMy word is my bond, so goes the saying. We all make promises, some of which we don’t keep, why? Well circumstances can change. Sometimes we literally can’t do what we once promised to do. In this case we’re all forgiving of ourselves and others forgive us, except children. Children don’t understand this. A promise to them is an unbreakable oath, if you don’t fulfill it, you’ve failed them. They don’t understand that the world is not in our control and we can’t always change our reality.

Promises we can't keepWhat about when we make promises to ourselves? Sometimes these are the easiest to forgive, sometimes the hardest. When you’ve promised to other than yourself you don’t have to live with the hurt you may have caused that person (unless they hold on to it and make it known) but when you make a promise to yourself you have to live with the disappointment of not fulfilling it everyday. The weight loss you can seem to get a hold of, the early mornings that never happen, the relationships you never fixed. Sometimes it’s easy to forgive ourselves but sometimes it’s the most difficult.

Far reaches of excellence

May 20, 2015

ExcellenceExcellence. That’s what we’re suppose to implement. Who we’re suppose to be. What we’re suppose to do. But the goals of the mind are so far from the actions of the body. At times seemingly at war with each other. But it feels too hurtful to give-up our goals, that would be the obvious solution. Give up your goals and you’ll have no more conflict, you’ll be at ease without having your mind telling you you should be doing something more worthwhile. But that doesn’t seem human.

It not human to not want to be more. It’s not human to not grow. The body grows naturally. Time goes and we age naturally. But what we do with that time and who we become doesn’t come so naturally. Living in itself gives us a level of wisdom and experience but if we’ve only repeated the same mistakes again and again what wisdom will we have to give our children or even our selves? The only solution, though frustrating, is to not give up, to never give up. Excellence and striving is a part of our humanity. May we reach the perfection we seek.

Letting go of the idea of letting go

May 18, 2015

imagePreparing to be… single?
Of course I’ve always thought and still do hope that I’ll get married one day. Of course for the relationship, love, support, children, etc. but also simply because it’s the course of the normal human life. Intimate relationships before marriage are out of the question so marriage is the only hope for the solace the other gender and creating ones own family can provide. But what if that never happens?

I’ve always felt to a degree that if marriage didn’t happen by such and such an age I’d just marry whoever was decent and in close proximity but why should I? If I don’t get married by x age (it always changes) I will certainly have to deal with some hard facts but does one of those facts have to be marrying someone just to gain the stamp of adulthood? I’d probably move out from the parents, get a proper job and try to create as much meaning in my life as possible. But should I punish myself for not being wedded and give myself away to anyone interested? That doesn’t seem like the only option or even the most obvious one. I think I have to give up on the idea that marriage as a necessity or even an ideal because if it never happens I don’t want to feel as though I’ve failed in life. Though I thought marriage would come earlier I’m certainly not old and for all I know it could be right around the corner but if it isn’t I won’t even humor the idea of throwing away any ounce of dignity for an ounce of social status.

Motherhood for the childless

May 17, 2015

click for link What does it mean to be a mother? Motherhood is a bit of an elusive concept. Motherhood, mothering, to be a mother it’s not something we contemplate too often. Of course we love our mothers for “all they do for us”. But with the increasing notion of genderless marriage and the idea that all you need are two loving parents it worries me that motherhood is being put on a back burner.

Motherhood is something notably special, the prophet, peace to him, famously said “your mother, your mother, your mother and then your father” when someone asked him who we own our highest (or affection -I’m paraphrasing). He also informed us that paradise is at the feet over our mother’s and Umar famously told a man who carried his mother on his back around the kaaba that he had not even equalled one pang of childbirth (again, paraphrasing). In the prophet’s life his mother died as a child but even before that most of his life was spent in the desert with his milk mother (the woman who nursed him as was tradition in the culture) yet when he came to her grave he wept for her and praised her. The prophet, peace to him, praised his wife Khadeejah long after her death for many things one of which was being the mother of his children. Though we can assume that both his mother and the mother of his children were exceptional I don’t think that’s the point. The prophet, peace to him, never added “good”, “thoughtful”, “caring” or “loving” to his honoring of the mother he simply honored the mother.

The mother in the Freudian view -and any classic psychoanalytical account was of excruciating importance. Some felt this led to “mother blaming” of all psychological issues, which is of course true but it also elevated the status of motherhood, only the mother had the power to elevate your potential or ruin you. Now with more un-gendered language we tend to talk about “parenting” more than mothering. “Loving parents” is all you need. The prophet, peace to him, was himself an orphan cared for by his grandfather then his uncle and spent a great deal of time with his milk mother,  so the idea that a child can do well is a variety of circumstances is certainly not arguable but all things being equal something is exceptional about being cared for and loved by the people who brought you in to the world.

I don’t think we honor women enough for the simple miracle that is childbearing. I don’t think we understand not only the pain and  discomfort she goes through the immense love, care and connection that is created in those nine months where mother and child are one. Being a mother is the most difficult of tasks, it is to cultivate something that will one day leave you. To look in the face of a human being that once lived inside you. To clothe and feed and bathe and teach and watch a human being go out in to the world. To worry if you’ve done enough and constantly feel you haven’t. I took a course of motherhood in graduate school. What does is mean to mother? To be a mother? For the first time I thought about it in some depth. Her changing body and brain, the preparation of giving one’s all to a human being, of having a connection to someone in a way you could never have a connection to anyone else. Motherhood is of such significance (so is fatherhood but that’s for another post) and not simply the caregiving act. You can’t replace her with a grandmother, a man, a daycare, school, etc., she’s not substitutable, there’s a spiritual unspoken essence that we can’t quite tap in to or really put in to words but we shouldn’t merely look the woman who bore us and the women bearing the next generation and think, “meh, no big deal”.


May 16, 2015

tumblr_nm7jqg5ZrT1qkv5xlo1_500Sometimes it feels like the whole world is closing in on me
I’m suffocating
Begging for air to breathe
I feel like Your punishing me
And theirs no doubt as to what I deserve
I feel low without worth
And I’ve given birth to my sadness
Being in love
Driven in to madness
One eye sees clearly and the other is crippled
Half a mind loves your dearly
The other is filled with regret
Love, something close to madness
When will the sweetness come
and the rain stop?

Written 1-21/2013

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