Tragedy, Guilt by Association?

When tragedy happens whether it is a violent tragedy as the mass shooting in Paris or a police officer unjustly gunning down an African American youth or a social tragedy as poverty and homelessness, we are all being tested. Victims, observers, and even perpetrators are being tested. During adversity we are being asked, “Now, how will you respond?”

Certainly, We shall test you with fear, hunger, loss of wealth, lives and fruits, but give glad tidings to the patient – those who, when afflicted with calamity say, “Truly to Allah we belong, and truly to Him shall we return” [2:155-156].

As a Muslim, when public tragedy occurs and the news identifies the suspected as Muslims, we cannot help but to think of the implications that it will have for us. With growing tactics of Islamophobia, it is natural to wonder how the public receives news of that nature. But, again we have to remember that this is a test from God and we are being called on to respond from a place of faith.

Each time Islam becomes under scrutiny for some violent attack, there is a tendency for us to place ourselves on the defensive by constantly saying to the world, Muslims are not terrorists and that Islam promotes peace. Outside of the fact the Islam means much more than peace, by responding in this manner, we are unintentionally being apologetic for something we did not do. And in that, means attaching ourselves to something we have no attachment to. This may be driven by a desire to eliminate backlash, which is understandable. But the reality is, those who will choose to use these situations to further their ignorance will do so irrespective of how many tweets or facebook posts there are confirming that Muslims are not terrorists. We do not have to reassure folks about who we are for their comfort or ours or because we fear what someone could do to us.

This is not to say we should not be concerned about the portrayal of Islam. However, the way we represent Islam is by upholding its tenants through correct practice for our Creator’s sake. As Muslims, God tell us in the Qur’an “…And God is the Protector of those Who have faith” [3:68]. We do not have to walk in fear. Yes, it would be irresponsible to be unaware, but to worry- No!

My advice to myself and my other fellow Muslims is to remember that life is a test. Situations will appear to test our faith and test our reactions. Will we use these moments to remember our Lord and reflect on ways we can positively impact society? If we place ourselves in a position of defensiveness or engage in fear, we may miss an opportunity for growth.

5 Things I Learned About Swimming Upstream

Looking back at my 2012 goals, it was three years later and many items on my list were still the same and undeveloped. What was the roadblock standing between my goals and me? What is the thing that keeps us saying, “I’ll start tomorrow” instead of beginning today, or “I really want to be/do…” but we never take the steps to make it happen? If I cropped-quotemyjourney-pic114.jpgwanted to move forward, whether it was spiritually, physically, or professionally, there were some things I had to acknowledge and learn about swimming upstream.

 1. It’s hard. I had to accept that swimming upstream is hard and there are no shortcuts. But, hard does not mean bad. Real growth is challenging and it is supposed to be. If things become too easy then it is probably time to re-evaluate.  We have to fight for what we want, fight the doubt and fear, and fight the negative voices, which brings me to my second learned lesson.

2.  Change My Mind. I had to relinquish those ideas preventing me from reaching my goals. This is not something that occurs naturally, but a conscious choice. Sometimes our ideas only serve to keep us in a holding pattern. Those ideas can tell us untrue stories about ourselves and the world around us that keep us from dreaming big and envisioning a life that is possible. And, when we do not truly believe our dreams are possible, we are not motivated to do the work.

I had to learn to be conscious of debilitating thoughts and replace them with loving beliefs that supported my self-worth. I would find myself envisioning this amazing future and then skeptical thoughts would follow, “Could I really accomplish that?” as if there was a ceiling on achievement. I had to reorient my thought patterns to say, “I can do that” or “Why not me?”  Instantly changing my thinking changed my situations. I realized that before we can witness growth we must actively reaffirm ourselves about what we deserve and what is possible.

3. Increase My Faith. A changing mind cannot happen without a change in faith. To keep swimming, I had to renew my faith in God, faith in my prayers, and faith in that all things are possible with Him. This meant taking stock of fruitless habits and replacing them with activities that would improve my relationship with God. I now pay closer attention to my time and consider additional ways to incorporate faith-increasing practices into my routine.  When thinking becomes too shallow by not remembering a higher Power, we easily become distracted with things that are in contradiction to our goals.

4. Let Go of People. No one would ever physically strap a weight to his or her back when swimming upstream. Well, that is what happens when we cling to people that do not serve us. I had to make difficult decisions to let go of people who did not encourage and celebrate my success, or shared my similar vision for life. The saying, “You are the company you keep” is a reality. A poor mentality and bad habits are contagious. Also, when we share our goals, we need cheerleaders in our corner who may not always see how we will get there, but assure us that we will. Dreams can be fragile, so there is no room for anyone or voices that rattle those dreams. Letting go of people may feel like a lonely time. We may feel we are walking alone and we may actually be moving forward alone, but if we keep going there will be people and things waiting on other side that support our vision.

5. Remain Open: When we let go of things that do not serve us, we make room for new experiences and we have to remain open to them. New experiences bring new opportunities to meet like-minded people. And conversely, new people bring new experiences. It can be scary to let new people and experiences in our world because the familiar is comfortable. But, as I once read, “Life begins at the end of our comfort zone.”

I know that if I want to see development of my goals year-to-year (or even month-to month or day-to-day), there are certain things that I will have to do and it will be hard! However, there is a peace and excitement I feel knowing what faith and fight will allow me to accomplish.