HOW DO I LOOK?

After having to take a personal grooming class at school the other day, I could not help but let my mind fill up with ideas that oppose the beliefs that I was being given. So I decided to write about it, like always ūüėČ

She walked in with a whole set of pages containing lists of things we should be as parts of a society. The way we are supposed to dress, she was just reading out from pieces of paper. And the individualist that I have grown up to become, I could not stop every cell of my mind from screaming at me to do something against how wrong it was to just ask a class of 67 students, to become one person (appearance-wise). The exact, same person, as if we are not humans but clay models, created in the exact same mould.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all in when it comes to good behaviour like kindness and modesty towards others and I supported her talk about manners, but telling us what shade of colours our clothes are supposed to be, that was beyond me. How can we just allow the world to make a seemingly perfect image of a human being and then berate anyone who decides to defy it? I do not understand how we expect outer beauty to exist in the world in which everyone looks the same, when beauty is uniqueness itself.

She said (and I translate), “Do not live in the bubble that the way you look does not alter people’s perception of you, because it does, no matter how much you¬†try to escape the fact. So it is better to just accept it.”

Yes! Definitely! And this is exactly why I want you to not follow that “perfect” apparent image because it will do nothing but conceal what makes you special. It will force you to look ordinary, and in turn, be perceived as ordinary. When clearly, you are not! When every single one of us has different kinds of greatness within, and the way we look is supposed to reflect how great and respectable we are; then why are we being asked to lie? To stop our outside appearance from portraying who we are inside? It will get us to be accepted, I can tell you that, but it will not get us to be celebrated. People are most easily intrigued by your mind when they see hints of it on your body. People are most easily interested in your soul when they see you wearing it.

In simpler words, If Ahmad starts looking like Ali, while still being Ahmad, then both Ahmad and Ali’s inner personalities will lose their validity. It will be difficult for an on-looker to see them as two different people with two different sets of ideas, desires, fears and intellectual levels. Consequently, the on-looker will give up and start to focus more on the man who just walked in wearing a frankly alarming shade of red as his shirt, paired with white pants.

Now that I have laid down my arguments, I truly hope that you will stop degrading yourself and other people who choose to appear as they truly are, knowingly going against the norm, not afraid of being called undesirable. Because you see, there is no such thing. It is only a term coined by cowards who are afraid of their own selves and so choose to hide behind the walls of false outer perfection. And remember the next time someone calls your favourite shirt ugly or favourite hair gel gross, that just because they don’t like it, doesn’t mean it is not good.

Simply, appear the way that most accurately describes your mind, and eminence will follow.

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I AM, AND ALWAYS WILL BE.

“Cosmic Travel” by Helene Gross

I know you know they are there. If you are here reading this, you have seen them too, haven’t you?

The whisperers and the mutterers lurking in the dark. The screamers and the torturers standing in our way to the light. The ones that look at us with eyes of envy and insecurity; with hatred and mocking. They do not understand what we are and what we wish to do. All they can see when they look at us is a bunch of naive minds who are insane enough to believe that the things that they create with their insignificant, powerless hands will change the world, or the divine idea of it, for the better.

Utterly impossible, isn’t it?

Well I say no.

Because I am the “naive” mind¬†who believes in the power of words, paint, clay, sound and vision.

I am the “insane” soul, just like those whose books you keep cherished and paintings you buy for millions; just like those whose music you get lost to and buildings you visit with your wife and kids in the summer.

I am the “insignificant” and “powerless” hands, that create and create; wildly, madly, passionately; to use every last drop of this God given gift that is the love of art, and the love of love, and the love of everything that is eligible to be called nature.

Yes I am among the odd ones and I couldn’t be prouder of myself and every single one of us who they write off simply because we do not see our world as a habitat made of bricks and stones but as a home that ever grows and ever changes, with¬†every small thing we do or think; with every new life that is born or taken and with every idea and the action that follows it.

So yes, I may not yet be as great, wise or admired as the great, wise or admired ones; but fame was never the goal any way. My only job is to spread wide my five senses like wings, the sixth too if I can, and feel every particle of air that I manage to fly through; to observe it, turn it over and around until I can create an understanding of it in the language of freedom and vastness that is art. No matter how difficult it gets with the whispers, mutters, screams and torture, I must stay in complete awe and wonder of every beat of this world’s dancing heart and assist it in growing into something more beautiful every day, that is my only duty.

And I am, and always will be loyal to it.

“PLEASE STOP. IT HURTS!”

If one was to look up the word “abuse” in a dictionary, it says “treat with cruelty or violence, especially regularly or repeatedly.¬†

Domestic abuse or “home violence” is an issue effecting thousands of women in Pakistan and yet whenever a victim or an activist decides to raise voice against it, they are faced with ridiculously idiotic statements from people, even their own families.¬†For example: “mard hai, ghussa a jata hai. Haath utha diya tou kia hua, ainda tum dheyan rakhna”, “aise kon karsakta hai ke bewaja galiyan de, haath uthaye, kuch na kuch tou kiya hoga tumne jis se is inteha tak baat pohanchi”, and “mard ka ghussa tez hota hai, ghar bachana aurat ka kaam hai is liye bilkul chup raho.”¬†These are only some of the many statements most¬†“ghar wale”¬†throw around¬†to justify this odious habit of the beasts they have raised in their homes.

According to a study conducted by Human Rights Watch in 2009, between 70-90 percent of women in Pakistan have suffered from some form of domestic abuse. An estimated 5000 women die every year, or dare I say, are killed by these abusers, with thousands of others maimed or disabled.

It is high time that we stop treating these men, these creatures, as some sort of heroes, without whom the poor, frail women will not be able to live another day. They provide you with shelter and food? They provide you with money for your children? Let me tell you one thing:

ALLAH is the one who provides. No man has the power to give or take anything from you unless He wills.

And Allah never asked you to forcefully stay at the mercy of a human being who continues to physically, mentally or emotionally harm you. He asked you to refrain from revenge, yes. But leaving and letting go was never prohibited. Your hesitation is understandable because we cannot shut our eyes to the fact that in our culture, a divorced woman or a girl who left home to escape from domestic violence, are considered filthy and unworthy. You might not have the financial or moral support you were hoping for, from any of your relatives. But again, I remind you, Allah is the one who will support you. And you do not need anyone else. He will take care of you, I promise you that.

Now let us address the common man or woman of Pakistan, the mass population.

How in the world could you even think that it is righteous to keep your daughters, daughter-in-laws, sisters and nieces inside the houses where they are treated worse than animals? You say it is not a big deal that he verbally or physically abused her because of course, ghar bachana aurat ka kaam hai aur mardon ka ghussa tou hota hi taiz hai. humain chup rehna chahye. Islam ne mard ko hukmaran jo banaya hai.

Undoubtedly, Islam has made a man, the care taker of the women and children at his house, but this does not mean that he has full right to beat or verbally mistreat any of them, whenever he wills. If that was the case, at least one of the¬†millions of great names in Islam must have done it. One prophet, one sahabi, one scholar must have mercilessly shouted at and tortured the ones who were physically weaker than him.¬†For certain,¬†their women also at times made mistakes that irritated them? Surely, they too, didn’t find any other solution except beating and swearing on every little thing?

No.

This is not Islam. Islam is never unjust like this. It is you and your sick cultural tabboos. It is what you hide behind, the coward that you are, so as to escape from the harsh reality that someone you love is in need of psychiatric attention, because of his addiction to the feeling of being more powerful than the woman in front of him. You keep telling the victim that he will stop once this or that happens, as if the mess inside his mind can be fixed by doing nothing at all. As if the addition or removal of a certain circumstance in his life will magically change him. It is not going to happen. He will never change by himself. If he gets a job, he will work silently and come home to take out all his frustration by torture. If you get him married, he will start beating his wife too. If he has kids, he will treat them the same. There is no amount of love or attention that will be enough to change him. He needs medical attention. And it is your responsibility to get it to him. But if you still choose to be ignorant and indifferent to what is happening around you, I am sorry but you are equally involved in the sin as the one by whose hand the sin is committed.

To anyone who is reading this, it is my deepest request to you:

Domestic abuse is more common than you think. Acknowledge it. Raise your voice against it. Our nation might be full of people who try to bring down anyone weak, wanting to become strong, but it has been neglected for long enough. Who knows who the next victim will be. It can be, God forbid, a girl or child that you know and love. You have to stand up now to protect the children and women of the present and future who might at any time, find themselves threatened by a seemingly normal man who does horrible things to them when the curtain’s closed; while they scream, “please stop! It hurts!”

May Allah keep us all safe. Ameen.

GET TO KNOW THE COVERED

Today I’m going to be writing about something personal, yet universal. But first, a little background story.

I was sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight that was to take me to see my parents. I had arrived a few hours early so I had quite some time to kill before boarding. Anyways, I co-incidentally found myself sitting next to this very adorable old couple, very inviting they seemed. After introducing myself I habitually started conversing with them. Thankfully they too, were interested in talking to me. Now the man was a Pakistani but his wife was from England and they had spent most of their lives outside of Pakistan so we were only using English with each other. They were telling me stories about their cat and their house and how they met. It was all fun and lovely.

Soon after, the man said something that made me feel and think a lot of things, and also is inspiring this post:

You know, you wear a hijab and an abaya and we are usually told to stay away from people who dress like this;¬†they’re considered dangerous because of the circumstances these days. But you are a very nice girl. You are a good girl.

Yes I was covered with my hijab and abaya and honestly, that sudden comment had caught me off guard. I smiled really wide and said thank you. We kept talking until the two of them were taken away, wheeled away rather, they were too old to be able to easily walk to their plane. We said our goodbyes and said we hoped to meet again someday. Which by the way, I would love. They were so amazing! Only after they had gone, did I find time to actually reflect on what he had been nice enough to say to me.

It is a reality isn’t it? If somebody sees me doing whatever I’m doing, good or bad, they won’t say “Oh I saw this girl misbehaving with the waiter” or “giving candy to a little kid she doesn’t know” Instead they would use the word “Muslim”.

You know people wear shirts that say “Feminist”. People wear basketball jerseys and hoodies. People wear badges in the army. I wear my hijab and abaya. (I mean I also like wearing badges and jerseys and shirts, haha) Point is, everybody loves representing what they believe in, and I do too.¬†But it is also really, really terrifying.

Because I’m not representing a football club, or a team, or a country even. I’m representing an entire branch of human population, around 1.6 BILLION people.

Scary, right?

Now I’m not saying that everybody I meet judges me with this definition in mind, I’m just saying that people generally, usually do. This wasn’t the first time I heard a comment like this. Maybe it was the most straightforward one though. And I mean, I loved it. I absolutely loved changing a wrong¬†perception of a person who doesn’t know much about “people like me.” Especially when the perception has been engraved in people’s minds, by a body that does not even know the ABC of Islam, let alone its extensive teachings. Yes I am talking about the many different “Islamist” parties that have recently sprung up out of nowhere claiming to be leaders to all of us. We’re all very much aware of what they are doing in the world every single day, polluting the belief we stand for. It makes me sad when people are hesitant or scared of us, or let’s say me, just because of a belief of mine.

I say to everyone who does not share my personal beliefs, dress the same way as me, no matter if you’re Muslim or non-Muslim: When you see a girl wearing a hijab or a guy with a beard, do not be uncomfortable. Simply because it’s ridiculous. I would be laughed at if I were to go around being afraid of supporters of the New York Knicks, or nuns, wouldn’t I? I would just be narrowing my own mind and the amount and quality of information that could find it’s way into it, making me wiser. It’s pretty easy, I understand, in our world today. Of course you’re hesitant. But I’m asking you to merely try once or twice. Begin with your classmates, your neighbors, a salesman at a store you shop at. Give them a chance. Begin with me if you will, just please begin. I want you to know that there’s absolutely no reason to be dubious or scared.

To every Muslim who is a Hijabi, or keeps a beard in case of males, publicly carrying around a permanent symbol of your religion, I say: Please take responsibility. WAKE UP. What’s happening in the world is in front of you. You know how much of a target of propaganda we have been made. Wouldn’t you like to change that? Wouldn’t you like people to know who we really are and what we really stand for? Sorry to break it to you but we have to work a bit harder than we are doing right now. We cannot simply sit around while all sorts of wrong perceptions and narrations of bad experiences are passed around, about us. Please, stand up and try, in your own little or big way, to do something good and prove someone naive wrong. Spread kindness, help strangers, smile at everyone, actively participate in this struggle for change. Do not hate anybody who doesn’t understand you. Give them reasons to want to know you better. Try to refrain from wrong doings and emphasize on your ability of nice gestures. You might not have realized the enormity of what you represent each day, but let me tell you,

You are not just you, you are all of us. And we need you now.

AT LEAST BE HUMAN

I woke up. I was happy. I turned on my phone. My heart started to sink as I read about what had just happened. Never had I ever felt this amount of sadness and grief in my life.

Reports said:

148 killed, 132 of them school children, in a deadly attack on the Army Public School in the city of Peshawar.

As a Muslim and a Pakistani, I am writing this article to try and clarify a few misconceptions that have risen since this incident, and also to express my own feelings and I’m sure, the feelings of millions of others who were born into this struggling nation.

First and foremost, I would like to point out that unlike the portrayal by the international media, these children were NOT in fact killed for going to school. They were, instead, martyred for being the sons of The Pakistan Army’s soldiers, as retaliation for the operation “Zarb-e-Azb” launched in the North-Waziristan area, in January this year.

And now for a bigger statement.

We refuse to accept the people behind this as our own, may it be on a national, or a religious level.

Our country Pakistan does NOT teach it’s youth to even have a speck of admiration for these sick-minded cowards who use our name, and that of our beautiful religion, for such murderous and insanely inhuman activities. Our schools, our institutes spread the message of peace and teach students to have respect for everyone, as they make their own way into the world.

As for our religion, it completely forbids the killing of children and women, even the ones of the enemy, when a Muslim army is at war. Thus, I would like for you to know that these savages are not, cannot be, Muslims. They have already brought about so much hatred toward us, from those who do not know our religion, that it makes it almost impossible for, say, a Christian or a Buddhist, to be open to us when we defend our religion and say, “They are far from the teachings of our Prophet Mohammad (Peace be upon him), and those of our Qur’an.”

So if you feel that way, and if you’re reading PLEASE let a proud Muslim and Pakistani, tell you that they do not represent us, and we do not represent them, in any way.

My heart breaks, along with the hearts of billions of others, Pakistani and Non-Pakistani, Muslim and Non-Muslim, every time I think about the children aged 8-18 who were brutally murdered, or were compelled to see their friends and teachers being brutally murdered in front of their eyes. I, and my fellow Pakistanis thank you for your support, and request you to remember those in your prayers, whose homes have become a little more lonely now, by the absence of a small spark, that used to be their light in the darkness.

A message to the culprits;

We are not, and will not be, scared of your desperate attempts at making us back down. We know you aren’t Pakistanis or Muslims, but at least try to be human.

We will continue to love and fight for our nation and religion, even if they kill us or make us bleed whist we’re at it, like our little soldiers who lost their lives on the 16th of December. WE WANT PEACE. WE WILL ALWAYS WANT PEACE. We haven’t lost hope in Allah, and we haven’t lost hope in our army, we stand united now, more than ever. May Allah bless Pakistan. Insha Allah one day, we shall indeed, “Rise and Shine”.