Our newest blog post comes from guest blogger Dua A. of www.blog.duawrites.com
. She writes of the different identities we all take on, how to reconcile them and utilize them as paths to God.
Who am I? I thought I figured this out a few years ago: Palestinian, Arab, American, Muslim, Writer, Dietitian, Rights Activist, Blogger, Hijabi. It makes sense, it's what I do, it’s who I am. I was born to Palestinian parents, brought up in America on Muslim values with a mix of Arab culture. I write and blog. I am a board certified Registered Dietitian. I wear and live by Hijab and giving others a chance at a just life is my life-long goal. It all sounds legit and easy. But is it really?
Do these self-proclaimed labels tell me who I am? Do these social identities define me? If I was around a few hundred years ago I wouldn't be called American, blogs certainly didn't exist, and the field of dietetics was a joke. If I think back farther I would even predate Islam. So let me think of this more broadly, before I can figure out who I am, I should probably decide on what I am: a member of this world, a citizen on this Earth, a human being. I am a living, breathing human being before anything else; before being Muslim or a Dietitian, before blogging or wearing Hijab. I was born into this world as a human being.
That's the beginning: I am a human being. A human that lives and will eventually die, so where to next? To me, it is God. I want to be with God both in this life and in the next. My direct access to God is the Quran. I went to the Quran, God's final message to mankind. God tells me, "And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me" [56:51]. So I have figured it out. I was created to worship God. This in a way satisfied my cravings and helped me tell myself who I am. I am a servant of God, created to worship.
The next step is slightly trickier. I once again dive into the Quran to find my answer and find another verse that makes me think: "O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah [God] is the most righteous of you" [49:13]. God has made us into peoples and tribes, so we may know one another. We were created into nations and tribes, so identifying as Palestinian, Arab, and American is legit. God has created us this way, but He (may He be exalted) also reminds us in the very same verse that the most noble is the most righteous. So, despite being able to identify as any of these different nations and/or tribes, it is important to remember that this does not make us better than any other person, than any other nation or tribe.
Ok, Muslim, Palestinian, Arab, American are all accounted for. These are labels I can now comfortably label myself with. The next easy one for me is Hijabi. This is also in the Quran but one must wear the label with caution. The label Hijabi can come with trouble, not in the sense of, "Oh my life is so difficult," or "It’s so hot, do I have to?" But, it can be dangerous because visible forms of worship can cause (often times unintentionally) a superiority complex. The last verse mentioned ends with, "The most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous of you." The misconception is, “I wear Hijab because I believe God has commanded me to, I am the more righteous, the better person.” If you look at the world you know how dangerous of a concept this is: the Crusades, Hitler and the Nazis, slavery, the Twin Towers attacks, and the list goes on. Fortunately, guidance is provided in the Quran as God says: “Indeed, your Lord is most knowing of who has gone astray from His way, and He is most knowing of the [rightly] guided” [68:7]. So accept the label of Hijabi but realize that although you are following God's commands, this does not mean you are better than anyone else. There seems to be a common theme in assessing the labels so far, they do not make you better than anyone else, they do not mean you are more righteous, for only God (may He be exalted) knows and is the final Judge. Getting closer to the end now - Muslim, Palestinian, Arab, American, Hijabi.
The next two are ones I have struggled with, wondering if I should continue labeling myself as a writer and blogger. There is no clear-cut answer to this one in the Quran, but I dive in once more and find that the first verse revealed was, "Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists)" [96:1]. In order to read, you need something to be written. And in the same chapter only a few verses later He says: "Who taught by the pen" [96:4]. Writing was taught by God, and I was blessed with the gift. A calmness begins to settle but then, I wonder how do I justify my OWN writing through God, how do I justify my poetry, my stories, my blog posts. I looked at the content of my work. I found my topics to be about Islam, happiness, injustice, intertwined with a bit of humor and possible silliness. My goal is to provide knowledge and educate the general public that Muslims are human beings that go through the same trials and tribulations as everyone else. My writing and blog are, God-willing, an everlasting deed, one can only hope!
The last two labels left are Rights Activist and Dietitian. Rights Activist is an easy find in the Quran, "O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to God, even though it be against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin..." [4:135]. As for Dietitian, health is stressed throughout the Quran with special emphasis placed on food throughout, for example, "O mankind: eat of what is lawful and good on earth" [2:168]. As a Dietitian, my goal is to guide mankind to eating what is good from the blessings God has provided us.
Each label is justified through my love of God. Each label is a path to God.
As Muslim youth in America we often get caught up in who we are. We get caught up in the labels, in our self-imposed brands, and the names. We get caught up in Arab, Desi, White, Black, in our careers and how that somehow defines us, in our hobbies, in our dreams and aspirations. We get so caught up in this world, we forget who we are, who our Creator is, and where we should go for guidance. Everything we need to know about who we are, and who we should be is there for us in the Quran. God (may He be exalted) didn’t leave us in the dark, He shone down His light through the Quran. He gave us the Quran through the best of mankind, the Prophet Mohammed (S). Let us find who we are, through our Creator, for He knows us best. After all, God tells us, “And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein” [50:16].
Let us find ourselves, through our Creator. Justify each of your own labels through your love for God, use each label as a path to God.
Dua writes poetry, short stories, blogs, and articles. She is the eldest of four and is pursuing an MA in Health and Risk Communication at Michigan State University (MSU). Her poetry is a mix of religion, politics, and life in general. Her blog showcases her work and also serves as a Muslim voice online. For more of her work visit www.blog.duawrites.com
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