A conversation with my pops

What a coincidence. I post some thoughts about parents and the kinds of issues that we/I find myself having to work around and a couple of days later I find myself discussing those very things in a (lengthy) conversation with my dad.

In a two hour talk/debate/conversation, which my dad initated, we touched upon a number of things ranging from the specific issue at hand (which he wanted to talk to me about) to how governments are formed, how they rule, how societies are changed, terrorism, religion, how people understand one another, life (which naturally lead to the topic of marriage), reality vs ideal, this world, certain cultural practices and attitudes, all the way back to the original topic.(Yeah, all this in 2 hours which is nothing really, some of our talks/debates/conversations have lasted well into the night or should I say early hours of the morning!).

You see, certain things go on in the community that I belong to (or come from) which really, and I mean REALLY, vex me. Before I continue and get labelled as a “hater”- (my mum thinks I hate all Backwardstanis- sorry, I mean Pakistanis)- I’m not making generalisations (far be it for me to do something like that), and I am aware that not all people carry such attitudes, but nevertheless, there are those people, those Muslims, who hold strongly to their cultural norms and practices even though they are not from Islam and only add to the burdens and pressures of everyday life.

Now the disclaimer is out of the way I shall proceed.

Many people say “Islam is easy. It is the muslims (us) that make it difficult”, and that’s true. Why have we made Islam so difficult and burdensome upon ourselves in so many ways? I don’t know, maybe over time, some people thought it was too good to be true..thought “naah, it can’t be this simple..it can’t be as easy as this” and decided to invent things or borrow practices from other societies and cultures and make life difficult for themsleves. Allahu’alim.

Anyway, as I was talking to my dad about these things, it was clear that we were coming form two different camps on most of the topics. My dad was saying how its not easy to change societies; “how can you change practices that are rooted in a people’s culture and history for hundreds of years, ideas and attitudes that have been passed down from generation to generation; it’s not going to happen overnight“. Hmm…he may have a valid point but I was not happy.

I am not comfortable with having to succumb to and give into cultural pressures when I know my faith, which means more to me than anything and takes priority over anything and anyone else, gives me the rules and regulations on how to live my life and tells me what I can and cannot do. When my faith allows me to do things and gives me some leeway, why should I feel afraid or hesitant to take those steps just because its not the ‘norm’ in my community or because no one has done it before? Why should I not be allowed to do something, that Islam permits and perhaps even encourages, just because Auntyjee at number 44 will start talking? ARRRGH!

We as community, as humans infact, will never grow and progress if we do/don’t do things because of the fear that “people will talk”; if we just stick to the way things are and not challenge and question the status quo. We should not be afraid to speak up, to speak the truth as we have been commanded by our Beloved Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) to try and change a wrong physically and if we cannot to that, then verbally and if we cannot do that then we must hate that action in our heart and that is the weakest of faith. Often, we are so passionate about injustices that go on around the world (and rightly so), thousand of kilometeres away from us, why? Because we are a body and we share the pain, but what about your neighbour; the young girl who is being forced into a marriage against her will, do we not feel her pain, is that not a wrong? And what about the sister whose husband divorced her and who the muslim community have disowned because she is a divorcee? Do we not feel her pain, is that also not a wrong? And what about the new muslim, who has surrendered and given everything up for the sake of Allah who has been diswoned by their non muslim parents only to be rejected by the muslim community- Are these not injustices?

How can we even think of changing the world and saving the muslims worldwide when we cannot help vulnerable and oppressed people within our own neighbourhood. Look around; in your town, in your hood- in your homes. Injustices are occuring within our households and communities that no one raises their voice over, things that are just brushed under carpet with the hope that they will go away.

This is getting me quite worked up and turning into a lengthy post but its because I feel so strongly about these things and if we dont acknowledge that there’s something wrong going on, then what a state we are in.

Back to the conversation, my dad also said that sometimes in life, you are in such a situation where you have no choice but to go with the norm and your people and he gave me a personal example. I understood that example but I disagreed.
We do have a choice. We can choose to stand up for ourselves and for our God given rights. We can choose to be different (within the limits of Islam) and I think that’s what most people are afraid of- change.

As I was talking, I remembered an essay I wrote in which I discussed these things. How much freedom and choice do we have in constructing our personal identities and our lives? An individual is bound by the cultural dominant values of the the social structure in which they live, “the forces beyond our control”. It consists of a pattern of behaviour in which one has to live by the norms of that society and not deviate from them by, for example, marrying into another caste, language or ethnicity etc.
Such an ideology which governs an individual evidently places constraints on their ability to act independently of the social structure and can be really frustrating.
Some guy named Simmel argued that this tension between the group identity and the individual identity is part of social life and in this conflict, one is struggling against the identity that culture imposes on them and so, when one does deviate from the norm of that culture, it is at a cost (In the Asian community, this can be in the form of gossip, rumours, lies taunts etc and all this when someone hasn’t even done anything wrong Islamically!).

So who will be that individual who will speak up against such behaviour and practices within our Muslim communities? Who will be brave enough to take those first steps and be strong enough to deal with the consequences? Who will be that individual who will bring us out of the darkness of our own ignorance and into the light of the Truth? Who? YOU my brother. YOU my sister.

You and I have the time, the energy, the knowledge and Inshallah the patience to talk to our parents and elders with love and respect to make them see things have to change and are changing and it is good. We have access to our blessed Shuyukh who are the heirs of the Prophets and knowledge that perhaps our elders didn’t have; most of us have the language of our country as well as the language of our ancestors to communicate with-we have the tools, it is a matter of using them.
Yes, it won’t happen overnight but at least we can get the ball rolling. Think of your future, the future of your children. You shall reap what you sow.

I was told that I can’t change the world. I was told that one person cannot change society and people. I was told that no one will listen to me. As I write this, tears roll down my cheeks. Perhaps I can’t change the world. Perhaps I can’t change the society and the people I live with and perhaps no one will pay any attention to me, Usma, but maybe, people will listen to us; maybe we will change our society and maybe, we’ll change the world, together.

…After the discussion with my dad, I realised that there are certain pressures upon parents to conform to society and as much as I dislike them and want to rebel, maybe I’ll have to endure and conform to them too in order to make it easier for my parents and others…maybe.

God Bless and du’as please.


~ by usma on 28, December, 2006.

5 Responses to “A conversation with my pops”

  1. SO true, its so funny but i can totally relate to this. It is strange that we cannot relate to our parents fully but their wisdom will no doubt lead us to the right path whether theyre with us or not.

  2. once again; words that flow and leave their mark provoking thoughts…

  3. MashAllah sis what good words.

  4. Salamu’alaykum, I completely agree with you on this. It is a conversation I have had with my Mom many times and as u said in the end, societal pressure is so great that even those of us with this great spirit of change, are under the threat of giving up. It happens gradually until eventually we comform just to “alleviate controversy”. My Mom often tells me, when I voice such strong opinions on things; “I used to be just like you, but now that I’m older…”. As cliche as it may sound, it is true. I hope that WE don’t end up saying that to our children, Insha Allah.

    MashaAllah sister, this was beautifully written, the emotion is almost tangible. I have written entirely too much already but like you, I have strong opinions on this issue. Salaams

  5. Walaykumusalam Sis, Subhanallah! my dad also said the same thing when I was talking to him: “I used be like you, I said the same things, I didn’t care what people thought, but now..”. *sighs*

    Inshallah things will/ are changing for the better.

    Thank you all for your comments

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