#MiddleGroundPodcast – Islam In-Depth: “The Identitarian”

In this class, I lead a discussion on Muslim identity, its pitfalls and challenges, through a reading of Raymond Bourne’s “The Handicapped”.

“When one, however, is in full possession of his faculties, and can move about freely, bearing simply a crooked back and an unsightly face, he is perforce drawn into all the currents of life. Particularly if he has his own way in the world to make, his road is apt to be hard and rugged, and he will penetrate to an unusual depth in his interpretation both of the world’s attitude toward such misfortunes, and of the attitude toward the world which such misfortunes tend to cultivate in men like him. For he has all the battles of a stronger man to fight, and he is at a double disadvantage in fighting them. He has constantly with him the sense of being obliged to make extra efforts to overcome the bad impression of his physical defects, and he is haunted with a constant feeling of weakness and low vitality which makes effort more difficult and renders him easily fainthearted and discouraged by failure. He is never confident of himself, because he has grown up in an atmosphere where nobody has been very confident of him; and yet his environment and circumstances call out all sorts of ambitions and energies in him which, from the nature of his case, are bound to be immediately thwarted. This attitude is likely to keep him at a generally low level of accomplishment unless he have an unusually strong will, and a strong will is perhaps the last thing to develop under such circumstances.”

Full PDF here.

The Journey Within – M.E.C.C.A. Center’s Annual Outreach Dinner

The journey to Islam is different for each person: for some it takes many years, for others it’s like finding a lost side of yourself that’s been there all along. Either way, as converts, we often hail from families who are not Muslim, perhaps even not religious. For this reason it is important that we as converts foster an environment that is open and welcoming to our families so we do not alienate them from our faith. This is not solely for their betterment, but also for ours. Here are some key points to think about:

Identity

It is important to develop a healthy identity as a Muslim that makes full use of our past instead of jettisoning it in favor of a new “make believe” identity. This is especially important for converts who marry into “legacy” Muslim families, whose ideas and notions of being Muslim may do little in terms of helping the new convert solidify themselves as to who they are in the many worlds they will inhabit and the many hats they will wear.

Support

It is key to have a support network. One thing that can aid this process the most is having people who love you in your life support you.

We often think of the brothers and sisters at the mosque as our support network [which they can be] but we should make every effort to include our families such that they can also be support networks for us as well.

Something to consider: “God structured the Revelatory Period such that Islam’s survival and success hinged partially on non-Muslim familial relationships.

Confirm What Came Before You

One of the main Qur’anic motifs is the idea that Islam/Qur’an, “confirms what comes before it.” Not only is this important scripturally, but also that we work to see our whole lives, even our time before Islam, as productive and meaningful. We should not see our present embracing of Islam as merely opposition to our “previous lives”. This will help to bolster our self-confidence, inclusion of our families, and even help to propel our growth and appreciation of our Islam in a whole new light.

Growth and Pacing

As time passes, we should take efforts to ensure we’re growing as Muslims, at a maintainable pace.

  • Pursuit of Islamic studies should be balanced with recreation and relaxation.
  • Outward expressions of the religion should keep pace or be even be outpaced by inward observance. The consequence can range from ostentation to hypocrisy or even both.
  • Names change: is this really necessary or even wise? It’s one thing for our children but another for us.
  • Realize that our children will not be converts and will have an entirely different experience as a Muslim.

As we grow, we should do our best to include our families in this so that our Islam is seen as a holistic way of life; lead by example!

رب اغفر لي ولولدى ولمن دخل بيتى مؤمنا وللمؤمنين والمؤمنت ولا تزدالظلمين إلا تبارا

“My Lord! forgive me and my parents and all who enter my house as mu’minun, and all the men and women of the mu’minun. But do not increase the wrongdoers except in ruin!” – Qur’an, 71: 28.