Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Pains and Trials of Colonial Madness

 The Pains and Trials of the Colonial Madness
Hawa Irfan

 Question: I am a college-educated African-American, home-schooling, single-mother of three. I recently accepted Islam as my faith. The transition was difficult for me as my grandfather is a Christian Reverend. I ran from Christianity as a teenager, because the only Christians in my family who were good ones were my grandfather and my grandmother. All others (to include my parents), were and still are dysfunctional and have committed lots of evil deeds. There was a lot of evil going on in my church and in my family, so I ‘ran from God’ thinking that religion was a way to control and hurt people.

Although all I ever wanted was a family, I involved myself with the wrong kind of men. I had to raise myself (rear myself), due to my dysfunctional family. I had no protection from my family. I was very naïve and made bad choices, and didn’t have God in my life. I ended up with three children and a bad marriage.

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to Islām through my ‘boyfriend’ who claimed to be a Muslim. We had intimate relations, and he wanted to be my ‘boyfriend’ without any plan of marriage. Upon realizing what Islām is all about, I found peace and no longer desired this sinful relationship. We are friends now, as he is trying to become a better Muslim. We agreed not to see each other.

The problem is that now I have accepted Islām, I am hurting daily about my past. I feel so stupid for allowing men to use my body. I want to go to counseling somewhere in my area to deal with this issue from an Islām ic perspective. I feel so used, even by my ‘boyfriend’ even though we are not involved. I had practiced celibacy after my marriage ended for three years, before I became involved with him without Allāh in my life. So, I know that I can continue with Islām even in the face of many temptations in my community.

My sadness comes in my feeling that my past is ‘dirty’ and that no good Muslim man will ever want me. I know that I am a good person, and even without Allāh I was always a good person and faithful to the men that used me. I just made bad choices and I didn’t have Allāh in my life. I want to heal from the shame of my past. I also feel isolated as a Muslim single parent. Please offer guidance, as I am hurting and I want to be a good Muslim.

In the Name of Allāh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful;
All praise and thanks are due to Allāh, May Allāh blessings and peace be upon His Messenger.

As-salaamu alaykum sister and welcome to the open arms of Islām. May the Light of Allāh s.w.t. bless your journey, insha‘Allāh.

The story that you have told us my sister is one that you are not alone in. The pains and trials through the indignation and abomination of colonialism have passed on from generation to generation in one form or another. In the midst of slavery many women of African descent were raped, impregnated and forced to give labor whilst serving in the fields of their colonial masters. Though that seems to be history, the impact has transformed into modern day as internalized racism. This can then be made complex by environmental and social factors. Then, it was easy to tell who your oppressors were, but now it has taken on many forms affecting the ability of families to function as families.

“You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies, You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust. I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise…”

So wrote Maya Angelou. Many black authors have written of this ‘journey’ and it might help for you to read some black literature in order to help heal the past. With this in mind, do not hate your family. When you can understand your past and the reason for it, you are then more able to shed that old skin and to recognize and forgive others. The poem ends “I am the dream and the hope of the slave. I rise. I rise. I rise.” Islām  asks of us not to see ourselves as victims, but to raise to the challenge that Allāh  s.w.t. has set before us t be better human beings. Though the environment in which you live may challenge your convictions, hold firm to what you know to be right for you and your children and insha’ Allāh  opportunities will present themselves to lighten your burden. Prophet Muhammed (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam) said:

"If a person embraces Islām sincerely, then Allāh  shall forgive him all his past sins, and after that starts the settlements of accounts, the reward of his good deeds will be ten times to seven hundred times for each good deed and an evil deed will be recorded as it is unless Allāh  forgives it” [Bukhari].

You commented, “I was very naïve and made bad choices”, but one thing you must understand Allāh s.w.t. has been always with you; otherwise you would not have been guided to the vehicle of inner peace - Islām. It was just that you were not aware of His presence. Once are ready to let go of the past and ready to be in the present, then you are more able to forgive yourself before you seek forgiveness from Allāh  s.w.t. He is All-Forgiving and turns to someone who truly feels regret for what he has done, and acts carried out in ignorance are not accounted for. Muslim scholar and philosopher Muhammed Husayn Tabataba’ comments: “Actions carried out because of the influence of someone else will make one more likely to commit sins as it comes against his own will… This is a deed done under compulsion, not allowing any freedom to the doer. It is the doer that decides to proceed this way even if it is to relieve or please the oppressor… finally it should be pointed out that that the transient (temporary) things need a cause for their transience. And this would not end until the chain of cause and effect finally reaches a Cause Who is the Essential Being”.

In seeking forgiveness from Allāh s.w.t; we are guided by the Qur’an and the traditions (hadith) of Prophet Muhammed (Sallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam). In the following hadith the Prophet used to invoke Allāh  at night saying:

"O Allāh : All the Praises are for You: You are the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth. All the Praises are for You; You are the Maintainer of the Heaven and the Earth and whatever is in them. All the Praises are for You; You are the Light of the Heavens and the Earth. Your Word is the Truth, and Your Promise is the Truth, and the Meeting with You is the Truth, and Paradise is the Truth, and the (Hell) Fire is the Truth, and the Hour is the Truth. O Allāh ! I surrender myself to You, and I believe in You and I depend upon You, and I repent to You and with You (Your evidences) I stand against my opponents, and to You I leave the judgment (for those who refuse my message). O Allāh ! Forgive me my sins that I did in the past or will do in the future, and also the sins I did in secret or in public. You are my only God (Whom I worship) and there is no other God for me (i.e. I worship none but You)" [Bukhari 9: 93#482].

If you would like further proof that Allāh s.w.t. has been there for you then I ask this question. How is it, that although you were introduced to Islām through a person who misunderstood Islām. You were able to not only pursue the Light and the Truth that is Islām, but were able to affect this man to become a better Muslim? No excuses now, for life can be truly amazing if you allow it to. Look to your home to be a place of peace and joy, and try to involve yourself and the children in a suitable community activity at a local mosque. You can gain further support from other sisters in this manner. In such context, please be aware that in Islām, there is no such thing as a ‘boyfriend’. Communications between the both of you should cease. If he would make a sound and suitable husband then try to approach the sheikh at your local mosque to advise you about representation in order to complete the process of marriage.

We pray that you will gain further peace, strength and understanding for you and your children and that the time will be right when you meet a suitable partner in life, insha’ Allāh

[Excerpted with minor modification from in Islām Online -- Ask About Islām, 25 March 2003.]

No comments: