As part of the youth program, I had the pleasure of speaking to my community at Masumeen Islamic Centre during the month of Ramadhan.
Firstly, to Masumeen Islamic Centre – you are doing an incredible job. This Ramadhan program is nothing short of phenomenal and it is extremely well organized. You are able to successfully join many of our brothers and sisters during Ramadhan to celebrate the graciousness of God, Layl a tul Qadr, and the birth of Imam Hassan (AS), while we also together mourn the deaths of Bibi Khadija (AS) and Imam Ali (AS). Without such an important part of our community, such a central place to unite with our brothers and sisters – I truly do not know where we would be.
The efforts of the board, staff, and volunteers do not go unnoticed. I admire the hard work and I especially admire the commitment everyone has to this community. Day in and day out, keeping the centre clean, accessible, and welcoming is challenging. Congratulations on everything you have accomplished to this date, I am honoured to be part of community that provides such incredible services to us…not just during Ramadhan but year round with Friday prayers and Thursday programs (which I was personally recently touched by when people whom I did not know personally recited Surah Fatiha and prayed for my grandmother after her passing away).
But today, I want to take a step back and shed light on something we as a community can all take part in. I want to begin sharing a piece by Key Ballah, a Toronto based poet, called Half Ramadan.
What we never talk about is the people struggling to keep even an ounce of faith. Coming across this poem made my heart shatter. To know about someone struggling with faith so desperately…but still never letting go is humbling. In my eyes their intention is so pure. It would be easy to let go. The people that feel like they fit neither here nor there, are a mix of two identities, and struggle to find a place home – like many of us consider Masumeen Islamic Centre to be ours.
So I guess my question is if we make room for those who do not fit the definition of our “ideal, practicing, Muslim?” Do we provide them with an open and safe platform where their views about Islam which may be different than ours are acknowledged and understood? Do we provide them with opportunities to strengthen their ties to our mosque?
For example, do we watch our tone and expression carefully enough when we ask someone to fix their hijab or continue on to do them a favour and adjust it for them. What if we just “fixed” for them the way they choose to observe hijab at this present moment and now we’ve implied that it is not acceptable by our standards.
I come from a place of deep privilege where I have grown up in an incredibly supportive Muslim household and have been given opportunities to expand my knowledge endlessly. But in this place of privilege I have come to understand that others journey of accepting Islam or periods of doubt have been far more challenging and complicated than mine.
They may not have a support system. They may have been surrounded by fierce cultural ideologies that they relate to Islam and may not know that there is a stark difference between culture and Islam. They may have been discriminated against because of their identity.
I do not know their story. I do not wish to add to their discomfort and their struggle with belonging.
I don’t think this is possible without talking to each other more – past the small talk and the “how are yous”. It’s hard to realize when somebody may be struggling with faith if we don’t give them an opportunity to become comfortable to be themselves. What I envision is not possible without changing our expectations of perfection, and at times, our illusion of closeness to one another (but always with a hint of distance).
What I’m asking is to open our hearts more and to not only embrace those who may not be where we are in our personal journey with Islam…but to make a conscious effort to accept and welcome them, as part of us, with or without any belief they may or may not have.
Our weakness is inevitable and we are so capable of committing sins. It is difficult to eliminate our biases and the way we’ve been raised. It is difficult not to judge other people. I humbly ask that we try to look past ideals of perfection and acknowledge that despite our strong community there are problems individuals or people may face though they may be a minority within us. It’s important to remember that having faith is not as simple as it may be, and that especially during Ramadan… it is an invitation to all to help mend ties and renew our faith.
Start by, truly talking to each other. Start by, acknowledging that there are problems. Start by, accepting one another.