Tag Archives: Self-Discovery

Gareth Bryant vs. Cyrus McGoldrick:

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Author’s-Note:
Every month I’ll be conducting a Poetic-Challenge, challenging various poets, whom I personally know/interact with, just for the sake of sharpening/improving my own poetry, general-goodwill, respect for my fellow “Brethren of the Paper & Pen”, and to just see who from among us has the best “Poetry-Skillz”…Every month, I’ll be picking a brand-new Poetic-Challenger, via Facebook/Twitter, to compete with. This month, it’s Cyrus McGoldrick. Next month, it could very well be anyone of you. So, just be prepared, with some fresh-rhymes.

Topic: Yearning for something More

Gareth Bryant

Gareth Bryant

The Warmth We yearn from one another:

When the blistering Winter descends…
…We can no longer afford to pretend.

We get cold so quickly, it really hurts…
…We pursue warmth which takes work.

We all want the heat of Love, to warm our heart…
…Each of us wants a companion who’ll never part.

But, Life is sometimes a cruel Snow-Storm, covering all in its path, with the crispest & iciest harshness…
…However, we must make a Summer out of every Winter, protecting our hearts from a freezing-tempest.

We mustn’t succumb to the hypothermia of Loneliness…
…We all need someone to keep us from cold distress.

Being close, to the one who you love, is one of the greatest feelings of all…
…So, think about the one who keeps you warm during the heavy Snow-Fall.

Gareth Bryant/2014

Cyrus McGoldrick

Cyrus McGoldrick

ROARS OF THE RESTLESS:
Patterns of romances
low lights
private dances
signature strike timing
slow trances
Recital
thrown lances
light bites
the plight of the banished
without a standard
no understanding
a clan reprimanded
Plans
paths that never intersect
cattle gaining interest
calves that pay the rent
rattlesnakes in nets
Sweat
treasure in bared chests
reflections of red flares
messy confections
bred best
sleds sent
some bent and some went
Guns kept for your protection
legs stretched
rented apartments and tents
learned little and read best
roars of the restless
Wrapped in heavenly blessings
missing senses and tests
my second death
ascension that dents impressions
no bodies left

Cyrus McGoldrick/2014

My reflections on the first 3-Decades of my Life:

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#Swagger-Overload

#Swagger-Overload

You know, honestly, I’ve been thinking a lot lately, about the first 3-decades of my temporal, mundane, earthly existence, commonly called Life (May Allah grant me yet another 3-decades & more decades thereafter, Amen)…

…I’ve been thinking about fortunate I’ve been, thanks to the favors of Allah, the Creator/Lord of the Universe…the fact that my mother didn’t abort me, and that my father never abandoned me, makes me ever more grateful, and sentimental, as well as pensive, regarding the fact that these 32-years (according to the Islamic-Calendar)/31-years (according to the Gregorian-Calendar) of my life, upon this magnificent planet, called Earth, achieving what I’ve already achieved, and preparing for what I’ve yet to achieve…

…None of this, at all, is really my exclusive doing; rather, it is more so than anything manifestations of the bounties of Allah, descended upon me, even without me being deserving of them; yet, in spite of me not being worthy to live this long & to do so much, Allah, as a result of His magnanimous wisdom and mercy, has decided that He has great plans for me, and I just hope that His plans for me doesn’t expire, anytime soon…

…Oh, Allah…You are Greatest!!!

2012 in review:

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 29,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 7 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

The Opera of Obscurity:

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My yearning for Isolation:

I wish I were still in the womb.
I’d like to call it my birth-tomb.

It is just like a Cocoon, in it I am wrapped inside.
Divorced from the world, my perfect way to hide.

Protected, unjudged, allowed to be free, and unplugged.

No one’s here to disturb or mock me.
I’m in a place no one can enter or see.

My privacy is an actuality, not just a mere ideal.
I want true peace of mind, something that’s real.

In the outside world, I feel hated, unwanted and unloved.

The Facade that I’ve established:

People always say, “Wow…you’re a really good brother.”.
But, when I see myself, I only really see myself as another.

I see utter ugliness that’s within me, that I don’t want to be revealed.
So far, I’ve done a lot to keep the skeletons in my closet concealed.

However, the truth is all known to Allah, I can’t hide anything from Him.
Don’t be surprised that when I die, my legacy ends up looking quite dim.

Oftentimes, the truth about people are never discovered, until after their demise.
What they hide from the world eventually gets exposed, what an ironic surprise.

My only hope is that Allah spare me embarrassment in death, the way He’s spared me in life.

The Lifelong Road:

Never did I ever think that my odyssey to find myself would make me even more lost.

However, I must stay the course, find what I’m still looking for, regardless of the cost.

What I need to discover is more important than the pain of treading the road to find it.

Everything in life is hard; however, giving up makes nothing any easier.

It’s better to struggle and never win, than to settle for being the looser.

This world is like a puzzle & I must remove all of the pieces in my life which don’t fit.

This life is but a dense forest; yet, I must clear my own path.

And, it must be done right, to secure me from Allah’s wrath.

Gareth Bryant/2012

My Cocoon-Diaries Part III:

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Author’s note:                                                                                                                               My Cocoon-Diaries are poems and/or general writings which contain self-reflections for me, how I’ve been living & how I should’ve not been living, over a significant portion of time that I’ve taken to limit my social-spheres & social-interactions. It’s been a time for me to dig deep within myself, to wrap myself up in an anti-social cocoon, to find any & all problems within myself, in order to fix them, with the help of Allah, of course. I know that a lot of people thought it strange of me to just take some steps back from my social-spheres & place limits on my general social-interaction. But, this has been a necessary move on my part, to figure out what exactly is wrong with me, as a Muslim, so that I can further tread the path of guidance, which is Islam, with as little personal obstacles in my path as Humanly possible. This is my final installment of these posts of isolation & self-reflection.

This is my journey…

…please, join me:

The Springtime has arrived. Yet, unlike the new flowers in bloom, I’ve still not sprung up from the ground of obscurity. With my mission not yet complete, I still feel the need to press onward, to keep going forward with this journey, as long as it takes. I have become stronger, yet, still yearning for more to improve upon. However, I’m not sure whether I should stop where I am though. I mean, it’s been a pretty lengthy amount of time that I’ve been doing this. This particular season that has befallen us is representative of renewal & rejuvenation. It is my sincere hope that I can truly be one who has rejuvenated into someone who has evolved into someone a lot better than when I had initially started this journey.

If Allah wills, I will be successful at this self-reflective odyssey & get back on track. I have been wondering whether this had been the right decision, doing this all on my own, without really explaining to anyone why I wanted to do this so badly, or why I’ve even decided to do this at all, without even consulting someone else, to perhaps give me some support in all of this. I came to the conclusion that since no one (other than Allah, of course) really knows my problems better than I do, then, it’s only intelligent for me to seek out the solutions to my problems by myself & for myself. I know, it seems kind of selfish to think this way. But, in all reality, self-reflection at its core is a selfish thing: You have to look into yourself, define/redefine yourself, correct yourself, it ends up being all about you anyway.

So, in a since, this would be a positive type of selfishness, only because I yearn to grow & become better. All of my life, I’ve been doing things purposely, to define myself & to constantly, consistently, seek self-improvement. But, very few things that I’ve done actually achieved this desired goal. Becoming a Muslim, in fact, still remains the most important venture of self-discovery, self-definition & self-improvement that I’ve ever embarked upon in my life. Yet, even as a Muslim, there’s still so much that I’ve not tap into, from an Islamic academic perspective (i.e. religiously, I’m still ignorant as hell & need to learn so much more), from a character perspective, from a maturity perspective, and in regards to so many other perspectives, there’s just so much more in which I need to improve upon, for myself & my own self-development, that it’s very often frustrating, that I haven’t achieved that as yet. So, this has become an ample opportunity for me to take the time/make the time to step back and conceal myself, in order to achieve this goal that I’ve set for myself.

The Lifelong Road:

Never did I ever think that my odyssey to find myself would make me even more lost.

However, I must stay the course, find what I’m still looking for, regardless of the cost.

What I need to discover is more important than the pain of treading the road to find it.

Everything in life is hard; however, giving up makes nothing any easier.

It’s better to struggle and never win, than to settle for being the loser.

This world is like a puzzle & I must remove all of the pieces in my life which don’t fit.

This life is but a dense forest; yet, I must clear my own path.

And, it must be done right, to secure me from Allah’s wrath.

Gareth Bryant/2012

My Cocoon-Diaries Part II:

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Author’s note:

My Cocoon-Diaries are poems and/or general writings which contain self-reflections for me, how I’ve been living & how I should’ve not been living, over a significant portion of time that I’ve taken to limit my social-spheres & social-interactions. It’s been a time for me to dig deep within myself, to wrap myself up in an anti-social cocoon, to find any & all problems within myself, in order to fix them, with the help of Allah, of course. I know that a lot of people thought it strange of me to just take some steps back from my social-spheres & place limits on my general social-interaction. But, this has been a necessary move on my part, to figure out what exactly is wrong with me, as a Muslim, so that I can further tread the path of guidance, which is Islam, with as little personal obstacles in my path as Humanly possible.

This is my journey…
…please, join me:

My journey to keep myself voluntarily socially limited has been a good experience for me, thus far. It’s allowed me to accept the fact that I am the reason for so many things gone wrong in my life (marriage particularly & especially). It’s compelled me to look at my life as is & figure out where I’ve come from thus far and where I need to take myself further. Also, I’ve learned to realize how many wrong decisions that I’ve made in my past. Thinking back on my past, particularly when it comes to relationships, I noticed that when it came to just being with girls, it was no effort on my part at all. It was like girls would just fall into my lap. There was a situation where that actually happened, but again…that’s another post, for another day…
…anyway…yeah, you get the point. But, unfortunately, every single time that I’ve tried to do things right & get married, it’s been one epic crash-and-burn scenario after another. I started to say to myself, “Well, maybe this is from Allah’s justice, to make me suffer & not get a good sister, as a result of the sins that He chose to not immediately punish me for in the past.”. At the time, much like now, this seems like the only sensible conclusion that I can possibly bring myself to. It could very well be the result of my sinning that has prevented me from getting married. I mean, it does make a lot of sense, considering my horrible track-record, when it comes to the pursuit of marriage.

So, beyond that, there’s the need for me to just improve my connection with Allah, which I have felt that I’ve been not doing enough of, generally, in consolidating this connection. And, perhaps my social-solitude may be able to provide me with the tools to refortify my connection with Him. I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile, to just isolate myself, but I guess that I’ve never really had the courage to do so, to admit that I would actually need to just get away from everything & everyone, at least for a little while, in order to get my life back on-track. The irony is that I seem to have painted a picture of myself as this stand-up kind of guy. But, when I really decided to take a step back & observe myself, I’ve finally realized how much personal improvement I am to make, in order to truly be the Muslim, the man, the Human being that Allah wants, commands & expects me to be.

The Facade that I’ve established:

People always say, “Wow…you’re a really good brother.”.
But, when I see myself, I only really see myself as another.

I see utter ugliness that’s within me, that I don’t want to be revealed.
So far, I’ve done a lot to keep the skeletons in my closet concealed.

However, the truth is all known to Allah, I can’t hide anything from Him.
Don’t be surprised that when I die, my legacy ends up looking quite dim.

Oftentimes, the truth about people are never discovered, until after their demise.
What they hide from the world eventually gets exposed, what an ironic surprise.

My only hope is that Allah spare me embarrassment in death, the way He’s spared me in life.

Gareth Bryant/2012

My Cocoon-Diaries Part I:

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Author’s note:
My Cocoon-Diaries are poems and/or general writings which contain self-reflections for me, how I’ve been living & how I should’ve not been living, over a significant portion of time that I’ve taken to limit my social-spheres & social-interactions. It’s been a time for me to dig deep within myself, to wrap myself in an anti-social cocoon, to find any & all problems within myself, in order to fix them, with the help of Allah, of course. I know that a lot of people thought it strange of me to just take some steps back from my social-spheres & place limits on my general social-interaction. But, this has been a necessary move on my part, to figure out what exactly is wrong with me, as a Muslim, so that I can further tread the path of guidance, which is Islam, with as little personal obstacles in my path as Humanly possible.This is my journey…
…please, join me:I’ve decided that enough was enough. I’ve been tackling a lot of issues, since the last failed marriage-attempt of mine had run its course. Honestly, there were so many things happening all at once, during the time that the sister, whom I was speaking with at the time, had called things off, that I didn’t even take the time to absorb the fact that it was really over. I just accepted it as it was, another failed marriage-attempt. It was like I didn’t even care whether it had ended. Now, this may or may not have been a good thing for me to not care, but that’s the way it played out.

I would say that the main reason why I chose to emotionally secure myself, via indifference, from this situation was because I was dealing with more pressing issues at the time, like dealing with some ignorant Muslims, who cared more about my dress, than the advice that I had given, during a Khutbah (weekly Islamic religious sermon on Fridays). But, that story in & of itself is for another post, for another day. Anyway, back to the present…
…I was preoccupied with something else to truly encapsulate the fact that this sister was no longer willing to take things further. Honestly, based upon my track-record, I wasn’t even surprised that she opted out. I mean, marriage is the only thing that I’ve ever pursued in my entire life that I’ve been a constant & consistent failure at.

No, I’m not trying to acquire pity-points, I’m being dead-serious. From the time that I was 18 years old, failed attempt after failed attempt, after failed attempt. But, when this particular sister whom I felt really strongly about, thinking that it might actually work called it quits, I had suddenly came to the realization that in light of everything else that had happened during that same weekend, plus the sister calling things off, made me accept the fact that maybe the actual problem lies within me.

Maybe I am the “bad-guy”, maybe I am the arrogant, obnoxious jerk that some people have accused me of lately. Upon that acceptance, it was then that I had decided to establish limitations on which events I would go to, who I would hang around, where I would generally hang out, etc. Now, whether this actually works, to help me improve, well I don’t really know, but hell…at least it’s worth a try. So, in short, those two particular incidents that I had mentioned earlier jump-started my self-reflection odyssey, to find out what is it about me that makes things fall apart in my life, what is it that has caused me to be the man, when it came to non-martial relationships & an utter failure, when it comes to pursuing a spouse, what is it about me that cause some to always wanna be around me & others to regret the day that they’ve ever met me.

Yeah…I know, it’s a lot to figure out, and I’ll probably never figure this out. Yet, I still must venture into this realm of self-evaluation & I have to do this on my own. I just hope that I truly do find a way to rise & improve, before looking back ten years from now & regretting everything that I ever done, viewing myself as a lifelong looser.

My yearning for Isolation:

I wish I were still in the womb.
I’d like to call it my birth-tomb.

It is just like a Cocoon, in it I am wrapped inside.
Divorced from the world, my perfect way to hide.

Protected, unjudged, allowed to be free, and unplugged.

No one’s here to disturb or mock me.
I’m in a place no one can enter or see.

My privacy is an actuality, not just a mere ideal.
I want true peace of mind, something that’s real.

In the outside world, I feel hated, unwanted and unloved.

Gareth Bryant/2012

Islam is my life & Fashion is my passion:

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I remember when I first became a Muslim, like so many us who reverted to Islam, I went through the whole “change your name”, change your look, and essentially change who you naturally, culturally are, as a person nonsense, and so-on. After my little street-life/party & drug-scene stint, I decided that I needed to be more religious. So, after High School, I dived head-first into the Salafi-Movement. Honestly, the Salafi-Movement, initially, was a very positive thing for me personally, mainly because it propelled my religiosity, my general pursuit for Islamic knowledge, and compelled me to take Islam a lot more seriously than I had been taking it previously.

However, like so many others, who got swept up by the religious glamour & grandeur of the ideals of the Salafi-Movement (which are actually valid when properly implemented with justice), the problem was that I had begun to change in ways that were contrary to the very fundamental teachings of Salafiyyah (The Way of  the Salaf: following the religious examples of the Sahabah, the Companions of Prophet Muhammad [May Allah be pleased with them all-together] & the two generations of the Tabi`in, the Followers of the Companions [May Allah mercify them all-together]). I began to acquire this superiority-complex, which was encouraged by many of the so-called “Salafi Scholars” & popular Salafi-Propagators & “Students of Knowledge”, (the likes of Rabee` ibn Haadee `Umayr Al-Madkhali, and his subordinates, like Dawud Adib, Mustapha George, etc.), to view other Muslims, who either did not make the claim to be Salafis (those who claim to adhere to Salafiyyah) or were just not Salafi-enough, as being less Muslim than ourselves.

Then, before you know it, I was just another, ignorant & arrogant youth, just running my mouth, insulting other Muslims & people in general who were not even Muslims, with the complete green-light given to us by the Salafi leaders in our respective communities. Not only were we taught that all Non-Salafis were off-track religiously, but also, we were indoctrinated with the monstrous fallacy that the only true persons of knowledge were the “Salafi-Scholars”, from Saudi & graduates from Saudi and/or Saudi-funded Universities, or scholars & “Students of Knowledge”, from other countries who were “Salafi-Sanctioned”, and that the only way to practice the Sunnah (Prophetic-Tradition) was to do it the way the Salafis said to do it, which became so extreme-Everything that was done, from the way that I thought, to the way that I walked, to the way that I wore my clothes & especially what types of clothing I wore, were all controlled by the teachings of the Salafis-This became staple/default indoctrination (i.e. if the Salafis/Saudis didn’t do it, it’s not from the Sunnah).

We were all warned to not be like Non-Muslims, so this whole “Not imitating the Kuffar” wave came into play (the word Kuffar is the plural of the Arabic word Kafir, which means Disbeliever [someone who disbelieves in Allah, or any other crucial Islamic core theological belief, or or someone who rejects any major theological and/or religious tenet of Islam]). We were told that this was necessary for us to maintain an “Islamic identity”, but in all reality, it was nothing more than a typical control-mechanism, which meant that anything that was not Arabized and/or Saudified was therefore “Non-Islamic”. So, I went from being a free-thinker to being a robot, from being a leader, to being a religiously manufactured follower, we went from wearing sneakers to sandals, from fitted-caps to Kufis, Kiffayahs & Turbans, from GAP jeans to Daffah Thawbs (Arab long-body/full-body garments for men), from shorts to Izars (male waist-wraps/man-skirts), from Puma socks to Khuffs (Arab leather-socks). From 2000-2003, I had went back-and-forth, between Arab-dress & my regular cultural-dress. It became more & more difficult to decipher which dress was really for me.

I had to make a very serious decision, whether to keep this new-found Salafi-culture, or to revert back to my regular culture. I then decided to actually investigate this whole issue of “Imitation of the Kuffar”. I found out that what I was being taught was not at all, what was being projected by the Salafis, the truth, when it came to “not imitating the Kuffar”. I ended up learning that when it comes to fashion, from an Islamic perspective, the regulations of dress for Muslim men are not as extensive or conservative as it is for Muslim women, mainly because the parameters of our `Awrat (Private-Areas) are not the same as the `Awrat of the women, the `Awrat of men are only limited to what lies between our navels & knees, whereas the `Awrat of women extend to every part of their bodies. In fact, as long as a Muslim man doesn’t wear gold, silk, images (things primarily with eyes), transparent clothing, we can realistically wear whatever else that we want.

So, after learning this, and with me being me, I said to myself, “Fuck dis shit…..Imma wear what the Hell I wanna wear!!!”. Then, all Hell broke loose in the Salafi-World for me. Just because I didn’t want to dress like an Arab, I was ridiculed, mocked, made to feel uncomfortable, unwanted, ostracized, and it wasn’t until these events (I’ll explain some of them in a minute) took place that I realized that the Salafi-Movement was just like Roman-Catholic Christianity. Instead of a Pope, you have the King of Saudi Arabia, who even though is clearly in his religious practice a Non-Salafi, and if not the King of Saudi Arabia, would most definitely be considered & called a Hizbi (Religious-Heretic), the de-facto top religious figure, by virtue of the fact that every religious edict that comes out of Saudi must be personally approved by the current King of Saudi Arabia, or it’s not a go.

Then, for the first time in a long time, I started to actually think about what I was doing and what I had allowed myself to get into. I began to realize that this was exactly the way that Christians taught us how to act, just do…..don’t question, don’t challenge, and if you do, you’re not a good Christian. Well, it was just like that back in those days with the Salafis, if you questioned anything, or question any Salafi-Scholar, Salafi-Propagator or Salafi “Student of Knowledge”, then you were no longer considered a good Salafi or Salafi at all.

Okay, here’s when things got hot-and-heavy for me: As a result of my new-found fashion independence, I was immediately black-listed as a rebel, heretic, and everything else a Salafi never, ever wants to be called. This got so bad, that I almost ended up getting into fist-fights, with several Muslims, over this whole fashion issue, and to add insult-to injury, Mustapha George (whom I mentioned earlier) had actually tried to call me out during a Khutbah (weekly Islamic-Sermon given on Fridays) no-less. He had named his Khutbah for that week, “The Ettiquites of the Mosque”, when he explicitly said, “A Muslim brother should not come to the Mosque, like he’s going to a party.” Now, it was very obvious that he was taking a clear shot at me, by virtue of the fact that I was the only person in the Mosque that day, not dressed as an Arab. So, people actually started looking directly at me. This is just one particular example of how people tried to handle me, just on the issue of fashion.

These experiences from my life as a Salafi (by the way, I officially renounced being Salafi back in 2007) taught me some important things: One, be Muslim, without trying to be other than your true self. Two, don’t let anyone tell you to believe, say or do anything, regarding the practice of Islam, without exclusive, explicit proof from the Qur’an & Prophetic-Tradition-That was the main problem among the Salafi youth, being indoctrinated to don a culture that is not only foreign to them, but also having no Islamic relevance, and unfortunately, it still remains a problem that has purposely not been fixed, because some people always want dominance over others, which is pretty damn sad.

Now, on to my clothing line that I had attempted to start: In spite of the Dark-Ages of my life as a Muslim, I acquired the intense need to express myself fashionably, as a Muslim first, but also as a man of my times, as an Urban-Dweller, as a Hip-Hopper. I love fashion, and since this is the case, I feel like I’m obligated to be a fashion trend-setter, for each & every Muslim, living in Non-Muslim countries, shackled to a foreign interpretation, understanding & practice of Islam, which brings Khaleeji Clothing Co. into play: Rashaan Rashid (the brother that I had tried to get this clothing company off the ground with) & I had seen the need for Muslims (Muslim men particularly/especially) to be able to be Muslim, and at the exact same time feel to dress as they please, without being made outcasts, for not conforming to a cultural dress that is not theirs.

It is so important for Muslims in the West (Non-Muslim countries specifically) to take ownership over their own practice of Islam, the first way to acquire authentic knowledge, in the context of the Arabic-Language, to free ourselves of being shackled to any peoples’ or country’s relative, subjective, culturally biased interpretation, understanding & practice of Islam (i.e. learning the Arabic-Language, so we will be able to equip ourselves with the tools to go into classic Islamic works, to gain benefit for ourselves, as opposed to relying upon biased/inaccurate translations of classic texts, or relying upon biased/inaccurate translated lectures & classes) which takes a little more time, and another way is to free ourselves from being unnecessarily & unjustifiably fashionably shackled to any foreign peoples’ or foreign country’s clothing.

And, this is exactly what Khaleeji Clothing Co. had aimed to accomplish at the time: To give Muslims in Non-Muslim countries the confidence to dress the way that they want to, without scrutiny from those who don’t even live among us, yet have influence/control over us. We want Muslims to know that as long as whatever you’re wearing is Islamically-Compliant, then no one else, Muslim or Non-Muslim has the right to have an opinion about whatever you choose to wear, period.

When my business partner first approached me with the idea of helping him with starting this clothing line, I was honestly very apprehensive. I’ve seen a lot of Muslim clothing companies in the past, and those coming up, and I wasn’t very impressed, because I just saw that a lot of Muslim clothing designers were just revamping and/or modifying Arab-style trends. I wanted to be as distant from Arab-clothing, as well as Arab-style fashion influence as possible.

But, then I started to let the whole idea of me becoming a clothing-designer grow on me. I began to envision that I would have a perfect opportunity to display Islamic-Fashion, in a suitable context, for Muslims outside of the Arab-World. It became very important for me to speak on behalf of Muslims, who want to be Muslim of course, but don’t want to feel that they have to be Arabs, in order to be Muslims. In fact, I remember having a tense discussion/debate/argument, with another Muslim, about the whole idea of Islamic-Fashion. He had asked me, “Hey, when did Muslims stop wearing Kufis?!!!”, and, of course as only I can responded sarcastically, “When we found out that Kufis are not religiously required!!!”. That started this long, drawn-out talk, between two brothers & myself, basically they were double-teaming me about this issue, they were clearly pro Arab-domination, while I wasn’t. It even got to the point where one of the brothers said, “African-Americans don’t even have a culture.” (keep in-mind that he himself was an African-American). This literally knocked me off of my feet!!! I was so disgusted by his statement, which intensified the already deep-rooted tense conversation between the three of us.

The more that I gave the idea of being a part of this clothing company a thought, the more I began to realize that I could push a completely different mindset, that is very revolutionary. This new mindset would compel Muslims outside of the Muslim-World/Arab-World to accept the obligation & opportunity to define themselves in an Islamic context, instead of having foreigners defining them. The last thing that we as Muslims in Non-Muslim countries is to be told how to dress.

As Muslims in the West, we need to be defined by our current condition, which is not only unique in the history of Muslims, from among the Ummah (Nation/Community) of Muhammad (Peace be upon him), but also unique to our own outlooks about the world & life, outside of the Muslim-World/Arab-World. Yes, we are all Muslims, but we don’t have to think the same, talk the same, walk the same, act the same, or dress the same. Being unique is very important for a Muslim, and a Human being generally. Our individuality is what makes us who we are, and our uniqueness has value, and that uniqueness must & should be celebrated, not denigrated, by ethnic/cultural dominance, which has absolutely nothing to do with the tenets of Islam.

This is why Islam is my life, and Fashion is my passion: My existence in this Universe & my life on Earth, as a Human being, is predicated on worshipping Allah, the Lord of the Universe, and Fashion is something that helps me, as a Muslim, to acquire the freedom to express myself as an individual, without being worried about whose approval I have to seek. I no longer worry about how people view my fashion-sense, and I no longer wait or seek the unnecessary religious scholarly & not-so-scholarly approval of anyone: If I wanna wear jeans & tees, then Imma wear jeans & tees; if I wanna rock a two-piece or three-piece suit, then that’s what I’ll rock; if I wanna sport a cardigan or track-jacket, then Imma sport a cardigan or track-jacket.

Gareth Bryant/2013

The Muslims need to serve the people:

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On the night of June 4th & the early morning of June 5th, 2011, I participated in the annual “AFSP: Out of the Darkness Overnight” Anti-Suicide walk, in New York City. I didn’t even realize how important this walk that I had committed myself to was, until I actually got to the starting point of the walk, in Brooklyn. The walk hadn’t even started yet, and I was just jolted with anxiety & excitement, not knowing how this whole event would play out. There were all types of people there, at this walk, from all over the country & around the world. They were there to lend their support to put an end to Suicide, at all costs. However, there was one group of people who were not in attendance at this walk……it was us, the Muslims; we were nowhere to be found!!! It’s so ironic how something as prevalent & important an issue as Suicide, or this kind of walk, could possibly be the furthest thing from our agendas-It’s not something that we even think about, or are concerned about.

We are so pathetically distant from real issues in our society, like Suicide-I can say for myself, as an individual Muslim, that this walk is incredibly significant to my ability to be of better service to Allah, as His servant, as well as being of better service to my Human race. As Allah says, “From that which we’ve imposed upon the Children of Israel is the following: Whomever kills a person, whom has killed no one, nor has caused corruption within the Earth, it’s just as though they’ve killed killed all of Humanity. Yet, whomever saves them, it’s just as though they’ve saved all of Humanity.”.(Noble Qur’an: Chpt.5, V.32). It’s a proven fact that Suicide-Awareness indeed saves lives!!! There were so many people here, all for the same objective: to save people from making the mistake of taking their own lives. Even if only one person was saved because of this walk, it would be worth it.

This walk was absolutely amazing, to say the least!!! Every step on this this 18-mile journey was an excuse for me to reflect on this precious gift that Allah has given us called life. This walk was in fact a celebration of life itself; my fellow participants, from every part of this nation, all had individual & personal purposes for committing themselves to this walk, along with a valid narrative to boot. I had the awesome privilege of meeting & conversing with some of the most humane, amusing, and positive people you could ever find on the planet-Take actress/activist, Mariel Hemingway, for example, who lost 7 of her own family members to Suicide. In spite of her tremendous loss, she displayed such fortitude, that I very much admired her for. And, she shared her personal story of familial tragedy, with such an immense level of grace, honor & dignity; she’s also a strong advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide-Prevention as well, which is the organization that annually sponsors the “Out of the Darkness Overnight”.

During this walk however, I still felt isolated, alone, and disappointed. Everyone had a walking team, or at least family or friends to walk with, but I didn’t have anyone initially with me walking, nor a walking team; I was just by myself. I tried very hard to conceal my immense anger and disappointment at the Muslim-Community, our leadership & organizations particularly. I reached out to at least 5 major Muslim institutions of Islamic-Learning, Muslim advocacy groups, and leadership councils…..none of them showed the significant want, or care, to partake in this cause, or endorse me, or even help me to spread awareness about this walk. When I sent out e-mails to these institutions, groups, councils, and organizations, they didn’t even have enough courtesy to reply to me and say they were not interested-I received zero responses, from at least 98% of those whom I contacted. But, in spite of all of that, I made it my business to commit to this walk, and to do it by myself, because you know what they say: “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”.

Honestly, there were in fact instances where I wanted to just quit this walk, because of lack of support for it, from my own community. However, after every mile, and after every check point/rest stop, and all in between, there were people, congratulating us for the miles that we had already walked and encouraging us to walk even more. These people, the AFSP staff, volunteers, family members of those who were running, family members of those who committed Suicide, all of them gave us so much encouragement to go on and finish this walk. It was so wonderful having them there to instill encouragement to complete our walk.

But, there’s one thing I can say, walking by one’s self does have its advantages-Whenever people would ask me as to who, what, or why I was walking, I had the splendid opportunity to express myself individually, as an individual Muslim. Everyone whom I had told that I was walking on behalf of the Muslim-Community were absolutely ecstatic, and I could see the surprise, and delight on their faces; they were shocked that a Muslim would even be there, and at the exact same time, they were so happy that a Muslim was there. For those whom I came in contact with, and told that I was representing the Muslim-Community, it was a good feeling for them to know that somewhere out there, at least one Muslim actually cares about this cause, and this may have been the very first time that many of them have even met a Muslim. But, it shouldn’t have been just be me who cares, it shouldn’t have been just me out there, all of us should care, and all of us should’ve been there!!!

Alas, it was just me out there, one Muslim, by himself, and even just as an individual, I made a positive impact on people that I came in contact with. Just imagine, if the Muslim-Community had a significant presence there? It would have been such a powerful Da`wah power-play, for people to know that we empathize with them, and want to be part of the solution to this major problem plaguing America. We all owe it to Allah, then to our fellow man, to be a part of this particular walk and movement, to put an end to Suicide. The grand involvement of the Muslim-Community in this walk would most definitely place a positive imprint on the minds & hearts of the people who would witness us there. It would be a tool that we could’ve used to help us clarify the negative stigmas about Muslims being inherently religiously violent, that serves as every-day slander in popular media upon our religion, as well as the general character of the Muslims.

When we’re seen participating more often at these types of events, promoting the general preservation of life, then it would turn the tides of how we’re viewed in America and across the world. Participation in a walk like this would place us in a different light, as caring individuals, who respect, honor and celebrate life. We must all make a more valiant effort to involve ourselves in the society that we live in, to paint a better image of Islam & Muslims, through our actions, as well as contributing to the general betterment of our society, by being of better service to the people.

Gareth Bryant/2011