The Perils of MSA-Life, anywhere/everywhere:

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Author’s note:

This is an anonymous-advice, that someone, whom is a Muslim, would like to give, to Muslims generally, and also, to Muslims involved in MSA (Muslim Students Association) work, whether you’re in High School, or at the College level. I think that this advice is very commendable, and even anonymously, I’m sure that it took a lot for this person to write this, which displays an immense amount of courage, on her part.

This is their story:

“The only reason I’m writing this is because today I was being “haram” and thinking about a guy back in middle school. He read books all the time and knew things that our teachers didn’t expect anyone to know, let alone a Black male who hung out with the wrong crew. To be honest, I really liked him, and I wasn’t even in love with his clothes or his personality; it was his brain.

Something that struck me about him was that he never did his homework, yet on tests he’d score higher than any of us, and he never bragged about it. I remember hearing people ask him how he knew these things, and I remembering asking him that myself. I never realized what I was doing to him; I never would’ve asked a non-Black guy because that’s something I would’ve just expected; but now I realize how wrong it was to question him just because I expected him to be like the others who looked like him. I never really knew that what I was doing was wrong, and the proof is that I liked him all throughout middle school.

When I thought about him earlier today and started thinking why I liked him so much, I saw a reflection of him in me. I wear tight jeans, and my hijab is a mess. My shirts are never long enough and my relationship with my family isn’t even Islamic. Although I can go on and on about my negatives, I can say one good thing about myself without lying, I read; sometimes I act stupid or do things just because I’m expected to, and I know that people will question me if I say things I’m “not supposed” to know, similar to that guy. I started reflecting back on every time I interacted with a Muslim who seemed to be more religious then me (they probably were, I’m just saying “seemed” because only Allah knows what’s truly in our hearts). Every time I though about these interactions, I felt like I was being treated like that guy, and I really was. And when I thought about it I got really angry. It hurts to know that your brothers and sisters can expect so little from you; I was really angry because know one even knew how much or how little I read at home, and they simply expected so little from me. Even though  I’m still really angry at them, I’m just a little less angry because I remember asking that guy why he knew so much and I remember expecting so little from him. I guess that’s how some people think of a girl who doesn’t look as Muslim as them. The same way it was unintentional for me, I guess it was unintentional for those people, and this is why I am writing this. The words you say to someone can really hurt them. Please, don’t question how someone knows something and don’t give a fake smile and tell them that you’re so proud that they  are taking notes at an Islamic event – an event that they made it to earlier than you probably even left your house.

I remember back in Arabic school (something that I quit because I had to much “work” to do), the teacher was explaining to us how it’s important to treat people of all religions nicely. I had to share the story of how the Prophet got up when men passed him with a dead Jewish body. The people around him asked him why he got up for this man if he was a Jewish man, and the Prophet simply responded, “Is he not human”. I remember the look of surprise and the smile that she gave me, and at the moment I smiled, yo. I couldn’t believe this woman was complimenting me, and when she asked me how I knew that, I proudly replied I read. Now, I look back, and I’m angry that she would ask me something like that. If it was one of the other girls, whose parents were Arab, she would only be happy, not surprised,  to hear it from them. And, yeah, I still realize that she could’ve only said that because she wanted to know how she can get her teenage sons to read , but that still hurt.

Then, a few months ago, I went to one of the first Islamic events I went to in a few months. I was mad hype, it was a brother I listened to a lot, I loved when he made videos criticizing things I did as a young Muslim. Anyway, I’m there about 20 minutes early or whatever, and this girl that I go with tells me that I should pray. I casually try to shrug it off, and then I tell her that prayer isn’t important right now. She gave me this huge speech about how it’s so important to pray, and I know I needed that, but it just wasn’t the time- and also , I don’t just accept advice from anyone. I know I should fix that, but also if you’re giving advice to someone, make sure they like you enough to be willing to receive it (not that I didn’t like her, she’s really nice, but her speeches are just tooooo long). Anyway, the reason I didn’t want to pray was because I knew there was some pee on my pants. I can’t blame her, I know she didn‘t know, but please try to consider why a person might be doing something before assuming something and giving them a whole lecture.

Anyway, I’m at this lecture, and another girl, a board member of our MSA, comes up to me and tells me that she’s so happy I’m here. I know that you probably think I’m overreacting for getting angry, but I still feel like I deserve to feel angry. This girl greeted the people around me with “Salams!” and when she saw me, sure she said Salam! in that stupid voice, but she also told me that she was so proud that I had my notebook. Me, being the retard I am, smiled and felt so happy to hear someone complimenting me; but now when I think back, the first girl that she said Salam to had a paper in her hand also, and she didn’t say anything about that, but when she saw me, it was just unexpected. She probably didn’t mean it the way she said it, but I still have a hard time forgiving her. If there’s a group of people, don’t make one seem less than the rest, not even religiously speaking but just in general. I’m not saying that everyone should just say Salam with the same expression to every person, but we need to remember that it’s not cool to talk down to someone. I don’t know why it’s so hard to forgive her, I really don’t, but maybe its because that comment was given at a time when my Islam was already shaky.

 

The only reason I wrote this is because I feel like this is something we do unintentionally, but the feelings that we hurt may stay hurt one, two, five years later. Please, if your giving dawah don’t question people’s intelligence. I know that I barely know anything, but you don’t need to tell me that and treat others different while in front of me, and don’t think you know why someone does someone does something because you really don’t.

 

Also, this is to every MSA board member anywhere, if you don’t ask people what they want to here and if you aren’t willing to take suggestions, the MSA isn’t what its supposed to be. If someone doesn’t even pray, why not take to them individually instead of having meetings about the Sahaba or about a Prophet (I’m not saying that’s not important. I’m just saying that you guys don’t even know what we’re going through and instead of trying to find out, you tell us things that we’d be happy to learn If our Islam was stronger). I think our MSA’s focus way too much about facts, than on trying to understand things and apply them to our daily lives. Also, one more thing, please give us the chance to ask questions. Cut the meetings short a little, hear what we have to say. And try to instill family. I don’t even smile at the board members who are sisters because we all don’t try hard enough to make it a big family. Let’s do that.”

Gareth Bryant/2013

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