What do we see in the mirror every day?
Chances are, we see wrinkles, gray hairs, sunken or too puffy cheeks, tired or bloodshot eyes, and is my nose more crooked than before? And I thought I looked less pregnant than I did 4 years ago, when I actually WAS pregnant, but it seems the carbs this week have duly done their duty. Our default setting appears to find fault: in ourselves, in our kids, in our lives, and in the world. It makes “default” sound like a misnomer, doesn’t it, that we find fault when we should DE fault. What is the origin of this negative default though?
I’m sure that origin story is relative to ours. Our experiences, good or bad, shape who we are today, and my staunch belief is that everything that happens, does so by the grace and wisdom of Allah. Even the times that were my lowest were gifted to me for a reason, and indeed, they turned out to be such gifts. I have the benefit of a handful of such times, and several years to validate these gray hairs. I won’t say, as my mom often did in Urdu, “These hairs didn’t turn white in the sun!”
In my indignant youth, I was a champion of my faith and having newly learned a lot of things I never grew up knowing (when asked if I found a hadeeth in Bukhari or Muslim, I wanted to know, “What’s that?”), was hungry to share it. Any new concept or fact had to be applied RIGHT NOW or the opportunity would be lost. Like many respected scholars have shown us now, the ferocity of our youth doesn’t last, and neither does that hunger to harness every opportunity to call out a wrong.
Not to be misquoted, I still believe that if something is amiss, we have an obligation to fix it. My favorite hadeeth and the mantra of my life is
From Abu Sa’eed al-Khudree (RA): I heard the Messenger of Allah (SAW) say, “Whomsoever of you sees an evil, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then [let him change it] with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart — and that is the weakest of faith” (Saheeh Muslim-I know what it is now!).
However, my practice is to avoid being the weakest of faith, and so I like to, as I’ve heard Imam Omar Suleiman call it, “worship with our feet,” not just standing in prayer or talking about change, waiting for someone else to do something, but making it happen. And the doers, movers, and shakers, who lead/walk the way to change, are my people. I’m not a religious hardliner as I tried to be in my 20’s, but my compass has settled due Northeast, as it should, and back where the needle always was and should be for a Muslim. In the middle for me.
To the zealous (it’s a good thing) youth, I can describe the beauty of this middle road, the path of the Muslims, the peace there is in not feeling obligated to call out everything. There is so much happiness in searching for more of it, rather than finding fault in others. There is no deadline for perfection because the due date is NEVER. I can talk about how freeing it is to accept those things we were taught were taboo or untouchable because for everything Allah (SWT) gave us to hate (count them on one hand), there are so many more to love, foremost, His creation. I could go on and one about how I found Allah (SWT) in the imperfect creation He made, how I’ve learned to hold close what many Muslims have ignored or judged “sinful.” Well, aren’t we ALL sinful? Now surely, call oppression what it is because that’s an obligation. “Make viral” the oppression, but also fashion the treatment of it. The bandwagons of finger wagging can instead be bandwagons of change or rehabilitation of those who have erred. WE might need that rehabilitation one day, and it builds us, but ridicule and attacks on integrity and character do nothing.
As a mother, I cannot count the number of times my kids literally screw up from the time they get up in the morning to the time they make it TO THE BREAKFAST TABLE. And yet, I forgive their bad choices because mistakes are part of their growth mindset. Sometimes they really hurt their parents (see picture below), but we don’t say, “Okay, you’re on own, bubs.” We don’t throw their past mistakes in their face or humiliate them for making a mistake, nor expect perfection out of them. Actually, we DO often put unrealistic expectations of perfection on our kids, but that’s another blog. Allah(SWT) loves us more than the love of 72 mothers, and I love my kids so much sometimes, I feel like my ribs will split open from it. Along that line, Allah forgives our bazillion mistakes we make as ADULTS on the daily--what would happen if He instead humiliated us for each one made or berated us for them? I’m sure this happens depending on the nature of the sin, but I humbly suggest that the MAJORITY of the time, Allah (SWT) lives up to His Names Ar Rahman Ar Raheem (The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful). And that is why we learn His Names in the first place, to try to apply those Names in our day to day. While Allah (SWT) is Al Adl, The Best Judge, He withholds His judgment a whole lot. And maybe we can, too.
I pray our kids and the young generation I see so adept at callout culture now painlessly learn to withhold their judgment, that no mistake falls in their path to deter them from Islam and Muslims, but this naseeha (advice) is for myself first. I pray that when one of us makes a mistake, we receive the gentle hand on our shoulder to turn us in the correct direction, a tasteful message via PM or DM or whatever it’s called now to help mend the way, or a blog post that serves everyone to calm down and look in the mirror. Once we see no faults in ourselves, we can find fault elsewhere. I pray that I’m able to do this for my kids, to withhold my judgment when they fall down and pick them up to do better next time. Allahuma Ameen