The irony that is me.

Last night I saw myself deliver the worst speech ever at a speech competition. Firstly, I don’t do speeches. So I don’t know what made me agree to it in the first place. I guess people just expected me to be good or a natural at talking so I was sent the digital poster multiple times by many friends who had a lot of expectation of me. Just like them, I too, was sold. Secondly, I came to the realization that my experience on stage last night was so just painfully ironic- just thinking about it makes me want to puke. Let me explain.

We all are our own biggest critics. It’s the same for me, but sometimes when I genuinely think I did a bad job at something, I still get one or two people thinking quite the opposite, so their complements kind of offset and balance out how bad I feel about myself. Although realistically speaking, as a person diagnosed with GAD it can take me weeks for their words to finally make sense to me (and yes, in that period I pathetically mull over how bad and talentless of a being I am. Even cats have more talent [and self-respect] than I do). But last night, man I wish time travel was a real thing. Wallah I did. If time travel was a thing then I would most definitely go back and back out of the competition before even taking the mic. I knew, and everyone in the room knew that I put up a horrible show. And I’m not saying this to secure anyone’s pity. I knew I was going to fail the moment I entered the hall. I should have listened to my gut but God knew better. He wanted me to learn.

The topic of my speech was Ihsan. The competition, which aimed to showcase voices of the ummah, naturally expected us to speak about ummah issues to invoke the spirit of brotherhood and to call for action. But I wanted to be different, so I began with the point that wars and killings are not the real predicaments of the Ummah, rather they are the symptoms of an even bigger problem. Pause right there. Great and valid point right? BUT. I started writing this “great point” 2 hours before the actual event. Mistake no.1. I knew I wasn’t made for public speeches yet I still left it to the last minute. And that’s probably my one mistake that lead to many other smaller mistakes. Everyone knows that preparation is key in any presentation. I overestimated my own strength- I thought I could find my voice on stage and the words would just flow like they always do when I’m among my friends and classmates. This time though, it didn’t. I was too dependent on my script, and being the only participant who didn’t have it memorized, my having to refer to the script every 2 minutes was absolutely distracting and unprofessional. This isn’t spoken word. This isn’t a reading circle. This was a new format and style that I just wasn’t used to. Even if I had started it earlier, if I’m honest, I still wouldn’t be able to pull it off.

Last year I took a module called Advanced Debating. Our first task in class was to deliver a famous speech. So it was definitely scripted, you had to try and act like Malcom X or Barack Obama or whoever’s speech you chose and you had to look natural doing so. It was my first ever failure presentation-wise. I like to think that I’m good at presenting because of my persuasive skills. But if it depended on a script, and there are certain points to be made script-wise, I’m not your girl. Unless it’s okay to read from it. Like spoken word. I’m allowed, at times, to read from my script if I hadn’t memorized it; especially when it’s freshly written. Because people know that the focus of the show is my words. They know I’d written it, and those words are my own and no one else’s. So I’ll be judged according to my creativity, the imagery I used, rhyme and rhythm, diction (vocab) etc. But speaking to an audience freely, based off a written script (doesn’t matter if I’d written it or not), is something I wasn’t made for. I think my trainer had given me 14/20. Which of course bothered me so much that I had to go and see him afterwards. I ovary-acted (lol) and spent the entire day reading this dua that was meant to be read at war: Allahumma aj3al fi nu7oorihim. Yes, you may laugh at me. I had so much anxiety creeping up at me that day that I couldn’t focus on anything anyone said to me before my appointment with my trainer. In the end his words mattered to me although he didn’t change my marks. He said I did good, if only I was more prepared, I would have scored higher. And that was all I needed.

Sometimes that is all you need. But not always.

Other times, you’ve got to own up to your mistakes because you’re a grown woman. I should have prepared the script days before the competition and practised it till I memorized it like any other sane participant would. I may also have been a bit cocky because a lot of people were saying “you’re gonna win this”, “I’m sure it’s peanuts for you“, “we’re rooting for you” before the event which made me procrastinate in its preparation. But the other participants blew my mind, to be honest. I was the 8th presenter of 9 and sitting there and listening to all of them speak before me made me want to stay glued to my seat and just listen to them till the end of the night. It was like sitting in a baby version of an Islamic conference. I honestly enjoyed it until of course, my name was called and everyone’s disappointment showed on their faces a minute into my speech- if you can even call it that.

The reason I’m even more angry at myself was because it was ironic. I said that the reason we, the Muslim ummah was failing is because we don’t have ihsaan in us. Ihsaan, as Angel Gibreel taught the Prophet pbuh is worshipping Allah as though you see Him, and although you cannot see Him, surely He sees you. It is doing things with excellence and perfection. I was saying we could solve all of the ummah’s problems if we did things with ihsaan- sending aid to our oppressed brethren in a swift and no-deliberation way is ihsaan. Being accountable for a task given is ihsaan. And so on and so forth… all whilst delivering poorly. So much for ihsaan-preaching, Yasmin. Well done on showing your true colours. I didn’t take this challenge with ihsaan. At all. I didn’t make sure my speech was well-prepared I couldn’t care less about memorizing it and perfecting it. I was a hypocrite and I deserve what I got. I wouldn’t say it was humiliating but it was definitely humbling. Allah put me back in my place. He showed me a small taste of failure; a peek into what life would be like for the rest of my life if I continued to delay my Fajr, not give thanks to Him enough, not speak good words and not assume the best of people. I was guilty of all of these charges at the first degree.

Having said all of that, I still stand by the points of my speech. I hope someone else out there can deliver it in my place in a much better way than I did. You’re welcome to read it and use it in any way you see fit. As for me, I don’t feel that I deserve to be the bearer of these words just yet. Although I wrote it, the state I’m in right now needs a lot of fixing. Like I said, I’m guilty of all the above charges, so let me rise from that and only when I return (if I return) will I then feel deserving of delivering such a message.

Till then. Jumuah Mubarakah.

My speech script: v4u-comp-speech

Advertisements

My thoughts on the NAK controversy.

I was setting the table for lunch for my sister and I when I got the text message. It hit me like a wave at first, and then I said astaghfirullah. I quickly thought about it for a minute, drafted and sent my brief reaction message to the sender. And then resumed with the lunch for which I had slaved away two hours in the kitchen. I thought that that was probably more worth my time. And it certainly was. (DM me for my kabsa recipe, no pressure :p) There was no hyperventilating. No tears. No gasping. No omg, I need to blast this to all my contacts and share and retweet this to everyone I know so that this Earth is cleansed of haraj.

Ok it’s silly to hit ’round the bush now. It’s been a little less than 2 days since the international Muslim community was hit by a most devastating news which I’m not even going to attempt to censor since it’s all over the interweb already -the Nouman Ali Khan controversy. Woah. I never thought this day would come. Neither did he, I think.

You see, I was never a fanatic. Not for a long period of time, anyway. I am the kind of person who hardly gets obsessed over a personality, or a tv/book series, or a gadget what have you. (Except maybe the Apple brand, let’s make an exception for that. >.<). Although I never saw NAK as the scholar to learn all of one’s deen from, he certainly is a scholar of the Book of Allah for he had studied it in a certain kind of depth. Having said that, some people saw him as the only scholar they could relate to. My Chinese convert friend saw him as that. His lectures gave her hope, gave her more reason and logic than any scholar did give her in terms of affirmation. I can only imagine how she would receive this news.

When I finished reading the open letter of Omer M. Mozaffar, my honest and first thoughts were this: 1. Who is this person making all these claims? 2. How can I verify this atrocious claim? and things along those lines. I saw it as too risky of a message and never thought to even promulgate this message elsewhere. It felt too wrong. My fitrah said so. I didn’t even know that people were already sharing it by the hundreds on Facebook and on other social medias. So imagine my shock when I saw it on some of my friends’ walls uttering statements of disbelief, disgust and horror. Now I’ll know how these friends will react to if someone had posted something venomous about me. Hm.

At this point no one had yet read other sources. They simply hit the share button and took the news at face-value. Whatever claim of ‘years of thorough investigation’ this person has made- whether it is true or not should not even qualify as the ultimate truth. To my surprise people took his words without question and believed it. What further irritated me was the kind of commentary people wrote: “do not attach your deen to a personality..” and things along those lines. Let’s be real though. Is that REALLY the first thing people think of when this news comes to their knowledge? That their deen is over? Have we underestimated our community that much? Yes there are those who idolized NAK, but to associate NAK entirely to one’s deen is freaking stupid. Excuse my French. Over ONE NEWS of a Muslim figure, you think people are renouncing their shahadah? People’s reactions baffled me to the core because I thought people were smarter than this. And by these people I mean those who aren’t NAK’s fans to begin with. Some saw it as an opportunity to support their previous hunches- he didn’t dress sunnah anyways, he didn’t study in Madinah anyways. I also thought it would have been better for them to react like this: “How do know if this isn’t a slander?” “What is the point of this public message?” “Can anyone vouch for this brother’s words?”. Honestly I was disappointed.

With a single message exposing the sins of a brother, all hell broke lose. It suddenly gave people the opportunity to discuss his sins openly, thereby committing gheeba (backbiting) and then putting him down as if they had never done a single wrong thing in their years of living. With a single Facebook post, our brother in Islam’s honour is not just besmirched, but open to the wolves to devour whilst he wasn’t given a chance to defend it when it is his right to do so.

One of the many things about this br. Omer’s message that stood out to me was how vague he was. What kind of inappropriateness did he mean? Many of you know that I have worked in (not just with) several different Muslim organizations and I have had direct contact with many shuyookh. My friends who go through my contacts list on my phone know that I have some of the community’s most revered shuyookh’s personal numbers for work purposes. And I can tell you with full confidence- not that I was ever a victim in this, perhaps I’m not their cup of tea lol (ok sorry) but I have full knowledge of this phenomena if you want to call it that- that 6/10 of these “scholars” have made unnecessary contact with some of my female colleagues. Some of which are consensual (again, this word which was used by br. Omer triggers many thoughts, and I’m using it for the pun). This occurrence is pretty damn rampant, if you must know. Some of it were in the form of harassment in which the immediate course of action I often had to take is to report them to the correct ‘authorities’. Most of these ‘shuyookh’ that do do this kind of dodgy things though (with the exception of 1 or 2) were visiting ones; meaning they only fly in once for a job (conference or talk) and then leave after the job’s finished. (meaning to say that those who were permanent in the organizations that I’d worked with were mostly ala tareeq mustaqeem inshaAllah). True story- I’ve had a close person to a international qaari come to me after seeing that I was part of the event the said qaari was invited to, confessing every dirty little secret of this qaari. I had a hard time believing it even with hard evidences, but my point is, these things happen. Even to the best of us. Sigh. I forget that this kind of information is not something the public is often privy to, and so it might shock them, as they have in this case. But it didn’t surprise me. Not because I accept it, but because I have seen it many times before. It still doesn’t make it right, yes, but they are human beings and I have full belief that from a case-to-case basis, what knowledge I have taken from them, will not be rendered invalid. And my duty when this happens is to mind my own sins and move on with my life.

I’ve always seen Nouman Ali Khan as a smart, academic man, who happened to find the Book of Allah a linguistic miracle and genuinely wanted to share it with people and saw that creating Bayyinah would proliferate his ajr. Plus, Allah has gifted him with eloquence and with a tongue fluent in the language that appeals to the youth today. I am appalled at all the people who were quick to call it all a scam or that he is a fraudster. I don’t know about them, but he’s quite the scammer then, isn’t he? What with all the blood and sweat put into researching and diving into books of tafaseer and seerah and then putting together a whole organization with all of these materials that would become his life devotion.

Every night in Ramadan for the past 2 years, my family and I would watch and listen to one of his series in our shared Bayyinah account, although our favourite was Sh Omar Suleiman’s. But nevertheless we listened to him all the same (although sometimes he can be too American in nomenclature, we found). I personally prefer the more stricter shuyookh, but for family sake, I am okay. Ya3nee in short I never had a problem with him. And if I really had to be honest, my only issue with him was when he would give all of those miracle numbers regarding verses or tafseer/sharh of verses which I’m sure us in the Malay and Desi community are used to hearing on the daily. Even that, if he can prove it well, you can’t totally disregard it. You have to know that the Quran is miraculous in all aspects- mathematically, linguistically, semantically etc, even though some are weightier than others.

What do these people of camp of anti-NAK expect people like my Chinese convert friend to do? Or my family for that matter? Or my new-to-Islam born-Muslim neighbour who had put on the hijab after hearing NAK speak at an event? Or my friend who has juast asked me to donate to her Bayyinah Dream scholarship? Should we delete our accounts and dissociate ourselves from him and his work? Should I break it to all of these people that this man they have trusted in is in fact, so evil?  At his last event in KL, tafseer of Surah Taha, I, along with some other friends had promised to memorize a page of the Quran after taking a picture of him (yeah weird consequence for a weird millenial tullab-al-ilm action, but it was a good deal, wouldn’t you agree?). I am ashamed to say that I’m still working on it (because I chose a difficult Surah in a pact I made with a friend lol) but am I still tied to this promise or am I now relieved of it, hmm? Camp anti-NAK would say I am relieved of this bid’ah deal.

I know people will tell me “but this Shaykh has verified it, and this Shaykh verified it..” Look hun, it was NOT zina, ok? Because if it was, then these people carrying out the allegations on their tongues would have had to have SEEN the act happening and I bloody well doubt that THAT many people would have been invited to such a scene. (Thanks to br.Omer’s ambiguous choice of words). Now thanks to Sh. Navaid, he has clarified that it was definitely not zina. (I am ashamed to even see this being clarified. Were people so eager to jump on to this accusation train?? Where do people put their heads? Wait.. don’t answer that.) Secondly I thought we were meant not to expose the sins of others so that Allah might conceal ours on the Day of Judgment? Honestly I cannot even bring myself to click the share button (even if the news is indeed true) knowing the consequences. Why should I assume the godly role of carrying out justice for the people? Ok perhaps all of these people are better than I am. I know for a fact that I have skeletons in my closet that I do not want people to know about. I pray to God, seriously, that they won’t be exposed on the DoJ. And I pray to Him that all of you who refused to share the vile post also be under His protection on that difficult day :(

Let’s assume this was as serious as most people think it is- how did the other shuyookh then verify it? Look, I’m not interested in the technicalities. Whether they interviewed 20 women who claimed to be victims or they got NAK to confess to a Whatsapp message to one of them. I really don’t care. But you know what I do care about? I want to know if the knowledge he’s delivered to us thus far was corrupted. I want to know if he has ever used his position to serve and pursue nasty interests. No? Then good. (How do I know this? Well, in case you didn’t know NAK has the right to give you his side of the story, he does. And go read that on his fb page).

Now I’m not so informed of the exact shariah rule in respect to the sins of someone teaching the deen, but I’m sure they’re humans too like us, and so the consequences to their sins do not differ from ours. They should get punished equally, shouldn’t they? Like personal advice. But they did that already, so scratch that. I’m guessing the reason the entire world (that’s how big of an influence NAK is, tabaarkaAllah) has to know is to ensure people get their knowledge from the purest people only, am I right? I really hope that that was the intention behind it. But what was the real aim of the message though? Was it worth besmirching your ‘friend of 20 years’ ‘ name, honour and dignity? Was it worth destroying his following and harming his career? Was it worth creating fitnah and doubt and discord among the Muslim Ummah? The average Melayu would say “ini semua konspirasi Yahudi!”. Yea I don’t think that needed any translation lol.

I am not taking sides. I am doing what I think is right and that is to safeguard MY aakhirah. Since I was never an obsessive fan of his, I do not feel a sense of duty to sing praises of him. But I am his sister in Islam and I will try my best to not expose his sins publicly and as his sister I will not ruminate over the affairs of his private life in Whatsapp groups. I will not speculate about what really happened. I will not further the hate that has already been lighted up. The milk has been spilled. The damage has been done. If this was a false allegation, then may those who conspired in this campaign rot in Hell. And if this was indeed true to the extent that they have implied it to be, then I leave the affairs of my brother in Islam to Allah. Is He not the Best of Judges?

Fame is dangerous. Not just because it is one of the biggest distractors of one’s deen, but also because fame invites jealousy. Fame makes you vulnerable to people’s many evils. We need to ensure that we see every side of the coin. Flip in over and over again. Check its ridges. Check its inconsistencies with other coins..

As for myself I will take and preserve whatever knowledge I have taken from him. (One of the striking ones that I remember is his and Sh Omar Suleiman’s favourite duaa (O Allah give me knowledge that is beneficial, rizq that is pure and accepted deeds) and will continue to practice it. And because of this event subhanAllah, I feel a strong sense of responsibility to make duaa for him that Allah accepts all the good that he has done to bring love for Allah’s Book. All of what he’s done is more than what I can ever dream to achieve. I pray that Allah accepts that. Most importantly, deep in my heart I do not believe that he is the devil people make him out to be. How quick are people to change camps when it is profitable for them. I cannot imagine anyone who deserves this kind of humiliation. What a time of fitnah we live in- we are literally turning against one brother out of a million others who are committing the same or even worse sins than he is and singling him out as the sinner of the century. I do not know for how long until his name is cleared, but I pray that justice will be served- in either of the two ways which I’ve previously mentioned.

Lastly I implore all of those who have shared the vile news to please retract it for the above reasons that I have expanded. It does not serve you in any way. On the Day of Judgment, Allah will not put you in Jannah for casting NAK out from the ummah. Newsflash guys, Allah will ask about what you memorized and implemented from all that deen-studying you did. I ask you to fear Allah’s wrath and seek His forgiveness. Perhaps it is the duty of the scholars to deal with this. Did it perhaps ever cross your mind that you might not be among them? :D

Focus on yourself.

Perhaps NAK will serve his time here in this Dunya. And remember, when Allah loves a servant, He tests them. And when He intends good for a servant, He makes him a faqeeh. Go learn at the feet of the scholars- yes, even if they are divorced, and make YOUR aakhirah your one and only concern. Unless your shaykh commits Shirk, then I think it’s best to avoid him entirely.

Allah knows best. To Him belongs all Haqq.

 

 

 

 

For the Boat People

A few years ago I stood in a cat cafe, yes, a cat cafe, in front of an audience of 20 or so. I spoke and they listened to my story. A story of a people called the Rohingya. Hearts were moved, tears were shed, but no amount of clapping and flash photography did anything for those people I spoke about. Neither will a re-publication of my words then but here are my personal prayers again, for my conscience. They deserve so much more than mere rhyme and song, but surely the real retribution of their oppressors will come, if their sanctuary and refuge won’t in this world.

 

“A lot of people have asked me how they can help the people of Rohingya. I would like to tell them that most of us are always misunderstood. We’ve faced terrible situations in the past which is why we may not have proper manners. But please try to understand us. We have been treated like animals all our lives. Give us time to become human again.”

 

I am sorry that you’ve had to apologize for your manners

When really you live in fear of whether you’re going to be taken away

In the middle of the night or even have a chance to see another day

I am sorry that you’ve had to demand time so that you can be human again

When really you want more time to run away into the arms of a safer reality

It is us who need to be human again for putting you in the least of our worries.

I am sorry that there are people who are putting you to account for things

you can’t even afford to think of right now

When all you want, all you need is for the hate to stop

And then you can afford to think about how to speak and dress well to get the job.

I am sorry they held the chains that bind your freedom

And we partook in your slow massacre by holding our silence

busying ourselves with hotter issues, debating on

Whether a dress is gold or blue

Until you turned blue from malnutrition

I am sorry, young one, that you’ve had to grow up before your time

To learn that the world is a cruel place and a playground is not for your kind

And to witness a universal myth debunked to reveal a truth-

The truth that adults don’t know the answer to everything

They don’t have magical powers to make sure there’s food on the table

And they’re not excused from feeling fear in times of danger.

I am sorry that the world finds your story unappealing

I mean you don’t have a holy site for them to want to protect

And not exotic enough of a complexion

Nor were you born with vibrant-coloured eyes to capture the interests of

those who claim to be hungry for unadulterated pixels

And you seem to have no precious resources to offer beneath your soil-

Like gold or oil;

You have nothing to offer

but a mountain of resilience, a fountain of faith, a pair of rough calloused hands and blackened feet

They may have uncovered mass graves, congested with rotting flesh of your men, women and children, but

I swear, you-

Know life better than the best of us

We hide behind plain headlines for you, like ‘boat people’

And blanket titles for your plight like ‘religious strife’ and ‘immigrant crisis’

Generic and simple enough to be forgotten in just the same way you’ve forgotten what home means

In war and genocide, euphemism is key

Created to cushion the senses of first world people so that their first world ears don’t feel pressured with responsibility and accountability to feel basic empathy

There is nothing pure in the word ‘cleansing’ of ethnic cleansing

And since when were the words of a woman who had been locked up once before, of “not recognizing your ethnic name” synonymous to the denial of your sufferings?

You would think she would know what oppression means.

My Rohingya brothers and sisters,

My Rohingya mothers and fathers

The fact that you exist is enough for me to know you deserve to live

The fact that you breathe, smile, feel pain and bleed red is enough for me to know you deserve medicine and aid

The fact that you still proclaim that God is One,

And prostrate down to Earth at least five times a day

As if you could not be any more humble than you already are

And still maintain that covering over your head

Even though you haven’t had anything to eat

Makes me determined that although you are the most dishonoured people on the face of this Earth,

You are the most dignified in His Face

There is no barrier between God and your prayers

And there’s a special place in Heaven for people like you.

I promise you, in your ultimate home you will not be not kicked out, nor displaced nor erased. Your identity will not be questioned, your feet will not be uprooted from your place forcibly like they have countless times before, your homes will not be set ablaze, your veins will not be ripped to satisfy the greed of those who play the game of thrones.

I promise you, your endurance will not be in vain,

there will be no rejection of your kind in a place where injustice is foreign.

Your name will be sung in the hallways of heaven

Your hands and feet will not remember the pain

Because your Lord will avenge for you

And then maybe you can invite us who were supposed to be your saviours to your ultimate home

If you’d forgive us for our cowardice

And lack of action

And we’ll forgive all the people who have caused us pain

Though you would have already forgiven them a long time ago.