Eid Mubarak! And…Brass Crescent Wins!

I hope all those who celebrated Eid had one that was full of bounty and joy!

As you may have noted from the freshly-added badges to this blog, I have been graced with an incredible Eid gift: Brass Crescent awards in both the categories of best blog and best writer! I cannot thank enough all those who nominated and voted for me. I’m small potatoes: my stats haven’t been the kind that have advertisers flocking to my door. But the readers I do have are wonderful, thoughtful, and incredibly intelligent people. It has been a joy engaging with you and I am so grateful for your support. I wouldn’t trade you lot for the world.

Grace is from Allah alone. Indeed, He honors whom He wills and humbles whom He wills.

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Brass Crescent Nomination!

Thanks to your support and input, I have been nominated for two categories in the Brass Crescent Awards: best blog and best writer! The polls are closing VERY SOON–just within the next couple of days in fact–so please take a moment to cast your vote and help me secure a win. Why? So I can go around saying I write an award-winning blog. So I can put that in a query letter when I’m submitting a manuscript to be published. So I can walk around in a little pink cloud of happiness that will inevitably evaporate when I start eyeing the next best thing.

But there are more reasons. Awards are important, people. Independent, self-founded awards like these are how activists, writers, and artists come into the limelight, how they get the attention they deserve. Awards are an invaluable form of exposure. They are a way to have your say on the Muslim content that matters to you. In a world where we have an established canon of “Christian” and “Jewish American” fiction but not its Muslim counterpart, where we have to explain ourselves before embarking on any narratives, where we are thought to be belligerent, misogynistic, and narrow-minded, it is so, so important to reward those who work so hard to change all that.

So be sure to vote. It doesn’t even have to be for me. Just go and vote. Let’s celebrate the Muslim blogosphere and show our support to the voices that mean the most to us, that come the closest to defining our spiritual experience in these times.

On Receiving

There was a time, back when I lived in the Gulf, when my mother and I were discussing the situation of a good family friend. (Here, I will call her “Safiya.”) She was approaching the age of thirty and had not found a suitable marriage partner, and her family was deeply distressed about the situation.

Her parents and mine were both soliciting the services of the same matchmaker. On one occasion, the matchmaker suggested a suitor for me who was ten years older than I was. She told us in a well-intentioned manner that we were the first ones she had approached for this match.

Normally I would not have blinked at such a prospect, but because I was ruminating over Safiya’s situation in those days, it struck me as terribly strange that the matchmaker would think of me first. So without thinking, the first thought I expressed to my mother was: “Why isn’t she asking Safiya’s parents?”

My mother was quiet, thrown off by my suggestion. Then she sat me down and patiently explained: “Sarah, don’t think of yourself in terms of other’s needs. You can’t compare your situation to Safiya’s, ever.” She pointed out that this had nothing to do with our not being concerned for her. Rather, when something like this presents itself, it has come our way for a reason, because we’re meant to at least consider it.

Now, to be clear, I don’t this reasoning applied to the situation at hand. There were no profound forces in operation here. I feel that, for whatever reason, the matchmaker was deliberately seeking younger wife for the suitor in question. My mother, however, reasoned that she could simply be enacting God’s will. (As far as my prospective suitors are concerned, she thinks everyone is going about enacting God’s will all the time. She has to. It’s the only way she can rationalize my still being single at a ripe old age of twenty-six.)

Now, some years after the incident, I have come to understand the wisdom in my mother’s words: when it comes to matters of fate, what others have or do not have could not matter less. That is why there is no room in Islam for jealousy. For the same reason, there is no room for pathological selflessness, either.  It makes no sense to seethe over what others have. It also makes no sense to give away half of one’s income, guilty that they were granted privileges that others were not.

So I find myself thinking of my mother’s words when I am overwhelmed by the opportunities and gifts that I am blessed with. I’m not the jealous sort, but I do veer towards extreme selflessness, a tendency that has probably cost me in many ways. When I am acknowledged in some manner, I automatically think of others who deserve more reward and recognition. One of the few occasions I become tongue-tied is when I am paid a compliment. Ridicule me all I want: I’m an English major, I’m used to it. Say something nice, and I will break into a cold sweat. The manual of Sarah has nothing to say about this.

I have rarely ever confronted the green-eyed monster. But when good comes my way, I must learn to breathe deeply: Alhamdulillah. Part of growing up, for me, is receiving with grace. Receiving without guilt.

More on Writerly Courage: Malala Yousafzai

In her CNN interview, Malala was asked what she would say to a girl who’s doesn’t have the kind of courage she does, who is too frightened to speak up and wants to stay in her room.

Don’t stay in your room because God will ask you on the Day of Judgment: where were you when your people were asking you, when your school fellows were asking you, and when your school was asking you that I am being blown up? When your people need you, you should come up . . . and you should stand up for their rights.

I’ve met more than my fair share of educated Pakistanis who are so disgusted by groups like the Taliban that they fault religion as a whole, and as a result commit some terrible version of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

This beautiful, brave girl tells us that it is just not possible to condemn the Taliban while being a Muslim: it’s necessary. She is effectively reminding us of the following saying by the Prophet Muhammad:

Whomever among you sees an evil, then let him stop it with his hand. Whomever is not able, then with his tongue, and whomever is not able, then with his heart. And that is the weakest of faith.

Maybe this is another manifestation of faith in strange times: that we, ironically enough, find ourselves having to fight faith with faith.

May Allah grant Malala a complete recovery and a long, fruitful, and blessed life. May He keep our hearts from becoming heedless because of seeing those who commit atrocities in the name of religion.