Sunday, November 28, 2010


I don't know why, but the last couple months, I've been spending a lot of time reflecting on the past... my old self, both sillier and smarter; somewhat more clear-headed and a great deal more zealous; so much more driven and chafing at my restraints.

I remember how I channeled that first bout of teenage angst and homesickness into the beginnings of an active, passionate blog... dreaming of solving the world's problems, utterly convinced that I could change the world (once I could make sense of it, that is).

I remember how I met my first readers, fellow bloggers whose every update I faithfully read and commented on. I felt a thrilling kinship with these other bloggers, ecstatic that they were taking little old me seriously enough to keep up with and converse with. I will especially never forget iMuslim and Faraz, who showed up in the very early days and put up with my bouts of teenage silliness :)

I spent hours (that I should've spent on homework, probably) surfing the Islamosphere and acquainting myself with what was going on in the Muslim world, online and on the ground, in the East and in the West. To be honest, I think I learned more in those hours of blogging than I did from school!

Of course, the crowning moment came with the inception of - the founders of which never expected for it to reach the levels it did. My involvement with MM basically took all the time and energy that I spent on personal blogging, and alHamdulillaah it really was an amazing experience. I got to brush online shoulders with big shot sheikhs like Sheikh Yasir Qadhi and Sheikh Yaser Birjas; I had the opportunity to vastly improve my writing skills; and I learned a lot about dealing with others in a working environment. It even had some very surprising personal benefits - I never would have expected it to be the catalyst for some much-needed father-daughter bonding (of a sort).

Although certain issues resulted in me leaving MM, it will always hold a special place in my heart for being my first semi-professional project, the place where I grew up... if not in real life, at least in my head :P

AlHamdulillaah, after my approximately year-and-a-half-long hiatus from writing (due to marriage, homesickness, sort-of-depression, pregnancy, childbirth, moving to a new country), I'm now back in business - alHamdulillaah! My fingers are whirring, my brain is spinning, and I feel ready to begin a new, more productive chapter in my life.
I'm beginning a course on how to teach ESL, I've joined the SISTERS magazine team as a freelance writer, and, of course, I have my now 6-month-old Mouseling to keep me busy in the meantime (i.e. all the time).

AlHamdulillaah :)

P.S. Welcome to the blog world, little brother ;)
P.P.S. I really hope I didn't get you in trouble :S

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Anonymous AnonyMouse

It's been a long time since I've blogged, whether in this long-neglected first cyber home of mine, or at my previous (pseudo)professional position at I've missed it, writing for an audience, although I wonder if it's vain of me to feel my writing validated only if witnessed by others. My husband asked me once, if I needed an audience to write, and then reminded me that the pious predecessors in Islamic history preferred to remain completely unknown if possible. The right answer, I suppose, is that no, one should not need an audience in order to write; my own honest answer, meek and somewhat ashamed, is that yes, I DO need an audience for my writing. It makes me feel like I matter. Is that presumptuous of me? Arrogant? Insincere? Insecure? Hmmmmmm.


What happens to a Muslim in the West if s/he leaves the West? That's the question I find myself pondering as I twiddle my thumbs in my domestic abode in Cairo, Egypt, feeling completely at odds with myself. My entire life has been structured around being a Muslim in Western society; creating my identity and fighting for it, striving to serve a specific community with all its religious, social, cultural, political issues. Now that I'm in a completely different environment, playing a completely different role - domestic, not activist - I am at a loss as to what my identity is now.

Is that a sign that Muslims in the West are way too obsessed with identity issues? That we're so busy struggling to define ourselves that once the issues we fight about constantly are removed, we suddenly feel a gaping emptiness at the lack of conflict? Hmmmmmmmmm, again.

Perhaps it points to the need for us to stop thinking about ourselves in terms of WHERE we are, and to start thinking more about the very basic WHO we are. Maybe we need to stop thinking of ourselves as Muslims in the West, and simply as... Muslims. Strip away all our over-inflated psycho-socio-political conflicts to reveal the primal, basic spiritual vulnerability we should really be dealing with.

Nikaah-ed at 17, Waleemah-ed at 18, and now pregnant at 19, these last few years have been quite eventful, to say the least. I learned a lot about the world... and during these last 10 months, even more about Life As It Really Is (and not just Life As It Appeared In My Overactive Teenage Mind).

I've learned that while I used to mock those who idealized marriage, spouses, and life in general, I was the bigger fool by being both naive and idealistic about all those things and worse, about myself - and the whole time thinking I was realistic, world-wise, and disillusioned by fairytales!

I constructed a persona for myself, building upon the foundation of "Sheikh's daughter" and expanding outwards. In some ways I took advantage of that foundation, in other ways I rebelled against it, but I admit that I almost always used it as my base. It's been both an amazing advantage as well as, I realize now, a hindrance to my own personal development.

While I'll always be my father's daughter, I am no longer known as my father's daughter. And that makes all the difference - to me, at least. It shouldn't be that way, I know. I'm not supposed to depend upon my parentage for any advantages, or as the basis of my identity, or as the motivation for my life choices. But I'm so used to thinking of myself in those ways, and of assuming that others see myself that way too, that it was (and still is) a shock to my system to find myself in a place and amongst people where my family, myself, and my 'history' are completely unknown. Nobody knows and nobody cares about who I used to be; now I am on my own and have to construct a new identity entirely.

In the beginning, for the first many months of marriage and the move overseas, I was absolutely devastated by the loss of my old identity. Not being involved in community work as I've always known it, not being able to observe and interfere, made me feel invisible and as though I didn't matter. I still feel that way, in many ways, although technically I know that thinking that way is ridiculous and that I simply have to forge a new path in my life - that I don't have to give up my dreams and ambitions, just adjust them to my current situation and take advantage of what's available.

One of the harshest lessons I've learned so far is just how quickly one's faults can be revealed. Even if I believed in the character I imagined myself as, which other people saw and admired, which I took pride in... well, I learned how much I'd overestimated myself and my so-called maturity, and shocked myself at how quickly I regressed into childishness. I know far less than I thought I did; I have much less wisdom than I presumed; I am still, it appears, very much an adolescent in my thinking (the irony of having written an article denouncing adolescence does not escape me).

Alas, though I wake every day vowing to get a grip on myself and work on putting together a new facet of identity (ah, that identity obsession again - I do think it's inescapable), on getting those life lessons through my skull and applying them to my daily life, I continue to slip backwards and allow homesickness, sullen resentment, and sheer laziness to prevent me from achieving my potential. Even spousal encouragement, punctuated with meaningful insinuations that I won't be able to achieve my dreams if I don't actually GET STARTED, haven't been able to prod me into action yet.

For now, I remain an anonymous AnonyMouse, complacently nibbling on cheese and avoiding acknowledging the fact that one of these days, I'm going to have to deal with the fact that the scenery outside my mousehole is different and that I need to stop being such a lazy rodent.

Please forgive the ramblings of someone who wrote this merely as a therapeutic exercise and in the hopes of curing a dreadful case of insomnia and writer's block :)