Monday, June 06, 2016

To Be My Father's Daughter

One of the oddest, and best, things about growing up is developing my relationship with my father. I had started life as a daddy's girl and then, predictably as puberty hit, warred with him constantly about... well, everything, lol. (And didn't help that I shared his short temper, stubbornness, and refusal to admit to being wrong. Heh.)
It was only later - in fact, just a year or so before I got married and left home - that I found myself actually *wanting* to have conversations with him and spend time around him. Once I'd gotten over how (and finally understand why) we spent so many years seeing him for so little time due to his work as a grassroots imam, I started to notice so many other things about him. His killer sense of snide humour, his deadpan sarcasm at the most unexpected of moments (like in the middle of teaching 'Aqeedah or 'Umdatul Ahkaam), his eye for fashion (for a man who wears dishdasha and ghutra, and hasn't worn Western clothing in two decades, he knows an awful lot about men's clothing), his outdated Canadian slang ("why are you such a hoser, eh?")
It's funny, but I can honestly say that my father is probably most responsible for my evolution as a Salafi feminist.
He is a Salafi of the old school, who still gives side-eye to pants below the ankles and has an epic beard that gets more comments than his actual work. Thankfully, he has none of the takfeeri tendencies and worst character traits of our ideological tribe. (The word "bid'ah" remains a favourite, however - I would mimic his "wa kulla bid'atin dalaalah, wa kulla dalaatin fin-naar!" on the ride back from Jumu'ah with gusto.) I make fun of all his ‪#‎VintageSalafi‬ moments and troll his FB page gleefully because it's just too hard to pass up all the opportunities to point out how he lives in a little Salafi bubble in his head.
He also bought me my first (and currently, only) motorcycle - a battery-operated Fisher-Price Harley Davidson - and my first biker jacket. He took it as a given that I would study Islamic Studies (but forgot to tell me that the Islamic University of Medinah doesn't accept female students).
When I was a toddler, he used to take me with him to Masjid anNabawi, where he used to spend time with his friends and fellow students of the Islamic university; up until I hit 13, I used to accompany him everywhere - grocery shopping, Islamic classes, distributing sadaqah (charity) bags for the Muslim food bank he'd started. I listened to him, and watched him, and learned from him.
More than anything else, he ingrained in me the importance of grassroots da'wah: the importance of connecting to individuals and families, the power of a sincere smile and 'as-salaamu 'alaikum', the necessity of putting aside personal free time for the sake of Allah, the ability to develop a thick skin because in da'wah, appreciation is not something we should ever expect.
At the age of 14, I started writing articles for our local Muslim newspaper; I was outraged and offended when people would ask if there was a misprinting of names and if he were the actual author. I quickly realized that it was actually a compliment of sorts, if still offensive due to the sexist assumptions.
The more I learned about feminism and realized how strongly I identified with it, the more I spoke about it, and the more he would snort in annoyance and then say dumb things to make me mad. It took me a little too long to catch on and just roll my eyes at him. What he would never admit, though, is that occasionally I've managed to convince him of my own positions and prove that I'm right 
When I moved to Malaysia to live with my parents after my divorce, one of my first goals was to *finally* do Islamic Studies in some kind of formal capacity. My dad was the one who drove me for an hour to get to the Islamic center where Sh. Isam Rajab was teaching his first Diploma class, and drove back another hour to get home - 4 days a week, on top of his full-time job and his many other responsibilities.
During car rides, and before going to bed, I'd spend hours hanging out with my dad, making stupid jokes, showing him random stuff on the Internet, and talking about all the latest issues on the Muslim cyberscen and da'wah circles. I'd argue with him about women's issues, unsatisfied with the typical imam answers he'd give me; then he'd help me do the research for my next fiery Salafi feminist article and never admit that he was involved. (He'll forever deny that he has anything to do with my rants, but will tell me about how he has friends who read them.)
On road trips and visa runs to Thailand, Indonesia, and elsewhere, he and I would make a beeline for the malls and local markets, excited about all the fun stuff. My mom would trail behind us, complaining that she wanted to see nature, not do more shopping. Even now, he sends me pictures of all the things he knows I love and tell me that it's my mom who won't let him buy it for me.
Even during strained and tense moments - and there certainly been a fair amount of them - I find myself unable to stay furious at him.
Out of myself and my three younger brothers, we all know that I am the one most closely following in his footsteps (even if I don't have the male privilege he does when it comes to studying and opportunities lol). When he Skypes every day, sometimes twice a day, and says he really just called to speak to the Mouseling, she's the first one to point out that we're talking over her and not letting her speak. Oddly, I feel protective over him; I'd long ago developed a strong sense of gheerah for him, staring down women whom I felt were inappropriate in their interactions with him, and I have no problem sending a pointed FB message to anyone who takes their joking with him on his FB page a little too far.
I have been described as my father's daughter more than once - by masjid aunties pinching my cheeks; by my ex-husband, telling me that I'm a woman and can't get away with being as outspoken and stubborn.
Once, it used to bother me - I wanted an identity that was more than just "the shaykh's daughter" - but now, having established that individual identity of my own, I'm proud to hear those words. I know that I come nowhere close to him in the impact he has had on people's lives, that I know nothing in comparison to his Islamic knowledge, but I pray that one day, I can at least come close to it.
May Allah protect our fathers, increase them in good, forgive them their faults, and bring us all together in Jannah, ameen.


Justin M. Bird said...

a beautiful read

Hally said...

What a lovely read...I love your articles...

Tamedyazt said...

Loved this masha'Allah <3 Rabbi yehfazho likom.