Friday, September 19, 2014

Write Now.

When I grow up I want to be a writer. This is something I've been telling people for decades. I'm not sure when I'll finally feel like I've grown up. Writing gets put on the back burner every time something more critical arises.Recently in a burst of creative energy, I sent some stories out and soon landed my very first paid gig. Now it was a whopping $35 which is probably just enough money for me to buy a single issue, send it to my mother and have enough cash left over for half an ice cream. But it's my first showbiz dollar.

We turn on the news and Muslims get as much coverage as the Kardashians or the Duggars i.e.- too much.  When I hear about ISIS or the corrupt nature of politics in Pakistan, my mind goes into this spiral of despair. The way to solve it is through education but how will you educate the masses. No, it's through population control but how do you solve that. Every time I hear about, tragedies, wars, deaths, injustice, despot regimes, I rant and rave and find all kinds of pseudo solutions in my head. I have mental arguments,endless text and email exchanges. How are we supposed to prove to the world that Muslims are peaceful and normal in the light of what's going on in the world.

In Surah Tawbah ayah 51 Allah  Says 'Nothing will happen to us except what God has decreed for us: He is our protector  and on God let the Believers put their trust."

Hard to take in but everything that's happening is from Allah. The good, the bad, the monstrously ugly.
Every single thing in life is a test. So really it is about not the fact that it's happening but how we will react to it, with grace, compassion, intelligence and also IF we will react to it. Often the issues are so overwhelming we don't know how to address them so we do nothing.  Also one of the challenges of this day and age is that we find ourselves unmoved by the greatest of tragedies such as racism or homelessness.So then it hits me last of all. Allah wants us to use our gifts, whatever they might be. A talent for art, debate, baking.

Fa bi ayee aal ee rabi kuma thu kazziban. Which of Allah's favors shall you deny.  Many people are familiar with this surah, Surah Rahman and the line that is repeated rythmically throughout. Apart from favors like our health and Nature's manifest bounties, I think Allah is talking about a wide variety of gifts. It could be the talent of being a good listener or it could be some sort of leadership role.

For one person it is to go into local politics, for another it is to be the best school principal or teacher, doctor or Avon representative?
For some of us it is writing. It's a passion. For me, It's proof that God exists because through it I know joy and peace and satisfaction.  Now I'm not saying I'm necessarily a GOOD writer. If I were I'd be published all over the place and have no time to give this khutbah because I'd be preparing for my next interview with Charlie Rose or to host Saturday Night Live.

Well I was waiting for the issue of Azizah to finally come through and it didn't. I was promised that it would be at the beginning of the year so I sent a polite enquiry. I knew it was too good to be true. They had changed their mind and found a real author to replace my story and had uncovered me as a grammarless impostor. I received an immediate response that there had been some delays. I pondered that this was Islamic journalsim, it was a miracle this mag was still going. Funding issues, distribution challenges.  I would just have to bide my time.

Then someone forwarded me a link. The Editor of Azizah was very ill, had cancer. It put everything in perspective and I stopped pining about my tale, stopped thinking about my potential fame and wondered how I would feel if that suddenly happened.  Of course it would be devastating. As mothers and wives and daughters we play so many different roles. Apart from dealing with the usual health and family issues, a thought came peeking through the gloom like rays of sunlight in a dark and cloudy sky. What if one had never realized a dream, never tried to do the one thing one was passionate about? I began writing and submitting to magazines manically after that.

Last Friday I turned on the computer and read the words Inna lillahee which I have begun to dread now. Who was it everyone was talking about? It was the editor of Azizah, Tayyibah Taylor  and there were tales of how she had been this glamorous, inspirational speaker, how she had encouraged writers all over the world. Just the fact that a print journal still had funding was extraordinary but the fact that an African American woman had run it all these years was definitely an accomplishment. Hundreds of tributes came through on the facebook twitter world, her funeral was actually going to be livestreamed- that's how much of a following she had. In the last few months she had been most courageous and even tried to raise some awareness about her particular disease.

I did feel sad for Tayyibah Taylor who died within such a short time of being diagnosed. I turned on my laptop thinking I would write a couple of lines of condolences to the valiant editors who had kept things going. My son walked into the room, had just returned from college and handed me the mail. He was holding this in his hand. My story was in it. I almost choked at the irony. The very day I found out the editor had died, I get to see my story in print. What was God trying to tell me? 

I like to think there are no coincidences, that there are signs for those who think.  And it hit me. No I did not know this editor very well but what happened to her could happen to any of us. Our lives are too short, our time too valuable to waste. I think at that moment God was sayin. Yes, people come and go. But legacies can be made. Tayyibah left a legacy of a magazine- whether it continues or not is immaterial. It was HER life's work for which she will always be remembered. And our stories live on, whatever work one does will surely not be in vain.

This week our book club discussed the extrarordinary life and work of Iqbal. One of the poet philosopher turned politician's main beliefs was that democracy should be all consuming. That a universal will should be taken into account. Pundits have been discussing what his views would have been on the current situation in Pakistan. Then  I began to wonder last night on what his opinion might have been on this week's referendum in Scotland. Would it be truly possible or practical to employ the will of the people, for instance.  Iqbal died decades ago but his life's work may never be forgotten. Each one of us has a legacy. Each one of us can cultivate a Voltairian garden. Whether it's being the best neighbor we can be or curing a disease, we have a duty to pursue it.

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