I Am Responsible

{ Friday, April 29, 2011 }
I am responsible. I can make things better.

This is a true and liberating thought. Often in my life I've felt sorry for myself, for being shy, for being a lousy public speaker, for all the people who didn't like me and didn't care. But this feeling sorry leads to feeling helpless, like a victim. I thought I could never change my situation and that I'm doomed for life. But the thought that I am responsible, and no one else, breaks the cycle of self-pity. I am responsible. No one else. Even if someone hurts me, I am responsible for letting his or her words get to me and influence my mood. If I'm shy, I can follow courses to feel less shy. I've always had this expectation somewhere deep inside that one day, someone or something would save me and would suddenly make my life happen the way I want it. But you can't invade a country and expect the locals to bend to your will and change. Likewise, you can't expect someone to pull you out of all your problems and make you happy, if you didn't change from the inside. Even if I move to the other side of the world, I will still experience the same problems, because I'm still the same inside. I think the trick is to look within instead of to your worldly environment.

"Because God will never change the grace which He hath bestowed on a people until they change what is in their (own) souls: and verily God is He Who heareth and knoweth (all things). (Q 8:53)

I can ask God for help of course. But I have to make the change happen. It will be hard, but it's the only thing that will last. Sometimes it's hard to believe that we have any say in the matter, because so many bad things seem to happen to us. But I really believe that we have to keep looking for solutions and have a positive mindset that things can and will change for the better, if we only let it. We need to believe in ourselves and have faith.

A lot of times our expectations of the other are too high, especially in marriages. We think that the other exists to make us happy and to cater to our needs. Of course it's not wrong to expect of your partner to support you and be there for you when you have a hard time, and to love you. But he/she is not responsible for making you happy. You are. If you are upset with your partner, maybe you are expecting him/her to give you something that only you can give yourself. 

Just a thought =)

A day in the sun

{ Saturday, April 23, 2011 }
Saturday, April 23 2011

A few months ago, I entered a writing competition. Yesterday, I attended a workshop they organised and the award ceremony. 

Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny, warm day, like today. They say Belgium is the warmest place in all of Europe at the moment, can you imagine? Belgium has the reputation of being a cold, gray country, full of rain. 
My best friend had also entered the same competition, so we decided to meet up early. I wore a long turquoise dress, with white long sleeves underneath, and a beautiful necklace I borrowed from my mother. I love the feeling of the wind playing with my long skirt. Of course people stared, because it was very hot outside and I was fully covered! Since I don't wear headscarf, people don't really know in which box to place me, I guess. Some might think I'm just crazy, others might guess I belong to some obscure Christian sect. In the end, I don't know what they are thinking, and I don't mind so much. 
My friend and I went to the park. While we were looking for a place to sit, the wind brought some Arabic tunes, and I instinctively looked around to see where the music was coming from. A bunch of Moroccan men. They caught my gaze and I looked away very quickly. We found a place to sit - half in the shadow, half in the sun. There were a lot of people, and also a little boy tirelessly running around in some superhero suit. Very cute. 
We talked about a lot of things, and also about how sure we were we wouldn't win and the reasons why it was better to not win. We sat there for half an hour or so and then we stood up and headed towards the best vegetarian restaurant in town. Really, the food is so delicious. I ordered Thai curry and my friend a vegetarian cheeseburger, and we sat outside. When it was time, we walked towards the building we had carelessly thought we were supposed to be, only to find it deserted, and most doors locked. Then we decided to try out the library, which was from the same organisation, only to find it locked too. A boy approached us to ask if we were also looking for the workshop. Great, so we weren't the only ones who had assumed wrong location. We decided to go back to the main building, which is actually a concert hall, and luckily we ran into a woman who worked there, who gave us the right address. We arrived about half an hour late to the workshop. It was very hot there, and the air was muffled, like the windows were permanently locked. I felt a bit nauseous and shaky, but luckily it passed soon. The class was interesting, but also rather depressing. The lecturer, who is a professional writer, asked us to write a story about ourselves from our current age until we died, in five minutes. It also had to have an irrational, fantasy component. I felt really pressured and wrote a childlike tale about me moving to South Africa with my husband to live amongst giraffes, lions and shamans. Then one night I was sleeping alone in my hut and someone knocked on my door. It turned out to be the ghost of the local shaman. I never told anyone and died when I reached an old age. Really, that was all I could manage in five minutes. I don't even know if some still live in huts in South Africa lol. Then the writer asked some of us to read aloud, and I was astounded by the things I heard. Although they didn't really tell a story, but more like very abstract tales that I found hard to follow. But still I was amazed about what their brains could come up with in bloody five minutes. From that moment I was convinced I wouldn't win.
Then, the ceremony. Of course they wanted to keep us in suspense by scheduling some performances before we were allowed to know the results. The presenter was a guy who thought he was funny. There was actually a performance of a girl that caught my fancy, because she had a nice voice and could play the guitar well. She turned out to be the girlfriend of a friend of my brother, who's also doing well in the music industry.
Next, one member of the jury, who obviously thought that he knew best what good taste was, climbed the stage. He had decided that today, he would do his utmost best to crash our dreams. He started talking about how the quality this year was really low, and that we seemed to have misunderstood the assignment. We wrote too personal, too much about ourselves (how the hell does he know?) and that we should try to write more about persons not directly linked to ourselves. Uhm, hello, the assignment was "write about whatever you want, just don't make it more than 2000 words". Maybe they should have explained beforehand that our stories were supposed to be realistic, descriptive and without fantasy. And you know, the girl who won, she had written a travel story, very realistic, very depressing, without any ideas behind the words. Also, I think the story was about her own experiences. So again, about herself. It's not that I'm jealous of her or anything, because the big final in the Netherlands is held during the period I have my exams, so really my little hopes were just about becoming second or third. But I really wonder, is imagination dead? Is a deeper meaning to a story suddenly old fashioned? It seems like I just don't agree with the Dutch style. Life is already realistic and cold enough, do stories necessarily need to be like that too? I've doubted for a long time whether I should write in Dutch or English. It seems now like I don't have a choice. Although I think my English vocabulary is still seriously lacking, I have the feeling that my style might be more appreciated in that language. I also wish I could do more workshops about writing, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of courses available here. It's such a matter of luck, really, and I wonder if I'm up for the job. I'm rather sensitive, and like that member of the jury proved, critics can be real jerks. 

Well, all by all, I had a nice day with my friend and I didn't let anything spoil it. ;-)


{ Friday, April 22, 2011 }
Sorry I haven't post for a while, but I'm very busy with uni-related stuff.
InshaAllah you are all in good health and doing well :-)

Another self-proclaimed Islam expert *sigh*

{ Wednesday, April 6, 2011 }
This morning I read an article in De Standaard, a Belgian newspaper, that I found too stupid for words.
The columnist, Kristl Strubbe, belongs to the liberal party of Belgium, open VLD. Despite the fact that Belgium is in a political crisis, she decided to dedicate her attention to a new and dangerous Islamic phenomenon in Belgium: muslim men who wear swimming shorts when showering with their teammates after playing football! What a disgrace! Strubbe tells us that men showering naked after playing football is a Flemish tradition since like forever, and now this new Muslim men have the nerve to come and wear a swimming short! Imagine that! Mrs. Strubbe despises prudishness, and considers it an evil that's spreading like wildfire, because now Belgian men are also considering to wear a swimming short while showering!" No, men have to shower naked!" she cries.
And Mrs Strubbe is also quite the Islam expert, because she tells us that there is no religious ruling telling men to cover when they're among each other. That it's only about shame. Errr. First mistake. Muslim men are required to cover from the navel until the knee in front of other men. Then, straight after, she tells us that Muslim women have no problem being completely naked among each other. This might be true for some women, but according to Islam ruling, women are also required to cover from navel to knee when they are alone together. It is clear that Strubbe knows zero nada noppes about the rules of Islam, but hey, she's the one who knows what Islam is really about! I'm telling you! *Sarcasm growing by the minute here*
Of course, her little article wouldn't be complete without an opinion about the headscarf thrown in somewhere. She thinks it's "humiliating and unworthy of religion that women have to cover just because men might see them as an object of lust." But, she states, is a ban on hijaab the right idea? I mean, now those evil Muslim men will keep their women at home! No, this is hardly the solution!
Her words clearly imply that the possibility that women actually want to wear it is completely non-existent in her mind. So there, another self-proclaimed Islam expert has spoken. Newspapers seem to be filled with them nowadays. Where is the time that you still needed to research stuff before you wrote an article on it?
To non-Muslims, it reaffirms the stereotypes they have about Islam. To Muslims, it reaffirms the ignorance of the West on many things related to Islam. To me, it makes me angry and scares me at the same time. My society is growing more hostile towards Muslims. I don't really feel at home anymore, and I'm not even wearing a headscarf yet! I don't think I will stay here if things continue to deteriorate like that.

There, I used my right on freedom of expression.

My thoughts on polygamy

{ Tuesday, April 5, 2011 }
I know that I'm entering touchy territory here, with this subject. But since I'm a Muslim girl, and follow Islam, I figured that the time had come to form an opinion on this rather difficult matter. 

First, what are the facts? 

  • The Prophet (pbuh) practised polygamy
  • There is a verse in the Quran that goes like this:  "And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans, marry such women as seem good to you, two and three and four; but if you fear that you will not do justice between them, then marry only one or what your right hands possess: this is more proper that you may not deviate from the right course" (4:3)
What is obvious from this verse is that a man should treat his wives equally. So already this verse excludes all the cultural practices of a man in his midlife crisis wanting a new wife who's fresh and young, while totally neglecting his older first wife. This is wrong and not Islamic. Also, I've always wondered why no one pays attention to the first part of the verse:"And if you fear that you cannot act equitably towards orphans...". This is clearly the beginning of a conditional sentence, with marrying more than one woman as a result. In the same sura, we find a verse that goes like this: "And they ask thee a decision about women. Say, Allah makes known to you His decision concerning them, and that which is recited to you in the Book concerning orphans of the women to whom you do not give what is appointed for them while you are disinclined to marry them" (4:127)
It seems to me, and may God forgive me if I'm wrong, that you can only marry a orphan girl or a widow as a second, third or fourth wife. In this case, the first part of verse 4:3 would make sense, instead of being muffled away. It seems that the Arabs at that time didn't treat orphans and widows well, and stole their property and what not. So Islam wanted to bring justice to them with giving them a share in inheritance, and encouraging men to marry them so they wouldn't stay behind in poor conditions. 
Also, it is mentioned that the Prophet (pbuh) had certain privileges that did not apply to other men, like marrying more than 4 women. Also, apart from Aisha (may God be pleased with her), he married for the purpose of either ensuring a political alliance or to help out widows. He also stayed faithful to Khadija, his first wife, for as long as she lived. 

As for me personally, I don't think I could share my future husband, whether the other woman is an orphan, widow or something else. It is asked of us Muslim women to be ok with polygamy as a concept. But can I say that I'm ok with it, as long as it doesn't happen to me? I'm ok with it if the first wife is ok with it, but in how many cases does that really happen? How can you be neutral about it, when you love your husband, and don't want to share him? Sometimes I think I'm ok with it as a concept, until I hear or read about yet another man who took a second wife, and to be honest, it makes my blood boil. Marriage should be about peace and harmony, and kindness, and I think that taking a second wife seriously damages the relationship between the man and his first wife. Of course, all cases are different.
As for me, I will put it as a condition in my marriage contract, inshaAllah, that I want a divorce if my husband takes a second wife. I know myself, and I know it would break my heart, and make my life miserable. I think I have the right to live a happy life, and to protect myself against hurt and pain. To those who say that I should passively accept whatever my future husband would plan to do, I say, it's MY life. God will be the one to judge if my actions were right or not. To the women who really are ok with polygamy, respect! You are stronger and braver than me, and may God reward your efforts in this life, ameen!

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