Sunday, January 31, 2010

Muslims in NYC Masjids: Living Our Lives As Strangers... To Eachother

To live your entire life of being a stranger is hard. Granted that we all know from the hadith that Muslims may come to be seen as strangers at a time but will we become strangers to each other as well.

I speak with first hand knowledge of the situation of many NYC masjids. I've been going to one for almost 16 years yet when I walk in there I feel like a stranger.

Few want to look me in the eye or say a word to me.

Its not as if they don't know me. They know me. They've seen me come to that same Masjid since I was in elementary school.

I remarked to a friend of mine how unfortunate it was that I often feel that the mood/atmosphere of the masjid is depressing. I rarely see people smile or laugh.

The look on people's faces is gloomy.

At times I felt betrayed by my community in the Masjid. I felt that very few cared to do anything positive in the Masjid by creating an inviting environment to the teenagers, youth, and even to the non-Muslims in our community.

I'm not talking about Inter-faith but at the least to try to do some dawah type outreach to the others surrounding us.

These 2 days I realized with a heavy sad heart that our community Masjid has failed our community.

Perhaps we, me included, have failed because our community is nothing more than the sum of all our efforts.

I thought about this happened and came to this conclusion.

NYC Masjids are immigrant masjids and as such, the faces of their parishioners reflects their daily struggles and uncertainties as immigrants in America.

This is a fact. Everyone in our Masjid is an immigrant. Mostly South Asian immigrants but there are a few African immigrants and a handful of immigrant Arabs as well.

I rarely see the children of these immigrants.

I know what the children think and their parents think.

They want to escape from this masjid and community. They want to 'make it' out with better jobs and their own house; not the crowed apartments and manual labor jobs their parents and them currently live and work.

To move to middle class Muslim communities of Long Island or NJ where they won't be reminded of their current lives struggling as lower working class people living in the current community and nearby Masjid is a dream.

Is that the answer for me too? To leave this community and Masjid for another?

And what about for now? I once thought about how and what I could do to make our community Masjid better... I now realize that people don't want to make this Masjid better.

Our Masjid is seen as the immigrant working class.

Immigrant dreams are to become part of the American middle class and this Masjid is not something they want to remind themselves of but rather to escape it.

And so, we will continue to be strangers to each other.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Do Muslims Believe in Destined SoulMates

Sure, Muslims believe in Qadr, which means we believe in destiny but we also have choice in the future we create because of our free will. Without getting into questioning free will and pre-destination and turning this into a debate on those beliefs, lets just take my simple definitions on them.

So now on to soulmates. A soulmate as according to Oxford dictionary is defined as "a person ideally suited to another."

I'm sure everyone has a different meaning or definition of the word "soulmate" so I thought I'd just put a definition that the Oxford Dictionary people have defined for us in the english language.

Of course the word soulmate is more than just a definition - its an entire concept. Still the question remains, 'do Muslims believe in destined soulmates?'

I asked my sister that question and got a resilient no.

Her take on it was that Allah created our souls only for his worship and thus the notion that souls are made for each other is wrong. I tried to clarify that its not so much that those who believe in soulmates believe that our souls are for each other as an end means. Still I don't think she was feeling the idea.

I guess the real question I'm hinting at is there just 1 soul that is the most ideally suited for us that Allah has created?

Sure we may find many different degree of people suited to us - but I'm sure Allah created one that is the IDEAL. Is that one the only one that can be considered a soulmate? Can we have multiple degree of people who are ideally suited to us - I mean could one really tell the difference between a person who was 97% suited vs. 96% suited to us? If not, then what's the threshold at that we are going to be realize that this person "passes" for us? Maybe conceiving the idea of a soulmate on 0-100 scale is not the best way to view it?

I suppose I'm asking because I did believe in such a thing as a destined soulmate in the singular sense ... but I'm just wondering if I was wrong to believe it because it didn't come across it clearly in Islam (sure you can deduce it).

My sister says if I believe in it, its good because Allah gives us what we believe in.

I'm not sure what she means by that because she wasn't clearly interested in speaking more about the subject.