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Sunday, 24 May 2020 / 1 Shawwal 1441 H *

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Who Am I?

1May 2015
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Who Am I?

A question many of us may have asked from time to time, especially whilst growing up. I remember actually writing a poem called ‘Brit ”ish”’ many years ago to describe how I felt then. Despite being born and brought up in England I was conscious of being “different” in terms of my religion and skin colour. However on my visit to Pakistan, the country of my ethnic origin, I still didn’t feel fully Pakistani either despite sharing the religion and skin colour of the majority there. I couldn’t speak the language fully and wasn’t as familiar with the way things work. Essentially I felt neither here nor there, neither fully British nor fully Pakistani.

When we consider identity I believe a lot of the confusion comes from considering the concept from a nationalistic or continental point of view; “British”, “Pakistani”, “European”, “Arab” etc., rather than going much deeper in considering the essence of who we really are. Islam cuts through these webs of confusion, interpretations and viewpoints. It tells us we are the creation of Allah (SWT), residing in bodies which will die and our souls will return to Him to be judged on our deeds and rewarded and punished accordingly.

‘O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware’ Holy Quran (49:13).

Therefore Allah (SWT) wants us to perfect our character and have good, strong conduct. We won’t be questioned on the Day of Judgement about what our nationality was, whether we were “British”, “British Asian”, “Arab” or “African” we will however, be questioned on our conduct thus this needs to be our area of focus.

Excessive pride is a sin and extreme pride in our nationality or ethnic origin can also be deadly. Many wars and genocides have occurred and in some places still occur due to one group of people perceiving themselves as superior to another group. Examples include the Holocaust as well as the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides. Political leaders and others with influence used (and still use) nationalistic, ethnic and religious differences to plant the seeds of divisions between communities; fuelling hatred which in turn leads to these horrendous crimes.

Of course, the “divide and conquer” strategy has been used for hundreds if not thousands of years to split up communities to make it easier to gain control over them. Therefore, it is imperative that we are careful and view identity from the Islamic viewpoint; i.e. although we are all individuals and have our own personalities and preferences ultimately we are all part of the human race and here to worship Allah (SWT). All people, Muslims and non-Muslims have more in common than differences. We all have good and bad within us; we have hopes, dreams and undergo trials and tribulations in life. Imam Ali (as) tells us that:

“A person is either your brother in faith or your equal in humanity” [1]

Furthermore as human beings we are prone to change; the non-Muslim today could become one of the most pious Muslims tomorrow. Even so, regardless of whether or not they do, as illustrated in the above quote, they would still be our brothers and sisters in humanity.

In general it’s fine to identify ourselves through a nationalistic or continental viewpoint as long as it doesn’t lead to excessive pride, racism and affect our attitudes and actions towards others. We must make efforts to get to know and respect one another.

Moreover although we’re all in one sense unique from an individual perspective, we must also strive to feel and foster good relations with the Ummah (community) and society at large. It is essential that we remember we are part of this collective group striving towards all that is good. Society is made up of a collection of individuals, and when they unite for positive change, their force and impact will be significantly multiplied and thus more effective.

 

Identity

Sometimes people ask me where I’m from

As if it was a question on some quiz

Well I was born and raised in Britain

But am also of Asian heritage

 

Here I am known by various names

Asian, British, South Asian, to name a few

Now, which one should I take?

If in this situation – what would you do?

 

And then I think about this word – “identity”

This feeling for wanting to be individual, unique

Identity – is it really that easy to simplify?

To group ourselves into boxes labelled neat?

 

This desire for uniqueness, identity

Can be found in everyone, in every land

And, just like peace, and love,

The search for it is as old as man

 

We all have different life experiences

And different families, upbringing, hopes and dreams

So we are already so individual, unique

And to explain further what I mean:

 

Remember that just as each morning the sun rises

And each second of every day is new

There has never been, and will never be, another me

And there has never been,

and will never be another you

 

I also sometimes feel an amicable affinity

With those of the same culture, language, race

And this shared collective identity gets clearer

As my thoughts begin to gather pace

 

There is nothing wrong with feeling part of

A shared culture, a shared identity

But the largest group to which we belong

Is the group of humanity

 

At the core of our beliefs, our rules of law

Are standards of moral, ethical righteousness

And values, principles, should be the guiding factor

Which guides, brings together and unites us

 

Yes we still keep our individual identity

And yes we have a cultural identity too

But don’t forget our belonging to the human race

So have the whole rather than the narrow view

 

Poem taken from the book “Contemplate” by Saqib Hussain


 

References:

[1] http://www.al-islam.org/nahjul-balagha-part-2-letters-and-sayings/letter-53-order-malik-al-ashtar (under “the qualifications of a governor and his responsibilities” section) Nahjul Balagha, Letter 53 – Letter to Malik Al-Ashtar

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Prayer Time Table Sunday 24 May 2020

  • Imsaak 2.41
  • Fajr 2.51
  • Sunrise 4.57
  • Dhuhr 12.58
  • Sunset 20.59
  • Magribain 21.14
  • Imsaak 2.46
  • Fajr 2.56
  • Sunrise 4.55
  • Dhuhr 13.05
  • Sunset 21.16
  • Magribain 21.36
  • Imsaak 2.57
  • Fajr 3.07
  • Sunrise 4.59
  • Dhuhr 13.04
  • Sunset 21.09
  • Magribain 21.29

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