Saturday, April 5, 2014

What Defines you?

I've always been a fan of Bob Dylan, of course my favorite song by him is "Sara". A line from that song always stuck in my head, 'So easy to look at yet so hard to define'. Every day we are examined based on how we look and given many attributes by those who look at us, some attributes may be true but often they are very false because people judge us without knowing us. How many times have you heard stories or gossip about yourself that was totally false? More than once I'm sure. Those false stories and gossip are almost always caused by the negative attributes people have created for us in their minds.

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches.” 
― Dita Von Teese

When people encounter us they use our direct definition to define us, meaning they judge us only on what they can physically see about our appearance and characteristics. This is where identity scripts come into play. An identity script is how we or others think we should look, behave, believe, and even dress. We commonly refer to this as people judging us based on our looks or where we are from. We truly do not realize how important of a part identity scripts play in our daily lives whether they are created by us or others.

A man remarked, “But a man likes his clothes to be nice and his sandals good.” The Prophet (Allah bless him and grant him peace) said, “Verily, Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. Arrogance is refusing to acknowledge what is right and considering others beneath one.” (Mishkat al-Masabih) 

Our personal identities don't really change in some ways as we grow older. The books and activities that interested us when we were children may still interest us today. As a kid I would stay outside in my tent all day long reading Jack London novels, National Geographic magazines, and making crafts. Today that still sounds like a pretty fun day to me. Activities we enjoyed with our families such as fishing are also equally as enjoyable once we become adults. These things play a part in building our character, but their are also parts of our identity scripts that change over time.

When a person accepts Islam a big part of their identity script changes. They shed away all the years spent in their former religion and adapt to incorporating Islam into their lives at a pace that may be alarming to tohers. Islam is a total way of life. It guides us on how we should worship, dress, speak, interact with others, and even eat. Based on the direct definitions and identity scripts created by others it can become difficult for reverts to wrap themselves in Islam the way they want to and feel that they should.

A big hurdle can be the differences in the way individuals practice Islam. Because of the identity script one person has made of how a Muslim should be practicing they can wrongly accuse a good practicing Muslim with a heart of gold of doing something blasphemous. Identity scripts like these created by ones personal opinion without guidance from the Quran and Sunnah are great injustices and could possibly discourage Muslims from doing great things. I have personally been told that I don't act like a Muslim and that I know nothing about Islam. In fact I do, I just don't act in the way of that person's opinion  because I choose to follow the Quran and Sunnah instead of blind traditions that may not be connected to Islam at all.

“If a man addresses his brother as, ‘O’ Disbeliever’ (Kaafir) it returns to one of them;
either it is as he said or it returns to him.”
Sahih Bukhari 10/427 and Sahih Muslim 60, Narrated by Ibn Umar

“Ignore the critics… Only mediocrity is safe from ridicule. Dare to be different!” 
― Dita Von Teese

“I like the idea of being whoever I want to be.” 
― Dita Von Teese

The identity script of any Muslim should of course incorporate the Quran and Sunnah but should also involve a knowledge of the history of The Prophet, the people that lived in his area, and his upbringing/way of life before and after The Quran was revealed to him. It is through learning these historical cultures, peoples, and practices that we can get a more in depth understanding of Islamic society. By becoming interested and taking part in learning and adapting these things into our lives where applicable it can really mess with the direct definitions that others have of us and incite them to send a barrage of insults and ridicule our way. 

Many reverts face the identity script from others that they cannot wear an abaya, and since it can easily be seen in the Quran and Sunnah that believing women would draw their cloaks over themselves or wore cloak like outer garments any Muslim that wants to cover herself in that way has a right to do so. Because a revert may be from a different country or background that those born to Muslim families, those who were lucky enough to be born to Muslim families can be very defensive about everything related to Islamic society and culture. They are so steeped in their personal traditions that they may not be able to change their direct definition or identity scripts of how they view reverts. Once they have their opinion made about you it will never change. Some may even view the reverts interests and actions as weird and offensive. 

There is no way to change how someone views you or wrongfully perceives who you are without even having a conversation with you. The main thing is to work on your personal identity script to fully involve yourself in Islam and incorporate it's practices into every part of your life. When people encounter you their direct definition of you may not always be the truth about you but through your actions and speech at least one person's definition of you will be "That is a good Muslim'. As long as you can back that statement up with your actions that's what counts. 

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