Sunday, December 26, 2010

To Make An International Impact, Look No Further Than Your Own Backyard

“This great increase of the quantity of work which, in consequence of the division of labour, the same number of people are capable of performing, is owing to three different circumstances; first to the increase of dexterity in every particular workman; secondly, to the saving of the time which is commonly lost in passing from one species of work to another; and lastly, to the invention of a great number of machines which facilitate and abridge labour, and enable one man to do the work of many.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (1776)

It has been many years since I’ve read Adam Smith, but amidst prying open my 43rd plastic zip-lock bag, inserting my 43rd packet of Ceralite, and handing it over to the girl next to me so she could contribute her 43rd bottle of hand sanitizer (before handing the bag off to the girls in charge of soap, etc), I looked up for a brief second and saw before me a sight that would have made Mr. Smith proud: over 50 Muslims and Muslimahs lined up along four long tables working in an assembly line fashion, quickly grabbing a bag from their predecessor, inserting their respective piece, and handing it over to the next worker, and so on. The final product was a complete hygiene kit that would soon travel across the Bahamas and wind up in the hands of our long awaiting consumer: a brother or sister in Haiti who was at risk of contracting the deadly disease known as cholera.  
Although not capitalistic in nature, our goals were very much like those of any other company: to produce the greatest amount of product while pressed for time. We had 4,000 kits to make and the speed with which cholera was (and still is) spreading made our mission all the more urgent. 

But unlike the workers of a company, working for several hours in a day to produce a product that is far removed from them, for a cause that is completely irrelevant, for the satisfaction of their $13 per hour pay check plus benefits, I was part of a system that would have shocked any laissez fare economist. The Muslims around me who were toiling away were consumed by an entirely different and more important purpose—one that was larger than any of us. It is the duty of a Muslim to treat his neighbors with kindness: “And serve Allah and do not associate any thing with Him and be good to the parents and to the near of kin and the orphans and the needy and the neighbor of (your) kin and the alien neighbor, and the companion in a journey and the wayfarer and those whom your right hands possess; surely Allah does not love him who is proud, boastful;” (Surat An-Nisā, Verse 36)

I am sad to say that many of my neighbors in Haiti have so far died. Two hundred-thirty thousand died from the earthquake almost a year ago, and almost 3,000 have died from the more recent cholera epidemic. Over a million of my brothers and sisters in Haiti are currently homeless, making them extremely susceptible to the deadly disease brought about by the lack of such a basic requirement as hygiene. 

That Sunday, amongst the laughter, the secret competitions that arose among workers (“How many bags has your table made? Ha! Look at our box!”), aside from the pizza we enjoyed, the prayer we held in jamaat, the time we spent with our friends; a silent cognizance was continuously present in everyone’s mind. We were doing this for our neighbors across the Bahamas who may never get a chance to enjoy the luxuries of friends, family, and peace of mind that we all enjoyed that evening. For each grin that blossomed into laugher in that room, tears of pain and loss followed throughout the world. Brother Shafi, founder of Muslims Without Borders, talked about his experiences in Haiti and made us realize our own blessings. He made us realize just how desperate a people’s situation can become. We soon realized that, much in our Prophet’s (p.b.u.h.) example, we were obligated to extend our blessings to those whose situation vastly contrasted our own…which reminds me of another quote:

“No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable.” (Smith, Wealth of Nations).

Yes, I think Mr. Smith would have indeed been proud.  

Adeeba Khan
University of South Florida
Muslim Youth for Truth Contributer

Editor's Note:  The event Ms. Khan is referring to occurred on Sunday, December 19th,  2010. Muslims Without Borders Tampa Bay Chapter teamed up with Muslim Aid Australia, the Muslim Student Association at University of South Florida, Sisters United Muslim Association, Project Downtown, MAS Youth, and other student volunteers in Tampa, FL for a local "Day of Action". Volunteers met at the Islamic Community of Tampa (Peace House) at 4:00pm to assemble thousands of hygiene kits that will be distributed at schools and survivor camps in Haiti over the winter holidays, in an effort to help stop the spread of cholera. They hope that wide-scale distribution and education initiatives will produce a shift in hygiene standards and general awareness among the local Haitian population.

Friday, December 17, 2010


I wrote this a while ago, but I heard something about someone very dear to me that broke my heart. I figured it was time I threw some of these thoughts out there for you to digest if it relates to you, because recently, I've had several people bring up their insecurities with wearing hijab ...

Let’s just say, this isn’t preaching because that’s not me, nor am I anywhere near any level to preach even if I wanted to lol. If you know me well enough , then you know I’m a pretty outspoken person, with an “I call them as I see them” mentality- the last person to judge, the first to care and give advice.

So, as of lately, a lot of girls around me who wear hijab have been saying that it makes them feel not as pretty, less confident, and like they don’t fit in. Or they wish they didn’t wear it, and perhaps waited more before putting it on, or some are even considering taking it off....

Some have taken it off, and I’ve heard many reasons ranging from “I was never ready”, to “I did it for someone else not Allah”, to “my hijab is making me go bald so the doctor told me not to wear it”. I’ve heard it all, however, all the reasons you give people don’t matter ,because hijab was never something between you and other people.

But it is something between you and Allah...

As I said, I don’t judge, I don’t really care if you wear hijab, if you don’t, if you took it off, whatever. It doesn’t affect my life ,and I'll never be in your shoes to experience what you go through from your perspective . I’ll never know why you do what you do, hence why I don’t judge, and don’t care.

Then what’s my point ?

I just want to get down to some issues that some girls wearing hijab encounter... People sometimes don’t want to talk about them because they feel guilty for questioning a decision they already made, but I mean if you don’t talk about it ,how are you ever going to find ways to amend your insecurities? Now mind you, mashaAllah, you may be reading this and feel like "well I never think about those things, I don’t feel like that, I’m perfectly content, and I never have a doubt" . Then more power to you my friend, Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’Ala has blessed you in this particular aspect more than some of the rest of us.

Here you are, a young college girl in America wearing hijab. Most of my friends are in Florida, and we're constantly surrounded by girls in really short shorts, and low-cut tops. The thoughts that cross your mind are...

1. "Wearing hijab makes me feel less pretty; I'm so much prettier with my hair out, and so much better looking than the rest of those chicks people are flipping out over"

Well ya duhhhhh, that’s what hijab is for, to conceal your beauty. To leave you humble and modest, so people will not judge you based on your physical appearance. We sometimes over look this nifty little fact, only remembering the "hijab is mandatory" part ,and don’t think about why. Let us be honest now, this is all vanity and human nature to compete and want to be the best [looking, in this case] .

2. "Wearing hijab makes me less confident"

This relates to point number one, when you’re saying this, you really feel that because hijab doesn’t show off your physical beauty as much(making you feel ugly) , you’re not as not confident . Refer back to #1, in order to amend the "I feel ugly" thought ,and then let me spin your perspective on this whole confidence thing anyways.... Who is more confident? The brunette in shorts who walks into class late, but no one even gives her a second glance cause she blends in, or the hijabi who walks in a few minutes after her? You see the heads turn towards her because she’s different. Let’s face it, she sticks out, and not necessarily in a bad way. A girl who wears hijab definitely isn’t dressed just like any other girl when its 100 degrees outside. People look, and they usually even remember you. Do you know how many times I’ve met people in classes and they’ve said to me "oh ya I’ve seen you around, I saw you walk in late the other day"... You ,my dear little hijabis, should feel confident because you’re not just a dime a dozen, and it always takes more confidence to stand out than to blend in—that’s just a fact of life. Use it to your advantage, not to make you feel isolated or belittled. At one point you chose to wear hijab because you knew it was right, so do not let the struggles or your vanity make you question your morals or decisions.

Furthermore, on the topic of confidence, if wearing hijab makes you feel less confident—then you’re never going to be truly confident, even without hijab. If it’s not one thing it’s another. If it’s not hijab covering your hair and body, then tomorrow it’s going to be your nose, face, stomach, height, and it’s always going to be something. This feeling of “ having no confidence because you wear hijab”, stems from a need to gain approval from others . It also stems from comparing yourself to others, which will still happen ,with or without hijab. There’s always going be someone prettier, taller, cuter, nicer, whatever-er, and that’s life . There’s also always someone uglier, meaner, fatter, etc lol .

3. "Hijab makes me feel like I don’t fit in"

I’ve heard girls say this before ,and sweetie, this is all how you choose to look at it .It is not hijab that makes you feel that way, it’s either your lack of confidence ,or because you’re trying to fit in somewhere you shouldn’t be. For example, do not complain that hijab makes you feel like you don’t fit in if you’re at the club ,grinding up on some random dude with a drink in your hand lol .... But seriously, there are some hijabis that are very abrasive, especially to non-Muslims ,and even towards Muslims.

And I don't understand why.

Yes as a hijabi ,you should behave with a certain manner, but you don’t have to sit there with a scowl on your face ,making people not want to approach you just ask a simple question. I have even had non-Muslim girls ask me why other hijabis they have encountered are so un-approachable, I’m just like “well that's just her personality, the rest of us have normal personalities” lol. Once you talk to people and they talk to you, you will start to see that hijab does serve its purpose, and you can get your point across without worrying that your looks are pushing you forward, or holding you back. Most people, especially people in college, are accepting, and if they aren’t, then they shouldn’t be people you care about fitting in with anyways...

4. "Mid- Hijab Crisis"

My last point, which maybe should have been my first, is what I've seen some girls go through and what I like to call a"mid-hijab crisis". Everyone knows what a mid-life crisis is, so you should be able to deduce what I'm implying. Many girls started covering when they were obligated to (i.e. when they reached puberty, or even slightly before). That means these girls started covering at the age of about oh say 12-ish.I don’t know about you guys, but at age 12 ,I had no concept of beauty ,vanity, wanting to look pretty, or any thoughts like that. Maybe I was slightly tom-boyish, and, quite possibly, this younger generation may start to think about these things earlier. Either way, I'm pretty sure that most girls my age who started covering when they were about 12, were like me, not concerned with how they dressed or looked or if they wore make up or did their hair and all that jazz. So, putting on hijab wasn’t even a big deal, other than that it making us a little hotter in the summers.... But, then you grow up, and your self-esteem hits the floor, making you realize that you want to look pretty, you want to do your hair, and you want to wear that short sleeved shirt! If nothing else you just want the EASINESS of not having to put on an undershirt or a jacket over everything because you get lazy or it’s too hard to match lol. Who hasn't walked into a store and been like “ I wish I could wear that?!” . You turn the corner just to see that other girl with her hair down looking so pretty ,and you know you could look just as good as her, maybe even better. If only you had your hair down too! This ,my friends, is your mid-hijab crisis. You've been wearing hijab for several years, and suddenly, you find yourself questioning it for silly vanity reasons. Once again, those reasons you suddenly give yourself, and that desire to impress others and outdo others are all just your need to win acceptance from other than Allah. Are you really willing to defy Allah Subhanahu Wa Ta’Ala’s commands for other people? At the end of the day, at the very end of the day, who do you really want acceptance from? Sarah, Jim, Bob, and Sally?

Or Allah?

Never regret a decision you've made that is pleasing to Allah, even if you struggle to fulfill it. Remember that Allah compensates us for every struggle we encounter.

“Truly in the heart there is a void that can not be removed except with the company of Allah. And in it there is a sadness that can not be removed except with the happiness of knowing Allah and being true to Him. And in it there is an emptiness that can not be filled except with love for Him and by turning to Him and always remembering Him. And if a person were given all of the world and what is in it, it would not fill this emptiness.” — Ibn al-Qayyim

Reem Akel
Barry University
Muslim Youth For Truth Contributor