Books Versus Boys?

Works of fiction tend to be composed of a number of different… tropes. Male writers writing tragically one-dimensional, unrealistic female characters, pandering to the ‘Male Gaze’ [perpetually sweet and lovely. Very physically available. Mysterious and exciting, able to ‘liberate’ the man from a mundane existence]; female writers, also, writing tragically unidimensional male characters [dark, brooding, sharp-boned, and uniformed. Effortlessly eloquent and quietly, deeply emotional and passionate].

Works of fiction are fascinating. These particular products of our minds can tend to reveal quite a lot about… ourselves. In works of fiction, characteristics – physical and personality-based; aesthetic and otherwise – are singled out, and detached – liberated – from the quagmires of present, Dunya-based reality.

Fiction can tell us an awful lot about what our innermost desires may be: it is both informed by these desires, and also contributes to fuelling them; shaping our expectations from life, often without our consciously realising.

Our Fitrahs (generally defined as, our ‘innate human constitutions’) are so receptive to things like physical beauty, and ‘idealistic’ ideas. Constantly, it is like a constant reminder that we are not at Home, here: that there exists, between (Dunya-based) reality and (Jannah-promised) idealism this… journey. Our innermost desires do continue to exist, though. It is not ‘wrong’ for us to have these fundamental yearnings, but it is wrong for us to indulge in them here in Dunya.

‘Islam’ means finding peace in submission to the Creator of all things knowable. Therefore, it would be fallacious to attempt to detach considerations of bodily beauty; sensuality; luxury, and other ‘wants’, from ‘Islamic’ considerations.

One cannot act like the Deen of Islam is somehow… separable from all of these abstract elements of the human experience. Quite the opposite, really. From Allah comes beauty and all things good; with Allah is everything that we could ever dream of having, and More. It is just that these are not the Purpose of this present life of ours: this journey.

There is, for example, a rather interesting real-life story of a particular Muslim scholar/Sheikh – a European revert Muslim – whose forays into Islam began when he had been an adolescent, witnessing a scene of heightened (feminine) beauty. Allah’s artistry at play… and he realised that, since there can be such Beauty in the world – such Unity, Proportion, and Harmony of design – for example on the corporeal forms of women — then there simply must be a Creator.

As human beings [when I say ‘human beings’ I feel like I sound like some alien anthropologist, trying to observe humanity from the outside, but anyway… When human beings] enter into maturity – puberty – and actually even in the years before this fundamental transition – we find ourselves naturally beset by… a hyper-awareness of the opposite gender, coupled with little obsessions with… getting a six-pack and good haircuts. Or with being thin, and having glowing skin.

In bodily characteristics; in lightness or depth of voice; in scent, even, and in essence. As far as fleeting attractions go, it is quite normal for – boys and girls alike – to enter into a deep… recognition of attraction. And these acknowledgements are almost daily, for the majority of our lives. We are recognisers of beauty, but we are encouraged to “lower our gaze[s]” when it comes to the opposite gender: gazing is known to fuel desiring. And the stuff of Dunya simply leaves us hungrier the more we chase after it all.

Generally, also, in fiction, there tends to be carved out a particular dichotomy between the ‘Beautiful’ – the ‘bodily’ blessed, and therefore the more physically desirable – and the ‘Brainy’. The male characters who are supposed to belong to the former group are meant to enjoy frequenting the gym; playing football; flirting effortlessly with lots of women. The women of the former group: shopping, makeup, shoes, clothes, and partying.

The men of the latter group: socially awkward and cannot speak to members of the opposite gender, though thoroughly accomplished and knowledgable. ‘Socially’ unsuccessful; economically and professionally thriving, and with numerous differentiating ‘quirks’. And the women of the latter group: ‘unstylish’, neglectful of physical appearance, caring too much about minor details and/or seeming … monotonous, devoid of any proclivities towards lightheartedness and humour. No friends at all, or being… evidently disliked by the friends they do have.

There is Ralph ‘versus’ (the character who is rather unfavourably named) ‘Piggy’, in ‘Lord of the Flies’ — i.e. the ‘popular’ and widely-socially-approved-of, ‘golden-bodied’ ‘versus’ the ‘intellectual’, ‘physically weak’, caring and compassionate, but ruthlessly overlooked. Daphne ‘versus’ Velma, in ‘Scooby Doo’. Zack ‘versus’ Cody, in ‘The Suite Life’… [Personally, I really favoured Cody but in the show, he had been designed to be a little ‘pathetic’, teased by the others. Not particularly ‘respectable’ or ‘enviable’]. Haley Dunphy ‘versus’ Alex, in ‘Modern Family’. The list goes on and on.

But when it comes to defining real people, outside of the caricatures that are necessary in order to make works of fiction digestible and entertaining… People are people. Some people are quite smart and quite good-looking. Some people are quite smart in some ways but not necessarily in others; beautiful according to certain sets of standards, but not others.

When we attempt to fit people into convenient-but-oversimplified brackets like this, we forget about so many necessary nuances. When people admire – or envy – the ‘smart, productive’ one, they do not see the loneliness and restlessness that might be an essential downside of that general experience. When people envy the physically ‘beautiful’ ones, they may not see the behind-the-scenes emotional toils, and all the masking – that may come to form an essential downside of that general experience.

I know of people who, for instance… grew up reading ‘Harry Potter’ – repeatedly – in the bathroom. And then they got ‘dench’ and ‘popular’ (i.e. I suppose, easily, readily approved of by people) and grew into a newly developed part of themselves. But we do not ever lose who we are, at our cores, do we? And how many parts of oneself need one shed, in order to fit into any acceptable bracket of categorisation: any simple trope, any fiction?

As soon as we try to simplify human beings in such ways, they are no longer holistic people in our eyes, but ‘characters’. Fictions. And our formerly held convictions will almost necessarily be disproven.

We are just… people. [I really wish there were an actual antonym for ‘just’. For now, I’ll just say:] We are wonderfully… people.

Morality, according to the Muslim Weltanschauung [love that word] concerns: what ought to be done. We are each Children of Ādam; we have souls; we have our ‘selves’ (our Nafs…es?)

What is, versus what ought to/ought not to be (done), and what could be (done).

On the ‘sexual’ level, which is fundamental to us as a species… women love to beautify themselves. Skincare, henna, hair, clothes, and all the rest of it. Women crave male validation; men, certainly, also crave female validation, and also have impulses within them, to gaze at, and to pursue women.

Recently, I learned that, when it comes to sexual drives, the most influential hormone at play is… testosterone. And average men’s bodies tend to contain, within them, over eight times the amount of testosterone that is contained within the female body! [The entire world makes about… eight times more sense now…] It does also thoroughly seem to be the case that, while men have natural inclinations towards the more visual side of things, women have stronger inclinations towards the more… ’emotional’ side of things. Hence the differences in male and female fictional characters that are designed to be uniquely attractive to the two respective genders. ‘Men fall in love through their eyes; women, through their ears’.

Men are in need of women; women are in need of men. We have been created differently, but in a connected way. Complementarily, in a handful of very interesting ways.

I guess, what I am trying to relay here, is that we should not be in denial of who we are, and what we want. But the Muslim way of viewing things is that just because your Nafs beckons you towards something, we need not chase those desires like wolves. Ultimately, if we try to satisfy these desires within Dunya – to entertain non-Mahram people of the opposite gender, for example, or to always thoroughly beautify ourselves in order to go outside, and to religiously follow all these beauty trends pandering to that age-old Male Gaze – we set ourselves up for great disappointment.

That is not to say we should just… ‘let go’ of our outer selves, and ‘not care’. More so that… we have desires; we have animalistic, base parts of ourselves. We also have knowledge; intellect; the ability to discern what is right from what is wrong. There are permissible avenues through which to do certain things; there are also certain prohibitions in place, for us: for our own good. We choose what we do with this information.

As Muslims, one can have spent one’s youth having spoken to hundreds and hundreds of different boys/girls; having been ‘built’ and/or very beautiful, garnering much approval and validation as a result of our physical forms and behaviours. One can have spent one’s youth reading books, focusing on schoolwork, and on personal interests, perhaps (instead?) garnering approval and validation as a result of our intellectual capacities, vocabularies, ideas. Or… a bit of both, perhaps, with added helpings of familial responsibilities and such. Alhamdulillah for what we have been given, here in Dunya; equally and alike, for what we have not been given.

Ultimately, the purpose of Dunya life is… for us to be tested, and to worship our Creator. Pure gold, becoming separated from its ores. And our tests are also blessings; our blessings are also… tests.

With all this in mind: if one recognises – and is complimented on – beauty on one’s face and/or body, if one accepts sacred Islamic laws, one is inclined to cover up before non-Mahrams; thank Allah; ask for protection and for Barakah. If one recognises high levels of intelligence, within one’s mind, the Muslim is inclined towards thanking Allah for it; using it towards Good and not towards arrogant ends: of feigning superiority, disregarding the truth, mistreating others.

And: books ‘or‘ ‘boys’? Being ‘smart’ ‘or‘ being ‘pretty’? Being ‘cool’ ‘or’ ‘pathetic’… ‘religious’ ‘or’ ‘fun’…

Well, on the ‘boy’ front- or the ‘girl’ front, if thou art male – Insha Allah we all… end up with just one. A special just-one. And may they love us deeply: in soul, in heart, in mind, and in body, and may we love them very deeply in return. Sigh. May they also have good hair. Āmeen.

And on the general-life front: we are here to worship Allah, and we are here to be tested. One cannot focus on the body, at the expense of focusing on the other dimensions of our being: [just going to list them again, for my own benefit] mind, hearts, and souls. But! We also should not focus on, say, intellectual-or-otherwise pursuits at the expense of our physical health, and appearances. Whatever brings us towards that which is Good is… good. Whatever brings us away from holistic goodness might… not be so good. Everything about balances; moderation, holism, is the way of the Believer, is it not?

Furthermore, a random question, but one that I find quite interesting to consider:

If you had to choose: would you rather be very intelligent but average in terms of looks or very physically attractive but average in terms of intelligence?

We are judged, first and perhaps foremost, based on how we appear. In all physical social settings: at school, interviews, and more. The Halo Effect: good looks translate into ‘goodness of being‘, in our eyes.

I do care about how I look; how I come across. But people who ‘know’ my face do not really know me. I am not sure how much a face can reveal. Some markers of youth and health, sure. Ethnicity, perhaps [but people frequently guess at my ethnic background, and get it wrong. Including some random strangers who seem to ‘like’ me based on… where they think I am ‘from’. They don’t like me: they just… have some sort of appearance-based particular-ethnicity thing]. But if I am to be known, I would like to be known far closer to my core. Is it better to be shallowly ‘loved’ by the many, or is it better to be deeply loved by a select few?

Is this an ‘either’/’or’ thing? Yes, I think. Probably. We are limited in terms of how much time we have, and energy, to expend. Physical beauty speaks to – is pleasing to – the Fitrah. The stuff of the mind, heart, and soul: these are the abstract worlds that lie beyond what can be seen by the eyes. So much to explore, within ourselves, and others. Night-sky depths; oceanic mysteries, we.

And The Test of Life. It is hard. Dificil. It is meant to be, because the best, most worthy things usually are. But we are here, as knowing worshippers of Allah. This whole life thing: in terms of learning, socialising, health, sexual partnership (‘sexual’ in the sense that it is between the two sexes. More so than being bodily, in Islam we acknowledge that these partnerships are partnerships of the soul).

[With our food, and our books. With the natural world, and our families. Masjids, and our friends. With what is Halal, hopefully, and without what, here in Dunya, is not:]

To paraphrase a line I really liked from one of my all-time favourite TV series [‘Girl Meets World’. Uncle Joshie,]

We are in it for the long haul.

P.S. not to sound like a wannabe Romantic poet-philosopher here, but… this evening I went on a night walk with my aunts and cousins. The sky was uniquely clear here in London, tonight, Subhan Allah, and the Big Dipper (a constellation that I have always loved) resembled a perfect diamond question mark in the darkness. And I remembered and thought about that very powerful Qur’anic Ayah:

“So where are you going?”


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

‘Neurodiverse’

I believe that, in the process of writing, one of the most important things is… honesty. Looking back at old blog articles of mine, I worry I may have ‘over-shared’. Certain people might come to know things about me – and about my life – which they may ‘have no business in knowing’. But this blog of mine is mine, and slowly slow, Alhamdulillah, I am feeling less afraid about coming to know truths, and speaking of them.

            If I and my writing are liked, for whom and how we are, then tres bien. We are glad to have you here. If not: we are all entitled to liking or disliking – and being fundamentally drawn to or away from – what we do.

Necessarily, though, when processing things by attempting to produce what may be termed ‘art’ – whether it is, in the end, judged to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ – one is forced to filter out certain things, and to pay special attention to some of its brethren instead; favouring them, dressing them up in eloquence and prettiness.

            But what has one to lose, really, in being honest? Pride, we say. And dignity. I don’t think I want to ever change the essence of myself – neither the parts I have deemed to be desirable, nor the parts which have caused me some difficulty along the way – in order to be rendered ‘agreeable enough’. So long as I am acting in line with moral requirements, and making space for others: there is enough space for me to be precisely who I am, here, too.

‘Neurodiversity’. This is a topic that I find, intrigues me very much. Recently, I came across a written publication whose premise seems to be the inherent connection between ‘neurodivergence’ (autism, ASD, ADHD, and more) and creativity and innovation, being (academically) ‘gifted’, and (most notably, perhaps) sensitivity.

I also happened upon a very interesting (fictional, but with real real-world relevance) story-based video: about a young writer who wins competitions and is seen as being something of a lexical prodigy. Eventually, her work gains public recognition: she is invited onto talk-shows, and to write for popular publications and the like. She also suffers from depression. The public are taken by her work; insistently ask her how she became such a good writer; where she gets her inspiration from. Her depression and insomnia. These are what lend her the necessary inspiration and articulateness, for writing — and the art of writing provides an outlet through which she processes her deep and heavy emotions. The story is well-developed: this writer’s depression, as she later discovers through her conversations with a health coach, would appear to be caused by her sensitivity to a particular protein found in dairy. And, because her output with regard to writing had been so reliant on her experiences of depression, the woman in question has a choice to make. Her love of cheese, or the quality of her writing.

At the end, the grand question that is put to her is:

“What’s worth more to you?

The success of your work or the more pleasant state of mind?”

In this world, generally, people really do fear being ‘mediocre’. Instead, people aspire to be more like… the likes of Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and, in terms of historical figures: Mary Shelley, Van Gogh, Mozart. Mark Twain, Edward Thomas, Da Vinci, Albert Einstein.

World-renowned artists; writers; musicians; inventors, mathematicians, scientists and architects: their experiences of bipolar, depression, autism, ADHD. They are flip-sides of the same coins: because, to be different, one must be… different.

It is that, to have the ‘good’ – the plus-sides – of something, one must necessarily experience its necessary downsides, too.

See, people who tend to excel at a particular thing — for whom the underlying languages of particular fields seem to come rather naturally… tend to also easily be ‘diagnosable’ as being, in some ways or others, ‘neurodivergent’.

And the price to pay for the ‘normality’ that escapes these difficult labels and experiences is: relative ‘mediocrity’.

I, for one, have always known that I am ‘weird’. People have always let me know of this fact — not necessarily in a bad way. “Cute,” they say: a label which sometimes irks me. “Quirky”. “Brave enough to be yourself”. “Weird”.

I… am not trying to be “quirky”. The so-called ‘quirky’ things I do and say: they feel so intrinsic to who I am. It is weird to realise, over and over again, that some other people might find these things strange.

Sometimes it has felt alienating. “See? Even Sadia finds that weird!”

And suddenly I am made hyper-aware, again, of the fact that… maybe I need to learn to do things differently, maybe, somehow. I don’t know what to change about myself, but then again, why should I want to change anything-that-isn’t-harming-anybody about myself?

Just because parts of myself might feel… unfamiliar to some?

I guess I am writing this article because recently I think I started to put the pieces together a little. I have always – from Nursery to (what I term The Depressive Year) Year Thirteen done well at school, Alhamdulillah. But I have major problems with being unable to sit and do work for subjects and such I do not have strong, strong interests in. I have pretty much always had a particular proclivity towards words, and writing, and day-dreaming. I am very emotionally sensitive: I absorb others’ emotions pretty much like a sponge. I am quite sensitive to sensory overstimulation. I get socially exhausted pretty quickly, and I have my particularities. Three close friends, and I can really only socialise well when it’s one-on-one. With these things in mind, and more pertaining to whom I have always been, I realise:

I might just be a little on the autism spectrum (Asperger’s, may-haps?) But I don’t think I want to see a doctor, to get an official diagnosis. Because if this is the case, I don’t really see it is an ‘illness’.

Looking back, I realise that many of the people I have admired may have been what is commonly seen as being ‘neurodivergent’. At secondary school, a boy who had been seen as being a bit of a ‘lone wolf’, even though he had friends. He had a knack for making physical works of art; very intelligent (Allahummabārik) and he had particular interests in things like Transformers. We – his friends and some of his classmates – knew him to have been very cool, strange-in-a-good-way, and funny. But it seemed like he had been trying to hide from ‘the masses’, at our school. Secondary school can be an awful, relentless place; one in which anything that makes you ‘different’ makes you… less-than, a ‘problem’, somehow, an easy target.

It must be said, also, that the idiot boys who sometimes taunted the aforementioned one were so, so, personality-less[-seeming], in contrast to him. To be part of the ‘group’ they so desperately wanted to be part of, they simply had to locate and project their insecurities upon some sort of ‘Other’. It is true, though, that “anybody who tries to bring you down is already beneath you”…

The art-loving boy in question ended up becoming a member of the Royal Academy of Arts. Being ‘different’ in these ways can be truly painful – especially if/when other people are woefully immature – but those who loved him loved him precisely for who he is, and, to quote the big sister from the movie ‘Wonder’, “you [really] can’t blend in, when you’re born to stand out”. [That is not to say that one should make it a deliberate goal to be ‘quirky’ and consistently ‘not-like-the-others’ and whatnot. But if it happens to be the case, then it happens to be the case, and there is Khayr in it. Allah made you who and how you are, with such good reason].

Sometimes it seems like this very secondary-school-way-of-thinking is what tars modern definitions of what is ‘normal’ and desirable, and what is ‘abnormal’ and not desirable. Be a certain way, or people cannot authentically accept you: how could they? But then enters that classic consideration: that rather edgy 2015-Tumblr-esque statement of rather being disliked for what I am, than liked for what I am not.

I had another friend at school – sixth form, this time – who told me she’d been diagnosed as being on the spectrum. This had come as a bit of a shock to me — I’m not sure why. Probably because, when one thinks of autism, it is very easy to immediately picture symptoms of severe autism, as well as evident, insurmountable-seeming difficulties with speech and communication. And then, I guess, it occurred to me that I had attended a sixth form that had been filled with cool, exceptional, highly knowledgable, strange-in-a-good-way people [and at this school, being ‘normal’ had been the generally undesirable way of being]. In retrospect, many of them probably belonged somewhere on this ‘neurodivergent’ spectrum. They were different, in such awesome ways. [But, see, the idiot boys mentioned above would have probably, if they had come into contact with many of these people, committed to seeing them in a deliberately negative manner, purely towards self-affirming ends]. People are people: how can one fit the entirety of a person, and her essence, into strings of words and diagnoses?

In a world of several billion people, ‘neurodiversity’ is inevitable. Our minds are ‘built differently’, and function along differing lines. Some people are exceptionally good with numbers, or know an awful deal about planes. OCD, dependent-personality-disorders, autism, ADHD… these are all just terms that we attempt to attach to the entirety of a part of human experience. And the more I come to know about different people – from all different walks of life and such – it really does seem as though everybody ‘has’ something.

It’s just that we learn to wear our masks, for the outside world. Generally, our ‘true selves’ tend to be revealed as soon as we come home: to ourselves, and/or to the people who know best of our behavioural tendencies. Phone addictions, shopping addictions, eating disorders, body dysmorphia, mood swings and tendencies towards rage… Yep: it thoroughly does seem as though ‘everybody has something’.

Again, I do not want to seek to get myself diagnosed, and nor do I seek to diagnose myself. But if it is the case that I am ‘neurodivergent’ in this way, I say Alhamdulillah. The things that make me ‘me’: I have certainly come to know their associated downsides and difficulties. And, because of them, I also have the streams of good, which I may often take for granted: my beloved friends, and my personal experiences and stories, the stupid-fun, and the conversations I am able to have on awesome topics, with awesome people, and more.

Also, a poem that I had come across this academic year, courtesy of teaching my beloved Year Seven class:

Sigh. I love love. And not solely the over-romanticised ‘romantic’ type. Love between friends, and between family members. Real love sees not solely the masks that we wear. It sees beyond the ‘whom and how we are trying to be’: the cool, the unaffected, the ‘normal’. Real love notices, in love, our nooks and our crannies. And it promises to love us because of, and not ‘in spite of’, them.

So I am going to conclude this here article by assuring myself that I promise to, Insha Allah, always give myself a try. ‘Be myself’, and all that jazz. And I hope that Allah will continue to bring me to all of the right people; that He will continue to bring all of the right people to me.


With Salaam, Sadia, 2021.

Essences Vs. Appearances

Who are you? No, I mean, who are you really? Are you the labels that may, over the years, have been ascribed to you – first by your environment, and then, also by you?

When are you most ‘real’? And who knows the ‘real you’ best?

Are you the ‘realest you’ when you are at home, alone, when the rest of the world seems to have fallen asleep? Are you whom the people you live with, insist that you are? Or, do the ones you actively choose to love, and to maintain relationships with – your closest friends, for example – are they the ones who know ‘you’ best?

The ‘true’ ‘you’. By definition: the version of ‘you’ that is in accordance with fact, with reality. But, the thing is, we each perceive ‘reality’ through our own eyes, processed via our own individual minds. We are all, for various reasons, in our own unique ways, crucially unreliable perceivers and narrators.

In a world that does not (in theory) consider God, we must concede to the fact that all realities are subjectively determined. Then, the most popular, the most popularly recurring, versions of reality are decided as being ‘truth’. The sky is ‘blue’. But some cannot see the colour ‘blue’. It does not exist for them; they might instead insist that the sky is always grey. But we take the most popular view – that which tells us that the sky is blue – and we take this as being ‘true’ [points for rhyming?]

Likewise, we say that people with abnormal psychological conditions – say, those who are prone to seeing what we term as being ‘hallucinations’ – as being detached from ‘reality’. But, see, this is a ‘reality’ that is intersubjectively decided, an implicitly democratised ‘truth’.

What if things had been different, then? What if the world had been populated mostly by people who could not see ‘blue’, and who insisted that the sky is perpetually grey, even on cloudless days? What if there had been seven billion of these grey-for-blue-seers, and only one person who saw the sky as being ‘blue’? Would the latter’s view be true, or would this person become abnormal, in our eyes, as a result of circumstance? Maybe we would come to say that he suffers from some sort of adverse ophthalmological condition.

Mutatis mutandis for the example with the psychological abnormality: what if we all started seeing ‘hallucinations’, all except for one person? Statistically, this one person would become the abnormality. Reality, when God is not considered, is simply that which most of us see, and which we can implicitly, strongly, collectively agree on.

So, back to truths about people: who knows ‘you’ [best]? Is the ‘realest’ version of you the one that the majority of people who know you are known to tell and retell? In a world that does not consider God, there is no other way to arrive at a truth. There are only human eyes, human minds, human perception (which are, by nature, limited, prone to error, etc.) – and there are only, from these, a series of popularly-decided convictions.

Where ‘truths’ are only decided and determined by the people, there is allowed much room for biases – a whole plethora of them, actually. A person’s vices may be seen as being virtues, as a simple result of the environment they situationally find themselves in, and vice versa for vices with virtues. You may find your ‘likability’, among other things, shifting drastically, based on changes in the people you find yourself surrounded by.

And if we say that people are the most ‘real’ when they are alone… well, this necessitates our looking-over-the-fact that we are who we are in relation to other people. Humankind: an intrinsically social, eusocial, species. Some people are more extroverted than others, though. Some people rely more on others, for their sense of self-identity. And our personalities are all made up of varying personas – which emerge and hide and develop in light of (social) circumstance. There is nothing inherently wrong with that.

[It is in our nature to care about what others think ⁠— in particular, we will naturally seek validation and approval from those whom we love and respect, and from those whom we want to love and respect us. This is okay. But we cannot lose sight of the objective… that is, Objectivity. We must care about things like our place in society, and about our reputations and such, in decent measure. But once we have what is necessary, from this, I think we need to step back and remember how crucial moderation and balances are…]

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts…”

– William Shakespeare, As You Like It

All these facts, together, do beg some highly pressing questions, for us. Is there an ‘essence’ of truth, to any of us: one that is undeniable, one that does not change based on all such demographic considerations? We do all find ourselves changing much, over time, yes, but at any given moment, is there some sort of a solid and discoverable ‘truth’ to us? Might it be a thing of averages – between everything you say about yourself, combined with what your loved ones may say, and with a pinch of what those who might dislike you say of you?

We each see others through ourselves. We are known to be unfair perceivers and judges; to be given to projecting; to be given to irrationality, and to heightened emotions that may ‘warp’ our views of people. [Well, is there even an objective ‘truth’ there, to warp, to begin with?!]

Objectivity fails to be a reality, where one does not consider God. God’s view is the only objective one; holistic, just, all-knowing. So the ultimate ‘truth’ of you is whom God knows you to be. And as He tells us, He judges us by our intentions – that which is inward and private, the stuff of the heart. It matters not, to God, if you are a prince, or if you are a pauper. These are all things that concern appearances, in the grander scheme of things. It does not matter how many people approve of you, nor the opposite: these are all mere appearance-based considerations. God knows your essence, though, even if every other man alive rejects the things that are objectively true, of you. And you certainly have much control over who you are: you regulate your thoughts, generate intentions, allow them to translate into behaviour.

On an exclusively human level, maybe it is true that the closest one can get to the ‘truth’ of oneself is by reviewing what one does. “You are what you repeatedly do”. Of course, even these considerations can be tainted by things like illnesses, which can hinder the ability you have, with which to do certain things. Ultimately, your intentions are what count the most.

God knows who you are: what you have begun with, the decisions you have made, in light of it all. You are the state of your heart, and this state is determined by factors that concern intentionality: decision-making, your pursuits of virtuous activities, what you do, and why. 

God’s Truths are the only real ones – even if every person alive comes to disagree with them. So why chase the positive regards of fellow men in such ways? Just like you, you see, they are all biased, flawed, and altogether unreliable, when it comes to matters of Truth.

So trust your Creator; fear and serve Him, and Him alone. His Word is objectively True, immortal, while the words of men are finite, limited, attempts at truth… attempted by all these minds that each find themselves affected by various half-truths, in all of these similar time-worn ways.

Also: I think it is very important for us to pay attention to whom we are with, when we feel our best – not necessarily the most euphoric, all the time, but the most unified, comfortable in ourselves. We need not feel anxious about filtering ourselves too much, before them, and nor are we overly anxious about impressing them. They just feel like… home, somehow. They care for us, and for our growth. The best of our companions are the ones who bring out the best in us; in our character, and on a spiritual level, first and foremost. You may look into their eyes, and see the best of you, reflected back.

These people are the ones that, I think, are most worth holding onto, most worth deeply investing our time and energy into our relationships with. 


Sadia Ahmed J., 2020

Recovery

We human beings are goal-driven creatures.

We always need something else to strive for, something else to look forward to, something else to distract ourselves with. We all find ourselves caught up, by default, in a futile search for perfection, but in actuality, our lives follow the law of universal balance: we will always be happy and sad in equal measure. We will have good days, and we will have bad days.

On our bad days, we may feel inadequate or insignificant- like oddities, or even mistakes. Sometimes the tunnel is so dark that it seems almost impossible that there might be a source of light at the end. But do not lose hope: this world is still a beautiful place- the same beautiful place that you knew as a child.

We are such miniscule beings- mere specks existing against all odds, within fleeting time restraints, on an ever-expanding, glorious universe of a canvas. Everything and everyone is so small, yet so important- our lives are so certain and cemented, and yet so fluid.

People seem to be so hell-bent on defining themselves and others, but humans are complex creatures. We cannot be concisely defined by our circumstances or experiences. Your dark days, the opinions of people who don’t understand you, your circumstances (mental or physical)- none of this defines you. The basis of self-autonomy is the most powerful weapon in your individual arsenal: the power to define yourself. Accepting yourself will be a lengthy battle- perhaps the hardest one you will ever fight- but it will be worth it. Loving yourself is the most profound form of revolution, but only you are capable of instigating it.

Embrace who you are fortunate enough to be; be the best version of yourself. Embrace your idiosyncrasies, flaws, feelings, your place in this world, and be kind. No act of kindness is ever carried out in vain.

It is almost inevitable that people will dislike you. Your existence will make many people uncomfortable, and your happiness will drive them insane. But if you lived in accordance with your critics’ expectations, you would lose the dimensions of your personality. You simply cannot please everyone.

Be yourself, and have your own fun. Your personality might not be compatible with everyone else’s, but rarity does not diminish your worth. You matter just as much as anybody else; there is no such thing as a hierarchy of worth, and any positive phenomenon that you deem others worthy of- well, you deserve the same. We are all made of pain and flaws and beauty, tied up with good intentions, and we are all equally deserving of happiness.

Every tear that falls from your eyes, every moment of frustration at your current state of being, every dark day, and every incoherent thought will exist in parallel with days of uncontrollable laughter, sheer joy, and copious amounts of love. Have faith, and remember that you are not weak or strange or an abnormality:

you are as real as it gets.


Sadia Ahmed, 2017