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From the Blog
When American Muslim teens begin to soul search
Like most students, I’m inclined to measure the length of my life not by the January-December months but by semesters and summers. I’m more likely to regard the fall semester as a harbinger of change and newness than the actual January 1st “New Year”. And so as summer ends, as the tips of leaves begin to yellow and as the mailboxes of college students are weighed down by class schedules and tuition bills, I find myself in an unfortunate state of retrospect.
I say “unfortunate” because this past year hasn’t been one of my brightest. There’s been loss and subsequently, grief-- the death of my grandmother, for a while, cast a dark shadow in our home. There’s been elation as I, by some divine miracle, received an acceptance letter from the university of my dreams and there’s been worry over how the heck we’re going to pay for it. There’s been severe cases of lethargy, of many unproductive hours in front of a glowing screen trying, unsuccessfully, to forgo the ever-growing pile of responsibilities I preferred to believe didn’t exist.
And there’s been soul-searching.
“Soul-searching” is one of those terms I hear everywhere but never took the time to define or examine. As Americans, and as American teenagers, no less, we’re expected to be in a constant state of soul-searching. And as American teenagers, the act of soul-searching entails a lot of deeply involved questions like: who am I? Who do I want to be? Why am I here?
But as a Muslim, soul-searching-- for me, at least-- is a lot less philosophical and a lot more spiritual. As this difficult, and, in some ways, blessed year comes to a close, and as the month of Ramadan looms nearer and nearer, the questions I am asking do not begin with “who” or “why” but with “where” and “how”: Where is Allah (swt) in my life? And how do I, as an American Muslim teenager, include him more in it?
If the feel-good, coming-of-age film tropes are any indication, this is the part where I struggle through some kind of trial, have my heart broken, eat some dust, get up, brush it off, and learn, in some light-bulb epiphany, that life just isn’t fair, family comes first, and err on the side of good ‘cause evil never wins.
But in real life, there are few, if any, of such large-scale enlightenment-spurring life events. And if there are, they usually don’t come when you need them.
In real life, the real moments you need to pay attention to, the real moments you learn from, are the slow, gradual, ones. They can be months, years or even decades-long and you don’t realize they’ve happened until they’re in the past tense.
Where is Allah (swt) in my life? When I look back on the moments that made up this past year, the ones in which God was the most present are the brightest points of light, whether they were happy moments or incredibly sad ones.
As I prepare to begin a new chapter in my life-- and turn the final pages of this one-- I carry with me the reminder that it doesn’t matter what schools I’ve gotten into or what grades I get or how much money I make at the job I will have worked so hard for if my intentions aren’t irrevocably with Allah (swt).