“Why her?” A pseudo-philosophical ontology

Two days ago, a young student at the school I work at was fatally struck by a school bus. She was someone from the Muslim community, though I didn’t know her and had never seen her before. But I know people who knew the girl and her family.

The fact that it happened right in front of the building I work at and that she was a hijabi made me think about her death more than any other everyday death would have. I couldn’t help but think, “what if that were me?”

First of all, I don’t at all think this poor young lady was targeted because of her faith. I think the driver was just distracted. But I am a bit shocked, because bus drivers are supposed to be safe drivers. From preliminary reports, it seems the girl had the right of way when the bus driver hit her while she was crossing the street.

I don’t know the full details, but whatever facts do eventually surface, it doesn’t change the fact that a young girl died.

One of my friends texted me asking if I had heard what happened. I hadn’t until I came home later that day. She later told me that she went to visit the girl’s family to give condolences and mentioned that the look on the mother’s face seemed unbearable.

I can’t imagine the pain her family is going through. I am not a parent, but I would assume that no parent wishes to see the day where they outlive their child. It seems to go against the natural order of things. It’s tough when you lose someone you love, no matter how old they are. I still to this day think of my maternal grandmother and my uncle Baba from time to time, even though they were in their 70s and were suffering from illness when they died. I have such vivid memories of both. With the former, I still feel so much guilt for not having had the kind of relationship a granddaughter ought to have had with her grandmother and with the latter, gratefulness to have had the love of a “second father” in a world where blood is thicker than water.

This young girl however was so young (18 or 19 years old), presumably healthy. It’s particularly sad to hear about someone this age dying and so unexpectedly at that. She’d been on this earth long enough to have affected people, made experiences, but not quite long enough to experience the full life cycle. She won’t get to graduate from college, get married, or have kids one day. For some of us, that will never be our reality. But this girl won’t even have that opportunity.

As a Muslim, death is not something to fear or avoid talking about. Actually, our scholars tell us to think of it often. YOLO is not an acronym any practicing Muslim should live by (although when it comes to cake, it seems that I subconsciously do). Death should be a reminder for us all that the life we live in this world, our actions, our intentions, do matter.

In some ways, this girl is being saved from the ugliness of this world. She was young and more pure than many of us still living. That’s what a eulogy written by a friend of hers on Facebook seemed to suggest. And while I do believe it’s true… I think it’s also natural to want to have a good long life in this world, too.

Why did God decide to take her and leave me and the rest of us still living on this planet? We won’t ever know. And if you don’t believe in God, I don’t think your answers are any more rational than mine. In fact, I find the very fact of death to be faith-affirming. I’m sure there are some that would argue that believers cling to God in the uncertainties of life because it makes us feel better, but I say to them…. *Googles for 10 minutes* Man, I remember reading a great defense of this failed logic for a class! I did, I know I did! Was it Descartes’s ontological argument? I can’t remember! DARN IT! I know it wasn’t Anselm’s. UGH. THIS IS VERY FRUSTRATING.

Okay, I’m alright.

What was I saying?

If anything, death reminds me to be grateful for all the things I do have, two loving parents and siblings, a husband whom I love even if he is messier than I would have preferred, my friends, even if I met most of them within the past 5 years, etc. I have a lot to be grateful for. We all do.

I can spend hours ruminating over why God chose to keep me and everyone else still alive. Maybe it’s because we all have more things to achieve in this world. Maybe it’s because God wants to give us more time to come back to Him. Maybe it’s both… I don’t know. But in the midst of trying to rationalize the why, I’m reaffirming my faith in God and that there are some things we human beings can never know. That doesn’t mean we stop asking, just that we learn to accept our limitations and the limitlessness of God when we find no answers.

Guess Who’s Back? I dunno. I was listening to Eminem yesterday (while working out, don’t judge!) and it seemed fitting.

So, since I can’t go back to sleep after fajr (early morning prayer) and it’s technically not a work day (though I did work yesterday, on a Saturday, yes!), I figured it’s high time to actually blog. I could continue to re-post content, but I met a nice young lady the other day at a party who asked about my writing and I thought: “Oh yeah, I write, don’t I?”

So, here I am… writing… something.

I have written since my last post. And no, I’m not talking about writing emails. I’ve actually written a paper and a book review, and even a blog post. But they’re not exactly for a general audience, so I’ve been reluctant to share it freely with others. Also, the latter two are drafts waiting for review.

That reminds me. Another reason why I’ve not blogged here in a while is because I got a(nother) job. I haven’t even Netflix-ed in what seems like weeks, because I literally feel like I’ve been working all day! I’ve pretty much work been working through breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the past couple of weeks. Hopefully, the working through dinner thing will end soon. And then, maybe, I’ll blog more frequently.

But who knows.

My end of the blogosphere has seemed to die… or taken a nap (I really gotta stop with the histrionics. I’ll never be a Broadway actress. Rafia, give it up). I bet all my blogger friends also have a life and stuff. But like, when all your emails are newsletters you signed up for and random solicitations, your zest for blogging just dissipates. Not getting an email notification for the blogs I follow makes me forget that I too used to blog at one point.

Another reason – and this is not at all a valid one –  one of my many quirks is that whenever I go on a hiatus (whether intended or not), when I do eventually come back, I feel this compulsive need to hit restart. If I’m feeling particularly drastic, that means a new blog with a new title. If I’m lazy and cautious, a new layout. I’ve been feeling frustrated with these free WordPress themes for a while now. I don’t think it’s smart at this point (or ever!) to switch to a paid platform (I’m sorry, but 115 followers on FB does not merit becoming a full-time blogger. And also, I will die (sorry!) quit blogging before I willingly puts ads on my site). I thought I’d get some web developer to design a custom theme for me. He quoted me at over 600 bucks. That is when I politely said “Quda Hafiz.”

So, I was back to square one, but with an even more persistent desire for change. After playing with a few themes (again), I decided to change the font on this one this morning… and saw that it could work. I am neither as talented nor creative as my sister. So, I quickly made this header and decided, “let’s just do it.” A lack of sleep and the need to extricate oneself of a compulsion can do this to a person. I know everyone loved the previous layout because of that beautiful header. If I could somehow keep the header and change the theme, I would. BUT WORDPRESS, OKAY?????

As I said, this is one of my (many) inexplicable quirks. And if you’re reading my words, you have to accept whatever oddities come with.

So, I guess I’m back.

9/11 is the day I lost my grandmother

I haven’t written in a while. I didn’t even get a chance to share this yesterday! But, this is a piece I wrote one year ago about my naanami (maternal grandmother) who passed away on 9/11/01. It’s probably one of the most emotional pieces I have ever written.

Cake & Cows

Fifteen years ago today, our world was changed forever. Though I had no personal connection to the victims or the perpetrators of that tragedy, as a Muslim woman living in America, I did not come out of the ordeal unscathed.

Thankfully, this country has made some progress – Muslim Americans finally feel empowered and safe enough to share their stories – but we have not come far enough.

The 9/11 story that I will be sharing with you today, however, won’t be adding to this narrative, at least not in the way you might think. Because despite everything that has happened – Muslim men facing surveillance simply because their beards don’t look like the one displayed on a box of “Just for Men,” or women’s headscarves being pulled off because some outsider feels the need to “liberate” them, and countless other horror stories – 9/11 doesn’t bring to my mind…

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My thoughts on Race in America

While the events that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend were – and still are – disheartening to many in this country including myself, I can’t say I am all that surprised.

As someone who was not born in this country, I never believed the lies that racism is a thing of the past. You don’t even have to be a Brown or Black victim to know this is a reality. If you follow the news and/or uncover the systemic racism embedded in national/state-wide/municipal policies, you would see these recent events merely as people feeling emboldened by their racism. It never died. But now, at least within some circles, it’s secretly (or perhaps not-so-secretly) being fomented.

On Sunday, Mr. Rafia spoke at a vigil for Charlottesville on behalf of the Muslim community (by the way, it was through me – I’m more of a “Let’s talk about Religious Studies” kind of girl ;). His speech was the only one that ended on a positive note. I am thankful that he was positive, as I believe it is the Islamic way. But the more I learn about the history of this country, the more I understand why Blacks/African-Americans are so angry.

It’s easy for us children of (South Asian and/or Arab) immigrants to say, “Hey, it’s not so bad!” While we’ve certainly had to deal with racism, we also provided utilitarian benefit to the economy (all dem doctors and engineers? Where you think they from?). For this reason, we’ve been able to attain a certain level of success. I will never truly appreciate the struggles my parents’ generation had to go through to ensure their children live a cushier life than they, but for many Blacks/African-Americans, moving out of the ghettos is just not possible.

I lived close to the South Side of Chicago for two years, but was told to never venture south of 62nd street. Today, my daily commute to work literally starts from the posh suburbs up north, goes into the heart of the Indianapolis ghetto (not a grocery store in sight, but quite a few liquor stores!), finally ending in the very gentrified downtown (I learned more about the extents of this gentrification last Sunday).

My connection to this country spans less than 20 years. For other South Asian Americans, maybe 40 or 50. But our ancestors were never enslaved (not here anyway). To be a descendant of the slaves, who built this country by the way, and to see all that is going on today? I understand their anger and frustration.

I don’t agree that fighting fire with more fire will do any good, but it’s easy for me to stand back and say so and so is what must be done. Education is obviously needed, but will ignorant people listen?

I want to make sure that I am doing my part to be a positive force in this world. When I think of all the tasks ahead, it can be very demoralizing. I know one person alone cannot change the world… but we need more people to think that they can do something good.

This really is not the best way to end this post, but I really don’t know if there is a way to end it, because the work is not over.

What’s in a name? I don’t know, Shakespeare, you tell me!

 

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An early morning contemplative cow

Sometimes I wonder whether Cake & Cows is too limiting of a blog name for me and my writing.

I’ve created – albeit a very minuscule one – a brand for my online “presence.” Most days, I like it. I am just as crazy and whimsical as the name would suggest. That dressing up as a cow two weeks ago was not merely for the hits (if I really cared about that, why would I dress up as a cow?). But I won’t lie and write that it wasn’t the PERFECT fodder for this blog, either :)

I have come across blogs that are super serious and deeply personal and I applaud these writers for their bravery. Perhaps I’m just too wary of being that open with potentially the rest of the world. It’s not a bad thing to be cautious, it’s actually very wise at times, but I wonder if my Desiness has anything to do with it ;) Log Kya Kahenge?

But sometimes, I do wish that I could write as openly as these writers. There’s just something about publishing (whether through a third-party or self-publishing) that makes one’s thoughts and struggles seem more valid. I am not saying they are – we all got our struggles and if you are not aware of this, then your humanity is severely deficient. It’s just that human beings want to be acknowledged. Finding a community outside of one’s physical one, which is not always so accepting, is one of the great joys of living in the digital age.

I am blessed to have people in my life that I can speak to about these personal matters, but I do not feel “complete” unless I have written. I don’t mean complete as in “whole,” more like “done,” if that makes sense. Is this the performer in me seeking self-aggrandizement? Does this idea resonate with anyone? Perhaps other writers?

I don’t know.

I guess, cows don’t always have to be silly. You know, cows are actually really intelligent, contemplative animals. Have you ever been to a dairy farm? A very deep experience!

LOL at myself.

I am not changing the name of this blog, alright? I like the alliterative feel of it way too much. Also, my love for cows has just skyrocketed in the past year or so, I don’t think I could find a replacement.

Still, sometimes Rafia is not just a silly little cow. Sometimes, she is a very deep and serious cow. That is all I wanted to say. And it only took me 400 words to say it! :)