I, Muslim: On Authenticity

I reflect on my own personal journey as a Muslim, how I express my Islam, and some crucial decisions I had to make before launching Becoming the Alpha Muslim.

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I’m a loudmouth.

It’s not something I’m particularly proud of; it’s just who I am.

I burst out laughing at inappropriate times and try to get a joke in no matter how serious the setting.

I have to make a conscious effort to keep my voice down.

I say whatever comes to mind.

It’s gotten me in trouble many times during my life.

Once, as a teenager, I was chatting to my uncle and brother about something random.

At some point the conversation switched to the topic of racism.

I blurt out, “I’m not racist when it comes to women.”

My mother was in the next room and she overheard me.

I ended up getting an earful.

When I eventually got serious about Islam, for the longest time I would try to hold back my natural tendencies in an effort to seem ‘proper’.

  • A ‘practicing Muslim’ doesn’t talk like that.
  • A ‘practicing Muslim’ doesn’t dress like that.
  • A ‘practicing Muslim’ doesn’t behave like that.
  • And on and on, I would tell myself.

In trying to be an authentic MUSLIM, I stopped being an authentic ME.

It’s not sustainable.

And you feel fake.

Islam didn’t come to turn us into the Borg.

You can still BE YOU while being an observant Muslim

At first glance it looks like I’m stating the obvious.

But just think about all the pressures you face..

From your family, your friends, and your community.

To behave a certain way.

To look a certain way.

To worship Allah a certain way.

And God forbid you step out of line or make a mistake.

(Maybe that’s why the “don’t judge me” crowd went to the other extreme. Protip: it’s a bulls*** concept).

It can be exhausting.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Give yourself permission to be imperfect

A while ago I spoke to Nour Goda of the now defunct Between Arabs Project about this tug-of-war.

She talked about the difficulty of being an Arab-American Muslim woman, and juggling those four identities. I talked about juggling my bombastic personality and the expectations that come with being a ‘practicing’ Muslim.

The struggle is real.

We’re all at different stages in our Islam. Some of us are further along the path than others.

Don’t beat yourself up when you aren’t perfect. You were never meant to BE perfect.

Common Sense

ISLAM – that is, the act of submission to God – is in your…

  • being honest with yourself about the kind of Muslim you are,
  • resolving to improve,
  • and working your a** off to get better.

Express yourself

I’m going to use some Bruce Lee.

Think about how it relates to our discussion today, how it applies to your own life and your own expression of Islam.

Honestly Expressing Yourself

To me, ultimately, martial arts means honestly expressing yourself.

Now, it is very difficult to do. OK?

It is very easy for me to put on a show and be cocky, and be flooded with a cocky feeling and feel pretty cool and all that.

I can make all kinds of phoney things.

Blinded by it.

Or I can show some really fancy movement.

But to experience oneself honestly, not lying to oneself, and to express myself honestly, now that, my friend, is very hard to do.

And you have to train.

You have to keep your reflexes so that when you want it, it’s there.

When you want to move, you’re moving.

And when you move, you are determined to move.

Not taking one inch less than intended.

And if I want to punch? Man, I’m going to do it.

So that is the type of thing you have to train yourself into, to become one with the punch.

Be like water

This one works at both the individual level and communal levels.

Again, think about how it relates to our discussion today.

Bruce Lee Be As Water My Friend

Empty your mind.

Be formless. Shapeless.

Like water.

If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.

You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.

You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.

Now, water can flow or it can crash.

Be water, my friend.

The reason I’m quoting verbatim is because I want you to use your brains.

I’ll quote him again.

Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.

This applies to all kinds of knowledge.

Absorb what is compatible with Islam, discard what is not, and (through your Muslim-ness) add what is uniquely your own.

There’s also an element of being proactive.

Islam is not for lazy people

I ask my Alpha Muslim Mindset students to tell me the #1 problem they are facing right now.

The intent, at least for now while my audience is small, was to offer personal coaching, and help anyone work through their problems to the best of my ability.

So far I’ve been able to help a few people.

However, I want to give you an example of the type of person who BTAM is NOT for.

This is the type of person who has a victim mindset and is not going to take the action necessary to improve himself.

About a month ago, one of my students sent me this email.

A reader talks about his procrastination and lack of direction in life.

OK, no problemo. It happens.

Everyone goes through a dry spell now and again.

But something about his email didn’t sit right with me.

This was my response.

I hold the reader accountable to his choices and actions. Being authentically Muslim is not accepting the status quo.

His response.

The reader wants to feel sorry for himself.

OK, this set off more red flags.

Still, I wanted to help him in whatever way I could.

I challenge him to be decisive and take action.

He didn’t respond.

I even sent him a follow up email.

The reader disappears. The key to being authentically Muslim is accountability.

Still no response.

Look at this.

I was willing to give my time and energy to help him, but he refused to take action.

I manually unsubscribed him from my mailing list.

(When he’s ready to get to work, he can subscribe again.)

I don’t want such people reading my material.

I’m not interested in being your intellectual entertainment.

I want to help you to make real improvement in your lives.

Take action

This post has been abstract so far and the point of BTAM is practical advice, so I want to give you one thing you can act on immediately.

Ready?

Don’t apologize for being who you are.

Don’t apologize for the things you say or the things you do.

Don’t apologize…unless you’ve done something wrong and you really mean it.

For many of us, saying “sorry” is a reflex.

We just blurt it out without thinking.

Think about how many times you said “I’m sorry” last week.

Did you actually do something wrong, for you to apologize?

Did you mean it when you said it?

Most of you are probably nodding your head in agreement right now.

Stop saying “sorry”.

Just stop saying it.

Think of something else to say.

You’ll find you’re more confident, and people show you more respect.

Try it for a week and let me know how it goes in the comments (and how your language changes in the process).

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