The Girl With No Face…
Imagine for a minute, a world where people had no face. Where the only way you were recognisable was because of your own individuality and identity. Where you can grow and nurture in your own pace free from external pressures. You see pressures that change you come in two forms or so I have found. People can either praise you into change or they can pressure negatively into change. That change can be good or it can destroy you entirely.
Allow me a minute or two of your time, to share with you a story I had heard whilst travelling in America. A story brought to you by the Native American people called the girl with no face…
“A long time ago, there lived a girl who was given the gift of beauty. People in her village would turn their head to see her when she walked by. Everyone would talk about how beautiful she was. The girl soon realised that she was beautiful and spent all her days looking at herself in the pond (There were no mirrors in those days). When it came to plant the “Three Sisters” (Corn, beans and squash), she was nowhere to be found. When the garden needed weeding, she was nowhere to be found. When it was time to prepare the animal hides for clothing and other useful things, she was nowhere to be found, and when it was time to grind corn into meals, she was nowhere to be found.
When it was time to serve the meals, she was the first to eat. When it came time to get new clothing, she got the best of the hides. When it was time to dance and sing at the ceremonies, she was first in line to start. The people became very unhappy with the way the young woman was behaving. They carried on so much that the Creator (God) decided that something must be done. The Creator came to the young woman one day and said to her, “I gave you the gift of beauty and you have misused it. I will have to punish you.” The Creator reached out and took her face and hid it.”
The moral of the story was to remind us all that no one is better than anyone else, and that we must always cooperate with one another. It touched me particularly because it reminded me of something I had once read, “Allah (God) does not look upon your bodies and your outward appearances but He does look at your hearts.” This quote was one I have held close to my chest since I first heard it years ago.
I stare outside the window as I write this post not particularly focused on anything until my eyes fall on the birds that fly. How I used to and to all extensive purposes still do wish I could be like they are. Free from prejudice, they fly, travelling where ever they want, with whomever they want. We are told that the world is ever changing, that we, the human race, our ever evolving. I already question this naturally, thinking upon all that I have ever read or seen. Whilst it is true in some ways we have indeed advanced, we seem to move so fast that we have lost our own identity. Identity is no longer where we came from but what society depicts we should be. We’ve lost something that once was so beautiful. Society tells us that NOW is the time to be our own person, that self-expression, societal acceptance and the borders of expression have all been pushed so that we may establish our own selves. However, I believe we have never been so lost.
I remember identity and self-acceptance was something I really struggled with as a child. Growing up, I found that I was too “Muslim” to be white, I was too “Ahmadi” to be Muslim and I was too “white” to be an Ahmadi or frankly any kind of Muslim. I could hear the sneering whispers of the “gori” that had entered the room. The “terrorist” who never let go of her hijab and the “Ahmadi” that never knew when to stop talking about her “kafir” beliefs. I felt as though I never truly belonged anywhere. That I was merely drifting through existence. This, I found, to be both a curse and a blessing. Though the latter took quite some years to recognise. It was a curse because it meant that Muslims would assume I knew nothing and would explain slowly what some of the most fundamental basics of Islam were. It meant I’d forever be questioned on why I chose to wear that ‘thing’ on my head and the constant gasps of pure genuine shock when I took off my hijab to get dressed for gym and the class realised that it was possible for a Muslim to have hair. It was a blessing though because it meant I didn’t fit into any category. This sounds strange but believe me it was good. It meant that I could silently work through and find who I was to be and to finally reach self-acceptance years later. Sure, people would influence me in what I wore or how I wore it. Eid for example was always a dilemma. Do I dress white and be considered normal by friends or do I wear Asian clothes and be considered normal by my Muslim friends. It meant, however, that while people would consistently judge and then proceed to ignore me that I could slow down and just take that vital step back. Something which I had not realised I could do till a few years back. I had initially made the same mistake as every girl, in assuming that there was a ‘certain way for me to look, speak and act’. Meditation became a close friend of mine. It meant that I could sit down, breathe and slow everything around me and see things clearly, I could see each problem before me and could work out the best way to tackle it. People say to me all the time that I look so at peace, so happy and they ask me how this is done. What they do not realise, is that life is a journey and God is the destination. There is NO fixed path on how you get there. People, myself included, waste so many years on trying to find what everyone else thinks is right and then when confronted we deny it. My life had been one vicious cycle up until last year. I was at Jalsa and for once had time to walk not run to international Ba’ait. As I walked there, I thought of how Ba’ait is like cleansing yourself and making a fresh slate. I then thought of each of the prayers said during the ceremony and remembered how forgiveness places a vital role in them. So I decided that to make the most of Ba’ait I would think of each sin that I knew I had committed and ones that perhaps on reflection was a sin. By the time I sat down, I could already feel the tears down my cheeks. I could see ladies looking at me curiously from the corner of my eye. It didn’t matter. In that moment, It was God and I. There were hundreds of people in that room but it could just have easily been me alone with God. As Imam sb practiced each prayer I felt each one hit me hard in the chest. When Huzoor took over, the tears increased and as I went into sujood, it all came out. As I rose, I realised something that I had not previously known before. It hit me like a brick in the face. That in this world, it is just you and God. For other people it is them and God. People come into this world all seeking the same thing. They each have their own path. During what to others would have seemed long, but to me brief, I saw what I had longed for, for so long. In that moment, it didn’t matter that I was Ahmadi, it didn’t matter that I was Muslim, it didn’t even matter that I was white. What mattered was that I was alive and I could feel God all around me. Fingers shaking, carpet and cheeks thoroughly soaked, I felt a smile cross my face. A genuine happy smile. I had that acceptance that I had wanted for so long. That is when I became the girl with no face. Because outer beauty did not matter to me anymore. I didn’t care about the fact that I didn’t have this or I didn’t have that. I didn’t care that there were people who looked more beautiful than me. Because I had gained something that so many people lack. I had gained identity and self-acceptance because in that moment I felt God accept me. It confirmed what I had always known but never believed. Since that time I have been tested so many times and been blessed an equal amount of times. Since that time, everything I have ever done as been for me not for what others want of me. I can honestly say, hand on heart, I have never been so happy. Sure I still have days that could be better, but in the heat of the moment, I remember that moment that God gave me and it disappears….
I wrote this post because so many girls and even guys are out there. Constantly chasing something. Never fully content. You have no idea where you are going because you have no idea of where you have been. I wanted to let people know that, there is always hope. That everyone goes through dark periods but as Umr Bin Al-Khattab (ra) said, “sometimes the people with the worst past create the best future.’ So you have to decide whether you’re going to let your past destroy you or whether you’re going to let it build you into the strongest person you have ever met. Girls, know that you are beautiful. Don’t chase after what society tells you is beauty because it is the inward that makes the outer. A beautiful soul makes for a beautiful girl. As Audrey Hepburn said, “The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides. The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years.” So be the change you wish to see in this world. The only goal you should have is to be better than you were yesterday. You shouldn’t be afraid to embrace the person that you are because in the end we are all like snowflakes, wonderfully and beautifully unique in our own way and diversity is what makes this planet a truly memorable adventure. I truly believe that beauty is something that comes from within that can only manifest when you accept and love yourself. Self-acceptance is the first step because once you find yourself it becomes easier to find the One that created you and made you into the masterpiece that you are.