Get ready to have your minds blown! If you remember, a few days ago I wrote about being an introvert and how I’m trying to reconcile that with Islam. A few lovely readers gave amazing insight and helped me so much, so a huge thank you goes out to them 🙂
Now I would like to present an extraordinarily written piece by none other than my best friend and sister, Saddaf. Alhamdulilah she had once gone through the same problem as me on this subject and in turn had amazing insight. She has agreed to share her thoughts with you all and believe me, it’s a wonderful work of writing masha’Allah. I wouldn’t be surprised if people insisted she start her own blog after this (which I’ve already begged her to do)!
So here it is ladies and gentlemen! Enjoy! 🙂
The Prophet (SAW) passed by a man who was admonishing his brother regarding Haya and was saying, “You are very shy, and I am afraid that might harm you.” On that, Allah’s Apostle said, “Leave him, for Haya is (a part) of Faith.” (Bukhari) – Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar (ra).
The idea of Introversion and Extroversion has made a home in my mind for many years now although I did not understand these patterns while I was younger. As an adult and through the process of self-discovery and the blessing of knowledge I was able to dig deeper and understand the nuances of these terms. The psychological fascination with these concepts has recently been replaced by an intrigue related to how these might play out in Islam and what this means for me as a Muslim. Another epiphany that arose from this inquiry is that Islam is everywhere (as in, it can be applied everywhere) – in every subject, in every aspect, in every experience, in every thought, in every emotion, in every reaction, and especially in every behaviour. I seek not to lay out any judgements or promote any opinions that support one way of being or experiencing ourselves or our lives is better or worse than another. My only purpose arose from the act of “putting pen to paper” in order to organize and express my ideas and thoughts around my place in this resplendent religion. Being an Introvert, I may easily say that my type is the best (we get to be cozy, strive for deep meaningful conversations, and thoroughly take advantage of our Netflix subscriptions 😉 – Alhamdullilah) however that would imply that I am putting down the Extroverts that enjoy fast-paced conversations, are entertaining, and thoroughly enjoy the company of their friends, families, and new faces. Both ideas are actually assumptions and also inherently misleading as Introversion and Extroversion is not about how fast you speak, if you enjoy movies at home versus hanging out with friends, or whether or not you like meeting new people. The fact is that both types enjoy all of these things – the people, the movies, the conversations, etc; the difference lies within how these types experience and enjoy these things.
Also it would be important to recognize that these categories are not black and white but instead we all fall along a spectrum of Introversion/Extroversion and everyone is different and valuable. Our behaviours and patterns are further influenced by our geographical locations, our environments, our cultures, our religions, our families, our moods, and/or our circumstances, plus many, many more. That being said, the real deal about the Extrovert/Introvert types is actually how we gain and use our energy – how we rejuvenate after a long day, what stresses us out, how we prefer to communicate, which activities we prefer, and how much interaction we seek, which are all indicative of how we expend and generate energy. Without going into too much technical detail, this has to do with our Reticular Activating System in the brain (credit to Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, which I would highly recommend if you are interested in the topic). So, different ways of being and processing our environments: both valuable and valid.
So, how does this relate to my foray into the nature of Islam and Introversion, you ask? I think I spent a long time wondering (painfully and soul-crushingly) why I did not feel like everyone else whether it comes to acquaintances, friends, those characters on shows and movies, and especially my extended family. The questions arose: why was I not popular? Why didn’t anybody miss me when I was not around? Why did no one mention my name in an endearing way or show affection? Why did I stick out like a nail in the wall that everyone either walked around cautiously or avoided completely? Well, of course my overdriven mind came up with the most logical theories: I must be adopted, I may be invisible (and am unable to find the invisibility cloak I must be wearing), or that I hail from another planet in a distant galaxy and was mistakenly sent to Earth. Unfortunately, these theories went from humourous to dark quite quickly and no longer seemed like “theories” and more like truth: I am not wanted, I may as well not engage with anyone to avoid annoying them, I am unlikeable, I am unlovable, I am unworthy of a family, there is something terribly wrong with me, I am a bad person, I am a bad Muslim…I think I have failed my religion, I think I have failed God. I think Allah SWT does not love me either and therefore I do not belong in deen nor duniya and have no one to belong to. Yes, I did not only think these but will openly admit to believing them to my core (which I believed was inherently bad and worthless). I still believe most of them. Therefore I am hoping that the journey of writing this can result in finding my own small place within my deen and my duniya; and also be okay if I do not find it in the latter. I am certain that acceptance and a sense of belonging are intense needs for me as they are for human beings and thus do have a role in my experiences but I will instead work on describing my path towards the reconciliation between my Introversion and my path in Islam.
My realization and destination led to uncovering the idea that Introversion is indeed congruent with Islam and is in fact highly valued. Again, my disclaimer here is that being either type does not negate or predict our haya, humility, faith, and religious actions. I just needed to believe in my experience and see the evidence laid out. As stated earlier, both ways of being are valuable and valid; I used the word valid because this relates to my experience and has often defined my experience (negatively) of how I am treated and responded to in my immediate and extended family, extending to my community, my culture, and my religion. My religious intentions (and implicitly, my relationship with Allah SWT) are brought into question more frequently than not. I am a bad Muslim because I do not entertain 12 hours a day when people are around, I am quiet, I do not wake up early enough, I have no sense of responsibility to my family or my religion, I do not give enough, I only complain, I am upset all the time… how will I ever live in this great, big world of people, people, people with this attitude? That is interestingly how I am perceived. Therefore, my conclusion (completely based upon my own life) is that Introversion is NOT valued in my family, religion, or culture. In fact, I am a bad person for the way my brain works. I will tell you though: if I was an Extrovert, I am almost 100% certain that I would be treated a little more similarly to my other family members that are valued, appreciated, and praised. If I was Extroverted I would crave and seek out more interactions with people and family, I would be able to barely sleep and still have energy to hold animated conversations that include plenty of compliments, jokes, and entertaining stories, I would not need time to be alone or quiet, and most of all, I think I would be loved (at least on the surface). Now these are all assumptions of course – nothing says that both types do not partake in all of these activities or that I can be guaranteed love or acceptance but I am focusing on what is valued and what is shunned. As you can guess, Introversion is shunned and is apparently a sign of being a horrible Muslim. Whereas Extroversion is validated, encouraged, and praised because when comparing “She is so friendly and respectful.” versus “She is so withdrawn and hates interacting with other people. How disrespectful – she obviously doesn’t have any values. Who would marry her?” Which one would you prefer?
But here is the truth, MY truth: the only thing I make efforts towards when I am interacting with family members and other community members (whether out or when someone is in my home) is how can I make someone happy and comfortable to be here? How can I behave so that Allah SWT is not upset with my actions? How can I communicate that I am interested in people and wish them to have plenty to eat and drink while they are in my home? What activities can I scrounge up so that no one is bored and the kids can have some fun? How can I follow Sunnah and not upset anyone in my presence because of my unintentional or intentional actions? Am I a bad person? I used to care what the answer was but now I don’t. I care about answering: “Am I following the kindness of my deen to the best of my ability and knowledge at this time?” Sometimes that answer is yes, and sometimes it is no; however, I pray for forgiveness, more strength, and humility as to not let my moods or severe need for Introversion time turn into arrogance. It is not easy.
I found my strength reawakened by many aspects of Islam (and also recognize that I do not follow or do everything that I should do for my religion and Insha’Allah I hope to never stop trying to reach this):
▪ The value of moderation and balance (deen and duniya)
▪ Shyness as Sunnah
▪ A smile is worth a thousand words (and prevents excess talking!)
▪ Quietness a.k.a. refraining from excessive talking (see previous point J)
“It is better to sit alone than in company with the bad; and it is better still to sit with the good than alone. It is better to speak to a seeker of knowledge than to remain silent; but silence is better than idle words.” [Bukhari].
And…here is my list for why I believe my Introversion has helped me tremendously with my religion (please keep in mind that I know I am vastly far from being the Muslim I should be and therefore do not assert my experiences as opinions):
1. The times of prayer require us to be home or in a place we can pray – helpful since I love being at home!
2. Especially during the time of Maghrib it is good to be indoors and not outside.
3. Solitude and quiet actually helps me think and reflect upon my deeds while also allowing me to remember Allah SWT.
4. I am able to read and therefore gather knowledge Insha’Allah for the sake of betterment in my deen.
5. I can try to read Quran whereas after a hectic day of interactions I usually seek other activities in order to disengage (that is my fault however having my batteries charged definitely helps).
6. Avoiding eating meals outside and encourages me to cook at home (Alhamdullilah) and thus Insha’Allah reducing my contact with haraam sources.
7. Less gossip and opening my mouth and blurting out statements that are really not necessary for the betterment of the conversation.
8. Less judgment of others (this can be dependent on my depleting energy levels since more judgements arise when I am tired = less inhibitions).
9. Having better recall/memory therefore remembering to give charity, pray, etc.
10. Spending more time cleaning and maintaining my environment.
11. Napping after meals is good in Islam (just read this!) I do this a lot…
12. Finally, I encountered a little glimpse of acceptance when I stopped trying to chase the Extrovert life and began loving my authentic self which is precisely the time when I started chasing my deen…
I must mention that it is also Sunnah to accept invitations others have extended and attend gatherings. My only stipulation is that I enjoy sitting quietly for the most part and therefore easily fade away from people’s memories. It is not easy being an Introvert if people (especially parents) are against you when you are actually just exhausted and cannot expend any further energy or functional attention towards interacting or entertaining. It is not always selfishness or the shirking of my social duties that motivate me to step away or break down; it is actually similar to getting thirsty and craving water (on an energy level) to rehydrate one’s body in order to keep moving forward and I no longer want to apologize for my way of being or how Allah SWT created me. I definitely believe in all of us having to fight our instincts for the purpose of the greater good which does mean acting in opposition to our natural preferences on a regular basis however I also believe in nourishing ourselves with patience, care, and acceptance.
There is room for both ways of being. At the end, the guidance given to us by Allah SWT comes from our Beloved Prophet SAW, the Noble Quran, and maybe this voice inside our souls that acts as a chaperone for when we get lost, angry, or tired. I find my best strength in having faith that Allah SWT will guide this chaperoning voice to lead me down the path towards Him. YOU have to find your best strength – the strength that can carry you through uncomfortable situations and leads you back to gratitude or faith or anything that you decide to call it. The core that says it is okay to be either, to be both, or to be everything all at once.