This article is a response to the letter “From the Youth” that was previously published on this site.
You spoke from your heart, and it reached ours. Your voice is needed, desperately. We need to hear your thoughts; we will always recognise your voice—keep using it. Keep your heart open a little longer, for this is a dialogue: we need to speak to each other.
We never imagined it would be this hard for you, or for us. At your birth, we photo-shopped our minds: erased historical prejudices, airbrushed away cultural biases and brightened the picture, sharpened the faith-filled focus and patched together the best environment we could to receive and nurture you. We never expected that you would have to deal with this much, beyond your and our control.
You are never far. Your ‘being’, your challenges, your hurdles, your triumphs, the hope in your eyes are always at the front of our minds.
Yes, you are the pulse of our hearts. Without you though, we do exist. We are individuals with the same fire, passions, doubts and insecurities as you have; we have just learnt to live with them. You are a part of us, but not a reflection of us; just as we are not reflected in you – entirely. Yes, we share a symbiotic relationship; we have ties that transcend all, a bond that defies words and logic. But do not make the mistake of thinking our efforts are reflected in you anymore than a farmer who has toiled and sweat over his seedlings has any control over a storm that sweeps away all the blossoms he nurtured painstakingly. The result does not reflect the effort. On this journey of nurturing you, we have come to know, and then believe, that our efforts—flawed and patchy though they may be—are not the whole picture. We toil together, and we pray earnestly for your success, and yes, together that defines the future.
Seek us, hear us, friend us.
Your digital world is one we have held the hand of from its inception. Year by year, we walked with each new stage, stepping up to the next feature, exchanging our pen, paper and payphone world for the keyboard. So, while we may have tired from chasing and subscribing to every new platform, it is not because we can’t understand, but because we have made choices. Choices. We make choices to stay in control of our lives. All our admonitions, clashes and unwanted advice are because we want you to have the freedom of choice over the most valuable asset you have: your time. We understand technology, and we also understand enslavement. Sincere advice: break free. Look into the eyes of those close to you, walk with them beside a real sunset: face their face. We are here to help you, but we can’t do it alone. You have to want to live beyond the screen.
We are home too. Born on this soil, the same as you, we have muddled along with labels: native, foreign, country of origin, motherland – bewildered and lost. We too have walked a similar path to yours, step by step. A path lined with an aching desire to belong somewhere completely, walking this way and that, and finding we belong neither here, nor over there – our parents’ country. We had to make this our home. Ever since you have appeared, we have been working brick by brick, value by value, dialogue after dialogue to make this, here, now, a comfortable home for your identity. We have made mistakes. We have inherited other mistakes. At times we have had our ‘home-making’ efforts thwarted by those who want to see discord and divisions. But, between the earth under our feet and the skies above, we have tried and continue to try to be at home, with you here. Even though there are days when the heart aches and calls out: ‘where is home? I want to go home…’ Maybe we have fallen into the ‘gap’; neither belonging to the minaret skyline of our parents, nor feeling accepted in the urban jungles we survive in. Four decades to think over this has taught us a valuable lesson: that we truly are travellers, resting in the shade for a while. Transient. We want you to find comfort, acceptance, and joy, and to contribute to the land you are born in. It is a work in progress, for all of us…
There is no blame, no shame in learning to love Islam. Your honesty is what matters. It is from honesty with your nafs (self), that the love will grow from within. From the outside you are bombarded by all the messages of what Islam is not. We could only protect you from this to a point. If we could quiet the cacophony we would. Search from the inside, and you will find faith in the faith that will bring you peace.
We have faith in you. You are part of this planet’s future, a better future. Walk your own path as we did. When you fall, as we did, take responsibility for it. Privilege and responsibility go hand in hand. If we are your roots, then do not sever us. Many people will cross your path and tug you this way and that. As your stem is pulled, deep below, you do not see the indescribable pain we feel, fearing a severance. Standing firm is staying grounded. We will anchor you.
We do not see our paths as growing apart, rather, we rejoice in the novel, superior paths some of you are showing us. We are proud of those paths built by gems who have risen above the clamour and created highways to bridge the chasms…and gaps.
Do not be confined by a gap. Come out into the meadow and flourish.