The three عs of Sudentity

So, as I was talking to a good friend of mine, I had an epiphany. Will tell you all about that in a bit, just let me sound smart first.

Throughout my life, I have read so much on the ‘issue’ of Sudanese “identity.” In these readings, I found great articulations of how we as a people, and more importantly as a “state,” failed to create a common Sudanese identity. And how the whole Sudafication project was doomed to fail since its inception due to the peculiar nature of the Sudanese demographic.

Yet again, we are simple people. I don’t know why people like to complicate everything. Maybe they are trying to do what I just did up there, and obviously failed miserably at achieving: to sound smart. Yakhy kade dageega.

Yes, we could all use these fancy notions of nationalism and statehood, and how a national identity is usually built on variant factors, some of which are necessary conditions for formulating a common identity, and the rest maybe considered as simply sufficient ones. Even the very necessary and sufficient nature of these conditions vary from one context to the other. For national identities like those of America or Switzerland, the necessary conditions are: a shared land, a common history and a shared believe system in freedom and democracy. Sufficient conditions in this case is the common language in America. Although this common language is not present in Switzerland, this goes to show that this element is not necessary to the very composition of this identity.

So when we come to talk about our Sudanese identity, we usually tend to fall into the trap of complicating what it really is. Let’s face it, we didn’t choose to be together from the very beginning, I know, it’s not like the African Americans chose to be sent off to America. But this post is not about Amreeka, it’s about Sudan. So don’t act smart and try to rebuttal my argument, this is not Khartoum is it time to go back? So yea, we didn’t choose to be together, and some of us didn’t want to be part of this nation, but tough, it happened.

And this is precisely why when we come to discuss Sudanese identity, we need to look at it from a different perspective. We don’t have a one common shared history, each Sudani has their own version of the story. Whether McNimir was really a brave man, or more of McChicken w fak aljarya sai 3amak, each Sudanese would have a very convincing argument for a plausible justification of his fleet. Yes, it might be argued that in the present day have a common language, Arabic, but this language was not common amongst the various groups until recent history, so it fails to qualify for a necessary condition here. We do have a shared territory. But hey, Egypt is always welcome to have a bite min hina wala hinak of that so called sovereign territory. So in a nutshell, we can’t just simply use normative understandings of identity to formulate a Sudanese one.

But I have found the solution. It’s simple. We are awesome and our identity is as special as we happen to be. Have an open mind and hear me out before you start bashing my theory.

The Sudanese identity is composed of three imperative components: 3iris (عِرِس), 3irig (عِرِق) and 3dam mawdoo3 (عدم موضوع).  And these make up the عs (3s) of what I like to call Sudentity (Sudanese Identity).

I think 3iris (marriage) is the number one spoken off topic in Sudan. I have never been with a Sudanese crowd without hearing mention of this central theme of the Sudanese Dream. And no, it’s not just girls who discuss this, we all know you Sudani guys trying to act all heavy and ish, pretending like you never bring this up, ya man inta borta w almawdoo3 da 7ayes laik, fa ma ta3mil shifit inta w as7abak alshafata, 7areeeegkom w betitkalamo feeho. Anyways, I will not get into this whole 3iris element, cuz we all know it is inherent to Sudanese nature.

And then we come to the controversial one, 3irig (race). Yes, the fact that we are all different is what makes us the same. Our shared history/story is that we all come from different races (more like tribes in many cases) and feel marginalized. And some of us are so stupid to still adhere to the hierarchal perspective of these so called races. Believe it or not, each race in Sudan is racist, and somewhat delusional 🙂 Kolo nas, Nuba, Falata, J3al, Rashayda, Fur etc., shayfeen ro7om a7san nas. So each race ultimately marginalizes itself by placing itself superior to others. And no, I’m not trying to undermine or justify government policies here regarding this whole marginalization thing. That’s a whole different topic.

And then I come to the third element, 3dam mawdoo3 (…). This element of course encompasses: shamar, gatee3a, excessive mojamalat, falsafa, 7anak, etc. etc. You get the drill. I will not go into much detail about this element as it’s perfectly demonstrated in the very writing of this post.

So it’s pretty simple really, all Sudanese have a common Sudentity one that is built around 3iris, 3irig and 3dam mawdoo3. Therefore, we as a people didn’t fail at creating a common identity. We created a unique one, so unique that we ourselves fail to see how it unites us.

Disclaimer: some people might find this post highly offensive. If you do, then you’re probably Sudanese and this is due to 3dam mawdoo3-ness.

Today

The joy is always in the journey regardless of one reaching their desired destination. We tend to associate fulfillment with reaching an ultimate goal, one we perceive as our purpose in this world. A goal which we believe would complete our lives. But what a life would that be spent in chasing something that makes us forget the tangible things we’re experiencing in every moment of its pursuit. The beauty of life is in the here and the now. Tomorrow may never come. But if that is the case, who cares, let it be. You’re alive today, so make it count for what it is and not what it may be. You may fall tomorrow or rise, but either way, you are here today standing strong and full of life. Even in moments of great despair and weakness, always remember that through this you’re testing your limits and growing above challenges. Let us not forget to truly live every moment in life. Never wait for what tomorrow may bring, enjoy and embrace what you have today.

Understanding Sufism: why is it difficult?

Many times I found myself being attacked by other Muslims who objected to my views on and admiration of Sufis. It was very clear to me from their heated remarks that they lacked the basic understanding of this spiritual tradition. Many made it seem like it was a math’hab rather than a triqa (path). They went on and on about how un-Islamic it was, and some went as far as to call Sufis kufar. And you see, as soon as you throw a remark like that, you lose me, mate.

And because of that, I have decided to write a very baraya piece on why it is so difficult for some to just understand Sufism. Now, off with the sarcastic tone and on with the theology obsessed one…
There are various obstacles that may prevent one from understanding and living Sufism. These obstacles vary between one’s ego or lack of understanding and spiritual commitment. This time I decided to  focus on certain obstacles and difficulties in understand and living Sufism. I wish to explore the relationship between living and understanding Sufism, the ego acting as a veil and the threat of the means becoming the end in themselves. Yes, this probably doesn’t make sense, but it will eventually.
Introduction to Sufi Doctrine written by Burckhardt was a great introduction to this spiritual lifestyle. It speaks about the difficulty of understanding Sufism for people outside of the tradition . This is very important, as the author distinguishes between being an observer and being an engaged actor in the activity. The former misses out on the experience which is crucial to the understanding of this spiritual matter. That is because, when one takes spirituality out of the equation, then one is left with a matter of science that neglects the personal experience and engagement associated with religious practice and understanding. Therefore, this approach to understanding  Sufism would be lacking its core, because understanding Sufism lies in experiencing and living it. In other words, it would be very difficult for one to fully and understand Sufi Doctrine, if one does not practice its teachings.
In his letter, Sheikh ad-Darqawi tells his disciple that he should kill his ego , because the ego traps one in an illusion. That is because “what imprisons a man in this world… is nothing but illusion (al-wahm).” Therefore, the ego could be seen as one of the greatest obstacles that stand in the way of one and prevent him from understanding and living Sufism as it prevents him from realizing the Truth. Hence, Sufism may be perceived as a battle between one and his/her ego, where one triumphs over their ego to attain this higher state of realization. In this battle, the Sufi progresses by means of his own mujahada (work, or self mortification) and through the help and guidance of the sheikhs. In each maqam the Sufi strives to purify himself, his ego, from all worldly inclination and to prepare himself to attain the ever higher spiritual level. Therefore, through these maqams the Sufi triumphs over his ego, which could have been a veil preventing him from understanding and living Sufism.
Perhaps I should’ve noted earlier that Sufism should be understood as lifestyle, a path that helps one achieve their ultimate spiritual goal (just like Buddhism or Kabbala).

In Sufism the emphasis is in the path, which consists of a set of means. A Sufi mystic would be active in making use of these means in reaching for the Divine. Therefore, the individual makes use of these means to achieve Divine Grace. Nonetheless, some individuals might be attracted to Sufism because of these means in themselves. As the result the means become the end to these individuals. This could be seen in the cases of individuals who are attracted to Sufism because of the practices, outer manifestations, they see in some turuq. One of these outer manifestations can be dancing or uniform dress code as seen in some turuq. In this sense, some people join Sufi turuq as they are fascinated by the dance (raqs) and this is where their practice would end. Nonetheless, they would see themselves as Sufis because of their engagement in this practice. On the contrary, anything external associated with Sufism is not truly Sufism as such. This is because the outer manifestations are a reflection or an effect of the inner experience that the Sufi undergoes. Therefore, dance (raqs) is usually performed in s state of ecstasy (wajd) resulting from love of Allah and his Prophet (pbuh) in dhikr. As a result, one sees that dance or any other outer manifestations of the Sufi experience are means and not ends in themselves. They are tools that help one reach Divine Grace. However, if one does not understand their function properly, they can become a great obstacle preventing one from truly understanding and living Sufism. Perhaps this is why a number of Sufi turuq nowadays seem as cults, where the spiritual leaders gather followers around them by engaging them in physical practices and materialistic traditions rather than engaging them in an inner spiritual journey.
On a separate note, I believe that one of the most serious difficulties in the way of understanding and living Sufism is the common belief that Sufis divinize the human, let it be the divinization of the sheikh or of the mureed himself. Nonetheless, if one understands Sufism, one would know that this belief is a misconception of the statement that says “The Sufi is not created”. In order to understand why that misconception takes place, I would first like to explain the context in which that statement should be understood and placed.

The Sufi takes initiative, and then chooses to follow a path (tarika) to the end of extinction. Extinction is the point at which the Sufi realizes that his being as a physical entity is an illusion, thus ending this belief. Then the Sufi reaches a state of baka. This state is what remains when the illusion fades away, and the only remaining reality in the world is Allah. Therefore, in this sense, the Sufi is not created because of God’s presence in man. This presence was always there, even before reaching that state of baka. Nonetheless, the realization that one is not merely a physically entity, awakens one’s awareness of that presence. That is because in the realization process, the Divine has been shown over the human, through Divine attributes overcoming and taking over the human ego. However, this does not mean that the Sufi becomes divine. This point is of great importance because it is a cause of great controversy.

Many object to the doctrine of Sufism as they believe that people who follow it, with its various turuq, move away from the main teachings of Islam and divinize their sheikhs. They support this belief by using the comment that the “Sufi is not created”. Nonetheless, if they look closely at this statement and understand the state of baka they would understand that this statement does nothing but support the concept of Tawhid. This is because in Tawhid, one believes that there is nothing or no other god in existence but Allah. And in the state of baka, the Sufi realizes that his belief in his own physical entity was nothing but an illusion created by his human ego. So his existence in itself is not real, as the only reality is Allah. Moreover “the name “Sufi”, means, strictly speaking, one who is essentially identified with Divine Act.” Thus, the Sufi reaches that state through Divine Grace, when Divine attributes take over his ego. Therefore, what is left in the Sufi is the Divine Grace. This Divine Grace is part of Allah, and Allah is not created. As a result, the Sufi would not be created in that sense.

Moreover, the presence of a chain (silsila) in each tariqa shows that the sheikhs are not divinized, but their knowledge is, as it stems from Allah. All turuq have silsilas that go back to the Prophet (pbuh). Each silsila is a transmission of grace (Baraka), through the teachings and knowledge of the Prophet, which he received from God. When the disciple (mureed) follows the teachings of the sheikh, he/she abdicates their will to the sheikh which would be a surrender of the self in the sense of the ego. This knowledge would be the Divine Grace that awakens the Sufi from the illusion of being a physical entity. Therefore, the Sufi does not divinize the sheikh but the teachings and knowledge which are Divine Grace.
In conclusion, I believe that there would be very limited understanding of Sufism without living it, as one’s experience plays an effective role in the attainment of knowledge and understanding of Sufism.  But the first step to understanding it, is to fully realize and acknowledge that this is simply a way of life, rather than the purpose to life.

Way (tariqa): mean(s)

Purpose (goal): Islam/Tawhid

It’s all about you!

My approach in life is simple: smile when you’re sad the most, laugh when you’re hurt the most… And always remember, you will always be there for yourself!

I’ve been going through the most difficult time in my life, by far, but it is this very attitude that kept me going strong and feeling genuinely happy. Granted, the presence of friends and family who have been very supportive, helped me sustain this attitude. Yet, it is the ultimate satisfaction in the company of myself that made the presence of others a sufficient condition to maintaining this attitude, but not a necessary one.

In this sense, I mean, I have taught my self to insure that my own internal peace and satisfaction is not depended on what others have to offer me in terms of emotional or material support. This is what I like to call satisfaction with one’s own being. This is because, even with the presence of many people around us, we can still fall into the trap of loneliness. Feeling lonely is no pretty feeling. However, it is a feeling that can be avoided, when you realize loneliness is a manifestation of something different than what you understand it to be.

You see, think of it this way: there is no such thing as feeling lonely, it is like seeing the dark. I know this might seem totally blasphemous. But when you’re in a dark room, you can’t see because there is no light rather than because the room is filled with darkness. Darkness doesn’t exist in itself, it is what we call the absence of light. So the real thing that is blocking your vision is the disappearance of light.

In the same way, loneliness is the absence of something rather than a cause of reaction in itself. You feel lonely not because people around you deserted you. You feel lonely because you have lost connection with yourself. So it’s the absence of communication with oneself via understanding/appreciating/accepting it that leads one to feeling lonely. People always come and go, but it is not their absence that leads to dissatisfaction with oneself, but how we feel towards their parting is what affects us the most. When a person leaves you, let it be a friend or a lover or whatever, if you feel like you haven’t done a mistake that broke temporarily/permanently what ever connection you had, you wouldn’t feel lonely and like it’s the end of the world. In this sense, it’s not the parting from others that induces this feeling of loneliness but it is rather your perception of how you reacted/acted and the presence of any impulses of guilt/fault that create this feeling of loneliness. So ultimately, you feel lonely in the absence of self satisfaction/understanding.

So you should always tell yourself: I don’t need people to talk to about anything, I have myself for that. Kindly note that I’m not trying to undermine the importance of the advise of others as you never learn anything from those who only agree with you in opinion. But you need to realize that you know what’s best for you and that no one will look out for you as much as you would do for yourself.

In that sense, one should feel comfortable within their skin. Make peace with yourself. Accept yourself. And most importantly, appreciate yourself for its uniqueness. If you don’t like something about yourself, change it. If you love something about it, maintain it and help that attribute/habit flourish. But never underestimate the power of yourself. I know it’s easier said than done. But the first step to change, success or achieving anything is to believe. And there is nothing better to believe in than yourself, because nothing will drive any matter in the direction you desire, but yourself. So you see, the magic word here is yourself.

Gratitude

Gratitude for the blessings and love, may they never part our heart; for the smiles and the laughter, may they become a joyous habit regardless of pain.

Gratitude for failing and standing up once again, may we never forget lessons learned; for crying and breaking into pieces, may we always put ourselves back together stronger than before.

Gratitude for family and friends, may we forever cherish those who light up our lives; for every person who hurt us or gave us hope, may we always remember to forgive and be thankful to others.

Gratitude for life, may no moment ever be forgotten.

Happy Birthday Omi

Today is a happy day. Not because WISE finally started! But because the dearest of all was born. The person who dedicated her life to giving us the best the world has to offer. The person who sacrificed her successful career and always put herself second when it came to her family. Mama, no words of gratitude can ever do you justice. You are the most beautiful person I know. You made me the person

I am today. I would’ve never been able to accomplish or achieve anything if it wasn’t for you. One simple thing I remember is all those notebooks you used to make for me with words in Arabic and English, noting their meanings and their synonyms. Those notebooks introduced to sooo many things, interesting ideas and encouraged me to learn. You used to sit and read with me and listen to everything I have to say. You taught me to speak my mind. To never be afraid to be who I am, to feel comfortable with being different and always be proud of who I am. You taught me to listen. From you, I got to learn and love helping others as you dedicated your life to helping those around you. You taught that what matters in life is not materialistic gain, but always ensuring that our existence helped better that of other. You taught it to me, Azza, Amr and Shadi. Our greatest gift is to be blessed with a mother like you. May you enjoy every day of your life. And may everyday of it be as beautiful as you are. They say heaven is under a mother’s feet. All I want you to know, is that you’re my heaven. Our heaven. May we forever be blessed with you ya aghla alnas. Allah yekhaleeki Laina.