Assalamu’alaykum, First name / friend, may peace be upon you.
“Where are you from?”
No matter what land I travel to, I'm always presented with this question, and it quite literallytraumatizes me. My answer to it varies all the time because, honestly, I'm not sure where I'm from. I'm not sure where my home is. I don't know where I belong.
The concept of home and the sentiment attached to it have always been a confusingly complicated subject for me. Having been raised in Saudi Arabia and currently living in the States, my grandparents being from India and my parents being Pakistani, I never know what piece of land to affiliate myself with.
I've moved around with my family a lot. So much so that it has accustomed me to change. Most people are afraid of change. Me? I've managed to befriend it; it visits me often.
I'd learned to not attach myself to places. Moving homes, making new friends, learning to adapt to the new culture, and becoming accustomed to this new life's norms have all contributed dramatically to complicating my life further and further. I don't mean to be ungrateful; I am who I am today because of being exposed to a wide variety of cultures, climates, and ways of life. I've become more accepting of the differences surrounding me daily as the feeling of being a foreigner everywhere I go forever resonates with me.
Being accustomed to drastic life changes is an adventure, at times exciting, for sure, but sometimes it leaves you feeling homesick, and when you're not sure of what and where home is, you don't know what to think about, what to be around when you miss home.
I close my eyes,
And envision myself
Standing in the open ground of al Masjid al-Nabawi.
I hear the adhaan ringing in my ears,
Echoing through the city.
I see people all around me,
Having traveled hundreds and thousands of miles to be here,
Rushing in response to the adhaan.
Hayya ala al-salah, hayya ala al-falah, the imam says
Come to prayer, come to success
Sami’na wa ata’na, the ummah replies
We hear, and we obey
They're running towards this call in anticipation
Their Lord is calling them, how would they not?-
One place, though, that I would never hesitate to call home is Madinah Munawwarah. Having lived in Saudia for more than half my life, I had the absolute privilege of visiting the two sacred mosques, time and time again, alhamdulillah.
You know when people say that they feel engulfed by peace and tranquility seems to surround them when they're in these sacred lands? I can confirm for you that what they say is absolutely true. You set foot on the grounds of these cities, and it's like you've lived there all your life, and everything just feels familiar. It's like you belong there, and coming from someone who doesn't feel like they belong anywhere, that is a big claim, a true one. People flock from all across the world to experience this sense of familiarity, peace, comfort, and a haven. Similarly, I'd always thought of Madinah as a place where a part of me resides because every single time I'd go there, it felt as if I was whole.
The iqamah is called, and I can see rows upon rows
Of men and women, standing shoulder to shoulder.
Here, they aren't Arabs and non-Arabs
Here, they're all Muslims.
They face towards the Ka'bah as the imam announces
Allah is the Greatest.
He proceeds to lead us in prayer
And the ayaat, the perfect words of God, seem to flow off of his tongue
As the imam continues to recite-
The point is, home isn't a piece of land. It isn't a four-walled boundary or someplace with your name on a plaque right outside the door. Home is where your heart is at peace. Home is where you let go. And what better place to seek peace than the city of Muhammad sallalahu 'alayhi wa sallam?
I stand amidst the crowd, thinking:
"I've been utterly restless, a stranger in my lands, for so long
And my mind's been clouded of all sorts of dark thoughts
I am home
I am at peace
This is where I belong; this is home."
The dunya is exhausting and it will make you feel as if you're some sort of extraterrestial being, all because you believe in something different. Sadly, Islam isn't the norm. There are Muslims among us who are persecuted and oppressed because they refuse to conceal their faith. The Prophet sallalahu 'alayhi wa sallam was able to predict, by the will of Allah, that this would eventually happen:
“Islam began as a something strange and it will return to being strange,”
But, do you know what the other half of this hadith states?
"so blessed are the strangers." (Muslim, 145)
May Allah grant us steadfastness upon the path which He loves. In this place where we are mocked and taunted for trying to be close to Him, may He give us the strength to persevere. May He keep our intentions pure. May He grant us homes in His jannah.