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My Outlook on Life (Part 1 of WallahuA’lam)

The past few months have been very confusing for me, to be perfectly honest with myself. I’ve always known myself to be a person of positive direction and goals, and these are what have been carrying me throughout life really. This is the outlook that has given me (by Allah’s hand) success in a lot of my endeavours, whether it be spiritual, academic, physical or social.

However, recently it began to dawn upon me that my life was becoming little more than just fulfilling my responsibilities as a student, as leader and as a person, and that my happiness was becoming increasingly contingent on future events that I expect to happen.

“Perhaps happiness will come when I get into the university of my dreams”

and a long list of things that follow.

I find it difficult however to shake off the truth that I never know if the plethora of expectations I have of myself, events and other people will ever come to fruition. As much as one would like to believe otherwise, the multitude of factors involved in achieving anything means that nothing is certain. People? People change, even the ones we love the most, which renders it unwise to depend on people for support or fulfilment.

I realised how much of my life is lived pursuing happiness, which inevitably inculcates in myself the idea that happiness is something constantly strived for yet always out of reach.

And that was the problem.

Because if the grand scheme of things did indeed complement this paradigm I had in my head, I would have no problem being happy right now simply because I have achieved much in the past.

No, this does not mean that I remain satisfied with where I am and therefore not work towards achieving greater goals, but shouldn’t I, at the very least, in this moment, feel content?

In the midst of such confusion, I spoke to a good friend of mine about exactly this, who largely felt the same way and told me that it would be grand for us to aim to be happy in the precise moment we’re living right now. It is indeed true that the majority of us ‘hang our happiness’ on the future, or rather, our expectations of the future, which inevitably leads to great stress, a very fixed and closed mind, and at times, despair.

Reconciling this became primary to me.

As much as the grandeur of such a prospect struck me at the time, I also wondered how exactly such an easier-said-than-done thing could be accomplished, to which my friend answered:

“Soul searching”

I thought for a moment about what that meant.

And then knew that that was indeed what had to be done.

So that’s exactly what I began doing.

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After flushing the toilet.

Cause I was having the conversation on the phone while I was in the bathroom.

Classic.

~Azzam

 

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An inspirational encounter

Bismillah

The other day, two residents of the local area around Darul Uloom London decided to come over and file a complaint. Being a Muslim school, regular complaints about pretty much anything and everything are expected and no longer surprise us. (An occasion comes to mind where one of our neighbours actually complained about the strong “curry smell” coming from the school).

What was different about this complaint however was that the people actually took out the time to come over to the school and speak directly to us. Seldom do we ever get visits from neighbours, let alone those that come to provide some ‘constructive criticism’. Despite whatever their intentions may have been, the did show a certain degree of hostility when speaking to one of our management staff and came across as quite unfriendly. Of course, one can’t indiscriminately place the blame on them, since we have no idea of what kind of exposure to Islam they have received in the past, whether it be through social media, newspapers, personal experiences etc.

However, what struck me was not the conduct of the two gentlemen at all, but rather how the brother who received them responded to their hostility. The first thing he did was sit them down and ask them what they had to say. They made it clear that they had a complaint about the excessive amount of noise coming from the school during the afternoon, which was wholly due to the fact that the football tournament was going on that week and two things that really don’t get along together are ‘quiet’ and ‘football’.

After that, the brother immediately thanked them. “I thank you guys for taking the time to come over to the school and speak to us personally” even if it was for a complaint. The two guests were taken aback. Did he just thank us? He then said “I appreciate the fact that you guys understand that the students are young and are having fun and thus will make noise. But I guess you guys think they’re making too much noise.” he said with a laugh. After a bit of a discussion about the issue at hand, he told them that he appreciates their efforts so much and it would hurt him to see them come over all the way and see them leave empty handed. “You guys happened to come over on meat biryani day (Thursday lunch) and I’d love for you guys to have some. If you’re too busy to eat with us now, just give me two minutes and I’ll pack you some inshaAllah”.

At the end of their visit, they ended up exchanging numbers with the school and even offered to come over some time in the future to give talks concerning the school’s relationship with the council, dealing with the neighbours etc. – not to mention the food and wide smiles they had on their faces when leaving.

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After having a little chat with the brother over lunch, he explained that as Muslims, it’s very important for us to be channellers of positivity. Just like how a bouncy ball bounces back just as hard as it’s thrown (physics majors may testify against this), if we learn to channel the negative shots we get from people back in a positive direction, it not only calms us down but also encourages them to look at the situation in an entirely new perspective which, more often than not, will only benefit us.

Sometimes Da’wah efforts are too preoccupied with intellectual arguments and speeches that we sometimes forget that the main medium through which the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) spread Islam was through his beautiful character.

May Allah give us the ability to take lessons from all the small happenings around us.

~Azzam Anwar

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Racism in Japan

Konichiwa :),

Although I may not be Japanese, I am part Chinese, and you might think that that automatically gives me an unprecedented sense of social and cultural awareness of people who are Japanese and do live in Japan. Sorry to break it to you, but you’re wrong. (Ah well)

As much as Icelandic people are different from Americans, Japanese people are very different from the rest of the world including to their close neighbors China, Malaysia, Vietnam and likewise other countries in South-East Asia. Despite being a very technologically advanced country (10 bucks you’re using a Samsung Phone right now), Japan is a very small and relatively detached region physically. It sometimes boggles me when seeing it in relation to the other continents/countries on the map.

Map of the world

And in a way, I think this physical characteristic reflects in the way that it is “socially isolated” as well. No, I’m not insinuating that Japan is a “loner”, but it seems that many people (myself included) know little about the social aspects of Japan, but in particular, racism.

What drove me to write this post was a short video I saw the other day by an American school teacher, in which he highlights to his students many of the civil conflicts apparent in the country today. Why? It seems that the students that he teaches are completely oblivious to any sort of discrimination in Japan. When the classed was asked whether or not they think racism exists in the country, a maximum of 2 students would raise their hands out of 40. (that’s 5% bruh) On the other hand, most of them felt perfectly fine in saying that discrimination is solely an American problem.

However, the teacher illustrates in his video that this is clearly not the case, giving numerous examples that insist on the fact that prejudice and discrimination are very (unexpected, yet) prominent issues in Japan. To highlight a few:

  • “A camera so stupidly easy to use, a Korean could do it”

One of the examples pointed out was that among certain groups in Japan, disposable cameras are commonly called “Baka-Chon (馬鹿 朝鮮) Cameras”. Baka (馬鹿) literally means fool, and Chon is an abbreviation of Chōsen (朝鮮) which is a Japanese term for Korea. Thus, describing a camera with these two terms is essentially saying, “This is so stupid even a Korean could use it”, something that may be considered somewhat “rude” an “unadvised” by some. This also doesn’t apply to cameras alone-one can describe anything with this to be honest. Do you have a really easy to use radio and want to practice your Japanese (and feel racist at the same time)? Go a head and call it a Baka Chon radio! (Seriously, don’t though this is just an example).

  • “Leave these people to work with Death”

Secondly and a lot more shockingly was the example the teacher gave of the “Burakumin”. If you were to go back a few centuries in Japan, (To the Eto era, about 300 years ago) You’d find that a caste system was established in Japan. At the top of this social hierarchy you would of course have the emperors, then the Shōgun, the Samurai and so on. Now at the very bottom of this social hierarchy were the people known as “Burakumin”- people who often worked as butchers and undertakers, and other jobs associated with death. For quite imaginable reasons, these people were likewise heavily discriminated against as well, since 300 years ago and counting. Feel free to watch the actual video where again, the teacher goes into a lot more detail about this particular type of discrimination-you’ll find that a very recent and relevant example occurred not too long ago at all.

Photo Credit: SHINICHI SUZUKI

  • “Damn we ran out of measures to defend ourselves from the opposition-grab the outcasts”

Last but not least were the Okinawans (沖縄/うちなー), Japanese people native to the Okinawan Islands of Japan. These people were harshly discriminated against since the past, quite striking was what occurred during World War 2, in which the Okinawans were used as human shields to protect the “superior” soldiers from enemy attacks they faced in intricate tunnel systems established during the war-don’t forget that this was less than only 70 years ago. Again, you’ll see how this discrimination evidently did not remain in the past according to the original video, and quite peculiarly how discrimination is present WITHIN the Okinawan people as well, between the different settlements on the separate Okinawan Islands-we humans are crazy sometimes. Check that out here:

I hope this post served it’s intention of being somewhat informative, and despite my certainty of you (reading this right now) being a lot smarter and generally aware than I am, I am more than sure that you discovered something in this post which you may have not known a few minutes ago. As a little side note, according to a few sources including the original video, the teacher is actually facing considerable hate and harassment for uploading this video (can’t imagine why). However, we must realize that the message he is sending is nothing for anyone to be offended about but rather an opportunity for us to educate ourselves about the inner workings of other cultures and what we can do to combat issues present in them.

Hey, smarter everyday right?

Till next time, just carry on being awesome 🙂

~Azzam Anwar

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Hello

Hi, and welcome to Wagamagiga.com (previously Azzam Wok)!

I just wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself (and thus, this website) to you, the random stranger who has willingly decided to visit it. My name is Azzam, as you may have already figured out, and this is my website. Of course, that may be a bit short on detail, but allow me to explain that when I say it is “my” website, I mean that it’s a platform where I can express anything at all that I feel either needs attention, I find interesting or simply humorous. I plan to publish stories that are meaningful to me, whether it’s from a secondary source or my own experience, or even creation. I want this to be an outlet for positivity and creativity, and I’m sure an awesome community that I know is out there can help me to do that.

Care to join me?