The Butterfly Effect and Aafia
Today, March 28th, is Aafia Siddiqui day.
Most Muslims with an ear to the ground will have heard her name. Prisoner 650’s is a long story of illegal actions, injustice, and government-sanctioned horror, and she deserves the attention of the few minutes that it will take for you to read about her.
Why is this important?
There was a local fundraiser today, and yesterday I was with a few of the organisers, who all asked me if I was going. I said no. I posted the event on Facebook, and another friend asked me there if I was going. I said no. I woke up this morning, and my parents asked me if I was going. I said no – I hadn’t sat down a single day this week to do schoolwork (haha), and I really needed to. They nodded and understood.
I switched on my computer this morning to work. I read Maryam’s post again (awake this time – unlike the half-asleep skimming I gave it last night) – about people who spit on you, critical mass, and activism – and she asks the question at the end, ‘what makes you an activist?’
And then I realised I had to go. Because I wasn’t being an activist. I was being an inactivist, a reclusivist and wriggler-outer-ist. This WAS within my sphere of influence, and I had no robust reason not to go. Schoolwork was well and good, but how much barakah could I expect if I was leaving a greater good for it?
My family were almost out of the door and I was still in my nightie. I almost didn’t finish writing a comment to Maryam’s beautiful post, telling her I was going, I was in such a tearing hurry.
I went, everyone.
I went, I leafleted grumpy Sunday-morning shoppers who ignored me, offered sweets to kids who were herded away by suspicious and angry mothers (‘Didn’t I tell you not to take things from strangers? Remember Snow White and the poison apple? grumble mumble glower glare), and spent several minutes talking a young girl into going (I sold it to her with cakes and toffees XD). I walked up and down that high street so many times that my feet began to ache. I was even solicited by a lovely old gentleman for a photograph; he was, he explained, a member of a photographers’ club, and thought I was quite a picture, standing in the sunshine in front of exotic arch-design windows with hand-drawn cake-sale signs taped on them, handing out purple leaflets. I don’t generally like to be photographed, but I saw no reason to refuse, and after he had taken it, he told me that that had made his day.*
I met old friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, met aunties who compared our cake-sale cakes to mine and made me blush in a maidenly way by their favour (XD XD). I sold cakes and bought them, I circulated and did the networking thing, and for a while, I even went and hid in the kitchen to escape the having-to-talk-to-people thing.
And I was a part of something. I was an activist.
Maybe in the end it won’t change anything for Aafia, and maybe it won’t change any policies – although we pray it will – but that’s not the only point. Making the effort is important: in the end, you can only do what you can, and try to live by that hadith:
‘Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart – and that is the weakest of faith.’
Faith is action, everyone. Faith isn’t keeping it in your heart and living your life regardless. Faith is expressing with your limbs and with your life what lives in your heart. What is in your heart is an ember, fanned by your breath, to become the fire at your fingertips.
I’m marvelling that the quiet thoughts of a ‘homebody’ in a small town in a big country on the other side of the world were the reason I couldn’t stay at home today. Butterfly effect?
No. That, sisters and brothers, friends and readers, is the Barakah Effect.
* Worth it, even though I had to tolerate crass jokes about old men passing around my photo** for purposes of ogling, and telling their friends over beer and cigarettes about their ‘beautiful new wife’. The part in inverted commas must be read in a bad Indian accent.
** It was not a haram photo, folks. I was hijabed and jilbabed to the max, so unless you are into hijabi-jilbabis, that is totally not the kind of photo to excite anyone except the CIA.