By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota
I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become.
There are health nuts and healing nuts. I guess you could say I am a healing nut as I was addicted to programs, workshops, courses, and books that have to do with healing and reconciliation.
Tuesday, May 17th, there is an event titled, Acknowledging our Brokenness – Reflections on the Impact of Trauma from the Individual to the Community.
The event will be held at the
Amherst H. Wilder Foundation
451 Lexington Pkwy N,
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104
7 PM to 8:45 PM
The event is free and open to the public.
Being that this is mental health month, I would like to encourage people to attend the event. When we do an activity in a group or support it as a community, it makes it easier for people afraid to seek help to reach finally out and ask for help.
The suffering that is a result of trauma – if not addressed can spill over and affect family members as well as the community and society as a whole.
While I advocate for people to seek programs that help them deal with past trauma, I want to emphasize at times we face a major dead end in the process. I learned over the years an essential wisdom behind an Islamic phrase, which I used to recite without reflection. It is an Arabic phrase, so be forewarned, and do not fear.
Reading it from right to left, it is pronounced like this:
lā hawla wa lā quwwata illā bi Allāh.
It is often translated as there is no power or strength except through Allāh.
Upon reflection, it is a phrase that encompasses many gems. We all want to change and be our best selves, but that involves transformation, which requires power
Like going on a diet, we might begin the healing process, but give up or feel discouraged as we do not see results. We might find we lack the power or will to transform. When we come to the self-discovery of our weakness to change, the phrase then connects us to glorious powers of Allah to make that change happen.
That is to say, real change and transformation can arise only through the awesome and magnificent powers of God.
By connecting to God, we discover the source we seek to aid us on our journey. If we continue to repeat the phrase with reflection, we can witness the power, strength and might we need as well as the transformation process.
How can we make that connection?
Our prayer in Islam is not just words, but a holistic prayer where all parts of one’s being are in action. At times, people feel that God is not answering their prayer of need or helping them while in reality He is, but they have not opened themselves to receive. We cannot receive from God – if we have inner darknesses that will repel the spiritual light from penetrating through.
In the light theory, dark colored objects absorbs all wavelengths of light or heat and reflect none. Objects that are white, on the other hand, reflect all wavelengths of light and therefore absorb the least heat. I am speaking about spiritual realities, and not physical. Hence, people prefer to wear lighter colored clothes during hot days. Similarly, when our souls are not pure, they absorb the ills of society and reflect little if any spiritual light, while pure souls will reflect the spiritual lights but absorb little of social ills.
On this same note, one can say that repentance is not only a purification process, but also comforts the souls whereas a failure to repent, causes internal anguish and suffering.
Now it is important to pause and explain there is a difference between guilt and remorse. God does not ask us to repent for something we did not do. He does not blame us or try to frame us with sins that we did not do or reprimand us for mistakes we never made. That is not remorse. That is emotional blackmail. Emotional blackmail is a form of abuse. It is about control, whereas repentance is about nurturing one to their best selves.
Where do we begin?
Some preach fall and rise, but I don’t believe in this quackery. It is usually the preaching of charlatans and false preachers. Such individuals are more obsessed with their image in the eyes of people than they are with the state of their hearts in the eyes of God.
We begin the connection process by emptying ourselves or purifying our internal spiritual selves – through prayers of forgiveness for every time we violated our values and for every time, we failed to put our Divine gifts to the best use in benefit of ourselves and others.
An important aspect of faith is about accountability and calling oneself to account. If there is a need to repair the harm, resolve disputes before mediation, we do so.
On a physical level – we must look for people weaker than us, who we can help with our gifts without robbing them of their dignity or self-worth. While doing so, we do not remind them of the support we offer them or remind ourselves, and if we have done so – that is a moment to seek forgiveness.
In the story of Moses, upon him peace, God gives us an example where Moses, upon him peace left Egypt as a fugitive, going for days without food, feet bleeding and coming to the land of Midian. He was near starvation, homeless and exhausted. He saw two women who had a father who is too old to attend to the sheep and water them, so they were standing there waiting for an opportunity to water the sheep. Moses, upon him peace, uses his gift of strength to aid the two women and water their sheep, without asking for anything in return. He does not take advantage of them given his difficult situation or promote himself as their protector but offers his God-given gifts and returns under the shade of the tree.
In this moment of great need, he turns to God and places his prayer of need. So his prayer was not just words on the lips. It was holistic. He strives and struggles to the point of exhaustion, then offers his gifts to people who are vulnerable and in need of his strength, without asking for anything in return, then asks God to fulfill his need.
Likewise, we connect to God with our weakness. We might say, I have nothing to give. But if we search within ourselves, we might find we can comfort someone hurting, or read to the blind or elderly, or mentor a child. There are many ways and many people that are weaker than us, that we can connect to without asking for anything in return and then request from God to fulfill our areas of weakness and remove our suffering.
Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American born in Jerusalem, Palestine and raised in the US. She has completed training in restorative justice at the University’s Center for Restorative Justice and Peacemaking. She was a 2008-2009 policy fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. She lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.
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