by Zeeshawn M. Chughtai
A photo posted by Holistic Poetry (@holisticpoetry) on
I continue to offer my thoughts and prayers to Professor Daniel Smith, a professor of mine from my college years who passed away on this day two years ago. He was a man of exceptional intellect whose impassioned discussions paved the way in my understanding of global ethics and world religions. I wasn’t quite aware of myself for his class then as I might be now, but that’s exactly the kind of progression in conciousness he taught everyday. I hope that sharing my writing and offering my perspective continues the discussion he so eloquently left behind. To know that he taught relatives of mine that attended VCU is a testament to the level of impact he had even within my own family. What I learned about my own faith and that of others through his class wasn’t taught to me by another. Those lessons were destined and continue to live on no matter how infinitesimal its reach. May Allah (SWT) continue to provide him and his family peace, fulfillment, and renewal. In such misinformed times, you are missed, Professor. In having returned to the Universe, I’ll return the reader to you:
“Turn yourself to the harmony of the Universe which is real and from our deepest being sprang and to which it shall return.”
-Professor Daniel Smith
Dear President Obama,
Thank you for your words and your commitment in standing firm in embracing all people in this country as Americans when you visited the Islamic Society of Baltimore. History has shown that anyone that stands against intolerance will be received critically by some unwilling to see the vision in such measured action. I’m writing to you to quell the notion that your decision to reach out to our community was fruitless. On the contrary, you’ve reinforced and shaped the dialogue of togetherness and acceptance that is truly needed in this country amidst such dividing times.
Polls have shown that 29% of Americans, and nearly 45% of Republicans don’t take you at your word that you’re Christian. But you’ve proven that one that is guided by the teachings of Jesus (peace be upon him) cannot be so without having love for all people despite the differences. You’ve reminded the nation and the Muslim American community of one of the core values of Islam, that God created us all “into nations and tribes, that you may know one another” (Qur’an 49:13). Your visit is one of many examples that brings life to these words.
This morning you held the annual National Prayer Breakfast honoring members of different faith groups in coming together in a tradition akin to the American spirit. Through the stories you shared, you reminded us that if we protect and reflect the faith of others, no matter how different in practice it may be, it can strengthen and rejuvenate the faith within ourselves. After listening to your prayer at the end of your speech, I couldn’t help but nod in agreement whispering “Ameen” to every wish you held for our world, our country, and our American people. Sir, you are not yet gone but know that you will be missed. I pray that we continue to lead this life humbled in our actions, grateful in our service, and hopeful in our present to reach a better tomorrow, insha’Allah.
Zeeshawn M. Chughtai
I return on stage in D.C. to renew my voice for 2016. After warming up the crowd with a mix of my best, I debuted a new spoken word piece entitled Medicine. Shout out to Subcontinental Drift and AdvoPak for the opportunity and D.C. for always listening :-)
Langston Hughes. Born In America. Mental Health. These were books my hands caught hold of as they surfed across rows of literature tucked away within the aisles of my local library. The study room that held my medical textbooks begged a needed break as I sifted through these unseen pages. Sure, my breaks have led me to cruise through Facebook’s News Feed on occasion only to forget how I even got there, but sometimes having meaningful reading offers a chance to leave the comfort of your world to connect it with others. You see, Langston Hughes told me “To dream of vast horizons of the soul / Through dreams made whole” so that maybe I can help “make our world anew” (Hughes, “To You”). But for some, those dreams will never be American enough if I was Born In America from the immigrant experience that actually founded it. Even President Obama had to remind them the values of America in his final State of the Union address, “but that’s none of my business.” It would be tempting to deem that kind of divisivenes as a Mental Health issue, but bigotry is a learned behavior deeply rooted in fear and ignorance. You see, even a bigot has the ability to care, so if you see one here’s what you do–embrace them with your dreams to tackle their fears and live the labels you claim to enlighten their ignorance. At the face of such curiosity, that’s what my Teacher ﷺ did to change both minds and hearts. Maybe then they could “unlearn what they have learned,” as say, Yoda would. So as I head back to the study room as a mild-mannered Star Wars fan, I bring with me a Poet, a Muslim American, and a Student of Medicine hoping their collective dreams could help “make our world anew.”