Familial Love: The Emotional Component of Possibly Splitting Up a Space

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Like water
from a faucet
into the sink of your faith.

Little to big: o’ brother/sister, you leave me like blood from my veins.
Big to little: o’ brother/sister, you leave me like blood from my veins.

Anyone who has known me at least since this past summer should know that my involvement in what is called a halaqa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halaqa), which is not only a safe space to talk about Muslim theology/specific topics but more importantly, it is a community. This community is what I think I always sought in my work with dialogues at American University but felt the finite schedules they entailed could not sustain one beyond a semester or two; the halaqa does the opposite. Had my girllfriend not spoken so highly about it and invited me to attend once she moved out of DC, I would probably not have found this group of intensely passionate, motivated, creative individuals. This initial action on the part of my jaan set this whole journey in motion for me, and frankly, I doubt I can ever fully convey how thankful I am for her willingness to share with me.

Now that I have gushed significantly back to discussing the halaqa. The space, like many Do-It-Yourself (DIY) adventures, started out quite small and stemmed from several individuals’ desires to serve the Muslim community. My understanding of its origins is that two brothers and their friends recognized that there did not exist a space to talk on a personal level about Muslim theology and how it may or may not be relevant to people’s lives. Friends have told me that the group stayed around 5-15 people for almost two years until this past Ramadan, so roughly speaking late July through mid-August. Because of word of mouth and actively inviting people to join in the community’s formulation the halaqa now frequently has 25+ attendees on a weekly basis; that is nuts and a blessing!

Having so many people want to come join in the conversation and build relationships with others is truly amazing, especially when I look elsewhere in my life and see people retracting from one another. I would argue that the difference stems from a few things: a shared sense of being outsiders in a wider culture (anti-Muslim sentiments anyone? perception that religion/spirituality isn’t in vogue?), a shared experience of being transplants to DC (this city is really good at not making you feel welcomed or you are not part of the “cool” crowd), and a desire for spiritual enrichment outside of other normally male-dominated, ethno-centric, classist religious institutions, i.e. masjids. While it is great that the halaqa and all that it represents to people is leading to a swell in attendees I cannot help but feel like the intimacy and desire to invest in others has decreased. Others who I am close with shared similar feelings and I think when I step back we are all bummed about the possibility of having to split into new physical spaces to accommodate the numbers. For a second, imagine yourself and those friends you are closest to in your life – the people who know you at your best and your worst and yet still love you and vice or versus  Now, envision someone saying you can still be close but you will not get to see them each week like you have for the past six months – shit sucks, yet I feel is necessary. Unfortunately, save for two private conversations with friends and my girlfriend, I do not believe that emotion exists in the open as of the moment (well, now it does haha).

The development of a secondary or tertiary space eventually is necessary, however, if the wider goal of using this type of structured discussion is to serve the Muslim community at large is to be realized. What shape this new group or others might take is up to those individuals who attend and hopefully it serves their interests well while also bearing in mind where the space emerged from, i.e. the previous halaqa. Like a lot of friends I am still processing this situation, but I still come back to the same conclusion: things will change and I hope I do not lose my family here.

Salams for now.

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