The past two weeks have seen this blog go through the full mid-life crisis. First going into maintenance mode, then reappearing for a couple of days, then being deleted and replaced with the finale from a Walt Disney cartoon, then momentarily restored, only to be shunted into a sub-directory, to be abandoned in favour of a much needed sort-out of my scattered study notes.
This morning—thanks to a long chat with a trusted advisor last evening—I have put everything back as it was two weeks ago, and I have locked up the notes repository to spare the general public my mistakes; if they do make it back into the public domain at some point in the future, it will only be once they have been checked, edited and put into the right order. Patience is then the order of the day in that regard.
Of course, it wasn’t this inanimate website that had a little crisis; that was me. Blame it on the maddening antics of friends on Facebook that caused me to flee the technology in an instant, blaming the tool instead of dominating nafs; indeed, just as I deleted my blog, so I deleted numerous other online accounts that I have accumulated over the years. Or blame online discussions that to me resemble backbiting and mere gossip—two of the deeds condemned by our deen—that inspired me to rid myself of any blame by association. Or blame the way I stumbled once more soon after venturing back online after many weeks away. Or simply blame my numerous insecurities, my persistent fear of my use of words, the lack of constancy in my life, the wavering between certainty and doubt.
I might blame all of these, but I blame too the lowly character traits of mine that arise from time to time: pride, arrogance, the ego, the desire to be known, respected and liked. Yes, this much is true. This web of little boxes connected by cables all over the world is like a plain upon which we amass our troops, ready to battle our corner for the diseases of our hearts. We fire off rounds and shells: the cruise missile called “respect me”, the scud-missile called “don’t condemn me”, the atomic bomb called “I respect you, so you MUST respect me”—mutually assured destruction?
Yes, I have witnessed all of this in myself, and as a true soldier I kept on fighting my corner right up until last night, even after I had pulled the plug on the website. Because even pulling the plug was part of the battle: it is the ego, the desire to be seen. One’s intention, as we know, is as difficult to detect as black ants crawling on a black stone at night. Even so, as we attune ourselves to our heart as the years pass by, we soon learn that we cannot escape the two witnesses of the heart: God and ourselves.
The games we play are incredible, rekindling the inner child with every passing day. A visitor shall respond, “Actually you’re wrong.” But the inward gaze laments that I’m not wrong at all, and so I can only envy that one that has conquered the calls of his nafs and the whispers of the rejected one. To that one I must repeat that I only know what my own soul contains; you have your journey and I have mine.
My foray into the world of “blogging” has been recent. Prior to mid-2005 I had never heard of a blog—or if I had, I had never given it any thought. I had created a website in 2001 and had occasionally added an article to it over the years that followed, but by 2005 it seems that I was totally out of touch with the technologies of the Internet—my websites were all still static affairs, using table-based layouts and plain HTML. Even a cascading style sheet was a mystery to me.
I believe it was an article in a computer magazine that first pushed me towards creating a blog. I read it in the week that four bombs exploded on the London public transport system and suddenly I had a need to write, to work things out of my system. I googled for a blogging platform and promptly minted one using the first offering that came up. The Neurocentric—my journey of a self-centred soul from my student days—was thus resurrected on Blogger, shedding the sarcasm that my magazine column was famous for in favour of an intense inward gaze. Soon I was hammering out my thoughts, spewing my anger onto the keyboard, relieving the heaviness within.
Google also provided my first link into the world of Muslim blogging. I had no connections with Muslims in cyberspace, for all of my friends were three-dimensional folk. So my search would have been, “blog islam”. The first site I discovered was Yusuf Smith’s Blogistan, and I don’t believe I got much further than this, for his site was the gateway to this corner of the internet; had I hit upon SalafiManhaj, my virtual world could have been entirely different. Br Yusuf had carefully collected a huge list of Muslim blogs, categorised as “Brothers” and “Sisters”, and so I was soon clicking away in my discovery of this other world. He also had a small collection of links entitled, “A-List Blogs”, which would soon become my staple: sunnissisters, izzymo, writeoussister, ae and rolleduptrousers, plus Bin Gregory because I liked the name.
But for me, blogging was not so much about reading what everyone else had to say as about writing, or more specifically, counselling myself with words. That period—however long it lasted—wrought good and bad for me: the bad in an intense depression brought on by unsuccessful medical treatment, the stress of moving house and a disastrous change of job; the good in the bad leading me to re-evaluate my priorities and refocus on my deen. The writing was a kind of therapy, complimented by the words of others, far wiser than I. The blog known as Sunnisisters was the jewel in the crown, always providing exactly what this soul needed exactly when it was needed. Like early in 2006, a post brimming with useful guidance on fasting the Day of Ashurah in Muharram, about which I had been oblivious. Or a beautiful post about the importance of being disciplined in the use of words.
Though, ever since I entered this world of blogging, I have frequently had the urge to walk away, in truth I have benefited from it enormously. Yes, from thinking things through and receiving feedback on my thoughts, and in encountering the words of others. Over the net I hear rumours that the world of the Muslim blog is imploding as battles rage on, but in truth there has been more benefit here for me than the despair that others speak of. Perhaps my blog vision is just too narrow to know much of the wider web. I have moved on beyond that famed A-List, discovering the wonders of Dynamite Soul and Mr Moo, but I am no adventurer: I can count the websites I visit regularly on my finger tips.
Despair descends suddenly and this imperfect soul is well known to waver and stumble, between its bouts of constancy. With the despair come doubts about one’s worth, or the worth of one’s efforts, and so it is only natural that I should return to the same old argument within, between keeping the blog and closing it. But it also helps to step back and be reflective, to evaluate the good as well as the bad, the benefit as well as the harm. Sometimes we can do this alone, but sometimes it takes an outsider to help us see an issue in its proper light. For some, the world of the blog has run its course: they have nothing more to take from it and nothing more to add. But the blog, as a trusted advisor told me last night, still has its place, and can still be a worthwhile pursuit and can even be important.
Somewhere in this jumble, splurged onto the page, is some kind of explanation of how he persuaded me to carry on and keep it up, and keep at it. Yes, with words come responsibility, but that is not only to be silent, but to convey truth, goodness and beauty as well. And so I am here to say, inshaAllah.