Hello! I can’t believe it has been a month and a bit since I’ve last updated my blog. It’s been weighing heavily on me that I haven’t kept up to my commitment to post bi-weekly. It all started when I lost interest in continuing with part two of my Lebanon trip recap. It really bothers me that I didn’t write it, especially because I implied that it was coming soon. I don’t like to promise something and not deliver. That, combined with the fact that I was fresh out of ideas for new posts and at the start of a new semester in university (fourth-year undergraduate psychology!) meant that my blog was neglected. I’ve decided to put that aside for now and try something new. If you’re familiar with YouTube or blogs, you may have seen people covering tags (questions about a topic relevant to them). I could not find a “disabled Muslim tag” per se, but I did find separate Muslim and cerebral palsy tags, so I’ve decided to cover both of them here in this post so you could get to know me better. I hope you’ll like it!
The Basic Muslim Tag (by MuslimGurl)
#1 Favorite surah (chapter) from the Quran?
My favourite chapter from the Quran is chapter 76, Al-Insan (literally translates to The Human).
#2 How many times have you had Pork by accident?
I have never eaten pork by accident, but I do have memories of eating other meat that wasn’t hallal (by accident of course).
#3 In what language do you read your Quran?
I read my Quran in Arabic. However, I use a smartphone app called iQuran to read English translations of the verses to enhance my understanding.
#4 Would you want your husband to have a beard?
At this point in time, I don’t really have a preference. It’s what’s on the inside that counts, right?
#5 Do you know your 5 Pillars?
Yes! Ossul al-deen khamsa (the five pillars of the religion): al-tawheed (monotheism), al-adel (divine justice), al-nubua (prophethood), al-immama (succession to the Prophet Muhammad), al-meaad (the day of judgement and resurrection).
#6 Ever been mistaken to belong to another religion?
No, not that I can remember, although I was once asked if I was a theist or an atheist.
#7 Ever been awkwardly caught doing ablution/wudhu in a public bathroom?
No, due to the general inaccessibility of public bathrooms, I have never attempted to do my ablution there.
#8 Do you know the difference between SubhanAllah and MashAllah?
Yes, although it’s hard for me to explain because I rely on context to help me know when it is appropriate to say either expression. Google says subhanallah means “God is perfect” and mashallah “God has willed”.
#9 What age do you think is perfect to do Hajj?
Well, from what I know, hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca) is not dependent on age, but finances. As soon as you have the financial means to complete hajj, it becomes obligatory upon you to do so. So, in my opinion, there is no perfect age to do hajj.
#10 People’s reaction when you told them you don’t drink?
I have never had to tell people I don’t drink, so no reactions as of yet.
#11 Meanest thing you’ve been told for being Muslim.
Honestly, nothing comes to mind at the moment. People are curious about my hijab, but I don’t recall anyone being rude to me because I’m Muslim. I guess that’s an underrated advantage of living in a cultural mosaic country.
#12 Last time you went to the mosque?
On the tenth of Muharram of this year—it’s actually the date of my previous blog post.
#13 Where’s your prayer mat at? Did you pick it or your parents?
My prayer mat stays in the lower drawer of my nightstand in my room, although as I type this now, it is in arms reach because I was in rush when I last used it and didn’t put it away. Neither I nor my parents picked it out; it was a gift from someone very special to me.
CP and Me Tag (questions taken from Sarah Sweeney’s post)
What kind of Cerebral Palsy do you have?
The type of cerebral palsy I have is called spastic diplegia—which means my legs are primarily affected by spasticity, but I also have some upper body involvement (my right arm is affected).
How did you get Cerebral Palsy?
I have never been given a reason for the cause of my CP, but I do know it probably had much to do with the fact that I was born at 28 weeks (three months prematurely).
How did you feel about Cerebral Palsy growing up?
I feel like this is simple question with a complicated answer, because I do not have a single word to describe my experiences growing up with cerebral palsy. As a very young child (3-7 years old), I do not remember feeling any specific way about having CP, but at the same time, I can’t say that I was unaware of my differences because they were visible (I crawled at home and walked with a walker), so I don’t really know. I distinctly remember knowing at 8 years old that “I couldn’t walk”, because my main goal in physiotherapy was to take independent steps. That was my explanation for my differences for a very long time afterwards, and again, I do not remember feeling anything during this time, because this was my life and all I’d ever known. I would get frustrated at times when I couldn’t do things other kids my age were doing, and pondering “why” this had happened to me when I was sad or upset would confuse me because I had no real answer. When I discovered I had CP at 9 years old, I had my reason why, but I decided not to investigate it until many years later. The beginning of puberty was a really rough time for me because not only did I feel so different from everyone else, but for perhaps the first time, I could imagine a life without cerebral palsy. And I wanted that life. I yearned for it. I hated my body. I hated the fact that I was different. And so, I stopped taking care of my body as I should have been. It might have been the rebellious teen in me, but I truly believe it came from a place of internalized ableism and self-hatred. Around the age of 14, I finally decided I was ready to type “cerebral palsy” into Google and learn everything I could about my own condition. The knowledge was empowering, and with it came the discovery of the online community of people with cerebral palsy. Suddenly, I wasn’t so alone anymore and that realization inadvertently helped me to accept my CP in my early adulthood. I still struggle with feelings of loneliness and isolation at times, but I am in a much better place than I was.
How has cerebral palsy impacted your life?
Ultimately, having CP set me on a completely different path of life that I wouldn’t have been on if I was born able-bodied. There are so many different people in my life and experiences that I’ve had because I’m disabled. I think about things from a unique perspective. I’m very self-aware because I am the only one who knows what it’s like to have my body, so I have knowledge of my personal limitations and I respect them. I have learned to appreciate so many little things, because I’ve had to work so much harder to do things people take for granted. I am creative in thinking of ways to adapt to my surroundings. I have developed so much patience. Sometimes, I have trouble believing in myself because I’m used to not being able to do things. I have faced depths of isolation and loneliness that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. At the same time, I share a connection unlike any other when I meet someone else with CP.
Do you ever think about what your life would be like without Cerebral Palsy?
Yes, sometimes. The thoughts range from all-consuming and go on day long (as discussed above) to fleeting and I don’t dwell on it.
How is schooling with Cerebral Palsy?
Another simple question with a complicated answer. Throughout elementary and high school, I was mainstreamed (learned alongside typically developing peers in a normal classroom setting) and never had a need for any kind of special education. I had an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) that outlined accommodations I had in academic settings to help me reach my full potential. I had pretty good grades overall and say that I only ever seriously struggled with mathematics (especially in high school), and I have since learned that is common for people with CP! I’m not really educated in the reasoning why, but that was mind blowing to discover. My favourite subjects were English (I love to write—can you tell?) and foreign languages—I took French classes from the fourth grade until my senior year of high school (where I live, you’re required to take French until your freshman year) and a Spanish course in my sophomore year. My social life, however, was a different story. From as young as I could remember, I would spend my recesses and lunchtimes alone. I never felt confident enough to approach anyone and try to make friends because I was convinced no one would like me. I honestly don’t know why I thought this way, but I do know it had something to do with being different from everyone else and feeling that no one would understand me. For the most part, my peers left me be—not actively including me or excluding me, but there were brief spurts of bullying in my preteen years. By far, the most painful part was managing to make friends and having them move away; this happened repeatedly during my childhood, and it was heartbreaking each time. I finally was able to have some stability in eighth grade, when I met and made friends with my best friend, who is still my best friend all these years later (you know who you are ;). Unfortunately, we didn’t go to the same school until later, so I went through high school with the same situation, but again, was able to have some stability in my final year. Now in post-secondary education, I still deal with those same confidence issues and have trouble making friends. I have learned to focus on the quality of my existing friendships instead of trying to increase them by number, and this really helps.
How has your disability changed throughout your life?
Cerebral palsy is supposed to be a non-progressive condition, but I have noticed an increase in pain and a decrease in physical ability as I have gotten older. I attribute to the constant stress spasticity is putting on my muscles and joints. There are treatments to help with this, however, and ultimately, the nature of CP is such that it requires a lifelong commitment to taking care of your body.
How will things change for people with disabilities?
Honestly, I don’t know. In this case, I believe that change must begin at the root of the problem, and, in my opinion, that is the subtle ableism practiced by society every day. Until attitudes change and this problem resolved, it will be very hard to implement the larger-scale changes needed in order for disabled people to live in a world without any type of barriers. I think the small steps are important and something worth our attention.
If you believe in God, does that help you deal with having Cerebral Palsy?
Yes, I do. The main thing that I keep in mind on a daily basis in helping me deal with CP is that, as Muslims, we believe that God does not burden a soul with more than it can bear (referenced in chapter 2, verse 86 of the Quran). For me, this helps me acknowledge two things: 1. I am really strong. I know this because of everything I’ve been through in the past and dealing with a lot of challenges in my day-to-day life. Yes, I have become accustomed to them, but that doesn’t make them any less significant. They matter and they always will, because I will be dealing with them for life. 2. I have the ability to make through it anything (with the help of God). Even when I feel like I can’t handle things anymore, I just remember the truth of this verse, and try to think of the situation as God wanting to show me how strong I am because I doubted my own abilities but if I trust in Him, He will help me and reveal the strengths I never thought I had.
If there were a pill or cure for Cerebral Palsy, would you take it?
I feel like I am supposed to say “No, and I never would”, but if I am being completely honest with myself, I don’t know. I have dealt with physical challenges of cerebral palsy my entire life, and because they are familiar to me, I feel like I can handle them just fine. But, the truth is, living in a world that was not built for me and in societies that marginalize me can be exhausting. I know my life will be filled with barriers, and my intersectional identity will make them harder to overcome. I feel like there would be a breaking point that would push me to do it if it existed, purely out of frustration with society’s ableism. But doing that would be like stripping away a huge part of who I am. And drawing on my response to the previous question, I know I am strong enough to handle it all. It gets more complicated the more I think about it, but now I’m leaning more towards no. I’m still not sure what I would decide.