Living Life Beyond the Abyss of the Unknown: Imam Daayiee Abdullah / by Mahdia Lynn

To Muslim Youth Everywhere,

To imagine, 50 years ago when I was 13 years of age, knowing since I was a

very young child of four years that I was very different from most of the

other boys I grew up around, as I stood at the abyss of the unknown of

being gay, the overriding question was “How do I get from here to there?”

Though I was at peace within, society’s response from religious institutions,

their followers that included members of my community, some members of

my family, and even those who I would have called my friends, provided a

deluge of negative opinions as to what I was (an abomination, a freak, an

oddity) and where I was headed (to a life of horrors, loneliness, and hell).

Thankfully, I had always been the type of person who didn’t believe

everything I heard – even what I saw – and would do my own research in

order to better understand what I was facing as a young person in the world

controlled by adults.

 

Additionally, I was a rather precocious child, always asking questions to

those who appeared to be in the know, and sometimes given a quick shift

and dismissal proving they didn’t know; but far more frequently I would get

a response that usually lead to deeper conversations with those who were

older and more experienced in life and living. As I reflect on some of those

conversations with mostly men, but numerous women are also included in

the number of mentors that helped me, provided the light of knowledge for

my path forward – “Keep on living”, “keep some of your love for yourself

and don’t give it all away”, “give without expectation of return”, and “be less

judgmental of yourself and others”. Yes, these are examples of the various

“candles of light” that were shared with me at different stages of my

teenage and young adult life, and each one burned bright and lit my path

forward along the way. As I entered into full adulthood, I was able to look

back over the road I had taken, noting I had crossed a great distance and I

found pleasure and joy in knowing that not giving up was a renewable

strength that one has to maintain.

 

Adulthood held similar challenges, however, having learned a number of

lessons that had become tools – and the future challenges helped me hone

them well – only to my developing bigger, better and more useful of

compassion, mercy and discernment, tools that have assisted me for

decades to follow. And As I am entering my senior years – and I must say,

some of the best years – I again look back over my path now of several

decades and those words continue to ring true; “Keep on living, having love

for yourself, and be less judgmental of yourself and others” have made the

difference in my life, and I’m sure for some of you, they will be useful tools

for you too. Yes, I know, these may appear to be platitudes for some, but

they may become insights to greater wisdom for others – and only time will

tell your story of living life beyond the abyss of the unknown.

 

As one grows and seeks to understand who they are as a person among

people, some experiences may appear devastating at the time. Yet, as one

grows through and past those events, it doesn’t seem as difficult a time

when one is in-the- midst-of- it-all. Of course, this is not to say that I did not

have experiences that shattered my confidence in myself and confidence in

others, but it allowed me the space to fail, sulk, lick my wounds, forgive

myself and others, and to rise again energized to move forward. You’ve

probably heard someone say, and quite often in the song or two, that they

have seen the highs and lows and back again, to have loved and lost and

learn to love again, to know that things are not as valuable as the

intangibles of life, and that nobody gets out of life alive…those words speak

to experiences and it is the quality of life that is so important in assessing

our paths as he reach life’s end. This is not to say one should give up

because life has become difficult – actually, I am saying the opposite – that

life becomes more worthwhile and one learns they are worthy of living better

lives after having those experiences that challenged us.

 

Finally, I will agree with many young people that there are older people who

appear to just not get it. I’m in total agreement with you perspectives

because there are some people – regardless of their age – that don’t get it.

Although there are many pathways and many life experiences that challenge

one’s circumstances – at some point in life – there were probably times

when they felt whatever they tried to do was not enough to reach their

aspirations and dreams. Keeping it real, as some would say, recognizing

that reality is a very important teacher, which requires us to evaluate

ourselves over and over again, when one learns those lessons well, one can

look back – whether as victors or not – and see that our paths provided a

kaleidoscope of light and movement, reflecting our choices, and for some

delighting us along the way. Look for the light and delight in the choices we

have made and continue to make.

 

One of the ways in which I found the inner strength I needed when times

and circumstances appeared to be insurmountable, by going within and

seeking my quiet time with my Creator – and I kid you not that requires a

lot of personal work – my reservoir of light in my ability to “keep on living”

slowly but surely moved me forward. So, when times appeared to be the

darkest, remember that at the darkest moment there will be the light of

dawn, and know that a new day has come – so live it to find out what that

day has to offer you. And at some time in the future while reflecting on your

times, I hope you find the smile in your heart and say, it’s not all that bad

after all.