I’m sitting here now writing this article, after having just finished Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. It’s a book that has affected me so deeply while reading it, more than any other novel has.
Though the plot of Crime and Punishment is interesting and has many surprises, I’d argue knowing its spoilers are not that detrimental to the enjoyment of reading it. Rather, the journey of Raskolnikov and his mind throughout its pages is where the novel really shines. That being said, I will spoil the book below in order to discuss my reflections on it, so reader’s discretion is advised!
New Semester, Same Old Struggles Written By: Anonymous
There's a sort of dread that fills my lungs as I prepare myself for the start of a new semester that already feels like it began eons ago. We are two weeks into a semester that I have no idea how to wrap my head around nor how to prepare for, given everything happening in the world and in the microcosm of the worlds we have created in our own minds.
I packed my bags with fresh notebooks and a fully charged laptop, filled my pencil case with new pens of hope and faith that this semester would be different; that I would keep an open, optimistic mind to the endless possibilities of learning that a fresh semester brings with it. I remember, wistfully now, but with great joy looking at the prospect of a blank agenda with pages that I had the permission to draw on in whatever colours, fonts, and styles that I wanted. For a brief moment, I almost believed in the illusion of tabula rasa.
We do not however begin with a blank slate just because the digit at the end of the year changed or because the semester has a whole set of new professors, new classmates and new courses on a completely new schedule. I have been struggling with this for a while because I believed in the magic and miracles of starting things afresh until I realized that we are all creatures of habits. The day, year or semester changing does not indicate true change until we decide to transform ourselves. The thing with self-transformation is though, it is the slowest and most challenging process because even when we are unhappy with our states of affairs, the energy required to change our lives around simply does not exist.
It got me thinking then how someone like me, who has felt like they are ashes scattered to the wind after the emotional, physical and existential burnout of the last semester, needs to evolve their patterns slowly until I build a healthier lifestyle. I am now working to understand myself better, understand my capacities better and also show myself grace and compassion to allow myself to make mistakes. This has been extremely challenging for me because I have often turned to others to show me empathy when I myself fall into a self-deploring cycle of anger and exhaustion.
A video I watched a while ago helped me remember that I am responsible for replacing new, desirable habits with old, unhelpful habits to build new patterns. Habits essentially are decisions that I no longer have to manually make, because the patterns leading up to those behaviours have become automatic through practice. I began to make a list of habits I want to include in my life and habits that were detrimental to me and started making an intention to work on what I could. Intention has been at the heart of my evolution because it connects me to Allah SWT and centers me in the accountability that Allah SWT cares and He is watching over me as Ar-Raqeeb (The All-Observing).
I am scaling an upwards Everest in this pursuit but reframing has been pivotal to my experience of the semester. I am realizing that the change I have been miraculously hoping for has to come from within and as a function of the changes I intentionally make in my own life and mindset. This is not an easy journey but I hold onto the faith that it is worthwhile and necessary if we hope to have sustainability in our own lives as we brace ourselves against the violence we see happening in the world. It is not an easy feat to carry on with normalcy when there is no such thing as 'normal' in the current sociopolitical climate. I pray that everyone has a fruitful and successful semester and that the troubles of the world, both on a personal and global level evaporate by His infinite mercy, Ameen!
The Success Story of a 12th Fail Written by: Anonymous
"Success is not final. Failure is not fatal; It is the courage to continue that counts."— Winston Churchill
Whether or not Winston Churchill is a quotable man, is a debate for another day. There is, however, something about this quote that speaks to the resilience that we have to develop in the face of failure — an almost persistent stubbornness and 'delusion' about the conviction of good things happening to us that I think is based in tawakkul (complete trust in Allah SWT) and qadr (Allah's SWT decree). Having watched 12th Fail twicerecently, I am reminded again and again of this quote and the idea that no matter how much we think a failure on our record is fatal or permanent, there is so much life and so many experiences that we are yet to transform through and grow from.
12th Failis a Bollywood movie based on the true story of Manoj Kumar Sharma, assayed by Vikrant Massey and his journey to becoming an IPS officer in India, which is an extremely rigorous and competitive process. His story begins with his life in a small village where the teachers and village leaders plot together to help the students cheat and pass their final exams so that they can improve the village's literacy rate. He, himself, writes out several cheat sheets in preparation for this exam but this well-thought out conspiracy is foiled by an honest and diligent officer whose stature and power impress Manoj. From the officer, Manoj learns that if he wants to accomplish anything in his life, he must give up cheating and he does. He fights through all the challenges and hurdles that life throws at him, braves with courage the hardships he faces and masters the art of diligence and resilience.
It might feel strange to read about a Bollywood movie and non-Muslim characters on a Muslim blog but there were so many lessons that are relevant to us as students as we pursue our academic journeys that I found it important to share these reminders with our community.
There is a point in the movie where Manoj is at a crossroads and his last attempt of achieving his goal and he gets asked what he will do if he fails even on his last attempt as that would indicate that his dream of becoming an IPS officer would falter. He very wisely and brilliantly replies that the goal was never to become an IPS officer, that was just the path he chose to eliminate corruption and cheating in his village because he was inspired by the command that officer had through his position. What a beautiful way to cope with the rejections, failures and hardships that grace our path — to see them as redirections and as means to an end. If we place our trust in Allah SWT, we can see the falling apart as an indication of falling into place where He so chooses to place us.
Another lesson I learnt from Manoj was to keep your friends close on your journey. They are the ones who celebrate your achievements as their own, who add joy to your happiness, who partake in your blessings and who ensure that you are not alone in the hurdles that come on your path. There are several scenes where Manoj almost gives up hope, calls it quits and forsakes his Personal Legend but then his friends step in and rekindle his passion for his path.
At the same time, this gruelling, heart-exhausting energy that is required to endure the obstacles of our destiny reminds me of the fulfillment of Allah's SWT qadr whereby no matter how much we try to let things go, or get things done, they will not happen until Allah SWT says "kun fayakun" (Be, and it is). This became especially salient for me as I became skeptical of my journey in my program, feeling out of place, unsure, not getting the grades I worked so hard for and doubting my choices. I then turned to Manoj's example and resonated with the idea that Allah SWT is the one writing our destiny and that He has intended the best for us in all of our endeavours; that there is purpose in this placement and it is my job to be grateful, work hard and let the path unfold itself to me.
There are plenty of lessons and things to celebrate in this warm, artistic film that touches so close to the human heart and sentiments. May Allah SWT ensure our semester is a smashing success across all disciplines and fields and trajectories. Ameen!
The gates of Firdaus calling my name Allah overseeing my fame My palette saturating my parents with happiness My dreams being birthed at the end of this labour The sweet fruit of my patience My sweat tearing through the boulders of fear Failure as a wingman for success Faith as the pearled wings to carry me to new zeniths.