Humble Beginnings: A random thought of mine

Obama Supreme Court

As I have been watching the news coverage about supreme court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor, I have been asking myself a few questions. These questions have persisted since the media first caught wind of her selection by President Obama and began covering it incessantly.

I wonder: how does someone who comes from such humble beginnings- raised by a single parent, grew up in the projects, diagnosed with childhood diabetes and so on- rise to become a Supreme Court Justice (because, insha’allah, she has this one in the bag). What kind of mentoring, ambition, drive, motivation and mostly certainly, help from Allah (s.w.t.) must it have taken? I am not just thinking about her though. I wonder about the Barack and Michelle Obamas, the Dr. Rameck Hunts, Dr. Sampson Davis’, Dr. George Jenkins’, or the Dr. Mae Jemisons of the world. Where does the motivation come from?

I may not be famous or have done as tremendous of a job as the aforementioned folks but I have come a long way from where I was. I grew up poor. I was around people that were addicted to using and selling drugs, prostituting, murdering one another, who placed little value on education or morality etc. As a child I remember thinking that I wanted more out of life. I had (and still have) a fire burning inside of me that pushes me forward. This fire (which is really drive and ambition) came only from Allah (s.w.t.) Is it the same fire that each of these folks have burning inside of them too? I wonder…

And what of folks who have seemingly given up? Did they lack the ambition? Did life, circumstance, self-doubt or complacency pull them down?

What do you think?

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16 responses to “Humble Beginnings: A random thought of mine

  1. Maybe America can manifest its ancestral claim… That folks can be whatever they choose no matter where they come from. Rather than it’s currents manifestation… “In Money we Trust.”

  2. How about this:

    “Everyone has been made for some particular work, and the desire for that work has been put in every heart.”
    ~Rumi

    🙂

    I do think that for people that have seemingly “given up”, many factors would affect them – like you stated: life, circumstances, self-doubt, etc.

  3. Salaams!

    I think a huge variable is the role of parenting or other mentors. I read somewhere that P. Diddy’s mom worked day and night and devoted her entire life to him. She took in jobs like ironing in order to provide for him.

    I also grew up in the projects, in Harlem. I made huge mistakes in my life, but they were mine. I knew better. The foundation I had from parents and family helped me to put it together when I decided to stop playing around.

  4. Yeah, I think mentors is one of the most important factors outside of self-motivation (which can sometimes be negatively affected by circumstances). Studies have shown that headstart (free/reduced pre-school for poor kids) doesn’t benefit kids past the third grade and after that they perform on the level of peers. The reason is believed to be that their circumstances and what people expect start to effect them. The Pygmalian effect shows that if you expect much of people they deliver, little and they deliver. While headstart doesn’t work, another program that was experimental did. In this program kids got free pre-school, but they also got a mentor who checked up on them through the fourth or fifth grade, this program was highly successful (but cancelled while headstart remains). In a situation where those around you have low aspirations, the people who make the best living are drug dealers as oppose to those who work two jobs and can barely make it, and even teachers expect nothing of you, mentors can make a huge difference and convince you your dreams are not stupid or unrealistic.

  5. As Salaamu Alaikum Sis,

    I look at what my Umm and Nana did to provide for me and my brother and compare it to what I am doing to provide for my son now; being able to give my child options in life is what motivates me, as well as molding him Islamicially. He will be someone’s husband and father someday (Insha-Allah) and I have a responsibility to ensure that he is raised right! I work full-time, as well as consult on the side to ensure that I can pay for his educational costs.

    I was raised that college was NOT an option for me but a MUST and I instill the same thing in my son. Reading is something that must be done in my home; TV is a treat and a very rare one at that. I think if we all look back, our parents put time into us and made sure that we had bounderies; God, was also a fixture in most of our homes.

    The blessing of free will is something that we all must consider and praise Allah for. I think seeing peers become pregnant and resort to alcohol and drugs is what kept me straight with my head in the books, aside from my Umm and Nana looming with a switch or a belt! Smile………

  6. Sister Seeking,Miriam

    And what of folks who have seemingly given up? Did they lack the ambition? Did life, circumstance, self-doubt or complacency pull them down?

    What do you think?
    ___________________________________________

    Salaam’Alaikum Sister

    :–)

    I believe that some people are more resilient than others.
    I’d also like to add I think you’re courageous for sharing anything about your beginnings online! LOL

    Salaams

    • Sister Seeking, my experience is a part of who I am. No shame in sharing it. At least that’s how I see it. Right now I’m reading a book about the companions and they came from the most atrocious circumstances. It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately.

  7. Sister Seeking,Miriam

    Wa alaykum salaam sister,

    You said: “Right now I’m reading a book about the companions and they came from the most atrocious circumstances. It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately.”

    OMG! :–)

    A very ***dear*** friend of mine was discussing this very issue with me the other day! Wow! She was explaining the biography’s of the mothers of the four classical jurists. Returning to the value of resilience, these women definitely understood the concept of jihad or spiritual warfare. At one point sister, I always *assumed* that these types of spiritual warfare attacks were psychological, social, or even political. But after living a tad bit of life, I’ve come to see that spiritual warfare attacks come in all shapes, and sizes—including ones circumstances, life style, and the people you have in your life. Based off, what I understood from my girl friend, Imam Malik’s mother in particular seemed to have made a decision, and wasn’t playing! When I reflect on her story ( as narrated via phone by a friend lol) I think the she had nia, made a decision, and didn’t allow her circumstances to attack or rather break her spirit.

    ***Awesome****

    You said: “Sister Seeking, my experience is a part of who I am. No shame in sharing it. At least that’s how I see it.”
    Of course one shouldn’t be ashamed of their beginnings! In my mind, it’s not where you came from that matters, it’s where you end up: mentally, spiritually, and physically. During my few years of blogging I specially shared personal details about getting help after my mother died from a long, hard, and painful breast cancer fight. Jamerican, when I was foster child, I had nearly EVERYONE tell me: “You’re crazy, and stupid just like your mom, you aren’t going anywhere in life.” And so on, and so forth. Spiritual warfare or jihad is definitely real!

    If I don’t pass by again soon, I hope you, and your loved ones have a wonderful Ramadan, and a Happy Eid!

  8. JAM,

    Would you mind mentioning the title of the book that you are reading? Sounds really good.

    • Samira, It’s actually a historical fiction book about the life of Aisha (r.a.) but it gives some insight into the former lifestyles of the companions. It’s called Mother of the Believers and it’s written by Kamran Pasha.

  9. Hey did you read the opinion piece Kamran Pasha wrote concerning his book “Mothers of the Believers” in Altmuslimah and his follow up comments which were rude, sexist, and patriarchal?

    • Aliyah, I read the comments on Altmuslimah. I still think his book is a worthy read. I am not suggesting that it is 100% fact but it does help me to visualize the historical context the Prophet (s.a.w.) and his companions came out of. To be quite honest, I find some parts of it problematic but again, it has its useful points. 😉

  10. Sister, it says in the Qur’an “You cannot will unless He wills it” so in Islamic thought one stage in your spiritual development comes when you stop attributing your good deeds to yourself and realize that again as the Qura’n says, “All that is good comes from Allah and all that is bad from your own selves”. That is understood to be a reference to your self in its unpurified state, when it is your “evil-commanding” self. “And those succeed who purify it,” by fasting and prayer and contemplation of the signs of Allah, etc. We Muslims believe in qadar or destiny and our free will is there but very limited. We do not know in what state our self will be at the point of death, so we must be very wary of self-congratulation. When we do something good or someone tells us we did something good, we should say “alhamdullilah.” For the same reason, of course, the circumstances of your life (at any time and whether they are good or bad) are not in any way “part” of you. You are not to blame for them and you are not to be congratulated for them. He can give you great tests or great blessings, and equally take them away in a moment.

  11. “For the same reason, of course, the circumstances of your life (at any time and whether they are good or bad) are not in any way “part” of you. You are not to blame for them and you are not to be congratulated for them.”

    Sis Hatty,

    If we were to follow the logic of your thoughts-particularly the ones quoted above-the concept of free will would be null and void. What I find troubling-is that in trying to prove your point-you leave out other ideas from the Qur’an and Sunnah that contradict what you are saying. For instance-what does it mean in the Qur’an when we are told that Allah will not change a condition of a people until they change themselves?

    I cannot follow your idea that circumstances whether “good or bad” are not a part of you. How is that possible when we are told in the Qur’an that Allah subhana wa ta ala rewards good deeds and punishes for the bad that we do? In fact- the sunnah tells us that it can be a sign of ingratitude to Allah if we are not grateful to others for the good actions they do. This would mean that we are actually encouraged to recognize others-for their hardwork and dedication.

    When I first read Jamerican’s post-knowing that so many folk struggle against seeminly insurmontable odds- I felt a sense of happiness and compassion. It is a shame that in our naysaying and correction of other Muslims we dim the light that is rightfully shining on them b/c of the mercy and blessings of Allah. We also become blind to the unique qualities that some of our brothers and sisters have.

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