On Monday I had to give a brief speech about how Islam addresses the issue of poverty at an interfaith dialogue held on campus. I was quite nervous about it because firstly, I was expected to speak about a topic I wasn’t very familiar with, secondly, public speaking isn't really my forte (mainly because I can be so self-conscious) and thirdly, I had to represent my faith.
The last two is what made me most nervous. One of the reasons why I didn't wear hijab in the past is because I didn't want people to get the wrong idea about Islam. I felt and still feel I would never be good enough to represent something so pure. In the West, being a Muslim (publicly) also means you could be under a lot of scrutiny or at least that's just me being very self-conscious. I mean, Islam is already so misunderstood as it is. What if I said something wrong? What if I couldn’t answer during the Q & A session? What if people thought I was a total bore? I mean, the topic of poverty isn’t something that would get many people rushing through the doors despite or rather because how serious of an issue it is.
And so I went to the the dialogue after having only practiced in front of my mirror only 3 times while trying to memorise as much as I could. It was only a 5 to 10 minute speech but anything can go wrong in that duration of time.
I imagined all sorts of embarrassing scenarios like getting tongue tied, tripping over my own foot in front of everyone or having the sudden urge to burp. Something along those lines!
However, a speech was needed and a speech I was willing to deliver. It made me wonder, how do some people give such eloquent and charismatic speeches? Take President Barack Obama for example. During his inauguration he charmed the pants off yours truly and millions of other people around the world. Some people have the innate ability to command attention the moment they speak. On top of that, they can also memorise hour long speeches like it was their second nature... like they were born to be charming, professional speech givers or something. How do these people get over their nerves? Copious amounts of practice or by simply having a stronghold of self-confidence?
How did I get over my nerves? I reminded myself that the reason why I was willing to give the speech in the first place is because I wanted to do something good in God's eyes. Plus it also helped not knowing that I was going to be the first speaker because that meant I didn't have time to sit and dwell on my nervousness.
"And so I introduce to you, Shahirah, the first speaker for today," said Greg, the university's chaplain.
Huh?? Oh me, really? Okay!
I got up there, did my thing and before I knew it my speech was signed, sealed and delivered and people told me that they liked it, alhamdulillah. At the beginning of that day I slightly regretted that I had put myself in a situation where I would get all stressed and nervous but by the end of the day I was glad that I had the opportunity to share with non-Muslims a thing or two about Islam and Muslims. Muslim women can think for themselves and they most definitely do have a voice... a voice that Muslim men or men in general sometimes try to silence because of their personal male ego-trips.
What's the moral of today's story? If you try to please others, you'll find that the task feels daunting and never-ending but if you try to please God, He will help you, He will be pleased and He'll make others be pleased with you anyway. So know your priorities in life. One of the reasons why I wanted to wear hijab is because I felt tired of trying to put up with people's superficial expectations of myself. I just wanted to do the right thing and be a better Muslim because life is truly a gift from God...not people.
Curious about my speech? You can read it below thanks to Scribd.
Poverty and Islam