People Pleaser

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


ashieBee said…
well done, sha!!! speaking up in public is not easy kan? i hate itt :P heheheheh.

and yesss, charity can be given in any form. i might not have alot of money to be given away but because what i normally do is those items i have yg dah more than a year tak pakai and still in good condition, i'll donate them away. if you don't want to use it, someone else might be able to make full use of them, kan?

takecareee **hugs**
Great speech! I have a fear of public speaking and always hated when I had to give speeches in class, which seemed like a weekly thing. It got a bit easier with time, but my face still flushes and I get a bit tongue tied when I dont have notes in front of me. Congrats on getting through the speech and doing a great job!
Smart CoOKie said…
Oh I love your speech mashallah. You brought up such an important issue and introduced the brilliant Islamic solution to non-Muslims. God bless you dear.

I personally love giving speeches and writing them. So much fun. But I almost always feel nervous five minutes before I present. But it goes away except if there is a scary freaky person in the audience who's there to judge and grade me LOL.
Almaz said…
It's true that you can't please everyone.

One should do her best to only please herself, her family & those who matters to him/her.

After all, Acceptance is a part of Compromise.
Anonymous said…
Assalamu alaikum Shahirah :o),

I enjoyed very much reading your speech.If there's one thing that Islam thaught me is to be good toward people in need.Giving charity in any form can bring you so much happiness.Even a smile,as you said can help.
I also wanted to congratulate you on talking in public.It's not an easy thing to do,but I'm very sure that people really received a lot from your speech and your persona.You must have inspired so many hearts...and that all in Allah's name :).Bravo!
Kiss,kiss sweety =)!
Shahirah Elaiza said…
ashieBee: Thanks hun. Yes, public speaking always makes me feel a little nervous no matter what! Ooh that reminds me, I have to donate some of my clothes too! But how do I separate from my 'babies'? lol!

Rene: Thank you!~ Oh yeah, I remember as kids we had to do impromptu speeches every week. The teacher would ask us to pick a topic out of a box and we'd have to come up with stuff to say there and then. Great way of building confidence for kids =)

SmartCookie: I love that you enjoy writing and giving speeches. People like you are very rare! lol

here and there: I hope that I left a positive impression on them because there are just so many misunderstandings and misconceptions about Muslims in the West.

Almaz: Good point. Acceptance is part of a compromise.

Jasmina: Long time no see missy. Missed you!
Maryam said…
If you speak just as well as you blog, I'm confident that you did a great job :)

And whaddya know. I'm writing an essay for a scholarship this very moment on the exact same topic. (Solutions related to faith to address poverty).

Alhamdulillah, way to go Shae ;)
Great speech, Shahirah!
And AGREED, if you blog as great as you said the speech, then BAM, you must've done fantastic.
Shahirah Elaiza said…
Maryam: Hope your essay went well! Allah ma3aki sis.

Under Urooba's Umbrella! : I was nervous but alhamdulillah I think I did okay =) Thank you!