UW Lecture Offers Night of Self-refection

Mouna Algahaithi, Managing Editor

On Oct. 2, Yasmin Mogahed returned to her hometown to speak to the Muslim Student Association of University of Wisconsin- Madison. Mogahed received her bachelor’s in Psychology as well as her Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University, and is now an international speaker, writer, author of the book Reclaim Your Heart, and Islamic professor at AlMaghrib Institute in California, well-known for her spiritual and personal development lectures.

Her brief lecture on-campus was titled A Night of Self-Reflection: Elevate and inspired students to shift their perspectives on the state of sadness and it’s purpose in every person’s lives. Around 40 students listened closely as she discussed the Islamic school system, similar to the Christian version of a Sunday School, in which young students, from very early ages, were taught words such as haram (forbidden) or jahanam (hell-fire) rather than learning about the “mercy of God” and His Divine Attributes, and the message this sends to young Muslim children.

She provided an example of a police officer as God and a child. If every time our child did something bad, and we told them the big, powerful police officer was going to “get him”, would the child want to ever meet the police officer, she proposed. “If you mess up, are you going to want a relationship with the police? We use religion to control our children, out of fear,” she explained.

She encouraged parents and teachers alike to act as trainers, and instead of encouraging the youth of the Islamic community to not ever fall, she said they must teach their children how to get back up after they fall. These same ideas could be applied to non-Muslim students as well, through the lens of dependency or attachment to certain ideals.

Mogahed also spoke about religious extremes often heard in more conservative Muslim communities, such as “faith protects you from sadness”. Mogahed argued that this assertion be changed to acknowledge “our imperfections as human beings”, and to not cut off any emotions that are naturally occuring throughout the ups-and-downs of life.

“Faith protects you from despair,” she stated, “not from being human. Hardening your heart and numbing yourself is not equivalent to being strong.”

Mogahed stressed the importance of shifting focus when one finds themselves in a state of hopelessness because, “what we focus on grows”. She challenged every student in the audience to self-reflect as she talked about the corrupt systemic ideology of “being a good person means being perfect… Our emphasis on perfection is a precursor for despair” because we’re designed to make mistakes. The difference between despair and sadness, is that sadness is a coping mechanism, she said, whereas despair results in hopelessness and is not productive.

She concluded her talk by discussing the difference between shame and remorse. She said that the latter is healthy and encourages one to make up for whatever they’ve done, unlike the former, which motivates individuals to give up. “We live in the past too much. It needs to be a point of reference, not residence,” she quoted, before opening up her discussion to a Q & A.