I know. According to me there is no god. But that does not stop us from learning lessons laid out in religious texts. Jihad, is not just about mental mullahs issuing Jihad upon, well let’s not go there. Jihad is also a personal struggle.

Whilst working in the hostels I had some Muslim clients, mostly they were more concerned about finding somewhere to live than religious practice and most were unsurprisingly disaffected. A few though believed that they had done something wrong.

They thought deeper religious practice and study would once again grant them god’s favour. One lad started to wear bandanas with guns on them; when asked about this he said casually, “Jihad”. At that time I had little concept of what that might mean and had to defer to another colleague, who just happened to Muslim. He explained that his Jihad was not to defend the faith, but to find a home and a job.

Today I went to the Stroke Group, where people who are rehabilitating after strokes go to erm, rehabilitate. They usually learn how to do creative things, mostly simple things so that they can a) learn how to use their arms and legs again, b) develop language again and c) re-route any other neural networks that were damaged during the stroke, like memory for example.

It is common for people to dehumanise other people who are “not all there”. Whether that be a physical or mental impairment or like my ex-client a social impairment. Before tragedy struck all of these people were real human beings with real thoughts and emotions and real ideas about the future.

Those thoughts, feelings and ideas did not suddenly go away. When my ex-client became homeless, his family did not just <poof> into thin air, his great school grades did not suddenly slide to a fail, and his future aspirations remained strong in his mind.

There is a tendency for some, to treat people who are rehabilitating as if they are children and avoid difficult conversations. When the group was talking today, one said there was a group for carers and wondered out loud what they did. I said they probably cracked open a few bottles and had a party. Everyone laughed. They live with their carers they know how hard it can get sometimes…

This opened up the flow of conversation somewhat and as people began to chat one man said that he missed sex. Now as a volunteer I can say a little bit more than a paid worker but I still have to maintain good boundaries. I felt so frustrated.

I wanted to tell him that even though he had problems with his physicality and his memory, he still had a wife and children and that I would gladly negotiate terms with any deity going to sacrifice something I had to have a loving partner. I wanted to tell him that even though he joked about not being able to jump off wardrobes anymore, he had an opportunity to connect with his wife in a different way.

And probably more meaningful and more satisfying at that. I wanted to explain that penetration was not the be all and end all of a sexual relationships. I wanted to reassure him that one day, he would experience an orgasm again, even if the ‘traditional’ parts of the brain had been damaged. Mostly, I wanted to soothe him and say, you are not broken. You are merely learning how to reconnect with your life.

Jihad, is a personal struggle and ultimately that struggle is to lead a more authentic way of life, free from evil and suffering and persecution. His is clearly to come to terms with his new life and to learn gratitude for what remains of his old life, in order to say to people who think he is any less of a man, “What!? You think there is something wrong with me, have you looked in a mirror recently?”

My Jihad? I’m still working that one out.

What’s yours?

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