Express Yourself! By Wisam Sharieff

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It was a low point. I just suffered a blow in my personal life, and I was trying to grab those pieces and figure out how to move forward. Then, my friend and employer Wisam Sharieff called me up and told me that by some spell or miracle, we were being asked to visit Hawaii together to discuss a work project.

What can I say, Allah is amazing.

In that time, I got to see mountains and oceans I thought I’d never lay eyes on, and I got to spend time with a friend who truly reminds me of Allah. In all the craziness, I found a couple minutes to talk to Wisam about this beautiful project of ours — Muslim Youth Musings.

For a while, we’ve been wanting to do some interviews with some of our well-known teachers to get their perspective on the fundamental idea we strive to champion: the literary expression of Muslim youth.

In this interview, I ask Wisam two simple questions: why should Muslim youth express themselves, and how should they go about it?

Please do watch the video to hear his response with full emotion, but find it transcribed below:

J: So, why should Muslim youth express themselves, through writing or whatever means, and how to do so?

W: So you guys heard the question. You have to understand the first thing when we say “expression,” everyone kinda automatically thinks it has to be “edgy.” So, if I could first say, should Muslims express themselves? Definitely. But please fill in the first gap, or step zero, find out who “myself” is. Find out who you are, you’re not somebody else, you’re not a YouTuber, you’re not acting like someone else. Find out who you are and then please, for the love of Allah (swt), let the world know who you are, because Allah made you completely unique. So whether it’s through [any] medium; I recite, Jawaad writes and makes films, another one our friends, Belal, vlogs. Express yourself. But I’m going to say, then, if you’re a Muslim young person and you’ve found yourself, you could express yourself through art. And it’s gonna seem harsh [to hear], but you could express yourself through song, you could express yourself through photography. But, the most important thing: should you express? Yes. But don’t express in a recorded medium all the time, don’t express just in writing. Express yourself when you meet someone at the airport, or when you see your postman or postwoman, [because] that’s real expression.

So it comes back to the first thing, please find yourself. If that’s gonna come through meditation, or coming to a location where you can find yourself, then do that. But then, how should you express yourself? Remember, that’s gonna come after you answer the first question. But, I’ll give you my one last thing, and I’m sure it’ll be quoted and used, but, I’m ready for the repercussions: ask for forgiveness, not for permission. Do it, a couple people are gonna yell at you, and thousands of people are gonna thank you. So stay within the parameters, stay “kosher,” but ask for forgiveness, not for permission. I think that’ll take you pretty far.

Jawaad Khan was born and raised in sunny South Florida to a family of creatives and Islamic workers. He went on to complete a film degree at the University of Miami, one year of improv classes (which he’s very proud of), and he studied Arabic and Islamic studies at various institutes in Dallas, TX, where he now resides with his wife and cat. He serves on the board and is an editor for Muslim Youth Musings. His debut collection of short stories, titled "No Old Ladies in Jannah" was published in 2023.

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