Names are an Identity

“Answer”, “Star”, “Onstar”. Everyone struggled to pronounce my name properly, and for most of my life I did not care what they called me. In fact, it was nice to be called nicknames. It was nice to hide behind a name that did not have meaning or weight or stereotype . It was nice to have a cloak of ambiguity. But names have value. Names have power. My name is Ansaar. It is not just a string of six letters, it means more than that. Ansaar (anṣār) is an Arabic word derived from the root letters Na (ن), Sa (ص), and Ra (ر) meaning Friend. As a child, my family moved around frequently, living in four different states and going to numerous different schools in a short period of time. This constant change and lack of continuity affected my personality and how I perceived myself. By the time I reached high school, I was struggling to anchor myself onto who I was and who I wanted to be. My sense of self was lost with no home to tether it to. I was a singular balloon drifting from place to place, friend to friend, identity to identity. I began to reject my background and heritage to fit in. I decided to be called by names that were not mine and as I accepted those nicknames; so too did I forgo my culture. As high school progressed, I began to search for myself. I began this search the summer after sophomore year, when I was able to go to a camp in Maryland by the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA). This is where I was able to find my own identity. I created bonds with other Muslims that were going through the same struggles I was. Muslims that had to balance the strict demands from immigrant parents, constant stress of relatives for religious integrity and morality, coupled with the increasing social pressures of being a high school student in an age where fitting in and being mainstream is a must. I met people from all different ethnic backgrounds, that ,as an Indian Muslim, my parents had not surrounded me with. There, I found my identity through people who did not look like me but were more similar to me than anyone before. I began to embrace my ethnicity and religion. My identity was finally becoming what it was meant to be. I had a deep understanding and appreciation for the place I came from and the faith I believe in. My name had started to carry more weight in my eyes than it did before.

Names are an identity. My identity is unique and different, and my name reflects that. People perceive me differently because of my name. People who know me understands that I am a helper when they need me, a supporter when they are vulnerable, and a shoulder to lean on. I strive to become a physical embodiment of Ansaar - the friend.