Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ramadan 30: Goodbye to Fasting

September 30, 2008

Dear Ramadan,

Thank you so much for visiting me again this year. You have been a wonderful presence in my life as always. You know, before you came, I was worried if I'd have enough to properly honor you. Then, I came to remember how you are a very gracious guest who always gifts those fasting with special insight and fortitude.

I know we had our problems. I wasn't always as patient as I'd like to be, especially with those in my home who weren't fasting. Inshahallah, all my fasts will be accepted. I did what I could each day and next year, inshahallah, I hope to participate even better.

I want to thank you for really giving me that push I needed to wake for fajr every morning. It has made a positive difference in my life. Every day that starts with the early prayer, ends better that night, alhumdulillah.

Reading Quran has been so wonderful as well, alhumdulillah. It's kept me centered through all the changes. Today, I looked at the binding and realized that I was EXACTLY half way through. Subhanallah. In the past, I stopped reading Quran and gave up about half way through Ramadan. So, it's a better way this year and inshahallah for years to come. Every habit truly begins with a first step.

I did not go once to the masjid, though I did pray with others a couple of times. I did share iftar a few times with other Muslims, and with my mother almost every night.

I won't say it was easy to live in a non-Muslim household during Ramadan. It wasn't. There was no one to share suhour. There was no one who understood my quiet at the end of the day. Bouts of anger fell on me harder (but alhumdulillah hurt me less).

It was however a time when I could really share a bit of Islam with my mother through my actions. She could see how I observed my days and could accept a date to help me break the fast every night. With all the blessings I received during Ramadan, she could also share in the knowledge of The Glory of God. Alhumdulillah.

I felt, thanks to you Ramadan, more able to cast away the bad, dirty, and stupid in my life. I didn't want to ruin our time together, so I cleaned up my act in order to be with you more fully. I hope that, once you leave, I can keep those evils at bay. I will miss the clarity I've had since you've been here. I have a feeling that I'll loose some of that bit by bit until your next visit.

Last year, astragferallah, I did nothing---not one good thing---for Layla tul Qadr.

This year, I did Taraweah at home for every possible Night of Power. Alhumdulillah. It was what I wished to do better since last year, when I felt so ashamed of my actions. Alhumdulillah, that I was given another chance with you.

How about next year? Can we set a date? I'd love to spend more time with you, Ramadan. You mean so much to me. Without you, I just wouldn't be Muslim.

Thank You,

Yosra

p.s. Inshahallah, you don't mind me sharing my time with you on my blog.

Monday, September 29, 2008

EID AL-FITR on Tuesday or Wednesday

EID AL-FITR
TO BE
ON
?
There is some confusion because Saudi and other countries are ending today and celebrating tomorrow while Egypt, Maylaysia, Europe and North America are having one more day of fasting.
Our Islamic scholars in America over at ISNA tell us Wedneday.
Our Muslim Assocation in Minnesota tells us tomorrow.
Sigh...
I hate this part of Ramadan.

Ramadan 29: Build Your Nest


Allah will work wonders in your life.
This Spring, I thought I was falling. Then, I took a walk and looked out over the lake. There were birds in the air and I thought, "I'm not falling. I'm flying." It was a verse from Quran that I was thinking of.
Turns out that Buzz Lightyear has the same thought in the movie Toy Story.
Allah will hold you aloft, that is so true. But in order to be in this miraculous state, you need to trust. You need to leave the nest and spread your wings AND possibly fail. I have failed. I have failed so many times it isn't funny...or maybe it is! With every failure, there has been fear that I was falling, only to feel that I was safe with Ar-Razzaq, The Sustainer.
The birds in the air do need to fly out and they do need to fly back. In between they must find what they need to build their nest. This idea is what keeps me busy. Sure, Allah sustains all of us, but we have to do our part.
Do your best and leave the rest. Leave the rest to Allah.
It's worked for me this Ramadan.
It's not too late to ask Allah for what you need.
May Allah hear the contents of your heart and enable you to fly so you can build your nest.

Ramadan 28: Remember the Poor


This is the first Ramadan blog I am writing at the end of the fast, rather than at the beginning. My brain is fuzzier, my mouth dry, my energy waning.

It is good, however, to remember that many, many people all over the globe face this moment without adequate food or clean water.

Last night, my mother said to me, "I don't understand why mothers of small children are forced to fast!"

She had seen that I was struggling a bit as I was preparing the salad for our plentiful meal. I told her, "Because Mom, if I never felt that hunger, I would never really know how it feels for the mothers who cannot break any fast. They have to prepare food for their children while they themselves starve."

I saw her face fall. It hit home.

We are always going to err on being a human race of individuals and through Islam we remember to stop running away from our responsibilities towards those lagging behind.

I get this good feeling from starting my fast and from ending my fast. Alhumdulillah.

Astragferallah for our brothers and sisters with whom we have not shared our blessings.

One of my favorite stories of the Sahabi, the companions of Prophet Mohammed (pbuh), is that of a companion inviting a traveler to his home. I hope I get this right, and if you know the story better, please let me know.

The man was invited to the home by the husband, of course who did so without checking with his wife first. That hasn't changed! So, he shows up and surprises his wife who has to pull her hubby aside and whisper, "We don't have enough for ourselves!"

What to do?

They could have sent him away with some excuse.

They could have given him a meager amount.

Instead, the couple devised a plan. They kept their home darkened, set the table, and proceeded to have a meal with the stranger friend. The husband and wife enjoyed their time with him; their hands all going from plate to their mouths again and again. Only, the couple held nothing in their hands and ate not a crumb. They only pretended to eat so their hospitality could be extended and their food shared.
Subhanallah! The Sahabi were among the best of believers.

What about us? As I go to break my fast, please think of those in need tonight.

May Allah loosen the purse strings of those in the world who are killing themselves from eating too much and give to those who are dying from having none.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Ramadan 27: Gratitude


We take so much for granted.

One day, long ago, before my reversion to Islam, I thought about the world differently, after playing Donkey Kong. Yes, inspiration comes from the most unlikely of places. Donkey Kong had just come out with a new version that had better graphics. It was so cool! Very 3D in its feel! I had thought, while playing, that it sure was an awesome little world that had been created.

Later, when I was on a walk with my kids, I thought in my mind, "What if I looked at the world like it was designed as a virtual reality video game?"

All of a sudden the world opened up to me as never before. I saw the world as this amazing creation. Sure, it's easy to see a beautiful butterfly and think that. But, I was seeing the attention to detail in tree bark and in the way the light turned into shadow coming through the leaves on the tree. It was like I was on drugs...I think...as my perceptions were all heightened in that moment. I perceived the Glory of God in the world around me.
Look at this flower in the photograph. While the artwork at the beginning of this posting was very nice, it cannot compare in the least to this flower.
Subhanallah!

It's one thing to enjoy all the world has to offer rather than to enjoy all God has to offer. For sure, there are many atheists who could take a walk around the lake and be pleased with what they see. For a believer in The Creator, all that visual pleasure, and all that satiates our senses, brings us to the conclusion that God is the Greatest! Allahu akbar! Feeling the Power of God is even better than feeling the power of the sun or the wind, or feeling the tug at your heart when you see a mama duck with her babies.
And everything, everything, everything comes from Allah. See it, feel it, acknowledge it AND then be thankful for it. It's the last part which often gets forgotten. We forget to keep remembrance of Allah.

"What a great day!"

"Sure is!"

And cut! Scene over!

Is that a conversation between two Muslims? Could be! Don't know. Did they remember Allah?

No. Should they? Well, they really could so easily.

Take two!

"Subhanallah! What a great day!"

Today, it is a great day for you. I don't know what the weather is like where you are. I don't know where you are going to go, or what you're going to see. What I do know is that the presence of God will surround you at every nanosecond. Certainly, God doesn't need our thanks but we do certainly, need to thank God.


"Sure is spectacular weather! Alhumdulillah!


And cut! It's a wrap!

Memorizing Quran


Tonight I've been doing something I haven't done in a long time.
I've been memorizing Quran.


I saw surah 103 Al-Asr and it just hit me as especially beautiful tonight.


103 Time and Age Al-'Asr: Makki

In the name of Allah, most benevolent, ever-merciful.


TIME AND AGE are witness

2. Man is certainly loss,

3. Except those who believe, and do good and enjoin truth on one another, and enjoin one another to bear with fortitude (the trials that befall).

I got my transliterated text in front of me, which you can get from

http://www.transliteration.org/quran/home.htm


103) Sūrat Al-`Aşr

Wa Al-`Aşri
'Inna Al-'Insāna Lafī Khusrin

'Illā Al-Ladhīna 'Āmanū Wa `Amilū Aş-Şāliĥāti Wa Tawāşaw Bil-Ĥaqqi Wa Tawāşaw Biş-Şabri


Then, I put the recorded recitation on loop and spent about a half an hour saying it again and again.


You can find reciters all over the internet. Here's one site:




I lift my pinky finger on my right hand while saying the first line, the my right hand's ring finger for the seond finger, and so on. This surah only has three lines. Connecting with your body as you learn helps it stick in your memory.


I only stopped once I could say the surah at the same rate of speed as the reciter without looking at the screen.


This is one way to memorize. Inshahallah, you will find a way to learn more before Ramadan is done.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ramadan 26: Supposed To

.


Tonight I was supposed to fly to Egypt.

That was my plan, but obviously God's plan was different,
for here I am with the job I really wanted, staying amongst family.

Subhanallah! My prediction for my future was very wrong. Only Allah knows the future.

We hear the nightly news on TV and shout out to the kitchen, "Hey! It's supposed to rain tomorrow!"

Is it?

We can predict anything we want to. Sometimes our predictions will be more accurate than others, but often times they will fail.

The only way we can ever be 100% sure of our forecasts for the future is to say, "If God wills it," or "Inshahallah." Then we know we will be right.

I'm always amazed at how pregnant women get fooled into believing their due date. Really? The doctor can tell you exactly when that unborn baby is coming out? Noooo...only Allah knows! Then, when the doctor's prediction turns out to be wrong, there CAN'T be anything wrong about him--there must be something wrong with the baby. Medical interventions, such as pitocin drips and breaking the amniotic fluid sac are done. Why? To show that the doctor has the power and the knowledge, astragferallah.

This study talks about how the average gestational duration of 40 weeks for humans doesn't necessarily mean induction one week past the due date. In fact, their study says, "Many practitioners induce labor in pregnancies that reach 41 weeks; however, our data suggest that routine intervention then would likely increase labor complications (longer labors, increased operative deliveries) with little or no infant benefit."

Can you imagine putting yourself at risk for longer labor and increased chance at a c-section just because some doctor got hung up on his or her prediction? If there is any time you want to give up your pre-conceived notions to God, it's when you're having a baby. The power is with Allah in that moment, for sure.

The power is with Allah all the time actually.

What is it, on this 26th day of Ramadan, that you are holding on to as a must for the future? How are you acting like a weather forecaster or a doctor? I'll admit that I become arrogant at times; thinking that I KNOW what would be best. But I don't know. You don't know.

Only Allah knows.

One thing about praying istakkarah is that the power that you have been trying in vain to hold on to is put back rightfully with Allah. I don't mean you ever held on to the power--that was an illusion. There was the asssumption that you had to know and actually you don't know about the future.

Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) once told his listeners that he would continue the parable of The Cave the next day. Allah sent down this message,

"And never say about anything, 'Behold, I shall do this tomorrow.' without [adding], 'if God so wills.' And if thou shouldst forget [thyself at the time, and become aware of it later], call thy Sustainer to mind and say: 'I pray that my Sustainer guide me, even closer than this, to a consciousness of what is right!'"

Yes, Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) made a mistake. It's very important that we always keep in mind that he was human. We should never claim angelic perfection for him or astragferallah Godly heritage. He made a mistake. If our blessed Prophet, who was among the best of men, can make a mistake about predicting the future, then we should be able to admit that we tend towards this failing as well.

Oh, Al Aleem! You alone know every second of the past and You alone know every second in the future. We pray now, in the only guaranteed moment we have, to remember You when we think of what could happen. It is only through You that sun shines for another day. It is only through you that we live to take another breath. Let us never forget how all the actions on earth are only by Your leave. Ameen.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ramadan 25: Drop Weight



Weighed yourself lately?
I haven't! I know I'm not loosing any weight this Ramadan. Usually in Ramadan I do, but not this year. The iftar dinners are too late, the food at my mom's is too plentiful, and I'm not as active.

However, I feel lighter.

There are burdens which are lifting, alhumdulillah.

I know where I'm going to be for the next eight months. I'm going to be here teaching, inshahallah. I'm not 100% happy about that. It isn't just the $500 I loose in the non-refundable ticket (I still keep $1000 in airline credit). It was going to be a grand adventure! I'll miss the escape of that all. However, some escapes, like petting zoo animals who can't survive in the wild, aren't meant to happen.

I feel done with any number of men.

I actually DID meet my first boyfriend for a walk around the lake. The lake was beautiful. The walk sucked.

I actually said, "This is horrible! I'm having a horrible time!" I mean, I said that ALOUD to him while we were on the walk. That's how bad it was.

What would make me say something like this?


Was it him trying to convince me that humans had to dream up God?

Was it the story of moms of the subway making him so mad by assuming that, just because they self-centeredly chose to have children, they were deserving of a seat?

Or was it him recounting the great discussion between him and his wife of 20 years when she gave her permission to be non-monogamous with the words, "Just don't hurt anyone."

Ahhh! He is not the man I fell for. ALHUMDULILLAH he is not the man I married!

The only time I really saw a glimpse of the man who won my heart years ago (and he did) was when he talked about a boy whose father is in the same acting troupe. The six-year-old boy would need some minding during rehearsals and my former boyfriend would volunteer.

When this big, big man would talk about the little boy, his whole demeanor changed. There was that twinkle in his eye again. His voice became playful and happy, and he smiled and laughed. And he talked of feeling unsure and surprised and delighted. In that moment, which wasn't horrible at all, I remembered why I had loved this man. It wasn't ever going to work now, but I remembered why it had worked then.

I felt sadness at his decision to never have children. He feels that the world is overpopulated, children ruin your career, and...whatever. He has become very harsh, strident, diactic, and self-absorbed because of it.

Alhumdulillah, that I have my children. They have taught me so much.

Alhumdulillah, that I didn't continue with theatre. Remember that both of us started our theatre training together. Listening to him talk about months of preparation for $1000 was eye-opening. No, he is NOT getting paid a lot of money. He travels a lot. He is gone from his wife a lot. He is nomadic and the actors and directors are his tribe. I'm glad that I've settled down.

This Ramadan, I am indeed discarding the burdens of my mind.

My relationship with my mother is becoming lighter as it gets illuminated. I didn't really want to delve into it. It hurts. But, alhumdulillah, I see better now. I was able to get out some truths for me and have her really hear them and even apologize to me for what went wrong.

My depression of inactivity is leaving me as well. I won't say it was clinical depression. It was just very sad to be me. I couldn't figure out how to stop being sad. Ramadan is allowing me the focused time to really deal with those issues of the last year. Alhumdulillah.

Issues around food have improved; even if I haven't lost weight, I have stopped some dependency. Alhumdulillah, I feel better and stronger for eating this way.

How has Allah opened you and removed your burdens this Ramadan?

Tonight, it's another chance at Layla tul Qadr. Whatever you don't feel has left you, give it a push, a tug and a pull. You will never get another chance like tonight. NOW is better than the future. Make the decision to release what no longer serves you. Stop the wait and drop the weight.

EVERYBODY SAY, "OH, YA!"


EVERYBODY SAY, "OH, YA!"

EVERYBODY SAY, "HEY! HEY!"

EVERYBODY SAY, "ALLAHU AKBAR!"

'CAUSE YOSRA GOT THE JOB!

THANKS FOR EVERYONE'S DU'A !

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beautiful Pictures of Ramadan



MASHALLAH!


Yo Islam Yo showcased this on his website but it's so good, I don't mind being unoriginal.

Please take a look at The Boston Globe's photographic essay on observing Ramadan around the world. This is something to share with your children AND with your family ESPECIALLY if they are learning about Islam.

Also, take a look at the almost 1,000 comments that have been lovingly written by our brothers and sisters. You do indeed feel a connection to the ummah when you read those.

If you read my post about Liz Logelin, you will have already seen many pictures from Jama Masjid, in India. There are two photographs from this sight.

Speaking of sight, the one photograph that broke me down was the one of young hands on large white books. There were no words. It was odd and then I read the caption and understood. Those were blind boys "reading" the Quran in braille. We with sight don't use our eyes to read, yet they suffer and strive to use their hands. Astragferallah.

Inshahallah, you will use your hands and your eyes to navigate your way over to the photos. Wallahi, you will leave the site feeling refreshed and enlightened.

Ramadan 24: Faith Not Fear


My head hurts.
I stayed in sujud so long last night that I think I might get some of those forehead bruises you see on really prayerful men.

But, alhumdulillah, I'd rather have my head hurt that way---from the outside in, than from the inside out.

It used to be that I really worried, planned and over planned, and got anxious over the twists and turns of life. As if any of that stopped the course of time! The challenges kept coming and since I was determined to think that I had control over them, and therefore kept failing in my efforts, I did turn to other things to stop my head from hurting.

I've turned to my friends too much, instead of God. Asked them too much, "What do you think?"

I've turned to food too much. Thank you, Extra Weight, for reminding me of this.

I've turned to mind-numbing television and soul-stealing music.

Last night, the first of three possible Layla tul Qadr nights, I turned to Allah.

As George Michael sang, "You gotta have faith."

In this moment, I do feel God's grace. I do see that the unfolding of life is taking place and to fight it is futile. It will all happen effortlessly. Panic solves nothing. What I don't know now I'm not supposed to know.

A big thought for me these days is how the Quran was given to us through Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) in parts. Allah could really have given the whole book at once. Why didn't he?
I don't think we could have handled it. There are so much mind-blowing assertions; so many ideas and concepts. For society back then, there were so many changes.

I always remind new Muslims that it is baby step-by-baby step into Islam. That's another way of saying, "unfolding," isn't it? A woman new to Islam shouldn't be expected to throw away all her old clothes and buy new. A man new to Islam shouldn't be expected to grow a beard and start wearing a thobe. The most important step should be taken first, and that's the shahaddah. Everything after that will come in due course.
Prayer helps us to remember that God loves us so much that He protects us and our feelings. The answer that hasn't come yet, might just be delayed so we come to better terms with the outcome.

And in the meantime, I'll have faith.

Hmmm...

I've been looking for just the right photo to put with this posting.
Remember how my opening line was, "My head hurts," and how I ended with, "I'll have faith,"? Read what I just found. Subhanallah. The site might be upsetting to pregnant mothers or those who are easily troubled.

I'm not finding a picture yet, but I do find this idea fascinating.

There!
OK, found the picture, but then...you already knew that!
Mishmaool! Unbelievable! I found this inspirational message in my Hazelden book. It speaks so much to what I just wrote about:
"Patience is a quality that frequently eludes us. We want what we want when we want it. Fortunately, we don't get it until the time is right, but the waiting convinces us that our prayers aren't heard. We must believe that the answer always comes in its own special time and place. The frustration is that our timetable is seldom like God's.
When we look back over the past few weeks, months, or years, we can recall past prayers. Had they all been answered at the time of request, how different our lives would be. We are each on a path unique to us, offering special lessons to be learned. Just as a child must crawl before walking, so must we move slowly, taking the steps in our growth in sequence.
Our prayers will be answered, sometime, somewhere. Of that we can be sure. They will be answered for our greater good. And they will be answered at the right time, the right place, in the right way.
I am participating in a much bigger picture than the one in my individual prayers. And the big picture is being carefully orchestrated. I will trust the part I have been chose to play. And I can be patient."
You know what's really amazing? Ya, it's very cool that I found this and that is amazing, but this is doubling that and then some. I was supposed to look on the 24th of September for today, right? Somehow, I was actually looking on the 24th of March. How did I goof that up?! I typed this all out from the book, then it didn't save (drat!) so I had to type it again. When I went to look for it, it WASN'T THERE! I searched and searched until I found it in the messages for March. Subhanallah! Whatever day it said at the top of the page, I believe I was supposed to read it today!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ramadan 23: Don't Panic


There are very few things which are solved with panic.
Whatever is troubling you, turn to Allah and empty your burdens.
Tonight is possibly Layla tul Qadr, THE NIGHT OF POWER.
Read Quran and go to Allah tonight in prayer.
You will never regret the time spent.
NEVER!

Ahmed Nur Ali

Sad news out of Minneapolis.


From Allah we come and to Allah do we return.



From the depths of civil war

to apartments in the sky

a boy turned into a man

and at twenty, he did die.



For what? A girl asked simply.

A newsman filmed her sigh.

Viewers watched and observed,

"Somalis sure did multiply."



They didn't see the bravery

he had to hope and to dream

to study hard and make good;

to maintain some self-esteem.




He wanted just to give back;

to mentor a younger one,

they were the last to see him

he was shot down with a gun.



Who could Ahmed have become?

God, why did it have to be?

A college freshman is gone

His family in misery.



Pray for Ahmed Nur Ali

who started today in prayer

his first day as a tutor

His sad death was most unfair.





9/23 Fear, Questions after Augsberg Student Ambushed
11/7 This would have been Ahmed Nur Ali's birthday. Though, in Islam, we don't celebrate birthdays (only the two eids), it is a time to remember young man who can never grow older.
I talk about him in my class every time some child pretends to play guns.

"Guns hurt people. We come here in peace, so no guns!"
Inshahallah, there doesn't have to be more bloodshed in the world among Somali youth.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mama Told Me!


Mama told me there'd be days like this!
Subhanallah!

I booked tickets for Egypt on Sunday.

On Monday, I got a call about a possible job here.

Would I stay?

I didn't know, so I prayed istakkarah. When I humbled myself before Allah, I had to admit that my purpose on this earth is to serve Our Lord. If there is a school here that is in immediate need for a teacher, then there is a way to serve right in front of me. I told the principal that I would cancel my plans for Egypt if I was offered the position.

What about my tickets? I would try to work something out for another time, like this summer.

If Allah can make the dead earth come back to life, and can make this phone call happen, then who am I to worry about something as small as changing a trip itenerary?

And, my mom told me that this would happen. She actually predicted that as soon as I booked my tickets, the school would call. Subhanallah!

Allah subhana wa tallah had me laughing in my sujud.

Ramadan 22: Know Your Core


Yesterday, I was in a group of people and for the most part, I was alone. Sure, I was there with Mr. Boo. I'm always with him. He's my buddy---even if he was leaving the walking path to go sulk under a tree for a minute.

Before, in my life, I would have felt uncomfortable. I would have pre-arranged with someone else to attend the memorial 5K walk. That way, I would have looked popular and happy, regardless if I really enjoyed my time with the person accompanying me. Or, barring that, I would have glummed onto someone I didn't know and instantly befriended them.

Now, at age 40, I'm OK with myself. I walked the lake alone with only momentary comments here and there. When people did talk to me, it was because they REALLY wanted to talk to me. That meant more to me than idle chit-chat. I can't fake fun any more. I'm all about real enjoyment.

Another thing I can't fake is my learning curve. I've been reading the comments and a number of people are saying, "THAT'S WHAT I ALREADY TOLD YOU BEFORE!" Well, of course people have told me information my whole life without most of it sinking in.


"Don't talk to strangers!"
But they're so interesting!


"Share!"
But not the stuff I really like!

"Don't eat when you're already full!"

Mmmmmm? Munch! Munch!



To be honest, and that's what I do best, I really don't like to do what someone else tells me to do. How about you? Do you follow instructions well? I don't! I hate filling out forms. Can't stand uniformity. I love the flower that grows out of the crack in the cement. You get me?

See, I get me. I understand who I am. Things can rattle me: moving; divorce; shocking news; betrayal; abandonment; disappointment; cruelty; poverty; and so on. I've had all of those occur in the span of two months. Those hardships have jostled me off-center.

I've been off-center for years, actually. I truly don't think that this ride has been an easy one. My mother wants to say that I am a self-perpetuating "Drama Queen," but a lot of what's happened to me over the years really has been unpredictable external forces changing the course of my life.


I set something in motion seven years ago and that was to find some peace and joy. I knew there was more to life than what I had. I went in search. I found some of what I was looking for and then alhumdulillah I found Islam.

Islam was in me the whole time. As when Dorothy discovers that her ruby slippers could have gotten her back to Kansas long ago, I could have found peace and joy years before. But timing is everything and when I found it was exactly when I should have.

Do you know that a baby girl growing in utero has all the eggs for reproduction that she'll ever have? Subhanallah! I find that fascinating. Her ability to be a mother is encapsulated within her from before birth. She has that ability but it is to lay dormant until the time is right.

Then same is true for us in our ability to find what we want to grow inside ourselves. That baby can't become mother---that's ludicrous! And it's just as ludicrous to act like the people we love can grow any faster than their time line allows.

I'm OK with who I am. I am not really sharing this walk with anyone else. Everyone who reads me, knows me, or thinks they know me is only in my life for moments---and I cherish those moments, but truly I walk alone. I'll be judged alone.

I alone know who I am. Everyone can make educated guesses about who I am, but I have to live with myself 24/7. If you are wrong and I have followed your path, instead of mine, then I'll have to live with that mistake for a time now and live with the repercussions forever.

Terry Gilliam, animator for Monty Python said it best, "I feel that the mistakes I made were more interesting than the mistakes other people told me to make."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ramadan 21: Take a Leap of Faith


I have prayed istakkarah:



O Allah!


I seek goodness from Your Knowledge

and with Your Power (and Might) I seek strength,


and I ask from You Your Great Blessings,


because You have the Power

and I do not have the power.


You Know everything

and I do not know,


and You have knowledge of the unseen.


Oh Allah!


If in Your Knowledge this action

_____________(which I intend to do)


is better for my religion and faith,


for my life and end [death],


for here [in this world] and the hereafter


then make it destined for me and make it easy for me


and then add blessings [baraka'] in it, for me.


O Allah!


In Your Knowledge if this action is bad for me,


bad for my religion and faith,


for my life and end [death],


for here [in this world] and the hereafter


then turn it away from me and turn me away from it


and whatever is better for me, ordain [destine] that for me


and then make me satisfied with it.


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ramadan 20: Be Quiet


If you stir and stir the water, you can't see the depths below.
Keep your body still and you learn what lies beneath.

Being quiet is a key to being close to Allah.


Often times, we think of being quiet as just not talking. It's more than that. It's shutting off from the extraneous thoughts that push in and demand attention.

Last night, I had a serious offer to meet a man who had fallen in love with my picture. My picture! The story was that he was good in his deen, successful in his career, had a four-bedroom house with a pool out back. He could support me fully to either stay at home with Mr. Boo, or if I wanted to teach, I could do so, unless the school gave me a hard time (then I could walk away).

Oh, and he lived in Florida, because of course, any man who is crazy about me lives in Florida.

Buzzz! Buzzz! Buzz! That was the busy sound of bees buzzing in my head about this.

I did talk with him. He did say everything right.

Saw his picture. He's alright.

I said, "no".

I said, "no," to even just meeting him in person. I don't want the confusion.

He wanted to fly up on Monday. He wanted me to give him a chance so he could convince me to stay. If I ...

OK, I'm back to now. Mr. Boo wanted me to build a masjid with him out of Waffle Blocks. We built the minarette and he began saying the azan. Mashallah! He's playing by himself now, but still spontaneously giving the call to prayer. What could be more important?

Not yet another man, that's for sure!

I had written before that there was in me still some hope for a last-minute rescue. Yesterday, I was offered that rescue on a silver platter and I turned it down. I truly don't want another man to muddy the waters. I want some clarity.

I want some quiet.

I have also written that I'd like to get married again. I made the comment, "I'm not a nun!" That is very, very, very true. I love men. However, I am going to stop the marriage wheels from turning. I don't need to go over the same rocky roads again and again tany wa tany. Somethings you really shouldn't repeat---like screwing up your life and your kid over a man.

Mr. Florida called last night. He had sent me two more poems. I didn't like receiving anything from him, since I asked him to stop all contact. He knew I wouldn't be happy with him as soon as he sent them. He called to make sure I wasn't mad. He called twice, so that I'd pick up. I was mad. He appologized. He wanted me to know that he still loves me and that is sad. He had me and couldn't keep me. He still finds some way to blame me and when I try to end the conversation, he pleads to keep talking. It's upsetting.

He told me that he had been upset by me this week. He had been clicking around with yahoo and found that I'd left a message.

"Asalamalaykom. I was going to ask you to help me break my fast, but you aren't there. It's OK. I'll call you back later, inshahallah."

He told me that he found it on the same day I'd left it-- except one year later.

That was Ramadan, 2007, not 2008.

For some reason, he found it a year to the day I left it. He had me listen to it. There I was. I sounded tired from fasting all day and from simultaneously preparing all day to move to him. I sounded like I needed him and missed him. It was a year ago. A lot has happened in a year.

I asked him which day it was, but somehow I already knew.

It was the 17th. September, 17, 2007.

You know what I thought?

I thought that a year ago on that day, Liz Logelin was still alive and celebrating her birthday. Subhanallah.

Life is short and unpredictable.

If you want to know how to live it, sometimes you've got to be quiet.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Ramadan 19: Tany wa Tany


Tany wa tany. Again and again.

How many times do you keep doing it in order to get it right?

How many people do you love until it makes sense?

How much forgiveness do you give?

I used to say,


I'll try



as in "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

This also got me to remember Little House on the Prairie, with Pa saying, "If at first you don't fricassee, fry, fry a hen."

When I became an actor-educator after graduating college, we were trained to eliminate, "try," from our vocab. It just wasn't very motivational, since it isn't an active verb. You can't actually show anyone you trying, unlike running, jumping, screaming for joy. You can show those. Try? No. It is a nothing.

But, if you say

I WILL!

then you just sound delusional. I mean, somethings you can and some you can't. No need to throttle every moment into submission. And if you don't accomplish the goal, after you've said that you will, then you feel a greater crash of failure.

That's why, after Islam, I was so happy to figure out the solution.

Not, "I'll try."

Not, "I will."

Now, I say, "I will, inshahallah."

This puts Allah into the picture. Any time you can't figure out the impasse; the confusion, put Allah back into the picture. Otherwise, we are just bumping around the planet getting hurt.

I will move again, inshahallah.

I will love again, inshahallah.

I will trust again, inshahallah.

I love every single person I've ever met, really.

Oh, again and again. I will keep going, inshahallah.

Again and again. Tany wa tany.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Ramadan 18: Rest


Ask any young Muslim woman if she fasts all of Ramadan.

If she says she does, then she's probably mistaken.

How do I know?


Allah, who indeed is The Most Merciful, ordained that in any woman, who is experiencing her time of monthly weakness, must rest from fasting and perfoming the ritual prayers. She can, of course, go to Allah with du'a, or supplication, any time. Those missed days during Ramadan must be made up before the next or she can pay money to feed the poor.

Pregnant women are allowed to fast if it does not complicate their condition. When I learned I was pregnant with Mr. Boo, alhumdulillah, it was during Ramadan, 2004. I remember how on Election Day, I had just been feeling so sick to my stomach, but I thought it had to do with Bush. I simply wasn't able to eat suhour. A few days later, I took the pregnancy test and learned the real reason. Since I had been fasting while pregnant, I thought I could maybe keep going. Wrong! After a couple of days, as I was teaching while fasting, I had to call the office to send someone, as I was feeling very dizzy. I broke the fast with some mango juice in the staff room. Pregnant women do have to make up their days as well.

In addition to that, a nursing mother must not put the life of her child at risk by attempting to fast. Fasting with no liquid intake definately does decrease the milk supply. Since the milk is not hers, but her baby's, she also must take a break from fasting. The Quran recommends breastfeeding for two years, so that is one long break! Those days missed must be made up as well, or money given.

Years ago, I was at the masjid with a mom from Yemen, who had a baby born the same time as Mr. Boo. The two baby boys were about three months old. We were very happy to see each other again, now that we were both carrying babies in arms, instead of bellies. I asked how her Ramadan was going. She was fasting every day and being at the masjid every night until midnight. She was exhausted but proud.

I asked her if she was breastfeeing and she was. For a moment, I felt badly about not fasting and just making it to the masjid once. I knew that I got more hasanet (good deeds) for praying at home. I knew that I was not fasting so my milk supply would remain stable. But her? By comparison, I was not in the same league; she was like a Superwoman

A couple of weeks went by, before I went to the masjid again for iftar. I asked her this time how things were going.

"Alhumdulillah, but I lost my milk."

I never felt badly again about not fasting and not saying prayers at the masjid.

There are times of necessary rest.

It's sad how many Muslim men don't fast or pray and without any excuse. The worst thing you can ever say to those men is, "Oh, because you're having your period?" I've only said that to my then-husband. I wouldn't recommend saying that around town, unless you want to die.

Even men, however, are given a time of rest when they should not fast. If they are too ill or too elderly, they are exempt. And since the fasting is a special time, everyone is mandated to rest from fasting right before Ramadan starts and the time right after, when we celebrate Eid.


Taking a rest is part of the experience as a whole; as much as there is day, there is also night.

My mind, now made up to go to Egypt, needs a rest.

At the same time, AbuBoo is living big drama with his first/current wife threatening to divorce him if Mr. Boo's grandma houses us. What's it to the first/current wife? She says the neighbors will talk...miles and miles away...the neighbors will talk. She thinks she will lose her dignity. This is so ironic.

She put up with haram of the highest order in August, but stood by her man.

She hears that AbuBoo is trying is best to provide shelter for his son, which is admirable, and she won't have any of it.


Deep cleansing breath. No. Not my drama. I didn't create it. I didn't have any bad intentions involved. This is halal. Khalas. Stop.

This is a poem I've always loved. I'll share it with you and hope that you'll love it also:


All Is Well

Whate'er you dream, with doubt possessed,

Keep, keep it snug within your breast,

And lay you down and take your rest;

And when you wake, to work again,

The wind it blows, the vessel goes,

And where and whither, no one knows.'

Twill all be well: no need of care;

Though how it will, and when, and where,

We cannot see, and can't declare.

In spite of dreams, in spite of thought,

'Tis not in vain, and not for nought,

The wind it blows, the ship it goes,

Though where and whither, no one knows.


~Arthur Hugh Clough
(1819 - 1861)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Ramadan 17: Make It Count


.

.There are 29 to 30 days in Ramadan.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

Thirty days. It is never going to be more than thirty.

Take a good look.

Each one of those days is a gift to you from God. Have you been thankful thus far?

Let's count again.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

Thirty.

Except this time I want you to see each number as a year. Thirty years. It was never going to be more than thirty years.

Today, September 17, would have been Liz Logelin's 31st birthday,



but like I said--it was never going to be more than thirty. Thirty years.

Subhanallah!





No one could have guessed. Please do look at her photographs.



She shines. She has noor of eman, the light of faith, shining forth in streaming light which floods the lens and grabs at your soul.


You can't ignore that she was as alive as any person can be.




She lived.



She loved. She was loved. She is loved.

Her energy, mashahallah, was so powerful on this earth that it actually keeps multiplying even beyond her physical presence.


Can you imagine? A woman so meaningful to so many that her life keeps reaching out to strangers and making them friends.



Even me. I love her. I never met her. I love her for being a light in the world that cannot be diminished as long as she is remembered.

She is a lesson for us all.

Liz was 30 when she gave birth to her beautifully healthy baby girl, Madeline.



Liz was 30 when she died 27 hours after giving birth from a blood clot.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27...

27

I couldn't count all the way to 30 that time. She didn't have any more than 27 hours being a mom to her newborn.



Those of you who have children, how many hours has it been for you? When was the last time you complained?

Stop.

Infact, all of us need to stop. We pretend that we have an average life expectancy to look forward to. 75 years? 80?

Not for Liz.

What about you? Can you really say that you know the number of hours? Of days? Of years?

Allah tawakelna. God knows.




From Allah we come and to Allah we do return.

Today, please do make du'a for Matt, for Madeline, and for the soul of Liz Logelin, on what would have been her 31st birthday, except that it was never going to be more than 30 years.




Count your night by stars, not shadows.
Count your days by smiles, not tears.
And on any birthday morning,
Count your age by friends, not years.
~Louise Conrad Hill



Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ramadan 16: Leave Them


The Prophets, peace be upon all of them, had to go through many trials: fire, jail, public ridicule and threats. But, for me, I think one of the hardest challenges was in leaving behind those loved ones who were not frue believers.

Prophet Noah couldn't take his son with him on the ark. Father had to watch his son drown. Imagine that! Did he have any real chance of saving someone who doesn't want to be saved? No!

In the case of Prophet Abraham's nephew Lot, his wife had to be left behind. It was paramount to flee Sodom and she couldn't stop thinking of what she was leaving. She turned to look back. Did she become a pillar of salt, as it says in the Bible? She somehow ceased to be.

Read this poem by Anna Akhmatova:


Lot's Wife

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,

over a black mountain, in his giant track,

while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:

"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,

the square where once you sang,

the spinning-shed,at the empty windows set in the tall house

where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain

stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .

Her body flaked into transparent salt

,and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman?

Does she not seemtoo insignificant for our concern?

Yet in my heart I never will deny her,

who suffered death because she chose to turn.

The poet says, "chose to turn," yet I'm not so sure that those who love the world too much really make a conscious decision to do so. It's like they live by their animal instincts. They do what feels right. They love this world too much because they love what they can enjoy with their senses. The promises of their Lord are not enough because they aren't visible or readily understandable; they are faith-based guarantees for those with commitments with God.

If we choose, as Muslims, to follow the path away from the pleasures of the world, then we need to commit to God even if it means leaving behind somone we love. They can be in our prayers, but cannot be in our lives. It isn't hateful to admit when we have to love from a distance. It is self-preserving.

In the end, all of us will stand alone. All of us will be judged alone. We cannot go through life with our human relationships as our primary goal. We would then find ourselves lost at sea or turned to salt, wishing that we had one more chance.

We have only one chance; one life. However, within our life, each day is another chance to do better. If we have allowed a dysfunctional friend or family member become the focus of all our energy, it's time to refocus. They don't deserve our endless devotion--that belongs to Allah.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Ramadan 15: Move


I'm sitting here at 1:00 in the morning wearing my hejab. It's actually what non-Muslims think we ladies do when we get home. Yep, just hangin' out at home in the hejab.

No.

Not true.

We make ourselves up like beauty queens.

Shhhhh! Don't tell!

OK, so why am I wearing hejab? You ready for this?

AbuBoo came over to break the fast with us. He was tired beyond tired. He's working three low-paying jobs to try to pay for his immigration lawyer and his bankruptcy lawyer. He fell asleep before iftar, then woke to eat. He played around with his son until bedtime. Mr. Boo then demanded like a psycho that his daddy read a book to him in bed, so his wish was granted. I did a HORRIBLE job picking out books and selected a potty training book, which AbuBoo (Arab Guy) can't pronounce. I kept hearing, "botty," coming out from the bedroom. Then Mr. Boo started coming out of the bedroom. I corralled him and had to recite Quran for him to settle. Guess who else conked out? Yep! I've got some other woman's husband in my bedroom.

Kept thinking that he'd wake up. He hasn't.

I've been getting work done for my move.

I'm moving on.

You know a great book? A House for Hermit Crab. He outgrows his shell and has to find a new one. He spend the entire year decorating it only to realize that he now needs another larger shell all over again. Having moved once, he is more excited than scared this time.

We never blame animals for needing to change. A caterpillar has to become a butterfly. No one thinks it's selfish. A snake must shed its skin and we think its wonderful. Subahanallah!

When we humans need to make a change we refuse to budge. We are the most reluctant submitters on the planet.

"Yes, yes, yes, OK, Lord. I will eventually, of course, but right now isn't a good time for me. Can we reschedule my evolution for later?"

But, change we must. I've been changing here. I didn't want to. I felt like I'd been through enough, and I was right. I had been through the wringer. So many people had left me high and dry. You know that left me feeling bereft of spirit last Friday morning. By magrib time, I had to admit that I didn't like myself very much. I was in my own way.

You heard right: I was in my own way. Sure, we can blame all the people who surround us or who don't support us. The truth is that usually it's our own fault for trying to be something we're not.

I wasn't meant to go to Saudi. Free spirit me?!

I wasn't meant to work in a school in Minnesota that can't appreciate my creativity and originality.

I, for sure, wasn't meant to live with my mom.

And, as the newest guy pointed out today, I wasn't meant to jump into another marriage. Both he and I need time to heal individually and possibly explore mutually who we could be as a couple. I had been waiting to hear what his thoughts were after umrah --and there they were! It hurt a little, as all of us overgrown girls still believe in the fairy tale ending that so far hasn't happened for anyone I know.

I knew in that moment, after we hung up, that I had to move forward and transform into a new stage of Yosra. But what?

Honestly, one thing that's kept me sane these last eight years is remembering that some things make me happier than others. When I am feeling lost but I keep having a positive feeling about something I allow myself to go for it. Over the last months, there has been one thought that has kept coming up for me---NOOOO! It's not Akshay Kumar! It was where to go and what to do. I felt it. I felt it before I thought it.

My wise friend told me to pray istakkarah on it before talking to my mother. ALHUMDULILLAH I'm so glad I took her advice. When I broached the subject with my mom it turned ugly. There has been a seismic shift in this house and it ain't pretty at all.

"Did you talk with your new guy?"

"I did, mom, but we both agreed not to rush into marriage."

"That's too bad. Well, I was thinking that I could pay for you and Mr. Boo to fly back down to Florida. You really aren't welcome in my house any more. Mr. Boo is, but I can't handle you and I know you are a package deal," she summed up some of the cruelest words she's ever said to me.

"Umm...but that's right back to Mr. Florida."

"You could stay with your friends."

"No. I don't want to do that. I figured out what I want to do," and then I told her.

"Where are you going to get that kind of money?"

"Could you give me some?"

"You obviously don't understand the value of money. Maybe you should ask your father for some, since he's got enough to go on trips."

I know she was doing her best to be mean. But, subhanallah, Allah worked through her and I heard the good idea within her upset. For the first time since college, I called my father to ask for money. He is sending me $500, alhumdulillah.

I have the support of AbuBoo and at least a couple of my friends. Hardly anyone knows yet. But I know. I feel so positively about what I'm doing.

All of a sudden I have the energy to pack up and move on. And it was me who was in my own way. I had gotten caught up in waiting for someone else to change my life for me. Maybe I've always done that. This time, I am making a decision for change which doesn't involve a marriage or a man. Alhumdulillah.

May all of us find ways this Ramadan to move out of our comfort zones and into the land of the living and the changing. We are in the cycle of life, yet a lot of us seem to be riding exercise bikes, which get us nowhere. Let us move beyond this moment and find our larger shells, shed our old skins, and spread our new wings to become who we know we really are.

Now. You tell me. What do you think I'm getting ready to do?

Besides go to sleep wearing hejab.