Monday, August 29, 2011

When It's Best to Be Negative



It's good to stay positive in Egypt.

Actually, that's true anywhere. 

"Things in motion stay in motion," is what I constantly remind myself.  This is an especially good reminder when I'm faced with an unpleasant surprise in Egypt, which is a country full of suprises.  Those startling moments are when God is at work in our lives.  We have to stay positive and welcome those unplanned (at least not planned by us) moments.

So, here is how I sounded last week in the Personnel Office:

"No.  That's too hard.  Can't it wait until after Ramadan?  I'll faint!  I can't handle it!  Please, no.  Really.  There's got to be another way.  I already took the test!  Are you joking?"

Yes.  I forgot all about my positive thinking.  I was in shock that my school needed me to go to Cairo the next day.  I had to take yet another HIV test. 

When I did my original paperwork for my work visa, I went to Cairo and took the test.  Alhumdulillah it was negative.  I thought that was my one and only test for it.  Of course, I was happy not to ever do it again, as getting my blood drawn makes me faint.  Only since Islam, through reciting Quran during the procedure, have I been able to keep myself from losing consciousness. 

This time?  It would be in the heat of August while I was fasting.  OH MY GOD!  This was going to be a trial.  I wouldn't be able to go alone so I would have to ask my tired, fasting husband to travel with me.  Oh, and I might not have mentioned it but we don't have a car so it's public transportation all the way, baby. 

The location?  Three blocks from Tahrir Square.  Wow.  We hadn't been there since The Revolution.  I asked my hub about taking Mr. Boo. 

"It's better if we don't because he can't run if he has to."

He can't....run?  Wow. 

My husband is not an alarmist.  He is pretty rational so that logic he was putting together in his head was a bit upsetting.  Yes, Egypt is really calm right now.  Everyone is too zoned out on the fasting to do much harm.  However, there have been troubles with Israel on the border and protests at the Isreali Embassy (including an Egyptian scaling the building and tearing their flag).  Anything can still happen.

So, we left Mr. Boo with Uncle Mahmoud (score a point for the family house) and headed for Cairo.

Everything is now another "first" for me.  It was my first ride in a microbus since America.  My first ride in a city bus since America.  My first clutching of my husband's leg as the city bus darted rapidly through traffic.  I thought I was going to be sick and he actually told the driver to take care.

Off the bus and on to the Metro.  This is the subway system.  It is a nice change from the streets.  The only problem is the crowded cars.  There are cars for women only but when traveling as a couple you can't really split up to ride seperately.  I have to ride in the car with the men.  My husband stands in back of me.

Rule of Thumb  Always put your man BEHIND you in a crowd.  Don't have him go infront of you because he can't readily protect you.  I know, you think him going first would be the gallant ideal but it doesn't really serve the purpose like watching your back.

Mashahallah, it's such a civil place really.  So many men were reading their pocket-sized Qurans.  Others had their prayer beads.  I was offered a seat at the next stop.  I mean...alhumdulillah it's Egypt at Ramadan.  I get a little scared when we go through the tunnels (and my husband likes to tease me about it) but truly if I were to die amongst believers in such a way I would be blessed.

So, we exit the Metro and head up the stairs to a place I used to know well; Tahrir Square.  It was an important place for me the first year here.  I would come for paperwork to get done.  I would go to the American University of Cairo's Bookstore.  Twice I went to the Cairo Museum.  It was where I cried that my husband and I might not have naseeb in order to get married and later where I walked after we were pronounced, "husband and wife".

Since that time, I lost touch with that former vision of Tahrir.  I saw the place only on TV and in photos.  It was a center of chaos, frenzy, signs of change, anger, group unity, mass prayer, fighting, camping out for social justice, throngs of unheard citizens and of freedom.  It was the place where Anderson Cooper couldn't last, where the horses and camels came parading through and where (astragferallah) a sexual assault took place.  How could one place contain so much?  It was as if it had swelled in those weeks in order to hold it all.

Now, it was back to a kind of normal, though nothing is totally normal in Egypt since the Revolution.  More vendors selling patriot items.  We bought a 3 LE flag for Mr. Boo.  He'd been wanting one and I can't think of a more appropriate place to purchase one. 

It was time for the test, however, so we walked on.  I had to get it done and get out of the sun before it did us in.  I walked past the AUC Bookstore and saw it was locked up.  I saw the tank and the man with the gun watching us all.  There were many men guarding the Minister of the Interior's compound as I walked past.  This was different.  So many men working to keep the peace.  I wondered if just one of them could take a moment to clean the large pile of dirt blocking the sidewalk.

The test itself didn't go badly.  I survived.  I was a total baby.  Didn't watch.  Recited Surah At-Tin into my husband's shoulder.  They weren't going to give me a band-aid LOL until I requested one.  Good thing I wasn't expecting a lollipop.

They told me, "Not until after Eid," but since my work permit expires on the 31 of this month, I had to talk to a supervisor about it.  No one in Egypt wants to push themselves at work during Ramadan.  You have to give them a good reason why they should exert effort.  I politely pleaded my case and was told that they'd have the results by Sunday.  Alhumdulillah and God bless that lady for being so easy.

Off we went into the sunshine.  All of a sudden, it was like we were on a date.  There was no more agenda to check and no child to wrangle.  We were free!  Alhumdulillah, we had not been out alone together since I got back to Egypt.  I hadn't realized it.  Truly, what a blessing.  I thought of how I had protested the trip and thanked Allah for always, always, always knowing better than me.

We walked around to make sense of the place we knew before, the place we had seen on TV and to the place we were in now.  There was the circle of grass rising up on the mound and stationed at regular intervals were army soldiers dressed in black and in full riot gear.  God bless them.  That's some tough job while you're fasting in the hot sun.  Six more trucks full of soldiers were stationed by the Hardees.  It's weird to see the change.  And it's unsettling to think of how all those lives could change in an instant.

We walked on.  We'd never been down that particular street and it took us to a wonderful bookstore:  Shorouk on Harb Square.  My husband is not a big reader (though he's trying to finish the Quran as I write this) but he indulges me and my love for books.  Subhanallah that is so kind of him.

I found this great book for kids:

The Life of Muhammad
(may the blessing and peace of God be upon him)
in Twenty Stories


Okay, the truth is that it's written for kids but also for all of us who want an innocent heart.  It was such a great find.  I've been reading the stories at bedtime and my son has really been enjoying them.  Each story is from the perspective of something (animal, plant or rock) which was there at the time witnessing history.  For instance, the first story is from the elephant from Abyssinia who would not crush The Kabba. 

I also bought six simple story books in Arabic for my husband to read to Mr. Boo in order to increase language ability as he heads into grade one.  Each page has about three lines which is good for early readers.  I don't expect my son to learn to read Arabic right now but to gradually understand its importance in his life.

I resisted getting a book about the signs of Tahrir.  It was 90 LE and we were starting to run low on cash. This website does something to help us remember those signs but the book captured a face and a time.  It wasn't just a sign.  It was a person with a dream for better.  Here's a flikr collection of images from The Revolution.

We had to go.  We walked towards the bus area towards the Ramses Hilton.  A country man with his fruit was too hard to resist.  We bought peaches, plums and pomegranet.  Heavy but heavenly!

In the end, it had been a good day.  Alhumdulillah.

Alhumdulillah, my husband cheerfully picked up the results yesterday.  Him seeing the paper in his hand relieved some doubts.  Maybe me too.  The year before, it had been the lawyer picking it up and only telling us on the phone that everything was fine.  This year we are positive that I am negative...we are both negative and intend on staying that way inshahallah.

One last thing:  while my husband was processing the paperwork, the government office told him that it was time for a new ID card.  He needed one to state that he is married.  Yes, he is.  He is married to me.  My name will be placed on his ID card today.  Plastic.  Plastic lasts longer than paper.  I like that.

Alhumdulillah that Allah gives us what we need...not just what we want.

May Allah accept your fasting and prayers today.  May Allah increase your level of iman.  May Allah soothe your worries and reward you for your patience.  And may all of us go to Mecca and meet again in Jennah. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Arablish


"it is yours"
Enjoy your listening

The above message is not English.  It is what passes as English here in Egypt.  I call it, "Arablish".  You understand it.  You kinda get what they mean but it's missing something.  In this case, it is missing the correct pronoun, capitalization for the first word, punctuation, and the idiomatic phrases are off. 

The message was tucked in with my free headphones when I traveled out of Cairo on EgyptAir. I kept it and kept looking at it during my stay in America.  Maybe I was reminding myself how much I am needed over here as an English teacher and editor. 

What would I have written instead?

First of all, headphones are plural.  Sure, they look like one thing, but like pants, scissors, and eyeglasses, they are talked about in the plural.   

Even so, I would not have said, "They are yours."

I would have written, "Enjoy these complimentary headphones."

However, I love Arablish!  I love it when the Arabs get it wrong.  It is a surprising moment and I always feel a sort of invigoration when I read English done incorrectly; whether it's on T-shirts




on products



(Everything is spelled correctly on this next candy packet, but it's not the right name for the flavor)


or on signs.

                                                        
                                                                                                                       photo credit:  Khadijah J.

That last one still cracks me up!

Though I don't have a picture of it, the photo studio where I get my pictures printed specializes in

Weeding Photos

I have thought about telling them but I don't think they'd change their expensive sign out front.  It's just a little studio anyway so no harm done.

On the other hand, this message about the headphones in Arablish was coming from one of the largest corporations in Egypt.  It did make me wonder how many staff members viewed it and signed off their approval.

Maybe it was it actually worse before...

"Can you look at this message for the headphones?"

"Let me read it,
 'here good
take away' 


No, I don't think that makes sense.  How about

"it is yours"
Enjoy your listening


"Wow!  That's great!  I guess that's why you're the boss!"

There is so much near perfection in the world.  Seeing Arablish gives me hope for my little imperfect corner of the world to remain unscathed by progress.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What I Missed in Egypt



While I was visiting America, I asked you to guess what it was I would miss in Egypt.  Here are the results along with how it actually went down:

My Husband got 9 votes.  Nothing else was close.  I missed him.  It wasn't a crazy love-lorn "Habibi!" missing.  It was this feeling of doing the work in America and getting the time done to make the next part of our life together go well.  I needed my time away but I also needed the return---and the return was to my hijrah, which is Egypt and therefore to him (and in that order).

I know there was a part of him which couldn't fully believe I would return.  He had to trust and he learned some important things about me.

I also learned some important things about him.  His phone call every day at 9:30 AM kept me feeling safe in a world where I couldn't see him or feel his arms around me. 

Real love is able to handle "the unseen".  This is how we must trust in Allah.  We could create physical manifestations like statues OR we could trust in something bigger which defies our limited perceptions. Trusting in our unseen connection to The Supreme thus enables us to trust those we love even when we are away from them. 

Everything I packed was to "feather our nest."  I was so happy to bring back things that really meant something to me (the 99 Names of Allah wall hanging, the linen curtains from IKEA, the sheepskin Mr. Boo had as a toddler) and to have him like them as well.  He accepted that I'd be bringing back lots of books (around 50). 

He asked only for some clothes---I told him that I had always liked him being a big guy until I had to pack those large items in the suitcase.  I can't believe how heavy men's shoes are!

When I returned, he surprised me by having the electricity wired in the salon.  There was a beautiful copper star hanging overheard.  Each facet was shining in a different color of white, blue or yellow.  Inset lights surrounded it.  He had been busy and kept it a secret.  I love that he did that.  It gives me hope that we can continue to build a life together. 

During the first days back in Egypt, both of us made efforts to change in order to find peace within our home.  Before, he had been very used to eating suhour with his family around 1 AM and then sleeping (and astragferallah not always able to wake for fajr prayer).  This meant that I was always eating suhour and praying fajr as I had done when I was a single woman in the States; alone and a little sad.  This time, he is eating with me at 3:00 AM and praying fajr with me.  That is a huge difference.
Likewise, I used to stay upstairs until the azan sounded, then head downstairs, drink my juice and pray before eating.  His family does it differenlty; they eat first and then pray.  By the time I was done praying, they were halfway done with the iftar.  I became resentful at their tradition. 

This year, I told myself that it really didn't matter to Allah when I prayed as long as I did it before isha.  I am now helping put the dishes on the table and then eating together with everyone.  My husband is returning this effort by staying at the table until I am finished.  Then we wash up and pray together.  This is really how it should have been before but it takes stubborn people longer to stop doing traditions which benefit no one.  And isn't this what the Quran warns us against?  Again and again we are told that we should not cling to traditions simply out of habit.  Ramadan is the perfect time to break with unhelpful habits and forge new traditions.

Hearing the Azan got 7 votes.  Missed this big time!  I dug up an old calendar and that helped keep track of prayer times.  Save any old calendar for the location you're staying in and the times remain relatively the same.  Did you know that?  I've saved that calendar for the next time I return, inshahallah. 

During our daily calls, I started to tell my husband to stop talking to me so I could hear the azan out the window.  It is so calming.  I can't imagine living my life without hearing that every day.  It would be too sad.

When I returned, it was as if I drank in the azan.  It was my zam zam water and it quenched me. Subhanallah.  I truly pity any of you Muslims who have never heard the azan waft out over the city. 

Majority Muslims got 7 votes.  I like being the fish out of water so for the most part being a minority is no problem.  I couldn't really have lived in the U.S. as a Muslimah or lived here as an American if I felt otherwise.

The one time I was among a large group of Muslims was at the masjid for Jummah prayer and I didn't like it.  The place is now over run with Somali families to the point of it being the last place you'd ever go to find peace or solace.  Children playing, running, teasing each other to smell their farts (astragferallah) while the mothers seemed oblivious to their naughtiness.  I did my best to stay focused on the khotbah or sermon.

When it came time to pray.  The three of us whities were joined by an older Somali lady who proceeded to push my other friends around ----as if they weren't lined up properly.  During the prayer, she yanked on my galabiya to try to make me stand closer to her and I wasn't having it.  How dare you interrupt my prayer because you can't figure out how to move your body closer to mine. 

When I finished the prayer, she wanted to talk to me in an advising tone, "Sister..."

I stopped her and told her in Arabic that after prayer we wish each other peace; that only is best.  I kissed her on the cheeks and smiled.  She tried again and I blocked her efforts again.  No, I didn't want to hear her tell me that I was wrong.  Just because I'm white doesn't mean I'm clueless about how to line up.  Me speaking in Arabic to her was one way to trump her holier-than-thou attempts to improve upon my knowledge.  I told her that it's wrong to tell people immediately upon finishing prayer anything except "Peace and "May Allah accept your prayers."

She later came up to me and tried to appologize.  I accepted.  I kissed her cheeks again and kept my distance. 

I do NOT want to live in among a large Muslim population if it means a large number of Somali Muslims.  They are not homogenous.  I've had some great interactions with Somali people.  However, as a community, they are very far from where I am with my Islam and where I want to go.  I feel anger rise up in me in those moments I have to deal with such extreme ignorance and disregard for the rights of others.

Thank God I live among Egyptians who have better sense.  Egyptians are very well educated people who understand the meaning of the Quran (not learning it from rote memory).  They can be busy-bodies but they know their limits with regards to others (especially when it comes to practising Islam).  The Masjid is respected and children are taught to respect their faith or to have a quick meeting with the bottom of a shoe. 

That short time in the masjid was all I needed to reconsider how blessed I am to be living where I am living.  It is here that I can practise Islam without fear and without being grouped together with those who are so irritating as to make you want to leave Islam just to be rid of them.

Modesty got 4 votes.  I was really shocked at how many tattoos were now being sported by regular people.  One time, I was at a children's store marveling how that clerk with massive tattoos on her arm would get hired. Then another customer started talking to the clerk and I realized that mom pushing the stroller was  also was covered in tattoos!  People love to show off their alter-egos.  My mom's comment is that they are so anxious to make themselves interesting on the outside (maybe because they are so void on the inside).

I was taken aback at how many breasts I saw.  No nippleage.  No.  America hasn't gone that far---yet.  But American women seem to be overjoyed with push-up bras which hoist their appendages to their necks for all to see.  Of course, wearing a cami makes it all the better to see you with, my dear.  It was outrageous and embarrassing because it was everywhere.  Sitting at Dairy Queen with my son and his father, I didn't really want to be exposed to someone else's overexposure.  It was nasty and this kind of thing happened again and again.

It wasn't just women either.  The men were whipping off their shirts in the heat as if that layer of cotton was keeping them from breathing.  I don't remember that many bare-chested men in America before.  All of these exhibitionists might have been in America before...but this time the scene registered on my radar as unneccessary and inappropriate.

Halal Food got 4 votes.  There were some mistakes.  Mom did buy spaghetti sauce with wine.  I had to check those breakfast patties she bought to determine they had pork.  And I guess the problem with being diligent is that you don't really relax about anything.  As a Muslim, you can't really enjoy the food like you do in a Muslim country.  You are constantly worried about pork, geletin, blood and alcohol getting into your food.

I did eat at three Muslim-owned restaurants during my visit.  At each place, the owners welcomed me back as an old friend.  That felt great.  It was nice to eat out and enjoy a carefree meal.

My Own Apartment got 4 votes.  This really became much harder on me than all of you guessed.  I missed my own space very much.  I missed moving about freely in the morning and night (when I had to be careful of my elderly mother's sleep schedule).  I missed being able to have my stuff sit where it landed; it wasn't easy to keep picking up after myself. 

In a way, though, having my own apartment to look foward to kept me from being resentful of my mother's demands.  Before, when I lived with her, I was very bitter about losing a series of homes (due to divorce, relocation, and being out of work).  I was homeless back then and dependent on her mercy.  This time, I was able to see her place as rightfully hers and not someplace I wish I had control over. 

His Family got 3 votes.  It's 2:35 AM as I write this and the house's baby is going ballistic downstairs.  Yet, I did miss her a little.  She was my little buddy.  I missed the niece who wants to be a teacher like me.  She told me, upon my return, that she cried and cried when I left. 

Honestly, I needed a break from the family.  I needed to get my head on straight about who they are for me.  I wanted to determine how I can survive this life with them.  I didn't want my emotions controlling me, but rather my logical mind.  That took distance and even some time with my own mother to remember that people are more simmilar than dissimmilar.  I have goals to be a better component within this system inshahallah.

My Friends got 3 votes.  Truth is that I don't have friends here.  I have co-workers.  I have people I know.  I don't have really strong friendships yet.

I had an Egyptian-American friend from school who was going to travel with us to the U.S.  We made all our plans together.  We talked about meeting up once we were staying about two miles away from each other.  In the end, a sudden illness on her part forced her to delay leaving.  Though I wasn't with her, I made constant du'a for her quick recovery while I was in the skies.  When she came a week after me, she never called or tried to reach me.  I was completely forgotten and it hurt.  It left me shaking my head and reconfirmed once again that I don't have friends here.  It isn't really a country in which friendships seem to take root---maybe it's the sandy soil. 

Alhumdulillah, I didn't come here for friendship.

Arabic got 3 votes.  I didn't miss Arabic because I spoke it every day on the phone with my hub.  It was a good way to talk to him without my mom overhearing everything in her tiny house.  I wasn't trying to be a super secret spy.  I just wanted some privacy and it was a good way to get it.

It's funny how Mr. Boo didn't speak Arabic with his father.  Remember, he is also Egyptian.  The two never really talked in Arabic.  I don't know WHY that is! 

AbuBoo did, however, lay into his son for calling another man (my husband) "Baba".  It's a very lame argument because my son never ever called his father by that name; he always has called him "Daddy".   Our disagreement over it ran into two visits and caused a lot of upset.  I was really undone the first time because he chose to bring it up on Mr. Boo's sixth birthday.  I let it get to me.  It was days before I could really be chill.  I prayed and asked to be the smart one on the matter because Mr. Boo needed someone to not fight about it.  I asked Allah for patience so that I could remain calm.  Alhumdulillah, the next time his father ranted about it, I didn't take the bait.  The issue was eventually dropped.

Hijabs got 3 votes.  I didn't miss them but when I saw Muslimahs out in hijabs I was so happy.  I would stop and talk to them.  It's a bond for sure.

My Computer got 2 votes.  For the most part, I didn't miss my computer.  I made a strategic decision to leave it behind.  I needed it in Egypt so that my husband could call me on the Magic Jack.  I also didn't want the additional weight of it when I was coming back.  On top of all that, my mom doesn't understand the computer and actually gets jealous of my time on it.  Best to leave it!

My Kindle functioned all right as a web browser.  It was not able to complete every function.  It couldn't open a new window from a window.  It couldn't mark comments on the blog and post them.  It was hard to read some of the web pages even if I enlarged them.  However, I was connected and grateful.

The Quran got 1 vote.  You all guessed wrongly on this one!  This actually became a huge issue that broke me down to tears.  In our home, we play Quran 24/7.  My mom doesn't like the sound of The Quran at all and would ask me to turn it down---in my own room!  She didn't undertand how important it is to me until she saw me cry.  I have a cassette of Mohammed Jebril and I was using an old Fischer Price tape player to play it when it ran out of batteries.  My MP4 player had run out of juice as well and I couldn't find the cord to charge it (though I later found it the day I left--wouldn't you know). 

So, there I was without Quran during Ramadan.  That lasted all of three days.  I couldn't handle it!  I dissolved at the kitchen table when I tried to explain to my mom that I had to get more batteries so I could hear it again.  I needed it especially at night when my fears start to creep in.  It isn't just me, either, as Mr. Boo can only fall asleep listening to Quran.  Seven dollars later, I had my four C batteries and could listen once more.  My breath went deeper for the first time in days.  I could relax and remember Allah better than by just reading the Quran.

Shopping got 1 vote.  I missed the prices!  I missed getting something lower!  It hurt me the minute I started paying for my taxi ride.  Forty dollars was an OUCH to my pocket.  I tried not to think of what that cost me in Egyptian Pounds.  At least it went to a Muslim taxi driver.

Transportation got no votes.  That actually was a big bummer.  No car.  No local transportation.  I missed the abundance of taxis driving by, the buses, and the tuk tuks. 

I had to rely on the kindness of ...okay, not strangers...but the kindness of everybody involved.  I did rely a LOT on my son's father.  I told my husband about this (and it was a sore point) but getting from here to there in the U.S. can be very hard without a car. 

Sightseeing got no votes.  This was a bit of a problem where I was staying because my state had a government shut-down.  NOTHING was open!  All the historical sights were closed; all the museums too.  What a shame!  It made me laugh that I'd been thinking how much better America runs than Egypt---until I saw first hand what a joke that was. 

The problem, by the way, is a riba-based economy.  If we all pretend when have money when we don't, then we are living a lie.  Eventually, whether a debt ceiling goes up or not, it will all crash.  Being reasonable with finances person-to-person is the only way to cure the U.S. economy of falling apart.  My experience though is that people are still pretending to have money and buy new and needless things to prove how "good" their life is (using external means).  Sad. 

Animals got no votes.  I missed the goat a little.  She was a lonely girlie and I came back to find two more goats had joined her.  She seems happier now.

Music got no votes.  I missed lively noise.  I did miss the sounds of music a little.  My mom plays lots of classical (as she always has) but that fun music was not in my days this trip.

Time to eat suhour. 

Good to reflect on my time in the U.S.  It is not my country any more.  That time is done.  Alhumdulillah.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

What I Enjoyed in America


Asalamu Alaykom Readers,

I asked you to vote in a poll over this summer and you did.  Now, I'll tell you how it really went down.  What did I really enjoy in America?

My Mom got the most votes at 9.  She loves the number 9, so I think she'll be happy with this (not that she reads this blog since she doesn't own a computer).  I do love my mom.  It was good to see her however it is  hard to see her older and more fragile. 

We kept our visit working well in the house for weeks and weeks.  Neither one of us wanted it to go badly.  This meant I had to go to bed when she did.  I had to be quiet until 9:30 in the morning.  I had to include her on outings (or at least invite her).  I had to pay for food during our visit.  I had to keep our belongings reasonably reined in.

We fell apart over a visit from friends of hers.  She hadn't asked me first and I didn't want to see them.  She had also scheduled it on the last Friday before Ramadan (when I really wanted to be at the prayer service).  We came to an agreement eventually and God worked it out beautifully. 

Later, we fell apart again over her questioning of my childhood, "Would you have been better living with your father instead?"  It was a long, tense talk that day.  In the end, as a Muslim, I have to remember that "if" is with Shaytan.  The past doesn't have to be forgotten (I think that's bogus) but it does need to be dead and buried or some awfully painful memories awaken in you which are better left alone. 

We prayed together.  We talked almost every day.  We shared honestly about ourselves and our lives.

I left her on good terms.  She knows what I want for her life.  She has a better vision for her life after seeing how I plan and mold my existence as I can.  She had more interactions and life in her home than she'd had in years.  I made the plug for her moving to Egypt in a few years so I could help her at that time, inshahallah.

My Dad  got 8 points.  This was the saddest part of my trip.  As I've written before, my father has Alzheimers.  His current relationship is with a woman who dislikes me.  She has never met me.  She asked my mother not me about the possibility of my father to flying alone to the north and staying in my mother's home.  Before my mother could talk to me about it, the woman had bought a ticket.  The trip would be a week after I arrived.  I decided to wait until I got to the U.S. before trying to figure out just what was going on.

I then learned that my father would have to be met at the airport gate by someone and the woman who made the arrangements chose my mom (not me) to pick up my father.  I got on the phone and asked her if she could change that (I would not be able to, even though I am his only family, since I didn't book the ticket).  She blew up at me and told me that it would be the last time she ever did anything "nice" for me. 

I asked to speak to my father.  She ranted and raved in the background saying loudly , "Who does she think she is?!"

The next day, my father declined the trip.  He wrote me a strange email asking me if we should maybe discuss our different spiritual paths (which he has never considered as different before).  I waited over the weekend to see if he might change his mind.  He did not. 

I did not see my father, though he had a ticket to come see me and my children.

This hurts me more than anything else from my time in the U.S.

May Allah forgive me for my thoughts of sadness and anger.  Alhumdulillah for everything.


My Teens got 8 points also.  These two are really wonderful kids and I'm blessed to have them in my life.  There were lots of times I got to see them. 

For my 17-year-old son, there were too many times as he's all about his friends.  He resisted me in many ways.  He was now too cool.  I hated how he walked ahead of me in public as if I was not really with him.  I laid into him for not holding the door open for the rest of us.  Yet, I know he's better than most and I should not complain.  He's driving around, helping his grandparents with chores, volunteering in the community, and planning for college.  May Allah guide and protect him. 

My almost 14-year-old daughter and I spent more carefree time together.  However, she and I did clash over clothes and friends.  No, she couldn't wear those teen girl clothes around me.  I needed covered skin, nothing see-through, nothing too short or too tight.  She complained but knew I was serious and went out and got some alternative T-shirts.  I also took her clothes shopping for things that only a mom should help a young girl with.

Friends, and one friend in particular, was our biggest upset.  She wanted me to know that her very good friend was getting to know lots of boys.  I told her it was time for a new friend.  She balked and yelled and cried.  She defended the friend who she knew was a bad influence.  I felt how scared my daughter was at this promiscuous behavior, yet she was scared also to loose a friend.  I pushed her as much as I could to see the truth about this behavior. 

If a boy likes your friend, that isn't a good enough reason for her to "make out" with him.  No, it isn't.  Girls are not a commodity to be chosen, used and discarded.  May Allah protect my girlie.

What was great to see is how she blossomed during our time together.  She had on more modest clothes.  She took my advice to wear her hair differently to show off her pretty face (mashahallah).  She started wearing earrings more regularly.  She got her braces off.  She grew more confident from my voice and my love.  I'm glad I was there for her.  Inshahallah, she can thrive in the time we spend away from each other.

It was wonderful to see my kids interacting, playing, joking, laughing, and appreciating their bond.  I took so many pictures of the three of them.

English  got 7 votes.  It was nice to see it on signs; nice to hear it on the TV.  I enjoyed using my English in stores.  I still kept speaking in Arabic every morning when my hub would call on the Magic Jack.

Water got 7 votes.  Yes, it was nice not to boil my water in order to drink it.  I kept feeling I was forgetting to do something!  Drinking it out of the tap was so easy!

Relaxing got 6 votes.  I don't feel I relaxed really.  I feel like I hit the ground running.  I had a limited time and a lot to accomplish.  The deal with my dad took up over a week of my time and energy.  I really needed to jump in and clear out my mom's basement.  I had to pack a lot of life into four bags (which later became four bags and two boxes).

Familiar Places got 6 votes.  Some of those familiar places were good and of course some were bad.  I saw the homes I used to live in.  I saw places of employment where I used to go everyday. 

The Fourth of July had me celebrating with all my former nursery school playmates.  I wore a red galabiya with a red, white and blue hejab wrap.  I stood out.  I wanted to stand out.  I wanted to shout it out, "I'm here!"  And I sought out former friends and gave hugs and took pictures and lived life to the fullest without fear of what they might think or say.  It felt great!  I broke a burden of shame that day.  I had nothing to be ashamed of in my journey.  I was living proof that it all had been worth it.

My Friends got 5 votes.  I loved seeing my friends!  I miss them.  We had visits and outings and time to talk and laugh.  My friends have kept me sane many a time over here and it was so great to get some hugs from them.

One friend had been avoiding me but I bumped into her on the Fourth of July---subhanallah.  She was ashamed that the hijrah she made hadn't lasted very long.  She couldn't keep staying in her husband's family house.  There had been a big blow-up between her and his family and she got depressed...as in really depressed... and had to leave to save herself.  She didn't want me to know this.  "You're a stronger person than me," she told me.

I wish that she had taken up my offers later to get together and talk...or not talk.  I love this lady so much.  Her hijrah hurt her and I can understand that.  There are times when mine has too.  I wish we could have shared our experiences but she never allowed for that.  She compared us and thought of me as being better somehow and really I'm not.  I'm not stronger.  Sometimes, it is the stronger person to say, "STOP!  I can't handle this any more."

Another friend used to teach with me and I hadn't seen her since we were both uncermoniously let go from an Islamic school (which would have sucked all the deen out of us if we had stayed).  She is no longer covering and is further away from Islam than ever.  It was very hard for me to see her without hejab.  She saved each one and handed a big bag of them. That really touched me.  She no longer wanted them for herself but she still saw the value of them belonging to someone else.  God bless her.

Peace and Quiet got 5 votes.  I didn't like peace and quiet!  It felt weird.  I missed the street vendors calling.  I missed the neighbors calling for their kids.  I missed the tuk-tuks.  Mom's neighborhood was creepy quiet.

Shopping got 5 votes.  I did a TON of shopping.  I spent a lot of money on things I needed and wanted and couldn't live with out.  I had really planned ahead of time for what I needed.  I did go to the thrift stores, craft and sewing stores, Walgreens, Target, Party City and malls.  I am not a materialistic person but I feel how deprived from cheap, quality goods we are here.

Freedom got 5 votes.  I didn't really have any more freedom there than here.  I felt scared to walk the streets alone; scared at night.  I missed having a family surrounding me and protecting me.  The craziness of news stories made me hate the "freedoms" of America. 

Weather got 5 votes.  Actually, the weather sucked.  It was freezing cold the day I arrived.  I was under three blankets and shivering.  Two weeks of rain and severe storms followed.  The mosquitos were awful after that and Mr. Boo's bites triggered frightening swelling.  Then, the sauna-like summer began with high humidity.  I actually missed Egypt's weather! 

I felt too like I was out of touch with the weather from all the air-conditioning my mom was using.  I would be enjoying some pleasant sunshine and warmth when I would be told to close the windows.  We would then be chilled to uncomfortableness.  I was sad to be without the sun and actually felt somewhat depressed from missing the bright sun of Egypt.  I am very glad that I didn't make the trip in the winter!

Books got 4 votes.  I did do a lot of reading---though never as much as I'd like. 

One of the most amazing moments on the trip came when I opened up my super-enormous Mohammed Asad Quran.  I had left it behind two years ago, even though I treasure it.  I'm guessing it weighs over ten pounds. 

So, there I am cracking it up where the ribbon has been patiently waiting for me to return.  And I look.  And I think.  And I look again.  Nooooo...couldn't be...

I wait until my husband's morning call before I jump to any crazy thinking.  I mean...it's too crazy to think what I'm thinking.  When first I got my Mohammed Asad Quran, I started reading it from the beginning to the end.  Unlike my Ahmed Ali translation, I didn't make it all the way through since I had been reading the Tafsir (Islamic footnotes) as well.  So, I stopped at Luqman back in August, 2009.

When I got to Egypt, I didn't have a Quran with me in paper form.  I thought I could just read the Quran I had on my computer.  That didn't work out.  It wasn't the book sitting on the table to coax me every morning to be a better person by reading some wisdom.  So, one night, when my hub-to-be took me to Khan Khalili, we bought an Al-Azhar translation of the Quran.  I thankfully started reading it again in the morning.

I decided to read it from the end to the beginning.  No Tafsir.  It was good to get back to my routine, though I did miss my favorite translation.  I read it one last time the morning this June, before I went to the airport.

I had to ask my husband to check my Quran.  I needed him to tell me.  "Tell me where the bookmark is."

"Luqman".

Subhanallah!  The first page of Luqman in both copies of Quran.  Whether from front to back or back to front, I had come full circle.  I was in the place I needed to be and God was with me.  I felt that.

Alhumdulillah.

I also read:

"The 7 Habits of Effective Teens," since I'm a little immature and can't handle the corporate mumbo-jumbo of the Covey book for adults.

"Just Kids," a heart-felt and disturbing memoir from Patti Smith about her time with Robert Mapplethorp

"Suporting Love," by Bert Hellinger which was gifted to me by the only woman (apart from my mother) who loved my father and me.  It's a pyscho-drama way of getting rid of old family constellation baggage.

And I bought my Kindle!!!  I really like it.  I bought the 3G wireless network one and that's what I would recommend.  You can browse the net with it and it saved me during my stay.  I could check the 'net and not go cold turkey.  I plan on doing a lot of reading on it now that I'm back.

Driving also got 4 votes.  I DIDN'T DRIVE!!!  I can't believe how long it's been.  My license had expired.  My state went belly-up while I was back and couldn't renew it for a long time.  No one was offering their car anyway and I just let it go.  I have no driver's license now.

Making Dawa  got 3 votes.  I did actually talk to lots of people from my past about my decision to move to Egypt.  Making hijrah has been a positive for me so inshahallah those who have wanted the best for me can be at peace knowing that I've found the best with Islam.  Alhumdulillah.

TV and Movies  got 2 votes.  Netflix made it possible for me to catch up on a lot of movies I had missed.

  • The Queen
  • The King's Speech
  • Social Network
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Darjeeling Ltmd.
  • Into the Arms of Strangers-a documentary of the Kindertransport
  • Sex and the City 2
 I also popped in the tape of "Singing in the Rain," because it is too awesome.

I did watch some TV. 

I watched REGRETTABLY "The Bachlorette" because it's one of my mom's favorite shows.  I was cheering on Ben but in the end, the whole thing was a sickening mess of haram.  Astragferallah, that I wasted hours which I'll never get back again.

Mom's other favorite show is "So You Think You Can Dance" and that was worthwhile. 

I watched the Extreme Make-over Show for people who were grossly obese.  That was interesting and inspirational.  So was seeing some of the last Oprah shows. 

Mr. Boo watched a lot of TV.  In fact, I wanted him to watch a lot of PBS so his strong Arablish accent would go away a bit.  It worked!  He loved, "Martha Speaks," "Wild Kratts," and "Dinosaur Train." 

Working got no votes.  I didn't work to earn money but I sure did work to free myself from years of hoarding collecting.  Many bags went to friends, schools and Goodwill.  I worked organizing my photos and even if I didn't bring all the albums with me, it felt good to sort through my life and get some perspective once again with who I have been and who I will always be.

Next, I'll tell you "What I Missed in Egypt".


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fasting During Travel



God is so very merciful---the MOST MERCIFUL!

God knows that fasting is a task.  It is not a "nothing" in your day; it becomes the focus of your day.  It is a hardship.

Those who must take medication during the day are excluded from fasting.  Actually, they must NOT fast.  No one is to put their health at risk if a doctor says their medication is mandatory.

Menstruating women don't have a choice whether or not they can fast during their period.  It is forbidden.  NO WAY are they allowed to put their health at risk like that.

What about travel?

We get wrapped up in travel plans and feel like superheroes who can circle the globe and conquer the world.  We fasting Muslims who must travel comptemplate ways we could handle the challenge. 

"I could maybe start the fast here and then break the fast over the Atlantic."

Nope.

"But if I kept fasting by my watch, which I will keep set to the previous time zone..."

NO

"But..."

Stop.  You are not allowed to fast fictiously as if you could magically control time.

REALLY!  And there's no need to be so complicated.  No magic tricks are needed!

God is The Most Merciful and knows how hard travel can be. 

I stayed up all of Saturday night until after Fajr.  I had to finish packing, cleaning, and storing my things.  I was determined to leave my mother's house on good terms if it killed me (which alhumdulillah it didn't). I got only a couple hours of sleep before I was up again.  I carried those 50 pound bags up from the basement and outside to the patio---not once or twice but six times.  That's a lot of work and I needed my strength.  It's also the running around making sure you haven't forgotten anything.  That's a lot of brain power.

Then it's being strong enough to endure hour after hour of navigating airports, take-offs, landings, loadings, and flying across the world.  Not being able to handle the challenge could mean missing a flight and putting yourself in danger. 

Did you know that getting dehydrated is the leading cause of jet lag?  Don't think of putting yourself at risk.  Drinking throughout the travel time is important to your health.

No, it doesn't matter if we're talking long ago during the time of camel caravans or today on supersonic jets.  Traveling is a hardship to endure.  Remember, the edicts from Allah are for all times and all places.  Allah knew about air flight travel long before Leonardo DaVinci designed man-size wings.

No fasting while you are traveling a long distance.

Release the feeling like you're doing something wrong.  You're not!  You are definately allowed to eat and drink (and even chew gum upon landing).  It's a great time to revel in the Greatness of God.  You can make up the day or days (I missed two days) later on after Ramadan.

Don't feel embarrassed that the hejab on your head and your sandwich in your hand will confuse others.  Eat with confidence.  If anyone questions you, use the chance to educate others on how much common sense there is within the practices of Islam. 

And happy travels!

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm Back, Baby!




Asalamu Alaykom and Blessings to you on this night, which is already half way through Ramadan.  The moon is all its fullest and glowing in the desert breezes here.  Alhumdulillah for the Quran recitation which wafts in.

I am back in Egypt with lots to share.

I haven't yet washed off American Airlines and Air Italia, so let me go do that and get back to you.

Thanks for comments!  I was able to read them on my new (and lovely) Kindle but not able (for some reason) to post them.  I have since done so. 

I promise to give you more reason to comment  in the weeks and months to come.

Sending you love and RAMADAN KAREEM!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Nameless Nailah





While editing a voice-over for a TV program on the Caliph Uthman, I grew very solemn.  It was a dark day for the ummah when his house was beseiged---not by the enemy but by other Muslims.  I truly greived for this generous man who gave so much for the Muslims and in the end gave his life.

The writer included the names of those men at the gate who tried to protect this great leader.  The men didn't realize that the back of the house would be the entry point.  They couldn't stop the group from threatening Islam's elder statesman with a knife.

Who would be the one to sheild him from harm?

"His wife was injured in the attack."

That's what was in the original script. 

"His wife"

In front of Allah we all have our names.  Our names are so important.  Naming the men at the gate was important to this (male) writer.  Naming the wife was not important.

Astragferallah, her fingers...I'm so sorry to say...her fingers were cut off as she tried to protect her beloved husband.  She didn't have to be there; to put her life in harm's way.  She could have run.  She didn't.  She lost her fingers and could have died.

I researched and found that of course she has a name.

This brave lady's name was Nailah.  

Nailah is to be remembered and praised.  It's not that we don't have strong women in Islam.  It's that others have chosen to marginalize them for us. 

I gave her back her name in the script,  "Uthman's brave wife Nailah tried her best to defend him but she was also attacked and wounded."

May Allah be pleased with our sister Nailah, forgive her any sins and grant her the highest level of Paradise.  And as we hear stories of nameless Muslimahs may we stop to learn their names, remember their great contribution to our faith and allow their greatness to inspire us.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sister Aminah Assilmi



Asalamu Alaykom,





On Friday, March 5, 2010, we lost a great Muslim woman activist. Sr. Aminah Assilmi passed away in a car accident that morning.

For those of you who didn’t know our dear sister Aminah Assilmi, she was chosen as one of the top 500 most influential current Muslims in the world. She can be credited with getting us the Eid Stamp in the United States. And she spoke often at mosques and Islamic conferences across North America; she had also been a champion of da’wah efforts, bringing many people into Islam by God’s will. May Allah have mercy upon her soul and make her grave a meadow of Paradise.

"Verily, to Allah we belong and to Him we shall return."

Though the below message is long, it is worth reading. I did not write it.  I am re-posting it with the hopes that more people will learn her story, her sacrifice and her amazing contribution to the world.

May Allah SWT  forgive all the sins of our dear sister and enter her into the highest place in paradise...ameen.


Renowned Scholar Aminah Assilmi
It all started with a computer glitch.

She was a Southern Baptist girl, a radical feminist, and a broadcast journalist.  She was a girl with an unusual caliber, who excelled in school, received scholarships, ran her own business, and were competing with professionals and getting awards – all these while she was going to college. Then one day a computer error happened that made her take up a mission as a devout Christian.  Eventually, however, it resulted into something opposite and changed her life completely around.

It was 1975 when for the first time computer was used to pre-register for a class in her college. She was working on her degree on Recreation. She pre-registered for a class and then went to Oklahoma City to take care of a business.

Her return was delayed and she came back to college two weeks into the class.

Making up the missed work was no problem for her, but she was surprised to find that the computer mistakenly registered her for a Theatre class, a class where students would be required to perform in front of others. She was a very reticent girl and she was horrified to think about performing in front of others. She could not drop the class for it was too late.

Failing the class was also not a choice, for she was receiving a scholarship that was paying for her tuition and receiving an ‘F’ would have jeopardized it.

Advised by her husband, she went to her teacher to work out some other alternative to performing, such as preparing costumes, etc. Assured by the teacher that he would try to help her, she went to the next class and was shocked by what she saw. The class was full of Arabs and “camel jockeys”. That was enough for her. She came back home and decided not to go back to the class anymore. It was not possible for her to be in the middle of Arabs. “There was no way I was going to sit in a room full of dirty heathens!”
Her husband was calm as usual. He pointed out to her that God has a reason for everything and that she should think about more before quitting. Besides, there was the scholarship that was paying her tuition. She went behind locked doors for 2 days to think about. When she came out, she decided to continue the class. She felt that God gave her a task to convert the Arabs into Christianity.

Thus she found herself with a mission to accomplish. Throughout the class, she would be discussing Christianity with her Arab classmates. “I proceeded to explain to them how they would burn in the fires of hell for all eternity, if they did not accept Jesus as their personal savior. They were very polite, but did not convert. Then, I explained how Jesus loved them and had died on the cross to save them from their sins. All they had to do was accept him into their hearts.” They still did not convert, and so she decided to do something else: “I decided to read their own book to show to them that Islam was a false religion and Mohammed was a false Prophet”.

At her request, one student gave her a copy of the Qur’an and another book on Islam. With these two books she started on her research, which she was to continue for the next one and half years. She read the Qur’an fully and another fifteen books on Islam. Then she came back to the Qur’an and re-read it. During her research, she started taking notes that she found objectionable and which she would be able to use to prove that Islam was a false religion.

Unconsciously, however, she was changing from within which did not escape the attention of her husband. “I was changing, just in little ways but enough to bother him. We used to go to the bar every Friday and Saturday, or to a party, and I no longer wanted to go. I was quieter and more distant.” She stopped drinking and eating pork. Her husband suspected her of having an affair with another man, for “it was only for a man that a woman changes”. Ultimately, she was asked to leave, and she soon found herself living in a separate apartment.

"When I first started to study Islam, I did not expect to find anything that I needed or wanted in my personal life. Little did I know that Islam would change my life. No human could have ever convinced me that I would finally be at peace and overflowing with love and joy because of Islam."

Throughout these times, she continued studying Islam and although she was changing subtly from within, she remained a devout Christian. Then one day, there was a knock on her door. It was a man in traditional Muslim robe, who appeared to her as a “man in a long white night gown with a red and white checkered table cloth on his head”. His name was Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheik and he was accompanied by three other men in similar dress. She was very offended by Muslim men coming to her in nightgowns and pajamas. She was further shocked when Abdul-Aziz told her that he understood that she waited to be a Muslim. She replied that she was a Christian and she did not have any plan to become a Muslim. However, she had some questions to ask if they had the time.

At her invitation, they came inside. She now brought up the questions and objections that she noted down while she was researching. “I will never forget his name”, she said of Abdul-Aziz who proved to be a very patient and soft-mannered person. “He was very patient and discussed every question with me. He never made me feel silly or that a question was stupid.” Abdul-Aziz listened to every question and objection and explained it within the proper context. “He explained that Allah had told us to seek knowledge and questions were one of the ways to accomplish that. When he explained something, it was like watching a rose open
petal by petal, until it reached its full glory. When I told him that I did not agree with something and why, he always said I was correct up to a point. Then he would show me how to look deeper and from different directions to reach a fuller understanding.”

It would not be long before she would externally submit to what she had already been submitting to internally during the last one and half years. Later in that same day, this Southern Baptist girl would declare in front of Abdul-Aziz and his companions: “I bear witness that there is no god but God and Mohammed is His Messenger.” It was May 21, 1977.

Conversion to Islam, or to any other religion for that matter, is not always a simple thing to do. Except for a few fortunate ones, a new Muslim usually face consequences. The convert may face isolation from family and friends, if not pressure to go back to the family faith. Sometimes, a convert may even face sever economic hardship, as in the case of those who are asked to leave the house because of converting to Islam. Some converts are fortunate to continue to be well respected by family and friends, but most of them face minor to severe hardship especially during the first few years after the conversion.

But the difficulty that Aminah Assilimi had to go through and the sacrifice that she had to make for the sake of her conviction and faith is almost unheard of.

There are few who could rely so much on Allah as she did, standing firm and meeting the challenges, making sacrifices, and yet maintaining a positive posture and influencing people around with the beauty of what she found and believed in.

She lost most of her friends, for she was “no fun anymore”. Her mother did not accept her becoming a Muslim and hoped that it was a temporary zeal and that she would soon grow out of it. Her “mental health
expert” sister thought that she lost her mind. She attempted to put her in a mental health institution.
Her father was a calm and wise man. People would come to him for advice and he could comfort anyone in distress. But when he heard that his daughter became a Muslim, he loaded his double-barrel shotgun and started on his way to kill her.

“It is better that she be dead rather than suffering in the deepest of Hell”, he said.

She was now without friends and without family.

She soon started wearing hijab. The day she put it on, she was denied her job. She was now without family, friends, and job. But her greatest sacrifice was yet to come.

She and her husband both loved each other very much. But while she was studying Islam, her husband misunderstood her for her apparent changes. She became quieter and stopped going to the bar. Her changes were visible to him and he suspected her of having affair with another man, for whom she must have been
changing. She could not explain to him what was happening. “There was no way to make him understand what was changing me because I did not know.” Eventually he asked her to leave and she started living
separately.

After she openly accepted Islam, it went worse. A divorce was now inevitable. This was a time when Islam was little known, much less understood for what it is.

She had two little children whom she loved dearly and whose custody should have rightfully be given to her. But in a grave violation of justice, she was denied their custody just because she became a Muslim. Before giving the formal verdict, the judge offered her a harsh choice: either renounce Islam and get custody of the children, or keep Islam and leave the children. She was given 20 minutes to make a decision.

She loved her children very dearly. It is perhaps the worst nightmare that a mother can have: asked to willfully leave her child - not for one day, month, or year, but forever. On the other hand, how could she keep the Truth away from her children and live as a hypocrite? “It was the most painful 20 minutes in my life”, she said in an interview. Those of us who are mothers and fathers, especially of young children, little imagination is needed to feel the pain and torment that she must have passed every second in those 20 minutes.

What added further to her pain was that according to doctors, she could never bear another child because of certain complications. “I prayed like I had never done before … I knew that there was no safer place for my children to be than in the hands of Allah. If I denied Him, there would be no way in the future to show my children the wonders of being with Allah.”

She decided to retain Islam. Her two dear children – one little boy and one little girl – were taken away from her and given to her ex-husband.  For a mother, is there a sacrifice greater than this – a sacrifice that is done for no material reason but only for faith and conviction?

“I left the court knowing that life without my babies would be very difficult. My heart bled, even though I knew, inside, I had done the right thing” . She found comfort in the following verse of the Qur'an:


There is no God but He,-the Living, the Self-subsisting, Eternal. No slumber can seize Him nor sleep. His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there can intercede in His presence except as He permitteth? He knoweth what (appeareth to His creatures as) before or after or behind them. Nor shall they compass aught of His knowledge except as He willeth. His Throne doth extend over the heavens and the earth, and He feeleth no fatigue in guarding and preserving them for He is the Most High, the Supreme (in glory).

Quran 2: 255

Perhaps the air of Colorado was too thin for justice. Or perhaps there was a plan in Allah’s greater scheme of affairs. Aminah Assilimi later fought back and took her case to the media. Although she did not get custody of her children again, a change was made in the Colorado law that one cannot be denied child custody on the basis of his or her religion.

Indeed Allah’s love and mercy engulfed her so much that, as if, she has been granted the touchstone of Islam. Wherever she goes, people are touched by her beautiful words and Islamic manners and become Muslim.

By accepting Islam, she became a changed person, and a much better person. So much so that her family, relatives, and people around her started appreciating her mannerism and the faith that brought about such changes in her. Despite her family’s initial reaction, she remained in touch with them and addressed them with respect and humility, just as the Qur’an enjoins the Muslims to do. She would send cards to her parents on different occasions, but she would always write down a verse from the Qur’an or the Hadith without mentioning the source of such beautiful words of wisdom. It was not long before she started making a positive influence among her family members.

The first to become Muslim was her grand mother. She was over 100 years old. Soon after accepting Islam, she died. “The day she pronounced Shahada, all her misdeeds had been erased, while her good deeds were preserved. She died so soon after accepting Islam that I knew her “book” was bound to be heavy on the good side. It fills me with such a joy!”

Next to become Muslim was her father, the one who wanted to kill her after she became Muslim. Thus he brought alive the story of Umar ibn Khattab. Umar was a companion of the Prophet who persecuted the early Muslims before he converted to Islam. When he heard one day that his sister became a Muslim, he went out with an open sword to kill her. But upon hearing some of the verses from the Qur’an that his sister was reciting, he recognized the truth and went straight to the Prophet and accepted Islam.

Two years after she (Assilmi) accepted Islam, her mother called and said that she appreciated her faith and hoped that she would keep it. Couple of years later, she called again and asked her about what one would need to do to become a Muslim. Assilmi replied that one had to believe that there is only One God and Muhammad was his Messenger. “Any fool knows that. But what do you have to do?”, she asked again. She replied that if that is what she believed, then she was already a Muslim! At this, her mother said, “Well … OK. But let’s not tell your father just yet”.

She was not aware that her husband (Assilmi’s step father) had the same conversation with her a few weeks earlier. Thus the two lived together as Muslims for years in secret without knowing that the other was also a Muslim.

Her sister who wanted to put her in mental institution accepted Islam as well.  She must have realized that becoming Muslim is indeed the most healthy and sound thing to do.

Her son, upon becoming adult, accepted Islam. When he turned 21, he called her and said that he wanted to become a Muslim.

Sixteen years after the divorce, her ex-husband also accepted Islam. He said that he had been watching her for sixteen years and wanted his daughter to have the same religion that she had. He came to her and apologized for what he had done.  He was a very nice gentlemen and Assilimi had forgiven him long ago.

Perhaps the greatest reward for her was yet to come. Assilmi later married another person, and despite the doctors’ verdict that she could never conceive another child, Allah blessed her with a beautiful boy. If Allah (swt) makes a gift to someone, who can prevent Him? It was truly a wonderful blessing from Allah (swt), and so she named him “Barakah".

The sacrifice that Assilmi made for the sake of Allah (swt) was tremendous. And so Allah (swt) turned in mercy to her and rewarded her with enormous blessings. Her family discarded her after she accepted Islam, and now by Allah’s mercy, most of them are Muslim. She lost her friends because of Islam, and now she is being loved by so many. “Friends who loved came out of nowhere," she said. Allah’s blessings came upon her so much that wherever she goes people are touched by the beauty of Islam and accept the Truth. Both Muslims and non-Muslims now come to her for advice and counseling.

She lost her job because of wearing hijab, and now she is the President of the International Union of Muslim Women. She delivers lectures nationwide and is on high demand. It was her organization that successfully lobbied for the “Eid Stamp” and had it approved by the United States Postal Service, but it took many years of work. She is now working on making the Eid Day as a national holiday.

She has tremendous trust on Allah’s love and mercy and she never looses faith on Him. She was once diagnosed with cancer some years ago. Doctors said that it was in an advanced stage and that she would live for another year. But her faith in Allah (swt) remained strong. “We must all die. I was confident that the pain I was experiencing contained blessings.” As a brilliant example of how much one can love Allah, she mentions about a friend of hers named Kareem Al-Misawi who died of cancer when he was in his 20’s:

"Shortly before he died, he told me that Allah was truly Merciful. This man was in unbelievable anguish and was radiating with Allah’s love. He said: “Allah intends that I should enter heaven with a clean book.” His death experience gave me something to think about. He taught me of Allah’s love and mercy."

Aminah Assilmi is a renowned female scholar of Islam she travels around the United States to give lectures , her personal story has admired hundreds of individuals ,she is also President of International Union of Muslim Women, the organization that has many achievements under its belt.

"I am so very glad that I am a Muslim. Islam is my life. Islam is the beat of my heart. Islam is the blood that courses through my veins. Islam is my strength. Islam is my life so wonderful and beautiful. Without Islam I am nothing, and should Allah ever turn His magnificent face from me, I could not survive."

All praise is due to Allah, Who guides whom He wills ....