Saturday, December 31, 2011

Superlative 2011




Time to look back at 2011


Proudest 
Of our little family when we traveled to Luxor a year ago.

                                                          

And proud of this country; its history, beauty and people.


Closest   
I've been to living through a war. 

The Revolution was a frightening, uncertain test of endurance.  Alhumdulillah that the worst inshahallah seems to be over.


First     
 time I've owned a rabbit.



This was also the first time I've decided not to own a rabbit.


Saddest    
I've been at losing friends and not finding new ones.


Most
Shocked 
to learn that my father with Alzheimers had gone missing.

He was gone with the car for nine hours last Christmas Eve but I wasn't told about it until this March.  Alhumdulillah he found his way home.  I was shocked again when his plan to see me this summer fell through.


Biggest     
television contract I've ever been offered. 

Alhumdulillah that my abilities were affirmed.Alhumdulillah that my common sense prevailed in turning it down.  I wasn't who they wanted me to me.


Oldest       
I've ever been in my life. 

That's only kind of a joke.  I realize it's true every day but it feel truer this year.

                             
For my birthday, just to feel younger by comparison, I saw the oldest boat in the world.


Best                


Longest    

This was a challenge and alhumdulillah we passed it and it made us stronger. 


Most
Excited 
to get my new Kindle. 

Alhumdulillah, every night I first read to Mr. Boo and then read my Kindle.  Reading Eat, Pray, Love was a real treat.


Heaviest 
luggage I've ever carried onto a plane. 

Alhumdulillah I got my Mohammed Asad Quran translation with me! 


Least      
numbers of days I've ever fasted in Ramadan without being pregnant or nursing. 

Alhumdulillah I've just finished making them up.


Most
Relieved  
to take my son back to the Egyptian coast this Eid. 

                                           

He was able to revisit his Grandma.  They could speak in Arabic together and pray together.


Happiest
I've been striving for and achieving a halal life.  

Alhumdulillah, I think (Allahu alim) that this moment in my life is the most halal.


Readiest 
I've been for death. 



At this point, I've accepted death as an eventuality and found my burial place.


Alhumdulillah we were all given a year to improve our lives.  May Allah allow us to live through 2012 and give us all another chance at living this year better than the last.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Giving Dawah to Your Computer




Language is power. 

When I use Word Documents on my computer, I get reminded by the Spell Check that I'm not part of the mainstream.  I use words like:



alhumdulillah

astragferallah

asalamu alaykom

ayah

azan

hadith

hijab

hijrah

hajj

inshahallah

Islamically

Jannah

Kabba

masalama

masjid

Quranic

Shaytan

shariah

subhanallah

surah

tasbeeh

That's a list of words which have been tranliterated from Arabic letters to English letters.  Sounds are basically the same.  We Muslims use these words every day yet on Spell Check it's as if they've never existed.  If you've written these words on any Word Document, then you know what I mean.  A wiggly red line appears underneath to tell you that you're wrong.

You're wrong.

This isn't a word in our culture.

You're wrong.

You're not in our culture, are you?

So, I'm going to tell you a very empowering thing to do:  copy my list of words (above) and paste them into a Word Document then do a Spell Check.  Watch all the wiggly red lines appear.  Then with each word go ahead and click, "Add" to your computer's dictionary.  The red lines go away!  You can now type any of those words and have the computer know what you mean.

It is no longer their computer; it's YOUR computer.

And you're not wrong.  You're Muslim. 

Now go use some words which help define you as a Muslim.

Let me know in the comment section if there are more Islamic words which Spell Check needs to be taught.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The First Night of Hijrah to Medina



When Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) left his home in Mecca, he did so with a heavy heart. He had hoped to change the minds of his neighbors but felt saddened at their inability to accept Islam. Many of the mighty were indignant that the rich were asked to belong equally alongside the poor within one common group. Their haughtiness at loving dunya, the world, instead of Allah was upsetting to Muhammad.
It is said that Allah Subhana Wa Tallah sent comforting words to Muhammad on the first night of his hijrah. Can you imagine how amazing that would be? Think of all those moving days you’ve had when you’ve been overwhelmed and tired. How reassuring it would be to get words from Allah!


Verse 13, Surah Muhammad


And how many a community of greater power than this thy community which has driven thee out [O Muhammad] have we destroyed, with none to succor them!

It is meaningful to me that these reassuring words were given to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on his hijrah. I feel them holding me and lifting me up as well. We are not alone when we make hijrah. God knows our journey.
Those words were given to our Prophet but they are ours as well. If you feel driven out of your home, know that another community awaits inshahallah.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Candy Klefty







Mr. Boo is a funny guy.

He's six years old now but still as mischievous as ever.

I don't know what it is in his genes which makes him so dangerously clever.  I'm not sure if it was the ancestors who helped design the Pyramids or his ancestors who escaped the Irish Potato Famine.  Maybe it's a molotov cocktail of both.

He's very independent and I try to encourage that, while not letting him get out of control.  When he wants something to eat or drink, he can help himself after getting permission.  He's usually good about getting permission...unless it's something really good that he wants very badly.

He knew that we had been given chocolates from Twinky's in lovely gold tinfoil.  Because we live in Egypt, I've gotten used to putting candies on the door shelf of the refrigerator.  This way they don't melt in the heat. 

"Can I eat one chocolate?"  He begged in that really tired, whiney voice which lets you know it's time for bed.

"No."

"Pleeeeeeease?"  He tried being endearing but it came off as annoying.

"No chocolate after dinner.  It's a rule and you know it."  And the subject was closed.

Okay, so because he's tenacious, the next morning after breakfast, he comes to me in the salon and he's rapidly unwrapping gold foil and asking, "Can I have a chocolate now?"

I was busy and he had already unwrapped it anyway.

I sighed, "Go ahead."

He takes a big bite and chews away happily.

Then a confused look comes over his face.

"This is salty." 

I stop working.  "Salty?"  A thought occurs to me, "Dude, does it taste like chicken or chocolate?"

He's now got his tongue hanging out of his mouth and he's trying to speak. "Get the taste out!"

Yes, he's taken a big bite of bouillon cube. 

I tried not to laugh as I got him to rinse his mouth out. 

"It's not funny!" he chastised me.

Well, of course it was but I knew that he didn't see it that way.

He was fine after I gave him an apple to eat.

And I was fine after telling the story over and over.  It still cracks me up!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Light Shone Through Jesus





Every day is a good day to remember Jesus, son of Mary (peace and blessings upon them both).

Jesus came into a dark world and brought light.  He was a kind of window to seeing clearly.  Through that window people became in touch with the reality of the world.  They came to believe in his words that there was One True God worthy of worship. 

Over time, people forgot that the window was a way out of the darkness.  They began to focus their energies on the window itself.  They dressed it up with fancy drapes.  They blocked out the light.  They began to admire the golden embroidery on the heavy fabrics; forgetting that the utilitarian window behind it was simple and plain.  They forgot to open the window to let in the fresh, clean air.

None of that changed who Jesus was.  He was a Prophet who brought the message of God's Merciful Love.  He reminded us to forgive and love one another.  His example of praying to Our Creator was what we were told to follow.  Never once did he ask to be worshipped.

Muslims remember Jesus (peace be upon him) as one of the best of men the world has ever known.  We acknowledge that his mother Mary (peace be upon her) was among the best of all women.  We take joy in his virgin birth.  We marvel at his miracles which God granted.  We feel sadness that he was not believed by all and was treated badly, as were so many of the prophets (peace be upon them all).  We believe that he is not dead and that we will see him again, God willing, if we are admitted to Paradise.

Muslims respect Jesus.  We do not allow for any depictions of him.  There are no statues in our religion.  We do not bow down to stone or wood.  We do not kiss pictures of a man.  We also do not make jokes about him.  We do not use him in advertising.  We do not curse using his name.  There are no movies we make hiring an actor to play him.  There was only one Jesus, son of Mary and we honor him---often times above the level of his worshippers.

We do not worship Jesus.  We do not pray to Jesus.  We do not pray to anyone but God; or in Arabic Allah.  We do not place Muhammad (peace be upon him) above Jesus.  They are to be side-by-side on the Day of Judgement and remain in our minds as equals.

On this day, when so many are thinking about Christmas, I want to remember Jesus, son of Mary (peace and blessings upon them both).

Friday, December 23, 2011

Missing Muslim Girl





A covered Muslimah from a traditional family.

An anxious phone call.

Suddenly and frighteningly a young woman has disappeared.

Because this beautiful girl was so modest, respectable and above reproach, the hunt for her feels that much more important.  The police, the news media and the social media buzz about the need to find her quickly.

Alhumdulillah, she is found. 

Subhanallah, she is alive. 

She is, however, reluctant to meet with her family.

Though the family's media representative thanks the community, there are no thanks from the girl.  She remains silent on why she went missing, where she was and what she was doing.

She is therefore shunned by the very some of the very same people who once prayed for her safe return. 

This is, of course, a synopsis of the Aisha Khan news story which played out as a high tension drama this week.

It's actually a replay.  I've seen it all before.  Read my blog post about Etidal Abdullah.  and see what I mean.  Every single aspect I've listed above was true in that case as well. 

What is in such turmoil within first-generation American-Muslimahs that they run away from troubles rather than face up to them?  Sure, it's only two national cases.  I realize that while, alhumdulillah, it's not an epidemic, it is worth questioning.  We should come up with some answers before there's a third case.

People felt drawn to Aisha's fragile beauty.  They wanted to help her despite any differences in ethnicity or religion.  That's great!  So they prayed for a girl they never knew.  Maybe they prayed for the first time in a long time.  They prayed that the suffering for family would cease.  It felt good to open their hearts and to ask God for help.

After she was found, Media Coordinator Sara Jawhari posted this message:

"The Khan family is ecstatic. Their daughter is ALIVE and safe. I cannot begin to express how much of an honor it has been getting to know them, even if it were a tragic event that brought us together. Isn't that what humanity is? Caring, helping, giving selflessly to our brothers and sisters ESPECIALLY in time of grief? Our prayers that she would be located safely, regardless of background, have... been answered.



I witnessed something beautiful this past week. Our community -local, national and global- setting aside all differences and banding together as one for something. It was truly what kept everyone motivated and positive throughout the whole ordeal. I received phone calls from people I've admired my whole life asking ME how they could help with efforts. I also received calls and emails from priests, rabbis and imams across the nation letting us know that they are all praying for Aisha. It was absolutely beyond inspiring.


Please, let us not forget what we have gained from this. We are at times vicious beings that are so quick to be critical and judgmental of others and this is certainly not a time to allow anything to dissolve this new-found global community, ESPECIALLY when the full story has yet to be announced.


Aisha brought us together. All efforts, all sleepless nights and exhaustion was worth it. Why? Because we found her, and she is alive and NOT DEAD.


Sincerest "thank you" to everyone for your selfless efforts. It has not gone unnoticed and each and every one of you was extremely crucial toward this goal. So proud of you all. Thank you."

I was really relieved to get the news.  I almost cried and prayed two rakhas.  When God gives us what we ask for, we need to say "thank you" so I posted, "Alhumdulillah!"

The message boards were as equally full of "Alhumdulillah!" elation as they were full of hate.  There was name calling and anger.  That vulnerability people had allowed inside themselves had left them feeling hurt and cheated.  Even though their prayers had been answered, they felt let down.  They forgot that they really didn't have a relationship with Aisha.  They had a relationship with Allah which had improved through this time.  Subhanallah!

The hundreds of negative comments moved me to write another comment,

"Asalamu Alaykom,

Every single person commenting today has cared for Aisha's well being and safety. That's thousands of people! Most didn't really know Aisha but they FELT like they knew her. In a way, they claimed a part of her by keeping her in their thoughts and hearts during the days she were missing. Because they took her and her problem to heart, they felt really tenderly towards her.

In today's society, I bet that they prayed more about her than about their own family. She didn't ask them to do that. It was something they felt compelled to do. It felt good to pray and to care. They prayed for her to be found. Alhumdulillah that she was found! Because the circumstances were different than they imagined, they felt that they had been wrong to open their hearts to Aisha. It hurt them even though she never meant to hurt anyone. They forgot that loving and praying are beautiful and isn't something which diminishes us EVER. They felt that they had lost something in a kind of transaction.

I want to remind all the people who feel upset that your prayers were answered. Thanks be to God! We never really know how many people have prayed for us through the years. We might not have even known it. Maybe the circumstances for you or me are very different but we all have made mistakes along the way and disappointed others. It's best to have forgiveness of faults and acceptance of "what is" rather than wishing for "what isn't." I will continue to keep Aisha and her family in my prayers during their time of sorting through what really matters in life."

I read through the other remarks and found something really well written from Nadia Ahsan.  With her permission, I'm posting it here:

"We felt something for Aisha because of some goodness that still exists in the world by the mercy of God. Thank God I still have the ability to feel someone's pain. We are constantly travelling in life... along comes a person that catches our attention and we do what we think is right to help them out. Our deeds and intentions are between us and God.  It doesn't have anything to do with Aisha.

Her family will deal with her...plus we don't even know the reality. What if you were told she was raped but they wanted to hide it. So just let it go! I don't want to undo my good deeds by falling for this kinda talk.  I am NOT sad that she didn't end up dead or that she didn't announce every detail to the world. 

I thought Aisha was in trouble and I couldn't bear her parent's pain.  My prayers aren't wasted.  Her deeds are with her and mine are with me  And I for one am not gonna undo my deeds.


Those of you who would rather get your gossipy details.  Is that why you prayed?  Were those your intentions?  Was there anything pure in that intention?  If so, use those pure intentions to give her her privacy.  Whatever the reason, background story, etc., her parents WERE in pain; feeling the worst pain.  There you go, Aisha's punishment...feel satisfied."

What Nadia wrote echoes the great wisdom of The Holy Quran:


"Whoever does what is just and right, does so for her own good; and whoever does evil does so for her own hurt; and in the end unto your Sustainer you all will be brought back."
                                                                         
45:15


Honestly?  When someone is injured in their iman, we don't need to wish them any bad.  It feels badly enough for them.  Whether the Shaytan was working from the outside-in or from the inside-out, it is a freeing from evil that these runaway Muslimahs went through.  We can really thank God that both Aisha, from this week, and Etidal, from years ago, found their way back.

Alhumduillah.

Oh Allah, please protect the Muslimahs all around the world both from others and from themselves. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Things We Lost in the Hijrah


This picture is not any place I've ever lived---that I know of.  Actually, there have been so many houses, apartments, townhouses, and even a few homes.  I can maybe be excused if I've forgotten.

This last move was going on hijrah; a faith-based move to a Muslim country.   It was a doozy!  As I've written, we had four suitcases stuffed with stuff.  I wish that I had brought a few cartons too (since I later found out that they cost $150 for 50 pounds). 

However, I knew in my heart that going on hijrah means leaving a lot of baggage behind---both figuratively and literally.  I was going to land in Egypt with a lightened load.  No, I couldn't take it all with me and I didn't want to.

Now, it's well over two years into my hijrah and, as I look around, I have to admit that somethings never got over here from The States.  I've had the chance to buy some new things and have not.  Somethings are missed and some aren't.  It's not the same life I once had (which doesn't mean this life is bad but it is different).  I'm adjusting to a new existence.

Here is a list of
Things We Lost in the Hijrah
 in alphabetical order 

Car
Nope.  I don't plan on getting a car either.  People assume that to be successful means having a car.  Not so!  I feel very successful taking taxis, thank you very much.  We have the freedom to walk, take a bus or a taxi.  I don't have to worry about driving or about parking.  There is no upkeep.  It's better for me.  Except for bumper cars, I have not driven in over two years. 

Even if I got access to a car here, it would most likely have a stick shift instead of an automatic.  I didn't start driving until I was 23 and can really only handle an automatic. 

I am wondering about getting a Vespa.  A girl can dream!

CD Player
No stereo system here!  I can play CDs on the DVD player and in my computer so it doesn't really matter.  I only wish that the radio station we turn on (to hear Quran) was better.  Inshahallah, we'll get something else.

China 
None of our dishes are fancy breakables.  I brought only Melamie and have bought only stainless steel here.

Clothes Dryer
I'm not sure who has a clothes dryer in sunny Egypt.  It sure isn't me!  Usually this works fine---but less so in the cold winter months (November through February).  Clothes on the line might take all day and into the next morning (if they're heavy). 

Couch
This cushion on the floor is my seat.  I have a couch, loveseat and comfy chair all picked out at a upscale store.  I am waiting to make sure the money set aside is fine before proceeding with the purchase.  This is what I've done with every big ticket item (like our bedroom sets, our refrigerator and washing machine).

Desk
Yes, I'm writing to you from an end table.  My papers are crammed onto Mr. Boo's top shelf.  I wish very much for a desk.  This will come, inshahallah, when the time is right. 

I saw some beautiful desks at a furniture store right off Tahrir Square.  They were French reproductions and I just oozed bourgeious longing all over them.  Once I got home, I realized how impractical those tiny desks with tiny drawers were.  I really need something more modern, professional and utilitarian.

Hair Dryer
Living in the cold climate of the Midwest, I really relied on my hair dryer.  Of course, I washed my hair all the time.  I don't do that now.  In the Egyptian winter, I do miss having a hair dryer.  I've learned to wash my hair at night, put down a towel on my pillow and let it dry overnight. 

Microwave
If you would have told me that I would have to do without a microwave oven for two years, I would have told you, "NO WAY!" I used to heat up all our food in one of these.  Now?  I heat up our food on the gas stove.  Doesn't really take that much longer.  I no longer worry about radioactivity. 

Scale
I have no idea what I weigh.  I know only how my clothes fit (or don't). 

Sewing Machine
Where I live here in Giza there's everything you could ever want, including a blacksmith, a cobbler and a tailor.  The candlestick maker is at school.  Our local tailor is right down the street and does all the work I need done.  Sure, I have given up some control over my clothes but it's worth it because the quality is so much better than anything I've ever tried.

Shower Curtain
It isn't really something important to my husband (who has never known black mold).  So the water goes all over the tile floor, we squeegy it into the floor drain and end of story.

Toaster 
We don't really use the same sliced bread as in The States.  We use aish balady; pita bread, so it doesn't really matter I suppose.  In my house, I heat up the bread in a pan on the stove.  Downstairs, my mother-in-law heats up right on the propane gas tank (which gives it a "special" flavor).

What else...
I can't remember them right now.  They must not be that important in my day-to-day existance. 



There are things which have to be left behind in order to move ahead.  Some things I still wish for and obviously some I've forgotten.  Things can be replaced. 

Being Muslim---even a Muslim on hijrah----doesn't mean you have to live in austerity. You can have what you need but you need to determine what it is that you actually need...instead of what you assumed you couldn't live without.
This list is not meant to stop anyone from making hijrah.  It's meant to show how I've left things behind and found a way to cope.  I've coped without carrying everything forward from my past.  In the end, things aren't really as important as experiences.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sheik Adel Abu Saleeb




I woke before fajr and prepared a meal of eggs, cheese and tomatoes on dark bread.  I ate an orange and some leftover cake.  I was going to be fasting.  I prayed fajr and stayed up to write on the blog.



This is Sheik Adel Abu Saleeb.  I featured this picture of him in my blog post about the Giza Elections

The Sheik went back to bed after praying fajr.  He had been so busy the day before; arranging for the slaughter of four cows.  These cows were in thanks to Allah for his recent win in the Giza election.  The beef was to be distributed as a sort of zakat to the poor. 

He invited the man who did the slaughtering to enjoy lunch with him.  It was a decidely modest meal.  While Sheik Adel had many kilos of meat available, he himself would be eating lentils.

The Sheik was always being kind to the poor.  He was known to pay money to the single-mother families without support.  He worked hard to stop families from fracturing by counseling troubled marriages.  He paid money to those who could not afford their propane tank needed to cook food.  He was loved by many.

That's why he was voted into office not just once but twice---although he never served. The first time he got elected was during President Hosni Mubarak's regime.  Mubarak wouldn't allow any bearded galabiya-wearing sheiks in government and so Sheik Adel Abu Saleeb was thrown out.

This time?  There was no more Mubarak.  The Sheik could run for office without fear.  Funny that those across the Atlantic feared him.  Yes, he was a Salafi; some would say an Islamist.  He did follow Sunnah.  Part of him following the sunnah was to smile.

He had a smile which radiated warmth and goodness.  His picture was all over Giza these last weeks.  I didn't mind seeing him.  Actually, seeing the Noor of Islam shine from his face gave me hope that maybe Egypt would be alright afterall. 

So he and I prayed fajr together in Giza this morning---of course not on the same rug or even the same house.  We prayed fajr in our seperate homes but we were connected in our hopes for a good day and for a chance to serve Allah.  We prayed for our families and for Egypt.  I stayed up and he went back to bed.

Later, when his wife went to wake him, she found that he had passed away in his sleep.  Inna la llahi wa inna rajalun.  From Allah we come and to Allah we return. 

I heard the masjid's loud speaker announce a death three times.  I didn't know who it was.  I asked my husband later.  When he told me I was shocked; shocked and saddened.  So was everyone else. 

After the noon prayer, he was buried.  He's gone.  He leaves behind his wife, four daughters and two sons. 

The only thing which keeps me happy is the thought that perhaps the Sheik reached the level of iman needed to enter Jennah.  Allahu alim. 

May we all leave this life upon reaching iman and not before.

May Allah forgive any short comings in the Sheik and reward the him the highest level of Paradise.

Making Up Our Fasting Days



Go ahead and say it: SUBHANALLAH!

This is the Masjid As-Salam in Malaysia. Thanks to the photographer.

The Chinese have a saying, "When someone shares with you something of value, you have an obligation to share it with others."

Nice!

Okay, now I'm going to share something else with you: these are the shortest days of the year. The fewest hours of sunlight will be this week. This also means that the fewest hours of fasting possible are this week.

Do you have days to make up from Ramadan? I do.

The best times to make up our fasting days are:

right after the first day of Eid Al-Fitr (after Ramadan). It is sunnah or following the ways of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) so there is added blessing.


the first ten days of the month Dhul Al-Hajja. This is at the same time the pilgrims are making their way to Mecca. The most important day of those ten is the last, "The Day of Arafat."


the 9th and 10th in the month of Muharam.  This is the first month of the Muslim calendar which happens after Dhul Al-Hajja). This is also sunnah but according to the Prophet Musa/Moses (peace be upon him) which Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) followed as well.


Monday and Thursday are also sunnah to fast according to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).


13th, 14th and 15th of the MUSLIM months on the Hijrah calendar; not on the Gregorian calendar. This is another sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 



Click here to learn more about the different calendars systems.  You can see what today is according to many different calendars.

Today, I'm fasting and I'm not getting any extra blessings.  It's well after Ramadan and Hajj.  It's a Tuesday.  But it is one of the shortest and therefore easiest days to fast.  There is no shame in fasting a short day.  A fast is a fast.  What makes is even easier is that it's cold in Egypt and we have Winter Vacation from our international school.

If you have not made up your fasting from Ramadan, please consider getting this obligation done now in December. You will never find an easier time.  I need to count up my days missed, post it on the refrigerator and then mark them off.  My goal is to get all of them done during this break from work.

Two words of caution: 


Fridays must not be fasted alone.  If you want to fast on a Friday, you must fast either the day before and/or the day after. 

Also, if you married you need to ask permission from your husband since his rights with you need to be postponed during the fasting time.  It's a good way to get his mind prepared for the following day.  He will be more understanding if he is part of the process.  Actually, when the man isn't fasting and the wife is there is a kind of "off-limits" fascination he develops for her again.   

The best way to actually do the fast is to make the intention the night before.  Set your alarm for 30-45 minutes before the fajr prayer.  Get up and chow down.  Stop eating, brush and floss, then drink one more sip of water.  Make wudu, pray, and read Quran.  Then, keep busy doing good works.  Avoid romantic intimacy and those things which bring lust or anger to your mind. 

Inshahallah your fast will be accepted.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Can Men and Women Be Friends?




I wrote a response to a Muslim blogger who wanted to reconnect with male friends she knew before Islam. Many readers told her that it wasn't a good idea.  I also stated that opinion.    However, you won't be able to read my response on her blog because she deleted the post.

So, I am posting here what I wrote:

Asalamu Alaykom,

You do seem up and down and then up and down with alarming frequency. This is only obvious to us who read you because you tell us. If you didn’t tell us then we wouldn’t know. You are announcing your moods and thus are locking yourself into a mindset.



I gave up the notion that “happiness” was really that important to me any more. It has helped immensely. I am no longer a slave to my emotions. Sure, I still swerve from the calm I want but it isn’t such a long detour as it used to be. I want peace. I work for finding and maintaining peace. This isn’t as HIGH a feeling as happiness but it sure beats the resulting lows. Being Muslim and making a commitment to Islam means giving up some of our old notions.



That whole idea of “just friends” is not just un-Islamic; it’s illogical. Watch this video  to see some proof from Non-Muslim, Utah college kids.


I realize that you want to stop us readers focusing on your desire to reconnect with male friends from your past. Well…that’s not possible. You threw something out there which is really a bombshell. It’s like a call for help that we responded to and then you want us to stop seeing it as a big issue. It is!


You aren’t really single—from what I’m understanding (and it is convoluted). You seem to still be legally married. That brings a couple of issues into play.


Don’t give the father of your child any rope to hang you. If he finds out that you are still legally his and you are in contact with men it could mean a custody grab. Men do strange things when they think another man might have some sort of closeness or influence with their child.


And maybe MAYBE if you are not fully divorced then you could still save your marriage. Been known to happen! Not an outlandish idea. So, you being seen to jump ship into the emotional arms of a former male friend could upset everything. Leave it alone.


But why do we have to adhere to your thinking that, “I’m a Muslim woman writing this blog, but this blog is not about Islam”? If you are a Muslim then everything you do and say ESPECIALLY in a public forum is about Islam. You are representing Islam.  With every post and response we give we are living out our Islam. There is no way for a true believer to separate ME from MY FAITH. We are our faith in our every move, moment and membrane.


You want to write a blog which has in its title an piece of Islamic clothing, and discuss your life in Saudi, which is a Muslim country, and yet you don’t want us to call you out when your decisions run counter to Islamic principles? You can’t have it both ways.


And “no” you can’t be a Muslim woman and have male friends. The closest I get to this is my writing partner Ben on our blog http://www.yosraben.blogspot.com and even that I constantly question.


Life should be about questioning who we are NOW—not who we were. We weren’t actually that great before. We weren’t! And the people who stayed in that “not so great” place will only encourage us to stay there with them. Though your hub has qualified in your mind as a shlunk, he is still a Muslim man and closer to you than any of those Non-Muslim men will ever be.


I’ve truly “been there and done that”. I’ll tell you what happened for me after my divorce from my Mister.

Those short, funny conversations with a Non-Muslim man will start playing in your head. Those men are closer to our original culture and the interactions are therefore comfortable and comforting. We then wonder if that’s a big loss to have given up. We can’t have these cute little chats about Rog from “What’s Happening” (such an obscure referrence to a 1979 sit-com) with our former foreign-born hub. No pop culture referrences! No simmilar backgrounds. Eventually, we start to wonder if we’ll have to leave Islam somehow to find that connection. Because, as we know, we can’t marry a Non-Muslim man. So, it takes a really awful experience to shake us from playing with fire. And, I believe that, if you did venture out of your Islamic principles, you would get that moment which burns you.


All of us who are advising against this idea would rather you didn’t get burned. We, and I believe I do speak for everyone who reads you, really care about you because you are this sweet, honest woman striving through adversity. We wish the best for you.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I See My Mother Every Morning










          I see my mother every morning.

          Yes, it's her face I see.

          I can't describe my surprise

          for she's where she shouldn't be.


          I see her eyes and mouth;

          the lines around them too.

          When I stare into the mirror,

          she says, "It's not me.  It's YOU!"



Thursday, December 15, 2011

Maher Zain - For The Rest Of My Life



This is worth seeing. I realize that not everyone who reads my blog listens to music. That's OK. But I'm going to ask that you view this video without the sound. Why? Because this director, Lena Khan, (who not incidentally is a woman), puts together images of Muslim couples which are meaningful.

We, as Muslims, need this video to be part of the fabric of modern society. Yes, we are women who live and love just like other women. But we look for our love within the framework of halal; that which God allows for us.

When I see this beautiful video, I thank God that my life and my love are closer to halal than I've ever been before. Alhumdulillah.

If you are able to listen to the music, then you hear the simple clarity in the lyrics:

"I feel so blessed when I think of you

And I ask Allah to bless all we do

You’re my wife, and my friend and my strength

And I pray we’re together in Jannah"

 
Maher Zain is the singer.  I first heard him singing "For the Rest of My Life," and had to hear more.  Mashahallah.  There is a truth coming out from him which feels so calming and purifying. 
 
For those who live in Indonesia, here is the same song and video in Bahasa. Remember that Indonesia has a larger Muslim population than any where else in the world.  12 percent of the world's Muslims (or 209 million) call Indonesia their home.
 
To see more of Muslim life in Indonesia, view Maher Zain's video for Baraku Allahu Lakuma.  The song is in English but the visual images are of a wedding in Indonesia.  Culturally, it's fascinating!  Very beautiful bride, mashahallah.  Again, if you are against listening to music, you could just view the video with the sound off.  There is a lavishness to the proceedings which goes against the teachings of Islam.  There is mixed dancing.  I say this because it isn't the same level of sweet simplicity of the "For the Rest of My Life," video.  I can't recommend it 100%.
 
If you read about Maher Zain's story, you'll see that he's a "Born Muslim" of Lebanese descent.  From the age of eight, he grew up in Sweden. Unbelievably, mashahallah, he's got a degree in aeronautical engineering.  He got into music and spent time pursuing that in New York.  He only came to Islam once he had matured.  His journey shows us all that even those with a Muslim father need to find their own way.
 
Listen to his song, "Thank you, Allah," to understand more about his return to Islam.
 
"I was so far from you

Yet to me you were always so close

I wandered lost in the dark

I closed my eyes toward the signs

You put in my way

I walked everyday

Further and further away from you

Oh Allah, you brought me home....

I never thought about

All the things you have given to me

I never thanked you once

I was too proud to see the truth

And prostrate to you

Until I took the first step

And that’s when you opened the doors for me

Now Allah, I realized what I was missing

By being far from you...

Allah, I wanna thank You

I wanna thank you for all the things that you’ve done

You’ve done for me through all my years I’ve been lost

You guided me from all the ways that were wrong

And did you give me hope..."




There are a lot of people, stories, and videos.  Find the ones which lift you up.




Saturday, December 10, 2011

Islamic Beauty: Hands



Asalamu Alaykom,

This is the second posting in my Islamic Beauty series.





First, we thought about our faces.  We are mandated to cover everything except our faces and our hands.  We'll think about our hands next.

Limit the Exposure

Our hands, unlike our faces, reach out and explore our world.  Our sense of touch is fulfilled mostly through this part of our body.  Since we are so busy with our hands we need to be careful that we don't over expose them.

One of the ways a Muslimah can be careful with her hands is to limit who gets to touch them.  Hands are beautiful, soft, tender and warm.  We don't need to share them with everyone who reaches out to us.  We don't have to shake the hands of men. 

Women shaking hands with men is a cultural norm in the West.  It is not done everywhere.  And, like most cultural norms, it is not something we should adhere to blindly.  The Quran admonishes us time and again to walk the straight path and not simply follow the footsteps of the past.  We need to stop, think, and reassess.  Does shaking hands with a man help or hurt my Islam?

For me, I made the decision years ago to forgo this act of closeness.  My hand is not for any man who thrusts his arm out.  It is actually against Emily Post's ettiquette for a man to suggest a handshake first.  So, for any woman who thinks that it is rude to not take a man's hand if he offers, please realize that it is rude for a man to innitiate.

When we limit who touches and holds us, we reign in our power more.  We are owning our own beauty; not giving it away.  No, not every man gets to touch us.  Being aware of our beauty and our right to keep it from public consumption is protecting ourselves.  When we feel that protection we are able to feel the safety and freedom to be ourselves.  Being ourselves is beautiful.

What to do when a man puts out his hand?  I smile sincerely, place my right hand on my heart and say, "It's nice to meet you, sorry but I don't shake hands."

Do I shake hands with women?  Yes.

I don't need to describe to Non-Muslims every move I make.  It is implied but not spelled out.  This is a quick interaction; a blip.  Usually there is some short-lived embarrassment on the part of the man.  It is a learning moment and often we do learn from our mistakes.  I bet that the same man will not offer his hand thoughtlessly to the next covered woman.

Keep in mind, that in most of the world, men do not shake hands with women. So, if you are in doubt about your right to politely refuse, then know that a large percent of the world's citizens understand and even support your stance.  I understand.

It's a chance for dawa the spread of Islam.  We do not spread Islam by being the same as everyone else.  We spread Islam by explaining that there are both simmilarities and differences.  The differences we adhere to are to keep us closer to what is good and healthy for us; for the pleasure of Allah.

If you have any doubt, think if you would like your beloved husband shaking hands with every woman in the room or if you'd rather he told them that he doesn't shake hands.  Later, the two of you could hold each other's hands in private knowing that just you two are able to share something special.

Gloves

We need to cover up our hands from the cold.  Cold leads to sore, chapped hands.  Not taking care of our hands in the cold leads to more interventions later.  It's far better to use preventative measures.

We also need to cover up our hands when we do the housework.  This is hard for a lot of women.  I've seen it!  I've felt it myself.  When we put on laytex gloves, we feel subservient.  We hate to feel like a housewife!  Yet, without the gloves, we touch many harsh cleaning chemicals, detergents, and soaps.

When I was a new mom, I went to the dermotologist for help with my hands.  My hands were in rough shape!  I felt so much discomfort from them; they were so itchy and dry.  With winter setting in, the skin was actually drying and splitting from itself. I needed help!

The doctor told me that it was a typical symptom of new motherhood.  Moms are changing diapers and washing hands.  Moms are doing more laundry.  Moms are trying harder to keep the house clean for baby.  In the end, he told me how I had to wear gloves for every cleaning job.  I could not allow the chemical agents to touch my skin any more.  He also told me to apply a small amount cream after every time I used hand soap. 

Since that time, I've been able to keep my hands free from problems by using gloves.  The only time I have problems is when I think I can actually handle doing the dishes quickly without gloves.  I can't.  It's life. 

Avoid Harshness

How can a soft hand be subjected daily to harsh soaps and gels?  It can't.  Avoid them.  There are hand soaps which kill germs and also rob us of moisture.  We don't need them.  What we need is to practice proper procedures in hand washing.  Rubbing your hands vigorously with a mild lathering soap, using a nail brush, and drying hands afterward is enough.

We don't need germ-killing hand gel throughout our day.  Yes, there are times I open my purse, pull out the gel bottle and squirt up the whole family.  But I've seen ladies constantly use hand gel as if they were warding off evil spirits.  

Cure Cuts 

Cuts on our fingers and hands are hard to cure.  I have never had much success with band-aids on my hands.  I have, however, been very happy with Nu-Skin.  This is a thin, clear, coat of antiseptic which needs maybe one or two applications in order to heal your wound.  Subhanallah, it has helped me many times.

Nails

Keep nails short.  Really. 

When I was searching for just the right image for this posting, I had a hard time finding hands with short nails.  It is seen as beautiful to have long nails.

Nails are dead.  Nails are not living parts of ourselves.  Just like hair, we don't feel any pain when they are cut.  To worship something dead on us is strange, isn't it?

The practice of growing long nails was famous far and wide for Chinese royalty and nobility.  Long ago, for a Chinese woman to have long nails meant she was a kept woman.  Her man was rich.  She was not necessary for any work.  She was a showpiece kept by her man for his enjoyment. 

Islamically, we are warned against keeping long nails.  Nails should not extend beyond your fingertip; the shorter the better.  They should be trimmed once a week in deferrence to good hygiene and health.

One of the most dramatic real-life detective stories I've ever heard involved long nails.  This is a true story (though I am unable to find substantiating links at this time).  There was a hospital nursery in which a healthy baby suddenly caught an infection and died.  The administration investigated the ventilation system.  It checked out fine.  They thought that maybe the baby picked it up from a visiting family member.  While this first death was still being grieved, a second baby died in very simmilar circumstances.  Now there were two dead babies, two families in mourning and no answers.  What was killing the babies?

What linked the two deaths was one nurse.  Yes, she had long nails.  The undersides of her long nails were depositories of disease-spreading strains of staph.  The hospital staff knew that it was healthier to have short nails but they let societal norms for "beauty" dictate to them.

In my own life, I had to be Mama Bear when a hospital worker came to change the IV on two-year-old Mr. Boo back in 2007.  She showed up with her long nails and I stopped her.

"Are you going to wear gloves?"

"No."

"Then I want someone else."

I later complained to the Ombudsman of the hospital. She agreed. 

Yes, long nails are not healthy.  As Muslimahs, we need to make decisions for our health and for the health of our families.  Good health is the most beautiful. 

Nail Polish

Yes, we can wear nail polish

                                                 BUT we have to remove it to pray. 

For those of you who say, "Muslimahs can't wear nail polish, " please ammend yourselves.  We can wear it but we have to remove it to pray.

We have to remove it in order to make a successful wudu washing for prayer.  A wudu is only valid if the water touches the surfaces of those body parts:  hands, face, arms from elbows down, hairline, ears, tand feet.  Without a successful wudu, our prayer is invalid.  If you have been praying while wearing nail polish, and only now realized your mistake, then perhaps Allah (in all His Mercy) might accept your prayers.  However, now you know.

I never was big on nail polish.  I was fine putting it on but I didn't like taking it off.  The smell of the polish remover is hideous!  And I always managed to stain something with it. 

Yet, when I came to Islam, I didn't like to be told, "YOU CAN'T!"  So, during my periods (when I couldn't pray) I would paint my toenails.  When my period was done, I'd take it off and make ghusl.  I felt some of my freedom to have my limits but not your eliminations.  Later, I got tired of this routine and I stopped wearing it all together.  I did it from my own volition, however, and not from someone screaming at me.

I've had two close friends in America verbally attacked at their local masjid for showing up in nail polish.  These are two separate incidents, by the way, in two seperate states.  "HARAM!  HARAM!"  Wow, Girls, let's be a little better in our approach with new visitors to the masjid.  These two friends went to the masjid in pain and hoped for some relief from the hardship of their lives.  Did they find it?  NO!  They found harsh critics who were ready to pounce on them for some perceived flaw in their appearance.

I would rather that we approach ladies in nail polish while making excuses for them.  They might not even be Muslim!  Not every person entering a masjid has taken shahaddah.  What if we jump on them with our "HARAM!  HARAM!" spiel and alienate them immediately by showing how judgemental "sisters" can be.  Please.  Let's be advisers not crucifiers.

Henna

Henna on hands is a cultural norm in many countries.  Just as I said that Americans shouldn't follow cultural norms without questions neither should those from Muslim countries.  Muslim countries don't necessarily practice Islam.  They usually practice a mix. 

Intricate henna hand designs are beautiful.  I admire them.  They attract the eye for sure.  So...they cross the line.  They bring attention to a woman in public and that isn't the goal of Islam. 

Henna is also used on fingernails as a halal stand-in for paint.  It is a dye and can accept a layer of water over the nail.  Does it look good?  I don't think so.  It's an option, though. 

Preventing Arthritis

Painful joints can create a crippling look to our hands.  Arthritis is best avoided through exercising your joints.  Muslimahs already know one of the best excercises around! 

Tasbih is the remembrance of Allah through repeating the names "Alhumdulillah" 30 times, then "Subhanallah" 30 times and then "Astragferallah" 30 times.  A lot of people assosciate this activity with a string of prayer beads.  However those prayer beads will not testify for you on the Day of Judgement.  If you do the tasbih on your finger joints you get more benefit---maybe even preventing arthritis!

In Conclusion

Our hands are such an important part of how we connect with the world.  We are allowed to show them.  What are we doing with our hands?  We need to take care of them, protect them and use them to help ourselves and others. 

"Beauty is as beauty does."

Actually, the most beautiful hands in the world won't be worth anything if they can't testify on Judgement Day that the Muslimah used her time wisely.



Others in the Series





Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Our Companions



We have some really awful friends.

We keep them because we don't want to feel lonely.

Do you know what AbuBakr said?


"Solitude is better than
the society of evil persons."

Think about that.

Do you have someone in your life who is not good for you?

Do you feel better or worse after associating with them?  Do they add or subtract from your life?

Often we don't even think of these subtractors as friends.  We think of them as acquaintances.  They are the hangers-on in our life.  They aren't really people we would choose but somehow they fell into our life.  They don't represent our highest hope; they are the people we can't "unfriend" though we loathe to deal with them.  They bring us down.

A sheik on TV asked us the viewers if we had good friends.  He asked if those friends would be the people we'd want in the last minute of our life.  Could those friends be trusted to help guide our final moments?

That hit me hard.

If I couldn't trust that person to help me in my final moments (by helping me to say, "La illaha il Allah wa Muhammadar Rasullulah") then why would I want them in any of the moments leading up to it?  There are many watershed moments in our life, which actually seem like a kind of dying, when we need to slough off an old way of life and adopt a new one.  We need the best of people surrounding us to help us be the people we are capable of being. 

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was surrounded by the best of men.  These men were his companions; the Sahabi.  I am very happy to find a pdf collection of many wonderful stories about these friends.  http://www.jamiamasjid.com/hikayate_sahaba.pdf 

There is also a lot of information about the companions on this website of Islamic Landmarks.

This site might surprise you:  It's about a final resting place of a sahabi in China

Learn who these people were and find out why they were allowed into the inner circle of The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  We can ask ourselves if there are lessons we can glean for our own lives.  Can we be better people?  Lastly, we can examine those in our inner circle and truly question if they are a help and a guidance for us.

I did that with a former co-worker last week.  I hadn't spoken with her for so long.  I hadn't seen her when I was back in the States over the summer.  I hadn't even traded messages over the computer.  Zero contact.  I saw her name come up on my chat list and I greeted her.

"Asalamu Alaykom," I wrote.

"WAS," she answered.

I wondered what really I had to say to this lady.  She was another Muslimah.  We had been in the same place at the same time.  She had shown me a lot of kindness back in 2008.  Did we have much to say now?

She did.

"I make du'a for you and your family every day.  I pray for your safety."

I saw those words appear on the screen.  They shocked me.  I had forgotten her but she had not forgotten me.  Astragferallah that I was not a better friend for her when she was such a good friend for me.  It was then that I asked her about her life.  There had been so many changes and all of them positive.  Alhumdulillah.  I felt so good after our short chat.

She remains on my list.

Who is on your list?  Who are your companions?

Are they in your prayers?  Are you in theirs?  

May Allah forgive us the desire we have for companionship which often over-rides our common sense.  May Allah forgive us the many times we have good friends who get forgotten even though they always remember us.