Friday, August 31, 2012

Changing from International to Islamic

Asalamu Alaykom,

This picture comes from this article about Tajik.  You can readily see the differences between women who choose Western culture and those who follow Islam.

It's Friday in Egypt.  I don't go out to the masjid to listen to the khotba.  I can actually hear it through the loudspeakers---not that I totally understand it.  Instead, I've listened to this sermon on youtube from an Egyptian-American.  Here is the second part and here is the third..  I searched for "khotba change" as a topic.  I have been experiencing change for sure.

I'm a week into my new job.  For the past three years I've been teaching in Egypt at an international school.  For sure there were some culture shocks coming from teaching in America.  After the Revolution, the school atmosphere (as everywhere in Egypt) changed some more.  In the end, I needed a change.  I decided that coming all the way to Egypt on hijrah didn't make sense if I was surrounded by an atmosphere which brought my Islam down.

So what's the difference?  What is it that I'm experiencing at my new Islamic school which is different from my international school?


The biggest most obvious change is how we greet each other with "Asalamu Alaykom".  We greet each other with the peace of Allah.  In my old school there might have been some of this but it was not encouraged and it was not standard.  I keep greeting my new co-workers with "Good Morning," and "Saba Al Kheir" and they are eyeing me like I might not really know the importance of the Islamic greeting.  It's funny!  They don't understand how I know but I'm out of the habit.

Every meeting begins with "Bismallah".  That's different.  It means that we are remembeing Allah before we start.  Alhumdulillah.  Maybe to someone else these are little things we say which don't hold meaning.  For me, they do.  These words are powerful and they center me.

The name of Allah is all around the school.  In every classroom there is well-designed signage telling the students (and the teachers) that we are together in faith.  Subhanallah, that's a beautiful thing.


One of the most upsetting aspects at my old school was the increasing disregard for the professional dress code.  Within the pages of the handbook we had to follow conservative dress.  Within the hallways, I was seeing cleavage!  I can't even see that in an American school.  There were see-through tops, bra straps showing, tank tops, baby doll lingerie over lycra "body" tops, skin-tight jeans, butts, and chests, and really astragferallah for it all.

Here at the new school EVERY woman wears hijab.  Even if the woman does not wear it outside of the school, she must wear in within our walls.  That's been hard for the new Russian teacher and I'm thinking to gift her with a pretty hijab to help her cope.

It doesn't mean that I don't see hair.  Somehow, if a woman wants to show her hair, then she still will.  Astragferallah.

The style of dressing is alhumdulillah is more covering.  It couldn't be less than the other place!  Alhumdulillah it's so much more respectable.  There are still some tight jeans (and why anyone wants to punish themselves by wearing hot heavy cotton in 95 degree weather I don't know).  There are still sleeves that don't reach the wrist or shirts that don't fully cover the rump.  Astragferallah.

Some ladies are extremely covered.  There are teachers in long coats.  There are teachers in niqab.  This goes beyond my style of dressing.  So, for the first time in Egypt, I am not the most strict in my style at work.  I like that!

I talked with two of the niqabi teachers.  We were alone in a classroom and I had to ask them about their veils.  Their veils were lifted off from their faces and flipped up on top of their heads.  Why?   Did they make that choice?

No.  The choice had been made for them.  So, even at an Islamic school in a Muslim-majority country, a niqabi who wants to work has to take off her veil.  I don't feel good about that.  Even if I don't want niqab for myself, I will fight for any sister who needs to wear it.

I might need to save my fighting strength for the teacher's school uniform.  It was going to be a lovely cotton tunic top and long jersey vest over black pants or skirt.  I got measured for it and was looking forward to it.  SCRAP THAT!

I came back to school after Eid to find out that the teacher's school uniform is now a long black raincoat.  We are to wear this everywhere ---even in the kindergarten classroom.  It's hard enough for me as a 44-year-old woman in a hijab to bounce around pretending to be a kangaroo.  Do I really have to do it in a black raincoat?  That's torture!  And then I imagine...the...playground.  Really?  How am I going to withstand the playground supervision under the hot sun in a BLACK RAINCOAT?!

I spoke to HR about it.  Sadly, I see his point.

"I'll tell you why we are doing this," he told me.  "We used to have the uniform for ladies be a black or navy abaya.  Then there were complaints that it was hard to go through the school with all the stairs; ladies were tripping.  So, we gave them the chance to wear black or navy two pieces.  This worked for months.  About half-way through the year, we started to see pink."

I know he's right.  It is in women's nature to show themselves in the most attractive ways.  Not really sure why we feel the need to look "hot" in a school setting but I guess we do.  I have seen it and felt it.

So, what do I do?  I really don't want to wear that coat.  However, I really left my other school (with alll its clothing freedoms) to find a school with some better policies in place.  I can't have my cake and eat it too.

Actually, I just ate some cake.  It was from a Betty Crocker vanilla cake mix.  No frosting.  So delicious with fresh peaches and bananas!  And now I am incredibly full.

So...where was I?

Ya, I'm going to put up with the idea of the coat.  I've already asked if I can decorate it with extra zippers and buttons.  I'm thinking to make it as fun and KG-functional as I can.  I might even stick a little teddy bear in my pocket.  This is how I'll handle it if indeed it ever happens---which it might not.  No need to worry about the future since there's enough to worry about for today.

Oh!  I almost forgot to talk about the men!  Yes, the men have beards.  It's maybe half and half.  What's strange at the old school was that there were none---ZERO.  It's weird in Egypt to have so many men and not have any men in a large community sporting facial hair.  I'm a big fan of a man looking like a man and following sunnah so alhumdulillah for this change.  Maybe it will help my husband keep his from Ramadan.


Mashallah there are some really great people at my new school.  The other kindergarten teacher is another American married to an Egyptian.  She's also been living and teaching here for years.  Alhumdulillah we are getting just great along and our personalities compliment each other.

There were nice people at my old school too---or so I thought.  What I found so upsetting is the two-faced nature. I am hoping that, in this Islamic environment, there won't be any room for this kind of double trouble.

Already, there have been some really direct moments and extreme honesty.  I don't feel the fake.  I feel the effort to really get along because we working for the pleasure of Allah.

One of the toughest aspects this week has been my boss' decision to rename the assistant position.  She wanted to call it a "co-teacher".  That has really confused issues yet I see her intentions behind it.  She doesn't want so much hierarchy.  I can appreciate that.  In the past there have been a LOT of problems with asssistants feeling lowly.  My hope is that with re-visioning the job title, there can be better feelings.


It's funny.  I just got into my classroom yesterday after peering in the window for the last four days.  It hadn't been ready yet.  I have had such a short time to really get to know the space.

What I do see as a major difference is that quality is all the way through the place.  It is not just a facade.  The construction, the painting, the furniture, the drapery.  All of it is done carefully and with a nod to pride.

I didn't see that at the international school.  There was such an emphasis to decorations while the floor tiles were missing and the curtain rods were falling down.  It was like putting lipstick on a pig.

At the Islamic school, I miss my old number line and calendar from Scholastic.  There is nothing pre-printed and glossy.  I have to create all my own decorations.  I wish I had purchased materials before in America.  I hadn't figured on this being a problem.

I'll be visiting the copy shop with my jpg-loaded USB later this week.


Alhumdulillah, we have some great materials to use this year.  Our textbooks and workbooks are terrific.  I did not have such resources these last three years.  So, that's actually better at the Islamic school.

The lessons are the same and the emphasis on learning is the same.  The only big difference is with Arabic and Quran.  In my old school, these were taught twice a week and often in the afternoon.  In the Islamic school, they are taught every day and first thing in the morning.  This shows you the importance; three more times a week and the most coveted learning time of the day.  I'm thinking to stay in the room during the lessons if I can learn alongside the kids.


Gone are celebrations for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter.

Instead, there are things like Career Day, a Quran competition, and Splash Day.

Prayer Time

One of the saddest problems I faced at the one school was no time to pray and no place to pray.  It was a major reason I decided to leave (especially considering that Mr. Boo is seven-years-old and now must do his prayers too).

At the new school, I have yet to pray.  I have that break all women have.  I am so looking forward to the chance to pray.  I should maybe do an extra couple of rakhas in thanks to Allah for delievering me from a place which made praying a hardship.  No longer will I have to whisper or mime that I was going to pray.  I can just say it freely.


My new school is about 40-minutes away from me.  I hate that.  I hate traveling.  I hate worrying as we zip down the Ring Road.  I hate beng far from home just in case something goes terribly wrong somewhere.

My old school was (no joke) 5-minutes from my home.  I loved that.

Yet, I had to see the BIG PICTURE.  From America, it's such a long distance to either school.  I made hijrah that whole huge way so an extra 35-minutes shouldn't really bother me.

I am doing my best to calm down on the ride and to enjoy the surroundings.  To allow myself to be happy of the view (instead of scared of the bridge) as we cross the Nile.  I try to remind myself that I wanted this.  I asked God for a new school and I got it.  I got so much of what I wanted.  The extra road time is a trade-off.

Alhumdulillah for change.

Inshahallah, the positive change on the outside will result in some positive changes on the inside as well.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

My Life Only Makes Sense When...

Asalamu Alaykom,

I'm back to work.  Alhumdulillah.

It's those early days when nothing makes sense.  I got the wrong time and place to catch my bus.  I can't figure out where the unlocked bathrooms are.  I don't actually know how to pronounce my boss' name.   Job titles don't really reflect what the job duties entail.

Oh!  And I'm sleep deprived---of course...because it's Egypt.  Mr. Boo is at home and got in a three-hour nap yesterday which meant he was NOT interested in sleeping on time last night.

Alhumdulillah.  Life is good.  No, really it is.  When nothing makes sense, I still need to sit back and say, "Alhumdulillah."  Then, miraculously, I do feel some composure.

There's a quote I read recently and I really wish I could share it with you----but I can't find it now!  It's lost amongst all my sample books in my Kindle.  It's from C.G. Jung.

C.G. Jung was always my mom's hero.  He was a Swiss psychologist/psychiatrist and a contemporary of Freud.  Jung believed that unlocking our dreams was key to understanding ourselves.  So, throughout my childhood I was encouraged to remember my dreams upon waking.  My mom and I would talk them over.  She would write hers down.  She even went a step further and talked them out to a Jungian analyst.  I would go with her to the appointments and play on the sand table.

I resisted, therefore, knowing anything about Jung.  When we have someone in our sphere who lays special claim to a talent, a knowledge or a love we often steer clear of it.  Lately, I'm appreciating him more.

I tweeted his quote, "The majority of my patients consisted not of believers but of those who had lost their faith."

Here's the one which really grabs me.  C.G. Jung said in his later years that his life only made sense when viewed through the centuries.

That makes absolute sense to me.  I feel that my life will inshahallah make a positive difference in the world.  I need to feel that!  However, I always thought it had to be NOW.  I had to push myself to complete all tasks by the end of my life.  At the age of 44, I felt like time was clicking and I had to start hurrying up.  The wisdom from C. G. Jung has me calming down.

Alhumdulillah, Ramadan's clarity helped me to see that truth.  Remember, that at Ramadan we shouldn't only open ourselves up to the truth found in The Quran.  We can find truth in many places.

Honestly, the difference I'm making in the world is happening all over the world.  It's my children I've got in America and my boy I've got in Egypt.  It's all the children I've taught.  It's the readers I've got on this blog.  It's the people I've met.  It's even the people I've never met but who've seen me and then have to admit that Islam is not only for brown people.

When I think that my little drop in the pond of life will ripple outwardly for hundreds of years then I feel that I can rest in peace---even while I'm alive.  I don't need to do it all within the time limits of my physical frame.  I have a spirit which truly will live on after my body is done.  Inshahallah who I have been on this earth will remain among the people and places and will make sense eventually.

It just might take a few centuries.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pray for Your Husband

Asalamu Alaykom,

                                                                                                                                        Source: via Peggy on Pinterest

Saturday, August 25, 2012

No Push-Me-Pull-Me on the Ark

Asalamu Alaykom,

I'm sharing with you the lessons I feel I've learned while fasting this Ramadan.  There's less we can accept during Ramadan in terms of food of course but also in terms of human interactions.

This Ramadan I got my fill of the "push-me-pull-me" variety of people.  There's a picture of the animal variety from the movie Dr. Doolittle.  Yes, it's got two heads and "no" it can't agree on which way to go.  If you offer to help either species of push-me-pull-me you're in for a load of trouble because you'll only get drama and upset.

I used to think that if I built my ark (that's metaphysical not actual) then I could secure myself and my boy.  I could then call for the others to come join me.  They would, in my irrational Kumbaya mind, be delighted to get to safety and happiness and float away into the sunset with me.

It hasn't worked that way.  I am very much alone in my boat building.

My family is into thinking that whatever I say or do is all about Islam and since they don't think they're Muslim then they're off the hook.  They can dismiss me as good as dead.  I don't really exist.  I left them back in 2002 when I came to Islam.  I left them when I came to Egypt in 2009.  I left them when I remarried.  I left them and they don't see how they left me.  I've been there for them as much as I could but it doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter for birthdays and holidays.  It doesn't matter when I'm ill.  It doesn't matter.  I don't matter.

This Ramadan I had accusations hurled at me.  I had the phone slammed down on me.  I was ignored.  I swear to you that I did nothing warranting this backlash.  I was shocked and hurt once again by the people I was only trying to love and help.

Many friends I have had "back home" are so deep into their manic depressive denials of their roles in creating drama.  They say they don't want to be in so much trouble.  If you talk, then you think you're being heard.  However, they just do and re-do as they please.  They are intent on being stuck in the muck.  I love them but they are not jumping on the ark with me.

Out of the three best friends whom I sent Ramadan greetings to, only one sent kind wishes back.  What was going on with the other two that they couldn't stop for a moment and remember me?  If you only knew how much I have loved, prayed for and helped those two sisters!  Yet, when I'm wanting some camaraderie as I fast in a foreign land with no friends or family----they are too busy.

If I try to deal with Americans living here it's no better---in fact it's worse!  There's an American blogger living in Egypt whom I tried to help because she tried to kill herself.  No joke.  That ended up taking up so much of my energy and time that honestly my home life started to suffer.

I couldn't believe how blasé she was in a week. Nope, it was all good for her!  She'd bounced back.  When she returned to her blog she slammed the people who had warned her about what she's been writing---and the way she wrote it directly pointed at me and a comment I'd written weeks before.  Surprise!  I'd wasted hours, used up a lot of money on phone cards, lost sleep, fought with my husband, ignored my son and for what?  For somebody who was fine and in the mood to right the wrongs done to her.

The friends I have had here in Egypt are not into drama.  They are into scarcity and fear and guarding their way of life, their family, their money, and their social standing.  I have never met so many people afraid of the facade crumbling.  For me, as a very honest and direct person it has become increasingly hard.

I'll give you an example.  I was really excited to bring a friend to my house.  This was a couple of years ago.  I thought that I could show all the progress we'd made on fixing up the apartment.  This friend could see my life at home and understand better where I'm coming from; who I am.  It's an opening up and a vulnerability.

So, she comes in and I introduce her to my sister-in-law with the niqab.  I can tell that was a strange moment for my friend.  She hadn't been expecting that and I forgot to warn her...because we're in Egypt and it's kind of common...but not in every body's circles.

I take her upstairs to see my place and she isn't really as pleased with it as I thought she would be.  She was seeing it through the Egyptian woman's eyes which need to see a fully furnished flat---no matter the hardship.  I couldn't really invite her to come in and sit down as we didn't have our couches yet.

I invited her to the roof.  Our view, in my opinion, is spectacular.

Take a look for yourself:

Yet, she couldn't really see the view because her focus was on the smell of the animals.  We do keep animals on our roof (as do the majority of home owners in our area).  This friend complained and complained of the smell and then quickly fled down the stairs. That was years ago.  I should have known then that someone who can't stand for a minute and view the majesty of the pyramids isn't a good candidate for my friend.

She was the friend I thought of calling this summer when I needed that procedure done to stop the internal bleeding after my miscarriage.  She had gotten it done before.  She talked me through it.  I was grateful for that moment.  Then she told me that she really felt for me and that she'd call the next day to make sure I was OK.

She never called.

She never called the rest of the summer.

I hate that.

I'd really rather that people don't fake their friendships.  If you don't actually plan on calling, please don't tell me you will.  I could make excuses for her...and I do...but I'm done.

It's not just her.  There's more!  Lots more!

America is full of flakes 
and Egypt is full of fakes.

There's the woman who insisted I would be invited over for a Ramadan iftar.  I would be there of course!  I had been there before so I kind of imagined it was true.  It wasn't.  I sent her an email in which I said that I hadn't been well since I had miscarried.  I spent all of Ramadan wondering if I'd hear from her.  No word.  Not one.  This is from a lady who is was very prompt in every reply before.

With both of these ladies, they strive for the good life in Egypt.  They are constantly buying new things and enjoying new clothes and shoes.  They would always be the first to notice if I had on something new.

They also did this thing which I've come to fear:  they would confide in me.  I'm a minister's daughter so I feel  the responsibility of confidentiality.  I've been around the block so very little shocks me.  I'm accepting.  I take it in and I don't feel that someone is less for sharing their troubles.  So, both of them would tell me things which they didn't tell the others.  They wanted to look good in front of the others but with me they wanted to be real.  I feel that, in the end, being real with me hurt them too much; hurt their pride or their sense of success.

And then there's the Egyptian blogger whom I connected with and we made plans to meet up after Eid.  No lie, I really had enjoyed our little interaction and imagined a fun time getting together.  I looked forward to it and it gave me hope.  It's not enough that she didn't contact me.  When I contacted her, she absolutely ignored me---as if I was a disease she could catch.

So, I've tried to make new friends and create a kind of new family.  It's not working.  It really hurts and I actually cried last night so much that I needed Quran to lull me to sleep.

What helps me today, as the sun shines anew, is that my ark isn't going to have any push-me-pull-me on it.  I'll keep building and I'll keep hoping that God has something wonderful in store.


Friday, August 24, 2012

A Place for My Family

Asalamu Alaykom,

What I'm formulating right now are the big ideas in my brain.

One of the BIGGEST is the idea that
are for people 
not for things.  

This comes to me from Hiliary Farr

 Yosra, Thank you for letting me know we bring you a little fun and beauty each day that gives me great pleasure.

She's a Canadian designer on the show Love It or List It.  I don't have the clip in which she uttered those words but I can tell you the set up.  There was a family of five who had outgrown their home---actually it wasn't them; it was their STUFF.  There was crying and pleading from the homeowner for more  MORE!  She wasn't begging for more space for her and her husband or more room for the kids.  No.  What she really wanted was a place to put her junk stuff.

George Carlin said it best in his comedy routine.  Watch it here.  There is swearing and crudeness in this very funny comedy routine but it's revolutionary in thinking and sometimes you need coarse language to hit people between the eyes.  If you allow yourself to really hear the message, you will realize that it's very Islamic.  No, we don't need all the junk stuff.

I am re-evaluating what it means to live in my home; to make my home for people not stuff.  If it doesn't make our lives function better then I'm not interested in keeping it.  I'm re-claiming the surfaces from obvious piles and the cabinets from the hidden piles.

If it hurts me somehow to see it then I don't need it.

If it's really a kind of hording, then I need to release it.

If it's taking up space which is needed for something else, then it's time to replace it with better.

If I like it but it's not the way I want it, then I need to fix it.

This is resulting in give-aways, throw-aways, repairs, re-organizing and re-focusing on my priorities.  I am a real person and my lifeless things need to help me be the person I am.  Even after acknowledging what helps me, I need to remember to keep my footprint small enough within my little home so that I don't crowd out my other two roommates (Ahmed and Mr. Boo).

I'm not moving physically; I'm working hard to stay here in this home and make it a comfortable place for our family inshahallah.  What I'm doing is moving psychically.  A month of fasting made me see the stuff junk for what it was.

Come back soon to hear about another lesson I learned or re-learned from this Ramadan.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Sizing Up People

Asalamu Alaykom,

This set of startling photos comes to us from "Daily Reminders".  We know it's true that ANYONE can come to Islam yet we judge someone like this man with tattoos and piercings as incapable of it.

When I worked briefly for those six months selling ...or as I like to say, "not selling" cars, I heard a lot about how to "up".  This is the car sales lingo for "sizing up people".

"Whose up is that?"

"Hey, don't talk to him!  That's my up.  I upped him when he was here yesterday."

Afterall, why waste your time with a nobody while you could wait a little longer for the real deal.  At a car lot, you don't get paid for just being friendly, you have to only be friendly with those people who could buy a car so you in turn could pay your bills.  Could that couple that just walked onto the lot be loaded with cash?  Well, I learned that anyone who looked like a million bucks was actually a million bucks in debt.

One the of the best deals I ever did was with the overweight, middle-aged dude in the tracksuit.  No one had upped him.  He looked like a nobody.  He wanted to test drive a BMW Z3.  I of course was happy to oblige because, though I had to pay my bills, I also loved  going out in cute little sports cars.  He loved the car.  When it came time to talk numbers, it turned out that he was a surgeon.  He was rolling in money.  His wife also wanted a car and got a new Kia SUV.  This happened to my benefit because I had decided that it wasn't in my best interest to dismiss a person who was showing genuine interest.

Let me tell you one more story.

The afternoon we went to the zoo with its kiddie rides to celebrate Mr. Boo's fourth birthday, I was strapped for cash.  Funny how much my stories today revolve around money!  It was right before I left for Egypt and I was pinching pennies pretty hard.  I was going to take the kids on a few rides but of course not on everything.  We stood in line after line and I kept counting tickets to make sure we would have enough.

There was a woman behind me in the line for the tiny train.  She looked awful.  I mean, she was beautiful!  She was really attractive but dressed too provocatively for a mom at the zoo.  Everything on her was black, skin-tight and some of it see-through.  It didn't really cover her and I thought of giving her a bad look to have her realize that moms just don't dress like that.

I caught her eye once and saw that she was sizing me up.  She was upping ME!  She was looking at me fully covered and in my hijab with the two white kids and the one brown kid.  I tried to ignore her stares.  In my head,  I figured out everything this chick was thinking about me as we stood together in line.  I zoned out on these thoughts as we waited for our turn on the tiny train which was rounding the track for the millonth time.

She said something to me.  I really didn't hear her at first.

"Here, you can have these.  This is our last ride," she was offering me the three wrist bands from her and her kids.

They had cost more money than I could afford so I hadn't even considered them.  Now?  I was being given them for free.  And from whom?  From the woman I was sure hated me for looking different from her.  I realized then that the stares she had been giving me were to try to get my attention so she could make her offer.  She wasn't doing anything rude at all. She wasn't me.  I had made assumptions about her by her way of dressing.  Astragferallah.  What if I had given her that nasty look?  Alhumdulillah I hadn't.  I thanked her and then the kids and I enjoyed all the rides we could because of her generosity.

Watch the video of Brother Abdul Malik.

Consider if no one had ever invited him to Islam.


Stop and really think about his life in that tormented, angry state of being lost without guidance.

Ask yourself who are you helping to Islam.  If the answer is, "no one" then look once again at Brother Abdul Malik's "before" picture with all the tattoos and piercings.  I'll ask again:

What if no one had ever invited him to Islam?

Alhumdulillah for the power to be open to the Greatness of Allah.  Since all of creation was brought to life by The Creator, we need not wonder if someone could be capable of bigger and better things.  Of course they could...and we could too---inshahallah.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Fasting Again in Shawwal

Asalamu Alaykom,

This is a hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  

It's my second day fasting in the month of Shawwal.  Ramadan is a month in the Islamic calendar and it's the month of fasting.  Shawwal is the month after Ramadan.  See?

Muharram means "forbidden".  

First month of the Hijrah Calendar Islamic New Year
10th day is Ashura

Safar means, "whistling wind"

Rabi means "spring"  Awwal means "first"

The Prophet (pbuh) was born in this month
63 years later passed away in this month

Thany means "again" 

Jumada Al-Awwal
Jumada means, "summer"

Jumada Al-Thany


Mi'raaj the Prophet's Acension


Ramadan is derived from a word meaning, "intense heat"

Quran was first revealed
Month of fasting


Eid Al-Fitr



Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca
Day of Arafat
Eid Al-Adha

I really need to learn these months.  We use both in Egypt.  Our calendar in the kitchen is split into half Gregorian calendar and half Hijrah calendar.  If you'd like to convert your important dates from the Gregorian to the Hijrah calendar, click here.  To learn more about the months and their historical significance click here.

There's a lot of referrences on that site about the Prophet children (pbuh) so here's another site to clarify who they were.  Really, it's amazing to me that a man so committed to the spread of Islam was still so grounded in his loving family.

Now back to fasting in Shawwal....

 if someone asks you, "When is Eid Al-Fitr?"  You could answer either, "At the end of Ramadan," or "The first day of Shawwal."  Both would be correct.

There is a reward in fasting six days of Shawwal.  If someone fasts Ramadan and six days of Shawwal the reward is as much as fasting the whole year.  It absolutely can't be the first day of Eid but it can be any days after that.  It doesn't have to be consecutively (but of course it's easier to get into a routine).

It's a good time for women to make up fasting days they missed due to menses.  It's tempting to wait until the days are shorter, the weather is cooler, and we're all rested up from Ramadan fasting.  However, I'm really hit this year with the idea of hastening to do a good deed.  If you know you should do something, then don't delay.  Procrastination does result in some sticky situations (like me waiting all year for a better time to make up the days and ending up fasting the longest days of the whole year).

Having said all that, it's a bit of a deja vue fasting in Shawwal.  It feels like I've done this all before.  I wonder a bit why I am once again FASTING in the heat of summer when I could be really enjoying myself.  I know that those are the whispers of Shaytan (he's out and about after his Ramadan lock-up).

The good thing is that I feel some renewed purpose to finish what wasn't accomplished in Ramadan.  Some of that means actual projects.  Yes, that book binding project in the salon is finally cleaned up.  It also means continuing to get my head straight.  I have to be a little smarter.

Tomorrow I'll start posting the ideas which have been formulating in my brain.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Every Night and Every Day

Asalamu Alaykom,

I am asking you to view a very simple song in a very simple video with very simple production values.

However, the song is simply amazing.  I love this nasheed.  I hope you do too.

There are other versions of it on youtube.  I think I've watched them all today.

I did like this version done on stage with a back-up choir.  The young man singing the lead is very good.  The other singers are good too.  I don't's just too high on production values for me.  I like it best at the end when the heavy beats subside and it's almost acapella.  As I said before, it's a simple song.

This version made me kind of sea-sick with it's reverb in full tilt.  ECHOOOOO ECHOOOO.  There used to be that 80's group "Echo and the Bunnymen".  I think I know what happened to him.  Sincerely, though I'm not knocking anyone who wants to praise Allah.  It's all good.

I liked the female singer however a true nasheed is with the male voice.  Why?  Because our voices are enticing, even if they are singing about Allah.  Here she is again but this time we're being flown through the clouds.

Give me some feedback.  Let me know which you like.

Maybe you have another version that you know of.  Add it in the comments section if you could please.

Eid Khotba

Asalamu Alaykom
                              and Happy Second Day of Eid!

"It’s good to laugh.  I love to see the Muslims laugh.  This is not a bida to laugh.  

For some reason we thought that the best way to teach our community is to intimidate them and bully them but those days are over.  

It’s more important that we inspire people to transcend themselves instead of fear mongering them into transcending themselves."

I loved that moment in Imam Suhaib Webb's khotba so much that I wanted to share it with you.  He is my kind of imam; slighty irreverent, totally honest, direct and unwavering, striving hard for Allah like it's an emergency.

Click here to listen.  He begins to speech around the nine minute mark.  So, it's 30 minutes of  good thoughts...and laughs.  Special thanks to Brother Bilal Mirza for posting it.  

There's other good moments, of course, than that one I quoted.  I had no idea the meaning behind only saying the azan; call to prayer in the newborn baby's ear without the  iqama; the call to start the prayer.  It's shocking a bit---though it makes sense.  Subhanallah.

I have added Imam Webb's website on the sidebar.  Take a look at what else he can offer us.  

Inshahallah it's something useful.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Happy Delayed Gratification

Asalamu Alaykom,

Happy Eid!

This truly is the hardship after the ease.  Alhumdulillah that our inability to eat and drink was temporary.  Alhumdulillah that our halal partners are once again allowable to us whenever we want.  Alhumdulillah that we are no longer stretched so thin (yet amazingly not weighing any less).

Ramadan is the very definition of "delayed gratification".  We could have eaten, drunk, made love, and ignored our duties as Muslims---could have but didn't.  We participated in a worldwide marshmallow experiment.


Okay, that's where this video comes in.  The marshmallow test was originally done in 1972 (when I would have been all of 4-years-old).  The actual name is The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment  because it took place at Stanford University in California.  Since then it's been duplicated time and again.  There are several video versions on the 'net.  I like this one because it comes from a TV news segment in Minnesota.

Hi, Don Shelby!

Hi, Amelia Santaniello!

Oh, and Dr. David Walsh is the one running the experiment.  You can read more about him here.  He's the author of "Why Do They Act That Way?"  and the simply titled, "No."

Here's a blurb about the latter,

"No. It's not just a one-word answer, it's a parenting strategy. By saying No when you need to, you help your children develop skills such as self-reliance, self-discipline, respect, integrity, the ability to delay gratification, and a host of other crucial character traits they need to be successful. Although the importance of using No should be obvious, many parents have a hard time saying it -- even when they know they should -- when other parents and the culture around them are being permissive."

I find that really helpful.  It doesn't mean that we have to be robots spewing negativity.  We can listen to children and work with them BUT when it really isn't possible (for reasons of safety, health, time, money, etc.) then, "No," means "No."

I once heard another child psychologist give a speech to a group of us teachers.  He talked about limit setting.  If you don't set limits then it feels the same to a child as crossing a busy street with no traffic light.  They feel nervous and unsure.  Or, if the parenting is really bad, then it's crossing the street where the green light means, "stop," and red means, "go".  They feel absolutely crazy.

So, this marshmallow experiment was done to see which children have an inner voice that tells them, "stop".  Have they learned through good parenting how to know and respect limits?  Basically, a child in a room is given a marshmallow to eat BUT if he or she waits 15 minutes, he or she is promised that they'll get two marshmallows.  Frankly, I find it hilarious the attempts at self control these little ones exert.  I also love the kids who have ZERO will power.

Watch the video and see what I mean.

Dr. Walsh gives some great reasons why the study's findings remain so important.  What made the initial study so great was that it wasn't just a one-time glimpse at a child's ability to delay gratification.  The researchers followed the children throughout their schooling.  Guess who did better with grades?  Who had more friends? Yes, those children who as four-year-olds were able to resist temptation.

For one month we Muslims have been resisting temptation.  None of us are angels and we all had our moments of not loving Ramadan.  'Fess up.  It's true!  Yet, we made it through, alhumdulillah.  We had our will power through our faith in Allah.  We feel better for our attempts, inshahallah.  May Allah reward all our sincere fasting, prayers, reading Quran, gaining more knowledge and giving charity.

Now it's Eid!  Eid Mubarak!  Eid Sayed!

Go eat your marshmallows.  You earned it!

Ramadan Day 30

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Ramadan on MBC3

Asalamu Alaykom,

MBC3 is a children’s satellite channel out of Saudi.  It has special program during Ramadan, as you would expect.  In between the shows, there are short videos depicting Muslims from history.  What’s cool is that the voice-over is accompanied by a sand artist.  The profile pictures appear as if by magic but it’s really the careful hennaed hands.

If you click to view on youtube then you will see the additional videos like this one.  

Mobinil Ramadan song 2012

Asalamu Alaykom,

The commercials in Egypt during Ramadan are akin to the Superbowl commercials in America.  They are special.  They are high quality and strive to be talked about.  This video is from Mobilnil, a cell phone provider.  You never see the product.  What you see are the people and the places of Egypt.  If you want to know why I can swell with pride for this adopted home of mine, this video certainly helps.  If you’ve ever visited Egypt and miss it, this video will make you smile and cry with a wistfulness.

The funny thing is that this video, for all it’s staging, feels amazingly real.  I know that the places are a little cleaner; as are the children.  It’s a nicer Egypt yet it’s remarkably true to life.  I know this Egypt, Alhumdulillah.

I wanted you to know it too.

Doors Half Open

Asalamu Alaykom,

Last night the lights went out just after 7:30 pm.  I know the time because Mr. Boo, my seven-year-old, had an appointment with, "The League of Super Evil," which is his current favorite cartoon.  I had gotten him upstairs for that.  I used it's powerful leverage to make him clean the massive toy dump off the floor in his room.  As I did so, I said, "Remember how awful it is when the electricity goes out and there's a mess in your room?"

I grabbed the sheets off the line and then I went downstairs.  I had not had my tea.  I sat down on the floor (yes, we have furniture downstairs but it's homesy this way).  I was passed my tea and


the lights went out.

It's been happening a lot lately.  Alhumdulillah, I can adjust---mostly.  You develop routines and coping mechanisms.

"Mommy!  MOMMY!  MOMMY!!!"

Ahhh yes, the dulcet tones of a scared boy in a dark home.

My hub and I fumbled for a few seconds between his mobile and mine. Which one would light the way better?  I chose mine and kept calling out reassurances as I shone the light ahead of my climb.  I was going quickly because I worried for my boo.  Really, he's gotten bigger but he's still a boo.

I had left the door open for the breeze so no need to find the key.  There stood Mr. Boo with his laser gun.  Yes, he's gotten his routines and coping mechanisms too.  I told him to sit down.  I had to unplug the refrigerator because any sudden surge of elecricity could render it into a worthless metal box.

Mr. Boo insisted on following me around.  I told him to sit down again.  And that's when he walked into the door.  What is with him and his head?!  Why must he bump his head into so many obstacles?!

So then it was me yelling for him to sit down so I could put ice on it.  Remember, This is all in the dark; almost complete darkness.  My husband had now made his way up.  He was trying to reassure the boy on the couch and tell me to stop being so loud.  I actually couldn't.  I must have had too much adrenaline in my system.  I put the ice on that much maligned forehead and asked my hub to go back downstairs so I could calm down.

Lighting a candle helped.  I could just sit.  Mr. Boo was fine.  He came over to the big comfy chair so we could cuddle together.

"You should have shut the door," he said blaming me.

"It's OK to have it shut or open but not half way.  Remember the blind girl at school?"  Actually I used her name not that definition.  I had her in KG1 and then Mr. Boo was in her class for KG2 and first grade.

"She couldn't have any doors half open.  She had to have them fully shut or fully open."

As we sat there, I thought about the danger of being half.  We certainly do like to do things by half.  Yet, we need to have things done fully or we can't function properly.  This Ramadan I need to close some doors and open others and not keep bumping my head on the half-open.

Ramadan Day 27

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Muslimah Games

Asalamu Alaykom,

The month-long fasting is almost done.  It's time for....


No, not yet.

It's time for....

collapsing in a heap!


But what I really wanted to say is that it's time for

The Special Muslimah Games
Held every Ramadan

The Olympic Games were easy by comparison.


This is for the women who are working outside the home, working inside the home AND meeting their Ramadan obligations of fasting, praying and reading Quran.  It's a 24/7 endurance race.

Up Lifting

Some women have to carry heavy burdens during Ramadan belonging to somebody else.  Maybe they've been helping a parent, a sibling, a friend, a child or a co-worker.  Sometimes helping hurts and it's often thankless.

Outward Reaching

Many Muslimahs are reaching outwardly towards those wanting more information about Islam this Ramadan.  It could be through dawah to Non-Muslims or it could be through sisterly advice to new Muslims.  Often these seeds of knowledge don't show themselves right away.


Muslimahs who are mothers and aunties see the chance at Ramadan to mentor the young Muslims.  It means teaching what is means to be a Muslim.  It's showing how to set limits, define boundaries and aim for goals.  It needs a strong resolve and deaf ears (to block out all the whining).  Creativity is a plus.

Habit Breaking

There are many bad habits we can't fix until we break from them.  Breaking a bad habit takes about a month which is exactly how long Ramadan is.  Sometimes the bad habit isn't even ours!  It's belonging to someone in our family or among our friends and we are supporting them through this process.

Finding Gold

Muslimahs are accustomed to asking others for our self-worth but in Ramadan, we can't get that constant supply.  The focus stops being on us.  We have find our own worth and remember it rather than ask for attention to the brink of ad naseum.

Shape Putting

Our shapes are the vessels to our souls.  We remember at Ramadan how the two work in conjunction.  We need to be strong physically in order to carry out our spiritual lives.  We need to have a strong soul in order to live healthy lives physically.  Many focus erroneously on losing weight.  It's not a time to lose anything; it's a time to gain.

Did I forget any?  Let me know if I did!

The awards ceremony will be The Day of Distinction.  We are all hoping for rewards from Allah and that has to be the ultimate hope of every Muslimah.

May these last days of Ramadan increase your participation and inshahallah your blessings.

Ramadan Day 26

Monday, August 13, 2012

Running Up that Hill

Asalamu Alaykom,

This morning, after eating suhour, I made the decision to turn on the TV instead of picking up the Quran.  I saw the last half of The Closing Ceremony of the Olympics

 The Olympics this year have been very meaningful to me

...with all the Muslim athletes making decisions for their Ramadan

...a pregnant competitor

...the hijab debate

...a retired sportshero coming back from tragedy

...a refugee runner

...and a sexual-abuse survivor winning gold.  

I am not a big sports fan but I do love real-life stories of striving for excellence.

The Closing Ceremony made me wrap up all those stories and people and say, "Alhumdulillah" for the time together.  It was good to see the relief on the faces of all the participants---both the athletes and the organizers.  It was a good celebration.

I got to see Britian's pop band One Direction with the world's favorite Muslim pin-up boy Zayn Malik.  The band was pieced together in 2010 from failed solo acts by Simon Cowell on Britian's X Factor.

I got to see the wonderful Ray Davies whom Dr. Ingrid Mattson, had tweeted about earlier.

Ray Davies kills it  closing ceremony

I left the room to drink more water when the songstress in green began.

STOMP wasn't really what I needed at three in the morning but I sat there marveling how trash can lids and brooms could ever win over an audience.

I was really pumped to see Madness but though I heard them, I couldn't see them.

And then...there was Kate!  Kate Bush!  I love Kate Bush.  She is this ethereal fairy who sings from a place of absolute truth.  She appears silly sometimes and unappologetically so.  I love that she has always put herself out there---

for Wuthering Heights

for Babooshka

for This Women's Work

for Deeper Understanding

AND of course for the song they played at the Olympics: 

It doesn't hurt me.
Do you want to feel how it feels?
Do you want to know, know that it doesn't hurt me?
Do you want to hear about the deal that I'm making?
You, It's you and me.

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.
Say, If I only could, oh...

You don't want to hurt me,
But see how deep the bullet lies.
Unaware, I'm tearing you asunder.
Ooh, There is thunder in our hearts.

Is there so much hate for the ones who love?
Tell me we both matter don't we?

It's you and me,
It's you and me who won't be unhappy.

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building.
Say, If I only could, oh...

It's you and me,
It's you and me who won't be unhappy.

On the TV there was a scene of performers on the stage making something out of large blocks.  I watched it unfold and began to guess what the structure was.  Yes, it was the pyramid; big, white, classic and undeniably identifiable.  I had been viewing the real pyramids on my roof and crying earlier.

There's something about these phone calls from The States this Ramadan which is so upsetting to me.  I'm in this country yet I'm dealing with the past from that country.  I'm truly living in Egypt but every time I get a phone call from America I feel pulled backwards and sad.  

I prayed to God on the roof to help me get rid of these mixed-up feelings. I want and NEED to live in the present.  I've been struck lately about the stages humans go through and I've really been questioning if I'm still going through growth or if I've entered into decline.  I will no longer grow if I am stuck.  I don't want to be stuck in feelings or in the past.

Just then the lights went out all over the village of Al-Haram and there was an audible, "AHHHHHH!" 

Immediately following that was my boy downstairs who could no longer watch cartoons, "MOMMMMY! MOMMY!  MOMMY!!!!"

Yes, I was needed in the here-and-now.  Thanks, God.   

I got Mr. Boo ready for bed in the dark.  He tried using his laser gun to help us find our way.  I lit a candle instead.  I had to wash him off by squirting water from a re-purposed shampoo bottle.  It works!  We brushed teeth, blew out our candle and followed our way to his room by the light of my cell phone.  Time to sleep.

I woke again when my husband came upstairs.  We sat and talked.  The lights came on but we turned them off again. We haven't had many quiet times this Ramadan.  I'm glad we had that chance.  And then it was time for suhour.

So, after I ate, I lied down on the couch,  in time to see the end of an amazing time in Lodon.  I got to hear Kate Bush's song while watching the dancers pile together a pyramid.  It seemed tailored made for me in my mood.  I sang along (quietly because my hub was reading Quran).  I knew that I would inshahallah have time for Quran after praying fajr.

Come on baby, come on darling
Let me steal this moment from you now
Oh come on angel, come on come on darlin'
Let's exchange the experience oh...

And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems...

If only I could,
Be running up that hill...

I turned off the TV and made wudu.  I really appreciate that my hub didn't judge me to be a "bad Muslim" because I needed that moment of song and spirit and re-connecting.  That song had meant a lot to me over the years and it continued to speak volumes to me today.

We prayed fajr.

I got on my magnifying specs and started in the surah Al-Balad.  We hear baladi; my country a lot in Egypt with all the patriotic songs.  Al-Balad means "the land".  I read both the words from Allah and the tafsir from Muhammad Asad.  I turned the page.

But he would not try to ascend the steep uphill road...

And what could make thee conceive what it is, that steep uphill road?

[It is] the freeing of one's neck [from the burnden of sin], 
or the feeding, upon a day [one's own] hunger, 
of an orphan near of kin, 
or of a needy [stranger] lying in the dust
---and being, withal, of those who have attained to faith,
and who enjoin upon one another patience in adversity, 
and enjoin upon one another compassion.

Surah 90; 11-17


Allah continues to speak to me through the living word of the Quran.  Everytime I search; I find.  Alhumdulillah.  It isn't enough to read it.  You need to really enter into it---not as a quaint pious person but as a real traveler on a journey who must MUST find the path or die.


There are times I wonder who I am and what I'm doing.  I'm a mix of cultures and places and people.  I have a history and have chosen to remain intact somehow rather than lose everything I've known.  I've built and rebuilt myself so much that it hurts at times like Ramadan when I feel I have to re-organize my life again.

Yet, the comfort from Allah through the Quran is there and can work in conjunction with the Olympics, Kate Bush and the pyramids.  Alhumdulillah.

Ramadan Kareem!

Not long to go now until Eid.

Ask Allah for some clarity.  It's there for you...I promise.

Ramadan Day 25

Saturday, August 11, 2012

White House Iftar

Asalamu Alaykom,

                                                                                                                            Source: via Yosra on Pinterest

Mashahallah!  What a beautiful menu.  Wouldn't you have loved to have been an invited guest at the White House for the Annual Iftar?

This is an even with a 200-year-old history.  President Thomas Jefferson hosted the first White House Iftar when he invited a Tunsian envoy to a sunset dinner.  Gotta love Thomas Jefferson!

It is Jefferson's two-volume Quran, published in London, in 1764, which is housed in the Library of Congress.  That is the same, "Alcoran of Mohammed," which was used by the first Muslim Congressman Keith Ellison when he was sworn in. To read more about the controversy about his swearing in go here.

So happy I voted for him!

Thomas Jefferson's Quran was actually on display at the iftar dinner courtesy of The Library of Congress.

Muslim Congressmen Keith Ellison and Andre Carson were both in attendance.  They were mentioned in the President's address as was Hilary Clinton's aide Huma Abedin.  It's a nice speech which brings together the many thoughts in our minds:  Olympics, Sikhs, Arab Spring aftermath and the rights of women.  The President singled out three Muslimahs in attendance to give them special recognition.  Mashahallah!

Ramadan Mubarak!