Monday, April 30, 2012

What My Mom Would Hate in Egypt

J-AIM-e of Memoirs from Morocco and I have a creative inspiration/persperation deal.  We think up one topic and then we both write about it...sometimes...when we're not living life...which apparently we've been doing (since we didn't do this deal last month).

So!  It's officially time for another

"Sister Spoke"
Not my real mother but close enough.

This month we will be imagining if one or both parents took the leap and came to visit us.  What would they hate?  Could they find something to love (besides us)?

For Jaime, she's able to imagine both her parents coming to visit her new country.  For me, I can't say the same.  I can only imagine my mom coming here.  My dad's Alzheimers gets in the way of lots of things (like finding his way home or remembering that the child on the phone is his grandkid).  So, let's focus on my mom.

My mom is a wonderful person in many ways.  She is not, however, a good traveler.  I realized this long ago because, even though she wasn't good at it, we somehow managed to leave home anyway.  I cringed a lot as a passenger.  Only the KFC visits made it doable (quite an incentive since fastfood was only allowed while on a roadtrip).

So, let me zone....


                               zone...
         

                                                   zone out. 


Yes, there's my mom getting out of Cairo's International Terminal.  She's hobbling a bit as she says how much she hates long plane rides.  She can't believe how many people there are (and I am dread to tell her that there are fewer people in the terminal than she'll see on most streets).  She will wonder right away when the English-speaking Egyptians start speaking English (though they will be, I don't think she'll realize it with their heavy accents).

Getting in the taxi will be a shock.  No, there really are seatbelts for everyone.  No, her beloved grandson doesn't have a bosterseat.  If she realizes how many small children ride on laps in the front seat, she'll have a conniption. 

Once we start careening around, she will do that quick-suck-of-air-through-her-teeth noise.  That annoying sound is basically what stopped me from learning how to drive until I was 23.  I couldn't stand her nervousness!  She thought I was too fast and reckless!  Joke on her!  We live in the land of fast cars who only take road safety as a suggestion.



My mom loves music but she'll hate the loud BOOM BOOM BOOM of the tuk tuk's bass amps.  She'll hate how out of control the young guys are with their music.  "If you can call it that," she'll say.

She'll hate the yelling, screaming children at all hours of the night.  She'll have a new appreciation for her grandson, Mr. Boo, who is an angel, mashahallah, by comparison

If I try to get her to cover up arms and legs, she'll balk.  Everyone will know she's not Muslim so it's not like I would be trying to fool anyone.  It is, however, better to avoid direct sun by sheilding your skin.  She won't feel good about that.  "I'm not Muslim!"  she'll yell.  "You're Muslim!  I'm NOT MUSLIM!"  I think she'd be saying that a lot.


She has been used to living as she wishes and Egypt isn't really about what you want to do.  It's about what the family is doing.  It's about what time the communal prayer is.  It's about when the shopkeeper might (or might not) roll up their aluminum door for the day (or night).  No, she would not like to be at anyone's whims and Egypt is rather whimsical.

She would not like to be segregated.  Not only in her 70s, she's from the 70s.  She believes that mixed company is more fun.  She would balk at the women serving the men and then sitting together chit-chatting over tea.  She wouldn't like to be told what to do according to gender.

She would hate the high levels of sugar and salt in all the food.  She now watches what she eats to such an extreme that it's hard for her to eat in America.  Can you imagine in Egypt?  It's hypertension with a side of diabetes.   



Alright, I've just gotten off the phone with my mom.  She called me on the "must-have" Magic Jack.  I 'fessed up that I'm writing about her.  I told her what the post was about and asked her what she would hate in Egypt.  She is very uncomfortable with "hate" and would rather think of  her list as "dislikes" or "challenges".  

I told her that "hate" is more of a grabber so she is putting up with that.

She affirmed right away one of my assumptions:  NOISE!  She hears enough of it through the telephone.  To hear it constantly (and not be able to hang up on it) would send her through the roof.

The second thing she said was, "Camel dung in the street."

I said, "Come on, Mom, be fair.  There's donkey dung too."

She said something next that I hadn't thought of.  She said that her heart would break for "all the poor people".  She mentioned the little girl we gave money to last week.  She remembered how we had come from an expensive pizza dinner with a fussy little guy (who wanted every toy sold in the street).  She remembered how the girl had sat there with her Quran but without any shoes. 

Honestly?  I think that would be hard for my mom.  For me?  I have found a way for my heart to stay intact.  You have to. 

My mom reasoned that the poor and disabled can at least find some sustainance if they are out in public asking for help.  It's a good point.  God bless them.  We simply can't help each one but we can do what we can and pray for them all.

I didn't have time to ask what she would love here.  In a way, I don't want to ask.  I'm scared that she won't have anything to say!  I continue to hope that she'll come for a visit or maybe for her retirement years (like now). 

Inshahallah, she'd find some peace...even amidst the high decibels.  There's a peace here which alluded me in America.  There's an honest reality which feels good and brings me more centered than other places.

Inshahallah, she'd find some wholesomeness.  There's a goodness in the season after season of farm-fresh crops.  I hope she wouldn't turn up her nose at produce without "Certified Organic" stickers.  I would love to see her in the market buying from the ladies.  She adores her local Farmer's Market, which is once a week in the summer, so I think she'd be so happy with local fruits and vegetables arriving daily throughout the year.

It isn't just the food which is wholesome.  There's a love here.  I don't know if she'd feel it or not.  It's a simple love.  The families love each other.  The faithful love each other.  Everyone loves the children.  The children love their country.  It's all without question.  It's all without hesitation.  You are weird if you don't honor these loves.  It's not like America with all the hang-ups about who you should love or not; who causes you anxiety or sends you into therapy.  I wish she could embrace the people.  If she could then she would have so many nice heart-level connections.

Inshahallah, she would really enjoy the National Treasures. I know she would be awestruck by the enormity of Egypt's ancient ruins and archeological finds.  The experience of walking into tombs would be, for her, entering into a kind of mystical realm.  She has always appreciated the Ancient Civilizations.

Inshahallah, she would have some moments of seeing Mr. Boo being himself.  He wasn't really himself in America.  It's only over here that he is fully himself.  I love how he can enjoy simple pleasures and make the most fun possible.  She could be a part of his new life if she wanted to.  She could see his world.

Inshahallah, she could also see me being myself here in Egypt.  She only saw me in the U.S.  We never traveled outside of American borders---are you kidding?!  I am more comfortable (at least I think so) when I am away from the mainstream.  She could see me in my new surroundings and feel happy for me.

Inshahallah.

What about you?  What would YOUR mom hate about where you're living?

Either write in the comments or place a link to your blog post describing it.

Let's keep the Sister Spoke turning 'round.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Take Any Road


I have been feeling like I am here:



Maybe we are always at crossroads---with every decision. 

Do you know that the Prophet Muhammad used to pray istakkarah over routine matters?  Some of us take major life decisions of marriage, moves, education, career, children, friendships, and even divorce without ever consulting Our Creator.  Astragferallah.

It's Friday and I'm listening to a khotba from Dr. Zakir Naik.   It's my goal to listen to an Islamic speech or sermon every Friday.  I want to maintain this goal of mine.  I like acknowledging that it is a goal to myself, to you and to God.  To be public about our aims is part of Islam.  It helps us stay accountable.  It's a promise and to fulfill it helps me feel better.  So without even delving into whether or not I gain from the words of the khotba, I gain from the mere fulfillment of my promise; my convenant.

These words from Dr. Zakir Naik are very meaningful.  It's hard to understand his accent at times as he's from the Indian subcontinent.  However, once you give over to the idea that you will gain from his straight forward approach to Islam, you benefit with each story he tells.

I especially like the story he tells in the beginning of the traveler who wants to know which road to take.

"Where are you going?" he is asked.

"Anywhere," he answers.

"Then take any road.  It doesn't matter," is the reply.

Time to check where you are going.  What is your ultimate goal?

Honestly, it doesn't matter so much which place you go as long as you know that you must stay connected with Allah.  With Allah SWT all things are possible.  Without Allah, you are lost no matter where you end up.




I thought today of how we can travel the earth and pray to the same spot:  the Kabba.  How?  As long as we know the direction.  We keep our focus and we continue our connection subhanallah.

I have felt lost lately.  For these last two weeks I have wondered where I am and where I am going.  It has brought me low and made sadness cloud my face.  Yet, I have kept praying.  I have kept reading Quran.  I have kept trusting in Allah.

Last night, I watched a Huda TV program, "Correct Your Recitation".  It was a live presentation with host Sheik Muhammad Salah to explain in English what was recited from Quran.  It was in depth and fascinating; like a living tafsir.  I stayed watching though I was pretty sure I was missing a movie somewhere on the satellite.  I felt some relief for renewing my connection.

Remember:  Allah doesn't go from us; we go away from Allah.  We need only to turn to Him to feel His Loving Forgiveness.  We need only to wish for His Greater Presence in our life to immediately be Graced with this reality.

This morning, I opened my Quran where my bookmark was placed and began reading where I had left off. 

"ART THOU NOT aware of those who would be friends with people whom God has condemned? They are neither of you [O believers] nor of those [who utterly reject the truth]: and so they swear to a falsehood the while they know [it to be false]."

أَلَمْ تَرَ إِلَى الَّذِينَ تَوَلَّوْا قَوْمًا غَضِبَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِم مَّا هُم مِّنكُمْ وَلَا مِنْهُمْ وَيَحْلِفُونَ عَلَى الْكَذِبِ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ


It struck me as interesting that my reading sounded so much like what was discussed last night on TV.  I reasoned that the Quran often repeats important points.  I kept reading.  Wow.  That sounded exactly like what was discussed. 

So, I read the transliterated Arabic (the Arabic sounds into English letters) and realized that it was the same.

Alam tara ila allatheena tawallaw qawman ghadiba Allahu AAalayhim ma hum minkum wala minhum wayahlifoona AAala alkathibi wahum yaAAlamoona

Subhanallah.  Once again, I felt how connected I was to Allah.  I was connected to Allah because I stopped being sad and hopeless.  I felt connected because I made an effort.  God showed me perfectly.  That program could have discussed many hundreds of places in the Quran but it didn't.  It discussed Surah 58, ayah 14 which is EXACTLY where I was.  Subhanallah.

My peace of mind depends on putting my trust in Allah.  Since Allah sent me Surah Al-Mujadilah 14-22 twice in two days, it's good to acknowledge that people will let us down.  We will not---we are GUARANTEED--- not to meet all trustworthy people.  Those around us are bound to break our trust.  When we feel betrayed it's a test.  Why be sad when Allah hasn't harmed us?  Allah has only shown us the truth.

We are also guaranteed to be the ones who hurt others.  We have been made as human beings and as such are fallible.  Astragferallah for our actions which are wrong; those we know and those we don't know.  It hurts more maybe to know that we broke someone else's trust.  It demands our steadfastness to correct ourselves and to remember our goals for this life and the next.

Don't just take any road. Take the road which brings you closer to your highest hopes; closer to Allah.

اهْدِنَا الصِّرَاطَ الْمُسْتَقِيمَ

"Guide us to the straight path. 

صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنْعَمْتَ عَلَيْهِمْ غَيْرِ الْمَغْضُوبِ عَلَيْهِمْ وَلَا الضَّالِّينَ

The path of those upon whom You have bestowed favor, not of those who have evoked [Your] anger or of those who are astray."



 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Conversion Conversation




Marie Harmony and I have a nice connection.  I write and she comments and together we have built an understanding.  Through this understanding, I am able to ask her questions about her faith and she is able to answer. 

It is not my job to bring her to Islam.  It is only my job, as a Muslim, to inform her and invite her.

Yosra:  Asalamu Alaykom, Marie.  Thank you for agreeing to a dialogue. 

Do you believe in The Oneness of God?

Marie:  Yes I believe in the oneness of God.

Yosra:  Alhumdulillah.  Therefore, you really could say, "La illaha il Allah".  There is no other God than God. 

When you were raised with The Trinity, did it make sense to you? Does it make sense now?

Marie:  As a Christian I learnt about the Trinity, everybody said to me this is a mystery you can't understand but you have to accept. It did not make sense at the time, It does not make much sense now. I just lived years with it without thinking much about it.

Yosra:  I don't do well with accepting that which doesn't make sense.  I think, on some level, none of us are able to be authentic when we feel that we're signing off on a group belief that we don't personally hold. 

Do you pray to other entities? Saints? Statues? Jesus (peace be upon him)?  

Marie:  I used to pray a lot to statues and saints, to Jesus and Mary. I used to spend hours in church saying my prayers. As I started looking deeper in Christianity and learning about Islam, I realized this did not make sense. But I have to admit I talk to Mary quite often.

Yosra:  My mother has a strong affinity to Mary (blessings onto her) though she is not Catholic.  I gave my mom the translated chapter of  Mariam in the Quran but I think that the pamphlet has only gathered dust. 

I wonder if you feel interested to talk to God with the openess you speak to Mariam?  Actually, we know that it is God that hears you---whether you believe you are talking to Him or not.  What if you set your heart on having the conversation with Him?  Perhaps you feel comfortable talking to a mother but a mother is an earthly creator whereas The Heavenly Creator cares for you on a higher level.

Does your Egyptian husband provide you with information about Islam? What is it that you've gained from talking to him? From observing him?

Marie:  My husband does not teach me much about his religion, not that he does not want, I think he respects my beliefs and doesn't want to influence me too much. We did fast together for the Ramadan last year, it gave me a chance to know more about Islam. My husband is working on the sea and unfortunately does not have the freedom to really practice his religion.

Yosra:  I do think that he could step it up a bit, Allahu alim.  You are such a searcher and he holds many answers.  Maybe he's waiting for you to knock on the door before he opens it up.  However, if he truly believes that Islam is a way to live better then he could give you more chance to enter in and explore it together with him.

I think a great moment between a husband and wife is (no, not sex...well....yes, sex but better than that) praying together.  That union of spirt is so satisfying.  To have a husband lead a wife in prayer on the rug is really a synchronizing of bodies, minds and souls.  It's so nice and I hope you get a chance to join with him while he prays.  Follow him and his movements and even if you don't know all the words you will benefit from the time together in front of God inshahallah.

It's GREAT that you fasted this past Ramadan.  I can't imagine having a Muslim husband and not ever fasting.  How would his life-partner then know the extreme feelings a month-long fast brings about?  Mashahallah, may Allah accept your fasting.

When you came to Egypt, did part of your journey mean learning more about Islam?

Marie:  Not really. I looked around, witnessing life is regulated by the prayers and people live every minute according to their religion. It's quite interesting.

Yosra:  I'm so glad you got a chance to come here!  I only wish we could have met.

Life here is really regulated by observance of faith.  That's why it's harder in Non-Muslim countries to be in Islam because it's the opposite; worship of God is regulated by life.  For instance, when it's time to meet in a Muslim country, you say "after Magrib prayers".  However, in the U.S., you would set an appointment by the clock and then afterward figure out how to fit your prayers around it.  Life is easier, in some ways, if you only pray on Sundays but I've found the five prayers help me organize my life to be more fulfilling.

Have you read Quran?

Marie:  I read the Qu'ran, it was very interesting. I gained a better understanding of Islam and discovered it is very different that what the media are telling us.

Yosra:  Alhumdulillah that you read it.  There are so many different translations.  Some will speak to you more than others.  Personally, I don't like Pickthall's translation because it sounds too much like the King James Bible with all its arcaic "thee" and "thou".  Make sure that you try other versions to find the voice which speaks to you. I love the Mohammed Asad translation, the Ahmed Ali translation and the Al-Azhar translation. 

Have you studied about the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)? Do you feel he was a prophet?

Marie:  I am sure Mohammed was a Prophet. I did not yet looked into his life, thought I would like. If you have any books / lectures to recommend, please do so.

Yosra:  Alhumdulillah.  You really could say the second part of the shahaddah then, "Muhammadar Rasullulah."  Muhammad is a Prophet. 

It doesn't mean that you negate everything you already loved about Jesus (peace be upon him).  You can still identify with Jesus and want to cling to him.  There were so many prophets (peace upon them all).  The reason that there were so many is that God kept sending different voices for different listeners.  If what you need is to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus, then you are free to do that AND be Muslim. 

The only thing you can't do is believe that Jesus is son of God (astragferallah).  We all are creations of God.  If you are able to see that Jesus was a man (and not a third of the trinity) then you aren't really Christian. 

Another part of the Christian faith is to believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) took away our sins when he died.  As Muslims, we don't believe he died and he certainly didn't die to give us life.  Each one of us has our own life and our own deeds.  None of us can give our good deeds to clear another's bad deeds.

I really like Karen Armstrong's biography on the Prophet (peace be upon him).  She is not Muslim but is very affirming of our faith.  What I like about her approach is that it's very sensible and straight-forward.  Anyone could read it and not feel like they were an outsider.

There is so much on the internet about the Prophet (peace be upon him).  I was searching just now for what I could recommend.  This biography starts with the whole lineage of the Arabs, which does give his life more framework.  I'm hesitant to recommend it, as I haven't read it entirely.  I could maybe only suggest it.

On my own blog, I have typed out the information from an Al-Azhar pamphlet, "Why the Prophet Muhammad Married More than One." This tells a lot about his character and his life.  It used to be one of the most read posts on my blog so I'd like some more readers to take a look at it (then maybe once again it would appear on the sidebar).

What would you say is the tie joining you to other religions?

Marie:  God's love.

Yosra:  Alhumdulillah.  The universal truths are found in every faith and that is a biggie.  You are, of course, one of the most loving people I've met on the 'net so you do embody what you say.

What would you gain if you came to Islam? What would you lose?

Marie:  As we say never say never, If I come to Islam one day I think I would gain directions for my life, a sense of belonging to a community, I would have the same religion as my children and maybe would be more able to guide them on the journey.

I think I would lose the way I see life - for me what is important is what is in the heart, you can do everything that your religion says is good to do, if there is no love in your heart, all these things are meaningless. I would be in constant research of what is good or bad. I don't think there is one religion better than the other, so I would be a bit lost. And I would miss this special connection with Jesus teachings and Mary.

Yosra:  I really do hear the positives---especially about sharing a new bond with your children.  It's hard not to share faith.  I have it going the other way with my older teens.  They were not allowed to chose Islam and so they've been raised in a nowhere land by a non-observant father.  They know about Islam but we don't share it together.  It's always been on the outskirts and not fully embraced.  With Mr. Boo, their younger brother, we have a closer bond from our ability to share Islam.

You would lose the way you view life but that isn't so much a negative as an eventuality.  We never really do stay stagnant; we keep evolving (hopefully). 

I know what you're saying about "heart".  I think that really is intentions.  Does that resonate with you?  Your intention is your everything?  In other words, if your intention isn't pure then it's meaningless.  Actually, that is a core belief of Islam.

It probably seems like Islam is all about halal and haram and that the list is long and tiring.  It is tiring for the first couple of years as there is a lot to learn.  Alhumdulillah we are not taken to task for anything we are unaware of.  So, as we learn what's right from wrong we adjust and it's a process; an unfolding.

I do feel that one religion is better than another for me.  It doesn't have to be....in fact CAN'T...be the religion for everyone.  Whatever gets you through this life and into the next is best.

Imagining yourself five years from now...how would you hope your spirituality would have grown?

Marie:  In 5 years I would hope to be at peace with my choices of a religion or no religion.

Yosra:  Inshahallah.

Marie:  Thanks Yosra for giving me the chance to share my ideas. Stay blessed always.

Yosra:  Thank you for being so open and willing to share!  Love and light to you, Marie, now and always.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Grease Doesn't Live Here Anymore


Last night I had the strange pleasure of watching a movie which I should have watched in the summer of 1978.  In  many ways, I was always the outsider, even in my own culture.  Though my father took me to a few Saturday matinees of Disney movies, my mother took me only to the adult movies she liked. 

That's why I was a little girl in a dark movie house watching "Harold and Maude" .  It's about a man obsessed with killing himself until he meets an octogenerian funeral frequenter whom he befriends and then beds.  Astragferallah.  She ends up killing herself, by the way, so I'll add another, "astragerallah".  It became my favorite movie.  Ruth Gordon became the balance to my adoration of Marilyn Monroe.  In 1986, when she came to my city for the premiere of her husband Garson Kanin's newest play, I arranged for a thank-you note to be hand delievered to her in the theatre lobby. 

Of course the greatest message of the movie ended up being through the music: 

"If you want to be free, be free!"

"I'm on the road to find out."

The songs were from Cat Stevens, who later came to Islam as Yusuf Islam, alhumdulillah.  I believe now that a major reason I was attracted to the movie was actually a pull towards Islam.  If you are searching for goodness then you will find it even if it has to be sifted away from all the badness you're consuming.

There wasn't much that I remember of the movie, "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore".  I don't remember the story but I remember being scared.  It was a grown-up show.  That glimpse of a single mom became the gist of the TV show, "Alice".  Remember that?  Every 70s show had its catch phrase and "Alice" had, "Kiss my grits!"

I always felt a bit alien as a child.  For one thing, I didn't have the same media filling my head as my classmates.  When I read an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper, I felt a kind of sad kinship with him.  Astragferallah, what his mother, Gloria Vanderbuilt, exposed him to was so far removed from human decency that I almost don't want to mention it.  However, if we are to belong to Islam, it's good to remember the haram we are eliminating from our lives.  Alhumdulillah we are mindful of our consumption.

That's why it was strange to finally watch John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in, "Grease,"  last night.  I should have watched it as a ten-year-old before entering fifth grade.  I heard all the music.  I think I even bought a couple 45s (those are the small phonograph records...which were before CDs...and CDs were before MP3s).  My, that was a long time ago!

I sat on my comfy couch in the (finally) furnished salon alhumdulillah.  I sat with my little family alhumdulillah.  I sat with my beliefs in what is good and clean and commendable.  I watched dating, cheating, sexy dancing, smoking, drinking, rudeness, dangerous behavior, and even an unwanted teen pregnancy.  Honestly, I was shocked to learn that the movie I was supposed to have seen at age 10 (the one that all my friends had seen) was as full of filth as all the movies to which my mom had taken me.  Yet, because it was wrapped in the American flag and written off as the fun fifties, we are supposed to sip it through the straw like Coca Cola. 

Really?  Does Sweetheart Sandy really stop wearing modest clothes and change into a hootchie mama outfit?  This is the happily ever after?!  They tramps around the school carnival singing, "You Better Shape Up," as Sexy Sandy tries seducing the heck out of her boy-man.

John Travolta.  I've got to say that I have heard 30 years of compliments regarding his dancing only to have them disproved last night.  No, he really isn't a good dancer.  He moves.  He can move his body.  He doesn't, however, have a groove.  He isn't groovy.  He is too light in his loafers.  He isn't a man I could enjoy watching dance, though he's attractive.  Give me a cool dude like Gene Kelly, Shah Rukh or Jackie Chan who all bring some manly showmanship and acknowledgment of performing for the audience.

It was hard to see Jeff Conaway.  He was so magnetic as the bad boy.  As a girl, I had watched him in the TV show, "Taxi," and was drawn to his energy.  He had such a jubilant spirit.  Yet, he died at 60 from living the lie; more is not really better, "just one," really can hurt you and too many will kill you.

It's been a tough week at my house.  Alhumdulillah.  I've really been searching the depths of my intentions.  I've prayed over decisions and made resolves and resolutions.  Alhumdulillah. 

I talked with two women this week who helped me see where I am.  Alhumdulillah I'm OK where I am.  One woman is seeking a marriage with a man who gives her love but won't commit.  One woman is seeking a divorce from a man who is committed to her but won't give love.  Astragferallah for the men who don't realize how much pain we endure.

I watched a BBC report on the acid attacks in Pakistan.  My husband wanted to switch the channel because there are a million other satellite stations so why watch something so unpleasant.  I made him switch back and did so with righteous indignation.  What is happening to our sisters in Pakistan at the hands of their male family members is haram.  HARAM!  And it is happening on average TWICE every week.  Two women loose their meaningful lives and become like, "a living corpse" to quote Shama, one of the victims profiled.

Haram is a spectrum.  There are small harams which only go on in your head.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson warns us,

"Watch your thoughts. They become words. Watch your words. They become deeds. Watch your deeds. They become habits. Watch your habits. They become character. Character is everything."

I wanted my husband to understand the reality of how haram starts from our thoughts and can grow as we allow Shaytan to work in our lives.  A man's cruel thoughts about his wife can become mean words.  His mean words can become hard blows.  The hard blows can become sudden injuries.  The sudden injuries can become unrevokable disfigurment or death.  Astragferallah.

Women...okay....me...I can be so shrill.  I can be that braying donkey which the Quran warns us about: 


وَاقْصِدْ فِي مَشْيِكَ وَاغْضُضْ مِن صَوْتِكَ ۚ إِنَّ أَنكَرَ الْأَصْوَاتِ لَصَوْتُ الْحَمِيرِ

We prove ourselves so strong, right?  When we have a point to make we open our mouths wide and let loose a diatribe on our husbands.  We...okay...me...I have been too upset and used my voice and my words to hurt.  I don't want to be that person.  I don't want to be a woman alone---whether unmarried or unhappily married. 

 It is Friday and time for another khotba.  Please watch Imam Khalid Latif "Every 2 Minutes:  Sexual Violence".  This comes to us from New York.  He is a very well spoken gentleman who seems to truly understand women and our relationships.  We have different needs than men but we are still needing the same respect.  He is truly eloquent. 

If you don't have a lot of time then just watch at 13:50 when he flat out condemns the abuse of women.  It is Sunnah; following the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to be kind to those weaker than overselves. 

" The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) never struck a woman, a child or a servant."

Never.  No matter if the woman was shrill, the child was fussy or the servant was insolent.  We spend so much of our lives attempting to emulate the greatness of our Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him).  Yet, we lash out at those who are closest to us as if we had the right.  We don't!

Alhumdulillah, if you've identified with any part of what I've written then you've lived a life.  You've been a real person.  You've been a child.  You've felt alone.  You've wished for companionship and for protection.  You are here.  I am here.  Alhumdulillah.  We have made it here by The Grace of God.  God is Great.

As we watched the last song of, "Grease," my husband pulled me up off the couch to dance.  My boy jumped up and joined.  It was joyous.  Alhumdulillah for delaying gratifcation until the right time with the right people in the right place.  Alhumdulillah for Allah's plan.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Cenet Doganay





I love this girl so much.  She is, in my opinion, among the best of Muslims.

Let me tell you her story.

In 2004, Cenet was only 15 and observing Islam in France.  That's not always easy!  There's a lot of xenophobia; "fear of foreign things and people," in Paris.  Despite their Gallic ancestors storming the Bastille for freedom, the French don't actually want human rights across the board.

So, Cenet became a pawn by the grown-ups playing around with dress codes.  She was stuck in the middle of a fight about religious articles in school.  The French government felt that any jewelery or clothing which identified the wearer's faith was wrong; it would fracture society.  No yamulkas.  No crosses on a chain.  No hijabs.

Cenet tried to work with her school. 

Bandana?  No. 

Beret?  No.

It was so frustrating for her to love school and want to attend but to be turned back day after day.  She was unable to go to her classes----not because she insisted on wearing hijab.  She didn't!  She was adamant, however, on covering her hair.

"No, you can't see my hair."

What I love, love, love about Cenet Doganay is that eventually she came to see how ridiculous and unreasonable the demands were.  She looked again at her bottom line, which was, "No, you can't see my hair". 

No...can't see....my hair.

No...can't...hair!

No...hair!

NO HAIR!

She realized what she could do. 

The next morning she arrived at school in her hijab.  The press was waiting for the showdown.  They knew she wouldn't be allowed in.  She knew it too.  She stood there a moment and then she took off her hijab.

She was bald.

She had shaved her head completely bald.

Yes, you could make her remove her hijab but that didn't mean that you got to see her hair.

Mashallah, that is one of the best jihad moments of our life time. 

Mashahallah!  Mashahallah!

I love Cenet Doganay.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Camel Ride Around the Pyramids



Subhanallah.  I really dreamed of this.




Some days are so beautiful.




Effortless.



Breezy.  Partly sunny and 75 degrees.



Layers of enjoyability. 

So relaxing. 

So unifying; with each other and with all creation and ultimately with God.





Some days are so amazing you don't want them to stop.



And you take so many pictures because you don't want to forget.



Alhumdulillah.

Friday, April 13, 2012

No Luck for Muslims




Today is Friday the 13th.

People fear it because it's supposed to be bad luck.

Here is a good article about luck around the world.

Do you believe in luck?

I don't.

I'm Muslim.

Muslims don't fear numbers on the calendar. 

Muslims don't hold tight to four leaf clovers or rabbit's feet (which obviously weren't "good luck" for the rabbit).  We should not believe in anything which wards off evil---even if it is from the Arabic culture.


Remember that a lot of pre-Islamic culture remains within Muslim countries today.

It's kind of ridiculous and funny to think of good luck charms and bad luck days.

Take a look at these cartoons:  this one and this one too.  It's laughable really.

Today, on Friday the 13th let go of all those silly talismans and symbols.  Release the hold those man-made objects have on you.  Throw away anything which you ever felt gave you "luck".  Resist the temptation to put faith in magic or evil.

I fear only Allah.  That means that everything comes from Allah and that I humble myself before Him only.  Whatever I deem as, "good" comes from Allah and whatever I deem as, "bad" comes from Allah.  I need not classify it really.  I need only to say, "Alhumdulillah" in simple acceptance.

Today, I wish the Peace of Allah onto you.  I wish the Blessings of Allah onto you.  Isn't that better than wishing you, "Good luck"?  Let's take that out of list of idioms. 

And since it's Friday, let's watch a khotba together.  Here is Imam Khalid Yasin. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Temper Tantruming with Our Creator



Don't you love how children can stop the world with a scream?  They can abruptly leave the toy aisle of Target and shoot out into infinity and beyond.  Subhanallah!

The great thing is when it's NOT your child and you get to "Tut-Tut" over how awful someone else's kid is.

The worst things is when it IS your child and you have to put up with all the "Tut-Tutting" and deal with the little monster you've brought to the mall.  You love them but if there was a way to leave them (and come back once they've calmed down) then you sure would...but you can't.  You brought them into this world (and into the store) and you're committed to them, even as they thrash about in your arms.

In hindsight, we mothers can see what led to that moment.  Children can easily get too tired, too hungry and too overstimulated...maybe moms can too.  We can start rushing through the store and not pay attention to their needs.  We can forget how to distract them with another object or another objective. 

I'd like to say that temper tantruming stops but it doesn't. 

Admit it:  you've had a recent temper tantrum.  Now, that we're older we can blame it on PMS.  We can blame it on work.  We can blame it on other people.  We can even blame it on God.

Honestly?  We blame God for those things we can't have; same as a little child. 

"Why can't I get a man?"

Why can't I have a baby?" 

"Why does it hurt when I do this same painful thing again and again?"

If we are faithful, we call God to us and allow God to hold us.  We know we are irrational and we want to calm down...but not right away.  We have a little fight in us and we fight with Our Creator. 

"I know what's best for my life!  If only You would just play along!"

"I don't need all these rules!   There must be a way to live free and happy as I please!"

"When I compare my life to hers or his then it sure doesn't seem like You are being fair to me!"

Astragferallah.

Eventually, we sputter out of our sadness.  Our temper tantrum is done.  We are left embarrassed by how far we have gone away from goodness and Allah's Greatness. 

No, we can't have everything we want.  Somethings we want aren't good for us.  This American notion of, "Have it Your Way," is not a spiritual path to follow.  It's a trap.  We can't control our life any more than a little girl or a boy can make wise choices about what goes into the cart. 

Allah knows better because Allah SWT knows not just the moment we're in but all the moments of our life (and in fact, every moment of the Universe).  Allah knows each person we are to meet EVER.  Allah knows the roles we need to play and the jobs we need to work.  We have unknown talents, just like the ground can hide diamonds, which can only be mined through many days and weeks and sometimes years.

So, we can be Veruca Salt and scream, "I WANT IT NOW!" or we can be Charlie Bucket and follow the tour patiently until the end.  Naughty or nice?  Don't be a bad egg. 

Let's remind ourselves, and others we love, that during a spiritual temper tantrum, the best thing we can do is to remember Allah.  Remember to trust Allah's Knowledge.  Let Allah's Strength and Power hold us and calm us.  Inshahallah.  


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Buying American in Egypt




Last night I was an American in Giza.  It's my Spring Break from school and I'm not going anywhere since the country is fine...until it's not (and when it's not then it's very sudden and severe).  So, to cure my I-can't-go-anywhere blues, I went in search of America in Egypt.

I went first to Hardee's in Giza at Al-Haram and Arish.  We could have gone to McDonald's, KFC, Pizza Hut, or Domino's since they're all right there.  Cook Door is too but, though it sounds American, I've never seen one in America.

Hardee's was really a different experience from before the Revolution.  I guess we hadn't been there in a while.  Before it was wall to wall people and birthday parties (with costume characters and loud music).  Last night?  I think there was an echo. 

The biggest problem with Hardee's, however, is that my husband can't say it without laughing.  There's a rude way to say "rear end" in Arabic which my husband finds remarkably simmilar to the restaurant's name.  Sigh...

I ordered a Frisco burger for me, a cheeseburger for the kid and a chicken fillet for the hub.  We got the regular fries, the curly fries and the smallest amount of onion rings I've ever seen in a basket.  We drank one large 7-Up and one small.  Then, we topped off our experience with one chocolate milkshake and two hazelnut milkshakes.  Price?  125 LE. 

At my favorite local restaurant, Andrea's, we could have had a table of starters (kofta, cheese samosas, stuffed grape leaves, white beans, tahina, baba ganoush, pickles), bread freshly baked in a clay oven and a whole roasted chicken for the same price.

Choices!

This might have been my farewell-to-fast-food meal.  It was a flirtacious effort and, though I can make believe that I can live like an American here, I really can't. 

Besides, my Mr. Boo was so thirsty and sweaty after eating the food.  It was almost scary how the hidden salt levels in the meal affected him. 

After our meal, I wasn't done with buying American.  We went around the corner to Metro Market which is upscale in that it's clean, well-lit, you can pick items up off the shelves and you can see foreign products.  I don't really want to tell you how much we spent because it's obscene.  Really.  Like, a gross sum of money for me to buy things that I'll eat to remember life before (and to share with a husband who's never tasted them before).

It is possible to buy American in Egypt.  Some things are really easy to find and you'll see them everywhere; you don't have to go to a speciality store.  Some things are a little harder to find; you have to find the right place which stocks them.  Some things (no matter how you try) are impossible to find; or at least impossible for me.

In the interest of public service, I will provide you with a list of

American Products in Egypt

Candy

Easy to Find
         
           Cadbury (British but known in America)
           Kit-Kat Bar
           Mentos
           Twix

Hard to Find

         Extra Gum
         Jelly Bellies
         M&Ms
         Snickers
         Trident Gum  

Cheese

Easy to Find
   
          Laughing Cow "La Vache Quirit"

Hard to Find

          Cheddar (not processed)
           Edam

           Gouda
           Mozerella

Drinks

Easy to Find

          7-Up (which gets called "Seven")
         Coca Cola
          Fanta
          Lipton Tea (lose leaf)
          Nesquik in box   16.95
          Tang (orange, apple, mango) 30g packet   1.50 LE
          Pepsi
        

Hard to Find

         100% Juice in boxes
         Alcohol
         Cranberry Juice
         Sprite

Impossible to Find

          Gingerale
          Rootbeer
          Sports Drinks

Fruit

In season

Easy to Find

        Apples
        Bananas
        Cantaloupe
        Dates
        Guava
        Oranges
        Magoes
        Strawberries
        Tangerines
        Watermelon
       
Hard to Find
         
          Avocado
          Grapefruit
          Kiwi
          Pineapple

Impossible to Find

          Fresh blueberries, raspberries or cranberries

Health Care Products

Easy to Find

          Always
         Johnson & Johnson's Baby Powder
         Vaseline

Hard to Find

          Tampax


Noodles


Easy to Find
 
          Macaroni Noodles
          Spaghetti Noodles
          Ramen  "Indome"   1.25 LE

Hard to Find

          Lasagne Noodles
          Mac n Cheese in a box



Sauces

Easy to Find
          Heinz Ketchup
          Heinz Mustard   5 LE
          Knorr Sauce Packets

Hard to Find

           Mexican Salsa

Shampoo

Shampoos might not be stocked at a small market but rather at the pharmacy.
Easy to Find

          Head & Shoulders
          Herbal Essence
          Johnson's & Johnson's Baby Shampoo
          Pantene

Snacks

Easy to Find

          Peanuts (fresh-roasted)
          Popcorn
          Potato Chips
          Roasted Seeds

Harder to Find

          Almonds (raw)
          Bugles "Conos"   2 LE medium bag
          Doritos    2 LE small bag
          Pretzels (found at some bakeries but not local groceries)
          Pringles   8 LE small can 15 LE large can

Spreads

Easy to Find

          Jams (apricot, fig, strawberry)
          Nutella

Harder to Find

          Grape Jelly
          Peanut Butter   9 LE
          Raspberry Jam

Vegetables

In season


Easy to Find

          Artichokes
          Cabbage
          Carrots
          Cauliflower
          Cucumbers
          Eggplant
          Green Beans
          Lettuce
          Onions
          Peas
          Potatoes
          Spinach
          Sweet Potatoes
          Tomatoes

Hard to Find

          Broccoli
          Jicima
          Pumpkin
          Waterchestnuts

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Sheik Alafasy Teaches Quran



This is the first in a series of great videos from Sheik Alafasy. Though only 35, he is the Imam of the Al-Kabir Mosque in Kuwait City. He is a well-known Qari; one who recites Quran. In this video, he teaches others how to have tajweed . This Arabic word means “to improve”. Anyone with good intentions can learn how to speak Quran. I don’t think, however, that it is possible to truly improve upon the way we recite Quran without some help. This is especially true for non-Arab reverts.


Help has arrived!

Don’t be put off by the young boys as his students. You don’t have to be a young boy to be a learner. I know you probably are older than your virtual classmates but look at yourself in revert years. I’m only 9 in revert years.

One problem I had is in finding my vocal range. My voice (thank God) is not as low as the Sheik’s, yet it is also not as high as the pre-teen boys’. So play around with where you can comfortably recite; somewhere in the middle.

It is easiest if you already have these surahs memorized. He works with An-Nas and Al-Falaq. However, even if you have them memorized, just like any deep re-working, you kind of forget what the words are while in the process. Go to this site to see the transliteration (the Arabic sounds written with English letters).

What’s great about http://www.guidedways.com/ is that it is easy to find everything on one page. You can see the transliterations next to the Arabic and also pick from a couple different translations (what the Arabic means). If you are trying to learn how to read Arabic, you can be studying the letters as he recites on the video. There are . Mashahallah, he does a wonderful job.

Here is his official website. His site does have an English translation but a lot of what’s on the site remains in Arabic.

If you wish to download the Sheik’s recitations, go here.

To see some of his other videos, see his youtube channel.

May Allah reward him for all his efforts.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Laughing and Weeping



وَأَنَّهُ هُوَ أَضْحَكَ وَأَبْكَىٰ

And that it is He (Allâh) Who makes (whom He wills) laugh,
and makes (whom He wills) weep.

The Holy Quran 53:43



I find that a lot of people are hung-up on happiness.

I've written about it before in my post Pleasure vs Happiness

The expectation is that the state of happiness is the normal way we should be feeling and any deviation from that norm means that we are either being wronged or somehow wronging ourselves.

Remember that


It really isn't about what's around you as much as what's inside you.  If you have peace inside you then that foundation of calmness makes good feelings possible.

Peace is Islam.  So, yes, to feel happiness means veering back to where you know you should be on the path. 

I wrote about Dr. Robert Holden's work here.  He says, "When you forget who you are, you forget what happiness is."  So, getting in touch with your inner core (which is where you are connected to God) means you can reach that bouyant feeling of floating along through the day.

I'm thinking again about what is happiness because of a Tweet that came to me.  " 9.6% of its population chronically depressed, the U.S. is the most depressed country in the world. least depressed is Nigeria"

That's amazing, isn't it?!

Yet, it made me remember a psychological study of lottery winners a year after their win.  The study was called, "Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative?"

Another blogger wrote about it here.

Years ago, I read about the study and never forgot about it.  Even before Islam, I was completely against the buying of lottery tickets.  I once lost a dream job I loved because I refused to sell pull tabs.  I was visiting schools and teaching social skills through drama.  Part of the non-profit's way to afford their program was to have their teachers sell pull tabs in bars.  When I balked at the evils of gambling, I was let go.  It remains totally ironic that I had been teaching children to find their inner voice and to distinguish right from wrong but when I did the same and spoke up to my boss it was not appreciated.   

Alhumdulillah.

The Western theory is that happiness comes in a bottle or in a pill; that we can find it in a person, or in a pile of money.  This is disproven time and again. 

I've been really moved these last days by the awesome words in the surah An-Najm.  I invite you to read and to remember.  Read because you've been searching.  Read because you want peace.  Read because through peace you'll find inshahallah the happiness you so desire.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Friday Khotba on Monday




Asalamu Alaykom Dear Sisters,

I am listening to a Friday khotba and it's only Monday.  It's from Imam Abdul Latif Finch from the Lighthouse Mosque in Oakland, California. 

I listen to a khotba every Friday BUT I don't understand it.  The masjid broadcasts it from down the street and it seeps in through every window.  However, it can't seep into my brain because I don't understand it.

So, every Friday I do my laundry and lament that I can't understand the khotba in Arabic. 

Poor me.

I'm a foreigner abroad without any English khotba.
Then, tonight (right now in fact) the truth hit me BAM!

I'm lying to myself.  I'm making excuses for my laziness.  If I really wanted to hear a khotba I have thousands to chose from and in English.  I have youtube!  I have a satelitte dish! 

Why am I not making more effort on Fridays to listen to some spirit-sustaining messages?

Astragferallah.

May Allah forgive me and all the sisters who make excuses

that the kids prevent them

or that no car prevents them

or that a language barrier prevents them

or that work prevents them

or that their busy lives prevent them.

Astragferallah.

Let's all stop making excuses and make more of an effort to set aside time every Friday to hear a khotba.