The funny thing about having a blog…

Hey everyone,

I know it’s been a long time since you have heard from me and I’m sure many of you have given up on me. I’ve received some emails asking when I’ll be updating my blog again, some cursing me for my views and some in praise of them, others gently admonishing me and everything in between. The funny thing about having a blog (especially for years now) is that you can read what you once believed or felt strongly about. You can see where you’ve changed and where you’ve remained the same. I suppose that’s part of the human experience if you’re growing and developing.

So, what have I been up to? Well, I’m 9 months pregnant, due any day now and still working. Needless to say, I’m tired and ready to meet this little baby, insha’allah. Maybe when I’m home on maternity leave I will feel inclined to write me. Allah knows best…

ALS and mom update

Hello everyone,

I was reading over some of my old posts and realized that I kind of left interested parties hanging when it came to my mom and her health conditions. When I last blogged my mom was in denial about having ALS- that has changed. She has fully accepted her condition now and says that she has no choice but to because of the rapid changes taking place in her body. She cannot run or even walk very fast, she’s winded when she tries to walk a block and the pain is getting worse in her throat. She recently went to an ALS clinic and they advised her to get a walker. Of course she doesn’t want to do that but she may have no choice. She is also planning to resign from both of her jobs. She just doesn’t think her body can take the physical strain of it anymore. I fully support her in this and my husband and I have offered for her to move in with us if that is what she needs. (Though she is very proud and seems to prefer going to an assisted living facility).

This past weekend we had a family meeting where she talked about granting me power of attorney to make decisions for her since she is pretty confident that her voice is going to leave her soon. This whole thing is sad and heartbreaking but insha’allah I still feel like I can handle it. After all, what choice do I really have? My mother and I haven’t had the best relationship and time hasn’t improved it much. However, I do hope that we can spend her last months or years mending this broken relationship as much as possible. Allah knows best…

6 Relationship Myths Women Have

1. I have the “Magic V”. What is the “magic V”, you ask? It is the magic vagina. Many women think all they have to contribute to the relationship is their body- more specifically their vagina. They think once they “whip it on” a man he will fall helplessly in love with them and they won’t have to do much more than that. I hate to break it you ladies, you have to bring more than your body to a relationship. (Aside from that, sex is a plummeting stock and the market is over-saturated with it.) The “magic V” will only hold his interest for so long. Eventually some other woman will come along with an even more “magical V” than yours. As my husband said, “The magic V only works for a prostitute trying to get customers.”

2. Mr. Right will sweep me off my feet. We all have had the dream. One day we’ll be walking along and bump into Mr. Right. He will be handsome, financially stable (maybe even rich), intelligent, sexually satisfying, and an all around good guy. It doesn’t matter where we are in our lives. We could be on government assistance, have children by multiple fathers, doing nothing to develop or improve ourselves (intellectually, spiritually or mentally) but feel that this guy should come along and sweep us off of our feet like a Disney prince. This dazzling guy is supposed to choose us over all the other women- including those who are developing, saving, nurturing and ‘growing’ themselves.

3. A “real man” will put up with me. According to some women, a man will accept her bad attitude, dysfunctional, destructive behavior or immaturity because he thinks she is so great. Newsflash! A real man, a mature man will see you comin’ and take off runnin’ (in the words of Erykah Badu). Why would a man want to put up with your drama? Most men want peace and quiet in their home. They don’t want to deal with a woman they have to parent and they CERTAINLY don’t want to manage your drama.

4. Having a baby will save the relationship. *sigh* Really, ladies? I know very few women would admit that they believe this but we all have a girlfriend or relative who did just that- she had a baby thinking it would prevent the man from leaving her. (At minimum he would stay connected to her via the children). The reality is if he doesn’t want to be with you he is not going to be with you. Not only have you created an unhealthy situation for your child but you have unnecessarily added the burden of single parenthood to your plate.

5. The wedding day is all about me. Unfortunately, the wedding day has become about adult women living out a childhood princess fantasy. Since many of us were little girls we have dreamed of the day when we would be the center of a huge, expensive wedding (complete with the princess-like wedding gown.) We no longer view weddings as the joining of two families, as a cornerstone of community building or the celebration of this new relationship. It’s about me, me, me and the fantasy I wish to turn into reality.

6. A man should be faithful to me…no matter what. I know this is a controversial one but hear me out. You can’t mistreat a man, neglect him, and fail to maintain your relationship (yes, that includes sex!) and expect him not to desire something more. You are sending your man out into the world starving for attention, companionship, tenderness, and with the desire to be treated like a man. Eventually, he will meet a woman who can do all things for him and more. She may be his co-worker or a friend of a friend. I hate to break it to you ladies but it’s only a matter of time before he finds himself drawn to her; looking forward to speaking with her in the cafeteria or in the elevator. Meanwhile, he comes home to you and there is nothing. There is nothing stimulating, engaging or empowering about his interaction with you.

No, this is not a pass for men to cheat but let’s not ignore reality or the needs that a human being- in this case a man- has.

.

To be a Black. Convert Muslim. Female.

Hello everyone. My blog has been rescued from the depths of oblivion after I have read quite a few blogs for the “Convert Truths” blog carnival and felt compelled to contribute. (And yes, I’m way late…sue me). I wanted to share what my own personal experience has been like as a Black, convert Muslim, female living in the United States. Here goes:

I wish I could tell you about the beauty. I wish I could tell you that I took shahadah after being fascinated with Islam and seeing the goodness of Muslims. I wish I could tell you how I found a family, a community and a new place to exist. I really wish I could. And I wish that because I am quite aware of the fact that Muslims don’t want to hear my kind of story. It’s too painful and too much truth for one person to digest. The reality is my convert experience has been a rocky one. It has been, at times, fraught with doubt and confusion as to why I chose to be a part of this community and around these particular people. Once the initial convert zeal wore off, I found myself in a miserable circumstance.

Many of you are quite aware of my story. For those who aren’t I can give you the quick rundown. I converted to Islam when I was 17 years old. I was initially part of the predominately African-American masjid where I took shahadah but became distant from the community after it folded due to mismanagement, personal scandals and a failure to help new converts like myself navigate the pitfalls of the larger world around us. Unwittingly, I fell in with members of the Tablighi Jumat (though I never officially joined it) and eventually the Salafi movement (which I also never officially joined) because my Muslim friends and support were part of these movements. I was only able to maintain that level of Islam for a couple years before I found myself burnt out, tired and wanting more. I “took a break” from practicing Islam for several years. I eventually found my way back after I moved to South Florida and became part of a Caribbean Indian and Indo-Pak mixture community. That is where it all began…

If you ask me what it has been like to be a Black, convert, Muslim, female I will reiterate it has been rough. Having spent most of my Muslim experience in non-Black immigrant communities, I have faced a great deal of racism, sexism and colorism. Though I often heard how we are “all Muslim” and have been reminded of the Prophet’s (s.a.w.) last sermon where he says, “All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action,” the reality amongst Muslims was and is far from the ideal. Beyond all the beautiful speeches given to me by my Indian, Pakistani, Caribbean Indian, and Arab brothers and sisters I realized that being Black, a woman and a convert made me less than. The litmus test was marriage. I watched as my fair-skinned Latina friends were repeatedly asked for their hand in marriage. I watched as the White female converts were held in high esteem and absorbed into immigrant Muslim families (their babies will be so fair, mashallah!) and I laughed inwardly at the sisters’ tales of being proposed to at the annual ISNA convention because that NEVER happened to me. Yet, I continued to subject myself to this mistreatment because I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do. It occurred to me that my presence was being tolerated. I was angry at myself because the Afrocentric movement was what had led me to Islam. Before becoming Muslim I was confident and proud of the color of my skin, the texture of my hair, the shape of my nose and of my slave ancestors. How did I move from that to being ashamed of taking off my hijab at sisters’ only events? How could I sit silently as people insulted my skin color or asked me if I was a convert or Muslim? What happened to me?

I eventually woke up. I divorced the Arab husband I was married to, left the masjid that I had been attending and rediscovered/reclaimed my identity. I was free and ready to reconnect with my people, Black people. One would think that moving to a predominately African-American Muslim community would’ve been better for me. I thought I would find myself welcomed into my local W.D. Muhammad masjid with full and open arms. I was coming home! However, from the moment I set foot in the masjid I immediately knew I was an outsider, not to be welcomed in. This time it wasn’t because of my skin color or cultural background. I was an outsider because I wasn’t part of the Nation of Islam experience and I didn’t have an entire family who was. I was also an outsider because I was attractive, single and a threat to the sisters. The fact that I wore abayas, full hijab and tended to be more conservative (due to the years I spent in immigrant Muslim communities) didn’t help either. Sure, I could come to Jumah, participate in community events or even help out with the tasks the masjid administration assigned to me but I got the message loud and clear: don’t think you’re going to come in here and change things or try to be a better Muslim than us. Nepotism was the order of the day and I had no family connections.

Outside of the Muslim community I found myself in a strange predicament. Before 9/11 people would assume that I was from the Nation of Islam. That’s what being Black and Muslim meant. However, after 9/11 I was suddenly “foreign” and from “over there.” People assumed I didn’t speak English, that I was passive and docile, and that someone was forcing me to cover my hair and body. The strangest part of all was that Black people no longer recognized me as Black. My light brown skin (once considered too dark in Arab and Indian/Pakistani communities) combined with my hijab made people assume I was East African or a “Black Arab.” There were no head nods, complicit glances, or casual words spoken to me from other Black people. Somehow, being Black meant you had to be Christian. To be anything else was to be a cultural apostate.

One may ask, why be Muslim then? Why don’t you just leave? Why subject yourself to this? After all, I have had so many negative experiences in the Muslim community. Best believe that I have asked myself these questions many times since I converted. To sit here and say that I haven’t would be a lie. So, why do it? Why remain here? I believe without a doubt or hesitation that there is no nothing or no one worthy of worship of worship except Allah (who has no partners, no equals, no sons) and that the Prophet Muhammad ibn Abdullah is his messenger and the seal of all Prophets. If I left Islam where would I go and who would I be? Despite the negative experiences I have had and continue to have, the Quran has offered me guidance and peace during these tumultuous times. After all, when I am focused, when I remind myself of my purpose, when I lay that rug out and face the kiblah, I remember that there is nothing and no one else in the world except me and Allah.

Why I DON’T want to be the most beautiful woman in the room


Image courtesy of Google

Yesterday I had a female client who was waiting for me to come get her from the lobby. She was sitting there with approximately six male clients. As I was preparing her paperwork I could hear laughter and snatches of conversation coming from the group. I could immediately tell that my female client was the center of attention and that she was relishing in the attention she was receiving from the men. The more attention they directed her way, the more delighted she seemed. When I finally called her back, she was lit up like a 100 watt bulb. It was clear that she was anxious to get back to the lobby so that she could resume her position in the limelight.

I witness the aforementioned scenario on a daily basis- several times a day. The female client (or object of attention) doesn’t seem to know or care that the attention being directed her way is temporary and illusory. She happens to be the most attractive woman (or the only woman) in a room full of men- which basically means the men don’t necessarily have a genuine interest in her. (Nor do they think she is the most beautiful sight their eyes have ever beheld). She is the most viable, attractive option at the moment. The same woman will feel slighted when she realizes that her [precarious] position has been usurped once a more attractive woman enters the room. My husband and I call it “situational attraction.”

You may ask why I am writing this. Beyond my knack for writing about the unspoken aspects of human thought and interaction, I felt it was important for other women to be aware of situational attraction. I am afraid women are misreading the attention they receive when situational attraction occurs. Worse yet, we may remain blissfully unaware of it, continuing to live in a fantasy world. We’re thinking we’re that woman in a music video, love song or movie that captures the attention of all the men (or a particular man.) We may not realize that picking up women is a hobby for some men and that we just so happened to be in the right place and at the right time…until the girl in the skin tight jeans walks in and steals the show.

To be fair, women have our own brand of situational attraction. Ours doesn’t necessarily revolve around physical appearance though. We may find ourselves attracted to aspects of a man’s personality- his wit, charm, intelligence or humor- but that doesn’t mean we want to marry him or that we’re even interested in getting to know him. He just so happens to be the cool, funny, intelligent or nice guy at the moment and in a particular situation. I can only pray that you do not marry this guy and find yourself resenting him because he is not man you dreamed of spending the rest of your life with.

But I digress. If there is one piece of advice I could give in relation to situational attraction it’s to know the context. Is a man’s attention temporary or permanent? Better yet, is your interest in a man motivated by situational attraction? Knowing the difference between the two can save women plenty of heartache and many sleepless nights.

Do Women WANT to Understand Men?

Years ago I had a friend, let’s call her Anne. Anne was very impressed with the advice I used to give her about men. In a tirade about her latest failed relationship and how understanding men seemed like an impossible task, I gave her some advice (which I don’t remember now) that turned out to be excellent. Anne wanted to know how I had come to understand men so well. Though I still have a lot to learn about men, during that time she felt as though I possessed astounding insight into male nature. She wanted to know how she could increase her knowledge, improve her relationship and simply understand this foreign species called men. I told her one of the ways I had come to understand men better was by listening to them and being receptive to their views. I also had been privy to the kind of conversations that men have when no women are around; spaces where they can express themselves freely without censoring or editing their thoughts.

You see, before I began practicing Islam, I often had male friends. I would accompany them to the aforementioned gatherings with other men. Eventually when the conversation turned to relationships, women, and their daily lives I sat still and listened. I didn’t interject or call attention to myself- even when they used less than p.c. words- I simply remained quiet. (They usually forgot I was there). Meanwhile, I soaked up all the information I could, feeling fortunate to have the access and insight. Other times I would encourage male friends to express their thoughts and feelings to me without censorship. I tried very hard not to judge them or to discount their experiences. I did not give unsolicited advice. Most importantly, I did not impose my personal beliefs or feelings about men and relationships onto them. What I was essentially doing, without realizing it, was creating a safe space for men to talk- really talk- about what was on their mind and I was actually listening to them!

But back to Anne. She begged to accompany me to one of these male gatherings. I was skeptical. I wasn’t sure if she was quite ready and I was concerned about her ruining my informal male observational opportunity. She agreed to do whatever I said, “just let me come with you!” she pleaded. I reluctantly agreed but warned her: (1) you cannot interrupt them when they’re speaking (2) there will most likely be some offensive language used- look past it (3) do not call attention to yourself (especially when the conversation is getting good), just listen. She agreed. After a hour of “kicking it with the fellas” the conversation started moving in the direction of women, relationships, sex and the latest guy’s baby mama drama. I flashed Anne a warning look and she nodded. No sooner than 20 minutes into the conversation, Anne interrupted one of the guys who referred to his baby’s mama as a “dumb bitch”, reminding him that he shouldn’t speak about his child’s mother in that way. I groaned, slapping myself on the forehead. As you can imagine, the guys suddenly snapped out of their “man reverie” and realized two female interlopers were present. From there they eased back into their p.c. shells and all conversation ceased. Needless to say, Anne nor any other woman ever accompanied me back to these gatherings. (It took weeks for me to lull these guys back into their safe space)!

Fast forward to 2010. As I spend time on Facebook, various message boards and also engaged in conversation with men and women present, I am seeing women like Anne everywhere. Anne is telling men how to speak, how to think, what he “should be doing” and a lot more. Many women are not listening to men. Instead, we are imposing our points-of-view, feelings and experiences onto men, using those who are willing to dialogue with us as emotional dumping grounds. We aren’t creating a safe space where they can express themselves and we don’t seem very interested in hearing what they have to say. Sadly, we are even telling them HOW to be men. Is it any wonder why so many relationships are unhealthy?

I am not suggesting that women allow men to disrespect and mistreat them. Insha’allah I would never knowingly encourage such a thing. However, I am suggesting, if we want to have a healthy marriage with a man, that we try to understand men. We need to understand what male nature is, how the male brain functions, and to be receptive to hearing what men have to say- even if it’s inconsistent with what we believe or want to hear. So many times I hear women complain that a man won’t open up to her. I have to ask, are you really listening to him? Do you create a safe space for him to express himself and to be vulnerable? Or do you interrupt him, rushing to correct his thoughts? Are you trying to force him to think and behave like you, a woman?

The reality is, men are not like us. (Do we want them to be?) We have to appreciate the difference and learn how to work WITH them rather than against them. Just as we’d like for men to try to understand us (in order to better relate to us) we have to do the same for them. May Allah guide us all!

Books on the subject:

Alison Armstrong, Keys to the Kingdom

Alison Armstrong and Roxana Villa, Making Sense of Men: A Woman’s Guide to a Lifetime of Love, Care and Attention from All Men

Louann Brizendine M.D., The Male Brain

Anne Moir, Brain Sex: The Real Difference Between Men and Women

Time Flies…

With everything that has been going on, I didn’t realize that it has been a year since my ex, Moussa, was killed in the car accident. I think about everything that was happening last year and I can’t believe I’m still standing. Allah is truly merciful!

The proceedings for the civil case haven’t begun yet. I’m still working with the attorney and his cousin on the case. As I said before, the girl who killed him is in prison with not nearly enough time but she is there nonetheless. My current husband and I were driving and passed by the intersection where he was killed. It’s still unreal to me. Sometimes I can’t believe it. A couple of weeks ago I received a few gifts from my ex-sister-in-law in Mauritania. Mashallah. I’ve speak to them via a translator every now and then. Insha’allah, one day I would like to meet them.

I pray that Moussa receives the highest place in Jannah. Ameen.