Monthly Archives: January 2008

When I was a “new shahadah” (random thoughts)

The other day I was chuckling to myself as I thought about the silly and not so silly things people “taught” me about Islam when I first became a Muslim. Most of them turned out to be untrue. Many of them were superstitions or traditional cultural beliefs mixed with Islam. Some were true but were delivered at the inappropriate time or in the incorrect manner. Oh the things people told me!

I remember:

-Being terrified of Jinns. No one ever explained that there are good jinns and bad jinns. No one ever said that Allah is the controller of all affairs and that I should concern myself with understanding who Allah is rather than fearing his creation. (See, that is why people should wait until a person as the proper understanding of the basic tenets of Islam before you start telling them about the unseen.)

-Being terrified of dogs (not that I was ever much a dog lover to begin with.) Someone told me that all dogs had jinns inside of them.

-Being told that Allah would hang me from the hellfire by my hair if I did not wear hijab. Again, no one ever explained the benefits of hijab to me. Just punishment after punishment if I didn’t wear it. In reality, I was wearing it but I really didn’t know why Allah commanded me to do it. I just didn’t want to face the wrath of Allah. (And I really felt like if I stepped out the house without the hijab something would happen to me.)

-Believing that my wudu was broken if my foot touched the bathroom floor.

-Being told that women had to go into sujood differently than men. Instead of going straight down, women had to bow kind of tilting to the side!

-Being told that Taraweeh was a requirement during Ramadan. (Without being told how to pray it, btw.) I was near tears when it was explained that Taraweeh consisted of 20 rakahs!!! 20 rakahs that I had to pray every single night of Ramadan. I was still getting accustomed to praying five times a day.

-(Speaking of the daily salah). Initially, I didn’t know that I was required to pray five times a day or even how I was supposed to do it. I remember someone saying they would teach me how to pray.

-I took shahadah on Sunday in the masjid. No one told me about Jumah or Eid. I remember going to the masjid on Eid-ul-Fitr (to pray) and finding everyone dressed to the nines. People were saying “Eid Mubarak” to me and I was like, “huh?” I don’t even remember when I discovered Jumah.

-Being told that I had to change my name.

-Being told the only way I could “be with a man” is to get married. I was 17. At that age (prior to converting) all I ever thought about was boys and having a boyfriend. So, in my brain I was saying “well, now that I’m Muslim I’ll have to get married then.” Imagine my parents’ shock when I started talking about getting married at 17!

-Being taught how to say “thank you” and “you’re welcome” in my new “Islamic language.” (i.e. Arabic) LOL.


Sometimes it’s hard being a hijabi/convert

Alhamdulillah, the video posted above gave me a little inspiration. I have days or times when being a hijabi/convert are really difficult. In my new city (unlike the old one) hijabi women are not very visible. So far, I’ve only seen one woman in hijab outside of the masjid. I’ve already had one very frustrating situation. Let me tell you about it:

Early one morning we were in the bedroom sleeping and the apartment manager knocked on the front door. My husband answered and then he came back into the room to tell me to get dressed because a guy needed to come in to inspect the apartment. Half asleep I threw on an abaya and hijab, then made my way out to the living room. The apartment manager was standing in the doorway. She turned to my husband and asked, “Is she gonna be staying here?” Even though she didn’t direct her question to me (something I find very rude by the way), I yawned and said yes I was staying. She turned to my husband and asked “Does she speak English?” WTH? “Of course I speak English!” I spat back at her. She apologized saying she didn’t hear me the first time. Still she ignored me and told my husband that “she” needs to come down to the rental office and fill out an application since “she” is staying. Needless to say I was pissed. I understand she needed me to fill out the paperwork since I wasn’t here when he first got the apartment but she was very rude. I told my husband I’m not going into the office by myself. I need a witness there just in case she says something else offensive.

It’s amazing how someone can step into your life for a brief moment and make you feel like crap. The aforementioned incident is one of many that I have endured since I started wearing hijab over 6 years ago. Some days I can laugh at these incidents. Other days I become enraged by the stereotyping and bigotry. Then there are days when I simply feel hurt by them. Maybe if they didn’t happen so suddenly, so unexpectedly it would be easier. But as many of you know, racist incidents tend to catch the recipient off guard. You’re floating along, minding your own business and BAM racism smacks you in the face.

I’m tired y’all. Really tired of dealing with other people’s racist beliefs, stereotypes, and prejudices. I’m tired of people assuming they know my country of origin, my comprehension of the English language, my beliefs or even who I am. I know it’s a part of the struggle. And I know, at the end of the day, I’m in a unique position where I can challenge people’s perceptions of Muslim women. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t get tired, you know?

Jamerican’s Favorite Things

If Oprah can have her list so can I!

1) A pocket-sized Qu’ran. Knowledge anytime and anywhere. Determined only by wudu, lol.

2) My 2007 Toyota Matrix. Alhamdulillah, I was able to get this car. Everyone who knows me says it suits me. (I have yet to hear exactly how but I take their word for it).

3) Red Velvet Cake. If you ask me it’s the best in the world. My mouth is watering just thinking about it now.

4) My Sandisk Sansa mp3 player. No, it’s not an ipod but it’s working for me. Initially I felt like I needed a PhD in order to understand how to use it but I have it now.

5) My Library card. ‘Nuff said.

6) Incense. I like to pray with a nice smelling incense burning. I feel more relaxed that way.

7) Shukronline pants. Oh, how I love them. Wide legs, baggy fit, nice look.

8) Gelato or Italian ice cream. Once you’re had this stuff it will be hard to go back to eating regular ice cream- trust me! Oh, and it has less fat than American ice cream. My friend Indiigo took me to this Italian spot in Seattle that has the best Gelato I’ve tasted so far. By day two I was scratching like a junkie asking for her to take me back again, lol. Thanks girl, you know how to hook a sista up!

9) Clinique’s Happy Still love this perfume after all these years. It smells great on me without being overbearing. My hubby said he loves how I smell. I didn’t tell him to thank Clinique. (I won’t tell if you don’t, lol).

10) Bangles and bracelets Some people can’t leave home without their American Express, I can’t leave home without a bracelet or a bangle hanging from my wrist. I feel naked without ’em.

Homesickness (again)

I’m missing Jamaica right now. Every once in a while I have waves of homesickness. Sometimes it comes on really strong, other times I’m able to ignore the pangs until they subside. I think I’m dealing with the latter right now. I’ll get through it soon, insha’allah. I also have bouts of missing South Florida (which is connected to missing Jamaica since it’s like Jamaica remixed.) *sigh* Some time last year I wrote this poem and posted it on my myspace page. In honor of my homesickness I’ll repost it here:
When I think of Jamaica I think of…

The thunderous beat of dancehall blasting from speakers. Selecta pull up dat! Go deh Mi gyal! Watch yah noooowww!

The cool and easy sway of lover’s rock.

Ackee and saltfish. Sorrel. Green, yellow, and black. Out of many, one people.

Black cake. Devon House ice cream. Coodeh! Niyabingi. Natural beauty.

The raucous voices of women in the market. Tourists toasting on the beach. Dunns River falls. Treasure Beach. Nuff struggle but we know how to relax. Life hard but we stay strong.

Conch shells. My grandmother saying “who cyan hear mus’ feel” or “What sweet nanny goat a go run him belly” and so many more. Clear blue waters. Bright colors. Cricket matches.

Dettol and Horlicks. Jerk chicken. Hear her nuh, “Sweetie, yuh can go by Missa Chin and buy mi a ting nuh?” Phrased like a question but really an order. Kiss teeth but not too loud. Going by Missa Chin. Coming back an hour later because mi “love chat”. Hear her nuh, “what tek yuh so long, mi start fret!”
Just smile and hand her the package.

Anansi story. Hosay. Roti. Dem man calling “Coolie gyal!” and me remembering they’re talking about me.

TVJ. Sunday morning and she asking “yuh nah go a church?” Trying to explain, I’m Muslim now. And no, dat nuh mean seh mi tun Arab, cha! She clutch her Bible and kiss her teeth…loud.

Home. Warmth. A place where I can feel like myself. A little strange but mi deh yah. Touching down and throwing off my American accent. Finding my voice again. It come back easy easy.

Politics. “So you family live in JLP area?” What dat have to do
with me? Mi live a farrin’. Taxi driver shouting, “London!, Sav! Grange!” and in he same breath whispering “sexy gyal”.

Passing by dem man on the corner hearing a faint whisper of ‘angel’ or ‘sweetness’. As I cross the road, “weh yuh man miss lady? Gimme a bly nuh.” Trying not to smile but thinking,
you gotta love Jamaican man.

Always making sure mi behave like “me have mannas“. Saying “good evening” or “good night” when I call or enter the room.
Remembering not to drink straight from bottle– ‘like some common gyal’. Press out yuh clothes. Always wear a slip under yuh frock. Don’t go near dem wutless bwoy. Find a respectable, decent man like Miss Mavis son, yuh hear mi gyal?

Johnny cake. Doctor bird. Easter bun.

Oh, how I could go on. But this is what comes to mind when I think of Jamaican culture!

Ever felt a song was written just for you?

I swear he wrote this one for me!

Getting settled in…

I have to admit, I have a difficult time getting used to change. You’d think I’d be used to it given the amount of times I’ve moved. But no. I’m trying to adapt to my new surroundings as much as I can. I refused to sit at home another day so I decided to venture out and go to Jumah. My hubby gave me full directions and even called me to make sure I arrived home safely. (So special!) Anyhow, the Muslim community is a lot smaller here. I’m not sure what to make of it at this point but Jumah was cool. Of course it took me like 15 minutes to get out of the parking lot. (We all know how the masjid parking lot situation goes!) Insha’allah I will venture out some more. This city is very confusing and to top it off, I’m directionally challenged. That’s why I loved living in South Florida; North, South, East and West are clearly laid out. Insha’allah I will figure it out soon…

Alhamdulillah, I got a call for a job interview next week. Make du’a for me. This is an organization I’ve wanted to work for, for the longest time. And the job is perfect for do-gooder types like me. *smile*

We took the plunge

Subhanallah, it finally happened. I’m married now! It seems like it took us forever to get here. As planned we had a small ceremony followed by a dinner with my family. So here I am now in my new city. I can’t say I completely dislike it. It’s a lot slower and the people are different. I think I need to give it time and also need to find a job. (Right now I’m a housewife!) Once I do that maybe I’ll have a different perspective.

Alhamdulillah, I’m pleased with my new husband. It’s so unlike the last time I was married. I mean, it feels different. I feel content. I don’t feel like I’m faking it or forcing anything. It just “is”. I thank Allah for blessing me with someone who is as driven and focused as I am. More importantly, I thank Allah for blessing me with a man who is so patient. (You definitely need a lot of patience to deal with me!)

5 Things I Think Everyone Should Know About Being a Muslimah; Being Me

1) I am not Arab, Pakistani, or East African. I’m African-American and Jamaican; a Jamerican. Yes, there are Muslims in the Caribbean and yes there are American Muslims. Do not assume when you see me in my hijab that I’m from another country. I speak English (and Jamaican patois). You don’t have to speak to me in a slow, measured tone. Then I’ll just get angry and the ghetto will come out of me- take your pick- Southside Chicago or Kingston, Jamaica.

2) I am not passive and I’m not oppressed. (Anyone who knows me knows that I’m far from being either). I’m a strong woman. I made the decision to convert to Islam when I was 17 years old. I’m the only Muslim in family. Therefore, the decision to practice Islam rests on me alone. I could essentially walk away from this way of life (May Allah forbid such a thing) with no consequence or pressure from my family. In fact, I’m sure some of them would be delighted…

3) The Muslim community is not monolithic. Muslims range in practice, belief, application and understanding of Islam. Despite what some Muslims and non-Muslims would like to believe, there is no “single Islam.” You’ll find Muslims who are very strict, very loose and everywhere in between. So, don’t come to me and ask me questions like, “well, my friend Muhammad said Muslim women have to wear the veil over their face, why don’t you have it on?”

4) If I choose to wear hijab it’s my business. Don’t take your stereotypes, assumptions and misperceptions and place them on me. Just as you made the decision to wear whatever you have on, I have done the same. I don’t need you to speak for me and certainly don’t need you to “free” me. Furthermore, I think it’s arrogant (and quite racist) to assume that because I don’t dress like you or behave like then something must be wrong with me. Been there, done that- hated it!

5) I love being a Muslimah. I am not ashamed of my way of life and I’m happy with my decision. All the self-imposed “restrictions” you see as oppressive and passé are quite comfortable to me. And you know what, they look damn good on me. Holla!

Who are you voting for?

This is the question people keep asking. Several people have insisted that I vote for Barack Obama. Others have said it’s all about Hilary Clinton. Just to mess with people, I look them straight in the eye, without cracking a smile and tell them I’m voting for Mike Huckabee and if not him then Mitt Romney. LOL. I’m so devious. You should see the looks on the faces of my liberal and leftist friends. Oh boy!
So who am I voting for? The truth is, I don’t know. I have issues with each candidate. Let me lay it out for you:
Hillary Clinton: She’s a snake. Not someone I’d trust at all. I know how much Black folks love the Clintons. We’re some fools though. I wish everyone could read Randall Robinson’s book called, The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks. He talks about the Clinton administration and how they undermined the growth of Black Americans and hurt the Caribbean’s economic development as well. Yeah, no thanks.

Barack Obama: I’m sorry but this dude just is not doing it for me. I have to agree with the political analysts (and surprisingly Hillary Clinton) when they say that he doesn’t have enough experience. I’ve watched a couple of the debates and he’s done a poor job in my opinion. Some Black folks have pretty much told me I should vote for him because he’s Black. Uh…no! Are we still operating of off such silly notions? C’mon people! Is brown skin the only requirement? Well, what about Clarence Thomas, he has brown skin…

John Edwards: Who? I’m just kidding. But seriously, I really do forget about him. He’s boring. I found myself yawning as I was listening to him speak on “The Today Show” this morning. He’s the same ole, dry, boring politician. You could substitute him with any White, male, democrat with a carefully coiffed hair cut. (And didn’t he spend thousands of dollars on a haircut at one point?) YAWN! At least Obama and Clinton are interesting.

Mike Huckabee: Evangelical Christian, right wing, conservative. I don’t need to say anymore. Says, Huckabee, “I will take our country back for those who belong here. No open borders, no amnesty, no sanctuary, no false Social Security numbers, no driver’s licenses for illegals.” Those who belong here? Hmm…we know who “they” think doesn’t belong here…it at aint you my friend and it aint me. Why doesn’t he just come out and say, “America is a White, Christian country. The rest of you don’t belong here.”

Mitt Romney, John McCain (i.e. George Bush), and Rudy Guliani:
This is my answer:

So, what am I left with? No independent candidate. And really no one that moves me. Let’s just call it indecision 2008, shall we?

I’m feeling this song and this dude! (Warning: contains some profanity)

“I’m fearless
Now hear this
I’m earless
And I’m peerless
That means I’m eyeless
Which means I’m tearless
Which means my iris resides where my ears is
Which means I’m blinded
But I’mma find it I can feel it’s nearness
But I’mma veer so I don’t come near
Like a chicken or a deer
But I remember I’m not a listener or a seer so my windshield smear
Here, you steer, I really shouldn’t be behind this, clearly cause my blindness
The windshield is minstrel, the whole grill is roadkill, so trill and so sincere.”

-Lupe Fiasco “Dumb It Down”

That was golden. I think I’m falling back in love with hip hop. *sigh* I hope he never decides to dumb it down. Big up Lupe!