Monthly Archives: April 2008

A Reflection from my old diary…

March 17, 2005

I know now that Islam is meant to be lived. Islam has a spiritual essence that attracted me so many years ago. It’s more than the five pillars or simply putting a piece of fabric over your head. It’s really and truly a way of life. It’s not comprised of only halal (lawful acts) and haram (unlawful acts). More than anything, Islam is about moderation. It’s about transforming your entire life, your entire mindset, using the words of Allah (God) that are found in the Quran. When people become overly strict or obsessed with Islamic law alone, they begin to lose that feel and texture of Islam’s spiritual, transformative side. It just becomes a set of rules- dos and don’ts. So sad…can’t believe I used to live like that…

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A du’a from my old diary (subhanallah)

July 01, 2004

 

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

My prayer of the day:

Allah give me patience, patience, patience. Help me to put my trust in you and you alone for there is no power except with your permission. Help me to make it through the day. Help me to face obstacles with persistent perseverance. Allow me to hold onto my faith no matter the challenge that lies ahead of me. Guide me, protect me, and help me to continue to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Bless me with piety, wisdom, fortitude, and well-being. Help me to be an excellent representative of your religion. Help me to implement the things that I learn into my life. All praise is do to you alone. You have no partner, no peer. Help me to surrender myself to you fully and wholly seeking nothing in return but your guidance. I love you so much ALLAH. More than any words can say, unlike any other love I’ve ever known. I want to please you. I want to be in your good graces. Forgive my sins ya ALLAH, forgive my sins ya ALLAH, forgive my sins ya ALLAH. I thank you for all that you’ve done for me. Even when I haven’t deserved it. Even as I continue to struggle to practice this deen. You are the most high, the supreme in glory. None is worthy of praise except you my Lord, Glory be to you.

Ameen.

My Assignment

I’ve been thinking, reflecting and reading my old diary lately.  I realize Islamically I am not pushing myself as much as I used to.  I need to increase my “spiritual calories”, my ibadah.   My hot mouth and I have been burning up the blog with [valid] complaints about the Muslim community. Lately, I’ve been so focused on “issues.”   Meanwhile, I’ve been neglecting some of the spiritual practices that have kept me balanced- centered.  I feel like I am losing my spiritual self. I don’t want that to happen ever again. (May Allah prevent it. Ameen.)

The bottom line is I need to make sure that I don’t lose myself in the midst of all the fitnah. It’s so easy to become disillusioned. I have to take care of my spiritual self as much as I take care of my intellectual self. It all goes hand in hand.  Here is what I am going to do, insha’allah:

  1. Learn a new Surah
  2. Increase Nafl Salaah
  3. Keep plugging away at the Seerah I’m reading
  4. Keep thinking, reviewing, reflecting, and making du’a
  5. Pay back the last day of Ramadan that I owe

You better take care of your man or else…(rant)

After speaking with a few friends I realized there’s this idea floating around that if a wife does not bend over backwards to please her husband then it is understandable in some way if he strays. In the Muslim context, it can be a justification for a brother taking a second wife or even for a brother cheating on his wife. I’m saying to myself, now let me get this straight, I have to cook, clean, provide endless (and mind-blowing) sex to my husband, maintain the children, and at the same time somehow manage to be pious, obedient and sexy? Talk about superwoman….And if I don’t then I have failed in my duty as a wife? Wow! And exactly what does he have to do for me? Should he step up his game in any way? Is he required to do more than go to work, come home and veg out on the sofa? My word… 

It is clear who this idea stands to benefit. What I don’t get is why so many women readily accept it. I mean, it has double-standard written all over it! As Muslims, it is not our example anyway. The Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w., was courteous and helpful to his wives. (And he did not pick up wife after wife out of his own selfishness or nafs). Yeah, I know few brothers can measure up to the Prophetic ideal but at the same time they can use his life as a blueprint for their own. Isn’t that what we’re striving for anyway? Furthermore, adultery (or zina) is considered despicable in Islam. I don’t think I need to share the various Quranic ayahs or Ahadith to substantiate my point.

Something is terribly wrong in the world today. Sometimes I want to live way out in no man’s land and feast on wild berries and an occasional pheasant. Not be bothered with the corruption of the world. Subhanallah. I say all of this after listening to one disappointing story after another from sisters about the fitnah that has become their marriage. My soul is deeply troubled…

Unruly Children in the Masjid (Rant)

I was reading online rihla’s lastest post and I started asking myself, what’s up with the children in masjid? It doesn’t matter if it’s Jumah or another masjid event; you will often see children running wild like someone gave them a 5 lb bag of sugar. They’re flipping up, jumping, ripping and running as if they’re on a playground. Better yet, what’s with their parents? Why do they sit there as if they don’t notice their children’s behavior? Why do they behave as if it’s someone else’s job to take control of the children?

Time and time again I’ve seen sisters sitting around talking, engaged in conversation with not even a care as to where their child or children are. (As rihla mentioned, sometimes the children may even wander outside). You know what I’m talking about! Even if, for some reason, you do not witness said children and their inattentive parents during Jumah, you have surely witnessed it during Taraweeh. Subhanallah! It’s like nothing I’ve seen in my life! A few examples:

-I went to the masjid to pray Mahgrib one time. (The sisters’ area is in the basement).There were only two other sisters waiting to pray- they were both teenagers. Meanwhile, three very young children ran around the musallah playing with a rubber ball. They were making so much noise that I asked them to be quiet several times. Once we started praying (and there was no one to tell them to keep it down) they became louder and louder. I could hardly hear the imam and I definitely could not concentrate during salaah. I kept thinking, why are these girls not saying anything to their brother and sisters? After the salaah finished I was getting ready to leave and I noticed the two teenage girls were also getting ready to leave. We all looked at each other in confusion. I thought the kids were with them and they thought the kids were with me. We asked the kids where their parents were and discovered that their father had sent them downstairs alone. (Some brothers behave as if there is free babysitting available in the sisters’ area!!!) I was appalled. I really wanted to be evil and just leave. If their father wasn’t concerned about them then why should I be? But alas, I waited with the teenagers until we could locate the children’s father.

-I went to a masjid barbeque in the park. A busy four-lane street ran alongside the area where we were sitting. Knowing that, a logical person would think one or both parents would be keeping an eye on their kids. WRONG. One little girl almost got hit by a car. Not long after that a car narrowly missed a little boy who darted out into traffic. Where were their parents? Engaged in conversations, enjoying food. Just like in the masjid…

-I was in jalsa, finishing up my salaah. Someone’s child actually came, stood in front of me and started making faces. When I did not laugh, smile or entertain him in any way, he hauled off and punched me! I AM NOT JOKING. He ran down the aisle laughing. He came back a second time- by then I had salaamed out- and tried to hit me again. I grabbed his little hands and said no in a firm voice. He started crying and ran to his mom who was SITTING RIGHT NEXT TO ME. She didn’t say one word to him she just looked at me with a blank stare on her face! WTH?

– An older sister was praying while sitting in a chair. She leaned her cane against the wall. Someone’s child took the cane and ran away with it. When the sister finished her salaah she needed her cane to walk. I was so overcome with anger that I chased down the child and snatched it from her. Only after her mom saw me reprimanding her child did she say something. (And I really got lucky because some parents want to argue with you for saying anything to their children).

-During Taraweeh, in one masjid, if a sister puts her purse down in front of her I’ve watched kids come along and rifle through it. They will empty the contents of your purse in front of everyone, carrying away whatever goodies you might have in it. One time, someone’s child took my bottle of water from my bag and started drinking it. When I finished praying I went to get it back from her. Instead of chastising her child, the mother asked me if her daughter could have the water! WTH?

-Speaking of water and Taraweeh, how about the kids who were playing in the toilet? They were dunking the containers we use for istinja into the toilet and pouring water onto the floor. Ewww…the crazy part is, the masjid has a room with toys and babysitters for the kids to go into during Taraweeh. However, some sisters have flat out refused to send their children into the room…

I grew up in Black Baptist and Pentecostal churches. The only way I could ever run up and down a church aisle was if I caught the Holy Ghost! Not only was there no running around or playing but we couldn’t even talk in church. (The one time I did my grandmother gave me a cold stare which was really a warning that she was not beyond taking me into the bathroom and giving me a swat or two). I learned early on that I was in “the Lord’s House” and I needed to respect it as such.

I wonder what kind of message some Muslim parents are sending their children. Are they being taught to respect the masjid? To respect salah? Or is the masjid a place to play and salaah a time to do as you please (even if it inconveniences other people?)

Karma. Payback. What Goes Around Comes Around…

What goes around comes around. We’ve all heard the saying but how many of us think about it in our daily lives? Do we think about the way we treat other people and whether our ill-treatment of them will come back to haunt us? I haven’t lived long but I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see life in action. To see how Allah metes out punishment on earth. Let me tell you a little story:

There was an older brother I used to see at the masjid. He had to be in his late 60’s or early 70’s. He walked with a cane and appeared to be in poor health. I noticed him because he drove a convertible, cherry-red sports car. Some of us used to joke that he was the masjid’s “cool daddy.” We even called him it from time to time and he’d laugh. Fast forward several months.

I received a call from my halaqah teacher. The older brother was in the hospital.  A few sisters, brothers, and I went to visit him. We spent most of the visit joking around with him trying to make him feel better. When it was time for us to leave he looked sad. He thanked us for coming and told us he appreciated it. Then he started crying. Through his tears he told us how he used to be very wealthy. He had several wives, plenty of children, big houses, cars and many expensive things.  However, he mistreated his wives and his children. He mistreated other people. He spent money without a care in the world. He did not thank Allah for blessing him with a good life nor did he pray or strive to be a better Muslim. And so it went for many years. Eventually Allah took everything from him except for the little red sports car.  And there he was in the hospital surrounded by strangers, in need of our hospitality.  It was a very sad but eye-opening experience.

Do we need an extreme like the aforementioned one to whip us into shape? If you pay attention to the lessons Allah is teaching you in your own life then I believe you will receive your wake up call. Like the time I was in the masjid parking lot and saw a pregnant sister struggling to get her kids out of the car. Rather than offer my assistance I judged her. With my nose in the air, I said to myself, why do these sisters have so many kids? Clearly she’s overwhelmed yet she’s still having more. (Astagfirullah). Two seconds later my heel got caught on something and I fell down an entire flight of stairs scraping my arms, hands, and legs.( I also ripped a hole in my brand new abaya). Sitting there, on the bottom of the stairs, heart pounding, I realized the swift message Allah had just sent me.  I had to ask for forgiveness (and for Allah to bless that sister and her children. Ameen.)

I’m not saying I’m the best person. I still have many lessons to learn. But Alhamdulillah I try. I reflect. I try to review my actions at the end of the day and ask for Allah’s forgiveness for any wrong I may have committed. And I hope my effort is dually noted by my Lord. I strive to treat people in the best manner (even when they upset me). Yes, I’m a bit of a spitfire but I’m trying. And when it becomes really difficult I think about the older brother and his cherry-red sports car.

May Allah guide us all.

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Thanks to my girl Ruqaiyyah for the thought-provoking conversation which led to this post. May Allah increase you. 

 

 

8 Things NEVER to Say to your Muslim Co-worker

1) Where are you from? Or where are you really from? Or where are your parents from?

The assumption here is that Muslims are from a different country (namely from the Middle East.) However, there are plenty of Americans who have converted to Islam. This includes African-Americans (who make up between 40-45 percent of American Muslims), White Americans, Latinos/Chicanos and other ethnicities. Some individuals are relentless in their pursuit to find out “the real ethnicity” of a Muslim co-worker. They cannot stop at “where are you from?” especially if the answer is “Chicago.” Why are you making things so difficult? Now your co-worker is required to probe further, asking with a sigh, “No, where are you really from? Where are your parents from?” If you say Chicago again or some other city in the United States you have now thoroughly confused said co-worker. You must say “Egypt” or “Kuwait.” It’d be even better if you said “Iraq” or “Saudi Arabia” because all would be right in the world again.

From a Latina Muslim friend: She was at work one day and her co-workers were complaining about the heat. One of them said to her, “You’re probably not hot because you come from a desert country.” My friend is Puerto Rican by way of the Bronx. She has a very pronounced New York accent…

2) You speak English really well! Or why don’t you have an accent?

I should speak English well, it’s my first and only language! (Which also explains why I don’t have an accent).

Again, the assumption here is if a person is Muslim then they are not from this country. And if they don’t have a good command of the English language it also implies they’re a recent immigrant.

True Story: I once went to speak to a group of journalists who were visiting the U.S. from several different countries. The speaking engagement was sponsored by an international center that prides itself on connecting its visitors with Americans doing work in particular fields. After the engagement was over, an employee of the center proceeded to tell me what a great job I did and how very articulate I was. With a smile on her face she said, “You speak so well!” I wondered if she would say the same thing to a White non-Muslim?

3) What is your hair like under there?

Part of the reason a woman wears hijab (the head scarf and modest clothing) is so that she is not publically displaying “certain physical attributes.” This includes her hair. If a Muslim woman doesn’t voluntarily share what her hair looks like then it would best not to ask. Some Muslim women may find the question a little invasive (especially if it is asked by a male colleague or in the presence of male colleagues.) My hair and my body are private matters that are not up for public discussion or description. In the same way that you would not ask a woman to describe her breasts you should not ask me to describe my hair.

4) Wow, I didn’t know you could do that!

“That” can mean anything from telling jokes to bowling to running a marathon. Contrary to the media images we are fed day in and day out, Muslims are human beings. We have disagreements with our spouses, concerns about the rising gas prices or which schools to send our children to. We also have hobbies or interests which may not be religious in nature. We might participate in a walk for breast cancer, work out at a gym or have a good time at Dave and Busters.

5) Why do terrorists hate us?

Why don’t you ask them? The question implies that I either speak to terrorists on a regular basis or am affiliated with them in some way. Just as neo-Nazi groups do not speak for all Christians; terrorists groups do not speak for all Muslims.

6) Can you explain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Or the Sunni-Shia conflict in Iraq? Or the Kurds etc.

I cannot be expected to have knowledge of every conflict- be it political, tribal, personal, regional or cultural- simply because it involves other Muslims. Yes, some Muslims might have an inside scoop because they hail from a specific country or cultural group but it is certainly not true of all Muslims.

True Story: A co-worker from China once asked me about the conflict between Chinese Muslims and the government. Though I was aware of the fact that there are Muslims in China, I had no idea what she was talking about. I wondered why my co-worker felt I would have more knowledge on the subject than her. She is actually from China, not me!

7) My Muslim friend [insert name] doesn’t do/wear/say that, why do you?

There are 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. We come from different racial groups, cultures, and ethnicities. In terms of our practice of Islam, we range from the most conservative to the most liberal and everywhere in between. Some Muslims live in remote villages, some live in urban, bustling cities, and some live in suburbs or country sides. Muslims have disagreements about how to implement Islamic principles into our daily lives. We also have disagreements about what our religion requires of us. Though we have many similarities (like the pilgrimage to Mecca) we also have many differences (like what languages we speak.) We are not a monolithic group. I am also an individual.

Your friend Omar/Fatima might be okay going to happy hour with you. He or she may engage in drinking and merriment without a care in the world. At the same time, another Muslim may believe it is against his/her religion to go to happy hour. Please respect their difference in practice and move along. Really, what is the point of asking the following question: “Omar goes with us and he’s Muslim, why can’t you?”

8 ) You converted because of your husband?

More than half of the people who convert to Islam are women. We do so for many different reasons. Yes, some women were introduced to Islam through their husbands, this is true. However, somewhere in this question lies the belief that an American woman would only convert to Islam because of a man. She couldn’t possibly do so because she was attracted to the tenets of the religion. It has to be because some persuasive Muslim dude who got in her head.

Something to note: (1) Your Muslim co-worker may not be married (2) she may have made the decision to convert after a careful study of the religion (3) There are American Muslims (non-immigrant) who did not convert but were raised in Muslim families

The collective sigh of Muslimah converts: Don’t give the “credit” to a man. We have a brain, we read, we study and love this religion…all on our own.

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This post inspired by 10 Things Never to Say to a Black Co-Worker and 7 Things Never to Say to a Asian Executive