Monthly Archives: October 2008

One Halloween Thought

For my non-Muslim (and non-practicing Muslim people out there) please don’t dress up as a Muslim woman. I beg of you. You may call me a killjoy or a wet blanket. You may ask me what’s wrong with “becoming someone else” for one day. I’d ask that you read this post over at Racialicious. A friend of my mine who lives near the University of Minnesota told me that she saw a man dressed in an abaya and hijab. Apparently, he was a Muslim/Arab woman (his words) for Halloween. My friend and her husband actually tried to engage the man in a conversation about his “costume.”  They wanted to explain why his outfit was offensive. However,  the man saw nothing wrong with appropriating the [cultural] dress of a Muslim woman. He wished them a Happy Halloween before telling them that they should “lighten up.”

I have a Caucasian friend who is Muslim and she wears the hijab and abaya everyday. On Halloween last year, a guy approached her and told her “now is not the time to wear a costume like that.” He was baffled when my friend told him that she was not wearing a costume. *sigh*

So, I reiterate, please spare us all and do not don a costume as a Muslim woman (or your idea of a Muslim woman.) Many of us are not laughing or amused. Thank you!

Some Thoughts From a Muslim Veteran*

Today I was thinking about how shy I used to be to carry out certain Islamic practices in public. Like many Muslims today, I was so concerned about how non-Muslims would perceive my behavior. Would they think I’m weird? Strange? Crazy? Now that I’m older and more comfortable in my deen I don’t even care. I just do my thing. Here’s a list of concerns or worries I’ve got over, alhamdulillah.

  1. I used to worry what people would think if they saw me performing wudu in a public restroom. Nowadays I just go in without a care and start performing wudu. If people are curious or bold enough to ask me what I’m doing I’ll tell them. Otherwise they can walk away thinking whatever it is they think.
  2. I used to hide my istinja bottle as if it was something I stole from someone, lol. It’s not like I go around flashing it or anything now but I no longer “smuggle it” into the bathroom. Again, if someone is curious enough to ask what it’s for I’ll tell them. At my previous job my co-workers were used to me carrying it into the bathroom. It got to the point where if I forgot it in there they’d bring it back to me, LOL.  The funny thing is that they never asked me what it was for. (After 3 years of working there). They must’ve sensed it was something private so they felt hesitant to ask.
  3. If I went to someone’s house or to a work-related event I used to feel shy about asking for a space to pray. Now? I’m bold about it. I once went to a fund-raising event held at some incredibly wealthy person’s house mansion. When Mahgrib came in I had no problem tapping the hostess on the shoulder and asking for a space to pray. The incredible thing about it is that Allah ALWAYS makes a way for me no matter what the situation is. I just have to show the initiative. Another time I went to a conference and the whole time I was stressing about how I was going to slip out of the workshop to pray Zhur. Silly me! Not only did Allah make it easy for me to find a space but another Muslim sister was there and were able to pray together. Takbir!
  4. I used to be shy about my hijab. I was uncomfortable talking about it, wearing it, and was constantly worried about how people would perceive me in it. (Especially when I went to work or a social event that was predominately non-Muslim). Alhamdulillah, I’ve gotten over that. Though I may have ups and downs and bad hijab days, I can pretty much walk in any gathering (with confidence) as if I naturally belong there. And you know what? I DO belong in most of the gatherings I attend. I have every right to be there. No longer do I shrink or remain quiet so as to go unnoticed. I ask questions, speak up or give feedback when the situation calls for it. Other times I have been the one speaking or providing trainings. Again, I don’t concern myself with how people are looking at me in the hijab. I just concern myself with my presentation…I’ve come a long ways. ALLAHU AKBAR!
  5. When talking to non-Muslim friends and acquaintances I used to feel uncomfortable discussing my Islamic standpoint on certain subjects. I also felt uncomfortable when I had to let them know something was against my belief system. For example, I was speaking with a woman about dating and marriage. She wanted to know if my husband had seen my hair and body shape before we got married. I told her no. She seemed confused. Later in the conversation I realized she was confused because she assumed we had dated for several years and lived together before we got married. I explained the Islamic perspective on dating, premarital sex, and cohabitating (yes, I’m using that old school word, lol.) In the past I would’ve felt very uncomfortable. I would’ve worried about her thinking I was strange or outdated.
  6. I used to speak on behalf of Muslims who had committed some wrong action as if I was personally responsible for their behavior. I was worried that their actions would shatter the picture perfect image I so freely painted of Muslims. Now I know better.  Nowadays I have no problem letting non-Muslims know that not all Muslims practice their religion or even desire to. There are Muslims who mistreat other people, behave badly, curse, drink, fornicate etc. At the same time, there are practicing Muslims who make mistakes and do things that are unIslamic. We are human beings complete with all the character flaws. However, that does not mean Islamic principles are suddenly invalid. I certainly don’t paint the picture perfect image of Muslims anymore. (And how could I in the face of so much violence committed on behalf of Muslims?) Not only is there good and bad in every bunch but many of us fall somewhere in between… 
  7. I used to feel uncomfortable discussing my western upbringing and culture when interacting with immigrant Muslims. Being a new, inexperienced Muslim I bought “The Evil West” paradigm wholesale. As difficult as it is for me to admit, I really felt immigrant Muslims’ “Islamic  culture” was superior to my own. I felt ashamed of the family, community, and cultures I came from. I had no idea that the picture they were painting was more fantasy than reality. (How many immigrants imagine home to be a lot better than it actually is?) After all, if [insert country of origin] was so great and so very Islamic then why were they here? I don’t think I need to say anymore about where I stand now. If you’ve been reading my blog you already know. *waves*

*Note: Muslim veteran in this context means someone who has been Muslim for a while. I am not referring to Muslims who were once in the military.

Inside my head: Random Thoughts 3

-Is Muslim unity, like Black unity (or Arab unity or African unity etc.), an ideal rather than a reality? How many lectures, kutbahs, discussions, or brainstorming sessions have I attended where someone suggests the solution to the problems facing Muslims is to realize that we are one Ummah. That our ethnic, racial, cultural, and national backgrounds do not matter. The same can be said for our different interpretations, schools of thought, gender and socioeconomic backgrounds. Believe me, I would like if none of the aforementioned weren’t the cause of division in the Muslim community. I just wonder if that is really going to happen. Even during the time of the Prophet (s.a.w.) there was racism, tribalism, sexism etc. Yes, our dear Prophet (s.a.w.) was vehemently opposed to division along those lines but history tells us as soon as he died the old tensions were revived. The other thing is this: I don’t want people to pretend that ethnicity, cultural background, nationality aren’t important meanwhile Muslims are subliminally encouraged to adopt Arab [Saudi] cultural practices as the universal norm.

-I NEED to go to Jumah. It hasn’t been that long since I’ve been there but my soul is crying for it. Insha’allah, I will take off this Friday or next Friday.

-I bought two hijabs from Al Muhajabat and I’m so happy, alhamdulillah. I’ve been looking for Turkish satin hijabs for the longest time but I wanted the price to be reasonable. Now I found them. Thank you Al Muhajabat!

-My mom and I went to see “The Secret Life of Bees” on Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed the movie (though I did have a few issues with it.) One of the things I kept thinking about is the old school African-American [southern] values and how far we’ve gotten away from them. I miss the warmth, the kindness, the sense of community and the love ethic. I can say the same for Jamaican culture. Sometimes I want to cry when I think about where we were before and where we are now…

I’m trying to support National Pink Hijab Day but  I have an interview tomorrow, insha’allah, and pink isn’t part of the outfit I have planned. Hmm…what’s a girl to do?

-I want to do something crazy. Something out of the norm for me. I don’t have any ideas about what that thing will be but I’m tired of the same ole, same ole. I need some adventure in my life…

-For the longest time I have been thinking about writing a memoir. What I’m struggling with is whether or not I want to reveal details about my life that only certain people know. I’m thinking about the things Allah has covered for me and if I really should unveil them (no pun intended.) At the same time, I don’t want to do the “typical Muslim thing” and behave like I’m perfect. If I write a memoir I want people (especially converts and especially youth) to see that it’s possible to rise above your circumstances and commit yourself to God.  More importantly, I want to discuss the period I went through when I wasn’t practicing Islam even though I was Muslim. The way I see it, there are a lot of non-practicing Muslims out there who really want to commit themselves to this deen but they don’t know how they’re going to do it. (I certainly have some insight into that). So, what’s more important here? My intention behind the memoir or keeping my former sins covered? I don’t know…

Hello out there

As salaam alaikum,

I’m still alive. (In case you’re wondering where I am). I’ve been busy working my temp job and interviewing for new positions. I’m also trying to complete the 6 days Shawwal (my nafs are having a hard time with that one!) and doing some spiritual reflection/assessment. Insha’allah I’ll be writing soon.

Muslim women’s fun

I was reading a friend of mine’s blog (who is not Muslim) and one thing I have to say about her is that she is sure to enjoy life. She’s always exploring new interests, new hobbies and going places. I started thinking about myself and how I tend to veg out on the sofa when I come home from work. On the weekend I run errands and then come home. On occasion I get together with my friends and go out to eat. I started thinking that I need to get out and do more. Have some halal fun every once in a while.  I think it’s important to read, study, and memorize Quran. I also think it’s important to devote time to doing Dhikr. But I also think Muslimahs (given all we deal with in the society and in the Muslim community) need an opportunity to blow off some steam.  (Laser tag anyone?)

So, what will I do? What do I really enjoy? (Besides blogging or reading other people’s blogs)? What new, halal endeavor can I try? (I never did take the Capoeira class I spoke about a while back). I’m thinking about it and I’ll come back to share my ideas with you. In the meantime, What do you for fun?

Azizah Magazine

Does anyone else subscribe to this magazine? If you do, have you received the latest issue? I have sent them at least five emails over the course of many weeks asking about my subscription. No one has ever responded…

Oh, how I wish…

Yesterday after Jumah I witnessed a woman take shahadah and it was one of the most touching moments I’ve experienced in a long time. I thought back to my own conversion and how I felt at the time- exhilarated, nervous, certain, excited, and peaceful all at the same time. I’ve never felt so pure in all of my life.  I, the stoic one, nearly cried as I watched the woman pronounce the shahadah. In my time of being Muslim I have witnessed many people take shahadah but what touched me about this one in particular is that she is someone’s mother (as in, her daughter who converted brought her to the masjid.) Do you know how much I’ve prayed, cried and wished for SOMEONE, ANYONE in my family to accept Islam? (Let alone my mother). But Allah is the one who makes Muslims. Allah alone offers people the guidance. Just as the Prophet (s.a.w) could not guide his Uncle Talib to Islam, I cannot guide my mother or other family members of mine to Islam. The only thing I can do is set an example and answer any questions they have.

As it stands, my mother has yet to set foot in the masjid. I’ve offered but she has politely turned me down each time. (I have been to her church at least twice now.) My sister grew up attending Jumah with me and going to other masjid functions but when my mom “got saved” she eventually nipped that one in the bud. I know she was worried that we’d influence my sister and she’d want to become Muslim. Yet, my mom doesn’t know that my sister doesn’t want to be Christian. My sister has already admitted to me that she doesn’t believe Jesus is Lord or in Christianity. Yesterday she was talking about her Baptism and how it was a scary experience not a transformative one.  At the same time she says that she doesn’t think she is disciplined enough to be Muslim. She thinks the praying, the fasting, wearing hijab etc. will be too difficult. And you know what? I don’t pressure her. She knows she can come to me with any questions she has.

The rest of my family? My father once told me if he had to choose any religion he’d choose Islam. But at the same time he has not expressed any interest in the religion and I know my family well enough not push. (Aside from that he and I have ‘other issues’).  As for my cousins, aunts, uncles, nephews and nieces: some of them think I’m strange and have no problem telling me so, some of them accept my choice to be Muslim and leave it at that, some of them are proud but don’t seem to want it for themselves, some are hardcore Christians and would “lay hands on me” if they had the opportunity, and others are too busy wrapped up in their own lives to concern themselves with religion.

I have to admit, when I’ve heard about people whose family members accepted Islam, following their lead, I feel jealous. Not jealous in a bad way but wishing it would happen to me too. I used to think that something was wrong with me. Like maybe my dawah efforts were not good enough. Like I hadn’t said the right things or didn’t behave in ways that inspired them. Now I know different. As I said, I know that Allah makes Muslims we are only the catalysts, the instruments. (And sometimes we’re not even that, Allah just guides people to Islam seemingly on their own).

Will one of my family members ever become Muslim? Allah truly knows best…