Monthly Archives: February 2010

10 things I didn’t do or think about before I was Muslim

1) Strive to be G-d-conscious. Honestly, before I was Muslim I didn’t really think about God. I just lived life and never looked back. I couldn’t imagine a world where G-d was the central focus of life. Now the thought of living a life that isn’t G-d-centered sounds crazy.

2) Volunteer. Before I became Muslim I didn’t volunteer for any organization or any person. Volunteering sounded strange and unfamiliar to me. In my view, people who volunteered were either old (retired) or wealthy. Furthermore, I didn’t come from a community that valued “working for free” (which is how most people in my community viewed volunteering). The only people I knew who volunteered were church-goers. They were exceptional in my mind. I figured they volunteered for church activities or to save souls.

3) Study religious texts. Can you believe I’ve read more of the Bible as a Muslim than I did as a [nominal] Christian? Yes, I attended Sunday school where we studied the Bible and when I went to church I’d open the Bible during the sermon but that was it. I could not imagine reading a religious text on a daily basis (which is what I try to do with the Quran).

4) Concern Myself with Doing What’s Right. I know this sounds crazy. For people who have been religious all of their life it can often be difficult to understand how someone would not view a behavior as wrong when it so obvious. The interesting thing about being self-centered rather than G-d-centered is that “right” is subjective. It can depend on who you are and what your family, community or personal values are. If none of those values are in line with what G-d says is right then “right” can be whatever you want it to be.

5) Public Speaking. Before I began giving the numerous “Islam 101”, Domestic Violence in the Muslim Community” and “Women in Islam” lectures, I never thought I was cut out for public speaking. I wasn’t deathly afraid of it like many people but it was definitely something unpleasant to me. Now I really don’t mind it.

6) Considering Others. I wouldn’t say I had no regard for another person’s feelings whatsoever but when wrong is subjective you can imagine how much consideration for others can vary. As a Muslim, I know that I am accountable to Allah for how I treat other people and when I fall short I need to seek Allah’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the person. Never occurred to me before…

7) The Importance of Community. Suddenly finding myself a part of a religious minority made me acutely aware of the importance of community. Before, I was an individual loosely tied to a community and I felt free because of it. Nowadays community is vital to my existence as a Muslim.

8 ) The Importance of Marriage and Healthy Relationships. I can’t say I never thought about marriage. After all, most women do. But as I got older I really didn’t think marriage was for me. My thoughts were on traveling the world and building a career. Naturally, I wanted to have a healthy relationship. But as a Muslim, my criteria for what is necessary to build a healthy relationship has been clarified.

9) Modesty. Thanks to my grandmother I endured many lessons about “proper behavior for a young lady.” However, I wouldn’t say that I was concerned about modesty in dress. Once again, it was subject to my own definition rather than G-d’s. Of course my definition changed depending on the circumstance, situation, and place I was at in my life.

10) Being an Example. Again, living as an individual with loose ties to a community I was never concerned with setting an example for anyone else. (Well, maybe my sibilings). I certainly didn’t think about the example I was setting on a daily basis. Yet, as a hijab-wearing Muslimah, I don’t really have a choice. Though it agggravates me to no end, most people take me as a living, breathing, walking example of Islam and of Muslims. They think everything I do has a religious basis. As I mentioned before, I don’t put on airs. I am quick to let people know that I am human being striving to practice this deen. I am a work in progress. However, there’s no denying the example I have to set. It’s the hijabi paradox…

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My Covenant with Allah

O Prophet! When the believing women come to you to take the oath of allegiance, take their pledge; that they will not commit shirk with Allah, that they will not steal, that they will not commit fornication, that they will not kill their children, that they will not give any cause for scandal which they may invent between either their hands or legs (a woman accusing another woman of an illicit relationship with a man and spreads such stories – or – a woman carrying an illegitimate child and makes her husband believe that it is his), and that they will not disobey you in any just matter, then accept their allegiance and pray to Allah for their forgiveness. Surely, Allah is Oft-forgiving, most Merciful. (Quran Surah 60, Ayah 12)

This morning my husband and I were having a discussion about Surah 60, ayah 10-11 and I had an epiphany of sorts when I came to ayah 12. I wondered how differently I would’ve viewed my shahadah (the declaration of faith I said to become Muslim) if I had felt Surah 60, ayah 12 was not only a standard of being a Muslim woman but also a requirement. I wondered how differently the Muslim community (more particularly the African-American Muslim community) would be if all the other women who accepted Islam as their way of life understood the same. What would the African-American Muslim community look like if these were the values upheld by everyone?

You may be saying to yourself, it goes without saying that a Muslim woman should not do any of the things mentioned in this ayah. However, as we all know, there are women who become Muslim and do not understand the seriousness of the oath that they taking. More pointedly, when women take shahadah, I am not altogether sure that the expectation of how they will behave and what principles they are expected to uphold are spelled out as clearly as they are this ayah. Nor is their acceptance into the Muslim community contingent upon the criteria laid out in the Surah 60, ayah 12. (I am not a scholar of Quran but also implicit in the ayah is that women who are already a part of the community- by birth or as a longtime converts -are upholding these principles as well).

It’s amazing how many times I’ve read this ayah but never came to this understanding until recently. Subhanallah…the Quran is beautiful like that.