Category Archives: Self-Development

Growth (Allah is mericful)

This past year has been a horrible. I have experienced slander & backbiting, I lost a group of sisters I thought were my friends, I no longer have a masjid that I feel comfortable attending (on a regular basis anyway), and my ex-husband was killed in a sudden car accident, leaving me with to grieve and to deal with all of the legal issues surrounding his sudden death. This is enough to cause a nervous break down for many people. But you know what? I’m still here and Allah has guided and strengthened me every step of the way. ALLAHU AKBAR!

Though I have experienced a great deal of loss, Allah has given so much back to me. I’ve gained a new perspective on life. I’ve grown as a person and as a Muslim. Over the past year I’ve learned so much about myself and other people. It’s incredible! Additionally, I landed a promotional position at my job when it seemed all odds were stacked against me (I’m the only Muslimah in my entire division), got a brand spanking new car on Saturday (2010 Rav 4- woo hoo!), a wonderful husband whom I love to death and overall, contentment. Allah has been so merciful to me. I just pray that he count me amongst the grateful. Ameen!

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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…

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.

Okay ladies, I have changed my mind (again)

So, that thing about not wanting to have kids…well, it’s gone. I want to have a baby. More specifically a little girl (if Allah so wills). I want a sweet, cute, little [chocolate] dark brown girl. A child prodigy. What has changed? I don’t know. Allah has put it in my heart. Also, the love a good man can change many things. Yes, indeed… 🙂

10 Things I learned this past year

This past year has been a blessing in more ways than one. Allah (s.w.t.) has put in a position where I have not only been able to have certain experiences but I have been able to observe the experiences of others and learn from them. As we enter into a new year, I am excited to see what else Allah has in store for me, insha’allah.

Here is a list of 10 things I learned last year (in no particular order):

1) Watch the friends you keep. My grandmother always said this to me. It was drilled in me since I was a child. Yet, I have found myself in a position where I’ve had to question the company I kept and whether they had my best interests in mind. To be quite honest with you, other women have never really liked me. I am reserved (they interpret it as snobbish), I am confident (they see it as arrogance), I am outspoken and love to debate (they wish I would just be quiet, stop taking the attention away from them) and top it off I am attractive-Alhamdulillah- which makes me more of a threat. (Never mind the ugly duckling phase I went through).

2) It is very difficult to survive as a Muslim without a community. Try as you might, be the hermit, the stand alone genius or what have you but it’s not going to work. I’ve seen people try to exist as Muslims away from everyone else (I have done it as well) and I am telling you it won’t last long term. Our entire way of life depends on community. What we need to focus on is building healthy communities. Therein lies the problem my friends.

3) My feminist leaning needs to be balanced out by compassion and the spirit of cooperation and compromise. How can we have a healthy community if our relationship with men is going to be a competitive, adversarial one? Yes, Muslim women need to challenge sexist, misogynistic treatment in our community. There is no question or doubt about that. However, I noticed that I was becoming combative towards men. I have been so angry about the sexist treatment of women that it had become difficult for me to see men as allies and partners- even in a marriage relationship. How productive is that attitude?

4) Self-acceptance is a beautiful thing. I know who I am; the good aspects, the not so good aspects and everything in between. If other women don’t like me because of who I am then that’s their problem. I am not saying I am beyond reproach. I am not suggesting that I never behave in ways that are rude or dismissive towards other people (which may cause them to dislike me.) For all intents and purposes, I am speaking about those who are haters. Those who harbor jealousy and negative feelings towards other people for the good qualities or characteristics that Allah has blessed them with. The bottom line is that you need to know and accept yourself. You’ll be happier in the long run.

5) You are not promised tomorrow and neither is anyone else. I have illustrated this point in a previous post. After the sudden death of my ex-husband I realized how short our lives are. How many times do we hear this saying and how many times does it give us momentary pause? I am not suggesting that you should always think about death but you definitely should think about your mortality or the mortality others. There’s no faster behavior modifier than death.

6) Facebook is addictive. Have you been wondering what happened to me; where I have been these days? Faceook. As a result, I have neglected my blogs and don’t read other people blogs as much as I used to- which also affected my writing because other people’s blogs often serve as inspiration for mine. I am always striving for balance so I decided to take a 2 week vacation from Facebook and when I return, insha’allah, I am going to reduce the amount of time I spend on it.

7) Parenting is a job that must not be taken lightly. One of the things that has terrified me about the possibility of becoming a parent is how much responsibility it requires. You are molding human beings! I have noticed that a good number of parents have a casual, relaxed attitude when it comes to parenting. Some people have given up all together. In the Muslim community where the emphasis is on quantity rather than quality, I shudder to think what the next generation is going to look like. Don’t get me wrong here, I have met some wonderful parents who have made me second guess my not-having-any-kids-stance. It’s the dysfunctional, lackadaisical parents I’m concerned about…

8 ) I must continue to question the Islamic accepted norm. This part year, more than ever before has forced me to reevaluate the practices and beliefs that I have accepted as credible even though I have never seen evidence to prove it. I realize we, as Muslims, continue to interpret things literally, often missing the spirit of the Quran and Sunnah. We have also become obsessed with rituals. Somehow, much of what we accept as true lacks careful evaluation or reflection. Beliefs and practices has become “the way Muslims understand it” or the way “things have always been.” (I really want to use an example but I am afraid we will descend into an argument over the example rather than considering the overall message).

9) I love makeup! Thanks to youtube and the various makeup tutorials available on there. I don’t wear foundation, blush or lipstick but I enjoy eyeshadow, lip gloss and eyeliner. I think it’s fun to play around with the different products.

10) The less television I watch the better. I think this needs no explanation…I hope.

Coping with slander and backbiting

Character assassination is an attempt to tarnish a person’s reputation. It may involve exaggeration or manipulation of facts to present an untrue picture of the targeted person. It is a form of defamation and can be a form of ad hominem argument.

For living individuals targeted by character assassination attempts, this may result in being rejected by his community, family, or members of his or her living or work environment. Such acts are often difficult to reverse or rectify, and the process is likened to a literal assassination of a human life. The damage sustained can last a lifetime or, for historical figures, for many centuries after their death.

In practice, character assassination may involve double speak, spreading of rumors, innuendo or deliberate misinformation on topics relating to the subject’s morals, integrity, and reputation. It may involve spinning information that is technically true, but that is presented in a misleading manner or is presented without the necessary context. For example, it might be said that a person refused to pay any income tax during a specific year, without saying that no tax was actually owed due to the person having no income that year.

The aforementioned Wikipedia quote summarizes what I have been going through for the past few months. One of the major tests Allah (s.w.t.) has given me is to deal with the fall out from slander and backbiting. Recently, I made a choice that many people in my community did not agree with. This resulted in rumors and gossip spreading. There have been a great deal of assumptions made about me and my character. The rumors and gossip eventually turned into slander and backbiting whose end result is character assassination. I am in no way a good comparison to Aisha (r.a.) but I can imagine the pain she must’ve felt when people accused her of doing something she did not do. Aside from the backbiting, innuendo and assumptions (if I could even begin to put them aside), as a woman, there is nothing more horrific than having people say or imply that you committed the egregious sin of zina when you know you have been chaste. At first, I brushed the rumors off, chalking them up to childishness and misinformation on part of some. Eventually, I realized why slander is a major sin in Islam. (Particularly when the slander is of the sexual nature and in relation to a woman’s chastity). It is very difficult to recover from such attacks once the word has been put out there. When people meet you, whatever they were told or heard about you precedes you. As a woman, slander may influence any future choice for marriage, put you honor into question, and make it difficult for you to feel comfortable in your community. For now, I am wearing a scarlet letter.

Alhamdulillah, I am a strong person and I understand some things about life. I ask Allah (s.w.t.) to vindicate me. I ask Allah’s forgiveness for anything I have done wrong. I ask Allah (s.w.t.) never to make my wrongs fair-seeming to me. And most importantly, I ask Allah to help and to guide us all. Ameen.

How can a person cope with backbiting, slander and character assassination?

Epiphany #…

Everything I have: my skills, my abilities, my intelligence, my strength, my beauty, my love, my knowledge, my relationships, and my material possessions are from Allah. If a person despises me, is jealous of me or works to undermine any of that then they should know they are fighting Allah (s.w.t.) and not me. I can only be successful by Allah’s leave. I can only fail because of some inadequacy on my part or because it is part of Allah’s divine decree.

When facing adversity (especially in regards to other human beings) or even striving for something better, I remind myself:

“…If the whole nation were to gather together to benefit you they would only benefit you with that which Allaah had already written for you and if the whole nation were to gather to harm you they could only harm you with that which Allaah had already written to harm you. The pen has been lifted and the ink has dried (a phrase meaning: everything has been decreed or settled)”. [At-Tirmithi]

In the language of the hood: you can’t knock the hustle…