Minimalism’s Effect on My Social Media Usage

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My long-time readers will remember that after I returned from what for me was a landmark trip to Portugal in 2014, I had an epiphany regarding consumption, usage, and the difference between a socially programmed want, and a true need. To make a long story short, I spent three months in a small village called Santa Cruz da Trapa in the Portuguese countryside. Because I didn’t have enough money to pay for extra checked bags, I took only two average sized suitcases; one for toiletries and medications, and one for clothing. I also didn’t have money to buy a lot of souvenirs, or the luggage space to bring them home with me. So I took little with me, brought little home, and lived simply due to the nature of where I was.

When I came home, I was confronted with so much STUFF: a collection of dozens of CDs, a walk-in closet so overflowing with clothing that the floor was even covered with it, and an absurd amount of accessories and shoes. Having become accustomed to living simply, the absurdity and extravagance of my consumerism finally became apparent to me. So, I spent the following months purging my belongings and redefining what I valued and wanted to make room for in my life.

 

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Image credit: bemorewithless.com

It’s easy enough to recognize the way that the concept of living with less should affect one’s buying habits. But what about our internet habits? What about who and what we connect with, and how? Shouldn’t we scrutinize and filter the online content that we consume with the same thoughtfulness and reflection that we should filter the material objects that we let into our lives? I think so! As of 2015, the average American checks their phone about 46 times per day! That number goes up for 18 – 24 year olds. That means that we are consuming digital content almost non-stop. Even disregarding the debate about whether or not our attachment to our phones constitutes a clinical addiction (I do believe that it does), surely we can all agree that spending that much time on our phones opens us up to a barrage of images, sounds, and connections. Our time is precious, as is our emotional energy. We shouldn’t be spending it immersed in a world that doesn’t really exist.

Social media is designed to keep you coming back for more, more, more! It does this by exploiting humans’ need for attention, and the brain’s chemical response to the pleasure of an extrinisc reward. We can’t help it; the more we use it, the more likes we get, the more we feel that our peers approve of us, the more our brains will oblige us to go back for more dopamine. It may not be a chemical dependency, but it is an addiction in the informal sense of the term. Whatever you call it, this habit can and does consume us. How many times have you taken multiple selfies, sifted through the snapshots looking for the one that will portray you in the best light and garner the most positive reactions, edited and posted it, and anxiously awaited the likes, loves, and comments? You’ve certainly done it more than once. That doesn’t make you egotistical or narcissistic; it makes you human, and therefore vulnerable to exploitative programming.

I personally live a fairly socially isolated life. I don’t have a car, my husband and I have a very low income, and I am disabled. I don’t have any close friends near me, and I don’t really have opportunities to go out and make friends. My social life has mostly consisted of online interactions. My husband and I got together because of Facebook and Skype! I’ve spent years fearing complete isolation if I were to step offline. But over the past couple of years, I’ve desired ever more strongly to make sure that the people in whom I was investing my time and energy online, cared as deeply about me as I have about them.

I’ve also been trying to make sure that my time spent online isn’t interfering with real life opportunities for connection, reflection, and creativity. I’ve frequently abstained from social media for a day or two at a time. At first, it seemed daunting, a real test of my willpower. But as it has become easier, every time I’ve gone offline, or “unplugged,” as it were, I have been rewarded with something much richer than likes, comments, or superficial interactions: tranquility. The contrast between being present online, and being present only for people, is clear. When I am on social media I am bombarded every time I scroll or swipe through my feed and notifications. Mentally, it is as if I am being shouted at by dozens of voices at once; likes, comments, shares, tags, advertisements, status updates, posts from pages, and photos all join together in a cacophony of insistent demands on my time and attention..

But what do those things really add to my life, besides a momentary dopamine rush from split second expressions of approval, often given mostly just in hopes that I’ll return the favor? They drain my time, dragging me away from precious time with my husband, to pray and read Quran, or for doing homework, learning about things that interest me, free thinking, leisurely reading, writing, art, singing, and other forms of creativity and growth. It has only enriched my social life in a few rare cases. Even then, nurturing those friendships won’t be done with likes and comments. It will be accomplished by talking and spending time together, even if only in a video chat or via text messages. Staying online in hopes that out of hundreds of interactions, I’ll stumble across one lifelong friendship, instead of investing in pre-existing friendships that are in their infancy, isn’t a smart idea. It’s like throwing your gambling winnings into even more games – it’s usually wiser to just stop while you’re ahead!

Last week, I took the initiative and deactivated my Facebook account for a week. Instead of scrolling a newsfeed, I exchanged phone numbers with those select people on there who cared. I spent some of my newfound free time to chat with those people, respond to a backlog of messages, and reach out to some people who I hadn’t really talked to in far too long. I didn’t see or focus on the people who claimed to care but never reached out. I didn’t think about all of the events I wasn’t getting to participate in, or the people who’ve forgotten about me because I’m not out in society enough to be remembered. Instead, I was focused on my faith, on writing (I’m finally back to writing here – that should tell you something!), having enriching conversations, and studying. I was more productive and less depressed and anxious.

When I finally came back online on Monday, the shock of the flood of content and noise – I can’t put in any other way, mentally Facebook is just loud to me – felt overwhelming. I also realized that I hadn’t missed anything. Truly, there wasn’t much of value there to be missed. I’m still working on connecting via Whatsapp with a few more people from Facebook and Instagram, and then when Ramadan begins around May 15, I plan to, inshallah, deactivate both of those acounts (Facebook and Instagram are my only social media accounts now) for the entire month. In the meantime, I won’t be online much, inshallah. After Ramadan, who knows? I’m not eager to lose myself to base instincts in a desperate search for happiness that, contrary to my evolutionary programming, is best found far beyond quick dopamine hits.

For me personally, my minimalism journey started out with learning that God didn’t create humans to be Pavlov’s dogs, doing as we were trained, hoarding posessions in hopes of finding the abundance that we actually should be seeking on a spiritual level, not a material one. And now, it is teaching me that part of not losing my mental autonomy is minimizing what my mind consumes, in much that same way that I strive to minimize my material posessions. Instead of stuffing my life full of things, digital content, and superficial interactions, my hope is to fill it with enriching spiritual practices, relationships, creative outlets, and increased productivity in my pursuit of an academic career.

Wish me luck ✌

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Hamsas and Spiritual Heritage

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Hamsas have enchanted me for years now. I’m wearing one around my neck now, in fact. I find meaning in the hamsa for a multitude of reasons.

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Artistic rendering of a hamsa. Google download. Image credit unknown. If this is your work, comment below!

Hamsas are typically meant to be used as protection against the evil eye, a concept which is often foreign to Westerners but which has been around in some variation for millenia. Likewise, the hamsa as an amulet has been in use just as long. It, along with the concept of the evil eye and a couple of other evil eye amulets, has been widely accepted in Judaism, early Christianity, and Islam, as well as other non Abrahamic faiths. It is present in almost every culture, especially Eastern ones. The ancient nature of this symbol to me represents a connection to my ancestors and to my adopted Islamic faith. It reminds me of how much Jews, Christians, and Muslims have in common with each other and with other humans.

I personally do believe in the power of the evil eye. The idea that the way that humans regard each other, and the intentions that we have, can and do affect each other’s lives, is a belief inherent to humanity, and one which instinctively resonates with me. The hamsa, therefore, serves as a conduit for Allah’s protection and blessing. I believe in the idea of such a conduit.

Because this symbol is indigenous to a plethora of cultures, races, and faiths, it doesn’t seem right to me to say that Westerners or members of any other given group shouldn’t use the hamsa. However, it is notably offensive to those of us who treasure it for those ignorant of its meaning to use it as a fashion statement or to seem “exotic” or cultured in the eyes of their white, Western peers. The hamsa is a symbol of faith and tradition. It isn’t just one more accessory. By all means, read up on the meaning and use it reverently. But don’t buy an overpriced cell phone case with it, or a $130 microscopic hamsa as a statement of wealth and fetishization of “Eastern religions.” For many of us, the hamsa connects us to those who have gone before, and protects us from the gaze of those who  would wish us harm. Please don’t cheapen it.

 

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We Are What We Eat

Sometimes I get too caught up in secular entertainment. Even though the secular stuff I consume isn’t vulgar, it still isn’t usually reflective of what my highest priority is (or at least, should be.) You know that saying, “we are what we eat,”? Well, that applies spiritually too! We are what we consume; spiritually, mentally, and physically. If all we ever consume is secular media, we’ll end up letting our Deen fall down on our priority list. At least, that’s been my experience. Dhikr is an essential part of a Muslim’s life. It’s more than the tasbeeh and saying bismillah before we eat. It’s about remembering Allah in every moment. Even when we’re looking for entertainment, we’re well served if we bring remember of Allah into those moments too. So, today I’ve turned on my Islamic playlist. That doesn’t mean I’m giving up samba, chorinho, and classical music. But, I also need to make an effort to listen to more nasheeds, more Quran, and more khutbahs, inshallah. // Às vezes eu me apego demais em entretenimento secular. Mesmo que o entretenimento secular que eu consumo não seja vulgar, ainda não reflete a minha prioridade da vida (ou pelo menos, a prioridade que eu deveria ter.) Você conhece aquele ditado, “somos o que comemos,”? Bem, isso é espiritualmente aplicável também! Somos o que consumimos; espiritualmente, mentalmente, e fisicamente. Se tudo o que consumimos for somente mídia secular, acabaremos deixando a nossa Din cair na nossa lista de prioridades. Pelo menos, essa tem sido a minha experiência. O dhikr é uma parte essencial da vida de um muçulmano. É mais do que o tasbeeh e dizer bismillah antes de comer. O dhikr é lembrar de Allah em todo momento. Mesmo quando estamos à procura de um entretenimento, faz bem trazer a lembrança de Allah a esses momentos também. Então, hoje eu coloquei a minha playlist Islâmica pra tocar. Isso não significa que eu vá deixar o samba, chorinho, e as músicas clássicas de lado. Mas, eu tenho que criar tempo para ouvir mais masheeds, recitações do Alcorão, e khutbahs, inshallah.

Doctor King Was a Radical

It would serve us all well to remember that in his day, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King was labeled a radical and an extremist. He was an “agitator,” a “negro” who didn’t know his place. He broke unjust laws and stared down injustice and evil. He was stubborn. He was hated. Everyone around him told him to be more patient, more calm, to work with less urgency. And because he wisely refused, he went to jail 29 times! Twenty nine! He was a criminal in his day. Today is when we white people post our nice little tributes with out of context palatable excerpts to soothe our consciences and make us feel less responsible. Instead, we should reflect on his radical love. A love that didn’t sit quietly and pat the millions of suffering Black People on their arms and urge patience. It was a love that took to the streets. That prayed. That organized and marched and went to jail and forwent its own peace for the future peace of others. And guess what? Doctor King was murdered precisely because of his insistence in cold blood at 39 years of age. He left behind a wife and children. He died because, at the end of the day, he was merely another black man who had to be made an example to intimidate others into complacent and fearful silence. He did not live to a ripe old age. He did not spend his final years in a rocking chair marveling at the post racial paradise we too often pretend we lived in. He died in the heat of a spiritual battle for the heart and soul of a nation. This was Doctor King. He had a dream, yes. But he didn’t awake from the dream and pretend that all was well. He fought and died for that dream. He opened a festering wound in our national body that had to be lanced. It seems that we have yet to finish that unpleasant but vital task.

Silencing Society’s “Others”

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Today I sat down with my husband and recorded a simple YouTube video (for those who don’t know, we regularly make YouTube videos for thousands of viewers) about prejudice against minorities in the United States. It was a respectful video, with no vulgarities, nationalism, or unkindness – more than we can say for what comes out of some politicians’ mouths these days. And guess what? As we were uploading the video tonight, YouTube told us that this video is “inappropriate” for advertisers – meaning, we’re not going to be allowed to have commercials on the video and our only income will be reduced because we won’t be allowed to earn money from our hard work.

Not only that – because a monetized video (i.e. a video in which there are commercials) are a partnership between YouTube and the content creator, when a video is monetized both the creator and YouTube itself make money. So when a video can’t be or isn’t monetized, YouTube doesn’t make money… and therefore has no motivation to suggest the video to viewers. In other words, because advertisers don’t want to be associated with Muslims, our video that is a very important discussion about exactly this sort of prejudice won’t be delivered to people who want to watch it – or for that matter, to those who don’t care enough to want to.

This isn’t the first time though. Every time we post a video in which we mention Islam, Muslim identity, or prejudice, this happens. Consistently. It even happens on other videos that we post – and this is truly a problem unique to Muslims and a few other minority groups who are vocal about owning their uniqueness. This is unacceptable. I’m telling you this to say that society disdains Muslim-ness and other forms of “different-ness” to such an extent that advertisers have made clear to a supposedly inclusive platform like YouTube that they do not want to be associated with us at all – and what’s worse is that YouTube bent to their wishes. Because, money.

When we collectively silence minority voices, especially minority voices that stand out and don’t act like they’re not minorities, we are collectively allowing minorities to be “other-ized”; that is, turned into something that seems so foreign to the majority that we become entirely dehumanized. And when we are dehumanized, we become devoid of the right to live the same life that majorities live. We stop being one of the collective “us”, and instead are perceived as the ever-distant yet somehow simultaneously ever-creeping-closer “them”. We are perceived as a menace and undeserving of the simple benefit of the doubt afforded to majorities.

This in turn can and often does lead to external weaponization of minority identities. For example, young black men are generally (and I must say, wrongly) perceived as inherently more violent, dangerous, and criminal than their white counterparts. This, because black skin is weaponized by popular culture; that is to say, people see it as a danger in and of itself. So it follows that those inhabiting such skin are dangerous too. And of course, dangers must be… eliminated. Which is exactly what society is doing by killing off or failing to nurture black children. The same logic can be applied to every minority. And how does this whole grotesque process begin? By putting proverbial duct tape over our proverbial mouths.

Advice for Those in a Crisis of Faith

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Peace be upon you all ✌🏻

This week someone asked me for advice about how to find their spiritual path, knowing that I had struggled greatly to find mine. I’d like to offer this advice to all of you. It will be based on my personal experiences, and therefore I cannot promise that my advice will be perfect.

When my doubts first began, I shoved them down out of sheer terror of not knowing. What if everything I believed was… wrong? What if the things on which I was basing my eternal destination were… irrelevant? These “what ifs” were scary, so I ran away and buried myself in every possible occupation. Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to know what not to do. Don’t ignore your feelings! Begin a journal and write down what you wonder about. Then pray. Pray and ask whatever Higher Power there is – and yes you can phrase it that way – to show you what’re the answers to your questions.

The other thing I did at first was not research. This was part of ignoring my feelings. I thought if I immersed myself in the doctrine that I thought was the only safe one, I’d one day wake up without doubts and it would all would finally click in my soul. Of course that didn’t work. So what I finally did – and this is what you should consider doing if you want to avoid a lot of heartache – is research. Read the scriptures of numerous religions. Try out different ways of praying. Decide what, if anything, in different religions, resonates with you deep down inside. When you read the Bible or Quran, for example, does sow,thing you read feel like Truth with a capital T to you? Do some things just feel wrong? When you find these things, write them down in your journal. As time goes on, refer back. As you read more religious texts and books about religion, you’ll eventually come across something that matches what you’ve written down that resonates with you and that doesn’t have aspects that feel inherently and deeply wrong to you.

I also recommend that you visit different houses of worship and attend services therein. Along with that, talk with members of different faiths. Let them show you what is beautiful about their traditions. As you do this you may see that in your eyes a certain faith makes its followers kinder, more spiritual, and better people in general. They may also be able to show you doctrines carried out in real life that, when you read about them, didn’t seem that important but which in real life hold great meaning.

Don’t forget to pray. A lot. Simply speak to God in whatever way feels comfortable to you. Tell him your thoughts, your fears, your beliefs, your doubts. Be honest and open. I personally had a lot of anger towards God. When I finally opened up to Him, I was transformed. God is infinitely big enough to handle your finite feelings. He can take it. So don’t be afraid to say just what you think and feel. Tell Him you’re angry! Tell Him you’re confused! Tell Him you don’t have a clue, or that you’re proud, or that you’re afraid! Tell Him everything. Trust me, doing so consistently changes everything.

You also must be patient. With yourself, with God, with the process, and with those around you. Patience was something I needed to learn and and area in which I improved due to my crisis of faith. Patience will sustain. You’ll go bonkers without it! Really. Be patient with yourself because you’ll have moments in which you’ll feel like you’re a jerk and an idiot, and like you’re the slowest person to ever try to find faith. Be patient with God because He has His own perfect timing for revealing Himself. So don’t rush Him. He knows best. Be patient with the process, because it may well be long and arduous. If you’re patient, you’ll learn to actually enjoy the journey! “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” Cliche but very true.

Finally, be patient with those around you, especially those closest to you. They will feel bewildered, left out, and frightened by your changes. That’s their right. Be patient with them as they learn to accept you. That’s good advice for a lot of things really! They may become angry. As long as they’re not abusing you in some way, allow them healthy anger. The anger will pass. Be supportive of them, but also insist on following through on your journey. Don’t let them discourage you.

As you come into faith and knowledge, whatever you do, don’t become arrogant. A sheikh I know once coined the term convertitis. By that he, meant that terrible sense of I-am-oh-so-wise-and-you-aren’t arrogance that often comes over the newly religious. Avoid that. If you succumb, check yourself, repent to God and those around you, and be more humble than ever. True faith should make you more humble and loving, not an unbearable know-it-all jerk! You’ll drive dear, good people away from you if you become arrogant. Remember, any wisdom we have comes from the Source of all True Wisdom. So be confident, but not proud. The Prophet Mohammed taught us that “He who doesn’t have kindness, doesn’t have faith,” (paraphrasing.)

Finally, never ever lose sight of God’s infinite love and forgiveness. If we the finite are capable of deep love – and we are indeed – imagine how much more infinitely loving and kind God must be! The Quran says that God says, “My Mercy encompasses all things,” (7:153). When you are overwhelmed by your shortcomings and doubts, fall back on His love. God. Loves. You. Really!

And with that, I close. Thank you for reading. If you liked this post, do share! Don’t forget, you can reach me in the comments below or on my Facebook page. Salaam ✌🏻

What Non-Minorities Can Do to Help Minorities

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Peace everyone ✌🏻

Well, the dust from Charlottesville hasn’t completely settled. Charlottesville shocked the nation and the world. It left minorities reeling. I personally spent about three or four days basically in mourning. I cried a lot, that’s for sure. I worried a fair bit too. But now I just want to fight Nazis haha. I imagine many of you feel the same way, and some of you have a lot of privilege and can really make quite a difference. So here are some tips as to how to support us – us being, Muslims, Jews, other non Christians, People of Color, immigrants (especially non white and non English speaking ones), the LGBT community, and the disabled.

  1. Educate yourself. We minorities – this especially goes for POCs, Jews, and Muslims – are often very misunderstood and end up spending a lot of our time educating white native born US Christians about our faith, race, or culture. We’re constantly having to explain something. Now, this is usually fine with us when the questioner is sincere and actually listens to our answers. But too often the questions are more accusations than inquiries and no matter how we answer, we’ll always be guilty until proven innocent. Cue you! As a person of privilege who looks, talks, and dresses like our accusers you can educated yourself about our communities so that you can be equipped to educate others who won’t listen to us but who may well listen to you. And that brings me to my next point.
  2. Educate others. Like I said we’re often forced to be in full self-defense mode. This is emotionally, mentally, and spiritually draining. But if people don’t know us and if we aren’t defended, people like the Charlottesville Nazis can and often will physically or otherwise harm us. So try to take some of the burden off of us. Once you know the basics of who Muslims are, for example, or a bit about the suffering of POCs, you can pass this knowledge along to your privileged friends who act deaf and dumb around us. This may at least plant seeds of knowledge, respect, and humanity in otherwise closed minds.
  3. Have uncomfortable conversations. This is closely tied to #2. Educating others is never easy or comfortable if those being educated are blinded, intentionally or not, by racism, xenophobia, or something similar. With some people there simply won’t be a moment wherein they say, “Hey can you educate me on minorities’ struggles for liberation?”. It isn’t going to happen! So you need to initiate such conversations by calling people out on their prejudice whenever it surfaces.
  4. Use your voice and platforms. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard white Christian people say to me that they don’t like to make political or social statements on their social media profiles. So they post baby and dinner photos and gym selfies, but they never once say “Nazism isn’t ok.” Guess what? If you’re not willing to speak up, Nazis and other racists will win. You will be complicit in violence against us. Your silence tells us that we’re alone, and tells racists that nobody minds what they do or say. “But I only have one hundred Facebook friends,” you say. That’s one hundred people in who’s minds you can plant seeds of love and compassion. If everyone spoke out and up to one hundred people, the world would be entirely different. You can make a difference. But you won’t if you don’t try.
  • Take care of yourself. Don’t let yourself burn out. Take social media breaks. Take a hot bubble bath. Have a good cup of coffee. Don’t wear yourself out. But once you’ve recharged your batteries, don’t throw in the towel. Pick yourself up and continue fighting the good fight. This is something I’ve had to learn. Self care is important. This is especially true for members of a minority who are trying to be allies to members of other minorities. We’re already coping with thousands of people wanting to carry out a genocide against us. This situation is like being in a crashing airplane. We have to put on our own oxygen masks before we can help those around us.

These are my top tips for helping us. Let me know what you’re doing to defend those in the line of fire at the moment. You can reach me in the comments below or on my Facebook page. Thank you!

Peace ✌🏻

My Feelings About Charlottesville

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Nazis are marching unmasked in Charlottesville Virginia and we're on the brink of nuclear war with North Korea. What world am I living in? 2017, go home. You're drunk!

Can you see their rage? Their hate? Their horribleness? You know what? You can. Because they're unafraid, unashamed, and unmasked. That terrifies me more than anything. These horrid excuses for humans want me and my husband dead or maimed, or deported at best. Deported to where? To a concentration camp or something? What am I supposed to think? What is my handsome Latino immigrant husband supposed to think? How should one feel seeing hate speech and violence being fiercely protected even as the police allow black men to be beaten and arrest peaceful counter protestors?

I'm so disappointed in humanity right now. I thought we figured out that Nazis were evil way back in the forties. I had myself convinced that this hate was going to die with my parents' generation. But no. Young people like me are out their on the front lines, fighting for… genocide. For white supremacy. For hate. Fighting to strike terror in the hearts of myself, my loved ones, and so many more. They want ethnic cleansing! They want to rule the world!

I can't even begin to understand why. Have these people not read history books and seen photos of the concentration camps that their ideology built? Of course they have. We all have. But somehow they're sick enough to think that there's something worthwhile about such a thing. Somehow harming others because of their skin color, ancestry, religion, place of birth, gender
identity or sexual orientation is… the right thing to do? Somehow that is the conclusion they've drawn. Where oh where have we as a society gone wrong in teaching history?

Was it overt, constant, all-permeating whitewashing that did this? Or was it media objectification of POC bodies? Was it the nationalism that's encouraged from a young age? Or was it white poverty? Was it liberalism? Conservatism? Or are humans just trash? We as one human race need oh-so-desperately and ever so belatedly to ask ourselves these questions and fix this sh** before more people die.

In memory of Heather Heyer, age 32. She died in the street, marching against Nazis. May her memory inspire and encourage others to fight for justice for all.

Falling in Love With Salaat

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Assalaamu alaikum everyone! Today inshallah I'll be writing about falling in love with salaat and the surrounding purification rituals.

I'll never forget the first time I prayed salaat. I prayed it very poorly and it took me about thirty minutes, but it was incredibly meaningful and emotional for me. I actually used a video to follow along, and I spoke my prayer in English. I have since learned the Arabic of course, and now prayers take me about seven minutes or so, but I feel that learning the English translation and praying it a few times prepared me well for a lifetime of loving salaat. Why? Because since Arabic isn't a language that I actually speak, this allowed me to know what I was saying and connect with it. I learned the meaning of each word and phrase in the prayers, and this means that now when I recite in Arabic it holds meaning for me. As I pray I meditate on the meaning of what I'm saying.

I also read up on why we pray as we do. Did you know that salaat just as it is prayed today was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed? Salaat is prescribed by Allah (swt) in a very specific way and therefore when done correctly is a very powerful tool to connect us with the Divine. What could be better or more precious?

As I'm sure you know, we are told that we must pray salaat five times daily every day except when menstruating. For converts, there are so many huge lifestyle changes involved in the conversion process. Praying at least five prayers a day in a language you don't know can prove very daunting and even discouraging. I recommend that you start with one prayer a day – whichever one is most convenient to your schedule – and slowly work up to the five. Then once you've firmly established praying all five on time no matter what, think of adding dhikr after salaat, or reciting new surahs, or praying tahajjud or other sunnah prayers.

Of course all this is not to mention the purification rituals. When and how to perform ghusl had me tied up in knots for weeks! At first I didn't even know it was a thing. Of course there's wudu. That has a lot of steps and they must be performed in order. I personally love the sense of sacred ritual and preparing myself for a conversation with Allah so it was more the technical side that proved challenging for me.

The logic behind these rules for prayer is simple. If one were going to have a meeting with a great dignitary such as a king or president, one would take a shower. They would be nicely groomed, probably shave or trim their body hair, keep a neat beard, hair, and nails, dress modestly, and wear clean clothes. Well, five times a day we have an appointment with the One who is indescribably, infinitely, and immeasurably more important than any human dignitary. And He is with us always. So we must always be prepared.

Now, that's not all there is to it. There are many much deeper reasons behind it. But I am not qualified to get into such mysteries. I recommend that if you want to study the deeper spiritual meanings behind Islamic ablution, that you read some books on the matter or better yet speak to a sheikh or sheikha. Also make dua that Allah would provide you with a love of obedience to Him.

May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala reward you in this life and the next for you efforts to love and worship Him. Ameen.

How I’m Learning my Third Language

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Salaam guys ✌🏻

So as many of you know, my native language is English but I also speak fluent Portuguese. Well, today I thought I'd share with you some of my language learning tips as well as why I find learning languages to be beneficial.

Lately I've been studying Spanish and practicing it with some new friends I've made online. It has proven fairly easy for me, especially in terms of understanding it, because it is fairly similar to Portuguese. It has also proven fairly easy because of some key things I'm doing that I learned to do the first time around when I learned Portuguese.

I became fluent in the Portuguese language in one year, alhamdulillah. But it wasn't easy! I had to work very hard. Some of the things I did I still do.

For one thing, when learning a language I immerse myself in it. The first time around I read books and articles in Portuguese, I watched YouTube videos, TV shows, movies, and so forth in Portuguese, I listened to Portuguese language music, I spent my days speaking Portuguese with everyone I could find who spoke it. I also basically gave up my hobbies to look up and study religiously every verb conjugation chart I could find. To this day I usually write in my diary in Portuguese. I set my iPhone and iPad settings to Portuguese. This has proven immensely helpful. I also used language learning apps like Duolingo and got my start with Rosetta Stone.

Now as I'm learning Spanish I spend at minimum half an hour a day formally studying Spanish with language apps on my phone. Duolingo, busuu, and memrise are my current favorites. I also found language partners via the app tandem. Language partners, I have found, are essential! A language partner is someone who's learning your language and whose language you're learning. You practice conversing with one another in each other's languages and in the process usually end up becoming great friends! I have found that it is best to have more than one language partner so as to get used to different regional accents.

So far I'm conversational in Spanish and understand pretty much everything people say or write. I can also translate things from Spanish to English or Portuguese with relative ease. My huge difficulty lies in properly speaking and pronouncing the language. But I feel confident that I will be able to improve this over time, inshallah.

So tell me, dear readers, what languages do you speak? If you're multilingual, how did you learn more than your native language? Drop me a line here or on my Facebook page. Thanks everyone!