In Defense of our Shared Humanity

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Assalaamu alaikum โœŒ๐Ÿป

Today’s post might be leaning more into the rant category. Today I’d like to talk about modest fashion bloggers and youtubers – or more specifically how they’re treated by the Ummah. You see, ever since I began wearing head coverings, which by the way was well before converting to Islam, I have looked up hijab tutorials on YouTube. One of the first youtubers and bloggers I found at the end of 2013 was Dina Tokio. I loved her right away. I also found many others. These people who taught me to wrap a hijab back when I was wearing it as a Christian also normalized Islam for me and educated me about it. They showed me that you could be witty, intelligent, and full of personality while also being devout. I’ve followed Dina for years and it feels like I know her because I’ve watched her grow and now her little one is growing! 

But the people – especially men – who watch these ladies were far less edifying in their attitudes than were the women themselves. From the first video I ever watched, I needed only to scroll down a bit to see a flood of comments about the sisters supposedly not wearing hijab properly. Their arms weren’t covered enough. Too much neck or hair was showing. Their clothes were too tight. Blah blah blah. This attitude is appalling. 

Let me tell you what I see when I watch these ladies. I see the long Arabic duas they make in the middle of their daily vlogs, duas that if I wanted to make them I’d have to read them from my little dua book! I see them fasting long hours. I see them knowing Arabic, the language of the Quran, better than I ever will. I see them being funny and sweet and compassionate. I see them working hard to cater to those of us in a market that has been tragically neglected by the mainstream. I see them struggling so hard with their hijab, deciding to wear it as best as they can, and then persisting despite cruel commenters telling them that it would be better if they just took it off! Imagine telling someone to disobey Allah subhanahu wa ta’alla just because that person finds obedience challenging! Astagfirullah. If I, a mere human, can see such goodness, imagine what Allah Himself must see through His merciful perspective! And yet there you are, typing up half a book about the horror of showing one’s forearm. 

If you have so much time on your hands so as to be able to constantly and cruelly criticize others, why not instead be the pious Muslim you claim to be and go pray some sunnah prayers. Go fast on Mondays and Thursdays until you’re too tired to cuss others out. Learn to imitate our perfect Prophet (saws) by being kind and merciful. And here’s one for you: men, practice your hijab by lowering your gaze! You shouldn’t even be watching these women so intently as to know everything about what they wear. Close the video and go repent. 

Let ,e know your thoughts on this topic by dropping me a line in the comments below or on my Facebook page!

Extending a Hand in Peace

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Assalaamu alaikum, everyone โœŒ๐Ÿป

The other day my husband and I caught a Lyft to my weekly therapy appointment. We had a young white guy from New York as our driver. He was polite and eventually the conversation turned to where we were all from and how we felt about my city of Nashville, Tennessee. My husband mentioned that we did not feel welcome here because I’m a veiled Muslim and he is a Latino immigrant. The guy was stunned! He proceeded over the course of our conversation to say that people misjudge and mistreat US Christians because of Christian terrorism too, just as they do with us. He also said that we Muslims just need to reach out more to our communities. Here is what I have to say about that. 

For decades, and increasingly so after 9/11, Muslims have been reaching out to their surrounding communities through open houses, disaster relief efforts, charity, friendship, community events, Islam 101 classes, press conferences and releases, community iftars (fast breaking dinners) during Ramadan, and so forth. But so few non Muslims actually go. Who actually reads their local mosque’s press release sent out in the aftermath of a theorist attack, denouncing the perpetrators? Who goes to that Islam 101 class to see what we believe, how we practice our faith, and how we live overall? And you know what? When Muslims go to such events being put on by churches, we are proselytized to. But we don’t proselytize to our guests at our public events! 

I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve heard a non Muslim say, “I just don’t understand why Muslims don’t publicly denounce terrorism!” Well guess what. We do. Over and over and over. Sheikhs issue fatawa against suicide bombings. Imams give khutbahs (sermons) against killing. At open houses, community events of all varieties, and Islam 101 classes Imams and other Muslim community leaders stand up and speak, explaining why it is un-Islamic to commit acts of terrorism. Islamic organizations issue press releases and even hold press conferences roundly rejecting terrorism. Here’s a good example. 

Just a couple of weeks ago I went to an Eid al-Fitr public carnaval at a local park. There was free food and water, music, inflatables for children to play on, face painting, and balloons. Everyone was laughing and talking. The point was to bring everyone together. Sadly though, from what I saw, too few non Muslims came. At such events, the non Muslims who come are usually the same precious few, who faithfully reach out to us as we reach out to them. That’s wonderful – but not enough.  Truthully, before any non Muslim judges us and our beautiful religion, they should all come to a mosque, break bread with us, and just generally meet us halfway as we reach out to them. 

What about society generalizing Christians because of groups like the KKK? Well, I can’t speak for the thoughts of millions of people. But I can tell you that the effects of such alleged “prejudice” against Christians are entirely different for Christians than are those of parallel prejudices against, say, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, or Sikhs. When people don’t like Christians, they don’t go out to dinner with them. When they don’t like us religious minorities, they desecrate our houses of worship and our graveyards. They beat us and dump us in ponds. We and those who stand up for us have our throats slashed. We are pushed down subway stairs. Our religious head coverings are ripped from our heads, so often in fact that among the Muslim community videos on how to defend oneself from such an attack go viral online. I could go on and on. This is our reality every day: fear, violence, and hate. 

Back to that conversation in the Lyft. I closed our conversation by saying what I’d like to say here; my religion teaches me that we were put on this earth to worship Allah with all of our being and actions. I personally believe that one of the greatest ways that we can worship Allah is to love His creation. So we need to reach out to each other in good faith and with love and mercy. One of my favorite Quran ayat (verses) is 49:13. In The Clear Quran English translation it reads: “O humanity! Indeed, we created you from a male and female, and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may get to know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of God is the most righteous among you. God is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.” Note that it doesn’t say that our superiority depends on our race, education, or wealth. It depends on who’s a better person on the inside. It’s about our hearts and souls, our words and our deeds. We were created diverse and unique so that we can all celebrate this diversity as a sign of God’s greatness. Subhanallah! 

Moral of the story: we should all be reaching out to each other. Muslims and many other minorities have been, are continuing to, and always will be doing so. Why? Because that’s what Allah wants. Now it’s your turn! Go to that open house. Talk to that Muslim hijabi in line at the grocery store. Strike up a conversation with a turbaned Sikh man. Compliment a Hindu lady’s Sari. Break bread with a Jewish family on the Sabbath. The cycles of hate, violence, and fear will never end if we don’t learn to see each other as human and therefore equally deserving of kindness, respect, and love. 

Let me know your thoughts in the comments or on my Facebook page. Thank you! Until next time, peace! โœŒ๐Ÿป

What Jihad Means to Me

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Peace everybody โœŒ๐Ÿป I’m sure all of you have heard the word jihad somewhere, somehow. Probably you’ve heard it at least once in the media; most likely in the context of reports on terrorism. And I’m pretty sure you didn’t hear it in a positive context. But what is jihad, do Muslims practice it, and if so what does that practice look like? Should the world fear “Islamic jihad”? Is it synonymous with “extremism”? These are questions I’d humbly like to answer today. 

Jihad is an Arabic word. It means to struggle or to strive, especially with a praiseworthy aim. Jihad can be done in a variety of ways. According to Islamic tradition, the greater jihad is to struggle against what we call the nafs: that is, the lower self that drives our base desires. The lesser jihad is warfare in the cause of justice on behalf of the oppressed, whether they be ourselves or others. Let me give you some examples of the greater jihad. Muslims are supposed to pray five ritual prayers per day, every day, right? Right. One of those prayers is at dawn, and at this time of year falls around 4:15am. During spring it was around 3:30am! That’s early! Now, my nafs, or base desires, want to be sound asleep at that time. So jihad for me looks like me setting a bunch of alarms and waking up to pray whether I feel like doing so or not. Another example would be to stand up to a tyrant by spreading truth and helping those that he or she is oppressing. This is jihad. 

For example, during the Holocaust many people formed an underground resistance against Hitler and his regime. They hid Jews in their attics and lied to Nazi soldiers. This to Muslims would be greater jihad! Lesser jihad would be going to war against the Nazis as a last resort. Jihad is this: fighting evil and injustice.

Now. The lesser jihad needs to be explained, because this is the form of jihad that is soooo misunderstood. This form of jihad isn’t holy warfare. It is a struggle against oppression. A good example is when the first Muslims went to battle against the tribe of the Prophet Mohammad that was persecuting him and them. This was a battle of self defense after all other options had been exhausted. The Prophet was exceedingly merciful in his treatment of those conquered and even gave away the spoils rather than hoard them. This is lesser jihad. It is a last resort, only to help the oppressed, and only when absolutely all other options have been exhausted. There are also strict rules for warfare under Islam, as instructed by our beloved Prophet Mohammad, PBUH. Here are a few: 

  1. “Do not kill any child, any woman, or any elder or sick person.โ€ (Sunan Abu Dawud)
  2.  โ€œDo not practice treachery or mutilation.” ( Al-Muwatta)
  3.  “Do not uproot or burn palms or cut down fruitful trees.” (Al-Muwatta)
  4.  “Do not slaughter a sheep or a cow or a camel, except for food.โ€ (Al-Muwatta)
  5.  โ€œIf one fights his brother, [he must] avoid striking the face, for God created him in the image of Adam.โ€ (Sahih Bukhari, Sahih Muslim)
  6. โ€œDo not kill the monks in monasteries, and do not kill those sitting in places of worship.” (Musnad Ahmad Ibn Hanbal)
  7. โ€œDo not destroy the villages and towns, do not spoil the cultivated fields and gardens, and do not slaughter the cattle.โ€ (Sahih Bukhari; Sunan Abu Dawud)
  8. “Do not wish for an encounter with the enemy; pray to God to grant you security; but when you [are forced to] encounter them, exercise patience.โ€ (Sahih Muslim)
  9.  โ€œNo one may punish with fire except the Lord of Fire.โ€ (Sunan Abu Dawud)
  10. “Accustom yourselves to do good if people do good, and to not do wrong even if they commit evil.โ€ (Al-Tirmidhi) 

I got these ten rules of warfare from this link. They are recorded in what are called Hadith: recorded sayings and events of the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). 

Furthermore jihad is not meant to be used to compel others to convert to Islam. The Quran says in chapter 2, verse 256 that there is โ€œto be no compulsion in religion.โ€ So neither jihad is ever about spreading Islam. The greater jihad is about defeating our lower selves and the lesser is about defending justice. 

Hopefully it is becoming apparent from these evidences that jihad is not suicide bombing, bombing in general, killing of innocents, rape, or any other form of so-called “warfare” that, rather than end injustice, perpetrate it. It is also becoming clear that groups like ISIS or Al Queda are violating every Islamic rule. 

So next time someone accuses a Muslim of jihad, stand up and proudly say that you too will engage in jihad. We should all be struggling against our lower selves and against injustice! 

Peace โœŒ๐Ÿป 

Ramadan 2017 Report

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Assalaamu alaikum! Today is the last day of Eid al-Fitr. Ramadan is over guys. SIGH. But it’s ok because inshallah Ramadan will be back next year. So allow me to tell you how my first Ramadan as a Muslim went. 

It was actually good guys! Alhamdulillah! And of course that was a Rahmah of Allah. But I did do some things right – and others not as right – that helped me along by His Mercy. These are things I recommend to you all.

  1. I planned ahead. Like, way ahead. Two, three weeks before the first day of Ramadan I was planning things out in a little notebook, praying and thinking about my goals, and asking for advice from some wonderful friends. This helped me decide how to accomplish what I wanted to do this year.
  2. I accepted my limitations. This was so hard. Planning? List making? Yeahhhhh gurlllll I’m down for that. But accepting that I cannot do something? That is so difficult for me. Allah in His Wisdom decided it was best for me to not be able to fast – maybe not ever, thanks to life long health problems. I couldn’t fast. I couldn’t go to the masjid, because of lack of transportation aaaaannnnd because (you guessed it!) health problems. I cried and prayed to Allah about this, and ulimtately making lots of dua about it was what gave me the strength to accept these things. 
  3. I did what I could with the ability and resources I did have. There was a lot I couldn’t do, but there were also things I could do, so I focused on doing the good deeds I could do with all the good intention and faithfulness I could muster. For example, I worked hard to make salaat on time, improve my hijab, make dhikr every day, and surround myself with Islamic media.

One of my goals that was really important to me was memorizing ayatul khursi in Arabic, which for those who don’t know is a long Quran verse that we Muslims like to recite as a prayer, though it isn’t required. We believe that it brings protection and blessing. It was not easy for me AT ALL but alhamdulillah I did it! The moment I first recited the whole thing in Arabic without looking at a paper was legit emotional. The video I used to learn it was this one. I now recite ayatul khursi after each salaat. 

Another goal was to avoid secular entertainment unless it was with hubby and instead use my individual time to immerse myself in Islamic media. Khutbahs, nasheeds, Quran recitations, Islamic videos, books on Islam and various important religious figures in our Deen, articles on Islam, and so forth. I unfollowed a bunch of social media pages that were directly in conflict with my faith in order to make this month as sacred as possible. Although I am watching retro tv shows again along with my favorite youtubers, I plan to continue with this general policy of more Islam, less dunya. It raised my iman a great deal and made me feel much more peaceful. 

I also tried to make more dua. As I said a few blog posts ago, praying spontaneously in my own words is hard for me. But this year that barrier was broken and I was able to pour my heart out to Allah. A tip: make dua in sujood. The sanctity of that position facilitates dua in a way nothing else can.

Aaaand of course I wanted to read through the Quran in its entirety this Ramadan. Alhamdulillah I did! 

I did do one thing wrong. I compared myself to other Muslims way too much, and resultantantly ended up feeling terribly inadequate and discouraged. “They go to the masjid every Jummah and I don’t,” “They fast and I can’t,” etc. Not healthy. So many times I felt like less of a Muslim for it. But then I remembered it’s not the masjid that makes the Muslim. Finally I was making dua one night and I started crying and reciting the shahada in Arabic over and over. I realized that I do indeed believe in those words with my whole being. That makes me a Muslim. I am Muslim enough. I am flawed and sinful, but I am striving to submit to Allah! And that’s what matters. I say the same to all of you: you’re Muslim enough. You’re enough. Allah sees your intentions. 

And there you have it! That was my Ramadan alhamdulillah. Let me know in the comments below or on my Facebook page how your Ramadan went! 

Salaam โœŒ๐Ÿป

My Hijab Story (It’s Backwards)

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Assalaamu alaikum!

Here is my hijab story.

When I was about four years old, I was in a grocery store with my mother. I remember seeing a lady in a long flowing dress and veil, which I now know were a jilbab and khimar (a type of hijab). I turned to my mother and asked her inarticulately why some ladies wore headscarves. She responded by saying something I don’t recall… and then she added something that I remembered and believed for years. She said that these women believed that for every hair they showed, they’d spend a thousand years in hell. I never forgot that. I recall spending several years examining women’s veils from afar in public to see if they were showing any hair, and wondering why they believed these things. 

Growing up, the only times I saw veiled women in the media was when the evening news was doing a report on terrorism or the numerous Middle East conflicts. I never saw them in TV shows or movies – except as terrorists or abused victims cowed by their wrathful husbands. But yet, even so I always was captivated by these beautiful pieces of cloth. I wanted to look like that: dignified, regal. 

Parallel to this, at home when I played dress up I used to pin blankets around my body like robes or long flowy dresses, and I would always put something on my head. It could be a shirt, a scarf, an old hat: anything. I loved it. I was mildly obsessed. The more covered I was, the better I felt. 

So, fast forward to 2013. I had read 1Corinthians 11 years in the Christian Bible a number of times and wanted to wear hijab. I began chatting with Muslims on Google+ via my only internet connection: a tiny 3G cell phone that was terribly slow. I felt inspired and wanted to wear hijab. On my own time I occasionally put it on at home in secret -terribly awkwardly I might add – wondering what magic those Muslim ladies did to keep the cloth on their heads from sliding around. In June, I spent a week in Brazil on a choir tour. During that time I put a scarf on my head a few times in a way that I wouldn’t dare to call hijab now, in hopes of enjoying the temporary freedom I’d found. While there, in the middle of a concert, my kerchief was yanked off my head by a fellow choir member. A couple of pranks were played on me to make fun of my scarf. That was my first realization that wearing a head scarf wasn’t socially acceptable. So, I did what any modern teenager would do: I took it off and tried so very hard to forget about it. Now keep in mind that during this whole time I was a devout Christian! Not Muslim!

 In September of the same year a major life change occurred, and I moved to a new location. I was finally significantly freeer to explore my options and make my wardrobe decisions. Except, unlike a typical young woman in her mid teens, I wasn’t looking for miniskirts. I read and studied and researched 1Corinthians chapter 11 ad nauseam. I joined Facebook groups and met Christian ladies online who took the Bible as seriously as I did. Finally in December I began wearing headscarves and modest clothes, which I then called hijab though it wasn’t really proper hijab. It was more like tznius, which is basically orthodox Jewish modesty. 

My crisis of faith began a few months later (see here), but I temporarily recovered my faith in Christianity. In June of 2014, however, I took off my headscarf and unusually modest clothing for a lot of reasons. I was tired of harassment and ridicule from everyone around me. I was lonely and isolated and couldn’t bear it anymore. I had major travel plans and wanted to travel discreetly without stress in airports. I wanted to be normal. I was spiritually drained from my doubts and fears. My mental illnesses were tormenting me to no end. And on and on. I took my trip, scarfless save for when I prayed and read the Bible in private. I came back to the US. And in December of 2014, I realized how deeply I missed my head coverings. I realized that as lonely and lost as I was feeling in regards to my faith, my scarf was the one act of worship I had the strength to carry out daily. I resolved to wear proper hijab. It would prove immensely comforting at a time when I went ages without praying except for broken tearful two-sentence prayers begging God for peace and strength. 

After a long journey I submitted to Allah and said my shahada through tears and fear. I was vulnerable and scared. (That story can be read in two parts, part one here and part two here.) From then on my hijab took on more meaning. Today, it is a symbol of my faith, a daily act of worship, an act of liberation from a society that wishes to value – or rather, devalue – people, especially women, based on their worth as a sexual commodity, a public declaration that I am proud to be Muslim, and a reminder of the painful yet rewarding journey that I’ve been on to get to the Straight Path. Above all it is an act of being Muslim; that is, an act of submission to Allah in obedience to (one of) His commands.

A lot of Muslim women start wearing the hijab during Ramadan. So, I’d like to give a few tips to new hijabis. First of all, study the hijab. Read what the Quran and the Sunnah have to say. Listen to orthodox scholars’ opinions on the matter. Once your conviction has been firmly established, I recommend beginning to wear it in stages. First, learn to cover the legs in loose opaque clothing when you should be observing hijab (see the Quran for those guidelines). Then move on to the torso. Take care to cover the belly and back. Then proceed to cover your hips with your top when wearing pants. Then extend your sleeves to cover your arms. Finally move on to the head. Get used to wearing something, anything up there. A headband, a barrette, anything. Train yourself not to leave the house without it. Then begin wearing turbans, consistently. Finally, wrap a hijab. With each step, firmly establish the habit before moving on to the next thing. And of course, stay humble. Don’t be the haram police, telling other hijabis they’re doing it wrong. Lower your gaze. As your iman increases you can work on “smaller” details, like not being vain, deciding whether or not to cover your feet, wearing less makeup, and so forth. With each step, pray hard. Make a lot of dua and observe your salaat. Never abondon your salaat. 

Let me know what you think of my hijab story and what hijab means to you here in the comments or on my Facebook page! Thanks for reading! Wa as salaam ๐Ÿ’œ

A Muslim’s Comments on the London Tragedy

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Assalaamu alaikum…. Goodness knows we need salaam! 

It happened again in England. This time in London. First of all let me say loud and clear that I join with my fellow Muslims in wholeheartedly condemning this latest act of terrorism and all other such acts. They are deplorable and go against every Islamic value and teaching. Having said that, allow me to address some misconceptions about Islam and terrorism.

Not only are Muslims not terrorists, but also no matter what terrorists say, terrorists by their very nature are not Muslims. Quran 2:256 says, “Let there be no compulsion in religion….” Quran 109:1-6 tells us to tell non Muslims “to you your religion and to me mine…,” rather than argue with them, much less fight them. Quran 5:32 tells us that in the eyes of God killing one innocent person is like killing all of humanity. Likewise, to save one innocent person is to save all of humanity. Murder is obviously therefore a huge sin. Terrorists, by perpetrating horrid acts, are going directly against the Word of Allah. They are heretics and outside of the fold of Islam. We should realize that if they call themselves Muslims, they’re lying just as they lie about everything else. Why should anyone take their word for anything?

People who claim to be Muslim aren’t the only terrorists. There is, for example, a “Christian” group called The Lord’s Resistance Army in Africa. Or, how about Buddhist violence in Asia? Hindu terror in India? Zionist Jewish violence? And so on. No one calls these religions inherently violent or flawed, nor does anyone say that they have teachings that cause violence. That is as it should be. And because their violence typically targets people of color, the western media pays little attention to them. Everyone recognizes that these terrorists aren’t reflective of the religions they falsely claim to represent. We realize that these terrorists cannot and must not be trusted to tell us the truth about religion. Muslims and Islam deserve the same trust and intellectual honesty. 

Some people think that Muslims don’t publicly speak out in condemnation of terrorism. This isn’t true. There are at least hundreds of instances of high profiles Islamic religious leaders speaking out against hate and terror. There’s this, for example. Or how about the Chief Egyptian Mufti who issued a fatwa (formal Islamic legal ruling) against terrorism. Then there’s the case of SEVENTY THOUSAND clerics in India issuing a ruling against terrorism. I could go on for ages. The cases of Muslims speaking up and out against violence are innumerable. They are available for anyone willing to see them. We ask that you hear our voices and believe us when we do everything we can to condemn hate and violence. Such deplorable actions being committed in God’s name is a sacrilege, as I’m sure we can all agree. 

Please realize that Muslims cannot control terrorism anymore than anyone else can, but if we could we’d eradicate it. And when we have the opportunity to do something, we do. Besides fatawa against terrorism, every imam I’ve known has delivered khutbahs (sermons) right in the mosque against terrorism. There are many US Muslim soldiers working to keep peace in the world and eradicate terrorist groups. 

I hope that this blog post has been informative. If anyone has questions about Islam or anything mentioned in the article, please leave a comment below or message me on my Facebook page. Thank you. 

Wa as salaam! 

My First Ramadan as a Muslim!

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Assalaamu alaikum! Well, it’s finally here alhamdulillah! My first official Ramadan. I say official because last year I semi – observed Ramadan even though I hadn’t yet converted to Islam. But this year I’m Muslim – alhamdulillah! – and I’m going to throw myself into this holy month with all the energy I’ve got, inshallah. 

Some may wonder if I’ll be fasting. For those who don’t know, the main activity during Ramadan is for all able bodied Muslims to fast from the time of pre dawn prayer to sunset prayer. That is about 16 hours where I live during this time of the year. Fasting for Muslims includes no food, no beverages, no sex, and some say no swearing and no smoking. During Ramadan Muslims also pray midnight prayers at the mosque if they can, as well as study and memorize Quran. We focus greatly on our faith by studying and praying a lot, doing a lot of charity both in the form of good deeds and otherwise, and basically doing everything possible to become better Muslims and better people inshallah. 

The practice of regular fasting for those who are able is clearly prescribed in the Quran and the sunnah. Fasting during Ramadan is also laid out in the the Quran and the sunnah as something that is fard (obligatory) – again, for those able to do so. So this is more than tradition – it is a critical part of our faith. 

So, to answer the question, no I sadly will not be fasting. It’s not for lack of desire to though. I have a lot of health issues and take numerous medications. It would be dangerous for me to fast. And yes, Islam does make the explicit provision that if there is any danger to one’s health, they shouldn’t fast. If they improve later, they should make up the fast if possible. So, women don’t fast during menstruation. When one is sick, even with a cold, they don’t fast. And when one is chronically, seriously ill – like myself – they don’t fast. 

However. I will be throwing myself into other Ramadan activities. I normally don’t have money for transportation to the mosque, but I will try to go at least once inshallah. I hope to memorize Ayatul Khursi in Arabic, read through the whole Quran during the thirty days of the month, read at least a couple of Islamic books, and abstain from most secular entertainment. I hope to spend my days reading Quran and other Islamic materials, listening to khutbahs and lectures, watching Islamic videos, and praying a LOT. I don’t know what I’ll do to celebrate Eid (that’s the three day celebration at the end of Ramadan). I have a sad feeling that I won’t get to do anything. But we’ll see what Allah has in store!

Someone asked me recently what Ramadan means to me. For me it is a time to learn and grow in my faith. It is time to mentally, emotionally, and spiritually separate myself from the secular world and focus on my iman (faith in Allah and the religion of Islam.) It is a time of reflection, of repentance from my sins and resolving to do better. It is a time to establish good spiritual habits, as well as habits such as charity, kindness, love for Allah and others, and more, that I will carry out in my secular activities. An important Islamic principle is that the spiritual should reign over the secular. We shouldn’t separate our religious and secular lives. So, our good spiritual practices should directly influence our day to day habits. Ramadan for me – and, I do believe, for my fellow Muslims – is a time to establish just such practices. 

I hope that this post has been beneficial for all of my readers.  Inshallah I plan to check back in over the course of Ramadan and tell you all how things are going. I wish all who are observing a blessed Ramadan. Ramadan Mubarak! 

The Importance of Ecumenical Studies

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Assalaamu alaikum!

Even before my crisis of faith came to a head, I have been fascinated with religions and spirituality. I love learning about other people’s perspectives on God and how to relate to Him. By not living in a bubble of my own beloved traditions, I can learn about God without limits. Many people think that if they learn about God beyond their own religion, they will jeopardize their faith. The way I balance being open-minded with being faithful to Islam is by studying every faith I can think of with enthusiasm, but also filtering what I take away from other religions with the filter of my own religion.

I recently went on a tour of a Hindu temple near my home and listened to lectures and read pamphlets on Hinduism.ย I have been watching a lady named Rivka Malka Perlman on Youtube to learn about Orthodox Judaism. Also, lately I have been talking to a number of LDS friends about their Mormon faith. I’ve been watching a channel called 3 Mormons on Youtube to learn about various LDS church teachings. What I have discovered is that Mormons and Muslims, while admittedly having lots of theological differences, also have a lot in common. The same goes for Hindus, Catholics, Jews, and so many other faiths. I have also enriched my understanding of God and salvation.

Something that I have come to see over the past couple of years is that people can be faithful believers in God and genuinely good people without believing what orthodox Islam would call sound theology. And because our shared humanity and sincerity are so clear, I cannot believe that God would condemn someone to eternal torture (commonly known as hell) just because they made some theological mistakes. I also have come to the realization that although I am a firm believer in Islam, other people believe just as strongly in their faiths and so it is always a possibility that I’m wrong and they’re right. We true believers, whatever our faith, must be willing to entertain the possibility that we’re wrong, whether on some things or everything.

I believe that I have the correct understanding of faith in general – but I could be wrong. My understanding of Islamic teachings could be way off. As soon as tomorrow or as late as in the next ten years, a sheikh could tell me something so profound that my entire understanding of God could be upended. Any human being’s understanding of an infinite God will naturally be limited by our finite mental capacities. If we aren’t willing to acknowledge this, our pride will limit our understanding of God even more!

Many very devoutly religious people are unwilling to expand their spiritual understanding because they’re afraid of weakening their faith. Frankly, if your faith is so fragile that a little ecumenical research will destroy it, the real problem isn’t the research – it’s your weak faith. I have worried about this myself, and the solution has been to engage in daily faith – building activities. I pray the five daily prayers, read the Quran daily, read frequently about my faith, listen to Islamic lectures, and so forth. That is my priority. But as long as I am fulfilling my duties, I don’t hesitate to study other faiths.

I’ll be honest, as spiritually enriching as interfaith research can be, my main goal in researching religions other than my own is not a spiritual one. It is human. I want to better understand the people who belong to other faiths. I want to be able to be a better friend, daughter, sister, aunt, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, and so forth to my many non-Muslim loved ones. If, by my research, I discover new spiritual truths, that’s great! But first and foremost I want to discoverย human truths.

All my readers are invited to educate me on their faiths, or tell me what their faith is so I can research it myself. You can always drop me a line about your faith on my Facebook page. Thank you for reading!

Peaceย โœŒ๏ธ

 

 

 

 

 

Update on my Minimalism Journey

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Assalaamu alaikum!

A while back I wrote about how I did a lot of purging of belongings and became much less materialistic. I’d like to talk a little bit more about this today.

I was raised by hoarders – like, proper hoarders. Our home was filthy. I kind of learned to hold onto things because 1) that was the environment around me; and 2) my belongings were one of the very few things I could control in the midst of a very out of control situation. So I learned to treasure material things wayyyyy too much. In 2014 when I went to Portugal I had to live out of two suitcases for three months. One of the suitcases was full of medications and some toiletries, so my wardrobe had to fit in one suitcase. And you know what? It actually wasn’t nearly as challenging as I thought it would be! I really didn’t miss my big wardrobe. When I came back and shortly thereafter Daniel and I got married, I had to majorly downsize so that Daniel’s things could fit in our closet. At that point I realized how much I didn’t need. That got me interested in minimalism, partly in hopes of distancing myself from my childhood demons.

Now I am struggling a bit with being a minimalist because my weight fluctuates so much that I am constantly needing to buy more clothes. I never know what size I’ll be wearing in the next, say, two months. But I am trying to shop more mindfully, buying only what I truly love and not compromising just so I can say I bought something. I am also trying to think more about the quality of what I purchase, and whether it could still fit me if I go up or down in size a little bit. I am also trying to be realistic with myself, giving away what I honestly will probably never fit into again. I don’t have many belongings beside clothes, accessories, and toiletries, because my husband and I live with my mom (that’s a topic for another post!).

I have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I have been struggling to not obsess about not living up to my minimalist ideals. I imagine myself having a perfect capsule wardrobe, donating a piece every time I buy one, eating a clean and simple vegetarian diet, and shopping only rarely. Unfortunately I am not doing those things, and I am not sure how to get back on track. Hopefully I can improve. I am planning to go through my closet again in the next few days and get rid of things that no longer fit, and reorganize what does fit. After doing this I may do a post showing some hijabi outfit ideas and explaining how I put together modest outfits. What do you all think about that?

I guess this is all for today. If you have any blog post suggestions, drop me a line here or on my Facebook page! Salaam โœŒ

Conversion to Islam Q&A

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Assalaamu alaikum!

This is my second post addressing questions regarding my conversion from Christianity to Islam. In this one I will be answering questions sent to me by friends and social media followers. Some questions have already been addressed in my last post in which I tell my conversion story. 

  • Are you Sunni or Shia? What madhhab do you follow? 

I’m Sunni. I looked into Shia Islam but Sunni Islam spoke to me more. Like many average Muslims – especially converts – I haven’t yet picked a madhhab (religious school of thought) to follow. I do tend to lean Hanafi though and may end up officially picking that madhhab to follow. 

  • How has your conversion affected your husband and your marriage?

My husband – who is Christian – did struggle with the changes that have come about, but has since come to be very supportive and accepting of me and my faith, alhamdulillah. Our marriage has been strengthened by our ongoing interfaith dialogue and by open communication about our faiths. We already kind of had a precedent for interfaith bridge building because we’ve had to maintain open inter cultural dialogue since we’re from different countries. So we were somewhat familiar with the process of communicating honestly about our differences. 

When I was beginning to consider converting to Islam, I recall reading a book on interfaith marriage. It basically explained all the ways our marriage could fail because of our religious differences. While it was a rather frightening read, it did point out to me some critical pitfalls to watch out for. I’ve learned that the principles of respect, open and continuing dialogue, love, holding one’s tongue, finding middle ground, and making fair compromises are invaluable for making an interfaith marriage work. I highly recommend the book I read, though I also recommend that you not let it kill your hope for interfaith love. It is called ‘Til Faith Do Us Part, by Naomi Schaefer Riley. 

  • What was the hardest thing about your conversion? 

That’s a good question. There were several things that I found hard. One was losing my Christian privilege and becoming an outsider in a very non Muslim society. We make up about one percent of the US population. If that isn’t a minority I don’t know what is. I wasn’t used to being a minority. I was used to being part of a powerful, dominant majority. So that was an adjustment. 

    • What was the hardest thing to take on as a Muslim?

    Probably the five daily prayers (called salaat). Memorizing a lot of Arabic was difficult for me. It was also challenging to arrange my schedule around them. I actually did a blog post on this topic, which you can read here. I have to say though, the struggle was sweet. Salaat has become one of my favorite parts of my newfound faith. 

    • How did you come out as a Muslim? 

    I came out slowly. My husband knew from the beginning of course. Then I came out to a few friends who walked the journey with me. Mashallah they were truly gifts from Allah! I came out to my mother on my birthday of all days. Other people found out through Facebook mostly. I slowly began posting things like, “as a Muslim, I think xyz,” and such. So I didn’t write a big coming out post, it just slipped out here and there that I am Muslim. Hubby and I together told my in laws via skype (alhamdulillah they were accepting!). I only recently told our YouTube channel viewers. You can read that story here

    • Do you have any tips for someone considering conversion to Islam? 

    Be patient with yourself and with the process. Read the Quran and try out praying before you convert. Don’t make conversion into something like flipping a light switch. It’s a process, a journey. Take it one step at a time. Don’t rush the lifestyle changes but don’t let yourself stagnate either. Whatever you do, avoid wahabbi (a.k.a. Salafi) ideaology at all costs. Research different strains of Islam and pray about which one to believe in. Don’t let a mentor drag you down a path not meant for you. Never think your mentors or born Muslims are perfect. Islam is perfect; Muslims are not. Never think you know it all. Stay humble! Find a support network. You will need support, especially if you live in a non Muslim area. And finally, never stop asking questions. 

    • What was the reaction of your friends and family? 

    Their reactions were mostly either positive or neutral alhamdulillah. This is because the family and friends who weren’t supportive of me in general had already been cut out of my life by the time I formally converted. There were a number of people who said things along the lines of, “I don’t agree with Islam but you were courageous for coming out.” My mother seems to think I’m going to hell, so there’s that…. I do have some family members who I don’t dislike but with whom I have limited contact for various reasons, who haven’t reacted at all. Whenever we talk again I may get an earful. We’ll see. 

    • How has the outside world reacted? Have you faced any stigma?

    The general public, such as people I randomly meet when I’m out and about, and our YouTube following, has had mixed reactions. On our YouTube channel we got a lot of condescension and some hate, as well as some support. We lost a lot of subscribers. You can read more about that here. Because I wear hijab, in public people sometimes walk up to me and alternately ask questions, say nice things, or insult me. Sometimes in public I face microagressions like stares, rude service at restaurants, and so forth. So in short, the outside world’s reactions have been mixed. 

    • Why is there so much of another language used when you speak of being Muslim? 

    That’s an interesting question. The language is Arabic, and it is used in speech not just when talking specifically about my faith, but can also be used when talking about anything else. The Arabic language is special to all Muslims because the Quran (our holy book) was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in Arabic. Our five daily prayers, which are largely composed of Quran recitations, are always in Arabic. We believe that the Quran can only be fully understood when studied in its original language.  So it is a very special language to us. The words that we prefer to use in Arabic typically lose their full meaning when translated. It also gives us cultural cohesion, connecting us. For example, we greet each other with the Arabic phrase assalaamu alaikum, which means peace be upon you. This means that no matter what our language, national origin, or culture, one Muslim can greet another anywhere. That’s a powerful connection, and one that I treasure when I am out and see another Muslim. 

    Here’s a quick vocabulary of a few Islamic words.

    • Assalaamu alaikum / Assalaamu alaikum waramatullahi wabarakatu – Peace be upon you / Peace and God’s Mercy and Blessings be upon you. Said in greeting. The longer form is used in more formal situations or when you’re feeling particularly effusive.
    • Inshallah – God willing / if God so wills. This is said when making future plans. For example, “Tomorrow I will go shopping, inshallah.”
    • Alhamdulillah – all praise is due to God / thanks be to God. This is said when referring to something good that happened or something that’s a blessing. For example, “Today was a good day, alhamdulillah.
    • Subhanallah – glory to God. This is said when noting something amazing, typically something pertaining to creation. For example, “The sky is so beautiful, subhanllah!”
    • Bismillah – in the name of God. Said before giving a speech, before writing a major text or essay, before giving a sermon, before eating, before performing the ritual ablution for prayer, and before doing other things for which you want God’s blessing. 
    • Salaat – Name for the five daily ritual prayers performed in Arabic by faithful Muslims the world over.
    • Shahada – the Islamic declaration of faith.

    I hope that, inshallah, this post has cleared up some questions people have about converting to Islam. Feel free to ask more questions if you have them! Remember that while my experience isn’t atypical, still, every convert’s experience is different. If you’re considering converting to Islam and want support, feel free to reach out to me via my Facebook page. Thank you for reading!