Most Beautiful Place On Earth

Most Beautiful Place On Earth
Banff, Alberta, Canada...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Happy Home-maker

We Global History lovers grow up awe-struck underneath shadows of great men and women who went down in history as 'first's and 'best's, revolutionaries and anti-conformists who changed the world for the better. They were the figures fasting for the cause they believed in, sitting for it, standing for it, fighting for it, imprisoned for it, marching, singing, riding, writing, crying, bleeding for their cause. They had a mission, a conviction which they knew needed them to act as a vessel of change. Otherwise, change would never come. Their children would suffer the same condition they mourned over. They were activists. Naturally, I always assumed I'd be one of them; not for the sake of the glory or legacy, but we are a generation desperate for change. I always assumed that God gave me two arms, legs, eyes to see, and a mind to calculate so that I could assume my position among those who have changed the world for the better. Then I met my husband, who wasn't thrilled about my idea of becoming the next Rachel Corrie... he convinced me that the best thing I could contribute to a society would be a healthy family. "After all", he said, "How many healthy, wholesome families are left in the world today?" We were married and children came, and for four years, I've not stopped struggling with my decision to 'settle down' and slowly slip out of the bustling world to dwell in my home. Not that I don't leave the house, but you can't very well bring infants to political conventions, and rarely do rallies and protests have the organization to tote along porta-potties, and even then its not worth the hassle changing diapers or breastfeeding therein. Plus what do I look like carrying a diaper bag and a huge protest sign...? It just aint happening.

Its only been a struggle for me to accept my most honorable place because frankly, the post-Industrial Revolution/feminist West doesn't honor it. I'm always hesitant with a hint of shame to admit to friends or family that no, I'm not working outside the house, and I'm probably not going to continue University for a while. Older women understand because I suppose they have the hindsight to appreciate the role of a mother in the lives of the children and household. I'm not saying that if you have ovaries, you stay in the house. I mean, if it weren't for the kids, I'd probably be out 'activising' or whatever it was I wanted to do so many years ago. But God gave me the ability to bear and nurture my babies who really do need ME. Not just any knucklehead in a daycare.

I'd like to quote Khalid Baig, as his book was an inspiration in a time when I struggled with feelings of insufficiency and self-doubt. In his chapter on Motherhood, he describes the ideology I've circumstantially embraced. Describing the Clinton Administrations' plan to create a mentoring program for at-risk adolescents involving adult volunteers, Baig questions the notion and cause for the plan, asking, "What happened to their parents?...Mothers left their homes to 'realize their full potential'... A society that belittled the task of homemaking lost the homemakers...(They circulate the ideas that) Life is fun. Homemaking is dull. Children are a burden. Now 15 million of them are a burden on society." He then quotes Mikhail Gorbachev (1987) who mentioned that this phenomenon is simply the "paradoxical result of our sincere and politically justified desire to make women equal with men in everything." Baig continues,"Not only is this an all-important task, but only women are uniquely qualified to do it. It is not an accident that pregnancy and nursing are purely feminine tasks. Allah Most High has given women the special physical and psychological make-up needed to take care of children. There is no substitute for mothers milk or mothers love..Unfortunately, in Muslim and non-Muslim communities, 'professional' women enjoy a higher social status then the 'mere housewives'. Mothers are the silent workers who are indispensable for building the character of the next generation." In the chapter entitled Gold and Glitter, he talks about feminism and womens history in the west in comparison to the role and rights of women in Islam. He says,"The gold standard for women's status in society has been developed by the west. And everyone must now comply...It is true that there has been a lot in history for women to revolt against. In the 1860s, a married Englishwoman did not exist as a legal person. Upon marriage she entered a condition called "converture", effectively making her a possession of her husband. Her name was changed to indicate the new ownership, a practice that continues to date. She could not own property, make a contract or will, or get custody rights for her own children. The 1632 English law declared: "That which the husband hath is his own. That which the wife hath is the husband's." Worse, she had no rights to get out of a miserable marriage. Until 1857, divorce was obtainable through the passage of an Act of Parliament.Her second-class status was widely believed. :"[man] is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man" [I Cor. 11:7]. So we see no respectable leader in the West in the 15th through the 18th centuries challenging these ideas. Here, for example, is the great reformer Martin Luther: "If they become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that's why they are there."The works of Mary Wollstonecroft (1792) and John Staurt Mill (1869) are presented as the first voices of revolt. But these were controversial people who were rejected and ignored by their contemporaries. Both would be re-discovered in the second half of the 20th century because they provided a justification for the later developments.The scene begins to change in the 19th century, not under the force of any moral argument, but because of pressures generated by the industrial revolution. The juggernaut of industrial revolution destroyed the old handicraft based economy and forced the workers to move to the sweat shops in big cities. They demanded, in vain, "family wages" so a man could support his family on his income. The capitalists would rather have the family also come to his service if it wanted to eat. There was no option but to send the women (and children) to the factory to make ends meet.Later, the opening of clerical jobs needed millions of other women to come out of their homes and become sales girls, typists, secretaries, waitresses. Cheap labor. The process was given a moral purpose by the language of the feminist movement. It measured their "progress" by how many had been driven out of their homes. It labeled the social upheavals caused by the industrial revolution as women's emancipation. According to its convoluted logic if a woman serves food to her husband and children, it is slavery. If she provides the same service to total strangers in a restaurant or aircraft, risking their never ending advances, that is emancipation! The destruction of the home is a direct result of this progress.

Islam, on the other hand, gives her her God-given rights without forcing her out of the home. She has rights of property ownership, and inheritance, She has rights in her marriage similar to the rights of the husband. Far from the non-adult she is depicted to be, she is responsible for effective management of the home and the upbringing of the children, a most challenging job.The paradise of her children lies at her feet; the righteousness of her husband is to be judged by his kind treatment to her; to bring her up in a loving caring manner, assures her father protection from hell.

And here's the part that struck home to me, people!! : "In a way, their role is like that of the archers in the battle of Uhud. It looked less important but it was key to the fate of the entire army. If women hold on to their front, the entire army will succeed. If they leave it for the 'greater action' elsewhere, everyone will lose."

Mr. Baig, JAZAKUM'ALLAH KHAIRAN for that nugget of inspiration and that beautiful metaphor, so fitting I can't help but to think it was meant to be.

And as for me, I pray not only to whole-heartedly embrace this logic, but come on! I have to be more of a forward-thinker! Lord willing, my life wont end after my 20's are gone and my kids are off in high-school! I can always go back to school... bring them to all my nerdy 'causes' and 'concerns' when they're old enough to understand. These are just the few, mundane years of diaper-changing and mess-cleaning I need to buckle-down and perform some self-sacrifice for the sweethearts I've been blessed with. After this, its pie... I hope ;) (???)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Qur'an has a RIGHT over you!

I didn't know until recently that the Noble Qur'an, kitaabullah, has a right over me as a Muslim, and I have a duty to perform my responsibility toward it. This right is not that it should collect dust, or be extravagantly adorned on each cover, or that when my son bumps into the bookshelf and it falls to the ground, I kiss it, touch it to my forehead and return it to its station, untouched except in Ramadhaan. Before I go into exactly what our duty is unto the Qur'an, I think its important to understand that (as the Prophet says, peace be upon him:) "The deeds most loved by Allah are those done regularly, even if they are small." (Bukhari and Muslim). So when it comes to pleasing Allah, the Glorified and Exalted, consistency is the key. For example, it is better for our hearts as well as in Gods eyes if we were to pray 3 units of prayer nightly through out the year then if we were to stay up praying one entire night, and neglect the night prayer the rest of the year.
I feel that in my life as well, as I was explaining to my husband; it is better in the eyes of the wife if you bring small, consistent gifts or tokens of your love over time then it'd be if you did one huge act of romanticism... and slacked off the rest of the time. Men tend to pull those kinds of moves, then refer back to them when you start asking for more... the old, "I'm romantic! Remember that one time back when we first got married and I ________?!? Remember?Man, beware of ingratitude, woman. Go make me a sandwich." (fill in the blank with any of the following: cooked you an omelette, bought you a cake (which he proceeded to scarf down), gave you a $5 and told you to buy something nice for yourself...maybe like a pack of gum.)
BUT I digress.
So...without further ado, the right that the Qur'an has over us as Muslims is that it be read at the very minimum, twice a year. Once throughout the year, and once in the month of Ramadhaan.
Today I calculated that if you read 2 pages of Qur'an everyday, you'll finish before the next Ramadhaan inshaAllah.
Now, let me go into why reading the ARABIC version of Qur'an is highly recommended, and why if you cannot read Arabic and are a Muslim, you are advised to learn Arabic by any means. Find someone in your community, dedicate yourself to a class at your local university, read a book, watch videos on youtube at the very least... make an effort. The Arabic language is one of the miraculous aspects of the Qur'an; and take it from me, a native English-speaker, the Arabic language will increase you in your wisdom just by learning the vocabulary and roots of the words. It's an incredible journey.
But at the same time, we shouldn't neglect the tafseer (commentary on), or translation of Qur'an if we don't understand the Arabic, because Surah Sad 38: 29 says “Quran is a book which we have revealed full of blessings, so that you can meditate on those ayahs, and the men of understanding will receive admonition. And Surat al Hashr 59:21 says, "Such are the parables which We put forward to mankind that they may reflect." So we do need to do extra as 3ajami people (non-Arabs) to get the FULL benefit of Allahs word inshaAllah.
Some more inspiration to pick up the much- neglected mus'haf:
The Prophet (asws) said, "Whoever reads a letter from the Book of Allah, he will have a reward. And that reward will be multiplied by ten. I am not saying that “Alif, Laam, Meem” is a letter, rather I am saying that “Alif” is a letter, “laam” is a letter and “meem” is a letter.” So increase your recitation of the Qur’an to gain these merits, and to gain the following merit as well.

In another hadeeth, ‘Aa’ishah, may Allah be pleased with her, relates that the Prophet (sallAllahu ‘alaihi wa sallam) said: Verily the one who recites the Qur’an beautifully, smoothly, and precisely, he will be in the company of the noble and obedient angels. And as for the one who recites with difficulty, stammering or stumbling through its verses, then he will have TWICE that reward.”

[Al-Bukhari and Muslim]

The Prophet, sallallahu alayhe wasallam, said, ‘The recital of the Qur'an at dawn is always witnessed - the angels of the night and the angels of the day witness it." (Tirmithi).

So in closing, may Allah increase us in our knowledge and love for His religion, and open our minds to the truth, even if it is against ourselves, and may we be increased in sincerity as we read Qur'an and in all our actions.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lessons Learned

This Ramadhaan taught me a lot about myself..mostly things that needed change. So my self-esteem is pretty low. But all the better that way, I suppose. First, I learned how very little food I can manage on. Some mornings I'd just get up for a date or three and a cup of milk, and I was set for the day! A little sleepy and hungry by maghrib; but thats beside the point. The plates of food I consume daily are unnecessary and probably tip the scale at potentially harmful since I'm addicted to sweets... ;p secondly, I was unable to eliminate sweets altogether and I actually ate them in excess some nights. So my self-control isn't where it should be. Third, fasting makes me a better mother and a better driver! I'm patient, calm, cool and collected with the kids and I'm slow, rational and wise on the road. Not like on a normal day when I'm fast and feisty with both... so that's encouragement for me to fast through the year. Lastly (for this post) I realized how the value of my husband. Beyond the material provision, he really provides a sense of comfort and security in our home; and he wasn't here for the last 10 days- he was on 'itekaf... so I really appreciated that truth during the time he was gone. And there's more, but my kids have to get to bed.

Monday, August 30, 2010

The House

"The house" is the name of the 'strip mall', comprised of Andalus Cafe and Mariam Sofia's (an Islamic book/clothing/gift store) . Andalus Cafe is a ladies-only environment which includes the above cited sections, The Growing- a place for mothers and children to be together, featuring a kid-zone in the middle, and full- supervisal access for mothers who may sit and relax with friends, or with work over coffee. It also has a large flat screen tv in the inner right-hand corner for convenience of the women. The Grown- a kid-free zone, quiet and comfortable for young single girls or university students. It aspires to provide a quiet, comfortable study seating with free computers and internet access as well as plenty of desk space for projects. In the bottom left hand corner is a Morroccan-style seating area with deep, cozy shades of red, purple and orange. Large cushions provide comfortable seating, while a see-through curtain provides a level of privacy and ease for the women there-in. In the top left hand corner, there is a big, comfy couch and table for anyone who wants to sit in the open, observing the comings and goings of the Cafe's guests, and there is a large window for women to see in and out of The Grown space. Connected to this room is a musalla/youth activity room/rental hall which also features a storage room and a wudu' friendly washroom. Guest speakers can be invited, open-mic's, and other activities can be held in this room. Most importantly, it's always open for Cafe guests and outsiders to come in and have a warm, beautiful place to pray in without the discomfort of male-onlookers and the like.
The environment will be earth-tone, deep, rich colors with Islamic sayings (from Qur'an, ahadeeth etc) painted onto the walls. I plan to do this myself; not by my one artistic ability of course, but I'll print the designs and calligraphy from pictures on the internet onto translucent paper and project the image onto the walls where I'll trace them and eventually color them in. I did it for a project once in school, and it worked well. Of the designs, there will be the words 'play with them until they're 7' in english and arabic on the door of The Growing, as were the words of Saidna Ali raa. I'll have soft anasheed playing in the back round as opposed to alternative Cafe music, and the windows will all have thick, bushy curtains on them to prevent outsiders from seeing in.
The Cafe will have lunch, snack and beverage items, including different kinds of international coffee (Colombian, Saudi Arabian, Turkish, Nescafe... etc), a fresh juice/cocktail/smoothie bar, all of the halal candy (I can order online that isn't found in other stores), soft ice cream, and deli-style sandwich options with all-halal deli meats, cheese, chips, pickles, soft drinks and tea cookies/baklava.
I should note that the parking lot is essential to the success of my idea, because Muslim women mashaAllah tend to have kids... and who wants to park 7 blocks away from their destination and lug all the babies and baby paraphernalia inside? Additionally, we all know Canadian winters... enough said. We need private parking.
The entrances have small rooms close to the doors where men may enter, only to help their wives carry things to the door, or maintainence/mail can come to the door without everyone screaming and running. Those entrances should have doorbells that notify clerks at the Cafe counter and in the kitchen so they can go check the door.
Lastly, my favorite part- Mariam Sofia's!!! The entire mall is inter connected, and every area is accessible from inside, but also from separate entrances outside for the convenience of the customers. Mariam Sofia's is an Islamic store that has a knowledge section, featuring books, cd/audio lectures, Video/DVD lectures, Kids educational items and the like; unique and hijabs, and abayas, the styles of which can't be found elsewhere in the city; as well as accessories I find online or in my shopping excursions. One of the most exciting thing about Mariam Sofia's is my plan to have racks of clothing from stores such as H&M, Forever 21, Costa Blanca, Old Navy, Winners, or wherever else I can find good clothes for young sisters- which meet Islamic standards, while at the same time inspire girls to be creative and have fun with clothing; sending them the message 'you can look and feel great while at the same time pleasing Allah swt, and protecting your modesty'. There will be a beautiful changing room with a full-wall-mirror to accommodate customers, and make them comfortable with their purchases.
Another idea I have for the store is to compile 'Visit the sick' bags, with a hadeeth encouraging Muslims to do so on the cart- they will be gift bags with herbal teas, get well soon cards, comfort-pack neck pillows... things like that. There will also be 'new baby' gift bags, 'thank you' gift bags.. and other themes. Also, there should be a section for home-decor items, like unique tea sets (you know how we Muslims do enjoy tea), candles, artwork and other items pertinent to western Islamic culture. I'd like to have a beautiful display case in the front of Mariam Sofia's to appeal to customers, and to exemplify the merchandise we offer in the store; the beautiful clothing and accessories, the home-decor, the knowledge section, all displayed among vibrant colors and decorations in the display case.
The idea here is to create what community architects call a Third Place; with the intention in mind that a person has their work environment, their home, and the Third Place should be a place of enjoyment and recreation. Muslim women need this desperately to keep our daughters, from loitering aimlessly in malls or 'hanging out' wherever their friends may be. We need a secure, blissful environment to call 'The House'.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dont let your 'rizq' take you from ar-Razaq!!

Last night I was praying Isha after a long period of eating...
and when I thought about praying taraweeh, or at least witr... my back and stomach began to hurt.
I was so full.
And the thought of bending in anyway was not pleasant.
All I wanted to do was recline in all my over-eating glory... and fall asleep.
But then... I thought about how pathetic I am.
Allah ta'ala was generous enough to provide me with a filling, nutritious meal (which I proceeded to gorge in the short time between maghrib and isha)... and now I wanted to repay His Generosity with laziness.
How cheap.
Then I thought 'self, don't let your rizq take you from ar-razaq'
Don't let your provisions take you away from The Provider....
and through my day, I've applied it in many ways to my life.
The beautiful kids I have should not distract me from doing things for Allah (swt) weather it be praying, studying, reading Qur'an...
I mean, sure...they demand attention and its hard to strike a balance between them and this... but I must try.
Then I began to wonder... which is worse... praying on-time without focus (due to kids and their hysteria), or to wait a while, calm the chaos in the house, and pray when I can dedicate more attention to the salaah?
OR I could try my best to prepare the house BEFORE the adthaan comes in, so that by the time it's time to pray, everything is kosher. And I can have the best of both worlds.
Thats it for today.

Monday, August 23, 2010

putting away childish things

I'm trying to maintain the motivation I'd had in the beginning of Ramadhaan. That zeal is wearing off, as I begin wandering back into what is called in Arabic 'lahu', or pass-times. It's the 12th day of the month, and by now I'm taking for granted how short a month actually is. Isn't that the world for yah? After a while, you get deceived into thinking we're here forever.. but we only tarry a day or two and it's all over. And what we've done is done, and there's no second chance. Same thing in Ramadhaan. All the rewards and blessings flow for a duration of 30 days or so... and when it's gone, we spend the next 6 months praying we benefited, and the following 6 months we pray we live to see Ramadhaan next year. Its a time to be cherished an not wasted. I just get desensitized sometimes. This toddler in my house is wild, and sometimes I don't know what else to do with him. I run out of options, so I turn on a movie. It's wrong and I feel the same guilt a diabetic would feel eating a pint of icecream but, hey... it gives me time to write by myself without a kid snatching my pen and writing on the wall. It give me time to read without him ripping the pages of my book; or time to sit on my laptop without him smashing my keyboard to bits; time to pray without him emptying the refrigerator; time to clean up the house without him destroying it behind me. Whats a mommy to do...? Maybe I need some more books for him. A good amount of options so he doesn't get bored.... as he is now.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Homeschooling/Unschooling vs. Traditional School

Been thinking about Yusufss near future in school, or not. I guess since he's been starting to talk and develop his vocabulary so quickly in such a short time, the issue has pressed my mind. First of all, I love the concept of homeschooling. The mother is the first teacher, and the best teacher; who knows and loves and wants the best for her children more then her? No over-worked, under-paid public school teacher who may confuse the blooming flower for a delinquent, thats for sure.
But my issue with homeschooling is... I got married early, before I could get any degree or real education. I have one semester, not even one year of university... and I didn't do well in school until grade 10!! It was all D's, then I converted to Islam and I got on honor-roll, go figure. HA!
Anyway, I'm just a product of a bad environment, how can I raise my kids to be great, when I myself am not great? Kids listen with their eyes.
I was raised watching tv... and I'm struggling to break that habit so Yusuf never develops it. See what I mean? How can I teach him things I myself am learning?
So thats one concern when it comes to homeschooling. I don't know enough.
Secondly, I'm worried about his social life, I guess. Thats just because the only socializing I'd experienced back in my day was a direct result of contact with my peers in school. I guess there is the masjid.
Now, unschooling seems creative, outlandish... and worries me a little, the way it strays so far from the norm. It seems there is no discipline. I think discipline is a healthy thing, in moderation. So far, much of what I've read about it is positive... about trusting the childs natural inclination toward learning and activity; but I think laziness and forgetfulness are also an inclination of mankind that need harnessing. So... I'm not sure about the 'free-for-all' attitude unschooling seems to connote. It's just that I'm insecure about that.
But whatever happens, Yusuf and Mariam will for sure be in either an Islamic private school, a madrasah, or at least if I work up the courage and discipline to homeschool them, they'll be in regular Qur'an classes in whatever local masjid we attend. That's important.
Yusuf has an Egyptian cousin who is about 4 years old, and he just finished Juzu 'Amma, mashaAllah! Competition! That kid knows more Qur'an then me, and Yusuf can't even grip 'bismillah' yet ;)

Friday, August 13, 2010

the ghost of Ramadan past Ramadhaan. I had forgotten all about you. Welcome back.
I've never felt its spiritual significance as I do this year.
My first two Ramadhaans were before I even became a Muslim. My first was a result of reading in the newspaper that Muslims had begun to fast that day. I still have that clipping. I was in a delinquent girls school and I had a lot of time to reflect. The result of my reflection bore my admiration of Islam. So when I found out they were fasting, I too wanted to fast! It was not done properly according to all of the fiqh I know now, but Allah awj knew my heart and intentions. I requested to wake up early and eat a small meal of maybe cereal, toast and water or juice. Then I'd fast all day, then break fast after it was dark. I'd also pray during the lunch break we'd had, and I'd spend most of my prayer in sujood... which was the only position I was familiar with in that girls school. I had no access to internet or anything, so my learning resources were limited to a copy of the Qur'an that one of the staff gave me, and occasional new clippings, and Mos Def albums lol. Thats scholarship for ya. So that was my first Ramadhaan. The next year, I was out of the school and living with my mom and her newly-wed husband and every morning I'd wake up at around dawn and eat all I could handle from his kitchen and go to school... come back, and eat dinner. I think it was in October or so, then. At this point, I had internet access... so I'd spend lunch break from school in the library looking up articles written by muslims, a lot of stuff... I think I thought I was a Muslim then. I didn't know about shahada (official conversion)After Ramadhaan that year, I started wearing what I thought was 'hijab', which looked like this:
And when people, including my mom, noticed that I wore it everyday... questions began. Eventually, when I was sent to live with a Muslim family, I learned about true hijab... and the fiqh of Islam... and the heart of Islam... (which I'm still learning)... and I said shahada (testimony of faith) ... and Ramadhaan that year was for real. But by the time Ramadhaan came, I was living back with my mom, so I'd actually skip school and take the city bus to my Muslim family every Friday, then stay with them on weekends in order to benefit from khutbahs and halaqas during that month.
Then what happened... hmmm... after that I met who was to be my husband, and the following Ramadhaan was spent entertaining new Canadian friends of his...praying Taraweeh, even though I was pregnant at that time so I couldn't physically strain myself that much.
Then finally,last Ramadhaan we were in Egypt. And I was pregnant again. So I fasted most of the time, but skipped a few days as a result of car sickness while travelling through chaotic Cairo ;p and it wasn't that spiritual I guess because of the nature of travelling. We were so busy and preoccupied. It was a different experience.
SO! This Ramadhaan, I need focus. Spirituality. Dedication. Back to the basics. I've divided my days into hourly tasks... weather it be reading my books, playing with the kids, cooking... taking a nap if I can... and taking it day-by-day is so important. This could be my last day of fasting... this could be my last Ramadhaan. The days should overflow with worship and quiet meditation until I'm in need of sleep. And so it has been alhamdulillah. Good stuff.
So, welcome, Ramadhaan. I needed you desperately.
May Allah benefit us through these days of fasting and denial of shahawat, and make us of the muzahideen. May our dunya benefit from this Ramadhaan as well as our aakhira, one being a means to the other.
Increase us in our knowledge, ya rabb, and our sincerity and our patience.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Simple Math

So, you know how you listen to a lecture in one state, then a little while later you listen to the same bit of information and you contrive a whole new, relevant meaning to apply to your life? That happened to me today. I was listening to Anwar alAwlaki's "The Hereafter Series" in the car.. and it really opened my eyes to a truth I had forgotten... not just 'a' truth... but virtually the most important truth out there! And it has to do with simple math. We're here on this earth for what, 100 years tops... scrambling to live in luxury and wealth. Then, for people like us who believe in a hereafter, it's forever. Yaqm alQiyama alone is said to be 50,000 years! Simple math, now. If we are going to invest our time and energy and worry and woe into one or the other, which should it be??? God doesn't asks us for much at all, beside gratitude and patience. Sabr we shukr. In various forms... but the beauty of Islam is that it doesn't embrace that extremism. We are not a monastic people who reject the world and its pleasures, nor are we like the Christians, many of whom embrace a teaching of hating the world. No, the world is to be marveled at and is meant to draw us nearer to Allah, marveling at His splendor. Nor do we leave religion alone and saturate our time in love of this life. The Prophet used to pray to God 'Oh, Allah give me good in this life, and good in the next...', so he didn't neglect this life... but the problem arises when you come into a state of ghafla, or heedlessness which I often (regrettably) find myself in. In this state you virtually forget about the next life, and the way that the planets will be knocked out of their orbit and the ocean will boil over and the mountains will be flattened during yawm alQiyama. You forget that the first heaven consists of all of the stars seen by man, and that its size is only comparable to a ring tossed into the middle of a vast desert!!! This life and all of its drama and glamor are so terribly insignificant, and we are unaware of this until we wake up from it and we'll feel like it was all a dream. This is the deceit of shaytaan. Everything looks and feels so eternal. I think about my family memories, the future of my new family and kids... where we're going to live, travel... 'family planning' as I've mentioned in other blogs... its all so petty when you look at the big picture. But at the same time, its not petty. In fact, these details will all be played back to me on yawm al A3theem, and I'll answer for everything I thought, said, did, and neglected. SubhanaAllah! It really puts things into perspective. This life... its only the means to an end. The means is the test, the end is the reward of Allah ta'alas Merciful presence.... and may He make us of those glad to see Him. It's just.... I had forgotten. And the reminder struck me like a ton of bricks. So... HA! You almost had me fooled, there, dunya! Man, that was close and alhamdulillah I didn't end in such a state. May Allah keep me awake, and aware and out of ghafla. Me and us.
Oh, and I heard a cool quote about hijab the other day that was from an Arabic poem. There was a man who met a beautiful woman who covered her face upon meeting him, and he went on to compliment her and say basically, why would you cover your beautiful cheeks and lips? And she laughed at him and said something to the effect of 'uncovered i am hidden, but covered i am truly seen'. Isn't that cool? She's basically saying 'I am not my beauty', or like India.Arie said, 'I am not my hair'. ;p <3 Okay, self. Thats enough pondering for now. Talk to you later.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Loss of Haya..

Haya' is an Arabic word that is translated, usually to mean 'modesty', sometimes 'shyness' or 'shame'. Essentially, (according to FTF, Baig pg.196) "It is a natural feeling of pain at the very idea of committing a wrong." I just want to mark my disgust with modern 'ads' and 'headlines', especially; who make indecency attractive and lack any sort of haya'. Not only do they lack this shame, but they spread their lack-there-of around to everyone and desensitize people, making this nonsense seem normal. Now you have people walking around with bad images stuck in their heads, bad songs with indecent lyrics, all wis was from shaytaan. We a3outhu billah. Thats my thought for today.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

rAnDoM tHoUgHtS

Couple of thoughts: First, why did Brittney go crazy and Justin didn't (necessarily)? I think its a testament to the sexual pressure on females in this culture (which is especially directed toward, but not limited to celebrities). I was thinking that when I saw some controversy on the news over our dear, dear Hannah Montana aka Miley Cirus. Apparently, she grew up. And its not pretty. THANK GOD I am spared of that world of pressure when I leave my house...yay hijab.
Second, I learned today that I have to treat Yusuf the way I'd like him to treat his precious baby sister. This, after she began to cry and he yelled in her ear 'Stoooooooooooooooop!', leading her to a nervous break down and and a subsequent heart attack for myself. So, lesson learned. I don't yell at him, and he won't yell at her.
Lastly, I was pondering the spacing of the kids in my family. I love the fact that Yusuf and Mariam Sofia are so close. If God would be so gracious as to allow me 4, I'd be more then satisfied. So, we're half done. But I guess I was thinking about when I can go back to school... and weather or not to 'home-school', and travelling gets complicated the more kids you have. So I'm thinking about getting the IUD for the next 4 years or so, which would put me at 26 yrs old, Yusuf in 1st grade at 6 yrs old, Mariam would be 4 1/2, Mohamed would be 34 (still young)...
and my peers would probably just be getting married and having kids of their own, which is good because we can help each other out. Well, my med. school friends at least...others might get married sooner. Anyway... inshaAllah by that time we'll be in Toronto anyway so it won't be a million dollars o take the plane with all the kiddies. We could just drive down to visit family in New York. And about my school... hmm...I guess its on the back burner until God opens a window of opportunity; and until then, these kids are priority number one. NOW I see why Muslim girls say 'I have to get my degree first, then I can get married'... DUH! ;)
Also, I was thinking about the next time someone asks me why I became a Muslim, or why I wear hijab. I think I'm just going to answer 'desperate times call for desperate measures.' Because in all truth, that's why.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ramadhaan Resolutions #1

This Ramadhaan is especially important, because (like any other) it may be my last. The chances are actually stacked against us living, if you think about it. There are millions of reasons for the heart to stop beating, and for reasons unbeknown to mankind, we go on for days. But I digress. The fact that life is so short, and Ramadhaan is so blessed is more then enough reason to excel in every minute of every activity of everyday; but there is more to it. Not only is it an opportunity to improve our status in akhira, but it is a mighty opportunity to improve ourselves in this life. In terms of self-discipline, in terms of compassion for others, fear and love of Allah (the Glorified and Exalted), letting go of the luxuries of this life, and drawing more near to readiness for the next life. I need this Ramadhaan. And all praise is due to Allah ta'ala for allowing us this gift. This time of wiping away sins, repentance, striving for His approval... its a recreation of our hearts.
So this Ramadhaan, I want to do a couple of things to ensure that my precious, precious time is used wisely. First thing's first... no tv (thats a given...even during other times). It's a pitiful waste of time which bares no fruit except disappointment and laziness. And its worth can be met and exceeded by reading a good book, enjoying a walk or time in the park, writing, doing housework, or most importantly, praise and worship (aka salah/dhikrullah). So thats one main thing. Secondly, a slightly superficial thing (I'm not writing these in order of priority, just as I remember them...) I decided I'm really going to downplay the role that food actually has in fasting. Fasting is about the lack-of food, not the WAIT for food. I've spent countless Ramadhaan hours slaving over a hot stove, when I could be slaving fisabilillah in sujuud or through the mus7af. And while cooking is a source of hasanat for women who do it with the right intentions, I just need something more spiritual to fill my hours. So this Ramadhaan, we're KISSin'. Keepin It Simple, Sister. That means meat maybe once a week, salad nightly, soups are easy... nice hearty suhoors like fuul and bread, cereal and fruit, tamr and bagels... yogurt. No juice. Its not a source of much good, and is most of the time loaded with sugar. Which brings me to my second food-requirement which will be for me personally, and not so much my family. NO SUGAR. Yep, I said it. Not a teaspoon. If anything has glucose-fructose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, or just plain old sugar, it's not going on my fork this month. If I need sweetener in tea or cereal or whatever, honey is more than enough, and I can limit the intake. Plus there are health benefits in regularly eating honey. I just need this for a personal goal because I've learned about how our body has a right over us, and most people in the west including myself oppress the right of our bodies. It has a right to be used for halal purposes, to worship Allah, and to be treated well and maintained in a wholesome, healthy manner. Alhamdulillah, I dont drink coffee, but I do have a big weakness when it comes to snacking and sweets. So the fasting eliminates the option of 'grazing' through the day, and my personal goal is to eliminate sweets. So no baklavah for me, friends! ...hmmm, now that I think of it, that eliminates my 'Cold Stone for suhoor' plans too. Ahh well... we have to be hard on ourselves sometimes to prevent spoiling the nafs lol.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Product of the Environment...

<--- From this, to this ----->

WHY, OH WHY do the very traits that I abhor from my cultural upbringing still exist in me??? It feels like the harder I try to eliminate my anger, impatience, rebelliousness, and lack of discipline, the harder deeper I backslide into their realm. It's really getting ridiculous. Maybe I'm not cut out for this lifestyle. I'd leave it alone and rid my husband of my misdemeanors forever; except that we have these beautiful nuggets of life and aspiration, looking up at us with their big, lashy brown eyes full of wonder and awe... as we wince and attempt explanation and example... kids are holding my life together right now. I've heard that the more a person tries to improve themselves, the harder shaytaan plays. Well, that could be the case.
وأعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم
I find myself often contemplating the phrase 'live peacefully, or leave peacefully'. I know very well that having a husband in a world where women out number men globally at least 2-1 is an asset, if not solely for the provision/companionship aspect. But sometimes, stress that is a result of problems in a marriage can lead to anger directed at the innocent children. And that leads the couple to the question; is it worth maintaining a marriage merely for the sake of 'family' if the members of the said family may be emotionally or developmentally harmed in the process? Well... it's a tough call for many families who have situations like me, where a LOT of work is needed. Improvements in wivery, motherhood... you name it... but as long as theres no physical abuse or severe verbal abuse going on, I dont see anything more worthwhile in the world. It does get overwhelming, certainly. And sometimes, it even feels that death would be easier. It sounds morbid, but I'm not kidding. This life is a test, and its end is our last breath. One hadeeth reported by Ali ibn Abi Talib says, "The Jihad of a woman is to afford pleasant company to her husband..." and there are many more that relay the same connotation; that a woman's wife and motherhood (being a teacher to her children, patient, obedient to her husband, kind to them and steadfast in prayer etc) will raise her to the maqqam of mujahida... and I know why. It's a fierce battlefield when you fight against your own desires to meet the demands/needs of your children, and you die to yourself for the sake of your husband, not just ONCE... but many times daily. It's not easy! Especially when you've been raised in a culture that pities a stay-at-home mother, and tells her that there's so much more in the social circle, or the political arena... it hurts. That, along with the fact that we've grown up disobeying our parents who glorified disobedience to their parents, who knew no better then disobeying their parents. And now I'm expected to be a 'submissive, obedient wife'.... let me just say that old habits die hard. But, if what Allah (swt) wants from me is obedience, softness, and politeness... then I'm going to expend my energy and emotional capacity to fulfill these requests. BUT it takes a while to take a person from one extreme to the next. And where I once relished my rebellious 'tude, and my outspoken, freedom-fighter state of mind... this all needs to change. I need stillness. Silence. Softness. Quietness. Submission. And that will mend my backward heart, and save my precious family. God help me.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

WOW ... Does God Love War?

I literally cried, not just 'sniffled a little', not just 'got choked up', but actually cried THREE TIMES during this lecture. Hormones? Maybe. But I think it was more the severity of the message and the realness of the narration. Chris Hedges delivers a mighty speech on the evils of modern war in all of its corruption and illness. May Allah (swt) protect us, and purify our hearts. Yaa rabb, protect my children from the horrors of war, ya Allah relieve the pain of the babies experiencing warfare. And the pain of the women, and the pain of the elderly. And the pain of the honorable, noble men who are oppressed by the worst of mankind, the oppressors. And we seek refuge in YOU alone, oh Lord of the worlds...

Here, Hamza Yusuf goes into the Islamic perspective, with eloquence and relevant knowledge as per usual. Gotta love him. This was a very touching couple of lectures, and much needed in my life personally, in light of an influx of sad news I've been bombarded with lately. God save Queen Mariam Sofia Mohamed and Yusuf Amin Mohamed, and their parents, and the Ummah of their Prophet. AMEEEEEN.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Encouragement From 'Laa Tahzan'

I don't plan on writing two blogs a day, but the babies fell asleep, the house is quiet, I don't have facebook to waste my time on anymore... so why not? Plus, I'm inspired. After re-reading my first post, I'm hoping my writing skills will improve in the process of writing these blogs... because MAN that was poorly written. But anyway, I wanted to list a few chapters and highlights from al-Qari's 'Laa Tahzan' which are helping me in my journey to finding contentment within my home, abandoning my emotional need to be in the world.
So, now I'm going to list some quotes, and the chapters of the book in which they're found.
Repel Boredom with Work
"Being inactive means being negligent of ones duties.Idleness is an expert thief and your mind is a victim.Therefore get up now and say a prayer, read a book, study, write, organize your library, fix something in your house, or benefit others so that you can put an end to your inactivity.I say this only bcs I sincerely wish for your betterment.Destroy boredom by working. If you apply this simple precept alone, you will have travelled at least 50% of the wy towards happiness.Look at the farmers, carpenters, and the bread-maker, and observe how, when they are working, they recite words as melodious as the singing of birds, bcs they are content."
Enough for you is your Home
The words 'isolation' and 'seclusion' have special meanings in our religion: to stay away from evil and its perpetrators, and to keep those who are foolish at a distance. When you seclude yourself from evil in this manner, you will have an opportunity to think, to reflect, and to graze in the meadows of enlightenment...I advise you to fortify yourself to your purpose and isolate yourself in your room, except when you leave it to speak well or to do well. Hold your tongue from backbiting, free your heart from anxiety, and preserve your ears from profanity. (BTW: al-Qushayree said in his own dissertation on the topic of isolation, that the one who seeks seclusion should feel that he is doing so in order to protect people from HIS evil, and not the opposite. This is to breed a modest opinion of ones self)

Isolation and its positive Effects
When alone, one does nothing for show or ostentation, since none but Allah sees him, and since none but Allah hears him. Al-Qadi `Ali ibn `Abdul `Aziz al-Jurjani said: "I never tasted the sweetness of life until
I became a companion of home and book,There is nothing more honorable than knowledge, so I seek in no other an associate,
Truly, the only degradation is in mixing with people, Therefore leave them and live nobly and stately."
Ibn Faris said "When distress is such that my heart becomes constricted, I say that perhaps one day will bring with it some aid, my comrade is my cat and my soul's companions are my books, and the object of my love is my night-lantern."

Your Best Companion is a Book
Al-Jaahiz, a centuries old Arab writer, advised that reading of good books can repel anxiety:

“The book is a companion that does not praise you and does not entice you to evil. It is a friend that does not bore you, and it is a neighbor that causes you no harm. It is an acquaintance that desires not to extract from you favors through flattery, and it does not deceive you with duplicity and lies.

When you are poring through the pages of a book, your senses are stimulated and your intellect sharpens... Through reading the biographies of others, you gain an appreciation of common people while learning the ways of kings. It can even be said that you sometimes learn from the pages of a book in a month, what you do not learn from the tongues of men in a century"

Every journey of a thousand miles...

Begins with a single step. Today, my first step is to stop. To get out of the rat race, off the social scene, and make myself content with what is in my home. It has caused a lot of strife in my daily happenings, and a bit of turmoil in my marriage. It has pressed my heart daily- the beckoning of the outdoors!!! Growing up, no one asked me about my doings or whereabouts, I used to save a few dollars during the work/school week and stay with friends in the city on weekends, going and coming as I pleased. Being a latchkey kid was more then a pleasure when I was young... but since I've become a Muslim, I find myself struggling (in a positive way) to listen to and obey the Qur'anic injunction for Muslim women to stay in our homes (33:33). When I first became a Muslim, I lived with an AMAZING family who took me in, loved me and provided for me as if I were their own; and I regret admitting that I actually made my 'auntie' (the mother of the home I stayed in) worry quite a bit when I'd wander into the new town after school, or take a random bus trip into the city, not necessarily with full permission. It's like an addiction... but to what? Fresh air? That can be had in one's backyard! I don't know... it must be the people watching... the promise of interaction with strangers, the possibility of learning something new, discovering, opportunity, culture, food... these are usually the things that draw me out of my home. Especially when I was single.
Now, I'm married. I have two beautiful babies (Yusuf is 2 years old, Mariam Sofia is 5 mos), and I still feel the occasional 'call of the wild'. Well, its a little more then occasional. More like every other day. It's a little more difficult now, of course, being sure I have the diaper bag handy, packed with preparations to tend to every possible situation that could and does go wrong, being sure I'll have a private, comfortable place to breastfeed and enough food to pacify myself and my toddler (who has the appetite of a grown lumberjack). These circumstances have certainly put a damper on my free-for-all adventurous lifestyle, but for the better. Now, it's time for me to adjust, which definitely requires Divine Guidance, patience, far-sightedness, and wisdom. So among other things, this journey will be discussed in my future writings.