All posts by Danielle LoDuca

Danielle LoDuca is a third generation artist and author. Drawing inspiration from personal life experiences, her writings highlight the familiarity of Islam in a climate that increasingly portrays the Islamic faith as strange. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute and has pursued postgraduate studies in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Foundation for Knowledge and Development. LoDuca’s work has been featured in media publications in the US and abroad. She is currently co-authoring a book with her husband. http://shakielanddanielle.com/ https://youramericanmuslimneighbor.com/ https://www.facebook.com/danielle.loduca DanielleLoDuca@gmail.com

Kindness and Forgiveness are Better Than Charity….

I read this verse today and I felt compelled to share it with you. It’s a small example of the way Islam cultivates the individual.

We are told that it is better to speak kind words and to forgive others than it is to “help” them with charity, financial or otherwise, if we are then going to follow it up with reminders of our “favor”, or otherwise harm the person we supposedly “helped”.

In this beautiful verse, God says:

“Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And God is Free of need and Forbearing.” (Quran 2:263)

Do you know of anyone who has helped someone out, then after that, never let them forget it?

We as Muslims must be genuine in our actions and we do good, for God’s sake alone. So if we are to help anyone, it should be for the pleasure of God, knowing that He never allows the reward for good to be lost, nor does He allow our sincere deeds go to waste.

In that case, we would never expect even appreciation from those we help, but only appreciation from God Himself. And He has told us here that He is free of need, and lenient and patient. Indicating that it is ridiculous to think He needs us to do acts of charity, rather we do them for the good of our own souls.

We’ve also been instructed in the Quran:

“We feed you for the sake of God alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.” (Quran 76:9)

This is selfish selflessness. We are doing good, treating others well, spreading kindness and charity with the hope that our Maker will be pleased with us.

That’s what I call a win win situation.

If you read the Quran you will find all kinds of beautiful instructions, the intricacy of which are astounding. Our character is cultivated through these injunctions, especially when coupled with the stories and examples of the prophets present within its pages.

What a blessing.

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Black = White 

I recently had the pleasure of joining The Hate Busters in NYC, a new initiative designed to counter negativity and media misrepresentation, by spreading the loving message of Islam, directly from the sources.

Hate Buster truck #2 carried the statement of the Prophet Muhammad, where he said:

“A White has no superiority over a Black, nor does a Black have any superiority over a White, except by piety and good deeds.”

On Broadway in midtown Manhattan, the response on the street was amazing, with many stopping by and expressing their happiness and agreement with both the message and our mission.

It was great engaging with so many people, seeing their bright smiles and hearing their touching and powerful words of support. One woman asked if she could hug me. Her tight embrace wordlessly conveyed solidarity and gratitude.

The most beautiful part of the day for me though, was when we took a break and went to the mosque a few blocks away, for the afternoon prayer.

I joined other women who were there to pray as well. We stood jointly – foot to foot, shoulder to shoulder, and we performed the prayer as one unit – as sisters. Within our prayer was the manifestation of the statement of the Prophet Muhammad we had been sharing with the public. The very fruit of the teachings of Islam.

I saw the beauty of the varying hues of our hands, side by side on the carpet as we lowered our heads down to the floor before our Maker, the One who is truly superior to all; Who created us as equals, and made us vary so that we may know one another.  The richness of our diversity only enhanced our connection to one another and increased our devotion to the One, who through His supreme knowledge and wisdom gave us our unique characteristics.

After we completed the prayer, we greeted each other with wide smiles and loving handshakes. This is a gift to us from our Creator, to be able to see the beauty and goodness in each other. To feel genuine love for people we’ve never met. Women, whose hearts, like mine, desire the pleasure of our Lord, and soften with gratitude, humility and love of Him.

Islam broadened my horizons and enriched my life in so many ways. The pleasure of being part of such a diverse group is something I had never experienced prior to my Islam. I consider this expansion to be one of the many blessings I have since received.

It’s amazing that 1400 years ago, the cure for racism was implemented amongst the Muslims and that it can be eradicated from anyone who truly loves God and chooses to submit themselves to Him today, by the same means.

I hope the fact that these words were uttered by the prophet Muhammad makes many people think about him and see what a loving, equitable human being he truly was and the value Islam has brought to humanity.

lookingatsign

For My Mom – I Remember

Dear Mom,

I remember you digging in the garden and pulling up the weeds.  The summer heat was heavy and enveloping. Cicadas sang behind you in the woods. I remember your clothes and your limbs and the profile of your face as you worked.

I remember you standing in front of the stove at dusk, the light of the hood illuminating you as you cut onions. I stood nearby watching.

You made raw potatoes and burnt pasta and baby bell peppers so special, and you often called us to taste them, or to test the pasta as it boiled.

I remember you rubbing my back at night to help me fall asleep. How did you find the time?

I remember how you made my tummy feel better when it ached. When I was sick, you soothed me, bringing me soup, and crackers, and apple juice in my favorite cup.

I remember how tolerant you were of me when I wanted to stay home with you, so I feigned illness, for a little too many days –

and how tolerant you were on so many occasions, and in so many moments in which, I realize now, must have really tried your patience… but I was so blind.

You picked me up, you dropped me off. You fed my friends and you drove them too.

Your food was always the best.

You arranged parties, and baked cakes, and you sewed costumes for us that were exactly what we wanted.

You prepared fruit and sandwiches and lemonade in the early morning, when the sun had barely risen – to take all four of us on the ferry to play on the beach all day. You’d call us to eat, handing us plums and pouring our drinks and watching us every time we called you,”look mommy!”

I remember you calling us to a colander filled with juicy strawberries. Sometimes you added a tub of delightful cream for us to slather them in, before we gobbled them up and ran off… back to our ‘important business’ of having fun.

And the days when you called us, because you had cut open the most delicious pear. I remember the juices running down your beautiful, tanned wrists. You cut and you cut, and you shared that pear.

You gave away the most ripe, delectable pear… to us.

After we devoured its sweetness, we ran off to our important business… not realizing there was nothing more important than you…

I remember how whatever I wanted, managed to appear in my life. How you stayed awake until the wee hours of morning, wrapping, and preparing so many different things on so many nights. For us.

I remember coming downstairs and breakfast was ready. An egg in a special cup, or pancakes shaped like our names. You were there at the stove and I remember just sitting down and eating,

telling you my dreams.

Every joy, accomplishment, or fantasy I shared with you, even if I had brushed my teeth and they were so smooth I had to show you, or I finished a book and wanted to tell you all about it,

you always listened.

You made me feel what I did was great, that I was great. You always made me feel good about myself and what I did. I don’t remember you ever stopping me short, or seeming uninterested or annoyed, even though I am sure now, that you were at times… but you never, ever showed it.

I remember how you wanted to give me every opportunity.

The beautiful memories seem endless.

And before all that, you had held me in your arms when I knew nothing but your scent, and you carried me and you comforted me when I cried. You got up in the middle of the night so often, but you weren’t even counting.

Even when you were sick you still cared for me. I don’t think I ever heard you complain of your pain… You never even asked for help.

And before all that, you nurtured and nourished me in your womb.

For that alone, I am forever indebted.

My religion teaches me that if I want paradise, it lies at your feet…

But I know I am undeserving,

inadequate in my appreciation, my love, my respect and honor for you. I’ve never done enough.

Please forgive me,

for every time I turned away, barely noticing your love and care.

For every time I didn’t thank you. For every selfish desire I fulfilled, even if it meant disobeying you. For every worried moment you ever had because of me. For the times I came home late, for the times I didn’t call.

For the time my classmate disrespected you and I was embarrassed of you, when I should have been ashamed of him.

For not putting YOU first, Because you deserve to be first.

No one on earth is more worthy of my love and companionship and honor than you. Yet even still, now that I know this, I still fall short.

So I pray that God guides me and helps me be the daughter you deserve. I pray that somehow, I can provide you with some happiness and joy even more than all the happiness and joy I have been able to have, because of you.

I pray that I can be the one to help make your life easier and that when you get older, I can be the one to be there to care for you.  I pray for God’s Mercy on you and His Love, as you were so merciful and loving towards me, when I was small, and as you are now.

I pray I can be even a fraction of the woman you are.

May God accept my prayers. Ameen!

Yours Always,

Danielle

The Speed Limit is 30mph, You’ve Got 426 hp. What Do You Do?

I love fast cars and I like driving.

Fast.

I once drove to Boston from New York,  pushing 95 mph on the interstates.

To me then, the speed limit was just a hindrance preventing me from getting there without wasting any time. Worse, it prevented me from experiencing the glory of the horsepower under my hood.

I slowed down only to avoid a speeding ticket. I didn’t think much about the inherent value of the restrictions on speed.

Now I understand (and I’d like to think that most people do) that the rules of the road are in place not to hinder us, but for our general safety.

If I had always raced around at 95 mph, I probably wouldn’t be here writing this. I could have taken other lives along with my own.

There are good reasons for the limits chosen. At 40 mph the likelihood of pedestrian death is high, whereas at 30 mph the likelihood of survival is high.*

We speed lovers might not be able to drive as fast as we want, but the benefit obviously outweighs our small sacrifice.

When it comes to people who don’t understand (or don’t care about) the wisdom behind regulations and would not implement them, law enforcement helps ensure public safety by instilling the fear of “being caught”, as well as with the ensuing punishments levied on those who are.

We all follow a plethora of rules and social conventions.

Some are law, some are unspoken.

It is impossible not to.

For some reason though, a lot of emphasis is put on rules that exist in Islam and many people think of it as “a religion of dos and don’ts”.

Recently, a family member of mine explained to me her theory that my choosing Islam must have had something to do with an unconscious desire for rules, to create order in what she perceived as a reckless life. (She couldn’t have been more wrong of course!)

The thing that strikes me here, is not so much her idea that I would somehow crave a life of strictly adhering to rules, (while I spent a good portion of my life scoffing at both laws and social conventions) but the overarching idea that Islam is like that: a religion whose identifying quality is law and order…

While in reality, the primary quality of Islam is monotheism: there is nothing worthy of worship except the One God, the Creator of everything.

We don’t see it as a religion of rules at all.

We see it as a message from our Merciful Creator, informing us about Him. Through it, we learn who He is, why He made us and why we are on Earth.

It’s hope and peace for the human soul. A direct line of communication with our Maker.

Happiness.

Islam, for the Muslim, provides a map that leads directly back to Him,

helping us navigate this worldly life, safely and easily.

The mother who forbids her child from touching a hot pot, is only concerned for the child’s safety and wellbeing. She is teaching him intelligence; he can follow his mother’s guidance and avoid a trip to the burn unit.

If the child disobeys, no one will say, “He was so smart for ignoring his mother and finding out on his own, that hot pots burn.”

Similarly, The One who created us, provided us with guidance in the life that He created. Following this guidance is intelligence.

Without guidance from the One who designed life,  living would be a game of trial and error. Since we have only one short chance at it, it’s best to follow the instructions because, there are no do-overs.

We are glad we haven’t been left to flounder about in darkness and ignorance without any guidance.

Every directive in Islam is for our own benefit, sort of like the speed limits, but with much deeper wisdom.

For a Muslim, adhering strictly to them is not a hindrance, but a blessing one strives for.

Furthermore, following the directives in Islam is like the fruit and proof of faith, not what the faith is built on. The basis of Islam is its establishment and maintenance in the heart, facilitated in part by institutions, such as regular prayer and fasting.

As I explained in another post, Islam means submission to the will of the Creator. Once a person believes and Has faith and love for God, they truly desire to submit their will to His as much as they can.

The submission of the heart must come first, making the submission of the limbs easy and a desirable goal one strives for daily.

The wife of the prophet Muhammad, Aisha – a scholar in her own right – explained, that the first parts of the Quran to be revealed were the chapters which deal with fundamental knowledge of God, the purpose of life, and the hereafter. She went on to say, that if legal injunctions had come first, the people would have refused and said that they would never stop doing the things they had been accustomed to; such as drinking alcohol and being promiscuous.**

So, it makes no sense to approach Islam by way of its rules and regulations.

The first thing to look at is the concept of God. The Quran is very clear about who He is, describing His many beautiful names and attributes. Here are some examples from the Quran:

“All Praise belongs to God, Lord of all the worlds, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful, Owner and Sovereign of the Day of Judgement. You alone we worship, You alone we ask for Help. Show us the straight way…” [Quran 1:2-6]

“Say, He is God, the One and only. Allah; The Eternal, Absolute. He begets not, nor is He begotten.
And there is nothing similar to Him.” [Quran 1:1-4]

“And We (God) did not create the heavens and the earth and what is between them aimlessly (without purpose). That is the assumption of those who disbelieve ” [Quran 38:27]

So, first and foremost, we learn about the Creator. The more we know about Him, the more we love Him. We learn about why He created us and what He is pleased with for us. We learn that this life on Earth is just a stop on our way back to Him – That it is merely a test, one we took on ourselves. The best way to get through it, is to keep God on our minds. To live and act with consciousness of Him; to follow His map.

Do we ever break the speed limit?

Of course we do.

Our Maker knows our weakness and does not expect perfection, but the people who have the best standing with Him, are the ones who, when they make a mistake, they return to Him in repentance, looking for His help and longing for closeness to Him.

We trust the judgement of the One who created humankind and the world we live in. The One who created life, knows better how to successfully navigate through it.

In addition to that, we look forward hopefully, to a reward from Him, beyond our wildest dreams.

When we forget God and ignore the assistance He has lovingly provided us – when we say, “No thanks, I choose to do whatever I want, regardless of the purpose I was created for.” – Then, we no longer qualify for the prize that comes from completing the test successfully.

It’s our choice.

So, look beyond the superficial.

Every human being has been given freedom. Free will. You are always free to choose. You can speed, or obey the limits. It’s up to you.

Even as a Muslim, one has free choice. There are just some basics which enter a person into the fold of Islam. The most important is the testimony of faith. After that, is the Prayer. Those are the basic necessities that make someone a Muslim.

Here’s another analogy to help you put yourself into our shoes: If your local government offered $100,000 cash for going five years without any speeding tickets, wouldn’t you feel affection for those in power? Wouldn’t you obey the speed limit at all times and seek that reward? Through the process, you might even discover naturally, that obeying the speed limit is also the wise and safer thing to do. Many would strive for that $100,000.

That is why  when people choose Islam and they really believe in it, they self regulate. They try very hard, in public and in private, to be the best they can be. Dutiful citizens, family members and friends.

Now, even I strive to obey the speed limit.

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*http://www.tbd.com/blogs/tbd-on-foot/2012/05/how-a-car-s-speed-affects-the-chance-a-struck-pedestrian-survives-15470.html

http://humantransport.org/sidewalks/SpeedKills.htm

**The narration is in Sahih Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 515

Churches have bells, We have this:

Just as Christians use bells to call worshippers, in Islam, we have the Athan: the call to prayer.

The first time I heard it, I was overseas, in a territory under military occupation. I was there as an international observer and humanitarian volunteer. In that stressful place, with so much uncertainty, fear and sadness… The sound of this hopeful call, continued to resound and reverberate, five times each day… Sometimes in the stillness and quiet of desolate, evacuated, dangerous streets… Sometimes while shots and tank cannons blasted in the distance.

Somehow this call touched me, though at the time I didn’t even know what it really was. Its sound transported me to an environment serene and tranquil, in spite of the reality on the ground. When I heard it then, I couldn’t believe anyone could talk during it and not listen to its exquisite beauty…

I love it even more now, knowing its meaning: It’s a call to all humanity, a reminder that there is One transcendent, greater than the greatest our minds can imagine. Greater than exists in creation. It calls us to acknowledge our Maker, in gratitude. It reminds us, that true success is attained only through that acknowledgement and appreciation. It centers us, brings us back to the basics of our faith. It reaffirms our path, the goal – it helps us stay on that course; calling us back to it, if we had begin to stray, or have become distracted. And that’s just the beginning – that’s just the call…

Thankfully I have an app on my phone that plays this call to prayer, for each of the five prayers. When it goes on while I’m in the grocery store (or in line at the DMV) I do wonder what it sounds like to those around me.

Is it as beautiful emanating from my purse, as it was to me issuing from so many minarets over a broken city? As it is to me, echoing inside the walls of a sanctuary? As it is, when I hear it calling me to peace, in the midst of my hectic life as a mother?

Listen. How does it sound to you?

Hear it here:

What My Husband Said Before He Left

Last night, it was time for my husband to go.

Before he opened the car door, he turned and looked intently into my eyes.

The words he uttered caused tears to well up. I felt my heart quiver.

He had to go.

But only after entrusting me into God’s care with these words:

*”أستودعكم الله الذي لا تضيع ودائعه”

I entrust you to God, The One Who does not lose what He has been entrusted with.”

Through this simple sentence, I felt his care, and his concern for me while he is away.

It conveys to me that he sees himself as my protector in life, that I am under his care; his responsibility. While he is away and always, there is no greater protector than the One who has power over all things, so my husband asked Him to safeguard me.

I feel treasured and loved.

These are the beautiful manners taught to us by the prophet Muhammad.

Does this prayer guarantee that I won’t get hurt, or that nothing undesirable will happen?

No, it’s not that…

What it means, is that as we part, we remind ourselves to put our trust in God. We remember not to fear, that which we have no control over, but to place into God’s hands our affairs and our lives. Whatever happens only occurs with His ultimate wisdom.

I found the moment my husband left, so beautiful; so moving.

Though I yearn for his return, the peace inspired by his words; by our way of life – Islam – makes me feel at ease.

Likewise, I entrust my husband, my partner who gives so much of himself to provide me and our children with a happy and comfortable life, my guardian, my noble knight, into God’s care with these words:

**”أَسْتَوْدِعُ اللَّهَ دِينَكَ وَأَمَانَتَكَ وَخَوَاتِيمَ عَمَلِكَ”

“I place your religion, your faithfulness and the ends of your deeds in the trust of  God”

 ***”زَوَّدَكَ اللَّهُ التَّقْوَى وَغَفَرَ لَكَ ذَنْبَكَ وَيَسَّرَ الْخَيْرَ لَكَ حَيْثُمَا كُنْتَ “

“May God bless you with righteousness and forgive your sins and make goodness easy for you wherever you are”

I thank God for guiding me to this beautiful way of life, so rich and so profound, and for all the love in my life. I thank Him for all those who care for me, and all those I love and care for. I thank our Maker for a husband who remembers Him and whose actions and words are guided by that remembrance.

A beach with palm trees is not the closest thing to paradise on Earth. For me, it is life lived in Islam that delivers a taste of bliss.

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Authentic sources of the prayers mentioned here:

*Saheeh Ibn Majah 2/133 

**Saheeh At-Tirmidhi 2/155

***Sahih At-Tirmidhi, 3/155

Following Noah

I love to talk about Islam. It’s the most important thing in my life. It makes me happy, brings me peace, gets me excited.

Sometimes I just wish I could sit and share my favorite thing with a family member; my Mom, Dad, Sister, Grandpa, Aunt, anybody… and just have a nice deep, open discussion.

It’s hard sometimes you know, loving something your loved ones seem allergic to.

Something about which at least one has said, “this is our last conversation about this”.

But, that’s my situation.

I don’t feel comfortable talking about the thing I love most with the people I love. 😦

I always have enjoyed a challenge. I also enjoy discussion.

You can talk to me about many things I may not agree with and I will either present my point and listen to yours, or ask questions to gain a better understanding. (I can’t promise I won’t get impassioned)

I don’t mind if someone comes to me and tells me I’m on the wrong path and is willing to explain why. I’m open to that and I try to listen.

It seems people are willing to say “I disagree” but not to elaborate. Not to discuss.

The end of many an attempt is, “We have to agree to disagree.”

But, I don’t understand why we have to worry about whether or not we agree… If they don’t agree with me that’s fine, it doesn’t bother me. What’s wrong with learning? Understanding? Seeing things from one another’s perspective?

I do not get personally offended when people come to me and explain why they worship Jesus, or why they are atheist. I find other people’s beliefs and thought processes interesting.

But it seems, when it comes to Islam, it is as if the topic itself causes barriers to be set in place and people’s hair to raise on end.

My belief is that this reaction is linked with their lack of knowledge about Islam, yet the reaction forbids knowledge from being attained.

See the problem?

Although I love a discussion and I don’t mind being challenged, I know others do not. I don’t really like to bother people, so…

On the one hand, I feel like suppressing every word.

Hiding my thoughts and feelings.

On the other hand, I feel like I should keep trying, keep talking and not remain silent.

The prophet described in the Quran who comes to mind, is Noah.

Noah was telling his people about God for ages – and boy, did they ever dislike listening to him!

They hated Noah and his message from the Creator so much, they used to cover up their ears and turn away from him. They got so fed up, they threatened to stone him to death!

They really ridiculed him when he was building a ship in the middle of the desert. He was a laughing stock and his followers were very few.

Even his son abandoned him.

But Noah was persistent, because his care for his people surpassed his care for his own self, in the respect that, rather than protecting himself from their hatred and ridicule, he persisted in giving them the message that could benefit them.

He didn’t give up in the face of so many obstacles and his goal wasn’t to fit in and just make the people happy with him. His goal was to please only his Creator, by trying to help his people understand.

I think about Noah and then I look at myself and I see that I’m so weak.

I have something that I know could benefit my family, even if only they were to gain a better understanding based on knowledge,

but I don’t talk about it, because they will get annoyed with me.

Perhaps I am more fearful of displeasing them than I am my Lord?

The Power of Position

“We know that our minds change our bodies, but is it also true that our bodies change our minds?”

– Social psychologist, Amy Cuddy.

When I first heard Amy Cuddy’s TED talk about the way body language shapes us, I immediately related it to my prayer. In Islam, the prayer is both a physical act and a spiritual experience.

Have you ever seen a Muslim pray?

The english word ‘pray’ can refer to almost everything we Muslims do, but the specific prayer I am referring to is the one where we stand, bow, and prostrate. It’s called Salah.

When I lived in Brooklyn, I lived right next to a building inhabited purely by Hasidic Jews. I remember walking home at night and occasionally seeing one of them near a window rocking rhythmically, his curls whipping back and forth. I assumed it was some sort of prayer ritual.

At that time, when I was still up on my pedestal of intellectual superiority over religious adherents, I found it quite ridiculous.

I wonder sometimes, what people think when they see Muslims performing the salah. Does it look like a vacant ritual?

The salah is one of the most crucial aspects of one’s faith and practice of Islam. Abandoning it literally takes a person out of the fold of Islam.

So how could standing, bowing and prostrating be so important?

When we perform the salah, we are indeed communicating with our Maker. How well we are attentive to what we are saying decides how beneficial the prayer will be.

Internally, it is a meditation, but what about the physical movements?

What benefit are they?

According to recent studies, holding particular body positions can impact our psyche and attitude. The positions of the body actually influence the person performing them – subconsciously.

Holding a position of strength and power, such as standing tall with your fists on your hips for about 90 seconds, will actually make you feel more powerful and confident, perhaps capable of achievements you might otherwise shy away from.

The research and explanation which Amy Cuddy presented at TED (find the link to her talk below) really is the best way to explain what Muslims are doing physically, when we perform our prayers, in a way that helps bring the salah into the realm of the familiar – at least at the superficial level.

It makes perfect sense that we would be standing solidly, our feet shoulder width apart, in unity with other Muslims and at times alone; while we affirm that we are devoted to God alone and seek only His help;

It makes sense that we would bow down when we acknowledge God’s absolute greatness and Might (far above our own),

and that we would put the uppermost part of our bodies, the most honored part – our heads – on the ground; as low as possible, when we glorify God and acknowledge His total Supremacy.

Sometimes our minds wander, the positions also help bring our consciousness back to our words.

Fortitude and humility are qualities critical for every Muslim. We have to be firm and grounded, focussed. We have  to be humble, in relation to other people, but especially in regard to our Maker.

One of the greatest pitfalls of life, according to Islam, is arrogance; feeling self sufficient and greater than we really are.

Islam has many levels, from the superficial to the very deep, from the physical, to the spiritual. Some parts are followed by others. Some aspects are like foundations, upon which the rest is built, without which, the structure is weak.

Others are there, almost like reinforcements and safety nets. The physical aspect of the salah ensures that the worshipper walks away with at least a little bit of humility, even if only induced by deliberately physically humbling themselves.

So do the positions of salah influence our state of mind?

The answer is yes.

muslimprayers

Watch Amy Cuddy’s talk here: http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en

My Baby and the Wolves

My 8 year old daughter was explaining to me, while she read an article for homework, about the astonishing variety of species of catfish, and just how unbelievable it is, that a bullfrog tadpole can take three years to mature…

I watched her radiant face and listened to her voice, elevated with excitement,

but I could hardly pay attention.

It started when I began thinking about how much she loves science and I thought about how she may choose to study some type of biology after high school.

But then, the current events began pushing their way into my thoughts.

What will the world be like for her?

I wonder if it will be her generation that the prophet Muhammad talked about, when he said,

“There will come upon the people a time when holding onto the religion will be like holding onto hot embers.” (Tirmidhi)

Ouch.

Today there are so many people, from so many directions, out to destroy Islam.

We have these crazy terrorists who, by their horrific acts of violence, defile Islam. They add fuel to the fire and help grow and multiply the very things they claim to want to ‘avenge’.

We’ve got Christian missionaries, with their very creepy version of Islam that they tote around, event to event, teaching leaders and pastors about ‘Islam’; only – they are lying through their teeth – Effectively convincing congregation after congregation, that Islam is something totally unlike it really is.

Then you’ve got the political pundits – demonizing Islam and Muslims is merely a means to their end. I and my children’s lives, ‘collateral damage’ in the race to gain (or rather maintain) control of a region.

But the people staring blankly, while the blue light of the TV dances over their frozen faces, don’t know any better; all they know is:

they just hate Islam.

They just hate me; my baby with her innocent face and mind alive with curiosity about so many wonderful things…

I wonder, will she be like me?

Sometimes I feel like a ninja, thwarting attack after attack. For every post on Facebook I make, with texts from the Quran, or the sayings of the prophet Muhammad, to show how good, beautiful, and tolerant Islam encourages people to be,

I am attacked as if by wolves.

Called names –

and regularly invited to worship Jesus instead of my Creator.

But I have surety in my heart and in my mind. I ask God to give me strength, patience and kindness – To act in the way He instructed me:

 “Many of the followers of previous books wish that they could turn you back into disbelievers after you have believed” – “but pardon and forgive.” (Quran 2:109)

and

Bear patiently what they say.” (20:130 and 50:39)

I know all my husband and I can do is try to raise our babies the best we can, to pray for them, and to inculcate in them, this forgiveness and patience.

No matter what the climate, there will always be trials and tribulations of one sort or another. My concern for my children, is that they hold on to those burning embers; that they cling to Islam and never let go, even for a second.

Even if it costs them everything else.

No amount of suffering could ever make letting go, worth it.

I’d rather my child succumb to the wolves while huddled over her Islam – protecting it with her life – than to let it go and walk away with the pack. Because that would truly be losing everything.

So, while I fantasize about my intelligent daughter, filled with energy, a marine biologist, out on a mission in a blue sea with a smile on her face, the sun reflecting off the water and lighting her eyes, so filled with life – While I dream about her living without a care in the world beside her passion; I know – well, at least I fear – that her life will be far from easy.

Our feet must be planted firmly to withstand the currents.

To withstand the wolves.

New Day, New Life: The Balance Between Fear and Hope

When the end of a year nears, it’s as if our minds are suddenly turned on, we realize a year has passed.

We reflect.

We turn; hopeful, towards the future.

We resolve to improve our lives, to get healthy, drop bad habits, avoid negativity.

What if you were to do that, nearly every moment throughout your life?

What if you added to those thoughts, the possibility that you might not be there to see another year, or even another day?

Imagine that for a moment.

Would you change?

Would your resolutions be more likely to be successful?  Would you show more appreciation to the people in your life?

Would you begin to think about the source of life, and perhaps wake up more grateful every new day you’ve been given?

In Islam, we are encouraged to remember constantly, the fragility of life; while at the same time, being hopeful for the future.

Islam teaches us to always stay balanced between fear and hope.

We remember that this life is given to us and will one day be taken away. When we look back at our lives, we look for areas that need improvement, and like your New Year’s resolutions, we should choose and make efforts to be better in the future.

But the future is always now.

Islam is kind of like living on the cusp of a new year. It’s never a bad time to reflect and start anew. We all make mistakes, get lazy, and sin. It is human nature to falter. Islam encourages all good things, but inevitably we will fall into sin. Thankfully, that’s no reason to despair, because the Prophet Muhammad said,

“The best of those who sin, are those who repent.”  (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi)

So while we feel remorse for our transgression and mistakes, we know we only need to turn in repentance to our Most Merciful Creator and then try to be better in the future. Just our intention and willingness to do that is enough of a start. Knowing we will not be taken to account for our mistakes that we have rectified, gives us the strength to move forward with confidence.

So, while you might not see many Muslims ringing in the New Year with you, remember that we see every new day as a chance for a new life.