Category Archives: Muslim in America

I’m a Muslim, but I Never Miss Christmas

The holiday season has a certain something that brings joy to people of all ages. The excitement of gifts and gift giving, great food and delicacies that only appear once a year, family gatherings, shopping, decorating; the list goes on and on.

It’s many people’s favorite time of year. It used to be mine too.

I know most people are really living it up and enjoying themselves this time of year. Some may be wondering, “Don’t you miss Christmas?”

My sister said to me recently, while she was in the midst of decorating bliss, “I don’t know how you don’t do this, it’s so much fun!”

If you take a look at the things that really give meaning to Christmas, we can find similarities in Islam, but 365 days out of the year.

Here are just a few examples:

1. Gift giving. Giving, sharing and showing care are all great things. The prophet Muhammad said, “Give gifts.” Because they increase the love between people. No special occasion needed.

2. Charity. Charity is an integral part of Islam. Once  every year Muslims must pay an amount from their saved wealth, and charity is encouraged every day, by both the Quran and the sayings of the prophet Muhammad. We should always try give something, even if it as little as a smile. We are taught that we are not truly believers, if we do not love for our fellow human being what we love for ourselves. That throws covetousness out the window and makes us want to raise others up, as we would like to be helped, especially in times of need.

3. Family. Family is the most important structure in society. Islam has all sorts of ways of helping families stay together and encourages giving your company primarily to your family, especially parents. Eating together, consulting one another, and being there for each other in all circumstances, are all values we are taught in the Quran and by the prophet Muhammad.

4. Jesus. Muslims love Jesus. In the Quran, the story of Jesus begins even before his mother Mary was born. We see God’s wisdom in choosing the best of women, Mary, who was utterly devoted to the worship of the Creator, and who was a perfect vessel to carry and rear the very special Jesus Christ. We believe in Jesus’ virgin birth and in the many miracles Jesus did by God’s will. His story and the story of his mother in the Quran, bring tears to our eyes and move our hearts every time we read them. The chapter named Mary in the Quran, is beyond beautiful. Whenever I read it, I just wish I could share it with my Christian friends and family. We love Jesus so much, but we don’t worship him, we follow him: Jesus did not decorate trees, nor did he teach children about an omnipotent man with flying reindeer who lives in the North Pole. He did not tell anyone to celebrate his birthday. He did not celebrate Christmas, so neither do we.

5. Fun. To some of you, Muslims might seem a bit boring. Most of us are not found out and about, seeking thrills all too often. The reason for that though, is that we feel very satisfied. We know what our purpose is and strive to stay on track towards successfully completing our goal. So on the one hand, we are already quite content and don’t feel the need to go out seeking pleasure and happiness. (Although, there is nothing wrong with having some good clean fun!)  And on the other hand, we are busy trying to please our Maker. We’d rather not waste time away from remembering Him. Worshipping Him. In Islam, worship is very comprehensive, so everything that God is pleased with, can be an act of worship. A smile can be an act of worship. Intimacy with one’s spouse is also an act of worship in Islam, because it is enjoying that pleasure in the right way, in a marriage, as opposed to in extramarital relationships. So, for Muslims, worship is also fun!

Islam has all the best parts of life built in.

That’s why, I never miss Christmas.

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In Plain Sight

nativity3

Muslims believe in Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus. We believe in Jesus the Messiah. We believe in the prophet John, Mary’s cousin, and John’s father Zakaria, also a prophet of God.

In fact, we follow in their footsteps; at least we should, according to the Quran.

Who were they? What kind of people were they?

They were people utterly devoted to their Creator and Sustainer. People who kept God’s commandments, whose lives were focussed on seeking God’s pleasure and the ultimate reward of paradise.

They studied God’s revelations and spent their days remembering Him. Praying,

like God’s chosen ones before them – Abraham, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Solomon, Moses…

It’s always been essentially the same since Adam and his wife set foot on Earth: Worship none but the Creator of the Heavens and the Earth, follow His guidance and don’t lose sight of the purpose of life.

Islam is exactly that.

And if you wonder: Why then, do so many apparently despise Islam?

Remember that they wanted to kill Jesus.

They tried to kill Abraham too.

Jonah and Lot were rejected.

Noah – he was ridiculed and spent the longest time calling his people to the truth, but only very few believed and followed him.

Moses led his people and they made it so difficult, yet they found the worship of a golden calf… easy.

This is the way it’s always been. If there are people slandering and smearing Islam today, it’s nothing new!

If they disparage the prophet Muhammad, prophets were disparaged before him.

So the question really is, where do you stand? If Jesus and Mary were alive today, would you be one of their detractors, or one of their followers?

If you heard someone speaking ill of them, would you go and find out for yourself, or believe the hearsay?

There is plenty of evidence Islam is not the strange religion some people would have you believe. Some of the evidence is right under your nose!

Sometimes even on your neighbor’s lawn.

In plain sight.

Those Are Muslims!

Christmas decorations are everywhere, naturally drawing the attention of my young children as we drive through our suburban neighborhood.

Recently, as we were on our way home one bright afternoon, my oldest son exclaimed excitedly, “Look Mommy, those are Muslims in front of that house!”

My kids often get excited to find Muslims anywhere we go, seeing that we are the minority here in the USA, so I expected to see a few fellow Muslims walking or hanging out when I turned.

Instead, what he was pointing at was a nativity set. It was made of plastic, brightly colored and all wired up to glow at night.

Aside from the wires and cheap plastic, he was right. They were Muslims!

Mary covered from head to toe, except for her face and hands, just like Muslim women have continued to dress to this day.

The men resemble modern day Muslims, with their manly beards and modest clothing.

Why are the men in the nativity dressed like men from some Middle Eastern culture? Oh, because Jesus was born in the Middle East, just like many of the prophets and messengers we know of!

Muslims on the lawn. Recognizable by a child.

How’s that for familiar?

Eleven Past Nine: 9/11 and Islam

The clock reads 9:11 and you remember that painful day. The day our innocent people were attacked and murdered within our own borders by a foreign entity. The terrible day that brought vulnerability most of us had previously never imagined, into the realm of stark reality.

I lived in Brooklyn at that time. When it happened, I was on the fifth floor, looking out over the water at the World Trade Center. I was wondering what had caused the huge fire in the first tower, then I watched in horror as the second plane slammed into the other.

Every time I stepped outside after that, I was forced to smell the stench of burning and death. It remained like that for months.

9/11 invoked the same anger, fear and emotions in me, that it did in most Americans. It also provoked me to learn more about American foreign policy and other things that impact our safety at home. I learned quite a bit I had not known before that day.

One of the things I went on to learn about in the following years, was Islam. I found that Islam does not encourage, in any terms, the killing or harm of non-combatants – even during legitimate war, in fact the killing of non-combatants, as well as women, children and the elderly is forbidden.

I learned that some people – both those who call themselves Muslims, as well as those diametrically opposed to Islam – use verses from the Quran and other sources of Islam out of context. They twist them to fit their own causes, in the most manipulative of ways.

Islam itself – the word “Islam” – connotes peace. Historically, Islam brought stability and peace to lands that implemented it correctly. Peace and security for both the Muslims as well as those who were not, living under the protection of Muslim rule.

To find out about war, fighting, manners and behaviors sanctioned and encouraged in Islam, we look to the life and example of the final Messenger, Muhammad. The Quran was not revealed in a vacuum and the actions of Muhammad give us further explanation and context:

After the prophet Muhammad announced his prophethood which was bestowed on him at the age of forty, he and his followers were tortured for years and many were killed. They were persecuted, because they believed there is nothing worthy of worship except the One God who created everything. They suffered injustice and oppression to the extent that they had to flee their homes in Mecca and became refugees.

Years later, when the prophet Muhammad and his followers had gained the upper hand and had garnered power and momentum, they were able to return to the city of Mecca – this time as conquerors.

Did Muhammad slaughter and lay waste to the very people who had tortured him and who had driven the Muslims from their own homes?

Not at all.

The prophet Muhammad entered Mecca bowing his head down in humility before God. The Meccans, who had tortured and harmed him and the Muslims for so long, waited expectantly, knowing their now weak position.

His statement to them, was a verse from the Quran, a statement the prophet Joseph made to his brothers who had wronged him. He said:

“There shall be no blame upon you this day. God forgive you; He is the Most Merciful of the merciful.” (Quran Joseph 12:92)

He then said to them, “Go, you are free.”

This account is recorded in: Sunan Al-Kubra Al-Bayhaqi 17714, graded Sahih/Authentic.

let that sink in:

“Go, you are free.”

If Islam is meant to breed bloodthirsty, angry people, or people who are willing to blow up thousands of innocent people to make a statement, don’t you think this behavior would be evident in the example of the last prophet of Islam, Muhammad?

Don’t you think he would have been most savage or violent at the time when he entered Mecca as conqueror? Mecca – his homeland from which he had fled, due to the persecution of him and the Muslims? He had witnessed torture and the most vile of oppression at the hands of those people for over a decade, yet his victorious entrance was made in humility, with his head bowed.

He proclaimed forgiveness and freedom for his oppressors, not vengeance.

I urge you to read for yourself. Read the Quran (the whole thing) and read about the life of the prophet Muhammad from authentic sources. When you have completed the big picture, you will find that Islam is in fact, peace and that it’s final messenger, Muhammad was only extreme in two ways:

extremely merciful and extremely devoted to God.

There seem to be a lot of people out there committing evil in the name of Islam and there are still more people who like to propagate those incidents and spread them and exaggerate them. This is true to the extent that the public consciousness has begun to associate those abhorrent acts and behaviors with Islam, as if the two are one and the same.

The only way to combat this is with seeking knowledge and by suspending judgement about things we have no knowledge about.

Islam and acts of terror such as that on 9/11 do not go hand in hand as some would have you believe. The proof is in the facts, the texts and in that Islam continues to bring peace to the hearts of millions of people across the globe. One of those hearts, is mine.

Islam brings utmost beauty, peace, purpose, surety and contentment, previously never imagined, into the realm of reality.

A Day In The Life

It’s late Sunday night. My whole family is asleep, even my husband. He’d been up since the dawn prayer.

Not me; I was so tired this morning, I fell right back asleep after we prayed

together

before the sun peeked over the horizon.

Then I woke up to my children climbing over my back. I heard the tick, ticking of my husband’s fingers typing away at the desk near the windows.

The morning light poured into our home.

My youngest, just two, was near my head whining:

mooooommmmaaaaaa, mommmmaaaaa, I want milkeeeeeeeee…

My husband rubbed my sore back so I could get up and start the day.

It’s Sunday, so no rush…

So I ran to the grocery store, our littlest in tow. She loves to drive the car affixed to the shopping cart, as I whiz through the aisles.

I love going shopping without all five of my children with me.

As I cooked breakfast, I listened to the Quran.

We had bagels and scrambled eggs. I got an extra large coffee to make up for not having any yesterday.

I had several meetings with my business partner, who is also my husband. We have a lot of work to do.

My oldest daughter was so excited that her friend was coming over today, until we got the unpleasant news of cancellation. The rest of her day was spent fighting back tears of disappointment. She’s eight years old.

I have a bunch of plants I haven’t been able to finish planting in our garden. I attempted it today but decided to take a few nature photos first and before I had a chance, I was graced with a visit from my neighbor, who I haven’t chatted with in some time.

Meanwhile my two oldest children were working out how to assemble some drawers for a closet system we are installing in the master bedroom. They did a pretty great job considering I was busy talking most of the time while they put them together.

When I went inside, I noticed a bucket filled with water near the kitchen sink with some Lily of the valley flowers in it. A torn note nearby said: for Mommy, from Ibrahim. That’s my son’s work, he’s so thoughtful like that.

I tried repeatedly to comfort my daughter who’s friend couldn’t come; while I made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, the food of choice for my son, fourth in line, who is almost four.

They devoured their sandwiches and ran outside to play. All but my oldest. Emotional.

While my husband and I held yet another discussion, my 5 year old daughter got a nasty cut on her toe. Several rounds of bandaids, peroxide, and hugs followed.

We break for prayer.

It turned out that my poor baby with the cut toe fell asleep before my lasagne was ready and kept on sleeping right up until bedtime, until now.

I remembered when I had fallen asleep so early as a child and how it didn’t affect anything. No matter, no responsibilities…..

So we sat down to dinner together minus one. As our five year old slept, our two year old entertained the rest of us. She talked at the top of her lungs in her deep-for-a-two-year-old voice, about birds and balls and all sorts of baby talk that had the other three children in uproarious laughter. My oldest momentarily forgot her boredom as she enjoyed her sister’s antics.

Normally neither my husband nor I would tolerate such ill manners at the table, but tonight it was sweet and we just smiled and watched them. Their beautiful, innocent faces giggling and bright.

There was an amazing accomplishment at dinner. Zak, the PB&J eater, was coaxed by his older brother into eating a copious amount of green beans. Believe me, that is worth writing down.

After everything was all cleaned up (well, almost) and the kids were all changed and teeth were brushed, I sat down at my desk and did some more work (the kind I love to do) and now here I am, recapping an average day for you.

Being Muslim doesn’t make my life strange, or my days much different, but it does add a few things:

Five times today my husband and I (and some kids here and there) stopped everything and stood to pray, trying our best to clear our minds of all of life’s clutter and to focus on the source of life; One greater than all the world and it’s trappings.

Reorienting ourselves, remembering what it’s all about, and how temporary it all really is.

We took the time to be close to our Creator, in gratitude and in need. In need of His guidance, His help. Humbling ourselves before Him with our foreheads on the floor.

In between the prayers I got angry at my daughter, who was crying and crying and complaining of boredom, but I remembered how the prophet Muhammad said, “Don’t get angry.” and he taught us how to minimize it.

I’m not always good at that, so when I lost my patience and yelled at my kids for not cleaning up, though I had asked several times – I thought about how they have been entrusted to me by the Owner of everything;

They are not mine, but His – and my responsibility is to treat them with care –

so I asked for His forgiveness.

When my son was talking about another boy in his class, who he thinks has really great behavior (something my son struggles with) I encouraged him to say a prayer for him, that his friend would be increased in goodness and granted success. I reminded him, that the prophet Muhammad said that when we say a prayer for someone else, an angel makes that very prayer for us. Encouraging him to wish good for others, so that it could also increase the good he receives.

When I kiss my kids good night, I remind them to sleep with remembrance of their Maker.

I wish them peace as I turn off the lights.

I’m tired now. My husband has just reminded me about how tired I was this morning. I should go to bed.

As I do, I will remember God and I will remember death. I’ll ask Him to help me be better tomorrow, to get up on time to stand in prayer,

before the sun peeks over the horizon.

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Muslim Man Gives Needy Bus Rider The Shoes Off His Feet

“Muslim Man Gives Needy Bus Rider The Shoes Off His Feet And Walks Home Barefoot — Because There Is Good In The World”

This is the title of an article on the Huffington Post that recently has stirred up quite a frenzy of comments.

Some commentators were moved by the article such that it restored their faith in the goodness of humanity, while others were filled with anger and slung hateful accusations.

The good reactions were because a man gave up his shoes, in kindness.

The hate and anger? Because he was a Muslim.

When I read the article I understand the man’s actions and that his choice to give someone his shoes and walk home barefoot was due to his Islam.

The Quran and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad readily encourage doing good deeds. We are encouraged to help the needy and downtrodden, to plant vegetation that could provide food for people and animals, to smile and be kind to others, to remove obstacles that could cause harm from the roads*…

Now, that’s not to say someone who is not Muslim would not do the same exact benevolent act. Of course, people from all faiths and with no faith, do good deeds.

Most of the commentators who were offended by the article objected that it was mentioned that this man was Muslim. Some even displayed their own good deeds as proof that you don’t need Islam, or even religion to be kind and care for humanity.

To a Muslim though, I would argue that it’s obvious why his religion was mentioned.

First, and this may be the reason behind the Huffington post’s choice, is because it is true that when a Muslim does an atrocious act, the religion is always mentioned (even though the act is most often unrelated).

If a Christian bombs an abortion clinic, or the World Trade tower, his religion is not overtly mentioned, yet if Muslims do it, (even if they were partaking in prostitutes and alcohol the night before, as was reported about the 9/11 hijackers** – something so far removed from Islam that the Prophet muhammad said that while a Muslim engages in an adulterous act, they are not a believer, and their faith does not return to them unless they repent***)

It is always made known that the perpetrators were Muslim.

I wonder if articles about Muslims doing terrible things ever get so many complaints about the fact their religion was mentioned. I don’t think it happens to the degree it happened here, if at all.

And that’s really not fair, because giving up one’s shoes for a needy person who has none, is directly related to and highly encouraged in Islam, while killing innocent people is strictly forbidden, even during war****.

Let me reiterate: killing civilians- noncombatants- women, children, the elderly, is forbidden to those who believe in Islam, even during war declared between two valid states.

So why is it okay to relate murder and violence with Islam, but not acts of kindness?

Because to a large degree the public mind has begun to relate atrocity, violence, hate and uncivilized behavior with Islam.

For people like me, this is deeply disconcerting. We truly have an uphill struggle when it comes to explaining the truth about Islam when so many people already think they know based on media misrepresentation.

A large portion of comments on this article disregarded the man’s kind act in giving away his own shoes, walking home barefoot in the rain and joked that there must have been bombs in them…. really?

I was so happy to see this article. It’s a relief, a breath of fresh air for those of us who know what Islam really is.

This is the first time that I have seen it actually represented correctly in the media.

You can read the Huffington post article below. I am interested in your thoughts about it as well as the comments.

Below that you’ll find a link discussing the very un-Islamic behavior of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, followed by an article outlining some of the rules of war in Islam. You’ll find that the rules are much more strictly merciful than probably any military that exists today, including our own.

 

Read the article here:

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5193093?ncid=fcbklnkushpmg00000063

 

*Abu Hurayrah narrated that the Prophet said: “Iman (faith) has more than 70 branches. The most excellent among these branches is the saying of “Laa ilaaha ill Allah” (there is no God but The One God), and the smallest branch is to remove an obstacle from the road. And Haya (modesty) is an important branch of Iman.” (Sahih Muslim)

Charity/smiling is charity: http://www.islamawareness.net/Hadith/htopic_charity.html

**9/11 hijackers: http://www.911myths.com/index.php/Atta,_alcohol,_strip_clubs_and_drugs

***Hadith – Sahih Bukhari 8.800B, Narrated Ikrima from Ibn Abbas

God’s Apostle Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him said, “When a slave (of God) commits illegal sexual intercourse, he is not a believer at the time of committing it; and if he steals, he is not a believer at the time of stealing; and if he takes intoxicants, he is not a believer at the time of taking it; and he is not a believer when he commits a murder.”‘Ikrima said: I asked Ibn Abbas, “How is faith taken away from him?” He said, Like this,” by clasping his hands and then separating them, and added, “But if he repents, faith returns to him like this,” by clasping his hands again.

**** Military jurisprudence in Islam:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_military_jurisprudence

American Girl to American Muslim: Before and After

I was always a carefree American girl.

I have always lived a comfortable life, had a loving family…

My parents gave me a nice combination of support and independence. I always knew they’d be there for me, yet they let me explore, push my boundaries and even make mistakes.

I have three amazing, good natured sisters; lived in comfortable homes on perfect streets. I was given every opportunity.

I was always fortunate.

Choosing Islam has only improved the quality of my life.

So my before was great and my after is even better!

I’m now happier, more satisfied and grounded than I was and more than I believe I could have ever been without Islam.

I chose Islam and it enriched my life. It gave me answers and solutions. Remedies, skills and preparedness. It has given me clarity, purpose, discipline and goodness.

I’ve learned how to be a better human being, to have patience, to be a good wife and mother; to be a better daughter and neighbor.

Islam has even confirmed and solidified much of what I was raised upon. In fact, there were lessons and values I was taught as a child such as:

“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”

– Mom (and Bambi)

which I didn’t exactly follow…

but I earnestly try to now; because of Islam.

The prophet Muhammad said,

“Whoever believes in God and the Last Day should speak a good word or remain silent.”   (Bukhari, Muslim)

So that is what I strive to do.

Being kind to others and not being selfish are values most people appreciate, teach and try to embody; but when I look back on instances of my past, I realize that before Islam, I was sorely lacking.

One example of this which I can’t get out of my mind, occured during my early college years.  I was impatient with my grandmother who had come to see my school one day.

I was very athletic and fast and always in a rush. She however, needed time to climb the stairs and it was hard for her, but I didn’t stop to lovingly help her – I rushed on, rolling my eyes, annoyed at her pace.

That will forever be a regret I will carry.

I know that if the same scenario were to happen today, nothing would be more important to me than showing kindness and compassion for my elderly grandmother. That is because of the deep understanding I now have, knowing the weight of our deeds and that God is pleased with kindness and mercy.

The Quran and the prophet Muhammad emphasize kindness to parents and the elderly:

“Your Lord has commanded that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to your parents. If one or both of them reach old age with you, do not say to them a word of disrespect, or scold them, but say a generous word to them. And act humbly to them in mercy, and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy on them, since they cared for me when I was small.” (Quran 17: 23-24)

This applies to grandparents as well.

The Prophet said,

“He is not of us who does not have mercy on young children, nor honor the elderly.” (Al-Tirmidhi)

This story of my grandmother is just one example of how Islam can change a person for the better, as it did with me. The areas in life where you can improve, it gives you the tools to improve them.

More importantly, it gives you the will and desire to change.

It gives deep seated motivation to be the best you can be, not only in how you deal with people, animals and the environment – but preceding that and superseding that in importance, is the motivation to give God His right over us and to truly live to serve and please Him and Him alone.

To do that, we need to know what His rights are; what is pleasing and displeasing to Him. In Islam, we believe He gave humanity that guidance, a recipe for our success.

We fear His displeasure and hope for His reward and acceptance. Our love for Him should guide our every action.

This gives us an eternal source of inspiration.

Another beautiful thing about this, is that there is always someone who will appreciate the good you do, even the good you intend to do. So you never have to boast about it, or be dissapointed if no one recognizes your efforts.

In Islam, we are taught that God is closer to us than our own jugular vein; that He knows our thoughts and that which is in our hearts. He is appreciative of every effort and every good intention. He does not let any good go to waste.

When we fail and turn to Him, He always hears us, knows our sorrow, our regret.

We are taught in the Quran that God is the most Merciful, The Most Forgiving, The Most Loving, The All-Knowing, All-Mighty and Extremely Fair, the Most Just.

So there is no despair, no grief, for the one who understands God and has certainty about who He is.

What this also means, is that success and satisfaction are not limited to people who have had easy lives, who grew up in luxury and love.

Anyone from anywhere and with any history can achieve and excel.

I presented my story so that you can know I am not climbing out of difficulty to Islam, I lived in ease and comfort my whole life. Yet, Islam improved my life and made it that much better and more rich. But whatever a person’s background, Islam promises peace, support and a kind of contentedness you can’t find anywhere else.

I’m not perfect and I never will be, but now that I have Islam, I know the path to take, to be the best me I can be.  🙂

Common Ground

This is a message especially for Jews and Christians.

There is a line in the Quran that Muslims have been instructed to share with you. It is simple and clears up so much confusion, misunderstanding and provides common ground. I think it can help us be better neighbors:

“We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you. Our God and your God is one (the same); and it is to Him we submit.” (29:46)

All of us: Jews, Christians and Muslims, can agree we believe in The Creator.

Similarly, we can agree that we believe in and revere the prophet Abraham (Among many others in fact).

“Abraham was neither a Jew nor a Christian, but he was one inclining toward truth, a Muslim [submitting to God]. And he was not of the polytheists.”(3:67)

He worshipped only the Creator, ascribing no partners to Him. The example of Abraham is mentioned often throughout the Quran. His way of life was submission to the Most Merciful. That’s Islam.

This is food for thought.

Muslims believe in all the prophets including Moses and Jesus. Where do our differences lie? Has God not provided a consistent message from the beginning of humankind’s sojourn on Earth? Shouldn’t all of us be striving to emulate Abraham?

The Quran says:

“The Messenger (Referring to Muhammad) has believed in what was revealed to him from his Lord, and [so have] the believers. All of them have believed in God and His angels and His books (including the original Torah and Gospel) and His messengers, [saying], ‘We make no distinction between any of His messengers.’ And they say, ‘We hear and we obey. [We seek] Your forgiveness, our Lord, and to You is the [final] destination.'”(2:286)

The way I see it, there is no reason to fight or to hate.

So when you see a Muslim, remember, they worship the same God as you. The one who created all of us. They believe in your prophet, be he Moses or Jesus. They Believe in Abraham, Noah and Adam.

 

I welcome your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

They’re speaking Muslim!

One reason Islam might seem unfamiliar is due to the preference and tendency of Muslims to use Arabic words and phrases- even amidst an otherwise English conversation.

If you were standing in line near me at the grocery store let’s say, and my cell phone rang, you’d probably hear me answer it and say, “assalamu alaykum! How are you?”

When my friend asks me how I’m doing, I’ll probably answer, “alhumdu lillah! I’m fine!”

Then I might let them know I’m busy and say, “I’ll call you back, insha Allah.”

So why does someone like me, who only speaks English need to mix Arabic and English when I speak?

Good Question.

Well, I don’t have to and I’m not trying to alienate you. There are reasons I choose to, though.

If I am speaking to a person who is not Muslim I will most often either translate those very same phrases or I leave them out altogether. (I still say them in my mind though!)

Some things just sound weird in English to me. I love the meanings of them, but that’s because I understand those meanings through the perspective given in the teachings of Islam.

Imagine if every time I met you, I was like, “peace be upon you.” or “May peace be upon you, and the mercy and blessings of God.”

It’s not a part of our social culture, therefore it is strange to our ears.

The only familiarity American Christians might have with this greeting is from church, when the priest says to the congregation, at a ritual aspect of his sermon,  “Peace be with you” and the people respond in unison, “and also with you”.

The meaning is lovely if you think about it, but when when I had to say it in church, it felt unnatural for me. Many other sayings and actions especially of the priests and clergy just didn’t resonate with me and felt strange at the time. It made me feel uncomfortable. I think it was really because those concepts were so divorced from the speech and meanings of everyday life.

We weren’t taught much about the practicality of religion and the origins of such phrases; causing them to feel alien and artificial – it was never common practice to greet one another in that way.

In Islam, everything we do has a clear reason and/or proof behind it. So we know exactly why we say “peace be upon you” when we meet one another, we also can learn the in-depth precise meaning of the word “peace” which is “salam” in arabic.

The meanings of “salam” and “peace” can actually have slight differences. Arabic words tend to be rich with meaning, so when I say “salam” that is more clear and accurate as opposed to saying peace. Make sense?

So, for example, this particular greeting, “peace be upon you” is actually as old as humanity. There’s a good reason priests say it in their sermons, and you’ll find orthodox Jews and the Jews who live in Israel all greet one another saying “shalom” which means salam, which means of course, peace.

It was the greeting taught to Adam as soon as he was given life and it has remained a part of God’s guidance ever since then. For most (Non-Muslim) English speakers it has been lost and we are no longer familiar with it, outside of church.

The meaning is extraordinarily beautiful and it needs to really be said and practiced with sincerity in order to be fully appreciated. When you meet someone or address someone with “peace be upon you”, you are beginning by saying a prayer for them and their general wellbeing. You are also indicating and reminding yourself that your dealings with that person are peaceful and that you wish good for them, not harm.

How you proceed after that should be in line with that intention, if you are conscious of what you have said and you meant it.

It’s lovely; anyone who believes in God might appreciate a prayer like that being made for them as a greeting, but functionally, in English at least, it is awkward. That’s why I say it in Arabic to my Muslim friends and that’s why I don’t even say it when I’m not speaking to a Muslim person.

So let’s take another example, the word God. In a previous post I explained the meaning of the word “Allah” and that it is interchangeable- to a degree- with the word “God”.

But god is different in that it can be changed to be plural: gods.

It can refer to something entirely other than the Creator of all that exists: “He made wealth his god.”

There is no scripture stating that God’s name is… God.

So it doesn’t feel right to me. The meaning is there; enough to use the word God to serve a purpose of communication, but if I am speaking to another Muslim, of course I will choose to use the name Allah.

Linguistically, you can’t say “He made wealth his Allah.” You would say instead, “He made wealth his ilah.”

Ilah (ee-lah) is something worshipped, very similar in meaning to the word god.

God (Allah) chose Arabic for His final revelation to mankind. Once you get a little familiar with Arabic, it becomes clear why. It’s extraordinarily expressive and rich with meaning, and in spite of what one might think, it’s actually very easy to learn.

In Islam, there is a big focus on remembering God. We have things to say and do all throughout every day to keep our Maker and our purpose in our minds at all times. 

We have been instructed in the Quran, for example, never to say we will do something in the future, except if we add to it, “insha Allah“. (Quran 18:24)

Insha Allah means: if God wills, or God willing. That’s a phrase many people still use today, especially practicing Jews. So unless I am speaking to a Muslim person, I will say “God willing.”

But if you and I are talking and I say, “I am traveling tomorrow, God willing.” Is it immediately clear to you what I mean by that?

Finally, I will explain one final saying that I mentioned in the beginning of this post because it is very common: alhumdulillah (al-hum-do-leel-lah)

Now if I were to translate this into english it’s not even really possible with a couple of words. When we say alhumdu lillah, we are praising God, ascribing perfection to Him, and indicating that He is most worthy and deserving of praise and gratitude. Not only that, but also that He is The Owner of praise and perfection.

So imagine if you ask me how I am doing, and I say, “I am well, All thanks and praise are due to God and He is most deserving of it. The perfect, The Owner of praise.”

I think in our culture, in our English language, it seems a bit much. I don’t expect anyone who’s not a Muslim to get it.

So that’s why we use Arabic.  I hope I haven’t bored you with lots of technical talk, but I do want to open doors of understanding.

If you keep this in mind, at least you may not feel so uncomfortable if you happen to be on line in the grocery store, next to a Muslim who gets a phone call.

Ask Away!

A new neighbor is moving in. You bake a lovely pie and head over to meet and welcome them to your neighborhood.

Does anybody still do that?

Anyway, you ring the bell and to your surprise, the man who opens the door has a big beard and the woman is covered up from head to toe…

They’re Muslims!

You’re going to be living with them from now on. What’s your reaction?

What are some things you’d like to know about them?

If you could ask them any and every question -freely- what would you ask?

I am Your Muslim Neighbor. I’m here for you. Post your questions and I will do my best to address your curiosity and concerns to the best of my ability.

Don’t be shy. I want to know what’s on your mind.

Understanding is a key to living in harmony and peace.