Category Archives: what it’s like being Muslim

My Husband’s Standard for the Treatment of Women

The owner of the company was a man, maybe in his fifties; white hair, but still youthful. He came over to give us an estimate for some work we need done. He seemed nice enough. He smiled, greeted our children, and appeared to have our best interests in mind.

While we were walking him through the job, his cell phone began ringing.

“Probably my wife.” He said, slightly shaking his head as he silenced the phone.

Within several minutes the phone rang twice more. We assured him we didn’t mind if he answered the call.

“Hello? I’m still on a job estimate.” He paused and listened.

His lips tightened and his voice hardened. “I told you, they’re in the back.” he said, somewhat exasperated.

He wrapped up the call. To me, he had not done anything out of the ordinary. He completed the rest of the estimate kindly and left.

But, as I would learn later, my husband was disturbed by what he witnessed.

In fact, my husband chose another company, in spite of getting the lowest estimate from this man, simply because he didn’t like the way he had spoken to his wife.

My husband grew up in a Muslim family. When he reached college, his interest in Islam and religions intensified. He began studying Islam as well as Christianity and comparative religion. After completing his bachelor’s, he travelled overseas to study Islam and the Arabic language. While away, he benefitted from many scholars of Islam. Upon returning, he has been dedicated to teaching Islam to Muslims, founding several institutions to that end.

His days and nights are usually spent studying, teaching or working for Islam.

He’s also gentle and even tempered.

I often insist on asking him, “Are you mad?” and he always responds, “Do I ever get mad?”

The truth is, my husband implements the teachings of Islam and follows the prophet Muhammad who was asked repeatedly by a man for advice and responded each time simply, “Do not get angry.” (Narrated in Sahih Bukhari)

This is the power of Islam, to overcome even strong emotions such as anger. In fact, as indicated in the advice of the prophet Muhammad above, Islam has the power to prevent those emotions from boiling up in the first place. When it is the guidance for everyday life, the results are beautiful.

I’m so fortunate and grateful to have a companion who is concerned with living in a way pleasing to his Maker, and that my Creator has guided His creation to “Be kind to women.” as explained and emphasised by His last messenger, Muhammad.

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Father’s Day: The Elephant in the Room

It’s always awkward for me when holidays like Father’s Day roll around.

A special day to celebrate our fathers and let them know how much we care? Sheesh! In Islam, we’re supposed to do that every day!

But…  I don’t. Not adequately at least. In fact, by the standard of Islam, I should be doing a lot more for both my parents.

So, when Father’s Day comes, it’s like an elephant in the room for me.

I want to avoid making something of it because we just don’t participate in extra ritualized “holy” days. At the same time, that huge elephant is crowding my space, reminding me that I don’t show my appreciation for my Dad enough. I suddenly feel so small, so pathetic – and I want to call, but at the same time I want to ignore it. I should have called yesterday, or the day before!  So I put it off and put it off, rehearsing my words each time, until, it becomes late in the evening. I’ll call tomorrow. Rationalizing my hesitation to myself.

So here I am, a day late, or 364 days early depending how you look at it.

The truth is, Islam affords parents very high status. Treating them right, showing them gratitude and mercy is a fundamental part of showing gratefulness to God. In the Quran this is emphasized to the extent that kindness to parents is put directly following the most important pillar of Islam, worshipping God:

“Your Lord has decreed that you worship none but Him, and that you be kind to parents. Whether one or both of them attain old age in your life, say not to them a word of contempt, nor repel them, but address them graciously.” (Quran 17:23)

If nothing else, Father’s day and Mother’s day serve to show me the glaring deficiency in my treatment of my parents. The fact that I know they will feel neglected by me that day only highlights the neglect on every other day, because in fact, every day should serve to honor them, and every day they should feel my love, my appreciation for them – whether by presence, words, actions, or some small token.

These holidays are probably like elephants in the room for my family as well; my absence must be painfully obvious. A heightened awareness of my silence or apparent lack of appreciation may linger in the backs of their minds, unspoken, all day.

The only way to overcome this would be: to be the kind of daughter I should be, the kind God has instructed me to be, on a daily, or at least regular basis, such that when holidays roll around, my family will still know how much they are loved and appreciated – whether I’m there to party with them or not. Even if I happen not to call that day.

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:

I’m Dying

It’s definite, confirmed.

I’m Dying.

The most sure, undeniable thing about my life, is that I am going to experience death.

I just don’t know when.

It could be today, in a week… anytime really.

My hands will no longer touch the skin of my children, their hair.

My eyes will cease to gaze at the breathtaking sky and my shoulders will no more feel the pleasure of embrace.

My life is only a road leading to that destination.

That inevitable moment where my body will become just an empty vessel that will be consumed by the earth.

Before my Islam, this realization was difficult to endure.

I realized I could leave my home to go somewhere and never arrive, or never return; that I could begin crossing the street and be smashed by a car; that virtually at any moment- my life could simply end… and that’s true for all of us.

The fragility of life begs many questions doesn’t it?

Do you ever wonder; Why?

I am a Mother. My husband and I have five adorable and sweet, little children.

I watch my youngest daughter, who is two, bouncing around the house, her cheeks like plump pillows or balloons when she smiles and laughs. So adorable, so precious,

But she too will have to die… my baby.

Doesn’t that make you think?

Think of your favorite actor or actress… or the most beautiful model you admire – they seem so eternal in their pictures, in their roles…

But they too are only traveling towards their deaths.

Doesn’t that bother you?

Of course it does, it should.

When we realize that life is temporary it necessitates that we search for it’s meaning,

Not ignore it!

I’m not saying we should find meaning in our lives, like, “My purpose in life is to help others.” or, “my purpose in life is to make art.”

But the actual reason we are here; that we have been given life.

Often instead, we treat it like a freak accident when someone dies. We search for diets and health regimens as if they will protect us from life’s end –

But they won’t.

We say goodbye to our friends and coworkers as if we will definitely see them tomorrow.

We look at our treasured children and forget that their lives are finite.

We should be preparing them not just for college and marriage – but for true success and we can only do that if we are preparing ourselves.

We can only do that if we have sure knowledge and clear guidance.

How could you be here on earth, where there is illness and loss and earthquakes and fighting and death and birth and happiness and beauty and pain and uncertainty and pleasure and time…

Yet, your greatest purpose is to have fun and enjoy it?

Or to love and be kind?

How is loving people or being kind to people who are also going to die, an integral purpose?

The fact that these things are not completely satisfying should propel us further – one shouldn’t rest, until they are sure they’ve found the truth.

That’s right: truth.

Not blind faith, or something that makes you feel better.

Truth.

And there cannot be multiple truths about our existence.

Only one.

Then, upon finding the truth one must pursue knowledge and practice of it – that is by necessity.

Life is not a mystery left for us to wonder about for it’s extent.

Isn’t that good news?

It’s good news.

If you are someone who is truly seeking the truth and you are fully willing to submit to it once you discover it, then ask the One who created you for help, and He will surely guide you to it.

That is a fact.

I know why I am here. I know why we are here, how we got here and where we are going. I only know this because the One who created all of it provided us that information.

I don’t ignore death or try to forget about it. I remember it often  – the destroyer of life’s pleasures.

It’s not to be macabre or morbid, but as motivation to do good and avoid being lazy.

Because that is how we keep from being distracted by life from our true purpose.  So we don’t get lost in pleasure and family and tasks and responsibilities. Or even sadness, depression or anxiety. 

Death is not the calamity, but the hardening of our hearts and the denial of the One who gave us life, that is the real misfortune.

So we remember life is short and can end at any moment, thus we better use it wisely and stay focussed on the goal – our ultimate reality.

My fear of death itself is replaced with concern for the manner in which I return to my Maker. Will I be one with whom, He is pleased? Or will I die wronging myself and denying Him?

I can’t avert my death, but I can strive to return to my Lord in a good state – fulfilling the purpose for which I was created.

I can strive for the real life, that isn’t fraught with difficulty and displeasure, but filled with peace.

So while I am closer to my death with every breath I take, I try to also be closer to the One who owns everything, is of extreme Mercy and Who can grant me eternal life.

After I die.

And We did not create the heaven and earth and that between them in play.(Quran 21:16)

Then did you think that We created you uselessly and that to Us you would not be returned?” (Quran 23:115)

Do you not see that (The One God) has made subject to you whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth and amply bestowed upon you His favors, [both] apparent and unapparent? But of the people is he who disputes about (God) without knowledge or guidance or an enlightening Book [from Him].
And when it is said to them, “Follow what (God) has revealed,” they say, “Rather, we will follow that upon which we found our fathers.” Even if Satan was inviting them to the punishment of the Blaze?
And whoever submits his face to (God) while he is a doer of good – then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold. And to (God) will be the outcome of [all] matters.
And whoever has disbelieved – let not his disbelief grieve you. To Us is their return, and We will inform them of what they did. Indeed, (God) is Knowing of that within the breasts.”
(Quran 31:20-23)

Unlocked

Islam is liberation.

Freedom.

Every person has the ability to be free through Islam if they choose.

Even if they are poor.
Even if they are oppressed.
Even if they are physically in chains-

In the bowels of a torturous prison.

Because Islam straddles every rift;

It’s able to encompass every one and every thing.

It’s kind of like this:

Think of a type of success; say, via business.

You want to be successful-

Rather, you need a successful form of sustenance.

So you decide to start a business.

But you don’t know what kind of business will be successful; how to start one, how to run it.

You know nothing about being an entrepreneur.

If you have to go through the process all alone and figure out every detail from knowing absolutely nothing,

it will surely be a struggle.

If your success and wellbeing depend entirely on running that business flawlessly, the process will no doubt be stressful.

Your lack of knowledge is a burden.

Let’s say you are receiving conflicting information about the correct way to run a business. It will be hard to decide which advice will be more beneficial. You may fail many times over.

You struggle everyday.

And then suddenly an experienced and highly successful business person comes along. They provide everything you need to make your business more than you even imagined it could be.

They give you the money, the knowhow, the contacts. They educate you on what to do every step of the way. They are entirely at your disposal.

Can you imagine the burden lifted? The relief?

That’s how Islam works.

The tools to surmount every obstacle are provided for you. Handed to you.

For free.

So naturally: implementing it is freeing.

The burden of not knowing is lifted.

Guidance is provided at every step.

You see and feel the results.

And it all has to do with the self, or the soul.

So, that self can adapt to be in the best state relative to its particular situation.

Contrary to what you might think, even wealth and comfort are tests in this life.

So someone seemingly living an easy life is also in need of guidance on how to reach true success.

Pitfalls exist in every situation. We need knowledge to avoid them.

Opportunities for benefit exist in every situation. We need knowledge to recognize them.

To be successful in the life we all have been given, we need knowledge from the One who gave life to us.

Naturally.

When you have that knowledge, it liberates you from the shackles of ignorance and the burdens of incorrect advice.

It’s like driving on a smoothly paved, straight road as opposed to an uneven ground covered in stones and obstacles.

Wouldn’t you feel free once you get off the rocky terrain onto that smooth road?

Woohoo! That’s the free life.

And I think whatever way someone might follow, the satisfaction can never compare to the complete satisfaction of living the way you are intended to live: Driving on that straight, clean road.

According to the guidance given by the manufacturer. Your manufacturer.

So one might ask how do we know which is the right set of instructions?

If you really want to know, it just takes a little dedication.

Truth stands out amongst falsehood.

If you want it, really want it, it will be shown to you. Given to you.

Handed to you with utmost Mercy.

That smooth road you were hoping for.
Comfort.
Peace.

Then if you choose it and put effort into following it:

Success.

Freedom.

“Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful.” (7:157)

“Falsehood shall not come to it from before it nor from behind it; it is a revelation from the Most Wise, the Worthy of Praise.” (41:42)