Tag Archives: American Muslim

No Matter What They Say

 

Was the murderer – who brutally killed 84 people, injuring hundreds more in Nice, France, a practicing Muslim? Or, was he, as reports indicate, a depressed, lonely man with mental health problems, a propensity for using drugs and alcohol, and a criminal history – the very antithesis of a practicing Muslim? The answers to these questions don’t seem to matter to everyone. Several politicians, TV personalities and pundits, set out to form public sentiment surrounding the attack within the very first hours after it occurred. Before any details were available, the branding of this attack as a radical “Islamic” terror attack had already begun.

I heard the terms “Islamic terrorism” and “radical Islamic terrorism” repeated over and over again. I heard people insist that these attacks won’t stop until we “call it what it really is” and dutifully attach the word “Islam” to every single terror instigating crime we witness. High profile people such as Donald Trump, Newt Gingrich– and a slew of far right-wing politicians and networks framed this attack as a sign of a clash of civilizations – clear as day – a war between Islam and the west. Gingrich went so far as to say, “Western civilization is in a war. We should frankly test every person here who is of Muslim background and if they believe in sharia, they should be deported. Sharia is incompatible with Western civilization.”

I believe in Shariah, which is the same thing as believing in Islam.

Do they know that being kind to your family is part of the Shariah, along with prayer, charity, being honest, oh – and don’t forget – obeying the laws of the land in which we live? Do they care? For American Muslims, being good citizens is literally mandated by the Shariah. I don’t know where Mr Gingrich would like to send me. My great grandparents were born here in the USA. There are American Muslims whose ancestry dates way further back in America than mine – some can trace back centuries, some all the way to the Mayflower, and some American Muslims trace their heritage straight back to the Native Americans. If the Native Americans who are now Muslims could be deported back in time… that would be interesting, because there’d be no sign of Gingrich’s ancestors or Trump’s on American soil.

Imagine, all this vitriol, all this certainty, all this “educating” went on before any information whatsoever, aside from the rising death toll, had been uncovered. Clearly, this notion of testing and deporting Muslims isn’t tenable – but what all these hateful statements did, was perpetuate the notion that Muslims are foreign – period. This divisive view of our world – us vs. them; paints a black and white, and very frightening picture for vulnerable Americans. The more people see a polarized world, the more they feel obliged and compelled to take a side.

They are training us to instinctively see all horrific incidents as being tied to Islam. Whether they really are or not is beside the point. This helps to advance the positions and agendas of powerful politicians and corporations – but tears our society apart, and that does matter.

SMH and Complain?

I can get upset and shake my finger at this irresponsible use of fame and ability to reach millions of people’s brains. I can fight every troll on the Internet and argue about just how anti-Islam these crimes really are. Yes, the facts prove the islamophobes and everyone else trying to force a war down our throats, utterly wrong – but the truth alone cannot alter the toxic atmosphere being systematically created. So what’s a Muslim to do?

The Heat is On

One of the effects of being constantly suspect is that the one under suspicion begins to feel guilty – even if he or she is totally innocent. Dalia Mogahed explained how she felt after 9/11 saying,  “Not only had my country been attacked, but in a flash, somebody else’s actions had turned me from a citizen to a suspect… for the first time in my life, [I was] afraid for anyone to know I was a Muslim.”

This is reinforced by a few, very loud voices claiming that we are all suspect. After the Nice attacks, Kelvin Mackenzie, a columnist from the UK’s Sun newspaper wrote a controversial column questioning why a “young woman wearing a hijab” had been allowed to report on the attack in Nice. He was appalled that the reporter, Fatima Manji was visibly Muslim. He asked. “Was it appropriate for her to be on camera when there had been yet another shocking slaughter by a Muslim?”

Avoiding the Herd Mentality

More than 1/3 of the dead, killed by the attacker in Nice, were Muslims. If it’s offensive for a Muslim to report the attack on television, is it also offensive for us to mourn our dead? We have to reject this idea and think critically: Is it wrong for white Christians to report news about attacks committed by white Christians? To suggest so is clearly, easily and immediately recognized as preposterous.

In the face of this monumental and growing problem, I refuse to allow others to determine how I feel about myself. We have to be the leaders of our own thoughts – to employ reasoning, and thoughtfully listen and consider the facts and points of view before settling on our position. The Quran differentiates between those who think rationally and those who are unthinking and sheep-like, following the rest without intelligent thought: “Or do you think that most of them hear or reason? They are not except like livestock. Rather, they are more astray in [their] way.” (Quran 25:44)

Fighting Doubts

The Prophet Muhammad said, “The people will see a time of patience in which someone adhering to his religion will be as if he were grasping a hot coal.” (Tirmidhi)

Yeah, Islam is kind of like a hot coal right now. This is certainly one of those times. In light of this terrorism epidemic and the mounting negative public opinion towards Islam and Muslims, some of us may feel like giving up. It’s exhausting constantly being under scrutiny, guilt-tripped, cursed at, ridiculed, and hated. Maybe this would all be easier if we just took our headscarves off, shaved our beards and changed our names to Moe.

The thing is, the solution is in the same statement – the crux of the issue, is that we Muslims adhere to our faith. By doing so, we will become better people, who manifest the best of character and manners, we will increase in patience and follow this guidance: “Repel [evil] by that which is better; and thereupon the one who between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend.” (Quran 41:34)

Why should I?

“Do you think that you will enter Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? … Yes! Certainly, the Help of God is near!” (Quran 2:214)

The truth is – according to Islam, all of this life is intended to be a test. If it weren’t this, it would be something else. So, as a Muslim, I remember the advice of Prophet Jacob to his sons, “Despair not of relief from God. Indeed, no one despairs of relief from God except the disbelieving people.” (Quran 12:87)

This is how we avoid despair and strive to become even better people. These difficulties can be good for us. They remind us to get back to the basics, to assess our lives, and reorient our priorities. We remember that we can’t achieve any success without the aid of the Owner of the heavens and the Earth. The answers lie in the Quran and in our prayers – in our Islam

So, I encourage my fellow Muslims to spend less time obsessing over the latest news and step away from the bickering and argumentation – To look into the eyes of our loved ones – To take a moment to step outdoors and observe the beauty of God’s signs in His creation – To help one another more, give back to our communities. And most of all, to spend more time with the Quran. Turn off the TV. Sign out of Facebook and Twitter. Open the Quran, read it and understand it.

“So be patient.  Indeed, the promise of God is truth. And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt with praise of your Lord in the evening and the morning.

Indeed, those who dispute concerning God’s signs without authority having come to them – there is not within their hearts except pride, [the extent of] which they cannot reach. So seek refuge in God. Indeed, it is He who is the Hearing, the Seeing.” (Quran 40:55-56)

 

In this book, I find solace, I find hope, I find peace. No matter what they say.

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If Islam is Hate, Why Are People Still Converting?

It’s an odd thing: Thousands, upon thousands of people around the world – around 20,000 every year in America alone, are choosing to become Muslims.

Muslims. You know, those people who’ve murdered scores of civilians – brutally and mercilessly?

Not only are alleged Muslims behind atrocities like 9/11 and the massacre in Paris, they claim their violence is inspired and sanctioned by Islam itself – don’t they?

The word Terrorism has come to be directly – instinctively – associated with Islam. Think about that word: Terror. What kind of people would desire to terrorize others? What kind of monsters slaughter indiscriminately men, women, and children-Children – the epitome of innocence?

Well, if you believe what you hear and see, in far too many media and “news” outlets, the answer would appear to be: the Muslim kind.

This begs the question: “What kind of people would convert to a religion that promotes carnage and chaos like this?” Naturally, one might imagine these converts must be people with sociopathic tendencies – self-hating psychopaths perhaps.

But that’s just not the case.

Who Converts to Islam?

From youthful, pre-pubescent teens, to sage elderly grandfathers and grandmothers such as Georgette Lepaulle of Belgium who converted at the age of 91 – Islam seems to be attracting all kinds of people – the vast, overwhelming majority of whom definitely don’t fit the description of terrorist.

Johannah Segarich, now a retired college Music professor, asked herself this question in the midst of the confusion after the 9/11 attacks: “What kind of religion is this that could inspire people to do this?”

Johannah had studied other religions, but hadn’t thought to learn about Islam. She decided to buy a copy of the Quran, wondering if her notions of Islam as a male-controlled and now apparently violent religion, would be confirmed.

She read the first chapter, “In the name of God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful…. All Praise is due to God, The Most Compassionate, Most Merciful. … You alone We worship, You alone we ask for help, Show us the straight way, the way of those who have earned your favor…” She finished the Quran a few weeks later, and then started reading it again. About half way through, barely 10 weeks after 9/11, “I came to the realization,” she said, “that I had a decision to make.”

She decided to convert to Islam.

A travel bug took Angela Collins Telles, a quintessential California girl, to Egypt and Syria. She made friends abroad, and found most people to be generous and kind. When anti-Muslim rhetoric flared after 9/11, She felt a need to do something.

“I saw my country demonizing these people as terrorists and oppressors of women, and I couldn’t think of anything further from the truth,” she said, “and I felt a need to stand-up and defend them. But then I realized that I couldn’t argue without knowledge.”

Realizing she had no basis upon which to defend the people she felt were being wrongly demonized, she began studying Islam. Regarding her findings she said: “The concept of God was the most beautiful thing, and that concept fit with what I believe,” She converted only a few months after 9/11. (Source)

For Caleb Carter, becoming a Muslim took years. Sept. 11, 2001, was a turning point — specifically his teacher’s hostile response to Islam that day.

“I was a junior in high school at the time, taking a class called Nonwestern World Studies,” said Carter, “For him, it was purely, ‘This is what Islam teaches. We shouldn’t be surprised.’ He played the whole ‘Islam equals terrorism card.’”

But Carter wasn’t buying his teacher’s opinions, nor was he “educated enough to judge it either way.” Studying Islam and other world religions became his mission, and he converted to Islam in 2006. (Source)

Davi Barker, a writer and artist from California, also converted in 2006. Barker lived in Saudi Arabia and the Maldives for a few years as a child and knew “Muslims in Muslim countries,” so he didn’t believe that the religion was to blame for the terrorist attacks. He said he “saw the propaganda campaign going on” against Islam, something that continues to this day.

Canadian Micheal Atwood, was raised to be a practicing Christian. He first heard about Islam on the anniversary of 9/11. He was not intrigued to learn about it right away, but he later found out that Muslims believe in Jesus while on a class trip to a museum.

In 7th grade he overheard his Muslim friends talking about the Quran, and decided he wanted a better understanding of the Bible. What he found when he began researching its authenticity and history, left him un-impressed.

Atwood became curious about the Quran and began reading its translation online. He said, “I couldn’t stop reading the Quran. It was beautiful.” He learned about the practices of Islam and felt Muslims follow Jesus even more than he had learned to as a Christian. Half way through 7th grade, he converted to Islam at only 12 years old. (Source)

The internet is chock full of the stories of people, young and old, from every corner of the Earth, and how they decided to convert to Islam. From high-power, successful business men and women, to bartenders; from the highly confident and blissfully happy, to the ones who felt lost, lonely or depressed; from the party guys and girls who just wanted to have fun, to studious intellectuals – Islam appears to attract people from every walk of life.

Indeed the Quran confirms that it is in fact a message for all mankind: {This (Quran) is direction and guidance for the whole world.} (Quran 38:87)

Why are conversions increasing with terrorist activity?

I encourage every reader to read and listen to the stories of the people who made this choice. 9/11 and other terrorist atrocities did not influence people to learn about Islam, because they like violence. Rather, they fall into several categories:

  1. Some of those whose conversion began with knowledge of a terrorist crime wanted to better understand how areligion could possibly be that evil. It’s an outrageous claim that isn’t easily swallowed by everyone. These people needed to find out for themselves. What they found not only defied their original suspicion; it spoke to them in the most beautiful way.
  2. Others, like me, wanted to expose Islam for the hoax we thought it really was – until we realized it wasn’t. Conversion for my kind is often difficult, because it requires the admission of having been utterly incorrect, and often becoming the person who would have previously been the butt of your own jokes.
  3. Then you have the ones who knew Muslims already. They knew they weren’t the bloodthirsty, deranged caricatures they appeared to be on TV. These people felt a strong sense of injustice and wrongful portrayal, slander of the innocent. In order to make their point though, they realized they needed to have knowledge for their stance to be credible.
  4. For other people, the apparent chaos and strife in our world makes them begin thinking about life, God and inevitably, religion. Their searching eventually leads them to Islam. Had it not been for the unfortunate and misguided crimes committed in the name of Islam, many people would have never thought at all about Islam.

I’ve noticed in my extensive research of Muslim converts, that just about every single one of them did extensive research which included reading the Quran, most often the entire Quran, sometimes several times over before coming to a decision. The people who convert to Islam, rather than exhibiting and increase in anger or bloodthirstiness, express that they have become kinder, gentler, more patient and caring people.

Being a Muslim in these times where Islam is so grossly misunderstood is not necessarily easy. We are wrongfully stereotyped and feared. But, the benefits each and every one of us has gained – God – an understanding of the true purpose of life and death, guidance – dwarf any of the challenges we face.

Originally Published at AboutIslam.net: http://aboutislam.net/reading-islam/understanding-islam/islam-hate-people-still-converting/

 

My Mother My Treasure

When I was innocent and new, she cradled me in her arms. As if time had stopped, we rocked slowly, her voice so close I could feel the warmth of her breath.

I can still hear her softly singing: “I love how your arms feel, whenever you hold me.”

A song of romance appropriated for the special love of a mother for her child.

I reveled in the scent of summer bed sheets, listening to cricket’s lullaby while she soothingly stroked my back. She woke me up gently. So lovingly that I knew in my sleep that she deserved a smile, and I woke up smiling, at her.

On summer mornings, she was already downstairs; a cooler packed with fruit, sandwiches and lemonade. Ready for a day at the beach. She watched as we swam and built sandcastle memories of endless summertime days.

Her days, hours, and sleep were ransomed in exchange for our smiles. Like a fountain, she gave and gave. She made me feel special. She made all of us feel special.

Then before we realized what was going on, I was swept away. Whisked away by friends and fashion and a greed for independence. It was adolescence, tainted by selfish pursuits. But, she was still there – my mother, believing in me, hoping for me, eager to see me happy. Even when that meant remaining quiet while my ungrateful teenage feet walked all over her.

And then there were the college years. After which, I found a letter she wrote. She wrote it to herself about the day I left. I had been excited to move into the dorms. I couldn’t wait to have my own refrigerator, my own key: freedom. She didn’t say a detracting word. She helped me through it all, every step of the way, sharing in my joy. But, all alone she wrote to herself of the pain of leaving her first child, miles away. I never knew; too oblivious to realize that my empty room was like a hole in her heart. Days went by and I didn’t call.
Within those college years, I wanted to travel. They reluctantly allowed me to go to Kansas, then cross-country. I sent a postcard or two over the month during which I all but disappeared into the wilderness of the Wild West. It only got worse.

Next, I wanted to go to the other side of the world. I cracked open the nest egg my father had intended for me to use after graduation. I used all of it, drifting along on the currents of my whims without a second thought. Little did I know, I was pulling on the heartstrings of the one who pulled herself apart to bring me into the world. I wandered away, happy and blind.

I returned months later, inspired. Next stop would be the most volatile section of the planet, embroiled in perpetual conflict. This time, my parents put their foot down. I couldn’t go, they said. But I was free from compassion for the ones who lived to see me happy. As I sat in the airport waiting for my plane to board, I received a call.

It was my mother. She couldn’t let me defiantly disobey her and put my life in danger a thousand miles away without saying goodbye; without telling me she loved me.

I imagine it must have been like a knife to my mother’s heart as that plane plunged into the skies. How she survived my disregard for her I don’t know, but I will always know now that her love is unbreakable.

After that, I submerged myself in the study of Islam. Like one thirsty and broken in a desert I drank in the Quran and every book I could find. And it was as if all my life I had been walking in darkness thinking it was daylight. My discovery was eye opening and earth shattering.

Heartbreaking even, for my mother.

After the tornado that was my adolescence, after disappearing into my studies, after wandering the world without a care, I came back. I finally came back. This time I was beginning to understand that my mother is the single most important person in this world to me. Above friends. Above my studies. Above my cravings for adventure. But, the very thing that had slapped me across the face and woke me up from my selfish stupor tore an impassable chasm between us.

I had to break the news one day. “I’m a Muslim, Mom.” It was awkward, but like she always had, she let me speak, and she listened with care.

She thoughtfully bought clothes for me when something that suited my new, more modest style caught her eye. However, I don’t think she was quite prepared for the day I showed up with a scarf wrapped all around my head.

I can’t remember what she said; it’s all a blur. I suppose I looked too unfamiliar, like someone from a far away land. Not the daughter she had raised. Perhaps it seemed things had gone too far.
I was back, but our family wasn’t the same family. I wanted us to be complete again, like we were when I was small, but instead I threw everything off balance. There was now this oddity, and it was me.

I just couldn’t figure out how to navigate the murky waters between my new faith, and my (new) family life. Overzealous and still a newbie lacking in deep knowledge, I overburdened them with Islam.

Islam had taught me that my mother was the most important person in my life. The one most worthy of my respect, my care, my compassion and whose wishes are most deserving of my honor.

I understood this, but I found myself already on the other side of that huge divide. Trying to express my love across a chasm, my words were lost in the wind. Our relationship was like an untended garden overrun with weeds, and my attempts at repairing it only got tangled up in the mess.

When I decided to marry, my mom said he was a good match for my mind. Even with the approval, the marriage was just another whirlwind of chaos and emotions. The cultural differences, the particularities, the food, the two very different families hesitantly coming together. Perhaps I could have slowed down and asked what I could do to make things easier.

When I was having my first child, I really began feeling at a loss. I would lie in bed at night, tears streaming, quietly soaking my pillow. Regret and sorrow over all the times I had taken my mother for granted, over all the times I rebelled and disrespected her.

With that first child though, came so much blessing. My daughter’s birth cleared the air and I felt closer to my mother and family. There was a common joy to share. My daughter helped bridge the gap that had seemed so insurmountable. Since then, there has been much more ease, but it’s still not easy.

It was through Islam that I learned to appreciate my mother. She is the most important person to me on this planet. I no longer put my own desires above her, but I have to put the One who created us both above her. The One who gave her to me and me to her. By whose grace I was cradled in her arms with so much love. I’m grateful to my mother for all she has been to me, and to God for blessing me with her.

I feel that whatever I do it will never be enough to make up for my shortcomings. I long to go back to that love we had in the beginning. I want her to look at me and feel love again, not pain. So, I turn to Allah, and I plead for my mother. I pray she’ll be enveloped in His Mercy as I was enveloped in hers when I was young.

{And We have enjoined on mankind (to be good) to parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: “Show gratitude to Me and to thy parents: to Me is (thy final) Destination.} (Quran 31:14)

 

*This article Originally appeared on AboutIslam.net

 

The Final Deadline: A Tool For Success

Do you work better under pressure? Do you procrastinate and at the final hour suddenly give it your all?

In Islam, the inclination of human beings to procrastinate has been accounted for and we’ve been given tools to help prevent us from waiting to the last minute to truly live with purpose.

We’ve been taught to remember the thing that effectively destroys all the attractions of life on earth and puts priorities into perspective: death.

It can come at any moment, therefore we are technically perpetually in that potential final hour.

If we remain aware that this could very well be our last day, our last meal, our last conversation, we could be propelled to weigh our words and actions more thoughtfully.

We will be less inclined to hold on to material things and put more importance on lasting things, like treating others well and giving gratitude to the source of all we have, whether rich, poor, well or sick, etc.

So although death may seem like a taboo topic, a downer, a negative subject worthy of avoidance, Muslims actually welcome it as a subject of thought and even discussion.

Knowing our deadline may be around the corner encourages us not to waste time or live oblivious to our purpose.

When we think of death, it is a motivator. Motivating us to do more good, both in our private spiritual lives as well as with our families and communities. It also causes us to fear doing wrong, because we would hate to face our Maker with wrongdoing on our account, especially as our last deed.

If you were to remember death more often, do you think it would also motivate you to strive to be a better person?

Let’s Make a Better World for Our Children – Together

Here we go.

It’s the time of year so many pause to assess the past and plan for the future.

So, from my heart to yours, I have a request.

Let’s make a resolution.

My husband and I are Muslims and we’re raising 5 adorable, sweet and unique little children.

Like you, we hope to leave our children a better world.

We struggle, work and worry just like you do, endeavoring to contribute to that optimistic vision.

We know that there are people in the world with less than honorable agendas. We know there are hateful people and those who thrive on the suffering of others. We know there are people who laugh at our misfortunes.

But none of those people matter.

 

You matter.

 

The choices you make, matter.

So this coming year, I ask you to set yourself above the rest.

To be a person of integrity, who affords all human beings respect – by virtue of their humanity.

Be the one who seeks out answers.

When something doesn’t seem right, trust your gut rather than follow the crowd.

You and me – your kids and mine; we have way more in common than some people would have us believe.

And my religion, it helps me every day, to be a better, kinder person. It teaches me to continue to value, much of what you value. Like integrity, honesty, humility, family, and loving for others what we’d love for ourselves.

It gives me hope and fills me with gratitude. It makes my heart quiver and my eyes overflow with tears of love.

Islam is not the enemy. I am not your enemy. My husband and my children are not your enemies.

So, let’s be the ones who stand firm on those most wholesome values we hold dear.

And let’s turn a deaf ear to bigots and xenophobes who try to scare us -Who try to scare you into hating people like me. And try to scare me into hating you.

Who try to scare us into reducing our standards.

I know I am more than what they think of me, and I know you are more than what they think of you. You are stronger and smarter – more compassionate.

When you see me or my brothers and sisters in Islam, don’t be afraid to say hello. Maybe you will make a new friend.

Choose goodness. Choose love.

Let’s deny the hateful ones the satisfaction of our attention.

Let’s send them a message by caring for one another and make this year, our best yet.

 

Let’s lay the groundwork for a better world.

 

Together.

The Male Is Not Like the Female

Muslim women who are scientists, doctors, engineers, police officers, firefighters, American soldiers, lawyers and even Judges,  exemplify the diversity of Muslim women in the world.

These examples demonstrate the fact that Muslim women can – and do – follow their dreams and strive for achievements outside the home. Such pursuits undertaken by modern Muslim women are not foreign or new. In the time of the prophet Muhammad, Muslim women assumed many roles; they were entrepreneurs, scholars, poets and more.

But, part of the beauty of Islam is the way women are valued. Our worth does not stem from what we accomplish in terms of careers, or how we stack up against men –  rather our femininity itself is valued and we elevate ourselves via piety.

In our modern society, women who are”housewives” or “stay at home moms”  often feel a sense of inadequacy. No doubt when asked the question, “What do you do?” they often answer with dread, and are met with awkwardly incredulous, blank stares. The questioner often is not sure if they should express sympathy for the homemaker or provide encouragement that they can be so much more.

Muslim women however, have no reason to feel deficient. We’ve been created female and don’t need to try to be like men to prove anything! In Islam, a “housewife” is not considered inadequate, instead her inherent value is acknowledged and appreciated.

In Islam, it’s made clear that it is no accident that humans come in two forms. Although distinct, males and females are equal in the sight of God as He explained in several places throughout the Quran. For example:

“Never will I allow the work of [any] worker among you to be lost, whether male or female; you are of one another.” (Quran 3:195)
In nature, we see creatures in pairs, from plants to animals.  Reproduction of most species occurs via two mates. Human beings have also been made in pairs, like halves that complete a whole. This completion is possible, due to the differences between the male and female.

Men and women are complimentary, physiologically and functionally.

While one might argue that men have certain advantages over females, and much of the last century (take a look at the feminist movement) has been in large part about proving women can do whatever men can do – the fact remains that women are the ones who can do what men cannot.

I personally don’t understand how this has been overlooked. The female’s unique qualities have been all but utterly disdained by feminists who often forsake marriage and motherhood in favor of corporate advancement, for example.

In Islam, due to the special, divinely endowed nature of women, special status is afforded to females. Take a look at one example from the Quran:

“O mankind! Reverence your Lord, who created you from a single person – created, of like nature, its mate, and from them both, dispersed many men and women;- reverence God, through whom you demand your mutual (rights), and (reverence) the wombs (that bore you): for God ever watches over you.” (Quran 4:1)
It is made clear here that men and women are of like nature, but women are singled out in this verse for reverence. This is because it is through women both males and females come into the world.

When Mary, the mother of Jesus was born, God said regarding her:

“The female is not like the male.”(Quran 3:36)

Because, Jesus the messiah , one of God’s chosen messengers was to be developed in her womb, born through her labor and pain, raised in her enveloping care, and fostered with her wisdom and piety – all without any male intervention or contribution.

God could have informed us about Jesus without mentioning his mother, but instead, an entire chapter is named after her (chapter 19). She was not merely a vessel for delivery of the Messiah. Her lofty character was a critical part of the birth and development of Jesus Christ.

We see the importance of motherhood in this and many other examples from the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad. A mother is not deficient if she is primarily a mother, wife and daughter. In Islam she is continuously revered.

The prophet Muhammad said that mothers are most deserving of their grown children’s companionship. Even caring for her in her old age is an honor, rather than a burden.

Mothers lovingly struggle  to bring generations into the world. Mothers nourish and nurse future leaders, inventors, heros. Mothers comfort, reassure and support the best of humanity. Mothers are the backbone of the human race.

But women are not only valued as mothers.

Islam honors women as daughters and affords great status to parents who raise their daughters well.

Women are also highly regarded for being wives. Spouses are described in the Quran as garments for one another. (Quran 2:187) This description represents the closeness, protection, intimacy, shielding and adornment spouses provide one another. No one feels complete without his or her clothing. Husbands and wives fulfill each other’s vital needs and provide a sense of wholeness and satisfaction that is difficult to attain in any other way. Marriage is described in the Quran as follows:

“And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.” (Quran 30:21)

 

In my life, it was Islam that enabled me to truly appreciate being a female, and it brought out my femininity in many ways.

I love knowing now that I am meant to be a woman. That my Maker does not discriminate between men and women. That I have equal opportunity to achieve success, and that I am not held to standards I am not made for.

I don’t feel pressured to prove my worth to anyone. I don’t feel inadequate or inferior. And I will strive to endow my daughters with this knowledge, appreciation and sense of worth, so they can grow up confident and comfortable in their own skin.

 

Walking With Diamonds

My family and I, we don’t have to be subjected to the reactive anti Muslim hatred boiling up.

I could easily take off my scarf and blend right in. My husband could easily shave his beard and go unnoticed.

But we don’t. And, by God’s Mercy, we never will.

We stand tall and walk with confidence. The way you would if you knew you had the earth’s largest diamond, or the next world changing invention, or a bank account with a few billion dollars.

Because, the Islam we’ve been given is better than every last bit of good the world has to offer all together.

It’s why we are here… And this struggle?

People before us went through worse.

When you see us I want you to wonder… Wonder and ask yourself what is so good about Islam that we stand up tall with confidence and a smile, even when the whole world seems to be against us.

Allahu Akbar. Even in the Grocery Store.

My children are in the habit of saying “Allahu Akbar”.

Yeah, you’ve heard that before right?

“Allahu Akbar!”

Now, imagine being a Muslim woman walking through the busy aisles of a big box store, while your children repeatedly exclaim  “Allahu Akbar!!!”
It makes me mad.

I’m mad that I feel embarrassed and nervous when they gleefully bust out “Allahu Akbar!” In public.

I am upset, because I am aware that this beautiful statement has come to be reminiscent of the brutish, heartless murderers killing with impunity, who stole it.

Who yell these prescious words while committing crimes against the creation and law of the One they are supposed to be venerating with those very words.

Allahu Akbar.

It means “God is the Greatest”.

It means He is Supreme. His power, praiseworthiness are beyond compare.

He is the epitome of Greatness.
We say it throughout our prayers, reminding ourselves that nothing supersedes Him, there is nothing more important, more deserving of our gratitude and praise, and that He is the one to whom everything will ultimately return. The One who we will stand before one day, humbled and powerless.

It helps remove arrogance.

It is a reminder of the fact that we haven’t accomplished anything without His will. Our bodies and sustenance were all His before they were ever ours.

It helps remove despair.

It is a reminder that no matter how difficult a difficulty in life might seem, it is minute in comparison to His Mercy and the comfort of knowing Him. A reminder that obstacles are easy for Him to remove, for He has complete power over all things.

When my children say this, It makes me happy and hopeful.

Happy that the recognition of their Maker has begun to take seat in their little hearts. Hopeful that this thikr – this remembrance will persist throughout their lives. That they will absorb and embody the meaning of this simple, yet powerful statement.

That it will help to guide them to the high road of life’s journey.

I dream of a day where these words will cease to be misused. Where they will no longer arouse suspicion and discomfort in the people around us.

What Would You Do?

You wake up startled and find yourself on an airplane. The rest of the seats are empty.

Leaning over to the window, you see impassive clouds hovering over a sparkling sea miles below.You don’t know how you got into the plane and you have no idea where you are going or why.

What would you do next?

Sit back, relax and enjoy the ride, or search for answers?

In this context, I suspect most would agree that it would be abnormal to just sit back and enjoy the ride, unaware of how you wound up a passenger on an empty plane and where the plane is headed.

If confronted with the above hypothetical situation, most people would probably get up, walk around and look for some sort of message or clue as to how they ended up on the plane and why. Many would not rest until finding some kind of answers.

Yet, how many people don’t ever stop to think about why they are here, living on Earth, and where they are going? How many people reach old age without ever having asked the question, “What is the purpose of life?” and without ever having found the clear, undoubtable answer to that question?

How can we sit back and enjoy the ride when we didn’t put ourselves here? How can we relax, not knowing our final destination?

Virtually everything around us has a purpose. When we see intricate gadgets or lofty buildings we effortlessly understand that those objects did not spontaneously come into being on their own. If we find a watch or a smartphone lying on the ground, we would scoff at the notion that it automatically materialized from nothing.

When we observe the detail and function within our bodies and consider mankind’s inventive abilities, it is natural to conclude that there is a creative force behind our existence.

If we are in fact confident that there is a cause for our existence, the next natural questions are who or what? and why?.

Back in 1998,  after careful exploration, consideration and introspection, I abruptly arrived at the conclusion that there must be some force – some originator of the astonishing wonders of the Earth – of humanity and human ingenuity.  I also suddenly felt an innate inclination to communicate with that force as I sat staring out at the deep night sky. So, I spoke, silently and from my heart.  I asked to know. I asked to understand. I was admitting my complete vulnerability and need in that moment. I was also willing to surrender to whatever it was, knowing its greatness, knowledge and abilities must be, by necessity, beyond compare.

After listening to countless stories related by people who’ve found and accepted Islam as their way of life, it has become apparent to me that almost all of our unexpected journeys to Islam began with an instance where we implored the Originator, sincerely wanting to know and understand.

Collectively, we are riding the vehicle of time; moving forward whether or not we like it. We have virtually no control over time’s passing, over our growth and our eventual deterioration, or whether or not our lives are cut short before we reach old age. Our journeys’ lengths are unknown to us.

By acknowledging this, it is similar to the parable I presented at the outset, and the most rational course of action is to pursue knowledge of the inherent purpose for which we have been made, and then to strive to fulfill it successfully.

It’s the difference between leaving our vehicle on autopilot, or taking control of our direction and safe arrival at our ultimate destination.

Why My Halloween is Different.

My goal is to present the familiarity of Islam to my fellow Americans, but some instances require highlighting differences.

In Islam, we are taught to think and to research. We are told to make our decisions based on careful consideration, and to always seek the best path in all matters.

The people we should aspire to be are the ones mentioned in the Quran:

“Those who remember God, standing, sitting, and lying down on their sides, and think deeply about the creation of the heavens and the earth…..” (Quran 3:191)

And when we act it should be with knowledge:

“And do not follow that of which you have no knowledge. Indeed, the hearing, the sight and the heart – about all those [one] will be questioned.” (Quran 17:36)

So, when we are presented with a recurring celebration,  such as Halloween, it is a good idea to take a deeper look at it before jumping on the bandwagon.

What I find when I research the origins and history of Halloween*, is that its foundations are not in line with what I am striving for in this life. I don’t see how it will help me get any closer to my Maker, or fulfill the purpose for which we were created.

While one may argue, “it’s just for fun”, “it’s not really based on any meaning anymore, “there’s no harm in it” – For me, those are not strong enough arguments. I could argue back, saying that I am not doing any harm by not celebrating it or partaking in it, either.

Although it may not be practiced with the intentions and meanings it once held, there are still practices which do not fit well with my way of life, such as begging (trick or treat) and making fun of the dead and death (think mummies and ghouls – lawns “adorned” with bloody heads and skeletons).

My children are free to play dress up and eat candy now and then, but they don’t need to on a day that is based on a conglomeration of pagan rituals and superstitions.

In my very sincere opinion, I am deeply saddened for the Muslims in our day, who have departed from the path of thinking and learning and who have embarked upon the path of blindly following others by celebrating Halloween and in many other matters. We have been urged to be careful of whose footsteps we walk in:

“…do not exceed limits in your religion beyond the truth and do not follow the inclinations of a people who had gone astray before; who misled many and have strayed from the sound path.” (Quran 5:77)

Islam provides me a sweetness sweeter than a million nights of candy: The sweetness of faith, the sweetness of knowing where we come from, where we are going – The sweetness of following the generous guidance of the Owner of all things and His help. I’m so  grateful for that and I seek God’s protection from ever passing it up for a momentary thrill or to “fit in”.

*You can learn more here: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween