Tag Archives: American 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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For My Dad. My Quiet Hero

I have three sisters. My house was usually overflowing with girlish giggles, chit chat about hair, shoes and even sensitive topics that would make any man writhe in his seat. Our girlfriends would often come to visit, adding to the weight on the feminine side of the scale in our home.

But my father, although often quiet and reserved, didn’t fade into the shadows. His example and support shaped each one of our lives. From the honest integrity with which he ran his business, to his passion for cars, he provided an independent, brave example that was unwilling to compromise on ethics to get ahead.

Some of my fondest memories are the exciting swap meets I enjoyed with him as a child, and watching him restore regal, but dated cars to their original glory in our garage on weekends. I grew to love all the smells of oil and polish, grease, and metal. I loved when he would take me with him on an errand, like a trip to a special parts supplier far away, or to job sites for his business.

In Highschool I wound up the only girl in car care class, where I learned how to change the oil and brakes on my ’87 Monte Carlo. I was proud to hear its small block 305 engine rumbling as I drove it into the high school shop. My Dad’s influence is clear in many of my own passions and aspirations.

He taught me about how to handle turns on a race track and I think of him everytime I take curves on the parkways (even in my minivan). But more than love of cars, hard work and getting dirty, he provided numerous other examples and a special kind of support. My Dad never pushed me to go in any particular direction. Instead he listened, and payed attention to what mattered to me. What I was passionate about. What made me happy. Then, with his quiet demeanor he stepped in to make it happen. He never announced his favors, or reminded me about them. They were always just there. Just right.

Like many fathers, my Dad worked hard (and still does!) for his family. Successfully running his own business, the stress of which I recognize more keenly now. Even with the ups and downs and uncertainty of that difficult endeavor, we were his primary concern, before himself.

He invested so much in my family – in me.

I’m sure when I announced my decision, that I had become Muslim, it couldn’t have been easy for him. But he put my happiness first. He affirmed that I could believe whatever I wanted to.

The stage following my decision to enter Islam was tough for me and my family at times. When I moved back to my parent’s house after a year or so developing as a Muslim away from home, there was inevitably some tension.

I knew my mom felt uncomfortable about me covering my head. It must have been hard, seeing her daughter looking so unlike the girl she had raised.

I was torn between not hurting my mom and wearing a piece of cloth – an identity that had become beloved to me. So, When I would go off to work in the morning, I’d wear the hood on my jacket from the house to the car. Once in my car I would awkwardly struggle to fix my hijab in the rearview mirror. Upon returning home, I would remove my scarf and replace it with my hood once again.

I thought no one knew.

But, my Dad was so aware. He always seemed to somehow know what was going on. One day he approached me and informed me, he had seen what I had been doing.

“You don’t have to do that.” He gently told me.

He assured me I didn’t have to hide my hijab. I saw the compassion in his eyes.

Though all my family has gradually become somewhat more comfortable with my Muslim identity and my choice  to cover more of my body, my Dad has perhaps shown the most support. Warning me when a Man is coming over or at the door and making sure I am dressed before he allows them in.

When he met my then to-be husband, he asked “How are you going to take care of my daughter?”

He held my hand at my marriage. kneeling on the floor in a mosque, he facilitated yet another happiness for me.

That is real love. The kind of love to ponder – that boggles the mind and fills the heart.

I pray I will grow to be a better daughter, to express that same kind of love to my father. To give back a little, even a fraction of what he’s provided me. To make him know that he’s my hero.

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My Dad and I, on my wedding day

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.

For My Mom – I Remember

Dear Mom,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your food was always the best.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

telling you my dreams.

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

you always listened.

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

I remember how you wanted to give me every opportunity.

The beautiful memories seem endless.

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

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

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

For that alone, I am forever indebted.

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

But I know I am undeserving,

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

Please forgive me,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God accept my prayers. Ameen!

Yours Always,

Danielle

Following Noah

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

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

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

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

But, that’s my situation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See the problem?

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

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

Hiding my thoughts and feelings.

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

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

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

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

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

Even his son abandoned him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We reflect.

We turn; hopeful, towards the future.

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

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

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

Imagine that for a moment.

Would you change?

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

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

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

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

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

But the future is always now.

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

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

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

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

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?

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.  🙂

American and Muslim

I am an American of European descent. My grandparents were born here. My parents never knew any other home or any language beside English.

I grew up doing all sorts of typical American things; from parties and sleepovers to swimming lessons and horseback riding. We had amazing summers boating across the Long Island sound. We dug for clams with our feet in the shallow waters of the bay and stayed on the beach until sunset. We enjoyed backyard barbecues and fireworks. Our winters were brightened by snowmen, iceskating and mugs of hot chocolate.

When I chose to be a Muslim did I become less of an American?

Of course not!

I’m still me… and America is founded on the concept of freedom of religion.

In some ways, I am an ideal representation of what it means to be American by exercising my freedom of choice.

As it turns out, I’m more appreciative of my country, culture and many of the values I’ve been raised with now that I am Muslim, than I ever was before.

But does Islam conflict with American values?

The truth is, there is much more in common than there are differences. The concept that Islam is un-American is a fallacy and a relatively new one at that.

Did you know the Supreme Court of the United States of America honored the prophet Muhammad as one of the greatest lawgivers of all time as recently as 1935?

Maybe there is another reason that some people’s initial reaction is that those two terms can’t coexist?

Objectivity and a genuine interest in educating oneself about the facts are all that is needed to find out.

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