Tag Archives: family

On The Topic of Love

 Love probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word Islam, or when you think about Muslims.

Still, Islam  presents a very familiar and beautiful concept of love, particularly in the context of marriage.

Love and Marriage

Marriage is a sacred contract between a man and woman, taking them from being disparate individuals and uniting them as family. Marriage is a promise and an exclusive permission for the most private kind of intimacy. In Islam, family is the foundation of all society and so the protection and sanctity of marriage are considered paramount.

Although Muslims avoid situations that can lead to undesirable attraction and intimacy outside the marriage bond, it is acknowledged that individuals may unwittingly fall in love. The prophet Muhammad said,

“There is nothing better for those who love one another than marriage.” (Recorded in Ibn Maajah)

And so we learn that, to build on love and enjoy it in the best way,  marriage provides the ideal consecrated fortress for love to flourish.

The Intimates Department

Husband and wife are literally described as garments for one another in the Quran. Regarding the spouses, it reads:

“They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” (Quran 2:187)

This description symbolizes the romantic closeness between husband and wife. Clothing is the nearest thing to you, it envelopes, protects, comforts and even beautifies. In a simple sentence the Quran expresses the intended beauty of marriage and sexuality in Islam.

Pay special attention to the following verse from the Quran:

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

Who does not hope for tranquility, love and mercy in their marriage?  Obviously we are meant to view our marriages in this way and prevent them from descending into turmoil or from losing that spark of love and affection.

“You complete me.”

Remember Tom Cruise in the movie Jerry Maguire?

 

youcomplete me.jpg

 

How many hearts melted when he said those words? I think it is fair to say that almost any woman on earth would absolutely love to be told by her beau that he is not complete without her. It goes even deeper than having a companion to love in life. In Islam we believe that men and women were initially created from one soul, thus one is forever longing for its other half. Think: soulmates. The Quran says:

“It is He (God) who created you from one soul and created from it, its mate that he might dwell in security (peace, comfort, love) with her.” (Quran 7:189)

The important bond of marriage is also considered half of religion, because the prophet Muhammad described it in this way. The Muslim spouses are partners, helping each other, side by side, hand in hand. Finding pleasure in one another and acting as allies, helping each other stay focussed and determined in seeking God’s favor. They wake each other up for prayers and encourage each other to do good.

 

Examples to Live By

Much of what we learn in Islam regarding how to conduct our own lives, comes from lessons provided through the examples of others. The Quran is chock full of  examples of admirable character and  conduct. From prophets Noah, Abraham, Joseph, to Jesus and many in between, we learn deep life lessons and find solace and inspiration. The life of Muhammad is  meticulously recorded in volumes of hadith. This allows us to observe the way he implemented the divine guidance he received.

We learn quite a bit about love from Muhammad’s life.  He accepted the marriage proposal of his first wife, Khadijah while he was a young man. She was older than him and a widow. He loved and cared for her deeply. She was his rock, supporting him through the most difficult times of his life after he became a prophet. She was the first one Muslim. 

The year she passed away has been forever named “the year of sadness”. They were married for a quarter of a century and long after her passing he recalled her fondly and longingly. Aisha, whom he married years after the death of Khadijah is reported to have said that she was never jealous of anyone as she was jealous of Khadijah, even though she was no longer living.

A great example of marriage in the Quran is that of the prophet Zakaria and his wife. The Quran tells us that until they reached old age, they had not had any children. Zakaria deeply desired a child. 

It’s subtle, but I think it sweet that he “cried to His Lord in secret” (Quran 19:3)  praying for a child. He did not burden his wife, but  protected his wife from the suffering she may experience if he had complained to her. They must have been an extraordinarily special couple; their prayer was granted with the birth of John. 

They are described as always rushing to do good:

 

“Indeed, they used to race to do good deeds and supplicate to Us (God) in hope and fear, they used to call on (God) with love and reverence, and humble themselves before (God).” (Quran 21:90)

 

From Zakaria and his wife we learn one of the best parts of marriage is helping one another to do good, supporting and encouraging each other to be our absolute best.

21st Century Love

With all the great advice and endearing examples provided in Islam, Muslims have the tools to potentially enjoy ideal love and marriage bliss.

“You may now kiss the bride!” Many of the couples who get married today have already had their first kiss, but for Muslims the wedding day is literally the first time they touch.

The majority of Muslims continue to remain virgins until marriage in spite of the overwhelming social pressure from society and media, from TV to Subway billboards. Saving themselves for their soulmate and life partner.

Though this is not always the case, and divorce rates are increasing in the Muslim population as they are generally across the board, still many Muslim couples today have long-lasting, loving marriages.  I believe the more Muslims stick to the teachings of Islam, the more happy marriages will be enjoyed.

Despite the various images of Islam floating around, there is no doubt that Islam includes the notion of Love and provides the basis for a loving, romantic relationship and family foundation.

I want to end with this picture from my friend Sahar’s wedding day. I love looking at it. It’s so delicate and a the same time sensuous. For me, it really embodies they way I see marriage in Islam.

They’ve been together a long time now, with six grown children. They are a family of various talents and accomplishments. The story of their family began on that day:

saharwedding1
Shahid and Sahar Abdulaziz

Whatever your faith, I hope you can experience a love like the love described in Islam: A partnership  full of mercy; tranquil, comforting and sweet.

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.

 

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?

My Baby and the Wolves

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

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

but I could hardly pay attention.

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

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

What will the world be like for her?

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

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

Ouch.

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

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

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

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

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

they just hate Islam.

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

I wonder, will she be like me?

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

I am attacked as if by wolves.

Called names –

and regularly invited to worship Jesus instead of my Creator.

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

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

and

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

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

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

Even if it costs them everything else.

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

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

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

Our feet must be planted firmly to withstand the currents.

To withstand the wolves.

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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