Tag Archives: Muslim

A Day In The Life

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

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

together

before the sun peeked over the horizon.

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

The morning light poured into our home.

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

mooooommmmaaaaaa, mommmmaaaaa, I want milkeeeeeeeee…

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

It’s Sunday, so no rush…

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

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

As I cooked breakfast, I listened to the Quran.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We break for prayer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

so I asked for His forgiveness.

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

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

I wish them peace as I turn off the lights.

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

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

before the sun peeks over the horizon.

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Muslim Man Gives Needy Bus Rider The Shoes Off His Feet

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

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

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

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

The hate and anger? Because he was a Muslim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is always made known that the perpetrators were Muslim.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Read the article here:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

**** Military jurisprudence in Islam:

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

American Girl to American Muslim: Before and After

I was always a carefree American girl.

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

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

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

I was always fortunate.

Choosing Islam has only improved the quality of my life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Mom (and Bambi)

which I didn’t exactly follow…

but I earnestly try to now; because of Islam.

The prophet Muhammad said,

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

So that is what I strive to do.

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

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

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

That will forever be a regret I will carry.

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

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

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

This applies to grandparents as well.

The Prophet said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

This gives us an eternal source of inspiration.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Was Born Muslim

Did you know everyone was born in a state of Islam?

It’s true.

I didn’t choose my gender… did you?

I didn’t choose my eye color or hair. I didn’t choose my country; my family, my language.

I was born in submission. I was born a Muslim.

We all were.

But humans only remain in the state of natural Islam for a short time until our free will kicks in; Then it’s up to us what we do and what we believe.

You were taught to be a Christian, or a Jew, or an Atheist, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist or whatever you might have been as a child. 

I used to go to Catholic church, because my family is Catholic.

But we all have had a spiritual spark embedded in us. Kind of like a homing feature.

It’s our intrinsic spiritual and moral disposition. In Arabic, it’s called the fitrah.

It is the reason why some  people search for truth. They know there is something more to this life.

Do you remember wondering?

You probably had all kinds of big questions, like:   Why are we here?   What’s the purpose of life?   How do we know if we are doing what we are supposed to be doing?   What happens when we die?   Why is there suffering?   What is reality?

Does God exist?

In some though, especially after time passes and questions go unanswered, that spark can be completely buried and forgotten.

There are other tools and evidence that support the fitrah though; if we are willing to look.

My unique fingerprint is a sign.

Snowflakes, fruits, the sun and the moon are all signs.

When I look in the mirror at the features I didn’t choose, I remember where I came from.

As I age and begin to notice, that the lines on my face don’t disappear after I smile anymore;

I remember where I am going. 

Freely choosing to submit to the guidance provided by our Maker is like following the instruction manual for a machine. It doesn’t make any sense to use a refrigerator as a bookshelf or a computer as a chair.

I would’t use my lawnmower on my hardwood floor or my vacuum in my garden.

Following the guidance is like that. Using your existence for it’s purpose.

The sense of relief that comes with that is indescribable.

When you align your will with the supreme will of the one who designed us, you accept that you have curly hair, or brown eyes. You realize you couldn’t have been born to be a little taller or more attractive. You are supposed to be just how you are.

You then focus on the things you can control: choosing between good and bad actions, using your time wisely.

You can stop fighting what can’t be fought.

And the link between the two involuntary submissions: birth and death, is complete.

It’s the only way to make the transition from one, to the other

in peace.

Common Ground

This is a message especially for Jews and Christians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is food for thought.

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

The Quran says:

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

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

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

 

I welcome your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

They’re speaking Muslim!

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

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

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

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

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

Good Question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why me?

I had always felt that the path that led me to Islam was somehow paved by me.

I thought it was my actions, my choices that prepared me and that it was I who discovered it.

I vetted it out. I did countless hours of research. I couldn’t deny it’s truth.

I.

me.

I would marvel at all the events and decisions that lined up so incredibly perfectly.

And I thought it was amazing how I did that.

Not long ago however, I began realizing fully, how truly blessed and indebted I really am.

I’ve always been grateful, but I had gained a deeper consciousness of what Islam really means to me and how empty life would have been without it – And I started to really wonder-

Why me?

Why did God bless me with His guidance? I wasn’t any great person before, just regular: not especially kind or righteous in any way, not inclined to religion at all

And then one day it hit me. I know why now.

I remember the moment.

I was the kind of person who loved going to the beach at night. I remember running along the shore, as fast as I could under the stars.

The stars.

I remember the exhilaration of looking out into the unfathomable night sky, enamored.

I remember laying in my bed on saturday mornings as a teenager and wishing I could know everything about the world. What happened before me, what would happen after me. I would imagine that I would be given a view of the Earth and I’d be able to just watch history unfold.

I asked a lot of questions. I found it exciting.

Especially when the answers seemed unknowable.

So, after all that wondering and all the marveling I did at leaves and insects and stones; after looking at the astonishingly beautiful stars so many times and trying to comprehend how little me, a speck of intricately formed insignificance, could be living on a spinning rock flying around a burning orb suspended in a gorgeous galaxy – merely a blip amongst the others.

How? Why?

I think subconsciously I knew the world; humanity, beauty, pain- They couldn’t have just popped out of nothing.

So one night…

I was a freshman – I was sitting in my dorm room window: a big, square window.

I was looking out at the sky.

And I said something.

I said to myself, there must be some force out there. There must be.

Then I spoke to that force, but not with my lips. Only in my heart, quietly. I asked to know.

I wanted knowledge. I wanted the truth.

Then I forgot about it. I went about my life after that, for four years.

But that force I had beseeched, had heard me. And gently, I was guided to get ready. To get ready for Islam.

I did the weirdest things.

I used to listen to music a lot. Somehow I completely stopped listening to music with words and switched to classical.

I won’t tell you what kinds of music I liked before, but let’s just say that was an unpredictable move. I did it as if it was perfectly normal. Natural.

Then after a while, I ditched classical and switched to ambient: you know, the music that’s not really music? It’s just some sounds, almost like an environment more than music.

At 18, I gave up TV. I forbid my roommates from having a TV in our common areas.
That was odd. I lost some roommates like that.

But what I had effectively done, or had been guided to do, was remove external influences. No one was chattering into my ear anymore, telling me what to think.

My mind was mine again! Or, you know what? That might’ve been the first time it was really my own.

I started pondering about holidays and birthdays and about saying “God bless you” when someone sneezed.

I stopped saying “bless you” when people sneezed.

I stopped, because I didn’t know what that meant.

It didn’t make any sense to me, so I’d say instead, “you okay?” or something equally awkward.

I stopped celebrating holidays. Nobody Liked that very much…

But I just didn’t understand who Jesus was and why I needed to celebrate his birthday with a tree and Santa. I didn’t get why I had to eat chocolate bunnies or what was so significant about turning one more day older.

I stopped doing things I didn’t understand.

Oh, except for the time I just had to travel to a war zone as an international observer so I could walk in front of tanks and M16’s. That was all gut.

That was also how I met the first Muslims I had ever seen, and how I heard the recitation of the Quran, for the first time.

The Quran that I had been reading a translation of for the previous year, because I was going to prove to the world that religions were all flawed and thus man made.

So the point is, I asked for this. I asked for guidance. I wanted answers and God, in His infinite Mercy, granted my wish, answered my request; answered all my questions.

Because in that moment, in that window, I believed in Him.

Even though I didn’t know anything about God at the time and I never would have used that word. Still, I was a believer in that moment. I realized my smallness, and His Greatness.

That was how it all began.

Ask Away!

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

Does anybody still do that?

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

They’re Muslims!

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

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

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

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

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

Understanding is a key to living in harmony and peace.

Is That an Arab?

Last night, while walking from my car to a shopping center, I passed by a vehicle with its windows open.

I heard someone say loudly,

“What’s that? Is that an ARAB?”

Who… me?

Sorry, “Muslim” and “Arab” are not synonymous.

Actually Muslims are found all over the world. From China, Russia, and Indonesia to many parts of Africa and Europe, to both North and South America.

Muhammad, the prophet who was given the Quran was a descendent of the prophet Ishmael who was the son of Abraham – he was an Arab.

Jesus and many of the prophets we know of, were from what we now call the Middle East as well… And nobody seems to think all Christians are Semitic or Middle Eastern… Go figure!

The Quran makes it very clear that it is a message for mankind:

This (Quran) is but a reminder for all people. (38:87)

Muhammad is addressed in the Quran: And We (God) have not sent you except comprehensively to mankind as a bringer of good tidings and a warner. But most of the people do not know. (Quran 34:28)

That’s why people from all over have accepted it as their life’s guidance.

I learned about Islam independent of any people. I didn’t know any Muslims.

For me, it was clearly a universal message.

It not only speaks to individuals regardless of their background but it is also timeless. I didn’t get the feeling that it was irrelevant or outdated.

Aspects of the quran describe our modern world and it provides comforting advice that is perfectly on point.

So for me and many other Americans like me, it was a natural choice.

And when we chose to be Muslims, we didn’t change our ethnicity, or race, or nationality, or culture. Just like the first Indonesians who embraced Islam, or the first Bosnians.

In America, the Muslims are the most diverse faith group. When I go to a mosque I sit amongst people of many shades and diverse backgrounds.

Islam, in practice, eliminates racism and nationalism. It teaches us to focus on our humanity and to rejoice in our differences.

To get to know one another.

So one doesn’t need to be Arab to be Muslim, and no one should assume that every Muslim they see is an immigrant either!

I’ll leave you with the following verse:

O humankind! Surely We have created you from a single (pair of) male and female, and made you into nations and families so that you may know one another (and so build mutuality and co-operative relationships, not so that you may take pride in your differences of race or social rank, and breed enmities). Surely the noblest, most honorable of you in God’s sight is the one best in piety, righteousness, and reverence for God. Surely God is All-Knowing, All-Aware. (Quran 49:13)

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What is Islam?

What is Islam?

Seems like a no-brainer right?

Even the dictionary explains it like this:

Is·lam
isˈläm,iz-/
noun
1. the religion of the Muslims, a monotheistic faith regarded as revealed through Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah.

That’s not the real meaning of the word though- And understanding the meaning of the word Islam is a simple explanation of the “faith” or religion described above.

The Arabic word Islam is derived from a root word: selema (seh-leh-muh) which carries the meanings of peace, purity and submission.

Islam means Submission to God and His will. It carries with it the implication that doing so is purity and that by doing so one will attain peace.

The trees, animals and planets are all in a state of Islam, because they are governed by God’s laws of physics, biology etc.; They function according to how they’ve been created. They naturally submit to God’s will. That is how they are programmed.

Humans are different.

We have been given a kind of intelligence unlike the rest of creation. We have been given free will and choice.

I can submit myself to whatever I want and so can you. We can submit ourselves to the love of wealth and material possessions or status. We can submit ourselves to pleasure and live hedonistic existences if we so desire. Each individual is free to choose their path.

Any person who chooses to submit his or her will to God peacefully, that person is in a state of Islam.

“Surely, the way of life with God is submission to Him.” (Quran 3:19)

And that, my dear neighbors, is what Islam is really all about.

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