Tag Archives: muslims

Moving Forward: Walk With Us

The last year has been a whirlwind of changes. We moved from New York – where me, my husband Shakiel and all our children were born – down to sunny Florida. It hasn’t been easy to leave behind our dsc_0512extended family; my parents, sisters and their husbands  –  all my precious nieces and nephews – 9 so far. My husband’s siblings and their 7 sweeties are all so far away now. We left behind a home where so many memories were made, amazing neighbors whom we will never forget, and long-time friends.

This September, the youngest of our five children went off to school, and with more time in the day for writing, Shakiel and I have teamed up and embarked on several exciting projects. We’ve found that collaborating has helped us hone our intention and direction, and that we are, naturally, stronger together.

With a clear path in sight, we’ve named ourselves “Compassionate Coexistence Ambassadors” because we intend for our work to make the American Muslim experience accessible, tangible and transparent. We believe that the more people get to know one another, the more empathy becomes possible. Empathy in turn, lays the way for Compassion.

We believe Compassionate coexistence is possible, and that during these trying times, where division and anger are on the rise, those of us who have chosen to resist hatred and conflict must work towards understanding one another.

 

Learning about those who are “different” often leads us to finding common ground – from which we can respect and even appreciate one another’s different-ness.

That being said, please visit our new website and subscribe and share with your friends and family. Stay up to date with our articles, conversations, publications and other projects that help bring people together.

Don’t forget to like us on Facebook and Twitter. See you there!

Peace!

You can also email us at contact@ShakielandDanielle.com 😉

 

http://www.shakielanddanielle.com/

https://mobile.twitter.com/ShakielDanielle?lang=en

 

 

 

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What Would You Do?

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

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

What would you do next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kindness and Forgiveness are Better Than Charity….

I read this verse today and I felt compelled to share it with you. It’s a small example of the way Islam cultivates the individual.

We are told that it is better to speak kind words and to forgive others than it is to “help” them with charity, financial or otherwise, if we are then going to follow it up with reminders of our “favor”, or otherwise harm the person we supposedly “helped”.

In this beautiful verse, God says:

“Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury. And God is Free of need and Forbearing.” (Quran 2:263)

Do you know of anyone who has helped someone out, then after that, never let them forget it?

We as Muslims must be genuine in our actions and we do good, for God’s sake alone. So if we are to help anyone, it should be for the pleasure of God, knowing that He never allows the reward for good to be lost, nor does He allow our sincere deeds go to waste.

In that case, we would never expect even appreciation from those we help, but only appreciation from God Himself. And He has told us here that He is free of need, and lenient and patient. Indicating that it is ridiculous to think He needs us to do acts of charity, rather we do them for the good of our own souls.

We’ve also been instructed in the Quran:

“We feed you for the sake of God alone: no reward do we desire from you, nor thanks.” (Quran 76:9)

This is selfish selflessness. We are doing good, treating others well, spreading kindness and charity with the hope that our Maker will be pleased with us.

That’s what I call a win win situation.

If you read the Quran you will find all kinds of beautiful instructions, the intricacy of which are astounding. Our character is cultivated through these injunctions, especially when coupled with the stories and examples of the prophets present within its pages.

What a blessing.

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.

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?

When Muslims Move In

My family and I moved into this quiet neighborhood several years ago.

I’d say I’m generally an outgoing and friendly person, but when we first moved in, I was actually a little afraid to cross paths with my neighbors.

Naturally, I would be inclined to go knock on their doors and introduce myself; but subconsciously I wondered if they would gasp…

What if they were in there talking about the horror of Muslims moving into their neighborhood?

That fear, that shyness, prevented me from being myself.

Thankfully a lady, who is now my closest friend in the neighborhood, walked over while I was out in the yard with my children. She introduced herself and struck up a friendly chat.

She put me at ease.

She removed my fear of not being welcome, or worse; of being hated.

Since then I’ve established great relationships with all of my immediate neighbors.

I am telling this story because I still do have fears. I fear that if a Muslim moves into your neighborhood that they might give the impression of being unfriendly.

They might keep to themselves.

Looking at them from a distance, they might seem strange to you. You might feel compelled to ignore them.

To just pretend they aren’t there.

But they might just feel the same way I did. They might be afraid they aren’t welcome.

Lets face it, we know what they are saying about us on TV…
and in the papers…
and all over the Internet.

We know.

And sometimes it’s hard to imagine that you haven’t been affected by it.

That you are exposed to those negative caricatures of Muslims so readily, yet somehow it doesn’t determine your opinion of us.

But my own experience proves that not everyone is so impressionable.

I have valuable relationships,
people in my life;
caring and reliable people around me

that are proof.

The Quran teaches us that God has created all the variation in humanity so that we can know each other.

The variation creates interest. It gives us something to talk about.

We all have something to learn from one another because we are different.

If we look at it that way- then life with each other becomes beautiful and rich.

Filled with curiosity and learning…

Which leads to understanding and compassion.

It

is

possible.

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Muslims Don’t Fly

Think about food.

Many of us know what’s good and what’s not, but there are still times we just “can’t help” having that cake, or ice cream, or hot dog.

Other people simply eat what they want. They might not even think too much about whether or not that food is good for their body.

Then there are those people who realize the relationship between what they eat and their overall health.

They research, study and even do their best to implement what they learn, with determination to take excellent care of their bodies. These are often the most successful, health-wise. They are also the fewest.

Islam has the perfect recipe for excellence. If one follows it diligently it will positively impact all aspects of the way they live, no doubt.

It encourages kindness, moderation and a real connection with our Creator. It not only fosters spiritual health, but also physical as well as social health and well being.

Almost all creatures in the universe naturally live according to their programming. They do what they are meant to do.

Take angels; they are intelligent creatures, yet they do not deviate from their purpose and nature. They obey God.

Humans on the other hand….

Well, you already know humans are nothing like angels.

Muslims are no different. We’re still human!

Some are born in a Muslim family, but never search to learn about the purpose of life, how to know God, and the difference between right and wrong according to The One who created them.

Some are like the person who wants to eat healthy, but they frequently give in to their desire for potato chips.

They know they should be good, but it’s just so hard!

Then there are the others, who are convinced and determined to live a wholesome life and fulfill their purpose.

They sincerely try very hard, but this doesn’t make even them infallible. They will flag, waiver and fall at times too.

They are more tenacious and struggle against themselves to stay on the upward path and that is what sets them apart and gets them better results.

Aside from these three, there are also the junk food companies. They deceptively use the concept of health to sell their garbage.

They use pretty pictures, nutrition facts and statistics to make people believe their food is healthy- even though its actually harmful.

Some people use Islam in the same way, they have a goal, an agenda; and they pick and choose and twist aspects of Islam to fit and promote their cause.

If someone really wants to know about Islam, they can’t get the big idea from observing Muslims. Just like you can’t get a good idea of the perfectly healthy lifestyle by observing the average American.

You have to go to the sources. The Quran most importantly, and the Sunnah, or the way of the Prophet Muhammad.

The fact that people often fail, does not invalidate the test.

And just because someone slaps a label that says “Islam” on something, doesn’t mean that’s what it really is.

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A Snowy Day in the Neighborhood

My very favorite thing about the snow is that it brings almost everyone out of their houses and into their driveways. It’s probably the only time where neighbors are all outside at the same time for the same purpose.

You will almost always find neighbors helping one another, chatting, catching up and even sharing things from shovels and gloves, to cookies and hot cocoa.

Thankfully, I have really great neighbors who are always kind, helpful and caring to me and my family. Most religions encourage neighborliness, so do common sense and basic human decency.

Did you know that Prophet Muhammad taught to be especially kind to neighbors, regardless of their beliefs?

The prophet Muhammad said: “The best friend in the sight of God is he who is the well-wisher of his companions, and the best neighbor is one who behaves best towards his neighbors.” (Al-Tirmidhi,120)

He also said that the angel Gabriel (who brought him the revelation) used to remind him so much about the rights of neighbors that he thought they might be made heirs (i.e.. like family). He also said not to look down on giving gifts nor receiving any gift from one’s neighbor no matter how small it may be.

If we truly believe in God, then we must be concerned for the well being of our neighbors:
“He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbor to his side goes hungry.” (Al-Bayhaqi 19049)

He warned severely about mistreating or bothering your neighbor:

“He will not enter Paradise whose neighbor is not secure from his wrongful conduct.” (Sahih Muslim, 15)

Imagine that!

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Wrap your head around it

If you saw Mary, the mother of Jesus, walking down the street, which religion might you assume she follows?

The truth is, Muslim women are pretty much the only ones in the United States, who in general, continue to dress the way Mary did.

Muslims believe Mary was the best of women, and we strive to be like her as well as her son Jesus Christ. Image