Tag Archives: parents

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.

dadwedding

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.

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.  🙂