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Muhajabat Party

01/21/2016

Happy Thursday my friends!  Its a new year and with that a new batch of goals and trying on new routines.  I’m doing the work, trying to make a difference here in my small-ish town and living my dreams.

Each year, for the last 3 years, I begin the year by closing out the old and welcoming in the new…I’m not talking about New Year’s Eve celebrations, but by working on ME.  I learned 3 years ago that for me to be as Big and Brave as I wanted, I needed to do some work. So, I started planning out my life goals for the year.  What I wanted to accomplish.

I use Leonie Dawson’s Shining Life & Biz workbooks.  They are super colorful and fancy and the printed pages are so…well, let’s put it this way.  For 2 years I cheaped out and bought the self print version for 10.  This year I splurged and bought the pre-printed one and its just everything I wanted in a workbook.  I can use sharpie markers without bleed through and color and write and mess it all to my heart’s content.

Workbook

Now, I’ll warn you…Leonie is a mermaid.  She communicates like a mermaid and her illustrations and the whole workbook is made by her own handwriting.  So, if you like something more tight laced and streamlined, this might not be for you.  But, it works for me.

I love how the workbook helps you make time for everything.  Time to read, time to work on tactile things, time to work on planning, time to self care.  I have a specific thing that I’ve scheduled for each day.  I’m trying to build new routines.  I hope it works.

***********

Yesterday, I was thinking back to what I was doing at this time last year.  Even though it was cold, windy and snowing, I was thinking about the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring.  Last year was the first year we experienced a Muhajabat party.  Not just one…but three.

What’s a Muhajabat Party?  I had no idea.  Honestly.  We got the invitation and I texted JJ.  “What is this?”  I asked Kate and Pea.  They surmised that because wearing hijab is formally called muhajabat, it is possible that this invitation is a party to celebrate their friend’s decision to wear hijab full time.

Hajib Party Pix.jpg

Which is wonderful.  I love the idea of having a party to celebrate such a big commitment.  Seriously.  We have parties for babies being born.  We have parties for graduating school, we have parties for making first communion, for getting married, so why not?

We had no idea what to expect.  I asked my tribe online and no one could tell me.  Its not done in the Middle East.  My sister in law had no ideas.  Its not widely done in communities in the United States.  I later learned that this event just recently started happening in communities in Michigan, now that families are beginning to give girls the option to decide when they will begin wearing hijab.  Often, in families where the mother is muhajabat, the girls just do the same without question.  But families in America are changing.

I figured a gift would be in order, something special for each girl.  So, I made them Sterling Cuff bracelets with their names on them, and the date they each chose for their hijabiversary.  We dressed in nice casual clothes and took our gifts to the party destination.


We were surprised when we arrived.  Think Sweet 16 + Bridal Shower + Quinceañera.  There was a theme to the party.  Decorations everywhere…food, centerpieces on the tables, party favors, a candy buffet.  Plus strobe lights, a smoke machine and a dance floor.  This girls’ only event was set to party, and most of the guests were dressed to the nines.  Homecoming dresses, fancy hair, model style makeup, nails, jewelry and heels.

I had no idea.  Truly, none.  We were way underdressed for our first Muhajabat Party.  We had on nice clothes, the ladies wore cute jeans and pretty tops.  They both wore hijab because we thought that it was appropriate for the event.  So. Wrong.

For the next party, we were much better prepared.  We took the same type of gift, personalized for the girl, but we had gone shopping for dresses.  I made appointments to get their hair done.  We had heels and nails and bling.  This time we knew what to do.

Its difficult to navigate these types of situations when you have no idea and no one you know can (or will) help you.  It is either they don’t know, or they don’t think its important to tell you.  Usually I end up feeling like since I’m not part of the club, its not important to give me a head’s up.

Anyway, now I know.  So, I’m sharing with you so You Know.  If you get an invitation to a Muhajabat Party (especially if its for a young girl) be prepared for an ALL OUT celebration and dress to impress and take a gift that she will treasure the rest of her life.

Today

01/04/2016

Ornament Picture

My mind is racing and there are 5,000 things to be done today.  It is the first day.

Today feels like the real first day of the year.  My babies are all shuttled off to school and while I mourn the cozy, sleepy time of winter break with our late nights all gathered into the living room and our sleeping in; its difficult to really buckle down and get to work when everyone’s schedules are so relaxed.

During break I really focused on spending time with my children.  Their most important way of observing any given holiday is by sharing it with people important in their lives.  So, we spent a lot of time together.  We watched movies, we played games, we went on outings, we had family over and spent good, quality time just being.

And then I checked in with them.  I asked how their break was going.  I asked if there was anything they wanted to do that we hadn’t done.  We were hitting all the high points.

This year at Christmas, we really did a good job with the gifts.  You’ll remember over the past few years I’ve been trying really hard to put less emphasis on Christmas and not make it bigger than Ramadan?  This year, I think we’ve succeeded.

I had  read on Momastery about this gift giving guide Glennon uses, “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, something to read.”  My love language isn’t gifts.  I always find them terribly difficult, and the more I love someone, the more difficult it is for me to buy for them.

But the guide helped me align Christmas with Ramadan in terms of gifts.  I grew up with an abundance of packages under the tree.  When Khaled and I started our own Christmas celebrations, we gifted to each other, and then it became more about gifting to the children.  When they were so very young, we went overboard.  Soo many packages. But now that we are consciously working towards balance, I needed a guide.

As we wrapped the gifts I felt anxious.  There weren’t as many.  The items we selected were very specific for each child.  They fell within the categories.  As we placed them under the tree, I saw a lot of space left.  I tried to arrange them so they took up more room.  Then, I took a deep breath and went to bed.

On Christmas morning, the children were all excited.  They exclaimed when they opened each gift and was truly happy with each item. They were happy for each other.

I, on the other hand, was troubled.  It was so different for me.  I didn’t want anyone to feel sad.  I didn’t want anyone to feel like they were loved any less. I didn’t want them to feel disappointed.  Like they deserved less than their cousins or friends.

After talking to Khaled and the children, I realized (again) that they didn’t need a whole lot of packages to feel loved.  They had told me what they needed to feel loved, and the number of packages under the tree didn’t have anything to do with it.

What they needed was to be together.  Spending time together, doing the things they liked with people they love.

Yesterday, we were all very testy.  We knew that our cocoon time was ending and we were all irritable.  We didn’t want to return to schedules that disrupt our body’s rhythm and the stress of school.  We bickered and snipped and were cranky.  We undecorated the house and packed away the holiday decor.

Then we settled into our evening routine on the last day of break, we all admitted that we would miss our time together.  The hours before bed when we sat together, all in one room.  The easy, sleepy mornings waking gently and easing into the day would be gone again until Spring Break.

Unless we have a snow day.

So, today when I sent them off to school with big kisses and hugs, and got my day started with laundry and tea and the list of 5,000 things to do, I feel that we accomplished something very important this Christmas.

We lowered the grand expectations.  I set down some of the baggage of my childhood, and we realigned our actions to fit our values.

Happy New Year,

Kristina

Enough

12/21/2015

Card Collage

 

Good morning my friends.

I woke this morning to the gentle sound of rain outside and even though it is December 21st and it should be snowing here in Ohio, I gave thanks for the rain.  Because it is enough.

I’ve been thinking a lot these last few weeks about giving and receiving.  About being valued and honored and about being enough.

I pray and speak to God in a way that allows me the most connection to the divine.  That is enough.

I am giving my everything to my family, my friends and to the world.  That is enough.

I love with an open heart that gets injured very easily.  It does not stop me from loving first and not holding back.  That is enough.

I listen to you and hear your story.  I listen and hear and witness your joy, your pain, your sorrow, your excitement and your peace.  That is enough.

I am doing the work that I am feeling led to do in this world.  That is enough.

I am growing and stretching and hurting and learning.  That is enough.

I am fighting for truth, for respect and for kindness.  That is enough.

*********

Today is December 21st and it is 3 days away from Christmas Eve.  My tree is not up, gifts are not finished and cookies are still in progress.  If you remember a few years ago, I was struggling with how my family celebrates Christmas.  I completed the Christmased workbook and learned what mattered to my family.  What was enough.

So, even though those things that may be important to you are not finished here… since winter break began, we have watched The Great Gatsby at home in our living room, attended Jummah, gone to the dentist, watched Star Wars in the theatre, made cookies and frosted them, gone shopping, attended class, sat with friends and discussed Belief and then went bowling together.

All of those things that we have done are what my family values as important.  Spending time together is how we honor this break from the stress of every day life.  Gathering and talking and expanding our minds; laughing and building memories.  These are the things that make our heart sing.  This, for my family, is enough.

These few weeks in December are difficult to navigate if you are unable to participate in the traditions of your childhood, or if you no longer want to celebrate the day with your extended family.  If you are feeling lost, lonely, sad, missing, invisible or confused because you don’t know what to do right now.  Take the first step to discover what works for you and your family.  Take a few hours to figure out what is enough.

Then honor that.

Here are a few resources that have helped me this season.

The Marriage Startup Podcast

Get Christmased

Advent Calendar for Depressed People

Spotify (because I don’t like Christmas music)

 

 

Thankful

11/26/2015

I am so very thankful. I am so very blessed.  We are healthy, we are happy, we like each other and we love each other. 

As I stand here in our kitchen with Khaled,  our family prepares to welcome our friends and family into our home to break bread.

I am so thankful. 

Today, I pray that no one person is touched by violence. 

  
Thank you to the Indigenous people of America, my European ancestors, my country of origin, my colorful array of family and friends, my supportive network of women all over the globe, and you. 

Thank You for being here, for cheering me on, for talking about hard stuff, for supporting each other and working towards peace.

Reader Response: Is Becoming Muslim the Right Choice?

11/05/2015
IMG_0178

Monday, I came across this question posted on the About page.  Instead of responding there, I thought to share it here in case any of you have more input.

Hi, I have a question. Well you see I’ve been dating this Muslim guy from Pakistan, but I’m not Muslim. I have been learning more about the culture and all. I’m afraid I of what my family will say if they know I may become Muslim.
I love him with all my heart and I would love to be called his wife. I’ve already met his family and some of his friends. They are amazing people. I’m still unsure if me becoming Muslim is the right choice.
Any advice that could be given would be greatly appreciated.

First, I’m glad you have reached out and started looking for a support network.

Now let’s move on to the details of your question. You don’t say where you or your boyfriend are living, so I usually default to assuming United States. You also don’t mention if your boyfriend is a citizen. Yes, this is an important detail.

It is wonderful that you have found a relationship with a man whose family is willing to meet you and possibly accept you. It is also wonderful that you have met some of his friends and seem to be integrating into his life. By this, I mean he isn’t hiding you. Since I don’t know how long you have been together, it is more difficult to address his family situation. Often times, families will be accepting of non-Muslim girlfriends but when the relationship turns serious, they will not approve. This is something to consider.

The most important part of your question is that you are learning about the culture and you are unsure about becoming Muslim. These are two separate issues but are often lumped together and are difficult to tease apart. You can learn about the culture of Pakistan and Pakistani natives, appreciate the clothing, food, customs and even learn to speak Urdu all without converting to Islam.

It is important to know this.   You can love your Pakistani Muslim man and his family without having to convert. Conversion is not mandatory or compulsory. You should not ever feel pressured or coerced into converting.

If you are learning about Islam, the true Islam away from Pakistani Culture and are called to convert, then by all means go ahead. But think about this. Would you still feel the call as strongly if you were not in love with your Muslim Man?

Happy Halloween!

10/28/2015
IMG_0051

You don’t celebrate Halloween?  That’s okay.  I know people who go all out with the decorations and costumes, I know people who won’t participate by dressing up but enjoy passing out candy and seeing all the children and I know people who turn off the lights and go to the movies so they don’t have to acknowledge that trick or treating happened.

It’s all okay.  In my house, we visit the pumpkin patch, we carve pumpkins and we dress up.  We have decorations for the outside of the house and we have decorations for the inside.  We take the kids trick or treating and we negotiate for the snickers bars.  Then on the day after Halloween, we go and buy 1/2 priced candy.  Because, well, Snickers.

Today was supposed to be the day I decorated the inside of the house.  But I’m sick.  I’m at that part of the sickness where you do only what is absolutely necessary, because the cold meds are just barely taking the edge off.  So, I’m sitting here drinking tea, listening to the whirr of the oven fan and thinking about all sorts of things to share with you.

Update:

Its been over a month since I wrote about that man’s t-shirt at the football game.  I’ve discussed it over Facebook, Twitter and with my local friends.  My article was shared on AltMuslimah.  I’ve met with the school’s Vice Principal and talked to him about my concerns.  This is what has happened.

I met with the Vice Principal and he talked to me about how multicultural our school is, how when he walks around, he sees kids from all walks of life intermingled.  They don’t segregate themselves by race, gender or religion.  He expressed shock at seeing the photo I shared with him and understanding.  Then, he promised to discuss this matter with the district security board.

When I heard back, it was as I expected.  The school has control over the student’s dress as it pertains to school and school functions because we have an established district dress code and code of conduct that states, “Apparel, emblems, insignias, badges, or symbols that promote or advertise the use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, sex-related slogans, violence or any other illegal/inappropriate activity are prohibited.” But spectators who are not students, have freedoms under The First Amendment to wear whatever they like.

Again, the results are as I expected.  So, why bother?  Because nothing can be gained unless you ask and make people aware of your concerns.  You must speak up to be heard.  Silence is consent.

Learning to Breathe

09/23/2015

These days I’m unsettled.  I feel like we are on the cusp of a major change.  By ‘we’ I mean The World, The United States, Society as a Whole, Islam, My Family, Me.

My wise friend, Heather, tells us to breathe through the change but I’m scared of change.  I know it is inevitable, but the unknown is scary.  It is unsettling.  It is dumping everything in the cake pan and hoping it all turns out alright without following the recipe.

Breathing through the change is like trusting.  It is praying and it is letting go.

I’m not good with the letting go part.  When I get scared, I want more control.  Not less.

Last year, my family decided that we would attend the Friday night Varsity football games at Mr. Fox’s highschool.  We went to every home game last year, and we’ve gone once this year already.  We are not football fans.  I don’t know most of the rules.  I have only ever watched two football games each year my entire adult life.  I only watch them so that I can talk about it when everyone else who is a football fan is talking about them.  To me, its a cultural event.  Like Halloween, or Thanksgiving.

On September 4, we lined up to get our tickets at the season opening home game.  Directly in front of us was a man wearing this shirt.


My immediate reaction, was FEAR.  I looked at my people.  We all look like we blend in.  We are, for all intents and purposes, a suburban, white family.  Nothing we were wearing was overtly identifying.

I was SCARED.  Mr. Fox was annoyed.  Kate grabbed my hand a little tighter.  Pea gave the man’s back a dirty look.  I looked around and there were no less than 5 police officers on duty.  No one else looked scared.  I didn’t know what I should do.

On one hand, the man has his First Amendment rights.  But we are on school property.  This is an event for children.  We are at a school with a significant number of Muslim students who are actively involved in sports as well as other activities.

I took the man’s photo without his consent.  I wanted to document this event because I couldn’t sort out if my reaction was warranted.  Was I overreacting?  Is it just a shirt?

Then the man sat down the bleachers in front of us and I took another photo of his shirt from where we were sitting.  During the first quarter of the game I counted no less than 8 Muslim students in the stands from where I was sitting.  3 were wearing hijab.


So, I shared the photo.  I didn’t offer any explanation at first.  Just the photo and “as seen at tonight’s game.”

These were some of the first comments:

 WTF.
Unlike · Reply · 2 · September 4 at 7:13pm
Wow…
Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 4 at 7:14pm
Oh, fantastic. Ugh.
Unlike · Reply · 1 · September 4 at 7:17pm

Wow. What school is this

Like · Reply · September 4 at 7:20pm

Kristina ElSayed It’s his right to wear it, but it’s just really unsettling.
Like · Reply · 1 · September 4 at 7:22pm

The discussion went on from there, most people understood my outrage and fear.  A few did not.  I don’t love these friends any less, but it is clear that they don’t understand the fear that comes from this type of racism.  They didn’t want me to presume what this man thought about Islam, Muslims and what the word ‘kafir’ and ‘infidel.’  They wanted me to give this man the benefit of the doubt.  But I know.  We had just been discussing these shirts and the meaning of them a few weeks before.  I was educating people about these shirts.  I KNOW.

I waited a week and then made contact with the school.  The response has been less than stellar.  I received a cursory email from the Assistant Principal, and I’ve not heard back despite my follow up.  What do I want from the school?  I want to know if spectators to events on school property are to abide by the district dress code.  I want to know if I have a right to complain about this when it shows up at a school event.  What are my choices?

Then the news of Ahmed Mohamed being arrested.  It is clear to everyone that his detainment has nothing to do with his invention and everything to do with the fact that he is Muslim and Black.  My network was talking about it all day long.  I waited and spoke with the children a little when they got home.  Did they hear about his arrest?  What were people saying at school?

Kate cried.  She is scared that she could get arrested just because of her religion.

Can you even remotely begin to hear that?

She is afraid of being arrested because of the way she prays.

Today is the Day of Arafat.  It is one of the holiest days of the Islamic year.  It is the day that marks the remembrance of The Prophet Muhammed’s final sermon.  When all of the pilgrims are praying at Arafat, Muslims all over the world are fasting.  My children are fasting today at school.

Will they be okay?

Tomorrow is the Eid ul Adha. The Feast of the Sacrifice.  All of the Muslims in my city and the surrounding area will gather in one place.  One Huge Celebration.  We will gather, we will hear a sermon and we will all pray together.  Then we will eat together and share in the celebration that 2 million Muslims have completed their Hajj.  There will be security at all the entrances, but will we be safe to pray and celebrate this day?

When radical men in sheep’s clothing enter churches to kill people because of the color of their skin, how are we to feel safe that the same won’t happen to us?

On the day that Abraham trusted his Lord to sacrifice his son, I will breathe, I will pray, and I will hand it over to God. I am not in control of the unknown.


Links on some of the research I did concerning this topic:

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