When I married Khaled, I searched everywhere for resources for interfaith couples. The only books and websites I could find back then were for Christian/Jewish relationships. Online, the only resources I could find for Christian/Muslim couples were horror stories of abuse, neglect, disillusionment. Others were how the women successfully converted their husbands to Christianity. Nothing I found focused on a happy, healthy relationship. Nothing I found supported the life I was building with Khaled, and later our 3 children.
I was inspired to share my life with you so that women, living lives similar to mine, wouldn’t feel soo alone. We could share our tips, tricks, trials, and triumphs with each other all over the world.
Along the way, many non-muslims have read and learned that Muslim families are not soo much the ‘other’ that you see on television and movies. We are normal, everyday people.
I don’t share every little bit of my life here, but I do share the most Islamic portions with the hope that I can help someone, in some way.
The Eleventh Annual Brass Crescent Nominations are underway! 10 Days left. If you have learned anything from my blog, please consider a nomination. http://www.brasscrescent.org/
I guess during all of my preparations for Ramadan, there was this nagging doubt. This anxiety that wouldn’t go away. I had attributed it to the fact that during Ramadan, we seldom leave the house. I passed it off as concern about the long days that my people would be fasting. I told myself that it was me, being worried about my ability to take care of them – in the way I wanted to do so.
Ramadan began, for our family, as a slow crawl. I printed out the Quran Schedule from Noor-Janan that I found by way of Karima’s Crafts. (I follow Karima’s page on Facebook.) We ate tacos for the first 3 days of Ramadan, and listened to the Quran using this handy chart. We made smoothies and talked about stories of the prophets. The work week began and we settled into a routine. Everything was going fairly easily.
Then Khaled mentioned a community Iftar.
And the doubt, that fierce anxiety grew bigger.
I hoped he would change his mind.
I worried that he wouldn’t.
Even up until Saturday morning, I thought he would change his mind again, knowing how traumatizing it was for us last year.
Then he mentioned it again…and went to take a nap.
I knew then that I needed to gird myself with a plan of action. I gathered up the people and talked to them about going. I took a survey of their feelings on the matter without revealing any of my own. Then I asked their opinion on what we should take to the dinner. Usually, with the community Iftars the main foods are provided and the community members that can contribute, bring a dessert. I also know that at this mosque, there is a woman’s buffet table and a men’s buffet table.
So, we made brownies. Two big pans. From scratch. This was my easy go-to dessert. I always have the ingredients on hand because you never know when one of the children will drop a bomb on you at bedtime – telling you they need 24 brownies by 3rd period tomorrow.
And when Khaled woke up, we talked about my anxiety and made contingency plans. If *sh!+* hit the fan, I could leave. We took 2 cars, I had cold water in my car so that if we needed to drive home, at least the ladies would have water to drink until we got to the food. There was leftovers in the fridge.
I decided to wear one of my abayas. I thought that if I dressed the part, I wouldn’t stand out as much. LOL THEN I did my fancy business makeup. (When I started going to networking events, my fantastic Mary Kay DIVA taught me about wearing business makeup. Its like the battle gear for me because it gives me confidence to talk to people I feel intimidated by.)
So, brownies in hand, wearing abaya and business makeup; we went to the mosque.
I walked into the women’s entrance, and found the posse of aunties and cousins working to set up the room. I found a familiar face to give the brownies to, and offered to help. I was told ‘No.’ I could attend the lecture or I could sit at a table.
My daughters had gone off and found their friends. Khaled looked into the room from the men’s side…asking if I wanted to come with him. But the lecture was being given in Arabic. So, I wouldn’t understand anything…and I would be hiding. So, I stayed.
I made a few attempts at helping to set out water bottles, and one lady welcomed me to the mosque like I was a stranger there…even though I was wearing abaya and had my hair covered, AND I clearly knew my way around the building.
UNTIL my friend arrived. She is the wife of the Imam. She speaks just enough English – just like Naina – that we can work through conversations. We greeted each other with big, big hugs; not the kind of ‘in the club’ busses that are de rigeur in Muslim circles. I asked her how she was doing…and when she gave me the pat answer…I asked again. She laughed and hugged me again, because she knows I can see that she isn’t totally O.K. but doesn’t have all the words to really answer me. We talked about her girls and about an abaya she gave me.
Then the Mother & Mother in Law of my friends walked in. (This is confusing. She is the mother of one of my friends…the mother in law of my other friend.) She’s a gramma. She is Egyptian, and every time I see her she reminds me of our Naina. So, when I greet her, I greet her as if she was MY Mother in Law. I give her big hugs, and the busses on each cheek….and I tell her, ‘Naina – its soo good to see you!’ I call her Naina out of respect. I think she understands this, but she always gets a big kick out of it and smiles widely, while telling anyone around her in Arabic that I called her Naina.
After this, the aunties give me a job to do.
The tables are being set with a family style service. There isn’t a buffet. The men will sit here…and the women and children will sit here.
And more and more people arrive that I know…
And I sit with my friend, the wife. And I sit with my other friend, the mother of my student. And I sit with Kate and Pea.
We eat, we talk, we laugh. The hour passes and the husbands are ready. The tables are cleared by the men in the community and the room is cleared and set up for Taraweeh prayers. (The women use the multi-purpose room for Taraweeh prayers.)
The ladies and I clear our plates and I carry the piece of Bassboussa I’ve saved for Khaled towards the door. We are leaving.
He meets me at the door to check on me. He needs to see, with his eyes – close up, that I’m okay. He mentions that he couldn’t find any Bassboussa. I laugh and hand him the piece I’ve saved for him. The aunties notice, and smile. I smile and let him know I’m okay.
It was good.
It was a success.
I’m not anxious.
T-3 Days Until Fasting Commences!
Preparations for Ramadan have been on my mind since early April. Why? Well, because in April I started planning for summer camps and different appointments. I’ve made the mistake of scheduling soccer camp during Ramadan. I learned the hard way not to plan anything strenuous during this month. Yes, I know there are athletes who maintain their fast while in competition, Olympic athletes who deferred their fast, there are teams who adjust for Ramadan. Even The World Cup this year is effected by the most holy month. The most we will do is ride bikes, go for walks, maybe some yoga and if he’s feeling up to it – Mr. Fox will go to his Fencing.
Other than that, I’ve been actively collecting lanterns since last year and I have lofty plans on finishing that countdown calendar I didn’t get to finish last year. I also purchased Eid Abayas for the ladies. I ordered them from East Essence this year. Last year we went shopping in Dearborn and it was lovely, but the ladies prefer to buy colorful abayas and the majority of what is offered in Dearborn is black. We don’t have time to shop in Chicago this year again, so I went online. I’d purchased two abaya from East Essence this year for my substitute teaching wardrobe and was very, very pleased with the fabric, the wear (no wrinkles) the wash (no ironing) and the fit (more like a dress than a bathrobe!) I was warned that the shipping might take up to a month, so I didn’t wait. Plus, with abaya starting at $19 who could go wrong! I love that they offer different lengths – for a small fee. My shipment arrived just a little over 2 weeks after I placed the order. I purchased another abaya for myself to add to my growing collection. It’s funny how just a few years ago I was really very uncomfortable with wearing abaya, now that I’ve found a brand that fits my style more closely, it’s not as life changing.
I wasn’t able to borrow any photos from the East Essence website to show you what we purchased, so you will have to go and check out their selection for yourself. Don’t wait too long to place an order!
I’ve been sharing a lot more on the MyIslamicLife page over on Facebook and on Twitter these days, in part because there has been more time for me to catch up on my reading. This morning I wanted to share this article with you that I came across online, and I’m sharing it here just in case you don’t see my page posts. Please feel free to share. It might make things a little easier for the non-Muslims in your life.
(posted on MuslimVillage.com and other sites)
In the next few weeks, you may come into work and find your co-worker taking a power nap at 9:30am. At break time, you’ll notice she is missing in the discussion about Harry Potter over at the water cooler. At the staff meeting, you will be shocked when she is offered coffee and cookies and refuses ! By lunch time, your concern about her missing at the water cooler compels you to investigate the situation.
Then you remember what she had mentioned last week over a delicious Sushi lunch. Flooded with relief, you go up to her desk, and proclaim with much gusto, “Ramadan Mubarak (Moo-baa-rak)!” Ramadan’s Blessings to you!
The month of Ramadan is a happy occasion; it is the month that the Muslim holy book, the Koran, was revealed to our Prophet Muhammad. Muslims are called by their religion to celebrate the month by coming together in worship, fasting each day for thirty days from dawn until sunset.
While this may seem like a tremendous feat, consider this: Fasting while working is an even greater endeavor. Make it a little easier on your Muslim colleague by following a couple of simple rules:
The next time you find yourself in line for the copier with your Muslim colleague, feel free to wish him or her “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Ramadan Kareem” or simply “Happy Ramadan.” We absolutely love it when people acknowledge Ramadan and are happy about it.
Keep in mind that we’re fasting voluntarily and, actually, pretty joyously (despite the tired, sad look on our face). We’re not forced to fast. In fact, we wait for this month the whole year, so you don’t have to feel sorry for us. We are not trying to be rescued (other than by that ticking clock taking us closer to sunset!).
The Lunch Meeting
Most of us understand that life goes on, and so do lunch meetings, and if we are participating in them while fasting, don’t worry about eating in front of us. This is just part of the test. We appreciate your acknowledging our fast, but don’t feel the need to discuss it every time you show up in our line of sight holding food.
Just try not to eat smelly foods. . . and please ignore our stomach when it growls at your sandwich.
It’s true — we can’t drink water either. Again, this is part of the Ramadan test and our exercise of spiritual discipline. This is probably why you may not find your friend at the water cooler. Try switching the break time conversation to another location in the office. You should probably also let them skip their turn for the coffee run this time.
While God may tell us that the breath of the one fasting is like “fragrant musk” to Him, we know that you might not experience the same. Understand why we’re standing a good foot away from you when speaking or simply using sign language to communicate.
Consider holding a Ramadan Iftar dinner . Iftar is the Arabic word for the meal served at sunset when we break the fast (it’s literally our ‘breakfast’). This will be a nice gesture for Muslim coworkers and will give others the opportunity to learn about and partake in Ramadan festivities. Although there is no specific type of meal designated for iftars, it is tradition to break the fast with a sweet and refreshing date before moving to a full-on dinner
Fasting is not an excuse
Although energy levels might be low, the point of fasting is not to slack off from our other duties and responsibilities. We believe that we are rewarded for continuing to work and produce during our fasts. Fasting is not a reason to push meetings, clear schedules, or take a lighter load on projects.
That said – we don’t mind if you help work in a nap time for us!
Ramadan is a time for community and charity. There are iftar dinners held at mosques every night (you are welcome to join the fun – even if you’re not fasting!) and night-time prayer vigils throughout the month. We give charity in abundance and make an extra effort to partake in community service. Throughout it all, we maintain an ambiance of joy and gratitude for all that God has blessed us with, and reflect on those in this world who have been given much less. This is a time for all of us–not just Muslims–to renew our spiritual intentions, increase our knowledge, and change ourselves for the better.
Every year, I buy an Islamic themed t-shirt for my people for Eid. In 2013, I bought these styles. I see a lot of kids running around in the community with cute t-shirts that say something positive about being Muslim, or something related to Islam. I don’t know if my children will ever wear their shirts out in public. They usually end up as pajamas. Its okay though. I do this to be supportive. I do this so that they know they have the option. I do this because, its one of our things…its a tradition.
to inspire our communities to make a sincere effort this Ramadan to live the Prophetic example and ‘enjoin the good’ in ways that are meaningful. -Creative Muslims
I loved the design of their shirt, I love the message. I love that Creative Muslims want to inspire us to have an Epic Ramadan. So, this is our shirt for the year. I usually buy different styles for each of my people, this year – we’re all doing the same style.
Go over and order your shirt. Wear it proudly and perform Random Acts of Kindness. Take your picture, post it on Instagram and share it and your random acts on Twitter – #RamadanEpic. Don’t just focus on the Ummah either. Go beyond, into the community and reach people of other faiths. Kindness knows no boundaries.
Last weekend, we ended up at that market in the city where we buy our beef bacon. Each time we go, Khaled ends up finding some sort of adventurous food item to introduce to the children.
The first time we went, he brought home rabbit. Last weekend, he brought home bone slices. I can’t remember what he called them, but he was super excited. I asked some general questions and Khaled explained that these were the shin bones of the cow.
I was completely perplexed and mortified all at the same time. They have no meat on them. I had no idea what to expect.
We invited our friends over and while Khaled boiled the bone pieces, I acted as the sous chef and prepped different ingredients – never looking into the pot.
After it was all said and done, I took a deep breath and snapped this photo.
I knew I had to share it with you.
That night, I was declared to be the best wife ever.
Last Week, the My Islamic Life Page over on Facebook reached 250 likes.
So, as promised – another recipe!
Today, I’m thinking of something savoury and simple. Egyptian Style Beans. Now, I don’t know how other Egyptian families make their beans, but when my sister-in-law came to visit us, this is how she taught me and this is how Khaled eats it.
2 cans of beans – I use an equal amount of Fava and Chickpeas
2T Olive Oil + more to taste
Bunch of Parsley (Flat or Curly) Rinsed
1/2 Sweet Onion (or 3 Green Onion)
1 Big Tomato
I drain the water off of the chickpeas and pour them into a deep frying pan. I rinse that goopy liquid off of the fava beans and then add them to the same pan. Smash the beans with the back of a wooden spoon until it looks like refried beans. Then, turn on the heat to medium, add olive oil until the beans are easy to stir around (about 2T.) Add approximately 2t of salt, use more or less depending on your taste. Add cumin – again, adjust to taste.
Now, at this point, the ful may be difficult to stir. Add enough warm water until they move around easily in the pan. You are just warming everything so the flavors meld together.
Finely Dice the Tomato, Onion and Parsley.
After everything is warm, turn off the heat, stir in the fresh ingredients and then squirt some lemon over the top. Maybe add a little Olive Oil to taste.
Guess what else? Yesterday, I ordered our Eid Abayas!!! Oh yeah, I’m 2 steps ahead of the game this year. I can’t wait to tell you about them.
We are a family in mourning.
I am a woman in mourning.
As a child growing up Christian in the Mid West, at an appropriate age I was indoctrinated in the rituals of mourning.
Your loved one dies. Everyone gathers in a central location. People bring food. They call on the phone. They come over at all hours of the day. They stay the night so you are not alone.
Your religious leader calls on the family.
Time is spent at the funeral home. People gather. They bring food. They cry with you. They send flowers.
The funeral procession of cars. The burial. The gathering of people, the bringing of food. The tears mingling with smiles and reminiscing of the loved one.
Days later, calling people, talking about your loved one – still eating the food.
Weeks later, tending the flowers and planters, sending thank you notes.
Months later, remembering your loved one and silent tears.
Mentioning your loved one, remembering them. Sometimes there are still tears, sometimes not.
The rituals of mourning are there to give us a thing to do, when we want to do nothing. It gives us a structure when we don’t want to open our eyes and get out of bed. It is there to remind us to eat when we have no appetite because the food…the people bringing the food…they know. They know if they didn’t feed you, you would have no energy to get out of the bed you never want to leave.
We have been a family in mourning for 8 months and 26 days.
And I still don’t know what to do.
There is no ritual for the family that is here.
I was told, sometimes the family takes their days from work.
Sometimes, there is a prayer for the loved one.
Sometimes, there is a time for condolences.
So, since we didn’t know what to do, we spent untold hours online – telling everyone we could find about the truth to the atrocities. We uncovered the lies. We shared the photos that were taken by people in the midst of the fight, facing the gunfire. We debunked the spin.
We cancelled our engagements.
We had a time for condolences.
And then we were told it was dangerous for us to mourn so verbally online. So we stopped.
But there was no comfort in ritual because there is no ritual established for a family abandoned.
Often times in a family where faith, culture and proximity divides the extended family – you are left feeling like an abandoned island. You search for ways of coping without the ritual and even though you see the lifelines passing by overhead, you just don’t have the energy to reach up and grab hold.
Less than 5 days ago, we lost Khaled’s Mother.
It hurts to breathe.
There are no rituals.
No one gathers. No one calls. No one sits with us while we cry. No one brings food.
There is nothing to do.
Its as if our world has been shattered like bullet proof glass.
We continue to work. But the work isn’t fulfilling.
We continue to go to school. But we aren’t learning.
We continue to do what needs to be done, because there are no rituals to observe.
We don’t want to eat, but we do.
We don’t want to get out of bed, but we do.
We don’t want to take care of ourselves, but we do.
We want to talk about our loved one, but no one knows her like we do.
No one here misses her like we do.