This afternoon, I had a fun, light, funny post all ready to go when I had time to type it out. After the last few posts, I wanted to lighten it up, and I thought I’d share some miraculous discovery with you.
Then earlier this evening I was cooking dinner and my boy came in the kitchen. ”Mom, do you know where Random Name Speedway is?”
“Because I think I was just invited to go.”
“Just a minute. This place is over on the outskirts of town.”
“And when I was growing up, this place was considered to be shady.”
“Ohhhh. But my friend is going.”
“Yeah, I’m not prepared to send you off with your friend and his dad, to a place I believe to be in the shady part of town, where you could possibly be shot. There could be gangs there.”
Mr. Fox: BLANK STARE
“Yeah, I’m not prepared to tell your father that I let you go and watch some cars circle around a track, amongst a bunch of drunk fans and you got shot. So, no. You cannot go.”
The part of my internal dialogue that didn’t come out of my mouth was that I cannot let him go where there is a Very High Possibility of people there who will be seriously inebriated.
People who are not worldly.
People who are carrying concealed (or not concealed) weapons.
People who will look at my dear boy and not see the resemblance to that famous movie star that so many people tell him he looks like, but they will see that he has his father’s nose and cheekbones. My boy is fair-skinned and has dark brown hair and an Egyptian profile.
What if they take a look at him and think of the Tsarnaev brothers? What if they look at him, think of the Tsarnaev brothers and notice that he is wearing a baggy sweatshirt with a hood…and he keeps checking his cellphone?*
So, no. You cannot go to the race with your friend and his dad. If you want to go to the movies and see Iron Man 3, absolutely! But the races, No.
*Mr. Fox gets 8 gazillion text messages each day. Most are from the girl down the street. I thank God every day when I hear his phone buzzing incessantly that we got unlimited texting for him well before he needed it, when it was still available. Yes, it is annoying, the sheer number of texts he gets, but we are teaching him not to be rude with his phone. I’ve been assured by my good friend that this amount of texting is not unusual. Especially for a good looking boy.
You know when you start doing something and then you question your decision and back off? Then you get to a point where you are unsure whether to continue the project, job, book, or just move on to something else? Is this the path you are supposed to be on, or is it a detour that you shouldn’t have taken?
These are questions that I’ve been struggling with for the last 9 months or so. They have become increasingly troublesome recently, and I have done some serious thinking, questioning and praying.
Do I pursue teaching full-time? Do I pursue working outside my home full-time? Do I continue to maintain my Etsy shops? Do I continue writing? What path am I supposed to follow? Am I being distracted from my main purpose? Is my work taking me away from my children too much? What is the work that God has me here to do ?
So, I pray.
And I pray.
And then I am quiet and trusting. And I am aware and observant.
Last week, I met with two women who I have known for many, many years. One has been a mentor to me ever since I started this journey of writing and sharing My Islamic Life. The second, I have known of her, but never got to know her. These women, these incredible women have been brought into my life for a reason. The first, she pushes me to be brave, she reflects back to me the power I have, and she BELIEVES it will work. The second, I don’t know what her purpose is just yet. I just don’t know. But out of that meeting, I left with a full heart, an overflowing brain and so many more questions than answers.
I was so overwhelmed with it all that I couldn’t even answer Khaled when he asked how the lunch went. I could only tell him it was very interesting.
And then I wrapped myself in the safe cocoon of my home and my family and started praying.
The next day, I went out-of-town for an educational workshop on teaching. It was a nice long drive…perfect for praying. And so, for 45 minutes, God and I talked.
And when I arrived in this little picturesque town, and found my way into the classroom, I felt peaceful.
One of the women giving the workshop is a Dominican Nun. This is of no consequence to the workshop, but that during her first session, she told a story about a family she was working with who just exhausted all of her skills and strength as a counselor. As a last resort, she invited them to church with her. They refused, for some reason, and so she said she would go to church with them. She humorously joked that she could go to church anywhere, she knew it would be okay because she was in with God. She said she’s been to church services in all sorts of churches, and even a synagogue. But she’s never been to a mosque. She had never been invited to a mosque.
Throughout the rest of the afternoon, while I was learning about the self-esteem and morality in children, I prayed.
And then at the end of the workshop, while everyone was filling out their evaluation forms, I introduced myself as part of the Muslim Community and I invited her to Jummah Service.
When I left that afternoon, I felt terrified. Where will I take her to Jummah? From all of the Mosques in my city, I can’t find one that I feel entirely comfortable in.
Then, I thought, when the time comes, it will be okay. The day after, I went to halaka. I’ve not been to halaka in almost a little over a year. I’ve not gone for so many reasons, but that day I felt that I really needed to be there. When I went, I was instantly welcomed back. There were more than 15 ladies in attendance that day. Two of the ladies I’d never met before, both were converts. One of the ladies recognized me from My Islamic Life on Facebook. Boy was I shocked!
At the end of the meeting, I shared my story about inviting the Dominican Sister to Jummah and that it felt like a test and an opportunity from God to share Islam and to show a believer that Muslims are nice, regular people.
Aunt Faye shared with us news about a new lady who has been invited to Halaka but is so full of questions and is too apprehensive to come. I reminded her about what it was like for me before I attended my first meeting. How I would send emails back and forth asking soo many questions.
I have reached out to this lady and I hope I can answer her questions. I hope she responds, because it is so much better, so much easier to live an Islamic life when you know you are not doing it alone.
Today I am thankful it is Friday and I am able to have a sleepover with my babies.
Today I am thankful for the rain because it makes the neighborhood in which I live lush and green.
Today I am thankful that I am healthy.
Today I am thankful I am in love.
Today I am thankful my babies are alive.
Today I am thankful for my home.
Today I am thankful for the blessings that God has given us.
Today I am thankful to be here.
This week, evil reared its ugly head again in a way that I cannot understand. Families were torn apart, lives were shattered.
Today, as I heard that the guilty parties were from M.I.T…students, I couldn’t help but become overwhelmed with sadness. How did their precious souls become so broken?
I think of my small, sweet babies, and I kiss their heads as I wake them up every morning and I thank God for their lives. I thank God for every breath they take and I Thank God for allowing me the joy of being their mother.
I feel sad for the mothers of the children that died. I feel sad for the lives that were forever changed this week. I feel sad for the broken, lost little boys they must have been. What is happening in this world that causes sweet little children to grow up and one day imagine destroying lives? What do we do to stop the evil from destroying our babies?
Last night, Khaled and I attended a lecture at The New Mosque about relationships between husband and wife.
When we arrived, Khaled joined the men in the Imam’s office, and a young woman came into the lecture room with a pashmina hijab haphazardly wrapped around her head. At first I thought she was like me, then the Imam’s wife took this young lady under her wing and rearranged her hijab. When she was finished, the lady’s hijab was wrapped in perfect Egyptian style.
Everyone prayed, and then assembled into the chairs for the lecture. These lectures are given in Arabic, so I don’t get the whole story until after we leave to go home. There is usually a woman sitting in the back with other non-Arabic speakers translating, but I prefer to sit and listen to the Imam and watch his facial expressions as he tells the stories. I take notes of the words I recognize and I text back and forth with Khaled so I get the general gist of what is being said. I’m hoping that the more I listen, the more I will understand.
So, shortly after the beginning of the lecture, the young woman was invited up to the podium and she took her Shahada. First she said it in English, the second in Arabic. While she spoke, her fiancée took photos. Later, after the lecture had concluded, the young man came to the front of the room and told the story of how they met.
And then he asked her to join him at the front of the room, and he proposed to her again. With a ring, and she said yes.
Before everyone left for the evening, the young woman joined the female congregation for her first prayer as a Muslim woman. Everyone gathered around her, congratulating her on her choice and welcoming her into the ummah.
I happened to have a Wudu Cling with me in my bag, so I showed it to the Imam’s Wife and asked her if it would be okay to give it to the new Convert. She gave me her blessings.
I gave the New Convert my Wudu Cling, and explained that she could hang it on the mirror in her bathroom, and it would help her remember the steps to make Wudu. She said that it would help her so much and was very appreciative.
Today, as I’m doing my family keeping, I keep thinking about this New Convert and new converts in general. And I compare them to the young Catholic girls who are making their First Communion. First Communion is met with special gifts, special parties and special clothes. We are doing a disservice to our converts in not having something special to give them to mark the occasion. People don’t just make Shahada on the fly, they make appointments and plans…their loved ones know in advance.
Available at MyIslamicLife.Etsy.Com
A little over two weeks ago, I attended a panel discussion entitled ‘Beyond Reactionary: Imagining and Cultivating Liberation.” Normally, I wouldn’t have ever known about this event. I’m not on any mailing lists, I don’t usually find out about stuff that is happening in the community until the day of the event, or after it is done. But recently I’ve come in contact with some very dynamic Muslim women, and I was invited to attend this discussion. I felt honored and excited. I didn’t know what to expect but I made the arrangements to go.
As I entered the room, I heard a female voice speaking in Arabic. I was a little late, so I surveyed the room for the closest seat to the front on the right side of the room. Once I was seated, I realized that I chose to sit on the ‘male’ side of the room. SIGH. Even in the liberal grounds of University of Michigan, in an event sponsored by the Women’s Studies Department, there was moderate segregation. I use the word moderate, because after I noticed that I was sitting on the male side of the room, I also noticed that there was a girl sitting in the middle of all the boys. Then further on into the hour, another girl joined the row, and a few minutes after that, another woman was invited by a boy to sit next to him. 99% of the females in the room wore hijab.
This is all so very important to me because I’m looking at these college students and I’m watching their interactions and thinking what my children would be choosing to do if they were in this room. What I would want for them.
The speakers gave us a glimpse into their journey as Muslim women, what brought them together to lead this panel. Amanda Quraishi, Muslim Convert, writer and interfaith activist from Texas, told about how she struggles with the idea of ’The Ideal Muslimah.’ The muslimah who always is perfect in her Salah, her home is a spotless vision of organized beauty, her children are all honors students, her marriage is in complete harmony and she makes perfectly spiced meals and she does all of this while reading Quran all day. This is like us mere mortals struggling against the likes of Martha Stewart and Gwyneth Paltrow, ever striving to have the perfection of home and lithe body while maintaining a level of perfection in her romantic and social life that is daunting all on its own. It is impossible to do all, and we have to allow ourselves to have room to grow and be beautiful women who are flawed.
Chaplain Tahera Ahmad introduced herself, told us a little bit about her life story growing up in the Chicago suburbs. It was her voice that I heard reciting The Quran when I entered the room late. As Chaplain Tahera talked about her life, I realized that this young woman blazed the path for young Muslimahs. She, like Rosa Parks, changed the game for young women by playing basketball for her high school while wearing hijab. Challenging the mainstream in midwest Chicago while she was 15, Tahera continues to be a powerful force in the story of American Muslims today. ’Tahera received graduate certification in Arabic from Al-Diwan, Cairo, Ijaazaat (certification) in Tajweed (art of Quranic recitation) and traditional Islamic sciences from various institutions in USA and abroad. During her graduate studies in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary, she served as the Muslim Chaplain/Advisor at Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts.’ If Chaplain Tahera were Presbyterian or Methodist, she would be the Pastor of her own church by now. With this glowing list of educational accomplishments and her engaging personality, her parish would be overflowing. This dynamic woman is fighting against mainstream Islam by being a leader for college age American Muslims, changing the course of history by being a resource for young Muslim Men and Women and planting a seed that Women are able to be religious leaders in the community.
Hind Makki, also from the Chicago area is a leader in interfaith dialogue. Hind told us a story about how she and Chaplain Tahera were leading a meeting together, and once they arrived at the location (it happened to be in a mosque) one of the men in the group told them that they could not participate in the meeting because they were women, and they had to go to the women’s room. Apparently the man did not understand that Hind and Tahera were the leaders of the meeting. Hind did not explain the outcome of this challenge but used it as a segue into talking about the inequality of prayer spaces for women. Because it is not mandatory for women to attend the mosque for Jummah prayers, mosques all over the middle east have no spaces for women to pray. Over the course of history, the men got used to the women not being considered in the prayer environments, and thus did not plan accordingly for them when building the mosques. This is a problem in American culture where the norm is for men and women to participate in worship together. In the traditions of the founding religions practiced in America, worshiping God together with your entire family side by side brought you closer together as a family unit. So, when American Muslim women attend prayer, they want to pray in spaces that are as thoughtfully planned for as the men’s spaces. Hind is the founder of the Tumblr feed SideEntrance, where she collects photos of and discusses prayer spaces for men and women.
I sat and listened, and as the stories of these women flowed around me and I absorbed and noted as much as possible, I kept thinking where do I fit into this discussion? I am a spectator in this struggle. I am not fighting as a Muslim being denied the right to pray next to my husband and son. I am not being told I cannot participate in a dialogue with members of the opposite sex. I am not being held to this impossible ideal in my own mind…(well, maybe ) But I am the mother of future women and men. I want a space for my children to feel welcome. I want a space for my children to pray where they feel comfortable sitting together and are permitted to Worship God Together. I want my future grandchildren to be able to pray side by side with all people Just Like They Do in Mecca. I want my girls to be honored, respected and accepted as credible, educated women. And have their religion not matter to anyone else in the room, even if they choose to wear hijab. I want my son to feel the same way. I desperately want Mr. Fox to see all women this way. I want my children to have lives that are more inclusive and less painful than the lives current American Muslims are living. I want my children to be equal in all the ways that count, and extraordinary in the ways that matter the most.
So, although I did not speak out and contribute in the panel discussion…I walked away with a renewed passion.
Adeel Ahmed - "Muslim Men Can Be Feminists"
Living in local pagan society in the 7th century Arab world, the Prophet Muhammad was seen as a feminist. Women were given little to no rights. It was custom to bury unwanted female newborns. Women were property of their husbands and they weren’t allowed to vote. The Prophet Muhammand preached and advocated against these actions.