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My story

Assalamu alaykum and welcome.

I have been absent for a while due to many reasons. Financial, emotional, spiritual. But I have never stopped thinking about this blog I started. I was sure I would come back to it eventually, insha Allah. My intentions remain the same. I want this blog the chronicle my struggles to serve Allah as I strive to understand His word and become a better Muslimah. Updates may still be sporadic but insha Allah a little more frequent for a while. To begin anew, here is my reversion story.

Looking back on it, I think the first inklings of it started when I volunteered to be a Sunday school teacher at the local church I was attending in 2008. I tried using the teacher’s guide that they provided me but the kids were a tad uninterested and unresponsive. So I tried to make my own lesson plans. I started reading and studying the Bible to try and make lessons and in doing so began to find a lot of questions. There was so much in there I didn’t understand! This brought on a crisis of faith as I found it more and more difficult to feel connected to the Bible. It didn’t stop me from continuing to teach Sunday school for a few more months but I had no conviction to what I was trying to teach them.

Summer of 2009 came and I graduated from college and got a summer job. I met a lot of people, including the man who is now my husband. After I met him I found out he’s from Tajikistan. He came here on a work/travel experience program. His English was not too bad to begin with but there was room for improvement. I also found out that he was Muslim through a bit of casual conversation. But I thought nothing of it at that point since he didn’t act on it. At this point there are some…. unsavory parts of my past that I don’t feel the need to divulge. When I said my shahada I got a “clean slate” so I try to avoid talking about my past sins that have insha Allah been forgiven. I also try to avoid talking much about my husband from that time since he was… not a good Muslim at that point either.

“All of my ummah will be fine except for those who commit sin openly. Part of committing sin openly is when a man does something at night and Allaah conceals it, but in the morning he says, ‘O So-and-so, last night I did such and such.’ His Lord had covered his sin all night, but in the morning he removed the cover of Allaah.” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 5721; Muslim, 2990)

After the summer I continued to talk to the man who would become my husband as a way of helping him improve his English. I would talk with him and ask him about subjects I knew he knew about. His family, his country, and some general stuff about Islam. The more we talked the more my feeling grew for him.

Through all of this I was feeling the heartache of being spiritually unfulfilled. Unsatisfied as if I was hungry and could find nothing to sate me. I knew I believed in God, but sometimes I didn’t know why. I knew I wanted to be closer to God but I couldn’t find that in Christianity. I had no idea what to do. My heart ached from not knowing how to be close to the One I wanted to be close to.

I majored in Japanese language with a minor intercultural communication and my Japanese teacher found me a job in Japan. So January 2010 it’s off to Japan. I continue to talk to the man who would soon be my husband and by February, we’ve decided we’re in a serious relationship. After another month or so it’s starting to look like we’re going to decide to get married. I begin to wonder what he, as a Muslim, would expect out of me as his wife. I knew next to nothing about Islam. I heard about terrorists and extremists in the media but instinctively knew that wasn’t Islam. I did, however, know there was some truth to the plethora of women’s issues. I had a lot of negative ideas about the status of women in Islam going into this. So, I started to research everything I could about women in Islam and what to expect as the wife of a Muslim man. It was… not as bad as I thought…. But with a lot of feminist influence from my mother I still wasn’t ready to accept all of it.

In June I found the Islamway Sister’s  forum and I started to understand the women’s point of view better now that I had actual Muslim women to talk to and not just articles to read. I was starting to feel a pull towards Islam but I was in a foreign country, all by myself, and I figured I’d maybe consider converting once I got back to the US and could actually be around people and not just people online. But then around the end of July I saw a hijabi at work! She was a part timer. I got so excited that I had someone to talk to in person. I never thought I would meet a Muslim in this area of Japan (it was kind of countryside.) Shyly, I approached her and told her I had been studying Islam and was wondering if I could talk to her about it. We met for some lunch and we got to know each other a bit and talked about Islam a bit. Nothing deep though. Ramadan soon came and she invited me to the community Iftar. I had no idea there were so many Muslims in this area!! There was so much diversity. Pakistani, Egyptian, Indonesian, Malaysian, Tunisian, Syrian, Turkish, Guinea! Just about all of them were international students at the University, though some were actually living there. Some of the women were there as students themselves, some were there because their husbands were students. And I saw Japanese Muslim women! I still didn’t understand a lot of what was going on but the food sure was good.

I started to go to the mosque every week for the iftar and then after Ramadan I kept going for the women’s study circle. They would read Quran and I would listen or follow along the English translation. I began to wear hijab whenever I went to the mosque because everyone covered there so it felt more comfortable not being so exposed. I had NO idea how to wrap a hijab at that point though. The women would kindly lend me scarves and help me wrap up. By mid-October the pull in my heart towards Islam was so strong. Not a single person, not even my soon to be husband, had said a word to me about converting, this feeling had come about through my own thoughts and actions. I can’t say if there was anything specific that brought me to Islam or something specific about Islam that appealed to me. It was just all these circumstances that led me to get to know the religion. Islam looked so perfect and beautiful to me. I knew I could be close to God through Islam. Islam filled every corner of the spiritual emptiness I had been feeling. Islam made sense! There were still rules and regulations I didn’t agree with but I figured a lot of that was because I didn’t actually know much about them. All I knew was that I wanted to be Muslim and so I said my shahada in November 2010.

And one small addendum for anyone who is interested. I returned to the US in February 2011 and had my nikkah that next month in March. My husband and I have been happily married since Alhamdulillah.

I may not be the best story teller but this is my best effort to tell my story. Alhamdulillah I was in a wonderful community of Muslims that were close to the Qur’an and Sunnah. They were mild, gentle, and kind in all their words and deeds. May Allah reward those who helped me while I was in Japan.

Wake up call

Assalamu alaykum and welcome.

 

While making efforts to stay productive I found this interesting article. In general it’s talking about how shaitan whispers to people to delay important matters. The article begins with giving some hadith about how shaitan tries to hinder believers from fajr. Do you or someone you know have trouble waking up for fajr? It is because shaitan whispers that the night is long, so do not hurry you have plenty of time. He probably points out how comfy and warm your bed is too in the wintertime. It is something I struggled with personally when I first entered Islam but after reading the article I found it much easier to wake up on time. It was probably the part about shaitan urinating in your ears that got to me. Whether literally or metaphorically, it’s something I don’t want to even think about getting into my ears.

 

I pop right up for fajr but it takes the better part of 20 minutes to get my husband up most days. Shaitan tries to deter me from helping my husband as well. At first I didn’t realize it but then I got wise to what was going on. Often at first I would try to wake him but he would shout at me or ask me to wake him up later. Defeated, I would often pray alone and wake him up just before sunrise. But once, as I tried to wake him, as usual my husband quite convincingly said he is awake to get me to stop trying to wake him. Once it became clear he was falling back asleep I decided to persist. He began to shout angrily at me as I became louder and more aggressive in shaking and waking him. Finally he sits up, swearing as he does and telling me how annoying I am. (For the record, I may be loud but I always keep a sweetness in my voice.) But once he made wudu and we prayed he did not remember his earlier reactions. I tell him what mean and hurtful things he said but he swore he did not recall saying such things. A more cynical viewer may think he is simply lying but I know my husband in his waking life does not even think to say such things. I realized it was shaitan that had a strong grip on my husband in the early hours of the morning and he was trying to keep my husband from fajr by deterring me from waking him up. Although it still takes close to 20 minutes to wake my husband, I am no longer deterred or hurt by his words as he slowly wakes. He will still sometimes shout or tell me not to annoy him but I know that is not truly my husband speaking.

 

My husband is a fine man with strong iman and I know he wants to pray fajr. It’s simply that shaitan tries much harder to deter people who are doing good and following the path of Allah. Another good example is when I first started to make wudu before bed. It was not long after I had said my shahada that I learned of this sunnah and decided to try and start it. The first night I did it I had a vivid nightmare. I’m no stranger to the occasional nightmare so I thought nothing of it. The next night I make wudu right before bed again and once again had a severely violent dream. This continues for the whole week. I have never had so many nightmares in a row. I begin to consider stopping making wudu before bed since it seems to be what brought on these nightmares, but I first consult on of my sisters on the matter. I still remember her eyes opening wide as she realized and explained to me what was going on. My friend explained that when you are far from Allah, shaitan does not bother you much since you are already doing what he wants you to do. But when you begin to draw closer to Him, he will try his utmost to keep you from the straight path. She explained how shaitan tries by any means to keep you from doing things that are good for you. So my doing wudu before bed was something good he was trying to prevent me from doing. She suggested I begin reading ayat al-kursi before bed as well. Wouldn’t you know it, the next night I was free from nightmares!

 

My point here is twofold. When you first want to start doing something good you will most likely hear the whispers of shaitan in the form of “You can do it later,” “It’s not that important,” “Take your time” etc. But once you have overcome that first hurdle you may still have to deal with whispers like “Here is something more interesting!” “This isn’t worth it, just quit,” or “It’s too hard, you’ll never be able to finish it” etc, ad nauseam. Sometimes just knowing where these thoughts are coming from is enough to get through them. Realizing it’s not your own voice telling this to you can help you get to your task and not be deterred from it, like how once I realized it was not really my husband saying those things I was no longer hesitant about waking my husband for fajr. And if the knowledge is not enough to shut down those voices, there is the power of dua and the Qur’an. So don’t delay! Start memorizing more Qur’an, revive that sunnah, study for that test, do more voluntary fasts, make that complicated meal to break you fast, learn some fiqh, listen to that lecture, and show to shaitan you live for Allah and he has not power over you!

Treatment of parents

Assalamu alaykum and Welcome.

 

I figured now would be a good time to type up a few thoughts since I’m visiting my parents and I need something to do to keep me from sitting in front of the TV the whole time. While I do perhaps waste a good chunk of time in front of the computer on the internet there is nothing quite as alluring as the Discovery channel. And at least while I’m on the internet I am often reading articles about Islam.

 

So here’s one thing I learned from Islam and am trying to act upon in my everyday life: keeping the ties of kinship. I’d be very interested to hear the perspective from someone who grew up Muslim since I feel like I more often hear the struggle of those who reverted and have non-Muslim parents like myself. Perhaps it’s a bit of laziness on my part or maybe it’s a bit of fatigue from the long car drive I made today but I’m not going to be posting much in the way of fatwa, hadith, or even ayat from the Qur’an. Just more a bit of a “then and now” comparison/reflection.

 

I was never terribly disrespectful to my parents but I of course had my “rebellious” phase in my teenage years. Maybe some of the respect I give them now comes from simply becoming an adult and I don’t owe it all the my reversion. Some of the respect I give them comes from the fact they are good parents who are easy to respect, masha Allah. But I did notice a marked difference in my attitude towards them after leaning about and reverting to Islam. There are responsibilities and obligation of the parents and responsibilities and obligations of the children. I’ll probably post an addendum to this once I return home and have access to the book from which I learned these right and responsibilities. For now I will say that what I learned from that book helped me realize that a lot of what my parents had been doing for me over the years are what parents should be doing for their kids. I also realized that because they are doing these things for me they deserve from me, among other things, a great deal of respect.

 

My mother, my mother, my mother especially deserves respect. And this is not always an easy task for me. My mother is a feminist. Not that her being a feminist is the only hurdle to our harmonious relationship but it is the biggest one. There are aspects of Islam that she still does not agree with. But I’m not about to say anything negative about my mother here. I am more prone to say it’s a shortcoming on my part for not being good enough in my dawah to speak on women’s issues more competently. While she may or may not be one who is guided to Islam, it is my duty as a Muslim to teach her.

 

My actions have changed along with my attitude (as it often does for most things.) I try my hardest to call them at least once a week. I try to spend as much time talking with my father as I do with my mother. It’s so much easier to talk with my mother (you know, girl talk) but I sometimes run out of things to say with my father or I’ll take over the conversation and he’ll just excuse himself after a while. I try to remember to engage in topics of interest to him and get him talking and me listening rather than the other way around.

 

When I come to visit I am more willing, in fact almost insistent, that I do more chores. I’ll help make dinner, help serve, and help clean up. I’ll run errands and ask if there’s anything else I can do to help around the house during my brief visits. My parents will often protest that I don’t need to work so much when I visit. They say I should be as a guest. But they still accept and greatly appreciate the help. They’re just not used to any of us kids acting so generously. (Not that my brother and sister aren’t generous, but they have both acted more as guests when they visit)

 

The biggest difference is the amount of time I’ll spend with my grandfather. He’s lived with us since I was 7 years old but I never felt much like I could hold a conversation with him. Now though, I sit patiently as he tells me stories of his youth, sometimes as the words slowly come to him. I’m fresh ears to him because I’ve never taken the time to get to know my own grandfather! I will keep him company until he finishes he meal as well. He eats much more slowly now so everyone else finishes before him and often will go off to do their own things while he finishes alone. While I’m here I make sure to spend as much time as I can with him.

 

Parents and grandparents deserve a lot of respect. It takes patience, humility, and diligence to give them that respect. If it were easy I wouldn’t be talking about it here. Every time I visit my parents I work just as hard to please them as I do to please my husband.

No Four Letter Words

Assalamu alaykum my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims

 

I would just like to quickly note, while I should have been perfecting what I want to say over the past few days I was instead spending time with my husband who had been away for a month. So please pardon me for being a little incomplete in my thoughts today.

 

I have a few goals in mind for improving myself as a Muslim which I will be sharing soon. But first I’d like to talk about a few things I already do in my everyday life that I see as part of my striving to be a good Muslimah. And trust me, I do have to strive for these things sometimes because they aren’t always easy to do, either for personal reason or simply because of the environment I am in. Anyway, our first topic: Swearing! I bring this up first because I want to make it clear here and now that cursing and swearing will not be tolerated here.

 

Growing up my mother would not allow any sort of obscenities to be spoken in the house. At it’s most extreme, when my sister and I were quite young we didn’t even talk about heaven and hell in the house. We talked about heaven and heck. Or heaven and “the other place.” That passed as we grew a bit older but the big ones you still can’t say on TV were still out of the question as well as damning anything or using hell out of context. We still weren’t allowed to say anything “sucked” unless we were talking about the vacuum cleaner and the words “this sucks” was followed by “up dirt really well.” Even some of the swearing alternatives were not allowed. “Crap” was still considered too vulgar but “crud” was acceptable. “Friggin’” or “fricken” (or however one might spell it) though not strictly forbidden was strongly disliked. “Freaking” could be used instead but still preferable only to refer to “freaking out.”

 

My point being I was raised not to use curse words. Being raised this way it was pretty much inevitable I went through a stage where I learned just about every swear there was and used them as often as I could out of a misplaced sense of maturity. This was roughly around 5th grade (about 11 years old.) Some time in middle school (junior high school – around 13 or 14 years old) I grew weary of the senseless use of these words and started being more sparing with them. Somewhere along the line I became disenchanted with them all together and gradually tried to drop them out of my vocabulary. Nowadays, I do my best not to say any vulgar words but in rare moments I have dropped an inappropriate “damn” and in a rather embarrassing incident a rather passionate “son of a bitch.”

 

In the Quran Allah says what  means: “Tell My servants that they should speak that which is best. Surely, Satan creates discord among them. Indeed, Satan is an open enemy to mankind.” (17:53 – Mufti Taqi Usmani traslation) And the prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “The Muslim does not slander, curse, speak obscenely or speak rudely.” (Narrated by al-Tirmidhi, who said, this is a ghareeb hasan hadeeth; it was classed as saheeh by al-Albaani). So not swearing is largely a personal struggle and a goal one should try to achieve. We should strive to say only what is good and avoid speech which may cause harm. It could even be said the struggle not to swear is also part of jihad al-Shaytaan (which I’ll insha Allah discuss more next week.) It is difficult, however, to avoid bad talk here in the US. It’s just so commonplace and those who try to avoid swearing are often made fun of as “prudish” and “old fashioned.”

 

But despite these challenges I try my best to speak only beautiful words and not curse anything or anyone who does not deserve it. For the most part if I find myself about to swear I will try to not even let out the first sound of the curse word and just say very, very random words or garbled nonsense. Generally I find it very easy to say what I need to say without curse words, even if I’m very angry. While I do my best not to say these words, I still think these words in my head and that is my biggest challenge. Those words are still there, looming, tempting me to use them, making every day a challenge to continue speaking only that which is best. Insha Allah my struggle does not go unnoticed.

How to read what I write

Assalamu alaykum to all my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims.

 

I’ve never been a good writer. This was one of the reasons I hesitated for a long time about starting this blog. I did have a blog in the past but I never used it as a means of improving my writing. My biggest hurdle is conveying tone. I usually resort to using emoticons or explain my tone in parentheses. Somehow my writing style has evolved to somewhat resemble my talking style. Tangents, asides, and occasional run-on sentences abound. And if you’ve noticed my use of the 2nd person you’ll know I like to “talk” to my reader.

 

One of the reason I speak and write the way I do is because I have had a lot of interaction with the international community. I will not speak or write with contractions sometimes. I also sometimes speak and write in short sentences. Conversely, when I speak with native English speakers I don’t shy away as much from things like complex sentences or perceived “SAT” and high-brow words… like conversely, for example.

 

If you caught any of the subtlety of that last paragraph that’s the other thing about my writing tone and style. Some people have accused my writing of being preachy and pretentious, and even stilted and condescending. Perhaps one reason it may come across this way is because I’m generous enough to assume my readers are intelligent. It’s only after an indication I have spoken above the level of the listener that I “dumb things down” to the level of their comprehension. Perhaps this developed a bit more in my tech support day when I had to explain to people who didn’t know how to use their mobile phones how to use their mobile phones. I spoke with kindness, not with arrogance or annoyance, and I tried oh so hard to find and use the best layman’s terms. I don’t talk with a preachy or condescending tone so neither does my writing contain these characteristics.

 

I’m also a very good humored person. I like to make jokes just like just about everybody else. I try to stay away from stuff that’s really low brow but it’s not like all my jokes have to be high brow. I just like to play around with words a lot, I like tongue-in-cheek humor, subtlety, dry humor, and I do dabble in sarcasm. So read my posts knowing that I’m a human being with a sense of humor. That doesn’t mean everything I write is supposed to be funny, it just means don’t read as if I’m being dead-serious all the time. Just imagine the voice in your head as you read to be that of a young 20-something woman speaking with sincerity and kindness.

 

Who I was before I was a Muslim

Assalamu alaykum to all my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslims

No, this isn’t going to be a post delving deeply into my past. I just want to make clear some personality traits I had long before I reverted to Islam. This way no one can accuse me of being brainwashed or indoctrinated into acting this way. (Also, don’t be surprised if this post changes a bit over the next couple of days (though it’s not like I have all that many readers to worry about noticing the changes) I want to keep up with my planned “one post every day for a while” but I don’t know if I’m quite satisfied with what I have written. Maybe some would argue quality over quantity but I have a brain-full of ideas I want to get out!)

First off, I like to cook. This is a personality trait you’ll find in many women and men regardless of religion. So don’t go thinking I cook simply as my duty as wife. I like doing it anyway.

Next, I have wanted kids for a LONG time. Probably since I was at least 14 I knew I wanted to have a big family. So any of my ramblings on family planning and related topics are because I WANT A FAMILY not because I’m being forced to be a “baby factory.” Similarly, long before I was Muslim I was quite alright with the idea of being a housewife/SAHM (stay at home mom.) In fact, I had always hoped I would be able to be this, even with a feminist mother teaching me that I can do anything I wanted. It was hard to convince her that what I really and truly wanted to do was be a wife and mother. Also, I like taking care of people. Growing up, almost all of my friends always said I was very “motherly” and the best caretaker among us. So it really and truly is just in my nature to be that way.

I’ve also always been very averse to conflict. I’ve always been willing to compromise for the sake of harmony. Maybe it’s all my years of work in customer service related jobs. Maybe part of it sprung from the shouting matches in my house growing up. Now, it was by no means a constant thing. It wasn’t even a frequent thing. But from time to time arguments would arise, passions would flare, and decibel levels would rise. My mother and father would argue sometimes; my brother and mother have raised their voices to each other; and oh boy did my sister not get along with our mother sometimes. And I’m sure I raised my voice a few times too, especially in my teenage years. But through this I grew very keen on “keeping peace” by searching for a middle ground or simply agreeing and shutting myself up to end things. Haven’t you ever been in an argument and had “one more thing” you really wanted to say but you just kept it to yourself instead so as not to escalate the situation? Often times the argument can be readdressed later when tempers have cooled. It’s also a learning experience of finding out how best to address (or at least not address) a sensitive topic without rubbing people the wrong way. I’ve even “won” a handful of arguments by allowing the other person to “win” first.

And finally, I have always believed in God and wanted a close relationship with Him.

These are personality traits I developed before I even started to study Islam. Some of these traits may have been enhance or honed by Islam and maybe even having some of these traits are what drew me Islam. I just want to make it clear I have not been religiously indoctrinated to think and feel certain ways.

A little about myself

Assalamu alaykum to all my Muslim sisters and brothers; Welcome to all non-Muslim readers.

 

You will never know the intimate details of my life. Hijab is not just a piece of cloth I wear on my head. Some topics I touch on here will be talked about in detail later but for the most part this is information I would be okay telling any person I’ve just met. The main point, I suppose, is not to give a general idea of “who I am” but to tell “where I come from.” The background information is to help show how I became the person I am today and I hope that helps makes sense of future things I may say.

 

I am a revert from a Christian family and I’m American. Often people mistake me for Turkish or occasionally Egyptian because I wear hijab. When I respond that I’m American they ask where my parents are from. Once it’s established they’re American too it’s only then they realize I’m an American revert. To date, I’ve only had TWO people ask me right away if I was a revert after hearing me speak in clean American English. Not that I mind this at all. My best guess would be that the majority of American Muslims – not Muslims living in America – are first generation Americans of immigrant parents. You have to go back about 4 generations in my family before meeting an immigrant from Germany.

 

I reverted in November 2010. In Japan. I was in Japan teaching English, as the vast majority of Americans do in Japan. This was my second time in Japan, the first time being as an exchange student in the ’07/’08 school year. I studied Japanese in college and have my bachelors in Japanese language (with a minor in intercultural studies – which was offered as a major the year AFTER I graduated! Grrr… could’ve double majored, rawr….)

 

I met the man who is now my husband in 2009, several months before I left for Japan. As our relationship developed and it seemed likely we would marry, I began to wonder what the expectations in marriage would be and so I started to study Islam in depth. So while it can be said my husband was the reason I started to study Islam, he is not the reason I reverted. I came to Islam of my own volition, not as a means to get married (since, as a Christian woman, my reversion wouldn’t have been necessary anyway.)

 

I returned to the US in February 2011 to be married in March 2011. We have been happily married ever since and hope to have children within the next year. I currently work part time in retail in addition to performing my duties at home and occasionally volunteering at the local Islamic school. I am eagerly anticipating when I can go back to being a housewife so I have more time and energy for studying, raising a family, and more time at the Masjid (where the school is.)

 

As I said, I’ll be expanding on many of these talking points later, and I promise a lot of this does actually tie in with the whole “my jihaad” thing. But all in good time 🙂 I will try my best to post once a day for a while so as to get things moving before I possibly slow down a bit.