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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.

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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.

What about JIHAD?!?!

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

 

Well here I have this provocative title for my blog and yet have said barely a word on Jihad. Let’s get to it then. What is jihad? What does it mean? Perhaps a quick Google search could shed some light on this topic?

 

The first result when searching “jihad” is a Wikipedia entry (of course.) While it does provide some general information there’s no real depth to it. Next in the results is Jihad Watch. Yikes!…. Then we have Daniel Pipes…. oh dear….. Then a very brief definition form Merriam-Webster. FINALLY, the fifth result has a somewhat of an actual answer from About.com’s section on Islam, not just glossing over the fact there are non-violent jihads like the Wikipedia article does but actually explaining it a little bit. But this is just anecdotal.

 

There are many many articles and even entire books on the subject and I’m not about to make any breakthroughs here. As you may have noticed I have been giving information in chunks. It’s not that I can’t see the forest through the trees. It’s more that I know which forest I’m in so I’m taking my time to look at all the trees. So I’ll be taking my time to analyze and define the term over the course of many entries. And let’s not forget I’m not specifically here to define Jihad. This is my jihad after all and while part of that jihad is to define jihad in the first place, this is largely chronicling my struggle to better myself as a Muslim. So, let’s start with that definition; the definition of the personal jihad.

 

I’m using excerpts from this fatwa from Islam Q&A for my definition this time. Feel free to click the link and read the full fatwa on your own. I’ll be returning to it later as well as researching other sources and presenting them at later dates, as the opportunities present themselves.

Ibn al-Qayyim (may Allaah have mercy on him) said: Once this is understood, then jihad is of four kinds: Jihad al-nafs (jihad against one’s self), jihad al-Shaytaan (jihad against the Shaytaan), jihad against the kaafirs and jihad against the hypocrites.

He goes on to say

Jihad al-nafs (jihad against one’s self) is of four kinds: 1 – Striving to learn the teachings of Islam… 2 – Striving to make oneself act in accordance with what one has learned… 3 – Striving to call others to Islam; teaching those who do not know about it… 4 – Striving to bear patiently the difficulties involved in calling people to Allaah and the insults of people; bearing all that for the sake of Allaah.

Interestingly enough, in what seems to be an unavoidable meta way, my studying about jihad is actually part of my jihad!

 

With that, here is what you can expect from me for this part of my jihad. I’ll be posting what I’m learning about Islam. I’ll also set goals for myself which I’ll be more likely to strive to accomplish knowing others are watching me. While I should strive to accomplish these goal knowing Allah is watching me, this is a weakness in me. I know Allah is watching me but it’s not enough to motivate me to action sometimes. It’s not at all that I want to do these things simply to be seen by others. I want to do things only to please Allah and sometimes that means I need other people keeping an eye on me. I’ll also post about how I’m trying to apply what I learn to my everyday life. I’m going to strive to remember Allah in all my actions. Hopefully posting what I learn will help me with my dawah efforts in the community and perhaps be good dawah for anyone who may stumble on this blog. I may also post about those dawah efforts or any difficulties I face from others (though I have suffered very little injustice so far, alhamdulillah.)

 

But this is just me talking about what I’m going to do. Starting tomorrow insha Allah (or the day after tomorrow, I may have to skip the update tomorrow) you’ll finally see my jihad in action over the next several days!