Tag Archive | Muslimah

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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Now I lay me down to sleep

Assalamu alaykum and welcome.

Many of you may have heard this bedtime prayer before.

“Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

It’s a staple of the bedtime routine of many a Christian family. When I learned it as a child I could scarcely understand it’s meaning. I thought “nowilayme” was one word and I had no idea what “ifishoulddie” meant! That’s probably why I didn’t realize what I was talking about for a while. Now it’s quite easy to understand what the meaning of the prayer is. And as a Muslim now, I realize even more how important such a prayer is. It’s quite simple so I won’t spend time explaining it here, I simply want to express my personal understanding of this type of prayer and it’s importance as part of the bedtime routine.

In the Qur’an Allah says what means:

It is He Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep), and has knowledge of all that you have done by day, then He raises (wakes) you up again that a term appointed (your life period) be fulfilled, then (in the end) unto Him will be your return. Then He will inform you of that which you used to do. (6:60 – Dr.Mohsin translation)

And in another passage He says what means:

It is Allâh Who takes away the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep. He keeps those (souls) for which He has ordained death and sends the rest for a term appointed. Verily, in this are signs for a people who think deeply. (39:42 – Dr.Mohsin translation)

Our souls belong to God. He does with them as He wills. Our souls are in His possession by night and it is by His will that they are returned to us each morning. That’s not to say that we die each night. Anyone hooked up to a machine that measure vital signs will prove our bodies continue to function as we sleep. But one cannot live his/her life without a soul. What kind of life are we living when asleep? So our lives continue only if our souls are returned to us.

 

My understanding of this prayer now through the eyes of Islam is that it’s much like the 5 daily prayers. The 5 daily prayers are not prayers asking for something to be given to us (that’s usually done after we have completed the prayer) they are prayers done to remind us of Allah’s glory and our subservience to him. Similarly, the “now I lay me” prayer is not a prayer requesting that God take and keep our souls since He already does that, it’s a prayer that serves as a reminder that this is what He does. A reminder that your final resting place is with Allah. A reminder to start, live, and end each day in worship of Allah.

 

There are many supplications one may make before going to bed to serve as a reminder. And the best part is: these reminders allow one to die upon the firtah if he or she should then die while sleeping.

Al-Bara’ b. ‘Azib reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) commanded a person (in these words): When you go to bed during night, you should say: Oh Allaah, I submit my soul unto You, and I entrust my affair unto You, and I turn my face towards You, and I totally rely on You, in hope and fear of You. Verily there is no refuge nor safe haven from You except with You. I believe in Your Book which You have revealed and in Your Prophet whom You have sent.” Make this as the last word of yours (when you go to sleep) and in case you die during that night, you would die upon Fitra. (Muslim; Book 35; Hadith 6544)

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!

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.