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Posts Tagged ‘muslim woman’

Rahma Salie, her name means mercy. She was my first friend in college; she and her husband, Micky, and their unborn baby died on 9/11.

I met her during international students orientation. Although she has thousands of friends all over the world, when she spoke to you, it felt like you were the only person that meant something to her.

I asked our mutual friend, Naho Kamikawa, to share some memories of Rahma-

But one day stands out clearly, and it is the day and moment we all met – at the International Student’s Orientation at Slater. I remember how I ran into Rahma and I think she was already with you and Sabene when I greeted her at the brunch buffet.

A couple of days later, we visited you and Sabene at your dorm room at Bates, beautifully done in newly laid out carpet. We hung at in your room and we talked about our exciting days to come.

I also remember how she became very involved and in touch with her religion at Wellesley. I also knew her very briefly back in Tokyo too, but I think it was at Wellesley where she embraced Muslim [Islam].

Away from home for the first time during Ramadan, we would try to figure out ways to sneak food into our dorm room for Suhoor. The dining hall  had a huge freezer with 6 flavors of ice cream, we sneaking in laughing and tripping- Suhoor with mint chocolate chip icecream was delicious. Our friends, Heather volunteered to fast with us, it was the first time either one of us had to explain why we fasted to anyone, we had always just done it- We started searching for answers so we could give them to her, talking with Heather was my first step towards practicing my deen.  I remember Jum’ah with Rahma, in a small room in Chapel, getting jealous because the Hillel room was so large . Apprehensively, going to our first AlMuslimat meeting not sure if we would be accepted.

She met Micheal while she was still in college. Micky, as he was lovingly called,  was raised as a Greek Orthodox Christian accepted Islam prior to his marriage to Rahma.

The last time I saw her was on Newbury Street in Boston, where her parents now run a café. We introduced our fiancées’ to each other, giddy in each other’s happiness.  She must have been glowing and happy when she boarded that American Flight 11, she was going to attend a friend’s wedding in Los Angeles. Her baby would have now been my daughter’s age. The lesson I learned from 9/11: never take a day for granted, for life is very fragile and very short.

My pain in her loss in no less than anyone else’s in America, just because we are Muslim. Her friends still miss her and mourn her, many are gathering together this weekend at the college campus where Rahma spent 4 years of her life. 9/11 was personal to me then as it is now.

Sometimes you can not explain all the pain and suffering which man experiences as a result of evil but if you see it as preparation for the experience and attainment of joy and contentment of good.  ‘Evil is not created or valued for its own sake, rather it is created for the necessary manifestation, realization and accomplishment of good. Hence, at the cosmic plane, evil which is limited and relative in nature contributes to the realization of the total good.’

She would not want to be remembered as a victim for she was such a positive ruh (soul) . Her friends still gather from all around the world every year to celebrate her life. Family and friends add pictures to a virtual memorial. There are photos of uncles and aunts from Sri Lanka, and cousins, best friends from her childhood in Japan, roommates from college, wedding pictures, a life interrupted. Inna lil lahi wa inna ilay ho rajioon. To Allah she belonged and to Him is surely her return. Please say a dua (prayer) for my friend. She really was a genuinely amazing person. May Allah SWT grant her Jannah tul Firdaus and give sabr Kamilah (divine patience) to her parents and siblings. The constant reminder of how she died, forces them to relive her death over and over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Your hope in my heart is the rarest treasure
Your Name on my tongue is the sweetest word
My choicest hours
Are the hours I spend with You —
O Allah, I can’t live in this world
Without remembering You–
How can I endure the next world
Without seeing Your face?
I am a stranger in Your country
And lonely among Your worshippers:
This is the substance of my complaint.

Rabia Basriya

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On route from DC to LAX alone with all four children. So far so good. Except…you know how we are supposed to be good to our fellow travellers. Well!! the Virgin America counter was right next to Saudi Airlines- plenty of Muslims around to salaam to. We did not even get ONE!! When my seven-year old said salaam to the Chanel clad sister with her Gucci luggage encased in plastic cover- all she got was a cold stare. LF#2 looked at me bewildered.  “Its ok jaani you still got the reward”, I said stroking her back. Undettered, I tried with another sister. Total ignore- my brother-in-law who was dropping us off smirked- he makes fun of my “muslim” antenna- ‘it beeps whenever a Muslim esp. a desi passes by and she HAS to make contact”. Oh well- maybe I can smile at the ladies at the counter- sorry I forget we aren’t in LA anymore- don’t people smile on the East Coast?

Maneuvering my brood, 3-year-old in his stroller, 4 backpacks on my girls, my camera/laptop case and purse, the 4-year-old on a monkey leash up and down Dulles Airport, I smiled.

I smiled at security even after they threw away my baby’s organic chocolate milk box- LF# 1 said “but but they let us bring it when we came from California!!” Californians are nicer we all agreed. I smiled when they asked me to take off my abaya- “it’s not a jacket, sir.” I smiled when they wouldn’t give us priority boarding even with so many little kids.

We get on board. An empty seat next to us. OH look someone left their head phones – trying to be the good Muslimah, I pick them and turn around to call the steward in black uniform, “Hi, someone left their earphones” I say to the young man in black leaning over my seat.” ERR those are mine” That was his SEAT yikes- he probably thought I was stealing them. Grrrrr, next time should I be so quick to ‘help’??

Mom packed Persian kebabs & rice for lunch for us, they smell across the whole plane!! I see fellow travellers twitching their noses. Some have a dreamy look in their eyes. Should I offer them some, I should shouldnt I? They have a right over me.“ No thank you!!”  It is hard being nice. I pack up the rest envisioning  lawyers suing us because I shared my lunch. Things were simpler in the past, you could share a meal with strangers and fulfill your deen’s requirement.  The more we become technologically advance the less we connect.

“I wanna drink, I wanna drink” ” I need to go to the bathroom”- oops the trolley was blocking the steward motions at us, “Go use the bathroom in the front.” After standing in line for seven minutes as two people use it, as my little one is hops around. “You can’t use this restroom- it’s for business class passengers ONLY!” My hijab makes me wimpy at times. Maybe if I didn’t wear hijab I would have thrown a hissy fit and told her off, “My kid can just pee on the floor and I’ll make you clean it”. Wimpy or a better human being- I don’t want her to hate all Muslims because I yelled at her.  Without it I could be from anywhere where people are brown, with it I am conspicuously Muslim.

I am just glad I am home. Alhamdulillah

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I am in the midst of wedding hungama ( craziness) my sister-in-law is getting married. Amongst the angst of what to wear and what to pack and the matching shoes, the menus and the favors & decorations- I feel like I am losing contact with Allah; salahs are read hurriedly because the tables needs to be set up and centerpieces are waiting for a final touch up. Monday fast are delayed because the abundance of food, scrumptious desserts and hospitality.  My soul’s connection is shaky, interrupted by the many loved ones coming together from places far and near. I read the following story on Haq Islam, it brings me down to reality, May we remember Allah (SWT) in our festivities, in our happiness as we do in our sadness, Ameen.

A pious man relates that in one of my journeys I once saw a young Bedouin girl.

“Where do you stay?” I enquired

“The jungle”, she replied.

“Do you not feel lonely?” I asked curiously.

She answered, “Oh Shaykh, one who befriends Allah and keeps His company can never be lonely”.

I asked, “Where do you eat?”

She replied, “Allah knows best from where He provides for His creation. He gives it to those who believe in Him”.

Then she went on to say, “The hearts that are alive with the recognition of Allah’s oneness and have relented to His love, their food is the love of Allah and His Company”.

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Last year, Mr. LF came back from a business trip to Europe puzzled over Swiss grocery stores’ policy of selling the plastic one-use grocery bags. My response was GREAT idea! Finally California is catching on to the idea, the ban has passed the state assembly hope the Senate has the gusto to pass it too. It would prohibit grocery stores from offering plastic bags and would require customers to pay for paper bags by June 2012.

There is a joke about desis; that you can tell if you are a desi (from Southeast Asia) if you reuse grocery bags or the empty yogurt cups.  I guess because we are cheap. Better cheap than a polluter I say. So if they aren’t for FREE anymore, we will definitely reuse them.

This is such an easy way to go green. Imagine how many resources we can save. As Muslims, it is incumbent on us to protect the planet that Allah has given as an Amanah (trust). As Muslim moms, we are the ones who usually buy the groceries for our homes- how hard is it really to make it a priority NOT to use plastic single use bags, paper or plastic.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that in the United States alone more than 380 billion plastic bags, sacks and wraps are used each year. Worldwide, the number of plastic bags used is anywhere from 500 billion to 1 trillion every year. Meanwhile, Americans throw away about 100 billion plastic bags each year, according to the Worldwatch Institute, as only 0.6 percent to 1 percent of them are ever recycled.

They choked up gutters, suffocated dolphins, accumulate in your drawers. It takes a 1000 years to biodegrade one. The little pieces of plastic act as a sponge for chemicals. They soak up a million fold greater concentration of such deadly compounds as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of the notorious insecticide DDT), than the surrounding seawater (Reusablebags.com).

Marine life then eats these pieces and dies. It is estimated that over a 100,000 different birds, seals and whales die every year (Reusablebags.com). After the animal dies its carcass decomposes and the plastic is free to roam the ocean and kill again.

These days every store sells multiple-use bags for usually a dollar. They last so long, I have some that are a few years old and they still look the same. Just rinse them out from time to time. Otherwise use canvas bags, they are the best. No one will look at you like you are a weirdo any more than they already do.

Ask the clerk NOT to bag things that already come in bags ie. the bag of oranges, onions. And Milk and Juice jugs are easier to carry without a bag-ever had one burst because the bag broke?

It take just a bit of retraining our habits. Keep the bags in your car and return them to the car when you have emptied out the grocery! I have a big insulated bag (free from American Express) I that I keep in the car along with several reusable bags. Most stores even give you a nickel back for every bag you reuse.

plastic vs paper? NEITHER use an insulated reusable grocery bag

Reuseable grocery bags

Sometimes I forget to take the bags ( am so not perfect :P), that is when I ask the clerk to give me paper bags as a last resort. They are not that great (it takes one gallon of water to produce ONE paper bag) but at least it can go in your compost bin and you are much more likely to reuse them. You can make bookcovers, use it as craft paper or wrap a gift. Or if you absolutely must use a plastic bag- please RECYCLE them.

The next step for my house is getting rid of the single-use Glad garbage bags- I have heard of biodegradable/compostable ones  iA

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my article as published on suhaibwebb.com; dedicated to my husband as 11 years pass from the day we became man and wife.

I am from Generation X, raised on ‘Pretty in Pink’ and Sweet Dreams romance novels. Some of my friends read Mills and Boons, others raved about the unattainable love in the Thorn birds; but I preferred the grand passion of Wuthering Heights. That was my idea of a romance – filling each other completely, a religion of love.

It also came from Indian movies; rich girl falls for poor guy, they dance around trees in the rain, then drama ensues from the family, enter Prem Chopra character, the guy runs off with girl, the end. Sometimes, he would dash in with a monologue and take her away while she was getting married to someone else. How many girls are still waiting for their Sir Salman/Saif/Shahrukh Khan to take them away on a white horse in a red lehnga?

When in love, according to Freud, “against all the evidence of  her/his senses, a wo/man who is in love declares ‘I’ and ‘you’ are one, and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact.” This love is so destructive, so impossible. Based on these notions, I have nursed many a heartbroken friend: in ER after she burnt herself with a cigarette because she wasn’t allowed to see him, helping hide another’s bruises under makeup, where he punched her for talking to his buddy. My own quest was for the eternal flutter in my heart. What were we thinking? Allah made us; He put these feelings in our heart, so why didn’t we ever think of turning to His book to see how ‘boy meets girl’ really works? It’s all in there.

I read of a great courtship, a love story that is so romantic it’s divine. The setting – Madyan, the land of frankincense, I can almost smell it lingering in the air. Historian Abdulla Al-Wohaibi writes that Madyan was “a flourishing ancient town with numerous wells and permanently flowing springs whose water had good taste. There were farms, gardens and groves of palm trees.”

Here we meet Safurah, the daughter of Shuyab `alayhi assalam (peace be upon him) at the side of a gushing spring, ‘keeping back, stopping her sheep from drinking with the sheep of the shepherds.’ And Musa (as), a fugitive on the run for eight days, crossing the burning desert sands from Egypt, feeding off nothing but tree leaves.

Their meeting is a beautiful example of chivalry; a perfect model of what it means to be a man and a woman. She didn’t need him; this was her daily routine and she waited out of her sense of modesty. She and her sister were strong women, after all herding their father’s flock wasn’t easy work. They were surrounded by rowdy men, reminding me of scenes from Liberty market in Lahore, Cairo’s Khan Khaleeli or the Westfield mall in Generic town, U.S.A. where rowdy boys hang out – men yelling, pushing, with little dignity or sense of composure. He, however, was a gentleman amongst the uncouth.

She didn’t need his help, she could have waited until all of the other men were done and then watered her flock, but that’s what makes it so special – that he still stood up to help her. Musa (as) was thirsty too but his sense of doing the right thing was stronger than his fatigue or his hunger. He was honorable – he could have ignored the sisters, could have said “I’m too tired, too important.” He had no relationship with these women. He didn’t know what family or religion they were from. All he saw was someone was being treated unfairly and for the sake of Allah, he was ready to help.

Sisters, a man like that will get you far in life. He will be just with your children, your parents and his parents. He will help you in your faith, your home and your life. As for the ones pushing each other to get the water from the well, they are the same brothers who will keep fighting for the dunya: keep working away for the next promotion, the next beamer, and you will be left on the side like the two sisters from Madyan.

When Musa (as) approached the water, he saw that the shepherds had put over the mouth of the spring an immense rock that could only be moved by ten men. ‘Musa embraced the rock and lifted it out of the spring’s mouth, the veins of his neck and hands standing out as he did so.’ He watered their sheep and put the rock back in its place.

After Musa (as) did this kind act, he went back in the shade of the tree and made du`a’. Unlike some MSA brothers who like to walk the sisters to their apartments and then ask them if they have food in the fridge, he didn’t ask the girls “Hey! I did you a favor, can you help me out now?”

No, he lies down on Allah’s green earth and makes this beautiful du`a’:

28:24

“So he watered (their flocks) for them, then he turned back to shade, and said: ‘My Lord! I am truly in need of whatever good that You bestow on me!’” (Qur’an, 28:24)

`Ata’ bin As-Sa’ib said in Tafsir ibn Kathir: “When Musa made that du`a’ the women heard him.”  What a beautiful du`a’ to make for all of us who are looking for a good partner or bliss in our married lives. This one du`a’ to Allah gave Musa (as) a job, a house and a family all at once. When you have nothing left except Allah, than you find that Allah is always enough for you.

The two sisters came home with the well-fed sheep, surprising their father Shuyab (as). He asked them what had happened, and they told him what Musa (as) had done. So he sent one of them to call him to meet her father.

She said: “My father is inviting you so that he may reward you for watering our sheep.” In Tafsir ibn Kathir it states
there came to him one of them, walking shyly, meaning she was walking like a free woman. Narrates `Umar ibn-Khattab, may Allah be pleased with him: “She was covering herself from them (Musa) with the folds of her garment.”

Safurah is intelligent and intuitive. Abdullah bin Masud praised three people’s intuition:, Abu Bakr Siddiq (ra) about `Umar ibn-Khattab, Yousuf ‘s (as) companion, and Safurah’s when she asked her father to hire Musa (as). “Verily, the best of men for you to hire is the strong, the trustworthy.” Her father said to her, ”What do you know about that?” She said to him, “He lifted a rock which could only be lifted by ten men, and when I came back with him, I walked ahead of him, but he said to me, walk behind me, and if I get confused about the route, throw a pebble so that I will know which way to go.”

He didn’t follow her, looking at her from behind – subhan’Allah. Imagine the scenario: he was a prince who must have had women throwing themselves at him but he ‘lowers his gaze’, which is the hukum for all Muslim men, but how many really adhere to that? Here Musa (as) is not Safurah’s husband yet, so he asks her to walk behind him, knowing very well that he doesn’t know the way but she does. It wasn’t a matter of ego or superiority; he was concerned about her honor as she was alone, without her sister; this way he was protecting her. Look at their society too – if all the men were such boors, could you put it past those people to gossip about her walking with him?

I often wonder how Musa (as) grew up to be this way? He came from such privilege, so much fahasha (corruption) existed in the court of Pharoah; he could have had any woman he wanted. But he learnt how to honor women from his pious foster mother, `Aasiya (ra); and continued this respect even hundreds of miles from his mother’s eyes. Mothers can be shields for their sons – even if the fathers are Pharoah.

Back to our courtship: Musa (as) takes Safurah’s ‘lead’ by making her throw stones to direct the route. Brothers, there’s a lesson for you here: it’s ok to ask for directions and to consult with a woman. Such a man’s bravado would be insulted today; he would be considered crazy or sexist,  asking a woman to walk in his shadow and then make her do all the work! Armed with our liberal arts education, we often undervalue a man’s masculinity. Such hoopla is made over where the husband walks, in front, side by side, behind you. My husband is a foot and some taller than me, so big deal if he sometimes walks faster than me, he’s got longer legs. Other times he walks behind me especially in crowds and he is often there by my side. It doesn’t define us. Shouldn’t it matter more whether he is ahead, behind or by my side spiritually?

Safurah then hired Musa (as) and chooses to marry him under her father’s guidance. There was no long engagement and no endless conversations – no promises of unending love. How many times do we pass up great partners because we haven’t clicked? What did she like about him in those short meetings? First of all, she sees he is not a wimp, he stood up for her when they were strangers, imagine what he would do for her when she becomes his sahib-e-hayat (wife).

He complements her life; she needs a man in her household, to help her run her business (we see the same theme in the blessed union of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and our mother, Khadijah (ra). This story reinforces in me the reason why my husband is always going to be the leader of my family. He leads well, so that I may willingly follow.

Musa (as) agrees to the terms Safurah’s family sets for their marriage. She admires his trust in Allah, his ability to problem solve, his strength and his manners. If women looked for his four characteristics in a man, instead of the countless other things we focus on, will we not find our own beautiful Musa?

Further, if we are consumed by the love we have for our spouse, will there be space in our hearts for Allah? Heathcliff and Catherine of Wuthering Heights had replaced God for each other. They needed to fuse their identities and thought they had attained heaven. Bronte’s mysticism notwithstanding, love like theirs is asocial, amoral and irresponsible. After reading Musa and Safurah’s love story though, I learned to love my husband for the right reasons: for his support, his strengths, and his sense of responsibility for the sake of Allah. After ten years, he still makes my heart flutter; but he doesn’t need to complete me. It’s enough that he complements me. And it is this evolving courtship that will inshaAllah knock the tunes out of every Indian movie.

References:

Abdulla Al-Wohabi, The Northern Hijaz In The Writings of The Arab Geographers 800-1150 B.C., p. 142

Emily Bronte, I Melani. Religion, Metaphysics and Mysticism in the Wuthering Heights.

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Stylish Hijabis

Wrapped up in style from head to toe. So sometimes I want to dress like this because she looks stylish, beautiful, is my little sister’s buddy and is all covered.

In Islam, hijab allows us to identify ourselves as being on a spiritual path, but we can also be on a spiritual path and have flair,” she said. “The terms are not incongruent. Hijab defines us not only as Muslim women but as women. We don’t want to look ugly. We just don’t want to be sexually provocative.

During the winter I, sometimes, don my collection of long coats instead of my jilbab. People are more accepting when they can relate to the outfit. Sometimes it is a brand or a style, an accessory. Then I read some pervert’s comment on the original article and say hey my abayas are better.

But then look at  the dude in this picture he is still staring at the niqabi sisters!! So you gotta do whatever you do to please Allah, forget men.

This week coast to coast there were two articles highlighting Muslim women fashion in two major newspaper the LA Times & the NYT. They were both fun to read. Maybe typical but refreshing because they were ordinary women, with personalities that shone through the words on paper. Thank you to the writers, fellow Los Angelenos Lorraine Ali and Elisabeth Greenbaum Kasson for making their articles upbeat. So many journalists pretend to be building bridges but take off with a juicy tidbit and spin the original story into something ugly.

I do this because I want to be closer to God, I want to please him and I want to live a modest lifestyle,” said Ms. Ahmed, who asked that her appearance without a veil not be described. “I want to be tested in that way. The niqab is a constant reminder to do the right thing. It’s God-consciousness in my face.

That is what I think about hijab- constant state of readiness for salah, so a constant state of worship.  I do it for myself- yes, in the beginning it was absolutely about modesty and all the whys but on my tenth year anniversary of wearing hijab, I can say I do it selfishly, for my end with my Creator.

If I ever chose to wear niqab it would be to humble my ego for Allah, to squish my vanity. The sacrifice of facial expressions would be so huge because I am a really expressive person. Some people have poker faces; me, my emotion play out on my face pronto. I communicate with hand gestures and expression more than words-yeah one of those people. The sisters that do niqab are cheetis- to use a very Lahori term- strong, FIERCE ala project runway! May Allah accept their worship.

So with my iman I yo-yo between the two ends of the covering Muslimah spectrum. Admiring both, styling on the fence with my abaya and hijab.

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