Thursday, August 31, 2006

Prepare for a storm

Last night it rained... hard. There's a "hurricane" approaching (it's some pitiful sort of tropical storm, technically) though the winds that I would gladly welcome remain somewhere off the coast of South Carolina and last night was just... rain.

But as it was raining, the most hostile emotions I've experienced in quite sometime gushed out of my fingers into a series of irascible posts. Furious, I viewed myself as a victim of the disdainful contempt of one particular man whose arrogance must surely exceed world records. Of all the things in this world that could enrage me, one sure to light my passions is the complacency of one party against the persecution of another. Am I exaggerating?

In refusing to acquiesce to discrimination and oppression of women, I am labelled as one filled with hate. Why? What is there to hate, except that a party of Muslim would dare to exclude women from holy sites in Mecca on account of their being crowded. But what more? The audacity to rearrange priorities according to modern fears.

Women are being pushed out, and I won't stand by and tolerate the arrogance of any man who dares to suggest that women need privacy more than they need Islam, or that bigoted seclusion (because all such seclusion is discriminatory segregation) is more important than the commands of God.

I am perilously close to taking off my hijab in protest. I am so sick of this attitude of keeping women out "for their own good." Bullshit! Since when do modern standards of gender inequality prevail over Islamic tradition? Will the Muslims in Saudi take women back to the time of ignorance? They already have! Women are segregated in mosques and then pushed out, they're locked in their homes, hiding under sheets if they must go out.

I refuse.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

One hour, twenty minutes (1:20)

That's how long it took this morning for me to get to school. Which is odd, because I live right down the road from my school, and could probably have walked there in half that time.

Have you ever had one of those days? It's been one of "those days" for me. Starting with... breakfast, probably. I was so tired last night that I opted to not pack my things for school, but to do it in the morning. So I needed to get up a little bit early to do that, and I had budgeted about an hour of travel time, knowing I'd have to ride 2 different buses. Well... I was running late (freqently am, in mornings.) I tried to sleep in a little extra and probably spent 20 minutes laying in bed wondering why my arm felt like it was falling asleep. (Don't ask...) I found my bag, (which had been in a box since I packed it in May), emptied it of all last semester's work and tried to fill it with a few books I planned on using today. This all takes time, mind you.

Then I thought I'd save time by eating breakfast in the car so I poured a bowl of cereal as I was about to leave only to discover... there was no milk in the fridge. So much for the cereal, so I just put the bowl (with the cereal in it) back in the cabinet, lol! I wanted to hurry... I was sooo pokey this morning.

So I didn't get breakfast this morning because there wasn't much else I could've taken with me--I figured I would just wait for lunch because I had nothing to do after my first class, which was 8:30-9:20.

I think I've mentioned in previous posts my fear of butterflies... well, this morning there was a giant (GIANT!!) moth sitting on my doorstep when I opened the door. (One for the world) Uh oh. Right beside where the door closed, so it would close just over the wing a little bit. Giant moth. I was terrified it would come at me when I opened or close the door. Thank God, it didn't, but oh boy. I did manage to get the door locked (covering my face with one hand, lol) and run down the stairs, without it moving. (One for me.)

Unfortunately, I didn't really make it to my car and out of the complex until about 7:55, already 25 minutes later than I planned. And traffic, of course, despite not taking any particularly high-volume roads... was terrible. I figured, just driving through town it would be fine. So I'm driving along, it's not too bad at first, then I come up to a major intersection on a side street. I could go straight, or turn left. Well, the left-turn line is much much shorter and I know that usually it has a long cycle (for turn) so decide to turn. That was a bad idea... I ended up waiting through 2 or 3 cycles at that light--people just weren't moving! Straight would have gotten me through the intersection much sooner.

But after that, I got stopped at two more intersections that normally are green... hmm... then a t the third, where I needed to turn right, some big slow truck was way ahead of me and getting around that turn took a while but then...

It must have been a train...

But the road was backed up about half a mile from the intersection--I couldn't even see what was going on. But cars were stopped way back (which is why I presume train, this intersection has a railroad crossing that would prevent the flow on this road) for a while, and then only creeped through a few at a time. That's where I think I wasted most of the morning time. Unfortunately, traffic like that just doesn't stop cars, but buses too.

And I finally made it to the park and ride lot (which is probably further from the school than my house, and on the other side--though I'm not allowed to park on or near campus and don't quite live close enough for an easy walk) around 8:30. Right, that's when my class was supposed to start. So here I wait for the bus... take the bus to the main campus... and have to wait about 15 minutes there for another bus to take me to the campus I have class on.


I was patient... I hoped that I could make it to the class only 20-30 minutes late, that would be fine. I've had the professor before, and knew I wouldn't miss much at the beginning. But then waiting... and I did catch the bus and made it to the centennial campus, and my classrom, at 9:16 (I checked my watch.) So, an hour and twenty minutes it took me to get to class this morning... isn't that totally insane?? It took me less than an hour when I lived 30 minutes away from campus, and now I live 5 minutes away! But now they've turned the parking lot close to this campus into a permit-only lot, and really, I'm too cheap to pay for a permit.

I'll be telling transportation that they need a park and ride lot with a bus that goes to Centennial... as it is, all commuting students who don't have parking permits need to take two buses to get to centennial campus--this is really absurd, now, considering how many departments have now moved to Centennial.

{If you don't know, at my school they are building a new fancy 'Centennial Campus' for some of the more prominent curriculum departments, like engineering and textiles... so we have 'state of the art facilities' to boast of, and all. The humanities and social studies classes will then get the dilapidated buildings which had been previously occupied by these departments, as they expand--meaning, as they no longer have 5 people sharing an 8x10 office. So being in engineering, I'm on Centennial for my "major" classes.}

For now, I'm not sure what the best option would be--I can't find a way around the "two-bus" option without a lot of walking. I think tomorrow, since I only have one class in the morning, I will walk about two blocks to a stop for a different route, and get off the bus further down the road near the campus and walk from there to class. It shouldn't be too hot at 8am or 10am, and then I have only one bus to worry about. It's maybe 3 blocks to the school building from where the bus stops, I think. I should check this stuff out, huh? ;-)

Anyway, the class let out at 9:20 so I didn't even bother going in (two for the world), but went to the computer lab to check when the next section met. I thought (and correctly) that the same professor was teaching the same class, a different section, right after the first. He was, and even in the same room! (Which I checked online.) And the class was pretty big... I just snuck in the back and listened to the entirety of the same spiel he gave to the first section (my class) as he gave it to the second. And since he doesn't take attendance, I doubt he'd notice my absence/presence in one or the other. So despite the fact I totally missed my class, I didn't really miss anything. ;-) (Two for me.)

So after class, I decide I have time to run across town to a bookstore for my community college to get my New Testament textbook. But first, I'm really hungry (missed breakfast, remember?) so decide to go home for lunch (short on cash, since tuition has just been due.) But then I remember... oh yeah, no milk, and not many other food options really, so I decide to go to the grocery store first, quick trip, get a few things I need. I didn't pay attention to how long was my travel time back to my car, or how long I spent in the store... but I didn't get home until 12:40. This time I wanted to make sure I got back to the bus stop by 1:30, since my next class was at 2:20. (Still trying the far away park'n'ride.)

Then it was my idea to make macaroni and cheese. I had milk now, so I could do that. So I pull a box down and start to boil the water... when I'm finished, and adding the powdery stuff, I notice this doesn't smell right. So I add more milk to see if maybe it's just the mixture not right ... then I taste it... doesn't taste right... so I check the box's expiration date. APRIL 2004!! (Three for the world.) How did an old box of mac'n'cheese get on my shelf anyway?? Easy, it must've been Alice's, and she left it there when she put my stuff up in the cabinet (she let me have a few shelves, and I just grabbed a box.) Ew. So I threw it away. But remember how I put the cereal in the cabinet? I didn't even have to pour a bowl, just add milk (which I had now) and I ate the cereal for lunch. (Three for me.)

But it's certainly too late to go to the bookstore, so I decide to try after my next class, and I go back to campus, and this time, thankfully, it doesn't take nearly as long but I also left in plenty of time.

So after class I try to go to the bookstore... tried listening to the radio a little bit, and (should know better but) I turned on the talk radio station. I hadn't listened to the local guy in a while, he's on 3-6 and I've been working until 6, so I listen, and he's talking about Muslims! Whaddoyaknow. So I listen and he's talking about all these supposed terror plots on planes and basically (my assessment of) people's irrational fear of flying with Muslims, or people they think are Muslims, because they think Muslims are terrorists. So all while I'm driving I try calling in, he keeps asking how people would feel and I think he wanted a Muslim to call in anyway... but I hate calling on the cell phone cuz each call charges a minute (grr.) But when I finally got home I hooked up the phone and got through on the 2nd or 3rd try. And so I tell the screener, well, I'm a Muslim, so if Bill wants to talk to a Muslim... and yeah. So I get on like 30 seconds before they're big, half hour break for news and all. And I say, Hi Bill, I'm a Muslim, and it sounded like you wanted to hear what a Muslim thought... and yeah he did so he put me on hold for like 10 minutes so I could have plenty of time to talk.

And then I got the next 10 minutes. Which is pretty astonishing for that show, really, most people get a minute or 2 at most. So I got to explain my "perspective" and how I really hate that people want to blow up planes, but that profiling "muslims" or people you think are Muslims is a pretty dumb idea, overall. But he's an idiot and thinks it's a good idea even though it makes Muslims the victims--which he acknowledged. I tried explaining how people are just overly afraid, more than they should be and that's why they are over-reacting. I'm not sure how effective I was, but hopefully someone who was listening will not think of this as just a "political correctness" issue like he was trying to make it, and see that someone's skin color and watch-looking habits does not make him a terrorist. And I tried to dissociate between "Muslim" and "terrorist" (don't we all) but it's not something these guys like to hear, I know. And I was polite this time. :-) (Four for me.)

Oh yeah, and that book... was used... and only $35!! (Five for me!!!) These hardcover books tend to go $60,70,80 used, so that was very nice.

Now what? Well I beat the world today, so far, 5-3, alhamdulillah. I have some reading to do... maybe I'll go over my classes later if I have time, inshaAllah. (Especially NT... that one might be an irritant for me.)

And by the way... the giant moth is still there, sleeping, I guess. I got a good look at it earlier, though, the scales on it's wings are really interesting--looks like parts of leaves. Subhan'allah, if it were on trees I think I could never see it. So why it's choosing a doorstep to sleep on, I dunno--but it was alive this morning, btw, I saw it moving it's little antennae thingies (which is why I was terrified it would fly into my face, as such airborne buggers have been known to do).


Monday, August 21, 2006

Beach trip

So it looks like the last time I posted was Thursday... I can't really remember Thursday...

But Friday was Jumma'ah. I tried so hard to get to the khutbah early, and didn't make it before it started... inshaAllah this week, or next. But I didn't miss anything--the imam was giving the khutbah, so it was in Arabic, and then translated afterwards, and I got to hear the translation. The title was Sins of the Ummah. It was a very interesting lecture about what we, as Muslims collectively, were doing wrong in the world--especially the government. He talked about how Islam had been twisted into a political philosophy of sorts, but how real Islam was being oppressed even in Muslim countries! May Allah save us from what we are doing to ourselves.

The Friday night talk was about da'wah, with Brother Ali Aiello talking about da'wah in the Qur'an and sharing some experiences. I don't know that I heard anything "new" but it's always good to hear these things again with a new voice. On Saturday I went back to the masjid for another Da'wah talk, this time with the imam. This is the first activity I had heard about of the da'wah committee, and so I changed my schedule (I was planning to go out of town that morning) to stay for it. It was helpful, I got to see who some of the people active in da'wah are, at that masjid. Some I knew, but most I didn't. The discussion started with talking about people taking shahadah, and not pressuring them to do that, but it sort of gravitated (inevitably, with a certain person present) towards a Muslim state. How it got there: people taking shahadah, answering questions about Islam, answering questions about jihad, what do we say about current events... then a discourse on what would be necessary for things to be better. While I appreciate that discussion, and find it very interesting, I didn't attend to hear that but more about da'wah. Oh well.

After that I tried to pack quickly (quickly didn't happen) and get out of town, but since I was going to visit my brother, my parents had a letter they wanted me to take to him/his girlfriend, so I had to drive 20-30 minutes out of the way and back before I could go. And then I was just running behind, but of course I stopped to talk a little while to my parents--a mistake. First I had to hear the low-down on Brittany's ex-roommate and other nonsense, and then my dad asked the nasty questions--what do they say at your mosque about those plane bombings?

I can't remember his words, but it was something like that, which didn't make sense. I have to ask... what are you talking about!? He apparently meant the terror plots uncovered in Britain about blowing up planes. I tried to be really clear this time when I told him, it's just wrong. I gave him a list of reasons why it's wrong and then I had to explain why some people aren't saying it's wrong. I explained some things I had learned that day and weeks before from the imam (who is very critical of "Muslim" governments, mind you) about how those governments are really oppressing the Muslims, how they can't even practice Islam there, how governments are treating real scholars who disagree with them.

At some point now, he asks me if I can ask the imam to talk to him. I wouldn't do that--I don't even talk to the imam. I just listen. I'd feel out of place asking him that, when my dad can call the mosque himself. Plus, I don't know what he wants to talk about, and he won't tell me, but I know the imam is busy. And on top of that, the imam's English isn't very good and I'm not sure if my dad could even understand him. So I think my dad is asking in a rather rude way, by telling me to ask him even though I don't even get to talk to him myself. He's busy! So I won't be doing it, but I will ask my dad to call, and try to find other people who can talk to him. Right now, I'm too annoyed at his manners to see this as a breakthrough or anything.

But I finally, around 8, made off towards the beach, to visit my brother. I didn't get to spend much time with them that night or the next morning/afternoon. They were working, and I went to buy them some stuff for their place--some kitchen towels, a casserole dish, a clock for the living room and some groceries they needed--and went back to do their dishes. Now, their plumbing was messed up (busted pipe, maybe?) and my brother had spent the last few days trying to fix it, so they didn't have water.. and hadn't done the dishes, therefore, in a few days. So I did their dishes, fixed a casserole for them to make later (so they have more than just junk food to eat) and we went out to dinner.

Dinner was an adventure, we drove up (separately) to Wilmington from Holden Beach (they live right near the island, but work in Shallotte) because Brittany wanted to eat at some floofy places on the water. But because they were crowded, and uppity, we decided to go looking for somewhere else... and drove around Wilmington for a while not getting anywhere until we made it way into town and found a whole slew of them. Then we ate, and they drove back to Shallotte and I went home. It was actually a pretty quick drive. I've been to Wilmington a few times but this time it seemed much shorter... possibly because I was driving 85? Or maybe because I didn't stop in Warsaw for gas or anything else. Who knows. But I got home at about 12:30am, which wasn't too bad considering when I left. That's when I should've gone to bed, and didn't but... it's Monday, and thus begins my very hectic fall semester.

Tomorrow I have a meeting I can't go to because it's during a class I'll have at nights, now. Wednesday is my first official day of classes at State, then I'll work most of the days, Thursday-Friday. I have a meeting Sunday, the MSA shura wants to meet me to talk about their open position... that's not going to happen, I think. They had a retreat they wanted me to go to part of, on Sunday (I was at the beach.) And their first meeting is next monday at 7:30, but I have sorority stuff at 7. I told them I could be there by 8... but this isn't boding too well, and I think it might be better if I just keep my nose out of it for a while. Anway, the following three weeks of recruitment plus classes and work... and the lab still hasn't posted the fall schedule so I don't know when I'll be working there!! Wow, do I seem a little stressed? I have something scheduled, at least one something, every day of the week for 4 weeks. And after that... oh yes, there's more, just too far in advance to have planned stuff yet. Ah, me. Seventeen weeks of this, then vacation. Then GOODBYE AOE!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Not everyone is paranoid

I'm not.

And unfortunately it's difficult for me to deal with people who are, or who otherwise demonstrate irrational fear or rely on conspiracy-theorist types of news sources.

I don't believe that there are "masterminds" out there secretly controlling and manipulating the world, making "prophecies" that have any hope of coming true. And I don't take hearsay as valid information on which to form an opinion.

I don't really know how to describe why, if I spot Amatullah at the masjid, I try to run out as soon as I can before she spots me. There are a few things she likes to talk about. She wants to know how to explain to non-Muslims that "your government did that," when they ask about 9/11. (????) She also wants to know how ready I am for a husband, and did I read that book by Laura Schlesinger yet called Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands (no.) She occasionally asks how school is and how much longer I have--always the same answer, I'm busy, and 2 more years. LOL. She also like to talk about how she teaches her kids. But here's one that is causing my recent frustration in talking to her: communing with Allah.

I don't even know what that means. She's been saying for a while how we were raised Christian so we know how to pray better or something... I don't get it. I was terrible at praying before I came Muslim. I would lay in bed and try to think of things to be grateful for, before asking some kind of request. Thanks for this, this, this, this... and can I get this...? I don't think I was especially close to God, I never really did much praying in groups outside my family, no Bible studies or prayer circles....

WHAT? You didn't go to prayer circles?

I don't even know what a "prayer circle" is. I wasn't the most active Christian in the world, you know...

But weren't you active in the Christian groups on campus??

No, why would I be? Campus Crusade is known to have the best parties on campuses all over the state--what does that tell you? I didn't say that, of course, but really. She's acting like I must naturally have an identical background to her simply because I was Christian, and like I apparently am better at praying than everyone else because I was raised to be so close to God. Whatever. I don't want to be rude so I don't say anything while she gives me this look of disappointment. You don't have to be a Christian to know how to pray. I didn't learn how until I became a Muslim and I am so grateful for that. I can make up my own prayers as I go along (by prayers, here, I'm pretty much only talking about supplications, or du'a) but I have the prayers of the Prophets, the prayers of Muhammad, and have tried to learn how to pray, how to supplicate. I don't rely on experience with "prayer circles" or anything like that, I don't (though she does, apparently) have a need to pour out my heart with a list of gripes and complaints to send up to God daily, and that isn't at all how I look at my religion--a chance to complain.

She talks about Islam as though the only thing is just getting closer to God. We were having a discussion about the Khilafa and I was agreeing with her about the importance of building a strong foundation in understanding God, but I'm starting to think we have a different idea here. To me that means time spent worshipping God, reflecting on His Greatness, learning His attributes. It's not self-centered time asking for things.

It's really irritating--I'm not sure exactly what she thinks I am, some younger version of herself perhaps, but I'm not. I don't have the same tradition in Christianity that she has and I don't see Islam the same way. I try not to meddle in how she does things but I'm annoyed that she keeps trying to meddle with me. How dare I run out of the masjid after fajr to get some sleep, instead of listening to Riyadh us-Saliheen with her? I got that impression from her this morning. And last night...

I just don't see the point of her constantly telling me I need to commune with God like this is some bizarre cult I've never heard of, and I can't stress how much it's starting to bother me. I want to worship God, not just complain. And I see that as much more comprehensive than putting my face on the floor and thinking about all the things that went wrong in a day.

The many impressions I'm getting from her just don't make sense, but she keeps acting disappointed in me. I shouldn't say that bothers me, exactly, it's just that I think her "expectations" are the standards to which she holds herself. And she's not really the kind of person who makes me want to show up at the masjid, so I can be fussed at for my disregard for what "masterminds" "predict" about Islam or my disinterest in compiling a list of grievances before prayer, or for my belief that Muslims actually got prayer right for once, and I'm going to go along with their way instead of anything else I've been able to come up with.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bad mood

I am in such a rotten mood... and I have to let out some frustration here. Some creep called me last night at 12:50am! Creep! I say a creep because I have no clue who he was, but he apparently had my phone number. I was asleep, extremely tired (didn't get enough sleep the night before), and here just after I drifted off my phone starts ringing. I have no clue who he was, he was speaking in some weird accent (plus I was half asleep) and I don't even think he told me his name. Or if he did, I didn't understand it. I told him, I'm sleeping, it's late, I was asleep. That's when I should've hung up, but he says oh, he's sorry but then some other gibberish I couldn't make out. Seriously, he calls in the middle of the night, I tell him I have no clue who he is and he expects me to carry on a conversation. What is wrong with people!?

Then I figure if he has my phone number maybe he has my email address so I'm like whatever, just email me and I'll deal with you later because I want to sleep. Apparently he 'lost' my email address (if he ever had it) so he gives me his (like this guy could understand me saying the difference between d,v,b,p) over the phone, and then we get disconnected. Thank God. I throw the phone back on the floor and try to sleep again. A few minutes later, it's ringing again, same number. So I silenced it, but then I got a message which made it beep and then the creep called again! So I silenced it, grabbed the phone and kept it in bed with me in case he called again--I didn't want all that ringing to wake up my roommate, but couldn't turn it off because I use it as an alarm.

Anyway, I'm really irritated that there are people in the world who call girls in the middle of the night and even after knowing they've woken them up, still expect a conversation. Come on! I was trying to figure out who he was and why he had my number, but now I'm just mad he disturbed my sleep and I'm tired again this morning. Creep! This morning I checked the area code: Boston. I know I don't know anyone in Boston, which makes me mad and curious as to where/how this guy got my number. I think if he calls again, I'm going off on him. I don't have time for that junk.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Video Blog #1: Funny Things You See During Jummah (Pilot)

Hope y'all get a kick out of this... I just got an email with a whole slew of these, this link might show you the rest of them--there's 10, all the same guy. Funny but a good message, mashaAllah.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman

I spent a good many hours in Barnes and Noble this weekend reading books about Christianity. I always get funny looks. Here's this girl in hijab, why is she reading about 'The Authentic Gospel of Jesus' or the roots of Christianity. Last night the guy beside me wasn't even discreet as he kept trying to read the cover of the book I was holding, and I got plenty of stares from men in the chair accross the aisle, I know, while I was minding my own business. It's always weird for people to stare... anyway. After all that reading I wanted to do something that wasn't mentally taxing at all.. watch a movie.

So I went to blockbuster to see if there was anything worthwhile. My brother decided long ago I ought not be allowed to select movies by myself, even for myself, because the strangest things seem to catch my eye. I had seen Steve Coogan in Around the World in 80 Days, one of my favorite movies now, and thought he was pretty funny, so to see him in a more British flick I thought might be interesting. Well. I've never read this book, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and really have no clue what's going on... the movie is called Tristram Shandy, a Cock & Bull Story, to give you an idea. It's just weird, so I cut it off after about 45 minutes... may or may not watch the rest. It's funny but not in any organized or sequential sort of way. To anyone reading, I do not recommend it. But I did successfully waste time last night while it was on...

While I was at blockbuster, I got a compliment from a man who was standing at the counter. "You have very pretty blue eyes," he said. Naturally, as I would after any compliment, I replied with a polite "Thank you" before it registered... and just as he was about to say something about my scarf, undoubtedly, I interjected, "Actually, they're green." Really, my eyes--they're green. Anyone who has seen me ought to be able to attest to that fact, although, I've sometimes admitted that they seem to change colors. Odd, isn't it? But lately they had been very stable as green and I stopped telling about the color-changing bit because people thought it was weird. And I admitted to him then that sometimes they did seem to change, and since I was wearing a pale blue headscarf, he commented that the blue "wrap" (as he called it) really brought out the blue. Maybe it did. I'm gonna start saying again that my eyes change colors. :P

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Since I moved...

It occurs to me now that I don't post often from home... most of my blog posts are from work/school filling in time. But now that I've moved and have internet access (albeit the dial-up dinosaur) and have time at home it's worthwhile to post, I think, about what's happened in the last week or so. That is, before tomorrow comes with excitement which causes me to forget all that is currently on my mind.

To start with, moving in with Alice has been great. She's easy to get along with and has helped me a lot to move in and get situated. My room still isn't entirely unpacked--it's mostly school/computer supplies and decor that hasn't been pulled out yet, and the few boxes remaining are no longer on the floor. Today I bought a little cabinet to place in my very large closet because, oddly enough, there is no linen closet in this apartment. (If I hadn't mentioned that already.)

I've also had the opportunity to get together with more sisters, socially. I am not one to get along too easily with women in general, if I get the impression that they just talk so much about... nothing. And that's kind of how it is with these ladies. Most of them are old enough or nearly old enough to be my mother--and some in fact have kids my age! So talking with them is a little bit strange (I really need to emphasize that) and I probably seem rather shy and introverted because I can't find much to add to the conversation from my perspective. Nevertheless, it's provided me an opportunity to meet other sisters who are my age.

So let me start, I did go walking last Tuesday with the sisters, and the first few to arrive were all much older than I am. Towards the end, another family came with two girls who are closer to my age that I got to talk to a little bit.

The next night, Wednesday, was "Sisters Night Out." I think they do this every month, and I've been once before but (despite requesting such) have yet to be put on the mailing list, so after the one time I haven't heard any more about it. (They probably think I've just not come, but in reality I didn't know where/when they were!) And because I was coming to this one, and a few of the sisters have heard that I've moved in with Alice, they brought their daughters, some sisters who were nearer my age. Four, actually. Sarah, Neema, Sarah, and Mariam. So this time I wasn't socializing with mostly older ladies but got to talk to a few nearer my age, and that was funner, even though these girls still aren't the kind I can talk to easily. Most of the girls I've talked to are ones I've met through the MSA, really, or see at the masjid. Here were just more who I haven't seen often at the masjid, and it was certainly nice to meet them.

Let's see, then... Thursday I just slept when I got home, thinking I needed to work that night--the lab was actually closed, though, so I went right back home and back to sleep. Friday was jumma'ah... I ran a few errands, spent some time at school, and finally got my computer and internet hooked up. Saturday I mostly just slept again... this week my sleep schedule will actually be normal, inshaAllah, because I'm not going into the lab at all... yay, alhamdulillah. But then last night (Saturday night) I got to go to a Tikkun meeting.

Tikkun is basically a Jewish group (just in the US, I think) that is devoted to discussing peace in the Middle East. (Actually it's a magazine, but there's a group organized along with it.) I'm having a hard time figuring out exactly what it is, but it's not bad. Khamsa when she invited me described it as an interfaith dialogue group. Mainly, it's a Jewish group, I'd say, that engages in dialogue with other faiths. Last night a local sister was invited to speak about her recent experiences in Lebanon. She was actually vacationing there with her husband and children when Israel started with the air strikes, and was evacuated after about two weeks. Her story is really astonishing, though when she tells it she makes it sound ho-hum, ordinary. She described the Lebanese people reacting to the bombings, the response of the American (and other embassies) and their reluctance to help people get out. She also talked about how people were trying to get out of the country, to Syria and other places, and problems they were running in to. I guess that's more or less why I was there, I'm not sure how many of the sisters I went with normally go, though many had gone before.

After Khalilah's story, there was a little bit of discussion, mostly questions for her. Since I've never really had the opportunity to witness a real-live session like this, dealing with such a sensitive topic, I was really impressed. I've also never really gotten to see Jews talk so candidly about Israel, and it was certainly nice to see how we all agreed on so many things.

In other news... school is starting soon, and what to do about that? InshaAllah after this week I will be rested and can start fresh with the schoolwork.

My thoughts on Music

Music has always been important in my life, always. If you don't know, I played the clarinet in MS, HS, and college, and I still play piano. But in the last year or so I've re-examined my philosophy on it. Honestly, it's too difficult for me to say what is haram, what is not haram, and I'm hardly qualified. I know that when scholars say it's haram, they do so for the best intentions, to help us stay pure, if something isn't absolutely clear, but I also know how giving up music can really hurt some people--it would hurt me if I had to. On the other hand, giving up alcohol, or slavery were hard things for the Arabs...

For a while, I really just didn't pay attention to rulings on music being haram or not, and just kept listening to what I liked. After a while I did go looking and found a few things... music has been in Islamic culture for a long time, but music is often nowadays seen as, let's say, a gateway to haram or a fitnah. There are a few ahadith used to support various opinions about music whether singing, or using instruments, using non-percussive instruments, and I basically took the view that music can be fine as long as it's not dealing specifically with things that are haram. That is probably the most liberal of the viewpoints, only condemning tunes that glorify this world or sins in this world, making that the focus.

It doesn't make sense to just outrightly prohibit music if it's not the music, but rather the lyrics, which make it wrong, does it? It seemed to me like scholars had to be really tough to do that.

But then I heard the story of a guy who is now, mashaAllah, a very devoted Muslim for whom I have a great deal of respect, who was born Muslim but was not very attached to his faith. He told me how he used to listen to music (especially hip hop, I think) and how he just hated cops, for example, even though he'd not had experiences with them. He was describing how the music really shaped his viewpoint. So I became a little more critical of the music I listened to. I stayed away from songs even that I liked that dealt with themes I didn't find compatible with my Islam.

I still didn't think that something like classical music even would just be haram, until I mentioned to him (same guy) that I played piano, and he tells me, "Oh, you know that's haram." LOL I kinda resented it, but to be honest, it made me think. I thought about the way music affected me, and I know that it can affect me in a very physical way. Emotional, obviously, pscyhologically, of course, but for me it was even physical. And at that point, I started to avoid kinds of music that had the physical affect on me. I do love to play piano, and I haven't given it up yet, but on the other hand I try to stick to music that won't affect me so strongly, or at least playing in a situation where I won't be so strongly affected. I know I'm being vague here, but it's hard to explain exactly.

Now at one point I was visiting a sister Amatullah and her daughters were listening to some Arab pop music and she kept telling me how she didn't like it. Then she was telling me about the Sami Yusuf albums, how she liked the one (which she gave me a copy of) and not the second (which was a little too akin to rap, she thought). She really didn't like the instruments, and her explanation about music has been one that struck me as the most powerful. She told me that the instruments make our hearts yearn for the music, instead of after the Qur'an. Listening to the Qur'an is so beautiful, and at times instrumental music can tempt us away from that, and lead us into a world where we become distracted and not focused on our deen.

So the question is, when do we reach a point where we want to give up music for Islam? It's different for everyone, some people might never. By getting books-on-tape and various audio lectures, I listen to those in the car and really haven't felt like I am missing much as far as music--that made the transition easy for me. I do listen when I work out, but I was thinking about storing up lectures on my mp3 player instead of songs. Since I don't have the piano any more and have to actually visit my parents to play, I end up playing a lot less. I try to stick to songs that I find okay, though, and just use it more for stress relief.

So giving up music has been a gradual process, I'll probably give up more still. I do only seldom listen to music in the car, now, and am honestly happy that I have reached where I am. I would much rather do things that improve my Islam, all the time, than anything that takes away from it. That's where I am as far as iman, and not everyone else is there. When I turn on an adult contemporary music radio station and listen, is that something I can really say I'm doing for God? I don't think so, so I try not to do it.

An interesting part of the music debate is nasheeds, which is music for remembering Allah, and music that tells Islamic stories and so forth. My first introduction to it, I wasn't impressed, but now I do enjoy listening to the Sami Yusuf CD which was given to me. Sometimes these nasheeds use instruments, so I wonder if it is really haram. If the purpose is to glorify Allah, what is wrong with it?

The problem I see with most music is that it doesn't do that, or that it even does the opposite. So I try to stay away from those kinds of music that I know may lead me off the straight path, things that I feel don't improve my Islam. But that is me.

I had a discussion with somebody not too long ago who really hated that Muslim scholars would say music was haram, even rap, because he knew all these rap artists who he liked to listen to, he thought it was good. He really fought with people about this, too, and the advice I gave him was not to fight about it with Muslims--you won't change their mind. But he is going to be accountable for what he does, so if he wants to listen to music, and he thinks that's okay, then he shouldn't waste his time trying to change the opinions of over a billion Muslims.

I don't seem ask myself anymore if music is haram or not. If it takes me away from Allah, then I shouldn't like it. I don't need a fatwa to be told to stay away from things that hurt my faith.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Hijabi "Walking" Club

I'm tired again--are you surprised? I made the brilliant decision to pick up two extra shifts this week (seldom comes the opportunity, when I'm available, actually) and they are the oh-so-fabulous 3:30-7:30 shifts. Honestly, I prefer them over the 11:30-3:30 ones, but nevertheless, let's remember I do work 9 hour days in general. So now I find myself working 13 hours. It goes to 14.5 if you include the half hour where I get breakfast and the hour I get lunch. That is, I'm working from 3:30 in the morning until 6 at night, with an hour and a half of breaktime. I won't claim it's necessary for me to get a full 8-hour's sleep, but you see I'm sure where the trouble is if you do a little finger counting.

Twice this week I'm doing the 13-straight, and once I'll do a split shift, if you can call it that really. So, Monday I had dinner with someone finally, after putting it off a few weeks. After that I just made the bad decision to come up to school and catch up on news, so I didn't get home until maybe 10. Up at 3:30. I did actually doze off while at the lab yesterday morning... I think that's a good thing, except that the temperatures in here are becoming less less tolerable. It's insanely hot outside, remember, but there is ongoing construction in this building and they've blasted a hole in the wall downstairs so now the entire building cannot cool properly. And lucky Amy is on the 2nd floor with all the computers. It's hot, and it's humid, and even after sleeping I felt like I needed a shower. Ugh. So Tuesday (yesterday) I worked until 6 and then was supposed to go walking with my roommate and some other sisters.

They walk. In the hijab and everything--that was interesting. I've met some of these sisters before, but it's not easy for me to socialize with them seeing as how I'm just so much younger than they are. I posted a few weeks ago about my troubles in finding a way to exercise in hijab... I guess this is the solution. I'll probably still keep going to the gym, for strength training at least, or whatever else I feel I want to do besides walk. I can't say that I particularly enjoyed walking 3 miles in a jilbab, though, on a day where the heat index reached 104F. Alhamdulillah, there was a breeze, but overall it was not a pleasant experience. If it were cooler, I think the walking and the jilbab wouldn't have bothered me so much (sweatpants just a little too tight to not wear one, and there's no way I'd go it in jeans, ick) but the conversation wasn't really much I could identify with. That is, with no husband, no kids, no in-laws... you get the idea.

So it was 8:30 by the time I got home, and after that I took a nice looooooong shower. Then I ate some dinner (Alice wanted me to try her baked spaghetti made with turkey--and it was delicious, btw) and watching Bring it on while running some laundry. No, there really isn't an excuse valid enough to justify watching that movie but... I did anyway.

So it was around 11 when I got to bed, and 3 when I got up again for work this morning. 4 hours, 4 hours, then 13 hours of work. Can you just hear me sigh? But did I mention that that little walk was actually a little harder and longer than what I normally do, and since I did get up at 3, my body has been refusing to obey me and even sitting is uncomfortable. I guess I'm not used to taking curves like that, and we were walking around a high school track, but the sides of both my legs (though the left especially) are horribly fatigued. I had to fiddle with some cables on my computer at work this morning, and trying to get up off the floor... well, it wasn't pretty. I honestly could hardly move my legs, and it was all I could do to pull myself up with my arms. So aside from just being tired mentally now my body is going to object.

So, can I sleep when I get off work today? No! Having dinner with sisters tonight (luckily right after work) and they may still want to go walking after that (I don't think Amy will be going with them, though!) And I'll get a full night in tonight, inshaallah, plus a little bit. And then the weirdness starts again with my "split" night Thursday night--getting off work to sleep, then going to work again for a little while--then trying to sleep again. I did try to get rid of one of the hours of that shift, though, which may give me a little more time to sleep. And then it will be jumma'ah.

But then... get this... the lab is closed! At least at night, so I have the next week "off" more or less. And will probably then decide to connect my computer (which I still have not done.)

Would you believe that my biggest gripe about my apartment now is that there is no linen closet? It's very strange... I think Alice keeps her towels and things in the vanity but I hate to go in there. She was so nice to clean out her cabinets to make room for my things, I had no idea where to put things and came home one day to find she'd already put everything away! But anyway, now I want to find a place to store my towels, and I might just get a little upright storage container; I have room for one. And the mini-fridge can go back to my parents' house; next time I plan to drive out there, hopefully I'll remember to take it with me. Provided, of course, I can heave it down the steps and to my car.

So, maybe next week without so much work, but while I prepare for school (looming in the distance) I can take care of a few of these things I haven't gotten to yet. Among them, buying more hangers. I've bought hardly any clothes this summer, but it always seems I need 2-3 more hangers than I actually have. Hrm.

I did need to complain some, so apologies for anyone who was just inanely bored by this post. :-)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My thoughts on sorority life

I don't think I'm the only revert to Islam who feels at times like she leads two seperate lives, but mine keep me very busy. I can't remember the last time I was bored, I do so much that I do actually lose sleep, and can entertain myself with conversation about any of the things I do. Islam is one part of my life, a growing part. The rest is what I am gradually starting to leave behind.

People often remark about how busy I am, and it doesn't sink in. I think "Oh, he's just saying that," or "She's just being nice but she's as busy as I am." Is that true? This week I am planning to work 61 hours in total. (Needing to give up one of those hours, though, still working on that...). I also have dinner plans on Wednesday, and have been invited just about every day to go walking with some sisters, something I plan to start today inshaAllah. I've picked up two extra shifts at work (to be noted, for the following week I won't be working at all in the lab.) After this I'll get a little bit of rest before starting school all the way.

Yes, that means life is going to get busier! Starting with 14 credit hours, 8 of which are engineering but don't include a 4-hr lab. The remaining 6 will be, I'm praying, religion courses. The idea being that since I have spent the last year studying religion, this sort of non-devotional study might actually benefit me in my own personal studies, and also might benefit from my personal studies. My full-time DOT job will scale back to part-time, hopefully at least 15 hours a week, and I can perhaps keep a few weekly hours in the lab that can supplement my income while offering me the opportunity to catch up on homework. This is all not to mention the Arabic language class I'm planning to audit, which unfortunately might be the first to go if this is all too tight. Of course, as a schedule, the above is all only if God wills it.

The other main issue--and this is one that scares me--is my sorority. President again this semester... and I can't say it went especially well last semester. You see, the more religious I become, the more isolated I am from a lot of social activities with them. No official events involve alcohol, and the organization is equally professional as social, but I'm tending to spend less time with my friends outside of "official" events because I don't care to go out to get a drink afterwards, or spend the weekends at a club, or make a round of the frat parties. As president, it is more official business that occupies my time, coordinating between committees and ensuring we stick to our policies, but I sort of feel "apart" from the rest of the girls. Islam aside, to focus on school, I can't even attend as many functions as I once could. I can already feel the burden of 3 weeks of recruitment, 3 months of fundraising--trying to encourage activity from others but hardly able to be active myself. As much as I hate to admit it, I really am looking forward to the spring, and going inactive, at which point I may close this chapter of my life. On the other hand, I have changed so much since joining, that thought deserves sincere reflection.

Returning to school in the fall of my junior year, I was eager to improve myself in an area I felt I was lacking: social skills. I would say I had two extraordinary interviews the previous spring, being offered both jobs for which I actually did interview, but nevertheless in August met the unhappy realization of attending school again in the fall (instead of co-oping) knowing that something was missing. I made personal resolutions to become more involved on campus, and on one of the first days of school saw a chalked advertisement for a professional engineering sorority, and just at the last minute decided to attend their "info night." You could say I fell in love with the girls--nowhere before had I been able to just "get along" with so many at once--we had so much in common, and right away I felt like I belonged.

I remember in HS my dad tried so hard to push me to "get out" more, to go to parties and socialize with my "friends." I was much happier to stay at home, never really had an urge to go out; it's funny now then, that I'm president of a sorority--like I should be some sort of social queen. I wouldn't really describe myself as extroverted, or someone who really needs social interaction, but I have certainly come to appreciate it, and enjoy it. I've learned how to talk to people in groups, individually, in general how to manage people and direct them toward a goal, how to assign tasks to keep people from being overburdened or disinterested. I've become more comfortable with myself and my personality, and have had to deal with accountability to other people. I hope these traits can benefit me outside of an engineering career, though that was the original intention in seeking to develop them.

I can remember a time when I was too shy to speak up in class, or to give a presentation unless I was extremely well-informed, at which point I would just ramble on about what I thought was relevant. Talking to strangers 1-on-1 was incredibly difficult for me. The Friday before last, I realized that I had made progress... chatting up strangers at my sorority's booth (display board) at an orientation session. Over a year ago I remember watching a girl a really admire do something similar at a booth for SWE (Society of Women Engineers), and I was really impressed at how easily she could talk to people, and made a point of wanting to be able to do that, one day. I won't say it's something I'm especially good at, now, but at least something I feel moderately comfortable doing. And I do have an added challenge--that everyone looks at me a bit differently because of the scarf.

To be honest, I hope that I can use such skills as these, like talking to people, in a more noble endeavor than engineering networking. Da'wah, for example, and teaching, are two places where my mind is. I appreciate the experience and all I have learned, but really I am ready to move on into a more serious world that doesn't have time for after-dinner parties four times a week.

Monday, August 07, 2006

A feeble age

I was reading Surah An-Nahl today, in English the Bee, and came across an ayah which stood out to me:

It is Allah who creates you and takes your souls at death; and of you there are some who are sent back to a feeble age, so that they know nothing after having known (much): for Allah is All-Knowing, All-Powerful. 16:70

This reminded me of my grandfather, who we now know has Alzheimer's in a bad way. What strikes me is that such an illness reminds us that we can forget what we know, and that in reality we have no power... yet the verse ends with the reminder that God is All-Knowing, and All-Powerful. Al-'Alim, Al-Qadeer.

Other verses in this surah are very difficult for me, especially in regards to equality among men. If we are sure that no man is better than another except in piety, why the questions about a slave being equal to his master? What do they mean? What are the answers? Are they not really referring to men at all, but our relationship to God? That we have no power, we cannot provide for ourselves? Are we a burden? I looked into the tafsir a little bit, and saw the explanation of this being the likeness of a believer to a disbeliever. Is this to say that believers are actually all better than disbelievers?

I guess there is a point where we start to see enough in the Qur'an for one day to blow us away. Perhaps it is time then to put it down and reflect... or find someone to answer the questions.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

More tired than I thought

When Lancy called me this evening, because I was late for my shift, I didn't realize what time it was... and disocvered it in a rather unfortunate way. Here I was, late already, but still in bed even, and exhausted! As I was driving in, hurrying to get here because I knew she'd need to leave asap, it occurred to me how much I had been denying myself sleep the last few days. In attempts to be normal and sociable, early bird and night owl, I realized the last time I got anything close to a "full night's" sleep was Wednesday night, when I got about 5 or 6 hours straight.

The nights prior to that, for various reasons, hovered close to the 3-4 hour mark. Thursday I did in fact take off early to accomplish a few errands, and managed a 2 hour nap before going to work before spending the evening out doing more, then managed about 3 hours after coming home, before going to work again Friday morning, and then put in nearly a full day Friday at work, plus an evening doing various things including a lecture at the masjid.

Saturday morning I was to work at 7:30am, but being up late, and kept up later left me getting to bed sometime around 2am, and then getting up around 5:30 for fajr after which I never did go back to sleep. I think I am, at this point, so deficient in sleep, that I've lost the ability to function normally. I'm not sure when it happened, I know this morning I wasn't 100%. I've been somewhere less than 90% most of this week, I think, due to the move really, the heat, and trying to solve a particular drama in my life at present.

Alhamdulillah, that drama is over. And as it leaves, inshaAllah my sleep will return. Starting with today. I went to bed around 6pm, having set my alarm to get up a few hours later--I knew I needed a nap. But of course I made the mistake of setting my alarm now for 7:30am instead of 7:30pm which didn't do me much good at 10:30pm when Lancy called me. So there was 4 and a half hours.

I remember, this morning I was very sleepy, having trouble to remain awake in fact, and aside from spending some time dozing in the chair, I think I spent nearly an hour half asleep, half awake, on the "couch" in the lounge. It's not really a couch, maybe a bench. There are three pairs of chairs, but this pair simply doesn't have arm rests in the middle. The wooden arm rests don't work nicely for a pillow, but somehow I didn't mind... and the soreness which lingered for nearly an hour after that little "nap" or attempt at such has vanished by now.

I feel disappointed in myself at all the things I have tried to do (unsuccessfully, of course) in the last few days while being so short on sleep, especially last night and today. The cruelty isn't only to myself, but I shudder to think of how I've behaved. To be honest, I can't even remember that much of what happened, though that may also be a blessing, and I really just wonder if I was acting like I was as sleepy as I now realize that I was.

I've found so far that the best cure for sadness, or disappointment, is simply to thank God for everything that has gone right, everything that is working out, and everything that makes me happy.

So I'll thank God for the reprieve this weekend from the dreadful heat of last week. A high of 92 is really a blessing when previous days saw the heat index soar 10 degrees into triple-digit territory. I'll thank God that I had a peaceful home to return to, to rest my head. I'll thank God for 4 and a half hours of uninterrupted and desperately needed sleep. And I'll thank God that I'm a Muslim, and for every thing I learned about Islam this weekend. And I'll thank God for answering my prayers. Knowing that I am in the hands of Allah, swt, is to experience relief.

Friday, August 04, 2006


This will apparently be my 49th post... simply, I'm trying to keep myself awake for another 20 minutes before my shift is over. I'm thankful I got a nap this afternoon, but hopeful that I can sleep more before getting back up again... did anyone notice that fajr is getting later!? Seriously. That should make it easier, so inshaAllah I can start making it back to the masjid, maybe even staying up after the prayer to read Qur'an before going to work. I so want to do that.

For people who don't pray fajr in the masjid... you don't know what you're missing. There is an easy sense of calm, relaxation, and a tremendous amount of love for Allah. No, there aren't many people there... perhaps the fewest of any prayer, even, though I've never been to any day prayers (save 'asr once) to see if people are able to attend them despite work... But each and every man (and woman) had to make a sincere effort to be there. They weren't dropping off or picking up their kids, they weren't on their way home, they weren't eating dinner at a restaraunt nearby... they just got up, make wudhu, and came to pray. Why do people do that, except for love of Allah?

Maybe it seems so calm because everyone is half asleep... but the sense of satisfaction after praying fajr in congregation is something really special to me. There aren't any children screaming, no phones going off during the prayer, nobody playing basketball in the gym: the world is asleep. But Allah is listening.

I in fact have a more difficult time falling to sleep when I've prayed at the masjid than at home. Granted, I've been up for a longer time, and certainly spent more time praying by taking that trip, but when I arrive at home, I do tend to want to stay awake, and sometimes even wish the entire day could be spent in worship.

Prayer, namely salat, has a way of keeping us in touch with reality. When we get up for salat, we wash first... hands, face, arms, feet... touching the water which wakes us up. It's hard to be in a dream while making contact with the world like that. Then we take the trip... 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes... walking, riding, driving to the masjid, in the dark. Every step is a reward. Then, we start to focus... 2 cycles of prayer for the masjid. Two more as a sunnah. And then we pray in congregation, then we can hear the beautiful recitation of the Qur'an. We prostrate on all seven limbs, touching our faces to the ground, a reminder to be humble.

And when we leave the masjid, it's not dark anymore... the sun starting to come up. Maybe by the time we are home we can even see it rise, and witness the reality of the breaking of day. We are in this world, and salat reminds us of it...

It's 3:30am almost on a Jumma'ah day, a Friday. I hope anyone reading this makes it to jumma'ah, and also makes it or made it to fajr at the masjid--remind yourself of this world, that we are in this world, but not striving for this world, but rather, for the Hereafter.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Chosen by Mohamed Baianonie; Imam of the Islamic Center of Raleigh, NC

All praises and thanks to God, The Creator and Lord of all that exists and peace and blessings upon all of His Messengers.

O' our Lord, You are As-Salaam (the Peace) and the ultimate peace comes from You only; we ask You to bless us all with peace and safety. [From the supplications of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)]

We ask You, our Lord the Granter of security, to bless us and our families, our neighborhoods and communities, our nations and the whole world with everlasting peace and security.

We ask You, our Lord the Guide, to open the hearts and minds of mankind to value each and every human life, so that the bloodshed and destruction stop immediately. And we ask You, the Patient God, to grant patience to those who suffer from the destruction and violence committed by others. We ask You, the Compassionate Lord, to bestow Your mercy upon those who are suffering from disease, poverty, and danger.

We ask You, God our Protector, to protect these victims and help them to rebuild their lives and keep their hearts merciful toward one another.

O' Lord, You are the Loving One, replace the hatred in our hearts with love, mercy, and compassion for even our worst enemies. Take away our arrogance and replace it with humility so that we can forgive and tolerate one another.

O' our Lord, give us patience during times of anger so that we can forgive those who treat us unjustly. O' Lord, make us among those faithful believers who respond to evil with a better response. By following Your teachings, our worst enemies can become our closest friends. [Qur'an, 41:34]