Saturday, December 30, 2006

Best Day Ever

Now I know a kid who spent 2 years in Chile doing mission work--he's Mormon. I've talked to him about Islam a few times, I think he might even be taking Arabic this spring, but what interests me is his outlook when you ask him how he's doing. He always tells me "Best Day Ever #..." with some number. 256, 710... It's something I'm thinking of trying to start to do. In reality every day is a blessing; we say alhamdulillah--all praise is for God, good or bad. But there's actually more good than bad most of the time.

Today was one of those Best Days Ever. Let's start with #1. Today was Best Day Ever #1. Pleasant, charming, intriguing conversation... a day of fasting (for 'Arafat), jummu'ah, and an iftar at night, then more conversation, hm! Seriously, the iftar was special--got to talk to a few people I hadn't seen in a while (in one case, a very long while!) The food left something to be desired, actually... more. But alhamdulillah--so many people came there wasn't much to eat. :-) Whoever said it's good reverts learn Islam before meeting Muslims obviously didn't meet these ladies. They are so sweet, so friendly, would do just about anything to help you out. It wasn't Ramadan but still so nice to see all the sisters come out and in such good spirits. :-)

And tomorrow is Eid! Some plans... some non-plans... some thoughts about what to spend my free time doing. Eid Mubarak to anyone reading, I hope it's a best day ever for you too!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A pizza metaphor, part II (not the solution)

Now if we see that our problem is ourselves to start with, and we must rectify ourselves in the first place--why are we asking for strength against our enemies??

That's what irritated me about the du'a in the first place... we need to tackle ourselves before we even begin to look at the rest of the world. We need to correct our own problems, our own mistakes--our own pepperoni pizzas, until we don't have to worry about any pizza shops in our midst because nobody would buy any pizza! Or at least, hardly anybody.

Maybe then we can worry about "enemies." More destruction to Islam today may be safely and squarely blamed on Muslims themseves. Uneducated, bigoted, prejudiced, immature, selfish Muslims. Want to take over the world? See me smirk at you. You want strength against your enemy? Who is your enemy? India? Israel? The United States? If you can't even stop yourself from eating the pizza, then why, why do you think you can move an entire country to agree with you? Stop yourself, and then stop one person. That's a start. We need strength for ourselves--to keep our deen, to raise our children, to protect our brothers and sisters first from Shaytaan who has preyed on them far too long.

Strength against our enemies?? This was the du'a after softening our hearts. Soften our hearts, increase us in iman--in faith!! To grow in faith, to become good people, to correct ourselves. Then we might have a chance to use any strength against our enemies and then we ask for it.

To me it sounded more like a bleating sheep's battle cry. You need to stop looking through a telescope when the problem can be seen in a mirror.

A pizza metaphor, part I (the problem)

Why should I complain about someone's du'a? Do I even have that right? OK, I'm not courageous enough to do it in person... yet. Or maybe I am but I feel it's bad taste.. here it is:

May Allah swt soften our hearts and strengthen us against our enemies.

This was part of a response to a comment I made about how trying to fix symptoms instead of the real problem with Muslims today should start with tawheed, like the preaching of the Prophet pbuh, and I closed with a du'a for soft hearts, wisdom, and other things.

I so do not see the relationship to any of my comments and "strengthen us against our enemies." For real. Our problem (as Muslims) is ourselves. Pepperoni pizza exists, you can get it on every street corner, but does that mean you have to?? And whose fault is it if you go eat pepperoni pizza? The pizza shop's?? Pardon the humorous analogy, please substitute it with any activity you deem "haraam" that you frequently see Muslims engaging in, or any "not recommended" activity. For example, flirting and socializing between genders, wearing flashy and immodest clothes, drinking alcohol... is removing the pizza shop going to solve the problem? It might stop one from eating pizza, but was that really the problem? No, the shaytaan does not attack us from only one angle, succumbing in one area of our lives demonstrates weakness there and elsewhere. So what's the solution? How can you fix other people? Lead them away from the diversion and distractions and back onto the straight path?

Well if you want to lead anyone, you better be going the right way to start with. And you have to demonstrate some reason for your path--why is it better? Why should anyone want to take it when it's harder?? Because it is harder.

Removing the pizza shop won't solve the problem. Not if people don't care if pepperoni pizza is right or wrong. You have to let them see from your side why it's wrong. Once they get to where you are, they can see it, then they can stop.

May Allah swt help us all avoid those vices in our lives which distract us from this deen.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Easy

It's hard to complain about a 4-day weekend... and I don't really have any complaints. Saturday and Sunday were largely uneventful--time enough spent chatting on the computer for sure, but what else I can't really remember. I did spend some time reviewing a show I used to like, that I had saved on my computer, that's been mostly fun. Monday was Christmas of course, again I baked pies--very liberal on the spices... something special, those were--and cookies and drove to my sister's house to spend the evening with "family." It was pretty nice... dinner first, then cards with my nieces then opening up gifts... yes, some for me. Mostly nice, albeit useless, things.

I got to have a girly-girl chat with my brother's girlfriend, play checkers with my niece, legos with my nephews, and yahtzee with my sister and her daughter. This way I escaped much of the serious conversation amongst the "adults" and I think I like it better that way.

Tonight I received a phone call from a friend with something I just had to see, on facebook. An acquaintance of hers (I can't say I really know the guy, more than simply who he is) posted an article from (*eyes rolling*) about mixing of genders... should women stay home to avoid mixing? A laughable concept really... while it might have been mildly amusing to do so, I wasn't terribly interested in commenting on the article. I pointed my friend to islamonline with some appropriate answers to the original question that tend less towards the blind and obnoxious self-righteous attitude of the post itself.

Men who hide behind computer screens while imagining a world where women are chained to their homes--forbidden to work, shop, even visit family--have nothing to contribute to this society, in my opinion; nothing to benefit the ummah, nothing to improve the state of mankind. The frustration of their impotency, I'm sure, drives them to oppress and silence the voice of women in the first place. "Nobody is listening to ME, so I must force THEM to be shut up!"

One such coward who replied decided to remark on the boys and girls who had been notified of this post. He claimed that many of them don't even pray (as if he would know!) and that hardly any of the women wore hijab and if they did, they didn't do so properly. To the contrary, a number of the girls wear it and quite satisfactorialy, unless your only standard of wearing hijab means full niqab or something of that nature. Perhaps he could remark instead on the "mixing" of the men tagged by the poster. Mixing with ladies? Even on facebook--this being his post, he the one to find the article and quote it after all--should he so unabashedly seek the attention of women? Even for "advice?" Not according to the standard of that article at any rate. Modesty to the author seems a one-way street.

I don't think such men as this make up the majority, because I don't find these opinions amongst the men that I know personally. If I'm wrong, what a sad situation for Islam in the 21st century--yes I said for Islam and not for women. For if you treat your women this way, what do you expect of your children? Probably shouldn't expect to have any children for one thing. It's a recipe for intolerance, and rebellion, neither a favorable option in the context of Islamic survival.

But I don't think my readers will disagree with me here so I'll just leave it at that.

I've set the blog to notify if you would like to receive notifications of blog updates. Enjoy that happy feature. :-)

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Graduation party

InshaAllah the next time I'm invited to a party by Muslim ladies... I'm going to ask... is this a ladies-only party? So inshaAllah next time I won't be unprepared, expecting to be wearing a scarf the entire time and covered, then show up and everyone else looks like a doll and is dancing and I just feel like an uncomfortable oaf.

Now, it wasn't that bad... but it wasn't great. I was invited to a party for a certain sister's graduation. This sister has to be the shyest person I have ever, in my life, known. So.. a party? Seemed strange to me, but nevertheless I went. And the poor girl spent a large part of it out of sight. The first shock when I arrived, however (which was late, as I often make it a point to arrive late to such events--arriving early means more socializing with strangers...) was that I didn't recognize anyone. I just walked into a room of Muslim sisters that I see on a semi-regular basis, well enough to pick any of them out from across a room or in a crowd, even with hijab on (in a room of hijabis) just by noticing their habits, how they stand or tie their scarf, etc. But without a scarf... I'm looking at everyone's face, staring, trying to remember their names! "Uh.. you look kind of familiar..." How embarassing!!

But it was fun anyway. Once I got into it, figured out who everyone was, had some sugar (necessary for dancing...) and made a fool of myself trying to almost pretend like I knew what I was supposed to do when they turned on some Arab music. Event of the evening... what's strange is how I can liken it to a sorority semi-formal almost! Granted, there were mostly two age-groups. Quite a bit older than I am, and quite a bit younger. The college-aged group accounted mostly for me, Sara, Sarah, Nema, Razia, another girl whose name I never learned, and Safiya. The older than I am group started at about 10-15 years older. This group of girls is relatively close to my age, going to about 20--the younger girls, except for maybe 1 or 2, started at 15 and just went down... way down to the little girls. So you had the mothers and the friends of the mother, and their daughters basically. And then a few more single chicas like myself. And there was dancing. Despite being mostly not college aged girls, they weren't afraid to dance and have a good time... though it was this uppity mideastern stuf instead of hip hop (I can do without lyrics telling me to shake something up in someone's face, honestly). And sure, it was fun. Most of the dancing we did at formal/semiformal was just girls--the dates (the men) weren't so into it usually.. and it was kind of a lot like this! Everyone dressed up (except me...). Not quite semi-formal but they did all look nice.

Anyway... nice way to spend an evening.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Between Extremes I

A recurring theme in my Islamic studies class is that Islam is a path of moderation. Two weeks or so ago the sister was teaching about Surah Yasin, the condition of the heart, perfecting good character, and extremes in religion before getting to the topic--four stages of life. The following week she was going to give the same class because a different group of students showed up (with a few of the same, myself included.) But instead, she had me teach it. Yes really. It was a surprise but I love doing things like that so... I did. Granted, she helped me out the whole way through, it's not like I was by myself, but it was fun all the same. On one hand, it seems like a lot of disjointed thoughts but I guess somehow it's all related--haven't figured out how, yet.

We started with an ayah in Surah Yasin... the reference is 36:36: Glory to Allah, Who created in pairs all things that the earth produces, as well as their own (human) kind and (other) things of which they have no knowledge.

All things in pairs. (Find it interesting perhaps that this ayah is 36:36... pairs... 2 36's??) The instructor had elaborated on this verse, trying to get us to think of something produced by the earth that is not in a pair. I don't know too much about microbiology, and I think I would need to to really follow my train of thought on this particular question. The complexity is deceiving in fact. You could for example observe a tree... the earth produces this tree. In pairs? No, it's just one tree. Hmm. Well, there is the portion you see, above the ground, and the portion you don't--the root structure. In fact the root structure is as important as the surface portion of the tree--is this a pair? Seen, and unseen. Also, didn't we study in 5th grade biology (it's been a loong time since I took 5th grade biology) that plants have "male" and "female" parts to reproduce? Pollination is the transfer by insects of pollen ("male"/"sperm") to the "female" parts of another plant? And other plants have various means of reproducing as well. Some creatures do not do this... the exception rather than rule, but the ayah says all things, so what is the pair? I'm not sure. Like I said, I'd need more biology and I never was good at biology.

Next part of the lecture? We ask in our salat, when reciting Al-Fatihah, ihdinas siratal mustaqeem; siratal latheena anamta alaihim ghairil maghdoobi alaihim walad-daalleen . Show us the straight path: the path of those on whom you bestowed your grace, not of those on whom you bestowed wrath nor who went astray. So you can look at this such that there is a straight path in the middle, on one side is the path of those who earned wrath, on the other side is those who went astray. So we discuss how one goes astray from Islam by looking at the 6 articles of faith. These are defined in the hadith Jibril as belief in
  1. God
  2. Angels
  3. Prophets
  4. Scriptures
  5. Fate
  6. Day of Judgment

So how does one go astray in these? We can look at it, I guess, as "too much" or "too little" in all respects but it's different in each case really. Remember that God says the Muslims were created as an Ummah (Community) justly balanced. Where? In the Qur'an, in Surah Baqara... right in the middle of the surah. Now isn't that interesting, for the verse to say "Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses against mankind,..." appears right in the middle of the surah? It should be easy for you to find. Surah Baqara has 286 verses, half of 286 is 143, and sure enough, the reference for this ayah is 2:143. I don't mean to prove anything with that... I just think it's really interesting. I learned that in a speech from Suhaib Webb last Sunday.

So back to the point... going too far in religion. Firstly, we believe in God. Surah al-Ikhlas (the Sincerity) is equivalent to a third of the Qur'an. In length? No... but how? The Qur'an generally covers three main topics, three threads if you will--God, Prophethood, and Resurrection/Afterlife. Surah al-Ikhlas really refutes 8 different problems people have with believing in God. In English, the surah says:

Say He is Allah, the One (and Only) (ahad)
The Eternal/Absolute, on whom all depend (Somad)
He begets not, nor is He begotten
And there is none like Him.

Four verses, and one of the most clear and powerful theological refutations you can find. So how do people go too far in their belief of God? Away from the straight path? We believe in one God... so perhaps too far is believing in many gods... or no god, or a god that is too distant to hear you, a god that exists but has no relation to the world even if he created it, that god has children, that god was created, or that anything else in the world could be like God... including humans. Stay in the middle... repeat Surah al-Ikhlas.

So in a way, Islam is the middle path, while Christianity and Judaism are on the sides. On the one hand, in Christianity you have a son of God, Trinity, and sometimes supernatural powers assumed by people, while in Judaism there is a belief in God of course, and one God, but often that God is irrelevant to daily life, or uninvolved in the working of the world.

Now I've written a lot but not gotten far into the lecture... more later insha'Allah.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Chocolate Plastic

Are you still reading?

Thank you for your time, and attention.