Monday, February 26, 2007

The Danger of "Know"

Last night I had my first ING presentation, to the youth group at a local church. I really enjoyed it--it was mostly youth with a few adults and I think alhamdulillah everyone was able to benefit. There were many good questions throughout the presentation and I got to talk to a few people afterwards. Hearing later that I had been impressive with my amount of "knowledge" inspired me to reflect on what knowledge is. I still try to learn more about Islam (although it must be said, cursory readings and short articles no longer quench my thirst--I need deeper, more substantial fare.) And it occurs to me that the more I attempt to learn about Islam the less I think I know. Am I forgetting? No, not really, but I am becoming less confident with what I "know."

A year ago I might have known the "correct" way to do something, or particular rulings, because they were what I had been told. Since then, I don't know the correct way anymore--I know a few different ways which could possibly be correct--and according to different people it might be one or the other. So now not only the rulings but the reasons behind them and practical applications also become important and the more fearful I become of telling anyone what is right or wrong. What if I am wrong??

The more speaking/presenting I do the more I feel like I want to be a teacher. I just enjoy it. And the more I study Islam, the more I want to do that, the more I want to know about this beautiful faith. And not just know, but apply to myself, to become a better person. A few months ago when I thought I wanted to study Islam I was afraid I had the wrong intention--that I wanted to do it to impress people and that thought scared me--to do it for the wrong intention. But last night showed me, for one thing, how important it is to explain Islam to non-Muslims, and more interactions with Muslims lately have shown me the value in educating Muslims who are falling into tremendous ignorance as regarding their faith.

My hope then, I suppose, is that I do not become afraid of knowledge as I acquire it, or that I retreat by having found something unpleasant. And also that everything I learn can benefit me or someone else, and that it may be used for that end, and never for harm.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Tie your camel

I've come up with several things to blog about lately but have been way too busy to really write them down. One thing was last Sunday in my Islamic studies class we brought up the topic of trusting in God. Tie your camel then trust in God, don't just say you trust in God and expect the camel to not walk away.

So how are we supposed to tie our camels in our lives? Trust that Allah will help you find someone to marry... but start looking, too? Trust that Allah will take care of you, but get an education and search for a job too? I guess sometimes it's hard to know you're doing the right thing.... oh well.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The worst sin

The khutbah last week hit me in a strange way... the part of it I remember anyway. The worst sin in Islam is obviously attributing partners to God. But the khateeb was talking about cutting relations with parents as being the next worse thing. I don't know if he had evidence for that, but he elaborated on it quite a bit, what exactly he meant. No, it wasn't interesting, but it did make me think. I really want to cut ties with my parents--this is the worst thing. I want to! I don't want to visit them, call them, ask them for help. I feel insulted every time I do--yet that's what I'm supposed to do, insults or not. For me it's the hardest part of Islam right now, getting over this temptation to harbor anger and hatred against my parents, the desire to just abandon them and everything I used to be.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Take it down

First, I want to thank everyone who made du'a for my back... alhamdulillah it is healing (albeit very slowly). I ask Allah for it to continue to improve so I can stop taking medicine altogether--for now I've been able to cut back on the frequency and even amount of ibuprofen I take each day.

Now, because my home computer has decided to enter the netherworld of spare parts, I decided to get a new one--this one. It's an HP with some nice features that I found interesting (integrated mic and webcam, for example) without being extremely expensive. And instead of opting for the dual-core processors, I just got one that was really fast. After a brief study of the technology, I decided it probably wouldn't be the best choice for me. InshaAllah the pc itself will arrive by the end of next week. It's supposed to be shipped by the end of this week--I bought it online. Oh, and since vista is out... it comes standard, and that's what I've got. We'll see how that goes.

Another new gadget... I have had the same cell phone for over two years--about two and a half. Now the battery for starters was getting to be a problem, and it would freeze randomly. So this past weekend I got a new phone as well, and got a pretty good deal on it. It has bluetooth although I opted to not get the headset just yet (since I'm not spending a lot of time talking right now on the phone, and since it was a hefty purchase, I'd like to invest some more time in choosing one.) The PC is supposed to have bluetooth, btw... so I should have lots of fun stuff to play with.
Not to interfere with school, though!! And school is for the first time in a long time finally starting to go my way. I think. I've spent countless hours at this point doing homework for my two classes--that's right, I'm only taking two! But they both have a lot of work, so I finish hw for one then start on hw for the next. But I did ace the first test I had in one class, had another test today in the other class I feel pretty good about, so things are looking up! It's nice to get into an exam and feel like I know what I'm doing!
Leaving the sorority has certainly helped--also has not having a computer at home, most likely. But I still end up juggling my non-academic activities--MSA, classes at the mosque, ING speaking (this is new) and da'wah activities at the mosque. A few months back I took a training class when a representative from ING ( visited the area so we could establish an ING speaker's bureau. And so they had the training, gave us the kits, and we studied and took an exam. There is a refresher course for people to re-take the exam this coming Saturday, and the organizers asked me to use it as a chance to get some practice speaking, and the following Sunday I have a speaking gig booked (yes already!) to do my first one. That's kind of exciting, and scary at the same time... because it's at a church! And the presentation is geared for schools and that's what I've practiced. Presenting to an adult audience is a different beast and I'm not sure what else additional I need to prepare for it.
I volunteered to help with the "interfaith" group of the da'wah committee at the masjid, and they have a meeting Thursday. Also on Thursday a girl is hosting an MSA event to talk about Muslim unity--lately this has become an increasingly important topic for me and I'd love to attend it as well. The first is from about 6-7:30, the next from 7:30 on. I get out of work at 5:30, but let's recall that Thursday morning I go to work at 3:30 am--it's a long day. So after work, two classes, work again, I have two meetings. I guess later on I can worry about actually eating dinner. The thing is, I'm not really interested in the interfaith meeting, which makes me tempted to not go.
So that's my life lately, I guess. Lots of studying, not a lot of learning unfortunately.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Too close for missiles; I'm switching to guns.

That line just cracks me up whenever I see it on facebook. :P

But here's the deal, it's been about two weeks now without any considerable improvement in the pain in my back. However, I have learned that ibuprofen helps and tylenol doesn't help that much. See, I took ibuprofen the first few days, then tylenol for a while... then I would take the tylenol and still have pain an hour later, so added ibuprofen and that made a difference. So now it's just ibuprofen, and I realize that I've gone through 50 caplets of ibuprofen almost in two months. :-( Anyone who knows me, personally, knows I absolutely hate taking medicine, and it's just depressing to me that I've gone through almost the entire bottle of ibuprofen and made a significant dent in the tylenol which had 100 caplets. :-(

I don't take anything unless it hurts. Usually when I get up in the morning, it doesn't hurt. Some nights I've slept on the heating pad--I actually prefer not to do this, but even when doing it, I haven't really noticed much change. The longer I stay in bed (from days I've overslept) then the easier I have it the next day. Certain activities seem to exacerbate the pain... which I discovered this morning. I had my (kinda large) bag of stuff I take to class over my left shoulder, and my notebook (which is a "full" 2 1/2 in binder--full meaning sheets and sheets of loose paper and also two bound notebooks--full as in anymore pages won't fit) in my left hand. The idea there was if I don't put stress on my right shoulder, the right shoulder blade (where the pain is localized) won't hurt. By the time I got to my class, I realized that I had been slightly swinging my right arm in my brisk walk to class and my back was burning. Not just when I moved, but even standing still. It took about 10-15 minutes for the pain to die down.

I tested various combinations on my way back to the bus stop--trying to find something, anything that didn't hurt, but the pain (which, once I started walking began creeping back quickly) just intensified for the duration of the walk. I came downtown for lunch and walked from my car to the restaurant--without the notebook it was considerably easier, and I was able to walk without the burning pain which had plagued me in the morning.

Now as I sit here the pain comes and goes. Remember, I took a full dose of ibuprofen at 9am today, and another at 2pm. The pain from the walk was around 9:30 and 12:30... times when the back should not have been inflamed because I had already taken medicine. And of course, I took it at 9am because it was starting to give me trouble since I got up this morning (3am) and I never really got to rest it. Now it's coming up on 4pm, and it's really too soon to take any more (I want to be careful about not taking too many pills because I've been taking them for so long.) They do make a difference, but that's becoming less and less noticeable. Most days, by the time I'm praying 'isha and going to bed, the pain is just searing, burning, and I have to twist my back something weird just to relieve it. (Standing with a weird hunch while I walk or do anything.)

So, since it's been two weeks, one might ask why I haven't gone to the doctor? Well, because I could not foresee myself attending classes fulltime this semester and had, by the time it was too late to change my mind when the money actually came through, only registered half-time. Which means that the health insurance I received through my mom's employer expired the first of the year. So priority item for today was... finding health insurance.

So personal observations... I have experienced back pain in the past. Pain which lasted for about 3 weeks before I went to the doctor... at which point it began to go away. So I'm hopeful that in another week this will start to go away, and I am trying to rest it as much as possible (i.e., not carrying a lot, swinging my arms when I walk, and so forth.) But to be quite honest, it's really just making me miserable. :-(

Here's a picture of one of the buildings on campus... the new campus... the one I had to walk to get to today. I was looking over the blog and it just seems like there's too much text, so thought I'd break it up with a photograph.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Where I am vs. where I wanna be

So still there is back pain. I thought it had eased up a little, but yesterday was awful. Last night (after already taking two more Tylenol "extra strength" making 6 for the day) I was trying to do the dishes, fold my laundry... and everything hurt. Standing, moving, reaching, lifting. But nevertheless I'm getting the impression I should really go to the doctor if this keeps up... so I really hope it doesn't. I slept on the heating pad and this morning was much better. So I took two more and then it was okay. And I'm about to take... two more since it's been about 6 hours... or maybe 5.

So anyway, this weekend was nice--exhausting, but nice. I had the privilege to listen to Sister Yvonne Ridley give several different speeches between Thursday and Sunday. She's giving another tonight that I'd love to attend, though it is unfortunately some distance away and I have a lot of homework to do tonight for Tuesday morning--which had been put off because I was so busy during the weekend. :D

That has given me plenty to write about, but I don't want to just repeat what someone else has said. Recently it occurred to me that my faith was not a priority in my life, though I can't say for how long that was the case. My objective now is to rearrange my priorities and focus instead on what I am doing for God instead of the reverse, or what I am doing for myself.

This weekend I realized the real importance of having women who are scholarly trained in Islam. I've talked about this some with others and it's an issue that has just recently moved right to the front of my head. Where are they? One da'wah recommendation is to have only women speakers answer questions about women in Islam. And really--I can't tell you how many times I've heard a man botch a simple answer to a problem some people have on the issue. Take for example, polygamy. Men are not allowed to have more than one wife just because they want to. So then, why do so many men when asked about this reply with such foolish suggestions? They ask, what if a woman can't fulfill a man's right this way or that way, or what if he wants this, or needs that, and she can't? As though marriage were only a means of supporting and enhancing a man's life. No matter how you spin it, that's a degrading and sexist opinion. It's bad enough that any Muslim man would think that way, but worse that this is how Islam is presented to the outside world. Now, you will find some women with a sort of inferiority complex (so I think) who will repeat the same garbage, as though men are entitled to whatever they want and women are not. Marriage is a far more complicated issue than that, and suggesting that polygamy is an answer to the desires of men alone is absolute foolishness--that is clearly the weakest support for it. So why give that answer? Do these men who reply such not know any better? Do they think they really are better or something? Sheesh.

Of course, even if they do give a good answer, the fact remains that a woman giving the answer will sound stronger. A woman talking about hijab carries far more weight than any man to do so. A woman talking about women's rights has a voice. A man to do so is more of the same--and to an audience unfamiliar with the topic they'll wonder--can he be trusted? Does he even know what it's like? He'll have a hard time gaining the sympathy of the audience, unfortunately. But we don't have enough women to talk about these issues. The ones who can talk aren't trained. The ones who are trained... they don't talk.

So now the obvious--I for one am tired of sitting in the background. Opportunities are there, volunteers are needed all over the place to help with this or that, but I want real Islamic training. I want to really know my faith and practice it. And I want to meet Allah swt saying I spent my life learning this deen, implementing it, and teaching it. And not to show off or be better than anyone but to actually improve myself, improve the state of the ummah and people's opinion of it. Ambitious? Perhaps. But for now, it starts with learning Arabic so that's where I'm starting--and to do whatever I can with the resources I currently have available.

Friday, February 02, 2007

On Pain and Agony

There's just nothing like persistent pain. Anything you do or try to do--it's there. Try to do some homework, it's there. Try to do some leisure typing or reading--it's there. Try to ride a bike, it's there. Try to drive, watch tv, eat a sandwich, sit still, move around, stand up, sit down, lay on the floor, get dressed, take a shower, make sujood... always it hurts. So what a nice feeling it is, after a week of that, to wake up and not hurt as bad!! Still hurt, though only slightly--not nearly as bad and in fewer positions. It's nice. Reminds me to say alhamdulillah.

So I woke up this morning after having the most restful sleep I've had in nearly a month. I'm not so alert... I'm sleepy this morning like every morning. But my sleep was different. Something that has been bothering me for some time--or perhaps bothering isn't the right word--that slipped away and left me for the night. And the refreshing freedom inspired by the absence of those particular thoughts made the sleep very enjoyable for once in quite a while.

What I awoke with, however, was something sweeter and nicer than I ever could have asked for. In the absence of stress and worry I found two things that I had forgotten in the last few weeks--gratitude and trust. That is, gratitude to Allah swt, and trust in his will and power. And alhamdulillah they came without a harsh reminder. I have so much to be grateful for but I don't express that gratitude--why?? Why do I hold it back? Why do I suppress the humility and gratitude which beg me to submit prostrated before my Creator? What arrogance I have to say "I"ll thank God later!" Humph! I could spend every minute thanking God and it wouldn't be enough!! So it's time to stop asking--and trust in what he has given me and will give me, trust that it's for the best, pray for it to be the best, and stop wishing for this foolish dunya!!

And then to be grateful... because whatever it is, anything I have is more than I've earned.