Saturday, April 28, 2007

On being a Muslim woman

There was a magazine that had been sitting in the back seat of my car for a couple of months, that I happened to pull out a few weeks back and read while eating dinner one night. I prepared myself to be disappointed in this article, title "On being a Muslim woman," which is an excerpt from Winning the Modern World by Abdessalam Yassine.

Yes, that's a guy's name.

So why is a guy writing an article that's been titled "On being a Muslim woman?" I thought I could smell trouble... and the article was actually the opposite of what I thought, and I really found it to be a wonderful piece on today's society, with respect to women.

These bits below I found particularly powerful, but the essence of the article is that Islam is clear in protection of women and importance of family. However, the image seen in too many societies today he describes as "insignificant and oppressed creature.. stunted by illiteracy and weighted down by unjust macho traditions."

It is urgent to deliver the contemporary Muslim woman, fallen again, perhaps even lower than her pre-Islamic sister, and to draw her up from the abyss of injustice and negligence where she languishes. Our era is perhaps no more merciful toward women than one in which a depraved and inhumane father could cruelly bury his newborn infant if by misfortune it was found to be a girl! The misfortune of today's Muslim woman is twofold. She lives torn between the unfortunate situation in which local masculine injustice has placed her, and the Western model whose apparent freedom attracts her.

So there are two evils--the current state of women in the Muslim world, and the current state of women in the Western world! One limits her participation in society, the other limits her participation in family, so the author encourages that women learn about their rights in order claim them. He does not place the entire responsibility on Muslim governments, but calls it a "joint effort of men and women."

The feminine touch is more than a complement to masculine decisiveness: her delicate sensitivity and motherly love are irreplaceable, indeed decisive in the effort of change in order to bring about the "alternation of days." The decisive hand of an Islamic government can and should stop the hemorrhaging of a wounded society, but what other than feminine compassion can gently tend its physical and psychological wounds, soothing with healing balms the effects of so much suffering?

So anyway--I was pleasantly surprised. You can read the entire article here inshaAllah. I could only find it as a word doc, but this should be the cached html version.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Voices behind the veil

So I found it. The book my mom was reading about Islam.

Last night because I needed to do some shopping (stressing "needed") at Wal-mart, I decided to have dinner with my parents, and they weren't busy so we went to an Applebee's down in Fuquay-Varina. Yeaahhh... I got all the nasty looks, "what's one uh their kind doin' here?" but I met my parents at their house, not the restaraunt, since I had some mail to pick up and my mom hadn't gotten home yet. Before we left to go eat I prayed 'asr in one of the back bedrooms. And just glancing at the bookshelf after the salat I saw it... this book. My brother's girlfriend had discovered it a while ago and thought it prudent to inform me of the fact since she seemed to think it maybe wasn't the best book for her to read. And indeed not, at the time I tried to find it and more about it, but not being sure of the title I couldn't know definitely what she was reading.

Well, now I've found it, and this is it. Voices behind the veil. It's a collection of writings (should I say "stories?" for you Southerners who know that other meaning) from Christian women about Muslim women. Edited by Ergun Caner--a man for whom I have very little respect, as I've seen him provide false information to evangelical Christians in a number of his books, and who lacks a sufficient understanding of Islam to properly represent it to Christians in the first place. Being Muslim, and converting to Christianity in high school, does not make one an expert on Islam. Just like I wouldn't take as authority on Christianity the stories of Muslims who converted to Islam, not unless they've done serious research. I tend to think Mr. Caner has not done such, as he's made a number of very basic errors in some of his books.

But anyway, the book is not so much his writing as that of some women. To give you an idea of why it bothers me, I'm going to read off the Table of Contents. It's available on amazon on the "search inside" feature, but let me just quote it here to save the trouble.

  1. Testimonies Behind the Veil - Former Muslim Women Share How they Found Christ
  2. Khadijah's Cadre - The Wives of the Prophet Muhammad (saws-my addition)
  3. Aishah's Daughters - Significant Women in the History of Islam
  4. The Qur'an, the Hadith, and Women
  5. The Essence of the Veil - The Veil as a Metaphor for Islamic Women
  6. Islamic Practices in the Real World - Daily Life in Specific Islamic Countries
  7. Cherished Commodity - Daughters in Islam
  8. Protected Property - Wives in Islam
  9. The Crescent and the Cradle - The Mother and Child in Islam
  10. Working in Vain in the Impossible Task - Teaching the Worker to Weep
  11. Praying for Islamic Women
  12. Love Unveiled - Witnessing to Muslim Women with a Heart of Love
Each subtitle an insult. When are Muslimahs "Muslim women" and when are they "Islamic women?" I'm considering swiping this book from my mom's library for a little while to read it, and elaborate further on my complaints against it. Also, to prepare myself to defend any accusations I may hear later in life stemming from the portrayals of Muslim women on this book. Should I start with the references to women as non-human nouns? Sometimes subtle, sometimes not. Believe it or not, most Muslim men I know don't think of women as "objects" but rather as human beings with a tremendous amount of respect. Why? Because their mothers are women.

The purpose of the book is for Christian women specifically to acquire enough knowledge and prejudice against Islam and confidence in their own faith to, without any sort of academic scholarship present a case against Islam and for Christianity to Muslim women who are so (sarcasm on) horribly oppressed.(sarcasm off)

Here's an ambitious project... although I'm neither a writer nor scholar of Islam, passion is something I have, and a passion to clarify such nonsense as this book. Voices behind the veil should be voices of Muslim women. Wouldn't a great idea be to write another book with a similar title "Voices Behind the Veil - The World of Islam through the Eyes of Muslim Women" (the only change is the addition of the word Muslim) clarifying the many different roles of women in Islam. And starting off with convert stories! Who'd'athunk! But then the real admiration for the Sahabiyyat, the meaning of modesty and hijab, practices of Islam from the perspective of someone who actually practicies them (what a novel idea!), the role of a mother through the eyes of a mother, the role of a daughter through the eyes of a daughter, and the role of a wife through the eyes of a wife.

Who's with me?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's a Small World After All...

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears.

It's a world of hopes, and a world of fears.

There's so much that we share

That it's time we're aware

It's a small world after all.

There is just one moon and one golden sun.

And a smile means friendship to everyone.

Though the mountains divide

And the oceans are wide

It's a small world after all.

I haven't been to Disney World in a long time. I went so many times as a kid, it seems, and once even to Disneyland in Paris. Sometimes it's nice to recall those childhood memories.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Gas prices

Why can't I answer my phone?

You would think that after about 3 weeks of getting a phone call everyday after maghrib, and still expecting a call every night after maghrib... that I'd keep my phone handy.


Never fails. Phone rings, and I am not to be found. Twenty minutes later I start to wonder when the call is coming and find... it came, and I have voicemail. Now, voicemail is nice, but it would be nicer (I'm sure to the one on the other end!) if I could answer once in a while. It's amazing how these strange things happens.

Sometimes, I fall asleep. Yes, I don't always get enough sleep at night (although, alhamdulillah I'm able to get up on time now!) and occasionally take naps at 7pm--don't laugh. It usually starts with 'asr and a cozily warm bedroom, then snuggling into bed until after maghrib (prayer after sunset) which is now about 8pm. I think so far I've been able to wake up in time to make the salat(!!) but then I need to get on with things. Mind you, I fall asleep with my phone in my purse, and my purse in the living room (not bedroom) so I don't even hear the phone.

Sometimes, I leave it on vibrate by accident. And just miss it.

Sometimes I just don't hear it ring and it's not on vibrate and I'm not asleep. Mysterious! I've yet to figure that one out.

Sometimes I go to the mosque or a lecture last-minute and turn my phone off or don't answer. Or turn it on vibrate and then find the vibrating to be so loud, I open the phone (connect) then close it (disconnect.) This sends a mysterious message--did she answer? Should I call back? Huh? And then I try not to disturb the speaker while texting quick messages like "l8r" even though I said 8:45 would be fine the night before and now it's 9pm.

I wish I had some explanation for this morbidly embarassing behavior (when everytime I return the call I start with an apology...)

Is it spontaneity? Is it carelessness? I really wonder because I do hope to get married one day, and I'm worried that this little.. habit.. is going to get really annoying. Not for me so much... but him. I'm going to have to get used to telling people where I am and where I'm going I guess, but someone else is going to have to get used to delayed reception phone calls, or else staple my phone to my head so I can't lose it.

In the meantime, if anyone is calling me and wondering why I don't answer... it's nothing personal.

Bad behavior

This very moment I am reflecting on the immaturity of college boys. Why? Well I'm sitting in class and the professor is handing back tests from last week. The average is a 66.5. He hands them back at the beginning of class, and then a number of students just leave right afterwards. But he calls out each name, then walks around to pass them out. It takes about 15 minutes, but that's what he does. At the same time, there are a bunch of guys in the back just cracking up at whatever, talking on their mobile phones--loudly! It's pretty annoying--all while the professor is trying to yell out names so people can hear him. And then a lot of them just leave afterwards. How embarassing.

That's our society. That's college, I guess. No respect. I don't like it when people talk in class, I really don't. It makes it harder for everyone to concentrate, including the professor. And they aren't even talking about the material. That's a room full of 20-yr old boys for you.

I've written another post to Aliocha that I've delayed to post because I need to check some of my notes for part of the answer, but wanted to go ahead and post this... and more. I guess I just had to rant. I won't say what I made on the test.

Monday, April 23, 2007

So much to write about!!

Bear with me please!

It's Monday, I have one week left of school and tons to blog about. I still have four comments from Aliocha to reply to, one particularly interesting article I read in a magazine I want to discuss, and a pleasantly inconclusive weekend. I want to get it all in, but as it piles up, it's harder and harder to write! So again, there may be a flood of posts forthcoming. Yet I have two homework assignments due this week and... yup, finals next week!! One last push until this semester is over inshaAllah, then some real free time when I can do important things like... well, that's personal.

Anyway, stay tuned inshaallah, more posts to come!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Have I ever been a Christian?

Yes. I think it was Yusuf Estes (and perhaps others) who said that becoming Muslim allowed him to be an even better follower of Christ. I take that viewpoint at times.

When I was five years old, I told my parents "I want to be saved." How cute. (I told this to the girls at dinner once when we were joking about our Christian backgrounds actually. One sister went aaaaawwwwwwwwwwwww.) I had a little talk with the preacher, do I really want Jesus to come into my life? Yes really! Save me from my sins? Yes really! And so on and so forth?

So I got a little white dress, went up in front of the congregation one Sunday and was forcibly held underwater by an old man. Panic! That's what you think when you're 5 and someone pushes you under water and won't let you up (and he's a lot stronger than you, too!) And so I was baptised "in the name of the father, son, and holy spirit." I was in Awanas--we held competitions to see who could memorize the most Bible verses. I guess it was kind of like a Bible study for kids. That church we went to was also a school, and I went there up through 2nd grade--a private Christian school. They were of the mind that women should absolutely not wear pants--and I blame them for 4 straight winters of strep throat from playing in the cold, damp weather in a knee-length skirt. The two probably aren't related, but I got sick every winter while I was there (I can still remember the smell and taste of the meds I had to take--every year.) and I'm sure that playing outside in the cold like that had something to do with it... I'm just sure of it. But that's why I have a very interesting opinion on school uniforms. Going to a church that won't let women wear pants has a strange effect on a girl.

We went to that church for a while, leaving when I was a bit older, and we left the school as well (my whole family.) Then my family, or just my parents, me and my brother, settled on a church closer to a new place we lived, and we joined up, and they had a revival. So at 13 I decided again that I had been weak in my faith and was not letting Jesus control my life and so on and so forth (these were the days of the W.W.J.D. bracelets!) and so I got baptized again, this time with a friend, my neighbor Stacey. So I was more active in my church for about a month, and the passion faded, and we eventually stopped going to church altogether. I didn't mind--it meant I could sleep in on Sundays.

As I got a little older I started to feel bad that I wasn't going to church--especially when I started working at a fast-food joint where one of the main hiring questions is "What church do you go to?" So I started looking around and trying to figure out how to make religion more important in my life. I sought churches, but never got real far. My study of Islam was not because I was looking for religion or faith in that direction at all. It was mostly an academic exercise that was initially divorced from my heart and spiritual opinions. Reading the Qur'an took my study of Islam to a different level though, and I think that's when it started affecting my heart, and that was the snowball rolling down the hill.

It was like I started to understand spirituality, and in a much deeper sense than I found in churches. Because it was inside of me it was more real than what seemed so superficial to me from Christians that I knew. Some people might think Islam looks rigid but for someone who really wants to worship God, it's like the answers are there. How to pray was a big one for me, and I'm specifically talking about the chapter of the Qur'an that is recited in the prayer. It is praise, it is glorification, and a plea for guidance, and the beauty of it was then and is now stunning to me. Does something similar exist in Christianity? Yeah actually it does. But in Islam, when you repeat it 17 times a day, it absolutely has a much greater effect than something you think of only when problems arise. So in a way it is a kind of discipline, and that's something I never found.

So I was a Christian, definitely. I identified myself as such and I really did believe and never really looked outside of Christianity for faith. Just like you aren't looking for money on the ground but when it catches your eye...

Thursday, April 19, 2007



Thank you for all your wonderful comments, I really enjoyed reading them! And no, I did not forget you! I had missed you when you stopped logging on to the forum, and I missed your gentle correspondence and manner of questioning and am overjoyed you found the blog again and asked your questions. Naturally, I'm more than happy to provide answers.

But to avoid the need to traipse through pages of archives, I would like to answer them all up front if I can inshaAllah (God willing.) I'll start from the bottom and work my way up hopefully, and I might take a couple posts instead of just one if that is necessary.

Let me start by saying there is no question too basic. Knowledge has to be acquired somehow, you can't sleep with a book under your pillow and expect in the morning to know its contents. So what better way to learn than ask? Really, I'm honored that you're asking and I feel privileged to answer. :-) I tend to forget that my readers are not only Muslims, so I'm thinking now it might not be a bad idea to place a small glossary on the side of the blog for some of these words.

So first things first... haram. More or less, yes, it means prohibited. In Islam there are things that are mandatory or obligatory on adherents, like five daily prayers and fasting Ramadan, and there are somethings that aren't allowed, like eating pork or drinking alcohol. Those things not allowed are called haraam. However, there's an exception to the rules and there are situations where the mandatory may be excused, and the prohibitions relaxed. But you are correct that the meaning of haraam is prohibited.

Next, there is a difference of opinion of scholars regarding music. Some will say that in all forms it is totally prohibited, maybe even a mother singing to her child (though it's easy to call that a bit extreme.) Others will say it is allowed but disliked, or allowed assuming it does not involve other things that could lead to trouble or are in their own ways prohibited. For example, a song about alcohol, and the fun of being drunk? Well we established that alcohol is haraam, right? A lot of music also is tied to dancing, dancing in sexual forms to sort of elicit a physical response from the audience. I think conservative people of faith would naturally shy away from that--music that gives the appearance of a bedroom scene in public, bumping and grinding and so forth. So that could easily be prohibited. But music that is more benign often falls into a mysterious category where people don't know if it should be allowed (in Arabic halal) or prohibited. Some scholars dislike certain instruments or intentions for music. I'm sure they all have their reasons, and I can acknowledge that a discussion about why they think it is one or the other is over my head to some degree--what I wish is that more people would acknowledge that and cease to pretend to be the scholars they aren't qualified to be. :-)

As far as music for worship, this is interesting you ask. The Psalms to me always seemed like music, and in fact reciting the Qur'an is a music all its own. But worship, Islamic-style, does not involve instruments, and tends to be a very quiet affair. The parts of the prayer that are aloud are just reciting of the Qur'an but the rest of it is quiet. The silence adds to the reverence and respect, in my opinion, and prevents distraction from the real message of it.

A fitnah... this word means something like a trial or a test, or maybe a troubling situation where one is tempted to stray, or maybe even a civil war. Another benefit of my posting this is that some of my readers might be able to correct me on this--if I'm wrong I strongly encourage them to do so (hint hint ya'll!)

Now mashaAllah is one of these things that people say, where the meaning doesn't quite make sense. Literally I think it means "What Allah willed" and usually as a good omen. Muslims, especially Arabs, tend to say things like "Oh what a beautiful baby, mashallah" or "So he's an engineer? Mashallah" or "What a kind brother, mashallah." It's like a reminder that Allah had a hand in this world, what we see and what we don't. As I used above, inshaAllah means "If Allah wills" and Muslims will use that especially when talking about doing something in the future. It's really beautiful, actually, and something not only found in Islam but in Christianity as well actually, if you read the book of James. The author tells the audience not to say they will do something tomorrow without saying "If it is the Lord's will." Likewise in Islam, Muslims are told not to say they will do something for sure without acknowledging that they may only do it if it is God's will.

So it seems I have to go somewhere for now, but inshaAllah I will answer more of your questions in later posts. May God grant us all peace and guidance and keep us straight on His Path.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sharing, sharing, Muslims do that too!

The polygamy post... you know you were expecting it sooner or later. Tuesday night is "House" night. (House being a particularly unspecial TV show my friends just rave about.) And "House" parties consist of dinner and girly chit-chat, salat, and TV--quite often starting with American Idol (*snicker*.) Unfortunately, Tuesday night is my 5-hour lab shift, 7:30pm to 11:30am. Joy upon joys. So I usually visit for dinner and then leave around 7 to come in to the lab.

It is nice to spend time with Muslim sisters. Primarily it's three women: my roommate, another convert sister, and an American born Egyptian sister. The latter has kids my age, actually, who sometimes are there. Usually her son (who I have worked with a few times at da'wah table) though he doesn't exactly join in, and her eldest daughter who is nearer my age--present less often. So when it's the four of us, conversation tends to cover a few basic topics... one is engaged to be married, so her fiance is a hot topic. Another is... not engaged but "involved sort of" with a man who is not Muslim (yet) but seriously considering converting. And then there's my roommate. So those two men get a lot of talk time, everyone's employment, and things like that.

For whatever reason I try to insert politics and religion into the discussion (is that impolite?) I really enjoy hearing their opinions--not just because I agree with them or like to hear women getting angry, but because they are intelligent and thoughtful women with interesting experiences.

We talk about segregation, and we talk about racism, about faith, about converting, about working as a Muslimah in the south (we all four wear hijab) and we talk about food. The main dish tonight was Byriani... yay. :-D

Tonight one main topic of conversation was jealousy. Two of these sisters (the ones involved with the men) consider themselves to be very jealous--they are also both very strict in their covering by the way. And I did not introduce the topic, but it came up, of polygamy. This is where it gets interesting. One sister was absolutely opposed, said she wouldn't go for it because she was too jealous. Another sister said she had actually proposed the idea to a man ("You give me a house, and a car, and you can come over whenever you want.") The third said she would have been open to the idea with her ex-husband because she knew what a good man he was, and did not fear any injustice on his part, but might not have the same opinion of another man.

So that's key then, isn't it? The way the man treats the women? Oddly enough I came across some videos tonight about wife-beating (of all utterly horrendous topics) and found one man to say that he feels bad about punching his wife in the face, and would opt for another form of discipline in the future--like taking another wife. That is, he would take another wife just to anger the first as a form of revenge... or do I mean discipline? Excuse me while I spit.

Scumbags like that don't have the right to be married, in my opinion. No, they don't even have the right to leave their homes without a leash. But that's not the state of most men I think so I won't give them any more mention in this post inshaAllah.

One of the sisters tonight made the comment that polygamy isn't really all that bad, if you're looking for a few things--if you want to have a career, aren't really interested in having kids (ie leave it to the other wife, but you can always babysit so it's like almost being a mom... co-mommy) or in some other way like to have time that is not spent around the same man all the time, you're free to do that. Or as she said, you can take care of business and then send him home.

Even more shocking was the comment of a non-Muslim woman who said that she thought it was a good idea--as she got older she realized she didn't like spending so much time with her husband anyway! So some women go for it, and some women don't. Likewise, some men go for it and others don't. (That is, they realize how much trouble it can really be--imagine if both wives are mad and they gang up on him...!)

Anyway, just getting a few thoughts cleared out of my head here, it was a pretty funny discussion even though it didn't actually arrive anywhere.

Monday, April 16, 2007

A real phony

So I did the classic movie via telephone thing again Saturday night. Movie of choice? Breakfast at Tiffany's--a classic. I found out recently that I actually know people who haven't seen this movie, as astonishing as that may be. It's so classic there's even a song with the same title, let me quote a few lines below:

You say that we've got nothing in common,
No common ground to start from
And we're falling apart.
You say, the world has come between us,
Our lives have come between us.
But I know you just don't care.

And I said, "What about Breakfast at Tiffany's?"
She said, "I think I remember the film
And as I recall, I think, we both kinda liked it."
And I said, "Well that's the one thing we've got."

No joke--it's the first CD I bought, the Deep Blue Something album with this song on it. Yet I did not pick this film to watch--so that was part of the enjoyment. This happens to be one of those movies that play on the classic movie channels in the middle of a Saturday (or Thursday--Thursday!? Oh no it can't be Thursday!) afternoon, and if I see it on while I'm not busy I tend to leave it... which ends up meaning I see lots of the middle bits, fewer of the end, and very seldom the beginning. It was nice to watch it straight through for a change. The company was also nice (or, super-nice), laughing about this crazy girl and her cat.

So now I guess I should provide some "deeper insight" gained from it. The second character, "Fred" who is really Paul, is in probably the worst position for a man. A time ago it wasn't so surprising in "Western" circles for a man to keep a mistress in town, while his wife stayed at home. (Hm, sensing a polygamy argument arising? Not today.) Basically, the mistress had her apartment paid for, clothes, whatever she wished really, just that she be there for the darling man when he came calling. Poor Paul (Fred baby) is a mistress... but a man... for a woman. The struggling writer is being paid by a woman--she maintains the apartment and pays him for "services rendered" I suppose. When he falls for the main character, charming Holly Golightly, the other woman imagined he had found someone rich who could afford to maintain him. However, what Paul had found so endearing about Holly (despite that she kept calling him Fred) was that he could actually help her.

Isn't that cute? I wonder if it's true, that men are striving to help women, even though it seems that women don't really need it, just find it charming once in a while. But then he got possessive, "I love you. You belong to me!" Oh no, I have to agree with Holly there, you can't say anyone belongs to you, especially not because of the way you happen to feel about them. If people want to belong to each other they both have to make that choice. In the end the movie characters did, and even the Cat.

But in light of that, it might be good for us all to not jump to conclusions thinking other people belong to us just because of how we feel. But I say that to myself first.

The trick of Shaytaan

How does he get you when you're praying?

Reminds you that you left the oven on? Your car unlocked? Haven't paid your taxes yet?

I get all these senseless reminders and it's a struggle of course to put them out of my mind. But lately I've had a different kind of distraction. Not that the distraction is recent, I can remember it from the very first time I wore a scarf in my prayer at home (you see, I didn't always know that it was necessary to wear a scarf in salat and I sort of rebelled against the idea.) So it goes like this, I make wudhu, the water is somewhat cool, I dry my face and arms but they are still cool from the water. Then I don a scarf--sometimes I tie on a scarf and sometimes I put on the top piece (or in some instances the bottom as well) of a prayer outfit. I take position, raise my hands, "Allahu Akbar." Then it starts.

It's getting warm. Maybe I should've opened a window. Maybe I should turn the fan more this way. Maybe I should turn on the a/c. Maybe I should get a glass of water. Boy this scarf is really hot. Why am I wearing this sweatshirt? Maybe I should take off the shirt and just wear the prayer outfit. Was it this hot earlier? My temperature rises, I start sweating--ah yes, sweat, the proof that I was feeling hot when I am finally finished and take off the scarf.

As it starts to warm up, this bothers me more and more--the heat. I genuinely have trouble concentrating in the salat because I am uncomfortably warm. Does the scarf have something to do with it? Probably. (This is, by the way, why I didn't at first and still don't like having to wear it while praying at home, but nobody asked me.) There are days in this time of the year that are obscenely humid (yes, obscenely). It happens when first it rains, saturating everything, and then the sun comes out. What I find bizarre now is that I can sit perfectly comfortable in my chair at my computer, on the floor, on the sofa, stand in front of the oven even, and still can am less effected by the heat than I seem to be in my salat.

Is that just the fate of a woman? To always be hot like that, never to enjoy the breeze? I've had the fan running in my room non-stop for a few days now but it doesn't help much--practically none at all in salat. But now it's simply annoying, now I realize it's something to work on. As I try to improve my concentration in salat, this persistent complaint surfaces now in hopes that I can overcome it. It's hot. I'm going to be hot no matter what I'm wearing and no matter what the temperature is.

But I start to feel my skin getting red--I can feel it!--and more pores starting to sweat. All over my entire body, really. It starts on my arms and face, quickly spreading down my torso and legs. Once I've made it through salat I try to stay still and make dhikr or du'a but then what? I just want to take this thing off!! And the relief I feel at stripping it off, oh, a cool breeze in the heat of day, like finally taking a fresh breath of air.

Unfortunately, the entire experience makes me want to avoid extra salat, sunnah or just nafl salat voluntarily because of my discomfort. It's a shame, really. I'm doing better about ignoring the reminders (keys and taxes, etc.) that come with the opening takbir, but now I'm set to conquer this. Why? The best reason is this hadith:

Abu Hurairah related that Rasulullah (saws) said:

Almighty Allah says: No slave of Mine can seek nearness to Me with things better than what I made obligatory on him. My slave then continues to seek My nearness with extra Salat until I start loving him. When I love him, I become his ears with which he hears, his eyes with which he sees, his hands with which he holds and his legs with which he walks, and if he prays for something I grant it to him, and if he seeks My protection, I give it to him.

And that's enough of a reason--nearness to Allah by means of extra Salat.

And when do I notice the heat troubling me most? When I have thought ahead that I want to perform extra salat. When I've gone to the masjid sometimes in the mornings. Most especially on praying Qiyam before fajr in Ramadan. And that was the worst. It would be cold outside and morbidly humid inside--no air circulation, for one thing, and to make it worse, the sisters confined to a small portion in the back of the musallah. Let me repeat--no air circulation! Any fans and airflow in the rest of the musallah were kept by the stupid partition from reaching the sisters. And then, standing in a line, with a line in front or maybe one behind, the warmth of other bodies on each side and still, no free air. Prostrating was like suffocating--with the temperature, the humidity, then an enclosed space often with fabric covering key external respiratory organs... so I'd go anyway. Wear the thinnest scarf, drop my coat at the door, spread my legs apart, stand at the end of the line... but it's interesting isn't it? That's a more extreme case, but even on nights when I think before starting isha that I would like to pray a few extra before going to sleep... then as soon as I start that isha prayer I notice the heat, and want more than anything to remove my scarf and throw it across the room (happens sometimes).

So the more rewarding a prayer would be... the more difficult it becomes to pray it. I'm getting the feeling that Shaytaan is trying harder and harder to keep me from praying extra prayers, whether Tahajjud in the masjid in Ramadan or merely Istikhara in my bedroom, I notice the heat as more of a problem.


Now that I've noticed and simply refuse to blame the weather any longer, I have a challenge. When I start wanting to turn the fan and shed layers of fabric during my salat, I can remember what a reward the prayer is in the first place, and how badly Shaytaan wants to keep me from it. All the more reason to beat Shaytaan then, and keep praying.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

The Meat Market

No, I'm not talking about the halal meat market... but rather the experience of many new reverts to Islam upon entering a community as a single (read, eligible) Muslim woman. That is, she begins to feel like a piece of meat being appraised by well-meaning "aunties" for their sons and nephews and so forth, who may or may not actually be living in this country.

It's not an experience I've had much to do with (I have a guess on why that I'll keep to myself for now.) But while I was at the mall last week for "sister's night out," I did have a blog-worthy conversation. This is a monthly gathering of sisters, many of whom are converts who work full-time, to get together, chit chat about goings on and enjoy some time with only girls without any of us having to play hostess. Typically gatherings are at "food courts" where there is a large seating arrangement (seat yourself, pulling tables together if you like) and a variety of choices of restaurants. So this week we were at a shopping mall--it was raining so outdoor seating was not a favorable option anyway.

I tend to arrive earlier than other sisters... I get off work at 5:30 and the meeting time is 6:30, so I usually get there around 6 or so (even after hanging around the office late) and listen to a CD or something in my car (a lecture about Imam As-Shafi'ee was in that evening.) Then I go in about.. 6:30. "On time." To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late, and to be late is to be... left. But not in the Muslim world, oh no, to be on time is to be early, and to be late is to be on time. To be early is to be confused--where is everyone?

So I stroll in, not sure who will be showing up this week (several sisters had canceled) and walk over towards some hijabis assuming (bad idea) that they would be some of the sisters from our group. Oh no! Did not recognize them, so I offered salaams and received them in return but was invited over, and not seeing anyone else in the proximity (my group) I sat with them and talked a while--them being two very sweet Jordanian sisters and yep, you bet, one of them is trying to find a bride for her sons.

How shall we describe the awkwardness of being appraised for marriage to one particular person whom I've never met. "Oh you go to NCSU? He graduated computer science there!" Let me get your phone number and here is his picture isn't he handsome mashallah... and they grab your arm and refuse to let you leave until you've offered up the digits. Ah! My friends arrive, much to my relief, though they fall into the same trap--oh, hijabis, let's go that way!! Wasn't too bad, one sister who has a daughter my age was mistaken for being a college student as well. So after a very brief chat with the 5 of us, I did finally escape...

...but my phone number didn't.

Nonetheless, alhamdulillah that was several days ago and no rings yet. Perhaps she forgot me. (A girl can hope?)

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Pink blanket

It was a little bit chilly this morning... and apparently "Engineering Open House" means "Engineering Buildings with Open Doors." Of course the lab I work at on Saturday mornings is in an engineering building, and someone propped the doors open this morning--possibly because they didn't have a key, but who knows really the logic behind it. My "desk" is in the lab, and I had to go out and get the blanket from my car (just in case, I keep one in there) and bring it in and have been snuggled up in it at my desk for the last two hours. A number of kids have come in looking for the IE department, and despite the signage I have to tell them--4th floor.

I should be doing homework but I got an email this morning from "islamictube" or whatever that is, with a bunch of "islamic" videos. I've watched three of them--one was a clip from the View with Rosie telling Elizabeth in no uncertain terms that our government is just a little bit creepy and deceitful and that media (including the station broadcasting their show) is not exactly trustworthy. Wasn't too bad, really. Then I watched... and this is the one that set me off... a "khutbah" of sorts called "Islamic Tender Love and Care - Wives Listen Up!" It was too funny... and when I say too funny... anyone nearby had to be gawking at this hijabi in a blanket laughing out loud(seriously) at her laptop. I am not going to give the link here because I'm sure he had the best intentions... his so-called advice might actually annoy a number of women if only because of the approach.

He didn't say anything I'd never heard before, except for describing how different peoples would describe women and their relationship to Shaytaan. (Japanese, English, Polish, French, Chinese and so on, but Muslims say "you are a treasure.") Meh. Perhaps the bloke hasn't realized yet that "Muslim" is not a nationality. And what he went on about later, women being crowns or like people walking on their hands instead of their feet... sheer nonsense. "They used to kill you before Islam sister" was a particularly interesting gem, as if we (as women) are now indebted to Islam because without it we just deserve to be buried alive. I have to say, it might be preferable than the kind of relationship he wanted to describe (i.e., women, be slaves to your husbands and make sujood to them because of their value.) Wah.

But the really precious part... and this I must share... he kept talking about "racing." Sisters, race to do this, or race to do that. I'm imagining that it sounds more sensible in Arabic and the goofiness of the English "translation" was lost on the speaker. But one thing he wanted sisters to race towards was... being a HOOR in JANNAH. Sisters, you should race to be a HOOR in Jannah. Race to be a HOOR, the most beautiful women in Paradise. Now... if you're sitting there wondering what is so funny about that... say it out loud!! A smack-worthy comment if ever I heard one (though he had to tell us foolish females that it isn't nice to hit a man. Ahem, duh.)

Moreover, what really bothered me on a more serious note was the idea that women want nothing but to be beautiful in Paradise, and that hour-al-ein are more beautiful than the women of this life who were granted Jannah. It's quite possible I'm incorrect so I welcome a correction, but here's how things have been to explained to me. One, there is more in store in Paradise for women than their own beauty (and I really don't think most women obsess about beauty nearly so much as men do. At least, I don't.) So acting as if being a good wife will give you the best reward and that is beauty... well, that's not the reward I am shooting for, nor one that preoccupies my thinking, that's for sure. Next, that the women created just for Paradise are not more beautiful than the women who lived on earth. Not that I care, but it seems quite silly to reward a group of people who never suffered on earth more than the group that suffered, and struggled and praised Allah swt despite any hardship. So I was thinking that women would have a higher status than the HOORs anyway. So somebody is confused. What I think is that somebody (ahem, the speaker) does not have any clue how to speak to women.

So what does that mean? Well, obviously it means that men have too long been in charge of affairs they don't know anything about--women's affairs. It is irritating at best to have someone who doesn't understand women at all trying to issue rulings about particular issues, but also unfortunate. Women are overdue to step up and add their voices and experience to the pool of scholarship which at present is overwhelmed with testosterone instead of knowledge.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Who is reading my email?

Is Google reading my Gmail? Or tracking my surfing?

At I have a selection of recommended news articles--recommended for me, in particular. How so? Does anyone know? OK, I actually looked and think I figured it out--if I'm searching google news while logged in to my google account (i.e., gmail) then it tracks what sorts of news stories I read apparently.

Anyway, I thought I would share one of these articles--I did indeed find some of them interesting...

Google Earth maps 'genocide' in Darfur

Satellite pictures of razed villages and squalid refugee camps scattered across Darfur can now be viewed by a global audience after Google Earth put the images online.

The satellite images document destroyed villages and refugee camps Users of Google Earth, a satellite mapping service that attracts hundreds of millions of viewers, will see the war-torn region of western Sudan highlighted with yellow boundaries and labelled "Crisis in Darfur". Blue marks scattered across the pictures of Darfur's harsh, arid landscape indicate refugee camps, which are holding some two million people; red flames denote villages, which gunmen have destroyed.

Google Earth also carries graphic photographs and eyewitness testimony of atrocities committed during the civil war, which broke out in 2003 and has claimed about 300,000 lives through violence, starvation or disease.

Let there be light

So I was driving with a friend of mine a few weeks back and she said, seemingly out of nowhere, "You can bark anywhere you want, but you can't PARK here!" Ah the cruel jokes we play.

I recalled it last night in a short lecture by the Durham masjid's new imam, smiling to myself (in the most polite way) as he talked about "beoble" and other interesting Arabized words. I think it's cute, personally, but it highlighted something I think I've noticed--that Christian audiences can be more forgiving of a speaker who they might otherwise have found to be slightly offensive, because of the language barrier. I thought if I had said the same things he had, I would have been grilled. But then if I had said the same things, I wouldn't have had the same knowledge to back it up anyway so I would probably deserve it. Really, he did a wonderful job.

I didn't know until last night that Durham had a new imam--it was shocking because... well, they had a great imam about whom I had only heard wonderful things. I had only gone to one khutbah there and I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated it, but found it too far to go on a regular basis. At the time, the women were praying in a completely separate room (yes I think we all know how much that bothers me) and access to the speaker was completely restricted and the ladies were at the mercy of the audio speakers and the ability of mummies to shush their little ones--another deterrent. But I just wanted to hear more, hear him speak more.

And today I had the opportunity to hear 5 different khutbahs. The old imam from Durham was speaking at the masjid I normally go to, but earlier than I normally go and consequentlyI missed it. Of course in Raleigh there were two more, but neither from the imam. An additional jummu'ah prayer was being held on campus today as part of Islamic awareness week, so that was fourth. And I considered driving out to Durham to hear the new imam. And... decided that's what to do.

It was about a 30-40 minute trip from my office but well worth it. There has been some progress in the masjid since my last visit actually, and women instead of listening and praying in the cafeteria now had a small section of the musallah. Unfortunately, still behind a wall-on-wheels. So I was not able to see the imam today, not able to see the way his face lit up when he mentioned the Prophet saws, the look of sincerity when he would recite the Qur'an, I could only hear him. But that was enough for today.

After the talk by the imam last night, for islamic awareness (his talking was specifically about Jesus (as)), the MSA had a meeting to elect the new "shura" (aka the executive board.) Alhamdulillah, I am not on it! Yes I was asked, and I'm glad I said no. I wish my brothers and sisters the best, may Allah help and guide them, but I am happy to be free of that responsibility for the next year while I focus on school.

After all of that, I went home, finally arriving around 10:30pm. I had actually decided to skip class that morning, when my relief came in and said, "Sheesh, Amy, you look rough." I had slept a few hours the night before but had a headache and for whatever other reason wasn't much in a state to concentrate so I went home to sleep. When I awoke before going to work, the power was out. I didn't consider it a big deal at the time, figuring the power company might just be doing some work nearby and it would be on soon. Well, when I did get home at 10:30pm, it was still off. Oddly enough, my roommate had not gotten home yet that night so was unaware of the situation. Harried calls to maintenance and the power company by me were no help at all. Maintenance said call the power company. The power company said call maintenace and check the switch. The switch was up, the building had power, just not our apartment!! Why does this happen? Maintenance said call the power company because he wanted to prove to me that we didn't pay our bill. Nonsense I told him, of course we paid it. So he called his supervisor and they checked it out, assuring me that the company had cut off our power because we most likely hadn't paid our bill (based on the insulators in the box.)

Mind you, the apartment next door to ours is vacant, has been for a couple months now, but yet... the lights are on. Isn't that weird? Yes I think so too. Well, Alice was able to get another response from the power company, they had to check the bill and all (of course it was paid) and they were going to send a technician out to take a look. Get this, when I asked them to come take a look, the rep told me that it wasn't their equipment and I needed to call maintenance and have them fix it. Whatever!! So it was about 12:30 or 1 or so before the tech got out there, I was about to go to bed, and the power comes on... alhamdulillah. So we set the a/c and clocks and so forth and eventually went to bed.

Some part of me is incredibly irritated at them (not jumping up and down angry like I suppose I could be) for their mistake. I'm fairly certain they meant to cut off the other unit's power instead of ours, but the run-around I got from them was immensely frustrating--worse than the power just being off. So last Thursday it was the water heater, this Thursday the power. Alhamdulillah. The luxuries we take for granted--warm water, cold food, cooked food, lights at night, air conditioned rooms. Anyway, tonight I've been invited to dinner but I want to attend the imam's class.

I'm on this kick now that I realized something. Listening to the imam last night and today, and having noticed for some time the difference in the lectures by the imam in Raleigh compared to others, I'm beginning to realize the real differences there are in character and manners, not to mention passion and knowledge, coming from true scholars of Islam--men (and women!!) who have taken it upon themselves to study Islam as more than just a hobby, but as their life. Now having listened to brief (very brief) stories about some early scholars--the Imams Abu Hanifah, Malik, As-Shafi'ee, and Ahmed, rahimahumallah--I'm starting to notice this difference in people when I listen to them speak, when I follow them in prayer. Subhanallah.

And inshaAllah later on I'm going to attack this partition issue yet again, having become aware now of another obstacle it creates for women who wish to truly learn--why audio only is not enough. But this post is certainly long enough. Thanks for reading. :-)

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Everybody's free... wear sunscreen.

Yeah.... "baby block" we'd call it... layers of the thick white goo on the girls before we would go to the beach, or the pool. For ourselves we put on something lighter, maybe SPF 15, 8, or 4... or my sister, tanning "oil" with SPF 2.

I haven't had to wear any in quite a while, having not spent much time on a beach since I started covering. However, my face is still exposed so it would be wise I think to have some (they have very convenient roll-on sunscreen dispensers now) with me should I be engaged in an activity out doors for more than a short while. I hated to wear sunscreen when I was young, and it's a shame, really. I remember a number of times coming home fried like a lobster (my sister compared me to Sebastian the crab--wiki, img) and in pain. But somehow I managed to associate the "slight burn" with a "good feeling." That is, it felt good to have warm to the touch, slightly pinkish skin that would sting everywhere, and at times even itch.

Until I was a teenager and began to be annoyed by it, and burns so bad they turned into rashes. Days after one particularly bad burn on my back, I was in the shower and the sunburn began to itch... itch like it had been exposed to some sort of toxin, really, and I couldn't get it to stop. The skin of course was very sensitive but I turned the shower to the maximum setting (max pressure, like water pellets shooting at me) and then began to scratch my back with a shower scrubber--it was coarse and I was scratching so roughly it felt like pulling the skin off. Nothing helped. It burned, and I was in tears, calling my brother in to do something, anything to help, and he ended up applying lotion profusely to my back and the sensation went away finally--a few hours later. If you have ever been sunburnt, imagine scratching that sunburn with sandpaper--that essentially what I was doing to alleviate the pain!! The one kind distracting me from the other perhaps.

Days later my back had turned into a collection of blisters. This is difficult to describe, it's kind of nasty really. I was in marching band and spent the afternoons outside, sweating of course. We had a uniform of sorts, that we had to wear white t-shirts (there is wisdom in that) and shorts, but I wore two tshirts, because the blisters kept popping, leaving brownish-yellow circles all over the shirt. They weren't tiny blisters either, by the way--some as large as two or three centimeters across, covering my back. Blisters like that indicate the burn has gone deeper into the skin, i.e., "second-degree."

But no, that's not the last time I was sunburned, though I did start paying more attention to wearing sunscreen. I was jealous that I never could tan--pale skin like mine was particularly unattractive in school, sometimes called "glow in the dark." So the pressure was there to try to tan but always I burned. The burn was followed by a short period of ever so slightly darker skin. It never really paid off.

The most recent burn I received in the Bahamas, on a cruise in August of 2003 I think. My mother and I were taking a short cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship, to Nassau, then the company's private island, then back to Miami. On that island, my activity for the day was primarily snorkeling. Having no interest to sit on the shore and stare at the water, I opted to discover tropical fish and rocks and seaweed. I was out there for hours, coming out once to apply more sunscreen actually (so I put it on twice that day) and nevertheless fried and burned. Because it was only my back, neck, arms (backs of them) and backs of my legs which had been burned, it was only sitting, and lying down which hurt... how convenient--not. Unfortunately, it actually made me sick (nausea and headache) in a way ruining the last night on the boat.

Alhamdulillah, that was the last major burn I had, 3 and a half years ago. Covering in hijab has kept me from situations that would allow sunburn, not to mention it isn't all that comfortable being outside in the heat.

The song linked above came out when I was in high school, so I remember it.

As the days warm up, people start going to the beach and trying to tan, I think about sunburn, and I think about skin cancer. Considering my skin type, and how many times I have been severely burned, not to mention all the little spots I have as souvenirs, I think it's a very real threat. So I still intend to wear sunscreen.

Too Busy Thinking

One thing I remember from when I first started learning to drive, was the pleasure I derived from listening to the radio. So many people in fact listen to music and talk while they drive, it's almost second nature. A broken radio or deck was never welcome.

My HS German teacher insisted however that all this listening and busying our minds wasn't a good thing. That we needed to stop, and think. Going for a walk, as an example, would be immensely more beneficial without the accompanying walkman, or mp3 players that we have these days. So since then I have made it a point to appreciate silence, and make the most of it.

I have gone then through different stages in my listening in the car. Sometimes, music played on the radio, be it contemporary or whatever "genre" you want to imagine I might listen to. Sometimes classical music, then I moved up to talk radio and the news a few years ago. My dad pressured me to try audio books but I wasn't interested--I'm still not, by the way. I have tried learning languages in the car, and more recently there has also been some of the above variety, then also some nasheeds upon occasion and even recitation of the Qur'an. (I have a CD of Juz 'Amma recited by Sheikh Muhammad Jibreel.) But more and more of my time in the car has been spent listening to nothing but the engine.

If the song on the radio wasn't one I liked, or commercials were playing, the radio went off. I didn't want to listen to that, and silence has innumerable benefits. Namely, more concentration on the road--never a bad thing. Granted, some of the time I would spend singing which could arguably be worse (concentration-wise) than listening to the radio. But I've been able to chat with myself as well--a thing one can't do in public. I have rehearsed speeches, and conducted theoretical debates in the privacy of my automobile. I pretend I am speaking to someone, and this helps me think. Sometimes I can practice saying the things in there that I am far too cowardly to say directly or upfront. But more importantly I say the things that I need to hear, allowing some deeply buried thoughts to surface for more serious consideration.

And now I need to weigh my consideration, examine my thoughts and test them, decide which should become experiences. I must imagine which lead to success and which to failure. I want to know what I am a person am capable of accomplishing, and what I must do to ensure that potential is not wasted on frivolity. What situation will help me? What circumstances would hinder me? So it is a time for istikhara. As someone reminded me once, it is always a time for istikhara--for when should we not seek guidance and direction from Allah?

A friend has graciously allowed me to borrow a short lecture set on the four scholars, Imam Abu Hanifah, Imam Malik, Imam As-Shafi'ee, and Imam Ahmad, rahimahumallah. Last night I was listening to the third CD, the one on Imam As-Shafi'ee and was really struck by one particular story. The question had been raised regarding consensus, the value of keeping with the majority opinion; someone asked the sheikh what proof he had from the Qur'an for his opinion, and he didn't have any proof. The man gave him three days to find such proof. The speaker was describing the imam's appearance after three days, that his feet were visibly sore and he was very worn physically, and had not emerged from his house for three days. He had, by then, found an ayat which satisfied the questioner, but it was his manner of finding it which truly stunned me. He stood, in salat, reciting the Qur'an, until he found it. I can't imagine. I can't imagine standing salat for more than a few hours, as in Taraweeh, and then it was a struggle to just try to listen.

It's said that when Muslims want to speak to God, they pray, and when they want to listen to God, they turn to the Qur'an. The Qur'an is a miracle which in two years has only increased me in amazement. In 14 centuries its beauty has not paled, though I'm afraid comprehension of it might have done so. The more I learn, the more I love it. And then I consider the time it takes me to ponder just one ayat... I can't imagine... going through the entire Qur'an in salat, considering ever ayat and how appropriate it might be to a particular situation... well, I'm in awe, respectfully in awe to such an extent that I can't fully collect my thoughts-->thus the elipses.

And then I can only pray that Allah grants me knowledge of His book that I may implement it in my life.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

A bicycle built for 2

I managed to do something utterly stupid just now and erase my entire post, just as I was trying to edit it. I'm still getting the hang of using pictures in my posts, though I'm so fantabulously impressed with my ability to take pictures using my cell phone now.

So let's talk about the pictures! My office is moving in a few weeks, so I'm going to have to take down this very attractive (um, yeah?) display that has been in my office for almost two years. Each image is a page from a weekly planner I had (Harley-Davidson) and has a picture of a motorcycle, and a quote. For the most part, the quotes deal with freedom, adventure, travel--some I agree with, some I don't, but they're all food for thought. They're great for conversation too, though it's unfortunate I always have to admit, "No, I don't have a motorcycle... yet."

My office is right down the hall from the elevator too, so as soon as someone steps off it, they can see straight into my office and this little mosaic. I think it's much nicer than the bleak stale sterile white wall behind it.

If you scroll down a few posts, you'll see a post about a camel... there's even a picture of the camel. Read the comments. My dear sister (yes I know it was you) has advised me that I should just marry the camel but I had to ask my parents' permission first. So now I'm wondering about marrying camels and other desert people...

And then I think about Star Wars. Why? Because so much of the story is tied to a little planet called Tatooine. On the same planet you find an honest little boy who builds robots (like C-3PO) you also find a roving dumpster that scavenges robots. It's the planet where Obi-Wan was hiding out and Luke Skywalker was growing up. Also the origin of Darth Vader (evil apprentice,) but the same place where we find "scoundrels" (Leia's word, not mine) who would rather make a buck than resist the encroachment of the Evil Empire. Even if they're very handsome and excellent pilots... no wait, that's not the point...

The point is, is it worth risking an encounter with the Tusken Raiders (who captured Anakin's mom and tied her up like an animal!) to seek out Obi-Wan, who is the only one that can answer your questions? But what if you run into trouble, find yourself being chased by Imperial fighters--can you count on your scoundrel pilot friend (who was after all, only the "hired help") to cover you? Or are you going to find yourself in a metal bikini chained to a giant slug?

Oh boy.
But on a more cheerful note, tulips are quite beautiful, really. Especially these hot pink ones. My desk isn't really beautiful, cluttered as it is with soon-to-be-recycled half-size plans. The other half of my desk is too crowded with file folders to fit the vase. But to create a more charming scene, I took the tulips home with me, and there they sit now on my desk by the window just starting to bloom.

Here's trying not to screw up the post this time. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The hills are alive...

Virtually watching a movie together... a new kind of fun. So last night I was watching The Sound of Music with a friend--we had the DVDs in sync and were on the telephone, each in our own rooms. I love this movie, but watching it like this was a whole new experience. When you watch something with someone in person there's such a tendency to be silent, just observe... on the telephone there's a tendency or temptation to laugh more, speak more... and that was fun. :-)

We didn't even get through the entire movie, which we started around 11pm, but just the first half (up through the intermission.) Laughing at the songs, the characters--it was really very enjoyable. Sharing it over the phone like that is an interesting experience. For those of you who like classic movies, I might recommend this. Being on the phone keeps you from getting too involved, so you're more of an outside observer and can comment on things. Anyway, it was new for me and kinda fun. InshaAllah we'll watch the remainder tonight.

This weekend has been a little break for me, I didn't have work on Friday because it was Good Friday. Each morning over the weekend I've taken a shift in the lab, but have taken a break from regular studying. I should get back to that today, as a matter of fact, because I have some homework due Tuesday and I don't want to get behind, here at the end of the semester. There are just three more weeks of school to push through before exams. In those three weeks I'll have two tests, one in each class inshaAllah.

I told the lab manager I would work this summer as well, so it seems I have a very summer ahead of me. Unfortunately I will need to work this summer in the lab--my DOT hours will be shortened because of my unusual schedule (I'll have a morning and afternoon class almost every day) and also because of increased travel time. The branch is moving out of Raleigh and into Garner, probably 15-20 minutes further away. On one hand I will no longer have to pay for a downtown parking space, but it means a lot more time in the car going and coming to work. I've had it easy the last two years with work and school so close together, and now that I live inside the beltline too, getting around has been extraordinarily simple. Knowing I'll be driving more in the near future, I can't help but hope the price of gas stays on the low side. :-(

The upcoming weekends promise to be exciting, I should say in advance, because I might not have time to report updates about everything going on. Next week I've been asked to teach the high school Sunday school class. The mosque has a full elementary and middle school program, but also offers basic religious instruction for kids who go to public schools. The way one sister I know put it, it's for the parents who feel guilty about not putting their kids in an Islamic school, so they have to give up a day on their weekends to go to this kind of school, learn some Arabic, some Qur'an, some history, and so on. The sister who teaches the last high school class (who also teaches the sisters Islamic studies classes) asked me to sub for her because she's going to be out of town. Of course, I'm thrilled. :-) I'll need to put the lesson together this week though and review everything. InshaAllah I want to tell them about the Hadith Jibreel. They're actually studying a biography, but pulling a chapter out of that wouldn't be strongest from me, so I checked with the sister and she's fine with my doing this instead.

On another weekend, the Bayyinah Institute is supposed to send someone back down here to do seminars in classical Arabic. There should be one each month or so, assuming enough people have signed up. This weekend I took the opportunity to recall much of what I had memorized. Inshaallah before then I can go through the exam again as well to make sure I'm up to speed. I also want to, more than just recognizing some of the words we've memorized, actually know their meanings. They occur so exceedingly often in the Qur'an it makes sense to memorize them early on. For now I can merely recite them in a list... which I won't do now, tempting as it is.

The weekend after that I am supposed to go to some interfaith camp for women... I don't know who organizes these things or how I get roped into going. There are some sorts of events I love doing, and some I dread. Spending a weekend with a group of women who are 10-30 years older than I am (I've no doubts I'll be the youngest there by far) doesn't really thrill me. There are supposed to be 12 representatives of each faith... Muslims, Christians, and Jews. I think a lot of the participants are the same who are active in interfaith in other ways, and in the Tikkun group. The relief there is I know these are people who have their heads on their shoulders, and they won't be bringing Robert Spencer and pals along to attack anyone. But what the camp is actually supposed to accomplish--that I don't know.

Anything else? Yes, loads. Loads of stress and... relief. But all entirely too private to be mentioned at the moment. I thought it might be interesting to point out that when I got up this morning it was 28 degrees. How about that for a sunrise service? (It is Easter today by the way.) I remember how tedious it was to get up for a sunrise service when I was a kid... but Muslims do it every single day of the year. I just found that interesting. (Not in a "we're better" kind of way, but just the product of some reflection on why people worship the way they do.)

Oh yes, I finished training the police. What was nice about that is now a good number of the officers know who I am. :-) I hope they learned something useful.

I think I'll stop now with this hodgepodge miscellaneous post. :-) I feel I've now sufficiently updated the world on what I've done and am doing for the rest of the month. Thanks for reading. Try the virtual movie thing--it is fun!

Thursday, April 05, 2007

To trust, or not?

Samuel Johnson said it is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and better to be sometimes cheated than not to trust.

I think I might have an issue with trust, a mighty fortress that I am. After being repeatedly asked "Do you trust me?" I begin to wonder... do I, really? At first I thought I did. But then getting to know someone better requires more trust... or does it take knowing someone better to acquire trust? All I know is that it's slow in coming at the moment. As though I let people get close enough just to see, but then I don't open up anymore to let them really understand. I never thought of myself as an especially guarded individual, and I don't think that's my current problem. What is the problem is just not letting go quite as much as I'm expected to.

So slow down. Don't go so fast. Imagine me as a tricky labyrinth which must be navigated with care. One wrong turn might send you out altogether, but there are no short cuts to the center. Moreover, nobody has been there before... or at least not in a very long time. Pioneering a new path is seldom easy.

That's a long way of saying it isn't easy for me to trust right now, I'm not ready to hand over the keys just yet.