Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Losing track of time

My watch... has died. Okay, so that's a little dramatic. I seem to go through watches at an astonishing rate. I prefer to always have a watch on my wrist... I usually wear it on my right wrist.

I consult it several times a day, even though I really don't need to. My "biological clock" as it were is pretty precise. I can tell that especially now as I don't have a watch. And I don't have a clock to see for hours... I can still tell. It's kind of neat really; I was sitting in a movie theater Sunday evening, and was well into the movie when it occurs to me, "Hm, I wonder if maghrib has come in yet?" And yes, it had! Just a moment or two before, actually. And since the movie was probably near being finished, I opted to wait until the end and I prayed at home, in plenty of time really. I wake up, fairly confident I know what time it is. And as long as it's you know, some normal hour in the morning... I do okay. If I stay in bed all morning it gets tricky until I get up.

But the problem with my watch is that I take it off a lot. I would take it off to type in particular, especially since I got a laptop. I take it off to make wudhu. I take it off to cook and do the dishes. I end up leaving it in the bathroom, on a shelf in my room, on the kitchen counter, on my desk at work. And... I lose it. I'm not too bad at remembering where I put it since I usually put it in the same places. But that shelf...? Well, it apparently fell off the shelf and into my laundry basket. For a week or so, I couldn't find it. I could hear it (it beeps on the hour, you know) but never long enough to actually find it. I did find it when I ran the laundry... I found it in the bottom of the washing machine once I'd pulled all the clothes into the dryer. But it was okay! A very sturdy water-resistant watch, hardly damaged at all. It still functioned perfectly. So I pull it out and wait for it to dry, and start wearing it again the next day.

Maybe two days later... because it was a few days at least that I'd worn it normally... it fell off in salaat. Afterwards I pick it up to examine why it fell off, and one of the seams in the band had fallen apart, allowing two parts to separate, and thus fall off my wrist. So my watch is dead. I have the clock piece and part of a band that I keep in my purse, in case I need to keep track of time on a desk or something and wouldn't like to use my cell phone. But I'm using my phone a lot anyway. I don't like doing that, it means I have to carry my purse anyway and make sure I have my phone. (I'm pretty bad about not having my phone with me when people call.)

So I haven't really lost track of time, since I'm pretty good for keeping up with it. But at the same time... I tend to stop doing things on time. I know what time it is, but I start running late anyway. And I care less. As if because I have no numbers staring at me and telling me I'm not doing it right, I don't care... odd? Maybe. But I find myself late to work, late to class, or forgetting work altogether like happened one night. (I literally forgot about a shift that I work every week...) And I do have the cell phone but... without the wristwatch life is just different. I can't quite explain it.

It seems like my watches never do really last that long. It's time to go get another one now. Should've remembered that earlier while I was at Wal-mart, huh?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Huey is my hero

My roommate went to a sort of family reunion a few weeks back, and left with the first season of Boondocks on DVD. You might be familiar with the cartoon, the one appearing in the comic section of the newspaper, or the series showing on Cartoon Network.

Anyway, that very day she pops in the first DVD. Hilarity ensues.

There's no way to briefly summarize without doing the entire premise injustice. The only thing I really regret about the show is the language--I'm afraid to watch too much for fear that I adopt such vulgarity into my own vernacular--but I know it's there for effect and... well, without it, the show would lose a lot of its humor.

And wherein lies the humor but in the truth? The shameful, critical truth in the eyes of a 10-year old boy looking at his 8-year old brother. We've watched the first two DVDs and I think one episode on the third. A fascinating look at our American society... we laugh but we should all look at such criticism I think with a somber eye, and strive to change the reality instead of indulging in the entertainment which blinds us from it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Helping Newbies

Naeem recently made a great post on his blog, compiling some information from different blogs about problems converts face in the Muslim community, especially sisters. I made a post recently about the particular issue of finding a mahram as a convert and some other small troubles.

What's written below I left as a comment, but it was extensive enough I thought I'd post it here as well.

The unwelcome feeling sisters have at their local masjid has a lot to do, I think, with the particular make-up of the community... and the fact that women can be very clique-y. Especially when the masjid is made up of one predominant ethnic group, it can be very difficult for a newcomer to fit in, convert or not! Alhamdulillah that's not a problem I struggle with, the community here is very diverse, mashallah, and actually very welcoming to convert sisters. The women running the "Women's Committee" are a make-up of converts who have been here for a very long time, but also Arab women, Pakistani women, Indian women, and we actually pretty regular hold events even specifically for converts (as example, an annual 'New Muslimah Dinner' and an annual 'Sisters Iftar' geared towards new members of the community).

The wali issue... I could go on for days. How is a woman supposed to adopt a wali? I really don't understand. I've asked the man to whom I said my shahadah to be my wali, just because I feel confident he knows me better than any other man I could ask, because he spent a lot of time giving me da'wah. Some sisters do the same, but there is also a situation there which might hold a conflict of interest for the new wali, who might be looking for a bride for any of his friends or relatives and might not act the best on the sister's behalf. Many sisters ask the imam, and giving all credit to the imams for what they do, how qualified are they, really, to do that for a sister--I wonder sometimes--since they might not even know her. It's just an opportunity, like you said, for a woman to be abused in the name of Islam, with someone who isn't really looking out for her interests, but someone else's.

The other case of convert women, though, is women who converted after getting married. I think they don't have quite so many of these adjustment issues, because by being married, they don't have to worry about finding a husband (let's assume he's decent though and not abusing her, and is very happy she became Muslim.) They have an easier time getting involved in the community because it's on a smaller scale--through relatives of her husband, and their friends, the wives of some of his friends, and so on, gives her a few people to go to right away to help introduce her to the rest of the community. She usually has immediate support when adjusting her lifestyle (adopting hijab, refraining from pork and alcohol, leaving certain holidays) as opposed to other converts who might face only criticism without any support at all. I don't mean to make it sound like it's always easier for married converts--sometimes they have a harder track.

I know the community here does have a program (for those who seek it out and can very cleverly find it) to support new brothers and sisters. It pairs each convert with a mentor to support him/her. And alhamdulillah, all the "mentors" that I know of are active in the community, well-rounded in their knowledge of the deen, and usually married, so they can help the convert to get involved in the community, learn about Islam, and in some instances even help with marriage. But the community here is pretty well-developed. I think the idea, when it is applied (and most converts aren't informed about it, regrettably) works very well.

All the same, it is sad to see converts (brothers and sisters) falling out of the community because they can't find support. There are many more women converting than men (a figure estimated at 4:1 I believe) and since women typically aren't involved in the masjid in the first place, there is a gaping hole for the people who are aware of this problem to step in to make a difference. (Another reason I think women should be involved, btw.)

At any rate, revert-helping should be a priority for mosques just like da'wah, with a path for people from one to the other. From getting da'wah, to help as a revert. Especially with the internet, it's more common for converts to learn about Islam through other ways than by talking to people who are already active in the community (which might have been how people received da'wah primarily in the past.)

The Wedding

Edited to add: I've since been informed that such an escapade is hardly a traditional Muslim wedding, the want of propriety a departure from the etiquette of many many Muslims around the world.

Hope nobody takes this as a standard (as I perhaps very foolishly was about to do.)

Sometimes, I hate being a woman. Times... like when people get married. I have only had to attend a few weddings in my life, and as I think about it, only one was by choice. (And that one was my favorite, and I drove 9 hours both ways to get there! Definitely worth it.)

I don't understand all the hooplah with weddings. Seriously, what is the big deal? Why such a big party? Why so many people involved, why so much money being spent, why such the hassle? I have wondered this since I was a little girl. My oldest sister had a very large wedding, and it is with tremendous anxiety I think of my own wedding. For a long time (several years) I didn't even want to get married, so I wouldn't have to go through with all that nonsense. For the next several years (when I had finally found the guy I thought I wanted to marry) I thought that eloping would be a suitable alternative. I just don't want to deal with a wedding... all the dresses and flowers, the planning, finding a venue and decorating and catering--who wants to do all that? I actually have not ever been much of a party girl. I tried to be for a while, with the sorority... but these things really aren't my idea of a great time. Maybe I'm anti-social.

The reason I even bring it up is I went to a wedding last night--my friend, for whom we had the henna party a month or so ago, finally got married. (Not sure if I blogged this, but there was a family emergency causing the wedding to be postponed.) So... what is a Muslim wedding like? I guess they can vary, but this one went something like this:

Tardiness. Okay, I was late, and I usually am to functions like these. It's not so much to be fashionable but since I so loathe actually attending, I feel no rush to be early (or even on time.) But tardiness is never an issue at these weddings, that's the first point. Although, I should admit that I did have a good excuse--I was busy failing a controls test until about 5:10pm, so it wasn't until after 6 that I had gone home, prayed, and changed clothes (because if you don't wear something "pretty" you look out of place). Unlike the rest of the ladies, however, I did not opt to wear make-up. That's because I never wear make-up. I had no need to bother fixing my hair and didn't see make-up as appropriate anyway because this was a mixed wedding. Thank God. I'd have gone crazy if it were segregated!

So I was late, the bride was much later, and several other attendees later than that. So when the bride arrives, with the groom (the nikaah or wedding contract, I should mention, had already been signed, so they were legally married) and they walk the length of the room, between the tables where the guests were sitting, to two chairs at the other side of the room. But before they come in, the stereo is turned on (too loud--it's always too loud!) to some song everyone seems to find familiar, some Egyptian bridal march perhaps. Then, the women (especially the older women) begin to scream. Not just any kind of scream, mind you... this banshee-howling at the top of their lungs involves wagging their tongues back and forth (the tongue is protruding from the mouth!) leaving me (and I think only me... even my convert friends did some howling of their own!) watching in wide-eyed shock (or horror!?) at this stunningly loud and hideous sight.

Then the stereo fails... (alhamdulillah, this din has ended?)... but alas, someone fixes it. In the meantime, however, the older banshee-howling sisters picked up some tablas (a tabla is like a drum) and start drumming the same rhythm that was in the song. It doesn't stop the howling, though. Then the music resumes, along with the banshee-howling tabla players... but the two are no longer "in sync." The crowd is clapping in beat... with the music... then with the tabla... then with the music again... why can't they synchronize, this is so confusing!! Clap? No clap? Shriek? Eventually the song ends, bride and groom sit down (in their chairs, way over there), the crowd gives a round of applause and people start taking pictures like crazy. That goes on for about half an hour or so. Then food is served, and people eat and it quiets down somewhat (although, the stereo is still playing.) There is some conversation, and some "natural" segregation, where the men take to sitting at certain tables and the ladies at the other tables. I try to make small-talk with the people around me. Another sister and I leave to pray 'asr, and come back to find the cake being served. The cake was... relatively normal. The bride's daughters then pass around some chocolates wrapped in shiny paper from Egypt. Chocolate isn't my thing... and it had peppermint-flavored goo in it. So I took one bite and left the rest on my plate. If I'm going to bother to eat candy, it might as well taste good!

After the cake... the party is split up. A divider is pulled between the two halves of the room, with women going to one half, and men to the other. I grab my purse and slip outside. Why? Because they are going to dance. I just danced a month ago... and come on, I have to dance again!? I don't like dancing, especially in front of other people because they are laughing.. I can't help but think they are laughing at me. And I didn't even know these people. So I enjoy the rain, the solitude... then a security guard comes and chats with me, then a police officer (not sure what they were doing around, really.) The security guard wanted to know if everyone in there was dressed like me. (I was wearing a jilbab.)

I come back in, and notice that some of the brothers have found a room with a pool table and fussball table. I pass that room and head back to the main hall, look in the "brothers' side" and see the men sitting around a table, talking. Conversation... no doubt something worthwhile to talk about instead of the fashion in Dubai. There is no peeking in the "sisters' side," because they've draped a tablecloth over the window, so nobody can see inside. They're dancing. No thank you... I don't want anyone to see me so I don't go inside. "Where have you been?" they'll ask and "Come dance!" they'll say. They'll be shrieking and clapping and the music obscenely loud... I pass. I walk back outside for a few more minutes, then decide to go watch the boys play pool. Eventually I play fussball with an 8-yr-old boy named Saif for a while, until people start coming back to look for us. "Is the dancing over?" I ask, and "When are we praying maghrib?" and one sister tells me "There's just one more dance then we'll pray." So I play a few more rounds with the kid and head back. The bride and groom are dancing in the middle to some song that was probably supposed to be romantic (what is romantic about hearing loss, someone tell me?) so I sit by my friends and they get all fussy asking where I've been, what was I doing. The groom leaves when the dance is over, and guess what? They keep dancing. They grab me by the hand and try to force me out of my seat to dance with them, but nooooooo! Haha, I am too strong... no way are they getting me out there. No maghrib, though.

After the dancing finally stops and people like me keep asking about maghrib, the clean-up begins. Okay, I'll help with the cleanup. Putting the food into smaller containers, folding the tablecloths (who saves vinyl tablecloths? why??), stacking the chairs and putting tables away, picking up flower petals scattered around the floor, and so on. A few of us finally pray maghrib and then the bride and groom leave... we keep cleaning. And eventually when it's pretty much clean I just leave.

So basically, the wedding is just a disorganized mess involving music that is too loud... that's what I'll remember. I'd rather play fussball than dance any day of the week. So much for it being a "mixed" wedding too--they did have to split to do the dancing. Why the dancing? I don't understand. I thought maybe I would... but I still don't get it. This is why I say "thank God" it was mixed. If it were a segregated wedding, and I had to spend the whole time with sisters? I'd go nuts! I think this might be why, to the end of my days, I will hate gender segregation--because women don't know how to behave. Grass is always greener? Maybe. But I can tell you this much, I have no love for pool, but I'd rather watch pool than sit with the sisters, and rather talk to the brothers about something interesting than do what I did, but unfortunately am expected in one place or the other.

One night of dancing is about enough to last me for a year. I can do without that, for sure. I had hope that being Muslim, I wouldn't have to worry about so many garbage traditions for my own wedding. And the more I think on it, the more private I want my own wedding to be. Segregated? Oh **** no. And absolutely no dancing.

Therefore, none of my friends are invited! They can't be trusted... I can't think of anything worse right now than my own marriage having to begin with my own humiliation at being forced to dance in front of a gaggle of strange women.

And I hope it's a long, long time before I'm ever invited to another one. Why is it that we have to attend these things if we're invited? Ugh. It started with the banshee-howling and ended with Barry White. Please... not again...

Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Vanity of Self-Righteousness

Another gem from Purification of the Heart, pages 70-71:
As for obedience, one must recognize that obedience is a blessing from God. If a religious person starts to believe that he is better than other people--even if these "other" people are in the state of disobedience--he invites haughtiness. This is the danger of obedience and, in fact, the danger of religion--self-righteousness. Imam Ibn `Ata'illah said, "How many a wrong action that leads to a sense of shame and impoverishment before God is better than obedience that leads to a sense of pride and arrogance?" (The New Testament relates the story of the pride of the righteous Pharisee and the contrition of the humble tax collector. Jesus remarks, "Those who make themselves great will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be made great.) Sidi Ahmad al-Zarruq said that the goodness in obedience is in its essence and the evil in obedience is what it can result in. Sidi Ahmad al-Zarruq does not mean to say that there is evil in obedience and goodness in disobedience. Rather, he points out the danger of obedience that creates vanity in one's heart, an aura of sanctimony and condescension. On the other hand, when one indulges in wrong-doing and is overcome with feelings of shame, this can inspire him to hasten to repentance. The Prophet (saws) said that he feared for his people the vanity of self-righteousness.

The Prophet (saws) once said that whoever has a mustard seed of arrogance in his heart will not enter Heaven, a sentiment shared with Christianity. What God demands from obedient people is simply acknowledging that their obedience is a gift from God. The Prophet (saws) said, "Do not find fault in others. If you find fault in them, God will take their faults away and give them to you."
Oh Allah, all Glory is for you, and all Praise, Blessed is your Name and Exalted is your Majesty, and there is none worthy of worship except you.

Oh Allah, send blessings on Muhammad, and peace on his family and companions.

Oh Allah, I ask for your forgiveness, because you are The Oft-Forgiving (Al-Ghaffaar)
Oh Allah, I ask for your pardon, because you are The Pardoner (Al-`Afuww)
Oh Allah, I ask for your mercy, because you are the Merciful, the More Merciful (Ar-Rahmaan, Ar-Raheem)
Oh Allah, I ask for remorse for my past actions, and I ask for the resolve to never sink into disobedience again.

Oh Allah, I ask for gratitude for the blessings you have bestowed on me, because you are The Grateful (Ash-Shakoor) and you are the Bestower (Al-Wahhab)
Oh Allah, I ask you for patience in tribulations because you are The Patient One (As-Saboor)


All praise is for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds

Personal Objections

So the blog Polygynous Blessings appeared on ijtema.net today, so I took a look; I've read it before and never really bothered to try to comment. But I wanted to comment on something which appeared recently--apparently, free comments aren't allowed. So I'm just posting my comments here. The post, Ibn al-Qayyim on Polygyny, supposes I guess to give a scholarly perspective on the issue. That's not good, because it means I'm going to get flack for contradicting him.
The woman - because of her free time, slowness, and absence of what will keep her busy from the fulfillment of her desire - might be overtaken by her desire, and will not find that which would oppose it.
I disagree, totally. This is one of those stereotypes, I think, that men wish to be true but that can be easily contradicted just by asking women. That's what I think. Nobody asked me for my opinion anyway. Plenty of women who do not have free time, who are very busy and "distracted" from fulfillment of desire still find it strong enough to overtake them. This suggests that women are only passionate because they are bored, while clearly women who are not bored are passionate as well.

The woman, on the other hand, if the man fulfills his desire with her, she becomes exhausted, and does not seek to fulfill her desire with any additional man within that time frame.

Again, I disagree. "Within that time frame" appears to be in that night, a single night. A man fulfilling his desire on a woman hardly need exhaust her, and does not suggest at all that she would be unable or uninterested in seeking to fulfill her desire again in the same night, even multiple times more. Any exhaustion a woman feels is more or less equivalent to that of the man, and quite temporary.

The rest of the post didn't bother me so much, but I do tend to question the whole thing if part of it bothers me. A lot of the points made are fine; I don't really agree or disagree. It just seems like an attempt to justify polygyny and despite having a considerably favorable opinion towards it, I have yet to see a justification I find convincing. This post didn't do it for me.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

70% Less Fat

I can't help it... I like pizza. My roommate and I frequently (once a week or every other week) buy a frozen Red Baron 4-Cheese pizza. Okay, so usually it's me and not her... it's an easy, quick, simple, and tasty dinner, with leftovers too! But eating the same cheese pizza gets kind of old--Muslims don't eat pork so I gave up pepperoni pizza years ago. I remember my parents ordering it anyway, and me sneaking the pepperoni to the dog so my parents wouldn't know, at first and later, wouldn't get offended. He liked it...

But anyway, finding places to sell a "halal" pepperoni pizza is difficult. I know the MSA orders pizza for its meetings fairly often but I don't know where, actually. (I have found out since the other day, though, and it's beef pepperoni they use.) Usually they order just cheese pizza, but there was pepperoni once. Exciting... okay, so it doesn't take much to excite me.

A few weeks ago when I was at my brother's, he wanted to make calzones; he's pretty tolerant about my not eating pork (especially because he finds it a Biblically validated dietary restriction), but suggested I could get turkey pepperoni instead. And I thought, hey that's pretty neat! So I tried it... and guess what... yum! He didn't like it, thought it tasted very different. Maybe it did, but it's been so long since I ate real pepperoni I couldn't tell the difference...

So the other day when I decided to go the frozen pizza route again, I found the turkey pepperoni (which is boldly labeled as having 70% less fat than regular pepperoni) in the... uh... pepperoni section?... and got some. When my roommate got home, after I'd already cooked the 4-cheese plus turkey pepperoni, I'm sitting on the sofa eating a slice and she sees the rest of the pizza on the stove. "You couldn't resist?" she says. "Had to indulge in the swine?" she asks. "It's turkey!" I insist. With skepticism, "Oh... ok..." So she has some too, and very happy I am to have such an exciting pizza that's not just cheese! :-) I showed her the package too, to show it's turkey. So... yay.

Not that it's so great to eat pizza so often, especially with the pepperoni which isn't the healthiest of foods... but hey... there is 70% less fat than regular pepperoni! :-D

Women in the workplace?

So, there is someone who is posting some very long and obnoxious comments on my blog (for real, man, write comments not essays, don't post 5 pages of fatwas, nobody wants to read that!) many of which I am refusing to publish for a number of reasons. Some of what he said does require a response however.

He's insisting to prove to me that women have no place in the workforce, and their presence outside the home is harmful to Islam and a family-based society. In the instances where women have no option but to work to support themselves, he gives two very bad alternatives.

So let me say, Islam very clearly honors the role of the mother. Children are taught to respect their mothers even as they grow into adulthood, to care for them as they were themselves cared for. The importance of being a good mother is stressed as well and I don't mean to belittle that at all.

On the other hand, this poster lives in what seems to be a very naive world, where nobody is impoverished and where women who strive (in anything, including educating themselves in deen) are in competition with men and have abandoned their roles as wives and mothers. As if feminism were the sole source of evil in the world. As if. Feminism, particularly in the Western sense, was a reaction to a particular kind of oppression of women that prevented them from pursuing their own independent interests. Today, it has evolved into the expression that women and men are equally capable of intelligent endeavors outside the home. Moreover, that a woman has the choice on how to raise her children and establish her home. She can stay home for her children if she wants without being frowned on by society, and she can work if she chooses. To say that the only reason a woman works is to "shop and drop" (which is what the poster said actually) is unfair. So many women who work do so to advance themselves and to advance society. Many are teachers, overworked and underpaid--if women weren't teaching those children, who would? There's a shortage of teachers as it is! There are households that seek two incomes for financial largesse, that is true, but to say that all Muslim women who work do so for that reason is decidedly unfair.

Many women also do not have the advantage of a society or family that caters to single women. Nor should they be dependent upon it. I think the poster has forgotten that Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet saws, was employed and earned money for herself. To "shop to drop?" I think not. Not to milk a bone or anything but I'm in a situation where I have nobody to support me, so I work. The poster provided two very foolish alternatives.

The first was to seek government assistance. Honestly, I question the legal permissibility of doing that. I'm sure it's legal to take it, but I can't see that as a preferable option. In this society in particular, (and I am in America), any amount of government assistance is barely enough to support a single person much less children. I also attach a negative stigma to it, but that could be only from my own perception. So anyway, chances are good that the assistance would not be enough, and it makes a person a ward of the state and completely dependent upon it--not in a position to care for herself in the event of any emergency at all. The government, as we have daily proof, is a poor caretaker. Working, for a woman who is capable of it, is a far better option. Not to mention that without attempting to work, nobody is likely to get much aid from the government at all. The state is not designed to support people that way, or else nobody would work.

The other alternative was to marry a rich man. So the poster assumes that rich Muslim men are all benevolent and desiring to take multiple wives in order to help women in need? Yeah, right. Far be it from me to question the permissibility of polygamy, but to suggest marriage to a man based on wealth alone instead of Islamic principles like his character and manners seems foolish and disingenius. Dare I say that not all women make desirable wives, either.

Working is the natural and simplest solution, and there are many situations where a woman causes no harm to herself, family, or society, and in fact is even forced to do work for her own maintenance. I am not suggesting that women should work and leave their children without a caretaker, not at all. But I'm neither married nor have children, and have no other means to provide a roof over my head and food on the table than my two jobs. I like working, that's true, but not so I can go shopping. I'm sad to say I can't even remember the last time I was able to go shopping for anything more than bare essentials like toilet paper and deoderant. Clothes? Yeah, right. Shoes? Forget it. The reason I like to work is it can stimulate me intellectually and also provide some purpose, something to do. I would like to be a teacher actually (am currently doing engineering drafting) because I think teaching is a rather noble profession. To abandon my children? Certainly not. But when they are old enough to not need constant care I would absolutely like to use whatever skills I have gained in life to prepare other children to take on the world, to take it on and improve it inshaaAllah.

So it's pretty rude to say that women only work so they can shop incessantly--suggesting they receive no satisfaction from the work itself. It's also rude to suggest that a woman abandon her hopes of a happy marriage and motherhood by marrying for money alone. It's frankly vile to suggest that a woman capable of working would benefit at all by relinquishing her independence to rely on assistance from the government. So, it's insulting in a number of ways.

There is not anything inherently wrong with a woman working. It's a means for them to take care of themselves and their children when a husband/father is not available. It is a means for her to preserve her dignity and her deen by maintaining independence from a corrupt government and shallow marriage.

Any other problems you brought up cannot be blamed on the woman at all, but rather ills of society to which both sexes have equally contributed. Just because a woman is working does not imply she will enter into impermissible relationship with coworkers--if that were to occur, the blame on the man is equal to that on the woman. I know many women who have never and would never consider a relationship from work--I'm one of them. It's gross to insinuate that if a woman is ever around men that she would immediately be falling into zina.

I wonder why I even took the time to reply. I don't have to justify myself to you or anyone else. I feel no guilt whatsoever being a single Muslim revert woman employed, studying, and supporting myself. And I won't stand for being accused of anything unlawful on account of that either.

Monday, July 23, 2007


The Muslim world takes something for granted, I think.

They take for granted the fact that a woman will have relatives to support and maintain her.

I will repeat one of the most insulting remarks ever said to me, since becoming Muslim, "Well get a mahram!" You'd think that he wouldn't take it for granted--he was a revert like me. Get a mahram. Easier said than done.

When women convert to Islam, their fathers, their brothers, in some cases even their husbands are no longer considered "Islamically" able to represent them. A woman's non-Muslim father may not act as her wali in marriage. The permission of a non-Muslim male relative is not sufficient for a married woman in some places to travel alone. The closed-minded person (who is usually a man) would say, quite simply, that the solution is for the woman to marry, and thenceforth entrust all her rights to her husband. I call it a closed-minded solution for a few reasons: suppose that there is no man who wants to take her as a wife? Or suppose that the only men who do or who she can find she cannot trust based on their behavior.

This is a problem.

It's not a problem with Islam, exactly, at least not in my mind, because I consider Islam to be perfect. It is a problem, however, with Muslims and their faulty and closed-minded interpretation of Islam. They take for granted that a woman would have a mahram, and therefore impose all these restrictions on her--restrictions that a woman in a traditional Islamic situation would not view as restrictions at all. It's the blind application of them to all scenarios which I say makes the mindset behind them closed-minded.

Some problems that I can see are the following:

A married woman who decides to embrace Islam, while her husband does not. The prevailing view today is unfortunately that she must divorce her husband. (BTW, I'm not saying this view is "correct" just it seems to be more mainstream.)

A woman who converts to Islam without mahram is unable to make hajj, or umrah.

A woman who converts to Islam must ask for assistance from a man who might well be a stranger to her in order to act on her behalf in situations of marriage.

According to some, a Muslim woman is not even allowed to leave the home. I call that nothing but foolishness, which is clear because the mufti who says that must immediately begin making exceptions when questioned regarding the situation of a Muslim woman without a mahram. What if she has no way to support herself? What if she has dependents and nobody to support them? What if, what if, what if. All these exceptions would not be necessary, in my mind, if the restrictions on women weren't imposed in the first place.

That women can't leave their home? That they cannot work? Cannot go to the masjid? Who says this, you might ask. Men who belittle the intelligence and value of women, is my answer. When faced with the question of how women are to learn their deen if never allowed outside, they insist that women can go to schools, forgetting that there must be teachers--and they insist on women teachers for women. You see the problem? Yes, it is a problem.

The growing numbers of converts to Islam among women are highlighting these issues, and forcing some long-held opinions (which I might add are not based on clear proof) to be questioned. Islam is not the tradition of the Arabs, the tradition of the Pakistanis, the tradition of anybody at all. Islam is a complete way of life prescribed for us by Allah, exemplified by his Messenger Muhammad saws.

The men who are so weak they feel the need to imprison women physically in their homes, and intellectually in their ignorance, have no right to this deen, no right to the noble scholarship which preceded them. And it is weakness on the park of the men indeed who act this way, and it's high time that the believers stood up and demanded justice.

And it starts with justice for women--and why not justice for the convert women, who found Islam in their solitude and follow it with fortitude devoid of communal familiarity, the women who have no support from husbands, fathers, brothers, the women who can depend only on Allah. There is a lesson in that, I think.


So, guess who is engaged! Okay, before you guess and start asking questions that apparently make some people uncomfortable, let me just tell you...

My brother!! He finally proposed to his girlfriend (of like 3 years). He's had the ring for a while now, and was hiding it around their apartment (they've been living together for a year) so she wouldn't find it, but he finally popped the question. She'd been planning the wedding since long before I met her, but she and I have been good friends for a while now, as close to me as my sisters really. Now she can finally start moving on her plans I suppose, like buying the dress she's dreamed of, and making her own center-pieces (since she's all craft-oriented like that.) The date is set to be either April or September in 2009, because her dad I think wants her to be 21. She wants to get married soon, her dad wants her to get married later (step-dad, I should say.) My brother wants to get married soon but for some reason wants to take a cruise to Europe and prefers September to April. Can't say I know why. I went to Europe in April and it was lovely (except for the north of France where it was decidedly frigid the whole week we were there. Frigid and damp...)

So anyway, congrats to him, best wishes to her, and I hope they have a happy engagement, unlike someone I know.

Sunday, July 22, 2007


Anger's no good but I'm not immune.

I consider myself to be a reader, a person who reads. My "excuse" for not reading, these days, though, isn't that I'm not interested in reading, or that I have nothing interesting to read, but really that I don't have time. Considering how much time I've lately spent in front of the tube makes me question that excuse. In my apartment, there aren't many places to go. Being in the living room, unless I am alone, means the TV will probably be on. I sit out here with my laptop, sometimes with a book, and sometimes sit in my room with the same. No TV in there... I think I'd survive just fine without one, to be honest.

But the books I read... this is interesting, I think. I started reading in elementary school like most kids, I guess. But I never cared for the school books, the ones we were forced to read. I read Babysitter's Club instead. But I remember having a crush on this guy when I was in the 6th or 7th grade, and he recommended a book to me, Rendezvous with Rama. I read it, I think at first to try to impress him... maybe I came close to understanding it. It took a while for me to read though. Then after finishing it, I moved on to the sequel, Rama II which I should say I enjoyed much more than the first. Style-wise it was very different, and much more... something. The third book, Garden of Rama intrigued me beyond compare and I was delighted to read the fourth, Rama Revealed. And it was a pleasure to return to the begin and reread the series multiple times. (In fact, I might just re-read them, starting with Rama II, because the relationship between Richard and his daughters was really interesting to me...) Then, I asked for another recommendation--he suggested Foundation. I started with Prelude to Foundation and enjoyed to read the rest in that series, and any other Asimov book I could get my hands on. Another "big" author in the science fiction section of the library, with which I was beginning to acquaint myself, was Orson Scott Card, and starting with Ender's Game I dove into many of his books. In high school and college I spent time reading the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

Anyway, I haven't read any fiction in a long time... especially since becoming Muslim, my reading choices have tended more towards religious non-fiction. I've read introductory books to Islam, some criticisms of Christianity and the Bible, and nowadays I'm reading Purification of the Heart, re-reading quite often since every time I read a chapter I realize there was something I missed. And each time I read a chapter I realize how much I needed to read it, and I learn something that I am doing wrong. Or, at the very least, find attention drawn to a particular behavior of mine that is inappropriate and most likely harmful to my own spiritual well-being. And that's tremendously more valuable than fiction, at any rate.

But between working 36 hours a week and spending 12 hours in class a week, not to mention the homework... I think I have some justification to not be a big reader these days. But the books on my shelf just call to me. Uloom al-Qur'an in particular is one I can't wait to read, and the biography I have of the Prophet saws. There are also the books I'm trying to write about on another blog--those are the ones that actually hurt to read.

So, fiction? Who has the time? Some people, apparently, who had to get the newest Harry Potter book this very weekend as it came out in order to read it as soon as possible. Like my study-buddy, my mother, my sister.... and so on. My study-buddy in fact went after the Arabic seminar Saturday to buy it, and finished reading it yesterday (Saturday!). My parents are taking turns reading the same text, passing it back and forth. I asked my friend though to tell me what happens. And I feel a tremendous amount of pride knowing that I could ruin it for everyone! And I haven't even read it. And I would, too. It's not like the ending can be that important, the endings to these books. Why? Because people read them and re-read them ad nauseum it seems. Come on... isn't that slightly embarrassing?

They read all the books prior to the release of each one; they read them all before a new movies comes out... isn't this slightly obsessive behavior? I think so. I can't say that I am free of it entirely, because I did read the first five books. The first two with interest, the third with intrigue, the fourth secretly embarrassed to be so hooked... and the fifth with nothing but boredom. I barely even paid attention and in fact can't even really remember what happened, and never even picked up the sixth. So I was happy to find out what happened in the seventh from my friend, so I can put my mind at ease knowing there is no reason at all to read this nonsense. And I'll call it nonsense, too.

The readers among my friends and family have a number of books they can be so obsessed with--Eragon is another. "You should read it," they say, but all I can do is ask, "Why?" Will it enhance my life, give me knowledge, will it better equip me to handle my life, or will it do nothing other than distract me temporarily from the world at hand and my responsibilities in it and spark my imagination to whisk me away to an uncharted dreamland while I should be concentrating at work, in school, or anywhere else in fact.

So I'm a little bit angry at Harry Potter and Eragon but I'm not really sure why. If you've read carefully you may wonder why I have no problems to re-read books I've read and enjoyed yet criticize others for what is similar behavior? My problem is this... that the world had to stop it's normal turn and pretend to be filled with wizards and muggles for a time, when there are vastly more important things to be done.

Seminar Three

So alhamdulillah, this weekend was the third follow-up seminar from Bayyinah. We're still having to make up time from missing the first day of the first session though, so each day's seminar has been extended by an hour (or an hour and a half.)

Instead of meeting in the evening, though, we are now meeting in the morning, to avoid having to break for the two salawat we'd take if it were an evening class. Now we only have to break for dhuhr. Another advantage of meeting in the morning is the temperature. You see, starting at 3pm or 4pm in the afternoon means that the sun has been up and warming the world for many hours, and as the masjid does not have any air conditioning (or they don't use it?) it gets pretty hot in there. Morning classes then give us much more time before the temperature is unbearable. For night classes, it's not until 9pm at least until it starts to cool off and by then the seminar is nearly over.

But there is a problem with the setup. Another reason we opted for the morning class is to avoid having to provide a meal for the students. If the class ended at 1:30 like it was supposed to there wouldn't be such an issue, but since the teacher extended it... that's quite a long time without any food but cookies and pastries (not good). Alhamdulillah, they did provide some food on the second day.

So here's how it went. On Saturday, a friend and I were planning to meet before the class in order to review some vocabulary in case he gave us a quiz. Turns out we both ended up getting up a little late so we called and canceled that plan. I mentioned I'd see her then at 9:30... which is when I thought the class started. She called me back 2 minutes later to tell me that it started at 9am! Meaning I was already running behind, and I didn't have time to make the sandwich I'd planned to make (since I doubted they would have food) or do much of anything but grab my books and some tylenol (you bet, still taking it) get in the car and book it across town to the masjid where the seminar was being held. I was only a few minutes late. And... no quiz.

As expected, the room slowly began to warm up and it got harder and harder to concentrate... and no, there was no food. The class went until almost 3pm. I have to say, thanks to the homework he's been giving us I was much more prepared for this seminar than the last. But it was tough holding on there at the end. And when I got home I pretty much went straight to sleep, because I had to work 8-midnight in the lab.

Sunday morning I decided to sleep in a bit, and miss the beginning of the class. Since I had such a hard time concentrating and staying awake, I thought sleep would better serve me than falling asleep there. And I made a sandwich, too. And alhamdulillah, I was overall much more alert.

When I arrived, the class was going over examples of conjugations of verbs of the "mufa3al family" in the Qur'an. I'd not seen that chart before so I reviewed it while they were doing that, and in the end almost caught up with what they were doing. We then did more "jumlah ismiyyah" and all sorts of examples of that. In fact, we spent the rest of the seminar doing that.

When we took a break around noon, the brothers decided to order some food (yay!). I figured it would be Biryani. (We should all know by now what I think of spicy food.) So the teacher is looking at the brothers and sisters and they're trying to decide if they should get biryani or pizza. This should be no contest. Who would eat pizza when you can have...? The American girl, apparently. The instructor (and I was sitting in the back today since I came in late) was stalling, saying "some people can't handle spices" and "make sure everyone is ok with it" while he's looking at me, like I have some problem. And the sisters in front of me are all confused because they didn't know I was there, and they're thinking "Yeah, biryani" and he's looking at me. "Can you handle spices?"

Are you kidding me? "I love biryani." Can't handle spices? Bring it on! And the sisters in front, still confused, "We're all Pakistani," and he's like "No, the American..." Excuse me while I roll my eyes... okay, so they did get biryani and I thoroughly enjoyed it as usual. Even though, and this is worth mentioning, I'm meeting my friends for dinner tonight at a restaurant with an Indian buffet!!

So after the dhuhr we ate and tried to figure out why "inna" was making the mabtada nasb and trying to find the khbr. You'd think, after all that, I might have some clue about jumlah ismiyyah... but no, I just need lots and lots of practice.

The instructor by the way reads Arabic incredibly fast, so fast I can't even understand all the letters, it seems he just slurs over them. That was very troubling the first day. But by the end of the second even though he's still reading much too fast, I am doing better at keeping up, and my ability to recognize words without sounding them out has improved as well. Alhamdulillah. Alhamdulillah for every bit of progress.

After the seminar was over, there's tons of biryani left over so we're all in the back preparing to take some home. There's a sister walking around who tells us, though, that "the brother is taking contributions to pay for the biryani." That's good, I thought, we can all chip in, so I ask, "Which brother?" She answers.... "The one with the beard."

Heh... yeah, right. So anyway, this month's seminar is over and now we have homework for the next one... yippee. But it's only in 3 weeks this time, instead of 4, so I don't have so much time to prepare as I though, but alhamdulillah. The next three weeks are going to be crazy busy. Guess I can sleep when I'm dead.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Adventures in CubicleLand

It's becoming increasingly bizarre to me how many people know my name. I've never been popular, I tend to work only about 20 hours a week, and I'm not very social, especially with most of my coworkers (who are, let's just say it, men.) I don't like people coming into my cube for small-talk, and I don't go around looking for it. The only people I even care to chat with are the payroll lady, and a handful of the guys in my group (group being the smallest possible designation in this state-wide operation). So when people who work on the other side of the building, who I've never seen before, call me by name--it's strange, to me. I don't wear my badge to identify myself (I only grab it if I walk out of the building when someone happens to call me at work) but usually keep it in my purse. I don't walk through the branch trying to get to know people. My work with people in other groups is limited. I don't eat lunch in the break room trying to get to know folks. Seriously... I'm pretty quiet and keep-to-myself at work.

So when people who I don't know know me... well... it's just surprising. Obviously, it's probably not too tough to remember the one girl in the scarf working in signals management, instead of the dozens and dozens of middle-aged male engineers working all over the place.

And that's another problem; I figure the ration of men to women here is probably like 15-1. Where might this cause the most trouble, do you think? Naturally, the restrooms. This came up in a safety meeting yesterday when the unit head (just some bigger boss) explained that yes really, they do "meet code." Whatever code that is. If the building had a more matched ratio of men-to-women, there might be even usage. As is, there are four stalls in the ladies room and most of the time they're all empty... that is to say, usually, there is nobody in there... so we women can pee in total privacy. The men, on the other hand, must have to wait in line or something. To start with, everytime I walk past the restrooms (and I pass them when I take the shortest route to my boss's office, and back...) there's a guy going in or coming out. Since it was brought up at the safety meeting, I'm guessing this is a big deal. I remember one of the guys in my group complaining about restrooms before, that it was an issue... well, it must be.

I just wonder... how bad is it really?

and then consider this to be a perk of being a woman working in a male-dominated field. Private restrooms. :-) And with two sinks I don't feel I'm holding up a line when I make wudhu either. (What line? I'm the only one there.)

This morning I came in to find two different cubicle gifts. (1) A nameplate to match the building's color scheme, although the place to hang it is conveniently obscured by a large pillar, and (2) a stack of business cards!! My very own business cards, regrettably marked with my work phone number (and I still haven't set up my voice mail for that phone...) and work email. But they look pretty cool... I could actually consider handing them out if I marked off that number and email and wrote my real email/phone on the back.

I feel so professional now. I should start taking lunch breaks, huh?

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

My Crack

So... guess what. I'm still sick. For a week now, I have been taking this Tylenol, and it helps tremendously. But even so, I'm still sick enough to be taking it, which I must admit is pretty frustrating. This weekend I tried to wean myself off of it, well into the 2nd box. And you know what happened? When I woke up Monday morning, some 12 hours or more since the last pill... I was a mess. I even called in sick to work (which I never do... I call in for school, to study for tests, to go to the dentist--usually I give advance notice for that anyway, but never have I called in, that I can recall, saying I was too sick to come in.) My roommate came into my room that morning (I needed to give her a check for the rent actually) and at 10am I couldn't see (eyes gunked up) and couldn't really breathe (congested and coughing horribly, causing crying which didn't help with the seeing.) I went back to sleep until 3pm in fact, after taking some pills, and then made it to my afternoon class. With a constant supply of meds, Tuesday wasn't too bad. Now it's Wednesday, and waking up is still awful, I still haven't figured out how this stuff gets into my eyes, but alhamdulillah... it is finally starting to break up in my chest, for real. I know, because I am coughing up little bits. Nothing big, and most of the time my throat is very sore from coughing dry, but I hope the meds are starting to break up the congestion and thin it out some. I've had to start walking further to get to class (parking enforcement) now but I am able to make the walk, which indicates to me at least that breathing is better. I remember a week ago when I couldn't walk half or less that distance without being ready to collapse. So alhamdulillah, I'm getting better, it's just a slow journey. And Monday was disappointing, to have actually gotten worse.

So I'm into my third box of Tylenol now... I feel like an addict or something. I can feel it start to wear off, I start coughing outrageously for the last 45 minutes of the 4 hours before I can take more. So anyway... my "crack." Tylenol Cold Multi-Symptom Severe. So is there maybe, more drugs in those pills than I really need? Nope... that's what's so sorry about this stupid cold... it's got everything. I might have to start getting the night-time pills, too, because I can't stay asleep at night now; I wake up about every 1-2 hours. Then again, since I don't normally sleep for 7-8 hours straight it might not be a good idea. (There being only 6 hours between isha and fajr make me think I might not be able to get up if I take it.)

But here's another bonus... in my Purification of the Heart book, hunger is a recommended way to cure several diseases of the heart. So maybe my heart is getting clean too (with my lungs, bronchial tubes, nasal passages, etc) by barely eating. Half the times I do eat I get sick to my stomach, so there were some days I didn't really eat anything except applesauce.

I want to be well again. :-(

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Fear Allah

From Purification of the Heart, p 41

There is a well-known story about al-Asma'i, the famous Arab philologist and anthologer of poetry, when he once came upon a Bedouin and was invited to enter his tent. It is part of Bedouin culture for the women to serve guests in the presence of their husbands. This Bedouin happened to have had a very beautiful wife, though he himself was quite unattractive. And when the man went out to sacrifice the sheep, the guest couldn't resist saying to this woman, "How did such a beautiful woman like you marry such an ugly man like that?" The woman said, "Fear God! Perhaps he had done good works accepted by his Lord and I am his reward."

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Words of advice... from Yoda.

Fear is the path to the dark side.
Fear leads to anger...
Anger leads to hate...
Hate leads to suffering!

A little boy, afraid of losing his mother, turned into the worst villain in the Galaxy, many years after the Jedi Council told him to "mind his feelings." I think being mindful of feelings means be aware of them, what they are, but control them, instead of letting them control you. In the end, it turns out he's afraid of losing his wife in childbirth, and from that fear he grows angry at people for not helping him avoid it, then he begins to hate them, even hate her almost for not doing what he says, and that hate is then manipulated to cause, yes, a tremendous amount of suffering. Deaths of children, to start with, but then the destruction of entire planets. And in the end? She dies in childbirth, because of his anger and hatred which blinded him from being able to help her. What reconciliation is there after that?

Fear leads to anger. The fear of one group of people against their oppressors, and eventually distrusting all others. They grow angry and build themselves up, prepare for their defense relying on the passion an adrenaline which fuels them in their schemes. Then they begin to hate those around them, despising them and their way of life, dehumanizing them even, and then they oppress them, they cause others to suffer. We call that the occupied territories, aka Palestine.

What is the state of the believer? Between hope and fear, yes? So is the state of the unbeliever I think. But while the unbeliever hopes for dunya and fears death, the believer hopes to meet Allah with a good record and fears to earn Allah's displeasure. Between hope and fear is important. Too much hope makes a person neglect his duties, and the rights of others. Too much fear leaves him in anger or despair, without reason to pursue a path of righteousness. So it can lead to anger, hate, and suffering, in essence injustice. Just a thought.

Right now my voice is very scratchy (and since like an idiot I forgot to buy more tylenol at the store--hello? why did I even go?--and now they're closed, and I can't have any more meds until tomorrow) and I keep coughing, but such a rough voice makes for interesting listening--for me anyway. My vocal range is totally different, and I've enjoyed singing (although, before long it does get painful) some songs from a new CD I have.

Here are the lyrics to one:

I knew a man who lived in fear
It was huge, it was angry it was drawing near
Behind his house a secret place
Was the shadow of a demon he could never face
He built a wall of steel and flame
And men with guns to keep it tame
And standing back, he made it plain
That the nightmare would never ever rise again
But the fear and the fire and the guns remain

It doesn't matter now,
It's over anyhow
He tells the world that it's sleeping
But when the night came 'round,
I heard it's lonely sound
It wasn't roaring it was weeping

And then one day the neighbors came
They were curious to know about the smoke and flame
They stood around outside the wall
But of course there was nothing to be heard at all
"My friends," he said, "We've reached our goal
The threat is under firm control
As long as peace and order reign
I'll be damned if I can see a reason to explain
Why the fear and the fire and the guns remain."

It doesn't matter now,
It's over anyhow
He tells the world that it's sleeping
But as the night came 'round
I heard its lonely sound
It wasn't roaring it was weeping.

It wasn't roaring it was weeping.

(This was done by a South African musician some years back, and might have originally been a poem but I'm not sure.)

Friday, July 13, 2007

Answering the phone

This is for Jon. It occurs to me that maybe some of the more interesting things for people to read about from me are adjusting to being Muslim. So I'll try and think of a few things and post.

The big one? Marriage... yeah... "But you're American, I don't see why you want to marry him..." is a tough conversation with the parents. But I'll leave that aside since it's too personal right now to really discuss.

Here's a small one, answering the phone. A few months back I enrolled in a 10-day intensive Arabic course. I enrolled late actually because I thought at first I had neither the time nor preparation to take it, and 3 days late some sisters convinced me to do it anyway. To help catch up, I had asked the instructor if he could come in early one evening, and he was having some problems I think so he wasn't sure at first if he would be able to, so he asked me to call him.

So I did, the next day, and was surprised (though perhaps I shouldn't have been...) to hear him answer an unknown number with "as-salaamu alaikum!" I would always answer with a "Hello?" in typical American fashion until after calling my friends and getting salaams I'd start with that instead, if I knew the caller... but he certainly didn't have my number. So maybe he was guessing it was me or just habitually answers that way. I tend to think the latter, since he's a busy guy and probably gets tons of phone calls. Then again, maybe just about all his calls are from Muslims. At any rate... I do answer my phone with the peace greeting (as-salaamu alaikum) always if I know the caller, which is most of the time, unless it's family. But in fact, it's awkward now to not start a phone conversation with it for me, or to end one.

It's like I almost have to literally bite my tongue to keep from saying it. Not that it'd be bad if I did, they would just find me to be very strange (like they don't already?) and maybe be slightly unnerved, thinking I forgot my manners or something. Ah well.

As-salaamu Alaikum.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The malady of second wives

A sister here gave me a book as a gift a few months ago. I haven't sat down to read it straight through, but I've read several of the chapters, a number of them on numerous occasions. It's called Purification of the Heart, and is a translation and commentary of a sort of poem describing "signs, symptoms, and cures of the spiritual diseases of the heart."

Friday before last, the imam delivered a khutbah about envy, the evil of envy. That afternoon I pulled the book off the shelf and read (or, re-read) the chapter on envy, and formulated a question based on the poem and translation - a part of it I didn't understand - and intended to ask at his open question/answer session for sisters that evening. I asked, but he didn't have an answer; I didn't have the Arabic of the original available to really examine what was my question, which was over the meaning of a particular phrase (the title of this post in fact). But he did allow me to ask some on the subject in general. Now, don't call me a suck-up, but I'm sure that since he had just delivered the khutbah, this would be the best time to ask about this subject because it is very fresh in his mind. And it is important to worry about envy.

After reading a few dozen times and rethinking the phrase, I think it's just an epithet of sorts, another way of describing "envy" though marriage isn't mentioned at all in the commentary. I was trying to determine whether the affliction was affecting the wives, or it was causing them. More likely, the former. The latter doesn't quite make sense. So I consider, the affliction that second wives may suffer, or third wives, or fourth wives, and yes, even first wives.

What is envy? Hasad. The translation of the poem reads thus:
If you were to describe your desire that someone lose his blessing as "envy," then your description will be accurate.

In other words, if you yourself were able, through some ruse, to eliminate [someone's blessing[, you would utilize that ruse to do so.
The commentary (the translation and commentary is by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, by the way) describes how Iblis envied Adam (as) of being vicegerent, and says that people who envy develop a mindset which makes it impossible for them to admit they are wrong. Then he gives the hadith that "Every possessor of any blessing is envied." And envy is that where the envier would, if possible, take that blessing for himself, or at least remove it from the other person.
A blessing (ni3ma) is something that God bestows. One of God's names is al-Mun3im, the Giver of Blessing. Envy, then is desiring that a person lose what God has given him or her. It is tantamount to saying that God should not have given this person a blessing or, worse yet, that He was wrong to do so "because I deserve it more."
So is envy a problem in polygyny? Yes. Suppose there are two wives. The second wife may envy the first, even before the marriage, and wish that the blessing (i.e., the husband, the marriage) was hers, instead of belonging to the first. And so she would wish for the blessing to be taken from the first and given to her, or maybe even just taken from the first. That is envy, to wish she was married to the husband, and not the first wife.

The other envy is where the second wife is envied. That is to say, the first may wish that the marriage of the second wife to her husband be dissolved, thinking that she alone is deserving of the marriage and that the second has no right to the husband of the first. Envy.

Well what causes the envy? There is a list of causes given, seven actually. The first is animosity or enmity--hating someone creates an environment for envy. Another is vying for the love of others, like siblings for the love of one parents, or, dare I say, wives for the love of a husband? Another is arrogance, the attitude that "I deserve this" and the other person doesn't, for whatever reason--also dangerous. Fourth is poor self-worth, feeling that one's own worth is lacking because someone else has gained more. Vanity is fifth, kind of the opposite of vanity and in a way like arrogance too--because vanity is a manifestation of arrogance sort of inside only one person. Instead of feeling lofty over another person, the vain one has forgotten that his blessings come from God. The last two are a love of leadership, and severe greed. (Okay, so he said "avaricious cupidity.")
God is all-wise in what He gives to people. If one questions the blessing a person has received, then he or she is actually questioning the Giver. This makes envy reprehensible and forbidden.
So what? There is treatment. There are actually two cures given here, the first of which is against against one's caprice. Hawaa. Whims, desires, passions. Even a name of Hell in the Qur'an (101:9) is haawiya, from same root as hawaa. Basically this means do the opposite of what you want to do because of the envy. So do something to benefit them, like give a gift, or a favor, offer praise. It's not hypocrisy because it starves the envy of the negative thoughts. And doing good causes the people to incline towards each other, which then makes it harder for envy to survive.

The other treatment is to just know that holding envy only harms oneself, because our instinct is to avoid harming ourselves. And envy does harm us, when we envy, by causing a preoccupation with the object of envy which will hinder success and progress, and it harms us in the next life because we will be punished for it. But rejecting envy motivates us to do better.

The basis of the remedy for envy is taqwaa or the awe of God. Having awe of God and awareness of His ultimate power over us defuses false notions of misappropriated blessings.

This ties in to some notes from another sister of a lecture she listened to recently. Three enemies we have in our battle for our soul--nafs, shaytaan, and dunya. And to battle the nafs, we need to constantly remember Allah.

So we should remember Allah, remember that Allah bestows blessings on whom He will, and all blessings are from Allah. And also, that Allah (as he says in the Qur'an what means) will not burden any soul with more than it can bear.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Overheard... women's chatter

I was visiting a friend's this weekend, and there were several sisters there, some who I didn't know very well. Some acquaintance of the host and a few guests happened to be a woman in a polygynous marriage. She was content in it, as well, apparently saying that at her age she had no need or urge to see her husband all the time. (This sister was not present, though.)

This sparked a little discussion among the women there about polygyny. Perhaps people's opinions would surprise you. The women there, some were married, some never married, some divorced. Some converts, some born Muslims. While the converts were actually open to the idea, it was the born Muslim sisters who were totally opposed to the idea.

One said, "My mother never taught me to share anything. I can't share. Not even my husband."

Another sister insisted that if a man was a good husband he'd be able to do polygyny, but then the sister he was married to would want him all to herself. While if he wasn't a good man, seeing him less often might be desirable.

And another still plainly asserted that men are all childlike creatures who never really grow up and never mature the way they should. Polygyny therefore provided the benefits of marriage (like rent, and an end to celibacy) without the trouble of picking up after someone and doting on someone who would never understand how to reciprocate much more.

Interesting opinions, all around. Interesting that it's converts defending the institution of polygyny while those born into Islam have qualms accepting it. What was also interesting was the different opinions about traits a man should have, according to them, and complaints about how Muslimahs can't get married these days because the brothers aren't suitable to make good husbands. The only thing I'd like is for people to not have to defend their marriage choices against family and friends. Happiness comes from Allah, not from husbands or wives, or friends.

All marriages have trials, whether monogamous or polygamous, there is no escaping the tests of Allah, we are all tested. And what one person finds a hardship another might take in stride. So I think sisters should stop ridiculing the choices of others.

Whoa, 5 days no post?

I had a few things in mind to write about actually, but the last few days especially, I've been getting sick. And getting sicker even, the crazy thing is it's still getting worse. The cough gets deeper, breathing gets harder, the congestion is thicker, my voice is hanging on by a thread. One of my professors emailed me to see if I was okay because I wasn't making it to class. Last night I couldn't even get to sleep. I went to bed around 10pm, my sister called about 10:05 though and we chatted for about half an hour. Then I tried to sleep, but I woke up at 12:30. I think I fell asleep again around 1:30 or 2 and woke up again at a quarter after 3. Since I had to come in to work at 4am, I didn't even try going back to sleep. It's awful to lay in bed, hot and sweaty, and not even be able to sleep. But being sick isn't enough, oh no, there's emotional drama. People trying to play head games with me, and I don't go for that long. Being sick, my tolerance fuse seems extra short.

Right now I'm sitting in the lab coughing up only the taste of something nasty (it's not broken up though so nothing actually comes up... just a bad taste in my mouth.) The janitor and I were commiserating about summer colds--he has one too apparently.

Last night my roommate recommended some meds I should take that she thinks will help. She also brought me home some food from the masjid kitchen (good food!) because she was at an event there. Sweet, huh? But I'd already eaten so it went in the fridge. I might have it tonight though.

I did make a post a few days ago on my other blog, vbtv.blogspot.com. I'm getting into the book and it's really starting to get on my nerves. The lies, more than anything, are what disturbs me. In another age, I thought people had the decency to speak truth at least when giving their opinion, but now I see that was a child's fantasy. People lie. What sort of response is there to a lie? What's the world coming to?

Anyway, I need a tissue... I'll try to write again soon inshaaAllah.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Back from the Beach

So, Jon, you wanted to know something I struggle with being an American convert to Islam? Many of my "struggles" are the same as any Muslim in America really, or just as a Muslim in a non-Muslims country, or as a minority in America. But one particularly unique struggle to being a convert Muslim in America is getting married. I'll write more about it later inshaaAllah because for this post, I just want to post some pictures really.

But think about it, I have to marry a Muslim... but socialization between sexes is really minimal. Not enough to really find a spouse. I interact with men, on the da'wah committee and a little in my Arabic class, on forums and so forth, but honestly, for the da'wah the group is small and most of those men are married anyway, and in Arabic we don't sit together or even study together. We don't go "hang out" and stuff, so where can I find a husband? It's very difficult!! Many American Muslims could still turn to their parents for help, a woman to her father to check for marriageable bachelors who are looking, and a man to his mother for women who are single and suitable, etc. I don't have that advantage, so just finding someone period is hard enough.

Finding not only someone who would want to marry me, but also someone who has good manners, is compatible with me, but more importantly is stable in his deen. Very hard.

But to add to the trouble of finding a suitable spouse, there is the "family" equation. Here my family might very well think I'm marrying a terrorist, and I want to respect their wishes and be nice and all, but when they refuse to accept my decision to embrace Islam, the decision arising therefrom seldom meet ease. Covering, giving up pork... marrying a bushy bearded Arab boy isn't what they really want for their daughter, so discussing things with them is, at times, troubling and tense. We talked a lot about such things these past two days.

I was riding in the car with my parents down to the beach where my brother lives, all-in-all about a 3 hour drive each way, and that's a lot of what we talked about--my getting married, and potential spouse. Not to mention all the time there when I spoke with my brother too and his girlfriend. Dealing with family is always a little bit of trouble, from the perspective of a convert. Especially my family, because some of them do not accept my decision at all. The details of that, however, need not find mention now. Because I have pictures!!

So this first one is the view coming off the boardwalk to get to the public access section of Holden Beach, which is basically an island, one of the barrier islands in North Carolina. The water as you can almost see is very calm. And it was warm too!

And the next picture is of this little girl. She was digging her way to China, I'm sure, with that little shovel. She had on a life preserver. You see, there is no chaperone. That person in red wasn't watching her, she was just digging away... going in to the water. Why the life preserver? Undoubtedly, she could just wade out into the water as she wished. I remember once as a kid I was wearing my friend William's life preserver (we didn't have any) and went out a bit too deep... couldn't find the land again, got carried out into the water, waving for help... oh dear, very scary. But that beach was much rougher than this one was.

This is a post on the pier, covered in barnacles, and rotted out, not very stable I bet! You can see the waves are pretty calm.

You can see in this next picture of the pier how calm the waves are. I really wanted to go running in and swim around, the water was so warm and inviting.... oh! If I had a towel and change of clothes, I'd've been there. Unlike Kitty Hawk (the beach I used to go to when I was a little kid), the waves here are very calm.

The last picture is a crocodile made of sand on the beach. Pretty big, pretty good job! It's about 7 or 8 feet long.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Don't Give Up

I sent this song to a sister-friend of mine last night. I have just bought the CD over the weekend and was able to spend a lot of time playing a few of the songs, like this one. It seemed very appropriate for the situation, but I wanted to post the lyrics.

The song is You Are Loved, sung by Josh Groban.

Don't give up; it's just the weight of the world
When your heart's heavy I, I will lift it for you
Don't give up, because you want to be heard
If silence keeps you I, I will break it for you

Everybody wants to be understood, well I can hear you
Everybody wants to be loved, don't give up
Because you are loved

Don't give up; it's just the hurt that you hide
When you're lost inside I, I'll be there to find you
Don't give up, because you want to burn bright
If darkness blinds you I, I will shine to guide you

Everybody wants to be understood, well I can hear you
Everybody needs to be loved, don't give up
Because...you are loved

Don't give up; it's just the weight of the world
Don't give up; everyone needs to be loved
You are loved

Superiority of Knowledge

I read an article at Islamicity this morning discussing the value and importance of knowledge. I think the author was implying general knowledge, especially science, math, etc., but I want to quote a portion, with religious knowledge being the focus, and not worldly knowledge. Starting with the following hadith:

A learned person is superior to a worshipper as the full moon is superior to all the stars. The scholars are heirs of the prophets and the prophets do not leave any inheritance in the shape of dirhams and dinars, but they do leave knowledge as their legacy. As such a person who acquires knowledge acquires his full share. [Abu Dawud & At-Tirmidhi]

I don't see how it could be applied to non-religious knowledge, honestly, it seems like the hadith is about knowledge of value in Islam. Because being a person learned in worldly knowledge instead of Islamic knowledge could hardly be superior to a worshipper, wouldn't you say?

The problem according to the author was that Muslims seek wealth over knowledge. I think if they are seeking knowledge that does not help their Islam, it's as useless to them as wealth they don't know how to spend. I'd prefer knowledge to wealth though any day of the week.

He also quotes Ibn Hazm, a Spanish Muslim 'scholar:'

If knowledge had no other merit than to make the ignorant fear and respect you, and scholars love and honor you, this would be good enough reason to seek after it... If ignorance had no other fault than to make the ignorant man jealous of knowledgeable men and jubilant at seeing more people like himself, this by itself would be reason enough to oblige us to feel it... If knowledge and the action of devoting oneself to it had no purpose except to free the man who seeks it from the exhausting anxieties and many worries which afflict the mind, that alone would certainly be enough to drive us to seek knowledge.

I've heard this said another way... that the desirability of knowledge may be evinced by the ignorant who wish to not be thought ignorant, but rather pretend that they are learned.

Ali (RA) was once asked what was better: wealth or knowledge. He said,
Knowledge is superior to wealth for ten reasons:

  1. Knowledge is the legacy of the prophets. Wealth is the inheritance of the Pharaohs. Therefore, knowledge is better than wealth.

  2. You have to guard your wealth but knowledge guards you. So knowledge is better.

  3. A man of wealth has many enemies while a man of knowledge has many
    . Hence knowledge is better.

  4. Knowledge is better because it increases with distribution, while wealth decreases by that act.

  5. Knowledge is better because a learned man is apt to be generous while a wealthy person is apt to be miserly.
  6. Knowledge is better because it cannot be stolen while wealth can be stolen.
  7. Knowledge is better because time cannot harm knowledge, but wealth rusts in course of time and wears away.

  8. Knowledge is better because it is boundless while wealth is limited and you can keep account of it.

  9. Knowledge is better because it illuminates the mind while wealth is apt to blacken it.
  10. Knowledge is better because knowledge induced the humanity in our
    Prophet to say to Allah, "We worship Thee as we are Your servant
    while wealth engendered in Pharaoh and Nimrod the vanity which made them claim Godhead.

I can't say I fully understand point 10, except that knowledge will increase us in humility in submission to God, while wealth would lead us into vanity and arrogance.

But the conclusion is clear, that we are mandated to seek knowledge... but I think not just worldly knowledge, but knowledge that can value us in our Islam. And the scholars of Islam shouldn't hoard the knowledge either, but distribute it as freely and far as possible, and shake Muslims from their collective ignorant comatose.

The article starts off with achievements of Muslims in scientific pursuits, during the 'Golden Age' as it were. His solutions involve Muslims studying more in Western universities and success is measured in books translated annually. I find that to be a little trite, but there is something certainly shameful about the illiteracy prevalent in Muslim countries, among a people whose first command from God was Iqra, Read!
Seeking Knowledge an Imperative by Habib Siddiqui is the article.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The mess, my room

So my room is a mess and I didn't clean it this weekend like I should have... or last week, or really anytime lately. But I took this picture of something interesting sitting on my floor.

See that phone? That's my "home phone," which isn't even plugged in right now. Nobody calls me here so... hey, why bother listening to it ring? But it sits there on the floor for one purpose... sometimes, I lose my cell phone, you see... and the solution of course (since I don't turn it off) is to call it, making it ring or vibrate or at least light up. And what better way to do that than to... dial it from the home phone? Yes, of course. So when the need arises, or if I have to make a call from the house for some bizarre reason, I can always plug it in. So it sits near the jack, which is behind that laundry basket filled with some swimming/work-out clothes. Last summer I did some water aerobics at a.. um... pool. But modesty got the better of me.

But the reason the picture is interesting is the nest of cables, which is now home to a hair thingy.

The cables that are "sort of" in a circle--that is a CAT-5 cable actually, 25ft long. Why do I have a 25ft long CAT-5 in my room, you might ask? This is because I'm a strange person, isn't it? Yes it is! Before I upgraded to wireless internet, I used to use said cable to get cable internet at my parents' house. It ran under the house, from the main PC (from the router actually, which was at the main PC) in the kitchen of all places, through the crawl space, and came back inside in my room... it was "just" long enough, and it pulled at that. When I moved in to this apartment I took the cable (which my parents weren't using) and planned to link it between my roommate's room with her PC (via router) and mine. It was much longer than necessary... and now with the laptop I just got a wireless router to save myself all that trouble anyway. Not sure what to do with a 25-ft CAT-5 though. Anyone know if a nice home?

Right so the cable is the dorky part, and the other thing is the girly part... it's a hair straightener. We had a henna party here this week actually and the idea of straightening my hair came up (not from me.) She suggested I use her flat iron, but I told her I have my own! And it's bigger! And it's ceramic too! But I didn't use it, haven't used it in months.

Anyway, I thought it interesting to see the two sitting together like that. I gotta get rid of the cable, and find a place to store the flat iron. My one little cabinet is getting full... but for now it's home to the curling iron and blow drier, which I use even less frequently than the flat iron. Haha! I took a quiz today, 'are you high maintenance?' The results came back kind of like a "no." Materially? No, not even halfway to high maintenance. Emotionally? No... between the "no" end and halfway. And looks? Well I came in at the bottom, and the response said either I am naturally beautiful and very self-confident, or have complete disregard for the opinion of others.

Clearly, the latter.

But anyway. Henna party, so, I had some done. This is my hand.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Sweet Solitude

There were a few years of my life where I got to live sort of "in the country." It was in a subdivision too far out of town to be a suburb, and with plenty of little farms around. It was about as far as you could go away from the city without being in "nowhere." But I found "nowhere" a few times.

If you passed our exit on the highway, you would have to go six more miles down the road to turn around. One time I did that by accident (traffic was backed up at the exit so I'd see where I'd end up going the other way... long drive.) After getting off the highway, I thought I'd drive around a bit. After finding a nuclear power plant, a lake, a bunch of farms, and intermittent gravel roads I found myself winding up not 5 minutes away from my house. I took that road a few times when I felt like "driving."

For a month or maybe a few months, I would work at a little restaurant out in "nowhere." It was actually "Clayton" not "nowhere" but might as well be. It took about 30-45 minutes (yes that's a big difference) to get there from my house, depending on what time it was, and traffic etc. Not that traffic backed up on the piddly little two-lane road called NC-42 that you had to take, but if nobody was in front of you most of the way, you could go 50,55,60,65+ because the road is pretty much straight and there's no point in setting a speed trap on it really. Anyway, that was a nice little trip through farmland and podunk... two years ago.

Tonight I went out kind of late, since I was being late all day really (alhamdulillah, though, I have finally made up my Ramadan fasting... embarrassed as I am that it took me this long for one last day.) I was finished doing what I was doing around midnight-ish, but... didn't feel like going home.

I felt like listening to something loud and beautiful and going very fast.

Tonight I returned a microphone I had bought, since I was having trouble with my own built-in and even external mics, a problem I was alhamdulillah able to rectify. When a mic is required to talk to someone thousands of miles away... it's pretty important that it works!! So I was able to return the USB mic as I didn't need, mine working perfectly well as it ought to be. Ages ago when I bought my wireless router, a bonus special on that model was a free $10 gift card. So I had this gift card that I never used, and $10 isn't enough to make much difference in most things, and I used it in the purchase of the microphone, so when I returned it... $10 gift card back. But in order to get rid of the gift card, I made a purchase of something quite rare for me, a CD of music. I don't do that often--why, I mean, if you can listen to all the songs you want on the internet for free? But this singer I really enjoy, and just days ago realized that last year he released another album. I liked a few of the songs already (the ones I'd listened to) so I bought it. And had it playing when I made my decision to go for a ride...

So instead of turning home, I turned the other way, and drove out into the country, with the windows all open and the music blaring... mostly one song, but I did listen to a few of the others. I spent about two hours just driving, with my arms outstretched for a lot of the time. Oh, I'd love to have a motorcycle and really feel the wind all over... do you remember riding a bicycle and then flying down a hill and letting loose of the handlebars? I did that a lot, I just love the feeling. When I went on a cruise even, I enjoyed standing at the fore/front (or as near as we could get to the front which isn't the real nose of the boat) and standing that way, with my arms out. Of course it's not the same in the car really, with one arm blowing, the other against a seat. Maybe in a convertible... hm, should I get a convertible? But I enjoyed it, it was enough.

Anyway, I opted to take the twisty-turny Holly Springs Rd. into Holly Springs when it becomes New Hill Rd., then take the NC-55 Bypass into Fuquay-Varina. From Fuquay, took NC-42 past Clayton. I had intended to take I-40 back into Raleigh but changed my mind, just turned around and took NC-42 back to NC-55, then US-1 up to town.

There were a lot more subdivisions than I remember... though I recall it's been two years since I frequented that route. Nonetheless, it was dark, save the full moon in a barely cloudy sky, and quiet, except for me and my music drowning out the engine and the wind for me... it was happiness.

I thought about so many things, especially listening to that particular song (which I may post later inshaaAllah) but it was so nice to be alone, and to think, and to see the world through a different lens. To feel cold on the first of July (because wind rushing over your sleeves fast enough will give that sensation) and to look at the sky in its vastness, the earth in its blackness, to look over a field and see only the shadows of cows grazing. It's something beautiful. To feel the wind on my hand, on my skin... it was beautiful.

I'm not quite sure why it was so amazing. But I can tell you this much. I could enjoy the entire scene, the entire world around me, by myself. Me and my car and my music and miles around of scenery barely illuminated by the cloudy moon. And the world asleep, it was a sight, an experience only for me. And that is really precious.

One of my college professors used to tell us to never take the advice of anyone over 30. At that point, he said, people tend to disbelieve in their own capabilities and therefore, in our own, and would only discourage us from our real potential. Like listening to my dad who would say, "You can't be an engineer, it's too hard for girls." Adults, you see, sometimes have a knack for shooting down your dreams. They mean well, I'm sure, but for one reason or another have less imagination and less hope, even for the achievements and aspirations and ambitious of the youth. If I had told anyone where I was going at midnight tonight, or where I was sometime before 3am when I got home, they would probably frown, tell me it wasn't safe, or provide some other reason that I shouldn't be there.

But it's the sweet simplicity of it that I think I will treasure for quite some time. While I was out there, I was happy just to be myself. I felt intimidated by no one, afraid of no one. (Save Allah, and I did stop to pray on account of that fact!) The world was mine for a few hours, and I'm going to remember that. So simple, but so sweet.