Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Makeshift Partition!? $#&@$!!

Makeshift partition in the gymWhat is this?

Who comes up with this? I thought y'all might wanna see something this stupid so I took a picture with my cell phone before and after the salaat tonight.

You see, the masjid is under construction, so sometimes instead of praying in the musallah, we're pushed into the gym right behind it. Tonight we were praying in the gym.

Now, I actually like praying in the gym because there's no stupid partition between the brothers and sisters (the stupid wall drives me crazy, I swear! I hate praying behind it.) There is, however, a lot of space. It's a gym...

This is a weekly isha jamaat prayer. I prayed maghrib there just fine though it was only myself and another sister praying against the back wall (not in the photograph above.) Just praying behind the brothers like normal Muslims. You know, best rows for men in the front, best rows for sisters in the back.

So what the heck? I come for isha and I'm debating whether I have time enough to pray 2 rakaat before the iqama and I see this brother start folding up one of the tables (yes, these are the fold-up tables you see in cafeterias) and rolling it in front of the sisters!!

In shock, I watch. Staring (as rudely as possible) at the brother building this stupid little makeshift, I see another brother come help him!! That tore me up too because I actually respected the 2nd brother (not the first). So they are moving tables until you see this embarrassing display in front of the sisters.

View from behind Now, isn't this just the dumbest thing you've ever seen? For one thing, there were only about 8-10 sisters back there. They were all perfectly fine praying without lunch tables in front of them. The men were far enough in front it's not like they were going to be watching us bend over... except perhaps when they walked in the door. But was there any kind of obstacle to block the side view as the brothers entered from the back and joined the ranks up front? Nope!

Just the stupid lunch tables. Give me a break. You all know (or if you didn't before, now you do) that I hate the idea of partitions during salaah; I think they are pointless and ineffective except to isolate sisters from the jama'ah!! The one table even has a hole in it--and there was trash stuffed in it. The only thing that grinds my ax more than women who want a petition are men who put one there without being asked!! Trust me, he wasn't doing anyone any favors, and rather unfortunately has lost esteem in my eyes.

Ugh. I can't give this up, how incredibly retarded it was to move lunchtables in front of the sisters to block them from the brothers. What, the brothers on the other side of the court were looking up our jilbabs? Oh no, we might actually be able to see the speaker giving the khaatera after the salaat?

I was tempted--sorely tempted--to move the tables right back once he was done. But I didn't. I waited until after the prayer, and after the khaatera. I moved three of the four before another brother decided to help and he moved the 4th one. InshaaAllah I'm gonna pray isha and I might not be so patient if someone decides to get clever.

And yes, oh yes, I saw those brothers who gave that stupid table array that wary look, but yet who did nothing about it. It just strikes me as extremely problematic that anyone in this community would consider such a partition to be necessary (or even desirable!) that they would go through such lengths to create one. How embarrassing then that he did... and that I took pictures! Am I so terrible? Apparently.

Just because some people don't know that there is no valid Islamic necessity for that partition doesn't mean they should be able to force it on the rest of us. And if you think I'm hot now? I'm just getting warmed up... this is an issue that I seriously think Muslims need to tackle, brothers and sisters--who are both contributing to the problem to the exclusion and isolation of the sisters.

Read another good post about silly partitions here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's not solidarity, it's shirk?

If you can't see the picture to the left, visit this link. It's not the article I'm interested in, though... just the photo. The subtitle reads:

An Iraqi Shiite prays in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary at a Christian church in Baghdad, Iraq.

I started a thread about this on the whyislam form, because it really bothers me. Unfortunately more people want to debate worshiping idols and so forth, which wasn't really my point.

I was sent an email through an interfaith group I participate in, by one of the Christian members. It should be stated that while there are many Jews and Muslims in the group, there are very few Christians--I find that interesting. So the title of the email was Picture of Muslim and Christian Solidarity... and then the email began "...if only the world could see it."

The email and the photograph both deeply troubled me because this woman--who is described as a Muslim, appears to be making du'a in front of a statue. Not just any statue, but a statue of the Virgin Mary. Since when do Muslims worship in front of statues, really? How does this show solidarity with Christians anyway? I certainly don't respect any oppression of Christians in Iraq but I don't see that praying in front of a statue (and dare I say, to a statue, or to Mary?) is doing anything about it except compromising Islam, compromising tawheed even!

There is no value in interfaith communication, in my opinion, if one faith has to compromise its beliefs for another--and that's not just about Islam, or for Muslims, but anyone.

So when this lady describes this as solidarity, an Iraqi Shi'a praying in front of a statue of Mary, I think that an essential part of Islam, absolute monotheistic belief in Allah, is being misunderstood. I feel like in our own da'wah in this group and for interfaith work in general from now on, the differences in Islam need to be highlighted, so that what you see in this photograph is not ever seen as representative of Islam or Muslims, and so that reason why is fully understood.

How can a Muslim who is devoted solely to Allah, and believes in the absolute lordship of Allah, who would never associate any partner with Allah in love, gratitude, supplication, fear, and who understands that the attributes of Allah belong to him alone... how could a Muslim do this, I really want to know.

Monday, October 29, 2007

New Assistant Imam? InshaaAllah!

Yes I'm going to write about it.

The Islamic Center here in Raleigh recently decided to add a new member to its non-volunteer (i.e., paid position) staff--an assistant imam. After the shura had confirmed the position, and privately interviewed candidates, they approached the community in general asking about whether they felt a need for this position, and whether this was the right time, etc.

Now, to start with, I love the imam. I have yet to talk to anyone here who doesn't love the imam, actually. The idea behind getting an assistant is partly because he is so overdrawn. The community here is very large actually, over 1500 people attending jummah each week usually, and 5-6000 attending the Eid prayer. And only one imam. He teaches classes for the children, a class for sisters every week (plus extra ones once a month I think), a couple general classes for adults on weekends, in addition to jummah khutbah responsibilities and helping with marriage and marriage counseling...

It was not a "tough sell" to convince the community to support a new (assistant) imam. Once I heard the idea myself I was won over, thought it was quite brilliant, of course we need one. The center is expanding, you see, about to nearly triple it's square-footage, and is trying to fill up that space with new programs. I try to attend at least four different classes during the week, two with the imam, and am now actually attending a third which will last for six weeks inshaaAllah that is also with the imam (five total classes a week!). I've tried to make good use of the programs offered at the masjid for learning Islam, which in addition to the aforementioned classes also has a program on Friday nights with various kinds of lectures and guest speakers.

There was one man who spoke up criticizing the current imam (and then began receiving dirty looks from the rest of the room actually) about how he handled a marital issue in his family. You know... I was shocked. The imam admitted upfront that he was not strong as far as marital counseling (and he is so strong in so many other ways it's easy to forgive him for this) so I was kind of surprised that the brother felt the need to be so... irate. He said the imam had "failed," by what sounded to me (and others in the audience) to be not forcing the man's wife to go along with the man's own opinion. I don't really know the facts, but the way he was talking, that's what it sounded like. He wanted his wife to act a certain way and was disappointed that the imam could not get her to act that way, so he said he failed. (Anyone who knows anything about marriage counseling should know that it's actually a process that involves both sides of the couple... AHEM!... so my face was one of the smirking ones.)

A few people pointed out that a new imam should be someone from here, someone who they think is able to deal with "issues" of living in America. I scoff at them. Here, publicly, on my blog, I scoff at them.

The reason this came up at all is that someone was being interviewed quite rigorously for this position prior to the community forum. (And I have to say, I love him too!) And he happens to be from Egypt. A few members of the community seem to have the opinion that if an imam is imported despite being a hafidh al-Qur'an, holding undergraduate and graduate degrees from Al-Azhar university, and having taught English (so that's not a problem) he's not worth anything because he wasn't raised in America. SCOFFING AGAIN! The community in Raleigh just like anywhere else has it's problems, with certain people (the youth perhaps in particular) getting involved in unsavory crowds or habits. And these community members then take the opinion that an "imported" imam (by this I mean only that he was not raised in America but rather a Muslim country) has no qualifications or ability to address these problems in the community, or any other America-specific issues.

And I scoff.

Why? Because I believe that what this community needs more than anything else is just real knowledge about Islam. I really believe that there are answers in Islam, solutions in Islam, no matter what the problems are. I also think that the candidate, especially by virtue of being so strong in English is well-equipped to address these problems as he comes to them, and I don't think it requires an American upbringing to do so. As the Eastern world continues to Westernize, and adopt many habits of Americans, I think that the problems we face are really universal and not exactly particular.

So when someone approached me today about his "protest" of this particular candidate, I explained why I thought that yes we need an assistant imam and yes this candidate is excellent and a great fit for this community. (And he has been offered the position, which I hope with all sincerity he will choose to accept.) I think that sincerity will breed sincerity, and a community that sincerely wants to practice Islam and educate itself will find leaders who are sincere and seek to educate the community. I think that ignorance breeds ignorance, and that as long as the community remains ignorant of Islam, they will continue to seek other solutions to their problems, outside of Islam. And I think the community picked this candidate out of sincerity, and that the only objections are out of ignorance.

But that's what I think.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

A fitting metaphor?

Dr. Sulayman Nyang was in town this weekend, and he gave a lecture at the masjid tonight. He's been here before, and if anyone has the opportunity, I'd recommend they listen to him speak as well. He was talking about five "phases" of Islam in America, and at the end a question came up about the Nation of Islam.

Theologically of course, the Nation of Islam (I'm talking about "old school" NOI before W. Deen Muhammad "reorganized" it) first held that W.D. Fard Muhammad was actually the "Messiah" or something, a concept antithetical to Islam... and then later Elijah Muhammad preached that W.D. Fard Muhammad was actually God incarnate (like how Christians see the Messiah as being God?).... very very antithetical to Islam!!

However, the Dr. made an interesting point about how NOI would describe the "white man" as "the devil." (This was another teaching of NOI.) He called it a fitting metaphor, actually. He actually had an interesting take on the idea of "racism" (or "sexism" or "tribalism" etc.) and explained that the first person to exhibit the kind of arrogant superiority of another being was actually Shaytaan (i.e., "the devil") and when one group of people (in America at that time, generally white people) considered themselves superior to another group (i.e., black people) then they were exhibiting characteristics of Shaytaan. So white men were the devil. (Metaphorically.)

Interesting way to look at things, I suppose.

Friday, October 26, 2007

On display

Tonight I did something for the first time ever! I cut a pineapple! I love pineapple... and I cut it... decently, I suppose. Hm..k

What's the Arabic word for pineapple, anyone?

I've been "studying" Arabic for a little while now, mostly so I can read and understand al-Qur'an but the ability to converse in Arabic is gaining priority as I hope to be moving to Saudi Arabia soon inshaaAllah. By "studying" I mean I learned how to read and have tried to pick up a few words here and there. My "studies" have gone something like this:

First, I made myself flashcards to learn the letters. I found a page online and copied them... yet I wrote the letters left-to-write in typical European style. After a few weeks I had the letters down, wondering all the same why there were two T's, two D's, two Dh's, two H's, and two S's and what exactly a "hamza" was supposed to sound like.

Then, I began taking a weekly class in Arabic primarily for new muslim sisters offered at the masjid. I was a little "ahead" of the class by being able to recognize the letters in principle before she taught them, but I was still learning to write them properly and pronounce them properly. (Which, of course, explained why there were "duplicate" letters...)

But before that class even finished, I had the opportunity to take a 10-day Arabic intensive... that was actually grammar. In order to take this class, though, we were supposed to be able to read Arabic easily and quickly--faster than I could. But I didn't want to miss the opportunity so I purchased a small book in reading Arabic to help me learn to read even faster, and during my Spring Break this year I would spend extra time "studying" and practicing to read. I didn't get as fast as I probably should have for the class, but I took it anyway.

And alhamdulillah. The class was in grammar and I learned so much, right away. I really loved it and decided then that I really wanted to learn Arabic, and study Arabic, very seriously. I kept taking that weekly class, finishing out the year to learn really how to write the letters correctly more than anything else. I started taking the monthly seminars which were a follow-up to the initial intensive course. But that's when I started to fall behind. Over the summer I was taking two engineering courses and still working two jobs, and studying Arabic on top of that... I really couldn't keep up. The second set of seminars is supposed to resume next month, in November, but I don't think I'll be there. I hate to leave the study of Arabic but I feel that if I can't keep up and if most of the information is going over my head, then it's not really worth it. I have other objections about the instructor, but that's neither here nor there.

This year inshaaAllah I'll taking the second course the masjid offers for sisters in Arabic, with the same instructor. I've sort of jumped ahead of the class in that sense, now that I've been taking grammar classes and all. Tonight I was over at the sister's house, and she wanted to sort of "show off" me, as her student, to her friend... hehe... she pulled out a book and had me read a part of it... "haadha baab" "haadha kitaab" etc., kind of amusing. And I laugh now but truly I want to learn Arabic, I want to be fluent in it and I make this du'a constantly.

And I encourage everyone to do the same. Not to be a scholar or anything like that but just to be able to understand the Qur'an. For one thing, you can begin to read the Qur'an in Arabic. Even if you've just learned how to pronounce the letters, you can at least read it (without comprehension) and if you don't see value in that alone, let me tell you that since I am able to read now I am able to memorize so much faster. And if you can learn some grammar and vocabulary, you can memorize even faster. And everything you memorize is more speech of Allah that you can hear in your prayer. The more Arabic you can understand the more speech of Allah you can listen to when praying in jama'at, any congregation and not just taraweeh.

For anyone who wants to gain more concentration and benefit in their salaat--learn Arabic!! If you want to have more khushoo' in your taraweeh next Ramadan, learn Arabic!! Learn whatever you can, little by little. 'Umar ibn al-Khattab (2nd khalifah) said to learn Arabic, because it is part of your deen. Ibn 'Abbas (a Companion and well-known commentator of the Qur'an) said that when Surat al-Baqara is describing the Children of Israel not knowing their book it's because they only know it by memorization and recitation, having lost the language. The Qur'an is meant to be in Arabic, and it is possible to learn Arabic.

And if you're thinking that Arabic is hard, and you're about to press that comment link to tell me that Arabic is too hard to learn... I'm happy to refute you with the Qur'an:

And We have indeed made the Qur'an easy to understand and remember: then is there any that will receive admonition?

This ayah is repeated in Surat al-Qamar--four times you find it in that surah. Four times! Allah swt says that the Qur'an is easy to understand and remember, so if we learn Arabic with the intention of understanding and remembering the Qur'an... it is easy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


I can't say until now I've ever had the displeasure of praying beside someone who reeked of garlic. And now I know good and well why someone who has been eating raw garlic isn't supposed to go pray at the masjid! That's a hadith you can find easily in Sahihs Bukhari and Muslim. I did find one hadith where a Companion had gone to pray behind the Prophet (s) and smelled of garlic and the Prophet (s) told him, but upon discovering that the man had a "belt" tight around his chest, he said the man had an excuse.

I wasn't sure what the meaning of this "belt" was. It could be that the garlic was part of an ointment on an injury or something to that effect.

I only bring it up, because I happen to know someone who frequently eats raw garlic (apparently for the health benefits) and then goes to pray in the masjid. It bothered me this morning when I went to pray fajr... the sister beside me and I were praying peacefully... until she bumps into me and I realize that there is a third person in our row now and I move slightly so we can each have a share on the two rugs laid down, and then I smell it.

I kind of wonder, now, if not using garlic to treat a problem but just using it as a generic and regular dietary supplement (yes... eating whole cloves...) implies that the person is excused? Or if she (or in other cases he?) should be aware that this odor is not pleasant to the other worshipers during their salaat.

Should I mention this to her? That I could smell her though there was a person between us? Ask the imam about it? I know this sister know these ahadith about garlic, so it's just odd to me that she chooses to disregard them. I would like to suggest that she not try to pray in a row of sisters if she's been eating garlic but on the other hand, I'm not sure if there's a nice way to make that suggestion...

And you know, a few days ago I bought my first garlic press, hoping to start using fresh garlic (instead of dried minced garlic in a spice jar) in some dishes I want to try. I'm going to have to be wary of when I use garlic to cook and make sure it's cooked. I tried getting some for bread the other day and the kitchen smelled for about two days after.

Monday, October 22, 2007


When a friend of mine asked me a few nights ago if I was interested in an 'aqeedah* class for college students, I asked: who is teaching it? and when is it?

To answer the first--the imam. I might not have explained on my blog how much respect I have for this man, for his knowledge of Islam, for his manners, for the gentle way he gives advice. Whenever I can, I attend two different classes he offers, one specifically for sisters that is Riyadh-us-Saliheen, and another that is on Qur'an (which seems to be regularly canceled as soon as I make it a habit to attend--no class for the last three weeks, for example.) I love the classes with the imam, I really do; I should say his English isn't the best but I hardly ever have a problem understanding him and because he speaks with knowledge and conviction, his message is clear and powerful. And his manners are just impeccable so I love going to his classes even if I don't learn anything new as far as the hadith or Qur'an, because I can still learn manners from him, alhamdulillah.

The second answer was that it's on Sundays between maghrib and isha... which is excellent timing for me--it's a time I'm typically free.

So here's a class that I'm interested in, with a sheikh I adore, at a convenient time, so I'm like hey, sign me up! And I literally cannot wait for this class to start--will be this Sunday inshaAllah.

What's interesting though is that I just did get an email about it through the MSA announcing it, which described the class as "a serious educational course for people who want to go beyond the basics of Islam." Beyond the basics of Islam? Aqeedah? My understanding was that it was actually obligatory for all Muslims to understand aqeedah--is that wrong? Isn't that an interesting way to describe a course? I'm afraid that it might discourage people from taking it who should. Yet, at the same time, it might encourage people to take it who are more serious about Islam. We'll see how it goes inshaaAllah.

I know I'm excited about it, regardless of the level of the class. Like I said above, if nothing else I can learn more etiquette from the sheikh, but I think I will learn plenty inshaaAllah. This week there is a "sample class" and a meeting during the MSA meeting to discuss the objectives of the class. I'll miss it because I have a meeting scheduled at the same time to plan a party for new muslimahs. Actually, the meeting is to set the program, and I'm the MC for the event so I need to be there and iron out some details to ensure that well-meaning sisters don't charge the stage to embarrass themselves and other guests, the planning committee, or all Muslims. This is new for me... and I ask Allah to help me. :-)

*'Aqeedah is Islamic creed

Crying a river did no good...

I couldn't take it...

It was 4:30am, Sunday night. As usual I had delayed my required reading until the last minute... and I still had a paper to write about it. This week there was only one book to read... My Lai. Subtitled 'A brief history with documents.'

We didn't really cover Vietnam in my US History class, much less any specific incident like the My Lai massacre... it's a shame, really. I wonder how many people in my generation have never heard things like these, things like I've been reading in my foreign policy history class. It's getting hard to smile on Mondays, after I've finished reading and am writing, or after that...

I had read about 75 pages or so, rather impassionately, about the Geneva Conventions and rules of war, "Nine Rules" about dealing with the Vietnamese, how to handle a prisoner. I read about the briefings the night before the event--Medina to the Company, and Calley to his platoon... but then came the testimonies of the massacre itself, in a section blandly titled 'The Assault on My Lai.'

The very first one got me. It's Dennis Conti's testimony to the Peers Commission in 1970; he was in the first platoon to land and... you know what he described? Children. Killing children. I have this image in my mind of soldiers shooting a crowd of screaming children! How? How does this happen? I had to stop... and it was at least an hour before I could come back and read the rest. A boy was shot outside his house... his mother comes from the house, holding a baby... a baby... a soldier shoots her... she falls to the ground, and drops the baby... the soldier walks over and and shoots the baby too... in the face.

Then another soldier talks about watching 5 different men in a hut raping a young girl... then they all shot her... there is a section called 'Summary of Rapes' giving a list of the women who were raped at My Lai. After the men would rape a girl, they would pierce a bayonet into her vagina, if they didn't shoot her, or leave her to burn. Then the crowds of people in ditches who were shot, 30-40 here, 30-40 there...

It made me so sick, it still makes me sick, and it should, and I don't know how long it's going to be before I can think about it without crying. And I had to write a paper about the briefings, and have to talk in class tomorrow about the morality of the issue. What morality?

Why is this allowed to happen? Why do we look the other way? By we, I mean Americans, anybody who would ever attempt to justify this kind of slaughter. And I know, I know it in my head and my heart that this is still happening, but I don't think my heart can entertain anymore stories like this, in Eastern Europe, in Africa, in Iraq... I know that the evil in My Lai is in Iraq today and I want to know why we (we again being Americans) don't pick up our hammers and our axes and stop this evil in its tracks, and stop it now, and never let it return.

Photo. I had to link it because I couldn't keep looking at it on my blog... too sad... :-(

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It was Eid?

Alhamdulillah, this Eid al-Fitr was way better than last year. I took a shower way early and went to a 24-hr Harris Teeter to get some last minute things to give as Eid gifts (I made cookies... from scratch, yes.) I finished preparing them, printed off a sheet from a book I have for a non-Muslim who was coming with me to the prayer about the Eid prayer and how it's different. Although... it was wrong.. um. I also looked at this neat site, which someone had emailed me the previous night. In fact, it's a great site for new Muslims (the Eid 101) and if I had seen it earlier I might have forwarded it to everyone I knew.

I remember my first Eid prayer, and a friend sent me a set of directions about the Eid prayer, advice like the takbeers to say on the way there, and how the prayer would be different.

The thing is, if you've never been to an Eid prayer before, how would you know? So the program by Mohammed Alshareef can really benefit a lot of people inshaaAllah, who might not otherwise know these things that are almost standard/tradition for Muslim families and don't warrant much thought. I went to the prayer alone that time... this time I took this non-Muslim lady with me, and knew just tons of people at the gathering. And got there early enough to line up and pray, and really enjoyed it. Only real criticism I can make is of the sisters (and I guess I can always criticize the sisters) who thought that the khutbah was an okay time to chit-chat. The khateeb was yelling at the top of his voice and still it was difficult to hear him, a problem only exacerbated by wagging tongues, way in the back. (Just one of many things I hate about being in the back!)

After the prayer I went to someone's house to eat a little... I guess I ate a lot, I was full by the end, then went home and slept... my roommate did some traveling, went to a lot of peoples' houses, some of my friends went to a Carnival, and I was even invited a few other places while I was sleeping but didn't make it. I just called it a day, had some very personal time with... and then went about studying--I had a test and paper due on Monday.

It wasn't really extravagant, but nice enough that I had someone to share it with... I hope I never take that for granted. I had to go straight "back to the grind" and I was ready for Eid to be over before it was... but I pray that I live to see and experience next year's Ramadan, because that certainly was a very special time.

The Ogre at the Grocery Store

I saw the strangest thing last week at the grocery store. Okay, maybe it wasn't so strange, I hear it happens a lot actually, but it was the first time I ever witnessed it.

I was walking towards the store. There was a tall girl in the parking lot guarding a 24-pack, wearing a t-shirt and shorts (temperatures were still soaring past 90F last week). There was also a young man leaving the store, himself carrying a case of beer. So while I'm walking, I see this guy who is between me and the store, and I see him looking... at that girl.

And you know, it was not a casual look. He looked her up, and down, and back up again... and down again. I was disgusted, absolutely disgusted. I can only assume she wasn't aware that he was ogling her... but from my perspective it was so overt, so impertinent, my distaste was overwhelming. I've seen dogs eye steak with more tact.

I think I probably have some men reading who aren't surprised, maybe you all are more aware of this behavior than I am (probably are.) But I bring it up because I'm not exactly the world's biggest hijab advocate. I'm not aware of anyone looking at me that way, but seriously, how can anyone in this society suggest that men, in general, are so well-behaved that women are "free" to dress however they like, according to their "comfort?"

How could any woman be comfortable under such a repugnant gaze? Is it freedom to feel like a piece of meat? I know some of you have commented on my other blog and made excellent points, and this post is geared in that general direction.

After this experience, I don't see how anyone in a Western society can legitimately argue that women are not viewed merely as sexual creatures. I'm not talking about a girl at a bar, a girl who is flirting, putting herself out there so to speak, a girl who has dolled and dressed up to get any attention, she was in a Food Lion parking lot and this random guy (who I could add was well dressed, not a "bum" off the street) is looking at her for no other reason than to gauge her sexual potential.

I felt dirty after watching him do this, and he wasn't even looking at me! So how can anyone after that say hijab is bad? If a woman is covered, I can't really imagine how she could be looked at like this poor girl was, and more likely wouldn't merit a second glance from a guy whose head has retreated into his pants.

And no, I don't think all men are like that, but if I ever had any doubts about women covering to avoid being viewed in a sexual context... they're gone. Shattered by the rotten stench of that "ogre."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fasting at the Office

I recall hearing that at the start of Ramadaan this year, a Cisco Executive sent an email memo to the employees to inform them that Ramadan, a holy month for Muslims which includes daily fasting, had begun. I hear that it politely requested employees to be considerate of their fasting Muslim coworkers by not scheduling meetings late in the afternoon (to interfere with fast-breaking) or avoid having food in meetings. I think things like this are "nice" if only to increase awareness that it is Ramadaan, but I don't see that much special care is needed. Maybe the late-day meetings.

The memo apparently was very poorly received by some non-Muslim employees, who thought it unfair that some of their holidays did not bear such recognition, and who in some way or another felt slighted by the respect being shown to Muslims. In all honesty, I think that's pretty silly and immature.

I work for a large State-wide agency (local state government, not federal) that does not officially recognize holidays at all. No memos went out... and the Muslims, they seem to be undercover. I get along fine though, without any kind of official recognition. But this morning I did have a meeting with my Section and one of the supervisors bought some Krispy Kreme doughnuts... ok, now, I love Krispy Kreme, really I do. Nobody made me eat them. Nobody even asked me (perhaps because I'm the girl they think I don't eat doughnuts?) if I wanted one. Plus it was about 8:30 am and I'm too tired (physically) to really be hungry, it's early in the day. So alhamdulillah, resisting was not a problem, and it didn't distract me from the meeting.

I would have liked for someone to ask though--just so I could say, actually I'm fasting today because it's Ramadan!

Tomorrow, though... well I'm not sure what to do. I normally come in to work in the afternoon, but it's Employee Appreciation Day... so I'm not allowed to say what happens, but there is a luncheon involved, which pretty much everyone attends (though I never have actually) and then the rest of the afternoon... so anyway. Tomorrow (Friday) could either be the 30th of Ramadan, in which case I would be fasting and a luncheon wouldn't make much sense. Or else, tomorrow could be the 1st of Shawwal in which case it would be Eid (which is only one day--you know who you are, ahem!) and there is no way I would go spend Eid at an employee luncheon at the park. Soooooooooo........... doesn't look like I'll be working tomorrow, except maybe a few hours before jummah assuming it's still Ramadan... the real question, then, is how much can I charge?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Ramadan Misconceptions - I'tikaf

I'tikaf means sleepover at the masjid. Activities may include icebreakers, upbeat pseudo-lectures (let's call them "talks") about topics ranging from irrelevant to obscure, discussion about what it's like to be Muslim, what Ramadan means to you, 15 minutes of "alone time" where you can read Qur'an or "discuss" something important with your friends ("chit-chat"), and then pray Tahajjud in jamaa'at at 4am before going home to pray fajr and then sleep. Food is provided--pizza and sodas. Alternately, you may make a private i'tikaf (hold up, I feel redundant) by bringing a bed into the masjid and just sleeping there.

Sad story, but true. When did i'tikaf evolve into "spend the night hanging out at the masjid?" I don't know when that happened, because it had to be before I was ever Muslim. I came on the scene last Ramadan and attended a so-called i'tikaf for college sisters. There was one for brothers at the same time, that was actually in the masjid, while the sisters were in the school building. And, unfortunately, it felt very much like I described above.

Now, while I don't really have a problem with those activities, per se, though they are a little shallow, the problem I do have is that it doesn't even begin to resemble what an i'tikaf really is. So why call it an i'tikaf? That's my problem, that's my objection. I wasn't really on the lookout for more i'tikafs geared for my age group this year, I'll admit that much. When I heard about a so-called i'tikaf "for women" a few nights ago, I though ok, maybe I'll go, maybe it will be women who are mature and serious about it, and I can actually be in real i'tikaf for some of the night. I told the sister who brought it up, "If it's ibaadah, I'll go... not if it's just chit-chat." And alhamdulillah.

There were hours alloted for actual reflection, dhikr, individual salaat or reading Qur'an, rather than just minutes, as above. There were two group activities--at the outset, there was a lecture by one sister about what an i'tikaf is in the first place and talking about humility, and then there was Salaat al-Tasbeeh in jamaa'at. The rest of the time was non-interactive.

So what is an i'tikaf? The word means seclusion. Secluding oneself--that means being alone, to think and reflect. So in the last 10 days of Ramadan, we can make intention for i'tikaf and go to the masjid and enter the state of seclusion, as an act of worship. And treat it like worship. The sister insisted against the idea that women can make i'tikaf in their homes, she said that it must be in the masjid, and that the wives of the Prophet (saws) (raa) would make i'tikaf in the masjid. I point that out because I had recently been told that it was acceptable (even advisable) for women to actually perform i'tikaf at home, instead of the masjid!! So we all know I'm not a scholar, but one thing which makes no sense to me (and I hope it never does make sense to me) is why tell women they should do it at home, because some opinions are that they can, when in fact even the wives of the Prophet saws were known to make i'tikaf in the masjid instead of at home? You're scratching your head too? Okay.

At any rate, i'tikaf means seclusion, and seclusion in the masjid, as ibaadah, as worship, for which we should have the intention to please Allah swt and worship Him and focus on Him.

InshaAllah I will spend even more time at the masjid in these last few days to read even more Qur'an. I thank Allah for the time and ability to do so.

Saturday, October 06, 2007


You know how sometimes you just see something that makes you want to photograph it, and show the world? When I was little, I can always remember wanting to photograph what I thought was the most beautiful sight imaginable... the sky. I have an odd fascination with the sky--the only thing I think is odd about it is that nobody else I know seems to share it, or mention it.

This time of year, in Raleigh, the sky is something extraordinary. This year we've had a pretty bad drought, so rain is a welcome occurrence, rare that it is. But even in rainy years the autumn sky is appealing. Why? The summers here are humid, and the winters are dry, occasionally damp and rainy. So the summer sky is a pale bluish-gray most days; I amuse myself by attempting to gauge the humidity by the color of the sky. Yes really. You will notice that days with lowest humidity have the strongest blue color. I think general air pollution contributes as well to the summer haze, and in some more crowded cities the "sky" might not be as clear a gauge. Winters here, then, have very deep blue skies, no clouds in sight, which are beautiful in their own way. I remember once, as a child, being at the beach in the summer, and looking out the window one morning to a deep blue sky (which is rare in the summer) and thinking it was cold outside because the sky was so deeply blue!

Now, nothing against the deep blue skies which are wondrous in their own right, but the sky that really makes me stop and gawk is the partly cloudy sky. Especially around sunset. The last couple days I've been driving home around 6pm which is about an hour before sunset (and since I'm fasting I keep close tabs on sunset time!) and there have been, in the weatherman's words, "scattered showers." So there were enough clouds in places to drop rain here and there, but by the late afternoon the clouds were broken apart, and between me and the sunset--the most astonishing place for them to be. So as I was driving home on a road that frequently encounters traffic delays due to glare I had a wide open view of the broken clouds being scattered by sunlight, and turning every color the sky could turn.

There was the road in front of me, trees on either side of the road, but still, up there, the sky is soo vast, and the clouds only underscore that fact. Here is this little road, these little cars, little trees, little buildings... and massive clouds. And they don't even account for a tiny fraction of the sky. Oh, the sky.

I remember when my family used to go camping, or to the beach, or anywhere really, and driving back in the car, around sunset, watching the clouds. Whenever I myself am driving at that time of day, I can't help but notice and be amazed. The last two days I took pictures with my cell phone... they don't do justice, but they do show the scale... how trees and cars are just nothing compared to the sky which is reaching over everything below.

I love how the clouds help shade our eyes from the pure sunlight. I love how the light shines from behind them. I love how they let the sky turn every shade between red and blue, colors deeper and clearer than any artist could paint. Just an ordinary sky, ordinary clouds, but a spectacle that could only be created by Allah.

I don't know how people can look at the sky and not believe in Allah, the Lord of the heavens and the earth and everything in between. The sky is just one miracle we can witness everyday but yet people don't, they ignore it and focus on the ground, the trees and the buildings, the cars and the people... and they miss the big picture, the vast inescapable sky. Why?

See they not what is before them and behind them, of the sky and the earth? If We wished, We could cause the earth to swallow them up, or cause a piece of the sky to fall upon them. Verily in this is a Sign for every devotee that turns to Allah (in repentance). 34:9

And do people see it? Do they see how small they are under the sky though the earth spreads out in front of them and behind them and to their sides? That all too easily can it shake and crack, open and swallow them? Do they see at night how the stars are spread out, how meteoroids and asteroids can fly so close to us, and how sometimes they do, in fact, fall?

Isn't the sky a sign? A proof? And a lesson in humility.

And yet under such a gorgeous scene cars keep driving. Drivers listening to the radio, eyes on the car and road in front of them, perhaps on their speedometer. How is that for an analogy regarding preoccupation with dunya.

Friday, October 05, 2007

VBTV - Please contribute

My other blog is making slow (ok, not any) progress towards my analysis and refutation of 'Voices Behind the Veil,' but there is an interesting character who likes to comment on some of the posts, about hijab. She insists that it is oppressive to women, and that even though men don't force women to wear it, it is somehow unnatural and preventing the women from achieving happiness and... other silliness. In fact, I can't even fairly present her claim because it quite literally makes no sense to me.

I've responded to her a few times, but I would like for anyone interested in the subject of hijab, who believes it is both a command from Allah and a manifestation of internal modesty, to please contribute to that discussion, which you can find here:

It's not even the text of the post that is relevant, just the comments. Jazakumallahkhair for your help.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

House Resolution 635

So, the House of Representatives is "recognizing" Ramadan this year. It took until the month was 2/3 in, but hey, better late than never? Why does Congress have to recognize Ramadan though? I don't understand... but I guess refusal to recognize would certainly make the House out to be a body comprised of Islamophobic bigots. And they did recognize it so I don't mean to insult anyone... I just don't quite see the relevance.


I take that back, maybe this is relevant. Maybe this is something worth showing to all those right-wing talk show hosts who have an axe to grind with Muslims in general. HR 635 resolves that the House of Representatives:

  1. recognizes the Islamic faith as one of the great religions of the world;
  2. expresses friendship and support for Muslims in the United States and worldwide;
  3. acknowledges the onset of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting and spiritual renewal, and conveys its respect to Muslims in the United States and throughout the world on this occasion;
  4. rejects hatred, bigotry, and violence directed against Muslims, both in the United States and worldwide; and
  5. commends Muslims in the United States and across the globe who have privately and publicly rejected interpretations and movements of Islam that justify and encourage hatred, violence, and terror.

Here you can read the House speeches on this resolution. (Click on the numbers for the full transcripts.)

Here you can read the text of the resolution that was approved.

If you're interested, here you can read the text of the resolution originally proposed.

Here you can see the vote sheet. (It passed "unanimously" 376-0.)


The last 10 nights of Ramadan are upon us... alhamdulillah. This weekend I had the privilege to listen to two different but both very well known reciters of Qur'an. Saturday, I was at a MAS Fund-raiser Iftar. I have mixed feelings about MAS, sometimes. Several active sisters were wondering where I've been, since I've not been doing MAS things lately. Truth be told, I don't even know what MAS is up to most of the time because, astonishingly, I'm actually not on their mailing list. I am on the MAS-Youth mailing list, even though I never do anything with them, never even really socialize with them. Nothing against them, by the way, they seem to be mashallah very well-behaved kids, whenever I have been around them (The March in DC, Night with Suhaib Webb, etc). I tend to find myself at functions with MAS people almost coincidentally, but some of the sisters who are very actively involved, like the director of the Raleigh chapter Freedom Foundation and some others, were asking me on Saturday why they don't see me around too much lately... it's kind of obvious really: I'm busy. Insanely busy actually, and that's just with school and work. But then I realized they probably have all this stuff going on I don't know about because I'm not on their mailing list... hahaha. :-) Anyway the iftaar was okay, but the taraweeh was very nice, with Abdul Kareem Eddagouch leading--you can look him up on google video if you'd like to know what I'm talking about and why I opted to listen to him Saturday instead of the other available option...

...which was Sheikh Muhammad Jebril. On Sunday, I got to pray taraweeh behind him, but he was in town both nights, Saturday and Sunday. InshaAllah he will be here on Wednesday and Thursday nights as well, which wasn't originally planned I think, but that will be very nice. And those of you who know what kind of "nice" I'm talking about are probably wondering how in the world... but apparently this is his 5th consecutive (for Ramadan) visit to Raleigh; that's right, I got to pray behind him last year too. I'm not sure how many of my readers have prayed behind him, but mashaAllah it's nice. My feet tend to kinda hurt by the end though. Since the next two nights aren't on a weekend it's likely the masjid won't be quite as crowded as it was on Sunday.

Saturday was a busy day in its own right... and I should mention this in a post devoted to the subject. Remember that post of mine, "Undercover Converts?" Well, I decided to follow it up with something real, and am implementing some of the suggestions I've heard, and some I had collected and been presented with earlier to revamp the current program at my masjid. Alhamdulillah, I've found so many people willing to help, and great suggestions. I should really elaborate on it in another post, but suffice it now to say that I had to pitch the presentation initially to a small group at the masjid on Saturday, which took some prep time, but now it's starting to roll.

Sunday was busy partly because I went to the imam's Qur'an class, and then had to cook... oh yeah and SLEEP before going over to a friend's for iftaar. There is a grad student at my university who is getting a PhD in sociology who is doing field research on Muslims, and so she wanted to go to the small Qur'an class the imam holds on Sundays. It was nice that she went, I had a nice talk with her a week or so back at an interfaith iftaar about why she is doing this research on Islam. Maybe it's a purely objective study, and maybe Allah will guide her this way, I don't know. All the same, she did wear a scarf (I gave her one on Friday, when she went to jummah, and showed her how to pin it) and thus many of the sisters kind of assumed she was a new Muslim. Maybe one day inshaaAllah. But that can be kind of awkward. I hope she keeps coming though. I hope I keep going! The class was nice in its own right, we read some ayaat in Surat al-Hajj, and one of the sheikhs that is regularly reading taraweeh now came too... and I couldn't be sure but I kind of got the impression from the imam that he might be staying around, as an assistant to the imam, and that they had interviewed him and everything for this position, so we'll see inshaaAllah...

Last night my roommate and I hosted an iftaar at our apartment, we had about 10 people total showing up which was pretty nice... one of whom was... alhamdulillah... my mother!! I asked her to come, and she did!! Now, she didn't feel comfortable except to arrive after the prayer, and knowing it was purely a social and not devotional/educational event, but she came and sat and chatted and socialized with other Muslims and that really made me happy. The other sisters were all very nice and welcoming and I don't think she felt too uncomfortable. Alhamdulillah. At the same time, I did invite both my sisters and their daughters, but I had to leave a message on their voice mail since they wouldn't answer the phone, and they never called back and of course they didn't come. But inshaaAllah my mom can explain hey it wasn't that freaky after all, we just ate food and laughed, and maybe they'll come around to a less hostile view of me and Islam.

So... there is some of what has been happening to me in the last few days. I'm not writing much but it's because I'm writing for history, studying for evil engineering exams, and alhamdulillah praying taraweeh several nights of the week as well.