Friday, December 28, 2007

The Bottom of the Well

I live in North Carolina, and like many states in the Southeast, NC is suffering from a pretty outrageous drought. To tell the truth, it's lasted for several years, but every summer they act like it's new. And then they start pulling out water restrictions. I remember some when I was in high school--how you weren't supposed to water your grass on certain days of the week, and only at night. That is, if you own your home. But if you are a big corporate office you're allowed to water whenever you like. That's how it seemed anyway.

So this last year, with increasing drought severity, the cities and counties imposed further water restrictions on their citizens. It took until October before non-essential car washing, grass-watering, etc., was stopped by state agencies!! I remember a few months ago a local TV station had their sprinklers on, but a sign up to inform scowling water conservationists that they were using well water instead of city water. As if that actually made a difference!

We get rain now--it didn't rain over the summer--but of course it's never "enough." Installing more efficient faucets and hoses, and constantly checking pipes for leaks is another way the local governments are trying to get the best use of the remaining water. But when you hear "45 days of water remaining" you think people would get a clue. I can't help but wonder what will happen when the water really does run out.

But imagine for a minute, an emotional well. A reservoir of hope, passion, love, and anger that typically remains balanced. And imagine a trying situation that sucks on that well, pumping out the last remaining drops--what's left? Have you ever felt depleted? That you gave all you had to something, and got nothing back? Feeling that your soul has just dried up? I haven't written in a week and the truth is that the last week has just been a very long stressful nightmare. With school over, my personal life decided to smack me around.

No, I don't mean my fiance; and truth is he has been nothing but calmly and patiently supportive through it all. So what happened? After I turned 24 on Friday, I began to be tested with problems I don't think anyone should ever have to suffer. To start with, I've become intimately acquainted with some of my reproductive organs. I'll spare my poor readers the details except to say that there is something red involved just about every single day since November 12th with increasing intensity, peaking Saturday night/Sunday morning, around 3-6am. Again, I'll spare the details. After that had mostly calmed down it hasn't been so bad since, but has come pretty close twice now, most recently Thursday morning. About time I go to the doctor, then, eh? Oh, if only I could. But I spoke to my sister this afternoon and she has been diagnosed with all of the following: endometriosis, adnomiosis, polycystic ovaries, and uterine fibroids. So which one of the following is plaguing me, or am I just stressed out? Or, all of the above? Garr. InshaaAllah will be seeing a doctor next week.

And the other problem... my family. Tuesday of course was Christmas, and I had decided some days beforehand that I was going to be there, one way or another. Unfortunately, to my family that meant that I was determined to ruin their Christmas and was seeking attention. In fact, I hadn't even seen some of them in over a year. I got a call while I was still in bed on Tuesday informing me that I was not supposed to come, I was not allowed to come, I shouldn't come... whatever. That was my sister on the phone and I told her I was going anyway, and I did. And I had to argue with her over the phone and her list of excuses as to why I shouldn't participate, then I met my mother at the door and had to listen to the same, and after going through her, my brother-in-law. He spent quite a bit of time insulting Islam and Muslims, insulting me personally, (again I'll spare the details because they are actually quite painful to me) and then I finally got in the house.

I can write all that in a few sentences, but the emotional toll was severe. And there was no quick recovery to allow me to really enjoy spending time with my family. The more I think about it, in fact, the angrier I become at all of them. Anger isn't healthy. But what they did was wrong, plainly wrong. I think excommunication would be easier. If I didn't fear being punished eternally for turning my back and severing ties, I would easily have done so. And standing up to my family that way was the hardest thing I have ever done. I recall a hadith which describes truly maintaining relations with family is not to treat them well when the reciprocate, but to re-establish ties after they have been severed. Being told I am not welcome is the same thing as severing ties, isn't it. So is showing up anyway re-establishing them? How can I keep reaching out when it only fosters hatred for them in my mind? I don't know.

But that well of love and affection and compassion for my family, has nearly dried up. There's nothing left there but mud--anger, and frustration, and sadness.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Scam Called Islam

The last few weeks (months?) have been pretty stressful for me. I had a lot to do, and unfortunately my schoolwork fell way behind. It's gonna cost me. But now I'm into the break I have a few weeks of no school! This is the first really nice long break I've had since last winter! About three weeks long. Anyway, the combined stress of the last few weeks, in addition to low faith and a bumpy spiritual path led me to write this post: I need some motivation.

I got some wonderful, very helpful replies. But today someone Anonymously left me a not-so-motivational comment. I'm reposting it here, in case any of you would like to respond to it as well.

Oh, no. The worst is yet to come. When you get yourself with three to five kids trapped in KSA where women aren't considered bright enough to drive or vote, here they are punished for being gang raped and you are far away from your family and even finding comfort food is a challenge and then you realize that you've been driven there by the ridiculous scam called Islam, THAT is when you will see the worst. I wouln't put myself in that position if I were you.

The interesting part is the little rhyme "scam called Islam." I think it was a woman who wrote this--note the emphasis on issues especially pertaining to women. Driving, voting, gang rape (undoubtedly the Qatif girl issue), distance from family, and comfort food. It could be a guy trying to make me reconsider by perceptively selecting issues to which I'd be naturally more sensitive, but I think it was a woman.

So let's see, I am fully aware that women are not allowed to drive in Saudi. I'm also aware of some small campaigns to change that, but it's not something that bothers me so much now, not being able to drive. I also have realized, after watching in participating in the political process for several years now, that there is very little I can do just by voting for changing policy. I vote but people are still being tortured and candidates won't even call it that; I vote but still I end up paying some ridiculous amount of taxes despite the fact that my income places me in a poverty bracket. So... barking up the wrong tree with that. A more serious issue: gang rape. With all the information out on the internet, in the blogosphere, about that case, I would imagine that nobody would be dumb enough still to believe that the woman was being punished for being raped. In fact, if you do believe that, I'm not really sure I can do much to change your mind. But I do encourage you to spend a little more time researching.

I think whoever wrote this probably hasn't been following my blog if he thinks that my family is close to me. In fact, living only a few miles away but their refusal to even see me is pretty rough. Since I can't visit them, talk to them, meet them anyway, I don't see how being on the other side of the planet will change much in that department. It's hardly worth saying anything about 'comfort food.' I'm not the sort to eat a tub of chocolate ice cream (ugh, just the thought makes me sick) or other kinds of junk food to make me feel better. Junk food has a nice habit of making people feel worse anyway, and it's not like I won't be able to eat anything but rice, so... just because moving to KSA would be a nightmare for someone else, doesn't mean it would be for me.

And to the person who left it: you aren't me, and you don't have to put yourself in any position that makes you uncomfortable, like moving to the desert. But what you decided to do was insult my faith ('scam called Islam') because some people choose a way of life different than yours. No wonder you didn't leave your name.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Tearing up

Local news is pretty useless sometimes but while waiting for national news (also useless, but it's a laundry day thing) this afternoon I was watching, and there was a little story about this 6-year old girl who had called 911 when her mother had a seizure. Whoever structured it did a really nice job at pulling heart strings somehow. And I thought it was just me, you know, maybe wacky hormones or something, since I started to cry without any good reason.

But after showing it, they cut back to the two anchors who happened to be ladies. (The dude had the day off.) And wouldn't you know it? You could tell, that they had both started to cry too!! LOL!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Feminist Sci-fi

Last week on Tuesday I went to my parents' house for a little while after my foreign policy exam, and picked up some things I had left there. Mainly, a couple picture albums and a book which had been hiding in my closet ever since I had moved into that house 6 or so years ago. The book was labeled "Novels." It wasn't all novels, but "books" was too vague, and most of it was fiction anyhow. There were a few books of plays (Ibsen and lots of Shakespeare) and a book of short biographies (Profiles of Courage) by the late JFK.

But the only reason I went looking for these books in the first place was this: to find a book I had read many years ago, vaguely recalled, in order to read it again. And I found it! And I read it this weekend, while my fiancé was held hostage by the Saudi French bank. It was almost as good as I remembered... and worth writing about.

It's called The Shore of Women, by Pamela Sargent, and is Copyright 1986, but this book was only published in 2004. I found it in the science-fiction/fantasy section of Barnes & Noble years ago, and, finding the title rather strange and the back-cover teaser interesting enough, and decided to give it a try. Here is what's on the back cover:

In order to survive after the violent holocaust of a nuclear war, the women of Earth expel men from their cities, using superior technology to call them back only for loveless, deceptive reproduction. Posing as goddesses, the women exercise tight control over the unknowing fathers of their children, guiding the men's religious faith and sexual desires to suit their own purposes. Birana, a young woman with many questions about this way of life, is forced to face those questions head on when she is exiled from the comfortable world of women, her very survival now dependent upon the men she has been taught to loathe and pity her entire life.

Arvil, a young man with his own questions about the reality of the goddess, wanders the wild countryside alone after the cruel slaughter of his band. He soon finds himself the sole protector of Birana, the strange woman who has much knowledge about the ways of the goddess, but few of her powers. As Arvil and Birana struggle to survive in a world hostile to them both, they discover feelings for each other they had thought impossible. Their reconciliation of these feelings ultimately threatens to rip apart the fabric of both their societies.
So basically... the women live in cities, and the men live in the wild. The women had erected 'shrines' where the men would visit and "pray" using a device called a mindspeaker to communicate their thoughts to a woman who might answer on the other end--a woman in the city. They would also pray on their own other places, but the other benefit of the shrine was that sometimes they would have visions--virtual-reality interactive sex. And then, sometimes they would be "called" to actually go to the cities which they called enclaves and would after more visions would have their semen taken (while they were unconscious pretty much) which the women would use to inseminate themselves, and reproduce. There were a few women in the city, the higher echelon if you will, who were actually allowed to have boy children, the other women were only allowed to have girls. The boys after a certain age had most of their memories wiped and were sent out into the wild, usually with the father, but he wouldn't know that. In fact, the poor men just considered it a sign of status, how many times they had been called, how many boys they had been given.

Both societies were homosexual. For the women it was consensual, but for the men... sometimes was, sometimes wasn't. They best to come by was the visions but that didn't restrain everyone from exercising their will on younger boys. Brutal. The men of course were taught to worship women, and then they would receive these "blessings" in the shrines or enclaves if called (blessings... the VR...). The women were pretty much taught to loathe men. Thought them disgusting, beastly, etc. But want to know what's really brutal? If a group of men gathered together, to get stronger, develop new skills, cultivate the land, form some semblance of a civilization... they would be destroyed by the women with high-tech super blast-o-rays. (No they weren't called that in the book.) This was considered to be a sign that they people had defied the will of the "goddess." So mostly the men kept in small groups, killing each other for food, control of water sources, etc.

So... maybe you're wondering why I thought this book was so interesting that I could read it in two or three sittings? Think about it... absolute segregation... gender superiority... exaggeration of biological differences between men and women. Think about it... a world where it's perceived that men are deficient in civilizing qualities like control over anger, compassion.

There is a part of the book where the two characters find a small group of inbreeds for whom the table is slightly turned. The women in this group are sure that women somewhere have this power or magic to exercise over men and they are just missing it. The men, however, have realized that they in fact are stronger than these women and are convinced that women are holding the world captive with superior technology because they lack strength. And these men have forced their women into submission, to obey them on command, serve them, and please them on demand pretty much (not taking no for an answer.) Even when a woman is pregnant a man might force her to serve him food, standing for a long period of time while he sits. And yet they still try to reproduce and a baby is a real treasure (especially, oddly enough, if it's a girl.) They aren't sophisticated enough to realize that the lack of genetic diversity is causing their babies to die early on, though.

I think that part of the story is really interesting, for contrast. The whole book though really emphasizes for me that men and women instead of one serving the other (as is so often implied in religious cultures) or the two competing with each other (as is implied in many modern secular cultures) really ought to complement and help one another.

Why isn't that obvious to everyone else?

Friday, December 14, 2007

On Modesty...

So last night I was at Barnes and Noble not studying wireless communications. I wanted to read, and the most interesting book I picked up was this: A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue by Wendy Shalit.

In fact, I read the first half of it while I was there and really really enjoyed the author's perspective. She is a Jewish woman who was raised in Wisconsin and as she explains early on in the book, was exempt from sex education classes in elementary and middle school. As she grew up, she found herself with a different sort of moral compass with regard to modesty--and which was most obvious in college, with regard to sex.

The book was written less than 10 years ago when the author was (I think) in her early twenties. Not much has changed since then. It's interesting from a lot of perspectives--you can probably find it in the 'Women's Studies' section of the bookstore or library, and it deals with a number of issues facing women today. And it's not turning out prudish minor versions of Ms. Manners, either. In fact, to me it was more about respect for women without degrading femininity.

Sometimes the world seems so crazy, with feminism attacking femininity, castrating masculinity and trying to produce a society devoid of gender distinction. A world, for example, where one society says that another is oppressing women by... calling them women! You see, recently I've explained to a couple different people that Islam actually does not oppress women, and acknowledging differences actually can improve cooperation, understanding, and foster happiness between men and women while the opposite... seems to have a more disastrous effect.

The author explores (through the portions of the book I can best remember) how women are taught to appreciate casual sex even though their natural reaction inclined them to feel degraded by it. How unfulfilling they found hooking-up with men, expectations to put out, with little emotional incentive to do so. She wrote about how the way men acted 200, 100, even 50 years ago towards women. Things certainly weren't "equal" with a man being strongly discouraged from visiting or talking to a woman he didn't know. If he wanted to meet her, he was supposed to go through a friend or relative. Acknowledgement on the street was not appropriate unless the woman initiated it!

Suffice to say, even though the author is not Muslim and hardly mentions Islam at all (I think I read "chador" once) as Islam was hardly in the minds of anyone 4 years before 9/11, what she talks about is very intriguing as a Muslimah living in America. And I think it should be for anyone who thinks that women in modest conservative societies are necessarily oppressed.

It's really an excellent read (though I admit I've only read half... can't wait to read the rest!) and so far I recommend it to anyone, to everyone. For women who are modest to appreciate their choices. And for those who aren't to reflect on their own (possible) dissatisfaction with life today.

I have more I want to write on this topic as well, but alas--I'm out of time. More to come inshaaAllah! (Though don't hesitate to comment!)

Thursday, December 13, 2007


It’s the name my parents gave me, and by which my family calls me. The name on my cubicle wall and the name I sign on my homework, exams, essays and checks. The name in the mobile phone contact lists of all my friends, the name in my grandmother’s address book. The name on my driver’s license, the name on my bank card. The name of a file on my best friend’s computer, with pictures, videos, and short notes and poems I’ve sent. It’s the name my nieces shout when they hug me around the waist, and the introduction called before I walk on stage. It’s the name I hear on my fiancĂ©’s lips to heighten the anticipation of my wedding day. It’s my name. Amy. Don’t ask if I am going to change it, I’ve been over two years since I embraced Islam, and still have no need for a new name with a taa marbuta to make me a Muslimah. I simply declare that I bear witness, and I do with all my heart, that there is no god except Allah and Muhammad is His messenger.

I cling to my short and simple name, for neither exceptionality nor practicality, but simply out of choice and the absence of a reason to change it. So when I am asked for my name I give it: Amy. Should I hear, "Your Muslim name, dear" as if I would respond differently, then I need only affirm, "That is my name."

There you have it. My name is Amy and I am from North Carolina. From home-made ice cream and sweet tea back porch cook-outs. From pickled steaks and fresh tomatoes, lazy afternoons and muddy-bottomed swimming holes. The last 24 years have been a blast, but I’m ready to make my escape. I’ll turn in pine tree forests for sandy dry deserts, cute pink bikinis for flowing black abayas, and baseball caps for headscarves and face veils. I’m ready to cross an ocean and a continent, to transplant to the Magic Kingdom, the Land of Sand, the Arabian Peninsula, the Land of Islam. I’m ready, just as soon as I acquire the peskiest of paperwork, 6 years in the making: bachelor’s of science in electrical engineering. For now I’m stuck reading flow charts instead of ahadith and protocols instead of fiqh. While drying out in the desert of dunya, my heart aches to study Islam, just waiting to be quenched by the ocean of Qur’an.

An engineer by training, writing failed to strike my fancy until I entered the blogosphere with a few months of Islam behind me. A year later I realized I had something worth saying, worth reading, worth blogging so I write it down and expose it to the criticism of the world here on my blog. And thus my alias: as ‘Abu Hanifa’ was not a true kunya for an Islamic scholar, neither is ‘Ibnat al-Hidayah’ a true name, but rather a metaphorical one. Daughter of Guidance, of Hidayah from Allah subhaanah wa ta’ala, as I feel I have been guided through the Qur’an, a Book of Wisdom from the Most Merciful. And from that side shows my other identity: my name is Amy, but who I am is a Musilmah, one who submits to the will of her Lord and follows his guidance.

As-salaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullaahi wa Barakaatuh

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Did the USA have a foreign policy during the Cold War?

I said no. In fact, I spent four pages writing in very small letters, how the answer to this question was actually no. That was the better part of my History of US Foreign Policy final.

The instructor gave us 5 questions ahead of time, and said the exam would be two questions of the five, which she selected, and we would not have a choice. Surprise! The exam, in fact, was actually all five questions, and we had to select two ourselves which we wanted to answer (except for undergrads, who all had to answer the first question and only got to choose one other of the remaining four.) The first question I had to answer (being undergrad and all) was to say whether George Kennan (Long Telegram, X article) or Walter Lippmann was right about the Cold War and containment. Now, my plan to prepare for this question, if I should encounter it on the exam, was to read the paper I wrote at the beginning of the semester comparing the two arguments. Unfortunately, I saved this task for last, and was unable to find said paper, and thus relied on my memory from several months ago. And in the end I wrote a horribly weak essay filled with generalities. I finished in 38 minutes.

In order to make up for it, the next question I chose to answer allowed me much more freedom to dive into specifics, at least in comparison to the topic, and give a wide range of concepts and philosophies we had studied over the semester. The question, as the title of this post, was to determine whether the United States had a real "foreign policy" or responded haphazardly to events which came up.

On first glance, to be honest, I think it looks like more haphazard responses than anything consistent at a policy level. Exhibit A: Henry Kissinger. He, for one, was completely preoccupied with superpower relations (that would be American-Soviet relations) and only would deal with the Third World as necessary... often reacting with a tardy and poorly thought out response--like coaxing South Africa into invading Angola.

But there were major themes and objectives which presidents and their advisers used to construct policy. These were mostly consistent throughout the period, and to some extent have been ubiquitous since the birth of the American nation in affecting policy--from continental expansion, to the Monroe Doctrine, to Containment and the Cold War and even in the War of Terror. I described those themes which I asserted stemmed from ideology as the glue holding the policies together, but not policy itself.

I am sad my history class is over now. It was tough, but I learned so much (when you know nothing, it's easy to learn a lot.) And in fact, what I learned was useful... unlike what I learned in my networking or controls engineering classes.

Don't talk to me about Muhammad

A few weeks ago I performed a musical number to an audience of about 150 people. I sang... a song. It was my first (and only) public vocal performance, to an entirely female audience--so please, nobody leave a comment about how I was using my voice to attract any men. There were none, and that was conditional. I sing a lot, though--in the shower, in the car, in the apartment by myself... typical places. Never figured I was cut out for singing in public--especially since all prior public performances for me were instrumental: I played the clarinet. I also used to play piano to accompany my brother and sister who would sing along, at family gatherings now and again. More for fun... I always figured they sang better anyway. (And hey, they couldn't play the piano, so..!)

Anyway, I was part of the group planning a party for new muslimahs shortly after the last Eid, and they were looking for different kinds of entertainment and I sort of volunteered--even though I was already MC-ing and had been interviewed for a video shown during the program. (Oh yes, lots of people recognized me after the party... I made lots of quick friends.) I thought this song would be nice for the audience to hear... and at least from the reviews I've heard, people did like it.

In fact, over half the audience was crying when I was done. (Haha, not because I was so bad. Ever hear the Tiki Room Song? "I should sing solo!" "Si! So low that no one can hear you!") I think the tears were a result of the very powerful lyrics. In fact, I cry sometimes when I listen to it. So I wanted to post the lyrics which I sang (and I didn't sing the entire song, by the way,) and clear up any confusion for those who mistakenly thought I wrote it.

The nasheed is called About Muhammad, by Dawud Wharnsby.

It would be such a pleasure to have you come along with me,
I accept your gracious offer of kindness and company.
But as we walk along young man and as you help me with my load,
I’ve only one request as we travel down this road,

Don’t talk to me about Muhammad.
Because of him there is no peace and I have trouble in my mind,
so don’t talk to me about Muhammad
and as we walk along together we will get along just fine,

That man upsets me so, and so much more than you could know,
I hear of his name and reputation everywhere I go.
Though his family and his clan once knew him as an honest man,
he’s dividing everyone with his claim that “God is One”

So don’t talk to me about Muhammad.
Because of him there is no peace and I have trouble in my mind,
so don’t talk to me about Muhammad
and as we walk along together we will get along just fine,

He’s misled all the weak ones and the poor ones and the slaves,
They think they’ve all found wealth and freedom following his ways.
He’s corrupted all the youth with his twisted brand of truth
convinced them they all are strong, given them somewhere to belong.

So don’t talk to me about Muhammad.
Because of him there is no peace and I have trouble in my mind,
so don’t talk to me about Muhammad
and as we walk along together we will get along just fine,

Now before we part and go, if it’s alright just the same,
may I ask, my dear young man, who are you? What is your name?

Forgive me - what was that? Your words weren’t very clear,
my ears are getting old - sometimes its difficult to hear.
It is truly rather funny, though I’m sure I must be wrong,
but I thought I heard you said that your name is Muhammad......


Ash hadu allaa ilaha illa Allah wa Ash hadu anna Muhammad ur-Rasulullah.

Oh talk to me Muhammad!
Because of you I now have peace for you have eased my troubled mind!
Oh talk to me Muhammad
and as we walk along together we will get along just fine,
and as I travel down life’s road I will get along just fine.

For a video of the artist performing it himself:

Or if this works for you:

Friday, December 07, 2007

Something Granddaddy Taught Me

I've read somewhere, or maybe heard it said before, that as you get older, a great way to keep your memory sharp is to constantly exercise it, with activities like crossword puzzles. Crosswords are easy--and my granddaddy was an expert. He would work about two of them everyday. And watch Jeopardy. In my estimation, he was a pretty smart man.

I haven't seen him in a while, though. Shortly after my grandmother died, my uncle and aunt began to take care of him, and now they've moved him far away from here, to the other side of the country basically. Whereas before he was only a few hours away, now he is much further so we never get to see him. My parents were going to take care of him but they moved him instead. So I haven't seen him in... years. He is in his late 80's, and he suffers from Alzheimer's disease. Nobody really noticed it, I think, until my grandmother died, except for her. She said he had something wrong with his brain, and nobody understood.

But Granddaddy taught me something which put me among the ranks of those who seek out something far more challenging intellectually satisfying than Sudoku and Crossword Puzzles. If you are asking what sort of puzzle might inspire me to rip it out of the newspaper and stuff it in my purse... the answer is: cryptoquote. Basically, a cryptoquote is an obscure saying by a lesser-known individual (or an anonymous one) which has been encoded, letter by letter. Each letter exchanged for another one in the alphabet--not in order, mind you. You have to guess each letter, but then it follows through the whole quote.

As an example: XWTFMPXXWI is LONGFELLOW. The encoded 'X' corresponds to the letter 'L' while the letter 'W' corresponds to an 'O.' Indeed... the example is hardly enough to get you started. In my case anyway, I don't know how many times I read the instructions and never figured out how to systematically decode a quote. But I'm curious if any of my wiser and more clever readers can.

If needed, I may gave hints in the comment section (in case anyone gets stuck...) But this one is pretty easy. If you get the answer... please post it! :-) (Yes, I already know the answer.)






Thursday, December 06, 2007

I need some motivation

It's been a while, I'll admit, since the last time I really felt my faith sink. Why does that happen? The ups and downs were regular, even frequent, after I first became Muslim. And for a while thereafter. Iman was a roller coaster, I went up and down, and around in circles. I'm sure people always go through phases that are better and worse than others, but--and I am grateful for this--I haven't gone through a bad one for a while. I've had stress, and problems, but sinking faith? Not really.

So why now? Misplaced loyalty, perhaps. Maybe stress and mental fatigue, worries about meeting my obligations--financial, and academic. Maybe it's hormonal. Probably some combination of all of the above. After having a good little cry this afternoon, and a few minutes of sulking (I had no more time to spare) I went to meet with someone who is interested in Islam. I've been meeting with her about once or twice a week for the last month or so, as a mutual friend has graciously offered us free meals when we come there to talk about Islam. (Meals, with drinks, hot tea, and baklava to boot, I might add.)

But today I sat outside the restaurant, reluctant to go in. I wasn't ready to talk about Islam, not favorably, as I had, today, come across different offenses to my nature and sensibilities. (I'm not saying what they were exactly, suffice to say they were personal and highly emotional issues... thus the reaction I had, perhaps.) Probably not the best time to give da'wah, when you're dragging your faith like a ball chained to your ankle.

But after about 10 minutes of pouting, sulking reflection, I toughened up, faked a smile, and went on inside. As I arrived, she was finishing a chapter in The Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Islam, which I had loaned her some weeks back, on Jihad.

Now wasn't that interesting? It was almost a relief, really, because I truly believe that the concept of jihad is the most noble framework for a military policy outlining proper objectives and conduct for dealing with any kind of enemy. In fact, it's hard for me to see any kind of martial combat taking place outside the context of jihad to be corrupt, injust, and by very nature oppressive. So I can easily speak highly of jihad, even with my faith dragging on the floor.

And that actually eased me, somewhat, and the conversation did open up and I opened up. Fell down again, metaphorically, when the night was over, though. So I went for a walk when I got home... it didn't do much to help either. And here I am. Still feeling cheated, abused, and like a loser. Wish I knew why. And wish things would change.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Radical Christians?


1. of or going to the root or origin; fundamental: a radical difference.
2. thoroughgoing or extreme, esp. as regards change from accepted or traditional forms: a radical change in the policy of a company.
3. favoring drastic political, economic, or social reforms: radical ideas; radical and anarchistic ideologues.
4. forming a basis or foundation.
5. existing inherently in a thing or person: radical defects of character.

I don't understand this word, when applied to religious people, especially in a negative context. But I'm not posting to discuss semantics. Instead, I'm curious what people think about this particular video:

That Christian missionaries are all over the place thinking they're saving people from hell doesn't surprise me. (I grew up in churches affiliated with the SBC.) However, if the government is supporting this, helping this... hmmmmmmm.... that kinda bothers me. Anyway. The same words out of the mouths of Muslims (rather than Baptists) would light a fire of hatred and rhetoric about 'spreading by the sword' and other nonsense. I just wonder. Thoughts?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Locked in my apartment

I tend to take for granted that I live in a country where common sense and courtesy aren't far out concepts. I would never have imagined such silliness as I am about to describe coming from a landlord here.

You see, our apartment building had a very nice breezeway with carpet. Before renovations. Yet the entire complex is now being renovated and guess what? The nice carpet? Gone. In favor of what? Some kind of concrete, apparently. Why? Well my first objection is because I really liked the carpet, especially on the stairs... which are now just painted metal (ew!). Looks very tacky anyway.

But concrete, as you may know, takes time to dry... and I live on the second floor so escaping out through the porch (which for me is a balcony) is not really an option! The problem is if I don't leave my apartment in time, i.e., before they put down the concrete, I'm locked in basically or else it will be ruined.

Yes, they did give us warning. First a week-long window when we had to be prepared that we couldn't enter our second floor apartments for the day (between 8am and 5pm!). And then a specific day--last week we got a note saying today was the today. Well I forgot and slept in this morning and when I got up... hmm... couldn't go out. So I was pretty much stuck in the apartment until late afternoon when I had to go to class.

Unfortunately... someone (one of my neighbors) forgot about it too, and had to venture onto the wet concrete before it dried. (You see how inconvenient this is, that we can't get into our homes for a day--maybe we're spoiled?) So the company has to come back again tomorrow to fix it. So irritating. All for this ugly green concrete.

I would've thought that our landlord would have a little more courtesy than have this stuff put in that is going to be so inconvenient for the tenants... not to mention really ugly.

But apparently not! I hope I get out in time, tomorrow!

The creepy bad smell from the fridge

For the last two weeks or so, there has been a very bad smell in the back of my fridge. I haven't found it yet. Which is kind of shocking because I have had to throw out not a small amount of food which has long outstayed its welcome in the icebox.

If you think about it... it's gross. It makes eating food out of the fridge that much harder, knowing that the food has been in a place that smelled like... that. But now for two weeks I've been throwing out cold, hardened baklava, rice and kabobs, orange jello, old grapes, a half-eaten candy apple... in an effort to find the smelly culprit. I haven't found it yet--none of what I've pulled out has smelled remotely like the noxious odor that nearly knocks me out as I open the door... and of course it still smells... perhaps even worse than before. (Not a good sign!) Now there were a lot of leftovers that are being eaten and so space is clearing out, but it's still too full apparently for me to find the problem.

Now maybe I have a habit of throwing things out of the fridge. I really hate to see things in there which I have no intention of eating. It should only be allowed to stay if I do intend to eat it! That's my rule. For my readers who have read way back from last May... you might recall when I threw out all expired and "questionable" foods belonging to my roommates when I moved in with them.

But I have heard that there is something bad with throwing food away. Perhaps this is why some people I know just keep filling up the fridge and freezer until the space is exhausted and things begin to smell? Islamically--I am asking--is there something wrong with throwing food away? Should I be more diligent about eating the browning lettuce and moldy bread? I don't really understand why there is a problem with throwing things away--I'm not talking here about cooking a meal, eating a portion, and throwing the rest out. Saving it and eating as much as I can I don't mind. But eventually it goes bad, before I can finish it... can't keep it. I don't really feel like I'm being "wasteful," and I don't think it's any better to store food in the fridge until it goes bad to have an excuse for not eating it again.

You see, someone told me that people's food will run after them on the Day of Judgment... and to me, that makes no sense at all. Is that something parents just say to their kids to make them eat? Or what?

Not sure why it is that I so hate having old food around, but it's very difficult to cook for just one or two. The fact that it builds up in the fridge and begins to smell, and there is an accompanying guilt trip to throwing it away just makes it worse. If it were up to me, I would throw everything away that wasn't going to get eaten, or eaten in the near future. Throw it away or throw it "out" (breads and such for birds and so on.) I wouldn't let it sit in the fridge (like that candy apple--not mine!--that had been in there for a month, or the baklava since Ramadan.)

I just don't understand. If you don't want it... why keep it? Just my thoughts. Interested in what other people think or do about this.

Oh, and when I was a kid I learned this little song that was supposed to encourage us to eat what was put in front of us:

I love broccoli, it's such a tasty sight!
And liver makes me quiver, with sheer delight!
I always clean my plate, morning, noon, and night,
I'm thankful for each bite!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Hijab - Not a symbol

Some of my more intimate acquaintances may know this about me: that I didn't always think hijab was mandatory or obligatory for women. (If you find this to be especially shocking, please take a deep breath before reading on...)

In fact, my first introductions to Islam involved arguing against the necessity of hijab. (Another deep breath please.)

Even when I finally decided to start wearing hijab, I was not fully convinced that as a Muslimah, I needed to. (Calm down... it's ok.)

I started to wear it by challenging myself, to prove covering was not too difficult for me, and to conquer any fear which might have up until then prevented me. Aware that I needed to wear it to pray, I accepted it (begrudgingly) but as a full-time habit, I disagreed. Yet I wore it anyway, to prove I could, to decide whether I should, and to proudly declare that yes, I am Muslim, and I'm not afraid to say so.

The secret was that I liked wearing it, once I started. I felt uniquely feminine, and dignified. I identified with it, and began to appreciate it. And finally I did accept it as an obligation (long after I started wearing it), succumbing to the vastly overwhelming opinion of scholars that it is, in fact, obedience to Allah.

Before my change of attitude, taking off the hijab to visit my family, or to work out at the gym, did not bother me so much - a minor inconvenience, only slightly uncomfortable. Yet afterwards, it became a more serious issue, one that has been aggravating my familial relationships for the last year. In front of my immediate family I don't mind to take it off but with my sisters' husbands around, I feel loathe to uncover--which they take as an offense. (How the male mind might reach that conclusion, I am left to wonder.)

Yet as I become increasingly convinced of the necessity and propriety of covering my body (I prefer to say covering my body rather than covering "my hair" or "my head") I refuse to waver on this principle. I assert that I am covering out of obedience to God, and that not only should I be permitted to wear hijab but that I in fact must wear it and nobody can reasonably nor sensibly object.

To say that I must make a decision whether to cover and sever familial ties, or to join my family by uncovering as per their wishes, truly calls into question the obedience of Allah, of the Creator, over that of the creation. Wearing hijab does not symbolize that I am Muslim. Covering is not symbolic of my faith. It is an act of faith, and notice the distinction.

Today, I wear it not to say that I am a Muslim, I simply wear it because I am Muslim and Allah has commanded me to. The observation that "some Muslim women don't wear it and they want to fit in" has no impact on the instruction for women to cover, no more than a drunkard on the prohibition of alcohol. "Some Muslims" don't pray either, but alhamdulillah I am not one of them. I choose to practice Islam, and I love to practice Islam, and Allah has made it easy for me.