Wednesday, October 28, 2009

With soap, please

I like soap. I like how it gets all foamy and makes your hands all slippery. I think it's cool how the soap decreases the surface tension of the water (making bubbles!) and bonds with the dirt. So it lets the water mix with the dirt so it can wash it off your hands, instead of just washing over the dirt. But I especially like when soap leaves your hands smelling nice after you wash.

So I buy soap at Bath & Body Works, and I like nothing if not variety. In my bathroom, at the moment, I have four different soap dispensers available for use, plus a bottle of aromatherapy lotion. I have one dispenser that matches the bathroom decor, with some generic kind of soap in it. I have two containers of "gentle foaming" anti-bacterial soap, one is "Coconut Lime Verbena" and the other is "White Citrus." I also have one dispenser of the "deep cleansing" anti-bacterial scrubbing soap in "Rain-Kissed Leaves" scent.

With all this variety, I started to wonder what other people would choose, as far as soap, when they visited my bathroom. Do people prefer the deep cleansing or foaming?

Well, last time I had company I asked a person, after exiting the bathroom, which kind of soap they used. Imagine my shock and dismay (or, um, disgust) as the following conversation ensued:

"I didn't use soap."
"Why not?"
"I didn't want to get my hands wet."
"So you didn't even rinse your hands?"
"OKAY! I'll go wash my hands!"

Weird excuses, huh? I guess I've been thinking more about soap since the recent study about what kind of messages are likely to prompt people to wash their hands with soap. For the record, a wide variety of soaps available might not be enough to convince people to wash with soap. But if any of you ever decide to visit me, please remember... the soap is there for a reason, and not just decoration.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Making Hijab Easy

Click for Photo CreditEven though I might normally get very bored, very quickly when talking about hijab, it's an issue I had a hard time dealing with in the first stages of my entry into Islam. For many people, however, it can be a very important issue, including those who don't wear it, just started wearing it, or aren't even Muslim at all. Maybe it's because hijab is so visible, and very easy to cause polarizing points of view.

When approaching Islam, I think it's better to start with the fundamentals of the faith, instead of tackling an external issue like hijab. So I will say upfront that a Muslim is someone who believes in God and submits to His will and His commandments. A Muslim woman, therefore, should strive to obey God's commandments and instructions, including covering herself in a manner appropriate in Islam, as mentioned in the Qur'an (24:31.)

And even though the obligation of hijab gets a lot of people talking, what I really want to say here is something that I don't think gets as much discussion. If we get past the issue of why wear hijab (here are some good reason why, if you aren't sure), what comes next is actually putting it on, the how, and steps you can take to make wearing hijab easier.

The first step is to learn more about Islam; not about Islamic history, or fiqh, but learn about Allah, and learn about the Hereafter. Read the Qur'an, for instance. This can help increase your faith in Allah, and will make it easier to love and follow Islam.

The second step is to sincerely make du'a to Allah, that He make Islam easy to follow. Pray that He joins your heart to what He loves, and makes you hate that which He hates. And pray that He turns your heart towards His obedience, because He is, after all, the Turner of the Hearts.

Another thing that will make wearing hijab easier is to spend more social time around other women or girls who wear hijab. It's easy for us to adopt the habits and behaviors of our friends and companions, and harder to be different. So if we spend time around people who don't wear hijab or aren't even Muslim, it will be even harder to start wearing it. The opposite is also true, that it will become easier to wear it when you are spending time around others who wear it. This step and the previous two are also useful advice for sisters who are trying to wear jilbabs routinely, or even niqab.

And one more thing to do to make wearing hijab easier is to find some scarves and clothing that you would like to wear. In the northern hemisphere now it's becoming colder, and that should make wearing hijab easier because wearing more clothing in general is becoming acceptable. This is a great time to start wearing hijab as a habit, because by the time spring rolls around it should be much easier to wear it. So find clothes that are comfortable, or fashionable, or whatever it takes to make you wear them, provided that they can qualify for hijab. So instead of wearing an ugly skirt that doesn't fit, for example, try wearing a trendy one you feel comfortable donning in public. Find scarves that can match or even enhance your outfits. If you can see it as a potentially fashionable accessory instead of a dowdy afterthought, that might make it easier to start wearing regularly. If you don't know where to find headscarves, try looking at local malls and department stores. Even Target and Wal-Mart now carry many kinds of wrap style hijabs at great prices--take advantage of that.

And the very last step is just to put it on. Don't talk yourself out of it by overemphasizing the commitment. Set small challenges--try to wear it just for one hour, then just for one day. Looking at it as a small commitment instead of a long-term one might help fight the whispers of Shaytaan--he's only trying to make you doubt yourself, and delay you from the path of righteousness.

And when things get hard, as they inevitably will, go back to the first two steps, and ask Allah to make it easy, to strengthen your resolve, and to guide you along the Straight Path.

Have We not opened your breast for you (O Muhammad (Peace be upon him))?
And removed from you your burden,
Which weighed down your back?
And raised high your fame?
So verily, with the hardship, there is relief,
Verily, with the hardship, there is relief.
So when you have finished (from your occupation), then stand up for Allah's worship (i.e. stand up for prayer).
And to your Lord (Alone) turn (all your intentions and hopes and) your invocations.
Surat Ash-Sharh (94)

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I was pretty disappointed with myself today. I wanted to talk to my Sunday Schoolers about Halloween, and I wound up doing exactly the thing I wanted to avoid--telling them things are "haraam."

I guess what I want to do with the class is convince them about the superiority of Islam, and its applicability to their lives. I thought I could do it today, when talking about Halloween, but now I think now. May Allah help those girls--increase them in faith and ease their difficulties.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Adventures in Salad

So, I know a couple of my friends are excellent chefs, and that's great for them, really. I'm just not in that club of people who ever learned how to cook anything properly. And there are very few things that I know how to make with any degree of confidence, if they require more than two ingredients.

But that doesn't stop me from trying. There's a restaurant here in the Raleigh area that has some really excellent salad called fatoush. It's got cucumbers, tomatoes, and peppers in it, with a dressing of olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. And it's got some herbs in it, too. And since I've been trying to eat healthier myself (and hopefully get my parents to eat healthier), I ambitiously attempted to make the salad myself, at home.

First I went to the grocery store--the new Harris Teeter (I love Harris Teeter... I'm gonna miss it when I move inshaaAllaah) that's just opened up by my house--and bought the ingredients. Peppers, tomatoes, a cucumber, lemon juice (since I don't have a juicer I didn't buy fresh lemons) and I also bought some fresh parsley, mint, and cilantro.

When I got home, I went about learning how to chop herbs. That's right folks, I didn't know how to chop fresh herbs. And some might say that I still don't. The recipe called for about 2-3 tablespoons of each kind of herb chopped, so I pulled some from the bunch, chopped off the stems, and went about chopping as best I could. But I didn't measure and really had no idea how much would amount to 2-3 tablespoons of chopped herbs. And I apparently cut way, way, too much. Of everything. I had probably about a cup of each type of herb.

Then I went and cut up a huge tomato, a longish cucumber, one green and one red bell pepper. This I knew how to do (more or less) since I'd at least done it before. But with me, any kind of fresh vegetable (or fruit) always means adventure. I was putting my veggies and herbs in the same dish and realized that I had nearly as many herbs as everything else! So I took out about half of them and set them aside.

Then I realized I didn't have any garlic--and asked my mom to buy me some on the way home. Garlic is something I've only just learned how to chop. Actually, what I learned is that if you squash a clove of garlic under your knife (like a chef's knife) then it's really easy to peel, and then I just put it in a garlic press. The recipe called for about 3 cloves. I added 5, just because it was kinda fun to squash them.

Then I added some olive oil and lemon juice. But I didn't feel like measuring, really--so I've got no real clue how much oil or juice I added. I know I was supposed to add about 1/2 cup of oil, and the "juice of 2 lemons." But since I didn't have actual lemons, it's not like I could tell how many lemons' worth of juice I was actually adding.

Now I've got a huge bowl of salad that will burn your lips, and nobody will eat it but me. I know my problem with it is that there's just too much parsley, or cilantro, or mint, or garlic, although probably all that. So I just pick out the other pieces with a fork, toss in some pita bread (which thankfully dulls the potency) and try to eat it as fast as I can before the taste catches up with me.

Engagement Picture

Haha... not mine.

My brother and his fiance had their engagement pictures taken a week or so ago. Most of them are crooked like this one, so you have to tilt your head to see. But anyway, they look cute so I thought I'd put a photo up here.

Their wedding is 3 weeks after mine inshaaAllaah, on Thanksgiving weekend.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Changing Worship

Last week my dad and I went to Red Lobster for lunch. We hadn't gone out just the two of us in a while so it was (mostly) nice to have a while to talk to him. One of the things that came up right as we came home was a change in worship practices (in Christian churches.) I would've liked to pursue the topic further but I was already late to a meeting and had to rush out again right away.

At the time, he implicitly suggested that one reason he doesn't like attending church nowadays is that the worship services have changed from what he was used to. His question: God doesn't change, so why should we change the way we worship?

I don't think he knows, but that alone is a very clear argument for Islam. What bothers him, I think is that more "contemporary" services cater to a younger crowd, trying to bring them into church rather than push them away. So they use contemporary music, live bands in the worship service, instead of singing the same old tired hymns with an organ and a choir. But that's what he finds comfortable--the hymns and the choir.

But did people sing these hymns with a choir and an organ while Jesus was alive? Surely not. What about in the first millennium of Christianity? Nope! In fact, singing hymns is a fairly recent development that at best only goes back a few hundred years. That means that yes, sure enough, worship has changed. It changed language (from Aramaic, to Greek, to Latin, before ever making it into English, and it's taken many other courses as well) as has even the very "Word of God" according to Christians. It's changed in many ways over the years and will continue to change. Do you know why?

Because Christians aren't worshiping the way God told humans to worship Him. What makes a person think that God likes hymns any more than he likes rock? The proponents of contemporary worship would certainly consider that any grateful noise they make should suffice if it makes them happy and elevates their spirits. And isn't that what it's all about? Maybe, if you're Christian.

That's why it works as an argument for Islam. You see, Muslims have been worshiping the exact same way since the time of the last Prophet of Islam (Muhammad ) and that's over 1400 years! They pray the same way, they read the same book in the same language, and conduct worship services exactly the same way. Do you know why?

Because they were taught, by God, how to worship Him, and that's what they do.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Muslim Day of Prayer?

How can there be an event called a "Muslim Day of Prayer" when Muslims pray 5 times (minimum!) every single day? Even Friday, the day of Jumu'ah, is a day of congregational prayer. So what does it mean to have a "Muslim Day of Prayer?"

I saw the flyers for the event at my masjid, though I've never heard any Muslims refer to the prayer on capitol hill as a "Day of Prayer," a title I've seen only from non-Muslims. Trying to make it sound... I dunno, evil? What's evil about prayer? Or public prayer?

I don't know how the event went overall, but when I found this article in my Google Reader I was just a little confused about the legitimacy of the criticism.

Conservative Christians need to learn be taught the values that they in fact share with Muslims. Don't they know that Muslims value the same things they value? I don't say this to capitulate to non-Muslims, but just as a simple statement. What's our excuse as Muslims (and on a personal level, my own excuse) for non-Muslims being ignorant about our beliefs?