I thought I would post this very interesting article from a friend’s secret blog He’s an American Muslim who recently changed careers and moved overseas (unfortunately for him without his wife) to Saudi Arabia in order to teach English. I found his perspective on women there very interesting. We could also apply this to Muslim society in the US where seclusion and separation can go to ridiculous extremes (even in our Mosques/Mosque boards).
A girly shopping topic…
Ok so you know how like when you see this girl wearing something sooo gorgeous and you’re like ‘OMG that is sooo cute…where did you get it?’. Then she says ‘ICNA/ISNA’ and to add insult to injury she says ‘and it was only 20 bux!’ and then you’re like wahhhh i went to isna and the only thing that I could find was this auntie style jilbab that was like 50 bux *cry
So I’m going to teach you how to rock the ISNA Bazaar. Now these are trade secrets, but since you read my blog I make an exception for y’all. But keep it on the d/l.
Ok so we all know the bazaar at ICNA/ISNA is fabulous. I’m so serious. We all spend so much money during the year buying junk from malls or wherever, getting people generic gifts or wearing blah stuff to weddings/the masjid. But whyyy do we do that instead of trying to find something really awesome and also supporting other Muslims?! Where else can you get the best of the best stuff from all over the Muslim world. AND uniquely Muslim American type things you just can’t find anywhere else even if you visited stores or ethnic store neighborhoods individually. Like in the same place you have every style of hijabs, jilbabs, desi outfits, jewelery, gold, tasbeehs, all manners of Islamic books, french designer hijabi clothes, spanish muslim leatherbound albums, framed black and white photographs, wooden art calligraphy… I mean really you been there so I don’t need to go on and on..
Here’s the strategy…
First of all, during the year you should be saving money for shopping. If you don’t have any money do not, whatever you do, do not not walk into the bazaar.
Ok so a few weeks before the conference/convention coming up, start making a list of things you need and would like to get there. Are there any weddings coming up? Do you need some new lecture CDs? Want to get certain type of books? Need an outfit for Eid? Be specific too… a light blue hijab, black sleeves, hamza yusuf’s latest CD set. You can even bring fabric samples of your things to find matching colors. (There’s no better place to find exactly matching hijab/jewelry!) Write these all down on a list that you’re going to bring with you. Think of a budget for each. For the wedding gift say you’re looking for something around $75, for your friend’s wedding you want to spend about $100 for your outfit, for new Hijabs you’ve set aside $50…whatever, but try to make it practical and know your money is divided up in blocks for the certain things you wanted. Bring that amount in cash. Try hard not to use your credit card or go to the ATM which will make you go over your budget.
(Don’t forget to set aside some money for charity as well. There are so many amazing beautiful causes that set up booths in the bazaar as well like women’s shelters, islamic relief and even ppl trying to build a mosque in Alaska!)
Then you arrive… first day at ISNA/ICNA this is what you do: Walk through the bazaar at a steady pace checking out what’s there. Needless to say you should be wearing moderately comfortable shoes. From one end to the other up and down. You are window shopping to see what prices different people have for various things. BUT if you see something fabulously unique or amazing BUY IT IMMEDIATELY. Remember those hand-made Islamic spanish leather diaries, I was like ‘sooo gorgeous’ I’ll buy one later, took a circuit around the bazaar and came back and they WERE GONE!! Never to be seen again at any ISNA So if there is something beautiful, unique or perfect buy it.
Ok so now you have the general layout of the bazaar down, you have an idea of prices and where the best quality stuff is. Schedule some chunks of time from your lecture and events schedule and go down the aisles from one end to the other. Start from one side and remember the aisle numbers, like you just did from 100 to the 500s the day before, so when you come back you’ll continue from booths 500 etc. Avoid times when the bazaar is hugely crowded like Saturday nights or main meal times. You’ll just waste time squeezing through people and getting run over by ubiquitous baby carriages. If clothes shopping, the racks are going to be full and it will be crowded but do your best to go through them all to find things you love. Most stall owners will allow you to take the item to a bathroom to try on if you’re really interested. Then over the next days you buy the things you have down on your list…. kid’s books for your niece/nephews check, a funny muslim t-shirt for your brother check, a light blue hijab and matching bracelets for your outfit at home check etc.
Don’t forget to always pick up people’s cards or catalogs for interesting products and items. There have been so many times this has been useful to me during the year when I want to refer something to someone or need something again.
YOU HAVE TO BARGAIN! Did you think cuz you were in Amreeka now everything was fixed price? Sorry no… when I was a student I was sooo good at this, I never bought anything at the first price, not even books or anything. You can usually get people to bring down their prices on everything.
The best people to learn from on how to shop at these bazaars are from aunties. Stop and watch a few and learn. These ladies grew up knowing how to shop at bazaars! I watched a few and noticed right away that they immediately start chatting to the shop keepers. They totally dig through every outfit rack and every bin to find amazing stuff. They’re not shy about saying something is too expensive or that someone’s selling the same thing for cheaper somewhere else. They get huge discounts if they buy stuff in multiples. They never act like they really want something even if they want it. They establish a ‘bargained over’ price even if they walk away so when they come back they can buy it at that price instead of the shop keeper knowing you came back for it and keeping the price high.
A Note: Now we’re all Muslim here and that’s fine. If you’re wealthy go ahead and give the shopkeeper the extra few dollars. But I’m assuming I’m talking to girls and students who have saved all year trying to buy a few nice things, so to maximize their money they should bargain and know that no shopkeeper will EVER sell anything lower than their cost.
While you’re in the bazaar enjoy yourself as well. You’ll run into old friends, meet some interesting people, maybe taste-test some new things. See some really wacky bizarre things, some really amazing new things going on in the Ummah. It’s fun! I’m a person that loves souks and bazaars. I hate malls tho Not to actually buy stuff, just because it’s so social, interesting and fun. I’d even take walks down the souk near my house in Damascus just to enjoy the experience.
Finally last day: a lot of people just drop their prices like crazy….$20 jilbabs, stuff for way less. They want to sell everything so they don’t have to carry that junk home. And you know what they say…one person’s junk is another person’s treasure Spend an hour and just go through the bazaar looking for any cool bargains.
Ok then, there you go ladies…hope you get some awesome stuff and can’t wait to see it
Some interesting pics from last year’s bazaar:
Has anyone ever thought about what differentiates us from animals? Like really thought about it? They eat, we eat. They sleep, we sleep. They have relationships, so do we. Is it that we think? That we have complex societies? But so do they. So what makes us different? We worship Allah but so do they (better than us).
What makes us different is our choices. We have the choice of going against our Nafs (self). Instead of following our lower instincts, emotions and base needs, we can choose not to follow them. We can rise above and try to emulate more ‘divine’ qualities. This is what makes us superior to other creatures.
When someone hurts us or does wrong to us, our first instinct is to hate or for revenge. But to rise above it, turn against those instincts and choose to forgive or show mercy truly takes struggle and exertion. It takes our true humanity coming through. Can you see a lion standing over a baby gazelle saying, “Awww poor thing I guess I won’t eat it!”? Never happens. But humans, what makes us different is our ability to go against ourselves and show this compassion and mercy.
A Hadith says “Show mercy so that you may be shown mercy, forgive and Allah will forgive you.” The Quran asks us “Do you not love that Allah should forgive you?” [Quran 24:22]
The reason I say all this is that I’ve witnessed people not showing compassion and mercy in certain circumstances. And Yes they may have the right NOT to, having gone through a great injustice, but I can’t describe how absolutely cold and ugly it is. It is animalistic and base. It is not human. Not being able to show mercy just puts us back on par with animals.
And when is the time to show mercy? When things are all great and we are rich and we deign to drop a penny in a bum’s cup on our way into Macy’s? No, it’s in those greatest times and trials where we are tested the most. When we don’t WANT to forgive. When our rights have been trampled upon. When we have been hurt the most. When our instinct is to hurt and hate back and punish. We stand over the gazelle with the knife in our hand, hatred in our eyes, but then we stop. We breathe, we look away, we drop the knife and walk away. We even force ourselves to make sure the gazelle is ok. We realize that it is we who were wrong. That we are human beings created in the best of moulds. That we must strive towards compassion and mercy if we are to expect any ourselves.
It is hard, yes. So is giving Zakat in hard times, so is fasting when we’re hungry. What was all that about? Allah trying to teach us to give up our earthly desires and strive for something better. To train us to be above our Nafs, to become more than animals, to become the best of creation.
I leave you to think about this the next time such a circumstances comes your way when you really don’t want to forgive or show mercy.