Browsing "islam op-eds"
Mar 6, 2009 - islam op-eds    4 Comments

A scaaaary topic…

Dear blog,

Somehow real people found out about this blog and are now reading it! Ack I’ll have to think of a really scary topic to scare them away. So today, I’m going write about the ugliness of our souls….. still there? *tumbleweed* At least my mom is still reading…ma? maaaaa?!

Ok well anyways blog the other day I was watching this Bollywood horror movie (Yes i know that’s an oxymoron, but I was sick! Don’t I get any type of recreation time after Ulteying a few times?) It was about 3am and I was alone in my room in the dark so that probably made it more effective. The film actually had a semi-decent plot of this beautiful model (c’mon who else!!) who strange things start happening to. This scary looking guy keeps stalking her and one day when someone/thing attacks her he actually saves her. Turns out he’s this artist guy who keeps dreaming about this girl and keeps seeing horrible scenes of her future which he then paints, a la season 1 Heroes. So he is there to warn her, etc etc.

So there’s this one scene where she’s in the bathroom attacked by someone/thing trying to drag her underwater to drown her and she fights him/it off and then looks at the water in the tub and it’s all red. Then when she looks again it’s clear and normal and the candles are still burning and everything’s fine. She thinks maybe she just dreamt it all so she goes to the sink and washes her face with cold water. She takes a deep breath and just looks in the mirror at herself probably calling herself an idiot for believing the artist guy. Then she drops something and bends down to pick it up. For a *split second* as she bends down, THE MIRROR ABOVE THE SINK DOESN’T CHANGE! Then the camera immediately cuts down to her picking whatever up. Then even before we the audience are like ‘did we see? AHHHHHHH’…she stands back up and is looking in the mirror again but then she realizes her in the mirror is not her! It’s like an evil mirror image of her with consciousness that came to life looking back at her! They look at each other for a few seconds before she screams and the evil her just looks back at her. Seriously, it’s a really freaky scene and they filmed it really well to make even us the audience doubt what we were seeing.

And then I started thinking about it, it was so scary because it was her, but she was someone else in the mirror looking back at herself. How scary would it be if we were looking at ourselves in the mirror and all of a sudden the picture changed and it was an evil us looking back at us?

Yet everyday we look at ourselves in the mirror and ignore all our bad and evil characteristics. All our jealousy, anger, hatred, evil-thoughts. Do we not all have an evil side that is always struggling to come out? Have we not done mean, selfish things when we were given a choice? What about that time you never stopped to pick up that guy on that really cold day because you were late for Jumah? What about that time you really hated that girl because she was so pretty? What about that time when you were asked for charity and you thought oh, I might need this later? Truly, when you start thinking about these things, like me, just like that girl, you’ll never want to look in the mirror again.

Still, one Day we will have to look at that mirror so what can we do?

One of the most important lessons that I took away from Sh. Mokhtar’s Hajj seminar was about how we should be at Arafat. When you go, he told us, just be yourself. ACKNOWLEDGE yourself. Allah already knows all your deeds, your past, your future, your good, your evil. He doesn’t need any pretend goodness, play-acting or anyone else. On that wide plain of Arafat with those millions of people you just need to come there and acknowledge all your sins, acknowledge all you are, repent and ask God in sincerity for His forgiveness. Just empty your heart and show your real self.

How beautiful.

Why don’t we do that, in our daily life? Why don’t we acknowledge what we are, understand our own failings and realize the mistakes we have made. I know I for one have a hard time acknowledging my ‘evil side’ but I know it’s there. If I can just accept that and work on it, even if it’s there on the inside I know I’m being true to myself. Perhaps I can meld my two halves and one day come to look in the mirror and even smile.

Feb 20, 2009 - islam op-eds    10 Comments

Are you religious?

Recently I’ve heard some younger sisters say they don’t want to marry someone “too religious”. I thought that was unusual in that I figure someone who is religious would make a good husband.

(But I think they mean someone who believes in certain things and would “force” their wife to also do those things, like for example Niqab, or not watching movies/music, or something along those lines.)

So I was thinking… what makes someone religious? How do you know someone is religious? Am *I* religious?

Growing up my Dad would unfailingly take us to the Mosque every Friday and Sunday for classes. He came from a typically religious Indian Muslim family back home and his older brother was a “Maulvi”. (I think they actually tried to send my Dad to the Muslim seminary to become one too, but he has this hilarious story of how he ran away the first day cause he hated it!) My father I’m sure wanted to be certain that we got the Islamic education we were supposed to. We were never allowed to “skip” these Friday/Sundays even if we were a little sick or someone in our regular school class had a birthday party or something. Looking back I’m probably thankful. I grew up knowing I’d always be at the mosque on Fridays and Sundays and my personal friends/personal life pretty much revolved around that.

Anyway, so starting college was quite an interesting experience in that no more Mosque! Well I was graduated now and didn’t have to go! Not only that I met tons of “Muslims” on campus but they were so weird. Some had girlfriends/boyfriends, some drank, some knew absolutely nothing and I mean nothing about Islam. It was a very strange experience. That’s when we re-started up the MSA at Su…err i mean K.U.K.Y and one summer after interning at a Muslim organization let’s call it N.A.S.A. I decided to start wearing the Hijab. (oooo I bet you guys thought I’ve been wearing the Hijab since i was 12 1/2 sooo bustedd blog that’s what you get for assuming things!)

So when we had Muslim events at K.U.K.Y or around I’d wear Jilbab. Just as a …you know this is a religious event let me try to wear something that goes with the theme. For real, Jilbabs are really nice and they cover pretty well, you wear whatever you want underneath and you just color-co-ordinate your scarf with it. But over the years now somehow I’ve gotten this reputation of being…what? Ultra- religious-conservative? I don’t know.

I don’t consider Jilbab the only Islamic dress out there, there are surely lots of kinds of dress which cover just as well, such as the Malaysian tunic and skirt… the Desi shalwar kameez, the American long top and loose pants. But you know there’s just something about Jilbab that changes people’s opinions about you. Suddenly you’re “religious” and “respected”, brothers stand 5 feet away from you and look at the floor. Certain aunties approve of you and certain girls make sure not to be your friends.

It’s so inculcated among Muslims to make judgments about a girl based upon her dress. Aside: This goes back to a larger problem we have in our Ummah in my opinion, which is the emphasis on the outer – the formal and ignoring the inner – spirituality, character, values, etc. Why are there Muslims that lie and cheat others and yet fast in Ramadan. Why are there Muslims that never miss Isha in the Masjid but they are selling liquor and porn at their corner stores. Why are there Muslim kids that know how to pray by heart but have absolutely no idea what they’re saying or why. We have become this Ummah that emphasizes ritual and have lost our essence.

This also happens especially to sisters who don’t wear the Hijab. Why assume that she’s not a good Muslim? She probably prays and wears modest things and has values just like any other Muslim does. She may not wear the Hijab (something required) but we all know someone wearing the Hijab might not be doing something they are supposed to either.

I realized all this a few years ago and stopped wearing the Jilbab regularly for this reason. I have problems, deficiencies, and sins as much as the next person, if not i believe more, and it just bothered me that others would assume things about me based upon that.

Someone might say here: Who cares what other people think, you’re doing something good so you should do it. But in this case I don’t consider Jilbab better than the other forms of dress I mentioned, it is only in other peoples minds where the “assumation” is.

I found it really interesting this year when some new people moved to this area and when they first met me they didn’t assume anything. They had no idea how religious I was or anything about me. It was very refreshing and somewhat amusing, but definitely a learning experience.

Anyway so back to religiousness… I would like to define “religious” as someone who practices Islam at their level, strives to improve themselves in it, and strives to improve those around them with it.

So this is not a perfect person, but a person that puts some priority on their Islam and wanting to improve and they also go one level further and are trying to change the world around them by either activism, following Islamic principles, teaching others or whatever.

This is a much broader and open-minded definition that includes more people and excludes a few others. Using this definition, I’ve known some non-Hijabi girls that I think are religious. Some are very active in doing many things to improve the lot of humanity and I find it a shame that our Muslim organizations exclude them when they are such an asset. Aside: Even some “bad Muslims” perhaps do better Dawah than our “good ones”. I am sooo serious. Like all those famous ‘Muslim’ Bollywood stars that drink or whatever, yet all they have to say is that Islam is a religion of peace after some terrorism act hits their country and a billion Bollywood fans have been given real Dawah.

And using my definition I’m going to say some people who others think are “religious” I would say are not. I really wish everyone could think of religious in this way instead of believing a religious person is just one who prays and fasts and does everything perfectly. I mean even Allah says it’s not the meat or blood of the sacrifice that reaches Him but our piety. (Reference: Quran 22: 37) Allah does not need our worship, our praying, fasting or our Hijab. It is for our own benefit only.Yes we have to do it, yes we should strive for it, and yes we should encourage others for it. But, form without soul has no benefit and a soul without form is Baatil (empty of worth). That is the real point.

So am I religious…heck ya.

…and I hope you are too! :D

P.S. Post-blog thinking quiz:

hijabcartoon

Who is religious here?

Dec 12, 2007 - islam op-eds    5 Comments

On seeking Islamic knowledge…(in person)

Where were you?

I remember right out of high school being at ISNA Headquarters in a tiny little cornfield town called Plainfield, Indiana. Very plain, except for the surrounding farms and fields and maybe a new development at the edge of town. And in a special week in a warmer than usual August attending what would be the fledgling beginnings of a youth program called Alim. Back then it was a few classes a day on various subjects like Islamic law, Arabic, and Hadith. The class that was to be my favorite was on Seerah by a man then unknown as Abdul Hakim Jackson.

So many years later, I found myself again a few weeks ago in a Seerah class by a now fairly renowned Dr. Professor Sherman Jackson. This time in an elegant law building on the campus of NYU on a busy touristy December weekend in Manhattan.

I never realized until taking this class again what an impact that one week in August really had on me. So many of the principles of Dawah I have carried with me over the last ten years, guiding my activities in my community, on my website, in my interactions with others have been solely derived from that one class in August. So many of my ‘theories’ and ideas of Islam were so thoroughly influenced, it has lasted to this day. (Not to mention inculcating a life-long love of Seerah, which my bookshelf attests too.)

The reason I tell you this is that, this time, before and after the class so many people asked me to take notes and share it with them.

How can I share notes of 6 hours a day? How can I explain a person’s hand movements and expressions, inflection of voice and laugh? How can I impart the atmosphere of a class, the energy between teacher and student, the underlining of a word in chalk. The before class, the after class, the private interactions, the harmony of praying together. The shared emotions of a group listening to the last moments of their Prophet’s life and then witnessing a new Muslim testifying the declaration of faith in front of you as tears slide down a person’s cheek next to you.

Even if I have audio, video, how can I make you have the experience.

How can I give you something that has affected me for ten years?

I can’t.

Why weren’t you there?

Yes, you had this test coming up, this paper to write, this party to attend, this obligation and that. But, what about the last class? And the one before that? The one after that? The one coming up? What about the one ten years ago/from now?

Time slips by so quickly and we miss the opportunities that we could have benefited ourselves with. How can any Muslim come to a good age and not know a word of Arabic? How can they not know anything about Seerah, Islamic history, Hadith? Are we not ashamed of calling ourselves Muslim and knowing nothing about our religion except what we need to get by.

We all have obligations. We all have goals. But where were you? Where are you in this caravan of knowledge, self-improvement and spirituality? Where is your motivation? Where is your zeal and love for Islamic knowledge?

Yes. I know we all have ipods, audio downloads and youtube. But can you imagine an Imam Siraj speech’s affect on a 15 year old at a MYNA camp, compared to watching it on youtube? Can you imagine listening to a podcast of Sh. Hamza’s Saturday night speech at ISNA and having the same buzz of being there? Can you imagine a week long profound class on Seerah in notes. Have you ever tried to read notes from an Islamic class?!

Have you ever seen a picture of the Kabah and have you ever been there?

It’s NOT THE SAME. You need to be there. I can tell you how sweet it is. What it feels like. What it looks like. But will you ever taste it?

Never.

So, next class, next speech, next conference, next retreat think about it. Maybe you can shift some things around. Maybe you can organize your schedule so you can attend.

Maybe you can be the one writing the notes.

P.S. This is not directed at anyone particular, not even those who asked for notes :) I direct this to myself first. (I did not attend the Makkan period class when it came last year, how much I regret this you now know) I hope only that we may all make extra effort in the future in improving ourselves as Muslims.