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Apr 6, 2012 - writings    6 Comments

Things that annoy me

OK going to go back to posting something every Friday even if it’s irrelevant… :D

Feel free to ignore this post….especially if something here annoys you ;)

Things that annoy me:

- “friends” that diss you for long periods of time then assume you’re still “friends”

- ppl who always argue with you about your statuses on fb/twitter

- women in domestic violence situations who describe how horrible it is to gain your sympathy/help, then the next day say ‘everythings fine’ and are angry with ppl who say otherwise

- bratty kids

- brothers who are 30+ and still players

- mechanics who rip u off cuz ur a girl

- ghetto attitudes in mosques/schools ie everyone should work for free, we shouldn’t have anything nice or think about the future or what we’re doing, the mosque should be junky dirty etc

- aunties who never fail to ask about your marital status

- young girls with pouty/sexualized profile pics

- guys who wax lyrical all about islam and how makeup and pants and intermixing are haram etc then after some time go marry a non-muslim

- wedding crashers

- cheapness

- huge companies that are designed to rip off consumers ie banks, airlines, sprint, time warner etc.

- ppl who think losing weight is easy

- parents who want special treatment for *their* kid

- screaming babies/kids at taraweeh

- muslims who act like they don’t watch movies or listen to music when they do

- when ppl define beauty based upon amount of melanin

- when guys think women are either docile quiet and islamic or career minded feminizis

…yes i feel better don’t u? ;)

Feb 14, 2012 - writings    7 Comments

An Ode to Divine Love (special V-Day blog)



“O Allah! If I worship You for fear of Hell, burn me in Hell,
and if I worship You in hope of Paradise, exclude me from Paradise.
But if I worship You for Your Own sake,
grudge me not Your everlasting Beauty.”


For V day the last few years I wrote about great examples of Earthly love. They included some of the greatest love stories in history like Elizabeth Barrett Browning & Robert Browning and Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him & Khadija bint Khuwaylid. Well this year since I have no Earthly love to report about :( (le sigh, make Dua ppls) I’m going to go one better and talk about one of the greatest Spiritual love stories ever: The story of Rabia al Adawiyyah.

The amazing thing about Rabia is that she’s just so shrouded in miracles, legends and mystery. She wasn’t wealthy, from a notable family or powerful. She didn’t write any scholarly works, books or an autobiography. She didn’t leave any amazing family or children. She didn’t leave anything behind at all really. Yet her name is well known and famous in the annals of Islamic history. Her fame and legacy comes solely from her dedication and worship of God.

Sometimes when I read some accounts of her I’m just amazed, surprised, awed, amused, curious, even envious. Dudette was no hothouse rose (take note boys), she was one very strong woman. Her first priority was always her Lord and she never let anyone get in her way. She did what she had to do. She was well known in her time and visited by the greatest Muslim Shaykhs of her age. They were hoping to learn from her and she was seen as their equal if not stations above them. She even turned down worldly marriage proposals in so scathingly proper a manner as to make even Elizabeth Bennet envious! :)

Once when she had a proposal from a rich suitor who proudly told her his income was 10,000 Dinars a year, she wrote back that it didn’t please her to be distracted from God for even a single moment! Ouch poor Darcy ;)

In this day and age of debates on whether or not Islam and feminism are compatible, you only have to look at Rabia’s life to see how she probably was the first “Islamic feminist”. She didn’t want to be dependent on any man (or human being) for anything.

Her pithy comments and rejoinders are famously told until today. She just took no fakeness from anyone. Once when someone said to her, “Alas, for my sorrow! (for my sins)”, she said, “Do not lie, but say rather, ‘Alas, for my lack of sorrow’, and if you were truly sorrowful, life would have no delight for you.” Ouch again!

Reading about her life, you’re just intellectually trying to understand how one person can have this much Tawakkul (reliance) on God. She was dirt poor. People wanted to give her gifts, servants, riches, whatever she wanted really and she would just say that if Allah had willed it and wanted it for her, He would have given it to her. She didn’t need it. She had so much respect for not displeasing God, so careful… even to the detriment of herself. How many people even do that? We pray when it’s convenient for us, occasionally in our rich Mosques with every amenity. We have gold inlaid Qurans and beautiful houses. If a burglar entered our house we certainly wouldn’t be busy with prayer ignoring that he was taking our worldly things, saying to ourself ‘Oh maybe he needs them more than me’, like Rabia!

Some reports say she prayed 1000 Rakats a day. I’m thinking to myself, is this even possible? Is this an exaggeration? A non-Sahih Hadith? So I timed a Salah. We can pray a Rakat in under a minute. And in a day there’s 1,440 minutes. Reports say Rabia would pray all day and all night except for a little before dawn, when she would sleep on an old worn prayer mat (that she prayed on). And still with all our beautiful and luxurious prayer rugs (some hanging on our walls beautifully displayed of course) we oftentimes can’t even pray Fard on time.

I am envious that she had this complete faith and dependence on Allah. If she needed something she knew Allah would give it to her. If she didn’t have something she knew it was because Allah didn’t give it to her out of His love for her. How I wish my relationship could be like that! Instead of making Dua for things never knowing if they reach Allah and wondering why Allah didn’t answer it.

I am envious too that she lived on her own and wasn’t dependent on anyone. Her whole world revolved around her worship and she didn’t have to worry about anything else. No worldly concerns, no family to worry about, no friends or frenemies. No Facebook and people making demands on her. No worries about marriage or getting old alone or money. So not dependent on what people think. How I wish I too could have some kind of spiritual retreat or island somewhere away from everyone and everything.

I know our Mosques should be like this, and eventually our prayers wherever we are, and the final level, our hearts. But I am still far from these. In the end, I think Rabia’s story gives me what it has given to people throughout the centuries. It gives my heart inspiration.

“Your Hope in my heart is the rarest treasure
Your Name on my tongue is the sweetest word
My choicest hours
Are the hours I spend with You
O Allah, I can’t live in this world
Without remembering You
How can I endure the next world
Without seeing Your face?
I am a stranger in Your country
And lonely among Your worshippers:
This is the substance of my complaint.”

-Rabia al Adawiyya

Link to more of Rabia’s poetry:

 

Aug 27, 2011 - writings    Comments Off

Ramadan Diary 2011

Ramadan 1432 AH : A Method to its ‘Madness’?

Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Raheem,
Assalaamu Alaikum,

Ramadan for me is made up of good days and ‘bad’ days, difficult moments, and soaring moments, spiritual moments and physical moments, awkward and funny and touching and heartbreaking moments (and sometimes all of the above).

One of the hardest moments for me this year was seeing my friend’s husband carry his father out of the Mosque here. The father has had Parkinson’s disease for years and has been slowly deteriorating, but recently it’s been very difficult to watch. The father, who was at one time a Dawah pillar of his community, is now extremely emaciated and fragile bone like. His body is bent over and constantly shaking and mentally he comes and goes. The son gently lifted him out of his wheelchair and helped move his father’s shaking feet patiently one by one down the cement stairs. It just brought home the fact to me that all our parents are older now and their time to leave will be soon. :(

I also had the chance to pray Taraweeh at my old childhood Mosque, which is actually a multi-million dollar center now. It’s quite a different experience from praying in a backroom of a converted house or borrowed gym! The building itself is beautiful with marble floors, double glass doors and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the woods. Inside the entire second floor is used for Taraweeh. Even the carpet is this beautiful deep rose color with sprigs of flowers. The whole area could probably fit 1 to 2,000 praying people. There’s no barrier between the men and women, just one of those bank line separator things and there’s still a lot of empty space because it’s so big! They have very organized babysitting services. The a/c and sound system is amazing and the recitor is a Morroccan Hafiz that has a very beautiful professional recitation. It almost feels like the Middle East because everything is just so well done. Praying there I could feel space and time roll back and remembered all the Duas I made in this same place as a teenager and as far back as I can remember! To be able to pray seeing our childhood dreams realized was definitely a soaring moment.

In a coincidence, a few days later at another Mosque I walked in and saw this little girl that looked exactly like an old childhood friend when we were little. The same as probably the day we met when we were like 5 years old. The likeness was so startling, it was again like flashing back in time. So strange how Allah reminds us of the happy times in our lives.

One of my more heartbreaking moments this Ramadan was when my baby nephew was really sick. His face was all flushed and he was listless and crying. (Alhamdulillah he’s much better now and back to his bouncy self!) but in that one moment I just realized how much pain mothers in countries like Somalia must be going through, to see their children sick and dying just because of hunger. And even to have to choose which of their children lives and which dies! How can we live in such a world where this goes on? It’s not right that we let such things go on when in it’s in our ability to at least make some kind of effort even if monetarily.

A touching experience for me was praying behind a boy in our community whose father is in jail. I still remember his little face and big eyes the days after the raid and Alhamdulillah with all the troubles he’s been through, we’ve always been worried he’d end up ‘messed up’. But there he was now 15 and looking like a ‘man’, reciting Surah Qaf (my favorite Surah!). It was really a moment that I wish his father could see and be proud of.

There were also some wonderful spiritual moments with Khutbahs and deep reminders by excellent Imams in this area. One Khateeb talked about the death of one righteous predecessor. Two people went to bury him, covered him and started to leave, and then they saw him praying in his grave! They were so astonished and went to ask his sister ‘what is special about him’ and she told them that he used to pray the night prayers every night for 40 years, and at the end he would ask Allah ‘If there is anyone to whom You allow an Ibadah after death, please allow me to pray to You in my grave’. And Allah granted his Dua, and made two witnesses to it so we could know about it!

One day after reading more bad news about something happening in the Ummah, I came across the Ayah: “If a wound hath touched you, be sure a similar wound hath touched the others. Such days (of varying fortunes) We give to men and men by turns; that Allah may know those that believe and that He may take to Himself from your ranks Martyr-witnesses…Did ye think that ye would enter Heaven without Allah testing those of you who fought hard (in His cause) and remained steadfast?” Sometimes the Quran just talks to you and gives you reassurances about what you’re thinking without you even asking!

From the more funny moments, as a single girl in the community inevitably I get the ‘Why aren’t you married? Don’t you want to get married? I have this nephew/uncle back home in eGypt, etc’ type questions. Sometimes I just want to move somewhere and go to a Mosque where no one knows anything about me! I can’t deny Ramadan also gets lonely as you get older and all your friends and siblings move away. I miss the days we used to have Iftar together or when my friends and I used to go to restaurants for Iftars or meet up for Taraweeh.

On one of the days I made the mistake of getting in the middle of a shouting match between two women about the kids in Taraweeh. One Egyptian tante was yelling the kids were making too much noise and should be with their parents. Then one of the African mothers started yelling back that they have to bring their kids and where were they supposed to put them! Alhamdulillah it didn’t get too ugly, unlike at Iftar time where unless there are strict rules in place the women would probably come to blows! I try to explain it away to myself by saying this is just their culture and they don’t know any better, but I mean it’s not! It hurts for me to see people treat the Mosque like a garbage dump, not teaching their kids any manners or etiquette at all, pushing their cultural back home mentality on others or being completely defiant about things even when they know it’s wrong. We should be working to change these things in our Mosques. If Mosques have to implement strict rules and Imams have to talk about basic etiquette every of the 30 days, so be it. If we can’t use this month to improve ourselves as people, and as an Ummah, then what really is the point?

At a Halaqah one day the Shaikh asked us about the Ayah: “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” First, he pointed out that this is a personal responsibility for each of us, not a collective one. Then he asked what does “in themselves” mean? It means everything that is inside of us in our hearts: Inclinations, intentions, desires, feelings, objectives, plans, direction, attitudes, characteristics. We have to ask ourselves what we are inside, what we harbor and move our hearts forward towards Allah by attaining different characteristics that Allah loves – like moving from being angry to being calm; from being impatient to patient; from being miserly to being generous; from being vulgar to having Haya; from being greedy to being selfless; from feeling sovereignty to being humble; from being agitated to being composed. We should be adorning our hearts with these beautiful characteristics so that before we die we’ve attained a pool of characteristics that are “divine like” (because the Divine likes them), so we are worthy of being with the Divine. Is this not a true expression of the whole purpose of Ramadan?

Lastly, the scariest moments for me this Ramadan was post-the earthquake we had here. During the earthquake you’re just immobile, almost enthralled as realization dawns on you that this really is an earthquake. It’s actually fascinating how everything that is solid moves… the floor, the desk, the walls. For some seconds you’re just amazed, almost as if the matrix that holds our world together is blipping on the disk and the mirage of Dunya bends. Then it comes back together and is gone. That’s when you feel fear, of what could have been. That small shaking could easily have been huge shaking bringing down the entire house and everything in it like paper. They said 12 million people felt this quake. Definitely a reminder from Allah showing us that this Dunya is indeed illusory.

In the end, I think I realized that Ramadan isn’t meant to be easy for us. I think it can be a difficult month to kind of make us go through a trial by fire and come out cleansed at the end. It can almost be Hajj like in its intensity with all the Ramadan crowds, the annoyances, the screaming kids, the amount of work, the long days, the physical hardships of just being tired, hungry and thirsty. Sometimes it can be really lonely for single people, converts, or those without big families. We often have to deal with other wack Muslims, cultural ideas and even judgmental aunties!

I can understand why some people would want to just stay home, but I believe that they would be missing out on many of the blessings of the community and being together. Like when someone shares food with you or you help cleanup together or when everyone cries when Surah Rahman is read in Salah or you meet someone you haven’t seen in a long while or someone new. When you hear something that enlightens you spiritually or someone brings a whole bowl of jasmine flowers picked from her garden just for you because she thinks you’re sweet. (Yeah I raised my eyebrows too ;D) Despite all the problems in our world, we can pray to Allah side by side and say Ameen to a beautiful Dua at Witr together.

I think when we are patient and turn back to Allah in these turbulent times of riots and earthquakes, when we swallow our anger, or forgive, or do Ibadah even when we’re tired or hungry, each of us becomes a better person, closer to Allah and that, that is worth all the madness!!

May Allah bless you all. I ask Allah to reward everyone who went through some hardship, sadness or loneliness this Ramadan. May Allah grant respite to those suffering through drought in Africa, and those living under oppression in Shaam, Libya and Gaza, and those under enormous difficulties, individual and collective, in other places in the world. O Giver of refuge for those who seek refuge, Beloved of those who love, Hope of those who are cut off and the One who is with broken hearts; Ya Allah.

Rabbighfirlana, Taqabbal Minna wa Astajeeb Duaana.

P.S. Please, please make a Dua for me in one of these last few days of Ramadan left. I could really use them for the coming year ahead. Jazaks!