“Nice boots….”

I finished the final zip on my knee-high leather boots and stood up to an incredibly friendly smile greeting me in the middle of the regular post-Jummah shoe chaos. While being jostled and pushed, I smiled back and said thank you — vaguely distracted as women and children dove in between us to claim their shoes before rushing over to the community lobby for veggie samosas and hot chai.

With one eye on Ivy as she struggled to put on her shoes (on opposite feet, and emphatically by herself!), my new friend and I briefly spoke about where I got my boots and how they looked “steampunk.” Which, covered in rivets and a classic Victorian brass heel, is exactly the style I’m wearing these days.

Of course, the topic of my boots and the random recognition of my favourite neo-Victorian genre, made this the most exciting conversation I’d had at the mosque in a very long time. And was an instant spark of light after a previously long string of negative experiences.

Especially seeing as I was just about on my way out the door. Fully prepared to add this mosque to my growing list of places to which I’d never return.

pray

Ivy and Eryn just being kids in the mosque gym.

An hour earlier we were singing Eryn’s favourite “going to the mosque song” in the car and I was excited to be finally attending my first Jummah in almost six months. The last time we came to this location was for ‘Eid ul-Fitr, and my heart burst with joy and pride when the imam delivered an incredibly inclusive khutbah on mental heath. This mosque represented an island sanctuary in an ocean of disappointment and judgement.

And it was a harsh betrayal when I was asked to leave the main prayer hall.

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eid

Happy Eid everyone! Wishing you all a blessed and joyous holiday. May all of our good deeds and actions be accepted and here’s hoping for a bright and happy future insha’Allah.

eid

Yesterday we prayed at my favourite Mississauga mosque, the Sayeda Khadija Centre — where Imam Slimi gave the BEST ‘Edi khutbah I have ever heard.

He spent a brief 20 minutes not focusing on the importance of keeping the Qur’an in our daily lives, or vaguely mentioning that we should continue coming to the mosque in record numbers, or <insert stock Eid khutbah topic here> — but instead gave practical advice and reflections. Like the importance of civic engagement and improving our condition by focusing on positive stories. To not always dwell on images of war or become disheartened at clear media biases toward Muslims. But instead to focus on promoting the Muslim Champions who work and succeed in society. To raise our children to know that they can become Prime Minister if they want to and that they can make a difference.

He also focused on the issue of mental health and strongly encouraged people who were struggling with illness to obtain the help they need — whether it’s counseling or medication. In all of my years, I have never heard a community leader say so many encouraging things about mental heath. Normally, we’re told that depression is a sign of a diseased heart and that one should read more Qur’an, perform more dhikr, or self medicate with rituals to expel Jinn-causing-illnesses to “get over it.” So it was incredibly refreshing to hear someone acknowledge problems within the Muslim community and validate the experience of those who deal with mental illness.

It was an impressive talk and it has been an extremely long time since a khutbah made me smile with pride for my community.

locked

After lunch, a gift exchange for the girls, afternoon tea, and a trip to the ice cream shop, Eryn got dressed in her mermaid outfit and we went to the local musallah for ‘Asr. Unfortunately, the women’s section was locked — hopefully just an oversight *cough* — and I had to wait for the Hubby to break down the barrier on the men’s side and unlock the door.

Overall, it was a lovely ‘Eid and I’m actually looking forward to making up my missed fasts over the next month insha’Allah. Hope your ‘Eid was also filled with warmth, fun, family, and mermaids.

Many of you will be familiar with some of my thoughts and sentiments in this post because I’ve shared glimpses of them here before. This piece was written late last week, and first posted on Muslimah Media Watch. Since then, I’ve had time to reflect.

To give this piece some more context: I feel at odds with myself. I find myself saying things like my heart has hardened — but will joyfully sing dhikr with Eryn and Ivy. Even though I go through the motions, I feel that something is missing. An essence or presence that should be there. A gap in the space around me. So perhaps I’m joyful because the song is familiar. Maybe I find fulfillment in entertaining the girls.

And this is disquieting.

A friend of my sister-in-law very suddenly and tragically passed away on Tuesday. This young woman has not left my thoughts since I heard the news. I think of her family, her sister, her mother — and I shatter. I make dua’ for her with more sincerity than I make for myself. And maybe I do so selfishly. Because there is no greater fear than the thought of harm coming to my children. And so thinking about her absence in this world, praying that her good deeds will endure and give her countless blessings, and asking for her entrance into the highest heaven — makes me reflect and imagine her family’s loss… and I ferociously beg God to protect my girls.

It bothers me that fear of losing them is my motivation. Because I might not otherwise speak to God.


The believers are only those who, when Allah is mentioned, their hearts become fearful, and when His verses are recited to them, it increases them in faith; and upon their Lord they rely. [8:2]

heartIt doesn’t feel like Ramadan.

The excitement, the struggle of the fast, the security of knowing that every good action is an added blessing, exercising patience and feeling contentment when tested, the thrill of biting into a sweet date at iftar, the peace of sitting in the mosque and smelling the perfumed air, feeling my heart soar as I lay my forehead down to the ground to honour and beseech my Lord for forgiveness — it’s all been missing from my Ramadan experience this year.

I fast. I eat my date. I exercise considerable patience (even with two rambunctious girls jumping on me after commuting from a stressful day at work). I beseech. I go through the motions because that’s what I have to do. But I feel like a spiritual zombie.

We’re told by traditions, Internet articles, and admonitions related through mosque culture that Ramadan is a training ground for the rest of the year. That we should strive in our worship to gain more spiritual benefits, to use the fast as an opportunity for self-reflection, to develop our empathy, and nurture our spiritual selves. That if you only fast from food and water, your reward is only hunger and thirst.

But what if that’s all you can do?

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Well it’s been a somewhat interesting Ramadan.

Insha’Allah I’ll be sharing a post I wrote for Muslimah Media Watch soon that talks a little about how I’ve been feeling this month, and echoes many of the sentiments I shared with you in my last major post. I had intended to write more about the reasons I converted, but the month literally flew by and here we are with just about a week left.

That doesn’t mean I won’t write about it. I have some serious issues it seems and I want to tackle them the best way I know how. Through over-sharing with all of you!

Just a little light reading before bed.

Just a little light “pretend” reading before bed.

We spent much of Ramadan just being normal. Which means going about our day without much fuss if we decided to have a random dance party or going to baby birthday parties instead of the mosque.

The Hubby and I signed up for a pre-iftar halaqa through Seeker’s Guidance and live-streamed Sheikh Faraz Rabbani who spoke about how to become closer to God. I’ve known Sheikh Faraz for years. He’s one of the more accessible teachers of sacred knowledge, and has owned up to some issues that I’ve called him out on in the past. Plus singing and dhikr! What’s not to love?

Some of his more memorable thoughts included not showing up to a religious lesson “just because” — make sure you have focus, and that the subject or action speaks to your heart. Or when there is a difference of opinion, don’t argue over the differences — but be considerate. There is special dispensation when there is a difference of opinion. So if you believe that eating shellfish is haraam, and you’re with someone who serves it to you with good intentions, you’re permitted to eat the fried calamari — so pass the lemon sauce instead of refusing to eat and turning into a monster mullah (my words, not his).

Sneaking.

Ivy sneaking some of our iftar while we finished up prayer.

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Just slightly easier than doing a wreath.

Just slightly easier than doing a wreath.

Diamond, lace and pearl stringed garlands dripped from the walls. An ocean of aqua and teal coloured streamers accented the food station. Glitter. Flowers. Individualized costumes. Cartoon seaweed placards, fish-themed mats, and a gleaming pearl shell-of-hounour. It was the perfect decoration job for a mermaid-themed party.

While Arial serenaded Eryn and her school friends, a few of us mothers got together to chat and have our own little party. It didn’t take long before praising the hostess on her amazing decorations turned into questions on how each of us are creating Ramadan memories for our children — and how sometimes, the pressure to decorate is just one more thing added to the unrealistic expectations placed upon mothers and primary caregivers in this month. There’s just not enough time, and memories can be made with good food, asking children to pass out dates, festive music, Ramadan-themed crafts, and anything of significance to inspire family traditions.

Regardless of what you do, decorating for Ramadan can be easy. And even though we’re almost at the mid-way point, it’s not too late to decorate!

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quran5An oppressive humidity penetrates my abaya, making my jeans sticky and uncomfortable. It’s sweltering out in the mosque courtyard and the mist from cooling stations dousing the women’s section does little to relieve the situation. Despite the heat, I have moments when the reverberation from the Qur’anic recitation floats over my skin and penetrates my body — giving me chills and shaking my soul. I break out in goosebumps. I sway to the rhythm, lost in God’s words.

It’s the end of Ramadan 2013 and I’m chasing The Night of Power. I’m yearning for spiritual connection — desperate to inspire my heart in a rare moment free of family responsibilities.

While soaking in the atmosphere, breathing in contentment, my neighbour in the prayer line points out that I’m not crying — and that if I can’t cry, it’s better that I fake it until I feel real tears. Otherwise my heart will harden.

I’ve had many good cries. Nights where I’ve cried myself puffy in the face while asking God for forgiveness. Cries that have erupted unexpectedly, letting loose a purge of pent up emotions. I’ve had cries based on needs, on wants, and out of desperation. Now, it is true that over that past few years I have not cried during worship in the same way or with the same fervour that I did when I first entered Islam. But a lot has happened that has driven me away from that initial high — the one that enflamed my heart and made me love the deen without question.

Sadly for me, this random comment in the mosque held unknown power. The power to invalidate my religious experience. And so I spent the rest of the prayer not breathing in contentment, not enjoying the Qur’anic reverberations (even though that’s all I needed to find peace) — but instead contemplated all of the corrections, negative experiences and comments I have received over the past 15 years. Each one is cemented around my heart — and only because I give them power over me.

My heart is not heard because I can’t fake cry. It’s become hard because I’ve lost perspective.

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photo 2Hello Sweetie,

You blow my mind. Constantly.

Lot’s of babies and toddlers are cute — but you seriously epitomize what it means to be cute. And not because I give you Beatles-esque bangs or because your cheeks are squishable and love being squished. It’s not because you have a melodious voice or squint your eyes and tilt your head when saying, “huh?”

It’s because you care.

You are now two years old and you have an amazing capacity to empathize. If I give you two cookies, you give one to your sister. If Oma gets a hug, everyone else in the room gets a hug. When your sister hurts herself, you’re right there to stroke her back. You serve everyone tea, water and pretend cookies. I love it when you come into the house to ask a question, and then leave but come back to say, “Thank you mama” — and leave again, only to return a third time… slowly poking your head around the corner because you know repetition is hilarious. Hilarious.

And this quality of caring and attention you give to others is incredibly endearing.

You have a natural affinity toward living things. You might be wary of some insects, but you are incredibly curious and have no problems holding earthworms. Big dogs startle you, which is understandable considering they’re twice your size — but give you the leash of a small puppy and you’re happy to give commands. Cats are your favourite and you will sit patiently — gently calling until a cat allows you to pet her. You “shoo” lazy sap beetles and chase dragonflies. I can’t wait for the day a butterfly lands on you.

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