Islam


So much for colour coordination.

The other day the Hubby took Eryn so I could have some well-deserved girl time with a good friend. We had a fabulous date at a swanky restaurant — two Muslim girls drinking faux cocktails, laughing into our high-calorie salads, passing a chubby baby back and forth, and gossiping about our respective academic-stressed and dirty diaper strewn lives.

By the time I got home, Eryn was fast asleep — worn out by her own lovely date with Baba. He let her watch TV, they learned some sign language, then they went to the mosque before laughing into halal burgers and acting all cool playing with pretend mobile phones at a local cafe.

We’ve been extremely successful with potty training over the past month and recently started venturing out without diapers. So naturally, after finding out how the evening went, I just had to ask about bodily functions:

Me: So how’d it go?
Him: She had to pee when we were at the mosque. While I was praying.
Me: Oh no! What did you do?
Him: Well, I tried speeding up, but it was going to take too long. So I left prayer and took her to the bathroom.
Me: You stopped praying? You gave salaams?
Him: No. I left prayer, took her to the bathroom, came back to the musalla and picked up where I left off.
Me: Can you even DO that?
Him: *shrug* Not sure? Guess it’s time for a fatwa.

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My daughter Ivy devours bananas. She can finish off half a banana in minutes and screams if you take it away from her before she’s done. In fact, at five months old she has already tasted bagels, figs and chicken – stuffing anything within reach on my plate into her mouth. At birth, my other daughter Eryn absolutely refused to nurse, and I spent the first 48 hours of her life desperately feeding her a mixture of colostrum and water and eventually turned to formula when she lost too much weight. But we persevered and I successfully nursed her for three years.

For both babies, my intention was to follow the World Health Organization’srecommendation to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of their lives. The girls, of course, had something else in mind – and I ended up joining the statistics of mothers who, for whatever reason, fail at following this important medical advice.

Despite the fact that health authorities around the world support the WHO’s recommendation, only 37% of mothers around the world exclusively breast feed for the recommended time. It’s 39% in the developing world, 25.9% in Canada, 14% in Australia, 8% in Brazil, and France doesn’t even register, with negligible breastfeeding statistics past two months post-partum.

Recently, IRIN released a report on the “shocking” decline of exclusive breastfeeding in the West African country of Guinea. Apparently, Muslim women and families are offering newborn infants water that’s been blessed by inscriptions of the Holy Qur’an, and will forgo initiating breastfeeding until this water treatment is administered:

“Countless babies in Guinea are not given their first breast milk for hours – however long it takes a designated family member to bring water that is used to rinse special Koranic verses inscribed on a wooden tablet. This symbolic liquid, the first thing many babies ingest, is just one example of a custom believed to protect children but that can instead jeopardize their health.”

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Men teach that a woman’s entire body is a part of the definition of nakedness — and thus, “for the sake of the Muslim Ummah and for her own good,” she should cover her entire body. Even her voice should not be beautified, lest it attract the poor, unsuspecting, pious male into entering sin. (source)

And this is why we need more public recitation, supplication and chanting by women. Because they are indeed, beautiful.

 

Hat tip to Hijabman for finding this awesome piece.

A rich merchant from the city desired to buy a horse. Knowing his money could buy the best of all worlds, he decided to travel deep into the pure desert to visit a poor Bedouin man famed for his piety.

The Bedouin welcomed the merchant warmly and inquired about his visit. “I want to buy a halal horse,” said the merchant.“Oh yes, I think I can help you,” smiled the Bedouin and led the merchant to his stable.

He brought out a beautiful stallion and exclaimed, “This is my most halal horse. To make it go you need only say, ‘Alhamdulillah.’ And to make it stop, you need only say, ‘la illaha illa Allah.'”

Amazed and impressed, the merchant paid the Bedouin and mounted the horse.

Sweeping his arm grandly to the heavens, the merchant pronounced, “Alhamdulillah!” And much to his delight, the horse began to walk. Excited, the merchant said it again, “Alhamdulillah!” and the horse began to trot. Giddy, he said it a third time, “Alhamdulillah!” and the horse began to gallop.

With each pronouncement the horse ran faster and faster — and the merchant lost himself in the joyful ride.

Soon however, the merchant noticed he was riding toward the edge of a cliff.

Proud of his purchase, he let the horse run a bit further. But the thrill of the ride made him forget the words to stop the horse. And he began to panic.

He grabbed the horse’s mane. Nothing happened.
He shouted, “Bismillah!” Nothing happened.
The edge of the cliff came closer and closer.
His heart pounded. He didn’t want to die!
He recited al-Fatiha, an-Nas, ayatul Kursi
Nothing slowed the horse’s run.

The edge of the cliff came closer and closer, and now certain of his impending death, the merchant covered his face with his hands and cried out, “la illaha illa Allah!!!”

The horse stopped right on the edge.

Relieved he sighed, “Alhamdulillah…”

*ba-boom tish*

(it’s funnier if you act it out)

I was standing in my closet, tears rolling down my face, a pile of clothes at my feet when I admitted something I thought would never come out of my mouth: I HATE hijab.

Moments earlier I was pouting and stomping around the apartment — feeling frumpy and ridiculously hot in a winter sweater. The Hubby, sensing that something was wrong, asked why on earth I was dressed for the second ice age when it was a balmy 30C outside. When I groaned that it was the only thing that fit my postpartum body, was breastfeeding accessible, AND comfortable enough to wear with the baby in a sling, he took me by the hand and proceeded to go through all of my clothes.

Unfortunately, the Hubby could not have known that a torrent of hormones and insecurities let loose by baby-blues and a negative body image was bubbling up inside me, just waiting for an excuse to explode.

He handed me a black nursing top: Too tight. It’s not hijabi enough.
A long blouse: I.am.too.FAT now. It won’t close over my chest.
My favourite cap-sleeve patterned shirt: I can’t! I have to wear a long sleeve shirt underneath to hijabify it — and then it won’t be breastfeeding accessible!

That’s when I stamped my feet and erupted into tears. It was a full-on adult tantrum — and I took all of my frustrations out on hijab.

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I cannot express how much I ardently admire the work of Nahida from the Fatal Feminist. So I was overjoyed when she agreed to write for our month of guest posts. Not only is she an amazing and feisty author:

Nahida is an American Muslim feminist who frequently disagrees with the positions of male scholars, including but not limited to the rightful and valid dynamics of feminism in Islam, the certification of halaal meat requiring actual well-treatment of animals and not just ritual slaughter, and the permissibility of eating mermaids. She writes about sound Quranic exegesis as well as spectacular women in Islamic history, criticizes logical fallacies evident in male interpretations, and engages in other such scary feminist activities. She returns the salaams of parrots.

So please join me in welcoming the fantastic Nahida as she shares her thoughts on the erosion of “the feminine” in Islamic discourse and women’s religious right to reclaim their space.


Friday before last, I attended jummah prayer at the mosque, and I wore curlers underneath my hi’jab, because I had just raced there after finals and had barely had enough time to apply my red lipstick (a personal employment of verse 7:31), and why not save some time? Needless to say, it was very obvious I was attending the khutbah while simultaneously curling my hair, and I looked badass, like a malformed dinosaur. Because I have lots and lots of hair, the hi’jab did wonders forcing it to hold together the way I had “arranged” when usually there isn’t enough surface area on my head for curlers wrapped with piles and piles of hair. Before we started one of my friends took one glance at my ginormous, lumpy hi’jab and burst into laughter. “WORST case of hi’jab stuffing EVER!”

I propped myself up against the wall and sat there smugly with a sideways smile. Soon I would be transformed into some sort of elevated reverie of reflection—that usual awed, heart-struck jummah feeling—but for the moment, in a different way, I felt strangely feminine, and peculiarly close to God. And it was not just because my blasphemously high hi’jab was closer to heaven.

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The months that followed were witness to a series of spiritual experiences that would remain singular in my life, all revolving around the Quran and my evening study hour with Mina. I would leave her room feeling lively, easily moved, my heart softened and sweet, my senses heightened. Often, I was too awake to sleep, and so I took to my desk—white muslin still bound to my head—to continue memorizing verses. After long nights like these, the mornings were not difficult, as Mother warned when she would find me at my desk past ten o’clock.

If anything, these mornings were even sweeter: the trees stippled with turning leaves and bathed in a glorious light that seemed like much more than just the sun’s illumination; the white clouds sculpted against blue skies, stacked like majestic monuments to the Almighty’s unfathomable glory. And it wasn’t only beauty that moved me in these heightened states. Even the grease-encrusted axle of the yellow school bus slowing to its morning stop at the end of my driveway could captivate me, its twisting joint—and the large, squeaking wheel that turned around it—seeming to point the inscrutable way to some rich, strange, and holy power.

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to identify with a work of fiction. To have my thoughts and cultural experiences splayed out so nicely by a complete stranger. To have my ideas about religious interpretation and understanding shared beyond the blogosphere – and actualised in the imaginative words and deeds of colourful, intense characters.

Often while reading American Dervish, when I wasn’t snickering at the humour, rolling my eyes with the characters or gaping and cringing at the more sensitive and emotionally intense scenes, I was usually nodding my head and saying, “yes, exactly.” More than once I’d look around for a book club because I so wanted to share and deconstruct the issues Ayad Akhtar has raised in this wonderful novel.

American Dervish is a non-traditional “coming of age” story – where each character takes his or her own journey to discover themselves and what it means to be American and Muslim. Taking place in Milwaukee during the 1980s, Pakistani-American Hayat Shah narrates a heartbreaking story of love, the Divine, and negotiating faith and culture.

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