Drawing a line under 2007

Some end of year bits and bobs.

Firstly I would like to say:
Thank you, Shukran, Gracias, Merci, Multumesc, Hvala, Danke and of course, Diolch yn fawr, to the following people:

Denizens of my blogroll. I have been reading you avidly all year. You’ve provoked my thoughts and emotions and more often then not made me laugh too. I do need to update my blogroll, so if I comment a lot on your site, but you’re listed here (yet), this includes you too. Special mention goes to:

The Ladies at Muslimah Media Watch for starting an excellent and much needed project and for providing a much needed voice to Muslimah on the Racialicious blog.

Luckyfatima for providing a wide insight into a variety of issues. Also for all the great comments she’s made on other blogs elsewhere.

Dave at Everyday Is Barcelona… For proving that you can be insightful and entertaining.

Reader and Commenters. I may not have the biggest or most famous blog, but I think I have the loveliest readers. Aside from the occasional trollacious comment, you all seem to get what I’m talking about and I am spared a lot of the snark that some other bloggers have to put up with. I’m not the best at responding to comments (I will endevour to improve this next year, Insha Allah), but I appreciate them all.

Now on to the award type stuff.

2007 and has been a bit of a blur as regards films and books. I haven’t read many books (shameful, I know), so I’ll skip the book category.

The best film I saw this year was All About My Mother, which was actually made in 1999. Due to the subject matter of some of his films, Almodóvar may not be everyone’s bag of chips, but when ever I see his films, I feel I get a glimpse into the lives of real, living, breathing people and that’s such a rare sensation in cinema.

Best tv show: Dexter. What could be sub standard slasher fare is a well executed insight into how it feels to not feel. Literally. Michael C. Hall deserves to be rained with silverware for this one.

Best T.V Channel. Euronews/Al Jazeera International.

I am a big fan of Euronews for their no nonsense, no presenter gurning-dramatically style of reportage. No Comment, the segment with pictures and no commentary, frequently provides the day’s most affecting footage.

However, in my opinion, one of the big stories 0f 2007, was the failure of Belgium to form a government, due to a split between the Waloon and Flemish sectors of the country. This lasted for six months, until an emergency coalition was formed in December. Euronews conveed this story, in depth, throughout.

The next time, someone talks with ill-disguised racism about ‘those people who can’t govern themselves’, think of Belgium.

Al Jazeera International is also consistently excellent. I think their coverage of the events at Lal Masjid was the zenith of their work, with the coverage prior to, during and after the massacre, being of a quality unmatched by other networks.

Islam in the Media.

There was the abomination that was Britz and two reality shows, which attempted both to give Non Muslims an insight into Muslim life. Elsewhere, it was the same old, same old, with my co-religionists popping up as terrorists on numerous dramas and being pathologised in multiple articles both in print and on line. Tired of reading about ‘The Trouble with Islam’? Me too. Let’s hope there is less of this next year.

Good news is that both a Muslim man and a Muslim woman appeared in mainstream British advertising. Yippee!
The man, a brother with an unmistakably sunnah beard was featured in an MFI ad earlier this year, while the sister was in a Nokia ad. Screenshot is here.

Music

This year for various reasons, I’ve decided to step back from music a bit. I can’t say I never listen to it, just that I listen to it a lot less.

Jazak Allahu Khayran to Muhajadeen Ryder for providing access to a wide range of nasheeds with his radio feed.

Anyway, in the interests of honesty, I will say that my favourite single of 2007 was Icky Thump by The White Stripes. I think that song is the only time this year that a song came on the radio and I thought “Ooh what’s that?”.

Were it not for the fact that it originally came out in 2006, The W.A.N.D by The Flaming Lips would also win, but I only heard it on an advert the other week, that’s how uncool I am.

It’s not been a good year for music videos, but this was probably the best of the bunch. Not exactly original but very well excuted and matched the song beautifully. Makes me wish I could skateboard.

Podcast of the Year: Addicted to Race

An offshoot of the ever excellent Racialicious website. The pleasingly deadpan Carmen Van Kerckhove discuss all manner of issues concerning race and pop culture. Currently on hiatus, but the archives are still available and well worth listening to.
Video Podcast of the Year: Ask a Ninja

If you like Strongbad Emails, you’ll like this. Very funny indeed.

Islamic organisation making a difference: Zaytuna Institute

The seminary, the distance learning, the wealth of multimedia on their site, most of it available for free, the publishing and the fact that in Sheikh Hamza Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shaikir, not only do we have two great teachers but also two very eloquent spokesmen for Islam in the West.

Enough pseudo awards!

My New Year’s Resolutions

1)Current outlines – Rounded. Dairy Milk + Dr Pepper = Chunky.

So I am setting myself the realistic goal of exercising at least twice a week. That doesn’t sound like much, but I’m currently doing nothing, so anything is an improvement.

2)Books. Those things made of paper with words printed on them. Want to read more of them. Will start going to library again and work on making time to read. Any recommendations, feel free to leave a comment/email.

3)Arabic. I have the self motivation of an aphid. Finding a class would be a good start.

4)Diet. See point 1. I am terrible at denying myself, so instead, I’m going to go with making sure I get my 5 a day of fruit and veg.

5)Community work. It’s time to give something back. No more excuses.

Phew! That is more then enough for now.

May this new year be one of blessings and growth for everyone, insha Allah.

Alhamdulilah for everything.

Advertisements

As long as we are alive, our dreams will never die

Today we were unlucky, but remember we only have to be lucky once. You have to be lucky always

A statement made, some time ago, to a female political figure as equally controversial as Benazir Bhutto .

Yesterday, for those who believe in luck, Benazir Bhutto’s luck finally ran out.

Inna lilahi wa inna ilayhi raji’oon

Still, there are no actions without consequences, and what her death will mean for both Pakistan and the wider world is currently the generator of fierce speculation and hand-wringing.

The statements that her death also equates to the death of democracy in Pakistan fill me with unease.

It is true that we live in the new class system of the media, where public figures are more accessible and yet more exalted then ever before. However, people and society are more then just the pawns of the elite.

The saddest aspect of the debunking of Marx, is the loss of his pioneering work in the study of history, his describing it as being more then the activities of royalty and nobles and instead looking at the impact made both upon and by ordinary people.

Democracy is spoken about like the gift of benevolent rulers, who put it into practice overnight. This simply isn’t true. For every right we enjoy today, ordinary people had to fight and campaign to achieve it. We may not know their names but we should be thankful for their actions always.

People have the power to effect change. So long that fact is remembered and acted upon, then democracy will outlive us all and it will never die.

We Are All in This Together

arafat.jpgBig hijab flutter to Baraka for the link to the BBC photograph and general inspiration.

Eid Mubarak. I will admit that Eid Al Adha, always sneaks up on me. I don’t anticipate it in the same way as Eid Al Fitr. Like a lot of converts, I’m still trying to make my own Eid celebrations, because Alhamdulilah, it is a day of celebration, I want it to feel like a special day.

Eid Al Adha, of course, marks the end of Hajj. There is something so awesome about the Hajj. When I see photographs of it, my heart is filled with yearning. I want to go home to a place I have never been.

I know Hajj is a serious undertaking, an obligation, a test, but I long to be there. To stand where the Prophet, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, stood. The atmosphere filled with angels.

Photographs of the Hajj allow us to see the Ummah, or at least a very broad cross section of it. I realise the wickness and futlilty of backbiting, a sin I am sadly guilty of. I know that by our faith, my brothers and sisters in Islam are closer to me than they are distant from me. Subhana Allah, how we cut each other down with our words and deeds, and for what reason? If we dislike someone, why do we publicly criticise instead of privately discussing or secretly praying for them? Remember that Allah swt knows this person’s deeds and reasons already, He swt, doesn’t need us to broadcast them to Him. I’ve read the most cruellest insults thrown about by Muslims towards each other, often in the name of piety or enjoining the good.

A simple test: when you write or say something, think which angel writes it down, is it the angel on the left or the angel on the right?

See the picture above, we are all travelling on the path together. If you don’t like the way your brother is walking, don’t insult his sandals, this might discourage him from the path altogether. Instead, show kindness to him and offer him a better pair of sandals. You might need new sandals yourself one day.

I write this as a reminder to myself, first and foremost. Ya Rabb, I need your help in this and everything else. Ameen.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should

Halal/Haram,

Permissable/Forbidden,

I can/I can’t,

Why does a dog lick his bottom?

Because he can.

It is halal to live in a tent. You can live in a tent, on the side of a hill. No running water or electricity . You could even say living like this is in keeping with the Sunnah, a similar sort of lifestyle to the Prophet saw.

Most people, if they have been used to living in a house with modern amenities, would not want to live in a tent.  If a man and woman were discussing marriage and he suggested this, the chances are the marriage discussion would end there, because the woman would know that she would be very unhappy in such a situation.  If the couple were already married and the husband suggested this, the wife would probably protest strongly. She could not live like this, the children could not live like this. If she decided to leave her husband, to divorce him, people would understand, because after all, these are unreasonable expectations.

Marrying more then one wife is also permissable in Islam. Note the word permissable. It is allowed, an option and yet men, and it always men, will insist it is their right and no one and nothing should stand in the way of them taking their rights.

I am astounded at the arrogance of such men. You could have a wife pleasing to you in every way, loving, appreciative, a good mother and for the sake of your appetite, your ego and more often then not, the contents of your trousers, you could smash her happiness to pieces.

That is not to say there are no benefits to polygamy, particularly in a societies that have seen the male population blighted by war. However, maintaining a happy polygamous marriage is incredibly hard work.  I think unless you are in a culture where polygamy is the norm, you will find it very difficult to adapt to it and be satisified. Also, and no one likes to admit this, the man needs to be rich. I’m sorry, but if he is wanting to have one then one wife, that means he will have more then one family and they can’t all live above the kebab shop.

I’m not fond of lying, especially lying to yourself. Most women know that they would not be happy in a polygamous marriage, so why do we have to mumble demurely about it being halal and wives being patient? Stuff that. You wouldn’t agree to living in a tent (probably),  or living in the North Pole (also probably), why agree to something which would not only cause you both unhappiness in this life, but also have consequences in the next life too?

If you know that polygamy  would cause you great sadness, make it clear both pre and post marriage. Don’t be shy or scared of being seen as a ‘bad muslimah’. Just smile and say “You can have up four wives, but I won’t be one of them”.

One of the first questions I asked Mr Outlines was about taking a second wife. He said no, because he only had one heart in his body. I wasn’t satisfied with such a soppy answer, so I asked if he had any other reasons. He went on to talk about the ayahs concerning polygamy and how he felt he could never be just, so he would only marry one wife.  Now being married to him, I know he wouldn’t take another wife, because it would mean less time for his other true love, books and studying.

I try not get angry. I get annoyed fairly easily at times, but rarely angry. Which is good, because when I get angry, it is a wave of heat that passes through me and I feel like I could start throwing cars or pulling the clouds down from the sky.  When I hear of men taking second wives, especially those who have done so without telling their first wives – Aouthobillahi. “Never do this to me”, I inform Mr Outlines, with the same solemnity that you might use to tell a child not to swim in shark infested waters.  If he did (Oh  Allah protect me from this), I don’t know what my reaction would be, but I sense it would not be permissable.
Islam is about more then what is allowed and permissable, it is about using this short time on earth to be the best person you can be. Doing something “because I can”, is not the way of enlightened humans, it is the way of animals. Rights always come with responsibilities.

For this life and the next.

For Only

Dave at Every Land is Barcelona, Every Day is May Day, wrote a post giving advice to New Muslims. It is an excellent post and I especially liked this line:

‘Islam, to know the peace of submission to the most high, is not a culture, it existed before the Arabian peninsula even had people upon it and it will exist when the last of the stars die in the heavens.’

I think all new Muslims, through various different means, have that beautiful realisation that there is a God, when the shahada becomes written upon your heart to become the most all encompassing truth. There is No God worthy of Worship except Allah and Muhammed is His Messenger.

That seeking, reaching out to Allah. The whispered prayers and  thoughts. I believe…I want to live as You wish me to…

The sensations are so deep and personal and sharing this change on a communal level can be a jarring experience.

Here’s my analogy. Everyone has a candle. Through or Iman, faith in Allah swt, that candle is lit and that light guides you and that guidance is Islam.

When that flame is first ignited, it’s a vulnerable flame, easily snuffed out. Hostility from those around you can make things difficult.

Yet, almost as dangerous as the flame being distinguished, is forgetting about the flame, what it means and how to increase it. Instead we worry about the other candle holders. Are they holding their candle correctly? Is their candle like mine? Maybe I need to change my candle? Maybe my candle will never be good enough, because I only just found out about mine, others have known about it from birth.

It can be a wonderful gathering with other candle holders, so long as we remember what it is that lights the candles , we can use this light for many types of good.

The flame is  always key.

I use this analogy, because from my own experience, it is so easy to get tangled up in being a Muslim that you forget what it means.

Remembering you are a Muslim is not the same as remembering Allah swt.

So my advice to converts is to never forget, why they became Muslim in the first place and to feel their iman as a living, growing entity. Be eager for what makes it strong and shun what makes it weak or uncertain, no matter what other people say.

Alhamdulilah, there are good people out there. They can guide you, give you good advice, but only you can carry your flame.

All strength, all blessings, all goodness comes from Allah swt alone.