Un Momento

Nine months?!

I cannot believe it as been that long since writing anything here. It’s not even that I did not want to write anything, I would mean to, but then the moment would pass. Repeatedly.

Alhamdulilah for everything is pretty much the unofficial motto of this blog and so it has been through this year, which has swung between highs and lows with equal vigour.

But the good moments, the good memories and the joy you hold inside your head, as well as the people around you are what helps you through the bad times.

Earlier this year, when I was briefly but painfully in hospital, what made things better was thinking about walking along on a sunny day, with my little girl’s hand in mine. Such a small, everyday, practical thing and yet I feel it so deeply.

Alhamdulilah, Oreo is such an easy child and she came so easily to us too. We had just started to think about trying for a baby and weeks later, I found that yes, you could indeed feel pregant from very early on.

We were always going to have at least one more baby and that would be perfect. Inwardly, I prepared for pregnancy and the joy of snuggling up to a newborn. Outwardly, I started taking folic acid.

Sometimes bad things just happen, they drop down in front of you like an anvil in a Roadrunner cartoon. Sometimes, they slowly come into focus, like someone else is adjusting the lenses on your vision.

Slight abdominal pains. Maybe it’s stress. There again. Maybe it’s bad digestion. Worse. The GP agrees it’s bad digestion. Medication. I wake up and not only is the pain worse, but it’s taken up permanent residence. A prescription, a bit better and then worse and then I’m at my parent’s and my Mum is telling me to go to A&E.

Later, when I’m lying in a hospital bed and IV fluid is chugging through a drip at high speed because I’m that dehydrated, I’m wondering how I could have let myself get this poorly?

Probably because I didn’t want to be that poorly and the pain was in the wrong place to be appendicitis and digestive pain can be that excruiciating, so no need to be melodramatic.

Later, after the surgery the talk turns to risks of infertility (high) and the possibility of IVF, it appear that my body was indeed going for maximum drama. Something was going wrong inside me and I didn’t even know.

And I want to bury my face and cry until my whole body shakes with it, but the tears won’t come.

However, while it would have been much better for this have happened when I had finished having children, so I could be all “Any more bad behaviour from you, internal reproductive organs and I’ll kick you down the street! See if I care!”, I did the whole seeking comfort in faith thing. We don’t get anything we can’t handle.

Well, if having one lovely child is what I’m going to get, then Insha Allah, I can handle that.

Of course being Muslim has the other side which is some of my co-religionists think that a one child family is a terrible thing and that Mr Outlines would be well within his rights to get shot of me, or take a second wife. In truth no has said that to me, though we all know how the thinking goes.

Most of all, it would be a waste of their pity. Maybe there will be a fourth member of our family, maybe not, but we are a family. It is something that my younger self could never imagine. So Alhamdulilah for this and everything else too.

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The sunshine fills my hair and dreams hang in the air: Convert Truths Carnival

This is not a negative post. I am very happy that I am Muslim. Alhamdulilah.

I make no apologies for that because I do not have to justify my Islam to other people, whatever shade or disposition of Muslim or Non-Muslim they are. Oh, I’ve been called a bad Muslim by plenty, but then I realised that being a Muslim is about me and Allah, hence their opinion was of as much weight as candy floss on the sun.

Having been on the blogging scene for a while, I know that Muslim-related blogging can often seem monochromatic. Either Muslim life is wonderful, with prose interspersed with hadiths and tales of wonderful husbands from far away or it is very terrible and those husbands are nasty immigrants, as is the religion itself, with plenty of hadiths quoted again.

There is a lot of focus on the convert vs the community, but that means that the effects of conversion within the individual are often ignored. For it is not a normal thing to undergo such a major change and I wonder, we talk about the community not accepting us, but I think it takes us a long time to accept ourselves.

For me, it took me a long time to work out what exactly I should be as a Muslim. It doesn’t help that everyone and the internet will tell you everything else except the most important part: building a relationship with Allah/God. The whole clique/flag waving mentality is another barrier. I spent far too much time worrying about who was who.

But, it’s ok to change and evolve. We laugh at the stern early stages we all went through, but I think those attempts to emulate what we think is the ‘best’ behaviour instead teach us that perfection is not attainable or even desirable. We learn to give others ‘wiggle room’ we so sorely need.

I’m pondering the colour theme of this carnival. In some areas we need black and white. We need to accept what ever people think about men and women, both genders are entitled to equal respect and kindness, that domestic abuse is never justifiable, no ifs or inbetweens. That women have a right to pray in the mosque.

But we need to embrace the grey. Some of the kindest, most generous Could-Ring-At-3am-And-They’d-Help-Me Muslims have been the ones I disagree with most. Recently, I read an article by a scholar on a social issue. It was shallow, poorly argued and
I disagreed with every word. Today I read another article by the same person and my reaction was reversed, I was nodding my head at every sentence.  So do I reject this scholar because our opinions differ, or respect the individual while disagreeing with some of their words? Surely the latter position is the healthiest?

For all talk of Muslims’ lack of cohesion, I never see anyone saying that there’s more than one God, or that Mohammed (peace be upon him) wasn’t the final prophet, or that the Qur’an isn’t the word of God and all this is the big Muslim-Making stuff.

Instead of the black and white of total rejection or blind acceptance of each other, I prefer the grey of realisation, we align and we scatter due to situations outside Islam and our experiences and beliefs within it. I wish we would accept that. If we agree on such key issues, why should the moon and a birthday divide us?

I know why people fight, because Islam matters and we all want to get it right and want others to do so too. Yet, the more we get into group semantics, the further we seem to travel from the starting point, which is Allah.

That’s my biggest lesson. We talk of worship, but not always the relationship. Yet, the worship is the actions, it is the relationship that requires the most work. This is where problems arise, as while Islam is all about worshipping Allah with no intermediaries, everyone and their pot plant claims you need to buy your walking boots and map from them in order to reach Allah and not get lost. Then you get so caught up shopping, your legs are too tired to climb that mountain.

But is there really a mountain anyway? The 5 pillars may not always be easy to do, but they are do-able and rather being some distant figure, Allah states that He is closer than our jugular vein. Not only that, but only we can do them. You can’t pray/fast etc on anyone else’s behalf. Therefore if no one else can act for you, don’t be so eager to let someone else think for you.

I want to finish with this extract from a book I’m currently reading:

I was given the task of grooming a horse..the teacher came along and said ‘Very poor job, superficial and sloppy.’ He and I watched as my heart sank. But then something rebounded: I knew I had done my best; I knew I couldn’t be a slave of reward and blame. In that moment, I saw the twinkle in his eye as he turned and left (Emphasis mine).

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The Sun Won’t Swallow the Sky

One the many things I hope the wider world never discovers is my wikipedia search history. This is because, as well as a thirst for inanity, it also betrays all the grim, gory stuff I read about. Things I will feel no better for knowing, but have to look at anyway.

The other week, while looking for something else entirely, I came across a blog written by an ex-Muslim. I have been reading it avidly ever since.

Now, I am a Muslim, though one who falls into that category of being content with Islam and certainly very happy to have God in my life, but often displeased by the actions of certain Muslims. There is also the fact of certain events leaving me with a major distrust of most ‘authority figures’ in modern Islam.  

The thought of leaving Islam chills me. It’s not about the possible loss of my husband, the fracturing of my identity, as much as the thought of going back to having that empty space that my faith now fills. I did not like having that empty space, for me it was a world without a heartbeat.

There also the gasp factor around people leaving Islam.

This gasp factor is odd for two reasons:

1)I’ve known several people online leave Islam and at least one in real life. I am sure most people reading this have too. It is not that rare.

2)Until you get married and ‘settle’, converts are always being viewed as at risk of leaving Islam. Miss a few jummahs and people will quickly presume that you’re off being/with a crack whore.

This means we are too busy gasping to actually talk about why people leave Islam.

If we do talk about it, it’s soundbite-city.

“They didn’t know true Islam/ had weak faith”

“Other Muslims treated them badly”

“It’s all a plot and they we never Muslim in the first place.”

Then off course, there is the matter of our brethren who get all bloodthirsty when such things are mentioned.

Just to state the obvious here, death threats and hostile behaviour towards anyone is wrong and shameful. Yes, even if they are insulting Islam, because let’s face it, it will be the same half dozen accusations we have all heard many times over. Without seeming too obvious, but surely the best way to defend Islam, it to do good deeds and be generally lovely?

I digress.

The fact is this blog is detailed and very well written, showing someone’s gradual disillusionment with Islam and belief in God. I read elsewhere someone talking about this blog and they said they felt a lingering darkness reading it. Which is ironic, because the author would describe themselves as being very happy as an atheist.

I also felt this darkness and yet I cannot stop reading it. I think that is partly the odd compulsion to read something, even though it makes me feel uneasy and quite frankly, saddens me.

However, more than that, I read it because I think it is a viewpoint that we as Muslims need to hear. The blog holds up a mirror to our community and our discourses and the reflection is not what one might hope for.

People have always converted to and deserted from Islam, along with any other religion. Whether the numbers are rising or falling in either direction is difficult to define, and rightly so, as such matters are ultimately the property of our deepest selves.

So while what draws or repels someone from faith may be as unique as snowflakes, we as a community should not just look the other way, or mock.

Issues like:

  • Over-emphasis on marriage, coupled with atrocious marital advice (complete stranger marriages and marriage for papers in particular)
  • Obsessive legalism.
  • Lack of emphasis on building a relationship with God
  • Fixation with women’s roles. Not letting women figure this out for themselves.
  • Complete lack of awareness has to how soul-destroying marital abuse can be. 
  • Putting authority figures on pedestals.
  • Claiming that Islam is very simple (pre-conversion) and then immediately post-conversion, the new Muslim is no longer allowed to make any decisions without asking so and so first.

None of this is an exaggeration, and I’m sure that most of us have struggled with at least one thing on the list. So who is to say, apart from God, why some lose their faith and others keep theirs.

In general, I always come to the same conclusion and that is that we are just not kind enough to each other.

Maybe people would still leave Islam anyway, but they would do so without rancour, accepting it as something they explored, but found wanting. For those who find this too laidback, I would say that Allah takes care of the akhirah, this life is all we have in our hands at the present.

For those within Islam, kindness may save them so much misery and pain. And that is no small matter.

I’m struggling to conclude this, because what I saying really is a mountain of obviousness and yet and yet. Is in fact our lack of actions and poor behaviour a larger indicator of low faith then any blog entry by a former believer?

Ramadan is here, the best month of the year

I didn’t make up that line, Native Deen did.

As always, I’ve been meaning to blog sooner, but I got into the ‘I want to write a proper post/but I haven’t got time/but my blog is dead’ cycle.

So it is Ramadan, unfortunately, I still have two essays to do, so I’m not as focused as I would like to be. Also, I’m still a heinous Waster of Time on The Internet. I wonder if it’s because so much of my time is spent doing things that need to be done, whether it’s looking after Oreo, working or studying, so when I have some free time I just want to relax and not do anything worthy.

Alhamdulilah, I’m not finding the fasting too hard, although trying to persuade Oreo not to feed me her apple today was somewhat difficult.

Some where in Twitter I found this really cynical piece about Ramadan, its commercial effect and so on. It had that whole ‘Oh those Muslims, they think they’re so pious but they’re not’ vibe about it. Or maybe I’m being oversensitive.

But it brings home to me that I’m tired, tired, tired of Islam and Muslims being discussed and pasted and debated everywhere. Just shush like Bjork says and leave us alone.

When I think about Ramadan, I think about peace and quiet. Eating my suhoor early in the morning, praying at night in the dark, the hungry feeling inside. Reading my Yusuf Ali transliteration. Not saying something I shouldn’t.  Just thinking about what Ramadan means. It’s a quiet month.

I could not read, not click, not see. I could get annoyed about the US-centric concern for a possible mosque (ish) many thousands of miles away, but that goes against my feelings that we should live and participate in this world, not just treat it as a waiting room.

But, I’m thinking about the clutter in my life and the peace I want instead.

So how to filter without turning away?

How to have peace when there is still so much to fight for, so much ignorance to combat?

Girl you know it’s true – Updated

Some things Muslims love to talk about, especially in internet land.

Marriage is one, gender issues another and a combination of the two scoffs bandwith like a hungry wolf.

So on to the issue of Muslim women marrying non Muslim men. I have a variety of thoughts on the issue itself and the debates surrounding it. 

It is only human to question and questioning leads to deeper understanding. I feel that true worship only comes with understanding.

People have definitely twisted Islam to suit their own purposes. Those people have generally been men, those who’ve suffered as a result have been women. This means that women may not trust certain ‘traditional’ interpretations without further examination.

What we do and what it is. Some sins are bigger then others, in the eyes of others. Brothers can get up to various deeds and still get a place in the front row of the masjid, whereas a sister will be made to choose between the deed or her family, community, etc.

That being said, I wonder what this drive to make something seen as Haraam, to Halal serves. Should we not just admit that what we are doing is wrong, but it happened and we hope Allah forgives us? I know some people will be clutching their pearls at that and I’m not taking sinning lightly, just pondering changing an interpretation which would effect the Ummah as a whole vs viewing something as a personal matter, with personal circumstances.

The trouble with Muslim men? In the items I’ve read about this, the focus has not been about being swept away by Mr DreamyNonMuslim, but by failing to find a partner within in the community. I’ll win no prizes for originality here, but there is a disconnect between brothers and sisters and the fondness UK brothers have for Back Home wives is really not helping.

So we need to be taking sisters seriously. The sisters talking about this are not enslaved to their desires/brainwashed by the West (whatever that means). They are woman who are keen to marry and have looked to their community for a spouse and been found wanting. No one is saying “Woo hoo yaani, it’s a non-Muslim man for me”.

Sami Yusuf and the nasheed akhis. When Muslim women do  profess…appreciation of a Muslim man, oh the outrage! We all remember the fuss when it appeared that some sisters got a bit too excited at a Sami Yusuf concert.

Muslim men face many negative perceptions. One, is the wider demonising by non Muslim society. The second is that some of them use their culture to treat women appallingly.  So if Muslim women are able to look past this and actually find Muslim men desirable, then that is surely a good thing.

So teenage girls sighing and dreaming of marrying Sami Yusuf, is no bad thing.

Girls should view marrying a Muslim man as a want to, not a My-Parents-Will-Kill-Me-So-I-Have-To.

I need to elaborate on this. No where in the Quran will you find anything  like this:

“So if a son does commit zina, best to hide this and never speak of it again, even if they carry more diseases then a sewer rat or continue tarrying after marriage. If a daughter even looks at a man you do not deem suitable, then it is the most abhorrent thing in existence and her life must be made miserable until she does exactly what you say.”

That obviously is not in the Qur’an, or in any hadith, but that does not stop many sisters living in a climate of fear, where they have to marry who their parents find suitable or else risk losing their family.

This kind of coersion is ultimately counterproductive. How can any positve feelings develop in such an atmosphere? A women may indeed find herself more at ease and able to connect with non-Muslim men and may think it’s the non-Muslim part that’s causing this, when actually it’s the absence of parents breathing down your neck and making you act like a performing monkey in front of dozens of young men and their mothers. 

 White blokes are better? Sorry to say this, but in some of the conversation on this issue, there has been a definite whiff of White men being idealised as these perfect men with no cultural baggage. Stating the obvious here, but that’s not true and folks could do with unpacking exactly why they think a white guy would be so much better.

More then the wedding. This is a frequent frustration of mine. Muslim consideration seems to be all about finding the spouse. Once you’ve found them, now what? There’s the odd cliche laden lecture (usually aimed at women) about marital harmony and that’s it. We need to be examining what makes a successful and happy married life.

When discussing interfaith marriages, the conversation doesn’t move past permissibility. I think people need to consider what their daily life with their spouse will be like. I do think that if you are practicing it would be very difficult to live with someone who wasn’t. On the other hand, there are plenty of people who do, like in the case below:

If nobody knows you’re not a Muslim. A while ago I met a (insert ethnic group here) who was married to a practicing Muslim woman of his ethnic group. He did not keep any of the five pillars (and yes, that includes pillar number 1, belief), drank, etc. Do you think anyone was declaring their marriage invalid, or saying they should divorce? Or course not and so I can understand the frustration with closeted atheists being ok, but not monotheists from a different background.

Thus ends my ramblings for now. I would love to hear your opinions.

‘Til the end of time, ’til the end of time…

These are some ramblings written in response to Ginny’s post here

Salaam Alaikum,

Just some thoughts in response.

All of what you say is true.

However, I’m a Muslim because I believe in Allah, that Quran is His word and Mohammed (peace be upon him) is the final Prophet. In many, many ways it would be/would have been much easier for me not to be a Muslim, especially in my younger days. Maybe I could have been Unitarian or a Quaker instead, but once I read the Quran (or Yusuf Ali’s translation to be accurate), that was it, it was game over for me. I’d found God and I wanted to do as He said (or at least try to).

I fell in love with the Prophets (peace be upon them) and the Mothers of the believers and the Sahaba (may Allah be pleased with them all) and they felt not like historical figures but kin.

We know that Allah (subhana wa t’ala) loves mercy, love, kindness and beauty. We know that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was brave, loving and endlessly patient. That the Mothers of the believers were strong, fiercely intelligent and respected by all.

When people try to twist things about the role of women, I always remember my favourite hadith, the one where the Prophet (peace be upon him) received the first revelation and was scared and cowering. Who was the first person he turned to? Who did he trust? His wife Khadija.

That people twist these words and actions for their own ends, it doesn’t surprise me. When I was younger I was fascinated by Communism and the idea of building a truly fair society. I am still baffled at exactly where in Marx’s words, people found the incitement to build death camps, to ruthlessly control and purge all opposition. But they did.

As for life in Muslim-majority countries, it is truthful to say that Islam is often not the biggest factor in way people live the way they do. Post-colonialism, economics all play a part.

We also have to look at gender dynamics. On this earth currently, men have far too much power over women. Sadly, history shows us that those with power and privilege rarely concede it without a struggle, and they will seek to regain any losses rapidly. Women and the men who respect them and want to work in partnership with them, will have to work hard to achieve our rightful place. In fact even knowing that we have those rights, is the first part of the struggle.

As a woman I feel that ‘bad men’ deprive me of enough in my life. I can’t walk in certain places after dark, have to watch who I talk to, be careful where I sit on public transport, take a longer route because it’s ‘safer’ then the short cut, be extra scared of strange noises if I’m alone in the house at night, or footsteps walking too closely behind me.

They’ve taken too much from me already. I won’t let them take my faith.