Posts from June 2014

A Question of Waiting

June 30, 2014

I don’t think there has ever before been a time of such a plethora of choice, espicially for women. Our choices come mostly from the fact that we now, in the west, bare an identical course to our male counterparts. We go to school, we work, we travel. A single woman has much the same life as a single man. Last week my sister, interdisciplinary artist Nsenga Knight, gave an excellent talk on the choices we have as women and the way we are raised to believe these choices are the ultimate goal of life, that they would secure us and make us happy. “Go to school, travel, have your career, before you get married so your not stuck” was the advice she was given by women in the community. My mother has given similar advice and so so has my father, that school was more important than marriage (in terms of order and priortiy) because if anything happens in a marriage -divorce, sickness, death, I would be able to support myself, it’s the advice most in my generation are given, and I can’t say that I now believe they’re wrong. No, it’s very logical and I believe their correct.

The problem is that it doesn’t factor in that unmarried people do more than go to school and have a career. Men and women from the very age of puberty if not earlier long for the company, love and physical unity with the opposite sex (in general). Going to school or working doesn’t turn them in to robots who no longer have these feelings. They simply express there feeling outside of marriage, some engage in companionship –phone calls and sweet text messages others in intercourse sometimes leading to an even greater burden than marriage i.e. children, heartbreak, and sexual diseases. In Islam, sex before marriage is considered a sin yet outside of the Muslim community it is clear that premarital sex and waiting to get married has had consequences on the mass society. Countless women are waking up with a great career, great education, travel miles and the dissapointment that they may not be able to bear children after years of waiting and their prince charming (or Sidi Ali) has yet to come.

Marriage has become a luxury, a final step once you have your life together, it’s become the icing on the cake –sweet but not essential. A few weeks ago I came across a quote from a well know Islamic teacher and it stuck with me. The crux of his statement was that people tell their children to wait to get married, wait until their finish school, until they start a career, etc. not realizing that they are making them face some of the most difficult years of their life alone. This quote penetrated my very being. It is powerful. In setting up higher and higher standards for marriage, both indivisually and in our society we have actually changed what marriage is. An example someone gave me only a few days ago is of Ali and Faatimah. Faatimah was the daughter of Prophet Muhammad, peace to him, being such we can imagine that she could have married anyone. Nevertheless she/ her father decided on Ali. Ali was young, he was poor and he wasn’t half the man that he would grow to be in later years but he was hard working, dedicated, loyal and a man of great faith. We can view Ali’s transformation in to a man of greatness as his destiny –he would later become a Caliph, but we can also view it as an outcome of his growth through his marriage with Faatimah.
Marriage allows people to grow in ways that nothing else can. Maybe we’re mistaken in believing that we should first be successful, chase after monetary gain and life pleasure and then get married. Maybe marriage would not hinder our growth or success but actually aid it. Maybe people should get married in the lowest and most diffictult times and maybe marriage itself would ease there difficulty and raise their status. Maybe.

What do you think? Should our society encourage more people to marry? Is it better to be successful on your own before marriage or should you get married and build success with someone else? If you have a personal story on either end of the spectrum I’d love to hear it, email: info@nuriddeenknight.com

In Defense of Zuhud (minimalism)

June 23, 2014

I have to begin by saying in defending zuhud I am not saying that having material possessions while not having an attachment to it in the heart is not a means of zuhud. I am also not saying that it is not enough to enter the gates of heaven nor am I saying that leaving off material possession is a sure means to attaining the pleasure of God, it is not. One can have pride in not having material possessions and this alone can be a source of evil for them and actually removing them from the blessings of God.

Many may be aware of the reward stated by the prophet of God, peace to him, for those who revive anything from his way. There are many sunnahs that have long been forgotten and are up for grabs, zuhud is one of them. I have yet to be in the house of a Muslim and be amazed by how few possesions they owned –with one exception. Though at the time of visiting this Shaykh’s house overseas to meet with his wife I didn’t realize it but there living room was a beautiful cross between eastern and western style in its seating being raised, western style but surrounding the walls of the living room, arab style. I think there may have been some Arabic calligraphy and some books but there wasn’t much else. Maybe because of my level of comfort I didn’t realize how bare it was. This is the first and only time I walked in to the house of a Muslim, or anyone else for that matter and didn’t gaze my eyes around all the stuff they had. Books, tv/tvs, magazines, tables, computer/s, chairs, couches, clothes, loveseat, dining set, and on and on. And it’s no different for myself. My two bedroom dressers are stacked with books as is my computer table. Under my table is stacked with papers, there is also a crate with magazine, suitcases under my bed, drawers and a closet filled with clothes, three chairs, cosmetics, lotions, jewlry, nick nacs, and lots of other stuff I either don’t have a name for or have long forgotten was there. People often forget that the prophet, peace to him, was a zahid in good and bad times. I guess we can use the word minimalist for a modern translation, remembering of course the spiritual connotation that is added when speaking of the prophet, peace to him. He died with out any monetary wealth left for his family –if you remember when the prophet, peace to him died he was the leader of a Muslim state (Medina), had conquered Mecca and droves of people were entering Islam. He chose minimalism when he could have lived like a king.

One of the ways in which we have lost the idea of minimalism is in our eating habits. Shaykh Nuh, may Allah preserve him, once said in a lesson “If you look at the state of some Muslims if reads, “We can’t drink, we can’t smoke but we can sure eat” he later goes on to say, “Unsurprisingly it is haram (forbidden) to pig out”.

I have fell in to this trap for the pass three years now, I basically just eat whatever I want. I forgot, or ignored the words of the scholars and the example of our beloved prophet, peace to him. Shaykh Nuh is exactly right, entertaining myself with all the many exiciting varieties of food became a pass time. I’ve allowed myself to become a slave to my own desires. The desire for joy, albeit temporarily, the desire for excitement and the desire to tune out and indulge.

I hope to begin to revive this sunna in my life, it would be a perfect time since I will soon be moving to Jordan and when I return home I hope to move in to my own place (though I really hope to be married and moving wherever my husband wants, lol). The less stuff I have the easier it will be to move around. And afterall our prophet said to live in this world as a traveller.

I remember when I actual began to make an effort years ago. Maybe I was too extreme so the taste of minimalism went sour too fast or maybe I didn’t continuously remind my self of the merits of my actions and so eventually it lost its point.

I’ve been wanting to lose weight for a while now, I gained about 40 pounds in my “eat whatever I want” diet over the past 3 years. I’m going to listen to Shaykh Nuh’s lessons on eating (He teaches a class on prophetic health with Qibla.com). I’m going to re-read Ghazalis books on the manners of eating and Breaking the two desires. I may go on a juice fast for two weeks before Ramadan (muslim holy month of fasting) and reread the life of our beloved, peace. A saint once said “worship is sweeter when my belly cleaves to my back”. There are so many hadith and sayings of the righteous on eating little I don’t know how we so blissfully ignore them. Yes it’s true, we live in a world (in the west) of abundance, even a poor man has a TV and access to food. And yes, you can eat and accumulate the life of this world but never hold it in your heart and still reach a station near to God.

Yet every saint and every prophet has a way. The last prophet of God, peace to him, his way was minimalism. But if you choose another righteous path may the success of God be with you.

I Use to be a Teacher or ‘Why we Lose Blessings’

June 16, 2014

10363926_728997427157405_8411691686337260851_nFor a couple of months I was a teacher for new Muslims and anyone else interested in Islam. I taught them some of the basic rules of Islam the basic beliefs and the culture of Islam. I got very use to this position. It became a part of my identity I was a teacher. I was very proud to have that position. I loved being there in front of the students. I loved that God choose me to spread the religion in this was. I was grateful. The job became more difficult as my studies and various business interests accumulated, but I was still extremely grateful to be a teacher. A few months after working as a teacher I suddenly wasn’t asked to continue. I suppose it’s far too dramatic to say I was “fired” but that’s how it felt. The explanations given didn’t seem to match up, the announcement of my departure abrupt. I was a teacher, then –suddenly, I was not. The reasons I was not asked to come back, I don’t hope to ever be explained but if it were, it wouldn’t explain much of anything. The reason I wasn’t asked back is God’s infinite wisdom. Was I not doing a good job? Was it simply someone else turn? Was it taken away so God could open other door for me? Like this one, here, writing to you.

There are so many speculations I could make and yet the only true answer is that it was God’s decision. I can mope, wine, be angry or accept and it doesn’t change anything. The scenario reminds me something my anthropology teacher once said, that were all kind of acting. Were playing a part and the worse thing that could possibly happen is for it to be revealed that we aren’t really that thing we purport to be. The example he gave is of a professor, Dr. ‘so and so’, he writes a dissertation, and finishes his degree goes on to an academic career and makes a name for him. Only, somehow, it is discovered that he never handed in his dissertation, he wrote, he got it signed and reviewed by his advisor but never handed it in to the school administration. Suddenly, despite his work, his effort, the pictures of his graduation day, he is no longer who he says he is. He isn’t actually Dr. ‘so and so’, but who is he? His identity is a state of upheaval. Were can he find himself?

So I’m not a teacher anymore, does that take away my merit? My knowledge? My trustworthiness? I don’t know. There is also the issue of “belongingness”. After being in any place for so long you start to feel like you belong there when its taken away you feel as though you don’t belong, despite your reluctance to admit it. A part of my identity was stripped away; someone else took it. The comfort I felt, the “second home” feeling, the camaraderie, the idea that this was “our” organization, was turned around. I was sudddenly I was a stranger. Maybe I enjoyed being a teacher too much, so God took it away from me as one of my teachers once said, “we were created for God, that’s it”. And in reality our prophet (peace to him) said, “Be in this world as if you are a stranger”. So maybe God took my title away to nudge me closer to this reality. There is really no title greater then being a servant of God.

Have you ever felt a part of your identity striped away when you least expected it? How did you deal with it? And in retrospect what do you think the wisdom was?

Why Wait? Guest Post by Mujahid Abdul Aleem

June 16, 2014

This lovely article has been contributed by my friend Mujahid Abdul Aleem in recognition of the upcoming Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Arabic transliterations have been left as is to preserve the original article. For anyone reading who is not Muslim, new Muslim or anyone else with questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

1959883_621913967874169_1999078160_nWe are more than half way through with the month of Sha’ban! (Hopefully, you took advantage of Mid-Shaban) This is around the time people will start going to halaqas about the importance of Ramadan and making intentions to perform different acts of worship during the blessed month, i.e. fasting, praying tarawih, reading a juz a day, etc… Ma sha Allah that is great, but I have some questions… WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR??? Why can’t you start doing these things now? Why wait till Ramadan to maximize your worship? We are already in a blessed month! In sha Allah, I will list a few acts of worship to establish before Ramadan arrives. By getting an early start, you will develop your spiritual muscles before Ramadan comes, finding it easier to sustain these spiritual exercises during the holy month.

1. Fasting: The Prophet, peace be upon him, is reported to have said concerning Sha’ban, “It is a month that people neglect, between Rajab and Ramaḍān. It is a month in which actions are raised to the Lord of the Worlds and I love for my actions to be raised while I am fasting.” (Narrated by Ahmad and Nasa’i) Fasting is a divine secret between you and your Lord. It involves sincere sacrifice. This is also the main act of worship in Ramadan. Sha’ban is the perfect month to start fasting. The Prophet, peace be upon him, was known to fast most of Sha’ban. Even though we are past the half way mark, there is still time to fast, at the very least Mondays and Thursdays. Fasting in Sha’ban is also good practice for fasting in the long, hot days that are approaching.

2. Prayer: During the nights of Ramadan, the Muslims gather for supererogatory prayers known as Salatul Tarawih. Some people pray eight rakats of Tarawih, others pray twenty rakats. What usually happens is that we are so pumped to pray Tarawih every single night. Then halfway through Ramadan, we get burnt out. Why? Because we aren’t used to the spiritual exercise of praying late into the night. Therefore, start praying tahajjud on a nightly basis. It doesn’t matter how many rakats of tahajjud you pray, the point is to develop consistency. The Prophet, peace be upon him, is reported to have said, “Do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately and know that your deeds will not make you enter Paradise, and that the most beloved deed to Allah is the most regular and constant even though it were little.”

3. Reading Qur’an: Start reading that juz a day, today! Remember, develop that consistency early on and Allah loves the consistency of worship. This hadith should give you an incentive into reading the Quran daily, “Whoever recites the Quran has approached prophethood except that he does not receive revelation. The companion of the Quran ought to refrain from acting hastily with a hasty person or ignorantly with an ignorant person while the Words of Allah are his heart. (Reported by Al-Hakim)

4. Dhikr and Salawat: Allah says “and the dhikr(remembrance) of Allah is greater…” (Surah 29:45). Performing dhikr is a great means in purifying the heart and soul. Performing salawat (sending prayers on the Prophet) is another way to rack up blessings and increase love for the Prophet, peace be upon him. In fact the Prophet, peace be upon him, called Sha’ban his month. The scholars of Islam have said the reason the Prophet made this statement because this particular verse was revealed in Sha’ban, “Truly Allah and His angels send prayers upon the Prophet. O you who believe, send prayers and peace upon him in abundance!” (Surah 33:56) As a matter of fact, sending prayers on the Prophet is the only thing in the Quran that Allah says He does something, and then commands His servants to do the same. Develop a habit of performing dhikr and salawat throughout the month, particularly after each prayer.

In sha Allah, these small tips will make result in you having a much more fulfilling Ramadan. I conclude with a dua from the Beloved, peace be upon him, “O Allah bless us in Rajab and Sha`bān and enable us to reach Ramaḍān!” (Related by Ahmad)
-Mujahid Abdul Aleem

1959334_10152303679947348_3304039483502071180_nMujahid Abdul-Aleem converted to Islam at the age of 17 in 2007. His interests engaging the youth concerning contemporary issues as well as reading and movies for leisure. He is currently an MA student at the Claremont School of Theology, majoring in Islamic Theology and Leadership. He intends to become a Federal Prison Chaplain and University Professor of Islamic Studies. Follow him on Facebook and hear his lectures on Soundcloud

Love Lies

June 9, 2014

574518_215039005366239_1033683119_nIt took me far too long to realize this but love lies. Love is actually quite worthless when it comes to searching for a suitable marriage companion. As a Muslim American woman I’m caught between many different opinions, some of which I’m sure are completely invalid, others which ones I’m not sure. In the west many Muslims go through a form of “halal dating” we don’t call it dating (some do) but it is. In my own experience I felt this kind of dating was at the very least not something I wanted to participate in but then there he was. For many months I dated, though I wouldn’t call it that because it sounds bad. We Muslim Americans like more vague terms like “talking”. As in brother ‘so and so’ and I are “talking”. Despite looking down on Muslims who did date I eventually fell in to the same habits when I met him. It was hard to resist the romantic nature of it. After all I was raised on the same Disney movies and Fifty First Dates as any other American. I wanted to be special, I wanted to get dressed up and I wanted to feel love. The problem, beside religious concerns, is that I wasn’t interested in just dating and having a good time; I was looking at this man as a potential marriage partner. Had I looked pass the kind gifts, nice dinners out and romantic talk I would have seen that he was an unsuitable mate, not in general, but for me and what I was looking for. I allowed my desire to be “in love” override my desire to be married. Eventually the realism stepped back in and I couldn’t continue, our relationship was effectively over.

I wish I could say that was the breaking point and from then on I stayed clear of romantic endeavors and focused on marriage and suitability, it wasn’t. Soon after I “fell in love” with a man twice my age and far more unsuitable then the last but I “loved him”. He was “perfect” in every way except in anyway that was practical. I gave my parents a speech about how amazing he was and how I could deal with all of the circumstantial inconveniences, I sang my heart out for him, but some factors could not be overlooked. So this was it right? This is the relationship that caused me to finally stop my nonsense and follow the advice of one of my teachers or rather her warning, which I will mention later. Of course, dear reader, we both know it isn’t.

tumblr_lrji88c35d1qehf4jo1_400I joined the social media scene, or rather I rejoined and amplified my presence. Which led to a lot of new people being interested in me (“me”). Again began the romantic words. the jokes, which eventually led to the inevitable marriage interest. But on a practical level I wasn’t interested in what this person was interested in. I wasn’t interested in the life he was offering and so it too fizzled. This I am hoping to be the last straw. What I want now more then anything is an almost arranged marriage. I just want to know the practical things and I want the man to know the practical basic things about me. Yes there should be some attraction there, especially him to me but more then anything we have to know that we want the same things, have the same basic idea about what makes up a good life and about how we’re going to get there. That they have finances to care for a family and a sound knowledge of their religion, that they’re kind –but not romantic-kind, which means little, that they are kind to their parents, their co-workers and their friends.

I thought one of my teachers was being harsh and extremely conservative when I related my first mentioned relationship to them they responded to me, “…Once you decide you would like to marry someone, you may no longer interact with them until you actually get married… the interaction of getting to know someone before marriage is formal; you can’t be friendly with any man unless you have a shariah (permissible by Islamic law) basis to do so, meaning he is either mahram (someone you can’t marry) or your husband, your situation is completely haram (religiously prohibited). May God save you…” I was very hurt when I read this but I am more hurt after the trials I have gone through by continually getting caught up in romantic relationships only to realize that they lead no where and that the person I was “in love” with was not actually someone I wanted to marry.

10339589_306244969533542_958952919717522416_nI write this as a lesson to myself hoping that I have finally learned from it and heeded the advice of this teacher. But I also write it for you dear reader. I saw a meme once with a Muslim woman holding on to her heart it said, “your heart is precious, save it for your husband”. For my fellow Muslims and for everyone, don’t give your heart away to people who you don’t really want to be with and commit to. If you give it here and there by the time you finally meet “the one” you’ll meet them with a wounded heart, and that simply isn’t fair to either of you. There is so much to say on this subject but for now I will leave you with my personal story and pray God saves us from “complicated”, emotionally straining and heartbreaking relationships.

Have you experienced anything similar? Do you have regrets? Or do you have a different opinion on dating in general and “Muslim dating” in particular?

*Note: When I referring to “dating” I am talking about phone calls, texting, going on outings together, etc. I am not referring to a physical relationship of any kind.

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