Posts from December 2014

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December 14, 2014

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Advice on Marriage

December 14, 2014

This is marriage advice from Sheikh Nuh, may Allah preserve, some of it is particular to his students but most is general advice, may God give us success in this important endeavor.

MARRIAGE
-Sheikh Nuh Ha Mim Keller, 9-10/ 2012

The importance of marriage to one’s tariqa is plain from the tremendous impact of suhba or companionship on the spiritual traveller. Every Muslim understands that a good marriage is a sunna, help, and blessing to whomever Allah gives it. From the single decision of who should be one’s mate for life comes a great deal of one’s future happiness or misery. In the path, few things furnish a comparable touchstone of one’s true taqwa and character.

Because of the dominance of powerful contemporary norms essentially alien to the fitra or ‘true nature’ of the sexes, a good marriage today is often something that must be striven for and attained, rather than an event one can live “happily ever after.” To clarify the basics, we have summarized below certain minimal conditions for disciples getting married, key points of Islamic character, adab, rights, and duties from Imam Ghazali and others, and practical rules necessary in our day to have a fulfilling Islamic marriage.

Minimal Conditions in a Spouse

A disciple may marry anyone they want, as long as the following conditions are met:

1. That the prospective spouse share one’s own vision of Islam, and be religious, meaning that they follow one of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence, pray the five prayers, and if female, cover correctly. They do all of this before ever hearing of marriage. Someone who doesn’t pray but “comes from a good family” is absolutely unacceptable, and one must not be pressured by family members into marrying someone of this description. One’s children could end up in hell by following their example.

2. That the prospective spouse agree that the household will be run according one of the four Sunni schools of jurisprudence in all matters; if Hanafi, for example, that there be nothing unlawful according to the school in any of the family’s dealings.

3. That the prospective spouse know that one has a tariqa and sheikh and what this entails, knows that one goes to the weekly dhikrs and yearly Suhbas, and that one’s main interest is Allah. If the person also has a tariqa, it must be an authentic one, meaning at minimum that the sheikh and disciple know that the Sacred Law is above the sheikh, disciple, and everyone else.

4. That the husband be the man of the family. The way of the prophets, the Sufi sheikhs, and of Islam, is that the man leads, supports, guides, and takes care of his wife and family. Allah says, “Men are keepers over women, because Allah has favored the one above the other, and because they expend of their wealth: So righteous women are worshipful, faithfully guarding their honor when their husbands are gone, as Allah has guarded them” (Qur’an 4:34). A man does not throw his weight around with meaningless orders, but is not the obsequious follower of the woman Allah has made him keeper of. He rather asks Allah to guide him in his decisions, listens to what wisdom his wife may offer, and then follows his best judgement, returning especially in the big decisions to his own istikhara.

5. That the wife be the woman of the family. There is a lot of bad advice around today about marriage that is far from any meaningful appreciation of men’s and women’s different natures. In previous ages of Islamic history, there was no need to advise anyone about the roles of men and women. But in our times, current cultural norms consider men and women interchangeable, forbid men to be men, and few wives can look up to the sapless males the theories have created. The present rules of behavior between men and women are merely adequate for how long most marriages today last.

We advise ladies in the tariqa to read and apply Fascinating Womanhood, which contains the best description of the akhlaq or proper way of handling oneself necessary for any woman who wants her marriage to succeed. Some of its remarks about the bedroom and women’s education are inapplicable to an Islamic context, but these are easily distinguished from the rest, and everyone who has followed the book has found that it works. Ladies find that once they start acting femininely, their men are able to respond with a manly sense of loving and protecting a woman. Women in the tariqa have also found a lot of benefit from The Surrendered Wife. A third work is Happy Housewives, especially useful for women affected by modern corporate values, though the author’s diction is occasionally indelicate.

6. That the husband have a lawful income by which he can support a wife and free her from the need to work, providing for her a bayt shar‘i or ‘home as guaranteed by Sacred Law,’ meaning her own house or self-contained part of a house, which she runs, and has complete security in and everything else she needs, according to the standard enjoyed in her father’s house. It means she has an autonomous privacy not subject to her husband’s family entering at will or meddling with her. This said, an intelligent wife understands from the first that she cannot separate her husband from his family, so uses diplomacy with her in- laws, to make them feel welcome in her house as guests. If she doesn’t get along with her in-laws or suffers harm from them, the husband can visit them himself at their home. If a man in the tariqa wants to get married, he has to be able to provide all this. Otherwise, the man must make plans for the future, with Allah’s help. One need not obey parents’ demands to marry if one is unable to provide a wife with these basic rights guaranteed by Sacred Law, unless the wife knows that her living situation involves forgoing some of these, and she completely accepts.

Anyone who marries someone meeting these six conditions marries with the sheikh’s complete blessing and best wishes, although there is baraka in seeking his permission. Among the most important adab in the events leading directly up to the marriage are the following.

The Man Seeking a Wife

The qualities praised by the sunna in a prospective wife are that she be religious, intelligent, amiable and well-mannered, fertile (as inferable from her mother or female relatives), from a good family, a virgin, pleasing in appearance, undesirous of an exorbitant marriage payment, and not a close family relative.

When seeking to marry a woman, the prospective suitor should make his intention for Allah, then send someone, preferably a family member, to her family to ask for a chaperoned meeting with her. The messenger should be someone who will honestly tell them how he is. He should inquire about the prospective bride from a religious and reliable informant, and not

for example someone who bears malicious tales (namima) between people. Women are better to send, as they normally notice details more closely than men, and can meet with her and her female family members. He should ask about her religiousness; her diligence in prayer and fasting; her shyness, reserve, and modesty; her personal cleanliness; her chasteness of speech; whether she stays at home; and how well she respects her parents. He should ask about the character of her father, and about her mother’s behavior, religion, and works.

It is a key sunna to then personally meet with the woman, to sit and talk with her as many times as it takes to make up his mind about marriage. The man and woman should make sure they communicate well, are comfortable with and like each other, and are on the same page in their religion. The man should not admire in the woman qualities admirable only in a man. It is better to avoid the “student type” whose mother has served her all her life with every conceivable labor at home to free her to study, hence never learned common sense, how to work, cook, clean, run a house, take care of children, or make a home comfortable. Nor should a prospective spouse come from a dysfunctional family, broken home, or household dominated by an aggressive mother. If a family seems a bit off, it usually is. If the prospective bride has debts, he must think of how they will be paid off. He should pray istikhara a few times after learning what he can about her.

The Woman Receiving a Marriage Proposal

Much of the preceding advice may be equally given to the woman whose hand is sought in marriage. She should send a reliable informant to ask about the man’s madhhab, his religiousness, his taqwa, tenets of faith, personal manliness and respectability, and whether he is true to his word. She should ask about his family and relatives, his group affiliations, who visits him, how diligently he keeps the prayer, and his uprightness and goodness at work.

The man should be financially responsible and have successfully held down a job for some time working, preferably for someone besides his father. A husband has to know how to work. The man should be religious, not high-handed, arrogant, sinful, or have heretical views. He should not be spoiled, meaning self-centered, quick to anger, and in need of instant gratification of his whims. A mama’s boy should be shunned. In our times, he should be free of addictions, meaning not only to illicit substances, but to pornography, gaming, blogging, endless surfing online, restauranting, the entertainment industry, adrenaline, and to the host of vices purveyed by the Internet to the profit of a few and ruin of many. Addictions destroy marriages. She should not hope to rehabilitate the man, but realize that “what you see is what you get.”

She should want him for his religion rather than his wealth, and the way he conducts his life rather than his fame. She should resolve to live with him in contentment with their means and to obey his commands, for that ensures affection and love.

One sin that often brings unlooked-for misfortune in marriage is revealing sins to another. In Islam to mention past sins is itself a sin. Allah has commanded us to hide all acts of disobedience, except when it would lead to actual harm to another. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) has said, “Whoever conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in this world and the next” (Muslim [00], 4.2074: 2699. S). This includes one’s own sins; and whether from one’s spouse, prospective spouse, or anyone else. It includes previous illicit sex, which is haram to mention and obligatory to conceal, even by deception if necessary. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said:

All of my Umma shall be forgiven, except those who commit iniquities openly. Verily, open indecency includes a man committing an act by night, and then in the morning when Allah has concealed what he did, saying, “O So-and-so, last night I did such and such.” He spent the night with his Lord having concealed what he did; and when morning came, he pulled aside the veil of Allah (Bukhari [00], 8.24: 6069. S).

Imam Nawawi mentions this hadith under the rubric of “the prohibition of pulling aside the cover from one’s sins” (Sharh Muslim [00], 18.119). How many a person was unable to resist telling a friend or a spouse of the wickedness they did in their former life, and Allah requited them with contempt in the other’s heart that could never be erased, because there is no baraka in the haram. All of which refers to sins now finished, as opposed to ongoing habitual problems such as addictions, which the person asked about must truthfully disclose to a prospective marriage partner, since, like defects in a spouse that permit annulment of marriage, addictions ruin marriages, and the partner must know about them in advance to reach an informed decision.

The Wedding

When a man decides to marry a woman, they should keep the interval between the signing of the contract and the wedding day as brief as possible, certainly not more than a space of months. At the wedding, he does not kiss the bride in front of her family. The groom should be manly and firm, and not allow unreligious family members to plan anything at the wedding or reception that will take away the marriage’s tawfiq, anger Allah, or shame them on the Last Day, such as music, alcohol, mixing of the sexes, wasteful extravagance, or other matters taken for granted by many today. The groom should simply tell everyone he refuses to come to such a wedding. They are unlikely to have it without him.

Family Rights and Roles

Abul Hasan al-Shadhili related from his sheikh ‘Abd al-Salam ibn Mashish that he said:

There are two ill deeds that a great many good deeds seldom have any benefit with: bitterness over Allah’s destining, and wronging Allah’s servants. And there are two good deeds that a great many ill deeds seldom do any harm with: acceptance of Allah’s destining, and fully forgiving Allah’s servants (Durra al-asrar (c00), 88).

Few things cause such bitterness and wrong as disregarding the rights of family. A murid who wants to be close to Allah must observe the rights, duties, and adab of dealing with family members.

The Husband

A man should be his wife’s friend, pleasant and courteous in speech, show her love and affection, and be relaxed and informal when they are alone. He should overlook occasional missteps, forgive mistakes, defend her honor, seldom argue with her, honor her family, continually promise her the best, and have the manly jealousy to keep matters between her and other men from exceeding permissible limits.

He should be calm and chivalrous with his wife, well-mannered, patient, and tender, and know how to dispel tensions and arguments with jokes, ridiculous asides, and amorous liberties. He doesn’t have to prove he is tough, but should always mean what he says. and not humor his wife’s whims or be so soft-hearted or indulgent that he worsens her character and turns her a domineering tyrant. If she has no adab or respect for him, he should send her back to her family

until she wants to be a wife. Whenever he sees something ethically wrong, he should be grave and critical. He should be moderate and fair, buying her gifts and flowers, paying admiring compliments, and spending ungrudgingly on her necessities. He is neither stingy, nor wastefully lavish in buying things of little enjoyment or benefit. He should leave the house to work during the day, even if wealthy, because it is difficult for a wife to respect a husband who hangs around the house.

If a man has two wives, he should be strictly equitable in time, attention, and advantages to both, and not let one bully or enamor him into being unfair to the other. With Imam Shafi‘i and all of our sheikhs I regard such equity as so difficult for most people to manage that marriage to more than one wife is religiously “superior not to do” (khilaf al-awla) under ordinary circumstances. Shafi‘i’s position is borne out by the word of Allah “You shall never be able to be completely fair between wives, however much you want to; So do not incline so wholly towards one that you leave the other one hanging; And if you set matters right, and prevent unfairness, verily Allah is oft-forgiving, all-compassionate” (Qur’an 4:129).

As a Muslim man, a husband should be clean in dress, make frequent use of the breath-freshening tooth-stick (siwak), and wear clothes neither intended to draw attention nor yet mean and sordid. He does not keep his hem low out of pride or high to appear ascetic. He attends the Friday prayer, always prays in a group, and does much dhikr and worship. He does not gawk around him while walking, look at other women than his wife, sit on the doorstep of his house with neighbors, or talk much with his friends about his wife and what takes place in his home.

The Wife

A woman should be her husband’s friend, while keeping a respectful shyness towards him, avoiding arguing with him, obeying his word in everything lawful. She should hold her peace when he speaks, keep his honor when he is away, and not treacherously take his property. She should smell pleasant, care well for her teeth and clothes, be content with her standard of living, be tender and loving, and keep up her appearance. She should honor his family and relatives, be appreciative for him, accept his deeds with gratitude, and show him her happiness when she sees him. She should give her husband first priority and attention rather than her children.

Otherwise, husbands eventually get tired of being ignored, spend increasingly long hours away from home, and begin talking about divorce or getting a second wife.

As a Muslim woman, she should prefer to be in her own home, taking care of her house and children, making sure that both are clean and orderly. She should learn her religion to properly practice it and raise her children Islamically. Her ambition should lie in perfecting herself. She should faithfully perform her prayer and fasting, study her own faults, and think of her religion. She should speak little, not waste time on pointless conversations, and lower her gaze. She should be vigilant of her Lord, make much dhikr, encourage her husband to seek and earn the halal, and not ask for many gifts from him. She should be shy and modest, neither harsh or coarse in word, have fortitude, be thankful, prefer others to herself, and be generous with herself and her effort. If a friend of her husband calls when he is not at home, she does not admit him, seek to understand his purpose, or speak with him at length—out of jealousy for her honor and that of her husband.

Parents

When children are born, parents should remember that their children do not belong to them, but to Allah, who has reposited them with them as a trust, to raise to be good Muslims who will gain eternal happiness. Parents’ love for their children should be unconditional and not based on their attainments, but their rules for them should be equally unconditional: plain, unsubject to change, and enforced with unvarying discipline.

Parents should help their children be kind and respectful to them by not being harsh, bullying, obsessed with achievement, or imposing more on them than they can bear. The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “Whoever harms, Allah harms; and whoever makes hardship for another, Allah make hardship for him” (Mustadrak (c00), 2.58. S). Parents should raise their children for Allah and the children’s benefit, not merely their own.

Parents should not favor one child above others. Gifts, praise, and attention should be equal between all. Parents should not compare children with one another within their hearing to the favor of one and disadvantage of the other. Father and mother should never fight or argue in front of the children. Parents should never throw temper tantrums or use harmful violence against family members, for these are transmitted from

generation to generation by the bad example of parents, and predecessors bear the sin of all those who follow them therein.

A father must be around to show his children by precept and example what a man is. Children raised without a man in the house are greatly disadvantaged. A father should not spend night after night “out with the boys” away from his family, but realize they are trust from Allah, and that children do not raise themselves.

It is not permissible, but a crime against a child to spoil it. If the child learns hardiness, self- sacrifice, and patience, it will have the emotional means to succeed in life. The child who is the center of his parents’ doting seldom turns out to be good for anything else. If parents see that their children share things with others, do not throw tantrums, sit quietly when told to, respect elders, and obey their father and mother—in a word, have good character—they should thank Allah for the tawfiq. But if their children are badly behaved and selfish, parents should realize they are not succeeding, and have the humility to ask parents of well-behaved children what they do. Neglecting discipline is equally neglect; and over- indulged children, like other victims of neglect, grow up unable to hold down a job, succeed in marriage, or live normal lives. How many a parent gave their child everything it wanted, counting on its eternal gratitude, only to find that their ill-bred child later had no use for them; while those who raised their child with discipline for Allah found their efforts well repaid.

Children

A child, even when grown up, should heed his parents, rise when they stand, and obey their commands in everything halal that does not cause harm to himself or his wife or children. He should respond to their invitations, and not exasperate them with insistence or remind them of any kindness or matter he has taken care of for them. He should not regard them dismissively, or refuse their behest. He should provide generously for them when in need, and in their infirmity of years, he should “lower to them the wing of humility out of mercy” (Qur’an 17:24).

To summarize, a good marriage is for Allah. He shows His favor to such a marriage by tawfiq, harmony, and happiness between family members. The sign of tawfiq is good character. Dhul Nun was asked, “Who among men is the most plagued with hardship?” and he answered, “The worst of them in character (akhlaq).” When then asked, “What is the mark of bad character?” He replied, “Always disagreeing.”

I was once visiting Sheikh Nuh al-Qudah at his home in Zarqa in the 1980s, when a man came in and spoke of the long conflicts of someone else’s marriage. The sheikh listened and finally remarked, “Thus do We consign wrongdoers to one another, for that which they would earn [Qur’an 6:129].”

Because of its many challenges, some sheikhs of the path have preferred a disciple wait to marry until he has achieved a sound footing in the tariqa for a few years, meaning that taqwa and Iman have become his mode of thinking. New converts to Islam too, who often hear well-meant advice from ethnic Muslims about promptly getting wed, should practice and adjust to their religion for a year or two before taking on the additional challenges of marriage. If one is single and suffers from temptation, one may request the “Settling One’s Grounds” program from the sheikh.

Link to article

#Ibelieveinloveagain

December 13, 2014

What I love about the “new” naturals

December 13, 2014

6th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon I have to make this quick because I’m desperately tired. But I’ve been trying to write in the early mornings, you know, productivity. So I had a discussion with my sister yesterday and among other things we talked a lot about hair. Since were from Caribbean heritage which involved a lot of African ancestry we both have “black hair” that we have allowed to be natural, i.e. not chemically straightened. It wasn’t always that way, as young girls we went through the typical tradition of getting relaxers which permanently straightened our hair for a few weeks, then we had to regularly go to the salon ever 6 weeks to two months to “relax our roots” (what symbolism).

My younger sister was the first to stop. She was never a fan of the hair salon and just hated going, this was in her teen years. I wouldn’t stop until late in college after reading an essay that really stopped me in my tracks. I don’t remember what exactly it was about but I remember feeling like I didn’t want to put this creamy stuff (creamy crack as it’s affectionately known) in my hair anymore, I wanted to be myself. So I let my natural hair grow and later cut off the straight hair. That wasn’t fun and if I could go back I wouldn’t do it again, but Alhumduillah hair grows back. Since then… 5 hours later, lol, I fell asleep.

So there is one main natural hair movement we can all look back on in the not so distance1_AngelaDavis_1_1024x1024 past and that is the “Black Power” natural hair movement of the 60’s and 70’s. As it seems, black women and men were giving up the hot comb and chemical relaxer to show their black empowerment, to prove “black is beautiful” and to be anti establishment. Going “back to our roots” and back to a more authentic version of ourselves. The hair was big, very big, and it was all about the afro unfortunately I never saw a picture of my dad from this error but he reports that his afro was quite big I do have one picture of my mom in the 70’s/ early 80’s with a short modest afro. Back then it was all about the afro pick and afro sheen.

The new natural movement strikes me as distinctly different from the old natural movement. It’s the same idea in essence, going against prevailing beauty standards and back to our more natural selves. But in the new natural movement there is no urge to turn away from attaining beauty standards, a new standard has merely been created. In going through a plethora of black hair blogs a YouTube videos a few things are clear: Curl definition, length, manageability and shine are the beauty standard for any natural. Yes, love what grows from your head but take care of it. The image I get from the 70’s is of people simply picking their afro and spraying some shine on it. Very simple. But today no new natural is simply picking and shining in fact combing dry hair is a big no-no. A “wash and go” is probably one of the biggest illusionary titles ever given to a hair style. New naturals are detangling, deep conditioning, oiling and constantly looking for new methods of taking care of their hair. Not only this but they (we) are checking for length and curl definition. There is also work to be put in at bed time. You wouldn’t dare sleep with your hair out and then comb it in the morning you’re asking for trouble (unless you’re married then you should probably figure out another routine, lol). You would oil it then braid, twist or bantu knot before bed.

There is a beauty ideal to attain, bringing your hair to it’s best. Though this very much has to do with black beauty and returning to our roots I think what’s more prominent in the movement is a general idea of self acceptance, self-love and making the most of what you’ve got. I have yet to hear a new natural talk about not “looking like the white man” or not “buying the white man’s products”. Though I think that had its place in the 60’s and 70’s I think a more general self acceptance is more valuable to my generation. And though there are some distinctive beauty ideals in the new natural movement I think there is more diversity in how one can or should wear their hair then in the 60’s/70’s. It’s not so much about the fact that my roots express my “Africaness” but that my roots are mine, they grow out of my head and I am going to accept it and love it and everyone else will have to follow suit. What’s similar about the old movement and the new is that their both empowering and that’s of extreme value. I don’t think there’s ever been a better time to be natural so if you’re tempted to give it a shot now’s the time to let your roots grow.

Advice on going natural: Blackgirlslonghair.com and CurlyNikki.com are good places to start.

Winter has come

December 12, 2014

Winter gets a depressing portrayal. In our metaphors and in our life we think of winter as the time of year where things die, life choices are limited and the warmth of comfort food is all we can hope for. In thinking about my health lately and trying to be more in tune with my body I realize this doesn’t have to be the case. The cold weather is actually the perfect time for change if we allow it be. Many of us do aim to change in the winter because of January, the beginning of the new year. But instead of an arbitrary calendar month I think we’d do ourselves some good to pay close attention to this season. This could be, if we allow it, the season of cultivation. Of all seasons it’s the most dramatic. The days are extremely short and the cold is unbearable unless we fight back really hard we are going to be forced to change our schedules. If we’re students chances are we either have off or are taking a short and very intense semester. Even if you work and don’t get time off, the lunches or afternoon walks will probably cease. This is also a time we fear putting on weight, we long for comfort foods like warm bread and with the day being shorter we may call it quits earlier either heading to bed or staring a a screen for hours until we dozen off. So what is the benefit in this seemingly unproductive month?

Diet. When we think of comfort food in the winter our mind goes to breads, macaroni and cheese, cakes and warm cookies but does it have to? In the winter are we really craving any specific food or are we craving warmth? If your ideal diet consists of lots of cold salads and fruit smoothies I don’t think you’ll last very long in the winter. Soon you’ll give in to those comfort foods but eating bread everyday will only lead you farther from your goal so are you just going to be miserable all winter stuffing your face with cold salads or have regret and go to those comfort foods? Neither. Comfort foods in the winter equals warmth and warmth doesn’t have to mean fresh baked cookies it can mean warm soups, cooked vegetables and hot tea.

Winter is an ideal time for healthy eating. Remembering your body wants warm food which doesn’t have to equal a ton of carbs is one way to stay healthy but winter can also force you to be healthy if you pay attention to your body. For me, in general, I can’t eat a lot of meat or dairy but within that category I can get away with having a bit of it everyday but in the winter it’s not possible. When it gets cold I have to severely limit my meat and diary intake or I will be sick. Sneezing, coughing, runny nose, in the winter it’s all directly related to meat and diary for me. In winter I can more readily see the direct consequences of my eating habits on my health. Of course I can ignore them but having lowered my dairy and meat consumption for the past few years and experiencing less health problems in the winter has convinced me to stick to this habit. Sugar also does a great deal of harm to me in the winter. If I consume sweets as normal my throat will get irritated and I’ll get similar cold- like symptoms as I would with dairy though not completely. If I don’t want to be sick in the winter I better take my health seriously, which can lead to good habits that continue after winter.

Worship. In the winter we have very long nights which can lead us to feel unproductive. In the past we would probably just dose off earlier but with the advent of technology that needn’t be so. Some us will still head to bed earlier others will sit in from the screen but most of us usually don’t feel so productive during these longer nights and shorter days. Though the set up of winter is not ideal for work it is ideal for worship. Because our business with the world ends a lot earlier then usual we have a chance to spend more time doing our dhikr and praying. It’s also an ideal time to fast since the night comes in so early.

Because we’re spending less time with people this time is also an ideal time for reflection and introspection. We see the leaves on the tree as dead and the tree as lifeless but maybe it’s better if we saw it as alive but quiet. Quietly cultivating itself so that when the time is right it will bloom. And this is what we can seek after in the winter months. With less distraction work on your relationship with your creator, make up those salahs you missed, pick up a new dhikr to do. Now you have more time to focus on the one who gives time with less distractions of worldly pursuits.

Modesty. God be with someone who becomes Muslim or decides to start dressing more modestly in the summer. The summer is a struggle for most of us when it comes to modesty, but the winter? The winter is a perfect time to start dressing more modestly, partly because you don’t have a choice,. Most of us cover our heads in the winter so if you want to start wearing hijab now is the perfect time. If you’re use to showing your arms, or neck or legs, in the winter you have to cover up so why not make this the beginning of modesty? In the Winter in New York I always joked to myself that everyone looks Muslim. And here in Jordan even though most are Muslim a good amount don’t wear hijab, whoever or wherever you are the goal of modesty is most attainable in the winter.

Catching up. Now that you don’t go out with friends as much you have more time to do house stuff. Those clothes you’ve been meaning to give away? That new recipe you’ve been wanting to try? The rearrangement of you furniture you thought might look neat? Try it. Now’s the time. All the hours you’d be out an about town you’d now rather spend at home avoiding the cold, this gives you the opportunity to not avoid household tasks you’ve wanted to accomplish. Make a list of the things you’d like to get done in your home and get started but remember to prioritize -winter won’t last forever!

Honing your craft. Are you a speaker? Or have you always wanted to be? Chances are the opportunities to do so publicly are less in the winter so why not use this time to cultivate your craft. The same is true for everything else. Writing, art, cooking, take the time now to explore your interests. The kind of interests that require more time and less people. Focus and see how far you get.

Another benefit to winter that comes to me in this moment is that it’s a time to find out what really matters most. The friends you still make an effort to meet with in the winter are probably the friends whose company you enjoy the most. The places you go are probably the only the places you need to go. This time is also great to spend with family. Your all stuck in the house together trying to avoid the cold, why not make the best of it! So this winter instead of wasting the night hours desperately waiting for winter to be over or forcing life to go on as normal take heed of the cold days. Winter is not an annoyance to get through but a gentle reminder of what’s important.

Yo Mismo

December 11, 2014

I’ve been wondering to myself lately: What if my only job was to look after myself? What kind of life would I live? What kind of decisions would I make? How much greater would my health be? How much better would I be? Taking care of myself is something I’ve never done an excellent job with. I’m not usually on the brink of falling apart but I’ve been close. My health, my weight, my writing, my exercise regimen, my studying it all seems to be consistently inconsistent.

But what if I took my life more seriously? Imagine for a moment that living your life and being your best self was an actual job. A job you have to go to and work hard to receive your compensation each week, each month, each year, for your lifetime. Yet isn’t that exactly what it’s like? If you don’t go to work, if you don’t make money soon everything will fall apart: all your necessities will perish and you’ll be left in ruin.

We don’t think about ourselves that way, but we should. I take myself for example, if I eat poor food (junk food and snacks), if I eat too much and if I don’t drink enough water I’ll gain weight, break out on my skin and be depressed by my lack of control. My actions have a direct result but somehow it’s more difficult to see the hard consequences. I know it will have a bad effect but the effect doesn’t happen right way. When you don’t go to work you lose your pay for the day, it’s that immediate but when I eat a donut or even three I don’t immediately gain five pounds. Sometimes if I eat too many sweets I may immediately break out but I think a second issue at play helps to lower the impact of these negative effects, because it’s my own body I get use to it.

A new scar on my face today is just an old scar by next week and in a month I’ll hardly remember when it wasn’t there. In a year I’ll start to think my face always had the mark. It becomes easy to forget that the scar or the addition in weight or any other negative aspect in life is a direct effect of my actions. If that thought were more present I think it’d be easier to change.

Yesterday I went my second day without eating any sweets (though I did have coffee) not applause worthy but worth noting, at some point in the day I told myself how nice it would be to have a Cinnabon then I quickly said “no”. How did I say no instead of hoping in a cab as usual or getting a second best snack from the corner store? I saw the direct consequence of eating a Cinnabon. I knew how it would make me feel, farther from my weight goal and a failure on my diet and though it wouldn’t immediately explode my weight it would get me back in to the habit of that sweet sensation. A Cinnabon today, a cookie tomorrow, M & M’s the day after that and so on. The Cinnabon would spiral other choices that would continue my weight gain.

I’m not saying I’ll never have sweets again, I’d never say that. But going a few days without them is such a relief. Breaking a cycle of addictive behavior, is empowering. I’m slowly trying to convince myself that my number one job is to take care of myself. Umm Sahl said something yesterday in her lesson that really stuck with me “Nobody is going to hold my hand when I stand in front of God”. And it’s true. My life has to be primarily about nursing myself to health and finding best ways to do that.

I’m trying to focus on what my body wants and needs. Today I realized I should probably stay away from meat and dairy as the winter approaches, this is how my body does best in the cold weather. I need to switch from eggs to oatmeal, from meat to soup, from coffee to tea. While these matters may not sound as serious as heaven or hell, it is, it all is. My body, my time, my mind are a trust from God that I will be asked about. I have to drink more water to maintain my physical heath, I have to do more dhikr to maintain my spiritual health. All is valuable all is a matter of distance or closeness to God, gratitude or ingratitude.

I found this talk extremely beneficial and I’m trying to make it my battle cry for life, ‘The Discipline of Finishing by Conor Neill: Listen

The Woman, A Parable

December 11, 2014

The Woman: a parable
© Nuh Ha Mim Keller 2001

A man was walking through the marketplace one afternoon when, just as the muezzin began the call to prayer, his eye fell on a woman’s back. She was strangely attractive, though dressed in fulsome black, a veil over head and face, and she now turned to him as if somehow conscious of his over-lingering regard, and gave him a slight but meaningful nod before she rounded the corner into the lane of silk sellers. As if struck by a bolt from heaven, the man was at once drawn, his heart a prisoner of that look, forever. In vain he struggled with his heart, offering it one sound reason after another to go his way—wasn’t it time to pray?—but it was finished: there was nothing but to follow.

He hastened after her, turning into the market of silks, breathing from the exertion of catching up with the woman, who had unexpectedly outpaced him and even now lingered for an instant at the far end of the market, many shops ahead. She turned toward him, and he thought he could see a flash of a mischievous smile from beneath the black muslin of her veil, as she—was it his imagination?—beckoned to him again.

The poor man was beside himself. Who was she? The daughter of a wealthy family? What did she want? He requickened his steps and turned into the lane where she had disappeared. And so she led him, always beyond reach, always tantalizingly ahead, now through the weapons market, now the oil merchants’, now the leather sellers’; farther and farther from where they began. The feeling within him grew rather than decreased. Was she mad? On and on she led, to the very edge of town.

The sun declined and set, and there she was, before him as ever. Now they were come, of all places, to the City of Tombs. Had he been in his normal senses, he would have been afraid, but indeed, he now reflected, stranger places than this had seen a lovers’ tryst.

There were scarcely twenty cubits between them when he saw her look back, and, giving a little start, she skipped down the steps and through the great bronze door of what seemed to be a very old sepulcher. A soberer moment might have seen the man pause, but in his present state, there was no turning back, and he went down the steps and slid in after her.

Inside, as his eyes saw after a moment, there were two flights of steps that led down to a second door, from whence a light shone, and which he equally passed through. He found himself in a large room, somehow unsuspected by the outside world, lit with candles upon its walls. There sat the woman, opposite the door on a pallet of rich stuff in her full black dress, still veiled, reclining on a pillow against the far wall. To the right of the pallet, the man noticed a well set in the floor.

“Lock the door behind you,” she said in a low, husky voice that was almost a whisper, “and bring the key.”

He did as he was told.

She gestured carelessly at the well. “Throw it in.”

A ray of sense seemed to penetrate for a moment the clouds over his understanding, and a bystander, had there been one, might have detected the slightest of pauses.

“Go on,” she said laughingly, “You didn’t hesitate to miss the prayer as you followed me here, did you?”

He said nothing.

“The time for sunset prayer has almost finished as well,” she said with gentle mockery. “Why worry? Go on, throw it in. You want to please me, don’t you?”

He extended his hand over the mouth of the well, and watched as he let the key drop. An uncanny feeling rose from the pit of his stomach as moments passed but no sound came. He felt wonder, then horror, then comprehension.

“It is time to see me,” she said, and she lifted her veil to reveal not the face of a fresh young girl, but of a hideous old crone, all darkness and vice, not a particle of light anywhere in its eldritch lines.

“See me well,” she said. “My name is Dunya, This World. I am your beloved. You spent your time running after me, and now you have caught up with me. In your grave. Welcome, welcome.”

At this she laughed and laughed, until she shook herself into a small mound of fine dust, whose fitful shadows, as the candles went out, returned to the darkness one by one.

Putting in work

December 7, 2014

Processed with Moldiv

So excited! I spent my morning working on my book Love, Life & Faith -please show your support and reserve a copy and don’t forget to download 40 hadith of ‘Aisha. So I’m really enjoying writing this book. I must say I laughed my head off this morning reading and writing it. Which is unusual. Every once in a while I try my hand at humor, it doesn’t usual go well. Not that this book is meant to be humorous but in stories of love what can I do but laugh at the past. I recently finished another book, a small work about the Muslim belief in God. It’s due for editing but besides that I had my ads and felt ready to go, sort of. That work is really serious and could have a lot of good or bad consequences for me. When dealing in the realm of faith I have to be careful. Not because I think I’ll say something wrong. I’m fairly cautious and have learned enough Aqidah to know the basic and not stray (may God keep me) but sometimes merely knowing something and conveying it fairly well is not enough you have to further ask yourself: Is my audience ready? Is the knowledge I’m conveying actually necessary for that audience? And am I approaching this with the right intention?

Thank Allah for my eldest sister or I would have never thought of any of this. My zealousness in wanting people to know the truth overrode my fear that this truth my not be what they need and may actually be harmful to them. Something Sheikh Nuh said yesterday, and I hope I’m not making a mistake by sharing this, is that sometimes silence comes because there is someone in the audience who is not ready to hear it and it would be a hardship or tribulation for them. I don’t think much of myself. I have a few thousand people who like my page on Facebook, I taught a class for new Muslims in New York, I have this blog. If I release a tiny book my hopes is that it will benefit people but is there any reality that it will change the world? Well, who knows. Socrates/ Plato is reported to have feared the written word because of it’s permanence and ability to travel it also becomes disembodied from the author. What’s written is written and once it’s out there you’ll never know its impact so think well before you write. So this little work about God Al Mighty may never see the light of day and I have to be ok with that.

Or many it is better if it’s circulation is restricted. Maybe I can teach a class on the subject with the book, then only give the book to those students. A german philosopher once said, “Be careful lest in fighting a monster you become one”. I think a certain sect of Muslims are wrong in their belief in God, it goes against the majority and the prophet, peace to him. And I think they have too much influence. I want to combat them but I can’t approach the masses with the same attitude they have. That is: your wrong, your misguided now let me teach you the right way. I’m blessed that God has given me so many amazing teachers and access to knowledge. But I’m wrong to think that because I learned I know. Knowing is from Allah and maybe I need to start believing that everyone knows and it merely needs to be awakened in all of us. One day long ago God asked us, Am I not your Lord? And we all said Yes. Within us is an unfiltered, pure belief in God, I have to believe that. Maybe it’s been muddled by negative influences but it’s there. I hope God will give me a way and a chance to reawaken it anyone who needs the reminder, including myself.

Baraka or germs

December 3, 2014

jordan photoEvery time I see my sheikh’s wife or another of the sheikha’s in the Zawiya, I kiss their hand. A strange thing for an American like myself to do but I do it. At first out of following, everyone else is doing it, and later out of honor and respect. I’d only see the practice done once before. A little black girl, the daughter of my fiqh teacher at the time, kissed my hand when she greeted me. It was a practice I assumed she picked up in Turkey, where she spent some of her young life. It was honestly one of the cutest and most noble things I’ve seen a child do. I had the same experience on my last visit to my sister in Qatar when two children of her friend did the same. It certainly beats the kid who “shy” and barely greets you from behind their mom’s dress, if they greet you at all.

Sometimes when I kiss the hand of a shaykha I think three things that give me uncertainty -one, I hope I’m not annoying her, two, I hope my Chapstick or whatever ever doesn’t get on her hands (or God forbid spit!) and three, what about germs?

We live in a microscopic world, where we believe in and fear things we cannot see. Of course this is called science. To be honest though I occasionally have a germ fear (me to her not the other way around). Their is something much more prominent and also invisible that I think we all long for when we go to kiss a noble persons’ hand -baraka. I have an inside joke that goes “Baraka is real”. It’s such an inside joke I’m probably the only one who gets it.

At Umrah, the umrah I made two years past, many things where different in Mecca then when my father went for hajj twenty years prior. One thing is that when you get your zam zam water it comes from a fountain and next to that fountain are a slew of plastic cups. When my father went years ago, there was one cup (or maybe a few) and everyone had to share. It may seem like a great improvement that we no longer have to wait in line to use the only available cup, it may decrease the passing of “germs” from one person to another but does it also decrease the passing of baraka?

Places, people, objects can all have baraka, blessings. The fact that safa and marwa are now trapped in a building and we can no longer walk the exact steps of Sayyidatuna Hajar, means we can no longer gain the blessings of those footsteps. Some Muslims worry or flat out think its forbidden to celebrate the prophets’ birthday, it’s too much, they say. I’m not sure if these kinds if people understand the reality of baraka. The day Monday, is a blessed day simply because he was born. The shoes he wore, the clothes he wore, the place he was raised in all have baraka, because baraka is real. The grave of Khadija was uprooted and toilets were built over it. This is the kind of behavior of people who don’t understand baraka. The graves of the Sahaba and the saints are Mubarak (blessed) places. In the time of the prophet people literally kept locks of his hair and the sweat of his body. These things were Mubarak, and those people hoped to gain something of that blessing by owning something that once belonged to the beloved. That single cup of all the hujjaj, the saints and the forgiven sinners alike contained baraka. The plastic germ free sterilized (wasteful) cup does not. It may be germ free but it may also be baraka free. So I kiss the hands of noble women in hopes that I will gain some of the blessing that her hand, the one that made dhikr and stayed on the path of Tasawwuf consistently, is filled with. Maybe, just maybe, some of the baraka will stick with me.

Protected: You don’t matter

December 2, 2014

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