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Top Ten Posts

August 17, 2016

Hello and salaams all,

We’ve recently received a lot of new readers so I thought it would be valuable to see which of my posts have been the most popular over the period of our entire blog lifespan and share with you. Enjoy.

Top Ten:

Help me finish my Arabic program

May 22, 2016

_Device Memory_home_user_pictures_IMG02111 10.35.30 PMAsalamu Alaykum and Hello dear reader,

Alhumdulilah I’ve been able to acquire a lot during my time in Amman, Jordan. But I know that my speaking ability has been my weakest point and I’d love to have just one last semester to complete my Arabic studies overseas before returning home to New York. If you can help me by June 10th I’d truly be grateful. You can donate one of the amounts listed below and receive a donation gift including one- on- one Arabic instruction (details below). Donate here: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=8FP57NNJN2LCS

Hoping to raise: $1600- $3000

Housing: $700

Tuition (With financial aid reduction): $1600

This semester’s remaining tuition: $1000

Donate and reap the benefits

$200 = Four hours of private tutoring in Arabic grammar or Arabic reading

$150 = Three hours of private tutoring in Arabic grammar or Arabic reading

$100 = Two hours of private tutoring in Arabic grammar or Arabic reading

$50 = One hour of private tutoring in Arabic grammar or Arabic reading

$40 = ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ T-shirt

$30 = ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ Mug

$10 = Thank you e- card

(Donors will be contacted about “reaping the benefits” after the completion of my studies -August 22nd, inshaAllah)

Finding the bright side

May 11, 2016

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3

I’m Sorry.

December 18, 2015

photo-1439761414027-4f4ebeeda3a3This personal blog will have to take a back seat to some other projects. I thank you for reading and I apologize for my absence.

Talk Soon,

Take Care ♥

A Wonderful Lesson

July 24, 2015

Imam Yahya Davis transformed himself into a homeless person and went to the 10,000 member mosque that he was to be introduced as the head Imam at that morning. He walked around his soon to be mosque for 30 minutes while it was filling with people for jummah….only 3 people out of the 7-10,000 people said hello to him. He asked people for change to buy food….NO ONE in the mosque gave him change. He went into the musallah to sit down in the front of the mosque and was asked if he would please sit in the back. He greeted people to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him and judging him.

As he sat in the back of the mosque, he listened to the mosque announcements and such. When all that was done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new Imam of the mosque to the congregation……..”We would like to introduce to you Imam Yahya Davis”….The jammat looked around filled with joy and anticipation…..The homeless man sitting in the back stood up…..and started walking down…..the happiness stopped with ALL eyes on him….he walked up the memba and took the microphone from the elders (who were in on this) and paused for a moment….then he recited

“Verily, Allah will say to his slave when He will be taking account of him on the Day of Judgement, ‘O’ son of Adam, I was hungry and you did not feed me.’ He will answer: ‘How could I feed you? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my slave so and so who is the son of so and so felt hunger, and you’did not feed him. Alas, had you fed him you would have found that (i.e. reward) with Me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink.’ He will reply: ‘How could I give You drink? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my slave so and so, the son of so and so felt thirsty and you did not give him drink. Alas, if you had given him, you would have found that (i.e. reward) with me.’ ‘O’ son of Adam, I became sick and you did not visit Me.’ He will answer: ‘How can I visit You? You are the Lord of the worlds!’ He will say: ‘Did you not know that my slave so and so, the son of so and so became sick and you did not visit him. Alas, had you visited him, you would have found Me with him.”

After he recited this, he looked towards the congregation and told them all what he had experienced that morning…many began to cry…. he then said….Today I see a gathering of people……not a community of Allah. The world has enough people, but not enough true Muslims…when will YOU decide to become Muslims? He then asked the Muadhan to call the iqamaat fro salat…

The Allure of Sufism

July 6, 2015

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Petra, Jordan

One of the things that drew me to Sufism was the notion that “the only one we take personally is God”. I began to realize the truth of this statement when studying Aqidah (Islamic belief system) but Sufism put it in to both words and practice. I think many of us are looking for a drug, an escape, to run away from our difficulties. We do this in a range of ways, some hazardous, some beneficial. What Sufism teaches us is that our entire life is a manifestation of our personal dealings with God. No one is independent of God. The hurt you feel, the pain you’re experiencing, the anger, whatever it is the reality is that any and every scenario God puts you in which conjures up that emotion isn’t “real”. We harbor hate at at so and so because of such and such, in reality their actions are only a manifestation of God’s will so we’re consistently left not asking ‘how to I react to Sally?’ but ‘how do I deal with God?’ And when we deal with God we are dealing with a wise and merciful being therefore we can never look towards God and claim He is unjust -how can He be unjust when everything belongs to Him and He is All Wise? We can only hope and pray to act in a manner that will bring us near to God. Seeing past the particularities of any given situation and seeing only the manifestation of God’s will.

When do you decide to stay?

June 22, 2015

photo-9At what point in a relationship do you decide leaving is not an option? At what point do you decide leaving is plausible? At what point do you decide the end is immanent? It’s been fascinating me lately if you’re past your twenties, thirties or beyond chances are you’ve ended a romantic relationship or friendship in your lifetime. I’ve never had a lifelong friendship –someone I’ve known since childhood and still remain friends with. I can remember one friend in junior high school who I remained friends with, at least loosely, through college -at some point after that we lost contact. I recall always admiring that despite the years since we were close friends hanging out daily in JHS, she would find the time to reach out to me every couple of months, see how I was doing, catch up on life. In a reunion of sorts she hosted in her home, I realized she stayed in contact with several of our old friends from JHS, whereas I left them in the past, I wonder why?

In romantic relationships it intrigues me even more. What is the defining factor in letting someone go? When I look back on my failed attempts at marriage I always think why did it end? An incident? A character flaw? Lack of logistics? A sudden lack of interest? Sometimes even I don’t quite remember, can’t exactly pinpoint what it was that broke the camels’ back. But what intrigues me more than why it ended is why that thing in particular lead to its ending. I don’t imagine my parents marriage has been happy go lucky every second of the way but they’ve been married for almost 40 years and I’d imagine during those 40 years there were hardships and I’d also imagine that some of those hardships, had they involved some other couple, would have led to separation or divorce. Why does domestic violence lead to divorce for some but not others? Why does infidelity lead to divorce for some and not others? Why do some people put up with a lost of interest and others call it quits? Why do some make it through financial strains and others say enough is enough?

I really don’t know the answer but it fascinates me, what is a good reason to stick to the person you’re with? What is a good reason to let them go? There are no clear answers, there is no absolute, no incident or character flaw so universally detested that no matter what they would break any couple apart. Family, culture and wider society also play a role –who will you hurt if you decide to leave or stay? What kind of pressure do you put on yourself or other put on you to keep going or to leave in search of something unknown? My mom came from a family of divorce, my dads parents stuck together until their death, was one couple happier than the other? What was the defining factor that allowed them to choose different paths?

We can’t go back in time and change things and we can’t honestly believe that either separation on staying together is always the better option; they both have their place. But at some point whether passively or actively and probably at several points we have to ask ourselves if we want to keep going or if the end is a better road, we can only hope the other party will feel the same.

No one cares that you’re a student of knowledge

June 13, 2015

23879_4329129140415_1306313034_nWell, some people do care, some people don’t. One of the most disappointing things you’ll realize when you become a student of knowledge and have grasped enough knowledge to start passing on to others, many see your knowledge as just another opinion in a myriad of opinions and just as valuable as their own. Though you’ve studied sacred text with scholars who have connections back to the prophet, peace to him, your interlocutor will argue with you even if they have little knowledge, even if they’ve never taken the time to study Islam formally they will readily debate you pulling from a myriad of sources they’ve “read” and “heard”. You will inform them that the shafi’i (or another madhab) ruling on such and such an issue is this, they will retort that they’ve heard a hadith that says differently. You will inform them that the opinion of scholars is more valuable than a laymen’s opinion to which they will retort that scholars aren’t infallible. In short, they simply won’t care about what you’ve learned or who you learned from or for how long, they are quite comfortable with their own opinion and there isn’t much you can teach a person who thinks they already know. Don’t let it get you down, some people do care. More importantly don’t let it change you, if you know something to be true based on your knowledge don’t do differently simply to make the uninformed around you more comfortable. Can these people who don’t care be reached? Maybe and it may even be worth the effort over time but you have to approach them with patience and speak in a way that makes sense to their understanding of the religion.

I mention all of this not as a put down to those that don’t care but a warning to students of knowledge (people who study traditional Islam) because it is one of the pitfalls I’ve experienced myself. I started studying because I wanted a more formulaic and accurate way of practicing my faith but I also thought once I received this knowledge I could be useful to others. It’s quite disappointing that despite your effort some see your knowledge as no more valuable than their own opinion but that’s just life, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

The Affable Sufi

June 7, 2015

tumblr_mrhlzzAMUR1scz75yo1_500When I read about sufism, before taking the tariq, I imagined it as a very loner’s journey. There are certainly stories that tell that tale. I will never forget the extreme stories like the sufi who refused marriage because of their love for God or the one who was enraged when people even spoke their name. There’s the sayings about the status of the people who no one notices when they’re present and no one notices when they’re gone. The sufi who lives out in the world somewhere, not eating much and not speaking to many people. Though this path exists this is isn’t exactly the shadhili way, as far as I’ve seen. Sheikh Nuh often talks about being affable with people, having an easy going manner and showing interest in people’s lives when you converse with them. The occasions I’ve been able to speak with him one-on-one I’ve been surprised by his easy going mannerism. Of course he warns us about talking at night when we should be praying, gossiping, wasting time and any of the other things engagement with people can bring but overall in our engagements we’re told to be affable. In light of my article becoming quite popular, I must remember this and put it in to practice. The more popular the article gets, the more people it reaches who disagree with me and people who will make me the subject of their hateful speech. I must remember to be affable, to get along with people even when they treat me poorly. The only really worthwhile anger is anger for the sake of God, not the ego… just a few thoughts this sunday morning…

Where are the women scholars? A non- reactionary approach

May 22, 2015

At some point I thought I might like to be a scholar. I suppose when I started studying Islam more actively I began to realize the dearth of female scholars. Outside of my life 123402881now, where I am blessed to have  four main teachers in my life two of which are women, there were distinctly two times I recall women on a panel for an Islam specific issue that would require Islamic knowledge and possibly five times in all for an Muslim specific issue that didn’t required knowledge (a cultural issue). Speaking on the knowledge specific lectures only, one was excellent and the other literally made me fall asleep.

The negative first, in a long three-day intensive -which I will never do again, one woman took the stage. The talk required intricate knowledge of fiqh points -it might have been on usool al fiqh, but it was painfully boring, I fell asleep and so did the people around me. Though the days were long I can’t remember any other painfully uncharismatic speaker besides her. I say this for a reason since as a former teacher myself I certainly don’t think I’m super exciting either. When she was done speaking I remember a woman coming to our table, one of the women who was present for the talk gloated to the incoming woman “There was a woman speaker!” “Really! What was she talking about?” “Um, I don’t know -but it was really good”.

This is what I hope we will avoid in a sudden zealous to have female speakers: speakers who aren’t qualified, aren’t good public speakers and/or situations in which the speakers are forced in to immodesty. In the same above talk the woman was sitting before and after her talking next to the men on the panel. As they chatted it up like speakers will intermittently I kept wondering -Is she married to that guy? This is admittedly far too judgmental (as instant reactions usually are) but I was uncomfortable with their proximity and would not want to be in such proximity if the role were mine. Should she have sat on the other side? Should there have been more space? Does it even matter? Well, maybe. It could be that some female scholars are simply turned off by the idea of having to be uncomfortably propped before an audience and seated beside men. Yes I know, don’t we do it everyday in life? Yes, but outside of a Muslim framework there is a degree of just putting up with the world as it is, inside the Muslim framework there is a desire to make things as they “should be” which will of course be different for everyone.

When me mom and I threw an event last year we had both male and female speakers, in the end my dear sister and my fiqh teacher sat to take questions. They were next to each other but at least a seat apart and maybe they should have been even further apart than that but I did not feel the distinct discomfort I felt in the previous scenario. My sister is in fact a good example, she’s an excellent speaker and has acquired some knowledge from her Islamic studies, she’s not a scholar but I think she has the proper foundation in Islam, qualifications and talent to stand before others and give an “Islamic lecture”. But maybe our idea about what an Islamic event should entail needs to change as well. Most Islamic events are just feel good Muslim fun. Serious knowledge doesn’t happen in lectures but in longterm studies with shuyukh who are not interested in entertaining you and the finishing of classical books. I realized this a few years ago when I abandoned the lecture circuit for more series study.

On the other hand (besides my sister) the second lecture I went to (where the speakers required religious knowledge) was excellent. The woman wouldn’t claim herself a scholar, she was still fairly young, but she was learned. She was an excellent speaker, engaging and interesting. Her and the shaykh present both sat in front but on opposite ends. It was a great lecture, I certainly remembered what she said and appreciated every word of it. I left the lecture wishing I knew about this sister sooner, she was at the time of the speech very pregnant and would not be giving lectures for some time.

Really the solution to there being no female scholars can’t be a simple-minded let’s find the closest female to us solution as may have happened in the first scenario. Here are a few issues:

What does it mean to be a scholar? I don’t consider someone with solely a ph.D from Yale or any other secular school an Islamic scholar someone else might. But if I or someone like me is organizing an event and you suggest a “scholar” based on your definitely and I say they’re unqualified it’s important that we realize we’re using the term differently. For me and the teacher’s I’ve learned from Islamic knowledge is transferred from “heart to heart”. Meaning you learned from a scholar who learned from scholar who learned from a scholar, etc. back to the prophet, peace to him. It’s a knowledge meant to transform heart, mind and action, not simply pass on information. People acquiring knowledge from atheist teachers of Islam are merely gathering information and are not scholars according to this definition.

The scholarship -by the definition of my teachers, takes time: Unfortunately if you’re beginning your scholarship journey at age 18 you’re about 16 years too late. If you read the biographies of great scholars they began their journey young. If we really want to see more female scholarship we need to turn to our youth and possibly be wiling to sacrifice a formal Western education for a formal Islamic one. Most of the people we consider scholars are not scholars if you compare them to past scholars they are simply smarter than the rest of us. You can learn later in life of course but don’t imagine you’ll become Imam Al Shafi’i.

This is particularly true for girls. Most of us want to be married in our 20s/30s. Once you’re married with kids unless you are extremely strict on yourself in setting aside time for studies and have a supportive husband your scholarship dreams may unsurprisingly vanish. Or they may no longer be your dreams or you may take a different approach to learning and teaching outside of the realm of being a “public scholar”.

Do women want to be scholars? We have to face this question or we’re fighting a losing battle. We may fight for equal space on the panel but do women actually want to be there? Whether it’s about modesty, shyness or simple disinterest in being a public person we can’t afford to overlook this possibility. 

Do we actually need more scholars (for these events)? Maybe we don’t need more female scholars on our panels -though I’d argue we need more (female) scholarship in general, maybe we just need more diversity in our events. Islamic lectures are not (often) places of real Islamic scholarship, they are cultural feel good events. A woman who is a good speaker and knowledgeable in either her field or her experience also deserves, if she will take it, a valid space on the Islamic lecture panel. Scholarship is one way to contribute to the wider Muslim community but it is by far not the only place. If we merely open the space to more voices that may be the greatest solution to seeing more women on our panels and feminine voices (issues) dealt with in our lectures.

Lastly let’s be helpful instead of hurtful, if it is so upsetting to you that there aren’t women speakers at a given event, make sure you let your voice be heard (please not in the Q and A at a given event), suggest women speakers and be as active as you can during the next Islamic event to make sure some are included. We shouldn’t intensify the problem by pledging to boycott all male panels, that’s just spite, not a solution.

I wrote on this topic previously: here

 

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