Toxic masculinity, well -what’d you expect?

May 22, 2017

It isn’t uncommon of liberal ideology, in general, to try and piecemeal ideas of the past, without realizing that they worked within an entire way of life -attack religion then try to piece together spirituality and morality, and be left utterly confused and constantly spun around because you lack any core values -homosexuality is good because hey it’s not hurting anybody… transgenders should go in the bathroom they like because of freedom of choice (but women don’t get to choose if they want transwomen in their bathrooms?)… pornography is bad good because it’s liberating (or bad because it exploits women…?) It’s no wonder those of us who are conservative -I use that term in a nonpolitical sense, or religious wonder “what’s next?” since there seems to be no underlying theory behind their movement, except maybe that what is old is quaint and what is new is good. But how do they formulate these new rules concerning goodness and who gets to formulate them? The feminist movement (which is part of the liberal movement) suffers the same confusion -chivalry is bad because it implies that women are weak, modesty is bad because it exerts male control over women, making any distinction between women and men is bad because it allows us to not be treated equally. Then comes the piecemealing, men should not be aggressive to women, show sexual attraction or hit on them because that is sexual harassment. Yet, when there were clear rules regarding male and female interaction there was no need to threaten men with lawsuits, chivalry was expected -and men who dared cross the line were swiftly dealt with, by other men.

But once we as a society take on the feminist assertion that chivalry is sexist, what exactly do we expect will follow? If men are asked not to treat women with any deference because they should treat them the same why are women fighting for things like sexual modesty, honor, and respect? These things can never be given in a vacuum. Men have been convinced -as have women, to believe that men and women are the same -so why are men simultaneously being asked to hold women to a higher standard than themselves?

Women are sending men mixed messages, and I personally feel bad for them. I remember a guy in grad school musing that he didn’t know if he should hold the door for women -is it sexist and offensive or is it still considered good and chivalrous? What I remember is (the classroom filled mostly with women) laughing, but was it really funny? Just the basic rules of conduct between genders have been lost and men, as well as women, are confused. I recall thinking of men who didn’t hold the door as rude but simultaneously feeling bad when they did –You don’t have to do that, I’d think. And no, it’s not as simple as “people should hold the door for people”. Obviously, there is a common level of courtesy that we should all exert to one another, but there is a very big difference none-the-less between common courtesy and chivalry. Holding the door long enough for the person behind you to come in is one thing, but chivalry is a man opening the door for a woman and letting her go first.

But who cares, right? We can all hold our own doors.

And this is why we have “toxic masculinity” (“Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status, and aggression.”). Firstly, let’s be clear that the term is clearly women’s experience of men, it is not objective. And that is partly the point. If and when men treat us equally, we feel the force of their masculinity as brutish. In reality, they are just being themselves with no consideration for you, just as requested -equality. Why do I and many other women experience something as simple as a man not holding a door as rude? Because men have a superior physical strength to women and doing things like holding doors is a symbolic gesture that says “I choose to use my physical strength to protect you not hurt you”. When the door closes in our face or even when they simply hold the door only long enough for us to grab on and hold it for ourselves instead of opening it and allowing us to go first, it signals to us that we are not protected and if it comes down to physicality, he wins.

For the first time in Jordan, I experienced another chivalric gesture. Anytime a man saw me -or any woman, waiting for an elevator, they’d take the stairs. We didn’t have to spend two minutes of discomfort together in a small square space, I didn’t have to worry about sexual assault or rape -no, I don’t think those things are so common that one should worry about it every time you enter an elevator, but it was a signal from those men to us women that we were safe from them. It was also a small sacrifice to say they’d rather the bother of taking steps than making any woman feel uncomfortable.

When men are able to recognize their superior physical strength and use it to protect women, they do not need laws and conferences to scold them about toxic masculinity. But when women make men afraid and ashamed of their physical differences, when they belittle them by asserting that chivalry is no longer needed. Then we begin to experience men, full strength and unfiltered. It is similar to what has happened with women, we were told modesty is blasé so we began to strip ourselves of our clothing and put our full feminine beauty on display, now men experience our complete lure, the veil of modesty has gone so they are no longer inspired to court us, they instead ogle and pant like hunting dogs -what we call sexual harassment.

Male aggressiveness and female sexuality were dressed in the cloaks of chivalry and modesty for a reason. The world without both is one filled with chaos where men don’t know how to treat women and women don’t know what to expect from men. You cannot piecemeal aspects of chivalry through and ever growing list of laws and academic terms and expect to piece together an honorable man. Nor can you preach that women should be able to do whatever they want and still expect the full respect of men. Chivalry and modesty go hand in hand -if you want one you better be working for the other as well. We’ve gained nothing but broken societies and confused people when we pretend men and women are the same, we are not, we’re different in important ways and once we value that women will no longer have to fear men, for they will use their strength to protect us.

What’s in a name? Some thoughts on ‘scholars’

May 15, 2017

In the West, Sheikh Nuh Ha Meem Keller would be recognized as a religious figure but he’d also be recognized as a scholar of philosophy. Despite the fact that I solely know Sheikh Nuh as a religious scholar and have only occasionally heard him mention anything about philosophy, he has a Ph.D. in the subject and in the West that makes him a scholar of that subject. Dr. Amina Wadud is considered a scholar of Islam in the West because she has a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies, in Western Academia that is the requirement.

Yet in the Muslim community, Sheikh Nuh is considered an Islamic scholar whereas Dr. Amina Wadud, though no one would deny her Ph.D., would be considered as no more than a Muslim public figure. But why? And is that fair?

Scholarship is an interesting concept and obviously an English word which makes it difficult to understand how to use it and who it should be used for when religion and modernity cross paths.

The West has a very different method of learning and a very different road on the path to scholarship. It would be very possible to get through the American school system without reading a single book from beginning to end. Not that we don’t read books, but often we read a section from this book and a section from that book and American students are notorious for just wanting the quickest route that will get them the best grade, meaning they have no problem reading Spark Notes. That wouldn’t be possible in a traditional Islamic learning environment where the first thing you have to do with any book, is memorize it.

But that isn’t to denigrate Western scholarship and uplift traditional Islamic scholarship, it’s to point out that the methods, paths, as well as the goals, are different. In Western scholarship, the highest goal of learning is to learn, analyze and propose a new theory of one’s own. If you can successfully critic a foundational theory in any subject you’ll receive great accolades and be looked upon as a great intellectual in the field. That is not the goal of traditional Islamic scholarship. The goal of traditional Islamic scholarship is to learn firstly in order to practice. No sincere seeker studies Islamic knowledge in order to create their own rulings. And if one does it’s not celebrated, it’s shunned.

So is it shocking that Dr. Amina Wadud cursed a prophet or that Reza Aslan feels fine to practice other people’s religions as the world watches? Well, once you understand their educational background, it’s not surprising at all. In fact, if neither of them prayed or even believed in God for that matter it would not be shocking. Western academia does not care if you practice what you study. Whereas a religious scholar within the Islamic framework would rightly be called a hypocrite or an apostate if they did not practice what they studied.

We’ve been blessed in the Muslim community to not have an abundance of religious scholars (or practitioners) who are blatant hypocrites. If you look over to the other religious communities you’ll see how abundant it is for them to question and disregard even the most foundational beliefs of their religion.

It is safe to say that despite the common word, ‘scholar’, these two types of scholars can offer very different types of knowledge. I resolve that we begin to make it clear what kind of scholar we’re talking about (Traditional vs Academic) in order to clearly know the framework they are coming out of and clearly understand what we can hope to gain from them.

The difference between Ibn Ali and everyone else (ie The need for authentic dawa)

April 17, 2017

I’m not sure if ever interacted with Ibn Ali, I just noticed him and later his wife and kids among those sitting in an Islamic class in Masjid Muhammad of Atlantic City -seeing a family learning together were reason enough to smile. Recently that man that I only happened to notice in an Islamic class became the object of nationwide attention for being the star of an unusual viral fight video. Sadly, teens now not only have to live with the consequences of their classmates knowing they got beat up in a fight -they must also deal with humiliation on the Internet. That’s exactly what Ibn Ali feared when he broke up a fight between two young men as their so called friends (as Ibn Ali cautioned them, are they your real friends?) recorded the scene on their phones. He advised the boys to think about the consequences of fighting only to become the subject of someone else’s cheap entertainment, they were men now and maybe this wasn’t the course of action they wanted to take. He not only ended the fight but made the boys shake hands. This act of leadership and humanity towards a group so often demonized (black + men + teenagers) propelled Ibn Ali to instant fame as a local hero and do-gooder.

There’s a lot of ways instant Internet fame can go wrong. So many people good, bad or otherwise become absolutely unbearable when the spotlight reaches them. So many of us have no real purpose in life or otherwise that we don’t know how to use fame if we ever achieve it. So much so that I fear for people who achieve instant fame, there’s probably few other surefire ways to lose one’s soul. But Ibn Ali clearly had a message despite his being plucked from obscurity and not asking for fame. Why did he do it? Because he’s Muslim and that’s what Muslims do. That simple line is the most honest bit of dawa I’ve heard from any Muslim in the limelight (momentary or otherwise).

Ibn Ali brought up Islam when he didn’t have to. He pointed people to Islam, he didn’t run away from it. And he gave God and Islam credit for his good deed. Does this sound familiar? No, not at all. The unwritten script amongst Muslims these days is to avoid at all costs talking about Islam and Muslims if one does talk about it be vague, if controversy comes up deflect, and make being Muslim as normal and as inconsequential as eating Apple pie -which you must insist you like a lot.

This is largely the fault of Muslim leadership in America turning away from black Muslims and toward immigrant Muslims. Despite our shared faith, we have completely different sociopolitical realities. Black Muslims could care less about being accepted by the mainstream -when you’ve been rejected from the beginning of your forced migration eventually you become indifferent to their acceptance. Immigrant Muslims, on the other hand, choose to leave their countries in search of the American dream which includes acceptance by the mainstream. A project that was going fine until 9/11. That connection to foreign terror made immigrant Muslims have to fight for acceptance in a way they never had -which explains the nauseating “I’m just like you” rhetoric. But black Muslims like Ibn Ali have a strange freedom only allowed to outcasts, to basically keep being themselves, business as usual.

My dad never stopped wearing the jalabia or Kufi after 9/11, it really had nothing to do with him and he never had to prove it didn’t.  When immigrant Muslims talk about Islam they speak from a place of fear when black Muslims speak about Islam,  we speak out of freedom. That freedom allows for an unadulterated dawa that isn’t concerned with naafsi naafsi  (how will this make me look?). It’s just concerned with truth. Ibn Ali didn’t set out to do a dawa campaign and in reality, we don’t need to. With no money,  fancy lights, or professional cameras Allah chose Ibn Ali to speak and to say “Islam is the reason why I’m on the right path”. Is that a good PR answer? Is that the kind of answer that with make Americans cozy? Was it well researched for virality? No, But it is exactly the kind of dawa that makes a real impact and changes hearts for the better.

Anybody home?

April 3, 2017

Solovki View Island Sea Beach Landscape Anzere

“Every woman has the God-given eternal right to be financially supported by her husband” I once put as a status on my Facebook page. One of our shuyukh commented, “…in order that she can fully realize her human potential through her chosen vocation as a channel for divine love in the world, serve as a spiritual anchor for her family and community, and as a guardian of the Unseen.” Most of the comments on that status desired to highlight the exceptions and put forth what they believed to be the current economic reality “that was then, this is now” rhetoric. I’m not sure why the assertion that men are maintainers of women, something so clearly stated in the Quran, bothers so many and is given so little consideration. It could be pure sexism -since I doubt those men have any problem with God asserting that women must obey their husbands, but maybe it’s far worse than that.

I don’t doubt that it’s more difficult to finance the life we’ve become used to seeing as standard than it was in the past (now we must have a month’s worth of groceries at all times, cable TVs, smartphones with data plans, etc.). We’ve grown in our consumerism and of course, women’s lib taught us that we ought to be out working just like the men.

I’ve been taking an interest in womanhood, motherhood, and wifehood for some time now. Thinking about essentialism and traditional women’s roles. Growing up, I knew my goal clearly, I wanted to be a stay at home wife and mom. As I got older, continued going to school and my interest in Islamic studies grew, that goal seemed less and less logical -how could “waste” all that knowledge and just “sit at home all day”.

Despite my personal conflict, I’ve just been thinking not simply about what’s logical or what God has so clearly pronounced in his divine book but also about what was lost. In a quote from an academic research paper comparing the shopping habits of working women to housewives, it found that “Working wives… exhibited a tendency to be less concerned with the impact of their food shopping and preparation activities on other family members.” In an essay by a woman discussing her decision to be a stay at home wife she talked about the fact that she and her husband no longer had to rush through a fast food meal, now she was able to prepare homemade food -I’ll admit, something quite embarrassing. I use to stay home sometimes when everyone went out because it felt wrong for no one to attend to the home. It seemed wrong for my parents to come home from work and not be greeted by anyone. It seemed wrong that no one should offer them tea or ask them about their day. I acknowledge it was a weird urge but it just seemed that there should be a balance.

When we talk about -in American discourse, working mother/wives vs stay at home moms/ housewives we often act as if the woman who works is doing the same job as the stay at home mom/ housewife she’s just doing less of it (and doing it in addition to her job). But the reality is the homemaking role is largely abandoned when women work. Isn’t that logical anyhow? I’d argue she shouldn’t even be expected to maintain that role if she works full-time as her husband does. As a quick side note, I deeply believe that if both a man and woman are equally working outside the home they should be equally working inside of it, but that another post… So when the homemaking role is abandoned, it is no longer being done. What do we lose when it’s no one’s full-time job is to nurture the home? When both men and women are primarily focused on providing? I opine that being a homemaker – homemaking, is desperately needed in our homes. Is it really enough to maintain the physical structure of the home but neglect the spirit?

Everyone is hustling and bustling to pay for a roof over their head who is left to “channel for divine love in the world” and “serve as a spiritual anchor” as Shaykh Mendes so graciously stated? Or is that just not important to us anymore?

How to be a good wife? Go back to the 1950’s

January 28, 2017

There’s a popular page from a 1950’s textbook that tends to make its rounds every couple of years. It always amuses me when this list of rules on how to be a good wife pops up on social media or some random blog, usually, to be made fun of. But in all honesty, as much as people joke about it, could it be that we’re also desperate for information? Growing up my parents, may God continue to bless them, never raised me to one day be someone’s wife. It was a given that I would get married. But the idea that being a wife was a distinct role that I should prepare for was nonexistent. I don’t blame them, like most modern parents they raised me to get a good education, do well in school so I could one day have a good career and support myself. Other parents, most likely in some other place, would raise their daughter to learn homemaking skills so she could one day be a good wife and be supported by a husband. In reality, the goal of all parents is the same -to raise their children in a way that will guarantee them a successful future.

But now that I am a wife and a “homemaker” (though I doubt I’ll be calling myself by that title very often), it seems that learning on the job is not as easy as I thought it would be. Men and women both come to marriage with their expectations. I was raised in a fairly egalitarian household. Mom and dad both worked, both cooked, both cleaned. It certainly wasn’t split completely down the middle, which is nearly impossible, but for the most part, it was as close as it could get. Growing up, despite never being raised by theory or practice to be a housewife I always knew it was something I wanted to do. Fluidity is important to me, so being a housewife or homemaker doesn’t mean I won’t have a million other things happening in my life but it does mean making the home, husband and hopefully future children a priority. I’ll have to learn along the way, but in all honesty, this list of rules about how to be a good wife don’t repulse me, I may not do them all but any advice on a role I was never prepared for is better than nothing:

“HAVE DINNER READY: Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal–on time. This is a way to let him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned with his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home, and having a good meal ready is part of the warm welcome that is needed.

PREPARE YOURSELF: Take fifteen minutes to rest so that you will be refreshed when he arrives. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift. Greet him with a smile.

CLEAR AWAY THE CLUTTER: Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives, gathering up children’s books and toys, papers, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you lift too.

PREPARE THE CHILDREN: If they are small, wash their hands and faces and comb their hair. They are his little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

MINIMIZE ALL NOISE: At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise from the washer, dryer, or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.

SOME “DO NOT’S”: Don’t greet him with problems and complaints. Don’t complain if he is late for dinner. Count this as a minor problem compared to what he might have gone through that day.

MAKE HIM COMFORTABLE: Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest that he lie down in the bedroom. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

LISTEN TO HIM: You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

MAKE THE EVENING HIS: Never complain if he doesn’t take you to dinner or to other entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his need to unwind and relax.

THE GOAL: TO MAKE YOUR HOME A PLACE OF PEACE AND ORDER WHERE YOUR HUSBAND CAN RELAX IN BODY AND SPIRIT.”

 

The Marriage Contract

January 21, 2017

You should include the right to divorce in your contract, but I didn’t

Over three years ago I took a course on marriage with Umm Al Khayr, a Shaykha of mixed descent residing in Amman, Jordan. In that course, I learned a great deal about women’s rights in marriage, the marriage contract and advice on having a good marriage. I continued to learn a great deal from Umm Al Khayr when I was able to travel to the gatherings of Sheikh Nuh Ha Meem Keller and able to later reside in Jordan. Growing up I always had the idea of being a homemaker and the “backward” belief that a woman’s focus should be the home. Umm Al Khayr relieved me of feeling like an outlier in modern society by addressing marriage in it’s most basic format -men work outside the home, women work inside the home. One of the greatest things I remember her saying to me is that you can’t leave your obligations to help your husband with his. Housework isn’t a real obligation in the truest sense of the word (at least in Shafi’i fiqh) but it is the logical conclusion in a marriage where the man is the primary breadwinner.

Another thing Umm Al Khayr taught me is that women can get divorced in Islam. Of course, I knew of Muslim women who were divorced but it seemed to me that attempting to initiate divorce as a woman was a great difficulty from a legal perspective. Men could simply say “I divorce you” while women had to go through the court system and since there was no Islamic court system in the secular West, women were at the hands of their husbands or their Imams to release them from an unwanted marriage which could sometimes prove impossible. I remember sitting in front of Umm Al Khayr in one of those gatherings Sheikh Nuh and co. provided once a year for their students across the globe. We were all crowded around Umm Al Khayr, which was common. Sometimes we enclosed her until the point where there’d only be a small circumference surrounding her, probably the very least amount of personal space we could provide while being as close as possible. I recall how much my legs ached with all of us bundled so close together to get as close as we could to her words and her presence. And she never seemed to mind, I actually was a bit afraid of her upon first seeing her because of the grandeur of her presence until I realize how jovial she was and felt at ease. She said to us, the first thing I say to women when they come to me crying about their marriage and saying they can’t get a divorce is “Yes you can”.

In the Marriage course I took with her I learned that as a woman you can request the right to divorce (in the marriage contract) -in a similar way in which the man does, I.e. verbally. Everything she taught us in that class I promised myself I’d do when the time came, but I didn’t. Way before I married my husband I was speaking to another man with the potential of marriage I expressed to him that I wanted the right to divorce to be in our contract, he basically responded with a “hell no”. On the morning of my marriage to the man, I am blessed to be married to we decided -at my mother’s request, to print up a contract. I did a quick google search for “Islamic Marriage contract” and went over each page line by line with my soon-to-be husband. Now that I think about it, I’m amazed that by the time I was ready to marry my husband I would have done it without a contract if not for my mom’s insistence, I didn’t even think about it.

When we got to the line about “both parties having the equal right to divorce” my soon to be husband responded in somewhat of an agitation “I’m not agreeing to that”. In all honesty in the last few months, because of discussing the issue on a podcast with my mom and on Facebook, as much as I encouraged women to do so I wondered if I wanted the right myself. As I recall, though my Fiqh on the issue needs refreshing, when a woman has the right to divorce it’s one finalized divorce, unlike men who have at least two chances for reconciliation at each pronouncement. Did I really want to give myself that kind of power? Years ago when I first took Umm Al Khayr’s class I would have insisted but more recently I wasn’t so sure. In a moment of anger, sadness, depression, I could end up uttering words that would ruin my entire life. And knowing my past issues with being able to live in that dark hole of depression where suddenly the entire world turns black, I wasn’t sure I could trust myself.

I do recall something about Umm Khayr saying a couple discussed this and had such a marriage contract with this provision and I recall her distinctly saying the woman was “level headed”. Am I level-headed? Sometimes, but there are certainly times when emotions rule the day. So when my husband refused to agree to the part of the marriage contract where I would be able to verbally divorce, I wasn’t strong enough on the issue to argue against him. So we crossed it out.

I learned also from Umm Al Khayr was that there was no such thing as alimony in Islam, once the waiting period is up, you’re on your own. Someone in the class described to her an example where a woman was a housewife, no work experiences, and how difficult it would be to support herself, “well then she shouldn’t have gotten herself divorced”. Obviously, a woman being divorced is not always her fault but it withstands that the best insurance against divorce is a good marriage.

So I didn’t include the allowance of verbal divorce in my contract, I still think women, in general, should. In a Western society where there are no Islamic court systems and women have to rely on our local Imams or husbands, we are presented with a kind of oppression were hoping to get a “fair day in court” is unlikely. Some women should probably be advised more strongly to have such a contract while others may not have much to worry about one way or the other or may even be disadvantaged by such an arrangement (hotheads who may divorce themselves at the first sign of trouble).

Whatever someone decides to put in their marriage contract, should be tailored to the needs of both parties. It goes without saying that no one gets married with the intention to get divorced. Once the ink dries on the signed marriage contract the goal is to use the example of our beloved messenger, peace to him, to create the best marriage we can -leaving divorce as a near impossibility.

And real protection comes from Allah alone.

Black Muslims And Black Issues

December 12, 2016

Had I been born an Egyptian during the time of Pharoahs it would’ve  been a good time to be black. Black people were the ruling class. The oppressed class at least for a period of time were the Hebrews. But I was not born back then, I was born in 1988 in America, and being black here and now means being a part of the oppressed class. Hundreds of years of slavery, decades of legalized mistreatment, disempowerment and overall injustice. I live in a time where saying ‘Black Lives Matter’ after of string of murders perpetuated by police is met with mockery and belittlement. I live in a time where a black man can be accused of everything from sexual harassment to rape decades after the alleged incidents and it ruin his legacy while white men accused of molestation continue to make movies. I live in a time where black relationships are falling apart and black children are falling behind. And yet, despite the residue of slavery, the average white American can feel more sympathy for a holocaust it didn’t cause than for the descendents of slaves on it’s own soil.

There are times in my life where I go months even years without thinking about race and racism. It’s too painful, too upsetting and too unbearable. But what I’ve come to realize is that God uniquely made me black and he bestowed upon me enough blessings to make a small dent to empower myself and my people.  If MLK and Malcolm X didn’t eradicate racism I certainly won’t either. And I’ve come to realize arguing with white people or non black Muslims about racism, trying to prove the humanity of black people or the inhumanity of our suffering should be a minuscule if not non existent part of that struggle. My struggle is to use what I have to “cast my bucket” where I am and give my people whatever I can to benefit our community.

It also means ignoring a lot of other things. I don’t plan to spend any significant portion of my life fighting ‘Islamophobia’, essentially the systematic oppression similar to what is inflicted on blacks being inflicted on “Muslims” -Muslims being, in the eyes of a typical American, Arab or South Asian. The internal racism in the Muslim community makes it so that South Asian and Arab problems become ‘Muslim problems’ while black issues are ignored. There were people in the prophet’s time who constantly came to him for knowledge then went back to their people to them Islam, did he ask them to stay with him instead and become a teacher in the “Muslim community”? Or was it natural and expected to go back and give what you’ve benefited back to your people?

It saddens me when I hear a black Muslim speaker speaking on “Islamic issues” that are in fact South Asian and Arab issues. For example, a lecture on marriage in Islam where parental approval, cultural differences and forced marriage are spoken about as if they’re universal islamic issues when they in fact have nothing to do with Islam and nothing to do with the black community that imam came from, for example. I recall Imam Siraj giving a khutbah about marriage and speaking about what I call the ‘marriage suitability problem’ that is a reality for his Muslim congregation 0black Muslims, and it would have been delusional to discuss forced marriage in any significance. Muslim speakers talk about the issue of parents forcing their chikdren to be doctors and engineers, again not a Muslim problem but an immigrant one. Had the black Muslim voice been as legitimate in the conversation focusing on the double digit employment rate, poor nutrition and institutionalized racism would be just as legitimate a discussion.

I’m not sure if black people have a huge ability for compassion and empathy or a major self esteem issue but we can’t continue to put others issues before our own communities allowing our house to burn while we put our their fire. Police brutality has been an issue in the black community -which includes black Muslims, for a very long time yet the “Muslim Community” gave no voice to this issue. So should we be expected to lend our voice when our struggle becomes there struggle as well? No, fighting for non- black Muslim rights under the general guise of “Muslim Rights” is no more important than fighting for black human rights which include Muslims. Why should we give up on our struggle for theirs? We can’t afford to lose a single soul in the black community in the fight against oppression and for empowerment.

Recipe: Morning Tea

December 6, 2016

I’ve had this tea most mornings for the past few weeks and personally feel a small boost of energy after drinking it. It has also helped me to have a pleasant morning routine, hope it does the same for you.

Ingredients:
Ginger
Honey
Green tea
Cayenne pepper
Lemon (optional)

Directions:
If you’re using fresh ginger -as I usually do, you’ll want to peel, chop and boil the ginger ahead of the other ingredients. The length of time you boil it depends on the strength of tea you want. I boil mine up to about 40 minutes. Note that you may need to add water since some of the water will evaporate the longer you boil it. Once you’ve boiled it at least 10 or so minutes, add the loose green tea (if you using a tea bag skip this step for now). Let the green tea boil for about 3 minutes, then strain the tea to remove the ginger root and excess leaves. Then add and stir about a tablespoon of honey (more or less to taste). If you didn’t use loose leaf tea before put your tea bag in your cup now and let it steep for 2- 3 minutes. Then add a pinch of cayenne pepper (literally no more than a pinch or it will be unpleasant). And finally, add a half a tablespoon of lemon juice if desired.

Most of the above ingredients have been linked to aiding in clear skin, so inshaAllah it helps, it also is a nice natural “energy drink” for those of us who just want a small boost in the morning.

Silence As A Cure For Hypocrisy

November 30, 2016

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As I listened to my playlist a sudden thought came over me: “Am I a hypocrite?” There are two times in my life when I stopped listening to music -both for religious reasons. The first time was under a more “Salafi” influence. I was never a “Salafi” but back when I was a kid through to my late teens/early twenties I thought they were the most religious group among Muslims and so the closer one could emulate them, the better. I don’t recall what arguments I listened to or from who but I was convinced listening to music was haram and stopped doing so for a period of time I also included occasional rants to my family about how music was haram during that period, but eventually, I would listen to music again.

The second time I stopped listening to music was more recently under the general advice of my Sufi sheikh to his mureeds. His reasons were two-fold -evidence in some schools of jurisprudence to point to the forbidden nature of music through the forbidding of particular instruments and the vile nature of mainstream music -what is it but the outpouring of the nafs (lower self)? So why waste your time with it? To be clear he wasn’t against all “music” since some music was in fact closely linked to the Tariqa itself, Sheikh Shaghouri (the sheikh’s sheikh) was a composer of music. But the music was the outpouring of one who longed for God and occasionally used nothing more then a duff (a type of drum) as accompaniment.

After living among the sheikh and his mureeds for two years, I returned home to America. I began listening to music again, for what reasons I’m not sure. The only hard reason I’m cognizance of is a longing to be -in some small way, a part of the larger culture -black culture in particular. I felt that the more religious I became the more estranged I was from the black community, listening to Solange and Beyonce helped me reconnect. It’s not a good excuse and I hope to get back to that place when it was easier to do as the sheikh said, when it came naturally.

After only fours years I see the path slipping from my hands if I don’t make a more earnest effort to keep it. I was a better mureed in the first two years than in the second two. But I know that a part of the issue was saying too much when I first began to practice the spiritual path. Whatever my sheikh said I tried to do earnestly and I tried to convince others it was worth while, that was a mistake. The time I spent attempting to convince others -often unwittingly, should have been spent traveling the path. Maybe a part of it is because when other people aren’t convinced after hearing all the same information, you begin to doubt yourself. If they don’t get it, maybe I’m wrong?

But not every path is for everyone, through God’s grace we each have a way. Silence is so valuable when beginning any path. If you’re convinced, be convinced, let the outcome speak for itself. I remember one brother telling me that his path to the Tariqa happened when he saw someone praying. “There was just something about the way he prayed, I wanted to know more” I recall him telling me. That simple act took him towards the spiritual path -not a lecture but a presence that spoke to him.

It happens to many of us, even outside of Tariqas and spiritual paths, I remember becoming vegan as a kid and trying to convince everyone around me to be vegan, they weren’t convinced and at some point I gave up and stopped being convinced myself -even though I could feel its benefits for my body.

So am I a hypocrite because I stopped doing some of the things I told others to do. And the lesson is learned that silence is the cure for hypocrisy. I wasn’t in a position to tell anyone about the spiritual path I’d only just begun myself. I wasn’t in a position to convince anyone of following a path I had not yet seen the outcome of. Maybe, at least in the beginning, this journey is best taken in silence.

What you need vs what you want

November 2, 2016

I was looking at some art, just admiring since I’m far from able to buy anything, and I came across a lot of pieces I took interest in. But I found myself saying “Ooh I love that, but I couldn’t have it in my house”. Despite being in love with moody, monotone and monochromatic works like this piece above by Robert Motherwell I got a sense that it wouldn’t be good for me to have that kind of art in my space.

It reminds of when I was younger. Anytime I felt sad I’d put on some sad music and bring myself further down the rabbit’s hole, it seemed appropriate to put on music that I could relate to. It wasn’t until I was older and chatting with a friend about music tastes and mentioned it, she responded “Really? I always listen to happy music when I’m sad”. She listened to music to inspire a change in mood instead of dwelling on a bad one.

Some of us turn to Allah in times of darkness, looking for light. Others turn to turn to drugs, alcohol, food, etc. which only serve to exacerbate the original issue. It seems heavily due to personality what option we choose but it also has to do with awareness. Once you step outside of yourself, outside of routine and watch yourself do what you do, you then have a choice. It doesn’t make it easy to change, it simply makes it possible. So, when I get the chance to buy a work of art I’ll choose something more colorful and life-giving like this second work by Julianne Strom. Because that’s the kind of energy I need instead of simply the energy I’m attracted to.

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