Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Ruins of Us - short review

The Ruins of Us, by Keina Petersson, is a novel that follows the story of an American expat woman married to a Saudi man, who secretly marries a second wife, launching their entire family into a period of turmoil and tragedy.
It is, obviously, not a happy poly story - but it's not your typical angry poly nightmare story either. The villain(s) are not shallow or one-dimensional; the protagonist is not merely a spurned wife seeking revenge.

This is a story about family and complicated emotions and the experience of cultural exile and never quite belonging. Faith and religion play a large role in this story, but never in a preachy or demonized manner, even when it would have been easy to do so.

It is one of the best Muslim-y-ish novels I have read in a long time. I was shocked at how good it was, to be honest. Not only is it completely on point and relatable to those who have or are still living in the Khaleej, but the characters and storylines are beautifully written.
There are no caricatures or stereotypes, just deeply moving human experiences.


Thursday, July 19, 2018

10 Ways to be the Ideal Muslim Husband

MARITAL ADVICE LISTS are common to find in Muslim literature and lectures, yet the information is almost always targeted towards women. However, we all know that it takes two to tango – and so here is a list aimed at Muslim husbands in the hopes that they, too, will benefit and be able to improve their relationships.

1. Have taqwa and isân

Know that you are responsible for your end of the marriage, regardless of how the other party treats you. Fulfill your wife’s rights without demanding yours first, and know that you seek Allah’s Pleasure over anyone else’s. Do your job with excellence, and don’t make it conditional. Isân is not merely to worship in the ritual sense, but to conduct oneself in general with an awareness that Allah is Al-Raqîb (the Ever-Watchful), and to fulfill one’s duties in the best of manners.
Then he (Jibrîl) said, “Inform me about isân.” He (the Messenger of Allah) answered, “It is that you should serve Allah as though you could see Him, for though you cannot see Him yet (know that) He sees you. (Muslim)

2. Respect her

Remember that Allah describes marriage as a bond of love and mercy – love ebbs and flows, but mercy and respect must always be there, even – especially – in times of conflict. Unfortunately, we tend to present respect as a quality that men need (“men need respect, women need affection”). The truth is, however, that one can love someone without respecting them… and this is very, very dangerous. To have mercy and respect one’s wife is to never assume that she exists merely as an extension of you or to serve your needs. To respect her is to honor her, to defend her from harm and others’ accusations, and to have husn al-ann of her.
In cases of disagreement, this respect translates as not forcing your own opinion upon her when there is Islamically acceptable room for differences of opinion.
It should go without saying, but unfortunately it bears repeating nonetheless – respecting your wife means never, ever, abusing her, physically or otherwise.
And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquillity in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed in that are signs for a people who give thought.  [Sûrat Al-Rûm, 30:21]
Even in times of conflict, Allah tells us to behave in the most respectful and gracious of manners:
And do not forget graciousness between you.  [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:237]
Abû Mûsa Al-Ashʿari (May Allah be pleased with him) reported:
I asked the Messenger of Allah: “Who is the most excellent among the Muslims?” He said, “One from whose tongue and hands the other Muslims are secure.”  [1]

3.  Be emotionally intelligent

Empathy, being attuned to the other person’s preferences, learning to understand their personality and responding appropriately without expecting to change them into something they’re not… supporting and respecting each other as both individuals and as a team. The Prophet ﷺ was an emotionally intelligent husband, who knew the differences in his wives’ personalities and interacted with them in a manner best suited to each woman. He comforted Ṣufiyyah when she wept; he had spirited discussions with ʿÂishah; and he encouraged Ḥafṣah’s zeal for knowledge.
In a famous narration known as the Hadith of Abu Zarʿ,[2]  ʿAishah told the Prophet ﷺ the story of eleven women who sat together and described their husbands’ qualities and behaviours. The eleventh woman, Umm Zarʿ, described Abû Zarʿas a man who was extremely generous to his wife, showering her with gifts; who went out of his way to please her; who never rebuked her or verbally abused her; who made sure that she was comfortable and satisfied. To Umm Zarʿ, there was no greater husband than Abû Zarʿ- and the Prophet ﷺ himself told ʿÂishah, I am to you as Abû Zarʿwas to Umm Zarʿ, except that I will never divorce you.

4.  Be a True Qawwâm

Know that being a qawwâm is a matter of being a good leader – not authoritarian or a dictator, but someone who inspires love and respect, who treats others with dignity and respect… The popular book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a great resource for understanding what good leadership is. There are several excellent Islamic resources discussing leadership lessons from the life of the Prophet ﷺ.  [3]  [4]   Strive to embody the Sunnah in your character, not just in how many rakʿahs a day you pray.
ʿÂishah described the Prophet thus: His character was the Quran[5] Be the type of husband that a wife describes in such a manner.
Remember that as a qawwâm, you are responsible and accountable for the well-being of your household and those under your care.
The Messenger of Allah ﷺ said:
Each of you is a shepherd and each of you is responsible for his flock. The amîr (ruler) who is over the people is a shepherd and is responsible for his flock; a man is a shepherd in charge of the inhabitants of his household and he is responsible for his flock  [6]

5.  Be friends before you become spouses

That might sound odd (or not) – but we often put so much pressure on ourselves to fulfill a role (husband/wife), that we forget to get to know each other as friends first. Every marriage will go through ups and downs, intimately and otherwise… and you’ll be surprised to realize how much having a solid, sincere friendship can pull you through the hard times.
One example of RasûlAllah’s “friendship” with his wives is his relationship with Sawdah bint Zamʿah. She was the first woman whom he married after the death of Khadijah, and although she was considered to be elderly and not as beautiful as the other women whom he would later marry, their relationship was one of camaraderie, confidence, and laughter.  [7]

6.  Don’t be embarrassed or ignorant of female biology

Learn about it – from menstruation to female sexuality to pregnancy and everything else. You need to know this stuff – it will impact your life significantly, intimately and otherwise. Don’t laugh it off or act as though it’s not worth your time and attention. Women’s health is sorely misunderstood, and having a disinterested (or worse, disgusted) husband can make things even more difficult for women.
The Prophet ﷺ did not shy away from these matters, either as a husband or as a Messenger of Allah. Instead, he constantly enjoined men to be aware of and sensitive to their wives’ needs – just as he was with his wives.
Narrated Umm Salamah:
While I was laying with the Prophet ﷺ under a single woolen sheet, I got the menses. I slipped away and put on the clothes for menses. He said, “Have you got “nifâs” (menses)?” I replied, “Yes.” He then called me and made me lie with him under the same sheet.   [8]

7.  Be responsible

Being “a good Muslim husband” doesn’t just mean fulfilling the basic rights as a husband and leaving it at that. Being a good Muslim husband means that you are on the ball as a responsible adult – whether it’s paying the bills, taking out the trash, cleaning a mess in the house, or being an engaged father (not ‘babysitting’). Doing these things is not a “kindness to the wife,” or “helping out at home.” It’s not “extra credit” and deserving of lavish praise. It is part and parcel of being a grown man responsible for his surroundings, his family, and himself. Do these things out of mindfulness that Allah will never waste your efforts for His Sake.
Narrated Al-Aswad:
I asked ʿÂishah what did the Prophet use to do at home. She replied. “He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was time for the prayer, he would get up for prayer.” (Bukhâri)
ʿÂishah reported:
I was asked, “What did the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, do in his house?” I said, “The Prophet was a man among men. He would remove fleas from his clothes, milk his sheep, and serve himself.” (Musnad Ahmad 25662, authenticated by Al-Albani)

8.  Don’t pursue your nawâfil at the expense of your wife’s farâi

One issue that many men fall into is that in their zeal to engage more in ʿibâda, they end up burdening their wives even more – to the extent that she is barely able to pray her five alawât with khushûʿ. Both spouses should encourage and facilitate opportunities for each other to strengthen as Muslims, but mothers of young children especially need their husbands to step up so that they can have the necessary time they need to reconnect with Allah and flourish spiritually. (And no, that doesn’t just mean five minutes here and there.)
Ramadan is a time when this becomes more obvious than ever – for example, many men will go to alat Al-arâwî while leaving their wives to deal with the children, in addition to having cooked ifâr beforehand. On a daily basis, though, go out of your way to facilitate your wife’s ʿibâda and spiritual connection.
Narrated Abû Juḥaifah:
The Prophet ﷺ made a bond of brotherhood between Salmân Al-Fârisi and Abû Al-Dardâ’. Salmân paid a visit to Abû Al-Dardâ’ and found Umm Al-Dardâ’ dressed in shabby clothes and asked her why she was in that state. She replied, “Your brother Abû Al-Dardâ’ is not interested in (the luxuries of) this world.”
In the meantime Abû Al-Dardâ’ came and prepared a meal for Salmân. Salmân requested Abû Al-Dardâ’ to eat (with him), but Abû Al-Dardâ’ said, “I am fasting.” Salmân said, “I am not going to eat unless you eat.”
So, Abû Al-Dardâ’ ate (with Salmân). When it was night and (a part of the night had passed), Abû Al-Dardâ’ got up (to offer the night prayer), but Salmân told him to sleep and Abû Al-Dardâ’ slept.
After sometime Abû Al-Dardâ’ again got up but Salmân told him to sleep. When it was the last hours of the night, Salmân told him to get up then, and both of them offered the prayer.
Salmân told Abû Al-Dardâ’, “Your Lord has a right on you, your soul has a right on you, and your family has a right on you; so you should give the rights of all those who has a right on you.”
Abû Al-Dardâ’ came to the Prophet ﷺ and narrated the whole story. The Prophet ﷺ said, “Salmân has spoken the truth.”   [9]

9.  Learn conflict resolution skills

One big reason that couples end up going to Shuyûkh for counseling is because they simply haven’t learned how to communicate and resolve conflicts in a healthy manner. It’s not even about one specific issue or another; it’s about learning how to deal with whatever issues arise, in the most respectful and appropriate manner possible.  [10]
The Quran and Sunnah urge positive reconciliation between believers, and especially between husbands and wives.
And live with them honourably. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good. [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:19]
And if a woman fears from her husband contempt or evasion, there is no sin upon them if they make terms of settlement between them – and settlement is best. And present in [human] souls is stinginess. But if you do good and fear Allah – then indeed Allah is ever with what you do, Acquainted.  [Sûrat Al-Nisâ’, 4:128]

10. Love your wife for who she is

Not because she’s the person who cooks for you or does your laundry. Not because she’s the mother of your child(ren). Not because you’ve settled into routine and you feel comfortable having her around and she knows how to work the coffee maker and where the family’s paperwork is filed. Love her for her. Her personality traits, her talents, her hobbies, the things about her that make her unique.
Notice them, appreciate them, compliment them. Let her know that you don’t just see her as wife or mother, but as an individual on her own. Know that long before she married you, indeed long before she was born to her own parents, she was created as a separate soul – a human being whose primary identity is as a slave of Allah.
And most importantly – let her know that you love her, with all the pride and openness that RasûlAllah ﷺ demonstrated when he was asked, “Who do you love most?” and he responded, simply and beautifully, “ʿÂishah.”   [11]
There are of course numerous other pieces of advice that can be dispensed on the topic – everything from giving gifts to resolving in-law issues to arranging date-nights and so on. However, more important than specific behaviours are the principles behind them – and it these principles which have been highlighted.
In short, Muslim men should strive to match the standards set by RasûlAllah ﷺ when he said:
The best of you are those who are the best to their wives, and I am the best of you to my wives.   [12]
[12] Narrated by Al-Tirmidhi, 3895; Ibn Mâjah, 1977; classed as saî by al-Albaani in Saîal-Tirmidhi

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Review: Unfair and Ugly

I finally finished watching all 6 episodes of the Muslim-y web series #UnfairAndUgly, and I have... thoughts.

Firstly, I'll admit that I enjoyed seeing something Muslim-y that wasn't too "heavy." I do appreciate Muslim writers and filmmakers getting out there and producing *something* that isn't just hijabista fashion or documentaries on Islamophobia. Storytelling is incredibly important, and it's good to see that *our* stories are beginning to be told in a way that's open and accessible.

Buuuuuut... I was also rather underwhelmed. The acting was often stilted, and the entire show was centered on very privileged, liberal, millenial characters and their issues. Not that I don't recognize that some of the issues touched on were and are relevant - racism, depression, disappointing desi parents - but it all felt very shallow and I simply could not relate to the characters at all.
If anything, they seemed to be a near-parody of the Mipster trope - the girlfriend-that-the-family-doesn't-approve-of, hanging out at shisha cafes, the so-woke-he's-cringe dude, and on and on.

The only bit that really stuck out to me, that I actually enjoyed, was the sibling relationship - there were only a few brief moments, but it was the only relationship that actually seemed genuine and unforced, and not deliberately injecting an SJW theme into every interaction.

I did find it ironic that while much of Muslim social media revolves around trying to prove that liberal millenial Muslims are *not* just a bunch of silly tropes that involve much haraamness, this show kind of proved that... well... they kind of are.

It was even more ironic that while my Facebook wall was flooded with people getting upset about judgments of young Muslim men and women having inappropriate, un-halal relationships with one another, this show - which is by and for millennial Muslims - simply proved my point.

Haraamness *is* normalized, and so much of what I - as a conservative millenial Muslim who has never really actually *seen* a lot of these things happening outside of totally irreligious circles - had initially dismissed as exaggerations are apparently not exaggerations at all.

When our storytelling and "representation" paints a rather shallow picture of privileged kids with privileged problems, that do little to dispel SJW Mipster stereotypes, what does that say about us? What does that say about the state of our community?

Of course, I'm just a judgmental Salafi anyway, so what do I know...

In any case, I do hope that Muslim creatives are able to produce more content that reflects both higher quality storytelling, and stories that are themselves deeper, more nuanced, and meaningful.


Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Movie Review: Layla M.

There are very few movies that evoke an intense emotional reaction from me, and Layla M. is one of them. A Dutch-made film that follows the journey of a young Moroccan-Dutch woman, Layla M. feels disconcertingly realistic - and does, in fact, reflect the reality of many young Muslim men and women in today's world of political Islamophobia, jihadi Internet propaganda, and complex human emotions.

We meet the title character first as the disenchanted daughter of immigrants in Denmark, struggling to learn more about Islam and practice it overtly, even as she enjoys kicking around a soccer ball and deals with her not-quite-so-conservative family members.
Drawn into a social circle of other young Muslims who resent the increasing Islamophobia in Europe, Layla goes against her family's wishes. She dons the niqab - not so much as a symbol of inner spirituality as much as a gesture of political defiance disguised as Islamism - and then elopes with an overly zealous, equally young jihadi man.

As they flee across Europe to Jordan (making a pit stop where Layla is kept sitting in the car while her husband goes off to create a jihadi boy band nasheed video), we begin to see her realize the enormity of what she has done. The idealism of her beliefs slowly evaporates, her dreams of a marital partnership based on respect and equality increasingly crushed by every new limitation imposed upon her, and the horrifying recognition of what, exactly, her new life entails.

But what made Layla M. so painful for me to watch - and yet impossible to stop watching - was how it was akin to watching an alternate reality version of myself.
As a young teenager, I gloried in jihadi anasheed (not going to lie, my playlist is still full of the classics); I daydreamed of a grand hijrah, of marrying a brave, earnest mujaahid, of engaging in a glorious mission of social work and sacrifice and battle for the sake of the Muslim Ummah. (Spoiler: none of that happened IRL.) If not for the right set of circumstances (and a solid set of parents), it would have been all too easy for me to become Layla M.

Layla M. is not just some horror story of a young woman kidnapped by some crazed jihadi man and then held prisoner. No, Layla M. is about a smart young woman, someone who is acutely aware of the politics of Islamophobia, not just in a theoretical in-the-Muslim-world kind of way, but in a right-here-at-home kind of way. Layla feels the impact of the virulent hate spread against Muslims, and she chooses to join a certain social circle of individuals; she chooses to run away from home and marry a man with whom she already knew she could never have a 'normal' happily-ever-after with. Her inner sense of justice and what is right - what should be right - burns too strongly for her to be content with being a good girl, a quiet girl, an immigrant girl who assimilates silently.

Indeed, it is the lack of outright villainy which makes Layla M's story so disconcerting. Her husband Abdel is not an evil, abusive monster. He is young, like her, brash, overly confident, utterly clueless. Their wedding night is painfully awkward in the way of most Muslim virgins - and one almost sighs with relief on their behalf when she mumbles, "I'm on my period," and they settle down together with only slightly less awkwardness.
And yet, romance does grow - in a sense. Abdel takes himself too seriously, but in a scene that is both utterly heartbreaking as well as intensely cringeworthy, Layla pulls him into a dance with her, and they share a sweetness that every teenage jihadi fangirl dreams of (or maybe that was just me. I don't know. Don't judge, okay? I had a lot going on in my head at the time. Hormones, mostly.).

Layla M. is jarringly real in a way that the phrase "Instagram ISIS wives" could never feel real (despite being an actual thing). It cuts to the core of so many realities, of the harshness of growing up Muslim in an environment that despises the very essence of your identity, of the sexism that women face no matter how much equality and empowerment we seek in any community, of the severity of one's youthful decisions, played out not in one's neighborhood or at school, but in the context of international intrigue, national security, and political prisoners.

For some Muslims in the West - the privileged ones - Layla M. might feel overdone, overly dramatic, and completely ridiculous. For others amongst us, it might feel far too much like taking a look into what-might-have-been if we too had acted upon our own brash desires and convictions of universal truths. But for all viewers, Layla M. is a brilliantly crafted movie, one which is a meaningful contribution to the sparse selection of Muslim-relevant films.

In truth, nothing I say in this review can actually encapsulate what an emotional rollercoaster this movie was for me. Waking up from delusions of grandiose saving-the-Ummah daydreams is brutal, and while my own awakening was very different (marriage to someone who was decidedly not jihadi, promptly isolated and impregnated, and then eventually getting the hell out before finally living my own real life), there is always a part of me that remembers all too well what it was like to be a teenaged girl with such fantasies. And that part of me needed to see Layla M., as the closure that I never knew I needed.

Rating: 5/5 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Book Review: The Making of a Salafi Muslim Woman

The Making of a Salafi Muslim Woman: Paths to Conversion - written by Dr. Anabel Inge

"The Making of a Salafi Muslim Woman" began as a thesis and ended up as a fully-fledged book. This book is unique in that it takes a long, detailed look at the daily reality of Salafi Muslim women in the UK, not from the informal perspective of a Muslim experiencing complicated intra-community politics, but as a non-Muslim woman included in the private confidences of the women whose stories are being told.

Dr. Inge's approach is refreshing, not least because she does not seek to push forth a particular agenda or perpetuate a deliberately negative image of the Salafi community (which does enough to give itself a bad reputation). Rather, as she states in the very beginning of her book: "I assumed that... Salafi women have agency and power over their lives like anybody else."

Reading this book as a self-identifying Salafi woman, this statement gave me the reassurance that the stories of the women would not be twisted and used to suit a certain agenda or to fear-monger. Instead, there was a sense of genuine sincerity regarding the author's choice to study this particular demographic.

The Introduction lays the foundation for all readers - Muslim and nonMuslim alike - to understand the context of discussing Salafiyyah as both an ideological movement and a Muslim sub-culture of sorts operating within a post 9/11 political environment. There is a clear distinguishing between Salafiyyah and those whom they are often lumped with, such as Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and other Khawaarij groups that many feel no hesitance in conflating with one another.

The first chapter of the book acts as a mini history lesson in the development and rise of Salafiyyah in the UK;  as a Muslim reader from Canada, where Salafiyyah's history and current existence is far different from that of our cousins in the UK, I found this particularly interesting. It is rare to find a semi-academic account of inter-Muslim-community histories, which we as Muslims tend to neglect in our pursuit of keeping up with the times.

Am LOLing at her first exposure to "inshaAllah means no" and women cancelling plans bc "my husband said no" (aka most convenient excuse ever). Even more LOLing at her first cowife proposal hahaha (I'm sorry I am so not being an academic reviewer, I'm enjoying this too much!)

Speaking of academia, I am very appreciative of her detailed introduction where she discusses how she gathered the material for her book and the challenge of being a researcher on a specialized topic with a community that is rightly suspicious and protective of their spaces. I always find it interesting when "outsiders" share their observations/experiences with our communities - how they view our quirks & habits.

Random tidbit: educated young Somali women make up a significant portion of UK's (female) Salafiyyah.

I love her brief history of Salafiyyah in the UK - ya3ni Umar Lee's Rise and Fall series gave us an insider view of Salafiyyah in the States but for young un's like me who only know what the Muslim blogosphere imparted to us, this stuff is great.

Back to the book: I find it fascinating that "being Muslim" (or at least looking the part) was (is?) a legit trend in certain areas. The part where London gangsters were trying to use Islam as some kind of branding makes me want to read some Muslim gangsta urban fiction. What's interesting to note is the factors that led many women to choose Salafiyyah in spite of its own bad rep: akhlaaq, knowledge of Deen, and persistence in da'wah without fixating on Salafiyyah's labels or PDF reputations or other cliched silliness.
It's definitely not rocket science - it's the basic principles of da'wah, the Sunnah of RasulAllah himself - but it's an excellent reminder that those of us who would purport to be Salafi should be keeping in mind and which, unfortunately, many do not - and then bitterly wonder why folks would rather go join other groups instead. Ukhuwwah is a vital ingredient of da'wah, and not in a clique-ish, cult-ish manner.

Of note is that for some women, it made all the difference to be welcomed by fellow Muslims who didn't look down at them for their pasts. Piercings or pregnancies out of wedlock, so long as one was choosing to return to the Deen, there was no issue.

The most important part of these women's choice to turn to Salafiyyah, however, was intellectual conviction. And *that* is what I also identify with: the clear, fitrah-centric approach to Tawheed and emaan. Kitab atTawheed aside, it's honestly the basic facts abt Tawheed that are most reassuring; the freedom from depending on wazifas and peer saabs and worrying that one's relationship with Allah isn't good enough to count, or to matter.

Still making my way through @Anabel_Inge's book, and what I feel it has done most for me is give me a greater appreciation for what and how Salafiyyah comes off as to an outside, objective observer who doesn't share our emotional baggage. Whether it's things like trying a little too hard to be "Salafi enough" - particularly with regards to outward markers - to the emphasis on Tawheed and purifying oneself of bid'ah, it's refreshing to recognize those aspects of ourselves that are both praiseworthy and otherwise.

Particularly poignant is the chapter highlighting the practical inconsistencies of Salafi socio-religious standards/ expectations for women. Seeking knowledge is fardh 3ayn, but the ever-present insistence on a woman's domestic duties presents a challenge that Muslim women still face - esp when it is drummed into our heads that even preparing a husband's meal is waajib and more of a priority than anything else.

*Extremely* well-written, thoughtful, well-researched. To me, being completely unfamiliar with Salafiyyah in the UK, it was a fascinating insight into how the culture of Salafiyyah is both same anddifferent in various geographical regions.

The chapter on the history of Salafiyyah in the UK was particularly appreciated, as well as the observations regarding the ethnic demographics of Salafiyyah in certain regions (she focuses on more Somali/ other African populations).
I deeply appreciated the recognition that for many Salafi women, the pull to Salafiyyah was/ is very much both an intellectual and spiritual journey. It reminded me that while the culture of Salafiyyah can often be obnoxious and unreasonable, there is something deeper that does call to and attract those who search for something deeper - for those who genuinely want the Haqq, who look for something more.

Yes, it is very idealistic and Salafiyyah as it is doesn't always fulfill this - but there is a reason it has developed.
And yes, Salafis are pretty obnoxious judgmental fluffs when it comes to being a social group and this is probably the main reason behind people dropping the label. I don't blame them at all.

What this book highlighted, and what I thought was so important about it, is that it focused on the lived experiences of Salafi women... which are very, very different from those of Salafi men.

Whether in terms of the culture of the community, or how Islam is taught and internalized, to the challenges of finding a spouse and contending with things not working out, to struggling with both family tensions and challenges in the academic world/ work force... what women go through is so, so different, and so often ignored and underappreciated.

Obviously, the book is not exhaustive of *all* aspects of being a Salafi woman, nor does it necessarily touch on how the culture of Salafiyyah has evolved, esp recently.

Nonetheless, I highly recommend it. UK peeps will probably understand certain nuances better or identify possible inaccuracies, but overall I very much enjoyed the research shared and feel that it is a valuable first insight for those who might never have considered learning about Salafiyyah in outside of a cliche Muslim-men-and-politics-and-oppressed-veiled-women perspective.

The mus'haf that I've had since I was 12, that my father brought back for me from one of his many Hajj trips, has finally fallen apart. The binding has loosened, pages falling out, and after years of insisting that it's "just fine," I finally conceded defeat.
I have a new one to replace it - a classic green-and-gold, the type that I've always liked best - but I already miss my old one.
That one has sticky notes all over the last 5 ajzaa', reminders of when I was a teenager and still had a real tajweed teacher to correct me; underlined aayaat to help me memorize the supplications of the Prophets and the pious ones - those like Aasiyah (as) and Maryam (as); little marks that make my heart twinge with nostalgia as I remember the two years I had spent dedicated to reviewing my hifdh and memorizing more.
This mus'haf accompanied me across the world, staying with me during my many lows and slowly increasing highs.
There were times when, I am ashamed to admit, I barely opened it; but every time I picked it up, it fit between my hands smoothly and lovingly, a steady comfort.
I can't bring myself to send it off to get recycled with other aged, fallen-apart masaahif. It's perched atop my bookshelf now, and I can see it even as I curl up on the couch with my crisp new mus'haf, and I can't help but feel an odd sense of loss.
I can only hope that I will soon develop an equally intimate relationship with my new mus'haf; that it, too, will have small stickies tucked inside to remind me how to pronounce a particularly tricky word, or underlining an especially meaningful du'a.
Just as my old mus'haf was my companion and witness to the ups and downs of life, and my relationship with the Qur'an, I hope that this one, too, will testify for me on the Day of Judgment - that I opened to its pages often, that I memorized the Divine Words contained within it.
I hope that years from now, whenever I touch it, I will remember the days that I sat in patches of sunlight with it on my lap, the glow of the sun's rays no match for Allah's Light; that I will summon its pages easily in my mind's eye, no longer struggling so hard to remember the verses that a younger me had once found so easy to recall; that in times of sorrow, its scent will bring me comfort; that in times of joy, I will turn to it and recite the Words of Allah in gratitude.
I pray that this Ramadan, we all find our hearts growing more attached to the Qur'an, opening to its guidance and blessings, acting upon it in our everyday lives.
May Allah make us amongst Ahlul Qur'an, those who will be raised on the Day of Judgment reciting His Words.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Book Review: The New Muslim's Field Guide

As a “born Muslim,” it feels odd to be reviewing a book titled “The New Muslim’s Field Guide” - but at the same time, I deeply appreciate being given the chance to do so. While I may not necessarily be the target audience, I do believe that it is important for “born Muslims” to read material aimed at converts and reverts (and, as the intro helpfully mentions, those who are just beginning to live their lives as practicing Muslims, even if they were born within a Muslim family). We need to understand what kind of literature is being handed out to them, and especially in this case, to hear from actual converts and reverts about their experiences as new Muslims. 

The authors of The Field Guide are Theresa Corbin and Kaighla Um Dayo, two American Muslim women who have lived the highs and lows of life after accepting Islam. The first thing that stands out about The Field Guide is its tone - real talk sprinkled with humour, which helps lighten the heavy information that’s shared. 

The Field Guide holds no punches and does not shy away from tackling the issues that so many new Muslims face - whether it has to do with recognizing the difference between cultural interpretations of Islam and actual Islamic beliefs, maintaining one’s own personality after conversion, or the pressure to abandon one’s nonMuslim family and friends. 

Even in discussions on the pillars of faith and the pillars of Islam, The Field Guide is set apart from the average aimed-at-converts book. Rather than being a dense, often complex collection of religious texts that can be quite confusing for the average new Muslim, Corbin and White simplify the basic tenets of Islam in a way that makes it easy to understand for a layperson. Their explanations on the meanings of technical Islamic terms are simplified while still comprehensive, and do not overwhelm the reader. 

Corbin and Um Dayo do a wonderful job of virtually guiding new Muslims through commonly experienced minefields, challenges, and accidental faux pas. They aren’t afraid to talk about the scary stuff (extremism and Islamophobia), awkward stuff (sex), and important stuff (all of it, but especially spiritual self-development as a Muslim). 

The New Muslim’s Field Guide is a valuable resource for new Muslims, particularly in a Western (specifically North American) context. It is easy to digest, is not preachy or heavy-handed with too many unexplained Arabic terms or Islamic technicalities, and reads like some solid advice from good friends with life experience - which is, essentially, what it is. As a starting point that can help new Muslims better navigate their journey to understanding Islam, and life as a practising Muslim, I highly recommend The New Muslim’s Field Guide. It should certainly be part of any masjid or Islamic centre’s staple stash of resources for both non-Muslims and new Muslims. 

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Certain Type of Bro

Verily, a Certain Type of Bro can be identified in the following ways:
His profile pictures are of him carefully posing his flexed biceps in a casual and yet thoughtful manner as he gazes into the distance, pondering upon the Divine Wisdoms of the Universe (he will of course share his deep pontifications in the captions of said pictures).
His social media is filled with Islamic reminders about modesty and humility, while reminding his dear sisters in Islam to protect their modesty from the attacks of those who seek to destroy the hijab... while he flexes those biceps to show the Ummah that the Muslim brothers will always defend their Muslim sisters.
He is deeply invested in all conversations regarding the dangers of the opposite gender, while frequenting the social media feeds of well known Muslim women so as to know what they are up to at any given time, that he may give them sincere naseeha... repeatedly.
He laments the Muslim marriage crisis and occasionally reminds us all of the great hikmah behind polygamy in Islam. He helpfully provides us with pictures of himself at various weddings so as to emphasize the importance of the rishta process.
His da'wah is Very Important and Very Meaningful and this is evident in all the pictures that he takes with the victims - errr, saved souls - of his Ten Minute Shahada ambushes (I mean, da'wah sessions).
My dear sisters in Islam, do not be lured by the false Facebook promises of these Certain Types of Bros.
Know that the truly pious Muslim man will guard his modesty (and selfies) and will not put himself on display for every sister to enjoy with a prolonged, no-blinking first gaze.
If his da'wah is sincere, it will be evident in the truthfulness and beauty of his words and his emaan... not the carefully chosen polo shirt that conveniently highlights his most attractive features.
Never marry the wanton males that parade themselves openly in the streets for every Fatimah, Christina and Anjali to check out.
Dear sisters, remember that the pious Muslim man is like a pearl in its shell: a treasure to be uncovered only by the one who has a halal relationship with him. Such a man will be your male hoor of this Dunya and Aakhirah - so do not sacrifice your standards for the male whores of this world!