Monday, March 28, 2011

In Defence of Muslim Husbands

For all those Muslim men getting an unfairly bad rap...

Disclaimer: This is a fictional work, but no less true or relevant.
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My husband is patient. When he does get upset, he closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, and seeks refuge in God from Satan before opening his eyes and smiling at me to show that all is forgiven. Tom across the street screams at his wife Dora until she cries.
My husband is romantic. When he’s late coming home from work, I know he’s not cheating on me with the secretary... he’s stopping by the halal Chinese restaurant to pick up the chicken dumplings he knows I love, with a bouquet of roses to apologize for not answering my phone call. Angela’s getting a divorce because Richard was caught making out with his partner at the office – twice.
My husband is honourable. When he’s out with his friends for the weekend, I know he’s not out at the pub flirting with the waitress... he’s at the mosque mentoring teenage boys and plays basketball with the guys. Lana hates that her boyfriend spends his weekend nights at the local seedy strip club, enjoying women who aren’t her.
My husband is supportive. When I got my new job, he helped me balance my schedule and helped pick up with the chores around the house. When I got my promotion, he took me out to dinner and we celebrated all night. When my paycheque exceeded his, he never asked me for a penny and would insist on paying for the milk I picked up on my way home. Julia confided that her husband resents her success, and demands that she pay half the rent.
My husband is chivalrous. Even when we had the worst argument in the history of our marriage, when he slept at his mom’s house for a week, he never laid an angry hand on me. Brad across the street hits his wife whenever they have a fight, and we can all see the bruises under the sleeves of her shirt.
My husband is an involved father. He takes the girls to karate every Wednesday and then buys them ice cream on the way back. He gives them piggy back rides and changes their baby brother’s diapers when I’m busy. Jack down the road yells at his kids to stay out of his way, while he spends his days on the couch with the TV and a bottle of whiskey.
My husband is chaste. I’m the only woman he looks at with that look of adoration and thorough appreciation. I love it when he undresses me with his eyes, because his eyes don’t look to any other feminine figure except mine. Cindy found her husband’s inbox full of pornography subscriptions.
My husband is honest. When he makes a mistake, he admits and tries to do better. When he is proven wrong, he humbly accepts it and seeks to rectify his error. George blames Brenda for anything that goes wrong, and refuses to take responsibility.
My husband is respectful. He treats me as a complete equal, an individual in my own right. He listens to what I have to say and never belittles my opinions. He empathizes with my feelings even if he doesn’t agree. He places me on a pedestal and never demeans my efforts at home with the kids or at work with my colleagues. Tom criticizes Susan about her education at a small-town college, about her part-time job, and about her size-14 figure.
My husband is playful. He’ll tickle me until I cry with laughter. He’ll play Twister with me until we fall on the floor in a heap of tangled limbs. He’ll dress up as a clown for the kids’ ‘Eid party, even though his boss is there. Michael the C.E.O. is rarely seen cracking a smile, even at his son’s baseball game.
My husband is generous and soft-hearted. He can never walk by a panhandler without dropping at least a dollar into the beggar’s hand. When the teenage prostitute sashays up to him, her eyes blank and staring, he gives her the business card for the women’s shelter and gives her ten dollars to buy herself a decent meal. The guy behind him pulls her over for a grope and an appointment at the motel down the street.
My husband is spiritual and religious. His big beard doesn’t conceal his ever-present gentle smile. His Arab accent doesn’t hide the wisdom of his words, or the humour of his jokes. The mark on his forehead is from when he goes out to pray in the woods, to commune with nature and communicate with God – not a sign of his terrorist tendencies. His heart encompasses the love of God, the love of the Prophet, the love of his parents, his wife, his children, his community, and humanity.
My husband is a Muslim husband!
(Copyright Zainab bint Younus aka AnonyMouse al-Majnoonah)

Kissed By An Angel


Recorded by Al-Bayhaqi, ad-Diyaa', and others. Authenticated by Sheikh al-Albani (rahimuhullah).

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Tribute to the Unsung Muslimah


She is the sheikh’s wife, who takes your questions to her husband to answer because you are too shy to ask him yourself. She is the one you blame for denying women direct access to the sources of knowledge; whom you accuse of being jealous and possessive, afraid that her husband will want to marry you. She is the one who lovingly presses that piece of paper of yours into her husband’s hands, who encourages him to take ten minutes, twenty minutes, an hour longer away from his time with her, to solve your problems.
She is an unsung Muslimah.
She is the immigrant sister from an Arab country, struggling to speak English yet gladly giving up her Saturday mornings to sit in the masjid and try to teach you the complex rules of Tajweed. She is the one you grumble about, whom you make a face at behind her back, because you think her correction of your recitation is harsh criticism. She is the one you accuse of making the Qur’an “dry” and “boring” and makes you lose interest in it. She is the one who labours hard every week, praying to Allah that He uses her as a means of you recognizing the deep beauty of the Qur’an and drawing closer to Him.
She is an unsung Muslimah.
She is the kindly Indian aunty who labours over her stove to cook up some of her delicious chicken curry, to be served with sunny basmati rice with lentils, for the iftaar at the Masjid. She is the one you complain smells of sweat all the time, who carries with her an air of masaalah that follows her more strongly than any of the perfumes you spray on before you leave home. She is the one you accuse of stinking up the masjid. She is the one whose hard work and lovingly concocted delicacy you pick at, saying that you can’t stand the greasy sauce. She is the one who spent her precious, dwindling stock of money on the ingredients for that dish, so that she could have the reward of feeding the fasting Muslim.
She is an unsung Muslimah.
She is that young teenage Muslimah who cheerfully rounds up your kids at the masjid and tries to entertain them while you pray Taraweeh or listen to the halaqah. She is the one you scold for making the kids too excited and causing them to make noise. She is the one you harshly reprimand for allowing your precious son to have his toy taken away, making him come running to you crying. She is the one patiently controlling her temper with the little ones, when all she really wants is to listen to the same imam you are falling asleep listening to.
She is an unsung Muslimah.

She is the one who wants to make Eid fun for your kids and decides to throw an Eid party at the Islamic centre. She is the one whom you criticize for the hall being too crowded, the food too little, the children too noisy. She is the one you scream at for not controlling the children on the games, while you demand that your ickle wee Aboodi be allowed to go first on the ride. She is the one whom you forget to give your event ticket too, and she is the one who silently pays out of her own pocket to cover the cost. She is the one whose time, money, and frayed nerves she is spending for the Sake of Allah.
She is an unsung Muslimah.
(Copyright Zainab bint Younus aka AnonyMouse)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Ties That Bind: Friendship Vs. Marriage

Originally written for SISTERS magazine.

One small island. Six young women. And a friendship that would last forever... Or so we thought.

Having met each other through Masjid events, and suddenly “clicking” together during the community’s first summer camp, the six of us Muslim teens developed a bond that seemed unbreakable. Although we ranged in age, came from diverse backgrounds, and had completely different personalities, we loved each other passionately. As we struggled through high school, personal issues and reconnecting to the Deen, we stood by and supported each other with love, laughter, and the constant reminder that our friendship was for the Sake of Allah. We were confident that we’d only grow closer, that nothing would break us apart.

And then we got married.

Like all young women, a significant portion of our discussions revolved around marriage – who, what, where, and how! We spent hours poring over articles, listening to lectures, and creating checklists for ourselves and our future spouses. We dreamed of wedding dresses and giggled nervously about wedding nights. Throughout it all, though, we promised that no matter where we went in the world, wherever life would take us, we’d always stay together.

Reality, however, turned out to be a bit more different than we imagined.

Over the course of a year, three of us got married, one moved overseas and had a baby, and the others found themselves overwhelmed with the demands of a new husband, old family, and university. No longer did we meet each other several times a week or spend time volunteering at Masjid events; even planned gatherings at each other’s homes often fell through. Physical distance inevitably led to emotional distance and miscommunication resulting in hurt feelings and a sense of loss.

This case of “MIA After Marriage” isn’t unique – in fact, it’s incredibly common. Many sisters report that once a friend or relative gets married, they seem to disappear for months on end. It can take up to a year (or more, if children soon follow) for a newlywed sister to get back in touch with her friends... and by that time, things might have changed so much that it’s impossible for the same closeness to return. The unmarried sisters might feel that their married friend is now living a completely different life and that they have nothing in common anymore; the newlywed sister wonders why her friends don’t understand that she’s just busier now and can’t make it to events and gatherings all the time. Slowly but surely, tight bonds of friendship loosen and sometimes even slip away.

While understandable, the situation is lamentable as well. Although no one says you should be neglecting your husband for your friends, you shouldn’t ignore your friends either. Sisterhood for the Sake of Allah is a precious thing that should never be lost or let go of, not even in the flush of new marriage. So how do sisters who love their husbands and their friends give time for both? Here are a few tips on how to maintain the valuable relationships of Islamic Sisterhood.

1. Purify your intention. Whether you’re the newlywed or the bachelorette, remember that the reason you’re reaching out to your ‘lost’ friend is for the Sake of Allah... not just to get an extra pair of hands to help out at the next bridal shower.

Mu’adh ibn Jabal (radhiAllahu anhu) reported: “I heard the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) say: ‘Allah Almighty said, “My Love is mandatory for those who love each other for My Sake, and those who sit with each other for My Sake, and those who visit each other for My Sake, and those who give to each other generously for My Sake.” (Malik in al-Muwatta’).

Abu Hurayrah (radhiAllahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said: “There are seven whom Allah will shade with His Shade on the day where there is no shade but His Shade: (one of them is) two men who love each other for the Sake of Allah, meeting and parting for that reason alone...” (Bukhari and Muslim)

2. Be considerate. Keep in mind that things are a bit different for the married sister. She has a whole new set of responsibilities that do take a while to get used to. Allow that she won’t be able to hang out on most days and times like you used to in the old days. But don’t let that stop you from giving her a call or paying her a visit!

Abu Hurayrah (radhiAllahu anhu) reported that the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “A man visited a brother of his in another town and Allah appointed an angel to wait for him on his way. When he came to him, the angel said, ‘Where are you going?’ He said, ‘I am going to a brother of mine in this town.’ He said, ‘Do you have some property with him that you want to check on?’ He said, ‘No, it is only that I love him for the sake of Allah Almighty.’ He said, ‘I am a messenger of Allah to you to tell you that Allah loves you as you love this man for His Sake.’” (Muslim)

3. Be patient and make 70 excuses for your sister. If you’ve called, left messages on the answering machine, sent a slew of emails, and are now considering hiding in her bushes to make sure she’s still alive, take a deep breath and be patient. Insha’Allah your friend is fine; just give her a bit of space to settle into her new routine before expecting a response. Don’t think that she’s ignoring you or doesn’t notice – even through the haze of new marriage, she knows and appreciates that you care about her, which simply increases her love for you.

4. Remember that all relationships need work to maintain. Newlyweds, take note! Don’t take your friendships for granted, and don’t expect that after a year of you being MIA, that everything will be just as you left it. Make an effort to keep in touch with your sisters in Islam, and try to meet with them whenever possible at the Masjid, if nowhere else. Even if you don’t get to really ‘hang out,’ just attending a beneficial lecture or program can strengthen both your emaan and the bonds of Islamic Sisterhood.

5. Don’t hold a grudge. It can be too easy for emotional distance and the feeling of losing a friend to result in holding a grudge. Again, it’s important to note that the situation has changed and that things won’t be exactly the same as they were before. However, don’t allow that to make you feel badly about your sister in Islam or have hard feelings against her because you think that she’s throwing away your friendship.

The Messenger of Allah (sallallahau ‘alayhi wa sallam) said, “The doors of Paradise are opened on Monday and Thursday, and every servant who does not associate anything with Allah be forgiven, except for the man who bears a grudge against his brother. It will be said, “Wait for these two until they reconcile, wait for these two until they reconcile, wait for these two until they reconcile.” (Muslim)

Thus, in the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam), we find precious gems of advice on how to keep the love for the Sake of Allah strong and flourishing. Changes in life are inevitable, but just because life changes, doesn’t mean that friendship should! As long as sincerity and true love for the Sake of Allah are kept in mind, insha’Allah your relationships with your sisters in Islam will remain strong, pure, and lasting.

May Allah increase us all in our love for Him; and in our love for our sisters in Islam for His Sake; and make us amongst those who will be shaded on the Day of Judgement, when there will be no shade except the Shade of His Throne.


AnonyMouse (UmmKhadijah) is a young Canadian Muslimah who has found herself unexpectedly taking care of house, husband and baby. Readers might recognize her as the AnonyMouse from MuslimMatters.org, although slightly more grown up.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Book Review: Love In A Headscarf

AlHamdulillaah I've recently gotten back to writing after a veeeeeeeeeeeeery long hiatus (about a year since I left my old haunt at MuslimMatters.org). So far it's only been a handful of articles, written for SISTERS magazine, but I figured I may as well throw them in here for another handful of views :)

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Love in a Headscarf: Muslim Woman Seeks The One,” by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed is a light-hearted, real-life take on the typical dilemma faced by young Muslim women in the West – searching for the right Muslim man, the right Muslim way.

The author is a young British Muslim woman, who tells us that “at the age of thirteen, I knew I was destined to marry John Travolta. One day he would arrive on my North London doorstep, fall madly in love with me, and ask me to marry him. Then he would convert to Islam and become a devoted Muslim.” A few years later down the line, however, and John Travolta still hasn’t shown up for the great samosa-serving rishta (potential bridegroom) ritual!

For every girl whose guilty pleasure is chick lit, “Love in a Headscarf” is a guilt-free and completely halaal way to indulge. The book, however, is more than just a fluffy giggle-inducing tale; Shelina skilfully narrates her anecdotes while weaving in brief explanations of the tenets of Islam and components of Muslim cultures in a way that makes the book appealing and approachable to both Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Shelina chronicles her quest for the One from beginning to end, from her first arranged meeting at the age of 19, to the experimental attempts at “Muslim speed dating,” and finally, even online matchmaking websites. Readers can both sympathize with and chuckle at her descriptions of the various characters she meets during her quest: disdainful Samir who hates books, perfect Jameel who left the choice of his future bride up to his mother (who of course has not approved of anyone yet), Habib who was still emotionally scarred by his parents’ divorce five years ago and terrified of making a commitment that might end the same way, breathlessly attractive yet disinterested Karim...

Considering all the above, yet yearning still for something more – for That Feeling – Shelina struggles to compromise between the well-meaning, earnest advice of Buxom Aunties, Serious Imams, and her own wise parents, and the romantic dreams that every young woman has of finding the One. Commendably, however, she doesn’t allow the marriage hunt to overwhelm her life. Concluding that Allah in His Wisdom has a reason for not delivering Prince Charming into her lap, she goes about the business of Life.

Worshipping Allah, studying, travelling, navigating the tangled paths of cultural identity, and, of course, dreaming of the One... Sheilina shares stories of what it’s like to be a young Muslim woman in the West, dealing with the aftermath of 9/11 and struggling against stereotypes from both within and without the Muslim community. Good Girls don’t climb mountains, she’s told when she sets out to scale Mount Kilimanjaro; but at the same time, her hijaab seems to turn off a lot of potential suitors. What’s up with that? She questions traditional conditions, believing in the values but not necessarily the ways in which a girl is supposed to maintain her reputation. After all, what’s wrong with a girl getting a sports car?

Shelina’s quest for halaal love ends up the way such things always do: determined by the Qadr (Destiny) of Allah, both Prince and Princess appear in the right place at the right time, destined to meet. With the blessing of faith and family, Shelina Zahra Janmohamed marries her Prince Charming... and so begins her Happily Ever After.

- A- AnonyMouse (UmmKhadijah) is a young Muslimah who has been writing Islamic articles for the last six years. Formerly a co-founder, staff member, and writer for MuslimMatters.org, she now writes for SISTERS magazine.