Why We Should Be Like The Bee

Working in the city full-time can really take a toll on the way you think and perceive this life and the world around you. Being surrounded by not only people who worship the work place and their salary, but also commuting within an environment that is gated in 100 foot concrete buildings, it can become a real challenge to maintain a mindset that is in a constant state of reflection and remembrance of Allah (SWT). Inevitably, with a lack of remembrance of Allah, our hearts begin to harden which alters our character and frequency of virtuous acts. Especially living in the West, where a majority of the population lead highly secular lifestyles which tend to be selfish, cruel, and focused on only living for the dunya (worldly life and its immediate pleasures). It becomes easy to be consumed within this fast-paced, impatient mindset that can often times be naturally unforgiving towards others. Being placed right in the middle of this chaotic way of life is truly a test in itself. How do we reflect upon our own behaviors and our dedication to Allah (SWT) when everything and everyone around us is doing the exact opposite?

We begin to question, “is it really that important to be kind and patient with others?” As the capitalist world progresses, we become accustomed to this singular mindset that every relationship we have is that of a “business deal” format or from a “consumer” point of view – even our relationship with Allah (SWT). We’re all very familiar with the basic business structure: you, as the consumer pay for something and immediately receive it. We are always seeking out a reward, an immediate effect to our cause. We work, we get paid or we pay the cashier and receive our groceries, we pay the waiter, we get food – we live in a world where this is the basic mechanism of how our society functions, so it’s no wonder we inevitably develop a type of mindset where we are always in a state of expectancy. It has become easy to lose faith in Allah as we become accustomed to this mindset that our duas (prayers) should be answered immediately and if we don’t see them being answered right away, then we begin to question Islam. This mindset has also trickled down to how we treat others. This way of thinking encourages us to make good and kind actions exclusive to those we deem as “deserving” of them. This behavior is highly contradictory to what Islam teaches us. One hadith that I love to ponder upon is one that urges us to reflect upon the behavior of the bee. Yes, the bee, one of the many insects that we all normally freak out in fear of being stung by it. This beautiful hadith, narrated by Imam Ahmad, states that, the messenger of Allah ﷺ said:

“By the One in whose hand is the soul of Muhammad, the believer is like a bee which eats that which is pure and wholesome and lays that which is pure and wholesome. When it lands on something it does not break or ruin it.”

This hadith is so profound and truly is one to reflect upon daily. Often times we don’t really think about bees and the nature in which they live or their dutifulness and importance to sustaining life on Earth. We also don’t realize the fashion in which they inhabit various areas by the will of Allah. They are truly admirable creatures, so admirable that the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) swore by Allah (SWT) that they are creatures of great importance and relevance to the believer. In this hadith, we learn that we should mimic the bee in eating wholesome and pure food and drink, unlike other insects that consume repulsive and impure things. We also learn that the bee lays on that which is also pure and wholesome – this could be interpreted as how bees lay on and excrete honey, which is also something that is free from impurity. For a believer, we can view this as all of our actions, words, and intentions towards others as well as this Earth, should also be pure and good. The last part of the hadith is truly remarkable. “When it lands on something, it does not break or ruin it,” this is so significant to us as believers as it urges us to reflect on the way in which we handle our affairs and our relationships. We should embody the nature of the bee in that it is gentle and does not disrupt wherever it lives. It takes what it needs for the greater good, leaves that place in the condition that it was. As believers, we should handle our affairs with that same gentleness and softness. The believer should be temperate in his/her dealings with the creation, meaning we should not ruin or cause difficulty or pain to any life on Earth whether that is to humans, animals, or plants. We should find ways to carry out justice and should practice remaining patient even in situations that may often ignite anger within us. These instances are tests for the believers, as we should remember Allah (SWT) and ask Him for guidance and patience to always speak a good word and do good deeds. Being consciously aware of our emotions and knowing that we are in full control of them can help the process. We should aim to not be negative or overbearing, but rather kind, understanding, and merciful towards others. Who would actively want to be the type of person who constantly causes distress to others with their words or actions? We were given the will to be far much better than that.

Our surroundings and living situations can influence our behavior, but in the end, we are responsible and in control of how we choose to react towards others and the environment around us. It always seems easier to lose our patience and see the bad in people, but if we just try to keep our calm for a few more seconds, we will find that it is more rewarding and fulfilling than bursting out in any rage of anger. Wherever you are and wherever you go, strive to make the people around you at ease, or at least do not leave them in a more difficult state than how you met them. Seek patience through prayer and remembrance of Allah (SWT), and you will find yourself naturally gravitating towards a calmer lifestyle.

Do Muslims Celebrate Christmas?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – allegedly. In western countries, Christmas is more than just a passing holiday; it’s an entire season and a lifestyle within itself. For some Muslims living in the west, this time of year can often feel like a drag, almost as if you’re third-wheeling on some weird date, but for others, it’s become just as joyous as it is for those who actively celebrate it.

They’ve made it difficult for people not to be attracted to Christmas. By “they,” I mean the capitalist regime that profit off of the masses being so utterly consumed by this holiday. With all of the pretty lights, stories, and overall coziness attributed to Christmas, in this day and age, if you deny liking it even a little bit, you’re kind of deemed a weirdo, or a “Grinch.” While there are still a fair amount of people who preach, “Keep the Christ in Christmas!” many stand by the modern notion that Christmas is no longer truly a religious holiday, but more cultural, if anything. This is a very slippery slope, especially for Muslims living in the west. Christmas, even today, can easily be seen and linked back to pagan beliefs and practices. The very essence of Christmas directly conflicts with the truth of Islam. Even if you find yourself having the intentions to solely celebrate it in the most “non-religious” way possible, we cannot sit here and pretend that there is no reason why we don’t celebrate this holiday in Islam. We cannot sit here and senselessly “celebrate” a holiday built around not only a highly capitalist agenda, but also idolization of entities other than Allah (SWT). Spoiler alert, but just because a majority of people are enjoining in a certain practice, doesn’t mean it’s right or that you should mindlessly participate and embrace it with them.

I truly am sympathetic to the Muslim diaspora and how painfully difficult it is to balance two worlds that always seem to be in conflict with one another, but it is not impossible. I feel that every year I witness more Muslims falling into the “Christmas trap.” Excuses such as, “But I’m not partaking in anything religious, it’s just for fun!” and “But Isa is a prophet that we recognize too, so technically…” and “It’s more cultural than anything else,” run rampant and cause much divide within our community. Every year, I am saddened by the fact that my Muslim brothers and sisters are sinking so deeply into a celebration of something that, at its core, is completely un-Islamic.

I get it, I really do. I was born and raised in America, and I have witnessed how “special” this time of year is made out to be. With all of the jolly Christmas music blaring in every single store, glistening décor, and the overall cheerful mood everyone seems to be in, one could easily ask, “How could anyone hate Christmas?” I’ve also seen many Muslims pull out the excuse that “It’s all about giving” during the Christmas season, so it’s okay to participate. In my humble opinion, I don’t think we should reserve being charitable and kind to just a few weeks at the end of the year. We should be carrying these actions and habits constantly throughout the year and all throughout our lives. I feel that many people fail to delve into deeper thought about the subject. I’m talking way passed the surface level of candy canes and reindeer. It has to do more with the fact that regardless of what angle you look at it from, it still is a holiday based on shirk, one that attacks the most important and fundamental aspect of Islam. It’s the first thing we are taught as Muslims, our existence revolves around this very truth: “La illaha illallah.” There is no God, but Allah. He is the One and only. When you’re actively choosing to participate in Christmas, whether your intention is to just, “have fun” and “be in the spirit” and doesn’t have to directly do with the “religious aspect,” it still is a pagan holiday nonetheless that derives from celebrating Jesus’ “birthday.” I understand that it is seen and celebrated in a more cultural way now, but if it’s so cultural now, why is it even called, “Christmas?” If it’s so cultural now, why are all these statues of Santa Claus and Maryam (RA), so heavily prominent across all decorations and stories about Christmas? Why is a tree involved? Why do people even exchange gifts with one another? If it’s so cultural now, why do most people still go to Church during this time? What is the significance behind it all? I’ve seen Muslims display all types of Christmas themed décor around their house, including a tree. Where is the limit? We may recognize prophet Isa for all of his miraculous characteristics and noble attributes, he is a beloved prophet to us and a very important figure in Islam, but we can never agree that he is “the son of God” nor is he God in any way. This is directly contradicting not only to the aforementioned first pillar of Islam, but it also counters what the Qur’an teaches us. One of the first surah’s we learn is Surah Al-Ikhlas (Sincerity), which reads:

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Qul huwal laahu ahad / Say: He is Allah [who is the One]

Allah hus-samad / Allah the Eternal Refuge

Lam yalid wa lam yoolad / He neither begets nor is born.

Wa lam yakul-lahu kufuwan ahad / Nor is there to Him any equivalent.

These are the basics of Islam, and to celebrate anything that even comes remotely close to disputing this is a disgrace and disrespect to Allah (SWT), even if it is masked underneath pretty colorful lights and music.

We cannot sit here and senselessly “celebrate” a holiday built around not only a highly capitalist agenda, but also idolization of entities other than Allah (SWT).

The prophet Muhammad (SAW) is the perfect example for us to follow in terms of lifestyle and character. He did not engage in any frivolous holidays and taught us not do so especially because they cause us to become distracted from worshipping Allah (SWT) and derive from a place and time of true ignorance. I think the thing is that as Muslims, we kind of fail to truly educate each other and ourselves in a proper way about Christmas and holidays in general, especially living in the west. We end up portraying ourselves to be a part of this strict, extreme religion that doesn’t allow any fun or enjoyment whatsoever. I’m no scholar, but I feel like that type of atmosphere and mentality almost pushes some (especially the youth) away from the true Islam. Who would want to learn more about a religion when all they’ve been told about it are the restrictions and “punishments?” Additionally, I have come across many people who claim that we need to “innovate” Islam to “progress” and be more assimilated with modern society. This is yet another ridiculous excuse to partake in irrelevant practices and beliefs such as Christmas. Why would Islam need any innovation at all when the All-Knowing, the Most Wise, created it in all of its perfection? Islam and the Qur’an have proven to remain relevant and timeless throughout history – it does not need to be molded or influenced by the creation to fit society’s weak standards or trends. We need to understand that humans literally cannot know and understand everything; we have not been created with that type of mental capacity, we are not the wisest beings to exist. Only Allah (SWT) withholds the reasoning behind every single thing. Understanding that truly puts everything into perspective.

We should be putting more of an emphasis on the blessed Islamic holidays that we have been given. We should engage our families and friends in celebrating Ramadan and Eid (both of them!) in a way that is even more beautiful than Christmas. We have Ramadan, such a blessed time that is quite honestly a month-long holiday in itself, and we also have not one, but two Eid’s in one year! Beautify these holidays and decorate your homes when Ramadan and Eid come around. Make special foods, wear your best clothes, visit your family, friends, neighbors, and of course, your masjid. When we begin to practice and understand the beauty that is in what Allah (SWT) has ordained for us, then we truly will not feel the need to want to participate in other holidays such as Christmas. Sure, maybe the whole entire world won’t be celebrating along with us with decorations and exclusive blowout sales, but that makes it even more special. It’s something just for us and it’s not completely stripped of its significance because it’s not being as commoditized as Christmas is. Just because our blessed holidays have not been integrated with the capitalist agenda, does not make them any less special, in fact it actually makes them that much more great.

Christmas is aesthetically pleasing, I won’t deny that, but it’s not worth celebrating if it means I’m defying Allah (SWT) in any way, intentional or unintentional. We can live without Christmas. It all really leads back to proper education on a variety of subjects, but most importantly the fundamentals of our faith. My intentions are not to sound like a grumpy, salty, extremist, but to underline the reality of what we are choosing to celebrate. It all just comesback to our devotion to Allah (SWT).

Rupi Kaur & Sexism In The Workforce

Can we collectively stop bashing women of color for absolutely nothing? For a while now, I’ve been seeing many people essentially “meme” Rupi Kaur’s poetry. If you don’t know who Rupi Kaur is, she’s an Indian-Canadian New York Times best selling author, most well known for her book, “Milk & Honey.” Kaur addresses a wide array of topics in her poetry. She is a young woman of color who tackles relevant issues within our communities such as racism, sexism, and physical/mental/sexual abuse. Yet, there are still people out there who seek out to make the lived experiences and trauma of a brown woman, into a joke. I guess I’m missing the punch line. This is much larger than what I’ve been witnessing happen to Rupi. The constant mockery of women of color, especially within the workforce, is so disgustingly common, and yet so rarely addressed.

I’ve seen many people attempt to “call out” Kaur on her writing style and create “memes” using her simplistic structure, but making obvious statements, rather than something meaningful. Now, I’m not sure if these people are bored or whatever, or think they’re being “woke” and making this into satire, but it’s honestly one of the most pathetic and ways to waste your time. It’s not satire; it’s literally making a mockery out of a woman of color having her voice heard (for once). People believe Rupi Kaur is too “hyped up” for her poems. Everyone is has a right to their own opinions, I’m not a crazed fan myself, but I’m not going to sit here and mock her. Kaur’s poetry is known for being simple and straightforward. Much like Nayyirah Waheed, author of the book “Salt” who uses a similar style in poetry. Both are powerful and thriving. I could pull out a whole library of old white men who have been praised for their mediocre writing, but I guess it’s only deemed as a crime when a woman of color becomes well known for her writing. Can I also just take a moment to address the fact that this is a desi woman making huge waves in mainstream literature, and for none other than writing about the very real abuse that exists within desi households. She actively addresses the mental/physical/emotional/sexual abuse that persists to live on through generations as it’s so commonly brushed under the rug in the name of protecting “honor.”

It’s not satire; it’s literally making a mockery out of a woman of color having her voice heard (for once).

Suddenly, I’ve been witnessing all of these self-proclaimed literature buffs, and poetry experts come out of the woodworks trying to troll on the poems that made Kaur a well known author. What even is poetry, though? Last time I checked, at its core and simplest definition, it’s a creative avenue for self-expression, reflection, and thought. In this situation, deciding whether Kaur’s work is considered poetry or not, is not a philosophical or enlightened gesture, nor is it an exercise of critique. The way I’ve been seeing people actively come at her writing, is an attempt at silencing a voice that challenges normative poetic paradigms and mainstream literature. Why is Kaur’s poetry not considered “real” or valid enough to earn the notoriety and praise that it has gotten? Is it because it’s accessible and enjoyable for those who haven’t read poetry since they were forced to in high school? Is it because it uses simple language, rather than complex words one would need to look up on Google or have a college degree to understand? Or maybe it’s because her writing is not exactly what a man would desire to hear. Her writing is highly competitive with current white authors and that fact is astonishing people. Rupi Kaur’s poetry sidestepped major publishers, but we still feel the need to tweet dumb crap about how her writing is so “basic” and obvious.

Whenever I see people actively making a mockery out of Kaur’s poetry, it infuriates me. It infuriates me because I see it as feeding into the system of white supremacy and patriarchy. I feel like there’s a really fine line between making conscious intelligent critiques and flat out making fun of and being an active contributor to this toxic, wasteful “call-out culture.” Of course, no one is perfect, and no one can be completely exempt from problematic behaviors. However, any and all memes I’ve seen pertaining to Rupi Kaur have been solely attacking her choice of writing style. I guess it really does fire people up that a woman of color is a New York Times bestselling author. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen basic white men and women maintain ranks on the New York Times bestsellers list, but have their works ever really been as scrutinized as Rupi Kaur’s?

The way I’ve been seeing people actively come at her writing, is an attempt at silencing a voice that challenges normative poetic paradigms and mainstream literature.

At the end of it all, it really comes down to internalized racism and misogyny. Rupi Kaur has curated and built up the courage to literally expose her trauma out there into the world. She is choosing to voice not only her truth in an honest way, but also the truths and trauma of so many people across the world, especially women. This ongoing “critique” of Kaur’s style, isn’t really about her writing at all. It’s a direct attack on a woman of color speaking her truth in a fashion that white men cannot easily ignore. She’s reaching people on a large scale. Sorry (not really sorry), but I’d rather see the name “Rupi Kaur” at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list, rather than another “John Smith” or whatever.

This isn’t specifically about Rupi Kaur; it’s about women of color in any field and how we have to endure struggle so much more than anyone else. We always have to tolerate unwanted scrutiny and work that much harder to attain success.

Gaza Stories of Resilience Project

For well over a decade, Palestinians have been fighting, resisting, and struggling to maintain their right to exist. About 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza have been enormously oppressed by various world “super power” governments. The situation that has been occurring in Palestine has only increasingly gotten worse and is one of the most severe humanitarian crises of our time. The occupation and destruction that millions of children, women, and families, have gone through and are still currently going through, is something almost incomprehensible when you think about it. Yet, the Palestinian people have such a beautiful strength and an undeniable resilience to them. 

Mainstream media has a specific way of categorizing what we should deem as important enough to lend our human sympathy to. They have been able to manipulate our human emotion and psyche into caring about certain situations and being completely and utterly ignorant to others. We consume forms of media with a selective sense of humanity. With situations such as the one going on in Palestine, the media fails to rightly humanize these innocent civilians. They have no problem, however, exposing corpses or severely malnourished, dying children of color from around the globe, at any chance they get. By constantly seeing certain groups of people portrayed in a negative light, our sense of compassion depletes. I personally believe that this lack of human compassion is a global epidemic and it plays a significant role in these humanitarian crises continuing on. We have very scarce resources that show marginalized, oppressed groups as actual people.

Yet, the Palestinian people have such a beautiful strength and an undeniable resilience to them. 

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That’s why I find the work of The Khaldi twins so important. Two sisters, Asmaa and Saja, who live in Gaza have started a much needed journey of documenting the lives of Palestinians. They are reclaiming their voice as Palestinians and showing us the real people of Gaza. They’ve created their YouTube channel to inspire and educate others about the reality of the place that they call home. They are answering the question that many of us have asked internally: “What are the people of Gaza doing in the meantime?” Believe it or not, we all have much more in common that we are taught to believe. From beautifully edited videos titled, “A Walk in Old Gaza,” and “Ramadan in Gaza,” these sisters truly allow us to get a glimpse into daily life of Palestinians. Through their YouTube channel, they are creating quality content that vividly shows life in Gaza. 

“What are the people of Gaza doing in the meantime?”

Recently the Khaldi twins created a LaunchGood fundraiser project in order to gain support for their necessary endeavors of being a prominent voice for Gaza. Unfortunately, with the high taxes that Israel imposes on traders, as well as the fact that they have banned the import of electronics ordered online to Gaza, it has become more difficult for the Khaldi twins to create the content they are passionate about, and that we desperately need in this world. We need to encourage media such as theirs to be more prominent in order to change the world. As their project states, they are taking up the responsibility to shed light on and tell the full, real stories of people; to empower these characters; to give hope to those living within the same circumstances; and to inspire those watching from around the world.

Now  it’s our time to be a part of the story by helping to tell it. If you’d like to help out and learn more about their amazing initiative and work, click here!

*all photographs above are copy-righted to Asmaa Elkhaldi©.

Her Name Was Nabra Hassanen #JusticeForNabra

Nabra Hassanen. Don’t forget her name. A 17-year old Muslim girl who was brutally assaulted and murdered. All murders are senseless, but Nabra’s life was taken for no reason other than the fact that she was Muslim. Because she was visibly Muslim in her beautifully draped hijab. This was not about a parking dispute or any other junk excuse the media and police are attempting to label it as. This was an Islamophobic motivated hate crime. This was a terrorist attack.

I get it. A lot of people are too privileged to see, let alone care, about how people in power, public figures, and the media constantly demonize marginalized groups.  I’m sick and tired of having to cater to their ignorance. Why is their ignorance costing us the lives of our brothers and sisters? Why do the lives of white Christians and Catholics seem to get way more airtime and global concern while Muslims are being persecuted right beside them and not even getting the least bit of respect? I am never one to compare tragedies, ever, but this is just feeding into the cycle of systemic injustice and oppression. I saw the outrage and heartbreak of my white coworkers when the Manchester attack happened recently. I saw newspapers stacked at the front desk sympathizing and “standing with” the people of London. Do people even realize the immense horror that just occurred in our own country? I don’t care if my coworkers know who Nabra is. I care about why they have a selective sensitivity and humanity towards only a certain group of people. This is a learned action. The media teaches us how we should think and feel, and this gravely skews our stances on justice and injustice. This was not about a traffic or parking dispute. How many times are the media and the police going to use that same excuse when Muslims are violently murdered in America? Whoever actually believes it had nothing to do with the fact that she was a visibly Muslim woman, really needs to wake up. It’s never about a parking dispute.

I am truly heartbroken. I sobbed upon hearing the news concerning my sister Nabra, who lost her life in this blessed month of Ramadan. Although I never knew her, it feels like I did. Nabra was my sister in Islam. A young Muslimah, a believing 17-year old girl in a world that is so against her. Muslim. Black. Woman. Much like many of my fellow Muslim women, her very existence was a political statement, a defiance against what most people in the West are seemingly “comfortable” with. I keep telling myself that I wish I were with her before she was attacked outside of the masjid. As if I could have done something. I wish I could have saved her. My heart goes out deeply to all of the people suffering in the world and my duas are forever with them, but this, this hits home on entirely other level. The fact that this has happened, let alone in the month of Ramadan, is exceptionally upsetting.

She was one of us. She was probably getting ready for these last few days of Ramadan and making plans for Eid. She had her whole life in front of her. To my fellow Muslim sisters, please be careful and be hyper-aware wherever you are. People have sick, evil, selfish intentions and unfortunately we are the ones who suffer the most from it. Especially my sisters who observe the hijab. I can’t even begin to try to think as awfully as the oppressors and attackers do when they act upon their violent thoughts.

Let’s take the very last few days of this blessed month of Ramadan to sincerely make dua for Nabra and her family. May she be granted Jannah al firdous, and may her family and friends find peace, justice, comfort, and sabr through Allah (SWT). May He replace the trauma of those who were with her that night with tranquility. Let’s also take time to reflect on this world that we live in, the state of this ummah, and the state of our own iman (faith). Keep this ummah in your duas every day, and try your best to renew your intentions and your iman each day, as if it was your last. Allah (SWT) Knows best and is the Most-Merciful.

There are many wonderful donations/charities being set up for Nabra and in her name. If you’d like to help support, here are a few:

https://www.piousprojects.org/campaign?id=394

https://www.launchgood.com/project/for_nabra#/

May Allah (SWT) protect all of my sisters in this world. May He grant us courage and steadfastness in our deen and may He bring peace to this hateful world. Ameen.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun. To Him we belong and to Him we return.

Periods & Ramadan: Let’s Talk About It

Periods. Menstruation. The monthly cycle. Such a tabooed subject across the globe. A majority of women from all around the world are taught to hide when they’re on their period. Come Ramadan, and this age old game takes on a new level. You either dread its arrival, or are secretly happy to see it come as it gives you a few days to ‘take a break’ from fasting. Continue reading “Periods & Ramadan: Let’s Talk About It”

“Aren’t You Hot In That?”

As we approach the warmer months in the Northern Hemisphere, the rising temperatures seem to not only be making people sweat, but also judgmental of what others are wearing. Continue reading ““Aren’t You Hot In That?””