New Zealand Mosque Terrorist Attacks: Should We Be Afraid?

“Friday is the best of days. It was on this day that Hadrat Adam Alaysi salaam was created, it was on this day that he was granted entry into jannah, it was on this day that he was removed from jannah (which became the cause for man’s existence in this universe, and which is a great blessing), and the day of resurrection will also take place on this day.” (Sahih Muslim)

Friday. Jummah. This was the day that an Australian born citizen felt compelled to walk into Masjid Al-Noor in Christchurch, New Zealand and murder innocent Muslims observing their Friday prayer. I can’t seem to fully digest this reality. I can’t believe that we live in an age and society where violence is so normalized and allowed to the point where someone can massacre a place of worship with one hand, while live-streaming it in the other. Social media moves fast, it hasn’t even been a full 24 hours since this terrorist attack was committed, but I feel like we’re always so quick to move on to the next news story. We need to stop moving so rapidly and understand how attacks like this affect our psyche and lifestyles as Muslims living in the West.

This terrorist attack has shaken us all on a deeper level. It’s shaken us to the core, not only because it was an attack in a Western country, but also because of how much we can see ourselves in the same position that these Muslims were in right before their lives were taken from them. The intent of this terrorist was to not only terrorize the Muslims in this local masjid, but to also terrorize the rest of the world by creating an entire Facebook Live video of such a violent act. He not only wanted to inflict fear, terror, and violence in that masjid, but he wanted the world to fall into fear and compliancy. This fear is the kind that pushes people towards compliancy. Compliancy of forsaking everything that makes you different in order to be more “acceptable” and palatable. Forsaking the most precious things that we have: our iman, faith, and Muslim identity.

I’ve been seeing so many posts flooding all social platforms today, all understandably fueled by anger, sadness, and confusion. Some speak to how we should remove our hijabs and not go to the masjid or “look” openly Muslim, in order to remain safe, while others are ready to physically put up a fight against the Islamophobia. It’s a slippery slope with social media because it’s so easy to get consumed and influenced by other people’s opinions, so much so that we lose sight and density of the real issues at hand.

On this Friday, let us just take a moment to not be so reactive with our hurt, but to reflect on not only the Muslim lives that were taken as a direct result of ignorance, irresponsibility and racism from powerful world leaders as well as western mainstream media, but let’s also remember how fleeting this dunya and our lives really are. It has been about 18 years since 9/11 happened, and Islamophobia does not indicate slowing down in the slightest. When events like this occur, it’s easy and almost innate to become fearful by default, but let us not let go of our faith and purpose so easily. Yes, we are targets, but we must not become consumed within a cycle of fear, that either results in us catering to what they want or becoming just like them. Additionally, let us not forget that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his companions endured so much violence for believing and spreading the truth of Islam, however they never backed down in their faith. If we look closer, we’ll see that the ones, who remained strong in their faith and worship, were always the most successful.

Let us also not forget that Allah is with us, closer than we can imagine. He is always watching, he is the All-Knowing and has a superior wisdom that we cannot comprehend.

Remember to take time out of your day to remember Him greatly, and appreciate those closest to you.

Screen Shot 2019-03-15 at 9.23.53 PM.png

“Indeed, those who have said, ‘Our Lord is Allah ‘ and then remained on a right course – the angels will descend upon them, [saying], ‘Do not fear and do not grieve but receive good tidings of Paradise, which you were promised.'” Al-Quran [41:30]

Am I The Ideal Muslim Woman?

Feeling out of place within your identity as a Muslim, let alone a Muslim living in the west, let alone a Muslim woman living in the west – is something that isn’t uncommon. It’s easy to feel displaced even if that can be hard to admit sometimes. So often, us Muslim women are facing struggles that no other group of people seem to go through or understand. Whether in our communities or in the public space – our self-worth, and empowerment can feel like it’s fleeting at a constant rate. What helps me find that inner strength again and feel genuine ease is remembering my heritage of being a Muslim woman and the strength that is woven in that history. We have so many resources that connect us back to the great women of Islam – empowerment is at our fingertips.

In today’s society, where we see others abusing women in unimaginable ways, it truly can become almost involuntary to envelope in these feelings of self-loathing and doubt. We begin to get stuck in this mindset that our personal growth as individual Muslim women is stagnated and limited within both our own Muslim communities as well as our larger society. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve experienced the feeling of being overwhelmed by the superficial portrait of the “ideal Muslimah.” I mean, who even is she? Does being the “true Muslim woman” mean succumbing to the male-controlled cookie cutter woman? Does it mean unconsciously assuming stereotypical attributes assigned by non-Muslims and western media? Where does my individual spiritual reality lie in all of this? Does it even belong to me as a Muslim women? Why must we have this strange feeling of unfamiliar self-consciousness when wanting to pursue personal spiritual goals? Am I inevitably striving to fit into this one-dimensional, non-existent image of a “perfect Muslim woman?”

Does being the “true Muslim woman” mean succumbing to the male-controlled cookie cutter woman?

So many questions, but the answers are not too far away. All it takes is looking back into the very first real women of Islam. Yes, real, living, breathing women – each with her own individual differences, mind, strengths, and weaknesses. They were simply humans, just striving to the best of their abilities to please Allah (SWT). It’s important to remember that the priority of the first women of Islam was always to stay near to Allah (SWT). Yes, they were daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers, but ultimately those priorities were secondary to obeying Allah. They didn’t fit into that one-dimensional image painted by today’s patriarchal culture and society. In fact, they more often than not inadvertently rebelled against those “norms.” Amongst them were great scholars, teachers, poets, entrepreneurs, and health-care providers to name a few. They are heroes and it’s important to consider them as nothing less than that.

As young Muslim women growing up or even as more mature Muslim women, we have been so accustomed to having to feel like we are a burden or “un-Islamic” for dreaming big, for speaking up, for striving for our deen individually. We begin to blame and often “feel bad” about wanting to further our professional careers or personal growth. Perhaps even the toxic patriarchal cultural mindset kicks it up a notch and we begin to internalize rhetoric such as, “Why would a Muslim woman even bother to aim high when Allah has ‘commanded’ her to remain at home permanently and not be seen or heard in any sense?” We begin to internalize these false ideas and this is what ultimately shapes our outlook on our potential. We need to start actively flipping the questions, like, “Why can’t a Muslim woman have an impact on the community?” Enough of being unkind to ourselves, because this is not what Islam teaches us. Eliminate harmful cultural thinking that ambitious women are un-Islamic or “too modern.” I’m not “too” anything. I’m just enough.

They are heroes and it’s important to consider them as nothing less than that.

This is detrimental behavior to feed to our young girls especially. To teach the youth to perform merely the obligatory aspects of Islam is theft. We must not teach let alone act upon Islam in such rigid, violent manners. Our Lord is nothing less of the Most Merciful, so why does our own practice not reflect that? It’s so easy to feel alone in today’s age as a Muslim woman. Not only are there a number of stereotypes that work against us, but standards are being lowered while expectations are being raised. This faulty and imaginary definition of the picture perfect Muslim woman does not exist. It only hinders us on a global level from striving to be better as it’s counterproductive in its messaging towards us.

I’m not “too” anything. I’m just enough.

What I don’t think I will ever truly understand is why do they want so badly to deny us of our basic humanity? It’s as if Muslim women can be nothing more than an object of ultimate obedience. Sorry, but I’m not a dog. Our predecessors were genuinely liberated by Islam and empowered by Allah (SWT). Strength and valor was a result of their practice and dedication to the deen. Because of their true belief and following of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Allah (SWT), were they able to grow and live fulfilling lives. This is the very reason why we need to go back to our own roots now more than ever. We need to change our cultural narratives and stop hiding behind the comfort of these norms that seem so “set in stone.” When we look back at the powerful people who carried out Islam in the best of ways, we will then be able to thrive in this dunya just like they did. Honestly, without us looking back at our own history, it becomes so much easier to fall victim to cultural restraints, thus being overcome with the sense of a distorted identity. That is how we become brainwashed and manipulated. It sounds lame, but knowledge truly is power.

Why do they want so badly to deny us of our basic humanity?

If you’re conflicted about how you can live Islam in a way so that your character genuinely speaks to it, seek out knowledge. Seeking out self-knowledge will always bring you to your authentic character. When you become self-assured in your identity as a Muslim woman, that vibe will manifest in all areas of your life. Always remember, “perfection” is not a part of our duties as Muslims. We can only strive to do our best, ask Allah (SWT) for His Mercy and Forgiveness, and try again.

And yes, you can still make a lit cup of chai for your family and also dominate the professional world.

Surviving Corporate America

I woke up one recent Sunday morning feeling strangely anxious and overwhelmed. This feeling is kind of foreign to me or at least has been foreign to me ever since I’ve become closer with Islam and Allah (SWT). I’m usually always able to pinpoint and trouble shoot these feelings by reflecting upon my current relationship with my daily prayers and the Qur’an. I always try my best to stay on top of these things in order to keep my imaan (faith) at bay while working in the cold, heartless “heart” of New York City and corporate America – but let me just say, it is tough out here for people like us. Striving for the deen, maintaining a level-headedness and mindfulness while working in corporate America, where people only care about making their sales and pleasing business partners. It’s exhausting in all aspects, to say the very least. You almost begin to adopt this false, unrealistic mindset that everything in life is a business deal – even your relationship with your family and Allah (SWT). We have to take a step back and truly realign ourselves and our motives when we begin to develop this type of outlook.

I often think about just quitting work altogether. It’s not an entirely bad idea, but this is also a test that Allah has placed me in. I’ve always been a very strong believer that we need more Muslims permeating different industries. It’s great to have Muslims in the medical field and in social activism, but we need to be visible elsewhere. I’ve always been the only Muslim working in my office. I feel like it’s a responsibility of mine to clear misconceptions of Islam and the Muslim community to the people I work around. It’s a nice feeling to explain the simplistic teachings of Islam to people who don’t really know anything about it aside from what the media teaches them. This is always a weirdly rewarding aspect of being able to work in corporate America, but its definitely not all peaches and cream. People are nasty, horrible, and soul sucking in very creative ways.

Sometimes (most times), corporate life just takes a toll on you. It makes you feel inevitably trapped, hopeless, and completely consumed within a monotonous lifestyle. Whenever I’m feeling down about work, the best action I feel I can take is mentally step back and remember my purpose – our purpose here on Earth. Our purpose on Earth is not to slave and work and kill ourselves over corporate America – no matter how practical/popular that might seem. Our purpose and our worth are far greater. Our potential is greater and our existence is so much more than getting stressed daily at a 9-5 office job surrounded by white people whose values are so far from your own.

What is our purpose then? I mean I’m just a twenty-something year old girl, how am I supposed to answer this existential question that we all ponder about? I do know one thing for sure: our purpose is to follow Allah (SWT). Seek out knowledge actively, build bonds, be kind, explore this planet, and to love. I’m really not trying to sound all hippy here – but we must re-examine and reflect upon ourselves and our Creator in order to heal from the anxieties created by our jobs or anything for that matter. It’s so easy to feel lost and paralyzed in fear due to harsh and stressful work environments. Just remember to protect your heart at all costs. Don’t let them take ownership of who you are. It’s not worth it.

“Our purpose and our worth are far greater. Our potential is greater and our existence is so much more than getting stressed daily at a 9-5 office job…”

Whatever job you have, I beg you, please do not take what people say to or about you (whether it be your manager, co-workers, clients, etc) so personally to the point where you feel as though you are not worthy or good enough. Do not take their mannerisms and words so heavily to your precious heart and soul. Do not allow them to burden your spirit or change your character for the worse. If you are not a negative person, do not become one. Do not become them. Resist the common behaviors that enslave you to this worldly life. Do not beat yourself up about all of your “flaws,” that you forget all of your immense blessings. Do not hold on to their negativity so strongly. Do not bring it into your home. Do not let their words and their perception of who they think you are, alter who you really are. You can do it. Allah (SWT) created you for a far superior and more significant reason. Do not worship these people or the workplace. It’s not that deep. This life ain’t the one.

Reflections: Naseeb

Many times I thought that if something didn’t work out for you – you could have done this or done that or tried harder or if that one thing hadn’t happened then it would have worked out. But that’s not true. Every little, teeny tiny, insignificant thing happens for a reason. And those events and choices bring you closer and closer to where, what, and who you’re meant to be.

What an interesting concept, isn’t it? Your naseeb is determined before you were even born. How crazy is that? Choices you make in your life ultimately bring you things that are meant for you. Whether it is a person, a job, a move, or even something small – if it isn’t for you then it will not be yours.

We all have small stories of failure. Whether that’s if you got rejected for a job you wanted, got waitlisted for your top choice school, not ending up with the person you wanted to marry, made a big move and it didn’t work out, whatever it may be we all have our stories. No matter how hard you try, how much you give or love someone, if it isn’t your naseeb then it won’t work out. Sometimes we try so hard to put pieces together that were never meant to fit together. And sometimes that stings and it hurts. It hurts for a long time. But Allah has another plan for you. Just because we forget Allah at times doesn’t mean that He has forgotten about us.

“We plan and He plans. And He is the best of planners.” What a comforting thought to know that just because your plan didn’t work out, doesn’t mean that you’re meant to fail again and again. There’s a plan in place for you. Just refocus and try again. Growing up my dad would always say there’s good in everything. He would never be upset when things didn’t work out. No matter big or small if things didn’t go your way just understand that there is better in that. Refocus your plan and try again, and remember that there is a better opportunity out there for you.

“What’s meant for you will reach you even if it’s beneath two mountains. What isn’t won’t reach you even if it’s between your two lips.”

That quote always make me feel some type of way. Imagine that even if something is between your two lips and in your mind it’s a sure thing it can still be taken away at any moment because it wasn’t meant for you. And what is meant for you will reach you no matter how unlikely it may seem. That can be a hard pill to swallow. Trust me, I know. I never looked at the bigger picture, I was always focused on the now. Looking at what didn’t work out in the moment and not understanding that there is something or someone else out there for me. Over the years, I’ve learned that life is life – there are ups and downs but all I can do is trust Allah (SWT) and it’ll be okay.

My dua for anyone reading this is that may you always succeed and may your name be written next to the one you pray for.

Are Muslims Islamophobic?

You know that saying, “If everyone was jumping off a cliff, would you jump off too?” Many times we hear this when we are caught imitating foolish acts of others. The question is rhetorical – we all know we would not physically jump off a cliff just because others are…or would we?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about that aforementioned rhetorical question and how it comes into fruition in our daily existence, especially those of young Muslims living in the West. As we progress into a highly innovative society, I feel that many of us feel as if we are at a crossroads with Islam and Western culture and ideals.

Growing up in a highly anti-Muslim, Islamophobic era truly does have lasting psychological affects on us: the youth of this marginalized community. Our outlook and overall practice and closeness to Islam have been, inevitably, attacked. The fundamentals of Islam – hijacked. I recently stumbled upon a very well put video created by Yaqeen Institue. Within this video we see several young Muslims (from children to young adults), who are expressing their experiences as a young Muslim in a Western society that continuously challenges their standing in Islam. Most of us have probably thought about such questions ourselves. Questions such as, “Why do women have to wear hijab, but men don’t?” or “Why did God make it so hard to be Muslim – why can’t I eat or wear whatever I want?” and even “Why are there so many Muslim bad guys?” These questions are not wrong to ponder about. In fact, Allah (SWT) urges us to seek out the truth in Islam. However, the real problem lies in the fact that our youth are continuously getting slammed so viciously with micro-aggressions towards Islam so much so that 23% of Americans raised as Muslims, no longer identify with Islam. Of course, we are all about free choice here, but is it really free choice if falling away from Islam wasn’t truly your own genuine decision, but rather a decision facilitated by the desire to “fit in” with those who have made Western culture their inherent “religion” to practice and worship?

Allah (SWT) urges us to seek out the truth

Our youth are ultimately suffering; we are all truly suffering through internalizing Islamophobia. Islamophobia is such a broad term that we’ve heard thrown around in multiple dialogues and contexts. Can a Muslim even be Islamophobic? Is new atheism Islamophobic? When someone makes an inaccurate comment that puts you in a state of pressure and doubt about Islam, is that Islamophobia as well? We are being attacked from so many different angles in ways that are truly posing to be a challenge for us to keep up with our genuine beliefs. It’s become easier to slip away from Islam and its core teachings just because it seems like the majority of people are doing the opposite of what Islam says. Whether it be the clothes we choose to wear, the food we eat, or the way we act towards others – it’s evident that our youth are highly impressionable and influenced by what their peers and mainstream media deem as “normal.”

23% of Americans raised as Muslims, no longer identify with Islam.

Maybe the key is figuring out the balance in life. Even our own beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) emphasized how our existence is about balancing our spiritual obligations and the worldly life. It is also so important for our youth to have the proper resources and understanding on the teachings of Islam. Having a sound understanding on the reasons behind why we do and do not practice certain things within Islam, quite literally makes us or breaks us in this world. We need to accept that not every single Muslim is going to be at the same level of worship or iman (faith), and we need to be strong enough to not let our anger and judgment towards one another, defeat the power of properly advising each other. It is our duty in Islam to help a fellow brother or sister out, but that duty does not entail publicly or even privately humiliating another, or making them feel inferior, incapable, or sinful. We are only here to serve as a reminder of what Islam teaches and how Prophet Muhammad (SAW) brought people to the deen. Do you think he brought people to Islam by making them feel bad about themselves? Do you think he got impatient or angry with them? Spoiler alert, the answer to those questions is a solid no.

Islam is about community, and we need to hold on to our community and help make it stronger. We need to educate ourselves with sound knowledge, real knowledge of this deen and who Allah (SWT) is. This dunya will always be a disappointment, this dunya will never have the answers, and abandoning or denying the single divine source that makes sense out of all of the nonsense, is an injustice against ourselves. If we don’t help each other, then who will?

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.

Support Your Local Revert

I recently sat down with my good friend from middle school who reverted to Islam when we were just kids. I wanted to share her story and her struggles as a way to learn and better ourselves when it comes to helping reverts. Reverting to a religion that a majority of your family isn’t a part of can be hard and at times lonely. So if you know a revert in your community, reach out and offer them support.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

Q: How did you find Islam? What led you to finally convert?

A: So, what led me to Islam were my older cousins and my uncle, just being around them and spending a lot of time at the Masjid. It was always so much fun for me and to me it felt like that the people were very genuine. Like even though I had gone to catholic school… you know Christians can be like in your face with like getting you to convert. You know you got the Jehovah Witnesses knocking on your door every weekend. You know, they’re in your face. For me it was not like a… I was just that because that’s what my grandmother was and she was raising me at the time you know? It was not anything I believed in. But going to the Masjid and learning the Quran and everything made sense to me and it made sense to me that, that would be the last religion God has send down. So I accepted it at 12 years old and I decided this is what I want to practice and this is what I believe in. Because I experienced another religion and I was able to compare and contrast the two at such a young age.

Q:  How did reverting change your life? What struggles did it come with? And what was the positive aspect?

A: So there were struggles and also positive aspects of it. Most of my family is Christian and my aunt was really into Christmas like full out into Christmas but my family was respectful like for example if I don’t want to eat pork they would make everything without pork. That type of stuff was fine but it was just wanting to spend time with my family without celebrating holidays that I don’t necessarily celebrate or believe in. That’s where the struggle was; how do I spend time with my family without embracing the traditions and giving them false hope that I believe in this too.

The positive aspect is that I did have other family members who are Muslim and they supported me and it made me feel really comfortable. My family is pretty open, they aren’t judgmental people so the transition was smooth and no one made me feel uncomfortable for changing my religion.

Q: Would you say you were religious before? When you went to Catholic school?

A: No, it was more like a habit. Like you just do what you’ve always done. When you go to Catholic school, it’s like a ritual like the things they teach you and you do it mindlessly.

Q: So after your Shahada, was it easy to go to the Masjid and feel welcomed?

A: So because I was a child and went there with my cousin they embraced me as a child, but as I’ve gotten older I feel like going to the Masjid isn’t the same. You know, when I try to go to a Masjid, not having many Muslim friends, it just doesn’t feel that welcoming. There is no structure for new Muslims who are just starting to come to the Masjid. There wasn’t really an effort to try and include reverts. I wish they had some kind of program where they partner you with a sister who can help you learn and guide you through the transition.

Q: How do you think your experience is different from someone who was born into Islam?

A: When you’re born into something you know a lot of the fundamentals because you’ve grown up with it and there are people all around you actively teaching you and helping you with your knowledge of Islam, the Quran, and hadiths. But with reverts you don’t really have that direct source of knowledge. Most of the time you’re studying things on your own and online and you don’t even know if these things are accurate.

Q: When you tell Muslims that you’re a revert, what’s the reaction you typically get?

A: It depends. Being a revert and a black revert on top of that some people will make you feel like you’re not a real Muslim because they’re an Arab Muslim. But then there are other people who are welcoming and they’re usually other black Muslims. People who aren’t even Muslim will say things like “Oh you don’t look like other Muslims I know, how can you really be Muslim?” when I tell them I’m a revert.  And all I can say is that “I am a Muslim but I’m still learning.” You know, people ask me all the time “Well how are you Muslim? What country are you from?” and I wish people would understand that you can be Muslim no matter who you are. Yes, a black girl from America can be a Muslim. It’s for everybody.

Q: What’s one thing that you want the Muslim community to learn about reverts?

A: That we genuinely want to be part of the Muslim community. We’re not Muslim because our parents are Muslim and they made us be Muslim. We want to learn and be included. We want advice but not in a judgmental way.  

Q: How do you think Islam has affected you personally?

A: I believe that it has made me a calmer person and it has changed my judgment a lot. I think about things before I say and do it. That’s the best part of Islam to me, it has changed my character for the better. It has also made me a self-aware person and I try to strive to live by the Quran and hadiths.  

Q: What were the struggles you faced when you started to learn to pray and read the Quran in Arabic?

A: That’s one thing that I wish there was more support for. I remember the first Surah I learned was Al-Fatihah and that was one that I can remember no matter what but everything else has been hard. It takes a lot of practice and I wish there was someone I could just call up and say “Hey am I saying this right?!” It’s a completely new way of life and I wish there was more support and someone who will go through it with you and share their experiences and relate to mine. The other thing I find hard is that my old friends are great and I love them they’re great people but there are things that are haram for me but not for them. So when they go out clubbing on a Friday night it’s not haram for them but it is for me. And I still want to go and enjoy myself but within the halal realm. 

Q: Was it hard to go through middle and high school without the Islam support at home?

A: Yes, as a kid you want to do what everyone else is doing and it’s hard when you’re Muslim. Sometimes it felt like I was living two lives; on the weekend I would go to the Masjid and then during the week I was just another girl at school because at the time I wasn’t wearing hijab or really praying. And that’s something that I’m still working on and striving for.

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:

Screen Shot 2017-12-21 at 10.40.34 AM

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.