Personal Reflections

Struggle: My Hijab Story Part II

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Thinking about what I wrote last week and reflecting on what I want to share with you today, I am starting to realize that what I lacked in “struggle” in embracing the idea of hijab, I definitely made up for in figuring out the technicalities of the thing once it was on my head.

I shared last week about how I came to embrace and practice the hijab, and I talked there about how in the very early days I bought a few maxi dresses, a few maxi skirts, loose trousers, and long cardigans in an effort to start transitioning my wardrobe into something more “hijab compliant.”

It was a good foundation, and a good step forward, but it was my approach to hijab after that where things got a little lost.

I had a very haphazard approach in those beginning months after I had started wearing it full time, which turned into a very haphazard wardrobe and a two year personal style crisis. There were, however, two distinct phases that I went through. Continue reading “Struggle: My Hijab Story Part II”

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Resources

Notes: Lives of the Prophets, Hud (as)

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

As I mentioned last month, I will be alternating between the 99 Names of Allah series and the Notes on the Lives of the Prophets series, and this month it is Lives of the Prophets! This episode was all about Hud alayhi salam, and it was, as usual, so interesting! You can find the original podcast and have a listen for yourself here. You can also find the whole series of posts from episode 1 on up here.

Also new this week: I made a little something for you! I condensed all of my notes on the series so far into a really pretty A4 sized PDF, that I think you will love! You can download it and keep it on your laptop for reference, or even print it out to have a read through when you need the information! You can grab that down at the end of this post, and if you do, please do let me know how you find it! (Note to newsletter subscribers: you don’t need to enter your email below, you will already be getting the PDF to download in this week’s email in shaa Allah!) Plus, whenever a new post comes out, you will get that page of notes emailed directly to your inbox! Continue reading “Notes: Lives of the Prophets, Hud (as)”

Personal Reflections

Transition: My Hijab Story

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

As I have been sharing my convert story with you all over the past few weeks, I thought it might be beneficial to also tell the story of how I came to embrace the hijab.

From the very minute I started to realize that Islam was going to be my way of life for (in shaa Allah) the rest of my life, the concept of modesty and hijab started taking the fore-front in my mind. I knew from the beginning that it was a requirement in Islam, and I knew that, for myself, if I wanted to embrace Islam I was going to embrace all of it. Even if there were parts I didn’t like or understand at the time.

I would like to tell you it was hard, and in some ways it was surely a challenge for me, but taking up the hijab was not as much of a struggle for me as I have seen other converts face. Yes, in the very beginning I did experience an amount of resistance; that is only natural. I had been living my life one way for 21 years at that point, and to think that I could suddenly change over night would be completely ridiculous.

I loved the way I dressed. Cute dress, cardigan, tights and flats. It was my go-to uniform, something in which I felt both pretty and feminine as well as comfortable and practical. There was a point in my life at which, no matter how fashionable they were, I absolutely hated maxi dresses. The idea of modesty as a complete lifestyle outside of hanging out with one’s grandparents or going to a church function was foreign to me.

And, of course, I was terrified of what everyone around me would think to see such a drastic change, and such a visible proclamation of my new beliefs and allegiances. Continue reading “Transition: My Hijab Story”

Resources

Hadith of the Month: January

“There lies within the body a piece of flesh. If it is sound, the whole body is sound; and if it is corrupted, the whole body is corrupted. Verily this piece is the heart.”

Narrated in Bukhari and Muslim

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

As I began talking to a health coach last month, I have started to reflect a lot more on my physical body. My body and I have had many, many ups and downs, and lately I’ve noticed that though I feel “OK,” there is actually a lot going on in my body that I would like to change. I have begun exercising every day, and in a way that feels good and energizing for my body (I went through a period in my late teens/early twenties of 2+ hours in the gym that left me depleted and with fainting spells). I’m also trying to work on what I put in and on my body and ensuring that I am using more natural remedies. Lastly, I’m trying to get a look at what is going on with my sleep, so that I can begin to form new habits that will lead to better quality of rest and waking up earlier.

A lot of the articles I have prepared for this month also center around body-related issues such as purity and our bodies as a trust from Allah swt. Which is why, when I was reflecting on which hadith I wanted to write about for this month’s hadith of the month, I knew I had to choose this one.

This hadith so clearly tells us that the state of our bodies (and really our entire lives) all boils down to the state of our hearts. If we have a sound heart, our bodies will be sound and strong as well. If our heart is weak or tainted with negativity, we will also feel that in our body.

For me, I have been experiencing a lot of issues with my stomach in the past few months—bloating, acid reflux, nausea, lack of appetite, you name it, I probably have it. When I first began talking to my health coach I thought she would give me techniques for eating cleaner and healing my stomach naturally. What did she actually give me? Tools to help me manage the stress and anxiety over the future that had been left un-felt, un-dealt with, and un-processed and settled right down into my gut.

Though we all have so many diverse issues, and no one of us will be the same in what we are feeling or the state of our hearts, today I want to give a few general tips to help rectify the heart, and with it, the whole body. Continue reading “Hadith of the Month: January”

Spirituality

Reconnecting to Spirituality

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

I have been talking a lot in the past few months about my journey not only to Islam, but through Islam as well, and how I pulled through my “everything is haraam phase,” and came full circle into a more loving, spiritual, and passionate form of practising my faith. I was realizing then, and still believe passionately, that this is such an important topic to talk about, as often and as loudly as I can.

There are far too many blogs and pages out there that say they are about Islamic “reminders,” but end up just spouting hate and a “holier than thou” attitude towards anyone and anything that does not fit into their black-and-white- version of Islam. The only school of thought they follow is their own, and so often these kinds of pages and reminders get so stuck up in the minutiae of haraam-ness that they miss the forest for the trees, and fail to see the whole picture and the spirit behind the rules that they seek to implement so rigidly (to illustrate that point: I know a person here in Algeria who daily extols the virtues of living here because the West is all just evil, disgusting and full of kaafirs, and she can tell me every detail of why a colored jilbab or Nike shoes are haraam, but then when I check the label on the sweets she is offering me it is clearly marked “pork gelatine”).

I know I have written a lot about this issue in the abstract (you can check out some posts here, here, and here), but today I want to go a little bit further and actually share with you some of my tips to help you move past the haraam/fard dichotomy, find your own spiritual path, and really begin to reconnect with your deen and Allah swt in a way that takes the rules into account, but also seeks the deeper understanding behind all of the things we practice. I figured the beginning of January is a great time to do this, as many people are looking forward to the beginning of the new year, reflecting, and making changes in their lives.  Continue reading “Reconnecting to Spirituality”

Personal Reflections

My Year in Review

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

2017 has been a roller coaster of a year for me. I had lots of big plans and big dreams, and most of them turned out not to be aligned with Allah’s plans for me. There has been a lot of pain in this past year, and more often than not I have been feeling frustrated, dejected, and somewhat worn down. I have battled depression and physical illness, and lost a lot of time in the process.

But, as the year draws to a close I would like to take a second to reflect on, and show some gratitude towards, the positive things that have happened this year, as well as the valuable lessons I have learned through the trials I have experienced. I also want to take a second to look ahead to the coming year, as I am starting a new chapter of my life, and set some goals and dreams for myself.

 

Positive Experiences in 2017

Experience a completely different way of life from anything I have known before.

Spend a ton of time getting to know my husband’s family and home-town.

Giving the rest of my family the opportunity/excuse to travel somewhere they have never been before.

Learning a new language by immersion.

Strengthening my marriage (trial by fire you may call it).

So much free time to pursue hobbies and creative passions.

 

Things I learned in 2017

Gratitude for all the privilege that I was born into and have enjoyed thus far.

Minimalism; I learned exactly how much I could go without and keep on surviving.

Complete reliance and trust in Allah-many of the things I experienced this year were completely out of my hands, and I have had to trust in Allah like I never have before in my life, that He put me here and He will bring me through.

I learned so much about myself: things I am passionate about, things I enjoy, things that drive me crazy bananas, how strong I really am.

I learned a whole new language, and a lot about a different culture and way of life.

I began to learn how to “feel my feelings,” process them, and let them go.

 

Things I want to do in 2018 in shaa Allah

Commit to a 3 month engagement with my health coach to heal the damage done in the past year.

Start taking horseback riding lessons again, and keep a regular yoga practice.

Get my own URL and begin to expand this blog into so much more.

Finish the quilt I just started (I don’t know how to quilt btw.).

Have a steady job in a translation agency doing something new like project management.

Read 50 books from all different genres.

For Converts

That Time of the Year

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Today’s post is for all my convert sisters out there. It is no coincidence that this post is going on on December 25th, when most of the world, and for us converts, most of those around us, will be celebrating Christmas.

I wrote a post about this last year, but I think it is such a controversial topic that I once again would like to add some nuance to the “haraam/halal” dichotomy that is no doubt dominating the internet these days.

Do I believe that we as Muslims should celebrate Christmas? No, not really. For someone who is born Muslim and doesn’t have that in your cultural background to begin with, quite frankly there is really no reason to make a thing out of it when we do have our own Eids and traditions around them.

Do I think it is a sin to enjoy a peppermint hot chocolate, like the cozy winter atmosphere, or enjoy the sight of the decorations when I am out and about in my non-Muslim home country? No, not really.

I don’t decorate my own house, I don’t have my own tree, I don’t play Christmas carols on the radio from the day after Thanksgiving until New Year’s. Yes, I eat all the peppermint things because they are yummy, but for all intents and purposes I don’t celebrate Christmas. What I do celebrate on this day, however, is family. Continue reading “That Time of the Year”

Resources

Introductory Materials for Islamic Study

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Those of you on my newsletter list (want in? Here’s the LINK) will remember that a little while ago I sent our a survey to see what y’all were loving and wanting more of as far as content from me. One of the things mentioned on there were more resources for Islamic self-study, and while you can find plenty of different book reviews here and a full page of my favorite resources here, I thought it might also be beneficial to share with you the books being used in my first term classes at my alimah program.

As it is the first term of the first year, and the students in this program come from so many different backgrounds, the materials we are starting off with are the most basic foundation for Islamic learning. While they are basic, and of course self-study is completely possible, I would recommend having a teacher or a trusted person with sound knowledge that you can go to with any questions you have, especially where issues of fiqh are concerned!

As a note, the institute I am studying at teaches from the Hanafi fiqh, so that is also something for you to take into consideration.  Continue reading “Introductory Materials for Islamic Study”

Spirituality

Waking Up for Fajr

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Today I want to share with y’all a problem I have sometimes, in the hopes that I can also share something to help you.

This doesn’t happen to me all of the time, but there are some times where I go through a phase where I just can’t wake up for fajr. And I don’t even mean I feel tired or lazy or whatever, I mean I literally set two alarms on my phone plus the athaan from the neighborhood mosque, and I don’t even hear them.

I don’t know if this just happens when my body is so tired my brain just doesn’t even respond, or perhaps it corresponds to a certain stage of my sleep cycle where I am in too deep of a sleep to be woken up by irritating phone sounds…either way I hate it. I always feel like there is nothing I can do and I just have to wait it out—I have tried setting more alarms, making them louder, putting them on repeat, setting alarms on both my and my husband’s phones…

And I always end up waking up to the sunlight streaming in my window.

Alhamdulillah this doesn’t happen often, but when I was going through a phase like this a little while ago, I began to think that this could be a good topic for a blog post, as I know that fajr is something that both born Muslims and reverts alike tend to struggle with. Even better, I will be posting this during the winter months, which is a great opportunity for us to train ourselves to get up for fajr because it is later and usually there is a bit longer of a window.

So, without further ado, my 5 tips to getting out of bed on time and ready for fajr (and also not feel super groggy)! Continue reading “Waking Up for Fajr”

Personal Reflections

Embracing Peace: My Convert Story Part II

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

9 June 2014, San Francisco, California

My body felt heavy and exhausted as I stepped off the plane in San Francisco. Eleven hours on a plane after a whirlwind six months abroad apparently takes its toll. Not to mention I hadn’t been able to fit all of my books back into the suitcase I came with, and was now lugging a decent-sized hand baggage, filled to the brim, through SFO.

The last month before I left the U.K. had been a time of intense change for me. As the clouds melted away and spring began to bloom in London in early May, my old life began to melt and I could see that something new would be emerging. I had met my husband (though I wouldn’t call him that for some time yet), and my interest in Islam peaked when I started seeing a practising born Muslim on the regular. It was a rush of books, new ideas, and changes in the way I had always seen the world.

In contrast to the stark clarity with which I remember my time in London, those summer months after I returned are a blur to me. I remember riding my bike to the local library a few times each week, returning the books on Islam that I had taken and scouring the shelves for anything new. My introductory books now had a shelf of their own in my room, displayed right next to the brand new Arabic-English Qur’an that I had picked up on my last trip to Barnes and Noble. Continue reading “Embracing Peace: My Convert Story Part II”