5 Everyday Ways to Give in Charity

Salaam!

In honor of the upcoming month of Ramadan, where we should be striving to increase all of our good deeds and earn multiplied reward, I thought I would share some of my favorite ways to spend in the way of Allah swt. Charity doesn’t only have to be money, there is so much more to it than that!

1.Buy food for the next homeless person you find, whether a small coffee or a full meal, whatever you can afford. In this day and age, you never know where your money is going to go, but you can know you are doing good by helping someone hungry to get some hot food into their body.

2.Lend a helping hand to someone you see struggling with something. Help that old woman carry her groceries, help that kid fix his bike, help the disabled person access the building you are going into. Help your wife with the housework, help your kids with their school work. Even just holding a door open with a smile can be a great way to brighten someone’s day.

3.Smile at your brothers in Islam, stop for a conversation. I’ve talked about it before, but a smile can go a long way! And if you have time, why not actually stop to say salaam to that sister in the queue at the post office with you, ask how she is, have a little human connection? During Ramadan hosting iftar can also be a great way to connect and get the blessing of feeding other fasting people.

4.Pick up trash or other debris from walkways and roads; especially try to pick things up from natural places like beaches or meadows. You will be doing something good for the earth, and in shaa Allah being rewarded at the same time!

5.Feed the animals! I can’t tell you how many cats we have hanging around our house because they know my husband and I are the suckers that will always give them some food, even if it is off of our own plates, but kindness to animals is almost as important as kindness to humans in Islam. We have a responsibility to take care of Allah’s swt creations that are less capable than us, so what harm will it do if you leave some of your iftar leftovers outside for the stray cats or dogs? Maybe don’t put food out if you live somewhere where it will bring bears or mountain lions…but cats, dogs, birds, and small animals will all sure appreciate the meal!

My 5 Favorite Resources for New Muslims

1.Introductory Books:

I am sure you can go to a book store and pick up 500 different books on “intro to Islam,” but I wanted to share with you the two or three that I read back in the day. Islam the Natural Way and Islam in Focus were both recommended to me before I converted, and I loved both of them. I also remember picking out Welcome to Islam on my own, and finding that one quite helpful. Writing this right now actually makes me want to go back and re-read these, just to see how far I have come since then!

2.Other reverts’ stories: Continue reading “My 5 Favorite Resources for New Muslims”

5 Things I am Grateful For

Salaam everyone!

So, I’m feeling like I have been coming off here as kind of grumpy lately…

There is a lot going on over here, between stressing about the visa, trying to deal with living in a barely functioning country, missing home, preparing for Ramadan, and all manner of other things. I feel like I have been a bit stressed and grumpy in real life, and I think a bit of that has seeped into my writing as well.

I for sure have been doing a lot more “pointing out society’s flaws” kind of writing, and I want to bring it back around to the more positive things in life.

So to kick that off, I bring you my first list in quite a while: five things I am grateful for!

  1. No matter what is going on in my life, I know I can always rely on Allah swt. And I cannot be grateful enough that He chose to guide me, of all the people. To this day I don’t know what I did to deserve a gift like Islam!
  2. My Family. I miss my mama and my sister especially, but I can’t thank all of my family enough for how supportive they have been of me since the beginning. And of course this includes my lovely husband; though he is several years older than me, he is the one who “keeps me young” with her perfectly complementary personality. If it wasn’t for his light-heartedness and love of fun, I would certainly let my seriousness and pessimism get the best of me.
  3. Sisters in Islam. Though I don’t often realise how much, I have been very lucky in my journey in Islam where good company is concerned. When I first converted it was two really good friends, one like a mentor and one just holding my hand along the way. I went through a period of solitude when I was having trouble integrating into the clique-y London community, but Allah swt blessed me with contact with such amazing sisters through my blog, and I really do wish I could give each and every one of them a big hug and tell her how much I love her for the sake of Allah!
  4. For those of you who don’t know, I am already around level five on the “crazy cat lady” ladder (the aforementioned hubby is a big ‘ol enabler, too). We had a cat that kept sneaking in through our window for snuggles and food, so naturally when she got pregnant she decided our house was now her house. They are loud and irritating and need a pet or a snack every three minutes (she literally only eats freshly cooked meat and a certain kind of cookie from the pastry place down the street), but having her and her three puffy little babies around the house sure brings a lot of cuteness and comedy into my days!
  5. This is a weird one to put on the list, where I could very well be putting things on here like health, provision, etc. But it is something that I am really just in love with lately. It has been a long hijab journey, and I really, truly feel like I have found the right thing for me. It is just such a relief after so many years to finally feel comfy, modest, and pretty all at the same time, that I really just can’t get over it!

So there you have it! And to start my new positive-outlook-get-outta-the-grumpy-rut writing kick off right, everyone who reads this has to comment with one thing they are grateful for—no exceptions! =D

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yellow field with tree in background, text "5 Things you Just Have to Get Used to in Algeria

5 Things You Just Have to Get Used to in Algeria

Salaam y’all! Today’s post is a little fun post, which doesn’t actually have much to do with convert things or Islam, as it were. I wrote this ages ago (long before my recent trip to the U.K.); just some funny things I was reflecting on since I have been here in Algeria. Anyone have any similar experiences when living abroad for the first time?

  1. Buying things in odd quantities:

This usually means in excess or not nearly enough. Like, juice and fizzy drinks are sold in palettes of 6 1.5 litre bottles, but when I need tracing paper to make embroidery transfers I have to buy it in individual sheets…

  1. Other cars being just centimetres away from your car…all the time, everywhere.

People here love, love, love to not only park wherever and whenever they please, but also to drive on a single lane road like it is three lanes. So you are pretty much sitting in your car muttering “omg, that was close,” for the entire duration of your journey.

  1. Prices for everything being in the 1000’s:

So one pound sterling is around 200 Algerian dinars, if that gives you any idea of what the currency looks like here. I still have thoughts like, oh my goodness, I am not paying 3,800 for one jilbab set! But then I realise that when I convert my pounds that is only like £19 for one pretty decent quality jilbab set. So yeah, not so much of an issue.

  1. Only understanding about 65% of the world around me:

And that is when I am paying close attention and listening very hard. Between French and Arabic, I can get a good gist, but I am never 100% in on what’s going on. And if I’m not actually trying I don’t get much of anything, which can sometimes actually be a blessing-no unintentional eavesdropping for me!

  1. Squat toilets:

Or more politely put: “Arabic toilets.” At any rate, that’s what the in-laws have in their house, and that is what you will find in any mosque, restaurant, or other public toilets. Yeah, ’nuff said about that one…

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5 Thoughts I Had the First Time I Made Wudu

1.Wait what order does this all go in? Looking down to check my little post-it note next to the sink…Really, face then arms, then head? Ok got it…wait how many times was I supposed to was that again?

2.I am truly not sure I am doing this right. Is there supposed to be this much water everywhere in my bathroom?!

3.Ok, exactly how far into my nasal cavity does this water have to go? I can’t even handle getting water one millimetre inside of my nose let alone all up in there.

4.Agh there goes all of my make-up (side note: I don’t really wear much make-up out, except my ever necessary SPF 15 BB cream, but it is always sad when I wash it off and then forget to reapply!)

5.Well, I may not have done that in the right order and I made a huge mess everywhere, but that was pretty refreshing! I think I can live with doing this multiple times a day; I feel so clean!

5 Things I Love to Listen To

1.Qalam Institute’s Seerah Podcast

This is a great one to listen to on a long commute or car trip- each podcast is about an hour long, and they are full of really amazing lessons and reminders from the life of the Prophet (pbuh). Also, you will come to love the Prophet (pbuh) more and more if you listen to a little bit of his life every day. Continue reading “5 Things I Love to Listen To”

5 Things that Islam Gave Me

I wrote a post last week called 5 Things it was Hard to Give Up When I Converted, so this week I am following it up with the 5 things that Islam has given me. Looking at the two different posts, the things that I gave up are rather superficial, but I hope in reading this list you will find that the things Islam has brought into my life are much, much deeper. So, let’s get started!

1.Boundaries

When some people look at Islam they see rules, rules, rules.  And it is true, the fact that Islam is an entire way of life does mean that there are rules to follow. But if you go deeper, to the reasons behind the rules, you can begin to understand the wisdom behind them. For me, one of the amazing results of these rules is that I have ready-made boundaries in my life.

I tend to have a “devil may care, throw caution to the wind” spontaneous streak, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can lead me into issues of not taking others in my life into consideration and having a distinct lack of structure to my time. Continue reading “5 Things that Islam Gave Me”

5 Things it was Hard to Give Up when I Converted (and they’re not what you’d expect!)

1.Gummy bears

So, I can distinctly recall the first time I shocked someone with this one: I was at dinner at an awesome Thai restaurant with a friend and a friend of hers, who happened to be a convert liaison at one point in her career. Without missing a beat when she asked me what the most difficult part of converting had been for me I said, “giving up gummy bears.” But it is true….all of those gooey, squishy, gummy delicious sweets are my favourite. And now I can only eat the 3% of them that say “vegetarian” or “halal” because all of the rest have pork gelatin in them. Why, why, why couldn’t everyone just make their sweets with fish gelatin and make my life happy???

Continue reading “5 Things it was Hard to Give Up when I Converted (and they’re not what you’d expect!)”

5 Things to Stop Asking Converts

  1. Are you married yet/ when are you getting married/ oh, so you converted for your husband? Reason: This is a ton of pressure on a new convert, and the last question, insinuating that you only converted because of a man, can be a serious blow to your self esteem and worth as a Muslim. Also, marriage is not the be all and end all of your identity! You have to be a complete person yourself in order to create a healthy, happy pair when you do find your spouse. Alternative question: How is your family doing? Is everything going ok?
  2. What is your new/Islamic/Muslim name? Reason: I touched on (more like ranted about) this one in my post Ashley is my Muslim Name. It is not necessary to change your name when you convert to Islam unless your name means or connotes something negative or Islamically forbidden in your language. And quite honestly this puts a lot of needless pressure on someone who is probably already feeling very overwhelmed with the actual obligatory aspects of Islam such as five daily prayers, the idea of fasting for a whole month, trying to read Qur’an, and thinking about the hijab. Alternative: Well, it would be best if when someone gives you their name it is just left at that, but I guess a decent alternative could be something like, Are you thinking about taking an Arabic name, or are you going to stick with your birth name?
  3. Do you wear hijab full-time yet/ when are you going to put on the hijab/ why don’t you wear an abaya, jilbaab, etc.with your scarf? Reason: the hijab is a journey, for converts and born Muslims alike. Sometimes someone converts in the heat of the moment, but it takes time for real faith to enter the heart. Sometimes they want to wear it but are terrified of their families and communities. Sometimes they have put it on but they just don’t have the budget to overhaul their entire wardrobe, so they have to make do with the skinny jeans and summer dresses that they have always had. There is no way to know where someone is on their journey, and oftentimes these kinds of questions can lead to even more pressure and distress about something that is already difficult, even feelings of “it’s not worth it, I will never do it right so I should just take it off all together.” Alternative: The way you wrapped your scarf today frames your face very nicely/ that print is gorgeous with your eyes/ that is a beautiful skirt you have got on today! Highlight and compliment the aspects that are “correct” or beautiful about their outfit, and God willing, it will encourage them to add/do more of those things!
  4. Oh my goodness, so how did you find Islam/ why did you convert? Reason: I know for me, this is actually a highly personal story, and I suspect it may be for others as well. Also, there is no easy and straightforward answer; that is a huge question! Whenever I get asked this (more times a day than I can count), I find myself reciting the same old rehearsed, superficial story again and again. I don’t have the time or the emotional capacity to tell such an in depth and deeply personal story to every random person on the bus or in the supermarket. So really it is not good for either of us-you are getting the rehearsed crap that I know you want to hear, and I am left feeling like all people care about is the story and not the person behind it. Alternative: Hey, I would love to have tea/lunch sometime and hear about what made you convert (if you are comfortable with that)! This way there is the chance to foster real connection and sister/brotherhood, and with the extra time, you will most likely be getting a much more authentic story.
  5. So do you know X, Y, and Z? Reason: Like I have said before, aaagh the pressure! If I didn’t know whatever rules or concepts you are asking me about I feel stupid and inadequate. If I did know them I will say that and then (usually) still have to listen to someone explain them anyhow to make sure that I really know what they are talking about. These kinds of questions just tend to assume that all converts are perpetually at square one and that they will always need to be taught something, which is often not the case at all. Alternative: Is there anything that you are struggling with that I could help you with/explain to you?