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”

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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

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”

Personal Development

Don’t Let Them Dull your Sparkle

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

If you have been following this blog for any amount of time, you have probably already seen this post in one iteration or another. But, in thinking about what I wanted to share today, I couldn’t help but pull this one back out, and after reading it again with a fresh perspective, I decided I would give it another go.

The first post I mention there was written at the very beginning of this blog, in July 2016. I wrote that post as the moment happened. This post that I am re-sharing however, was more of a reflective look back at that moment in time. It has now been nine months since I originally posted this (or perhaps re-posted, I can’t even remember how much I’ve shared it at this point!), and it is just so interesting for me to look back on my journey from the place I am in now. Continue reading “Don’t Let Them Dull your Sparkle”

Spirituality

Simple Sunnahs to Add to Your Day

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

As many of you know, I am currently enrolled in my first year of an alimah program. This is the fundamentals year, so we have an introductory hadith class every Monday and Wednesday, which has lately become one of my favorite classes. Not only are the ahadith themselves so inspiring, but the woman who teaches this class always gives the most practical examples of how to apply the principles to everyday life in the 21st century. I have found since beginning this class that a lot of the ahadith that I knew in my mind before have really begun to make their way into my heart, and I have seen so much improvement in my character (well, from the outside I’m sure it doesn’t look like much, but I sure feel it) and my awareness of Allah swt.

I haven’t even necessarily been able to begin practising many of the principles mentioned in that class, but it is amazing the amount of difference having learned the meanings and significance of something makes. Even if I am not actively practising it yet, it is always there in the back of my mind and it reminds me all the time to try just a little bit harder and be just a little bit better, in shaa Allah. Continue reading “Simple Sunnahs to Add to Your Day”

Spirituality

Faith: Not only an outward expression

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Just this morning (or a couple of weeks ago as of posting), I hopped onto The Dua Journal’s Instagram stories to talk about something that has been on my mind for a few days now. Obviously not a whole lot can be said in a 5 minute video, and since it is on Instagram stories it will be deleted after 24 hours anyhow, which is why I wanted to write something here to really dig into the idea a bit more.

In that video, I talked about the two different dimensions of our Islamic practice, the inner spiritual dimension, and the outer or “superficial” if you will, practice. More specifically, I talked about how when we want to make big shifts or changes in our spiritual practice, those changes need to be led by the inner aspect.

I talked about how important it is to work on your mindset, your intentions, your faith, and all that is in your heart in small incremental steps. And I talked about how if you do this, the outward changes that you are trying to make will come about naturally in time.

I gave the example of my own convert story, and specifically the example of how I came to wear hijab. My putting on the hijab was the result of months and months of reflection and learning about what hijab really means in Islam. So, after embracing it with my heart, the day that I put the thing on my head was almost insignificant. I just picked the scarf up off the floor, put it on, and never looked back. But the key is, I already had already done all of the inner work to make it possible, and without all of that as preparation who knows where I would be with hijab today. Because we all know the feeling of overwhelm and burnout that comes when you jump into something half-heartedly, with incomplete understanding, or worst yet, under external pressure and without really believing in it ourselves.

The last piece of advice I gave in that video was to never, ever judge yourself harshly just based on someone else’s outward practice, and I want to dig a bit more into that in this post. Continue reading “Faith: Not only an outward expression”

Personal Reflections

Depression and Islam

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

OK, before I get into today’s post, I want to ask a little favor of y’all. Normally this is not something that even crosses my mind when I write for this blog but today I am sharing something really (though I don’t like this word) raw. So I would ask that whatever you have to say, whether you agree or disagree with any statements I make, please do so gently.

Today I want to talk about depression. I had thought about talking about mental illness in general, but it is not something I have a whole lot of experience with up until recently, so I would like to stick with the part of it that I know the most about personally, though I am sure that many of the more general points I make can apply to other situations as well. The first part of the post is my general reflections on the topic, and the second part of the post is actually something I wrote I few weeks ago on a really down day. Continue reading “Depression and Islam”

Spirituality

Why You should try Qur’an Journaling

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Coming from a Christian background, I have always heard of “Bible Journaling.” Not that I was ever very interested in trying it, and to this day I’m not actually sure what goes into it. It for sure was not something I thought I would ever try as a Muslim.

But, nearly a year ago, I was looking for some ways to really gain a connection with the Qur’an. Being an English native-speaker, there is only so far I can go with the Arabic Qur’an at any given time, and we all know that it is just not the same in translation.

Then, while randomly browsing a Facebook-group for bullet-journalers (yeah, I keep a bullet journal, go look it up if you don’t know what it is!), I saw a post from the only other Muslimah in the group; it was a photo of her Qur’an journal layout.

It was absolutely gorgeous, with watercolor flowers and hand-lettered headings. I am more of a list-writer myself, so I took the idea and ran with it. Here is the routine I came up with: Continue reading “Why You should try Qur’an Journaling”

Personal Reflections

On Forcing It

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Fake it ’till you make it. That’s the saying isn’t it? Though it has always been something that I’ve had a difficult time putting into practice in my life for some reason. That’s not to say I don’t put the work into my endeavors, but I have a very difficult time pretending I know what I am doing if I am really just making it up as I go.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything….Well, what got me started reflecting on this was the idea of iman lows, those dips that occur in our faith, where the excitement just isn’t there but we still have things to get done. They happen for a whole host of reasons, sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes it is just a natural lull.

A lot of the advice I read where it comes to iman lows is to just keep trudging on despite it. Keep praying your prayers, keep making personal duas, keep fasting, and so on. As you continue to do these things your iman will naturally go back up, and you will begin to feel more connected again. Essentially fake it ’till you make it.

I myself have been stuck in an iman rut for a little while now (though at the time this post is going out I feel I am on the mend alhamdulillah). I remember when I first converted I vehemently rejected the idea that my iman high was just because I was a new convert, I assumed it would last forever. And to some extent that new convert passion never did die. But like the mere mortal that I am, I have experienced some ups and downs in the strength of my faith since then. This recent low, however, has been the worst I have had yet.

I’ve been trying to take this oft repeated advice to just keep plodding on, keep going until the faith just comes back, and I have been going at it with all the brute force that I can muster. But it’s not helping. Continue reading “On Forcing It”

Personal Reflections

Reclaiming My Truth

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Firstly, Eid mubarak everyone! I’ve had this post scheduled for ages, so I didn’t actually realize what day it would be when it came out. At any rate, I pray that you have a beautiful and blessed day with loved ones!

I think this is the first thing I have written with the blog in mind, but I’m not actually necessarily sure it will get there. There are a couple things I want to reflect a bit on and process today, we’ll just have to see where it goes…

Ever since I discovered my real passion and decided to re-do my entire blog to be in line with that (see here for more on that), it is something I have been a little bit obsessed with. I feel like I already have way too many posts on this topic (here and here for a few examples), but maybe that is just because I am hyper-aware of it. Perhaps y’all haven’t even noticed? Anyhow.

That guest post from Liz over at Voice of Salam where she talks about converting to Islam, seeing so much mainstream discussion that only focuses on the dogmatic, list of rules style Islam, and eventually having to regain her confidence in the beauty and spirituality of Islam and the “enough-ness” of herself as a Muslimah, really got me thinking about my own journey through Islam.

I first began to learn about and eventually converted to Islam in the California Bay Area. I had a couple of very close friends and my husband who encouraged very organic growth of my faith, and a family and a broader community who supported me in whatever made me feel good. The MSA and local masajid treated me like one of their own, and my new sisters in faith went so far as to invite me into their homes and families. It was such a spiritually nourishing environment.

It wasn’t until I moved to London, UK, that I discovered the notion that I might not be good enough. Continue reading “Reclaiming My Truth”