reflections

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”

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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”

inspiration

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”

inspiration

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”

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”

resources

Lives of the Prophets: Sheeth (as)

Salaam alaikum everyone!

So, it has been quite a while since I’ve done one of these, so I’ll start by letting any new-comers know what’s up: I started a series ages ago (find the first post here) where I share my notes as I listen through Qalam Institute’s podcast series Lives of the Prophets. I love the series, but I have been so busy with other stuff these days that I have been finding it hard to actually sit down and take notes. Usually I do my podcast-listening while doing housework or embroidery, so to stop and actually take notes actually takes a little extra time.

But then, during Ramadan, I had a thought—I can be learning something beneficial and working on blogging things at the same time! So for the last couple of days of Ramadan I sat down every day to listen to a couple of episodes and prep them up for y’all.

Click here for my first set of notes on Adam alayhi salam, and here for my second set of notes on Adam alayhi salam and his sons. Today I’ll be jumping right back in with Sheeth alayhi salam! I was excited for this episode, as Sheeth’s alayhi salam story isn’t one I am very familiar with. I find learning about these things so interesting, not only because it is interesting for me to learn about the prophets from an Islamic standpoint (as I come from a Christian background), but also because it is just so interesting for me to think about these people who lived so, so long ago.

As always, feel free to leave me some comments; did you learn anything? Anything you would like to add? Thoughts on the story/notes?

Here we go!

Continue reading “Lives of the Prophets: Sheeth (as)”

inspiration

Etiquettes of Making Dua

Salaam y’all!

So, when I first converted, and up until very recently, I thought making dua (personal prayers, supplications) was just a matter of substituting the old Christian hands-folded-head-down move for the Islamic hands upturned and raised, and then asking for whatever it is you need or want.

Which is partly true, I suppose, but quite recently I began to learn that there are actually some etiquettes that you can follow when you make dua to increase your chances of having that dua accepted. So I wanted to share some of those with you today, for new reverts who may not know about them, and for those who maybe did know, but could use a little refresher.

Firstly, as with anything in Islam, you need to make a sincere intention before you begin making dua. It always sounds like something small, but our actions are judged by the intentions. So even if you don’t get all of these etiquettes down right away, you can still keep that intention that you are trying to make dua in the most beautiful way possible and in shaa Allah get the reward of it!

One of the etiquettes of making dua that I actually really love is the next one: to invoke with the certainty that it will be accepted. So basically, if you want to have your dua accepted, you have to be certain that it will be accepted. This is like the hadith that mentions:

“Allah the Almighty said, ‘I am as my servant thinks (expects) I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly greater than it. If he draws near to Me a hand’s length, I draw near to him an arm’s length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.’”
Narrated in Bukhari

Continue reading “Etiquettes of Making Dua”

reflections

Imposter Syndrome

Salaam alaikum!

I’ve written about this before, but it is something that I was reflecting on again today: new Muslims (or not so new Muslims) and the “imposter syndrome.”

I’ve never said it in quite those terms before, but I have written many, many times about how many new Muslims feel that they are not quite “Muslim enough.” This could be because of pressures from friends or the community, or it could come from the new convert’s own insecurities. Often, it is a combination of these two things that make new Muslims feel like they will never be “real” Muslims, “good” Muslims, or even just taken seriously as Muslims.

I myself experienced this to some degree, but it is something I have largely gotten over. When I first converted I had the amazing blessing to be spiritually “raised” in such a lovely and tolerant community. None of my new friends or acquaintances ever made me feel less than or different, and they all encouraged me to grow in my own time and way, and alhamdulillah for that. Continue reading “Imposter Syndrome”

reflections

Islam, Love, and Obligation

Salaam all.

Just yesterday (as of writing this a week or two ago), I went to visit a friend of mine here in Algeria. Well, she is my husband’s cousin’s wife, so I guess she is kind family. At any rate, she is one of the very few women here in Algeria that I feel I can really relate to, and with whom I really enjoy spending time.

She and I are very much on the same page where is Islam is concerned, and we both have similar ways of practising and thinking about things, which makes her easy to get along with. I know that I can talk about Qur’an or hadith and she won’t get bored, but we can also talk about politics, kids, or our hot beverage preferences just as well. I truly do love her for the sake of Allah swt, and I am so glad to get the chance to visit her and the kids every now and again.

There has been something bothering me in the back of my mind since my last visit, though.

She and I can talk about hadith, seerah, Qur’an, fiqh or any many of other things all day long, and we can be in agreement on a great deal of topics. But when I reflect back on our conversations, there seems to be something so radically different about the way we approach Islam. When I think about it, there seems to be something missing.

At first I didn’t know what could possibly be causing me to think that way; she and I are so alike in many aspects, and we definitely agree on a great many issues. But then I realized what I felt was missing all this time: love. Continue reading “Islam, Love, and Obligation”

reflections

On Trials

Salaam everyone.

I usually try to keep as much of my personal issues off of my blog as possible, but today I seem to be having an unusually hard time of things.

I feel like we have hit every roadblock and delay physically possible on this visa application, I am feeling homesick, missing family, and feeling trapped in a country with no infrastructure upon which to build any semblance of a life. The simplest things feel impossible to me; I can’t even keep up with one of my favorite hobbies—writing good ol’ snail mail—because the postal system here is so dysfunctional.

So yeah, I’m feeling a bit down.

Lately I have been just trying to remind myself that this is life. Allah swt tells us multiple times in the Qur’an that the believers will be tested with losses and hard times, and how often do we hear that the more Allah swt tests a servant, the more He loves him? The prophets, the most beloved people to Allah swt, went through unimaginable trials and tribulations.

But it feels so hard when you are in it. It feels like this one day is never going to end, let alone this whole life. Continue reading “On Trials”