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”

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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”

reflections

Reflections on Change

Salaam everyone!

Change has been something that has been on my mind quite a bit lately, as I have been thinking back on the past few years of my life, and look ahead to what the future may bring.

Specifically I am thinking about getting my husband’s visa to the USA, in shaa Allah. Change tends to be one of those things that you either love or hate; I know people who can’t deal with change and need strict stability and “sameness,” and I know people who thrive on change and get antsy sticking around in one place or doing one thing for too long. I definitely fall into the latter group.

Just to take the example of location: looking back on my life since I turned 18 and began studying at university, I have moved back and forth between cities and even continents almost continually. From my home-town to Santa Cruz then back again in the summer. London my third year, back home, back to Santa Cruz. Back home for the summer, London again in the fall. A year and some months later I am living in Algeria.

And alhamdulillah it has been good. There is a steep learning curve when you travel and live abroad, and I have learned so much about myself and the world around me. Heck, travel is what introduced me to Islam. But in thinking about my future, and especially when we have this visa in-hand (in shaa Allah!!!) I’m beginning to feel that all I want to do is go to my grandpa’s house, roll myself up in a blanket next to the fireplace and hibernate and recuperate there for around a year. And then I want to find my own place and “set up housekeeping” as Louisa May Alcott would put it.

Just writing that, however, makes my brain say, “whoah there, cool it! Sedentary life isn’t what you do; you have always loved travelling so you best stick with it! That’s your thing. You never wanted anything to do with any housekeeping nonsense, so don’t start now.”

Where I run into a wall with change isn’t in the transience of all things in this life or changes in time, season, location, people, possessions, or worldly concerns, but where it comes to changing my own mind Continue reading “Reflections on Change”

reflections

No Compulsion in Religion

Salaam alaikum =D

“There is no compulsion in religion. The right direction is henceforth distinct from error. And he who rejecteth false deities and believeth in Allah hath grasped a firm handhold which will never break. Allah is Hearer, Knower.” (Qur’an 2:256)

We all know this verse. Much of the time it is (rightly) used to prove to non-Muslims that it is un-Islamic to force someone to accept Islam, which is indeed a very important point to be made in today’s culture of Islamophobia. As the verse clearly states, the right way is distinct from the wrong way, and the choice is up to us.

But lately I have been thinking of it from another perspective: there should be no compulsion within the religion.

The Muslim community is by no means homogeneous, and the rich variety of cultures and people who make it up is one of the beauties of Islam. Lately, however, I feel like there is a lot of pressure to all manifest our Islam exactly the same way. This could be pressure on converts to assimilate into a particular cultural group, pressure to follow the “right” madhhab (school of thought), or this could be general pressure to follow some very strict doctrine coming out of Saudi Arabia, for the sole reason that it comes from Saudi Arabia and therefore must be closest to the truth.

I understand that some of these societal pressures often stem from the time of colonialism and have deep sociopolitical roots, but I think on a more personal level they are worth being brought to awareness.

Just like we cannot force others to become Muslim if their hearts do not believe, we should not try to force Muslims into practising a certain way, just because it is the way that we believe is right.  Continue reading “No Compulsion in Religion”

For Sisters Only

For the Sisters: Staying Connected When you can’t Pray or Fast

Salaam alaikum y’all!

So, we are coming up on Ramadan fast. Like, quite fast. As of posting we only have a month and some days left. For some of us that is pretty exciting, but for some of us (new reverts, first time fasters anyone?) that can be pretty daunting.

I remember my very first Ramadan, being on such a spiritual high, a productive kick at work, I seemed to be seeing everything through pink, sparkly glasses. But then, a week and a half or so in, disaster struck: the dreaded menstrual cycle.

(Men who are reading this can feel free to duck out at this point if this isn’t a topic that you care to know much about…it’s only going to get worse from here!)

Up until this month, I had been pretty lazy where my period was concerned, but this was different. It was Ramadan, and I didn’t want to lose my momentum in such a sacred month. As a new Muslimah, however, I was a bit confused as to what I could and could not do during this week.

I asked around some of my friends, and actually managed to come up with a plan that kept me spiritually connected and productive during the eight days that I couldn’t fast with everyone else, and today, I want to share some of those things that I did. In shaa Allah you can implement these things in your own life not only during the month of Ramadan, but all year round in order to keep yourself spiritually “plugged in” even when you can’t perform ritual prayer or fasting. Continue reading “For the Sisters: Staying Connected When you can’t Pray or Fast”

For Sisters Only

Love for the sake of Allah: The Beauty of Sisterhood

Ok, before you even read this post, you have to go read this love letter from a Muslimah, and this post on the sisterhood of Islam.

“Allah will ask on Day of Judgement: “Where are those who loved each other for the sake of My glory? Today, on a day when there is no shade but Mine, I will shade them with My shade.”

Hadith Qudsi narrated in Muslim

This whole “love for the sake of Allah” thing was not something I really understood or experienced, up until very, very recently. Now that I do know how beautiful it is, however, I am a little obsessed with how much I love my fellow Muslimahs and our community, just for the fact that we are supposed to love each other as sisters in religion. Which is why, when I read those two posts above, I couldn’t get them out of my head. Especially that love letter, made me smile all day long!

The whole notion of sisterhood and community was one of the things that actually really attracted me to Islam, once I started studying a little more in-depth. I think it was The Ideal Muslimah that really clued me in to what a beautiful community the Muslims must have, always treating each other so kindly, giving gifts just for the joy of it, lending a helping hand to any sister in need. Upon citing these things to my house-mate, who was not much of a fan of the transition I was going through, as reasons that I was seriously considering Islam, she promptly told me that I should just join a book club or a knitting group, and I could find community that way; I didn’t have to make such a drastic change.  Continue reading “Love for the sake of Allah: The Beauty of Sisterhood”