Assalamu Alaykom (Peace be upon you),

So, I thought I would attend the Friday-prayer( Salatul Jumu’ah) with another Muslim-woman that lives around the corner from me. In being indoors for the last few days, I invited my dear friend to attend the khutba(lecture) with me. She accepted my invitation. So, we departed from our apartments, got into the car and was on our way. We were definitely excited about this. In going to the mosque, we found ourselves in a long line of cars awaiting for a chance at a parking-spot. In our short wait, we giggled and chatted about trivial matters. Once we were able to get a parking-spot, we quickly jumped out the car and headed towards the women’s entrance. We finally made it removed our shoes.

Once the lecture started, we sat quietly in anticipation for an enlightening afternoon. However, this quickly changed. The lecturer began with a narration by the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) stating that:

“A Muslim community will stop being on the straight path once the: youth go astray, rebellious women appear, and men stop going out to perform jihad”

So, my dear friend and I sat flabbergasted and in awe. This particular lecturer went on and on about ‘astray youth, rebellious women, and men going out to perform jihad’. However, he failed in refusing to discuss the causes of the youth going astray or the reason(s) behind rebellious women appearin. I’m still not sure what ‘rebellious’ women are. Also, jihad in the context he spoke of was inappropriate. Jihad is Arabic for struggling for the sake of Allah (God). The biggest struggle we can undergo in battling is our own individual selves, our desires. We struggle everyday in being upright people. We struggle everyday in giving everyone their due rights. This is true jihad. This is more of an appropriate form of jihad that should’ve been dealt with, instead of talking about going out to fight.

I’m sorry, but some of these lecturers need to get themselves together because American Muslims are living in a different culture that is distinct from other places. The problems that an American Muslim will face will probably be different than an Afghani or Pakistani Muslim and vice versa. It is this constant rhetoric from these lecturers that throws me and others for a loop. Why don’t these men understand that second, third, and fourth-generation American Muslims do not hold the same cultural-baggage as recent immigrants. The happenings of now should be attended to. There must be a new look at how Islam is practiced in America. We cannot continuously bring along cultural-baggage to a country that is different than ‘back home’. So, many American Muslims continuously sit through countless lectures hearing things that they can’t relate to due to this cultural-barrier. The youth isn’t going to listen to some random person that is ranting about things they can’t relate to in their daily lives.

Also, we must turn away from this obsession over obedience. Submission belongs to God and God alone. A fruitful and well-grounded relationship is rooted deeply in mutual partnership. If a relationship is built upon tyranny, obedience, and a power-struggle then it may not last long. There should be equality between the two individuals. If not, then you may have someone within the relationship rebel against the other. It is rather absurd to believe that someone rebels for no reason. No, there is a reason behind this. Instead of ranting on and on about rebellious women, why not talk about why a person would want to rebel in the first place. Let’s talk about the behind-the-scenes stuff that occurs. I’ve heard some dynamic lectures from some great imams discussing: domestic violence, sexual assault, women’s rights, marital love, and etc. However, there aren’t enough of these lectures happening. Unfortunately, there are many communities that are firmly rooted in compliance. Compliance doesn’t cut it for me. It isn’t about blindly obeying or submitting to anything or anyone. One must ask questions and seek for those answers in order to be at one with themselves. If an answer isn’t satisfactory then you continue on in your search. You don’t just sit back and accept something. Oh no, never that. The first word that was revealed to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was ‘iqra’. Iqra means to read in Arabic. So, we must move away from this blind-following of individuals, no matter what their title may be. In Islam, one turns to the Qur’an and the example of the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). In Islam, there isn’t a central authority. The Qur’an legislates for one to use their reasoning, their logic, the example of the prophet Muhammad and the ayats(evidences) from the Qur’an to live a satisfying life. Islam doesn’t restrict one from being an active learner or from asking questions. No, you are told to bring your questions. You are told to reflect and to ponder. You shouldn’t just sit back and listen. You must not be like heedless cattle in a herd. No, you use what God has given you- your intellect. So, I am saying right now that we have to move away from simply complying to lectures that aren’t applicable to right now.

As an American Muslim, my experience(s) are centered on my daily life in America. It isn’t dependent upon anything else other than my experience(s) as a Black Muslim American woman. I’m sorry, but I can’t accept someone’s cultural-baggage from elsewhere as being my baggage. This can’t be the case for me. I just hope that some of these imams and lecturers will begin to understand that the American Muslim experience is different from a Muslim’s experience(s) in another country. American Muslims have their own problems and qualms to deal with on a daily basis. It is time to allow for American Muslims to create their own narrative. There’s nothing wrong with being an American-Muslim. It is just problematic when American Muslims are being told as a collective body to abide by cultural-norms that aren’t applicable to right now. This is America and American Muslims are trying to find their way. The last thing we need to hear is how things are ‘back home’. I’m sorry, but your cultural-baggage doesn’t cut it here. So, don’t try to spin Islam to make your cultural-baggage legitimate. Islam doesn’t oppress. Islam liberates. So, take that crap you think is Islam and throw it in the trash.

Anyways, I will go back to the hadith that he selected for the lecture. If he really wanted to do something beneficial, he should’ve elaborated on this issue of youth going astray, women becoming rebellious and men going out for jihad. In too many lectures, I hear about problems, but I rarely hear about solutions. Or I hear about consequences of actions, but never the causes. We shouldn’t dance around issues, but we should have a well-rounded talk about them. Instead of constantly complaining about this, that and the other, we need to just cut to the chase. We need to develop better ways of handling issues instead of giving things a cultural-slant. Why can’t we just focus on being good people? Islam is a full way of life, but someone too many lecturers focus on these trivial things. And too many times, people walk out of mosques not learning anything because the lecturer was so far from the reality of the people. Let’s get things in check the next time we want to go to the minbar to speak about something. Let’s have a real conversation that talks about causes and effects. Let’s discuss how we can help alleviate these problems and how this is apart of Islam. Islam is about being a mercy to the people. Islam shouldn’t be a burden. Islam should never be burden or else we’re doing something wrong.

So, our Friday-prayer experience was interesting. It was only one experience out of several, but hopefully from this one experience someone can think about the importance of connecting to their audience before speaking to them. It is very important to understand the reality of your audience before delivering a message. I mean…what good is a message if you’re not conveying it and your audience is unable to connect to it? So, let’s look at Islam as a way to alleviate burdens instead of being a burden. Islam is a way of life that is beautiful, but when a man/woman takes it upon him/herself to educate a group he/she should think twice about the message he/she intends to deliver.

Advertisements

Reclaiming Our Voices: A Look at Muslim Women

I highly-recommend everyone to watch this video. I watched it a few months ago and loved it. I definitely believe that Muslim women and women in general should reclaim their voices. I believe that women are sometimes silenced and kept from speaking, but women must not be scared to vocalize themselves. Every single woman have her own narrative, her own story to share. This story should be seen as valuable and special. We have to learn how to appreciate narratives. Once we appreciate the power of the narrative than we will be able to break down barriers and start solving problems.

“Halal Sex” and Seeking Marriage as the Cure

Marriage

One topic that is always in demand is marriage. There is always room at the dinner-table, in the mosque, at a gathering, or even at a wedding to discuss marriage. Unfortunately, the topic of marriage typically include the references of “halal sex” and “fornication”. You’re probably asking me to clarify what I meant by that last statement. Yes, allow me to elaborate. In many communities, the act of getting married is praised because it is a ‘halal’ way to engage in sexual-relations without the sin of fornication, especially when it comes to the youth. However, the notion that one must get married only for the sake of engaging in sex is problematic. If one was to ask any husband or wife if sex is the end-all or be-all of a marriage than one will quickly understand that sex isn’t going to provide the substance to keep the relationship together. No, I am not saying that sex isn’t important but it definitely isn’t the end-all or be-all of a marriage. Additionally, if one went into a marriage solely for the intention of dealing with their sexual urges than is one really cognizant about the purpose of marriage? Is marriage only about the exchange of a husband and wife fulfilling each other sexually? Or is there more than that?

I’m not here to define or outline anyone’s marriage, but if one was to seek marriage as this magical cure in dealing with sexual urges than this seems shallow. Yes, if one was to get married and indulge in sex then it is ‘halal’ or lawful. Additionally, it is even rewarded by Allah(God) since it is done in a lawful way. However, if one is seeking to only get married for the sole purpose of having sex then what about afterwards? Where does one go once their sexual-needs are satisfied? Unfortunately, the rhetoric geared towards the youth about marriage is more problematic because many youths feel that marriage is their ticket for ‘halal sex’. And I’ve heard numerous times how it would benefit the youth to get married young in order to protect themselves from falling into fornication. Yes, I agree that sex outside of marriage is a major sin in Islam and it can lead to corruptions within societies. However, if the youth is filled with this belief that once they get sexual-urges they should get married then how is this fair to them once they get married and see that marriage is more than sex?

Recently, I had a heart-to-heart conversation with a dear friend about this topic. Many of the Muslim youth are groomed from a young age to value marriage and the beauty of it, but on the other-hand many are given this romanticized view that marriage is their outlet for sexual-frustration. For many of us, we understand that marriage comes with tons of responsibilities and obligations. Additionally, marriage is a place in which the couple can grow individually and together as a couple. Not only grow, but to strive Islamically for paradise. However, does the youth grasp this concept if they are being told constantly that the only way they can have sex is if they get married? Now, I must be fair in this depiction of marriage. I do believe that some parents explain that marriage is not a joke or just a place for sex. However, I’ve always found it, more times than not, that the youth is pushed to get married when they have sexual urges. Yes, I believe in many Western societies that there is an issue of hyper-sexuality happening and occurring right before our eyes, thus the youth is being exposed to sexuality on a daily basis in various ways. Nonetheless, this notion that once a kid gets sexual-feelings is ready for marriage is incorrect. Once we hit the age of puberty or even before, we can experience those urges. However, it doesn’t mean we are ready for marriage or can even grasp the seriousness of marriage.

In saying all of this, I don’t believe that marriage is a cure for horny youth. If anything, the youth should understand the various dimensions of marriage and all that it entails. I’m definitely not advocating fornication, but I am advocating education and a serious talk about sex. It isn’t fair for the youth to feel inclined towards marriage just because they can satisfy their desires because there are a long line of other issues that comes from marriage. And we have to ask if marriage is even appropriate at this point if the young man or woman is only focused on sex. We’ve heard numerous times that sex doesn’t sustain a relationship and isn’t going to hold-up a relationship if there isn’t a general connection between the two spouses.

What exactly does it show the youth that they can easily get married to have ‘halal sex’? Does it really give them the right image of marriage? Does it show them that there is responsibility attached to this choice? Does this truly show them the value of marriage? If anything, it gives the youth this stunted image that marriage is all about the sex. So, if this is the case then does the value of people ever come into play? Are people just places for imposing our sexual desires upon? So, if I knew that my general interest in getting married was to just have sex then this would force me to take a step back to ask some important questions.

1. Do I really understand the purpose of marriage?
2. What am I going to do after the sex is over?
3. Do I truly value this potential spouse as a whole or just as an outlet for my sexual urges?
4. Am I being selfish in thinking that I can be satisfied with only wanting sex out of marriage?

I’ve had so many instances in which I have heard the youth or older individuals saying that they want to get married just for the sex. Of course, they would never come out and blatantly say that, but the message got across. The only reason they wanted to get married was being they had those ‘urges’ and because they wanted to not fall into fornication. In these initial reasons for wanting to get married there wouldn’t be any claim of wanting to be with someone to share their lives with, to grow with religiously or etc. I guess my issue is simply about the notion of ‘halal sex’ and using marriage as a tool into getting it. We all have undergone those years of raging hormones, but we eventually get over it. We understand that these ‘raging’ hormones are just that…raging. However, it doesn’t necessitate for us to believe we can’t control ourselves. However, if someone believe they are ready to get married then go for it. This is ultimately a personal-choice and everyone has that right. However, we shouldn’t seek to find a cure to our ‘raging’ hormones by simply wanting to be with someone for sex. It just makes me wonder about the end results of this act of getting ‘halal sex’ in a marriage and realizing that sex was all you really wanted. So,it just makes me ask if someone really values or even understand marriage if they just wanted to have sex.

Like always, you are always welcomed to email me or comment. Just some thoughts about marriage and sex.

The Issue of Identity and Acceptance: Muslim-Communities Globally

One of the issues that I constantly have to sort-through personally is the issue of identity and acceptance. In many social-circles within different Muslim-communities, people choose to stigmatize converts for various reasons…many of which are ridiculous. These stigmas are very much hurtful and even damaging for the psyche of the convert. I’ve been Muslim for the last six years and I still continue to get the same question about me changing my name. I’ve always been of the opinion that my name doesn’t classify me as being pious or impious. I am my actions and words. It is known in the Islamic-tradition that faith is seen through the acts that you perform with your limbs. So, I continue to believe this. Many people fail to realize that the prophet’s (peace be upon him) companions were indeed converts and their names were Arabic and they were in Arabia, so their names matched the place they lived. Their names were specific to their geographical location. Yes, this may not be the case for everyone but it was definitely their case. So, why do people still ask why I have yet to change my name? Many individuals through the Muslim-community have even went so far to say that I am imitating the kuffar by not changing my name to a Muslim-one. I’ve even had someone tell me that I should name my child an Arabic name when I have one to differerientate him/her from Western society. I’m sorry, but I am a Western Muslim and I do not feel the least amount of guilt for being so. So, let me stop right there. Whenever someone tell me to change my name I simply ask them if they mean I should change my name to an Arabic one. Why do so many equate being Muslim with being Arabic and looking a certain way?

However, I would say that we have to stop stigmatizing people for wanting to keep their identity, especially when it doesn’t pose any problem to Islam. The only time the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) would change the name of a companion is if it meant something bad. And I’m not trying to do extensive research about my name. It’s not that serious. If only we could move beyond superficiality. What is a name, anyways? Just something that you call yourself and identity yourself by for identification purposes. Why not look at me from my actions instead? Telling a convert that they should or is encouraged to change their name is troubling to me. It’s troubling because it shows this incessant obsession with outwardly appearances. In the Islamic-tradition, Allah doesn’t look at our bodies or our clothing but our hearts. So, what does that mean? It means exactly what it says. Allah looks at our actions and what is within our hearts. So, why do we seek to box people up into categories?

In many ways, it is us that strip people of themselves. It’s not Islam. Islam is quite clear in how it deals with personal-identities. Islam never forbids an individual to stop being Bengali, Sengalese, Black, White, Spanish, Chinese, Indian, or etc. So, why do we seek to bid identity? The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was an Arab man, so he had his own culture. Sometimes people will get culture confused with Islam and will seek to correct you about something that isn’t even Islamic. Some people will tell you that we have to eat with our fingers, but this is incorrect. We can if we would like, but it’s not an obligation. Or if you’re a sister you have to wear a black abaya with a black hijab. Correction, if this is what you’re wanting to do than go forth in wearing it. I typically wear my abayas on a daily-basis, but I may switch it up. The abaya is Arabic and it doesn’t have to be the daily-attire of a Muslim woman. So, where is all of this coming from? Why must we infringe upon someone else’s culture to impose another? We have to respect the diversity that we have within the Muslim-community. If someone doesn’t speak Arabic, look Arabic or have an Arabic name than you should quickly get over it. If someone doesn’t appear as Muslim as you like than you should quickly get over it. It’s you that is wrong for stripping people of their identity. It is you that creates hostility and division. It is you that is seeking to maintain racist ideologies from the days of Jahiliya (pre-Islam/ignorance).

An American-Muslim is simply American. What does it mean to be American? It means that this Muslim is coming from a society that is specific in certain traditions, cultural-norms, ways of viewing and living life. This is no different than the person coming from Japan, Spain, Senegal, Ghana, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia. We are all from different places, but we unite under Islam. We should embrace the diversity that Islam gives us. We shouldn’t take it for granted. Instead of trying to measure someone’s Muslimness….how about trying to understand how we can come together to better ourselves and our communities through practicing Islam? Why does that seem like a better option than the option of simply judging someone based-off of superficiality? I am not pointing fingers at anyone specific, but this is just a needed wake-up call for those that seem to feel troubled to see or know of a Muslim that doesn’t necessarily look or sound like them. In case you’re seeking daleel or evidence for why I am opposed to racism, please continue to read:

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “If anyone travels on a road in search of knowledge, God will cause him to travel on one of the roads of Paradise. The angels will lower their wings in their great pleasure with one who seeks knowledge. The inhabitants of the heavens and the Earth and (even) the fish in the deep waters will ask forgiveness for the learned man. The superiority of the learned over the devout is like that of the moon, on the night when it is full, over the rest of the stars. The learned are the heirs of the Prophets, and the Prophets leave (no monetary inheritance), they leave only knowledge, and he who takes it takes an abundant portion. – Sunan of Abu-Dawood, Hadith 1631

The prophet Muhamamd (peace be upon him) is telling us that even God(Allah) understands the fish in the sea, so what does that tell us? This tells us that language comes from Allah and that if Allah understands the fish in the sea than the diversity of languages that we see in our world is from Allah. On top of that, no person should feel sad that they don’t speak Arabic or another language. Allah gave us the language(s) that we have, so feel at ease. Easy, easy does it!

If this hadith isn’t sufficient for you in regards to why we shouldn’t feel the need to be racist and ethnocentric than please continue reading:

O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted. (49:13)

This is indeed the ultimate proof for how we have to move away from these racist and ethnocentric ways in which we carry with us to: mosques, events, gatherings, and parties. So, please just leave people alone. We have to realize that enjoining the good and forbidding the evil should only be done by an individual that has knowledge of that which is halal (good) and haraam (good) or else we may speak things that are false and untrue.

“Ibn ul Qayyim said that it is the greatest sin. Ibn ul Qayyim said that speaking about Allaah swt without `ilm is the greatest sin that you could commit. He bases it on this verse”:
“Qul innamaa 7arrama Rabbi-l-fawaa7isha maa DHahara minhaa wa maa baTan, wal-ithma wal-baghya bi ghayri-l-7aqq, wa an tushrikoo bi-Llaahi maa lam yunazzil bihi sulTaanaa, wa an taqoolo 3ala-l-Laahi maa laa ta3lamoon.”

“Say: The things that my Lord has indeed forbidden are al-Fawaahishah (great evil sins, every kind of unlawful sexual intercourse, etc.), whether committed openly or secretly, sins (of all kinds), unrighteous oppession, joining partners (in worship) with Allaah for which He has given no authority and saying things about Allaah of which you have no knowledge.” [The Noble Qur’aan, 7:33]

So, we just have to be careful in how we choose to direct our concerns. If we are speaking without knowledge then this is extremely serious and should be cautioned against to the best of our abilities. So, remember the next time you feel compelled to tell someone that this or that is haraam (bad/unlawful). So, remember this the next time you choose to tell someone their name is haraam (bad/unlawful) or because it seems too Western. Just remember that Islam came as a mercy not a burden and you shouldn’t make it into a way of life that is unbearable for the next person. Islam is a moderate way of life. It’s the middle path. It’s not extreme. It’s easy and simple.

So, I will leave you a few lasting words to think about as we travel through this beautiful religion and way of life:

“Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses over mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness over yourselves ..” Quran 2:143

Tonight, Our Bodies Performed Worship

You unwrapped me like a gift
Placed me within your hands
and explored every part intricately
as if you were too shy to touch
or too shy to hold for too long
and I yearned for every moment
and craved for every second
for this was our calling
our time for the joining two hearts and bodies
where daylight hours fused with the night
the sounds of birds became the sounds of night owls
as we cradled each other’s bodies
closely and intimately
chasing our unrestrained desires
in search of the One
both untouched and confused on what to do
or where to go
so we became like domesticated animals seeking to run astray
from restrictions
and we soared and became uncivilized in this mutual gift-offering
taking each other higher
and I crashed upon you like a waterfall
and you drove me up to the Heavens and back again
making me speak the tongue of angels
Carrying me up through the skies upon your wings
and sending me back home again
You anointed the inner-goddess in me
Venerating this deed as being an act of worship
You and I reaching the Divine.
This slow, but intense infiltration upon my soul gets my body protesting
yelling, grabbing and seeking no more
and you increase this unmasked passion
and make me reach what isn’t of this world
arriving oh so gradually to my fullest potential
and you cry out in rage
in anger
and continue in this journey of ours
creating a bliss unknown to any other
and I am buried beneath your temple
as I come to give you this offering
as you cascade over me
offering me your gift
and we rise among the stars
and we settle upon the galaxies
not yet fulfilled and satisfied
so we continue climbing and extending
ourselves toward the highest of all places
and fall down to only find our bodies
shaking uncontrollable
with lucid excitement
and we crescendo gradually
and settle upon each other’s shores
where we lie exposed and vulnerable
seeking only the pleasure of the Divine and the Most High
for tonight we performed worship and we reached a place where no other has gone

Mending Fences, Building Bridges by: Imam Siraj Wahhaj

Assalamu alaykom wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuh everyone,

I really did enjoy this lecture, alhumdulilah. I believe this says alot about our relationships between one another. We should strive in making our friendships and relationships alot better than how they are now. Ramadan is the perfect time to do this. We can break for iftar together. Or we can pray together for laylatul qadr, inshALLAH. We can learn the religion together or just have conversation. What is stopping us? What is stopping us from being nice to each other? We never know when the time comes in which we will have to call on that person or help that individual? We just never know.

So, mend those fences and build bridges.

Dauntless Soul By: Najla

One of my favorite poems about the reality of this world. We should remember that Allah created us to worship Him and Him alone. We may mess up in life and struggle, but remember that the promise of Allah is true. If we strive for his sake, then inshaALLAH we will make it in his Jannah.

She Is Apart Of Our Muslim-Youth

Her imagination is the catalyst to something spectacular
She is apart of our Muslim-youth
A mind not yet molded to the mold of those who have forgotten the beauty of dreaming
Her mind is untamed
To the point in which she thinks outside of borders
Painting outside of the box
Writing into the margins
Not caring about boundaries
Not afraid to shout
She is apart of our Muslim-youth
Exploring places we have yet explored
Questioning things we have yet questioned
Too confined to the mold in which we were molded
we do not question anymore nor seek to shout with our mouths
Our thoughts have become imprisoned to the four walls of our skulls
Our words have been closed in between the margins of our notebook pads
Our boundaries have limited us to a confinement in which imagination is punishable to the highest extent
She laughs at our adult-ways as she scribbles outside of margins, onto floors, on tables, and across walls
Inspiring to set off a revolution somehow
somewhere
Creating dreams that will change our nation
Inspire our youth
Creating dreams that will change our world to the point in which she is limitless and without borders
She is the face of Islam
She is the voice of Islam
She is the revolution that is here to stay
She is the catalyst to something spectacular
She is apart of our Muslim-youth

My Sister Never Deceive Yourself

Understand that your beauty is only one half of the world’s beauty
For your intelligence will forever linger in the minds of your offsprings
Keep pushing towards your mansion that lies high in the Jannah where angels lie
Where your clothes will only adorn the mind that Allah has bless you with
for never allow a man make you feel that being a woman means taking off your clothes
for Allah has given you clothing of intelligence
For a woman is more than what lies between her…shhh..dont say it
She is a queen amongst kings
The other half to the human-race
Never listen to those dogs that scream at you for they will only find a dog that will bark back
You are more than the body that Allah has given you
You are a servant of Allah
A Muslim above any other title that you can ever be given
One that submits to her Lord
In the early morning and the evening
Seeking to meet the face of her Lord
My sister never deceive yourself
You are much more than the price any man can put on you

Dance, My Daughter, Dance

You are so young, my daughter

I watch you dance amongst the prairie-grass and bumble-bees

As sun rays covers you in its sweet embrace

Your smile invites the birds to play

Your feet beckon the soil beneath them to follow while you lead

The wind races through your curly locks

Make your curls sway and rock to the rhythm of your dance, don’t stop

Your brown skin glows beautifully

Just like Bilal, the Abyssinian slave

The world around you will make you feel

Inferior, less, ugly

They will make you stop your dancing

Make you feel as if Allah has not honored you in this religion.

For you, my baby-girl, is a gem, a Muslim

Where racism is from Jahiliya, the past

Where your gender is not a father’s disgrace

Where your body will not be an open-book for the world to look upon

My daughter dance and never stop

Smile and twirl

Look towards the heavens and know that your lord

Has honored you

 Image