Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them)

Name three things that Jesus and Mohammed (or their teachings) had in common.

Thanks for asking!

I won't be placing a picture of either since we Muslims really don't want to get into worshipping a man. Jesus (peace be upon him) is also one of our prophets so us reverring Jesus would be one commonality. We also believe his mother Mary/Mariam was the best among women and conceived although being a virgin. Though there are other commonalities, most importantly we believe that there is no other God except God. That's monotheisism and our brothers and sisters in Judaism are the third Abrahamic branch.

Why care? Well, I've always cared about people and cultures and beliefs. Loved me some social studies! 2 billion Chriistians in the world. 1.5 billion Muslims. Only 14 million Jews. Put 'em all together and that's a lot of people who are your neighbors, your teachers, your doctors, your your friends and family. And yes, some of the people who describe themselves as followers are the haters, the criminals and terrorists. Getting to know the truth about the teachings of each religion mean that you understand a majority of the world better. That's got to help.

I mean...why should I care about anyone? Why should I care about you?  There are lots of reasons starting with you are a person worthy of my understanding and respect. Are you perfect? No. No one reading this is an angel. But you personally and the many societal groups collectively have a lot to offer the world and I hope you can see that in me as well.

Both Jesus and Muhammed (peace be upon them) were lights in the darkness who offered ethical alternatives to unjust worlds. Let's see if each one of us can figure out how to shine forth more. That's better than figuring out how to snuff out the lights of the one we don't understand.

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Father

                                                                                                                    Photo Credit

Abu Huraira, may Allah be pleased with him, reported that the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) said:

"May his nose be rubbed in dust! May his nose be rubbed in dust! May his nose be rubbed in dust!"

So I asked, "Who, O Messenger of Allah?"

He said : "Who has parents with him, while they are old, whether one of them or both of them, then does not enter the Paradise (though serving them and obeying them.)"

My father wrote to me again yesterday. 

He's 77 and has Alzheimers.  There's more---so much more to him than that but his Alzheimers is taking over the other parts of who he has been.

For the first year I was here, he didn't remember where I was.  Each email would ask me, "Where are you?" as if I had never told him.   I would patiently answer back again and again.  Now he remembers that I'm in Egypt.

He forgets all the times I've told him that inshahallah I'm coming for a visit this June.

The way my father writes is unique.  "Do you see that you will return to the U.S. within, say, the next 12 months or so?  Whatever, we do need to find an avenue that would bring us together for a day or so."

What made me cry about his email yesterday was that he didn't remember sending me an email the day before.

Two emails in two days asking to see me.

Answered prayers don't always come when we wish.

For years, I would pray for more time with my father.  I was an only child of divorced parents.  There was no custody battle.  I went to my mother.  She became the single mother; the single working mother.  My father became an eligible bachelor and the hottest catch in town.  He remarried in a year.  He left town and left my daily life.

From that time, I had only moments with him.  I learned how to be pleased with what I had in my father.  I stopped wondering when I'd get more from him and settled with what I got.  Islam has helped me with this because what I used to wish I got from my father I now get from Allah.

The last time I saw my father was five years ago in Spring, 2006.  Alhumdulillah.  He got to hold his youngest grandson.  At the time, my father called Mr. Boo "charming".  Now he doesn't ask about my son because he doesn't remember him.  Alhumdulillah he still remembers the older two.

Getting two emails in two days means that he's remembering less and less.  That shook me up.

And then a third email came.

The last email was from his lady friend.  No, my father isn't dead, alhumdulillah. 

What she wrote to me about was from Christmas Eve.  That was a long time ago; three months.  She appologized for being late with the news. 

My father had gone out in the car for the newspaper on Christmas Eve morning and didn't return.  He didn't return in an hour.  He didn't return all afternoon.  No one could find him---not even the police.  He arrived back at 6:00 PM Christmas Eve.  He didn't know where he'd been.  He suddenly recognized his surroundings and found his way back, alhumdulillah.  Of course, he's not allowed to drive any more.  I'm looking into a kind of GPS monitoring watch for him.  I can't bear thinking of this happening again.

I sit here with the knowledge of the past along with this new information and I have many mixed feelings.  I can't do anything much from Egypt except go to Allah with my intentions to help my father in his old age.  I don't know what or how.  I'm going to leave that to Allah.

Oh, Allah, please open our hearts and minds to our parents in their old age because our hands can care for them the way their hands once cared for us.

Friday, March 25, 2011

99 Names of Allah in Haiku

The Greatest Name

Allah; The Supreme

The One Who is Merciful

The One Creator

by Mohammad, 8th

The All-Compassionate

Giver of our life

Benificent! Generous!

Kindly offering

by Fatima, 8th

The All-Merciful

The Most Merciful

Giving us another chance

Always forgiving

By Iqra, 8th

The Absolute Ruler

Ruler of Our World

King of All Humanity

Allahu Akbar!

by Amer, 8th

The Pure One

The Source of Peace

The Hater of War

The One Who Loves All of Us

The Source of Calmness

by Memona, 8th

The Inspirer of Faith

Keep practicing deen

Allah keeps belief in hearts

Brings spirit to life

by Khadija M., 6th

The Guardian

Our Strong Protector

Mighty Shield of All Mankind

Worship and be safe

by Adilah, 7th

The Mightiest

Mightiest Ruler

Powerful! Victorius!

With might comes great strength

by Mariyum, 8th

The Compeller

He lifts dark shadows

He commands the sun to rise

Cycle starts again

by Omar H., 7th

The Greatest

All Superior

La illaha illa Allah

No one above Him
by Najla, 6th

The Creator

The Maker of Order

The Shaper of Beauty

Maker of the Earth

Built an amazing world


by Imrane, 6th

The Forgiving

Lets you get away

Any bad deeds you do count

Covers all mistakes

by Khunsha, 5th

The Subduer

The Giver of All

The Sustainer

Provides abundance

We are not thankful enough

No life without Him

by Naadiya, 7th

The Opener

Peace and grace to pray

He opens the heaven’s doors

Brings life into hearts

by Amiera, 6th
The Knower of All

Has complete knowledge

Always watching our actions

Never stops knowing

by Aleem, 8th

The Constrictor

The Reliever

Gives and takes illness

Brings aid to His creation

Miracle Healer

by Ramia B., 7th

The Abaser

The Exalter

The Bestower of Honors

If you are no one

He will give you your value

You will be someone

by Aleena, 6th

The Humiliator

The Hearer of All

The Seer of All

Able to see all

He watches us everyday

He knows what you do

by Amina, 5th

The Judge

Treats all equally

You will get what you deserve

Most Fair One Ever

by Sulaiman, 5th

The Just

He who’s fair with all

He brought justice to our world

Gave us lovely peace

by Reshm, 6th

The Subtle One

The All-Aware

Awake at all times

Knows exactly your actions

Greatest perception

by Mariam, 7th

The Forebearing

The Magnificent

Amazing Ruler;

Possessor of Great Power;

Caring for all humankind

by Hadaya, 5th

The Forgiver and Hider of Faults

Mercy to our souls

Forgiving all mankind’s sins

Summons peace to all!

The Rewarder of Thankfulness

If you are grateful

You will go to paradise

That is all you need

by Aaman, 5th

The Highest

Higher than the clouds

No sky scraper is taller

Way beyond our dreams

by Moulayali, 7th

The Greatest

Owner of the land

Owner of all living things

Most Superior

by Asma, 5th

The Preserver

The Nourisher

The Accounter

He adds all the deeds

Knows amount of all beings

Will never lose count

by Jamal A., 5th

The Mighty

The Generous

Blesses all Muslims

No one is as generous

He gives life and love

by Rommy, 6th

The Watchful One

The Responder to Prayer

The All-Comprehending

The Perfectly Wise

The Wise One, who knows

Every leaf, tree, lice, ant, flea

taste, thought, breath, sound, sight

by Usama., 8th

The Loving One

Warms all hearts and souls

Brings soft happiness to life

Lifts hopes very high

by Haneen, 6th

The Majestic One

The Resurrector

The Witness

Sees human actions

Knows our deeds both good and bad

No one knows but Him

by Mohammad M., 5th

Al- Haqq
The Truth

Gave us The Qu’ran

No lies; the book delievered

Rusul: Messenger

by Khadeeja H., 6th

The Trustee

The Possessor of All Strength

The Powerful One

The Possessor of Power

The Lord of Power

by Jamal G., 5th

The Forceful One

The Governor

The Praised One

Master of Humans

No one else is more worthy

We submit ourselves

by Mohamed A., 7th

The Appraiser

The Originator

The Restorer

The Giver of Life

The Taker of Life

The Ever Living One

The Self-Existing One

The Finder

The Glorious

The Only One

The One Creator,

who deserves to be worshipped,

Differently unique

by Tanya., 8th

The One

The One Creator

no family; no partner

Alone in greatness

by Yosra, teacher

The Satisfier of All Needs

The All Powerful

No limit to strength

Ultimate authority

The Mightiest One

by Khalid M., 7th

The Creator of All Power

The Expediter

The Delayer

The First

The Last

The Manifest One

The Hidden One

The Protecting Friend

The Supreme One

The Greatest of All

We should always pray to Him

We should be grateful

by Sahar, 5th

The Doer of Good

The Guide to Repentance

The Avenger

The Forgiver

The Clement

Malik al-Mulk
The Owner of All

Dhul-Jalali Wal-Ikram
The Lord of Majesty and Bounty

The Equitable One

The Gatherer

The Resurrector

Will bring us on Judgement Day

Will question us all

by Jamil A., 6th

The Rich One

Holder of all deeds

Wealthy in every aspect

World’s treasures are His

by Umar G., 7th

The Enricher

The Preventer of Harm

The Creator of The Harmful

The Creator of Good

The Light

Glow of the Heaven

Created sun, stars, and moon

Light is the right path

by Hamza, 6th

The Guide

The Originator

The Everlasting One

The Inheritor of All

The Righteous Teacher

We ask for guidance

Please let us not go astray


by Rumla, 6th

The Patient One

Steady, calmly, cool

Feathery softness; soundless

Breathing peaceful air

by Chanel, 6th

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The 10%

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more importan than facts.  It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  It will make or break a company... a [house of worship]... a home.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it.  And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
Rev. Charles R. Swindoll

That wonderful quote from the Rev. Swindoll  is often quoted and often forgotten.  We know it but we don't live it.  Of course, even the best of us have the worst days but we can decide how we want our center to be. 

My mother is fond of reminding me of another 10%.  "If you are in a disagreement," she cautions, "and the other person is very wrong, still look at the ten percent to which you can own up.  What have you done to contribute to the problem?  It's very seldom that the other person is 100% wrong  If you can give that little bit then it frees the way to an agreement; a solution."

I'll add one more; it's something I've learned.  As we end personal relationships, business partnerships,  or work affliations, we need to stop and be thankful.  Even if things are ending badly, i.e., divorce, acrimony or getting fired or quitting under diress, we need to find our gratitude.  Find the 10% good which will remain with you despite moving on. 

When I knew that I would not COULD NOT remain with my son's father, I got quiet.  The yelling was all done.  I couldn't shake him from his determination to remarry his ex-wife after three divorces---ya, don't tell me...I know it's haram unless...let's not get into it.

Anyway, it was about as painful a situation as I've ever had to go through and I was pent up with emotions which were hurting me.  I prayed and prayed to find a release of my upset.  In the end, I knew I had to thank him.  Yes, what he was doing by running off and leaving us was horrible but it wasn't 100% horrible.

There was the truth of the goodness he had brought to my life.  He had given me more, actually, than any other person on the Earth.  He had helped me to find Islam, alhumdulillah.  He had given me a beautiful boy.  And he had given me love.  I can't say he didn't.  He did.

Today, as I handed in my letter asking to be reassigned within our school, I could have heaped blame upon the lady who has wronged me.  I could have but I didn't.  Instead, I took the opportunity to thank her for finding something special in me two years ago and helping me to get to Egypt.  I can't ignore that really key moment in my life when God really worked through her.

Who do you carry around with you?  There's someone you thought had a hold on you but in reality you have been gripping them tight and YOU won't let go.  Let them go; let go gently of things which no longer serve you before they are ripped from you forcefully.  The way to let them go is to thank them.

Do you thank them in actuality or silently in your head?  It depends.  Only thank them to their face if you can handle whatever they might say back in return.  Don't thank them hoping to get a kind answer back.

I did thank my son's father over the phone that day.  It was years ago now but I still remember driving along the freeway and telling him on my cell the things from him for which I was grateful.  Then, I asked him if he wanted to thank me for anything.

He said, "Ya, sex."

It hit me as hard as if a mack truck had rear-ended us.  Really?  Did he really take a kindness from me and turn it into rudeness?  Yet, I needed to hear that.  Alhumdulillah, I needed to hear his crass response in order to let him go fully.

Later, I think I did revisit that conversation with him and I gave him one more chance to make good something which he had made so gross.  I remember that he thanked me for our son, for our business, and for loving him.  He didn't thank me for an increase in his faith.  I guess by then his iman was no longer high. 

Alhumdulillah for the 10% which is in our control.  Make the most of it

Sunday, March 20, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 24 "Connected"

Asalamu Alaykom, 

These past months have been full of such immediacy that I have not been thinking much of the past.  However, I'd like to get back to writing the continuation of "Making Hijrah".

The first time I had been in Egypt, I missed my young children terribly and arranged a call to them.  We hiked it to a net cafe and I placed the call through the computer.  Headphones on, I listened as best I could to a bad connection and tried to make out what sounded like a huge problem.  What was my daughter trying to tell me? Then I lost the connection and I left the net cafe almost in tears.  I had to find out what was going on!  We bought a phone card and I called directly.  Turns out that there was only a sibling rivalry and nothing more.  The moment, however, was very upsetting as I realized how disconnected I would be from my kids were I to move to Egypt.

Fast forward to 2009.  I not only had my own laptop, I had a Magic Jack.  With this USB connection I could make and receive phone calls as if I were still in the States.  There was no more fear about losing touch.  I could interact with my kids, my mom and my friends easily.  This ability to contact freed me up from homesickness.  I knew that I was easy to reach.

On the computer, with my DSL, I could post all my pictures and my reflections of this new country.  Here's something I posted to friends that fall:

We are not alone.

You feel that in Egypt. Of course, you expect to feel that while walking the streets with millions. You know you're going to feel crushed in traffic and smushed inside a bus.

What you don't realize is that you'll feel that way in your own home.

Yes, we have many insect friends: ants, beetles, roaches, spiders, flies; you name it.
In America, I would do my best to eradicate my home from the pests. Here? I'm kinda over it.

Mr. Boo has taken to hitting the easiest target: the ants. He came to me with a handful of them.

"Look Mommy! These are our pets!"

"Honey," I had to break it to him, "you hit them, so now they're dead."

He chirped happily, "They're our dead pets!"

I had to laugh. It's all in the marketing.

And I wrote this:

I have yet to buy fresh meat in Egypt.

Today, I thought I might. I went to Ragab and Sons which is high class AND expensive. I couldn't do it. I couldn't buy it.

I almost bought meat here.

Mr. Boo and I had walked out into the street. I needed to buy an iron and along the way I eyed the butcher shops. One shop looked clean and the meat looked fresh. I stood there. I asked some questions. I walked away. I just couldn't do it.

Further down, I saw the crates of chicken. I had asked my friends before about these. Yes, you personally get to know the chickens before you choose one to die. me. I can barely handle chicken when it's wrapped up in plastic.

There kidding...fluffy bunnies on top of the crates. They were ready to get chosen as well. Egyptians eat rabbit. I never have, even when my former mother-in-law made it for the wedding feast seven years ago.

I stood and watched the scene unfold. I hope I wasn't too obnoxious standing there across the street. The daddy held the little girl on top his shoulders as the grandma picked out a fluffy bunny.

What does daddy say?

Don't know.

I took pictures and laughed nervously at the immense weirdness taking place. It's cultural. It only seems weird to me. All these Egyptians are perfectly fine with killing fluffy bunnies for food.

Grandma held a bunny by the ears and touched it all over; not petting. She was trying to figure out how much meat there was. I guess there was enough because she had it weighed. After weighing, I guess they...

well, we walked on.

I had a thought.

"Dude, maybe we could have a rabbit as a pet in Egypt."

He's been asking for a pet.

"Ya!" he sounded so happy about it.

We walked on and I felt like Mr. Boo and I could indeed rescue one fluffy bunny.

Mr. Boo had one other thought:

"And after it's a pet, we can eat it!"

Writing about these moments to my friends, I could really experience a new country and yet feel the safety of like-minded souls.  They could laugh with me and joke with me.  I could put up notes and status messages and get responses which made me feel like I still had a place in the tribe.  I might be gone but I was not forgotten.  There were people looking on line to see what the next step was in my journey.  There were people who were praying and pulling for me to succeed.

It was good that I had people back home to rely on as the first case of H1N1 had closed down the school.  Two cases were reported by the time we reached school that Sunday.  By that afternoon, there would be a third and that's all it took to be without work for two weeks.  The time off was good but it was also lonely.  I had only become close friends with one other teacher who was also new.  The two of us would update each other but neither one of us felt part of a school community.  I marvel now at the lack of support for foreign teachers; sink or swim.

If I had not had my possible husband and his family in my life I would have had virtually no one.  I relied on them during those weeks off from school.  I began to see clearer how Egyptians are nice people but they do not have friendships which surpass family relations; that is more of an American attitude.  We say in the States, "We are born into our families but we choose our friends," as a kind of tribute to who we have grouped around us.  In Egypt, it's different; family is everything and the days off are for family.

When the oldest brother's wife had her baby, I knew that would be a chance for me to go back into the matriach's home. Remember that she had barred me during Ramadan.  Ahmed and I had talked about it.  His plan was for me to return to the house during the party for the new baby with a gift.  I would be dressed chic and be pleasant, giving and forgiving.  So, together we shopped for little girlie golden hoops and together we entered back into the fold.  The sabuha, or party welcoming the new baby, was in many ways also welcoming me as a part of the family on a new level.

This time, we were a couple and no one was really allowed to disrespect my man bringing me in as his intended.  In the past, the two of us were in limbo over our intentions.  Did we really know each other well enough to consider marriage?  Was it a right decision?  Now, we knew our intention was to marry.

Even having said that, I was scared.  As great as it felt to be this man's intended bride, I wanted everything to be real.  I didn't want words without actions.  I knew that, especially as an American, I had to have the utmost of decorum surrounding our every move.  If a couple breaks up in the States without marrying it's no big deal; if it happens in Egypt it's a black mark against the girl or woman.

So there I was dancing around with the girls in the family and being watched by all the old ladies.  One pulled me aside and tried to fix me up with her son.  I couldn't say what was the real reason for me being at the house.  I had to (once again) protect the truth which didn't feel good.

It wasn't long before I cried to my Ahmed that I didn't like keeping things secretive and it didn't feel like it was real.  I pleaded with him to be real with me.  If he wasn't going to marry me, then it was better to let me go before too many people knew.  I had to remain respectable in the community.  I had never felt so strongly about this need for respectability.  I had not come to Egypt to become a Muslim girlfriend.

The whole time I could share with a few close friends what my life was like in Egypt.  I did not talk to co-workers.  I did not involve my mother very much.  I did not blog.  I kept my cards close to me.  I knew that my life was very different now from before and very few people were going to understand my current needs.

Often if a woman expresses a strong need to marry, it's taken as if she is sex-starved and needing a man's body.  That's really not what it's all about.  Please remember that Sayeda Khadijah (ra) was EXACTLY one of those women who expressed a strong need to marry.  There is so much more to marriage and the Muslimahs who are searching openly for a man know that they have many needs (not just physical).

If you can imagine, being in a country with a limited knowledge of what's being said and done and having no one check in on you on a regular basis.  You need something and you don't know where or how to get it.  It's about getting scared when the lights go out suddenly and  not having any number to call. 

With Ahmed, I had that someone to depend on.  Being protected felt wonderful.  I would give him a missed call when Mr. Boo and I sat down on the school bus and he would ring me back.  We knew where each other was.  I would give him a missed call when I returned or I would stop by the shop.  We were in each others' lives.

Every Saturday night, we would go shopping to stock up my apartment with food for the following week.  He would help with the transactions and carry the shopping bags.  My man made sure I had what I needed.

And "yes" I needed something physical, but not exactly what you think.  This man could look me in the eyes and I could look at him in return.  We could smile at each other, talk to each other and laugh with each other.  This is a Muslim country which appreciates shyness and modesty.  Meeting his gaze was a beautiful thing.  His strong masculine energy could balance my feminine energy.

Yet, we were not yet official.  Would all of this gazing, smiling, protecting, shopping truly lead to marriage? 

And in a time of national fear mongering, was H1N1 capable of killing us before we got that chance?

Chapter 25

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Green Deen

           I just stumbled upon (through the grace of God)
           this striving American Muslim who is trying to show us a truth: 
           this planet is a mosque. 

           What an awesome idea!

I read and commented on his post about the Egyptian Revolution.  Basically, I said that "no" there wasn't an ecological reason for the revolution. 

Asalamu Alaykom from Egypt,

I'm an American-Muslim working and living in Giza. Alhumdulillah for your book and blog, Brother. You are exploring issues from an ecological perspective and that great. My father is a prominent ecologist and I grew up loving the earth.

The revolution was about feeling a wall. There was a wall which the young couldn't pass through in order to get to their futures. Honestly, the young men in this culture have to be set up in a job which earns them enough to set up a fully furnished apartment BEFORE they can get engaged. As you know, in Muslim countries, there aren't really dating relationships. It's all about marriage and you're not supposed to be have full relationships before marriage. The way I see it, that all those young men were living half lives---unable to get work and unable to get married. That is some serious frustration!

The rest of the people in Egypt had their frustrations with the food prices. When you go to get tomatoes and it's 4 LE, then a year later it's 10 LE for those same tomatoes, you freak out a bit. The majority of people don't make enough money to simply shrug off higher food prices.

Sadly, now no one is making enough since there is no tourism industry. Those who used to make money also used to give zakat (money to the poor) and they aren't able to do that now.

For what you ask about the ecology here in Egypt:

In many ways, the people do ecology without realizing it. In our house, we have animals we raise on our food scraps. There is no food wasted. There are no clothes dryers and the sun is used. The cleaning cloths are recycled from old clothes. Mass transit is utilized in lots of buses, metro and sharing rides. There's also animal power in the form of donkeys and horses. There's buying local produce (in season of course).

But the problems I see are with garbage and water.

There is so much garbage---so many people produce it. There are large dumpsters in our neighborhood which overflow everyday. I'm always sad to see clothes thrown inside. There is a stigma against wearing used clothes. There are men who go through the neighborhoods calling for used items to be brought out and taken away "RABBABEEKEEEAH!" The plastic recyclers are not just haphazard; they are incredible workers in every neighborhood and do a better job than any Coca Cola plant could ever do. If you say their huge mesh bags rising up six feet up on top of their donkey cart, you would say, "Subhanallah!"

Water is a funny thing here. We're right next to the Nile, the Red Sea and the Mediterrean yet we run out of it all the time. Every home has water saved up in buckles, bottles and barrels. The water, like electricity has shut offs regularly. You'd think the people would therefore conserve water BUT they don't. It runs out of the faucet while washing dishes, brushing teeth, making wudu and flushed away all the time. I can't tell you the number of times I have shut off a running faucet at my school or fixed a toilet so that we weren't out of water by the end of the day.

No, I don't think there is a correlation at all between the Egyptian revolution and Egyptian ecology. I do think there will have to be a correlation between Egyptian ecology and Egyptian success in the coming months and years.

Go ahead and read more of Ibrahim Abdul-Matin's postings.  I'll be adding a link to his blog on the sidebar inshahallah.

He's written a book in addition to his blog  GreenDeen:  What Islam Teaches About Protecting the Planet.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Adding or Subtracting

This is Mr. Boo's picture of Robbie.  He glued it on to the cage home. 

Robbie didn't really appreciate art the way we do.  You can see the nibble out of it.

I'm not very good at math but I can do simple adding and subtracting.

Sometimes, in our life, we need to look at the pluses and the minuses and assess which side has more.

When I bought the rabbit, that little furry body felt good in my hands.  I knew that Robbie Rabbit was little and I was big.  Somehow that feeling gave me courage to keep going in Egypt.  I was big enough. 

It felt good to care for him like a baby---perhaps the only baby my husband and I will have.  I would see the clover leaves piled up for Robbie in his cage home and I would smile; knowing that my husband cared without being asked to care.

I even felt good to potty train the little guy.  He waited until he was on the cement steps to do his business.  It was an achievement during a time when every good moment in this country really mattered.  Funny to think of how bunny poop was a highlight in Egyptian civilization.

As he grew, he became less content with what we could offer.  He chewed through his cage.  My husband repaired the plastic with some wire.  Still, the rabbit chewed.  It was in his nature. 

He stopped being happy to simply hop around our steps but began making mad dashes up the stairs.  He had no idea of the cat who lurks about.  Then Robbie began to squeeze under the door of the vacant apartment above us.  We tried barricading the door and he even knocked it down.This necessitated calling my husband and getting the key, then chasing Robbie around---once in the dark before sunrise (of course no one had told me pigeons had moved in so I screamed when one of those fluttered at my feet).

It stopped being fun.

That made me question if I was such a fickle person that I could buy a cute bunny and then not keep it as a grown rabbit.  I had often scoffed at Americans who do that for Easter (filling the animal shelters with unwanted pets).  Yet, whether or not I was fickle (and I guess I prefer the term "changable"), I had to admit that the rabbit was subtracting more than it was adding.

What did the future hold? 

Well, in June, inshahallah,  I hope to be taking Mr. Boo back to America for a visit.  My hub would not be going with us.  He would be staying here for those weeks...with...the...rabbit. 

REALLY? Could I really ask my husband to care for our pet? Clean his cage? Let him out and chase him down?

I couldn't visual that.  What's more, I couldn't picture my time at home from now until then revolving around an animal's needs.

Yesterday morning, after the rabbit went into the vacant apartment again, I asked my husband to take him away before we returned from school.  To my husband's credit, he had never complained about the rabbit or asked me to get rid of him.  I did not cry.  I did not get emotional.  I did not summon the rabbit back for hugs or cuddles.  This matter-of-fact approach to owning (and getting rid of) the rabbit surprises me.  The event was devoid of drama

When we returned from school, Robbie was gone.  I wanted to make sure he wasn't on our menu; alhumdulillah he wasn't.  However, he went to a family who is struggling to feed their children.  I know he died.  I know his meat was eaten.  Mr. Boo knows this too.  Alhumdulillah that his life benefitted not only us but others.

All of us have absent mindedly looked for him today.  Yes, we miss him.  No, we will not be getting another pet.

My father, God bless him, is a brilliant ecologist.  I once called him when I thought of euthanising Zuzu, my pet dog (before Islam) who was old and blind and in failing health.

"Dad," I had said, "I don't feel like it's my place to make a decision like that about her life."

He told me, "But you already did.  From the moment you took her into your home, you were playing with life and death.  She has had your care past the point where she could have fended for herself.  A frail dog in the wild would have been eaten by larger prey in the food chain.  You kept her past the time she was viable." 

"So, now, you are faced with the question of when to exit but there must be an exit.  Either you can exit when it's less painful for her or for you.  It seems, from all you tell me that she is no longer existing in a meaningful way.  It has become painful for her to function.  While it will be painful for you to put her to sleep, since you aren't letting her outdoors to fend for herself, it will have to be you who ends her life before she simply deterriorates."

 I added it up and bowed to logic.I did have her put to sleep after that phone call.  It made sense. 

Now, I'm not saying that me letting go of the rabbit is the same thing as me letting go of the aged dog.  I am trying to show how we step into responsibilities and we either do them joyfully or we must examine why we are not happy with it.  Is there anything we could change in ourselves or in our situation to make it go easier?  If it gets to a point where the responsibility is subtracting from your life (rather than adding) then it's time to let go.

I have done this with past marriages.

I am doing this with my current job.

I will ask for all of you to do it as well.  Think of the things which you are doing out of a sense of responsibility.  Do you do them joyfully?  Do you resent them?  Is there rage building inside you of anger unexpressed because you might seem disloyal?

Be real.  Be you.  Consider letting go of people, places and things which are no longer viable in your life.

Friday, March 11, 2011


I received a mammoth comment from a reader/searcher who had a lot to say and a lot to ask.  I considered answering her within the comments section but decided to place her thoughts and my thoughts together here.  More readers/searchers would benefit from what was said, inshahallah.

Reader/Searcher:  Alaykum Asalam Yosra!

Yosra:  Wa alaykom asalam wa rahtmatullahi wa barakatu!  Thank you for taking the time to write.

Reader/Searcher:  The wheels in my mind are hydroplaning!! I don't have time to sit and read your entire blog but your writing totally moves me. I've read bits and pieces here and there....this is a book, not a blog! You are a fantastic writer and really have a way of conveying your thoughts. Totally.

Yosra:  Wow!  Those are some fast wheels!  Don't worry about not reading the whole blog.  it's almost 400 entries so I doubt there are many who have read the whole thing.

I'm really glad you are drawn into what I've written.  It's been here the whole time you were feeling alone so I wish you'd found it earlier---but then, we find what we need when we are ready for it.

Reader/Searcher:  You're so knowledgeable about Islam, and I'm still so ignorant. When I became a Muslim back in 2007, I had an "Intro to Islam" class at my masjid back home, but nothing really since then. The books I've bought bore me to tears and I can't read on a computer for too long. I'm not growing, not learning, sometimes I don't even pray. OUCH! I can't believe I just told someone that. Allah knows where my heart and intentions are and I "talk" to Allah quite often, each and every day.

Yosra:  I love your honesty and applaud your straight-forwardness.  Alhumdulillah you found Islam which is very honoring of these traits (even if other Muslims might be less enthusiastic about them). 

It's funny you say that I'm knowledgable.  I don't feel that about myself yet others tell me I am.  I came to Islam in 2002, alhumdulillah.  So I've got five more years than you learning in  the Mosque of Hard Knocks.

I took "Intro to Islam" in my college (before Islam).  It was mostly about the history of Islam spreading; warfare and rulers.  It didn't have a thing to do with The Quran.  I got a "B".  I saw that grade again as I was preparing my paperwork for Egypt and burst out laughing!  I didn't get an "A".  Really?!

First thing I did, when contemplating Islam, was read the Ahmed Ali translation of The Holy Quran.  I also read Yahya Emerick's Idiot's Guide to Islam.  After that, I read everything I could.  I especially liked going to and reading their Cyber Counselor section since real life modern day issues got brought up and discussed by knowledgable staff.  It's a fascinating read.

I also recommend Karen Armstrong's book on the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).  She isn't Muslim so it makes the read easier.  She is not getting stuck in revering him to the point of sainthood (astragferalllah).  His story is indeed the story of a man.  Muhammad (pbuh) has the best documented life of any prophet (peace be upon them all) and we can learn a lot from his example.

As for your feelings of not growing, learning---that's good!  When we feel complacent and comfortable about our faith, we are no longer striving in our souls but rather stroking our egos.  I'd rather befriend a woman who fears she is loosing her faith than a woman who can only see that others are loosing theirs.  Fearing incompleteness is actually a blessed state.  We know that we need more of a relationship with God to be at peace.

Reader/Searcher:  I only know the shortest of Surahs, like a 3 year old child might. It's embarassing really, but even living in a Muslim country, I can't seem to find the right "English" connections that I need since my Arabic is so limited.

Yosra: You know three?  Alhumdulillah.  Each ayah (line) is a blessing.  Before Islam you didn't know any.  

What do you know? Al-Fatiha? Al-Iklas? An-Nas? Those are my guesses. Maybe Al-Kawthar? Each surah is precious and something which the early Muslims were willing to die---actually DIE to protect and pass on. If a person only had one surah, that would still be an incredible blessing. You have three! Alhumdulillah. Really---alhumdulillah.

One of the most amazing things I can think of in this world is the thought of containing the entire Quran in your heart. Subhanallah! I marvel at the Hafiz (the memorizer) who can do this. I knew a Pakistani-American girl who at age 11 was sent "back home" to learn from a sheik. She returned a year later, subhanallah, with every word.

Me? I know ten surahs, alhumdullillah. I've written a lot on this blog about my attempts to memorize and the steps I've taken. I consider it very important. There was a time when I wanted to learn a new surah every month. I got side tracked (and sucker punched) by life and that goal fell by the wayside. Maybe it's time to revisit that desire.

I have comfort in The Quran. I play it almost non-stop in my home. I recite it---not just in prayers but at times when I need to feel that calm. I used to pass out at clinics having blood drawn until I tried closing my eyes and reciting verses. Mr. Boo, funny guy, never heard bedtime lullabies like his big brother and sister. He only responds to hearing me recite Quran; conks him out.

One night (I can't remember if I wrote about this or not---might be Dad's Alzheimers kicking in with me), when I was still in the U.S., front line winds came through our neighborhood. They are actually as dangerous as tornadoes.  That huge tree outside my apartment's picture window suddenly scared me. The electricity went out. I was alone in the dark with my little boy who was not yet two years old. We sat in the tiny space infront of the hallway's linen closet and I did the only thing I could do----I said Quran. I said Al Adiyat, which talks about a clamorous end. The storm passed. Still, here in Egypt, when I recite this verse, I can remember the two of us feeling very small amidst the power of The Creator.  And I can remember that the storm passed and we survived.

Over time these surahs have come to represent times and places, people and situations. God knows each detail and uses those surahs to speak to me in ways which often surprise me, comfort me and bring me to center. Allah knows all. If I didn't know those surahs, then the relationship with Allah would be weaker since I wouldn't have that line of communication open.

You know how friends or lovers create a special short-cut way of conversation? They have this history and this depth of understanding which almost doesn't need full sentences. A few words and an immediate recognition and connection is established. Knowing surahs is creating that kind of relationship with Allah.

As I mentioned, I once placed a goal in my life for me for learning more Quran. Your words to me help me to remember that goal and inshahallah I will revisit that. Thank you. 

What about you? What could be a goal for you? Is there a surah which you love? A meaning which you treasure? Maybe you have a beautifully written surah posted in your home which you could learn.

Reader/Seeker:  I've never even been to a Masjid here because I'm too shy and too afraid to make a mistake, not to mention the fact that I won't understand one single word. Sad thing is, we have one RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET from our house!

Yosra:  "I've never even been to a Masjid here,"  is something I could have said during my first visit to Egypt.  I felt very embarrassed about it.  I had just reverted/converted and I didn't press the issue.  I left that up to the new husband (AbuBoo). 

Upon my return (alone without any husband), I went to a masjid the first chance I got.  I worried too about being found out!  Would the ladies sense it with their super Muslimah skills?  Joke on me when I walked in and was immediately asked (in Arabic) when Ramadan was starting.  They had no idea that I had just arrived.  No one asked for my proof of shahaddah or my fingerprints or gave me a Rorschach test. 

I have been to many masjids here in Egypt and want to go to many more.  The revolution has stopped some of that ---I haven't felt safe to venture too far out.  Maybe I can make it a point to visit the ones in my area.  I don't have to feel sad about the ones in Cairo which were next on the list but now are temporarily off-limits.

"I'm too shy," is your explanation for not attending a masjid across the street.  I think being shy sucks.  We all get shy in certain situations but people who are routinely shy are missing out too much.  I don't actually accept this from children I teach and don't like this in friends. 

LIVE!  What are you waiting for?  I really wish I could kick you in the butt all the way across the street, but since I can't, can you please get your own self in gear?  That unfounded fear you have is getting the best of you.  Say, "oozabellahi min a shaytan regime; bismallah a rahman a raheem" and go!

Last Ramadan, I was up to start the fast with suhour.  When the azan started, I stood at the window to listen.  Along with the muzzein on the loudspeaker, I could hear a kind of scraping noise coming down the street.  "SCRRRRRRAPE!"  I wondered what that could be.  No one was out yet.  If it was a person, what were they doing to make that sound?  "SCRRRRRRAPE!" 

Turns out that the man coming around the corner was twisted up with palsy.  Half of his body was immobilized.  His right arm was bent and his right arm was hanging limp.  His left foot did all the work and his right foot dragged.  "SCRRRRRRAPE!"  "SCRRRRRRAPE!"  That was what he had to do in order to make it to the masjid at five in the morning.

Time to say, "Alhumdulillah."  Really!  Alhumdulillah we aren't afflicted with such an ailment.  Use that knowledge of another Muslim's challenges to help you to see your blessings.  You can cross the street without dragging half your body. 

What if I challenged you to actually leave your house dragging your body like this man in order to see how that feels.  Would you balk?  Would you say that you'd feel embarrassed?  Maybe you might feel like people were staring at you.  Plus, of course, crossing the street would be tougher---maybe deadly.  Climbing the stairs in that way would be very difficult.  You would probably try to get out of such a challenge. 

So, guess what?  I'll drop the challenge.  You don't have to go through all those difficulties to get to the masjid.  All you have to do is walk there normally.  Deal?

Reader/Seeker:  I hear the Athan and sometimes it moves me to tears, while other times it goes too slowly and I just wish it would finish.

Yosra:  I understand.  It is not going to move us all the time.  It is going to be something we take for granted, astragferallah.  I used to have a beautiful view of tropical islands from my deck and some mornings I forgot to look.  Didn't mean that the islands were any less beautiful.  I simply got busy with my List of Things to Do.

One of the things I loved the most on my first visit to Egypt in 2002 was hearing the azan.  It is something which I already miss when I contemplate taking off for the U.S.this summer on vacation.  For me, it is a constancy which I haven't always had in my life; a reminder that time ticks by.  The azan helps me section off my life into doable chunks.  "I want to finish before magrib," for example.  During the revolution it was extremely comforting to know that no matter what the azans kept coming right on time.

My husband taught me how to say a du'a when the azan starts.  It is a nice practice to stop and acknowledge the moment.  In our house, we shut off the TV or music.  It's best to stop talking too.  Make the moment more special in order to feel that it is an opportunity to talk to God.

Because, of course, that is the reason for the azan:  it's the reminder for us to pray.  If you aren't praying, then it doesn't tell you that it's time to pray.  It tells, you, "Hey, you are about ready to neglect another prayer."  Is that the problem?  My thought is that you are putting the negative feelings outward towards the muezzin and the azan which you really feel about yourself inwardly.  Allahu alim (God knows).

Reader/Seeker:  This is totally horrible, I guess I just feel guilty and needed to start pouring it out. I'm a "bad Muslim"

Yosra:  I want you to ammend that. You are Muslim who does bad things. Not all the time! Sometimes you do bad things. So do I ---so does everyone. Don't let anyone fool you!  The only perfect beings are angels.

Allah had the opportunity to make this world populated entirely of angels AND HE DIDN'T. He wanted us (with all our faults) to have free choice, to make mistakes AND to have the free choice whether or not we went back to Him to ask forgiveness.

By the way, you probably act better now in Islam than before Islam. You are just more cogniscent of what you are doing which you'd like to ammend. Dr. Wayne Dwyer, in his book, The Power of Intention says that we feel our worst when the gap between our intentions and our actions enlarges. To feel better, you have to close the gap; examine which are your true core beliefs (not those from your family of origin, or spouse, or society) and then follow-up those beliefs with actions.

Reader/Seeker:  I wear pants and HATE wearing abayas and galabeyas. I can't walk in flip-flops without tripping and falling and ohhh, the list goes on and on.

Yosra:  When you signed up for Islam, you didn't have to stop having your own personal style.  I used to do theatre and I am fine with wearing different styles of clothes---from sari to kimono to galabiya.  I own a lot of beautiful galabiyas---no abayas.  For those unsure, galabiyas are more like long gowns (think Egypt) whereas abayas are more like robes which close over underclothes (think Saudi).  I am picky as hell about what I buy.  When I find something which suits me, I grab it immediately but I pass by lots of things as not being "me".  At this point, I do feel that my style of dress is "me".  I've adjusted to a more polished way of dressing in Egypt. 

When we think of hejab, we think the scarf but my hejab is the clothes I wear as well; it's the way I cover my body.  Some days I am more successful in this attempt than others.  Some days I see myself in the mirror and I wish more people could see my beauty which I hide---not necessarily men.  It is hard to see others showing their shape and yet cover yours. 

Pants are allowable if they are not tight and if the shirt covering them reaches your fingertips (to cover your crotch and behind even when bending as in prayer).  Bascially, while out of the house, there should not be one person who could see you and give your measurements. 

Reader/Seeker:  Right now I'm comfortable with this part of me (especially in comparision to what is around me, lol...even though I know I shouldn't compare).

Yosra:   I know that you're seeing a lot of hypocrisy in a Muslim country.  Egypt has it for sure.  I once saw a Muslim lady in a hejab AND a laced-up bustier ---I kid you not.  Sure, she had on a "body" which is what Egyptian ladies call the skin-tight lycra shirts they wear under skimpy outfits to pretend they are covered.  NOT!  Not halal, honey sweety from the airport.  Since I gave up my "Haram Police" badge, I'm going to let it go.  Let it gooooooo.  She will get a lot of looks (both approving and disapproving).  I'm after different things in life now.  I think we both are.  So, let's not run our race against this lady.  Let's run our race against our previous personal best.  Let's try to be better people today than we were yesterday.

Me?  I'm not comfortable.  I always feel I could improve.  At first, this feeling upset me.  I had thought I'd reach a plateau in my Islam and be able to relax.  After many years, I've come to see that we can always improve and always learn more and practice more.  

Reader/Searcher:  Having said that, I also have to say this. I have a baby now, and if for no other reason, I need to get into gear for HER. I need to be a good Muslim role model for her (minus the abaya, lol). She needs to see me praying like she sees her daddy praying. But before I can be a role model for her, I need to learn more for myself.

Yosra:  It's the advice we hear on the airplane every time we fly, "Parents, you need to take your oxygen first before administering to children".  You have to take care of yourself.

And it's not about having her see you; it's about having her feel  you.  A mom who finds herself emptied will not be a happy, loving mom.  Sure, if she has one child, maybe she can get refilled by her husband's love or maybe from friends; maybe even from watching a funny TV show or eating some chocolate. I found after I was pregnant with my second child that, as an in-demand mom,  I simply couldn't get what I needed from a person or a thing.  I had to get it spiritually.

When I tell my son that, "Mommy hasn't prayed yet," it means that I am out of patience and I need to go to Allah to ask for more.  It's true!  I ask Allah for all kinds of things in prayer which I can't ask for from a husband or a friend. 

The ritual of the Muslim prayer is seemingly mindless movements until you submit to them and really give in to the moment.  Then, when you are at your most humble (placing your head below your heart) you have a moment which is golden.  You can talk to God in your own language and say anything you wish for as long as you wish.  After a few minutes, you'll feel the blood rush to your head and you know you have to stop and rise up and state, "Allahu Akbar"  God is the Greatest. 

I made a commitment to myself and to God that I would never miss a prayer.  This was 11 months into my reversion/conversion to Islam.  I was going to do all five prayers NO MATTER WHAT.  If my Egyptian husband wanted to watch TV---that's OK.  Alhumdulillah, each one of us is accountable for our own actions.  I was going to say the prayer alone (while holding a piece a paper with the words).  If my head hurt from an unbelievable migraine---alhumdulillah, Allah knew that I suffered yet prayed (and miraculously the pain subsided). 

In the beginning, I wouldn't budget my time; I wouldn't stop my day and pray.  I was praying all five prayers at the end of the day!  Can you imagine me remembering all of them at bedtime?!  But I did them.  I did them late.  I did them tired.  But I did them. 

It was not giving me the feeling I needed.  I felt the calm after all the issues of the day had come and gone.  I knew that I needed the prayer throughout my day and not just at the end.  I knew I needed to structure my life around prayer and not stuff prayer into my life as an after thought. 

I swear to you that I ended up with more time and not less.  Allahu akbar!  You will feel like you are more able to cope with work, stress, family and baby.  It is only about three minutes for the two rakhas at fajr (I also strive to read a little Quran in the morning so it's maybe five mintues total when I do that).  It's about six and a half minutes for the four rakhas and five minutes for the three rakhas.  But don't add up all the numbers to come up with almost a half an hour which you'll lose from your life.  Subhallah, it doesn't work that way.  Praying the five prayers is like the best managerial strategy ---better than Stephen Covey!

I would also like to state something about your husband, if you don't mind.  He is the spiritual leader of your household.  On Judgement Day, he will be asked about your actions as a Muslimah.  You will not be asked about his actions.  Did he guide and protect you?  Why is he praying and you're not?  Why didn't he ask you to pray with him?  Both of you get extra blessings for praying together.  He gets more since he's the leader.  Make a point of joining with him spiritually and see how amazing that moment is.

Your daughter can learn how to pray with both of you---not just watch.  My son began (in earnest) to pray with me around age two.  Children can learn Quran very quickly at this age since they are not blocking out any sounds.  Start teaching her the three you know!  You'll get blessings from that. 

Reader/Searcher:  HOW did you come to know so much about Islam??? I know the obvious answer that the knowledge came from Allah, but seriously...books? People? Classes? Sometimes I get so hungry for knowledge but I just don't know where to begin. I like things simplified. I was not raised with religion, have never been a Christian, so my knowledge base with the history and the stories kids hear growing up is, well, pretty blank.

Yosra:  I circled "D:  All of the above."  I learned more about Islam by allowing myself to be stupid, clueless and hungry for knowledge.  I learned more by being scared I was hearing the wrong information and wanting to learn The Truth from Quran, hadith, and from Muslim scholars.  I did read booklets.  I used the internet a lot.  I watched youtube videos.  I watched satellite shows on ART.  I actually didn't learn too much by talking to people because I didn't trust them.  I didn't want cultural Islam.  I wanted the pure Islam.

Reader/Searcher:  I like things simplified. Too much too soon and I shut down.

Yosra:  I used the term "pure" you used "simplified" but I think we're talking about the same thing. 

It's always good to remember that if Allah had wanted to, He could have sent the entire Quran down to the people at once. 


Allah, Al Raheem (The Merciful) didn't do that.  Allah sent down The Quran in manageable portions. 

You don't have to learn and change everything in your life at this exact moment. Do one simple action to make your life better.  I've done this over time to improve my life and it has gotten easier to be this "me" who is Muslim. 

Let others encourage you but only you can push yourself.  It's a personal relationship you have with God.  Only you know what is that wall you've built which you must crash down in order to feel God  more in your life.  No one knows better than you.

Reader/Searcher:  I was not raised with religion, have never been a Christian, so my knowledge base with the history and the stories kids hear growing up is, well, pretty blank.

Yosra:  So, you're not, "Islam as a second religion." You're really "Islam as your first religion."

It's different for me.  My mom is a Christian minister who was attending seminary as I was attending grade school.  I know the church from a very unique perspective.  Alhumdulillah.  I love many aspects to Christians and to the church.  It is not, however, for me.

For you, I bet you were having your first real understanding of religion and spirtuality.  That is a rush of feeling and thoughts and emotions; a tsunami jumbled inside you.  It's a bit of a shock to the system.  I had that, even though coming to Islam was really my second religious home. 

So, here you are!  I'm writing this to you, Reader/Seeker, and also to anyone else who sees themselves in you---and in me.  Here we are!  We are sisters on this journey.  I'm glad you reached out to me.  I'm glad you trusted me with your truth.  I hope that I have said what you needed to hear and inshahallah what I needed to say.

The good is from Allah.

The bad is from me.

Take the good and leave the bad.

May Allah be with you now and always.