Friday, October 28, 2011

An Essential Article of Clothing

A local level CAIR Civil Rights Director named Taneeza Islam has written something which I feel is worth sharing.  I've added some photos to illustrate her words.  To read more, click the "credit" link.

"A Muslim woman's practice

of wearing a headscarf

is a sincerely held belief

which is a protected exercise of her religion.

Asking her to remove her headscarf

is asking her to be naked in front of others.

A headscarf, unlike a crucifix or other ornament,

is not a mere accessory

but an essential article of clothing

for those Muslim women who practice it."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Making Guava Juice

Asalamu Alaykom,

When I first came to Egypt, I tasted fresh guava juice for the first time.  It was immediately refreshing.  The taste was neither too sweet nor too abrasive.  It was this smooth soother.  With milk it was incredible.

So, making guava juice was one of my first kitchen catastrophes over here.  I was determined!  I was also clueless.  This was before I had enough sense to ask locals how to prepare their cuisine.  With my super-huge ego, I was going to bluster in blindly and figure it all out on my own.

I had my half kilo of guavas and I began to cut away the skin and then cut out the seeds.  I cut and cut and eventually I had this really small amount of guavas to use.  That didn't seem right!  They had dwindled down to nothingness.  Then I thought that I should cook them to make them soft.  I mean...the whole thing was a disaster.

The funny thing, at the time, was that I should have skipped cooking the guavas and cooked the milk instead.  The milk I bought was fresh from the dairy and needed to be boiled before drinking.  I hadn't known and nobody had told me yet.  Somehow, my son and I drank that concoction and lived.

Afterwards, I knew I had done it wrong so my super-huge ego got bruised.  Even though I really wanted to make the drink, I didn't try making it again.  I let my sisters-in-law be the ones who could make it.  I would drink their juice and wish I wasn't so bad at making it.  I allowed myself to bounce between thinking I could do no wrong to thinking I could do no right.  For the last two years, I stayed away from making guava juice.

Then, this week, my son was sick with a cough.  I wanted him to drink more and flush out that yuck from his system.  I had guavas in the refrigerator.  I had a sister-in-law in the kitchen downstairs.  I went to her and asked.  She was, of course, very happy to share the recipe.

So, the funny thing is that you don't skin them and you don't cut out the seeds. I hadn't realized that before.  You only get rid of the bottom part.  Wash and cut and plop everything in the blender.  Put in water and a little sugar and pulse it about five times.  If the guavas are very hard, you might have to pause for them to float down again before pulsing it again. 

Now you have the seeds in with the juice.  You have to get a strainer and pour the juice over it while kind of banging it to make liquid seep through.  It doesn't really work to do this over a glass.  It's best to have a wide-mouthed pitcher.  This takes some time but the effort is really worth it.  If I had wanted to, I could have added some milk too.

My son really enjoyed the juice.  I do think that it helped him (even in a small way) to recover, alhumdulillah. 

It also helped me to get over a moment of being stuck in stupidity.  While it's good to try new things, we don't need to be so solitary in our attempts.  We can gather information from experts in our midst and we can submit to their knowledge.  That's better than being wrong.  Admitting we don't know is better than pretending we know it all.  The results which come from submission to the truth are infinately superior

--and tastier!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Leaving the Table

Bida  is any innovation which was not covered in the Sunnah or Hadith from The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  It's not necessarily a big, scary evil.  It's something new.  I worry for Muslims who avoid bida the way the Amish avoid electricity and telephones.  It's okay, peeps.  It's okay!

Well...maybe it's okay and maybe it isn't. 

That's the problem with bida.  Because the newest technology was not discussed during the time of our Prophet (peace be upon him), we need to examine it for ourselves.  We have to listen to Islamic scholars who weigh whether or not an innovation is halal or haram.  Honestly, as fallable people, they could be wrong on a ruling so we have to consider their logic.

Let's consider Facebook--or as Mohamed Saed called it, "Facefook," in his latest movie.  Obviously, this is a new way of communicating.  There is no exact Islamic ruling regarding it.

Lately, I've been going through (yet another) hard time on Facebook.  A bit of fitnah over there, eh?!  My friend Ben and I had a falling out over something haram which was posted on his wall and seen on my feed.  You can read more about it here.  It troubled me greatly.  It should!  There are some truths which we Muslims need to hold onto no matter what. 

So yaddah, yaddah, yaddah and nothing was getting resolved between us.  I had to find the resolution ---but not between Ben and me; between God and me.  Afterall, my primary relationship in this life is with Allah.  I need to please Him and feel his closeness in my days and nights.

I made the intention to get clean from this mess and it felt messy alright.  I was absolutely sad----doubly sad (but more on that another time).  It was the opening up of my heart and mind to what Allah wanted for me that made it possible for me to hear and understand His guidance.  Alhumdulillah. 

We were blessed this past week with our very own satellite dish for our apartment.  This is GREAT for me because I can finally enjoy programs QUIETLY ENJOY programs in my own home.  We are no longer sitting downstairs watching the TV with everyone:  the baby, the visiting neices and nephews and the old lady who comes by to sell bread and so on.

Now, I have the choice to watch a lot of different shows.  What's surprising me is that the shows I was hoping to see I'm not watching.  I was dreaming of watching CNN, American movies and some MTV MADE.  However, when I actually started flipping channels, I became transfixed on the English language Islamic programming. 

When I heard the hadith, about not sitting at a table when others are drinking alcohol, I knew that this was important for me right now.  No, Facebook isn't exactly a table.  In an analogy, nothing is EXACT.  People who pick apart my analogies drive me nuts.  It's a metaphor!  Work your brain around it because that's the only way you're going to understand what I'm trying to say. 

Ok, so Facebook is like a table; we come together and meet.  Our words and postings are like what we consume.  If someone at the "table" is imbibing things haram, do you stay Facebook friends?   

Ben is free to do as he pleases.  He did not come to Islam.  He follows a different code of ethics.   "To me my religion and to you yours."  I'm not saying that he should change anything he does on Facebook.  He really is a fine person who will be judged ...but not by me.

Somehow, for me and my faith, I feel I need to leave the table. Somehow I have to stop being together with my friend who doesn't understand my needs while we are sharing.  That's my decision and it's Islamically based.  Even if I fail in my mission to be wise and fair AT LEAST I did my best to follow Islam as I decided.  May Allah be pleased with my decision.

No one has mentioned that, as a Muslimah, I should not be in communication with a man but (believe me) I know that too.  It is yet another factor in my decision.  Eventually, I need to be clean from those parts of my life which are not feeling crystal clear.  I don't want murky.  I want transparency.

How exactly I go about putting this into action is left to be seen.  For real, life is a process.  It's a step-by-step transaction which is difficult and time consuming.  It's not clear yet how change this moment but I am so happy to have realized:
  1. I didn't like what happened.
  2. I wasn't powerless.
  3. I could inact change.
  4. If the other person doesn't feel the need for change then I can still follow through and change what I can.
  5. Islamic guidance is best.
  6. Figuring it all out is a slow process but as long as I'm not at a standstill, then we're OK.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

MAKING HIJRAH 38 "Repair Work"

Asalamu Alaykom,

I started writing this when I was so mad at my husband that I couldn't sleep.

That's pretty mad for a tired teacher on a Thursday night!

So, I took to the blog to tell a story about him.  No, I didn't want to backbite and discuss our problems.  I wanted to tell about a time when I really loved him and cared about him:

Four months into our marriage and only weeks into living at the family house, I got a bit of a shock.  My husband had already told me before we engaged that he would be needing an operation.  So, I had come to terms with this.  Don't worry---I wasn't going to be paying for it. 

When he went to his doctor's appointment that Spring of 2010, I was getting mentally prepared for eventuality of setting a date. When would he go into the hospital?  That's when the doctor told him that it had to be done right away.  He could no longer delay.

That shocked me.

We had only just moved into our new home.  We were newlyweds!  It wasn't in my plans to be without my husband this soon.

That thought led to another thought.  Could I lose my husband on the operating table?  I knew that I could.  Allah's plans are not our plans.  I really didn't know what the outcome would be.  I prayed that it would be successful and that my husband's life would be improved. 

Yet we are alhumdulillah both practical people so we talked.  We talked in hushed tones after my boy was in bed.  We talked about death and about plans.  He told me what I would have to do if he died.  From our discussions, I had to think about a possible life alone again.  I felt scared.  I felt scared for him going under anesthesia and being cut open.  I felt scared for my boy and I in jeopardy for losing not only our caretaker but our home.  Without my husband, I would have no home.

The timing was awful.  There was a big Open House day planned at school.  Every day was busy with the kids and busy preparing for our invited guests.  I could not take time off.

The day of the operation approached.  We had said our "goodbyes" and we knew it might be our last.  I'm not trying to sound overly dramatic.  Really, we felt the power of God in the moment and we were not sure of the outcome.  We could only do what we had to do.

So, I went to work to do my best.  Guess what?  My assistant didn't come in!  She had something else going on in her life.  Me?  My husband was having surgery and I still made it in because I'm committed to being a teacher.  I have a work ethic and a need to do my best.  My assistant not coming in that day was so upsetting.  Later, she was not invited back (and deservedly so).

I went home with a heavy heart.  I had no idea what kind of shape he'd be in.  I walked in the door and saw him lying there on the cushions.  He looked OK!

"Bokra," he told me.  Tomorrow!  The surgery had been postponed.  So, now I would have another day of watching the clock and wondering while trying to teach four-year-olds.

The next day came and it was the Open House.  I had everybody and their auntie coming to see me.  It wasn't just moms and dads; the principal of our school, the principal at the National School, and the Headmistress all came.  They even sent over teachers to observe me because the Headmistress thought they could learn from me.  PRESSURE!  All of that was going on ON TOP of the fact that my husband was in the hospital.

Again, I went home.  I thought that he'd be sitting on cushions again.  Maybe the operation would have gotten cancelled another time.  No.  He wasn't there.  He was still recovering at the hospital.  He hadn't even woken up yet! 

I was supposed to eat with the family but I couldn't.  Later, I would get the call and hear his voice.  He sounded both awful and wonderful.  Alhumdulillah he was alive.  He would be coming home.  We would still have that chance to build a life together.  It felt really good.

However, our time to be together wasn't going to be for at least a week.  He wasn't coming home to me.  He was coming home to mama.  This is going to sound really foreign to American readers but men over here love their mothers very intensely.  A wife could never give her Egyptian husband (especially her sick Egyptian husband) all the tender loving care he needs.  This was especially true for me; a working woman.  So, my husband would be living downstairs for the time being and I would have to deal with it.

At first, I didn't like the idea but then I tried to see the blessings in it.  I could re-adjust to life in the apartment without him for a while.  It would be about a week until he could climb stairs again.  No problem.  I could go down and see him.

I forgot:  Egyptians love to visit the ill.  It's Islamic to visit those who are suffering illness and ailments.  Somehow, though, the good intentions get lost and long visits become a burden.  The family has to pay for special drinks and food----not for the bedridden patient but for the visitors!  And those visitors stay and talk and prattle on as the person who they came to see gets forgotten.  It's truly BAD for someone's health to be visited for long hours, yet it happens.

On the first day, my husband looked bad.  He was so weak and pale; almost lifeless.  He was under extreme pain and discomfort.  I was next to him trying to help him at the same time as everyone else was trying too.  I didn't know what to do.  I felt like I should back off and let them help Ahmed.

So, on the second day, I stayed away from him a bit more.  All the visitors would be company for him.  I could not compete.  I saw him on the third day and was alarmed.  He looked horrible!  What had they done to him?!

I yelled at the family that it's insane to have a party while he is recouperating.  I yelled and then cried.  I was so upset.  They all thought I was insane.  I think there's one aunt who still avoids visiting the house to this day because of that tirade.  When I saw her during last Eid, she eyed me as if I might explode at any minute. 

From that point on, I made sure that my knowledge and assistance was felt in my husband's life.  Though others laid claim to it, I had to hold the title as "Main Caregiver."  So, I helped him to the bathroom.  I helped him eat, drink and dress.  He was a big baby in many ways but he was still my man.

I found a new level of loving him during that time.  Though we never spoke the vow, "In sickness and in health," it played time and again in my head.  We found a way to connect which was very dear and precious.  It was with love in our eyes and an aura of sweetness around us.  We were only able to spend short moments alone together before someone rang the doorbell.  Every moment we had was savored.

I miss that, in a way, today as I type.  We all get busy with our lives and we forget the many levels of love.  We think about affection and we envision kisses and cuddles.  What do you do when that's not allowable?  You find a new way.  You don't run away.  You find a new way and you find it together.

After about a week, he could climb back to our apartment for sleeping and solace.  He missed the quiet of a locked door.  He missed being able to let his guard down and relax with me.  The public and private persona in Egypt is so different. If you don't have true alone time, you really end up missing your husband.

For months and months, we had to be careful of his health.  He couldn't stand too long, sit too long, lift anything too heavy and so on.  I remember buying our ironing board during this time.  It was something I really needed but after we bought it I realized that I would have to carry it home.  I struggled with it through the streets and I knew that some people would stare and wonder why Ahmed wasn't carrying it.  With every step, I tried to remain cheerful because it wasn't enough for me to carry the heavy burden---I wanted to do it with happiness in my heart.

Alhumdulillah that time passed.  Alhumdulillah his health was greatly improved.  Alhumdulillah it's part of our interwoven history of events which have made us stronger.

Chapter 39

Friday, October 7, 2011

My Bloggin' Buddy

Take a look at my other effort on blogger:

Ben and I have a controversy going on between us and (rather than keep it to ourselves) we are sharing it.  I've written my thoughts first and inshahallah Ben will follow with his.

Comments are welcome.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Prayed as First Aid

Hoping is almost like praying.

I was trying to explain the difference to my son.  I felt I knew the difference.  However, like most important subjects in life, I realized how little I knew when I tried to be a wise parental figure.

Alhumdulillah.  It really got me to thinking.

I came up with an analogy to help me figure it out.  Islam is full of analogies, since it's very hard to grasp new truth without anchoring it in our own reality.

When I took First Aid training, I was taught that that it isn't really that effective to yell, "CALL 911 !"  That call for help, though others hear it, doesn't seem meant for any specific person.  Human nature makes us all assume that someone else will soon be stepping in.

In order to truly get the help we need in an emergency, we need to stop, direct our plea to a specific person and call out their name, "Seif!  CALL 911 !"  That (imaginary for analogy purposes) person feels that it is a special request meant for them alone.  Their role is to listen, to understand, and to aid.

So, back to hoping versus praying.

Hoping is that shout out to the masses.  Hoping is being indirect and non-specific.  It is less focused and less likely to succeed.

Praying is specifically to God.  It is a a moment in which we realize that only Allah is the administrator of our affairs.  God is the only one we need and the only one we need to address.  It feels direct, purposeful and the most we could ever ask for assistance. 

Next time you need something, remember to pray and not just to hope.