Thursday, January 5, 2017

Why Janet Jackson Named Her Baby Eissa

Asalamu Alaykom,

Mashallah!  Mashallah!  Mashahallah!

Arabic people often praise God in threes for emphasis.  "Mashahallah" means that I'm acknowledging that something has come from God.  In this case, I'm soooooo happy for Janet Jackson and her husband Wissam Al Mana on the birth of their baby boy Eissa.

Why name him "Eissa"?

First of all, naming a child in the Arabic culture is VERY important.  Muslims believe that on the Day of Judgement believers will be called by their first name and father's name.  There are cases from the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) when names with negative connotations were changed.  An example from modern times might be a girl named Brandy (an alcohol) would be better to have her name changed as people will always associate something lascivious about her.

Janet has not said that she wants an Arabic name herself and she does not have to change her name ever.  I changed my name because I just felt done with who I had been before as if that time had been used up.  I didn't hate my birth name and it didn't have any bad meaning.

We don't know if Janet Jackson has come to Islam like her older brother Jermaine.  There had been talk of Michael Jackson (May God give him a rest in peace) coming to Islam, but that never was confirmed.  Janet does not have to come to Islam to be married to a Muslim man.  She was raised Christian and can stay Christian.

I see that at least one UK paper has announced that Janet Jackson converted (or "reverted" as I say).   Unless Janet Jackson comes out publicly to state that this has happened, I will not assume that she has.  It is not necessary to come to Islam in order to raise a Muslim child.  If she is accepting enough of her husband and his ways, then she will do just fine as Um Eissa.  This is her new honorary title meaning "Mother of Eissa" and her husband becomes Abu Eissa or "Father of Eissa".

Often times, women who marry Arabic speakers gravitate to a name in Arabic---maybe a translation of their name in English, such as Mary liking the name Maryam.  Maryam is actually the name for Jesus' mother (respect to her) and there is a chapter in the Quran named after her "Surah Maryam".

It is often a surprise to Christians that Isa Ibn Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary) is so revered by Muslims.  No, we don't believe he is son of God.  I never believed that so I wasn't a very good Christian.  However, we all respect him as one of the great messengers along with twenty-four others mentioned in Quran.  These men brought new laws from God to the people.  They are "Rasul" in Arabic.    

  1. Adam
  2. Idris (Enoch)
  3. Nuh (Noah)
  4. Hud (Eber)
  5. Saleh
  6. Ibrahim (Abraham)
  7. Lut (Lot)
  8. Ismail (Ishmael)
  9. Ishaq (Isaac)
  10. Ya'akub (Jacob)
  11. Yusuf (Joseph)
  12. Ayub (Job)
  13. Syu'aib
  14. Musa (Moses)
  15. Harun (Aaron)
  16. Daud (David)
  17. Sulaiman (Solomon)
  18. Ilyas (Elijah)
  19. Ilyasa' (Elisha)
  20. Yunus (Jonah)
  21. Zulkifli (Ezekiel)
  22. Zakaria (Zachariah)
  23. Yahya (John the Baptist)
  24. Isa (Jesus)
  25. Muhammad (mentioned by Jesus as coming after him)

You can read more about the list of messengers (peace be upon them all) here.   Most names in Quran have another pronunciation in the Bible.  Notice that "Adam" does not.  Obviously, these names are very popular with Muslim parents.  They do fall in and out of fashion like anything in this world.  Here in Egypt, I see a LOT of boys named Mohamed and Yussef but I've never met a Yunus.

Many Western moms who are married to Arabic men like to chose a name that still connects them to their world that they knew before.  Popular American names like David, John, and Zack become  Daud, Yahya and Zackaria.

Of course, because the names in English are transliterated from Arabic, it is the sound of the name that is being approximated.  That means that three boys with the same name in Arabic could have it spelled three different ways: Daud, Dawud, Dawood or Yahya, Yahia, Yehya.  

This is true with Janet Jackson's son too.  She chose the spelling Eissa, but it also gets spelled Eesa and Isa.  Which way is best?  I like how she spelled it and I'm pretty sure it was chosen after consultation with someone knowledgeable.  The way his name in Arabic


starts with the Arabic letter "ayn" which a diphthong, or a two-vowel combination that works together.  I can barely say it!  I basically cop out and say a  one-vowel "ah" for names that start with "ayn" like Umar/Omar, or Aisha.  Truly, it is supposed to be more of an "ah-ee" sound.  Therefore, writing the name as "Eissa" is the most correct, although all the news reports still seem to cop out on pronunciation as they have been saying "Isa".  

What I find interesting is that Janet Jackson could have named her baby "Yasu", 


that's the name for Jesus according to the Arabic Christians, but she didn't.  This signals a very real bonding to her Muslim man and a respect for his religion.  Her religion?  I don't know, but in the Muslim faith a child is the religion of the father, so her son is Muslim.  Janet Jackson is now out numbered by two Muslim males---thankfully, she's had lots of practice being outnumbered in her famous family.

The Jacksons had that naming convention of "J" names and in a way her son continues that with being "Jesus".  In America, a son could NEVER be named the English name "Jesus", even though the Spanish name spelled the same way "Jesus" but pronounced "Hay-sus" is given.  She got to be both very different and original, yet traditional at the same time.

Eissa (peace be upon him) brought light to the earth at a time of darkness.  His teachings helped guide the people back to the path they had already be shown by prophets before him.  I am sure that his example has helped both the Jackson family and the Mana family.

Now, Baby Eissa is uniting his mother Janet and father Wissam in a beautiful new relationship as parents that will bond them together as a family.

Please join me as I make du'a (supplication) for this new family.

May Allah protect Janet, Wissam, and Eissa and help them as they learn and grow together.  May Eissa be a healthy and strong child who becomes a leader in the world for better understandings between people and nations.



Sunday, January 1, 2017

My 2016 Images

Asalamu Alaykom,

2016 was a lot of what you're going to see in this post.

It was me trying to be all zen---but picking the wrong place to do it.

2016 also was spending a lot of time on the bus and being too tired.  This square has a large tower above it with the word TIRING actually written on it.  Yes, it is always tiring to go to Cairo.  I like how the billboard man just laughs at it.  I tried to laugh off a lot of 2016.

Some of the year, I forgot to look around me and catch what was really going on.  When I did stop myself from being mundane, I would realize how blessed I am to be where I am and doing what I'm doing.

One of the things I'm most proud about is that I could envision the 100-Acre Wood in this grove of trees and perform "Winnie-the-Pooh" here for the kindergartners.  Every performance, we were missing an actor.  It was crazy---yet, I continued with my commitment to produce theatre at the school with the motto, "The show must go on!"  


No, I didn't become a truck driver.  If you look beyond the rig, there are trees and in the trees are some white things.  Those are birds that flock to this spot on our way to school.  It is in the part of Giza we have named, "Funky Town" because it just reeks of sewer.  Jokes abound!  The two of us sit next to each other every day and that's a blessing because my son is my favorite person on earth. 

 Those birds in their wilderness sit on the other side of a little rivulet. They create a balance between the beautiful and the grotesque as we sit in the middle.  METAPHOR!

Of course, El-Kid isn't the only middle-schooler in my life.  I have so many and I love them all.  This year, I have given more than ever, in part because one of our fifth graders died over the summer.  I will never have another chance with him, so I have felt more of  a need to do more for those who are still here.

Having said that, it's been a very tough year and I declared that I'm not coming back next year.  I've had one job interview so far.  

This decorated wall is from last years's fifth graders.  I hate charts, but these are chart of sorts.  The top one is for a book on Hatchepsut.  The bottom one is for a book on Crazy Horse.

Each tribe's buffalo is for getting the top score; the teepees are for reaching 90 and above; and the horses are for getting 80 and above.  This year, I initiated the same project, but NOTHING has been placed on the paper I taped up on the wall.  With all their apps and instant gratification from them, I wonder if coloring, cutting, and pasting have left from my classrooms.

I am still going to create.  I do define myself as creative, and these projects need to flow out of me or I burst.  This year, I decided that I didn't want clip art on my wall representing the Lakota people.  I researched, and printed out actual photos and then incorporated them into the Black Hills which surround the narrator's cabin.  I'm so happy with the result---or, I was after I changed the one rock on the shore to gray.  The last lines of the book are written in the waves and were my inspiration for this poster.  

This blog is another example of what I create.  My tweets, some of them reaching tens of thousands this year, are another outlet.  

One way my creativity gets re-charged is from seeing incredible sites.  Egypt is good for that!  Here is the Nilometer, the oldest Islamic building in Egypt.  

My son complained today that, "We always go see places from history!"  Maybe he'll thank me later.

On the last day of the year, we went to Mosque Sayeda Zainab (ra).  She was the granddaughter of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).  Egyptians say that she was buried here, but Syrians say she was buried there.  I don't know the truth---God only knows.

It was a bit chaotic at the entrance, 

but once inside it was very welcoming.  Unlike many of the other beautiful mosques, which have a glorious section for the men and a decrepit area for the women, this had a BEAUTIFUL and spacious area for the sisters to pray.

A lot of 2016 has been keeping the faith, finding the ways that my faith can grow, and instilling my son with knowledge of our faith.  That is a full-time job in and of itself.  Being a person of faith is not a side-line hobby.  2017, inshahallah, is going to see more of me building upon my foundation of faith and creating a better life.

Part of really living is not listening to what others say and following what you believe is true for you.

This next picture to represent 2017 was taken when I headed down a driveway.  There were amazing murals on both sides!  I kept shooting pictures as my husband stood on the sidewalk telling me to stop.  I didn't stop.  Why would anyone put up murals if they didn't want them to be admired?!

I'm going to keep on being me and doing what makes sense at the time. 

Having said that I have been independent from my husband's mind, doesn't mean that I don't need him.  I do.  This next picture isn't us, but it represents us pretty well.  We are going down the highway of life together with each one of us holding on for dear life.  In many ways, it's been easier to be married to him this year since he made positive changes in his life.  Yet, it's still a tricky deal to be so close to ANYONE ...let alone an Egyptian man. 

Inshahallah, it will seven years of marriage this month.  Subhanallah for that! 

I also need to include a photo of me on a beach at the Red Sea.  I loved this beach.  I loved floating in utter calmness.  It's my new happy place.

That's not to say that it was all happy.  The whole year wasn't happy.  NOTHING can be all about happiness.  We wish "Happy New Year" but we know that there are going to be problems.  

When we first got married, my husband was shocked that we had problems.  He felt that we always had problems.  We didn't.  He simply misunderstood how life worked.  Now, we both know how to minimize the daily difficulties and move on to what we enjoy more.  Doesn't mean we always do it very well, but we strive towards this more and more.  Alhumdulillah.

Thank God.

For me, it really is all about God.  I took this picture after I stumbled across some tourists who had gotten a little lost looking for the Pizza Hut.  Our family helped them and we ended up eating together.  It was a blessing.  The year has been full of blessings.  Alhumdulillah.

Speaking of blessing, we've been watching "Little House on the Prairie" on DVD and they always say a table blessing.  I decided to re-institute that back into my life.  We now hold onto each other---hands, pinkies, wrists---and create a little circle before saying, "God is great.  God is good.  Let us thank God for our food.  Ameen.  Bismallah."  It's part of my identity as a believer from before I accepted Islam.  It helps me to feel connected to who I was and who I will always be.

I see my signs ---not on Paul Simon's subway walls and tenement halls---but on Arablish T-shirts.

It's a miracle I'm still here.

I truly pray for a better 2017 for everyone.