How Others View Us

How others view us has no impact at all on who and what we truly are. Just because someone chooses to call you by a particular name, or label you as belonging to a certain group, that alone does not make it true. No matter how loudly, or how often they tell you, it cannot make it true.

 

I have apparently managed to upset some of the secular types of Muslims out there, and so they have resorted to trying to label or pigeon hole me. They are of the arrogant opinion that anyone who dares to disagree with them must somehow be extreme in their views.

 

For anyone who actually knows me, they know that it is hilariously laughable for anyone to suggest that I am extreme in any way. Yes, I believe that hijab is fardh without question (so do all scholars from the four legitimate Sunni schools of thought), and yes I will state my views regarding hijab as being unbending. It is insulting, as well as ignorant, to think that just because I hold hijab to be fardh, I am akin to Wahabbis (aka Salafis). It shows a complete lack of understanding of fiqh (I follow Hanafi fiqh, by the way), and a desire to attack anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable about how they view themselves.

 

My blog is, first and foremost, an outlet for me to discuss things that I am going through, just as countless other blogs scattered across the Internet are. The fact that certain individuals take it upon themselves to bombard me with hate mail just smacks in the face of arrogance. Oh, and ignorance.

 

If you don’t like what I have to say here, I only have this to tell you: no one is making you read it, nor do I need site visit numbers to go up. My ego is not that delicate. Go read another blog, and leave mine alone. You more than likely haven’t got a clue what I’m writing about, so just give it a rest if you find it so offensive. It wasn’t directed at you anyways. It’s not directed at anyone.

 

 

Hecklers Abound

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Someone just tried to “school” me on Islam, Islamophobia, and the need for me to get an “identity.”

They claimed that Islam is somehow meant to be “secular,” and that I must be going through an “identity crisis,” and that’s why I’m “blowing out of proportion” any anti-Muslim events that have occurred in America.

Yeah, it was totally my point-of-view that made people shoot at, throw Molotov cocktails, and even burn down masjids this last year.

And there is NO WAY that ANY RELIGION is meant to be SECULAR, with the exception of that strange neo-atheist group, the “secular-humanists.” The individual who wrote me (via my blog), fails to understand what the term “secular Muslim” means, which makes it all the more silly that they felt compelled to write me and attack my words, which were directed at secular Muslims.

I have no identity crisis at all. I know fully and firmly who and what I am. I am not a self-hater, nor have I condemned my country, simply by saying that I am sick and tired of being pushed to the side by the government.

It’s beyond ridiculous for people to feel the need to contact, insult, and attack others who have differing views.

I don’t want to live here in America anymore. I don’t want to be glared at anymore. I don’t want to have to go to three different stores for weekly groceries, because halal meat is treated as though it’s synonymous with devil worship, so Publix doesn’t carry it.

I want to live a normal life, free from being harassed for my religion.

And if anyone has a problem with that, BUZZ OFF.

Ahhhhh, Abayas!

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We recently had the pleasure of traveling to Abu Dhabi, UAE. Shopping is something of a national pastime in the Emirates, and even visitors feel somewhat compelled to indulge in a bit of the “when in Rome” mentality. So, obviously, I got my shopping on!

Being a hijabi, and more specifically, someone who has recently taken to wearing abaya, I was very keen to see the selections of modest women’s attire. To say that I was simply not disappointed would be an understatement. I was absolutely blown away by the amazing abayas and shaylas there!

My mind is still doing somersaults, and my heart is still doing happy dances at not only the availability of abayas, but also the ease of shopping for them. Just the very thought that I could walk into a mall that was very typical to what you’d find in the USA, and with Starbucks caramel macchiato in hand, I could buy an abaya was just more than I could have ever imagined. Malls with stores like H&M, and Gap, and eateries like Applebee’s, and Burger King are also malls where a hijabi can very easily shop till she drops, filling her arms with bags of gorgeous abayas.

And oh the quality! And professionalism! I saw and bought abayas that I’ve never seen such high quality for sale in America. And the shops were very professional, many of them being chain stores. What a concept! An abaya shop that is not some overcrowded little dirty place, with racks upon racks of the same, dull abayas, but rather something more akin to a fashion boutique! One shop even had their Fall and Winter 2012 Collection catalogue available (of course I grabbed one!).

That’s right, in the UAE, you don’t just buy an abaya in spring and wear it every single season till it falls apart. In the UAE, abayas actually have styles based on the seasons! Very much like “proper clothes” do, because guess what? In the UAE, abaya is considered “proper clothes!” In the UAE, abaya is not for the woman who has given up on ever looking decent again (that would be me, prior to my out-of-America-shopping-experience!), or some auntie who just doesn’t care anymore (that would have been me in a few short years!), or the woman who has decided that since there seems to be only two options: trendy or ethnic, she chose ethnic because trendy didn’t cover her properly (yup, that was also totally me!). In the UAE, abaya is high fashion.

Prices are very reasonable, in my opinion, given the fact that the quality far surpasses that which is commonly found in America. About $52 US (200 AED) will buy you a plain, black abaya, suitable for everyday wear. That same simple abaya can be mixed and matched with multiple shaylas, though (some of which could end up costing more than the abaya, due to how much work is on them). I indulged a bit and did buy some abayas that were “expensive” according to my more conservative spending habits, costing around $150 to $250 US. At first, this was due to my having absolutely no understanding of the Emirati dirham, and what the exchange rate is with the US dollar (3.63 dirham to 1 US dollar). What fun it can be, not having any clue how much cash you just shoveled over! Haha!

Now, I know that the average Muslimah reading this may have a certain image about “khaleeji style,” so I would like to step away from the to-drool-for abayas for just a moment, and address this. I, too, had a misconception about khaleeji styles, and khaleejis in general. I had heard all sorts of things about Emirati women, and their particular style of hijab. Many, if not most, are familiar with the term “camel hump hijab,” and a good number of us have even seen this ridiculous style in person. And, of course, we have read the misused and misquoted hadiths that try to label this style as being one of the wort offenses, and even a sign of the end of days. I just want to give a big sigh right now, and start a new paragraph, filled with attempts to counter the slurs.

First and foremost, I would like to say this about the Emirati people: everyone that we encountered was warm, friendly, and hospitable. People who seemed to have a genuine fondness especially for children, they smiled easily at our daughter and son. Many even asked for their names. One man even insisted that his photo be taken with our daughter. Another lady, while visiting Shaykh Zayed Grand Masjid, asked to take photos of our kids, and spoke with us with great ease. Never did we feel unwelcome in their country, nor did we feel as though we were being looked down upon. We were not visiting in a capacity as anyone special, so I do feel quite strongly that what we experienced was authentic. People are nice in Abu Dhabi. Truly nice.

Now, about that “camel hump hijab.” Guess what? It’s fallen out of fashion. So, the next time someone hurls that Hadith at you, tell them that they are not only a day late and a dollar short, but absolutely clueless. Oh, and that it’s not very Islamic to go around judging others.

I did notice that a lot of young women are fond of showing the front of their hair, but I also noticed that this was a trend mostly found among teenagers and young college aged women. I didn’t see anyone my age doing this, nor did I see any married ladies with children showing their hair. It baffles me why people are so judgmental about this style, when at the same time, they say very little about Muslim women who either just wear a loose dupatta, or nothing at all. I don’t think that the teens and young women who wear this style even consider themselves to be fully hijabis. I really do think that they are doing nothing more that expressing their cultural traditions. Later, they embrace hijab fully.

I do apologize for the serious tone that I’ve taken here, but I just really felt a need to address these issues. Our Khaleeji sisters (from the UAE, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, etc) are being judged, and it is wrong. They are beautiful Muslimahs, and many exude graceful modesty, with a touch of trendy class. I, for one, learned a lot from being among them and observing them.

And, my wardrobe got the refresher that it desperately needed!

Different Levels

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“Everyone has different levels of iman.” We hear this A LOT. Sometimes, all the time. The meaning is basically to go easy on someone who does not practice Islam as much as they should, understanding that they are just at a different level.

I am completely fine with that, and take no issue with it at all. We DO have different levels of iman. What I have a problem with, is the fact that sometimes, in trying to impart something beneficial, you get verbally slapped in the face. You get met with this statement (“different levels of iman”).

If someone tells me this again (mind you, I’ve gone many months without hearing it), I think I finally have a response:

“Yes, I know that, but we all need to strive to increase our level of iman.”

I’m trying very hard right now to increase mine. I just keep thinking about how many Ramadhans I may have wasted. I fasted, and did all that I needed do, but was any change at all effected in me?

The Enemy Within

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Islam has been suffering lately from an internal enemy. This enemy calls himself a Muslim, and claims that he only has the Ummah’s best interests in mind, and is attempting to lead those who have gone astray back to the right path. He’s powerful, backed by wealthy individuals who will give him all the money that he wants or needs. His dawah efforts are some of the most successful in recent years, since most of the dawah targets either innocent Muslims with only a scant knowledge of Islam, or recent reverts/converts to Islam, with no knowledge of the religion. He is the Wahabbi, and he is Islam’s enemy within.

Like many recent reverts to Islam, I was hungry for knowledge. I was also longing for a sense of belonging, a community, anything. The most active masjid in the city that I was living in at the time (Austin, TX), was very appealing to me, since they had lecturers visiting all the time. The ladies were warm, inviting, and eager to teach me. I attended some of the lectures, and made it a point to go to Jummuah. Like a sponge, I soaked up everything they taught me.

Then, one day I noticed that most of the ladies wore gloves on their hands and socks on their feet when praying. And they wore niqab when they left the masjid. A few had even told me that I needed to wear socks when praying, and I watched them admonish a lady once for wearing see-through stockings on her feet. I asked my (online) Muslim friends about this (I made it a point to always confer with people if something didn’t seem right, or I didn’t understand something), and they told me that I was dealing with “Wahabbis.”

I had heard my friends discussing Wahabbis (or Salafis, and they prefer to call themselves, in an attempt to somehow link themselves to the Salaf, or the first three generations of Muslims) at great length. I had learned enough to know that these were not the sorts of Muslims that I should be spending a great amount of time around. I distanced myself from them as quickly as I could. But that didn’t stop the influence, I came to realize.

To use the term “insidious” may cause some people to think that I am exaggerating, but I am not. They are insidious, and they creep into all facets of Islam in America. If they are not officially running the masjid, they are holding positions in the community as individuals that you want to associate with, because they get thing done. Masjid fundraisers, special events (with the exception of mawlid, or anything Sufi-related, of course), halaqas, etc, all rely greatly on the impressive organizational skills they seem to possess. And they all seem to somehow know some “sheikh” or lecturer who is willing to drive 100 miles or more into the middle of the cornfields to deliver a Friday khutbah. For a struggling masjid, it is very hard to turn down their energetic offers of assistance.

It has taken me a few years to basically “undo” and “relearn” what was taught to me incorrectly. Some were oblivious to what “doctrine” they were teaching me (because they didn’t know that it was inaccurate, or skewed), while others were completely aware of what they were doing. And I know that I must have passed on some of the bad information that I had been fed. I truly regret doing that.

I also feel very angry that there are Muslims in this world who are working very hard to deceive and lead astray other Muslims. When someone proselytizes, it is obvious, but when someone starts doing their twisted form of dawah, trying to draw Muslims out of known and trusted legitimate Islamic traditions, it’s not so easy to detect. Not at first, anyways.

The Wahabbis have a very bloody past, literally killing their way across the Arabian peninsula. Any Muslim man, woman, or child who refused to accept the heretical teachings of Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab were declared to be takfiris, and subsequently, killed. Entire villages were murdered by the Ikhwan Army.

Several years ago, perhaps the entire world heard about the senseless destruction of the Buddhist statues in Afghanistan, carried out by the Taliban (which is made up of Wahabbis). The world felt disgusted by such an act. Now, many years later, in various Muslim countries, the Wahabbis are once again destroying anything that they deem as a threat to their particular brand of Islam.

They are destroying masajid and tombs of Sufi scholars, in the name of purifying Islam. They say that it is “shirk” to have such things, as they believe that people are praying to the dead. Actual fact matters very little to the average Wahabbi. They gather their information from their trusted “scholars,” and will openly and blindly believe all that is regurgitated by those scholars (I will not go into the details regarding the questionable legitimacy of the training that their scholars receive). They are truly blind followers, which is ironic, given the fact that they accuse every other Muslim of blindly following.

Sufism is perhaps the greatest threat to Wahabbism, which is why Sufi shrines and places of great importance are being attacked and destroyed. The Sufi philosophy is one of love, and light, and beauty, and peace. People who follow the Sufi way spend a great deal of time praising Allah, and His Messenger, Muhammad (saws). They strive for a deeper and more personal connection to the Divine (subhanu wa ta’ala), and devote their lives to this longing for the Divine. It is a very spiritual way, and causes one to think about their acts of worship. Nothing that a follower of Sufism does should be merely an automatically performed ritual. Nothing should be done without understanding, and without conscious thought. Sufism is in direct contrast with Wahabbism.

Muslims must educate themselves about the Wahabbi threat. They also must do as much as they can to learn about Islam. In no way am I saying that everyone should try to be a scholar (which is something that Wahabbism says, thinking that each individual can make their own religious judgments, without any need to understand fiqh). What I am saying is that we cannot remain ignorant of our own religion. We must teach our children, and our friends and family what we can. Otherwise, it is like we are all lambs going to the slaughter. We are walking right into the enemy’s hands.

Dear Secular Muslim, pt 2

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The following is a continuation of an earlier post, in which I address secular Muslims, in letter form. As stated in the previous post, this is based on conversations and experiences that my husband and I have had with individuals who tend to be extremely secular in their interpretation and understanding of Islam.

Dear Secular Muslim,

As promised, here is the follow up to my previous letter. In this letter, InshAllah, in this letter I will discuss something that you staunchly deny exists: discrimination against Muslims. I will give examples from my own life, and not just hearsay.

I have been Muslim for ten years, Alhamdulilah. I accepted Islam at the age of 26, which means that I spent two and a half decades in this country (America), living as a non-Muslim. As such, this gives me a unique basis of comparison that life-long American Muslims, and immigrant Muslims do it necessarily have.

I have attempted to touch a bit on my experiences as a Muslim woman living here, but you have shown either an unwillingness to listen, or a great discomfort in discussing the subject. You have tried, on many occasions, to suggest that perhaps my less-than-positive experiences were due to the location in which I live. While I will not argue that places like Florida may not be the most “Muslim friendly” parts of the country, I think it is imperative that you know and understand that I spent six years living in Chicago, where I suffered a great deal of discrimination. For purposes that may seem pointless and irrelevant to you, I will share a couple of those instances with you now.

When I first became Muslim, I felt a great need to be around other Muslims, for the purpose of finding a community and people who could foster me in my journey as a new Muslim. Friends encouraged me to go to Chicago, citing it as perhaps the best, most vibrant Muslim community in America. I will tell you, based on my experiences there, that this is very true. MashAllah, I met some wonderful people there. People who seem to really understand Islam, and take very seriously their duties as Muslims to help one another. There were many times, when I first became Muslim, that their help and support made all the difference in the world (like whether I would eat or not, or have a place to stay). May Allah reward all of those who have helped me, and others, especially when we needed it the most. Ameen!

The first few months were good. I had no issues with anyone, and I felt as though I could just go about my life, as a Muslim, without being bothered. I moved out to a small town, where there were many Muslims, and an active little masjid. It was quiet there, but I liked it. All the Muslims knew one another. And the non-Muslims didn’t seem to mind us being there at all (not that they should, because one should be allowed to safely live wherever they want). I suppose I was there a year or so when I had my first taste of Islamophobia.

I had stopped at a convenience store, and as I was getting into my car, another pulled up, with two men and a woman. They were your typical “classy” white trash sort of people. The men looked at me, and called me some offensive names (“rag head,” “sand n*****,” etc), and then told me to “go home.” I got mad, and shot back at them in a loud, angry voice, “THIS IS MY HOME!!” They shrunk back into their car (they were hanging out of the car windows, having not actually removed themselves from the car), and waited till I left before getting out and going in the store. Some days later, I saw the same group of people, as I was driving into a store parking lot. They were driving out. They immediately recognized me, and the men actually slumped down in their seats, in an attempt to hide from me. I felt elated! I had stood up, and did not allow them to intimidate me!

After some time, I got a job in a town about 35 miles away, which required that I commute down a two lane back country road. Since this road was the most direct route between the two towns, it was busy almost all the time, especially in the morning and evening (many people lived in one town, and worked in the other). It was not uncommon to encounter aggressive drivers, who did not seem too pleased at the thought of a hijabi passing them. I got rude gestures on a regular basis. Then, one day, I passed the wrong person. Someone who, a flip of the finger was simply not enough.

It was on a Saturday, and I was going in to work for some overtime. I approached a white pickup truck, going slowly down the road. I passed him. As I was passing, he honked his horn, and attempted to hit the gas to accelerate. I accelerated, and successfully got around him. He then got as close to my bumper as he possibly could, without actually touching it, and just put his hand down on the horn, causing it to blast continuously. I was going about 80 to 85, on a road where 65 to 70 was pushing it, trying to stay ahead of him and away from his bumper. Then, I decided to slow down, to get him to go around me, hoping that he would just leave me alone. He shot around me, then slowed to about 20 to 25 miles per hour. I was running late for work, so I tried to pass him. I got around him, and then he leap frogged around me, swerving and slowing down, to keep me behind him. I got ahead of him again, somehow, and tried to put some distance in front of us. I also turned off the road, hoping that he would just go away. He followed me.

I was in full panic mode now. I was speeding, and shaking, and crying. He was tooting his horn and yelling at me, and making rude gestures the whole time. I turned down another road, he followed. I grabbed my cell phone, and called 911 to report him, and to try to get some help. I felt my life was now in serious danger. You will never guess what the 911 operator told me. I am still in shock to this day.

“Yes, we are talking to him right now. He has called to report you as a wreckless driver. we told him to follow you.

Great. The cops have given this guy permission to harass me??

The 911 operator told me to pull over, and they would tell him to go on about his business, and leave me alone (only after I hysterically told her what he was doing to me. At one point, He had actually tried to run me off the road!). An officer came along finally, and spoke with me. He treated me as though I were a criminal, and wanted to give me a ticket. I cried and sputtered, telling him all that that great oaf had done to me. The officer didn’t buy any of it, and just looked at me with something between disgust and disdain. He only let me go, after giving me a very harsh verbal warning, “next time, just call the police.” Uh, you bonehead, that’s exactly what I did!

By the time I got to work, I felt sick. I told everyone what happened, and they were immediately sympathetic. Alhamdulilah, at least there were some people who didn’t feel that I was somehow “responsible” for what happened to me!

I tried to file this away as an isolated event, and that most people are good. I tried to forget it completely. It worked, until I started being harassed at my job a couple of years later. I think I will leave that story for the next letter, InshAllah. It’s best if I dump this on you little by little. Let you digest it all slowly.

I don’t know if you will ever come to realize that you are lying to yourself and to others, by saying that Muslims have it “good” in the west, but at the very least, I can attempt to help you understand why someone like me would not wish to continue living here. Discrimination is very real, despite what you may think.

Sincerely,

The Hijabi Who is Tired of Being Scared to Drive

Dear Secular Muslim

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The following post is in response to recent experiences that I and my husband have had, in dealing with secular Muslims. I’m going to be my regular, not-so-tactful-self right now, and make the following statement: if any of this offends you, or you feel as though I am being rather “unfair” or “harsh,” perhaps this should be taken as an opportunity to take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror. Islam is a religion, and as such, was never meant to be secular.

Dear Secular Muslim,

I am writing to kindly request that you please stop trying to force your anti-religious views not only on me, but on Muslims everywhere. You have found support in like-minded individuals, those people who essentially become Muslim in name only. I know how fond you are of them, and how it is your sincere wish that all Muslims would become more like them, and ultimately, you.

I care a great deal not only for my own iman, but also for my children, and any subsequent grandchildren, InshAllah. For that reason, I will ask you now to never attempt to be an influence on my children. Contact with them will be limited at best, and ever always under my watchful eye. If for a moment, I suspect that you are whispering things in my daughter’s ear such as, “hijab on the inside matters more than the outside,” or telling my son that it’s really not necessary for him to marry a Muslim girl, becaus, after all, the Quran says that he can marry a Christian or a Jew (this ayat, as well as the one that says there is no compulsion in religion seem to be the only ayats that you know), then your contact with them will be nonexistent.

I know that your influence is far reaching. You have cleverly disguised yourself as friends, family members, cornerstones of the community, etc. The secular Muslim is to be found everywhere, in every form. I must be vigilant, and ensure that you do not ensnare my young and impressionable children.

Now, I would like to be a little bit more direct, if you will permit me. I would like to address some issues than have arisen lately. No more beating around the bush, shall we say. As the expression goes, “the gloves are off.”

For various personal and religious reasons, my husband and I have decided to make hijrah. This is something that baffles, and perhaps even offends you on some level. You seem to be of the opinion that all of the problems that Muslims are facing in non-Muslim countries are because of some fault of the Muslims. I know that you look at me, in my headscarf (which I wear every single time that I leave the house), and you don’t like what you see. You don’t like it at all. And now you see that I’ve taken to wearing abaya, you like it even less, in fact, you have come to feel disgust at the very sight of me. After all, I am doing the exact opposite of “integrating,” or “finding my identity.” You have done everything in your power to appear as though you are exactly like everyone else, and here I stand, not like anyone with which you wish to associate.

Recently, when we try to have conversations, I bring up something that stems from Islam. Maybe it was during Ramadhan, and I was hoping to find Laylatul Qadr, and all you wanted to do was complain about some stupid garbage on TV. Or maybe I just didn’t agree with your ideas of how to be productive with the precious little time that we are given during this life. Whatever the issue, it was obvious that we had radically differing views, and rather than discuss this with me, you chose to withdraw, and ignore it. I guess it’s easier to remain secular if you never try to discuss what is being said, or figure out that there was something of good religious value that was being given to you.

Now, I am not saying that I am a perfect, or even a good Muslim. But what I am saying is this: there is no such thing as “secular Islam,” or “spiritual Muslims” (which is the term people use when they don’t think it’s fardh to fast, or pray, or do anything else that Muslims do). Yes, Islam is spiritual, but that does not mean what the secular Muslim takes it to mean. A spiritual person longs for the Divine, and does all that they can to be closer to Allah subhanu wa ta’ala. They do not ignore their Islamic duties, nor do they dare to tell people that they are not important.

In short, your secular views are not inline with the teachings of Islam, and I find them to be greatly offensive. And in conclusion, I would greatly appreciate if you keep your secular views to yourself. It may make you feel uncomfortable that I choose to live my life this way, but honestly, that’s your problem, and not mine.

Sincerely,

A Muslim Trying Her Best To Live Islamically

PS I will discuss more about hijrah in an upcoming letter, InshAllah. Don’t think for moment that your very disparaging remarks will be ignored.