Monthly Archives: July 2014

“I’m just going to call you ‘Lord’ because I don’t know what else to call you” How I came To Islam

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"the day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible or yours.”

“The day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible for yours.”

Guest post by: Jessenia Ortiz. She works as an editorial manager for a electronic publishing company. When she is not working she likes to spend time with her family, her 3yr old and her husband. Sister Jessie is pursuing hifdhs and spends most of her time memorizing the Quran. She enjoys traveling, and her last big trip was umrah. 

I read a novel entitled “If I should speak” by Umm Zakiyah. This book contains some ayahs of the Quran and Hadiths woven into the story. That novel led me to read the English translation of the Quran, which eventually led to me taking my shahada.

The author included the hadith that says:

“O evil soul, come out to the wrath and anger of Allaah.’ Then his soul disperses in his body and is dragged out like a skewer being pulled out of wet wool…”

This shook me to my core. For 3 days it was all I kept thinking about. I couldn’t believe my God could do something like that (although I did feel inside myself that it was true). After that, I told myself I have to find out what else is in that book, so started reading the Quran.

My journey towards “finding” Allah (the Arabic word for God) really started early around age 5. That was when my grandmother taught me how to pray.  I did include intermediaries in my prayers but I always wondered why I couldn’t pray to Allah directly. I never understood the 3 in 1 God. (Alhamdulillah).

I grew up going to Catholic school and attending church with my grandmother. I learned about the Prophets, perhaps because we were children we were not taught all the negative things that the Bible says about them. I still remember that when I was little, going to Catholic school, I wanted to grow up and be a nun. They seemed so close to Allah. I use to sit in church asking (God) Allah to help me love that religion, if it was the right one. I always wondered why do we say “Thank you God for your son our lord”; why not worship the one that created the “son”?

The first time I was exposed to Islam was actually in my global studies class in high school. Ironically, it was a Jewish teacher who told us about Islam. Alhamdulilah, he presented it clearly, he said Muslims face the Kabah 5 times a day and pray. He even told us how they prostrated on the floor to pray. I thought to myself, if there is anyway to pray to God that is the best way. Unbeknownst to me, while my teacher was telling us about Islam in school, my older sister was also learning about Islam. She would become Muslim that year; it would take me 13 more years to enter into Islam.

My sister did her best to explain Islam to me and in my mind I couldn’t see the difference from what I believed and what she believed. At that point, I had started praying to Allah directly. I still remember that I would say to Allah “I’m just going to call you ‘Lord’ because I don’t know what else to call you”.

As the years passed my sister and her husband would always try to give me dawah (invitation to Islam) but it always seemed that I would have to stop believing in all the prophets (peace be upon them) and believe in a new prophet–Muhammad (peace be upon him). I just couldn’t give them up. Yet, they tried their best but guidance is in the hands of Allah alone.

After some years my sister and her husband moved to MD and put their children in a school called Al Huda. When I asked them what the name of the school meant they said “guidance to the straight path.” After learning that, I always use to pray “Lord, guide me to the straight path“. It was during one of those visits to MD that I my oldest niece just gave me the new novel written by a sister from their community. She gave me the novel, and a copy of the Quran in English. She didn’t say much except “maybe you’ll find it interesting.” I read the novel and didn’t really feel connected, but when I got to hadith quoted within the story (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him) it all changed. While the story was from the imagination of the author, the Hadith and the Quranic ayat were real. In my heart felt “this is the truth” so it led me to read the Quran.

I, then, started reading the English translation of the Quran. It was amazing. I couldn’t put it down. I had tried to read the Bible but every time I tried, I kept falling asleep (literally on the book). As I read the meaning of the Quran it just confirmed what I already believed. The Quran told the stories for all the prophets and told the stories of the most upright men in history including Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them).

When I use to read ayat that refer to the disbelievers I use to wonder who those people where. My sister broke the news to me that I was the disbeliever. Finally, I was getting ready to say the shahada but I was still weary. It was a couple years after 9/11 and I just didn’t want to be associated with people who could do something like that. My sister gave me the best advice. She said “the day you meet God, He is going to ask you about your sins and not about their sins. You will not be responsible for their actions and they will not be responsible for yours.”

 I took my shahada on October 3, 2004. It was the same night that Muhammad Alshareef (founder of Al Maghrib Institute) gave his farewell speech at Al Huda school. I still remember him saying “There is only one way towards God. Sometimes you stumble upon the truth. You have a choice you can take it or you can dust yourself off and walk away”. I called my sister after the lecture was over and I took my shahada over the phone with the whole family.

When I look back I think, Subhannallah, Allah is the best of planners. He planned out my path so perfectly. There were and are so many tiny details along the way from before Islam up until now. I always make dua that Allah let keeps me on the straight path and never lets me go astray. Ameen.

Quranic Reflections: Surah Naml (27) ayah 18

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Quranic Reflections: Surah Naml (27) ayah 18

Guest Post by Salitah Qureshi. She has completed her master’s in bioethics. She currently working with research centers to help study and provide better health care to the south asian community of NYC. Her interests include traveling, playing sports including badminton and volleyball and creating artwork and calligraphy.

Surah Naml (27) ayah 18

حَتّٰٓى اِذَاۤ اَتَوۡا عَلٰى وَادِ النَّمۡلِۙ قَالَتۡ نَمۡلَةٌ يّٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّمۡلُ ادۡخُلُوۡا مَسٰكِنَكُمۡۚ لَا يَحۡطِمَنَّكُمۡ سُلَيۡمٰنُ وَجُنُوۡدُهٗۙ وَهُمۡ لَا يَشۡعُرُوۡنَ.

Until, when they (Prophet Suleiman and his army of men, jinn, and birds) came to the valley of the ants, an ant said, “O ants! Enter your dwellings so that Suleiman and his hosts may not crush you while they do not perceive.”

We studied Surah Naml today, and this ayah was so amazing to understand. In this ayah, an ant is warning its fellow ants about Suleiman (A) and his army approaching, so that they may move out of the way and not get crushed. But the way Allah has said these ayahs is truly amazing. So much depth!

First, Quran is talking about how animals talk! There are so many people, companies, even scientists studying animal behavior, trying to figure out their language even teaching animals to talk. There was an article about how an ape was able to understand 450 words. For instance for the word pizza he would point at cheese, tomato and bread. I believe his name was Kanzi. There are talking dog collars, etc. So much time and money has been spent on these studies, experiments and devices just so we can ‘understand animals’. And here Allah has so simply shown us at least one animal/insect talking! This was 1300-1400 years ago! I found it amazing…it reminded me of when I was little and would feed the pigeons and pretend to talk to them and use my imagination on how they would reply. I can only imagine how this ant would have sounded!

Secondly, in this one ayah the ant was able to portray many emotions! The ant Felt, Called, Warned, Advised, Emphasized, Commanded, Clarified and Forbade! In the ayah instead of ‘ya naml’ the word ‘ya-ayuhanaml’ يّٰۤاَيُّهَا النَّمۡلُ is used…the first one would have been fine to call the ants, but why use the longer word, instead? Because in Arabic increasing the letters in a word increases the meaning of the word, therefore by using this specific word it bring attention…like a flood warning on tv…ALERT! Big and Bold, so you don’t miss it…in this case so it grabs the attention of the ants and they don’t miss it.

Then there is the use of the word ادۡخُلُوۡا which is a masculine word. Masculine is used for things that are animate (not inanimate). Here it shows that animals are intelligent creatures. The ant is commanding the other ants to get into their own homes. You have seen an ant farm, with all its tunnels beneath the ground. Do you think 1300 years ago people knew how ants homes are like? From the top all you see is a hole. But each ant has its own home and knows where its home is! So the ant is advising the ants to go to their individual homes!

Then the ant says ‘they won’t perceive it‘ لَا يَشۡعُرُوۡنَ …if you were to step on an ant do you feel it? You don’t, unlike if you were to step on a cat or dog or mouse (please don’t step on animals). So the ant knows they would not be noticed and get stepped on. But that is not the only thing it knows….it is also aware of who is coming: Prophet Suleiman. And the ant just doesn’t say Suleiman (A) and an army are coming, it attributes the entire army to Suleiman (A) and says, Suleiman (A) and HIS army is coming. It shows the respect a tiny ant had for him.

The ayah was so amazing, so much brain leakage by just one ayah and that too about an ant! I remember when i was younger someone told me that the Prophet (saw) would watch where he was going and not step on any ants…I don’t know how true this is, but when I heard it I always tried my best to not step on a single ant. And now to read and understand even a little of this ayah about the ant made all the side stepping worth it.

Ants are very small and I would say humble creatures. In the big world they get trampled upon by people even if they don’t mean any harm. However, this ayah shows the ant to be wise. It is able to carry on its own (ants can carry 10-100- some even say 1000 times their body weight) and they even make a big impact on the ecosystem. So even in this big complicated world, there is always space for the small, humble people.

Quranic Reflection Series

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Ya Allah Make My Best day the day that I meet You. AmeenAs-salaamuailkum wa rahmatulahi wa barakatuhu,

Ramadan Mubarak! Excited to start a new series this Ramadan with some pretty amazing people inshaAllah. The Quranic Reflection series will include posts that reflect on ayat from the Quran or one of the 99 Names of Allah (SWT) in hopes to get closer to ALLAH the Creator and Maker of the Universe.

We pray that He accepts our efforts. The only way to know Allah SWT is to reflect on his words (Quran) and learn his attributes (99 Names). In this way we hope to foster our relationship with Him, he is after all, Al-Wali-the Greatest of friends.

We hope you join us on this journey!

Xx

H&H

Secret Life of An American Hijabi: Hijab is HARD!

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15976_10151831016292214_1590305172_nI know the title is pretty blunt, but don’t worry it’s not misleading. It’s very true, and this post is here to validate your concerns. I have noticed in the recent years that there has been an increase in a societal-community push toward urging Muslimahs to wear hijab—unfortunately too many people are too confused about what that might mean to them or how their life might change because of it.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my hijab-it has impacted my life in so many ways and changed me even more so, I have had countless experiences that are irreplaceable and I love encouraging people to share their own, but for some reason many girls today think that if they’re having difficulties with hijab or their identity while wearing hijab that they’re “doing it wrong” or that they’re “not good enough” or “not worthy”
So, I’m here to clear up the air-for sisters AND brothers. Hijab is HARD! It’s not easy, gals.
Note: I am not saying hijab is not WORTH it, oh my Allah-definitely not saying that, but it is just that…the price of hijab is big but it IS worth it. I’ve received too many questions from friends and anonymously on this blog about “I want to take off my hijab” subject, so, here it is being brought out into the open to address. You will at some point/moment/time/second struggle with your hijab. ESPECIALLY if you live in a country that does not observe hijab and don’t be surprised if and when you do! It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it doesn’t mean you should take off your hijab, it means the price of you wearing hijab is WORTH more which means the reward will be even greater. But once again without further ado….10 reasons hijab is HARD! (in no particular order—this isn’t Buzzfeed ya’ll.)

1. Shopping. The struggle is real, I mean it’s hard enough to go shopping in the first place—after you check all the magazines telling you how you dress your “apple” or “pear” shaped figure or whatever, but now you have to take whatever you know about fashion and convert it, or what I like to say: “hijabify” it.
Hijabifying is as hard as translating Latin to English. So here’s an example: You walk into Forever 21 (a clothing shop in the US) and find this oh so fancy dress. It’s the perfect teal for the spring/summer weather. So you try on the dress and realize you need “sleeves” to cover your arms and think of this blue-ish shirt that you have that you can wear underneath your dress, but then you realize it’s the wrong shade.
Then you realize that the dress is a little short so you need pants to wear and once you get those you realize that the pants are a bit tight so you get these super loose pants and just end up looking baggy. Finally when you actually try on the dress and realize it’s too tight so you opt to add a duster or long sweater to the look and when you put it all together it looks nothing like what you had in mind when decided to wear it in the first place. After going through this lengthy process you realize the end result is not worth it and walk out of the store empty-handed.

2. Non Muslim People ask you strange questions… about “where you’re originally from” and you say funny things like “Chicago” or “New York” and they’re like “No, where are you really from?”

3. Muslim People ask you weird questions: People all of sudden believe that you have adopted this ‘holier than thou’ attitude, which is ridiculous. Like once at my undergrad university a guy literally turned around in his random argument with someone else in our English class and was like, “HIJABI, is this haraaam?”
Needless to say, I didn’t bother responding. First off, if you’re addressing someone by his or her clothing-then who do you think you are, Mr. Unwashed-T-shirt-from-last-night? And second, wearing hijab doesn’t make you a paradigm of fiqh and ultimate judge between halal (lawful) and haram(unlawful). It is an act of worship that you undergo to become closer to God.

4. You have to prove your human one too many times. This happens way too frequently. As if people have the hardest time grasping the idea that we do normal everyday things too like play sports, watch movies, or even go shoe shopping!
There was one conversation I remember in particular from when I was shopping with my dad at a hardware store at 16 years old. This middle aged lady dressed head to toe in a purple jumpsuit had come up to me and said, “I can’t believe your kind wear jeans, I’ve never seen your kind wear jeans!” Acting normal completely blows their minds! And this isn’t everybody, most people have common sense enough to realize it, but there are some people like ‘purple-jumpsuit-lady’ who think being Muslim means that you’re not human. Rather we’re all human FIRST then we CHOOSE what we believe and what become. Oh yeah and I cannot stand jeans, team pajamas all the way! -___-

5. Sometimes people refuse to treat you as human and that feeling sucks. I don’t really know if I can explain this, if you’ve ever been treated this way you’ll know and you’ll never forget it, and its awful and makes you feel like you have to take a shower after interacting with such a legit hater. But these people are never worth your time or your thoughts or even this paragraph.

6. You’re being watched…all the time. Of course the NSA has your facebook and twitter/tumblr/instagram account down and wired but people are watching you constantly. I call this the celebrity effect. People literally cannot stop staring at you or turning to look at you and when they do ignore you, it’s quite nice. Enough with the pictures everyone—Kanye West is going to be jealous! Not going to lie this isn’t always bad, sometimes people just come up to you and say the nicest things, like “Wow, I love the color of your scarf” and you’re like, unwarranted compliment from a total stranger—score!

7. But you’ll never get compliments on your hair. No one will ever consider you a Cover girl, because you covered, girl. No one will ever know that your hair has got the perfect volume today or the perfect flip-unless you send a picture to your gal pals. And sometimes, when you’re trying out a bold outfit and your hair just brings it all together to give you the look-you can’t do that either. And when you ARE wearing a bold outfit along with your hijab, it’s all like super bold and everyone’s like Oh my god that’s pretty bold-you need to tone it down! But you know we never listen.

8. People can’t tell your age and think you’re much older or younger than you are. At 14 years old, a lady told me to “watch my son” aka by BROTHER who is only 4 years younger than me. Scarves really mess with people’s perception of time, but I suppose it could have some fun uses too. I kid. It’s not fun being called a mom, I’m sure any girl who ISNT a mum can agree.

9. A universe of hidden cowards seems to creep out the woodwork and shout random slurs whilst hiding behind whatever they’re hiding behind. I’ve heard so many slurs, particularly things like “terrorist” and “go back to your country” among others, the fun thing is they seemed to be spewed by an army of hater ghosts because as soon as you turn around to identify the hater-spewer-like there’s no one there! Or their very good at NOT making eye contact. Hater ghosts don’t ruin your day, they just make you wonder about the well being of the spirit world. But hey at least you don’t have to worry about humanity, right?

10. People think you have insight on why things go wrong in the world. This stems from ignorance but when people ask you things like “Why are women abused in Muslim countries and why do people throw acid on them” uh, news flash buddy women are abused here in this country too, this is related to aggressors need for power and not the scarf I wear on my head. It’s like asking a German-half Jew, “So, why would someone single out a race and you decide to scapegoat them and result in mass killings? I mean I’m not saying you would know because you really fit that ‘hitler’ profile” you get what I mean, it’s irritating beyond belief and wrong. You can’t blame someone you don’t know about something you don’t understand. End of story.

So what’s the summary here?? Hijab is HARD…but oh so WORTH IT! Because at the end of the day its’ not about what you’re doing but who you’re doing it for, and if you’re doing it for God. You better believe My Lord is proud ☺.

Until next time,

Your secrets are safe with me.

Xx A