Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Here's a handy tip for Muslim men to keep in mind when trying to be #TheIdealMuslimHusband: learn to apologize.
I don't mean becoming the cliche henpecked husband and being a meek doormat who says "Yes, dear" to everything (do such men even exist?).
I mean, learn to apologize when you have legitimately been a jerk. If you got into an argument with your wife and you may even have been right, but your tone of voice was inappropriate; if you were in a bad mood and said something that was unpleasant and unfair; if you were insensitive and made a joke at her expense... apologize.
Not a half-hearted, half-assed one meant to pacify her; not a patronizing or sarcastic "sorry your feelings got hurt."
A heartfelt, sincere, legitimate acknowledgement of your own wrongdoing and a commitment to do and be better.
I cannot tell you enough how important this is for a healthy relationship. Many Muslim women, including myself, were raised and trained to be the ones to always apologize for upsetting our husbands even if we did nothing wrong - as long as he was upset, we *must* hasten to beg for his forgiveness and seek his pleasure in every way (even if he's being completely unreasonable and ridiculous).
When a Muslim man has the humility, self-awareness, and responsibility to take accountability for his wrong-doing, it doesn't make him a weak man - to the contrary, it is a sign of his strength, his masculinity, his nobility, his qiwamah.
It is a characteristic that will make your wife fall in love with you.
The first time my now-husband apologized to me after a fight - a real apology, not a passive aggressive or snide one - I honestly couldn't believe it. The concept of a Muslim man having the humbleness to apologize to his wife was alien to me.
And yet - it is one of the qualities about him that most endear him to me, which has garnered my respect, which has reminded me that yes, there are men who do practice the Sunnah and truly care about being genuinely excellent believers and men - who strive to embody Ihsaan even with their wives.
Do not underestimate the importance of this one quality; do not think that it is insignificant or unmanly or weak. Rather, it is the sign of a #TrueQawwam, a man who is fully aware of what it means to have excellence of character, especially with regards to his wives.
{“The best of you is the best to his family, and I am the best to my family.”}
Imam ashShawkanee said:
"“You find a man, if he comes into contact with his family, he displays the worst of character, he is prideful, and very little good is seen from him. But if he meets with other people, his disposition is very gentle, his character is very soft, he is very giving, and he displays much good. There is no doubt, this type of individual is from those who have been prevented from good and success, and he is one who has deviated from the correct path. We ask Allah for protection!"

Raised in the West, it is all too easy for us 1st or 2nd generation kids of immigrants to feel frustrated with our parents and families, to spend much of our adolescence & even adulthood butting heads, clashing over culture & personal priorities.
It's all too easy for us to lose our tempers, for resentment to simmer, for family gatherings to feel tense and unpleasant.
But when that happens, we don't realize how much we are losing.
I'm not going to be cliche and say that since I've become a parent, I realize what parents go through - I'll be honest, I still fight with my family and we have our dramas. At the same time, though, I have never loved them more. I've never appreciated my dad's awful jokes more than I do now; I've never savoured teasing my mom and harassing her lovingly than I do now; I've never felt such a rush of sisterly protectiveness (and obnoxiousness) as I do now.
As much as I'll pretend to be annoyed, I treasure our weekly family dinners and missing one leaves an ache that won't leave until I see them again - in the meantime, I will harass them on our family group chat.
There is a reason that the ties of kinship are called Silat al Arhaam: we truly are connected by the wombs, & there is a tug in our blood that calls to us, the inclining of our hearts towards mercy even when we squabble and cry and argue and glare in steely silence.
All of this is to say: don't underestimate the importance of family. Don't devalue their love for you or your love for them. As much as they can feel like a source of strife, they are also a source of comfort and barakah. Parents and grandparents, siblings and aunts and uncles... they share something with us, blood and DNA if nothing else, but it is that which binds us more closely than we often realize.
Look at your parents and remember the times of silliness and joy and the way they stroked your hair when you were young and the way they constantly feed you and scold you and demand to know when you're getting married or having more kids... know that this is love.
Our families may not look like the ones on TV or in the movies, they may not be as prim and proper as we imagined others to be, but in the inevitable chaos of our in-between languages and cultures and ideas of education and career and marriage, lies indescribable beauty.
O Allah, have mercy on our parents, as they raised us when we were young.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Podcast Interview with Shaykha Aysha Wazwaz

My first official podcast has been published - an interview with the incredible Shaykha Aysha Wazwaz, an American Muslim woman who pursued formal Islamic studies and has gone on to become an active teacher and activist in her community.
Shaykha Aysha Wazwaz is an American-born Muslim woman who studied Islamic Law at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem, Palestine, and then returned to America to further her Islamic education. She has a B.A. in Islamic Studies, an M.A. in Contemporary Islamic Studies, and is a PhD Candidate in Islamic Studies at Jinan University. In addition to having had a great deal of teaching experience around the world, including holding women’s classes in Masjid al-Aqsa itself, she is the CEO and founder of Gems of Light, an online Islamic university for women. 
Shaykha Aysha's story is important to hear not just for women, but for men as well. She imparts excellent advice that is applicable to both genders, and highlights the importance of having women of Islamic knowledge in our communities.


Monday, January 30, 2017

The Mother of Revolution: Aasiyah

The revolution that Musa ('alayhissalaam) brought to Egypt would not have been possible without the role of Aasiyah ('alayhassalaam).

His adoptive mother, she played a powerful role in raising him to be the man he was: a man of nobility, ethics, with keen sense of justice. Raised in the palace of Pharoah, Musa could have been spoiled & arrogant, but it was undoubtedly Aasiyah's wisdom & compassion that guided him to be aware of himself as far more than just a privileged prince of Egypt.

Who knows if she sat at his bedside when he was a child & murmured to him the tale of how he was brought into her arms, the Nile River depositing the basket carrying its unexpected gift of a son.
No doubt it was Aasiyah who answered his questions about why he didn't look like the other children, why he carried the stamp of Bani Isra'eel on his features... why he was still alive, & safe, in the Pharoah's palace while every other year, the land was witness to a massacre of infant boys & the rivers flooded with the tears of their mothers.

No doubt Aasiyah's heart broke every time she remembered the fact that her beloved almost-son could have been one of those babies.
No doubt that she treasured him all the more for it; no doubt that she taught him what it meant to stand up against injustice, knowing that silence & inaction from those in positions of influence would only lead to more horror.

It was Aasiyah who raised Musa; a queen who raised a Prophet; a woman who raised one of the greatest revolutionaries the world has ever known.

Today, we must be Aasiyah.

We must be the mothers who raise our children to be aware of the injustice around them, to teach them that the privileges we enjoy are a responsibility to do more, to fight against the horrors surrounding us, to dedicate ourselves to changing the world for the better, to speak against the Pharoahs of our nations, to be determined to do everything possible - even the impossible - for the sake of Divine Justice.
The likes of Aasiyah are the ones who will raise the likes of Musa (as) - and so we are to live like Aasiyah, that we may die like Aasiyah - with absolute conviction in our beliefs, with love for our Creator burning so strongly in our hearts that no human injustice can break us, knowing that even when we pass away, our legacy of faith & justice & revolution will live on in our children & our children's children.


Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Tribute to My Grandfather, my first qawwam

My grandfather is the first man who exemplified what #TrueQawwam means to me.
He was a man whose circumstances didn't allow for him to pursue higher education, yet whose love for learning ensured that he never stopped seeking knowledge in some way - whether that meant being a voracious reader, watching National Geographic non-stop, keeping up to date with both local & world politics, ensuring that his children and grandchildren understood the importance of knowledge, of all types.
He had married young - at age 18 - but never lost his spirit of wanderlust, his love for adventure, his willingness to work hard & do whatever he could for his family.
He was an incredible husband, father, and grandfather - though I don't know nearly enough about him when he was younger, I have so many amazing memories of him and his relationship with my grandmother in particular.
She had a habit of sleeping early, before Isha, and waking before Fajr in order to pray Isha and Tahajjud and recite Qur'an. He would awake with her, making sure that she had water next to her, making her coffee and bringing her biscuits as she sat in her bed and recited in the lamplight. He would rest for some time, then get up for Fajr & while my grandmother went back to bed, he would get up and go about his day.
I'd creep out of bed, following the sound of the deep murmur of his voice at the dining room table, where he would be reciting his own daily wird, wearing his house thobe and topi. Sometimes I'd fall asleep again on the couch behind him, and then wake up again to find him reading the newspapers with a cup of coffee and cookies at hand. He'd always save the last few sips for me, and then he'd make me breakfast and we'd watch weekend cartoons together - he loved the Looney Toons as much as I did, and we could watch the same old classics for hours.
But then it was time to be a man and take care of things. He always dressed sharply, even on weekends - he would iron his trousers with a crisp crease, his shirts impeccable and always paired with a waistcoat or knitted vest, even if he was only going to be at home. On Jumu'ah, he would always wear a suit and tie and gleaming dress shoes, scented with 'itr and carrying himself with great dignity.
His level of care for my grandmother was without peer.
He would help her choose an outfit for the day, iron her clothing, & make her breakfast; they would discuss what they were going to cook or bake on that day (they were both amazing in the kitchen), and he would set out all the necessary equipment & ingredients. If my grandmother didn't feel like doing much in the kitchen (which was rarely), he'd often decide to make something anyway. He hated to buy samosa pastry or puff pastry from the store -he had his own recipes he'd perfected over the years.
Before I first got married, he made sure to teach me how to make both pastries - from beginning to end. (Unfortunately, I didn't inherit his culinary genius, & have made neither recipe since that day.) He had no shame whatsoever in rolling up his sleeves & tying on an apron.

Instead, he took pride in his work - he showed me that a real man does all things with Ihsaan, whether it's wielding a rolling pin or sharpening his blade before slaughtering the Udh'hiyah.
That was another one of our family traditions; he would slaughter on behalf of all his family every 'Eid al-Ad'ha. For a long time, he would slaughter animals regularly for zabiha meat, both for the family & the community.
He'd make an event out of it; we would drive up island to the farm of a butcher he knew, & we'd take samosas & badha roti, & my siblings & I would watch in fascination as he scratched the ears of the lambs before speaking kindly to them, laying them down, & reciting the basmala.
The knife flashed, blood would spurt, & between my grandfather & the butcher, the animal would be taken care of, skinned, & cut up in a matter of hours. Strange as it may seem, those moments taught me what it meant to have compassion even while ending an animal's life.
He was a gentleman of the old school: always courteous, always chivalrous, always smiling. He would hold the door open for my grandmother & others; he would refer to everyone as Sir or Ma'am or Young Man or Young Lady; he always tried to assist those who needed help.

He was definitely a people person, always interested in people's life stories and experiences. Right till the end, he would make a point of learning people's names and their family histories; his nurses commented on his sense of humour and his interest in everyone, no matter that he might never even see them again. He made everyone feel special and cared for, truly embodying the Sunnah of RasulAllah.
There is so much more about him that I don't know, that I can't recall, that would take hours to mention... but this is just a glimpse of one of the greatest men in my life, who impacted the life of everyone he ever came across.
May Allah have mercy on him, forgive him his sins, and grant him ease in his grave, ameen.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Day of Judgment and Justice

The Day of Judgment exists because justice is not always meted out in this world, and even when it is, it is carried out by human standards and it is rarely ever resolved in a manner that gives each person their absolute due.
On the Day of Judgment, no human being can plead with the judge or jury for sympathy or justify their actions or silence their opponents; on the Day of Judgment, there will only be Divine Justice against which none can utter a word of opposition.
Human transgressions against the rights of others are so easy to commit, so easy to justify, so easy to defend. If we do not hold ourselves accountable for them right now, know that there will be a Day when we will be held accountable by the Most Just. Even the animals on that Day will have their rights in this world avenged - how much more so, then, will the rights of other people be upheld and exacted?
" “Allaah will judge between His creation, jinn, men and animals. On that Day, Allaah will let the hornless animal settle its score with the horned until, when there is nothing left to be settled, Allaah will say to them, ‘Be dust.’" (Silsilat asSaheeha)
It was narrated from Abu Dharr that the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) was sitting, and two sheep locked horns until one of them defeated and subdued the other. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) smiled and someone asked him, “Why are you smiling, O Messenger of Allaah?” He said, “It is amazing. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, their score will be settled on the Day of Resurrection.”
“O Abu Dharr, do you know what they are fighting over?” He said, “No.” He said, “But Allaah knows and He will judge between them.”

Women Abuse, Too

It is disturbing to know that women verbally abusing their husbands during fights is not viewed as equally abhorrent as men being verbally abusive to their wives. As Muslims, male or female, one should never allow themselves to be so overcome with anger that they find it easy to spit out vile words to each other - particularly to one's spouse, who deserves our greatest efforts in controlling our tempers.
Even worse is when women laugh it off or shrug it off as 'just another fight, no big deal.' It IS a big deal. Even in moments of anger, the angels are writing down every word that passes through our lips, and a single word can be seen in the Sight of Allah as worse than an ocean of poison.
It doesn't matter what hardships we face as women, we *don't* have a blank cheque to flip our ish and go ballistic.
At bare minimum, we must be conscious that we are being held accountable by Allah for our words and actions, even if it doesn't involve our spouses or our children. But when it's targeted towards them, towards those whom we are meant to be a source of comfort and safety, how much more terrible is it, especially if we are the first to demand excellence of treatment?
More than ever, it is necessary for us to admit and acknowledge that abuse is not a solely male-to-female problem - we too are equally responsible for perpetuating it, even if we don't view it as something that serious, let alone abusive.
The upholding of women's rights does not equate the eradication of basic adab and akhlaaq, towards men or anyone else.

Indeed, God is with the Patient

When we think about the Saabireen, oftentimes we need look no further than our own parents or spouses or the masjid aunty/uncle we say salaam to every Jumu'ah.
People who are complete strangers to us and those whom we are closest to can be of those who endure trials and tribulations so difficult that we cannot possibly understand what they endure... and yet they do, with taqwa and smiles that mask all that they have to go through in life. Allah alone knows the true depths of patience they exhibit in moments of heart-wrenching agony.
Whether it's financial struggles, health issues, relationship difficulties, family matters, or any other type of personal and spiritual fitnah, the Saabireen are not those who find it easy to coast through these tests, but may in fact find it even more difficult to experience them and restrain their anger, frustration, and hurt. They are not necessarily perfect, they may well find themselves making mistakes that they regret with regards to how they react, but they are also the first to turn to Allah in repentance for their frustration and beg Him to make them stronger and able to pass His tests in a manner pleasing to Him.
The Saabireen are not merely those who spend their days in fasting and prayer and who display outward piety, but those who struggle within themselves during times of deep human pain and are able to - if only by a thread - control their words and their actions when others would find it easy to justify their rage.
And truly, for those who are able to accomplish such a feat, Allah has promised: {Indeed, the patient will be given their reward without account.}

Listening to my father reciting aloud in Salatul Maghrib and watching my daughter praying with him makes me feel dangerously sentimental.
For real, though - the simple act of a Muslim man leading his household in such a basic and fundamental act of worship is powerful. So is a Muslim woman leading her family's womenfolk in salah - for one's daughters to hear a woman's voice rise in the recitation of Qur'an.
It is so, so important for children to see & hear both parents/elders of both genders leading them in salah. It will impact them forever. On a spiritual and emotional level, the sight & sound of witnessing and participating in 'ebaadah together is indelible to a child's psyche.
You'd never guess which moments will stay with them forever... for me, it's the sound of my father reciting the last few ayaat of Surah YaSeen and Surah alQiyaamah in Isha, of hearing my grandmother complete her daily wird every day after Salatul Fajr, of seeing my mother cradling her mus'haf after Maghrib, of my grandfather's baritone rumbling with the Divine Words.
For my daughter, I hope that she too carries moments like these in her heart - that she remembers praying with her family, that she recalls her sujjaadah laid out next to mine, our feet nestled together, her purple prayer outfit swishing against the folds of my abayah, that her ears echo with the recitation of the Qur'an in the mornings and evenings.
Rabbi ij'alni muqeem assalaati wa min thurriyyati, Rabbana wa taqabbal du'a.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Mahr Q&A

Regarding the issue of stipulating salawaat, ayaat of the Qur'an, or obligatory acts of worship such as Hajj for a woman's mahr (1):
The story of Umm Sulaym (radhiAllahu 'anha) cannot be used as an evidence for the validity of requesting a mahr that is related to worship or thing without a specific value.
The incident regarding Umm Sulaym (radhiAllahu 'anha) and Abu Tal'ha (radhiAllahu 'anhu) took place before the Hijrah, whereas aayah 24 of Surah anNisaa', which specifically mentions the Mahr, was revealed several years after the Hijrah of RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam).(2)
All four madhaahib are agreed upon that the Mahr must constitute something of value.
"As one of the conditions is the status of dowry itself; being lawful and having pecuniary value in terms of a commodity whose transaction is considered legal by Islamic law."(3)

To illustrate:
يجوز جعل المصحف ذاته مهرا لكونه متمولا، ولا يجوز جعل العمل به مهرا لكون ذلك غير متمول.
"It is permitted to set the written copy of Quran as mahr because it is of monetary value, but it is not permissible to set acting upon the Quran as mahr as it has no monetary value." (4)

However, women do have the right to waive their dowry if they choose to do so freely and without coercion. (5)

RasulAllah (sallAllahu 'alayhi wa sallam) gave all his wives a Mahr of monetary value. Dollar-to-dollar, the price depends upon currency etc. but it was, at the time, equivalent to 1487.5 grams of silver. (6)
2) حدهما: أن ذلك كان قبل هجرة رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وسلم) بمدة، لأن أبا طلحة قديم الإسلام من أول الأنصار إسلاماً، ولم يكن نزل إيجاب إيتاء النساء صدقاتهن. الثاني: " أنه ليس في ذلك الخبر أن رسول الله (صلى الله عليه وسلم) علم ذلك ".

Monday, January 02, 2017

Our Men's Pain

As much as I rail on about what Muslim women face, I do want to take a moment to say that many of us don't recognize that many Muslim men go through heartache, racism, discrimination, painful marriages & even more painful divorces, and so much more.
Women suffer because of toxic masculinity, but men are the first victims of it - when their own sense of self is battered and broken almost from infancy. There are very few men who are raised to understand and implement true qiwamah - with all the positive attributes of masculinity rather than merely the outward trappings.
Regardless, Muslim men go through so much on a daily basis, in ways that we almost never even think of. Mental health, physical health, self esteem, spirituality, family pressures, struggling to break away from certain types of cultural programming... as women, we are often so focused on the pain that we face constantly, that we don't recognize the pain that our men go through.
And while it is, in a way, socially acceptable for us to air our grievances - at least amongst ourselves - men don't always have that luxury. In so many cases, Muslim men find themselves being reamed out in public and in private, with few places to turn for emotional support - including from their spouses.
And yes, we women complain that our men don't understand & support us emotionally, but we don't realize that while we often have safe spaces to turn to other women & find consolation, our men rarely do. Sometimes, just sometimes, we need to be there for them the way we have others who are there for us.
Allah describes spouses as garments for each other, as those with whom we should find tranquility, & while I (& others) spend an awful lot of time berating men to be that type of spouse, we need to remember that those ayaat apply to us too. Being a supportive wife isn't just about cooking his meals & popping out his kids; it's also about setting aside our own egos and being willing to listen and to comfort and to support. You don't even have to agree with him, but you can certainly make him feel that he isn't on trial from the moment he opens his mouth.
Our men are strong, but they aren't invulnerable. They screw up, but they're not (all) villains. They're (usually) upholding the patriarchy, but they're not always misogynistic. They are human & crave the sweetness of the human experience just as much as we do. Often, they are wounded & hurting far more than we can imagine, & yet take on still more for the sake of their parents, their wives, and their children.
These men are, in many ways, #TrueQawwam even if they are not perfectly so.