Tag Archives: La ilaha illa Allah

Convert Truths Blogival- Shades of Grey

I was having a wonderful conversation yesterday with a good friend of mine who is much like me; a convert married to an Egyptian with similar religious leanings. We were talking about ummahs in different parts of the US that we had lived in or had friends in- what these ummahs had, what they lacked, and what we’re thankful for (a lot) in our local ummah here in Minnesota. We agreed that the Twin Cities definitely has the best ummah that we’ve ever lived in (alhumdulillah) and we posited that it might be the best in the entire US, in terms of size, amenities, and general brotherly love and cooperation.

Get ready, this blog post is really just a long commercial for why you should move to Minnesota.

Just kidding.

But you should.

When I read Nicole’s intro for Convert Truths (link here), I immediately felt a sense that all of her topic suggestions applied, and yet really didn’t apply to me, if that makes sense.

We’ve all been through the die-hard newbie phase; the abaya and niqab phase; the astughfurlillah phase. It’s a good phase, really, an earnest phase and we all generally go through it with sincere intentions.

I think its a necessary phase when it comes to a convert’s need to figure out who she/he is in terms of being a Muslim and still being oneself. Many people need that phase to remove themselves completely from their pre-Islamic mindset, to break from the routine.

I had that phase, my friends, I daresay that I was even a bit of a know-it-all for awhile. So obnoxious.

But eventually I grew out of it; eventually I was able to reconcile who I wanted to be as a Muslim while still retaining my individuality, as most converts are also eventually able to do. But I’ve been Muslim for coming up on 6 years now and I reckon that it took all 6 of them to get where I am today, and God only knows how much different I will be in 6 more.

What I can say is that having lived in Egypt made a huge difference in me as a person entirely, not just religiously. It doesn’t make me the go-to expert on all things Egypt, but I SINCERELY recommend that any convert lives for at least one year in their spouse’s home country because you learn so much about where your spouse comes from, why he/she acts, reacts, thinks, feels, and leans a certain way. Its a meeting point between you and him/her. If I could, I would make it mandatory.

Like I have that power. *flexes muscles*

Friends, it also gives you a bit of street cred with the mosque men/women from your spouse’s Backhomeistan, and it makes you a lot less obnoxious when you expound on why Backhomeistan is such a wonderful place, paved with gold, filled with super deeni people who are loads better than the western kufaar you have to deal with everyday; mostly because you probably wouldn’t expound on that because you’d know that Backhomeistan is actually only about 3% paved with bad asphalt and 99% culturally Muslim.

Seriously. See what I’m saying? Its terribly important.

Especially when it comes to mosque street cred with the Backhomeistan crew. And it ain’t just us converts, either. Western-born Backhomeistanians deal with the same exact side-eye from the crew if they’ve never lived in Backhomeistan, so try not to take it personally if you DO get side-eye when you try to sit with them.

Which brings me to a really, really important piece of information for new converts, old converts, any converts dealing with side-eye from Backhomeistanians in the mosque:

And I’m going to say this very baldly;

Stop giving a fuck.

Your religion is not FOR them to side-eye or front-eye or judge in any manner, mostly because many of them really have no more information about it than you do. See my reference to Backhomeistan being 99% culturally Muslim. They know the basics but unless they are scholars, they’re learning along side you.

And if they are scholars, and they’re still giving you the side-eye without welcoming you and try to help you, then they have a LOT more to learn.

But in reality, at least in many mosques I’ve been to, halaqa-time is Backhomeistanians Social Hour so really, the side-eye is less about religion and more about culture. Which is where Backhomeistan street cred comes in handy.

Now, lets go back for a second to my first paragraph, the one about Minnesota being an awesome place to be Muslim (alhumdulillah) (told you, long commercial for Minnesota); I feel blessed to have lived here and to have come into Islam here.

Are there mosque politics? Abso-freaking-lutely. You can’t get a group of people together WITHOUT some sort of interpersonal politics- religious, work-place, friendly, or otherwise. Its human nature, so try to not take it seriously.

Plenty of sisters I know have stopped going to the mosque here because of these politics, or because of snide things said or enacted by a group of other sisters.

This is sad to me, because they are ways to get around it as long as you are able to let it roll right off your back and, as I baldly stated above, stop giving a fuck.

For those of you who are having an issue with mosque politics, feeling burned by the side-eye, or out-casted I would like to give you a checklist:

  1. Check YOUR intentions. What are you going to the mosque for?
    • Socializing? I don’t blame you for it, where else can you socialize with other Muslims without having a core group of Muslim friends?
      1. Try another mosque, sometimes that’s all you need. If there are no other mosques then open up communication between you and the other women/men. Communication is KEY because they may only be giving you the side-eye because they don’t know you, and they can’t know you unless you talk to them. Yes, its shitty of them not to make the first move and welcome you, but if they are Backhomeistanian they may already feel out of place and uncomfortable around westerners. Sometimes it just takes breaking the ice and you find that they realize they were wrong about you and you were wrong about them. You can’t know until you try. Honestly, I’ve bull-dogged my way into a group of Egyptian women (after living in Egypt for a year, they became a lot more open to me because I LEARNED how to interact with Egyptian women. I TOLD you its important to have that street cred.) and now they’re pretty wonderful. You don’t HAVE to have the street cred, you just have to try. If they still ice you out, then they are not worth it.
    • Religious talks/classes/prayer.
      1. MashAllah. Why do you care what they think then? Go for the Islamic knowledge and fuhgeddabout the other people.
      2. Your local/only mosque is a different sect/leaning than you? That’s a toughie, especially when you have few options. Move to Minnesota.
        • Ok, I’m joking. But really, I don’t have an answer for that beyond trying to find a good online community. Internet friends are just as important as real friends, only you can’t hug them.
    • All of the above, but the men/women like to cause drama and you’re tired of it.
      1. What type of drama? Can you ignore it? I promise you if you stop giving a fuck what they think, and focus on why you are there, it should be better. Just because Islam is perfect, doesn’t mean Muslims are. Focus on why you’re there; focus on Allah.
  2. Check YOURSELF, and I mean this sincerely. Drama is many times a two-way street. If you take a step back, stop responding, stop back-biting about the other person to those people who are on your side, and the other person continues their rain of drama upon you, eventually it will become obvious that the only person continuing the beef is them. Focus on your reasons for being there, and ignore the drama-whores. They’re like bullies, if you stop rising to their taunts, they get bored. It may be hard, but remember that Allah rewards the person who backs down from a fight even though they are right. I’m too lazy to look up the hadeeth, but I’m pretty certain that reward is Paradise.

Of all the mosque drama I have ever encountered personally, most of the above advice should suffice. If it doesn’t, feel free to email me your issue at mollyannelian at gmail dot com.

Maybe I can start a Dear Abby column and call it Dear Amina.

I think this blog post is not what Nicole was looking for.

Plus I don’t know how to wrap it up. I am so off my blogging game, see why I don’t blog much anymore?

I stopped giving a fu— ok, I should stop swearing, sorry.

In reality, the Muslim blogosphere is no longer what it was then because we, the dinosaurs, grew older, wiser, and, at least in my case, tired. Many of us came into Islam around the time that blogging blew up and so we dove into this new media with the desire to work through our issues, our growing pains, and our creative labors online.

For me I live blogged a tumultuous, horrible, wonderful, amazing, and painful year in Egypt, and before that the first ten months of my marriage in the US, separated by an ocean from my husband. I could not have made it through that without my blog, and my friends who commented on my posts and commiserated with me. Thank you all for that, by the way.

Maybe Twitter has replaced my blog for me, because I can air my grievances out immediately, in 140 characters or less, or in a long, run-on set of tweets.

Maybe when I pop out a mini-me I’ll go back into live-blogging that child’s first smiles, farts, spit-ups, and steps. I don’t know.

Maybe right now I’m just at a contented point in my life. Alhumdulillah. Happy, comfortable, completely and totally bourgeois. I go to work. I cook. I shop at Target. I fill my car with gas. I dig myself out of the million tons of snow we seem to have gotten this winter (seriously, will it ever STOP?!?). I hang out with my wonderful friends and family.

I’m… happy. Alhumdulillah.

And I think I would make a very boring blog.

Am I getting boring? Honestly, I’m exhausted. I forgot how much work this blogging thing was.

So.. snappy wrap up?

I’ve got nothing. Check out my checklist though, see if you think it would apply. See if you think its a bunch of bull-hockey. Give me things you think should be added.

We’re works in progress, all of us.

And everything we do.

Oh, hello! It’s so nice to see you again.

I figured it was time for an update and to let ya’ll know I am alive and all that jazz.

First of all a happy Eid el Kbeer to everyone. Hope the slaughtering went well. May God accept all of your good deeds and forgive all your bad ones, inshAllah.

I have some great updates:

I took the GREs and blew it out.of.the.water.  Alhumdulillah. I scored in the 94% percentile which is so much better than I imagined, I pray that it will help me get into the program.

I’m unfortunately not where I wanted to be with my writings and in the application process, but everything is in God’s hands and I have to have faith that whatever happens was meant to be.

Working has been pretty great, alhumdulillah. There were a few issues with one co-worker in particular but nothing I couldn’t deal with. Soon, inshAllah, I’ll be starting at a different clinic and will not have to deal with it.

Mr. MM is adapting beautifully here, alhumdulillah. My family loves him (big alhumdulillah) and he loves my family so that is a huge weight off of my heart. We both miss Egypt, of course, him much more than I, but being here is a brand new horizon for us both. It’s like we’re standing on the edge of a cliff looking out over what our life could/might be and we’re about to jump into it. I’m terrified and excited.

Ha, right now he is insulting the LSAT-prep book in the computer room. Test-prep sucks for real. It scrambles your brain like that circa 90’s “this is your brain on drugs” frying pan commercial. He comes out and has me read the questions and I tell you that I couldn’t pass that test if my LIFE were riding on it.

So, my list of things to do:

1.) Get a third recommendation letter.
2.) Finish some pieces I am currently writing.
3.) Fill out the application, put my writing portfolio together, finish my “statement of purpose,” and send it all in by the 15th at the latest.

*hyperventilate*

So, that’s where I am at. I’ve been devoting all of my time to writing/reading/working and it doesn’t leave much for blogging. In fact once I publish this lil’ blog post (and turn down the heat- is it like 104 in here or what?) I’m going to work on writing.

Please, friends, keep me in your prayers that I get into this program and Mr. MM into his as well. God be with us on this next step in our lives.

It’s a brand new world peeps. There’s nowhere else but up, inshAllah.

Eid (Saieed?) al-Fitr

When Mr. MM found out I was going to write a new post about Eid his response was, “Oh no, you’re not going to complain like you did about Ramadan are you?”

Unfortunately, yes. I feel like this blog is becoming a bit of a wet blanket, but I’m telling it as it happens. Its like news from the Middle East, you want to hear about kittens and fluffy white clouds but mostly its bombs, rocket grenades, and crimes against humanity.

This time my complaints have less to do with my personal perception of Eid and more actual physical harm.

In the west Eid prayer is a festive get together in whatever random convention hall/stadium the Muslim community was able to trick the city into renting us. I say trick because most of the locations after one Eid, and experience with the bad manners and worse habits of the community, put us on their “do not rent to” list. With the exception of, I believe, the Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis where, pretty much every Eid, you are guaranteed to be able to find an Eid prayer.

In the unlucky convention hall of the day the women’s section is filled with loud, clashing colors battling loud, clashing voices; little to no cohesion or organization; and a distinct inability to understand the sermon being given, or in fact to even partake in the takbeerat at the beginning. The only time the women, mostly, shut up is during the actual prayer, but this is instead plagued with seemed inability to form straight lines to save their lives, serious battles for territory, and so little space that most of the time you find yourself with your face in the feet of the woman ahead of you during sujood, and during ru’ku your face in a place you’d probably should have taken her out to dinner before accessing. Likewise for yourself and the woman behind you.

During the sermon there are orchestrated attempts to quiet down the women which do not work, a man always comes in to tell the women to shut up because they’re even so loud some of the men in the men’s section can’t hear and that goes completely unnoticed because lets face it, one man versus 250 talking women, when on a good day women on a one to one ratio can talk louder than a man, is equivalent to banging your head on a wall; and mostly I leave each year huffing and puffing and doubting the future of such a rude community.

I had never, at that point, been to a Middle Eastern Eid prayer.

I will preface this with the statement that we were in Mr. MM’s old neighborhood which is basically a poverty-stricken ghetto filled with what society Egyptians refer to as “locals.” I would say equivalent to a city filled to bursting with the Beverly Hillbillies. It is possible, even probable, that a higher class area would not have been so bad, but I have my doubts that it would be that much better either.

Eid prayer here takes place at an unearthly early time in the morning, in the west its usually around nine or ten am, the earliest is maybe at eight… this morning we assembled at the bright and bushy hour of six am. Mr. MM and I migrated with the other herds to one of the bigger congregation areas and I followed the women to their separate area. Had I known that we would be sitting out in the middle of the omg-seriously-not-clean streets I might have considered staying home, but not having been forewarned I found myself faced with the option of setting up shop on a field of broken glass. I’m really not exaggerating here, it looked like someone laid out a fifty foot by fifty foot pane of glass and proceeded to break it up into little pieces. Having none of that I pushed my way forward to stake out my own little space of relatively garbage and glass free pavement. I laid down the prayer rug I was thanking God I thought to bring, many women had only sheets of newspaper to pray on and some of them were so poor that they didn’t even have that, and I settled in for the battle to protect my precious space bubble.

I must say that most of the women did actually partake in the takbeerat song, but I don’t know if it was really that they were that much quieter here or if it was that fact that each mosque in the city (imagine two mosques per street and twenty streets within sight) were broadcasting it over (very)loudspeakers and had been since right after the fajr prayer (did I mention the morning started early?) But even up to the actual prayer women were still trekking through the unevenly spaced lines of praying people to find their own space in what was by that point a very crowded town square. One girl decided my delineated and hard-won area of one foot by two feet looked like a great place to stop and start to pray, but I changed her mind quickly. Even as it was I was more friendly with the woman in front of me, and with the woman behind me, than I ever was in the US.

After the prayer most of the women didn’t even stop to listen to the sermon, which is probably best anyways as it was not broadcast over the (very)loudspeakers of the mosques, but instead over some small portable speakers set up only in the men’s section. Before anyone cries sexism though, please read my above paragraph on how well the sermon goes down even when it IS piped into the women’s section. Many of the women started to try to stop the women who were packing up and leaving with cries of “Salaat ul-junazza!” (which is prayed for someone who has died that day or the day before) but lacking any sort of cohesion and organization the stampede began and even if I wished to, and the women yelling out wished to, the herds wouldn’t let us alone to wait for the junazza prayer.

Faced with either moving or being trampled, I chose life and so began probably the most dangerous part of Eid this year. There were probably three hundred women, if not more, and many of them were carrying/dragging any number of children along with them, and they were all trying to get through a bottle neck that only supported about fifteen women shoulder to shoulder. Unable to move forward I found myself caught in one of those unintentional mosh-pits except this one wasn’t fun and games. The three hundred women behind us attempted to shove themselves through the way, making the space more compact, ripping children from their mother’s hands and getting them lost in the crowd. I was worried any number of small children would be stepped on and killed and almost started to beat the women behind me when one little girl was knocked down and away from her mother but she was quickly picked up and replaced and the crowd moved on. Towards the front of the crush I found it hard to breathe I was being pressed so tightly but I made it out, in fact with a bit of a popping sound, and I hurried to the car where I met Mr. MM who had also wanted to stay for the junazza but was worried about me not knowing what to do if he wasn’t there. Fuming, attempting to catch my breath, I swore to never again go to Eid prayer in Egypt, not even in higher-class areas.

And I won’t.

The rest of the day passed relatively nicely, visiting with all of my in-laws, but I was too tired for most of it to really enjoy. Honestly I miss Eid with my walee and his family, hanging out, chatting with visitors, applying henna, laughing, and eating Pakistani food that I actually like.

When I think back on western Eid prayers, yeah the women are rude and ignorant but I have never once feared for my life or been faced with praying on a field of broken glass. Sure I can’t hear the sermon, and mostly can’t hear the takbeerat, but for all of its issues I prefer it to what I experienced today.

That and its fun to get dressed up in your new Eid clothes and wear it to the prayer, here all the women pretty much dress in abayas and I had absolutely no fun with that.

I knew, coming to Egypt, that I wasn’t going to find a Utopian world of Islam, but I didn’t realize I would miss my American Islam quite this much.

Oh, just because I don’t want all this post to be doom and gloom, the best part of this Eid was having nieces and nephews to cuddle and give presents to. I spent most of the Eid Eve with one or both of the twins on my lap and a lot of “bosee tante mollllllllyyyyyyyyyyyyy boseee!”

That rocked ladies and gentleman.

Alhumdulillah.

I hope your Eids were wonderful and spent in safety surrounded by loved ones. ūüôā

kol sana we tayabeen.

frantic love

sometimes he is so peaceful and quiet when he is sleeping that I have to stay a moment just to make sure he is still breathing.

how can one person fill me so completely that if I ever lost him I might actually cease to exist?

Its that time again

source

Check out cool Ramadan pics from around the world courtesy of the BBC.

Happy Ramadan!

Ramadan Kareem!

Ramadan Mubarak!

Ramadan Mubarak-ho!

Tomorrow Ramadan will start inshAllah, and I’m not sure I’m ready. Not not ready for the fasting, but not ready for the iftars and the suhoors and the expectations that come with them. I don’t know whats normal here, what foods I’m supposed to cook, how much food I’m supposed to cook, etc. All of my Ramadans thus far (all three of them) have been in the US where I only had to worry about feeding myself, and I’m not sure about anyone else but I personally am quite easy-going in terms of food. If I only fed myself a TV dinner I was quite alright with that but somehow I don’t think Mr MM would be very happy.

He says that I can just keep cooking like I normally do, and I’m lucky because he focuses more on the spiritual aspect of Ramadan rather than the traditional aspect: feasting until you can’t move. He scoffs at the Muslims who make 20 different courses of food and spend ridiculous amounts of money on sweets and meat. He’s all about the prayer, mashAllah, not the ostentatiousness. Yay for me, alhumdulillah, that means I’m not expected to cook for half the day. I’m lucky like that. But when it comes to us holding an iftar here in our home, well… I’ll be dead in the water.

And in the back of my mind I’m thinking about the iftars I was invited to and the iftars at the mosque and my cooking just doesn’t quite match up with that. Hopefully things will move smoothly for me and I’ll be able to fulfill both his expectations and my own. And I’m looking forward to spending Ramadan here in Egypt; in the US I had to mold my fasting around life whereas here life molds itself around fasting, which is great. It will be a big difference.

Anyways, I’m wishing all of you a blessed Ramada filled with love, family, happiness, and the acceptance of your prayers.

May it be a joyous time.

God bless.

* All Arabic words like iftar and suhoor can be found in the Glossary of Terms.

Some notes on Ramadan:

Fasting: nothing to eat or drink from sunrise to sunset, this includes no smoking and no chewing gum as well.

Fasting lasts for 30-31 days and at the end is a big celebration called Eid al-Fitr which lasts for three days.

Those who have a medical condition, are pregnant or nursing, or may be somehow harmed by fasting are not supposed to fast as the religion prohibits causing harm to yourself.

The meaning of Ramadan is to remember God and pray.

Stage Fright

I am scared about this move. Can you blame me?

Not the doom-omg-I’m-going-to-die scared, but the excited, nervous, edge-of-my-seat thriller movie scared. The kind of scared I get right before giving a big speech before an audience. The same¬†feeling of inevitability, of great things about to happen, of adventure, and of possible failure. There is the desire to impress, the desire to make myself understood, the desire to illuminate the audience, and the desire to make a name for myself. And numerous things could happen: I could go out there and wow them with my intelligence and eloquence, or I could fall flat on my face walking to the podium.

Its stage fright. Gut-wrenching, throat-closing, butterfly-inducing, light-headed, nauseating stage fright. I am afraid of the unknown- I’m stepping off a cliff and hoping to God that I know how to fly. This isn’t like my move to Arizona which was frightening in and of itself. This is a completely different beast of a different name. It’s probably a good 3,000 (if not more) miles farther away than Arizona and sure as hell as lot harder to come home from.

Its the fear of forgetting something, although it would be simple enough for my mom to ship it to me if needed badly enough; its the fear of a murky future, although I have a deep and enduring faith that I am following the will of God by going to Egypt; it is the multitude of different customs, foods, lifestyles, expectations, language, and opportunities; and it is the sharp pang of loss I will feel when I tearfully say “see you soon but not soon enough” to my mom at the airport, or my best friends before I leave. The possibility that what I leave behind me here will not be there when I come back.

Of course I could leave home tomorrow just to run and get some milk and what I have will not be there when I return, God forbid. Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon.

But I do not fear for my safety or my well-being. For as frightened as I am it is just the unfounded, excited fear of making a distinct and final change in my life. This is a new chapter, a new me, a new adventure, and new roads to explore and exploit. At risk of being accused yet again of romanticizing the Middle East I must adjoin that I do not expect to be made a better Muslim for being in Egypt, but possibly I may become a better person. Isn’t travel a form of enlightenment? Isn’t knowing, learning, accepting, and incorporating another culture and way of thinking an existentialist’s dream? And I, if anything, am a shameless existentialist.

I will be different when I return than the person I am now as I get ready to leave. I will add a new adjective to my many descriptions: expat; I will possibly add another language to my repetoir: Arabic; and I will certainly redefine who I am as a person in response to my surroundings. I am trading one minority-class for another: here I am American like most everyone else but Muslim as only a few are and there I will be Muslim as most everyone else will be but American like only a few others.

Going about my business I am suddenly and virulently seized by nervousness, I can’t breathe, can’t think, can only focus on my wildly-beating heart. I am scared, and rightly so. But its only stage fright for the next act.