Thursday, August 23, 2007

Muslimah Rebel speaks

By Sultana Yusufali

Toronto Star Young People's Press

I probably do not fit into the preconceived notion of a ``rebel.'' I have no visible tattoos and minimal piercing. I do not possess a leather jacket. In fact, when most people look at me, their first thought usually is something along the lines of ``oppressed female.''
The brave individuals who have mustered the courage to ask me about the way I dress usually have questions like: ``Do your parents make you wear that?'' or ``Don't you find that really unfair?''
A while back, a couple of girls in Montreal were kicked out of school for dressing like I do. It seems strange that a little piece of cloth would make for such controversy. Perhaps the fear is that I am harbouring an Uzi underneath it. You never can tell with those Muslim fundamentalists.
Of course, the issue at hand is more than a mere piece of cloth. I am a Muslim woman who, like millions of other Muslim women across the globe, chooses to wear the hijab. There are many different ways to wear it, but in essence, what we do is cover our entire bodies except for our hands and faces. If you're the kind of person who has watched a lot of popular movies, you'd probably think of harem girls and belly dancers, women who are kept in seclusion except for the private pleasure of their male masters. In the true Islamic faith, nothing could be further from the truth. And the concept of the hijab, contrary to popular opinion, is actually one of the most fundamental aspects of female empowerment. When I cover myself, I make it virtually impossible for people to judge me according to the way I look. I cannot be categorized because of my attractiveness or lack thereof. Compare this to life in today's society: We are constantly sizing one another up on the basis of our clothing, jewellery, hair and makeup. What kind of depth can there be in a world like this?
Yes, I have a body, a physical manifestation upon this Earth. But it is the vessel of an intelligent mind and a strong spirit. It is not for the beholder to leer at or to use in advertisements to sell everything from beer to cars. Because of the superficiality of the world in which we live, external appearances are so stressed that the value of the individual counts for almost nothing. It is a myth that women in today's society are liberated. What kind of freedom can there be when a woman cannot walk down the street without every aspect of her physical self being ``checked out''? When I wear the hijab I feel safe from all of this. I can rest assured that no one is looking at me and making assumptions about my character from the length of my skirt. There is a barrier between me and those who would exploit me. I am first and foremost a human being, equal to any man, and not vulnerable because of my sexuality. One of the saddest truths of our time is the question of the beauty myth and female self-image. Reading popular teenage magazines, you can instantly find out what kind of body image is ``in'' or ``out.'' And if you have the ``wrong'' body type, well, then, you're just going to have to change it, aren't you? After all, there is no way that you can be overweight and still be beautiful.
Look at any advertisement. Is a woman being used to sell the product? How old is she? How attractive is she? What is she wearing? More often than not, that woman will be no older than her early 20s, taller, slimmer and more attractive than average, dressed in skimpy clothing. Why do we allow ourselves to be manipulated like this? Whether the '90s woman wishes to believe it or not, she is being forced into a mould. She is being coerced into selling herself, into compromising herself. This is why we have 13-year-old girls sticking their fingers down their throats and overweight adolescents hanging themselves. When people ask me if I feel oppressed, I can honestly say no. I made this decision out of my own free will. I like the fact that I am taking control of the way other people perceive me. I enjoy the fact that I don't give anyone anything to look at and that I have released myself from the bondage of the swinging pendulum of the fashion industry and other institutions that exploit females. My body is my own business. Nobody can tell me how I should look or whether or not I am beautiful. I know that there is more to me than that. I am also able to say no comfortably when people ask me if I feel as though my sexuality is being repressed. I have taken control of my sexuality.
I am thankful I will never have to suffer the fate of trying to lose/gain weight or trying to find the exact lipstick shade that will go with my skin colour. I have made choices about what my priorities are and these are not among them.
So next time you see me, don't look at me sympathetically. I am not under duress or a male-worshipping female captive from those barbarous Arabic deserts. I've been liberated.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

My Scarf.. by a Latina Muslimah

They stand there with shorts, so short, excessively short,
shorts that so deceptively capture from them all they know
of modesty...

...and I proudly pull my scarf over my hair

They stand there, face lost in a sea of make-up,
make-up that so ruthlessly captures from them all they know
of freedom...

...and I proudly pull my scarf over my hair

They stand there, hair raining with gels, colors -
chemicals that so menacingly capture from them all they know
of purity...

...and I proudly pull my scarf over my hair

They stand there, so close, so very close to their "lover",
devoted to them, the devotion that so mercilessly captures
from them all they know of individuality...

...and I proudly pull my scarf over my hair

And they stand there, talking of getting new shorts, new gels
and colors, new boyfriends, materialistic things
that so wrongfully capture from them all they know
of God and love...

...and I proudly pull my scarf over my hair

For my scarf is my protector, my lover, my devotion,
my pureness, my beauty, my rememberance of God,

And I proudly pull it over my hair knowing that when I wear it,
I so rightfully thrust away all the things that the devil
brought about,

And when I put it on, I am

Free...By "natasha clulow

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Latina's Shahadah journal

Footprints in Islam

This section is dedicated to my Islamic journey. As we all know, shahada isn’t the end of our salvation, but the beginning. This is a path that is followed by triumphs and obstacles we sometimes face in this life.

A memoir that traces how I learned Islam, the struggles to stay on the straight path, and the steps that I take in trying to grow into a strong believer.

2 Responses to “My Footprints in Islam”
carimuslima Says:
June 2, 2007 at 9:12 pm
By: Jennifer(Sumayah)Fayed

There comes a time in peoples’ lives that you are compelled to think, why am I here what is my purpose in this life. These were my thoughts during summer of 2001. I had been married to my first husband for about 3 years. The marriage was going downhill. There was no ambition in my former husband, and with two children barely old enough to take care of themselves finding out I was pregnant; I started to ponder my purpose in this earth. Yes, I was a wife a mother a daughter; however, the same thought came passing through my mind there has to be a reason for my existence. My family had recently moved to the Dominican Republic I felt abandoned. Abandoned you might ask, she’s married with children how can she feel abandoned? I was 21 years old and my parents were the base of who I was who I strived to be. They were my example.I was sleeping, when I got a frantic call from my former mother-in-law screaming “there was a plane crash a plane crash in downtown Manhattan” confused I said “what, what are you talking about!” I turned on the television only to find out that the second tower of the world trade center was being hit by the second aircraft. I was shocked! Who could’ve done this, who was capable of such atrocity? I was in disbelief on what I saw on the news. Was this real I kept thinking to myself, it was must be a movie please, please tell me this was a movie. I had just been in the world trade center the day before. I saw this as some proof that it wasn’t my time to die and I hadn’t completed my purpose in this life. I didn’t know what purpose, but it wasn’t my time. There was chaos in New York City that day; little did I know this day among other events in my life would only be the beginning of drastic changes that were about to happen.Soon after the attacks of September 11th I went to Dominican Republic to visit my parents. I was about a month pregnant and no soul other than my mother-in-law, my former husband and I knew about the pregnancy. How was I going to break the news to my parents I mean I got pregnant with my first child out of wedlock and soon married as to make things right. So here I was pregnant with my third baby and I thought well at least I can think things through while being in the Caribbean. I left on American Airlines flight 587. This was the first time I was in an airplane so soon after the attacks of the world trade center. The security in the airport was intense, and people in the airplane kept praying some even during the whole flight. I started to laugh within myself. If we’re going to die well then it’s our fate. I kept thinking about my pregnancy. I didn’t want this pregnancy it was unplanned and a third mouth to feed I could barely support two children let alone three. I was so confused. I spent time with my family trying to tell them about the baby. I couldn’t bear to tell them that there first born daughter was yet again going to bring another major disappointment to them; therefore, I decided well I’ll terminate the pregnancy and no one has to even know I’m pregnant. Easy solution, I thought to myself but at the same time I came from a strong Christian family and to even fathom having an abortion was a sin and taboo. After my quick trip to the Caribbean I went back to New York and finally called Planned Parenthood to set-up the appointment to terminate the pregnancy. I asked them if I could take the abortion pill and I was devastated to find out that I would have to go through a full abortion because my window for the abortion pill was one week past the time to end the pregnancy with a pill. I was so depressed; I thought to myself oh my God their going to rip this baby out of my womb. What am I doing? I really didn’t know if I could go through with it; as a result, I decided to pray to God not using the rosary or going to church but for the first time I was going to pray directly to him like a friend, someone who I felt had to help me it was my last resort. I cried while I continuously supplicated, oh God please I don’t know what to do I want this baby, but my marriage is on the rocks and we don’t have money to bring another baby into the world. I will put my full trust in you my Lord, please if it’s your will for me to have this baby then I will accept that and if it’s your will to end the pregnancy I will accept that too. I emptied my sorrows unto a God, a God that I worshipped my own way not the way I was taught to do. A God; one that to me had no partners and no son but just a being that I knew created me. I was at my wits end thinking about the pregnancy and just went through my usual daily routine. A few days past, I was watching television when a program was interrupted by a special report. I said oh no not another attack what happened next blew me away. I soon found out another plane had crashed, this time in Queens where I am originally from in New York. I was so worried I thought it must have been brought down by one of these terrorists yet again. I was astonished when they mentioned the flight number and its destination. It was American Airlines flight 587; yes the flight that I was on but only a week ago and it was headed to the Dominican Republic. I got chills up my spine. I was numb all over thinking that this could’ve been me on this flight at this time. I saw this as a message from God that he was trying to tell me something. This wasn’t the first time in less then a month that I came close to death. I thought to myself God is trying to tell me something. A week after that supplication I started to have cramps, these cramps were different from the usual first trimester cramping. I brushed it off like no big deal. As the weekend continued the cramping got more severe and then I started to have bleeding. I was so frightened was I having a miscarriage? I hurried to the hospital and they put me on strict bed rest. I went home that evening and stayed in bed the cramping got better. Once asleep there was this shocking pain and with this pain I felt that something came out. I didn’t know what to do; I went to the bathroom only to discover a piece of round flesh on the pad. I was devastated. I never saw anything like this I lost my baby I was two months pregnant. I went back to the hospital and they confirmed to me that yes I had a miscarriage and they were sorry for my loss. The next day was the day of my abortion appointment October 15, 2001. I had the miscarriage just a day before this appointment. They called me from Planned Parenthood and asked me why I missed the appointment. I told them that I had a miscarriage a day before. It was so surreal, was it a miracle from God, did God answer my prayer, and what did he have in store for me. I felt that God was telling me that my life was going to change. How was it about to change? I had no idea but I did know that I couldn’t stay married any longer to someone who didn’t want to work and had no ambition in life. So I made a conscious decision toward getting my degree and taking steps to divorce my first husband.

I saw how badly Muslims were being treated in New York. The aggression that played out so soon after the September 11 attacks, every other day there was a report on the news about a Muslim hate crime. It was horrible; I would literally see people walking on the opposite side of side walks if they even thought a person was a Muslim. Muslim businesses were empty people refused to buy from them. People would yell out horrible things to them in the street, “Go to your country, Terrorist, Taliban!! Why are people saying these things to innocent people? I agree the people who did this were horrible people, but why blame people who didn’t have anything to do with the attacks. It felt like a witch hunt. I was curious about what these people really stood for my interest grew larger everyday. I soon enrolled in college and I would meet Muslims and anxiously ask them questions about Islam. Why do you wear a scarf? What do you believe in? Who is this Mohammed who you always talk about? Some had answers but on the most part people didn’t know how to answer me. Most of the Muslim girls I did know didn’t wear the scarf and would say it’s a choice and I’m not that knowledgeable about Islam. I felt that no one was able to give me answers so I turned to the internet for answers. There I found out about Islam. I couldn’t believe that God (Allah) had sent another prophet after Jesus (pbuh). I knew God couldn’t have put me and everyone on this earth without answers to our many questions. Why we are here? Why do people say God is three when in fact it only confirmed what I personally had believed in since I was fourteen years old that God was one with no partners. I was seeking the truth to my questions and Islam answered all of them. This was amazing prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was the last prophet the last one God had sent to reveal is final message unto us. His favor upon us was done. Then I decided to do more research on this Mohammed (pbuh) was he a real person did he actually exist? To my surprise he was a real person and not only was he our messenger but his whole life had been documented. I was stunned, this was my religion I thought, the faith I have been searching for many years and it’s called Islam. I attended my first Ramadan that fall of 2002.

The mosque was full of people. It wasn’t like a diocese in that generally one kind of race or nationality attends a specific church. The mosque had people of all different spectrums of the rainbow. They were all so friendly and kept saying salaam walakium, at the time I didn’t know what that meant but I would just nod in embarrassment. It was time to perform the salah (prayer); this was my first time ever to pray like the Muslims. I had no idea what they were doing but a friend of mine at the time just told me “do what they do” so that’s exactly what I did. I would mumble what I thought they were saying and perform the prostrations not knowing the significance or reason for it. I did enjoy it. I was amazed that all the Muslims face the Kabah in Mecca, Saudi Arabia at the same time for every prayer no matter what part of the world they come from. We didn’t have this in Christianity, not at all. The Muslims had an unspoken code that unified them to Allah the Most High. I wore a scarf that day in respect to them. I didn’t know how the women would put the scarf on so I bought a two piece scarf that I just slid on. I felt so wonderful and warm inside when I wore the scarf. I could walk the streets without men looking at me as a sexual object. I did get stares, but that didn’t bother me at all. After that day in the mosque I made a conscious decision to wear hijab all the time. People kept emphasizing to me that I didn’t have to wear hijab because I wasn’t Muslim. I would just comment that it’s my decision and it’s none of their business. When I wore hijab there was this feeling of security, warmth in my heart and soul that I was pleasing my Lord. I didn’t care about the stares or the negative remarks. I felt in my heart that I wasn’t doing enough to worship Allah. I was fasting some days during that Ramadan. Then I started to ponder how I would tell this to my family. I had told my father that I was reading about a religion that comes from the east, all he told me was “it’s good to gain knowledge in different cultures and religions” I think that one flew by his head by a long shot. When my mother arrived from the Dominican Republic I was seriously considering declaring my shahada. I just didn’t know how I would tell all of my family especially my mom considering she was so critical of me. I was wearing hijab already so I didn’t feel good taking it off just to please her because my duty was to Allah then my parents. As a result, I decided to get it passed my younger sister Catherine. She and I are five years apart but I thought to tell her first as to see what might be the response of my parents. I called her and said, “Hey Catherine I did something” She wasn’t shock as I usually did things that were out of the norm. She told me “What did you do this time Jennifer?” I bluntly told her that I was considering becoming a Muslim and that I already wore the headscarf. She went ballistic in laughter. She told me that now I had definitely done it and that my parents would kill me figuratively, and that she couldn’t believe that I was one of those terrorists. She quickly followed with you’re my sister and I love you no matter what religion you become but that our parents would probably go into an attack of some sort. The funniest thing though was that telling my younger sister you can only expect some form of sibling rivalry. She soon remarked “Don’t tell mom and dad without me being there so I can see you go down with a laugh”. I knew she was joking, and to my surprise I couldn’t believe how mature she had become during that year. As you can expect, I told my parents and my dad took it well I guess most men would if it means that their daughters would cover their bodies. My mother on the other hand, was furious and shocked. She kept trying to convince me that I was in the wrong and that Islam wasn’t the right religion. The thing that bothered her the most was that I was wearing hijab. It took them about two weeks to calm down with the whole idea that I was changing my religion. They soon accepted me after that, however my mom kept persisting that this was only a phase and that I would come to my senses. One week later, I had made my decision to declare my shahada.

I woke up on the first Friday of January with the feeling that this was the day, this was the day I was going to say my shahada. I was going to make my declaration that there is no true god (deity) but God (Allah) and Mohammed is the Messenger (Prophet) of God. I took my shower and jumped on the train and went to the mosque to make my declaration. I saw the sheik and told him I want to make my shahada today. He looked at me with a smirk and said “Are you sure, is this what you really want to do?” I was so excited I told him “Yes, Yes, this is my decision” and so that day all my fellow brothers and sisters in Islam joined with me to witness my reversion to Islam. All and all I felt normal that day so many people congratulated me on my reversion and told me if I needed anything they would help me. I felt so lucky; here I was with a new family a nation of people from all different parts of the world. On that Friday night I went to sleep. My first night as a Muslim I thought, later that evening around fajr time I had the most beautiful dream a blessed vision. I was in a valley, full of beautiful green grass and gorgeous hills nothing I have ever seen in this life, and I was walking there towards a man. The person came towards me also, he was dressed in a white galabiya his face was like light not a humanly face but bright like the sun. I felt so warm and safe. He held my hand and we walked together to a big round rock which he sat on and I sat on the grass. He then told me “Welcome to Islam”. When I woke up I had this wonderful feeling in my heart. I thought this was the Prophet may the blessings of Allah be upon him. He came to welcome me to Islam. I later found out that in Islam dreams come from either of three sources: ourselves, Allah, or Shaytan. Allah knows best which source it was from but I do know one thing for sure and it’s that I felt so special from that day forward. Allah had allowed me to live long enough to be able to discover Islam and embrace it. Allah’s religion my religion, the faith that I so eagerly craved from a young age, Islam the one true religion.

carimuslima Says:
June 5, 2007 at 9:01 pm
If you have read my post from today. I believe this is definitely in my opinion a milestone in my islamic journey. It amazes me how Allah works in so many beautiful ways and reveals deeper understandings of things in our lives. Mashallah and he reveals it to us when the time is “just right”.

Allah’s decree is an article of faith that makes us believing Muslims. There are times that bad things happen to us and don’t know why they occur. This life is nothing more than a test for each of us. When they happen to us during the moment some of us think of it as a misfortune (astaphrallah) and are discontent due to our lack of understanding the situation at the moment.

As time drifts into the future, it may take several days, weeks, or years and we realize the wisdom of Allah(swt) inshallah. And view that moment of hardship as a blessing because we have a deeper understanding and reflection of that past situation.

Our lives are already decreed for us by Allah (swt). It’s our choices that makes us successful or losers in this life and the hereafter. I like to give an example of Allah Al-Qadr (decree) that I learned from my Tawheed teacher.

It’s like a mother who puts a nice succulant cake on the table and watches her children going to the cake. She knows they will take a piece of it, but didn’t choose for them to do it. She just knows that htey will take the cake. I hope inshallah you understand Allah’s decree a bit better with this example. See…Allah knows everything we will do but he doesn’t choose it for us because we were given something that only man and jinn posess and that is “free-will”.