Muslim Girl in America

I'm an American girl, born and raised, and a Muslim.

Eid and Hajj Mubarak!

Eid Mubarak everyone! And Hajj Mubarak to everyone who was blessed with the opportunity to complete hajj this year.

Advertisements
1 Comment »

Ramadan Resolutions

So the first week of Ramadan has passed. Your body is getting used to the lack of sleep (and sustenance), and, hopefully, your mind is slowly becoming clearer. That’s what Ramadan does for me; it helps me to focus on what’s important and put aside the things that usually annoy me or pull my focus away.

During this time, I’m reminded about the great friends I have, who try their best to cheer me on this month and make an effort to understand the month and what I’m going through.

Ramadan Kareem

During this month, I also learn (or re-learn) how to maintain a calm state when people say mean, upsetting, or insensitive things to me. For example, my boss, as I was leaving work before a long weekend, said, ‘Have a great weekend not eating!’ and then laughed and walked away. It’s times like those that you just take a deep breath and walk away.

But why do we resolve to only walk away during Ramadan? We should use, for lack of a better word, the momentum we gain during Ramadan to continue good behaviors afterwards. Every time January 1st rolls around, we make resolutions for the New Year; why not make resolutions for Ramadan and after Ramadan? So here are my resolutions.

Ramadan Week 2 – Ramadan Resolutions

  • Say more Sunnah prayers (these are optional prayers that precede or follow obligatory prayers).
  • Be thankful for the great friends and family I have, and say extra prayers for them.
  • Take a deep breath when my not-so-great friends and family are not nice to me. I also resolve to say extra prayers for them.
  • Remember that I cannot change how others treat me or how much they judge me, but I can control my reaction to them. Keep Calm and Carry On.

Keep Calm and Carry On

  • Forgive those that have been mean or acted against me. I don’t want the unease of unforgiveness in my heart. Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things a person does. Some people will never forgive, others will only think about it but never act upon those feelings. But some anger is more easily let go (such as forgiving Veronica Roth for the incredibly stupid ending to the Divergent series). Other forgiveness takes making a very conscious choice to really let go of animosity towards someone for something they have done. Not just thinking about it, or fooling yourself into thinking you’ve forgiven someone. When you truly make the choice to forgive someone, in your heart and soul, the effect is almost instantaneous; you feel a lightness and a calm that wasn’t there before. It’s a wonderful feeling. And when you begin, you find that you can keep going and forgive others. At least, that’s what I’ve found.
  • Conversely, I will seek forgiveness for the wrongs I have done, from both the people I have wronged and from Allah. Admitting you were wrong and asking someone else for forgiveness may be even harder than forgiving another. You are placing yourself in an incredibly vulnerable position, and you may not know if the other person is open to forgiveness. But if they don’t accept your apology, that’s their fault, not yours. You’ve made the effort and, if it’s truly from your heart, you will feel better.

One thing I have learned about resolutions is that you should keep them realistic. Making a long list now only ends up being a long list of incomplete tasks later. Resolutions shouldn’t be easy, in my opinion. They’re meant to be something difficult, something that you are striving to do, a change you are wanting to make. And change isn’t easy. Change can be scary because of the unknown. We don’t know what we’ll be like once we’ve changed. We don’t know how others will react to our changed selves. And we don’t know if we’ll be able to keep changing ourselves for the better, or if we’ll revert back to our old selves. But, despite all that, we still need to try. I’m a firm believer that people can and should always try to become better, do better, and, most particularly, treat others better.

What do you resolve to do this Ramadan? And after Ramadan? If you’re not sure where to start, I found this website helpful. Please let me know what you resolve to do in the comments below.

Leave a comment »

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Ramadan

(Please note: This is a parody of a Christmas song, titled “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas”. I encourage you to listen to the song here, so you’ll understand the rhythm of the words below.)

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Ramadan.

Everywhere you go.

Take a look at the houses at 3:10,

And that’s in the AM,

With house lights and windows all aglow.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Ramadan.

Furious cooking in every home.

But the prettiest sight to see,

Is the dinner that will be,

Waiting at sunset, maybe even before.

 

The young kids are free and easy,

With no school to make them dizzy.

But everyone else has work and school,

And sleep seems an unattainable jewel.

So mom and dad can hardly wait

For the holiday to come again.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Ramadan.

Everywhere you go.

Prayer, reflection, and fun,

Meet together as one,

On Eid-ul-Fitr* our best do we show.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Ramadan

Soon the adhan* will start

So when the alarm rings,

Everyone’s up and going,

Weary in body though not in heart.

 

Many prayers do we say,

Some all night and all day,

Much do we read,

From the Qur’an to hadiths*.

And all can hardly wait,

For the holiday to come again.

 

It’s beginning to look a lot like Ramadan

Soon the adhan* will start

So when the alarm rings,

Everyone’s up and going,

With a strong mind and heart, with a strong mind and heart.

 

###

*Adhan – call to prayer

*Eid-ul-Fitr – the holiday following the month of Ramadan.

*Hadith – teachings of the Prophet Muhammed (peace be upon him)

Leave a comment »

Ramadan Mubarak!

I know some people are beginning Ramadan tomorrow, and to those I say Ramadan Mubarak! I am following my local mosque and beginning fasting on Sunday.

Last year, I did a post called ‘Twas the Night Before Ramadan. Some of you may not know this, but it is a parody of a classic Christmas poem called ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. I hope you’ll go back and read the post; you can do so by clicking HERE.

And I wish everyone a successful Ramadan!

It's On Like Ramadan

 

2 Comments »

Things To Do In The 14 Days Leading to Ramadan

Or Things To Freak Out About To Do Calmly In The 14 Days Leading to Ramadan …

Day 14.  You realize there is only about 2 weeks left until Ramadan starts and you start freaking out. Take a deep breath, and make a list of everything (personal and professional) that you won’t have time for during Ramadan, so you can finish it now. After you’ve finished your list, resist the urge to freak out again – you can do it! Who knew you had so many things on your to-do list?

Day 13.  Take another deep breath and divide the list into 3 parts: Must Do, Maybe Someone else can do, and Wait to do. Start delegating tasks to someone else, if you can. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Day 12.  Go to the grocery store and buy way more food than you do during a normal month. How is it that during a month of fasting you spend more money on food than any other trip to the grocery store the rest of the year, even if you eat moderately during Ramadan? You go to more than one more grocery store: the “normal” one, and the one with traditional foods (where you can buy flour for pakoras, roti, halal meat, and other such things). Then, you go to another traditional store, because everyone is buying up for Ramadan at the first store, and you waited too long. Oh, dear.

Day 11.  You start to pre-cook as many foods as you can and freeze them for use in Ramadan. You start one day after work. It’s midnight when you realize you’ve only finished two dishes. Why do traditional foods take so long to cook? And you realize you’re hungry, so you eat a bowl (or two) of food.

Day 10.  You wake up still feeling full from your late night snacking. And you realize you won’t be able to really work out for the next month, so you go to the gym. Of course, you haven’t worked out for a few weeks, but starting now is better than not starting at all, right?

Afterwards, you feel energized. You feel upbeat. You go home and cook/freeze three more dishes. You clean the house, and cross numerous items off your To-Do List. You are amazing and on top of everything.

Day 9.  Your muscles ache from your workout yesterday. Clearly, the best thing to do is just not work out until after Ramadan. You curse out loud at one particularly achy leg. And realize you should stop cursing, too. You can’t curse during Ramadan. And then you wonder: What if I think the curse, but don’t say it? Will that work? And you realize, “Of course it won’t!” You must begin to prepare yourself mentally for the long road ahead. And not just for a month, but for a lifetime of good behavior and good deeds. That’s what it’s all about. Being good and kind, inside and out. Deep breath. You can do this. You WILL do this.

Day 8.  You decide to cut down on your tea intake to prepare yourself for the lack of caffeine ahead, so you cut down from 6 cups a day to two. Not that I drink 6 cups a day. It’s just an example. I mean SIX cups, well, that’s a lot. And it’s not like you’re drinking six cups of strong tea a day. It’s pretty weak tea (I’m guessing). Which is why you drink it slowly all day long. So, really, when you think about it, it’s only, like, two or three proper cups a day. So really you’re just going from three cups down to two. And, really, when you think about it, you’re only drinking it to stay warm in your freezing office building, which is obviously necessary to maintain your health. So maybe you’ll at least keep drinking, er, holding a cup of hot tea, er, hot water to keep yourself warm. Ahem.

Day 7.  The iftars (dinners) are piling in now. Weekends you break fast at the mosque, but now you are scheduled to break fast at other people’s houses at least ten other days of the month, and there will be likely more before everything’s said and done. Now you start to wonder: Should I host an iftar? Can I do it? Do I have time? You decide you can’t make it work with your family’s schedule, so you tell everyone to come on Eid day for brunch. Success! No one has invited anyone for Eid day brunch after holiday prayers.

Later that evening, you realize you have decided to invite many people to your house, after a month of pure exhaustion during which you have very little time (or energy) to clean. Oh, dear. Time for more freaking out. And lists. You need lists.

Day 6.  Set your DVR for all those television shows you are likely to miss, or will not have time to watch. Shows that will keep the little ones distracted when you’re praying or reading Qur’an. Shows that will distract the big ones from complaining during the month. And shows that you can watch to help you get through. Don’t forgot about YOUR needs while you are helping others; your needs are important, too.

Day 5.  You start to prepare people at work by describing the month of Ramadan, and how it follows it the lunar calendar, not the Gregorian calendar. You try to explain why you don’t know when the month actually starts, and receive only confused looks in return. Except for that one person at work who’s cool and wants to know how they can help you. This is also a great time to shift work or tasks to another person on your team/in your department, if possible, or ask for an adjusted work schedule. Remember – DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP.

Day 4.  Set aside money to give as charity, or plan how to save for it. You are not in the best place financially, but you remember that there is always, ALWAYS, someone more needy than you who needs it. And you remember a day, not so long ago, that you were struggling as well.

Day 3.  You need to prepare yourself mentally, so you start waking up even earlier for Fajr (the first prayer of the day) and also start reading the Quran a little more each day.

Day 2.  Fasting on Mondays and Thursdays and on the 13-15th days of the Islamic month are considered especially important, so you complete some voluntary fasts to prepare yourself. You are exhausted by the end of it, but you feel better about what’s to come and the physical and mental strain ahead.

Day 1.  The night before Ramadan. Or what you THOUGHT was the night before Ramadan. Apparently, your mosque states it is Ramadan tomorrow, but Saudi Arabia (and the mosque across town) states it’s the day after next. And your family in Pakistan started fasting already!!! WHAT DO YOU DO? (Besides pull your hair out at the inability of even one city to start Ramadan together). You follow your mosque (since you’ll be spending most/all Ramadan with them anyway) and start the month tomorrow. ‘Twas the Night Before Ramadan, after all.

Day 0.  The month has begun. May Allah bless us all this Ramadan. Ameen.

Leave a comment »

Christmas

It’s almost Christmas. Growing up in America, as a Muslim this time of year, is very interesting. I don’t celebrate the holiday, yet I get paid leave from work for it (yay!), because so many others do celebrate it. As I was often the only non-Christian in the class growing up, I would often get asked why I didn’t celebrate Christmas. An elementary school play is a treasured holiday tradition, and I also had to take part, despite my non-Christian-ness. During my first-grade play, for example, my teacher created a break in the middle of the play where I had to explain, in a monologue, why I was unlike the rest of the class and why I didn’t celebrate Christmas.

If you’re wondering if that was horrifying for a six-year old, it absolutely was.

I knew I was different than the other kids in kindergarten, but that play really made it clear to me (and everyone else), too. I never really looked at myself (nor did others look at me) in the same way again.

There’s also the inevitable musical shift that begins occurring in November (and earlier each year, it seems). Timeless Christmas songs mix with modern renditions, and follow you everywhere you go: malls, stores, gyms, etc. I actually like the music, in moderation, that is. I spent around 10 years in the customer service/retail/food service industries, and the same music for 10 hours in a row would drive anyone crazy. But the songs are catchy and beautiful, and the voices are timeless (e.g., Nat King Cole). And, yes, I do know all the words to many of them.

Entertainment also takes a decidedly holiday turn. Television shows begin featuring holiday themed episodes (first with Thanksgiving in November, then with Christmas-themed shows). Holiday movies and specials abound. Old classics (It’s a Wonderful Life, Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer), mix with newer classics (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Elf, The Santa Clause, and new movies all month long from ABC Family, Lifetime, Hallmark, and others). (As a side note, The Sound of Music now seems to be a Christmas movie. I absolutely love the movie, though I still don’t understand how escaping Nazis during WWII relates to yuletide cheer. Thoughts?)

In DC, where I currently reside and where 1 in 5 residents are foreign/an immigrant, there is the added complication to integrate and carry-on unique traditions from a resident’s home country with established American traditions. As a child of immigrants, I can relate here. But at least Christians from any country will find celebrations of Christmas, but we rarely found celebrations for Eid growing up. There are also decorations (such as straw ‘yule goats’ found in Sweden), and I admit I love twinkle lights that people use to decorate houses and Christmas trees. Pinterest is also awash with DIY ideas. As a DIY-er myself, I love Pinterest (probably a little too much) and find that I can adapt a lot of Christmas-themed ideas for my own uses.

Then there’s the food. This time of year is awash with specialty foods that, I proudly admit, I also indulge. Hershey’s comes out with candy cane flavored Kisses, peppermint bark lines the candy shelves along with other sweet treats (including Panettone, an Italian fruitcake that is lovely with tea or for use in trifles). Other countries have their own confectionary concoctions that brighten the dull winter scenes with color and flavor.

And, let’s not forget the sales. As someone who rarely pays retail (and why should anyone?) I do love the sales. A lot of them are overhyped (you can find some items cheaper at other sales during the year), but some stuff can be found for a pretty good deal. With so many apps, coupon sites, and deals out there, it is easy to save in one way or another. But as some sale prices change throughout each day, keeping on top of sale prices can be a challenge.

There is a decidedly commercial aspect to Christmas (and Easter as well) that you don’t see as much with Muslim holidays, as least what I’ve seen in America. We have our own Eid-centric greeting cards and even our own Eid-centric stamps courtesy of the USPS. We do buy bright new clothes for the occasion, and, on Eid-ul-Fitr (the holiday following Ramadan), we do give gifts to children. We have special foods we dine on during Ramadan and on both Eids. We have our own versions of decorating for these holidays, though if we wanted to put lights up, our non-Muslim neighbors give us weird looks; really, it’s the same look they give to people who keep their Christmas decorations up too long.

Eid-ul-Adha (the holiday where Muslims make a pilgrimage to Mecca) is the most costly, in my opinion. For those making the pilgrimage, it can cost several thousand dollars per person to make the voyage (obviously, the number varies depending upon your departure location and other factors). These days, you pretty much need to go through a tour operator to go, but even then you’re not safe from dishonest individuals wanting to make a quick buck. Still though, I hope to go on Hajj one day, inshAllah (i.e., if God wills it).

But, like with Eid, I love this time of year because of the sense of the togetherness and merriment that permeates the air. The same feeling of expectation and family and community I find during Ramadan, I also find at this time of year.

And that doesn’t make me a bad Muslim. It makes me a compassionate and friendly one.

Just as we Muslims wish others would take the time to learn more about our religion and culture, Muslims should also take the time to learn about the religion and cultures of their friends and neighbors. Education is never a bad thing, but it is powerful. And, “with great power comes great responsibility” (which, incidentally, is a quote originally said by Voltaire, and repeated in Spider-man). Use your knowledge and education wisely to build bridges between people. Some of my greatest and kindest friends are non-Muslim. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.

So, to you my dear readers, I wish you Happy Holidays. Please share your own holiday traditions and thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

-M

5 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: