#AtoZChallenge Day 13: Misidentification

M is for Misidentification

M

I used to work in a nursing home. One of the residents there talked about coping with the death of two of her cousins. They were in Israel, and according to her, they were killed “by some Arabs.”

Then she turned to me and said, “I know you’re Muslim, so I mean no disrespect.”

Um.

 

Okay.

First, “Muslim” does not equal “Arab”.

Second, even if I was Arab, I am still in no way sympathetic toward the people who killed your cousins.

Obviously, that’s not what I said. I didn’t say anything because the incident simply left me speechless.

She is one of the sweetest women I’ve ever met. She had dementia, and so I could never take personally any of the negatives she had to say because I had to reintroduce who I was to her every single day. On the days that she wasn’t refusing to associate with me because I was Muslim, she would tell me how beautiful she thought my scarf was or what a lovely girl I was for pushing her wheelchair to wherever she needed to go. She would point out to me all of her favorite staff members in the facility and ask each of them how their kids were doing as she did so. She encouraged her fellow residents to stay cheerful and hopeful, even when she had no clue how they got to be her neighbors.

It wasn’t her. It was the idea she had been primed with before her disease took away her ability to remember her context.

I wore a scarf on my head. And so she identified me as a potential sympathizer to the killers of her relatives.

 

#AtoZChallenge Day 2: Bright Side

B is for Bright Side

B

There are a lot of reasons to support the perception that this is a particularly low point for Muslim in the United States. We had a person show in several ways an extreme dislike of Muslims (and pretty much anyone different from him), and 63 million people used their right to vote to choose him as our president. He has since exercised his power to target Muslims around the country and world, and the rise in hate crimes against Muslims has increased, which means it’s not just the politicians who hate us. We’re hated by our very own people.

Things are pretty terrible, and with no end in sight.

And yet.

I have never seen so much support for Muslims in my life. The day after the election, I didn’t just hear distant stories of non-Muslims holding protective hands around mosques; I felt within my bones solidarity from my non-Muslim American peers. I watched girls from the ethnic majority shed tears for what I and those like me will be going through for the next few years. I had people around the world tweeting words of sympathy and encouragement to me because they knew that I was a Muslim in America facing a Trump era.

To this day, after I go to sleep crying after reading about another step closer the government has taken towards removing my safety, I wake up the next morning and discuss with my classmates how disgusting they see the racism in our country. I see others, who have no need to be invested in this struggle, getting just as riled up as I am when we talk about the double standard mainstream media has in reporting crimes by ethnic minorities and majorities.

The conversations that I, for my whole life, have only been exposed to in the echo chamber of the Muslim community are now taking place right before my eyes in groups in which I am the only American Muslim present.

People are talking about Muslims with love and support. 

I was in elementary school when 9/11 happened. All I’ve ever known is people in power preaching fear of Muslims and Islam. This year’s unwavering support of us goes against everything I ever thought to be a norm in this country.

It was meant to be a joke, but Hassan Minhaj’s piece about being Muslim in this era is so spot on. Things are terrible, but things are also surprisingly beautiful and, frankly, refreshing.

#AtoZChallenge Day 1: Awkward Moments

A is for Awkward Moments

A

Being asked “How do they do this in your culture?”  (uhm, which one? Muslim? Indian? American?)

.

The imam makes a mistake in recitation but you don’t want to correct it because suddenly you’re questioning every ayah you ever knew.  (it starts with “qul huwallahu ahad,” right?)

.

You eat non-zabiha meat and realize the person you’re eating with doesn’t (or vice versa).  (Frantically tries to recall all of the meat products I’ve ever eaten in the presence of this person)

.

He asks why you’re not praying.  (you might as well be overt and ask if she’s on her period.)

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She assumes you’re not going to wear Hijab at your wedding.  (I wear Hijab every other day of my life; why would I stop on that single day?)

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Your friends/coworkers make endless references to drinking, not realizing that you’ve lived a pretty decent life without a dose of alcohol in you.  (seriously, I don’t get it.)

.

Being asked “How do they say it in your language?” (Honey, you and I speak the same language.)

.

They complain about not being represented enough in mainstream entertainment when you’re still waiting on that fictional Hijabi character to show up. (never once been represented accurately and still living)

.

He’s Muslim and offers to shake your hand. (can I even use a religious excuse with this one?)

.

You accidentally let a “salaam” or “inshaallah” slip when talking to a non-Muslim. (I’m genuinely trying to figure out whether I can just let this one slide. It’s no different from Jewish people saying “mazeltov” or Latinos referencing their “abuela,” right?)

.


(Disclaimer: I’m not saying any of these are “good” or “bad” things to do. They’re just moments in life that make me laugh.)

Ramadan Log Day 27: Don’t Compare

Only I would get sick during Ramadan. :/

I’m not sure if this is due to my hectic last couple of days or simply a result of my business this entire month. I felt a tickle in my throat yesterday morning, and since then it has just grown into full on disgustingness inside. I did find one interesting positive though: Despite feeling sick, at least I don’t have an appetite. I didn’t feel hungry at all today. 🙂

With that being said, I am definitely taking a day tomorrow to let my body rest. It doesn’t feel right, but Allah allowed the sick to be exempt from fasting. I should take the blessing.

This was definitely a month of firsts. It’s my first summer ever working at a “real” job. My first Ramadan while working. The first time since I started blogging that I probably won’t finish the Qur’an (I’m only on the 17th juz. It ain’t happening). My first time getting sick during Ramadan.

Part of me wants to be upset about how this month turned out compared to other Ramadans, but I watched a video yesterday that changed that perspective. Usama Canon has a series on YouTube called “Fast Reminders” which are daily one-minute videos during the month of Ramadan. I splurged and watched all of them yesterday, and in the video titled “Don’t Compare,” I felt like he was talking directly to me.

In this video, he encourages us not to compare this Ramadan to Ramadans of the past, and rather to treat it as its own unique experience. He even says, “Maybe you’re working this Ramadan and you weren’t working last Ramadan.”

That’s ME!

So today, I’m taking the comparisons and shifting the view into blessings I have been given this month:

Rather than dwell on not being able to read as much Qur’an, acknowledge the success of getting to the second half of the Qur’an despite working four days a week.

Rather than complain about not being able to go to iftars because of work the next day, be grateful for having the opportunity to help dozens of people in my nursing homes during the month in which good deeds are multiplied.

Rather than wonder why God made me sick today, thank Him for giving me twenty-six straight days of good health to be able to experience what I did this month.

It’s kind of a fun exercise once you get into it. Don’t compare your current situation to situations of the past. Reflect upon the blessings that have come out of this moment and simple let it be. Lately everyone advises being present and mindful, and I have always struggle with what to do once you’re in the present, however this exercise has helped with that. Rather than just thinking about what is currently going on, it feels much more enriching to think about how what is going on is benefitting me.

Ramadan Log Day 23: Adapting

It’s hard to tell if the difficulties I’m having this month are actual issues in my life that I need to deal with or if it is just a result of the fasting and after Ramadan things will fizzle down and be bearable again.

Working is really tough for me. Props to all you dads who work full time for years on end without “summer breaks” and you moms who literally never leave your work of raising a child even for a second, and you superhuman beings who somehow do both work and kids and manage not to have a breakdown every five minutes. I only work a maximum of 20 hours a week, and I feel like I’m drowning.

But then again, I can’t tell if this is me not digging the whole regular job thing or if it’s just the fasting.

I still have that feeling that I’m not being productive with the time I have in this precious month. I had a scary thought today that this may very well be the last Ramadan I experience in my life, and I feel like I just let the whole month go by. One of the things weighing down on my mind these past few days is that I went the whole month without changing. Yes, I’ve read Qur’an and developed a closer relationship with Allah through reading some of his 99 names, but the amount of ibadah that I have done is much lower than what I have done in previous years. I feel like I’ve gone backwards in a way, and that is not a nice feeling to have as you leave what is supposed to be a transformative month.

At the same time, I also remember a conversation I had with my aunt last week in which she told me how being a wife and a mom has really limited the amount of private worship and prayer that she has been able to do. When I was talking to her, I remembered that Allah is The Just, and he would never put anyone at an unfair advantage than another simply due to responsibilities beyond their control. Moms don’t have time to sit for long periods of time with the Qur’an, but through taking care of their kids and home they are still earning favor from Allah.

With that in mind, I realize that while I may not have the hours in the day to do the same kind of worship I have done in the past, that doesn’t mean I don’t still have the opportunity to worship. Sure, I can’t dedicate the time to read 12 pages of Qur’an after each prayer due to my work schedule, but I can find ways to find God through my work. Maybe I can find ways to give my clients the best, most beneficial service that I can offer them in the time I have with them this week. I can be a more courteous driver while commuting to and from work rather than the impatient driver I have sadly turned into. I can push myself to efficiently do my work in a way that eases the workload of others around me. With the intention to use my abilities to improve the situations of others for the sake of God, maybe I can still have that enriching last ten days.

It still doesn’t feel like enough to me, but this may also be a matter of venturing away from what is familiar and trying to adapt to a new stage in life.

Ramadan Log Day 22: Still Here :)

That awkward moment when you’ve been counting the days wrong for the past week.

Yes, my past few posts were actually a day off. This skipping a day thing has really been messing me up on my day count. The beginning of the last ten days totally caught me off guard this past weekend.

Tonight is the night of the 23rd, which means it is an odd night and potential night of Laylatul Qadr. That being said, I’ll keep this post short. I really just wanted to check back in with you all and assure you that I have not abandoned this blog. 🙂

To be honest, I’ve just been having a rough past few days emotionally, which is why I haven’t been blogging. It isn’t anything major. Just a bunch of little things that have been slowly picking away at my optimism, and I don’t want to write a blog post while in an irritated state in case I post something I regret or have not thought out thoroughly enough. While I am trying to show you all as much of my real self as I can, there are some things that are too personal for “the world” to read.

As I said, it is a potential night for Laylatul Qadr, so that’s enough blogging for today. From here on out, I will only be posting on odd-numbered days, so that I can spend the odd nights focusing solely on the connection between myself and Allah. I hope you are all able to do the same.

Ramadan Log Day 17: Nothing Like Family

It is only during Ramadan when I can’t listen to regular music that I simply blast Maher Zain and Sami Yusuf over and over again in the car. I’ve been jamming to Allahi Allah Kiya Karo for the past week, and not once has it gotten old. Even among my regular K-pop and American pop music, that is still one of my all time favorite songs.

Great day, alhamdulillah. No, I haven’t really sorted anything out that I mentioned yesterday. I honestly don’t know when that will happen. I feel like my room will just become more and more of a mess until right before Eid when I decide to clean everything up and get ready for the holiday.

No, I didn’t get things done, but I spent the day with the people I loved. I got a surprise early release from work and spent the majority of the day at my cousins’ house. We played a spontaneous game of soccer – yes, while fasting – and then spent the rest of the evening chilling with board games and DIY spa treatments. In previous years, I have spent many iftars with this side of the family, but today was actually my first time all month seeing them. It was nice; I missed them. A huge part of Ramadan for me is the community aspect of breaking fast with loved ones, and I am so glad I got that tonight.

Because she’s the best, after reading yesterday’s post my aunt made rice for dinner the same the way Grandma used to make it. In any situation where we lose a loved one, a positive that comes out of it is just how much more precious those we still have become. ❤

Despite the difficulty of being at this age of uncertainty and maturity, I really have been blessed with so many people to help me through it. My family. My aunt, who has the experience of a parent but the youth of a peer. My mom, who always knows exactly what I need before I realize it myself. My cousins, who quite literally get me through each day simply with their presence in my life.

All of these individuals, plus so many more who I simply don’t have the time to list, have all been blessings from Allah. I read his name, “Al-Mujeeb” today. The short translation is “The Respondent,” but like so many of these names, the explanation gives the name so much more depth. “He is the one who responds to all the prayers or needs of His servants… He knows the needs of His creation before they realize them, and gives their satisfaction even before it is needed.”

My loved ones fulfill so many of my needs, similar to what is described in this quote, but it was ultimately God who gave these people to me. Before I was even conceived, He placed these people in my life, knowing that there would be days when my motivation was shot or my responsibilities were overwhelming and I would need someone to catch me as I felt myself falling. I am so blessed to be given the people I have, and I always pray that every individual I encounter has been given one or two or a few people whom they can rely upon to be there for support.