Ramadan Log DAY 21: Yearning for the Beauty

I wish I knew Arabic. Like I wish I was fluent in Arabic and really knew what the Qur’an is saying.  I can read all the English translations I want, but from what Arabic speakers tell me, the English doesn’t do it justice.  I’ve heard enough tafseers to understand that there is so much meaning in each Arabic word of the Qur’an that no English translation would be able to convey it all.

And then there are the stories.  Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (R) was ready to murder the Prophet Muhammad (S), but when his sister showed him a part of the Qur’an, he found something in those words to make him want to become a Muslim right then and there.  All of the early Muslims of the Prophet Muhammad’s (S) time heard the Qur’an for the first time and viewed it as a collection of words that can only come from God.  I want to be able to see what they see and read what they read. I mean, the Qur’an is meant for all mankind, all types of people who speak all types of languages, and there is definitely beauty in some of the ayahs of the Qur’an, but being able to recognize it as a form of godly poetry is a skill I don’t yet have.  InshaAllah one day I can learn enough Arabic to be able to appreciate the beauty that are the words of the Qur’an.  Although, I do have to say that the words sound beautiful as I say them.  I may not know what they mean, but the sound and rhythm of the words sounds amazing and I consider myself privileged to be able to read them and say them.

Reason #8 to read Qur’an: Once you become comfortable enough with reciting, the words can make your voice sound beautiful in a way that normal talking can’t ever do.

SubhanAllah story: Today I was reading my English translation and just wasn’t finding the “right” ayah to share.  I read a bunch that were useful and informative, but nothing that grabbed my attention and interest like my other “Ayahs of the Day” do.  I reached the end of my 150 ayahs with nothing to share, but I noticed that there were only about five ayahs left in the surah I was reading, so I just decided to read all of it and hope that there would be something noteworthy for me to share.  SubhanAllah, I found something.

For every single post, I know instantly upon reading it which would be my ayah of the day to share.  That happened with this set of ayahs.  It is at the end of Surah 55, Surah Al-Qamar (“The Moon”), in ayahs 52-55.  “And all that they do is noted in (their) books (of deeds): And every matter, small and large, is on record.  Verily, as to those who act right, they will be in the midst of gardens and streams, In an Assembly of Truth, in the Presence of a Sovereign Almighty.”  From what I’ve gathered by talking to my non-Muslim friends, this is a concept unique to Islam.  There is no one deed that will send a human straight to Heaven, nor one that will send a human straight to Hell.  It is based on our entire lives, our entire repertoire of deeds.  Every single thing that we do is recorded.  So all of those little good deeds, like holding open the door a little longer for the person behind you, or picking up a pencil that you see someone drop, all gets recorded and is noted by God.  Every single thing will be taken into account in our final judgement, so no good deed should seem too small to do.  Likewise, we shouldn’t judge any bad deed as too small to go unnoticed.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Day 21

Munchkins given to us by relatives and Peach-Mango Juice

Day 21.1

Spaghetti made by my mom

Advertisements

Ramadan Log DAY 20: The Famous Jugular Vein Ayah

We’re officially into the last ten days of Ramadan! It feels like day 15 was just yesterday…

So not exactly the best day ever today, but hey, sometimes there are good days and sometimes there are not so good days.  We just have to take it one day at a time.  I spent basically the whole day in my room, cleaning, on the computer, and reading.  I have rediscovered my love for Harry Potter this summer and have been passing the time very quickly rereading the series.  I just love the story and get so into it every time I read it.  I’ve also discovered a new youtuber! Her name is Amenakin.  She is a Muslim living in the UK and makes videos about Hijab and other “Muslim” topics.  I was watching a bunch of her videos today.  They are both entertaining and informative.  I just love the way she presents her ideas.  Very easy to relate to, mashaAllah.

I was very surprised at myself today when I read my Qur’an after Asr. My pre-iftar routine this month has been praying Asr, reading 4 pages of Arabic Qur’an, and reading 150 ayahs of the English Qur’an, which all takes about half an hour giving me around 15 minutes to prepare iftar.  Today, I started the whole thing as usual, but found myself finished with almost half an hour to spare until iftar.  It usually doesn’t go by that quickly, and the only explanation could be that I’m actually getting faster and more fluent at reading Arabic! I was reading Surah As-Saffat, which has really short ayahs, so that could have been why it went by so quickly, but it was a nice surah to read.  There weren’t very many unfamiliar words in the surah, and each ayah came off the tongue very comfortably.  It’s really interesting how that works.  I can often tell when reading the Arabic which surahs talk more about law even if I don’t understand it because the surah contains a lot more Arabic words that I’m not familiar with.  I remember Surah Nisaa’ was like that.

Today’s ayah of the day comes from Surah 50, Surah Qaf.  It is one I have heard many times before, but it brings me so much comfort that I have to share it.  Ayah 16 says “And indeed, We have created man, and we know what (evil) temptation his innermost self may bring to him: And We are nearer to him than (his) jugular vein.”  God is closer to us than our own veins.  He knows us better than we know ourselves.  He knows not only what we do, but our desires and temptations.  I find this fact more comforting than intimidating.  Whenever I have a problem, it is so easy to turn to God because I know that he knows me inside and out.  He knows everything I keep hidden from the rest of the world, the thoughts that go through my head and the things I struggle with.  Who better to ask for help than the one who knows us best?  I’ve talked to friends who say it’s so weird for them to “talk” to God and make dua about their problems, but if you think of God as someone who knows you better than your parents or your best friend, it becomes so easy to just talk, let out your problems, and ask for help.  Since God knows us so well, he can give us the best help, most appropriate for ourselves and our own unique situations.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Day 20

Biryani and Chicken 65 from an Indian restaurant

Ramadan Log DAY 19: Responding to the Haters

Alhamdulillah, I’ve had a lot of good days in a row.  Every Sunday I go to a weekly class, and today’s was very interesting.  We had a guest teacher and he gave a really good, refreshing talk.  Basically, he talked about being Muslim in the United States and how we face a different environment from Muslims in other countries and from earlier times.  He talked about how the message of only one God, which was such a profound message back in the Prophet’s (S) day, isn’t a big issue here.  Instead of trying to preach about God and our beliefs, in order for Muslims to really grow and become a “normal” part of American society, we just need to live our lives, communicate normally with our neighbors, and stop trying to desperately defend ourselves against every person who says something negative about Islam.  (This isn’t word for word what he said, and he said a lot of other things along with it, but this is just one of the ideas I got from his talk.)

Going off of that sentiment, I want to share one of the reasons why I started blogging.  Lately, in the past couple years, while I haven’t been personally attacked for being Muslim, I’ve seen an increasing amount of interviews and online memes and comments by angry online people saying very negative and closed-minded things about Muslims.  When I initially started noticing this, I became so angry and wanted to reply to every single comment about why they are wrong.  I kept trying to go out of my way to demonstrate that Muslims are “just like you” and possibly even better, but nothing very positive came out of that.  To the people I was arguing with, it was just more argument and no actual listening was taking place.  I would see other people angrily reply to anti-Islam comments only to gain even more hate from even more angry people.  Over the past few years, I’ve developed a new stand and way to respond to the “anti-Islam” issue that seems to be plaguing every single Islam-related youtube video, news article, or interview: Just stop with the arguing.  We shouldn’t have to change the way we act, go out of our way to make a point, or get so emotional over little arguments with strangers on the internet.  If we just live our lives using the Prophet Muhammad (S) as our model, that in and of itself will be a message to anyone and everyone that we don’t need their arguments.  If these “haters” want to accuse us of being violent or oppressive or whatever, when they see us living normal lives, enjoying life, and being good-natured people, they will have no grounds for hate and the larger, more silent population of the people will see the truth for what it is instead of angry, overly-emotional, unproductive arguments online.

I’m not trying to start any movements, or “right the wrongs” with this blog.  I just want to share my life – not just my religion but my life,  which I call Islam – with whoever will listen.  My response to the haters is no longer arguing; it’s moving on with my life so that the haters will have one less person to yell at.  When you read this, I want you to take in who I am: an American Muslim girl just trying to live my life.  You’d be surprised at the difference between trying to appear normal and actually being normal.  We shouldn’t have to try to show everyone how great we are.  We should just be.  That is what I am attempting to do.

(Side note: When I say “haters”, I mean anyone who doesn’t like “Muslims” as a population.  “Haters” does not mean “non-Muslims”.  It does not mean “Americans.”  It means any person from any culture with any beliefs who uses the internet to share hateful words against Muslims as a whole.  Just as we don’t want to haters to think all Muslims are alike, we can’t say that all Americans are alike.  In both groups of people, there are the angry haters (who are just a small fraction of the population) and the greater majority who become a victim of stereotypes.  Everyone loses when we give fuel to the fire of hatred.)

Now I will end with a beautiful ayah I read today.  I read the translation of all of Surah Muhammad (Surah 47) today, and let me just say that so far that is my favorite surah in the Qur’an.  Remember the pep talk set of ayahs from Surah An-Nahl on Day 2?  This whole surah is like a pep talk.  I’m not 100% sure if that is why it is called Surah Muhammad, but as I was reading it, it felt like the words were being directed to the Prophet himself and his companions as they were being attacked by the Meccans.  Anyway, I found in it a really vivid description of Heaven which is always nice to share :).  Ayah 15 says, “(Here is) a story about the Paradise which the righteous are promised: In it are rivers of water made pure and clean; Rivers of milk whose taste never changes; Rivers of wine, joy to those who drink; And rivers of honey, pure and clear.  In it, there are for them all kinds of fruits; And forgiveness (and grace) from their Lord.  (Can those in these Gardens) be compared to those who shall live, forever in the Fire, and be given, to drink, boiling water, so that it cuts up their stomachs (to pieces)?”

Whenever you are struggling with doing the right or wrong thing, just think of this ayah.  Pure, delicious flowing rivers or boiling stomach-cutting water?  It’s up to you and how you choose to live your life.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Day 19

Fruit Salad and Hot Dog Biscuits made by my aunts

Day 19.1

For dinner, Chicken Kheema made by my aunt, Lasagna made by my mom, and Lamb Nihari made by one of the students in the class (with Naan Bread)

Ramadan Log DAY 18: Memories at the Mosque

What started out as a very lazy day ended up being one of my most productive evenings so far this Ramadan!  I went to an interfaith iftar at my mosque and had a surprisingly great experience.  My relationship with my mosque has been a dynamic one (There are a lot of ups and downs), but alhamdulillah over the past ten years, the love has outweighed the dislike. 🙂

My grandma always asks me to attend these things with her and help her set up before and clean up after the events, and I only actually agree to help her maybe 1 in every 4 times she asks (which I’m realizing now is pretty terrible of me).  I’m learning this Ramadan that being out of the house actually makes the fasts easier, and it’s Ramadan so helping her out would mean so much more, so I decided to help her.  Since it was an interfaith event, I brought one of my non-Muslim friends with me.

I am so glad I brought this friend with me.  Out of all my non-Muslim friends, she probably knows the most about Islam because we talk about it a lot, so it was really special to be able to show her my mosque.  Like I said, I have had so many emotional ups and downs with this mosque, but as I was showing her around and reliving all of my childhood experiences for her, I realized that even though it can be dirty and smelly and the people don’t always speak the best English and women issues don’t always seem to be given equal importance to that of the men, I grew up in that mosque and I honestly consider it part of my home.  My grandparents worked at the Da’wah center next door so I’ve been around there a lot.  We go there every Eid, every summer for summer camps, for weddings and funerals, and for volunteering.  As I was giving my friend an informal tour, I flashed back to running around the mosque with my cousins, sneaking into rooms and spaces we knew we shouldn’t be in, eating countless iftars with members of our community, praying all sorts of prayers while having all sorts of emotions, all in that same mosque.  Looking back, I have really good memories of that place and I’m glad I got to share such an important part of my life with one of my closest friends.

I love doing these special things for iftar, but I will admit that it does get difficult to keep up with the Qur’an reading when I have somewhere to go in the evening.  I had to very strategically time when I was going to pray each prayer so that I would have enough time to pray and read my pages of Qur’an afterwards as well as find time for the English reading in the few hours between when I woke up (which was really late. I went to sleep last night AFTER Suhoor 😦 ) and when I left for the mosque.  Today I got to Surah 44 (Ad-Dukhan, or “The Smoke”)  in the English Qur’an and I found a portion that I could directly relate to.  Ayahs 38-39 say “And We did not create the heavens and the earth, and all between them, just as (an idle) play.  We did not create them except for true (and noble) ends.”

I have never had a problem with the idea of predestination and free-will coexisting, because in my mind it makes perfect sense that we act in our own free will but God knows exactly what that will will be and that he allows it to happen, but the one question in my mind has always been why?  Why would God create this world that he controls and where already knows the outcome of everything before it even happens?  When I get questions like this in my mind, I always think “Allahu ‘Alam (God knows best).  He knows everything and has a reason for everything.  This is something that I don’t have to understand.”  These ayahs I read today express that same sentiment.  It’s not just a game.  There is a real reason for everything, for our creation, and for the way things are.  We just don’t understand.  We didn’t create this world, so we don’t have to understand everything about it, and that’s okay.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Day 18

Biryani, Vegetable Salan, and Pita Bread provided by the mosque.  (I came too late to get any of my beloved samosas 😦 )

Ramadan Log DAY 17: “Lean In”

If ten-year-old me could see me now, she would be completely shocked at how I spent my day.  I willingly spent a good portion of my day cleaning my room and listening to a lecture on youtube about Islam and women.  Today I consider that a good day.  Back in the day, that would have been torture.  Growing up is such a magical thing.

That lecture was so good though.  My mom had been telling me for weeks that I should watch it, and my room was in desperate need of cleaning, so I killed two birds with one stone and listened to the lecture while tidying the mess of my room (ironically appropriate considering I’m usually jamming to some K-pop while cleaning).  It was given was Anse Tamara Gray, who if you don’t know her is an amazingly knowledgeable Muslima.  It is called “Lean In: Our Feminist Manifesto” and is about feminism in Islam.  It can basically be divided into three parts: She begins by talking about the history of feminism and how Muslims were (and still are) affected by it, then gives some words about Hijab (which was my favorite part), and ends by addressing the male audience.  The entire thing is so well-done and gives a lot of really good messages.  I recommend everyone, Muslim or not, boy or girl, to watch it.  You can watch it here. The whole thing is about 40 minutes long.  The feminism history part begins at 2:15, the Hijab part begins at 17:05, and the address to men begins at 24:46.  I encourage everyone to watch the whole thing, but if you don’t have 40 minutes to spare, at least watch part of it.  (And I beg all of my male readers to listen to the last bit.  Please.  I think that may have been the most useful part of the whole lecture.)

I want to share my favorite moment from it.  During the Hijab portion, she gives the reason why women wear Hijab: “Allah himself has made plain the reasoning for Hijab: That we may be known.  Like a sports team, we recognize each other. Like an ethnic background, we feel comfortable with each other.  Like a flag held high in the field of battle, we bravely go out each day in every country of the world, representing our Prophet, sallalahu alayhi wassalam, representing our religion, representing our men who too often blend into the background, representing our hurting women who need our activism, representing any woman of any faith who does not know how to show her conviction.  We wear the scarf that we might be known.”  I love this because she mentions the parts of Hijab that I love the most but never knew how to put into words.  (And if haven’t guessed yet, yes I do wear Hijab :))

Now for my miracle that happened today. I was reading my English translation of the Qur’an, in Surah Ash-Shu’ra (Surah 42, translated as “Consultation”), looking for an ayah to quote and I came across ayah 28, which reads: “And He is the One Who sends down the rain after (men) have despaired and given up any hope, and scatters His Mercy (far and wide).  And He is the protector, Worthy of all Praise.”  At the exact moment I read that, it started raining. Hard.  All of the sudden.  There may have been a few clouds out, but you could still see the sun through the rain and it just looked beautiful. (And this isn’t all in my head.  Without my prompting my sister later commented about how the sky was orange while it was raining)  All I could say was subhanAllah. Glory be to God.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Day 17

Toasted Sourdough bread with butter (I accidentally ate half of it before remembering to take a picture :P)

Day 17.1

For dinner, White Rice, Tomato Salan, and Potato Cutlets with Kheema Filling

Ramadan Log DAY 16: Partied Out

I feel like an old light bulb, slowly dimming, threatening to go out any second.  I had such a long day today, and am so ready to just go to sleep, but I have to post this.  If I miss a day, it will be so easy to just miss another day and another and another.

I went to an iftar party today! The family who hosted it hosts it every year, so it’s always something to look forward to.  Before eating iftar, we fill baskets to send to Muslim human service centers.  They are meant to be Eid gifts for families who may not be fortunate enough to have anything nice on Eid for themselves.  It’s a really fun, well-intentioned project and I enjoy it every year.  It is also a time where I can see friends who I don’t see very often, which is always nice.

So I cheated on my youtube ban this morning and spent a couple hours watching a ton of youtube videos.  Some of them were about Islam, but the majority of them were for entertainment.  I know, it totally goes against one of my goals.  I really have no excuse except that I was bored and tired (I woke up earlier than usual).  May Allah keep me strong…

Except for the morning, I pretty much spent most of the day preparing for the party.  I was bringing Tasbeehs to put in the baskets, so I was gathering them as well as making some.  That was my day.

I didn’t get to read my Qur’an before the party, but that is one of the goals I am going to be absolutely diligent of, so I read it when I got home.  I am just flying through surahs in the English Qur’an, because they are getting so short.  I read Surah 38, 39, and started 40.  One of the ayahs in surah 39, Surah Az-Zumar (“The Crowds”) just gave me the chills.  It is ayah 42, which says, “It is God Who takes the souls at their death; And from those who do not die during their sleep (He takes as they sleep): Those for whom He has ordered death, He does not let (them return to life), but He sends the others (to their bodies) for a length of time.  Surely, in this, are (His) Signs for those who think.”  Basically, God takes our souls when we are sleeping and keeps those whose time it is to die, and sends the rest back.  It just demonstrates how we are truly powerless against God’s will.  It is up to him when we die and when we stay alive.  I mean, I already knew that, but it’s just so much more vivid when described in this way.

With that chilling thought, I am now going to try to go to sleep.  Allahumma bismika amutu wa ahya. By Your name, Allah, I die and I live.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Day 16

Biryani, Cholay, Mediterranean Chicken, and Indian Chili Chicken.  (All made by the host and other guests)

Ramadan Log DAY 15: My Favorite Qur’anic Story

We are officially halfway through Ramadan!  Only 15 days to go!

Every year is the same: The first fifteen days drag and feel so long, yet the last fifteen days go by so quickly.  Fifteen days seems so short when thinking about Eid.  I am so excited for Eid!  Ramadan may not be the Christmas of Islam, but Eid is. 🙂

Today was a good day, alhamdulillah.  I recorded another henna tutorial, got together with a friend who I haven’t seen in months, ate some really good food for iftar and dinner, and read one of my favorite stories so far in the Qur’an.  Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.  (If you don’t know, “alhamdulillah” means “Praise be to God”)  Good days are truly a blessing from God.

I’m just going to go straight into the story.  I’ve made it to Surah 37 in the English Qur’an, called Surah As-Saffat.  I have three different translations of the Qur’an, and they all give a different meaning for “As-Saffat”, but they’re all related: “Ranged in Rows”, “The Ranks”, or “The Rows of People (Arranged by their Rank)”.  It tells the story of various prophets, and the one I want to focus on is the story of Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) (A) and Prophet Ismail (Ishmael) (A).  I first learned this story in kindergarten and I’ve been awestruck by it ever since.  It was so special for me to be able to read the story from the Qur’an itself.  It’s not very long, so I’ll quote the whole thing.  The story is told in ayahs 99-111:

“And he (Ibrahim) said: ‘Verily, I am going to my Lord! He will surely guide me!

Oh my Lord! Grant me (a progeny) of the righteous!’

So, We gave him the good news of a boy ready (ready to be born) to suffer and be patient.

And when (his son, Ismail) became (the age to) work with him, he (Ibrahim) said: ‘Oh my son! I see in a dream that I offer you in sacrifice (to God): Now see what is your thought!’ (The son) said: ‘Oh my father! Do like you are commanded: You will find me, if God so wills one who has (great) patience (and consistency)!’

Then, when they both had submitted their wills (to God’s Wish), and he (Ibrahim) laid him (his son, Ismail) to prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice),

We called out to him, ‘Oh Ibrahim!

You have already fulfilled your vision!’ – Verily, thus We do reward those who do good.

Indeed, it was clearly a trial-

And We ransomed him with a great sacrifice (with that of a ram):

And We left for him (this blessing) in the generation to follow in later times:

‘Peace be upon Ibrahim’

Verily, thus do We reward those who do good.

Indeed, he was one of Our believing servants”

(From what I’ve learned in school, because Ibrahim had the dream, he believed that it was an order from God to kill Ismail.)

As far as I can see, this is just about as devoted to God as it gets.  Ibrahim (A) was willing to kill his own and only son because he believed it is what God wanted, and Ismail (A) was willing to let his own father kill him for that same reason.  This level of faith is just something else.  To be able to trust God and love him so much that you would be willing to kill the very son you prayed to have is just incredible.  And, not being a parent, I’ve always connected more with Ismail in this story.  He had so much faith in the afterlife, so much faith that God would reward him for following His command, and so much faith in his dad’s belief, that he gave up his life.  Whenever I think of this story, I try to put myself in Ismail’s (A) position, and just can’t imagine letting someone kill me because he said that God told him to.  If there was something more, some feeling Ismail (A) got that made him know that this was an order from God, it is still amazing that he had so much devotion to God to give up his life.  With knowledge that there is an afterlife where we will be rewarded in a better way than we can even imagine as long as we follow God’s commands, a task like this should be easy.  Yet when it really comes down to it, it requires so much faith to be able to give up this world in an instant for one we can’t see.  The faith of Ibrahim (A) and Ismail (A) in this story just blows me away every single time.

And just to clarify, at the end of the story, before Ibrahim (A) actually kills Ismail (A), God sends down a ram for him to kill instead, conveying to them that they passed the test and Ismail (A) doesn’t have to die.  I’ve heard people say that God is so cruel so making Ibrahim (A) kill his son, but that was never the plan.  It wasn’t Ismail’s (A) time to die, so he didn’t.  God always has a plan, and it is always for our own benefit.

*IFTAR PICTURE OF THE DAY*

Day 15.1

Fruit Salad prepared by my sister and Samosas

Day 15

For dinner, Pad Kee Mao from a nearby Thai restaurant