#AtoZChallenge Day 3: Cultural Identities

C is for Cultural Identities.

C

I was once on a six hour road trip with just me and my dad. To pass the time, we came up with a little game. What are the best and worst parts about your different cultural identities?

Here is what I came up with.

Muslim

Best Part: I have a guidebook, and a Being always looking out for me. I don’t have to wonder about my purpose or why things are the way that they are because God is taking care of that, which is so reassuring.

Worst Part: Because this religion is a way of life, with self-improvement always on the mind, there isn’t really any room to plateau or take a break. I have to constantly watch myself and make sure I’m making use of each moment, which is tiring and does make me a little superficially envious at times of those who don’t follow a religion.

American

Best Part: The shared culture. Thanksgiving dinners. The universal smell of barebeques on Memorial Day and the 4th of July. The holiday season that I look forward to even when I don’t actually celebrate any of those holidays.

Worst Part: That we are all slaves to money and capitalism. Everything, everything, is driven by money in this country.

Muslim-American

Best Part: I have the freedom to take control of how I learn about and interpret my religion. Because I don’t live in a theocracy, where the practice of Islam is governed by those in power, I have the freedom to learn and use my intellect to be critical of my sources and strive to find the most appropriate way of implementing the words of God in my own life.

Worst Part: My government is on a mission to paint the narrative of Islam as having some violent agenda.  I’m caught in the middle of pledging allegiance to this country and sitting by while it defames my very way of life.

Indian

Best Part: From the food to the clothes to the weddings, we just do it better.  Food has more taste, clothes are more festive, and weddings are just so much more fun than American weddings.

Worst Part: The colorism and racism is so painfully strong in this culture, which makes no sense when you consider the bigger picture.

Indian-American

Best Part: I get to enjoy the benefits of being American while having a lot of accessibility to very Indian things, like food or Mehndi or other Indian people.

Worst Part: Growing up and feeling left out of a lot of “American” experiences because our family is too conservative. Sleepovers. Going out with friends. Not having to report back to your parents on the hour every hour.

Indian-Muslim

Best part: Within Muslims in the Midwest, I’m part of the cultural majority, which is a pretty comfortable place to be. The majority of our community looks like me.

Worst part: Indians are so attached to their cultural practices, and that can get tricky when your culture has very strong ties to Hinduism.  There are so many practices that Indian Muslims have to unlearn because they don’t coexist well with Islam.

White

Best Part: Feeling connected to the racial majority in this country. I feel comfortable around White people because they too are my people.

Worst Part: Carrying the baggage of all of the truly terrible things that White people have done to non-White people throughout the centuries.

White-American

Best Part: I can claim roots in this country farther back than most non-White Americans I have encountered, which for some reason appears to be an advantage in terms of how legitimately “American” people consider you.

Worst Part: The overwhelming guilt and disgust at the name White Americans are making for themselves right now.  I have never wanted to distance myself more from this title than I have in the past year.

White-Muslim

Best Part: People, both Muslim and non-Muslim, seem to take you more seriously as a spokesperson for Muslims if you’re White.

Worst Part: Feeling invisible in the sense that Muslims often use “White” as a synonym for “Non-Muslim.”

Mixed-Race

Best Part: I get to experience the goodness of two cultures and attempt to shed the badness from each culture.  I love experiencing Indian culture in terms of the food, dress, language and social fun, while being able to replace the patriarchal culture with the White culture of female independence.

Worst Part: I. Don’t. Know. What. The. Heck. To. Call. Myself.

Mixed-American

Best Part: I am able to feel connected to both the cultural majority and minority of this country and relate to both experiences.

Worst Part: Feeling invisible in any of the discussions on race and culture.

Mixed-Muslim

Best Part: I think it is easier for me and my family to separate what is cultural from what is religious compared to other Muslim families who come from only one ethnic background.

Worst Part: There are very few people who understand why I live my life the way that I do, because in one way or another I separate myself from each culture due to my inclusion in the other culture.


*Note: I wrote the majority of this post about a year ago.

**I know, A to Z is over, but I still want to post the topics I missed over the course of the next few weeks.

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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.

#AtoZChallenge Day 15: Offensive Questions

O is for Offensive Questions

O

Guess what? When it comes to questions about my religion, they don’t exist.

Judgments can be offensive.

Assumptions can be offensive.

Honest questions? NEVER offensive.

I can’t count how many times I’ve heard “Okay, I have a question, but it might be offensive.”

In fact, something similar to this coincidentally happened just yesterday with two of my friends. After confirming that I was happy to answer anything, I was asked:

“Do you really wake up every morning before dawn to pray?

“Well, I try to.”

That one was a first for me, and I kind of loved it. Praying Fajr is something so normal and taken for granted that I forgot it is a completely foreign concept to people who don’t practice Islam.

To all of my non-Muslim friends: Please, never ever be afraid to ask me a question about Islam because you think I’ll be offended. I love when people ask me about Islam, and from what I’ve heard many other Muslims share this feeling as well. You’re taking an interest into something that is so special and important to me. You’re taking an interest in me. There is nothing offensive about that, and I actually see it as endearing.

“Why do you believe in killing innocent people for the sake of Jihad?”

Honestly, that isn’t even offensive to me. It’s presumptuous, but not offensive. I won’t get mad. I’ll just respond honestly and politely correct when necessary.

To my Muslim friends who get offended by questions: They’re just questions. Don’t feel attacked or get defensive. Just be genuine, and be happy to correct. The nature of an honest question is that the one asking doesn’t know the answer and is relying on you to straighten things up.

“Don’t you get hot in that?”

“Yeah. I do.”

🙂

Ramadan Log DAY 1: Forgotten Hobbies

Subhanallah. Let’s just start with that. Glory be to God. The One who is able to make us perceive nothing, and then perceive everything.

One of the things that I was nervous about leading up to this month was not just giving up the “distractions.” The question that had been rattling around my brain all of last week was, “What am I going to do with myself all day?” How would I keep from being bored? I spend so much of my day – much more than I would like to admit – doing completely pointless things online. In giving that up during Ramadan, what in the world would I be interested in enough to replace that time?

Here comes my subhanallah. Today, it felt like I had found a plethora of things to do. So many forgotten projects. So many activities that I can do that do not require a computer.

Seriously, bless my parents. My God grant them peace, happiness, and ease in this life and the next for fostering my creativity when I was young and allowing me to explore and find hobbies. I remember when I was around 10 or 12, in that age when you’re getting too old to just play, but too young to be interested in anything besides playing, and I went to my parents, in distress at being at this age where I was always so bored. In response to this, my parents didn’t just tell me to “get a hobby.” They asked me questions and got me thinking about my interests, and then gave me the means to explore these interests. When I said I liked writing, they got me colorful pens and a notebook. When I expressed an interest in video-editing, they got me an editing software. When I started having a strange obsession with white tigers, they got me a sewing project that creates an image of a tiger.

Because of that, I can now sit in my room with countless resources to occupy my time. Reading, starting up a latch-hook project from years ago, writing a novel who knows will ever be published.

I found so many moments today when I was at total peace, not having any music or noise to clog up my mind, aside from the subtle sounds of the wind rushing past my window and my neighbors playing in their sprinkler.

Have you ever heard joy?

Back in my room, I suddenly see so many possibilities of things I could do. I glanced at the time and realized that I actually don’t want today to end. I want more time to write and read and explore all of the stuff that I have stored in my room from when I was a kid.

Of course, then the thought charges back in my mind that I’m not a kid anymore. Yes, there are plenty of things that I want to do, but I also have an annoyingly long list of things I have to do. Update my resume. Apply to internships. Figure out if I should get replacement glasses, or contacts, or both.

Here is where I get stuck between being an adult and being a kid. How do I balance the things that I want to do, that are perfectly harmless, and the things that I have to do.

And then what about ibadah? Worship? Do I put everything on hold this month to just focus on worship? Or is this a third set of things to add to the balance?

Alamdulillah, God made this religion with so many options of ways to worship him. Saying dhikr while I do my latch hook. Learning about the Prophet Muhammad (S) and his companions in my books. In one of my pre-Ramadan lectures, the speaker said that any halal action can be turned into an act of worship. You just have to adjust your intention.

And of course, there is the reward of #TheStruggle. I am already seeing teasers popping up for new albums and music videos of some of my favorite – and I mean favorite – artists. But I said I would give it up for Him. I wouldn’t let my love of media distract me from real worship during such a precious month.

May Allah grant me and all of you strength through every sacrifice we make for Him this month. May He keep our intentions pure. May He reward us for our efforts. Ameen.

*Quote of the Day*

Two years ago, I spend Ramadan reading a translation of the Qur’an. Last year I read a biography of Prophet Muhammad (S). This year I’ve decided to read a book on various companions on the Prophet. The book is one my mom suggested to me, Companions of the Prophet by Abdul Wahid Hamid. Quite perfectly, there are 30 chapters, each detailing the life of one Sahaba (companion). Ironically, none of my favorite ones are in here, Abu Bakr, Khadija, Ruqayya, Uthman, but there are plenty of names that are unfamiliar to me so this will definitely be a learning experience. Who knows? One of these new names may end up being a new favorite sahaba.

Today I read about Mus’ab ibn ‘Umayr. It looks like he is most notably Muhammad’s (S) first ambassador of Islam, who was sent to teach Islam to the people of Yathrib (soon to be renamed as Medina). He dies in the Battle of Uhud, as he is protecting the Prophet, and his final words are pretty remarkable.

“Mus’ab was heard to repeat the words: ‘Muhammad is only a Messenger. Messengers have passed away before him,’ showing that however great his attachment was to the Prophet himself, his struggle above all was for the sake of God and for making His word supreme… The words he repeated, every time he was struck were later revealed to the Prophet and completed, and became part of the Qur’an” (Hamid 12).

Blogging from A to Z Day 7: Getting a Life

G is for Getting a Life

G

I’m late! 😦 Ugh, I am really trying so hard this month to keep up with this blogging challenge and everything that is involved with the end of my semester, but I had class this morning and then a paper to write and then an interview and then class again and now I’m late in my post for G. 😦

But interestingly, this actually fits right in with what I wanted to talk about today:

You know the phrase Get a Life? If you’re found saying or doing something seemingly useless or a waste of time, people tell you to “get a life,” as in, “get up off your butt and do something.”

Well, I went and got a life, and it is pretty darn tiring to manage. I have been so busy lately, really trying to balance all aspects of my life in the past month.

-Psychology research

-Applications and preparations for next semester.

-Every day school work.

-Maintaining friendships.

-MSA events.

-Keeping up with the exciting things happening in K-pop.

-Maintaining two blogs and preparing for this month of blogging every day.

-Personal and family stuff.

-Working.

-Setting actual deadlines for my writing for the first time in my life.

-Eating. Praying. Sleeping. Breathing.

It’s been insane. March, and now April, both feel like literally the busiest months of my life. On the plus side, I haven’t experienced a single moment of boredom in the past month. When my body isn’t physically going somewhere or doing something, my mind has been on the different things I’ve been needing to do – in only somewhat of an anxiety-inducing way.

The down side: little sleep and lots of getting sick. And being hours late with an A to Z post.

I like having things to do, because with each accomplishment I get a sense of joy, and with each prospective project I take on I get a tingle of excitement. However, with each item to add to the to-do list, I get a little anxiety. With every moment of cancelling with friends because of something I have to work on, I push them away little by little. With every night that I stay up just an hour later for finish an assignment because I’ve been blogging all day, I lose an hour of sleep.

Getting a life is great. I don’t miss my moments of boredom and uselessness at all. I just miss sleep. And not constantly having something I have to do.

To those of you older than me telling to me to just wait because it only gets better, I know.

I know.

Blogging from A to Z Day 1: Ayat Al-Kursi

A is for Ayat Al-Kursi

A

It’s the first day of the A to Z challenge! I’m beginning the month with a verse from the Qur’an: Ayat Al-Kursi. Chapter 2 (Al-Baqara, The Cow), verse 255. I probably recite this verse more than any other verse in the Qur’an (unless you count bismillah). I can’t give an estimated number, but I recite it several times a day.

The translation is interesting and pretty poetic. It basically describes God and some of his qualities, and the whole verse follows somewhat of a circular pattern. I won’t go into details, but if you’re interested in learning about the meaning of this verse, check out Nouman Ali Khan’s lecture on it. It’s only about 15 minutes and is really interesting.

The real reason why I recite it so much is primarily for the practical use. I’ve learned from many people (quoting Hadith) that it is good to recite Ayat Al-Kursi when in a situation of danger like riding in a car or plane. At my Muslim elementary school, we got in the habit of reciting Ayat Al-Kursi before taking any important test. I also learned from a trusted teacher of mine that there are huge benefits to reciting Ayat Al-Kursi after the five daily prayers.

Because of its supposed protective qualities, I have gotten in the habit of saying Ayat Al-Kursi in any anxiety-inducing situation: before taking a test, if I’m about to give a presentation, when I feel afraid, when walking around my house in the dark of the night, and I dare not be in a car without first reciting my dua and this ayah. It has almost become a coping mechanism for me. By reciting the words of the Qur’an, I am reminding myself that God is always with me and there to protect me. I know that he’s there even if I don’t say anything, but by saying it, I am acknowledging that in that moment, I am totally relying on God for my success and safety.

Below is an English translation of the verse. It is one of the longer verses of the Qur’an:

God: there is no god but Him, the Ever Living, the Ever Watchful. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes Him. All that is in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Him. Who is there that can intercede with Him except by His leave? He knows what is before them and what is behind them, but they do not comprehend any of His knowledge except what He wills. His throne extends over the heavens and the earth; it does not weary Him to preserve them both. He is the Most High, the Tremendous.

Blogging from A to Z

I have some very exciting news to share! Starting tomorrow, I will be taking part in the Blogging from A to Z challenge. What is Blogging from A to Z you ask?

Can you post every day except Sundays during this month?  And to up the bar, can you blog thematically from A to Z?

Most of the time if you subtract Sundays from April, you then have 26 days–one day for each letter of the alphabet.

Using this premise, you would start beginning April First with a topic themed on something with the letter A, then on April second another topic with the letter B as the theme, and so on until you finish on April thirtieth with the theme based on the letter Z.  It doesn’t even have to be a word–it can be a proper noun, the letter used as a symbol, or the letter itself.  The theme of the day is the letter scheduled for that day.

I did this last year with my K-pop blog, and I decided to try doing it with this blog this year! I have decided to use this as an opportunity to challenge myself (as I will be participating with both of my blogs this year) as well as force myself to post more on this blog. I always think of different things I want to talk about on here, but just never get around to posting anything outside of Ramadan. So prepare yourselves for your daily dose of minnimonmon rambles for the next four weeks. InshaAllah I’ll see you all tomorrow with my post for A!

If any of you are participating, let me know in a comment! I’d love to read your blog this month! If you would like to sign up, there are still two days to do so! To sign up, click here and for more information about Blogging from A to Z, click here.