You never know where a blessing can come from

My mother always said you never know where a khair (blessing) can come from so be open to everyone. As is her custom she would teach me these important life lessons with a short moral story. This story in particular involved a husband and a wife of meager means. One night they had a visitor. The visitor knocked on the door. It was the husband, who stood up to answer the call, but before he opened the door, the wife asked the husband, who it was that was at the door. The husband replied it was so and so. Upon hearing this, the wife asked her husband to ignore the visitor and not open the door. The husband obliged his wife’s wishes and the visitor left when no one would open the door. It is said the visitor had glad-tidings for the family and had they opened the door for him, the family would have inherited riches, a great blessing, which would have made the rest of their life one of ease.

And thus, my mother said, one doesn’t know where a blessing will come from and who is carrying that blessing for you so be open my dear. She also said, you never know where shar (misfortune) can come from so keep your eyes open too. I understood this to also mean what or who seems to be honey, can really be rather poisonous. And what looks harmful can turn out to be sweet honey.

I am sure many of us have had such experiences and how enlightening it is or sometimes heartbreaking when what we saw or thought was the truth wasn’t the actual reality. I had many such experiences, both done by me and done to me.

One experience done by me, which still sticks in my mind, because it is rather silly and of course for my personal life journey it remains a reminder for me to always look beyond what is apparent. In high school part of our graduation curriculum included that we take computer courses. I remember going through the course packet looking through all the classes to pick for the following semester. My criteria for taking these electives was not for the purpose of education or to gain skills, but to simply take any computer class that was not being taught by Mrs. Davidson. It is important to note computers were just coming of age in the early 2000s when I was starting HS and I practically didn’t know anything about technology nor had much interest. I loved science, history, and English, not computers.

Only a handful of teachers taught many of the computer courses available at my school so I picked the ones that were not being taught by the “mean-looking Mrs. Davidson.” My buddy and I were in the same boat. We saw Mrs. Davidson in the school hallways and she did not look like someone we were going to survive. We judged her as not being nice and she scared us so we avoided her courses. As destiny would have it, the following semester reporting for duty for my database class, guess who is the teacher?

Mrs. Davidson and not the teacher whose name I don’t even remember now. Mrs. Davidson took over the course for the other teacher, who had gone on leave or something. My friend and I were shocked. After this shock wore off, we plotted to change courses, but were unsuccessful. Not wanting to spend a semester in Mrs. Davidson’s class, my friend dropped the course. I stayed with it, because I didn’t want to fall behind on my courses or take a summer course. It was one of the best decisions that I made in HS and Mrs. Davidson’s impact on my life I still benefit from now and will do so forever. Remember as I’ve said, I was very illiterate almost in computers and technology. Her teaching style, her encouragement, and high expectations not only made me computer literate, but helped me excel in other courses. She became my favorite teacher ever and I her favorite student. She nominated me out of all the classes she taught as her student to represent the school. The teacher whose class I plotted to avoid, I would end up taking her other advanced computers courses that I didn’t even need. She was an amazing teacher, who unlocked my potential and love of learning of challenging subjects that I didn’t find interesting, and pushed me to be better. I can write in great length about Mrs. Davidson. I am grateful to her not just for making me a better student in the classroom, but a better student of life. Thank you Mrs. Davidson.

My mother’s saying was right. We simply don’t know where a blessing can come. That is just one experience of many for me.

And one such experience that was done to me and what sparked this entry down memory lane, happened today. I was at the gas station. A very busy gas station, in which cars were in line to pump gas. Around the same time that it was my turn to pump at my station, two young white guys pushed their car to the station diagonally across from the station I was at. They had run out of gas. Both were wearing baseball caps, white sneakers, and baggy t-shirts/pants. The more active one of the two begin to ask people for money and he didn’t ask in a polite sort of way. It was more:, “Hey you got some change.” The middle-aged white guy next to my station shook his head no almost in disgust. Undeterred the guy goes on to ask other people at the station, one by one. Well, everyone except me. I even looked towards his direction to see if he would ask me for help. He didn’t and walked across to the other side to ask.

Now I was fascinated by this. I follow the school of thought, which says give folks the benefit of the doubt. I don’t like to rush to assumptions and when I do, I try to check myself. But there I was thinking about it and I couldn’t come to any conclusion, apart from me being a visible Muslim. That was the only thing that separated me from the other diverse/mixed race crowd at the pump. Only one guy gave him a bunch of coins. No one else helped the young man for the few minutes this was ongoing. Maybe they had looked at him, judged him and saw a no good, lost child. It is possible.

I just went inside my car, in case he came back to my side and asked for my help at last. That would be testing my principles you see. Because if that had occurred and I refused to help him knowing I could or did help while also letting him hear a piece of my mind then it would be about my ego and kindness to another human being shouldn’t involve the ego is what I’ve always told myself. I guess I didn’t want to be tested. I am not a Prophet or a Monk. I do have selfish feelings. And who knows, maybe that young man saw a Muslim woman and he thought he was a man so he didn’t want to burden me for my own benefit. So not asking me was rather a favor he had bestowed upon me in his eyes. It is possible. But I certainly would have been the one to give him actual dollar bills.

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How does one respond to insults…

How does one react when you, someone you love or values you hold very dear are belittled, undermined, insulted, in short treated with contempt and/or dismissal? Granted, different situations and personalities will require different responses from you. Circumstance is a strong influencer (ie on the job, with a loved one vs a stranger and so on) as will be our own personalities. Some of us are more combative, as my cousin once said following a racist insult in which I encouraged we ignore, “if they throw xaar(shit) at me, I will throw xaar (shit) back at them.” And she did just that. Traded insults for insults.

Although I understand the human need to defend one’s honor after being insulted and I am a strong believer in standing up for yourself (and others), I just have never been capable of trading insults or screams.

When one’s personhood is insulted, the natural human reaction is to insult back. If they belittle your race, religion, or country then to make sure they don’t get one over you, you belittle their race, religion, or country. From my experience that seems to be the predominate path most people take.

I was reminded of this after watching the interview with CNN anchor, Anderson Cooper, in which he responded to Star Jones allegations that he publically revealed his sexuality to boost ratings. After dismissing those allegations as outrageous, he went further to discredit Star Jones personhood. He mentioned how she, not him was obsessed with the limelight, pointing out her gastric bypass surgery and wedding. And how Star Jones was practically a “nobody” now. Even though it is not my style, I can’t say I blame Anderson for defending himself and pointing out the hypocrisy of his criticizer.

How else can you defend yourself against lies/hypocrisy, but criticize those who criticize you? The other path to take is just defend yourself, without taking that additional step to belittle the other person. If it doesn’t end there (and often it doesn’t, because it is seen as being weak, which encourages more criticism) then simply keep silent and separate yourself. I have personally always struggled with which method (s) to employ. I don’t believe in being made a fool of and I hate hypocrisy, but I also regard respect in the highest esteem.

When I was around five, my aunt had admonished me severally for spilling juice and breaking a vase during the same night, in which I stayed with her. I was so devastated by her yelling that I left her home in the middle of the night and went to the park to sleep. I didn’t know what I was doing or what I had got myself into. I don’t even know how the dangerous idea entered my little mind and where I found the courage to carry it out. I just felt humiliated and fled. That incident shook my parents so much, that they never left me with anyone ever again until I was much older. Although of course I am more rational and wouldn’t make such dangerous choices, that nature of mine, in which I have to flee yelling and disrespect I still carry. Even friendly sarcasm that belittles rubs me the wrong way. I am very sensitive when it comes to respect and when I feel like I don’t receive it, something happens to me emotionally. It is like I shut down, especially if it is coming from someone who is important to me. Because I don’t like it for myself, I am incapable of practicing it on anyone else. (This is also makes me think of romantic relationships and how I would perform since I hate conflict/arguments etc. Would I flee after a fight? I have never been tested and it is something I think about. There is a Somali saying, which states there is nothing closer in the world than teeth and the tongue and sometimes they too bite. I find this saying very profound.)

When a person is angry or insulting you then there is little room to reason with them so why bother and waste your energy or worse escalate a situation? And when you have the platform to get back at them it just seems wrong and egoistic to point out their shortcomings. I am specifically speaking about personal feuds like the one that occurred between Anderson and Jones, and not social/political arguments. I am fully on board with the Islamic ethics of not publically belittling someone’s personhood and if you have something to say to them than share it with them in private and with respect even if they have not given you the same courtesy. This can be something as small as telling someone they are late for a meeting and it applies to children as well, because they too feel humiliation.

Of course there are times when the hypocrisy is so blatant as in Anderson’s case that is hard not to retaliate, but couldn’t one just as easily have said you are wrong and here is why, without dragging the other person in the mud? I think most of us call that being the bigger person. I know it can be hard to follow sometimes though.

Reflections on the year that changed my life

I’ve been meaning to write about the year that changed my life, but you see, a large part of my individual culture is Somali. I am not sure if I can say all of me, because so many things make up the pieces of who I am. I think it would be safe to say for most of us, if not all of us, we are made of many things. There are many parts to us.

The reason, I mention the Somali part here regarding myself is because we tend to be not very “melodramatic”. Somalis experience events, ponder and pray about it, then keep it moving. We tend to not dwell and immortalize life experiences. Like everything in life, this has its advantageous and disadvantageous.

About two years ago, I was at an interfaith event. I am a Muslim and I am easily identified as a Muslim, because I wear the hijab, also known as the “headscarf.” At that event a man came up to me and questioned very sincerely, why more Muslims don’t attend vigils honoring the victims of 9/11. It was from his experience. It may not mirror yours or mines, but it was his. I personally didn’t share that observation; however it did make me think of culture differences when the matter concerns responding to tragedy.

And when I say culture, please understand I am speaking specifically of Somali culture and not “Muslim culture.” What many people fail to understand is that Muslims are not a monolithic group, but over 20% of humanity, encompassing cultures (not to mention individuals) as diverse as the human race. (ie American Muslims share the same culture fabric present in America, this will be different than Muslims in Pakistan, which will be different from Muslims in Nigeria.)

The man’s question made me think of Somalis. I am speaking from my experience and it was hard for me to imagine Somalis (perhaps not so much the younger generation) attending or initiating vigils to honor victims of a tragedy, especially year after year. And when it comes to (National) tragedies, Somalis have had more than their fair share.

Never have I seen the Somali community as a whole hold any event similar to the events which are held throughout the US to remember the victims of 9/11. Recently there was a tragedy suffered by a Somali family. Those from the Somali community prayed and attended to the family. It was the American neighbors, who took it one step further and set up a memorial to remember the victims in this family. It would be unfair to say one didn’t care, because they didn’t attend the memorial or set up a memorial to remember victims. So because I come from this culture, I understood not participating in vigils or days of remembrance doesn’t translate to apathy or worse malice. People do grieve differently.

People also experience historic events differently. Goodness. I related all of that just to make this one point. If you plan on reading this, then I advise you to sit back and relax, because knowing myself, it may turn out to be long read. I have an extreme difficulty to keep the written word short, it’s a miracle I am able to use twitter.

September 11, 2001, changed the direction my life would take and perhaps that would ring true for most Americans and even for folks beyond our borders. I don’t believe my experiences are of any distinction to mention; and this played a large role on why for a long time I didn’t find it necessary to write about my reflections even on my own blog. I guess it was easier to blame the Somali part of me, but the greater truth perhaps is the question of what makes my experience “special” to write about. Then again, I also wonder what is the point of writing, but to write. It’s not so much about having an effect as much as sharing some reflections, which I have gained along the way. I will attempt to do that in this post and I hope if you are still reading at this point, that you may benefit in some way or in the least see reflections which may be new to you.

If I were to describe my life up to this point, I would put it in three major phases. These phases are typical: childhood, adolescence, and now adulthood. But perhaps what is not typical is the paradigm shift that I underwent in each of those phases.

I was born into a Muslim Somali family. I think labels, like religious, conservative, liberal or the like are very subjective and for that reason I tend to shy away from labeling. In my home, my parents followed Islam and faith was very important to them. They prayed five times a day, never missed Ramadan and zakat, always gave to charity, and were very ethical in their dealings. Throughout my childhood there was always someone living with us, until they got back on their feet. Upholding justice and kindness were very sensitive issues in my household. You were to do good for the sake of God Alone, and not for praise, or recognition from people, to do so was considered a great sin.

I never attended any religious schools and my parents never made that a requirement for me. For many Muslim kids, memorizing the Quran is compulsory in their household. I don’t remember that ever being the case in my household. Today I regret my parents didn’t take a more forceful approach to make me learn the Quran. I may have been a Hafid (one who memorizes the Quran) now, then again that would mean I would have greater responsibilities as in the saying he who is given much, much is expected from him. I also wish I was forced into many other things, like learning foreign languages. Today I may have been fluent in many languages. But hey, I did love my childhood too.

I always attended public school, in which I was usually the only Muslim girl. From an very early age (six), I wore the hijab. I must have been told the reason for the hijab, but there are no distinct moments, which stand out to me. I never questioned it, until very later during my adolescence. The best way I can describe the concept the hijab held for me back then is perhaps like skin color. It’s part of you. It’s something that has always been there. My mother wore it and so did all other Muslim women I knew. It’s what I knew, a large part of my identity, so it was never an issue to me. However, I don’t think I ever understood it’s purpose until much later.

I don’t remember ever being told you’re a girl, you can’t do this or be this way. I was raised with no limitations regarding my faith, race, or gender. I was never shamed or lived in fear. I was free to choose my friends and hang out with whom I pleased (perhaps it was a coincidence that I bonded with kids, who never made my parents worry, but from experience, I know religious and race differences alone are enough to put fear in children). My parents never made distinctions concerning my friends. I was never told so and so is of that race or of that faith so be cautious of them. I was never told be friends just with those who share my faith or background. Because of this, my friends were as diverse as the world and came from families of various religious backgrounds. We never realize how we are shaped until much later, but those roots have greatly impacted my relationships throughout my journey. I feel very comfortable with diversity and always approach people as individuals. I never feel uncomfortable in the presence of those who are different than me. As long as there is respect, I can find comfort and feel at home in a church, synagogue, or a temple. It is with hearts I have always bonded with, not with my “own kind.”

I played various sports and hanged out with my buddies till after dark. I was allowed to listen to all kinds of music and go to the movies with my friends. The most scandalous thing I have ever done was shoplift with my buddies, which we were caught and the manger was kind enough to let us go with a warning. We never returned to it afterwards. I have no idea how we, a large group of us reasoned it was okay to shoplift as stealing was considered one of the worst things we could do. It is beyond me and as an adult I find it fascinating the reasoning of kids, but we did steal for fun and we didn’t turn out to be criminals. My friends and I also found a porno tape on the street and watched it at a friend’s house. By this point, I already knew what sex was. Kids are smarter than grown folks give them credit for. However the sex on the video was so disgusting and terrifying. It didn’t look human to me. I could only stomach a few minutes of it, but I don’t remember protesting the watching of it. It was not sexual to us, but something strange and funny. Kids are like a mob, often you go with your crew where they lead you. I also used to read a lot as a young kid and was happy to learn from those stories, sex was not so violent. I am so thankful to the softer side of love making, otherwise I may have developed a sex phobia from the trauma of the porno I watched as a kid.

Many years later, as a college sophomore I would take a Human Sexuality course. It was a fascinating course in which I learned a lot and on curriculum was a showing of a porno video, dubbed “educational video.” Leading up to the day the video would be showed, I was very nervous and feeling extremely weird. I, the girl who had seen a porno before the sixth grade and who was very well read was unsure if I could attend class that day. I convinced myself it was educational, but following the introduction in which the actors were fully clothed, as soon as the actor went to fondle himself to demonstrate the art of masturbation, I couldn’t handle it emotionally. I turned right away and never felt so embarrassed in my life. So I walked out the classroom. It was the right decision for me. I believe in being comfortable, rather being afraid of embarrassment. Perhaps it was the setting, being in a room full of students who were not my buddies, but a large part of it in my opinion was due to the shift I had undergone in my adolescence, which I will relate in Phase 2 of this reflection post.

The funny thing is, I know some folks who would say when they look at that girl, the only Muslim girl friends with a bunch of kids, who were not Muslims, both boys and girls, playing sports, shoplifting for fun, and watching a dirty video was headed for trouble in her future and may bring “shame to her family.” Perphaps, I may even have been among those folks at one point in my life when I was on the outside looking in at someone else, but along the way I learned the complexity of the human condition and things are not what they always seem to be. So I learned to be merciful or remind myself to be merciful instead of being judgemental.

Despite these freedoms in my childhood, I must have picked up what was proper or improper behavior for a Muslim girl. It may not have been preaching as much as it was leading by example. As a kid, I believe I learned lessons best from examples/stories and actions, rather than preaching or logic, because it is examples I still remember and not so much the lectures that I am certain I was given. And those examples may have even been subtle, and were unnoticed by me during those times, but subconsciously I was like a sponge and soaking in those principles of right and wrong. Subtle examples like from my older cousin. She would take us out to do fun kid things and let us bring along our friends. We would play sports together. She listened to music and watched movies. She had no problem being friends with all kinds of people regardless of faith or race or gender. She was comfortable being around guys yet had strong principles in her religious teachings. She was never harsh or condemning to us as kids, who made mistakes. She wore hijab with a long loose shirt and jeans. She was proud of who she was and very comfortable in being a Muslim woman. She was just very comfortable in her own skin. And she always stopped to pray her salah wherever she was. I never realized it back then. I couldn’t. Most kids don’t stop and ponder. It was many years later as an adult in which I would understand how those subtle examples shaped my ideals. She was a good role model for little ol me. I never told her. Thank you Sahra.

The paradigm shift from the childhood stage to adolescence will come in the year I was to enter high school. The event which took place the day before the start of school, I would say is the day that I become an adult. It was the beginning of the shift, which would take place only weeks later.

I was a young and outgoing teen, and of course had a certain world view, in other words living in my own little bubble. I don’t know where the idea came from exactly, but I intended to finally take off the hijab. I don’t think it was a decision that was made just in one day, but one that many moments and experiences led to. I can’t really tell you what was going through my mind. I feel so removed from that young perhaps lost girl I once was. As I said before, I never really had an issue with the hijab in principle. I never hated it or despised that I wore it. I was never ashamed, even though on many occasions I was questioned what the heck I was doing wearing “that” and sometimes even insulted, and once physically assaulted in which one kid yanked off my hijab while in school. Despite some of these challenges, I don’t remember ever being overwhelmed. It helped the good days always outweighed any challenges, but what helped most I believe is that any insults or challenges I may have encountered because of my dress, it never reached my spirit. I think that is where danger lies, when the spirit is wounded. Never was my spirit ever wounded. Perhaps I was a tough kid or perhaps I was just lucky. Alhamdullah in any case.

When I try my best to remember why I came to the decision to take off my hijab, I think it was the start of high school that was the biggest influencer. I saw it as a new beginning and therefore a new me. A large part of it was also the little girl in me, who wanted to be beautiful and have her hair styled beautifully. Oh the things we worry about as kids. It’s not easy trying to remember what was going through my teenage mind, but the ultimate conclusion was that no more hijab and I was going to get my hair done at the salon for the first day of school, have my new outfit on and look the bomb (is that saying still in? hehe).

As fate would have it, my father drove me to the salon. I think if it was my mother, there may have been a different outcome. God it’s hard being a parent, now that I think of it. I am not a parent, but now that I am older I can wear their shoes and I can’t but find it difficult to raise a child in a contradicting world. May God bless our parents.

Before dropping me off, my father asked how long it will take. I went to the lady in charge, told her I wanted my hair to look like Alicia Keys (she had just come out with Fallen in 2001, I loved the look. I thought I would rock it). The lady told me the process would take like 4 hours. It was my first time getting my hair done on my own so I didn’t think anything of it. I was just excited and imagining my new beginning for the following day. I ran back outside to tell my father how long it would take and went back inside to get my hair done. I took off my hijab, sat on the chair to have my hair inspected by the lady, when my dad with this sulking expression walked into the salon. I was very surprised. I thought he had left. And the look on his face, it still makes me emotional today. I had never seen my father look so sad and I was taken aback immediately. He had realized my intentions. But I hadn’t realized I would be making one of the most important decisions of my life.

I can’t remember the exact words, but in a soft voice and holding that same wounded expression, he asked me to confirm what he had realized. I told him it was true and I no longer wanted to wear the hijab. I am still seated in the chair and the woman has started to comb my hair. My father is in front of me, looking like the breath was knocked out of him. I don’t know what was going through his mind. Perhaps he felt like he had failed his job of being a parent to teach his child, because here was his daughter abandoning a part of their religious tradition.

The moment to decide came, when he asked me to not pursue my decision. It was not an ultimatum. He didn’t yell or condemn me. He didn’t make any religious arguments against what I intended to do. He only advised me that I not do it. What I am most certain of is that it was not what was said and I am so glad he didn’t yell at me, because I may have rebelled, but I couldn’t rebel against the expression on my father’s face. It was what made me get up from my seat, kindly tell the lady I no longer was interested, and put my hijab back on to walk out with my father.

That day, I didn’t realize how heavy that decision was to be for my future and my journey. I became an adult that day. I made an important decision all on my own and in my heart it felt like it was the right decision immediately. The best way I could describe that feeling is that it felt like you grew up with a best friend and somewhere down the line you got too big for your friend. You became popular and you joined a popular crew, leaving your friend behind. Then one day a moment of truth comes. Your new crew is picking on your friend for no reason other than thinking they are better than him. In that moment there is a choice to be made. In your heart you realize how wrong your new crew is and you take a stand for what you deep down believe is right. So you join your friend and stop pretending of being something you’re not and chasing fake glitter. That is what it felt like that day. I didn’t belong to what I was seeking. It was never for me.

That was in August. I did attend the first day of school with my hijab and although I made an important life decision, I was not finished in being settled. Although I was a Muslim and grew up with certain values, I was still floating around and not yet anchored. A few weeks later, 9/11 would occur. Fearing for my safety, my parents pull me out of school and I would be homeschooled for a year. Another and more powerful paradigm shift would take place in my world view and shape who I was to become. I would never be the same again. For the first time in my life, I would become anchored and the solitude would allow me the opportunity to really get to know myself.

Phase 2: coming soon.

Weird dreams and life reflections

Last night I had a very strange dream. I usually don’t dream, because my mind tends to be awake and too busy thinking. I can’t remember the last time I had a dream and by dream I mean a full story or at least a clip of a story. When I do dream there seems to be certain themes that I dream about. The most dominate themes are that I am either being frightened or I am playing a hero saving someone from trouble. Although I am no dream interpreter, I do believe both of these themes are telling about my “being”, whatever that is.

Ever since I can remember I had a deep sense to take care of others, especially those who are less fortunate. I am emotionally moved easily by the experiences of others and I have always loved people who fought for the weak and the vulnerable so it is no surprise I get to play those roles in my dreams.

As for being frightened, I crave safety and comfort. I am no risk taker, especially when the matter concerns my heart. I guard myself safely. I am afraid of all the things, which could go wrong even amidst the sea of happiness in which I swim daily, because there is that voice which whispers my time to drown shall come. I imagine pain and suffering that isn’t even there, because I know it will come. It must come. It always does, doesn’t it? Isn’t that the nature of the universe? To strip away our happiness? I mean, who in this world goes through life unscarred? Whose heart has never been broken? Isn’t it, a matter of sooner or later?

But so what, if it is? So what, if you get your heart broken and you suffer losses? Haven’t you also felt love, joy and won many battles? And if not, isn’t it within you to feel love, to feel joy and to win the important battles in which you fight?

It is all possible and it is all a part of life. The ups and downs are part of our journey. The older I have become, the more I begin to realize to truly live, to truly grow and to truly feel magic, I must be willing to step outside my comfort zone and have the courage to follow my heart. And to not be so overwhelmed with what the future holds and forget the moment in which I have been given. It is easier said than done of course, but it must be done otherwise we live only halfway. We will be too afraid to experience. Too afraid of all the things that could go wrong. We have no control on what the future will bring. All we have is this moment and over this moment we do exercise a great deal of power. It may sound like a cliché, but it was right all along. It is all within you.

As Imam Ali RA is quoted to have said:

“Your sickness is from you – but you do not perceive it
You remedy is within you – but you do not sense it
You presume that you are a small entity – whereas within in you is enfolded the entire universe
You are indeed the evident book, by whose alphabet the hidden becomes manifest,
Therefore you have no need to look beyond yourself; what you seek is within you, if only you reflect.”

And back to my strange dream, which brought forth all these mixed feelings. I was at home and in a room when three peculiar beautiful looking birds visited me. The birds were yellow and green, and of big size for their species. And of course this being a dream, these birds could talk. After smiling and admiring the beauty of these birds, I opened the window to set them free. I told them to fly away and be free. Two of the birds followed my call and flew away. The third stood on the window and looked back me. It said, “I’m not flying away. It is youm al qiyamah.” I laughed and looked at the bird, thinking there is no way this is youm al qiyamah. It’s far too soon and it isn’t supposed to happen in my lifetime. Those were my instant thoughts. Then the bird looked back at the sky and I went closer to the window to also take a look. That is when my heart fell. And I mean really fell. Imagine utter terror.

The hour had come so my first instinct was to make my salah. I was too frightened to meet God without one last prayer and last plea for mercy. My second instinct was to get my parents. Chaos ensued and I am feeling all the emotions of dread. That is where the dream ended.

Youm al qiyamah is the Arabic phrase for the Day of Judgment. The bird in my dream did use those exact words and I relate here the exact dream I had last night. In my opinion dreams are not meant to be taken literally. Of course everyone has their interpretations, but I don’t believe the dream was about youm al qiyamah per se. Currently, I am going through a life changing phase, in which I feel all the emotions one feels in a time of uncertainty and great change so I believe that is where my dream came from. And because I am very connected spiritually to my faith, in times of panic and fear I turn to my two sources of strength, God and my parents, may God always protect them for me.

I also took from the dream, life is short. Even if one is uncertain or simply doesn’t believe in an afterlife, there is no dispute about death and none of us know when our time is coming. We may think we have a long time to go, but we don’t know for sure. Therefore I took it as a reminder to live each day with a sense of urgency. To not be afraid of what I have no control over and to have the courage to make for myself the life I wish to have. That requires risk taking and letting my heart go.

Peace & Love.

Are your lens clean?

We all judge. And sometimes those judgements are covered by our own inner foulness we carry. For example. I was in line at a local drug store. This was several years ago and I actually used a bit of that experience to write a little short story, “the train before sunset”. Anyway, the real story was that I had come back from a dinner party and was very dressed up in traditional clothing. There was a man behind me at the line. He looked to be in his twenties. Caucasian and very heavily tattooed. He looked tough and quite scary to me. In my head, I instantly boxed him into a specific category. He stared at me with unwavering intensity that also alarmed me. I immediately assumed he was a Muslim hater and intended me harm. I live in a very not so diverse part of the country, although alhamdullah I have never experienced anything beyond stares and rude comments. Anyways, I left the store in a hurry and the young man existed the store right after me. I was shocked when he called after me, but rather than the profanity that I expected, he smiled, said sorry kindly in that he didn’t want to scare me and complimented me on how beautiful he thought I was. It was also very strange how instantly the mirror in which I saw him was transformed. He no longer respresented a threat, but he looked even boyish. It’s amazing how powerful a smile can be. I’ll stop myself, before I start rambling again. I can go on about many examples about the uncleanness of our lens, but here is a short good story that I found in my old files. Not sure of the source.

“A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning, while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hang the wash outside.

That laundry is not very clean, she said, she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.

Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.

About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband:

“Look! She has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this.”

The husband said: “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows!”
And so it is with life:

“What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look. Before we give any criticism, it might be a good idea to check our state of mind and ask ourselves if we are ready to see the good rather than to be looking for something in the person we are about to judge.” [Author Unknown]

The secret of happiness


I am a huge fan of author Paulo Coelho. The way he writes stories and even the type of stories he narrates is very similar to the type of stories I grew up listening to. I hope to share some of those stories someday. Stories are perhaps among the top factors that made me who I am today. For example, long before I knew what friendship, loyalty, courage, kindness, or forgiveness meant I learned it from stories or proverbs, which my family is very fond of. I can only hope that I can give that same kind of richness I got in my childhood to my own children one day inshaAllah.

The story below I read on Paulo Coelho’s blog, which has many more beautiful stories. This particular story struck a chord with me, because I have experienced it and seen people I know go through it. One of the major reasons I don’t have a liking for social networks like Facebook is for this reason. In the age of Facebook, what has happened at least in my experience is that we have turned the beautiful experiences of our journeys into projects of picture documenting. In the past, whenever I traveled to some place or had a new experience I had the mindset of being in wonder, appreciation, awe and of thankfulness. I would be in the moment of stillness and peace with just myself and my surroundings. Everything else was far away and I’d really feel the experience that I was going through.
Sure I may have taken a picture or two to capture the moment, but that was never the purpose, goal, or center of the experience.

What I have noticed occur over time has been scary. The experience has become a project to experience for the purpose of documentation. For example, coming across a wonder of nature like a spectacular scene of landscape, before would humble me into silence. I’d be in awe and feel nature. I’d take it all in. The transformation that has happened to me in the age of Facebook is that my camera pops out and I grab the buddy next to me to snap a photo. Everyone else is also snapping away to capture moments, which should be felt in the heart and really experienced in that moment. I was so shocked by this behavior in my last trip that I deleted all my albums on Facebook and decided I won’t be in the crazy business of showing off my experiences to an audience, rather I want that mindset back where I am one with nature again and everything around me is consumed inside of me. It really is a beautiful feeling to have, which I had lost. I am not saying I am against picture taking, I think it is important to capture experiences to relive again one day through pictures. It’s just I don’t like who I have become in the age of sharing moments rather than really experiencing those beautiful moments.

I promise I had planned to just post the story from Paulo Coelho, but once I start writing it’s difficult for me to be brief. This story has an important message, which I try to remind myself often. Life is just moments and one day it will all vanish. We tend to be so caught up and focused about getting things done and on work that we forget to smell the roses as the saying goes.

Here is the story:
Story taken from my book “The Alchemist”, one of the Top 20 Bestselling Books from all times

A merchant sent his son to learn the Secret of Happiness from the wisest of men. The young man wandered through the desert for forty days until he reached a beautiful castle at the top of a mountain. There lived the sage that the young man was looking for.

However, instead of finding a holy man, our hero entered a room and saw a great deal of activity; merchants coming and going, people chatting in the corners, a small orchestra playing sweet melodies, and there was a table laden with the most delectable dishes of that part of the world.

The wise man talked to everybody, and the young man had to wait for two hours until it was time for his audience.

With considerable patience, the Sage listened attentively to the reason for the boy’s visit, but told him that at that moment he did not have the time to explain to him the Secret of Happiness.

He suggested that the young man take a stroll around his palace and come back in two hours’ time.

“However, I want to ask you a favor,” he added, handling the boy a teaspoon, in which he poured two drops of oil. “While you walk, carry this spoon and don’t let the oil spill.”

The young man began to climb up and down the palace staircases, always keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. At the end of two hours he returned to the presence of the wise man.

“So,” asked the sage, “did you see the Persian tapestries hanging in my dining room? Did you see the garden that the Master of Gardeners took ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

Embarrassed, the young man confessed that he had seen nothing. His only concern was not to spill the drops of oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“So, go back and see the wonders of my world,” said the wise man. “You can’t trust a man if you don’t know his house.”

Now more at ease, the young man took the spoon and strolled again through the palace, this time paying attention to all the works of art that hung from the ceiling and walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around the palace, the delicacy of the flowers, the taste with which each work of art was placed in its niche. Returning to the sage, he reported in detail all that he had seen.

“But where are the two drops of oil that I entrusted to you?” asked the sage.

Looking down at the spoon, the young man realized that he had spilled the oil.

“Well, that is the only advice I have to give you,” said the sage of sages. “The Secret of Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.”

from the book “The Alchemist” http://paulocoelhoblog.com/2012/04/09/alchemis/

Justice in our dealings with others

I’ve mentioned on this blog before that my family owns a business and in business one learns many life lessons. I’ve been meaning to write more in depth about those important lessons, but that would have to wait for another day as I am short on time these days to bring all those concepts together. I will say though, that one of the benefits of being in business is you get to meet a lot of people and hear various perspectives, which I enjoy very much.

In the area we have our business, there are predominantly Hispanic businesses and there are some restaurants/grocery stores owned by Muslims. Yesterday, I was at the business for a few hours to help out, which I haven’t been doing lately due to my exams.

I had a conversation with a Hispanic man, whose services many restaurants and grocery stores in the area utilize. Our family has known him for years and he has built cabinets here and there, sections of the store, in short many things for the business. In this process we have become good friends, who talk about many things.

 Business, which involves money and therefore involves ethics, teaches you a lot of about a person’s character and their sense of justice. There is a famous saying from Omar ibn Khattab RA, the third Caliph of the Muslim Empire, which I implement in my own life, and this saying states you know a person’s character in three occasions. One if you traveled with that person as travel reveals many aspects to someone. Two, how a person behaves behind your back is also very telling. And third, which is relevant to this discussion, business or money exchange reveals a lot about a person’s morals.   

Going back to my friend, he has worked with several Muslim business owners and what is the conclusion he has reached about them? Let’s just say he had very negative things to tell me. I won’t go into the specifics to what he said, because I don’t want to point fingers or make it personal. In short what he observed was that there was a great lack of justice. I didn’t see his views as an attack on Muslims. I believe he is a good man and a sincere human being, who only communicated his experience and he understands he can’t pass judgment on millions of people from every culture of humanity based on personal experience.

However with that said, I do believe his experience with Muslims is not isolated. Of course there is no doubt corruption and injustice exists in all cultures and societies and that one will find Muslims to be amongst the most ethical people in business. All I am saying is that Muslims have to do better. People notice what we say about Islam being just and what we do in practice is different. As saying the goes, actions speak louder than words. How many times have we heard the abuse of maids in certain Muslim cultures? The stories I have read on the news and heard about boil my blood. I won’t go into it. It’s tragic and very well documented. Just google it.

Though this is not as severe as the physical torture that some workers have encountered, it is still amounts to abuse.  One of my friends, who went back to her ancestral land, told me about a fight she had with her family, who ate at the dinner table while the maid ate on the floor, alone in a corner. Some people may feel that it’s important for employer and employee relationships to be separated, but in my opinion I say that is nonsense. It’s smart of course in keeping a professional relationship. I am not against that. However the most important relationship in our interactions whether professional or personal is the human relationship and if you are eating to your fill on a high chair and conversing with your family, while another human being is only a few feet away on the floor and all alone, you heart is sick. Yes I am judging you. I find it to be a great injustice and I get very emotional on these things so I’ll stop myself. I was ecstatic to learn that my friend stood up against her family and reminded them about the teachings of Islam. Sometimes we feel like we have to make great strides to make an impact for the good of humanity, when we can make the world a better place every day in very small ways.

What my friend did may or may not have changed her family’s long held traditions, but because she spoke up she delivered a blow to their injustice. Next time when someone else comes along and they deliver another blow against the tradition then the foundation gets weaker and so on. But to not say anything at all then no change comes. What’s strange is that her family accused her of being too “American”  for denouncing their practice.  She is not alone to be charged of being too “American”, when exercising equality. Many of us have experienced this.

 I was once at a grocery store in a predominantly Muslim country, which I shall not name. When I got everything that I needed in the cart, I headed to the line. I only had a few items and my cousins, who are practically born in that country, grabbed my hand to take me to the front of the line. I refused. I wasn’t going to cut people in front of me just because they knew the store owner. It was unfair and I wasn’t going to do it. They laughed and accused me of being too “American.” They also informed me I was going to be in line for a long time if I waited my turn. I didn’t budge and decided to stay in line. It turned out that my cousins were right. People came in and cut the line like the rest of us were not there standing in line. If you are used to everyone waiting their turn then to stand in line for several minutes only to have someone cut you as they please, then you can imagine the frustration. There were many similar incidents of corruption that I experienced and it becomes almost impossible to be in a society like that and still remain a fair person. It’s as if to exercise fairness would mean to put yourself at a disadvantage. In fact that is exactly what happens so people become corrupt to survive.

I find it a very sad reality that in some Muslim societies people equate fairness and justice to Western Ideology, when those very principles are commanded in the Quran and embodied in tradition of the prophet Muhammed scw. What they have come to see as “foreign” is their own legacy.

 Sensitivity to justice and protecting the rights of others, especially the vulnerable and poor is a heavy, very heavy matter. I am not trying to preach or anything, but we all are aware of the importance of justice. And by we, I mean everyone regardless of our religious traditions. We are a human family. Then why is it so hard to practice justice for some? Even animals practice justice. Is not the employee one is paying low pages or working like a dog just like you? Is this person not a father or a mother working hard for their family? A minimum wage law may exist or a person may have an “alien” status, or because of poverty a person will work for anything you give them, but that in no way cancels the rights they have over you. Making profit should never override justice.

Justice is the basis of all things that are good. Religion without justice is corrupt. A society without justice is corrupt.  May God make us people that are conscious of the rights of others and who spread justice upon the earth. I can only first and foremost check and start with myself.

Novel Update and a sign in the women’s bathroom

Earlier today I had lunch with a young woman, who is an author and owner of her own publishing company.  Several weeks ago I had met her and her husband at our campus bookstore. It was completely by accident. I was volunteering at the annual Public Health Conference on campus and my good friend decided to get coffee downstairs, to which I went along.  

The Starbucks is located inside the bookstore so after getting coffee, I noticed the table she was selling her book.  We chatted for a bit about her book, company, and then I informed her about the story I was writing. I am horrible at networking and with small talk, but when I hit it off with someone, I can become quite garrulous.

I learned that along with her husband she created a book publishing company. She is the creative end, while he handles the business end. I was excited to meet them, a young and very down to earth couple with ambitious plans. I felt like our meeting was meant to be and it was just what I was looking for.

I emailed them the next day and we set a lunch date. I ended up missing that lunch date and she was kind enough to reschedule to today. Our lunch went very well. It was as if I was having lunch with a good friend. She was very easy to talk to and we talked about a lot of things unrelated to books. After our meeting, I am more energized about the story and motivated to make it better for publication.

I have been distracted lately and emotionally drained with all that has been happening, but there is a lot of work that still remains and I need to re-energize for the road ahead.  I can’t wait until the completion of this project.  I hope to do the best possible work that I can.

At the moment I am at a local coffee shop on campus, writing this blog post, while working on projects. I wanted to share this interesting exchange that I found on the wall of the women’s bathroom.

Click on image to expand

The first note, which was probably written by an employee of the shop states:  Please stop stealing our artwork and decorations. Karma will find you.  Jesus already knows who did it. Confess + bring it back + experience forgiveness. Mark 1:15 (which I believe is a Bible verse.).

The second note is in reference to Coyolxauhqui, who is the earth and moon goddess of the Azetcs and this note relates the same message as the first note to the thieves, only this time invoking a goddess and taking aim at patriarchy.

 The third notes states: Keep patriarchy  and Jesus OUT of the women’s bathroom.

I found the whole thing amusing as it shows the spectrum of perspectives, but the message don’t take what is not yours is a shared value, unless of course one is a thief.

I have been at this coffee shop many times before and the decorations/art work such as this image below used to be all over the wall, but now what is left is just two frames, which this frame is among the last two left.  

When in trouble-Who do you call?

If you were sent to jail and you had to use your one phone call, who would be the person you call? The person(s) we count on in our time of need in my opinion should supersede everyone and everything else.

What was that saying, “don’t make someone a priority if they only make you an option“. I say if someone makes you a priority or would be there for you in your time of need then never make that person an option.

My mother always used to say a person that one calls a friend or even a relative should have “hiil iyo hoy”. In essence it means loyalty, support and being there for you in your time of need. You never know who your true friends are until your time of need. .

 I do believe if a person does not have this quality of what we Somali’s  call “hiil iyo hoy” then such a person has no integrity and shouldn’t be in our circle of trust. In fact sometimes even strangers, who do have integrity can fulfill this role when those most close to us simply don’t or can’t. It’s a quality that I find highly important in relationships.

Going back to the question posed in the title of this post, for me the first person I would call in a time of emergency would be my father.

Although not a major emergency I was in a sticky situation earlier today. I had written about the vandalism on my car in the post “Crazy week” and originally I thought the damage was only the glass. I picked up my car yesterday from the shop and this morning without checking anything as I had no suspicion, I drove to school.

In the middle of a busy street on campus my car mysteriously slows down. Puzzled, I step on the accelerator and the car doesn’t speed up. Then I hit the brakes, which to my relief is functioning. Realizing something is wrong and I need to get off the street I try to enter the left lane, when suddenly the wheel stiffens and refuses to turn. Then the car shuts down in the middle of the street. It all happened in seconds.

Oh the horror.

I know and I do realize it intellectually that worse things happen in life, but having my car break down in the middle of street is one of those embarrassing fears I have. On the same list as having my naked pictures released to the world. Not that I take naked pictures, but I am just saying that I find the scene very humiliating.

I desperately try to restart the car, while telling myself to remain calm. Nothing I do works. One of the most beautiful aspects of American society is when things like this happen, being stranded in the middle road for example, people will rush to your aid.

Knowing this beautiful quality of our society and not wanting to draw attention to myself, I flee my car to a nearby parking lot to make several phone calls. Don’t judge me. I hate attention.

I had a morning meeting with my advisor and professor about my final project, therefore missing the meeting was my greatest worry. Since I couldn’t connect to the internet, because I didn’t sign up for a data plan, I called my good friend to get me my advisor’s phone number. He didn’t answer so I called several other friends.

No one answered. 15 minutes till the meeting remained. Another thing I hate is being late and keep people waiting.

I called my parents. They didn’t answer either, so I called my uncle to get me antifreeze, because I thought that was the problem. He told me he was on his way. In the meantime I told myself to not panic and stop being such a loser.

I headed back to my car and put the phone against my ear like I had everything under control, which I didn’t.  I tried several times to start the car and to my great surprise the car started to move when I put it on Drive. I put the emergency lights on and in a bewildered state drove to my building, all the while praying that it doesn’t stop in the middle of a road again. The building was only five minutes away, but with downtown traffic and all the red lights it felt like forever.

The same scenero, decreasing acceleration and stiffening wheel began to happen just as I entered the road to my building. With force I turned the stiff wheel and stumbled onto a empty parking lot across the building. Three minutes remained to my meeting, but I was incredibly elated. The car couldn’t have broke down in a better place.

I ran with a big smile to the building and was in my advisor’s office right on time, only to be told the meeting was not for another 30 minutes. But hey, I was happy that I not only made it, but so did my car.

During that fiasco my father had called me right back, thus I called him. No matter the time of day or what he is doing, he always answers the phone or at least get’s back to me within minutes. My father has always been there for me, alhamdullah. May God bless our parents.

My dad instead of my uncle came with the antifreeze and oil, but both were full. He called to have the car towed and told me to finish my studies. He would take care of everything as he always does for me. As it turns out after inspection of the car there was a lot of sand in the gas tank and that was the reason my well-functioning car broke down mysteriously.

It never crossed our minds someone would put sand in the gas tank, but after the vandalism of our cars and business this shouldn’t be a surprise. Just wished we had realized it before making the insurance claim.

Thus, apart from making this long blog post, I spent the day preparing for finals rather than worrying about all the stress that comes with having my car fixed.

Alhamdullah for my beloveds.  When I find myself in sticky situations they are always there for me.  I have lived a pretty sheltered life, in which everything I needed was done for me. I wouldn’t say I am spoiled, my parents didn’t raise me to expect things without work. But I am sheltered in the sense that I don’t have to fix or do much because it was taken care of, as in the example of having my car fixed. I just call daddy and everything is solved.

I have never lived on my own and the longest I have ever been away from home is 50 days for an internship abroad.

My friends think I am very dependent and I do think they have a very valid point. I do take care of the finances and management of the home and our business. All those responsibilities are mine, however I do believe by having never lived on my own there are many life skills that I lack.

I tend to very paranoid in new situations and very uncomfortable in unfamiliar places. See my reaction above after experiencing my car break down. My natural reaction is to retreat.

The farthest I have ever ventured out on my own is a two hour drive from home, while my peers travel and drive all over the country.  Women my age are married, have kids, pay their own bills, starting out on a career and travel all over the world, while I have never even driven to Chicago next door.  

Oh lord that sounds depressing. Let’s just say I am glad I have the type of personality that counts blessings.

I describe my family as my flood gates, because without those gates I do think I would drown in the overwhelming flood that is life. At the same time I do know it is not healthy to not stand on your two feet. I have never been tested and it’s my greatest fear to be without family and support.

Yet in life we should expect and be ready for anything. We should be our own main pillar.

I am my mother’s little girl and she tends to be paranoid about all the things that can go wrong to me when I travel for example. It is the motherly nature. Regardless of how old we are, our mothers are always protecting us. My father on the other hand has noticed my sheltered existence long ago and has been preparing me or at least trying to.

The summer before starting university I started the preparation for the Fall semester. Part of that preparation included going to the university to complete paper work and receive my parking pass. The university is located downtown and I had never driven downtown by myself so naturally I did what I always do when I feel worried towards a task I feel I can’t handle.

I called on daddy.

He refused to take me. I was shocked, frustrated, disappointed, and deeply hurt. Why won’t you help me? I asked him with hurt, but he just ignored me and said he couldn’t. My mother had to go to work, otherwise I would have asked her and before I called a cousin or a friend, a thought entered my mind.

What could be so bad about driving to downtown? I’ve been there many times before and surly I can do it. I am almost 18, I told myself. Feeling a bit more empowered by those thoughts, I sat out for downtown by myself.

The one way streets and many garages were a nightmare, but after sweating profusely, being greatly confused and overwhelmed with extreme anxiety, I found my destination. I parked my car in a garage next to the building, grabbed the information I thought I needed and set out for the office. Due to my out of control nerves, I forgot a lot of things I needed so I had to go back to my car twice to get more paper work.

But guess what, when I had accomplished my task?

It wasn’t so bad. Gone were the anxiety, nervousness and feeling frightened. I even felt very satisfied with myself as if I had conquered a great feet. It was a very good feeling. I called my father right away and thanked him. I didn’t realize at the beginning his plan had been for my own benefit.

The first time for anything may feel overwhelming and frightening like it was for me during the first time I drove downtown by myself, but after having gone through it, it became part of the familiar that was no longer scary.

There are many things in life that are like the first drive to downtown for me. Situations that bring forth anxiety, nervousness, and doubt.  Whenever I want to run to my beloved parents, I remind myself to rise to the equation and solve the problem on my own first. It’s not pleasant to feel emotionally paralyzed and scared. I do hate that feeling and though I can’t my help natural reactions, it’s a conscious decision to face fear and keep myself under control. Even if I don’t get it right immediately, I must try again.

It is soothing to the heart to have someone(s), who have our back. One realizes the importance of this resource when one feels lost and hopeless and someone comes along to make it all better or easier. Such people should never be taken for granted and should be cherished. This is the very reason why I feel no rush to leave home. I know life will not always be as it is today. It is the natural process of life that beloveds will be separated, therefore I want to hold onto every moment like there is no tomorrow. There is a lot of kissing and hugging in my family.

I never understood couples that are in long distance relationships. I could never do it. I could never be far from a beloved for long, although some could argue and I may see their point that wanting to be with your loved ones constantly may not be healthy. While I do hang onto my beloveds very strongly, I do also realize I must get over my fears and become my own woman. It is my time to be the pillar not only for myself, but for my beloveds. I don’t want circumstance to teach me these skills, I wish be the engineer behind this development.

Turning into a cynic?

Some definitions of the word cynical:

• Believing that people are motivated by self-interest
• Distrustful of human sincerity or integrity,
• Doubtful as to whether something will happen or is worthwhile,
• Bitterly or sneeringly distrustful, contemptuous, or pessimistic.

I don’t know about you, but those definitions make me cringe. I don’t want to be a cynic and quite frankly I don’t think I like cynics. I am saying “I don’t think” rather than flat out say “I don’t”, because I never flat out dislike personalities unless the personality is hateful or disrespectful and even in those cases there is still
a chance to change.

Back to cynics. I have seen my thoughts evolve over the years. That is expected. With time change will occur within ourselves, otherwise what is the point of life if we are not changing, growing and evolving to a better person-hopefully. But there is one change that I found in my own thoughts, which I am not happy with.

I’ll use an example to demonstrate this evolution that I have witnessed occur in me. Perhaps you may have come across this story. It is a story that I have seen over the years used by people of faith. I have seen it used by Christians, Hindus, and Muslims.

The story goes like this: There once was a girl walking down a dark alley, when she sees a suspicious man standing at the end. She says a quick prayer asking for God’s protection and continues to walk down the alley, right past the man and straight home. The following morning she reads in the newspaper that a girl was raped in the same alley only 20 minutes after she’d gone through. She goes to the police to see if she can lend a hand. She correctly identifies the rapist in a line-up and the police department thanks her. She asks the police to ask the man one question: why he hadn’t chosen her and he replies that she had two tall men walking beside her down the alley.

My reaction back then: After crying a bit, okay, perhaps I cried more than just a bit. I was so touched at the beauty of this story and the power of prayer, the beauty of miracles. God is Most Great, I must have screamed if I remember correctly!

My reaction these days (and these days I mean the recent 2-3 years): Get the heck out of here! Cute story, but certainly fake. To entertain the story even for a bit, one I can’t get over the rape of the other girl in the story. So she didn’t read a prayer and she was raped? What are we saying here, if she read a prayer she wouldn’t have been assaulted? How many good, praying and honest women have been abused, raped and assaulted? (And the questions go on and on, just from a simple story).

You see! What has happened to me? I miss the old me. The one that used to be touched by such stories or pictures, and feel all good inside. That is a good feeling you know. Not this person that has a million questions. Not to say I don’t have faith and I don’t believe in prayers. I do have strong faith and do pray. God is Most Great I do believe. And I do believe in miracles, that God is capable of all things. At the same time that ability to be easily touched and inspired has been replaced by a lot of questioning and mental debating. In other words am I turning into a cynic? The verdict is not in my favor.

Another case demonstration. Recently I saw this image:

For those that don’t know what is occuring in this picture. These little children are “performing” the act of prayer, which is a major pillar of Islam. Small children as these in the picture don’t pray, but often times act out the prayer after seeing adults perform it.

After seeing this photo, a million different thoughts could have entered mind. I could have thought: aww such beautiful and innocent children. MashaAllah, look at those chubby cheeks. They are so adorable (and they are adorable kids).

But NO!

What did I think instead: Ahh shucks they have started them out early didn’t they? The gender roles are already at play. Girls you are in the back, boys you are the leaders. What sort of message will this send to girls? Stay in the back! I do hope the parents are teaching their girls leadership as well and to be at front, not back when it comes to life. These are only very small children and probably siblings, what is the point of separating them at such an innocent age? Prayers separate men and women, not little babies!

You see what I mean? It’s just a simple picture of adorable children that demonstrates one of the tenants of Islam! There is nothing more here! Just say mashaAllah and move on already! Why must my mind complicate things?

For those that love to reach conclusions by no means am I against the segregation of the genders in prayers and by no means am I advocating that women become Imams or prayer leaders. I don’t support that in my understanding of Islam. I follow the traditional scholarship that prayers be done separately and not be mixed, although I don’t support and dislike the structure of mosques that we generally see that put women behind closed walls, which is another topic that I plan to write about soon.

Now that I made that clear, I am only highlighting the over-kill like activity going in my mind. I’ve seen this happen over and over again.

I have always prayed in the women sections and have always seen men lead prayers yet never for one second have I ever entertained the thought that men were superior to women. I do love my religion and do believe Islam champions the rights of women, Muslim culture on the other hand not so much.

Further I am not saying that will be the message to young girls from this picture and from the activity of seeing men lead prayers. However unless young girls receive strong messages that encourage them to be leaders and to be confident in themselves then the message that they are weak and have inferior abilities compared to their brothers will be enforced in their impressionable minds. So yes if messages are not given in context, then something as simple as this mock act displayed in this photo could have profound implications on the development of these children.

This post was never intended to be about gender roles, but rather the evolution of overthinking that I have seen in myself. I don’t know if that makes me cynic. I never want to be a cynic.

I am glad I still do cry at touching stories and movies the same even if I have over the years lost the childlike simplicity and faith I once had.