Saturday, April 19, 2008

About Me

Mumina's post got me inspired to do a mini-bio, too. Who, after all, doesn't like writing about herself? ;) So it's the jolt that I needed.

*hang on, Mumina - I have to go pick up my kids I'll finish this post later inshaAllah ;) *


**Okay, I'm back. Yeah, like a week later. :) Such is me. Which is what this post is all about, right? Ahhhhh.

Well, I forget what I was going to write about in the first place. So let's just take it from here, with baby in my lap and everything.

Maybe I could write a list type of thing. My cousin did some kind of "100 facts about me" type of thing awhile back on her page....that might make it easier. And then I know I'll just go off and off into paragraphs and paragraphs of tangents. But oh well. Tangents are what I do best.

1. I feel what I imagine is semi-drained of life each morning until I have my coffee. It's a bit freakish, and scares me, but at this point I think there's nothing I can do about it. If coffee doesn't happen until noon, then I feel semi-drained of life until noon. And so on.

Maybe it's the consequence of my college years, when I didn't have a clue what "health" is, and how to maintain and respect it, and so had limitlessness for almost everything. ALMOST - alhamdulileh!!!!!

2. I am 30 years old. sheesh! Walhamdulileh. I just turned 30 last march. March 2, which is a cute looking little date that I like, alhamdulileh. What is she talking about, you might wonder? Yes, I am talking about how I like the date of my birth. It is aesthetically pleasing. And I am majorly concerned with aesthetics. Many years, there is a blizzard or other type of storm on my birthday, which I love. It seems wild and romantic. Except for that year I turned 10 years old, and had tickets to The Children's Theatre on my birthday, to see a play about my favorite story of all time, Alice in Wonderland, with my mother and my best friend from next door, and we couldn't go because of a major blizzard (we don't even get truly major blizzards here in Minnesota anymore...freakish global warming!). I remember crying....my mom must have felt so bad. ;)

3. I get headaches easily, and they are very bad and less often can turn into migraines. I have to be careful about this, which includes drinking lots of water. I've discovered that if I do not drink lots of water for 2 or so days in a row, I am guaranteed a headache. These usually last an entire day. And then I cannot think. Walhamdulileh. :) Yes, I am truly grateful for any trial I am given because I need it, it is good for me for so many reasons, and always, always it it nothing in comparison. As in all things, there is always somebody who's got it worse than you - and I am applying this to the whole picture of being alive - not just headaches.

Afterthought: you might be thinking, how does she manage Ramadan? Alhamdulileh, mashaAllah, Allah is Merciful - I have a trivial amount of headache during that month. I manage by drinking 1-2 litres of water at sukhoor and 2 litres of water from maghrib onwards.

4. So far this list is so random that I am getting wary of it. Well, on, on! I'm telling myself. Try to keep it together, man!

5. I pictured the above last sentence being uttered by Rex Harrison. Hilarious man. The other night, I watched about 1/2 an hour of the old movie "Cleopatra" starring Rex Harrison, some other guy, and Elizabeth Taylor. Rex Harrison as Caesar is ridiculously amusing! But the movie was terrible, so I quit watching.

6. I come from an eccentric family. Or at least, my father is, and siblings, as a result of being genetically tied, and then my mother, but only by proximation, and because she loves us.

MashaAllah, I am at this moment marvelling at my husband's patience and acceptance of remaining married to someone who, from his point of view, is such a goofball.

My husband is utterly logical, determinedly balanced. He keeps me in order. It's all Qadr Allah. I feel he is good for me, mashaAllah. I hope I am beneficial for him, too.

7. I love simplicity, and nature. I love simple foods, simple meals. The thought makes me tingle. I just gave my son strawberries and cheese to eat. Things like that. I find myself writing a lot about nature, weather, light, or darkness. It effects me so much. Years ago now, I considered myself a poet. I can't be, anymore, since I don't do it, anymore. But I used to write voluminously.
That was before I was married. Being married changed me, changed how I spend my time in the world, physically and mentally. And it had to, since for years I was completely enveloped in the vortex of my own mental world. I loved it, but change is inevitable, good, progression, a part of life, and a challenge to rise to. I have always loved words, language, writing. But also, since I became muslim almost 5 years ago, alhamdulileh, mashaAllah, my writing quieted for many, many reasons. One is that I felt the weight of RESPONSIBILITY for what I write. Words can clearly get you into trouble, especially too many words - for us humans, they can run away from us, out of our control. We get heady with them, and can lose our way. We can become too much engulfed in the indulgence of Self.

It's why, years ago, before I came to Islam, I was trying to clear out, clean up, after years of being psychologically, imaginatively, emotionally, a chaotic mess. And so I was drawn to Eastern concepts of clarity, silence, purity, simplicity, reticence. As a muslim, I still respect those values and find it halal and beneficial to do so from an Islamic standpoint.

8. I am not a very social person. For years and years, I was extremely shy. However, especially in this last year - perhaps it is the benefit of aging, maturity - I find I am gaining more confidence that allows me to relax and be myself and reach out to other people, and that it's not such a scary thing or such a huge task - in fact I find relief in it. I feel very grateful to know so many beautiful muslim souls. My dad respects Islam and muslims a lot. He asked me recently, "It seems like....is it a muslim quality to have such a pure heart?" and all I could say was, "I think so."

9. I am a very flexible person. I am often (can't say always) open to hearing another point of view and considering it. We talked about this in my son's once-a-week preschool (it's a 2 hr. thing, called Early Childhood Family Education, and I love it) during mom-time, in the mom-room, where all the moms go to discuss mom-stuff while the kids stay in their classroom, doing kid-stuff.

The topic was "temperament," which I think greatly interests our "parent educator," and me. One of the 9 characteristics of temperament, so it goes, is "flexibility," and where a person lies on that scale.

We dispersed into small groups and discussed a temperament trait or two. We were to examine the positives and the challenges of these traits. Our group had "flexibility." The group agreed with me, that we couldn't think of anything negative about being flexible. Let's say the parents are extremely routine-oriented people, and the child naturally isn't. No matter; the child is flexible and so adapts to the parents' way.

When we presented to the large group, I added, for an amiable example, that I consider myself extremely flexible, and that some might perceive that as being easily walked-over, but that actually that trait has come in quite handy for me in life.

One woman spoke up - a woman I respect. She's soft-spoken, humble, creative, and has an aura of peacefulness about her. To my surprise, she said, "I can think of something negative about being overly flexible...you could lose yourself." All ears perked up and turned towards her. The group facilitator pressed her to explain. "It's just....if you're always willing to change or give up what you want, you can lose that part of yourself."

I thought this was very interesting - and a little bit alarming. Actually, I embarrassed myself, next. As it is also my nature to make sure everyone feels good and included, I immediately said, without thinking twice, "Yes, that's a good point!" ( LOL - thereby demonstrating just how flexible I am! I was embarrassed because I didn't want anyone or myself to think of myself as a lost pushover) I don't know if anyone caught that, on my part. They didn't give any sign.

Oh well. :) It works for me. I do what I have to do to stay aloft in this world, you know?

10. Okay, time to do something else, today. It's been fun, kids.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Haiku

I am Black Lotus

twirling between starlit night

in velvet slippers

Friday, April 4, 2008

Question About Islamic Clothes

Please help me understand, if you can.

To make a long, complicated and boring story short, when my husband and I were already in the midst of an argument about something totally other than what I'm about to mention here, I mentioned that the reason I would prefer not to spend X amount of money on X is because there are other things I would rather spend money on.

"Like what?" he asked.

"Like clothes," I answered, thinking of the new Spring clothes at my favorite Islamic store. There's a couple pieces I'm drooling over.

"You have a closet full of clothes," was his reply. "You have so many that you gave away X bags full to that rummage sale at the mosque."

Which was true, I did.

Now, let me give you bit of background, and then you can help me sort this out.

I became muslim 4 1/2 years ago. Like so many new muslims, I had no idea what to wear, so I accepted whatever was offered to me.

Since that time, I have branched out, GRADUALLY, learning about different cuts, different styles, different fabrics, which are halal and better suit my personal taste.

Until last summer, it was always ranges of abayas (mostly black, incidentally) that I was exploring.

I am very particular about....well, let's face it, many things in life. :) Clothing is one of them. I want it to fit well. I prefer certain fabrics and cuts over others. When things aren't *just right* I am bothered.

Now, I continued to wear abayas for 4 years, and frankly WORE OUT my favorite ones precisely because they were perferable, due to many details, over other ones. The ones with constructional flaws were worn very infrequently, much to the DEEP-SEATED chagrin of my husband ("why did I buy these if you're never going to wear them"). I am so drawn to practicality and comfort that the abayas which best fit my personal paradigm of goodness got too worn out, and my husband refused to let me wear them anymore, saying I looked "like a bum," meaning, not respectable, because the material had gotten all fuzzy and they had shrunk a little due to so many washings. Also, the material had been less expensive in the first place. I found that the fancy ones just didn't suit my lifestyle. Being a muslim growing in her identity, I hadn't anticipated this when I had been pressured to buy fancy abayas, so that I would look "respectable."

One additional note - the first year I was muslim, I also wore niqab. It was due to many reasons that are hard to articulate, but I think what stands out is that I was very, very eager - alhamdulileh - to jump into this religion, to do everything, to be great. I didn't think about the long-term anything of wearing niqab; it just didn't matter or occur to be at the time. Much like how I converted/reverted to Islam in the first place: I just jumped in, because I knew it was right and good - mashaAllah.

But with niqab, since I believe it is not quite possible to prove 100% either way that it is fard or not, I had some leeway. I discovered that there were difficulties with it, and since I viewed it as an option, I gradually opted out.

My husband saw this as a weakening of imaan, which I felt very bad about. But over time, I've come to define this change differently. I think that I am just evolving, finding my place inside and outside myself as a muslim in this society. I tried something out. I found it difficult to maintain at the time. Perhaps one day I will work it back in - Allahu alim. It was more a matter of practicality, I think.

Now. Last summer, my friend from out of town came to visit. I admired her muslim attire, mashaAllah, of long skirts and long shirts bought from a particular muslim Islamic clothing store.

I checked it out, and I LOVED what I found. Different styles, different colors (but still modest). Cuts that fit better, and even covered better (I don't like how with abayas, if you have anything but the shirt-style sleeves, they are wide. They slide up your arm if you slightly raise your arm, which exposes your skin UNLESS you wear the stretchy arm gauntlets, which for me are extremely uncomfortable, because they are either too tight, or they bunch up under your clothes, and in all cases, they make me HOT, HOT HOT). This Islamic store has clothes made out of COTTON - SUBHANALLAH! What I'd missed in my abayas for years! I always wondered why abayas, which are usually dark colors, have to be made of polyester? Thick or thin polyester, it doesn't breathe and it is hot and for me, less comfortable. I tolerated it for years because I believed I didn't have any other options.

Can I tell you how I marveled when I discovered COTTON clothes? COTTON ISLAMIC clothes? I was soooo happy.

So I bought a few pieces.

Since then, I've added a few more pieces, often saving up my own money so that I don't have to ask my husband for anything expensive and feel guilty about it.

So my abayas have gotten cycled out of what I wear. My husband asks, irritated, every once in awhile, why don't I wear my abayas? And I go into this long-winded explanation - which, includes something I didn't mention before - I am still nursing. All of my abayas except 1 or 2 are not suited for nursing.

Which brings us to tonight.

I mentioned that there were a few clothes I was thinking about, and he mentioned how I have a closet full of abayas.

I explained that I prefer to wear my long skirts and shirts, because of the fabric, the cuts, the practicality and functionality - I just feel it all is easier and suits me better.

This is where my question comes in. He proceeded to make me feel EXTREMELY GUILTY.

He assumed I was saying I was "never going to wear abaya again, and that I hate abaya" (which I NEVER said...why would I say that??? but he assumed that's what I meant), which he said is HARAAM. (Question: I didn't say that, but IS it haraam to say that?)

He was basically admonishing me, saying that we can NEVER say anything other than abaya, jilbab, galabaya is the best, because that's what the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) loved to wear, did wear, and it's what his wives wore.

He said fine, wear long shirts and skirts, it is halal, but you must admit that it is not as good as abaya (or galabaya, for men). Abaya and galabaya is sunnah. You should at least want or hope to do the sunnah, if your imaan is higher - but never say that something else is better.


I felt terrible. I like wearing the skirts, shirts, because of practical, functional reasons. Sure, I stand out less too than I would in black abaya - but I don't really care about that - I wore black abayas for 4 years, after all!


Question: is what my husband saying correct? Is it haraam to say that something else is as good or better to wear - for ANY reason - than abaya???

Please help. Jazakallahkhairan.