Monday, August 29, 2011

Eid Mubarak / Twenty Ninth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Nothing really to say about this juz...I think I was already hypoglycemic when I read it and I fell asleep in the middle of the day. I should have known that it was a bad sign for the rest of my night on L&D.

Talk about the nemesis of my hubris! I literally fell flat on my face in the delivery room while helping the physician retract for a perineal laceration. I cut my forehead in two places and now have dermabond on my forehead. I am humbled, once again, as I have been all Ramadan...I'm not sure how I'll handle Ramadan in the future as a clinician, but I know that I definitely have to eat full meals for suhoor instead of drinking water, and I definitely need to break fast on heftier meals.

And I was hypertensive the whole time! That was completely unacceptable! As soon as I can, it's back to the gym!

We'll see if I'm able to make Eid prayers tomorrow. Every year, there's been a reason why I couldn't go! I mean, I could certainly pray sitting on the sidelines, but getting around without getting dizzy is hard...and I can't do sajdah right now because of the pain and the dermabond...

Anyway...I'll wrap up my Ramadan reflections tomorrow and complete the Qur'an tomorrow. I'll also throw in my general perceptions of this Ramadan, which was a tough Ramadan for me because I went through so many changes this year...there were some harsh reminders in store for me this Ramadan, but I needed them. I'm pretty much back to where I started, though, in terms of the constant challenge of finding a life partner that so many of us face and, within that context, the challenge of trying to find the way to be a woman...particularly a Muslim woman and a suitor at the same time.

Alas, I'll get into that more later.

For now, it's time to convalesce...losing consciousness is weird!

It's weird that I won't be fasting tomorrow...I had gotten used to not eating. But apparently, my body has not, thus the passing out!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Humbled / Twenty Eighth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

I was just reading through an old story I wrote, and my old short stories, and I was just humbled. I wasn't nearly the spiritually enlightened child I imagined myself to be as a teenager, and my world was very different, very insular. It took my last years of high school and liking MTQ to force my world open a lot, and it took years of just experience under my belt to get me to this place I am now, more spiritually evolved but still having a long way to go. I look at my writings and I know that it's just by God's grace that I'm here right now, because so many times I've begged God to not be here's by His grace that I'm here to live another day and strive in the Muslim way. I see that clearer than ever now. And for that, I am humbled.

Through the ups and downs of the past few years, I'm glad to be back here. Insha'Allah, I'll be able to stay.

And I know that I often complain about how Muslims make it hard for other Muslims to practice Islam sometimes, and I still hold that to be true. But the fact of the matter is, you can't tell what is in people's hearts, and if I don't have companionship in other Muslims, I don't have companionship with anyone on this earth. Even though some of us make big mistakes, we're all striving in the same direction and for the same God, so let me remember that. We as Muslims can do better, but let me not deride any of my fellow Muslims who may, in fact, be doing the best they can:

"And so, they who come after them pray: "O our Sustainer! Forgive us our sins, as well as those of our brethren who preceded us in faith,a nd let not our hearts entertain any unworthy thoughts or feelings against [any of] those who have attained to faith. O our Sustainer! Verily, Thou art compassionate, a dispenser of grace." (59:10)

The community is observing Eid on Tuesday, insha'Allah. If I have time, I might do the last two ajiza tomorrow...and then on Eid do some general reflections on the month.

Until then...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Twenty Seventh Juz

As salaam alaikum,


"Have they themselves been created without anything? - or were they, perchance, their own creators?" (52:35).

I think I've thought about this a lot this month...the idea of humans thinking themselves self-made, when we couldn't conceive ourselves or nurse ourselves to the stage where we are more self-sufficient and independent of those who raised us.

I liked this, as well...especially the end.

"As for those who avoid the [truly] grave sins and shameful deeds--even though they may sometimes stumble--behold, thy Sustainer is abounding in forgiveness. He is fully aware of you when He brings you into being out of dust, and when you are still hidden in your mothers' wombs: do not, then, consider yourselves pure--[for] he knows best as to who is conscious of Him." (53:32)

We are not pure by our own unique merits...and God knows what is in our hearts.

And this is the least of what is in store for me, insha'Allah if I can be among those who attain to righteousness in this life - (56:27-40).

I'll hold fast to that and not fret about what I may not have in this life (yet) that I want...

Coming up...the new center of awesomeness returns...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane / Twenty Sixth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

I can't believe that Ramadan is almost over...and I can't believe a hurricane is coming to the east coast! Insha'Allah, it'll be alright...I'll be ready.

But for now, I'm just some thoughts for the night, lest I complain about my mother hassling me about preparing for this hurricane:

"Now [among the est of deeds which] We have enjoined upon man [is] goodness towards his parents. In pain did his mother bear him, adn in pain did she give him birth; and her bearing him and his utter dependence on her took thirty monhts. And so, when he attains to full maturity and reaches forty years, he [that is righteous] prays, "O my Sustainer! Inspire me so that I may forever be grateful for those blessings of Thine with which Thou hast graced me and my parents, and that I may do what is right [in a manner] tht will meet with Thy goodly acceptance; and grant me righteousness in my offspring [as well]. Verily, unto Thee have I turned in repentance; for, verily, I am of those who have surrendered themselves unto Thee!" (46:15)

Longie but goodie...

And here's something to think about, another reason God doesn't put more on us than we can bear:

"And withal, He does not demand of you [to sacrifice in His cause all of] your possessions: [for,] if He were to demand of you all of them, and urge you, you would niggardly cling [to them], and so He would [but] bring out your moral failings." (47:36-37).

We all have moral failings that are inevitable...God doesn't draw us towards those necessarily...

And one of my favorites to tell people:

"O men! Behold, We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another." (49:13)

That's right! We better recognize!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Have Nots / Twenty Fifth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Something to think about in the context of deprivation in this world:

"For, if God were to grant [in this world] abundant sustenance to [all of] His servants, they would behave on earth with wanton insolence: but as it is, He bestows [His grace] from on high in due measure, as He wills: for, verily, He is fully aware of [the needs of] His creatures, and sees them all." (42:27)

And yet, we are still called upon to give in charity to those who need. If everyone were as charitable as they are supposed to be, everyone would be a lot more well-off...

...but, you know, that might lead to socialism...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Changes / Twenty Fourth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Big changes in my life this Ramadan, alhamdulillah! Changes unexpected, changes that I'll hopefully be able to, healthier attitudes that will hopefully help me to get where I need to be. But it is different than I've ever been before, so it will be an adjustment...

I hold fast to reminders such as these:

"All that they have ever yearned for awaits them with their Sustainer: such will be the reward of the doers of good. And to this end, God will efface from their record the worst that they ever did, and give them their reward in accordance with the best that they were doing [in life]." (39:34-35)

Insha'Allah, I will get to become a wife and mother. No matter how far or close to the ideal situation it shall be, as long as I am a believer, God will provide me with the best of companions in the Hereafter. Because that's pretty much all I've wanted in this life...companionship, life partnership, and to realize my reproductive and nurturing functions as a woman. All other desires were trivial, really. I barely wanted to enter medical school before God granted me that...

But even with this, I'm at peace knowing that God will provide me something better than I ever had on this earth the while I could live this life as a single, believing woman...

And for the first time, I have something tangible to hold onto.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hell / Twenty Third Juz

As salaam alaikum,

When my mother used to read the Qur'an to us when we were little, I think the part that stood out to me the most were the somewhat amusing stories of what happened to non-believers once life was over.

I believe the Yusuf Ali translation is that they "lay prostrate in their homes" in the morning. It's a terrible vision, but at the same time...juxtaposing these images with those of people arrogantly denying the existence of God or asking for punishment to be brought on, it is a little a dark humor sort of way.

May God insure that I am never among such people...either denying truth or going to hell, prostrate in the morning...

Anyway, these were two descriptions that were great...

"And after that, no host out of heaven did We send down against his people, nor did We need to send down any: nothing was [needed] but one single blast [of Our punishment]--and lo! they became as still and silent as ashes." (36:28-29)

You're waiting in suspense about why no angels were sent down, and why they weren't needed...oh, because everyone destroyed went to, ouch.

This is my mother's favorite one--these are companions in heaven talking to each other:

"One of them speaks thus: "Behold, I had [on earth] a close companion who was wont to ask [me], 'Why--art though really one of those who believe it to be true [that] after we have died and become mere dust and bones we shall, forsooth, be brought to judgement?'" [And] he adds: "Would you like to look [and see him]? --and then he looks and sees that [companion of his] in the midst of the blazing fire, and says, "By God! Verily, thou has almost destroyed me [too, O my erstwhile companion]--for had it not been for my Sustainer's favor, I would surely be [now] among those who are given over [to suffering]." (37:51-57).

Haha, I like how the guy in heaven is like, "Phew, that was a close one," and not, "Oh, my poor friend." He's like, well, at least I'm not down there with ya...

Reading the Qur'an definitely sometimes strikes fear into my heart, but I feel better knowing that this is, "[a divine write] whereat shiver the skins of all who of their Sustainer stand in awe: [but] in the end their skins and their hearts do soften at the remembrance of [the name of] God..." (39:23)

That's how I feel when I read it, because I feel like even believers and striving-to-be believers, if it weren't for the fact that we are constantly guided and seek the guidance through prayer...we can feel how we could fall into the realm of unbelievers, so all of the warnings for those who do not believe in the Qur'an begin to resonate with us...

Anyway, back to clinic tomorrow...tons to do as always! Insha'Allah, no more earthquakes and hurricane Irene will stay at bay!

Interlude: Where I Want to Be

As salaam alaikum,

When I was a child, for some reason, I wanted to be really spiritual. Before I even knew a lot about Islam, when my whole world was what my mother taught me, I wanted, from a young age, to be really spiritual, really as close to God as I could be. I wanted this before I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, before I began praying to be married someday. And I remember it clearly and I don't know why I felt this way.

As a teenager, I kind of strayed away from this dream of mine and began to search frantically for a spiritual home with all sorts of ideas about God that were not true. When it came time to decide whether to date a guy and what religion to mark on my college applications, the answer to both was that I was Muslim. I was Muslim, so no, I won't date you. I was Muslim, so I'll put Islam as my religion on my college applications.

And thus it would be. I would come to college, learn more about Islam, return to salat as I had with my mother, and this would be the way I would realize my desire of spirituality, closeness to God, and all else.

In short, the Islam that I encountered in college was much more difficult than I ever imagined. I had learned salat in both English and Arabic, but I learned about the importance of Arabic in Islam as the language of revelation. I learned about the importance of recitation. I learned Arabic words and phrases that I felt the need to punctuate my language with in order to make sense as Muslim, not just my parents' favorite and oft repeated, "Praise be to God." Now it was alhamdulillah. No more "God-willing." Insha'Allah.

And these were little things. What, when I was little, seemed like an organic process now seemed rigid and almost impossible for a girl like me to enter. I was just learning about Islam...and on the other side were sisters who could recite the Qur'an, those who had memorized part of the Qur'an.

I went through all sorts of changes. I wore khimar and then I stopped. I was intense in my learning about Islam and then I stalled. Somewhere in there I lost that desire I used to have, the desire to be so spiritually close to God, in the midst of being really confused about where I fit in Islam, as a Muslimah.

And then I went to medical school and a lot of things went to the wayside. And now, four years in, after getting my masters in public health and relating to non-Muslim men, I'm nearing the end of the 8th Ramadan I've practiced, hoping to make this one better than the last, better than all others. I made a pledge to God explicitly, something I've never done before and something I will uphold with the fear of my life here and the Hereafter. I needed to do it, or else things would quickly spiral out of control.

It's something that I choose to keep to myself.

I need to get back to where I wanted to be in life. Sometime in the past, I used to regret coming into Islam, because our burden of righteousness is greater because we have in our possession the final revelation and a clear guide to the straight way. It seemed harder for me than if I were just never exposed to Islam and I just believed in God and tried to do good work. This was a foolish regret that I always knew in my heart was wrong. In my heart, I've always known it was a blessing. That my mother found Islam, that my grandparents found Islam, that my aunts and uncles who still cling to Islam found Islam is a miracle of divine proportions. That millions of African Americans arrived at Islam after being part a spontaneously forming black nationalist organization in the United States is amazing.

That I chose Islam is the grace of God.

This is not supposed to be hard for me. When things get hard, I will take a step back. But I will approach this all with humility and patience, insha'Allah, but also I will approach it organically. The innocence of the child I was makes everything simple, but a child is not always wrong to simplify. I think we make things harder than they have to be, and I often made coming into Islam harder than it had to be. It can be as organic as I imagined spirituality to be as a child...

...and if I don't fulfill this desire, I'll only be hurting myself, that innocent self that exists within me, somewhere, that expected, as my mother says, "with open eye," to live this life a certain way. I'm following this because I know we come here submitting ourselves to God, and as a child I must have been close to that, so I must have known.

But ultimately, where do I want to be? I want to truly submit myself to God in a way that I haven't been. God has granted me with the gift of consciousness of Him from an early age, and I need not let the distractions of this life cloud that consciousness. I want that consciousness and my submission to permeate through everything that I do and all that I am, from my being a family physician, insha'Allah, to my being a wife and mother, insha'Allah. I want to find a community as well. No more of this being invisible.

No one around me right now understands me. I'm trying to find a way to be with little context. I need to find a home for myself, a way for me to make sense. That's where I need to be, and all else will flow forth more smoothly.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gratitude / Twenty Second Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Does ginger make one sleepy? I thought it was supposed to give on energy, but here I am falling asleep on myself...

"[It is] they who [truly] follow God's revelation, and are constant in prayer, and spend on others, secretly and openly, out of what We provide for them as sustenance--it is they who may look forward to a bargain that can never fail, since He will grant them with their just rewards, and give them yet more out of His bounty for, verily, He is much-forgiving, ever-responsive to gratitude." (35:29-30)

I liked this concept of gratitude that I've been reading throughout the Qur'an, a concept that I will use to reshape my life and the way that I look at things.

As a teenager, I suffered from depression. I was depressed because I saw myself as victim of some cosmic injustice. My unhappiness and seeming inability to get a prayer answered were in fact signs that I was one whose heart God had sealed. I was born destined for hell and there was in fact nothing I could do about it. Not sure why I believed that, but thus is the teenage brain and the effects of having a slowly developing frontal lobe...

However, these days, I look at my "depression" as ingratitude. Some would say it was a disease, and then a Muslim would say, yes, a disease of the heart. I would argue in my specific case that I could trace my feelings to specific events or facts in my life. I didn't realize all that I had...

...and we're smart enough people, especially us who are supposed to be believers, that we should able to try to approximate the blessings that God has bestowed upon us. I should have been even happier as a teenager than I am now, but alas...

I was not a victim as one who was depressed. I was like an unbeliever, ungrateful for all that God had given me in this life. By not realizing how much I had, I prayed less and I gave less, because I thought I had less to be thankful for and less to give. Ingratitude gets you at all levels. Allowing myself to wallow in sadness when something doesn't go my way is showing ingratitude to my sustainer, who has given me everything else...

So I will try to be more grateful. And in that way, everything else will fall into place, and I'll be where I need to be...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Twenty First Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Long day, and I still have work to do for tomorrow. So adelante!

This seems to have been a running theme in my consciousness this weekend:

"And [God says:] "We have enjoined upon man goodness towards his parents: his mother bore him by bearing strain upon strain, and his utter dependence on her lasted two years: [hence, O man,] be grateful towards Me and towards thy parents, [and remember that] with Me is all journeys' end. [Revere thy parents;] yet should they endeavor to make thee ascribe divinity, side by side with Me, to something which thy mind cannot accept [as divine], obey them not; but [even then] bear them company in this world's life with kindness, and follow the path of those who turn towards Me. In the end, unto Me you all must return; and thereupon I shall make you [truly] understand all that you were doing [in life]." (31:14-15)

From the screaming babies at children's hospital kicking and not wanting to get their ears examined with the otoscope to my father desiring that I convert to Christianity...yep, it's all there. That was my week.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mercy / Twentieth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

No specific ayat this time around...I'm just going to reflect on the story of Moses (as). For those of us that have committed regrettable acts in our lives, the story of Moses (as) is a powerful one. A man who killed a man, asked God for repentance and nearly killed another became a prophet, and one of those mentioned the most in the Qur'an behind the prophet Muhammad (saw). That gives me hope as a regular believer who has at times strayed from time to time...God long ago elevated one who committed one of those most grave sins in Islam to the status of prophet. That's a level of mercy this country's justice system certainly does not approach...

Can you imagine someone convicted of manslaughter becoming President, for example?

So that gives me hope, and lets me know that I will continue to try to be the best I can be and err the least that I can, but if I do err and I sincerely repent, God's got my back like he had Moses' (as) back.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Nineteenth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Food for thought.

"Hast thou ever considered [the kind of man] who makes his own desires his deity? Couldst thou, then, [O Prophet,] be held responsible for him? Or dost thou think that most of them listen [to thy message] and use their reason? Nay, they are but like cattle--nay, they are even less conscious of the right way!" (25-43-44)

Let's not drive our lives by our own desires and thus be less conscious of the right way than a cow!

"Say [unto those who believe]: "No weight or value would my Sustainer attach to you were it not for your faith [in Him]!" (25:77)

I have to chew on that one for a while...

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Believers / Eighteenth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Each Ramadan, I learn more and more. For me right now, it's amazing how shallow my Islam was even just before this Ramadan. It's true that one should, instead of simply decrying evil in others, work on their own shortcomings. Not that I was not conscious of those, step by step, but that is what I needed to do.

In the past year, I've had some missteps and mistakes that are in fact not out of the blue but are actually manifestations of previous attitudes that I left unchecked because I hadn't actually "done anything wrong." And while the last year was painful for me, with the entry and exits of B and the less mentioned K, I think all that I went through was necessary to get me to what I pray is a new phase in my life, though I shudder in the remembrance.

I always recognized that there was a difference in believing in God and believing in God, and I can say that about most things I believed God, but for whatever reason, the weakness of my own spirit, I did not believe that God would provide for me a husband. This disbelief haunted me from my teenage years and has caused me to waste a lot of time and energy and has affected my health. In this is the source of most of my weakness in faith. I think when people say they believe in God, they mean, believe in the existence of God...but believing God is something that takes time, I think, especially for those prayers that take a long time to be answered.

Very few of us are ones who, even if a prayer is not manifestly answered in 10 years time, believe Him organically. I certainly was not one. And even now, it's a struggle. Believing in the Last Day is as easy for me as believing that the sun will set tonight, insha'Allah. Believing that I will graduate from medical school and forge onward in my career is as easy for me as believing the sun will rise tomorrow, insha'Allah. Believing that I will marry someday is very hard for me to believe right now. I have to remind myself at all times. And I guess that's why salat is five times daily, because even more frequently for those things that are hard for us to grasp, we need to be reminded.

But one thing that struck me this Ramadan is that I'm not just a believer by virtue of believing in God. Insha'lAllah I'm a believer by, as if often repeated, my doing good deeds, my keeping constant in prayer, my avoiding evildoing, my giving in charity...things that I all knew, of course, but resonated with me even more on the eve of a challenging year in faith.

"Truly, to a happy state shall attain the believers: those who humble themselves in their prayer, and who turn away from all that is frivolous, and who are intent on inner purity; and who are mindful of their chastity, [not giving way to their desires] with any but their spouses--that is, those whom they rightfully possess [through wedlock]: -- for then, behold, they are free of all lame, whereas such as seek to go beyond that [limit] are transgressors; and who are faithful to their trusts and to their pledges, and who guard their prayers [from all worldly intent]. It is they, they who shall be the inheritors that will inherit the paradise; [and] therein shall they abide." (23:1-11)

I must say, coming up in a society where extramarital sex is usually the norm and not even the same gravity is placed on affairs anymore, premarital sex, for example, never seemed quite the abomination that we're supposed to believe it is. Which is unfortunate. As long as I keep my own self in line, I don't think that it will ever seem that horrible to me, just because of the context of society...and if it ever did, I'd be insulted on the regular and I don't think I could be an effective clinician for, for example, my unmarried teenage moms who I saw today in clinic. People of olden times would have thought we would have long perished the way that morals are these days in the dominant societies, but Allahu a'lam, we're still here. It could be that we're gone tomorrow, poof, like that, prostrate in our homes by morning, and the truth of all this we can't know, but it's my personal belief that there are still too many believers out there and too many good, God-fearing people of other religions to render our societies a total loss. Not yet, amazingly. God has great mercy by the fact we're still here.

And this is something that I often remembered that kept me in line during the non-Muslim man era that may just be coming to a close: I did not want to be a corrupt woman relegated to a corrupt man, though I know, in my heart, I'd be hard pressed to allow myself to become corrupt:

"[In the nature of things,] corrupt women are for corrupt men, and corrupt men, for corrupt women--just as good women are for good men, and good men, for good women." (24:26)

So many things are clearer for me now. Alhamdulillah.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Seventeenth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

The proclamation of "No more blues" is one that I really should take with me every day and every night...I should wear it on a t-shirt, hang it on my wall over my bed, or better yet on my ceiling, so that every time I wake from slumber I remember what I had so recently proclaimed...there's no reason to have the blues in God's world unless you, in some capacity, do not believe!

"And [know that] We havve not created the heavens and the earth and all that is in between them in mere idle play: [for,] had We willed to indulge in a pastime, We would have indeed have produced it from within Ourselves--if such had been Our will at all." (21:16-17)

I love this...if those who don't believe in God would only read the Qur'an, each one of their arguments would be addressed. There are so many that would liken God to a creator who made a game out of creation, but here is an affirmation that this is, indeed, not true, and ridiculous. And thereafter it warns against trying to define God by any more than is outlined in the Qur'an. We don't know why we were created, but we know that our ultimate purpose is to serve Him in the ways He's outlined for us to worship...the good deeds, constant prayer and charity, that which benefits ourselves and those around us. These are the ways we serve Him, by doing what will purify ourselves and help others, so that they may, too, purify themselves if they so choose...

And lest anyone believes that the Qur'an places too much emphasis on war, and if they argue for the peaceful nature of their religion:

"Permission [to fight] is given to those against whom war is being wrongfully waged--and, verily, God has indeed the power to succor them: --those who have been driven from their homelands against all right for no other reason than their saying, "Our Sustainer is God!" For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, [all] monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques -- in [all of] which God's name is abundantly extolled -- would surely have been destroyed [ere now]." (22:39-40)

Aggression is never justified. Only legitimate, rightful self-defense. And if those of other faiths had not once defended themselves, they would have died out. So what better form of self-defense than one ordained by God, and not one that people go about by following their own whims...

This is for my father:

"Unto every community have We appointed [different] ways of worship, which they ought to observe. Hence, [O believer,] do not let those [who follow ways other than thine] draw thee into disputes on this score, but summon [them all] unto thy Sustainer: for, behold, thou art indeed on the right way. And if they [try to] argue with thee, say [only]: "God knows best what you are doing." [For, indeed,] God will judge between you on Resurrection Day with regard to all on which you were wont to differ." (22:67-69)

We can ultimately coexist and have unity within our separate communities if we realize that we're approaching the same God.

And this is my mother's favorite parable...don't fear anyone but God:

"O men! A parable is set forth [herewith]: hearken, then, to it! Behold, those beings whom you invoke instead of God cannot create [as much as] a fly, even were they to join all their forces to that end! And if a fly robs them of anything, they cannot [even] rescue it from him! Weak indeed is the seeker, and [week] the sought!" (22:73).

Not only for the obvious worship of deities besides God, but revering human beings, whether good or evil, in a place where such reverence only belongs to God. Because if you put all of the geniuses together, they would not be able to create a fruit fly, even if they could put its genome into C. elegans.

Oh man, C. elegans...the remembrance makes me almost miss my former life as a Cell and Molecular biology major at the UMich...anyway...

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No More Blues / Sixteenth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

A new baby cousin has come into the world, healthy and hopefully able to be done with her oxygen by nasal cannula soon, insha'Allah. It's so amazing...I talked to her mother, my cousin, when she was only a hope and a prayer, and now she's here, in the flesh, a whole person that none of us were able to imagine before...a whole little person who may or may not be at all grateful to her mother. I never tire of seeing new life come into the world, but I'm very close to my cousin, her mother, so it seems more amazing than any birth I've ever witnessed. The only one that will rival it will be my own deliveries, insha'Allah.

I was so happy today (except for the brief time that I thought she had an apneic event, but she seems to be doing fine), I was happier than I've been in a while. It's also with this new-found stance I've happened to come across...the raising of children is worthy, but the want of children for the challenge of motherhood and the benefits it will bring me and the want to raise little believers, while all very worthy, is also me being ungrateful for all I have and am not doing all I can with right now. Soon it will come, yes, but...there's a lot for me to do in the meantime.

So no more blues! Let's see how long I can hang onto that after Ramadan...or even tomorrow.

Although, I do like this song:

The lyrics translate - "This morning, when I woke up, I looked at my life and I was startled. I have more than 20 years behind me. I have more than a million questions without answers. I'm linked to a blue future."

I have felt that way before, which is why I like the song. This is also why I used to fast music during Ramadan...there's no time for such sentiments when you're seeking the Truth.

Because in Truth, there is no space for blues. Any wrong in your life is either the result of something you know you've done or it is a test for you in the organic way of're waiting while God gives you something in a space and time that's better for you, for example. So need for are not being done wrong. There is either an overweening justice or reason for your sorrow, that which closeness to God will solve.

But I did wake up suddenly and discovered that I've got more than 20 years behind me...26 now. Insha'Allah I do better with my life...

"Hence, bear with patience whatever they [who deny the truth] may say, and extol thy Sustainer's limitless glory and praise Him before the rising of the sun and before its setting; and extol His glory, too, during some of the hours of the night, as well as during the hours of the day, so that though might attain to happiness. And never turn thine eyes [with longing] toward whatever splendor of this world's life We may have allowed so many others to enjoy in order that We might test them thereby; for the sustenance which thy Sustainer provides [for thee] is better and more enduring.

"And bid thy people to pray, and preserve therein. [But remember:] We do not ask thee to provide sustenance [for Us]: it is We who provide sustenance for thee. And the future belongs to the God-conscious." (20:130-132).

That's a nuance I think so many of us fail to grasp...and I think it's okay, because some people function better with the idea of pleasing God for God's sake, and not ultimately for our own sake. I actually am one who functions better with the idea that it's for me, and if I say something that I do for the sake of God, it's because He knows what's best for me, while in my only limited vision of things, I may want something else. If I'm temporarily blinded and can't do things for my own sake (which happens a lot, actually), then I do it because I know that God knows best.

Anyway, no more blues, insha'Allah. I know I won't be happy all the time, but no more unnecessary angst!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Peace, Finally / Fifteenth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

The events of the past year were probably a blessing for me. I made some mistakes that didn't necessarily make me fall completely from a state of grace, but they helped me to attain to a state of humility that I was previously unable to get to because I hadn't lived long enough, essentially. But now, I understand. And now I'm at peace.

But first:

"And tell My servants that they should speak in the most kindly manner [unto those who do not share their beliefs]: verily, Satan is always ready to stir up discord between men--for, verily, Satan is man's open foe!" (17:53)

Yes, please, always! Let's use our manners and inside voices!

And finally:

"Wealth and children are an adornment of this world's life: but good deeds, the fruit whereof endures forever, are of far greater merit in they Sustainer's sight, and a far better source of hope." (17:46).

This gave me pause and made me think. In becoming a physician I've aimed for, yes, financial stability and comfort, but not wealth...or I would not be going into family medicine. But children, yes, I've aimed for, and I've wanted...and it's within my nature to want children, so I'm not going to knock that. However, my eventual having of children has been my hope for so many things in my life, when my good deeds, even as simple as my daily salat, is a better source of hope. My being a good physician and actually helping people,should be a better source of hope than my children themselves. Stressing about whether or not I'll have something that God has been pretty clear that he wants for us, anyway, is not a good deed. It may even be a bad deed. Let me divert that energy and put it in a more worthy my prayers, in my charity, in my service career. Let me spend of what God has thus provided me, and not out of what I do not yet have, thus sitting idly on what I have now to offer.

And I'm not sitting idly on everything. I'm not in medical school for nothing. But my prayer can be more ample and more purposeful...

And halfway through Ramadan now, I can say that I get something more than before. God has blessed me to be entering a career in which I can do great good. Let me not fret about the good I'm not yet doing because I'm not yet a wife and mother. Let me not sidestep God by doing things I know he'd not intend for me to do in becoming married, etc.

So I finally feel at peace. Let me hold fast to this piece and whenever it seems to slip out of my fingers, let me pray to God against Satan.

I still hope to marry soon. I just will insha'Allah be finally spiritually and emotionally busy with other things...

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Fourteenth Juz / Always Wanted

As salaam alaikum,

Constant reminds that I am not alone at looking at what others have, comparing what others have, and wanting for myself when I really have in my possession access to the truth as they do not. They may enjoy their life, and some of them may marry sooner, but I am a striving believer, and I have the Qur'an, and even if I were to be single for the rest of my life, which I know that God does not intend but I burden myself with that thought, anyway, I have what the Prophet (saw) shared with us all, for generations beyond what he himself could imagine:

"And, indeed, We have bestowed upon thee seven of the oft-repeated [verses], and [have, thus, laid open before thee] this sublime Qur'an: [so] turn not thine eyes [longingly] towards the worldly benefits which We have granted unto some of those [that deny the truth]. And neither grieve over those [who refuse to heed thee], but spread the wings of they tenderness over the believers, and say, "Behold, I am indeed the plain warner [promised by God]!" (15:89)

I usually felt justified in my angst about not being married because I figured that was a less worldly thing than desiring money and fame and those sorts of things, but it is still a worldly thing. I mean, technically, if I knew I wouldn't have a spouse in this life, I know I'd have ample companionship in the next life...and I know that my destination is my own and not mine and my spouse's together. So it doesn't matter in that sense. But at the same time, I know it will be better for me, given my nature (and I'll leave it at that) to have a spouse at some I felt justified, whereas I have angst for nothing else. I don't need money, fame, a big house. I would be content knowing I would spend the rest of my life living in a small apartment, relying on public transportation. But that was the one thing...I think entitled is the word I was looking for. I don't feel so entitled anymore, no more am I justified in my angst, though at the same time, I have been convinced that this prayer, my oft-prayed prayer, will be answered sooner than it ever has been, because He promises that to us.

"God's judgment is [bound to] come: do not, therefore, call for its speedy advent! Limitless is He in His glory and sublimely exalted above anything to which men may ascribe a share in His divinity." (16:1)

At the height of teenage angst, or probably more adeptly, at the depths of teenage angst, I used to wish to die, pray to die. Even now, as life gets hard, sometimes I feel like going somewhere to hide, hibernate for a while, and return when it's over. It's pretty much the same as rushing God's judgment, and I can only say that, as one who strives to be a good believer, we must believe that if it's not our time yet, it's because we have work to do, and some of that work may just be earning our place near God in Paradise, so...keep on stepping! It may seem hard, I tell myself, but that I'm still here is testament to the fact that I can do this, God knows better than I do. Giving up is calling forth judgment that shall not be hastened. I at least know I'm not in the state I want to be when Judgment Day rolls around, and although I feel like we should be ready at all times...let's just say I want to be more ready.

"Now as for those who forsake the domain of evil in the cause of God, after having suffered wrong [on account of their faith] -- We shall most certainly grant them a station of good fortune in this world: but their reward in the life to come will be far greater yet. If they [who deny the truth could but understand those who, having attained to patience in adversity, in their Sustainer place their trust!" (16:41-42)

Here I think of religious persecution that persists today, big things and little things. I've definitely had trolls on this blog posting hateful comments that I don't post before. Probably people praying for all of us in our faith's demise. To that, I don't bat an eye, because God told me that no one can do me harm except by His leave, and by His leave I'm returning to Him. I don't bat an fact, say more about me! Curse me, call me ethnic slurs (although honestly, I don't get as much flack as a black American speculate on that would only be a waste of spiritual energy)! It'll only make my faith stronger and set me up with rewards from God, because I'm not forsaking my faith for nothing in this world! Makes me want to do more good in the name of my faith and fear less!

"And God has brought you forth from your mothers' wombs knowing nothing--but He has endowed you with hearing, and sight, and minds, so that you might have cause to be grateful." (16:78)

I think I mentioned this in a previous entry, but I think the challenge of our time is arrogance at feeling self-made. Throughout this surah, An-Nahl, God mentions the various signs for people to believe, which seems dated to the modern reader, since most of us do not own livestock and we no longer depend on seafaring and caravans (well, of the livestock variety) to get where we need to go. God then harkens to creation that these people cannot even fathom yet, which I think is a sign for our time. Even so, human beings got to be feeling like they're all that and a bag of chips from time to time because of their inventions. Everything around me right now, from the purple paint on my bedroom wall to the paper of my Qur'an to my alarm clock, the plastic in my trashbags, the light bulbs in my lamps...the computer I am typing on are all space age technologies compared to the time of the Prophet (saw), and they are all "man made." So man has got to be feeling all great. Man has got to be feeling self-made...

Except for the fact, as I mentioned before, that we cannot carry ourselves in our own wombs and feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, keep ourselves from dying like our mothers did, and without God could the little curly legged babies we were grow up and have the mind to create and invent as we do the conveniences that has made life easier for us than it was for anyone, believers or non-believers, in the time of the Prophet (saw)? And yet most of us self-made men and women barely approach our parents with the humility they deserve, the mother that nursed and carried us, let alone God who created us and made a way for us to grow from ova and sperm that chanced to meet into purposeful, fleshy, nubile, rational human beings. I mean, alhamdulillah already! Masha'Allah!

"Verily, that which is with God is by far the best for you, if you but knew it: all that is with you is bound to come to an end, whereas that which is with God is everlasting." (16:94-95).

That's why I know that nothing good can come from anything that I feel I cannot do in the name of God, whether it is a place that I am to go or a relationship I am to forge with someone. Especially for can I do other than the will of God if I want it to be everlasting?

"And most certainly shall We grant unto those who are patient in adversity their reward in accordance with the best that they ever did. As for anyone--be it man or woman--who does righteous deeds, and is a believer withal--him shall We most certainly cause to live a good life; and most certainly shall We grant unto such as these their reward in accordance with the best they ever did." (16:96-97).

The best we've ever done, huh? I pray that God allows me to live long enough for me to do the best that I can possibly do, for His sake, for my own sake, and for the sake of the people around me who will benefit from whatever good I do.

That's a great concept for an extemporaneous du'a!

And this is important, Satan, "has only power over those who are willing to follow him, and who [thus] ascribe to him a share in God's divinity." (16:100)

There are so many ways that one can ascribe to someone a share in God's divinity...from morally presupposing clear commandments made in the Qur'an with one's own or someone else's moral reasoning, thus elevating that person (or yourself) to a level of sharing in God's divinity to giving Satan a share (which is wow, reprehensible). I guess that's another way of thinking of your Satan, that evil force, a share of God's divinity, making you thus among the disbelievers.

An-Nahl was one of the suwar my mother often read to us when we were kids. Several others were, but I remember liking the names of the suwar...bees, and thunders and all seemed majestic to me.


I was sitting in my room and looked across, towards my windows, to where my mirror leans against the wall. I leaned over to place my house shoes on my feet. I gazed at my chest and realized that I had the breasts I'd always wanted. I wonder why it took me so long to realize that.

I had been menstruating for at least two years and I was an eighth grader. I had gone through puberty early. I expressed my breasts to take off in growth, any day then. Other girls who were flat when I was already wearing an A cup were now surpassing me. I was just a B cup, barely. It felt like grand cosmic injustice! I was a big girl and other women had large breasts in my family, including my mother, with age. So I had broad shoulders and very little chest. I began to sing the "I'm ugly" song that very many teenage girls learn in middle and high school. I was too fat, my hair as too short, my breasts were too small. My profile didn't look quite right. My thighs were too big. My butt was too big or too small, depending on the population. Nothing was quite right. Why was I relegated thus?

To top it off, at the time I felt for some reason that I was destined for hell. I reasoned that if God already knew who was a wrongdoer, how did I know I wasn't among them and God would close my heart?

Excuse me, but I can barely rationalize through this all now. I'd like to blame it on the teenage brain, but I'm not sure the frontal lobe has anything to do with it.

But I've seen myself in the mirror before, as I dress for the day in clinic or in the hospital. It's perhaps with age, experience and a little bit of womanly wisdom that I'm satisfied with everything I see. I do aspire to lose a little weight, continue to grow out my hair (which is hard for the woman with the most fragile hair in the world), but I like what I see. Unfortunately, it took a few amorous serenades and similar fawning for me to get to the point that I realized...I really do have the body I always wanted, the body I will keep healthy for the sake of God, the source of pleasure for whoever will be my husband and I...and wow, I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self that.

My mother's favorite term for society is "materialist, sensist." It didn't matter that my mother dressed me modestly as a child and made sure I continued to do the same as a teenager. I did not bear my breasts, but I knew if I wore such clothing that could, I would have no cleavage. The beautiful women on television had cleavage, and I wanted to be as desirable as possible, because that's how one got a man to be interested, and the absence of enough boobage to have cleavage was just one more count out of my favor. It didn't matter that my mother taught me against it. Sure, it was somewhere in the back of my mind, but television, movies, my classmates were in the forefront of my mind...

So I needed the boobs, the rest of the body to boot, the hair, the profile...

Things changed a little when I graduated high school and entered college with the express goal of becoming a more practicing Muslim. I oversimplified things, though. Somehow, Muslim men were greater than all men, and they would want me as a wife for my character and my piety and not for what I looked like, as evidenced by the fact that they will select women while only seeing face and hands and not the rest of their bodies. I did not realize, however, that Muslim men were men. In hijab and no longer so constrained by materialism and sensism, I unintentionally gained 30 pounds. The thought of ugliness returned as I was now obese...

Some women say that they don't alter how they dress because of men, and maybe it's because I think very simply, but okay, I change the way I dress because of men. I always have. Covering my chest because of men, hijab because of men, cute skirt because of men. I would love my body at a comfortable weight if I weren't constantly wondering if my looks weren't optimum for getting the man best suited for me.

Men men men of the reasons I'm not yet married is probably because God, knowing all of the things I've done for the sake of attracting men, is waiting for me to stop and start doing things for the sake of God, and therefore myself. Maybe that's the hangup...

I don't know, only God does. Because in striving towards God would be the ulterior motive of...marriage.

What I've always wanted. Marriage. I think as a teenager, if someone told me that I would have the best man in the world while being flat chested, I would have longed for a flatter chest. If someone told me that I could have had the best man in the world even while being bald, I would have cut my hair shorter. These days, I can't be so influenced. Honestly, I want a lot more out of marriage as an adult than generic man. I want partnership and help through this life which I've discovered, yes, is difficult.

So maybe that's why I'm finally satisfied with myself, everything I am...maybe I'm finally realizing that God not only wants us to marry but since I've prayed for it for the past 14 years and he gives us all that we ask for, by some transitive property, it will come to pass.

My not believing it will happen is a little bit of disbelief hidden within me that has been in the making for the past 14 years (yes, starting from when I was 12) that is unmerited, not only because I was a child for much of the time but also, because disbelief is always unmerited.

So like that, this Ramadan, I have what I always wanted. I will insha'Allah, someday, get married, and I'm going to work on believing that, and then it will come to pass, and I have that gut feeling, that God feeling, that it will be sooner than soon has been before...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Always Answered / Thirteenth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Should this not be enough for me that my heart is set at ease, even if the details of my eventual fate I cannot know?

"And [always] does He give you something out of what you may be asking of Him, and should you try to count God's blessings, you could never compute them. [And yet,] behold, man is indeed most persistent in wrongdoing, stubbornly ingrate!" (14:34)

Few of us are exempt from this designation...we are ingrates! But it is our nature, after we fault children, for example, for not being grateful for having been raised from babyhood by parents? I still to this day cannot aptly show my gratitude towards my mother, even if I wrote a book about all she's done for me, and all of that pales in comparison to what God has done and is doing for me.

And yet I'm caught on the same complaints, day in and day out. I'll speak for myself for a second...

At the same time, I'm not going to be too too hard on myself. Recall from earlier suwar, when the prophets even asked and seemed dumbfounded at what God could do...that He could provide Abraham with offspring in him and his wife's old age, that the woman in the House of Imran would have greatness in her child, who was a girl, Mary...that Mary would have a child when no man had touched her. My favorite one is Abraham asking for a sign from God and then was asked to train four birds...which seems like a wild goose chase (haha, pun intended) but is really a way of witnessing the greatness of God through His creation...

So I won't thrash myself for not having sufficient gratitude...instead, I will remember that my blessings are many. Even if I were to suddenly not be able to complete medical school and never marry, I have so many other blessings...and if He so willed, God could take them all from me. But He never has that intention. I could list my blessings all day and still have many more to go. I have the things that I pray for that are worthy things to have...primarily, marriage and family. Other people, yes, seem to come by it easier than it happens for a few of us...however, this gives me comfort that we will always get what we've asked for.

So I need to continue to preserve and in the meantime rest assured that God has answered so many other prayers before and will answer this one...

And if I doubt, I will look all around me at His creation for signs and work to set my heart at ease with that.

Friday, August 12, 2011

End of Times / Twelfth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

This is why it's never the end of times when people think that it is...because there are still pure, virtuous people in the world and the society does not merit wholesale destruction:

"But, alas, among those generations [whom We destroyed] before your time there were no people endowed with any virtue--[people] who would speak out against the [spread of] corruption on earth--except the few of them whom We saved [because of their righteousness], whereas those who were bent on evildoing only pursued pleasures which corrupted their whole being, and so lost themselves in sinning. For, never would thy Sustainer destroy a community for wrong [beliefs alone] so long as its people behave righteously [towards one another]." (11:116-117)

That being said, aberrant beliefs often allows for corruption...but that's an important point when the denial of the truth in a lot of these ayat seems to be the sole impetus for the destruction of a community sometimes...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Mom's Birthday / Eleventh Juz

As salaam alaikum,

On this day in 1954, my grandmother gave birth to my mother! On this day in 1985, my mother turned 31 and I was four days from being six months old!

Thank God for mothers who bring us into the world and allow us to grow from helpless babies to egocentric children!

For this juz, though this is not the first time a similar sentiment has been brought up, it's a nice reminder nonetheless that I feel like is on the vein of God knowing what we do not know about his purpose in creating human beings with the nature we have:

"And [know that] all mankind were once but one single community, and only later did they begin to hold divergent views. And had it not been for a decree that had already gone forth from thy Sustainer, all their differences would indeed have been settled [from the outset]." (10:19)

And there you have it! Think of all the people that people have slaughtered over the various physical, ideological, political, geographical, familial, tribal, whatever differences that separate us over time, think of all the strife...and if God so willed, none of that would exist. If God so willed, we could all be one community, we could all be believers...but that's not the way that we were made. Why?

Because He knows what we do not know.

So we can form our own morality and value system, for our development, so we can be judged accordingly, allowing us our free will, but why?

Only He knows. We can't know except as He allows.

How could you not surrender yourself to God? He alone knows why we're here by virtue of having created us with a purpose unknown to us. But we're not pawns. We don't understand our existence, we could have all been one, and we were once all one...

But because of our nature, most will not see that. Only the true believers and those of us stragglers are able to transcend the bonds of this world and really see what's up...


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tenth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

This is important, thinking of us as an ummah...

"And pay heed unto God and His Apostle, and do not [allow yourselves to] be at variance with one another, lest you lose heart and your moral strength desert you. And be patient in adversity: for, verily, God is with those who are patient in adversity." (8:46)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

RMD / Ninth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

I've been giving my story, A Rose Much Desired, a long rest while I patiently await one of my family members/designated readers to get halfway through it. But the plan for me is to add quotes and otherwise spiff it up before I try to find a publisher or attempt to self-publish. With two of my characters, I was going to write a little epilogue with an allusion to this ayah.

"And whenever thy Sustainer brings forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam, He [thus] calls upon them to bear witness about themselves: "Am I not your Sustainer?" - to which they answer: "Yea, indeed, we do ear witness thereto!" (7:172).

It goes on, but I really like that...that before we are born, we bear witness to God...before we forget...

This one is for my mother! And me, because we can both be fuss cats...

"Make due allowance for man's nature, and enjoin the doing of what is right; and leave alone all those who choose to remain ignorant. And if it should happen that a prompting from Satan stirs thee up [to blind anger], seek refuge with God: behold, He is all-hearing, all-knowing." (7:199-200)

So while we make allowances for human nature, we need to enjoin what is right! No sitting idly by and muttering, "that's just the way it is." Do I have to pull out some Bruce Horsby on this piece?

That's just the way it is...but don't you believe that...

Monday, August 8, 2011

Eighth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

As the days pass, I can't believe how much of the Qur'an I've read through! It's because somehow, we're almost a third through Ramadan. And to that I say noooooo not already! We've just started! What have I been doing with my days?

The fact is, August is a busy month, what with applying to residency, which is a multifaceted and difficult process...and I'm still a medical student rotating through hospitals. And I'm still trying to be the best doctor I can be.

And then, there's K...and I'm sorry, baby boy, I struggle to not let anything come between me and God normally, and I definitely will not let you distract my Ramadan!

Now! Onward!

I feel like the first few ajiza' give me the necessary wake-up call I need to get my Ramadan jump started. It's all like, yeah, true believers hold their prayers sacred, where are you with that, mistress ma'am? And then I'm all like, oh, shame on me...I need to do better, I know...

And then, there comes the uplifting, inspiring stuff. So we're getting closer.

Here's something that year after year I must have missed:

"And, verily, the evil impulses [within men's hearts] whisper unto those who have made them their own that they should involve you in argument [as to what is and what is not a sin]; and if you pay heed unto them, lo! you will become [like] those who ascribe divinity to other beings or forces besides God." (6:121)

This is the second part of an ayah that starts talking about only eating food on which the name of God was pronounced, but look at that! This is a powerful cautions us against arbitrarily outlining what we believe to be a sin and what is not, thus elevating our own morality or someone else's above God, therefore taking as divine something other than God...which is like, whoa. How many times do we as human beings do this? With my brother's voice, I say, "We really ought to be more careful!"

Anything can become a so-called "deity" or being that we give a share of God's divinity to. The following hit home as well:

"And, likewise, their belief in beings or powers that are supposed to have a share in God's divinity makes [even] the slaying of their children seem goodly to many of those who ascribe divinity to aught beside God, thus ruining them to ruin and confusing them in faith. Yet, unless God had so willed, they would not e doing all this: stand, therefore, aloof from them and all their false imagery!" (6:137)

I think in this culture, we give Happiness a divine station in place of God, often, such that happiness becomes the purpose of life, an empty value that, depending on how we slice it, will mean little to nothing in the Hereafter. Happiness will not come to save us if our destination is Hellfire.

Haha, I'm sounding more fire-and-brimstone than I usually do. The following actually brought me comfort - It's long, but 6:151-153 basically outlines all that we shouldn't do and all that we should do to be good with God. My mother called this to my attention one day as I was stressing about whether or not I was a good enough Muslim. It's pretty simple and stress-free. It's like, oooh, ooh, I can do that.

"Say: "Come, let me convey unto you what God has [really] forbidden to you: "Do not ascribe Divinity, in any way, to aught beside Him; and [do not offend against but, rather,] do good unto your parents; and do not kill your children for fear of poverty--[for] it is We who shall provide sustenance for you as well as for them; and do not commit any shameful deeds, be they open or secret; and do not take any human being's life--[the life] which God has declared to be sacred--otherwise than in [the pursuit of] justice: this He has enjoined upon you so that you might use your reason." (2:151)

Just the first part I had to put in there. We are also enjoined to not touch the orphan's belongings, and called upon to act justly, observe our bond with God and to be constantly conscious of Him. These are things that are, actually, moderately easy to do (or not do). And that makes all of this seem easier...after the fire-and-brimstone seeming last few ajiza', things have calmed down...

"Whoever shall come [before God] with a good deed will gain ten times the like thereof; but whoever shall come with an evil deed will be requited with no more than the like thereof; and none shall be wronged." (6:160)

What a great and generous justice system that is! That's why praying five times a day is a blessing...that's 50 good deeds a day for whatever bad deeds we've committed in a day. This is why believers, who are going to be striving to not be doing bad, don't need to worry...even though so many of us do worry,'s what keeps us motivated, keeps us striving...

And if I may switch to Yusuf Ali's rendering to end with an ayah my mother once read to me that really stuck with careful of Satan everywhere!

"He said: "Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, lo! I will lie in wait for them on thy straight way: Then will I assault them from before and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for they mercies)." (7:16-17)

Satan is around us everywhere, and how many of us are really grateful for the mercies of God?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Hereafter / Seventh Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Muito simples.

"And nothing is the life of this world but a play and a passing delight; and the life in the hereafter is by far the better for all who are conscious of God. Will you not, then, use your reason?" (6:32)

Nothing but play and passing delight...that's something to think about. Do we stress more about making a meeting on time and pleasing our superiors than we stress about making prayers on time and pleasing God? Yet this is just playtime, essentially...the life hereafter is where it's at. I'm not calling for people to have lapses in professionalism...for some of us, our professions are part of our good deeds in this life. However, that's food for thought...

At least for me, while I intend to dedicate the work of this life to my service to God in that I'm helping my fellow human being, I don't often think directly of the life to come. More constant in prayer I can always be,'s an important balance to strike. I don't believe the answer is being completely aloof to this world, either. This world is not just a trap for us, we have things we can do while we're here...

Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Sixth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

It's been a long day. I've been hungry since 4 hours before iftar time because fool me decided to go to samba today after missing suhoor. Wow, now I know what dehydration means. My mucus membranes were dry...I should have checked cap refill. I'm saving the last of my water for suhoor but man, I could even drink it now.

Briefly, because I almost went to bed, forgetting to do this...only part of this ayah...

"Unto every one of you have We appointed a [different] law and a way of life. And if God had so willed, He could surely have made you all one single community: but [He willed it otherwise] in order to test you by means of what He has vouchsafed unto you. Vie, then, with one another in doing good works! Unto God you all must return; and then He will make you truly understand all that on which you were wont to differ." (5:48)

I remember this surah being hard for me to read last year because such things as warning against taking Jews and Christians as friends, saying that those who call Jesus (as) God or believe in the trinity are rejecting the truth, reflecting on my relationship with my Christian father, etc. I don't know how I resolved this feeling last year or if I just let it fade.

I think this serves for those of us who are Muslim to understand that God will judge among us based on how well we practice the religion we follow in life. That I am Muslim doesn't mean that I get to be lax in my practice because I know that people who do not call themselves Muslims yet who uphold their faith will also get to Heaven. I have to be the best Muslim I can be, and that is how I will be judged...


Friday, August 5, 2011

Women in Islam / Fifth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Every Ramadan, this is the juz that I struggle with the most...An-Nisaa.

"And God wants to turn unto you in His mercy, whereas those who follow [only] their own lusts want you to drift far away from the right path. God wants to lighten your burdens: for man has been created weak." (4:26-27)

This was mainly about sex in the preceding ayat but can refer to human's weakness surrounding anything. It's true...we are weak and we are forgetful. However, when I first read these ayat, it was frustrating to me because the previous ayat are instructing men about what women they the man at this point seems like man only, when it doesn't have to be...and probably isn't. My limited Arabic and the aid of the transliterations only get me so far in trying to tease this out, so yeah, I'll leave that to a more brisk discussion with someone who has actual Qur'anic scholarship...

But I will venture to say that while man seems to be especially weak (knowing men), both men and women are weak. At the time the Qur'an was revealed, I feel like a never married woman like myself had a lot more protections in place than current day. Hah, understatement. Maybe that's why there are no specific instructions for women?

So I always begin this surah with a bitter taste in my mouth. I don't like to read any part of the Qur'an like that, but of all of the surah in the Qur'an, An-Nisaa is the most unsettling to me. For one, I never feel like I'm doing enough in my struggle in the way of God (to be discussed later) and instead of empowering me, it makes me feel like a slug. Then...I don't know how to place myself as a woman in these times into this surah.

Of course, I'm not questioning whether or not women should be cautioned against following their lusts as men. No, they definitely should. I'm just trying to figure out what the ideal social position of me as a woman is right now, with no Muslim father to oversee my marriage, and no access to good Muslim men to marry. Not that there are no good Muslim men out there, but one truly matched to me...sparse at best, and most of them are already married. And I have no interest in living as a Muslimah spinster with other sisters for the rest of my life...

But living with other Muslims sisters is the safest way to go...better than living alone, and much better than living with non-Muslim women.

Which makes me wonder about the following:

"Behold, those whom the angels gather in death while they are still sinning against themselves, [the angels] will ask, "What was wrong with you?" They will answer; "We were too weak on earth." [The angels] will say; "Was, then, God's earth not wide enough for you to forsake the domain of evil." For such, then, the goal is hell--and how evil a journey's end." (4:97).

I'm not particularly in an environment right now that will allow me to thrive in Islam. I have been unable to secure a Muslim partner, I am remote from a strong Muslim community and I have not particularly grown in Islam save for putting some undesirable experiences under my belt that will perhaps strengthen my resolve. There are several times that I could have died in the midst of sinning, and this would have been my destiny. Is it my fault for choosing to come here, i.e. Harvard for medical school? Is it my responsibility to move somewhere else in the country or to have gone to another school, something, where I could have found a more supportive community?

If I had gone the good Muslimah route, the way I was trying to be in college, I wouldn't have gone to Harvard Medical School. I would have gone to either Wayne State, Michigan or Northwestern, where I got sizable scholarships so I would have been able to avoid the riba of educational loans completely and would have also enjoyed relatively strong Muslim communities...especially at Wayne State. Maybe I could have even found a's all what ifs, but I wonder if my first mistake was in coming here...and I wonder if this is a reasonable path that I've chosen.

(I told you this surah always sets me at ill ease...)

"Yet do not argue in behalf of those who are false to their own selves: verily, God does not love those who betray their trust and persist in their sinful ways." (4:107)

The concept of betraying one's own trust is a strong one...and it's true. I've recently betrayed my own trust several's not a comfortable feeling. It's this feeling of, "Well, I'll do this anyway, because it's too hard, and God will see that it's too hard for me." In the meantime, God's not wronging're just wronging yourself by giving up when you still had it in you to's like betraying a former self that had no intention to do this...and knowing all the while what you're doing is just going to hurt you. It's like putting your hand onto an open flame and holding it there. You know it's going to hurt you, but you were attracted to the flame and curiosity gets you and you give up, knowing that you're going to be burnt... And your self a few seconds before the burn thinks your an idiot for putting your hand into the fire...

But that's it.

So the struggle against self...jihad an-nafs. I know my weaknesses. My biggest struggles are surrounding salat and marriage. For salat, it's always been my struggle to find or create for myself a space or context in which I'm comfortable praying especially Zhuhr while in public. The other prayers are generally around times of day where I can escape to either a comfortable prayer space or home, except for in the winter when 'Asr is also challenging to do, especially here in Boston where the sun sets as early as 4pm some days. I also wax and wane in my dedication to salat over time. This has been a challenge for me, and rereading about those in war who worried about incurring sin for shortening a prayer during a battle, whereas I am not so worried about delaying a prayer to walk all the way home to say it, and other things that I am not comfortable mentioning here...anyway, yes, that's one of my big struggles, not to mention awakening for Fajr.

The second weakness surrounds marriage, or not properly marriage, the avoidance of fornication. I was just in relationships with two (non-Muslim) men who, let's say, did not share my enthusiasm to wait until marriage. Especially in this surah, the way the dedication to marriage is described, marriage for the sake of God and not marriage for the sake of calming lusts, I just feel silly for even entertaining these relationships that ultimately both ended because they realized, oh snap, she really isn't going to have sex with me. Why am I even relating to non-Muslim men?

I thought that this was the only way that I would get married. And what is a marriage that is not for the sake of God?

In reality, I don't have to marry a man who calls himself Muslim to have a marriage for the sake of God, a successful marriage...

But anyway, it's tough when both Muslim and non-Muslim men alike can get sex for free, as I mentioned in another entry. I think this is something that I'm supposed to suffer through, because this is seriously the only prayer in my life that I am yet to see an answer on, a prayer that I've been praying in various ways since I was 12, and I do not understand why it's taking so long for me and for other believing women (and non-believing women, actually), this happens so much faster. I cannot understand.

It all goes back to my wishing there was a surah in the Qur'an specifically for woman. And I know, astaghfirullah...I'm implying that the Qur'an is in anyways incomplete. And it's not at all incomplete. The answers to everything I need to know is there. And when the answer is not explicit, the answer is prayer.

I just don't know what else to do. It makes me cry.

A reminder from this time last year, a little bit further into Ramadan and past An-Nisaa:

"So this Ramadan, insha'Allah, I'll combat disillusion. Loneliness is my portion for only a time, and it's okay that I don't understand why. It's like Musa (as) and the sage...there's meaning behind everything, and I may never know why, but it's better for me anyway, though I may not see it immediately. Allahu a'lam.

“And he who forsakes the domain of evil for the sake of God shall find on earth many a lonely road, as well as life abundant...” – An-Nisaa’, (4:100)."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Warning / Fourth Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Long day! I'll keep it short and sweet...

"Do you think that you could enter paradise unless God takes cognizance of your having striven hard [in His cause], and takes cognizance of your having been patient in adversity?" (3:142)

Am I truly striving as hard as I can? Am I patient in my own personal adversity? Good questions...I don't know. Insha'Allah, but I think those are two important points. There are various ways to strive in the way of God, but patience in adversity is something that we all as humans universally struggle with... What could I do to be better?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Self-Surrender / Third Juz

As salaam alaikum,

I see that I will not be able to do anything with my application for residency until the weekend...fasting Ramadan while going through a rotation makes the rotation a tad more time consuming, hehe. Alhamdulillah, though...that I'm able to fast as I am, that I'm able to take some time in my busy schedule and reflect...

My father thinks that there is more richness to Christianity. I told him that I could never be Christian because, to be Christian, I'd have to renounce Islam. He tells me that he still respects my mother and respects Islam, but he doesn't understand...from big theological things like not being able to accept Christ as savior to smaller but infinitely important details as the nature of God...I can't.

Because God as described in the Qur'an is not jealous, is not grieving of the evils committed by man...all is in His power and everything is His Will. I don't argue too hard with my father about this because this point is the very basis of his faith and I'm not out to destroy his foundation. However, he must understand not to destroy mine, for mine is the following:

"God--there is no deity save Him, the Ever-Living, the Self-Subsistent Fount of All Being. Neither slumber overtakes Him, nor sleep. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth. Who is there that could intercede with Him, unless it be by His leave? He knows all that lies open before men and all that is hidden from them, whereas they cannot attain to aught of His knowledge save that which He wills [them to attain]. His eternal power overspreads the heavens and the earth, and their upholding wearies Him not. And He alone is truly exalted, tremendous." (2:255)

This belief is fundamental in Islam...God as infallible. So no, God did not rest on the seventh "day." I think to some people it would seem cruel that God does not grieve the evil committed on earth, but why would he? Why would he grieve the child starving to death if that child will return to him with a greater comfort and richer life than he or she could have ever experienced on earth? Why did the child have to suffer in the first place. Recall 2:30...verily, He knows what we do not know.

Is that frustrating, yes. But with what face can anyone therefore say, "Oh, who is this God who does whatever he wants, reigns over us all." All I can say is...I hope that He who has created me and everything else that exists reigns over us, and has a plan for us...and who are we to be privy to everything, especially if we did nothing of the grunt work of the creation of our existence. It's arrogance to express disdain at an All-Knowing God. Perchance were you instrumental in your own making? Some people believe they are, but they could not even carry themselves in their own womb, could not feed themselves for much of their childhood, those crucial years that make us no, you are not self-made.

I see why denial of the truth of God is referred to as arrogance now.

Al-Baqarah is a very rich surah!

I like the following story because Abraham, the father of the most practiced of the Abrahamic faiths, even had trouble with his faith. And if Abraham, the progenitor, struggled, it makes sense that we revelation uninspired folk would struggle as well. I also liked God's answer to his doubt:

"And, lo, Abraham said: "O my Sustainer! Show me how Thou givest life unto the dead!" Said He: "Hast though, then, no faith?" [Abraham] answered: "Yea, but [let me see it] so my heart may be fully at rest." Said He: "Take, then, four birds and teach them to obey thee; then place them separately on every hill [around thee]; then summon them: they will come flying to thee. And know that God is almighty, wise." (2:260)

Hahahaha, Abraham was probably like, wth, and then he got it. God can say be and it is. We won't always be there when he says be and something comes to pass. That is part of the struggle to having our hearts set at ease...I won't know my future. That sets my heart at edge, but oh well. God wills, and he wills the best for us...I'll hold fast with that.

Meanwhile, I marvel at the sign of God that is birds...which is part of the reason I love that...birds are awesome. Especially ones that can talk...I am in awe of birds! Did you know that they are one of the few other animals that can keep rhythm and dance (monkeys can't) because they can speak like humans, and therefore their brains are rhythmically structured like humans' brains because apparently speech necessitates appreciation of cadence? Masha'Allah, man!

Here's something else that stands well on it's own:

"The parable of those who spend their possessions for the sake of God is that of a grain out of which grow seven ears, in every ear a hundred grains: for God grants manifold increase unto whom He wills; and God is infinite, all-knowing." (2:261)

Simple, sweet, straight to the point. Charity is really stressed as necessary for true piety...especially that kind of charity that we don't noise about. So we'll never know who's really pious, so measuring piety should not be any more concern to us than noising about our own charity!

And on we are to the House of 'Imran, where the first of my favorite Qur'anic stories is told...but first...

The following (yes, translation by Asad) is one reason that I don't worry so much about who calls themselves Muslim by their mouth and who actually surrenders themselves to God in their actions:

"Behold, the only [true] religion in the sight of God is [man's] self-surrender unto Him; and those who were vouchsafed revelation aforetime took, out of mutual jealousy, to divergent views [on this point] only after knowledge [thereof] had come unto them. But as for him who denies the truth of God's messages--behold, God is swift in reckoning." (3:19)

It's more powerful to say that the only true religion is self-surrender to God than to give it any label that we use to divide ourselves. I seek the company of those who readily surrender themselves to God, not because I am of the best of them, but so I may learn from them...insha'Allah.

Oh yeah, and this injunction...sound familiar?

"Say [O Prophet]: "If you love God, follow me, [and] God will love you and forgive you your sins; for God is much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace." (3:31)

The forgiveness of sins through following a Prophet who is directly inspired by God is not necessarily novel to any one of the prophets...especially the one who's word is cited in 3:49-51. In comes Jesus (as).

The words of Jesus (as) are here. I think that the key to believing the Qur'an is believing that it was divinely inspired, and I think people who attempt to understand Islam just assume that it couldn't have been, claim to know that it wasn't or are ignorant of the fact that we believe this and therefore do not even evaluate it themselves. Because I've heard plenty a Christian then say, "Well, didn't Muhammad hear about Christian stories when he was growing up?" Without accepting that this is direct revelation from God, no, I don't expect anyone to look upon the Qur'an in awe as I do...

But God acknowledges so many times that we will differ, and yes, this is His in, this is inevitable, part of the human condition, human nature, which He created when He created us. And hopeless it may seem for those who choose to feel like checker is hopeful for me who is relieved to live in a purposeful world with One who has dominion over all, who will protect me whether or not I pray to ask to be protected, and who will care for me even more when I do pray. So while we are bound to disagree, let us use our difference to fortify us and prepare us for the life to come, the purpose God intends for us:

"Say: "O followers of earlier revelation! Come unto that tenet which we and you hold in common: that we shall worship none but God, and that we shall not ascribe divinity to aught beside Him, and that we shall not take human beings for our lords beside God." And if they turn away, then say: "Bear witness that it is we who have surrendered ourselves to Him."

Maybe one day we can all pray together in the most beautiful of prayers. Until that day, we continue to revel in our difference, letting the pride of this life get in the way of our becoming ever closer to God in all our life...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Second Juz

As salaam alaikum,

Once again, just the translation (Asad) of a few ayat that gave me pause and resonated with me now, in this time of my life.

"True piety does not consist in turning your face towards the east or the west--but truly pious is he who believes in God, and the Last Day, and the angels, and revelation, and the prophets; and spends his substance--however much he himself may cherish it--upon his near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer, and the beggars, and for the freeing of human beings from bondage; and is constant in prayer, and renders the purifying dues; and [truly pious are] they who keep their promises whenever they promise, and are patient in misfortune and hardship and in time of peril: it is they that have proved themselves true, and it is they, they who are conscious of God." (2:177)

On the freeing human beings from bondage tip...let us not scoff at that! Just because on of the more horrible slavery periods of our recorded history as perpetuated from the trans-Atlantic African slave trade has been over for not yet 150 years (that's not a long time), you'd best believe that there are slaves everywhere still. The most flagrant case I know of in the western hemisphere is the enslavement of Haitians in the Dominican Republic sugar plantations. There are probably isolated pockets of slaves in the US, too, under the radar. Then there are plenty of cases of virtual slavery with those who are paid ridiculous wages, and other types of slavery. There are those in bondage today that can be freed!

So let's leave the minutiae of Islam alone for a second, because true piety is something that few Muslims I know have attained! And I count myself in the number, of course, lest I complain too much!

This is the hardest thing for me, I think: remaining patient in times of adversity. Adversity for me, I think, is not being able to get married, and I haven't been that good about being patient.

Piety is an awesome thing...there are so many more things we can do as Muslims to attain it, and I feel like we so seldom focus on these things...

Another thing I liked...God reminding us:

"And if My servants ask thee about Me--behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me: let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way." (2:186)

God is with us, hears us and responds to us whenever we let us do our part and respond to Him and believe Him, actually, which is the least we can do in gratitude! As the Qur'an says multiple times, most of us are ungrateful.

It's hard for us who feel so far from God sometimes to be truly grateful, but He lines up a way to think about it that I like:

"And when you have performed your acts of worship, [continue to] bear God in mind as you would ear your own fathers in mind---nay, with a keener remembrance! For there are people who [merely] pray, "O our Sustainer! Give us in this world"--and such shall not partake in the blessings of the life to come. But there are among them such as pray "O our Sustainer! Grant us good in this world and good in the life to come, and keep us safe from the suffering through the fire": it is these that shall have their portion [of happiness] in return for what they have earned. And God is swift in reckoning." (2:200-202)

This is a gauge I often use for myself throughout the day or in the course of life...and I strive to be conscious of God more than I am conscious of my parents. Just as I want to follow the way that my parents set out for me, I more want to follow the way that God has set out for me. And though I do wish to be guided the straight way, I feel like I downplay the next life in my prayers. You would think this wouldn't slip my mind...

But sometimes I'm overwhelmed my my own day's trifling burdens that I forget to pray about the life to come, though I tussle with this one. Even though the rough times, which are relatively rough to me and relatively easy in the face of what is suffered by the rest of humankind, I find an unexpected comfort in this:

"[But] do you think that you could enter paradise without having suffered like those [believers] who passed away before you? Misfortune and hardship befell them, and so shaken were they that the apostle, and the believers with him, would exclaim, "When will God's succor come?" Oh, verily, God's succor is [always] near!" (2:214)

I will take any of what I call my hardships every day, then, since this seems to be the natural course of things. May it fortify me and prepare me for the rest of this life and the next.

May our collective hardships fortify us and prepare us for the rest of this life and the next!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ramadan Mubarak / Reflections on First Juz

As salaam alaikum,

And a warm Ramadan Mubarak to all of my Muslims out there, practicing or no! Because a Muslim who is not currently practicing can easily turn into a practicing Muslim like that. Let me take this time to bear witness that I have been at various levels of practice throughout my adult life, and this is probably one of my low points. Allah (swt) always has space for us and will always anticipate our return, whether we're actually not practicing or not practicing as much as we'd like.

Because, as He told Adan as he was expelled from the garden, and as applies to us whenever we fall from a state of grace:

"[For although] We did say, "Down with you all from this [state]," there shall, none the less, most certainly come unto you guidance from Me: and those who follow My guidance need have no fear, and neither shall they grieve." (2:38)

So a blessed Ramadan for all of us who will seek guidance this month!

In order to keep myself up-to-date this Ramadan, I think I'll post my favorite ayat from the day's juz. The things that made me stop and think.

This made me think based on a recent conversation I had with my father about Christianity, and his thinking that it was "a shame" that I was not considering converting to Christianity:

"Say: "Do you argue with us about God? But He is our Sustainer as well as your Sustainer -- and unto us shall be accounted our deeds, and unto you, your deeds; and it is unto Him alone that we devote ourselves." (2:139)

It goes on, but it always got to me that basic thing that other monotheists often do not understand...we are all worshiping the same God. We may attribute slightly different characteristics to God in our limited understanding of Him through our theologies and ideologies, but we're attempting to approach the same God. My father believes that Islam is not the wrong way but that Christianity is richer than Islam and provides a better spiritual life. I beg to differ, but that's an argument that neither of us can win. At the end of the day, the most important is just that, that which my father recognizes...both of us, me and him, are trying to reach the same God, and we will independently be judged according to our efforts to approximate Him.

As always, different things resonate with us differently in the course of reading the Qur'an. This time around, all of the stuff warning the Jews and the Christians (and therefore, warning us, Muslims) against claiming one faith as the only ticket to Paradise and the Oneness of God regardless of monotheistic tradition stood out to me. Maybe I'll send them to my's a little provocative because it speaks directly to him, but just so he knows what's actually in the book.

Anyway, time to sleep. I get to go to clinic for a full day tomorrow, and although clinic is lighter than say, a sub-internship, it's still a full day!