Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Why Can't We Be Friends?

As salaam alaikum,

So, I posted this on my facebook, and I'm posting it here because I've read about too many people denying the existence of God, which shouldn't upset me, but it does. It's funny how those same people would be upset with someone voicing their beliefs yet they don't hesitate to voice theirs at any given chance.

Can't we coexist without offending each other? You know, unless my mere existence offends, then that's your problem to deal with. I can't cease to exist.

Anyway, heavy heavy heavy. I want everyone to believe what they believe in their heart of hearts, I don't want to impede. There is no compulsion in religion. But I wish it weren't in our nature to be so mean to each other.

War got it right with this song, and this video. Life is too short for us to not to try to be better to one another and recognize some of the absurdities we create in our existence:

Saturday, September 24, 2011


As salaam alaikum,

It's official. I am tired of medical school and I'm ready to be done!

It's not that I'm tired of learning. Quite the contrary. I've been learning all of my life, and quite differently from what I believed as a child, you continue learning as an adult, and it's good for you. I'm always learning something new. It'll be exciting to be an intern and be taught something by my seniors and attendings.

I'm tired of medical school grades! Two years is enough (the first two years were pass-fail) for the emotionally draining process of being graded in medical school. The feedback is rarely that constructive, the systems are sometimes arbitrary, and yet you feel like your ability to match into the residency program of your choice is determined by this very subjective measure of your aptitude. Or, even worse, you feel like the grade delineates what type of doctor you'll be. A grade that is not the highest feels like a sign of your personal mediocrity and ineffectiveness as a future physician, and often comments one gets from their grades are not helpful to improvement.

I'm ready to be in an environment where I'm not afraid to ask questions for fear that my grader will not think I'm well-read enough. I'm ready to be in an environment where my feedback is truly meant to help me improve and not meant to grade me or compare me to my peers. I'm ready to learn my field with people who are interested in teaching me so that I'm an effective physician. I see the interns, what they know, how they learn it, what they do. It's time!

And insha'Allah, that will come in due time. My application with ERAS is complete, alhamdulillah. I'm waiting to hear from the west coast programs at this point...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Next Lifetime

As salaam alaikum,

I'm not going to lie, I miss B. Not because he was the perfect match or even a good match for me, just because he was who he was. I think it was really not cool of him for me to wait until I got close to him and bail out. In fact, I think many men are emotionally lazy. When they discover that it is takes emotional effort to be with someone, they bail. They don't want to share their life, they don't like the idea of being with only one person, even when the alternative is them being alone. That's what B is doing right now. And he won't hear of otherwise. So after trying one last time to be friends with him, I let him go. Let him wallow in his sorrow, let him exist in and of himself, whatever it is that he is intent on doing. According to my premonition, I have other things to worry about in the upcoming months, no time to would've should've could've with that...

Residency is looming, and while my bedside manner is tight, alhamdulillah, I need to make sure I have the skills and the knowledge behind that to make me a really phenomenal doctor. No time to worry about men who are not worrying about me. He is now added to that list.

It's also really hard to relate to someone who you'd know would accept Islam if they'd open their eyes beyond the radius of their nose. Everything was in place. He had a best friend that was Muslim...but we didn't even get that far before he bailed. I wonder why it was that we were to be in each others' lives. I wonder what purpose it served besides convincing me to stay even farther from haram.

Anyway, as I realized we were drifting apart, this song went through my now, it won't have to be next lifetime until the next one comes around...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

State of Grace

As salaam alaikum,

Last night, while I was helping a woman labor (and she did quite well, actually), delivering her first baby, I had another premonition, similar to the one that I had in April of 2010 when I looked at B and knew, oddly, strangely that we would be together later. This one was so strong, I don't even want to pronounce it, lest I jinx it or come to disbelieve in it. Suffice it to say, I'm now filled with an overwhelming sense of peace, that everything is going to be alright for me, and God will provide beyond measure for me. I don't have to worry.

It was a great night! I delivered three would have been four, but I got myself together too late to deliver the last, that just came out with one and a half pushes. Mom was like, yep, I knew it would be like this.

Then there were two sets of happy first-time parents who had beautiful baby girls. It struck me that one of the moms was my brother's age, and as she got prepared to push, she stuck her tongue out at me. I realized...oh my gosh, we're adults, but we're so young!

Anyway, I think because I was in my zone last night, moving from delivery to delivery, that I felt that state of grace. I've had this feeling before. Back when I was in college and came home for Christmas break, there were a handful of times I'd be riding in the car with my mother and brother and think, "Oh, I want to hear this song." Then, I'd get home, turn on the television to VH1 Soul, and that song would be just starting to play. I've recorded a few of my favorite songs that way. One of them was, "Gone Til November" by Wyclef Jean, and the other, "It Never Rains (In Southern California)" by Tony! Toni! Tone! There might have been a few others, but I mentioned to my mother then that I must have been in a state of grace.

(This was in the days before YouTube, by the a song that I want to hear is virtually at my fingertips...crazy to live in this time of so much sudden innovation).

When I looked at B in April and knew, alarmingly, that we would be together...I mentioned it in my old journal, but then I gradually came to deny it. I was like, no, maybe it means that I'll be with someone, not him. And then, it bothered me that this was the only sense I got. I didn't know if we would be married, if the relationship would last, what it would mean...just that we would end up together. Similarly, right before we broke up, I had the feeling that we weren't meant to be together as he began to slip away, and frustratingly, I didn't know if that meant we wouldn't be together now, or never...

This of a different subject matter. It changes my perspective on life completely, makes me ever grateful to God for what he has given me, makes me even more submissive to Him, makes me realize how much He can say "be" and it is, makes me realize how much life can completely change from one moment to the next...

And, I'm applying to residency in family medicine and got an interview offer from one of my favorite programs! Keep me in your duas as this nerve-wracking interview acquisition process continues!

Anyway, life is exciting and scary on all fronts. I have to talk about this premonition somewhere, just not here.

And this segment on the Daily Show is so true...

Monday, September 12, 2011


As salaam alaikum,

One of the first surah that I knew as a child was al-'Asr. I learned it first in English, as my mother had the Yusuf Ali translation of the Qur'an.

"By (the token of) time (through the ages), verily, man is in loss, except for such as have faith, and do righteous deeds, and (join together) in the mutual teaching of truth, and of patience and constancy."

This is probably the surah I recite the most in my mind as I go about my day, as I experience life, as I witness evils, as I recall past evils done upon people, my family, my neighbors, my people.

Last night, I watched Sarafina! the movie for the first time since I was 8 years old. The only part that I remembered was the triumphant "Lord's Prayer" at the beginning of the film, which is marked with a tinge of sadness because of the latter scene I remembered, with children being shot dead. Then I remembered Sarafina on the train, going home. I remembered little else except it was a frightening thought, as a child, that other people did this to people. I just thought they were evil, bad people. I didn't know that this was done under a government supported by other human beings.

Similarly, the first images of violence I remember was of the Rwandan Civil War. I was very young when I saw footage of that on the news, and I remember the nightmare I had of it, and it still makes me cry. It was of a Rwandan child, sitting in a dirt hut in a high chair with a cinnamon roll that he was going to eat. The child was all alone, no adults in sight. Two angry dogs came in and took the cinnamon roll from the hungry child, and ate it. The child cried, and there was no one to help him.

It was imagery that I could only understand, as a child in the United States whose mother fed us cinnamon rolls for breakfast in the morning on weekends. That was how the violence manifested to me in a dream, a starving baby, alone and brutalized.

I've been watching more movies about South Africa lately, and thereafter reading more about Apartheid. I've always said that black South Africans have a similar consciousness as we do in the United States because they, too, had institutionalized racism, but I think their consciousness is more acute, because unlike our slavery that ended not yet 150 years ago (not that long ago, actually), and our institutionalized racism that lasted more than 100 years after slavery, Apartheid ended in 1994. I've heard some people talk about "putting history behind them" in South Africa, and I'm like, well dang, that mess happened yesterday! That's like someone stabbing my brother and the next day, their relatives talking about I should put it behind me.

The "officials" that killed and beat thousands of school children in the Soweto Uprising are still alive! The legacy is still fresh. People as young as me were born in the era of Apartheid. Crazy!

These are just two examples of people being horrible to each other. Throughout time, verily man is in loss. By the token of time throughout the ages, man has been horrible to each other. They kill and maim brutally like they're killing mosquitoes, with no regard or reverence for human life. If they don't kill, they content themselves with treating other people like animals, or less than that. There is more outrage expressed over a celebrity that brutalized animals than the collective outrage of society over the hundreds (if not thousands) of men and boys lynched, hanged by mobs in this country.

Sometimes I wonder how people who have experienced some of the greater injustices of our lifetimes can get up every morning without paralyzing fear, anger, I swell with righteous indignation. I don't now how they do, but they do. No less do I complain about this world as I am one who has never been personally wronged in the least, except for having insults hurled at me by wayward homeless people.

But maybe those people, like me, believe in the greater truth, the greater sense of overarching justice that protects us all. It actually does not drive us to complacency. We have faith and direct our life towards righteousness. We do good works concurrent with faith in our Sustainer and his exacting of ultimate justice when all of this is through in a way that makes more sense than we can comprehend. We believe in joining together...and we know that no evil can touch us.

Because the end of our life on this earth is not the end of it all.

People can get angry and scared by believing in conspiracy theories, about people who actually rule the world, about powers that be, about the man, about the great evil forces. And while I would love to live to see ultimate truths revealed on this earth, they won't all be revealed in my lifetime. And that's okay, because the truth at the end of the day is that the world rulers, the powers, the man, the evil forces don't rule anything. God does.

And many ask, why does God allow these things to happen? To which He answers, I know what you do not (2:30). And did you think that you would not be tried like those believers who were tried before you, who begged for help in desperation (2:214)? And we are not chess pieces on a board, because we were not created for the sake of God's entertainment (21:16-17). Our purpose is to submit to Him, and we do that by having faith, doing good deeds, and helping each other in the way of truth, patience and constancy. Helping each other, not killing each other. Helping each other, not hurting each other. Helping each other, no denying each other the good of this world. Helping each other.

This is a different type of submission that ultimately benefits no one but ourselves and those around us who we help.

It will be a glorious day when we can all know the truth of things.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

God Bless America

As salaam alaikum,

Of all the patriotic songs that I learned at some point during my primary and secondary schooling, I somehow never knew God Bless America until the days following 9/11. As I was a 16-year-old in Michigan who had never been anywhere near the east coast, I did not know what the twin towers were when I saw the first building collapse. I didn't really know what was going on...I thought they were showing the demolition of some really large buildings shortly after my English teacher turned on the television in the room until I watched some of the footage from the first, then the second plane, flying into the building.

The rest of the day in school was surreal. I didn't realize the gravity of things until one of my classmates, who had family in the city, cried hysterically as she could not get in touch with anyone because the cell phone lines were all tied up. It was eerie that day in band practice as we watched a singular plane in the sky fly to its destination, as the rest of airspace was grounded. It was startling to go home and see my mother freaking out, my mother, who had lived through the assassination of a US president, because she'd never experienced anything like that before.

We changed our show in band at the last minute. That Friday, September 14, we put on a tasteful show with no fancy formations, no high step or traditional step. Just us standing in lines, playing a powerful arrangement of "God Bless America." I still remember what it felt like to be standing there, on the field, playing that, feeling the brass swell over the what would been the sung refrain, "white with foam..." The snare drums marching forward resolutely over "God bless America."

My home sweet home...

It's been ten years. I'm not an awkward 16-year-old girl anymore. I'm a 26-year-old woman, applying to residency in family medicine. Back then, I came from a black Muslim family, and now I am a black Muslim woman. Ten years ago, I didn't know how being a Muslim in this country would change after the attacks and the "Muslim" names of the terrorists would be recited and memorized over the news, how George Bush affirming that Islam was "a religion of peace" would not mean anything, how these terrorists would work tirelessly with certain media sources to smear the religion that I was independently returning to embrace.

I didn't know how many lives would ultimately be lost as two towers, an entire area code, collapsed from the screen and people screamed. It's something I can't imagine, like two pillars of a society, gone. I can't even imagine what it would be like to go home and my house was a smoldering pile of embers, to go to school and find the med school toppled, destroyed. I still can't imagine what the lives of those who senselessly lost their loved ones must be like, as their existence is hyped for the 10 year anniversary and they are all but forgotten in the interim.

My home sweet home.

The world is different now. Children have been born and are 10 years old today, entering the fourth grade, a lot of them. People who witnessed it have died, and people who will have no idea what it was like to live through it were born. We've since gone from having a surplus to a deficit. We went from our biggest concern being the incompetence the president to support our president to being glad he's out of office to being critical of his successor. People who were not Muslim before 9/11 are Muslim now.

I never flew before 9/11 so I never knew what it was like to not take off my shoes and remove my laptop, but I comply. I never visited New York until 2006, 5 years after the skyline changed forever. I never really knew what it was like to be Muslim in a pre-9/11 world.

On this day, God bless those who lost their lives on this day, 10 years ago, in the wanton act of aggression against innocents, the likes of which continues on other frontiers but has seldom touched us. God bless the families of those who lost their lives, who will benefit more from our prayers than our hyped eulogies that will for sure be all over the television today. God bless the children, especially, who lost their parents on that day.

And God bless the believers in this country, no matter what religion we call ourselves. A nation is an imagined entity with imaginary borders and imagined meaning. But for me, my country is made up of diverse people who believe in God and try to do good works as they see fit, and these are better than my country men and women. These are my brothers and sisters in faith. So God bless us all, those among us, and those who will be joining us.

These are my people, this is who I know. They, like me, were born or raised in this country. My home sweet home.

So God bless this, that I know, and protect us all from the evil that threatens to derail us all.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


As salaam alaikum,

I woke up from my morning slumber this afternoon (I work 14-hour night shifts for this rotation) with this song in my head, reminding me of a different time, but giving me hope for the future:

Yes, neo-soul cover of "Something" by the Beatles, apparently the second-most covered song behind, "Yesterday." This was the first cover I heard, and I still love it. I woke with the lyric, "Something in the way she knows, and all I have to do is think of her."

I pray for patience to receive good things in this life, and for ultimate patience to deserve the good things of the life to come.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

[uncensored]: Thirtieth Juz / Ramadan Reflections

As salaam alaikum,

I was unable to finish the last juz and reflect on it before starting my OB subI, so here we go. Just a couple of things, then I'll reflect on Ramadan in general, insha'Allah:

"Do, then, they [who deny resurrection] never gaze at the clouds pregnant with water, [and observe] how they are created? And at the sky, how it is raised aloft? And at the mountains, how firmly they are reared? And at the earth, how it is spread out?" (88:17-20).

How can we not observe life and know that we are creation, just as is everything around us, just as is, transitively, everything we make with our hands, with machines that we've made with our hands, with our minds that God created? How can we not look at the bird that regards the seed on the ground before it eats it and not marvel at creation, and that we are created?

Some people don't like nature. I don't understand that. While I'm not one to go traipsing around on hikes, I do enjoy observing nature, for that very's beautiful creation just like we are. So many things we do can be an act of worship if we just remember God as we take in the world around us...

And I will always love this, and I'll always get goosebumps from this:

"Read in the name of thy Sustainer, who has created --created man out of a germ-cell. Read--for thy Sustainer is the Most Bountiful One, who has taught [man] the use of the pen--taught man what he did not know!" (96:1-5).

So this month and every month, even as I tussle with the Arabic alphabet and aspire one day to learn enough to read the Qur'an in language it was revealed, I read the entire Qur'an in English. I think everyone who doesn't have command of Qur'anic Arabic should do this in addition to whatever else they do in read the Qur'an in the language they most understand. I mean, Allahu a'lam, but there are messages that can get lost if you don't understand what's going on. There's no way that I would have had access to the Qur'an if it were only available in Arabic initially unless I got some of its message translated in English. There's no way I would have had access to Islam if my mother hadn't read the Qur'an in English cover to cover several times over when I was a kid and imparted from it lessons that brought me back to Islam as an adult. There is more than one way to arrive to the straight way and we Muslims need to recognize this and not make things unnecessarily difficult for our brothers and sisters in Islam...

So I reflect on this Ramadan. This Ramadan ended with me passing out in the delivery room shortly after watching a delivery. There were various reasons I passed out...I think I was also stressed out at the time. But I had my last iftar in the conference room in the company of a resident. I broke fast with a bottle of water and two granola bars, which apparently was not enough to get me through the bloodiness of the next delivery. As I fell flat on my face (and bounced) and woke with a bleeding laceration on my forehead, I cried because I was embarrassed.

But I reflect on that night as another instance of hubris and nemesis. Excess pride and it's downfall. I wanted to be the best SubI I could be, and couldn't even stand my first delivery. But it was kind of fitting for a Ramadan in which the theme for me this year was humility.

Since the last Ramadan, I made a change in my life. I took a chance and started a relationship with a non-Muslim man. I thought I had to if I ever wanted to get married, as the market for Muslim men who will accept African American sisters is not that dense right now, and when there are some available, compatibility is not correct for an enduring marriage. Anyway...I went forward prayerfully, and then it ended abruptly, which I painfully concluded was because it wasn't right for me. I vacillate between being grateful for the experience and wishing it never happened. In the end, I'm grateful, because it allowed me to lower myself to a greater state of humility this Ramadan than the previous one, submitting myself more to God and recognizing even more my inherent errors as a human being, things that I did wrong before but didn't recognize.

I made a pledge to God during this Ramadan that I wasn't able to make before, something that I needed to do. And so here I am, insha'Allah upholding that pledge, insha'Allah leading myself towards a new level of God-consciousness that will ensure that I am on the path of the righteous, ensure that my destination is Heaven when I die...

This Ramadan was harder because, frankly, in a relationship with a man who is not Muslim (or a man in general), I crossed paths and was faced with decisions that I never had to make as a single Muslimah, potentially compromising my own chastity. As I read the Qur'an, I reflected how God protected me from falling into sin, and was reminded how grave it would have been. It was very hard for me in the beginning to read all of those things, and at first I was filled with remorse, and then relief. Though I could have gravely strayed, by the grace of God I was able to see the error in my ways and return...

Does this mean this is latersville for men who do not call themselves Muslim? No. This just means that I'm not going to waste time on men who are not striving, who are not trying to submit themselves to God, whether they call themselves Muslim or not.

I made a pledge with God, and in return I have more security than I ever have before in life that in time I will have the husband I always prayed for. In the meantime, I am finding more and more contentment in myself, in all that God has blessed me with, in my journey ahead, in all I aspire to be, as I remain single for a few more days, whatever the scale of time may be. Because no matter how great my husband will be, I have to answer to God alone, so I need to make sure I have my stuff in order, make sure I have everything together to make me spiritually ready to meet Him.

This Ramadan has left me with a sense of peace, a post-Ramadan nur that I've heard so many people talk about that insha'Allah will stay with me for a while. I celebrated Eid by myself, unable to attend prayers because of my head trauma, and for the first year in a while, I didn't feel lonely at all. This Ramadan was not lonely. It was filled, and I am filled with passion and purpose. I have beautiful things to look forward to...the beginning of my career in medicine with wonderful residency programs to visit and get to know, the decision of a lifetime coming up. It was a wonderful way to end my fast. Ending with my pledge to God was a wonderful way to secure for myself inner certainty...

Because even if I were to remain single and childless for the rest of my life (I would adopt children, I've decided, so I wouldn't technically be childless), what God has in store for me if I bring my soul to him is better than any marriage on this earth, any children on this earth, any family on this earth...any existence that He graces me with on this earth. So I have that inner certainty, but I also know that I will be married, in the coming days or whatever period of time it will be...

And therefore, a momentous thing has happened. I before thought my faith would be complete when God answered that prayer for me. When I was finally happily married. But my faith is complete now, with no suitor lined up, with no fiance in tow. And I think that's what I had to do in the first place...

So it was a blessed Ramadan, indeed. I get to deliver babies, I get to apply to awesome residency programs, I get to fall in love with all of life over and over again, and I get to love God, watching babies be born, so precious to their parents, so destined to be ingrates as they already cry in their mothers arms, not recognizing the residual pain she still feels for their deliveries.

And while some may say they did not ask to be born, neither did your parents ask that you specifically be their child...

I look at childbirth and it reminds me how we cannot possibly make ourselves from this time when the nurses clean off our naked bodies, place us in diapers and swaddle us in blankets until we look like little peanuts, handing us to our adoring parents, us closing our eyes because the light of this world is too bright, after we had become accustomed to the fluid-filled darkness of our mothers womb, bathing and ingesting endometrial fluid and our own urine...

It's a humbling entry into this world and a humbling exit out. The trick is to humble ourselves throughout...