Tuesday, February 28, 2012

I give up!

As salaam alaikum,

I give up on love. Just looks like it's not going to happen.

Insha'Allah He has mercy on me and takes me early so I don't have to suffer so long with being lonely on this earth.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

[uncensored]: Muslimah Beauty, Part II

As salaam alaikum,

You know what I just realized? And if anyone says "No duh," sorry, I never thought of it this way before...

Among Muslims (both men and women), our appearance is so extra-scrutinized in a way that is never done with men. We need to do something about this.

What is to be done? I don't know. The more I think about certain things I don't like about how Muslims around me live Islam, the more I think forming a community of my own and disseminating that example to the outside for other Muslims to take note is the purpose of my life. Seriously. Some things I read by Muslims so disgust me that I almost, almost wish that I weren't Muslim. That I could just call myself a Submitter to God, follow the Qur'an and Sunnah and not associate with some of these people...gosh!

Anyway, I digress...this is not one such topic, but I can get passionate.

What do I mean by extra-scrutinized. It's not just the traditional, "Pious women wear hijab, pious men wear beards." So, men may be called out for not wearing a beard, not having it a certain length, not trimming it a certain way, or not applying henna, I suppose. They may also be called out for maybe the length of their hair and...I don't know, wearing clothing with logos or animals on it to the mosque? Tattoos and piercings are an issue for both genders, I would think. But, for the most part, Muslim men are invisible.

When it comes to women...gah-lee! And I'm not giving credence to the pop-Western "oh my gosh, these women are oppressed" spiel. No. It's not just about whether a woman is donning hijab or not. There are so many degrees of whether she is doing it correctly. Is it tied correctly? Is it covering all it should? Is some of your hair sticking out? Is your scarf too sheer? Should it cover your chin a little? Does it cover your chest, even if your clothing covers your chest? And speaking of clothing, how long are your sleeves? How tight is your shirt? How tight are your pants? Shouldn't you wear a skirt? These clothes need to be less colorful. Your hijab shouldn't have these colors and prints. All of this should be covered by a jilbab. It should be plain, it should be brown, it should be black. It should be unassuming. You shouldn't show your feet. You shouldn't show your feet or hands. You shouldn't show your feet, face and hands because they are all considered attractive, and you should not at all be attractive. You should not show too much around your eyes with your niqab. You should not show your eyes. As a matter of fact, it's better for you to be inside so I don't have to see you at all!

And that's not even touching accessories. Is painting nails sunnah or haram? Your earrings are showing or not? No makeup, no shaping eyebrows. No extensions, weaves or wigs because that is deception.

For non-Muslims who are reading this, no, these are not definitive mandates for how Muslim women should dress. These are just things that I've heard upon coming into Islam. This is what some Muslims encourage and believe, yes. So much energy, over and over, is put into regulating how a woman dresses. I think this is un-Islamic.

Yes, I said it. It is un-Islamic. What authority do I have to say this? No more than any other practicing Muslim that calls out someone as committing haram precipitously does, which happens a lot, so yes, I'm adding to the pool.

Why? Well, what at first seemed like a hadith that could only lead to dysfunctional gender relations comes into play with this issue. "The first look is for you, the second look is against you." But now, I can see some wisdom in that!

If you are worrying too much about what a particular sister is wearing, you are way past your first look. That is now on you and not on the sister who is not dressed to your liking...which you shouldn't have a liking, because to develop a liking, you have to look a lot!

There! This argument was inspired by a facebook meme, hehe.

The thing is, of course, the solution is not as easy as this. This is not a case of misogyny. Muslim men and women are partners in scrutinizing what a Muslim woman wears. I know, in the spirit of sisterhood, we should keep each other on the moderate path, right? Right?

Yes! But I feel like there's a thin line between advising and self-righteous scolding.

Not much I can say. That will come as it comes, though most of the sisters in my community are good about not making the hijab vs. no hijab criticism.

But, you know what...people are always setting out to deconstruct stereotypes about Muslims, and that's awesome. But I feel like we have an internal thwarting mechanism going on. What is that mechanism? Other Muslims!

People, in defense of Islam, try to say that Islam is a tolerant and open religion, and I belong to a group of women on facebook in which certain members proclaim, "No, Islam is not open, it's exclusive. Only certain people can be Muslims." Dismay face.

We try to defend Islam as a peaceful religion, and then random Muslims somewhere commit acts of terrorism that we condemn, but of course the people who say Muslims aren't condemning these things do not read Muslim media sources and if they did, they'd spam all articles with Islamophobic garbage. But the fact is, there are Muslims all over the globe doing horrible things in the name of Islam as we attempt to defend our religion.

And as we continue to act as apologists and laud the position of Islam in the scheme of women's rights...Muslim men and women, every day, in so many different contexts, relegate women. Oppress women. Injure, maim and kill women, restrict women.

Damn it! Seriously?

And this is one of those things that is not as extreme. The way we scrutinize the way we, Muslim women, dress. Personal stories of one's own journey to and/or from hijab aside, we purport that Islam is great for women...and yet we give women a hard time at too many levels of her self-realization.

Yet, in all of these examples, there is nothing wrong with Islam. One would say, how could there be nothing wrong with a religion that causes people to act this way? Who said the religion causes people to act this way? I think the manifestation of the violence and misogyny that we see in the "Muslim" world more reflects tribal conflicts and cultural tendencies towards certain types of violence, misogyny and immorality. The fact that we see such things as honor killings, child marriage, and female infanticide across religious boundaries in these regions of the world point that out clearly.

There is nothing wrong with Islam, but there is a lot wrong with Muslims. So much, it's not even just on the human level, it's disgusting. And relegating Musilm women is not even the thing that disgusts me...

It just reminds me...

Muslims, we have to do better.

We can't simply say, "Oh, they're not really Muslims." As true as that may be, they may still pray five times a day like us, frequent the masjid like we may or may not, fast Ramadan like we do, aspire to or have already made Hajj, give zakat...and they've done these horrible things that have us branded on the butt like cattle on the evening news, like, "Oh, look what this backwards-assed group of people did this time."

And some people are like, whatever, I don't have to defend myself against unbelievers. I'm not even going to use the k word, because I hate it! And true as that may be, we live in a society of people of the book, our monotheistic brothers and sisters, and yes, unbelievers, and the safety and livelihood of our Muslim brothers and sisters on this planet right now, yes, depends on our self-defense. And simpler than that, our religion deserves defense from people from all angles who smear it, not only non-Muslims, but Muslims as well.

Don't sit idly by, content that your life is good and the next life is better than this!

For the sake of our religion, for the sake of fellow striving brothers and sisters, many of whom struggle in isolation and are "educated" by media portrayals of us, yes, be apologists! Yes, speak out against the injustices and violence committed by Muslims! Yes!

Spend your time and energy doing that, as much as it may pain you to see that sister with her hijab tied just so a third of her highlighted hair is showing, or the sister with the earrings on the outside of her scarf, or the sister with the colorful hijab in the masjid...

Can you say, bigger fish to fry?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nem é Direito / Not Even a Right

As salaam alaikum,

O que será...que nem é direito ninguém recusar. - Chico Buarque, "O Que Será (À Flor da Pele)

(What could it be...that's not even a right for anybody to deny).

I've decided that I'm not reading the comments for articles posted about the anthology anymore. Nope. The negative comments come in two types: Islamophobe or Concerned, Ashamed Muslim Individual. Islamophobe...we all know what those are. These women are brainwashed into wearing tents and being submissive. Of course they're all terrorists. They're un-American (for US sources) or shouldn't they be stoned for what they're doing according to their religion? These are people who, of course, are missing the point and as long as they let their ignorance sustain them, they always will. They will simply look towards media sources that confirm their beliefs. Their loss, and only God knows how much of a loss it is.

The comments that pain me more, that are fewer, are the Concerned, Ashamed Muslim Individual comments. And of course there would be these comments, whenever the stories that make the headlines about the anthology are the more controversial ones, the stories of the contributors who are lesbians and those who had premarital sex. And then, they think it's a book about Muslim women committing zina and other haram. Or, some actually try to read the book, and are disgusted by those stories and fear for the upbringing of their children, that they'll become nominal Muslims like a couple of the contributors who identify more with Islam culturally than religiously.

I think the criticism of those who read the anthology and cannot handle it is fair, for sure. I'd rather those who decry it now read it and see what they think afterwards. It's so interesting how strong the repulsion can be to stories of premarital sex in particular that a Muslim would not even want the anthology in their home! Everyone has different sensibilities, and I respect that.

Why does it bother me, though? Some of these people were the very types of people I looked to when I first came into practicing Islam. I looked to other Muslims with conservative religious values as the ideal. It was their voices of condemnation, yes, and their voices of celebration of God, that formed me into the Muslimah I was my junior and senior year of college, especially, when I first donned hijab. These are the types of Muslims that I hungered for approval from...and I found that I still do.

Every review that's written about the anthology, I read it, hoping someone mentions my piece. They usually don't...it's a little bit too complicated to be succinctly summarized, I supposed, and isn't quite a headliner. The one sister who did mention it in her review on tumblr came to a conclusion that I did not agree with...that my story came to the conclusion that converts must "flirt-to-convert" in order to marry.

She made an assumption I never suggested in the story...that I wanted to convert "James." I come from a household where my father is Christian and my mother is Muslim, I mention in the beginning. Am I a convert by lineage? I've never understood this. No offense to converts, but I just find it amazing how people consider me a convert despite being raised Muslim by my mother. Anyway...no, there is no compulsion in religion, and if I started seeing a non-Muslim man, it would not to be to convert him. It would to be with him for who he is.

Astaghfirullah, I know, I know...

But anyway, I digress. I looked in the reviews, still, some validation of my Muslim identity, some mentioning of my story as a voice not often heard...but I'm wondering if my story didn't resonate with certain readers who just take my "not being Muslim enough" in my story with MQ at face value and assume it's true. It's a very interesting thing. I know from the reading that it resonated with a lot of the sisters (and brothers) who did not think that way, and that's what matters. I wish I could have gone on more of the book tour and reached out to more audiences...that was fun!

But yes, it stings to see negative reviews from Muslims who are ready to dismiss the entire project as haram because it feels like being rejected, yet again, from the Muslim community. Another reason that it stings is that they see all of the Islamophobic comments around, and they don't care.

I mean, no, I don't defend myself against Islamophobes. The few times someone came into my site with some hateful message about Muslims, I simply do not approve the comment, delete it for good, and perish the thought. But to me, if I were a self-righteous (or maybe just honest, practicing) Muslim  and I saw that most of the comments were coming from people disrespecting my faith, I would reach out in support of my sisters, though not agreeing with everything in the anthology (because, just because we contributed doesn't mean we ascribe to the beliefs of all other contributors, duh), see how I could help.

I mean, I would much rather see a comment of, "Subhan'Allah! There are so many issues in the Muslim community that we need to address, and so many women are lost, misguided and falling into haram in search for a love that is best within Islam. Let us set up an effort to help these sisters."

But then, Muslims wouldn't be human if you didn't have a preponderance of the other comments.

And that's the thing! Muslims are humans! We are humans entitled to our opinions as much as Islamophobes are entitled to theirs.

For that reason, because it's so painful for me to read, I will not read any more reviews of the anthology, and I will not read any more comments to articles. It's too much.

It's hard for me, but no more looking to other Muslims for validation of my Islam, not even a potential spouse. As the lyrics above say, it's not a right that anyone can deny. My Islam, no one can deny. It's not a right to be denied. One could kill me, and though they may believe it to be true, they have not killed my Islam, but were God's agent to bring me closer to Him, though you may believe I'm closer to Satan.

No one can take this from me, no matter how good of a Muslim or bad of a Muslim they judge me to be. God promised me His mercy as long as I believe and do righteous deeds, which far outweigh my bad deeds. Really, what more do I need? What more do I need as encouragement to keep living as I do, striving as I do?

Alhamdulillah, and I'm done.

Friday, February 24, 2012

In Wait for Mr. Right

As salaam alaikum,

After the thing with Y didn't work out (long story...long, happily hilarious story, haha!) I suddenly felt free! It was inexplicable. Instead of my usual moping after the end of a relationship (or not-relationship, as this case was) and believing that "no man likes me," I went to sleep, had a crazy dream where I felt freer than I ever have (but, for the sake of self-censorship, haha, will not reveal), and woke up and had an awesome day.

There was something liberating about not waiting around any more for this man to decide if he wanted to be with me or not, or get things started. There was something liberating about trying to make him fit in my man paradigm just because he was the one who liked me. Especially after I made the declaration "No more Nigerians!" (not that I'm excluding my motherland brothers entirely...but the record, brothers and sisters, has not been good), I felt especially free!

I realized that feeling lonely is one thing, but feeling like only one type of man or one group of men will likely end up marrying you is another feeling of desolation all together. Don't get me wrong, I love my heritage! I just don't think that ending up with a Nigerian man (and if Allah (swt) wills it, who am I to dispute it!) is necessarily the best fit with all that I am. I am Nigerian, but my tradition in Islam is more that of African Americans and not Nigerian Muslims, for example. I'm most Nigerian in my body type (apparently) and my food palate, but the second pais do meu coração is Brazil! I keep imagining instances in my life in which I could just pick up and live there, maybe in Salvador, for years. I clearly know more Brazilian music than Nigerian music. I don't speak Igbo...I speak Spanish and Portuguese. If I had to choose a hemisphere longitudinally, I would stay on this one. The family I grew up with is here, Latin America is here.

As I say in "The Hybrid Dance," I am more than an Igbo who is not Christian, more than an African American Muslim. I am a Muslimah, first and foremost, independent of my culture and ethnicity. I am Igbo Nigerian American, black American and a lot in between. I was born a daughter, a granddaughter a cousin and a niece, and I became a sister along the way to a very special young man who I tease but who has all of my heart. I am also a sambista, a noveleira, a future family physician and public health practitioner. I am a creative writer, a música popular brasileira singer! I am a nerd! I am a hispanohablante and a lusoparlante. I am a soul sister, loving me my soul music throughout the years.

And all of these things I am and all of these things that I have done, I've done by the grace of God without a partner in life, sometimes in wait for him and sometimes not. But I've become this full person not to thereafter mute parts of myself to fit with a man who likes parts of me and doesn't care about the rest. That is not why Allah (swt) gave me this time on earth to develop my interests, my career, my tastes. That is not why God has me waiting now, in wait of my Mr. Right. For me to act like I didn't have this time to become everything I dreamed and never dreamed of becoming just to throw it away for a man who is not it!

No! If that were the case, I could have met said man a long time ago, and maybe I wouldn't have been some of the things that I am. And that would have been okay, but that's not the reality.

No. I may be in wait for Mr. Right, but it isn't a twiddling-my-thumbs kind of wait. It's a Center of Awesomeness kind of wait. It's a me doing my own thing, taking care of my physical and emotional health and my hair health type of wait. It's me loving and living with those in my life type of wait. It's a me continuing to develop type of wait. Because, insha'Allah, I'm graduating from medical school this May with my MD and MPH, and I'm going to begin the transformative process of residency, iA. There is so much more that I'm going to be, iA, if he continues to bless me with the full life I've already had.

And Allah (swt) will provide for me a worthy partner, as I will be a worthy partner for him. Insha'Allah.

I know I'd be more content with myself, in and of myself, if I didn't have this strong need to share myself with others. I think the reason I've always wanted a partner is that I've wanted someone constant, who as long as he lives and as long as we are together, is going to be in my life. And even in times of absence, I'll know he'll be back. He'll be that person that I can share all of my life with, who doesn't move on with his life like friends will, who isn't my parents. I love the times I am alone, just me, writing or chilling or listening to music, but even with music in the background, it's quiet.

My friends know from the way I blab, I love to share my life. And I get lonely when there's no one to share my life with. But lonelier is the feeling that who you may be accepting into your life as a partner may not share. May not let you live in his blue.

É, você que é feito de azul, me deixa morar nesse azul...

I'm in wait for that man made of blue...or yellow, or magenta, or cerulean...or cinammon, or milk chocolate, or cream...of gold, whatever color he may be. I'm in wait for someone who lets me live all up in it, as I'll let him in my burnt orange!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Muslimah Beauty

As salaam alaikum,

I recently got into a discussion on a facebook message board about the appropriateness of a Muslim modeling agency. The brainchild of this agency is a Muslim fashionista, Nailah Lymus, who wanted to create a market for modest, fashionable clothes for Muslim models to showcase. A lot of the sisters in the group felt that, though the clothing was modest, it was still against the values of Islam for a woman to put herself on display. I know some sisters would also go farther and question the level of modesty of the clothes, because some of the models wore leggings, or at least pants as tight as leggings.

My response to this post was that every Muslim draws his or her line in a different place. I agreed that the issues of modeling and beauty pageants were tricky, because I do feel like part of our modesty is not putting ourselves on display and that most Muslims would agree with that, not by opinion but based on their understanding of the Qur'an. However, some may say the same of Muslimahs who are anchorwomen on television. Some may say the same of a Muslimah who wears colorful clothing without a jilbab in public. Some may say the same of a Muslimah whose face is exposed. We have to realize that the lines we draw are not definitive. This Muslimah draws her line at a place I don't, where she finds it acceptable to model as a Muslimah.

And it's not just modeling as a Muslimah, but claiming that this modeling is in accords with the modesty standard in Islam, publicly, which many would disagree with.

I also draw a line where many Muslimahs don't, in my decision to not wear khimar and my being fine with taking pictures, for example. Some of those who draw hard lines assume that they are right and speak out against all they deem wrong. I guess the lines I draw are not that hard. The lines I draw are how I realize the teachings of Islam and what I hope to pass on to my children and encourage in those around me. I don't see my definitions as definitive.

But the whole topic of discussion got me to thinking about dictates about Muslim women and beauty. Having been educated as a Muslim largely on the internet when I was in college, I've done my fair share of surfing different fatwa banks. I went back to some that I used to look at a while back. One was of a school that women should cover their hands and face, saying this was supported in both Qur'an and Sunnah, and that women with too ample eye holes were wearing it improperly, that "even the face and hands are attractive."

And I was thinking, since when was the point of hijab to shield on women anything that might be considered attractive? I know well brothers calling out sisters with pieces of hair showing and earrings on the outside. But, I mean, these same brothers are also practicing the "first look" thing, so what does it matter what a Muslimah is wearing?

We draw lines in funny places. My focus in wearing hijab quickly came not to shield what was beautiful but a more modest way to express my beauty. When I was in the DR, it didn't matter that I was the most clothed women in the world, with my headscarfs and my long skirts. I still got the same number of piropos as women who bared their hair, arms and legs. This was in a country where I was assumed to be a nun. Many times I was called "elegante" because of the way I covered. That was interesting.

And the same way the Dominican men did not discriminate, unless a woman is unrecognizable with perhaps not even the eyes showing, a man will recognize something of beauty in a woman even if she is covered, as he will recognize beauty in women who are not.

I'm not quite finished with all lines of thought here, but I'm thinking of, for myself, transforming the way I think of Muslimah beauty. I'm trying to understand it all. Many sisters I know proudly don hijab, citing that they are saving their beauty for their husbands. I've personally never liked the idea of saving anything for a future, not yet existent in my realm husband. I don't have sex, and it's for me, and when I did wear the scarf, it was for me as well. Still, my image of marriage is that of a sacred partnership, and yes, my husband will have access to things no one else ever will, but it will not be for him, in the end, that I was ever modest.

God created us such that we recognize each others' beauty, and set about ways for us to respect ourselves and our beautiful bodies. I don't think these were ways to cover absolutely everything that could ever be considered attractive, but means of self-respect and protection. Men were supposed to see a covered woman and not harass her. This is not true in too many countries, especially some supposedly Muslim countries. So what is a woman to do?

I think, in the end, we must recognize that we draw our lines in different places in terms of modesty. I think the intention behind however we dress is the most important to realize. Are we intending to respect and protect ourselves, both men and women, as God commanded? I don't think there is a singular way to do it.

Human beings, we need to recognize that we are attractive to each other, and yes, we want to do more than the first look, and that's in our nature. We should dress and carry ourselves in ways that celebrate the beauty that God has given us but allows us to carry out our affairs in a form of mutual respect and protection of each others' purity.

For example, brothers, I think some of you have needed to adjust your hijab for some time. It's always been so much more than what you wear.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


As salaam alaikum,

Yep! I turned 27 today on the Gregorian Calendar.

This is all.

Sunday, February 12, 2012


As salaam alaikum,

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'oon. To God we belong and unto Him we return.

I didn't want to believe that she had passed last night, when I heard the news. She is yet another beloved person, an icon in popular culture and within the black community, that is gone too soon. From lesser-knowns like Gerald Levert to international sensations like Michael Jackson, so many black artists don't seem to make it too far past the age of 50. I mean, artists in general die young, I suppose it's a brutal world out there, artistry. The entertainment industry. Maybe the old folks weren't wrong when they said it was the devil.

I didn't want to believe and then it revealed itself to not be a fluke. She was only 48, her voice was power, her songs and renditions were classic, and she was beauty and pain. Beauty and pain, like so many others of our loved ones who have passed before in painful ways. She died in hard times. I take comfort that God is merciful and knows best, and that she is with Him now and not suffering as she was on this earth.

It's just with the passing of someone like her, the fact that she'll never sing, "I Will Always Love You," in this realm anymore, but that she continues to exist on recordings, videos, CDs, and the few vinyl records that our parents bought back in the day...is haunting, and makes this life seem even more magic, imaginary, illusion.

My favorite Whitney Houston album will always be the soundtrack to "A Preacher's Wife." Makes me all sorts of happy on the inside to hear her sing gospel. But I think is my favorite songs by her are "I Believe in You and Me" and "All the Man that I Need."

The next life is better than this!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Tale of Two Huskies

As salaam alaikum,

My grandmother, who has been having vivid visual hallucinations that cause her great unrest and have been increasing in intensity over the past 4 years, has not seen them in the last four days, alhamdulillah.

After months and months of praying, including her on outside prayer lists, trying all sorts of interventions and consulting all sorts of specialists, most recently geriatric psychiatry, my mother and many of her siblings were at their wits' ends. The best thing that had happened for months was the trazadone I had recommended to help both of my grandparents sleep.

Yesterday, my mother told me that she finally let go, and acknowledged that it was in God's hands, that He had knowledge and she did not, and that maybe this was something that Grandmother had to go through. And she submitted, like that.

She did so because of a dream she had. In the dream, she was driving in her car, though not aware of the car around her. She was on the freeway, when she heard a lot of horns honking around her. There, in the middle of the highway, was a man barbecuing. He was still alive, and standing there barbecuing, in the middle of the street. I think she swerved away from him and sometime into the future, she was pursued by two huskies. They were beautiful huskies, she said, very cute dogs. She became quickly aware, however, that they were trying to jump into her car. When the first one tried and missed and then started running after her, she started praying (in the dream). She prayed to God that if it was His will that the huskies overtook her, she submitted, but that to please protect her if it was His will. And the huskies fell away, I think.

It was this that helped her decide to let go and let God, essentially, when it came to my grandmother.

We were having this discussion as I was walking home from the hospital. I brought home dinner and was holding it in my hand. She wondered aloud if the dream was a sign from God, if that was her sign that she needed to submit herself to Him in this way, to acquiesce, to recognize that it's in His hands and His will is greater.

As we continued to discuss the amazement at the people (which my mother has wondered if they are jinn) finally leaving my grandmother alone, a feat that was apparently accomplished by my grandfather verbally telling the people to leave the house (ummm, case study into elderly psychology much?), I rounded the corner and approached my apartment. As I came to the intersection nearest my apartment, I squinted at a dog in front of me. I knew what was happening before I saw the second dog.

There were two huskies before me. They came up to me and walked up to me, and I knew they would approach me, though I was afraid for a moment that maybe they were going to attack me as they tried to attack my mother in the dream. Instead, they sniffed at me, their little paws on my coat, and tried to take a whiff of my food. And they were beautiful dogs. So beautiful with round faces and intelligent eyes. They looked at me like, "Wait, so...you're not going to feed us, is that it?" and I told the owner to have a good night and I walked away, my voice high pitched but muted, as I told my mother that I had just seen two huskies.

My mother and I took that as a sign. Yes, that was God instructing my mother through her dream. And this was me also learning from my mother's experience. The theme of this week has been letting go and letting God and really, Muslims are those who submit and people argue about what point you can be truly considered a practicing Muslim but I think that the endpoint is not as determinable because I think too many of us miss the point. Our complete submission, so I see, is often imperfect. It took my mother months to comfortably submit to the will of God on the matter of my grandmother. It took me years to submit to the will of God in terms of my marital status, and I'm still struggling with that.

However, I saw those two beautiful huskies in my neighborhood last night that I've never seen before, and my mother and I were sure at that moment that the answer is with God, and that was enough.

In place of worrying excessively now, I have learned. I take everything that begins to worry me and I take it to prayer while sincerely believing that it will be answered. I've been using istikhara like no other time in my life. And the difference is I let go, and I have faith that God will guide me in the manner.

I finally understand. Letting go and letting God isn't about waking up every morning without any plans and expecting God to physically jettison you through your day...but at the same time, that's exactly what happens. It's but the grace of God that I'm motivated to get up in the morning and go to the hospital and learn, but the grace of God that I have the capacity to learn, that I make it safely to and from my destination, eat food that doesn't purge me, have the capacity to exercise...everything I am in a day and everything I'm protected from is by His grace. I let him reign over so many other aspects of my life. It's time to let Him reign over this part of my life without my fighting it.

So I won't revel in worry. As soon as I fret, I'm going to pray. God told me I shall not suffer, nor shall I grieve, as long as I believe and live righteously. I struggled because I did not properly believe. This is not a criticism of my faith or saying it wasn't strong, but...this is life. Life is learning to believe, learning to get that much closer to God so that when we're no longer limited by space, time and a physical body, we will be sufficiently purified in order to perceive Him.

Later, I'm going to contemplate the word purity.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vivinha da Silva!

As salaam alaikum,

I went to bed last night, smiling, knowing that I was Vivinha da Silva and loving it!

What does that mean? It's this expression that I've started hearing on my novela that I liken to the use of "McGee" in Engilsh, although we wouldn't say something like, I'm Alive McGee.

I've called myself and others things like Sleeps McGee before when they oversleep...or, I've nicknamed our elusive residential mouse Mousy McGee (along with Mickey and Squeakers).

But I love that expression! I'm going to start using it...

Because that's how I felt last night, Vivinha da Silva and in love with life!

I have to realize something, lest I fret. Just like my love with any temporal thing or any person's worldly existence, it's not going to be perfect. Things and people let me down, make me sad, make loving them very difficult. But just as I don't despair when being in love hurts sometimes or loving someone is difficult, nor should I worry so much when I'm in love with life so much it hurts, or when loving my life is difficult.

This one sister in a facebook sisters forum I belong to said that she believes the cure for depression is love. I took that to heart. And I thought about it. The only time I have not had the occasional bouts of depression was when I was living love.

I've always been a sensitive person (though Marvin Gaye would argue that we're all sensitive people...with so much to give...sorry, couldn't resist it).\

But that mess is true!

My biggest worry in life, more than experiencing or dying in a fire, is not living love in all aspects of my life. Alhamdulillah, I'm able to live love in my family life, in my schooling and insha'Allah I'll be able to do so in my career. I pray to be able to live love in my marriage and the raising of my children. But those are the great unknowns that I worry will never happen.

But instead, let me thrive on my love for this life, this wonderful life that was a gift from God that even so pales in comparison to what is to come. Let me thrive, above all else, in my love for God, the only love that is reciprocated to perfection.

I learned the word reciprocity from Lauryn Hill when I was in middle school, by the way. I've never forgotten that.

My life in music, indeed!

Yes, sometimes life will upset me. Sometimes I'll be insecure. Sometimes it will be a challenge, a challenge I'd rather not go through. But I shouldn't give up on it.

I should live love like I live the love for my father, who I've had a slightly tenuous relationship with since I told him I was Muslim almost 7 years ago. We have some bad times, but that doesn't make me want to abandon my father. I take those times in stride, feeling the pain of my father's unwarranted disappointment as the occasional love pang.

I love my family like crazy, even though so many have done incredibly disappointing things, even though loving some of them is made difficult by their personality or their life choices. I love them through worrying about them, for their lives, without missing a beat. There is never a point when I wanted to disown any of them.

And when I love a man, I love like there is no other. I'm afraid to pronounce it because it's so strong, and I've toned it down for my own sake, but the happiest time in my life were the moments of sheer joy that I lived while being in love, even with the feeling of precariousness and uncertainty. It's the only time hope has felt so good, and aspirations soared so high, and life seemed so magic. And I just acknowledged the fact that I want this and that I'm justified in wanting this with the man I am to marry.

I don't desire to relinquish these bonds, even the while loving them is difficult. So I should not fret when life is painful, when I'm insecure, when I'm uncertain about the future, because the fact of the matter is that life is here to stay for a while, insha'Allah, and when it's no longer for me, something greater is there. So I should not fear, nor should I grieve.

We feel so far from God in this existence, but He's given us a guide through Qur'an and Sunnah to achieve the full extent of our blessings while here, while we're joining together in the mutual teachings of truth. That's what makes this life so hard, because we feel so far...

I didn't crumble when I believed my grandmother was dying, nor do I crumble as she succumbs to dementia. I don't crumble when my father and I have a difficult relationship, or when family is in a bad way, or when school gets hard. No. So why do I crumble when life gets hard?

Because somehow, I believed that being in love with life or loving life was somehow different than any other worldly loves. Was I committing shirk? That type of love should be reserved only for God. No, my love of life should be no different. There are good days and there are better days, in reality, no real bad days, because I always have numerous, uncountable blessings. God is to merciful to allow worst case scenario, ever.

So yes, I'm Vivinha da Silva, so alive right now, so loving it, and sometimes, that means I will cry and have my heart wrenched but I should bear that crooked smile, the one that MTQ once described that women have on their face when they are looking at pictures of those they love...

His words were so beautiful for a 20-year-old man. I loved that about him, and so many other things.

The pain of life is just part of my loving it as much as I do. My despair is an artifact of me loving so much. I was so afraid to say what has always been true...I love so much and sometimes I feel harder than those around me. I revel in it, I really do. It's like an ill-trained superpower that I've had to learn how to direct properly for maximum impact...

Maximum extent of my blessings, maximize my relationship with God while on this earth...

Maximum love. I'm ready to continue living it!