Not ALL Muslims Know Each Other

While at the mall today, carousing my usual hot spots and passing the time while fasting, I decided to stop in at T-Mobile (NOTE: Their service is very suckish, so I would avoid using them for your cellular phone needs). Nevermind the fact that the place was super crowded and that, as usual, the salespeople ignored my presence. And although this is typical for T-Mobile customer service, I decided to wait until someone dealt with me.

Waiting patiently (well as patiently as I could whilst falling fast from caffeine withdrawal) I looked around the store to notice lots of Muslim customers: some couples, others teenagers, and a few single older men and women. Of course this isn’t surprising, considering the fact that I live in the middle of “Muslim Central.” Anyway, noticing that one of the salespeople was free, I watched him walk over to a workstation and motion to the guy who came in 10 minutes after me to come forward, so he can service him. Of course, I jumped in and told Mr. Salesguy that I was there first and needed to be assisted before the gentleman behind me. And to that he looked at me confused and looked over at the older Muslim couple already being helped, standing next to me, and he says with a defensive snicker, “Oh, I thought you guys were together. You aren’t with them?” and he pointed, once again, at the older Muslim couple. Already frustrated from having to wait so long for assistance, I snapped back, “No I am NOT with them. Not ALL Muslims know each other.” I then proceeded to roll my eyes.

Before you judge me for my not so patent response, especially in Ramadan, understand that I know this. But I suppose I was just so sick of people thinking that if two Muslims happen to exist within five yards of each other, then they MUST know each other. Seriously, did this guy see me talk to them? Did he see me stand near them? Did he NOT see me looking at my watch, tapping my foot, and staring down all the T-Mobile employees until someone helped me? What makes it worse, is that this guy isn’t some redneck cowboy living in Noweheresville, America, where he has never seen a Muslim before. I must remind you here that he works in Muslim Central, USA. ALL of his co-workers are Arab Muslims. The store was filled with 75% Muslim customers. Could he be so stupid to think that ALL of us know each other? I mean, does he think that there is like this giant club for Muslims in the US and every one of us know each other? I mean, it’s like saying that all the guys in the store wearing red shirts must know each other because they all like the color red. Well, just because us Muslims all like Allah, that does not mean we all know each other.

Ok, the end.

~~Leen J.

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Ramadan: A Month of Healthy Change, Not Hypocrisy

Ramadan has begun. This is always such a magical time of year. Fasting all day, breaking your fast with family and friends, praying all night. It’s amazing. And although, and I am sure everyone can admit to this, it can be difficult at times, it is so beautiful and it brings us all much closer to God… But what happens when it’s over?

I think we all have a tendency to begin the month trying to eliminate the “evils” from our life: TV, music, Facebook, etc. But as the month progresses, our faith tends to wither. I mean, we are still trying to stick to our resolve to become better Muslims and worshipers, but the momentum begins to fade a bit. And as soon as we hear it’s Eid, and our month long fast is over, we reach for our morning cups of coffee right along with the addictions we tried to avoid throughout Ramadan. 

Many years, I spent Ramadan without music, movies, TV, novels and others forms of entertainment. And this is great! But what I am afraid of is that we spend 30 days without our personal vices, only to rejoin them full force when Ramadan is over. I can’t help but wonder, are we only ditching these devices of destruction during Ramadan, just to dive back into them even deeper, afterwards?

I’ve heard so many people say thing like “Oh I can’t go to see that movie during Ramadan because it wouldn’t be right,” or “It’s haram (forbidden) to listen to music during Ramadan,” or “I don’t want to waste time on Facebook in Ramadan.” And although I commend all of these people’s efforts to get closer to God, and I totally agree that during Ramadan, we should spend more time reading Quran and making duaa (supplication prayers) than cruising Facebook News Feeds, we need to also do these things with the intention of adapting these habits to our everyday lives. If something is “haram” in Ramadan, then it is probably haram throughout the rest of the year as well. I think we should try to break unhealthy habits with the goal to break them permanently. I know we are all human, so we may fall off the wagon, so to speak, but we can always get back on.

So, the last few years, I’ve tried something new. I stopped making ridiculous goals and resolutions to halt TV watching and music listening completely because I know I am not going to follow through the rest of the year. Instead, I make a sincere intention to lessen and slow down the listening of music and watching of TV in order to replace these pastimes with more prayers and reflection. With the sustaining from food, I work very hard at sustaining from unsavory music and television shows. Because I know that if a habit is unhealthy, it is unhealthy all the time. God is not a hypocrite, nor is He inconsistent. So, He wouldn’t make something permissible sometimes and forbidden other times. I also know that any good habit doesn’t begin cold turkey. Dieting, beginning good sleeping habits, studying, and other good habits always begin gradually. So, shouldn’t it be that way as far as our spirituality and religiosity is concerned?

I always remind people that the Quran is the only Holy book of God that was sent down in pieces. It wasn’t sent down as an entire book ready for mankind to read and follow at once. I think that there is an amazing wisdom to this. I think that perhaps because God knew that mankind needs to change in steps and needs to reform through a gradual process, He gave the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) and his companions time to adapt to it.

 

Hey, this is just one woman’s opinion. But I think that by sincerely doing good and avoiding bad in our entire lives, and not just in Ramadan, makes us better Muslims and helps us avoid hypocrisy, one of the traits of a human that God hates the most.

~~Leen J. 

 

A Cold Housewarming

It’s been two weeks since I’ve moved into my new place. It’s great. It’s over 1100 square feet, AC, and the best roommate I could ever ask for, my sister :) And, to help cozy up the place, my sister and I threw a small party at our place a few nights ago. We might have invited 20 people, and about half showed up. All of them were my sister’s guests, with exception to one. I had one guest show up. Well, unless you include my older sister who technically is both our guest. So, yeah I only had one show up.

I know this isn’t a reflection of me or the wonderful person I am :) But it is a reflection of how selfish people really are. SOME of them, JUST some have plausible and legitimate excuses (of course those are the ones who actually provided excuses). Some of them do make a sincere effort to come to things they are invited to. And if this is the one event they couldn’t come to, I totally understand. And I think those wonderful people know who they are. But in most cases, the excuses people provide are just that, excuses. I think it’s really sad when people use their kids, their husbands, or distance to cover up the real reasons they “can’t” come to your party….they really just don’t care enough.

Yeah well these individuals would argue that saying the above statement is unfair or just not true. But the truth of the matter is, if they really were interested in coming, they would show it. they would make an effort, at least. You know what kills me? I don’t drive. In fact, I CAN’T drive. But no matter what, I always make an effort to attend parties, go to meetings, be there at people’s weddings, etc. I don’t flake out just because “I’m too scared to drive on the highway,” or “because you live too far,” or “because I have the sniffles,” or “because I don’t like the other people you invited.” And what’s even worse are the people who don’t even respond to your invitation as if they are too busy to give a damn.

Man, if you even knew the parties I attended when I was sick or when I needed to study for an exam or lived an hour away and needed to take 2 busses and a train to get there or when I was freshly divorced and frankly DIDN’T want to go to any stupid celebration. But the thing is, people don’t try to even understand your valid reasons nor do they understand your sacrifice to support them. But I guess this is something I learned in my 20’s.

So to those who use everything under the sun to explain away why you can’t be there for me: I don’t care. I reject your “reason.’ Oh and don’t be surprised when I don’t show up to your next shin dig or whatever. I’m not angry or unmerciful. I love these people and always will, but I am just going to start getting my priorities straight. That’s all.

Ok, great. Thanks.

~~Leen J.

Facebook Displays of Affection or FDA’s…

Oh My God! Seriously, how much more can I take? Are some people just that much in shock that someone loves them that they have to display their affection in public? Must they swap spit at the zoo? Is it necessary to grab each others’ asses in line at the theater? Do they really have to cuddle on one side of a booth that is clearly only made for one person? I don’t think so. But you know what? I can deal with the physical stuff these people do because I am sure it’s fleeting and meaningless. But there is another type of Public Display of Affection (PDA) that bothers me far more because it is an obvious attempt to tell people that they are “loved.” They are clearly overcompensating for a lack of inner-strength and security. And they are trying to assert themselves, whilst trying to make me puke. What is it that these people are doing? They are putting up Facebook statuses about how much they “love” their hubbies/BF’s/fiances/partners or whatever, they are putting up mobile pics of them, changing their FB last names to the last name of this significant other before they are even married, and tagging ME in a picture of THEM, just to make sure I see it. You know in case I miss it. I call this phenomenon “FDAing,” which stands for Facebook Displays of Affection.

Ok so I know I sound bitter or jealous or jaded or cynical or whatever these “in love” people want to call me. But the truth of the matter is that I am NOT any of those things. I am just a simple human being trying to keep my freakin’ lunch down while surfing Facebook. What I DON’T need is 16 statuses by you that tags your significant other saying that you love him. Seriously, can’t you just text him privately? I DON’T need a tweet about how much you miss your husband or boyfriend when he goes out-of-town. I DON’T need a stenciled drawing of you and your boyfriend’s names in a heart. I REALLY don’t need a picture of you kissing him with a caption that says “I just <3 him.” In fact, not only do I not need these things, NO ONE does. I know we all seem like we think it’s cute or whatever that you are so open about how you feel, but we don’t. We think your shameless display of puke-worthy affection is just sad.

Man I sound mean. I just realized that. But you know what? Someone needs to speak the truth. Especially when these individuals begin to see that relationships are hard and not all fun and games. And the sadder part is, many of these people already know that, but they don’t want anyone else to know that they know that, so they overdo the lovey dovey crap to make you think that they are living in a fantasy world. But, uhm, yeah no one believes it. So try the following instead:

DON”T SAY ANYTHING AT ALL … What I mean is, if you don’t status the good OR the bad, then no one will think anything GOOD or BAD about you. I know this is a big shocker, but people aren’t thinking about you day and night. It isn’t until you give them a reason to think about you that they do. And when they see that you need to publicize every time you and your husband go out for dinner or he gets you flowers or buys you a birthday present, that is when they will start to think that you must be incredibly unhappy that you find every act of generosity (or peacemaking) on his part to be a big deal. It looks like you are trying to prove something. And that is just truly pathetic.

I know I just made a lot of enemies. Think what you will about me and my opinion but I guarantee you that I am not alone in thinking this; I’m just the only one willing to say anything.

~~Leen J.

Combating Ignorance… A Lost Cause???

Today, during my jog around the neighborhood, I started thinking about ignorance. It’s such a common disease with yet such a simple cure… knowledge. The thing is, people think of knowledge as “education,” “degrees,” “schooling,” “classes,” etc. And although all those things contribute to the cure of ignorance, there are still even simpler antidotes for ignorance. 

Some of the ugliest forms of ignorance are racism, discrimination, and oppression. Most days, for me, people are really nice and don’t seem to treat me any differently because of my religion, race, or ethnicity. Most people seem to understand that judging a group by an individual’s actions is wrong, but there other days where I get dirty looks, under-the-breath comments, and assumptions that I am “an oppressed Muslim woman, forced to cover.” But the truth of the matter is that all of those people suffer from a fatal disease called “ignorance.” I say “fatal” because thinking like that will only kill their minds, spirits, relationships with God, and even society. And as infuriated as I get at these idiotic and ignorant individuals, I remember that their diseases are curable. And that even MY actions can be medicinal and cure this intolerable disease.

What I mean is that I don’t find it helpful to hide out and live in a box away from anyone “different from me. As a Muslim woman who is so proud of my religion and my heritage, I feel like I have to do justice to my religion and help combat the ignorance of other people. As the Prophet Muhammad (the final Messenger in a long line of Prophets including Adam, Moses, David, and Jesus) has taught us to lead and teach through example. Sometimes the things you DON’T do and say make a bigger impact than the constant things we DO to try and talk sense into others. 

When I was jogging through my Caucasian populated neighborhood wearing hijab and long sleeves and listening to my iPod, I thought, “wow, this is really the kind of image of Muslims I am proud to be putting out there.” When I hear about Muslim men and women taking part in their community clean-up or exceling as doctors and nurses in advanced hospitals or writing novels or just helping an elderly woman cross the street or give money to a homeless man and so on, I feel so incredibly joyful. Because it is just being yourself, giving a human face to your people, which really makes the biggest difference. That smile on your face can say a thousand words if you are just willing to give it.

It is hard to hate someone who is just like you. When ignorant people see that you are just human, it becomes more and more increasingly difficult to hate you. Seeing a Muslim family picnicking together or a bunch of Muslim girls shopping at the mall or a Muslim father hug his daughter on her college graduation, people begin to gain knowledge, knowledge that people of all races and religions and ethnicities are so similar.

I think as Muslims, we do ourselves a great injustice when we continually separate ourselves from mainstream culture. We become alienated and “creatures” to be scared of. And it is the same with all minorities. Breaking the barriers and building bridges begins with the individual, in your home, in your community, at school, in the workplace, and in your heart.

I guess none of this is ground-breaking thinking. But it was something that I was thinking about. And I hope more people think about it more often.

~~Leen J.

The Top 10 Accomplishments of my 20’s

It’s no secret that I am turning 30 this year. In fact, in just 2 months and 10 days, I will be the big 3-0. And it is no secret that I am sick about it. I know, I know, women are like a fine wine; we get better with age. But as I was telling my cousin this afternoon, I am afraid we might just be like milk, the longer you let us sit on a shelf, the more sour we become. But either way, as I approach this horrible number, I find that my only consolation is to look back at my 20’s and reminisce. I started thinking back to all the things I’ve accomplished in the last decade, and I actually felt lucky. I guess sometimes we take for granted the things that seemed to come easy for us. We tend to concentrate on the things that were hard to accomplish and the things we still don’t have.

So, the following is my TOP 10 list of accomplishments of my 20’s.

10) I finally got to see London. I walked on Abbey road, beheld the beauty of St. Paul’s Cathedral, and dined on fish and chips. It was amazing and am so thankful that I got to do it all with my wonderful older sister.

9) I lived in a foreign country for a whole year, and even better, I lived to talk about it!

8) I was so lucky to live in the Capitol: Yes, good old  Washington, DC. I loved it. And I think there is something really special about living in DC, that NO place in the United States can replace.

7) I have been to a Bon Jovi concert…. Enough said

6) I got married… No matter how it ended, I don’t care. I still married the most beautiful man I knew. I loved him and that’s what mattered.

5) I got divorced… Some people think that isn’t an accomplishment. But believe me, it is. I wish more people knew how much of an accomplishment this REALLY is.

4) I graduated from college with a degree in International Studies.

3) At 24 I published my first news article. After that, I became a published writer with numerous news, lifestyle, and entertainment articles.

2) I learned to play guitar AND had my first LIVE performance with both vocals (my true love) and guitar. It was the single best moment of my life. I have yet to find anyone who loves to sing more than me. And I am not through yet. I am writing my own songs now and will be posting new performances soon.

1) I survived my 20’s, and lived to see 30…. well, I hope :)

 

What I really feel like I have to say here, right now is that I hope more girls in their 20’s don’t take for granted these amazing years. I know you are going to undoubtedly screw up, live in crappy places, take jobs that are way below your skills, have kids before you are really ready, forgive people who don’t deserve it, and hold grudges against people who truly deserve your love. But please remember that this decade of your life is amazing. I am sure the 30’s will also be wonderful. But nothing compares to being a bright-eyed 20-year-old, straight out of college and starting your new life and embarking on a destiny you will never forget. 

Good luck.

~~Leen J.

Top 10 Reasons Why I Hate Going to Weddings!

Don’t get me wrong. I totally understand and condone the reasons people have weddings. They are meant to be celebratory, and in many cases, these weddings are important to make vows to the Lord, and in this way, they are very significant. Hey, I loved my wedding 4 years ago. I even loved the man I married that day. But regardless, I HATE attending these types of events NOW.

And here is why….

10) Wedding Food

9) Hideous bridesmaid dresses

8) Wedding singers/DJ’s

7) People saying things like “I hope you’re next.”

6) Knowing that 50% of all marriages end in divorce and knowing that the couple getting married is hoping to be part of the “successful” 50%.

5) Super corny speeches — I know from personal experiences that what people say at your wedding can be completely contrary to how they REALLY feel about your nuptials. Unfortunately, I had to learn this lesson the hard way.

4) Bridezilla’s. Just because you are the effin bride, that doesn’t mean you have the right to treat everyone like crap.

3) The constant silent ridicule you get when you walk into the room. Your dress, hair/scarf, make-up, and marital status are ALL up for criticism.

2) Naughty children – and even naughtier parents. I HATE when parents let their 3-year-old monster get a seat while an adult is still looking around for an empty chair.

1) Forcing, faking a smile of happiness when you know that this entire wedding was just put on as a show; a braggy way to tell their guests “hey we are better than you. We have money and love, so we beat you in all facets of life.” From close friends to family members to people I hardly even know, I have seen this showy display of immodesty that disgusts me! Hence, I will not be attending anymore of these parties. But good luck to all the couples!

Leen J.