Don't think that it is a coincidence that so many of the people who're appearing in the film, who're acknowledging this is an issue, are on the East coast. You've had generations to see how that plays out. That's why you see Khalid and Suhaib on the cover of everything, because finally, people are realizing that one size doesn't fit all.
But forgive me if I ramble. I'm on hour ten of my fast and my head is beginning to ache a bit.
So Matheen and I had a conversation about Jummah (friday/congregation) and Jumaah (together), community and what they should mean.
He posited that there is a scale of what people expect from Jummah prayers. The conversation started as a continuation of a conversation that we'd had with a larger group a few days earlier-- about connection with people and making it workable.
I won't go into that first conversation much because OMG RAGE STABBITY but here is his scale:
Traditional/Low: Jummah should just be your mandatory 20 minutes with the congregation. There will be a speaker. It doesn't matter if they speak a language you know, or if they're interesting or if it is a pleasant environment. Women can be wherever the powers that be decide-- in the basement, in the rafters, it isn't really important. You do it. It is over. You be out.
Middle low: Jummah should be at least in a language you understand. And on topic in some way. And the women should be somewhere in the same sanctuary, but not without a barrier.
Middle: Women should be in the musallah, but apart from the men without a barrier. The speaker should not only speak your language but should be somewhat charismatic and the khutbah should be relevant to life in some way.
Middle High: Women and men should pray together, shoulder to shoulder. Women should be able to be khateeb, but from the back.
High: Women lead prayer from the front.
Untraditional/Super high: Naked man woman prayer.
The scale isn't really about a preference, so ignore the words high and low. It is more about tradition and non-tradition.
Anyway. We were talking about what we believed, and what we'd want and then about why, really, none of it would work in the way that people wanted it to. People seem to want a congregational prayer that does everything for them. It makes them feel inspired and welcome and part of something bigger and holy and delightful and, frankly, like they just had a cigarette after 52 consecutive orgasms.
Matheen pointed out that he doesn't go to things like Jummah or a halaqa for the purposes of learning things. But because that's how you meet people. From then on, you have to put the effort in yourself.
I agree. There isn't going to be a single magical jummah for anyone. Just like there is no magical negro, there is no magical jumma. And if it doesn't work for you, stewing in the lack of magical jumma doesn't help. You know what does?
Doing something for someone else. That inspired feeling, that feeling part of something and feeling welcome? All of that will come if you do what the Prophet, may he have peace and blessings, prescribed the most.
You go help someone who needs you, you'll feel inspired. You'll see your blessings in sharper relief and you'll pray thanks to Allah, drawing yourself closer to Him. You will feel part of something greater because, yo, you are and who doesn't welcome someone coming to help them? You'll be welcomed with open arms whether you're a convert, a Christian, an embittered white woman, a woman or a GLBTQ person. No one will care because you're there to help! You're there to dig someone else out of their dire circumstances. And, in making something not about you (for once in your life), you might be surprised about who you connect with.
None of that can be attained by sitting on the floor for a few minutes while someone talks at you, no matter how amazing the speaker. No speaker can draw all of the best of what Allah has bestowed on you out in the way that charity can. It is what connects us with one another and highly possible why the Prophet recommended it most amongst all other things.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Every Muslim has to give in charity." The people then asked: "(But what) if someone has nothing to give, what should he do?" The Prophet replied: "He should work with his hands and benefit himself and also give in charity (from what he earns)." The people further asked: "If he cannot find even that?" He replied: "He should help the needy who appeal for help." Then the people asked: "If he cannot do (even) that?" The Prophet said finally: "Then he should perform good deeds and keep away from evil deeds, and that will be regarded as charitable deeds." - Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 524
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "Save yourself from hellfire by giving even half a date-fruit in charity." - Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 2, Hadith 498
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 'Charity is prescribed for each descendant of Adam every day the sun rises.' He was then asked: 'From what do we give charity every day?' The Prophet answered: 'The doors of goodness are many...enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one's legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one's arms--all of these are charity prescribed for you.' He also said: 'Your smile for your brother is charity.'" - Fiqh-us-Sunnah, Volume 3, Number 98
Right now I'm in a thick of people who will blindly follow the ulama without reflection and people who think that everyone else in all of Islam is backward. And this isn't the internet, this is in my life on the weekends and in my facebook when I don't show up to stuff.
And it's driving me up the wall. And it is overwhelming my perspective. And you know what, I am not even going to call these two groups out for what they are, but you know what I'm talking about.
But Ramadan is coming and I need to use this space again for reflecting on the wisdom that Allah has provided and the mercy He has bestowed and the prayers that have been answered and all of the amazingness that has been given without even asking. So I'm going to try it.
If you read this, and I highly doubt you do, what would you like to see?
More personal stuff? More interpretation? More essays?
Are there topics you'd like to read about?
Maybe you can help get me going again.
― Abraham Joshua Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism
"The incentive repeated in many places in the Qur’an to “contemplate” cannot be interpreted otherwise but as a firm conviction (and promise) that the testimony of the senses and reason will not suppress the soul’s belief. At some horizon, science based on observation and religion based on revelation are no longer conflicting and they can even support each other. That horizon is what I call the horizon of Islam. -Alije Izetbegovic, "Notes from Prison 1983-1988", father of the modern Bosnian Muslim nation.
I asked God instead to make me kinder and gentler. I think the process has been in effect for a while.
I can tell that things are happening around that front. Some walls are coming down but what does tenderness of heart get me? Just wondering.
I'm debating importing my other journal here since no one seems to ever cross post to LJ anymore. I don't necessarily have that many religious things to say on a daily basis-- I do salat, I pine for someone, I make du'a, I support those who I can and I ask Allah to draw me closer to Him. No profundity there but my more profane life is a hopping.
Anywho. While I contemplate what to do, watch Imam Zaid talk about celebrity and religion.
I watched this khutba a few weeks ago and what struck me was the message that when bad things are going on, it isn't really that God is punishing you, but that He is trying to turn you toward Him so that you'll call out for His help.
But the part that I was supposed to take with me was the part about not being silent about your pain. Brother Navaid says that evil flourishes when we're silent-- silent about our oppression, silent about or abuse, silent about our suffering. And in the moment it didn't hit me so hard but yes, when we suffer silently we're not especially stoic or whatever-- we're perpetuating stereotypes about certain types of behaviors expected of women. Especially WoC and we're not helping ourselves.
Whether it is confession to God (like the hadith that Khalid is fond of speaking of where, I paraphrase, there was a man of his people who was hiding a terrible sin and God said that until he confesses, there will be no rain and the guy never came forward but he prayed to God for forgiveness earnestly and when Ibrahim was like "Wait, we have rain, but no one came forward." And God was like "Oh, hey, I've always known his sin and I've been covering it for 40 years, it was between us. It was his confession, his unburdening himself to me that caused me to return the rain.) or to others, holding onto things silently isn't really the way to go about it. When we speak our pain we allow others to act as insturments of Allah to help, we lighten our load and we take the favors bestowed upon us to others after our pain has subsided.
That's why evil favors silence. Keep your sexuality to yourself. Don't talk about that rape. Don't talk about that experience. Don't talk about how much you were hurt. Silence allows the oppression to flourish. We can pretend everything is fine and ignore our sole duty of pursuing justice for all those who are unjustly oppressed, for soothing them and ourselves.
I have a few links I'd like to post and iA, will over the next few days. I'll do it as a sort of summation for what I've been working on and seeing and feeling.
1. I have been reading fatwas. I know I have a strict no fatwa policy but good fatwas lay out their reasoning and even if I disagree with it, I have all the basis for why I do. I read a fatwa the other day from a Serbian brother who was asking about slavery during war. Now the guy writing the fatwa was probably learned and referenced all the correct surahs and hadith; however, he was completely off the point. This brother who was asking was talking about whether it would be permissible for Muslim women to be raped by the captors since the 'rule' as he knew it was for women to become property after a war. This is not the 'rule' and Islam is strictly against rape and slavery.
But the guy issuing the fatwa missed that. His conclusion to this brother was "Islam treats slaves well" before quoting every hadith and every surah in which it is declared FREE YOUR SLAVES IF YOU HAVE THEM. Over and over Allah says that a person who frees a slave is blessed. Over and over does the Prophet say that to atone for sins free your slaves. If you don't have slaves? Free other people's slaves. The best thing you can do is to buy a slave out if you own one jointly and release her. But his conclusion was "it's okay to have slaves but treat them nicely." *sideeye* But it's good. It reminds me that I can learn things AND stick to my sense of right when it directly conflicts with a supposed scholar.
2. I've been socializing all halal.
3. I've been reaching out to scholars who I respect and with good result.
4. I got *dances around* an annotated Qur'an by Mohammed Asad. It's GREAT. I love it.
5. I've been thinking a lot about the representation of Muslims in American media.
Uhm, so yeah. Just a few things that I hope to explore in the coming weeks. Loads of things to think about and do. iA, I'll do it soon! m
Happy new year!
There are millions of Muslims on the verge of concluding their pilgrimage (hajj) in Mecca; by the time you read this, they're already finished, exhausted and sharing the meat of a sacrificed animal with family, neighbors and the poor. Across the world, hundreds of millions more are putting on their Sunday finest -- thanks to God and the moon and the curvature of space-time for complying with the spirit and the law of the Western weekend -- and heading to mosques. Often way too early in the morning. (Can we comply with the Western sleep cycle?)
It's Eid al-Adha today, the Feast of the Sacrifice, the biggest holiday of the pan-Muslim calendar. Muslims remember Abraham's decision to sacrifice his son, spared only at the very last moment. In honor of that moment, an animal is sacrificed to God and its meat is shared with those close and those in need. The day before was the Day of 'Arafat, when many fast -- as in Ramadan -- in honor of the standing at the plain of 'Arafat, where Muslims on hajj pour their hearts out to God. But really and ultimately, this holiday is about Abraham.
The reason Abraham affects us so is because of his life's tragedies. God is asking Abraham to take the life of his son; rationally, reasonably, that is unbelievable. In the broader Islamic tradition, murder is of course forbidden: We've got Cain and Abel too. And this is sort of what Abraham keeps getting: He doesn't have children until his very old age, and this is a source of great distress for him. As it would be for any of us, but especially in his day and age. And then, when he has a son, God says, dump him in the desert. When he finds him years later, much to his relief and joy -- we can imagine tears of happiness -- God says: Take his life. Show me and the world you love me most.
Abraham's father refused to believe in him. His people tried to kill him. They even made a fire to burn him in, and tossed him in. He wanders alone through the world, without offspring, for years; even married, for a long time he has no descendants. When finally God gives him Isaac and Ishmael, he is asked to leave Ishmael and Hagar (Ishmael's mother) in the wilderness of Paran, the deserts around Mecca. In that stunning, amazing, incredible request, Islam truly and properly begins. The spiritual ground is seeded in a sacrifice that will echo through time, and result in the Prophet Muhammad, Abraham's final heir through his son Ishmael, and the global Muslim community, the Prophet Muhammad's brothers and sisters.
Who says prayers aren't answered?
Time and again, Abraham is asked to sacrifice like no normal person is, or could be. He is asked to abandon, or take the life of his child, and God in each case intervenes. God saves. God guides. The greatest destiny unfolds in that tiny, stunning, unbelievable gesture of faith in God against all common sense. Or, as Iqbal put it, discussing Abraham elsewhere:
"Love dove into Nimrod's fire without hesitation / While reason's on the rooftop, merely considering the scene."
This is what Muslims celebrate on Sunday.
That prayers are answered, even if they aren't answered in our lifetime. That God tests us according to our capacity, and those of us who face the most hardship in dignity and fidelity are the most awesome in His sight. That God's promise is true. That the aches and pains in our souls will be healed one day. Perhaps not in this life, though; we must hold on to the rope of God until then.
Abraham was terrified he wouldn't have children. And in return for his faith, God gave him half the planet, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. It may well be that many of us pray more for Abraham and Muhammad than we do for any other families. Including our own. And the Muslim community centers its identity on him. We are his spiritual family, or at least hope to be. Little children of every ethnicity and nationality, all across the planet, stumble across words they will repeat for the rest of their lives, words they're taught to memorize, and often given gifts if they do, words which have an especially profound meaning on us today:
Allah bless Muhammad, and the family of Muhammad
As you blessed Abraham, and the family of Abraham
Haroon on Eid Al Adha
Although I doubt he'll read this, congrats to Khalid Latif and his new bride Priya! She's fiesty and smart and adorbs and I'm sure they're going to produce smart, funny, welcoming, short people to populate the earth! Mabrook!!
(I got an invite, but uh, like all the wedding invites I get the wedding was in another state).
The Prophet, pbuh, also said: "For every misfortune, illness, anxiety, grief, or hurt that afflicts a believer - even the pain caused by the pricking of a thorn - God removes some of his sins."
So many goals for next Ramadan, insh'Allah. I fasted all but eight days, seven of which were spent menstruating. I'll try to make them up before the new year.
Keeping the spirit in mind I'm going to work on my deen and finding/holding/enjoying community.
Blessings to all of you, fasting and not! May Allah (SWT) be gentle with you and you be gentle with others. Bismillah.
Tomorrow I return to the gym! Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!
In the way that it is very much like Christmas, however, is the implication that if you're not with family you must be some wretched soul. I've gotten no fewer than 10 emails in the last few days instructing people to come to a 'lonely' Eid celebration-- i.e. you lack preconceived indicators of happiness-- you must have something wrong with you.
I know that sounds harsh, but it's the exact same message that people who don't celebrate Christmas get. You're Jewish or Muslim on Christmas day? The smile falters and a hand stretches out to you, a "Oh, that's so sad that you can't celebrate..." or "Well, we don't want you to be alone. Come over!" I understand that these gestures have the best intentions and in this tradition, intention counts but COME ON.
I feel like I'm getting it from all ends. I'm single, childfree and estranged from my biological family-- so in no religion, in no cultural setting am I okay. I'm to be pitied and forced into a room with lonesome strangers for some sort of forced community bonding. No thanks.
I almost feel like bailing on my own, non-familial, Eid plans JUST TO SHOW THEM! Eh. IDK. Maybe I'm just cranky.
Ramadan ends tomorrow and my body is feeling the brunt of it. The lack of sleep, the lack of movement-- they all have taken a toll. Still, I'm trying to be gentle, gentle as the Prophet (SAW) would've been.