Abstract Chatter

My Ramadan
May 24, 2018, 6:05 pm
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0cf22222-99ef-45b2-908c-17e4e34bafdeI love seeing mainstream coverage about the experiences of American Muslims and their relationship with Ramadan/fasting and all that comes along with this month. I guess by mainstream, I mostly mean Buzzfeed.

But one perspective that may be a bit more nuanced and delves into the distinct  generation of American-Muslims that I don’t often year about, is the experience of those who have transitioned from young adults to new parents. After worshiping a certain way for decades on end (as a non-parent), no one warns/informs you of the difficulties that come from understanding what this new type of worship looks like and how you have to transition your understanding of workshop now as person with a young child. Or as a single caretake. Whether it means being pregnant or nursing and thus unable to fast in the traditional sense, or whether it means that the late night prayer sessions in congregation with delicious chai afterward are no longer option because you have a toddler at home. Or whether it means you’re just. so. sleep deprived that a day’s fast is all you can bear.

Even though this was years ago, I so vividly remember sitting in the back of the car nursing while everyone was inside praying. And how I so badly wished I was 26 again. The 26 year old me could hop on over to a local mosque or campus (that allowed women) and just. pray. Pray without the distractions of a climbing two year old. Pray knowing that even though sleep is normally reducing during this month, there won’t be any interruptions such as a crying or sick baby. That worship was easy. It was familiar. It was comforting.

The beautiful silence that came from my previous spiritual journey is only available to me during a very narrow window, if I’m awake enough to take advantage of it. To connect with the Divine in moments of solitude. In Peace. But maybe this Ramadan, my goal will be to steal a few moments. Reset my intention. And Pray.

It probably took me a solid three years to understand that my worship will simply be different than was did pre-Edris. And that that’s ok. While it may not come with the “glamorous” accessories of wild mornings and sahoor at IHOP— it does come with the knowledge that I now have a bigger task ahead of me, one that requires my almost undivided attention, but one that I hope will bear fruit in years to come. His care and well-being I suppose is my new ibadha .

And maybe it’s all worth it when you hear Edris say, “I love You Allah!”


Eyes Wide Shut
November 16, 2011, 2:48 pm
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It’s unfortunate that every blog post begins with “It’s been so long since my previous entry.” But such is life, entangled in the webs we weave. This entry might be more for me, and less for the public eye. It’s more to document my thought process and attach a narrative to this beautiful spiritual struggle I’ve been going through, than to actively seek out a mufti’s (Muslim legal expert’s) opinion. I imagine there will be some scrutiny, or some confusion, or a combination of mixed emotions too vast to list here. Either way, I appreciate and value the human experience and recognize that we each have our own human journey. So I hope that both the reader and I can come out of this more engaged and provoked to humbly seek answers to the questions we pose.

Curiosity kills the cat, they say. In this case, it might have X’ed the hijab. It would have been nine years this December. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. Winter break 2002. I was sophomore in college at the University of Texas. A wide-eyed youngin’ with a belly button ring and a tongue ring to match. I was attempting to carve an identity that represented my uniqueness. My desi-ness, my latino-ness, my Muslim-ness. In effect, my “hood”-ness.

So there I was. A black triangle scarf tied behind my neck to show off my utterly large, silver hoop earrings, driving to Austin in my 2002 Ford Econo-line Conversion Van. I was a protected “pearl.” For those who might not be familiar with this analogy, Muslim women have been described as precious gems. You find gold deep down in the ground, protected and covered. The same goes for diamond and pearls. And given that our bodies are far more precious than diamond and pearls; our bodies should be covered, too. And so my journey began as a jewel protected from harm and injury. A defined Muslim woman ready to take on the world.

At the time, I never believed that hijab was mandatory or fard for everyone. I never believed that it was a mandate, which if not followed would result in punishment. I simply felt that it was a mandatory requirement for who I was at the time, given that I was veering onto a mischievous path that might have truly induced punishment. As a wise friend once said, I had differentiated between personal ethics and community/societal obligations without even knowing it.

Flash forward. Cairo, Egypt, 2006.

Beautiful women covered from head to toe, wrapped in beautifully colored scarves. Each scarf crafted to replicate the most delicate of flowers. But each “pearl” was not protected. The hijab did not perform its main function. Sexually repressed men were harassing women left and right. Cat calls and intimidation are ubiquitous on the streets of Cairo. Public verbal insults, groping and even rape. But a majority of the women were covered, so why were they not protected? Could it be that I was misinformed about my own religion? Were there really differing interpretations? (A late bloomer, I know.) I’m just beginning to scratch the surface and delve into the nuances of religion and spirituality. And there’s not even a dent.

Post-graduate school, and two years shy of 30. I saw an article that shook me more than I could have imagined. It was at this moment that I began confronting questions that had no definitive answers. It was at this moment that I began acknowledging a past that simply did not sit well with me. This lead me to question the authenticity of hadith narrated by Bukhari and Muslim, and upon doing so, realized that if I questioned the legitimacy of certain hadith, it might lead me to question the accuracy or inaccuracy of all hadiths.

The covering became habitual. It didn’t inspire me to be any more or less God conscious. And for whatever reason, resentment simmered in my heart, which of course, negatively impacted an already vulnerable relationship with my Lord. Tension towards the scarf in particular trumped my desire to keep it on. It trumped my definition of modesty. Most importantly, it trumped my sense of identity. The hostility and friction trumped anything and everything. As a friend told me in retrospect, I was walking around with a sense of sadness in my life.

John Patrick Shanley summed it up nicely. In the preface to his Pulitzer Prize-winning play Doubt: A Parable, he stated that “It is doubt (so often experienced as weakness) that changes things. Doubt, too, that oddly requires more courage than conviction does, and more energy; because conviction is a resting place and doubt is infinite.” Doubt is, he says is, “A passionate exercise we have to undertake if we’re to test our beliefs and assess whether they might be misplaced.”

So here I am. Nine years later. Redefining my religion and identity. Free to ask questions. Free from internal conflict (at least for now). Free from resistance, and free to pursue God’s grace.

Time to save the world
Where in the world is all the time
So many things I still don’t know
So many times I’ve changed my mind
Guess I was born to make mistakes
But I ain’t scared to take the weight
So when I stumble off the path
I know my heart will guide me back

Erykah Badu – Didn’t Cha Know

I’m a hater, and haters gonna hate
December 2, 2010, 9:23 am
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I’m reading this article, with the hopes of being as open minded as I possibly can. But for some reason, bits and pieces of it rubbed me the wrong me. Maybe the simple fact that a man was writing it delegitimized the entire narrative (sexist, I know- but aren’t my weaknesses diluted because I recognize my own biases?). Or maybe it was because I skimmed the article, and missed the essence of what he was trying to say…but either way…

Let’s begin with the author’s assumptions:

1) That hijab is a choice, and not a mandate.

The problem is, depending on who is the authorizing force is, a hijab could be a choice for a child and an obligation for an adult. OR it could be a choice for an adult (and through transitive property, a choice for a child) per his suggestion.

If it’s an obligation for an adult, then it could mean the child (close to the age of puberty) is preparing for what God has prescribed. (Such as prayer and fasting, as he mentioned in the article.)

2) He’s making the assumption that context is irrelevant, simply by his universal tone in describing the hijab. (ie, a hijab in Egypt does not have the same meaning or understanding as a hijab in the States or in the West.) As much as we attempt to amalgamate our experiences into one, there’s a clear distinction. (Albeit one that I can’t fully define quickly.)

He is utterly unclear about his audience. He uses Egypt as the foundation of all his examples, yet his target audience are British citizens. The connections between the two are weak and it really produces an inadequate narrative.  In Egypt, the hijab can be associated as more of a cultural garb, which might not be the case in the West. Therefore, the idea of force is entirely different. And it just may be that all the little girls are wearing their fashionable, multi-colored scarves with bows along the side—making it a fad above anything else, and thus innocuous.

He should clarify what his intentions are, and who he aims to speak with.

3) How erroneous it is to say that sexuality is restricted to a specific age group. The fact that young children are having sex, or engaging in sexual behavior is a fact which cannot be ignored. But by no means, do I suggest to the solution to promiscuity is a hijab.

Now on to the points that disturb me, in some shape or form:

  • “Adult Muslim women are expected to dress modestly so that men outside the family cannot see their bodies.”

How is that men are left out of this conversation. From my very simplistic understanding, modesty is applicable to both genders. And we’ve once again, reduced hijab once again to sexuality, when in actuality, this “covering” encompasses so much more.

Here you have the author wanting freedom of choice; freedom for pre-pubescent girls to choose what to wear and not to wear, but he feels suffocated by the doll in an abaya. Maybe it’s not the most ideal of Barbie characters, but it’s another choice that a child can have between a blond, partially naked Barbie number 1, and a blond bikini-wearing Barbie number 2. Much research has been conducted on the psychology of young girls and dolls that resemble themselves… finding dolls “that represent some version of the reality of our tonal diversity.” It’s a critical component to a child’s upbringing and identity.

  • “If they see that their sisters have to be covered up from a very early age to avoid being exposed in front of men, it is only natural that they grow up with the concept that women have to be covered, controlled and restricted.”

REALLY? Why is child-rearing not part of the equation? Boys will of course think like this if we allow such a mentality to perpetuate in our society. It becomes necessary upon our society to educate men and dismantle myths on sexuality and women.

I agree that a childhood should be left untouched, and depriving one of such a thing is repulsive. And I may have played devil’s advocate throughout my blog. I just feel blessed to have enough mental faculty to see that we need to step our game up (at least in the West) when it comes to hijab and the beard; and not diminish our understanding of religion and of piety to the two VERY surface level characteristics. Or maybe I’m just being a hater.

Also, food for thought: Oprah magazine: 9-year old girl asks to wear hijab, shocked mom’s reaction