Sunday, January 29, 2017

Going to da source!!

Previously, I published a post that totally free-styled my feelings on hijaab. But its become such a polarizing topic today b/c it is at once incredibly personal--how you feel about your body--and very public, b/c its how you are facing the world.

As a muhaajibah, I love to find solidarity with others b/c what we are doing, especially in this society in this current age, can be very challenging. Its challenging b/c the meaning of hijaab is being lost and forgotten as we peruse the latest hot pinterest outfit (oh those cute dresses and knee-high brown leather boots! oh those boho dresses with long tresses blowing freely in the wind!). I'm actually not sure what may or may not shake another woman's faith in hijaab, but knowing how beautiful AND comfortable I could be without it sometimes gets to me.

But another thing that gets to me is when I see fellow sisters who have removed the scarf-part (or sometimes, the other parts) of hijaab b/c they suddenly claim that they have decided there is no evidence that it is waajib. In other words, the rest of us are totally, unnecessarily, ging ourselves the hardship of living with MAN-made laws, when they are perfectly at their leiser. This, too, gets to me.

But after years of observing this trend in our communities, and observing my own relationship with hijaab, here is where I stand:

--every woman is on her own journey toward Allah and obeying His commands
--hijaab is a choice, like all the other aspects of worship and faith
--wearing hijaab HAS to come with the internal part of modesty, which is being willing to put Allah's pleasure before our own, and that can be tough but such a blessing!!
--seeing someone with the external part doesn't mean that the internal part is there yet, but...
--the external part is designed to HELP with the internal part!! :)

I have refrained from saying much on this topic b/c I don't want to alienate, ostracise, judge or condemn anyone. But that doesn't mean that I have to accept what others do, or refrain from using my own sense of judgement.

I ran across this awesome little bit, and what an AWESOME summary of what hijaab does! Mashallah, succinct and elegant. Feel free to watch the whole video but she discusses hijaab at 4:00.

Dalia Mogahed: Oppression specifically means taking away one's power. Hijaab privatizes a woman's sexuality. So what are we saying when we say that privatizing a woman's sexuality oppresses her?What does that say about the source of a woman's power?

Trevor Noah: We're saying a woman is only powerful if she is sexy in public!

BADASS yall!!! How's that for women's liberation and empowerment!!!! Dalia, I thank you for that awesome reminder!

This is important commentary about the society and times in which we live. Why is our sexuality being exploited? B/c :
#1 it is powerful
#2 it can be very lucrative
#3 it can be used to control society!!!

When I say it is powerful, I mean that it is a HUGE biological urge within us. That's how we were designed! Everyone wants to be found attractive and to have a mate. It can be INCREDIBLY lucrative b/c if our vulnerabilities are exploited by constantly being bombarded with air-brushed images of plastic people, we feel like the only way we can attract a mate, or be considered attractive and powerful, is to spend tons of $$$$$$$$$$$$$$ to achieve a certain look, whether its breast enhancement or expensive hair and makeup and nail equipment and treatments we all know the costs can add up quick and that if we are not careful, we can waste entire paychecks on the beauty industry.
According to this figure published by the Economist in 2003, the beauty industry was estimated at raking in $95 billion a year, with a 7% growth each year. That includes, skin-care, hair, make-up, and perfume. Guess which of these constituted the largest percentage of earnings? Hair products! Hair care constituted 40% of this figure, making the most out of all the other categories at $38 billion. But keep in mind these are 14 year old stats!

But most importantly, if a society prioritizes sex drive above all else, then all the boundaries that create healthy and strong families vanish. There are more afairs, abortions, STD's. There is less trust, stability, and commitment. There is no more sacred. So privatizing sexuality makes wonderful sense if you want to protect families, which are the building blocks of society.

So WHO is benefiting if our sexuality is being exploited? WHO benefits when we spend literally billions on looking beautiful each year? WHO benefits from boundaries that are being crossed, from families falling apart, from sacred spaces becoming profane?


Its definitely not us!

Mike Check One Two, One Two

There are many posts I've composed over the last few months. So much has happened in the world, and within my own little micro cosmos. I don't claim any political savviness, so I don't have much to share on Trump's presidency. Although, I will say: subhanallah! I don't think anyone ever thought it would come to this, but there are always silver linings. I think the silver lining here is that America is having the mask removed, and we are seeing the full prejudice, racism, fear, and arrogance at work in our government, culture, and general society. I think we'll be seeing things break down more and more. While it can be incredibly scary, its also bringing people together. Its reminding us that Allah will be testing us--and by us, I mean all Americans, but specifically, average Joe Muslim Americans who have basically been living a safe and somewhat comfortable life in America. I don't know whats in store for us, but I think EVERYONE is being shaken up, and hopefully, shaken AWAKE. My prayer is that we begin to re-prioritize our lives, our values, our time, and our faith. Fear can take hold if you let it, but so can FAITH. And faith fuels courage and strength even in the darkest of times. So I pray that Allah increases our faith one thousand fold, and that He, in His infinite wisdom and grace, show us how to behave as an ummah.

Other thoughts: anxiety! I was never super vocal about anxiety before, and that's because...well, its embarrassing. More than "oops, I just passed gas in public" embarrassing (I totally just went there!), its something that we try to deny, and feel downright ashamed of. And by we, I mean myself.

Anxiety is something I have secretly and not-so-secretly been struggling with for years. I had a bit as a child, b/c I was sensitive and was dealing with several transitions: as the daughter of an American and an Iranian, there's always been a cultural divide for me, though perhaps not every halfie went through this experience. Then there was the fact that I lived in a country that had gone through a Revolution, sanctions, and war. Those experiences live in the consciousness of society, and the fear, panic, struggles, and challenges they produced take generations to subside from the hearts and minds of the people. As a naturally sensitive person, I probably picked up a lot on the anxieties of others. I carried these with me but it was never problematic, until September 11th, 2001. All of the sudden, the Muslim world--MY Muslim world--was thrown into the lime light, and we were being portrayed as monstrous, blood-thirsty people, driven to destroy out of our own deep hatred for the West--> which could only mean our own deep-seated insecurity of Western values, because we are so inferior. I was never able to articulate that part of the equation before, but that must have been it.

The hypocrisy of the whole situation, and the distance from the truth--from where I stand and everything I have been taught about Islam, our beautiful Deen, really got to me. And I was sick with anxiety that year. Would half my family "back home" be attacked soon in war? Would I be forced to enlist in the army, or face jail? Would I have to flee this home to avoid being a part of this terrible warfare? These were the questions that plagued my mind that sophomore year of high school. But on a deeper level, I couldn't reconcile my identity as a Muslim American, b/c I just didn't feel like I belonged in this society: I didn't watch the same news, dress the same, eat the same foods, behave the same when it came to dating, partying, etc...Everyone was concerned with their grades and being popular, but my activities consisted of attending anti-war protests, finding the baggiest (men's) Adidas shirts (or any other long-sleeved loose shirts), and in general, resisting as much imperialistic, arrogant mindset and culture as I could in school. I just couldn't relate to my peers very much, and it took a yoga class to make me understand how much anxiety and tension I was holding in my body that year. Thank you, awesome yoga class!! (I did make a few cool, open-minded friends. But my conservative religious background prevented from socializing too much with them. Nice one, Baba.)

I'm going to skip a few years, b/c it seems like there were a lot of things that contributed to my sense of dis-ease. And a lot of was just finding myself, finding the balance of what I feel is appropriate for me, based on how I understand Allah's teachings. Like: do I shake hands or not? How tight, loose, long, short will my clothes be? How literally will I be taking different ayahs? How comfortable will I be with myself, and can I figure out who that girl is, separate from her parents and her masjid community?

So I'm fast forwarding to the time when this vulnerable yet strong and out-spoken, slightly tightly-would, and very much goofy girl got married and had her first baby. Suddenly, the immense responsibility of motherhood was on my shoulders and I started panicking about all kinds of things, from the pros and cons of vaccination, to the possibilities of illness and fever, to the slight chances of her getting lost or stolen or whatever. Prince Faramir and Lady Eowyn would rush into Princess Buttercup's room at the slightest little whimper, eager to ascertain whether or not she was breathing!

Now, these might be common new-mom fears. But let me tell you something: something happened those years. When I combined staying up late for grown-up time, and cutting myself off a little bit from community and from doing things for my own growth and pleasure, the results were not great.

Its taken a while to understand it but for the better part of these 5 years I have been living with a lot of anxiety. Fear would take hold of me in the night, and I would feel frozen and paralyzed by all the terrible what-ifs. My self-confidence seemed to depend on what others thought of me, and my appearance. These might seem benign, but folks, if you are living in fear, too afraid to try new things, and always flinching at the POTENTIAL of bad things...THAT IS NO LIFE! Its just not the way to live.

Motherhood will always present a set of challenges to women everywhere. And here I have been so blessed to have a relatively safe and comfortable life. But my anxiety cast a tremendous shadow over my blessings, and I couldn't enjoy my life with my daughter as much as I could have. So that is why I am sharing my personal journey here: if discussing this helps one mom life a better life and get help, then this is worth it.

How I got help
A close family friend cornered me one day and said: "you have too much anxiety, you need help!" I knew that I was always struggling, and feeling incredibly overwhelmed, but to have her articulate it so bluntly, well...that certainly was giant push. So here are some things I started to do:

--talk to a therapist
There is a lot of stigma associated with this, but a therapist just sits there, LISTENS to you, and points out some things that are obvious. They break down thought-patterns and provide insight. One super obvious thing I learned is that sleeping late every night just so I could unwind from my kids was making me feel like crap! (and it was probably giving me adrenal fatigue, no joke). That was part of the contributing factor to my anxiety: I knew that if someone were to get sick (hello, sudden midnight fever!) I would not be my strongest. Solution: get your booty in bed earlier!!!

--check your physical health
thyroid? Vitamin D levels? iron? magnesium and calcium? Vitamin B complex? Get all those checked out. Low Vitamin D can make you feel incredibly tired, which means you have no energy for your kids the next day, which mean DISASTER! Check out FLO Living by Alissa Vitti for fabulous hormonal health pointers EVERY WOMAN should know! She has great free resources, from phone conference seminars to email newsletters.

--empowering talks and resources
Another great close family friend lent me Kirk Martin's Calm University talk on CD and it has been life-changing to hear certain things, and to realize how I think and relate to others. For instance, thinking its MY responsibility to make others happy. ITS NOT! Whew! What a relief! Its only my responsibility to behave the way Allah instructed me through the teachings of Rasul-Allah. But I am not responsible beyond that. This is NOT an easy pill to swallow, b/c most if us just want to be admired and accepted by everyone--but alhamdulellah, I have been working to accept that not everyone will like or admire me, and that is OK. I am only seeking Allah's rezaayat, inshallah.

Basic self-care:
-get enough rest
-find things that nourish you
-draw lines around toxic people and situations, choose friends wisely
-give thanks for Allah's blessings, and CHOOSE TO SEE THEM instead of hardships/ dislikes
(literally, make dhikr to give thanks)

Its taking time. But inshallah I think I see a difference in myself  from one year ago, and that is an incredible thing. I am still sensitive and vulnerable at times. But now I give myself permission to express myself as I am--goofy and quirky--without wondering so much what others will think of me. Its been humbling to know how much my flaws are visible, and how I might be viewed by others with all my countless mistakes and foot-in-mouth situations, but its also empowering to know that IT DOESN'T MATTER, not in the way I thought before.

Sometimes, my stomach still tenses up when I think of whats going on around me, whether it is personal, like a confrontation with someone in the community, or whether its more macro, like the new administration's ban on people from Muslim countries INCLUDING MY DAD'S!!! One year ago, I'm not sure how I would be handling all this. But alhamdulellah, this year, Allah has equipped me with sine internal strength to help me, and I thank Him for that!!! I leave you with this:

Image result for verily with every hardship comes ease

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


This year, Prince Faramir and I made the decision to homeschool Princess Buttercup for Kindergarten. We did so because we know that the early years are important years of establishing a Muslim identity, so I wanted to take the time and space in her brain learning about things that will strengthen her heart and emaan, not reinforce Hallmark holidays and learning about cooties or whatever. It was a pretty staightforward decision, but on my way home from the local elementary school, where I had walked to submit my letter of intent to homeschool, I started having some doubts.

Think of all the fun games, songs, and crafts the teachers have line up for the kids! 

Think of all the little learning experiments in the classroom that are out of my budget!

Think of the free time I could have if my 5 year old was finally out of the house during the day!

Think of the growth and independence she would feel being in "school"! (She has been so excited about being a big girl and going to her school.)

I had some doubts about whether or not I could give her a better education than she would receive in public school, since I didn't already have a curriculum put together, and would be working with a 3 year old. On my way home, we passed by some kids who were enjoying the free school lunch provided during summer. These boys were throwing apples at each other, and at the trash can, laughing at their game, while their mom/ guardian person was sitting there totally immersed in her phone.

PBC immediately said, "that is BAD! Allah doesn't like that!" But what would an authority figure say to those kids? "Those apples aren't free. Please stop that behavior." What about the main source of our sense of morality--Allah? And THAT is why I don't want my precious little child in public school right now. Don't get me wrong, I know plenty of Muslim parents have done so and had good experiences. I know plenty couldn't afford the pricey Muslim private schools and had no other choice. And I feel that, and don't judge that. But for us, this was our decision.

So I'm homeschooling my children loosely using a Waldorf-based curriculum. We are very seasonal, and very hands-on. Even though my daughter knows her ABC's, I am doing my best to lay low on the academics b/c I know that in just a few short months, she will begin the 12 year journey where it will be academics ALL DAY LONG. She will get plenty of it soon, but kids don't always have time to be kids, to explore nature without being rushed, to play games without being limited. So those are my main goals.

We do a lot of drawings, field trips, nature walks, baking, and imaginative play. We read a lot of books, have play dates with friends, and do house work as well as pretend work. I've designated certain house chores as well as certain artistic endevours to each day of the week, trying to celebrate 5 elements throughout the week:

Monday--Air: outdoor chores like sweeping the steps and raking, pulling weeds, nature walk, and errands. Music, singing, reading and Qur'an also use a lot of air. (As they get older, there are also other great games using the element of air, like building pinwheels, blowing bubbles, flying kits, etc)

Tuesday--Water: wash with water, and painting. It could be washing clothes, dishes, windows, etc.

Wednesday--Fire: baking and ironing.

Thursday--Earth: vacuuming and mopping the floors, making soup with vegetables that come from the earth.

Friday--Spirit: we do self-care, and go to the masjid.

There's probably room for lots of tweaking but this is what I've come up with for now. Pictures of our classroom and projects coming soon! :)

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The poems below are about my dear grandfather, who passed away 10 years ago. I still catch myself missing him terribly from time to time. I certainly wouldn't call myself a poet, and a part of me wanted to rush and delete these poems, but I am leaving them up b/c #1 they come from the heart and #2 we can't just wait to share things until they are perfect.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Autumn Reflections

Long hot days of summer bleed
into the overcast, breezy Autumn
and a little bit of my heart breaks
as if the world is dying.

At first there is a bold show
golden leaves triumphant everywhere
mixed with the green of their sisters and brothers
quiet hints of what lies ahead.

The breathtaking array
of fuchsia, orange, and red
makes me want to pull over and stare,
heart full of longing for something,
tight in my chest.

With each falling leaf
a landscape emerges
dark, tangles vines
and gnarled branches ahead.

I remember those moments,
now distant memories,
with Papa,
and its breathtaking that you could loose someone
who belonged so much to you,
even if you didn't know it at the time.

Legs propped on the recliner,
arms crossed on your chest.
tooth-less gums, set grim,
hair combed straight
the kahki shirts and white undershirt
The 30 bibles on your bookshelf,
making biscuits in your tiny, clean kitchen
the quiet confidence of man, standing where he was planted.

What I will never forget
"watch out for credit card companies"
dressing up as Dolly Parton when I was ten, stuffing all socks I owned
into a DD bra, to make you laugh
wanting to please you
not feeling like I belonged to your world

Why must the leaves turn?
Why must they fall?
Why must we loose the seranade of crickets,
the mad orchestra of cicadas,
to the silence of November?

And it feels so lonely
to know that all the beauty is slowly dying out.

just as surely as the oaks stand firm
and wait for the first warm hints of spring
to send out the fresh green leaves
I know that there is really no death, no end

And just as surely
as the cicadas dig themselves
out of the dark, winter beds
to sing again in spring

I know that the leaves will reflect
the intense, graceful design of Allah
turning from bud to leaf to blaze to dust...
to feed the tree to send forth once more
for the billionth time
for the billion and one time
until the Divine Hand gives a signal...

That we will meet again.


At Granny's

When Papa lived
love set a peppy beat
and though no one wore fancy clothes
everyone seemed to be dancing

And everything smelled better
The smell of mayo in a sandwich
I could smell from across the room
as someone enjoyed an afternoon snack

And the air was right, not too cold
and the sheets sang out their fragrance
of someone who was happy to be living
and making home
under this tiny, neat roof

And history was alive
and all gave their ear
whether it was grace being said, or a history lesson
at that small, round rickety table

there was reverence
and quiet, teasing adoration
for this
once-upon-a-time wise-ass kid
always a true gentleman,
always a true family man
always a man of God

and the markers and papers
to draw a little picture
and the milk with the chocolate syrup
in a clean, plastic cup from 1975

long drives out into the country
on old cadillacs
the relatives living on farms
in hidden hills

there was a soft veil over it all
a mysterious world
and i glided through it without much worry
knowing that Papa and Granny were the center
of this universe
and their children, my mom and uncle and aunt, the planets in orbit


Now the sheets smell like old, unwashed memories
and the air is too cold
and the mayo is made from hydrogenated soy bean oil
the chocolate syrup is long gone
there is no more baking.

I see time
slowly erasing
the ground beneath me
like a wave washing away the beach

Bit by bit
my reality is reshuffled
so that I can taste all flavors of life
comfort and protection
a numbing loss, a deep heartache
only to rediscover
the joy of life! the joy of the moment! the gift of all that is.

I cherish the old.
I welcome the new.
Sing to me of what has passed
So that I know what to treasure,
a measure of tremendous blessings
I just now learned to count.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Ramadhan Musings


Whew! What. A. Month.

I have been thinking and planning and trying to prepare for Ramadhan for a while.

First, I had my fasts from last year to make up.

Then, I wanted to buy decorations....and make cookies for all our neighbors....and make an advent-style Ramadhan calendar. AND I was teaching at a children's camp during the blessed month. And lets not forget, I wanted to READ the beloved book. I wasn't naiive enough to think I'd get through the whole thing with everything going on, so I set a reasonable and more manageable goal of half the Qur'an.

And now that things have slowed down enough to catch my breath and each a sandwhich in the late afternoon instead of 9:30 PM, I wanted to share what I came up with this year!

We spent quite a lot of time and energy on the Ramadhan goodies we wanted to share with neighbors. Both girls helped me bake sugar cookies (some we cut into stars, some we rolled in sprinkles, some we imprinted with flowers). We also made peanut butter-pretzel-chocolate "truffles" (it sounds so much daintier that way!). Below you'll see Princess Buttercup crushing the pretzels in a ziplock bag.


When we finished all the treats, we put them in little glass jars labeled with "Ramadhan Greetings" for neighbors and "Ramadhan blessings" for Muslim friends. Unpictured: we also made a few jars with candles, gemstones and sparkles for friends to light at iftar time.

Then it was time to pass them out! It was a little anti-climactic to see that many neighbors weren't home, or some just wouldn't come to the door. But we had fun distributing these goodies with the simple explanation that we are celebrating Ramadhan and would like to share some treats with our neighbors. No one asked any questions, so I didn't offer any. I just wanted a nice and kind gesture instead of overwhelming people with religiosity if they had no interest to hear it. There were some big smiles as people were surprised, and that to me is very valuable.


                              We didn't have a little red wagon, but we do have a cooler on wheels!


Next up: the advent style calendar. I had already used my masjid and stars poster for 2 years and wanted to try something new. With a bit of Pinteresting, I was inspired to make this! There are almost 30 different little envelopes, each one containing a Ramadhan challenge--simple things the girls could achieve throughout the course of the day.

Here are some of the ones I put in the pouches. At the end of the day, we would review the challenge, and then they were rewarded with a little treat, from halal swedish fish to chocolates. The envelopes couldn't hold anything more than a little piece of paper, so I stored the treats on a high shelf and brought it down at iftar.

Spur of the moment Ramadhan Roses....I think this is another keeper! 

Un-pictured: our fairy lights. I bought new lights this year instead of the same 'ol white X-mas tree lights that I've been using for the past 7 years. I've been a bit cheap with those, and it was time to take the plunge and buy something decent! I bought enough to wrap around the entire living room, and alhamdulellah I am happy with the result!


I really feel like we all worked hard this Ramadhan! The kids were patient with us when we had low energy, and we were really feeling the thirst and hunger! I did a few themed crafts with the kids, including hanging moon and stars sun-catchers, and a zakat purse.

I did NOT get to finish my Qur'an, but alhamdulellah for the chance to make things meaningful for kids and relatable for neighbors and non-Muslims, inshallah!


More (somewhat random) things I learned along the way this month:

--these little projects aren't cheap!

--Ramadhan is another of Allah's tools to help us learn TIME MANAGEMENT....and I'm sorry to say, I think I'm still getting a "C" in that class....but I pray that Allah will help me improve before its too late!!

--you can do proper food combining during Ramadhan by breaking your fast with a bowl of fruit, waiting an hour (while you pray, read Qur'an, relax) and then continuing on to something more substantial. I only managed to do this one night, but it felt good!

--I felt the most energy in the 30 minutes before iftar, so I also chose that time to do some cardio yoga b/c otherwise I wouldn't get in much exercise during Ramadhan, and it worked great!

--Two words: moon calculations It helps save SO MUCH confusion and discord in the community!! Folks, haven't we had enough staying up until 3 AM to decide that today is in fact Eid? Aren't there reliable moon calculators that ACCURATELY predict the phase of the moon, even if the sky is cloudy? If we ever want to have Eid recognized as an official holiday--one that ALL Muslims celebrate together, we have got to embrace moon calculations! (Allah knows best.).

I pray that everyone's fasts brought them closer to their Lord and Maker, and that some of the ideas here will be useful for you in the following Ramadhans to come inshallah. :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

April Musings

Alhamdulellah, I find myself with a bit of time to come and reflect on this beautiful green but chilly and damp month!

April is my birth month, and this year I celebrate the big 3-0!! It seems a big deal to me. It took 30 years for me to be as I am, learn what I have learned, be where I find myself today.

One fun thing is that I no longer feel shy to be more "ladylike". I don't know why but before, I always felt that I should be more tomboyish, and that dressing ladylike was for older women. Now I know that its all these silly labels we put on people and numbers. If you want to dress dignified and classy, then do it! I think I used to feel guilty before, thinking that it is somehow too dunya-oriented to do so. Now I know that it doesn't matter what you own, or how you dress (to some extent): what matters is what owns YOU, your behavior, how you treat others, how attached you become to things, and how much you can maintain a connection to Allah while living your normal daily life.

So I am celebrating a lot of the beautiful designs I see from INAYAH! I love how elegant and beautiful and modern and classy the models look, with clothes that are LONG and LOOSE! Its awesome! I am celebrating by getting mah greedy lil paws on it!

Image result for inayah abaya

The awesome thing is that I needed a dress for going to a wedding, and now that I have purchased one from INAYAH, I won't need to layer a jacket or anything!! I'm so exited about that! It arrived today, and the fit is perfect--it is fitted enough to let me feel like a female, but not tight enough to make me feel self-conscious. I am looking forward to wearing it. :)

Other April Musings:

I was re-reading my hijab protocols from a previous post, and I've decided that really, we can have a general set of guidelines, but that every woman is a little different and will internalize and actualize hijab in her own individual way.

Example: a friend of mine with very very light skin, and light colored eyes told me recently that she just can't wear any eye makeup outside, to mixed weddings and such because it really brings a lot of attention to her eyes! But those of us with darker skin and eyes can get a way with a bit of makeup while still looking pretty natural. I love that we don't need a blanket set of conduct to appreciate a general rule of modesty.

But that makes me realize even more that while we must use a strong sense of moral judgement to understand what is best for us to do, we can't judge others if they color outside of our lines. Like, I know I wrote that wearing 6 inch heels= major sex appeal, so they must be avoided. I would still follow that rule for myself, and I wouldn't encourage my daughters to wear them, per se, but I wouldn't immediately look at a muhajibah and then see her shoes and gasp: "oh! she doesn't have good hijab!" I just pray that everyday, I am doing my best to do things properly, and that instead of focusing on others I am working hard on myself. :)