Archive | August 2015

Peace be upon you

Show them you’re a Muslim by our love

Omar (not his real name) is around 9 years old, a third grade boy attending Islamic school. His mom Fatima (not her real name) and I had plans for a girl’s afternoon out by treating ourselves to a facial. Oooh, a facial is so soothing and relaxing. While Fatima answered a telephone call, I asked Omar how was the new school year so far. Wonderful, he said, as he rattled off a class schedule of reading, math, social studies, science, language, history and Quran reading. Of course, he’d join the soccer team again. The skinny boy has his eyes on competing in the World Cup in the future. One afternoon, as he waited with his buddies outside school for their fathers to drive them home, the boys rejoiced in their blessings. Omar reiterated how their education is excellent. Each day they eat three healthy meals. Omar and his friends are surrounded by loving, kind and caring families. The boys share a tight bond. That’s not the case for children like them in Syria, Gaza, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, and other nations ripped apart by war, internal strife and crushing poverty. Every day children face imminent danger from exploding bombs or constant, nagging hunger. Omar said their hearts ached for the pain and suffering of others. Such compassion from nine year old boys touched me. It also reminded me of the weekly sermon at the mosque I heard the day before, which I shared with Omar. The imam reminded worshipers about the special greeting we Muslims have for each other – assalamu alaikum, which means peace be upon you. The imam encouraged everyone to always greet a fellow Muslim with our special saying. Be an example to others. Show them we are kind and merciful, not the frightening terrorists portrayed by the media. Kindness begins at home, in our Muslim community, and together we can spread it beyond far and wide. They’ll know we are Muslims by our love. Maybe others won’t understand what assalamu alaikum means but the late Mother Theresa said peace begins with a smile. Everyone appreciates a smile or a gesture of good will such as holding a door. A simple hello can make someone’s day. It costs nothing to be kind. To achieve peace, we change the world one day at a time and that change starts with me, it starts with you. Say assalamu alaikaum, peace be upon you, and see what happens. Peace really does begin with a smile.

My hijab myself

My hijab, myself

The hijabs (also known as headscarves) came one by one after I said Shahada last March, the declaration of faith when converting to Islam. Print hijabs, cotton hijabs, silky smooth hijabs and several I bought myself. All were so pretty and nice. They piled up week after week until I found myself smothered in hijabs. I felt like a true Muslim woman now. In my boxy one bedroom apartment, space is tight, especially for a semi-hoarder like me. I can’t seem to help myself. I collect “stuff.” I hold onto magazines that I’ll never read. I just can’t resist buying books, especially on sale in thrift shops. I love to read. At breakfast if the morning paper is late I’ll read the cereal box out of desperation. Do I need another pair of shoes? Probably not but at half price sales it’s hard to say no. Over the years I’ve learned to live with less primarily because I just don’t have the space.

I finally re-organized with the help of a wicker basket, moving t-shirts out of the dresser opening up space for hijabs. Problem solved? Not exactly. I just cannot seem to keep the scarf drawers neat and tidy despite trying. And trying and trying. What’s a girl to do?

Yet again, I tidied up my scarf drawers last month, organizing hijabs by color. I was so proud of myself. Classy and stylish, I could open my drawer and pick out a scarf to match my outfit just like that. Wham bam, easy peasy. That lasted maybe a week until the drawers looked like a windstorm blew through them. They’re a mess once again. Now that I’ve become more adept at wearing the hijab I apparently lack at proper storage technique. I could care less about my sock and underwear drawer where I just throw everything in. With hijabs, it’s different. They need respect just like our blouses, skirts and shoes. The right pair of shoes can make or break an outfit.

There’s hope for me, I hope. I recently visited my dear friend Diba who is largely responsible for my conversion. For hijab storage, Diba tightly rolls the scarves much the way I rolled my towel and head for the beach as a youth. The new storage method has already opened up more space in my drawers. My headwear is sorted out, even if my life isn’t quite the same way. As I said, maybe there’s hope, I hope.

Muslim women wear hijabs. But we’re not alone in covering our heads. Catholics, conservative Jews, Sikhs, Mennonites, and other women of faith also don head coverings for religious observance. A hijab isn’t a sign of oppression or fear rather a show of respect for Allah. Try one someday or every February 1st, World Hijab Day. Muslim women are just like you. We want the best for our children, our families and our selves. We want jobs, safe neighborhoods, peace around the world, quality education, clean air, good friends, and access to health care. As for me, I’m still trying to keep order with my hijabs. Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

How I met my friend Julie

Among the network of animal rescue people I met over the years was a woman named Julie B. Julie liked Dachsunds, also known as weenie dogs. Like me she was especially drawn to old, forlorn weenies without a chance for adoption. Sometimes she placed them herself or prodded a rescue to accept them. Now and then, she kept a weenie herself and the dog lived a good life. One week, I bumped into Julie at the county shelter where I had volunteered since moving to Phoenix in 1997. Perhaps it was 1999 or so. Two haggard looking weenie dogs were impounded as strays. Like most strays, the old gals came in without ID tags. What set one of the dogs apart was a huge tumor, about the size of a tennis ball, that hung from her neck nearly reaching the floor. Both dogs reeked with a foul odor. They probably hadn’t been bathed in over a year. They were timid and shy. My guess is they were yard dogs receiving scant attention from an indifferent owner. Looking at the size of the tumor, it must’ve grown for a long time. Didn’t the owner notice? Without extensive testing, there was no way to diagnose it. The county’s veterinary clinic only performed spay/neuter operations and minor medical treatments for dogs and cats placed for adoption.

“I feel so bad for those dogs,” Julie said as she stared at the two old dogs. “They had to be someone’s pets.”

“All of these cats and dogs belong to somebody,” I said above the din of barking.

“No one will adopt them. Maybe I can get someone to take them.”

“That’s a tall order for senior, sickly dogs, especially the one with the tumor,” I said. “Tell someone back in the receiving area that you’re trying to help so they’re not euthanized when their time is in two days.” Dogs and cats without ID could be euthanized in as little as three days.

Julie contacted Coast to Coast Dachsund Rescue, a non-profit group that rescues Dachsunds from shelters or other unsafe situations almost anywhere in the US. When possible, they arrange for transportation across the country to either a foster home or a permanent arrangement. Some kind soul took in the old weenie dogs. One lived about six months and other for around eight. The quality of their original home appeared to be lacking but at least the weenies enjoyed a few good months before expiring. I’ll always remember Julie’s kindness and caring to help those two senior gals. Thanks Julie for being my friend.

 

 

Keep Ramadan Alive

Keep Ramadan Alive

Fond memories of Ramadan 2015 still remain. On Eid, the last day, thousands of Phoenix area Muslims assembled at the downtown convention center for a massive prayer service. Everyone wore their finest clothing, often attire from home countries like Pakistan or Somalia. Afterwards, crowds streamed out the building and met outside in the blistering sun to hug, laugh, smile or just talk. The mood was festive and cheerful. Families and friends posed for photos. I said farewell to my friends from Saudi Arabia who would fly home the next day. Sarah and Mohammad, I miss you all the time. I then connected with my friend Saba, her husband and son. For the rest of the day we visited family and friends, exchanging gifts, an Eid tradition. Home cooked food was not only plentiful but tasty and delicious. Conversations were lively and entertaining. Children played, laughed and frolicked among themselves. At the end of the day, I drove home. Warm memories lingered but that was it. Like a page turning book, I didn’t want Ramadan to end. There would be no more evenings in prayer at the mosque with my sisters. I didn’t have to fret anymore about what to prepare for the nightly iftars, also known as the breaking of the fast. Ramadan was officially over for another year.

But it’s not over if you’re a true Muslim. During Ramadan, we Muslims are encouraged to perform good deeds, donate to charity, to fast, and even to get in touch with long lost family. Why not continue the mercy throughout the year? Charitable donations don’t have to end. Non-profit organizations welcome cash, in-kind donations and volunteer assistance all year round, not just during Ramadan. If your schedule permits, volunteer at a homeless or domestic violence shelter. Families torn apart by violence need a gentle word or two. Schools would probably welcome guidance for children with reading or math problems. Or do something closer to home like organize a neighborhood clean up or tidy up a public park. The possibilities are endless. Donating money more than once a year may pinch some families, especially those on limited incomes. Alternatives are available, however. Save used towels, sheets, etc. and donate them to animal shelters. For sanitary reasons, human shelters aren’t allowed to accept donated linens but they can take second hand clothing. Have old books? Leave them at the public library, schools or prisons. There’s always a way to give.

Sadly, there’s plenty of ways to harm and hurt too. It’s our collective responsibility as Muslims to be leaders and positive role models. Our honorable behavior, nourished by Ramadan, will demonstrate our commitment to a better world. The curse known as ISIS, Al Qaeda, al Shabob, and other terror groups who rob, rape, destroy and plunder parts of Iraq and Syria are far from Islamic. They are cruel, callous, brutal, and utterly devoid of humanity; they are not alone either. Terrorism spares no one and there are murderous beasts among Jews, Christians, Hindus and Buddhists too. Violence begets more violence and solves nothing. It never did and it never will.

The savagery of ISIS and other terror groups taints all decent Muslims (most of us), even though terrorists represent only a small segment of the world’s huge Muslim population (over 1 billion, not million but billion). A true Muslim would never rape a woman. The Prophet said to treat women with respect and dignity, especially our mothers. A true Muslim would never commit a crime against an innocent person. Islam does not tolerate aggression. Islam encourages followers to feed the sick and help the poor. In fact, all Muslims must perform zakat, donating to charity within our means. For some Muslims zakat can be a simple smile or holding the door. Zakat is one of the five pillars of Islam. Islamic terrorists are not real Muslims. I doubt they pray five times a day, fast during Ramadan, perform zakat, read the Quran, or attend Friday prayer services. In Surah 9:109 of the Quran God doesn’t guide people who do wrong. Watch out ISIS, Allah is watching you.

Jesse Jackson, the US civil rights leader, once coined a phrase that said, “Keep hope alive.” We Muslims can borrow that phrase (I doubt Rev. Jackson would mind) and say Keep Ramadan Alive. Keep the spirit of giving, loving, caring, praying, and sharing food with family and friends alive. The holiday is over for another year but the spirit of Ramadan is not. Keep Ramadan alive.

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