Thoughts, Uncategorized

Hijama & My First 1.5 Years as a Muslim

It has been a little under 2 years since I became Muslim, subhan’Allah. I can hardly believe it has already been that long and how much has happened. I am so grateful for what life has been like since then. The only thing I would maybe change would be to revert sooner, but then my life experiences before this stage are just as important to my development as this has been. There was so much I had to process and cleanse out of myself mentally during this time. That’s the thing about personal growth and life change, it’s never really smooth sailing. When you stay in the same place, physically or mentally, everything seems pretty great and sometimes it’s hard to see a reason for why we should change if it will be too much trouble. The more I learned about Islam and the more I adapted my life to my beliefs, the more work on myself I realised needed to get done.

Embracing Islam and diving into this trans-formative journey really brought out a lot of inner demons and muck that I had stuffed way way down over time. I couldn’t understand why I was an emotional wreck, why I felt so anxious and depressed, why I felt so messed up. There was so much dissatisfaction and shame with who I was, who my family was, what my life had been so far. So many insecurities and doubts and a general feeling of being stuck in a deep pit of failure that I was so unsure of how to climb back out. Very similar to deep cleaning your room after who knows how long. It makes you want to give up after the first 30 minutes, doesn’t it?

But I had to get this stuff all cleaned out and dealt with or it would eat me alive. I had to come to peace with so much that I was allowing to be a big deal when it was just part of reality. I had to let go of bad habits and damaging, self-sabotaging behaviour that, until I opened the closet door, had stayed hidden away under the surface always influencing but never showing itself completely. My first real relief from it all came with hijama.

Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said: “Indeed in cupping (hijama) there is a cure.” {Saheeh Muslim (5706)}

You know how you hear people raving about something and you think to yourself, “It can’t be that good”, then you try it out for yourself and realise, it really is that good? That was what hijama was like for me. I went into that clinic thinking that I’d just have a fun experience and probably wouldn’t do it again to walking out on air. I’m trying not to sound over-dramatic but I was literally transformed. Burdens and obsessive thoughts and feelings that I hadn’t been able to shake for years had just fallen away completely. I felt so free. I felt so normal and level-headed, that was the best part. This is something I would highly recommend doing for all new Muslims and Muslims who have never tried it. She only did my sunnah points and hormonal point but what a drastically wonderful difference it made.

And it’s lasted. With so much of the big stuff cleared out of my mind, I’m able to finally put in effective work on my relationships with those around me and myself, my deen, my goals, my interests, my health. So many passions have come back to light up my life after being bogged down. I feel like the woman who I’ve been trying to become for so long. It’s a job I have to do everyday, I don’t get to sit back and relax while perfection just rains down on me. I’m still finding things about myself that I will tweak and I’m still having to stay mindful of my thoughts and actions towards myself and others. It’s all a process but I’m finally making some progress. Of course, I have so much more to do and learn but I’m really happy right now with where I find myself.

I believe that if you really want to see transformation. you have to go through a little bit of chaos for a minute. They say it always gets worse before it gets better which I found to be so true. So don’t get discouraged if your first year as a Muslim finds you in the midst of all kinds of trials. Becoming a better person is not in the interest of shaytaan or your old self. You’ll fight yourself, you’ll face obstacles, you’ll feel like a crazy person. You never felt this way before because you weren’t trying to disturb the beast. But you have now and it’s rearing it’s ugly heard for you to get a good look at. Don’t run away from it though because it’s so much simpler to conquer than it seems. You just need to be persistent, stick to your deen, and place all of the control and trust in Allah (SWT). And go get cupping done, seriously.

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Islam 101, Uncategorized

Islam 101: Halal & Haram

We see these two words a lot online and in books but what do they mean exactly? For all of my new Muslims who aren’t familiar, it’s pretty straight forward. Halal means permissible and haram means forbidden. Doing something haram is committing a sin while doing something halal or more commonly referred to as fard (obligatory) or sunnah (recommended) is doing what we’re allowed or required to do. If something is fard it is basically the standard and what is required of us, so we don’t necessarily get any extra rewards for doing it. Doing something that is Sunnah or mustahabb is doing something that is highly recommended and you can receive reward for it.

Common examples of something haram would be drinking alcohol, eating pork, gossip, and zina. Things that are fard would be eating halal-certified meat (meat slaughtered according to the will of Allah and in His name; more on that here), keeping one’s gaze down around the opposite sex, dressing modestly, praying five times a day and paying zakat.

Sunnah directly means “The way of the Prophet (SAW)”. So the things that he did consistently are considered sunnah such as praying the extra rakats of prayer or starting on the right side of the body when getting dressed. Sunnah actions can also be referred to as mustahabb or naafil. There is also another category called makrooh which means something is disliked and not encouraged. Eating shrimp is considered makrooh as well as giving to someone with your left hand. These are actions that are best left undone but if you do them, it’s not a sin.

When we take an even deeper look into each action that falls under these categories we can see why they have been allowed or forbidden. Alcohol is forbidden because it is toxic to our bodies and also causes us to lose our inhibitions, do bad things, and get ourselves into bad situations. Lowering one’s gaze around the opposite sex is obligatory because it keeps our minds from wandering and prevents us from potentially lusting after someone and acting on that feeling. This is good to keep in mind if we begin to miss doing certain things or if we question why we have to avoid these things. And remember that Allah has only forbidden what is harmful and what will lead us to wrongdoing. This means that there is so much more to a fun life that Islam allows us to explore!

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Islam 101, Uncategorized

Islam 101: Halal Food

Salaam, everyone!

Today I want to talk about what halal means.

If you live in America and did not grow up in a Muslim community or know any Muslims personally, the word “halal” may be completely foreign to you. If you grew up anywhere else in the world, you may be slightly more familiar with the term. Halal is the certification of food that is fit for Muslims to consume. It’s like the kosher label for the Jewish. Pretty simple. So what makes a food halal? Eating halal goes beyond abstaining from pork and alcohol. Most people have a misconception that as long as what a Muslim eats is not those two things, they’re all good. But it’s more than that. We are forbidden to consume any meat or byproduct of meat that is not certified as halal. Halal meat means that the animal was killed in the name of Allah by a cut to the throat and the blood completely drained. This way the animal is killed instantly rather than having to suffer through the process and it is said that the meat is safer to eat because of the absence of blood. Halal food regulators say the animals should be healthy and treated well before they are killed. For example, “the animal must never see another animal being slaughtered nor must it ever see the blade being sharpened,” according to The Halal Catering Company.

Halal also means that there is no alcohol or any intoxicating substance present in food or drink either. So jello, gummy bears, bacon, and Bailey’s are off the table. But that doesn’t mean that we have any less fun with our food. There are so many things we can eat so we aren’t missing out. In fact, the things we are forbidden to eat are forbidden because they are dangerous to our health. Anything that risks our health is wrong to eat or drink like eating too much and only eating junk food. Islam calls for us to eat in moderation, without greed and to eat things that benefit us because we are supposed to eat for nutrition not pleasure.

There are a lot of people out there who try to paint halal meat as unethical. But when it’s a process that specifically calls for animals to be treated well and to reduce the pain and suffering they experience during slaughter, I think it is the most humane way to go. Certainly much better than the mainstream meat industry which chooses to prolong the death of these animals by shocking them before hand. This way the animal is forced to go through a long and painful process before they are blessed with death. Not to mention many of the animals raised for our consumption are mistreated their entire lives. And also (I don’t even want to glorify this crazy claim with a response, but…) there are so many people who believe that the halal meat industry funds terrorism. You guys, we are not obsessed with terrorizing the entire word like certain news outlets wants you to believe. We just want to eat. The halal meat industry is a business like everything else and it doesn’t fund terrorism, that’s a malicious rumour started by scared people.

So, that’s it, that’s all the halal certification is. I hope this explanation was helpful and please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions!

Nahlah

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beauty, Series, Uncategorized

Organic Beauty: Intro

With my own personal experience with beauty and working every day in a salon, I have learned a thing or two about what it takes to be beautiful. And today I want to introduce a new series on the topic of true, organic beauty. I don’t mean organic as in a label that guarantees the health of your products, I mean a beauty that radiates from every fiber of your being. A beauty that upholds integrity and health, that invites people in and embraces them in warmth and love, a beauty that is intoxicating because it is pure and kind-hearted. It is you through and through, no fakery, no homogeneity, just you. So, how do you achieve this kind of beauty?

Like all true beauty, it starts from the heart and mind. Sticking to the 5 pillars of Islam, studying Quran, improving upon oneself, fostering strong and healthy relationships with friends and family, practicing gratitude, controlling your response to your own emotions, seeking knowledge, practicing kindness and compassion, etc. etc. etc. Did you know that it has been said that waking up to pray Fajr on time contributes to a glowing, healthy complexion? Creating strong mental/emotional habits, as well as physical ones that aid in mental/emotional stability and harmony is key to achieving inner beauty that shines through the exterior. For example, I know that getting enough sleep is crucial for me to avoid under eye bags and dull skin, but it is also necessary for a bright and cheery mood and a heart that feels excitement and passion for my life and the people in it. When I compromise on sleep, I turn into a negative and apathetic person with emotions that run rampant.

As a woman, my emotions play a big role in my everyday life and my interactions with others. I have been learning recently how important it is to exercise control over my responses to emotional stimulation. Emotions are not always what they seem; I may feel upset at my husband for something quite menial but if I withhold from reacting and take time to analyze what’s really going on in my mind, I can usually find that that particular emotion is stemming from something entirely different (like hunger, lack of sleep, personal insecurity, etc). When I am disciplined and make myself go to bed early, I am at my best. My mind is clear, my heart is happy, and I have energy to focus on my iman, my work, my health, and my relationships.

This is only an insight to what I would like to talk about in this series. I have so many thoughts on this topic that I cannot possibly force them all into one article. I know you may even be wondering how this has anything to do with Islam. Organic beauty is actually based on many Islamic practices. This isn’t vanity, this isn’t solely focused on the outward appearance and gaining attention for it. This is a philosophy aimed at bettering ourselves and our lives in a way that worships Allah (SWT) and fosters beautiful relationships with ourselves and others. It is the only type of beauty that matters and lasts for the rest of our lives. I can sit here and talk to you about anti-ageing and the best way to apply eyeliner, but we all age eventually and the eyeliner always comes off at the end of the day. These things do nothing for our health, happiness, or character. So, please join me in a journey to learn about achieving a beauty that actually does.

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Islam 101, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Learning to Read All Over Again

Assalamu Alaikum, everyone! One of the fundamental but perhaps most daunting tasks that all new reverts face is learning to read Qur’an. While most born Muslims are given the opportunity to learn while they are young and while their brains are still flexible, those who choose to convert to Islam may find their journey a little less simple. If you are a native English speaker or speaker of any of the Romantic languages, you may find learning to read and write Arabic quite difficult. The way this language is set up is completely different to how we are used to speaking. Aside from the obvious differences in alphabet, pronunciation is on a whole new level with sounds that I have never before had to make. This is what makes learning Arabic fun but also extremely challenging.

As my husband has so patiently told me, learning this language takes time and because the Qur’an has been spread all over the world, pronunciation will differ with everyone. An Arabic person will tell you how to pronounce a certain word much differently than how someone from Malaysia will teach you. And while the way a born Arabic speaker recites the Qur’an is typically the correct way, for almost everyone else in the world the language is so different from their own that it is a struggle to adopt the correct pronunciations for every word. You simply have to exercise patience, practice consistently, and try the best you can. The goal is to be able to ready the Holy Qur’an and to understand its teachings. And, if this offers any bit of comfort, learning to pronounce the letters once they are connected into words is much easier than learning to pronounce the letters individually.

Why am I saying all of this? Because I am having so much difficulty learning to read and pronounce Arabic. English is my first language with Spanish coming in at a close second. Spanish also happens to be in the same family of languages that I am familiar with and I began learning it when I was in elementary school so I have been able to pick it back up easily. Arabic is an entirely different ball game. I am having to learn a new alphabet, new ways of pronouncing things, and new sounds that don’t exist in English or Spanish. Combine all of this with the fact that my Qur’an teacher, who also happens to be my British husband, tends to pronounce th as f. His teaching is wonderful, he’s patient and thorough but even the cultural differences in how we pronounce certain letters has caused some confusion and frustration. He also happened to learn Qur’an the Urdu way which is slightly different. But, I think once we realized that we pronounce certain letters differently, it cleared everything up. I’m laughing right now remembering how seriously he looked at me as he pointed out thaa’ was pronounced with a th like “fhaa” and I couldn’t wrap my head around how that was possible.

It has been a challenge, and we are nowhere near finished but, alhamdulillah that we get to undertake this challenge together through the mercy and goodness of Allah (SWT). So, if you’re feeling stuck or extremely frustrated, just know that this is normal. Instead of giving in to the negative feelings, use them as motivation to conquer these obstacles. If you need to, slow it down and focus on perfecting one letter a day. And remember that there are plenty of free resources online, especially YouTube, that are fantastic (and free) which are perfect for if you are trying to teach yourself. If you can, try to find local classes or a generous brother or sister willing to help teach you. I find that practicing with someone who has gone through it themselves is so much more helpful than trying to carry on by yourself. I pray that Allah (SWT) will guide each and every one of you through this journey and that your hearts will be filled with love and praise for Him as you learn to read His words.

Thank you,

Nahlah

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Islam 101, Uncategorized

Islam 101: Making the Most of Prayer

So, more than likely, you already know the basics of prayer. If not, there is a very helpful WikiHow tutorial that you can follow for the steps to the obligatory prayer. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I finally memorized all of the recitations and two surahs. It was such a relief not to have to glance at the words on my phone and to pray wholeheartedly, completely focused on worshiping Allah (SWT). But, as with everything, there is always room for growth. For example, were you aware that there are sunnah (recommended) and fard (required) rakats to each prayer? That’s right. The 2-4-4-3-4 rakats of the 5 obligatory prayers can be supplemented with extra rakats. It looks like this:

Fajr= 2 sunnah + 2 fard

Dhuhr= 4 sunnah + 4 fard + 2 sunnah

Asr= 4 sunnah + 4 fard

Maghrib= 2 sunnah + 3 fard + 2 sunnah

Isha= 2 sunnah + 4 fard+ 2 sunnah

Now, it’s not required to recite these extra rakats but it is highly recommended and can greatly enhance your prayer. I know that there are times where we may not feel like going the extra mile but think of much time there is in each day and then think of what you spend most of your free time doing. While some people have children and activities which make taking extra time for prayer difficult, I myself have quite a lot of free time and have found that if I can dedicate time to reading or browsing the internet, I can make more time in my life for my iman. Allah (SWT) does so much for us, asking us to willingly volunteer a few more minutes of our 24 hour day is such a small request. Here are some other steps to take to not only ensure that your prayer is valid but also, that you are making the most of this sacred time.

Disclaimer: Some of these may seem obvious to most of you, but these tips are more for my fellow reverts who haven’t grown up around Islam. The practices can be a lot to take in and certainly a lot to remember at one time.

  1. Make sure there are no photos or replicas of living things (humans and animals) in the room or if there are, make sure they are covered or turned around.
  2. Both Dhuhr and Asr are recited silently.
  3. Make sure the area and the clothes you are praying in are as clean as possible.
  4. Keep your focus on the front of your prayer mat to avoid distraction.
  5. Men should be covered from the navel to the ankles but it is customary to also cover the the torso, upper arms, and in some cultures the head. They should also make sure their trousers don’t extend below their ankles. Women should be covered with exceptions for the hands and face, and the clothing should be loose.
  6. After Fajr and Maghrib, recite “Allahumma Ajirni Minan Naar” which translates to “Oh Allah, protect me from hellfire!”
  7. When you go down to the ground, go straight into sujood. When you sit up, make sure you rest one hand flat on each thigh.
  8. You only have to recite the takbeer, Surah al-Fatiha and the following surahs aloud. Everything else can be recited to oneself.
  9. Pray as soon as the adhan is sounded (whether that is from the local masjid or the alarm on your phone) or as soon as possible. Don’t delay. Approaching prayer in a timely and enthusiastic manner not only increases your reward but also allows you to focus fully on worshiping Allah (SWT) and allows you to take your time and pray correctly and make any dua that you need to make.
  10. Take time to incorporate the sunnah prayers before the fard prayers. An easy way to start is with the sunnah prayer before fajr. Since both are made up of only two rakats, it is quick and makes for a positive start to your day. The Prophet (SAW) made sure that no matter what, he prayed the two sunnah rakats before fajr. The surahs to be recited during this sunnah prayer are Surah Al-Ikhlas and Surah Al-Kafirun.
  11. Recite Surah Ibrahim (14: 40-41) after the second tashahhud and durood sharif (As-salaah al-Ibraaheemiyyah).
  12. Make sure that toes are pointing forward when in sujood as well as hands. Keep elbows off of the ground and don’t rest your stomach on your thighs.
  13. It is so helpful to learn the meanings of what you are reciting. I find that this helps me to keep my focus and to pray with a better intention.
  14. Don’t make your intention to pray out loud, it is to be made in your heart so that you do not make a false intention. It is also considered an innovation by some scholars which would make it haram.
  15. Speaking of innovation, if you are unsure of what to do during prayer or forget something don’t make it up as you go. It is permissible and actually mentioned in a Hadith that if one makes a mistake during prayer or loses focus, they can start over.
  16. This article is really helpful if you are someone who often gets distracted or forgets things during prayer.

I hope that these little tips prove to be of some use in performing your daily prayers in the future. They are small details that I feel can be left out when first learning everything. Oftentimes, because they are so used to it, born Muslims may forget to teach you these things or you may not find the advice readily available on the internet because to most, it seems like common sense. Don’t worry or feel pressure to learn all of these at once. Take your time and focus on keeping a pure intention and praying wholeheartedly. Allah (SWT) knows you are learning and trying your best and you will make mistakes, but what matters is how you go about correcting and learning from them. As always, if you have anything to add to the list above or any corrections, please let me know below!

Thank you,

Nahlah

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

Thriving Alone During Ramadan

Assalaamu Alaikum everyone!

We are 5 days away from Eid al-Fitr which means Ramadan is almost finished. It was my goal to fill this blog with articles before and during the holy month with helpful tips and lessons that I’ve learned. Instead, life took over and I became fully immersed in simply trying to experience and make it through the month. In reality, life does not stop for times such as these. If I could have had it my way, I would have spent this month with my husband and his family overseas. I would have opted to bypass all of the stressful hurdles that come with life change so that this month I could have focused solely on my iman and staying on my deen. I would have surrounded myself with friends and family who are of the same faith and lifestyle as myself instead of eating iftar alone.

I won’t lie and say it’s been easy. Ramadan is a time that emphasizes spending time with our loved ones and sharing in this fast together. When your family is not on the same path as you and if you’ve struggled to make friends in the local Muslim community, this seems like the perfect time to feel self pity. It’s easy to feel down and alone, like you’re struggling. But you can’t. Ramadan isn’t simply about family, it’s also about personal growth in our iman, a commitment to our deen, charity, worship, and prayer. This is definitely not the time to feel sorry for oneself no matter the situation. I know that it’s difficult, especially when you can see families eating together and celebrating Eid together and when you see friends spending time together to distract each other from the hunger. When you don’t have that, it seems like the most precious thing in the world and it’s all you want. So how do you thrive during this holy month when you don’t have that?

As I’ve gone through this month, I’ve found that this time alone is a blessing. The only distractions are ones that I choose to let in so I have no excuse to miss my prayers or to neglect studying the Quran or to forget about charity. Being alone, there is less a chance to be influenced into negative behaviours. I learned that creating a healthy, productive schedule for the day starting with suhoor puts us in the direction we want to walk in for the rest of the day. Don’t rush, take your time with preparing the food and eating. I like to keep this meal simple, healthy, and easy to digest. I follow this same mentality with iftar as we are told to eat for nutrition and avoid excess. I make sure to drink plenty of water throughout the evening and early morning so that I do not find myself overly dehydrated during daylight hours.

This is also a wonderful chance to commit to praying on time and with great care. Take the extra time to pray the sunnah prayers as well and memorize a few supplications so you can make dua by heart. After your prayers and if you have time, study the Quran. During this month, I would recommend letting go of modern entertainment and look to Islamic books and speeches instead. As you are going about your day, listen to Islamic speakers and podcasts to fill the silence but to also learn and find solace in the fact that you truly aren’t alone in this world. Many of these episodes and speeches can be perfectly applied to everyday life and can give you much encouragement if you are feeling down or lost.

If you are blessed to have family and friends close by whom you love and enjoy spending time with, make an effort to be around them. Even if they are not Muslim, being in their company still gives you a chance to practice compassion, educate if they are curious, and establish good representation for the Islamic faith and lifestyle. If you do not have family and friends close by, find ways to volunteer around your community. You can also reach  out to your local masjid to see if they hold any classes for women or if they have any female activities.

You can also develop a daily routine and stick to it, no matter what. This will encourage you to be productive and not spend the day in bed, although it is so tempting! Set a goal for yourself this month like reading through the entire Quran, learning Quran, reading through a good Islamic lifestyle book, writing, creating art, deep cleaning your house, spending time with a neighbour in need, learning something new, etc. Make sure to get adequate sleep, take naps if you have to, and don’t stay up later than necessary. Cook real food for iftar and suhoor and make sure they are balanced and healthy meals. If you have a day off, cook a lot of food that day and freeze it so that you can save time and energy on cooking every day.

I’ve seen a lot of posts lately surrounding the topic of self-care. Most of these center on buying gimmicky products and treating ourselves to unhealthy habits. While buying a new face mask and indulging on that cupcake from that one Instagram-worthy bakery (or during this month, binge-watching Netflix) can make you feel good temporarily, Ramadan is not about these quick fixes and over-indulgences. To me Ramadan is a time to focus on lasting, beneficial change. Throughout this month, I’ve come to realize that my attitude needs adjusting sometimes, I can be self-centered, I put too much time into worthless things, I practice a few bad habits, and I’m not as committed to my deen as I could be. So my version of self-care is to stop with the self-sabotage. It looks like eating healthy, small meals and going to bed on time only after praying on time. It also looks like working on my attitude and putting the petty away when she tries to come out and play. It looks like not complaining about horrible drivers during my commute to work (I’ve failed at this practically every day). It looks like being quiet and listening instead. It looks like reading good books that call me out on my negative habits (Purification of the Heart, anyone?). It looks like loving my husband unconditionally and treating him with as much respect and care as he deserves. It looks like being grateful for all that I have been given and all that is to come. It looks like being positive. It looks like taking naps instead of perusing the internet. It looks like putting my all into my work and not half-heartedly approaching anything. It looks like self-discipline in the face of anything. It looks like letting go of control and trusting in Allah (SWT) to take care of it all.

I am not sure if I would have realized all of this if I had not been alone. To sit and reflect on oneself and life without distraction is such a beautiful gift. Through all of this, my eyes have been opened to so much and I could not be more grateful. As I said before, it is easy to feel the sting of loneliness and descend in to self-pity. But that will lead to nowhere. I believe aloneness is a gift from Allah (SWT) to recenter and focus us on what matters. It is a gentle but effective way to remind us to return to the practices He has commanded of us and to see so very clearly, the areas in which we need development. I hope that for all of my sisters out there who have experienced being alone or struggling through this Ramadan, Allah (SWT) brings you happiness and peace. Have a blessed Ramadan!

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

What to Expect When You Cover Your Hair in America

Every revert’s story is different. We all come from different backgrounds and lifestyles which can greatly determine the level of ease our assimilation into this new life will have. This is such a deep and individual process that for this article I will stick to the basics of what a female revert will probably experience when she starts covering her hair. What can you expect from the world around you? From your friends and family? From future employers and strangers?

I’m going to be real with you. As I’m sure you already know, there is a lot of misinformation and fear-mongering surrounding Islam that I hope to dispel as I continue writing on this blog. Your decision to embark on this journey is not going to go down well with a lot of people. It is very realistic to assume that your family will express disappointment in you, maybe even go so far as to cut you off. You will see friends that start to avoid you or pretend to be interested but slowly fade away. Coworkers will question your decision and, perhaps crack jokes or make you feel silly for it. If you choose to cover your hair, you can expect to have to learn how to control every word that comes out of your mouth. People will feel uncomfortable around you and you will be subjected to a level of surveillance that no one else has to go through. You will get dirty looks while you’re in the grocery store minding your own business. If you work with the public, you can most certainly expect comments ranging from curious to ignorant to downright degrading.

People will all of a sudden think that it is appropriate to discuss topics with you that they would avoid with anyone else. There will be people who think that simply because you cover your hair, that you are open and comfortable with discussing hijab and women’s rights in Islam. All of a sudden, you will become a poster child for hijabis and Islam, whether you like it or not. You will also meet people who feel that it is their own, personal mission to “save” you. They will see you as oppressed and confused, in need of confidence and freedom. They will feign concern for your well-being and worry about your own personal decisions. They will attempt to be saviours who debate with you until you see the light. And there will be some people who won’t talk to you at all and some who will be a little too friendly.

I will also advise that you use caution if you are going out alone in certain areas of the States. I don’t recommend going out alone once the sun has set and use your discretion when going into certain places. The key is to know where you are welcome and to use common sense. I live in the southern United States which means that there are certain restaurants and stores that cater to a group of people who have a tendency to hate Muslims. There are certain cities nearby that have a very small population and consist of the same type of people. I will not find any allies in these areas so I stay away. 9/11 didn’t just hurt and kill the Americans in those buildings. It brought on terror, threats, and death to the Americans who just so happened to be true followers of the religion that an evil group of men used as a scapegoat to commit terrorism. While American Muslims prayed, provided aid, and condemned the acts of these men, America turned on them and has sought to hold innocent people accountable ever since. There are too many stories of Muslims being harassed and killed here to take anything lightly now.

Life as a hijabi in the States isn’t a living nightmare but it does require some adjusting to how you would normally interact with others and carry yourself. I have personally chosen not to talk in depth about my faith with others. If they ask then I will answer, but it stops at that. Don’t make apologies for your beliefs or try to explain or justify any of your decisions. You don’t need to prove to anyone that you are an empowered woman with your hijab. You don’t need to reassure anyone that you are free or that you feel beautiful and confident. We should have love and patience for everyone that we come across, but we should not sacrifice our beliefs or well-being to cater to the ego of someone who chooses to remain ignorant and hateful in a world that offers plenty of opportunity to be the opposite. I love America and I am so grateful that I was born here, but this love for my country doesn’t mean that I should refrain from reality. Islam has given me so much more freedom and passion for life than I’ve ever had before. I cover my hair proudly now and I am so proud of each and every one of you beautiful women who have chosen the same path. This is a beautiful journey that brings so many benefits and as with every beautiful thing, there are those who try to stifle it. Trust in Allah (SWT), hold your head high, be prepared, and speak the truth.

Ps: And you know what else you can expect? The flood of support and love you will receive from other hijabis whether it’s on the street, in the store, online, in the masjid, etc. You are going to face some negativity but you will always have a support system of other Muslims behind you. Don’t forget that.

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Islam 101, Uncategorized

Islam 101: Dining Etiquette

Assalaamu Alaikum!

I wanted to write an article that plays off of yesterday’s. One detail about the Islamic lifestyle that I don’t believe is transparent enough to reverts is dining etiquette. It’s simple and straightforward but if you are not surrounded by other Muslims who are willing to take the time to point these things out to you, how are you going to know?

There are quite a few details so I will write them all out as a list so nothing gets lost in translation.

  1. Before you begin eating, say Bismillah Irahmaan Iraheem.Β This means “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”. This essentially blesses the food and is equivalent to a Christian’s prayer before eating. If you forget and have already begun eating, say “Bismillahi Awwalahu Wa Aakhirahu”. This means “In the name of Allah at the beginning and at the end.”
  2. Only eat with the right hand as it is the most honoured hand and it is seen as very rude to eat with the left. A full explanation can be found here.
  3. It is very common in Muslim households to eat with one’s actual hand, no utensils. I have found that my new Muslim friends and family are very considerate and always provide me with utensils to eat with. But honestly, I prefer eating with my hand now too. It’s more efficient and after awhile, you get used to it and utensils become a burden. Ever forgotten to grab a fork? No problem now.
  4. This one is pretty common sense and you probably already practice this one: wash your hands before eating!
  5. Eat the food that is directly in front of you. No reaching in front of other people to grab a bite or taking from your neighbor’s plate.
  6. Once you have finished eating, say “Alhamdulillah.” This means “Praise God.”
  7. Wash your hands and rinse your mouth after eating.
  8. You should always eat whilst sitting. This is sunnah and also recommended by scientists as it aids in fully digesting one’s food. This should also be done when drinking liquids. There have also been some studies that claim standing while drinking is bad for the joints.
  9. Take what is offered to you (unless you suffer from a severe allergy or insensitivity) and do not criticize the food.
  10. It is preferred to eat in a group and to converse about subjects all across the board, as long as they are halal.
  11. Eat in moderation! This keeps you from feeling sick but also takes pressure off of your digestive system which can cause issues along the way if not done. One way I make sure to do this is to take half of the portion I believe I need. I also avoid empty calories and stick to meals that are primarily vegetables and protein. Also another reason to eat with other people and to talk to them is so that you give your body time to digest what you are eating and this allows you to feel full faster.
  12. Obviously, eat only food that is considered halal. I am currently working on an article that gives all the details of halal food and debunks some of the myths people believe about it. It should be up within the next week, insha’Allah!
  13. It is preferred that you do not drink water with your meal as it can mess with digestion.
  14. And lastly, avoid gold and silver dishware as it is haram.

So, there you go. The 14 rules of Muslim dining etiquette. I have a feeling I probably missed something so if I did, please add the missing rule below and I will add it to the list! If you would like a more in-depth explanation of the above bullet points and the Hadith that support them, you can find it all here.

I hope that this post was helpful and that these tips will come easy to you. Bon appetit!

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