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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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, 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

The Golden Rule

Something I find so refreshing about Islam is our respect for the beliefs of other people. Despite the media’s attempts to paint us all as radical enforcers of Sharia law, we are generally a very easygoing bunch. While there is a passion for sharing our faith, I have never found it to be forceful or unnecessary. In most cases, I believe most Muslims keep to themselves, focusing more on their own faith (or that of fellow Muslims) than the faith of a non-Muslim. On the contrary, growing up in the Christian church, the act of witnessing to people whether they welcomed it or not was highly encouraged. Witnessing activities played a big role in the youth group I attended and I remember inwardly cringing as I tried to participate as little as possible. It wasn’t the act of telling people about God or doing good for the community, it was the pushiness that this particular church acted with that didn’t align with something inside of me. It didn’t feel right. I could almost read the thoughts going through people’s heads as they were bombarded with more information than they had asked for. I’m positive they had heard it all before and were simply trying to be polite. Aggressively sharing one’s beliefs is often more intimidating than effective and I find that it pushes more people away than it draws in. So I found it quite the relief when I learned that this is not a common practice in most Muslim communities. I saw instead an influence on charity and doing good in the community. We are to live our lives as if we were billboards for our faith. This is not to say that all Muslims are perfect and have never forced their faith on anyone. Like in every belief system, there are radicals with a misguided view of their religion and what is right. Let’s get one thing straight, radical Islam is not Islam. A radical Muslim is someone who has taken the sacred words of the Holy Quran and twisted them to fit their own evil narrative. Just as neo-Nazis and white supremacists twist the words of the Bible and everyone else to suit their agenda. This is also not to point fingers at all Christians as being the way I’ve described above. My family attended a particularly proactive evangelical church that often times put their own agenda ahead of the needs of others. This does not represent true Christian values as found in the New Testament of the Bible. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many Christians who hold the same values. There are so many good, kind-hearted people in these communities who truly want to help others and they are the ones who make the biggest impact. 

I believe we can all learn from this. If you want to make a difference and spread a message that you deem is important, lead by example. You won’t accomplish anything if you intimidate, harass, disregard boundaries, or even try to bring up your religion every time you speak with someone. We must respect what other people choose to believe. We don’t have to agree with it but must allow them to live how they see fit (as long as it does not cause harm to anyone). The best way to show them the truth is to let them see you thrive and be a good person because of that truth. Words mean nothing to anyone. We’ve all heard people make claims but to see someone’s actions that make them stand out in a good way really drives the message further. In my own life, I am surrounded by non-Muslims of all different backgrounds which presents a wonderful opportunity to impact their lives in a positive way, alhumdulillah. If I live the way I should, these people can look at me and see a positive example of Islam, insha’Allah, and I may be the only real Muslim they’ll ever interact with. This is a necessity here in the US because most people only associate us with 9/11, the news, or TV shows that depict us as radical jihadists. In other words, they really don’t know us or what we stand for at all. We have to be willing to learn and be more understanding of those who are different than us. These differences should not pit us against each other so violently. We don’t have to all be the same, but there are some value that we all hold in common and if we want to spread those values, we must be united. At the end of the day, we are all more alike than we realize and we should treat everyone the way we would like to be treated. It’s the golden rule and it is more  necessary now than ever before.

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Thoughts, Uncategorized

Imposter Syndrome: Revert Edition

When I first reverted, I was alone. I found myself in an area that was very much lacking in a strong Muslim community and so resorted to internet research and books to grow in my deen. It wasn’t until I met my husband, that I finally had the opportunity to connect with other sisters and brothers in Islam. I traveled to London to meet his family and felt like I blended in as soon as I landed. There were women in hijab EVERYWHERE. No one was giving me dirty looks, I was invisible, and I loved it. But something also happened, I started to feel like an imposter. Sitting there with my husband’s wonderful family, getting to know everyone, I realized how little I actually knew about Islam and how underdeveloped my iman actually was. I had so much to learn and part of me began to feel almost foolish due to my lack of knowledge. How could I sit there wearing hijab and claim to be Muslim when I knew so little?

Another factor that I believe contributes to this imposter syndrome, is how synonymous culture has become with Islam; specifically cultures arising from Asian and Arabic countries. Growing up in America, raised by a Black/Native American mother and a German/Welsh father, I shared a similar upbringing and lifestyle with many of my fellow mixed, American peers. Our culture here typically derives from a Christian background with a primarily secular lifestyle. Joining a new family and being surrounded by beautiful people from a completely different culture and a faith still new to me was fascinating and I am so grateful for it. But I cannot lie and pretend like I felt I belonged here. Just as the hijab set me apart from most people in the southern United States, my background and nationality felt quite alienating in my new Muslim family. Naturally, people who claim the same culture have a much closer bond. When I come across other mixed girls or other members of my family’s tribe, the connection is so much stronger then in my interactions with others. It’s simply how things are. So being a fairly new revert with distinctively different features from those around me, a Christian upbringing and an American accent felt so uncomfortably visible in a primarily Asian and Arabic community.

I began to feel the same way on social media as I followed more and more Muslim women. In every post I saw gorgeous traditions and cultural practices, and it seemed like everyone connected over these things so much more than anything else. Everyone I met had been born into a Muslim family, so all of this was so normal and essential to who they were. They were well-practiced Muslims who were familiar with the lifestyle and the teachings to back it up. I felt like I was playing dress up, trying to join the party. I didn’t have much in common with anyone around me here, no familiar life experiences or similar upbringing, simply a shared faith. Could I ever belong? Probably not. I can appreciate this culture but it will never be my culture. I can love the people so dearly but I will never be one of them. I can be obsessed with the traditions and the style of dress but it’s not my style. And that’s okay. Because being a Muslim has NOTHING to do with culture.

Islam is a religion, a set of beliefs that are set apart from culture. Anyone can be Muslim because you don’t have to be born into it, Alhamdulillah! Allah (SWT) has brought you into this faith, so you do belong no matter how you feel. The key is to remain humble. You will not know everything when you revert, you won’t know everything one year after you revert, and you STILL won’t know everything 50 years after you revert. It is about being humble, pursuing knowledge, and putting that newfound knowledge to practice over and over and over again. You are not joining a new culture, you are joining the Ummah (Muslim community). This community encompasses so many cultures from all over the world. It is a very intricately woven, vibrant web of people coming from so many different backgrounds to join together in worshiping the one true God. It is very easy to come across cultural traditions from primarily Arabic and Asian countries and think that this is what Islam is. And when we focus on these cultures, it becomes exclusionary. That is one of the many great beauties of Islam: that so many different people can come together and share this faith and this struggle. Islam does not exclude those that God has brought into it, Alhamdulillah.

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Islam 101

Islam 101: The Little Things Series

We are never experts when we take our first steps. Islam has done a fine job of teaching me this from day one. For any of us who have grown up in religion, we don’t ever realize the complications and details of what we have been privileged to be born into. I grew up in a devout Christian family, every aspect of this religion and lifestyle permeated everything around me. When I look back at the way things were and still are for many in that particular faith, I still see it as easy and simple. Looking forward to the faith I embrace now, I am constantly confused and learning. And I can’t begin to count up how many times I’ve felt like a fraud and complete dunce. I envy those like my husband who have grown up in Muslim families. They are truly blessed! But I am also enjoying this journey as a new Muslim. I love that it still excites me, I love that I have been humbled enough to know that I don’t know it all and that I still have to seek out knowledge. Alhamdulillah, I haven’t grown complacent and I haven’t had to struggle to keep my iman high yet.

So with that said, I want to introduce a series centered around all the little things I wish I had known and am still learning about Islam. There are so many tiny details that are difficult to find in plain words. If you’re like me and living in an Islam-deficient city, it’s almost impossible to find classes or friends to help guide you along! What comes after taking shahada? That is my mission here and practically the backbone of this site. I have no clue what I’ll be tackling first but stay tuned!

Assalaamu Alaikum,

Nahlah

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