Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Palm shot, gulf-style henna design. Henna is the hand and fingernail decor of choice in this culture because the people here believe that since water can't penetrate fingernail polish, their wudu would be considered invalid. Since henna is a stain and penetrable by water they consider it acceptable. Posted by Hello

Gulf-style henna design. Posted by Hello

Monday, June 20, 2005

Khaleeji-style Niqab (facial veil). Posted by Hello

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Junk Mail

I look back at all of the mail that used to bombard our household every day when we lived in America. I can’t believe the piles of mail I used to have to go through. It was like a full time job.

First, you have to go get the mail from the mail box. Then you have to open all of it. Then you have to divide it up into the appropriate piles; Which things are junk and need to be thrown in the trash? Which bills should we pay first (most Americans cannot afford to pay all bills at once)? Which ones must be delayed until next pay cheque? Which ones are overdue?

Then, you must carefully write out all of the cheques, record the amount in the cheque book, return-address each envelope, stamp each envelope, and file all bill records into the appropriate files, mainly for tax purposes.

Alhumdulillah, living out of the States is teaching me that there is Another Way. I had stressors there I wasn’t even conscious of! You would think a simple thing like the mail would be just that, a simple thing. Now that I don’t have any, I realize how unnecessarily stressful, the mail is in the States.

Here in Qatar, I go to the post office and get my mail, hmm, perhaps one time every 2 weeks. There are usually 3-4 letters; usually something from the family back home, a bank statement once in a while, and maybe one advertisement. Qatar does not provide home delivery of mail. Everyone has P.O.boxes, and there are no zip codes.

We don’t pay rent. We don’t pay utilities (electricity, water, and trash are paid for by my employer). We get a phone bill once every three months, which we pay for in-person, with cash.

It feels so great to be free of all of that mail. Wow, how could we stand it?

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I became Muslim less than a year before September 11th. Just like everyone, September 11 really effected me. I saw the hatred in the attacks, but then also so much hatred towards anyone of foreign nationality who might appear Muslim in America. For goodness sakes, they shot dead some poor brothers who were Sikhs!

At this point in time, a lot of Muslim sisters in my city were (justifiably) afraid to come out of their houses for fear of hate crimes towards them. I was one of these sisters. However, being a “revert” to Islam, I had the “advantage” of not being a foreigner. I could just take off my hejab (headscarf and modest manner of dressing) and “blend in", so to speak, and “seem normal” to everyone (a.k.a., exercise my “white privilege”). But the fear of rejection goes deeper than just the fear of my community rejecting, ostracizing, or even hating me. I was also gravely afraid of telling my (Christian) family that I had embraced Islam. Yes, I hid the fact that I was Muslim from my parents for 3 ½ years after I formally embraced Islam. Actually, I’m not sure if my father even knows I’m Muslim, I’ve discussed it with my mother and just assumed she told him. But that’s another blog posting.

We moved to a new neighborhood in our city right after September 11th. I decided to create a new identity there as a “normal American”, not as “one of them”. My behavior was completely motivated by fear.

When I took off my hejab in the fall of 2001, it was as if one moment I was an African American and the next moment I had become White. People treated me in a dramatically different, racist manner with my hejab on. For instance, I got a lot of uncomfortable stares from total strangers, and a couple of times strange men drove up to my car while I was stopped at traffic lights and yelled obscenities at me. The whole point of wearing hejab/modest dress is not to attract attention to oneself, and now it was attracting what I felt was too much attention. So, after experiencing that oppressive treatment, I have to admit that it felt good to take it off and be “invisible” again.

I went back to what was “culturally comfortable” and did what I had perceived to be “more safe” by attending the Catholic Church and singing in the choir (there actually was a plot against our Mesjid to blow it up). Also, a wonderful Muslim man in our community, and other articulate Muslims and the lawyers who defended them, started getting put in jail purely for their political beliefs.

I continued practicing Islam. The pillars of Islam include believing that there is no other God but God, and that Mohamed (peace be upon him) is a prophet of God; making the five-times daily prayer; giving to the needy; fasting during Ramadan; and praying that someday God will make it possible that I could make the pilgrimage to Mecca, the site of the first house of God built by father Abraham and his son.

Technically I was still practicing Islam; Sociological orientation, i.e. looking “Muslim” or looking “Midwestern-American” has nothing to do with what is in one’s heart. Attending a Christian church because it’s unsafe to attend the official Muslim place of worship, the Mesjid, doesn’t make one an unbeliever. My heart and my mind were still firmly rooted in Islam. Once a person can see past the literal interpretations of other religions, there is actually a lot one can benefit from by contemplating upon their symbology. Although I don’t believe Jesus (peace and blessings be upon him) was God, I do believe he was a very special prophet of God. Christians, especially Catholics, meditate quite heavily on the idea of the crucified Christ.

This idea bears profound spiritual concepts that were exceptionally comforting to me during this time of my life. Most importantly, I learned to surrender my Ego and trust that God will come through no matter how terrible life seems at the moment; not to lose Faith in God, and to remain Hopeful. Although Jesus was totally innocent of the crimes he was accused of, (in fact he was a remarkably perfect human being), he was treated unjustly, and brutally tortured, to the point of death. When he was receiving the 39 lashes, did he curse God? No. When his friends betrayed him, did he lose faith? No. When he suffered the most painful torture by being nailed to the cross, what did he do? He prayed and asked for God to forgive the people doing this to him!

Still, I couldn’t help feeling oppressed, really disappointed, and angry that the responsible and safe thing to do was to outwardly hide that I was Muslim.

Perhaps a good analogy of what happened to me is that of the caterpillar. She is a caterpillar, and as a caterpillar, all she knows and feels is that she must eat so she can grow strong. Since she is an insect, without a will or conscious thought, she has no knowledge of what she is to become. She only knows her present urges and instincts. How could she imagine the beautiful creature she is to become, or what it will take for her to be transformed? Then one day she is nice and fat and her instincts tell her to spin a cocoon, so she spins it around herself and is stuck inside.

Now, all of this time while she is inside the cocoon, what is she thinking? “Why did I do this to myself? I was so happy out there as a caterpillar, eating those leaves! It’s too dark in here. I can’t move! I have an itch, and I can’t scratch it”, etc., right? All of this time, her Ego blinds her to the fact that it was Allah’s will for her to be in that cocoon, at that precise place at that precise moment. To be in this crystalis, to metamorphosize, was her destiny.

Alhumdulillah (praise God), after one year here in Qatar I feel like I am a butterfly that has just emerged from her cocoon. This is a wonderful place for many reasons, especially because here I am able to “open my wings and soar”, without fear, flying freely as the beautiful butterfly Allah has transformed me into.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Listen to the story told by the reed of being separated.

Since I was cut from the reed bed
I have made this crying sound. Anyone
separated from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back.

At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing
and the grieving, a friend to each.

But few will hear the secrets
hidden within the notes.

No ears for that.
Body flowing out of Spirit.
Spirit flowing from body.

No concealing that mixing,
But it's not given us to see the soul.

The reed flute is fire, not wind.
Be that empty.

Hear the love-fire tangled in the notes
as bewilderment melts into wine.

This reed is a friend to all
who want the fabric torn and drawn away.

The reed is hurt and salve combining.
Intimacy and longing for intimacy, one song.

A disasterous surrender
and a fine love, together.

-Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi