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Ayah’s Opinions On…

Just random thoughts that come out of my head whilst commuting across this massive campus!

Woahjabi…

I want to talk to you guys about an AMAZING opportunity that you guys can be a part of. And yes, I’m using this blog for shameless marketing but it is for a purpose that I really believe in. Noura, also known as Princess Noura on Facebook, started a project called Woahjabi. It’s centered around Muslim Female Empowerment using digital outlets. In this day and age, everyone watches instead of reads, and everyone is affected by what they see.

Twenty-four percent of worldwide news is about women, but unfortunately only 2-14% actually challenges stereotypes. And 91% of Muslims coverage in the media is negative. So not only do we get the repercussions of being Muslim, we also get more because we are women. This is where Noura and I come in- we’re working together to create some digital material to be able to help combat the negative perceptions put on Muslim women. This isn’t simply a response to the media, but it’s also a platform to empower Muslim women.

Here are our meeting times for the Semester:

4/1/2015 Wednesday 7:30 PM 8:45 PM BSC BSC 116 C
4/3/2015 Friday 5:00 PM 7:00 PM BSC BSC 116 C
4/15/2015 Wednesday 7:30 PM 8:45 PM BSC BSC 116 C
4/29/2015 Wednesday 7:30 PM 8:45 PM BSC BSC 117

Like us on Facebook here, and find out what awesome events we have coming up and how you could help!!

The Idea of God

For the past couple hundred years belief in God has decreased drastically for many reasons. One of the most common reasons I’ve heard is that how could God create a universe with as much suffering as there is today? Why would a god allow so many children to die of starvation, cold, war, and so much more? And so for that reason, if there is a god, then He is a cruel one who would allow such pain when He has the ability to stop it. I was reading To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf earlier this morning, and the main character complained about the idea of God, and said that if there was a god than there would be happiness and it would last forever, and life would be more stable.

These ideas are understandable, but I feel that the idea of life is misunderstood and thus the idea of God is distorted as well. We are born with so many abilities. We have the power of sight, we can see colors and beauty. We don’t have to command our eyes to see, or walk them through the process of seeing. We don’t have to command the molecules and atoms to do their jobs. We don’t have to do that for any part of our body. All the sciences are just examples of blessings we’ve received without actually having to do anything. We didn’t wish or work for the blessing of life, so shouldn’t we at least work for eternal happiness, and blessings?  In what relationship is it okay to take and take and not give?

As humans we always gravitate towards what is stable and easy, and that is natural and right. It is also the final goal. But what is easy is not a life without guidelines and doing what the heart desires. It’s not easy, but the final goal means having self-control in praying on time, fasting, being humble, being pure-hearted, well-intentioned, and all the other values we’re taught to have.

Someone once asked me if I believed in karma, and I said that I do but in a wider circle than what is usually assumed. I do believe that what bad you do comes back to you, but if it doesn’t come in this life it comes in the next. So for all those suffering any type of pain or hardship, they will get back what they deserve–maybe not in this life, but definitely in the next, Insha Allah. And all those who cause pain, hardship, or injustice may die in this life wealthy and powerful, but will get the punishment they deserve in the next.

This life is about patience, consistency, and determination. Don’t give up, and keep strong in your belief and reliance on Allah.

Love,

Ayah

You Got This

I decided to clean my room today. Yes, this is blog-worthy news.

I sat down on my bed and decided to show my sister-in-law my new journal, which led me to showing her why my old one didn’t work, which led me to showing her my past journaling attempts, which led me to looking through and reading every piece of poetry I had in my bag of memories (If you move enough times you learn to consolidate stuff well). Obviously, I didn’t want to clean my room.

Anyway, I moved to Jordan for my last two years of high school, and I documented all of my bad memories. Every sad moment. And all my doodles when class was boring. I began reading through them and they were all fine- I mean I knew what I had written until I reached the last poem which was about two pages typed. All of the bad memories, and how hard what I went through was really hit me. I thought it was interesting that I went through the stuff that I did, because I could have never guessed it and I still can’t believe it. It was really weird because I simply couldn’t get out of it. When you go through something bad, you just stay away from it, right? Or at least you try. But I couldn’t. I still understand why I couldn’t but all of the reasons were so wrong.

I’m not writing about this because I want to share my feelings and make you feel super uncomfortable, but I want to share the lessons I learned.

First of all, you can ALWAYS get out of a bad situation. ALWAYS. I read this really interesting quote at someone’s office by Winston Churchill: “Never give up on something that you can’t go a day without thinking about.” Churchill is right, but here’s a variation: LET GO of something if it hurts you everyday. You’re miserable, you’re not becoming better because of it, you’re not helping people or yourself grow and you’re not fulfilling your potential! Go do what you need to do!

Second of all, the experiences you go through change you in ways you could never even comprehend or imagine. I think it made me realize that while I love learning, science, painting, cooking, and so much more, I really wanted to be a social worker. I want to empower people. I want to help them become the best they can. I won’t leave my other dreams, and sometimes I may even abandon social work for them, but I don’t think I would have ever thought of Social Work.

Also, on that same point, the entire experience really messed me up for a year or two after, and I forced myself to go to therapy. (Note: I’m not embarrassed of this. I’m proud of it.) And I really went through the some of my issues. I changed the way I think. The way I viewed life. I gained a healthier way of looking at relationships and life in general. I became better, not perfect, but better. Better is good enough right now. I don’t think I would have ever improved in this way if it hadn’t been for that experience.

Third of all, I remember a lot of tears and moments of “I’m going to be miserable for the rest of my life,” and you know what? It’s three years later, and I’m not in that situation anymore. Just a reminder that if you’re going through something, don’t worry. As much as you feel like your heart will break, as much as you feel like you won’t be happy ever again, as much as you contemplate whether sadness is a constant part of life, you WILL get better. You will get out of that moment. You’ll have another day where the sun will shine. I recently watched Cast Away (AMAZING movie!), and at the end the guy talks about his experiences, and what kept him going:

“The only choice I had,
the only thing
I could control…
was when and how…
and where
that was gonna happen.
So… I made a rope.
And I went up to the summit
to hang myself.
But I had to test it,
you know?
Of course.
You know me.
And the weight of the log…
snapped the limb
of the tree.
So l-l–
I couldn’t even kill myself
the way I wanted to.
I had power over nothing.
And that’s when this feeling
came over me like a warm blanket.
I knew…
somehow…
that I had to stay alive.
Somehow.
I had to keep breathing,
even though there was
no reason to hope.
And all my logic said that
I would never see this place again.
So that’s what I did.
I stayed alive.
I kept breathing.
And then one day
that logic was proven all wrong,
because the tide…
came in,
gave me a sail.
And now, here I am.
I’m back…
in Memphis, talking to you.
I have ice in my glass.
And I’ve lost her
all over again.
I’m so sad that
I don’t have Kelly.
But I’m so grateful that
she was with me on that island.
And I know
what I have to do now.
I gotta keep breathing.
Because tomorrow,
the sun will rise.
Who knows what the tide
could bring?”

And you know what the hard moments change us, they bring us closer to Allah subhana wa ta’ala- they are from Him- and He knows what’s good for us and what’s not, and they will END. Be patient. You got this. Have a wonderful week.

SPREAD HAPPINESS AND LOVE. Also, I may be slowly becoming a hippie. Maybe.

Seerah Intensive 2014

I wanted to write this post to share a great opportunity that I’ve recently experienced just so that you guys could become aware and maybe even take advantage of it.

Over the winter break, I went to Texas for two weeks to learn about our Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This course was taught by Sheikh Abdul Nassir Jangda as a part of Qalam Institute. It was two weeks long for about 7+ hours a day.

I have to admit that when my brother offered me this experience I was worried that I wasn’t going to benefit from it. I felt that I was going to go and learn all of the things I already knew about Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. In some ways I had a script memorized in my head when people asked about who he was, “He’s our prophet, he went through a lot, and we love him more than ourselves. He was an amazing person.” And if anyone would contradict than the rebuttal would simply be, “He’s amazing,” and “How dare you?” without really a true understanding of him, his life, what he accomplished or what he signified. I knew that I was supposed to love him, but I had gotten and given so many of these responses that he didn’t hold a special place in my heart.

When I had tried to study him before I ended up understanding him even less, and decided to just leave the matter until I understood it more. Finally, I was blessed with this chance and I felt that this was an opportunity for me to renew my heart and to understand my religion better.

It was without a doubt one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve ever had. It answered so many of my little nagging doubts and questions. I wish I could go into detail and explain every thing that was so amazing about learning about him, but as its something personal and quite subjective, its a bit hard to do.

I’m a natural born feminist. When I was four, my father enrolled me in Kindergarten in Pakistan. When he came to pick me up later in the day and asked for Ayah, the administration told him that they didn’t have a student with the name Ayah. This confused my dad since he’d just enrolled me that morning. So he described how i looked and what I was wearing until they finally recognized who he was talking about, and they said that I had refused to be called Ayah, and had changed my name to Ay in the official records. Being born in Jordan, in an extended family who had huge gender lines, I always hated being a girl. I felt like it was a disadvantage, and that women weren’t treated well. And I grew up feeling that and this feeling simply grew as I went through major milestones. I believed in God and most of my religion so I didn’t know how to respond to many of my little doubts.

One of them was the issue of women not being allowed to rule. I was trained with the answer that women are emotional creatures–this didn’t make sense to me, because I had seen men more emotional than women… I didn’t think that ALL women were necessarily emotional beings. As we went through the course, Sheikh Jangda stopped at this point and explained it. He said that the ONLY hadith ever mentioned on this topic was:

”A nation which placed its affairs in the hands of a woman shall never prosper!’(Al-Bukhari, Al-Jami` as-Sahih, hadith no. 4425)

The hadith seems pretty clear about this. However, its the ONLY hadith and there are no verses on this issue. Also, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said that in response when he was told that the Persians had appointed a woman as their leader. This “woman” was six years old, and the Prophet ﷺ was foretelling the Persian Empire’s demise. There are a few more details on this topic but it had nothing to do with womens’ capabilities in general with ruling.

The clearing of this misconception leads to another issue which the Sheikh repeated several times. And that is people using Islam and the Prophet’s life in vain for their own needs, i.e. winning an argument. Because of this, and because of studying material without any understanding of the Arabic language or Pre-Islam culture, a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings arise. The Quran came down at the height of Arabic literature, and we hear of SO MANY people who became Muslim the moment they heard the Quran recited. How often do we hear the Quran and feel as strong a conviction as those in the time of the Prophet ﷺ ?

That’s because we don’t know the language (even the Arabs). There are so many little details that are so profound that we don’t even know that we don’t know them. So how can we as a people simply read the Quran every week, or read a hadith or so, and think it’s enough to know the religion and argue using it? We don’t even know the basics!

This experience was an eye-opener to me and expanded my love for the Prophet ﷺ a million-fold. You know how we go to events held by self-help book authors? How we go/listen to TED talks to be inspired? How we read books on how to achieve happiness? Well you’ll achieve ALL of that by going to this. I kid you not, simply having the chance to hear the stories of a person as amazing as the Prophet Muhammad was a tremendous honor. Change your life, and attend all possible events by the Qalam Institute. Go ahead and learn how amazing our religion truly is.

Modest ‘Muslim’ Fashion

I have a problem with a recent new fad: Modest Muslim Fashion. I don’t hate the idea of Muslim fashion because it is something that the Muslim community really needs. It’s annoying to go to Macy’s or Target or Walmart and to try and find modest outfits out of whatever selection they have. Actually, it kind of fun, but it’s annoying that there isn’t something that’s directed towards us. But now there is, and I’m not loving it.

I have several problems with it. First, I don’t think it’s Islamic.

There are three main rules on what a woman should dress like in public: a) shouldn’t be so tight that it reveals your body, b) shouldn’t be transparent, and c) shouldn’t catch the eye. But now we have instagrams upon instagrams saying that they represent modest fashion when they don’t listen to all three of these rules. They put on loads of makeup, they wear tight clothes, and the whole idea of fashion is to look good and catch the eye. I’m not here to be the haram police, and if I see a girl dressed like any of the girls I see in the pictures, I wouldn’t say or even think anything. It’s not my place to judge how a fellow Muslim woman dresses. However, she has never declared herself a modest Muslim fashionista spokesperson and then continued to make a career out of it. There are several organizations that I do like, and that I do feel that they actually fulfill the criteria of modest clothing.

Second, I don’t think its healthy.

I hate American fashion. I don’t think I even need to go into all the reasons as to why I hate it, because I’m sure a lot of you would agree. So, I’ll just focus on one thing: the models. Yes, Muslim models don’t show how small or skinny they are, and yes, hijabi models don’t damage their hair as much as non-hijabis do, but other than that, what’s the difference? They still look unimaginably and unrealistically perfect, they still make us feel as though we’re worthlesseven though all we can see about them is their looksand they’re still selling power and a desire to look like these models. I can’t even look at fashion magazines like Vogue because of the crippling insecurities that I get from looking at a picture for five seconds. And it’s terrible that we now have to go through these insecurities of who we are through Muslim fashion as well.

These are just my opinions and obviously I’m human and I’m susceptible to a lot of mistakes, so take what you think is right, leave what you think is wrong and just live and let live :).

Do you have any tips for modest dress shopping (for your own gender)? Leave a comment below!

Black Heart

So something you may not know about me…. I like to write. I take this Creative Writing class every Tuesday and Thursday. We read pieces before every class and respond to them, and then the next class meeting we have to write something relating to that theme. Once we tackled the theme of faith, and this is what I wrote. I’m sharing this with you for no reason other than sharing, please enjoy it. :)

Black Heart

It’s left to the last drop of goodness.

A shining, piercing light amidst dark darkness. Black darkness. Evil darkness

Everything is fine.
No, everything is far from fine. Nothing is fine.
But you ask thinking the problem is as simple as 2 + 2 is, so why do you even ask?
At times the answer is as simple as four, at others it’s as simple as a toddler trying to stack cubes, spheres, and pyramids. Yes, at times a sphere can balance over a cube. But more often than not each stack will fall, fall, and fall and rearrange itself on the floor.

But sometimes things ARE fine. But if I reveal the vulnerabilities of my heart, then people won’t see me. They’ll see my struggling heart. As though one conversation, one confession, one crying situation is all that’s needed to realize me.

Life is alone. So alone. Yes, we can cuddle. We can walk through the day holding hands. We can live our entire lives holding hands. But a physical merge will never merge two hearts and two minds.
Life is alone. Support is needed. Forgiveness is needed. Love is needed. Balance is needed. None of these are given. All of these are worked for.

If I live my life straight, will I be safe? Or will I be sad and alone? Alone again? Alone again. Always alone.
But maybe not. Not alone, because if the heart is given, sadnesses are poured out five times a day and more, if pain is let go, and hope, forgiveness, and love are received. Then even if alone in a field extending miles and miles without a soul nearby, then never alone. Never ever alone.

To Be or Not To Be…

“To Be or Not To Be” is one of the most famous phrases of Shakespeare, nay, of all time. I moved to Jordan in 2010, and completed my high school education- which was 11th and 12th grade. When I came to live in Jordan with my grandparents, I was filled with doubt. I was beginning 11th grade, with barely any Arabic to help me. The last time I had been in Jordan for a full year was in 4th grade, and the school I was in had threatened to expel me. As I began the school year I kept thinking about whether I could or couldn’t get good grades, whether I could or couldn’t live without my parents, whether I could or couldn’t become great in Arabic, whether I could or couldn’t etc, etc, etc. This argument with myself never ended, it followed me everywhere. It went on every waking moment I had. As the year went by, I received my answers in different ways, but I didn’t learn anything from my questions.

And so a new year began, the exciting and yet so frightening 12th grade. Twelfth grade in Jordan, and actually in many countries, is a critical one. Students are given seven standardized exams the first semester, and another seven in the second. The entire country studies from the same books and takes the same tests at the same time. Depending on your average is the major you’ll take in college. For example, I knew several people who wanted to become doctors, but because their grade was a tenth underneath the admittance grade (98.5) for that major, they couldn’t get in. This grade determines your future, or so I thought.

The same questions I had in 11th grade came rolling in, and for the first couple of weeks I was depressed, because I was absolutely positive of my failure. I was sure I wasn’t going to get the grade I wanted, nor the life I wanted. Or should I say I wasn’t sure I could get the grade I wanted. But during many of these thought sessions, a.k.a., wasting time,  I got an epiphany, and I realized the beauty behind Shakespeare’s most famous quote, “To be or not to be.” He didn’t say, “To be able to be or not to be able to be.” He didn’t say it, because a human can be whatever they want. Unless the laws of nature refuses to let it, such as gravity, death, life, and more. One of the silliest and most overused phrases is “I can’t,” because you can, and if you really want to, you will. What is there that can stop a person from achieving his or her dream? My mother wants to speak Arabic fluently, and can read the Quran perfectly. She is 47 years old and was born in America. She refuses to let her age or money be the thing that stops her from achieving her goals. She has never went through formal schooling in Arabic grammar, yet she is better in Arabic grammar than I am, and I have received some formal education. My father went to America to study, not knowing a word of English 30 years ago. After a lot of struggle and hard work, he even corrects my English.

The purpose of these stories is to convince you and me that there is no such thing such as “I can’t,” and that even if you fail in the beginning, with patience and perseverance you can achieve whatever you put your mind to. Good luck with your goals! And if you want, you will!! So go get that 4.0! Better body! Memorize the Quran! Or whatever it is you want!

You can do whatever you put your mind to; and if you can’t, just remember that there’s a reason for that, too — there’ll be something better. So get to it!

Where I’m From

This is my first post of the new school year, so I thought that it would be best to start it as an introduction of myself. Usually, when a person talks about themselves they address the question “Where are you from?” I hate that question. I don’t hate it for the usual reasons people have. I hate it because I have no idea what it means anymore. And I don’t know how to answer it.

I was born in Jordan. But I’m not Jordanian. Sure, by passport I would be considered Jordanian, but the Arab side in me is actually Palestinian. Well, until I discovered last year that the city that my father was originally from, Safad, is on the border between Palestine and Lebanon, so we actually look Lebanese, cook like the Lebanese, and talk a bit like them as well. Up until here it’s not too confusing; I could say I’m Lebanese, Palestinian, but born in Jordan and have never stepped foot in Palestine. The problem is that that only makes up half of my blood. The other half is American. My mothers’ ancestry is originally from Wales, but somewhere along the way her mother’s side of the family got introduced to Native American and Persian blood.

So I have Palestinian, Lebanese, Welsh, Native American, and Persian blood in me, but the only places I’ve actually lived in are Pakistan, Jordan, and America. To make matters even more confusing, I’ve lived in ten cities in America in the ten years I’ve lived here.

The question “Where are you from?” is generally asked for two purposes: curiosity, and to understand a person better. And it is a valid question, because the place you’re from does help make the person that you are, and it could give the asker clues about the asked and how to talk to and treat them. But for a person who doesn’t have an emotional attachment to any place, to whom being new is normal and being a regular is scary, where I’m from has little connection to me, while where I’ve lived has a huge connection to my character and personality.

So, to finally get to the introductory part of this post…

I was born in Jordan, but then I moved to Pakistan when I was two and lived there for three years. We then moved back and I lived in Amman, Jordan for a year without my parents. Then I moved to Teaneck, NJ and lived there for a year. After that year we hit some financial problems and I moved back to Jordan without my parents and lived there for two years. Then I moved back to America, and lived in Yonkers, NY for a year. Then I moved to Highland Park, NJ and lived there for four years, and then I moved to North Haledon, NJ. After that I lived for two years in Jordan without my parents, and then I came back to Monmouth Junction, NJ. After half a year, we moved to Metuchen, NJ. And we’ve been living there ever since (1.5 years).

That’s me and welcome to my column! I’m going to be blogging every other Friday under the column Ayah’s Opinions On… I hope you’ll read my posts and comment, and go through this journey with me. See you next next Friday!!

What do you think about the inevitable “Where are you from?” Let us know below!

When We’re Young

This is my last blog post of the year, so I wanted to leave you guys with something meaningful, or at least something I learned recently I thought was really interesting.

There’s a couple I know and have known for a long time. They’re interesting because even though they obviously love each other, they don’t have a balanced relationship. The woman, let’s call her Aisha, puts everything she has in it. While the man, lets call him Ali, doesn’t put anything in to the relationship, and doesn’t even realize the harmony of their relationship is because of her. I happened to watch one of their fights. During the fight they yelled at each other and within a second she apologized even though from what I saw he was in the wrong. When I asked someone about their relationship, I found out it’s been the same since they were really young, with her putting everything in, and him just accepting it without realizing he also had to work on their relationship.

The reason I’m even sharing their story is because it made me realize something. You become what you work on when you’re young. Whether you only pay attention to yourself, put Allah subhana wa ta’ala first, or if you devote your love into another person—that’s what you’ll become. I wanted to leave you with this so you think of how you spend your time this summer and all the summers after. This time we have now is valuable, so spend it on what we want to become. And don’t worry about failing, because you won’t if you’re consistent.

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog posts for the year. Please keep me in your du’aa, and I’ll keep you in mine. Change the world this summer, and be all you can be!

Makeup

I have OCD. Or at least OCD is one of my personality disorders. Everyone has personality disorders, and you can take online quizzes to find the percentage you have of each disorder. For me, OCD ranks pretty highly. Don’t let these first couple of lines fool you into thinking this post is about OCD. It has nothing to do with it. Anyway, having OCD makes you want to do things perfectly or not at all. Which brings me to the point of my post.

One of my many struggles is makeup. Obviously, I don’t like to go out not looking my best (this is where the OCD part is important). When I’m feeling especially good, I try to make sure I look especially good. This is where trouble happens. I slowly start to obsess over everything, specifically my face. I start picking at it more, and try to adopt healthy habits to make it clear and smooth. And then the more I look at my face the more flaws and issues I find with it. So I put foundation on one day to make it look even, and it worked. But I couldn’t leave the mirror, because I could still do things to look prettier. What about eyeliner? My face is looking too pale, let me just add a little bit of eyeliner to balance things out. So I add eyeliner, but I still can’t leave to catch my train, because my attention is brought to my lips. They look a bit pale on my face. My skin looks smooth and clear, my eyes pop out nicely, and then my lips look chapped and don’t pop out nicely. So I add a bit off lip gloss. But now, my eyes and lips are the center of attention, and I almost look gothic, and it shows that I have foundation on. I don’t look natural. So now I need to add blush to add a little of color to the sides of my face.

This happens so naturally to me, that I don’t realize it and happen to make up my entire face. So when I get ready to leave I just look away from the mirror as soon as I have my last pin in my scarf.

From what I’ve learned and the way I was taught about makeup in Islam is that nothing that enhances your beauty and attracts the eye should be done. This is what I’ve learned in Jordan, but over here it’s so hard because we’re raised in a perfectionist society. Look at any ad, even American Apparel which tries to be imperfect and jarring. Look at their faces, even with the weird way most put makeup on, and with the shocking features that have, they still have perfect and smooth skin. Blotchy skin is nonexistent in this society. As I write this, a part of my mind says of course, blotchy skin is unattractive. Yet, blotchy skin is normal!! If you look at before and after makeup pictures, most of the befores have blotchy, uneven, oily, and pimply skin. And I wont say that the girls after makeup don’t look beautiful. They all look gorgeous with makeup. But I wonder if they look too gorgeous. Too perfect.

I sat for a minute trying to see the difference between the two, why are the girls without makeup not as pretty? Are they even attractive? In my opinion, no, they’re not attractive, and some are not even pretty. But they look human. They look like they have feelings, emotions, sympathy, kindness, and love. The girls after makeup, however, lack that humane touch. They look super confident, but unapproachable too. We want to be like them, but why should we feel like that?! Why do we encourage this emotion where people are better or worse than us based on how they look? No one consciously thinks like that, but let’s be honest, pretty girls with good personalities always have better social standing than normal girls with good personalities.

I say we should all promise to not wear makeup anymore and just live in sweatpants. Girls of the world, let’s unite, let’s all look normal together!

The Problem with the Word “Miracle”

I don’t believe in miracles. Or at least I don’t believe we had any miracles for about 1400 years now. I’d even go so far as to say the idea of a miracle is one of the main reasons that pushed people away from Christianity, especially around the Renaissance era. A miracle is a surprising event inexplicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency. Basically, anything without a measurable explanation behind it is a miracle.

This idea worked until science had a more prominent role in our lives. Everything was a miracle before that, because we had no idea how things worked. Our eyes were miracles because we didn’t understand the specifics of why or how they dilated. Our bodies were bodies, only after 1665 when the first cell was discovered. But now, everything has a logical reason behind it, so there isn’t much room for miracles.

The word miracle doesn’t imply an action. It completely removes the “miracle” from God and the person. You understand the idea God made a miracle, but the idea the miracle is sent for one person is indirect and vague. It makes us not appreciate the “miracles” in our lives.

A word that better connects us to God instead of “miracle” is loan. Loan directly implies a lender, a loan, and a receiver, and thus illustrates our connection with God. Everything we have is a loan, and we’re blessed to have all of these loans. But like our worldly loan, these loans also have a cost. We must take care of them by doing good and worshiping Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

So whatever word you prefer, know God can never be removed from the equation because He is the Creator of these miracles/sciences/loans.

It’s Not Life, It’s Allah

Were you ever upset about something or wondered why something bad happened to you, and someone simply shrugged and replied, “Well, it’s life”? A response like that doesn’t comfort me—it makes me want to pull my hair out. Saying something happens because that’s how life works can take Allah out of the equation. And that’s the most hopeless state of living.

Life becomes easier when we realize most things are tests. The hardships are temporary conditions, and being patient when dealing with them will only bring good:

Patience

Believing everyone’s life and future is dictated by a random occurrence of events is depressing. Things happen for a reason, and Allah is aware! Sometimes the bad that happens to us is actually purifying us of our sins—if we handle them correctly.

Once we bring the featured image atop the title of this post into our hearts, there’ll be no reason to cry out to the sky, “Why me!?” or curse in anger when we stub our toes on a rock or prick our fingers on a pineapple. Instead, by saying Alhamdulillah, Insha’Allah our sins will get knocked off. Now, how great is stubbing a toe or pricking a finger? :) They don’t even hurt anymore—that’s how temporary a pain we’re talking!

Next time something bad happens to you, know that it’s not random and it’s not just life. It was meant to happen to you. Bad and good things happen for different reasons. They could happen to you to test your faith, to bring you back to Islam, or to erase some sins. So smile, and don’t fret about unfortunate events, and know Allah subhana wa ta’ala is thinking about you and wants you to ask Him for help and forgiveness.

Images from the Lift Me Up app

The Little Things

In Islam, we’re required to do certain things. There are all types of small rules we should follow. When you make the effort to follow the sunnah, there are even more details to pay attention to. Rules vary from going to Hajj once a lifetime to cutting your fingernails on Fridays. From paying zakat once a year to walking into the bathroom with your left foot. And sometimes, governments dictate the rules, making a few details vary from country to country. For example, in Jordan some scholars would say it’s obligatory to wear a jilbab, and some may even say it’s obligatory to wear only white scarves. While here, those rules don’t really apply.

Sometimes we’re bogged down from these details. You may think, “How would cutting my nails on a specific day increase my iman? What does it have to do with anything?” or “Why should I try to walk into the bathroom with my left foot? What does this small action have to do with becoming a better Muslim?”

I realized while trying to integrate the small but precious habits into my life, that I forced myself to pay attention to these little things. This results in thinking more about Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala because you’re making an effort to do something in the particular way He likes. The constant thought of Him heightens your iman. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says in the Qur’an:

Truly, it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts find peace. [13:28]

Do the little things in the way the beloved of Allah ﷺ did them. Do the little things because you know Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala won’t ask you to do something unless it’s beneficial for you. Do the little things, and Insha’Allah you’ll feel a closer connection with Allah and his Rasūl ﷺ.

The Online Islamic Database

We constantly talk about Islam being modern, and catching up to modern ways. We have new interpretations of certain ahadith because of the way the world evolves. It’s become much more modern, yet we’re still stuck behind.

Islam is not Internet accessible. Try searching anything related to Islam. You’ll quickly realize the sites that show up are usually opinions from uneducated people, or if you do happen to fall on an educated opinion, rarely do they let you know who said it or what sect of Islam they believe in. If you’re looking for something specific it’s almost impossible to find a reliable answer.

Islam is recorded in books and even videos, but not in text on the Internet. In this day and age, books are used less and less. But if all of our knowledge is recorded in them, how do we easily access that knowledge? How do we know what information is right and which is meant to mislead? Our scholars need to come together and create a forum or a website about all the different opinions on different subjects. This would be a huge project, but an essential one to allow Islam to continue growing, and to spread the truth and not lies. 

Featured image: brewbooks

Unsolved Racism and Assimilation

I think this new generation, of which I am a part, has this idea we’re better than previous generations. We have many different types of friends. We have friends who are Asian, African, Arab, Desi, and more. But this hasn’t solved racism, and I don’t think this generation is more open-minded than the generations before. Why, you might ask?

First, let’s begin with the definition of racism. Racism is the belief all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. The way I define racism—to make it simpler—is hating or thinking another race is inferior or superior.

Now, the ethnic cultures we have here are watered down and Americanized. Take fast food Chinese restaurants, for example. I was talking to my Chinese friend once, and she said the “Chinese” food from those places actually aren’t Chinese at all. That made sense to me because the tastes I experienced were different enough for me to specifically order it, but they’re still very much Americanized by the heaviness of the meal, the sodium in it, and the sweetness of it.

Using that same process, we changed the ethnicities that migrated from other countries, and we’ve made them the same. So even though the second-generation’s parents are from different countries, the children act and talk similarly.

I used to think there was nothing such as an American, because really America is like a salad. Pieces from the world put together and given an equal economic chance. But that’s untrue.

The way I’ve thought about it is juice boxes. Let’s imagine two difference types of juice: Kool Aid, and mango lassi. Let’s say all the kids really like Kool Aid, but once they tasted mango lassi they hated it. They liked some aspects about it, maybe the taste, but they hated the thickness. So of course we have to change the mango lassi to be able to sell it and gain some profit. So they water it down to the same consistency as Kool Aid, and change the box a bit, but not too much. Now, the kids love it and think they’re being international and open-minded by accepting a drink from another country. But in reality they’re not drinking mango lassi; they’re drinking mango-flavored Kool Aid from a cool juice box.

That’s how I see most of the second-generation immigrants that live here. They’ve lost the thing that makes them Indian, Chinese, Irish or whatever else because they’ve assimilated to the American culture. Unfortunately this dilemma has spread out to other countries as well. A lot of people are leaving or abandoning their culture to adopt the culture portrayed in Hollywood movies.

Is it even possible to not have any biases against a person who is very different from us? I’m not sure, they’re bound to accidentally do something that offends us and us them, simply because of the culture barrier. More recently, some Muslims try to remove all the barriers between them and Non-Muslims just to be accepted. But, there are things that most certainly make us different.

Is the assimilation between cultures a good thing? It feels like the things we have that make us special are fading away. I think we’re going to be one of the last generations that truly remembers our culture. But is that a bad thing? A good thing? I think there are some things that are good, like abandoning sexist or oppressive views, and what not. However, dropping aspects of family importance, honor, respect, etc., thats’s quite unfortunate. Having said that, even though assimilation between cultures is a confusing debate, assimilating into any culture if it means sacrificing religion is not okay.

What do you think? Do you agree racism was never really solved? Do you think the benefits of blurring the lines between cultures is good or bad?

Stress: Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!

The last month of this semester is upon us. We wrap up in a rush trying to accomplish as much as possible to avoid ruining all our hard work in the beginning of the year. It’s always a stressful time, perhaps filled with regret or fear. I have a few tips and tricks to deal with stress, whether it’s caused by school, work, or life in general. I found these 25 tips to be very helpful. Below, I highlighted my favorites and added some of my own.

1. Think of the bigger picture.

This is my thought process: So what if I fail? Does it really matter if I fail? No, I’m judged by how hard I work, not whether I fail or pass. This life is temporary, so let’s not stress about it. Anything can happen between now and the event, so why let stress overpower me?

2. Do your part.

The rule is: to assure the success of anything, you have to do two parts. First, you actually have to study or do whatever preparation you need. Second, you have to rely on Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) to help you out. Be aware, we can plan all we want, but Allah is the Best of Planners.

2. Calm yourself.

Try sitting down with the thing that worries you the most, and use a calming mechanism. Generally, I do something that gets my mind out of the panicky mode. For example, I like to hum to calm myself down. Or I’ll tell myself I’ll kill the exam. Also, I find tasks become easier once I break them down and talk myself through them. (Okay, Ayah, you got this, girl. Alright, so the…, okay that’s why I have to do this and not that. Ohhh, you’re so smart, maaaan you’re going to kill this test!) Yes, this does actually go on in my head.

3. Make it interesting.

Focus on what’s interesting about the topic you’re studying. Finding something personally interesting in your readings/homework can help develop great memorizing mechanisms.

4. Time yourself.

Tell yourself, “Okay, self. You have ten minutes to read this page.” By timing yourself and sticking to a schedule, you may very well be less likely to waste time on sites like Facebook. Proper timing prevents your mind from wandering to panic land.

5. Remember, it’s possible.

Remember whatever stuff you have to do, is doable. Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) does not burden any believer with more than he/she can handle. So ask yourself, are you up to the challenge?

6. Tawakkul ala Allah

Believe in Allah (subhana wa ta’ala), and realize He there for you. You might think to yourself, “Well, it’s not like I’m a great believer. I missed prayers here and there. I yelled at my dad…”

It’s important to fix such things, and not remain hopeless. It’s also important to realize when Allah (subhana wa ta’ala) says He will be near if the believer asks for Him.

7. Sleep and eat.

Finally, sleep and eat well. I know, so cliché. However, when you’re studying, you really don’t need to make anything more difficult for yourself. Eating a heavy meal will make you drowsy and it will make you lethargic. Not sleeping enough will drain you and make it harder to study and retain information. Also, keep the area you sleep in clean, because a cluttered room will clutter your mind.

Insha’Allah, I hope this helped in some way. Please make du’aa for me to get really good grades this semester, and I will do the same for you Insha’Allah. Thanks!

Wishing everyone the best with the remainder of the semester on behalf of the #RUMSAblog team! Be sure to share your tips on staying calm and stress-free in the comments section of this post!

Our Special Greeting of Peace

As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum,

When I was in Middlesex County College, I didn’t see many Muslims. And while that saddened me, it also made me happy at the same time. I was happy/hopeful those missing Muslims were in institutions of higher education, but it was sad because I felt I couldn’t relate to a lot of people at my school. I transferred to Rutgers this fall, and I was shocked by how many Muslims I saw. It’s an amazing feeling, because it lets me know that I’m not the only one who is a Muslim and looks a little different. But for some reason, I’ve noticed only a few Muslims actually say salaam.

To be honest it hurts a bit when I see a fellow Muslim sister, and she just walks on by, making sure she doesn’t make eye contact. It gives me the feeling that “Yes, we’re both Muslim, but that doesn’t mean I have a bond with you or that I even want to identify with you.” Maybe I’m being dramatic, but that’s the feeling I get. It’s important to give salaams to your fellow Muslims—even if you don’t know them, and here are my personal reasons why:

  1. It creates a sense of community and belonging.
  2. It reminds you of your religion.
  3. You’ll be rewarded, Insha’Allah.

Next time you see a fellow Muslim, say salaam! Let them know they’re not alone, and there is a strong Muslim support system right here on campus. We should all do our part in spreading a little peace and love every day, and that can be as simple as showing a smile and expressing salaam.

And if you need any more convincing, remember our beloved Prophet ﷺ said, as narrated in Tirmidhi:

السَّلامُ قَبلَ الكَلامِ

“The greeting of peace before the speech.”

So until next time, wa-salaamu ‘alaykum.

More to Life than Just Living

A couple of years ago, I sat at the window and I just stared at a tree. I was fascinated by it for some reason. I thought it was amazing how various types of cells are so alike yet make such different things. Similar cells make up animals, trees, water, and humans. As humans, our DNA are actually very similar, but the changes in them are what make us. It’s amazing how temporary yet unique we are.

But why are we so unique and temporary? Rocks have a stronger impact on Earth than us; they record the history of the Earth. Most of us are forgotten at the maximum 60 years after we die. So why are we so different from each other? Why are we so unique from each other?

The obvious answer is each of us is a different person. We don’t believe the point of life is merely to continue life. Instead, it’s to be good people, worship, and obey God. Therefore, we must be different people to be judged in the after-life. Why aren’t we more similar? I’m not sure…

However, that isn’t the only answer we could have. The first answer that originally popped into my head was: it defies evolution. According to the theories, the first life was a single-celled organism—maybe even less developed than that. And slowly through a long process of survival of the fittest, it kept evolving and changing. The life forms that were unsustainable became extinct while their new and improved versions continued to evolve and become better. Life, according to evolutionists, could be compared to the evolution of the cell phone to be better understood. But according to them the phone eventually becomes a laptop, which becomes a robot. They wouldn’t coexist with each other.

Anyway, if the way we came into being is by survival of the fittest, then why aren’t we all the same? You’d think if nature got the formula right, she’d stick to it. And how are the changes between each person explained? We understand it as the different combinations of unique strands of DNA. Where does evolution fall into this? According to Islam, we have evolved. But we haven’t evolved from species to species. We simply have become shorter and smaller. (The Prophet ﷺ narrated that Adam alayhi as-salaam was ~30 meters tall.)

Continuing with the idea of evolution, why haven’t we evolved into better beings from humans? Surely the human body isn’t the ideal body. It disintegrates, gets sick, feels pain, and eventually dies. It takes millions of years for evolution, but we’ve been here for millions of years, and the only discernable change has been that we’ve become smaller.

What do you think about evolution and all of its theories?

The Nature of Politics

This semester, I’m taking a class called Nature of Politics. We discuss people’s definitions of politics from Aristotle to Adam Smith. Aristotle thinks the point of politics is to achieve the good life, and to achieve it you need virtuous statesmen. You also need to have good citizens and good men who are virtuous and live balanced, moral lives. He believed in having rulers and followers.

Machiavelli believed in something quite different. He believed the point of politics was to achieve greatness. He believed rulers didn’t need to be virtuous. In fact it was better they were not, as long as they appeared to have virtue. He believed in necessary evils and considered virtues and god-fearing rulers unable of committing those necessary evils.

Anyway, why am I giving you a history lesson? Because it made me think of this society, of Islam’s point of view toward politics, and both of them mixed together.

As a Muslim, I strongly believe Islam provides the best type of order in communities. And I strongly believe in following those rules and using them in my everyday life. As an American, I strongly believe in contributing to society and helping society succeed. However, American society has an unspoken set of rules which changes from person to person, which—regardless whether they’re silly or not—are even harder to change.

As an American Muslim, what is my role in society? And how do I go about the contradicting values of both sets of beliefs? When Miley Cyrus recently undertook her transformation with the public eye closely watching, I found it very hard to judge her. I realized I couldn’t judge her, because we believed in different things. I couldn’t look at her the same way I could look at a fellow Muslim sister because I realized she probably—obviously—doesn’t view modesty in the same way we view modesty.

So how do we deal with politics? How do we find a common ground among people with extremely different views? In my recitation for Nature of Politics, a lot of people believed Machiavelli’s ideas to be realistic and correct. How do we, as a Muslim community that believes so strongly in the ways of our religion, disagree and show we think our religion has a better solution in ruling a country without appearing to be pushing an agenda?

I also wonder whether it’s ever possible to assimilate completely in an American society. Or are we even supposed to? As American Muslims who have a role in politics, do we become understanding and work in a way that compromises both American and Muslim values? Or do we work for the values that we believe in?

What do you think? What’s your opinion about the nature of politics?

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