Salams and greetings all ūüôā

I haven’t posted because I didn’t have anything positive to write about. I had been experiencing a dip in my iman and thankfully it is lifting. As of late I’ve had a lot of stress upon me, to the point where I just felt immobilized by it. Totally overwhelmed and fraught with worries. About a week ago, I had an epiphany: I decided that I’ve done all I could and now it’s time to realize that I must rely on my faith and leave some of these issues in Allah’s hands. I truly have no control over some of these problems, and can no longer tolerate the constant ‘what if’s that notoriously make me, me.

Thankfully my children are in good health, my husband and I are well too and we are enjoying our little family. Alhamdulillah for this. We are faced with making some big decisions soon, and may have to move. For now my prayer is “Oh my Creator, please keep us four together and in the best imam and health, and if something isn’t good for us, protect us, and if something is good for us, show us the way and make it easy for us, Ameen.”

I am relieved my spirituality is on the upswing. It’s scary when it becomes week. I can only think of one other decline, and that was when i was a fairly new Muslim and felt like an outcast. Recently I really really struggled with hijab, and I’ve decided to put my issues with it on hold because it is impossible to be objective in the sweltering, oppressive summer heat (read: I’m cranky in the heat).

Ramadan is quickly approaching and I am looking forward to it although to my extreme disappointment I will not be fasting. No, I’m not preggo! I have type 2 diabetes and was put on insulin within the past week. InshaAllah it is temporary and will go away as I shed extra pounds and build tolerance to a brisk exercise routine. Pray for me please ūüôā
I will probably abstain from blogging or reading other blogs during the holy month as it is a distraction, and I hope inshaAllah at the conclusion of Ramadan I will be used to it, and really limit my computer/iPhone usage (not that there’s much with my kids hanging of me!)

Well, that’s where I’m at these days, putting one foot in front of the other and hoping to be a better Muslim, mother, wife, daughter and sister with each step.

InshaAllah I hope you have a blessed and peaceful
Ramadan.

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Inspired¬†by blogging extraordinaire Wood Turtle,¬† I would like to write about my hijab experiences.¬† It’s something I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t because it’s such an enormous subject!¬† Here goes, piece by piece.

Several years ago my husband and I attended a lecture; I was totally psyched up for this and couldn’t wait to get there.¬†¬† The lecture was¬†¬† about¬† giving appropriate naseehah¬†(advice) and such.¬†¬†The scholar covered all the basics about Islam-¬†and during the Q&A session at the conclusion, someone submitted a question asking if hijab was fard¬†(mandatory) or sunnah (recommended); and the scholar replied “yes it is fard, even though some of you are not wearing it properly“.

While his tone seemed harmless and did not carry even a note of superiority,¬† I found¬†his unsolicited comment¬†to be inflammatory.¬† Was it necessary to chastise the women in the audience and to ¬†make us feel self-conscious?¬†¬†I can only speak for myself, but I can’t help but think anyone not wearing a traditional abaya and khimar¬†felt¬†awkward.¬†¬†¬† Is that the focus?¬† What we look like on the outside (ironically)?¬† My husband looked at me¬†immediately (from the men’s section), because he knew the words would¬†strike a chord¬†within¬†me.¬† I was so utterly disappointed¬†and felt completely deflated.¬†¬† I came to lift my heart and elevate my soul, but left feeling judged and outside the fold of what is considered acceptable.¬† For those of you who are curious, you’re¬†probably wondering what I was wearing since I was so sensitive¬†:¬†¬†a long, lose¬†tunic to the knees (opaque long-sleeved¬†shirt underneath) loose¬†denim trousers¬†and a simple hijab that covered my head and neck.¬† Oh yes, and sandals.¬† My definition of modest-¬†but¬†yet at that precise¬†moment I felt that I had been stripped of my dignity and might as well have been sitting there completely naked.¬†¬† I wondered if other women there dressed like myself felt inspired by this to cover more, or if they were just as disgusted as I was.

Hijab is a sensitive subject, and is often overlooked as an emotional decision, even by other women.¬†¬† While I¬†cannot speak for others, I can honestly say it took enormous courage for me to put it on, and although I have reached a more of a comfort zone, I don’t¬†see myself wearing an abaya or jilbab.¬† I suppose if I was ready for that, I wouldn’t¬†have any hesitation; but I do.¬† Major hesitations.¬† Honestly, I have no desire to increase my endeavors in this area of practice.¬†¬†¬† I could expand on this in another post.

I often find myself going back and forth in my mind about the purpose of hijab, why I put it on, if I would ever consider taking it off, is it really ‘working’ for me,¬† common misconceptions, God consciousness, my religious obligations and so on and so forth.¬† It gets exhausting.

So¬†there-¬†that’s about all I have time for tonight.¬† Inshallah my next post will be more focused.

Following are my very opinionated thoughts; my intention is not to insult or criticize, but to come to terms with my feelings regarding young girls and hijab.  Feedback and discussion are welcome and appreciated.

Several years ago we attended¬†an¬†ICNA¬†conference¬† and I could not believe my eyes: an adorable eight or nine month old baby in¬†a hijab, perched on her father’s lap.¬† Until this very moment, partly due to the fact that I am the mother of a five month old daughter, I often wonder why a Muslim parent would resort to donning an infant in a hijab.¬† Aside from my visceral reaction of borderline¬†disgust¬†(I know– harsh.¬† Just being honest.), it looked totally ridiculous.¬† She didn’t even have teeth.¬†¬†¬†A¬†baby¬†girl in a hijab¬†seems as twisted¬†as a toddler in a beauty pageant.¬†¬†¬† Excessive.¬† Seeing a baby covered in this manner, has¬†triggered some¬†emotions regarding my own children and their Islamic education and upbringing.

We are planning to send our kids to Islamic preschool, and if we find that the Islamic elementary schools in our area are dynamic, reputable and meet¬†and exceed¬†the standards for education– we will send them.¬† I find myself feeling anxious that my daughter will be required to wear a little hijab.¬† Sure, it’s cute.¬† Anything she does is cute, and anything she wears is cute.¬†¬† Pre-K through second¬†graders are required to wear hijab.¬†¬†Third graders and older are required to wear khimar¬†and jilbab!¬†¬† I must ask, what message does this send?¬† Will¬†Tiny Girl¬†¬†chalk it up to ‘girls cover and boys don’t’ ?¬† Will she grow to love it or be turned off by it because it’s mandatory?¬† Will my son grow to be biased toward girls and young women¬† based on whether or not they cover?¬† As a matter of fact it is only mandatory when menstruation begins.¬† So why start so young?¬†¬†¬† I absolutely cringe when I hear another Muslim offer this explanation: “well, if she only starts wearing it to school when she gets her first period, everyone will know she has it”.

Spare.  Me.

As a Muslim parent, I do have concerns.¬† I want my children to grow to love God and to realize that living a well-balanced life is totally compatible with Islam.¬†¬†¬† Furthermore, I want my children to be in an unbiased and fair environment when it comes to schooling,¬† learning how to be social creatures and making new friends.¬† I want both my son and daughter, to understand and find internal value in the practice and preservation of modesty.¬†¬† More importantly, I’m¬†feeling like my parental right and duty to introduce my children to modesty and it’s practice are being taken away from me.¬† Why should I let an institution determine how or when my daughter practices hijab? ¬† I take hijab-wearing seriously and it doesn’t mean a thing, if it’s not done for the right reasons.¬†I¬†find it hard to believe¬†kids ¬†will learn to embrace modesty if it’s forced upon them.

Is my logic grossly flawed or is  this a typical concern amongst other Muslim parents?  What are parents of Muslim teens saying?  I would love to know how they deal with this issue, and what the outcomes are.

…………..and I haven’t even been there yet.

My husband is from Tunisia, I have never been there, and my husband hasn’t been home in a very long time.¬† We are dreaming about the day¬†we go to visit, with our tunsi-italiorican¬†babies in tow.¬† My in-laws are special people, and I miss them.¬† Web -caming¬†helps, but there¬†are ¬†no¬†substitutes for big, fat hugs.

So, as you can imagine recent events are on my mind.¬†¬† While I am hoping and praying that the winds of change will bring the people of Tunisia peace and prosperity;¬† I am worried that civil unrest and chaos will be the perfect breeding ground for another dictator.¬† I’m¬†worried that violence will escalate and that the people will become divided.¬†¬† More than anything I worry for the safety and well-being¬†of my in-laws.¬†

And in the back of my mind, I am very worried that I may have to live there someday.   This never used to worry me, now it does.

I have some things on my mind, as most mothers do: how can we ensure that we will always be able to provide for our¬†children, and when they are grown, ourselves?¬† As I have mentioned before, both my husband and I work full-time.¬†¬† We don’t roll around in extra dough in our spare time, we are not obsessed with material objects and don’t have any expensive habits (read: we both work because we have to).¬† That said, we are blessed to have good, rewarding careers in healthcare.¬† We are compensated fairly, receive very good benefits and are treated respectfully.¬† Can it get any better?

As my 40th birthday looms over the horizon, the ticking clock gets louder and louder.¬†¬†¬† I’m hoping that my husband and I can retire at age 60, this way we are completely free to roam the universe, explore new hobbies and spend plenty of quality time with our grandchildren.¬†¬†¬† Since, as muslims, we are forbidden to receive (or pay) interest, wealth building for retirement seems pretty impossible.¬†¬† Most of my female colleagues who are either single or nearing retirement¬†age are constantly discussing their financial portfolios, and basically their future wealth is based on interest.¬† This just is not an option for us.¬†¬†We could just leave it all in God’s hands¬†¬†or we can start¬† searching for a halal solution now,¬†and do something about it.¬† I choose the latter.

First and foremost I am a mother of two really stellar kids.    I yearn to work part-time or not at all, but this happening is just as likely as a pig in my frying pan.    The challenge when leasing a residence is saving a mammoth down payment for the controversial sharia complaint mortgage while still living and meeting all the basic needs of a family with children.  How could I not work?  We would be leasing for-ev-er.  So I work.  We work.  Very hard.  Once we get the house, we need to pay it off, so I will continue to work.  Very Hard.  Then inshaAllah our kids will go to college on our dime (I believe that education is one of the best investments).  By the time said house is paid in full, I may have 10 years left in the workforce.  Even if we lived only on my husbands salary and I saved every penny of my salary for that 10 year period, it would not be enough to sustain a retired couple of two, healthcare, property taxes and other expenditures of daily living including spoiling our grandchildren!

Where does that leave us?¬† In a spare room at my son or daughter’s house?¬† I don’t want to do this to them.¬† When they are adults, I want them to be financially stable, and have thriving personal lives.¬† I do not think that would be¬†possible with my husband and I taking up residence under the same roof.¬† Perhaps my views are a result of my culture; but I find it very difficult¬† to believe that a healthy and loving marriage can stay happy¬† with parents living in the house!¬† I love my mother with my heart and soul and¬† as long as I am on this planet I will always be here for her, and she will never be alone.¬† Would I take her in if she needed us?¬† Of course, but I would much rather have a two family house so she could have her own apartment with all the necessities.¬†

My question is, how do muslims do it?  There any many single income muslim families here that own their properties, and I cannot figure out how they manage the financial burden of it all. 

I recently contacted the investment company that manages retirement funds for my employer.¬† They have socially responsible funds, i.e. stocks and investments that are not fueled by tobacco or alcohol; this isn’t enough.¬† I explained my religious observances and they claim I am not alone, and have other muslim clients who invest in the stock market without collecting interest.¬†¬† I hear the word “stock market” and a hundred red flags go up in my mind.¬† I have no desire to risk loosing what I work so hard for.¬† Wouldn’t that be akin to gambling?

If it isn’t too personal, if any muslims are reading this, what is your strategy?¬† Can you recommend any resources where we could gain sound, halal compliant advice?¬†¬†¬† I am really curious.

I recently read an *article* on a blog regarding mothers who work outside the home in “The West”¬† (insert thunderbolt and lightning¬†here).¬† It was written by a respected¬†female Muslim speaker¬†so I read it before going to bed, unsuspecting just how badly it would annoy me.¬† It was strongly anti-feminist and I have not posted the link because I’m a total wimp.¬† I’m not even sure I would consider it an article, it was more like a strongly opinionated essay.

I am a mother of¬†¬†thirty-month old monster son, and a four-month old meatball¬†daughter.¬† I also work outside my home full-time in the evenings to help support my family.¬† Laboratory Technology is my career choice which happens to be a diverse field¬†and a¬†flexible discipline.¬† This is ideal for a mom.¬† Or a dad.¬† Or anyone, really.¬† It served me very well as a happenin’ single chick who liked to travel and pay her own bills- and it is equally gratifying for me as a wife and mother.

Amongst my child rearing colleagues; I have never known a woman to work full-time and let her children be raised by wolves for the sake of materialism.¬† That “argument” is so stale, and really narrows the scope of whom that type of ideology applies to.¬†

If it was an affordable option, I would love to cut back- my kids are my world; and they deserve the very best from us.  I feel that part of the very best includes mama going to work.  Part of the very best includes having a father who is equally involved with every aspect of their development.  Part of the best includes having health insurance, decent cars that are maintained and safe, educational savings, funds to travel, being able to assist our families if needed and saving for a house of our own (renting/leasing sucks).    My husband cannot do this on his own; I think it is a tremendous burden.  I should also mention that working makes me feel well-rounded, helpful and saves my sanity at times.  

Sure, ¬†my house could be a little neater, dinners could be more interesting than one-pot wonders and¬†I’d certainly like not having bags under my eyes or dehydration induced pseudo crows feet, but this is my reality.¬† My family needs me, I need them.¬† I intend to pass my work ethic and drive on to my daughter.¬† I hope she doesn’t have to spread herself too thin, but she must know how to take care of herself and her future family if needed.

Do you work?  Do you stay home?  Why have you made this decision?

I have been toying around with the idea of a meaningful blog for years; leaving a trail of unattended blogger domains, half-finished posts and poorly focused entries. Blogging is much easier said than done, and my hope is to gain focus and clarity through writing. 

The things most important to me at this point in my life are my children and parenting,¬†¬†marriage & family dynamics, finding my place in society as a Muslim, finding my place in Islam as a woman,¬† career goals, and getting back to my favorite pobby (passionate hobby)- photography, and getting some sleep! ¬† I feel I’ve gained so much since becoming a mom, and I’ve lost some of myself in the process too.¬† It’s bittersweet.

These will likely be things I reflect upon the most, and the challenge will be finding the time to do it.

Peace,

MM