Saturday, November 15, 2014

Searching for Islam

Asalamu Alaykom,

This sweet little girl, mashahallah, is show in a Dubai shopping mall with her American family.  Watch how she reacts to the azan.  It's her first time and she is mesmerized.  Her eyes scan the space for The Source.  Watch how she instinctively points her finger out as if she is testifying.  See how she touches her fingers together as if in tasbeeh (done when remembering Allah).

If only we could all react with such open wonder to the azan.

Egyptians tend to disregard the call to prayer like so much garbage in the street.  Astragferallah.  It's there; they don't notice it.  Yes, the music is stopped for azan but the talking and yelling continue.  Astragferallah.  It's only three to four minutes long, yet people raised Muslim in a predominantly Muslim country, still blather on like...well, I'd say animals but even animals are seen showing a quiet respect for the azan.

For me, I've at least stopped my own mouth from yammering.  I can also, over time, convince my husband and son to wait to speak.  As for the others, I can only be a role model in that regard.

Yusuf Estes says in this video that too many Muslims are in name only and that they also need to come to Islam.  Whether you are Muslim or not, watch how this video shows the power in finding your path.

Yusuf Estes is a former Christian preacher who left the church in order to follow his faith in Islam.  Mashahallah, he is a powerful speaker with enough knowledge to back up his words.  Yes, this video is long but stick with it until the end.  

I cried three times and those tears washed away some of the hardness that has built up in me.  Only when we are softened by the Mercy of Allah are we able to change and grow.  I also laughed because Yusuf Estes knows that laughter can be a part of dawah---the spreading of Islam.

There is a section around 20 minutes where the audio is dropped.  There is no explanation but I believe it was done for privacy in order to protect the questioner from the audience. 

There is another section after that in which the women from the audience are not show.  I don't know how I feel about that.  I wish that women could come to a microphone and not be objectified but maybe that is not possible.  Their privacy is also protected.

One nice thing about the video is that it has Arabic subtitles.  This enabled me to share it with my husband.  Yes, he has enough English to basically understand the video without subtitles,but they really helped him grasp the concepts easier.  Sharing Islam together is the biggest blessing of our marriage.  Alhumdulillah.

Do not miss out on the chance to be a witness of God's great power.

Let me know if it makes you cry too.


Saturday, November 8, 2014

Wash or Wipe?

Asalamu Alaykom,

I started reading Karen Armstrong's latest book, "Fields of Blood:  Religion and the History of Violence."  The introduction makes a really good point:  the Western concept of religion is a personalized concept disconnected from daily life whereas Islam, although thought of as a religion, is really a whole lifestyle.

Yes, Islam has ways of living which are interwoven throughout your days.  The ways of dressing, eating and even using the bathroom are prescribed for you.  Yes!  It isn't just the prayer hall where Islam reaches you as it follows you into every room----even the bathroom.

After eliminating waste, washing your privates is mandatory.

Before Islam, I was very American in my actions.  I did whatever the culture had deemed normal although I did use a spray bottle after having my first child and my c-section.  The hospital had given it to me and I used it, even after I had healed because it seemed useful.  I liked that idea of being really clean. 

Take a look at this video.  It's not Islamic or even from a Muslim country---it's from Taiwan.  We Muslims are not the only ones who believe in a cleansing rinse of water after using the toilet.

Now, I can't imagine not cleaning with water after using the toilet.  The toilets in Egypt all have some sort of washing device---though not like the robo-washer in the video.  There is a jet spray built into our toilet bowl; others are fit with a copper tube; while others have a hose hooked to the wall.  In American homes, many Muslims have a plumber install that tubing or the hose; barring that they leave a pitcher of water next to the toilet.

If you are interested in installing a sprayer in your home, here is a DIY video on it.  This handyman first learned about using a sprayer in Thailand and spends about 13 minutes demonstrating how to hook it up yourself. 

While out of Egypt, I have to improvise.  If I'm staying in a place, then I have a plastic water bottle in the bathroom.  If you screw on the cap and poke holes in it, the water sprays out very effectively.  If I am outside of the home, I bring along a small plastic bottle.  It doesn't have to contain water, because I can fill it up at the sink before heading into the stall.  If I've forgotten that bottle, I can take a wad of toilet paper, wet it and re-enter the bathroom.  

If you think about what sounds clean and good, you will realize that (Muslim or not) washing up down there is sensible.  A mother does what is best for her child, and if there were two mothers changing diapers, you'd say that the mom washing away the filth off her baby was better than the mom who only wiped it with a dry paper tissue.  Wouldn't you?

Women have to contend with not only urine and feces but also blood.  Can you honestly tell me that you'd rather walk around with these substances on your skin rather than washing them off of you?  Blood?!  It feels so much better to rinse off throughout the day.

There's also the matter of fluids from sexual intimacy.  Being able to wash those fluids away is very important to Muslims.  There's a whole ritual shower we must take to get clean after intercourse.  The cleaning starts with making sure we are free from those substances which is easier done on the toilet than in the shower.  

Being free from dirtiness is a learned behavior.  Small children, as they are being potty trained, would rather keep their poop with them; they created it so they hate to part with it.  You often have to smell them and confront them before you can clean them ---often chasing them around in the process!  We can laugh about their inability to part with poop yet if you are not washing off yourself then you really aren't much different.

There was a viral photo in 2009 which showed a woman's rear end being attacked by flies.  Obviously, they were attracted to that spot on her pants due to a smell.  It was disgusting to see and I'm sure embarrassing to be that woman.  Although her face isn't shown, she is a real person who knows that her secret behavior in the bathroom became extremely public.  I won't show the picture here because I don't want to perpetuate the hardship she's faced. No one would ever want to be that humiliated woman.    

That story makes my final point: 

Dirtiness is attractive flies    

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Speed Bump

Asalamu Alaykom,

At school, I stopped two 9th grade girls from playing tic-tac-toe on the freshly painted wall.  They pointed out that someone else had written on the wall first.  Didn't fly with me; they still had to erase what they did.

"Didn't you notice, Miss, that there's a lot of bigger problems in the world?"

"Of course I did, but I'm going to work on the ones in my own little space first before I move on to them."

In light of that conversation, I give you my tough-as-nails sister-in-law who protested in the street for the army to come and fix the local school's speed bump.  It was on that same spot in 2010 where I witnessed a child being hit and killed by a bus.  She felt strongly that accidents like that should never happen again so she stood in the street and demanded action.  It was caught on video and broadcast.

Again, I get that a speed bump won't stop all the problems in the world but GOD BLESS my sister-in-law.  She did her part (mashahallah) to work on what she could.