Connect with us

#Culture

The Invitation – Part 2

Umm Zakiyyah

Published

on

By Umm Zakiyyah

a short story

PART ONE | PART TWO

After the summer internship, Paula and I went our separate ways. We kept in touch, but we had our own lives to focus on. I went to college close to home to be near John, and Paula went to college in another state. When we talked, which was usually about once a month, Paula talked mostly about her burgeoning spirituality and all the different Islamic awareness activities Sommer was organizing. Though Sommer herself lived far from us both, Sommer was active nationally in several Muslim youth organizations and ran a pretty successful blog that focused on sexism amongst Muslims and the need for feminist interpretations of long-held patriarchal interpretations of the Qur’an and prophetic traditions.

Once Paula had even called to tell me that I absolutely had to turn on the TV “at this moment” because Sommer was being featured on a CNN special about Islam’s alleged oppression of women. John was due any minute to pick me up and take me out to dinner, but I was curious enough to turn on the TV while I waited. John rang the doorbell while I was still watching and I asked if he could give me a minute, and he stood in the front room of my apartment watching snippets of the show himself as he waited for me.

“That’s the girl who taught you about Islam?” John remarked after we were in the car.

“Yeah,” I said, smiling to myself as I buckled my seatbelt in the passenger seat. I was proud to have personally known someone who was so prominent.

“Good thing you only knew her for a few weeks.”

My eyebrows shot up as I regarded John. “What do you mean?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, Faith. She just sounds a little too opinionated for her own good.”

I smirked. “You know what Paula would call you now?”

He grinned knowingly. “A sexist?”

“And maybe a racist too.”

We both laughed.

“Why racist?” he said, humor still in his tone.

“Because it’s obvious you think Arab-Pakistani girls don’t have a right to their own minds.”

We chuckled, shaking our heads. It was a bitter joke because John was White, and he often said he felt reluctant to share his opinions about anything objectionable that a non-White did because he feared he would be labeled a racist.

“But I do agree with one thing she said.” John’s tone was serious.

“What’s that?” I asked, curious.

“That people who are gay and lesbian have a right to worship God like everyone else.”

I grew silent and looked out the passenger side window. The day I became Muslim Paula had asked Sommer if a gay person could be Muslim. When Sommer said yes (albeit reluctantly), Paula said, “That’s all I wanted to know. Because I think I want to be Muslim too.” Then she became Muslim herself.

More than a year had passed since that conversation, and I couldn’t get it out of my head. What did Paula mean by that? Did she consider herself gay? But that didn’t make any sense. In high school, she’d had more boyfriends than most of the girls we knew. Was this because she was confused about her sexuality? Or maybe she was putting on a façade to hide who she really was.

“Yeah,” I agreed noncommittally, but I continued to stare out the window next to me. “We all sin. Nobody should be prevented from worshipping God just because their struggle is different from other people’s.”

“I’m ready, Faith,” John said seconds later.

I turned to him, my forehead creased. “Ready for what?”

“To become Muslim.” He smiled flirtatiously then added, “And to marry you.”

I brought a hand to my mouth in surprise. “Are you serious?”

“If you are,” he said as he slowed to a stop behind a line of cars.

“Is this your idea of a proposal?” I teased. “Asking me to marry you at a stoplight?”

“It’s more than an idea actually,” he said, smiling at me before turning his attention back to the road. “I want us to make it reality.”

 

Married Life

John and I eloped a week later so that we could enjoy each other’s company before making any official announcements of a formal wedding to our friends or family. Though I wanted to tell Paula, John convinced me that we should keep the decision to ourselves.

“What if she doesn’t approve?” he asked one day as we lay awake in his apartment. “It would crush you, and I want the memories of this time to always be special for us.”

“I think she’ll be happy for me,” I said, but I detected hesitance in my tone. Sommer had practically become a spiritual mentor to Paula, and though I wanted to believe that was a good thing, Paula’s rants about male patriarchy in religion were increasingly more passionate than they were before she accepted Islam. I could only assume her views on early marriage (I was only nineteen and John twenty-one) did not mirror mine.

The mere possibility of hearing Paula criticize me for “dishonoring my womanhood” by giving myself to a man before I even had a college degree made my stomach churn in dread. John was right. We should keep this between ourselves for now. Besides, I was beside myself in happiness to be with John right then, and I didn’t need anyone else’s opinion, dissenting or otherwise, to make that feeling any more genuine.

“No it’s not. No it’s not!” My eyes fluttered open in the darkness, and I found John sleeping next to me, his breathing soft and rhythmic. My heart pounded with the same frustrated conviction that it had the first time I’d seen the dream. I sat up in bed, confusion and worry lingering where grogginess should have been.

The dream was unchanged. I had no idea what I was arguing about, and I didn’t even know whom I was arguing with except that she was some girl with a faded red-heart tattoo on her lower back. I felt close and distant from myself at once, and the more I yelled, the farther the girl was out of my reach and the closer to myself I felt. There were black snakes and lizards coming toward the girl, but she didn’t see them because she was so happy and content with whatever she was telling me. “No it’s not!” I kept telling her in response, growing more desperate with each moment. And right before I woke up, I was in a green pasture alone, far from the girl, but I was losing my voice yelling at her though I knew she couldn’t hear me.

“It means you’re going to find the truth,” Sommer had said, interpreting the dream. “And after you find it, you’re going to be tempted by yourself or someone you love to give up your faith, but you won’t insha’Allah.”

Unable to sleep, I tossed aside the comforter, causing John to stir in his sleep. I went to the bathroom then washed my face. John and I were scheduled to have breakfast with my birth mother at nine o’clock the following morning, so I really needed to sleep.

Was I getting cold feet? Was that what this was about? I’d asked John to come with me because I thought it would make things easier. But now I wasn’t so sure. I’d suggested to John that accompanying me might be the inspiration he needed to find his own birth parents. Like myself, John was adopted. But unlike myself, John didn’t have the slightest inclination to find his real mother and father.

“What if they’re drug addicts or something?” he’d often say.

“So what if they are?” I’d retort.

“It’s different for African-American families,” he’d said once. “You all have closer bonds with your parents.”

“What? That’s not true.” I don’t know why, but I was deeply hurt by that comment. I guess in a way I felt that this was John’s pathetic attempt to avoid facing his past. Unlike my own experience as the brown child of two White parents, John’s outings with his adopted parents never incited questions or suspicions as to who his “real” parents were. Like my own adopted parents, John’s were White, as was John, so people naturally assumed that John was their biological son. Apparently, other than close family and John himself, they’d never told anyone that John was adopted, and I sensed that in a bizarre case of wishful thinking, John believed that if he kept quiet about his true background, it would disappear. He didn’t even want to accompany me when I met my birth mother for the first time. I suppose even that was cutting too close to home for him.

After leaving the bathroom, I felt a sudden need to read the Qur’an before trying to go back to sleep. I was still a bit unsettled by the dream, mainly because I could find no reason for having seen it a second time. I’d already found the truth. I was Muslim now, so what was I supposed to get from the dream this time around? Would my birth mother oppose my decision to be Muslim? But how would she find out in the first place? I didn’t wear hijab, and I certainly didn’t plan on telling her about my conversion, at least not during our first meeting.

I removed a copy of the Qur’an from a bookshelf in our bedroom, and I carried it to the kitchen, where I decided to put some water on for tea while I read.

“We have explained in detail in this Qur’an, for the benefit of mankind, every kind of similitude. But man is, in most things, contentious.”

Al-Kahf, 18:54

This is the verse that would stay with me as I drifted to sleep the night before I would meet my birth mother.

 

A Life Changed Forever

The door to my apartment bathroom banged against the sink counter as I rushed inside. I dropped to my knees in front of the toilet and hung my head over the bowl as my stomach heaved and the contents of my breakfast exploded from my mouth. I clutched the porcelain seat as I vomited twice more and gagged on the bile burning the back of my throat. I spit into the commode one last time before reaching up to flush the toilet. I collapsed onto the tiled floor with my back against the porcelain bowl as the rush of water sucked the putrid contents down the pipes even as the stench of vomit lingered in the air.

I covered my face with my hands and my shoulders shook as I moaned and tears spilled from my eyes.

“I’m coming right now,” Paula said when I called her minutes later. I didn’t want to tell her what had happened because, technically, my marriage to John was still a secret. But I really didn’t know who else to turn to. After John, she was the only person I considered a good friend. I wanted to talk to my mother (my adopted mother) but I hadn’t even told her I was Muslim or that I had found my birth mother—or that I’d run off and married John without her knowledge. And I knew now wasn’t the time to divulge this, especially after what had happened at breakfast.

It was late at night when Paula stepped inside my apartment and found me sitting in the dark living room, staring off into space with my legs folded pretzel-style in front of me on the couch.

“You left your door open,” she said, playfully scolding me as she closed the front door and locked it. A second later light flooded the room.

I managed a tightlipped smile, but I didn’t look in her direction. She put her arms around me and pulled me into an embrace, and I laid my head on her shoulder. The tears welled in my eyes again, but I blinked to keep myself from breaking down again.

We sat like that for some time in silence before she asked, “Faith, are you sure? Maybe there’s some mistake…”

I drew in a deep breath and exhaled. I’d said the same thing over and over to myself the whole day, and I didn’t even want to imagine what John was telling himself. I’d rushed out of the restaurant without him and took a taxi alone to my apartment. I still had a couple months left on the lease before I was supposed to move out and live with John full time.

“He recognized her too, Paula,” I said, dejected, my voice scratchy as I spoke into the cloth of her shirt.

“But he was a baby when he was adopted. How could he even remember?”

I shook my head, but that felt like too much effort. I sat up and Paula released me so I could look at her while I spoke. “I was eighteen months, and John was almost four.”

Paula averted her gaze. “But he’s…”

“We have different fathers,” I said, already knowing what Paula was thinking.

I groaned aloud. “Why is this happening?” I blurted, a surge of anger overtaking me. “I love him.”

“But he’s your brother, Faith,” Paula said softly.

As if I didn’t know that! I wanted to slap her right then.

Paula drew in a deep breath and exhaled, the sound painfully empathetic. “Maybe this is a test from Allah. I know it must be hard, but—”

“Hard?” I glared at her. “No, Paula. Getting through high school was hard. Learning how to pray was hard. Saving myself for marriage was hard.” I shook my head and stood up, my arms folded over my chest as I struggled to keep my composure. “This isn’t hard, Paula. This is…” My mind frantically searched for the term that could aptly explain my fury. “…f—ed up!”

I usually didn’t use profanity, but right then I really didn’t care. No words, not even profane ones, seemed heart-wrenching enough to accurately describe what I felt right then.

“Why would God even let this happen? Why did He make me and John fall in love?” I said, angry gasps between my questions. “He could’ve stopped us. He knew we weren’t allowed to be together.”

I clinched my jaws and balled up my fists. “This is so unfair,” I said, speaking under my breath. “This is so f—ing unfair.”

“No it’s not,” Paula said softly, but she wasn’t looking at me. She was looking at her hands. I could tell she hated being in this position. She didn’t want to be the one to tell me I couldn’t be with the only man I loved. She didn’t want to be the one to tell me there was no way for me and John to remain married. She didn’t want to tell me that I’d saved myself, prizing my chastity and virginity all throughout my youth, only to give my heart and body to someone I was never allowed to be with in the first place.

“It is unfair,” I said, raising my voice as I glared at her.

“No it’s not,” she said, raising her voice as she met my gaze. Her eyes filled with tears as her jaw trembled in tortuous compassion for me. She wanted to take away my pain, but she couldn’t. I looked away.

“It’s a test from Allah,” I heard her say, but I couldn’t look at her. Tears filled my own eyes as her words pierced my heart. I knew she was right. But I didn’t want her to be. “You’re being tempted to give up your faith,” she said.

At that, I jerked my head around to meet her gaze and found that she and I were thinking the same thing. She apologized with her eyes, but I sensed she felt that, for my own good, I needed to hear what I already knew.

“It’s like what Sommer said about your dream.”

 

Moving On

“Do people think that they will be left alone on saying, ‘We believe’

And that they will not be tested?”

Al-‘Ankaboot, 29:2

John and I eventually annulled our marriage, and we mutually agreed to go our separate ways and avoid communication with each other except online via Facebook and Twitter. But we kept even that to a minimum. A year after the annulment, John left America to study Arabic and Islamic studies in the Middle East, but I remained where I was.

Paula and I grew closer as friends, and as she had the day I’d called her distressed, she periodically drove six hours to our hometown to visit me. She eventually opened up to me about her own personal and spiritual struggles and admitted that she was in fact attracted to women, not men. But in high school, she’d tried to fight it.

“I thought I just needed to meet the right guy,” she said. “But it turns out there was no right guy.”

“What are you going to do?” I asked her one day as we spoke on the phone. I wondered if Sommer knew, but I didn’t feel comfortable asking.

“I’m hoping for a miracle,” she said jokingly. But I detected a sense of resentment in her voice. “Maybe I’ll start a convent for Muslim nuns. You know, vowing celibacy for the sake of Allah and all that.”

We both laughed.

“I’ll make du’aa for you,” I said more seriously, letting her know I would pray for her. “I know it must be hard.”

“In a way,” she said, her voice somber, “you and I are the same.”

I grunted laughter. “I guess so.”

But I didn’t want to think about John. Even now, three years later, he still had a hold on my heart. I’d tried to talk to other Muslim men for marriage, but nothing ever worked out. There were times that my heart and mind would search frantically for a way for me and John to be together. I searched fatwa after fatwa, asked scholar after scholar, and read all the Islamic material I could in hopes of finding something, anything, to justify me and John getting remarried. I’d even found a couple of religious loopholes that seemed plausible justifications for arguing that, technically-speaking, John and I were not officially brother and sister—by law or Islam. And since our mother never married my father or John’s father, weren’t John and I technically “illegitimate children” who were not mahram (legal relatives) for each other?

“Be careful,” Paula told me one day after I explained to her what I’d learned. “You don’t want to do like that story in the Qur’an where the people were forbidden to fish on Saturday, but they put out the net on Friday so they could collect their fish on Sunday.”

I sighed in agreement, but my heart fell in defeat. I missed John so much that my heart literally hurt for him. Why couldn’t I just move on?

“But there are so many different interpretations of things,” I said, desperate for any justification for what I wanted. “Maybe the laws forbidding mahram’s from marrying don’t apply to illegitimate children.”

Paula laughed, but I could tell she wasn’t trying to be mean. “Oh please, don’t go there,” she said. “You start doing that reinterpreting thing, and you might interpret yourself right out of the religion.”

“Maybe you’re right,” I muttered.

 

The Invitation

I hugged my knees and concentrated my attention on the parking lot beyond my apartment window. It was all I could do to steady my trembling and think of something besides the torn envelope and embossed card next to me on the crumpled sheet of my bed.

I was upset. I knew that much. But there was something deeper knifing at my heart.

Your attendance is requested at the wedding celebration of Paula Smith and Sommer Khan.

I gritted my teeth as I glanced at the folded ivory-colored card. On the front of the card was a faded red heart, and beneath the heart was the calligraphic quote, “It’s about love.”

No it’s not, I protested in my mind. No it’s not.

Part of me wanted to pick up the phone and confront her. I’d seen the link on her Twitter page to the article by Sommer entitled “It’s About Love” that defended the rights of gays and lesbians to fully participate in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic faith traditions. But I’d thought nothing of it. Same-sex marriage was discussed in the article, but I would have never imagined that Sommer was implying that our “faith tradition” should treat these unions as Islamically acceptable.

“It’s about love,” Sommer kept repeating throughout the article.

“No it’s not,” I said aloud as I snatched up the invitation card from my bed and ripped it in half right through the faded red heart.

It’s about Allah, I thought to myself, reflecting on the tremendous lesson I learned from my own struggles. And it’s about whether or not you’ll accept Allah’s invitation to choose Him over your desires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Umm Zakiyyah is the internationally acclaimed author of the If I Should Speak trilogy. Her latest novel Muslim Girl is now available.

To learn more about the author, visit ummzakiyyah.com or subscribe to her YouTube channel.

 

Copyright © 2014 by Al-Walaa Publications. All Rights Reserved.

WRITTEN FOR MUSLIMMATTERS.ORG

Daughter of American converts to Islam, Umm Zakiyyah writes about the interfaith struggles of Muslims and Christians, and the intercultural, spiritual, and moral struggles of Muslims in America. She is the internationally acclaimed author of more than fifteen books, including the If I Should Speak trilogy, Muslim Girl, His Other Wife and the newly released self-help book for Muslim survivors of parental and family abuse: Reverencing the Wombs That Broke You, with contributions by Haleh Banani, behavioral therapist. Her books have been used in universities in America and abroad including Indiana University-Bloomington, Howard University, University of D.C. and Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. To learn more about the author, visit uzauthor.com.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Nas

    October 29, 2014 at 5:11 AM

    MashAllah, the piece continues to be well-written as the character struggles become more real & conflicted. Apparently…. #ArtImitatingLife #LoveIsLove

  2. Avatar

    umm

    October 29, 2014 at 6:04 AM

    Subhanallah…when Faith ripped that invitation.. My body trembled.. Yes it is indeed about Allah. May Allah enable us to grow more in His belief.

  3. Avatar

    Hena

    October 29, 2014 at 9:51 AM

    MashaAllah. The conflict and frustrations in this short story are so heartfelt. Indeed, we will all be tested – and though the tests in this story for some may seem unreal and extreme, they are indeed very authentic and real to the believers who face them. May Allah swt help us and guide us all through our troubles and tests, no matter what they be. And may we all, as Faith did, remember that it’s all about Allah swt.
    JazakAllah khair Sister Umm Zakiyyah.

  4. Avatar

    neha

    October 29, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    masha Allah. it was such a good plot and beautifully written too.

  5. Avatar

    Nisrine

    October 29, 2014 at 3:59 PM

    Interesting story, i don’t know why but i kind of got the vibe that she wasn’t really mad at her for getting married but rather because she had blocked her own happiness with john 3 years earlier when she had been trying to find loopholes i.e. Sommer had refused to let faith find a loophole that would allow her to be with John yet she managed to find a loophole for herself in order to marry Paula…just my thoughts

    • Avatar

      IDRIS

      July 9, 2015 at 6:09 AM

      Dear Muslim(ah),

      There are no loopholes in the religion of Allaah, the all-Knowing, the all-Wise (Ref. Surah al-Maidah vs 3 – ” … This day I have perfected for you your religion and completed My favor upon you and have approved for you Islam as religion…. “). Therefore, there are only misunderstandings from either lack of knowledge or whisperings and antics of the devil.

      And as Umm Zakiyyah concluded the story, it is about Allah and not our unguided innate desires.

      “It’s about Allah, I thought to myself, reflecting on the tremendous lesson I learned from my own struggles. And it’s about whether or not you’ll accept Allah’s invitation to choose Him over your desires.” – Umm Zakiyyah

      Remember also that Allah says about the soul desires in the story of Yusuf:

      “And I do not acquit myself. Indeed, the soul is a persistent enjoiner of evil, except those upon which my Lord has mercy. Indeed, my Lord is Forgiving and Merciful.”

      Surah Yusuf (12) vs 53

      On homosexuality, Allah guided us from the story of Prophet Lut in the Qur’aan

      We also (sent) Lut: He said to his people: “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you?
      For you practise your lusts on men in preference to women : you are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.”
      And his people gave no answer but this: they said, “Drive them out of your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!”
      But we saved him and his family, except his wife: she was of those who legged behind.
      And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone): Then see what was the end of those who indulged in sin and crime! (Surat al-Araf: 80-84)

      An may Allah save us from the fitnah (trials) of these times.

      Ameen

  6. Avatar

    Nus

    November 1, 2014 at 5:02 PM

    Wow, getting more conflicted. But I’m so happy that you are highlighting the unspoken struggles of so many Muslims. There are a lot of Muslims, especially in the West, who struggle with these aspects of their faith. And it is made all the more difficult because a lot of what is forbidden in our faith is sanctioned by the society we live in. Everyone is tested in their own way and we have no right to judge them or condemn to hell. It is between them and Allah. But it is our job to help them inshallah, find their way back to Allah.

  7. Avatar

    Faith

    January 17, 2015 at 9:08 AM

    Masha’Allah! I honestly had goose bumps reading this story. As a new revert myself who’s also had to face similar challenges, (I don’t have an adopted brother I married lol). Its really amazing to read a story that gets to the core of my reality. That it really is all about Allah, its about accepting His invitation and choosing Him over EVERYTHING! Alhamdulilah! JazakaAllah Khair sister Umm Zakiyyah. May Allah continue to give you the blessing of using your gift to touch the lives of many around the world. Ameen.

  8. Avatar

    Maryam

    May 2, 2015 at 2:56 AM

    Such a great piece,woven sooo well.We all have our personal inclinations but thosewho are successful are the ones who do follow their covetousness

  9. Avatar

    Maryam

    May 2, 2015 at 2:59 AM

    Such a great piece,woven sooo well.We all have our personal inclinations but thosewho are successful are the ones who do not follow their covetousness.

  10. Avatar

    M

    May 6, 2015 at 8:36 AM

    Another amazing piece of writing by Umm Zakiyya. I was wondering though, Faith and John are mehrums, would it still be wrong if they just lived together? Could they live together as siblings? I mean, as in, without doing anything haram, just enjoying each others company, as siblings? I know that sex is a sacred act between a husband and a wife, but that’s not the only thing you would want in a relationship right? They could still live together enjoying each others company, well, at least as long as they didn’t find someone else they would want to marry.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

#Culture

Of Dreams and Shadows

A short story

Guests

Published

on

By

By Saulat Pervez

Tears streaming down her face and her lips moving fervently in supplication, the lady’s terrified face spoke volumes. Watching the lady, she realized how closely this woman was viewing death. She herself always considered someone passing away as a reminder, casting a shadow on her consciousness, making her hyperaware of the transience of life, but the darkness would dissipate as the hours passed by, overtaken by the urgent demands of the mundane. For this woman, however, death was no longer an abstract concept: she stood mesmerized by the fear gripping the woman who could see herself being carried off in a coffin very soon.

That night, she wrote in her journal,

We often ask one another what we want to do with our lives, but rarely think about our own deaths. Perhaps it’s time for us to work backwards. Let death be the starting point and then find purpose in our lives – knowing that no matter how old/young we are, or whether we have a prognosis hanging over our heads or not, death is right around the corner. In our zeal to accomplish everything we want, are we cognizant of the fact that anytime our life can come to an end? Too often, there’s a disconnect and death – despite its certainty – comes as a surprise. Instead, I want to think about the person I want to be at the time of my death and then figure out everything I need to do to be that person.

***

“So, how were the latest test results?”

“Not good. Her kidneys are getting worse, and now the liver is affected too.”

“And, how old did you say she was?”

“She’s 80.”

“Oh, so she’s old,” she casually said, shifting her eyes to the computer screen.

He realized it was the end of that conversation and looked at his notes for the tasks to be accomplished for the day, pushing his ill aunt in a faraway country from his thoughts. Lurking in his mind, though, was the question: Can we decide when it’s okay for someone to die? To say that they have spent enough time in this world?

“Anything new today?” she asked.

***

He lay there, staring into space. A grandchild sat some distance away, a coffee cup next to her. From the window, he could see the hospital next door. Somehow, it looked really flimsy in his slanted gaze, as if the slightest jolt would crumble it into a miserable heap. His glance returned to the coffee cup for a fleeting second. He could taste the mocha latte in his mouth, but felt no appetite for it at that moment. His granddaughter looked up from her phone and caught his eye. “Would you like anything, Nana?” she asked, leaning forward.

He shook his head quietly and felt his son’s hand slip into his with a squeeze. He looked around the room and saw his family spread out before him, standing, sitting on the sofa handle, slouching on a couch, reading, whispering, praying. He felt a sudden burst of love. He closed his eyes and saw the words that he was thinking: Am I ready to leave all this? He winced before sleep mercifully overtook him.

***

Her husband had been in a coma for only two days but the doctors were already recommending that he should be taken off the ventilator. His brain had been damaged – his heart had stopped beating for a couple of minutes before the paramedics had managed to revive it. His organs had started failing soon after the heart attack.

She was horrified. How could she take such a huge decision? Wouldn’t she be ending his life if she agreed to pull the plug? What if he woke up in the next minute, day, week…? Taking his life was not a decision for her. She would refuse.

The doctors told her that she was only prolonging his pain. Let him go. But, to her, he didn’t look like he was in pain. And she wondered if they had ulterior motives – did they want to give his bed to someone else? Was he costing the insurance provider a fortune? Did they want to salvage whatever organs that remained intact? All sorts of thoughts kept plaguing her. Oh God, why are you putting me through this? She held her head in her hands.

She sat next to him. His heart was beating, he was breathing. She knew that if they removed him from the respirator, he would deteriorate very quickly. To her, the machine was keeping him alive and they wanted to take it away. But, then, a thought crept up to her: Had his soul already left his body? Was he even alive? 

She remembered reading somewhere that a baby’s heart starts beating within the first few weeks in the womb. But her faith taught her that the soul isn’t breathed into the baby until the 12th week. So, technically, the heart could be beating without any soul. She let this sink in. The conflicting thoughts in her mind gradually grew quiet.

She looked at her husband and decided to listen to the doctors. I will let his life take its course. If he is meant to live, then he will survive, somehow.

***

Their house had an eerie silence, casting long shadows on everything it touched. Unless they were fighting, which happened quite a lot lately. It always began with whispered fury, as if their son was still living in the next room, but would escalate inevitably into a crescendo that would topple the silence into smithereens. Followed by a lot of sobbing and slammed doors. It was their way of mourning their only child, who had left them as suddenly as he had entered their lives.

She didn’t think she had any maternal skills, but she knew how much he wanted a baby, and she had eventually given in. She would always remember the day she birthed him as the day a mother was born. He soon became their sun, their world revolving around his every need and want, years passing by. Of course, in her eyes, her husband was never as careful as he should be around him. And, to him, she was too overprotective and needed to lighten up. As he became a young man, though, the three had formed an endearing friendship and life seemed perfect.

It would’ve been an ordinary day in their mundane lives had tragedy not struck and snatched their grown child away senselessly. In the aftermath, they both found themselves standing on the edge of a precipice, their bodies weighed down by grief and blame. And then the letter arrived, yanking them back onto safe space.

It began with, “In the Name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful. Exalted is He who holds all control in His hands; who has power over all things; who created death and life to test you [people] and reveal which of you does best––He is the Mighty, the Forgiving; who created the seven heavens, one above the other. You will not see any flaw in what the Lord of Mercy creates. Look again! Can you see any flaw? Look again! And again! Your sight will turn back to you, weak and defeated” (Qur’an, 67:1-4).

Written by a mutual friend who was thousands of miles away, it amazingly acknowledged their pain and anger while reminding them that neither could’ve changed the fate of their son. It exposed their raw feelings towards each other and demanded that they not let this tragedy cause further damage by pulling away from each other. That, in this time of unspeakable loss, they need each other the most. It spoke of life and death as something far larger than them, and nothing they could’ve done would’ve saved their son. At the same time, it encouraged them to invest their energies into causes that would prevent others from suffering like they were. And, it ended with, “Say, ‘Only what God has decreed will happen to us. He is our Master: let the believers put their trust in God’” (9:51).

They didn’t know how many times they read the letter and when they curled their arms around each other, tears flowing. And that’s when their long, torturous journey toward healing finally began. Together.

***

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon, to God we belong and to Him we return. She couldn’t believe the news: Was he really gone? As much as she wanted to deny it, she had to accept the reality. A sudden gloom settled in her. The distance killed her. She knew she wouldn’t be able to go for the funeral. Worse, she felt guilty for not visiting. She should’ve known, she should’ve gone.

She went about her day like a zombie. She was physically present, but mentally and emotionally, she felt completely numb. Flashes from her childhood kept distracting her. He had always loved her like his daughter. As she began imagining family and friends gathering to console the immediate family and prepare for the funeral, she felt lonely – tinged with poignant nostalgia, the detachment made the loss more pronounced, compounding her sorrow. She lost her appetite and everything around her became dull. Instead, she hungrily sought every detail around his death. She messaged ten people at once and waited anxiously for the responses. As they began pouring in, she began to cry, utterly desolate.

Through the layers of grief and loss, a voice managed to speak: Is this about him or you? She was caught off guard. She realized that she was so self-absorbed that she hadn’t even prayed for him. She started murmuring supplications, asking for his forgiveness and peace. She reached for the Qur’an and opened it to Surah Ya-Sin and began reciting. The lyrical verses gradually soothed her. Her mind began to fill with his smiling face and the happy moments they had spent together. She suddenly understood that what mattered most was the time they had shared when he was alive – the ways in which she was there for him, the things he had done for her.

It isn’t about him or me. It’s about us.

*** 

“What is the procedure for inducing here? How long after the due date do you wait?”

“We don’t wait. If you aren’t in labor by your due date, we schedule you.”

“Oh. My other two babies arrived late—”

 

“Why can’t we find the baby’s heartbeat?” The doctor said to herself as she walked over and took the device from the nurse, pressing and moving it firmly on her swollen belly.

She woke up in a sweat. This is how the dream always ended. Except each time the setting was different. Tonight, they were in a massive kitchen with the doctor and the nurse in crisp, white aprons; the device was a shiny spatula and she was lying flat on a counter.

Instinctively, her hand stroked her stomach, now flattened. In the bleak light, she looked at the empty corner where the crib had stood not too long ago and she wept, consumed with longing. For the umpteenth time, she asked herself, When was the last time I felt the baby kick? She could honestly not remember. The night before, she had been up late, worrying and waiting for her husband to come home from work. During the day, her toddler kids had kept her occupied until it was time to rush for the doctor’s appointment. She had just started her ninth month.

The truth of the matter was that she had never thought anything would go wrong. After all, her other pregnancies had been entirely normal and natural. She had stayed active and agile until it was time to go to the hospital. So, what happened? No one knew. There was a heartbeat, and then there wasn’t. If only I had sensed that something was wrong. What kind of mother am I?

Flashbacks, flashbacks, and yet more flashbacks. She was riddled with flashbacks lately. It’s incredible how suddenly the entire stage can be reset. One moment you have something and the next, it’s gone – and you’re left looking at your emptiness shocked with wonder: how did it happen? Just like that, life ends or a catastrophe strikes, and colors everything a different shade.

As she wallowed in her sorrow, she was yanked out yet again by the same verse: Not a leaf moves without His knowledge. She shook her head, amazed by the simple phrase that sprinkled her conversations so casually: insha’Allah, if God wills. She would say it and yet expect certain outcomes. This time, when He had other plans, it hit her with such force that she felt completely dwarfed.

She sighed. She whispered quietly, inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon.

She got up and went to check on her kids. As she kissed them and sat by them, she reminded herself: You are an amanah, a trust, from God. I do not own you. And I am ever so grateful that He has given you to me. I promise to take care of you. But, ultimately, we all return to Him, for every soul must taste death.

She returned to bed, taking refuge in this moment of comfort, knowing full well how elusive it was. But it’s what kept her afloat and she held on to it dearly.

-end-

Saulat Pervez has come of age, both as a child and an adult, between Pakistan and the United States. She has taught English Literature in Karachi, worked remotely for Why Islam, a project of the Islamic Circle of North America, and is currently an Associate Researcher at the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) in Herndon, Virginia.

As a result of her diverse encounters here and abroad, and grounded in her experiences in teaching, writing, and research, she is committed to investigating ways to cultivate reading, writing, and thinking cultures both locally and globally, especially in multilingual contexts.

Saulat has been writing stories since she was a newly arrived immigrant and middle schooler in Central Jersey. Most of her adult life, however, was spent writing journalistic pieces and website content, with a few children’s books published in Pakistan. She has also mentored six teenagers in the writing of a collaborative murder mystery, Shades of Prey, which is available on Amazon.com

This particular short story — made up of discrete yet connected pieces — has been a labor of love which she hopes the reader will find intriguing and thought-provoking. Much like her life, it has been written between places, with snatches of time both at home and during travel. 

Continue Reading

#Culture

To Decorate Or Not To Decorate – Is That The Ramadan Question?

As Ramadan approaches and we prepare our hearts and homes, decor brings meaningful reflection.

Avatar

Published

on

As a Muslim born and raised in America, I strongly believe in making my religious holidays feel as special and magical as non-Islamic mainstream American holidays. The broader American culture and society that I grew up in definitely informs this conviction as well as my love of crafting and decorating.

However, I have noticed a troubling trend on my social media that reminds me of some of my favorite scenes from the year 2000 film How the Grinch Stole Christmas (when Martha May’s light-affixing gun and Cindy Lou Hoo’s mom causing a traffic accident after stealing a traffic light for her home’s Christmas decorating).  All the Facebook groups with a bunch of strangers posting about their decorating and activities has really led me to ask–to decorate or not to decorate for Ramadan and Eid?

Well, that’s not really the question! It’s a lot more nuanced than that, which leads me to the real questions I want to ask myself and all of us–why to decorate or not, how to decorate or not, and what are the ramifications of decorating or not.

Why Decorate or not to Decorate

There is a complex cultural issue here for Muslims living in America. What are the many cultures we identify with and how do they interact with each other? I identify as a Pakistani-American Muslim and I also feel a strong pull towards the other hyphenated-American and international Muslim communities and the histories of the Ummah around the world. Which cultures do we identify with and how and why do they signify and mark upcoming festivities and holidays? These two questions are essential for us to ask ourselves when we consider why we choose to decorate, or not, during a special time like Ramadan or a holiday like Eid.

But one reason a person should never decorate is that they feel pressured into it because of those around them or other social or cultural factors. Just because our social media feeds are blowing up with cute and amazing Ramadan decor or the local halal meat store has some Eid decor for sale does NOT mean that we should feel like we need to decorate ourselves. It is so easy for us to feel pressured into doing things because we “see” (or think we see from others’ projections of their lives on social media) all of these people we know doing them. Truthfully it sounds so simple when we talk about teenagers feeling peer pressure at school or with friends, but do we actually consider the types of peer pressure we experience as adults in our cyber-lives? (And we have not even talked about advertising posts from different companies or small business owners, and these can sometimes be from friends who are affiliated with certain companies or products.)

Yes, it’s great to share ideas and get inspired from many different sources, but when it crosses the line from inspiration to feelings of guilt or compulsion or from fun to serious jealous competition it is dangerous and compromises our happiness, mental and emotional health, and spirituality. These decor posts are so decontextualized because we really don’t know the details of everyone’s lives, but we still get intimate glimpses into their personal spaces. It doesn’t matter that every Muslim mom is making an advent calendar for their kids or that the one Instagram posting-enthusiast built a miniature masjid in their living room. Similarly, it doesn’t matter that people generally engage in hanging up wreaths or sprinkling confetti on the dinner table as a cultural norm if we don’t understand the use of it, are uninterested in doing so, or have some sort of convictions against it.

The other issue I have with feeling compelled to decorate is when it seems like a piece of Ramadan or Eid worship that is mandatory or given a higher priority than other mandatory acts of worship.  What other people do in their spiritual lives or their worship regiment is none of our business and nothing we should be concerned about generally speaking. There could be a friend or two we have a close mentoring relationship with, and in that special case, we might share details of our spiritual lives with them. But now let’s think about something as trivial as decorating the home for Ramadan–is it really something any of us should take so seriously in a comparative way?  If the whole point of decorating for Ramadan is getting ourselves and our families in the “Ramadan spirit” or to be excited about celebrating Eid, then isn’t it an act of worship with the right intentionality? So if we go around comparing our acts of worship to others,’ is that something our Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) or scholars have advised us to do in any way?

Sure, it is very easy to compare my decor with someone else’s because it is something with an obvious outward manifestation (just like I can compare my modest clothing practices to another woman’s.) But is it healthy or good in any way? And just as a final note–if our decorating is causing us to commit sins, like missing prayers or being rude or unkind to family members, or overshadows other Ramadan preparations for mandatory worship, like getting in some practice fasts or seeking medical attention for health issues related to fasting, we really have our priorities wrong.    

How to Decorate or not to Decorate

It’s common sense that we should have a set of considerations for anything we do, and I want to bring a high level of intentionality to this issue, even though it may seem trivial. Now is a great time to air these considerations out as the American Muslim community (and generally Muslims living in the West) is embracing the practice of decorating for Ramadan and Eid at the moment.

The crux of this issue is simple to me: if we are treating decorating for Ramadan as a voluntary act of worship, what are the conditions that should be met for God to accept this deed? Basic religious principles such as prioritizing obligatory acts of worship over voluntary or simply permissible ones, not violating anyone’s rights or hurting others, etc. should be part of the considerations, as well as practical logistical issues.   

The reason why I think it’s important to be mindful about decorating is because I fear this phenomenon will become shallow and meaningless very quickly in our lives, and if we want decorating to be part of our Ramadan/Eid worship we should be as thoughtful about it as other acts of worship.

  • Budget. How much money do I have to put aside for a non-essential expense? Am I justified in spending money on a non-essential expense if I have debts, loans, or other financial obligations? Should I use the money for another cause, like donating to a charity? Am I going into debt to fund this project or engaging in a questionable activity religiously to finance any purchases? For my means and lifestyle, would any of these expenses be considered israf or unnecessary/over-the-top?
  • Effort and Ability. How much effort and time do I want to spend myself or expect my family to invest in order to achieve the end result? Do I or others in my family enjoy doing stuff like this, or is it going to be a miserable task which will actually make me and others feel stressed out or have negative feelings about Eid or Ramadan? Am I taking too much time from obligations (mandatory prayer, mandatory fasting, spending time at work looking up decorating ideas instead of working, etc.) or from other good opportunities (taking care of family members, visiting the sick, exercising or getting healthy amounts of sleep, reading Quran, etc.)?
  • Ethical Concerns. What types of items will I purchase to decorate with and what is the background of how they were manufactured (environmental impact, sweatshop factory, funding oppression, one-time use or going to be kept for decorating for multiple years, etc.)? Would God be happy with the purchase I made based on how it was created?

The Ramifications of Decorating or not Decorating

So, a family has decided to decorate! The next question is–how do we interact with our decorating after it’s been completed? There are two relevant areas here: inside the home/for the direct intended audience and outside the home/for a broader audience.

It is important to remember that these efforts were undertaken for the people inside the home who are in fact the ones meant to benefit from these decorations and festive atmosphere. I’m not sure how others interact with their decorating efforts, but limiting the engagement to simply passive or highly useful actions seems to make the most sense to me. For example,

  • Useful: an item with the supplication for breaking the fast written on it and having one family member read the supplication out-loud before everyone breaks their fasts
  • Not useful and cumbersome: setting an elaborate tablescape with decorations every night which make eating difficult
  • Neutral: spending a minute turning on decorative lights near nightfall for a festive feel
  • Passive: spending half an hour hanging up a sign and a few paper lanterns somewhere visible and just leaving them for the remainder or Ramadan and/or Eid.

I think knowing what will be useful or neutral or annoying falls into common sense and knowing which type of person you are–someone who needs to restrain themselves or someone who could push themselves a bit more to be more enthusiastic–will help us easily decide what to do.

Another thing to keep in mind is evaluating the effectiveness of your decor once or twice during Ramadan (or Eid). Is what we’ve done in our home distracting from or counterproductive to mandatory or highly recommended acts of worship? (Such as only turning on decorative lights and candles so that a family member who wants to read from the Quran does not have enough light to read.)

Are the efforts we’ve put together so demanding that they are squeezing us in detrimental ways? (Such as setting the table in a specific way causes us to delay our fast-breaking or a family member’s lack of willingness to participate is causing tension in the household.) We often evaluate how our diets or hydrating plans are working for our energy levels in Ramadan and how our commitment to prayers and other acts of worship are influencing our spirituality or sleep schedules, and I think extending an evaluation (maybe just a quick one) to our decorating set-up is worthwhile. Is what I’ve done to my home actually of any benefit to me and my loved ones at this sacred time? That’s a question we need to ask ourselves.

Divine Decor: Worshipping Through Decorating

The other area–the indirect audience outside of the home–is one that I think mostly has to do with the idea of publicizing our good deeds to each other and/or showing off. If we have all agreed to the underlying premise that decorating for Ramadan or Eid is an act of worship that we’d love to be rewarded for from God, then we can compare this action with other similar actions (such as praying or helping an injured animal). If I find a large stone in the middle of a walkway and decide to remove it, should I go around and tell people what I did for the rest of the day? If I generally am regular in my prayers and visit a mosque to perform one, should I make my prayer longer than normal to seem more pious or connected to God because I’m no longer alone? If I am feeling charitable, should I broadcast a live video on a social media platform and show those I know how much I am donating to a certain cause? No, of course not. We know that publicizing our good deeds can ruin our good intentions and compromise any act’s validity in the eyes of God. We also know that this can go a little further and compromise the integrity of our spiritual state by encouraging us to develop spiritual diseases, such as becoming arrogant or unnecessarily competitive for material things.

And this is exactly where I find a conundrum in showing off our decor for broader audiences outside of the home–is our act of worship still sincere, will our good deed still be accepted, and is our spiritual state still pure? I’m not even beginning to broach the topic of social media usage in general and what are healthy ways to interact with it–I’m simply concerned with keeping any good deed we might be engaging in a “good” deed after all.  

The Prophet ﷺ said, “He who lets the people hear of his good deeds intentionally, to win their praise, Allah will let the people know his real intention (on the Day of Resurrection), and he who does good things in public to show off and win the praise of the people, Allah will disclose his real intention (and humiliate him).

حَدَّثَنَا مُسَدَّدٌ، حَدَّثَنَا يَحْيَى، عَنْ سُفْيَانَ، حَدَّثَنِي سَلَمَةُ بْنُ كُهَيْلٍ،‏.‏ وَحَدَّثَنَا أَبُو نُعَيْمٍ، حَدَّثَنَا سُفْيَانُ، عَنْ سَلَمَةَ، قَالَ سَمِعْتُ جُنْدَبًا، يَقُولُ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم وَلَمْ أَسْمَعْ أَحَدًا يَقُولُ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم غَيْرَهُ فَدَنَوْتُ مِنْهُ فَسَمِعْتُهُ يَقُولُ قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏ “‏ مَنْ سَمَّعَ سَمَّعَ اللَّهُ بِهِ، وَمَنْ يُرَائِي يُرَائِي اللَّهُ بِهِ ‏”‏‏.‏

We’re generally encouraged to keep our good deeds secret and private and inviting a non-intended audience into our homes with pictures and videos seems to go directly against that principle. There is a fine line between sharing how we’ve decorated our homes with others in an encouraging way to them that does not push us towards a culture of unhealthy peer pressure or competition, just like there is a fine line between sharing how we’ve decorated in a way that does not compromise the validity of our potentially good and rewardable deed. (We’ll leave decorating for Ramadan or Eid parties for another day.)     

Continue Reading

#Culture

How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Zeba Khan

Published

on

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in any sort of conservative, chocolate-deprived bubble. My mother was – and still is – a Christian. My father was – and still is – Muslim, and our home was a place where two faiths co-existed in unapologetic splendor.

My mother put up her Christmas tree every year.  We children, though Muslim, received Easter baskets every year. The only reason why I wished I was Christian too, even though I had no less chocolate in my life than other children my age, was because of the confusing guilt that I felt around holiday time.

I knew that the holidays were my mother’s, and we participated to honor and respect her, not to honor and respect what she celebrated. As a child though, I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t celebrate them too, even if it was just for the chocolate.

As an adult I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this conflicted enthusiasm for the holidays of others. Really, who doesn’t like treats and parties and any excuse to celebrate? As a parent though, I’ve decided that the best policy to use with my children is respectful honesty about where we stand with regard to other religions.

That’s why when my children asked me about Easter, this is what I told them:

  1. The holidays of every religion are the right of the people who follow them. They are as precious to them as Eid and Ramadan are to us.
  2. Part of being a good Muslim is protecting the rights of everyone around us, no matter what their religion is. There is nothing wrong with non-Muslims celebrating their religious non-Muslim holidays.
  3. We don’t need to pretend they’re not happening. Respectful recognition of the rights of others is part of our religion and our history. We don’t have to accept what other people celebrate in order to be respectful of their celebrations.
  4. The problem with Muslims celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays is that we simply don’t believe them to be true.

So when it comes to Easter specifically, we break it down to its smaller elements.

There is nothing wrong with chocolate. There is nothing wrong with eggs. There is nothing wrong with rabbits, and no, they don’t lay eggs.

There is nothing wrong with Easter, but we do not celebrate it because:

Easter is a celebration based on the idea the Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was Allah’s son, who Allah allowed to be killed for our sins. Easter is a celebration of him coming back to life again.

Depending on how old your child is, you may need to break it down further.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Created the sun, Allah is not a person whose eyes can’t even look directly at the sun. Allah Created space, Allah is not a person who can’t survive in space. Allah Created fire, Allah is not a person who cannot even touch fire. Allah is not a person, He does not have children as people do. Prophet Jesus [alayis] was a messenger of Allah, not a child of Allah.

Allah is also the Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving, and All-Powerful. When we make mistakes by ourselves, we say sorry to Allah and try our best to do better. If we make mistakes all together, we do not take the best-behaved person from among us and then punish him or her in our place.

Allah is Justice Himself. He is The Kindest, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving Being in the entire universe. He always was, and always will be capable of forgiving us. No one needed to die in order for Allah to forgive anyone.

If your teacher failed the best student in the class so that the rest of the students could pass, that would not be fair, even if that student had offered that. When people say that Allah sacrificed his own son so that we could be forgiven, they are accusing Allah of really unfair things, even if they seem to think it’s a good thing.

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

We simply do not believe what is celebrated on Easter. That is why we do not celebrate Easter.

So what do we believe?

Walk your child through Surah Ikhlas, there are four lines and you can use four of their fingers.

  1. Allah is One.
  2. Allah doesn’t need anything from anyone.
  3. He was not born, and nor was anyone born of Him. Allah is no one’s child, and no one is Allah’s child
  4. There is nothing like Allah in the universe

Focus on what we know about Allah, and then move on to other truths as well.

  1. Christians should absolutely celebrate Christian holidays. We are happy for them.
  2. We do not celebrate Christian holidays, because we do not accept what they’re celebrating.
  3. We are very happy for our neighbors and hope they have a nice time.

When your child asks you about things like Christmas, Easter, Valentines, and Halloween, they’re not asking you to change religions. They’re asking you for the chance to participate in the joy of treats, decorations, parties, and doing things with their peers.

You can provide them these things when you up your halal holiday game. Make Ramadan in your home a whole month of lights, people, and happy prayer. Make every Friday special. Make Eid amazing – buy gifts, give charity, decorate every decorat-able surface if you need to – because our children have no cause to feel deprived by being Muslim.

If your holidays tend to be boring, that’s a cultural limitation, not a religious one. And if you feel like it’s not fair because other religions just have more holidays than we do, remember this:

  • Your child starting the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child finishing the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child’s first fast can be a celebration
  • Your child wearing hijab can be a celebration
  • Your child starting to pray salah can be a celebration
  • Your children can sleep over for supervised qiyaam nights
  • You can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, in ways that are fun and halal and pleasing to Allah.

We have a set number of religious celebrations, but there is no limit on how many personal celebrations we choose to have in our lives and families. Every cause we have for gratitude can be an opportunity to see family, eat together, dress up, and hang shiny things from other things, and I’m not talking about throwing money at the problem – I’m talking about making the effort for its solution.

It is easy to celebrate something when your friends, neighbors, and local grocery stores are doing it too. That’s probably why people of many religions – and even no religion – celebrate holidays they don’t believe in. That’s not actually an excuse for it though, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to set the right example for our children.

Making and upholding our own standards is how we live, not only in terms of our holidays, but in how we eat, what we wear, and the way we swim upstream for the sake of Allah.  We don’t go with the flow, and teaching our children not to celebrate the religious holidays of other religions just to fit in is only one part of the lesson.

The other part is to extend the right to religious freedom – and religious celebration – to Muslims too. When you teach your children that everyone has a right to their religious holidays, include Muslims too. When you make a big deal out of Ramadan include your non-Muslim friends and neighbors too, not just because it’s good dawah, but because being able to share your joy with others helps make it feel more mainstream.

Your Muslim children can give their non-Muslim friends Eid gifts. You can take Eid cookies to your non-Muslim office, make Ramadan jars. You can have Iftar parties for people who don’t fast.   Decorate your house for Ramadan, and send holiday cards out on your holidays.

You can enjoy the elements of celebration that are common to us all without compromising on your aqeedah, and by doing so, you can teach your children that they don’t have to hide their religious holidays from the people who don’t celebrate them.  No one has to. And you can teach your children to respect the religions of others, even while disagreeing with them.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are bound by a common thread, and there is much we come together on. Where the threads separate though, is still a cause for celebration. Religious tolerance is part of our faith, and recognizing the rights of others to celebrate – or abstain from celebration – is how we celebrate our differences.

Continue Reading

Trending