New Year's Resolutions!

{ Friday, December 30, 2011 }
It's a cliche, I know, but I figured it couldn't hurt to have some good intentions for 2012! Of course making a list of resolutions once a year won't be sufficient to achieve my goals, so I'm planning on making a list every week of 5 goals I want to achieve (little and big things). If I've achieved a goal, I can cross it off my list, and replace it with another one, but if I haven't, I have to keep writing it down every week on my list. I think it's a good plan :) 


So, what are my good intentions for 2012? (The list is not in order of importance)



  • Learn to cook! -> I'll take cooking classes because Mum will only ever let me cut the vegetables
  • To help my mother with the housework
  • To find a way to be together with my partner permanently
  • To gain more knowledge about Islam
  • To get my driver's license 
  • To work on my thesis and graduate!
  • To write more
  • To spend more time on my inner life -> prayer, meditation
  • To work at least one day a week so I can have my own money
  • To do an extra effort to master Arabic
  • To work on my relationship with my parents and to be more honest and open with them
  • To make a conscious effort to enjoy life -> To make an extensive list of things I like and to do at least one of them every day
  • To at least start on learning Uzbek (native language of my partner and his family)
  • To be more assertive
  • To have the courage to wear hijaab
  • To read more books, also Arabic ones
  • To read an Arabic newspaper and look up the words I don't understand
  • To find out what I want to do professionally (kind of urgent :p) 
  • To think about what I want to do next year (work or study)
If I can achieve all of them, I will have a very successful year! (or is it just wishful thinking? :p)
In case I don't write anymore until next year (oh hahaha old joke!):

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I wish you all a blessed 2012! May you and your family all remain in good health, may all your wishes and dreams come true and may you achieve all your New Year's resolutions! ;-)

Much love,

Safiyah




The Eternal Issue of Polygamy

{ Wednesday, December 28, 2011 }
I wonder, as a Muslim woman, can you ever be entirely sure that your husband is not going to take a second wife? You may think so, when you look into those familiar eyes, but who knows what life is going to bring? Maybe you'll go through a rough patch where your love for each other is not as it used to be, and maybe there are thoughts that'll come up that never occurred before. 


Since the issue of polygamy never used to be a part of my culture or worries, I'm having a lot of problems digesting it. I know for sure that I don't want to share my husband. The thought alone makes my blood boil. 
I know that I can make my husband promise, and put a condition in my marriage contract that gives me the right to divorce him if he should take another wife, but it doesn't satisfy me. It's like putting him in a cage and slapping him on the cheek, such things can have the opposite effect. The truth is, you can't force a man into anything, he's still going to do what he wants in the end. Women may think they can change men, and make them do what they want, but it's an illusion. He'll only resent you for trying. 


In my opinion, Islam still prefers monogamy. There should be harmony, mercy and kindness between a husband and wife, and we all know how detrimental polygamy is to all good things between a husband and wife. There are also two controversial verses, one stating that a man has to deal equally with all his wives, and the other that men cannot treat their wives equally even should they wish it. I'm not going to draw any conclusions from that though, since I'm not a scholar, and the fact remains that the Prophet (pbuh) and his companions practiced polygamy. I do know about the hadith that says that a man who treats his wives unequally is like a man who'll rise on the Day of Judgement with one leg shorter than the other one. I'd think those things would scare quite of few men away from polygamy (the fact that you can't treat your wives equally and the fact that those who don't treat their wives equally will be disadvantaged on yawm al qiyama) but who am I?


I want to be realistic in this. I'm not going to make my husband promise anymore to not take a second wife, I want to make him promise to tell me if he is considering it, and his reasons for it. I do think that's not too much to ask. I think it's better to make it debatable than to threaten him constantly. If he wants to do it, he's going to do it anyway. The only difference will be that he discusses it with you beforehand or not. 

What the hell?

{ Sunday, December 25, 2011 }
Yesterday I went out to have dinner with my lovely friend. She's having a relationship with a Somalian guy she met here and she excitedly told me that he would come tonight and that I can meet him! Great, or so I thought.
When we met him, he was indeed charming and friendly. My friend had told me that although he is Muslim, he likes to drink, smoke and has already slept with a lot of girls. That was fine with me, who am I to judge? But when we sat down to have a drink (after we made a whole detour because he wanted to find a place that served alcohol), my friend told him I was not Christian, but Muslim, and he stared at me incredulously. The conversation went something like this:


He: "What? You're not Muslim, I don't believe you!"
Me: "Err..yes I am"
My friend: "I told you the truth, she's Muslim!"
He: "Her hair is uncovered, so she's not Muslim!"


Silence.


Me: "What? What do you mean?"
He: "You are not Muslim, I don't believe you! You don't cover your hair!"
Me: "Do you want me to recite Quran to prove it to you or what?"
He: "Yes, go ahead!"
I recited Quran.
He: "Maybe you just studied it! You have to cover your hair!"
Me: "What? You drink alcohol!Do you realise it's haraam? Do you realise you can't pray for 40 days after you drank?" 


The conversation continued like this, with him not wanting to believe me and trivialising his own offences. On the way to my apartment, he called me "a bad Muslim" for not covering my hair! I tried to remain calm, but this was unbelievable! I don't want to judge others, but this was definitely a case of misogynistic hypocrisy gone wild. I just hope my friend ends it soon with him, because he's without a doubt one of these guys who wakes up one day wanting to get married to a saint-like virgin who's never been touched while they have been total douchebags but still think they deserve a girl like that because they are Muslim Men and all the non-saint like Muslim girls who are actually human are just sluts. I cringe for the future of Islam if these kind of knobheads with no knob multiply themselves. 


Since when did Islam become all about looks? Does he know anything about my intentions, that he can judge me like that? Is he in any place to decide who's Muslim or not? He was wearing a babypink sweater, did I tell him I don't believe he's a man because men-don't-wear-baby-pink*, I don't think so! 
Anyway, it's pointless to waste anymore time on him, I just needed to get this off my chest. I pray that *some* Muslim men will finally educate themselves on a word called priorities and stop humiliating women like that. In the mean time, I'm going to have a cup of tea.


* to use another stereotype

Morning Prayer

{ }
Dear God
Thank You for this wonderful new day
Thank you for all the blessings You have given me
Thank You for the roof over my head and the food on my table
and all the lovely friends and family I have
Please protect me from all harm
and let me be a blessing to others
Let me be patient, friendly and kind
and not leave anyone in the cold
Please forgive me for all the mistakes I made yesterday
and let today be a new beginning
Let me go where You want me to go and say what You want me to say
in Your name
Dear God
Thank You for this wonderful new day
Thank You for all the blessings You have given me


Picture of the Week

{ Saturday, December 24, 2011 }




She panted as she sat down and finally got rid of her too small shoes. Her feet were hurting, and so was her heart. She looked at the building in front of her, a bakery with yummy looking pies, cupcakes and fresh-made bread. The delicious smell that came out of that little shop when someone entered almost made her smile. Her mother always wanted her to wear those damn shoes, just to keep her from running around during all the posh family dinners she dragged her to. Tears burned in her eyes and she shivered, wishing she'd taken her coat. She knew Mother would be livid, not out of worry or because she was missing on her grandparents 50 years of marriage anniversary, but because of the embarrasment a rebellious child brings. Or any child for that matter. Mother hated loud noises, laughter, or nagging for ice cream. The little girl stroked her arms to chase the cold away, and put her feet gently on the road, still hot from the sunny afternoon. She stared intensely at the man selling pies in the bakery shop, a silent plea for attention. She didn't notice the older woman coming out of the shop until her slow feet stopped right next to her. The girl jumped and looked straight into the woman's faded sky blue eyes. "Where is your mother, little girl?" The woman's voice was gentle, with a mild note of curiosity. The girl stroked her hair out of her eyes and merely shrugged. The gray lady smiled. "Ran away, have we? Well I know how that feels!" She took a small cake with delicious looking chocolate cream out of the brown bag she was carrying. "Have a cupcake, that'll make the cold go away!" The little girl shook her head, "I can't take food from strangers, Mother said." Her voice sounded hoarse, without any color or intonation. She was afraid of the old lady's reaction, after turning her generosity down, but the lady was still smiling. "I wouldn't have turned that down in my day, you can be sure of that!" Her eyes went glazy for a moment, as if she wasn't really there. Then she sighed. "Listen, little child, if you're not careful, you're going to end up just like me, going to the same bakery you're whole life, trying to please the same people. Little girls are not meant to wear posh dresses they can't spill on or too small shoes. But you can't stay here either, waiting for life to happen while you're catching a cold." The old lady reached out her hand and the little girl took it. It was warm and soft. The old lady smelled of soap and apples, and she was wearing a pearl necklace over her blue dress, that sparkled in the last rays of sunlight. They set off together, the old lady slowly but steadily taking her home, while humming an old and forgotten song. The shoes were left on the street, until another girl found them, who had just about the right seize.   

I'm still going to celebrate Christmas

{ Thursday, December 22, 2011 }
I never really understood the requirement that a convert should leave Christmas behind all together, and not even visit his/her family on that day. 
I think it all depends on your intention. If you are going to celebrate the birth of "the Son of God", yes then we have a problem. As a Muslim, I mean, since that's not part of the Islamic belief. But my family never celebrated Christmas for that reason. Sometimes we went to church, but certainly not every year. Christmas is a time when my family comes together, and they don't even mention Prophet Jesus. We all go to my aunt's house, where we have dinner together. There is a quiz that my grandfather organises and a tombola, with small gifts for everyone.We talk about our lives and make jokes. I don't see a problem with that. Family is very important in Islam, so I don't see what's wrong in joining in. It's also a period of light when the winter makes everything cold and dark, and I've always quite enjoyed the atmosphere. I think you just make the gap between you and your family wider if you refuse to spend that special time with them. That's just my opinion anyway. 


Of course, this year, I won't be there, since I'm in Egypt. But I'm still going to have a special dinner with friends.   To me it's a time for bonding and being grateful for the friends and family you have. It's a time to think about what you have achieved this year before you celebrate the new year. It has very little to do with a specific religion. I'm certain that God will not punish me for sharing these moments with the people who are close to me. 

An exercise in forgiveness

{ Saturday, December 10, 2011 }
People often see forgiveness as a sign of weakness, a way of letting people "off the hook" without punishment for what they did. The bigger the hurt, the more we feel it's impossible to ever let it go. But if we think about it: who suffers the most from holding a grudge? Imagine walking around with poison all day, that can't be healthy right? It's very possible that the person we hate and hold guilty continues to live his/her life without a care in the world, and we end up suffering twice: once when we experienced the person hurting us, and now because we keep on feeling the pain of what they inflicted upon us.
When we keep this in mind, we see clearly that forgiveness is a strong act of self-love, an act that will change our life for the better. It's to let go of our role as a victim, and to start taking responsibility for our life again. It's living with the thought that that person might never be punished in this life, but that at least you won't keep suffering for what he/she did to you. And don't forget: what goes around, comes around. If a person does something negative, it will backfire at him/her, in some way or the other.


I found the following exercise to be helpful in accomplishing inner peace and serenity. I'm still doing the exercise, but in my opinion, it works. The original exercise says to do it in one time, but in my experience it's better to take your time for this, and to do one or two persons at a time. I also added some other things that I found helpful.


Take a paper and pen, or open an empty word document on your pc. Close your eyes and take some time to relax, to quiet down your thoughts and to ask God to help you with this exercise. Then, write the name of your father on the paper. Think about the past and which negative feelings arise when you think of him. Write those feelings and experiences down on paper. Then, write "I now forgive my father for this hurt". Try to mean it. Try to really forgive him, try to really let go. If you are having difficulties, pray to God to assist you. When you feel you let the experience go, go to the next negative feeling you have, and keep writing until you have no more negative feelings left. Then pray to God to bless your father and to give him peace, love, joy, a good health and all good things. If your father passed away, you can pray for his well-being in the next life. 
Then, take another paper and write all his good qualities down, and reread it several times. If you feel the need to send him a message after, by all means do so. 
Do the same for your mother and your siblings. Try to do this even if you don't feel negative towards any of them at first sight, you might be surprised what comes up. Then maybe some members of your broader family, and all other people who you feel hurt you in some way. I suggest you give yourself time to process your feelings and don't do everything all in once. You can also pray for the person you dealt with several times during the day, to enhance the positive feelings you have for them. 


- based on an exercise from Secrets of Fascinating Womanhood


When you forgive someone, it's doesn't mean that you automatically let him/her back into your life. If you feel there is a chance the hurt might be repeated if you trust this person again, then there is nothing wrong with banning this person out of your life. You can love a person without wanting to spend time with them. Remember, in the end, it's not really about the other person, it's about you and your well-being. The best revenge is to be happy!

Beautiful Music: The Mystic's Dream

{ Wednesday, December 7, 2011 }




Words and music by Loreena McKennitt

A clouded dream on an earthly night
Hangs upon the crescent moon
A voiceless song in an ageless light
Sings at the coming dawn
Birds in flight are calling there
Where the heart moves the stones
It's there that my heart is calling
All for the love of you
A painting hangs on an ivy wall
Nestled in the emerald moss
The eyes declare a truce of trust
And then it draws me far away
Where deep in the desert twilight
Sand melts in pools of the sky
When darkness lays her crimson cloak
Your lamps will call me home
And so it's there my homage's due
Clutched by the still of the night
And now I feel you move
Every breath is full
So it's there my homage's due
Clutched by the still of the night
Even the distance feels so near
All for the love of you.

A HSP in Cairo

{ }

As a HSP (and I do believe this term really exists) life in Cairo is not always easy. It's very hard to find a place where it's quiet and peaceful. It seems like people are so fond of noise here, the way they abuse their carhorns. 
Luckily I have an apartment on the 19th floor, where the noise can't penetrate so much.
I know there are people who fall in love with this city from the first moment they get here. I agree that there are very beautiful monuments and places here, and people can be very kind. I remember that it was pouring rain one evening and I was stranded in an Etisalat shop. I needed to take a taxi back to my apartment but the taxi's were not stopping at all. So the salesman went out in the rain for me to stop a taxi. He started shouting "taks!taks!" to get their attention and there were some other men who joined in too. So I could just run to the taxi and get in straight away. Very nice of him.

You can never feel entirely comfortable though. You always remain the foreigner, and some Egyptians have pretty inaccurate ideas about Western women. I partly blame Hollywood for this. I never noticed it in Belgium, but movies often depict women as easy and passive. I went to the cinema here with my Egyptian friend, and the movie showed two men who went home with another girl every night. Every single one of them was willing to be seduced and have a one night stand with those men, and it just doesn't give a good impression.
There is a strong belief here that every girl who doesn't wear hijaab is cheap and wants to be harassed. Then again, even hijabi's get harassed. 
It's a nightmare to walk home when school is finishing. There are tons of schoolkids on the street. When you pass them, they start shouting at you "Hello! Hello! Hello! Hello! What's your name! Hello!" and no matter how much you ignore them, they don't give up. I've also had Egyptian girls touching and pulling my hair.
The police on the street stares at you shamelessly. They call you "muza" or even start singing to get your attention. It just doesn't make me feel safe. 

I've had some kidney problems here in Egypt, and I never had it in Belgium. I had to go to the hospital on my own, which was difficult for me, but if I look at it on the bright side, it helped me to become more independent. 

There are students of two different universities in my class. The students from the other university are given the chance to stay a whole year in Cairo, because their classes in Belgium can be given in Cairo. When I tried to imagine myself staying here for a whole year, I realised how worn out I feel. I am grateful for the experience I had, and Cairo is full of life, but I miss my country. I miss the green in my garden, I miss the food, I miss my friends and family and I miss my cat. Maybe when I actually return, I'll miss Cairo instead :p
I do wonder if my cat still knows I exist. 


An apple and an egg

{ Tuesday, December 6, 2011 }
I miss expressing myself. I'm so busy with school and with trying to manage life here in Cairo, that I don't even find time to listen much to my thoughts, or to ask myself how I feel about stuff. I have no inspiration either. It's like a rusty mirror. I just need to wipe off the dirt, and then maybe I can see myself and my thoughts clearly again. 
I can say how much work I have for school, how life in Cairo is proving to be bad for my health, but I want to talk about deeper things. I didn't intend this blog to be only a diary. 


Maybe I can say that my thoughts about religion are constantly changing, and that I definitely start to see it more as a private affair. I mean with that that I think everyone has the right to have his/her own thoughts about religion, and that others shouldn't interfere with it. It makes me angry when I see so called Muslims making dead treats to others because they don't agree with their orthodox Islamic way of thinking. God created us with a brain to think for ourselves. It's about your connection with God, so what are others doing in the picture anyway?


My curiosity let me to try two different ways of dressing as a Muslim girl, here in Egypt. Once I wore hijaab while going to Azhar park, and it felt different. I felt like I fitted in more, and people actually thought I was Egyptian. I also tried the black abaya and niqaab, while my fiancé was here (no, he didn't force me). We went to a Saudi restaurant and thanks to the niqaab I was wearing we could sit in the only secluded table available. I also wore it when we went to Citystars. Just out of curiousity. To be honest, it made me feel invisible. From being stared at all the time for being a foreigner (which I don't particulary enjoy either) to being totally overlooked by men. It was like I wasn't there, and that didn't give me a good feeling either. I also had breathing problems and needed to lift the niqaab a little from time to time. I can't see myself wearing it all the time. 
I like to dress differently, take on different identities and see how people react towards me. Maybe I do that to make up for the fact that I'm struggeling to find out who I really am and what I really want in life. That's a part of modern life, isn't it? To find out what you "really" want in life. It happens a lot in movies. A woman is depressed, and once she finds out what she really wants to do, bam! Success and happiness fall out of the sky like pouring rain. Whether this happens in real life remains to be seen. 


I realise I've been a bit random in this post, but I'm just flexing my muscles to get back in shape again!

Citystars

{ Sunday, October 30, 2011 }
Yesterday I went to Citystars, a very big shopping mall in Nasr City, to meet up with my Egyptian friend D.
I had to take the taxi since it's about 30min from where I live. I don't like to take taxi's on my own because you never know how the driver is going to act, if he's going to try to hit on you or charge you too much. It's so exhausting really. The driver of the taxi I took to get there pretended to try to avoid traffic jams by driving me around and around while the meter was running. That was nothing in comparison to the taxidriver who drove me back though. His meter was obviously tampered with, because it charged me 15 pounds more than the normal price!
I gave him 5 pounds more than the normal price, which I already thought was very generous, but he wasn't satisfied yet. He came after me when I got out, and screamed "give me my money! give me my money!" I answered back in my best Egyptian and told him that no way I was going to pay so much and that I wasn't stupid. After lots of screaming he finally told me "imshi!imshi!" and got back in his cab. The thing that annoyed me the most was that he acted like it was my fault entirely, and that I just refused to pay! He really got on my nerves, and confirmed why I don't like to take taxi's. I'm sure he knew very well that he was charging me way too much!


Apart from that I had a nice time. I don't see my friend a lot, because she lives on the other side of Cairo, so it was nice to catch up. We went to the movies, and afterwards she helped me pick a gift for my fiance. I also bought new shoes, although I noticed I don't seem to have a size in Egypt lol. 40 is a bit too small and 41 is too big! It's really frustrating. We also talked about our future plans and just life in general and it was very nice :) I really like Citystars, although the stores there are rather expensive. But you just have everything in one place, which is very handy!


Six days until my fiance will come, and it feels like eternity!

Fatimid Cairo

{ Saturday, October 29, 2011 }







































The thing about Egypt

{ }
I just had a week of exams, and I really feel I overcame some of my limits. I had to do two presentations, one in Egyptian Arabic, and one in Fusha, and I only had one day each to write them and learn them by heart. I realized how spoiled I have been in my university in Belgium, when we were complaining about only having 3 weeks to do a presentation! The course is definitely more intensive here, and I'm curious to know how my results are. We don't even have vacation right now, and straight after the last exam they gave us homework for Sunday :-/ We will have vacation next week inshaAllah, for Eid. 


My parents will arrive on 3 November to visit me for a week, and I'm looking forward to it. I want to show them around, and it will be nice to have my family around.
My fiance got his visa alhamdullilah and today he will book his flight. He will stay for 3 weeks inshaAllah, and I really really can't wait. He will be here around the same time my parents are, so it's an excellent ocassion for them to meet, and to really get to know each other. My parents have a very negative view about Saudi (and not without reason I might add) so I hope that meeting him will help them to generalise less.


I don't think I could live in Egypt forever. There is no such thing as a quiet morning walk to school. The cars horn just for the fun of it, and it really gets on my nerves so much. They drive inches from your feet, and you have to climb, instead of walk on the sidewalk. In some areas people look at you like you are an alien, just because you're not Egyptian. Men keep saying "welcome to Egypt, what's your name?" while I've been here for over 2 months. The air is really polluted, and I would never walk around with my small children here. I miss the hygiene and quality of Belgian food. 
I know I'm ranting. I'm sure that Egypt is a really nice place for some people, mainly those without sensitive nerves. I'm also lucky that I still live in a relatively quiet neighborhood. I don't want to sound like a snob, but I really don't like to go to wust al-balad (Downtown Cairo). It's not that I can't handle seeing poverty, it's the constant noise, the constant remarks and looks from men, the smell of benzine on and near the bridges. It's just too much for me. 
The good thing about Egypt is that the stores are open much later than I'm used to. I can still do the groceries at 11 pm, which in the beginning felt really odd to me, since most stores in Belgium close at maximum 8 pm. In my next posts, I want to talk more about my experiences here in Egypt, my impressions, and I'll try to be more objective ;-)





Frustrations

{ Tuesday, October 18, 2011 }
I really want to write more - in fact, I'm dying to write more, but I'm just so busy! I have exams next week, with only the weekend to study for them, and I need to hand in a big paper and do a big presentation. I'm really not good with stress, and I don't know how I will handle the pressure! 


I guess my stay abroad is not how I expected it to be. I'm struggling to find the value in the experiences I go through here. I'm sure there are lessons for me to learn from all this, but I really wonder what the point is of suffering? Am I suffering because I don't concentrate enough on the divine, or am I suffering because it's God's will? A very hard question, I know. I've often tasted loneliness, and I'm just wondering when it will stop. I'm wondering when someone will take me in his/her arms and tell me it's over now, and everything was just a bad dream. I keep telling myself that love comes from within, but humans are not meant to be alone. We thrive when we are appreciated and cared for and I feel like I'm trying to survive in the desert. Why are people so indifferent? Why am I so sensitive? I guess it can all come down to the ancient question: why are we alive? 


There is one thing that could lighten up my stay, and that is if my fiance will get his visa so he can come and visit me. Normally it shouldn't be hard, but I just have this feeling that I'm jinxed or something and that everything in my life is supposed to go bad.

Some thoughts and future plans

{ Saturday, October 8, 2011 }
I think the most important lesson in my life at the moment is to give myself enough love, appreciation and respect, regardless of how others act towards me. I don't seem to really connect with a lot of people, and often I feel like an outcast. Then I read articles that say it's a good thing to be an outsider, because they will often achieve great things. Then I wonder, which great things am I achieving? None really, although we all have to start with the small things in life. I like to be on my own, but I also like company. Not chitchatting with acquaintances, but rather meaningful talks and discussions with close friends. I hate receptions and parties where you constantly have to think of what to say and to reply. It wears me out. Unfortunately my life is filled with thinking of what to say at the moment.
I'm starting to let go too though. It's ok if I never fit in with this group or if I never have a lot of friends. When I'm back in Belgium, I might take some courses on how to be more assertive, but I'm starting to accept and appreciate that I'm not made to be the center of attention. I have my own thoughts, and that is a blessing too. I've been so busy trying to please in the past, that I forgot myself and what I want in life. If anything, I hope my stay abroad can at least give me some clarity on what I want to do with my life. At this moment I feel I want to be a teacher in primary school, and encourage my young students to grow and to be confident of themselves. Next to that I want to make the world a better place for animals. I want to do something for them, although I don't know the details yet. Finally, I also want to be a writer. I really want to be a writer.
Preferably, I want to live in the country, where I can hear the birds singing every morning and watch the seasons change. Sitting outside with some candlelight during warm summernights, drinking tea and having deep and fulfilling conversations with my husband or friends. Taking long walks in the forest during autumn, feeling the wind blow in my face and smelling the perfect scent of the forest. Playing in the snow with my children during winter and afterwards making hot chocolate and watching a beautiful movie. Laying in the garden during spring and watching the flowers grow, having picnics, drinking selfmade lemonade.
I know, I know, how idealistic can you be? But that's just how I am, I don't want to be satifsfied with an apartment in the city, a stressful job and falling asleep in front of the tv at night.


Then there is the matter of trust. My life can look so grim at times, and then I forget that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I believe in God, why is it so hard to trust Him? Why I can't let go of my worries and negative thoughts and just have faith? Maybe life is not looking pretty great at the moment, but there is always something to enjoy, even if it's just the taste of ice cream or the smile on a child's face. I need to have faith and let go of how I think my life should be. I can work for my dreams, but in the end, it's all in God's hands. Maybe I can struggle against His will, thinking I know better what I need, but of course I don't. I think we need to take our disappointments as a sign that something better is coming along. There is always something better on the way, with overt or hidden blessings in it.


Have a wonderful day x


Update

{ Wednesday, October 5, 2011 }
I just realised that I have completely neglected this blog, as well as the private one. It's just so busy here! I have tons of homework and when I'm finished with that, I'm either on skype talking to my loved ones, or being a zombie in front of the TV. I also feel like I've completely lost inspiration, and don't know which topics to discuss. I'm planning on updating my private blog more regularly, making it more like a diary. I feel a bit weary about doing that here because I don't know who will read it.

I have this strong feeling that I want to start writing on a story. I need to write! But I don't know where to find the time or the inspiration. I so want to be a writer, filling my time with writing stories and columns. I'm sure I'm not the only one however, and a story is not going to write itself, unless I get a flash of inspiration in the train (or more like taxi in my case) like what happened to JK Rowling.

I'm practising Islam again. If I focus solely on the spiritual side, like prayer, listening to Quran, and dhikr, I'm doing fine. It's just that when I get into some problematic issues like polygamy or women's rights that it starts to get tricky. But in the end, I don't think anyone can really know what the Prophet (pbuh) would say or do if he lived today, and not in the 7th Century. Maybe some aspects of Islam would look different, I don't know. I don't believe that every rule in Islam was supposed to be universal and for all times, but that's just my opinion. It's possible that if the Prophet lived today, he wouldn't have married more than one wife or allowed polygamy, who knows.

I've decided I will write my thesis paper about islamic feminism in Egypt. Of course I still need to limit my subject a bit, but that's for later lol.

Much love,

Safiyah

What's wrong with me?

{ Tuesday, September 13, 2011 }
I'm feeling very down at the moment. I'm in a strange country, without any close friends. I feel invisible to the group I'm with, and it's not the first time that I feel this way. My last year of highschool was hell. I just don't understand why. I don't understand why people have no patience to meet the real me. They just put me aside and label me as "boring and impractical-no addition the the group whatsoever". And God knows how hard it is to get rid of a label! It literally gives me stomachache. Now I feel I just want to withdraw myself from them, and not spend anymore time with them outside of school, but of course then it's decided I won't ever fit in. Maybe it's already decided anyway. It makes me angry that I care so much. Who are they to make me feel so miserable? And is it not my responsibility if I let them make me feel miserable? I just feel I have very little confidence, but I don't know how to change my situation. It's causing me a lot of grief. I know I can't force others to change, so I need to find my inner peace despite what's happening around me. I just have this constant feeling that I want to be saved, but in the end, the only person who can save me is me.
I just hoped it would be over after highschool, but I'm still living the same hell.

Private blog

{ Saturday, August 27, 2011 }
Assalaamu aleykum :)


I hope you are all well.
I'm travelling to another country tomorrow and I'll be staying there for a period of about 4 months. 
I want to write about my "adventures" there, but since it'll inevitably be more personal, I decided to write these experiences and impressions down in a private blog, with invited readers only. If you want to be invited to this blog, please send your e-mail to safiyahsmusings@hotmail.com. I'll only accept readers I know from this blog though. I'll also keep updating this blog inshaAllah, if I find the time :p


Love,


Safiyah



Some hadiths in defense of the Prophet

{ Wednesday, August 24, 2011 }
I don't want to give the impression that I can only think in a negative way about Islam, so in reply to my previous post about the beating of children I want to give some hadiths that say that the Prophet was very merciful with children.


Also, I discovered that the hadith about beating children is hasan (sound) but not sahih (authentic) and that some scholars even consider it weak.


This hadith was originally related by the Companion ibn Abbas (Allah be pleased with him). Imam al-Tabarani included the narration in his al-Kabir and al-Awsat. The scholar al-Haythami classified both isnads as hasan (sound). [al-Haythami, Majma’ al-Zawa’id] Other scholars considered it to be weak. [al-Sakhawi, al-Maqasid al-Husna]

Scholars note that hasan hadiths are authentic enough to be acted upon and used as religious proofs, but they are not at the level of strength as a sahih (rigorously authentic) hadith. [al-Ghawri, al-Muyassar fi ‘Ulum al-Hadith]
I found the following hadiths:

The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, “He is not of us (the one) who does not have mercy on our young children, nor honor our elderly.” [Tirmidhi]


The Companion Anas ibn Malik (Allah be pleased with him) helped serve the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) for 10 years during his youth.  He described his personal experiences with the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) and said:


“I served the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) for ten years. He never said to me ‘uff!’ (a word in the Arabic language used to express one’s annoyance). And he never said about a thing I did, ‘why did you do that?’ And he never said about a thing I left, ‘why did you leave that?’ The Messenger of God (Allah bless him and give him peace) was the best of people in character…” [Tirmidhi]
“I served the Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) for years. He never insulted me at all. He never hit me at all. And he never scolded me. And he never frowned at me in my face…” [al-Baghawi, al-Anwar fi Shama’il al-Nabi al-Mukhtar]

 The Prophet (Allah bless him and give him peace) counseled a man who asked for his advice and he (Allah bless him and give him peace) told him three times “Don’t get angry.” [Bukhari]




Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:
I went along with Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) at a time during the day but he did not talk to me and I did not talk to him until he reached the market of Banu Qainuqa`. He came back to the tent of Fatimah and said, “Is the little chap (meaning Al-Hasan) there?” We were under the impression that his mother had detained him in order to bathe him and dress him and garland him with sweet garland. Not much time had passed that he (Al-Hasan) came running until both of them embraced each other, thereupon Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “O Allah, I love him; love him and love one who loves him.” (Muslim)
Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him), the servant of the Prophet, had another recollection:
I never saw anyone who was more compassionate towards children than Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). His son Ibrahim was in the care of a wet nurse in the hills around Madinah. He would go there, and we would go with him, and he would enter the house, pick up his son and kiss him, then come back. (Muslim)
Narrated Abu Hurairah (may Allah be pleased with him),
Allah’s Messenger kissed Al-Hasan ibn `Ali while Al-Aqra` ibn Habis At-Tamim was sitting with him . Al-Aqra` said, “I have ten children and have never kissed one of them.” The Prophet cast a look at him and said, “Whoever is not merciful to others will not be treated mercifully.” (Al-Bukhari)
The following hadith narrated by Anas ibn Malik (may Allah be pleased with him) proves his thoughtful character:
The Prophet said, “(It happens that) I start the prayer intending to prolong it, but on hearing the cries of a child, I shorten the prayer because I know that the cries of the child will incite its mother’s passions.” (Al-Bukhari)
Narrated Abu Qatadah: “The Messenger of Allah came towards us while carrying Umamah the daughter of Abi Al-`As (Prophet’s granddaughter) over his shoulder. He prayed, and when he wanted to bow, he put her down, and when he stood up he lifted her up.” (Al-Bukhari)
“Fear Allah and treat your children [small or grown] fairly (with equal justice).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)


Prophet Muhammad was reported as saying: "Be fair and just in terms of the gifts you offer your children. If I was to give preference to any (gender over the other) I would have preferred females over males (in terms of giving gifts)."


Narrated `A’ishah: The Prophet took a child in his lap … and then the child urinated on him, so he asked for water and poured it over the place of the urine. (Bukhari) .... Embarrassed, the father sprang forward. "What have you done, you silly boy?" he shouted. He shoved his arm forward to grab the child away from Muhammad, his red face showing his anger. Fear and confusion showed in the face of the child. Muhammad restrained the man, and gently hugged the child to him. "Don’t worry," he told the over-zealous father. "This is not a big issue. My clothes can be washed. But be careful with how you treat the child," he continued. "What can restore his self-esteem after you have dealt with him in public like this?"





Announcement

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Only registered users (including open ID) can comment from now on. I'm not against people commenting who disagree with my views, but you can at least be brave enough to put a name.

Have a nice day, everyone :)

Listen

{ Monday, August 22, 2011 }



Listen
To the song here in my heart
A melody I start but can't complete

Listen
To the sound from deep within
It's only beginning to find release

Oh the time has come for my dreams to be heard
They will not be pushed aside and turned
Into your own all 'cause you won't listen

Listen
I am alone at a crossroad
I'm not at home in my own home
And I've tried and tried to say what's on my mind
You should have known -

Oh

Now I'm done believing you
You don't know what I'm feeling
I'm more than what you made of me
I followed the voice you gave to me
But now I've gotta find my own
You should have listened

There is someone here inside
Someone I thought had died so long ago

Oh, I'm screaming out and my dreams will be heard
They will not be pushed aside or worked
Into your own all 'cause you won't listen

Listen
I am alone at a crossroad
I'm not at home in my own home
And I've tried and tried to say what's on my mind
You should have know

Oh, now I'm done believing you
You don't know what I'm feeling
I'm more than what you made of me
I followed the voice you gave to me
But now I've gotta find my own

I don't know where I belong
But I'll be moving on
If you don't, if you won't

Listen
To the song here in my heart
A melody I start
But I will complete -

Oh

Now I'm done believing you
You don't know what I'm feeling
I'm more than what you made of me
I followed the voice you think you gave to me
But now I gotta find my own
My own


Tragedy strikes at Belgian Festival

{ Friday, August 19, 2011 }
Yesterday, a severe storm hit my country. I was in the veranda when it happened. The sky grew completely dark, the harsh wind made the trees bend to their sides, and the rain came crashing down from the sky. The thunder was deafening, and the lighting so close it was scary. Really it was very threatening and I couldn't believe that only half an hour before the sky was blue and the sun was shining!


Yesterday it was also the first day of the Belgian music festival Pukkelpop. It's outside. It's a large festival and it draws a lot of people. My brother was planning on going today, and I know countless people who attend it.
When I turned on the news, they gave me images of chaos. The tents there had collapsed, and people had no shelter. In the last update today I read that 5 people died and 140 are wounded, because of the constructions that came crashing down. Most people who go there are my age, still very young. The upside of the story is that I feel a great solidarity in my country. Everyone is giving their support to the victims, and it's everywhere, on Facebook, Twitter, the radio and tv etc. The people who organised the festival also decided to cancel the rest of the concerts, out of respect for the victims. My heart goes out to them. Please pray for the victims and their families, that the wounded may be healed, and the dead may rest in peace. A death doesn't only affect one life, but also the life of everyone around him/her, and it's just so sad :( You go there wanting to have some fun, and then all of a sudden you are surrounded by chaos and things that come crashing down above your head! I can't imagine how scared everyone must have been!


Here is a report from the BBC on what happened, with video: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14586001


:(

Interesting article on Sufism, Wahhabism and the definition of "bid'a"

{ Wednesday, August 17, 2011 }
I read an interesting article yesterday, in which the author explains that Sufism always was a part of classical theology and Islam, but that only since the rise of wahhabism it was discredited and thought of as foreign to true Islam. The author also explains that "bid'a" (innovation in religion) has been abused by the Salafi's and that not everything new is bad. The article itself is rather long, so I will post  excerpts of it, but if you are interested in reading it, you can find it here. It was written by Sheikh Abdal-Hakim Murad, a British convert, who studied in Cambridge and al-Azhar. 


There was a time, not long ago, when the 'ultras' were few, forming only a tiny wart on the face of the worldwide attempt to revivify Islam. Sadly, we can no longer enjoy the luxury of ignoring them. The extreme has broadened, and the middle ground, giving way, is everywhere dislocated and confused. And this enfeeblement of the middle ground, was what was enjoined by the Prophetic example, is in turn accelerated by the opprobrium which the extremists bring not simply upon themselves, but upon committed Muslims everywhere.


If these things go on, the Islamic movement will cease to form an authentic summons to cultural and spiritual renewal, and will exist as little more than a splintered array of maniacal factions. The prospect of such an appalling and humiliating end to the story of a religion which once surpassed all others in its capacity for tolerating debate and dissent is now a real possibility.


Symptomatic of the disease is the fact that among all the explanations offered for the crisis of the Islamic movement, the only authentically Muslim interpretation, namely, that God should not be lending it His support, is conspicuously absent. It is true that we frequently hear the Quranic verse which states that "God does not change the condition of a people until they change the condition of their own selves." [1. Al-Qur'an 13:11.] But never, it seems, is this principle intelligently grasped.


The verse is speaking of a spiritual change, specifically, a transformation of the nafs of the believers - not a moral one. And as the Blessed Prophet never tired of reminding us, there is little value in outward conformity to the rules unless this conformity is mirrored and engendered by an authentically righteous disposition of the heart.
For it is theological nonsense to suggest that God's final concern is with our ability to conform to a complex set of rules. His concern is rather that we should be restored, through our labours and His grace, to that state of purity and equilibrium with which we were born. The rules are a vital means to that end, and are facilitated by it. But they do not take its place.  




To make this point, the Holy Quran deploys a striking metaphor. In Sura Ibrahim, verses 24 to 26, we read:  
Have you not seen how God coineth a likeness: a goodly word like a goodly tree, the root whereof is set firm, its branch in the heaven? It bringeth forth its fruit at every time, by the leave of its Lord. Thus doth God coin likenesses for men, that perhaps they may reflect. And the likeness of an evil word is that of an evil tree that hath been torn up by the root from upon the earth, possessed of no stability.
How should we respond to this disorder? We must begin by remembering what Islam is for. As we noted earlier, our din is not, ultimately, a manual of rules which, when meticulously followed, becomes a passport to paradise. Instead, it is a package of social, intellectual and spiritual technology whose purpose is to cleanse the human heart. In the Qur'an, the Lord says that on the Day of Judgement, nothing will be of any use to us, except a sound heart (qalbun salim). [3. Sura 26:89. The archetype is Abrahamic: see Sura 37:84.] And in a famous hadith, the Prophet, upon whom be blessings and peace, says that  "Verily in the body there is a piece of flesh. If it is sound, the body is all sound. If it is corrupt, the body is all corrupt. Verily, it is the heart.


It is vital to understand that mainstream Sufism is not, and never has been, a doctrinal system, or a school of thought - a madhhab. It is, instead, a set of insights and practices which operate within the various Islamic madhhabs; in other words, it is not a madhhab, it is an ilm. And like most of the other Islamic ulum, it was not known by name, or in its later developed form, in the age of the Prophet (upon him be blessings and peace) or his Companions. This does not make it less legitimate. There are many Islamic sciences which only took shape many years after the Prophetic age: usul al-fiqh, for instance, or the innumerable technical disciplines of hadith.  


Now this, of course, leads us into the often misunderstood area of sunna and bid'a, two notions which are wielded as blunt instruments by many contemporary activists, but which are often grossly misunderstood. The classic Orientalist thesis is of course that Islam, as an 'arid Semitic religion', failed to incorporate mechanisms for its own development, and that it petrified upon the death of its founder. This, however, is a nonsense rooted in the ethnic determinism of the nineteenth century historians who had shaped the views of the early Orientalist synthesizers (Muir, Le Bon, Renan, Caetani). Islam, as the religion designed for the end of time, has in fact proved itself eminently adaptable to the rapidly changing conditions which characterise this final and most 'entropic' stage of history.  



What is a bid'a, according to the classical definitions of Islamic law? We all know the famous hadith:  
Beware of matters newly begun, for every matter newly begun is innovation, every innovation is misguidance, and every misguidance is in Hell. [4. This hadith is in fact an instance of takhsis al-amm: a frequent procedure of usul al-fiqh by which an apparently unqualified statement is qualified to avoid the contradiction of another necessary principle. See Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller, tr. Nuh Ha Mim Keller (Abu Dhabi, 1991 CE), 907-8 for some further examples.]
Does this mean that everything introduced into Islam that was not known to the first generation of Muslims is to be rejected? The classical ulema do not accept such a literalistic interpretation.  

Let us take a definition from Imam al-Shafi'i, an authority universally accepted in Sunni Islam. Imam al-Shafi'i writes:  
There are two kinds of introduced matters (muhdathat). One is that which contradicts a text of the Qur'an, or the Sunna, or a report from the early Muslims (athar), or the consensus (ijma') of the Muslims: this is an 'innovation of misguidance' (bid'at dalala). The second kind is that which is in itself good and entails no contradiction of any of these authorities: this is a 'non-reprehensible innovation' (bid'a ghayr madhmuma). [5. Ibn Asakir,Tabyin Kadhib al-Muftari (Damascus, 1347), 97.]
Why is it, then, that so many Muslims now believe that innovation in any form is unacceptable in Islam? One factor has already been touched on: the mental complexes thrown up by insecurity, which incline people to find comfort in absolutist and literalist interpretations. Another lies in the influence of the well-financed neo-Hanbali madhhab called Wahhabism, whose leaders are famous for their rejection of all possibility of development.  


According to the early Islamic psychologists, the ruh is a non-material reality which pervades the entire human body, but is centred on the heart, the qalb. It represents that part of man which is not of this world, and which connects him with his Creator, and which, if he is fortunate, enables him to see God in the next world. When we are born, this ruh is intact and pure. As we are initiated into the distractions of the world, however, it is covered over with the 'rust' (ran) of which the Quran speaks. This rust is made up of two things: sin and distraction. When, through the process of self-discipline, these are banished, so that the worshipper is preserved from sin and is focussing entirely on the immediate presence and reality of God, the rust is dissolved, and the ruh once again is free. The heart is sound; and salvation, and closeness to God, are achieved.  


Because its objective is nothing less than salvation, this vital Islamic science has been consistently expounded by the great scholars of classical Islam. While today there are many Muslims, influenced by either Wahhabi or Orientalist agendas, who believe that Sufism has always led a somewhat marginal existence in Islam, the reality is that the overwhelming majority of the classical scholars were actively involved in Sufism.
The early Shafi'i scholars of Khurasan: al-Hakim al-Nisaburi, Ibn Furak, al-Qushayri and al-Bayhaqi, were all Sufis who formed links in the richest academic tradition of Abbasid Islam, which culminated in the achievement of Imam Hujjat al-Islam al-Ghazali. 

Among the Malikis, too, Sufism was popular. Al-Sawi, al-Dardir, al-Laqqani and Abd al-Wahhab al-Baghdadi were all exponents of Sufism. The Maliki jurist of Cairo, Abd al-Wahhab al-Sha'rani defines Sufism as follows:  

'The path of the Sufis is built on the Quran and the Sunna, and is based on living according to the morals of the prophets and the purified ones. It may not be blamed, unless it violates an explicit statement from the Quran, sunna, or ijma. If it does not contravene any of these sources, then no pretext remains for condemning it, except one's own low opinion of others, or interpreting what they do as ostentation, which is unlawful. No-one denies the states of the Sufis except someone ignorant of the way they are.'[11. Sha'rani,al-Tabaqat al-Kubra (Cairo, 1374), I, 4.]  
For Hanbali Sufism one has to look no further than the revered figures of Abdallah Ansari, Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, Ibn al-Jawzi, and Ibn Rajab.  

With all this, we confront a paradox. Why is it, if Sufism has been so respected a part of Muslim intellectual and political life throughout our history, that there are, nowadays, angry voices raised against it? There are two fundamental reasons here.  

Firstly, there is again the pervasive influence of Orientalist scholarship, which, at least before 1922 when Massignon wrote his Essai sur les origines de la lexique technique, was of the opinion that something so fertile and profound as Sufism could never have grown from the essentially 'barren and legalistic' soil of Islam. Orientalist works translated into Muslim languages were influential upon key Muslim modernists - such as Muhammad Abduh in his later writings - who began to question the centrality, or even the legitimacy, of Sufi discourse in Islam.  

Secondly, there is the emergence of the Wahhabi da'wa. When Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, some two hundred years ago, teamed up with the Saudi tribe and attacked the neighbouring clans, he was doing so under the sign of an essentially neo-Kharijite version of Islam. Although he invoked Ibn Taymiya, he had reservations even about him. For Ibn Taymiya himself, although critical of the excesses of certain Sufi groups, had been committed to a branch of mainstream Sufism. This is clear, for instance, in Ibn Taymiya's work Sharh Futuh al-Ghayb, a commentary on some technical points in the Revelations of the Unseen, a key work by the sixth-century saint of Baghdad, Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani. Throughout the work Ibn Taymiya shows himself to be a loyal disciple of al-Jilani, whom he always refers to as shaykhuna ('our teacher'). This Qadiri affiliation is confirmed in the later literature of the Qadiri tariqa, which records Ibn Taymiya as a key link in thesilsila, the chain of transmission of Qadiri teachings.[13. See G. Makdisi's article 'Ibn Taymiyya: A Sufi of the Qadiriya Order' in the American Journal of Arabic Studies, 1973.]  


Ibn Abd al-Wahhab, however, went far beyond this. Raised in the wastelands of Najd in Central Arabia, he had little access to mainstream Muslim scholarship. In fact, when his da'wa appeared and became notorious, the scholars and muftis of the day applied to it the famous Hadith of Najd:  
Ibn Umar reported the Prophet (upon whom be blessings and peace) as saying: "Oh God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said: "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!" but he said, "O God, bless us in our Syria; O God, bless us in our Yemen." Those present said, "And in our Najd, O Messenger of God!". Ibn Umar said that he thought that he said on the third occasion: "Earthquakes and dissensions (fitna) are there, and there shall arise the horn of the devil." [14. Narrated by Bukhari. The translation is from J. Robson, Mishkat al-Masabih (Lahore, 1970), II, 1380.

And it is significant that almost uniquely among the lands of Islam, Najd has never produced scholars of any repute.  

The Najd-based da'wa of the Wahhabis, however, began to be heard more loudly following the explosion of Saudi oil wealth. Many, even most, Islamic publishing houses in Cairo and Beirut are now subsidised by Wahhabi organisations, which prevent them from publishing traditional works on Sufism, and remove passages in other works considered unacceptable to Wahhabist doctrine.  

The neo-Kharijite nature of Wahhabism makes it intolerant of all other forms of Islamic expression. However, because it has no coherent fiqh of its own - it rejects the orthodox madhhabs - and has only the most basic and primitively anthropomorphic aqida, it has a fluid, amoebalike tendency to produce divisions and subdivisions among those who profess it. No longer are the Islamic groups essentially united by a consistent madhhaband the Ash'ari [or Maturidi] aqida. Instead, they are all trying to derive the shari'a and the aqida from the Quran and the Sunna by themselves. The result is the appalling state of division and conflict which disfigures the modern salafi condition.  

At this critical moment in our history, the umma has only one realistic hope for survival, and that is to restore the 'middle way', defined by that sophisticated classical consensus which was worked out over painful centuries of debate and scholarship. That consensus alone has the demonstrable ability to provide a basis for unity. But it can only be retrieved when we improve the state of our hearts, and fill them with the Islamic virtues of affection, respect, tolerance and reconciliation. This inner reform, which is the traditional competence of Sufism, is a precondition for the restoration of unity in the Islamic movement. The alternative is likely to be continued, and agonising, failure.



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