Copyright © 2003-2011, Aishah Schwartz. Permission granted to circulate among private individuals, groups, or in not-for-profit publications in full text and subject title. All other rights reserved.

December 24, 2006

SURVEY: What is Marriage to YOU?

"The surgeon general has listed marriage as the number one cause for divorce..." *lol*

All kidding aside...what does marriage mean to you? Your comments would be most welcome. Please note that comments may be used in an upcoming article I am thinking of writing. If your comment is selected for use in the article, you will be notified and offered the choice of whether or not your comment is used anonymously, or quoted with your name. Of course, if you'd like to leave your prefered use option together with your comment, that would be most helpful, insha'Allah. Looking forward to hearing from you, insha'Allah!

Here are a some sample responses:

"It can be the most beautiful thing in life if the companions are truly compatible to each other (soul mates as they say), have the same vision about life and the hereafter and so base their marriage/life on the right principles."

"It's the bonding of two (or more souls) under God, and union of two families, to protect ones deen, and lead a well balanced life while better staying focused on the purpose of this journey. Any journey is easier to embark upon with a companion alongside."

"Basically marriage is a relationship and companionship between an adult man and woman sustained by love, intimacy, commitment, compromise, adaptation, and similarities in values."

"Marriage is about joining life and another and in the hereafter...someone who can be your better you become a better Muslim...a better person...someone who motivates you...and yet someone who you can has to be equal. Basically someone who you can have and be happy with...thinking you have everything in the just one person...without the materials of the world."

Click on the comment link below to add your thoughts!

December 23, 2006

UPDATE: Surviving the Holidays as a Revert

[This was originally posted Dec. 20, 2005] Assalamu Alaikum!'s December 20th...and I know some of you out there are likely still somewhat perplexed as to how to resolve, for yourself, the issue of how to spend the holiday where it concerns your non-Muslim family members. Since the original post was made on December 8, there have been so many responses, subhan'Allah! So, I wanted to take a moment to share with you the direct link to the original blog in order to offer you another opportunity to read about how others of you have been thinking and feeling during this time.
The final message are not alone! May those of you who have the good fortune to be able to spend time with your families during this time remember, first and foremost, to do your best to maintain your Islamic identity and to give the best example possible of the kindness, gentleness, peacefulness, and beauty of Islam, and may your non-Muslim family members, through your shining examples, find something in their hearts to make them just a little more curious...and may Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala continue to guide us all. Ameen.
May we also remember those who may not have family members with which to share the bond of family ties, and may we do our best to reach out to them, wherever they are, in whatever way possible, to reassure them that they too, are not alone.
"None of you will believe until he wants for his brother what he wants for himself." Al-Bukhari Please read, "Do You Know A New Muslim?"
Ma'Salaama. Allah Almighty says: (Allah does not forbid you to deal justly and kindly with those who fought not against you on account of religion and did not drive you out of your homes. Verily, Allah loves those who deal with equity. It is only as regards those who fought against you on account of religion, and have driven you out of your homes, and helped to drive you out, that Allah forbids you to befriend them. And whosoever will befriend them, then such are the wrong-doers.) (Al-Mumtahinah 60: 8-9)

December 21, 2006

Ads Hope to Dispel Fears of Muslims

By KRISTEN GELINEAU, Associated Press Writer Wed Dec 20, 2:21 AM ET The small beige signs bearing swirling, black Arabic script appear all over town on buses and at colleges. One panicked bus rider wondered if they were secret messages from terrorists. Should the FBI be contacted? What do they mean? Actual translation: "Paper or plastic?" The signs are part of a campaign by the Virginia Interfaith Center, aimed at dispelling some of the public's fears about the Muslim community. Organizers hope to eventually expand the program statewide. "As soon as people see Arabic, they immediately make an association with terrorism," said the Rev. C. Douglas Smith, executive director of the interfaith center. "That's probably because since 9/11, not only is fear overwhelming us, but that's how we're being trained to think." The signs were placed in all 170 Greater Richmond Transit Company buses on Nov. 27 and many buses will continue to display them at least through the end of January. The signs, designed by The Martin Agency, have also been posted at the University of Richmond and Virginia Commonwealth University. Besides the "paper or plastic" sign, there are two others — one which is the Arabic version of the "I'm a little tea pot" rhyme and the other roughly translating to the English equivalent of "rock, paper, scissors." Accompanying the translations at the bottom of the posters are comments such as, "Misunderstanding can make anything scary," and "What did you think it said?" The transit company has already fielded several calls from concerned riders, said Gretchen Schoel, executive director of A More Perfect Union, a project of the Virginia Interfaith Center that is spearheading the ads. One woman Schoel described as a well-educated university employee placed a frantic call to the bus company's manager, suggesting the FBI be called in to investigate. Even after the signs' English translations were explained to her, she remained concerned that they might contain secret messages, Schoel said. "It's so great that we're getting feedback, even if it is negative, because it shows that people are looking, they're thinking," Schoel said. "And it really proves the point that this script right here conjures up certain ideas in our heads that we have to work with." Bias against the Muslim community is a continuing problem across the country, said Imad Damaj, president of the Virginia Muslim Coalition for Public Affairs. "There's so many lazy, unexamined assumptions about all of us and how we react to people," Damaj said. "We need to challenge ourselves." (more) ___ On the Net: A More Perfect Union: Virginia Interfaith Center:

December 17, 2006

You're Back from Hajj...Now What? by Aishah Schwartz

"Then when you pour down from Arafat, celebrate the praises of Allah at the Sacred Monument, and celebrate His praises as He has directed you, even though, before this, you were astray." [Al-Baqarah 2:198]

So, you're back from Hajj! Mabrook! Congratulations! Hajj Mabroor! May Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala accept! Amin.

Okay, all the fanfare aside, now what?

Read the rest of the story here...

Copyright © 2006 Aishah Schwartz
Permission is granted to circulate among private individuals and groups, to post on Internet sites and to publish in full text and subject title in not-for-profit publications. Contact author for all other rights, which are reserved.

HIJAB: Fabric, Fad or Faith?

"Yeah, I just got on the bus and I’m on my way home. Okay, Mum, Wa’alaikum Assalam."

I slip my cell into my bag. A girl in a yellow tank top and dark blue cut-offs plops into the seat beside me.

"Ugh, I hate taking the bus, especially in this heat," she says.

I nod and smile.

She raises her eyebrows at my full-length dress and the cloth wrapped around my head. "Aren’t you hot in that?" she asks.

I contemplate my answer. The girl shoots another question. "Why do you wear that thing on your head anyway?"

I fiddle with the clasp on my bag. I wonder what I should say. Why do I wear Hijab?

Why the Hood?

It’s tough to explain, isn’t it? Hijab relates to the basic faith that there is only one God worthy of worship. As Muslim women we want to submit to God and obey all His commands. Since Hijab is a clear commandment of God (see Quran 24:31), we choose to do it to please Him. If we wear Hijab for any other reason, we may fulfill an obligation without gaining the reward for it.

Aisha (The wife of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him) said, "May Allah have mercy on the immigrant women (from Makkah). When Allah revealed ‘that they should draw their veils over their juyubihinna*,' they tore their wrappers and covered their heads and faces with them." [Bukhari]

The female companions of the Prophet gave up the traditions and norms of their society and covered up immediately to respond to Allah, before they knew the proper method.

Only a Head Covering?

"And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their Juyubihinna* and not display their beauty except to…" [Quran 24:31]

The word *Juyubihinna, according to most scholars, refers to the head, ears, neck and chest. To fulfil the minimum requirements of Hijab, a Muslim woman covers her entire body, except her face and hands. Once Asma, daughter of Abu Bakr, entered upon the Prophet wearing thin clothes. The Prophet turned his attention from her. He said, "O Asma, when a woman reaches the age of menstruation, it does not suit her that she displays her parts of body except this and this," and he pointed to his face and hands. [Abu Dawud]

Proper Hijab means loose and opaque clothes. Clothes should not be alluring or similar to the clothing of men. What about guys? Islam outlines a modest dress code for men and women. The requirements are different based on the obvious physiological and psychological differences between the two genders.

Hijab does not apply only to clothes. It is a state of mind, behaviour, and lifestyle. Hijab celebrates a desirable quality called Haya (modesty), a deep concern for preserving one’s dignity. Haya is a natural feeling that brings us pain at the very idea of committing a wrong. The Prophet said: "Every religion has a distinct call. For Islam it is Haya (modesty)." [Ibn Majah]

What’s in it for Me? Five Advantages of Hijab

I can’t be messed with! Hijab protects me – Hijab identifies a Muslim woman as a person of high moral standards to reduce her chances of being harassed.

"O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons: that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested." [Quran 33:59]

As Dr. Katherine Bullock (a Canadian convert and community activist) observes, "The point to covering is not that sexual attraction is bad, only that it should be expressed between a husband and wife inside the privacy of the home. A public space free of sexual tensions is seen as a more peaceful place for human beings, men and women, to interact, do business, and build a healthy civilization."

I am liberated from slavery to 'physical perfection' – Society makes women desire to become 'perfect objects'. The multitudes of alluring fashion magazines and cosmetic surgeries show women’s enslavement to beauty. The entertainment industry pressures teens to believe that for clothes, less is better. When we wear Hijab, we vow to liberate ourselves from such desires and serve only God.

I don’t let others judge me by my hair and curves! – In schools and professional environments, women are often judged by their looks or bodies—characteristi cs they neither chose nor created. Hijab forces society to judge women for their value as human beings, with intellect, principles, and feelings. A woman in Hijab sends a message, "Deal with my brain, not my body!"

I feel empowered and confident – In contrast to today’s teenage culture, where anorexia and suicide are on the rise, as women attempt to reach an unattainable ideal of beauty, Hijab frees a woman from the pressure to ‘fit in’.

She does not have to worry about wearing the right kind of jeans or the right shade of eyeshadow. She can feel secure about her appearance because she cares to please only Allah.

I feel the bond of unity – Hijab identifies us as Muslims and encourages other Muslim sisters to greet us with the salutation of peace, "Assalamu Alaikum." Hijab draws others to us and immerses us in good company.

Heard These Before? Three Misconceptions About Hijab

Hijab is a symbol of 'male dominance'

If you think Hijab is an act of submission, you are right! It is a way to submit to God. Like any other act of worship, the rewards of Hijab come only when it is done for Allah alone.

Hijab is a 'cultural thing'

From remote villages to cosmopolitan mega cities, women all across the world, from every ethnic background, wear Hijab. Do all of these women cling to old cultural practices? Hijab, the internal and external aspects, take understanding, training and determination. Since the purpose of Hijab is to please Allah, doing it for tradition is wrong.

Hijab is a 'challenge to the political system'

While Hijab may have political implications, as evident in the banning of Hijab in certain countries, Muslim women who choose to practice Hijab are not doing it to challenge the political system. Islam encourages men and women to observe modesty in private and public life. Hijab is an individual’s act of faith and religious expression.

Are you Ready? Six Obstacles to Overcome

Thinking about wearing Hijab? Here are some tips to help you overcome obstacles that may get in your way:

Yourself –Not sure if you’re ready? Remember that Iman (faith in Allah) includes submitting to Allah’s will. Research, understand the reasons and talk to girls who have gone through it. Ask Allah to help you put your beliefs into action. Prophet Muhammad related that Allah said, "if [My servant] draws near to Me a hand’s span, I draw near to him an arm’s length; if he draws near to Me an arm’s length, I draw near to him a fathom’s length; and if he comes to Me walking, I go to him running." (Bukhari and Muslim)

Your Friends – Worried about how your buddies will take it? Your friends should accept your decision and be proud of your courage. Give them time and be patient. Be conscious of Allah, not the girls or guys.

Your Parents – It’s difficult to do things when the people closest to you oppose it. As Muslims, it’s our duty to please our parents, unless their wishes go against the command of Allah. As much as your parents do for you, their love and mercy could never compare to that of your Creator. Ease your parents into your decision and pray that it becomes easy for them to understand.

At School –It takes courage to be different. You are likely to hear, "what is that thing on your head?" or "who made you do it?" Questions aren’t bad. Know your reasons and explain why you chose to wear Hijab.

At Work – The United Nations states that, "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion" (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 18). Most countries in the world abide by this declaration and have their own laws that protect an individual’s freedom of religious practice at work.

At the Gym – What about swimming or basketball for sporty sisters? Obeying Allah and wearing Hijab does not limit your physical activity. Organize sisters-only sports events. This encourages true sports-womanship. When you play, it’s about the love of the game, not the glory (or the guys watching!).

SOURCE: Young Muslims Canada

To Cover or Not to Cover

By Pat McDonnell Twair
The hijab head covering is often the first thing that sets a Muslim woman apart. The hijab head covering is often the first thing that sets a Muslim woman apart. Asking Muslim women why they do or do not wear the scarf can be a beginning point for understanding how they understand themselves in relation to their faith.

"I don't wear the scarf for many reasons," said Iraqi-born psychologist Ilham al-Sarraf. "The first is that I have not reached the internal level of piety in my faith to declare it on the external level."

Hanaa al-Wardi, founder of the Museum of Contemporary Arab Art in Alhambra, California, said her mother and relatives in Baghdad wear hijab, but she has elected not to. "To me, hijab means modesty," al-Wardi said, "and I always present myself in a modest way: no short skirts, sleeveless or midriff tops, and no bikinis!"

Educator Semeen Issa concurred. "I chose not to wear hijab, other than during daily prayers," she said, "because preconceived notions and stereotypes about Muslim women come to mind at the sight of the scarf—even before you open your mouth."

Dr. Halima Shaikley wears not only a scarf, but also a formless long-sleeved coat in observance of hijab. "If girls are forced to wear hijab, it is bad," she stated. "If one has sufficient faith, you aren't concerned about how you look to strangers."

Necva Ozgur, principal of New Horizon School in Pasadena, said she did not wear hijab while growing up in Istanbul, Turkey. "As a teen-ager, I was very particular that every strand of hair was in place, that I wore the latest coiffure," she said. But when she immigrated to the United States and became active in the Islamic Center of Southern California, she decided she needed to go one more step in her faith. Now, said Ozgur, "I definitely don't spend the time I used to on my hairdos, but I spend a lot of money on scarves."

To Cover or Not to Cover. by Pat McDonnell Twair. Sojourners Magazine, May-June 2001 (Vol. 30, No. 3, pp. 43). Features.

December 11, 2006

Veil No Bar to Glory for Muslim Women Says Doha Gold Medal Champion

DOHA - Reuters (Dec. 12, 2006) - Winning the Asian Games 200 metres in a veil proves there are no barriers to Muslim women pursuing their sporting dreams, champion Ruqaya Al Ghasara (photo) said on Monday. The 24-year-old wore a hijab -- a scarf which covers the hair and neck -- along with leggings and long sleeves, but still outpaced her more scantily-clad rivals to win gold for Bahrain. "I want to say I'm very thankful for being a Muslim; it's a blessing," said the sports management student. "Wearing conservative clothes has encouraged me. Wearing a veil proves that Muslim women face no obstacles and encourages them to participate in sport. This is a glory to all Muslim women." (continued here)

December 10, 2006

"Dude, Are You MUSLIM?!?!?"

I don't watch much TV, but as it happens, I have seen a little more than my share in the past few weeks. And I'm posting today because it was the second time I caught cleverly inserted dialogue suggesting to the viewing audience that Muslims are inherently violent.

Case in point.

I was flipping through channels Saturday afternoon and landed on WB50 (channel 18 on the cable line up I was tuned into here in Virginia) - and I happened to catch the opening of the Chris Rock sitcom, "Everybody Hates Chris".

Scene: Dialogue between Chris and classmate, Greg, on first day back at school.

After having his books knocked out of his arms while passing through a hallway on the first day back to school, Chris laments to his classmate that he is tired of being picked on, teased, and kicked around (not exact words, but along that same line), and ends his monologue with the declaration, "I'm not going to take it anymore!"

As the two boys rise from picking up Chris's books from the hallway floor, Greg says to Chris, with emphasis, "Dude! Are you Muslim?"

WHAT?!? I mean, seriously, WAS THAT NECESSARY??

I'm sure the program was broadcast in numerous other markets...but WB50 happens to be the one I'm aware of...every voice counts...if we remain silent more and more incidents like this will be repeated through popularly watched TV programs, after which this false message will take root in schools as children repeated it and more believe it...and our children will suffer needlessly. Isn't there enough suffering in the world?

I've sent this to the CW network by the can too:

Washington, DC's WB50: Feedback
Boston's CW56/WLVI-TV: Feedback
Providence's CW28/WLWC: Feedback
Hartford-New Haven CW20/WTXX-TV: Feedback
Baltimore CW54/WNUV: Feedback

Detailed Listing of 212 CW Affiliates HERE.

Comment was in first episode of second season or #23.

Hey, Aishah! Where Have You Been Lately?

{{Laughing}} - Thought that would be a good intro for this post, after all, I was MIA for a month-and-a-half, right?
Okay! Okay! So I was in Pakistan! What?!?! *lol* That's right; Karachi, to be exact, as the guest of a wonderful friend that I first came to know during my stay in Saudi Arabia two years ago.
I was gone for a month, and as it happened, the dial-up internet service would not pull up the blog, so I could not post updates, which was totally frustrating, if you can imagine! *smile*
As it happened, I didn't get to take too many outdoor photos; it turns out that it is not exactly in one's best interest to "flash" personal possessions that might be considered of value to street muggers, i.e., jewelry, cell phones, or cameras! The one photo I took outdoors (above) was taken at night during a brief visit to the Arabian seaside.
I've now experienced Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan...and I am thinking of writing a comparative piece outlining the differences in the lives of women in these countries that might, insha'Allah, be helpful to more of us who live here in the west as we strive to gain a better understanding of one another. I know this is an issue among those of us who accept Islam here in the states, and as we try to integrate ourselves into pre-existing Muslim communities that were more often than not, started by immigrants.
The more effort we make to understand one another's cultures, the easier it will be to embrace one another in the true spirit of Islam. Insha'Allah.

What Are you Grateful For Today?

The smile of a grandson...masha' he beautiful or what?

Celebrating his third birthday, November 25, 2006 - when he was born in 2003, it happened to be the day of Eid...Al-hamdulillah! *smile*

My sister takes great photos, too! *wink*