My Dua- Soften His Heart

Ya Allah soften his heart

Whoever he is I ask that you soften his heart towards you and towards me.

Ya Allah make him happy. Give him the desires of his beautiful heart. Grant him sabr and iman and make his path well lit and easy.

Ya Allah make his life stress free and simple. Grant him as much success as you know he is capable of handling.

Ya Allah soften his heart to his parents. Put a fire and love for them deep inside his heart as this is how he will reach mine.

Ya Allah if he smokes put it in his heart to quit. Because I want him to survive our children..because I want him to be healthy. I want him to take deep breathes when he sees me and be strong enough to toss me around playfully.

Ya Allah awaken him at 5am with a desire for fajr. That is all I really ask. With that everything else will come. Alhamdulillah

Ya Allah help him to lower his gaze. You and I both know how hard it is. Grant him peace in that. Do not let him toss and turn at night with desires he can not quench.

Ya Allah keep him in your mercy. You wrote him for me and me for him so please keep him safe and when we finally meet help us to see each other for what we are.

Ya Allah do not give him happiness without bitterness.

 Grant him just enough struggle so that he has some grit to his character.

 Grant him just enough precious sadness in his life so that he can truly appreciate the happiness.

 Give him just enough of a taste of heart ache so he knows how it feels and won’t do it to others.

 Give him a test of poverty for a time so he learns to live with nothing and be ok with that.

 Give him a time of loneliness so when he finally has me he will realize how blessed we are to have   been created in pairs.

Ya Allah … Yalla! … I know you do things in your own time and your own way and you are the best of planners, but I am human.

I am what you created.
I am impatient.
I am lonely.
I am desperate for his touch.
I am desperate to look into his eyes.
I am at the edge of what I can possibly bare.
Maybe he is not ready yet?
Maybe I am waiting for you to do what needs to be done to make him ready for me.

Ya Allah give us both the desires of our hearts.
End this separation between us.
Ya Allah reveal us to each other …


Don't Cross The Picket Line

This is my response to the recent revelation of the devious acts done in the name of inter faith solidarity by the Shalom Hartman Institute. This initiative is called the Muslim Leadership Initiative. They invite up and coming Muslims to join them on an all expenses paid junket to Israel. They choose Muslims that are of South Asian or other races, never Arabs and certainly not Palestinians. The endeavor is done in secret, the participants go and come back in a shroud of mystery. There is a group there now and when they were approached by a popular Palestinian blogger they physically assaulted him and berated him. This is solidarity? That the one Palestinian you encounter you assault and disrespect? That incident alone speaks volumes and reveals all we need to know about such a project. This is not how you treat other people. This is not how you treat other Muslims. This is not how you treat the oppressed. This is not how you respond to those you claim solidarity with.

Honestly the fact that they are Muslims does not matter, it just stabs the knife in a bit more is all. The reaction would be just as much if they were not Muslims. The fact is that this organization is a direct supporter of the Israeli military, and a propaganda machine for Zionism. Zionism is a vile system based on a master race theology that invokes racism, apartheid, genocide and murder as justifiable ways of dealing with other human beings. This system is truly evil. To see an organization pluck out, seek out, stalk, and strategically choose up and coming Muslims to join them on a trip to Israel is not only heartbreaking but a slap in the face to everyone working for justice in this issue. 

They are not going to Palestine, to refugee camps, to mosques that have been bombed, and not schools coated with the remnants of nerve gas and are not visiting or assisting dying refugees in Gaza…but they are going to the pristine, landscaped, protected illegal settlements of Israel. 

They take them there to indoctrinate them with the aims of Zionism, to turn them against their own communities. They have never, and will never, invite any Arab on this trip. It is all South Asians and other races. Why? Because this is a race issue. Inviting an Arab would never work. The message is: we are wonderful Zionists, we like Muslims, we just don’t like THESE Muslims, the Arab Muslims, the Palestinian Muslims, but you guys? You guys are cool. (forgetting, as always that a serious component of Palestinian society is Baha’i, Christian and others) The organization operates in secret and to this day we have no complete list of those who participated. Why keep it secret? Why create suspicion, which is haram in Islam? Why ignore the cries of your fellow Muslims simply asking for answers? When simple, respectful pleas for an explanation are pointed at the participants they respond with vulgar insults, threats, mocking, condescension and out right blocking. How is this a community building tool?

They have done exactly what the goal of this organization was to do: cause a rift in the Muslim community. 
You do not have to ‘support Palestine’ just because you are Muslim, it is not a Muslim issue or even a religious issue. The media presents it as a religious issue but it is far from it. It is a race issue. It has always been a race issue. It will always be a race issue. Zionism is a sickness. To see fellow Muslims fall victim to it angers me. I am a Palestinian. I was born to a refugee parent and I grew up here in America. Because of that I acknowledge that I have a degree of privilege that Palestinians living in Palestine do not have. When I would visit my grandparents there I recognized this privilege. I have an American Passport. I can do almost anything I want, go anywhere I want, skip certain check points, use the high way. They could not do any of that. They could not go beyond their neighborhood. Because of this acknowledged privilege I have I am careful to what extent I speak for my people. I am in the diaspora, they are in Palestine. We both struggle by my struggle is not their struggle and their struggle is not my struggle. I wake up in a comfortable bed, in a nice apartment. I can rely on the promise of endless amounts of clean water, electricity and internet. I do not fear bombs. I do not fear Apartheid walls 2.5 times higher than the Berlin wall. I have privilege. So to see those who have no part in this struggle at all cross the picket line, blatantly ignore calls from Palestinians to boycott, divest and sanction Zionism and its sympathizers and then speak on the behalf of the oppressed is downright repulsive. There is a certain level of respect you have for oppressed people, even if you do not support their cause.

You do not cross the picket line, you do not work against them, you do not assist the enemy. The enemy here is not Jews, it is the state of Israel that operates on a racist ideology called Zionism that insists on a master race dominant society. Just like apartheid in South Africa, we BOYCOTT DIVEST AND SANCTION those who would seek to normalize relations with such a system. Anyone can support the Zionist apartheid agenda but that makes them a legit target for BDS. There is no longer going to be an acceptance for such policies, of murder, apartheid and oppression. Israel outright slaughtered nearly 3k people last summer while the world watched and clapped as children fell from Zionist bullets. 

If anyone supports, in any way, that system then they deserve to be named, blamed, labeled, call out, sanctioned, boycotted, and divested from …from the biggest corporation to the loneliest individual.

An article that goes deeper into the discovery of this can be found here, written by Sana Saeed. 

Another great piece explaining the background of the parties and organizations involved can be found here, written by Ali Abunimah


Solidarity or Appropriation?

Wear a scarf on your head for a day and suddenly you become the voice of Muslim women everywhere! This has gotten out of control. This is cultural/religious appropriation and it is disgusting. I am sure their intentions are good but you do NOT need to dress up like someone and turn their religion into a costume in order to feel empathy for your fellow human being. You should be perfectly capable of standing up for and showing solidarity for Muslim women without having to dress up like one. And what of the Muslim women who do not wear hijab? Where is their solidarity? Hijab is an act of worship. It is a deed commanded by Allah most high. It is not a game, not a costume, not exotic, not dress up, not sexy. 

How about just don't judge, period.
So we now have this sick trend of white women wearing scarves on their head for a selfie and somehow that is supposed to expose them to something? That is supposed to make me feel better? Protected? It certainly does not. For centuries White peoples have exoticized Muslim dress, made it mysterious, sexual, and exotic. This is a continuation of that. It fetishizes Muslim women. Hijab is not just a scarf wrapped around your head, it is an intention to obey the creator of your soul, it is an entire 7 point dress code, and it is an act of worship, of sanctity. Does some woman wearing a hijab for a day or just to pose for a photo make her aware of what it is like to struggle with modesty in today’s world ... no ... because she has the PRIVILEGE of removing it with no guilt, no shame no sin... she has no idea what it is like to wear it every single day of our lives, and there is no way to have that experience unless she became Muslim and did it. 

I feel solidarity with black struggle in America but to do so I do not need to paint my face black and walk around or post a selfie while in black face. I feel solidarity with the struggle of Native Americans but I do not need to dress up like a Lakota lady to feel it. To do so would be wrong, to do so would be cultural/religious appropriation, to do so would be insulting and misguided and so is this "hijabi solidarity". Another point is this: over the past couple years of this trend developing I have witnessed SO MANY Muslims praising these women as if they are saints, and Muslim men go out of their way with the 'wowowowow mashallah' comments ... where is this support and praise and encouragement for actual Muslim women who actually do struggle to wear hijab? When it comes to reality most Muslim men refuse to marry a woman wearing hijab ... but a white woman playing dress up in one? Oh that is hot, sexy, exotic, intriguing. Muslim men are all for sexualized hijab just as long as it is not an actual Muslim woman in hijab. Apparently the men in this ummah of ours are too weak to handle real hijab. 

And where in all of this is the voice of REAL MUSLIM WOMEN? Where is our narrative, our experience? Where is our voice? It is nowhere. No one is asking us "hey sister friend what is your life like? What is your experience?”... No one. Oh but these women in costume offer up their narrative and suddenly they are the voice of Muslim women everywhere. I understand that these women have good intentions and they are trying to show solidarity but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Good intentions do not mean the resulting action is good or helpful. Stop supporting this, start supporting the Muslim women out here doing our thing and living life ... we are here, we exist, we have a voice and we need you...


This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land

An immigrants dreams, realized.
The Statue of Liberty is the one thing that, for me, is the American icon. Every immigrant longs to see that lady, her torch held high, welcoming them. Her inscription reads:

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

~The new Colossus by Emma Lazarus~

 You see this American icon, our statute, our Lady Liberty is begging for those who long for freedom and a chance to create your own destiny to come to her and breathe free. My father took me to the see the Statue of Liberty when I was a small child. I do not remember much about actually seeing her, but I do remember my fathers tears. I remember him telling me that he was happy that I was going to have a life so incredibly different than his. I had no idea what he meant then, but I sure do now. My father lived and died a refugee, his entire life dictated by visa's and embassy documents. America right now is once again going through this debate over immigration. This has been a problem since day one. There has always been backlash against those who arrived 5 seconds later than those already here. This country would be nothing without its vibrant immigrants that went through hell to get here, that toiled and petitioned and gave up their entire lives to come here. So this Independence day let us show some respect for those new Americans in our communities. Let us welcome those huddled masses to our teeming shore and realize that they just want what we already have. If you have never been to a swearing in ceremony for people becoming American citizens, I really suggest you go. I have been to many in my lifetime and every time it brings such emotion. I look out into the crowd of faces hailing from all the corners of our world and each one standing tall, proud, tears flow, hand on heart and almost unable to recite the words that deem them Americans.

I am the daughter of immigrants. First generation. Most of my family does not live in America.  Most of my family lives under occupation and repressive regimes. Most of my family does not have a right to even speak against their rulers, let alone vote them into or out of office.

My birth mothers parents came here from Greece after World War II, seeking what everyone seeks when they come to America: that dream. My father came here to attend university and start a life. He knew the only chance he had at any semblance of a normal life was to come to America. His American dream was cut short for reasons that are an entire other story. Growing up surrounded by immigrants I learned the value of this thing called freedom. I was born here. I was born on a cold winters day, at 5:25 in the evening, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, in Brooklyn, New York. I tell people that when they tell me to go back where I came from. Go back to Brooklyn? Sure! No problem! B.K. represent! As the daughter of immigrants I struggled my whole life with this duality. I am both fully American and fully Arab. My homeland is and always will be Palestine, but my country is and always will be America. I have had many chances to live in various countries. I have family in about 15 different countries. I could go live with any one of them. I choose to stay here, in this land of dreams.

When you grow up with immigrants, and you watch your loved ones over seas fighting for simple rights you take for granted, you learn the value and the luck of your place of birth. I was born knowing I had the right to vote. I was born knowing I could own land, sell that land, own and operate my own business, get an
education, legally be required to attend school, and that my pursuit of happiness was not a lofty ideal but a given right. I did not have to fight for any of these rights, those before me had already done that. I am ever grateful for their struggles and sacrifices.

Yes, Islam gives me all these rights, but sadly Muslim rulers do not, specially not to a woman. I remember the 4th of July as a kid and the fireworks scared me to death. I also remember my father jumping out of his skin at every boom because it sounded just like the bombs dropped on his home growing up. I remember my father teaching me the song 'This land is your land' and telling me that this country was mine, that I belong here and to never let anyone tell me different. When you are born here and your family for generations back is from here, you tend to take for granted what value that holds.

American Foreign Policy
America is not perfect, not by far. She has many issues, problems and has committed many sins. America was founded on the graves of its indigenous peoples and built on the backs of slaves and I never forget this. I am not happy about many of America's policies and invasions of lands. It is hard to love my country when she drops bombs on my homeland, when missiles and bullets with "Made in America" written on them pierce the flesh of my loved ones. I have the right to complain about America. I have the right to dislike her choices, to be angry with her, to fight against her policies and to keep her in line with the values spelled out in her laws and to fight to keep those laws just and fair. That is a right many take for granted or simply do not even recognize at all. Criticizing America is not unpatriotic, if it was then not one of the founding fathers was patriotic.

For all that I dislike there is so much I do like. I love apple pie. I love New York City. I love our landscapes, beaches and national parks. I love being able to do what I want, when I want and not have some security or secret police follow me around. I love being able to choose for myself what religion to have, what education I want and being able to form and voice my own opinions. I love being able to buy whatever my mind can imagine, at 3am. I love the diversity of America. America was built on diversity. The founding ideals of this country was religious freedom, separation of church and state and openness to all peoples. I love that I can get Cuban, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Japanese and Indian food in almost any American city.

I love that the first two countries to establish diplomacy and trade with America were Morocco and
Egypt. Without this support this country would never have been able to build anything or survive those first years as a fledgling nation. I love that there is so much Islamic history right here in America. The state of California is named after the word caliph which means leader in Arabic. I love that Muslims came to this country long before that poor excuse for a navigator Christopher Columbus ever dreamed it possible. I love the fact that for the most part we obey traffic laws in this country. When the light turns red, we stop. When the light turns green, we go. This is unheard of in many other places. I love that we can buy a cup of coffee that is bigger than the human stomach. I love that whatever your opinions, ideals, morals, religion or lifestyle you can find other like minded people to commune with. I love that I can sit in a coffee shop all day and talk mad ish about America and still walk home with next to no fear of being detained. I love that I get go to the Bahamas for less than $50. I love being a consumer. I love voting for my president. I love that America finally has decent animal cruelty laws that give animals right to humane treatment, other countries do not have such laws and it is ugly. I love that, in America, I am able to just be, to just exist. As a Palestinian this something I do not have the right to do in my homeland. I watch my friends and family in Egypt fighting in the streets for basic needs and am so thankful. I watched this program and this Muslim woman born in Kuwait was becoming an American citizen. She was so excited because for the first time in her life she was going to have the right to vote. Islam gave women the right to vote 1400 yrs ago. Muslim men have taken that right away from us, but America gave it back to us.

You can watch this program "Lidia Celebrates America" by clicking here. I highly recommend watching it. It will give you an appreciation for the diversity of this nation of ours and for the struggles people go through to get here. They are not coming here with some covert agenda, they are coming here to survive, to escape persecution, for freedom of religion (or from religion), for opportunities in education and careers unthinkable in the lands they were born in.

I fight against the increasingly Islamophobic, xenophobic trend that this country is going towards. I am not blind to the drones that assassinate people without due process. I am not blind to the evil wars we have fought for no good reason, in which I have lost friends and family on both sides of. I am not blind to the fact that this country, the land of the free, has more people incarcerated than any country on this earth. I am not blind to the fact that as a Muslim, Arab and activist I am subject to search and seizure, arrest and maybe even jail time if I stand up too loudly for what I believe in. I know all of this. Even with all of this I would rather live here, in America, than anywhere else. Maybe I am choosing the devil I know over the devil I only know a little bit, but this is home. When America is right I stand beside her and defend her, and when she is wrong I stand up and fight against it. That is my right and my duty as an American, to be the system of checks and balances.

Despite my deep love for this country, my country, I have never really been accepted here, not fully. I am not a white Christian, there for I do not belong, I am a visitor, I am unwelcome. Yet, my love for this country runs just as strong and maybe even stronger because I know the value of this American dream. I am American by birth and proudly so. I love that my passport does not say 'refugee' on it, as it would if it were any other passport because that is what I would be if it were not for America. Palestinians are always refugees. My father was a refugee and died a refugee. My mothers family were all refugees. I have something they did not have. I have a country. I am a citizen. I belong. My passport, birth certificate, social security card and drivers license all say that I belong here, it is my birth right. I am living the dream my family wishes they could be living. I am fully Palestinian. I am fully Egyptian. I am fully Muslim. I am fully a woman.

I am a damn proud American.


My Father's House

Sweet mint tea

My father’s house in Cairo, Egypt has always had a special place in my heart. It is the place I always felt most at home, the most myself. My memories of him are all tied to that house. The memories are so plentiful and consuming that sometimes I just sit and close my eyes and play them in my mind. The summers and holidays spent there were some of the best times in my childhood, with cousins and grandparents, aunts and uncles all surrounding me. 

Box full of magic
 I always felt so at ease there, able to really be me without having to explain it to someone. I was surrounded by history and culture and it was all mine. I close my eyes and I see my father sitting in his chair reading, pretending not to notice the constant incessant arguing of my obnoxious brother and me. I can hear my sisters playing and laughing in innocent girlish splendor. Perhaps the sweetest of memories is of my grandmother in the kitchen, begging me to come learn how to cook. I can hear her saying “habibti you will never find a husband if you cannot feed him”. I always obliged her and she carefully taught me everything she knew. The old house danced with the exotic essence my grandmothers cooking. I would take the lessons learned from my grandmother and on Saturday mornings my dad and I would listen to Bob Marley, talk about the world and its problems as we cooked a massive, fancy breakfast for everyone. His lively laughter remains so vibrant in my mind that I swear I still hear it echoing in the halls sometimes. We would always pray together as a family for the 5 regular prayers and even now every time I hear the call to prayer it instantly places me in my father’s house and I hear his voice calling my name to come join him. The sound of my dad’s music or the call to prayer conjures up smells, sounds and feelings so distinctly real for me.   We always had extra people show up at mealtimes and the big wooden front door didn’t even have a lock let alone a key. People would knock and walk right in the door, whether they were a neighbor or a relative. The smell of cumin, cinnamon and rose water lofted from the house like a gas, luring people in.

Ornate Middle Eastern tile work
The house itself was old, seemingly ancient to me as a child. The terra cotta colored stone stucco and red roof were so typically Mediterranean. I can smell the history that leaks from every mysterious crack and lurks in every crowded corner. The ornate colorful tile and indigenous wood work always amazed me with its elegant intricacies. Each piece of tile had been laid by my grandfather’s youthful hands with pride at being able to afford such a home for his new doe eyed bride. The furnishings were not purchased at a big box retailer, but rather hand made by diligent, skilled, local merchants we knew and whose kids were my friends. Everything had a story of how it was purchased after much manly haggling and negotiating on its worth. Photographs of family covered the walls and tops of tables. Some of the pictures were as old as photography itself and others as recent as the previous holiday. It was an eclectic mixture that showed our big family’s entire history, so far as we knew it. 

A bowl of Jamsine
My room was seemingly simple. It was all white, yet had a precious innocence.  White stucco walls, a white wooden canopy bed with a white quilt, white desk, white dresser and white framed mirror, a white ceiling fan kept it cool on hot sticky Sahara nights. The furniture may have been white but it was far from plain. It had detailed hand carved scroll work on all the edges with the faintest tracing of gold paint on the edges. The afternoon sun would catch this gold trim and cast a shimmering glaze over the room. The windows were a century old and opened up onto the garden below, allowing the night blooming jasmine to lull me to sleep. The scent was so intrusive that I would awake in the morning in a jasmine cloud, and my hair and skin would carry the sweet scent all day long. I felt like a princess in this room. It was so distinguished and it had been all my aunts’ rooms, even the room my aunt had been brought into this world in.  I had one picture on the wall. This was a photograph of my grandmother as a teenager a short time before she married my grandfather and first inhabited that very room.

Ya Baba

My father was born in Jerusalem, Palestine. According to my grandparents his coming into this world was uneventful, he arrived how all babies arrive. My grandmother did always say that he was a quite baby and sensitive child. He was born into hell.

He was born a refugee even though he was born in his country in the same home his father and his fathers father had been born in. He was the oldest of 7 children and he out lived all but one of them. Palestine loves her people so much she calls them back to her soil as quickly as they spring forth. Like many young people, then and now, he came to the USA for school. He had already finished high school and a majority of his undergrad work by the time he was around 18 and arrived in New York City fresh off the boat into a world utterly foreign to him. He was not alone, he had cousins here. He started school pre med and met a girl that blew his mind. He fell in love right away and got married, much to the displeasure of his parents. They were not opposed to her they just wanted him to finish school first. Her parents on the other hand were disgusted and furious. They were immigrants themselves, from Greece. They hated him, his culture, his religion, his personality, and whatever else they could conjure up. The girl was unrelenting and married him anyway. Her parents disowned her, something she never let him forget. They got busy doing things young couples do. Nine months later I arrived on a bitter cold winters evening. They debated over what to name me and how I would be raised. My mother was Christian and my father was Muslim. My mom had no real connection to her faith and my father was insistent that I would be Muslim. He won. My mom wanted to name me Olivia because it means olive tree and it would poetically tie my two cultures together. My dad wanted to name me Aminah because it was a solid Muslim name. He won. My dad was 19 years old and in college. Now that I am an adult I understand his plight. I can not imagine having been married with a kid and in school at 19. I was barely able to remember to drag my lazy ass to class.
Silwan, Wadi Hilwe with Al Aqsa & Dome of the Rock

Baba was a hippie, a Sufi, a revolutionary and he loved his baby girl. He called me many things, but Aminah was rarely one of them. He used to call me Helwa.  I just called him Baba.

Baba always had friends over. Our apartment was always full of people and food. Everyone loved him, I can not remember a time he ever had a problem with anyone. I often accompanied him to class and sat outside the door, on a bench. My dad taught me things early. I was already reading and writing by the time I entered kindergarten. I remember starting preschool at a Greek Orthodox church and the nuns were hideously mean. On a particular day we were learning to write our names. I boasted that I already knew how. So the teacher told me to write it on the board. I wrote out my name in perfect Arabic. She laughed at me and said it was just scribbles and that I should not tell lies. I began to cry thinking my dad had tricked me or this cow was jealous of my penmanship. I told her she was a liar and that my dad had taught me. I learned that day that calling a nun a liar is never a good idea. She beat my fingers with the metal end of a ruler til they bled. I got home that day and could not move my fingers. My dad was furious. He took me to school the next morning and had a sit down with the headmaster. I learned what curse words were that day and that my dad could be very scary. I never went back to that school, I never even got my crayons and pencils from my desk. I went to a different school where creativity and weirdness was embraced, a Montessori school.

Baba and I had a separation from about the age of 6 to the age of 12. The reasons are for another story. When we were reunited it felt like the no time had passed. He had moved on and remarried and been widowed and remarried again. Having children from each marriage. He had also left Palestine and moved to his mothers home town of Cairo. I grew up alone and surrounded by people who did not know me or understand me. That day in the airport in Cairo when I saw him running towards me was the greatest day of my life. I saw my eyes, and my nose, my smile and hair, we shared all the same features. He scooped me into his arms and tears flooded our faces. From that moment on there would be only love between us.

Baba was so wise and patient. He was the father of many girls. He was the best father I could have imagined. He was not forceful. He taught us religion but never forced it on us in any way. He was funny, oh was he funny. We would laugh for hours on end. He made time for me. I was much older than my siblings (except for my brother) and me and him went way back. We shared something special. I knew him better than anyone else. We had dates. He would take me to dinner and movie. We would go for long walks along the Nile and talk about life. He taught me how to dance then told me I was never to do it. He allowed me freedom. His house was what he called a "free zone". In his home we could express ourselves however we saw fit so long as it was just us. We could curse, yell, stomp around, but outside or in front of people we were to behave with dignity. Every Saturday morning we would listen to music while we made a big breakfast for the family. To this day when I listen to Bob Marley I think of cooking eggs. Baba was in love with Bob Marley. "Bob Marley is the truth, habibti", he would say to me.

My dad never yelled. He never hit us. He rarely punished us. If we did something wrong he would sit us down and talk to us about it. That was more torture than a punishment, trust me. The last thing you want to do after having done something wrong is to sit down and talk about it. He would make us think it through and explain why it was wrong to do whatever it was we had done. He often made us write papers about it. I have a box full of essays I wrote over the years, almost all of them are about why it is not OK to punch my brother, trip my brother, steal from my brother, snitch on my brother or steal his clothes while he was in the shower. I could write essays everyday and still think taking his clothes when he was in the shower was hilarious.

I only remember being punished one time and I deserved it. I was about 15 going on 35. Me, Baba and my brother had been out running errands all day. He had bought my brother new Nikes and some jeans and Cassettes. I was always jealous of my siblings because I only got to see Baba in the summer or a holiday. My brother and I were always fighting (hence the big box of essays). That day my brother was being obnoxious and we kept bickering. We ended up in a market and I found a jewelry box I liked. It was a tourist trinket, a wooden box with mother of pearl mosaic all over it. It cost about $5. I told my dad that I wanted it. He abruptly said no. No? He never told me no. I got whatever I wanted and suddenly my stupid brother was getting all this and all I wanted was this $5 box, I was devastated. My dad was simply frustrated, he had warned us several times that day that he had had enough.

We got home and everyone was there, of course, ready to eat. My grandparents were visiting along with uncles and cousins, the typical Arab dinner. We walked in and started to take off our shoes, as is the custom. I stopped because my brother was bragging about his stupid new shoes. I am American bro, your Nikes don't mean shit to me! So I left my shoes on and stomped through the foyer and started up the stairs. Baba was right behind me. He said something about me being rude and to take my shoes off and come greet my grandparents. I turned to him at the top of the stairs and did a hand gesture that all Arabs know you never, ever, ever do in front of your father, let alone do it to him.

I ground my shoes into the floor, leaving scuff marks and stormed off to my room, slamming the door. That door swung open no sooner than I had slammed it. Baba was angry. He was calm, too calm, creepy calm. Why was he whispering? He told me to meet him in the kitchen in 5 minutes.

I was certain that I was going to die. I was going to be brutally murdered and the whole family was going to watch.

I had to make the descent down the stairs, which was much less glorious than my ascent had been. I was barefoot because I am stubborn, not crazy. I walked slow and steady, no sudden movements. My whole family was watching me, in shock. This kind of behavior was strictly American, I knew it and they knew it. This was not how a good Palestinian girl behaves.

I made it to the kitchen with my life still intact to find Baba sitting at the table, slowing sucking a cigarette. He never smoked in the house, I had driven him to this! The guilt was so thick and he had not even spoke yet. I sat down, head down, swearing that I would not cry, I was too strong to let him see me cry. He spoke slow and steady, like he was trying to hold himself back from snapping my neck. He said 'you will clean every inch of floor in this house and you will not eat until you are finished'. This was a big house, and we had a maid soooo ... what the hell... He did not care. He told me that I was to learn to respect the home I was allowed to live in and respect the people in it. He handed me a bucket and a sponge that seemed way too small for this daunting task.

I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor as my family ate and socialized. They would walk across my clean floor and I would have to do it all over again and I was starting to get the point. I finished by dawn and fell asleep on the roof, exhausted, with bruised knees.
I woke up to my dad kissing my forehead. Whew! I had lived to tell my tale! He handed me two paper bags. The first bag was small and I looked inside and it was a piping hot piece of Kenafeh, my favorite dessert. The second bag was large and heavy. I took out what was inside and it was a big wooden jewelry box, with mother of pearl mosaic all over it. I looked at the top of the box and saw my name spelled out in Arabic. He had special ordered it for me weeks ago and was saving it for my birthday. I cried and he told me 'you see habibti sometimes no just means not right now'.  I love that man!

It was a dark, cold winters day in January 2005 when I got the call that would change my life forever. I was already upset, having just broken up with my fiance. I had called Baba to talk about it and we talked for about a hour. He said he had a headache and was going to go take a nap. Twelve hours later my phone rang. I answered to hear my step mother crying and saying 'hayati I am so sorry but he passed away, your father is dead'. Tears came from my eyes so fast that blood vessels burst, my legs stopped working and speech was impossible. I said it was impossible, I had just talked to him, he was young, the picture of good health. She said that it had been a blood clot in his brain and that he was gone before he hit the floor. That mental image has stayed with me....

I was numb. I had no idea how I was supposed to react. I was in America, a world away. I was not around grieving family and friends. My family and friends here, most of them had never even met him. There was to be a funeral and my family begged me to come. I missed the flight twice.  I sat there watching the plane take off and unable to face what awaited me at its destination. I had not gone to my brothers funeral the year before or my grandparents. I was present at my fiance's funeral only by force. I knew death too well. I called to say I was not coming, don't buy any more tickets. A thousand tickets on a thousand planes could not get me there. I had no desire what so ever to see that. I stayed here. I have never went to his grave and have no idea where he is even buried. It does not matter. I left Cairo with hugs from him and the rest of my family, a home, an identity. I would return years later with nothing and no one. Cairo used to be home, and now it is just a city like any other city, except this city is full of my dead relatives.

Baba was a great man. Baba was in no rush to marry me off like many Arab fathers. He wanted me to wait and finish school, partly because of his own troubles. He wanted me to be whatever I wanted to be, to find myself and become something. There is no one in this world that could measure up to him. I will never find a husband as great, it just is not possible. Baba was a perfect mix of east and west.

A thousand blessings fell from his smile. The mere thought of his disappointment caused anxiety and shame. He was my best friend, my confidant. I had something special and I knew it. My dad was a super hero. He loved women and was raised in a house full of women. He taught me to love myself and those around me. He taught me to love nature and animals and science. He made pancakes in the shape of hearts just to cheer me up. He knew how to do my hair and did it well. He was always happy to wield a flat iron and tame the kinks he had given me, all the while telling me my curls were special. He cried the day I told him I was certain that Islam was the truth. Scratch that, he sobbed like a baby. He spent hours doing dhikr and taught me its value. He made it impossible to not love myself because he loved me. He showed me exactly what a good man is. He personified dignity, trustworthiness and was so very handsome.

If you are blessed to have your father in this world then show him you care. Take the opportunity to love him and bless him before the chance slips away. There is not a day that I do think of Baba and talk about him. He dances around my memories like a dervish. I can hear his voice, smell him, and when I close my eyes I can see that infectious smile.

He was gone too soon ...




Adorable pig, loving life at Farm Sanctuary

Ok so I am Muslim. I also happen to find pigs adorable. Problem?

Apparently so!

I have been told by countless Muslims that finding pigs adorable is "haram" (sinful).

"Pigs are haram" is what they say. This baffles me. Eating pigs is certainly haram, no argument there! The pig itself being haram, that I have a problem with. I have found no Islamic source that says the existence of pigs is haram. Allah created pigs, he created them from the same dust and breathe as he created you and I. Try telling that to these hardline wack jobs and they nearly pass out at the thought! I also love telling them that pig flesh is the closest thing to human flesh on this planet and that you can take a pigs heart and put it in a human being and it will work just as well. At that point they are usually gasping for air, muttering a long line of curses and protective proverbs to keep my pig worship from affecting them.

I like pretty much anything that is pink. Do not even get me started on flamingos: pink + bird = stupendously awesome. 
If you can not see the sweetness of this mama having a mud bath with her babies then you are insane. Farm Sanctuary is a place for all farm animals to find respite and live out the remainder of their lives in pampered euphoria, as well they should.

Allah created pigs, he sustains pigs. Allah never said he hated or disliked pigs. Maybe, just maybe he loved them so much that the idea of us mangy humans eating them was just too much to bare, who knows... What I do know is that Allah loves and cares for all of his creation, every single bit of it.

Wilbur & Charlotte
Best friends planting some peas
Pigs are actually quite smart little buggers. I have always had an affinity for pigs. When I was a kid my grandparents had a farm in the Ozarks and on this farm we had pigs. When these pigs had babies it was like every holiday wrapped into one. I had to be locked out of the barn so the mama could have her babies. I was a 7 yr old baby pig thief & damned proud of it.  I also tend to root for the underdog and pigs always seem to get the shaft. They are forbidden to eat, Jesus cast demons into them, they get blamed for human health problems etc... It is not the pigs fault! There have been some awesome pigs in this world, real or imaginary. Wilbur from Charlotte's web was one of the first pigs I loved. Wilbur was so awesome, not just because of his cool name but because he had awesome friends and enough faith to trust a spider. Lets face it spiders can be shifty. Wilbur never let the barnyard haters get to him, he knew he was worth something. Some pig indeed...

lovin' her man
There are lots of famous pigs. Ms Piggy is someone I could see myself being BFF's with. She loves fashion almost as much as she loves herself. She fell in love with someone that society told her was unacceptable but she did not let it stop her! Piglet from Winnie the Pooh was a timid little thing but had a heart of gold. The three little pigs were victims of a bully who happned to a wolf  and he was not very nice with all the huffing and puffing but they did teach us a valuable lesson, I am not sure I know what it was though. There was Babe who wanted to be a sheepdog and did not let the haters and naysayers sway him from his dream and he became one of the best sheepdogs there ever was! No pig run down would be complete without Pumbaa from the Lion King. Pumbaa was best friends with Timon, yes best friends is what we will call it, yes, I am sure that is what they were. Pumbaa and his meerkat buddy taught us all about hakuna matata and that a life of  "no worries" was just what young Simba needed.

Bless his little heart...

There is one of my most favorite pigs that ever existed: Pig. He is part of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine & in my opinion he is the best part. He is kind of a air head and always hilarious. A lot of people can relate to Pig. He has an obnoxious roommate, Rat, who is hell bent on world domination and is arrogant beyond imagination. I can relate. Pig was kicked out of his pig association because they caught him eating a bacon sandwich. I love Pig for being utterly unapologetic about it. He loves to eat pork & it is unclear if he actually understands that he is pork.

Power hungry Napoleon
Then there is my favorite pig of all. The fearless leader: Old Major and his comrade Napoleon from Animal Farm. Old Major was a great philosopher. He had dreams and ambition, he had gusto. He had a vision that the animals of the farm could one day be free of the oppression of Jones, the human who owned the farm. Old Major died before he got to see his dream become reality. That pig had dignity and no oppressor was going to take it away from him. Napoleon picked up and led the revolution and he got drunk with power. 'Two legs bad, four legs good' slowly become 'two legs not so bad, four legs sometimes bad' and the revolution went down hill fast. He let the power over take him, but who among us could have done better. He had a lot of pressure. It is not easy to keep everyone happy and keep a farm running, specially when you do not have opposable thumbs. Of course, I do realize these are not "real" pigs but they are awesome just the same. I love pigs and I will always love pigs. Sadly I know many Muslim children who will never know any of these amazing pigs.

I babysat for a Muslim family once, good people I have known for a long time. I brought a movie with me to watch with their 5 yr old girl. I watched Charlette's Web with this little girl and she had the same reactions most kids do when they see it. She cried when Charlette died and was so proud of Wilbur. When her parents returned she told them all about it and I thought nothing of it.

I was quickly hauled outside and lectured about my bad morals and that I had damaged their daughter and made her feel sympathy for a pig. I swear this is what I was told. They were angry that their child would feel sympathy for another creature. How vile is that! They rationalized this by saying that if she felt sympathy for them she would be inclined to eat them and I had to laugh. I told them that having sympathy for an animal would actually end up preventing her from eating it, they did not agree and we are no longer friends because I am a dirty pig loving heathen. Good riddance!

The Prophet said that any one who harms any living thing, even so small as a sparrow, without just cause, will answer for it on judgment day. He also said that whoever is kind to Allah's creatures is kind to his own self.

All creatures of Allah are worthy of love and admiration. There is reward in loving what Allah loves and what he created.

The Quran also tells us that all animals form communities and societies just like we do and that they all have souls and will all be gathered to their Lord on the last day. It does not say 'all except pigs', it says all, that includes pigs and even, for some crazy reason, includes the most vile of Allah's creation: the human being.
There is beauty here.

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Animals & Islam

 I have always loved animals as far back as I can remember. It had a lot to do with the people who raised me, but also it was just a part of me from the very beginning. These values along with the values of Islam paired with my own compassion for animals of all kinds in a very symbiotic union.

I always knew that Islam was very environmentally oriented and held compassion for any living thing in a very high degree. It was not until a recent animal ethics class that I began to really delve into what exactly my religion says about animals, their rights, their place in our lives and how Allah views them. I am, as you might imagine, studying to be a veterinarian. This is truly my calling and it was not until I began this path that I truly understood when people say 'do what you love & you will never work a day in your life'; how very true that is!

 I hate that I have to say this before I speak on anything Islamic, but I do have to offer up a disclaimer.

Islam is not Muslims and Muslims are not Islam. Islam is the religion & Muslims are the followers. Islam is a perfect system for all aspects of human existence. Muslims are merely human followers who sometimes, more often than not, get it wrong, drastically wrong.

The vast majority of the Muslim world is totally and completely ignorant when it comes to religion. It is much like Europe during the dark ages. Most people have very little actual Islamic education and the little bit they do have is from sources that are lacking to say the least. This is the sad state of the Muslim world today. We, as a society, are lacking in true, reliable guidance and there is a void so we fill this void with absolutely anything that crosses our path. Sadly, that is the perfect breeding ground for wack jobs, fanatics, extremists and nutters with agendas to get a foot hold and gain control.

"If you do not stand for something, you will fall for anything" ~ Martin Luther King JR.

"A house divided against itself can not stand" ~ Abraham Lincoln by way of Jesus Christ

So, like any other religious ruling, the ones dealing with animals are often ignored or simply unknown. I admit that I did not know many of them. Islam has a way of constantly renewing itself for me. I will get busy living my life and then out of no where, I will read a verse from the Quran or a Hadith and it just hits me like a brick wall.

This endeavor was one of those experiences. I found myself in tears at the balance, logic & reasoning, compassion and humbleness of this religion. I am not worthy of such a beautiful system, truly.

So I will relay to you my findings. Grab some tissues, you may need them.

Quran 6:38 (Y. Ali) There is not an animal (that lives) on the earth, nor a being that flies on its wings, but (forms part of) communities like you. Nothing have we omitted from the Book, and they (all) shall be gathered to their Lord in the end. 

This verse has many implications. The verse comes as an answer to those asking why Allah has not sent forth some grand gesture to show himself. Allah responds by saying that the Earth and its inhabitants are that grand gesture. It also states that the animals all form communities and social units, just like human beings. This is something that science is just now starting to understand, and Islam revealed it over 1400 years ago!

Here is the kicker: at the end they will be gathered up to Allah! So, just like us humans the animals will be gathered up to Allah on the last day.

This reveals to us that animals have a soul, and that is huge!  They are not just mindless beings created for our use and abuse, they have souls, families, duties and functions. We know that if human beings were wiped from the earth that all the animals and plants would continue to exist and probably flourish on scales never known before. If all the animals, or even a few choice ones, disappeared, humans and plants would cease to exist entirely. So where do we get this egotistical idea that we are so grand?

Mind = Blown.

The Prophet said that anyone who harms/kills any creature even so small as a sparrow or smaller without just cause will be answerable to Allah for that action on the day of judgement. When asked what is just cause he replied: for food. (Ahmad & Al-Nasai) I think it is also important to note that the Prophet was not in the habit of eating a lot of meat. Meat was a luxury, not like now in the states where we have 17 portions of meat in one day. When he did have meat in his house he sent it to other people for various reasons. Meat is not a requirement in a meal, it is permissible but within moderation as was his example.

Abu Huraira reported that the Prophet told a story about a different prophet. This previous prophet has been sitting near some ants and one stung him. He became angry and demanded the entire colony and structure be destroyed. Allah scolded him saying"Because one ant harmed you, you have destroyed an entire community that worshiped Me." (Bukhari and Muslim)

This is something we could learn many things from. On the surface there is the obvious, do not destroy the entirety of a group of animals because one of a few pose a threat. Also, maybe us humans should not destroy or discriminate against entire groups of people because one of a few offended us.

The Prophet was sitting and noticed a kitten asleep on his robes. He did not want to disturb the kitten so he cut his robe around the kitten so he could get up.

The prophet is said to have mourned when his beloved camel died.

A boy had a pet bird and the bird died. The Prophet went to visit the boy and asked about his beloved bird. When he heard the bird died, he said a prayer for the bird.

The Prophet spoke of a prostitute who was getting water from a well on a hot day and she saw a dog by the well panting in thirst. She put water in her shoe and gave it to the dog. For this reason alone all her sins were instantly forgiven. (Muslim)

The Prophet said he had a dream of a woman being tortured after her death (in the here after) because she had kept a kitten caged and did not give it any food or water, nor did she at least free it so it could go get food or water on its own.
My darling baby girl, Nephi.

This one in particular got me. I work in animal shelters and all day everyday I am confronted with this exact situation. It is heart breaking and it is very hard to not burst into tears and fall apart. The extent of human cruelty is ever baffling. It is a comfort to know that Allah sees their suffering and just like my own suffering, it will be accounted for on that day and justice will be had.

Do not burden an animal more than he can bare
Islam forbids the beating or branding of any animal, for any reason. The prophet once saw a donkey with a brand on his face and he said "May Allah condemn the one who did this" (Muslim)

The prophet once saw a camel that was so emaciated that its stomach was touching its back. He admonished us to fear Allah in our use of work animals and instructed us to only work them if in good health and to retire them while they still have health. (Abu Dawud)

The Prophet said many times that over burdening an animal is sinful and abusive.

The Prophet also told us that it is a great sin for anyone to imprison animals in his care. (Muslim)

The Prophet also forbade any fighting of animals for sport, (Abu Dawud) and  using them as target practice. (Muslim)

Motherhood is beautiful
We are told that if we are on a journey with animal and in a fertile area we should go slow to allow them to eat as they go, but if the land is dry and infertile we should speed up to avoid them becoming hungry and to not make camp for the night close to main pathways as nocturnal creatures will be enticed by our animals (Muslim)

The companions were on a journey and the Prophet had was away for a few moments. They saw a bird with her babies and they took the babies. The mother bird was flying around them crying out for her babies, in grief. The Prophet returned and asked who had hurt the feelings of the bird and ordered them to return her babies to her. (Muslim)

This was 1400 years ago. Even today, even among bird enthusiasts there is debate on whether birds feel emotions like fear, grief, stress, love, longing. 1400 years ago Islam gave us the knowledge that indeed, of course, birds, and all animals feel these things.

We are told that any bad deed done against an animal is the same as it being against a person, and any good deed/charity done to an animal is the same as doing it to a person. (Muslim, Boukhari)
Not just a nice thing to do, it's WORSHIP!

We are forbidden to store milk in the utters of animals (Muslim)

Aisha (the Prophets wife) was once riding a stubborn camel and she turned the camel roughly. The Prophet admonished her that it would be better for her if she were kind to the beast. (Muslim)

We are instructed not to clip the forelock of a horse as the horses decency is in it, and not to clip its mane as its beauty is in it and not to clip its tail as it uses it to flap flies. ( Abu Dawud)

And finally...

Abu Hurayrah was a close Companionof the Prophet and it is from Abu Hurayrah that we get a majority of our religious knowledge. He was known among the people as being a compassionate man who loved animals. His given name was Abdu Rahman but most of us do not recognize him by this name at all, because he was always called Abu Hurayrah. Abu Hurayrah means father of the kitten, he was called this because he had a cat that he took in and cared for and he used to carry it everywhere he went. 
This brought tears to my eyes! This strong man, battle worn man, rough neck Arab bedouin man was known for carrying around a kitten, so much so that they named him for it! 

Alhamdulillah!  (All thanks be to Allah(God))

Until one has loved an animal, apart of one's soul remains unawakened.