Archive for the 'questions' Category

08
Jun
10

Today…

Today I called in for a mental health day. I worked until late last night; and I woke up feeling like a steam-roller had been flattening the living daylights out of me…my boss said-“Girl, relax and get some vitamin D- its beautiful outside.”

Therefore, I took the dog, my laptop, my specs, some munchies, and headed for the park. Caesar and I have been sunning ourselves all day… Well actually he has, I have kept to the bench under a tree! Watching some online videos from Link TV- a channel that in my house we see more often than not, because of the variety of programming it offers. I have posted a link in my Alternative Views on Life blog roll among the projects I belong to- Global Oneness Project and HelpOthers.Org…

I recently read an Op-ed from Arab News, courtesy of a link from Susie of Arabia…thanks Susie! This piece is an article on the Youth in Saudi Arabia- and I honestly agreed with him whole-heartedly. However, what always disappoints me are some of the comments that pop up in response to what needs to change – and how it needs to change in Saudi Arabia. I truly have an issue in seeing people reduce everything to sex and the mixing of the sexes…and of calling for even stricter rules that are already agonizingly harsh on the youth of Saudi Arabia.

When the author asks the youth to be educated in the sciences, in philosophy, in the arts – the responses of some were to spill the beans, again to put more weight on what the West has done wrong to justify why they need to live caged. However, historically Arabs and Muslims broadly have made magnificent contributions not only to their societies, but also to the world. When I look at the abstract art, the calligraphy, the geometric art for which is specifically an Arab art-form that has been spread across the world- I wonder why some people would find objection in teaching the Saudi youth to find their roots in these art forms and revive it to the next level? Even photography of the abstract is something that many artists do with success, as well as film- Check these video trailers Susie of Arabia posted in her blog showing the awesome creativity of Saudis.

So why go back to the tired old argument of sex and the mixing of the sexes? Can’t they get past it? Are they so sexually induced in mind and body that everything has to end there? Why would philosophy be haraam, why is thinking so reviled? Why is there so much emphasis on regulating every single aspect of life to the point that there is no living, only existing?

I guess because I don’t believe in such close-minded, locked, and caged needs-which I find it so hard to comprehend. As a Muslim – which many will find some fault in my ways because of the influence of Buddhism has in my life- I believe Allah SWT gave us a clearer message than we currently live out today. We are His creation, and as such, we are to be of service to humanity only for His Sake. Do I as a person find contradiction in believing in Allah SWT with basic Buddhist tenets? NO! Why? Because what I have taken from the teachings of Buddhism is the understanding that we as Allah’s creation are all interconnected. This is demonstrated in how we feel the pain of a child not our own. In how we can empathize with those friends, and people we don’t even know personally in their time of need; in how we can love another not of our family.

I have learned and kept alive in my life the command to seek knowledge and universal wisdom that I can apply in my life, and I marvel at the beauty of Allah SWT’s creation. In nature Allah SWT shows us what power created this universe that shines at night, makes waves of electric forces in the night sky, that shows us the remarkable creatures that swim, walk, fly in our world whose sole purpose in life is to BE. They ARE just, as Allah SWT has decreed. In oneness, they live in natural balance.

Only humans have decided, with the intelligence Allah SWT gave us, to use it to separate ourselves from creation. We want to stand apart; we want to put up walls, rules, regulations that keep us from being the humans that are interconnected at the biological level with the rest of creation. Why? Some will say because their religion states it- that they are different. In what way? All religions teach that we come from a creational power greater than us. So we have in common the thoughts and ideas that a force created us…in that alone there is oneness. Some will say that only with strict rules can we be perfect. Well I am sorry to tell you, that if the force that created us wanted us to be perfect we would not have been called humans. To want to reach perfection is to want to be Allah- and that can never be. We don’t have the power to do one inth of what that power can create. What we have is what Allah gave us, not a bit more.

So in our pursuit of perfection, we become ever more separated from each other by putting up the barriers of race, gender, social status, particular religious beliefs. We hate, we disparage, we divide, we one up each other. And we create a tension that is not natural. There is nothing natural, in the case of Muslims; of killing the mind- making us auto bots that do in prescribed steps to further avoid us from challenging the unnaturalness of those steps. There is nothing natural in people believing they are in different categories, when Allah SWT explicitly states we are all equal. We have put fear in all our hearts so that fear can rule us. But isn’t it Allah SWT that rules us? Where does this fear come from? From knowing ourselves imperfect and not admitting it? Our being is, to state Buddhism, is perfect as it was created. Not that we are perfect beings, but that our BEING is perfect. Allah SWT created us to be humans. So why do we want to be something more than what we were created to be. Why do some want to attain demi-god status through ritual perfections, rituals that we created to make us stand apart. Not higher, just apart.

Believing that you should castigate yourself and others because you believe you need to be a perfect being, not a human, is ridiculous! We have been given the gift of discernment for a reason. Do you know why? Have you sat in a quiet place to see your place in Creation? Have you analyzed what your life means in the fabric of Creation? What is it that you need to do to be human? Not just a member of a religious group- as a member of Creation.

When I see across the world ideas of human endeavors that seek to bring us closer to one another regardless of our particular belief systems, and other human embellishments, I feel that life is more than we want to make it out to be. Yes there is hunger, wars. But we made these things, and honestly we are all responsible at the individual level. Because we don’t believe our blood is one. We don’t see how our human features are replicated across continents… Take a few days and look at people’s hands and feet. I mean really look at them, and you will find in people who are not in the most remote a part of your family to have hands and feet you recognize as the hands and feet of a family member. Voices that you hear that remind you of someone who is a family member. No matter what ‘race’ you will find features that are known to you personally. The color of the eyes, the sweep of a brow, the dimple, the walk, the laugh… That demonstrates our interconnectedness. We have come from one single place- the genetic markers that make us human.

So why does the Saudi youth have to suffer discrimination? They are all connected by the very fact of their humanity! They breathe, feel, think (though the “powers that be” would want to take that off the list), aspire, and dream… yearning is not a sin. To yearn for the space to live out our humanity is not wrong; it doesn’t go against our principles as Muslims. But from reading the few comments on that Op-ed you would think that mere existence is all you have a right to. Because when you turn off the gift of intelligence, of expression- you reject what Allah SWT gave us in Creation. NOW THAT IS A DAMN SHAME!

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01
Jun
10

veiled voices… a film by Briget Maher

On Link TV- a publicly owned channel for unsensored, and unbiased television programs from around the world, broadcasted the short film ‘Veiled Voices’ by Bridget Maher. This film documents the life of three public, and influential, women of Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt who are making strides in empowering women through their teachings of Islam in mainstream, contemporary Arab society.

Each of these women is different from the other in age, social status, and family composition, yet all share a common passion and goal to empower Muslim women through their teaching of Islam- Qur’an, Jurisprudence, etc.

From Egypt is Dr. Su’ad Saleh- widow, mother to a journalist, and grandmother. She is a high standing graduate of Al-Ahazar University, teaches, has her own talk show, and even put in her application to be considered for the category of female- the first, Mufti. Sadly her application only received one vote, but I find it a remarkable accomplishment because it was not rejected outright. She states that Islam means a balance to everything, to be in Islam you need to balance all aspects of inner and outer, public and private life. She says she is sadden to see the potential of Islam reduced to hijab, niqab, beards and men. She has about 20 books published, teaches regularly -saw her in action as they filmed one of her classes- she is no joke. She says Islam has been so reduced that women limit their studies to the superficial level of anything because they have been taught they won’t be able to realize their full potential. Her daughter, who is married with children and is also a full time journalist in economic affairs, says that having her mother also work full time during her childhood taught her self reliance. That a working woman can be an excellent or terrible mother based on her personality alone. Dr. Saleh states that even those women who dedicated their whole lives to their families must also be considered as important and should not be belittled or feel belittled- each has a responsibility; each fulfilling it to the best of their abilities. That no woman should be forced to be one or the other exclusively.

From Lebanon is Sheikha Ghina Mahmoud, mother of twin girls, divorced, and head of a female Islamic Center- she teaches and organizes charity work to benefit women. Her classes are always full. This woman as dowry ask her husband to not stand in the way of her calling to teach Islam. Sadly, at the peek of her career she divorced and her daughters were taken away. Her husband being the instigator of malicious rumors that cost her, her daughters, her students, and her following. Since then she has rebuilt her image and reputation, but she states the stigma of being divorced is so strong- as high in intensity as the divorce rate. She cries over the situation of not having her daughters and states there is nothing in Islam that allows for this separation of mother and child. One of her twin girls when asked, started crying because she misses her mother terribly. Sheikha states Islam doesn’t force women to marry who they don’t want to. That parents should talk, discuss the issues and giving advice but never forcing. But having experienced first hand what happens to women when they divorce, she now feels a woman should try at every cost to maintain the marriage. She also does private tutoring. One of her students, who does not wear hijab, stated she trusts the Sheikha because she is a teacher first and foremost. That even when she knows, in this woman’s case, that hijab is out of the question; she still teaches her all other aspects of her religion. The Sheikha states that her calling is to serve, to teach and not pass judgments on anyone- that it is not her prerogative.

The third is Huda Al-Labash from Syria. She is married with children, one of her daughters is studying International Affairs in a University in Georgia, USA- . Al-Labash teaches and encourages open dialogue from her students because it allows for deeper understanding of any concept in Islam. She does travel quite a bit and her husband says that he is supportive because he believes in her work. He says that many a times she can be gone for a month traveling to other Middle East countries and he does everything that is required in the household in her absence. Her daughter says that living abroad has taught her that we don’t educate people enough about Islam, because we do not study it with enough intensity to be able to have meaningful discussions; and that her professors know even less of the regions they supposedly teach about, meaning the cultural and religious aspects that complete the picture of Muslims [and therefore make them three dimensional] . The Mufti of Syria says that no where in Islam is it stated a woman cannot be a public figure. The only thing she cannot do is lead the Friday prayers in Jummat. He reiterated that while there is nothing in Islam that limits the role in society a woman can perform, she is given the commandment like men to maintain her modesty.

So tell me then, when did the female scholars of Islam start to lose their importance, when the wives of the Prophet SAW taught some of the very scholars whom Muslims read and respect. Among the top three scholars of Islam is Aisha. Her ahadeeth are the strongest based on her intimate and immediate connection with the Prophet SAW. So what happened, when did things slide into oblivion? Why did they slide into oblivion? I remember seeing a video of Sheikh Hamza Yusuf where he cried as he denoted with decreasing numbers the female scholars, teachers, and scribes that disappeared off the annals of Islam in the last 1400 years, century by century. And he said he was ashamed of the level to which women have been relegated in Islam, saying truly Mohammed SAW knew who were and would be the best among his people.

We are not who we’re suppose to be, simply because we have taken away (and have allowed it to be taken) a precious component of the synergy in Islam- a woman’s place in it.

These women of mainstream Islam with their hijabs and jilbabs look no different than their contemporaries, but their minds are founts of wisdom and learning that I wish I were able to tap. I remember many years ago studying with a group of Jordanian women who were as strong in conviction and passion as the women depicted in this film. They were as inspiring because theirs was a gentleness of approach but a thoroughness in delivery, that you couldn’t help but to want to be in their presence.

Now these are truly Muslimat!

25
May
10

why?

Been asking myself since reading this: http://saudiwoman.wordpress.com/2010/05/25/whats-front-page-news-in-saudi-arabia/. You see, as a woman, as a mom who breast fed her children- I find it has an undercurrent of sadist tendencies. Comte Donatien Alphonse François de Sade would be proud. And because it comes out of the mouths of men who ‘are suppose’ to be something like Islamic bull-horns; I’m really having problems understanding how they can even recite verses of the Qur’an five times a day.

So, why are they still talking? Because the next one that stands up and holds up his finger with the latest ‘twist’ to this god-forsaken travesty of a ‘fatwa’ to say that women should also do x, y, and z in order to be allowed to work, in order to live, in order to exist- I’ll have a ‘kiniption’!!! The whole earthquake fatwa seems to have exhumed every skeletal remain there ever was of ideas for torture and of ways to prostitute, or at the very least denigrate women either in thought or concept. This latest just shows a crassness that I can’t wrap my mind around. Don’t they even have the basic knowledge of anatomy and how it all works?! As if… Seems to me these men have been living in some remote un-named monastery of the 9th century who got teleported into our times!

How could I ever trust what these ‘so called’ scholars ever said, say or will say? Black marker at the ready!

I’m sorry, don’t know about you guys, but I’d like some guidelines, protocols, and pathways clearly delineating the process of reasoning and precedents used to formulate every single one of the fatwas EVER pronounced. That should keep them busy for another millennium! These men have too much time on their hands.

Oh, and by the way -guys… lay off on the pomegranates!!

21
May
10

readings…

Lately, to counter an almost inundated barrage of information I have to process, do, strategize, and delegate to; I try to read other things in “my time”. That space of time I dedicate exclusively to myself- to the exclusion of even my dear and lovable hubby! He has his own “my time” that we set up years ago because otherwise our lives would truly be work, kids, home, marriage responsibilities, etc. The individuals that we are would fade and that was a scary prospect to say the least.

So we headed to a therapist early in our marriage to help us develop solid coping skills, and tools to help us move forward- continuously as a result renewing our union. But we are human, and to err is most definitely human- so once in a while when the fabric of our lives starts to bleed one into the other we renew those skills and stick to our ‘my time’ with determination.

The books I have been re reading range from C G Jung, to Thomas Moore, to Robert Gerzon, to Mark Epstein, to Rumi, Hafiz, and Hamza Yusuf with his book Purification of the Heart. I have found that all talk about the Soul, Beginner’s Mind, and Fitra. All have different terminology, all come from different ‘religious’ traditions- but all speak to the one thing that we have that is endless, enormous, and with a capacity to help us life full, solid lives. Our Soul.

Being Muslim has never stopped me from reading the insights other religions offer. I have always encouraged my children because it breeds tolerance towards others. Mine isn’t better than yours. Mine is mine, and Yours is yours. Why because I feel secure in my faith that is based on spirituality and not on dogma. Gotten me into hot water for sure- but hasn’t shaken who I believe myself to be- Allah Knowing better than I.

This has allowed me to read with an open mind. And the expansion in me is worth every moment I spend solidifying my core beliefs. It most definitely helps with the stress of daily life- which everyone deals with at varying degrees. But it has also helped me view, say a diamond from each of its facets. None less than the other, all equally brilliant. And when ‘my time’ is over and I get back to the daily world, I come into it much more serene. Less knee jerk reactions- though it hasn’t stopped me from occasionally suffering from ‘foot in mouth’ syndrome! LOL

11
May
10

Dimensions…

“A flat, undisturbed life doesn’t usually reveal the beauty of human existence. [For] beauty is to the soul what truth and fact are to the mind.

“The beauty of life lies in its fullness, not in a preferred portion that looks superficially positive and wholesome… Sleeping soul sickness do we as humans suffer from it?… When and what was the last time you saw or heard something wonderful- that absolutely blew your mind away? That revealed an essential and some times hidden quality in things that stirred you in a way far deeper than mere satisfaction of curiosity? You realize that things have a pulse and are alive, and they can offer you a purpose for your life on earth; if only you see deeply enough into them. That revelation is the beauty of a thing.

“Beauty usually requires some imperfection, transgression, or lacuna. The whole of your being, the good and the bad, is the stuff out of which your beauty makes an appearance.”

When I read, hear, or enter conversations about Muslim life, I feel most would define Muslims as being one of a variety of things; but the “life” they lead is mysteriously absent either from the speaker or the listener. Confined it seems to an almost “iron-plated” list of things: Prayer, Quranic recitation, Hadith reading. Or there will be some “interesting” ones who will only point to certain destructive activities lumping all Muslims in the same category by fact or association. The process leaves you feeling as if you are either flat, one-dimensional or a powder-keg with a match and gasoline for companions.

But I ask you Muslim, non-Muslim, Atheist, Gnostic, Mystic, whathaveyou -when looking for the meaning in your particular life not based on what your culture or religion dictates, but what your inner world demands – What do you do?

Listen to music? Sit at the edge of the ocean, on a hill or mountain top? What do you chose that you allow it to take you in and affect you? Do you allow yourself to become this beautiful thing? “Do you allow the moonlight [to] get into your cells, the music change the very pattern of you very makeup? Do you surrender control and give up particular notions of solution and success? Do you trust the results?”

Excerpts from Care of the Soul and The Dark Night of the Soul from Thomas Moore.
06
May
10

the inner child

“Many people live in emotional darkness because they never fully enjoyed a child spirit in their overly serious lives. The child wanders homeless in the lives of many adults, who are captivated by psychologies of the ‘inner child’ and books and films of child-like fantasy, such as the stories of Harry Potter and the Disney movies. Modern society, so adult and sophisticated, so busy at work and serious about everything, has lost much of its childhood. Instead of playing actively and seriously, we let other people entertain us, and instead of enjoying a strong feeling of community, we are highly dependent on our electronic connections.”

When I read this a memory flashed. Sitting in Sana’a watching a group of grown women avidly watching on TV a cartoon movie. What caught my attention was their demeanor; child-like awe and wonder on their faces. Like watching my kids when they were toddlers and they would get caught entranced watching cartoons.

At the time I thought it strange that these women could remember everything about this cartoon movie; yet couldn’t tell me about an adult program that wasn’t say a music program or a comedy. The passage above now has me wondering. Could it be that these women had to grow-up so quickly they skipped their childhood; and it shows by their fascination with cartoons? If I compare this set of women with say the women I was surrounded up in the mountains; I would say the women of the mountains seemed more ‘rooted’. They were more down to earth and less inclined to want to sit in front of the TV to watch cartoons- they preferred historical dramas with story plots they identified with.

I guess they had a more robust childhood, if the comment above holds water- what is your opinion? Any parallels come to mind?

14
Apr
10

taxes, child marriages, and other stuff…

So Tax Season is basically over. We spent a few days gathering “amunition” that as every year gets misplaced or what not. We owe… Not a lot. Would have preferred breaking even!

On the various blogs I read and participate in, a few discussions (heated at times) have revolved around child marriages, women driving in KSA, guardianship, and rearing children.

When it comes to child marriages I oppose it vehemently! People should marry when they are intellectually, morally, physically, and emotionally ready. Also I believe that financially at the very least the couple should have some basics down- while knowing that not everyone can marry with all the trimmings in the bag. It boils down to marriage by two consenting adults! Children are children, not miniature grown ups!

With regards to guardianship- I honestly believe a grown adult, unless mentally and emotionally impaired, does not need guardians. Obviously, as a Muslim, many would object and say that women should always be under someone else’s guardianship- I beg to differ- but then, I’m just a drop of ‘negate-able’ water; because the minute I’m in the Middle East especially in my case Yemen I become my husband’s total responsibility… Sigh

Rearing children world-wide is an interesting endeavor. Especially during the years between Tween and Teen. Each child comes with its own personality and emotional health. They don’t come with instructions! But we do have tendencies to treat each of our children with certain broad strokes, amending where ever we encounter a raw surface. Muslims no less than most. Well.. No.. There are a bunch that give their offspring too much rope; enough to hang a whole tribe! Some because they have not gotten savvy or have solid help with their concerns. Others because they were reared the same way all of which can be good or really bad.

I’ve learned to go with each of my children’s personalities. One or two of them sometimes having multiple personalities when they have reached puberty, at least from where I’m sitting!

The last of the topics is about women driving- and because KSA is the only one (to my knowledge) that stops a woman from driving within its borders, I’m a little perturbed by this ban. Some say the ban is on its way out. Others don’t give much hope in the foreseeable future. I guess this last because of KSA societal structure- giving women autonomy would have to be primordial. She would have to be excluded from Islamic guardianship laws, she would have to become a consenting, sentient being. She would need to be safe, by enforceable law, against child marriages. She would need property laws protecting her, and giving her the right to own and distribute her money as she saw fit. She would also have to be given the right to an education- at the very least to the end of her highschool years regardless if she finishes or not. And she would need to be protected against abuse and neglect based on her gender.

That’s a lot of ‘would need to’. Is KSA prepared to give women all this in order for them to drive?

That remains to be seen.




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