Posts Tagged ‘thoughts


Yemen Impressions: a man’s world and lopsided outcomes…

It’s a Man’s World… The song doesn’t do justice to what you see in some countries in the Middle East… Yemen where I spent all summer is by no means an exception- but it is an interesting location to see men interacting when and where they (sometimes) honestly believe women don’t exist, shouldn’t exist, do but should be ignored… And the interesting outcomes when they believe themselves the only gender:
Clothes from the rolled up pile
Dirty clothes unaccustomed to laundry detergent…what language is that!
Shoes unfit for the garbage (using Bostonian here- “gabage”)
Hair in need of a closer relationship with a pair of scissors
Skinny, not on a poor diet just eating poorly
Unfinished, uncoordinated everything, whatever for?!- finish, that is…

It’s a Man’s World… you can bleat that one to death- but only men who recognize their women look good when they step out into the street!

I am woman! Hear me roar!

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.


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!



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


Beginner’s Mind…

“It is more important to create than to be a creator, in any inflated sense of the word. Creativity means to create, to add something worthwhile to the world. A theologian [Christian] would say that a creative person participates in the Creator’s work. The creation of the world is an ongoing project, and part of the divinity of the human being is to add to that process.” [Thomas Moore]

But do Muslims have, or allow themselves to have what the “Zen Masters” call “beginner’s mind”, the spirit of the child who is relatively free from cultural contamination? Or is our sense of religiosity so constrained and limited that it is out of the reach of our soul’s fulfillment?

I can still remember asking a friend- eons ago – that I felt as a convert I had lost some of my soul to ritual; to rules; to dogma. My walking through the doors of Islam seemed to have stripped me of something I had always felt was my God-given right. The person did not know what to say to me at the time; we are all in our own worlds and sometimes can’t come out and sit long enough to hear beneath a cry for help. I didn’t take offense; I used it to explore what was for me important in Islam. I am not a scholar, nor would ever aspire to want to know everything there is to Islam.  That to me would be a dangerous position to put myself in. I prefer like in a previous post, to hold on to some simple things that I know I will keep steadfastly and fulfill me as a person; as a human; as a Muslim human.

So when it comes to participating in Islamic “dogmatic” debates- I am a silent watcher. I keep my opinions to myself. Mostly because I feel that I don’t have the knowledge to go bat someone’s comment or references out of the ball park. To me it is not important. Its enough that I listen to both sides of the argument and then apply what I feel for my person would in the long run make me feel more human. Because I have learned in Islam the aim is to keep you human. Keep you open and receptive in that “beginner’s mind” full of “child”.

Not the forced man-made childishness many scholars would ram down your throat- usually aimed at keeping women stupid and barefooted and men prisoners of their own self-imposed limitations. Of which I think this whole “Guardianship” mantra is all about. Or the one thousand and one rules and regulations, with as many amendments, articles and side-bars on everything you could possibly imagine. What, we can’t think on our own and come to an understanding of what a situation means to us as an individual and go from there? No, many would say that leads to chaos, to “fitnah”, to uncontrollable urges, desires, and actions. Control. No, that is not what I see Islam stands for. Yes, there will always be hard choices out there in the world that need to be made. One will “win” the other will “lose”; but I would prefer a compromise. A balance. A space to Be. Not just Do this, that, or the other. Doing is repetitious, can turn mindless, and somewhere down the line it loses meaning.  It loses validity in my eyes. Why? Because nothing is static, every changes. Nothing is permanent.

I would rather do as one of my Buddhist “uncles” would say, “What ever you are, be like a newborn; unafraid to explore;  unafraid to wonder; unafraid to learn.” Beginner’s Mind.



“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.

hurricanes, tornadoes, and sand storms

The season is changing here- the trees are green, flowers are blooming everywhere- some days sunny, brilliantly warm;others gray and moistly cool. In other parts of the world its tornadoes, sand storms, and soon the monsoons will arrive, like their atlantic cousins the hurricanes of the rainy season.

My life resembles those storms at the moment- a lot is happening all at once, storms intensifying in seconds leaving in their wake sometimes spotted devastation. I clear the debris almost in time for the next wave. I’m tired.

The days towards our trip I meticulously tick away on my calendar- a count down for launch. I can almost smell the dry cool air of our mountain and my soul expands at the thought of freedom among the clouds. Its what is keeping me together. My life line.

I read fellow bloggers and I watch as arguments explode over issues of the past; over religiosity; over not being able to cram each other into neat little boxes. Many bulging with indignity- for being crammed in or for not being able to cram someone in. Its life you know; in its full unadulterated self. We may just not see it that way.

Rights and privileges- we don’t always get both at the same time. A privilege may trump a right quite easily; and our thoughts sometimes annihilate both- matter and anti matter colliding. And around in circles we dance like tribes of old around a fire- daring the other to jump higher. I’m tired.

My husband and I were talking about some of the things we read, or conversations we have. I have very little conversations with Muslims lately- I could actually count them in one hand with a few fingers left over. My husband has decided he needs a vacation from Muslims in general. We feel suffocated.

But how, you might ask, does a Muslim take vacations from ‘their way of life’? Especially when we are going to Yemen? Our way of life is much more than our prayers, the Qur’an, studying. Its work and daily life, keeping family together- some times well organized- sometimes a tad chaotic. And when you have to mix in the ‘muslimness’ it can get overbearing at times. But in those Yemeni mountains there are just a few basic rules. Get up in the morning, breakfast, tend to farm and its stock, pray, eat, sleep, and gather around to talk as family. No rushing to catch a train, no schedule full of meetings, on call nights, ORs, ERs, papers, articles, action plans, next steps in addition to work at home of whom is doing what, when and how…

Guess we are more tired of ‘doing’, and would rather simply ‘be’ for a time.


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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