Category Archives: Islam

My Islam

Qur'an image in masjidThere is a new masjid being built within driving distance to my new house.  I’ll be moving in March, and I took this as a sign that this is a new start for me and a positive one.

I haven’t been very proud of myself as a Muslim lately.  I prayed recently and begged for forgiveness for all the ways I have strayed from the straight path.  I won’t air all of my sins and faults, I will keep those hidden so as not to draw more attention to them.  But I do believe I will change insha’allah.  My heart is in the right place, I just need to tune myself back up to get in touch with Allah again.  I know Allah has been with me throughout this time, I just haven’t been doing the best at recognizing Him when I see Him.

The other day my sister-in-law was asking me about Islam.  She was telling me the things she does not “agree with” in the Qur’an (she was born a Muslim, but she has not surrendered to the path of Allah) and I began to explain to her some of the parts of the Qur’an that people misinterpret.  I was telling her all kinds of things about the Qur’an, about how if you believe that it is truly from God, you can’t “disagree” with the things Allah has laid out in the Qur’an.

I asked her if she’d ever read the Qur’an.  She said she had not.  I explained to her that alot of people pull parts out of the Qur’an and that they base their judgements on one passage, or one statement.  But they don’t look at the Qur’an as a whole or investigate what it really says.  The majority of the Qur’an is about peace and love and love of God.  It is not about killing people or glorified deaths of people who do evil things.  It comes down the fact that Islam is perfect, Muslims are not.  We all have faults and we all do bad things and some things people do are worse than other things people do.

I just want to get back to a place where I am praying.  I know it is best for me.  And when I pray, I know I am able to put things into perspective.

Recently, my dad, who is and always has been Catholic, was reminding me to “keep the faith.”  To trust in God, to put my faith in Him, to trust God to carry me through this move, as I was stressing about jobs and money and all the hows and whens and details of the move.  He said “you’re worrying about things that are out of your control.”  Alot of times, I need that reminder.  I can’t seem to pull myself out of that Worry Tornado when it hits me.

And I was grateful for that reminder.

I have been given so so so many blessings in this life here on Earth.  So many blessings.  And I feel Allah has given me these blessings as a test.  As a test to see if I will fall back on Allah, trust in Allah, be grateful to Allah for these blessings.  And pray.

I was talking to my sister-in-law’s boyfriend recently.  He served in the military overseas as a sniper.  He was injured badly, and at one point, he was thrown from a military vehicle when they hit one of those bombs on the side of the road.  He said that as he was flying through the air, he had a flash of his entire life that passed through his mind.  It was like time slowed and he saw everything.  EVERYTHING go by in the flash of a second. That is how Allah describes our life in the dunya.  The true life – the afterlife – is for an eternity.  Forever.

We can’t afford to waste our time on the dunya (the life of this world).  Our time here is so short and this life is temporary.  When we die, our life on this earth will feel like it was in the time span of the blink of an eye, the snap of your fingers.  That’s what this young soldier had described to me.  And I know it will happen when we die.  I know we will see it all and it will seem like it had barely even happened, as if it barely had any meaning at all. Only it does have meaning.  Great meaning.  The result of our actions and thoughts and words here on earth will determine how we spend our eternity.

They say some pray out of fear of Hell.  Some pray out of a desire for Heaven.  And others pray for a love of Allah.  I want to be of the ones who pray for a love of Allah. Insha’allah, with the new masjid only minutes from my house, I will finally be able to practice my faith in the way that I desire.  To find other Muslims who practice their faith in a positive, earnest, sincere way.  To have an ummah and attend the Friday prayers.  And insha’allah, pray out of my love of Allah.

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No Piece of My Heart

Alright, so I woke up at 3 am.

I didn’t think this would affect my mood.  I didn’t think this would flip my attitude upside down.  I didn’t think I’d be trapped in anxiety for the next 24 hours.

Or, maybe this has something to do with my echo-cardiogram.  It’s taking place today at 1:00 pm.  I didn’t know I had problems with my heart.  I just had chest pains; never considered I’d have heart problems.  Age 32.

And maybe there’s a deeper reason.

You see, Allah is always with me; I am the one that has strayed.

I don’t do my prayers anymore.  I talk about people behind their backs.  I’m sure I do alot of other non-Islamic and/or haram things, too, I just don’t have time (nor do I want to) list them all here.

I’m tired.  Tired of wishing my anxiety away.  Tired of day after day feeling confused, torn, angry.  I feel like I have given up hope, only this is not the first time I’ve felt that way.  I’ve given up hope lots of times.  And the only thing that ever brought me back was the remembrance of Allah.

If you don’t know about Islam and you don’t know the truth about Muslims, you probably are reading this post right now and feeling confused.  What is she talking about?  What is this blog about?  Well, it’s about me.  I am a bipolar disordered Muslim in complete disarray.  Yes, I am  medicated.  Yes, I take my pills on time.  But do I pray on time?  No.  When I pray, I feel it is an act of worship and meditation.  It benefits me and my mental illness and essentially, all the other parts of my life, too.

I’m tired.

Unsettling

Qur'an

So I’m really into this Dr. Jeffrey Lang book lately.  I think I am just mostly excited to be reading about Islam again, especially from a convert’s perspective.  Something happened recently at work that felt unsettling, and this book addressed that very issue.

This co-worker and I were talking about religion.  After discussing various topics, she stated that all religions at a base level depended on faith.  That because there is no scientific proof of any particular religion, it all comes down to an individual having faith, just believing it to be true.

But that just didn’t sit right with me.

When it comes to Islam, I feel so sure of its authenticity, so convinced of the Qur’an being the final message to humanity, that it’s hard to accept her concept of faith directed at my particular belief system.

The book pointed out that Muslims don’t particularly identify with this specific concept of faith, because Islam makes no division between the secular and the sacred.  In other words, “…when a Muslim is asked to relate his or her experience of belief, he or she is being asked to do something unfamiliar, to dissect and think about faith in a way that is outside of the Islamic perspective.”  Further still, the author points out that the Qur’an places a strong emphasis on “the extreme importance of reason and contemplative thought in the attainment of faith.”  The author goes on to point out all the ways in which the Qur’an presses us to use reason and rational thought when it comes to our beliefs.

Reading those passages helped me to identify the reasons why her comment left me feeling unsettled.

You see, my father raised all four of us girls to think for ourselves.  He pushed us to challenge the status quo and to question and to look for answers, to stick by those answers even if they didn’t quite fit within the social norms.  In this type of environment, I had an understanding of people’s differences and accepted those differences with an open mind.

I have and will always have respect for other people’s beliefs.  But I’ve also changed in that I now believe that my way is the right way.  If I didn’t believe that then I wouldn’t follow Islam.

I remember my sister pointing this out to me years ago.  She said she is amazed (and baffled) by my conviction of Islam.  She imagined that it must feel very reassuring to believe in something so strongly that you believe it to be true above anything and everything else, because she never found that to be the case in her religious experience.

See, it is hard for them (my sisters and family) to understand what makes me so committed to Islam.  Because in the past, my attitude was that religion was all just a matter of choice and none had more importance than another.  Even though I believed in Catholicism, I didn’t believe it was for everyone.  But when I came upon Islam, it was different.

I always tell people:  “Islam chose me.  I didn’t choose it.”  When I first read the Qur’an, I immediately knew there was something to it.  I believe I knew in my heart right then and there that I was a Muslim.  But I just wouldn’t acknowledge it.  I questioned the Qur’an from every angle I could come up with.  I tried to find fault in it.  I tried to deny it.  I struggled within myself for a long time.  But in the end, I knew I had to accept it.  I knew I believed that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the final messenger.

I felt that that book had been put down on paper some 1400 years ago and hadn’t been changed for that entire time, and it spoke to me like it knew me.  Like it had looked into my soul and saw all of the frustrations and anger and curiosity and concern and it provided me with definitive answers to the questions I had been asking for years.

In fact, it was so spot on that it scared me.  I was actually spooked the first time I read it.  Because it was so direct.  One passage in particular that really got to me was:

2:170  “When they are asked to follow that which Allah has revealed, they say, “no! We would rather follow the path that we found our forefathers pursuing.”

I was forced to ask myself why I followed Catholicism.  Was it because it made sense to me?  Was it because I believed in it with my whole heart?  Or was it because it had been passed down to me?

I learned from the Qur’an that Jesus was a prophet and was never meant to be worshipped.  It completely threw me off my rocker when I read the following passage :

O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium is only a messenger of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His messengers, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one Allah; far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for a Protector. (Surah 4:171 – Shakir)

Or this one:

Say, “He is Allah, [who is] One, Allah, the Eternal Refuge. He neither begets nor is born, Nor is there to Him any equivalent.” (Surah 112:1-4)

I felt like I had finally been told the truth, something I believed all along – that we are to worship God and God alone.

Well, I certainly hadn’t started this post with the intention of explaining my entire belief system and all the experiences I had as a result – I only wanted to emphasize that for me, defining my spiritual transformation solely on the basis of faith would be inaccurate.

I emphasized to this co-worker that I am a Muslim because I believe (and am positive) that Islam is the one and only religion that God has delivered to us over the entire course of human existence.  I believe that most other religions are deviations of the messengers’ original messages, and that Islam and the Qur’an is meant for every soul on earth to follow.

I also think that everyone with sound reasoning and logical thinking skills should read the Qur’an and insha’allah they will discover this truth for themselves.  As much as I tried to deny it, I could not turn away from it.

 “Verily, Allah sends astray whom He wills, and guides whom He wills.” [Faatir, 35:8]

Too Quick To Jump To Conclusions

A long time ago, I was having a discussion about Islam with my non-Muslim sister.  I never approach Islam in our conversations, it is always she who introduces it through her questions and curiosity.  She had been speaking with a Christian person regarding Islam, and she asked me what I thought of something the Christian had said to her.

This Christian told her that part of the initial draw to the Qur’an from the Arabs was based on the fact that the Qur’an appeased to the Arabs with many verses referring to water, or carrying themes in relation to water, and that because the Arabs were from the desert, they greatly responded to these passages.

At the time, I felt angry.  I told her as much.  I said that I found it disheartening and slightly offended for someone to believe that Arabs simply believed in the Qur’an because it made some references to water.  How simplistic!  How insulting!  How diminishing!  As a Muslim who is aware of the greatness and power of the Qur’an, it bothered me that someone could be so unappreciative of it, minimizing its importance by suggesting that its followers were simply easily influenced, water-hungry beings.

I am reading a book by Dr. Jeffrey Lang called Struggling to Surrender:  The Impressions of an American Convert to Islam.  In it, I read this passage:

“The Arab of that era did not have to struggle to translate the images he was hearing into categories of thought to which he could relate, for he already had an intimate and direct association with them.  When the Qur’an teaches us to ask God to “show us the straight path” (1:6), the Western reader may understand this to refer to the delicate and subtle distinction between truly serving God and someone or something else….The desert traveler of the seventh century may have had a similar understanding, but it also must have provoked something of a psychological reflex, because, in his travels, knowledge of the sometimes elusive “straight path” was also a matter of life and death.  The Qur’an’s references to books, balances, debts, and rewards on the Day of Judgement, the making of a loan to God that will be repaid with manifold increase, and to the bargain that God has struck with the believers have obvious links to the commercial lifestyle of Makkah, the center for trade in Arabia during the lifetime of Muhammad.  When the Qur’an compares the state of disbelief with that of dying of thirst in the desert, or when it draws a parallel between resurrection and the restoring of life to dead earth after rain, or when it describes Paradise in vivid sensual terms, we can imagine how immediate and alive these images must have been for those who first heard them from the lips of the Prophet.”

After contemplating this paragraph, I started to think that perhaps this Christian woman’s suggestion to my sister was not rooted in sinister goals to create doubt about the Qur’an, but maybe she was only hinting at what Dr. Lang talks about above.

Without knowing more about this person and the conversation she had with my sister, I shouldn’t have become so defensive, because, in some sense, she was exactly right.  And it doesn’t need to be an offensive observation, it can simply just be an observation.

I must try harder to control my emotions when discussing Islam, as I know this incidence set a permanent impression in the mind of my sister, and not a good one at that.

Blessings and Loss

Several random thoughts this morning:

1.  I am blessed.  Since listening to the Muslim speaker the other day, I have listened to a few other Muslim lecturers from SoundCloud and have been feeling inspired.  While I still feel mixed up in my practice of Islam (which I will go into further detail later on in this post or in future posts), I feel very positive about the direction my life is taking.

One of the lectures discussed the way in which human nature leads us to always desire more than what we have.  The speaker said, “If you give man a valley of gold, he will ask for another.  And if you then give him two valleys of gold, he will ask for three.”  We are never just simply content, unless we are grateful for the blessings and grateful for the mercy of Allah.

There was a mention of a sahaba who had to have his leg amputated.  He said to others that Allah had given him two arms and two legs, and he had taken away one leg, so still, Allah has “given me more than he has taken.”  Subhan’allah.  If only we could all think that way when faced with calamity or loss.

Allah has given me so much in this life.  I’ve been blessed with my boys, my husband, my parents, my sisters.  I’ve been given the gift of Islam.  I have my health.  I have a wonderful home to live in.  We have two cars, two jobs, and food to fill our stomachs.  I had a wonderful education.  Really, what else could I possibly ask for?  Allah has given me such a prosperous and comfortable life.

2.  I have been thinking about a childhood friend I had.  I used to help her in school, because she was dyslexic.  While the teachers didn’t have time for her, I would always give her my time.  We were very close.  We wrote letters to each other every day.

One of our childhood friends had died.  I couldn’t attend his funeral.  I’ve considered visiting his grave many times since his death.  I want to reach out to her because we haven’t connected for years, and certainly not since he died.

I wonder often what his soul is experiencing.  I also wonder about how he spent his life after we lost touch, what kind of experiences he had during his lifetime after we last saw each other.  I have fond memories of our friendship, and for those, I am grateful.

 

Although I haven’t wrapped up this post in a nice and neat way, I feel it was important to write, and also important to leave this open-ended.

 

Sun Coming Out After a Long Rain

Wow.  I just read through a few of my last posts.  I’m shocked that I was so depressed.  Especially now that I’m on the other side of it and feeling so so so much better.

I feel like I have a bright new outlook.  And I’m really enjoying my kids, too.  Maybe it was the medication change.  Or maybe it was, um…maybe it was…  I got nothing else.  It was definitely the medication change.

Last night a speaker from the Muslim Outreach Society came to present at my friend’s class.  The class is called “The Psychology of Death and Dying,” and the presentation was about “What Happens After Death?” from people of various faiths.  So I arranged for the Islamic part.  Brother Salim came and spoke.

It was great.  I felt so glad to listen to a muslim speaker, as it has been almost a whole year since I’ve attended any events at the masjid.  I listened to him speak and was reminded of all of the reasons why I am so grateful that Allah led me to Islam.  My thoughts of Islam and Allah are always there in my mind, but sometimes they are close to me and sometimes they seem far away.  Our goal as Muslims is to achieve and maintain a state of God-consciousness.  So just being reminded of that is something I appreciated, as I need more practice.

Cemetery

cemetery

Went to the cemetery today.

It didn’t feel as I thought it would feel.  It felt like sadness.  And it followed me.  All of those dead souls.  And all the millions and millions and millions of them since the beginning of time itself.

And Allah keeps track of all of them – knows their entire lifetime of each and every soul – closer to us than our own jugular vein (Surat Qaf [verse 16] – And We have already created man and know what his soul whispers to him, and We are closer to him than [his] jugular vein.)

And with all the weirdness I’ve been experiencing, I started to feel like I shouldn’t be there.  And the feeling got stronger the longer I stayed.  And I read the names of people and I saw the things people had left for their dead relatives and I saw a freshly dug grave and I saw fresh dirt on top of one, new grass at a different length than the rest of the grass and I saw one with the years close to my own age and  I saw one with a wooden cross as a marker with their name painted on it who had just been buried 2 months ago.

And one had five colored pictures taped to it all lined up in a row, drawn by five little kids expressing their love to their deceased mom.

I had thought I would be reminded of death – thought I’d be reminded of life and God and the finality of it all and the temporary nature of life itself – but instead I just felt sick to my stomach and a bit lost and somewhat confused.  And maybe it was the four cups of coffee I drank, maybe it was the caffeine that was making me feel so strange and fuzzy, like cotton was stuffed through every inch of my body.

I have been getting really, really tired lately and I feel afraid.  And I feel like it would be a struggle to try to have a normal conversation with someone.   The exhaustion thing just will not go away.  It happens where I will be feeling halfway normal and then all of a sudden, I get this intense wave of exhaustion, so powerful that I have to close my eyes and steady myself to keep me from crashing to the ground and falling asleep right then and there.  Like I absolutely have to sleep or I won’t be able to survive another second.

Then it goes away, just as suddenly as it started, after about 3-5 minutes.

I feel like I am in a fog and that I’m not really myself and that I’m not really here.  And maybe I should take a Klonopin or maybe I should take a walk but I feel like I’m a little bit crazy.  And that makes me feel very nervous.  And what if I am?  Could it happen like this again?  Ann says no – it won’t.  That the medicine will keep me from going too far one way or another.  But I feel so disconnected.  I feel like I’m not really where I am.

I can’t think clearly and it feels like I’m fumbling around in the dark.  And I’m scared someone is going to approach me and know and I’m afraid I will do something that I’m not supposed to do and I feel that way so strongly that I’m kind of expecting it.  Like the time I went into the Subway restaurant with all my papers and binders and pens and asked them to turn on some music and instead they called the cops.  And the cop arrived and asked me what I was doing and I said I was just looking for someplace to work and she said you can’t work here and I said okay and I left and walked back home.

I’m kind of expecting something to happen like that.

Or maybe I will just disappear for hours and not know where I was or what happened.  And my husband will be out searching for me and he will spot me on the side of the road and I will run to him and get in the car and he will say “where on earth were you?” and I will say to him “I don’t know” and I will mean it.  And I will be calm and he will be concerned and then once we were home everything will just spiral out of control and I’ll continue to spiral out of control and it will get worse each day until I wind up back in the hospital again.

And I don’t want to go through that again.  I really don’t.