Greater Boston Muslim Sisters Meetup Group

Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim (In the name of Allah)

A few years ago, I was attending Boston University to complete the Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in Education, Media, and Technology. The semester I started the program I had the opportunity to meet an amazing sister who was studying abroad. I am not sure if she would want me to mention her name so I won’t. We became fast friends and I learned so much from her in the short time she was here in the US.
We traveled together to the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) conference in Hartford, CT. It has since moved venues to Baltimore, Maryland. While we were there we discussed how it would great to have a group of sisters that would like to “meetup” and have dinner or do different events. This was before I had my daughter so I had a bit more time to put together events. I was also living closer to Boston, hence commuting in to complete the degree.
The Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center(ISBCC) had at the time recently been built and I was their most Friday evenings for the Halaqa (A religious gathering or meeting with the primary purpose of learning the theology, usually Islamic). Sometimes I was also their on the first Sunday of the month for a revert (those who are new or return to Islam) meeting organized by ISBCC and Suhaib Webb, an American Muslim Iman.
I created an online group using Meetup.com , it was a bit of an expense. I am a very quiet person and keep to myself most of the time so this was a way I thought I could reach out to people. I added my friend on as admin to the group and we both worked on spreading the word to people. The group also came up in a search if sisters were able to stumble upon it themselves. We found a great group of sisters some reverts/ converts, sisters studying abroad in the US, and other Muslimahs interested in a similar group.
To start we held several small meetup programs in the ISBCC cafe to start to get to know sisters as a central location. I remember we even had a potluck Iftar during Ramadan the first year.
The price tag for paying for meetup was too much for me so I moved the group to a private Facebook group. Also, because I had become pregnant with my daughter and moved a bit further away from Boston it became difficult to organize events. I hope that anyone who finds the Facebook group will share information and any events that know about or offer to create an event. Alhumdullah (“thanks be to God”) it was great to meet so many wonderful sisters and I hope the Facebook group will continue to grow. If you are a Muslim sister in the Boston or surrounding areas and interested in joining post a comment and I will message you with a link to the group Inshallah (“God- willing”).  

My Hijab, My Choice

I love reading the stories of others that have chosen to wear hijab on the World Hijab website and Facebook feed.  After converting to Islam as I said in past posts I was only wearing hijab to the Masjid and experimenting with it in other places.  After my first year, I even started to wrap around my head with my next exposed almost in a turban style.

That second summer  as a Muslim, I was traveling to Morocco by myself to stay with my in-laws. This was my second trip to Morocco but, my first as a new convert.  I wore hijab because I felt it was expected of me, but I was not comfortable.  Someone in the first year had given me advice and said do not wear hijab until it is your choice, or you may regret it.

I struggled with it, the material anyway, I couldn’t make it stay on my head, I really didn’t know how to wear it properly.  After being in Morocco two weeks by myself my husband had arrived.  It was late at night and we walked with my father in-law to a cafe.  This is common it is beautiful at night walking next to the ocean.  Anyway,  the scarf started to fall off my head and I had become so frustrated I just pulled it off in the middle of the street.  This totally startled my father in-law, not expecting I would do anything like this, I am normally very calm person.

I made it through my month in Morocco wearing the hijab, but I was convinced it wasn’t for me.  I got on the plane to go back to the United States and I was sitting next to a man.  As a female Muslim this is not the most comfortable situation, I really wanted to ask to switch seats but, the plane was packed.   To this day I feel it was a test for me and that guy might have been Shatan (devil) trying to get to me.  He said to me things like I won’t tell anyone you can take off your hijab.  The struggle or test to get through the plane ride gave so much strength.  If my prayers had not guided me in the right direction this definitely did.  As I walked off the plane, I felt an overwhelming peace come about me and the hijab had become apart of me.  It has not been easy since but, I’ve never looked back on my decision, it is my new identity.
2015-07-06 14.07.13

New Muslim

As a new Muslim, I was happy in my new way of life as I grew closer to Allah.  But, I did struggle in the beginning, every community is different some are smaller with not that many resources.  I will share with you my experiences it may not be the same for everyone.

When first entering the masjid I was embraced with a huge welcoming and and greetings of Mashallah (“God has willed it”), a message of congratulations or appreciation.  I felt so excepted and excited about entering Islam.

Just after entering the masjid the next several times I felt overwhelmed and honestly alone.  I didn’t know what to do how to respond to people, I often was by myself or if something wasn’t quite right well with respect I was informed so.  I am also a very quite person and although I am friendly with people, I do not make friends that easily, and struggle with small talk.  If I am comfortable with you than you can tell I will talk with ease, but it doesn’t come naturally to me, I am more of an observer.  There is an article on MuslimMatters.com- New Muslim Series: After Shahada that you can read of a similar experience.

When you first become Muslim and even after, you may be Muslim your whole life and it is important to always continue your education and focus on Allah, Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala,” or “Glory to Him, the Exalted”,  inshallah (God Willing).

I did struggle to find information at first but, I will share with you some resources that I have found along the way.  There may be programs if not at the Masjid you belong to or even if you are not Muslim and want to find out more.  If not available at your local group possibly at a large Mosque.  For example I found that there was training for New Muslims at the Mosque in Boston, in a course Islam 101.

Other great resources are the WhyIslam site, also Productive Muslim, and Kalamullah.com.

2015-07-06 14.00.54

My first year in Islam @ work

A month after I had taken my Shahada, I was going on job interviews to become a school librarian. I was hired to work in an urban elementary school starting in August (three months later).

I had always dressed modestly, but as I began my transition I was still wearing short sleeve shirts, short skirts, and no hijab.  So outwardly you wouldn’t have been able to tell something had changed within me.

I seriously may have confused my coworkers as the end of the school year came and the temperature had heated up.   I had started to cover my arms and legs  up to my wrists and ankles, no longer exposing extra skin.  A common question asked like “aren’t you hot in that?”  It might be strange to some but, I find comfort in covering my skin.  Yes during the summer I might be hot like everyone else.  But, my faith in Allah gives me the strength to dress modestly and I have found many ways to still dress comfortably.  I love this short article as another sister tells her journey to hijab.

I also had experimented with hijab but, was not quite ready to commit full-time.  One day I had driven to work with the hijab on all the way into the school underground parking lot.  I removed it in the car but, someone had seen me.  They ran after and were concerned I was a threat to the school.  After September 11th, the interpretation of Islam is very misrepresented which I had strongly seen from my research and education.  I hope inshallah, (God willing), as I write about my journey I will help to open a door of understanding of the Islam as a peaceful and beautiful religion.

 
hijab sketch

How I became Muslim

In 2007, I had been married to my husband for four years he was Muslim and I was Catholic.  I had been raised with a strong religious background including several years of private Catholic education.  But, I was losing connection or maybe I never had it and I was curious about my husband’s faith.  I went to the public library and checked out a few books and videos on Islam.  I researched and read any information I could find, I looked online for more information.  I discovered a few events happening at UMASS Lowell organized by the school’s Muslim Student Association (MSA).

At these events I listened to people lecture, a few people shared their stories, and I met a great group of Muslims and non-muslims that I still remain in contact with today.  After careful consideration and reviewing all the information the only thing I could do was pray.  I got down on my knees and lowered my head to the ground like I had seen my husband and others do and I asked for help to make a decision.

A couple of days after that I took my Shahada, or testimony of faith and that afternoon I remarried my husband in Islam in the local Masjid.

[Who say], “Our Lord, let not our hearts deviate after You have guided us and grant us from Yourself mercy. Indeed, You are the Bestower.” (Quran 3:8)
open puzzle piece