Who Am I? – “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”

I was just watching this video as the guy starts off with a translator, even though he can speak English, so that you do don’t make assumptions based on his accent. He questions imitating others and failing and learning who you are as a person.

Who Am I?
Right now I would say I am a Muslim American but, I don’t think I fit into one box.
When I was two weeks old I was adopted from Texas by a white American couple of mostly Canadian and European descent. My birth family according to the paper work was at least part Mexican. I’ve recently discovered from a DNA test my background closest is Mexican and Columbian, farther away is European, Asian, and North African.
As a child my parents were light skin and my mom had blond hair. During the summer months, I tanned very easily and had almost black hair.  When I was out with my mom many would say you must look like your dad.

Once or twice on a trip to Canada my parents were questioned about my background being so much darker during summer months. Often as a child and through college people would come up to me and just start speaking Spanish.
When I was in eight grade a teacher took a census of our background.  I don’t really wear a sign that says I was adopted and I am Mexican or even hispanic. So you can imagine the confusion when I raised my hand to say so, when they knew my parents, but didn’t know the rest of my background. The teacher ended up taking the poll twice.
As an adult who wears a hijab many have assumed I can speak Arabic, but unfortunately I only know few words. I even had someone who knew me before say I became Arab instead of becoming Muslim. Others assume I don’t speak English and are confused when they hear me speak.

Once after I started wearing my hijab, I was trying to enter my apartment at the time and someone stood and blocked the door.  They asked where I was from, I normally don’t mind these questions,  I said I was American, not satisfied asked no really where are you from, I said I was born in the United States.  Still not satisfied asked where are your parents from, I  simply just stated  Mexican because I wanted to get in the door lol. He looked very confused and said “oh” and let me by.  I shouldn’t answer people so quickly, but I’m not always sure what to say.  I’m also not always ready to give a lengthy answer, I could answer any number of ways. I could say the state I was born in or the state I was raised in, maybe there is even a philosophical answer.   If I went with my parents and most of my grandparents almost everyone was born in the United States.  My birth parents whom I’ve never met gave me my genetic makeup.  I could just always answer I’m American and say my husband is Moroccan, for a simple quit answer.  Sometimes I just say I’m from here, and just stop, I am proud of who I am, even if I don’t always give myself a label.     If you see me I never mind answering questions and no apologies for my confusing identity, as a famous cartoon use to say:

“I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”
Popeye the sailorman

clip-art-popeye-620348

In Search of Laylatul Qadr

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

Ramadan is coming to close very quickly, it is always so sad to see the month go by so fast,  Alhumdullah it is such an amazing blessed month.  In the last ten odd nights there is a night called Laylatul Qadr or the Night of Power, the most holiest of night in Ramadan.  Many muslims spend their whole night in prayer searching for this night.  I did not go go to the Masjid because it is a little difficult with a two year old.  But, my husband spent the entire night on Monday, which was the day many of the local mosques as a group of muslims focussed on prayer for this magical night.

This is a great info-graph explaining this special night:

Shopping

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

Since I’ve become more comfortable wearing hijab, I enjoy putting together outfits.  I struggled to locate places to purchase clothes and scarves at first.  Alhumdullah (“Thanks be to God”) there are several more local shops opening up.

I started purchasing online the first location was Hijab Girl.  They had very reasonable priced scarves/ hijabs with a flat rate shipping.  Most of my beginning hijabs were from them, and I found the two piece Al-Amira hijab, my personal favorite.  The reason for this is because they are so easy to wear with a underscarf and matching hijab.  This really helped me to gain confidence in wearing hijab, since I didn’t need to wrap them at all.

Next, I ordered some clothes from  Alhannah.com.  I ordered my first Salwar Kameez, a pant suit outfit that is very popular in India.  I also ordered several Tunics.  What is really great about this company, they called me after I filled out my online order to double-check on sizes before sending them out.  They also didn’t have one of the outfits posted so they were about to find another suitable match.

I love swimming so I really wanted to find a swimsuit I could wear that would keep me covered in an Islamic appropriate way.  So, I ordered my first swimsuit from Splashgear.  Islamic swimsuits are quite expensive but, it is worth the purchase especially if you love going to the beach or pool.

Most recently, I’ve discovered East Essence, they are so reasonable with prices.  I was able to order several abaya’s from them most under $20.00.  There are ones that are fancy but, I like the simple plain everyday ones.  I’ve gotten so many complements, even asking why I am so dressed up when I wear the abaya.

I also keep an eye out in regular stores purchasing long skirts and dresses, long sleeve shirts etc..  I’ve purchased items at different Islamic conference, and local bazaars, and Halal market stores.

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”).  

Lectures- Ramadan

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

This Ramadan I made the intention that I would focus on reading Quran, memorizing surah/ chapter in the Quran, and spend time in prayer.  Inshallah I try to strive to focus on Allah and becoming a better Muslim.  There are times when I need to go cook in the kitchen or clean.  This year and most recently in the last few days I want to gain as much knowledge and reminders in this most holy of months.  While I clean, cook, etc… I have been listening to Islamic lectures.

The first my husband introduced me too is a series of lectures from scholar Tariq Ramadan, the Chronicles of Ramadan 1436-2005 Values.  They are very short segments on the values that we should hold dear and practice.

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Another is Ramadan 2015 Action Plan- Full Lecture- Nouman Ali Khan, this was given as a preparation as he focuses on the Ayat of the Quran that focuses on Ramadan and to strive to have a perfect month.  This can also be listened to as a podcast via itunes  if you prefer in the car or other activities on your digital device.

Right now we are in the last 10 nights and it is most important to focus on Allah with dua (prayer), Dhikr (remembrance). The following lecture: Last 10 nights of Ramadan and Laylatul Qadr – How to take advantage! – Yasir Qadhi, discusses the importance of attention to the last few days in Ramadan.   

Sheikh Yusef Estes does a series of lectures called Ramadan Reminders

Last this sister made a cute video on the Two Best Times to make Duaa on Ramadan

Inshallah I hope you receive benefit from these lectures and if you have great programs you listen too please let me know in the comments.

Ramadan

The Islamic Calendar is on a lunar cycle and has twelve months.  This month is Ramadan, it is the most holiest of months for Muslims.  The entire month is spent fasting from the break of dawn to sunset.  There is a concentrated focus on spiritual devotion to Allah (swt), without the distraction of food you can spend more time in prayer, reading Quran, and other acts of worship.

During the summer months as it is right now the days are longer and it becomes a bit more challenging.  May Allah (swt) make it easier for those fasting during this month.  With the suggestion of my husband to help me find a focus for the month, I finally started this blog.  I’ve been talking about it for a while but,  just hadn’t gotten to it.  I often have people ask me questions, and I know there are several others that do not ask but, our curious about my story.  So I thought the perfect time to do this would to share my story of becoming Muslim during the month Ramadan in hope that I can help others and give a better image of Islam than what is in the media, inshallah (God Willing).

I am not perfect and I will continue my education in Islam as I do not know everything.  May Allah (swt) forgive me for my faults.

the last 10 days

Talking to My Parents

When I had come to the decision to take my Shahada I took the four and half hour drive to talk to my parents in person.  I wasn’t sure how they would take it but, I was very close to them so I wanted to let them know.

They were both together so I told them I had something to tell them, I informed them I had made the choice to convert to Islam.  My Dad was open no worries, my Mom love her does not like change.  A little back story when I was only two weeks old my parents had adopted me from an agency in Texas.  Although I was an adult my mom suggested she wanted to return me and hadn’t signed up for this.  My Dad made me feel comfortable and basically told me to ignore my mom’s comments.

After we had gone out to breakfast my Mom had decided that my choice was fine but, that we would pretend that I hadn’t made it so we shouldn’t talk about it.  We traveled away to together with my brother and my Mom asked me not to tell anyone.  When pork or any other food I could not eat was served I was to tell them I was allergic.

The year after on my return trip from Morocco when I arrived wearing hijab, my mom refused to go anywhere with me.  She was really afraid of what others would think and I could not longer hide my decision to become Muslim.

As time has gone on we’ve had other disagreements but are relationship is returning to a strong comfort level again.  I’ve gone through times where I  do not want to celebrate Christian holidays.  I try to remain away as much as possible but, in order to keep harmony with my family I exchange gifts and spend time with them.  Last year my mom even approached a muslim sister asking where she got her scarf.  She found out it was an Egypt and joked about not being able to get it on time for the holiday.  Mom did purchase other scarves and gave them to me as a gift; time does heal some wounds.

Dr. Faheem Younus in his article “Why (And How) Should Muslim Americans ‘celebrate’ Christmas? discusses the dilemma during this part of the year.  

 zentangle hearts