Saturday, September 27, 2008

Polygamy: A Perspective

In a 2005 study of the effects of polygamy upon Arab women, an Egyptian psychiatrist arrived at the conclusion that there should be a clinical classification for symptoms attributed to the practice of polygamy. Lotfy A.M. Al-Sherbiny, Ph.D., author of The Case of the First Wife in Polygamy, has found that many women fall victim to identical somatic and psychological symptoms when exposed to the practice of polygamy and proposes that there be a classification called “first wife syndrome” as a way of diagnosing and treating such women. Although her study was based on Arab women and the findings are thus Arab culture specific, one cannot ignore the ramifications of such findings and how they can in effect impact practices within Western civilization and the Muslim world.

Personally, upon encountering Al-Sherbiny’s report, I was filled with relief, hope and a growing excitement. The fact that another woman would care enough to delve into such an area for study was touching and liberating – inspiring because of the doors such a study can open for the psychological health of women, especially Muslim women.

Women have undeniably lived with mental health ailments throughout the twentieth century, most of them suffering silently through the effects of bad marriages, economic injustices and physical/mental abuse. And although the West, particularly the Women’s Rights movement of the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s in the U.S. can be credited as having been a leader in terms of seeking that women be liberated from the pain and shame of mental illness and abuse, fewer gains have been made in the behalf of the female populations of poorer nations, if modern western media is to be believed. Whether what the news reports is true or not, a study such as this has emerged and to discover such a find and not share it would be a blunder on my part.

I first need to point out that in terms of polygamy, I have unfortunately found that most women when asked about it react with disdain, disrespect or outright anger, rarely taking the time to try and understand why a woman may choose to practice polygamy or to see any good that may be inherent within it.

I can certainly attest that unless one has embarked upon a journey as a polygamous wife it can be very difficult to put oneself into the shoes of another that has made such choices. From my own perspective, I can imagine the pain it may cause a woman to visualize living in a polygamous household, especially in the West because of the images that we are constantly bombarded with professing to define womanhood for us; but the fact nevertheless remains that a significant percentage of women, whether by choice or circumstance, is familiar with aspects of sharing a spouse or significant other.

For instance, there has been a new development in recent years within popular American culture, particularly urban pop culture with the advent of the “baby daddy” and “baby mama;” terms that refer to estranged or absent parents that do not participate as an official spouse but that function within the family unit nonetheless. Cultural norms have now emerged where it becomes necessary for individuals to identify and interact with one another in a new way due to the increasing numbers of children within society that are born out of wedlock or subject to divorce and re-marriage.

These circumstances often require individuals to interact in ways that are similar to the ways in which polygamous households function for the sake of the children involved. We even have spin offs such as “baby mama/daddy drama, ” that alludes to the stress and anxiety involved in interacting with the mother/father of the children of one’s former spouse or significant other.
If we were to analyze the prevalent social norms in modern American society we would not be able to ignore the fact that we do indeed deal more directly with aspects of polygamy and bigamy than we would expect from within the constructs of a “monogamous Christian society.” The Bible after all contains several narratives of polygamous marriages within the Old Testament, and the Judeo-Christian tradition is not without it’s own history of polygamous marriages throughout the ages.

All this to say that regardless of one’s opinion concerning whether polygamy is right or wrong, it cannot be denied that analyzing the effect that polygamy has on women’s minds and their psychological health is an important and commendable accomplishment. Whether I believe polygamy is good or bad becomes insignificant in light of what women are going through psychologically because of a lack of understanding and support from the medical profession.

Al-Sherbiny documents that, at least within the confines of Arab culture, women of a certain demographic and social status tend to practice polygamy more than others. This alone provides an excellent opportunity to endorse literacy and education throughout the Muslim world, especially quality religious education so that women can be cognizant of their rights in polygamy according to Islam. This can not only alleviate the symptoms that women tend to experience but also to elevate her social status.

The study states, “following Islamic principles and adhering to the rules surrounding polygamy can minimize or eliminate side effects.” So while providing treatment to prevalent symptoms, education in the form of literacy and religious teaching can also treat the greater social condition of women and thus assist the family structure as a whole.

I am obviously extremely excited about this study and much respect goes out to Dr. Al-Sherbiny. I pray that women around the globe continue to emerge as leaders and advocates for one another in the struggles for justice and the establishment of human rights. We are all trustees upon this earth and it is our duty to do our best to be worthy of such a trust.

With peace and blessings for you and yours!

Relevant Reading:
Scriptures: Listed by Chapter and Verse

Wives in the Qur’an:
2:187, 2:223, 4:3, 4:19-21, 4:129, 13:38, 23:6, 24:6-9, 33:37, 37:22, 40:8, 43:70, 60:10-11, 64:14, 66:10-11, 70:30

Wife in the Bible:
Gen.2:24, Prov.18:22, 19:14, Hos.1:2, Mark 10:11, Luke 14:20, 17:32, Eph.5:33, Titus 1:6, Rev.21:9

Wives in the Bible:
Eph.5:25, 1Tim 3:11

Matriarchs in Polygamous Structures:

Qur’an: Sarah, 11:71, Hajar 14:37;

Bible: Sarah, Gen.11:29, 18:15, 21:12, 23:1+2, 19, 49:31, Heb.11:11, 1Pet.3:5+6, Hagar Gen.16:1-16, Keturah Gen.25:1, 4, 1Chr. 1:32, 33, Leah Gen.29:16-32, 30:9-20, 31:4, 31:14, 33:1-7, Rachel Gen.29:6-31, 31:34, 35:16-24, Matt.2:18, Zilpah Gen.30:9, Bilah Gen.29:29, 30:7, 35:22, 35:25, Zipporah Ex.2:21, 4:25, 18:2, The Ethiopian Woman (Moses’ Wife) Num.12:1, Hannah 1Sam.1:2, 1Sam.2:1-11, 2:31, Peninnah 1Sam.1:2, Michal 1Sam.14:49, 18:17-28, 19:11-17, 2Sam.3:13, 3:14, 6:1-23, Abigail 1Sam. 25:39-41, Ahinoam 1Sam.25:43-44, David’s wives 2Sam.3:2-5, 2Sam.5:13-16, Bathsheba 2Sam.11:3, 12:24, 1King.1:11, 2:13, 2:18-19, Pharoah’s Daughter (Solomon’s Wife) 1King.7:8, Solomon’s Wives 1King.11:3

Polygamy and the Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):

Wives of the Prophet:
1)Khadija bin Khuailid, 2)Sawda bint Zam’a, 3)Aisha bint Abu Bakr, 4)Hafsa bint ‘Umar, 5)Zainab bint Khuzaimah, 6)Umm Salama, 7)Umm Habiba, 8)Zaynab bint Jahsh, 9)Safiyya bint Huyay, 10)Juayriya bint al-Harith, Maymuna

Polygamy: The Qur’an Restricts the Number to Four
Abu Dawud: al-Harith ibn Qays said, “I embraced Islam while I had eight wives. When I mentioned that to the Prophet (pbuh), he said, “choose only four of them.”

Tirmidhi: Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said, “Abu Ghaylan ibn Salama ath-Thaqafi embraced Islam and he had ten wives whom he had married during the pre-Islamic period. His wives also embraced Islam with him. Thereupon, the Prophet (pbuh) commanded him to choose only four of them.”

Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud: vol.1, pg.358: “Fear Allah concerning women, for you have them under Allah’s security, and you have the right to sexual intercourse with them by Allah’s word. You have the right to expect from them that they do not bring into your houses anyone whom you dislike. But if they do that, then strike them lightly, without violence. They, on the other hand, have the right to expect from you that you feed and clothe them reasonably.”

“What kind of wealth should be sought?” He replied: “Each one of you should seek a thankful heart, a mindful tongue, and a believing wife who will help each of you in the matter of the Hereafter.”

Friday, August 1, 2008

Women and Fasting During Ramadan

O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint,-

Ramadan is fast approaching and when I reflect on the words Women and Ramadan, my mind conjures images of early morning meals prepared with careful hands sometimes made clumsy by sleepiness; images of fajr salaat prayed in congregation within the sheltered warmth of family and home.

The Qur’an says in Surah 2 ayah 185, “Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.”

When we remember that Ramadan is the month during which the Qur’an was sent down as a guide to mankind we are better able to know what to seek and what to expect from fasting during this time. We know that we can expect guidance and clear signs. We can expect improved judgment between right and wrong and we know that we should seek to glorify Allah Ta’aala and be grateful to Him in that He has guided us.

In addition, as women we can rest in the knowledge that we are permitted to equally partake in the guidance and blessings of this blessed month. Throughout history women have been prohibited in many cases from being able to participate fully in religious traditions that have been primarily reserved for men, but in Islam we are invited and required to practice the tenets of our religion completely.

We read in Surah 33 ayah 35, “For Muslim men and women,- for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in Charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise,- for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.”

And anyone familiar with the Women’s Rights Movement can appreciate the blessings of having the above-mentioned declarations laid out so clearly in a book of authority!

As I anticipate this blessed month of Ramadan my heartbeat quickens and I cannot help but celebrate in the mercy of God, Allah, subhanu’wa’ta’aala, for His having sent His Guidance and Light to mankind! May His peace and blessings be upon His holy Prophets and Messengers and may their reward be great!

May you and your families enjoy many special blessings during the Holy Month of Ramadan and may your fasts be accepted!

With Peace from your sister in Islam and the Mindworks family!

Ramadan is said to start on September 1, 2008 in North America but you can click here to find the date where you are!

To learn more about Ramadan see the following links:
Wikipedia’s Explanation
Submission.Org’s Explanation
Ramadan Info at Jannah.Org
Ramadan and Islam.Org

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Book Review: Living Islam Outloud, American Muslim Women Speak

Living Islam Outloud, American Muslim Women Speak
Edited By Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur

“This anthology is about women who don’t remember a time when they weren’t both American and Muslim,” writes Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur in the introduction to Living Islam Out loud, American Muslim Women Speak and ones does not have to agree with all of the ideas put forth in this book to recognize it as important to modern discourse. Saleemah Abdul-Ghafur presents some of her own reflections on being Muslim in America as well as those of fifteen other Muslim women authors in a way that is both compelling and inspirational.
The overall message I came away with from the book was one of empowerment, liberation from the constraints of cultural traditions posing as Islam, and that of women being entitled to worship God free of the restraints and influence of others, a message that I found to be refreshing in it’s candor and honesty. This book attempts to address and expose prevalent issues in Islam as we practice it every day while remaining, for the most part, within the fold of Islam. There are stories of sisters who are pious and secure in their faith and there are also stories of sisters who are not secure or who have re-discovered their piety and faith, which I believe accurately reflects the diversity within the Muslim community and depicts Islam as the journey that it is rather than merely as a habitual religious tradition.
Sister Abdul-Ghafur writes, “The truth is that some Muslim women, both in the United States and abroad, are in fact oppressed in many ways and do not live self-determined lives. The truth is also that many Muslim women live powerful lives sourced from the freedom granted to us by God. No longer can mainstream institutions and individuals continue to paint Islam with the broad brush of rigidity, chauvinism, and antiquated notions.” Although it is questionable whether mainstream institutions and individuals cannot paint Islam with a broad brush, as I continue to witness some institutions and individuals attempting to do just that, I completely agree that Muslim women can no longer be stereotyped in the ways that they have been in the past.
I enjoyed the diversity in perspectives most within the anthology. The reader is able to witness the unique mixture of experiences that is the lives of Muslim women in America while gaining insight into the issues that matter most to us in the day to day practice of Islam. Sister Abdul-Ghafur writes, “Over the past three years, I traveled around the nation and listened to the issues facing American Muslim women, which I have grouped as follows: intersecting identities, hijab, relationships, culture juxtaposed to Islam, sex and sexuality, activism, and spirituality. The essays in this anthology examine these issues through first-person accounts.”
The book is consequently organized into four major sections. Section One, Crossroads, deals primarily with growing up Muslim in the United States and the challenges that Muslimah’s face in forming their cultural identity. Section Two, Love, addresses marriage, love, sex and sexuality. Section Three, The Strongest of Faith, addresses Islam in modernity with an emphasis on activism and Section Four, Soul Journeys, deals primarily with spirituality.
The authors artfully weave their own experiences and expressions of Islam into these meaningful issues to form a tightly woven tapestry of Muslim American womanhood, revealing both the beauty and the struggle contained therein.
There are ideas such as the one described by Yousra Y. Fazili in her essay, Fumbling Toward Ecstasy, where she writes, “Hijab was not a symbol of repression – sexual or otherwise. To the contrary, it enabled a unique sort of freedom,” an empowering and inspirational moment in the book relating the sentiments that many of the sisters I’ve known have come to embrace. However, not all sisters feel that way about Hijab and their views are also represented within the anthology. Sister Abdul-Ghafur does well in ensuring that many of the varying perspectives of American Muslim women are represented throughout the work.
An example that I found was that of two sisters and their descriptions of marriage. One sister, Manal Omar, in My Own Worst Enemy, writes about her marriage and the choices she made in choosing a husband by stating, “Looking back in hindsight, it is evident that most of the absolute values that I chose to live by over the years stemmed from the misinterpretation and misapplication of both my religion and my culture, which admittedly at times are not in synch.” In her instance her family and the cultural norms and traditions she grew up embracing effected her decisions for marrying and she ultimately chose to divorce.
In contrast, however, another sister, Asia Sharif-Clark, in Marrying A Believer, writes about marriage describing it from a different perspective. She relates, “Getting married required arrangements, but staying married required strategy,” eluding more to the mental and spiritual adjustments she had to make in order to maintain the success of her marriage.
There are many lovely and meaningful narratives within this anthology as well as a few disturbing and heart-wrenching accounts of life as a Muslim woman in America, they all come together in the end however to paint a picture of Islam and women that I am pleased and excited to be a part of.
A piece that stood out to me personally is titled A Day in the Life, a poem written by Su’ad Abdul-Khabeer. She writes:
“My mind fumbles for words
So my soul may speak.
Labbayka allahuma labbayk
I surrender.
Labbayka allahuma labbayk
I submit.
Labbayka allahuma labbayk
I am captivated.”
I also often find myself uttering labbayka allahuma labbayk, desiring nothing more than the complete surrender of myself to Him alone and the beautiful peace I find there, and captivated is the perfect word to describe how I often feel during those moments. It is worship of Allah, subhanu wa ta’aala, that transcends nationality and cultural identity and pieces such as this one make this work significant not only to American Muslim women, but to Muslims in general as we journey on the path to complete submission to Allah Ta’aala.
“My overall intention for this book is to humanize American Muslim women to our fellow citizens of the world,” wrote Abdul-Ghafur, an intention that I believe was eloquently fulfilled.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Understanding “Superdelegates” and How They Affect the Nomination Process

When I first heard the term “superdelegate” I was a little embarrassed that I had no idea what it meant and as I tried to follow the whole Clinton/Obama controversy it was impossible to understand the tensions without knowing exactly what that word meant. The best explanation I’ve found is on Wikipedia and rather than confuse anybody, here’s an excerpt of their explanation:

"Superdelegate" is an informal term commonly used for some of the delegates to the Democratic National Convention, the presidential nominating convention of the United States Democratic Party.
Unlike most convention delegates, the superdelegates are not selected based on the party primaries and caucuses in each U.S. state, in which voters choose among candidates for the party's presidential nomination. Instead, most of the superdelegates are seated automatically, based solely on their status as current or former party leaders and elected officials ("PLEOs"). Others are chosen during the primary season. All the superdelegates are free to support any candidate for the nomination.
The Democratic Party rules do not use the term "superdelegate". This article follows the most common media practice in using the term "superdelegate" to refer to unpledged delegates, who fall into two categories:
delegates seated based on other positions they hold, who are formally described (in Rule 9.A) as "unpledged party leader and elected official delegates"[1] (unpledged PLEO delegates); and
additional unpledged delegates selected by each state party (in a fixed predetermined number), who are formally described (in Rule 9.B) as "unpledged add-on delegates" and who need not hold any party or elected position before their selection as delegates.[1]
Unpledged PLEO delegates should not be confused with pledged PLEOs. Under Rule 9.C, the pledged PLEO slots are allocated to candidates based on the results of the primaries and caucuses.[1] Another big difference between pledged PLEOs and unpledged PLEOs is that number of the former ones is fixed and predetermined, whereas the number of the latter ones has not any bounds. Pledged PLEO delegates are not generally considered superdelegates.
The Republican Party also seats some party officials as delegates without regard to primary or caucus results (see Republican delegate selection), but the term "superdelegate" is most commonly applied only in the Democratic Party.
At the 2008 Democratic National Convention the superdelegates will make up approximately one-fifth of the total number of delegates.

They go on to give a brief history of how superdelegates came to be which is very informative and also provide details distinguishing pledged delegates from unpledged delegates. You can read the entire article for yourself here. I’ve also included a couple of links that have helped to shed some light on the whole nomination process. Stay informed, cast your vote, and do your part to contribute in improving our world!
Peace and Blessings!

CNN.Com - Superdelegates: Why They Matter
Explanation of Superdelegates from Website
List of Democratic Party Superdelegates, 2008
The Democratic National Convention 2008 Website
How to become a delegate: basic FAQ
How to become a delegate in Rhode Island

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Be Encouraged!

Al Qur’an Surah 94
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Have We not expanded thee thy breast?-
And removed from thee thy burden
The which did gall thy back?-
And raised high the esteem in which thou art held?
So, verily, with every difficulty, there is relief:
Verily, with every difficulty there is relief.
Therefore, when thou art free from thine immediate task, still labor hard,
And to thy Lord turn (all) thy attention.

The above scripture is one of my favorite chapters from the Qur’an and I often find comfort and encouragement from it when life’s challenges appear too difficult to overcome. We sometimes expect life to be easy and can get discouraged when it’s not which is why I find reading scripture so important. In our modern world where technology makes everything seem to go faster and require instantaneous results, we can often get caught up in the grind and forget ourselves. Then, when obstacles get in our way we scramble to find ways of removing them when if we had been in the mindset of remembering how God tells us to approach those obstacles, we could have saved ourselves a lot of stress. I call the mindset of remembering God and His will keepin’ the faith.

And keepin’ the faith is not just an abstract “feel good” phrase to me. There were (and still are) plenty of days when I have found it hard to keep the faith, but I did so in spite of the difficulty, convicted in my beliefs that everything in life ends up working out for the great good that God intends. For that reason, surrender to despair or giving up is simply not an option.

For example, my son recently entered an I-don’t-want-to-go-to-school-or do-homework-anymore phase and although we went through it for a little while in first grade, he’s in fifth grade now and requires a better explanation as to why he has to, especially when he’s in a crowded public school where his teacher unfortunately cannot give him the attention he needs; where there are limited resources and therefore limited activities; where they take so many standardized tests that it’s a wonder they have time to complete lessons on a level where the children can come away with a strong knowledge of what they’ve been taught. But when faced with this dilemma I was determined to keep the faith and to try and teach him how he too must learn to remain faithful in every aspect of his life.

I told him that the hadith says for us, mankind, believers, to pursue knowledge even if we have to go all the way to China and that the Bible says that in all thy getting, get an understanding; that it is good to learn and that we should strive to learn as much as we can in life no matter the circumstances. He still has his days when he is not motivated or inspired but at least he now knows the standard. He at least now knows that even if what he is learning may not be the most exciting or thrilling thing in the world, the fact that he is learning is important. This concept alone could mean the world of difference among our children that become so bored with school that they end up dropping out.

Remaining steadfast and faithful creates a platform for being encouraged. Even if it’s hard to find work, if public assistance barely assists anything, if interest rates on loans are daunting, and that’s only when loans are even possible, we must push on. In this way we realize that change is not just what we facilitate in society, but what we must start within ourselves. We must be encouraged. We must be faithful. We must persevere. We must reject evil. We must love. These things empower us and we must be empowered in order to change reality and empower others. God’s word says that He will not forsake the righteous and that He will help those who change what is in their own souls; that with every difficulty there is relief and so we must always keep the faith and then we can always be encouraged.

Peace and Blessings!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Reflections on Life and Feminism

Upon reflecting about my life and considering the mistakes I’ve made along the way I could not help but wonder about other women and whether there were many out there that may have experienced the same types of things I have: whether they were able to pick themselves up or not; how they were or why they were not. The feminist movement comes to mind and I was never really able to connect the meaning of what I had learned about it with reality as I lived it. That is until now.
Remarkably, I don’t ever remember learning about the feminist movement from any woman I knew. Certain concepts were encouraged and assumed, but no one ever sat me down and discussed with me what life had been like for women throughout history and how I fit into the flow and continuity of it all. Popular TV shows alluded to feminism and my high school US History teacher may have skimmed over a couple of pages about woman’s suffrage with our class in 11th grade, but other than that it has been a learn-as-you go reality.
An occasional, “Don’t let him talk to you like that,” from a peer in high school over-hearing an argument between a boyfriend and girlfriend, or an awe-filled “she ran against a guy!” from a classmate when we did not have a girl’s indoor track team and a couple of other girls and I were forced to compete at the boy’s track meets.
Even in college there was no substantial thread of knowledge to hold onto outside of the Women’s Studies Department and I found myself floating along in a world that was racing forward around me.
For example, had I understood the importance of completing my college education as a means of increasing my odds for success in modernity as an African American women, I may have reconsidered leaving school to have my son and start a family when I did. Had I been conscious of my existence as a woman of the fourth generation in my family since slavery in America and the recent struggles for women in this country to be seen and considered as equals in society, I may have made different choices. However, qué será será! Whatever will be will be and I’m not unhappy with my life, as it has turned out thus far. I have a beautiful son whom I couldn’t be more proud of and a wonderful husband who exceeds my expectations again and again. I cannot however ignore the hard days that I have or the fact that there may be women who may have made similar choices as I but who may not have been as fortunate.
Women who may have chosen to leave school or a career to start a family but the endeavor fell through. Now they have a “baby’s daddy” and a car note they cannot pay and it seems to me that just a little more information and thoughtfulness could have helped to deter them from the path that they may have had to tread; information and guidance from their elders regarding their location in history and how to traverse the waters of life.
It could be that my experience is completely and uniquely my own, but it could also be that it is not. However, if in fact it is not and if we as a society expect to improve and to realize liberty and justice all in real time we should then make a stronger and more concerted effort to inform one another in ways that are liberating and judicial.
Useful information should not be restricted to the higher echelons of society or to the strictly religious and all women should be given the chance to succeed and prosper.
I went to the toy store with my son and brother one day and my brother said something that tickled me. As we walked past a large pastel colored box with a picture of a little girl at a miniature ironing board, happily pressing what looked to be an article of clothing he said, “They’re getting them ready early, aren’t they.”
His joking made me laugh, but upon reflection, I realized that he had tapped into a matter that should be of great concern to not only women but to society as a whole and that being the matter of how we are raising our children and to narrow it down, how we are raising our girls.
I don’t have any girls of my own, but I do have a younger sister and nieces so I’ve gotten enough of a dose of modern day college life and club-life worries, America’s Next Top Model, That’s So Raven, and Hannah Montana to wake me up to the reality of what we are teaching one another about womanhood and how to be and live as women.
And I don’t think that everything out there is negative. I’ve watched America’s Next Top Model myself and some of the things they talk about and address on the show are useful, but they rarely provide a context in which the average young women can come away from the show empowered or enlightened within the constrains of their own life circumstances which, after all, is what is most important if we as women are to discover where we must stand on the earth’s stage and play our role completely.
There are too many successful women who live by their faith to exclude God and values from popular discourse and there has to be a way to incorporate righteousness and modesty into women’s lives in ways that are inspiring and liberating. We should think more about what we are getting our girls ready for and if they’re prepared for it; should think more of what we’re getting our own selves ready for and if we are indeed prepared for it also.
There’s a passage in the Bible that says in Proverbs 7:4, “Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call insight your intimate friend,” and if we could teach ourselves and our sisters and our daughters and our nieces how to live with wisdom as our sister and insight as our friend there’s no doubt that we could shape a better world; no doubt that we would be equipped to make better and more informed life decisions; no doubt that we would know where we fit in history and how to live feminism to the fullest.


Women in Islam

Daughters in Islaam

The Excellence of Raising Daughters


Raising Up Queens: Loving Our Daughters Loud and Strong
by Esther Davis-Thompson

Raising a Daughter: Parents and the Awakening of a Healthy Woman
by Jeanne Elium and Don Elium

Raising Strong Daughters
by Jeanette Gadeberg

Mother-Daughter Wisdom: Understanding the Crucial Link Between Mothers, Daughters, and Health
by Christiane Md Northrup

Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing
by Christiane Md Northrup

Friday, February 22, 2008

Black History Month: African Americans and Islam

Black History Month: African Americans and Islam

One would think that by the way Islam is made to appear foreign to the “American” way of life that Muslims are new to American society. It amazes me that there is such a candid discourse of how anti-American Islam is and of the potential for a clash of civilizations when there are Muslims who have been living in this country and practicing their religion for over 30 years and not just immigrant Muslims from other countries but indigenous African American Muslims. They’ve been working along side their fellow citizens, paying their taxes, sending their children to school and worrying about the same things that we all worry about, and yet they seem to go unacknowledged.

Having practiced Islam for 10 years, I’m unable to include myself among that generation of Muslims, although I have been inspired and encouraged by their stories, some of them famous and some of them not so famous; many of them having grown up during the era of Jim Crow, having survived the tumultuous changes of the 1960’s and 70’s, and now having witnessed the dawning of a new century are addressing new challenges and realizing the fulfillment of new promises.

During this month when we reflect on the contributions of our African American ancestors to American society and to the betterment of the human family I honor the Muslims that have come before me with gratitude to Allah Ta’aala for the great things, large and small, that He has allowed them to accomplish on our behalf.


Mainstream Islam in the African-American Experience

Islam in America: From African Slaves to Malcolm X


Islam in the United States of America
by Sulayman Nyang

The Autobiography of Malcolm X
by Malcolm X

African American Islam
by Aminah McCloud

Islam, Black Nationalism and Slavery: A Detailed History
by Adib Rashad (Author), Sulayman S. Nyang (Introduction)

Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas
by Sylviane Diouf

African Muslims in Antebellum America: Transatlantic Stories and Spiritual Struggles
by Allan D. Austin

Monday, February 4, 2008

Black History Month: Celebrating the Knowledge Self and Others

May the Peace and Blessings of God be Upon You,

The Holy Qur’an, in Surah 49:13, states, “ O mankind! We created you from a single pair of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other not that ye may despise each other. Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is he who is the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted with all things.”

A beautifully simple passage, expressing the essence of what Black History Month has come to mean to me and also fitting for the theme of Black History Month 2008, Carter G. Woodson and the Origins of Multiculturalism.

Contrary to the notions of Colonialism and Imperialism, we were created that we may know one another, not enslave or exploit one another. Thankfully the chapter on colonialism in world history has ended and that of imperialism is waning, however still we have yet to experience a world that fully embraces diversity.

As we begin 2008 and do our part shape the future we want to see, recognizing and learning about Carter G. Woodson and the contributions he has made to the development of multiculturalism seems as good a start as any.

Carter G. Woodson, the founder of The Association for the study of African American Life and History ( initiated the celebration of Black History Month in 1976 as an extension to the celebration of Negro History Week which he had established in 1926 as a means of documenting and researching the contributions of African Americans to American society. Upon attending Harvard University, one of the top universities in the United States, he saw first hand the lack of knowledge presented about African Americans and thus went about the task of rectifying the situation.

Having been born in 1976, I’ve personally benefited first hand from having grown up in an era of black consciousness. Although I knew about slavery, I also knew about Harriet Tubman. Although I knew about segregation, I also know about Rosa Parks and this dual knowing, understanding that there was oppression and fighters against oppression has molded me in ways that I have come to find invaluable. I like to think of it as having giving me the ability to be hopeful and optimistic in the face of adversity.

And as a result of his efforts, we’ve seen many other ethnic groups follow his example with the implementation of American Indian Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

We can be the change we want to see in the world and we can start by knowing ourselves and being receptive to knowing others.

May we start the work of knowing each other and may our lives be blessed with peace.

Life Reminders

Psalm 145:8-9 The Lord is Gracious and Merciful
The Lord is Gracious and Merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His Compassion is over all that He has made.

Matthew 11:28 Gentleness and Humility
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Surah 33:21 Beautiful Pattern of Conduct
Ye have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a beautiful pattern of conduct for any one whose hope is in Allah and the Final Day, and who engages much in the Praise of Allah.

Sahih Muslim, Book Unknown: Changing an Evil Action
“Whosoever of you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand; and if he is not able to do so, then with his tongue; and if he is not able to do so, then with his heart; and that is the weakest of faith.”

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