Christmas

Now it seems like it’s pretty clear we wouldn’t celebrate Christmas when it is a religious holiday that is not part of our beliefs (we don’t celebrate our Prophet’s birthday either and historically, they are pretty sure that Jesus was not actually born on December 25th). These issues get complicated when you have non-Muslim relatives though. I looked it up extensively when I was a new Muslim and then pretty much stuck by that for the past decade.

Basically, so far as wishing anyone a happy or merry Christmas, I am not supposed to do that as it is considered the equivalent of congratulating them in their disbelief. My family doesn’t necessarily understand that, so it’s a little hard to get around that without offending anyone, but I have mostly managed it.

I am also not supposed to give presents to specifically mark the occasion. I can give them presents on other occasions. I am allowed to accept their presents in the interest of maintaining good relations as long as they are not presents that are haram or of a religious nature. Strangely enough, my dad and my aunt have mostly not seemed to notice that I am not giving them presents. In fact, almost every year, they ask me about how I’m doing with my Christmas shopping. My mom probably confuses that issue somewhat because she sometimes gives my aunt a present and signs my name to it.

I find it kind of amusing that pretty much from the beginning, my mom has given me Islamic themed Christmas presents. One year she gave me an entire boxed set of Sahih al-Bukhari (not an inexpensive gift). She often gives me abayas and hijab.

My mom declared to my sister this year that we should not have a problem with celebrating Christmas because it is secular anyway. My sister disagreed that it is secular, but she said to my mom that actually all the Santa stuff disturbs her more than the Jesus stuff. My mom could understand that.

In one of my sociology classes, the professor referred to it as the religion of Santa Claus, and he really does have a point. Santa is attributed special powers. He “sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake.” He “knows when you’ve been bad or good,” and he rewards or punishes if you’ve been good or bad. And it’s all about belief. In all of those Christmas specials, it’s always about whether they “believe” in Santa. Also, in pretty much all those Christmas specials about “saving” Christmas, it’s always implied that there “won’t be a Christmas,” if the children don’t get their presents. Worshiping materialism. If I were a Christian even, I think I would find some of these ideas disturbing or contrary to my beliefs.

As a child I vaguely believed in Santa the way you just accept what adults tell you when you are little. I thought he must be real if they track his progress on the news and my parents and everyone say he is, but he didn’t really have a place in my world either. I was expected to remember who every present was from in order to properly thank them, and even the ones that said from Santa, we knew who they were from. My parents tried to get around this by saying that Santa helped with delivering the presents, but since we went around delivering presents to all our relatives houses on Christmas Eve, and they likewise delivered presents to our house, this really didn’t make much sense either. So there you go! A vague belief that Santa existed but no clear idea as to his actual role or relevance.

 

Thanksgiving

My husband felt very strongly that we should not celebrate the baby’s birthday (or any birthdays), our anniversary, etc. I was not in total agreement about this. I’m still thinking about her amazing birth (I have to write about that sometime), and I want to celebrate that she’s been with us a year. I feel like mainly the only religious grounds he could have for this is the idea that we are only supposed to celebrate (annually) the two eids. That is something a lot of the scholars say, although the Prophet saying they are better, doesn’t seem to me to explicitly forbid celebrating other things as long as they aren’t anything haram.

Last week, my husband asked me what we were doing for Thanksgiving, I asked my mom, and she said we were going there, which we did. My husband has fond memories of Thanksgiving as he came to Thanksgiving at my mom’s shortly after we were married (and we didn’t have an awful lot of that sweet honeymoon stage of our marriage before we were put in difficulty and separated by his visa troubles). Now it seems to me, if we can’t celebrate birthdays that Thanksgiving would be off too, but I didn’t really want to point that out to my husband. So we went to my mom’s for Thanksgiving, and the baby really enjoyed herself.

Gentleness in Islam

Khutbahs are supposed to be on topics which are important and necessary for the people, relevant to the issues they are dealing with, timely reminders. With that in mind, I felt that the khutbah that I heard on Friday was quite appropriate.

At the point at which I started listening (I always have to use the bathroom and get settled with Baby and say 2 rakat), the imam was asking what should we say to our children, our non-Muslim friends, anyone when they look at what is happening in the world and ask us, is this Islam, how do you interpret the Quran? We can give a resounding, no! This is not Islam!

He said we should look to the model, Prophet Muhammad (s), our example. His behavior was the Quran. He was tortured and persecuted, treated very cruelly for years by the pagan Makkans. Then when finally, they were in his power, he says to them, “Go! This day you are free!” There is no place in Islam for hatred and vengeance.

Gentleness and Mercy are part of religion. Our prophet (s) said that when gentleness is in anything it beautifies it and when gentleness is removed from anything, it becomes ugly.  He who is deprived of gentleness is deprived of all good.

There is no place for extremism in Islam, even for those with good intentions. When 3 men came to ask the Prophet (s) about his worship, one of them then said that he would fast every day, another that he would pray all night, and the third that he would not marry. The Prophet (s) was displeased. He said, “I fast and I break my fast, I pray at night and I sleep, and I marry women. He who does not follow my sunnah is not of me.”

I am paraphrasing this khutbah. So I hope I have managed to capture the spirit of it, and the main points and not mangle anything that was said too badly.

 

Decadent Chocolate Desserts

I know this is a misuse of the word “decadent,” but that’s the way people use this word, and I honestly couldn’t think of another word that had the same connotations as what people mean when they misuse the word decadent.

Chocolate Hazelnut Pudding

This is one of Baby’s favorites. Basically, you roast a cup of hazelnuts in the oven I think at like 400 degrees for 10 -12 minutes, rub the skins off of them, put them in the food processor and grind them into a paste. Then you melt 1 1/3 cups of chocolate chips, you add those to the hazelnut paste and add a package of silken tofu. You blend it all together, and it is delicious.

Vegan Chocolate “Ice Cream”

This one I just tried today. I don’t think it is really my own recipe. I kind of saw it online somewhere, but the website was being slow and not loading correctly. I didn’t write it down, so this is just what I thought I remembered, but wow is it good!

1 avocado

1 can coconut milk

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 cup maple syrup

a splash of vanilla

1/4 cup water

You just put all the ingredients in your blender, liquefy, and then put it in a freezer safe bowl (I used a Pyrex bowl with a lid). You leave it in the freezer for an hour, then you start stirring it every 20 minutes for 4 or 5 hours.

You really can’t tell that’s it’s avocado, coconut milk or even maple syrup. A lot of things sweetened with maple syrup have a mapley taste, but this just taste like really good dark chocolate ice cream, and it isn’t even really ice cream. This also makes a really good pudding, as Baby and I were eating it right out of the blender.

Chocolate Greek Yogurt

I have this for a snack almost every night. I take a cup of low fat (Cabot’s low fat Greek style yogurt) a teaspoon of cocoa powder, and a teaspoon of honey and stir it up really good so that there aren’t any clumps. Baby can’t have this yet because of the honey.

 

Disconnecting

I thought I would write a short post on this topic, since in my last post I got off on such a tangent about it. By disconnecting, I mean not watching TV and not being online mainly. I used to frequently see recommendations that people take breaks from media, cell phones, etc. for say perhaps a week. They would say it was good for you spiritually or for your health or something. Other people complain that people are too involved with people and things that are not present and therefore neglect and ignore those that are. That is about being present, connecting with the world around you, being with those who are with you. I can really see how this could be a good thing. But like the example in my last post, disconnecting from technology and media is probably almost never good for your career, and people will certainly not think you are knowledgeable and with-it when you are living such an insular existence.

Terrorist Attack

Yesterday I was talking with my mom about our upcoming trip to visit my daughter’s Bangladeshi grandparents. We are all very excited about this. My sister-in-laws have both had babies in the same year and everyone is coming. My sister is also coming with us to meet my in-laws. Because of previous attacks in Bangladesh, my mom is a little worried, and she told me to be careful, especially after this attack in France, and I was like, what!?

My mom was like, “Are you serious? You haven’t heard about this?”

I said,”No, when did it happen?”

My sister was not surprised that I did not know because she knows me, I guess. I don’t watch TV(my husband does, but I’ve never seen him watch the news). I’m busy with Baby and still trying to start this hijab business (although admittedly this past week I’ve been focusing much more on the gifts I am making for my in-laws); sometimes I only get online once or twice a week. I don’t necessarily think this is a bad  thing, but we live in such a fast paced world. It seems like if you’re disconnected for even a few days, all sorts of things are happening ( A few years ago, I almost got fired from my new teaching job about which I was very much looking forward to and really needed because I had not checked my e-mail in 3 days. The last e-mail I had received from the principal had said see you in September no indication that I was required to be in contact prior to that (I could have been out of the country). They were not able to reach me by telephone because there was some problem with the telephone line, and he said if I did not respond by the next day he would give the job (for which I had already signed a contract) to someone else. I had already missed the deadline by the time I checked my e-mail, so I was quite upset. Fortunately, he had not yet hired anyone else. The principal tried to play it very cool, telling me he would have to let me know after he interviewed some other candidates the next day, but in reality the school was very much in need of teachers, and one teacher got hired only days before the start of the school year.).

My mom was upset because she worries about us when we will be traveling. She is also upset and angered by the anti-Muslim hate comments she has seen online. I think she worries about us when she sees such things.

I mentioned it to my husband later in the day. He seemed almost defensive, as if people were accusing him of being a terrorist. For all I know they do. He came here, the first time, the same year as September 11th, and, when my dad asked him about it, he said there was a huge difference in America before and after. I never thought about that before what it might have been like for him. I remember reading in a book about the huge number of Muslim boys getting beaten up in school and called terrorists. For some reason I thought this must be getting better, but I don’t know if that’s true. My sister says that that is one of the goals of these terrorists to make life difficult for the Muslims here, so that they are forced out and into their hands. It does make me wonder what my husband faces, and what my children may face.

I think these people are evil, no question. In theory there wouldn’t be anything wrong with an Islamic state. There was one, of some sort, up until the first World War, and in Islam the religion and the state really are not separate.  But if a person’s goal is good, their means to attain it must be good also. Evil is the fruit of evil. I don’t believe there is any room in Islam for a Machiavellian, ends justify the means mentality. In the Bible it says you will know people by their fruits, and there are similar sayings in Islam.

My sister said, how can people say Allahu akbar while they are so blatantly disregarding Allah’s laws and all morality? To harm men, women, and children who did you no harm. Retaliation for a harm is only allowed to the degree you were harmed, and it is better for us if we forgive. When the Prophet (s) saw a woman killed in war, he said, “She was not fighting, why was she killed?” Harming of innocent people is forbidden.

How can these people justify their actions and call themselves Muslims? Perhaps they are munafiqun or the people mentioned in the Quran who think to deceive Allah, but only deceive themselves. The people who make mischief on the earth while claiming they only want to make peace. May Allah protect us from their harm.

 

The Goat

One Eid al-adha, when I was in Bangladesh, our family sacrificed a goat. We kept it in our garden, fed it, patted it, brought it into our house at night, and comforted it when it cried because it was lonely in a new place. Then it went along, happily, willingly, to a place under a tree with my husband and a butcher. They flipped it over. It screamed in surprise, and then the knife was at its throat, and it was gone.

Just like that. It was gone. It went from an animated being with a personality, to no longer being there, to just a carcass.

It made me reflect on death because a human life is no less fragile. We could go just a quickly, and we will when the time Allah has written for us comes. It really makes me think because if you depend on the life of this world, you are deluding yourself. There is no certainty in that. But there is a certainty that we will return to Allah, and we don’t know when that time will be.

The Hat

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Yesterday I took Baby out to the store. About two minutes before we arrived at the store she started crying hysterically. I was really tempted to just pull the car over to the side of the road, but I thought she was sleepy starting out and she’s probably just lost her toy or got her hat down over her eyes, and she will be okay for two minutes. My mom had given her this fleece hat that snaps under the chin. It is a little big on her and can fall down over her eyes if you aren’t careful. When we got into the parking lot, i came around to Baby and found, to my horror, that she had managed to twist the hat around so that the snaps were behind her head instead of under her chin and that the back of the hat was firmly snapped onto her face.

Poor Baby! I wiped her tears and fussed over her. Needless to say, she was alright and was her cheery little self within a minute, but I found it disturbing, and I felt guilty that I hadn’t stopped the car. Thoughts of suffocation hazard flashed through my mind. Mothers trust your instincts when your baby doesn’t sound alright. I think I’ll be sticking to her ordinary black berry knit hat for the time being.

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Prayer for Mothers with Small Children

We took Baby to the masjid again on Friday. I decided to try out the prayer for mothers with small children even though the idea had bothered me last time. I guess it kind of bothered me too, Baby being the only child at the prayer. I think also there is an encouragement in Islam of abiding by the decisions of people put in authority over you.

It turned out to be a small room with a lot of toys and fairly loud playing small children, 12 mothers, and about 20 infants and toddlers. There was a TV fixed to the wall, showing the imam. I’ve seen opinions about watching the jumu’ah on a TV screen that it doesn’t really count as attending the jumu’ah, but I have to admit that this was probably a better environment for me and Baby. We felt more accepted, didn’t have to worry about offending anyone, and overall it was just less overwhelming. The size of the gathering is more what I feel comfortable with as the masjids in this area are just so large!

I still don’t really agree with the ideology behind it, but I did feel it was better for Baby to be with other children, so we will probably go there from now on. I do kind of wonder though whether the rest of the community is depriving themselves of the presence of these children. I wonder whether women were actually asked what they wanted or whether the male leadership just made these decisions. In my childless days I used to enjoy seeing the children in the masjid even if they were a distraction, and when I took Baby to the prayer, there were definitely ladies who enjoyed seeing her. I also wonder what it says for the future of our ummah that the mothers of small children made up such a small group at such a large masjid.