Connecting to God & Ummah through Poetry this Ramadan

Tanzila Ahmed

Tanzila Ahmed

This Ramadan has been hard, so far. The long summer solstice days and deep heat. The nation charged with racial tensions. The obligatory iftars, the late night taraweeh, the early morning suhoor. The problematic tafsirs with implicit “-isms” that are so triggering. The thirst, the faltering, the not knowing if your piety is enough or how come the piety isn’t feeling more.

It is in this time of chaos and reflection that I choose to write. It’s the only way I know how to calm my mind, to focus my feelings. I know that if I can commit myself to writing one poem every day, that in those words I find healing energy, time to reflect, and a connection with Allah. It is for this reason that every Ramadan I challenge myself to writing a poem daily.

This year marks the second year I’ve hosted an online Poetry a Day for Ramadan virtual writing group. With close to fifty members, the only rule for poets is they must commit to writing daily. They can share if they want to. Just write. Make art.

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Advice: Letting go of my ex

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Ed note: Our dear columnists, Miss Sunshine & Shy Desi Boy, are back! Send them your sex, love & relationship questions to advice@loveinshallah.com. And check out our archives to read their previous columns.

Dear Miss Sunshine & Shy Desi Boy,

I am a 27 year old girl, ‘happily married’ with 2 children. I am a prominent Islamic speaker’s daughter. I wear hijab and strive to be a good Muslim. In college, I fell hard for a Non-Muslim guy. We talked for a couple of years, and eventually hooked up a couple of times. With him, when in private, I would remove my hijab. I did not lose my virginity to him (I wanted to share this with my husband); we shared a couple nights together, and those were the best nights I have ever had. To this day, I still think of those amazing nights. 

I know from some Facebook stalking that he is ‘happily married’ as well and his 2 children are born within days of mine. In my college days, I felt like I was a different person. I was tired of ‘being good.’ I was sick of the expectations Islam placed on me. I wanted to rebel. I was also in love with this guy. And he was in love with me too. Love makes you do some crazy things.

However, due to religious issues and general compatibility, we broke it off. He would not convert or change his ways, and I knew I needed to settle down with a Muslim man; I have prayed for guidance since then, and am much more settled now in my religion.

There are days in which I wallow. I am ‘happily married’ in that I love my spouse. I have never told my husband nor my best friends about me & my ex hooking up: I do not want my hubby to judge me or think that I am not his first. I do not want to expose my faults, and want to keep these sins a secret, and pray that Allah forgives me. I know I am my hubby’s first.

I am writing to ask, how do I efficiently move on and not think about my ex? There are months in which I am fine, and other days in which I feel like someone has punched me in the gut, days in which I am sore, days in which I miss the way my ex used to kiss me, the way my ex and me used to laugh together. Am I normal to still think of him from time to time? I feel like a horrible person in that Allah has given me so much, and yet there are days in which I eagerly yearn for the past.I also feel horribly guilty in that if someone were to look at me, they automatically think I am a ‘good’ person, a daughter of an Islamic speaker, and a good Muslim wife & mom. But deep down inside, I have deep, dark secrets.

I need help to move on.

Sincerely,
Preacher’s Daughter

Miss Sunshine replies:

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Why I’m Not Fasting This Ramadan

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Today on Beacon Press’s blog, Beacon Broadside, Love InshAllah editor Nura Maznavi writes about why she’s not fasting this Ramadan:

[Ramadan] meant community when I moved away from home. During my seven years living in San Francisco, dozens of friends would cram into my tiny studio apartment to break fast, all of us away from our families. When I moved to Chicago as a new bride, I met most of my closest friends here during my first Ramadan. We were invited to an iftar almost every night, with people we’d only just met welcoming us newlyweds into their homes.

Over the years, I never missed a day of fasting, except for the few days each Ramadan I was on my period. (And even then, I pretended to fast, because I didn’t want everyone to know I was on my period.)

Then, last year, for the first time in almost thirty years, I didn’t fast.

Read more, here.


Smash the Monolith

Love, InshAllah & Salaam, Love editor Nura Maznavi recently gave a TEDx talk at the University of Chicago’s TEDx conference “The Incredible Unknown.” Nura talks about smashing the monolithic perception of Muslim women by sharing stories of something that transcends all boundaries: love.


The Yellow Glowing Dot Near Dubai

Zahra Noorbakhsh

Zahra Noorbakhsh

Eds. Note: In last month’s column, Zahra thought she was going home to Iran to an extended family she hadn’t seen in 20 years. At the last minute, she had to cancel her trip there and rerouted to Dubai instead.

At 80 degrees and 80 percent humidity, it’s a cool night in Dubai. I’ve stopped wondering about the male gaze that rules the city, because I can’t stop staring at everyone and everything around me. So far today my infidel husband and I have been skiing, kissed a penguin, and bobsledded down a snowy mountain at the downtown mall’s negative-five-degrees, indoor ski resort. Yesterday, outside the Burj Khalifa, my husband, mom, dad and I listened to the adhan fade away as the jet streams of the Dancing Fountain burst into the air, choreographed to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

I have no idea who to be or how to behave in Dubai. Every moment feels like a collection of contradictions. Am I an American tourist, a Feminist taking careful notes, a horrified human rights activist, or will I come to discover an entirely new persona to add to the plethora of identities I’m already trying to integrate?

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This is a Love Story

Nijla Mu'min

Nijla Mu’min

I was an avid reader growing up. I read everything, even books that weren’t meant for children. Mama by Terry Mcmillan was one of my first novels. I recall reading a novel entitled Hand-me-down Heartache by Tajuana TJ Butler. It was about a woman named Nina who is in a relationship with an attractive, unfaithful basketball player and her unwillingness to leave the relationship. Having witnessed her father’s unfaithfulness to her mother growing up, she has come to accept his behavior, though it’s painful.

There’s a scene where Nina stakes out in front of her boyfriend’s home, bangs on his door, distraught and angry, while he’s inside with another woman. As a young girl, I read this with fresh eyes for the denial and hysteria that Nina was experiencing. The scene was vivid, and so keenly observed that I felt Nina’s embarrassment, especially when he emerges from his home and tells her to leave him alone. I wanted to scream through the page to Nina, and tell her to forget him, but something in me felt for her. I entered the scene fully, imagining the quick beat of Nina’s heart, her wet, mascara-streaked eyes, and the neighbors outside watching as she fell apart.

How do we get there? From young women, reading about love and feeling it in our imaginations, to fighting for it, and refusing to accept that it was never there?

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Written in the Stars: Author Interview with Aisha Saeed

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In Love, Inshallah, Aisha Saeed eloquently introduced readers to her traditional, Pakistani match-made love story. When she met her future husband, Aisha already knew that she wanted to write about a story different than her own – a fictional account of Naila, a young Pakistani-American girl, who is forced into marriage.

Aisha fully explores Naila’s journey in her first young-adult novel, Written in the Stars, released in March 2015 from Penguin Nancy Paulsen books.  Publishers Weekly says the book “…movingly conveys the intense cultural pressure that motivates Naila’s parents and the heartbreaking betrayal Naila feels as she is deprived of her rights, cut off from the outside world, and threatened with shame and death.”

Deonna Kelli Sayed speaks with Aisha about how she met her husband, the initial trepidation dealing with an often cliched subject matter, and her involvement with We Need Diverse Books.  Listen to the interview after the jump!
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