Turn to Your Friends

huda

Sanem and I took turns crossing the street to each other’s townhomes for afternoon tea, at least once a week, for seven years. In our nearly identical kitchens, we put out similar spreads, a smaller tea pot steamed above a larger tea pot, honey-colored tea served in little glass cups, warm bread, an assortment of cheeses and jams, and cookies for our kids. Sanem was from Turkey, my family was from Iraq, and our tea rituals mirrored one another. While our children played in the upstairs bedrooms, Sanem and I talked about our faith, our families and their impending visits. We discussed decisions we were trying to make, from furniture pieces and home improvements to clothing purchases and afterschool activities for our kids. We got through illnesses, births, and deaths in both our families. Some evenings we simply helped each other cook dinner, but our visits together always left us feel better about our days. On those afternoons, when our husbands came home from work, we weren’t bottles of pent-up emotion, ready to pop. We’d already poured some of our thoughts and frustrations onto each other.

Last year my family and I moved out of state for my husband’s work. Sanem helped me decide what furniture, clothes, and kitchenware to give away, what to bring. She brought us dinner after a long day of packing and breakfast the following morning. She was there when our moving van left, but she couldn’t bear to watch my minivan pull away.

In our new life in a new place, the afternoons stretched in front of me, a wasteland of lonely. I’d pick up my children from school, make them a snack, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was waiting someone to arrive, waiting for the company of a friend. The waiting made me itchy with restlessness, but there was no time to share these feelings with my husband when he came home from work. These were our family’s busiest hours, dinner, homework help, and bedtime. At the end of the night, my husband did his best to sympathize, but he could not offer me the same comforts, time spent over a warm cup of tea, the validation that comes with hearing another person say, ‘It’s the same for me, too.’

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Memoirs of the Beautiful Widow

And just like that, I remember it all.

At the age of 25, after 6.5 years of marriage, my best friend died with my hand in his. Cancer transported his vitality too quickly into a realm better than life, facilitated by a roomful of angels whose countenances I couldn’t see, but whose warm wings and nur soothed my sore, bloodshot eyes.

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He used to call me his “heat seeker,” borrowed from a Talib Kweli Reflection Eternal verse. Ha! Funny. I was anemic, occasionally. I’m cooler blooded anyways, it’s in my chi. When we slept together I hated wearing socks, but my toes were always cold. From my side of the bed I placed my feet on his back for as long as it took for my toes to became warm. He (almost) never minded. He always shared his warmth, his love radiating from within.
 
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Unmosqued

Photo credit: Les Talusan, lestalusanphoto.com

Photo credit: Les Talusan, lestalusanphoto.com

Poetry as dhikr.

- Warsan Shire

This past Ramadan I threw myself head over heels into poetry.

I struggled this Ramadan, with my health, with my temper, with my solitude. But the one thing that kept me grounded as I moved forward with the month was words. Writing isn’t just a form of expression – writing is how I process my spirituality, it is how I calm my chaotic thoughts, it is my way of connecting not just with other people, but with myself.

I challenged myself to writing a poem a day during Ramadan, and invited friends to join me. I created a secret online group where the only rules were that you had to introduce yourself and you had to create something daily, though sharing wasn’t compulsory. Though most people identified as Muslim, it wasn’t mandatory. Within a couple of days my group of five had turned into fifty, as friends invited friends and the connections spread. I was amazed. What had been intended as a small project for a few friends had turned into an online community space of Ramadan connection and poetic love.

When Ramadan began, the poems flowed easily, simply. They were short pieces about hunger or cravings. But as the assault on Gaza began in the first week of Ramadan, the poems began to take a turn. They became emotive and intense. People who had been hesitant to share poems out of shyness began sharing poems because they couldn’t keep silent when atrocities in the world were happening. How can you stay silent when kids are dying?
 
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A prayer is a lonely call

Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month! Today’s feature is our first short story.

Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah MontageComing of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MuslimYouthRising features.InstagramCapture_85d812f9-c92a-4829-9ac2-c2b37e7ae141_jpg[1]

I used to write poetry. Don’t worry, I am better now.

During those days of angst, my life consisted of Tumblr posts, Instagram, little pastel graphics I’d make that were nothing really (but got quite a few likes), quirky romance movies with oddball characters, and guilty pictures of actors on my iPod touch that I begged my parents to buy for me. And of course, poetry. My secret was Pablo Neruda:

I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,

in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

Ah, how my heart flutters. Of course, when I read my own poetry now, it is not a pleasant experience for my heart, or my ego. But back then, poetry was my one weapon against the world. And the world, looming large, was my mom.

 

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Sex & the Ummah

Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month! Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah MontageComing of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MuslimYouthRising features.

Nashwa

I.

T E N

I’m about ten-years-old, and have an unwavering love for books. I devour the Harry Potter series, The Magic Treehouse, and tons of chapter books. We can’t afford them and can’t justify purchasing them, so my mom drives my sister and me to the public library every week, where I get to use a computer and roam the bookshelves for hours.

Once I’ve read all the books for my age group, I become adventurous. I wander through the aisles and find a book out of place. It intrigues me. When I open it, there it is a magnified black-and-white image of sperm that was taken under a microscope. I shut the book immediately. Now I have the image of swimming sperm seared into my memory.

I slump back to my mother. I feel guilty, but unsure of why I feel guilty. I confess to her that I opened a scientific book and it had a photo of sperm. My mom does not flinch, but neither does she seem to know how to handle it. We walk out, my basket empty of books, my shoulders burdened with guilt, my heart heavy. I felt awkward but cannot find the source of my discomfort.

This is my sex education, for now.

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Food & Consciousness

Food, Love & Memories is a bimonthly column devoted to the evocative connections between the heart, food & soul. We invite you to share your story+recipe for future columns. More details here.

FLM

From gelato at Giolitti, kimchi at Sanchon, to kebop at Kara Mehmet Kebap Salonu, my vacation plans would inevitably start and end with at least half a dozen must-have comestibles. I am an amateur food aficionado; I write about food, take pictures of food, talk about food, and dream about food. Until recently, driving 80 miles from my apartment in Silicon Valley to Napa for an extra-large pistachio macaron at Bouchon seemed perfectly reasonable.

My tendency towards “foodieness” made sense, after all, I was raised by my parents to value food. In fact, my mother went to great lengths to teach me that wasting food, even a single grain of rice, was unacceptable. Both of my parents’ families had lost everything when the Burmese government seized the properties, investments, and businesses of “foreign” investors in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Their lives were turned upside down, and food, amongst other things, became a scarce resource. Their stories stuck with me and, as I got older, I made a conscious effort to avoid wasteful habits.

Over the last few years, this basic level of consciousness has evolved further. As I watched innocent civilians robbed of their families, homes, and food in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Burma, Sudan, and, most recently Palestine, my high-brow foodie preferences increasingly seemed obnoxious.

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How He Made Me Fall In Love With Him

Eds. Note: We’re featuring the stories and perspectives of Muslim youth between the ages of 18-25 this month! Tune in on Twitter to join the #MYRising conversations and check out our sister sites Muslimah MontageComing of Faith and Muslim ARC for more #MuslimYouthRising features.saajida-1

When I was in high school, my English teacher encouraged us to look at literary works with a critical eye. She told us to dissect works of literature in order to grasp their true meaning. Every detail contributed to a broader idea, we were taught. The curtains in the main character’s bedroom were not a dark shade of purple for no reason. Everything was strategically placed for a greater purpose, a message to the readers. After using this technique for most of my high school career, I began analyzing the events and milestones of my life in the same way.

It was September 2nd, 2002. I constantly fixed my shirt due to the heat that day. It was a green T-shirt with the word REBEL bedazzled on the front. I wore that shirt with pride, especially considering how few fashionable options there were for plus-sized ten-year-old girls like myself at the time, and the fact that it was on clearance at JC Penny, I felt pretty darn awesome.

I also remember that it was extremely humid in the classroom, but not nearly as bad as the hot weather they made us wait in outside on the blacktop of the playground. This didn’t bother me much because this would be my last year in elementary school. Next year, I thought to myself with a smug smile, I would be in sixth grade and would get my own locker, not this metal desk with a flimsy, laminated nametag on it.

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