Masked. Blinded. Trapped.

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Raheem

This is my poor attempt to bring it all together with just a few personal reflections inspired by my sisters from afar, living on those beautiful mountain tops - the sisters who walked with me upon the clouds ... barakAllahu feehinna.

There were many times when I asked myself why God allowed me to go there and for what reason He took me there. I've been asking myself that ever since. I know there was something, but perhaps it will be years (should I live that long) before I ever put the pieces together, but this is a start, bi ithniLlah.


It's not easy being a Muslim woman in the West. This is the first time I've said these words to myself. Perhaps only now I am beginning to understand what it entails.

But first, what does it mean to be a Muslim woman? To pray on time five times a day, to pay zakah due on us each year, to fast, to be kind, to raise our children to respect and honour our human existence through life's proprieties and divine guidance, to care for our parents, husband, elders, and community? Absolutely. Is that all? By far, it is certainly not all.

When I think about what it means to be a Muslim woman, I feel at ease. I think about the Muslim women luminaries such as Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, 'Aishah bint Abi Bakr, Zaynab bint Jahsh, Nusaybah bint Ka'ab, and the list continues. I know that I will never manifest their greatness in any sphere of my life, regardless of how hard I may try, but their lives exemplify struggles, emotions, thoughts, actions, words, dedication, intelligence, rigour, spirituality, strength, and humility in what I consider a pure and true Muslim woman, a Muslimah. What I see in them is attainable, even if it is one million degrees below them. Along the same lines, with the same elements, they are us, and we desperately need to try to be like them.

As soon as I put the word Western in front of Muslimah, I feel the hairs on my head turning white. In my eyes, there seems to be no reasonable way for me to attain what is being asked of Muslim women here in the West. Some have done it without breaking, perhaps many have, but I don't know their stories, nor their ways. I can't seem to even set the stage right.

If I want an education, I must not let my guard down as I challenge everything that is being presented to me. If I want to work, I must explain myself to effect changes so my "comfort" (values) can be accommodated. If I want to marry, for some I must have a degree (as if it is any proof of what benefits I could bring to a home or family) or working potential, for others I must be willing to interact with them casually, and for yet others again, I must be willing to concern my actions wholeheartedly around family matters. All of these are among many others of equally confusing varieties. If I want to be a full-time mother, I have to defend my decision and prove its worth.

I don't want the best of both worlds, I want a balance.

I want to be true to the service of my family, as I see in my mother. I want to be true to the service of my community, as I see in my teachers. I want to be true to the cloak of haya, as I saw atop that mountain - and this I find the most difficult. As my friend wept at the threat of maintaining her personal level of haya, I knew that I had no true concept of the word. This was and remains a sad realization for me. But please understand, when I say "haya" I don't mean the niqaab, I mean the reactions of the heart.

Zaid bin Talha reported God's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying, "Modesty and faith are companions, when one of them goes out, the other follows it."

It is also reported that God's Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him and his family) said, "Every religion has a character and the character of Islam is modesty (haya)."
Haya is not a light matter, and it is precisely for this reason that I feel it is my greatest threat and barrier to personal success in times when the world is spiraling quickly in its degeneration. These ideas and thoughts continue to tug at my heart, and yet I don't have the insight or words towards a solution.

I could live on a mountain... I could live in a village... I could live and no strange man need ever see my face, hear my voice, or know my name... I could, but I don't. I am a Canadian Muslimah living in suburbia, and this is where I belong, whether I like it or not. But it is only with the help of my Lord that I will ever have a chance of making it work.

Ya Rab, ya Rabil 'alameen, in our darkness we turn to You for light. In our fears, we turn to you for comfort. In our struggles, we turn to You for support. We depend entirely on You. Teach us, ya Rab, teach us, show us, and guide us to Your way, in the best of ways. May Your peace be upon us and those whom You love, may Your wisdom be near us, may Your greatness humble us, may Your truth guide us, ameen.

Update 2008-07-30:

I neglected to post this earlier. It's a lecture given by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf entitled "Men and Women." I wouldn't post it if I didn't think it worth listening to, so listen to it :).

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

(They're not long... yalla, ifta7hu.)

Update 2008-08-01:

Check this out: "Nun-Jabi" --- It has some serious flava' - Shi style!

Fly my child, fly...

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Raheem

One letter at a time, I carved my name into a tree. Much effort and time, yet it has quickly disappeared. The shavings fall, their destinies veiled. Many indistinguishable now as they are thoroughly mixed with the soil and mulch at the tree's feet down below. A few from amongst them dare to fly with the wind. Far away they venture, their return unknown, surely forbidden.


I carved my name in a tree. It is now dust. Mixed with nature's elements, proof of its existence has vanished. Except for the pain that the tree remembers. Except for the strain that the knife endured. Only the struggle remains.

My every cell is transforming, returning to dust. Soar in the wind I tell them. They fear embracing their new identity. Fly my child, fly. Most fall to the ground by my feet. The wind has scattered the remnants of my existence.

...does my struggle remain?

Mountain Beauties ...cont'd


A continuation...

Quite naturally, the women smiled in amusement at the bride-to-be’s shyness. My other friends, sisters of the bride-to-be, re-entered the room. With a few more light-hearted remarks, the doctor’s mother (the bride-to-be’s mother-in-law-to-be) suggested that my friend wear the fancy dress that was given to her for the occasion. My friend left the room to change and soon returned to her seat on the floor next to me, a lot more shy now than a few minutes earlier.

It was an interesting scene. Mother-in-law-to-be was getting frustrated with the shyness of daughter-in-law-to-be, and daughter-in-law-to-be seemed very much out of her element, with her grinning sisters (one with merciless teasing) looking on. Attention moved away from my friend for a short while. After some time, she was told to wear her ‘abaya again. I didn’t know why.

It wasn’t long after that, with her ‘abaya in hand, that my friend started crying. She crouched down near the edge of the bed as she faced the wall succumbing to her tears. Qumi! Qumi ya Aishah! – Get up! Get up Aishah! the ladies called out. They tried to pull her up, but she didn’t budge. Her tears flowing more profusely now than before.

I didn’t like it one bit. I waited to see how the others would react to her. There was some level of amusement in the air, something I couldn’t appreciate at the time (and I still fail to appreciate). I crouched next to her, put my arm around her shoulders, and told her to not to worry. Behind us, voices sang again, Yalla, qumi! My heart was with her. I turned around to tell the others to leave her alone for a while and to give her some time. I returned my attention to my friend, offering meager words of comfort with my limited knowledge of Arabic. Quli bismiLlah wa la takhaafi habibti..quli bismiLlah. – Say bismiLlah and don’t worry my dear, say bismiLlah. I held her tight, hating that while she was so emotionally distraught, she was being pressured to do something that she clearly wasn’t ready to do.

The bride-to-be’s mother entered the room. After taking a few moments to survey the scene, she asked her daughter to get up and get dressed, her empathy evident in her tone. I stepped away, knowing that a mother has more compassion for her child than I could have for her. I looked on as my friend stood up, put her black ‘abaya over her clothes, and wore her hijab and khimar. She left the room.

I didn’t know what she went to do. My heart was still with her. A little while later, she returned, this time with more composure. I still didn’t understand what it was that made her cry her heart out. Her shyness? I wasn’t sure.

The day after I asked the doctor’s wife why the young lady had cried with as much intensity as she did. She explained that it was normal for most girls given that it’s the first time a strange man sees her. Interesting.

I visited my friend not-too-long afterwards and naturally asked how she was doing. She seemed a lot better, though a little heavy-hearted. She told me that she was distressed that night because she had to meet her father-in-law-to-be, without niqab, and she didn’t want to. She wasn’t married yet, and her father-in-law-to-be had no need to see her face nor shake her hand as he wanted. She said that in her effort to reconcile her heart slightly she shook his hand with the fabric of her khimar between their two hands.

She had every right to feel violated. It is not the right (haq) of a father-in-law-to-be (a non-mahram) to request that of her. She had every right to be upset.


You might be wondering why I’ve related the above story to you. SubhanAllah. I don’t think my narration does justice to the experience, but I hope that insha’Allah I can bring it all together by sharing my reflections with you in my next entry (that’s if I can find my words *ahem*).

Mountain Beauties


We were supposed to leave Sana'a early in the morning, but that didn't happen. We only hit the road at about 9 or 10 am after finishing with breakfast, loading the van with our luggage, and tidying the house. I could have had an extra two hours of much-needed sleep I thought to myself, only to have the better half of my brain counsel me to patience knowing that every successful journey must contain sabr - patience and perseverance.

Eager to begin the road trip, I settled myself in the back seat of the Hillux as four other children aged 8 to 13 took their places beside me, while the youngest of them all, aged 6, sat next to his mother in the front. We started with a du'a, and with mixed enthusiasm the children ran through their travel routine. The eldest of the boys, Muhammad, was the presenter necessitating that he speak into his hands where he held an imaginary microphone as he introduced his siblings who each, in turn, recited a part of the Quran and a hadith. "Wa Farzeen?" asked their mother. They all looked at me. I shook my head "no" -- La shukran.... Heya la tureed. I was a stranger to them, they were strangers to me. I promised myself to never do that which I wasn't comfortable with (a promise that I unfortunately broke on a couple of occasions), and I wasn't comfortable. This ride was the beginning of many more life lessons that I couldn't have imagined would come my way though I had every reason to expect them.

Three days, three cities, many miles, and many more eye-opening experiences and mental readjustments later, I arrived with this family at their humble home in a large village atop a mountain in the outskirts of Ta'iz, a developed city only about a four-hour drive away from the country's capital. It was my learning base for only six weeks, but it was probably the most internally distressful and unclear experience during my stay in Yemen. Perhaps it was fitting preparation for my next stop, Tarim. Whatever it was, I know it wasn't in vain. It was then that I first wished to return to my family after four months of being away from home. It was then when I first broke. It was then that I realized the depth of the blessings that Allah sent my way. It was from then that I had to force myself to look deeper at the person I thought I was and wanted to be. It was then and there that I failed my soul.


"La la la la la, layyyyyyy" ---- the young girl sang around the house as she teased my friend with the traditional wedding sounds that women like to make. My friend was getting engaged, and the festive, high-pitched wedding tongue roll only served to embarrass her more. "La ya Kareema!" she said in a weak attempt to scold the child. It was only an engagement, not a wedding she told her. The child continued. A well-loved young woman of the community was getting engaged to the girl's uncle. She had every reason to rejoice, and a little chastisement wasn't going to stop her easily.

During my travels to the village, I had already met her in-laws-to-be as they are the family of the doctor whose home I lived in and whose family I lived with. As a guest amongst them, I was the only non-family member present that night. I accompanied the doctor's entire family into town as we picked up boxes of hilwa, a gold ring, and a gold watch - traditional gifts for the bride-to-be. I had no idea that the many boxes that were loaded into the van contained hilwa (sweets), and I offered to help by carrying a box to my friend's house. I was warned that it was heavy, the truth of which I realized when I lifted the box nearest to me which then encouraged me to question the boxes' contents. Ma hatha?? Zhahab? -- What's this? Gold? Met by a hearty chuckle I was told it was hilwa, enough hilwa to give to many of the neighbours in the village and surrounding area.

What I witnessed that night I still carry with me. The groom-to-be was going to see the face of his bride-to-be for the first time. For my friend, it was a nerve-wracking experience as no non-mahram (relative) male had seen her face after her childhood. She asked me to sit next to her as her sisters left the room, leaving only the doctor's wife, mother, daughter, and myself in the room with her. With the exception of my friend, we all put on our niqaabs and waited for her father to enter with his son-in-law-to-be. My friend huddled closer to me, clutching my hand. The young man entered, his gaze lowered. He sat on the bed directly in front of us for no more than a few seconds, looked up at her quickly, said "masha'Allah," and stood again to leave. As soon as he was out of sight, my friend hid her face in her hands as she rested her head on my shoulder. I smiled to myself and probably outright too. The whole experience was really a beautiful sight from my perspective. I embraced her and offered words of comfort. But that was only the beginning.

What followed was quite confusing and distressing for me at the time, but I sought some clarification about it afterwards. Now it continues to inspire me to question myself, as I am counted as one of today's young Muslim women in the West. be continued, insha'Allah!

Visiting The Blessed

BismiLlahir Rahmanir Raheem

AlhamduliLlahi Rabil 'alameen was-salaatu was-salaamu 'ala Al Habib, Al Mustafa, Sayyidina Muhammad, Imam Al Mursaleen

The rhythm of the drums fill my ears, it moves my soul taking me back to a place that now owns a special place deep in my heart -- Al Yemen, Al Habibah. Her hospitality remains with me, her generosity humbles me, and the memory of her beauty makes me smile.

Words of the heart are often difficult to articulate. I've struggled endlessly to find the words to share one of the sweetest moments of my life. I cannot count the amount of times I've typed the basmala only to have no words follow. How can I ever attempt to describe something so sweet, so ... ya Rabb. It was a dream come true. By the permission of my Lord, it was a dream come true. I'm ever-grateful for it, glory be to God. I thank Him, the Only One deserving of praise, for all that He has bestowed on me, He who made a desire of my heart a reality.


The wind was howling, and I roused from my sleep to pull the top layer of my sleeping bag securely over me again. My eyes opened for a moment, and I smiled as I recalled where I lay. The moon adorned all her jewels pleasing the night sky, her light touching and illuminating the peaks of the surrounding mountains. The stars twinkled back at me, and I closed my eyes again. With my heart at peace, I fell back into a light slumber.

It must have been about an hour and a half later when I woke again. I pulled out my cell phone which I kept tucked close to me under the edge of my pillow and checked the time. Ah, 3:15 am, it was time for qiyamul layl. I looked to the moon again, smiled, and rose. My flashlight wasn't with me that night as I lent it to one of my housemates the evening before and she hadn't yet returned it. I would have to tread slowly to find my way. I found my shoes, and carefully made my way around my sleeping companions to the stairs leading from the roof that we slept on to the second floor. I entered the house and saw a faint light somewhere that made the path manageable. The electricity must have come back on during some part of the night or maybe the generator was running again. There were a few of my housemates awake, but today I was amongst the earlier ones which worked to my advantage in terms of getting access to water for wudhu. I safely made my way down both sets of concrete, dust-covered stairs and saw a couple of girls filling buckets with water to use in the bathrooms or to use for wudhu. We had no running water in the house and all 150 of us depended on buckets of water for cleansing.

I continued walking until I reached the front door of the house. Much to my surprise and good pleasure, sitting in the dusty entry way, lit by the moon's brilliance, was a barrel of water unattended. I quickly made my way to it, washed up, and made wudhu in preparation for prayer.

I returned to the roof again, prayed two raka'as of tahajjud, and sat facing the qibla as I began reading the pre-fajr awrad (litanies of dhikr) from my copy of the Khulasa. This was the practice of all those in Tarim and the surrounding areas. The Khulasa is a book that contains the awrad from morning to evening, and is as essential in the hand (if not in the heart) as the blood that flows within us. I couldn't imagine a Tarimi without it, thus my participation in the society naturally meant the same for me. As one British sister said to me shortly before my departure, "If you want to take something of Tarim back to your family and friends, take the Khulasa."

With the help of the moon's radiance, I read through the pre-Fajr awrad, trying my best to let its reading go deeper than my tongue, reminding myself that I was somewhere special. It was a blessing to be there, and I didn't want to take it for granted. I wasn't sure how to make the most of my opportunity there, but I tried. Just as I finished and wondered how much time remained before Fajr, the rest of my housemates were rising. I realized then that I had woken up much too early for qiyam ul layl, and my completion of the awrad marked the usual time for waking. I decided to make the most of my time and walked to the edge of the roof, surrounded by a wall, and gazed at one of the most heart-moving scenes my eyes have ever met. It was the dome (quba) that covered the resting place of a beloved Prophet of God, Nabi Allah Hud ('alayhis salaam) - Prophet Hud (peace be upon him). The moon illuminated the dome and its surrounding area, and tranquility filled the air. It was heavenly.

It was more amazing than I could have imagined. No doubt, a blessing. I stood on the roof of a house that was half way up a mountain, glowing in the moon's radiance, and I overlooked the place where a Prophet lay. It is said that where one Prophet is buried, the others are present. The outward intention of this journey is to visit Prophet Hud 'alayhis salaam and the inward intention is to visit Prophet Muhammad salla Allahu 'alayhi wa salam.

The houses surrounding the mountain were empty. Apart from the house I inhabited, the village was vacant. A full moon, breathtaking mountains, and a blessed land. Pure bliss. Peace at its best.

Thank You Allah. Ya Rabbi, usalukal hidaya. Ihdinas siratal mustaqeem, ameen.


I wanted to continue describing the tarteeb (schedule) of the visit to Nabi Allah Hud 'alayhis salaam, but my words have run dry. There is actually a video (produced by Guidance Media, Allahu uwafiqquhum, ameen) that does a far better job than my incoherent words could ever do. It brings me to tears every time I watch it, but it also fills my heart with immense joy. I love that place. I used to watch this video before I had any 'chance' of going to Yemen. SubhanAllah. It means so much more to me now. I hope you can all share in the beauty of it too. As well, here are some pictures that I took while there. Perhaps one of these days, by the permission of my Lord, I'll be able to describe them to you. If not, I hope you meet someone far more competent than myself to tell you more about it.

Enjoy the video and pray for our shuyukh, for the students of knowledge who will one day be our teachers insha'Allah, and pray for our ummah.

Rajab has arrived. It is well past time to get into gear to meet Ramadhan, insha'Allah! May Allah make us among those who are honoured to meet Ramadhan this year. May He forgive our sins and accept our good works, those which we are only able to carry out by His permission, ameen!

Part 1 - Part 2
The Thousand Year Journey

"Do you think that you will enter the Paradise without such (trials) as came to those who passed away before you? They encountered suffering and adversity and were so shaken in spirit that even the Apostle and those of faith who were with him cried: 'When (will come) the help of God?' Ah! Verily the help of God is (always) near!" [2:214]



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"Be mindful of God, and God will protect you. Be mindful of God, and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, ask of God. If you seek help, seek help of God. Know that if the whole world were to gather together to benefit you with anything, it would benefit you only with something that God had already prescribed for you. And if the whole world were to gather together to harm you, it would harm you only with something that God has already prescribed for you. The pens have been lifted and the ink has dried."
--Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]