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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Muslim Girls Read! New line of T-shirts

New Line of Tees from Author Umm Juwayriyah! Pre order sales opening up next week, enshallah! Grab one for your daughter, sister, or friends and join our campaign: Muslim Girls Read!


$13 free shipping 

Sizes (youth): small, medium, large. 

Enshallah, more sizes will be available soon!





 Email ummjuwayriyah at gmail dot com to pre-order and help us raise funds for new books to be published!

PS. pls. make dua that the shirts are successful and a reminder to all of our banat!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Short Story #1: Tried & Tested (part 5)

"Wa alykum as salam, Imani! You know I didn't come alone. I brought them grandkids and you remember, my son?" she asked me.

"Which one?" I replied but when I cocked my head over to the left and looked out on to the porch, I saw him. He looked clean and fresh as always standing in a blue and black stripped Polo short sleeved shirt, dark blue vintage Lucky jeans paired with black and blue Air Force One's. He was standing next to Mas'ud chatting as he held baby Saba in his arms with comfort. Saba was a sweet baby, but the way she leaned in on his shoulder and had her little chubby hand wrapped around his neck, told me that she knew him really well and trusted him.  His eyes caught my gaze and he dropped his eyes down and turned away. He grabbed his black knitted kufi off his head, shook it out like it some dust or dirt on it, before sliding it back over his neatly cut hair. Then that same stupid smile flushed over his face and he laughed at what ever Mas'ud was telling him. I stepped back away from the door and pulled on the ends of my hijab making sure I was fully covered. Ameera came walking in the room wearing her black abaya and face veil on carrying a tray of glasses and shot me a silly look and said,

"Don't play dumb, honey. You ain't been gone long enough to forget Jibril Ibrahim!"

Why was this man always around me?

"Yeah," Sister Naima chimed in, "Jibril was a bit sweet on you, Iman, when ya'll was younger," she finished.

I just smiled and walked away from the conversation as politely as I could. I couldn't believe my ears. Why on earth would sister Naima think I was ready to talk to her or anyone else about marriage? Muslims were so quick to rush into marriage these days like it was the world's best answer for every ill. Maybe if I was 16 again, I'd blush, make sajdah, and scribble his name in my secret diary. I'm not 16 though. I am 31. I'd seen too much. Knew too way much too. Marriage wasn't a fix.

"So what brought you by our neck of the woods?" I asked her as I sat down and picked up her grandson,  and sat him in my lap and kissed his baby cheeks.

"Well now," she huffed and grimaced as she closed our front door and then came shuffling her feet into the living room and plopped down next to me.  I had a feeling it wasn't going to be good. "Your Umm called me over 
'cause she worried 'bout you and Ameera," she told me. No sooner did the name slip out of her mouth did Ameera pop her head in from the kitchen with a confused look spread across her face that said what she had already told me and everybody,

"Yeah, chile, I said Ameera too. You might as well come on in here and sit down," sister Naima told her.

Ameera whipped her whole head around and looked back in the kitchen at Ummi and this time I laughed! I knew Ummi probably didn't even offer Ameera any eye contact. She was in there cooking and humming and playing with her grand children like she didn't know anything about sister Naima coming over.

"I don't know what this is about sister Naima. Did I do something to you that I don't know about?" Ameera asked as she took a seat in the old Lazy Boy by the door.

"You ain't did nothing to me, Ameera. Worse. You doing something to your ownself," sister Naima told her.

"Like what?" Ameera asked her boldly with a bit more attitude than I was comfortable with her dishing out to our elder.

"Lift up your niqab when you speak to me, little sis!" she Naima instructed.

"I ..I..I got stuff, the flour and stuff all over me. I need to-"

"You need to cut out all those stories, Ameera and fear Allah. How many times you think you got to roll up in your Umm's house looking like you done been in a battle? She tired of your mess. Your brothers are tired of the crap. We all done had enough. It ain't fair! How do you think your mother feels with you walking around her house banged up?" sister Naima demanded from her.

"Sister Naima, I...what you want from me? I can't come to my mother's house now? Is that what you're saying? Where am I suppose to go, if I can't come home when I need to?" Ameera said through flowing tears from her eyes.

" Ameera, you know that ain't what I'm saying. This house, this community that you were raised in, we about this deen and Allah. Forbidding the good and enjoining the good, that's part of praising Allah. That's part of the sunnah. Is it not?"

"Yeah,!"

"Then you gonna have to make up your mind what you gonna do about what's going on in your life, baby girl. Fix it or let it go - for the sake of Allah. But you are gonna make a decision one way or another, even if we got to make it for you. 'Cause at the rate things are going, something gonna give, Ameera. I had a mind to send the boys up to Philly and get that piece of a man that you calling a husband. But your mother wouldn't let me. She's a better Muslim than me this time. But I'm warning you sis, that husband of your's ain't got no more chances left in my book. Mas'ud and my boys been ready to go see him 'cause some folks got to get sense knocked into them."

"So now you telling me that Ummi wants me to leave my husband? That ain't cool, sister Naima. I got children---"

"Them children been watching you get knocked around, Ameera. Are you being just with them? That's right, you got children and they need their mother to protect them. They need they family and community to protect them. Them children got rights over all of us. You ever see your father bust up your Umm's face?" sis Naima asked Ameera.

"No."

"Well then, how you thinking your children deserve less than you?"

"They don't. I don't want all of that for them. But ---"

"But you need help! And ain't nothing wrong with that. You don't think I ain't never called on your Umm to come help me? I been you, little sis! Been that sister fussing and fighting with my children's father at night and rolling through the streets like the Muslima of the year during the day. Playing like I had it together, praying Allah didn't take my life during the wars I allowing myself to be dragged into. You got to make a step for you, to Allah. He's there, ain't He Iman?" she turned around and asked me. I couldn't even speak. The tears were caught so far down in my throat, I couldn't I was afraid to let any new air. I just nodded at her.

"You know, I'mma tell ya'll my story. Once upon a time, I called myself falling in love and running away with this knight. I met this man with a beautiful face, smooth, deep Barry White voice. He dressed funny and had a
funny name. But all he talked about was Allah. I was raised Baptist, but I couldn't get the stuff he was telling me out of my head. He had such an amazing life I thought you know because in the '70's it was about Black folk knowing who they were. Reclaiming our true selves. I didn't mean to hurt my family. But man, I left as soon as could for the cause. Got married and became a Muslim. It wasn't until way after I had my third baby that that strong Muslim man started messing with drugs and alcohol. We lost our first home that he had worked so hard and long to get for us. I had to go crawling back to my parents for help. I was angry and mad, and embarrassed. Allah had brought me right back where I had ran from. But I wasn't the same. I'd learned a whole lot about life and its purpose and who Allah was. I'd been given something beautiful and special called Islam. My Mama wouldn't let me start no pitty party in her house. She told me to get up and take care of myself and my kids. She told me that if I believed in the way I was on then I needed to be who was meant to be; married or single.

"I got up and prayed tahujjud that night and asked Allah to make a way for me and my children and it came. It came, you here. Never went back to my first husband. Ever."


"The religion is advice." We said:  To whom? The Prophet (saaws) said: "To Allah and His book, and His Messenger, and to the leaders of the Muslims and their common folk." (Muslim)

It wasn't until after sister Naima left, after we cleaned up the dishes and the kitchen, prayed salatul isha and played with the kids and then put them all to bed did Ummi say a word to Ameera or me. The whole night I could feel her angst and I actually saw her I think for the first time since I'd been back as more than my mother. She'd been through so much her whole life and her face, with skin looser than it's ever been, much duller than it had ever been, hid bones much weaker than they ever been. Old age and heart break and weariness was painted on her body and I'd knew some of those colors came from my own brush with selfishness and despair. Ummi...

"Ummi?" I called out to her from the kitchen where I sat alone drinking a cup of lemon ginger tea. I had a feeling she was getting ready to go to bed.

"Yeah, Iman? You all right?" she asked peeping her head into the kitchen.

"Yeah, I'm all right. Are you?"

"Yeah. Why you asking me questions this late a night. I've got to go get in the bed."

"I just...I just want to know that you can talk to me too. I won't break, enshallah."

"I know that, Iman. I carried you for nine months and birthed you. Have a good night and get some rest. Stop thinking all the dag on time. 'Salamu alykum."

"Wa alykum as salam."

Stop thinking? I wasn't sure how to do that. Yet. Most nights when I closed my eyes, I saw things that I couldn't - wouldn't repeat. His name still made me nervous. The sound of his voice still felt commanding. It was like being caught in prison. My own mental prison. But, maybe it was time to break free once and for all.

The next morning I stayed up as usual with Hasan, Imran, and Munir after the Morning prayer. We made French toast, eggs, and beef sausages for the family. Then at eight in the morning, I took the boys out to the park to run around.  As I sat on a bench watching the boys toss their football back and forth, my cellphone began to ring.

"Hello?"

"Hi. May I speak Miss. Johnson?" a female voice requested.

"This is Miss Johnson. How may I help you?

"Miss. Johnson this is Sandy Parks from Hilltop Community Health Clinics HR department. I have your
application for the registered nurse position and I would like to schedule an interview with you. Are you available tomorrow around ten a.m.?"

"Yes, that would perfect."

"Great. So you have our address already?"

"Yes, I do."

"Perfect. So I am located on the second floor in suite D. Just let the receptionist know that you are here to see me. Please bring your license, resume and at least three business references. Okay?"

"Oh, um, sure. Thanks."

"Thank-you and see you tomorrow, Miss Johnson."

I clicked the end button on my smart phone and threw it in my Coach clutch bag feeling troubled. Business references? Who was I going to get to act as references for me in Pittsburgh? Everyone one I knew here were my relatives. It just always had to be something or another going on with me. I no longer felt like being outside, smiling, or having a good time.

"C'mon ya'll. Let's get on back home,"  I called out to the boys as I got up off the bench. The littlest one came running over to me first and jumped into my arms. I couldn't help but smile at him. "Did you have a good time playing, Imran?" I asked.

"Yeah, aunty. It is so fun here. I wish Ummi would let us stay here forever."

"You don't want to go back to Philly? I thought you guys told me that Philly had so many great places and things to do?"

"It does," Imran said then dropped his head away from my sight. "But ...it's not good. Abu is not nice there. He acts nicer here."

"Okay, baby. Well, enshallah, we are gonna make sure your Abu is nice where he is. Hasaaaan, get over here, now!" I yelled back over to the field.  Hasan and Munir ran over to me while tossing the football back and forth. The were panting, sweating, and musty by the time that they reached me and it made me laugh out loud like Ameera would have. "Phew! It is definitely time to get home. You little guys need a shower,"

"You saying we funky, Aunt Iman?" Hasan asked me.

"Yes, I am," I told him laughing. I felt better. My nephews were such a blessing even in the fog of my mind, they shined through. Love shined through. "How about we stop by the store and get you guys some juice before we walk back home?"

"Juice and Doritos, too?" Little Imran asked as we started walking out of the park.

"Now, I didn't saying anything about Doritos. We have fruit at the house. That's better for your body than chips. Too much salt."

"Aunty," Munir said. "Are you one of those vita-tarians or something?"

"Vita-tarian? Do you mean vegetarian?" I asked him laughing.

"Yeah, that too. You them weirdos that only eat grass, ants, and water!"

"No. I am not a vegetarian, Munir. But vegetarians don't eat ants and they're not weirdos. Just because some likes something you don't doesn't make them weird. Just different, okay?"

"It is weird. My Abu said that Muslims are supposed to eat meat cause that was the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad sallallahu alyhi wa sallam. So if you don't eat meat and stuff that makes you weird, right?"

"No, it doesn't make you weird, Munir. People have different needs and views. Some people can't eat meat because of health issues and some people choose not to eat it for health reasons as well. Eating meat isn't mandatory, Munir."

"My Abu said it was and he knows more about Islam than you," Munir said matter of factly. I didn't really
know how to respond to him. His father probably did know more about Islam than me in a black and white, there is only one way to understand everything type of way. I didn't want to disrespect his father, especially not in front of little Imran who are already had some conflicting views of his dad. But before I could find a quick retort Hasan had.

"Yo, Munir, you need to watch how you talk to Aunty. She's our elder, right?"

"Yeah, but," Munir responded.

"Yeah, nothing! You ain't even listen to what she said. You just trying to back talk her. She said not to call people weirdos.If you know like I know, you betta quit before Jedda or Uncle Mas'ud pop your fresh butt when we get back. Just chill out, yo! We ain't getting no Doritos. Dag!" Hasan said reprimanding him and handling the situation better than I ever could of.

When we got to the convenience store on the corner of our street, the boys rushed inside. I reminded them
again only to pick out 100% juice. I stood at the counter waiting on them and watching the door. For some reasons, I still always felt like I had to watch my back.  Yasmeen was so true, I really had no idea what Mateo was feeling. He could retaliate against me any time. Then what was I going to do?

"Imania Colon? Is that you?" a low, deep, male voice called. Before I could look up the sound of his laughter: that same annoying cackle that made his pop belly heave up and down like he needed to vomit let me know exactly who he was. He came out of the aisle wearing a black and white LRG raglan tee, black cargo jeans, black leather flip flops, and a white kufi holding the hand of Imran in his right hand and and large grab bag of ranch Doritos in his left hand. The two other boys were right behind them.

"As salamu alaykum, sis. You didn't hear me calling you back there?"

"Wa alykum as salaam," I replied to Jibril and then turned away from him and addressed my nephews. "Now, ya'll already heard me tell you not to get any chips. Hasan, go take back the chips, please."

"Oh, nah, I told them I would spot them the contraband. If that's cool with you, Iman?"

"No, it's not cool, Jibril. They will not be getting any chips today and that is really final," I told him. He turned around to faced the boys and screwed up his face and made them laugh.

"No problem. I got ya'll next time, enshallah. Take the chips back, Hasan," Jibril grabbed the juices from the boys and started walking up to the counter as Hasan ran back to return the chips. I saw Munir suck his teeth out of the corner of my eye, but I let it go. What was more pressing was that I really hated that Jibril assumed that I needed help with them. I grabbed Imran's hand from him and pulled him to the other side of the counter.

"Look, Jibril, I got the juices. I don't need you to pay  for them. All right?

"Chill, sis. I'm good," he said as he handed the female cashier a ten dollar bill, bagged the bottles and then handed his change.  Then picked up Imran and walked out of the store. Munir and Hasan followed him out of the store and they just left me standing there looking stupid. I was hot. Then I came out of the store and they were half way down the street. I didn't run after them. I just took my time walking thinking about what words I use ever so delicately to slice his whole face off of his head.

He stood at the foot of my mother's porch alone leaning on the step with one foot drinking a bottle of Sprite at eleven in the morning like it was normal.

"Where's the boys?" I asked him.

"Oh, they went inside the house. Hasan said you told them they needed to go get washed up."

"Yeah, I did." I said walking up the steps having the courage I had lost a half block up the street to tell him off.

"What's your deal?" he asked me right before I open the screen door?

"Excuse you?"

"No, that ain't it. Your attitude is the issue. You're mean and I wanna know what the deal with it is?" he questioned me.

"Are you serious? I said turning around walking back over to the banister sitting down. "You came in the store and totally disregarded my instructions to the boys, then proceeded to act like you had more authority then me in front of them. And I have the attitude?"

"Iman, sis, I'm not sure you know this but I am not their enemy or yours. I'm a  life long friend of their father and uncle and grandparents. I am their brother in this deen and I love them. I'm invested in the people in that house," he said pointing at the door. "I grew up here on this street with you. I  ain't even capable of disregarding you, sis. Not in this lifetime."

Then there was silence. Silence so full and pregnant it felt heavy. I sat there trying to process what was said to me for what felt like a eternity. Shame, confusion, old memories, Allah, mercy, and trust all swirled around in my mind like pieces of a puzzle I knew I needed to put together. But something was still missing. The board that the pieces belonged to was missing.

"Ay sis, my Umm and some other sisters we grew up with are getting together tonight at the masjid to start planning some of the activities for  Ramadhan. You should go get in there and -"

"Probably not, Jibril. I don't really think that would be the best for me right now."

"Why not? I don't even see you at Jumu'ah. How you going to make new connections and build a base if you keep hiding from people?"

"I am not hiding. I get out and do what I need to do. Plus, you're mother said everyone in the community knows I'm back already. So what I need to show my face to every single Muslim for?"

"It ain't for them, Iman. You need to do it for you. Get over yourself. You ain't the only one going through something or been through something. And we didn't leave, it played out right on Front street. Got beat up, rolled over, played, schemed and dropped. Then we came back to Him to save us. We all the same. We all the same."

"Have you been over to Chester to see Shareef?"

"Yeah, I've seen him."

"How is he?"

"Alhamduleelah, he's in good health, doing his time, looking forward to the future, seeing you and being free to raise his son, enshallah."

"Why is he there?"

"Complicated stuff from the past, mostly."

"I really want to go see him. Me and Ameerah both actually. I need to rent a car, but I don't have any credit or debit cards."

"I think you two should chill and wait for Shareef to get out. He probably got a good three or four months left. That's what I think. But let me run it pass him and see if he's open to you two coming there to see him."

"Why wouldn't he want Ameerah and me to come see him? Especially me. I haven't seen him in almost thirteen years."

"Think about why you haven't come out to Jumu'ah. What's holding you back?"

"Judgement, I think."

"Yeah, you got it right. I'll talk to him though,"

"Jibril, brother Jibril?

 "Yeah? Sister Iman?" he said laughing as he shook his head.

"I need help with references. I have a job interview tomorrow at the health clinic, but I don't have any business references available to use around here or ...from before."

"Okay. That should be an easy fix. I come back by after Maghrib and give them to Mas'ud. Any thing else you need me to do for you, Imania Colon?" Jibril asked and then started cackling again. "I kid you, I really do! Lighten up!"

"You're not funny." I told him as I hopped off the porch's banister and grabbed my bag off the floor. A black, shiny Lincoln town car pulled up in front of my house and stopped. I could see a white man sitting in the front seat looking through a bag. I froze with fear.

"Ya'll expecting someone or something today?" Jibril asked.

"No!"

"Go 'head in the house," he commanded me and I turned quickly and yanked open the screen door and ran
in the house and slammed the front door behind me. Tears began to stream down my face and the pounding of my heart was so hard and loud, it scared me.  Yasmeen and Ameerah rushed over to me and the boys ran down the stairs probably because the door slamming had scared them too.

"What's wrong, Iman? Is everything okay?" Yasmeen, my sister in law, asked me as Ameerah  wiped the tears off of my face.

I couldn't get all the words to form right in my throat. I didn't know anything for sure, but I knew inside of me that the driver of the car was here for me. And if that driver in the car was here for me, it was because Mateo Colon sent him.  I slid down the door and sat on the floor crying. I had been stupid to come back home and put my family, the people who loved me in danger.

"Outside!" I told them.  Ameerah ran to the living room and looked out the window and then came back.

'Jibril is talking to some white guy. He looks like he is law enforcement, Iman. Not some crazy man." Then Hasan ran into the living room and started giving us play by play what he was seeing.

"Uncle Jibril is pointing at his car. He look like he telling him to take his behind back where he came from. Now the man is throwing his hands up like he bought to go in on Uncle Jibril. Oh shoot. The guy walking back to his car now. Uncle Jibril is following him. You think he going to get his gun?"

"No!" Ameerah and Yasmeen said in unison. "Get ya tail out of that window, right now, Hasan!" Yasmeen yelled.

"Uncle Jibril is coming to the door." Hasan told us before he shut the curtain and came running back into the hallway. "Uncle Jibril is at the door!"

Ameerah looked at me and then looked at Yasmeen, before she grabbed her face veil and slowly tied onto her head and secured the pin in her hijab while Jibril was knocking on the door. "Enshallah, it'll be okay, Iman. All right?" she told me before she pulled open the door.

"salamu alykum," Ameerah greeted Jibril.

"Wa alykum as salam. Ameerah, where's Iman?"

"For what?" I heard my little sister ask him.

"That man over there is an officer with legal papers for Iman."

"How do you know he is an officer, Jibril?"

"Cause, I saw his badge, Ameerah. What type of question is that? Tell Iman to come out. I'm standing right here. He's not going to leave until she comes out and gets whatever he has for her."

Ameerah closed the door and flipped up her niqab. "Iman, I think the guy looks legit," she said kneeling down to the floor next to me and Yasmeen. "I'll go out there with you. Let's just get this over for the kids'sake. C'mon," she said pulling me up with all of her strength.

Munir handed me a wet wipe from the baby's diaper bag and gave me a hug. I could tell he was shaken up from seeing me cry. I smiled at him and hugged him back. "You're going to come out with me, Ameerah?"

"Yeah," she said flipping her niqab down again, "let's go."

She opened the door and I took a really deep breath as I grabbed her hand and we walked out the door together. The white man was balding and gray. He wore a green and gray stripped polo with dark black dress slacks with a pair of black dress shoes. He smiled  and began walking up to the porch as soon as he saw Ameerah and me. He climbed the steps and smiled again. Jibril waved his hands at the man as if to explain he was close enough and he nodded his head.

"Mrs. Iman Colon?"

I stepped up a little and nodded my head in shame. I was still married to the monster. "that's me," I said raising my hand.

"You've been served," he said and handed me a legal envelope. "My apologies if I frightened you, Ma'am!

The instructions should be included in the envelop. Have a good day." The process server turned around, walked down the steps and got in his car. He was gone before I opened the envelope. Jibril and Ameerah stood next to me as I read the summons.

I couldn't believe my eyes. The smile pulled my mouth wide and I let out a cackle so sharp, I think I startled myself.

"Who is it from, Iman?" Ameerah asked.

"Mateo!" I said singing his name happily in the first time in years. "He filed for a divorce! Allah is freeing me, Ameerah! Allah is really freeing me!"












Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Moving Past Adversities #6: The Quest to Feel Pretty, Lupita Nyong'o and Why it matters to some Muslims

Bismillah. 


Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: 

“Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty.” [SahÄ«h Muslim (911)] 



   Today Islamic beauty and fashions are hot. There are websites and blogs galore dedicated to keeping Muslimat world wide on top of their of A game, if they want to be. However, not so long ago, like in the ancient 80's and 90's, there weren't a lot places that American Muslim girls and women could go to talk and learn about beauty or Islamic fashion like there are today. 

Those type of pearls of advice were like trade secrets. You had to be invited or given a golden ticket to late night, cast all the men away basement henna parties, engagement parties, Eid parties --- it was always a party though. At these un-facebook'd, un-evite'd, un-instagramed' parties sisters, young and old, revealed themselves in ways that at least 359 days out of the year they were not able to. 

At our secret events, it was all about beauty: the hair, the make-up, the right outfit and
shoes, the henna, and uncut imported oils and bakhoor. It was about affirmation in a lot of ways for our elders that, "they still had "it" - the beauty and style, that most had left behind or hung up away in their closets or basements when they had entered Islam....to be free of that pressure to be pretty.

But, I always wondered why this was the case. Does not every girl - woman desires to feel pretty in some organic way, atleast?


It's not like putting on a hijab, trouser socks, jilbab, abaya, niqab, gloves, and arm sleeves (stop where ever you find yourself on the line of outward modesty) steals all of our pretty as Muslimat! A quick spin of the scroll bar on most social networks today would demonstrate an impressive collection of Muslimat selfies, world wide, in various styles of hijab who boldly embrace pretty. Some Muslimat luxuriate in their hijabs, niqabs, and abayas. 

But for sure in the past and still thriving today in the present, there are those Muslims who are fearful and adamant against pretty. They cite meticulously selected ayaat and ahadeeth that solemnly paints a gray canvas that depicts Muslimat void of pretty, in any context.  And some of us buy into it, grudgingly or voluntarily. We sike ourselves up to believe that by suppressing pretty, we become way better than pretty. We become pious! Yes, that sweet, coveted piety that is grand in the eyes of our family, husbands, Muslim community --- and in us. 

So in attempts to gain a higher pretty (that is often still demonstrated outwardly) some of us cast that other heifer to the side, closet, storage boxes and trunks. 359 days of frumpiness and ho humming the time away. You know until she is needed again: engagement parties ("you know you can't go to a Muslim man without any "pretty" - he'll sideline you and get him another wife!"), Eid parties - ("you know you can't step out with those sisters without any "pretty" - rumors will swirl the night away"), henna parties ("wait, you can't go to a party to get "pretty" without beginning in some "pretty" for them to work with, right?")---  it was always a party though.

That is until we meet someone - Muslim or non Muslim, it really doesn't matter, who wears pretty full-time in a way that isn't high and mighty, vain, or aggressive. It's just there. You see it in their walk, their behavior, their smile - heck, even their energy feels like pretty! And you go home sulking; never receiving or giving pretty unless it is summoned up, not for you --- but for someone else. And that feels sad or lacking, less than maybe.  And that longing creates waves that are so ultrasonic that you are instantly connected to the waves of others longing to release pretty. But  some times we just can't disregard those who have already mastered it as well. 

Like Lupita Nyong'o. There has been such a storm of chatter on this young lady (a Five College Consortium alumna, Hey Massachusetts!) by Muslim women and men  before and after her triumphant Oscar win. As if it is scandalous now for Muslim women to even recognize pretty, in any context besides the manufactured ways that certain segments of Muslims meticulously construct for us.

That is until they need you to go pull pretty out of her backroom, closet, or storage box and use her as if the the two of you were real friends --- for them! Truth be told, so many of us just don't know her like that.



   
“Allah is beautiful and He loves beauty.”


I started with this hadeeth, because I truly love it. and its simplicity. I memorized this portion of the hadeeth early on in life. However, it wasn't until I was in my late teens that I stumbled upon the full hadeeth and was able to gain a much richer understanding of all the nasihah that the prophet (saaws) had completely bestowed on us:


From 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud radiallahu 'anhu who said that the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallam said, "No one will enter Paradise who has an atom's weight of pride in his heart." A man said, "What if a man likes his clothes to look good and his shoes to look good?" He said, "Allah is beautiful and loves beauty. Pride means denying the truth and looking down on people." [Related by Muslim #131]

So how do we move past this adversity (M.P.A)? Here are some really simple common sense tips that I have picked up along the way, that I would like to share:


1. Pretty can be cultivated and expressed in many ways by Muslim girls and women. As long as it does not exceed the limits set by Allah, if it doesn't interest you: don't steal it, repress it, or ignore it in your sisters, mothers, daughters or wives. 


“O Children of Adam! We have bestowed raiment upon you to cover yourselves (screen your private
parts, etc.) and as an adornment, and the raiment of righteousness, that is better.”

[al-A’raaf 7:26]

2. Those who possess the best behavior and character are the prettiest of them all. 
In Saheeh Muslim it is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “Allaah does not look at your outward appearance and your wealth, rather He looks at your hearts and deeds.” (Saheeh Muslim, no. 4651).

3. Some Muslim girls and women don't know how to"jump pretty" , have forgotten how to or have had their pretty stolen from them by time, responsibilities ( husbands & children) or don't know that pretty has a place within  Islam. Encourage a rebirth of pretty in your sisters!

Sunan at-Tirmidhi it says, "Allah loves to see the effects of His blessing on His slave.'' [#2963. At-Tirmidhi said it was hasan sahih] It was reported that Abul-Ahwas al-Jashami said the Prophet sallallahu 'alayhi wa sallamsaw him wearing old, tattered clothes, and asked him, "Do you have any wealth?" I said, "Yes." He said,"What kind of wealth?" I said, "All that Allah has given me of camels and sheep." He said, "Then show the generous blessings that He has given you." [Sahih: Related by Ahmad #15323, at-Tirmidhi #1929 and an-Nisa'i #5128]



Upcoming Events where sisters can jump pretty:

1. International Muslimah Fashion Week - Hershey, PA
March 20 - 23, 2014
Muslimah Fashion Week Tickets

2. Modesty in Motion: Fashion Show
When: Saturday March 29, 2014 from 2:30PM to 6:00PM 
Where: @ Roxbury Community College; Media Arts Center
1234 Columbus Avenue, 
Roxbury, MA 02120 
.... next to the ISBCC
Contact

3. WCMAS 31st Annual Women's Conference
Baltimore City Inner Harbor
April 18th - April 20th, 2014
Tickets

4. UMM's 16th Annual Sister Recognition Luncheon and Fashion Show
Saturday, May 10th, 2014
10 am - 4 pm
Tickets

Friday, February 28, 2014

Short Story #1: Tried & Tested (part four)

"Subhan'Allah wa bihamdihi! It is you," sweetly sang a short, light brown skinned, heavyset woman with beautiful, young but pained, oval shaped light brown eyes, deep dimples in her cheeks, and a button nose. She stood standing in the doorway wearing a shiny black overhead abaya with a fresh blackened bruise underneath her left eye. She quickly embraced me and began to cry. "I've never stopped praying for you," she whispered in my ear.

 My hands instinctively reached up and found their way around her plump body and I slowly pulled her as close to me as I could . She smelled familiar and I knew I knew her. I loved her. And I've never stopped praying for her either.

 "Ameera?"

I questioned her as I stepped into the house followed by Hasan, Mas'ud, and Yasmeen. My eyes zoomed in on over to my mother. She smiled as she held a pretty,chubby little girl with a thick, black curly hair, toasted almond skin, and big dark brown eyes. She looked about two or three.

 "Yea, Iman! It's me!" Ameera said so excitedly. "I just had to get here to see you. I couldn't stop dreaming and thinking about how you would look  like now," she looked me up and down and smiled before hugging me again. "Subhan'Allah, you still look exactly the same--- better. I am  so jealous of you,"

Ameera held my hand tightly as  we walked into the living room. Mas'ud and Hasan were already playing


with Ameera's older two boys. I locked eyes on the one that favored me for a few seconds. From his dimpled chin to his nose to his eyelashes to his mouth, it was like looking into the face of a child I never bore.

 "His name is Imran," she said laughing. "That's my oldest. He's eight and a half. Ya'll could be twins, right? And the other one is Munir," she said turning her full body over to the other side of the room. "He just turned six. He look like Ummi, don't he?" she said laughing. "And my baby girl, Saba, is all her father...so far!"

 I sat down on the old couch  and those old springs squeaked underneath my weight. I wondered about what would happen when Ameera finally sat down. Ameera, my baby sister with the black eye. It was surreal or too real for me. I nodded my head at her. I think Ameera thought I was agreeing with her, but I was demonstrating my confusion. It was like everyone was looking at her, seeing her, but not really seeing what I saw. My little sister had been beat up, bad. Didn't they care? My veins were getting hot and itchy;  I could no longer contain it.


"Who did it?" I asked in a low, shaky voice as I took the straight pins out of my hijab and removed it from my head. I was trying so hard not be disrespectful to Ummi or her house, but Ameera's behavior had me on fire.

 "Did what?" she yelled at me like I'd made her mad. She was way out of her league.

 "Who the hell beat you up, Ameera?" I yelled back at her as stood up and walked over to her and pointed to her face.

 Ameera's mood instantly deflated. She slumped her shoulders, rolled her eyes, slowly inhaled her breath and swallowed it up in my face. "Really, thanks a lot, Iman. I'm here...for you. This," she said pointing to her face. Was for you," she spat at me. She pulled the bottom of her abaya up into her hand and quickly walked over to Ummi and snatched her baby, Saba, from her and walked into the kitchen without any more words for me.

 Ummi shot me a look that said she was disappointed in me and I thew my hands up. "Hasan, go on and take the boys up stairs and put they stuff away. Help them get ready for bed," Ummi said as she guided the boys to the stairs.

 "Okay, Jeddah. When I finish can I play Xbox?"

 "No!" Ummi and I yelled in unison.

 "Tomorrow, enshallah, Hasan. I got you, bro!"  Mas'ud told him. "Ya'll go head to sleep. See ya'll at Fajr, enshallah," 

"As salamu alykum," the boys sang out sadly and mopped up the stairs.

 "Wa alykum as salam," we all responded.

Mas'ud turned to me and said,  "Iman, I know where your heart is, but she's mad stubborn. She's not gonna talk to you about it like this. I've tried for years with her and Umar. Her husband got a real ugly temper, but, so does Ameera,"

 "So what? We just sit around and let Ameera get beat up when ever he feels like it?"

 "Did I say that?" Mas'ud questioned me.

 "What are you saying, Mas'ud?  Ameera walks in here with a black eye and you sitting playing with the damn kids? This isn't right. Ummi this isn't right!" I said turning to address my mother.

"Iman, baby, you're mad and you got a right to be. It ain't no kind of right. But everybody got to find their
own way. Your Abu and I tried our best to raise our kids the best we knew how. Allah knows we tried. Ameera got to find her way. You did. Enshallah, she will too."

 Ameera came back into the living room balancing her big baby on her hip and  holding a styrofoam container of food in the other hand. She plopped down on the old sofa next to Ummi  and the springs hissed slowly like it was a bike losing air. Then she propped her daughter next to her as she began to eat her food.  She looked up at everyone and smiled so kindly, it scared me. She'd really had lost her mind. "It feels so good in here now. That cool air is Alhamduleelah. I know ya'll happy ya'll got those air conditioners. Ummi, you out of grape pop, too!"

 "I'mma get up and get to the market tomorrow morning, enshallah. Make sure you write it down on my list so I don't miss it. All right, I'm going to bed," Ummi said pulling herself up off the old sofa slowly. "Ya'll be good to each other. We family, ya'll hear me? See ya'll at Fajr, enshallah."

 "Good night, Ummi," I said.

 "As salamu alykum and good night," Ummi said to us. Yasmeen and Mas'ud got up too and followed behind Ummi.

 "As salamu alykum wa rahmatullah," Yasmeen offered to us meekly as she followed behind her husband.

As soon as everyone vacated the room, I turned my attention back on Ameera. She was shoveling food into her daughter's mouth like she didn't care how I felt. My anger was bubbling up again. I had heard Ummi's advice and I believed she was on the mark. I knew I wasn't in a position to judge Ameera's marriage, but I was. Only thing, I never fought back and I didn't have anyone there to protect me. No one ever reached out to me and said, "You're dying. Get out of there and let me help you!" No one came for me. I was here for Ameera right now.

"You know that that food can't save you, right," I said walking over to  her and sitting down on the couch beside her. "Or change how it feels,"

"Don't do that, Iman. Please, Allah! Don't come out your mouth talking sideways 'bout stuff you don't know nothing about. You don't know nothing 'bout me, my family, or my man," she said putting her fork and styrofoam down. She grabbed her diaper bag off the oak floor and pulled out a package of baby wipes and cleaned off her hands and Saba's face.

"I am not judging you, Ameera," I told her.

"Oh, really now? What do you call this then? 'Cause it feels like you are. And it's the same thing Umar did to you. He don't know you and gonna talk about you. I stood up to him! I stood up for you! I always do. I might not win every fight, but I don't lay down and get whopped up on either, believe that."

"Okay, so he hits you and you hit him back and ya'll fighting and roughing each other up. How is that mawadah and rahma? How is he a garment for you and you a garment for him when you both abuse each other? " I questioned her.

"Iman, do you think I'm stupid? We don't fight every day or even every month. But some couples fight, Iman - even when they love each other. You of all people should know that. According to Ummi  you were the one getting beat down every day. That ain't my life. We got issues, but like I done told everybody in this house, we are working on it. So just respect that and respect my choice. If I need help, I know how to get it," Ameera said defending herself.

"Fair enough," I said putting my arm around her shoulders. "I don't respect your choice, Ameera, but I will respect that you want time to work it out with your husband. Just know that while I was getting beat down every day, I knew exactly who my enemy was, I never pretended that he was Prince Charming. I love you, girl and I just want us to have time together so that I can get to know you and your family, "

"That's why I am here," she told me and gave me a kiss on my cheek.


By the time Ameera and me fell asleep it was almost time to get back up for salat. The house was full and the
bathroom situation was dead serious. I had to wait ten minutes in a line just to relieve myself and make ablution. The boys took over the downstairs bathroom and the rest of us women were all upstairs. Yasmeen and Ummi were the problems. They moved slow and had the weakest bladders, so Ameera and I had to go last. Mas'ud took all the boys with him to the masjid to offer Fajr. Yasmeen, Ummi, Ameera, baby Saba and me stayed behind and prayed in the living room.

After the prayer, Ameera read Qur'an to us in Arabic and Yasmeen read the English translation. Ummi sat in her rocking chair smiling as she listened. She ended up falling asleep before the boys got back. I covered her with a throw blanket and went into the kitchen to cook breakfast. Ameera and the baby tagged behind me.


"You gon' have to fill me in on how you manage to stay so trim and slim," Ameera told me. "These babies done put a hurting on my waistline," she said as she munched on some grapes.

"You sure it was the babies or your eating habits?" I asked her.

"Wow, you got jokes, really?" Ameera teased.

"Seriously, I'm just saying the truth. But food wasn't my addiction. It's tough though, I know," I told her.

"Yeah, well, I just joined Weight Watchers online. You seen all that weight Jennifer Hudson done lost with them?" she asked me.

"You can't believe all that was just with Weight Watchers? She probably got trainers, chefs, and therapists too working with her. But she does look fab. I met her twice at the Essence Awards," I told her as I remembered the pictures I took with her.

"Really? Ya'll was rolling like that to awards shows and what not? How come Mateo ain't never brought you back home to visit then?" Ameera asked me as she whipped some eggs and cheese together in a bowl and then poured it into a sizzling frying pan.

I heard her question but I didn't really feel like answering it so I ignored her. The truth was Mateo had offered several times to bring me home to visit. He even suggested that I go home for Abu's janaza when he heard about it. I couldn't though. I didn't want them to see me before I was ready: clean and sober and free from my devil.

"I had ah...filled out some job applications the other day. Please make dua for me that Allah blesses me with something and soon! I need to help out Ummi and Mas'ud, too! He got that little baby girl coming real soon, enshallah," I explained while I chopped the potatoes and onions for home fries.

"From the looks of it around here, you've helped out a lot already. I need you to come to Philly and sprinkle some of that makeover money on my apartment - heck, in my whole life," Ameera said laughing like jackal gain. She laughed on and off the whole morning. When we cooked, cleaned, served the food - Ameera was either talking or laughing or talking and laughing.

She was still sweet, carefree Ameera! The little sister that would crawl in bed with me and tickle me when I was sick with the flu and draw smiley faces in her school books. The only thing was that she wasn't a little girl anymore. She was grown-up woman with children and a fighting husband. Wasn't nothing funny any more.

Ummi, Yasmeen, and Ameera left out after we prayed salatul Thuhr and went to the market for food. I stayed behind with Mas'ud to watch the rest of the kids. Hasan loved being the big cousin. Imran, Munir, and Saba followed behind him like little ducks.

"Flip - your- wrist, Imran! You gotta like flex the controller like you really hitting a baseball! Here," he said getting up off the couch, "let me show you again how to do it." He was being bossy again but it was cute. Mas'ud and I were sitting on the porch watching Saba ride on one of push toys.

"Hey, bro!" I said as I pulled the end of my hijab back to middle of my chest and straightened the creases on my head. "I'm sorry for talking to you like that last night. It wasn't right."

Mas'ud looked up at me and smirked. "We're good, Iman. Ya'll Johnson sisters are real tough - I don't want none of it. I do what I can though," he told me.

"It's must have been tough dealing with Ameera all this time," I noted.

"Ameera is ... she's getting tired of it," he said before he went to push Saba so more.  "I can see it. She visits us a lot more and I think she knows that she needs to do better.  Fact is, I used to fight with Umar and her about fighting
each other all the time and it didn't help. They got this toxic relationship and if you try to attack either of them, they just join together and attack you. So I had to stop. I send her reminders about Allah and her responsibilities to her children, them standing in front Allah and having to bear witness against what she exposed them to---- and I wait. You being here now and coming from what you did, that's going force her to do confront this," he assured me.

"Why do you think that," I questioned him.

"Ya'll was close. She lost the most, I think, when you know, you left us. She looked up to you and was following behind you and then she didn't really have that support any more. She just took the first brother that came asking to marry her," Ma'ud explained.  "Shareef, he didn't really care for Umar from the jump."

"Why not?" I asked.

"I mean, as young men, we can tell when brothers are running game on sisters. Problem is sisters drink it up and act hardheaded with their wakils.

"Cats think talking real fast, throwing out the hadeeth of the day, wearing big beards, and sajda marks is pious, but it's just real suspect some times. Ameera really didn't care no way. She just wanted to leave Pittsburgh,"

"So what about you, Mas'ud? How come Shareef's issues didn't become your issues like my issues trapped Ameera?" I asked him.

"Who said they didn't?" he said matter of factly before picking up Saba off the toy scooter and handing her to me. "She needs to be changed." He walked into the house and went into the living room with the boys and I heard them all moan when he turned off the television and told them to go get ready to go to the masjid. I stood there on the porch and watched them for a little before I went into the house to look for Saba's diaper bag.

After I changed Saba's diaper, I took her upstairs to my room - the room I was now sharing with Ameera and her, and laid her down for a nap.  I took out a sheet of paper, a pen, and grabbed a book to write on before sitting back on the bed softly so as not to wake Saba. I sat for a couple of minutes and then the words flushed my mind:

Dear Shareef:

Assalamu alaykum! In case you didn't recognize the name, it's Iman Johnson, your sister. How have you been? I miss you more than you know. I am back in the Hill with Ummi. I am trying to step in your shoes and help where I can. It's not easy being here, but enshallah, I'm not going any where. Ameera and her babies are here too. She needs all of our help to make the right decision. Hasan is such a great little boy. I love him a lot. I know we have a lot to talk about. So I am going to come and see you soon. I want you to know I love you and that whatever is going on with you in there, isn't your place. You belong with us. So keep your head up and stay focused. We need you here. I need you here.

Your Sister,

Iman S. Johnson


After I finished writing my letter to Shareef, I fell asleep next to Saba. She smelled so sweet and like...a baby. Holding her next to me was like holding on to a piece of cloud or a marshmallow one. It didn't matter. She was my blood, which almost made her mines. I hated that she'd had to see so much violence in her short time on earth. I hated that Ameera didn't understand that Saba deserved better.


I knew Mateo wouldn't be a good father. He was mean, angry, rude, and violent. The first time I had a miscarriage, I finally understood what people meant when they said Allah was the Just. I never thought sadness and happiness could co-exist. But they could and I was both. Sad that I would not able to have a baby with my husband and happy that I wasn't going to have a baby with my husband.  I had a IUD implanted into my uterus to make sure that I didn't have any more slip-ups.

I wasn't that lucky. Each time Allah found a way to bring about justice for me. Four miscarriages in twelve years were hard. But it would have been devastating to have brought four children into this world with a monster for a father and a drunk for a mother. My children deserved better and Allah gave it to them, with Him.


I woke up to the sound of more laughter and an empty bed. I rolled my eyes at the sound of Ameera's voice, but I needed to get up and pray. I figured Ameera had probably came and took Saba downstairs so I just made wudu and offered salat.

By the time I  finished praying,  the thick aroma of frying fish and baking sweet cornbread had wafted into the the room and was teasing me to come find it. I salamed out of the prayer and rushed down the stairs only to be met by sister Naima's big smile.

"Now there she is," she said. "We've been waiting on you to wake up for an hour now, sis!"

"Well I didn't know you were coming by sister Naima. I surely would have delayed my rest to partake in your company." I said as we shook hands and embraced. "As salamu alykum,"

"Wa alykum as salam, Imani! You know I didn't come alone. I brought them grandkids and you remember, my son?" she asked me.

"Which one?" I replied but when I looked out on to the porch, I saw him. He was standing next to Mas'ud chatting as he held baby Saba in his arms with comfort. Saba was a sweet girl, but the way she lean in on his shoulder said that she knew him well.  He turned and looked right at me with that same stupid smile and laughed at what ever Mas'ud was telling him. I stepped back away from the door and pulled on the ends of my hijab making sure I was fully covered. Ameera came walking in the room wearing her black abaya and face veil on carrying a tray of glasses and shot me a silly look and said,

"Don't play dumb, honey. You ain't been gone long enough to forget Jibril Ibrahim!"

Why was this man always around me?







Monday, February 24, 2014

Reflections #4: To the child I bore(a poem)


While I was doing some early Spring cleaning, I found a couple of my old journals.
Alhamduleelah, I love being able to go through my journals and see all the growth and stagnation, too. LoL. I'm human change is slow and hard often. But we say the hamd belongs to the Most High, as long we can continue struggle for His sake, it's going to be alright sooner or later.

One poem that jumped out at me was one I penned July 1, 2001 - the day after I birthed my first child and from whom Allah has blessed me with my kunya, Umm Juwayriyah. I don't know what possessed me to even bring a journal to the birthing suite. I was struggled in hard labor for 22 hours before that girl was born! Not a second did I have to write before or during. But I find it really sobering to know I was able to write something coherent the next day, lol.  I believe I shared this with my sisters on the Islamic Writers Alliance when I came home. I am going to share again and hopefully my tween will see it in her Google feed and +1 it for herself or for me...but she might not, lol.





To the child I bore,
Listen,
For my words
I share with you
As a gift waiting to be unwrapped
Hoping and praying
They will help you
And keep you strong
For as long as
You tread through this life-
Know that the deen you’ve been blessed with
Is a routine 
not a birthright 
A practice of ways
A guide from going
Astray
So obey Allah and protect your prayers
As it will be the first of your affairs
Judged
Listen plenty
Even when the words
Aren’t being spoken by your Ummi
Because being respectful is a trait for only those possessing real inner
Beauty
Don’t be tricked
Or fooled 
By any claiming your honor
Lies simply in your backside
Or your front
Side
For Allah will give due for any
Plenty
When you put Him first
Never look to those with more and be green
The keys to the unseen
Don’t belong to you
What you’ve been given
Is enough
So do your best with what you have
Say Mashallah and remember to always be glad
Never take a way
Without seeking guidance first
Study the Qur’an
Letter for letter, word for word
And then set it into your memory
The speech of Allah will
Be a friend to you – when you are alone
A comforter – when you are sad and
A protector – when you are afraid
The days and years we have together
Are numbered
For only a certain amount of time
By the One who is Divine
But these lines of mine
Treasure
Even when
You no longer can feel the warmth coming from my skin
By Allah
You and I
Shall meet again

To the I child I bore
I want nothing more
For you
Than righteousness
Never cease giving
And you will see your needs fulfilled
Stand for truth and don’t be shy about it
Evil and lies will never make you feel good inside
Don’t worry about being everyone’s friend
One good companion
Is like being with a champion
Your word is like gold
Honor it
And those who you give it to
Through your hijab
You are known
As a Muslima
A title not given to many
So proudly represent
This gift and
Never
Ever
Forget or
Belittle It
The days and years we have together
Are numbered
For only a certain amount of time
By the One who is Divine
But these lines of mine
Treasure
Even when
You no longer can feel the warmth coming from my skin
By Allah
You and I
Shall meet again

To the child I bore
Always do more
For the believers are always hopeful
Be easy to smile and
Be hard to anger
Know that talk is cheap
So let your actions earn your esteem
Have Faith and
Then believe patiently
Allah is in Charge and owns the victory
Give the salaam to those you know
And those you don’t
Islam is known
Its worth is more than any
Precious stone
Follow what’s authentic 
while
Everything else
Leave alone
Be careful of talking too much
And don’t do anything in a rush
Put your trust in Allah
Without taking it away
Pray for your Baba and me
That we have success in this life
As well as the next

The days and years we have together
Are numbered
For only a certain amount of time
By the One who is Divine
But these lines of mine
Treasure
Even when
You no longer can feel the warmth coming from my skin
By Allah
You and I
Shall meet again