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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Advice for Muslim Educators & Parents on Talking to their Children About Halloween by Author & Educator Umm Juwayriyah

And Allah said:
ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ السَّيِّئَةَ نَحْنُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يَصِفُونَ
Repel evil with what is better. We are most knowing of what they describe.
Surat al-Mu’minun 23:96

2018 - It's that time of year again! You know, the beginning of the holiday season for non-Muslims. As a Muslim educator and/or parent, make no mistakes about it: It is your job to educate Muslim youth about these holidays and not only to avoid them - but why and how they should protect themselves from them and learn about some alternatives so that they don't have to always feel left out. Yes, long ago perhaps in the good ole' days, the "haram" label could send shivers down spines and snatch the breath right out of the lungs of many pious elders an their youth. But guess what? Those times have changed! And such is life, your approach to how you handle Halloween - and any non Islamic holiday is going to need an upgrade.

Our Muslim youth live in a time where through social media they are able to see, learn, imitate and fraternize virtually. They don't even have to leave their rooms to engage in something haram. And truthfully, as many Muslim parents and educators suspect, many trends that pop up and become "lit" from the media to styles of clothing to food to drinks to entertainment -  might be rooted and founded in many things that certainly could be haram, or at the very least makruh (disliked). For some Muslim youth, especially those growing up in the West, the constant classification of everything that seemingly appears fun, cool, "harmless", and trendy as haram or forbidden can be heavy, overwhelming, depressing, and hard for them to cope with. We have to recognize this hardship of our children and students and be ready to fortify them with love, attention, knowledge of Islam, and tangible solutions. We have to admit that Islamophobia is real and it is not easy for many Muslims (young and old) to face. No, it is not because they don't love Allah or because they have not accepted Tawhid for themselves. This is hardly the case. In fact, I am always hopeful for Muslim youth  and rooting for Muslim youth. Muslim youth are resilient and full of grit, Alhamduleelah. Many Muslim youth persist and resist through such hard trials have been blessed with very strong faith. But even those Allah has granted with strong eeman, need to feel at ease, comfortable, able to play, relax, fit in, and feel accepted. This is the fitra of mankind and when we don't provide these necessities to Muslims and especially Muslim youth --- someone or something else will.

It's important that we start opening up conversations and dialogues with the young Muslims that we are charged with. Lecturing is not always the best  approach to teach with either. Ask Muslim youth questions about how they feel about these holidays like Halloween. Ask Muslim youth do they want to partake and why? Is is just about hanging out with their friends and having some down time? Do they know the history behind Halloween? Do they know what shirk is? What are some ways that we can reconcile our desires if they are leading us to do something that Allah has forbidden? May be they can journal (make sure you sign up for my Ramadhan Journaling/ Muslim Youth Journaling course) , paint or draw a picture about the clash between Muslim holidays and non Muslim holidays? May be the youth can put together a panel discussion or a night to volunteer at a food bank the night of Halloween? May be they can have Netflix and chill night? There are so many alternatives and ways to create fun time for youth, enshallah. Pull Muslim youth into the discussions and set up programs where they have some autonomy!

It's also important that we move away from ultimatums and start helping our youth to create some solutions. Many teachers and parents will just throw out the haram label like a brick. It trumps (pun intended) everything and the conversation ends before it really started. We can not be afraid to talk with our children. Yes, some will fall out of bounds and some will overstep the limits - be ready to reel them back in because that's your responsibility. Don't get overwhelmed or saddened that some of their ideas about Islam and Kufr are not solid yet. This is the stage of life that they are in - that Allah decreed for them. Yes, pray for them, but more importantly, be ready to show them an alternative. Be ready to model good communication skills. Be ready to listen more than you speak. More importantly, be ready to help and guide them to a solution that will expand their minds about the topic.

If you must take something away, replace it with something better. Halloween is not a Muslim holiday. Islamically it is not proper to celebrate All Hallow's Day, the Celtics harvest festival, the Gaelic festival of Samhain, lighting candles for the dead, trick-or treating -- all of which is rooted in pagan ideas that are completely opposite of Tawheed (Oneness of God). But that doesn't mean we cannot talk to our youth about Halloween's history, past and present. It doesn't mean that we can't help Muslim youth create fun and safe alternatives. Muslim parents and educators - it is your responsibility to help Muslim youth to navigate this world and build self-confidence in their Islamic identity!

Be proactive! Muslim youth are counting on you.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Oils & Incense For Sale: Part 2 by Author & Educator Umm Juwayriyah

Marc knocked on the door three times then stepped to the side. He pulled the knitted cap from his back pocket, swatted it against his thigh before pulling it over his head. It only took a minute for the door to swing open. The warmth of the apartment's heat mixed with oils and incense wafted into the hallway and defrosted the chill from Marc's face and hands. He knew he was at the right place.

"Marc Muhammad?" his old friend, the O.G. blurted out before landing into a hearty laugh as he extended his arm out to grab the younger man standing before him.

"Aye, bro! It's good to see you!" Marc declared after their embrace. "I'm glad you still a man of your word!"

"My word is bond, Akh! Man, get in here, knuckle head. It's colder than a mutha out there!"

Jaleel was visibly older, heavier, taller, and clearer in the face than Marc remembered him. He stepped to the side, reached out for Marc's bag and let him inside. Marc followed Jaleel through a small hallway and into the living area. The bright light from outside shone through the bay window and naturally illuminated the whole space. March looked around and took it all in. There were three dark wooden bookcases lined side-by-side over flowing with books. No doubt, Jaleel had probably read all of them.

"Have a sit, bro. Let me go get my fam straight. They still asleep."

"You got  kids?" Marc questioned him before taking off his jacket and sitting down onto the  mocha leather sectional couch. A small red and brown Oriental area rug lay in the middle of the floor, several pots of plants and small trees lined the room. There were a mixture of paintings on the wall of various landscapes and Arabic calligraphy mixed in as well. In the back of the room was old farmhouse table, a couple of chairs and boxes atop of it.

"I didn't say all that, bro! Be back!"

Jaleel walked around the corner and disappeared. Marc could his footsteps running up a flight of stairs. He hadn't meant to be noisy or intrude. Marc wouldn't have came to Jaleel if he knew he had a family. O.G. or not, stepping in on family men wasn't cool. Marc also knew that if Jaleel had a wife and kids, she probably didn't want Jaleel dragging in another felon. Marc suddenly wasn't feeling the situation at all. He got up and started to put his jacket on. He didn't want to have to go back to Junior's house, but he knew he always could if he had. Junior was his cousin through marriage. They grew up together and whether Marc got down with Junior's hustle or not, he knew Junior would always look out for him.

"Aye, Marc. Come on in kitchen with me," Jaleel called. "Hurry up, man!"

Marc grabbed his bag off the floor and walked in the direction of Jaleel's voice. He passed two other rooms and went through another hallway before he made it to the front of the house where Jaleel was in the kitchen. Jaleel had already pulled out pots and pans and had the fire going on the stove. Marc sat down at the table confused. He didn't know what was up or if he was really in the right place after all.

"You ain't gotta cook nothing for me, Bro. I'm good. I was just stopping by to see if this is where you was at. I gotta get going..."March started.

"Where you going?" Jaleel inquired as he stirred eggs in a mixing bowl. "You got some place to go? Last time we talked that didn't seem like the case?"

"Well, you know me and Junior always I can go back there. Probably can get in the halfway house too once I meet up with my parole officer.  I got some options, enshallah."

"You and Junior?" Jaleel laughed boldly.  "Man, that joker ain't no kind of good options for you. And you know it good and well, Marc. What?  You thinking 'bout hustling already? You ain't been out a good two weeks yet?" Jaleel reminded his friend.

"Not even. I know I gotta find something else to do. I just need a little time to figure it out," Marc admitted.  He zipped his jacket up and stood up to pull his bag over his shoulder.  He looked over his shoulder and then back at Jaleel. Jaleel seemed oblivious to Marc's discomfort. But really Jaleel didn't care. He knew Marc had a long road ahead of him. Discomfort was part of journey. Marc had to get used to it.

"Look, Leel," Marc started. "I didn't know you had a family you taking care of. I don't wanna mess that up or cause no trouble for ya'll. I'll see you around, bro," Marc finally offered. He moved swiftly trying to walk out the kitchen before Jaleel could stop him. He wasn't fast enough. Jaleel threw the spatula at Marc's head and hit him.

"What the hell you hit me for?" Marc spat as he rubbed his head with a smirk.

"You wouldn't of came, if you didn't need to! And I wouldn't have invited your knucklehead in here, if there was going to be a problem for me! I got the space and I told you before I left, I could use your help. Is you here to help me or are you going back to the streets so the police can lock ya behind up again? Furthermore, ain't nobody in this damn house telling me what to do.....all the time that is!" Jaleel snickered lightly,  grabbed his beard before he winked his eyes with a notion. "Did you pray Fajr?"

Marc cast his eyes down and shook his head before answering his friend. "Didn't get a chance to yet."

"Well you got a chance to now. The bathroom is straight ahead. You can pray in the front room. Then we can eat and go get to work. Let's go. Time is money!" Jaleel instructed him.

Marc nodded before walking off to do as he was told. He left his bag and jacket in the kitchen with Jaleel. A couple of days ago when he was staying with Junior, his girl, and two of her friends, he didn't feel safe enough to leave his only belongings laying around them. While in jail, he'd learned pretty quickly how to read people. Most times he knew right off the back if he could trust someone or not. When he got to Junior's house, smelled the weed, saw how unorganized the house and everyone in it was, saw how quickly the women gravitated to him without knowing anything about him, and how agitated Junior had become, he knew he wasn't in a safe environment. Marc hadn't been surprised at all when his cousin invited him to commit a crime.  He knew that was all Junior knew how to do. In Junior's mind he was just trying to help Marc up and get him back on his feet. Shoot, Junior was trying to inspire Marc after he been locked down for so long. Junior just didn't know that the streets weren't sweet enough to Marc any more. Truth be told, the streets put him in jail. There wasn't nothing sweet or fun about that. The excitement of chasing women, money, and cars, fighting over the block... that wasn't him anymore.

In the bathroom, Marc took off his shoes, rolled up his sleeves on his shirt, then turned on the faucet. He let the water run a little to warm up before he silently made his intentions to wash up for prayer.

"Bi -smill-ah? What that mean, bro? Marc had asked Jaleel once when they were still locked up together. Jaleel was sitting at their small desk and was reading the book with funny language in it again. Marc knew Jaleel was a Muslim, but really didn't know what a Muslim was. When Jaleel stood up and recited the word and raised his hands, Marc was confused.  Jaleel didn't answer him. Marc watched as Jaleel completed a series a movements and recited words he couldn't understand until Jaleel finished.

"Sorry bout that, man. That's how ya'll pray to ya'll God?" Marc asked when Jaleel went and sat back down.

"Ain't but one Creator and He created everybody, Marc Muhammad. And yea, that's how Muslims pray. Say little homie, how you get a last name like Muhammad and why is it that you don't know a damn thing about Islam? Ya Moms just picked it out of a book for good times?"

"My Momma ain't pick my name out of no book. That was my father's last name and his father's last name and so on. My father ..he from Somalia. He came to America with his brother as refugees. They were living up in Maine then they came down here to Massachusetts. I think my mother met him in Holyoke at the mall or some where silly. She was in high school when she had me. He got locked up for attempted murder and armed robbery. He did ten years before they deported him."

"You don't say? You know his first name?" Jaleel asked turning around to face the younger inmate with interest.

"Abdi. His first name is Abdi. He's Muslim and I guess his whole family over there is Muslim, too. I never knew him.  I don't know his people either. Just what my Momma told me."

Jaleel's face flushed red and his skinned warmed in disbelief. It felt like a hot flash he guessed. But he knew immediately who Marc was talking about. He wanted to keep asking questions, but he knew now was not the time or the place to confront Marc. Enshallah, one day there would be a better time and place to set Marc straight. Now, he just knew that by the decree of the Most High he was in the same jail as his own distant relative that he never knew. What Jaleel did know was that his mother and uncle would want him to do the right thing by Marc.

Jaleel silently stood up and walked over to his bed. He looked under the mattress and pulled out a small chest and unlocked it. Inside of the chest were stacks of small books that Jaleel read. Jaleel examined each one and pulled out a few before walking back to the other side of the bed towards Marc.

"Take a look at these, youngin'. You might learn something that you never knew you needed to learn," Jaleel had spoken softly. The books he'd given were small pamphlets on Islam and couple of National Geographic magazines on the Horn of Africa. He was still overwhelmed by this pairing, in jail no less. He felt certain that Marc was his kin. But he would have to find out for sure. In the mean time, he had to make it his business to watch after Marc Muhammad.

In the bathroom, Marc took off his shoes, rolled up his sleeves on his shirt, then turned on the faucet. He let the water run a little to warm up before he silently made his intentions to wash up for prayer. He made ablution just like his homie Jaleel had taught him how to. He'd done it hundreds of times alone after Jaleel left and he had even started teaching new Muslims in jail as well how to perform wudu and salat.

Marc dried his hands off on a towel in the small bathroom before walking through the small hallway back into the living room. Jaleel had already put out a prayer rug for Marc in the direction of Kaba for Marc to pray on. He rolled down his sleeves, inhaled deeply, straightened his body, then raised his hands above his head and pronounced softly: "Allahu Akbar!"

Standing watching with satisfaction and relief dripping from his being, Jaleel watched Marc perform the Morning prayer with focus and proper form. Jaleel knew eventually he would have to have a really difficult conversation with Marc. He had a right to know the truth and the lies when the time was right. That time wasn't now. Marc needed to grow and see his own potential on his own. He needed to be strong before he cut him down with the sins of others. Jaleel grabbed his beard and began to rub it through his fingers as he pondered the outcomes. All he could do was build the boy up and set him right as best he could and prepare him for what was to come. Marc needed to be with his family.

Jaleel had been there waiting on him since he got out of jail. Jaleel even drove all over Holyoke looking for Marc when he didn't show up the first night at his apartment like he told him to do. He'd been worried sick thinking about all the what if's and shouldas! His wife Hodan had to calm him down and order him to pray to clear his mind by the end of the week because Jaleel was seeing nothing but blood...of his blood.

"What's wrong with that boy? I told him I had him. I told him I was gonna take care of his little behind," he yelled angrily. Jaleel had it in his mind to ride through Marc's old block and pull up on Marc's old little crew with a couple of his boys and some hot hammers. Jaleel was always just a couple of steps of away from stumbling back into a misunderstanding or altercation that would lead him right back to the streets and eventually jail. It was his own mother's death and dying last words for him to obey Allah that was stuck on his life preventing him from going too far any more. He'd promised his mother, by Allah, he would redeem himself  and their family. His mother had been a refugee as well. Her brothers came to America first while the rest of the family waited and prayed that Allah would make a way to get them all back together again. Her brothers did all they could to send money back to Somalia. By time Jaleel's mother Ayaan arrived in America, her brothers had lost their way. She heard so many horrible, ugly rumors of their shameful behavior. She was hurt and crushed by the things their people  had said her brothers were doing and had done. Ayaan didn't want to be around them. She distanced herself. She found an American Black man to marry her. He wasn't Muslim and she didn't care at first. He said he would take care of Ayaan and take care of her paperwork for citizenship. Three kids in, Ayaan knew he lied. He hurt her and their children bad so many times. No matter what she would do for him, the beatings kept coming. She had to get out.

 One cold November night Ayaan waited for her evil husband to drink his favorite beer that she put cold medicine in. Ayaan waited for her husband to fall asleep so deep before she tripped over the bat. She called for her brothers. She needed their help. She'd done something so wrong to her husband. She hadn't meant to hurt him so badly, but she had. Her brothers were her brothers though. Abdi and Ayyub told her not to worry. Abdi promised Ayaan he would do what he'd had to do to protect his sister and her children.

Uncle Abdi had always kept them safe, Jaleel thought. He knew his uncle had been a good man who faced too many obstacles. It hadn't been his fault.

 Marc finished his prayed and sat folded on his knees as he turned to the right and then the left as he offered: "As salamu alykum - As salamu alykum."

Jaleel knew he'd do whatever he needed to keep his young cousin safe -  come hell or high water.

Thursday, October 25, 2018


Hey Ya'll! Let me tell you a little bit about #MuslimGirlsRead and why it's so important to me. People always ask me why I am so worried about Muslim girls and reading? My simple response:

"This is what I am passionate about. I love Muslim girls and I love books. I was a Muslim girl and I know the power of reading and being well-read can have a major impact on your life. I've been around the world through books and with books. I want other Muslims girls - especially those living in American inner-cities to know that reading is important and being a Muslim girl is pretty special, too. Both can Islam and books can have a major, beneficial impact on your life."
#MuslimGirlsRead and #MuslimGirlsReadMedia is an initiative to get Muslim girls reading, thinking, and eventually making important impacts in the world around them. MGR's main goal is to help put #Muslimfiction in #MuslimSchools, #Muslimhomes, libraries, and masajid around the United States. In order to help do that my daughter Juwayriyah and I started the #MuslimGirlsRead Ramadhan Fundraiser. Thus far we have shipped brand new #Muslimfiction by #MuslimAuthors to over 10 Muslims and families. And we want to keep going and helping get #Muslimfiction into Muslim homes. #MuslimGirlsRead wear is another campaign to raise money for books and projects like the American Muslim Anthology of Muslim fiction.
You can find, buy and support #MuslimGirlsRead on Right now we have two shirts available in a variety of colors. You can check them on here: 



Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Oils & Incense for Sale - A Short Story by Author & Educator Umm Juwayriyah

Three bangs rang out into the darkness draped over the park that mostly provided cover to those that needed it. He dropped everything in his hands and took off with all the speed he could muster. His boys scattered to left and to the right of him. Marc was alone. His heart was banging so loud in his chest he heard it with each stride. He couldn't go down. He could't get caught out in these streets. He already knew what she would say, what she'd been saying to him.

"Those streets ain't for you, Marc! Stop hanging 'round dem fools and take your tail to school," his mother had pleaded with him daily. "Boy, I'm telling you, dem coppers get you, don't call me. I ain't coming up to nobody's jail for no child of mine who don't want to live right. I won't do it. I ain't. Ain't nothing out there in dem streets good for you! You lovin' dem streets, I pray they love you right on back when you need them 'cause I ain't gonna do it!" she warned. 

Marc was sweet on the streets. He loved the excitement and respect and money that he always found within them more than anything. But he knew the streets didn't love nobody back. He knew he didn't have a budding future selling dope. Sooner or later there was only two choices: jail or the cemetery. 

 Marc turned the corner and ran down a dark alley that led him right into a dead end. The sirens got louder.  Then the lights bounced onto the street and he faced the patrol car head on. Panting heavily and tears pinching at the corner of his eyes, Marc searched the street frantically  for doors, windows or anything he could kick into and hide. His life was at stake. He silently prayed for protection and for his life. He knew that this time wouldn't be like the last time when he and his boys got away and lived to laugh about it. This time would be different. This time would change his life. 

"Don't move! Put your hands up, punk!" the officer ordered with his gun in his hands pointed directly at Marc. This time he was going to jail. 


It was so cold outside his eyes were watering icicles. He stuffed his bare rough  hands into the pockets of his jacket because he didn't have or want gloves. But today he questioned that choice. In fact, for the last three years he'd done nothing but question his entire life. This year was either going to be his rebirth or the beginning of his end.

He stood outside the apartment door in a narrow hallway on the fourth floor of an old but decent looking building not knowing if he should knock or not. He didn't even know if he had  the right address. It had been a little more than two years since he'd seen his old dorm mate from the county jail. But Jaleel had been adamant with Marc. He told him when got out that he would look out for him. He'd looked out for him when he was inside. Jaleel had been a man of his word. Marc knocked on the door three times then stepped to the side.

He knew if this was Jaleel's spot, he'd be up and bright eyed. In the joint it seemed like Jaleel had been the first to rise and the last to go to sleep every night. He would always have a book, or a newspaper in his hand ready to rap about whatever he'd just read. Jaleel also worked in the kitchen so everybody knew him and wanted to be in his good graces, just in case they needed something from him. At 18 and his first time in jail, Marc knew he had to give the OGs their proper respect least the streets find out.

 Jaleel was an OG. He'd been in and out of jail since he was a juvenile. He'd put his time in the streets and had the tats, the animated stories, and scars to prove he 'd been to battle and survived more than a few times. By time Marc met him though, Jaleel had a rebirth.

"Nah, bra! This here ain't it for me. I ain't coming back no more. I'll die before I do another bid," Jaleel promised as he scribbled notes on the margins of the book he was reading on the small desk in their dorm.

"You act like you all that old. You ain't even 30 yet! Man, fast money and fast honeys by the pound still for the taking out in the streets!" Marc reminiscence. "I mean you still a legend, my dude!"

"A legend? Man, forget that crap. Real talk, I'll be 30 next year and done spent half of that time in here with the police. Hell, I can't stand them ninjas," he laughed.  "They can't stand us either, but they do they jobs. We gotta do our jobs, too.  Figure, you can move weight, whip a nice ride, lead your boys, make a hunnid g's and still won't own the block! Police still will ride through bust ya head open, steal your products, turn you into this here jail and before you make the six o'clock news your old lady be done got with the next shotcaller pushing a coupe!We gotta get what's ours using our minds to take back the hood. Hell, we gotta use our minds period." Jaleel lectured.

"What you tryna say? You think I'm stupid 'cause I was out on the block?" Marc sat up and grimaced. "I ain't stupid. I was gonna graduate 'fore I got locked up."

"Nah, you ain't stupid. But you and dem little dummies you was rolling with act stupid. Following behind old heads getting locked up - that's stupid. And I can tell you that man, cause I've been crazy stupid too long. Thinking I could out run the sun and every time, it caught me. I'm done, man! You come back to this joint, you ain't gonna be acting is stupid!" Jaleel warned.

"What you think Imma be able to do when I get out with a record? Ain't no White people gonna hire me out there. Shhh...I ain't gonna go work at no McDonald's or Burger King making change. I gotta eat and take care of me," Marc reasoned. Let him tell it, his only option after going to jail was the same as when he went in: the streets and jail!

"Finish high school, read, work and pray in here, ya heard me? When you get out, come holla at me! I got you, kid. You ain't stupid and I can use you." Jaleel pushed his glasses up on his nose and reopened his book and started reading again. Marc knew the conversation was over. Those were the only instructions he would receive.

Six months later Jaleel was gone. Marc was still in jail. Jaleel kept his word though. He didn't come back.

It had been a week since Marc had now got out. He'd been staying with friends up until that morning. His boy offered him a run up into Bristol, Connecticut. Fast money was easier to make these days his boy told him. Marc knew he didn't want fast money or the fast honeys he'd been chasing three years ago. He was almost 22 years old. He'd gotten his G.E.D and taken a couple of courses in computers and in business. He read every day in jail. He worked in the kitchen. He lectured the youngins when they came in lost and afraid, just like Jaleel did for him.

Marc wasn't stupid either. He prayed for two and half years for strength to resist temptation. He just didn't think he be tested so soon.

"You riding or not, Marc? We ain't got time to waste with you hesitating over this easy money," Junior nagged his friend remembering all the fun they had in high school or mostly outside of high school. He'd waited a long time for his boy to get out. They were both older now -- they could take over the block.  They could take over the block. If only Marc was still the old Marc.

"Junior, ya'll go handle that. I'll see you when I see you, bro! Ya'll be easy!" Marc packed up his belongings and walked out the door without turning back. He had just enough bus fare to get over to Old McKnight and see if the O.G. would keep his word.

Marc knocked on the door three times then stepped to the side. He pulled the knitted cap from his back pocket, swatted it against his thigh before pulling it over his head. It only took a minute for the door to swing open. The warmth of the apartment's heat mixed with oils and incense wafted into the hallway and defrosted the chill from Marc's face and hands. He knew he was at the right place.

"Marc Muhammad?" his old friend, the OG blurted out before landing into a hearty laugh as he extended his arm out to grab the younger man standing before him.

"Aye, bro! It's good to see you!" Marc declared after their embrace. "I'm glad you still a man of your word!"

"My word is bond, Akh! Man, get in here, knuckle head. It's colder than a mutha out there!"