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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Good Love & Muslim Womanhood by Umm Juwayriyah

Have you ever gone to a lecture on marriage in your friendly neighborhood Muslim community or some where else given by some guest student of Islamic knowledge or an Imam with tickets over $50, usually in the evening? It's always the same set-up, right? Sisters pack the prayer hall or community college or hotel, after spending weeks trying to find childcare, a ride, an outfit - or all three? Then when you get there and get comfortable you notice that all of the special guests are men over 45, speaking in a mono-tone voice (marriage isn't much exciting for some,eh?) for two hours to read/recite the same carefully selected hadeeth after hadeeth and aya after aya from his journal/notebook -- old college school book -- with little emotional or realistic commentary. All the while  your over 30 self is fighting to stay awake, take dry notes that you will never revisit, keep your leg awake, check on the kids with the sitter, but still plenty mad that you wasted a sitter and outfit for night out that was really boring/dry that you can't connect with. But then it hits you why you are so bothered in the first place. In all two hours you realized the special guests mentioned every duty/obligation/responsibility/robotic given of marriage --- but never mentioned the word love?

Come now selector: REWIND!

She snapped, "Yeah, love! You know, l-o-v-e? Do you Muslim women get to have love in your marriages or is it just like some business set-up?" a non Muslim woman co-worker asked a group of us in the teachers' staff room full of Muslim women from all around the world. We were all beautiful and diverse and over educated. Some sisters were not covered at all while some were fully covered up to their eyes sporting the finest Japanese silk niqabs and gloves. A grimace tugged on my face as my head titled to the side as an mild American city girl attitude brewed! I pondered where she had gotten that idea? Yes, she was non Muslim, but she'd spent her retired life traipsing from Dubai to Doha to London and back. She'd knew more than enough flirtatious, rich Muslim men and Muslim women of every ethnicity to not fall for every Hollywood movie story line.   Of course Muslim women had love! I saw love growing up in my home with my parents. I saw love in countless Muslim marriages in my community back in Massachusetts. I was in love with my husband, I thought to myself.  But before the words could fly out from my throat, a Lebanese teacher from the middle school department schooled me back into a womanhood class I'd yet to take.

"No, no, dear! Muslim women, most Muslim women like me, we don't get love. We get babies, in-laws, house work or we stay hiding in university as long as we can trying to avoid the bad ones who will try to control us. Then sometimes we miss out on the good ones who would have loved us, too! We eventually settle for the old, leftovers. The ones who don't know love," she insisted. "Hamduleelah, we Muslim woman get some things that make us happy in life. But love? Where? How?" the elder Lebanese educator who'd been in Kuwait for 17 years reflected.

I saw heads of Muslim women from all over the world in the room shaking. I heard mumbled words of agreement being shot across the around the room like arrows. Each one with  experiences that I had not experienced. Each with details, I hadn't thought to reflect on. Each one with tales of marriages devoid of love and understanding. I swallowed my words hard knowing they just wouldn't fit in that room and the lives those Muslim women lived. I couldn't speak for them. There were so many of them.  That was their truth and they had the right to speak it and free it.  The writer in me stilled my need to speak and begged me to listen and learn...for my daughters, nieces, and daughters of friends growing up Muslim back home in the States. For there were plenty we needed too. And in that commonality, I understood their frustrations.

Some times we spend so much energy as Muslims combating Islamophobia from every other group of people. We hate the stereotypes about Muslim women with a vengeance that any time we think someone is going in that direction, we are ready to react with a hard block. Hear me here: we can't block out our own sisters and their trials, tests, short-comings, or defeats. We can't deny our sisters a right to speak and share their experiences whether they are from "over there" in the Middle East or "down there" in Western "hood" communities!

Love is not a given for any woman, much less a Muslim woman! Good love --- real good love that we've all dreamed about since we had dolls -  is even rarer for many women. But there seems to be a significant amount of Muslim women who go through womanhood without experiencing a fulfilling love - in whatever way they need and want to define it. And there also seems to be  a battalion of Muslim women who break down marriage just like those boring, monotone brothers in the masajid who only sum it up to be nothing more than rights and obligations.

"As long he gives me my rights, I'm good!" so they told us.

But can we as Muslim women want more? Is it really haram or pointless to want to find a companion who shares your interests and needs? Can we be concerned about deen and late night spice from a partner? Can we desire a spouse who will laugh with us til our eyes tear! And is it possible that a husband can cheer you up with just his presence and understanding? Are Muslim women who want to feel butterflies in their stomach when they hear their husbands' voices shallow? Is loyalty over rated or just not happening any more? Has Disney truly spoiled and ruined our ability to decipher romance and love? Are we ungrateful if one date night every other month to the same restaurant and movie doesn't excite us for ten years? I know there is a sector of Muslim elders, leaders, scholars, male and female, who don't even think that love is a necessary for marriage to grow. You know you have heard them tell the tale: get married, consummate it and live happily ever after? But how are Muslim women supposed to be happy in their marriages without knowing how to grow happy with their mates? I too once thought it was all so simple and good love was easy to find and keep. And once upon a time, I was just young and naive as they come.

Is good love important to Muslim women? Is it still on our list of goals for things we want our marriages to create and fulfill? Are your Muslimah friends fulfilled and happy in their marriages? Do you even know? Do you even care? How do we as Muslim women support, educate, and mentor young Muslim sisters to be fulfilled in their marriages?

 I've said enough! Let's talk sisters. Share what you know. Give it some thought and let's bring the truth so that we can all do better and live fulfilled, enshallah.

Tried & Tested by Author & Educator Umm Juwayriyah

The BIG End of The Year Book List IS Coming: By Author & Educator Umm Juwayriyah & Juwayriyah Ayed


Yes, yes, ya'll! 


For the last three years, I have been putting this BIG LIST together to help promote Muslim fiction, reading, and writing in the Western Muslim world. It is a labor of  real love & appreciation for the works of Muslim authors to share our narratives. It is to demonstrates that we came to the game, to change it with our authenticity! It's about speaking for ourselves. The Big List has also proven to be an amazing marketing buzz for the authors that I feature. With over 25,000 views and counting on these lists ---- Muslim authors, you don't want to miss this ship! So let's get this started, shall we!

Here ye: if you are a Muslim author and you have published a work of fiction in late 2017 throughout 2018, we want you to send us an email with your book cover, a short synopsis (a paragraph) and where we can link your book from by DECEMBER 21st, 2018! This is a free service to you, beloveds. Jump on it now! We will not be able to add any latecomers to this list after DECEMBER 21st, 2018! So if you have a friend, a cousin, an uncle, Imam at your masjid, youth director, your  ex-husband or wife who is Muslim and wrote a book between late 2017 through December 2018, make them send us their information so that they can share in these barakat. Don't wait til the last minute to send us your information.  I love all my cousins and aunties/uncles, but all *tree* ya'll got to follow directions and be on time. Ameen!

***New This Year****

We will now offer features for the BIG LIST! Yes, yes, ya'll! We know that you've worked hard on your book and you want to show it off with prime placement. We also know that some of you have gotten in a fit with me about where each book has been placed. Now, if you want your book to be up front --- at the top --- in the middle with bold black or blue text -- I got you! I will put your book where you want it to go (first come, first served)! Featured books are for a small cost of $5! Paid featured authors will also be added to the updated #MuslimGirlsRead Book App in the Google Play Store --- and will be invited to our virtual Book Fair!You still need to send your information & payment (Paypal me) by when? That's right: DECEMBER 21st, 2018! No late features will be accepted, but I love you nonetheless!

Share and Share and Share and Share and Share!

We cannot wait to get started on this list, but the BIG LIST can't be BIG without books! Stop what you're doing today and send me your books' information! I send this book list out to schools all over the world, I reference it on this blog, on all of my social media accounts, in interviews worldwide and enshallah, feature authors will be invited to participate in our upcoming virtual book fair in March 2019! You don't want to miss out on this list! This is not just my personal reading list, this is THE BIG END OF THE YEAR LIST: MUSLIM FICTION EDITION.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Oils & Incense For Sale Part 3 by Author and Educator Umm Juwayriyah

 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 prayer 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.


After breakfast Marc helped Jaleel bring the dozen boxes that had been lined up in the living room down to Jaleel's truck parked in front of the apartment. The all-black 2011 Nissan Frontier truck was tricked out with shiny silver rims and a custom grill. Marc wondered what business Jaleel really was into? Had he really left the block or was he dibbling back into his pleasures? Marc didn't know for sure. He knew he could trust Jaleel. But at the end of the day, he also knew crime was still in both of their blood. It always had a way of creeping out when you'd least expect it. Still, Marc knew he wanted to give Jaleel a chance, just like Jaleel had given him one. For some reasons he couldn't explain, Marc felt like he had a bond with Jaleel.

Marc glanced over at Jaleel as he drove down I-91 South towards Hartford and shook his head before he tightened his seat belt around himself. Jaleel was dipping in and out of the lanes like he worked for NASCAR. The dashboard of the car bounced to the rhythm of Papa San's classic old school dancehall song, Run the Route that boomed from the truck's sound system. Thirty minutes later Jaleel was pulling onto Blue Hills Ave. He slow rolled the truck through the street while occasionally waving at different people he knew. Marc sighed as he looked upon the people that lined the streets. Him and Junior had known some dudes in Holyoke who had attended Weaver High School in Hartford. Weaver High School students had been notorious for all the wrong things back in the day.  Hartford's dealers and gang members, many from Weaver High School, has had a habit of trying to run through their neighbors in Springfield and Holyoke, Massachusetts to turn over any block that they thought wasn't secure with a strong arm and bullets. Junior had had plenty of squabbles with runners from the Blue Hills Ave crew from Weaver High School and Marc had always been there to make sure his cousin got out alive. That was then though. Marc had been out of the game, but the area still made him anxious.

"You good!" Jaleel told him as he popped the locks and opened the driver's door. He stepped out and stretched out his full six foot frame.

"I'm a'ight," Marc responded with hesitation as he exited the truck then surveyed his surroundings once again.

Jaleel laughed as he headed towards the flatbed. "That wasn't a question, brah. That was the real. You good 'round here. Fo'real. We...I mean, I got family all through here. Look, the store is across the street," he said nodding his head in the direction. "We got everything on grid lock. Nobody doing what we doing from Springfield to New York City. Not even in New Haven or West Heaven. All them little bitty spots out there run by Pakistanians or A-rabs anyway. Grab dem boxes," Jaleel ordered.

Marc turned around and looked across the street. He was surprised to see several decent looking storefronts that stood side by side. Some had signs for shoes, jewelry, clothing, and even eye glasses. He spotted Jaleel's place right away. It was right in the middle of the other stores with a steady stream of people walking in and out. There was a green and gold crescent lighted outside spinning, a few tables and chairs, and a steady billow of smoke flowing from the store. The large marquee sign read Heavenly Couture: Oils & Incense & Organic Teas over the top of store and looked expensive, too.  Marc reached into the flatbed and pulled out two boxes and ran them across the street. It was time for Marc to find out just what Jaleel had on grid lock and decide whether or not he wanted to be apart of it.

"Wipe dem feet, youngin' den come 'round dere back, 'easy!" called a soft feminine voice Marc couldn't spot. He backed up to the door and did as he was told. He didn't know why, but he just knew he didn't want to start nothing with who ever he heard.

"Gud Mawrnin, youngin!" a slender, petite woman with the silky voice from before. She emerged from a back room carrying a small box. She stood about five feet with rich and flawless sandal brown skin draping her face that was accented with dimples in her cheeks, thick black eye lashes and eyebrows. A single gold hoop dangled from her nose while black studs lined her earlobes. She had a ton of gold bracelets on each wrist that jingled as she walked, a beige head wrap with ringlets of thick, black natural hair slipping free. She wore a green wrap dress with a beige and gold throw scarf over her chest with brown leather boots.

Marc stared the woman up and down slowly taking in all of lines upon her face before he caught himself. "Oh! Uh, Morning. How ya doing?" he finally thought to say.

"Gud, gud to finally see you, Marc!" the young woman quipped with a little giggle before walking behind the counter. Behind the counter on the walls were rows and rows of bottles of oils and incense. The whole shop smelled like what he thought some the gardens of Jannah would smell like. The floors shined and sparkled real clean, bottles of lotions, perfumes, soaps, pomades, shampoos, conditioners, dresses and handbags were every where his eyes landed. In the back of the store was a tea and coffee station that had a couple of bookcases full of  books for sale as well. Marc was impressed. He'd never seen a store like it before in Holyoke. But his mind quickly wandered back to the pretty woman behind the counter tapping her feet, bouncing her head, and lip singing to the beat of the soft playing voice of Buju Banton coming through the store's speakers:

"And I say, I know that the sun will come out tomorrow.
Bring me only joy, don't bring no sorrow. Call me optimistic. I believe in life.
All is here for the taking, for a price.
It's the magic city, magic lights, magic moments, 
magical heights..."

Zuri was her name. She wasn't the conventional beauty that you would see in a rap or pop music video or hanging on the block with the stick up boys, but she was naturally beautiful. And Marc could tell she knew it, too!

"Zuri! Zuri? Where you put dem receipts? Thought I said you got to keep the books tighter than a mug'. All we needs is one pop-up inspection or that man sniffing 'round here looking for us to slip up...." Jaleel ranted. Zuri waved her hand in the air. Pieces of paper were griped in between her fingers. She smiled before sticking out her tongue.

"One of these days, gal! I swear by Allah! You gon' be on a boat back on to that Motherland you love so much! Keep tryin' me," Jaleel joked. "Marc, where the rest of the boxes, brah?"

Marc looked down at the two boxes he had brought in and sighed out loud. He totally had got sidetracked. "My bad, Leel. Let me go get the rest of them!" Marc turned on his heels and headed back outside to the truck.

"Be easy, Jaleel," Zuri offered.

"I can't have both of you screwing up. He boughta' get my stuff jacked right outside the damn store! And mind your own business, too!' Jaleel warned her as he walked over and picked up the first two boxes.

"Oh, Hodan called for you. Fatma, your sister called. And Mr. O'Brien from the city planning's office called three times already. Plus yesterday messages, too." Zuri revealed. "He's not going to stop. I don't think."

"Nah! But when I buy this strip, enshallah, that'll stop him for good. Call Hodan and Fatmah, tell them he's here, safe and good. They can come by and see him at closing. He gotta pull his weight like the rest of us."

"Aye - Aye, Captain. Any other demands?" Zuri giggled before grabbing her cellphone.

"I am gonna  put your butt on a boat soon come, Zuri!"


Marc brought all the boxes into the store then Jaleel wanted him to unpack them, record the inventory and then finally restock the shelves on the front floor. It took almost four hours just to count the inventory. To his dismay, Marc spent most of the day in the back, while Jaleel and Zuri were out on the front floor with all the customers that kept coming through the door. Jaleel had been right, he did have the business on lock. He felt proud that his mentor had made big moves and left him a space to come learn and grow with him. That still didn't stop him from thinking about Zuri. He hadn't even had an opportunity to introduce himself properly before Jaleel had him slaving. She had greeted him like she knew his social security number. Like she had been waiting on him all along. He wanted to know who she was and what she was about. Was she one of Jaleel's women. He could've swore Jaleel had a woman back at the apartment. Zuri didn't look like she was that type, but Marc  knew anything was possible. You never knew how people lived behind closed doors these days, Marc thought.

There was a small tap on the door then it opened before Marc could speak. "Jaleel ready for salat. Our masjid up suh," Zuri told him.

"Up what? What you say?'

"Uh-- Suh, dem street!" Zuri snapped annoyed.

"Up What? Up where?" Marc asked again not realizing he was offending her. "My bad. I'm sorry, yo! It's just your accent. It's nice but mad fast. I just didn't hear you well," Marc explained as his face flushed warm and his jaw got tight. Marc hadn't been accustomed to apologizing. Not before prison and definitely not during. He said what he said and always meant it. He could tell Zuri was different and accustomed to a different approach. And she was real easy on his eyes, even when she was mad. He dropped his head finally trying to show a bit of respect. "Are you Muslim, Zuri?" Marc blurted out. It was a blunt and risky question, but he wanted to know straight up if she had any deen or not. He wasn't bout to go back to chasing hot tails in the street running after hot boys. His question made her stop in her tracks.

Zuri sucked her teeth and then shook her head lightly. She wondered what Marc really was about, too! Couldn't he tell what she was? He was the one who just got out of a jail and had the nerve to question her faith? "What - do - you - think?" she asked slowly and sarcastically enunciating each word as best as she could before disappearing.

Marc laughed to himself. He understood every word she said that time, but he still was lost and didn't know the answer. He walked to the bathroom to relieve himself than made ablution.

The walk Jaleel took Marc on was short but frigid. It was the middle of the day and the air seemed to have gotten colder. Still they marched on as quickly as they could in order to make the noon prayer on time. The small masjid was just up the block. As soon as they approached the masjid he saw Muslims. The men and the women were noticeable. Brothers in long traditional gowns, kufis, and big beards started offering the salams, extending their hands to Jaleel and Marc alike. Marc didn't know any of them, but he felt welcomed and safe.

Marc smiled to himself as he finally lined up on the musallah with the rest of the brothers in a straight line. This was his first time ever praying in a real masjid on the outside. He rubbed his feet into the plush green carpet, straightened his back, before turning his head to look down the row. There were about 50 men in the room for the noon prayer. Marc might as well had been in Makkah surrounded by millions  of Muslims because he was amazed by the sight right there in Hartford. He'd never been to Makkah, but he knew what his heart was feeling, he'd feel it there too.

"Allahu Akbar!" the prayer leader called out and Marc prayed his first prayer in the masjid as a free man.

After the prayer was over, Marc spotted Jaleel on the other side of the prayer room making his Sunnah prayers. Marc sat down on the carpet and began to offer some supplications and dhikr. As he recited the names of Allah, his mind wandered. He still hadn't gone over to his mother's house. He knew he needed to go check up on her and his little sister, even though she never once wrote or visited him. He was a kid who made some bad mistakes that she'd tried to steer him away from. He hadn't listened to her. He'd been hardheaded and dumb. She'd been right all the time. But still her absence hurt him deeply. She left him alone when he needed her love and guidance most. Now he was too embarrassed and proud to drag himself back to her doorstep without really redeeming himself. He had to get himself together before he could face his mother again. Right or wrong, Marc would have to face his mother on his own terms now.

"You ready for that cold, brah?" Jaleel asked from behind. "I knew I shoulda just drove down the daggone street!"

"I'm good and young and strong! I can take it!" March flaunted.

"I ain't none dem things no more. I am about to catch the flu, an ear infection, and arthritis in my  back messing around with this cold. Speaking of the cold, you gonna have to get your license, asap. Need you to start making deliveries once we get the van next week. Enshallah," Jaleel explained as they walked out the musallah into the hall to retrieve their shoes from the shoe rack.

"You bought a van?"

"Yeah. Got a good deal at an auction. Figure it's time to expand the business. With winter on top of us foot traffic gonna slow down soon. We need to keep the customers buying though," Jaleel said.

"You got a website, Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat and a LinkedIn page yet?" Marc asked as they walked out of the masjid and started trekking back to the store.

"Nah. I don't really mess with that online and social media crap like that. O.G.s don't rap with strangers, ya dig? But you know how to set that stuff up?"

"Yeah, I do."

"Good. Guess you got some more work to do then."

"Yeah, I guess so," Marc beamed with pride. He had work to do and it made him feel good.

"Every day you work, is the day you get paid."

"How much you gonna pay me to work at Heavenly Couture?"


"$75 a week?" Marc grimaced. "I mean, I know it's just a starting pay, right?"

"$75 a day. Plus you can keep tips from the van deliveries. Bigger deliveries, bigger tips. Don't be a knucklehead though, keep ya head on straight."

When Marc and Jaleel walked through the door they stopped to wipe their feet off on the door mat.  A man came walking up to them. Zuri was busy with customers but she slipped away immediately as she saw the man approaching her boss. She wanted to get there and warn Jaleel. But it was too late. The man had beaten her again.

"Mr. O'Brien," Jaleel sulked. "What can I do for you, sir?"

"Chad. Really, my first name is fine.  Just call me, Chad. Can I uh call you Jaleel?"

"No! We're not friends, Mr. O'Brien. So what's up? What do you want now?"

"Fine, Mr. James. Have it your way. I am here to talk numbers. I've been authorized to make you an offer you're not going to want to turn down this time."

Marc and Zuri looked at Jaleel to see what he was going to say next. What would he be willing to do, if the numbers were actually too good to turn down?