It's not that I don't like Christmas music. It's just that I am so tired of hearing it everywhere. For God's sake, this very song was playing even at the Indian restaurant we dined out at last week. Sparking green and white Christmas trees are just about everywhere, from the doctor's office to my aunt's house. (She considers herself too American to not have at least a Christmas tree). There are two neighbors on my street that seem to be in a competition for the award of "Most Random and Overdone X-Mas Decorations." Who sells a reindeer flashing five different colors anyway?
That's what you get for living in a Western country where just about everyone, Christian or not, celebrate Christmas. But, it makes me wonder what it's like during Eid or Ramadan in a Muslim country.
"It's amazing," Ammi tells me. "There's so much joy and excitement. All the women gather together to make a lot of food. We buy new dresses and bangles. You walk out and you can't help but greet someone and tell them to have a great Eid or Ramadan."
Hmm...if I wear to walk out of my house during Eid and tell someone Eid Mubarak, they would probably think something is wrong with me. Not that I would do that, obviously, unless if I was sure it was a Muslim.
Anyhow, it still seems like we're celebrating, because we have a party to go to on the 25th. Except the occasion is a baby shower.
I feel that day by day, our family is expanding infinitely. There about three female relatives currently pregnant and many more relatives immigrating here to live the American dream (only to realize within a month that money, in fact, does not grow on trees, the economy is downright terrible, and the winters are freakishly harsh).
Abu jokes that the total number of family guests we will be obligated to invite by the time I get married will be close to a thousand. I tell him it will probably be much more than that, because I'm not planning on marriage anytime soon.
"Iman, get some romaine lettuce and put it in a bag will you?" Ammi asks me.
"Sure," I reply. By the way, have you noticed how outrageously expensive healthy food is? Ammi would love to buy all things organic, but Abu would freak out if she did.
"You can be cheap about everything, but not food," is Ammi's argument. Add the shopping for clothes part, and I completely agree with her.
While I'm placing the bagged lettuce in the cart, I notice a familiar guy in my peripheral view. I turn around, curious.
"I've already gotten the Snickers for you. Let's go now," I hear a familiar voice. His head is covered with a black hood, but as soon as he turns his head, I recognize him. Our eyes meet, and I smile a little.
"Hey, Iman," he calls out. Before replying, I look around me to see where Ammi and Humza are. They don't seem to be in sight.
"Hi, Tariq," I reply. Or should I be saying salaam to him? If it was a Muslim girl, I wouldn't have even thought about it. I would have just said salaam. Next to him, his younger brother resembles him closely, with a dark pile of hair and high cheekbones.
We are in the same Spanish and Art classes but he had never really said hi to me before. He knows I don't purposely communicate with Muslim guys, and I guess he respects that.
But why now? Being the girl that I am, it is only natural for me to analyze and decipher the most minor of things, especially when it concerns the opposite gender. I am hoping he leaves before Ammi comes though, because then it could just lead to another misunderstanding.
"Enjoying break?" he asks, while his brother tugs at his sleeve. It makes me wonder, how can some guys be warm in just a hoodie or a sweatshirt when it's fifteen degrees?
"Uh...yea," I decide. "Is that your brother?" I ask, knowing the answer already.
"Yea, he's a chocolate addict, I swear," he replies. I laugh and he smiles, but his brother whines angrily. I guess I am not the only one with an annoying and spoiled young brother.
"I gotta go before he throws a tantrum. I'll see you at school then," Tariq says to me, and I nod a goodbye to him.
Lather that evening, Laila is over at my house to see Eclipse. She has seen it two times in the theater already and owns it on DVD, but is appalled by the fact that I have not seen it yet. Hence, she's forcing me to watch it with her. It's only us tonight because Anum and Farah are both out of town. Lucky them.
An hour into the movie, I can't help but notice that there are way too many kissing scenes.
"Laila, you watched this movie how many times?" I ask, almost afraid of the answer.
"Ah, I lost count," she replies. "But, it's soooo good!"
"Yea, but it would be much better if someone wasn't kissing every other minute," I said.
"That's the best part!" she exclaimed excitedly. "Wait till the part where Jacob and Bella finally kiss!"
I roll my eyes. She's pulling me into her love craze now. "I saw Tariq today," I tell her.
She hits pause on the remote and sits up straight, her large eyes widening. "No way! Tell me all about it."
One thing I have learned about Laila is that she gets excited about everything, even the most minor of things. So I should have expected this, and yet I was surprised by her reaction.
"Tell you what?" I ask her, confused. "I just saw him at Jewel Osco."
"Oh," she said, her shoulders sagging a little, deciding it wasn't as exciting as she thought it was. "But he must have talked to you!" she predicted, waiting for me to explain.
"Yea," I reply slowly, "but it was just a hi."
"Aw that's so cute! Man, you two would look so good together. I can just imagine--"
"Laila!" I interrupt. Now, I'm starting to feel a little uncomfortable. "I didn't mean it that way. I was just saying casually that I saw him. I don't...you know...like him or anything."
"Yea right you don't," she refutes, her eyes twinkling. I roll my eyes, shaking my head. "Iman, have you seen him? He's so adorable!"
I reserve that word for little kids, not necessarily for someone like Tariq. "I thought you were crazy about Asad. Now it's Tariq's turn?" I ask.
"No, no. I mean for you, he's so cute. And this is so perfect. He's even in our art class!"
"Laila," I grab her by the shoulders. "Really, stop it now. These movies are getting to you. Don't think of any crazy plans."
"You're no fun Iman," she pouts her mouth.
"How about a pillow fight then?" I ask, grabbing one from behind me. She shrieks as I throw it towards her. And that's how I stop her from talking about boys.
Later at night, I think about Laila's words. Now that I think about it, Tariq isn't so bad looking. But then again, I can hardly remember how he looks like, and it won't be another two weeks before I see him at school. Maybe Laila was exaggerating again.
For now, I have to focus on enjoying vacation. Even if I have to listen to Christmas songs, at least I will be able to sleep late and not worry about tons of homework. Hurray!
Happy vacation (and for those of you who don't have that privilege, I sincerely apologize),
American Muslim Girl
Frankly, I wasn't paying attention to anything except the large pool of candy in front of me. I sorted the chocolate from the lollipops, the expensive from the cheap.
I had returned three hours earlier from trick-or-treating with Humza, my two young cousins, and the Chinese girl who lived across from us. Basically, I was the baby sitter for all the kids who wanted to go out and get candy and whose parents refused to or were unwilling to tag along.
I didn't mind at all. I loved being with the children in their little costumes and the freaky decorations creeping up people's driveways and bushes. We stuck to the neighborhood, so we knew most of the people anyway.
Eight year old Ayesha was dressed as an Indian princess, which was sadly, my costume for the two years I had a Halloween party at school when I was in elementary school. It involved taking out a fancy Shalwar Kameez worn from a previous Eid or wedding and wearing it with some bangles and anklets. The only comfort was from the other girls who adored my inexpensive "costume" but the envy was always hidden beneath. But, even now, I stuck with my simple lavender Shalwar Kameez. I was only interested in the candy.
Amir, two years older than his princess sister, was a pirate and an extremely adorable and hardly dangerous one too. I wouldn't have minded if he captured me and took me away on his nonexistent ship.
Lisa was dressed as the good witch from the Wizard of Oz, and was a very animated one too. "Immi, I shall grant you your wish," she giggled delightedly.
"Okay, take me all around the world, and no homework for the rest of my life and--"
"Why so serious? Wanna know how I got these scars?" Humza interrupted. He's such a terrible actor.
He wasn't really into dressing up much but he caked his face with make up to look like the joker from Batman.He didn't understand that saying these lines over and over again just made him less impressive. He was also annoying me because Abu and Ammi ordered that he had to come along with us instead of his friends. I probably would too, considering he came home past eleven last Halloween.
Anyways, it was very embarrassing because Ammi insisted she wasn't going to keep a bowl of candy out for the kids who came to our house. Instead, she put crackers, nuts, and a combination of other obviously non-chocolate-too-healthy-for-Halloween "treats." Now which kid wants that? Abu and I sneaked some chocolate in the bowl to save our reputation in the neighborhood.
I really had planned to last all the good candy for at least a week, but two days later, I've exhausted my entire supply. Instead of lamenting me with me or comforting me, my friends decided to engage in a debate of whether Halloween should be celebrated or not.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with it," Laila said.
"No, really, isn't not such a good thing. This is a holiday that originated from pagan and idol worshipers," Farah argued while munching on a cookie.
"Oh, c'mon, people don't go out and worship the lord of death. They go out to have fun," Anum disagreed.
"And having fun by dressing up as Cleopatra or a slutty cop costume and going to stranger's houses is okay?" Farah asked.
I wanted to say something, but every time I opened my mouth to speak, someone else would just get started. My eyes moved towards Kathy who occasionally joined us for lunch sometimes. She too listened to the conversation in between bites of her chicken burger.
"I know my grandma is really against Halloween because she's really Orthodox and she doesn't believe in witchcraft," Kathy said, "but what's wrong with little kids having fun?"
"Exactly. Kids dress up to be their favorite hero and it's so cute and fun for them," Laila said.
"That's the problem. Their hero shouldn't be someone like Iron Man or Cinderella. And besides, if they celebrate Halloween as a kid, they're gonna want to when they are older anyway." Farah was hanging to her argument stubbornly. She had a point, but I didn't think she realized that superheros and princesses are really what little boys and girls care about.
"Uh, I'd kinda feel left out if I was the only kid in class to not dress up in a costume for a Halloween party. No kid likes to follow a million rules at such a young age, or they'll just end up hating the source of those rules, which would be their parents or Islam," I pointed out.
The bell ended just after I finished talking, signaling the end of our little debate. But, it left me thinking about the issue later that week.
"What do you think, Abu? Is it bad to go out to trick-or-treat and celebrate Halloween?"
Abu flipped through pages of some sort relating to his work. He had his reading glasses on and I wouldn't have bothered him but he didn't seem to be focused much.
"Like any other American holiday, Iman, it's all about making money."
Of course Abu would talk about money. It was only natural for him to do that, but he also had a very good point.
"But I mean is it a bad thing for Muslims?" I knew Ammi's answer already; she would have said yes just because Halloween always ended with a stomach full of candy.
Abu hummed for a bit. I tried to recognize the tune. I think it was a classical Bollywood tune, probably from before I was even born. He took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes, and leaned forward.
"All these people have such a negative view of Muslims, beta. They think Islam is such a backwards religion and we're not allowed to do anything. Hassan told the teacher he didn't want his son to be part of the Valentine's party in his class. What kind of impression does the teacher have about Islam? That they don't let their kids have fun."
Hassan is one of Abu's many friends and perhaps a little more conservative. I wonder what his son felt like.
What do you think? Is it okay to celebrate Halloween?
Kindly pondering these thoughts,
American Muslim Girl
Actually, I've been hooked to YouTube and Facebook. I swear, technology is such a distraction. The administration at my high school doesn't realize that there are still ways to access these ever popular websites despite attempts to block them. We have some pretty clever geeks at our school, if I may say so. And really, are teachers that gullible that they don't know we're not using our phones in class to update our Facebook status or lament on how boring angular momentum is?
Truthfully, I don't even have Internet on my phone, which I guess is better that way. Or else I would become robotic like Anum and respond the second after I recieved an email or message alert. But, I can't deny I'm jealous about her iPhone. Dear Lord, my friends are so spoiled and rich. They don't even pity me sometimes.
I was very close to recieving detention in class today because Laila texted me while I was taking a quiz and being the forgetful person that I am, I had not switched my cell to silent.
Mariyam was telling me that I need to be strategic about these kinds of things. I have to punish myself, or distract myself so I don't become engrossed in them. It's difficult, but I know I have to do something about it. How can I wake up for Fajr after only falling asleep the hour before?
If I do use technology, which I must in this day and age, it should only be for a limited amount of time. I am such a hypocrite--I become agonized when I find people at social gatherings glued to their phone instead of actually talking to the people around them. And now with the iPad. Apple really needs to stop it with their amazing inventions.
Oh where can I roam in this Earth so that I may be able to live without the forces of technology? Where I can tell the time by the intensity of the sun rays, where can I breathe the desert air and splash nature's pure water on my skin? Where can I put my forehead on the floor of the Earth and sing praises to my Lord?
Okay, I don't usually go to the whole poetic route. But, this is pretty ironic because I am blogging, not using a stick to scratch letters on a rock or in the depths of sand.
By the way, in the midst of my YouTube obsession, I did find an entertaining movie that really is cute. Here's the description:
Katie and Ramsha are two strangers, two quite different young women, both attending the same University. Katie catches Ramsha in the most awkward of moments, but soon their relationship is defined more acutely by friendship. In this film, we witness inter
...and then it gets cut off, but basically awkward moments. Foot in the sink, praying by the stairs anyone? This is exactly what this is about. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3Dlh5-OR70&feature=player_embedded#!
So, before I fail an exam and my parents freak out about, and because I really do need to shut off the computer before I spend another five hours on the computer, I really must take your leave now.
Sincerely hoping that you too recieve a dose curing technologitis :)
American Muslim Girl
The weather is making me extremely angry. One day, I find myself walking in beautiful sunshine and the very next in bursting cold wind. These rapid changes are what I was assuming to be the cause of my sickness. But, actually, it really was Humza who made all of us ill.
I think he passed along some germs from one of his nerdy classmates who decided to come to school instead of staying home. And once one person in the family gets sick, you know what happens, right? Well, lemme tell you anyway.
Ammi had made us pear juice (freakishly healthy, right?) and had left the jug in the refrigerator. One day, I came home from school and poured myself a drink because it was 70 degrees outside.
Before I can even take a sip, someone rang the doorbell. I hurried to answer because the sound of our door bell is extremely annoying. It's almost like the sound of the fire alarm, screeching and whiny. Either Abu purchased some really strange bell because it was cheap or he installed it completely wrong. Both are equally likely.
It ends up being Nabeelah to give us a box of sweets.
"Ooh, what's the special occasion?" I teased.
Nabeelah rolled her eyes. "It's not what you're thinking. My sister had a baby boy."
"Oh yea!" I squealed in delight, remembering Ammi telling me earlier in the week. Nabeelah was in a hurry because she had madrasa exams so I had to bid her farewell.
When I returned to the kitchen, I was in a dilemma of choosing the sweets or the pear juice. On the one hand, no one was around so I could have my share of the sweets before Abu and Humza devoured it, or before Ammi snatched it from us because it was unhealthy.
I decided to go with the pear juice because I was more thirsty than hungry. And I always felt guilty about having dessert before a meal.
It probably would have been a better choice to go with the sweets though. The next day, when I woke up with a sore throat, I was adamant in finding the cause of it. I had a busy day ahead of me and I was angry at my immune system for failing me.
Humza decided to tell me that night that he had a sip of my pear juice while I had gone to answer the door bell. I thought he wasn't even in the house, because it was such a gorgeous day out and there was no noise to indicate he was present. But, I forgot that he was sick with a cold and unlike his normal self, he had had quietly slunk away in his bed.
Anyway, when I found out, I was furious. I pushed Humza with my right shoulder while he was returning to his room after dinner.
"Stop it," he yelled, shoving me back. I almost lost my balance, suddenly realizing that he was getting stronger.
"What happened?" Ammi called out from the kitchen. I glared at Humza, who had already turned away from me to open his bedroom door. I grabbed the top of his T-shirt, pulling him from behind.
"Owww," he whined, trying to release himself. Ammi came rushing, which wasn't a surprise. I swear Humza is such a spoiled brat.
"What are you two doing?" she scolded us, clearly exasperated. "I'm sick of you two fighting. And I'm not feeling good either, and I'd like some peace in this--"
"Well, it's his fault that we're all getting sick," I interrupted, folding my arms across my chest.
"Iman, don't interrupt me and this isn't the first time you've had a cold so quit it."
I rolled my eyes. Of course, she would favor Humza. I stomped out of the hallway and returned to my bedroom.
The bed was covered with my favorite shade of soft green, a floral pattern mixed in with light blue. It called to me and I wanted to sleep.
But I had a trigonometry test the next day to study for and I needed to at least look over the material. I'm not usually the kind to stress, but suddenly the equations I was practicing became too complicated and jumbled.
Ammi came in about an hour later with a glass of boiling water mixed in with honey and lemon.
"Drink this," she ordered.
I shook my head in protest, but she didn't budge. "It's going to burn my mouth!" I insisted, fearfully eying the drink. She set the glass on my dresser and I knew I had to drink it. NyQuil was out of the question.
I ended up taking the next day off. My head throbbed and my sore throat had disappeared in exchange for a runny nose and a slight cough. I was alone in the house, and yet I couldn't relax because of the noise caused by the remodeling of the house across the street.
were r u?? still sick? Laila texted me around midafternoon. I had given up studying for the math test and was waiting for the chicken soup to warm up in the microwave.
yea. im going to kill humza! dont finish ur painting w/o me! I really wished that I could have spent this day off from school another way--say, shopping? Or, even sleeping in and watching movies. But I felt restless and couldn't sleep.
Right before Humza was to return from school, I finally fell asleep and didn't wake up until dinner. Fortunately, I was feeling much better. Ammi's home remedy had worked.
But now it was Ammi's face that looked pale and tired. This was a never-ending cycle and I was so relieved to step out of the house the next day. I felt unhealthy just staying inside and away from the fresh air.
"How did you trig test go?" Farah asked me during lunch. She was wearing a lavender hijab with a beautiful black abayya trimmed with sparse gems on the sleeves.
I shrugged. "Okay, I guess." I certainly didn't care at this point because it was already over. I was just happy I got a make-up during study period and not during lunch.
"You should see my painting so far!" Laila said, "Mr. Hesser complimented on it!"
I rolled my eyes at her. She found our art teacher to be attractive, and though I could see that, his age definitely ruled out any fantasy of him for me.
"I thought you were infatuated with Asad," I reminded her. I was puzzled at how some girls like Laila had multiple crushes. It was hard sometimes to just focus on one.
She fluttered her long eyelashes at me. "Habibti, who said I wasn't?"
I opened my mouth. Farah met my glance and smiled. "I hope you're not flirting like that with him," she warned, "because you look pretty hot when you do that."
Laila giggled. "I sit diagonally from him in French. It's such a perfect view."
"Why, does he look good from the side too?" I asked.
"Actually, his noise does look kind of big from the side," Laila said, who tilted her head to take a good look at Asad who sat several lunch tables away. I was too tired to move my head and follow her gaze.
I couldn't rest when I got home. Ammi had to go to the doctor because it seemed like she had a virus.
"No, I'm feeling fine," she insisted, but Abu wouldn't buy it.
"That's what you said last time when you got a strep throat. I'm not listening to you this time." Abu had a pretty persuasive argument.
"I'll go grab some pizza," I volunteered, knowing the traffic at this time of the day would be too much to both visit the doctor and get dinner.
There was a pizza diner just several blocks away from our house. It was pretty small but it was cozy and warm. I realized there were not many sunny days left and I should take advantage of the few that remained. I took out my bicycle, which was getting kind of small for me, while Abu and Ammi headed out for the clinic.
"Abu, I think it's your turn now to get sick. Better watch out," I warned later that evening. I sat at the dining table with my homework, Humza next to me and Abu across from me eating pizza. Ammi had gone to sleep early, which was unusual for her but the medicine was making her drowsy.
"Hey, I'm strong," he said, his mouth full.
"Is this correct?" Humza asked, shifting his notebook towards me. He didn't explicitly want to say, "Can you help me?"
"You should ask Dad you know. He's the math expert." It was true. What do you expect from an accountant?
Abu looked at me. "Expert, huh? That's a nice way of putting it. Usually, it's the boring accountant guy."
"You can be a little boring sometimes." I had to agree, but then again I was a girl and most girls find some things boring that guys find interesting.
"And you and your mom? Crazy about shopping. Never think about saving."
"Abu, you are very stingy."
"Yea, we didn't get much Eidie this year," Humza pointed out. He was correct, for once.
"Well, this year isn't over yet. And Eid is coming up next month Dad. Hint hint."
"Ahh. You kids are too much. You don't think $100 is good enough for Eidie?"
"Uh...no," Humza and I said together. We look at each other and laugh and then quiet down because we don't want Ammi to wake up.
Abu shook his head and then left us to do our homework. My homework wasn't usually finished until I checked Humza's. His scrawny writing made the task much harder.
Anyway, there was so much more that happened, but the important thing is that we're alive and well now. I hope winter doesn't bring this repetitive cycle of sickness again, because frankly, I'm sick of it!
Before I bid farewell, let's have Dreamer give you an update :)
Hey everyone! I wanted to apologize foremost for not being able to write a post in three weeks. Believe me, it has been killing me inside. Neglecting writing is one thing, but neglecting a blog which people actually read is another thing. My schedule of classes has left me insane! I am not used to such big gaps between my classes and I get hardly any work done at school. And as you might have anticipated from the theme in this post, I was sick too--for over a week, but alhamdulillah I am feeling much better now. That being said, I will try and post at least every two weeks now. Thank you for being patient!
Well, folks, I guess it's time to call it a day then!
American Muslim Girl
I tried to enjoy the moment as much as I could.
"Don't eat the cookies!" I yelled at Humza, who was leaning over to grab the special moon-shaped cookies I had baked for Eid.
"Then why'd you make them? So you could take pictures of it?" he asked, annoyed. He was dressed in light blue Shalwar Kameez with a white cotton topi. A pretty rare sight.
"You can eat only one after I'm done taking the picture," I replied, maneuvering my new Canon over the plate of cookies. I had the best uncle in the world, who gave me a special gift every Eid-ul-Fitr.
Satisfied with a couple of shots, which were soon to be uploaded on Facebook under my album "Delightful Cooking," I allowed Humza to take a cookie.
It was midday, and people were bound to be over. We had already prayed Eid Salaat at Holiday Inn earlier in the morning and I had said Eid Mubarak a thousand times to everyone I knew and didn't knew.
Abu came into the kitchen just as Humza savored his last crumbs, dressed in a similar hue of Shalwar Kameez. Humza wasn't at all appreciative of my idea for him and Abu to dress the same, but I thought it would be cute, and Abu liked the idea too.
"Where is your mother? Mahmoud's wife and children are over and you are all stuck here!" he exclaimed. My dad loved to entertain guests, and he got upset when we didn't live up to his expectations.
"Mom..." I started, realizing I didn't know where she was. Anyway, being the good daughter that I was, I took control and went to the living room to greet the guests.
Mahmoud's wife was petite and very friendly, and her daughter seemed to appear right out of a magazine. With her large blue eyes and light brown curls, she looked inevitably Caucasian, not Arab...and definitely not Muslim. But there I go with the categorization again.
"Eid Kareem!" I enthusiastically greeted them, giving both a warm embrace. During Eid, I can get very loving. I can hug complete strangers out of pure happiness, but that's also dangerous and I'm aware of my limits.
Ammi popped out of nowhere minutes later, rushing ahead of me to offer the guests plates of sweets and snacks. She motioned me later to retrieve the Eid candy bags we had made the night before to hand to the kids.
Towards evening, we all got in Mom's silver Toyota Camry and headed to my favorite uncle's house. House might be an understatement...no, I think I meant to say underword...wait that's not a word at all. Never mind. You get the picture.
He lives in Kenilworth, one of the richest suburbs in Chicago. And it makes sense, considering he's a neurologist and really one of the best. I hope his intelligence has passed down to me through Ammi.
It's the usual tradition for our family to gather at his house for Eid. For one thing, his mansion can actually accommodate our extremely large and expanding family. And he's rich so he can also provide food for us, which half the time is what we're really looking for.
Abu is relaxed, as usual, driving in between chatting with family and friends abroad on the phone.
"Look out! There'a a cop," I warned him. He slips the phone on his lap for a second before raising it to his ear again. I guess he really doesn't care if he gets a ticket, or thinks he'll get lucky and not get caught.
Speaking of luck, we really weren't feeling it while inching our way to get on the highway. There was not one complete road in Chicago that was left untouched and not closed to traffic. Almost every block, it seemed, was broken and under repair, or sectioned off to accommodate construction workers and trucks.
"We're going to be late again. I told you we should leave earlier," Ammi complained, drawing her dark green dupatta tighter around her face.
"How could we leave with guests over?" Abu asked innocently.
"We had over an hour in between the time Mahmoud left and the time we left." You couldn't fool Ammi, that's for sure.
But her frustration subsided quickly once we reached the house.
"Eid Mubarak!" I called out. The house was already crowded and more people streaming in. I wanted to place my heels in a safe spot before I went drastic at night to find them in the messy pile of hundreds of shoes. There is a shoe stealer in our family, I'm telling you. One of my favorite sandals went disappearing at one such gathering and Mumaani (my neurologist uncle's wife) was kind enough to let me go home with her own five inch bronze heels.
Honestly, I didn't want anything more than to dig right into the food. Mamu (my neurologist uncle...okay maybe I need to stop calling him that) has an exquisite taste for a variety of cuisines and I was a little eager to try it out. But, I couldn't jump right to the food because I had to greet everyone--give hugs, say Salaam, ask how they were doing, and so forth. Which of course I wouldn't mind if I hadn't already done that countless times earlier that day.
I can never be too tired of meeting Mamu though.
"Iman beta! Come here. Get some food!" he ordered sweetly.
Well, thank you. Just what I wanted.
"You like the gift?" he asked, tilting his hand. He was very tall and somewhat intimidating when I was younger. It only took a couple of treats and him calling me like his own daughter to realize he really wasn't intimidating at all. I mean, what do you expect a seven year old child to think of a person who cuts up people's brain? Scary, obviously.
"Mamu, it was a complete surprise! I tried calling you earlier to let you know I received it in the mail, but your phone was busy!"
He laughed, then pointed to the food. "Now after a month of fasting, I want you to eat all of this. As much as you can. And how is school coming along?"
"Alhamdulillah," I replied, before we were separated by a stream of chasing kids.
"You can't get me!" a little girl shrieked out of excitement. She ended up tripping over Jamal, who swiftly put her steady on her feet again before getting hurt.
"Iman," he said, giving a small nod of his head. I knew he acknowledged me only because we had already formed eye contact or else he really wouldn't.
"Jamal, how's your Eid?" I asked, knowing my attempt to make conversation would be futile. Jamal is one of those people who have everything but some good manners and a kind heart. I wish he'd learn something from his father or even his two other brothers who were much more sociable and sweet.
He shrugged, and I ended it there.
I could go on and list all the people I talked to, all the delicious food items I indulged in, and so forth but I really need to get going to my class now.
Lunch break is almost over and instead of occupying myself with some reading, I have been won over by the computer.
We shall meet again!
American Muslim Girl
I'm not nervous as I step in; I'm actually unsure of how I feel. I am cold, for one thing. The arrival of Fall is bringing bursts of cold wind, indicative of the long winter ahead.
I almost stop midstep, seeing that there is a line formed from where I stand and to the actual entrance of the school. A freshman, whom I can identify by his short stature and nervous glances, is ahead of me.
"Imaneeeeee!" I hear someone screech my name. I can't mistaken this voice. It has a clear ring to it, a beautiful tingle.
"Anum!" I turn my head to see one of my best friends walking towards me. She is looking fabulous, as always. Her hair is sitting in loose waves around her shoulders, and she is wearing a magenta floral dress with skinny jeans. The Prada designer frames gives her an intelligent, studious appearance.
"Love your new glasses!" I comment immediately. "And the outfit it gorg!"
She smiles, appreciative but modest. "You're looking quite fab yourself. But Iman, I cannot believe they're going to be checking every single one of us."
"Checking us?" I ask, confused. Apparently, I was waiting in line to be checked by the school security.
"Yes, and we only have a half hour before Homeroom," she pointed out, checking her watch.
"Why are they checking us? Don't we already have those metal detectors?" I ask.
The line is moving and we step ahead, closer to the doors. "Yes, but they want to check our bags too. It's all because of those school shootings."
"Right," I agree. Although, who would plan a school shooting on the first day of school? That seems unlikely. But, hey, if a grade school kid can kill his teacher, I guess any form of violence is possible.
It's finally our turn to get checked. I get the Hispanic security officer with the short hair while Anum gets the Caucasian officer. It's tedious, but we are done in a matter of minutes.
Before the stairwell, there is the same mural that greets me every time. I know that in a couple days, the smiling painted faces and yellow colored sunshine will not alleviate my tired mood in the least.
But now, at least, I am feeling happy. I am a junior, having moved up in the category of upperclassmen, which attributes to gaining respect--a little less than seniors obviously--and of course, the right to occasionally look down on the younger ones.
I sit with the same three other students in Homeroom as I have been for the past two years. We are a pretty diverse group:
Eric, the Vietnamese super-intelligent manga-loving boy.
Amy, the Irish girl with really long beautiful hair and an obsession with Seventeen magazine.
Natasha, the Nigerian sudoku-lover who occasionally sings to us.
Add in my crazy Homeroom teacher, who thinks of mathematics as his second child, and we have a pretty fun time. At least I can relax a little before heading off to classes.
I guess I'm quite content with my schedule. First period is Spanish III, which is better than having P.E. first thing in the morning like last year. You can't do much in fifty minutes of class if all the teacher is going to do is go over the syllabus and lecture us to not plagiarize and cheat. And, really, which teacher in his right mind would make us take a mini math ACT practice test on the first day of Trignometry class? Oh, right, my Homeroom teacher obviously, who decided I was having too much fun in Homeroom.
But, I can't complain. As nerdy as it sounds, I can't deny that I like learning and going to school. Sure, if you subtract everything besides the actual learning--namely, high school drama, cliques, peer pressure, gossip, and so on--then maybe high school wouldn't be such a drag.
That, of course is not the case.
I have to welcome everything, drama included.
"Iman, did you take a look at Asad? I think he grew another four inches and God, he looks even more hot!!"
I purse my lips as Laila meticulously describes Asad's physical features. Not that this is the first time we talked about him, and it most likely won't be the last either.
Welcome to high school, I silently tell a freshman who is bent over under the weight of a heavy backpack.
Let's hope things don't get too off hand,
American Muslim Girl
Ammi was thankfully more calm after visiting Hamid Nana and she asked me to help her with some boxes of files that she needed to bring up to her office from the car. I told her she could go ahead and settle inside while I brought it in for her.
It was still morning and the air carried a cool breeze. The sun was out but I hardly felt the heat, which was a good thing cause I didn't want to get thirsty at nine in the morning.
I took the boxes from the car and put them down on the sidewalk beforeI shut the hood. I bent over to pick them up again and started walking towards the building.
NMC was located on a side street just off of Devon Avenue, which made sense since many of Ammi's clients were Muslims that lived in the neighborhood. The streets were not that crowded, since it was still a Wednesday morning. Devon was mostly crowded on Fridays because of Jummah prayers and during the weekend for shopping purposes.
As I headed towards the building, I noticed a guy walking towards me from my peripheral view. I directed my attention towards opening the door without having to put down the boxes again.
He broke into a jog and appeared next to me within a couple of seconds. I stepped back, clearly wanting my space. He opened the door for me so I could go in.
"Thanks," I muttered. He looked a little older than me, but he was definitely Muslim and by the look of him, he didn't seem to have been here for very long. Maybe a F.O.B? Oops, did I just say that?
Anyhow, the guy needed some manners.
"Lower your gaze!" I wanted to yell at him. "It's Ramadan, you idiot."
I quickly went up the couple of steps and into the center. It was decorated with a large banner at the top, bold green letters saying Ramadan Mubarak in English, Urdu, and Arabic.
"Iman! Ramadan Mubarak!" I heard a familiar voice while I put the boxes down on a table.
I turned to my right to find Zubeda, the woman that worked with Ammi and led the immigration workshops.
"Zubeda Aunty! How are you?" I greeted enthusiastically. She came to embrace me with a big hug.
"How come you didn't come earlier? It's been days since you last came," she scolded lovingly. The lady wishes I was her daughter. She has told me on several occasions.
"Summer flew by so fast and then Ramadan started," I told her, remembering that I only had two weeks left until school began.
"Oh, well at least you were able to come in today. We need so much help from you! Come this way," she motioned me towards her cubicle.
I spent most of the day organizing files and entering data in the computer. It was very tedious, but the time went by pretty quickly.
Around 1:00, Ammi asked me to help one of the other aunties to dust the only classroom in the center.
"We'll have a lot of kids for tutoring when school begins," the auntie made conversation with me in Urdu while I dusted tables.
"Oh yea," I answered, remembering the chaos of kids jumping, chewing their pencils, and all of them calling my name at the same time.
This is why I will never be a teacher, I had told myself that one day when I felt like pulling both my hijab and my hair off.
"You're a good girl," the auntie complimented me suddenly.
"Huh?" I asked her, surprised. She was new to this center; I hadn't met her before.
She pointed to my hijab. "You wear a scarf, and you help here," she remarked. "That's very good. And everyone here says you are very smart."
"Aw, thank you," I replied, touched. I wasn't really that great, I thought to myself. But if she wanted to think so, I didn't have a problem with that!
After we finished cleaning, we brought in the boxes Ammi had told me to bring in earlier. We took out school supplies, pencils and markers from one, paper and scissors from another.
Later that evening, Farah called me to invite me to her house for Iftaar the following day.
"Tomorrow?" I asked.
"Yea, did you already make plans? Please tell me no!" she said.
"No, I didn't," I reassured her. "It's just sudden, but that's okay."
"Awesome! I can't wait to see you. It's been so long."
"Don't get too happy. You'll be seeing me everyday in two weeks," I reminded her. We had been given our class schedules earlier this week during orientation. Farah practically squealed with delight when we found out we had art class together.
"Yea, like I'll really be annoyed by you," Farah said.
"Ah, don't bet on it. It's our third year in high school, which makes it more special and should be worth remembering. Hence, I will make it memorable for you," I promised
"My sister would disagree with that. She says her high school life is one she hates remembering because she acted so immature and it's just that phase in life where you have to get through it."
"Oh, older people. I never understand them sometimes. They like to make it seem like it's so much better to be their age. But I say, let's live in the present and enjoy it."
"Sure thing," Farah agreed and hung up soon afterward.
The thought of starting school again wasn't such a pleasant thought. I couldn't sleep until ten or eleven in the morning on a school day, and sometimes it felt like being imprisoned being in school for seven straight hours. But once I got over my summer lazy self and adjusted to the school pace, I didn't mind it so much.
But I sure was glad most of my Ramadan is during vacation, because that way I can at least ensure more time is spent praying.
Do continue to enjoy your Ramadan!
American Muslim Girl
Not going on the computer for several days rouses a strange feeling. You are detached from the Internet bubble and you get a chance to immerse yourself in the beauty of sensing. But once you reattach, you find your email inbox filled up dramatically and after one link leads to another, oh look, it's Asr Salaat! Better not delay it!
Ramadan has made me so preoccupied that alhamdulillah, I am not wasting hours away on Facebook, Youtube, or even the Old Navy shopping page.
But that doesn't mean I can't go on the Internet to read QuranFlash, listen to Ramadan lectures, mull over the Ground-Zero mosque controversy while settling internal arguments, and of course, entrench my experiences in this blog!
Yesterday, I busied myself with writing a shopping list with an actual notepad and paper. And no, this shopping was not for clothes, but for school supplies, which is indeed a very exciting thing to shop for! Though the arrival of Fall and beautiful colored leaves on the pavement (although none are present yet right now) bring with it the beginning of the school year, at least I can comfort myself in the thrilling prospect of school supply shopping.
I sat down with the Staples sales paper, along with the Office Depot, and Office Max (how much more variety can I ask for?). Using the tactical skills my dear father passed on to me, I calculated that buying the colored index cards in Staples versus the boring white in Office Depot would only cost $0.79 more, and that the binders in Office Depot are $0.59 cheaper, which would amount to a lot of savings if I purchased, say 6 binders for the 6 classes, and the pencils in--
And then the phone rang. "Brinnnnnnnnnnng. Brinnnnnnnnnng."
I couldn't tell Humza to pick up because as always, he was outside again with a friend.
"Iman, we're going to the hospital," I heard Abu on the other line. He sounded a little worried, but otherwise, very direct and quite calm.
Images rushed through my mind. Was it Ammi? Nani? They had all gone to the supermarket together. Car accident? Sudden seizure?
"It's nothing to worry about," Abu replied to my unspoken question. "Hamid Nana is recovering from a heart attack and we want to be with him."
"Oh, ok," I replied, relieved. What else could I say? I didn't remember much about Hamid Nana. I know he used to give me chocolate as a little kid whenever he came over. But ever since moving to Aurora, I hardly saw him.
"Is he hospitalized here?" I asked.
"No, in Aurora, so it'll take a while to get there," Abu said. I could hear Ammi's voice in the background. "Here, talk to your mother."
"Listen Iman, where's Humza?" Ammi asked me. She sounded much more tense than Abu.
"He told me he would be at the park with a couple of friends," I replied.
"Well, make sure he comes home soon. And, beta, I'm not sure if we'll come home in time for Iftaar. I've taken the chicken out of the freezer, but you can leave it. Why don't you grab something from--"
"Ammi, don't worry about it. I'll manage. I'll cook the chicken and besides, what will you all eat once you come home?"
"I don't know if that's a good idea. You're fasting."
"Ammi, you forget sometimes that I'm not a little girl. And stop sounding so worried! He's passed the worst, right?"
"Alhamdulillah, but still..."
Ammi should get an award for being the most worried Mom in the world.
"Ok, don't worry Mom," I said, sensing more background noise.
"Don't make a mess in the kitchen Iman! Make sure you clean up!" Ammi said just before I hung up.
I went to our kitchen, feeling the rush of excitement about cooking. As Mom had said, the chicken was thawing. I opened the refrigerator to see what I could cook.
After stirring up my creative juices, I decided to go with Chinese topped with a little Italian: chicken chop suey, stir-fried vegetables, and a regular veggie pizza. I had to pace myself because I only had three and half hours before Iftaar.
I was in the middle of preparing the dough when Humza walked in.
"Oh, man that smells good!" he remarked.
"Why thank you," I replied, smiling.
"Woah, what are you doing? Mom's not here?"
"Why?" I asked. "Only Mom's supposed to be in the kitchen?"
Humza walked over to to the refrigerator to get some orange juice. He's not fasting today.
"No. Mom would've freaked if she saw the mess you made."
He was totally right. Sprinkles of dough had settled on the counter top, which also housed noodles and more than half the contents of the refrigerator.
Humza was thoughtful to face his back behind me while he drank the orange juice. "Are you going to be full with just that?" I asked, surprised he hadn't asked for any food.
"I should leave space for all that you're making," he replied rather maturely.
"Smart. By the way, Mom and Dad are at the hospital to visit Hamid Nana. They won't be back until later."
Humza nodded, not seeming very interested. He instead observed me kneading the dough.
Three hours later, we sat together on the floor in the dining room. Dad had called to tell us they were on their way home.
Before breaking my fast, I tried to focus and pray for the things I wanted most, both in this life and the Hereafter. I had so many endeavors, so many goals, but in the end, I only wanted happiness. Looking at Humza sitting across from me with his white topi on his head, I wondered what he was asking for.
We silently ate our dates and fruit. Just as I was about to give Humza a slice of pizza, Dad arrived with Mom and Nani.
"Iman! Look at all that you've cooked!" Ammi remarked, surprised. I was hoping the smile didn't disappear after she looked at the kitchen. I tried to clean up, but I didn't have much time to leave it clear and speckle-free.
"My daughter is a great cook," Abu commented as he dug in.
I hugged Nani who saw after a week. "Will you be okay with this?" I asked, knowing she didn't like bland food.
"Beta, I'm so hungry right now I'll eat raw broccoli if I had to!" she said in Urdu.
I was overall pleased with my cooking. The chop suey could have used more salt and pepper and the soy sauce was a little too much in the vegetables, but it's not like I could have tasted it while I was cooking! Well, I could have but I don't think I could have rinsed my mouth right away like Ammi does.
Surprisingly, Ammi wasn't too upset about the kitchen. She was pleased with my efforts.
"See? If only you'd let me cook more often," I told her while I washed the dishes.
"True, but don't forget the time you stayed up late to bake cookies instead of studying for your Chemistry test."
"Oh that," I said. "I ended up getting an A in the class anyway," I reminded her. I quickly regretted the way I said the words. All success is from Allah only, I reminded myself.
"And I'm asking you for the third time now. Cut your nails."
I sighed. My nails were not that long, but Ammi always bugged me to cut them. I didn't argue.
After Maghrib Salah, I sat down to cut my nails. Nani and I took turns to massage oil in our hair. Closing my eyes and feeling the soothing sensation in my head, my thoughts drifted into an open body of reflection and gratitude.
So very pleased,
American Muslim Girl
I feel as if I am in a vacuum where time is racing past me and I have lost complete sight of it. Is it really already Ramadan?
The first fast is always a little hard for me. I'm afraid I have made my body too used to ingesting food all the time.
I am feeling a little fatigued so I shall let Dreamer take over:
Well, hello! Ramadan Kareem!
One thing I love about Ramadan is that it is so universal. Even though we may not realize it, it arouses a connection to the entire Ummah. Right now, Muslims all over the world are fasting, or are ready to start their fast (Suhoor) or are breaking their fast (Iftaar). Subhan'Allah.
What does disappoint me, however, is that not all of us have started Ramadan on the same day. Here in North America, it was reported that no moon was sighted the night of Tuesday. Yet, there are many people who still started fasting the very next day. How come?
The debate concerns the traditional method versus the technological method, or so I think. According to hadith,
Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said, "Observe fast on sighting it (the new moon) and break (fast) on sighting it (the new moon), but if the sky is cloudy for you, then complete the number (of thirty)."
Some argue that it is very necessary to have actually seen the moon rather than relying on scientific calculations. Tuesday night was not a cloudy night, but rather a clear sky. So, are we going to assume the moon was there because of satellite pictures and calculations? Or should we stick to more traditional methods and not declare Ramadan until the moon really has been sighted?
I believe both methods should be used in a combination to validate each other. However, in the situation that it conflicts with each other, as in the case this year, I think we should rely more heavily on whether the moon was really sighted or not.
What do you think?
I don't have the energy to ponder over this matter, Dreamer, because I'm dreaming of delicious spicy Tandoori chicken and cold lemonade with a burst of--
"MOM! Where did you put my basketball?!"
Oh, dear. Humza is at it again. I better go see what this is about.
I find him on the porch outside, beads of sweat on his forehead.
"I can't find it!" he yells in exasperation. "Mom always puts my things where I can't find it."
I touch his shoulder, and he stops talking to look at me. I'm not usually this nice to him. That is why he's giving a weird expression.
"Calm down. Mom is on the phone, but I'll help you find it."
It is amazing how suddenly things become better when the devil is chained. My usual self would have said, "You need to yell like you've been crushed by a car. Go and find it yourself."
We head downstairs to our storage room.
"Are you really going to play basketball right now?" I ask him, my stomach grumbling. We make our way towards the far left corner where Mom has kept all the sports equipment.
"Yea. It'll kill time," he says.
"And I've already checked there. It's not there."
I move my badminton racket and some bats to uncover what was below inside the large bin. "Knowing Mom and how organized she is, I'm pretty sure it's here."
"Why can't she just leave it outside?"
"She probably figured school is starting soon so you won't have time to play," I answer.
I remove Dad's cricket bat and smile. Humza takes it from me and starts examining it.
"Hey, I don't think Dad played cricket at all this summer."
"Yea, he's been too busy with work."
My hands move over the volleyball net, and I see that the basketball is stuck within its folds.
"Somebody didn't look hard enough," I muse.
"What? It's in that?" Humza asks.
We both lift the net and Humza reaches over to grab the basketball.
"I think you just didn't want to lift the entire net when you came looking for it."
Humza ignores me. Now that he's got his ball, he cannot focus on anything else.
"Hey," I tap him on the shoulder. "We'll be going to the masjid tonight for Taraweeh. Don't forget."
"Oh yea," he says. He only came with us several times last Ramadan.
"He's still young," Ammi would tell Abu when he insisted on taking Humza with us. "And he has to go to school as well the next day."
But now there was no excuse about school.
I turn to go back inside. About an hour left until Iftaar. As I was about to remove my shoes, Humza calls me.
"Come here," he motions to me.
Now what? I put my shoes back on and go near him. He's avoiding eye contact.
"What's the matter?" I ask him, curious now.
"I was...I was really thirsty a while ago," he says, looking down.
"And I biked over to Peter's house. We were going to go biking together. His mom handed both of us ice-cold water bottles."
I understand. My heart reaches for Humza and his innocence.
"And?" I ask, knowing what was to come.
"I...I didn't refuse," he says.
Sometimes, I really do forget how young Humza is, much younger than me.
"Hey, big guy. A little sip won't break your fast, unless if you did it on purpose. But, still. You're trying and that's what counts."
"But, I ruined it," he says in a frustrated tone. "For one water bottle, my whole fast doesn't count."
"Well, you don't know that. Only Allah does. And let it be a reminder for you the next time you're fasting," I explain to him. "Now, shoot some hoops and then come inside because we're a house of hungry people eager to grab a bite once the sun sets."
He nods. "Thanks Iman."
"No prob," I reply.
I go inside the house and decide to muster the energy I need to help Ammi in the kitchen.
"It's all about the good deeds," I pat my grumbling tummy and walk into the kitchen.
American Muslim Girl
Mariyam called me this morning and asked if I wanted to join her while she went downtown.
How could I ever refuse?
"We'll be going to the Skydeck," Mariyam informed me when we got into her Acura SUV.
"THE SKYDECK?!" I practically screamed.
"Woah. Calm down there, sister," Ahmed said. I would have given him a fitting reply if we didn't have guests with us.
"She gets excited over small things," he explained to his friend and his friend's wife. That is no way to talk about your cousin to your friend.
I turned to the couple and smiled at them. "Going to the Sears Tower Skydeck is no small thing. I've been dying to go there since last year, but no one was brave enough to join me," I explained.
"Is it scary?" Anisa asked.
"Well," I began, "if you go and stand on the ledge, which is an extension from the 103rd floor, you will be surrounded by glass from top, bottom, and sides."
Maybe I shouldn't have said that. Anisa didn't look the most excited, but her husband, Sajid, definitely did.
"Good thing I brought along my Canon. It's gonna be an incredible view."
"And it's called the Willis Tower now. Not Sears," Ahmed corrected.
Well, I obviously know that, but to me, it is still the Sears Tower.
"It's the tallest building in North America, right?" Mariyam asked.
"What a true Chicagoan my sister is," Ahmed said, "she has to confirm that fact with me."
I knew Mariyam wasn't too excited, but she had to drive. Ahmed was still recovering from the surgery on his arm.
There was traffic on Lake Shore Drive, and on top of that, Mariyam was being very nice and allowing cars to cut in front of her.
"You don't have to let every car go," I finally said.
"Hey, when I need to go in another lane, someone will be nice to me too."
"Yea right. If anything, city drivers are aggressive and not as nice as you."
"It's a good deed," she simply said. I couldn't argue with that.
After the long drive, it was a long wait in line. I began to get impatient. So, I tried to entertain myself by observing people.
You could tell apart these tourists just based on how they spoke. The Southerner accent vs. the New York accent and of course, if someone was speaking amazing French or Madrid Spanish, they were probably European. When some of them looked at me, I smiled at them. But, sheesh, some people are just rude and don't like to smile.
I wanted to talk privately to Mariyam about any marriage updates, but I didn't get a chance. Especially not in the elevator.
I jumped up and down like a little girl who just got a princess dollhouse when I got to the ledge.
Anisa started to look pale just at the sight of it, so Mariyam took her away. I didn't waste any time in taking the breathtaking view of Chicago underneath my shining gladiators.
"You are a chicken," I told Mariyam afterward.
"What? Me?" she asked, feigning innocence. We were driving home after dropping Ahmed and the couple over to a relative's house where they were going to have lunch.
"You used Anisa as an excuse to not stand on the ledge. CHICKEN!" I have so much fun teasing girls for their scare of heights. Thank the Lord I'm not as scared; I am quite an adventurer.
"The poor girl was going to puke and her hubby was too busy clicking pictures," she defended herself.
"Speaking of hubbies, what's the status on the matrimonial site?" I asked.
Her expression changed to a more solemn look. She shrugged.
"What happened? No one interesting?" I asked, slightly disappointed. I was looking forward to good news, although I have had my fair share of weddings this summer.
It looked like she was hesitating to tell me something.
"You found someone," I guessed, "but there's something wrong with him." Wait, did I just say that?
"He's Arab," Mariyam said simply.
I understood right away. "Your parents don't like that." I knew my aunt and uncle pretty well to know that.
She pursed her lips. "They would never agree. I haven't even told them."
"Did you even contact him?" I asked.
"Yea, through the website. I can't say anything until I meet him in person, but he seems like a really good person."
"You should at least tell Khala about it," I encouraged. "You never know."
We parked in front of my house, but I didn't leave immediately.
"An Arab. That is so cool," I mused, leaning my head back on the seat. A streak of sunlight settled across my face, but I didn't mind.
"Oh Iman, the hopeless romantic." She knew me too well. "I just wish..." she drifted off into her thoughts.
Mariyam is like an older sister to me more than a cousin. I looked at her and touched her shoulder.
"I don't like it that our family sometimes considers our ethnicity to be superior over others. It's just not right," she said, anger and frustration evident in her voice.
"Yea, when culture is given more importance over religion," I added. "I don't know why we can't marry outside the Indian culture, but Mariyam, if Allah wills, then that won't last forever."
I wanted to give her hope, but she didn't want it.
"If you go against the family's will, you're taunted by everyone."
"Who cares? As long as your happy?" I said.
"No. My parent's happiness means a lot to me," she said.
We sat in silence for a while. I couldn't come up with anything else to say.
"Hey, Iman, why did you get so serious all of a sudden?" she asked, breaking the silence. She softly pinched my cheek like one would to a young child. I drew back, laughing.
"Serious and me? C'mon," I asked. "I should be heading home now before la madre gets worried."
"Sure, chica. Go ahead and enjoy the last month of vacation."
"Hardly a month. And Ramadan is next week!"
"I know! Woohoo! Pray hard and don't waste your time!"
I was happy to leave her smiling, but I prayed that things would work out for her. She really truly deserves a good husband.
American Muslim Girl
Today is August 3rd, which marks three months since this blog was launched and this is the 10th post thus far.
That is pretty special, so I have decided to share a secret. I have pondered long and hard about whether I should even do so, but then again, what is there to lose?
So, drum roll please.
The truth is...
...I AM IRON MAN.
Okay, I'm sorry. I just really enjoy that last line from the movie. It's such a powerful ending. And oh hey, did you know that Transformers 3 was being filmed in Chicago last week? Go Chicago!
Well, now that I have vented the movie fanatic in me and possibly annoyed you a tad bit, I shall move on to our little secret.
Have you ever wondered why my blog is written with dialogue? Do you think my posts sometimes read like a book or story? Well.
The truth is...I am a fictional character. Yes. I know you were not expecting that. And it really does sound demeaning, but I thought I should share it with you nonetheless.
Let me explain. Wait, I think I should rather have my author explain. She gives herself the pseudonym Dreamer and I have the pleasure of introducing you to her:
Hi there. I am so sorry to intrude like this, but I must say I have been feeling so guilty lately. I feel like a betrayer, a liar, and so much more.
First let me properly introduce myself. I am, of course, an American Muslim, currently a University student, and the real author of this blog.
You see, I love to write, but alas, I do not have many people to read my short pieces of fiction. People, especially here in America at least, are just too busy in their own lives. Time is of the essence and who really picks up a book now to read for the pure pleasure of reading? Well, there are a lot of people that do read actually, myself included. But I have not published anything yet so you won't find my work on Kindle or an iPad, or even your local bookstore or library.
But I have not lost hope. In this modern era, it is fortunate that we have the opportunity to write a blog and to be published worldwide.Subhan'Allah.
Two years earlier, I started a blog with the attempt to give my readers a chance to read Muslim fiction. I tried to write at least every week, but I found the task both very difficult and time consuming. Moreover, I had no followers of my blog, which discouraged me greatly because I was writing for the sake of having people read it.
I discontinued my blog and continued to write on the pages of my small notebook like I did previously. However, I was constantly reminded of blogs and the door of opportunities it opened. I decided I needed a theme to write and stick to. Thus, I came up with Blog of an American Muslim Girl.
It is difficult to write a personal blog. The problem is what if one does not want to share his or her identity, family problems, the drama that exists, the test one failed, the private conversations one holds? Also, my initial motivation to write a blog was for the purpose of writing fiction so I didn't want to be writing about myself.
I decided I would blog from the perspective of a fictional character. Yes, this little family, which includes Iman, Humza, Abu, Ammi, and many other characters, is completely made up. It became so much easier and so much more fun to write this way.
Unfortunately, I am giving the impression that I really am Iman and Humza is my brother and so forth. Alhamdulillah, I am so thrilled to have followers of this blog. After receiving comments which implied this misunderstanding that I was really Iman and I was writing about my family, I truly felt that I needed to disclose this secret.
Fiction is so beautiful and such a powerful tool. You can recreate and stir up exciting things with a pool of memories, experiences, and your very own imagination.
Most of my fiction concerns Muslim characters because their lives are so interesting. This blog is an attempt to both expand and share my writing in addition to exploring my faith and this life.
I hope you continue to ride this journey with me. It is a humble request that you send this blog link to your fellow non-Muslim friends. Many people are oblivious to the lives of Muslims and how Islam influences their daily actions, and that is the main force that drives me to write.
Insha'Allah, God Willing, we shall meet again. Iman is becoming a little impatient so I shall let her continue now.
Ahh thank you. Now the question that I am dying to ask: What do you think? Are you angry, confused, or taken aback? I hope you will not leave me thinking that I am a good-for-nothing fictitious character.
You see, I am a mosaic of a variety of American Muslim girls, and though I may be fictitious, I am real in a sense. Anyone who writes doesn't always use only pure imagination. They are influenced in so many ways.
But, enough of my talking. What do you have to say? I'm craving for some feedback now that my identity is known. Thank you for reading. :)
Kindly awaiting your response,
American Muslim Girl
I couldn't sleep past 7 in the morning today. That's what happens when you get a mother who gets up so early in the morning to start cooking...for dinner.
We held a dawut today, which basically means a dinner party, except it's not a party where you dance or anything, and the dinner is less than formal. It's more like, "I'm-obligated-to-invite-you-over-for-dinner-so-let's-chat-and-have-some-dinner-and-then-you-can-leave."
I'm just kidding. I love dawuts and so does Ammi, but I don't like seeing her getting stressed. And sometimes it's not wholly enjoyable to cook 3 main courses supplied with a series of appetizers and desserts, to be followed with fruit and shortly thereafter, chai and biscuits...all in one day...for, say, 15 people. But at the end of the day, it's all about the good deeds you obtain by serving people and for the sake of Allah, and so it is with such intentions that we hold these dawuts.
Yesterday, we gathered in the living room and held a family discussion to decide the menu. Aren't we such a cute family?
"I want to eat gyros," Humza pointed out.
I rolled my eyes at him. "No one cares what you want to eat. This dinner is clearly not meant for you." By the way, I'm really craving gyros too. Was the last time I had it...three weeks ago?
"Stop it, Iman," Ammi said, trying to focus the conversation. She makes all the decisions of what to make anyway, but we have to be there for support.
"Ammi, can I please make my pasta dish? Everyone will like it so much!" I pleaded. Ammi gave me that look, and I knew where the answer was headed, so I quickly turned to Abu.
"Dad, don't you think we should have some variety in the types of food we serve?"
The look on Dad's face told me that he really wanted to end this family discussion so he can watch some TV. I would have pitied him, except he was out all day and it's his duty as a father to spend time with his family.
"I--yea, I guess so. That's a good idea. Whatever your mom wishes." And with that, he leaned back to slouch on the sofa. How many times need I remind him that he should sit straight and maintain a good posture?
Anyhow, after 35-40 minutes of discussion, the menu was finally decided. Would you care to see?
Vegetable Pakora-fried balls of flour and potato
Beef-filled pastries-fluffy pastries with a filling of ground beef, spices, and mozzarella cheese
Potato Salad-because Mom said I couldn't make my pasta dish, I made this instead
Tandoori Chicken-marinated spicy chicken served with fresh roti
Chicken Biryani-a mixture of spicy chicken and rice served with raita sauce
Mom's Special Fish-tilapia fish cooked with herbs and some spices (a very healthy yet savoring dish)
Gulab Jamun-balls of flour soaked in a sweet syrup topped with saffron
Gajar Ka Halwa-carrot pudding topped with almonds and raisins
Fruit Platter-because dinner would be incomplete without it
Chai and Biscuits-because Indians know how to drink chai excessively the best
I guess that justifies waking up so early during the weekend, but not prioritizing cooking over Salaat. Around five in the evening, I reminded Ammi to pray.
"Ammi, it'll be Asr time soon."
She didn't reply, so I said it again.
"I'll pray later," she replied.
"But, the time for praying Zuhr will be over soon. When are you going to--?"
"Don't start giving me orders now," Ammi interrupted, stirring something in a large pot. She was sweating next to the stove. Just an hour before, she had ordered Abu and Humza to leave the kitchen so she could focus. I thought I should too, just for a little while.
There were three families we invited. The first was a family that had recently immigrated here from India. They are my aunt's sister's family. The second was a couple who were married two years ago, but had recently relocated here from Texas. They had a two-month-old baby boy who was very cute, but I was too afraid to hold him. I can carry furniture, tackle Humza, and sit through an entire 3-hour Bollywood movie, but I can't muster the courage to carry an infant. It's not a problem when they're past a year old though.
So, where was I again? Oh, yea. The third was a couple who got married just three months ago. Man, our family is expanding.
Fortunately, everyone ate dinner very well and repeatedly told Ammi what a great cook she was.
Alas, I could not enjoy dinner for I was overwhelmed with the amount of food in front of me and preoccupied with the task of ensuring that all dishes were full, and if not, that I refilled it. Not to mention I was very busy answering Ayana's questions about how school is like here and I could not be happier that she can now fulfill her dream of becoming a doctor.
By the way, why does everyone want to become a doctor these days? Before I run off on a tangent, I'd at least like to express my sincere hope that the "I want to become a doctor" does not transform to "I want to be like Hannah Montana."
I just had a very late dinner right now, but I am content. And the house is eerily quiet now. Because I ate so late, I have every reason now to stay up late. I should probably start browsing for some new heels online. My sparkling silver heels have made their way into The Salvation Army's donation box and I am sad to part from them, but I must since they no longer fit me.
And now, if you will excuse me, I shall indulge myself in diligently searching for a size 6.5, 3in silver heel.
Happy eating, American Muslim Girl
P.S. Why does this post show up as 7:52? It's actually 11:52pm. Technology is beyond my understanding sometimes.
Ammi gave me the job to go take Humza for a haircut yesterday. She said she would go berserk if she saw him once more with hair growing over his ears and towards his shoulders.
"I don't want to get a haircut," Humza said blatantly.
"You don't have a choice," I replied, feeling great to be in the position of authority. "And aren't you afraid of people thinking you're a girl anyway?"
Humza slammed his fist onto the dashboard. I would have been scared if he hadn't done that countless times before. It is the way he deals with anger.
"Hey, I was just teasing," I said, touching his shoulder while keeping an eye on the road ahead. He can be so unpredictable sometimes.
"I wish I was an only child," was all he said.
"I wish that sometimes too. At least I would have been spoiled," I remark, smiling.
"Is it impossible for you to be quiet for at least five minutes?"
I know he's trying to focus on spending his last minutes with his long hair. No, actually I think I'm exaggerating.
"Of course not. I'm quiet for ten minutes or even more when I pray Salaat," I pointed out.
He shook his head as if in agony. I can really be an annoying sister sometimes.
At the salon, I knew Humza would feel embarrassed if I just stood and watched him. So, I casually looked through a magazine. Airbrushed skin, gorgeous hair, impossibly long eyelashes, and nose-ticking perfume samples.
At the sight of Humza after the haircut, all I really felt like doing was hug him, but I thought I'd better not.
"Ammi will love you all over again. And I'll bake you chocolate chip cookies," I promised him while he rolled his eyebrows.
At home, Abu hardly noticed Humza's haircut. "Did anything happen to the car?" he asked me.
I returned his keys to him. "Not a single scratch. You taught me how to drive well."
"You still have to be careful," he went on, giving his safe driving lecture.
Later towards night, Abu and Humza left to go to the cemetery before heading to the masjid. It was Shab-e-Barat. Some call it Night of Freedom or Night of salvation or Night of Grace. Two of my grandparents are already deceased and buried back home in India, but some of my relatives are buried in the cemetery here.
Ammi made coffee for us both and our neighbors who were coming over to pray with us.
I can stay awake really late, especially during the summer. So, I didn't really think I needed the caffeine. But I was already yawning at 2 in the morning even with the caffeine! The devil, I tell you!
"On this auspicious night, repent to have all your past sins forgiven. Allah the Almighty will write down what will happen for the forthcoming year, decree who will be born and who will die," Nabeelah read to us from a book. She is two years older than I am and is going to madrasa to become an Alimah.
Nani, my grandmother who lives down the street, started crying softly late towards the night. I knew she was thinking of Nana and all the other loved ones that have passed away.
I tried to focus and think what it would it would be like if I was chosen to die within this coming year. What have I accomplished in these 16 or so years? I don't always take things seriously, because that is my nature, but I have to be aware that life is only temporal.
Ramadan will be arriving soon and I must think of goals to achieve during that time and beyond. Let's take every opportunity to improve and better ourselves. Ameen.
American Muslim Girl
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "When a man marries, he has fulfilled half of his religion, so let him fear Allah regarding the remaining half."
Baba Ali used just the words to launch his new matrimonial sight "Half Our Deen"
Well, I hope you don't think I'm going to sign up and post up my profile. Actually, I am hoping it will be the savior of my cousin who is being nagged by everyone to get married. You see, she has reached, ahem, the Jurassic age of 26 and therefore viewed as the most non-eligible bride according to her parents.
"She will never get married. She will remain a single girl all her life and die alone," her father spoke miserably the last time we were over.
"No, I am sure Allah has chosen someone special for her, but the time has not come yet," Abu comforted.
"Time? If no one will marry her now, who will ten years later?" he refuted in exasperation.
I looked at Ammi to see if she would say something, but she was only gazing at the plastic white flowers sitting in the glass vase. I focused my eyes on Mariyam, who bit her lip in embarrassment.
I couldn't take it anymore.
"How about a matrimonial site? There's a new Muslim site out and it's really cool. I'm sure--"
"Internet? Look for a person to marry on the Internet?" Mariyam's mother looked horrified at the suggestion. Ammi gave me a scolding look, but I raised my eyebrows at her instead.
"It's not a bad idea. These are different times and so there are different ways of doing things now," Abu agreed with me. Thank the Lord he was able to convince Mariyam's dad. Hurray!
We created the profile in front of her parents, just to tone down any suspicion they may have had."A modest Muslimah seeking a pious spouse to wed. Medical doctors and/or lawyers are preferred by the parents. Ethnicity should not be anything but Indian and family should be well-cultured. Family size of the groom should not exceed 5 persons, and if so, a separate housing must be arranged for the new couple. Residence in Chicago, IL is preferred, but if not, annual tickets to visit parents after marriage should be purchased."
That would be the profile Mariyam's parents would have liked. And if I may say so, didn't I conceive it so beautifully?
I must appreciate that my parents do not entirely have the mentality that Mariyam's parents possess...although I can assure I will have difficulty in the near future. Parents always envision the perfect son-in-law or daughter-in-law and so there will be some reminding to do: "Um, Mom and Dad, you guys aren't the ones getting married. I am!"
Well, now that I'm at it, why not take the opportunity to discuss my ideal Prince Charming? Here we go:
1. His eye color should not be the dark brown that I am constantly tired of seeing. Sapphire blue or sparkling green or even color-changing (cause I do know some people who's eye color changes ever so slightly) is preferred.
2. Fair. In the West, "tall, dark, and handsome" is the talk. I agree with the first and last, but no...fair would be the better substitute for dark.
3. British accent, even if I may have difficulty completely comprehending it, it would be such a plus!
4. I already mentioned tall and handsome, right?
5. Built. Isn't that what every girl wants? Am I being too selfish here? Maybe I need to start working out too.
6. Rich. Oh dear, how could I not have mentioned this earlier? And no, a medical doctor is not preferred because more time will be spent with patients instead of me. There are many other professions that garner a lot of money, right?
7. There are so many more things...but I...I feel like I'm losing base here.
Have I really just mentioned things that are physical? Does my list only compromise the physicality of a person and nothing more? (Well, no, number 6 and 7 aren't physical but I should be quiet now)
I have been sucked into the devil's trap and you have just witnessed it. What should one really look for in a spouse?
I am young and perhaps somewhat immature, but I think I do have a good understanding of my deen to answer this question (putting all fantasy and idealism aside). The most important should be piety. If a person is close to the deen and to Allah, then his way of thinking, his actions, and the way he carries himself is also reflected in that piety.
Mariyam has met with countless potential bachelors, but has not found a single one that is close to the deen like her.
"It's okay if he doesn't pray all the time, but even if he is willing to learn more about Islam and has a great personality. God, I just wish," Mariyam would tell me. I would try my best to comfort her, but honestly, the area of comforting people is not my realm.
When was the last time I was stressed? Finals week? No, that wasn't really really stressed. Wow, that must be a good thing. I know it won't last for long because the older you get, the more responsibility you have, and thus, the more problems and stress.
But I shall not think that far ahead! In the meantime, let me enjoy myself and you should also. Take a break. Have some ice cream on this sunny day (or hot chocolate if you're in, say, Antarctica) and delve in the moment.
Farewell for now!
American Muslim Girl
I will have to take an unfortunate pause from my giddy self to discuss something that has been hurting me since yesterday.
There was a wedding I had to attend yesterday, and for once, instead of being early and punctual, we were actually running late. Ammi becomes very frustrated when we run late and Abu was stubborn about getting his coffee before we headed to the hall.
We're driving along I-90 and we see the usual yellow Chicago taxi. It's night and a little dark, but I can make out the advertisement on top of the taxi. It's the nature of taxi drivers to speed so I can only see a blur of "Honor Killing Victim" in bold white letters, with "Is Your Family Threatening You" written underneath.
Humza made out the letters that I didn't see.
We all became very quiet. The sound of vehicles driving by and the soft hum of our own car. It is times like these that I feel a twist in my stomach, my eyes feel hot as if they are slowly burning, and my fingers instinctively clench.
Chicago is such a wonderful city. There is so much diversity. And there are so many Muslims along with a high level of tolerance. I don't want Chicagoans (and any other place where they have these horrendous ads) to be influenced into thinking that innocent Muslims are being killed by their family because Islam says so.
I understand the humane cry for justice. I myself am against genocide, murder, etc. The Muslims that are murdering their family members, because they have committed something indecent or have fallen in love, do not have the right to punish so severely. That right is only reserved to Allah.
Whatever the situation may be, you cannot associate a crime with a religion.
Leave Islam Safely.
Islam isn't a crime. And neither is any other form of religion. And what hurts the most is that what if Muslim taxi drivers are carrying the very words above them that are a lie and against the core of their beliefs?
I don't want to sound overtly defensive, but here, I am venting my frustration and anger. I hope you understand.
God Willing, I hope people understand Islam better and do not resort to ignorant propaganda to learn about something.
American Muslim Girl
It's Farah's birthday today and she's turning 17 today. I told her not to get too excited because 17 punches are coming her way.
Farah is a sweet girl and I admire her for her piety. But I have to admit she has some weird tastes. For instance, how can you eat a PB & J sandwich with coke? Or wear a hot pink colored hijab with a beige patterned abayya? (I forced her to change right away because I couldn't take it anymore.) And she was swooning over the waiter (and the waiter is so short and skinny and ugh!) at her birthday dinner tonight.
I picked out an Italian restaurant for her but all our other friends insisted on Giordano's. Hey, I didn't mind. Five months without deep dish pizza seemed like a century. But would Farah be okay with that? She's so self-conscious about her weight. And so is every single friend of mine (and female relative), but it's quite ironic then that they would want to indulge in so much cheese.
I, on the other hand, do not avoid food based on fat. I like to eat everything that I like, lipids and fatty acids included. But, there does have to be a limit. I would puke if I had Giordano's every day because it's quite heavy of a dish.
Anyway, Farah decided she liked it, not so much the pizza but the waiter. Now, I don't like to judge people, but the waiter was not pretty, or close to handsome, or even decent looking. I had to kick Farah under the table so she would lower her eye gaze.
"Ow! Why'd you have to do that? You already punched me a million times!" she whined.
"Yea, Iman. You hit really hard, but you don't realize it," Laila pitched in.
Woah. Why is everyone turning against me? Wait, I think they are just jealous (hehe).
"Farah, don't commit a sin on a guy like Mr. Waiter. He's not even worth looking at," I said.
"Farah can do what she likes. It's her birthday today," Anum disagreed.
Now, Anum is an interesting gal. She's the most rebellious of us all, but without her, there wouldn't be much excitement or spice in our lives.
"Time for cake and presents now!" Laila clapped her hands excitedly. She can pass for a little girl if she was only six inches shorter. She giggles at everything and is a child in disguise.
When it came to my turn, I handed the gift over casually but made sure I got a tight hug from Farah.
"Oh my God! It's Twilight! What is it? Ooh what is it? A book? Diary?" Laila shrieked before Farah had a chance to breathe. I should have grabbed one for her too while I was at Border's.
"It's beautiful! It's a journal and a matching bookmark," Farah said softly.
"And Robert Pattinson is right on the front cover!" Laila observed excitedly. She's obsessed with a fictional character. And she's seen eclipse already for the third time, when I haven't even seen it once. Dear Allah, save my friend.
I've read all the Twilight books, but I will always love Harry Potter best. I'm really trying to convince my mother to let me go to the Harry Potter Amusement Park that just opened last month. But I know it's unlikely since we just returned from New York. Not to mention we have a million family events to attend. Why couldn't there have been a wedding in Florida instead?
I shouldn't be sulking now. But, Humza has a grudge against me for not bringing him some pizza. I better make it up somehow before he really makes me feel guilty. Ammi had made veggies today (okra and tomato curry, to be specific), so it makes me feel worse. Humza and I are both carnivores ;) We inherited that from our dear father.
I'm planning on going shopping tomorrow. Again. I know. But this time, I have to cut down on the spending. We aren't going for me (it's sad, I know), but we're taking my Aunt who needs to do extra shopping for her trip to India.
She's going to go overboard with the luggage, as all of us do whenever we go abroad. Us Indians would take our entire house and cars included if we could in the airplane.
Abu is knocking on my door, which means "Go to sleep now!"
"This isn't a school night," I want to say.
But, he's right. I still have to pray Isha Salaat and get started on that new novel I got.
Sweet dreams then,
American Muslim Girl