In the name of Allah, the Most Affectionate, the Most Merciful


What's For Dinner?

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

Main Courses
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

Following Dessert
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.


Time to Get a Little Serious

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.

Assalamu Alikaum,
American Muslim Girl


Half Our Deen

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'm Really Hurt

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


Girls' Night Out

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


Shaadi at the Big Apple

Surprise! I now return from my trip to New York, which was thoroughly enjoyable.

Fortunately, I did not have to go through any gruesome experiences at the airport. Chicago O'hare Airport is large and beautiful, but I could do without the sneaky what-are-you-and-what-are-you-up-to looks. This was the first time I saw the full body X-ray machine, but no one asked me to go through it. I was patted down instead. It felt sort of ticklish when the lady swept her hands over my hijab and shoulders. I had to keep myself from laughing while Humza made funny faces at me.

"I didn't have to be patted down," he snickered afterward.

"That's because you're not even strong or imaginative enough to do anything illegal," I replied.

The airport security took a little longer with Dad, but we were good on time when we reached the gate. Humza busied himself with his PSP and I with my iPod while Mom and Dad conversed about gifts to give to the bride's family.

A little girl, maybe seven years old (I'm terrible at telling age), was sitting across from me with her Dad. I tried to shut away the envy I felt when I saw her holding an iPhone with a sparkly pink cover. That obviously could not belong to her Dad.

She looked at me curiously while I slid my earphones underneath my hijab. I smiled at her, but then she just kept staring at me. Man, I couldn't focus on the music. And then I remembered my friend Farah who never listens to music. Then I thought of my cousin, a med student, warning me that I'm knocking over the cilia in my ear when I listen to really loud music. Why do people make me feel so guilty?

I got up to buy a water bottle just out of boredom and because I knew I would feel dehydrated in the airplane. Humza says I stick to my water bottle like a baby does to his milk bottle.

In the airplane, Dad and I sit together while Mom and Humza sit across the aisle from us.

"Abu, what are you gonna get me when we get to New York?" I asked.

"Beta, you already have a I-Love-NY T-shirt. What more do you want?" he teased.

"Reyhana told me they have no tax on clothes in New Jersey. I need to go shopping."

"No tax, huh? Well, we'll save money then," Dad mused. And he was right. Did you know Chicago's tax is 10.25%? That's quite a lot.

We stayed over at a motel, even though the bride's family insisted that we stay over their house. But it gets crazy in a house where there are so many visitors and preparations going on. They were very polite to ask, but I'm sure they were dying to hear a no.

Dad has a couple of friends in New York, so we didn't waste a single second the next day in sightseeing. We've been to New York before, but it's been a while.

For lunch, Dad's friend and his wife treated us over at their house. They have a beautiful house and adorable non-bratty kids! In the evening, we had the mehndi to go to which was super exciting! I picked out a forest green Anarkali suit and luckily, my dupatta cooperated with me so that I was able to form a hijab with it. The bride, Safiya, was very pretty and her friends performed graceful Bollywood dances for her. How can these girls have so much energy? They performed about 5 dances and then danced even more. Dad and Humza had already left before the dancing broke out; Dad doesn't think it's appropriate for them. He found Wall Street more interesting.

I must say the bride was looking much better during the mehndi than during the wedding. She was caked with makeup and rose garlands. I was hoping she wouldn't suffocate. But the Nikkah was breathtaking.

I ate too much at the wedding, and I couldn't help it. There was so much variety. Biryani, Tandoori Chicken, naan, kabob, curry, tons of fruit, cake, kheer (which thankfully didn't taste like sugar syrup) and all the candies from the favors. I had to brush my teeth really well at night!

I made a couple of new friends at the wedding also and we exchanged names so we can keep touch through Facebook ;)

All in all, it was a pleasant trip. I shopped like crazy even when my feet hurt!

The only downside was that I missed ISNA :( And it was in Chicago too! There were so many people missing at the wedding because they were at ISNA instead. Insha'Allah, God Willing, next time!

Now I have to go make some sandwiches for lunch!

So long,
American Muslim Girl