Thursday, April 24, 2008


A few months ago, I heard Imam Ahmed ElKhaldy from Iowa make a reference to meditation in a talk. I thought it was interesting, because he was talking about khushoo’, concentration in prayer, but he kept referring to it as meditation. He asked the audience to take off their watches, turn off their cell phones, and throw them on the floor in front of them. Time seemed to stop. A fellow MAS Youth Connect Mentor—formerly called an usra leader—in the Bay Area also assigned her group regular meditation sessions (or so I heard from her fascinated audience). I was very intrigued and added to my to-do list ‘learn and study meditation.

I picked up a couple of books from the library and started learning. I really enjoy yoga (what I learned in yoga, with Allah’s help first, walked me through two long, drug-free labors) and there is a similar foundation.

I used to get a kick out of the disclaimer “Yoga is not a religion” that was always posted at the end of the flyer for yoga classes at the Bay Area MCA. It is funny because actually arts of yoga and meditation have so much overlap with the Islamic concepts of self-awareness, concentration, contemplation. In fact, I think we have lost the art of concentration and meditation in modern society and meditation can actually restore a deeper understanding of the how-to for a lot of Islamic acts of worship that our minds are not trained to engage in: how to concentrate in prayer, how to contemplate creation, how to ponder the Quran. Our minds stream with constant thoughts and chatter, even during prayer, and we don't know how to free ourselves and focus on worshipping God. The best advice we can give people struggling with this is keep trying.

What meditation does is it teaches and trains the human mind to release all negative feelings, extraneous thoughts, and material distractions. Then, according to the books I read, you connect yourself with creation, look deep into yourself, and concentrate on being. But, what if, we can modify this meditation to become what is exactly meant by khushu', focus and concentration:

Gradually, you build up to a point where your thoughts stop buzzing around in your head and your mind and heart are quiet and clear. Free of all distractions, you look into yourself and focus on who you are in the real scheme of things. A soul enclosed in a body vessel, a soul that has no appearance, no possessions, no companions, a soul created solely for the worship of One God. You listen to your breathing and realize that it is Allah who enables every breath, every beat of your heart: total, absolute reliance and dependence on His sustenance.

Your awareness pierces the limited landscape of the visible world and you are cognizant of dimensions that you cannot see. Over them all is One Supreme God, The Bestower of Peace, The Almighty, The Originator, King of Judgment Day, The Most Kind. Your forehead rests in His hands.

Mind, heart, soul are flooded with something unreal, a sensation that cannot be described. Awe. Peace. Fear. Love. All the dwellings of your mind, the complications of life, the to-do lists and the he-said she-said wash away. Clarity and perspective, even if only lasting a few, fleeting moments.

Insha’allah I will write more posts about meditation as I learn.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wonder GIRL

Another everyday Moona story:

We were in Target, or rather trying somehow to get out of Target. I push the stroller holding Buru daintily picking raisins out of a tiny box, nested amongst the assorted shopping bags, purse, and diaper bag hanging from the handles (we had walked a half-mile, stopping at different stores, me trying to get my exercise and shopping done all at once, with a single stroller instead of the double. Poor, foolish umee.)

I trek to the children's sock section, our last stop, which seems ever so far away because every fifteen seconds I must stop and coax Wonder Girl to keep up. She stops at every mirror and corner to do a heel click, sweep some shirts off a rack, or stroke a mannequin's hand. With all the times I threaten to leave her, my dear child could have abandonment issues when she grows up (mental note: STOP threatening to leave her in the store). For the time being, however, she seems to care less.

I always leave grocery stores and libraries thinking one thing, "Why? Why? WHY DID I COME HERE?"

The guilt at trying to yell out of my eyes and threaten her with no more milk kicked in as we were looking for a checkout lane, and I started thinking of something nice to do for her--or was it for me? I remembered the promised hairband.

Moona has been wearing what used to be a pink beaded hairband, a rediscovered gift from Khala Geena, but she peeled the ribbon off, lost the beads, and it became a murky piece of grey plastic with globs of dried yellow glue stuck to it. She wore it everyday for two weeks, and even slept with it. Then she left it at someone’s house a couple days ago.

“TOKA!” she gasped, jolting in her carseat, twenty minutes after we left the house. I promised to get her another one sometime, thankful the cherished plastic scrap was gone.

So we run together quickly to the hair accessories aisle, Wonder Girl suddenly complacent and cooperative, focused on our quest. We find a set of five pastel headbands and, yes, one of them is pink.

$2.50 buys me a happy kid and a guilt suppressant with good-mommy feelings, all perishable of course.

In the parking lot, Wonder Girl skips at my side; the breeze blows through her hair and makes her dress balloon out. She suddenly exclaims, “Umee, Ana bint! Umee, I am a girl!”

I am used to these random, dawning realizations. “Yes, you are!”

But I don't quite realize what she is thinking until we are in the car. She tears the plastic off of the headbands, unwraps the five, puts three on her head, one after the other. She sits back in her carseat, three hairbands on her head, looks out the window, and declares contentedly,

Alaaan asbahtu bintan.” “Now, I am a girl.”

Thursday, April 10, 2008

CAM Hiatus

After two weeks of running around like a madwoman, and if I wasn't running around, of feeling like I should be, CAM (the Central Annual Meeting of MAS Youth Workers) is over.

So now I have to figure out what to do with myself. Back to blogging, and hmmmmm ... I feel a new creative project looming. Stay tuned for details.

There is one small update. I am now a mom. Literally.

"Mom!" my sponge-brained child shouts. "Moooommmmm!" She hollers it like a fourth-grade boy.

Where did she pick that up? CAM. A couple hours in babysitting, and all of a sudden she decides I'm really "Mom." Not "Mama" or "Umee" or "Umeeni" or "Mamatuna" or "hilwa" or any of the cute little names she's composed for me over the last few months. Mom. Splat. Plain. Old. Mom.