Friday, June 27, 2008

Colorful Quote

"Awww MAAAAN!"
"Ta'akharna ala ashams. We were late for the sun."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Great Communicator

Buru is a late-talker, considering that she is eighteen months and hasn't said a word, but she communicates very well. Today, she walked up to me as I was wiping down the countertops and handed me the diaper rash cream.

She lifted up her dress, pointed to her diaper, and nodded with a quick grunt. Then she scurried to her bedroom, lay down on the quilt I use for diaper changes, and waited patiently for me to get the message.

Poor baby was dry but had a terrible rash.


Monday night I got out the toolbox and tried to repair the dishwasher. Moona is inexplicably drawn to screwdivers, plyers, and hammers. We first noticed this fascination a year ago when we had just moved to a new apartment and were putting together a desk.

In order to keep her out of the dishwasher, I assigned her the task of unscrewing the knobs on the cupboards. Surprisingly, that enchanted her although they were too tight for her to succeed. The dishwasher repair session failed too unsurprisingly, but I realized I needed to encourage Moona's interest before it fizzled away. Several months ago I spent $30 on a high-quality wooden toy toolbox, complete with wooden screws and washers, but she took one sniff and turned away in disgust.

So we went to the hardware store and picked out a variety of knobs, knockers, and latches; two 80-cent screwdrivers; and a wood panel. I drilled holes in the wood for her and she spent the afternoon screwing the knobs and latches in, all by herself. Even Buru took an interest. It is very, very rare to see this peaceful self-occupation in my home.

Today, she unscrewed the knobs, removed the screws, and is putting them all back in again. Hmm, I wish I could say our days were filled with creative projects like these. I try.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Spilling Over

The Prophet (saw) narrated the story of the Pharoah's hairdresser who was combing the hair of Pharoah's daughter and dropped her comb on the ground.

"Bismillah, in the name of God," she blurted as she bent down to pick it up.

She and her four children were burnt to death because of this slip of tongue and then her refusal to deny her belief in Allah. Her baby was one of the few who spoke in infancy, reassuring her in remaining steadfast, before she was killed.

I heard a beautiful reflection by Amr Khaled about this story. The heart is like a container filled with liquid--thoughts, feelings, whatever it is that we focus on and fill our lives with. Sometimes when we let our guard down or act subconsciously, that liquid spills over, and we glimpse what our heart contained. The hairdresser's heart spilled over when she dropped the comb. She forgot herself and the secrecy, and the purity overflowed.


When the Prophet (saw) ascended to the heavens in israa and miraj, he smelled an unworldly, beautiful scent. The angels informed him that it was the smell of the hairdresser and her children--Allah replaced the smell of their burning flesh with a glorious scent that could still be detected centuries later.

I wonder what my heart holds and how much it has been polluted by waste. What spills over when I am not paying attention, when I am struck with fear, when I am on my deathbed, when I lose my patience?

I must be careful--oh so careful--what I pour into my heart's container.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Odd One Out

Buru: “Thfffbtthffbth.”

Moona: “Tee hee hee.”

Buru: “Heh heh. FFFTHFFFTBT!”

Lots of whispered, clandestine giggling.

(Buru's impersonation of me shushing them at naptime.)

* * * * *

Moona just learned that flowers die when we pick them and plants die if we don't water them. Recently, she was combing her hair for a good 20 minutes in front of the various mirrors around the house.

"Ahtaju an asrah sha'ri kay la tamoot." I have to comb my hair so it doesn't die.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Translation Please!

Buru's only sounds consist of the many variations of the words "eh" "meh" "mehmeh" (that's me!) and "nyaaaa." Apparently, her sophisticated language is much too advanced for me to understand.

Screaming, whining, squirming in her high chair, I chalked it off to fussiness. Buru had a bowl of warmed-up spaghetti in front of her, usually enough for bliss.

"What's wrong?"

"Nyaaaa!" she whined, pointing to her sister, who was slurping her spaghetti and quietly observing the scene.

"Do you want water? Do you need a change?" I sniffed her bottom. She must be teething.

I waved her sippy cup in front of her. "Nyaaaaa!"

Fussy, fussy baby. Standing at the sink and attempting to ignore, I heard this matter-of-fact revelation from the three-year-old kitchen table sage.

"Sigh. She wants a fork."

"What was that?"

"Tureedu shoka. So she can be big like Moona."

I went to the drawer and pulled out a fork. The whining instantly stopped and was replaced by a toothy smile and a vigorous nod.

Be My Mirror

I'm reading a fine book, recommended to me by my mother who told me I had to read this parenting gem. I hope to share some more reflections about Your Child’s Self-Esteem, written by Dorothy Briggs in 1970, but this week I'm mulling over the quotation that Briggs selected for the opening pages of her book.

Man wishes to be confirmed in his being
By man, and wishes to have a presence
In the being of the other…secretly and
Bashfully he watches for a Yes which
Allows him to be and which can come to
Him only from one human person to another.

–Martin Buber

Trying to understand how this quotation, which strikes a chord, would fit in with Islamic teachings has been like staring at a cloud drifting under the moon and waiting for the moonlight to shine through. The first time I read this, red lights flashed in my head. Alhamdulillah, I’ve come a long way from viewing things as black and white, true and false, and I often manually override those red lights and take time to think and listen before reaching conclusions.

There are principles in our faith that we know are true and overarching, such as sincerity and living solely for the sake of serving Allah, and there can be other truths that exist simultaneously, reinforcing, adding depth, complexity, and wisdom, and never contradicting. These multiple perspectives do not dilute or weaken or confuse those principles, but rather they illustrate the profound depth, flexibility, and humanity of Islam. We have only scratched the surface in appreciating this and have a long way to go in opening our minds to this wisdom.

Allah, who created us, designed our minds and bodies, and breathed into Adam’s soul, also designed for us a way of life that would complete us as individuals and as a community. In Islam, we find core teachings of brotherhood, trust, deep love and selflessness, and mutual advice and support. The Prophet (saw) said, “The believer is the mirror of his brother.”

I’m just reflecting and pondering, not trying to explain. You are a mirror for me? What does that mean? This hadith has always been explained as, and assumed to mean, that our brother or sister reflects back to us our faults, like a mirror, offering advice and helping us to improve. Buber’s quote however made me wonder if there is a deeper significance to this mirror.

A human mirror, another soul worshipping God, where we can see ourselves reflected, draw encouragement in our mutual journey, where our emotions and our feelings can be protected, heard, and validated. A human mirror would give empathy—not pity. A mirror would gently reflect back to us our weaknesses but also reflect back our strengths. My sister, my brother in Islam, is a fellow human I can go to, pour out the entangled feelings, thoughts, and internal struggles, and through listening, empathy, and gentleness, he or she acts as my mirror, helping me to see what is going on inside me, understand it, and sort myself out so that I can continue in life.

Maybe Allah swt, who knows the innermost depths of our souls, knows of our need for validation and confirmation in others around us, and so made it an obligation on us to grow closer to each other, to draw support from each other, and to be reflections of our brother and sister. This mutual empathy and reflection of each other makes us stronger, not weaker, and may make us all the better to worship and serve Him.