Monday, December 31, 2007

Sura Maryam (Mary Mother of Jesus) Mishary Rashed Alafasy

Enjoy this beautiful Quran recitation.

Jazaka Allahu Khayr to Aboo Uthmaan.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Til Death Do Us Part or Until There Are No More Bhuttos to Assassinate

Benazir Bhutto - Pakistan

Chairperson for Life

Benazir Bhutto and Her Husband Asif Ali Zardari

Called "The Nelson Mandela of Pakistan" by his wife

Called "Mr. 10 Percent" by the Pakistani Press

Idi Amin of Uganda

President for Life

Benazir Bhutto's Husband and 19 year old son, Bilawal - Successor to Benazir Bhutto

Francois Davalier ("Papa Doc") of Haiti

President for Life

Also Succeeded by His 19 Year Old Son

I felt I needed to write something about the Bhutto situation. This is what I came up with. Sorry. You can make your own inferences.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Hajj - My Husband Makes The Journey of His Lifetime

Alhamdulillah, my husband is making Hajj!

He went with the Al-Mu'adhdhan Hajj Group, Al-Furqan Bookstore, Philadelphia, PA. So far, so good. This group has done a great job, and everything leading up to the big departure day has gone smoothly, Masha Allah.

One of my sister friends was anxiously biting her nails waiting for notification of Visa approval. Alhamdulillah, the approval came and she leaves tomorrow.

My husband's group left Philadelphia on Tuesday, December 4th. They flew into New York City and from there took a flight to Cairo, Egypt. From Cairo, they departed to Jeddah and transferred to Al-Shohada Hotel in Mecca. Hubby tells me that this hotel is very nice, Masha Allah.

I was intially worred because we agreed to text message daily. You know, just "am OK" kind of thing. When I hadn't heard anything from him toward the end of the week, I phoned Verizon Wireless. I thought maybe I had to add something to our cellphone plan, but I was told that Verizon Wireless does not work in Saudi Arabia. Arggggg!. But at last hubby called me from a call center - at 4 a.m. my time! Saudi is 8 hours ahead of us.

He performed Umrah for the first time in his life, Alhamdulillah! He was so excited when he called me that he could barely put his experience into words.

One bad thing did happen, however. When he and his friend leaned into the Kabbah, someone stole the friend's fanny pack. Can you imagine? Stealing right at the Kabbah, Allah (swt) forgive us!

On the way back to the hotel, my husband's sandals slipped off. His friend picked them up, but the crowds were so intense, and hubby and his friend got separated. So hubby had to walk back to the hotel barefoot, lol.

Another thing that happened was my husband stopped to eat at a street vendor. He ordered a sandwich and the meat was on one of those large spools, the kind where the vendor slices it off for the sandwiches. My husband got violently ill after eating there. He ignored the advice of the Hajj group not to eat anywhere, if possible, outside of the hotel.

And today he has a bad cold. There are millions of people from all over the world there and not everyone has total immunity from all the different types of germs.

But all in all, he has not let this ruin his trip of a lifetime at all! He is so happy!

Tomorrow they check out of the hotel and head for Medinah. They will be staying at the Dallah Taibah Hotel. At some point, the group will be transferred to Mena where they will be staying in tents close to the Jamarat.

Alhamdulillah! I am so happy for my husband. I miss him and wish I could be with him to share the experience.

I'll let you know how the rest goes when he calls me.

Oh Allah, Blessed Allah, please keep my husband safe and accept his Hajj/Ameen.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Festivals & Celebrations in Islam - Imam al-Jibaly

Hand colored, engraved print, published in 1834 - Wild Male Turkey

Muslims all over America are celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday today.

"What does it hurt?" some say. What's wrong with getting together with family over a nice meal to express thanks and gratitude for the blessings we enjoy.

"It's not a religious holiday," others claim. "What's wrong with observing a secular holiday? It will help our children feel more like a part of America."

Yet others claim that the values of Thanksgiving are compatible with Islamic values.

But who is it that we are thanking for our blessings? Who are Muslims expressing gratitude to while observing Thanksgiving?

When I was a child, we celebrated Thanksgiving. My father was Jewish and my mother was Catholic. So, we celebrated the religious holidays of both faith traditions. We also celebrated the secular holidays of America.

But most traditional Orthodox Jewish people do not celebrate holidays such as Thanksgiving. They do not observe any non-Jewish holidays. It is perceived as imitating the "Gentiles" and their customs, a prohibition found in Leviticus 18:3. Some Jews do not consider it to be Halakhic (acceptable according to Jewish law). Read more at

In Islam, it is also encumbered upon Muslims to differ from the non-Muslims.

Imam Muhammad al-Jibaly covers this topic thoroughly in his book, Festivals & Celebrations in Islam, 2nd Edition. He explains that differing from the non-Muslims is a religious requirement.

"Adhering to the way of the believers helps a Muslim maintain a distinctive Islamic personality and avoid dissolving in the beliefs and customs of un-Islamic cultures," al-Jibaly explains, "even in matters that may be thought unimportant, such as personal demeanor and attire." He goes on to cite other examples of commands issued by the Prophet (saw) such as "sparing the beard, trimming the mustache, dying the white hair, keeping the wife's company during her menses, eating a pre-dawn meal (suhur) before fasting, cleaning the houses and courtyards, and so on."

If we fail to differ from the non-Muslim, we are in danger of becoming one of them.

Ibn Umar (ra) reported that the Messenger (saw) said: "Whoever imitates a people is one of them." (recorded by Abu Dawud, Ahmad, and others. Verified to be authentic by al-Albani)

Imam al-Jibaly also states that Muslims do not gain dignity by imitating non-Muslims:

"Muslims are blessed with the BEST guidance. The Guidance from the Lord of lords - Allah (swt). This gives them true dignity and honor that no other people can claim. Allah (swt) says:

'Honor belongs to Allah, to His Messenger, and to the Believers.' (Al-Munafiqun 63:8)

Therefore, a Muslim is required to have a distinctive Islamic identity that makes him stand out honorably among followers of other religions.

Unaware of this, some Muslims, presuming that Islam permits resembling the non-Muslims and acting in complete harmony with them, are afraid of exhibiting a distinctive Islamic identity or proclaiming Islam openly."

The only holidays condoned by Islam are the religious occasions of the weekly id every Friday, and the two annual ids - al-Fitr and al-Adha. Al-Jibaly also tells us that "in addition, the day that precedes Id al-Adha (i.e., the Day of Arafah) and the three days that folow it were named by the Prophet (saw) as id days because they supplement Id al-Adha in regard to hajj and sacrifice."

Given the above, can we Muslims really ask ourselves, "what does it hurt" to celebrate non-Muslim holidays such as Thanksgiving? Is this what we want our children to be a part of?

Allah (swt) has answered this for us in An-Nisa 4:115:

"If a person opposes the Messenger, after guidance has become clear to him, and follows other than the path of the believers, We will give him what (consequence) he chose and admit him into Hell - what an evil destination!"

(To learn more, read Festivals & Celebrations in Islam, 2nd Edition, by Muhammad al-Jibaly, Al-Kitaab & as-Sunnah Publishing. It can be obtained at

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Approval Received!

I spoke with our Facility Chaplain Director today. She told me that she received approval to proceed with my contract to be our Muslim chaplain.

Now it should just be a matter of formalizing the contract, Insha Allah!

I am so excited. It is beyond my wildest dreams to receive this opportunity from Allah (swt).

Keep saying dua for me!

Monday, November 12, 2007

10 And A Wake-Up!

Alhamdulillah for another 3-day weekend (Veteran's Day). I didn't do too much; have been enjoying my much-needed rest.

Retirement is on the horizon, Insha Allah!

This week I have 4 working days. Next week I have 3 working days. The following week will be my last week at work as a full-time substance abuse counselor. That week will be 4 working days because I am scheduled to attend a training on Islam and addiction that Friday.

So, "10 and a wake-up" as the inmates say!

I still haven't heard anything about the chaplain contract. But "no news is good news" right? What I mean is that I probably would have heard by now if there was an objection in Harrisburg (main office). Just waiting on government bureacracy to play out.

My colleagues are planning a retirement party for me. I am very touched by this kindness. I will truly miss providing direct clinical services in the addiction field. I have had the opportunity to work with some of the best in the field in my career.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Autumn Of My Life: Transition To A Career In Muslim Chaplaincy?

It's that time of the year again.

A few days ago, I went outside and prepared my garden for the winter, pulling out dying tomatoe vines, and dry stalks left over from the beautiful flowers of the summer.

This morning, I signed my retirement papers. I have been employed in the field of Corrections for almost 10 years.

Just like fall is an exciting time because of all the beautiful colors and smells, so is the prospect of retirement. The end of one season. The start of a new one. Exciting, but a transition nonetheless.

I remind myself that I will now have time to do the things that I like to do: writing, jewelry-making cooking, homemaking, gardening ... Yes, I know. I can do them and still hold down a full time job, but I would like to devote myself fully to these activities. I have held down a full time job for most of my life. I am close to 60 years old. I'm sick of it.

I need to get my health in order. Also need to lose weight. No use in being retired and not having the health to enjoy life.

Hubby and I are also planning to buy a house in 2008, Insha Allah. I am real excited about that! And could spend at least a year getting it the way I like it.

But the biggest transition, Insha Allah, will be to a retirement career as a Muslim chaplain.

I currently work in a maximum security state prison for women. Our Muslim chaplain did not renew her contract because she wants to finish school at Hartford Seminary. So, the prison invited me to apply. I should know something by the end of November. At the same time I will be retiring from my full time position. The Muslim chaplain contract is for one day a week, six hours. A perfect retirement gig, eh?! I am so looking forward to it. I have worn many hats in my career but I never thought I would have the opportunity to be a Muslim chaplain. Allah (swt) is truly good to me, Alhamdulillah.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Eid Party Conversation

Insha Allah everyone had a blessed Ramadhan and Eid Al-Fitr.

Eid parties at the masjid are usually pretty interesting for me, but this year some local Muslims got together and had an Eid party at a fire hall.

One long table was for the men and another one was reserved for the women and children.

I ended up sitting next to two elderly Pakistani ladies. One spoke English, but the other did not - she could only understand English. I have seen these ladies before, but never had much of a conversation with them other than to greet them with salaams. This time, however, we had an opportunity to chat: The conversation went something like this:

Pakistani Sister #1: Are you Arab?

Me: No.

Pakistani Sister #2 - Says something in Urdu to the other sister.

Pakistani Sister #1: She says you look Arab.

Me: No. I came to Islam from Judaism. Even some of the Arabs think I am an Arab. When they see me on the street, they speak to me in Arabic.

Pakistani Sister #1: (Pointing to my clothing) You dress like an Arab.

Me: Nope. I'm American.

Pakistani Sister #1: Your husband's an Arab?

Me: No. He's an American, too.

(Both Pakistani sisters look at each other ... hmmm)

Pakistani Sister #1: Where did he come here from?

Me: He was born here. He's African-American. That's him over there. (I point his direction.)

(Both sisters really look at each other now, lol. They decide to change the topic.)

Pakistani Sister #2 - Running her fingers up and down her arms.

Pakistanti Sisters #1 - (Pointing to my bangles) Your jewelry is even like the Arabs.

Me: Well, I guess us American sisters learn fast!

All three of us sisters have a hearty laugh and agree!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fighting for the Right to Wear Hijab: Sisters of the Delaware County Prison

Carmen Sharpe-Allen, despite a good performance record, was fired in December 2005, from the Delaware County Prison (Pennsylvania) after a meeting with Warden Ronald Nardolillo.


Because she would not remove her khimar while on duty as a nurse at the prison.

Prison officials are being accused of violating workplace discrimination laws by firing Sister Carmen. A Federal lawsuit has been brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Sister Carmen and other female Muslim employees at the prison.

The Geo Group Inc., is the Florida-based private company that operates the Delaware County Prison.

An Associated Press article states that "(The prison) has forced its Muslim female employees to compromise their religious beliefs by removing their khimars while on duty or risk termination," according to the federal suite. The prison instituted the ban on head scarves in early 2005, the suite said."

The photo I have chosen for this post is of my Muslim sister's daughter. She is three years old, Masha Allah.

She was so happy that I wanted to photograph her in her little hijab, Alhamdulillah.

Insha Allah she will be able to always know the joy of wearing hijab due to the courage of Muslim sisters like those who work at the Delaware County Prison.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Inserting Culture Into Islam

Alhamdulillah, the month of Ramadhan is here!

But one issue bothers me every year. It has to do with the community iftaars at the masjid.

I have been to a few different masjids where it is the practice to have the men go through the line and eat before the women.

Where does this come from?

Is there an Islamic basis for this?

If so, someone please show me the daleel because it really burns me up. I think it may have more to do with culture, than with Islam.

At my current masjid, there are at least 5 women/children to every man.

While the men are going through the line, the children are usually crying because they are anxious to eat. The sisters have resorted to sending their children through the line with a father, older brother, etc.

We have two floors at the masjid. As is the case at most masjids, the men are upstairs (in a large, roomy area), and the women are downstairs (in a small, cramped space). We used to have the food upstairs and downstairs. There was no problem then. But then I suppose that someone thought it was too much work to haul the food upstairs to the men.

The solution?

Have them come downstairs and go through the line first.

I remember sometime ago, watching a TV documentary about food aid to poor countries, some of them Muslim countries. They mentioned that one of the problems was that when the food aid got to the villages, towns, etc., the men ate first and not much at all was left for the women and children. They were still starving. I felt angry hearing that.

argggggggggggggggggg! I know I am complaining. But ...

I just don't think there is an Islamic basis for this. If there is, someone please tell me and I will ask Allah for forgiveness.

The adab of America is "ladies first" lol!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Human Costs of the Iraq War

On this, the 6th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the United States, the sobering human costs of the Iraq War to date are (minimum figures):

U. S. Military - 3,774
U. K. Military - 169
"Other" - 129
U. S. Wounded - 36,943
Self-Inflicted - 122
Iraqi Civilians - 71,720 - 78,296
Journalists - 155
Contractors - 414


No group of people has suffered more than the Iraqi people in the "War on Terror".

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


This image is from a poster for director Hina Khan's film, Jihad - Struggling With Islam. The film documents her personal jihad, her inner struggle, with her own faith and identity after the events of 9/11.

Many people do not understand that the term "jihad" has a meaning separate from that used by media and uninformed people. Jihad is mistakenly referred to as "holy war". Say the word jihad and images are conjured up of car bombs, expoding buildings, bearded men yelling "Allahu Akbar" and on and on. There is no such thing as a holy war in Islam.

Why am I writing about jihad?

Well, as my blog suggests, part of my name is Jihad. It is my husband's name. The Quran tells Muslims that we should keep the name of our fathers. My birth name is Sharon Elayne Levine. When I married my husband, I did not take his name as my last name. Rather, I inserted it before my father's name. Thus, I use the name of S. E. Jihad Levine. Among Muslims and close friends, I am known as "Safiyyah".

A friend of mine asked me to write a book review and back cover blurb for a Musim author who will soon be publishing her first book.

When I received the manuscript, it was badly in need of content and copy edit. It had numerous errors about Islam and the grammar was horrible. The author's first language is not English. So, I spent many hours and exchanged a number of emails in order to tighten up the manuscript. I then wrote a long review for the author to use for marketing purposes. Also did the blurb for the back cover. After many hours of work, I sent a good draft to the author and to my friend for their review. I didn't charge for this work. I did it as a favor for my friend. I also did it for the exposure. All I asked of the author was that she keep by byline intact when sending out the review. My byline included my name: S. E. Jihad Levine.

Well! The author sent an email to my friend stating that she was "alarmed" when she saw the word "jihad" in my name. She feels it may jeopordize what she is trying to achieve. And what is she trying to achieve?

She wants to market her book mainly to non Muslims. Muslims are not her target audience. The characters of her book are Muslims. She wants to present Islam in a positive light.

"Jihad" in someone's name may put off the non Muslims.

So, she asks, would I be willing to change my byline to "Safiyyah Levine" or "J. Levine".

No, I am not willing to sanitize my name for the non Muslims.

What is up with this internalized Islamophobia in some Muslims? Examples of it include:

1. Changing a Muslim name to an "American" one, i.e., Samir to Sammy, Mohammad to Moe, etc.
2. Not wearing a hijab.
3. Not wearing a beard.
4. Celebrating non-Islamic holidays, i.e., Christmas, Mother's Day, etc.

I'm sure you can think of more examples.

No non Muslim I know is put off by my name. As a matter of fact, my non Muslims friends think my name is comical ... a Muslim name and a Jewish name put together.

And I have never had a Muslim editor ask me to change/delete my Jewish name of "Levine".

Good thing my husband's name is not Sadaam or Osaama!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Seemed To Be A Crisis"

This is a picture of one of my tomato plants from just a few weeks ago. Most of the plants only had one or two rippened tomatoes hanging from their branches. Every day I enjoyed a fresh tomato from the garden. It was heaven. But then it happened, like it does to gardeners everywhere: an explosion of rippened tomates!

So Alhamdulillah, this afternoon I made spaghetti sauce from scratch. As I sit here writing this, I am enjoying the aroma from the kitchen.

I had to do something soothing like cooking this afternoon. Because this morning, I experienced what seemed to be a crisis: our well stopped working.

We share a well with three other families. My neighbor's landlord came over and changed the filter on the well pump. Sometimes the filters get clogged up and then the water stops flowing.

After that, we had water. For about 15 minutes.

The landlord came back and found that the well filter was totally clogged again.

Our area is experiencing low levels of ground water because we have not had sufficient rain this summer. Because the well pump has to work harder to find and bring up water, it brings up a lot of soot that keeps clogging the filter. The landlord finally took the filter off so we could at least have running water.

But wait! It's UNFILTERED water. OK for the toilet, but what about for the showers! And washing the dishes! Never mind a load or two of laundry. That's out of the question. Now I have to spend my day off tomorrow at the laundromat.

The bottom line is that we have it deal with it while the landlord arranges to hook us up to the city's water supply.

I say that the situation "seemed to be a crisis" because after all the excitement was over, I sat down and thought of all the Muslims from various areas of the world who have no access to clean water.

I'm sure that many Muslims who live in regions where there is drought would be grateful for the unfiltered water that I have flowing through my pipes.

Many Muslims also live in areas where there is no indoor plumbing - running water, toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, etc. - all the conveniences of modern life that many Muslims enjoy by the Mercy of Allah (swt).

I'm sure that some would even be grateful for my homemade spaghetti.

I'm now sure that it is not a crisis after all. Inconvenient, yes. Crisis, no.

"Allah is He Who sends forth the winds so they raise a cloud, then He spreads it forth in the sky as He pleases, and He breaks it up so that you see the rain coming forth from inside it; then when He causes it to fall upon whom He pleases of His servants, lo! They are joyful ... Look then at the signs of Allah's mercy, how He gives life to the earth after its death, most surely He will raise the dead to life; and He has power over all things." (30:48-50)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Pregnant Somali Mom and Daughter Missing in Minnesota Bridge Collapse

Please say dua for the family of Sister Sadiyah and her little daughter Hanah. Sister Sadiyah is a 23 year old nursing student. She is also five months pregnant.

An online news article at said that Minneapolis Somali leader Mohamed Hassan called Sahal a bright light, "She was an active young lady who had a beautiful life in front of her."

Read the entire article about those still missing at

May Allah (swt) give His comfort to this sister's family, and to everyone affected by this tragedy/Ameen.

Stuffing Prisons With Black Men - by Harold Jackson

What do you think of the article below?

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 8/4/07


by Harold Jackson

Only about 2 percent of Iowa's population is black. But blacks are 13.6 times more likely than whites to be imprisoned there. That's more than twice the national average, which is bad enough. Hispanics nationally are imprisoned at double the rate of whites.

I shouldn't pick on Iowa, though. I live in New Jersey, where blacks are imprisoned at 10 times the rate of whites. In Pennsylvania, it's five times.

You would think the disparities would be worse in the Old South states ...


Monday, July 23, 2007

Alhamdulillah For Halal Butchers

I heard another piece on the evening news tonight about the use of carbon monoxide by U.S. meatpackers. This issue was in the news a few years ago when fresh food advocates asked the U.S. FDA to ban the practice.

Meatpackers use carbon monoxide to make meat look fresh. It is necessary, in part, because the practice of buying meat that is sliced or prepared on spot is becoming a thing of the past. Most big modern grocery stores sell pre-packaged meat. Shoppers spend a lot of time looking at the different packages of steak or ground meat in order to find the pinkest package. This, they believe, is the freshest meat.

Grocers like the practice of using carbon monoxide to make meat stay pink because people will not buy brown meat. Reports claim that grocers suffer a huge financial loss when they have to discard less-than-pink meat because consumers will not buy it.

However, the appearance of meat does not necessarily indicate that it is fresh and safe to eat. Color, likewise, does not indicate freshness. In fact, the practice of altering the color of meat can actually hide or hinder the behavior of certain bacteria, etc.

Bad odor upon opening the package is a more accurate sign that the meat may not be fresh or that it may even be bad.

But the bottom line is that no matter what the industry does, food safety in general is a huge concern in America. Also, some meat sold in America is from other countries.

The meatpacking industry claims that there is no safety risk in the use of carbon monoxide to improve the appearance of meet. Some advocate groups disagree.

Seeing this report on the news again tonight got me to thinking about the Islamic obligation to eat halal meat.

I love my halal butcher!

Everything is cut, sliced, and packaged on the spot in his store.

I don't have to worry about the freshness of the meat or chicken in this brother's halal market.

Some Muslims complain that halal meat is more expensive. Other claim there at fatwaas stating Muslims can eat the meat in the U.S. grocery stores because America is a "Christian" country, and Christians are People of the Book.

I think the Quran is clear on this matter.

I am grateful to have one less thing to worry about.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pardon My "Remodeling"

I finally decided to use the new Blogger Layout feature. So, I am changing the look of my blog! Insha Allah I'll be done real soon. Come back and let me know how you like it.

Monday, July 02, 2007

British Police ID 2 Suspects as Doctors

By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer

LONDON - "An Iraqi physician and a Palestinian doctor working at British hospitals were identified Monday among those held in the failed car bomb attacks on London and Glasgow, while authorities said the latest suspect had been arrested in another country.

British media reported at least five of the eight people now in custody were doctors, but police would confirm only the two physicians whose names were released ..."

If the above is true, it disturbs me deeply. Not only because these people are Muslims, but also because they are physicians. Doctors. People who are supposed to be concerned with alleviating suffering. Medical professionals who are supposed to focus on saving lives.

Yet these "physicians" are willing to blow people up with car bombs.

A news report said that one of the suspects was being treated in the hospital where he had worked! I cannot imagine the feelings of his colleagues.

Ya Allah!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

I Needed To Repack My Suitcase

I wrote this article and it was published at Reading Islam:

When I made the decision to become a Muslim, I didn’t tell a soul. It was a decision between me and Allah (swt) alone.

But, I did approach my supervisor at work to feel out whether or not my workplace would be a supportive environment for my new way of life. “Hmm, let’s say” I began one morning after my supervisor and I were finished with a staff meeting. “If I were ever to convert to Islam, would it be a problem for me to wear a scarf here?” I asked. “Hmm, let’s say if you ever did that,” he responded with a twinkle in his eye, “it would be okay with me.” Because he knew my husband, he had an idea what I was considering.

I had been married to a Muslim man for about a year at that time. He never pressured me to become a Muslim, but he gave me silent dawah by his excellent example. One of the things we did as a married couple was to visit other Muslims. We were often invited to the home of one particular family, and I spent many evenings conversing about Islam with the wife of the house.

I said the Shahadah on her garden porch in the summer of 1998. Before I left her home that special afternoon, she gave me my first hijab. I remember it was an al-amira type, the one-piece kind that slips over the head.

The day after I became a Muslim, my husband and I traveled to Puerto Rico. Just 24 hours before, I had been planning a vacation that included sunbathing on the beach in a skimpy bathing suit! Needless to say, I spent part of my first evening as a Muslim repacking my suitcase.

I don’t know what I expected concerning the reaction of others to my hijab. Looking back, I wasn’t worried too much other than potential problems with my job. I was sure that I wanted to be a Muslim. Almost overnight, however, I lost my identity as an “American” in my own country. It was immediately assumed by others that I was from the Middle East or some other Muslim country. At the Philadelphia International Airport, on my way to Puerto Rico, for example, I was frequently stopped by security and asked about my country of origin. Was my hijab changing my national identity as well as my religion? It was clear to me that my life had taken a 180 degree turn overnight.

The Caribbean heat hit me hard as I exited the main terminal of the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in San Juan wearing my new white cotton hijab. But I was determined to keep it on.

In the following days, I was a bit confused as I walked the streets of nearby Condado. Many of the local people greeted me with an admiring look and a smile. “Dios te bendiga, madre!” (God bless you, mother) they would say as they walked past me. Did they think I was a Catholic nun? I later learned that there is a Christian group in Puerto Rico whose female members wear while veils similar to the hijab.

When our vacation was over, we made our way back to the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport. Again I got a security grilling, but it was more intense than the one I had experienced in Philadelphia because this time I was attempting to enter the United States. My husband was proud of how I handled myself. When we returned home, he told me that he knew I was serious about hijab due to the fact that I wore it in public the entire vacation despite the Puerto Rican heat!

When I returned to work, I was a little anxious about walking through the door of the agency. The first person I saw was my supervisor. He was in the file room when I arrived. He gave me a long smile when he saw me in my hijab. “So – you did it!” he said, shaking his head up and down with approval.

The best reactions I got to my hijab came from my Muslim clients. (Remember: I hadn’t told anyone!) One of them was scheduled to see me the day I returned to work from vacation. When I saw Mahmoud, he was flabbergasted. “Alhamdulillah!” he exclaimed. His eyes glistened with tears that soon overflowed and spilled to his cheeks. “Mabrook! You look so beautiful!” He kept saying it over and over again.

I was a bit apprehensive in the following days, but my friends and acquaintances were supportive. The encouragement they gave me made my transition to wearing hijab very smooth. Sadly, I know that some of my revert Muslim sisters have not had such a positive experience.

There was no internal struggle or conflict for me concerning the wearing of hijab. I had read a lot about Islam, including the issue of hijab, prior to making my decision to become a Muslim. I understood hijab to be part of the “package” so to speak. It was that simple for me.

At that time, I had no spiritual sense of hijab; I was wearing it to comply with Allah’s command in the holy Qur’an. Today I do have a spiritual sense of hijab. My hijab lets the world know that I am a Muslim woman. It symbolizes what my life stands for. I wear it to please Allah (swt), but I also wear it for myself. I have worn hijab since the day I said the Shahadah. I have never taken it off, even after the dreadful days following the events of September 11th.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Mother's Day Mubarak?

People all over America and other places in the world are celebrating Mother's Day.

It seems that this non-Islamic holiday is also creeping into the Muslim world. Not only here in America where Mother's Day originated, but also abroad.

The other day, I received an email from Sound Vision about Mother's Day. It reads, in part, as follows:

"As Mother's Day approaches this weekend, do more than just send flowers or buy gifts for mom. Rekindle your relationship with her, regardless of how she has treated you. If your relationship has been non-existent or distant, commit to doing one thing for the next year than can help you become closer. This can be one extra phone call on a regular basis or inviting her over to your place at least once a month. If you're blessed with a close relationship, find ways to strengthen it. And if your mother has passed, find a way to honor her memory, whether it's donating to her favorite charity every month or simply raising your hands in Dua every Friday asking for God to forgive her and grant her Paradise."

The email goes on to provide various Sound Vision links about mothers, including a link for shopping for Mother's Day gifts.

In Jordan, Mother's Day is observed on the first day of spring. Queen Noor, a Muslim, is the honorary chair of Rediscover Mother's Day. She has written a piece on entitled, Let's Reclaim Mother's Day for Peace

It is interesting to note how Queen Noor opens her piece:

"In 1982, during a period of dangerous stalemate in the Middle East peace process, I gave a speech at Georgetown University about the critical need for a more engaged and balanced role for the United States in the region.

The newspapers the next day covered my handbag, my rings, and my dress. When asked about the substance of my message, one U. S. Senator said, 'It's a great public relations weapon to have an attractive queen.'"

Well, my sister, what do you expect? Mixed messages?

More mixed messages when a predominant Muslim woman is the honorary chair of such a thing as Rediscover Mother's Day?

Is the condition of our ummah in such dire straights that we need a non-Islamic holiday like Mother's Day to help us with our relationships with our Muslim mothers?

May Allah (swt) help us all if we need such an occasion as Mother's Day to raise our hands in dua to Him to ask for forgiveness and Jennah for our deceased Muslim mothers.

The danger for Muslims in America is that cultural and secular practices have a way of intertwining themselves with Islam. Then people end up not knowing the difference. We have seen this in our own masjids and Muslim communities.

When I first considered becoming a Muslim, I read a LOT about Islam. Once I became a Muslim and interacted with the Muslim community, I was blown away. I soon discovered that many Muslims didn't know the difference between cultural and Islam. It was not uncommon for me to hear, "But Safiyyah, this is how we do it in my country."

Will our children be saying this decades from now? Defending the practice of observing secular holidays by Muslims as "how we do it" in America?

Buying your mother a gift for Mother's Day is practicing this secular holiday. Buying her gifts throughout the year is truly honoring mom!

We have the Quran and Hadith for guidance in how to honor and celebrate our Muslim moms, Alhamdulillah! Muslim need not look toward secular sources for help in this area!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Iraqi Parliament Going on Vacation?!

It happens annually at my masjid: the mass exodus abroad.

Right after school ends, families beginning leaving for vacation "home" or to "my country".

The only Muslims left are the locals (usually born Americans converts who are already "home"), the poor, and the "undocumented" who would love to visit "home" but cannot for obvious reasons.

Just about everything at the masjid comes to a dead halt: halaqa, school, Arabic class, board meetings, special events, etc. No decisions are made until those who went "home" come back home again. Those of us left here over the summer are in an Islamic Twilight Zone until the end of August.

Why is this so?

Something I saw on the Sunday morning political talk shows gave me a clue.

My ears perked up as I heard that the Iraqi Parliament is scheduled to take a TWO MONTH vacation soon. What!!! A TWO MONTH vacation? With all that is going on over there?

I couldn't believe my ears!

Maybe the Iraqi Parliament has taken a cue from the American Congress, who leaves Washington, DC, on a regular basis for long weekends, vacations, breaks, etc. When they are in session, they don't get much accomplished except partisan bickering. What of the people's business? Don't ask.

Most Iraqi Parliament members don't even live in Iraq. They live abroad. What? Again, I couldn't believe my ears! No wonder they're not in touch with what's going on in Iraq. When they leave for vacation and return to wherever they live "abroad", do they tell people that they're going "home"?

Maybe the Iraqi Parliament has taken a cue from the Palestinians. When Yasser Arafat and his administration were in power, most of their families lived "abroad" too. Did they think it too dangerous to have their own families living and working in Palestine? Do the Iraqi government officials think it too dangerous to have their families living and working in Iraq?

If the answer is "yes", that the country is too dangerous or unstable, then why don't they remain in Iraq and tend to the people's business?!

After all, the Iraqi people cannot take a two month vacation from the madness. Neither can the coalition members unless they have replacements.

And the "insurgents" don't take vacations either.

George Bush tells us that we will stand down when the Iraqis are able to stand up. How will the Iraqis be able to do this, when their own leaders go "home" for two months, leaving them alone to face the car bombings, market explosions, mosque devastations, sectarian violence, tribal/clan disputes, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Portrait

(photograph by S. E. Jihad Levine, Hill District, Pittsburgh, PA, Summer 1975)

As a young photography student,
I remember a distinct
incident while taking
photographs in the “ghetto”.

A black man was
laying on a playground bench,
nodding off a drunk.

When he noticed me,
I asked permission to take his picture;
surprisingly, he agreed without inhibition.

He started to clear the
debris and garbage
from the area below the bench.

As he bent down to push aside
the crumpled, cellophane cigarette packs
and discarded, empty food wrappers
I snapped a shot.

He lifted a broken whiskey bottle,
and I snapped a shot.

He finally raised his head,
exalted, ready,
expecting to be photographed.

I had no more film;
I was ashamed.
I, who was so eager,
to capture misery.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Human Costs of the Iraq War

U. S. Military Dead - 3,256
U. S. Military Wounded - 26,188
Iraqi Civilian Dead - 60,411*
Journalists Killed - 155
Contractors Killed - 390

Figures are as of March 30, 2007

(Sources: and

* This is the minimum estimate; Iraqi Body Count gives a maximum estimate of 66,280 but other estimates are as high as 655,000. (Source:

from The Williamsport Guardian,

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Waleed Shaalan - Virginia Tech MSA Student

Ina Lillahi wa ina Ilayhi rajeoon ... Brother Waleed Shaalan, victim of Virginia Tech shootings.

The Virginia Tech MSA is collecting money for Brother Waleed's family ... to read more, and to donate Insha Allah, click here

Monday, April 09, 2007

More Forced Hijab

Jill Carroll as a hostage - Another picture that depicts hijab as a symbol of oppression and religious extremeism.

Last year I wrote a poem that was published on I love my hijab and wrote a little poem to celebrate it:


I wear my hijab for Allah,
Not for my father
Not for my husband
Not for my brother
Not for any other

Than Allah

I cover myself for Allah,
No one makes me
No one forsakes me
No one rejects me
No one subjects me

But Allah

My modesty is for Allah,
Commanded in Qu'ran
For Him and no one else
Seeking His reward
Moving closer to Allah

Friday, April 06, 2007

Someone Finally Asked My Opinion!

I've always been fascinated by the results of polls and statistics in news articles.

"67% of all Americans believe ..." or "38% of all women think ..." etc. Everyone has heard these types of statistics.

I used to ask myself where they got this stuff. Who did they talk to? Why hasn't anyone ever asked me?

Well, last night someone finally asked my opinion! I participated in a telephone poll!

The questions went something like this:

1. Have higher gas prices changed your standard of living? Press 1 for yes, press 2 for no.
(I over-budget for gas, so I have a cushion for price fluctuations.)

2. Do you approve of the job that George Bush is doing? Press 1 for yes, press 2 for no.
(Well, that's a loaded question!)

3. Are you in fear of losing your job in the near future? Press 1 for yes, press 2 for no.
(Seeing how I work in a prison, losing my job is not the main fear in my workplace!)

4. Do you think that America is in a recession? Press 1 for yes, press 2 for no.
(I don't know much about Economics; I wish there was a "not sure" choice.)

I'm not sure of the validity of my responses, but it was fun to participate!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Nancy Pelosi in Hijab!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Alhamdulillah! Here's a photo I never thought I would see! This photo is from her trip to Syria. (Photo from Reuters)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Happy Passover!

Happy Passover to my Jewish family and friends!

"Hamburg Haggadah 1731, Dorot Jewish Division, The New York Public Library

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hijab: Symbol of Oppression and Islamic Extremeism?

This is Faye Turney. She is one of the British marines taken hostage by the Iranians a few days ago. She is one of the latest non Muslim women taken hostage, put in hijab, and paraded before the media and the world. What message are the Iranians trying to convey? I think it is one of humiliation. They couldn't have picked a more unflattering photo of Ms. Turney. The Iranians have indeed turned the hijab, a symbol Muslim women worldwide choose to wear for modesty and to please Allah (swt), into a symbol of oppression and humiliation. Ms. Turney did not choose to wear this hijab. Ms. Turney: I am so sorry.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

NewGround - A Program for Muslim-Jewish Dialogue

Permission to reprint by InFocus ... the largest Muslim newspaper in California

NEWGROUND: A Groundbreaking Muslim-Jewish Partnership

By Abdussalam Mohamed

The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) and the Progressive Jewish Alliance (PJA) have recently launched NewGround, a bold new program that aims to jumpstart dialogue and community building between American Muslims and Jews. The program intends to put forth a new initiative for creating a dynamic and constructive way to promote Muslim-Jewish relations.

"The program has been on our minds for a long time," said Aziza Hasan, MPAC’s Interfaith Program Coordinator. "Each time tensions rise in the Middle East we feel that Muslims and Jews need to be talking to each other," she added.

Malka Fenyzesi, PJA’s Interfaith Program Coordinator echoed that sentiment by saying, "We want to be engaged in an honest and constructive dialogue that brings Muslims and Jews together."

According to Hasan, NewGround is the result of extensive research of previous Muslim-Jewish dialogue conducted in the Los Angeles area and around the country. Fenyzesi said that many in the Jewish community are looking to engage with the Muslim community in a substantial way.

In order to implement its challenging vision, NewGround has a four-pronged initiative. An intra-faith phase that will invite members of the same faith to address issues that pose both challenges and opportunities for understanding the "other;" an inter-faith phase, which would encourage Muslims and Jews to learn about each other and discuss common ethnic and religious issues such as anti-Semitism and Islamophobia; a civic engagement phase that would prompt members of the two faiths to address a joint social issue within the city of Los Angeles; and a fourth phase that would deal with each community’s Achilles Heel: The Palestinian/Israel issue.

Asked whether the Middle East conflict could be divisive enough to potentially derail NewGround’s efforts, Hasan was confident it would not. "We’ve conducted a research project on interfaith initiatives across the country and were able to learn from models already in place," she said. According to Hasan these existing models are based on academic research conducted by university professors and organization leaders.

"The goal of this dialogue is not to agree as much as it is to listen and try to understand each other," said Fenyzesi.

Other community organizations expressed support the idea. "Any dialogue that aims to widen the area of cooperation between the two communities is always welcome," said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) Southern California office.

Ayloush said that in order for such dialogue to work, "There has to be an agreement between all groups that views on Israel are not going to be the litmus test for acceptance."

Hasan said that the reason previous dialogues between the Muslim and Jewish communities have failed was because there was no process for people to discuss emotionally explosive issues (such as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians) as they happen in a controlled environment. "With a system of accountability, members of each faith would have to follow key ways to express their feelings," Hasan added.

Rather than being exclusive among organization leadership, NewGround will target attitudes within members of the Muslim and Jewish communities. It aims to train groups of dedicated persons who will take their newly learned skills to their respective communities with the expectation that they would impart what they have learned to other community members.

In spite of his optimism, Ayloush noted that such a dialogue was going to attract people who already believed in dialogue. "We need to find a way to engage those who are opposed to it," he said.

Hasan acknowledged that fact but added that, "At this stage, we’ve had significant interest from individuals who belong to groups who are part of the mainstream Jewish community." Fenyzesi agreed. "The focus of our project at this stage is our community members even though we are in contact with the leadership of both our communities," he said.

NewGround was launched last month of this year and has full time staff working in the Muslim and Jewish communities. It remains to see how well it will perform in the coming months and years especially if another Middle East conflict ignites.

Tensions in the region notwithstanding, both Hasan and Fenyzesi are confident that the new project would help their respective communities engage in a positive and constructive dialogue. "NewGround is a step in the right direction," said Fenyzesi. "We’re optimistic it will work," seconded Hasan.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Jewish Women Embracing Islam to Double

Reprinted with permission of Islamic Times

Written by Dr Piyara Begum
Wednesday, 23 August 2006

THE NUMBER OF Jewish women reverting to Islam and marrying Muslim men is expected to double this year. According to Israel's population registry, an average of 35 women have reverted each year, but so far, in the first half of 2006, 42 women have reverted.

The reversions are carried out at Islamic Shariah Courts. Unlike the lengthy study requirements and proceedings necessary to convert to Judaism in Israel, reverting to Islam is a very short ordeal, entailing only declaring one's wishes to become a Muslim before the court.
According to Jewish law, the women remain Jews and their children will be Jewish as well however, as Muslims we believe they are Muslims.

But what are the causes of the Jewish Womens reversion? Some have said, mixed Arab and Jewish communities which exist in certain parts of Palestine and Israel has drawn sympathy amongst the Jewish women. Others say, the rights of Muslim women far exceed the rights of women in any other religion or community in the area or even the world and it is due to this that the Jewish women are increasing being drawn to Islam.

One former Jewish woman who reverted to Islam is Amalia Rahman. Friends and family say that she converted to Islam on the suggestion of her husband, Habib.

Amalia, however, begins her story much earlier, just after college when she moved to California to be with her family. She befriended a group of Arabs who used to visit her father's dried fruit and nut stand at the San Jose Farmer's Market. "I had a very low opinion of Arabs, you grow up Jewish so you have this low opinion. It's like a filmy residue from childhood."

Despite these ingrained feelings, she found herself drawn to them and their faith. "One thing I noticed about the people I had met, even though I had all these prejudices in my mind, that they were very good to each other. I wanted to be a part of that, a part of this feeling of belonging to something so wonderful."

Whatever the reason, all we can say is Allahu Akbar as Allah guides whom he wills and may he guide more into the folds of Islam.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Israel Approves Muslim Minister

The Israeli parliament has approved the appointment of the country's first Arab Muslim cabinet minister, Galeb Magadla, who joins the government as minister without portfolio.

His nomination was approved on Monday by 59 votes in favour to 23 against, and was then sworn in, a parliament spokesman said.
Read Full Article At:

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Who Do We Blame?

Thunderstorms and tornadoes hit central Florida early Friday morning creating extensive devasation and 20 deaths (as of this writing).

Immediately, the "drive-by media" (Rush Limbaugh's term!) were all over the area and airways looking for somewhere or somene to blame.

"Who do we blame?" asked CNN's T. J. Holmes? The weather anchor replied that the "blame" belongs solely to an El Nino weather event.

But the media still asks, "Why aren't there warning sirens in these areas?" "Why isn't the 'reverse 911' protocol in effect yet?"

The plain truth is that these weather events are a regular occurrence in Florida. Newly-elected Governor Charlie Crist acknowledges this truth. He said that these extreme weather events are part of living in areas like beautiful Florida.

While we sympathize and pray for the people in Florida affected by this tragedy, we must also shift from the attitude of blame to one of personality responsibility. Simple measures can help.

This storm hit in the early hours of the morning. Many families were alseep and could not hear the warnings on the radio and television. But a home weather radio would have sounded an alarm to wake up the family. Every household needs to own a weather radio. One can be purchased from as little as $20 to on up for more sophisticated models. (Also check out National Weather Radio online).

People who live in mobile homes need to utilize the ties for securing the unit. Even though strong winds can knock down these trailers, it may help to minimize damage or save lives. Inspectors showed reporters many totally destroyed mobile homes that had not been tied down.

The purpose of this post is not to "blame the victim". The purpose is not to "blame" anyone. We must prepare ourselves in life the best we can for what we know will happen sooner or later. It is not a matter of "if" but "when".

Even if we prepare ourselves well, Allah (swt) will still tests us. He tells us in our beautiful Book:

"Be sure We shall test you with something of fear and hunger, some loss in goods or lives, or the fruits of your toil, but give glad tidings to those who patiently persevere, who say, when afflicted with calamity: 'To Allah we belong, and to Him is our return." They are those on whom descend blessings from Allah, and Mercy, and they are the ones that receive guidance." (2:155-157)

To the Muslims in Florida affected by this most recent test: Hang in there. We will all be saying dua for you. Be patient and know that Allah (swt) will help you and reward you.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Courage to Care

Muslim Family Who Hid 26 Jews in Albania from the Nazis Honored by ADL

ADL Press Release: New York, NY, January 18, 2007

A Muslim family who saved 26 Jews from the Nazis and led them to safety in the mountains of Central Albania was honored by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) with its Courage to Care Award.

The award was presented posthumously to Mefail and Njazi Biçaku on International Rescuer's Day, January 17, in New York City. Accepting the award on their behalf were family members Muhamet Biçaku, Elida Hazbiu and Qemal Biçaku, two of whom came from Albania.

Michael Salberg, ADL Director of International Affairs, who presented the award said; "Mefail, his son Njazi and their entire family had the courage to care. Through their compassion and valor without regard for religious or ethnic differences they upheld the honor of the human race and the conscience of the world. In the moral void that engulfed the world in those nightmare days when the cruelty of the Nazis ran rampant, the Biçaku family was among those few shining stars."

H.E. Adrian Neritani, Ambassador of the Republic of Albania to the United Nations spoke at the award ceremony as did Dr. Anna Kohen, President of Motrat Qiriazi, the Albanian American Women's Organization and Myriam Abramowicz, filmmaker and originator of the Hidden Child Movement.

On September 1943, as the Nazis began searching for Jews in the region, word reached Mefail Biçaku that a number of people were in great need. Mefail, a man well-known for his bravery and honesty, gave his "besa"- his word of honor- that he would protect, feed and shelter them. Njazi, his son, guarded their charges constantly, and when bandits in the area suggested Mefail turn the Jews in and claim their wealth, he refused.

In February 1944, when the Nazis descended upon the mountain hiding place, not a single Jew fell into their hands. During the Holocaust, Albania was the only country in Europe that protected and sheltered its entire Jewish population, both native and foreign. Through the valiant efforts of Muslims and Christians, all of Albania's Jews survived the Holocaust.

Mefail and Njazi Biçaku have both been recognized by the State of Israel and Yad Vashem by being selected to receive its highest honor, the Righteous Among the Nations Award.

In 1987, ADL initiated a unique award to honor rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust era. The ADL Courage to Care Award is a plaque with bas-reliefs depicting the backdrop of the rescuers' exceptional deeds – the Nazis' persecution, deportation and murder of millions of Jews. The Courage to Care program is sponsored by Eileen Ludwig Greenland. Past recipients of the ADL Courage to Care Award include: Hiram Bingham IV, Sir Nicholas Winton, Konstantin Koslovsky, Jan and Miep Gies, Aristides De Sousa Mendes, Jan Karski, Selahattin Ulkumen, Chiune Sugihara, the French town of Le Chambon-Sur-Lignon, Emilie and Oskar Schindler, The Partisans of Riccione, Italy and Johanna Vos.

The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.