Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Hamas Tunnels?

I ran across this picture on Boston Globe's website. It is among a collection of Eid ul-Adha images.

The next time you hear on the news that these tunnels are for the sole use of Hamas to smuggle whatever through ... think of this Palestinian brother! He's merely trying to bring an animal home to slaughter for the Eid to please Allah (swt) and also to feed his family:

A Palestinian smuggles a sheep into the Gaza Strip through a tunnel under the Egypt-Gaza border at Rafah on December 5, 2008. The Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice which commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God starts Dec. 8 during which sheep are traditionally slaughtered. The Rafah border post with Egypt is the only crossing into Gaza not controlled by Israel, which has enforced a blockade on the territory since Hamas, which Israel regards as a terrorist group, seized power there in 2007. (SAID KHATIB/AFP/Getty Images)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Fully a Muslim!

This is a picture of me sitting on Santa's lap, taken when I was 3 1/2 years old.

I used it when I wrote this article for IslamOnline.

The main gist of the article was about the grief process and the loneliness experienced by some reverts to Islam around the non-Muslim holidays such as Christmas. And how, for various reasons, our new brothers and sisters in Islam somehow do not replace the family and warmth many of us have lost by abandoning our faiths to become Muslims.

In the article, I stated:

"The single most difficult part of the grief process was, and continues to be, non-Muslim holidays. Not only the Christian and Jewish holidays, but also the secular ones: New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Thanksgiving, anniversaries, birthdays, and my favorite of them all, April Fool's Day!"

I have crossed over a threshold since that article was written. I no longer miss the non-Muslim holidays. Alhamdulillah!

I'm not sure exactly when it happened. But it came together for me tonight while I was reading a blog post by a Jewish blogger friend of mine named Bar Kochba. He has a few blogs but the post that caught my eye tonight was at his The Truth About Moshiach blog. The post title is Not Afraid to Be Unique.

Bar Kochba references an article in the online edition of The Jerusalem Post by Matthew Wagner titled, "Santa Claus and Judah Macabee Join Forces in TA 'End of Year' Fair." There is an interesting observation noted in Wagner's article by the owner of the Israeli Marzipan Museum:

Tamir Peled, the owner of the Marzipan Museum, whose products are under the kashrut supervision of the Lower Galilee Rabbinate, said that this Christmas there has been a sharp rise in demand from Jewish Israelis for marzipan in Christmas shapes, such as Santa Claus.

"In the past all our requests were for Jewish symbols like Magen David, shofars, apples in honey and the tablets of the Ten Commandments," said Peled. "But recently Israelis who have lived abroad or who are influenced by American TV want to celebrate Christmas."

"So far we have not gotten any orders to make marzipan crosses. But maybe that will happen, too."

Peled said that Israelis want to celebrate Christmas because they do not want to feel culturally isolated from the rest of the world.

"Celebrating only Hanukka set us apart, makes us different. People don't want to feel that way. They want to be part of world," she said.

Somehow, this all reminded me of my childhood. My mother was Catholic and my father was Jewish. We celebrated the religious traditions of both faiths in our household. I guess my parents thought that they could maintain an interfaith home.

For my Jewish grandmother, it was different. I remember asking her why she didn't have a tree in her house at Christmas. She told me it was because she was Jewish and that Christmas trees were for Christians. "That's what they do," she told me. "We're different." It was that simple. Religiously, my grandmother didn't want to be "part of the world." She didn't want to fit in. She wanted only to be Jewish. She was unique.

Unfortunately, I didn't experience that personal acceptance at that time in my life. I truly feel it was due to being raised in a home where there was no true religious commitment to one faith. Maybe adults can get with the concept of tolerance and an interfaith atmosphere, but I believe that children need an identity. Children need to know who they are. As a child, I KNEW that my mother was Catholic. And I KNEW that my father was Jewish. But I didn't know who I was. Once my father started to take me to the synagogue, it got a little better. I started to identify as being Jewish. But there was always the "other side" of my family. Us and Them.

My parents divorced when I was 11 years old. We moved to another state where my mother's people lived. I was separated from my father and my Jewish family. My mother put me in a Catholic school and I was raised as a Catholic until I was an older teenager and of the age where I could embrace Judaism again. But when I was old enough to marry, I didn't marry Jewish man. Looking back, I always practiced my religion alone. Yes, with others in the synagogues and temples, but still alone. Everyone else had Jewish family. Except me.

I found Islam in 1998 and I am now a Muslim. I identify as being Jewish in ethnicity only. Like I said, I don't know exactly when it happened, but I feel that I have resolved my grief process. I feel fully Muslim! I have no desire to religiously or culturally be part of the non-Muslim world.

I am unique. Like my grandmother was.

I have a Muslim husband, Alhamdulillah, and am not alone in my faith.

I don't miss Christmas or any other non-Muslim holiday anymore. I now look forward to the Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha holidays.

I know that new Muslims and even some not-so-new reverts to Islam still experience problems in this area. I say dua that they too will cross the treshhold as I have and become totally integrated into the Muslim ummah/Ameen!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Dale (Jamaluddin) Marcell - And Some Thoughts About Music in Islam

Sound Vision has announced the passing of our Muslim brother Dale (Jamaluddin) Marcell who was the leader of the Fletcher Valve Drummers.

Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon.

The Sound Vision article states, "The layers of rhythm and energetic percussions of the Fletcher Valve Drummers brought a new dimension to the live Nasheed / Musical stage in the Muslim community. Dale and his group were the all-time favourites at MuslimFest in Canada and at several major events in the UK, as they shared the stage with renowned Muslim performers, including Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Native Deen, 786, and Ashiqe Rasul."

YouTube has two of his live performances here:

Apparently, Brother Jamaluddin publicly declared Shahada while live on stage with his drumming group and Dawud Wharnsby during MusicFest 2005!

Interesting to me is the mention in the article that Brother Jamaluddin was often disappointed that the Muslim community did not appreciate his art. However, he drummed on.

Being a drummer myself, I can relate to the Brother's disappointment. The Muslim community is split when it comes to music.

My main drum is the daf. In the purest sense of Islam, the playing of the daf is only permitted for specific occasions like Eids and weddings. It is only permitted to be played by women.

I do own a djembe (like the drum Brother Jamaluddin can be seen performing with in the videos, strapped around his waist). The djembe is a drum most commonly played in West Africa, however, many people around the world play it. I bought the djembe because I live in a very small town and a local teacher was offering lessons. I figured that once I learned to drum in a formal kind of way, through lessons, that I could then teach myself the rhythms of the daf.

And I have done this, Alhamdulillah.

But deep down, I always feel a little bit anxious. Why? Because I know that music and musical instruments (other than the daf) are a controversial topic in Islam. Some scholars say that it is all absolutely forbidden. Yet others say that, like anything, it is permissible if it doesn't distract a person from their Islamic duties and if the music doesn't promote the haraam.

I then read an essay on the Internet written by Brother Yusuf Islam (formerly "Cat Stevens") called Music: A Question of Faith or Da'wah. He did so in response to the criticism and controversy that occurred after he returned to the music industry after a long absence. These words stuck out for me:

"Different opinions about music indicate that it is not to be taken as a question of faith ('Aqidah), but is simply a matter of understanding (fiqh)."

I agree with Brother Yusuf. I have really thought about this, talked to Muslims, and most importantly, I have prayed about it. Some of my Muslim sisters think I "rock" because I play drums. Yet others think that I am an open sinner with no shame. Ya Allah. It is truly distressing.

(Me - Drumming With My Teacher For a Children's Class)

So I can understand the trepidations of Brother Jamaluddin.

Insha Allah, the Almighty (swt) will judge us all and forgive us all/Ameen.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Watching the Evening News: A Poem








Copyright © 2008
S. E. Jihad Levine

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Reflections: The 3 Most Important Men From My Childhood

(Some reflections on the men of my childhood - part of a piece I recycled from my old blog. Excuse the formatting - Blogger is having a bad day:)

I was born in New York City, but when I was around four years old, my family moved to Chicago. For a short time, I was daddy’s little girl, the apple of his eye. But he only lived with us for a brief 11 years. And during those years, he was gone most of the time on “business” trips. We later learned that he had a secret life that included drugs, crime, and other women. But I was a little girl, and all I knew was that he was “My Daddy”! When he came home, he always had presents for everybody and things felt normal until he left again, and until eventually my mother divorced him.

(My Daddy and I - swimming)

What stands out in my mind about my dad from my childhood is that on at least one occasion he was the neighborhood hero. One hot summer afternoon, our whole family was outside togetherbehind my grandparent’s apartment building. The adults were talking, laughing, smoking cigarettes, and sipping cold drinks. The children were playing over at the building’s playground. The merriment was interrupted by the piercing scream of a woman, from somewhere high up in one of the top floor apartments. As everyone looked up in the direction of the scream, a young man could be seen running down the back steps of the building. Instinctively, my father knew that the man had something to do with the woman’s distress. To my mother’s dismay, my father got up and ran after him. The woman was yelling that she had been robbed by the young man. In broad daylight! Now my mother was really alarmed, afraid that my father would be hurt by the desperate burglar. Someone must have called the police, because they arrived a few minutes later. A search of the area began. They found my father around the corner of the building, holding the man on the ground until the police could come and take control of the situation. When it was all over, my father emerged a hero. Even though my mother continued to nag and scold him the rest of the evening for taking such a risk, she was proud of her husband and I was the envy of all the kids present that day.

His dad, my paternal grandfather also doted on me. I was the first grandchild born to that side of the family (no one minded that I was a girl). We used to visit my grandparents every weekend and it was the highlight of my week. As soon as my parents’ car came to a stop, I climbed out, and raced ahead of my parents, and flew up the few flights of steps to my grandparent’s apartment. Grandma would meet me at the kitchen door with a kiss and she would then turn to greeting my parents. I ran through the apartment searching for Grandpa.

(My Grandpa and I - in the park in New York City)

Sometimes I found him working in his home office. I loved Grandpa’s office, especially when he would let me work in there. As a child, I spent hours in his office, sitting like a grown up on his very own chair, pushing the keys of his adding machine and using up the entire roll of adding machine tape. He would appear in the doorway, looking at me with a stern look on his face, pretending like he was mad at me for using up the whole roll of paper. But I would only smile; I knew he was going to replace the roll and in no time I would happily banging away on the keys again. My Grandpa also had an endless supply of yellow, lined writing tablets. I filled many tablets while visiting at his house – with everything from school homework to practicing my penmanship. Filling up these tablets was my first introduction to writing.

Other times I found him in the bedroom reading. From my grandfather, I received the gift of a passion for reading. My grandparents had two double beds pushed together. They were the kind of beds that had shelves built into the headboards, and they were crammed with books and magazines. Grandpa and I spent entire Sunday afternoons reading together, laying on that giant bed, he on his side, and me on my grandma’s side. I “read” all his books and looked at the pictures in all of his magazines. I especially loved National Geographic. My Grandpa had books, magazines, and newspapers strewn all over the house - even in the bathroom. My favorite bathroom book was Jewish Jokes for the John!

After my parents got divorced, my mother, my brother, and I moved far away from my father and my grandparents to Pennsylvania where my mother’s family lived. There I got to know her father, Grandpaw. He didn’t have an adding machine or writing tablets. I never saw him read a book. In fact, he didn’t even know how to read in English. He didn’t have an office either. But, he did have a shop of sorts.

Located in the corner of the sun porch, nestled behind the table my Grandmaw used for setting the pig’s feet to gel, his shop consisted of a huge watchmaker’s desk. It was a wooden roll top desk, with dozens of little drawers, sections, and compartments. He had a wide array of tools, parts, and an assortment of bottles containing oil and polish. There was also a chair next to his desk so I could sit and keep him company. By day, he worked as a coal miner. At night and on the weekends, he repaired clocks and watches for everyone in the neighborhood. He also fixed cuckoo clocks and music boxes. He worked long hours at that desk, jeweler’s loop in one eye, cigar in one hand, fixing everyone’s time pieces. When he dismantled them, he placed the tiny intricate pieces and screws on the desk, fixed the piece, and then put it all back together again. Although he drank beer while he worked, he never messed up anybody’s watch or clock. I was amazed by all the clocks he had on the shelf. After he fixed a piece, he would put it on the shelf for a day or two, just to make sure it worked properly. It wasn’t unusual for him to have 20 clocks or more and a few music boxes on the shelf at one time. I would wait patiently for the top of the hour to arrive so I could witness the symphony of chimes, rings, and bells. Emerging from the cuckoo clocks was everything from birds and ballerinas, to ladies with brooms sweeping off the clock decks. When I got older, Grandpaw entrusted me with the job of pulling up the chain pulleys on the cuckoo clocks so the cycle could start all over again. How important I felt being Grandpaw’s assistant! When he was finally finished with someone’s repair job, he put it in an envelope or a paper bag. The people would come to the sun porch door to pick up their item. If Grandpaw answered the door, he usually gave them the package without charging them any money. That was how kind my sweet my Grandpaw was. Besides, he enjoyed being a watchmaker. It was his occupation when he lived in Poland. Because he was too kind, Grandmaw took to answering the door and collecting the money when the people came.

When he was finished working, or if he felt we needed a break, we would sneak off to the tavern where he would join his coal miner buddies and other friends from the “old country” for beers and shots. He would perch me next to him, high on a bar stool where I had to lean against the counter to keep from falling off. If we got there around dinner time, the bartender gave me a free fried fish sandwich and french fries. Whenever someone ordered a round for the entire bar, I received a soda. I drank Coca-Cola and ate potato chips until I thought I would bust. His friends also used to buy me Hershey Bars and Baby Ruth candies. Often, I also came away from those jaunts with a pocket full of quarters and dimes that the guys gave me. On a good night, I even got a paper dollar bill or two from one of the miners. Many times we stayed at the tavern well into the evening hours. If I got tired, Grandpaw moved me to a booth, where I watched the TV high up in the corner of the bar. Sometimes I fell asleep. I loved those trips to the tavern even though I knew we would be in trouble with Grandmaw when we got back home.

On one of his trips back from the tavern, when I wasn’t with him, he got hit by a train. He was drunk, but he had the sense to leave his car at the tavern. We figure that he was blinded by the headlight of the oncoming train as he tried to walk across the tracks to come home. Grandmaw and her friends found him in the ditch next to the tracks when they returned from playing bingo. Grandmaw was real mad because she figured that he gotten drunk and passed out there. She and her friends carried him home where they dropped him on the living room floor.

The next day my uncle came over and told Grandmaw that we should take him to the hospital. There he died. I never saw my Grandpaw again until he was lying in a casket at the funeral home. Because the house was full with family staying over during the days before the funeral, I had to sleep in Grandpaw’s single bed. I laid there and cried all night, feeling guilty for not being with him at the tavern the night he got killed.

When Grandpaw wasn’t working or drinking, he liked to garden. I have a picture of him standing near his garden, holding a kitten in his arms. It’s my favorite picture of him.

(My Grandpaw and Grandmaw in their garden in Pennsylvania)

Harry was my mother’s second husband, my step-father. Harry came into our lives, stepped up to the plate, and assumed the role that my own father had willingly thrown away. My mother never had to work outside of the home after she married him. When my father stopped supporting us, it was Harry who took care of us.

(My step-dad, Harry)

It was him who took us out of the housing project bought us our very own house to live in. He was there for me during the most important time of my life – adolescence. He taught me how to drive. He had a few extra beers when I practiced the clarinet. He came to the high school football game to watch me perform in the marching band. He took a photograph of my boyfriend and me the night of our prom. He came to my high school graduation. He taught me that being a father is more than writing a child support check. More than a weekly collect telephone call I received from my own dad. More than the occasional letter or card he sent. More than the two-week summer vacation I spent with my own dad. He taught me that fatherhood is steady, consistent, and persistent. He acted as a role model for manhood that my brother chose to ignore. He was there for us until death took him. He had a heart attack on his way to work. After his death, his personal items from the car were given to us. He had a picture of me in his wallet.

It was Father's Day in 2006 when I originally wrote this piece on my old blog. I was thinking, that day, about how wonderful it is that Islam doesn't need to set aside a special day to honor fathers and grandfathers. My father and grandfathers are constantly on my mind. They each, in their own way, enriched my life and gave me numerous gifts that contribute to the person that I am.

Today seemed like a good day to recycle this piece!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Samir and Hawa

These are my cats, Samir and Hawa. They are littermates. The long one, spread out in the foreground is Samir; behind him is his sister.

They were born in Masjid Ikhwa in Brooklyn, New York, and lived in the masjid until they were given to me as a gift. Their mother lives in Masjid Ikhwa. I've had the honor to have had numerous cats as companions in my life, but these guys are special. They're Muslims!

From living in the masjid, they're used to hearing the Adhan. They come running whenever it is called. They wait for the prayer rugs to be spread out and they, too, take their place. When they hear Qu'ran being recited, they curl up contently to listen.

Cats enjoy a special place in Islam. It is well known that the Prophet (saw) was fond of cats. His companion, Abdur-Rahman (ra) was known by the people as Abu Hurayrah, which translates as "father of the kitten" because he, too, often enjoyed and played with cats since his childhood.

There are numerous hadiths about cats:

"Yahya related to me from Malik from Ishaq ibn Abdullah ibn Abi Talha from Humayda bint Abi Ubayda ibn Farwa that her maternal aunt Kabsha bint Kab ibn Malik, who was the wife of the son of Abu Qatada al-Ansari, told her that once Abu Qatada was visiting her and she poured out some water for him to do wudu with. Just then a cat came to drink from it so he tilted the vessel towards it to let it drink. Kabsha continued, "He saw me looking at him and said, 'Are you surprised, daughter of my brother?' I said, 'Yes.' He repled that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, cats are not impure. They intermingle with you.'" Yahya said that Malik said, "There is no harm in that unless one sees impurities on the cat's mouth." (Malik's Muwatta)

Narrated Asma' bint Abi Bakr: The Prophet once offered the eclipse prayer ... On completion of the prayer, he said, "Paradise became so near to me that if I had dared, I would have plucked one of its bunches for you and Hell became so near to me that I said, 'O my Lord will I be among those people?' Then suddenly I saw a woman and a cat was lacerating her with its claws On inquiring, it was said that the woman had imprisoned the cat till it died of starvation and she neither fed it nor freed it so that it could feed itself." (Sahih Bukhari)

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah: "Abu Zubayr quoted the authority of Jabir ibn Abdullah for the statement that the Prophet forbade payment for a dog. Ibn Abdul Malik said: to eat a cat and to enjoy its price." (Sunan Abu Dawud)

I also found some internet references about cats and Islam on some cat websites. One of them quotes a story of a cat who saved the Prophet (saw) from being bitten by a deadly snake. In another tale, the Prophet (saw) had a cat named Muezza. When the Prophet (saw) was called for prayer, the story goes, he saw that Muezza was asleep on the sleeve of his robe. Rather than disturb the cat, the Prophet (saw) cut off the sleeve. When he returned, the cat awoke and bowed gracefully to thank the Prophet (saw) for his consideration. The Prophet (saw) stroked the cat three times. However, I cannot find any valid Islamic references for these tales. If anyone knows of any, please leave a comment with the source!

Friday, December 05, 2008

An Eid Story

(The following is a short story, not a true event - but it fictionalizes a problem so common in many of our Muslims communities, may Allah (swt) forgive us!)

It happened during the Blessed 10 days of Zul-Hijjah. Actually, it was a few days before the Eid ul-Adha when the news of Umm Hafsa’s murder stunned our small Muslim community. There was no question about who did it. She died at the hands of her husband. He admitted it.

Once the details of the murder became known, no one in our little masjid could believe what had occurred. The imam himself went to the city lockup so he could hear it directly from the lips of the jailed husband. But to a group of us sisters who called ourselves close friends of Umm Hafsa, the only surprise was that we hadn’t admitted to each other that Umm Hafsa was being abused and that she needed our help before it was too late. In hindsight, all the signs were there.

On the morning of the janaaza, we agreed to gather early in the women’s area of the masjid. We needed the comfort of each other. A tearful Umm Nadia was sitting alone saying dua when I entered the prayer area.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon,” she sobbed after rising to greet me. “I feel like I can’t wake up from a nightmare! I heard on the news … that he shot …” The unfinished sentence trailed off as she dug in her purse for a tissue. “And the precious children saw everything … Ya Rabb!” she wailed.

“I know, shhhh,” I murmured as she collapsed into my outstretched arms. Looking over Umm Nadia’s shoulder, I saw Sisters Halima and Amina come in. There was a chorus of as salaamu alaikums as we all embraced each other and cried. After we sat down, we silently supplicated together for Allah to forgive the sins of Umm Hafsa and for Him to prepare her a spacious grave.

“I feel so guilty, may Allah forgive me,” Umm Nadia confessed. “I should have heeded my gut feelings. Her husband seemed so controlling and dominating. I had a bad sense about him from the start. When I saw her with that discolored eye, I believed her when she claimed that the baby had poked her. Then there was the broken arm that she explained away by saying that she tripped over her son’s toy fire truck. Ya Allah … all the excuses.”

“The miscarriage!” Sister Halima exclaimed. “Do you think …?”

Sister Amina related that she had attempted to reach Umm Hafsa by phone for weeks on end to no avail. “I knew she was home. Where else would she be?” she sniffled. “Her husband wouldn’t teach her how to drive or let her go anywhere without him. He was the one who would chauffer her when it was absolutely necessary for her to go out of the house.”

“She used to come to our halaqas once in awhile,” I reminded them. “But he eventually put an end to that. What kind of husband doesn’t want his wife to get together with her sisters to learn about the deen?” I said as I twisted in my seat.

“He was isolating her,” Sister Halima explained. “He wouldn’t even buy a computer for the house so she could use email and instant message. You all know how much she missed her mom and her family overseas. He tried to keep her from everyone as much as he could. But he sure enough had his own Blackberry though.”

“I remember inviting her out to lunch and an afternoon of shopping,” I added. “But she told me that she didn’t have her own money.”

I hung my head and remembered the frustration I felt in trying to nurture my friendship with Umm Hafsa over the last few months. I developed a connection with her the first time I met her at the Eid prayer a year ago. She and her husband had just moved to our community. We had children who were the same ages and she reminded me of my own sister. I drifted off remembering my gentle friend and Muslim sister. Umm Hafsa was a slim woman with warm, kind eyes. She recited surahs with a voice so sweet that it brought tears to my eyes. My lips turned up in a smile as I remember how we used to get together a few days a week with the kids, taking them to the park, going to each other’s homes so the kids could play together, visiting, chatting, and laughing. Then her husband lost his job and he was home most of the time. I did go over to her house once when he was there. I chewed my bottom lip remembering how I could sense that he didn’t want me in his home. So I didn’t stay long that day, and it got more difficult for us to get together after that.

“What?” I said as I awoke from my daydream and realized that Umm Nadia was speaking to me.

“You were talking about money, and I was saying that he wouldn’t allow her to work. I thought it was a shame because she had a university education and really wanted to work as an English teacher. And they could have used the money.”

Sister Halima confided to us that Umm Hafsa had once acknowledged feelings of depression and anxiety. She worried about her husband’s humiliation over being unemployed. “He was always stressed out and spent most of his day barking orders at Umm Hafsa as if he was a drill sergeant. Umm Hafsa was crushed.”

“That’s no excuse,” I replied. “A lot of men lose their jobs and don’t abuse their wives. There was probably a lot going on that we didn’t know about. My point is that his abuse didn’t just happen overnight.”

“You’re right,” Sister Halima admitted. “I think the job loss intensified what was always there. Umm Hafsa was horrified that her husband spanked their son one day just because he dropped juice on the carpet. He had never laid a hand on the boy before that,” she said.

Sister Amina recounted a conversation she had with her own husband. She told him she had suspicions that her friend was being abused and she asked her husband to speak with Umm Hafsa’s husband. Sadly, Sister Amina’s husband said that he didn’t want to interfere with a brother and his family problems.

“A lot of help those brothers are,” Sister Amina complained. Umm Hafsa even resorted to consulting the imam about the situation. She said that she knew a sister who was being abused by her husband, and the sister was seeking naseehah. But the imam’s only counsel to her was to say dua and be patient with her husband. He advised her to trust Allah and assured her that He would soon grant her relief.”

Little did he know …, I mused.

“I think Umm Hafsa’s situation is similar to a problem that is common in many Muslim households,” I said. “But old attitudes and stigmas prevent families from getting help. Most of all, silence destroys Muslim families. Take us, for example. We didn’t acknowledge to each other what we all knew to be true. We resisted the temptation to feed our suspicions. We absolved ourselves by claiming that we were busy with our own homes and jobs. When we didn’t see her or hear from her we told ourselves we would check in with her “tomorrow” but the day never came.”

“What could we have done to help Umm Hafsa?” Umm Nadia asked.

“We should have tried harder to let Umm Hafsa know that she wasn’t alone. We should have found a way to let her know that we knew what was going on. We didn’t encourage her to seek the help that is out there,” I said.

Sister Amina shared with the others that there are domestic violence hotlines that are staffed with professionals and volunteers who know exactly how to help and protect women and children at risk. She told us that the help is free and confidential. Using the hotline presents a woman with choices.

Sister Halima reminded us that domestic violence does not come from the religion of Islam. After all, our dear Prophet, peace upon him, never abused any of his wives, children or grandchildren.

Umm Nadia and I acknowledged that domestic violence is a crime. Silence about domestic violence endangers our Muslim communities.

We sat and reflected on everything that had been said as the women’s section began to fill with other sisters and their children. Each of us promised ourselves that we would never again remain silent when one of our sisters was at risk. We vowed that we would help before another one of our families ended up in tragedy.

Shortly thereafter, the speakers revealed the adjusting of the microphones from upstairs in the men’s area. Umm Nadia, Sister Amina, Sister Halima and I rose and prepared to join the congregation.

The Salat ul Janaaza for Umm Hafsa was about to start.

By S. E. Jihad Levine
© 2008