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!

9 comments:

khany said...

assalaamu alaikum sister Safiyyah,

very interesting post. it reminded me of the this nasheed.

i would like to humbly recommend that you also send a brief update to islamonline. insha Allah, new muslims will be heartened to see that the trials of a new muslim are temporary.

may Allah guide us to the straight path.

um almujahid said...

as salamu alaykum my dear sister,

I always enjoy reading your posts mash'Allah tabarak'Allah!

Ameen to your dua!!

Adventurous Ammena said...

ameen.. nice post sis :) so you feeling better then? ;) alhamdulillah

Anonymous said...

Safiyyah,

I just love your blog and your concern about sisters on the outer edges like myself. Please don't stop writing!

Sincerely,
Yasmin from ORAU comments

Abdul Vakil (AV) said...

Ameen.

My sentiments exactly, Sister. I've long detached myself from non-Muslim holidays emotionally especially after learning their origins, evolutions and so forth. Now the only ones special and loved by me, as should be the case for all Muslims, are those special and loved by Allah subhanahu wa ta'ala. The blessings and promises sworn by Allah within those days are unmatched! Alhamdulillah.

May Allah reward your efforts in striving sincerely for his sake and Mercy that you'll be successful in dunya and Akhirah. Ameen ya Rabb.

An. said...

When I was Muslim I didn't see anything wrong with things like Thanskgiving, New Years, Birthdays, etc. You are not worshipping someone by giving someone a present on their birthday. Obviously everyone has to follow what they think is right.

Anisah

iMuslimah said...

Assalamu alaykum sister.

Thank you so much for writing this post! I thoroughly enjoyed your article as well. This has been one of those issues I have been dealing with, and it is hard to shake.

My family is Roman Catholic. My mother in particular is grieving the absence of myself, husband and son this time of year. It was hard for me too. Its hard every year.

For me, this time of year has always marked the passage of time, and time to reflect and enjoy the special company of my entire family.

i am hoping inshaallah that I too, will join the ranks of reverted muslims that will be able to move past this! I am getting there. Time heals lots of things.

Knowing Im not alone makes it better too, so Jazzakullah Khair for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us all.

Have you heard from Mumina? No recent posts.....

Hugs,

iMuslimah

Safiyyah said...

As Salaamu Alaikum Everyone and Welcome to New Visitors!

@khany: The nasheed was beautiful, Masha Allah! Thank you for sharing it. And thanks for your recommendation. That's a great idea: to update IOL. Perhaps I will get it done in time for the Christian Easter and Jewish Passover season, Insha Allah.

@ Um Almujahid: Jazakallah sis, Insha Allah you will continue to read beneficial posts here! Sometimes I just dribble :)

@ Adventurous Ammena: Yes, I'm feeling much better, Masha Allah. Indeed you have been "wandering the dunya." Did I read somewhere else that you have been visiting other bloggers? :)

@ Yasmin: Thanks dear. Know that at times I am on the outer edges myself. The difference for me today is that on most days, I don't fall over the edge. I was so bruised and damaged in the past :(

@ Abdul Vakil: Jazakallah brother. I appreciate your voice of reason.

@ Anisah: "When I was a Muslim" ? Dear Sister; I wish I could hug you. I read some of your blog and was very sad to learn of another case of a wife being hurt by her Muslim husband.

Anisah, it's not the concept of worshipping someone by giving gifts. The Prophet (saw) loved to give and receive gifts; he encouraged the Muslims to do likewise. A Muslim can give gifts anytime - just not with the intention of receiving it in honor of a particular non-Muslim holiday. For example, my boss gave all of us a gift card for a local convenience store. I accepted it; her intention was to give it as a Christmas present; my intention was to accept it as merely a gift! That simple; I can use the gas with the prices being so high and all. I know some Muslims that allow their children to receive gifts but they ask the grandmother or non-Muslim relative to not wrap the gift. So it doesn't appear as a Christmas gift. Hmmm ... perhaps another blog post on this topic?

@ iMuslimah: Ah, the Catholic family! By the time I reverted to Islam, I only had one elderly Catholic aunt left. We are Polish. When I visited her, she thought that my hijab was a babushka! Mumina? Well, I called her when I read her last post that indicated that she is going through something. I left a message on her machine. She didn't return the call. Unlike her. Thanks for the reminder; I will call her again in the next few days, Insha Allah.

Insha Allah I didn't leave anyone out here.

Brooke said...

ganked!