Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I want a real mango!

When my inlaws got here we went to the international farmers market and got a bunch of fresh fruit, vegetables and fish and stuff. We got some stuff i've never even heard of before and well now i know how to cook it too. It's been some days of cooking classes as it usually is when i visit my inlaws or they visit us. I always learn a few new dishes that DH likes and i don't know and can't learn elsewhere because most are Hyderabadi dishes and no one knows how to make them. Good eating here lately. I cooked for the first few days but now i'm just the helper which is nice. They really liked my cooking though and said it's as though i've been cooking Pakistani food my whole life. Awww...sweet.

Anyhoooow. I always want mangos when we go grocery shopping and DH doesn't like me to get them because as he says "they aren't good" but to me they are because i've never had the good ones so i just don't know what i'm missing. Part of me never wants to eat a Pakistani mango because then i won't like them here either. Now there are three people in the house telling me about how good mangos and those little bananas are in Pakistan and how terrible they are here. I really wish we could get them here so i can see what the fuss is all about. And since i'll probably never go to Pakistan during mango season...just too hot, i'll probably never have a good mango.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Inlaws are coming...

I probably won't be blogging much in the near future. Have a lot going on and my inlaws will soon be here for quite a while. I'll blog sporadically at best. Or maybe i'll just take down the blog. Haven't quite decided yet. I got a weird comment the other day from someone i've never talked to that kinda freaked me out. It's weird when people who don't really know you at all think they know you and can pass judgment or try to psychoanalyze you just so they can put a label on you and put it in some neat little box because they don't understand some choice you've made. This is nothing personal to any regular commenters...just some random weirdo that felt the need to lash out for his obvious lack of intelligence. It's just a little freaky and lately i'm thinking maybe this outlet isn't for me anymore.

Anyhow... Lots to do before they get here. Salaam.

Gaza Pullout

I can't believe how the media and the Israeli's are whining so much about leaving their homes. They are getting relocated with nice little packages and they at least have food to eat and a roof over their heads. That is much more than i can say for most Palestinians. I just love how the media is dramatizing how awful it is for them. I don't mean to sound heartless but enough is enough. Yeah, it's sad. But it's also sad that Palestinians have been living in dumps for decades because the Israeli's decided to swipe their (the Palestinians) and build their big ol houses on stolen land. Come on, the Israeli's need to get a grip and realize how great they have it compared to the Palestinians and quit crying over something they did wrong. What's really irritating is how they keep saying "It's not right to take homes away from Jews." What they are saying is that the Palestinians (Muslims and Christians) don't matter one bit. Poor poor Jewish people. They own half the world, most of the media, and have the biggest world power giving them billions each other. My heart just bleeds for them.

Monday, August 15, 2005

I'm very Google-able!

My brother told me not too long ago that i was the only family member who can be googled with results. I never really looked into it but i was trying to find some of my writing today and was having problems with a certain website so i decided to google myself to find the articles i was looking for. Wow! (I mean my real name, not any online persona.) What i didn't know is that i have been requoted on some websites by authors...for the book reviews i have done. What i have realized is what my best writing is because the ones that quote me pull out a particularly well written line i've wrote and put it on their website. In fact, reading it today i said to myself "wow, that's a great line...i really wrote it?" Indeed, i had. I got quoted on the backs of two published books too. That's pretty cool i think. My name mentioned there with New York Times Book Review people. Just thought that was cool and i'd boast for a moment. Now back to being humble. :-)

Friday, August 12, 2005

My Conversion to Islam, Part 4

When I came back to reading it was with full force. I once again checked out the Qur’an because it was basically the only monotheistic religion left for me to explore. If none of these shoes fit, then I was out of luck. I also met some Muslims.

This will make you laugh but I started going to halaal markets, and Middle Eastern stores to get a feel for the people and religion. I was trying to meet Muslims and didn’t really know how to. Eventually, through my various ways of trying to meet some, I did. One of these people was a nice Palestinian guy who taught me how to smoke a hookah and then gave me a copy of the Holy Qur’an and a guide to Islam.

I didn’t touch either for months.

Then, one night, I pulled out the books late one night on a night I was feeling particularly disillusioned and read and read and read. I read the Bible too. I had several books sprawled out all over my couch. All of a sudden, it all came together. These religions were more alike than different. These are the passages that really got me:

Quran 9:128: “There has indeed come to you a messenger from among yourselves. Grevious to him is whatever afflicts you; he is full of concern for you (your guidance) and most kind and merciful to the believers.”

Compare that with:

Deuteronomy 18:18-19: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.”


And this:

Quran 2:114: And the Jews say, 'The Christians stand on nothing' and the Christians say, 'The Jews stand on nothing;' while they both read the same book. Even thus said those, who had no knowledge, like what they say. But Allah shall judge between them on the Day of Resurrection concerning that wherein they disagree.

To me this was saying that all the religions are linked so why is everyone fighting? And I felt at the very least, they shouldn’t be fighting in God’s name. All of ‘em when it’s really about land. Land ultimately is the reason for all war and not religion like many believe (my opinion). The religion is tied to the land but land is where the resources lie (oil, water, travelways, etc). Religion is really just another part of the equation. But when it comes to places like Israel, it really is the religion because they basically want to evict people from their homes. It’s like someone going to a New York borough and saying “You know, all you people in the Brooklyn gotta go.” This is now only for us Jewish people and if you are not Jewish you must leave. If you don’t leave on your own, we will tear down your homes, and if we want we’ll kill you. Oh, don’t think of fighting us because we will take away your weapons. Only we can have tanks, guns and planes. Oh, and also, don’t think about asking for help because we have the U.S. on our side so you are really screwed. We are doing this because God promised us this land.” What they really should be saying is “We are doing this because we are selfish and we like to kill innocent people.”

All of this just made me start thinking about what God would really want.

The science in the Qur’an and the fact that the information in the Qur’an hasn’t changed since its revelation really helped me to believe. The Bible, I knew from the beginning had been rewritten and rewritten to the point where who knows what it said in the beginning. I believe it originally probably looked a lot like the Qur’an since much is still in line with the Qur’an but as a whole, it can’t be trusted to be the absolute truth of what happened or what God said. It must be treated with caution. That’s man’s error in his pursuit of greed and trying to make people submit (especially women).

So the science part amazed me and how ahead of the times it really was. I could list a ton of stuff but a lot can be found on various websites (and books) including this one and this one.

While reading all this stuff that night I was affected by much. What got me most were these passages from the Qur’an:

Qur’an 3:91: Those who have disbelieved and died in disbelief, the earth full of gold would not be accepted from any of them if one offered it as a ransom. They will have a painful punishment, and they will have no helpers.

I didn’t want that to be me.

Qur’an 13:28: Truly, in remembering do hearts find rest.

This heart needed rest.

Also, reading about the trinity:

Qur’an 5:73-74: Indeed, they disbelieve who say: “God is the third of three (in a trinity),” when there is no god but one God. If they desist not from what they say, truly, a painful punishment will befall the disbelievers among them…

I never believed Jesus was God so this cleared that up. And the fact that it was in the Qur’an so specifically mentioned so long ago really got to me. I knew the Qur’an was speaking the truth. The Bible said there was only one God and it was pretty obvious it wasn’t Jesus. I didn’t even realize that some Christians thought Jesus was God until I moved to the south. Their explanations of how and why Jesus could be God go completely against the Bible. This is what the Bible says on there being one God:

Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before me.”

Deuteronomy 5:9: “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God…”

That pretty much sums up that praying to the Virgin Mary, Jesus, or believing the trinity has any weight with God is all wrong. There is one entity only: God. He is one divisible by none.

This all made sense.

But still, I thought, well I’ve probably sinned too much so converting wouldn’t help me. I’d still go to hell. But then maybe if I converted and did everything right from here on out, I’d be forgiven (I didn’t realize that once a person converts, the sins are wiped out).

I decided to convert regardless…it was worth a shot.

I took out a towel to use as a prayer rug. I wrapped a scarf around my head – I didn’t have a hijab so I used a Palestinian plo scarf that I had and wrapped it around in a crazy way not knowing how to tie it properly and I positioned the towel in the direction of Mecca (to the best of my knowledge) and I said the shahada. I sat there for a long time crying. I was so scared. That’s the feeling I will always remember. I had never been so scared in my life. I was so afraid of turning my back on my religion (Christianity), Jesus, my family, my friends, etc. I cried and cried. I cried for everything I had done wrong in my life and for everything I wanted my future life to be. I apologized to God if I was doing the wrong thing and I asked for forgiveness for all my sins. When I stopped crying I asked Allah to guide me to the right thing, whatever that thing was, whether it was to continue in Islam or to go back to Christianity. Whatever was the right thing was, please guide me to it. And to have mercy on me.

I then got on the internet, looked up a mosque, called them and left a message asking for help on learning how to pray. I said that I wasn’t ready to convert, but I wanted to learn to pray. (I didn’t want to be a part of the mosque yet. I wanted to do this on my own and didn’t want to be persuaded in any direction, this was going to be between me and my God – that’s why I said I wasn’t ready to convert). The sheikh called me back the next day and told me to come by the mosque on Thursday and he would give me a cd with the prayers on it and answer any questions I had.

I became a Shia Muslim. Now, there’s another whole story on how and why I became Shia and not Sunni. I’d go there, but it often just brings up disagreements, arguments, and what not. Besides, hasn’t all my blabbing just wore you guys out. Like you need to hear another lengthy explanation. Besides, to me a Muslim is a Muslim and the whole sect thing just really tires me and I refuse to argue my beliefs. I believe Allah guided me to what’s right and for me it is. I’ll leave it at that.

BTW. If anyone wants more information on how the Bible and Qur'an are similar and say much of the same thing, I put together a whole document of what i found and would share it. It wasn't easy information to find at first when i was converting and maybe it would help some person through the process.


I could seriously eat an entire gallon of this ice cream and I don't even really like ice cream. I almost did the other night.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

My Conversion to Islam, Part 3

After Europe things changed with me. I came home and cleaned house so to say. I ended some relationships and began to explore new interests that I found over there. I studied art, religion, read a ton and started cooking at a new level. I was affected.

One thing I started doing was watching BBC World News. It was the only un-local news station for people without cable (I loathed cable back then). I also began reading the Bible again because some things were bothering me. This combination caused me to ultimately convert to Islam. This will all sound silly to some of you but that’s okay. I’m a goofy sort of person.

I was reading the Bible and began disliking God. Yeah, I know. That’s not a good thing. But it was so pro-Israel, pro-Jewish, and there was a lot of killing. Like God telling the tribes of this country to kill the tribes of that country. I began to think of God as violent. Then, at night, watching the news I saw what was going on in Palestine and Israel (I hadn’t really paid attention before. I was one of those people that thought – “that has nothing to do with me” and cracked it up to the “crazy Middle East”). I always thought the Middle East was just a mess. Too many religions and too little land. But watching the news bothered me. I thought, “How can these Israeli’s bulldoze people’s houses and kill innocent children and women, let alone men?” “How hard must be conditions in Palestine where little boys throw rocks at tanks and soldiers?” It was the look in those little boys faces that made me feel for them. And how evil are these people that they can kill these little boys who are obviously struggling and have nothing to live for if they will risk their lives to throw a stone at a tank? And how unfair is it for little boys with rocks to fight grown men with guns?

I went back to the Bible and other books and read about how Christians believe that for Jesus to return, the Jews must return to the Holy Land – Israel. I also read how they – Jews - were the chosen people. All I could think was “What the hell?” If Jews are God’s chosen people, and this is what God wants, I won’t be Christian because this is sick. Ultimately, I really began to dislike God for a long time. Astigfurllah.

Now let me clear something up right away – I’m not anti-Jew. I have had Jewish friends my whole life. I do however, have serious issues with Zionists. I live near a orthodox Jewish neighborhood and have no issues with it. I separate the religion from the Zionist ideology, just like I separate Muslims from the religion: Islam = good, Muslims = some good, some bad and the same goes for Jews and Christians.

During this research phase of mine, I was reading a lot of Jewish books trying to understand. I met a Jewish guy in the bookstore and we talked for a few hours. We bought each other a book – he bought me some book by a Rabbi and I bought him some spiritual book I loved. We never spoke again because he told me that he is not able to befriend women. Just by him talking to me in the bookstore was basically against his religion. We had a very interesting conversation though where he almost had me believing that I was a Jew by descent. Anyhow, he gave me a good list of books to read and some authors. I had a bit of knowledge already of Hasidic Jews – my favorite sect in that religion. In high school, I read a lot of Jewish books too. I really got into Chaim Potok novels. To this day, The Chosen and The Promise are two of my favorite books as both really affected me spiritually and in personal ways. I also liked that a lot of Orthodox Jews and Hasidic Jews are non-Zionist and anti-Israel. They believe what is happening in Israel is a sin.

I really thought Hasidic Jews were cool. Not only because of their strict faith, but because they wore the coolest clothes. To me, they looked like Pilgrims and I thought that pretty much rocked. I also had a fascination with Quakers, Shakers, and the Amish.

Looking back it seems I just had a fascination with people who had traditional values. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a house without tradition nor values and we always want what we can’t have. I even begged my parents to send me to Catholic School because it was strict. I think I also wanted something to rebel against beside the same old same old but anyway…

Okay, after that loooong segue let me continue. Just remember I am not anti-Jew, just anti-Zionist. I won’t even say anti-Israel because again, I separate the people from the government and the people are probably mostly good, the government mostly bad, just like the rest of the world’s countries.

So. I read my Bible nightly, watched the news nightly and doing these two things –
light bulbs in my head began to flicker. I really began to dislike Israel and wanted to understand the struggle. I read up on it and was shocked to find out that Palestinians aren’t all Muslim. There’s a lot of Christians there too. Hmmm. So really the Jews weren’t anti-Islam or even anti-Christian – they were just greedy and wanted all that land to themselves and didn’t want to share. I thought back to how many times I heard in my life the Golden Rule (do click and see the roots of this term)- basically treating others as you’d like to be treated. I also how I was told how important sharing was and how it was a religious act. And I remember those bracelets with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) Would Jesus bulldoze some houses because he wanted to live there? I highly doubted it. Jesus would do the right thing because Jesus rocked. So I looked to God. Would God really condone this behavior? It sure did seem unGodly to me. My heart broke for those kids. I signed up soon after to go over to Israel to be a “human shield” for the Palestinians but my family talked me out of it.

I also started looking into Islam at a very basic level. It’s not an easy task to find good information – something that bothers me to this day. So I figured I’d go straight to the source. I checked out a Qur’an from the public library and a children’s guide to the Qur’an. I started reading it but put it down after a while. I wasn’t getting it and in general I think I was all religioned out and needed a break.

I took a long break.

Okay, I swear Part 4 will be the final post. The thing is, all these things made me convert. I don't like to tell my conversion story to people because it's not so simple. For some it is, but to me, if one of these things didn't happen I wouldn't have converted. My conversion is a sum of parts and leaving one out messes the whole thing up. So thanks for sticking with me and sorry that it's so long. I will post the rest of my conversion soon - after my birthday though, which is tomorrow. So i'll probably post the finale Monday. Insh'Allah.


I haven't looked at my tracking log for my blog for a long time. Well I looked the other day and I couldn't believe what i saw. Someone (Mom, is that you?) got to my blog doing a search for "What Islams believe." Oh dear me. Can you believe it? They have lists of websites for what Islams believe. Look at this one. Now I know Mom isn't on a computer. She's only been on a computer once in her life and that was with me at the public library near where she lives. Soooo, i guess Mom isn't the only one going around calling Muslims Islams. Glad to know it...i think.

I'm gonna write Part 3 of the conversion story sometime this afternoon...

Friday, August 05, 2005

My Conversion to Islam, Part 2

When I was in my early twenties I began meeting some Muslims at college and at work. The Muslims at school were completely unapproachable. They were all engineering students, had heavy dark beards, spoke in Arabic and took up half the student lounge. They didn't talk to anyone outside their group and were intimidating. There was one girl too from Iraq that I met but she didn't practice at all. In fact, upon landing in this country, it seems she went the exact opposite way. None of these people would give me any real insight to Islam.

At work, I met a few Moroccan guys and their girlfriends and got to know them all pretty well. They left me very confused though as they didn't seem to practice the religion at all. One of their girlfriends was an American and appeared to be a convert but really confused me. She would wear a full length abaya and scarf to work one day and the next day wear a mini skirt and heels. She seemed very confused and didn't know where to fit in. I thought it was strange. During Ramadan, one of the guys was fasting and explained it to me but he said he couldn't fast, that it was too hard so he drank water only but fasted the rest of the ways. His explanation wasn't very good so that night i went home and looked up Ramadan and found some islamic website and sort of understood what it was all about - Ramadan anyhow, not the religion. The names weren't familiar...Jibril - who was that? I didn't realize that was Gabriel and I didn't really understand what i was reading because of the terminology. I decided I would be more culturally aware and learn about more religions. I had taken a side step and started going to a Hindu Buddhist temple at around 19. I enjoyed the lifestyle, the freedom, the lectures, and peaceful mentality but I never considered it a religion. For me religion meant God and the God i knew wasn't in Hindu Buddhism so I practiced it and started calling myself an agnostic and Taoist and lived my life that way for some time.

Then... I went to Europe for a summer to backpack. I visited all the churches and cathedrals and never felt further from God in my entire life and missed the connection. I went ready to re-embrace my religion and see the grand cathedrals and Vatican and hopefully I'd get to see the Pope wave out of his little window in St. Peter's Square. I really liked the Pope.

Well there I was standing in these churches with unGodly amounts of gold and naked statues of white men and immense decor. Enough to feed a poor country. The statues bothered me for several reasons. I had read the Bible and in it Jesus had hair the texture of wool. And Jesus was of Jewish heritage. Therefore Jesus probably wasn't white skinned, blue eyed, and hippie haired like he was always depicted. He was probably dark haired with some curls or at least a rough texture and brown eyes are probable. I didn't like the overwhelming whitifying of God's messenger.

But the straw that broke the camel's back (me being the camel) was standing outside the Vatican and seeing the obelisques and other war booty taken from Egypt. I began wondering why the Vatican had all these relics from Muslim countries. When I went inside my gut dropped. Yes, it was beautiful and the Sistine Chapel is just how i imagined it - except for the smell of the room...something i'll always remember. It smelled old and it was as though you could still smell fresh paint. I love art and had taken many classes in art history and was so excited to see the ceiling...Michaelangelo's Creation of Adam - the closeness of Adam's hand to God's and the beauty in that space...life. I also loved the painting School of Athens. I stood there in the two rooms for hours just staring at the paintings and thinking.

I walked outside and thought to myself "this city was built on hypocrisy"... the slaves, the raping and pillaging of foreign lands, the prostitution and sexual deviance of the Romans, the killing of Christians, the grandness of it all and the sick pride. I thought of the US and how we are so much like the Romans. Abusing the power and privilege that we seem to have been blessed with. Instead of using it for good, we use it for bad. I decided I was no longer Catholic, I wanted nothing to do with the Catholic church, and Christianity in general was out too because of those unGodly churches. It made me sick that there were people starving all over the world and the least a church could do is to humble themselves and maybe sell of some of that booty and feed some starving people. I was disgusted. Mother Theresa to this day is one of the only people from the Church that i have any respect for...and i have a ton of respect for her.

Excerpt from my travel journal:

"Today was Pope Hypocrisy Day. Started with the Vatican Museum and ended with learning the truth about Popes. Popes were rich. Real rich. They were also originally the emperors of Rome and only accepted Christianity when the people (the poor people) were rising up against them. They traded their emperor hats for pope hats but kept the same morals. It's so sick. The more I learn, the more the Catholic Church disgusts me."

I also decided that I was my own religion. I believed in God, but I didn't believe in any church or ideology anymore because they were all corrupted and no longer acted in God's name if they ever did. (I think of a recent trip to Spain where there were depictions on the pulpit of Muslims being beheaded for not converting to Christianity... This is on the pulpit, where priests preach from. It's still there. What does that say?)

I left Italy and kept on traveling. A stop soon after was the Swiss Alps and if those monstrous beauties don't show the majesty of God to a person I don't know what does. I walked from one Swiss town to the next (about 3 miles) in the early morning (about 4:30 am) as the sun began to rise casting a pink glow on the icy faced giants. I passed a cow with a bell on his neck (i laughed because i seriously thought that stuff was only in movies)...it almost made me feel like singing some cheesy musical song from the Sound of Music or something...i know that was set in Austria, but still... Anyhow, that day on top of the highest peak I pondered God once again. I really was craving a relationship with God...but one that was logical and real, not dressed up in ideology.

Portugal was another spiritual stop. The Moors had set up house in the southern tip of Portugal and built a castle there sometime around the 1100's. It's up in the hills and not easy for tourists to get to. No one goes there...it's just a piece of Muslim and Moorish architecture so who cares. Portugal fought off the Moors and that small Moorish success isn't important to them. On the crazy busride up the mountainside, no one speaks English, and the main "scenery" is the squatters camps (Moroccan refugees). There isn't even an entrance fee, nor is there any upkeep at the castle. It is just a broken down castle - simply there and forgotten. I loved it. The view from the cliffs and the tangled web of trails without people around was refreshing. Then, i found a little hut dome house looking thing and walked inside. It was dark and smelled musty. I wondered what it was and then I flashed my flashlight (yes, i'm a travelling dork and actually had one thanks to Rick Steves packing list) and there was Arabic along the walls. Aha! It was a mosque. I stood there and wondered many things. Why was this place not kept up? What did these walls say? Why is it that I feel strangely familiar when standing inside a mosque? I usually only feel close to God in nature where I can truly feel separated from man, concrete, and all that.

I could go on and on about my experiences in Europe that got me thinking about religion but I won't because this is getting long and probably quite boring to my readers. But I will say, when you look for something and really try to find answers, you will find them. Mine came about 10 years later. By the way, I did see the Pope wave out of his little window and was disgusted that the man was offering his blessings on me. Who is he to offer blessings? He is just an old little man in a window. He's no closer to God than I was. I didn't want a middle man anymore. I wanted a one on one relationship with God.

The next part should be more exciting than this was.... How I finally found Islam.


Originally uploaded by wayfarer.

The winding stone stairs throughout the mountain...

Shot from the top...

portugal 2
Originally uploaded by wayfarer.

This is from the castle in Portugal...

You're South Africa!

After almost endless suffering, you've finally freed yourself
from the oppression that somehow held you back.  Now your diamond in the
rough is shining through, and the world can accept you for who you really are.
 You were trying to show who you were to the world, but they weren't interested
in helping you become that until it was almost too late.  Suddenly you're
a very hopeful person, even if you still have some troubles.

face="Times New Roman">Take the Country
at the Blue Pyramid

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Mom and Part 2

Part 2 really is coming...inshallah tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy yesterday's phone call with Mom. At the end of our phone call, she quickly said:

Mom: So do you dress like one of those Islams? (My Mom hasn't seen me for years...)
Me: Mom.....we're Muslims, not Islams and what do you mean? They all dress different.

I know what she meant... Do I look like one of the women on the news that she sees. Probably Iraqi in all black as seems to be the norm there. I hardly ever wear black... Anyhow...thought it was amusing that I will always be an Islam to Mom, and never a Muslim.

Gotta love her. And I do.