Genesis 11:5

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. Genesis 11:5

The Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Part I
Standing outside now, you would not guess that the entire weekend has been baking and humid. Now the blessing of rain and coolness covers us. I've opened windows upstairs and downstairs, allowing for the draft of fresh rain throughout the house. It's quiet now, and has been for most of the day. Mom is at a wedding, a big fat Greek wedding. She does not want to appear in public with my hijab, so I could not attend. The past couple of weeks have been incredibly challenging, as I've had to choose between pleasing Allah and pleasing my mother. Surely Allah requires that I am kind and respectful and obedient to my mother, save cases in which obeying my mother would require disobedience to Allah. Since I've been home, I've removed my hijab when in public with her. But last weekend became quite intense, when mom refused to even appear at her church with me wearing a spring scarf around my neck. She sent me away, so I sat in Camp Hill and called the sheikh in London - I reached his voicemail, and learned that he does not work Sundays. I then rang a mosque in Philadelphia, and found a listening ear on the other end of the line. The gentleman took me seriously, and translated my story and concern into Arabic for the sheikh, whose answer was then translated to me in English. I must not remove my hijab for anyone, as this is a command from Allah subhana wa ta'ala, and we do not disobey Allah, our Creator, in order to obey Allah's creation. I must first please Allah, and then others will be pleased with me.

More and more I sense the brevity of this life. The more I meditate on the promise of the afterlife, the less difficult obedience to Allah in this life seems. I can count the number of hours, days, months, years that I will dwell on this earth - obedience in this finite period is well worth the sacrifice, in exchange for peace in the uncountable days of eternity. And I say that obedience now is well worth it, even if Allah does not grant me eternity. Obedience to Allah, adherence to Islam, to the best of my ability guides me to the remembrance of Allah, generosity, respect, conscientiousness, care for the environment, love for my family and others, and discipline. What wrong is there in this? Truly, this is how I want to live: humbly and thoughtfully. I am entitled to nothing in this life. Holding this thought at the forefront of my mind prevents me from allowing time to pass foolishly, by forgetting my Creator, Allah subhanah wa ta'ala.

This period of testing is not unique to me. My dear friend wrote to me explaining: "You are passing now through the stage that all new muslims have to go through when they convert into Islam. These people start having a stable spiritual life, but on the other hand they start facing difficulties in emotional and practical life. We call this critical stage "Ibtila" or "Bala." If you read the biography of the companions of the Prophet and the Prophet himself Peace be upon him, you would realise that they went through Bala'. Bala' is an exam from Allah in which a Muslim must show patience, tolerance and firmness."

Despite these challenges, feeling as if I've been abandoned by my own mother, family, and dearest friends, I am astounded by the beauty of Islam on a daily basis. The moments of strength can come from a friendly phone calls reminding me to be patient, a recitation of Quran, an explanation of Quran and Hadith, or meeting other Muslims. I am currently reading two books: The Cambridge Companion to Classical Islamic Theology and The Sealed Nectar: Biography of the Noble Prophet (Peace be upon him).

Part II
Allah had mercy on me last night - when my mom came home from the wedding, which she was very angry I did not attend, she was peaceful and calm. Also, we had lunch with a strong Christian woman today, who I respect very much, but who I imagine would be quite shocked and confrontational if she learned of my reversion. Thankfully, she complimented my appearance, even though I was covering my hair with a small scarf (her husband was present), and discussions of religion remained neutral. All praise and thanks be to Allah for these mercies.

Today I'm making more of an effort to remove my photos on Facebook from the view of male Facebook friends. For the most part, I have been successful, although there does not seem to be a way to limit the viewing capacity of men when my photos have been posted by another friend. For now I am leaving those, because I don't want to lose those photos. Eventually pictures of me without hijab with not be visible to male Facebook friends.

My prayer this week is the Prayer of Musa (alayhi salaam) from Surah Al-Qasas (The Stories): "O Lord! Indeed I am in desperate need of whatever good You may bestow on me!" I've memorized it in Arabic {Rabbi Inni lima anzalta elaia min khairin faqeer}, and pray it regularly, particularly in reference to my desire to marry a man with certain merits, insha'Allah. You will find the prayer at minute 8:56 of the following recitation by Mishary bin Rashid Al-Fasy.

Celebrating Diversity

I am celebrating the diversity of Islam, of the Muslim Ummah. I smile about the African-American man who approached me recently at the Broad Street Market, saying enthusiastically "Asalaam aleikum wa rahmatulLAH!" My heart feels warm when I remember the kind Indonesian hijabi woman who I spoke with in Market Square a few weeks back. We are from different worlds, but we felt a close bond with each other, based on our common faith. I'm thankful for the lovely Sudanese woman who I've been chatting with at the bus stop in Harrisburg this week. We exchange warm greetings and ask about one another's families as if we're old friends - our common ground in Islam is the basis of this warm friendship that took only seconds to embrace. Without wearing the hijab, none would have known that I am Muslim, and I would not have been able to recognise these Muslimah without theirs either. I commented to my friend that one of the advantages of Islamic dress is that it makes the Muslim community more visible, to others and one another. It brings joy to the hijabi woman's heart to see another woman wearing hijab. Instantly, we feel the connection and support and love for one another.

Every Day is Mother's Day

Another foot massage tonight. Not for me, for my mom. I rub her feet to honour Allah subhana wa ta'ala. I rub her feet to acknowledge the thousands upon thousands of hours that she has spent serving me on her feet throughout, from before I was born, until now. Sadly, she blames me for everything negative that happens these days. If she is depressed, it is my fault. If she overeats, it is my fault. Most troubling of all, she blames me for her imminent death, saying that she will be killed, because of my conversion ( لا سمح الله ). I walk into the house from work, and she looks me in the eyes and calls me names: "idiot," "stupid," and so on. She tells me to get out of her face, or to leave, so that she does not have to look at me. No child wishes to hear such disappointment from their parent, especially her mother.

Yesterday I gave my mother a heartfelt Mother's day card; my mother of five children received only one card, including mine. Although I did not attend church with her, I stayed at home and cleaned the house, planted tomato plants, and suffered with allergies as I hovered over her peonies in order to unravel an endless length of vines, which were choking her flowers. I only glean the patience to perform such tedious chores from the command of Allah that I honor my mother and respect her requests. By the time she returned home, I had also baked Banana Bread and Roasted Butternut Squash. Nevertheless, my poor mom glares at me with disdain. It is pulling teeth to even persuade her to sit with me and eat, instead of sitting at her laptop. I observed that she was enjoying rap and pop songs about mothers, which were posted on Facebook by her beloved Bishop Savas Zembillas. Therefore, I thought I would also wish my mother Happy Mother's Day on her Facebook page, by posting Maher Zain's moving song 'Number One For Me.' Immediately she refused to watch it, saying it was 'too Muslim,' based on the artist's name. I was able to persuade her to click play - I sat beside her and watched it, while tears streamed down my face. I had already checked to be sure there was nothing overtly Muslim, such as prayer rugs or hijabs, in the video, so as not to make her uncomfortable. Although she was semi-smiling throughout the song, she deleted my Happy Mother's Day wish from her Facebook wall after we watched it, saying that his (beanie) hat was 'too Muslim.' My mom also commented that I was not a bad child, even that I never did anything wrong, but it is now, as an adult, that I am causing her problems.

Clearly, I am quite disheartened that my mother constantly disproves of my religion and behaviour. Even today she called me "stupid," adding that "anybody that is a Muslim, they're stupid." Despite her cruel words, I thank Allah for the patience to bear them. Aya 63 of Surah 24 Al-Furqan (The Criterion) in the Quran states that "the servants of the Most Merciful are those who walk upon the earth easily, and when the ignorant address them [harshly], they say [words of] peace."

Meanwhile, in the face of these tests I am becoming increasingly more grounded in this vast faith, that is Islam. I'm grasping more and more what it means to be a slave of Allah, as opposed to conducting myself on this earth, as if I am entitled to a particular treatment or blessing from the Creator of the Worlds. The truth be told, Allah owes me nothing. Everything that I have is a mercy of Allah. I immerse myself in the Quran and Tafsir in order to become more grounded. I lack a local community of faith, partly because I do not have the freedom to visit local mosques, but I pray again:
Oh Allah guide me, and put me in the company of those whom you have guided.
Oh Allah, protect me and put me in the company of protected people.

and Oh Allah, befriend me, and put me in the company of your friends and allies.

Out of Fear

My clothes and my hair still smell like the campfire. I enjoyed eating dinner and sitting around the campfire with old and new friends this evening. Tonight is a supermoon, and so a lovely night to sit outside. I'm grateful to have friends who respect me, and respect my commitment to Islam. I know that it cannot always feel entirely comfortable for them to see me with my hair covered, for example, but they never make me feel like less of a person because of it. 

Even 2 year old baby Emma is taking to me well. Today she wanted to wrap up in her own hijab, which made me quite happy to see. This moment reminded me of the Hadith of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) when he states that all babies are born with the Islamic Faith. I admire both the childlike faith that Emma exemplified, and how her parents did not scorn her for wanting to play 'hijabi.' I was worried that I would be considered a negative influence, and I was pleasantly surprised when her mom asked me to wrap up Emma's hijab for her. What a refreshing atmosphere!

Photo from protected land in Hatfield, UK, where I used to walk alone and ponder all of life's easy and difficult questions.

My friends are my greatest supporters and encouragement these days, as day to day life at home remains quite challenging. Mom looks me in the eyes and tells me that I'm an idiot. Yesterday I walked in the door from work and she called me a jerk, first thing. Earlier this week she accused me of being anti-American, told me that I am no longer Greek, and said 'you are nothing' now that I am Muslim. She blames me in advance for her death, whatever it will be ( لا سمح الله ). 

The truth is that my mother is a lovely woman, who I respect in many ways. Even though she accuses me of 'turning my back' on everything that she has taught me, I feel that I've only built upon it, and for the better. Mom believes that her religion is true, and to her this means that she is not willing to learn or understand the beliefs of anyone else, including those of her own daughter. I cannot and will never tell my mother what to believe. I must believe that Islam is true, but even so, it is not my role to tell anyone else that what they believe is untrue. Who am I to judge?

I pray this Dua of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him): 
Oh Allah guide me, and put me in the company of those whom you have guided.
Oh Allah, protect me and put me in the company of protected people.
and Oh Allah, befriend me, and put me in the company of your friends and allies.
Early one morning this week, it was dark outside, and it was too early for Fajr. I awoke to the sound of heavy rain, booming thunder, and bright lightening. I moved deeper under my covers, and became aware of the shelter of our house and my warm bed. I felt overwhelmed, and frightened by the power of the thunder. I was not afraid that I would be hurt. Rather, I felt a strong correlation between the power of the thunder, and the power of Allah subhana wa ta'ala. What a miracle it is that the thunder represents only a figment of Allah's power.

It is said that when ‘Abdullaah Ibn Az-Zubayr used to hear thunder he would stop talking and say:
‘How perfect He is, (The One) Whom the thunder declares His perfection with His praise, as do the angels out of fear of Him.’