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Ice Cube & Jummah

Recently I was having one of those days.

You know the ones when you’re really feelin’ yourself.

Outfit was on point, weather was nice and I had a fly cheetah print hijab on. Not only that but it was Friday so I was in a really good mood.

There was nothing more I could ask for. My red car glistened in the sun as I drove down Stony Island Avenue. In my Ice Cube voice “It was a good day.”

I was thankful and blessed.

You couldn’t tell a sista nothin’…

I was on the south side of Chicago and I decided to go to jummah nearby. I rolled into a mosque I was somewhat familiar with and soaked in the sermon. After jummah, I gave the greeting to the familiar faces I saw put my shoes on and made my way out.

I was walking back to my car. I crossed the street and headed towards the open parking lot. First thing I noticed was that my car was blocked in by two vehicles. It looked like it would be a game of Tetris trying to get out of that lot. I thanked Allah under my breath for having a small car. I was strategically parked at the end all the way in the corner.

I pulled my keys out of my purse as the gravel crunched under my shoes. As I opened my door I heard someone say “Asaalamu alaikum sister.”

I looked over and realized there was a brother sitting in the car next to where I was parked. Like myself he was patiently waiting in the post-jummah traffic jam. He poked his head out of the window and smiled.

I returned the greeting and kindly smiled back before closing my door.

It was mad hot outside. I got in my car, started the engine and rolled down the windows.

“I like your car.” He said. I couldn’t tell if he was looking at my car or at me because of his huge sunglasses. One thing though, I could tell he was slightly nervous by the almost unnoticeable quiver in his voice.

“Thanks, its a good car. Very reliable” I said shyly.

I could hear the reggae playing in his car. He turned the music down.

“I’ve never seen you here before. So you come to this mosque often?” He asked.

I knew where this was going but I thought let me not shut the brotha down right away. He had the guts to initiate conversation and he did so after jummah for that matter! Plus, it would be kinda awkward ignoring him as I was stuck in the lot. A sista couldn’t run even if she wanted to.

Plus you already know the deal…

Muslim men say Muslim women (specifically hijabis) are hard to talk to. Muslim women say Muslim men never attempt to initiate conversation.

“Naw, not really. I was just in the area and decided to stop by. The khutbahs (sermon) always seems to be relevant here.” I said.

I looked in my rear view mirror to see if there was any progress. The cars were still empty. I guess folks were trying to get their Friday blessings in and putting extra sunnah prayers in.

I could see him in my peripheral. His body language indicated he wanted to say more. During the eleven minute hiatus he told me about his family and profession.

As folks headed back to their cars and the sound of engines echoed in the parking lot he said this, “Sister, I’m really just looking for a wife. I know its forward of me but I have to start somewhere. No better place to meet a sister than at the masjid after jummah, right?” This came out of his mouth with such sincerity.

The brother had a point.

After much thought I realized I wasn’t mad at him. He was simply doing what he needed to do in order to find a partner. He made his intentions perfectly clear.

No disrespect involved.

I know y’all ain’t gonna admit it but we’ve all scoped the scene out after jummah, Eid prayer and at lectures.

Stop frontin’…

You see, the way some men approach women makes us feel violated at times. Most women have felt like that at some point or another.

I didn’t feel violated or grossed out after our conversation ended. My dignity and self-respect was still intact.

Then I thought about how a couple of years ago I would have totally written this brotha off. I probably would have flipped my cheetah hijab, said “astagfirullah” under my breath, given him an eye roll (maybe with a neck roll for added emphasis) and zoomed off in my mini red car. Getting older, wiser (hopefully!), and experienced has honestly allowed me to see the “human” in people.

Many Muslims like to view themselves as the ideal Muslim (at least in public) but no one realizes that this is something we all aspire to become. We all want to reach a level of religious perfection and utter obedience.

But what does being a “good” Muslim really mean? Why do we deny ourselves the right to emotionally express our human needs and then equate that with religiosity?

It just doesn’t make sense to me. Acknowledge your basic needs as the human that Allah created you to be.

It’s not a weakness and at that moment I realized that,

I could not fault him.

I could not ridicule him.

I could only empathize with him.

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R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

As y’all know I am all for women being independent and free thinkers.

But…

There are certain things that you just DON’T say to your man.

You can still be a sistaqueen and reign that throne but a smart woman knows how to treat her man right.

Likewise a smart man knows how to treat his woman right.

Recently, I witnessed a woman talking to her man in the most disrespectful manner. I cringed as I heard her put him down. I knew she would regret it later and more importantly I knew he would not bring the topic up later.

His bruised ego would surface in other ways.

Most men will not admit when you have hurt their feelings. It’s seen as being “unmanly” or weak.

They are men and they have something called pride. At times, some have more than others.

Now this should never happen but my first thought was if she’s talking to him like this in public then how are they talking behind closed doors? When you show respect for your partner you are in turn showing respect for yourself. After all, this is a relationship that requires the involvement of two equally dedicated individuals. Treat it like that.

Shaunti Feldman, author of The Male Factor broke it down like this:

1. Respect his judgment

2. Respect his abilities

3. Respect in communication

4. Respect in public

I love getting relationship advice from the OG’s (aka aunties who have been married 20+ years) and one lady told me that for a relationship to be successful women need to feel loved and men need to feel respected.

This woman was the truth! I’ve often thought about this crucial piece of advice she gave me and she was right.

One thing I see over and over again is women throwing up the fact that they make more money than their husbands.

Now if a brotha is holding it down…

Paying the bills and doing what he needs in order to take care of you then why are you throwing it in his face?

That is one of the most emasculating things you can do to a man and a smart woman will not degrade her partner in this manner.

Sure, when you are in the heat of the moment your judgement fails quite quickly but you have to remember words can create deep wounds that can take time heal.

Lastly, I can’t finish this post without paying homage to the sistaqueen who made respect soulful and cool.

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V-day Mubarak!

V-day Mubarak to you!

Another year of love, sacrifice and the mushy gushies has sneaked upon us.

Love is in the air and I am such a softee during this time of the year. I suppose I am a hopeless romantic at times.

Muslims love to be the first to vocalize their disdain for non-Muslim “American” holidays. We see it all over Facebook and Twitter. Personally, I think it goes slightly overboard. I would be very offended if non-Muslims had the same attitude towards Ramadan or Eid.

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Regardless the meme wars have begun!

Now, I can understand the religious standpoint as to not wanting to celebrate certain holidays. All the power to you. A sista gets it, you are trying your best to remain steadfast on the Quran and Sunnah. May Allah make you successful.

Though…

With that being said many Muslim men are really lacking in the romance department. The art of wooing a woman has been lost. Is it not the sunnah to be romantic and treat your wife in a loving manner even after you are married?

Romance is a lost sunnah and for some V-day assists in rekindling it.

One thing I realized is that Muslim men love to religiously legitimize not celebrating certain holidays. Most of the anti-vday propaganda is initiated by them.

Red roses…

ASTAGFIRULLAH! 

Candy for my sweety pie…

A’OOTHOO ‘BILLA!

Brothas, now if y’all were smart you would take advantage of this day (or any other day of your choosing). It really does not require a lot of planning. Every store, boutique and flower shop caters to the “man” customer during this time of the year. They understand you get easily overwhelmed and hate to shop so as a result everything is laid out for your shopping convienence.

These are the typical excuses Muslim men give:

Allah says your spouse should be appreciated every day. I celebrate Valentines day all the time!

OR

Muslims don’t celebrate a holiday rooted in pagan theology. Sister, you get no flowers! 

After really thinking about this it led me to this thought:

As a Muslim woman what does is mean to be truly “appreciated”?

Does buying me a bouquet of roses or box of chocolates cut it?

Like, really?

Of course, I don’t view V-day as being the ultimate display of whether or not a man truly loves me. With that being said, truth of the matter is that everyday you don’t get taken out to a special restaurant nor do you get flowers.

What’s so wrong with having one day dedicated to being treated like the sistaqueen you are? When we live in a culture where folks are caught up with work, school and family its nice to have a day solely dedicated to celebrating your love. Everyday throughout the year you are hustling at work or in school. These are the physical labors of your love in a relationship. Whether or not you celebrate V-day take one day aside to just unwind and let your partner know how much you appreciate them.

Anyways, who doesn’t have the time to celebrate another capitalistic holiday?

Ya’ll are frontin’.

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Patience vs. Oppression

She sat across from me crying into her hands.

I rubbed her back trying to console her. The more I rubbed the longer her sobs became.

“I juu-usst need to be patient.” Her eyeliner was starting to smear.

She needed support. She needed a friend, not someone to scold her and ask why she stuck around so long with a man who was abusive, even while they were courting.

She ignored the signs. Her silence gave him the idea that she accepted the way he was treating her.

But now, she’d had enough and was prepared to leave, infant in hand. She said her perspective changed once she had a daughter. But he refused to let her divorce him. To make matters worse, his Imam encouraged her to stay even though she was being both physically and verbally abused.

She found herself in a situation many women from all walks of life have found themselves.

Young, scared and alone.

She was told to be “patient,” that Allah loves those of us who persevere when put in trials and tribulations, that she would surely have a special place in heaven for being such an obedient wife.

I shook my head in disapproval every time she repeated those words. I thought she said them just to make herself believe that there was some truth to it. Many women who have never been abused automatically believe that they would confront an abusive husband, never allow him to get away with it. I remind myself and others to steer away from such harsh judgment of our abused sisters. There is a physiological component of abuse that must be catered to very gently.

At first she listened to her husband. Tried her best to please him and not make him upset.

It worked for a little while but then the vicious cycle of name calling and hitting would start all over. She would then pay a visit to their Imam and he would send her back home to him. Again.

Then one day it dawned on me. As Muslims, specifically women, we have the tendency to confuse patience with oppression. There is a very fine line. Having your Islamic rights denied or looked over is never acceptable. You are not being patient. If you silently stick around you are quietly approving of such behavior. You deserve to be treated with love and kindness.

Many Muslim men are very adamant about ensuring that their rights are upheld within a relationship (including sexual rights and the right to practice polygyny). As Muslim women, it’s crucial that we understand our rights as mandated in Islam. This serves as a protection – Allah knows us better than we know ourselves. As Maya Angelou says, “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.” For examples, if a brother is trying to persuade you to omit your mahr (a vital component in Islamic marriages) take caution. If he loves Allah he will ensure that your rights are upheld.

Many Muslims pretend as though issues of abuse don’t exist. Even the vague mention of it will send people into a frenzy because it puts Muslims in a “bad light”. As a result of this “bad light” we ignore serious issues within our community. As long as abusive men are not held accountable for their behavior, and misguided Imams refuse to properly address it, we will continue to have the cycle of abuse. Far too many of these abusive men jump from marriage to marriage only to leave a dark path of destruction.

Abuse is never acceptable in any way or form, be it physical or verbal. If you are a woman who is victim of abuse, I encourage you to seek help. And if you are the friend of a sister being abused don’t scold or judge her. She needs you. You might be her only, or even last, means of support.

_________

This post was originally featured on Love, InshAllah: Fresh Prespectives on Love

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Mix it up…

Recently, I did a matrimonial singles mixer at ISNA’s (Islamic Society of North America) annual conference in Washington, DC. Besides it being a complete disaster (due to the consistent lack of diversity) I had fun for the most part bettering my interpersonal skills (notice a sista is being all positive and shit). I’ll be the first to admit they are awkward and nerve wracking. You’ll have that butterfly feeling in the pit of your stomach the entire time but believe me there are ways to combat this or at the very least conceal your nervousness. Here are my tips and pointers on how to handle yourself at these mixers:

1. Not alone. Remember everyone is there for the same exact reason you are. Everyone is on the quest for true love. You are not alone on this search. Don’t allow your ego to get the best of you. Some people think that attending these functions makes them appear “desperate” or as popular culture states “thirsty”. If wanting a husband labels me as thirsty then give me a tall glass of water because I am parched!

2. Keep it 100. Be real. Don’t play games and pretend you are something that you aren’t. Most people can sense a poser from a mile away. You want to attract the positivity in the place so be honest first with yourself then others. There is nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward but no one likes a liar.

3. Casual Convos. Now, most of these events are meant to be easy-going. Pretend like you’re going to a business lunch. Hell, do whatever you need to do in order to edge off the nervousness. Most of the time “speed dating” will be incorporated into the event. This involves sitting with a potential suitor for 3 minutes and having a brief conversation. I beg, let me repeat beg, for you not to bring up certain topics within this short time frame. These topics include anything related to annual salary, perspectives on Islamic rulings, or clothing size. I know these sound pretty unrelated but I have heard of folks brining up these topics during speed dating sessions. Take it easy within the three minutes. Bring up some light conversation such as where you are from or even the weather. This will lead to other topics and maybe even a follow up date.

4. Dress Simple. This is mainly for my Sistaqueens up in the building. Don’t walk in the joint looking like a pancake face. Now, I’m not saying don’t wear make up but keep it simple and classy. A little eyeliner and some blush will go a long way. Typically when I go to these events I wear a simple dress or skirt. I refrain from heels because you want to keep an accurate height for the brothers checking you out. Now onto the brothers… For the love of Allah please iron your shirt. I suggest you be fancy and pop a crease into that sucker. Make yourself presentable. The sisters will be checking your clothes out so please be on point. Make sure you’re groomed as well (beards, clean nails, etc). We love beards but don’t be coming into the place with a jacked up beard. Smell nice, brush your teeth and smile often.

5. Rules. Lastly, follow the rules of the matrimonial event since each event has a different set up. Some of them allow you to exchange contact information on the spot while at others you have to go through the organizers. Don’t be whack and think you’re too cool to follow the law. Nothing is more embarrassing then being escorted out my security. Ya heard?

Singles Mixer Survival Package:

* Mints or chewing gum

* Perfume

* Tissues/lotion

* Pocket mirror

* Cards (in order to exchange information)

*  A good attitude!

Lastly, I recommend everyone to attend these events with no expectations. Just go and have fun!

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My Grandmother, Mrs. Neil

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My grandmother didn’t have to see the world.

My mother placed it at her feet with two foreign looking Muslim grandchildren.

She had strong Christian values yet once my mother converted to Islam she stopped cooking pork and carpooled us back and forth to Quran classes.

She hated to travel but that was perfectly fine with her because my mother did enough traveling for the both of them. My mother would beg and plead for her to come with us on trips to Europe or the Middle East but her curiosity would remain hindered by her fear of the outside world.

She was perfectly content staying in the house my grandfather built from the ground up.

I think it reminded her of him.

 

Perhaps it was the spot in the living room where he used to sit and read the paper every morning or the fact that his hands had touched every brick the house stood on that made her so disagreeable when anyone would mention her leaving.

That was what women did in her time. Their lives were dedicated to their families.

No matter what.

My grandmother was born in the 1920s on the Southside of Chicago. It was a time of intense racial segregation and the seeds of the civil rights era were slowly coming to fruition. As one of her youngest grandchildren, I would listen to tales of her growing up with her sisters, the viewing of Emmitt Till’s body, and sneaking off to high school dances. This was a side of my grandmother I always wanted to know more about.

The black and white pictures inside her living room china cabinet burst with images of a young, beautiful black woman with jet black hair swept into a French roll. She was always looking off into a distance, only adding to the mystery of my grandmother’s past.

But her youthfulness was nothing but a mere memory tucked away in a fragment of time. She was now a woman in her 80s unable to walk after bilateral knee replacements – widowed and alone. Her vigor for life was gone after the passing of my grandfather.

He had been a quiet and reserved man. During his time, masculinity was largely defined by tending to the financial needs of one’s family. He worked in a local steel mill while my grandmother raised my mother and two uncles.

My mother once told me that she never saw them argue, something that seems nearly unbelievable in today’s day and age.

Later in life, he became chronically ill. My grandmother learned how to administer at-home dialysis and then, later, assisted him in his affairs when he began to lose his eyesight to glaucoma.

After my grandfather’s death, my grandmother sank into a deep and severe depression. This newfound state would last for almost ten years. Even though I sympathized with her, I never quite understood how one could rely so heavily on another person until I went through my own life altering circumstance.

Shortly before her passing, I broke the news to her that I was separating from my then husband. She was in hospice and dying of lung cancer.

She looked at me with utter disappointment.

“Child, there is no way for you to work this out? This is your husband.”

“No ma’m, it’s over.” I said, abruptly yet respectfully. I knew what was coming and wanted to stop it before it started.

Sensing my frustration she stopped, but not before saying, “You must have not really loved him anyways.”

Her frankness cut the silence in the room.

I didn’t argue or correct her. There was nothing to say because, in her mind, my actions meant I didn’t love him – loyal women never left their men.

And I was being, simply put, disloyal.

It’s been almost four years since her passing but I vividly remember this conversation. And, over the years, I’ve reflected on what it truly means to be loyal in a relationship.

Is loyalty relative? Or is there a universal way to define it?

I truly believe that one must stay committed and loyal to the fundamentals of a healthy relationship. Do some people cop out of marriages too soon? Definitely. Do some people stay in relationships out of shame associated with a divorce? Certainly. But there’s a balance. Most of us who have been divorced understand this internal tug of war. Sometimes the desire for wanting to get out of a relationship can be just as strong as wanting to exhaust all options to make it work.

The older I get I realize that my grandmother set an example for what it truly meant to remain committed in a relationship. That type of “old school” loyalty doesn’t exist any longer. When we see it, most are in awe and amazed. Most are lucky to make it to their ten year anniversary. My grandmother was married for nearly sixty years.

It takes love, patience and most of all sacrifice to truly make a relationship work. Loyalty can have many definitions but one thing is for sure, when you see it there will be no way to confuse it with anything else.

____

This post was originally featured on Love InshAllah: The secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women http://loveinshallah.com 

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Does he HAVE to be Muslim?

I have received several inquires about my updates. I have been busy relocating and transitioning jobs. I am in the vibrant city of Brooklyn.

No friends, I am not married! Though, who knows what the future holds. Like I always say be open to new possibilities and ventures.

So I had a recent conversation with some of my sistaqueens that I want to share with you.

We were pondering this question:

Would more Muslim women be married if it was permissible to marry non-Muslim men?

Many of the women I asked firmly agreed. Surprisingly only a handful of them disagreed. Most in agreement had personal stories to back up their claims. I heard a multitude of stories about sisters meeting men at work or in other places but having to end things due to them not being Muslim. One sister in particular told me that she met a man at work and he was a very devout Coptic Christian. He was drawn to her modesty and behavior. He had all the qualities she wanted in a spouse (minus the fact that he was not Muslim). Obviously the relationship didn’t go any anywhere but she said she often wonders where it would have gone might they have taken things further.

Many of the women I asked claimed that they were treated with more respect when approached by non Muslim men.

Sadly, I could believe this.

The horror stories I hear about Muslim men (not all) will have you run the opposite direction. For real.

The bad part is Muslim men twist Islamic rulings to their favor and use it to legitimize their rachet behavior. As a Muslim woman empower yourself by knowing the religion in and out.

It always amazes me how Muslim women are expected to stay within an expected line of behavior but brothers act a damn fool. Getting married to two or even three women without telling their first wives.

Like I’ve mentioned in previous posts I have been approached by several married men who have not informed their first wives of their quest for another woman. This always leaves me to wonder if this is a common behavior among Muslim men.

I equate polygamy on the down low with cheating. It’s dishonest and breaks up a relationship real fast.

Sistaqueen, if he does it to another woman then best believe he will do it to you.

Baby, you are NOT an exception.

Taking advantage and misconstruing Islamic law is big sin. May Allah have mercy and guide us all to what He loves.

But then I thought about this…

If thats the case then why aren’t non Muslim women married?

I’ve grown up with the thought that mainstream culture doesn’t respect marriage and has a deep fear of long term commitment.

Especially men.

I am a firm believer that a majority of women regardless of ethnicity, faith or social status desire marriage. Many would beg to argue but women desire long term commitment. Always. If not then something is wrong.

It doesn’t make us weak. It’s just how we were built.

Could it be that non Muslim women don’t desire marriage? Is the idea of being with one person for the rest of your life a turn off?

Lastly, I think its important for folks to know that very few Muslimwomen in their right mind would choose a non Muslim brother over a Muslim one. We are talking about your life partner and the father of your future children.

I’ve heard of several Imams on the East Coast marrying Muslimwomen to non Muslim men. Whether or not you are in agreement with this we all must acknowledge that there is a Muslim marriage crisis happening in the Western world.

Things like this just happen due to our circumstances as Muslims in a majority non Muslim country. No one wants to stay single.

And if you ask a sistqueen herself the streets are rough. TheMuslim brothers that are readily available are either married, “not ready” or messing around with non-Muslim women.

So this leaves young Muslim women in an unfortunate position.

My last words to you are…

Take caution to the tricks of shaytan, make dua to Allah and lastly getcho’ man!

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Step Baba

Love comes in many forms. His love for my mother set the foundation as to how I would view men and relationships. I can never repay him for the love and kindness he has showed me but I can show appreciation and gratitude. This is for him.

Love, InshAllah

photoIhssan

I was around three when my mother met him.

He said I took one look at him and hid behind her dress. I peered around as he reached down to pick me up, frantically screamed and did a wiggle move out of his arms.

That was the start of our relationship.

My father (technically step-father), Halil, grew up in rural Turkey. He worked hard and was eventually offered a full paid scholarship to the University of Basel in Switzerland. That is where my mother and I would eventually settle after they met through a marriage ad in Islamic Horizons. My parents were forward thinking even in the 80’s!

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Single in Ramadan: An Action Plan

Ramadan Greetings!

The excitement is in the air. I can feel it! Ramadan is here!!!

So, we are in the midst of another Ramadan and you just realized that you are *still* single.

Time to get those duas ready…

On a serious note…

Ramadan is a time filled with gatherings and social functions. With that being said it can be a lonely time for someone who is not connected to a particular community and even more lonesome for the single Muslim.

Let me help you understand.

I grew up in a practicing Muslim family. Needless to say Ramadan is a very big deal for my family and I. My mother will only cook certain foods during that time, such as her famous Turkish bread! The house stays decorated with bulb lights and our house is never empty. As a child my house was on and poppin’ during Ramadan!

When I got married I took the same energy to my own household. I enjoyed spending Ramadan with my then husband. We would attend social gatherings, the mosque and even break the fast at my family’s house. All of that was fun and exciting but the time I valued the most was when we would sit together and pray. There are many levels of intimacy that you share with a partner. Spiritual intimacy can be the most personal and uplifting. The first Ramadan I celebrated post divorce felt strange. Even though I didn’t miss him very much, I felt the void of being companion-less and needed the spiritual energy that I could only find in a partner.

I am going to give you some tips and pointers on how to combat this loneliness so you can make the most of your Ramadan.

1. Admit it. Dude, just face it. This is your reality. You are lonely and it is OK. Remember, its normal to want a partner. Like I always say, there are very few creatures that Allah created who live happily in solitude. The first way to address a problem is to admit that one exists. You are sick of being single. It’s not all its cracked up to be. Now, lets figure out solutions to combat how you are feeling!

2. Social Life 101. Take your social life to new heights. There is so much to do during this month. Find some other single Muslim folks and figure out what’s going on in your community. Find someone who you trust and lean on them when you feel lonely. There is no excuse to feel like you are “alone”, especially during Ramadan. Along with that, utilize Facebook and crash some iftars or lectures if need be. Even if you have to go to an iftar by yourself I recommend going! Unlock that social butterfly!

3. Keep Lookin’. Now if you are serious about finding a spouse then Ramadan is the best time to do so. You know Muslims come out the woodwork during this month! Keep them eyes wide open. Don’t blink. Attend more social gatherings, community iftars (breaking of the fast/dinner) and religious events. You never know, perhaps your future spouse is lurking around. Also, be sure to look your best during this month. Sistaqueens, pull out them fancy hijab. Make sure your eyeliner and eyebrows are on point! Brothas, wear your best oils and put lotion on them ashy ankles! Not only do you want to look good in the state of worship but you never know who is checking you out. Remember, I KIR (Keep It Real)…

4. Masjid hop. Attend a different mosque. Visit a community you have never been to. Praying in congregation will help lessen your loneliness. Do not isolate yourself. That’s the worst thing to do during Ramadan! This is a time for community involvement. Stay busy doing something.

If you are someone who has your social life on point then I highly recommend that you reach out to those who who need a little push.

May Allah reward you and allow you to take advantage of this blessed month…

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For the love of music

Single in the City

Love, InshAllah

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It was really cold. I was starting to get annoyed.

I was on the platform waiting for the morning train. I looked down at my watch then quickly stuffed my hand back in my pocket. “Four minutes late…” I muttered to myself.

Anyone from Chicago can testify that our winters are horrendous. No matter how long you live here you will never get used to winter in the Windy City. I always complain about how my “African blood” can’t handle this harsh weather, yet through all my fussing I can never leave the city that I love so dearly.

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