Tag Archives: muslimah

Contact with the Opposite Gender in Costa Rica

6 Mar

crossgendershake

Bismillah hirRahman nirRaheem

In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

As Salamu ’Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh. May the peace and mercy of Allah be with you. I’ve been thinking about writing on this topic for a while now but needed a bit more of validity to my opinion before I courageously posted it up.

Here in my lovely, tropical country the weather hasn’t been so pretty. Which I don’t mind, since I happen to love the cold weather. People from all across the nation greet each other with kisses, hand shakes and even occasional hugging. Hand shaking isn’t so common here but instead ticos tend to greet the opposite gender with a kiss on the cheek.

From what I’ve read there is a lot of comments and Hadeeths mentioning hand shaking with the opposite gender as being haram (illegal) or highly not recommended. This is primarily due to the Prophet’s (salalahu alayhi wa’ salam) example towards his treatment to non-mahram women (relatives).

The word used both in the Qur’an and Hadeeths to define touching is lams. Strictly speaking, this is in reference to actions that precede sexual intercourse. In other words, any act with a lust intention or fitnah (temptation) behind it.

I assume that back in the day, if you were to kiss a woman you would have the intention on marrying her. Now, in this chaotic world we are living in, even the act of sexual intercourse is not associated with marriage. I believe that even in Muslims this has slightly been corrupted in our generation.

Despite this, many scholars such as Imam Al-Shafi`i and Imam Abu Hanifah have strong arguments as to how the slightest touching of the hands can end up invalidating your wudhu or state of purity. This is further explained in the Qur’an:

O you who believe! Do not approach Salah after… lāmastum (touching) women, but if you do not find water, then perform Tayammum with clean earth, rubbing your faces and hands. Truly, Allah is Ever Oft-Pardoning, Oft-Forgiving. (4:43)

Although in the Qur’an the word touching does not state specifically what kind of touching or with what intention it’s done with, scholars have found two meanings for the act of touching the opposite gender: touching with lustful intention, and touching without this desire behind it.

I strongly believe that we as Muslims should not shake hands, let alone kiss when greeting the opposite sex no matter what your intention may be (you never know what the other person is thinking or what their intentions are). Not only is there no authentic Hadeethic proof that the Prophet (saws) was seen shaking hands with a non-mahram woman, but it’s also mentioned in the Qur’an as I quoted before.

Of course physical contact with your spouse and close family members is not considered haram, since they are mahram to you. Also, a Hadith narrated by A’isha (may Allah be pleased with her) as recorded in the Musnad of Imam Ahmad states that:

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) used to kiss `A’ishah (may Allah be pleased with her) and then go to pray at the masjid without renewing his ablution.

It’s those not related with us that we must be careful with.

In Costa Rica, if you are already a local here you will know just how hard it is to avoid this contact with the opposite gender throughout the day. If you’re not a local, then I’ll quickly describe it for you.

In Hispanic culture, if you’re a woman you greet both male and female with a kiss. There doesn’t exist hand shaking in our culture as we find his “cold” and not friendly-like. This is usually only performed during interviews or in the work field. When greeting friends and family members you usually greet them with a kiss on the cheek. If you’re really close with them or haven’t seen them in a while you might also see people hugging.

This whole kissing thing isn’t considered strange or taboo in our culture. Boys and girls won’t giggle or feel embarrassed when greeting each other like this, unlike in other western cultures where even a hand shake is awkward.

So therefore, it’s always been a “normal” thing for me to greet people with a kiss. Whether it be an uncle or cousin, or friends from my university, I found nothing wrong or haram in it.

In fact, I once had a friend that backed away when I was going to greet her with a kiss, which I then considered her to be really weird after that happened. Now, I find it normal for her to have done that.

So what can you do if you live in a society where kissing or even hand shaking is normal between the opposite gender?

First, we must find the logic behind not greeting someone with a kiss or hand shake.

We live in a society where all these haram things are now halal to us, and this has been done through Shaytaan’s meticulous planning to make us fall astray from the path. Think to yourself. How can approaching a male and planting a kiss on his cheek not be strange for you? Would you like your husband or wife to do this with other males or females?

Not only is it disrespectful to your spouse (or future spouse), but it’s also disrespectful to you. You are giving permission to this person to touch you in this manner, so what wrong would it be if he happened to touch you on another place if you’re already allowing him to kiss you?

Once you’ve realized the wrongness in it, and how disrespectful it is for you as a woman or man, you will find it easier to want to respect your body. It’s much more peaceful to know that you are the one who decides who kisses you or touches you, then to know that any man or woman can come up to you and plant a kiss on your face.

If you don’t respect your space, then who will?

Finally, keep in consideration the word of God, the Qur’an and what it tells us:

And tell the believing women to lower their gaze and be modest, and to display of their adornment only that which is apparent (35:31)

If you dress in a modest and very “Islamic” way as I like to put it, when you tell someone that you do not greet with a kiss or with a hand shake, or with any other physical contact, they will find it easier to accept. As where if you dress like everyone else is dressing, with shorts or clothing that clings on much to tightly to your body, then they will want to laugh into your face, since you will be dressing in a manner that will obviously attract the opposite sex.

Think further into it. If you see a woman on the street with very modest clothing (like a nun in Catholicism) then you will automatically respect that woman. The way you dress makes a statement of it’s own that you won’t have to put into words each time someone will greet you.

I’m not a Hijaabi (one that wears Hijab) yet, but inshallah when I decide to use the hijab, I think that men would automatically feel drawn back from me, and they will respect my decision on whether or not I greet them the way everyone else does.

In the end, it’s all about respecting yourself.

Keep in mind that in a Hispanic culture, there will be men (or women if you’re a guy reading this) that will want to greet you with a kiss. And sometimes it’s not even in a lust manner; it’s just the way they’ve been raised up. But keep in mind that if you allow yourself to be exposed like this, you are also permitting him or her to have permission to do other things or say things to you disrespectfully. It might not happen, but you are allowing yourself to be in that situation.

If there is fear of fitnah or desire in it, then it is most surely haram.

I feel that women in my country have lost this shyness altogether. Even the men have lost their shyness towards women. When you avoid any contact with the opposite gender, you feel not only good with your effort in doing so, especially in a country where everyone greets this way, but you would also have more affection and love for those that truly care for you, such as your spouse.

Inshallah this will make you meditate (metaphorically speaking) about greeting and touching the opposite gender in your country. May Allah (swt) give you health and blessings each and every day!

Chao.

References:

al-Qaradhawi, S. Y. (4 de Junio de 2008). Shaking hands with a non Mahram. Recuperado el 5 de Marzo de 2013, de Suhaib Webb: http://www.suhaibwebb.com/islam-studies/faqs-and-fatwas/shaking-hands-with-a-non-mahram-dr-yusuf-al-qaradawi/

Holy Qur’an. (s.f.). Recuperado el 25 de Febrero de 2013, de http://quran.com/2/170

Khalfe, M. A. (s.f.). Does touching the opposite sex break ones Wudhu? Recuperado el 5 de Marzo de 2013, de http://islamictext.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/does-touching-the-opposite-sex-break-ones-wudhu1.pdf

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My Secret Life as a Muslim

25 Feb

arenal_volcano

Okay this title might be a bit confusing. It’s almost as if I’m confessing some terrible sin I’ve committed by claiming that this is a “secret” life. Technically secret does mean something which no one knows about.

But quite sadly it is somewhat true. Despite the fact that there are people that know the path I have chosen over every other path out there,which is Islam, there are others that don’t know that and I almost feel obligated to hide it from them.

It’s not that I don’t like to say I’m a Muslim. I’m actually quite proud I have reverted to Islam and have never felt so close with Allah in my entire life. But the reactions you get from people by telling them you’re a Muslim is saddening and always leaves me with a bad taste in my soul.

It should all resume to the reaction I got from my mother. It was shortly after I had taken my shahada that I sat down with her one night to watch tv. I quite frankly don’t like television, but that certain day I went and watched tv with her. I felt her tense near me, so as a way to ooze down the silence between us I tried starting up a conversation. It was then that she started questioning whether or not I was reading that “book” (the Qur’an, but she avoided calling it by it’s sacred name).

I’ve never thought it could hurt so much having someone offend you with words. It was bomb after bomb of false accusations, of forbidding me to read this book again, of threatening me with not ever talking to me again. I tried to keep my calm, but the weakness in my voice was inevitable to hear. I was in shock. I kept thinking to myself, okay Dio you can wake up now. This nightmare is starting to get a bit painful.

But it wasn’t a nightmare, but in fact actual words coming from my own mother.

She accused me of dressing stupidly and admitted thinking how absurd it was for her. She yelled at me that she found impossible to understand these women that cover their head, and when I told her that covering your head was also stated in the Bible, she flipped and started attacking me in other ways. She would scream, “Don’t you remember the 911 incident? All those innocent people that died because of those terrorists?” My God! My mother actually believed Muslims to be terrorists!

I felt my world falling apart. I knew after this one-way argument our relationship would never be the same. I had always trusted my mom with so many things in my life, but now her true colors were showing. I would close my eyes and think to myself, just make her stop Allah.

A part of me wanted to go running into my room or out of the house, but it was almost 10 p.m. and I knew I couldn’t chicken out. I would defend my religion for as much as I could. How dare she insult me this way? Even worse, how dare she insult God? She doesn’t know that in Islam you worship the same God in which Christians believe in. So this helped me be more calm and not feel defeated at certain times during her accusations.

It was mind-numbing to hear her talk that way about the Qur’an. I would continuously tell her to quit her insults to the word of God, but she had no belief in that it was the word of God.

She hurt me bad.

I know you shouldn’t let people bring you down like this, especially when it’s in reference to Allah. But she is my mother. How can you not feel bad when it’s the person that raised you and gave you care and food and protection? She’s supposed to support me in the things I do, not turn me down like this. It almost felt as if I had come out to her with something ridiculous like I was a lesbian or that I had killed someone. I felt like she was accusing me of a crime this bad. And reverting to Islam isn’t even a bad thing!

After this happened, I feel like I’m now living a double life. I tend to pray in my room, with the door closed and muttering almost whispering my prayers to myself. I don’t want her to see me when I pray, especially since I know she will say something rude and interrupt me in my prayer.

I don’t say anything when someone prays in the name of Jesus as Christians tend to do. Nor do I correct someone when they bless themselves under the name of Jesus. These are Christians things that I now find incorrect and know they are committing shirk (associating others with Allah), but despite my knowledge I maintain myself quiet.

And after I got this reaction from my mother, I know others will have an even worse reaction than she did. I wish I had enough courage in me to not care about other’s opinions, but since I live with Christians in my home and in my community, it’s rather hard not to say something that would insult them, or have them all against me afterwards.

If it were up to me, I would have probably begun using the hijab once I took my shahada. I mean, why go against what Allah tells us is best for us? And I happen to like the way women represent Islam this way.

I’ve spoken with another Muslimah here in Costa Rica that has told me how people treated her after her reversion to Islam. Her mother had also reacted negatively towards her when she told her that she was a Muslim. Also, when she wore hijab people would give her nasty looks, as well as those even more ignorant that would yell at her things like “terrorist” or those that considered her to be oppressed.

I think that because of the amount of Catholics that live here, Islam is not welcome. To top this all off, the media has made people have false belief towards Muslims, tagging them as terrorists, old-fashioned and that the women are subjugated to men.

I mean go onto Google and search the word Islam under Images. You get all these terrible images that make me sick to my stomach. You don’t see this happening to Christianity. And why’s that? Because the media is controlled by Christians. These Christians beliefs are the ones that tell you what you need to see, what you don’t need to see and what you should be thinking.

I wish every Christian or Jew or whatever other religion could go out and read the Qur’an, even if it were just a segment or a small fraction of the Qur’an. Where does it talk about terrorism, oppression, neglecting certain people? Where? You would find yourself empty handed with this type of proof in our religion.

So this is the reason of why I prefer not to tell people I am Muslim. I know this is probably an excuse, as there should be no reason to feel ashamed of Islam. In fact, given the circumstances I live in I should be informing people about Islam and not keeping it all to myself.

So what can we do about this?

First, education. We as ticos must learn to educate our children in a way that teaches them to respect other religions. Since ticos live in a one-religion country, everyone here is Christian or the majority of their family is Christian. Therefore, I’ve witnessed that a lot of people, adults and children,will laugh at people from other cultures or religions. This is because they aren’t exposed to different ethnic groups and when they do see someone that is different, this is their form of isolating them from the rest.

This is the real answer to the problem. If I were to live in a place where diversity was more sparse, I wouldn’t feel like such a sore thumb, sticking out in the crowd. But unfortunately, this is not the case.

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Even an uncle came this afternoon, who happens to be a devote Christian and I didn’t feel like having to give him any explanations of my religion. If I knew someone were to come to me inquiring the religion with an open mind and wanting to know more of it’s beauty, I would love to help. But, I see these people and know why they want to ask me about Islam: to find the errors in it (something I believe they will never have any validity in their answers).

Insha’Allah He will give me the strength to ignore these comments, take them as a test of my patience and answer them with pride and respect. I feel it’s not necessary to argue and make people feel bad of their religion when trying to defend Islam, but it is very important to defend it at all costs (even if that person happens to be your mother).

I found peace in Islam. So much, that when today my poor dog died (may he rest in peace) I did not feel the need to break down in tears like my mother and sister did. I understand that Allah (saw) does everything for a reason and that He is the best of planners mashallah! 🙂

I trust my entire life to the will of Allah. He knows what is best for me, as I do not. And for those that state, “then why is their evil?” I answer: Allah does not create evil, but in fact He does these things for the good that will come from that evil, even if we as mere humans – finite and just the creation – may not be able to understand that good in it’s entirety. Subhanallah for that.

Well I hope you all have a glorious day/evening wherever you are in the world. 🙂 Please keep in tune for a new article I have on why Christians don’t understand Muslims. Thanks for reading, and before I go do let me know how your experience was at the beginning of being a Muslim and also what we can do in our society, this beautiful country that is Costa Rica, to improve our acceptance to Islam.

Chao.

Why Islam in Costa Rica?

21 Feb

As Salamu ‘Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuh

Bismillah hirRahman nirRaheem

In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful

Image

As I write down the words of this article, the birds are chirping endlessly outside and I can hear the wind blow between the plantain trees near my home. The weather is beautiful, as it should be on a peaceful February afternoon in Costa Rica. The sun is scorching down at this hour and I can hear my neighbors complaining about the humid weather.

Meanwhile, I get ready to go outside and decide on whether I should choose the long sleeved burgundy shirt I bought a few days ago, or the long pull over cardigan for this evening’s stroll around town? It would definitely contrast to what the rest of my country says I should be wearing right now: shorts, a light colored, spaghetti strapped tank top and some sandals to go along with it. Me in shorts in broad daylight, exposed to all those ticos at this hour? Now talk about absurdity!

This probably would have been some garments I would have managed to pull off on a hot, breezy afternoon like today’s a year ago. Besides, this is what women in my country tend to wear on a daily basis, isn’t it? If the weather is hot, then what’s wrong in showing off your legs and belly to keep cool?

I live in a country where summer is almost every day and the weather is always quite pleasing. It’s only 1 hour to the nearest beach, and only 4 hours to the more beautiful ones up in Guanacaste where tourists tend to visit the most. Or if I want to go enjoy the Atlantic Ocean I can drive to Limón which is also 4 hours away as well. So why do I prefer to preserve my natural beauties to the eyes of men in this tropical country?

The reason to all this is my submission to God; Islam. It’s not my decision to go with the flow and put on whatever the fashion industry here decides to sell us, nor what the weather forces me to take off, but instead my decision to dress in a modest way for the sake of Allah (subhana wa’tala). So why become Muslim in this country? Why didn’t I just be Catholic like the rest of my family and close that chapter of my life? Why not forget about religious views and enjoy the hot weather in my rather tight and sexy outfits like every girl does here?

Here in Latin America, Islam is viewed with the wrong perception. Thanks to what the US media has to publish on about what they consider to be true “Muslims”, we’ve agreed to their ideologies on what Muslims are in our perspective and I need not to name a few of those wrong ideas. There are between three to four million Muslims living in Latin America, 50 000 of them being Hispanic (in other words, reverts to the religion) according to Dr. Mozammel Haque. The mayority of these Muslim communities are located in Argentina with over 1 500 000 Muslims and in Colombia, nowhere near Costa Rica. So why here, in Costa Rica?

There is an estimate of around 500 to 4 000 Muslims that live in Costa Rica. Given the fact that there are 76.3% Catholics and 13.7% Evangelical Christians, we’re talking about an approximate 90% of the population that is in a branch of Christianity. According to the statistics here, there are only 0.01% Muslims! Not even near the 1% scale.

To top that all off, the nearest mosque is located in Guadalupe Montelimar, San José, the capitol. That’s almost 2 hours away from my home!

So this brings us down to my original question: why Islam? If I’ve just provided you with the facts, with valuable reasoning as to why I shouldn’t be a Muslim, then why on Earth have I become a Muslim?

The Qur’an gives us all the answers. Not just to this one in specific, but to any questions you may have in life. As the Qur’an states (from an English translation taken from quran.com):

…and Allah sends astray [thereby] whom He wills and guides whom He wills. And He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. (14:4)

He (subhana w’tala) guides whom he wishes. That is, we are all not Muslims because He (saw) has decided that you and me are Muslim for a reason, and chose not the rest. We can proudly say that we have been blessed of being Muslims over anyone else.

Now you do have to take in mind that the first time I read the Qur’an and saw this statement, my mind was confused. I didn’t know weather or not my God had chosen the wrong people, falsely thinking to myself that I was in those rightly guided, and not of those that go astray.

It wasn’t until I read the following ayat that I started believing otherwise:

For indeed, Allah sends astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills. So do not let yourself perish over them in regret. Indeed, Allah is Knowing of what they do. (35:8)

What was I doing with my life? Was I letting myself go astray, perishing over those who regret? I tried denying the obvious truth for so long, until finally, over much thinking done, I stopped putting this sensation of shame aside and faced my Lord.

I started investigating in books, articles and anything I could find on the internet (which are many) and on the Hadeeths that showed me my faults . I began listening to audio books I would download and hear them at night when all chaos was at silence and I was alone with my own thoughts. I remember hearing in a book about how the Prophet’s companions were even threatened with death if they were not to leave the religion. I also remember reading about the Pharaoh and how he would force people to take him as their Lord and not Allah, and how the people were oppressed to these beliefs.

And here I was, having free will over anything in my mind, especially what lay in my heart. And despite this free will, I hadn’t submitted myself to Allah, even though I wanted to?

Even more, the Qur’an spoke to me in a manner I had never been spoken to! I could feel my Lord telling me to open my eyes to the truth,  to realize the reality I was living in and to open my heart to Islam. Especially when Allah (saw) referred to the Jews and Christians:

They have taken their scholars and monks as lords besides Allah , and [also] the Messiah, the son of Mary. And they were not commanded except to worship one God; there is no deity except Him. Exalted is He above whatever they associate with Him. (9:31)

These are the beliefs Christians indulge in. They take their saints, their prophets, even earthly beings that haven’t been blessed with prophet hood (awliyaa) as their leaders. It (the Qur’an) spoke to me with such truth, that I could not ignore this word of Allah.

For those that are reading this and living in countries where Islam is not the main religion and where your family is probably Christian or not Muslim, I can relate to how difficult it can be to openly say to everyone that you are Muslim or considering the faith of Islam. But fear your Lord! Strengthen your taqwaa (fear of God, piety, God-conscious) to Him (saw), as HE should be the only one that you truly submit down to.

Don’t submit to what the fashion industry says. Don’t submit to what your mother or father tells you to do if it means leaving aside Islam. Don’t submit to what your friends will say, or anyone else. Do not submit yourself to these mortal people, as Allah is the Creator and we are all simply his creation. Submit yourself to your Lord. To Allah. To our God, who says in the Qur’an:

What excuse do I have if I do not worship the One who has created me and to whom you will be returned? (36:22)

As you can clearly read, He (saw) has created us, and has dominion over all things. We will return to him, as Allah (saw) says to us. Then why, haven’t you submitted to his will? If Allah (saw) is telling us in these clear words, what is your noble excuse as to why you haven’t submitted yet?

Take my example as to enlighten you to the truth. You are not reading this article as a coincidence that you just happen to stumble upon. Allah has sent you here, for obvious reasons. And even if you decide to ignore them, He (saw) has well enough spoken to you.

I was raised Catholic, grew up in a Catholic community and had this religion set on me for so long, till I came upon Islam. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what country you’re in or what circumstance you are in, but there is never an excuse for God (saw). It’s never too late for Allah, and he is the Most Merciful, the most understanding of all.

Despite my religious differences, I slowly started to understand the message of Islam. Don’t think I became Muslim in the blink of an eye, nor do I consider myself to be a well enough Muslim or better than anyone else. The one thing that Islam teaches us that makes it so different from the rest and that you can’t truly find in any other religions (given my experience) is that it shows you how to be humble. It washes away your ego. When was I ever like this as a Catholic? Yes, I was humble and had very little ego towards myself, but I consider this to be more because of my upbringing than of the religion. Yes, I was pious to God, but only when I truly needed a favor from Him or when I felt guilty enough of my negligence to Him that I would pray. I was more conscious of my needs than of what Allah wanted from me as his creation.

Anyways, that’s another completely different subject I’ll talk about in the future. For now, I wanted to get across the message of Islam and how it came to me through the Sacred Qur’an. It didn’t come to me through something I saw, or through a comment, or even through a person. But Allah spoke to me through the Qur’an. And I’m sure he has spoken to you through it, or will insha’allah.

Thank you for reading this, I hope it left you with an urge to learn more about Islam. We truly never stop our quest towards Allah until death comes upon us. So I encourage every sister and brother in Islam out there to continue their seeking of knowledge in Allah.

I mentioned it before and I’ll mention it again. There is no excuse for Allah, no matter where you live, what economical difficulties you are facing or ethnic background you may have. As in the Qur’an it says that Muhammed (salalahu alayhi wa’salam) has been sent down to every nation. Not like Jesus (peace be upon him) whom was sent down for the children of Israel, nor any other prophet who was sent down for a specific nation; but instead he was sent down for all mankind as the commmentator Sami Zaatari mentions in one of his articles:

(I am sent to you all as the Messenger of Allah,) This Ayah mentions the Prophet’s honor and greatness, for he is the Final Prophet who was sent to all mankind [and the Jinns].

So as you can see, Islam is not a religion for a certain population. It is the religion for each and every one of us, despite our cultural differences.

I hope this article was useful to you. If any mistakes were made, please apologize as I am simply a human and Allah (saw) is knower of all things, and it was therefore an error of my own knowledge.

Peace and blessings be on each and every one of us.

Chao.

References:

Haque, D. M. (s.f.). Saudi Gazette. Recuperado el February19, 2013, de Growth of Islam in Latin America: http://www.saudigazette.com.sa/index.cfm?method=home.regcon&contentID=2009033033636

Muttaqun. (s.f.). Recuperado el February 19, 2013, de Reverts Those who embrace Islam According to Quran and Sunnah: http://muttaqun.com/reverts.html

The Noble Qur’an. (s.f.). Recuperado el February 20, 2013, de http://quran.com/74

Zaatari, S. (s.f.). Answering Christianity. Recuperado el February 21, 2013, de Was the Prophet Muhammed send for the pagan Arabs only? Or all of Mankind?: http://www.answering-christianity.com/sami_zaatri/prophet_muhammad_sent_to_mankind.htm