Monday, January 25, 2010

Looking for Space to Breath

Question: Hello, I have an Issue here and I would love an advice.

I am a 23yr old Muslim girl, I live with my mother and siblings my father moved to UK a year ago for business, him and my mother are still married. I finished school and found a great job I like down at the city. Soon after I got the job offer my mother decided to make everyone in my family including her move to the city with me, My other sisters were all working and going to school at that time they had to quit their jobs and school for the sake of moving. Anyways now that we are all living together in the city I'm sort of having a hard time finding a time and space of my own, I cant have a room of my own, I cant have friends over, I cant sleep outside of home and I cant even come home late. So I started thinking of getting my own place I started saving up, but since I am the only working member at home my mother started questioning me where is the rest of my money I tell her I'm saving it up but don't tell her for what. so since I'm moving out soon it hurts me to think that no one will be able to pay any bills at my mothers house

(keeping in my that I have other sisters that have jobs but never bother to help my unemployed mother) My mother never asks them for anything and she has excuses for them and expect everything from me.
I really don't want to lose my relationship with my mother and since my mother will influences my father, other sisters and brothers I might lose relationship with everyone in my family just for moving out secretly and not paying bills.
PS: I also like music and might move to Jersey for it but that's a whole different story ;) (which I will confess about later)
Mina says: Wow, interestingly I can relate to much of what you're going through, needing your space and independence but also wanting to be there for your family, and not feel like you're abandoning them--this is something I've grappled with at various times through my life. And I have to take my hat off to you for being so supportive of your family! This is not to be underestimated, you will be blessed, for you're doing a MAJOR service!

I apologize for the following questions but its hard to comment without knowing--I'm curious why your mother had everyone move with you? Was it for financial reasons, or because she wanted to keep an eye on you? In terms of your sisters contributing, are the same sisters that have jobs the ones that live with you--if thats the case then you're not the only working person in your home correct? Could the ones making money realistically support themselves and your mom, or are you making significantly more income then them (and thats why you're "the chosen one") ?

Have you thought about finding a less expensive place for yourself and still sending a portion of money over to your mom and sisters (providing your sisters chip in to cover the rent/bills) that at all possible?<--this would be ideal!

Realisitcally, if its impossible for them to live without your income, I wouldn't suggest you leaving them hanging--as FRUSTRATING as this is, because the other option may be more devastating, and as you've already alluded to, would you be able to sleep peacefully knowing your family is having serious financial struggles? Probably not...So if the above options wouldn't work, I suggest a compromise, where you could continue to provide financial support, and a home, but you set some Non-negotiables for your new home.

 Two things must be done immediately: A) The first task is addressing your sisters and their lack of help--I know with families theres always complicated dynamics that make certain things the "norm" but its worth getting to the bottom of "why" your sisters are not being made to pull some weight. It will take courage to ask questions and have this talk, but its necessary so that you're not spreading yourself too thin. It's only logical that if they're making money too, they should contribute.

You HAVE to talk with your mom and sisters (the ones that live with you) and let them know its impossible for you to pull ALL the financial weight and not be able to have a little more freedom and control with regards to your space. It sounds like having some alone time is important to you, as it should be, and I can relate! this is a non-negotiable in my opinion. Sometimes you have to be unrelenting when it comes to demanding this, as I've learned. It's gotten to the point in my house where my family now knows and they make amends.

If your sisters AREN'T contributing financially, THEY have to share the room! LOL, Im sorry, but if YOU pay the bills --->you should get your own room. And then in having this space, at least you can make it into a "home" within your home. Where you can have alone time, have people over to your room, meditate, read, or whatever else you like to do. You may have to settle for losing certain things, like the ability to throw a party--but its not the end of the world, if you wanna throw or attend a party, move it to a friend's house.

B) It sounds like there could be more to the story that we're not aware of, Again I'm not certain if your income is a NECESSITY or not, and this makes all the difference. But sometimes circumstances occur beyond our control and we have to do whats moral, even when its annoying or frustrating. When this is the case, its importnat to remember that ATTITUDE can make or break you. I've heard it said that situations don't change, but people's reactions or perceptions can CHANGE the way a situation looks and feels. So I urge you to claim peace and try to work through this from a place of peace and humility. When I wanted to move out, but was unable to (because I chose to be provide a service for my family) I tried to make peace with the situation by calling to mind God says in The Qur'an "give charity to the near of kin", and I would look at it as charity. Interestingly, whenever God mentions charity in The Qur'an He speaks of giving to Kin first and foremost--I think this is significant. Our family bonds are of the upmost importance, and God surely blesses those who seek to preserve them! But it IS give and take! And you cant do for anyone else, if you dont demand certain things for yourself.

Nad says: Salaam, dear
I can tell that you're really feeling pulled in both directions. That's an uncomfortable feeling.  It sounds like you've somehow fallen into the position of family provider. Are you the oldest? That sometimes happens to eldest children. Regardless of your position in the sibling lineup, it's obvious that you have more on you than you'd like.  I applaud you on handling the situation delicately. Some people would move out without hesitation. That you think about your family says something about you.
I believe there is a way for you to speak what's on your heart without losing your relationship with your mother. Families are there to help each other out, and it's obvious that you need some help. You said your parents are still married. Does/could your father help out financially? You said he moved out of country for business, so I'm assuming he has steady income. Have you talked to him about the situation? Your other siblings also have jobs. Let them know you're strained. Supporting your mother is one thing (we owe the world to our parents), but supporting your siblings that are also bringing in money isn't necessary.
From your post, it sounds like you are a "giver." That's beautiful. Don't ever lose that, but be careful not to give so much that you've nothing left for yourself. This may sound selfish, but there must be some "take" if there is to be balance in your life. If you're hesitant about talking to your mother, start with your siblings first. Tell them you feel you're doing too much and that they have to start sharing the responsibilities of the household.
Since your mother is the one setting the rules, you'll have to talk to her about this one. Of course, we always treat our parents with the utmost respect (especially mothers), but there is a way to address this issue with her without being disrespectful. Your mother may not know how unhappy you are. Have a heart-to-heart, and tell her you're feeling smothered. You sound like a responsible person. That is to your mother's credit. She's done her part to raise you. May she be rewarded for it. Now she has to move over and let you take the reigns. This can be scary for parents who fear their children (who aren't exactly children anymore) may be swallowed up by this crazy world. Reassure her that's not the case. You're not a 16-year-old trying to sneak out the house. You're an adult trying to step out on her own and establish herself on her own terms.
If you don't have this conversation now, it'll come back up sooner or later. When you get married or when you move to Jersey, you're going to be moving out at some point. See this as practice for that day. Something tells me that finding your voice has probably been a issue in other parts of you as well. Addressing this now will give you some insight into how to address other issues later.

Friday, January 22, 2010

In Love and Confused

Question: ASA sisters,
I am 23 years old, born and raised as a Muslim with Muslim parents. My family life I would say was ok although I think one of my parents has some serious issues. I wont say which one. Nonetheless, I love my parents. I'm not saying I haven't caused my parents some grief or disappointment, but for the most part I've been a good child. I know my parents have my best interest at heart, but give me a break, I'm grown. My parents want me to marry a Muslim guy that they think the world of, but little do that know. He is just like some of the guys that my parents literally talk about like there's no tomorrow. You see, I've met this wonderful guy that I love. I've been knowing him for almost two years. I tried to introduce him to my parents, but they wouldn't have anything to do with him because he's not Muslim. Although he's not Muslim, I think he is really nice. I know he loves me; he helps me out, he's there for me and he is so kind to me. If they would just get to know him, I know they would like him. There're stuck on him not being Muslim. I know he's not Muslim, but my thinking is he might become Muslim one day. I can't take too much more. My parents are driving me crazy about dating a non Muslim. My guy friend has offered to let me move in with him. I know as Muslims we don't believe in shacking up, but I'm considering moving in with him. All I know is that I love him, I don't want to lose him and I can't take the constant criticism from my parents.

Any suggestions? Please help.

In love and confused.

Nad Says: You've got yourself a situation, here. The heart wants what the heart wants. There's no denying that. Before we approach the parent issue, let focus on you. I’m glad that you’ve found a guy that sounds pretty great. You said you think he might become a Muslim one day. What if he doesn’t? Will that be a problem for you? A deal breaker? If you get married and he converts, then all will be well. But, if he doesn’t, what happens then? Are you willing to be married to a person of another religion? Is he? If so, what will that mean? Will all of your needs still be met? This is something you two should discuss before making any big decisions like moving in together. Like we said in a similar post, interreligious relationships require some extra work. Additional questions need to be asked. Have the two of you discussed this issue and how it could benefit and/or be a detriment to your relationship?

Now, on to your parents. Have you told them that the guy they think is sweet is really pulling the wool over their eyes? This other guy really isn’t all that important, but it might help them get his name out of their mouths. A lot of people’s parents prefer that they marry within their religion. You may never change their mind on that, but you can show them that you are an adult who is capable of making wise, well-thought-out decisions. After discussing the religion issue with him, talk to your parents and let them know that you’ve thought long and hard about this. Don’t just say “I know he’s not Muslim, but we’ll make it work because we’re in love.” Tons of people mistakenly assume that love alone will carry them through serious issues. Sorry to say, but it takes more than that. Let them know how you’ll make it work. If he’s interested in Islam, tell them. If he’s secure in his religion and has no plans of leaving, tell them. Make them see the bigger picture.

If after all that, they still aren’t convinced, you’ll have to choose. Wish I had a different answer for ya, but if they will not budge under any circumstances, and you’re dedicated to doing this, you’re going to have to either go with your heart or go with your parents. I won’t tell you which one to choose, because that can be no one’s decision but your own.

Mina says: Gotta make some runs. Check back later today for my response. Thanks for reaching out. Peace and love

Ok! I apologize for the delay! Great points Nad! I cosign on that =) Also, please check  this post for my very similar story and the thought process I went through, as well as the outcome =)

Looking for Direction in Faith and Love

Question: In college, I was dating a Muslim man while I was raised as a Christian. I was hesitant at first because my parents were of different faiths [Christian man/Muslim woman] and they ended up in divorce. He was hesitant because we had been intimate, but he vowed celibacy when he converted and didn't know how I would react. I did repect his celibacy, but we did have times that we were intimate again. I was even proposed to by him, but ended up not going through with it because I had so much negativity from relatives that we weren't equally yoked. It was a real possiblity that we would've ended up in divorce (just like my parents). He even was abusive towards me and I feel that no man will ever want to marry me. So, I'm now single and really don't know where I stand with my faith and what type of marriage that I want. All I know is that both biblical and Islamic books say that it's better to remain single...Peace be unto you!


Nad says: Peace be unto you,
Looks like you have a lot of unknowns in your life. I know can it be very stressful to feel like you're not anchored anywhere. Accept that peace will come.

First off, congrats on not staying in an abusive relationship! It's not always easy to walk away when there is love involved, but you did it. That makes my heart smile.

Second, know that a man WILL want to marry you! Not just any man, though. The right one. Speak that into existence. Of course, God is in control, but a lot of times we create our realities with our thoughts and actions. It’s all perception, anyway. So, perceive that you will find a good husband. Don't view your past as a hindrance to future love. View it as a collection of hard-learned lessons that have made you better, stronger and wiser. No doubt, you learned a great deal in this experience, about yourself, about love, and about the give and take of relationships. Use that. It’s such a resource.

If you don’t know what type of marriage you want, it’ll will be hard to judge if you’re satisfied with what you’re getting. You have to figure out what you want—better yet, what you need— so you can always be aware of if your needs are being met. What would a good mate be like? How would the relationship look? If you don’t know, talk to some people who you feel have healthy marriages. Ask them to help you build a picture of the type of love you’re seeking. Things are so much easier to find when you know what you’re looking for.

You don’t know where you stand with your faith? You’re not alone. So many people feel marginally attached to a religion they “claim” but may not truly grasp. Let’s shelve the unknowns of your faith for a minute and focus on what you do know. What is your absolute truth, the one thing (or things) that you are at peace with and never question? It sounds like you believe in the Most High, but maybe aren’t sure of the specifics? If that’s true, let Him lead you. Pray (in whatever form you know best) and ask for true guidance. God hears the prayers of the sincere. Study the religions that interest you with an opening mind, allowing the Creator’s magnetic energy to pull you where it will. This won’t be a quick and easy journey, so I don’t expect this answer will wipe away all your problems. (Would be cool if it did, though. Wouldn’t it?) I only hope that this can be a stepping stone to help you get to where you’re going.

Mina says:  Sis! Peace be unto you--I feel you, I'm feeling your confusion and pain and I want you to know: God has you!  I have to 100% agree with Nad to say: Congratulations for having the strength and self respect to walk away from abuse--that takes courage and is not easy, trust me, you're ahead of many!

It's always difficult to rebuild, but its such a necessary process to finding fulfilment and living truthfully...if you can get excited about anything, get excited about that! This is a remarkable time for you and vital opportunity--to wash away the negativity, confusion, stains of the past and unlock the essence of your Soul and what will make it sing and soar (Im reeeaally excited for you as I think about this process!) It will be a cleansing.

Nad is so right that God hears the prayer of every sincere caller. Get quiet. Really make the time to have those moments when its just you and your Creator. If you get still enough, sweet answers come in these moments. It definietly wont be an overnight process but know that all women come to a point when we have to dig, dig deep, pull out and reinvent, using the ingredients that never change (and represent your authentic self) but prepared in a new, refreshing, flavorful way.

Feeling that no man will ever want you...could be a subtle effect of the abuse--especially if it was verbal as well, you may have been made to feel worthless and invaluable. Listen to the thoughts that you have about yourself? Do they reflect an attitude of "I'm worthy and pretty wonderful" or one of "I'm worthless"? Just from rereading your question you can get some insight into this.  If they're reflectng the latter we'd better work fast to empty them, because these are lies and will hinder you on your journey to fulfillment and liberation! God made you absolutely beautiful and honorable. God made you that way--don't disrespect this magnificent creation (you!) by ever thinking otherwise...Don't allow yourself to get bogged down about how you may've "messed up" 'cause guess what? Welcome to the club! the HUMAN club! lol, really...its totally part of the game. Its not about never messing up or having all the answers the first time, its about coming to God with an open heart and with sincerity. God-consciousness--let nothing take you away from this.

Just as Nad talked about perception and talking things into your life, please please do this regarding your thoughts about yourself--FLIP it! You have to be diligent in recognizing when you have a destructive thought and replacing it with a truthful one. From  an "ahh that was sooo stupid of me!" to an " I make mistakes but I love that I try to correct them, thank God for that!"

Also, you may want to consider some counseling if you feel theres still healing that needs to take place from your previous relationship--its worth a consideration, we all can use extra help in our peeling away and "restarting."

In finding faith, authenticity and fulfillment, I recommend the following books:
Women Who Run With The Wolves (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)
Simple Abundance (Sarah Ban Breathnach)
Faith in The Valley and/or In The Meantime (Iyanla Vanzant)

May you be very blessed sweetheart =) In every moment lies an opportunity to start anew...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interreligious Relationships... Can they work?

Question: Salaams sisters,
Ok I think I have a topic for your blog. What is your take on interreligious relationships/marriages? Whether it's Muslim/Christian, Muslim/Jew etc. and whether the person is male or female. Do you think they work? What do you think the pros and cons are in these relationships?

Nad says: Salaams dear,
Yes, you definitely do have a topic. You hit on a big one. I know a lot of people are wondering about this. I've seen these relationships go horribly, and I've seen them work out beautifully. I have two answers to this question.

The short answer: I think it's better to stay in your own religion, because religion is a big part of a person and having that in common can be a huge benefit to a relationship.

The long answer: Love and relationships are complicated. They don't always fit in neat little, pre-prepared boxes. I know this is becoming more of an issue for Muslimahs that are waiting, waiting, waiting on Muslim men that don't seem to be appearing. Meanwhile, they're getting older and watching other people get married and trying not to be depressed. It's real out there. It really depends on what you know you need in your life. If you need someone that you can go to religious services with, celebrate holidays with, pray with, then it probably wouldn't work to be with a person of another religion.

If all you need is a spiritual connection that isn't specific to any one religion, you may be able to work it out. Successful interreligious couples tend to be more open minded to seeing the beauty in all religions. This open mindedness can also benefit other parts of the relationship. However, it can create more room for contention when certain differences come up. One parents wants a Christmas tree. The other doesn't. One parent thinks the daughter should wear hijab. The other isn't as concerned. One parent thinks 16 is a good age to start dating. The other is ready to fight. (You know Muslim get hype on this topic.)  These are the types of issues you're more likely to agree on when you're with a person of the same religion.  Either way, relationships are hard, but interreligious relationships require some extra work.  Mina, come get in on this.

Mina says:  I like Nad's answer...I like it ALOT, I was gonna approach it from a different standpoint...but I'll just say that it DOES get really hard because many times you feel like there's no one out there for YOU in your particular religious circle, and you may be meeting all these wonderful potentials BUT...they have another path. So as Nad said, you have to be really clear (or at least 51% clear lol) about what you can see in your future...because reality is...there can be some added drama in the interreligious recipe, so it will require extra energy!

I was in a similar situation at one point where I really liked/loved someone that wasnt Muslim like me--and it was HARRRD. But when I thought about my kids, and the type of family I want to raise, the legacy I'd like to have, I def. couldn't see it not being Islamic--if it was just about me (and him) in the moment, and not thinking about a shared future, I probably could have done it--but in thinking about not having someone to call the adhan to wake me and the kids up, or lead us in salat, or fast during Ramadan together. it was just too difficult to fathom, for me personally. But the BIGGEST conflict came in thinking about standards and limitations...I just felt that if we didnt share the same Book, we would be looking to a different standard in deciphering and solving conflicts. So I'm thinking, "relationships are hard enough to keep intact, we need a lil something to work with!"...and so, I had to step out on faith, and simply believe that if this is what felt sensical to my soul and mind, this is the situation that God would make available for me...and I was relentless in this belief, I simply knew that the right person was out there for me who shared these fundamental charachteristics...the long/short of that story is--me and my honey did end up together =) (yaaay!), and were able to do so partly because he actually DID ascend down his own spiritual path that led him to Al-Islam, and God worked it out! praise The One.

So the point is--be smart and real about what you want and can deal with and stick to it--you will ultimately deal with the consequences of such a decision, so think very intelligently about the life you want to craft. The positives of such a religiously diverse union is that there is probably an underlying theme of oneness in all things, in a truth that transcends titles, in tolerance and diverse flavors...(it sounds beautiful actually) but the difficulties probably center around the more practical aspect of such unions--and as I said before, the lack of a shared common standard can make it difficult when issues arise...Its hard because Union is about being unified, and seeing a commonality in many things, sharing life, etc.etc, but of course, you're not going to be unified in everything, no matter how beautiful a relationship is, so ask yourself "how extensive and far reaching (into all aspects of my life) is my religious expression? If it affects most of what I do, having a union with someone of another path is probably going to be more difficult...if not, it may not pose as much of a problem."

What I learned from my sistuation  As hard as it is, when you're on you're path and trying to adhere to truth, even if its not what you want to do in the moment, God will open up a way and you will be blessed. Trust that!

Salon Setback

Question: Salaams sistas!!! I'll be the first to break the silence....ok, so I've been working in the same hair salon for 2 yrs and and 3 months now and I really feel as though it's time to spread my wings and move on to better things. Better things meaning more growth and opportunity. I am currently working at a salon with a 46 year old who has been doing hair for 20+ years and let's just say she's "old school", there's no advancement opportunities, and I want to do more than fingerwaves and french rolls. I must admit I'm a little nervous about going to a new salon because I love stability and this has been a stable job, I just need more. Any advice on this? Or maybe I'm just looking for different opinions...whateva you have to share please share! Shukran in advance and sorry it's so lengthy.

Mina says: As Salaam Alaikum wa rahmatallahi wa Barakhatahu Joy!! First off, thank you soo much for posting and trusting us enough to engage...thats a very good question, I have to say I'm excited for you for seeking to progress with your career, because its not as easy as it may seem and can be quite scary to "step out" as you said...
Give thanks for the situation you're in now as you've had an opp. to express your craft and hopefully learn a great deal....But you're a butterfly and its only natural to wanna  spread those beautiful, colorful wings...

I would get really quiet and serious with myself and ask the following questions...

1. How (specifically) do I see myself advancing.

2. What are three goals I'd like to accomplish in the next year?

3. Where do I want to be at the "top" of my career, ie, what is the ultimate goal?

and any other questions you deem fit..

It will take a sincere delve and seriousness to answer these questions and do so truthfully, sometimes we think we know, but when we go deeper, we're surprised at what we find, so its important to put your finger on WHAT you truly want.
At that point, you can approach the accomplishing of these goals with a fervency and convicted determination. Also, your mind heart and spirit will be peeled towards any opportunities that arise. After asnwering the questions I suggest writing your goals down and reading them at some regular interval, like every night, or every morning, or every couple of days, and talk to yourself about it. This will do a lot to get your mind over the fear of something new. and in the mindframe of already attaining it. {You can write and read them affirmation style such as "I will get a job at a contemporary funky salon by June" or "I'm applying to get my Cosmetology Lisence", etc.)

Trust me, nothing can stop what God has put in you to deliver--but you/we do have to have the courage to push pass the mundane and live our passion/mission. if what you discower is true, God will aid you in seeking to attain it, espcially if you KNOW what it is, and stay CONSISTENT in going after it. But be confident that you should pursue growth! Yes ma'am, you should! Be patient, things may not (most likely) change over night, and thats part of the process, DONT let it discourage you or make you say "aww forget it, i KNEW i shoulda never..." NOPE, its just making you firm in patient perserverance. It's NOT always easy but it IS worth it!
We wish you the VERY best in your endeavors, please let us know how things turn out, keep us posted! Hope this helps!
Nad says: Wow, Mina. You put it down on that one. Can you say thorough? "Trust me, nothing can stop what God has put in you to deliver--but you/we do have to have the courage to push pass the mundane and live our passion/mission" I love that. It surely rings true.
If you're not feeling like you can thrive and be happy where you are, that means something. Our bodies know what we need. So many of us spend our lives in jobs we can't stand. Yes, it is risky to go a chase your dreams, knowing there is always chance you may not reach them, but that's a risk the successful take. 
With this recession being as ugly as it is, I would suggest not making in any rash decisions. You probably don't want to leave your current job until you have something else secured, or at least a good cushion to rest on while you search.  Hope this helps. Thanks for jumping in first. Keep us posted.

ANAM is here!

Welcome, ladies! Glad you made it over. We've been planning to work together on a woman-focused project for a while. We're so pleased to finally be making it a reality. Our goal is to provide a safe place for women to express whatever it is within them that needs to be purged. A lot of us hold on to energies that do nothing but anchor us down in sadness and anxiety. The only place we should be anchored is in truth and love.

Everything doesn't have to be so deep. ANAM is also a place of fun and silliness. Feel free to ask simple and easy questions. Want to know what fingernail polish to wear, or what we think about a new style? All you gotta do is ask.