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What Is The Islamic World?

Written by Theresa Corbin

What exactly is the Islamic world? Is it like Disney world? A place where Muslims go to pay too much for halal snacks and wait in line for hours to get a fatwaIs it the place that I have been told to go back to by bigots shouting on the street? Ooorr is it the place where some media “personalities” pretend all Muslims come from- The Middle East? 

What is the Islamic world?

Well, I don’t hate to break the news to you, but there is no Islamic world. There is no place with over priced halal snacks (OK maybe there are those) and lines for the fatwa ride. Just because someone is a Muslim doesn’t mean they had to come from somewhere else. And only 18ish% of Muslims in the world live in the Middle East. 18%. only. Muslims live and practice Islam in every country on the planet in a variety of concentrations.

Muslims are diverse. Let that sink in. Diverse. We participate in every culture from every country. We are indigenous peoples in the West, in the East, and everywhere in between. We fit in no box.

We worship our creator, share in a sisterhood, wear jeans and eat red beans and rice down South. We pray 5 times a day, say “Salam”, wear embroidered caps, and eat dumplings in Xinjiang, China. The “Islamic World” is the actual world.

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It’s Not About The Headscarf

Written By: Elyse Keelani*

Why is a Muslim woman’s worth symbolized by a headscarf** or the lack thereof?

In Western societies, the lack of a headscarf makes a Muslim woman blend into secular society; whether or not she’s a practicing Muslim is less important. Usually, as long as she looks the part, she is accepted. A lack of a headscarf in the eyes of the West means that she is not oppressed, and that she has found freedom.

its not about the headscarf

However, the West fails to see that their own society confines women also, and that women are treated simply as objects. If a woman wears a bikini on the beach, she’s fine. If a woman wears a bikini on the street, she’s deemed “loose”. If a woman of the right body-type wears a low-cut top, she is seen as sexy; If a heavy woman does the same, she is trashy. There are so many rules to follow, it’s hard to keep up.

“Do I look confident or self-absorbed?” “Do I look strong or do I look overbearing?” “Do I look sexy or do I look slutty?” The lines are drawn according to a woman’s race, body type, socio-economic status, etc. Then a woman might find that the lines are drawn differently in some Western countries, or in some areas of Western countries.

The worth of a woman is often narrowed down to fabric, but that worth was taken away long before anyone saw how she was dressed. Being “Jane” means less opportunity in life, less pay, more risk of being a victim of violence, etc.

Clothing is simply a symbol of how well a woman is fitting into the society that already oppresses her.

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Putting People on Pedestals

written by Theresa Corbin for About Islam

Pedestals are for Prophets and plants. This has been my mantra since I nearly let someone destroy my heart with their short comings. I put someone high up on a pedestal and it was unfair to them and to me.

Pedestals are unstable structures. And that inevitable fall from a pedestal is hard and painful.

Learning about pedestals

As a child and a young woman, many of the men in my life were untrustworthy, abusive, and dangerous, with the exception of one shining example. I looked to this one man to restore my trust, to restore my faith in men, to be that perfect example. I created a perfect idea of him and put that fiction up on a pedestal.

When that idea of this last man standing finally fell from the pedestal, as it was always meant to fall, it nearly broke my heart. I became bitter, angry, and hopeless until a friend reminded me that I had put him in a place only the prophets are meant to be.

Taking this to heart, I began to do the work of learning about the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) perfect character. His life story gave me hope. The more I learn the more I understood what a real man’s character should and CAN be. The more I learned about him, the more I healed. And I started to slowly put him and all the prophets in that highly esteemed place to the exclusion of all others.

Honestly, I am so glad that Allah (SWT) allowed the image of the last man I trusted to fall from the pedestal. I am even grateful for the pain it caused me because painful lessons are the best teachers.

As Yasmin Mogahed writes in Reclaim Your Heart , “That broken heart and that pain are lessons and signs for us. They are warnings that something is wrong. They are warnings that we need to make a change. Just like the pain of being burned is what warns us to remove our hand from the fire, emotional pain warns us that we need to make an internal change. We need to detach. Pain is a form of forced detachment. Like the loved one who hurts you again and again and again, the more dunya hurts us, the more we inevitably detach from it. The more we inevitably stop loving it.”

And so I told myself pedestals are only for Prophets and plants.

Trusting

What happens when we put someone on a pedestal is that we put all our hope in another flawed being, we trust an imperfect person to perfectly pass all the tests of this world, or we imagine that they are here as a perfect example for us.

And in the end, we don’t even realize that the object we put on the pedestal is a flawed being- a human. That is until the image we have of them falls and breaks our hearts.

Continue reading here on About Islam.

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Your First Practical Steps as a New Muslim

written by Theresa Corbin

originally written for and published on About Islam

Much has been written on what a new Muslim should do after converting. What the first steps after shahadah should be is a topic even I have expounded on many times—like the article I wrote entitled, The First Step A New Convert Should Take which is all about intentions, motivation, and matters of the heart.

But sometimes this kind of advice makes it seem as if material matters aren’t important. But you should know that they are.

Islam teaches us a balance, to be in this world and to take care of one’s worldly needs while also thinking of the life of the hereafter and taking care of one’s spiritual needs.

We are beings of duality. We have a physical existence and a spiritual existence. When the needs of one or the other are ignored, bad things happen.

Far too often the worldly needs of new Muslims are brushed off as less important than spiritual needs. And what comes from this kind of treatment is understandable.

New Muslims often complain that being a Muslim is impractical or difficult. If the Islam presented to you seems Impossible, excessively difficult, or impractical, know that this is a kind of imagined Islam that ignores the worldly needs in favor of the spiritual needs.

However, Islam demands balance and that all needs are met. Here are a few practical things to think about after taking the shahadah.

Know Your Rights as a New Muslim

As a new Muslim, one of the first things you should understand about your faith are your rights in Islam. Often new Muslims’ complaints about Islam have nothing to do with Islam at all, but a failing on the part of other individual Muslims or even their community as a whole.

It is critical that you, as a new Muslim, understand that Allah has instructed your community to provide you with support. If it is not offered to you, or if support is not given when you seek it, then you need to know that that is man’s failing, and not Islam’s.

Muslims have an obligation to help new Muslims in a number of ways, including but not limited to mentorship, counseling, education, supportive community, and even financial support if need arises. You can read a declaration of the rights of new Muslims here that discusses this in more detail.

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Answering Tough Questions about The Prophet

Questions asked anonymously, answered by Theresa Corbin, and originally published on Al Jumuah

There are so many untruths spreading through the Western world (and have been for centuries) about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). For those of us who love and deeply respect the Prophet, these egregious fallacies can be hard to fathom, much less refute. But we must answer the hard questions for those who are curious and have been wading through the mountain of ignorant cant about this noble man.

Answering Questions about The Prophet

 

And recently, I had the honor to do just that for one brave person who chose to ask a Muslim –and not the number of unreliable sources out there– honest questions that were born out of research into Islam. I hope that sharing the following Q&A can help others clear up some of the misconceptions and malicious errors about the Prophet (PBUH), his example, and the message of Islam.

Q: Why would Muhammad send followers to loot and raid caravans travelling through Madinah? OK, so it was an accepted practice at the time, but you kind of wish that your prophet could rise above stuff like stealing and killing.

A: This is one weapon Islamophobes use to paint the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as a war monger. But they don’t seem ever to talk about the context: that would put a damper on the claims they are trying to make.

The polytheists of Makkah during the time of Revelation tortured, killed, starved out the Muslims. When the Muslims made their exodus from Makkah for Madinah, they had to do so in secret for fear of being murdered. And that meant they would escape only with what they could carry for a safer place to live and to worship God alone.

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Let’s Stop Sugar-Coating The Muslim Community

written by Kaighla Um Dayo

Ladies and Gentlemen, have I got an excellent deal for you! But Hurry! It’s only for a limited time. Act now and don’t miss out on this incredible offer!!

How would you like to leave your current religious community and join mine, for free? Our community is made up of only the best-quality people.

Imagine how you’d feel in THIS beautiful religious community! No more broken hearts, no more frayed nerves. Bye bye frustrating unanswered questions! Sayonara, pew-brain!

You can kiss those pesky fellows good-bye, because in my 100% certified authentic religious community, there are absolutely no fillers, no artificial people, and no annoying preserved traditions!

And if you act fast, we’ll even throw in a tacky hijab or kufi AND a poorly-translated Quran, all for FREE, but only today! 

No, But Seriously

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An American Islam?

written by Theresa Corbin

originally published on aboutislam.net

Recently, I came across an article written by Reza Aslan on Foreign Policy, entitled, “There Is No Divide Between Islam and American Culture”. In fact an American woman, who recently converted to Islam shared it with me.

It seemed to be a lifeline to her as a new Muslim. Even a beacon of hope for her in a tough situation-being attacked by most people in her life for her choice of religion. To me, it was another way of saying the same thing I have been writing about for years.

In many ways, I emphatically agreed with Aslan’s piece. I usually do as he has a great way of correcting people’s misconceptions about Islam that is urbane with a touch of “duh, you guys! this is so obvious”.

When Aslan called people who think culture and faith are incompatible, naive; I laughed literally out loud. It was fitting. When he put people on notice that they are being emotional when they think Islam clashes with being American, I thought of all the people who have harangued me through the years with this uneducated and unsophisticated understanding.

I thought of the engineer who assumed I was not allowed to go to a baseball game. The doctor who told me I was giving up my identity when I told her I converted to Islam. The countless people who are brave enough to ask where I am from and then refuse to believe my answer.

I thought of all these people who have come in and usually quickly out of my life. No matter how educated or how well-traveled, they all have an emotional reaction to my existence as an American Muslim. And when plied for their reasons, they can only produce hearsay, anecdotal evidence, and regurgitated propaganda.

This reaction to culture and religion is naive and this reaction to Islam is emotional because those who believe Islam is un-American have never measured this conception against facts.

‘Urf and Deen: Culture and Religion 

The fact is that being as American as apple pie and as Muslim as five-times-daily-prayer is not only NOT incompatible, it is natural and a continuation of Islamic tradition.

As Dr. Umar Faruq Abd-Allah writes, “For centuries, Islamic civilization harmonized indigenous forms of cultural expression with the universal norms of its sacred law. It struck a balance between temporal beauty and ageless truth and fanned a brilliant peacock’s tail of unity in diversity from the heart of China to the shores of the Atlantic.

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