Sister Soljah
February 29, 2004
 
SYLVIA...the movie about Sylvia Plath

Lazy afternoon. Snowy outside. Read the Quran, and some of Hussein: The Savior of Islam. Then watched Sylvia. Good movie. I used to read Sylvia Plath right after high school. She spoke in a way that appealed to my teenage angst. I used to carry the Bell Jar as a bible back then. Loved being melancholy. I remember me and my boyfriend used to go to behemianish coffee houses and talk of poetry and darkness and the mad mad world. We were so passionate about poetry and tea. lol. Used to drink tea and speak like Victorian poets. Funny now looking back on those days. Then he asked me to marry him and everything changed. The writer within wouldn't let me give up my freedom. Why is that so many writers and artists in general find marriage so constricting. And why do we tend to enjoy lonliness, melancholy, and longing much more than the fulfillment of longing? Back then (and even now) I would give anything to have been twenty-two in the sixties....behemian lifestyle. Small pad shared by six somewhere on the East Side talking and writing about poetry and revolution. Incense and smoke. Studying Buddhism. I've done all these things but it lacks the purity it did back then. Who would have ever thought I would have become a Muslim. My God, sometimes I am in shock myself. Anyhow...the movie was good. Got me reminiscing of youth and the days when Sylvia was a queen to me. In the movie there is a scene where she is actually happy and in love and this is when she gets writer's block. It's like if we aren't longing we can't create poetry. It's that way for me. It's one of the reasons I think marriage scares me. What would happen to my writing when there is a husband and kids to think about? I pray to God it doesn't zap the creative juice.
 
 
Time

Time is the enemy
Learning the goal
So many books
So many thoughts
So many paintings
and writing to do
Why must we sleep, eat, work, pray?
My insatiable hunger
Unquestionable thirst
for answers
longs to be fulfilled.
 
 
Whew... I was in a bad place last night. Feeling much better. Optimistic and ready to tackle the world again. I just have to remember Muslims are just people and so am I. I just need to go the speed limit instead of speeding.
 
 
MUHARRAM MELTDOWN

Meltdown day. Today was good...nice rainy day...watched a movie and read. I was feeling rebellious and didn't want to go to the mosque...but did. Big let down. Got there and there was no where to sit or stand...or anything. Where have these people come from? There's more and more every night. It's depressing that they don't show up any other time. This was the beginning of my evening of disillussionment. First thing that went wrong is that I couldn't hear any of the lectures. Not a word...I was watching them on the tv but everyone was talking so much that I heard nothing. That upset me. Everyone comes to the mosque during Muharram but no one listens to the lectures. It's a shame. I hate to be judgmental because I really thought Muharram would be eye opening for me...a good experience and all it's done is make me disillusioned....the mosque has become a social gathering. Some don't even wear the scarf. It seems like at the mosque they could take the time to put one on. Who cares what it looks like. We are all women. It just doesn't matter. Then to come to the mosque and not pay attention. I look at this and wonder what's wrong. I'm sure they are all good muslims, but why don't they ever come during the rest of the year? Islam is about unity and the community from what I've read and it just doesn't feel like it's that way. Sadly...and I do mean sadly, I feel a lot of what is going on right now is fake...not necessarily the traditions or events but the sudden interest in religion. Islam is not about convenience....there's a reason we pray five times a day....it's a way of life not just a month. It makes me want to quit. There are three times as many women as there are men, yet the men have the big space and the women the small. Not fair. I left early. I cried tonight. Out of anger, fear, sadness, confusion....a culmination of feelings of the last couple months. I feel like giving up. I wonder if Born Muslims know how good they have it. Raised with the blessing of Islam, raised with the knowledge, raised with the culture/traditions, and raised with the language. Looking around I feel many take it for granted. It makes me sad because I work so hard at it. Every aspect of my life has changed and continues to change. Everything I do is never enough. It's hard work and a struggle. But tonight was the worst. I felt like giving up and I am so stubborn so when I'm thinking about giving up on something...there's something seriously wrong. I have been listening to music the last few days because it gives me a sort of escape even though I'm not supposed to be listening to music during Muharram. And I have been adamently stubborn about it - people keep telling me I shouldn't but I still am. This week has been hard for me emotionally and physically and spiritually. I've thought so many times about dropping everything and going back to the easy life. Music lets me escape the negative thoughts and try and regroup yet I am feeling guilty about it. It's just been hard giving up so much in such a short time and changing so much. When people tell me to do this or that I sometimes want to scream. I'm doing the best I can and am seriously trying to be a good Muslim. My prayers lately have been all about getting me through all this and forgiving me for all I do wrong. I can only do so much at a time and it seems like no one understands what I'm going through. It's hard to give up everything you know....from the way you go to the bathroom, to what to eat, how to dress, how to act, how to do this and do that. It's a lot for one person to handle. No one understands. I need a shoulder to cry on tonight or a hug...something. Talking or writing isn't enough. My life sometimes doesn't feel like my life anymore...I'm here but even my thought process has changed. I only think of Allah and what He must think of me and how I am letting Him down. And then I have to worry about letting everyone else down too. It's just so much pressure. I guess it all hit me tonight when I see so many Muslims that don't seem to practice as hard as I do (not trying to judge here, but it's how I'm feeling) - to come during this special time of year yet in two weeks they will all have disappeared again. It confuses me. And it makes me sad. I'm not going to the mosque for the rest of Muharram because it's really messing me up. Need to regroup so I don't quit. I'm so close to the edge right now...

I guess the whole world is just getting to me today. We as Shia's are split...Afghani's in one corner, Pakistani's in another, et cetera et cetera.... It's no wonder the world is so divided. I so wish we could get to a place where there is just the human race with no division. Some days I wonder how we are still here. The violence, the hate, corrupt leaders, materialism, selfishness, disregard for our creator, condemnation.....how much longer can it go on until we are all annialated? When I think of the state of the world I get depressed. It makes me cry. And tonight has been a night of tears. I pray for peace but is it enough? Is it ever enough?
 
February 28, 2004
 
6th night of Muharram.

It was an interesting one. The guest speaker was very hard to understand...strong strong accent and spoke so fast and switched back and forth between Arabic and English so much that i was lost most of the time. This is what I heard....Allah...Hussain....Muhammed (SAW)...He's the man. I mean THE MAN. I almost laughed then cause that's all I heard. Then he went into the story of Karbala and I got a lot of that because I have been studying it...but man, i couldn't understand anything he was saying. And then he kept saying 313. How many? 313. How many? 313. I kept wondering what was 313. Then I heard 313 Muslimeen. And then he talked about number of shoes...? I was lost.

Then the regular sheikh spoke about culture and Ashura and it's importance. ...that showing up for cultural events, shedding a tear, then going back to normal life is not what Ashura is about. He also equated it to freedom and how some can't practice so openly because of geography. And also talked about the pounding of the chests, crying, and how this expresses emotion and should not be made fun of. But also how doing these things are about freedom...freedom to do them. I liked what he had said. And I liked that he kind of hit on something that's been bugging me. Mosque attendence has gone up from about 12 to 70. That's a lot. I wonder where everyone hides all year. He spoke of how mosque attendence is actually important and I agree wholeheartedly. Good lecture.

The Arabic poems brought welping tears from everyone and the Urdu ones also brought a lot of tears and chest pounding. I so wish I knew one or the other languages so I can understand the tears. It was very emotional in there....

Skipped out after a while ... around 10:00 or so... just felt like an observer and didn't want to intrude on everyone's privacy...
 
February 27, 2004
 
The Mirror....

Watched "The Mirror"...an Iranian movie...this morning and it was a very interesting film. I could talk a lot about it but rather will talk of a few things that made me think.

There was a discussion in the movie where a guy was saying a woman's job is the home, the man's outside the home and that he shouldn't do a single thing at home ever...that this would make him a slave. Interesting thought. Not. Growing up in a place where women were expected to go to the workplace, and then go home to the home and continue working, I have an issue with this. Men (not all, but many) think that staying at home and raising kids is not work at all and that's what the guy in the movie seemed to be saying too. I have to disagree. What other job is there that is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? You can't call in sick, can't clock out, and don't get paid for overtime. And what harder job is there than to try and raise a good family....that's a heavier responsibility than any man made job. To keep a family intact, happy, and good. I don't know... I can't really talk now since I don't have a family and am working for the man...but that's how I see it. I just didn't like what he said about the man would be a slave if he worked for the home too. His job is purely monetary. Like a man who helps with the dishes is weak or something. That statement just bothered me. Mind you...this is coming from a woman who does want to work in the home.... I just think it deserves a little...er...a lot....of respect.

Another thing was the women and the men have different sections on the bus...reminded me of Rosie Parks. I didn't know that until I watched the movie. But the weird thing, since converting to Islam, I've become more womanly if that makes sense. At first I thought the segregation would be so constrictive to me, but what I found was that women and men are very different species. Completely. I didn't realize it so much until I spent time in a room full of just women and then it dawns on you that we really are like night and day. Since converting I feel the sisterhood of women. It's interesting. Women who aren't competing for a man's attention can be free together and talk about anything. It's like a private little world that I find very enjoyable....
 
 
IMMIGRANT

I feel like an immigrant sometimes. I have adapted to a new way of life, but the languages are confusing, the dress different, the food interesting, and everything is new. I haven't felt "American" for a long time, but these days, I feel like I am new to this country. The stares I get at the post office, the grocery store.....suburbia. People look at me like I am from another country and make me feel like I am an outsider. Yet in the new world I immigrated to, I also feel like an outsider. Often I sit alone unable to understand the words spoken around me and feel lonely. People say you can't separate Muslim and American...that they shouldn't be separated. I say "whatever." I don't feel American, I do feel Muslim, but I also feel like I am an outsider to both. It's the hard part. Sometimes I think more people would convert if it weren't so hard to adapt. That, and all the rules. I read last night that I am supposed to perform Wudu (spiritual cleansing) before even touching or reading the Quran. So many new rules I find out everyday....gets overwhelming at times. Maybe that's why so many others think we Muslims are uptight and strange. We live our lives completely by rules. It separates us and I think excludes people from joining us. It is hard and it seriously takes committment to do it. So many rules begin to bog me down - a person attracted to rules. I just wanted to get close to Allah and be a better person - I didn't expect to feel the constriction. The funny thing is the the beliefs don't restrict me - just the rules get overwhelming at times. I like most of them...fasting, prayer, cleanliness, study, etc....but some just make me feel bogged down.
 
 
5th DAY OF MUHARRAM

So I made it to the mosque...5th day of Muharram and well sometimes I feel like Islam is a mix of culture, tradition, and religion. I'm trying to just stick to the religion part. Pounding of the chests is something I'm not comfortable doing (yet?). I feel and I think, but publicly displaying my sorrow is not something that fits me. And especially with the recitations being done in Urdu and Arabic - I feel lost. I wish I knew these languages and it is something I am going to do in time in sh'Allah. In all honesty, this is the hardest part of Islam. Not understanding half of what is going on around me and frustrated because I can't learn enough, fast enough. As soon as I have a grip on it, I realize I know nothing.

The lecture was interesting though. Non-violence. Ghandi, MLK, and Dalai Lama were part of the discussion which is good. As a person who has studied religion so thoroughly (and half the time lost in the confusion and questions), I tend to compare religions and thoughts a lot. I guess growing up Catholic just made me question everything because I didn't agree with the church a lot. I was thinking about that today since yesterday was Ash Wednesday and usually I would have been walking around with ash on my forehead, but now it's a hijab on my head. Who would have thought that instead of Lent, i would be prostrating in prayer? I sure didn't. It's been strange.

I was also thinking of Mardi Gras and how pagan it is and its roots being Catholic and how pagan Catholicism is in general. Funny feeling though.

Ah...back to non-violence. It's ironic that I found Islam through my political thoughts and quite honestly I didn't find the sprituality of Islam until later. And that is when I found it to be the most non-violent religion. I read the Bible and then the Quran. Allah is compassionate where while reading the Bible, i found God to be violent and almost hateful. Crusaders come to mind too. We all believe in the same God (well except a few) but if Christians read the Quran and Muslims read the Bible, I think some peace may just be possible. In sh'Allah there will one day be education and understanding between all .... Until then I can only pray for such. If everyone were educated, everyone would be revoloutionaries.
 
February 26, 2004
 
New at this...but have heard a lot about blogging and figure I need an outlet for all my thoughts. As a new convert to Islam, I'm going through so many changes and don't seem to have an outlet for my thoughts, frustrations, feelings, and experiences. In sh'Allah I will record much that I've been going through and turn it into a book later for converts. I think a book about converting would have been helpful for me and I hope I can help others in the future.
 
When you figure it out, tell me.

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Location: Atlanta, Georgia, United States

A recent convert to Islam...finally found what I was searching for. I am a writer and love to read and learn. I also love travelling and getting to know new cultures and ways of thinking.

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