Monday, July 24, 2006

Input, por favor

Hajj. We're considering very seriously to go this year. When Malcolm X performed Hajj it transformed him. He was born in an extremely racist time in the US and harbored grave resentment. At Hajj he saw people of all the colors of the human spectrum interacting as equals and it changed his views forever. I longed to perform Hajj as a child but recently my eyes have grown clouded with cynicism. I've heard of people robbed during tawaf, women being molested mere footsteps from the Kabbah, stampedes where its each man for himself. To see selfishness and the shortcomings of man in a place where we all are striving to be spiritually complete, I'm afraid what that will do to my own spirituality. Also, though I am sure going to the Kabbah despite it all will be a moving experience for me on a personal spiritual level, at one time I read that it had great political and cultural significance and was almost a national conference to deal with issues in the Muslim world. Is this still the case? Some say we do Hajj to see where the Prophet lived, etc. But that can be done other times of the year as well. What was it initially envisioned to be? Is it the same as what is today? Have you gone to Hajj, what was your experience? I realize my questioning might offend some people but its not my intention. I'm seeking to learn more about it so that when we go I can fully appreciate it.

Speak or stay silent? I went to Borders to do some book browsing and was taken aback by a particular work of fiction written by an author I greatly admire and respect. It embodied every stereotype of Muslims and put it into quite a poorly written book (not just my opinion, many critics were surprised by his unusual topic and the subpar storyline). I debated sharing the title and expressing my thoughts on it. But I'm confused. When you see something like this do you discuss and create controversy or do you stay silent and let it simmer and die out. Controversy is the sole reason Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses is still in print and what shot Boyz in the Hood up the box office charts. So what does one do when they see something they disagree with? Light a fire and bring attention to it hoping it will illuminate the truth behind the falsehood? In doing so you risk the fire running free giving what you tried to put out a new life of its own.

Writing Groups. I'm reading a book right now called Bird By Bird about the art of writing. Have you ever had a moment that you are thinking something and the answer directly came to you? Yesterday as I waited for my eye appointment I picked up the book and thought to myself, "I hope by the time I finish this book I can start writing because I have so many stories bursting at the seams but my writing stinks. Then I open the book and my eyes fall upon this: "I don't think you have time to waste not writing because you are afraid you won't be good enough at it" WOAH. Okay granted, its not like I was reading "Star Wars" and came across this. It was indeed a book about writing. But. Still. The writer recommends writing groups to keep yourself motivated. You meet however often is convenient. Set weekly goals. Like finish a chapter, or 300 words, or whatever it is. So I'm just throwing this out there to my quiet friends who I suspect read this blog... Are you an aspiring writer. Would you be interested? Please email/call if interested.

37 comments:

The Adventures of Nick & Ryan said...

i've read bird by bird and it is pretty good. something i know that help me is that writing is like anything else. the more you do it the better it gets. at first it sucks, but you build muscle as you go. i read this once, "you'd be surprised how much writing is like any other job. most of it just involves showing up." it's totally true. keep at it. i just read your blog and you are a fine writer.
-nick
just started a blog with my friend. check it out if you would like to. not much up yet. doyouwannafightme.blogspot.com

Hasan the Not-So-Great said...

You can spend $3000 on a premium hajj package, but it still won't be easy. Hajj is hajj because you learn something through the hardship. Remember that if and (InshAllah) when you go.

And remember me in your prayers :)

Aisha said...

Welcome to the world of blogging Nick :) Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I guess building up writing is like a muscle in some ways but since its considered more an art than a physical endeavor of endurance you really get hard on yourself when its not flowing like Edgar Allen Poe on the first draft. But I'm happy to hear that overtime it grows easier. Thank you for the encouragement.

Hasan, actually packages that arep remimum are over $5,500. Things have gone up :) But that's not the issue. The issue isn't about the physical hardship of Hajj. Either way I will kep you in my duas :)

Tee said...

I'm not sure I'm really qualified to give my opinion on performing Hajj. I would mostly be concerned for your safety since one of the basic things I know about it from the news is that some people get hurt or killed. I'm interested to know as well if performing it at a different time of year is a big deal or not. That would be a good option.

(I Googled and it said Hajj should be performed at the designated time of year. If performed during any other time it's considered a umrah (lesser pilgrimage).)

There's a very interesting comments section on whether Hajj can be made safely at BBC News . It's from 2004 but a lot of people with really great ideas. Hopefully someone will create some kind of organization/effort to keeping Hajj safe and organized, if it hasn't been done already.

I personally, because I'm Christian with Jewish heritage would like to make a pilgrimage to many sites in Israel. I imagine it will be life changing. God willing, I'll go some day but with the violence and cost and having children it will have to wait.

Your "speak or stay silent" paragraph is very insightful. This is a very good question. Maybe in a backwards world where evil things make their creators rich, we should stay silent - although I think most religions would call us to publicly condemn evil. God will make sure they get their judgement regardless. I could go either way on this issue!

It sounds like you found a book that will help you take the plunge. There is a book I keep handy at all times. I have even gone through and highlighted so I can pick it up for instant inspiration. It's call Art and Fear. It's for all artists (writers and musicians included). It talks about why aren't gets made, and why it doesn't.

The book has many "guest appearances" and great quotes. Here's one you will like:

"Writing is easy:
all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead." - Gene Fowler

The writer says, "Making art provides uncomfortably accurate feedback about the gap that inevitably exists between what you intended to do, and what you did." - And reading that was a breakthrough for me. To be able to admit to myself that fear was holding me back from making art (or writing.)

Here's some more from the book, "Consider that if artist equals self, then when (inevitably) you make flawed art, you are a flawed person, and when (worse yet) you make no art, you are no person at all!"

Ok - one more (this is good stuff isn't it?) ...

"Artists don't get down to work until the pain of working is exceeded by the pain of not working." - Stephen DeStaebler

...I have only given you some of what I have highlighted up to page 9 and the book has 122 pages. It's completely full of this kind of wisdom and inspiration.

I can't wait to see you in print, Aisha.

Tee said...

Correction: When describing the book Art and Fear I said, "It talks about why aren't gets made, and why it doesn't."

aren't = art

Stupid brain. LOL. It must have short circuited for a second.

roora said...

i haven't gone to hajj , i went to omrah, if you need something about logistics or you wanna undertsand something like the Kaaba sides' names and how to perfom the tawaf , i can ISA. My parents went there , my mom just did one last year. So if you need something tell me and i will ask them.

omrah in ramadan and hajj are indeed crowded, but you will be more self occupied with the emotions of seeing the Kaaba (looking to it itself is worship ). And visiting the prophet (PBUH) in madina (but that can be done in any other time other than hajj ) gives undescrible feeling.

I am longing to go hajj ISA too because it is fard and i will feel good towards doing it ISA, anyways, if you went ISA, and remembered me please pray for me.

Aisha said...

Tee wow thanks for your input. Jerusalem seems to hold a tender spot for many faiths. Its so sad that a place that three faiths claim a stake in is filled with so much violence and conflict. Yeah Hajj itself has to be performed at a particular time. We'll see, the decision has to be made soon though b/c the packages go fast to go. The book Art and Fear is amazing. Those quotes really shook me Tee. WOW. ITS SO TRUE. I am so frightened that I will write and it will be awful and then what am I? Its the dream in the recesses of my mind and to think of failing at it frightens me because if I dont have this dream I dont nkow what I'll think of me... I fear writing because I fear what it will say about me. It really is fear holding me back. Wow. I need to buy that book! Thanks for sharing it.

Roora, thank you for offering to give advice, I appreciaet it :) I hope you get to go one day. And yes you will be in my duas isa:)

tahin said...

Sister.. I am so happy for you. Please make dua for me, i would like to go as well inshallah.
:(

Amani said...

I would love to be a part of a writing group. Lately, I have been craving an outlet for my creative energy besides blogging. Let me know (amaniangel1983@aol.com)

mystic-soul said...

1. I think, you should go for Hajj. Everyone I know who went for hajj has some trasformation. Bad people are everywhere, even in kaaba..forget them..do it. One of my friend went for Hajj 3 years ago. When I asked him..he said: "It was like mini-qayamat...lot of souls in white calling God"... !!. Go to Madina for sure, Some people found muhammad's 'rozae-mubarak' a bigger spritual experience itself than kaaba. - khuda to sub ka hai, muhammad sirf hamara hai...lol/


2. Don't comment/reply...They just want to ignite irritation as you said salman rushdie's book. There is no end to it.

3. Per Rumi...you will get book, destined for you, when time is ripe !!!...

momyblogR said...

Keeping quiet is not really one of my specialties, especially when I truly feel strongly. I agree about the drawing attention to the thing you disagree with, when you speak up. However, I still feel I need to state my case whatever the outcome. Not always a good thing, I know.:(

Writing...ok, you DON'T stink, and perhaps that is just the thing you needed to read. Even our passions need practice. I think a writing group is a great idea. Some friends and myself attend a photography workshop that meets twice a month. We post our photos and homework on a workshop site where we can critique each others work. It's not only helpful but fun.

I honestly take 100's of photo's a week and save only a hand full. BUT, I just love it and find that I'm getting the shot I want in less takes. Sometime as few as only two. I know it's not writing still it's a creative outlet that gets better as I use it. LOTS of practice.

I guess I'm saying....write, write WRITE! I have no doubt you will be successful.

Aisha said...

Tahin, thanks but not sure if I'm going yet. If I go duaas most certainly :)

Amani do you live around me? (Atlanta)

Mystic, I guess I should look at Hajj in that manner. Thanks for the faith re book.:)

Aisha said...

Mommyblogr that was 100% inspirational. I had no idea you were part of such a group. Its true as with anything practice makes perfect. I think I'm going to start doing just that. How did you find these people though> I feel that finding fellow photography enthusiasts would be a a hard niche to come across.

Anonymous said...

Aisha,
Salaams I thought i'd throw my two-cents in about Hajj..I pray that ALlah makes it easy for you and Kashif

Shaikh Muktar related a story once about Hajj, that i'll paraphrase (please forgive me if i butcher it). he said..that many years after the Prophet during Hajj some Angels had gathered and were talking about how many people had a Hajj Mabroor (A Hajj that was accepted)..the big Angel said some low number like 1. (there were hundreds of thousands people doing Hajj during that time). The reason was because people weren't remembering their intentions and got caught up in other stuff.

The next day, the Angel asked the same thing...and the big Angel said all hundreds of thousands had performed a Hajj Mabroor. The Baraka (goodness) of Allah transformed the goodness of the 1 person and had it covered all the Hajjis. And the reward for a Hajj Mabroor ? :) I'll leave it at that.. :)


Some additional thoughts that Shaikh Muktar said and im paraphrasing again.
Don't worry about the crowds and any of the so called negatives of Hajj. You WILL have long waits, you WILL probably get sick, but it's all worth it. If you keep your mind on what you're there for and focus on the spiritual side of it. You will find a tranquility that makes even the most crowded of crowds seem light and easy. And the most longest of waits seem short and quick.

So let me sum it up by saying, don't worry about anything, its not easy, but once you are there you'll realize people hype it up to more than it sometimes is. InshaAllah I hope you and Kashif are able to go and I hope you have an amazing Hajj inshaAllah..more importantly I can't wait to read the blog about it :)

faique

Anonymous said...

Aisha, my $0.02. Go for hajj when you are financially capable of doing so, and asap. Once you have a family it'll be religiously compulsory on you to ensure if you go on hajj without kids there are reserve funds for someone to look after the family, make wills, etc. Obviously now is a good time.

Don't worry about what they say about criminals during hajj. That's just cynic thoughts. It is said not everyone can perform the hajj. Only those souls that have answered Allah's invitation by saying Labbayak in Louh-e-Mahfooz (I hope I got the name right) are going to do that hajj. So IMHO we should try to be those souls. I went for hajj when I was very young, and I went for Umrah recently and I can tell you it was a surreal experience.
-mezba

Sohnii said...

Aisha!

I'd love to participate in the writing thing tho i cant promise i'll be very regular, cuz of my uni and all.

Huda said...

you WILL probably get sick

There's no probably about it. My motto in 2005 -- if you didn't get sick, you did something wrong!

But you know how I feel about hajj, so you know I am going to say you should go, now, when you have the time and the money ready at hand. Insha'Allah, it will be everything you want it to be, and more. Whenever you go, though, I guarantee that you will leave a piece of yourself at Al-Nabwi and the Haram.

Oh, and btw... Zamzam's the word for us. I am mailing off the check today, insha'Allah.

Huda said...

Also, writing group... keep me posted, although I am not making any guarantees because I tend to be so insecure about my (fictional) writing, I bolt whenever it comes time for putting it on display. It's the same (to a lesser extent) about the nonfictional stuff, although I'm growing a thicker skin about that these days... but at the beginning, I think I told two people I had a blog, mostly because I was writing it for me and was afraid of what people might think of it if they read it. :)

momyblogR said...

I guess I was lucky in finding the workshop. My friends Uncle who is also my neighbor is an avivd photographer and put it together. But I'm also always looking for information. Yesterday, I spent 45 minutes talking to a young girl that was developing some photo's for me...she has a degree in photography. She showed me some of her work and said I was welcome to come and chat anytime and to brng some more of my stuff. I'm sure I will.

It sounds like you have several people that are interested in a writing group. I never realized how many people have a real desire to be writers. I guess because I'm lucky if I get a sentence together that actually makes sense. Man, I think you guys should do it....it would be GREAT!

I read a book lastnight by James Patterson. It was ok, but the thing I loved about it was the Grandmother character wrote...not professionally but she wrote letters to her granddaughter that she loved greatly and had fabulous relationship with. She hsd things she never told her in person, secrets, but put them all in these letters...it was basically a story of her life. She wanted her granddaughter to know "her story." There were 170 of them and upon her falling ill the granddaught found them and was instructed to read only a couple at a time....I thought what a GREAT idea.

You could start writing, telling "your story" to a specific audience, your children and even grandchildren. I mean all that you've done, places you've gone and how it made you feel this far in your life, I think your children would love to read about one day. If nothing else it would let them know what kind of woman their mother was.

OK, maybe I'm crazy but still think, "what a great thing to do!"

:):)

mayya said...

my parents are inshAllah going for Hajj this year. In terms of weather this time or the coming few years are a very good option..though I'm sure thats a very trivial reason to consider doing Hajj now :)

Aisha said...

Faique, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It means a lot. I'm not concerned about the wait or the lines (I was a teacher, I've learned a thing or two about patience, lol :)) I guess I'm worried about being disenchanted because of the wrong doings of others that I may encounter. The story of the one who got the blessings and it radiated to others is inspiring to keep yourself in check and don't worry about others... but when you went did you encounter any of the downsides of seeing people doing what tey shouldnt (i.e. robbing, pushing, shoving, etc.)


Mezba, long time no see. Why are you posting as anonymous? :-/ You haev a good apoint about childrenand how things gety way more complciated then. Its a good way to look at it. Didy ou do Umrah during Ramadan?

Sohnii, if only you lived in Atlanta it would be so much fun to be in a writing group :( If you are intereseted we could talk about it online though.

Huda, I think we're leaning towards airlink but have made no final determination. Insh'allah by the weekend we will have decided. I DIDNT KNOW YOU WROTE :) I mean the blog ofcourse but not fiction. If you would like to do it that would be very very cool and give us a chance to meet up too. For some reason I'm not nervous about my blog writing. I dont know why I dont feel like its writing. Its sharing myself and my thoughts. I guess that is writing but I dont know why it doesnt intimidate me like writing fiction does...

Mommyblogr, you are reading my mind!! :) I am planning to write a story like you said actually, how weird! But not about me, about my parents. I wanted to chronicle their childhood because it was so diff from mine and the immigration experience. I dont care if it is publshed or not, but it would be a great peice to have. Wow great minds think alike ;-) lol

Mayya are you thinking of joining your parents? And I think weather is a big factor, I mean people die from heat there so its better to do it when the weather is more conducive to your safety and health :)

Amani said...

yes..I live in Stone Mountain, GA

Enyur said...

I haven't been to Hajj, like you I have always wanted to go. When you do go (Insha'allah) please remember me in your prayers as well!
I've heard that it's a life changing experience. I think the purpose of Hajj (aside from the fact that it's one of the 5 pillars of Islam)is to strengthen the connection between a Believer and Allah.
Unfortunately, some people go to show that they can 'afford it' It becomes a status thing for some reason, which defeats the purpose of going there, I think!

It is said that if you can afford to perform Hajj you should 'at least' once in your life time. But say you have enough money to go every year (which some people do), it is preferred that you spend that money on the needy (which would equal to the sawaab you'd receive from performing that Hajj).

I think Islam emphasizes the importance of the niyah (intention), which is what will count at the end. If someone goes to Hajj so that they can brag about it later etc. then even though they performed that Hajj, it may be considered as nothing before Allah. Whereas someone who had intended to go to Hajj but decided to give away their money (to go)to someone who was in real need of it...it would be as if they have performed Hajj.

And about that trampling thingy...from what I've heard, when you're infront of the Kaa'ba, you tend to forget everything and everyone but Allah (SWT)

By the way, I think you're a really good writer (proof: your blog readers). Anyway, I'd be interested in your blog writing group...unfortunately, I could only participate 'online'. I took professional/creative writing in university and it was the best course I ever took! We had editing groups, where everyone wrote a story (usually non-fiction, which is what I liked writing) and then your story would get passed around for others to edit.

Aisha said...

Enyur! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for your kind words about my writing :) This creative writing class, was it part of your course work or independent? I am trying to figure out how to sign up for a creative writing class just for personal growht (though realistically once I graduate! lol)

Also, I fully agree with you about once you've done it once, if you feel the need to go again, pay for a needy person to do it. It never ceases to amaze me how I'm so nonchalantly deciding whether to go to Hajj or not when there are people in this world whose only wish in life is to see the Kabbah ITs amazing.

Amani- that's awesome. I wonder if we've met! I used to teach in that area :) (Jolly)

mezba said...

Aisha, for some reason I could not post from my blogger account yest. Don't worry abt long time no see .. I read you regularly, sometimes don't have anything useful to add! :-)

mezba said...

No I didn't do Umrah during Ramadan. It's super bz then too, especially last 10 days.

Muslim Wife said...

Assalaamu Alaikum...Thanks for stopping by my blog Aisha, I feel so special now! : )

Alhamdulillah, thats a 'yes' to your first question and actually, we've moved to what I think is your hometown;-)

As far as traveling in niqaab, alhamdulillah, no problems. I figure the people who stare at me in niqaab are gonna stare at me if I was in hijab, too. As long as you keep your intentions fee sabilillah (in the way of Allah) then everything runs smooth.

And I just had to stay, regarding Hajj, it's not supposed to be easy. Alhamdulillah, I went earlier this year and had all the expected annoyances and hardship one finds during Hajj, but it's a pilgrimage, not a vacation. The tests and hardships come in different forms during different times. The Prophet had animal intestines thrown on him as he prayed in front of the Kabah, other sahaba were tortured or killed. In our day, being pushed around or conned outta money is the norm. Yes, we were very disheartened with the attitudes of some (most) of the Muslims there, but here, I was there to my thing, and knew I would be accountable for my actions, so I tried not to let it bother me. This is one of the many ways shaitan messes with you on Hajj.

And if that's not enough to calm your worries about Hajj, remember that when you hear all the stories about the stampedes and what not, automatic Jannah....and that should bring a smile to your pretty face : )

Wasalaam

Aisha said...

Mezba, glad to know you were still around :)

Farah, my hometown. Is it smack dab in the middle of a sunny state? Hmm.... That's awesome. Maybe when I'm visiting my folks I can see you. lol. considering I'm two miles away and never do. BTW if you are in town during the summer please let me know because I dont have school to worry about. I'd love to ask you in person about Hajj. If not, maybe Ill email you with smore more questions.

Chic Mommy said...

just don't use Dar El Salam

http://www.darelsalam.com/index.htm

travel agency, they are scam artists. My sister used them last year for Hajj and were ripped off royally. they slept on the floor of a smelly bus station when they were promised 5 star accomodations, and PAID for 5 star accomodations. Her husband tried to sue, but it didn't work, apparently they had a "disclaimer" in tiny print that said 5 star subject to availability. They are such a bunch of theives. stay away from them

Aisha said...

Chic, that is CRAZY. I will be sure to stay away. Btw- when you say tried. Did they lose at trial? Or did they not even try? Disclaimers are not a big deal really. It depends on a lot. Like how tiny the print was etc. I am TOTALLY not a lawyer yet but its my two cents just as a non lawyer observer. these folks should have to pay for what they did.

Chic Mommy said...

Aisha, my BIL actually confronted the managers, who were also doing hajj, and staying in a nice air conditioned tent near the bus stop. I think it went something like my BIL saying to them, "look I did not pay $5,000 for me and my wife to sleep on the floor of the bus stop, I feel like I got ripped off" to which they replied, "oh but you don't understand, we don't guarantee the rooms during hajj, there is such an influx of people here...blah blah, and don't you know the Prophet suffered so much? This is nothing compared to what the Prophet suffered," to which my BIL replies, "Yes, but I didn't pay five grand to suffer like the Prophet did, if that was going to be the case, you should have said so. I'm going to contact my lawyer when I get back to the U.S.", to which the managers replied, "well you can't sue us because we have a disclaimer on our website."

By the time my sister and BIL came back, they were so tired and so thankful to be back home that they didn't have energy to sue, thinking they probably didn't have a case (all the other people in their trip suffered the same experience I personally think they could have had a good class-action possibility) so they let it go. But they did write an e-mail to the Better Business Bureau. Don't know if it made a difference. I have some pics of her experience though, I might make a blog post of it in the near future.

Aisha said...

That just horrifies me. And their statement of you can't sue us b/c we have a disclaimer is bull. (Just for future reference). You can still sue b/c if that were the caseitwould be quite unfair.. I'm glad you reported themto the better business beaureu. Each person who reports it, it will build up and get these ppl to fix their act. It really shocks me Chic how much fraud and deciet occurs with these travel agencies getting people to Hajj. These must be the truly heinous souls to have no fear of God. How can you cheat people and wrong them as they make their journey to complete a pillar of Islam?> ridicuilousl

Rabia said...

Everyone says to perform Hajj when you're young so you can endure the hardships easier. I've done Umrah and it was an amazing experience spiritually. Seeing the Kaba for the first time made tears roll out of my eyes and I completely forgot about my parents and went on to perform the rituals without them. I was so engrossed. But, the Arabs are difficult people to deal with.

wayfarer said...

I'd definately be interested. :-)

Aisha said...

Rabia that is awesome that you got to experience that. Insh'allah when I go I too will not focus on the shortcomings of those around me but on my own spiritual journey at the Kabbah.

Baraka said...

Salaam,

Go for Umrah first if you can, would be my advice. You ease yourself into it, it's less crowded, & you become familiar with most of the rituals.

If not, then talk to people who have gone before, read as much as you can, and go with a solid, experienced tour guide. Try to hook up with a shaykh while there, someone who will host talks in the evening to help you reflect on what you did that day & will do the next.

Hajj is very much a test of your patience and committment. You should try to be in a place in life where the other four Islamic pillars are firmly in place before going. I guess I look at Hajj as the icing on the cake - the cake underneath has to be firm enough to take it.

(FYI, I've been on Umrah three times & am considering Hajj once my treatment is complete, insha-Allah.)

We were just talking about Hajj this past weekend with some friends who went last year. One of the things the woman said she kept her husband behind her & a backpack slung in front of her to ward off those wandering hands as well as give her some extra space in the massive crush of people. Her husband ended up getting his butt pinched instead!!!

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite writers! I adore her insights and wit.

Do write...and good luck with the Hajj debate.

Warmly,
B

Aisha said...

Baraka thanks for your input! I shared it with Kashif. (lol the conversation was funny. "hey baraka gave her input on the hajj trip" and he didnt even bat an eye. Its like you're our real live friend! lol... I mean I guess you are but you know what I mean!:)). You hae a good point of doing Umrah first. the only thing is cost. If we can only make it to Saudi once then we should do this now. And then go later when we can afford it but at our leisure. Plus once we have kids we will hav eto wait much much later...... I dont know. Its a slight conundrum but we have to make the decision soon. Thanks for the input.

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