I grew up in a fairly secular Muslim home in India, and actually didn't have more than one or two Muslim friends growing up! It was only when I moved to the United States after marriage, at age 22, that I actually got to know Muslims and learn about Islam as a religion ( through friends of my husband). Earlier, we celebrated Eid and being Muslim was more a cultural identity than a religious one.I was interviewed by Chicago's WTTW/PBS on my views as a Muslim, on the topic of body image, and Chicago Tribune on our volunteer work.
Now as a parent, passing on our Islamic heritage to my kids is very important to me. In Islam, leaving the world a better place is very, very important - whether it's making sure your neighbor doesn't ever go to bed hungry or greeting someone with a smile or teaching a refugee English. My children and I are involved in various community service projects and, with me, they've been doing their bit for the world since they were little. They are now 7 and 11. As my seven year old son wrote in a school project, when asked, "What would you do if you were given $100?", wrote "I'd give it to the poor children in Palestine who are injured and have no doctors." They are very aware of how our faith requires that we have compassion for others and do our best to serve humanity, besides praying and reading the Quran.
Secondly, Faith isn't something we relegate to one day of the week, Friday in the case of Muslims. It's an integral part of our daily conversations - when we talk world affairs, or give thanks for our many blessings. Infact, when Obama won, I gave a prayer of thanks! When we pass by a road accident, the children and I pray that the injured person be helped by God and have health / car insurance !
The coolest thing about Islam is that every deed, as long as we make the intention that we are doing it for the pleasure of God, is considered a good deed and will be amply rewarded. So for instance, if I cook and make the intention that I am doing so to fulfill my duty as to God by being a good mom, I get rewarded for that. If I clean my home, with the intention that I am doing it for God, because "cleanliness is half of one's faith" according to religious tradition or hadith, then I'm earning good deeds.
My kids, today, read the Quran in Arabic much more fluently than I and they know more prayers than I do. They are my teachers in some ways.
This year, we've begun looking at Islamic architecture so the children realize that Islam isn't just about rules and praying, it's also about art and architecture and beauty.
I don't wear the hijab, or head covering, while I do think it's important, I feel that Muslims are part of a rainbow, a spectrum. We are anything but cookie cutter. If a religion is for all time, it has allow for some variations within acceptable boundaries to survive.
Moving to America, I moved away from family and relatives and friends I'd known all my life. But I gained friends who were more active in their practice of their faith and brought the doors of Islam, closer to me. For that alone, the adjustments and upheaval involved in moving here, became well worth it.
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