Monday, February 10, 2020


Roses are red, violets are blue,
You need to do wudhu.
Because you stink.
I dream about you every night...
When I forget to recite Ayatul Kursi to ward off Shaytan.
Roses are red, violets are blue,
Shaytaan disgusts me
And you do, too.
Whenever I see you, I lower my gaze
Because you're ugly and I don't want to do dhulm on myself.
Did you fall from Jannah?
Because boy, you look like Iblees.
I love you like Salafis love the Mawlid.
I love you like a Sufi loves reading Kitaab at-Tawheed.
I love you like a Sufi loves the three categories of Tawheed.
I love you like Jamaatis love cleaning up after themselves at a masjid.
I love you like desi aunties love hearing that their beti is going to marry a Black Muslim man.
I love you like Khaleejis love hearing that their beloved eldest son is marrying a desi girl.
I love you like converts love telling their conversion story to random strangers at the masjid.
I love you like Muslims love being "randomly selected" by airport security.
I love you like proggies love traditional Islamic scholarship on hijab, gender and sexuality.
I love you like masjid boards love having transparent, non-corrupt elections.
I love you like Madkhalis love hearing criticism of the Saudi government.

Monday, February 03, 2020

The Shards of Motherhood

Over the last year, I have finally been slipping into motherhood proper, the term feeling less awkward, my heart feeling surer about itself, aware of my child and attuned in a way that I had struggled to achieve for years.

It is a relief to feel this; I no longer feel fraudulent when declaring my maternal relationship to the bright-eyed, startlingly sarcastic girl whom most assume to be my younger sister.

And yet.

And yet, these days, even as I am more fiercely dedicated to doing motherhood right, even as I feel the tug of her flesh and blood to my own, I struggle.

I struggle with my own memories, my own shame, with the panic and fear and pain that swamped the earliest days of her existence and lasted for years later, clouding my heart and my mind.

I flinch at the memories of my own selfishness, of the overwhelming loss of myself, of the strangeness that I felt between her tiny body and my own. I feel sick, often, remembering the twisting of my womb, of how horrified I was at what grew within me. I feel even more sick remembering who I was after she was born, of my weakness, of the tears she wiped away with toddler hands, of the emptiness I felt in place of maternal instinct, of my sharp words borne of frustration at her very existence.

I hate remembering my own thoughtlessness, and worse still, the lack of remembrance of most of her earliest years. I cannot remember the day she first called out for me clearly, or what she looked like fresh out of the bath. I look through pictures of her, often, and desperately grasp at wisps of recollection, unsure of what is true maternal memory and what is a clumsily constructed history.

I am ashamed of who I was, of whom I have been for so long.

It is hard not to want to undo it all, to take it all back, to create a better story of motherhood than the lopsided, rough pieces I hold within me now.

She deserves better, I tell myself, but uneasily, I wonder if I mean that *I* deserved better. I don't know if I will ever know the real answer to either thought.

For now, I try to swallow back the shards of past memories, and curl my fingers around the softer memories that I have created today.

Saturday, February 01, 2020


Some days, I wake with fire in my bones and on my tongue, words crackling like sparks ready to burst into flame, and revolution is at my fingertips.

Some days, I wake and find my words smothered and muffled, wrapped in a fog that I struggle to make sense of. My words feel trapped, hidden somewhere that I cannot reach; the embers inside me have gone cold, and my fingers are clumsy, stilled by the frost that has leached into my mind.

These are the days that I reach out blindly and greedily seek others' words instead, desperate for second-hand heat, hoping that I will find tinder and kindling to set me ablaze once more.

I miss my own words. I don't know where to find them, or how. The fog is too thick, and I am too tired to burn it away.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

My Muslim Shelf Space

A list of Muslamic fiction (and some non-fiction) recommendations from yours truly!

Alif the Unseen
The Bird King
The Night Counter
The Ruins of Us
The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters
The Lover (by Laury Silvers)
The Map of Salt and Stars
The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories
The Reluctant Fundamentalist
Exit West
A Dead Djinn in Cairo
Sofia Khan is Not Obliged
Painted Hands
Ayesha At Last
American Dervish
The Pearl That Broke Its Shell
The Djinn in the Nightingale's Eye and Other Stories

Saints and Misfits
Love from A to Z
Muslim Girl
When Wings Expand
All YA by Na'ima B Robert
An Acquaintance
Finding Jamila and the Story of Yusuf

The Butterfly Mosque
Love in a Headscarf
Love, Inshallah
Salaam, Love
From My Sisters' Lips
At the Drop of a Veil

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Fiqh of Marrying Mermaids

“Bismillaahir’Rahmaan arRaheem… Ithaa waqa’ati’l waaqi’ah…”
On a small boat in the ocean, a lone man stood in prayer, bearded and regal even in the depths of the night. His voice fell and rose with the cadence of Divine Words, echoing across the sea. “Wa hoorin ‘ayn, ka amthaalin lu’lu’…” he faltered for a moment, trying to recall the description of the heavenly handmaidens.
“Ka amthaalil lu’lu’ il-maknoon,” a husky female voice corrected him helpfully.
“Ka amthaalil lu’lu’ il-maknoon,” he intoned, and then jolted in shock, swinging around wild-eyed for the source of the Qur’anic correction.
His gaze fell upon a pair of eyes, startlingly bright in the darkness – amber, with the same reflective quality of a cat.
It was certainly no cat that stared back at him, however. Two very human (though slightly phosphorescent) arms nestled on the rails of the boat’s deck, hoisting a very human torso and – he yelped and jumped back – a very inhuman tail from the waist down, featuring darkly glimmering scales of blue-black and ending in translucent fins that draped daintily over the deck.
For a wild moment, all he could think was, “She has no seashell bra!” – for yes, the creature had a distinctly feminine face, framed by what appeared to be a swathe of silky seaweed that draped over her shoulders and body. Then he blushed, because he shouldn’t have been thinking of seashell bras (AstaghfirAllah! He repented hastily), and then he choked back another yelp and coughed out, “Who are you? What are you?”
The creature tsked disapprovingly. “You broke your salah. Not supposed to do that.” Her eyes gleamed with mischief. “I am a Hoor.”
He definitely needed to sit down for this. “A… Hoor…” he echoed faintly. She laughed, a sound that evoked high tide rushing in, and treacherous whirlpools that tugged you into the current, and promises of buried treasure.
“I am of the Hooriyat al-Bahr,” she said, still laughing at him. “Not quite the ones described in the Divine Verses, but,” she preened, the powerful muscle of her tail flexing, “not too far off, either.”
He caught himself looking at her again, and quickly lowered his gaze.
“You know the Qur’an?” He asked dazedly.
“Better than you,” she sniped back. “I am haafidhah, after all.” She tossed her head, and he caught glimpses of tarnished coin and polished seashells in the netting that covered her hair.
“So you’re… Muslim… then?”
She looked at him disdainfully. “Of course I’m Muslim,” she snapped. “The Mer, as the Faranji call us, have always been believers in the One True God – or at least, most of us are. Do you not know that Prophet Sulayman spoke the languages of all creatures? If he could speak to the ants, it is only obvious that he would speak to the Mer.”
“But how do you -” he gestured to her tail, which she deliberately slapped into the water, splashing him. “How do you pray?”
“You humans really are stupid,” she remarked. “Do you think that the Ghayb operates according to your rules? ‘Wa maa khalaqtal jinna wa’l insa illa liya’budoon.’ Do you think our Lord created us to worship Him only to leave us ignorant of how to do so?”
She snorted derisively. “Next you’ll be asking if we have to do wudhu,” she said mockingly, and he flushed in embarassment because he *was* about to ask that very question.
He knew it was a bad idea even before he blurted out the next question. “Are you halal to eat?”
“And this,” the Hoori said loudly to the dark water surrounding them, “is why my ancestresses drowned sailors so regularly. Every time these human men open their mouths, their stupidity merely increases.”
He sighed, suddenly weary. “Why are you here?” He asked her. “What do you want from me?”
Her gaze sharpened, turned hungry. “Finally,” she said with satisfaction. “An intelligent question.” She leaned forward, and her voice filled with longing. “I want – I *need* – to be a part of your world. There is so much that I need to know, so much that I need to learn, and the knowledge I seek is only on land. I cannot become the scholar I wish to be trapped within the ocean.”
“What am I supposed to do about that?” he demanded.
She fixed him with a stare. “Marry me.”
He spluttered. “What – why – why me?”
She looked insulted. “Why not?”
“I mean… why do you have to get married to do whatever it is you want to do?”
She made a noise of disgust. “Patriarchy. Fiqh of the sea. Can’t transform unless one is married to a human man. Need a mahram to travel on land.” She waved a hand dismissively. “So. Will you do it?”
He looked at her for a long while. “What is your mahr?” he asked finally.
“Freedom,” she said promptly. “And in return, you’ll be married to a mermaid.”
“We need a wali, and witnesses.”
“So that’s a yes?”
“Wait, aren’t I supposed to propose to you?”
She raised an eyebrow at him. “Ever heard of Umm al-Mu’mineen Khadijah?”
He looked sheepish. “Well… yes, then.”
Her voice deepened in sudden seriousness. “This is a binding oath, across land and sea, of marriage, of freedom, of knowledge. Do you accept this vow as your own?”
He surprised himself by answering gravely. “I do.”
A smile flickered over her face, a true smile, devoid of sarcasm, and he found himself smiling back, his heart inexplicably light.
“So are we getting that wali, or what?” he asked, and she grinned.
“Stay put,” she said, uncoiling her tail from its hold on the rails. “And don’t marry any other mermaids while I’m gone.”
“I’ll try,” he said drily.
With a smooth twist of her body, the Hoori launched herself back into the ocean, the obsidian scales of her tail gleaming in the moonlight.
It was only after she disappeared completely beneath the waves, leaving behind only swiftly fading ripples, that he realized that he did not know his Hoori’s name.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020

Madrasah Musings

  • Madrasah.

Y'all don't understand (or maybe you do!). My family has spent a long, looong, looooong time doing it - literally since I was a child. I got conscripted as a teacher at the age of 15, tasked with helping kids learn the Arabic alphabet and their first surahs in Juz 'Ammah (except I'm awful at teaching little kids, and got bumped up to teach the intermediate class with slightly older kids who didn't cry as much when I was in Scary Teacher Mode).

When I first left home, I was actually relieved that I wouldn't have to teach anymore... until I realized how much I missed it. In Kuwait, I found myself leaping at the opportunity to teach again, and when I moved back to Canada, I jumped back into it. Now, my parents and I teach again on a weekly basis, and with it has returned All The Feels.

It's not just about showing up and teaching kids for an hour or so and then packing up and going home.

It's spending hours every week with children at different levels and different paces of learning; exulting in their progress, groaning at setbacks, pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into every day and every child.

It's drinking a stiff cup of coffee before every class, wondering why we put ourselves through this agony every week, and sighing with exhaustion at the end of every class, comparing notes on who got ahead and who fell behind and who is still struggling with their current lessons.

It's getting excited planning a graduation ceremony for the kids we've managed to get through the qaa'idah and who have begun reading from the mus'haf itself and who have memorized their first Juz.

It's finding ourselves sitting at the dinner table or driving to do groceries and somehow we end up talking about "our kids" again - both past and present students.

It's stalking our old students online to see what they're up to and what paths they've taken in life and whether they ever remember what they learned with us.

It's wondering aloud about our current students and hoping that they make better life choices than some of their predecessors and desperately praying that they continue to read and recite the Qur'an throughout their lives... and selfishly hoping that we continue to receive ajr for every letter of the Qur'an that they utter.

In the end, that's what it is really about: dedicating ourselves to the inglorious, grueling, painful, exhilarating, and deeply emotional cause of teaching Muslim children the very basics of their faith, solely for the Sake of Allah. (We sure as heck aren't making much of a career out of it!)

We know that we have an obligation to this Ummah, and we have no choice but to fulfill it. We only pray that Allah accepts our work, and blesses it, and makes the fruits of our labour last long after we pass away.

{Say: "Verily, my Salat (prayer), my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are for Allah, the Lord of the Worlds.} (Qur'an 6:162)

The Messenger of Allah said: "Whoever teaches some knowledge will have the reward of the one who acts upon it, without that detracting from his reward in the slightest." [ibn Majah]

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Poly Q&A: How Can I Regain My Second Wife's Trust?

(Almost) every month, I have a q & a column with, under their Ask a Counselor section. Here's the latest (where I very nobly refrained from sharing my actual initial reaction):

Assalamu alaikum,

I had a wife in the past, but then I met a girl and fell in love with her. We became lovers soon after she told me she loves me. I told her that I have a wife, but that I want to end things with her soon. However, I couldn’t end things for 4 years and we had a baby together.

My second wife became angry and urged me to end things and I kept putting her off till one year became two. Eventually, last year I ended things with my first wife and tried to move closer to my second wife, but she says she can’t trust me and doesn’t have feelings for me.

I still love her a lot, and I’m ready to do anything she asks of me, but she doesn’t trust me. What should I do? How can I regain her trust and love? Please advise me on what I need to do.


To begin with, I must say that your question is not an easy one to answer. Based on what you have said, I am unsure whether you had a haraam relationship with the second woman or not before you married her. I will assume that you married her before having a physical relationship with her.

The problem is far greater than simply winning back your second wife’s love and trust. The reality is that you have spent the past few years engaging in lies with both your first and second wives. You married your second wife before informing her about your first wife and then deceived her repeatedly by telling her that you would leave your first wife.

instead, for four years you not only remained married to your first wife, but had children with her!

Thus, the first thing for you to be made aware of is the extreme seriousness and sinfulness of lying in Islam:

Al-Bukhaari (6094) and Muslim (2607) narrated that Ibn Mas‘ood (may Allah be pleased with him) said: The Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) said: “I enjoin you to be truthful, for truthfulness leads to righteousness and righteousness leads to Paradise. A man may continue to tell the truth and endeavour to be truthful until he is recorded with Allah as a speaker of truth. And beware of lying, for lying leads to wickedness and wickedness leads to Hell. A man may continue to tell lies and endeavour to tell lies, until he is recorded with Allah as a liar.”

The Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) also said: “There are four characteristics, whoever has them all is a pure hypocrite, and whoever has one of them has one of the characteristics of hypocrisy, until he gives it up: when he is entrusted with something, he betrays that trust, when he speaks he lies, when he makes a covenant he betrays it, and when he disputes he resorts to obscene speech.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (34) and Muslim (58).

If this is the severity of lying in general, how much worse is it to lie to your spouse - and in your case, not one, but both of them? Marriage is a sacred contract in which both partners are meant to be sources of comfort and tranquility to one another, not sources of deceit and harm.

Not only that, but you took it a step further by engaging in injustice between your two wives. Polygamy is permitted in Islam under strict conditions of justice, which it does not seem that you have abided by.

The Qur’an tells us:
{And if you fear that you will not deal justly with the orphan girls, then marry those that please you of [other] women, two or three or four. But if you fear that you will not be just, then [marry only] one or those your right hand possesses. That is more suitable that you may not incline [to injustice].} (Qur’an 4:3)

RasulAllah also said: “Whoever has two wives and favors one of them over the other, will come on the Day of Resurrection with one of his sides leaning.” (Tirmidhi)

There is no simple solution for your situation. When someone genuinely loves someone else, they show it through their actions by being honest and upright and consistent in their behaviour. You have done the opposite of that in all of these years, towards both of your wives. It is understandable that your second wife does not trust you or love you, when you have demonstrated dishonesty and false promises for so long.

The question that you should be asking is not how you can make your second wife trust and love you, but how you can make amends to both wives, how to uphold their Islamic rights, and how to hold yourself accountable for your wrongdoing for so many years.

First of all, you must turn to Allah in sincere repentance for your sins and injustice towards both women (and whomever else, such as your children, you may have impacted negatively through your actions). This repentance requires that you regret your behaviour, that you beg of Allah’s forgiveness, and that you commit never to repeat those actions or patterns of behaviour again.

The second part to seeking Allah’s forgiveness in this case requires you to seek the forgiveness of your wives as well.

Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) said, "Whoever has wronged their brother or sister [in Islam], should ask for his pardon (before his death), as (in the Hereafter) there will be neither a Dinar nor a Dirham. (He should secure pardon in this life) before some of his good deeds are taken and paid to his brother, or, if he has done no good deeds, some of the bad deeds of his brother are taken to be loaded on him (in the Hereafter).” (Sahih Bukhari)

This means that you approach both wives, admit to your wrongdoing, commit yourself to treating them both with justice and fairness, and then listening to each of them to know what you need to do to make things right with each of them. As well, I strongly recommend that you seek individual as well as marital/ family professional therapy and counseling to help accomplish the goals of repentance and accountability. What both your wives have had to endure is extremely painful and will not be ‘fixed’ very quickly. It will require many years of hard work on your end to help them heal, and it may even be that one or both of them may never completely forgive you or be able to move on from what you have done.

It is important for you to recognize the seriousness of your actions, and commit yourself to doing what is right, sincerely and for the Sake of Allah. So long as you maintain your sincerity, then inshaAllah things will either become easier for you and your family, or Allah will make a way for each person to receive the justice that they are due - whether in this world or in the Hereafter.

May Allah forgive you and may He guide you to doing that which is most pleasing to Him, ameen.