Arab Swag

A blog all about Arab Culture
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After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
Just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.
Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
Problem? we told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
Did this.

I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.
Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,
Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
She stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
Following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,

Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.
We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
Would ride next to her—Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.

Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
Poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
Sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a
Sacrament. The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
The lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
Powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
Non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
Had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,

With green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
Carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
This is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.

They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.
This can still happen anywhere.

Not everything is lost.

Naomi Shihab Nye (b. 1952), “Wandering Around an Albuquerque Airport Terminal.” (via endegame)

(Source: oliviacirce, via egyptianprincess)

I know a lot of my posts seem repetitive and I largely recycle the same material and criticisms, but I consistently see the same issues at large everyday.

Sometimes, this blog serves as a mouthpiece for me to articulate my thoughts, so I appreciate the followership nonetheless. 

You’ve all been lovely. 

Muslims and the culture of Shame.

There’s a large disconnect between individuals that believe that Islam is being conspired against and those who are levying legitimate arguments against those who interpret the Prophet’s teachings in light of their cultural views. On the other hand, there’s also a large group out there that has failed to accept the traditions and texts altogether due to the large stigma associated with Patriarchal or Misogynistic teachings parroted in mosques worldwide. 

Islam and Muslims are definitely being attacked on a daily basis, there is no doubt. Islam represents an ancient system, code and philosophy that largely rivals and challenges Western hegemony and Imperialistic structures throughout the world. Any large power would definitely be intimidated by this, and it would go towards any length to dismantle it and discredit it by all means. This even means that if that goes towards endorsing an even more conservative and oppressive reality while toning it down with Progressives and Liberals that give pseudo-sympathy towards minorities or other countries worldwide to suppress their large frame of guilt.

On the other hand, you have centuries upon centuries of intellectual stagnation in regards to interpreting and implementing legal structures of Islamic doctrines. This is also seen with a largely fundamentalist movement that not only has disregarded these centuries of work, but seeks to “purify” its teachings by largely simplifying literal texts and culturally manipulating phrases and traditions to fit with their vision of what they want to endorse as their platform. This can be seen in any fundamentalist nation in the Muslim world and they represent a billion dollar enterprise that ironically supplies us with a largely exaggerated idea of the patriarchy and illnesses we have in our societies that existed already. 

And finally, you have a large populace of Muslims out there that already are insecure about their image in the world, that are drawn to Fundamentalist ideals in a knee-jerk fashion to combat Western hegemony without reflecting upon the ideals, the reflections, and the works of scholars for centuries. These scholars not only reinvented themselves but used Islam’s principles to adapt to changing environments, as it is a dynamic philosophy that applies to every era. Instead, you have people that are largely divorced from reality, that believe emulating the Prophet through dress and through minor rituals brings them closer to their glory days, ignoring the principles that pedestal-ed their ideology to countries far beyond their reach.

Bringing upon this argument or any argument to challenge the age-old fashion of our stagnation is silenced by a culture of shame. Criticizing matters like sexual abuse, rape culture, or financial inequality is all silenced by elders that believe any self reflection is worsening our image worldwide as we have already been tarnished with lies.

This creates a culture of secrecy and dependence on brushing matters under the rug and acting like it doesn’t exist. This creates absolutely no progress and digs ourselves in a bigger hole. 

It wasn’t Military might or holding onto conservative values that kept the Muslim ideology alive all these years, but the pure belief that improving one’s life and the lives of others around us is what made life worth living.

Inventions, scientific achievements, schools of thought, and other accolades we have gained over centuries were not brought by military might or land control, but by the pure altruistic philosophy of being Custodians of this earth that brought us to a transcendent Golden age. 

Let us aim for that one day. 

امر على الديار ديار ليلى
اقبل ذا الجدار وذا الجدار
وما حب الديار شغفن قلبي
ولكن حب من سكن الديار
I pass by these walls, the walls of Layla
And I kiss this wall and that wall
It’s not Love of the houses that has taken my heart
But of the One who dwells in those houses

قيس بن الملوح

Majnoon Laila. 

Culture vs Islam

The habit of holding onto archaic traditions is what kept the early Arabs stick to their Ignorance and refuse the Message of God. They claimed that the culture and traditions of their ancestors is what was honorable, and that it must be upheld for generations to come. Crossing that line was not only dishonorable but rebellious. They refused the Prophet of God on the premise that he challenged notions of culture, that he challenged beliefs, and that he challenged age old ideals. 

And we see that again in our own communities. Islam is not a charging force in their lives as it once was centuries ago, but a backdrop to be interpreted in light of their cultural views, in light of their age-old mentalities that they do not seek to eradicate.

Islam will and always will uphold its values and principles, it is up to us to see through the veils and walls of our own traditions to sift between what God commands us to do, and what our intricate human relations have convinced us is righteous or taboo. 

Nothing was “how it always used to be”. The Prophet brought a revolutionary message, not a static tradition to be upheld without insight and deep thought. 

روحك الطيبة كالمسك الفاخر, عطريني بهواك في ليلي الساهر
Your gentle soul is like a refined Musk, perfume me with your love on this dreary night.

If you think you’re going to hell for celebrating Valentine’s day, you’re probably going to hell neglecting your wife all year anyway. 

Arab culture is not Sunnah.

Anonymous asked: but don't you think a lot of arabs lose their culture and language when they come to the us

Yes, and no.

I am not really a big advocate of preserving every element of the environment you come from, since that not only is an inhibition of the human experience, but plays against the complex structure of any culture to begin with. To assume you are preserving the “purity” of any culture is ridiculous, since every culture is a collection of the various interactions your forefathers and their forefathers had with the environment around them, by which they also incorporated many foreign elements you see today. I can point out several foreign words in the Arabic language that are seen as household items to prove that no matter how hard you try, no language, culture, or people are entirely pure. 

On the other hand, I feel that this argument is redundant since it has no novelty. The Arabs have been interacting with the West, and have been living in Western countries for over a millennium. The Wealth of modern Spanish culture and the entire European renaissance is largely inspired by Amazigh, Arab, Toureg, Moor, Persian and Habesha cultures and peoples that migrated to these lands and had made places and empires like “Al Andalus” their home. Even beyond that, many Sicilians can even claim Arab ancestry from several centuries ago, and several communities around the world still preserve the names and villages they come from from hundreds of years ago but do not in any way act like they are not a key element in the lands they live in.

If you migrate to the United States for any reason, you are not going to 100% preserve the culture your parents came with. And if anything, the culture your parents will preserve may be a preservation of the time era and land they came from, in many cases there are a lot of Palestinian communities for example all across the country that speak a dialect that is almost extinct in Modern day Palestine.

Culture is a very sensitive and malleable phenomenon, and I believe embracing elements of change is necessary and only plays with the very nature of culture to begin with. 

Anonymous asked: is dating haram?

The idea of making or incorporating a physical relationship with someone you have not swore yourself to, is definitely forbidden. The sanctity of the family is a major theme in Islam, and marriage is definitely considered the facilitator of creating the appropriate environment for two people to be in love in a healthy environment, when they are ready to do so. 

On the other hand, I see absolutely nothing wrong with getting to know someone with the intention of taking it to the next level of marriage, as long as one knows their boundaries and does it in a way that pleases God.

I can’t just flat out say “Dating is haram”, because the courtship rituals that Non-Muslim Westerners have or the way people meet in the West altogether is not in any way the same way people court each other in the tight knit village communities many of our immigrant families come from.

I feel the “Matchup” or “Arranged” mentality doesn’t work in most cases here, since there is a huge amount of disconnect with not knowing who the person you are set up to meet, and you don’t have the convenience of knowing someone your whole life to make judgement calls right off the bat from a few meetings. This may work in communities in the Middle east, where most people are familiar with every person in their local towns, but in a largely Urban environment that we all overwhelmingly live in, that’s definitely something that can’t be realistically implemented. There needs to be a certain amount of familiarity one must make before committing to bringing a formal meeting of two families. 

سمميني بهمومك
اسحريني بصوتك
واكرميني برفقتك
Poison me with your worries
Mesmerize me with your voice
And grace me with your presence

Arabic is such a guttural and flowery language at the same time. A lot of the words sound like the actions themselves, like a certain onomatopoeia infects your tongue every time you speak.

The phrases are founded in an ancient sway, but they also have a modern tinge to them. Simple phrases found in the English language that are very up front or concise are exhausted into beautifully strung phrases that mean much more than a simple gesture in Arabic.

The language is also very personal, as the dialects reflect several influences that tell of a history it inherits, whether it’s a Syriac, Persian, or Babylonian influence that poetically inserts itself in every phrase, or through certain letters or sentences.

The poetry is immense, magnificent, deep, and ultimately one of the most eloquent forms of human expression I have ever come across.  

It’s just such a beautiful language.  

Anonymous asked: So you agree with gay marriage, prostitution, and abortion AND your a practicing Muslim? Isn't that a contradiction for you?

Naw, I believe that as a Muslim in a secular civil state, you should not enforce your religious views on others and should morally police yourself on your own terms. Islam commands one to respect the laws of the land of a Non-Muslim country unless it tells you to commit a forbidden act; which it doesn’t.

Not all religions agree on certain vices or “sins”, and I believe it’s the religious freedom that anyone can do what they wish as long as they don’t violate the rights of others. 

There’s a few realities I think everyone has to eventually admit to:

1. Not all babies are cute.

2. Children do in fact lie, frequently.

3. Your mom/grandma’s cooking is not the best in the world.

Anonymous asked: Why can't we scientifically see God

Well obviously I’m not a scientist nor are my theories of measurement in line with Theological self descriptions of the Divine but I do have a few nascent theories. 

For one, God had ordained ritualistic prayer in the Seventh Heaven in the incident of Israa’ and Miraj. The Seventh heaven is a cosmological region that is theorized to be light years above the universe we reside in or the atmosphere we can only observe through our limited telescopes.

Secondly, the frequencies of our eyes and the light rods can only handle a certain threshold of light which is why we cannot even glare into the sun’s direction without being overwhelmed by it. If God is made of an element that is much stronger and much more ambient, by deductive analogy even if he were to reveal himself in a limited space visible to earthly observations, we would be overwhelmed by such a gleaming light. The Prophet himself was not even able to handle the stature of witnessing Gabriel in his true form without fainting, and other Prophets of the past were unable to witness certain heavenly phenomenons without having the same symptoms so I really don’t think we can physically see God in his true form.

In the afterlife, we are equipped with different senses and different bodies and elements, by which we can witness, experience, and understand different phenomenons with ease, and that is verified by Prophetic descriptions of heaven. Aside from God Almighty’s metaphysical properties, there is an underlying limited Science that actually can explain these theories; but we haven’t discovered them yet. 

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