Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

Book cover for Why Does He Do That? Inside the minds of angry and controlling men

Herein are ruminations from a Muslimah point of view on Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men originally published in the August 2014 issue of SISTERS Magazine.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something I think is a universal truth, though maybe not a very popular idea: I believe that men, in their general position of greater physical and economic power, are at great risk of abusing that power thereby abusing women, children, elders and all people ‘weaker’ than them. Those of us in potential positions of being abused could do well to recognise some of the abusive behaviours which are common in many in positions of power. In turn, this could aid us all to not let abuse trickle down the chains of hierarchy and spread. It is for this reason that I was curious to read Why Does He Do That? Inside The Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. At the time of writing the book, Lundy Bancroft had spent fifteen years working with angry and controlling men as a counsellor, evaluator and investigator. Bancroft identified many patterns among the men, making abusive behaviour less evasive to pinpoint, as simply recognising that something is actually abuse is difficult for most involved in it.

One of the many useful things I found in Why Does He Do That? was Bancroft’s demystification of several commonly held false beliefs about why men abuse. These ‘myths’ are used by the men, and others, as excuses for their behaviours. Bancroft points out that it is abusers themselves who have so oft repeated these excuses, creating their own mythology within cultures – he also points out that abusers are master manipulators and, in this sense, have manipulated a great many of us. A few of these myths popped out at me as being frequently used as excuses among Muslims; when I shared Bancroft’s list of seventeen myths on Facebook, Muslim friends and acquaintances had had experiences with all of them. So, while I encourage people to read this book to get its full benefit, I will share some of Bancroft’s myth-debunking insights, keeping them correlated to the chronological order he uses in the book:

1. He was abused as a child.

Bancroft uses studies to demonstrate how abusers manipulate or outright lie about childhood abuse in order to garner sympathy for their abusive behaviour. But for me the most compelling argument against this excuse is that when Bancroft corners abusers about this one suggesting, “If you are so in touch with your feelings from your abusive childhood…. You should be less likely to abuse a woman, not more so, from having been through it.” As Bancroft explains, “….he only wants to draw attention to [his childhood abuse] if it’s an excuse to stay the same, not if it’s a reason to change.” Like most other abusers, the majority who use this excuse refuse to use therapeutic measures to heal and discontinue their own abusiveness.

2. He loses control.

In this section, Bancroft demonstrates the many ways that abusers themselves removed the façade of “out of control abuser who doesn’t realize what he’s doing”. For instance, when questioned why the abusers didn’t do certain things, such as leave visible marks or break their own valuable items, or about how they were able to immediately calm down when police arrive, abusers responded that they didn’t want to take things that far as they had something to lose if they did. That is not indicative of being out of control, rather Bancroft and his associates long term work with abusers revealed that abusers are actually extremely calculated in how they emotionally and physically abuse their partners. Control is the primary thing abusers seek by being abusive and they know how to get it.

3. There are as many abusive women as abusive men.

It is unfortunate that I even feel compelled to address this myth, but since it nearly always comes up during conversations about abusive men, I am glad Bancroft addresses it. Part of this overall myth is that men are ashamed to come forward when they are abused by women so their numbers are harder to identify. Bancroft makes several points to correct this flawed reasoning, including “….that women crave dignity just as much as men” and it is often outside interference that brings abuse to light. If there were truly such high numbers of female on male abuse, they would have been brought to light by those same concerned family members, neighbours, police, schools and so on who interfere in male to female abuse.

Another commonly upheld aspect of this myth is that men are responding to verbal abuse with physical abuse, but as author Margaret Atwood has famously been quoted, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.” Bancroft reminds readers that “….abuse is not a battle that you win by being better at expressing yourself” and that male abusers employ verbal abuse such as sarcasm, insults and threats as part of their overall abuse tactics. Female to male abuse exists, but it is much rarer and has no place in conversations about correcting the prevailing problem of men abusing women as it only derails from the solutions specific to the problem.

4. He is a victim of racism.

As Muslims are often in circumstances to be on the receiving end of racism, Orientalism and Islamophobia, I thought this item needed addressing here. Racism causes a great deal of real stress, but non-abusive men deal with that stress in ways other than abusing. Just like with being on the receiving end of child abuse in issue #1 “…if a man has experienced oppression himself, it could just as easily make him more sympathetic to a woman’s distress…”. Bancroft points out that men of colour were among the first and strongest opponents of abuse of women in the United States. Consider, for example, the former slave Frederick Douglass who was a champion for the suffrage movement.

Ultimately, Bancroft explains the motivations of the abusers: “The reasons that an abusive man gives for his behavior are simply excuses…. beliefs, values, and habits are the driving forces [behind his abuse].”

A man is abusive because he has a warped belief. The abuser believes that the person he is abusing is inferior to him and deserving of a treatment he himself is not. Of course, that is a common belief held by some Muslims, that the ‘degree a man has over a woman’ is one of absolute human superiority. This is plainly known as ‘entitlement’. My belief is that this greater physical and economic power men often have can be a great fitnah for many of us and we should each do our best to fight the abuse of this power, either as exerting or receiving abuse.

In the book, Bancroft says, “If any part of what I describe about abusers doesn’t match your experience, cast it aside and focus on the parts that do fit.” I would suggest that as Muslims with an interest in improving character and behaviour, as well as encouraging improvements and resisting injustices, we all truly could benefit from understanding the roots of abuse and oppression and can find something to relate to or overcome in this book. I by no means want to shame or blame victims of domestic violence; rather, I would like to remind them that Allah (SWT) tells us not to accept abuse to our persons. Accepting abuse is a form of wronging ourselves, as well as enabling or encouraging a culture of abuse:

“And those who, having done an act of indecency, or wronged their own souls, should remember Allah and ask for forgiveness for their sins and who can forgive sins except Allah? And are never stubborn in continuing (and excusing) the wrong they have done. For them, the reward is forgiveness from the Lord and gardens with rivers flowing underneath as an eternal dwelling; how excellent a reward this is for those who work and strive for good.” (Al ‘Imran:135-136)

Why Does He Do That? is an excellent resource for understanding and helping to dismantle abuse, insha Allah. You can also find more articles about domestic violence on the SISTERS website at http://www.sisters-magazine.com/index.php?route=articles/category&articles_path=11.

August 2014 issue of SISTERS Magazine
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Ramadan Goodies: I Got A Modern Quran!

In part of my Ramadan preparations this year I picked up another version of Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Qur’an without comments. I enjoy his comments, but they always slow me down and I wanted to get much further through my reading for this month. But what I forgot was that I had also got an e-book of M.A.S. Abdel Haleem’s translation into modern English for The Boys, who “Hate that old English stuff.” Whew. It has been much, much better to read this translation during one of the most challenging Ramadans I have ever done, alhumdulillah. My eyes only started to cross and glaze over after much longer reading durations. I recommend!

SISTERS Reads: Normal Calm by Hend Hegazi

Normal calm imageSince I did not receive a back cover or any other information about Normal Calm before reading it, I was very surprised when the main character, Amina, was raped, and especially near the beginning of the novel before any momentum to her story had built up. Normal Calm is the story of how rape impacted Amina and, to a slight degree, her family’s lives. Though Muslims are not immune to the statistical average of one in three or one in four women being sexually assaulted in her lifetime, this is a topic seldom touched upon in the greater Muslim community, so I am glad to see the author, Hend Hegazi, take the subject on.

The rape itself is not graphically depicted. Amina deals with it in a fairly pragmatic way, deciding to go straight into a group therapy programme so that she can get the support that she needs to finish her university studies. Amina reveals her ordeal to her close friends, her family – and then what to do about any potential spouses?

Though I can understand how a rape survivor can technically be concerned no longer a virgin due to having her hymen torn, this story made me consider how grossly unfair it is to condemn a person this way. Amina did not consent to losing her virginity, yet in the eyes of many a woman in Amina’s circumstance is simply seen as no longer a virgin and therefore no longer marriage material. This creates a slippery slope for Amina: should she compromise her own integrity for people who essentially already have questionable values? The virginity issue is the only issue ever addressed with concerns to marriage, which (perhaps naively) surprised me. I found it deeply upsetting, though likely realistic, that so much emphasis was placed on Amina’s ‘loss of virginity’ rather than her well-being. Rape has long term, lasting effects on survivors and, while perhaps not everyone has the potential to be a partner to someone who has experienced this kind of trauma, that is not addressed by concerned parties. One potential husband says, “I have no way of knowing how many other men you’ve been with”, as if Amina’s rape was a possible gateway to promiscuous behaviour.

As a sexual abuse survivor, reading Amina’s mother’s reaction was very difficult for me. You can hope that your family will support you through hardships, especially those inflicted on you by someone else, but you just never know how they will respond and in some cases the survivor ends up having to be a support system for those who should be doing the comforting! Interestingly, one of Amina’s strongest supporters is her non-Muslim best friend. I found this character, Kayla, to be a great inclusion in the story, and especially liked the way Hend depicted Amina’s da’wah towards her friend.

I am so glad that Hend wrote this book and hope if offers some solace and insight to its readers. There is an exclusive SISTERS excerpt of Normal Calm published on page 98 of this issue. The full novel is sold through Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 ~~~

Brooke Benoit is an editor for SISTERS magazine, a sometimes visual art maker, a fairly radical unschooling mama to six and a contributor to the recently released anthology Dear Sister: Letters From Survivors of Sexual Violence

This review originally appeared in issue #54 of SISTERS Magazine– the magazine for fabulous Muslim women

Mothering Mondays: Starting In The Embers With The Motherhood Project

Lovely little tiny green things growing in a seemingly inhospitable space. Taken by my eldest child.
Lovely little tiny green things growing in a seemingly inhospitable space. Taken by my eldest child.

In an attempt to better understand what it is I am doing, I have been wanting to dedicate some time to writing about parenting, but you know… writing vs doing. Well, Ke’lona Hamilton, the force behind the awesomeness that is Creative Motivations, has dedicated a snippet of everyday in 2014 (insha Allah) to creating a personal reflection centered on mothering. Ke’lona has invited others to join her in the Motherhood Project, where participants can create any form of writing, media or art on their own feelings around the subject, and she has fleshed out some pretty worthy areas to delve into: the good and bad, step-mothering, thoughts about her own mother and so on. I think I am going to go ahead and try to do this project too, at least on Mondays (when I eat meat, cuz someone else is around to do the cooking). Click these linkies to read more about the project and Ke’lona’s posts to date.

Here’s my first Mothering Mondays post:

Feeling Burnt

I told Ke’lona that I don’t exactly have shiny-happy feelings to write about mothering right now and she said something like that’s great, because the project is supposed to cover it all. So. My current stage of mothering feels something like that guy on YouTube stuck on a treadmill that just keeps going faster and faster, but he’s determined not to be violently thrown from the thing so he keeps running and running. He hollers a lot too, which is something else we have in common.

I have six kids, the first one is firmly rooted in the chemically-challenged throws of teenhood and the last is a couple months shy of her two years worth of breastfeeding. In May, if we live, I will have completed twelve years of breastfeeding. Remind me to award myself something spectacular since no other family member is yet at any stage to appreciate my accomplishment. Although I will likely get a little tiny bit more sleep, I’m not looking forward to weaning my baby who I am hoping will remain The Baby. As one friend always (painfully) reminds me, “Little kids, little problems. Big kids, big problems.” And I sure am getting whiffs of that.

My kids are home-educated, which I would not trade for anything currently available on the market, and that means that I spend more than average time with them. Of course I know I am supposed to GET AWAY from them time to time, rejuvenate me and all that, but you know theory is one thing and escape capabilities are another. My working from home is a mixed blessing in that I am always here for my kids and I am always here for my kids. For the last year and a half my husband spends half his time with us here in the countryside and the other half in the city. There is no solution presenting itself to this… lifestyle we have carved out. It sucks. For me.

As I type this I think about all the great craft supplies we have that I don’t have time or energy to do with my kids, or the access to glorious hikes that I don’t have ti… and all the many, many parenting, mothering and pedagogy books, articles and resources I have imbibed yet find myself acting contrary to… And I know, I know that I have done so much for my children and blah, blah, blah… yet I am in that burnt out space that I hope is a sort of rocky bottom because I fear to think how this could get worse.

Sometimes I feel like I am being mocked. I thought that I was laying out a nice little plan and made adjustments when necessary, but right now I feel overextended, like I have adjusted too much and the gears can’t take the pressure.

Maybe next week I will feel shinier and share some of the solutions I am trying. Or maybe I’ll drag myself out for a walk and share a picture. At least my treadmill is… as wide as I can make it.

Thanks Ke’lona for inviting me along on the ride.

SISTERS Reads – For the People By the People: Muslim Voices, Human Lives

For the People, By the People
I always enjoy finding enticing anthologies, full of the potential to inspire, educate and entertain me in quick and concise reads during stolen moments in my over-scheduled days. Anthologies filled with Muslim voices are among my very favourite indulgences, but when I heard For the People by the People: Muslim Voices, Human Lives was especially good for da’wah purposes, my excitement deflated a little as I felt that meant it would be less for me and more for them. Fortunately I was wrong. For the People, By the People: Muslim Voices, Human Lives an Anthology is a wonderful collection of musings written by both converts and raised-Muslims, both brothers and sisters in the deen. The stories span from conversions to awakenings, not-at-all-trifling home and office epiphanies, to deeply personal reveals after challenging searches.

I asked FTPBTP’s editor (and regular contributor to SISTERS Magazine) Sabah Hadi what was the catalyst for putting the anthology together, and she explained, “The idea of FTPBTP was to give ordinary Muslims a voice to speak about their lives, their joys and pain, their everyday struggles and so on. By ordinary I mean those who have contributed towards the book are not necessarily writers (as would be the case with books, even anthologies) but people from different spheres of life. The main idea was to move away from explanations, proving oneself right, backlashes, the terrorism debate, the spotlight on the burqa etc. and present everyday Muslim lives as they are. I think that the contributors have done a great job in chronicling what, according to them, is important as Muslims and as humans.”
Perhaps because the contributors are not burdened with the weight of (again) excusing themselves to non-Muslims, there are a few instances in the book that frankly address some of the schisms within our own communities. I especially appreciated Sarah Bibi’s take on the intolerance in her community. A British-Pakistani, Bibi’s references in the essay to one of her own inspirations – drawing on the wit and wisdom of Muhammad Ali – closed the circle for me, indicating that For the People, By the People hits the mark at recognising and creating a mini-reflection of the greater diversity of the Ummah.

I was hoping for just a few good reads in this anthology, but truly didn’t come across any that weren’t enjoyable. Among the more eye-opening excerpts were explorations of racism and Islamophobia in the respective school and professional circles of Nazrana Mulla in South Africa and Nawaid Anjum in New Delhi. “Muslim” truly seemed to be the only link among the varied (though captivating) narratives, so I curiously asked Hadi, “What was the selection process – where did you want the writers to be from?” Hadi explained her curating process: “The contributors are from many other professions – very few writers have contributed towards the anthology. I tried to include people from as many different countries as possible. The criteria for selection of the contributors was very simple. Each one had to put down an experience that moved them and made them see the things around them in a different light. It made them aware of their selves and their lives, as Muslims and as humans. Something like Chicken Soup for the Muslim soul.”
Hadi succeeded at providing a well-versed ensemble for these Muslim stories. Sharing a range of insights from all over the world about their experiences around issues of identity and religiosity, For the People, By the People: Muslim Voices, Human Lives surely and generously offers inspiration and wisdom to all its readers. For the People, By the People is available on Amazon and you can further follow the book’s related activities at http://www.facebook.com/forandbythepeople.

A homeschooling mother of six and editor of SISTERS Magazine, Brooke Benoit is often asked how does she have the time to read so much. Perhaps it’s partially possible because she doesn’t commute and she doesn’t own a television.

This review originally appeared in SISTERS Magazine’s May 2012 issue which can be found right here

SISTERS Reads: Raising Baby Green

Raising Baby Green:The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care (Kindle Edition)

By Alan Greene/ Published by Jossey-Bass/ Reviewed by Brooke Benoit

Every time I have a new baby, I’m a bit of a new mum all over again. It seems like I should have at least learnt the basics after six babies, but the basics keep changing on me! The wealth of baby-related products and the methodologies are constantly being updated, while my responsibilities to my baby and to Allah (SWT) remain the same. Wait, that’s not true. My responsibilities grow as my knowledge-base grows, so while it’s great that I learned so much after having six babies, it certainly would have been nice from the start to have learned more about sustainable parenting and less about the latest parenting trends.  Raising Baby Green: The Earth-Friendly Guide to Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Baby Care by Alan Greene is not only a great place to start understanding the immense impact one little bundle of joy can have on our entire shared environment, but it had plenty of new ideas for an old green-palmed mum like me.

 

Organics

I have always strived to be conscious of whether or not I am feeding my children organics, but I hadn’t fully considered the exposure to chemicals via what I put on my babies or their beds, which they mouth and suck on more than food in some stages! As Greene explains, baby sleeps up to sixteen hours a day and are almost always clothed, but the fabrics you buy for baby have not undergone the same regulated restrictions as food – actually there is good reason new clothes and bedding are suggested to be washed before using, they are made with and tainted with many chemicals, even potentially toxic ones. While I always considered organic clothing to be too expensive and maybe even extravagant, I now have a better understanding of its efficiency and would prefer to gift friends pricey organic clothing rather than anything else – except maybe fair trade chocolates for mum.

 

Nappies (What the British call diapers)

Greene thoroughly covers issues regarding nappies, referring to current studies and for those of us, like me, who are trapped somewhere between the guilt of wishing to use cloth nappies and actually using landfill-nappies (as Greene points out they are not truly disposable since they stick around forever!), there are some alternatives available: eco-diapers, made with less toxins and more sustainability or disposable cloth liners, which can be flushed thereby making cloth diapers easier to clean and carry. With a new, less toxic detergent on hand, Green has inspired me, and we are back in the cloth!

 

Labour and Delivery

The section on eco-birthing was especially interesting to me as I have birthed in several different environments, both home and hospitals. Even though I have home-birthed four of my children, they were all in different homes. In the Labour and Delivery Room section of the book as well as the Whole Home section, Green gives plenty of areas to consider when creating a safer home environment for our babies. He also details the larger impact of hospital births, offering alternative suggestions for a “carbon neutral delivery” within both hospitals and homes.

Toys

And even though I am already completely sold on the idea, I loved Greene’s section on toys where he waxes the goodness in wood, wool, cotton, and toys made of natural materials. “Research on the health effects of many plastics is still in its early stages, but it is known that some of our children’s plastic toys contain chemicals, including lead, cadmium, and toxic softeners, that  may cause permanent damage to the brain, liver, and reproductive system” warns Greene. Being from San Francisco – the city Green highlights, where certain plastic toys are actually illegal – I have long known about the toxicity of plastics and their manufacturing, but rereading the litany of environmental and health problems caused by these products is always a good refresher. Plastics are so convenient and common, I find them constantly sneaking into my home! Natural materials can be more costly and time-consuming to care for, but what is time? And what is our rizq (income) for? Allah (SWT) allots us our time, so being green is an act of ‘ibadah (worship) and our money should not be spent on buying goods which are poisonous to both ourselves and the shared environment.


Overall I really appreciated Greene’s book. Even though I consider myself an eco-jihadist, I still found through the read that there are several areas of my life in which I could do a little more greening, and there are a good variety of ways to do it.

Further Reading:

Green Deen: What Islam Teaches about Protecting the Planet by Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, Third Edition: Encouraging Your Child’s Natural Development from Birth to Age Six by Rahima Baldwin Dancy

All Our Relations: Native Struggles for Land and Life by Winona LaDuke

~~~

This book review originally appeared in the April 2013 issues of SISTERS Magazine– the magazine for fabulous Muslim women. 

 

Brooke Benoit lives in a rural village in the High Atlas Mountains where she is trying to lightly walk her own eco-talk.

Muslim Teen Reads – A Peek Behind the Scenes

Please tell us a little about your background:
I am a wife, mother, daughter and sister. Born and raised in Nigeria but currently residing in Ireland, Clonmel (Valley of Honey) to be precise. I hold a BA in English Studies from Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria and worked as a community development officer with the Lagos State government in Nigeria before relocating to Ireland in 2003. I am an avid reader and a book lover. I also love to write and have recently had quite a number of my articles published in SISTERS magazine and Discover Kid’s magazine, and am currently taking a course in freelance writing.
MTR

What was the catalyst for beginning Muslim Teen Reads?
Alhamdulillah for opportunities that come our way as means to serve Allah (SWT). Muslim Teen Reads is an answered du’a. While performing Hajj in 2010, I prayed to Allah (SWT) for a means to serve and got the result when I returned. In January 2011, SISTERS magazine responded to my email to distribute their magazine in Ireland. While selling the magazines, parents and even some teens themselves would ask for materials that are Islamic but for teens and young adults. Another contributory factor is that I am working with youths in the Nigerian Muslim community and see the need to look for materials that will encourage them to expand their knowledge of Islam through fiction and non-fiction works. The search then began with the help of Allah (SWT) and support from my dear friend and Sister, Latifah Binuyo, who introduced me to lots of Islamic Fiction. I got the books and read them. I also had a mobile Islamic library where I would loan my books to people without any charge in order to promote literacy. Within a short time frame, awareness about Islamic fiction began spreading amongst friends and SISTERS magazine buyers and the idea to make it global sprang up.

I also had a mobile Islamic library where I would loan my books to people without any charge in order to promote literacy.

How does the Muslim Teen Reads Group work?
The Muslim Teen reads team is made up of adults, teens and pre-teens who are committed to bringing Islamic fiction and non-fiction to Muslim teenagers both young and old. We also celebrate our much loved and committed Muslim writers, foster reading in teenagers and most importantly use the fictional characters to motivate and encourage young Muslims to aspire to be the best they can be. To achieve these goals, we try as much as possible to make books accessible to readers through the online bookstore, and some members distribute the books in their various countries. We encourage our members to read widely and write reviews which we publish on our website, http://www.muslimteenreads.com/, where we also sell the books. The Author’s Gallery on the website introduces you to the lives of Muslim authors.

Each member of the group searches for new titles from around the world and we then read these books to ensure we are only recommending books that are safe and age appropriate to the readers; for instance, the fact that a pre-teen is good at reading does not mean that he /she should be encouraged to read books that are recommended for the teenagers. We also encourage book buyers to form local book clubs, and we walk them through on how to run them. Our Facebook page has a membership of over 30,000 fans, where we post general updates.

What do you feel the reading group has accomplished – for you individually and for the members?
I have learnt in life that knowledge comes in various ways. However, seeking out beneficial knowledge is the ultimate goal. Through this reading group, I have discovered and gained a lot of Islamic knowledge. From every reading, I gain one lesson or another to help shape my life. Along the way, I have also met wonderful people who have inspired, influenced and motivated me to push on despite all odds.

This is what some of the Muslim Teen members have to say about their experiences with the group:

“Almost everything in life is about choices…..and I have noticed that a recurring theme in most of these books is about making choices, sometimes in some seemingly simple issues and sometimes in big issues – pleasing Allah or pleasing ‘the self’. These often resonate with the young readers and they can identify with the characters in the books. For me, it is about bringing this to the fore in a non-preachy way, helping them overcome identity issues and boosting their confidence as Muslims.” Lateefah Binuyo

“They are epic, interesting, adventurous, and sometimes hilarious like The Hen in the Wardrobe. They are full of lessons – you are learning without knowing it until you reach the end of the book or encounter a similar situation.” Haneefah (7 yr old)

“Being a part of the Muslim Teen reads family has afforded me the opportunity of coming across great Muslim fiction writers/authors, whom otherwise, I might not even know of their existence. Distributing these books in the UK has also made me realise the great vacuum now being filled… Entertainment is apparently the focal point of most activities in today’s world, including reading, and seeing the relief and excitement expressed when people come across these books that combines entertainment with both Islamic and moral messages is a pointer to the great impact the Muslim Teen Reads concept is having and has the potential to achieve.” Rashidah Hassan

“As a Muslim teen reader I have become exposed to a variety of halal Islamic fiction. This has given me insights into issues that I might have been unaware of as a teenager. Living in the West means there are limited options of appropriate novels but thanks to Muslim Teen Reads, I now have access to Islamic novels.” Fatimah Haruna

“Muslim Teen Reads has been inspirational and true connector of Muslim writers and readers from all over the world. I am glad that I have been opportuned to be part of this. Currently, there are about ten Islamic schools in Nigeria that make use of Muslim Teen Reads titles.” Jaleelah Balogun-Binuyo

In Nigeria, Jaleelah and Fatimah are doing great jobs getting Islamic schools to stock and use the Islamic fiction and book titles listed by Muslim Teen Reads, and also they are encouraged to form online groups to discuss the titles they have read.

What are some your goals for the group in the coming year(s)?
Insha Allah, we hope to get e-books on the online store and also make more sales, increase traffic on the website, get the discussion forum running and also get an in-house imam to answer questions that come up for the readers and of course, this would be a confidential service.

Insha Allah, it is also in the pipeline to host webinars to educate members and the public in general the importance of knowledge-seeking through reading beneficial books. We are also working on getting the Islamic fiction titles into the National curriculum in Nigeria, insha Allah.

Books, reviews, interviews and Fawziyyah’s writings are available at http://muslimteenreads.com/. The group is available to join via http://www.facebook.com/muslimteenreads and follow their tweets via twitter @muslimteenreads.

~~~

This article originally appeared in the March 2013 issue of SISTERS Magazine.

An Especially Inspired SISTERS Reads – SISTERS Magazine

SISTERS contributors suggest some of their most inspirational reads by and about Muslimahs…

Esp

Brooke Benoit Picks:
For the People, By the People: Muslim Voices, Human Lives an Anthology edited by Sabha Hadi
A wonderful new collection of musings written by both converts and raised-Muslims, both brothers and sisters in the deen. Sharing a range of insights from all over the world about their experiences around issues of identity and religiosity, For the People, By the People surely and generously offers inspiration and wisdom to all its readers. Enjoy an excerpt by contributor Tasia Kazimi on page 114.

Sumreen Wasiq’s Picks:
The Size of A Mustard Seed by Umm Juwayriyyah
Classified under the genre of Urban Islamic Fiction, The Size of a Mustard Seed is a literary accomplishment of the talented author, Umm Juwayriyyah. Given the fact that hundreds of dubious fictitious novels abound in bookshops around the world, novels like The Size of a Mustard Seed are the need of the hour in providing Muslim youth with quality Islamic literature. While reading the book, I particularly noticed the powerful writing style of the author. Doing justice to all of her characters, Umm Juwayriyyah delivered each new story through them, resounding with so many of us Muslims in our daily lives. She addresses core Islamic issues plaguing Western Muslims in an effective manner and also offers practical solutions to them. Set around a young American Muslim woman, Jameelah Salih, the novel reflects her everyday struggles and makes for a truly interesting read.

Welcome to Islam by Lucy Bushill-Matthews
Reading the accounts of reverts’ journeys to Islam always rejuvenates my own faith. Such is the remarkable tale of Lucy Bushill Matthews who takes the reader along with her as she unfolds her past and reveals her exciting experiences. The author’s writing style is direct and unobtrusive. Rather than detailing her sojourn with long and dreary prose, she shrewdly breaks them into short and enjoyable portions with catchy sub headings. Belonging to a Christian family, her conversion and the subsequent sacrifices she had to make are sure to inspire any Muslim. However, as much as she practises the new faith, Lucy also attempts to retain her English identity by amalgamating the British and Islamic values that coincide with each other. I also found her determination and focus in clearing away the misconceptions that arise in the minds of non-Muslims to be very motivating. While discovering more about the beauty of Islam, she logically questions the prevalent practices in her society. It is through her charitable and social work for the Muslim community that she hopes to bring forth a positive change, which is on its own a commendable virtue.

Now You Are A Mother by Du’aa Ra’oof Shaheen
Experiencing two pregnancies up till now Alhamdulillah, I have realised through my experiences that an educated pregnancy is the best one. Although this book came after the arrival of both of my bundle of joys, I nevertheless find it like a wise friend offering me support and guidance when I need it most. Sound and succinct, this new release by the acclaimed publisher Darussalam is a must have for Muslim mommies to-be. Covering every aspect imaginable of a baby’s life in ten detailed chapters, Now You Are a Mother is a comprehensive and practical guide for keeping the sanity of new mothers intact. It presents this sacred relationship in a balanced manner; by sufficiently covering the physical, emotional and mental needs of both the mother and the child from birth to 4 years, as well as focusing beautifully on the Islamic requirements and injunctions on raising Muslim kids, this book promises to be a great companion during the ups and downs of motherhood.

The Butterfly Mosque by G. Willow Wilson
Written down to precise perfection, G Willow Wilson’s memoir about her journey to Islam is rich and intense. Reverting in Egypt, Wilson’s wonderful experiences of navigating through love, faith and culture add a new dimension of a convert’s sojourn. Her prose is lyrical and she has the canny ability to draw out profound lessons from each of the incidents. A bit controversial at times, Wilson is unabashed and rebellious. Her description of Cairo and the Middle Eastern culture also makes for an interesting read as she clears away various false impressions of the Arab world. The role of her husband, Omar, must also be mentioned as he successfully breaks the stereotypical image of an Arab man. I admire Wilson for standing up for the Islamic scholars and exposing the ignorant and exploitative behaviour of Western journalists while presenting Islam to the world. Poignant and warm, this memoir is a blend of the best and the worst of East and West.

Sumreen Wasiq is a mother of two, aged 3 and 1, with a third on the way. She is passionate about reading and writing, as well as whipping up new dishes now and then. She would love to travel around one day and see up close the world that comes alive in so many books.

Fawziyyah Emiabata’s Picks:
From MTV To Mecca – How Islam Inspired My Life by Kristiane Backer
Far from religion and spirituality, Kristiane Backer was in a world of her own – the entertainment, music and pop video industry, which in turn became a means to discovering herself. In her personal memoir, From MTV To Mecca – How Islam Inspired My Life, the former musical television video jockey (VJ) gives us a full account of her spiritual journey to Islam. Though faced by many challenges, her strong faith gave her the inner peace she had always sought. As one of the very first presenters on MTV Europe, she made a lot of money and met a lot of who’s who in the society – from major artists to famous musicians of her time. She was very successful in her career and anyone in her shoes couldn’t ask for more, but as the saying goes “Money can buy you anything in the world but happiness”, and so the quest for peace of mind began for Kristiane.

I personally admire Kristiane’s courage and her open heartedness to learn, as they seem to have helped a lot in getting the answers to her quest for life and its meaning. The lessons she learned along this journey of the love for the divine (Creator), which is greater than that of the physical or emotional love she felt for some of the closest people she met along the way while climbing on the spiritual ladder, made it so easy for her to let go any physical or mundane affairs. When she got her heart broken and let down by someone she had the hope ofgetting married to, it was her high level of spirituality and her love for the divine that helped her to be forgiving. I was particularly moved by this act of hers. There is no doubt that this book will be enjoyed by all, as it is very interesting, informative and will inspire both Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.

From My Sisters’ Lips by Na’ima B. Robert
Beautifully written and with utmost clarity, Na’ima gives us an account of her journey back to her original religion, Islam, in her memoir From My Sisters’ Lips. Through Na’ima, we also get to meet other sisters from different parts of the world who share their experiences from reversion to submission, nikkah, divorce, hijab, bereavement, niqab and so on. From My Sisters Lips was the first Islamic book I ever read, as it actually came to me in a period when I was facing some challenges in my life and I found it so interesting. I found solace in Allah I through this book as the trials faced by some of these sisters were nearly exactly what I was facing then. It was a great iman booster for me, Alhamdulillah, and I was able to evoke major changes in myself partially inspired by this book. From My Sisters Lips is highly inspirational and motivating. I would recommend this for every woman.

Love in a Headscarf: Muslim Woman Seeks the One by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed
Love in a Headscarf is highly readable. In this personal memoir, Shelina, a British-Asian Muslim woman, shares the secret of how in her teenage fantasy, she had set her standards so as to fall in love with the man she would marry. Considering her Asian background and culture, this seems impossible. Having tried the recommendations of the “Buxom Aunties” and some close family members, but still without a suitor to match the earlier standards she had set, Shelina decides to follow a Muslim-style arranged-marriage route to finding her Mr. Right. Along the way she discovers her faith and herself.
Generally, I found Love in a Headscarf quite interesting. At one point, I felt pity for Shelina when she first felt she had found the right one, but he turned out not to be, and then she got stood up by another person. It was also a great read for learning about a culture different than my own.

Love in a Headscarf is highly recommended for anyone contemplating marriage in particular and women in general.

Turning the Tide by Suma Din
Turning the Tide is a comprehensive summary of a woman’s journey, marked by events from conception to death. The encyclopaedic nature of this book makes it very accessible as the author shows a detailed account of our purpose of existence and some of the ups and downs we face in order to fulfil this special purpose. Suma uses adequate quotations from the Qur’an and ahadith which point to the very meaning of these life events, what we should do and how to go about it.

The use of a strong ‘myriad poetic voices’ by the author makes Turning the Tide outstanding and unique. I especially loved this part of the book and was always looking forward to what ‘the voice’ had to say when I got to a new chapter. It seemed all the time that the words of ‘the voice’ were replacing or representing my own voice. My world is far from the author’s, yet our voices are very similar – I conclude that this stems from the universality of the beauty of creation! I took my time to read this book as it’s not one to be read in one sitting. This book helped raise a lot of questions and from it as well, the answers were presented right before me. It is a book I really enjoyed reading and can confirm that it is a book for every day.

Fawziyyah Emiabata is currently taking a course in Freelance writing and hopes to achieve a lot with it insha Allah. You can read more book reviews on her website www.muslimteenreads.com

Miriam Islam’s Pick:
Return of the Pharaoh by Zainab Al Ghazali
“The door to a dark room was opened. I was hurled inside and the door crashed shut behind me… The next moment the door was locked and a bright light switched on. Now their purpose was revealed; the room was full of dogs! I could not count how many! Within seconds the snarling dogs were all over me and I could feel their teeth tearing into every part of my body… The dogs were unrelenting, digging their teeth into my scalp, my back, shoulder, everywhere. I repeatedly invoked my Lord.” I think this one passage alone sums up the entire lurid contents of Return of the Pharaoh. Although I was captured from the first page, this incident really brought it home. I couldn’t believe what I had read: did such events really take place?
I had to accept the bitter truth, but in the process I learnt about one of the most amazing women to have existed in our time. Zainab Al Ghazali; Beacon of Light, Patron of Hope for the orphans and destitute, this is a true account of her time spent in Egypt’s prison.

Wrongly accused of conspiring to murder President Nasir, she underwent the most unspeakable acts of torture in an effort to make her swear a false oath and forego her Islamic duties. Her only mission was to establish Islam and uphold pure monotheism for the lost people of Egypt. But bringing this about under the rule of Nasir was an almost impossible notion as he had sold his soul to the devil and its allies.

There are very few women who have walked on this earth that can be compared to Aasiyah t, wife of Firawn, and Summayah t, Family of Yasir, but the more I read the more I believed that Zainab was one such woman like them – a woman who is a testament that such people of true faith do still exist. She achieved their rank in both hardship and sweetness of iman. Giving up the dunya and all its allure, she patiently suffered everything with her sight set on the hereafter; for Jannah was within her heart, so what could they do to her?
In vivid detail, Zainab describes all that happened to her and others around her who were unjustly imprisoned. Words alone can’t describe it; it must be read to be appreciated. This is a beautiful, haunting book that makes you weep and burn with anger for the injustice of it all.

Miriam Islam was born and brought up in the UK and is married with two delightful little children, and Insha Allah, another baby on the way!(as of posting here- make that three kids alhumdulillah) She has contributed articles to Habibis Halaqas and also writes on a freelance basis on health-related topics.

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This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of SISTERS Magazine featuring Inspirational Muslim Women! 

Unschooling – Discovery New Possibilities

Before we moved to Casablanca, I anticipated that I would be a full-time home-educating mom once we got here. This would be the first time in forever that I hadn’t worked some job either at home or out of it, either as my family’s primary income or as a supplemental income. Actually, when we had lived in Casa seven years prior- that was the last time I hadn’t worked, and this time I was determined to “dedicate all my time to my kids.” I imagined that I would do some writing when the creative drive presented itself and maybe do a little tutoring too in order to build up a resume. Thank God it didn’t happen at all like that.

Soon after arriving in Casa I was invited to write for SISTERS Magazine. This was a very exciting surprise for me, but also left me feeling conflicted. Not only was I worried about busying myself and therefore neglecting my kids, I would also be writing about us and well- could I do that in a tactful, non-backbiting and still interesting way? I thought long and hard and prayed istikarah and you see what happened.

I should have known better on several fronts. I’ve expatted before so I know it doesn’t work out as planned. And aside from that, I have read about a kuzillion home-educating, parenting and pedagogy materials in the last decade and I know that nurturing oneself is critical to being a well-rounded parent, yet I was still falling for the Mommy Martyr bit. Again, thank God, I was pulled out of it!

In addition to being my little outlet, writing for SISTERS was an opportunity for me to demonstrate to my kids how to produce. I’m raising up a gang of prolific readers, which although some find it hard to “produce” readers, well my concern is more with producing producers– whether they be writers, artists, inventors- whatever their inclination may be, my concern has been with helping my kids to find that drive, that confidence, that whatever which will encourage them to contribute. I had hoped that by writing for a magazine it would create a sort of blasé base in my kids- if mom can do that, what can I do?

Well, they can do that too. I am pretty ridiculously excited to direct you to the newly launched Discover- The magazine for curious Muslim kids and my eldest son’s writing debut:

Discover is being printed this week, please check the facebook page to find out where you can get it: https://www.facebook.com/DiscoverMagazineKids

Read! And contribute!

Retro Green Kitchens – Rethinking the Pressure Cooker from Sakyna Magazine

I started preparing food for myself when I was about ten years old (nearly three decades ago) and soon there after began my lifelong interest in balancing healthy, humanitarian and ecological considerations while satisfying my big foodie naf’s cravings. In my teens I became vegetarian which initially meant eating a lot of grilled cheese, but ultimately opened up my repertoire of cooking skills to familiarity with a dearth of exotic-to-the-1980s-suburban-USA ingredients and an ability to cook an international smorgasbord of menus. In my early twenties I became much more aware of the contents of our food and kitchen wears on a micro level. I began eating more organic and less processed foods, as well as avoiding plastics, Teflon and other carcinogenic-producing kitchen items and later play things for my young children. Since having been Muslim for 15 or so years I have wrangled with issues related to halal and humane slaughter. But in all the years I have been trying to live green in my kitchen, one area I grossly neglected was my direct use of fossil fuels in my actual cooking.

While I may be sure to only run a full load in the washing machine and to switch off any unused lights or electrical gadgets, I had never once considered the larger impact of my gourmand activities, such as daily baking single loaves of multi-grain bread or low-temperature roasting a sheet of granola for a couple of hours in the oven. I was also a frequent participant in the convenience of over-night slow cooking. Electricity and gas–unlike organic, fair trade or even halal–were never considered luxurious by me. No matter how high they were, we managed to pay the utility bills- alhumdiAllah. I never considered the greater impact of the amount of fossil fuels I was using while maximizing my family’s nutritional intake, that is, until I came to Morocco, where cooking gas is not directly piped into homes, rather you must pick-it up from the corner store when your tank runs dry and this helps everyone to be very conscious of how much gas or electricity they are using every time they cook. Surely economics is a major factor for how most people use their kitchen fuel here in Morocco, but ecology is as an equally important factor to consider and the one that ultimately led me to embrace a kitchen gadget used daily the world over, but seen as archaic or a specialty item in the US—the pressure cooker.

Fear was my first reaction to seeing a pressure cooker up close and spitting steam. An innocuous enough looking pot with a lid, that does make a bit of a “thut, thut, thut” noise as it gets worked up, surely it was only a matter of time before it would someday explode!  Though I didn’t even have a vague idea of how they work, I know that my grand mother’s generation used them, especially for canning, and that pressure cooking accidents were vile and maybe frequent, or maybe not. Actually, the “dangers of pressure cooking” was the only thing I thought about pressure cooking and, of course—considering they are used daily the world over—the dangers are greatly exaggerated. Modern “second” and “third generation” cookers have mastered safety features. Most pressure cooker accidents previously occurred when they were opened too soon, before the pressure inside had been released, this is impossible to do with many current models.

Nowadays I cook for a family of ten and my second goal in the kitchen, right behind maximizing nutritional content, is getting out of the kitchen as quickly as possible. While the ecological benefits of pressure cooking are great, I fully admit it’s the reduction in cooking time—up to 70% less time—that made me a regular pressure cook.  I cook beans a few times a week and often used to do so overnight or throughout the day in a crockpot, but now I can have them done in less than half an hour or even just 15 minutes for lentils and small legumes. Meats that I would have had to marinate overnight or slow stew for tenderness also come out, in less than half an hour, soft enough to cut with a spoon! And though I didn’t know it when I started using mine, pressure cookers actually help maintain the nutritional content of foods since less of the vitamins or minerals are lost to steam or boiled out in water.

Aside from the residual and unnecessary fear that folks may have about pressure cookers, really the only disadvantage I can think of is the price. They do cost more than a plain ole lidded pot, especially the stainless steel ones which I prefer over the aluminum, but like a food processor or other medium to large ticket time-saving kitchen gadget a pressure cooker is a worthy investment for any growing family or budding gourmet. The cooking itself is quite easy to learn and if you can’t get a sage pressure cook to guide you there are many cookbooks and resources online, including video tutorials. In the course of writing this article I have discovered that there are ways to prepare more than one dish in the cooker at the same time and I am excitedly off to go try that tonight—happy, quick and green cooking to all!

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This article originally appeared in the premiere issue of Sakyna Magazine (Winter 1433)- “a quarterly collaborative magazine centered on mindful Islamic natural living, nurturing, and crafting through the seasons.”  Insha Allah I’ll have another Retro Green Kitchen article in the upcoming Spring issue. Check it out, it’s a lovely and inspiring publication, masha Allah.