Yes, so I'm averaging about two posts a month this year. How far I've come. I'm writing through a splitting headache just now- otherwise I won't get a chance for a while. I've been "thinking" my posts for weeks now. By the time I get to sit down, they're all forgotten. Maybe I should go back to good'ol paper journaling for good. On the other hand, what I like about blogging is the ability to share, and get feedback on the thoughts I actually publish. I'm thinking about moving to wordpress, but only if and when I have time to actually do stuff with the blog and not just neglect it for weeks at a time. I dunno. We'll see.
The school was on spring break last week. I'd made a whole bunch of plans for what I'd do. Puh-leeze. I slept the first 6 days, ran around running errands on the seventh, and then on the last three went to St. Louis for the MSA Central Zone conference. The conference was good, but sparsely attended- even the campus where we were was on spring break, and half of the students who'd registered and paid to attend didn't show. I guess they were on break, too.
I enjoyed the trip. St. Louis was a nice city, not that I got to see much of it. I became really good friends with the women who went with us. I went with the University of Conservopolis MSA- and you know how they roll, girls in one car, guys in the other. So it was good to relax and just talk, read, and eat, learn about and from one another. More than half of us ended up, um, not praying during the trip. I don't know what that was about. But anyway, I genuinely liked every single one of the women with us, and that was a treat.
I'm up in the air on whether or not that was my last MSA trip. I'll have been out of undergrad five years (yikes!) this May. On one hand, I do feel, just a bit, that I should have outgrown the group. But on the other hand, I haven't. Maybe I'm attracted to groups that have either mature or even just likeable people. I'll go anywhere I can to learn a little more about Islam, add to the pieces of understanding and truth I've picked up since my shahada.
Too, we're Muslims, and that seemed to come first at this particular C-Zone conference.. East Zone conferences I've attended in the past have definitely had a bit of that "ISNA Saturday Night" feeling, and I was able to just gravitate toward the actual learning portions of the conference. EZ definitely was more meat market, more "foo foo", appearance based, and um... young, as in immature. There were way more people there, too.
This conference really didn't have much of that. The people there seemed for the most part to be actually focused on living as Muslims, day in and day out, in our communities and in this country. The speakers were all actual imams, sheikhs, learned individuals. I'm trying to think if even one was a woman... I don't think any of the main speakers were female. Not that that bothers me. I'm just sayin'.
As an MSA conference, of course there were like 4 main areas under which all of the lectures and breakout sessions seemed to fall: How to Live Like a Muslim, Bringing Islam to American Communities, The Cultural Gap Between Backhomelandia (ht to Umm Zaid)and the USA, and, ever-present, Gettin' Hitched and Otherwise Keepin it Halal Around The Other Gender.
Oh, which reminds me what I wanted to say about that.
I forget that I'm a convert sometimes. When I'm allowed to. When it's just me and my rug and my Lord. When I'm going about my business. When I'm living a life carefully groomed toward ever more taqwa and ibadah (worship) inshaAllah. That aspect of my Islam is not one I've decided to keep on the outside as part of my identity. I'm Muslim. It's annoying sometimes to go through the 20 questions with every Muslim I meet and after I answer, "My parents are from Alabama", I get the, Oh, MashaAllah, A Convert How and Why Did/Do You Do It? speech. (Not sure why I'm capitalizing everything in sight. Bear with me.)
However, because I am a convert, there are certain things that I see that are particular to being a new Muslim especially in the US. My feeling is that while converts may be a small portion of the world's Muslims, we're a big fount of increase in Muslim numbers. We're not an ignorable minority, because many converts still have social currency in the sections of society they belonged to before Islam. Which means, if a convert radiates contentment and joy even during the hard times after conversion, then there's more opportunity for more dawah as people who know this person see that in them. On the other hand, all of us have heard of the convert who was truly a convert but was disillusioned in Islam and turned away, complaining bitterly to the people to whom they've returned. If nothing else, attention needs to be paid to this group, just little touches that make converts feel able to integrate smoothly from where they are to the Muslims Allah wants them to be. That sounds idealistic, but that's how I feel.
And yet, especially when it comes to things like MSA conferences, aspects that would especially apply to converts are repeatedly ignored. And when they're brought up, they're brushed off or treated as side notes. It's frustrating. The particular thread that comes to mind is (of course) one of the breakout sessions that was about marriage and how to actually approach the other person blah blah blah. I hope y'all get the gist. Just as last year, I brought up the question of what the speakers (fortunately great speakers and pretty knowlegeable, I thought) would tell a convert or even a student from a not-so-practising Muslim family whose parents aren't able or don't want to help him/her get married. And the silence was big. It was as if these guys hadn't even ever considered the possibility that that could even happen.
Of course, they answered the question. The response was (I wish I had my notes with me) something like, 'they should ask friends or someone they can trust, or even get their parents to help them. Their parents should want to help them since they love them. Since yes, mashaAllah there's an ever larger number of people coming to Islam through our college campuses we should be open to this possibility."
Sigh. Discuss. I've gotta go. InshaAllah when I get back to the computer I'll talk more about that--- and the fact that the man I've had my eye on was on this trip. Heh Heh Heh. Yay cliffhangers!