Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Qur'an help! Okay Internets- your turn!

Assalamu Alaikum,

Where can I find a 'large-print'(NOT just large Size) Uthmanic Arabic-only Qur'an? I saw one at the masjid the other day that made me drool. Let me explain:

One of the hardest things for me this past summer at Fawakih was struggling to read the Qur'an, both aloud and to myself, consistently. Our tajweed class literally drove me to tears.

It did help when we sisters were allowed to take the course from a sister who has ijaza instead of in front of the whole world. But I figured out that my real problem had more to do with the whole struggle itself to SEE and capture what I was reading.

See, Arabic script in nearly every Qur'an I've seen has been MUCH smaller than comparable typeface. SO not only do I have to remember the sounds that go with the letters and how to string them together properly, and THEN read with the proper hukm/rules (ha ha, sorry, just remembered the way our Algerian sheikh would ask us, 'Wha' tha hukm?'), I also have to fight just to SEE what I'm reading with every dot and haraka correct. In Arabic, the dots make a difference. It's not like leaving the dot off a lower-case letter I in English. Beyond the ordinary frustration, reading and missing dots and having to concentrate intensely on every. single. word-it's extraordinarily tiring.

And the ordinary frustration is great- I'm one of those people who read whole lines at a time in Latin script (English, Spanish, Portuguese- doesn't matter). Arabic flipped the script for me because I can't 'capture' and understand the words, because I don't know vocab. I don't understand what I'm reading. So it flies right out of my head until I get it explained. I find it a lot easier to memorize Qur'an while driving and repeating back what a passenger recites to me, for example, than reading it or sitting in front of a computer listening to it.

So I end up asking a ton of questions. My teacher would ask me to 'just memorize it, it doesn't matter if you understand it'. Huh? That's a poor and last-ditch way to retain knowledge if you ask me. Sure, if all you're trying to do is preserve the way the sounds go through the generations, that's what you do. Anyway.

Since it's rare that I actually have someone in the car to recite the Qur'an to me and then explain what it's about (Thanks, Emad and Waheed), I've been trying to take time out of my day to read it to myself. I have Qur'an translations as well as a transliteration (which I don't like to use), so I'm okay with meaning. My problem is reading the actual arabic.

So then, the other day at the masjid I saw a musHaf that made me drool. I COULD READ THE SCRIPT. The words were relatively large (I'd say about a 14 pt font?) and uncrowded on the page. It had colored tajweed script (not the highlight blocks that drive me nuts). The top and sides were color-notched and labeled according to Surah AND Juz. And it was hardback. It was one of those moments when you can almost see the beam of light shining down from the heavens- THIS! This was exactly what I needed! It was so easy to read! And to find the surahs I already knew in English! MashaAllah! I spent an hour in the masjid just reciting with that mushaf.
Of course, it belongs to the masjid.

So. Does anyone know where I can get my hands on a Qur'an of this sort? I'm willing to forego the (awesomely excellent) juz and surah notching, and even the tajweed rules. But a Qur'an of this type, for someone whose eyes aren't that good/a beginner in reading Arabic is something I'm willing to pay for. I've searched a lot of web sites, and what I've found are large SIZED mushafs, with script the same as everywhere else, not helpful. Please lend me your expertise!

Also, I'll be at ISNA, so if you know for a fact that there's a certain vendor there who'll have these or know of them, let me know.



Monday, August 18, 2008

Race You

Assalamu Alaikum,

So, didn't sleep much last night. This would make up for the fact that I pretty much slept around the prayer times all day yesterday. That's a neat knack to have if it weren't for the fact that I probably should've been up doing things yesterday. I'm not sick, alhamdulillah, but I think a couple things have me a little bit down. One, is a particular man who is exploring the idea of marrying me. The other is the concept of race and how far we've not come on it in this ummah. Sigh.

The man? Was around before that last post of mine. I'm getting a strong 'no' feeling after istikhara and a pretty uneasy and forgettable conversation with him. I don't want to go into it too much here. Just want to note for my own memory that I have this uneasy feeling about him. I'm fighting myself because I don't want to be biased against him without having really met him, when there are a couple of things I could be biased against. I guess I want to give him a fighting chance when something else slightly irrational but true-to-me is saying 'nuh-unh'.

The race thing is, I guess, the flip side of that particular coin. I've been here in Conservopolis a year. And while I've got some friends, they aren't the close-close kind of friends. A very few confidants who are trustworthy. And I trust them because they will make un-politically correct remarks around me. They've let me put my foot in my mouth, too. Certain people, make me think I want to hold them at arms' length, but that isn't the way to maintain friendships, is it? Still. That crew of women who are around my age I find particularly frustrating. One moment they're calling me sweetheart and the next I'm ignoring the fact that there are several gatherings I wasn't invited to being mentioned in my face. Sigh. If I were included I'd have something else to be mad about so I'm gonna stick to the ones who are true: the 30 something moms. For some reason, maybe because they have neither time nor intention to BS me, I'm easier around them.

Then we have the whole dark skin thing. I find it hilarious and at the same time frustrating to be summarily dismissed on first impression because of my skin color and cultural background. Equally funny and maddening to have myself subjected to every stereotype about African Americans simply because I am one. From my teacher at the beginning of the summer to some rude teens at a party the other day, I've seen it and had to have some patience on it.

The patience is always rewarded when the children of the community, my students, no matter what color they are, run and tackle my knees as soon as they see me. Some of these children have begun parroting the 'you're darker, not pretty' belief at me, but their love belies the indoctrination. To have to interrupt my conversation with an adult to direct my attention three feet lower to a (non-African American, paper-bag test passing) child gleefully screeching, "Miss Two! Miss Two!" and watching the adult's expression 'lighten' is better than any fight I could fight.

I wish I could convey that through the internet.

I have to go to work, or I'd finish this. There's another telling thing: I do NOT want to go back to work under one of the admins at my school (no point in singling one of them out). And I don't want to go back, period. This'll change, I'm sure, when I"m in the middle of selecting shiny new posters, laminating borders and arabic cards, making nametags and cubby pictures for my students. Teaching at this level is a very fun line of work; but it is a line of work. InshaAllah I'll be one of those who either finds work that isn't like working, things I think about late at night and can't wait to get to in the morning, or I'll be finally able to make my home that work, and I'll only have to account to my Lord for my days. That? Would be awesome.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

YOU are now officially everyone and their mama

Salaam Alaikum,

Rejection stinks. This is true. It happened when I was surrounded by about 100 teenagers, 9 of whom I was responsible for. Know what? That helped me get over it all the quicker. It wasn't easy, but the kids gave me a great excuse to not be around them for a couple of hours (they played a prank on the counselors, so I needed to go change my clothes) and I got in the pimp car (which, btw, had been scraped earlier by one of the campers' cars that week- now I have to paint it) and drove in it and stopped in the dark and thought dark thoughts and talked to God before returning to see the girls to sleep. When I was done I was raw, when I woke the next morning I was absolutely okay with the whole thing. Whew.

Moving along- someone else has asked about me. Most obvious draw: he's definitely established in life, has worked a couple of careers, and people I trust know him pretty well. Most obvious drawback? He's around 16 years older than I am.

*sigh* make dua'a please. Really. I'm serious. Even just a 'Allah, please give that sister who calls herself Twenny guidance amin' will help greatly.

That, and um if I haven't stated it baldly enough, I am pretty serious about getting married. So if you know me and you know somebody, mention me. All suggestions will be entertained.

Yeah, this guy said it pretty well, entertain yourself for 9 minutes of your life:

MYNA Camp was wonderful, mashaAllah. I had a relatively small cabin, with roughly the same age group- a little younger. There were challenging personalities and deep personalities. My assistant, A, was the head counselor for the girls, and another very good friend was also counselor. And really, I get along pretty well with all of the counselors who were there. There are certain ladies with whom I have ... an ambivalent relationship. And all of these women are pretty prominent, or rather from prominent and established families in the Conservopolis community.

The ones I don't mix well with were not there. You know I said alhamdulillah for that, and made dua'a for them as well since the reasons for their absences were very sad. It's weird. Just because we don't get along doesn't mean I don't wish them the best. This grownup thing takes getting used to.

The theme of the camp meant that we spent a LOT of time talking about the characteristics of Jennah and Jehennam. There were a couple of repeat speakers, including one of the organizers and one of the coordinators of the Fawakih program. Plus, people from the program itself came to visit, a welcome surprise.

The highlights of my week, besides community prayer all day every day, were the swim sessions (yay all-girls swimming, TWICE), being able to float and really listen to all of the kids responses and ideas in the various programming workshops, and the calligraphy workshops. InshaAllah men are really as oblivious as we think because Sonny's brother was the calligraphy teacher. (Now that I think on it, his wife may have told him I was interested anyhow. I don't want to ponder that anymore.) He didn't have ijaza, just experience in the past, but I enjoyed his very straightforward approach to teaching and positive criticism. Alhamdulillah I learned a lot, though, and it's something I may actually want to pursue. Conservopolis doesn't have any teachers, so that'll take doing. We'll see.

ISNA is coming, and I go back to teaching next week. This year, how it has flown!


Friday, August 01, 2008


Assalamu Alaikum,

I'm here. Working to get my life back on track, is all. And Sunday I leave for MYNA camp, yay! So inshaAllah you are all well and healthy. I guess perhaps I'll be back to more regular blogging when school is in (and thus my vacation is over, sigh).