Sigh. I’ve been having a hard time writing lately. It’s gotten so bad that I find myself writing up posts and then deleting them time after time. If I were using paper and pencil I’d have a two-foot-deep drift of crumpled-up pages around my desk. It’s not that I have nothing to write about. The world is chock-full of interesting topics. It’s just that I can’t wrap my brain around what I want to say. Actually, I can SAY it but it’s harder to write. When you write, you have to type in relatively coherent sentences. When I talk (or get on a rant), I can just spew out all my opinions in one stream. Usually it’s my husband who is on the receiving end. He knows to just nod in agreement.
Like, this morning I read an article about a company that manufactures bullets that are dipped in a coating that has pork in it. They say that if you shoot a “jihadi Muslim” with one, they’ll be considered unclean and won’t get into Paradise. Okay, so where do I start with this? The ignorance is so breathtaking that I can’t even be angry. I just shake my head in disbelief. Okay, for the record, you can stab me with a knife dipped in pig blood, lay strips of bacon on my body and slather me with lard and set me afire and it won’t affect whether or not I get into Paradise. It’s a waste of your time and money so just give it up. Go have a barbecue or something.
Yesterday I read an article about a school in Ohio whose updated dress code bans hairstyles that are common in the African-American natural hair community, like poofy Afro ponytails and braids. Now, that’s just stupid. My oldest niece is mixed. I remember pictures of her as a little girl with her huge poofy hair all combed out and framing her head like a huge black halo. My first thought was for my sister Trish, who had to try to manage all that glory. It was adorable. It was normal. She’d have poof sometimes, braids sometimes, and no one ever suggested that it was not an appropriate hairstyle. You want to ban rattails and mullets, I’m all the way behind that, and go head and ban that Emo greasy-hair-over-the-eyes look, too, but leave my niece’s hair and the hair of all my natural friends alone. I wish someone would ban grey hair because then I’d be forced to do something about mine but until they do I’ll just slap a scarf on over it.
I think the biggest story that has been hitting me in the face the last couple of weeks has been the growing struggle of the middle class here in the U.S. Muslim, non-Muslim, doesn’t matter. It seems that as the rich are getting richer while the struggling are struggling more. I see it in the “real world” and online with people who have low-paying jobs trying to make ends meet. It really hurts me, but at the same time I see a lot of people doing silly stuff to put themselves in debt and I want to just remind them that the only way to win that game is NOT to play.
Seriously. If you do the “usual” thing, get a loan to go to college, get a loan to buy a car, get a credit card to pay for stuff, you are playing a game you cannot win. First of all, for Muslims, interest-bearing loans are a no-no. How do you think you are going to be blessed by Allah when He warns you that if you engage in ribaa He will make war against you?
The Noble Qur’an – Al-Baqarah 275-281
275. Those who eat Ribâ (usury) will not stand (on the Day of Resurrection) except like the standing of a person beaten by Shaitân (Satan) leading him to insanity. That is because they say: “Trading is only like Ribâ (usury),” whereas Allâh has permitted trading and forbidden Ribâ (usury). So whosoever receives an admonition from his Lord and stops eating Ribâ (usury) shall not be punished for the past; his case is for Allâh (to judge); but whoever returns [to Ribâ (usury)], such are the dwellers of the Fire – they will abide therein.
276. Allâh will destroy Ribâ (usury) and will give increase for Sadaqât (deeds of charity, alms, etc.) And Allâh likes not the disbelievers, sinners.
277. Truly those who believe, and do deeds of righteousness, and perform As-Salât (Iqâmat-as-Salât), and give Zakât, they will have their reward with their Lord. On them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
278. O you who believe! Be afraid of Allâh and give up what remains (due to you) from Ribâ (usury) (from now onward), if you are (really) believers.
279. And if you do not do it, then take a notice of war from Allâh and His Messenger but if you repent, you shall have your capital sums. Deal not unjustly (by asking for more than your capital sums), and you shall not be dealt with unjustly (by receiving less than your capital sums).
280. And if the debtor is in a hard time (has no money), then grant him time till it is easy for him to repay, but if you remit it by way of charity, that is better for you if you did but know.
281. And be afraid of the Day when you shall be brought back to Allâh. Then every person shall be paid what he earned, and they shall not be dealt with unjustly.
You cannot be swayed by your parents who tell you that you have to get a loan to go to the “best” school. You cannot be swayed by your friend who says you must get a loan to buy a car because you “need” that red convertible. You cannot be swayed by all the credit card companies who wave low-interest cards in your face and promise you happiness. You cannot be swayed by economists who tell you that you must get loans in order to build your credit rating. If you choose them over Allah, what do you think will happen to you (re-read the Qur’an verses above if you’re not sure).
This has been my focus of late. In my home, years ago, we played that game, and we lost. I’m not some perfect little angel advising you from on high. I’ve done my sins, repented, and tried to make it right. Take my hard lesson: It ain’t worth it. You MIGHT be able to squeak by on the fatwa that says you can get a loan for a home in a non-Muslim country because it’s cheaper to buy than rent, and if you rent you are only pouring money down the throats of those who wish you ill. You MIGHT. I’m not going to judge a person who gets a home loan because rent is $2000 a month for a one-bedroom. But you CAN buy a decent car with cash, or set up payments without interest with someone in the Muslim community. You can get a debit card with your bank account and when you’re out of money, you stop buying (what a concept!). You can go to a local community college and work part time or full time to pay for it. Trust me, Allah will NOT care that your degree is not from Harvard. You can eat beans and rice instead of top sirloin. You can make your coffee at home and skip the Starbucks (or Dunkin Donuts). Everything you do is a choice. You can choose to go into debt, or you can choose to remain out of debt. I know no one is perfect and people get sick and stuff comes up, but seriously, I know of many people who are not even fighting this fight. They have given up and jumped into the interest pool with both feet. They don’t give it a second thought or they try to find ways to justify it. Well, start thinking and start figuring how to get away from it. Now. Allah will start to bless you just because you make the decision to get away from ribaa. And when you start working on practical ways to do it, He will open up blessings for you that you can’t imagine. War with Allah, or peace? The choice is up to you.
Ramadan is on the way. We Muslims are supposed to use this time to get our acts together, to repent from bad behavior, to drop bad habits and develop good ones. It’s kind of like the New Year’s resolution. The difference is, if you make a concerted effort to do the right thing, you will have Allah helping you. Can’t do better than that!
So, that’s my rant for today. It’s time for me to go upstairs and make some spaghetti. And garlic bread. Cause that’s how I roll. See you all later.