For the first time since 9/11, I am afraid to leave the house.
Even when the bombs started dropping on Afghanistan and Iraq, my naive 20-something self at the time was certain I’d be safe here in the U.S. Especially here, in Southern California.
People always tell me how laid back and “West Coast” my vibe is, right down to the relaxed cadence in my speech. I was confident and comfortable in the knowledge that I was from here. Those distant wars were not about me.
Today, things feel different.
Eds. Note: Please welcome Salaam, Love anthology contributor and LoveinshAllah.com’s newest writer Ramy Eletreby with his column 99 Names (and Queer is One)
I have a confession to make: I LOVE being single.
I really do. This is not some mantra I repeat to convince myself. I really, really love it.
That is my unadulterated truth, and I am swimming in it. Take a picture.
Many of my friends, usually the straight ones, ask me if I’m dating anyone and when I’m going to settle down.
My response is, “Why do you want to condemn me to that life sentence?”
That shuts them up, for a little while. I’m a constant reminder that people need to check their assumptions. We do not all desire to be in relationships.
Since writing my short story for the anthology Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex, & Intimacy – I have been asked many times what my story has become and how things have developed. It has been a hard road, but also one laden with lessons, hardships, and, finally, beauty.
It is bemusing to my family and friends how confused I get about how old I am. This may seem like a simple thing, but honestly I have lost the number. Why? When my wife Joan went into the hospital for the last time it was on my birthday. Obviously there was no celebration or acknowledgement of it. She passed away a week and a half later.
The year after her death I was numb. I do not remember anything from that year. I have pictures of my son during 8th grade, as well as of some other things we did that year – but it is a lot like looking at someone else’s life. Sure, I am in the photographs, but I don’t remember being there.
Flying into Detroit to see Sara and Nabil’s new home, it’s my annual visit to catch up with my now 5-year-old neice, Lina. She who gave birth to me 35 years ago today will be there. We haven’t spent my birthday together for about a decade. All the warm greetings I receive today are for my mother.
This birthday is special in a few other ways too.
I’ve been blessed to have attended about a thousand births professionally, as a pediatrician. From the 1-pounder to the nearly 11 pounds. From Bulawayo, Zimbabwe to San Francisco, California. From the celebrity mothers to the orphans who were HIV+. They’ve all taught me something, and each birth was life changing for their families.
Just a few weeks away now is the one birth that will change my life.
Last night, before heading to the airport, I knelt down before the swollen belly pushing out in all directions. I have been singing “You are My Sunshine” to our growing girl throughout my wife Nadeah’s pregnancy.
Some time around October 8th I will get the chance, God willing, to sing directly to her in my arms.
On that day I’ll gain a new title: Daddy.
Read the rest of this entry »
Our Salaam, Love contributor Mohammed Shamma writes a post for Beacon Broadside about his love of soccer, instilled in him by his father, and his first Ramadan after his father’s death:
The World Cup and Ramadan aren’t always mentioned in the same sentence, but this year was different. The Islamic holy month started during the tournament’s knockout stage. In some ways, this was a fitting moment for the Muslim soccer players who had made it that far. They knew the Muslim world would be watching them as they pushed their bodies to their physical limits in the greatest moment of their careers. This was certainly the case for Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira of Germany, who helped seal German soccer supremacy for the next four years.
The last time Ramadan and the World Cup crossed paths was in 1986 and 1982 respectively. I’ll never forget the summer of 1982. I was in Egypt, visiting my father’s family on a much-delayed bereavement trip. My father had died of cardiac arrest in October of 1981. We buried him in a Muslim cemetery in Houston, Texas and had to wait eight months before we could visit our relatives in Cairo. Those eight months were tough on me, a nine-year-old boy who just lost his father, soccer coach, and mentor.
Read more, here.
Check out Mohammed’s story, “Echoes” in Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy.
Our Salaam, Love contributor John Austin pens this insightful piece for Beacon Broadside about his first Ramadan after his conversion to Islam:
When I discovered that I wanted to be a Muslim I don’t think I really knew what was involved. This was not for lack of knowledge about the religion but perhaps a lack of knowledge about myself, and a lack of knowledge generally. I knew that I would be required to kneel in submission to God five times a day, abstain from alcohol, along with a host of other minor ascetic measures. But when one actually finds himself in the throes of post-Shahada conversion, it becomes a different matter altogether.
I converted to Islam the previous spring, and spent the subsequent months in a frenzy of learning how to be a Muslim. So ensconced was I in the honeymooning phase with my new religion that one of the greatest obligations I have as a Muslim had crept up on me.
I was completely unprepared for Ramadan that first year. I had not prepared myself, physically or mentally, for the rigors of a month long fast. I was, in fact, still largely oblivious to what that entailed.
Read more, here.
Check out John’s story, “Planet Zero,” in Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy.
Don’t look for it. It will find you. And if it doesn’t, your aunties on your mother’s side will find it for you in the form of a young Muslim girl, probably the daughter of a doctor or a lawyer, likely the last sister in her family to be unwed. She will be cute, but not the cutest, they will say, but she’s a good, pious girl. We will all be invited for chai one day at her mansion in a gated community on a hill, but really they just want to see you, your demeanor, your ability to lead prayer in a stranger’s home, everyone putting on their most Islamic face, their most Islamic dress. You will not fail this test, but your mother and I don’t want you to take it.
We want you to be yourself. Walk your own slow, slouched, clumsy walk down the hallways of life and look into every classroom you can. Take notes. Learn what you can about how things work, but even with a PhD, son, you will never understand love until you feel it. You will see her someday walking across campus or laughing with her friends—maybe after Juma prayers, maybe in a coffee shop—and her smile will make you look twice. Maybe three times. If you catch your eyes drifting south of her smile, then you’re on the wrong track. But if you’re stuck staring at her smile so long that you start smiling too, you may have found something.
Now check-in with your body. Do your arms feel like wet noodles? Do your knees feel like sponges? Is your stomach doing that thing it used to do when you were a kid tick-ticking uphill on a roller coaster just before the fall? Okay. Don’t be scared. That’s just love’s kindling barely starting to burn. Ask around. Someone knows her name. When you find out what it is, say her name over and over in your head. Close your eyes. Recite it like a poem. How does it feel swirling around in your mouth, on your tongue? Good.