Learning from the Nation by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah MedinaOne thing about the Nation of Islam (NOI) mosques that I have always enjoyed in comparison to mainstream Islamic mosques is that the gender separation is side-by-side rather than front-to-back with the women always in the back on the same level or in the back on a balcony or in a completely separate room in the back.

A few Sundays ago I went to the local NOI Mosque #97 and enjoyed the khutba (sermon) all in English and culturally relevant. I enjoyed it from the same room as the men, with complete access and in reach of the imam. Men were not given the prime seating in the front with women relegated to the back of the room. The front rows and all rows consisted of men and women equally. This is a complete departure from what I am used to in mainstream Islamic mosques I used to frequent. Continue reading “Learning from the Nation by Jameelah X. Medina”

LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah MedinaIn January 2015, I presented at the LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent‘s third annual forum in Harlem, NYC. As an ally, I was honored to be invited. The theme of the forum was “Ain’t No Hurt Like Church Hurt.” I spoke about becoming an ally as wekk as about sexuality in Islam and among Muslims. However, what I learned while listening to other speakers and audience members will stay with me for life.

I have Christian family members who are gay and have dealt with church hurt because of it. Yet, it is not something I ever witnessed up close or spoke in depth about with them. Being Muslim, heterosexual and cisgender at the conference made me feel like an outsider yet everyone treated me as an insider. I felt as if I were witnessing pain I had no business seeing yet I felt obliged to witness and testify to it. So many people stood up to talk about their church hurt. There were so many tears of great pain and rejection shed during the conference. Everyone there was a great example of resilience. Throughout the day, I just kept thinking how blessed I was to be in the company of such wonderful, embattled, yet humble and loving people. Continue reading “LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent by Jameelah X. Medina”

Mr. Big Man by Jameelah Medina

Jameelah Medina

This past week, I have discussed with college students the time I was wrongly arrested and harassed by an Islamophobic Sheriff Deputy several years ago, which led to a successful court case against my county spearheaded by the ACLU. I opened up the discussion with the following religiously feminist spoken word piece I wrote:


Mr. Big Man

You told me what to write, word for word for word for word in my statement,

To get me caught up in your trickery is what you meant,
Acting like you were my friend,
Just so that you could win,

Me over and dictate the stroke of my pen,

But then Continue reading “Mr. Big Man by Jameelah Medina”

Nature: The Best Muslim and My Favorite Muse by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah MedinaNow that spring is upon us, it started me thinking about the beach. I love the ocean. Like me, lots of people get that back-to-the-peaceful-womb feeling when looking at the ocean. As I thought about the ocean, I realized I saw it as having a very strong feminine energy. She is like our distant relative. I mean, we are mostly water and when we cry it’s salty, when we sweat it’s salty, and we both (ocean and human) are alive, and we are both Muslims (in the sense of submission to Allah), so we are connected.

Allah says that there is nothing Allah did NOT create from water; I think this water connection is what so many of us feel when we are at the foot of the ocean. We feel closeness to Allah because we are in our element, or better said, we are in a space so close to something that shares the same chemical elements as us perhaps. The earth is one big organism within which we all play a part, though we think we are completely independent. Khalil Gibran has a quote that says something like if we love, our love neither comes from us nor belongs to us; if we are happy, our happiness is not in us, but in life itself; if we feel pain, our pain is not in our wounds, but in all of nature. I believe this. If we are still enough and just tune into that faculty beyond the most recognized, we can also feel it. Continue reading “Nature: The Best Muslim and My Favorite Muse by Jameelah X. Medina”

The Power to Interpret for Myself by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah MedinaMy father always encouraged us to interpret scripture for ourselves. We read text, learned mainstream interpretations, and then he would ask for our authentic self-generated interpretations delivered in the form of book and chapter reports due to him. Growing up, all prayers and supplications were done in English; my parents wanted us to really understand and synthesize rather than simply memorize Arabic words with a generic sense of what we were reading or reciting.

Having grown up with the understanding that my own mind was powerful enough to make sense of religious matters, I took it for granted. Trying to fit into the mainstream Islamic mold was something I sought for a few years in my late 20s. I tried to be certain of the mainstream interpretations of heaven, hell, the creation story, the Night Journey, and even became obsessed with studying hundreds and hundreds of hadith (prophetic sayings) and memorizing Quranic verses in Arabic instead of English. I temporarily gave away my own power to have that direct relationship with God that Islam supports. Mainstream Islamic scholars became my middle men. At every step, I despised feeling powerless and mindless. However, I worked hard at suppressing my own doubts and questions…until the day I had enough and finally called “bullshit!” on this new shadow of my former self I was trying so hard to create. Continue reading “The Power to Interpret for Myself by Jameelah X. Medina”

Cosmic Struggle and The Longest Nights by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah MedinaSince my college years studying Spanish mystics and their numerous writings, I have secretly been fascinated by the summer solstice. Years later, my hidden fascination with the winter solstice began. For exactly one year now, I have exclusively been using Nature as my pharmacy. Perhaps, paying more attention to nature has allowed me to relate my experiences with Leylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) and understanding of the story of Jacob wrestling with the “man” all night (Genesis 32:24) to what I felt leading up to and during the winter solstice. While Leylat al-Qadr and Jacob’s night struggle have no direct relation to the winter solstice, I still relate them when I think of my own struggles with my higher and lower self and with my daily goal to be a better me than the day before.

As a Muslim, Leylat al-Qadr is the night I look forward to toward the end of Ramadan. It is filled with blessings and power. Looking for it feels like knowing my sweetest, beloved relative is coming to visit but not knowing her time of arrival. That night is spent in deep reflection and filled with prayers as it is a night the Qur’an tells us is better than one thousand months in which the angels all come down to witness. Then, there is Jacob’s cosmic struggle that lasted until dawn. The Bible and Talmud tell us that he triumphed over divine and men in that long struggle, after which he is renewed by being called “Israel” (he who prevails over the divine) instead of Jacob. Lastly, there is Winter Solstice (Yule). This is a long night welcoming winter but focused on renewal, rebirth, personal power, and setting intentions. Continue reading “Cosmic Struggle and The Longest Nights by Jameelah X. Medina”

Thinking about Global Activism and Social Change, Personal Intentions and Spiritual Consciousness by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah MedinaThe events in this world begin with the individual. The world’s occupations trace back to the individuals who create them and those who ignore or support them. The world’s genocides trace back to the individuals who create them and those who ignore or support them. The world’s offensive wars trace back to those who create them and those who support them through action or inaction. Daring to exclude Divine Decree from this discussion, the events that take place in the world are due to the malice within mankind. This malice can be direct and intentional, or it may be malice by default due to the absence of benevolence. These atrocious events begin with the individual because unjust rulers, dictators, invaders, executioners and occupiers, only have the power to rule, dictate to, invade, execute and occupy because they have subordinates who give their obedience and acquiescence. We are those subordinates as a group and as individuals. The question is: Why do we obey and acquiesce?

The reasons for our obedience, acquiescence is in part due to political ignorance, fear and a sense of powerlessness, but also due to a lack of self-consciousness, soul-consciousness, a finely-tuned conscience, purpose, and intention.

Acquaintance with One’s Soul

The soul or spiritual heart of the individual determines either positive or negative, good or bad thoughts, action and chain reactions. Individual spiritual illness and disease is at the root of what we see occurring on this earth, from the rape of Mother Earth, who has sustained us in her womb with perfect balance since before our collective memory can recall, to the complete disregard for human life and its intrinsic value through legal, illegal and unchallenged annihilations and genocides under the guise of “national security,” “liberations” and “democracy,” and in the form of wars, prisons, miseducation, and unnatural natural disasters.  Because the root cause of these events is at the individual level, we are each and all accountable and responsible for correcting it. This correction begins with our intention. Continue reading “Thinking about Global Activism and Social Change, Personal Intentions and Spiritual Consciousness by Jameelah X. Medina”

Seeing the Humanity in the Inner Child by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah Medina

Article 6

1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life.
2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.

Article 37
States Parties shall ensure that:

(a) No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Neither capital punishment nor life imprisonment without possibility of release shall be imposed for offences committed by persons below eighteen years of age;

(b) No child shall be deprived of his or her liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily. The arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be in conformity with the law and shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time;

(c) Every child deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, and in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of his or her age. In particular, every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults unless it is considered in the child’s best interest not to do so and shall have the right to maintain contact with his or her family through correspondence and visits, save in exceptional circumstances;

(d) Every child deprived of his or her liberty shall have the right to prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, as well as the right to challenge the legality of the deprivation of his or her liberty before a court or other competent, independent and impartial authority, and to a prompt decision on any such action.*

inner childIslam has taught me so many things over the years. One lesson, in particular, plays in my head throughout the day as a constant and necessary reminder: My soul has rights over my ego. I still remember the first time I read that. Over the years, I have expanded it to include the idea that my body has rights over my mind, my mind has rights over my body, and even that my inner child (she’s six) has rights over me (the 12-year old me and the adult me).

I was crushingly self-critical and dealt with devastating self-loathing for many years, but learning how to be compassionate helped me to be much kinder to others, and eventually, to myself. I had not really thought about making myself a recipient of my own kindness and compassion before. It was so natural to judge that kid in me who just wanted a chocolate chip cookie, to jump in a dirty puddle, to stick my tongue out and make faces at other little kids, and all the other odd things I felt urges to do as an adult. Continue reading “Seeing the Humanity in the Inner Child by Jameelah X. Medina”

We Rose for the One Billion on V-Day by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah Medina

Every February I gear up to participate in local V-Day 1 Billion Rising events where activists rise up to end violence against women and girls. This year’s theme was the journey to justice, and there were two local events. I delivered a speech at the second event. This is so meaningful to me because it testifies to how far I have come in my journey. Just a few years ago, I would never have spoken what I considered the unspeakable. I have found that with each utterance, I gain more freedom and encourage others to do the same in their own way.

One in every three women/girls will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime, and someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the USA. Knowing this and being one of these women, I dedicate this month’s post to my fellow survivors in hopes that you find some healing in it. Below is what the crowd heard from me on V-Day:

Justice is one of those tricky concepts that has many faces. For some survivors, justice is restorative where they are willing to engage in a dialogue with the perpetrator, community, and other stakeholders to attempt to repair the harm that has been done to them. For others, justice is poetic. It comes in the form of retribution and punishment whether it involves incarceration, physical harm or illness, or death by homicide or suicide. Yet other survivors feel that there is no such thing as justice any way you look at it. They feel that there is nothing that can ever be said or done to erase or minimize the life-long effects of the violence perpetuated against them. Continue reading “We Rose for the One Billion on V-Day by Jameelah X. Medina”

The Winding Road of Life by Jameelah X. Medina

Jameelah MedinaA while back my family and I went up to the mountains to Lake Arrowhead Village. My metaphorical thinking took me on a fantastic mental voyage replicating our way up the mountain. I give thanks to Allah for the power of thought and imagery.

As we ascended the mountain getting closer and closer to Lake Arrowhead Village, that winding road mirrored the road of life, the life of a Muslim, my life.

Our lives are like winding roads, bending left and right, vacillating between high and low levels of faith , right and wrong, sin and repentance, over-consumption and charity, animalistic and angelic, ignorance and knowledge, pride and humility, blessings and trials, and the small and large defeats and victories in battles with our nafs [ego].

Yes, yes, I know; that road we took was just a road, but the symbolism cannot be denied. That road is like the road of belief, the road of knowledge, the road of love, the road of sabr [patient perseverance], the road of success, essentially, the sirat al-mustaqim, the straight path, though there is nothing physically straight about it. Continue reading “The Winding Road of Life by Jameelah X. Medina”

Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim and Ar-Rahm by Jameelah X. Medina

 [The Most Compassionate, Beneficent, Ever-Merciful and the Womb]

In the Islamic tradition, there are numerous Names of Allah of which 99 are said to be known. Of these 99 Names or Attributes of Allah, two open the Qur’an in the very first line in the first chapter: ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim. The Qur’an begins with, “Bi ismiAllahi ar-Rahmani ar-Rahim [in the Name of God, The Beneficent, The Merciful]…” These two names are also ubiquitously repeated by Muslims when reciting from the Qur’an, initiating prayers, commencing events and gatherings, and more.

Although I am not particularly interested in etymology, I have long been fascinated by these two Names or Attributes of Allah coming from the same root as the word for “womb” and “mercy”—ar-rahm and ar-rahma respectively. Since all of human creation is brought into physical being through a womb I had so many questions: 1) Of all the root words that could have been used to establish the meaning of these opening words of the Qur’an to describe the Creator, why were words that relate to the womb, wom(b)anhood, female anatomy, and motherhood chosen instead of some phallic symbol of power and creation?; 2) How is mercy, beneficence, compassion, and graciousness related to the womb in Arabic?; 3) Was this Allah’s way of elevating the status of women at that time in that time and among the people to whom the Qur’an was originally revealed?; 4) If the female attribute of a womb  is related to these two Attributes of Allah, is the womb godly? Is the wom(b)man divine?; and lastly, 5) Could we have all been created from the figurative or even literal Womb of Allah making Allah The Great Mother of all creation? Continue reading “Ar-Rahman, Ar-Rahim and Ar-Rahm by Jameelah X. Medina”

Size Islam: Where do I fit in? by Jameelah X. Medina

Size Islam: Where do I fit in?

Reading Laury Silvers’ recent post caused me to reflect upon not only how my body is gendered in worship as a Muslim woman, but how my body is displaced, inconvenient, and often seen as an assault on thinner women’s, and even Islamic, sensibilities. This is a phenomenon in the prayer line, on prayer mats, in socio-religious gatherings, and even in online discussions with Muslims and other major religions.

I am usually the tallest (or among the tallest) women in mosques I have frequented. I am also obese and among the largest women in the mosque. I enjoy lifting weights, which also causes me to have very large thighs and arms and broad shoulders. Additionally, I have long feet, as well as wide hips and a large backside that no amount of fabric can hide. Among girlfriends, I’ve often referred to my shape as a “three-hour glass.” Needless to say, some shorter and smaller people find my frame imposing. Continue reading “Size Islam: Where do I fit in? by Jameelah X. Medina”

Letter to Allah by Jameelah X. Medina

Would we eat without the pangs of hunger? Would we drink without feeling thirst? Would we sleep without feeling fatigue or drowsiness? Would we cry without feeling sorrow? These are some questions I’ve asked myself when I wonder why so many people tend to find God, religion, or spirituality in times of great dis-ease and despair. Suddenly, I felt inspired to write a letter to God thanking Her for all that She is and for all that I am. In labyrinthical terms, this is my letter to the God in me that resides within me in God.

Letter to Allah Continue reading “Letter to Allah by Jameelah X. Medina”

Tug-of-Warring over the Female Body (Part 2 of 2) by Jameelah X. Medina

Cover up! No, get naked!

Haraam [Sin]; cover yourself! Be free; show some skin!

AstaghfirAllah [seeking forgiveness from God]; aren’t you ashamed?! Damn, aren’t you hot in that?!

The Muslim woman’s body feels like a battleground with essentialized feminism on one side (covered in Part I) and patriarchy on the other. Both sides have Muslim women on their team, but both sides also harm and silence them. This second part deals with “Team Haraaminator.”

The Haraaminators are kind of like “Daddy Longlegs” or “Momma Longreaches” who hold their wives, daughters, sisters, and even extended sisters in faith close to the chest with their long-legged grips. They come in the male and female variety. They believe that all women should be covered and wearing at least a headscarf. They speak with authority about the headscarf and how important it is for a woman in her pursuit of piety, virtue, modesty, chastity, and heaven. Some allow questioning the headscarf while others take it as a decree from Allah that should never be interrogated. Many use the Qur’an and ahadith (prophetic sayings and doings) to arrive at their opinions while other haraaminators just go by what their shaykh, imam, father, mother, friend or others have told them is the Islamic ruling on the headscarf. Continue reading “Tug-of-Warring over the Female Body (Part 2 of 2) by Jameelah X. Medina”

They Don’t Know Me by Jameelah X. Medina

A spoken word piece… 

They think I’m uneducated, relegated to the sidelines of life, desecrated and infected mind with cultish, hocus pocish, dogma of misogyny; my worth based solely on my progeny!?…

They think I’m silent, ruled by a tyrant, never speakin’ unless spoken to, hiding scars and contusions too?! Continue reading “They Don’t Know Me by Jameelah X. Medina”

Tug-of-Warring over the Female Body (Part 1 of 2) by Jameelah X. Medina

Cover up! No, get naked!

Haraam [Sin]; cover yourself! Be free; show some skin!

AstaghfirAllah [seeking forgiveness from God]; aren’t you ashamed?! Damn, aren’t you hot in that?!

The Muslim woman’s body feels like a battleground, especially during times like last month (April) with the whole FEMEN “topless jihad” controversy sparked by the Tunisian woman who protested the female body as a source a familial honor. On one side is essentialized feminism and patriarchy on the other end with both sides pulling hard. Both sides have Muslim women on their team, but both sides also harm them. Let’s start with “Team Femesential.”

Questioning the headscarf and certain covering practices is mostly a healthy endeavor in which many Muslim girls and women engage before and after deciding (if they do) to wear a headscarf. However, questioning the headscarf can also be an oppressive and even dismissive strategy that is disrespectful to Muslim women and to all women in general. Continue reading “Tug-of-Warring over the Female Body (Part 1 of 2) by Jameelah X. Medina”

Women as Stairways to Heaven by Jameelah X. Medina

In mainstream Islam, the ways and sayings of Prophet Muhammad are second in importance only to the Qur’an. There are two prophetic sayings pften quoted when speaking about the high status of women in Islam: 1) “Whoever has two daughters and treats them kindly, they will be a protection for him against the Fire;” and “Paradise lies beneath her [the mother’s] feet.”  These sayings influenced a growingly famous Islamic scholar who stated, “When she is a daughter, she opens a door to jannah [paradise/heaven] for her father. When she is a wife, she completes half of the deen [religion/way of life] of her husband. When she is a mother, jannah lies under her feet. If everyone knew the true status of a Muslim woman in Islam, even the men would want to be women.” This quote is being reposted all over social media sites by both Muslim men and women.

On the surface, the quote is lovely. It works to combat the stereotype of the lowly Muslim woman who has no standing in her religious community. It is posted as proof that women have great status in Islam. However, this quote and the prophetic sayings also have a problematic implication. When I read these quotes, I don’t see them talking about the status of Muslim women. The quotes are very specific and apply ONLY to women who are daughters, women who are wives, and women who are mothers. The implication is that, even though Muslim women and men are from a single soul and have the same essence (the Islamic perspective), women still are not sufficient enough for praise, reverence, and respect just by virtue of being women. They must be some man’s daughter, wife, or mother in order to enjoy elevated status. What does this say to women without fathers, women without husbands, and women without children? It tells them that they have not yet arrived; they are goals yet unrealized. Simply put, they are not enough. Continue reading “Women as Stairways to Heaven by Jameelah X. Medina”

At the Intersection of Gender, Religion, and Race by Jameelah X. Medina

Since 9/11, many Muslim women in the USA are in a similar predicament as what African American and Chicana women found themselves in decades ago during the Black Power and Chicano Power Movements. African American and Chicana women stood along side African American and Chicano men to fight against oppression and injustices against them by the power structure and the people in positions of power. In both movements, women’s issues were relegated to the sidelines; they were only visible in the periphery of decision-making. Both African American women and Chicanas decided that they had to stand up for themselves and call it like they saw it—they were being oppressed and marginalized in mainstream society because of their race and ethnicity and also within their racial group because of gender.  Continue reading “At the Intersection of Gender, Religion, and Race by Jameelah X. Medina”

Waking up Muslim on 9/11 by Jameelah Medina

I have often stated that I went to sleep as an African American woman on September 10, 2011 and woke up Muslim on 9/11. It may seem odd to say this since I am a third-generation Muslim; however, my reason for doing so is that my life as an American Muslim now has two main eras: 1) pre-9/11 and 2) post-9/11.

In the pre-9/11 era of my life, I felt more black than Muslim because my color was a point of conflict and controversy throughout my life. I grew up in two areas as a child—an urban area with majority Latinos/as and then in a very rural area with majority whites. In both areas, being black was not so popular. I was called “mayate,”which is a bug but also the Mexican term for “nigger.” I was also called, “tar baby,” “nigger,” “African booty scratcher,” and a host of other hurtful names as a young black child.

In the post-9/11 era of my life, the main part of my identity that people focus on is my religion instead of my color. On 9/11, I went from being a nigger to being a “towel head,” from being a tar baby to being a “terrorist,” and from being the stereotype of an unruly and angry, loudmouthed black woman to being the stereotypically seen-but-not heard, oppressed Muslim woman in need of saving. As a Muslim, I suddenly was a potential threat and un-American, while as a Muslim woman I was also pitied and looked down on as misfortunate for being in a religion that oppresses me. In my life, white privilege and white monoculturalism have turned into Christian privilege and Christian monoculturalism. Continue reading “Waking up Muslim on 9/11 by Jameelah Medina”

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