Split the Moon

Rabia Chaudry

Tag: God (page 1 of 2)

And It’s Only Wednesday

Doesn't look like it

Doesn’t look like it

A lot has been going on, which is how I will weasel my way out of not blogging any sooner. It’s already COB on the day the State’s response brief to our Motion to Reopen was due and I’ve been strumming my fingers, trying to calm my heart palpitations, all day.  So far, nothing filed. Did they just miss the deadline, after asking for an extension?

But, according to a little bird, today was also the deadline for an MPIA request a friendly force filed with the Baltimore County PD.  Are these things connected?  Anything is possible.

Regardless, you’ve had more than enough time.  Hand it over already, Maryland.

 

ATONEMENT

These are high holy days for both Muslims and Jews.  A fascinating (but understandable if you know the theology) connection between the days we are celebrating is this: both Yom Kippur and Yom Arafat are days of fasting, atonement and forgiveness by God.

Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the Jewish calendar. Observant Jews undergo a full day and night fast, and many intense hours in prayer and asking for repentance.  The tradition is that God writes the fates of the upcoming year into the “Book of Life” and on Yom Kippur that book, those fates, are sealed. So up until this time, people have a chance to atone for the wrongs they’ve done others and hope their fates get a positive boost in the Book.

Yom Arafat is remarkably similar. It completes the Hajj pilgrimage, which is wrapping up right now in Mecca, and is a day when the millions of pilgrims stand on the plain and mount of Arafat for hours in prayer, asking for forgiveness for their sins.  It is also the tradition to fast on this day for those who are not making the pilgrimage, those of us at home who seek God’s forgiveness and pardon from afar.

A quick aside for those wondering what the heck the Hajj is all about. You may be surprised to know it is will sound incredibly familiar to those who remember their Sunday school lessons.  As the story goes in the Abrahamic traditions, the patriarch and prophet Abraham (AS)* was unable to have children with his wife Sarah (AS).  Sarah allowed him to take another wife Hagar (AS).  Here is where the Judeo-Christian and Islamic stories diverge: in the Islamic tradition, once Hagar had a son Ishmael, Abraham was ordered by God to take her and the child far away and leave them in the remote desert, an order Hagar accepted. In the Judeo-Christian tradition Sarah got jealous and threw them out.  Muslims don’t believe that. We got no haterade for Sarah.  

Two million people, all at once

Two million people, all at once

So Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael out to “Becca”, now known as Mecca, and left them there.  Alone.  He didn’t want to, but he obeyed God’s commands.  The baby started crying, thirsty and hungry. Hagar, frantic but not willing to lay down and just die, began running to  seek a source of water. She ran seven times between the two small hills, Safa and Marwa, before returning to the baby, exhausted.  God, having heard her maternal pleas and grief, sent the angel Gabriel to the baby.  The baby kicked his heel on the earth, in which spot the angel moved the dirt to reveal a spring, called Zamzam, which flows to this day.

Abraham kept returning to visit his wife and son, and when Ishmael got a little older they built a place to worship God, apparently on the same spot Adam first built a house of worship, which is that little iconic square building (the ka’aaba) draped in black fabric that the world sees as a symbol for Mecca.  Its basically empty inside. The tradition about it says that the Throne of God is above this spot, seven heavens above it, but above it nonetheless. And as people go round and round the ka’aaba here on earth, seven heavens above legions of angels also go around and around God’s throne in worship and awe. 

Astronaut Scott is not exactly at seventh heaven level, but still pretty cool

Astronaut Scott is not exactly at seventh heaven level, but still pretty cool

Now, when pilgrims go for Hajj there are a number of rituals they perform, including running between the hills of Safa and Marwa to commemorate Hagar’s search for sustenance, standing in prayer and atonement on the day of Arafat, and at the end paying for the sacrifice of a goat, cow, lamb to commemorate the story of Abraham’s sacrifice of his son at God’s command. Of course, if you recall, God switched out the son at the last second for an ram, but the point is Abraham was willing to do it for God.  So every Muslim family that can afford to will have an animal slaughtered, keep 1/3 of the meat, give 1/3 to friends and family, and distribute 1/3 to the impoverished.  The day after Arafat is a celebration, Eid, which for us is tomorrow. Basically we dress up, eat a lot, exchange gifts, and in my family, hit up a movie at night. I’m all about the new Johnny Depp movie tomorrow night.  

Ok, back to the other stuff.

We all have things to atone for, none of us are saints. And if you think you have nothing to feel badly for, you may be an arrogant turd. Or Donald Trump. Yes, you may be Donald Trump.

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If you’re wondering what David is talking about above, it’s been a busy week in hating Muslims here in the US.

In case you missed it, presidential candidates are getting a jump start on their Islamophobia platforms this election cycle. In the past week Trump already humored a supporter at a rally who asked when the US could get rid of all the Muslims already (dammit we’ve been here 500 years or so, enough is enough), and Ben Carson declared Islam not compatible with the US Constitution, hence a Muslim president just wouldn’t work for him.  He got a bit of a fundraising boost with that one.

Then there was the arrest of this poor 14 year old kid in Texas for bringing a clock to school, a clock he kept telling his teachers was a clock.  But Muslims with clocks can mean anything, right Bill Maher?

Ahmed is having a bad day

Ahmed is having a bad day

The upside of all of it is that none of this crap went quietly into the night.  There was major disgust, pushback, and ridicule of the bigoted players. Ahmed got invited to the White House and to pretty much any engineering school he wants to go to. Which means we can still win this thing, and I don’t yet have to move with my kids to Indonesia or something.

So that is what David is atoning for in his tweet. My atonement is for telling people to eff off more than I would have liked to on Twitter, and also for letting the last year go by too fast and not having the time I wish I did for my girls.

This may be a good time for a bunch of others to atone. Jay, Urick, Ritz, Mac, Mandy, and the other players who put an innocent 17 year old kid away for life.

Jay, atone for every day that Adnan has lost because of your false testimony.  Thou shall not bear false witness, remember that?  As long as Adnan is in prison, it will be your false testimony keeping him there.

Urick, you racist rat bastard, atone for railroading a young black man through threat of the death penalty into giving false testimony. Atone for using Adnan’s religion to demonize him. Atone for messing with witnesses to undermine Adnan’s defense, atone for preventing Asia from testifying, atone for blocking the truth in a court of justice. If you have a soul that is.

Also the Pope is in town, another good reason to cleanse yourself of your sins.  God, I love this Pope.

 

TRUTH AND JUSTICE

Can I get a witness to the awesomeness, diligence, and fortitude that is Bob Ruff on his Serial Dynasty podcast?  He’s a master interviewer, getting all sorts of people to talk. Most recently he’s done a few remarkable things:

  • Confirm that Don’s alibi/timesheets for the day Hae disappeared were falsified.  This is kind of major, when you consider the possibility of who could have had the opportunity to be in contact with her that day.  At this point numerous general managers and HR of LensCrafters have confirmed Don’s 1/13/99 timesheet to be fake. Thanks BPD for nothing. For not even bothering to confirm this shit sixteen years ago. Oh right, bad evidence.
  • Talked to Mr. E, ie neighbor boy, who basically said none of that trunk pop stuff happened around him, and gave a totally different version of how Adnan allegedly killed Hae according (of course) to Jay: that he went to see her after work at the mall, got in an argument, and killed her in the heat of the moment.  Murder version number….9? I’ve lost count
  • Had a heart to heart with Laura, who was friends with Jay, Jenn, and Adnan, and to whom NONE of Jay’s story made sense because she knew him and Adnan simply were not in a such a relationship, because Adnan would never hurt a fly, and because Jay could easily be railroaded by police. Also, interesting that despite hanging out with these folks constantly, neither Jay or Jenn ever said a peep to her about their involvement in the case or trial. Though Jay did tell others. My guess? He told people who didn’t know Adnan.  People like Laura, who did know Adnan, would have called him out and probably contacted Adnan to figure out what the heck was happening.

Bob has some other really important interviews and information coming up, and thanks to a cease and desist letter from Serial once he topped the iTunes charts (though he was already considering it), he’s re-branding his show. It will now be the Truth and Justice podcast, and he’ll continue (after Adnan’s case) to look at other wrongful convictions, maybe even the ones we at Undisclosed look at. Not sure.

Either way, let’s help him get set up. If you can spare a $20, please do donate to his new podcast: https://www.gofundme.com/truthandjustice

ON A PERSONAL TIP

I have two daughters. My younger one started second grade this year, my eldest started college.  She moved to live with her father, my ex, because his home is closer to her school.  This all happened too fast, and I’ve been just a little out of sorts about it.  By that I mean deeply depressed that my baby is gone, regardless of the fact that I still see her every week.

Note to parents: they grow up so fast you won’t know what hit you.  Its ok to cry. I did quite a bit in the last month.  I still had lots of things I was planning on doing with her and bam, before I knew it her childhood was gone. At this point, sitting her in my lap reading through the entire Nancy Drew series will probably not work.

Do it all while you can, moms and dads out there.  Time is the thing we can never get back.

On a positive note, lest you forget, I have a career that has nothing to do with Adnan’s case.  This year I wrapped up a two year project with the New America Foundation. Next year I am excited and honored to be joining the US Institute for Peace as a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow to research and document the role of interfaith actors in resilience to sectarian violence in two hotbeds:  Pakistan and Myanmar.

My work on countering violent extremism goes on.  I can’t wait until Adnan is home so I can continue it fully.

Also in November of this year the Campaign for Fair Sentencing of Youth will be honoring a number of remarkable people for their work. If you’re in the DC area, believe in sentencing reform for youth offenders, come out and join us.  I am also being honored but seriously, one of these things does not belong:

I am the thing that doesn't belong, an thus honored even moreso

I am the thing that doesn’t belong, an thus honored even moreso

EID MUBARAK

That’s how we greet each other on the Eid holiday, wishing blessings on this day. We give gifts on this occasion, so my gift to readers today are these documents below, a glimpse into the kind of person Adnan is.  When you go through them, think about what he could have been. What Jay and Urick and others took from him. And say a prayer that he gets the chance to have a life again.

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Happy Mother’s Day, Ami

A man came to the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and said, ‘O Messenger of God! Who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: Your mother. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your mother. The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: Then your father. (Bukhari, Muslim)

My maternal grandfather was on his sick bed when he called his eldest to his side. My mother, at 26 already pushing Pakistani spinsterhood, obeyed. He informed her that they had accepted a marriage proposal for her. He asked if she wanted to see her future groom’s picture.

She asked him, “do I have a choice in marrying him or not?”

He said no.

She replied, “then there is no point in seeing his picture.”

In this wildly unromantic and deeply begrudging way my mother married my father, first glimpsing him from the back of the car, being whisked off to his home after their wedding. She peered through her veil, seeing nothing but a single ear.

Lahore, 1973. Ami and Abu in their wedding finery. Long before the advent of professional photographers at weddings in Pakistan, this was taken weeks later in a studio.

Lahore, 1973. Ami and Abu in their wedding finery. Long before the advent of professional photographers at weddings in Pakistan, this was taken weeks later in a studio.

My father had no idea that Ami (the word commonly used for mother in Urdu) came to the marriage unwillingly – not because of personal animosity towards him, but because of a firm bitterness towards the institute of marriage itself.

My mother, the tall girl in the center, with assorted siblings and cousins.

My mother, the tall girl in the center, with assorted siblings and cousins.

The oldest of seven children, she had witnessed her own mother, an exceedingly meek woman, suffer at the hands of her in-laws because of the consistent and prolonged absences of her husband. My maternal grandfather was a police deputy superintendent, often posted in areas far from his family. This left her, with five young sons and two daughters, alone with her sasuraal (in-laws), fending for herself.  There is no evidence that they were ever physically abusive towards her, but there existed that very special brand of insidious psychological torment that mother and sister in laws from the subcontinent have honed to perfection.

My mother's paternal aunt, one of many formidable figures who lorded over my maternal grandmother while her husband was away for months and years.

My mother’s paternal aunt, one of many formidable figures who lorded over my maternal grandmother while her husband was away for months and years.

My mother, who was often shuffled around from one relative’s home to another to both avoid being a burden to her father’s family and escape them, grew a tough skin.

She didn’t trust marriage, she didn’t want for herself what she saw her own mother, an educated woman, have to deal with. She resented her father for not being there, and she was independent and tough.

She did not need, or want, a man.

My mother with her own maternal aunt, who was a year older than her. Ami spent most of her childhood with her maternal relatives.

My mother with her own maternal aunt, who was a year older than her. Ami spent most of her childhood with her maternal relatives. She was beautiful and of course, the marriage proposals came.

She studied to become a teacher and a very young age was given the role of headmistress at a girl’s college in Lahore. She was disciplined, stern, with little patience for foolery, and had a presence that allowed her to govern teachers decades her senior.

Her career would be her way out of marriage, and over the years she turned down proposal after proposal until time ran out. Not for her, but for her father.  He was sick and wouldn’t live long, he had given her time and space to pursue her education and work, but he refused to go to his grave without seeing his first born married.

My father’s family, unlike many South Asian families, didn’t expect her to stop working after marriage. She continued in her career but then, while pregnant with me, learned that my father had been approved for a visa to the United States. After I made my appearance, my father left for the US, she kept working, but prepared to join him with me soon.

It wasn’t an easy decision for them to leave every single relative, every street they were familiar with, friends, and careers. But here I was, this brand new life, the start of their own family, a chance to become independent from her own in-laws.  My mother took it.

If my father was our rock, my mother has been the swirling eddy surrounding him, powerful and deep, sweeping us along with her passion and pain.

Ami was no joke. Respect her authority.

Ami was no joke. Respect her authority.

She is a person rarely satisfied, which has been both her strength and weakness. I’ve never seen her complacent, always pushing for more, always demanding more. My childhood is filled with memories of her intense outrage at the injustice of the world.

“Pray for Chechnya!”

“Pray for Kashmir!”

“Pray for Palestine!”

“People are dying in Ethiopia!”

“The USSR is destroying Afghanistan!”

About charity, I’ve learned mostly from her. She is always ever raising money for something, someone. Give, give, give, God will return it tenfold. Even giving a merchant his due, without the incessant haggling common to our culture, is justice. Think of his family, of the people he employs! To this day, I know when she calls me, it is just as likely that she is calling because a woman in the community needs shelter as it is she’s calling to tell me she cooked something she wants me to pick up.

My sense of social justice, politics, religion, global issues, and yes feminism, can only be attributed to her. In the seventh grade I overheard two teachers marveling at my focus on a magazine article about the drought and deaths in Ethiopia, while other kids sat and chatted. “Wait”, I thought, “why is this weird? My mom gave this to me.”

Her drive on such issues is maybe what kept her going through a marriage she didn’t want. And of course, one my father also wouldn’t want. But three children in, no one was going anywhere.

My siblings and I have spent countless hours debating about the course our parents should have taken. They should have gotten divorced decades ago, if not for their own peace of mind, for ours. No, they sacrificed their happiness to keep a unified home for their kids.  We wonder how they can stay together, seemingly unable to live with or without each other.

Somewhere in the DMV, the early 80's is strong in our style.

Somewhere in the DMV, the early 80’s is strong in our style.

Abu was not a man given to religion when they first married. But Ami, over years and years spent on a prayer rug, eventually rubbed off on him. Though even their attitudes towards God, heaven, hell, our purpose on earth, are dramatically different. Abu is soft and easy-going, and for him, God is soft and easy-going. Ami is structured, scheduled, orderly in prayer, and for her God is exacting, with rules you do not break or bend.

I fall somewhere in the middle, understanding and internalizing both of their attitudes towards faith. I hold dear to me the belief my father holds that above all else, God is compassion. Yet, I value her discipline, the ferocity with which she demands from others and demands from herself. If you need a prayer recited a quarter of a million times, she’s your woman.

I do wonder though how a woman so committed to God, who spends her entire nights whispering words of worship, is so restless. Should faith make you more or less content? It’s something I wrestle with. How much fire and how much ice?

Still, the need for purpose, in life, prayer, work, comes to me from her. “You’ll have to account for your time with God, what did you spend it on, what did you do with your life, who did you help, what will you leave behind?” This the ethos she planted like a seed in my psyche.

We all want things from our parents that we didn’t get, because no parent can give it all. None. What they can’t, if we feel loved, we overlook, we forgive, we understand. Ultimately that is where I stand with my mother. I know, fifty years ago, she hoped for a different life. She worked for it, but was thwarted because she chose to honor her father’s wishes.

It can be hard, as a child, to feel like you may not have been part of your parent’s grand plan. Even if its not at all true, it can feel like that when you sense their dissatisfaction with life. But greater than that, for me, is the realization that she could have left any time she wanted, and she did not. Her dreams were important, but never more important than us.

Ami, graduating from college. If she got an education, dammit we better.

Ami, graduating from college. If she got an education, dammit we better.

She never abandoned her children, she worked, she made sure to have home cooked meals, she scrimped and saved, she sewed our clothing, she demanded we educate ourselves and have careers, she taught us Quran, she introduced us to God, she held down the home, despite not ever having wanted to. In a time and place where personal, individual fulfillment is paramount over the needs of family and community, both her and my father taught us what commitment actually looks like.

Now that my sister and I are both mothers, we get it. We also get how hard it is to chose a unified home for your children over independence, over marital angst. We get how easy it is to walk away, and how hard it is to stay put, swallow anger and pride, and figure it out.

The Chaudry sisters. Both post-graduate working moms. Ami succeeded!

The Chaudry sisters. Both post-graduate working moms. Ami succeeded!

In the Islamic tradition, its said that God has 99 names, each of which signifies one of His attributes.  One of His most beautiful names, one that most often appears in the Quran, one that He, Himself, stresses above other attributes is Al-Rahman: the most merciful, loving, compassionate.

The root of the this name is “rahm”, the same word both in Arabic and Hebrew for “the womb”, a place of ultimate protection. It is no coincidence that motherhood is connected to the compassion and love that God himself gives to the world. It is no coincidence that most mothers then bring to their children similar compassion and love.

I sense, mostly and overwhelmingly, this compassion and love from my mother, it radiates even through her worst times, when we all feel defeated by her momentary unhappiness. At some point, she shrugs it off, picks up the phone, tells you to write down a prayer that will get you through whatever you need getting through, and keeps trucking.  She doesn’t always tell you things the easiest way to digest them, but mostly everything she says is right.

No one in the world makes me feel that my work is as important as Ami does.  No one in the world makes me feel that taking care of myself, which I’m not very good at, is as important as Ami does. While I often feel stressed at the demands of others, she has never pressured me for time, attention, help, even though no one in the world is more deserving of it than her.  In all of this, is her continued, compassionate self-sacrifice and her singular independence.

She wasn’t able to make her life everything she wanted, but I hope she is able to fulfill some of those dreams through her children. I hope she sees in any and all of our achievements, in every devoted prayer, in all the juggling acts to raise children while maintaining our careers, in every loving moment between myself and my children, are her lessons to us.

We aren’t much, but I hope that we are enough that at the end of her life, she feels like we were worth it.

Happy mother’s day Ami, you are loved.

 

Serial Episode 11: Much Ado About Nothing

Circa 1998 or 1999, the "band of brothers" from the local mosque. Dead center, and channeling the unibomber, is Saad. Adnan looks over his right shoulder. Deep throat is in the pic too.

Circa 1998 or 1999, the “band of brothers” from the local mosque. Dead center, and channeling the unibomber, is Saad. Adnan looks over his right shoulder. I see one Deep Throat in the pic too, hovering like a confused, slighted Judas. Don’t ask about Mr. Ski-mask. He’s wigging me out too.

“FITNAH”:  Arabic word denoting a trial, tribulation, difficulty, chaos, hypocrisy, confusing truth with falsehood, disagreement among people, persecution. Fitnah can be a situation, a thing, and even a person. 

“RUMOR”:  A currently circulating story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.

The rumors in this episode began in earnest on Reddit, the root of much fitnah, in the form of one “sachabacha”, who wrote in ALL CAPS THAT ADNAN IS A PSYCHOPATH. Between sachabacha, me, Saad, and Yusuf, it escalated. It’s natural, when someone talks smack about someone you love, to step up. We did, and then we stepped back, pulled Yusuf off of the sub, and decided to let the guy get it out of his system. Continue reading

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