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April 25, 2018 | Comments Off on


This comic is the style of Persepolis written by Marjane Satrapi. Her book is written from the perspective of a girl growing up in Iran during the Revolution and its aftermath. I chose the narrator of the comic to be a girl who begins wearing the hijab and her complicated relationship with hijab. While the girl feels frustrated with her parents for pressuring her to wear hijab, she also is upset at the people at school who assume she is oppressed for wearing hijab. They view her as less of a person because she began wearing hijab, and she does not view hijab in that manner as them. In reaction to the assumptions of teachers and students at school, she wants to wear hijab more. However, she is still not entirely comfortable wearing it, but feels obligated to wear it because of her family.

I feel that so many people try to speak on behalf of Muslim women, assuming their views, from Muslim men to Western feminists. For instance, in the discussion following the documentary we watched in class about Turkish women, we seemed to be putting words in the mouth of the former model turned hijabi women. The conclusion of the discussion seemed to be she was fighting back against the Western influence of her country by wearing hijab, and she was against anything Wester. How much she valued education was ignored, which can be seen as a progressive value. The language barrier might have contributed to misinterpretation of her views. I feel it is important to have Muslim women tell their own stories and to portray them fully, with complicated emotions.

April 25, 2018 | Comments Off on

While painting this, I was thinking about binaries and how often they are used in discourse surrounding Muslim women. For instance, the uncovered woman is liberated and brave while the veiled Muslim woman is oppressed and voiceless. In the article “Unveiling Scheherazade”, Charlotte Weber highlights that Western feminists buy into the sexualized, harem image of women in Muslim countries. For instance, in Jane Eyre, the Orientalist imagery links the root of patriarchy to Eastern culture. Similarly, in Western movies, niqabis and the backdrop of Arab countries is used to set the scene of a backwards, simple culture. It creates a another duality between Western and Muslim women and assumes Muslim women cannot have “progressive” ideals.

The link of national identity to the hijab also sets up a binary in the Islamic world because those Muslim women who choose to not wear the veil are seen as Westernized and thus as supporting imperialism. It also employs a misreading of history where it is believed that this new and more conservative practice of Islam has been practiced in East for centuries. It posits the West against the East as well, as if the two are completely incompatible.

The duality I chose to highlight in this piece is that between deen and dunya. On one side of the picture, it says deen in Arabic. The other side says dunya. I often feel like, with every action, I am choosing between my religion and the present world. However, I have grown to believe that the practice of religion, deen, does not include completely forgoing the dunya. It is impossible, for me at least, to always act “Islamically”- human weakness is natural. However, this does not mean I would ever stop practicing Islam because I cannot be a perfect Muslim. In other words, I believe one’s relationship with Islam spectrum rather than duality.

April 25, 2018 | Comments Off on

Podcast Transcription

(beginning not heard in recording)

Maymouna: I never thought I would be able to tell this story to anyone.

Noura: What made you decide to tell your story?

Maymouna: I felt I had to. I needed to share this with the world even if no one wanted to listen.

Noura: I am glad we could provide that space for you.

Maymouna: I was born in 1994 to two loving parents in Philadelphia. My parents were early converts to Islam back in the 1970s. They thought that the values that Islam taught were vital and necessary, and they wanted me to grow up with those values, especially given the fraught time in which they grow up. I loved my childhood. I liked going to Sunday school and playing with the other Muslim kids. The African American Muslim community is especially vibrant in Philadelphia so I am always so grateful to them. I have such fond memories of that time.

However, when I began high school, my family moved to Tennessee where the Muslim community had many more immigrants. My sheltered little bubble was popped. The local mosque felt so closed off. They sometimes only had services in Arabic, and my parents and I knew so little Arabic. It really was not a welcoming environment at all.

And now my school was mostly white.  My clothes, my hair, even the way I talked was so different. Although I did not wear hijab, sometimes I did like to wrap my hair.  In my other school in Philadelphia, wearing a headscarf was not uncommon, especially for nonMuslim Black girls. It is a protective style for our type of hair.

But no one at my new school seemed to be Muslim or Black or understand this. I think the kids believed a lot of what their parents told them. The Internet was also still catching on which I think now is a pretty vital way of learning to understand other people and helps people be a little more open. Unfortunately for me, this did not happen.

But anyway high school was just terrible for me! I would walk into school, keep my head down, and just try to get through. I loved to journal. I think that is what got me through those lonely lunches.

Eventually I graduated and got into a pretty decent school. I started at a small school in California. I rediscovered my faith when I came to the activities fair and saw the Muslim Students’ Association table. They seemed so excited to see me because I was Muslim. It reminded me of Philly.

But whenever I go home, I remember what it was like. I go through my old journals and feel the wave of loneliness all over again. All I can say is Alhamdulillah.


What makes the autobiography of former enslaved people powerful is that they now have access to express themselves and reclaim their voice. Enslaved people were often denied   the chance to become literate so they could not share their story with a wide audience. I view the podcast as akin to autobiographies. It is possible to produce and distribute a podcast in your bedroom closet, and it seems to be a medium that is more willing to take risks. It is also very intimate. Hearing the sound of someone’s voice through headphones or earbuds makes the listener feel closer to that speaker.

I wrote this piece to channel the power of the autobiography. While physical books are a dying medium, I chose to do a podcast because it feels like a fresh, still new medium that is more open and not steeped in the hierarchy of the publishing or film world. At first, I grappled with whether or not podcasts were art. One way art can be defined is a way to tell a story, and that is how I understand the goal of podcasts. The producers and hosts curate everything from the sound to the interview.

In this excerpt of an imaginary podcast, a college student Maymouna describes her experience growing up Muslim and moving to a place where she did not feel part of the Muslim community. It is short, similar to the autobiography of Omar Ibn Said, and there is not really a clear moral at the end. It is really up to the listener to discern a meaning for themselves. This is more emulating the style of European podcasts and documentaries whereas American podcasts lay out everything for the listeners, even down to how they should be feeling.

Finding Islam in Nature

March 20, 2018 | Comments Off on Finding Islam in Nature

In Islam, aesthetics (beauty) is a sign of Divine origin, The beauty of the Quran was evidence of its holiness because “God is Beautiful and loves Beauty”. Renard touches on the idea of sacred scripture in Seven Doors to Islam. He introduces the idea of God communicating with people in a variety of ways. This concept informed this video.

The verses of the Quran are called ayahs, or signs. In the Quran is written, “Wherever you turn there is the face of God”. Thus, this implies that in nature, there are signs of God. Nature has come to play a prominent role in Islamic art, featuring prominently in the arabesque. Winding vines decorate the Holy Quran in book form.

Behold! In the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of ships through the ocean for profit of humankind; in the rain which God sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of winds, and the clouds which they trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth; (Here) indeed are the signs (ayat) for a people that are wise.” Quran 2:164

Here, God is suggesting that those who can read the ayahs in nature have a special knowledge and know God. To be close to nature is to be close to God.

I took these series of videos when I travelled to Norway because I was so moved by the beauty of the mountains and landscape. Being among nature was a spiritual experience. I specifically picked Surah Qaf to layer over the the video because of the verse “And the Earth, We spread it out, and cast therein firmly set mountains and We have made to grow therein of all beautiful kinds; to give sight and as a reminder to every servant who turns to Allah” (50-7-8) I thought it was fitting for the video. Then I edited the recitation to slow it down as well as give it a distant sound. I associate that sort of soundscape with a heavenly quality. This is fitting as many depictions of Jannah are of a garden.

Abbed, Fares. Surah Qaf,

“Al-Qur’an Al-Kareem – القرآن الكريم.” Surah Qaf [50],,

Karbala and Modern Day America

March 20, 2018 | Comments Off on Karbala and Modern Day America

Hussein quickened his steps as the cold winter air hugged his body closer, causing him to shiver. Already the sweat from building sets for the school play dried white onto his black skin. He always joked that winter was not meant for his kind, yet here he was in Bethlehem, Connecticut, walking back to his family’s apartment complex on the outskirts of the quite white town.

When he got home, his parents would be pissed when they learned that he lost his turbah in the midst of pre-productions of the Christmas play of all things. Hussein laughed at the thought of his Baba cursing and saying God was lashing out at him for being involved with such blasphemous things.

Hussein’s family was Shia Muslim, and the turbah was necessary for the five obligatory daily prayers to rest his forehead on. At least it was not the sacred family turbah from Karbala where Hussein’s namesake was martyred. That would have been the end for Hussein, a Karbala part two, he joked to himself.

Almost blindly, Hussein crossed the street without looking to see the police car moving. When was the last time he got a haircut? Aden would clown him once again for his scruffy hair. He really needed to visit the barber. It was about time.

Lights and the sound of screeching tires interrupted his thoughts. Instinctively, Hussein sprinted the last couple of feet across the crosswalk with the police car barely scraping him.

“Hey! What are you doing out here? What is wrong with you?” Hussein turned around to face an angry police office yelled at Hussein.

“Walking home, sir.” Hussein gave a curt, polite response, knowing all too well that this policeman could do whatever he wanted to a black teenager in a dark street with no observers.

“Do you live around here?”


The police officer stared at Hussein, glaring as if he did not believe him.

“Fine then. Get moving. It’s dangerous out at night.”

Hussein nodded quickly and walked. He did not realize he stopped breathing during the whole interaction until he found himself gasping for air. Why was it fair that one person could make him feel such anxiety?

The dunya was nothing but injustice. How could he expect anything less from a world that let the tragedy of Karbala take place? No, he would not forget, could not forget the harsh realities of life, although occasional joy may temporarily distract him.  And Hussein continued home.


Sadeq Humayuni presents a thorough analysis of the avant-garde religious theatre of Iran, and specifically its focus on Hussein’s emotions in the book Ta’ziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran. The taziyah is a distinctly Persian form of religious art. It is a form of theatre. It recounts the events of Karbala and the story of the battle between evil and good. The taziyah serves to remind Muslims of the injustice and tragedy of Karbala where not even a baby. I was inspired by this archetype for evil, and wanted to apply it to a modern setting, specifically with over-policing of Black people in America. This story follows the story of a Muslim boy who is Black walking home, and he has a negative interaction with the police. Although nothing happens, the fear that the interaction invokes is jarring. The emotion and trauma of dealing with the fragility of your life day in and day out is exerting. Thus, our lead character leans on the story of martyr Hussein to cope and as a reminder not to put too much hope in the dunya, or temporary world.

I was also inspired by a poet who compared the the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to the tragedy of Karbala. Although it is a specifically Islamic event, the idea of injustice is applicable in many situations. I imagine then that the taziyah maintains its relevance in this way- it is a timeless story. The emotions transcend time.

Nur Muhammad

March 20, 2018 | Comments Off on Nur Muhammad


Professor Asani, in Infidel of Love, describes the deep love that Muslims have for Prophet Muhammad and how he is a model for the ideal in Muslim. Then, in class, we discussed the concept and centrality of Nur Muhammad meaning. Light of Muhammad. His light is primordial and comes from the following Quran verse 24:35

“God is the Light of the heavens and the earth; the likeness of His Light is as a niche wherein is a lamp – the lamp in a glass, the glass as if it were a glittering star –kindled from a Blessed Tree, an olive tree that is neither of the East nor of the West, whose oil well-nigh would shine even if no fire touched it; Light upon Light; God guides to His Light whom He wills. And God strikes similitudes for man, and God has knowledge of everything.”

The lamp and likeness of God’s light is often interpreted to be the Prophet. Muhammad pbuh is beloved and praised by Muslims all over the world. He is the ideal example of how to live one’s life. People follow the sunnah or way of the Prophet. He is so loved that he is at times an intercessor, and poetry is written in praise of him. I have written one such an example invoking the idea of Nur Muhammad.

I open the poem with the refrain of al-Busiri’s famous Burda “O God send your prayers and blessings always and forever upon the one whom you loved, the best of all creatures.” It is a prayer for the Prophet and a reminder of the awesome power he held in turning disbelievers to his side, even one of the most famous poets of that time. al-Busiri wrote sme of the hanging poems that were put on the Ka’aba, which is now a sacred building in Mecca. On the Kaaba now hangs black cloth with gold writing, which I have emulated with this text and background. It also fits well with the theme of Nur Muhammad. The Prophet is a guiding light against the darkness of the dunya.

Hello world!

March 20, 2018 | 1 Comment

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