At age 16, I began to see the Prophet in the sun and the moon. On early mornings I'd lay across my bed and muse at the sunlit dust specks floating across the rays of light, wondering if some of them had once been kicked up by the camels of the Prophet Muhammad's caravan (peace and blessings upon him).
Nasheeds, or Islamic songs like Dawud Wharnsby's "Sunshine, Dust & the Messenger," introduced me to this way of thinking as a Muslim adolescent growing up in Skokie, Ill. The Muslim community reinforced this love for and connection to the Prophet. On the day of his birth (in January, this year) Muslims across the globe will come together to sing nasheeds and recite prayers for the Prophet.
When protests against "Innocence of Muslims" erupted, I found my mother more saddened than angered. This is because she, and many Muslims like her, have grown up reading about the Prophet's life. We feel connected to him --we emulate him. We imagine what it would be like to walk in his midst. We stare up at the sky and see the same crescent that guided him more than 1,400 years ago.
Although you'll find few Muslims adopting the WWJD mantra, a degree of reverence extends to Jesus and all other Prophets. I think of Surah Ta-Ha and the life of Moses on Passover and Surah Maryam and Jesus' birth on Christmas.
Most recently, I recalled the story of Abraham. The end of October marked the days of Eid ul-Adha, the holiday celebrating the end of the Hajj pilgrimage -- a rite through which Muslims follow milestones in the story of Prophet Abraham and the life of Prophet Muhammad.
As a Muslim kid, I always looked forward to Eid as a time to visit lots of family and receive Eid money from our elders. Now, as an adult, there are other reasons to look forward to Eid. Muslims are called upon to sacrifice a goat or other animal and to parcel the meat to the less fortunate, and as a working professional I am blessed with the opportunity to partake in this rite.
What made this Eid extra special was the opportunity I had as an Illinois resident to participate in early voting. After attending the morning Eid prayer at the masjid, my family and I drove down to the local polling place, and in our glittery Eid clothes, hijabs and prayer caps, we fulfilled the second big religious obligation of the day.
As much as Eid is about celebration and sacrifice it is also about responsibility. Sharing food with one's neighbor and the less fortunate, completing the Hajj pilgrimage, checking-in with friends and relatives are all duties of a Muslim. This year, I added one more to the list.
In the spirit of Muslims, Christians and others who fought for just leadership as part of the Arab Spring and the Prophets whose sense of duty knew no bounds, I voted for the next President of the United States (and others on the ballot).
It is my hope that whichever candidates they choose, Muslims across the country will kick up the dust and stand under the same sun that warmed the faces of Prophets Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and Abraham to continue the legacy of responsible, civic duty on Election Day.
Holidays like Eid that recall the lives of the Prophets make me happy to be a Muslim. Today, I am reminded of why I'm happy to be a Muslim American.