Friday, April 20, 2012

The Tasawwuf of the Amish

Our journey to learn more about the Amish started about two years ago when Netflix had The Amish: People of Preservation as part of their Watch Instantly collection. This is when I introduced the Amish to my Beloveds, I however have been fascinated with the Amish for longer than this. Their simple Godly life has made an impression on me even as a teenager when I would read novels with them as the subjects. As the apple does not fall to far, my Beloved Big A has read similar books about the Amish. I also enjoyed reading Gene Logsdon in my twenties, who writes and praises the Amish farmer. Most recently in 2009, when all banks were failing he tells about a bank in Lancaster Country who was having their best year ever in the article "Did the Amish get it right after all?". Now, in my thirties, I can appreciate the Amish in a more personal way as often as I am willing to drive an hour and a half North.


The Amish are integral part of Pennsylvania culture and history. Currently we are learning about the Northeast States, concentrating on Maryland and Pennsylvania in Noor Janan's US State Curriculum. An important text in our Pennsylvania study is The Amish in Their Own Words I couldn't help saying SubhanAllah or Glorious is God when I read it, many times, my eyes would water up with tears and my throat would be instantly hoarse as I try to read it to my Beloveds. For the Muslim who wishes to reach a deeper Spirituality and abandon a worldly life for a more God-centered life, they may study and live Tasawwuf. The more I read about the Amish, the more certain I was that their way of life was their form of Tasawwuf. One part reads:
 "To be self-righteously proud is wrong, always wrong, even though the things we are proud of may be right in themselves. It is right that we wear plain clothes, drive horses, live separate from the world, have our own schools, and things like that. But just as soon as we become proud about any of these things, we will be condemned right along with the self-righteous Pharisee (Luke 18:11-12).
Self-righteousness is such a sly sin. We need to be alert, watch for it daily, and humble ourselves whenever we have become exalted. Even then we cannot relax, for what is easier to be proud of than of the fact that we are so humble?"
Central Market

Central Market

We took the drive North to Pennsylvania early in the morning, our first stop was at the Pennsylvania border's rest stop. Although, not planned I am very glad we stopped there to pick up this little yellow map of Amish tourism. It wasn't the shopping that interested me on the yellow map, it was the location of the covered bridges which has especially interested us after doing our bridge work. Our next trip was downtown Lancaster to the Central Market, it was a perfect place to pick up pastries for Breakfast. They had pies, donuts, and cakes made by Mennonites and Amish, an awesome supply of organic vegetables, fruits,  free-ranged meats, eggs, & milk, and some of the best scented candles I have ever smelled, plus so much more. The prices were very reasonable, much cheaper than the groceries stores in Maryland.


Then we drove a little North to a covered bridge. Both Big A and I wanted to walk through it, however, there was no sidewalk and only one car can enter at a time. We did not want to hold up traffic as we walked through, we would have to save that adventure for another time. According to Wikipedia, there were 2000 covered bridges in Pennsylvania in the 1800's, now there are about 200 with most of them in Lancaster County.











Next we made our way for Lapp Family Farm for real homemade ice cream. It was the most creamiest ice cream we have ever tasted that could almost make me give up my beloved  Häagen-Dazs. I met a women and her children who says she drives to the farm to purchase milk from them every week, she was not Amish, but she says it is the best she tasted and was sure it was because of the Jersey cows. It was a great farm to just sit and enjoy your ice cream, swing, pet a cow, or have a dog beg you for a piece of your homemade sweet smelling waffle cone.
Clothes on a line at most of the houses, Horses still pull Farm equipment

Strawberry Fields
Before we arrived at the Lapp Family Farm, there were two things that we noticed that made me want to stop the car. Humble Dad, being the driver, did oblige one time. Many of the Amish houses had their clothes on a dryer line, I later asked our guide is this a normal to wash clothes on Friday, he said usually Monday is wash day, however sometimes they will wash twice a week. Every line we saw had at least two items that were black, many had more, Black representing a simple dress, a modest dress which could be compared to the Wahhabi. The picture I took is of a man coming in from the field using his horses as the only power to pull his equipment, he just happened to be there as I was trying to capture his clothes hanging in the wind. He waved at us very kindly and said "Good day!" I also loved his rows of strawberries, yum! The next thing that I did not capture, but it captured our hearts was the playground full of Amish children playing our favorite pastime: baseball. Attending a one room school house, our guide told us later that when he attended school they would have an hour for lunch and baseball was their favorite activity during lunch.




In the middle of Lancaster County is a city called Intercourse, I didn't realize the reaction it would get on facebook, however it probably just means where two main roads meet. The Main road I am speaking of is Old Philadelphia Pike, Old Philadelphia Pike is where the tourist are and where we tried to avoid for most of our trip. However, we did want to take a buggy ride. We used Aaron & Jessica's Buggy Ride service and I am so glad we did, our guide who I have mentioned before was very informative and answered all of our questions. He was a small man, shorter than myself with a large beard and hat. He wore the traditional black trouser and black vest with a blue shirt. Z Man was able to ride in the front with him and crossing the main street with cars zooming by was one of the many highlights of the buggy ride.





Our guide confirmed much of our book The Amish in Their Own Words such as the book explains the language of Pennsylvania Dutch, which is not Dutch at all but a German Dialect. He said that he can converse freely with German tourist, that they can understand each other well. We asked questions about their power sources and the use of solar power. Using the sun's power is not prohibited and many Amish homes and barns had solar panels, as long as there is no government subsidies involved. He talked about the simple dress of the men and women and the covering of a women's hair, which is unlike the Muslim's mandatory covering at puberty, they start covering their hair as soon as it becomes long enough to wrap it in a bun. However, like the Muslims, covering the hair is a representation of the beauty, a women saves for her husband. He talked about his courtship of two years from age 19 to 21, he said that many Amish families do not allow the children to marry until 21. A couple could be courting from age 16 to the magic age of 21, ironically 21 is a magic age for many Americans also: the legal age of drinking, but for the Amish it is the perfect age for the man to tie the knot.

Humble Dad and I were curious about two different things, Humble Dad was very interested in knowing about their slaughtering practices, particularly would their meat be considered Halal. He was disappointed to find out that many shoot their animals with a rifle, instead of hand slaughtering. I, on the other hand, was interested in their health and diet. Especially after the recent Autism and Amish: debate over vaccinations. One prominent Muslim leader in the US advised recently to only eat meat 1-2 times a week and he encouraged his community to view the documentary, Fat Sick & Nearly Dead We have viewed the documentary and are in the process of decreasing our meat intake. It was interesting to find out that this was already a  practice of the Amish, when asked how often they eat meat, he said 1-2 times a week. Their diet consist of the fruits and vegetables that they grow. Self-sufficiency was a point that he made in our conversation. "No dependency on government" he said over and over again. Although, they do not smoke or drink, have a primarily green diet, and drink well water, he said that there are a few Amish  that still gets cancer. The Amish are also very active, we observed women and men riding bicycles and scooters through town and of course working very hard outdoors. I did not notice any factories, just miles and miles a beautiful green fields, air quality in Lancaster County had to be a whole lot better than Philadelphia on the East and Pittsburgh on the West. However, for the Amish riding their bike or buggy with our car smog blowing in their face could be a contribution. Some other thoughts that I had were due to the type of meat intake. They do eat pork. He talked about following the Ten Commandments and the laws set in the Old testament. They do not follow the "customs of the people are vanity" or cut down "a tree from the forest" nor do they "decorate it with silver and gold; fasten it with a hammer and nails so that it cannot move" Jeremiah 10. Certain Christmas practices are not the only thing they avoid, graven images and photography is another as expressed in the 2nd Commandment, so then why do they eat of the "cloven footed. .. he cheweth not the cud and is unclean to you." Leviticus 11 I was too shy to ask that question, however, I wonder how much of their pork diet, although not consumed as often as many Americans, affects their health. Humble Dad also thought about the dairy they consume, after recently watching the documentary:  Forks Over Knives on Netflix that showed the stats on cardiovascular disease in Norway: how it dropped when the Nazis confiscated their livestock during the 1940's. I left knowing alot more about the Amish than I previously knew, I hope that my Beloveds did also. However, there is so much more that I would like to learn and so many more trips to Lancaster County, PA that I pray God will bless us with.


"What it means to be Amish" from The Amish In Their Own Words.
We dress differently and our lifestyle is different, but is that the only difference between the Amish and all these other churches?
Well, let me tell you a story. Some years ago a group of fifty-two people chartered a bus and came to Holmes County to see the Amish. They had arranged to have an Amishman meet them and answer some of their questions.
For their first question, they began, "We all go to church," and named some churches.  "So we know about Jesus. But what does it mean to be Amish?"
The Amishman thought a bit and then he asked a question of his own.  "How many of you have TV in your homes?" Fifty-two hands went up. "Now, how many of you feel that perhaps you would be better off without TV in your homes?" Again, fifty-two hands went up. "All right. Now, how many of you are going to go home and get rid of your TV? Not one hand went up!
Now that is what it means to be Amish. As a church, if we see or experience something that is not good for us spiritually, we will discipline ourselves to do without.
The world in general does not know what it is to do without!

8 comments :

  1. Jazaki Allahu khair for this! You beat me to it! I've been yearning to immerse myself amongst the Amish as well out of my own curiosity and need for personal education, and I definitely appreciate the glimpses that you gave us of your day. I especially enjoyed learning about their slaughtering practices--so happy your husband asked that question, as I wondered if any of their meats could be considered halal. Again, barakAllahu fik for this peek into your day amongst the Amish! I await the day when I can have some of the same experiences inshAllah!

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    1. Lol, food is a priority for him, I am glad that it was beneficial. However, I am not sure if all Amish use this practice, I would still ask individual Amish.

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  2. i echo wbabdullah! jazaakum Allahu khayr! this was really insightful! i have a special place in my heart for the amish! i had two college roommates from lancaster county and i enjoyed every opportunity to return home with them (or eat the tasty baked goods that returned with them!). i once heard of an amish community in canada that became muslim. that would make an interesting study trip too, i'm sure! may Allah increase you and your family in your studies and travels together! ameen!

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    1. Ameen. Thank you! Traveling is such a great part of homeschooling, InshaAllah, our family will get to where you are at. May Allah bless you and your family and keep you all safe.

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  3. Wow, mashAllah, now I want to know more about this Amish-turned-Muslim community in Canada...any links you can provide raggamuslims?

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  4. This is a very informative story. I would love for my readers to have a chance to read this. Would you consider linking it up to my hop - Hammock Tracks Weekend Edition? Here is the direct url - http://www.hammocktracktales.blogspot.com/2012/04/hammock-tracks-weekend-edition-linky.html

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    1. Sure, thank you for sharing your link and visiting our blog!

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  5. Asalaam Alaikum!!!! Interesting piece.I came from a simple culture in the Caribbean and can appreciate greatly the Amish life style as its very similar to ours in Jamaica back in the day,say 50 years ago .I often ponder on those days and wish for them to come back.The problem now a day is that although we have"advanced" in our quality of life, we have lost the simple way of life to our own detriment.How difficult is it to home school your kids in an Islamic enviroment.
    Fikum!!!!

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