Ramadan is Here!

It’s Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic Lunar calendar around this time. Those who fast in this month abstain from food, water, sex, and involve themselves in as many good things and deeds as possible. Feeding the poor, charity,  being kind and nice, forgiving, extra acts of worship are given extra emphasis. The month is special because it was in this month that the Qur’an was revealed.

It’s the most challenging Ramadan of my life this year – it’s the first time in my life that Ramadan is in the peak of summer, when the days are hot and long. It’s the first Ramadan when I’ve had a full-time job to balance along with the demands of Ramadan – a regular 9am to 6pm job for me. After spending five consecutive Ramadans in the same community, it’s my first Ramadan in a new place after I moved. It has been a challenge, but I’m relishing every bit of it so far.
Everyone has been warmer, nicer and more loving, whether at work or my neighbors or in the community I associate myself with.

I wish all of you a blessed Ramadan! Every moment wasted in this month is the same as wasting an entire year. Time to get to work!

“Ramadan is Here” by Native Deen.

Full of Wisdom

I was studying the chapter of the Romans in the Qur’an early this morning.
You only have to pick up a Qur’an and flip through randomly, reading even the translation to realize how much it speaks to you, directly.
It addresses questions in your mind, and the concerns you deal with, with such wisdom that it always feels like an eye-opener. It leaves you with a feeling of contentment and satisfaction. It answers you.
It is as though the Qur’an was sent just for you. Understanding some of the beauty in the language from the little rudimentary Arabic that I know only served to add further pleasure.

In this context, it struck me when I recalled how this nature of the Quran is pointed out in the Qur’an itself.

Allah swears an oath by many things in the Qur’an just before making a declaration, and we know that any declaration after an oath is very important. The things Allah swears by shows their importance or significance.
In the second verse of Surah Yaseen, Allah swore by the Qur’an itself. What was the declaration made after this oath? That it is Al-Hakeem, full of wisdom.

“By the Qur’an, full of wisdom!”

Wisdom because the Author of this book is the One who Created us and is responsible for us, and consequently,  knows better than anything else, what is best for us. It is according to human nature, or Fitrah, and what man needs for his own good.

I could attest to the wisdom as I read this chapter again.

I signed off, finishing with the chapter, nodding in agreement, with the last verse:

“So endure patiently; surely the promise of Allah is true; and do not let the ones who have no certainty make you impatient.”

Reasoning Emotions and the End of Gaddafi. A Love for God.

An old memory from childhood cropped up in recent days – it was a chilling sermon I had heard at Eid,which is one of two Muslim holidays in a year. It was a masterpiece of oratory, with powerful rhetoric that, I remember, had sent chills down my spine and gave me goosebumps.

The sermon was on the oft-repeated Islamic chant, “Allahu Akbar”,  Arabic for God is Greater. Greater than anything else.

Listening to this chant being recited in chorus has long been addictive to me. Quite often, emotions stir up. If I do not melt and feel like crying, helpless before God, a fire lights up within me giving me a huge rush of energy and a feeling of invincibility, that God alone matters and nothing else does. At other times, I feel a heavenly inner peace and contentment, a blissful solitude even in a crowd.

I’m not alone. Many look forward to the chant being recited in chorus before every Eid holiday prayer by Muslims. In times of happiness and success, sorrow and distress, in need and fulfillment, many find a way through calls of  Allahu Abar.

It was moving to see young revolutionaries in Egypt standing up to a tyrant, a dictator as they repeatedly chanted the same in chorus, electrifying the masses. I often searched and played the protestors chanting and praying during the revolution, on YouTube.

It was the same during the Libyan revolution, until, things changed.

The last time I heard the chant during the Libyan “revolution”, I was nauseating. I was disgusted.

A bloodied Gaddafi was being sodomized with a long knife-like object, a someone ramming it through his buttocks, cries of Allahu Akbar abound. He was being lynched, beaten, slapped and ultimately killed by people chanting the phrase in chorus. I also read how scores of others were summarily executed by the same “revolutionaries”. I wanted to plead with them to stop one of them – either the religious chant, or their despicable act.

It was clear. Swayed by emotions, the worst has been done, even in the name of religion. Hatred and discrimination, and worse, killing and oppression of a people, because of or due to, or for religion.

 Did I learn any lessons? Yes.  One, be careful about who you get your knowledge from. Not everyone who claims to do and call upon good is right. The truth stands out clear from falsehood.  God repeatedly asks us to ponder, in the Qur’an.

More importantly, emotions that run high and low, and vary with time and place cannot be the sole basis for actions.

Emotions now come after I am convinced of its basis, with reasoning.

 My personal relationship with God has grown beyond this stage.
It is about total love, hope, fear, all at the same time – strong emotions, all of them.
As a mortal human with forgetfulness, I have my mistakes as I act at certain times in ways that may point otherwise, but I do realize this: that the world may teach us, men more than women, that to show emotions is to be weak. But the way to God is through hope, through fear, through love. That God is closer to me than anything else. That He is waiting for me to communicate. That His wishes are more important than mine. That my desires are less important than His. That only He is an infallible entity that I can depend upon, that He will never let me down – men are fallible and can and do all the time.

.

 Someone rightly said: Use emotions—but never let them use you. Control them. Never allow them to control you.

Finding Faults with Others – Being Mirrors to One Another

It was the last day of classes at school, the last night before Finals Week. Some students decided to dance their stress away  to music in a flash mob dance in the library,  while many other peers watched with amusement, some of them video recording the semi-impromptu event.  The “others” also included a few Muslim male students.  On their way back home after the event, everyone was out with the customary postmortem. The dance was not good enough. The one last year was much better. The flash mob  at this other school was way better.  Among these was one that stood out – the ridicule on what in their view was a fundamental contradiction – a Muslim woman in a Hijab dancing with the group.  The woman had been judged. Negatively.1

It is a phenomenon that is apparently universal within Muslim communities (this is indeed a universal phenomenon, but this article is specific to Muslim communities) – the presence of a section of people who spend great energies at finding “faults”. Of others, that is. As they go about their public fault-finding exercises with people, with organizations and institutions – often accompanied by ridicule and condescension – they leave behind a trail of ruined reputations and bruised egos. Backbiting, much?

Muslims, as the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, are like a mirror to one another(Bukharee, AbuDawood), helping each other introspect and helping each other stay on the right track.

For me, this process does not involve a holier than thou attitude. When a fellow Muslim has a fault, It does not call for public debasement of him/her, but rather, involves counseling in private.

Being such a mirror also involves showing each other the good that they have. How often do we find people who are verbose and let their hearts out when finding faults, but at the same time, who are miserly in  praise and appreciation?

Fairness would demand that a whole body of work that makes a person be used to judge someone, if a person is being judged at all,  and not the few moments of weaknesses, that everyone goes through.  I would not be negatively judgmental about a person’s character despite seeing something that might challenge one’s perception of that person’s good nature, by giving them possible excuses and explanations. 

The mirrors that some Muslims have for each other though, only reflect the bad. The apparent bad. Magnified.

While publicly reflecting the “bad” in others, many do not have the honesty to recognize the presence of skeletons in their own cupboards. An American author, William Wharton was known to have said “What we all tend to complain about most in other people are those things we don’t like about ourselves.”

Even if there were shortcomings in others, it is in one’s own interests to hide them, and as said earlier, counsel others privately.  Muhammad (may peace be upon him) said : “The servant who conceals the faults of others in this world, God would conceal his faults on the Day of Judgement.”

Then there is also the case of double standards  in the application of “morality standards” while making reflections of people –  with one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for others.
A corollary would be, as was also seen from the reaction to the presence of a female Muslim in the flash mob dance,  all the load of “morality” is placed upon women, and women are blamed for the accusing men’s own temptations and weaknesses, while ignoring those weaknesses.  The men from the story never blamed themselves for having stood there watching the dance for fifteen minutes, an Islamically questionable act in itself.

I considered it my obligation to defend someone whose supposed faults were being exposed and laughed about in her absence – we are obliged to defend anyone who people backbite, in their absence.

Edit: I loved this video by Baba Ali on this matter.

 [1]If you do not understand what went wrong there, most Muslim scholars discourage free mixing between men and women who can marry, when it is for purely socializing purposes. They also consider music from stringed instruments as forbidden, and dancing to it in such a social gathering would thus be forbidden. They also want to avoid any situation that would result in gawking and lustful stares at women, so  women and men are supposed to be modest – a woman dancing in front of staring men wasn’t helping here.

 

“My awkward moments in Muslim prayer”

When it’s time for one of those five ritual prayers in a day that we Muslims have to offer,  and we are at a place far  from the safe comfort zones of homes and/or mosques -out shopping, or at work or school, it becomes a challenge to have to pray at a place where others might see you praying and prostrating and may not understand what you are up to.

The hesitation may just have more to do with our own thought process , of fear and of shame, embarrassment etc., and of being judged. Some do not want to express their Muslim identity in public and keep it under wraps, while others find it awkward to do anything that would appear weird in public and attract attention.  Most others are just too scared to pray in public – wondering how the authorities and/or owners of the place they want to pray in  might react.
It is also true in a few cases, the establishment frowns upon public prayers on their premises- my own niece gathered enough courage to start praying the afternoon prayer at her school  and after a few days, she was asked to stop.

Most ritual prayers, called Salaah, prayed at five different times of the day last from five to fifteen minutes at most depending on the devotion to God felt at each time and the time we have on our hands.  But some of those five minutes of prayer have been real anxious ones for me many a times, with a heart beating fast and hope that  no one enters my lab when I’m praying, no one comes to where I’m praying at the library or that corner of the shopping store.

An article on salon.com linked below has a hilarious account of the author trying to pray in a Gap store’s trials room in a hurry when there are just fifteen more minutes remaining before the time ends.  When people see your head on the floor from outside the fitting room, it could spell problems – you know, like, they may think you’re having a heart attack or something ?

My awkward moments in Muslim prayer.

Making A Default Positive Assumption about People

I have been troubled by some people being in a hurry to make negative conclusions about others and judge them. I find them guilty of double standards while they judge, since they would talk about applying rules when it concerns others, while asking for understanding their intentions when it concerns themselves.

 I was taught that Islam asks us to avoid suspicion of people, and the Quran says that some suspicions are sinful. Scholars have asked us to think positively of an apparently sinning person when possible, so that “the hearts are free from resentment and that people will be brought together and will cooperate in doing good.”

 Umar (RA), among the best of Muslims,  said: “Do not think badly of a word uttered by your brother, when you can find a good interpretation for it.”

 I would make a default assumption of the good nature of people, and try to work with the assumption that people are good and do no wrong, even in the face of actions that seemingly fly in the face of their professed good nature. I would think in terms of excuses and explanations, and refrain from rushing to negatively judge someone’s  character. Faraz Rabbani, a Canadian scholar recently quoted one of our pious predecessors, Hamdun AlQassar as asking us to make seventy excuses for an apparently sinning person, putting it metaphorically.

Do we really want to live forever ?

A couple of years back, I used to look at people who were concerned about getting old with contempt. You know, of the kind who spent a fortune for every cosmetic cream on the market that promised them to look younger than they were. For one – that would be deceiving people (we’re even discouraged from dyeing grey hair black so we do not deceive )and two – why were they ashamed of their age ? I mean,  everyone will get old and will die one day no matter what.  They could die from a car accident on the way back home from the mall they just bought the cream from.  This life is so temporary.  They’d rather focus the same anxiety to ensure that they utilize every iota of time that they get so they would have no regrets about having missed opportunities  later on as the hours and years pass.

Hypocritically, I am now feeling the heat as I grow older and older , now that I am no longer the teenager who had the world before him  and a great potential for the future; well that future is almost here, and I am under pressure to fulfill those dreams I had back then. Not all things went according to script in this phase, and I want time to freeze so I can catch up. Perhaps, it is some similar kind of feeling with those middle-aged uncles who have a mid-life crisis of sorts about what they are doing with their lives. The aunties who indulge in age-hiding are just worried that they are no longer  “attractive” to the opposite sex.

But, I digress. I read this article on the BBC  about scientific research and interest into halting or reversing the process of aging. And the desire in some people to remain alive – perhaps young, forever and ever.

“Truly, the life of this world is nothing but a [quick passing] enjoyment, and verily, the Hereafter that is the home that will remain forever.” [Qur’an, 40:39]

The lack of belief in any life after death (or the certainty of hell after death :-) ) may make us never want to die.  Why not spend the time we get here to prepare for this everlasting life after death ?  Having a good job and family, a lawful income,  a good life of satisfaction and happiness, helping others, and thankfulness to God  would make great preparation for the hereafter – and certainly make a great life on this earth too !

Telling women where to pray (via wood turtle)

We all have faced this problem. Women, if they are allowed to pray at all in the Masjids,   face issues which discourage them from visiting them. Quite often, this prevents them from acquiring spiritual training and gaining knowledge, and this has a cascading effect on the family and children.

Having seen the frustration of my own mother and sisters at the Masjids, this article though obviously harsh, made a lot of sense and is worth a read.

telling women where to pray We’ve all been there at least once.  In the corner of a dusty and briyani-debris ridden floor. In the windowless basement. On the second floor, inaccessible balcony with frosted viewing windows. In the front room of a house, with boarded up windows and a tv projection. In a barren false room with a tv projection. Behind a curtain. Under the stairs next to the janitorial closet.  Behind a wall.  In the room across from the morgue. In the back, pas … Read More

 

“My Lord, Forgive me, I have failed the covenant that I had taken on”

This is a nasheed by Nader Khan on desires and keeping them under check. ‘Desire’  is probably a loose translation of the word, ‘Nafs’ in Arabic that we are asked to keep in check in order that we give more importance to the wishes of the Creator than to our own Nafs.

Nader Khan is a Canadian Muslim singer with sufi leanings.

Comments on Islam.

In my previous post on Islamophobia, I talked about how the media coverage on any subject, even about Islam and Muslims, doesn’t necessarily match what the people on the street feel like.

I stumbled upon this adhan video from youtube and the comments, though moderated, made by non-Muslims gladdened me.

A section of the comments are posted here:

 

“Islam is not Osama bin Laden, Judaism is not Bernard Madoff, Christianity is not Adolf Hitler, Buddhism is not Pol Pot”

“to all muslims, from a jewish man: we are brothers, the sons of isaac are the brothers of the sons of ishmael. i remember how when the jews were kicked out of spain, muslims in the east gave us refuge. aleichem shalom!”

“even though i’m not exactly religious ive always been fascinated by Islam and it’s people. Even though Muslims are treated badly in things like the media, every Muslim I’ve met has been so nice and caring. plus this Prayer is so peaceful and beautiful.”

“Respect to all religions. I am catholic. I found this melody to be very amazing. It would be an honor to go to these countries and wake up by the voice and melody of this beautiful prayer”

“I am a Christian residing in Salt Lake, Utah, USA. I love my muslim friends and neighbors dearly. You have a beautiful culture and history. You have contributed so much to humanity. Thank you for just being who you are and honoring your heritage. You are always welcome here in Utah.”

“Peace and Respect between religions is always possible! Different names, One God!
Extremism is the on to be erradicated, from everywhere!”

“I feel desolated by the way the jews treat Muslims and particularly the Palestinians.
God bless you all, because your God is my God, there is only one for all.
Many Regards. Marlene”

“nd I think you shall find peace. I was born into Orthodox Christianity but have a great amount of respect for Islam. It’s core values being love and respect but mostly faith towards God who happens to be the same for all 3 Major religions.”

“My little 3 year old girl (christian) playing so happily with four other similar aged little girls and boys (muslim) in the local park the other day. None of them were bothered of their colour, beliefs etc . . . They were so so happy playing together. We as parents just stood together, again, not bothered by our religious difference, colour etc. We were so so happy together ! Why is it that we fight ? We should learn from our own children !”

“I’m Jewish and the quotes you picked out are really wonderful, and reflect what I believe to be the true loving nature of Islam, just like any other faith. Lets stop the hate and create unity. The azan has always been a fascinating and beautiful chant.”

“I am a Sephardic Jew… Truly this is beautiful. I have friends who are Muslims and I respect their faith. We should not judge one another we serve the same God, who has many names…Allah, YahWeh, Yahshua… Only God can judge us… and in the end we all die and our bodies return to the dirty… where will your spirit go? Love and do not hate…”

“I’m Jewish, but recently decided to find out about Islam, not just by reading books & watching videos, but by actually visiting a Mosque (on a regular basis); not only any Mosque, but a PALESTINIAN mosque (believe me, it took a lot of guts).What I found shocked me!These Muslims welcomed and embraced me even more lovingly than my own people.I find it hard not to like them.They are what every pious Jew is called to be.Gosh! “

“this is truely wonderful i’m a christian but i have the greatest respect for muslims and i can’t understand why many people don’t like muslims”

“Iam a Christian but this voice brought me to tears ,, what a great voice and sweet word”. Many such comments talking about how emotional the commenter got on listening to the adhan were made.

“I am catholic. I found this melody to be very amazing. It would be an honor to go to these countries and wake up by the voice and melody of this beautiful prayer.”

“I’m jewish and Israeli, and I must admit that it’s one of the most beatiful things I’ve ever heard”

And of course, there were many people who declared their conversion to Islam in the comments, while some expressed their intention to do so.

“I converted to Islam 6 months ago and its the best.”

“The Azan is so beautiful… i had always heard it through youtube but my friend recently went back home & when he called me it was time to pray & i heard it.. nothing but tears came to my eyes…Alhamdulilah I have chosen the right path to revert to Islam. <3”

“assalamu alaikum,i’m 15, i have accepted Islam”

“Though I am not a Muslim, I find so much peace in this exercise of the spirit. Perhaps one day, God willing, I can overcome my weaknesses and convert.”

“I’ll convert to Islam…. the truth way..they have all the answers about life!!!”

“I will convert to Islam officially soon, but in my hart am already submitted to the will,grace and mercy of Allah”

“This call to prayer is the one that made me curious about knowing what islam is all about,and guess what I found?the truth I’d been looking for 38yrs!Thanks to Allah for guiding me to Islam.”

I mined many more comments, but I think, you’ve got my point by now :).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Islamophobia ?

Islam-A-phobia is the buzzword that’s  flying around these days. In the media, in restaurant discussions, heck, even in my university portal, discussions constantly put Islam under trial in a negative sense.

Most of it has to do with Islam having something to do with violence.  Blaming Islam, perhaps out of naivity, ignorance, or even deliberately defaming it to clear the way and further their own ideologies.

Blaming Islam because some Muslim violent extremists interpreted it in a certain way, not agreed to by the rest of the 99.9% Muslims, and only agreed to by the likes featured on http://www.loonwatch.com.

Blaming Islam because a handful of violent extremists who happen to be Muslim, are working on their political struggles. You never saw this happen with Catholicism when the IRA was active in Ireland. Nor with Hinduism when the LTTE was active in Srilanka.

While it has been universally seen in all such forums of discussions  that the saner voices of moderation and understanding,  are in the majority,  the likes of Fox blasting away anti-Islamic right wing propaganda and hatred still hurts.

But, the media, as someone recently said, is a biatch –  it doesn’t necessarily portray the popular sentiment. It seeks to mould public sentiment according to the individual ideologies of those who own them.

 

Ignorance at display ! Qur’an the word of God is safe as ever.

In my previous post, I had talked about how ignorant, Islam haters are harming themselves in the hereafter by insulting God. (That their hatred of Islam is also a result of ignorance is another matter and worthy of another post). Pastor Jones may have backed out of his Qur’an burning exercise, but he surely managed to trigger other people to do the same. May God have mercy on them all !

News story : Six christians rip pages from the Qur’an.

News story :2 Local Men Burn Quran Despite Protest – Nashville , Tenessee

Koran Burning at Ground Zero, Man burns Quran on 9 11: Well, they took off this video.

But I got another one from a user called “Dove World Outreach Center”, the same tiny church that had threatened to burn the Qur’an.

—removed—

May God help them repent from the excesses they have committed by insulting God’s Own Word, and save all of us from His wrath in the hereafter !

Hook Up with God, God will Hook You Up!

Hook Up with Allah, Allah will Hook You Up

This was a beautiful article that I read on a blog that I follow.  I recommend this blog to everyone – I found  the posts on personality development and relationships on this website extremely useful .  I just made my friend who started the topic of marriage again for the nth time with me to read this. Find the article here

It’s just my poor luck that  a lot of people I surround myself with are older than me and are actively looking for the one meant for them for marriage, so there’s no surprise they always raise the topic. Though I always dismiss even the remotest of thoughts on marriage or companionship as soon as it comes to my mind, I do know, that deep inside, I feel the need for companionship with someone close, with whom I can share joys, sorrows and frustrations, and open my heart out. But I am strong enough to keep myself in check – I know I still don’t want to marry for quite some time now and I’m not going to have the so-called platonic relationships with anyone from the opposite gender too as a compromise. Prayers, friends and blogging be my companions till then :)

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