Islam


Do you have ten minutes? Watch this. It’s absolutely fabulous.

As a man of no faith, Zach Anner is on a personal mission to find out more about the world’s religions — and he’s doing it by speaking with those who believe. Starting with Muslims.

In this first episode of Have a Little Faith, Zach speaks with Marwa at the Islamic center of Southern California. While going through some Islam 101, they hit a couple of hot topics like hijab and dating — and he’s sharp to make sure viewers hear a pretty balanced perspective. As a bonus, he does it with tones of class and humour.

It’s a great video and I’m really looking forward to seeing the entire series. Check it out:

Mothering in Ramadan can be difficult without support. And it’s not just the demands of children, work, cooking, family or guests that can effect a mother’s participation — but also the immense personal pressure to find and create time for worship. Especially during the last 10 days when moments of solitude are at a premium for people to really focus on prayer, Qur’an and dhikr.

In our second post in this ongoing series on motherhood and Ramadan, I offer some thoughts on the larger social and religious constructions that can prevent mothers from enjoying a more fulsome spiritual experience and look at the benefits of empowered mothering.


Nursing and reflecting in an 'Asr glow.

Nursing and reflecting in an ‘Asr glow.

Three dessert spoons break into a molten chocolate lava cake — satiny, near-black cocoa ganache spills out, mixing with raspberry coulis swirls and vanilla ice cream. Savouring the moment and sighing into our coffee cups, we soon start laughing over a shared love of decadent sweets.

I’m sitting with two other mothers — one from Yemen, the other from Kenya — reuniting after a long time at a cafe in Kuwait. We have seven children (and one on the way) between the three of us. In a rare moment we’re finally alone together without our kids to distract us (except for a new sleeping baby and Ivy who is occupying herself quietly with a snack). After getting caught up on each other’s lives, I direct the conversation toward experiencing Ramadan and the delicate balance between the demands of motherhood, family and personal spirituality.

A pregnant Samiya complains that she barely has time to read the Qur’an. She’s feeling divorced from Ramadan this year because she is not fasting — and with a house full of visiting relatives, she often finds herself in the kitchen. Today her back and sciatic nerve pain is especially bad and she wishes someone would simply offer her a seat so she can relax and focus on herself, her prayers and the growing baby. She’s really hoping to attend Qiyaam-al-Layl, the night prayers, with the other adults in her favourite mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadan, but will probably end up praying at home. That is, if the kids cooperate and go to bed on time. “Alhamdulillah, caring for children is a form of worship,” she sighs.

Bushra has a slightly different outlook and experience this Ramadan. She has somehow found the strength to fast, despite breastfeeding her new son and running after her two other children. And while God has blessed her in this regard so she can enjoy the act of fasting — she is especially looking forward to what comes next, when her children are old enough to look after themselves. Right now, she’s trying not to stress too much about doing any extras and is just concentrating on her children. But she won’t be caring for little ones forever and needs a plan for the future. When I ask her about what she intends to do when that time comes, she says simply, “Ibadah.” Worship.

Then she reminds us with a serious intensity:

O you who believe, let not your wealth and your children divert you from remembrance of Allah. (The Qur’an 63:9)

There is so much emphasis on the elevated position that mothers hold in Islam, that we’ve created a culture taking the institution of motherhood for granted.

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There’s something about Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s smile and glowing face masha’Allah — that makes me excited to be married to a Yemeni.

This is what he has to say in response to a question on the desperate exclusion of women in mosques in the UK.

Here’s an exert of the good stuff if you don’t want to watch the entire thing:

It hurts me deeply that most Muslims today do not implement the commands of God and the counsel of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) in regards to women. Women in our societies do get oppressed. And one of the worst expressions of injustice that women are exposed to, is that this oppression in many circumstances is vested with the garment of religion. And the time has come that we who represent religion, who speak on behalf of religion, to move away from defending the faith and how it sees women — to defending women by using the faith itself…

In the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) women used to enter the mosque from the same door as the men. And she used to take part in doing things for the mosque in exactly the same way the men took in working toward the betterment of the mosque. And she would go out of the mosque to the marketplace and ensure the marketplace is living according to prophetic code of moral character in its business interaction — exactly like the men would.

I know this. You know this. He knows this. And insha’Allah one day I’ll be sharing a video of some of Islam’s prominent female and male scholars discussing and supporting a serious action plan on how we can change the status of women in the majority of our mosques.

Via Side Entrance.

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Thank you to everyone for participating.

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Last year I wrote a post detailing what my ideal mosque would look like. This mosque was painted with inclusivity, a shared prayer space for women and men, a soup kitchen, and with a dream that one day Eryn would have the opportunity to write the Friday sermon and call the faithful to prayer. Since many are largely excluded from participation at the mosque in general, I love the idea of women writing or giving the jumu’ah sermon, and wish more mosques would take the opportunity to consult and showcase their female scholars.

So I was absolutely thrilled to learn that frequent guest writer Rawiya presented the following khutbah on broken-heartedness and patience at the Masjid el-Tawhid in Toronto while we were away in Kuwait. She’s allowed me the honour of sharing exerts from it with all with you.

Enjoy and happy jumu’ah!


Have We not opened up your heart
And lifted from you the burden
That had weighed so heavily on your back?
And, behold, with every hardship comes ease.
Verily, with every hardship comes ease!
So, when you are free from distress, remain steadfast.
And unto your Sustainer turn with love.
(Surah 94, The Opening Up: 1-8)

hard-hearts This year, I have found myself increasingly interested in the topic of the heart in Islam. What can be said about the heart, in any definitive way? There is the literal muscle, sitting here somewhere in each of our chests, pumping blood throughout our bodies and giving us life. But of course, the “spiritual heart” represents so much more. We have been raised to consider the heart as one of the centers of our humanity. In some ways, it is a complete mystery, and for this reason, we can’t really say anything about it. But, the tradition of Islam offers a surprising amount of information about the heart to humankind, from the Qur’an, sunnah, scholarly, and mystical traditions.

I have been curious about how the tradition of Islam views the heart and human emotion, partially because of something said by the Sufi mystic and philosopher, Ibn ‘Arabi: “He who knows himself knows his Lord.” And again, “When we know our souls we know our Lord.” I believe that delving into the mysteries of the self helps us in our eternal journey towards God, Glorified and Exalted — as we were endowed from the moment of our creation with a trace of divinity.

As Allah gave life to the Prophet Adam, peace be upon him, He infused him with an-nafas ar-Rahman, “the breath of the Merciful One,” and we carry this fragment of divinity with us to this day. So, it makes sense to me that these human mysteries, these human conditions, have something to say about our Lord, as He relates to His creation, and in His essence.

And here I return to the heart.

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RashidAdDinBirthOfProphetMohammed

Birth of Prophet Mohammed. Tabriz (?), 1314/15. Water colours on paper.

Peace be upon him.

The first time I really felt any love for the Prophet I was baking a cake. This was long before marriage, and I was standing in my mother’s kitchen grating carrots, absentmindedly humming to an English CD of religious Islamic music. A song about his last moments on earth came on the stereo, and for the first time, I really listened to the lyrics: “…as ‘Aisha his wife, held tight to his hand, the Prophet spoke again before he passed away…

There was something about imaging ‘Aisha comforting the Prophet and the idea that his last breath was spent speaking to her, that went directly to my heart — and I found myself sobbing over a bowl of flour and cinnamon.

In a very lovely post, Dr. Omid Safi shares and interprets a poem about the birth of the Prophet — written by the Ottoman Suleyman Chelebi in the 15th century. What makes this poem so incredible to me, is that it’s written not from the standpoint of his Companions, or with a list of prophetic traditions describing his attributes, but through the voice of his mother, Amina, as she experienced giving birth to him.

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So much for colour coordination.

The other day the Hubby took Eryn so I could have some well-deserved girl time with a good friend. We had a fabulous date at a swanky restaurant — two Muslim girls drinking faux cocktails, laughing into our high-calorie salads, passing a chubby baby back and forth, and gossiping about our respective academic-stressed and dirty diaper strewn lives.

By the time I got home, Eryn was fast asleep — worn out by her own lovely date with Baba. He let her watch TV, they learned some sign language, then they went to the mosque before laughing into halal burgers and acting all cool playing with pretend mobile phones at a local cafe.

We’ve been extremely successful with potty training over the past month and recently started venturing out without diapers. So naturally, after finding out how the evening went, I just had to ask about bodily functions:

Me: So how’d it go?
Him: She had to pee when we were at the mosque. While I was praying.
Me: Oh no! What did you do?
Him: Well, I tried speeding up, but it was going to take too long. So I left prayer and took her to the bathroom.
Me: You stopped praying? You gave salaams?
Him: No. I left prayer, took her to the bathroom, came back to the musalla and picked up where I left off.
Me: Can you even DO that?
Him: *shrug* Not sure? Guess it’s time for a fatwa.

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My daughter Ivy devours bananas. She can finish off half a banana in minutes and screams if you take it away from her before she’s done. In fact, at five months old she has already tasted bagels, figs and chicken – stuffing anything within reach on my plate into her mouth. At birth, my other daughter Eryn absolutely refused to nurse, and I spent the first 48 hours of her life desperately feeding her a mixture of colostrum and water and eventually turned to formula when she lost too much weight. But we persevered and I successfully nursed her for three years.

For both babies, my intention was to follow the World Health Organization’srecommendation to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of their lives. The girls, of course, had something else in mind – and I ended up joining the statistics of mothers who, for whatever reason, fail at following this important medical advice.

Despite the fact that health authorities around the world support the WHO’s recommendation, only 37% of mothers around the world exclusively breast feed for the recommended time. It’s 39% in the developing world, 25.9% in Canada, 14% in Australia, 8% in Brazil, and France doesn’t even register, with negligible breastfeeding statistics past two months post-partum.

Recently, IRIN released a report on the “shocking” decline of exclusive breastfeeding in the West African country of Guinea. Apparently, Muslim women and families are offering newborn infants water that’s been blessed by inscriptions of the Holy Qur’an, and will forgo initiating breastfeeding until this water treatment is administered:

“Countless babies in Guinea are not given their first breast milk for hours – however long it takes a designated family member to bring water that is used to rinse special Koranic verses inscribed on a wooden tablet. This symbolic liquid, the first thing many babies ingest, is just one example of a custom believed to protect children but that can instead jeopardize their health.”

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Men teach that a woman’s entire body is a part of the definition of nakedness — and thus, “for the sake of the Muslim Ummah and for her own good,” she should cover her entire body. Even her voice should not be beautified, lest it attract the poor, unsuspecting, pious male into entering sin. (source)

And this is why we need more public recitation, supplication and chanting by women. Because they are indeed, beautiful.

 

Hat tip to Hijabman for finding this awesome piece.

A rich merchant from the city desired to buy a horse. Knowing his money could buy the best of all worlds, he decided to travel deep into the pure desert to visit a poor Bedouin man famed for his piety.

The Bedouin welcomed the merchant warmly and inquired about his visit. “I want to buy a halal horse,” said the merchant.“Oh yes, I think I can help you,” smiled the Bedouin and led the merchant to his stable.

He brought out a beautiful stallion and exclaimed, “This is my most halal horse. To make it go you need only say, ‘Alhamdulillah.’ And to make it stop, you need only say, ‘la illaha illa Allah.’”

Amazed and impressed, the merchant paid the Bedouin and mounted the horse.

Sweeping his arm grandly to the heavens, the merchant pronounced, “Alhamdulillah!” And much to his delight, the horse began to walk. Excited, the merchant said it again, “Alhamdulillah!” and the horse began to trot. Giddy, he said it a third time, “Alhamdulillah!” and the horse began to gallop.

With each pronouncement the horse ran faster and faster — and the merchant lost himself in the joyful ride.

Soon however, the merchant noticed he was riding toward the edge of a cliff.

Proud of his purchase, he let the horse run a bit further. But the thrill of the ride made him forget the words to stop the horse. And he began to panic.

He grabbed the horse’s mane. Nothing happened.
He shouted, “Bismillah!” Nothing happened.
The edge of the cliff came closer and closer.
His heart pounded. He didn’t want to die!
He recited al-Fatiha, an-Nas, ayatul Kursi
Nothing slowed the horse’s run.

The edge of the cliff came closer and closer, and now certain of his impending death, the merchant covered his face with his hands and cried out, “la illaha illa Allah!!!”

The horse stopped right on the edge.

Relieved he sighed, “Alhamdulillah…”

*ba-boom tish*

(it’s funnier if you act it out)

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