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Archive for the ‘Islam’ Category

I would like to share with you the history of Ramadan – the Muslim month of fasting. In the year 610 AD, the Holy Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammed on the night of Laylatul-Qadr which is also known as the Night of Power. This night falls in the month of Ramadan and as a result, fasting was prescribed to Muslims for the duration of this month in celebration. So, while the concept of fasting is and was practised by other faiths, and even by the prophet, the concept of Ramadan is specifically tied to the revelation of the Quran.

In the Quran in Surah 2, Ayah 185, Allah says, “The month of Ramadan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.”

Thus began the Islamic ritual of fasting on the month of Ramadan. This ritual fast known as, Sawm, and is one of the five pillars of Islam. It requires that individuals abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and sexual intercourse between the hours of sun up and sun down. Beyond the physical abstinence, the reason Ramadan is known as the month of detoxing or training is explained to great effect by Nouman Ali Khan who explains that the ayah in Sura Baqara says fasting has been prescribed for you so that you may gain Taqwa. Taqwa means piety, but its literal meaning is also protection. Ramadan is the month in which you train and protect your heart to become stronger, more pious and closer to Allah by controlling your body and physical and material desires. My favourite takeaway from his video is min 14 to 16 when he says inna zalika min taqwal kuluub – the heart is the place of taqwa – which is a reference to sura Al Hajj ayah 32 where Allah swt says, ‘zalika waman yuaththim sha’aira Allahi fainnaha min taqwaalquloob’ which translates to ‘he who respects the Symbols of Allah, surely shows the piety of his heart.’ Nouman Ali Khan’s video about Ramadan I highly recommend and linked here.

Now – to answer some frequently asked questions.

What’s the point of Ramadan? In general, the practices of Ramadan are meant to purify oneself from thoughts and deeds which are counter to Islam. By removing material desires, one is able to focus fully on devotion and service to God. Many Muslims go beyond the physical ritual of fasting and attempt to purge themselves of impure thoughts and motivations such as anger, cursing, and greed.

Do all Muslims fast? Most Muslims believe Ramadan fasting is mandatory, but there are some groups that do not. In the Quran in Sura 2, Al-Baqara, Verse (ayah) 256 it includes the phrase that “there is no compulsion in religion”. So each person practices in the way they wish. I personally believe it is the intention rather than the act that is important. You can abstain from food and water all day but if you are cussing, angry and mean spirited during this fast then how much have you achieved the goal of Ramadan which is self-purification to attain closeness to God.

How do you fast in Islam? During the month of Ramadan, most Muslims fast from dawn to sunset with no food or water. Before sunrise many Muslims have the Suhur or predawn meal. At sunset families and friends gather for Iftar which is the meal eaten by Muslims to break the fast. Many Muslims begin the meal by eating dates as the Prophet Muhammad used to do.

Why is charity such a big part of Ramadan? Charity is an important part of Ramadan because the fast emphasizes self-sacrifice and using the experience of hunger to grow in empathy with the hungry. During Ramadan, Muslim communities work together to raise money for the poor, donate clothes and food, and hold iftar dinners for the less fortunate and or with interfaith and other community organisations.

Do you spend Ramadan studying the Quran? Many Muslims use Ramadan to read the entire Quran or read the Quran daily. Many communities divide the Quran into daily reading segments that conclude on Eid ul-Fitr at the end of Ramadan. To tie this back to my earlier reference about tawqa – protecting the heart can only come from a closeness to and an understanding of the Quran. Therefore the importance of studying the Quran in Ramadan cannot be emphasised enough.

I am not Muslim but I want to fast – can I? Non-Muslims are free to participate in Ramadan. Many non-Muslims fast and even pray with their Muslim friends or family members. Non-Muslims are often invited to attend prayer and iftar dinners. Those wishing to be polite to someone who is fasting for Ramadan may greet them with Ramadan Mubarak or Ramadan Kareem, which means have a Blessed or Generous Ramadan.

Do you have to fast if you are sick? Fasting during Ramadan is discouraged for those who are not of sound body or mind. Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, people who are seriously sick, travellers, or those at health risk should not fast. Children that have not gone through puberty are also not required to fast during the month Ramadan.

Because the cycle of the lunar calendar doesn’t match the solar calendar, the dates of Ramadan shift approximately 11 days each year. This year Ramadan began on 26th May 2017 and will end in 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the moon. The end of Ramadan is marked by the holiday of Eid ul-Fitr. On Eid ul-Fitr, morning prayers are followed by feasting and celebration among family and friends. This year Eid ul-Fitr will most probably fall on Sunday 26th June and my video on Eid is here!

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A great article and a picture of me in the Canberra times! Click HERE to read it now!

A short video by me of the day below.

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Like much of what we see on the news these days, the burqini issue was all consuming when it trended but ephemeral in its media shelf life. Media outlets would rather repeat what Donald Trump has to say over and over again. Given he repeats himself often, the double repetition serves as a hypnotic trance to which America and the world is slowly falling prey. But that’s another topic for another day. Right now I want to focus on the burqini – because as we’ve seen – the outrage was fleeting and victory was sweet. When the High Court of France overturned the burqini ban, everyone patted themselves on the back and got back to their daily lives, even though several French mayors said they will continue to fine those wearing the burqini despite the high court’s decision. David Rachline, the mayor of Frejus, called the court’s ruling a “victory for radical Islam” and said the city’s ban on the garment will remain.

What does this mean? Has any extremist group issues a fatwa that the burqini must be worn? How is a piece of cloth a representation of any radical faith? The answer is simple – It isn’t. But the concept itself is not so simple. Attached to this simple answer are socio-economic issues; racism, deep rooted misogyny and the male gaze and most of all Islamophobia. But I am not a stranger to complex and concurrent themes. I am a Muslim Australian born in Bangladesh and living in Canberra. My identity is rich in its history and known for its struggle. I am Muslim and Islam is known for ….well a lot. Google it and you’ll see. I am Australian and this country is nothing if not the land of the underdog. I am Bangladeshi and take pride in my county’s victorious independence after years of oppression. And I am woman – by virtue of that fact I am struggle personified. Struggling to be accepted, to be recognised, to be valued, to be free.

When I was 10, my school used to take us swimming and very soon I became the recipient of an award that authoritatively confirmed my floating skills. Then I moved schools and although my love for being in the water grew with each visit to the beautiful beaches of NSW – my aquatic skills did not. This was largely due to the fact that if I wanted to do anything more than dip my feet into the water I had to wear a swimming costume, Lycra tights or pants, a long sleeved shirt, a cap and a scarf.

Every time I went into the water dressed to the nines while bikini clad women swarmed around me – I was less conscious of people watching me than I was of the sand working its way into each and every layer and the dread building up inside me of have to wash it all out. It didn’t matter which beach I went to – no one cared what I was wearing. No one stared, commented or showed that they were offended. Everyone was more than happy to enjoy the beach in their own way. And so I stubbornly continued to layer up and venture out till the water reached my knees because I was too scared to go any further.

Then 2.5 years ago – I got married. And my husband, God bless him, started teaching me how to swim. First at the local pool, where he waited patiently before and after each session while I worked myself in and out of all my layers, and then at the beach. It was at the beach that my friend flaunted her Ahiida burqini and encouraged me to get one. I went online and made my purchase of a loose fitting green and pink suit with cap for $80AUD. A few weeks later my purchase arrived and I made my way to the beach. I cannot explain to you the joy of entering (and leaving) the water in this amazing creation. The material is light yet loose, the design is stylish yet thoughtful (shout out to the strings keeping the top tied to the pants so your top doesn’t float up and reveal anything) and the sensation of water against skin is not minimised at all. The best part – it dried on my body within 10-15 min of getting out of the water. No more strategically placed towels on the car seat, no more sandy wet tugging of numerous layers. This thing was a godsend. And everywhere I wore it people stared… and then smiled. Because they could see this piece of cloth I was wearing was making me radical…. Radically happy. I was ecstatic! My love of the water and outdoors was finally able to be expressed alongside my faith.  

Unfortunately not everyone has the same positive experience. My friends have been taunted and abused and akin to women in France – they felt humiliated and ashamed for no good reason. Thankfully, the need to isolate and radicalise a garment based on who wears it is being turned on its head as Burqini sales have skyrocketed since it’s been in the limelight and non-Muslim women are purchasing the burqini for various reasons including “skin cancer or body image, moms, women who are not comfortable exposing their skin—they’re all wearing it.” Asian women have been wearing face masks to the beach to protect their skin for years, not to mention nuns, Goths and other people of a race culture or creed who wear clothing or symbols of their faith or identity.

There is no good reason to stop a woman from wearing something they feel comfortable in – this is discrimination.
There is no good reason to prevent a woman from enjoying herself in clothes that define her identity – this is racism.
There is no good reason to dictate to a woman what she can and cannot wear – this is sexism. 

It saddens me that those in positions of authority that have been elected to serve and protect the people are the ones who greedily perpetuate the economics of fear. They who have been elected to oversee peaceful and harmonious societies are the ones sprouting hate speech and dividing communities with ignorance. They who claim to be democratic and stand for the freedoms and liberties of all, are the ones robbing women of their right to be and act as they wish without the diction of misogyny oppressing their actions. And so we women continue to be struggle personified. We continue to wear what we want and act as we do in physical protest of the ignorant rantings of men who neither understand the values of freedom and liberty nor wish to avail it to anyone besides themselves. Society can radicalise my burqini and lace my identity with its vitriol but it won’t’ dissuade me from enjoying what I love. To get in the water and appreciate the beauty and bounty God has provided us with… in my burqini.

burkini-ban

 

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Tell me do I look opressed, unhygenic or like a terrorist in these pictures to you? If you said yes to any of them above then please click here and check yourself!

Kudos to the creator of the Burkini – Ahiida designs.

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