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Monthly Archives: July 2011

When we think of Ramadan or any other aspect of Islam, the frequent mistake that people do is to judge it solely in that moment. Very few think about going back in time to see how Islam came into being and why certain practices are so important.

In the Islamic (lunar) calendar, there are 12 months and the ninth month is called ‘Ramadan’. The Islamic year is called ‘Hijra’ and as many would think, it is not calculated from the time Islam spread, but ‘hijra’ (also written as: Hegra, Hegrae) refers to the year the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) migrated from Mecca to Medina. Currently, we are in year 1432.

Muslims fast during this month, dawn to dusk, in solidarity with the poor. But it’s not simply about refraining from food, it is a spiritual fast of sorts. Personally, I believe that this is a month of personal Jihad which is to strive and control our bad habits, thoughts, actions and our desires. ‘Jihad’ as a term has been abused so much by the media that it has been given a negative connotation. Jihad means ‘struggle’ and Ramadan is about the struggle to keep ourselves pure from materialistic needs and the excesses we have gotten used to in our lives.

We wake up before sunrise and eat, after which we start fasting. We break our fast at sunset, after hearing the Maghrib prayer. We do not drink or eat anything–not even water. 

Unfortunately, this beautiful and simple spiritual journey has been tainted with man’s conveniences. If you look for faith in people or look at people to understand faith, you will fail miserably. These days you will associate Ramadan with massive food shopping spree, vulgar social dramas in Arabic, reckless driving leading to horrible car crashes, grumpy behaviour and such. It is such a shame because these are precisely what Ramadan asks you to refrain from. The idea is to realise how the poor live and to feel one with them. To realise that your fast is voluntary, but there are people who are hungry for days. At least you know that on the sound of the Azaan (prayer), you will find a table laden with rich food, but there are people who have no such hope.

Yes, Ramadan truly is a special time. It is a feeling that is very difficult to describe: as Muslims, we feel something special ‘in the air’ when the month starts. You will find girls who are usually smothered in make-up will now completely erase make-up for a month. You will find people suddenly adopting rosary beads for this month. You will also find many girls wear the ‘abaya’ or the body cloak for this month. But this isn’t the point. 

We are so lost in the external symbolism of this month, that we have forgotten why are we doing this?

Fasting does not miraculously turn you into a better person. You are supposed to carry on the lessons and habits of this month into your ‘regular’ life. We don’t need shorter work hours, plump chicken on our table and incestuous drama on our telly to make us feel that Ramadan is here.

At a time of such a deep crises in the Muslim world, it is a time for all of us to take time off, think within ourselves and to make a serious change to save ourselves. We are much weaker people now; many of us struggle to keep their fasts. If, for a few hours, you cannot stay away from food, then it is a much bigger battle to fight your vice. No wonder some so-called Muslims ‘dread’ Ramadan. It reminds them of how lost they are. But it also gives you an opportunity to come together and to make a change in your life.

Fasting is a cleansing ritual in other religions too. Islam’s version of fasting is Ramadan. If your Muslim colleagues are fasting, you can wish them ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ (‘Mubarak’ = blessed). So yes, we haven’t been eating or drinking all day, so our breaths won’t be very pleasant, I hope you understand.

We need to return to our basics. Understand the meaning of what we do and why we do. Let’s pray this month that we continue being a better person that we try so hard to be in Ramadan!

Ramadan Mubarak everyone! 

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I sometimes feel sorry for those people who don’t wear themselves on a sleeve. Meaning, people who cannot be themselves with everyone; they only let the trusted in. Fortunately or unfortunately, I am one of those.

Circumstances sculpt a person. As we all know, our circumstances many times differ and only very few times are alike. We’re just very different people but it’s a difficult reality to accept. Especially with technology that has shrunk our lives and gotten us in a dangerous proximity with strangers, onions like me find it a challenge.

Who am I?

Hum mann ke dariya mein doobey. (I am drowned in the sea within my heart).

I like to live my life like an open book. I don’t want to carry dark, ugly secrets in my heart. I want to live to have a fair and light conscience. I can say things (sometimes almost preachy!) because I live by what I say. In the back of my mind, I am constantly analysing my actions, wondering if I unintentionally stepped on a toe or said something I shouldn’t have. I have always been like this as far as I can remember. And I cannot change it within myself.

My conscious behaviour may also make me appear to be uptight many times. I’ve come across such comments before, especially with the advent of communities such as Twitter. You see, to judge me, you must understand my layers. I don’t live different lives in each layer, but to know those layers, you will know why I am who I am.

I come from a background where women are not given their due respect and where, I’ve had to fight to make my voice heard and to make sure I got the respect I deserved. My dream has been to give education rights to girls and to the needy. Many times, I find myself to be the only hijabi woman in a gathering of men: in conferences, in village council meets and other village-related work and there’s a manner to behave to be taken seriously by people and to be respected.

That is my first layer.

Beyond it, I am a very different person, only visible to my husband and close friends.

We live so many roles in one life! 

On Twitter, I am myself but not entirely. While I am my outspoken self (it just doesn’t go away), I am passionate about education, building an egalitarian society and other such social issues, I cannot act out of character and lose all my layers for complete strangers. As I build Twitter friendships, my interaction changes and becomes warmer, but with random first-time @ reply people, I morph into my formal self. At some instances, I’ve tried to ‘loosen up’ and act friendly with the strangers but I had to end it there in that first tweet because I felt I was going beyond my norm. 

Now, I have come terms with myself and accepted that I cannot be like others. While I appreciate the good qualities in them, I know that I cannot act out of character. In doing so, I am losing the charm that I had first fallen in love with. 

The weight of history can prove to be burdensome many times. While it is knowledgeable to remember, but it requires much more courage to move on from it. Indian Muslims face a lot of injustice in India; it’s the price we pay to be a minority. Only through Twitter did I connect with a few Indian Muslims and it gave me an insight on how they think. Surely, I am an Indian Muslim too, but these online friends were much more passionate and involved with the cause.

I cannot but make an observation, which will touch a nerve with many. Feel free to disagree.

We have lived as victims for so long that I don’t see any reason why we should continuously accept it. I am lucky to be a born in a house where finances were never a concern, but I feel that the educated Muslims, who clearly have a leverage over the illiterate ones, should make an active effort in breaking this victimisation. The illiterate and the poor suffer, I agree. But what is the point of the educated new generation if they play along to this stereotype?

We really need to move on and fix our skin and deeper within. On Twitter, I have seen many so-called educated professionals who spew hatred (religious and otherwise). It makes me wonder what the value of their education is if they are continuing the legacy of hatred.

Why always blame others? Why can’t we accept our own shortcomings and come together to create something fabulous and life-changing? Why can’t Muslims be known for something positive, instead of revelling in their own victimisation. I don’t want to accept being a victim and I try to inculcate the same feeling in the people who I teach/work with.

People seems to have a thin skin these days; everything seems to offend them. Let the ‘victim’ tag offend you. Let’s look beyond the scars of yesterday and while we don’t forget, we also don’t have to see the future tainted with the past. If so, we will never be happy and we will never be able to make a new start, which we desperately need.