IslamicSunrays.com

By wael | March 18, 2010

IslamicSunrays.com: finding hope and inspiration in IslamAs-salamu alaykum. My name is Wael, and I am the founder of this website. I’ve been working on a new blog that I call, “IslamicSunrays.com: finding hope and inspiration in Islam.

For some time now I’ve been thinking of writing a book about hope in Islam. IslamicSunrays.com is a step in that direction, a means to organize various thoughts surrounding hope, compassion, and love in the Islamic religion.

The focus of IslamicSunrays.com is anything that inspires hope, growth, positivity, change, and helps us grow closer to Allah.

We don’t need more anger, hatred or bitterness in this world. We need more forgiveness, kindness and love, and I would like IslamicSunrays.com to be a hub of positively charged thinking in that direction.

Just wanted to pass the word. If you have time, check it out. Jazakum Allah khayr. Onward and upward!

Growing Up Muslim

By wael | March 16, 2010

Growing up MuslimGrowing up Muslim

BY THE VANCOUVER SUN, SEPTEMBER 8, 2007

Just before Mustafa Abousaleh jumped into his school team’s dragon boat to paddle in a race on False Creek, the teenage Muslim prostrated himself on the grass in prayer.

Passersby stared.

But his multi-ethnic dragon boat teammates took it in stride.

“When strangers look at me praying, it doesn’t matter; my teammates respect what I do,” says the young Surrey Muslim.

Muslim cricket players praying on the field

A Muslim cricket team praying on the field

Abousaleh doesn’t even mind when people take photos as he supplicates himself outdoors during his five-times daily prayers, known as salah. That’s what happened when he and his family once performed the prayers, which are required of Muslims, at White Rock beach.

B.C. teenagers who are devoted members of their Muslim faith are on the front lines of unpredictable change in multicultural Canada, blending their families’ 1,400-year-old religion with West Coast popular culture, with secular lifestyle possibilities they often find fun, but sometimes trivial and distasteful.

At a time of mounting global conflict, this is the story of four diverse teenagers in B.C.’s 70,000-member Muslim community; profiled as the holy month of Ramadan is set to begin on Thursday and on the eve of Tuesday’s sixth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, which made many in the West suspicious of Muslims.

Four Muslim students talk about life

Abousaleh — a 19-year-old who moved with his engineer dad and doctor mother to Canada six years ago from Syria — recently gathered with three other Metro Vancouver Muslim teens to talk about what it’s like to be young and Muslim in this pluralistic, multi-faith metropolis.

Calling each other “brothers” and “sisters,” the Muslim university and high school students discussed how their values interact with mass culture in this corner of the 1.2 billion-member Muslim world, far removed from most of the world’s Muslims, who are concentrated between north Africa and Indonesia.

The four Sunni Muslim teens talked about Canadian sports, MuchMusic, TV shows such as Fox Television’s 24, Bollywood movies, national politics, their mosques, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, “Muslim terrorists,” arranged marriages, sex, dating, drinking and prayer.

We met at Simon Fraser University’s new Interfaith Centre, which contains special tiled washrooms so male and female Muslim students can wash their hands and feet in separated stalls before engaging in prayer in the multifaith, symbol-free sanctuary.

Along with Abousaleh, a confident University of B.C. engineering student, the Muslim teenagers included quiet-but-firm Hanan Dumas, a 15-year-old Richmond girl who is attending Richmond secondary’s Grade 11 international baccalaureate program this year.

There was also forthright Sana Siddiqui, a 19-year-old criminology student at SFU, born and raised in Vancouver after her dad moved to Canada from Pakistan. Rounding out the group was cheery Aamir Mushin, a 17-year-old science student from Dubai who is entering Grade 12 at Burnaby Central Secondary.

Sports a cultural meeting ground

Even though the conversation eventually turned to sensitive issues such as sex, drinking alcohol, Canadian politics and the wars that were triggered by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the young Muslims enjoyed starting out by talking about how sports have offered them a great cultural meeting ground.

The Carolina Cyclones all-female Muslim basketball team

The Carolina Cyclones all-female Muslim basketball team

Just as Abousaleh’s diverse dragon boat team is captained by a Muslim “sister,” Siddiqui proudly wears her head scarf over her long hair while playing for SFU’s mixed field-hockey team. She did the same while playing rugby as one of only a couple of dozen Muslims attending Killarney Secondary in east Vancouver.

On her ethnically mixed field-hockey and rugby teams, Siddiqui said her teammates and almost everyone else completely supports her choice to wear a head scarf. And she’s never had any referee tell her it’s unsafe, as one (Muslim) referee in Quebec did last year to a female Muslim soccer player, leading to international controversy.

“I think the safety issue is ridiculous. I think it’s a covert way of being discriminatory. I’m an example [that] Muslim women can do anything,” said Siddiqui, who is president of SFU’s 70-member Muslim Student Association, and not shy about standing up for minority rights.

“I have experienced looks of intolerance when I wear the head scarf playing sports. Not in Greater Vancouver, but in smaller communities, like Agassiz. My (SFU) teammates have been told certain things, such as, ‘It’s not necessary to wear the head scarf. You’re living here. You should be more Canadianized.'”

Mushin said “tons” of devout Muslim boys love playing basketball and especially soccer in Metro Vancouver, including on mixed teams. They also watch European soccer on TV, as well as following the Canucks hockey team.

When it’s hockey season, “I’m glued to Sportsnet and CBC,” Mushin said. “Nothing should stop you from watching or going to these games. They’re just entertainment.”

Mushin brings the same relaxed attitude to the outdoor paint-ball games that his 15-member all-male youth group takes part in through the new Tri-Cities Mosque in Port Coquitlam.

For her part, Dumas, who doesn’t wear a head scarf because she’s “too young,” is not really into team or spectator sports. Instead, she is taking swimming lessons to become a lifeguard.

In the name of Islamic modesty, Dumas avoids wearing a bikini or two-piece bathing suit. Instead, she swims in long shorts and a T-shirt.

Muslim teens the same, but different

As the talk turns to erotically-tinged popular music, it becomes clearer how Greater Vancouver’s young Muslims are the same as other teens, but also different.

Dumas, whose dad is a Caucasian woodworker and whose mother is an East Indian legal assistant, declares she likes The Beat 94.5 FM, a radio station that plays hip-hop, R&B, rap and pop music.

Still, Dumas said wryly, she grows a little weary of so often hearing the lyric, “Baby.” And she finds most of the sex-saturated music videos on MuchMusic to be “really graphic,” as well as “silly” and “over the top.” Her parents ask her not to watch them.

Most of the Muslim teens watch cable TV. But Siddiqui is appalled by the blatant sexuality in so many music videos. “If a woman wants to succeed in music, it seems they have to wear less and less clothes. And that’s especially true of black or coloured women.”

Siddiqui said she wears her head scarf, or hijab, out of respect for her body. “I don’t need to show flesh to get attention, or to get places. I’d rather be recognized for my intellect.”

Thrusting so many scantily clad women into music videos, adds Mushin, is all about marketing, trying to get attention by doing something “drastic and controversial.”

Dawud Wharnsby-Ali

Dawud Wharnsby-Ali's music is popular among young Muslims

The teens soon turn to how they all like Islamic music — or nasheeds.

Traditionally sung a cappella, accompanied only by the beat of a large drum, nasheeds often consist of religious stories and haunting recitations of the Koran in Arabic.

When he’s travelling from Surrey to UBC on the bus, Abousaleh listens to a variety of contemporary nasheed performers on his cell phone, using earphones.

The Muslim teens admire the nasheeds of crossover Muslim artists such as the acclaimed Ontario-born convert Dawud (David) Wharnsby Ali, who performs in English using a variety of instruments.

They also like the nasheeds of British-Iranian star, Sami Yusuf, as well as the music of Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens, who sold 60 million albums as a pop-folk singer-songwriter in the 1970s before converting to Islam).

Even though the Muslim teenagers are not necessarily hooked on it, they noted many are drawn to Islamic-oriented hip-hop and rap, which was performed this summer at the Muslim cultural Expo attended by thousands outside the Vancouver Art Gallery.

In addition to watching North American movies, Mushin, who has Sri Lankan ancestry despite being born in the Middle East, said he often finds DVDs of Indian movies, with English subtitles, from Bollywood.

“It’s easy-going entertainment,” he said, not much different from the usual Hollywood fare of comedies and drama.

Siddiqui added that she often can not stand the way Muslims, specifically Arab Muslims, are portrayed in popular movies and TV shows.

When she grew curious about watching the Kiefer-Sutherland TV thriller, 24, she soon grew annoyed at the way the plots so often relied on Muslim terrorists.

“What’s not bothersome about that?,” she asks, rhetorically. “It pushes all Muslims out to the margins, suggesting they’re all violent.”

Grateful for the right to speak out

The Muslim teens had many things to say about human rights, Canadian multiculturalism and politics.

But, before we explored things they found disturbing about the global conflict between the West and much of the Muslim world, Mushin talked about just how grateful he is for Canadian freedom of speech.

“There would be no chance to have this discussion with a journalist in a lot of countries,” said soccer-loving Mushin, who has lived in B.C. for 11 years. His mother is a secretary and his father works in shipping.

Mushin cited restrictions on free speech in his home country of Dubai, as well as Saudi Arabia, Syria and, expanding his argument beyond Muslim-run countries, China. He noted how Vancouver protesters who unfurled a pro-Tibet banner in August in China were hastily arrested and deported.

“I find Canada good because you can speak. It feels easier to be a Muslim here than it would in, say, Afghanistan,” said Mushin.

That’s not to say these Muslim teenagers don’t have their concerns about politics in Canada.

They wish they could find a Canadian political party that better fit their wide-ranging Muslim values, with Siddiqui joking maybe they should create one.

Muslim doctrine tends to lead to support for both market capitalism and the redistribution of wealth, said Siddiqui. She cited how the Islamic tradition of the consumer bazaar complements Muslim values about egalitarianism and charitable giving.

“Islam is neither totally socialist nor totally capitalist. But it does teach that the rich, because of their wealth, are more accountable, and need to have more personal responsibility,” said Siddiqui.

In line with the Koranic virtue of khalifah, or stewardship, Abousaleh also said Muslims believe in taking care of both their families and the environment, in part since many come from desert regions where conservation is of ultimate importance, particularly of water.

Echoing contemporary ecological ethics, Abousaleh said, “Islam teaches we’re sent to take care of the Earth.”

Even though Siddiqui said many Islamic values correspond with the policies of the New Democrats, she added many Muslims oppose the centre-left party’s backing of same-sex marriage.

Although Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government includes many MPs who oppose same-sex marriage, the teens said they dislike the Conservatives’ vigorous support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“On the political spectrum,” Siddiqui said, “no single party reflects Muslim values.”

Afghanistan war ‘a disaster’

Which led us into a worried discussion of global affairs.

With tens of thousands of Iraqi Sunni and Shia Muslims being killed in the U.S.-led Iraq war, including in sectarian violence, the teens found it disturbing that the West invaded the Middle Eastern country without having an exit strategy.

“The Iraq war is definitely making good work for coffin makers. But that’s about it,” said Mushin. “The American people know it. Everyone knows it.”

The war in Afghanistan, launched in the name of keeping the extremist Muslim Taliban at bay, Mushin added, “is also just another disaster.”

The teenagers, who as Sunnis belong to the group that make up 85 per of all Muslims, said the main, strategic reason behind the Western incursions was to control massive oil reserves in Iraq and maintain oil pipelines that run through the region surrounding Afghanistan.

Asked whether they believe the West is justified in tracking down and killing terrorists who are Muslim, Siddiqui, whose father is from Pakistan and mother is a white Canadian convert to Islam, offered a correction. She said: “They are terrorists who claim to be Muslim.”

Despite saying many of the world’s Muslims feel besieged in the face of Western political and economic power, Siddiqui stressed no one who purposefully murders innocents can call himself a Muslim.

Those who launched the terrorist assaults on New York City and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, she said, were “completely un-Islamic.”

Abousaleh, for his part, quietly noted he is not entirely convinced Muslims were actually behind the history-changing airliner attacks.

Abousaleh is open to the possibility the Sept. 11 attacks were an “inside job,” performed by rogue elements in the U.S. administration to justify military assaults on the Middle East and elsewhere.

In suggesting as much, he is echoing a widespread belief among Muslims. A recent Pew Forum poll found 60 per cent of American Muslims do not believe Arabs actually conducted the attacks. He is aware of a related poll, by Zogby, that showed 37 per cent of all Americans do not believe the government’s official version of the attacks.

Whatever the case, while some people are suspicious of Western Muslims turning into “homegrown terrorists” in light of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Siddiqui said she finds most Canadians are simply open and curious about Muslims.

Since all her teenage years have been in the post-Sept. 11th era, Siddiqui has found that part of her identity includes being a defender of Islam.

“I tend to almost intimidate people with friendliness,” she said with a laugh. “The people I know say: ‘You’re my friend. You’re a Muslim. How could Muslims do this?’ And they’re glad to hear it’s not part of the religion.”

The Muslim teens were generally sardonic about much of global affairs, however. Siddiqui didn’t believe Western powers have any economic motivation to pull out of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, given that the U.S. and many of its allies are major arms dealers.

On the other key global conflict involving Muslims, the longstanding tensions between Israelis and Palestinians, Siddiqui stressed that Jews, Muslims and Christians all share a common Biblical heritage, linked by the patriarch Abraham, whose story is told in the Book of Genesis. Members of all three religions, she said, need to find a way to live together in peace.

Stressing that Muslims and Jews have generally tolerated each other throughout history, including in Moorish Spain and during the Ottoman Empire, Siddiqui said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is about “land and resources,” not religion.

The troubles could be largely resolved, she said, through leaders on both sides showing pragmatism and goodwill.

Sex outside marriage a no-no

After this discussion of often-disturbing global affairs, the talk turned to more intimate concerns.

Sex.

The Muslim teens definitely don’t believe in sex outside marriage, even though Mushin said non-Muslim male friends sometimes tease him for abstaining.

“Some people say marriage is half of religion,” added Siddiqui, who emphasized that Muslim teenagers restrict their sex lives in much the same way as orthodox Jews and Christians.

“If I could, I’d get married now,” remarked Abousaleh.

If Muslim friends start to have sex before marriage, Abousaleh said “it is our duty to advise them” against it. Even with non-Muslim friends, Abousaleh might be tempted to tell them, “Would your new wife like to know you’re not a virgin?”

The others chimed in they have 19-year-old Muslim friends who are already planning to get married.

The teenagers believe many non-Muslims carry around “stereotypical” beliefs that Muslim youngsters are forced into arranged marriages.

Although there is an extensive network of Muslim family members who take on the role of introducing young men and women to each other for the purpose of marriage, Siddiqui said it’s not true that a Canadian “Muslim girl doesn’t get a choice of who she’ll marry. She gets ultimate choice.”

When it comes to dating or partying, Hanan said her friends in Richmond don’t “do drugs or alcohol or any of that stuff. I don’t feel tempted at all by any of those things.”

If Siddiqui is invited to university parties where non-Muslims will likely be drinking alcohol, which is forbidden in Islam, she said she doesn’t go “because that would sort of be endorsing it.”

The Muslim teens are not exactly sure how many youths from Canadian Muslim families don’t take the faith seriously — by not bothering to attend mosque, by having sex outside marriage or by drinking.

In the U.S., polls suggest Muslims are slightly less active in their religion than evangelicals. Seventy-two per cent of all American Muslims say religion is “very important” to them, compared to 80 per cent of evangelicals. There is no reason to believe those figures aren’t similar in Canada.

Abousaleh said teenage Muslims who turn their backs on the religion “just don’t understand it.”

Mushin said, “You want to help them. But it’s difficult. You can’t heckle them too much.”

Prayer a chance to ‘connect with God’

These four teenage Muslims would not for the world give up their faith, despite the challenges, both outer and inner, that come with it.

That includes the Islamic requirement of praying five times a day, which often makes these teens stand out in Canada, including when passersby take photos of them in supplication.

“The Quran teaches that you can satisfy your body and soul by giving back to the Creator through prayer,” said Siddiqui, acting as if her devotion to Allah was a no-brainer.

“Prayer is sort of like to calm myself, or relieve stress,” added Hanan, showing self-awareness beyond her 15 years.

“Your day is so busy. And prayer gives you five minutes to slow down and connect with God.”

Failed Marriage Proposals and Unrealistic Expectations

By somayya | October 15, 2009
Don't be greedy! Many families will not let their daughters get married unless her new husband has a car, a furnished house, a job and a big dowry for his bride!

Don't be greedy! Many families will not let their daughters get married unless her new husband has a car, a furnished house, a job and a big dowry for his bride!

Marriage is something I have had the intention to do for a while, probably since I was about sixteen or so. I will admit that it was partly to do with seeing two of my friends get married in close proximity to each other. It was strange being seventeen and seeing that happen, especially as one friend was a year younger than me. I am actually happy that I didn’t get married as a teenager. I wasn’t immature or anything, but I do think you need some life experience in order to fully understand what you are getting yourself into. I am now almost twenty two, this is just how it has happened for me. I now feel I am more ready than ever, so I hope the right man comes along soon!

Failed Proposals

Obviously none of my proposals have worked out so far, which is why I am still unmarried. I don’t feel too bad about this because I know you have to marry the right person for you, otherwise you end up divorced somewhere along the line! It is best not to get divorced in Islam unless you absolutely have to. It is disliked by Allah. Everyone who proposed asked my father, which I feel is the right way. I don’t think as Muslims we can just go out and try to find someone, we should try and do it the halal way. Your wali, which means a guardian and a chaperone, can be any of your mahrams, provided they are old enough. That means your father, uncles, brothers, grandfathers etc, could act on your behalf when a man asking for your hand comes along.

They can do all the talking, but they must consult with you along the way. A marriage where the girl has been forced into it is not valid in Islam; a wali must always have her full consent for everything in that respect.

I had a proposal earlier this year, unfortunately I had to turn him down as further information about him could not be obtained. You have to ‘check’ a possible suitor out before considering him as a marriage partner. It seemed he didn’t have many friends where he lived, so there was nobody who could properly vouch for him. This is quite important as you could marry someone, then find out unsavoury details later on in the marriage. It is better to know details such as that at the beginning, so you can make an informed choice. Obviously nobody is perfect out there, but I am sure every decent girl wants a man who is pracitising his religion, has kept himself pure in the eyes of Allah, is educated even in the minimum (GCSE’s or A-levels), has a job to support his new wife, and maybe even a home or flat, even if it is rented.

Don’t Get Greedy!

Many girls’ families these days will not let their daughters get married unless everything is set up perfect for her. This means they want her new husband to have a car, a furnished house, a job and a big dowry for his bride! If the man is wealthy, then of course he will want the best for his new wife, and he will be able to afford it all too. But if he’s not wealthy, then these expectations are unrealistic. Nobody should get themselves into debt if they can’t do these things.

I personally do not mind marrying someone who is struggling financially. I see myself as working-class, which means everyone in my family has to work hard for their earnings. It was never handed to us on a plate. I have grown-up in rented accommadation, I don’t know anything different. Buying a house would be a huge luxury that most working classes never get to do. This is why I do not mind when it comes to my own marriage. Even if I cannot live with my new husband right away, perhaps he might need a few months to find a suitable flat or something. Because of my own background, I won’t be too fussy about that because I understand not everyone has everything instantly. Some people need to save up.

I am sure there is nothing wrong in Islam with having the nikah (actual signing of the marriage contract), without moving in together straight away. I am sure Allah understands not all of us are wealthy enough to do that. It is probably better if a man already has at least a rented flat before he marries, because it will make him look as if he wants to make an effort. If a man cannot do this, then perhaps it is better to find a girl who does not mind as much, as long you eventually get a place!

What I have just talked about is not desperation on my part, I just understand if people can’t afford things right away. I am willing to wait if that means inshallah I can get a better husband out of it. Not every good husband will be the wealthy sort, although there are many out there who are wealthy mashallah, so buying things you need in life will be easier. I would ask girls who want to get married to be patient. If you are patient inshallah, you will get the best husband you deserve.

The Waleemah

The waleemah is the wedding party that is performed after the signing of the marriage contract. It could even be done a few days after this, and the new bride and groom can see each other alone, as long as they have signed their marriage contract. This means they are officially married, and the waleemah is more of an announcement to let people know you are now a married couple. This is part where the bride can get dolled up in her bridal gown, the groom can wear his suit, and the guests can get all dressed up for a party.

Segregating a wedding by gender is the best thing to do, as that means ladies can get all dressed up, without fear of men seeing them uncovered. I find people relax and enjoy themselves more when they know no men will be coming into the ladies area! A lot of weddings have the groom come in at the end to take his new bride home. This is usually the first time they will be going home together, and I think that is a nice touch for the groom to collect his new bride!

Parents Should Not Stop Marriage!

Let’s face it, there are many parents out there who do place some impossible walls in the way of marriage for their offspring. Maybe they don’t want to see them leave home, or maybe some parents don’t want to see their children have their own lives? That may seem harsh, but for some parents that is very true, unfortunately. Parents should never stop their offspring from getting married if the right person comes along. Marriage completes half your religion, wouldn’t everyone want that for their children?

I would ask parents who are hesitant to think of their own lives, especially as youngsters. Their own parents must have been at least a little upset to see them leave home. It is the cycle of life, you are born, you grow into a child, then a pre-teen, a teenager, a young adult, then a fully grown adult, when getting to that point it’s only natural that you will want to get married. Everyone goes through this.

There was an amazing video posted on Youtube by Baba Ali, an Iranian Muslim convert. It was about parents stopping their children from marrying! One of the reasons was funny, Baba Ali did a little sketch of a father telling one of his children that not only does he have to marry someone from ‘back home’, but she must also be from the same village, even the same street! The fact is these things happen to real young Muslims, they have to cope with their parents being un-co-operative!

Even if parents don’t read this, I urge young Muslims to educate their parents if they are like this. Remind of them of the time they got married. Imagine if their parents had tried to stop it? They wouldn’t be living the lives they live now if it had happened.

Parents, if your kids approach you and tell you that they have the intention to marry, then listen to them. I am sure if your own kids are coming to you telling you of their wishes, then they want your support in helping them find the right spouse inshallah. Help and support your children, they will never forget your kindness inshallah!

Always remember to turn to Allah before all.

Always remember to turn to Allah before all.

I have had my own problems with my parents regarding marriage, nothing extreme, but I do wish my father would talk to me more, and in detail, when a proposal comes along. I want to know everything, and I am old enough to know everything! I am not being unkind to my parents, this is just a fact. Maybe I need to ask for help from other family members, but that will be something for me to think about inshallah. The fact is that helping your children choose a spouse is a duty on parents. We hear so much about what children have to do for their parents, and it is perfectly correct to remind children to obey their parents, but what do you do when your parents let YOU down?

Make Dua and Don’t Be Put Off

I hope everyone enjoyed my article. I wrote it from the heart, as some of it is based on my own experiences in trying to get married. I would say it is one of the hardest things to do in life. I hope inshallah that it does happen for me, and I will be very grateful when it does, as I have already waited some time for the right man. I hope inshallah that the right person asks my father for my hand in marriage, and that it all goes smoothly. Like I said earlier in my article, I am more ready than I have ever been, I feel very much ready for the next phase in my life. I have been making dua, and I would advise anyone else who wishes to marry to make dua also. Allah listens to everyone, so don’t be put off!

American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook

By wael | August 12, 2009

American Muslim Teenagers Handbook

American Muslim Teenagers Handbook

I just found out there’s a new book in publication called the American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook. Summary: she has poofy hair, and he plays the guitar, lol. Just kidding. I have not read the book yet, but I’ll order it Insha’Allah and review it here at some point.

It is written by by Dilara Hafiz, Imran Hafiz, and Yasmine Hafiz and is in its second printing.

You can find out more about it here:

http://www.theamth.com/

Here is the book’s complete index:

A Note From Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, author of
What’s Right With Islam Is What’s Right With America, and Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement xiii

Foreword to the New Edition by Professor Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies, American University,
Washington, DC xv

Why You Should Read This Book by Asma Gull Hasan,
author of American Muslims: The New Generation
and Why I Am a Muslim: An American Odyssey xvii

Why We Wrote This Book by Dilara Hafiz xix

How to Use This Book xxi

A Note to the Reader xxiii

1. Islam 101: An Overview of the Beginning 1

2. Shahadah: Islam’s Central Belief 9

3. Prayer 101: All Your Prayers Answered 19

4. Zakat: Charity—What Does It Really Mean? 35

5. Relax, It’s Ramadan: Tips for a Successful Fast 41

6. Hajj: The Ultimate Road Trip 53

7. The Quran: Islam’s Holy Book 63

8. Prophet Muhammad: A Short Version of a
Long Story 71

9. Halal and Haram: Can I Go to McDonalds? 83

10. The Four Ds: Dating, Dancing, Drinking,
and Drugs 93

11. Misunderstandings and Misconceptions:
Are All Muslims Terrorists? 103

12. The Hijab Issue: Unveil the Controversy 109

13. Cultural Confusion: Examples of Muslim
Culture 115

14. Inventions From the Muslim World:
Where Did Algebra Come From, Anyway? 125

15. Peer Pressure: Don’t Worry, I Feel It, Too 131

16. Islamic Interfaith: Why Can’t We Be Friends? 141

17. Post 9/11 Survival Guide: How Do Savvy
American Muslim Teens Avoid Extremism,
Fanaticism, Radicalism, and Other Pesky “Isms”? 153

Afterword 161

Glossary 163

Acknowledgments 167

Bibliography 168

Looking For Family

By somayya | March 22, 2009

The Story of my Search

I am currently looking for some long-lost members of my family. I hope by putting word out online, I can inshallah find them. The first one is Kevin, my uncle on my mother’s side. He was born to my grandmother, Irene Wayne Dunn, when she was young and unmarried, and was pressured into giving him up for adoption. She got to visit him for awhile after the birth, and Kevin knew who his real mother was, for a short time anyway. This is all I know about him so far. He will be at least a few years older than my mother, who was born in Wallsend, 1963.

The Mysterious Visit

Kevin actually visited Irene once. When she was living in Clermiston, Edinburgh. He turned up at her apartment (flat) building once, a neighbour answered and informed him that Irene was out at that time. Kevin said he would return, but he never did. He was carrying a bag with him. Perhaps this wasn’t even Kevin, but I like to think it was him. I wish so much that he would try and find his mother again, as he has many relatives; nieces, nephews etc, who would love to meet him and get to know him, even though many years have passed.

My Real Grandfather

Another relative I am searching for is my grandfather, my mother’s father. His name is Gordon Peter Grant, and he was once in the military, and from the Stockton-on-Tees area in the North East of England. He was married to my grandmother, Irene Dunn, and together they had my mother, Tracy Susan Grant. He left when my mother was a baby. He told my grandmother that they would be better off without him. My grandmother tried to track him down, in order to get him to pay maintenance for his child. She never did find him. He also spent time in prison whilst in the military, although for what crime, I do not know. Although I had a grandfather figure in my mother’s stepfather, Derek Churchill, when he died in 2003, I felt soon after that I should find my real grandfather. Derek was amazing though, and I had a great childhood, visiting him in Edinburgh, and listening to all his jokes!

Can YOU help?

I hope by me putting the word out about my long-lost relatives, perhaps someone out there will read this, and inshallah be able to help me out. So if you know anything about an adopted man named Kevin, born to Irene Dunn, or if you ARE Kevin, then PLEASE get in touch with me at kitty_lu_lu@hotmail.com

Same if you are, or know anything about Gordon Peter Grant, get in touch please!

Confusion over Eid-ul-Fitr!

By somayya | November 30, 2008

Confusion over the moon-sighting can be a problem

Confusion over the moon-sighting can be a problem

We Muslims recently celebrated Eid-ul-Fitr. There are a select few in my area who never celebrate Eid on the same day as the majority of others. The mosque that my family attends usually follows Saudi Arabia. Whenever someone over there has sighted the moon, we get a confirmation on the phone, then it is announced in the mosque. Whoever is in the mosque will then relay the message to family and friends, making sure everyone knows the moon has been seen, and therefore Ramadan is over.

This year though, my local mosque decided to take part in something that they hoped would unite us all, at least in the town of Middlesbrough anyway! People from several mosque committiees had a meeting, regarding the issue of unity at Eid time. They felt that we all should all follow when the moon is sighted, instead of following a calendar, or deciding what day to celebrate it on, before a moon has even been seen! Everything seemed to be going quite well at first. The mosques involved agreed to it, and the day we would start Ramadan together was set. (It was decided to ‘set’ a day a few days in advance, so that everyone would follow it, and not get all confused if another country announced it differently).

Ramadan began for us on the 1st of September. I am well aware that not everyone in the United Kingdom did it that day, even many predominantly Muslim countries were not all starting Ramadan on the same day. It just always happens this way, perhaps maybe that’s how the moon appears in certain countries, depending on weather conditions etc. (Yes I know, there is only one moon, but it seems to be seen differently by different countries, something that cannot be helped I suppose!)

I cannot say for sure which country would be considered absolutely correct, because if many countries come forward and they have sworn that they sighted the moon, then I suppose in that country, that ruling should be then followed. The general thinking is that we try not to pay attention to what is going on abroad, we should follow what has been declared in our own local area. That doesn’t even mean, for example, the whole of Manchester will be starting Ramadan on the same day! It’s a big city, and it will most probably be announced differently, according to what mosque you attend. It is probably a very good idea to follow the mosque you attend regularly, so that when it comes to Eid prayer, and praying the Taraweeh prayers, you can keep in sync with your own community. If we’re not all united, can’t we at least be united in our own local communities?

The real trouble began when the mosques decided we would do Eid on Wednesday 1st October. Somebody had consulted astronomers. They estimated that the moon would be right to celebrate Eid on the Wednesday. (I am not saying this decision is right or wrong, but it was a decision that was taken, we are only human, and unfortunately make mistakes sometimes). This was then announced in my local mosque, at the jumma prayer, the Friday before 1st October, so that people would be aware which day the mosque would hold Eid prayer.

The proper problems began when Saudi Arabia announced that Eid-ul-Fitr would be on the Tuesday, not the Wednesday as the mosques had pre-planned. You must understand that it was pre-planned to allow people to know exactly when Ramadan would end for our community, at least, that’s how I understood it. It caused absolute uproar, instead of uniting people, it had made Muslims argue with each other, more like dis-uniting!

My family were unsure of what to do, as we were all so used to our mosque following Saudi Arabia. They said they were going to stand by their decision. I think maybe they didn’t want to confuse people further. Some people, including close friends of mine, decided to stick by Saudi’s moon-sighting, and celebrate the day before the rest of us did. I actually went to iftar on the last day of Ramadan (which some people were celebrating as the day of Eid), I was happy and relieved to find that the overwhelming majority had stuck with the decision of the mosque. They all agreed that it’s better to stick with your community. Yes, maybe in Saudi everyone was celebrating, but they are thousands of miles away from our little town! They weren’t exactly right on our doorsteps, celebrating with us! People in Saudi were simply following what THEIR mosques had told them! They wouldn’t change if they heard another country was doing it differently, how can you even begin to guess who is wrong and who is right? That judgement is way over anyone’s head.

My father decided he would seek guidance from a sheikh, and called one who he always calls, when he needs advice. The sheikh knew straight away what to tell us. I have the same ruling, answered by a sheikh by the name of Ahmad Kutty (Islamic Institute of Toronto, Ontario, Canada) written on paper, so I will quote it exactly as it is written:

Question: If I broke my fast on Tuesday according to Saudi Arabia, although my community continued fasting, do I have to make up this day?

Answer: In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Fast with people, and break your fast with people, and offer sacrifice with people.” As explained by Imam Ibn Taymiyah, this means you should have followed your community in the beginning AND ending of Ramadan; you should NOT have followed Saudi Arabia by yourself as an individual; if, however, they (your community) chose to follow Saudi Arabia, then that is another issue altogether. Individuals are not supposed to make such decisions. Based on this, you ought to make up for the day you have missed (the day you chose to follow Saudi instead of your community). May Allah inspire us to act rightly and may He forgive us all our slip-ups, Ameen. Allah Almighty knows best. (Sheikh Ahmad Kutty).

I have tried my best inshallah with this article, incorporating my own opinions, along with those given by highly educated scholars of Islam. I hope that it has helped people who did not know, or were not sure what to do when such complications arise. Please leave a comment, and let me know what you all think, inshallah.

The Benefits of Volunteering

By somayya | August 16, 2008

WRVS Shop

August 2008

The Benefits of Volunteering

by Somayya Gefori

I recently started a volunteer job in my local hospital. I work for the WRVS (Women’s Royal Voluntary Service) who have two shops in the hospital, in which all the proceeds go into helping older people in the community. For this reason it doesn’t bother me that I am not being paid. I feel good for helping out. I work one three-hour shift every week. We are like a little corner shop, we sell hot and cold drinks, and snacks. I have heard about many people who don’t get on with their bosses, but I get on very well with my manager, Maureen. She is older than me, but I feel she is friendly and easy to talk to.

WRVS LogoThe WRVS was first set up in 1938 as the Women’s Voluntary Service. (The ‘Royal’ part was later added on by the current Queen Elizabeth). WRVS was initially formed to help civilians during the Second World War – in evacuation, emergency feeding and providing general care and support. Basically, while the men were away fighting, the women were doing their bit in helping with the war effort.

As you can imagine, it feels pretty good to be involved with a charity like this. WRVS is now 70-years old, and I feel I am now part of its history. I am also proud that I am able to work wearing my jilbab and hijab. My intention was not to work in a job in which I would made to remove any of my religious dress. I am free to wear them in my volunteering job, and for that I am glad. When non-Muslims see Muslims committed to their religion, we can only hope they respect us for that. It is also a good form of dawah. Some Muslims like to hide away, and never mention their religion. Non-Muslims are honest in what they do outside work and socially, so why not be equally honest and let them know how you live your life? You may find that James Cook Signthey are very interested, as I have found on many occasions.

The hospital I work in is called the ‘James Cook University Hospital‘, in Middlesbrough. It is named after the explorer Captain James Cook, who was born and grew up in an area of Middlesbrough called Marton, which is where the hospital is situated. There is another reason I feel good about working here: last year I had my burst appendix removed in this very hospital. I feel as if I am giving something back, in a way.

Working in the shop at the hospital is not the only volunteering I’m up to this year. I will also be volunteering in the creche at the 2008 JIMAS Conference in Leicester. So why not take up volunteering in your community? It’s a feel good activity that helps others.

Does Wearing Traditional Clothing Make You Happy?

By wael | April 15, 2008

British girls in traditional Bangladeshi clothing

April 2008

Does Wearing Traditional Clothing Make You Happy?

by Wael Abdelgawad

Here’s an article from the BBC that says that Bangladeshi girls in the UK who wear traditional clothing are happier than those who wear Western clothing. Personally I think they’ve kind of missed the point. But read it yourself and see what you think:

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Where Do I Belong? The Dilemma of a Mixed-Race Muslim

By somayya | February 27, 2008
Libya map and UK map blendedMarch 2008

Where Do I Belong?

The Dilemma of a Mixed-Race Muslim

by Somayya Gefori

I am a mixed race Muslim, which sounds simple in itself, but I can often find myself thinking, ‘Where do I really belong?’ I am Libyan on my father’s side, and English on my mother’s side. Oh, how much easier it must be to just be one race! You know right away where you belong, and there’s nobody around you saying, ‘But Libya is better!’ and vice-versa.

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