Reflections: Hijab

Short. Simple. And to the point. Liberation lies in your right to choose.

There is a common misconception that wearing a hijab equals oppression, but why is this the standard way of thinking? Who said that dressing modestly makes me a victim of oppression? Western media and society enforces this idea on us that the only way a woman can be “liberated” is if she’s constantly “sexy.” However, this idea is severely flawed as it is just another mechanism that oppresses women through objectifying them. We are being taught to portray ourselves as desirable for men. That fact alone is extremely disempowering and validates the male gaze and a patriarchal society, even further. My existence and worth is not measured by how much I appeal to men. Living in such a hypersexual society can be difficult and complicated for someone who chooses to dress and act modestly.

Over the course of years it’s become a trend to liberate Muslim women by telling them that they must take off their abayas, modest clothing, and hijabs to be truly “liberated.” But let’s focus on that word; liberation, which is defined as the act of setting someone free from imprisonment, or oppression. But when did my hijab become something that was keeping me imprisoned? I made the conscious decision to wear the hijab at 20 years old. I came to this decision by myself, without anyone pressuring me to wear a scarf. And that is exactly why most women in the west wear hijab because it is THEIR choice.

Honestly, this decision is hard enough and we (hijabis and non-hijabis) could all do without your ignorant questions. If we don’t wear hijab, we’re too “modern” and “not Muslim enough” and if we do then we are “prude” and “backwards.” My hijab is none of your business. I never understood why other people felt the need to butt in and tell others how they should dress. The patriarchy reiterates the idea that women dress for, go out for, do their make up for, etc. for men. So this is why our hijabs become so controversial because we wear them for Allah (SWT).

No matter how you choose to dress, liberation lies in your choice. Respect my right to choose the same way I respect yours.

 

Gaza Stories of Resilience Project

For well over a decade, Palestinians have been fighting, resisting, and struggling to maintain their right to exist. About 2 million Palestinians living in Gaza have been enormously oppressed by various world “super power” governments. The situation that has been occurring in Palestine has only increasingly gotten worse and is one of the most severe humanitarian crises of our time. The occupation and destruction that millions of children, women, and families, have gone through and are still currently going through, is something almost incomprehensible when you think about it. Yet, the Palestinian people have such a beautiful strength and an undeniable resilience to them. 

Mainstream media has a specific way of categorizing what we should deem as important enough to lend our human sympathy to. They have been able to manipulate our human emotion and psyche into caring about certain situations and being completely and utterly ignorant to others. We consume forms of media with a selective sense of humanity. With situations such as the one going on in Palestine, the media fails to rightly humanize these innocent civilians. They have no problem, however, exposing corpses or severely malnourished, dying children of color from around the globe, at any chance they get. By constantly seeing certain groups of people portrayed in a negative light, our sense of compassion depletes. I personally believe that this lack of human compassion is a global epidemic and it plays a significant role in these humanitarian crises continuing on. We have very scarce resources that show marginalized, oppressed groups as actual people.

Yet, the Palestinian people have such a beautiful strength and an undeniable resilience to them. 

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That’s why I find the work of The Khaldi twins so important. Two sisters, Asmaa and Saja, who live in Gaza have started a much needed journey of documenting the lives of Palestinians. They are reclaiming their voice as Palestinians and showing us the real people of Gaza. They’ve created their YouTube channel to inspire and educate others about the reality of the place that they call home. They are answering the question that many of us have asked internally: “What are the people of Gaza doing in the meantime?” Believe it or not, we all have much more in common that we are taught to believe. From beautifully edited videos titled, “A Walk in Old Gaza,” and “Ramadan in Gaza,” these sisters truly allow us to get a glimpse into daily life of Palestinians. Through their YouTube channel, they are creating quality content that vividly shows life in Gaza. 

“What are the people of Gaza doing in the meantime?”

Recently the Khaldi twins created a LaunchGood fundraiser project in order to gain support for their necessary endeavors of being a prominent voice for Gaza. Unfortunately, with the high taxes that Israel imposes on traders, as well as the fact that they have banned the import of electronics ordered online to Gaza, it has become more difficult for the Khaldi twins to create the content they are passionate about, and that we desperately need in this world. We need to encourage media such as theirs to be more prominent in order to change the world. As their project states, they are taking up the responsibility to shed light on and tell the full, real stories of people; to empower these characters; to give hope to those living within the same circumstances; and to inspire those watching from around the world.

Now  it’s our time to be a part of the story by helping to tell it. If you’d like to help out and learn more about their amazing initiative and work, click here!

*all photographs above are copy-righted to Asmaa Elkhaldi©.

Reflections: Focusing During Prayer

I feel like one of the most common struggles that many Muslims face in their faith is concentrating when they are performing their five daily prayers. It’s no secret that we all lead different lives, filled with different struggles and situations, but at least we are all granted the blessing of stepping away from all of the commotion to submit ourselves in prayer and remembrance of our Creator. The importance of our five daily prayers is so reinforced, but often times we are not given adequate information on the significance of it all, which easily leads us to lack true understanding and connection with our prayer and with Allah (SWT).

We’ve all been there – we’re reciting Surah Al-Fatiha, but simultaneously our mind is wandering off without us even realizing it. Soon enough, you completely lose track of what rakat you’re on and don’t even feel the least bit connected to the words you’re reciting. It becomes a dreadful cycle and you begin to see your obligatory prayers as a chore rather than the blessing and relief that they are. So, how do you get out of the funk? Here are some simple, but effective ways to help you get in the zone while offering your salah!

Wudhu

Wudhu is literally like the pre-requisite before your salah. Don’t rush your wudhu and just splash water on yourself. There’s great significance behind even just “throwing water” on ourselves. Wudhu has been made for us to not only purify our physical selves, but also our mental and emotional states. If we heard, said, or saw something that maybe wasn’t the most beneficial for us, wudhu gives us the opportunity to completely wash away those “bad things” and start fresh. This isn’t just some made up notion, it’s literally the significance of ablution in Islam. Cleanse your mind, as well as impurities on your physical self with wudhu. Who wouldn’t want to be clean and purified before they face Allah (SWT) in salah?

Surah Al-Fatiha

We all know Surah Al-Fatiha and know the jist of its tafsir, but do we really know it? Yes, we hear it and recite it so often, I mean it is “The Opening” to the Quran! However, Surah Al-Fatiha is literally the crux of your salah. We recite it in every prayer, every rakat must start with it, but what does it really mean? It’s important to really delve into the tafsir of this surah and understand it’s power and relation to Allah (SWT). Here is one tafsir of the surah that has really impacted my perspective on it. Learning the tafsir really helps you focus on every single ayah you recite because you truly are understanding the beauty and significance behind it.

Set the mood

It almost goes without saying that in order to succeed at something, you must have the mindset prepared for it. Research has proven that with any tasks that you do, 80% of the success has to do with your psychological state and only 20% has to do with the actual action of it. Before you even start your takbir, really get yourself into the fact that you are standing before Allah (SWT). Envision nothing, but Him and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) watching you. Not to sound morbid, but sometimes even thinking about how this could be the last prayer you pray on Earth, can help you focus on praising and remembering Allah (SWT) throughout your salah. If you’re going through something, take a moment before salah to just breathe and allow your mind to refocus away from your problems and on Allah (SWT). He is the only helper and protector to us, and that is so comforting to remember.

Don’t make distractions for yourself 

If you’re a girl, you know the struggle of trying to pray with a hijab that is loosely or haphazardly tied. You begin to be more focused on the scarf on your head slipping off than your actual prayer. Make sure to securely tie your hijab before you start your prayer so this doesn’t happen to you! Also make sure the area around you is somewhat tidy, we all tend to get shifty eyes here and there (may Allah forgive us), but the chances of this happening are less if you have the ability to clean up.

Look into the tafsir of different surahs

Learning about and understanding the meaning behind Surah Al-Fatiha is important and should be an act we constantly revisit. However, it is also valuable to research the tafsir of other surahs and duas you recite during your salah. Looking into the tafsir helps us understand the context of what we are saying and inevitably connects us to the prayer and focusing on Allah (SWT) even more. Here are some reputable sources to dive into tafsir of various surahs, plus many more great topics in Islam that can surely benefit you during your salah and in life in general:

Bayyinah Institute

Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research

We all make mistakes, and it’s important to remember that Allah (SWT) is the most Merciful and that He understands our struggles, whatever they may be. As long as you are sincere in your approach to Islam and seeking out a stronger connection with Allah (SWT), you are never at a loss. Salah is supposed to be an ease and comfort in this stressful dunya. Therefore, we should approach it as so, and not look at it to be a burden. Insha’Allah you continue to seek out ways to hold on tightly to your salah and your faith. If you have any good tips on making your salah more meaningful, let us know down in the comments below!

10 Tips for the Last 10 Days of Ramadan

We are winding down to the last few days of Ramadan. The last ten nights are said to be the most abundant in blessings, so naturally we should all strive to make the most out of them. If you feel that this Ramadan has slipped away, do not trick yourself into losing hope or stop trying to gain that state of bliss – it’s never too late! Here are some simple tips to help you to embrace the beauty of these last few days of Ramadan:

Worship all 10 nights

Try your best to go to the masjid, and even if you are unable to, for whatever reason, don’t lose hope and don’t feel bad! You can still 100% worship at home. If you feel like you are unable to worship every night, then try to aim for the odd nights. Laylat Al Qadr (the Night of Power) will be on any of the odd nights of Ramadan, and you don’t want to miss out! Focus in your salah the best that you can, stay in sujood for a longer period of time, talk to Allah (SWT), be grateful to Him, and make dua.

Give charity every night

Whether it’s donating money, clothes, food, or even just simply smiling and saying a kind word to someone, strive to be conscious of giving back in any way you can.

Make a list of duas to make

Sometimes writing out your thoughts can be super helpful in giving you a clear insight into who you are. Allah (SWT) has blessed us with so many duas for so many different occasions. Researching duas is great; Sujood.co is such an amazing site that allows you to easily search for the exact dua that fits any emotion you have. Remember, you can also make dua from your heart and just talk to Allah (SWT). Keep your loved ones, those who are struggling, and the ummah in your duas as well. Never underestimate the power of dua and always remember that Allah is near.

Pray two extra rakats every night

Make an effort to pray extra rakat at night. The benefit that follows with it is something that nothing else can replace.

Surat Al- Ikhlas

Although Surat Al-Ikhlas is one of the shorter Surahs, its benefits and message are powerful. Prophet Muhammad (SAW) told his companions,Gather, because I am going to read you a third of the Quran.” (Abu Huraya RA). After they gathered Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) recited, “Say: He is God, the One!” – Quran, Surah Ikhlas, 112:1. The Arabic root of the word ikhlas means, sincerity or purity. This concept is a running theme throughout the Quran as we are constantly being reminded to attain this state of sincerity in our faith, and genuinely believing that Allah (SWT) is One and nothing should be worshipped, except Him.

Keep your heart pure

If you find yourself having bad thoughts, make dua to Allah and recite any Surah (preferably Surah Al-Fatiha, Surah Al-Falaq, Surah An-Nas, or Surah Al-Ikhlas). If you’ve had a falling out with someone, sincerely forgive them in your heart. Remember, Surah Baqarah tells us, “Kind speech and forgiveness are better than charity followed by injury.” (2:263). Be conscious of your actions and keep your intentions pure in whatever you do. You will find your soul becoming lighter in return, insha’Allah.

Keep your motivation up

Even if you feel like this Ramadan went by too quickly and you haven’t done enough, it’s not too late! Focus on these last few days and nights. Allah (SWT) wants to forgive you and during the last few nights He is the most merciful. Push through and turn back to your Rabb.

You don’t have to stay up all night for your worship to count

A lot of people feel like you have to stay up all night and worship throughout the night but Allah (SWT) knows what’s in your heart and if you are trying then that is enough. All of your efforts and all of your worship counts.

Memorize duas for forgiveness

Allah (SWT) could forgive you for any gesture of yours that he likes. Remember to make dua for forgiveness in these last nights of Ramadan. This website has great duas for forgiveness that are short and simple.

Eat light 

Eat light so that you are not constantly worried about breaking your wudu and you can focus on your ibadah (worship). But also remember to hydrate so you don’t feel hungry and are awake and focused!

Remember that any of the odds nights can be Laylat Al Qadr so in these final days give it your all! Ramadan is still in our grasp, and even when it leaves us, we should still strive to strengthen our faith in every way.

 

 

 

Ramadan Mubarak

Ramadan Mubarak! The month we all wait for every year is finally here. Ramadan is a great time to set goals and learn new things. There are things you should do and of course, there are things you shouldn’t, we hope that this list helps!

Do: Strive to learn new verses in the Quran

It’s always a good time to study and learn the meanings of different verses in the Quran. However, Ramadan is the perfect time to do this for many reasons. The Quran was revealed in the month of Ramadan so being close with the text is even more special during this time. Ramadan also always brings about so many helpful resources and people. Try to read the Quran every single day throughout Ramadan and grasp the tasfeer as best as you can. Try to learn more about one concept or theme in the Quran.

Do: Go to the Masjid

Go to the masjid even if you’re not that comfortable going, Ramadan is a good way to get comfortable going to the masjid and meeting new people. Breaking fasts with together can be a good time to bond and talk about your fasting experience.

Do: Aim to pray five times

If you’ve been struggling with meeting the five daily prayers, make a goal for yourself to try to pray all five. Remember, the sweat you come into Dhur prayer with is more beautiful than your tears when standing in Taraweeh. You can do it! Just remember that practicing Islam is supposed to be easy and simple and not a burden or overwhelming. Take baby steps if you have to. Your efforts and intentions weigh more than you can even imagine. Make dua to Allah (SWT) and insha’Allah He will make ways for you to meet the five prayers with ease.

Do: Give to charity

Ramadan is a beautiful month for a multiple of reasons. One great aspect about this time is that many great charities come to our attention, giving us the opportunity to help others in this blessed month for the sake of Allah (SWT). Giving to others all year round is something we should strive to do, Ramadan is a great stepping stone to get into that lifestyle. Here are a few great charities that you might be interested in donating to!: x x x x

Do: Be understanding

Ramadan is a month of many great blessings. It is not a time, however, to be harsh or hard with anyone. Be understanding of people who are in different stages in their life. Do not become impatient or cold with another simply because they are not living life in an according to what you deem as ideal. We’re all human and we’re all imperfect. Reflect on the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), and how understanding and compassionate he was towards everyone. Try and implement his characteristics and manners into your own life.

Do: Try and learn the 99 Names of Allah

Try to learn more about the meanings behind Allah (SWT)’s 99 Names. All of them are beautiful and powerful, but if you study the meaning of at least one Name and understand the significance, it could really help strengthen your relationship with Allah (SWT) because you’re getting to know who He really is.


Don’t: Ask someone why they aren’t fasting

There is no time that allows us to judge others, especially during the month of Ramadan. Everyone is going through different situations and personal difficulties.Someone could be going through personal mental or physical difficulties. Don’t ask or assume why someone isn’t fasting. You have no right to know, just worry about yourself, your fasts, and being the kindest, peaceful, understanding believer you can.

Don’t: Become the haram police

Don’t make this blessed month seem like a burden or a stressful month for others. Reflect on yourself before you try and police others. If you really do see someone engaging in haram actions, make sincere dua for them and try to lead by good, genuine example. Do not make people turn further away from Islam.

Don’t: Judge people who don’t typically pray, when you see them praying in Ramadan

It’s really simple. Don’t judge. If you see someone praying at all, you should be filled with joy. Even if it’s just this month where a person turns to salah, that is beautiful. At least they are worshipping Allah (SWT). We should never judge anyone who is in worship of Allah (SWT).

Don’t: Skip out on fasts or prayer

There are days when we feel like we don’t have the energy to get up and pray or fast. We are human and people have those days. But don’t waste a moment of this blessed month. Don’t miss out on your prayer and don’t miss out on your fasts. Allah (SWT) has blessed this month and it is extra special so don’t miss out on a moment.

Don’t: Make it all about food

We all know Ramadan is a beautiful spiritual time, make sure to enjoy each day of it! Take care of your health by eating a variety of nutritious foods at suhoor and iftar, but don’t make it about losing weight and deprive yourself of some good ol’ samosas – they’re good for your soul!

Don’t: Miss out on suhoor to sleep more

Both suhoor and iftar are necessary times for a successful fast. You can always sleep later! Don’t be lazy with your fasts. It’s a required part of Ramadan to actively take part in eating before the sun rises. Most likely you will be fasting for around at least 10+ hours depending on where you live. You want to make sure your fasts are valid so be sure to eat something before Fajr prayer!

10 Holy Grail Beauty Products

Hi, I’m Priyanka – a beauty and lifestyle blogger at GlamourAndGiggles, which is all about trying new beauty products and makeup. I have tried tons and tons of products but these are my must haves! Continue reading “10 Holy Grail Beauty Products”

Reflections: Benefits of Salah

Sometimes it’s easy to forget the simplest reasoning behind certain situations. More often than not, we easily forget the universal truth that everything Allah (SWT) has sent down to us, is not by coincidence, but by an ultimate knowledge that only He possesses. Continue reading “Reflections: Benefits of Salah”