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©.

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.

 

 

 

Reflections: “Ramadan Muslims”

Muslims are not a monolith. We all come from different places and experience different struggles. No two Muslims feel and live life exactly the same – and that’s beautiful. What’s not beautiful is when people start openly judging one another on how “pious” the other is. People have actually coined the term, “Ramadan Muslims” as an ongoing “joke” of some sort. The implication is not so nice. Ramadan, unfortunately, has become the battleground for this atrocious behavior.

So, what is a “Ramadan Muslim?” Apparently, it’s supposed to label Muslims who seemingly only practice Islam during the month of Ramadan. Meaning, they pray five times a day, fast, don’t swear, eat halal, and overall, put a halt on their haram lifestyles during the month. So many people are so quick to judge these Muslims so much so that it has become an ongoing joke. What’s so funny about someone worshipping Allah (SWT) the right way?

If someone actively gives up a lifestyle in which they are so engrossed in during the other 11 months of the year, how is that laughable? These “Ramadan Muslims” sacrifice haram choices and actions for the sake of Allah (SWT). At least they recognize the great importance and blessing of this month. At least they are worshipping in some way, even it be in the smallest of ways. In addition to that, what if this was the Ramadan that turned and guided the heart of someone who was on the wrong path in life? Allah (SWT) guides whom He wills. We should never feel as if we have an authority to judge those who are striving to please Allah (SWT). This month is not for judging, it’s for reflection. Reflect upon yourself, reflect on the Quran and apply it to your own life. Do not mock others for worshipping in the blessed month of Ramadan. Surah Al-Hujurat tells us,

“O you who have believed, let not a people ridicule [another] people; perhaps they may be better than them; nor let women ridicule [other] women; perhaps they may be better than them. And do not insult one another and do not call each other by [offensive] nicknames. Wretched is the name of disobedience after [one’s] faith. And whoever does not repent – then it is those who are the wrongdoers.” – Quran, 49:11

We should feel joyful and comfort seeing others practicing and praising Allah (SWT). If “Ramadan Muslims” are such an “issue,” let’s ask ourselves, why? Everyone goes through different circumstances, but what are we, as fellow brothers and sisters in Islam, doing to help? If anything, we should be the ones trying to perfect our manners. We should try to implement and renew the characteristics of the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) into our own lives. If anything, we should help other Muslims see the beauty in Islam, by setting beautiful examples of what it means to truly be a believer. If we can’t do that, then at least we should make sincere dua for those fellow Muslims who are struggling with balancing deen and dunya.

It is understandable that the dunya distracts us all, but that does not make anyone a hopeless case. Everyone gets caught up in life and we sometimes neglect the most important part of our day – our prayers. Then, when Ramadan comes we’re suddenly reminded that we’re Muslim too and start praying five times a day, fasting, and going for Taraweeh. Many of us have been victims of this behavior. I used to get caught up with school and work and would sometimes just skip over my prayers, but then in Ramadan I would pray five times a day and then go back to my old ways when the month was over.

Why neglect your prayers outside of Ramadan? I think a big problem is that people get caught up in this dunya and don’t focus on deen until later in life. I’m looking at you Pakistani folks in particular, as it’s almost a part of our culture to do so. Why is it that we focus more on education and marriage rather than our deen? That’s a reason why some of us become “Ramadan Muslims,” which is sad, but it’s true for a lot of people.

An easy way to break this continuous cycle is to think of each prayer as your last prayer. Not to be morbid, but anything can happen at any given moment and nothing in this life is guaranteed. It’s important to think of each prayer as your last chance to repent and please your Lord. There are three ways that have helped me keep my deen up and aware of my prayers. First, go to the masjid as often as you can, either for Jummah prayer or a weekly lecture. Second, download the Muslim Pro app and turn on the notifications. This way you’ll know exactly what time each prayer is. Try to pray immediately!!! Get up and go pray as soon as you hear the adhan – this will seriously affect you in making all five daily prayers because you won’t put them off or eventually forget about them. Lastly, learn at least one new thing about Islam every day. It can be anything, read a hadith and ponder it’s meaning, read a page of the Quran, read an Islamic story about any prophet, literally anything that you can. Once you find yourself learning about different topics in Islam, your love and devotion for Allah (SWT) can only grow from there, insha’Allah.

Let’s make this Ramadan the best one yet. Let’s not judge one another on how outwardly pious the other is. Instead, let’s reflect on the true meaning of Ramadan and understand other people’s struggles. Let’s find our innate love for this deen and Allah (SWT), while also allowing the best version of us to come about in this month and let it manifest throughout the rest of our lives, insha’Allah.

Periods & Ramadan: Let’s Talk About It

Periods. Menstruation. The monthly cycle. Such a tabooed subject across the globe. A majority of women from all around the world are taught to hide when they’re on their period. Come Ramadan, and this age old game takes on a new level. You either dread its arrival, or are secretly happy to see it come as it gives you a few days to ‘take a break’ from fasting. Either way, we’ve been taught to mask any indication of it from the men in our lives.

I mean, I don’t think it’s necessary to hold up “I’M ON MY PERIOD” posters all week long or parade around shouting it to everyone you come across, but there needs to be some level of understanding here. Having your period is such a blessing. If you think about it, it really is a beautiful occurrence. It’s a natural event, exclusive to women, that cleanses out the uterus and indicates the chance at the miracle of life. We have the capability to produce life from within us. Can we just ponder at that for a second because wow that’s pretty cool.

We’re never taught to think of our periods in a beautiful way, though. It’s always gross, painful, sickly, impure, unholy, dirty, and the list goes on. We are the bearers of life, yet we have to suffer the most. I’m not talking about the physical pain we often endure during our monthly cycles, but the social and mental burdens we are so heavily weighed down by for no good reason. During the month of Ramadan, many women literally hide the fact that they are menstruating. We wake up for suhoor with our family so that our brothers, dad, husband, or any other male family member is not suspecting (not that many of them even know about periods anyway because they’ve been shielded away from it their whole life). We then proceed to pretend to fast all day long. We eat and drink scarcely, and only if no one can see. We even pretend to break our “fast” at iftar with everyone. I always end up feeling like a traitor inside. We silently suffer alone and in pain. This is not Islam and living like this is not virtuous.

The Quran describes menstruation as “adha,” which translates into “hurt” or “discomfort.” We have to acknowledge our body and it’s needs. If we are hurt we must take care of ourselves. Allah (SWT) has specifically exempted us from fasting during this time so that we may be at ease and not harm our body. So, why are we making it hard on ourselves? It is crucial for us to take care of our body during our monthly cycle. We have to nourish ourselves with food and water – this is not a choice, but rather a necessity. I understand the advice to refrain from eating in front of those who are fasting, out of respect, but that does not entail us to fast alongside them when it is very clear that we should not.

Often times we tend to confuse cultural taboos with religious rulings. This is very dangerous for a multiple of reasons. When it comes to being secretive about our periods, it is not as Islamic as we might think. Period shaming is not of Islam. Menstruation has been one of the most discussed areas in Fiqh. Aisha (RA), one of the most knowledgeable mothers of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)’s wife, shared her knowledge on menstruation and other topics about women in much depth. This is a clear indication that periods are something to not be ashamed or secretive of. Why do we have such an issue with even acknowledging periods then? Our cultures have bred unhealthy mentalities that deem periods to be shameful and unnatural, when in reality, they are the exact opposite.

Even in the sirah (factual stories of the Prophet Muhammad) it is told that the prophet would be emotionally, physically, and spiritually intimate with Aisha while she was menstruating. He would lean on her lap and recite Quran while she was known to be on her period. She would let him know when she was menstruating. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) never shamed Aisha for having her period. He would joke with her and still keep the word of Allah (SWT) near her. There was no disgrace between them. He was understanding and did not ignore the fact that women menstruate. We need to reflect more on how he acknowledged this aspect of life, and implement it in our own lives.

Often times during our periods, we feel as if we are at a loss because we cannot pray salah, fast, or even touch the Quran. This can leave many girls feeling hopeless and disconnected with her faith. It is important to understand that we are not defective because of our menstruation cycles. We are not dirty or impure. We can and still should practice our faith just as much during our period. Nothing can come between you and your sincere devotion to Allah (SWT).

We need to stop implementing these ideas into the minds of our girls, especially the youth. Our periods are special and a blessing. They remind us that we are not only healthy, but we are capable of nurturing life within us. There needs to be a source of education and empowerment of our bodies. We should not have to feel guilty or a burden in any way. If anything, we should see our periods as a gift from Allah (SWT), because that’s exactly what they are. Let’s refuse to surrender any longer to these social constructs that keep us suffering silently in pain. Let’s stand up for and protect this blessing that Allah (SWT) has bestowed upon us. Ramadan should not be a burden on anyone. This is a beautiful month where we should find peace, reflection, and renewal in – not worry about how our periods are a “problem.” Your period does not make you any less.

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!

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