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©.

Her Name Was Nabra Hassanen #JusticeForNabra

Nabra Hassanen. Don’t forget her name. A 17-year old Muslim girl who was brutally assaulted and murdered. All murders are senseless, but Nabra’s life was taken for no reason other than the fact that she was Muslim. Because she was visibly Muslim in her beautifully draped hijab. This was not about a parking dispute or any other junk excuse the media and police are attempting to label it as. This was an Islamophobic motivated hate crime. This was a terrorist attack.

I get it. A lot of people are too privileged to see, let alone care, about how people in power, public figures, and the media constantly demonize marginalized groups.  I’m sick and tired of having to cater to their ignorance. Why is their ignorance costing us the lives of our brothers and sisters? Why do the lives of white Christians and Catholics seem to get way more airtime and global concern while Muslims are being persecuted right beside them and not even getting the least bit of respect? I am never one to compare tragedies, ever, but this is just feeding into the cycle of systemic injustice and oppression. I saw the outrage and heartbreak of my white coworkers when the Manchester attack happened recently. I saw newspapers stacked at the front desk sympathizing and “standing with” the people of London. Do people even realize the immense horror that just occurred in our own country? I don’t care if my coworkers know who Nabra is. I care about why they have a selective sensitivity and humanity towards only a certain group of people. This is a learned action. The media teaches us how we should think and feel, and this gravely skews our stances on justice and injustice. This was not about a traffic or parking dispute. How many times are the media and the police going to use that same excuse when Muslims are violently murdered in America? Whoever actually believes it had nothing to do with the fact that she was a visibly Muslim woman, really needs to wake up. It’s never about a parking dispute.

I am truly heartbroken. I sobbed upon hearing the news concerning my sister Nabra, who lost her life in this blessed month of Ramadan. Although I never knew her, it feels like I did. Nabra was my sister in Islam. A young Muslimah, a believing 17-year old girl in a world that is so against her. Muslim. Black. Woman. Much like many of my fellow Muslim women, her very existence was a political statement, a defiance against what most people in the West are seemingly “comfortable” with. I keep telling myself that I wish I were with her before she was attacked outside of the masjid. As if I could have done something. I wish I could have saved her. My heart goes out deeply to all of the people suffering in the world and my duas are forever with them, but this, this hits home on entirely other level. The fact that this has happened, let alone in the month of Ramadan, is exceptionally upsetting.

She was one of us. She was probably getting ready for these last few days of Ramadan and making plans for Eid. She had her whole life in front of her. To my fellow Muslim sisters, please be careful and be hyper-aware wherever you are. People have sick, evil, selfish intentions and unfortunately we are the ones who suffer the most from it. Especially my sisters who observe the hijab. I can’t even begin to try to think as awfully as the oppressors and attackers do when they act upon their violent thoughts.

Let’s take the very last few days of this blessed month of Ramadan to sincerely make dua for Nabra and her family. May she be granted Jannah al firdous, and may her family and friends find peace, justice, comfort, and sabr through Allah (SWT). May He replace the trauma of those who were with her that night with tranquility. Let’s also take time to reflect on this world that we live in, the state of this ummah, and the state of our own iman (faith). Keep this ummah in your duas every day, and try your best to renew your intentions and your iman each day, as if it was your last. Allah (SWT) Knows best and is the Most-Merciful.

There are many wonderful donations/charities being set up for Nabra and in her name. If you’d like to help support, here are a few:

https://www.piousprojects.org/campaign?id=394

https://www.launchgood.com/project/for_nabra#/

May Allah (SWT) protect all of my sisters in this world. May He grant us courage and steadfastness in our deen and may He bring peace to this hateful world. Ameen.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi rajiun. To Him we belong and to Him we return.

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.

“Aren’t You Hot In That?” Is Not A Question

As we approach the warmer months in the Northern Hemisphere, the rising temperatures seem to not only be making people sweat, but also judgmental of what others are wearing. Continue reading ““Aren’t You Hot In That?” Is Not A Question”

Wanna Feature On Our Snapchat?

Things are about to get real. 

As you may already know, SpillTheChai is a platform started by two young Muslim-Pakistani-American women who wanted a space to discuss topics regarding the world, faith, or even just what bothers us. Over the course of just a few months, we have been able to garner other people’s interest in the blog. Alhamdulillah.

Continue reading “Wanna Feature On Our Snapchat?”

Spring Makeup: Flower Fairy

Introductions are tricky. I don’t want to basically write out a book about my life, but I don’t want to write too little and immediately lose your interest. So I guess I’ll just simplify things and state who I am and what this post is about; though I believe the title of this post gives it away. Continue reading “Spring Makeup: Flower Fairy”