The Reality of Idolizing Islamic Speakers

In light of recent events, I’ve realized that people, no matter who they are, will disappoint you. We won’t name names, but the news that recently broke has disappointed the American Muslim community greatly. In the West, it’s hard being Muslim to begin with and then something like this happens and the whole community is affected significantly. In the current political climate this is the last thing that we needed. We have been making active strives in the right direction and this kind of “publicity” disrupts the entire Ummah.

As a teacher, a preacher, and someone who posts about Islam on social media constantly; you have some level of responsibility to do it justice. You cannot be a hypocrite who does not practice what he preaches. If you claim to represent Islam and the Ummah, then you need to with sincerity. You don’t get to profit off of Islam while also abusing your power to manipulate multiple women. I can’t even fathom how people continue to defend him. The proof is there, and he ADMITS to many of the allegations made against him, but there is still a large amount of people who are defending him. He has blackmailed, paid off, and emotionally abused these women, but yet, he is still given the benefit of the doubt. As this news unfolds, it reveals a deeper issue in our community – misogyny. Men can make horrendous “mistakes” and get away with it, but if a woman steps out of line, she will be scrutinized until the end of time. It’s interesting because about the same time as this scandal surfaced, a picture of Mahira Khan leaked where she was wearing revealing clothing and smoking a cigarette with a male co-star. The comments that came afterwards were disgusting to say the least. Mahira Khan, an actress, who never claimed to represent Islam, was scrutinized for this picture with no mercy whatsoever. On the other hand, we have people making excuses for an abuser – people are out here posting verses from the Qur’an about how we shouldn’t judge others and instead we should make 70 excuses for them. Correct me if I’m wrong, but there seems to be a highly noticeable difference here. Actively raising and treating women unjustly compared to men, is not of Islam. So, the next time you think you’re being “just,” look at the situation and reflect on if you would run to the defense of a woman in the same way.

For the people who keep saying that we shouldn’t talk about this issue because it’s backbiting, well technically it is, but simultaneously, it’s important to talk about it so others do not get hurt. We need to address these discrepancies and realities within our community, rather than pretending they don’t exist. When we remain silent in the face of injustice, we are only helping the situation to occur again. This situation has divided the Ummah even more, when in reality we need to be coming together now more than ever. How are we supposed to grow and learn as an Ummah if we refuse to own up to the truths that exist within our community and within our own selves? There’s a major difference between veiling someone’s mishaps, sins, or bad deeds, and actually confronting pressing issues that put others in danger. The Dallas community tried to keep this under wraps in the best way possible, but since the person involved was not willing to cooperate, it was important for the community to be aware of this hypocrite that they believe so strongly in to prevent others from getting hurt. No one, and trust me NO ONE, wanted to know this much about this scandal. Keeping it hidden would have been beneficial for everyone, but since it has escalated so much, it was important to talk about it publicly.

I worry for our Ummah. I worry for the youth living in this era of media that’s so saturated it dictates the way one should think and feel, and even stray’s people away from the true message of Islam. I worry for my dear sisters in Islam. We are so strong, although everyone is always trying to tear us down and keep us silent. My sisters, who get the blame for everything, even a man’s shortcomings. My sisters, who are taught that our “sins” weigh more heavily than a man’s. My sisters, who are afraid to speak up in their own community, a community that ideally should be a safe haven from the rest of this dunya, in fear of being so viciously judged and humiliated. Although this is the unfortunate and despicable reality of our society, my sisters, we must never lose our ultimate trust in Allah (SWT). Run to Allah (SWT) and understand that He is the All-Knowing and that He is your Protector. Find comfort in Him, even if this entire world seems to be against you.

The take home message from this entire situation is: do not attach your Islam with people. People are people and are not immune to the fitnah of this world. Nothing in this world is stable or consistent. Islam is perfect, however Muslims are not. If you want an example to follow, then look to those who have come before us and left a legacy worth following. We have endless examples of people who are worth learning from, so don’t attach your Islam and faith to someone in this dunya. If you attach your Islam to the people around you or lecturers in this dunya, then if they stumble, you stumble. If you want to have a strong and unbreakable bond with Islam, protect your imaan (faith) by attaching yourself to Allah (SWT), His text, and His prophet’s Sunnah.

 

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!

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.

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.

 

 

 

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”