A Tale of Two Ramadans
My grandmother set down a plate of six or seven parathas with determination in her eyes, as though warning us we had no choice but to finish all of them. From the kitchen, pots and pans clacked as our cook constructed omelet after omelet at a pace that could, conceivably, break the sound barrier. My cousins yawned loudly between scavenging mouthfuls. From the couch, my grandfather disapprovingly surveyed the scene. “Ruby,” he said, peeking out from behind yesterday’s copy of The Express-Tribune, “You really shouldn’t have such large sehris. It’s not sunnat.”
We all stared innocently at the table spread where parathas, jam, scrambled eggs, omelets, kebabs, fruit cake, and the greater part of last night’s dinner lay. “Nonsense,” my grandmother snapped back in fast and hard Punjabi, the kind reserved especially for telling-offs. “Do you want them to starve?” She pushed a glass of mango juice into my hands “Are you trying to kill them? Are you trying to kill the children?” The room full of people laughed as my grandfather shook his head and ducked back behind his newspaper.
In Dallas, I wake up not by my grandmother’s shouting greetings or my cousins’ merciless shakes, but by my alarm. The morning is cold, which is odd, for July, but early mornings always seem to have this chill stillness about them. I stumble sleepily downstairs. Grabbing my phone, I text my friends who are up for sehri for some companionship. In the kitchen, I tread lightly, pouring myself a bowl of excessively sugary cereal – my favorite. The cabinet door slams shut, and I wince – I don’t want to wake the rest of my sleeping family up. They’re not fasting for reasons ranging from sickness to sloth. After my cereal, I gulp down cups of water until I think I’ll explode. Sitting at the table, I look out the window at my neighborhood. A few lonely cars rush by, carrying no doubt overtaxed commuters. Mostly, though, Dallas is at peace.
Despite my constant protestations in favor of secularism, my dirty little secret was that I quite enjoyed the azaan ringing out over Lahore’s busy streets five times a day. It bound the blinding city together. The first azaan for Fajr woke the pearl of the Punjab up, little by little, each day. Today, it found my five cousins and me restlessly crowding around two jahnamaazs. As the namaaz started, we fell into hushed silence. From the corner of my eye, I caught one of the young ones clinging to my grandmother’s feet as she did a remarkable job of steadfastly ignoring him and praying.
I spread out a similarly beautifully patterned jahanamaaz. I bought it in a bustling bazaar in Pakistan, wanting a touch of home for my prayers. Praying alone is different from being surrounded by people, but I think I may enjoy it more. It gives me more time to muse on my own spirituality and just talk, me and Allah. There’s something magical about namaaz that makes me feel like an enchanted child again. I finish just as the hectic day begins; I have, sadly, a Saturday full of errands to run. I stop first at the bank, then the post office and mall. There is, understandably, no sense of Islamic community among the folks in my conservative Dallas suburb. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I keep the knowledge and feel of Ramadan in myself, tucked into my belly like a light. The rest of the world around me may not be fasting, but Allah is as omnipresent as ever. It’s four o’ clock before the hunger starts setting in. My brother goes to prayer at our small local mosque, but it’s not a place where I feel particularly welcome, so I return home to pray Asr.
By the time Asr hits, I’m slumped on a couch in my grandmother’s living room, thinking that if this goes on any longer, this not-eating business, I might cry. My cousins are in equal states of disrepair. Soon, we’re dragged out to the market together, in an attempt on the adults’ part to 1) shake us out of our whininess and 2) make the time pass quicker. If silence is loud, a Pakistani market on a day during Ramadan is absolutely deafening. The fast is everywhere, on everyone’s minds, even in wordless interactions like buying meat or brushing by strangers. Ramadan is like an all-encompassing haze, settling comfortable and agreeably over the city.
When the fast gets hard, usually in the hour or so before it breaks, I think back to the Pakistani market and the workers I always saw there: young men spending their whole day preparing jalebis and samosas over hot stoves and worn shopkeepers constantly on their feet. All of these people were also fasting, but they didn’t have the luxury of accommodating their fast with large (and possibly excessive) amounts of downtime and like my family and I do. At iftar, I miss the samosa and jalebi tradition briefly but remind myself how blessed I am, to be surrounded by family, food, and faith. My parents and brother eat with me and I eagerly bite into dinner as soon as the clock hits the right number.
One of my more food-happy cousins once confessed to me that iftar was no less than 75% of the reason he kept fasts. It was a reasonable feeling; the iftaris put together by my grandmother were nothing less than a gift from heaven. Excited tension seized the house as the countdown to iftar begun, and when the azaan rung we gulped down our dates while exchanging ear to ear smiles. Then, we set upon eating the table worth of treats in front of us.
Ramadan as a kid and teenager in Pakistan, enveloped by scores of family members and the special atmosphere that hung over the country, was undoubtedly different from my experience of Ramadan in America. Different, but not necessarily better. While I appreciated the comforting sense of community ever present in Lahore, I know now that it’s not always needed to feel close to Islam. I can be alone, I can be isolated, and still Islam will light up my heart just as it did in Pakistan. As I’ve learned, God may not be always be seen, but that does not mean that He is not still everywhere. (x)
For more on MMW’s Ramadan series, and to read the rest of this year’s Ramadan posts, click here.
Nomani’s complaints about her Muslim ex-husband are indeed cringeworthy: he is cold, withdrawn, childish, and sexually worse than useless. But this litany of failings is not limited to Muslim men–not by a long shot. The story of a passionate woman in a stale marriage is as old as Helen of Troy. The theme is so perennial that without the specter of Islam to dress it up, it’s almost boring. This is a case of cultural amnesia: as soon as a Muslim man enters the picture, women everywhere forget about Thelma and Louise, The Good Girl and The Divorcee, and pretend that sullen oafish husbands are an Islamic phenomenon. If this was really true, poor Shakespeare–along with hundreds of thousands of modern divorce lawyers–would have been out of a career.
--G. Willow Wilson (via tmihijabi)
Disney’s only efforts at diversity seem to be a halfhearted attempt to fulfill the minimum threshold needed to meet minority quotas; [of it’s nine presently running live-action series] three shows have an all-white main cast, and of the 46 characters in the main casts, 37 are white.
How Do Muslim Girls Fare in U.S. Kids’ Programming? at Muslimah Media Watch
This post pretty much came about because I was asked if I had resources for Muslims who were discovering or newly coming to terms with their sexuality. I didn’t, and the poor advice I had to offer was … poor. So, I pulled up a few of the blogs I followed that are targeted towards queer Muslims, and put together this little post for you!
Queer Muslim Blogs:
- ComingOutMuslim (check out their project here: [x])
Queer Muslim 101:
- A quick gender/sexuality 101
- PDF:Homosexuality In Islam, by Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle (Intro + 1st Chap) Buy your own copy!
- PDF:Muslim LGBT Inclusion Project, by Intersections International
- “I’m confused about my sexuality.”
- “I need proof from Qur’an and Sunnah that I’m not Haraam.”
- “What about the Qur’an and Hadith that chastise LGBT*Q Muslims?”
- “Islam and LGBT* are not mutually exclusive.”
- “But I was taught Islam was the most heterosexist religion.” [tw: continuously moving background at the link]
- “But all Muslims are homophobic!” (spoiler alert: you’re wrong.)
- “Love the sinner, hate the sin, and why that’s bullshit.”
- “Should I come out?” (spoiler alert: that’s up to you!)
- “Is there a place for LGBT*Q Muslims?”
- “Will LGBT*Q Muslims go to hell?” (spoiler alert: I’m not God, how would I know?)
- “But it’s unnatural!” (lolk)
- “There aren’t any gay Imams or Sheikhs, so you’re just making things up!”
- “But no fatwa was made!” (It’s Wahabi.)
- A post about other Sheikhs’ opinions.
- There is no place for homophobia in Islam.
- Ayahs that talk about Prophet Lut.
- A closer reading of ayahs re: homosexuality.
- Homosexuality in Predominately Muslim Countries
- Same-sex marriage
- Queer Muslim Cinema: Azizah, Illuminations, Coming Out Muslim, A Jihad For Love, I Exist, Coming Out Muslim: Radical Acts of Love, Al-Nisa. [BONUS: Show Al-Nisa and Red Summer (the producer) some love!]
A good thing to remember is to avoid the self-hatred phase, if you can. Focus on loving yourself, and realising that Allah made you just the way you are, and that you are loved. If this phase is unavoidable, here are some helpful sites:
- Help! I’m losing my Islam
- Feeling suicidal?
- Suicide prevention
- Supporting someone who self-harms
- Suicide and Crisis Hotlines
- Online Crisis Network (for those with anxiety which prevents them from talking on the phone)
If you are from Indonesia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, or India and want to share your experiences (anonymously), please click here.
Lastly, here is a link if you are NOT a queer Muslim, but want to be a good ALLY!
(If you’d like to be added to or taken off this list, please send me an ask.)
“FEMEN AKBAR,” shouted the naked white feminist while mocking the Muslim prayer by kneeling on the ground. All Muslim women were, thus, emancipated, patriarchy was dismantled globally because in this logic patriarchy is only of Islamic form, tits shown for shock value were effective because there’s no such thing as catering to the male gaze, everyone believed in the goodness of secular, liberal, white feminism, there was no evil in the world. We all lived happily.
UCSB South Asian Students Association’s “Fighting Islamaphobia” Photo Campiagn
This is for my aunt, whose family disowned her when she fell in love with a Muslim man.
This is for my Muslim friends, who I stand beside, even when my relatives hiss the word Muslim
Solidarity is what defines love, not how you choose to worship. One God, one love.
If guys were as mad about rape as they are duck face we wouldn’t have a rape culture problem.
Jamie Kilstein (via stuzie)
Other things most straight white guys get way more upset about than they do about rape:
- Taylor Swift
- the song “Call Me Maybe”
- girls who date “douchebags”
- basically any music that isn’t played by white dudes with guitars
- girls who are “shallow” or “fake”
- girls who wear too much make-up
- girls who don’t wear enough make-up
- fat girls
- when people badmouth dark and gritty superhero films
- Justin Bieber
- someone thinking that they’re gay
- women “hating” men
- women hating men
- women saying no
- women saying yes
- women being friends with them
- women talking back to them
- women dressing “slutty”
- women having “too much sex”
- women not putting out enough
- women not paying for their dinner
- women paying for their dinner
- women getting abortions
- women not getting abortions
- women running for president
- women posting pics of themselves online
- women refusing to post pics of themselves online
- women who are “special snow flakes”
- women who just follow the herd
- women who don’t give a fuck
- women who give too many fucks
- ugly women
- pretty women
- women talking
- women refusing to talk
- women entering their spaces
- women avoiding their spaces
- women “objectifying themselves”
- women being human
- being “‘disrespected”
- video games (how is video games not up here)
Al-Rahma Islamic Centre destroyed in 'hate crime' fire
An Islamic centre in north London has been destroyed by a fire in an apparent hate crime attack.
The Met Police said the fire, which happened at the Al-Rahma Islamic Centre in Muswell Hill in the early hours, is being treated as suspicious.
A spokesman said the letters EDL (English Defence League) were sprayed on to the building, used by the Somali Bravanese Welfare Association.
Zakariya Mohamed, 22, who has been attending the centre for 13 years, said: “I’m heartbroken.
“I can only speak for myself but I feel this is an act of terrorism. The dictionary defines a terrorist as anybody that causes terror or intimidation with a racial agenda.”