Ramadan Reflections 2011

Day 27: Waiting for the Storm

Since last night, New York City has been getting ready for Hurricane Irene to hit our streets Sunday morning. Our Islamic Center at NYU has been putting together a team of volunteers, some of whom spent the afternoon today getting food and supplies to people and the rest ready to go after the storm should the need arise. Our volunteers will be working with Islamic Relief and The Red Cross in the aftermath of the storm.

Tonight was the first night I broke my fast on my own this entire month…Read More


Day 26: The Struggle of Islamophobia

I’ve had a lot of interviews over the last few days by different media outlets doing stories on being Muslim in America. One question that seemingly keeps coming up is “How do you feel about the islamophobic attitudes that have seemingly increased in the United States over the last few years?”

I feel it almost every day – it’s presence and manifestation in my own life and the lives of many around me. It’s there and it needs to be stopped. For those who don’t believe that Islamophobia exists, you’re wrong. There’s really no other way of saying it…Read More


Day 25: Heal the World

Last night, the Islamic Center at NYU hosted a special fundraising iftar dinner for the people of East Africa, proceeds of which went to Islamic Relief. For those of you who are unaware of the famine that has afflicted that region, I had written about it earlier in a blog post entitled, “A Prayer for Somalia.”

We were able to raise $215,000 last night towards the cause from an audience that was much larger than the 300 that attended the dinner. It was remarkable to see how much effort went into the evening by all members of our community and the unique methods by which they raised awareness…Read More


Day 24: The Hunger of the Soul

The last ten nights of Ramadan are meant to be about individualized worship. In our tradition, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, would spend his days and nights in the mosque for the purpose of spiritual reflection and contemplation. Taking not just a moment but a series of moments to purposely remove himself from the distractions of society and everything focus on something that was more enriching than acquisition of wealth or material gain — namely the enrichment of his soul…Read More


Day 23: Cutting The Excess of Ego

Both being forgiving and seeking forgiveness are strongly emphasized in most religious traditions. This includes Islam. The guidelines for both can be somewhat ambiguous though. Time and time again I run into people who say they’ve tried to be apologetic, and the onus of the acceptance now lies on the one that has felt wronged. My saying of I’m sorry should suffice, despite feelings of hurt and pain that I’ve put you through. What more can I do? Similarly, I’ve met many who have felt wronged and hurt and despite best attempts of those who are seeking forgiveness, it’s just not good enough. You said you were sorry but I think you don’t really mean it or I think that you can do better. In the end, it’s our subjective standard that usually dictates what is acceptable and what isn’t…Read More


Day 22: Overcoming Our Addictions

Every so often I meet someone who has issues dealing with pain that they are experiencing. It becomes so severe at times that they are willing to do whatever it takes to feel better, even if the feeling lasts only for for moments. They turn to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, hookah, pornography, food, and a variety of other things that slowly turn into habits and then from habits into addictions, and Ramadan becomes a time when many actually see the habits and addictions that they have. The break from our daily routine enables us to see how much we actually rely on our addictions to get through the day and then decide whether we want to use the opportunity to overcome them or let them stay with us. I see a lot of people who do this with medicine…Read More


Day 21: Honoring the Memory of Grandparents

When I was in seventh grade, my school sent our entire class for a week-long trip to Williamsburg to help with our study of colonial America. While I was away on that trip, my maternal grandfather passed away. It was on the 21st day of Ramadan.

More than a decade and a half later, I still carry a lot of memories of my grandfather with me. All of my grandparents were amazing individuals and it’s not with a sense of mourning or grief that I remember any of them. I remember my dhadhi-ami, paternal grandmother, would make shapes out of our french toast and other breakfast items for us. My dhadha-abu, paternal grandfather, would tell me he loved me and that he hoped I would become a great doctor one day — it helped to just hear that he believed I had the potential to be great at something. My naani, maternal grandmother, was the last to pass away of my grandparents and I learned so much about strength from her, seeing how she maintained control of her house and life after my grandfather passed away, but would always take a moment to sit with me and let me lay my head in her lap. And my naana, maternal grandfather, just always seemed content and had the ability to make me feel content as well, seeing life for what it had to offer and not in any other way. They were all great people in their own respective ways and i do miss them – but I remember them with a sense of gratitude, not a sense of regret. Their treatment of me wouldn’t allow for me to remember them in any other way…Read More


Day 20: Taking Care of Converts

If you ask most Muslims what they enjoy most about Ramadan, undoubtedly some will include the sense of community they feel. Their days start off with eating suhoor with family before dawn and their nights pass by with invitation upon invitation from friends to break fast together at sunset. It’s a great experience for most in that regard as we feel closer to those around us simply because we spend that much more time with them.

I was speaking to a young woman named Natalia in my community last night that I hadn’t seen for quite some time. She jokingly told me that Ramadan is interesting for her because each year her family offers her food and she tells them she can’t eat it because she’s fasting. They respond by asking, “Oh, you’re still Muslim?” It’s not an experience that her family shares with her…Read More


Day 19: Know People Deeply

I was around 19 years old the first time I met someone who was a victim of domestic violence.

She had shown up to class with some bruises on her face and had tried to cover it up with make-up. When I asked her what happened she said that she had tripped and fell into a wall. The bruises were definitely not those that would come from falling into a wall and so for some reason I pushed her to tell me what had really happened. She said her father had hit her in the face a few times the night before and that her brother had eventually stepped in to stop him, but not before her face was bruised. She told me every detail of how it happened, what it felt like emotionally to have your father strike you, went back and forth in blaming herself and blaming him for it, crying at times and yelling at others, until she asked me what she should do. And I had no idea…Read More


Day 18: Being Mindful of Our Words

My niece Mariam paid me a surprise visit yesterday. She is one of my favorite people in the world and someone I respect greatly.

There is so much that is remarkable about Mariam. One of things that I admire the most is her demeanor and personality. I’ve never seen her get angry to a point where she yells or screams, I’ve never seen her talk back to anyone, or gossip or lie. She definitely knows how to control her tongue and in turn is someone who can be trusted. I don’t know many people who are like that…Read More


Day 17: Developing Muslim Gentlemen of Quality

In building off of yesterday’s post on Muslim Relationships, it’s pretty evident that I think we have some issues to work out. These issues, however, can’t be approached in a simplistic way, but rather need to be understood as being multi-faceted and complex.

I left off saying that we need to have something that guides men through the relationship process. More often than not, when we hear lectures around gender roles and responsibilities in Islam, these pertain to women. In the very few instances that we hear a lecture dealing with men or male responsibility, it’s done in a way where there is criticism, but no discussion of solution. We’re really good at pointing out the problem, but not so good at dealing with it. Someone can tell me that I need to be a good son, a good husband, or a good father — but no one is telling me how to actually be these things, especially through a lens of Islam. The absence of strong, male role models in society in general, and within the Muslim community in specific, makes it that much harder for a young Muslim man to know what responsibility really means religiously. How many of us were ever taught how we’re supposed to treat women from an Islamic standpoint versus a cultural standpoint? … Read More


Day 16: Muslim Relationships

It seems like every time I open my email, I have a new message from someone unique saying that they are having a hard time finding someone to spend the rest of their life with. Different reasons seem to be holding each one down respectively, but the end result of sadness and confusion is usually the same.

How does one go about finding someone to get married to in the American Muslim community? When dating in most senses of the word is not religiously permissible, interaction across genders is difficult and awkward because of cultural norms, parents and children are not on the same page in terms of what a suitable match would be, and gender roles become blurred due to an obvious dichotomy in the way young men are raised in comparison to their female counterparts, it’s hard to find someone that makes sense for you. You run into too many Mr. and Miss Wrongs and slowly begin to think that you will never find the Mr. or Miss Right…Read More


Day 15: By the Time

A few years ago, I was talking to a friend of mine who worked at the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at NYU. It was their high holidays time and he was registering people for their main orthodox service. He commented how he didn’t realize that when he started working for a Jewish cause, it would effect his relationship with his faith — meaning he was helping to organize the service, but he wasn’t actually in the service itself…Read More


Day 14: Wrestling with Arrogance

Last night, I went to NJ for a meeting in the afternoon and to do some shopping for my wedding. It ended up getting later than I had expected so I broke my fast in NJ with my parents before come back to NYC. Our very close family friends, the Nisars, were hosting an iftar dinner that my parents were planning on attending and I went with them…Read More


Day 13: The Blessing of Solitude

Living in New York city, it’s hard to find a time when the city is asleep. I love living here for that reason — because it makes those few hours when it is asleep that much more meaningful. The tranquility of the streets of New York in the late, late, late night and early morning is really a beautiful thing to experience. The hour or so before sunrise when the sidewalks are empty, the cab drivers are still in their homes waiting for the morning rush still a few hours away, and the distractions of the world are at their weakest as the people that they prey upon have yet to venture out. You can actually hear birds chirping at times, which is a rarity in the city that never sleeps. Or at least hardly ever. That moment is amazing as your eyes, free from any distraction, soak in things that your body passed by before but never took a moment to stop and see. And it’s only for you…Read More


Day 12: Seeing Through the Eyes of the ‘Other’

Last night I tried to give some food to a homeless man after we had broken our fast following sunset. The man said thanks, but didn’t take it and continued to ask passers-by for money. I wondered to myself why a homeless person wouldn’t want free food. Was he really not homeless? Was he doing drugs? Then I realized the only person who can answer the question is him. So I asked him…Read More


Day 11: My 9/11 Story

A month from now will mark the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. I’ve been asked countless times what I plan on doing this year in commemoration. I plan on doing what I do every year — standing at Ground Zero out of respect for those that we lost that day, with those who lost on that day, even if there are people who think I shouldn’t be there…Read More


Day 10: The Many Paths to Water

A couple of days ago I wrote a post on Muslims and Marriage and in it I made mention of my fiancee, Priya. I later noticed that some readers had asked why that is her name. I suppose it’s because that’s the name her parents gave her.

Two things immediately popped into my mind: 1) Being a convert to Islam can be tough because it’s hard to deal with Muslims mostly because 2) many people too rigidly define what makes something “Islamic” based off of their subjective experiences and understandings of morals and ethics…Read More


Day 9: Forgiveness

It seems like every week I run into someone who seems to think that Islam has nothing to do with mercy, compassion and forgiveness. But the reasons for it are unfortunate. These people are not being vindictive — they just really have never heard any Muslim speak or seen any Muslim live in a way where mercy seems to be a part of Islam. Most are not taken aback my negative media imagery or headlines that are painting Islam in a negative light. But rather in day-to-day conversations, many have walked away from speaking to Muslims with the feeling that Islam is pretty devoid of any principles of Mercy. Many that I’ve spoken to have been genuinely amazed when we’ve sat down and discussed the concepts of Divine Mercy, Forgiveness, and Compassion that exist within the Islamic paradigm. Even recent converts to Islam have said to me that an initial obstacle in their path to conversion came from conversations with Muslims who made Islam seem harsh. Upon becoming Muslim and learning about Islam, they were amazed at the fact that Muslims didn’t speak more about the concept of mercy and forgiveness…Read More


Day 8: On Muslims And Marriage

Today is my fiance, Priya’s, birthday. God-willing, we will be getting married in 48 days. I am pretty nervous, but am confident in the way that I feel about her. She is an amazingly thoughtful person who gives me a renewed sense of strength and hope each day and I am lucky to be able to spend my life with her. It was about a year ago that she and I first talked about marriage but all in all our meeting each other was by chance. Every day people ask me how she and I met but they don’t want to know our “love story”. They are looking for advice on how they too can find their life partner…Read More


Day 7: Come, Come, Whoever You Are

I’ve seen so many new faces this Ramadan at our Islamic Center at NYU. In this first week I’ve met a lot of new people and reconnected with some that I haven’t seen in a really long time. You could probably call them “Ramadan Muslims”. I used to be one myself — actually, I probably couldn’t even be called that…Read More


Day 6: Love For My Mother

Living by yourself can be pretty tough, especially during Ramadan. I got home around 1am last night and found my apartment empty. Usually a friend or two stays over, but last night was the first night this Ramadan that it was just me by myself. I read a little bit, took a nap, and then woke up to eat suhoor, a pre-dawn meal that is recommended to eat before one’s fast starts for the day. It hit me pretty hard eating that meal by myself and reminded me of what Ramadan was like when I was younger… Read More


Day 5: A Prayer for Somalia

It’s shocking to me how many people have no idea what is happening in Somalia right now. Famine, drought and conflict have put almost 3.6 million people at risk of starvation. In the last month alone, 29,000 children have died and according to U.N. Under Secretary General Valerie Amos, and it is projected that up to 600,000 children may die. The Food and Agriculture Organization, also part of the U.N., stated that the famine will probably last until the end of the year and spread across most of the Southern part of Somalia in the next month or so…Read More


Day 4: The Weight of a Mistake

Last night after I broke my fast at sunset, I led members of our community at NYU in our fourth prayer of the day called Maghrib. Once the prayer was completed, or so I thought, I turned around to find everyone looking at me confused. I had made a mistake while leading the prayer… Read More


Day 3: An Unseen Sweetness

This morning a young man in my community called me up asking if he could fast today. He had a doctor’s appointment scheduled and we found out that the procedure that was going be performed on him included water going down his throat. This, unfortunately would break his fast. When I told him this he got pretty sad, but reluctantly agreed that his doctor’s advice on keeping his scheduled appointment was necessary for him to follow…Read More


Day 2: The Freedom of the Fast

It’s strongly recommended for Muslims to read the Quran on a regular basis and during the month of Ramadan it’s that much more emphasized for us to do so. In the sunni tradition, there is a prayer called taraweeh that is performed in the nights of Ramadan and is usually lead by a haafidh, someone who has memorized the Quran in its entirety in the original Arabic. The haafidh leads because most people are trying to complete an entire reading of the Quran over the course of the month during the taraweeh prayers. In the shia tradition, the taraweeh prayer is not performed but there is still a strong emphasis on reading the Quran…Read More


Day 1: Stop, Reflect, Deepen

Living in New York City, it seems that most people are too distracted to take moments to stop and reflect. So much of our day becomes routine and we stop thinking about why we do what we do – we just do. Sometimes this can be good, but most of time it can be bad. We miss out on opportunity and pass up on beauty in our mindless haste to follow our habits. The Washington Post ran a Social experiment with Joshua Bell a few years ago that very interestingly highlighted this phenomenon… Read More

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