Category Archives: Faith

Not even water

Ramadan Musings – 15 things I learned from fasting Ramadan             

Currently we are in the holy month of Ramadan.   

Before I was Muslim I never knew when Ramadan happened, let alone what it was all about. At the completion of my first Ramadan in the hot Aussie summer of 98/99, I joyfully wrote of list of about 30 amazing things I gained from that month. I don’t know what ever happened to it, it was hand scrawled on a loose sheet of A4 and contained things like “learned to cook”, but almost 2 decades later the list continues to grow.

In case you are unaware (as I once most certainly was), Ramadan is the 9th month on the lunar calendar. It begins with the sighting of a new crescent moon, and falls approximately 10 days earlier each Gregorian calendar year – so it moves through the seasons. During this month – of 29 or 30 days (dependent on the sighting of the next crescent), put simply – Muslims don’t EAT or DRINK a single thing from just before the dawn till the sun has set. No, not even water.   

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. A key that opens a door. And whilst the spiritual and heavenly benefits are extolled greatly within the Islamic scripture, here I share my own experience. 


So what is Ramadan really?

It is a month of deep reflection – detatch from the material world, contemplate the grand, the great, the eternal

It is a month of struggle, of striving, of self discipline as we endure mild and temporary discomforts, a mere glimpse of what it’s like for the less fortunate of our world

It is a month of hope – change is possible, anything is possible, knowing God presides over all things

It is a month of blessings – where we witness for ourselves internal and external amazements and bounties 

It is a month of charity – of genuine empathy and giving, giving, giving

It is a month of worship – where we stand in prayer at night, humbling ourselves before the All Mighty, acknowledging our great need of Him, in awe of His Greatness

It is a month of forgiveness – forgiving others, overlooking their faults, that the Lord of The Worlds may overlook our own

It is a month of cleansing – a chance to detox from our physical addictions and gain control over those desires which drag us down

It is a month of patience – of learning to wait quietly without complaint till you can have what you want

It is a month of deep gratitude – even just for being one who partakes in this epic month of blessings, even for a simple glass of water

It is a month of healing – without the task of constant digesting the body can divert its resources to healing and restoring itself where needed

It is a month of connection – with 1.6 Billion other people who are doing the same thing, following in the footsteps of the Prophets, and those who believed before us

It is a month spirituality – rejuvenating the soul, deepening ones belief, strengthening ones connection to The Creator of the Universe 

It is a month of peace – where the heart and the soul finds deep contentment, stillness, just being, just worshipping, just reflecting, just connecting, to God

It’s a month of striving – to try to become a better version of yourself.

It is so more than a month of just ‘fasting’.     

May it’s fragrance gently brush by you, 

May it’s sweet dust fall on your weary shoulders, 
May it’s bounty enrich your life, 

May it’s contentment touch your heart, 

May it’s peace reach your soul.   

Ameen.

Love & Peace.   

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Automatic

Wearing a hijab with a non-Middle Eastern face incurs it’s fair share of stares.  Confused passers-by,  shop assistants,  co-workers – some can be initially at a loss to compute what seems like your average western woman wrapped in foreign fabric.

I came across this post:  a hijab wearing woman’s take down when a man tells her she shouldn’t be driving (link also below),  because she’s a Muslim, and in Saudi, women don’t drive.  She responded with a #shutdown history lesson  bringing his ignorance of the wider world and it’s religions to the forefront.

But what is interesting to me about this post is that it highlights the fact that the average person automatically associates All Things Islam with Saudi Arabia.  

Yes Islam originated there, but Christianity also hails from the Middle East.  Yes Makkah & Madinah are holy cities, but I am pretty sure a lot of people all over the world would consider Bethlehem and Jerusalem holy cities too.
For everyone who believes in & loves Jesus (peace be upon him),  which includes every Muslim ever – Islam being the only other major world religion that makes it a Pillar of Faith to believe in and love Jesus –  was he not also a young Middle Eastern man?  Yet how many people automatically associate Christianity mainly with people of middle eastern heritage?

Saudi Arabia has a population of 28 million, whilst Muslims worldwide number 1.6 billion, so Saudi nationals make up less than a tenth of one percent of the Muslim world. (Assuming I got my zeros correct!)


Why this post reverberates with me is because I can see the confusion behind the quizzical expressions in response to coming across such an apparent anomaly.   Sometimes a conversation is struck and I tell them I converted to Islam.  After responding ‘no’ to the next statement-question  (“Oh so you married an Arab”)  I can see them now wondering “why would you want to be (like a) Saudi Arabian ?”,  when the truth is I no more identify with Saudi culture than I do with that of the Eskimoes.

However I don’t blame people for their lack of understanding.   I try to be patient and friendly when explaining myself for the umpteenth time (especially with the elderly for whom I have a soft spot).   Afterall, most of us automatically live our lives in our little local bubbles,  automatically adhering to the standard preset milestones of our culture, which doesn’t usually include a good bout of soul searching (let alone changing ones religion) , though most people experience some kind of universe-questioning events in life  at some point anyway.

We may close our minds and automatically take on media fed stereotypical concept of Islam and Muslims.   But now that we can drive down the information superhighway,  we can change directions, take new paths, read the signs.  It doesn’t hurt to slow down, put ourselves in manual for a while, look at lifes map, contemplate the journey.

Islam is the simple, timeless call to the worship of One Unique Almighty God.

It is an open invitation to every human being ever born, that began with Prophet Adam in the year dot and will continue till the end of time, reaching every corner of the earth.

It’s adherants are as diverse as all humanity.

I’m so glad we have the internet now to just put that out there, especially as western women constitute one of the largest group of converts to the faith.  Perhaps oneday soon people will see a non Middle Eastern Hijabi and think ‘oh she converted to Islam’.  Automatically.

Muslim Woman’s Response to Man who tells her she shouldn’t be driving.  https://www.indy100.com/article/muslim-woman-perfectly-shuts-down-bigot-who-asked-her-why-she-was-driving-7309101

Ramadan: 10 things I’ve gained this month (& its definitely not kilos)

With the completion of Ramadan last week, I’ve listed 10 things I’ve gained from fasting this year. I hope you enjoy my little insights!

1.  We are stronger than we think we are – one cannot only go day after day without food and drink (during the daylight hours) for an entire month but you can actually thrive and have energy under these circumstances

2.  We need much less than we think we need

3.  Ramadan can be very productive – I have done most of my year end procedures at work (accounting) on an empty stomach. Without coffee breaks, lunch breaks and the subsequent toilet breaks, one can plough through the day’s tasks

4.  Whilst most days in Ramadan are mostly about patience – having to wait to have what you want – some days ARE tough. Somedays you just are really tired and really hungry. And you just have to get through it.

5. Naps are awesome. (But I’ve always known that).

6.  Cooking and food preparation CAN be very pleasurable! (I do like cooking in Ramadan)

7.  Getting up before sunrise to have breakfast is not really that difficult but I will never love it

8. In a society based on instant gratification, the regular feeling of an empty stomach is almost profound

9.  Prayer is one of life’s essentials. I just don’t know how atheists do it.

10.  Ramadan is a bit of a marathon, with highs and lows. Even though it can be tough, I am grateful for it & would hate to miss out on it. As we know, days turn into weeks, weeks into months, months into years and our life whizzes by. How good to have a pause button, a reset button, a stop and think and pray and contemplate button. Alhamdullillah (Thanks be to God).

Whoever you are, wherever you are, no matter what you believe, I wish you all much peace, blessings and happiness in your life 💙 I pray that every human on this earth has at least food, shelter and love 💗

CrescentMoonOcean

Hijab Cool on Hot Days

How to stay cool in the Aussie summer in hijab!      

With the mercury set to hit 40C  (104F)  in Sydney today,  and 42C out west, where most Sydney hijabi’s live,  and seeing the title of this blog pertains to temperature,  its only right to include tips on keeping cool in hijab.  Don’t miss Number 5 – my secret weapon against the heat.

1.  The Maxi Dress

Fortunately its not just the 70s that love these things.  Earlier this century Maxis made a comeback and due to their supreme coolness and comfort I am pretty sure they are here to stay.   Long, loose, flowing, breezy.  You can’t beat them for staying cool and covered. Spaghetti straps are especially good.    I love this Chloe Trapeze Maxi in INK from Sportsgirl,  its very light weight, completely opaque.

Screenshot 2014-11-23 08.35.29

Fabulous Maxi dresses from Sportsgirl.com.au from $99.95

2.   Cotton wide leg or harem pants

Keeping cool and modest, underneath your maxi go for  light weight loose cotton pants.  Cotton absorbs sweat, prevents possible chaffing and maintains total coverage.  Fortunately harem pants are everywhere at the moment.   SES Fashions were doing really light harem pants in a multitude of colours  for around $10 not so long ago (which we all know is in fact a long time in the fashion world).   Wide leg pants not so easy to find at the moment (unless you go for some PJ pants lol) but if you’re handy with a sewing machine you can whip them up in half an hour.  Whilst you will find pants in a wide range of fabrics, I really do recommend sticking with 100% light weight cotton.

Lounge pant from glassons.com $49.95

Pants from Glassons.com

3.  Light Cotton Shirt or Cardigan

Stick with the 3 L’s when choosing your sleeved garment – Long, Loose, Lightweight.  Tempt and Valley Girl in Australia usually have cotton shirts in a multitude of colours,  or try this batwing style from Glassons.com

Batwing cardigan from Glassons.com $29.95

Batwing cardigan from Glassons.com $29.95

4.   Chiffon or Soft Polyester Hijab

Hijabs in chiffon are barely there,  or you could choose soft polyester as shown below in this one from Hijab House.  (I don’t recommend tying it in a big bow around your neck though, go for more straight forward pinning).

http://hijabhouseonline.com.au/beige-plain-hijab.html

Beige Hijab from Hijab House Online $19.95

5.   The Wet Headband

This is it folks.  Be cooler than non-hijabis on the hottest of hot days.  Simply dunk your headband under a nice cold tap,  ring out most of the water and put on before heading out into the sunshine.  The great thing about this is thats it portable – that is – you can refresh (re-wet) your headband on the go, just pop into any ladies room whilst out and about.

I’m not sure how this goes with pre-sewn headbands or caps,  but I work this tip with headband strips which I make myself because I find caps and pre made headbands too loose.

DIY Headband strips –  All you need is a piece of fabric and pair of scissors.

Buy stretch poly cotton off the the roll.   You only need 20cm for 2 headbands.  (Most shops will sell you this and it will only cost a dollar or two).

Try Spotlight, Lincraft,  or that charming little Asian shop in Chester Hill on Waldron Road down near the corner of Campbell Hill Road.  (The lady always gives Salams, and she’s not Muslims, God bless her!)

Taking your 0.2 metres of fabric, fold in half length ways then cut.  Now you have 2 strip headbands.   No sewing required.  With these homemade strips you can control the tightness of the head band around you head.  The wetted knot on the back of your neck will also deliver continual coolness!

A collection of DIY headband strips.  Worn wet  or damp will keep you cool on a very hot day

A collection of DIY headband strips. Worn wet or damp will keep you cool on a very hot day

6.  A breath of Fresh Air

This is a tip for every girl, hijab or no hijab.  Keep this handy Lush toner water in your handbag and spritz your face for ‘a breath of fresh air’.  Divinely refreshing and lightly fragranced with aloe, rosemary and rose.

Keep a small one in your handbag for on the go spritzing

Keep a small one in your handbag for on-the-go spritzing

7.  The Coolness of Iman

Let us not forget the coolness of faith (Iman) that comes with being Muslim.   Inner peace through submission to the Creator of the universe and all that exists,  daily prayer, giving all your worries and griefs to God helps keep you cool as a cucumber on any day.

FROM http://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2014/03/125982/please-forgive-me-poem/

At peace with yourself, the universe, God

Have a great day no matter what you wear!   Peace.

http://scanfree.org/how-to-wear-hijab-with-hat/

Large floppy straw hats are a stylish way to keep the sun off your face

Conscious Choices

Its a known fact that many westerners are ditching the teachings of mainstream Christianity and exploring other belief systems, such as eastern philosophies, or rejecting religion outright denying the existence of a God, or doing something that would seem even more shocking and rebelious, alarming even, and
converting to Islam.

Family reactions to declarations of belief in ‘the One True God’ vary as much as the converts themselves. Whilst many parents and siblings reluctantly accept the choice of their brethren, possibly hoping it’s ‘a phase’, some converts find themselves ousted from their family. Some even receive support, or respect at least.  But the word that is thought or whispered, that resonates with those left feeling stunned by these choices, is ‘brainwashed’.

Oh My God. She’s a Muslim. She’s must have been somehow brainwashed.

Now here’s the thing. From the day we are born, our parents bring us up, and for most of us that is done lovingly and with the best of intention, (for which we all should be immensely grateful, I know I am), imbibing in us the beliefs and values their parents taught them. Their parents in turn imbibed in them their own beliefs & values and it goes back, and it goes forth, and you have a belief system passed down from one generation to another, on the simple fact that ‘that’s what my parents believed’. Except for the orignator of the belief, did anyone conciously choose this course? And by that I mean – did they actually rationally examine other belief systems in the world and make a choice based on intelligence & merit, rather than comfort, convenience and familiarity?

ROASTING CHICKEN QUESTIONED

Here’s a story about roasting chooks. A man was in the kitchen, watching his wife cook dinner. She took the whole chicken, broke it up into pieces, cooked half in a batch, took it out of the oven when done, then cooked the other half. Slightly perplexed at this double time procedure, he asked his wife – “Why do you cook chicken that way?” “Because thats how my mother did it” she replied. So he went to his mother-in-law and asked her how she cooked chicken, the mother-in-law describing the same method he witnessed at home. When he asked her why she cooked it like this, he got the same reply, ‘Because thats how my mother cooked it’. Fortunately the wifes grandmother was still around, so he went to her grandmother and heard her describe the same method of cooking chicken. When asked why she replied ‘Because thats the only way I could fit it in our tiny oven back then’.

Embed from Getty ImagesThe same could be said for our belief systems. Why do we cook chicken the way we do? Why do we believe what we believe. Who reading this has ever earnestly asked why? (the belief bit not the chicken 😉

The fact of the matter is that people who convert to Islam usually do so after daring to question that which was imbibed. They read, they seek, they think, they contemplate. They read the Bible. They have questions. They seek answers. They explore other beliefs. The read up on them. They read the Quran. (The actual book itself, not the misquotes so often published in the media). They make a choiced based on common sense, based on God given intelligent thinking. Based on research. Based on soul search. Indeed this is the opposite of brainwashed.

WOOD CARVINGS QUESTIONED

The Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim) (peace be upon him) was the son of an idol maker, born into a society steeped in idol worship. Abraham asked how they could worship as Gods that which they made with their own hands, that which could neither harm nor help them. Sentenced to death, but instead later banished for his daring freethinking, we could all do to take a leaf out of Abrahams book, who as we know became one of the great Prophets revered in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. (In fact Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) named his son (who died an infant) after him).

Fortunately for those of us who seek answers, any enlightenment would not end in the harsh punishments endured by Abraham (pbuh).  But maybe a few whispers of ‘brainwashed’.  Oh the irony!

“Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3, Bible   

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