Category Archives: Religion

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.   

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

The 1st of Apprehension

Sydney, Australia, is a pretty safe place to live. Australia, in general, is laid back. Crime exists, but it’s not rampant. There’s no gun culture. It has it’s racist edge, no doubt, but that’s not typically translated into violence. It’s hard to incur aggression when your speech cheerily suffixes everyday chatter in “o”. We get petrol from the servo, visit relo’s in the arvo, donate to the salvos, agree with righteeoe, and wave off with a cheerio.  

I dunno, perhaps this is only my perception and there are others who could tell a completely different story.

In decent areas, educated citizens see through and ignore media fear mongering, preferring to get on with life rather than live with irrational fear. In less than ideal burbs, even if you’re not liked, you probably still feel safe enough. In most places, most people can walk down most streets most of the time without a whisper of hinderance. Well, this has been my experience.

From my late teens I regularly used the Sydney train system. (Cityrail, as it was known then). Irk was limited to the occasional drunkard (late night or early weekend mornings) or a bunch of rowdy teens hurling insults at commuters, on a silly high with their first taste of obviously premature independence. This for me was pre-hijab years, for the world pre 9-11.   

In the mid eighties I was doing a course near Central Station that ended at 11pm, and breezily caught the half-full train the hours journey home alone on Monday nights. After a few weeks I noticed a weirdo had begun following me, so after alighting at my home stop I scurried forward to walk beside an older looking guy in a long dark duffle coat, giving the appearance I knew him, which immediately deterred the follower. (Nowadays I would not be keen to take public transport alone late a night). 

That would pretty much sum up my 3 decades of sometimes regular sometimes sporadic train life in Sydney, Australia.  
Ahh… but the times, they are a’changin….
Now we have viral videos featuring racist rants against quietly shocked veiled women and immigrant men, and despite the subsequent much appreciated “I’ll ride with you” type support on social media, my feeds still catch glimpses of the ever simmering hate. “Bloody Muzzies!” write my fellow compatriots underneath misleading memes. (Yes, they shorten the word Muslim here too). “Islamic terrorists” we are called. “Go back to where you came from” a frequent phrase they say. Those are just the niceties.  

Whilst I appreciate how a sunburnt suburban existence with a bottle-o haphazardly on every corner and The Daily Telegraph a persons only reading material could so easily limit one’s world view, the increasing nastiness, along with despicable world events and the resultant overloaded media coverage, combined with right wing government rhetoric, had me feeling a slight unease. So when I had to take the train to a business meeting in the city shortly after the recent Paris attacks, I felt my first real wave of apprehension.

Waiting for the train I stood near a pole on the centre of the platform, near the top of the stairs. I waited till the train had stopped on the platform before moving toward it. I wondered how many fellow hijabis felt the same, and for how long? In a gesture of friendliness I smiled softly at strangers whose eyes caught mine, something I’d do anyway, especially children and and old people.

I was not feeling greatly fearful in anyway, just somewhat cautious. Of course, no one seemed to give this travelling hijabi a second glance and I travelled to and fro in the safety I always have. But what was significant to me was that my thought processes had changed, my feelings of safety were questioned, apprehension had finally reached me.

Maybe it was a little late, compared to others. Maybe other minorities live like this daily? Maybe I live in a bubble? Maybe it was was as totally unfounded as it ultimately turned out to be. I would like to think the latter, but I know the guise of the laid back Aussie has never been all we like to think it to be. Indigenous Australia can testify to that.

You would assume that in a land abundant in sunshine, sea, space, sand, surf, bush, blue skies, BBQs, beaches and beauty, racism and wouldn’t stand a chance in the long run. The place is just to chill, and, after all, there is plenty to go around as our national anthem clearly states – “For those who’ve come across the seas we’ve boundless plains to share”. You would think. And hope. And pray.   

So as we enter a new solar calendar year, may we find common sense prevailing as we negotiate these new and troubled times. May those living in fear find safety and security, and those living in ignorance find the light.

Cheerio, and happy 2016.

  

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’.

The 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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Is hijab oppressive?

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Every so often we have Burqa/Hijab/Veil comments quoted in the newspaper or one of those today tonight a current affair shows. They do the social media rounds, attracting comments amongst Muslims, supporters and detractors alike. Everyone is of course entitled to their opinions and feelings, especially since these things are often emotional and not entirely voluntary, at least at the outset.

So I offer this piece in peace, for the non Muslim anti Burqa reader 🙂

Enjoy!

“The Islamic Veil”

I understand how you could conceive an attire your eyes are not accustomed to seeing day-in day-out as confronting, and how, in the free and open society we live in your initial impression would be to conclude this dress code oppressive. But as a very happy, proud and content Muslim woman, I would like to invite you to a little deeper reflection.

To set the framework of the mindset of the wearer of a burqa, or hijab, or veil, you should first understand a little bit about Islam. Islam is the belief in One God, One Almighty unique creator to whom we shall all return. This God, Allah (literally, “The God”) is the same God worshipped by all the Prophets sent to mankind, including, but not limited to, Adam, Moses, Noah, Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad, peace be upon them. All great men in history to whom no other man in our modern times could ever hope to match.

Muslims believe this God has set down a handful of commands for those amongst mankind who wish to worship Him. Being from God, these commands are superior than anything we could put together for ourselves. They serve to establish just, peaceful, tolerant, respectful, safe, nurturing and happy societies and to deter crime and oppression.

I should note at this point that adhering to the this religion is a personal choice, as stated by the religion itself – “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” (Quran 2:256)

So for the half a billion or so Muslim women worldwide, wearing hijab or burqa or whatever name you choose to apply to a loose fitting garment & head covering that conceals ones shape and beauty from the view of the general public, is simply the fulfilment of one of those few commands, obedience to the One who created the universe and all that it contains. Obviously I don’t know your religious beliefs, if any. I invite you to read an English translation of the Holy Quran one day and maybe find out a little more about Islam.

To the wearer of a piece of flimsy fabric draped over her head, this is a blessing from God, a great freedom. Us Muslim women are free to go about out business everyday; without being ogled, judged, compared or wolf whistled at (well… hey with the exception of a bit of unfortunate racism that may on occasion be encountered).

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Contrast this with modern western woman, and the constant pressure she has to look good, the discomfort many feel of wearing the equivalent of underwear in front of complete strangers (swimwear) which society forces upon us from a young age, our innate modesty now deemed prude, the need for her to “dress sexy” and compete with other women in the genuine human search for a mate, to be judged on appearance more than ability, to the Muslim woman – this is the real oppression.

We only need to see the great increase in ‘diseases’ that afflict some – anorexia and bulimia – that destroy lives and even cause death – diseases that were much less heard of when society held to more conservative dress codes. We also see and hear of many teenagers and young women nowadays suffering low self esteem, comparing themselves to the airbrushed women fronting the endless glossies and images of barely dressed females at every turn. And consider the case of those who have become so dissatisfied with their physique that they are willing to part with great sums of money to have themselves surgically “enhanced”. The beauty of women is a potent force and when set rampant upon society has not yet proved to bring great peace and harmony to our hearts and minds.

You may also wish to place your thoughts of the Burqa against the backdrop of history and of other women whom you will be more accustomed to seeing veiled. Let’s consider – was Mary the mother of Jesus oppressed? Do you consider Mother Theresa was oppressed? Are all Nuns oppressed too? Is a society filled with miniskirts and cleavage really a great freedom we should all be proud of?

At a time when rape is a daily occurrence, the hijab says ‘don’t even think about it’.
At a time when every one knows of someone who has cheated on their spouse, the hijab says ‘not with me’.
At a time when 12 year olds are starving themselves, the hijab says ‘my weight is none of your business’
At a time when women compete ardently with each other to shock and expose, the hijab says “I won’t be compared”
At time when many girls long to “be famous/a model”, the hijab says ‘l use my brain, not my body’.
At a time where society is reaching new lows of morality, the hijab says “I still believe in God”.

Beautiful, precious things in this world are concealed. Diamonds lay hidden deep within the earth, pearls in guarded shells at the bottom of the sea, we keep our valuables in safes, life giving fruits are protected in their skins.

All women in all societies should be respected, treasured and protected (regardless of their faith). The garments ordained by the One who created us serves this purpose so beautifully in an way that no bikini ever could.

So I invite you to contemplate the dress of the Muslim women, I hope you can see just a little of its light.

Peace
🙂

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