Articles

2012 Autumn Edition of IWA Magazine

ISNA by Saba Negash

A customer at the IWA booth

IWA had the opportunity to attend the Islamic Society of North America’s (ISNA) annual conference this year. We showcased many member authors at our booth for the entire time. Four IWA members donated their time and effort to man the booth for the whole of the conference, sisters Nayma Kose and her daughter, Sufiya Ahmad, Saba Negash and Freda Crane. IWA extends its gratitude to them and to sister Pamela who accepted the books and stored them in her home until the conference and to Sister Freda’s son who transported the books to Washington DC.

My personal experience at the conference was one of awe. It was my first time attending an ISNA conference and also my first time sitting at a booth. Despite being situated at the back of the bazaar, those who did make it to the IWA booth really enjoyed looking at the books and thumbing through them. Many expressed gratitude that such an organization existed to promote good Islamic fiction. There were even a few who showed an interest in IWA itself, including beginner writers and a published author.

As wonderful an experience it was, I felt a bit overwhelmed at times. There were so many great lectures and workshops to choose from, many of them all at the same time. It was so hard to choose which ones to attend. But there was one workshop I was NOT going to miss, the Meet the Author session with children’s book authors Asim Hussain, Mohamed Abdel-Kader, Sam’n Iqbal and IWA member, sister Freda!

IWA member Freda Crane who moderated the Meet the Author section for children’s book authors

It was a very enlightening session as someone who still considers herself very new to publishing. Each had a unique story to tell about how their book came about. They talked about the different types of publishing, traditional versus self-published.

The author panel (from left to right: Asim Hussain author of Khadijah Goes to School, Mohamed Abdel-Kader author of What Does a Muslim Look Like?, Sam’n Iqbal author of Allah to Z: An Islamic Alphabet Book and Freda Crane author of Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs: A Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents)

At the end of the session, they signed books and stayed patiently talking to the audience, answering question and giving encouraging comments. I left the session truly inspired and ready to sit down at my desk to write and tell my story!

Photo credits: Saba Negash

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The Islamic Roots of Wealth and Charity by Nur Kose

The Zakat Foundation of America cosponsored the UFC’s 4th Annual Conference: United Against Poverty in Stamford, Connecticut on September 29, 2012.  Great speakers spoke about topics ranging from poverty of the soul to helping solve poverty at home in the USA.  Below is what Zakat Foundation volunteer, Nur Kose, learned from Sheikh Yasir Qadhi’s lecture at the conference.

Some people might say that Zakat is not that important – at least not as important as the other five pillars of Islam.  After all, the order to give zakat was revealed in Madinah, many years after the first revelation.  However, the concept of charity came very early on and the Prophet (S) was encouraging the companions to be generous even before they migrated to Madinah.  Allah revealed many ayahs about charity, too, in Mecca.

Zakat, fasting, and even Salah were not obligatory yet, but Allah revealed an ayah talking about people who give to others who have less than them, even if the givers don’t have much themselves.

Then, Sh. Yasir Qadhi went into a tangent, which I really enjoyed, about the Qur’anic terminology used for money and charity.

The Arabic term for gold is dhahab. (And, by the way, he also mentioned that the word ‘gold’ in English comes from the ancient Gothic word for ‘dull yellow’). The word dhahab (gold) actually comes from the Arabic verb dhahaba which means ‘to go away’.  Sh. Yasir Qadhi explained that the very nature of gold is that it comes and goes away.  Sometimes it just goes away without you noticing.  Some people might spend so much money and they don’t realize how much they are spending.  Gold is also not meant to stay with us; we are encouraged to give away our money as charity.

The word for silver in Arabic is ‘fiddhaw’.  It comes from the Arabic verb ‘infaddhaw’ which means ‘to break up and disperse’.  And money does break up and disperse.

The word ‘maal’ in Arabic is used for ‘money’.  One of its roots is ‘maala’ which means ‘to lean towards’.  The significance of this is that the heart leans toward money.  People tend to love money and the Arabs understood that.  This is opposed to the English word ‘wealth’ which comes from the same root as the word ‘well-being’ and ‘well’.  That’s why wealth is considered as something to make people happy – to give well-being.

These words were not in use in the language of Arabic before Allah revealed them in the Qur’an.  As Sh. Yasir said, Allah invented these Arabic words for money by revealing them in the Qur’an.

The words Allah used for charity were also not there before.  One of the most common words for charity, for example, is ‘sadaqah’.  One of its roots is the verb ‘sadaqa’ (the letters saw, da, and qaw). ‘Sadaqa’ means ‘to speak the truth’ or ‘to be sincere’.  By using this word for charity, Allah shows that giving charity is a way for us to show sincerity.

The other common word for charity is ‘zakaah’.  One of its roots is ‘zakkaa’ which means ‘to purify’.  Basically, this shows that, when we give for the sake of Allah, we are purifying our health and wealth.

Sh. Yasir mentioned some more things about zakat.  For example, Allah clearly describes the 8 specific groups of people who are eligible to receive zakat.  One of these is the group of people who are active in collecting and distributing zakat.  This is how Allah makes the zakat system self-sufficient.

He also mentioned that many people think that zakat and charity are meant to be given to people far away, but charity actually starts at home.  The Prophet (S) said that someone who goes to bed full while his/her neighbor has an empty stomach is not a true believer. So, we should help those near us as well as those far away from us.

Another important thing he said is that we are more in need of Allah accepting our charity than a beggar is in need of our charity.  So our intentions are very important in giving charity.

The Zakat Foundation asks Allah SWT to accept all that they do.  For it is through your donations and His Mercy and Grace that they are able to help others in the most impoverished parts of the world.

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A Wife’s Right to an Honorable Life in Islam by Abdu Mojahed

As a matter of fact, God created man and let him know how to be happy in this world and the Hereafter through a package of useful commandments and teachings communicated by religion. To ensure man’s well-being and welfare, God imposes obligations on the group within which man lives so that the other group members should work for his prosperity and happiness. Thus, within each human group, members have mutual commitments to make one other happy.

As the human effort to bring about well-being varies from a stronger human being to a weaker one, with the stronger more capable of guaranteeing such well-being, stronger members shoulder greater responsibility for the well-being of the other weaker members.

One of the most basic human groups is family within which each member, especially the stronger, should endeavor to make other members happy. Parents seek to ensure the welfare of their children in their infancy as the weaker members of the family. God says: “And the man for whom the child is born is responsible for both their provisions and clothing equitably,” (2:233)

In Islam, the father assumes the responsibility for the well-being of the rest of the family members, given the superior mental and physical powers he is blessed with. Towards the mother as well as the children, the father has duties as prescribed by Islam. In particular, the mother has rights over her husband ranging from material entitlements to moral rights.

God says in the Qur’an: “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because God has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means.” (4:34)

In Islam, the mother’s material entitlements are mainly outlay and housing. In fact, God created each human being to play a certain role in this universe and provided each human being with the abilities and faculties he needs to perfectly do his job, be it worldly or otherworldly.

God also says: “House the women where you live, according to your means; but do not harass them so as to reduce them to straitened circumstances. If they are pregnant, then spend on them until they give birth to the child. And if they suckle the child for you, then make the due payment to them, and consult each other appropriately.” (65:6)

Therefore, Islam holds the father responsible for supporting his family, and does not obligate the mother to work outside her home unless she does willingly. It is not her original job, nor is she naturally created for that. Instead, she has another job to do at home as a wife and a mother. For this job, she is entitled to pay from her husband in the form of outlay. Thus, he does not oblige her by spending on her. This is her right and that is her remuneration as a partner working at home.

Both the father and the mother are under a mutual obligation to complement each other. Each one has to provide the other with the things he/she lacks so that he/she may be happy in this world and the hereafter.

The man has the physical power that enables him to construct the earth. So he uses such power to earn his living and that of his wife, children and anybody else he may support. This is his duty as such a member of family who is gifted with physical power.

Prophet Muhammad said: “A dinar that you spend on your family, a dinar that you spend on a poor person and a dinar that you spend in the sake of Allah. The one that carries the most reward is the one that you spend on your family.” (Recorded by Muslim)

As for the mother’s moral rights in Islam, they can be summed up in giving her kind treatment, tolerating her slips and faults, ensuring that she leads a comfortable existence and that kind treatment is given to her either by the other members of the family or the wider society and assisting her with the familial duties.

About the good treatment for the wife and tolerating her slips and faults, God says in the Qur’an: “And live with them in kindness. For if you dislike them – perhaps you dislike a thing and Allah makes therein much good.” (4:19) Prophet Muhammad said: “The best of you are the best to their families, and I am the best to my family.” (Recorded by Al-Tirmidhy) He also said: “Treat women well…,” (Recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim) and “A believer must not hate a believing woman (his wife); if he dislikes one of her characteristics he will be pleased with another.” (Recorded by Muslim)

As for the wife’s comfort, the husband should allow his wife comfort and amusement. ‘Aishah, the Mother of the Believers, reported: “By Allah, I remember the Messenger of Allah standing at the door of my chamber screening me with his mantle enabling me to see the sport of the Abyssinians as they played with their daggers in the mosque of the Messenger of Allah. He (the Prophet) kept standing for my sake till I was satiated and then I went back; and thus you can well imagine how long a girl tender of age who is fond of sports (could have watched it).” (Recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

‘Aishah also reported that Abu Bakr came to her and there were with her two girls on Adha days who were singing and beating the tambourine and the Messenger of Allah had wrapped himself with his mantle. Abu Bakr scolded them. The Messenger of Allah uncovered (his face) and said: “O Abu Bakr, leave them alone for these are the days of ‘Id (feast).” (Recorded by Muslim)

Prophet Muhammad is reported to have said: “Anything in which there is no remembrance of Allah, Almighty, is but (idle) diversion and play, except for four, including one’s playing with his wife.” (Recorded by Al-Nasa’i)

As for the father’s role in ensuring kind treatment for the mother by the rest of the family members and members of the wider society, he should show respect for her so that others will respect her also. He should not insult or abuse her, especially in front of others, who will respect her only if he himself respects her.

Mu`awiyah bin Haidah reported: I asked Messenger of Allah: “What right can any wife demand of her husband?” He replied, “You should give her food when you eat, clothe her when you clothe yourself, not slap her on the face, and do not revile her or part with her except in the same house.” (Recorded by Ibn Majah and Abu Dawud)

The Prophet said: “Let none of you lash his wife in the same way as he lashes a slave and then comes to sleep with her at the end of the day.” ‘Aishah reported: “The Messenger of Allah never beat a servant or a woman (of his wives).” (Recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)

As for the father’s assistance with the familial duties, he should help the mother as far as possible for she cannot do them alone. In addition, he should show empathy and pity.

A man asked ‘Aishah “What did The Prophet do at home?” ‘Aishah said: “He kept busy with housework. He patched his clothes, swept the house, milked the animals, and bought supplies for the house from the market. If his shoes were torn, he mended them himself. He tied the rope to the water bucket. He secured the camel, fed it and ground the flour with the slave.” (See Safinat Al-Bihar)

Al-Aswad reported: “I asked ‘Aishah what did the Prophet use to do at home. She replied: ‘He used to keep himself busy serving his family and when it was time for the prayer, he would get up for prayer.'” (Recorded by Al-Bukhari)

How excellent an example the prophet (S) still is for mankind today, mashallah.

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2012 Summer Edition of IWA Magazine

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Ramadan, Summer & Your Teen – Mahasin D. Shamsid-Deen

Alhumdulillah, Ramadan in summer means your children, tweens and teens have a lot of time on their hands.   What a wonderful time to strengthen family times, enhance friendship and grow in Iman and Mercy.

When dealing with out of school adolescents and teenagers for the month, the key is to have a balance in their lives.  Ramadan is not a month to sleep away, nor is it a month to party away. Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed!  Make the month of Ramadan a Quranic event for your children, tweens and teens!  After all the Holy Quran was first revealed during the summer – thus the ‘burning’ of the month is more than just in our stomachs.

First – Use the table wisely!  During Ramadan, families gather at that table for suhoor iftar and dinner.  This gathering allows for parents to teach and pass values on to their children in a receptive environment.  During the summer months there is more time to prepare for these meal times for working parents, thus there is more time to  – TALK!  Talk to your teens and most importantly let your Teen talk to you!

    • At the beginning of the month let the Teens or older children tell the story of when revelation was received.  Let them reflect on the story and  discuss it.   Resist the urge to cut in with your own story or  ‘correct’ them.  If your children don’t know this, then give them access to a book the first day of Ramadan and let them read it –  then discuss.
    • Challenge your teens to read a juz of the Holy Quran each day  (after all it is broken down into 30 to do so).  Let your younger children learn a new Surah for the week.  Let every step be a Victory.  If your young teen only gets through a  part of a juz don’t reprimand, but congratulate that your child is       reading Al-Quran.  Encourage them to try to read the Quran for themselves and not just listen to congregational  recitation at the Masjid during taraweh prayers.
    • Discuss the Tafsir of the Juz read each day at the  table.
    • Discuss the stories of the prophets in the Quran  and then let the children discuss how this applies to their own life in modern times.
    • Discuss ‘issues’ that teens  may have at this time.  This may  include Islamic standards of modesty in dress or behavior, hudood – limits, responsibility       and rights of adolescents.  Use the  time to actually foster a healthy understanding of their “Muslim” self  instead of their ‘cultural identity’.
    • Have a night of Quranic  recitation led by the children themselves.  If your night activities are short do  the Quranic reading and recitation between Asr and Magrib.
    • Listen to  your children’s recitations,   Children learn from parents what to       do, not just what we say to them.  Our interest in the Holy Quran as  a parent will help increase their interest.

Not all teen are open to ‘talking’ and not all households have fostered an environment where talking at the table is conducive.  However, there are still ways to engage your teen in activities that make the day not only productive, but fun.

  • At the beginning of the month – Talk about what you want to  do.  Make a calendar and list  of activities for your family.  This may include invitations given or received to iftars, Masjid  programs, halaqahs, taleems, masjid potlucks, community activities etc.
  • Take your teen to sight the  moon at the beginning and end of the month.
  • TALK to  other parents of Teens about their plans.  This is important because Ramadan allows  for the increased social interaction between Muslims.  Invite them to be a part of your or ask if your teen can be a part of theirs.
  • Take your  teens to taraweh prayers at the masjid – especially during the middle of   the week.  If your  teen drives then let him/her pick up other teens and take them.  If your work schedule makes mid-week masjid attendance too physically taxing – then car pool with another  parent.
  • Encourage your teens to keep a Ramadan journal.   They may even want to save it for future years to see how they feel each year, how they do or even share with their own children.
  • Don’t let your teen sleep the day away.  Instead, if not in school and not working      – let the teen volunteer at a homeless shelter, Goodwill, Food Bank, hospital, nursing home or  library.  If you can’t find anything formal– have them clean the masjid or the home of a senior citizen or sick Muslim.  If all else fails let them go to a playground or park and pick up trash or recyclable items as a community service.
  • If your teen likes arts and crafts, let them help younger brothers and sisters or children from other families make Eid cards, iftar invitation, decorations for home or  masjid.  This can be an afternoon activity one or two days a week throughout the month.
  • Let your teen finish projects around house as a form of sadaqah.  They may also start a project like  making a scrap book or cleaning/decorating their room.  The key is to have something that they  can do during the day
  • Pair your  teen with a senior citizen, ill/handicapped or new Muslim.  Then let your teen be responsible for visiting or having iftar, dinner, reading Quran to them or discussing  Al-Islam with this person once a week. Your teen can prepare and take the food to their house.
  • Let your teenagers not only shop for the foods you will have for iftar and dinners, but prepare them as well.
  • Let the teens plan and have their own iftar and dinner with other teens.  Follow this up with a Youth halaqah or taleem.  The teens can all read/recite a juz of  Al-Quran together before breaking fast, then have iftar, their meal and taraweh prayers in congregation.
  • Encourage your teens to make  Itikaaf.  In Shari’ah this means  to engage in retreat in the Masjid and stay there with the intention of  seeking nearness to Allah.  This is for both the boys and girls as the wives and companions of Rasullah (SAW) observed Itikaaf both in his lifetime and after.  It is a time for spiritual reflection  and teens to can engage in worship and study to increase their Iman and understanding.
  • Get input from your teens about what they would like to do to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr.  Some places have community events that are geared towards the young ones, but the teens should have a voice of  what interests them.  After doing so  – let THEM begin the process of organizing their OWN celebratory activities

Pray – make du’a for your teens.  A Muslim teen with Taqwa is surely a Mercy and Blessing from Allah, The Most High.

Quran & Ramadan – Balqees Mohammed

If you purchase any kind of a machine or electronic gadget or otherwise, it normally comes accompanied by a guidance manual which gives information of how to contact the manufacturer in addition to an explicative detail of the components of the merchandise, as well as, of course, directions on how to best operate it. Sometimes included in the owner’s manual and operation guide is a section on treatment measures for predicted problems that occur. This procedure of associating an owner’s manual or operational/set-up/maintenance directives is not exclusively for machinery or technical merchandise, but applies as well to even the simplest of merchandise.

Although of a much higher level, still brought down to earthly and comprehensible terms, one could say that the Quran is of comparable nature. Allah, in His supremacy as Creator and Sustainer of all things, and in His everlasting Mercy to all of His creation has given us a similar manual for our presence here on this earth. Within the pages of His Book one can find details of the creation, not only of the surrounding nature of this world, but of the complex nature of mankind as well, accompanied by interestingly insightful guidance as to the most healthy means of upkeep for the physical nature of man in addition to his spiritual needs. One should not forget as well the highly important aspect of how to make contact with Allah, our Creator and Sustainer, in addition of course to how to treat various ailments and complaints all humans inevitably face at one time or another in our lives. As well, this divine guidance is for all of mankind, regardless of their sex, nationality, race or even station in society.

Although the completion of the revelation of the message contained within the Quran spanned over a period of approximately 23 years, the very first revelation occurred during the month of Ramadan, with continuing renewal and review occurring between the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and angel Gabriel (PUH) annually, until the prophet’s death in 632 CE (12 Rabi’ al-Awwal, 11 A.H.)

In fact, as we have it stated in the Quran itself, not only was the Quran originally and initially revealed during the month of Ramadan, but selectively on a very special night, a night of great blessing, which all Muslims worldwide have come to know this night as the “night of power”, or the night of special blessings. (see the Quran, Ad-Dukhan, ch. 44, v. 3) This night is described as being worth (in terms of the value of blessings, which is surely immeasurable as per human comprehension, but a sampling of the idea of the immense blessings associated with this night is given in human terminology) more than a thousand months. (see Al-Quran, S. Al-Qadr, s. #97) It is a night which occurs yearly, not only at that time of the original revelation of the first message of the Quran, but with Allah’s mercy it happens once every year.

Depending upon the length one lives, a person may actually witness a life span of one thousand months. For instance, if one lives a total of 70 years, then the number of months they have witness during this life of 70 years is 840 months. To reach a total of one thousand months, then one needs to live in excess of 83 years. However, even if one lives for that long, the total period of actual worship is not that length, for you cannot take into account the early years before one is able to comprehend the meaning of faith and the physical implementation of that faith into actual worship.

There are various reports from the ahadith which indicate to us that the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was so dedicated as to review the Quran in its entirety every year during the holy month of Ramadan. This act done by he who was promised of complete redemptions from all sins and promised of his place in paradise, is indication of the significance of the important relationship between the Quran and the month of Ramadan, and the significance also of the importance of spending time during the month of Ramadan for recitation and review of the Divine Book. In fact, he spent the last ten days of Ramadan in confinement in the mosque, only tending to the very limited basic physical needs of nourishment and rest, devoting the remainder of his time during these days to worshipping Allah and seeking forgiveness. It is in these last ten days that we are told of the occurrence of the “night of power”, or that one special night which occurs only one yearly, which is worth that of a thousand months – the same night in which, over 1400 years ago, the first revelation of the Quran was revealed, the command to read, or to recite.

The message of Islam of course conveys the aspect of the Unity of God, but it also essentially leads to enlightenment, by the very simple yet powerful act of reading, thereby comprehending, the message revealed to us by our Creator. Never once can anyone find in any of the passages of the Quran, nor in the sayings of the prophet (PBUH), a directive to believe without due proof or evidence. Rather, it appeals to man’s innate aspect and need for logical and valid proofs of evidence, upon which faith can grown healthily into a strong basis for receiving Allah’s mercy.

We are told in the Quran, concerning the context in which the prophet (PBUH) is held in this creation, that he is an excellent exemplar by which we should model our lives. (see Quran, s. 33, v. 21) The prophet (PBUH) was keen not only to deliver the message to all, but he was also keen to review it yearly, and with particular emphasis of this review during the month of Ramadan.

Let us all liven up our Ramadan this year by devoting time daily & nightly to reciting from Allah’s Book, whether it is a review of something we have already learned, or exploring out onto new ground of sections which we have not yet learned. Even for those who do not know Arabic well enough to read on their own, there are websites on the internet as well as devices (both digital as well as tape recordings) for listening to recitations by those more experienced and well versed in the manners of proper recitation. Following are some links which might be helpful in encouraging one to learn how to recite or perhaps even help in paths of memorization, and others for simply listening.

For some sites which have an online program to assist in the process of memorization:

http://zekr.org/quran/en/quran-for-mac

http://www.imaanstar.com/juz30.php

http://www.quranmemorizer.com/

http://www.islamicity.com/education/quranreciter/

http://www.shaplus.com/free-quran-software/quran-mp3-software/QuranReciter/quranreciter-features.htm

An excellent article concerning how to memorize:

http://www.themuslimwoman.com/hertongue/MemorizeQuran.htm

Quran mp3 files:

www.mp3quran.net/eng/

A tip to remember concerning Quran mp3 files: be creative, and mold your digital recordings (particularly Quran) according to your own needs and desires. If you have or use any kind of an mp3 player, whether it is an iPod, iPad, iPhone or perhaps any other kind of a ‘smartphone’ or android phone or android device, you can easily put together specially designed files to help you in your quest for memorization. What I’ve done personally is to first of all, after downloading the whole Quran in mp3 format of the reciter I prefer, then I made in my iTunes account a separate folder of whatever surah I may be working on at the moment in my struggle to memorize or review to refresh my memory. As memorization is concerned, regardless of the topic or material at hand, repetition is a major key to helping one achieve that final goal of memorizing the material. So, I have put in my iTunes library a special folder or ‘playlist’, I call “memo” and then complete the title with the name of the surah I am trying to memorize or review to refresh my memory. For example, I set up a playlist called “memo An-Naba”. Then, I transfer that surah, An-Naba, to that folder, and repeat the action at least ten times. Once I’m finished, I have the playlist of “memo An-Naba” containing 10 (or however many times I repeat the transfer of the surah to this folder) repetitions of the same surah. Then I select this playlist whenever the time is ripe (nothing much else going on around me to distract me, so that I can concentrate on listening to the repetition, and perhaps recite along with the recording as well).

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2012 Spring Edition of IWA Magazine

The Articles section of IWA Magazine has a special treat for readers. Four articles excellent articles were selected for publication in this issue focused on the theme ‘Books’: Why I LOVE My Local Library – and Why You Should Too! by Saba Negash, Evolution of a Book Lover by Balqees Mohammed, My Favorite Book by Balqees Mohammed, and Innovative Website: Reviews for Alternative Entertainment by Balqees Mohammed.

Why I LOVE My Local Library – and Why You Should Too! by Saba Negash

  • Promotes Reading Habit.  Reading is so important in our lives.  We read to learn, we read to grow and we read to entertain  ourselves. Reading is an enriching habit. The library is a vast reservoir  of knowledge that encourages us to read. Sit in a library and you can’t  help but read!
  • References for School/College. The library carries a large number of reference books that provide information  for just about every subject a student needs to better understand the  concepts in their curriculum. The in-depth information found in these      reference books aid in the process of education. I was often able to check  out college textbooks, which was great since textbooks can be expensive!
  • Fun and Entertaining. Along with books of every hook and flavor in the non-fiction department, libraries contain a large variety of fiction genres that will appeal to  just about the pickiest reader. They also have movies, music CDs, documentaries,      computers and Internet access. A kid can get lost in their imagination  with all the available material at their disposal; I sure did growing up in the library!
  • Resourceful.  Yes it is true; libraries are a great place to find resources. From information on how to file taxes, or researching a country or landmark, to writing your class report, or even a Do-It-Yourself guide to building your own burrito, your local library has everything you need at your fingertip. But I think a library’s greatest      resource is the librarians. They are truly our friends. Librarians help you find what you need, when you need it and will go the extra mile to make sure you get the book or resource you need to succeed.
  • Information Resources. The library has a great collection of dictionaries, encyclopedias, maps, journals, catalogues and reference material, which are extensive sources of accurate and reliable facts and information.
  • Has something for everyone. I love the variety of activities offered for children and adults. Author  readings, story time, book groups & clubs and more, the library offers     something for everyone. The summer reading program was always a hit at my local library when I was growing up!
  • Free Books! Let’s face it books can become an expensive habit for an avid reader. The library is a great way to satisfy book lovers reading obsession without  breaking the budget.
  • Community Services.   Almost every library offers a variety of workshops, literacy programs,  career development, homework assistance, tutoring, and meeting/study      rooms.
  • Quiet Place of Peace. The whole reading atmosphere the library embodies is what makes it a great place to pause, kick back and relax in the vast world of books. In most   libraries, you can hear a pin drop. It is also a great opportunity for training young children to behave calmly, to sit quietly for an extended period of time by offering cozy areas to read and fun, entertaining reading material.
  • Brings Back Fond Childhood Memories! I had  so much fun as a child growing up in the library. Reading books was not the only thing I did. I spent a lot time in the library; so much so, that the librarian knew me and we became very close. She taught me everything I  needed to know about the library. I learned how a library works, how to  research, use the library computers, type, shelve books, check out books,  check in books – I even volunteered for the summer reading programs, as  well as participated in them. One year, I made it my goal to read all the books in the library. I did not make it but I read quite a few of them! The library was my second home. I loved it.

The library is a learning and growing experience every child should have.

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Evolution of a Book Lover by Balqees Mohammed

It was just me and Dad in the room. Alone. Except for our books we were each buried in, and the characters that came with them. Counting all of the characters and the scenery, it would have made for a crowded little family room, but we were comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that we sat there for countless hours, not exchanging a single word, yet building such a strong bond that even the most horrendous hurricane or evil bad guy could never break us apart. (I herald from an area of the world which could be considered a major hurricane belt). Dad in his recliner, and me lounging out on the couch near him, we made a wonderful team of reading buddies. Then, out of the blue, Dad had this sudden inexplicable urge to break the silent bond.

            “I just love reading, don’t you?”

Gee, I thought. I mean…duh…what else are we doing together on a Saturday morning? But then, I thought I’d better not voice those feelings…he’d only get angry…make a show of his hurt at my insensitivity to the beauty of the scene of father and daughter just sitting together, each enjoying the other’s company, each enthralled in their own world.

“Yea. I do.”

“Yea…it’s just wonderful, isn’t it…how you can essentially travel all around the world, do all sorts of things, meet all sorts of people, see so much and experience so much…without ever even leaving your spot!”

“Yea. Right.” Well, I thought, I’d like to actually do a little traveling and real experiencing, if you asked me. But then…if I can’t, well, then this is next-best thing to it, I guess. Little did I know at that time, nor would I even dare dream, that I would later on travel to some of those same exotic spots we many times read about in our books.

That was then. When I was about 13. This is now: I’m over 50 now, and my father died several years ago. Some of my most fond memories of my childhood are memories such as these, just me and my dad, sitting alone together, each immersed in his or her own world that their books revealed to them. Or other memories of when I was even much younger, around 6 or 7, taking trips to the local city library, visiting the children’s reading corner, checking out books for a set period, having to take them back, learning more than just how to read. Learning a sense of responsibility that these books, even though I was allowed to use them for a time, belonged to someone else, and so had to be treated with respect and returned on the assigned date, or I would have to pay a fine – which, if that happened (to learn yet another life lesson) – I had to pay from the pocket money I made by doing chores around the house.

When asked about which book or author is my favorite, perhaps this is one of the hardest questions ever to answer, for there are so many, and it seems like cutting any one of them short if I reply with one single favorite – kind of like asking a mother of many children to choose her favorite from among the bunch. She can’t. Not really. I know. I’m a mother and a grandmother, and I can’t differentiate between my children and grandchildren in that manner. I love them all equally, even though each is different in personality. The same feeling (for me at least) applies to my love of books.

To me, a sign of a great book or a great author is one who (or which) entices the reader to re-read it over and over again. The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrice Potter was perhaps my own first experience of a love affair, for I returned to this book so often in my youth, even as I approached my teens. It was one of the first, if not THE first book I read on my own, and returned to many times, truly instilling in me the love of reading by letting me actually feel I was there, running with Peter and his friends, joining in with their adventures along with them. The Story of Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman is a close runner-up. Just the recollection of the name of this book generates the fondest memories of Mom reading it to me as a bedtime story, and then my own exploration of it as I finally progressed to read it on my own.

Stepping back in time a little, another great favorite which has extended on through my adult years is A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. I prefer referring to this book as an experience, rather than a book, for the extensive effect it has had on my life has been a true experience, not only a simple read. Mom used to read it to me in afternoons to settle me down in preparation for a mid-day siesta, as well as at night. And so as I grew older I would read it myself almost daily as a personal ritual in preparation for a comfy sleep, perhaps a catalyst in bringing on dreams of shadows teasing me as I played, or taking exotic boat rides down a stream in a faraway foreign land. Why, I even enjoy reading through it now. Even though I’m well past adulthood and getting into my later years, I still love a read through the Garden of Verses, as much for the beauty of the poetry as well as the cherished memories brought along with them.

Much later, in my teens, I received Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White as a birthday present one year. Apparently, Mom had noticed me eying it in the stores wherever we went. I used to be her shopping buddy whenever she needed to buy groceries. I would usually float off to the bookshelves when she was at the cashier paying. They used to have a bookshelf in the grocery stores back then, in the days when grocery stores were known as just that: grocery stores. Supermarkets had not yet evolved. I guess she noticed me (literally) counting my pennies, most likely making a frowny face as I figured I still didn’t have enough saved from picking weeds to pay for it. Hence, I imagine you can visualize my excitement as I opened that birthday present that year. It took me less than a week to read it the first time through, and by the end of one month, I must have read it already at least 3 times.

I’ve read many other books through the years, many genres and many authors, but none stand out so much in my memory as these books do, for they were essential in formulating my love of reading, and the books themselves are worn, showing my use of them by now. I moved out of my parents’ home long ago, and have also moved far away…to one of those faraway lands, which so entranced me in my youth as I read about them in the various stories and poems I so loved.

My Mom has had a big job on her hands in the past years, cleaning out their house of our leftovers (mostly my leftovers). Every once in a while, I get a care package sent to me, of things she lovingly buys as gifts for me, my children, and their children. She will also usually stick in one or two things that were mine when I was young…things she comes across as she cleans house, getting rid of remains from the past.

Several years ago my copy of Charlotte’s Web was in one of those packages. I just had to read it one more time…re-hashing long-buried memories of my teen years, in addition to a refreshing run through the barnyard life of Charlotte and her friends. I even got a headache once as I read through it, because of a memory of that one time when, in my youth, I fatefully attempted reading in the car as we drove from Florida to Indiana on our yearly visit to our grandparents for summer vacation.  I’m not a car-reader. I get sick even thinking about it. But Mom prompted me on, gave me some Dramamine, and tried to assure me I wouldn’t get sick this time if I only kept busy with something. I tried, but it obviously didn’t work. And so, even reading this book in my living room in Saudi Arabia, sitting on my couch, brought back the memory of that drive through the mountains of Georgia, surrounded on both sides by the red clay, and getting (literally) car sick. Well…I said memories, didn’t I? Not all are so great, or joyful, but I cherish them all the same.

Then, once satisfied with a refreshing of youthful memories, I passed the book on to my daughter and sons who were then in their teens. They’ve each read it many times now also, and they’ve also had the enjoyable experience and eye-opener into another life, another time, and another plane. The book is a paperback. Both cover and pages were quite worn when I received it in the mail, from my own usage through the years, and the pages have long-since turned a dark yellow, verging on to a washed-out brown, from sheer age. It is more worn now, from the use of my own children. They also return to it numerous times, seeking out yet one more adventure of a known and beloved land and immensely interesting creatures. I came across it the other day, as I was cleaning out my own bookshelves, and thought to myself: The grandchildren are approaching their teens. It will soon be time to pass this beloved book on once more, and share the experiences.

I now pass on to you my father’s words to me long ago: I just love reading, don’t you?

 My Favorite Book by Balqees Mohammed

‘IWA Members Recall the Most Influential Books from their Childhoods’

How does one become a writer, an editor, a publisher, a designer, or gain expertise in any one of the many various, differing, yet equally important and related tasks involved in the process of producing literature? Simple: it all begins with the passion for reading.  The IWA is made up of such people – writers, editors, publishers, designers, artists, distributors, and many more, all sharing the same underlying passion for reading.  

            In celebration of the “Books” theme of the 2012 Spring edition of IWA Magazine, seven IWA members voiced their own personal and individual experiences in reading. They were asked what their favorite childhood book was and what, if any, lessons or inspiration did they gain from that book.

Irving Karchmar, long-standing IWA member and author of Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novel, tells us that his most memorable reading experience was Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1937. Irving says that the character of Rhett Butler impressed him, even at the tender age of 13 when he first read the story, with his consistent honesty in all matters, and wisdom to remain silent whenever such honesty was perhaps a matter of “subjective opinion” which would cause inevitable hurt in others. Mr. Butler was the first fictitious character that impressed him to the point of sure admiration, enough so that he himself would try to emulate his characteristics in his own life.

Saba Negash, another long-standing IWA member and also the IWA Financial Officer for the period of 2011-2012, confides that her most memorable reading experience was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, first published in 1962 by Farrar, Strause & Giroux. The main character, about whom the story revolves, is Meg Murry – a high-school-aged girl who is transported on an adventure through time and space, accompanied by her younger brother Charles Wallace, and her friend Calvin O’Keefe. Their journey propels them on a mission to rescue Meg’s father, a gifted scientist, from the evil forces holding him prisoner on another planet. Saba says that this was her first experience with a Young Adult novel, and it spiked her interest with the artful combination of science, fantasy and mystery. In fact, it held her captive to such an extent that it was this book which initiated her love of science fiction/fantasy novels and movies. In addition, the simple yet catchy method of naming unique characters, such as “Mrs. Whatsit”, “Mrs. Who”, and “Mrs. Which” served as captivators for this young reader. Meg became Saba’s hero, for the sheer fact that at such a young age of 13, not much younger than herself (15) as she first read this story, Meg took on the universe in her mission to rescue her father, save her brother, and ultimately even the fate of the earth from the “evil thing” and “IT”. Meg inspired Saba with the thought that youth or age had nothing to do with one’s ability to achieve something monumental.

Beatrice Jordan, also a long-standing IWA member, fondly recalls visits to the library during her 3rd grade year, and checking out as many books as she could find of her favorite author, Beverly Cleary. She even recalls cherished memories of checking out 10 books at once, and reading through them in record time of a few days, resulting in begging her father to take her back to the library only to exchange them for more. There must have been in the range of 30 titles by this one author at that time, and when she finished reading them all, she waited with hunger for her to write more. Cleary was an engaging writer, giving a sense of humor to her characters, thereby giving a truly entertaining theme to her writing and enabling her books to capture the attention of such a young reader. Reading Beverly Cleary’s books has developed in to a family tradition, for as an adult, Beatrice has recommended this author’s books to her own children, as she now takes them on adventure trips to their local library. Even her son, who is not as avid a reader as are his sisters, was enthralled with Cleary’s books. Two characters that particularly stand out for Beatrice are Beezus and Ramona, for whom one book was named after, published in 1955. The story of Beezus and Ramona tells the story of two sisters, their zany relationship, and wildly humorous antics.

Linda D. Delgado, aka Widad, IWA founder and current Director and author of the Islamic Rose Books Series and owner of Muslim Writers Publishing recalls her own fond memories of her favorite reading experience as a youngster, when she was about 10 years old, or approximately in the 4th grade. Anna Sewell, author of Black Beauty, finished this American classic in 1877 after beginning it in 1871. Although she died only five months after its completion, she did indeed live long enough to see it published. Perhaps Sewell’s love of writing came from editing of her own mother’s work as her mother, Mary, was also a writer. Linda enjoyed the book so immensely because although it is basically fiction, it presents everything in such a realistic manner, and is an over-all heart-warming story of love, courage and loyalty which teaches children to respect animals, amid other many good lessons to be gained from reading this book. As a horse lover herself, Linda has found that Black Beauty is indeed the best horse story she has ever come across.

Wendy Meddour, IWA member, states that this request of naming one favorite childhood memory of reading was difficult for her, because there were so many books that had an influence on her, leaving with her a life-lasting impression. But the one instance that clearly stood out for her was Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, which she read at the age of 14. She found it to be a tragic tale, and apparently it was quite controversial when it was first published in 1895. Basically, the story is about a young stonemason who teaches himself Greek and Latin in the hopes of eventually being accepted for formal study at Chrisminster (today known as Oxford). Because of his deep yearn for knowledge and the fact that he is never accepted, his life in turn is burdened down with heartache and misery. Laden with her own desire to reach a high level of scholarship, the story made a lasting impression upon her, hence her own inner pressure to study within the glistening spires of Oxford one day. Similar to Jude from the story, she was from a humble background and, and despite achieving a high grade in the Oxford entrance exam, she failed to impress the panel at the interview at the age of 18. Although she was disappointed, she needed to go on with her own life, and so proceeded with her studies at Exeter and Cardiff University, where she earned first class honors degree, and an MA and PhD in record time. She went back to Oxford for a second round, and was accepted this time, receiving a British Academy Award and securing a post-doctoral research post at Oxford University, and taught English Literature at the esteemed institute for eight years. Although she was far into adulthood by the time she finally reached the halls of Oxford, the wonder of the immense history and prestige of the ancient buildings and essentially time-forgotten libraries never dwindled one bit for her. She also has never forgotten about poor old Jude, the stonemason who never was allowed in.

For Maryam Funmilayo, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, published in 1838, is the outstanding all time favorite. She read it when she was around 10 or 11 years old, or in the 3rd or 4th grade. Most of us are familiar with the story line of this book, which is about an orphan boy who grew up with so little, and suffered at the hands of well-to-do people. The hardships that he had to survive and his struggle to move on and forward with his life apparently left a lasting impression with her, for, although she was quite young when reading this, it caused her to think of her own life in comparison, and thereby appreciate what she had at that time, when so many other children of her age did not have similar.

For IWA member, Amina Malik, it was also a struggle to select a favorite childhood book – despite the fact that she set the task for the members! – as there were “too many wonderful books to choose from”. Amina finally picked The Twits by Roald Dahl, citing this as a favorite as – many years after reading it – Amina can still vividly recall the most entertaining part of the book: the ingenuity of the gradually lengthened walking stick, which leads Mrs. Twit to think she is shrinking. Amina read this aged around 9 years old. The storyline is based on a couple who are “ugly inside and out” and who play hilarious tricks on one another. The book taught a valuable lesson, as it described the original inner and outer beauty of the characters, explaining that if you think evil thoughts, your appearance will start to reflect this. Amina is a big Roal Dahl fan.

As for myself, dear readers, I could not bring myself to mentioning any one particular book as a special favorite. You can read my own explanation and expansion of this in another article I hope is to be published in this same issue of this magazine, titled “Evolution of a Book Lover”. I chose this descriptive title of my own story of book reading because I think of it as an actual process of evolution, one which has resulted in a life-long love affair with reading, and in particular with books. The inspiration I received from my cherished reading experiences was the catalyst in my love of reading, thereby the formation of the remainder of my lifestyle. I would prefer a nice book of virtually any genre – fiction or non-fiction alike – rather than most movies or television shows. Like all of the others included here in this article, my love of reading was instilled from a very young age. Younger, in fact, than what the others have mentioned, for some of my fondest reading memories were of a very early age of around 6 or 7, just when I was initially beginning to learn how to read. In fact, I truly believe that my love of reading started much earlier than that, for I have the fondest memories of my mother reading to me at an age much earlier than my school years, with such beautiful vocal intonation of the words and verses, creating more than simply a strong mother-daughter bond.

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 Innovative Website: Reviews for Alternative Entertainment

by Balqees Mohammed

In this day and age, it seems as if we are plagued with mainstream this or that everywhere. Let’s see, there are the box-office hits of the cinemas, #1 best seller lists for books, the top 10 or top 100 of the music charts; why, even in the grocery or clothing and shoes stores, there are the top national brands which are promoted stronger than other less known brands. We are even confronted by this in the drug stores, whether it involves prescription drugs or over the counter remedies.

When it comes to clothing, food, cosmetics, even over the counter drugs, many people are willing to go the course of non-mainstream for the basic reason of saving a few dollars. But when it comes to entertainment, it is a sad state of affairs that so many of us are satisfied to keep only along the track of mainstream bestsellers, of which the plot or object of the attraction has already been destroyed for us by the over-exposure of the works. These mainstream works may be popular, but they do indeed become tiresome after a while.

Surely, the rampant presence in cinemas, theatre, literature, even music, of explicit sex, violence and language, lacks any valuable stimulus, to say the least. Such trends in entertainment venues have proven to be a cause in the general degeneration of social standards. Are you looking for an alternative for good wholesome family entertainment or even personal enlightenment? If your answer is yes, then an innovative website founded by Javid Mohammed of California, consisting of reviews of various options for the many forms of media entertainment, is the place for you. www.myfavoritereview.com

Most of us are quite familiar with the biography of Steve Jobs, late founder and major CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs: A Biography. But how many of you have heard of, or read, Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl Wudunn? Admittedly, the latter is not necessarily a biography, at least not of one central person of such high popularity as the first book mentioned is. However, it is perhaps at least equally important sociologically, if not more, having a wide-ranging impact and influence on the readers, thereby creating a catalyst for change in the world, in the means of support of women worldwide, with particular emphasis on underdeveloped regions. A big difference between the two: after 5 weeks on the best sellers list of USA Today, Steve Jobs: A Biography is still rating in at #5, whereas Half the Sky is rating in at #58.

This comparison of ratings on one bestsellers list does not mean that either of the books is truly any better or more worthwhile than the other, or that one is less worthwhile than the other. It is only proof of how the marketing machine of one is more active than the other in promoting. Case in point: this particular individual reviewer, who is situated in Saudi Arabia, has never heard of the book Half the Sky until this moment of composing this review. I only picked this title randomly from what is presented on the website myfavoritereview.com. The title and book cover seemed appealing, as well as the short review synopsis of the book enticed me to explore it a bit further. In my outreach of exploration of this book, I find on the website for the book (http://www.halftheskymovement.org) that it has received wide public acclamation from many well-known actors, media personalities, authors, merchants and others. If you will even notice the naming of the website itself, this book has inspired a worldwide movement promoting the cause of women worldwide, and giving support for their advancement in this world.

On the other side of the coin, I’m quite familiar with the book on Steve Jobs, having seen it countless times on various television channels, websites, even in our local bookstore chains. But never until today did I notice any mention of Half the Sky.

This is just one case in point where an enticingly interesting, compelling story, not listing high on the bestsellers lists, but equally (perhaps more) worthwhile all the same of spending my time and money in reading it. If this one small example can be so enticing and socially influential, then that makes me wonder about all else that is listed now and in the future at myfavoritereview.com.

Not all that is listed at myfavoritereview is so seriously non-fiction. In fact, there is much entertaining fiction listed at this website as well, in the form of books, movies (cinema) and DVDs.

What you can be sure about with myfavoritereview.com is that all that is listed at this website has been thoroughly reviewed by the team running the website, and ensuring that it is quality work, fit for the family, without the run of the mill explicit sex, violence and language. That does not mean that the works mentioned by this website are dull or non-realistic. Indeed, they are good works, entertaining, true to life, yet free from excessively descriptive sex, violence and language.

See and experience for yourself the wide selection to choose from by visiting: www.myfavoritereview.com. In addition to this website, an associated blog: www.muslimouttakes.wordpress.com is an excellent source for real-time interviews with filmmakers and other pertinent things associated with the film industry. At each of these addresses, you will certainly find a different course offered of alternative yet equally powerful, professional, entertaining and tasteful options to what is available in the mainstream arenas of today.

< End of 2012 Spring Edition of IWA Magazine>

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2011 Fall Edition of IWA Magazine

Ways to Overcome Difficultiesby Maryam Funmilayo

The Qur’an is full of soothing words, warnings, glad tidings, and beautiful reminders for the Muslims.  Surah Ankabut (29) verses 2-3 states: “Do  people think that they will be left alone because they say: “We believe,” and will not be tested. And We indeed tested those who were before them. And Allaah will certainly make it known the truth of those who are true, and will certainly make it known the falsehood of those who are liars.”

Difficulties, challenges, and stressors in our daily lives are bound to happen. Life is truly, not a bed of roses. Every day is not Eid. Some days are full of happiness, and some days are just gloomy. Just as the night and day alternate, and babies grow to become young kids, and then adults, life itself is not constant. Life is full of ups and downs.

Tests, trials, and tribulations, occur differently at different times, for different people. One way or the other, every living being, irrespective of their religious background and their belief systems, is tested in various forms. The loss of life and property is not something strange to humans. For the believer, it is part of our belief system that a trial must run its course before it vanishes. Hence, when we are tested, it is advised that we must exercise extreme patience and seize the opportunity to turn to Allaah for His infinite mercies.

Surah Yusuf (12) verse 87 reminds us with the following assurance: “And never give up hope of Allaah’s mercy. Certainly, no one despairs of Allaah’s mercy, except the people who disbelieve.”

Life experiences have made me stronger and less attached to the frivolities of this world. Yet, I find myself sometimes wondering about what the future holds for me, and from these thoughts, I end up panicking unnecessarily. I have finally realized that my present moment is the only moment I have, the only moment I can work on and improve; the only moment that is given to me as an opportunity to repent, seek Allaah’s forgiveness, and hope for His mercies. As for the future, I should leave it alone. It is not in my hands. It is unseen so I should not waste my energy to see through it. Yes, it’s good to plan, day dream, and set long-term goals that will benefit one in this life and the next. However, one should be very careful not waste time day dreaming unproductively. The present is the only one we have and we should live it to the fullest in accordance to the Qur’an and Sunnah.

There are several ways a Muslim can overcome difficulties. Overcoming difficulties does not mean that one will not encounter any more difficulty till one breathes its last. It simply means that one is equipped with coping skills that will assist one in moving on with ones’ life in the midst of trials and tests. No matter how difficult our situation might be especially in these days of tight economy, we should be reminded that our past predecessors, and our Prophets, including Prophet Muhammad, salla llaahu alayhe was salaam, experienced so many difficulties and trials that none of us can bear with today. May Allaah not test us beyond our level of faith, aameen! They were tested, and tested all over again, yet they triumphed, turned to Allaah, and humbled themselves before their Lord.

Below are ten ways to help cope with stress that arises from a difficult situation:

First, turn to Allaah and seek His forgiveness. The Prophet Muhammad, salla llaahu alayhe was salam, said: “If anyone continually asks for pardon, Allaah will appoint for him a way out of every distress, and a relief from every anxiety, and will provide for him from where he did not reckon” – Narrated by Abdullaah ibn Abbas in Sunan Abu Dawood.

Second, make continuous, consistent dua. The dua is the weapon of the believer. Believe in the power of dua and have hope that Allaah will answer your supplication. One good supplication is the one Prophet Yunus, alayhe salaam, said when he was in the belly of a fish: “La ilaha illaa anta, subhanaka, inni kuntu mina-dhalimin, which is roughly translated as: “There is no god but You, You are far exalted and above all weaknesses, and I was indeed the wrongdoer.” Reported by Sa’d ibn Waqas in Tirmidhi.

Third, thank Allaah for His uncountable favors He has bestowed upon you; favors you never even asked for in the first place. If we all try to contemplate on what Allaah has done for us, we will never be able to count His bounties.

Fourth, have a conversation with yourself and realize that your situation could have been worse than what you are presently going through. Seize the time to remember the oppressed, the suppressed, the rejected, the silenced ones, the sick, the disabled, the widows and widowers, the orphans who will never experience what parental love and care is, and so on and so forth. By the time you go deep into sober reflection, you will find your mouth moist with “Alhamdulilaah”.

Fifth, remember what the Messenger of Allaah, ibn Abdullaah, sallaa llaahu alayhe was salaam said: “For every misfortune, illness, anxiety, grief, or hurt that afflicts a Muslim – even the hurt caused by the pricking of a thorn – Allaah removes some of his sins.”  This is such a beautiful opportunity to be cleansed off some of our sins that are countless.

Sixth, keep yourself busy with sadaqah. Sadaqah is not limited to monetary donations only.  Allaah has created you beautifully so spread the beauty through your smile. Smiling is sadaqah itself.  Smile at yourself, smile at people, smile at life. Remember, the angels are watching and you are on camera.

Seventh, find support from others. Be around those who also have similar life experiences and who show sympathy and empathy. Knowing someone else who went through some difficulties, will ease up your own tensions and make you realize that you are not alone.

Eighth, unclutter your life and live green. Live simple. This life really, is not worth the wings of a mosquito. If only we knew.

Ninth, practice grace under pressure. Truly, this is difficult to attain for many people, including myself. This is something I’m still learning how to do when I am faced with any difficulty. When I remember Zumurrud Bint Jawlee, a wealthy female scholar and queen from the Turks of Iraq, who later in her life, became so poor, I ponder on my immaturity and ask myself: “Maryam, so what’s your problem”?

Tenth, remember this saying, now and always: “When I get discouraged and I want to give up, remind me Ya Allaah, that winners do not quit, and quitters do not win.”

Oh, Allaah, remove from us any form of anxiety, fear, grief, and misery, and replace these sad feelings with happiness, contentment, gratitude, and peace of mind, aameen. As long as we have Islam in our lives, we have everything. Alhamdulilaah rabeel alameen.

 Motivating the Teenby Mahasin Shamsid-Deen

Once school has started, Muslim teens often feel overwhelmed with the prospect of also having to attend a weekend Islamic school or halaqa on a regular basis.  Many parents, however, are convinced that their teen is in need of instruction and Islamic guidance at this time, more than any other.

The struggle to get teens not only motivated to go, but to be ready on time in appropriate attire and good mood, leaves many parents frustrated.  It not uncommon to find parents apologizing for or complaining about their teen’s absence or ignoring and allowing their teen to misbehave when they do go to class resigning themselves that they are just happy that the teen has come.

But none of this need be the reality for the Muslim parent!

Allah, has formed the human being in the most excellent manner and our development is a wondrous, profound thing. In the PBS special “Inside the Teenage Brain” scientists describe the teenage brain as ‘a work in progress”.  Neuroscientists, who study of the human brain using MRI’s (magnetic resonance imaging) have found that adolescence is a time of profound brain growth and change that becomes more complex and efficient especially in the brain’s prefrontal cortex.  For teens, the greatest changes to the parts of the brain that are responsible for impulse-control, decision making, planning, judgment and even organization occur in adolescence.  In fact, the prefrontal cortex does not reach full maturity until around the age of 25.

What does this information about brain development in teens really mean for the Muslim parent, and indeed the Weekend school or Halaqa instructors?  It means it is important to not give up on our youth.  Your teen’s resistance to this added responsibility is a natural part of development and will of course, improve in time.

Allah, The Most High, has given our children to us a ‘trust’.  We have to rely on Him for guidance.  As we begin to understand the profound beauty of the human being, we need not feel angry or frustrated, but instead interested and involved in the process.  Parents must be creative and pro-active. Parents that berate and argue with their students and fill their heads with exaggerated tales of their doom, really only increase the struggle.  The teens don’t have the best judgment – regardless of their own personal perception that they are mature or ‘know’ enough.

Also, parents need not let their child’s immaturity be an obstacle to Islamic learning. Our children are a loan to us, but definitely a test that we will be questioned about on the Day of Judgment.  We must tell our children that we love them and reinforce good behavior.  Rasullah (SAW) was known to be a man of good cheer and pleasant face.  It is amazing how a calm smile reminding the teen that it’s time for class is more effective than a scowl or frenzied yell.

Parents must be involved and pro-active about what their teen is learning.  Many weekend school initiatives and halaqas may cover information that your teen already knows.  Parents have a voice in their child’s instruction and can hold instructors accountable for teaching on grade level, knowing the topic they are teaching, and providing a conducive learning environment.  Teen Islamic studies should focus a lot on applied teaching and in depth tafseer.

Lastly, parents must be patient, show forbearance and compassion to their teens and not judge their teen too harshly.  Listen to what your teen has to say.  Talk to them and share your own knowledge on subjects taught or your understanding when you were their age.  Hold your teen responsible.  Allow your teen to reinforce their own learning by volunteering to teach others or expand it in Dawah.  Parents should recognize that often the socialization with other Muslim Teens can be a motivating factor for both attendance and learning.   Don’t feel shy about asking an instructor or one of your teens’ friends to call and encourage them.  As the weekend with your teen begins, remember this hadith:

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: Allah’s Messenger said to Ashaj Abdul-Qasis, “You possess two such qualities as Allah loves. These are clemency and tolerance.” (Muslim)

2011 Summer Ramadan Edition of IWA Magazine

The IWA organization hopes you enjoy these inspiring and beneficial articles authored by some of our members.

Attaining a Soul-Inspiring Nutritious Ramadhan – Maryam Funmilayo

Our guest of honor, Ramadhan, will come knocking at our doors in a couple of weeks. It is that time of the year again where over a billion Muslims on the earth’s surface get their gears ready to host this unique guest. The poor, the rich, the elderly, the young, able-bodied men and women from every continent and region we can think of, are preparing themselves to get ready, get set to gain spirituality, and go for it. Such is the beauty of this ninth Islamic month called Ramadhan.

Ramadhan is a month that brings together family and friends through one of the basic commodities of life that Allaah has blessed us with and that is food. Yes, food in Ramadhan is something that unifies us all when we partake in the pre-dawn’s meal, and when we are ready to break our fast. In as much as food is that unifying factor, we should also bear it in mind that we can make this unifying factor become a blessing for us or a curse against us. For it is very true and sad enough that we waste food all the time, all year long despite the statistics about poverty and lack of food and water, right here in our own backyards, as well as in poverty stricken countries. More so, it is sadder and so pathetic that we Muslims, especially those of us who are blessed with ample amounts of foods, waste more foods in the month of Ramadhan. This does not occur only in the West just because the West is known to have richer and more resources. This wastage has gone beyond the Western boundaries, spreading all around the world, and surfacing in many places in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. There are the rich among us who usurp too much and give little or nothing to our subordinates. I believe this kind of attitude and lack of conscience to share natural resources with others, is common to every country, whether rich or poor, or in between.

In order for us to have that soul-inspiring Ramadhan, we all need to deeply taste the sweetness of fasting, and savor the feeling of breaking our fast. We need to visualize ourselves living the lives of many poor people in the world and put ourselves in their shoes. In order for us to really know, understand, implement, and put into practice a nutritious Ramadhan, we need to humble ourselves before Allaah, and eat and drink with balance and moderation.  The reality is this: Allaah who has given us all these foods can easily take away these foods from us. He is able to do anything and everything. Also, we need to go out of our comfort zones, and invite those we know little of. These can be our next door neighbors who are Muslims and non-Muslims. Inviting our neighbors for a cup of herbal tea and zucchini bread can speak wonders. It can go a long way. It is indeed, a complete ice breaker. Sharing our food with them makes them feel more at home with us. Da’wah to our neighbors, friends, and colleagues at work and school, through the power of foods and drinks, most especially in the auspicious month of Ramadhan, is simply beautiful.

Hence, let us brace up ourselves by working to curb our weak desires towards eating too much. I hate to mention this just because Ramadhan is around the corner. This is my message for every one of us all year long, from the month of Muharram to the month of Dhul Hijjah. Yes, it is difficult for most of us to attain because of the pleasures derived in seeing surplus foods advertised in our very own eyes. We need to be reminded often that eating and drinking in a balanced and moderate manner, stems from the Sunnah of our Prophet Muhammad, salla llaahu alayhe was salam. If we do not yearn to follow his Sunnah, then whose Sunnah do we want to follow?

May I leave you with these wise words from one of our past pious predecessors, Abdullah Ibn Umar?

A man said to Abdullah Ibn Umar: “Shouldn’t I bring you some jawarish? Ibn Umar said: What is that? He said: Something which aids in digesting your food after you eat. Ibn Umar said: I have not eaten to being full for four months. That is not because I am not able to do so, but I was with a group of people who were hungry more than they were full”. This is narrated from Adh-Dhahabi’s ‘Siyar A’lam an-Nubala‘‘(4/346-373), and Ibn al-Jawzi’s ‘Sifat as-Safwah’ (1/214-222).

May Allaah give us the strength and guts to combat our weak desires in the month of Ramadhan, and give us continuous strength in striving against our weak desires till we breathe our last, aameen.

Ramadhan Mubarak!

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My First Ramadan and Eid – Nancy Biddle

 My First Ramadan and Eid was in 2001. I was just six weeks into being a new Muslim. I had rushed my reversion so I would be able to make Ramadan and finally it had arrived! I was just barley practiced at praying let alone making duas but I took on fasting like it was the gift I had always wanted. Of course it was not easy and I experienced quite a bit of frustration during the fasting with questions that remained unanswered or even not asked. Besides the usual challenges one faces, especially the first time into it, one struggle proved to be very difficult for me: I spent the whole month fasting alone! That had the biggest impact on my first experience, but I was so happy none-the-less to be able to fast I just jumped in headlong and eagerly fasted wholeheartedly just like a person stranded in the desert who, so desperately thirsty for water, sees a hot muddy puddle and gulps it down like the most welcoming and refreshing drink.

The story of how I came to Islam is detailed in the 2011 IWA Anthology (Anthology title) so I will not go into that here except to mention one important factor that relates to Ramadan and explains why I was so thrilled to finally fast.

I would say that the “Festival Month of Ramadan” was one of the main features of Islam that clung to me through out my long journey into Islam. Islam came and went in my life with the people passing through it but one thing kept popping up like a signal flag every year — Ramadan — it just tugged at my heart. And why was that? Allah knows best, but what I can say about it is, ever since I first heard about the glorious month of fasting and witnessed the unity of all the Muslims over the entire world participating, I wanted to do it too. Every year that passed, when Ramadan came around, I looked on jealously. It did not matter where I was in the world or what I was doing at the time, whether schooling or working, I was always aware through the news that Ramadan had arrived, and my heart would sink knowing I had missed it, again! I actually vowed, by that time quite disillusioned with Christianity, in a half joke in December of 2000 that never again would another Ramadan pass me by. Little did I know how true that conviction would actually be!

So the path from December 2000 to August 2001 meandered all over the place but finally end up with me knowing I needed to become a Muslim and it occurred to me that Ramadan was coming up but I did not know when. In a panic I asked one of my Internet friends when was Ramadan expected?  He replied that I was in luck! I still had time to revert and make Ramadan. I had other issues to work through of course but the final tipping point for converting hurriedly was catching Ramadan, at last! Actually, any onlooker would have noted to himself that I converted to Ramadan, not Islam per se. Islam was just the vehicle to Ramadan. When I finally said my Shahadah in the witness of an Internet buddy, one of the next things out of my mouth  out of my mouth was not “I’m saved!” but “Now I can fast the Ramadan!” I typed that excitedly to my friend who counseled that there was much to do beforehand, for example learn to pray, and so he set about directing me to various resources for my intensive pre-Ramadan training in the basics of prayer and also on cleaning up things in my life.

For example I was living with my Fiancé who was not a Muslim. I withdrew from his bed discovering I was not permitted to have intimate relations with a non-Muslim. I invited him to the faith, he even “prayed” with me (followed along) to see if he would “get something” out of it, did not, and so declined. So I felt that I was out of integrity living in his house in the spare bedroom with Ramadan fast approaching. I moved out a few days ahead.

Now, I say that my first Ramadan was spent alone. Actually I was living with my non-Muslim parents where I moved to while looking for other accommodation options. I was not technically alone, just that I was not a part of any local Muslim groups so began my fast and broke my fast by myself.

The reason for that was simple: up to the point I became a Muslim I had not really looked for any local Muslims. My entire walk-up to reverting to Islam was done over the safety of the Internet so I had no need at all to connect with any local Muslims. I was perfectly happy just knowing the Muslim online community I had grown who were all at a safe distance away from me in Morroco, Algeria, Tunesia, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia.

Just curious a few times I looked up listings in the phone book and yellow pages for Schools, Mosques, Associations or whatever and never found a thing. I even checked the Sunday paper where services are listed. I thought maybe a Mosque would also advertise its services, but no. Even a quick search on the internet rendered nothing except articles of interest about the latest suicide bombing or other political scrimmages or international issue. It just seemed that Muslims, like the orthodox Jews just lived in an entirely different and secluded world away from the rest of us.

A number I had found in the phone book by chance under “community centers”, the Islamic Centre of Quebec, was not monitored. I called it a few times but the phone would just ring and ring.

Also, I reverted in September 2001 about 10 days after that horrible event in New York that caused many Muslims to retreat from public view due to the initial anti-Muslim backlash. A couple of Mosques had been bombed or wrecked and scarved women harassed, for example, so Muslim community leaders advised the community to go out in public in plain clothes, lay low, and to not engage in conversation. Whereas upon the occasion I did see men or women in Muslim suits, or with head coverings before, immediately after the “event” I never saw any and if I did they rushed purposefully without speaking or looking at anyone.

As Ramadan approached when I most urgently needed personal Muslim contacts, I called that number I had found and instead of just ringing, the call fell into a perpetually full mail box! I later found out it was because of all the nasty calls they had been getting they set the phone to forward directly to voicemail for a little peace and quiet.

I faced the prospect of doing Ramadan on my own. No matter, I thought, I came to Islam via the Internet, and still had all my Muslim chat friends to rely on, and of course plenty of websites with good information, so I sucked in my breath and on the 17th of November, 2001, launched into my first Ramadan.

It started out well. I began my fast at sunrise and then broke it at sunset. Twice I took a sip of water without thinking! But I was informed that was ok because I did not intentionally drink. Alhamdulillah.

After the first day, the fasting became easier and easier. It was only the thirst, and the depravation from drinking tea and coffee that bothered me the most. I was advised to take water into my mouth and swoosh it out when the waswisu about missing tea became too great.

A few days along I was informed I had to begin the fast at the crack of dawn, not at dawn. I recoiled thinking my few days already fasted were wasted! I was advised that the period of not knowing would be accepted inshaAllah but from now on I had to begin the fast ten minutes before the time of Fajr.

About midway through I found an article about the duas in Ramadan and realized that there was a specific dua to be said upon beginning and ending the fast. Up until then I just said the simple Bismillah.

I started to be bothered by stuffing myself so much at the time of breaking the fast I could hardly pray without wanting to vomit. I was informed that actually it was Sunnah to eat just enough and that would carry me through, and so I did. In fact, I was able to break the time between Magreb and Fajr into three parts and have “breakfast, lunch and dinner” just overnight rather than during the day. I dreamed of taking a job and working the night shift and then found out it is best not to sleep during the fasting for too long, or it would not be accepted. There were many Mercies in Islam but just as many rules, it seemed.

I discovered that my breath was terrible and so I kept brushing my teeth through the day. An Internet buddy shared the hadith with me that the sweetest smell that Allah subhana wa t’ala enjoyed was the breath of a fasting person, and further, since toothpaste was pleasant tasting just putting it in the mouth could likely break the fast so I should not brush my teeth during the day. Unfortunately at the time my work was private English tutoring so it was a bit unpleasant to show up to the course with pongy breath so I took to brushing my mouth with soap, definitely not a tasty item, or simply rinsing with hot water.

I also found praying on time to be a challenge and wound up combining them all at night. Then I found out that anything that is good is rewarded more during Ramadan than during the rest of the year, and doing something wrong was the same but worse. I went through thought turmoil trying to understand the costs of choosing to do prayers like that or making the effort to pray them on time. I had a large shawl I wrapped around me over my winter coat and started to offer prayers while on my way somewhere if it came to be time by throwing down my shawl and praying on that.

A third of the way through I found out I had to read the Quran every day, one whole “juz” a day. I asked my friends what was a “juz” and they explained the Book was split into 30 parts and we had to read one part every day. I did not have copy of the Book so I read the pages on line. I crammed seven parts into a few days and had to read one and a half parts every day until I caught up. I learned a tremendous amount about Islam, actually. Believe it or not, except for memorizing the Fatiha and the last three Surahs for the prayers I had not much read the Book on my own. I found myself super thankful to be saved from burning in Hell by becoming a Muslim and doing my best to practice it.

Once I woke up late past the sunrise! I thought that if I did not start the day properly then I could not fast it, so that day I did not fast and ate as usual. Later an Internet friend advised this was not correct, he himself in fact never eats the morning meal. When this happens, just declare the fast from that point on, do not eat, and carry on through the rest of the day fasting. Allah rewards the extra effort, I was assured. It happened again and I did just that.

Another time I was so sleepy I was not paying attention to the time and was still eating when I realized the call for Fajr had passed. I swallowed what was already in my mouth thinking what is in, is in. But again later when reporting to my Internet friends they advised me that actually the best thing to do is to spit out what is in the mouth because it is not yet down the throat. I asked if it was best to vomit it all up but they said no, Islam is not about extremes.

Of course, towards the end, with my immune system down, I got a head-cold. I read up about what to do when sick and found that during sickness there was no obligation to fast if is too difficult but that the Fasts need to be made up. So I took the few days off I needed to regain my strength.

I heard about the night of power but did not know exactly what to do in it. I was told it might be any odd evening in the last ten days but most people chose to observe it on the night of the 27th. I wound up observing it on the night of the 28th because actually I learned afterwards the evening is the “beginning of the day”, so conceptually it is the “Western evening” of the 26th day when the 27th, the night of power begins.

On the final last day of the fast, I called that number again to find out about any community get-togethers to celebrate the end, and for the first time ever, someone said hello! After my shock I blurted out in excitement that I was a new Muslim, I just completed my first Ramadan and I wanted to know more about Eid ul Fitr. My friends on the Internet told me about a day and evening of visiting family and friends and eating and sharing enjoyments. The man on the phone told me that the Muslims in his community were meeting the next day at eight o’clock at such and such address, which was a College hall. He did not specify A.M. or P.M., but since it was a weekday, I thought it made sense for everyone to plan to meet in the evening.

I headed to the address with much anticipation of finally meeting some real live Muslims but when I arrived the College was all locked up. At first, I thought the community was just being cautious and hidden so as to not attract attention, but then a security guard came over and confirmed for me the event had been that morning. Fasting by myself despite my Internet contacts had been a very lonely affair and I had felt more and more longing for company, especially since my parents were not very supportive of my choice to be Muslim and especially my decision to fast, so it had become very clear to me I actually needed some real Muslim friends. I was so geared up for my intrusion into the Muslim community, at last, that upon hearing I missed the Eid, I broke down into uncontrollable sobs. All the stress of the month poured out of me and burbled on the floor. What had I done? Converting to such a strange religion? A religion of people who hide? Who speak different languages than mine and mix up what they say?

The next day, calmed down now, I looked up the address of the ICQ, jotted down the Laval street number in St Laurent and headed out there. The Building was under construction and there was no clear entrance except a side door. It turned out to be the Men’s entrance but I did not know about those things. I walked in expecting a warm greeting but got nothing but cold glances. A boy came up to me and took me to a back room where he said I could pray Dhur which had already been led. I had my wudu already so I chose a spot to begin my prayers, took out my prayer cheat sheets, and prayed for thanks. An older sister came into the room and greeted me warmly and wished me a happy Eid Mubarak. She dug through her bag and pulled out a sweet for me. We exchanged phone numbers. She introduced me to the Imam who scoffed at my story of converting on line and showed genuine sadness at my having gone through Ramadan on my own. She saw me off and promised to call me inshaAllah. The boy escorted me to the door I had come through because my boots were there. I left the Mosque satisfied.

And this is how my first Ramadan and Eid concluded. And now I am about to begin my tenth, inshaAllah!

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Camp Ramadan Balqees Mohammed

In the west, the United States in particular, there is the tradition of going to a specialty camp of applied interest to the individual. This tradition is particularly popular in the summer months, when schools are out on the long summer vacation. It is a way for adults and youth alike to spend their time in social activity, benefitting all concerned.

At these camps, you will find a concentration towards the topic of interest of which the camp was set up to begin with. For instance, there are the various types of sports camps (such as baseball camp, canoe camp, etc.), as well as there are other specialized camps such as band camp for those inclined towards school band activities and music, as well as the various religious camps (namely Christian youth activities camps).

As a previous Christian, I attended several of such camps in my youth. Christian Youth Fellowship camps. Although we many times learned something new by our attendance at those camps, we benefitted basically from the social aspect of the camp itself, renewing our faith through the fellowship that such camps provide, spending some time in a different atmosphere than the normal daily routine of the family life.

Now, after having been a Muslim for 25+ years, and experiencing the coming and going of many Ramadhans, I compare this yearly experience of Ramadhan to those camps, in a sense. The month of Ramadhan is a holy month to Islam. It is the month in which the first revelation of the Quran occurred. It is the month in which the Quran was revealed. It is the month in which we are reassured that the devils are chained, and the doors to paradise are open to all. It is the month which contains the ‘night of power’, which we are told directly from Allah, is better in it’s value and importance than one thousand months. It is during this month that all Muslims worldwide come together under the one flag of fasting for the sake of Allah. It is also during this month that Muslims worldwide gather together in a more concentrated effort of increased prayers and other forms of worship, in following suit to the example set for them by their beloved prophet Mohammed (PBUH). It is the month of mercy and forgiveness, and salvation from Hellfire.

Hence, my comparison of this month which occurs once yearly, to the camps of the west. I call it ‘Camp Ramadhan’. Whenever a western youngster (or even adult) goes home from a summer camp (regardless if it is a religious camp or otherwise), they are somehow changed by the effects of the change of lifestyle that camp has provided for them. The memories of that camp remain with them for a long time, even after returning home to their daily routines and families. So it should be for us Muslims, that the effects of Ramadhan remain with us throughout the year, and continuing on to the next Ramadhan.

I humbly remind all Muslims now reading this to ask themselves seriously: what lessons have you learned from this Ramadhan? Or what practices did you put into effect during this Ramadhan which are even slightly different from your daily routine year-round? Or what feelings spiritually and emotionally have you experienced throughout this month or perhaps at it’s closing?

Why not make the extra effort throughout the coming year to continue to practice whatever lessons throughout the rest of the year? Why save those practices or lessons only for Ramadhan?? My dear brothers and sisters…I implore you to carry on with the nafal (superrogatory) prayers you began to do during this holy month. I implore with you to continue making the extra effort daily to recite from the Quran and learn its meaning, as you have in this special holy month. Make the extra effort to make the lessons of Ramadhan last and make a true difference in your life, and perhaps the deciding factor of your very survival from the hell fire!!

Were you able to contain your anger during this month better than at other times? Then why not apply that to your daily life through the rest of the year. Were you able to realize your duty to Allah in your prayers or remembrance and praise of Him? The surely, apply that to your daily life throughout the rest of the year!!

I pray humbly to Allah that He will bless us all to come away from this year’s ‘Camp Ramadhan’ with the lessons it has taught us engrained in our hearts, and with the firmer determination to apply those lessons in our lives throughout the rest of our time on this earth. And I also pray humbly that Allah will bless us all and have His mercy to shed upon us to forgive us our sins, and grant us the reward of this month of the fasting we have observed, and bless us even further to live long enough to witness yet another great Ramadhan to serve Him better!! Ameen.

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Quran & Ramadan – Balqees Mohammed

If you purchase any kind of a machine or electronic gadget or otherwise, it normally comes accompanied by a guidance manual which gives information of how to contact the manufacturer in addition to an explicative detail of the components of the merchandise, as well as, of course, directions on how to best operate it. Sometimes included in the owner’s manual and operation guide is a section on treatment measures for predicted problems that occur. This procedure of associating an owner’s manual or operational/set-up/maintenance directives is not exclusively for machinery or technical merchandise, but applies as well to even the simplest of merchandise.

Although of a much higher level, still brought down to earthly and comprehensible terms, one could say that the Quran is of comparable nature. Allah, in His supremacy as Creator and Sustainer of all things, and in His everlasting Mercy to all of His creation has given us a similar manual for our presence here on this earth. Within the pages of His Book one can find details of the creation, not only of the surrounding nature of this world, but of the complex nature of mankind as well, accompanied by interestingly insightful guidance as to the most healthy means of upkeep for the physical nature of man in addition to his spiritual needs. One should not forget as well the highly important aspect of how to make contact with Allah, our Creator and Sustainer, in addition of course to how to treat various ailments and complaints all humans inevitably face at one time or another in our lives. As well, this divine guidance is for all of mankind, regardless of their sex, nationality, race or even station in society.

Although the completion of the revelation of the message contained within the Quran spanned over a period of approximately 23 years, the very first revelation occurred during the month of Ramadan, with continuing renewal and review occurring between the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and angel Gabriel (PUH) annually, until the prophet’s death in 632 CE (12 Rabi’ al-Awwal, 11 A.H.)

In fact, as we have it stated in the Quran itself, not only was the Quran originally and initially revealed during the month of Ramadan, but selectively on a very special night, a night of great blessing, which all Muslims worldwide have come to know this night as the “night of power”, or the night of special blessings. (see the Quran, Ad-Dukhan, ch. 44, v. 3) This night is described as being worth (in terms of the value of blessings, which is surely immeasurable as per human comprehension, but a sampling of the idea of the immense blessings associated with this night is given in human terminology) more than a thousand months. (see Al-Quran, S. Al-Qadr, s. #97) It is a night which occurs yearly, not only at that time of the original revelation of the first message of the Quran, but with Allah’s mercy it happens once every year.

Depending upon the length one lives, a person may actually witness a life span of one thousand months. For instance, if one lives a total of 70 years, then the number of months they have witness during this life of 70 years is 840 months. To reach a total of one thousand months, then one needs to live in excess of 83 years. However, even if one lives for that long, the total period of actual worship is not that length, for you cannot take into account the early years before one is able to comprehend the meaning of faith and the physical implementation of that faith into actual worship.

There are various reports from the ahadith which indicate to us that the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was so dedicated as to review the Quran in its entirety every year during the holy month of Ramadan. This act done by he who was promised of complete redemptions from all sins and promised of his place in paradise, is indication of the significance of the important relationship between the Quran and the month of Ramadan, and the significance also of the importance of spending time during the month of Ramadan for recitation and review of the Divine Book. In fact, he spent the last ten days of Ramadan in confinement in the mosque, only tending to the very limited basic physical needs of nourishment and rest, devoting the remainder of his time during these days to worshipping Allah and seeking forgiveness. It is in these last ten days that we are told of the occurrence of the “night of power”, or that one special night which occurs only one yearly, which is worth that of a thousand months – the same night in which, over 1400 years ago, the first revelation of the Quran was revealed, the command to read, or to recite.

The message of Islam of course conveys the aspect of the Unity of God, but it also essentially leads to enlightenment, by the very simple yet powerful act of reading, thereby comprehending, the message revealed to us by our Creator. Never once can anyone find in any of the passages of the Quran, nor in the sayings of the prophet (PBUH), a directive to believe without due proof or evidence. Rather, it appeals to man’s innate aspect and need for logical and valid proofs of evidence, upon which faith can grow healthily into a strong basis for receiving Allah’s mercy.

We are told in the Quran, concerning the context in which the prophet (PBUH) is held in this creation, that he is an excellent exemplar by which we should model our lives. (see Quran, s. 33, v. 21) The prophet (PBUH) was keen not only to deliver the message to all, but he was also keen to review it yearly, and with particular emphasis of this review during the month of Ramadan.

Let us all liven up our Ramadan this year by devoting time daily & nightly to reciting from Allah’s Book, whether it is a review of something we have already learned, or exploring out onto new ground of sections which we have not yet learned. Even for those who do not know Arabic well enough to read on their own, there are websites on the internet as well as devices (both digital as well as tape recordings) for listening to recitations by those more experienced and well versed in the manners of proper recitation. Following are some links which might be helpful in encouraging one to learn how to recite or perhaps even help in paths of memorization, and others for simply listening.

For some sites which have an online program to assist in the process of memorization:

http://zekr.org/quran/en/quran-for-mac

http://www.imaanstar.com/juz30.php

http://www.quranmemorizer.com/

http://www.islamicity.com/education/quranreciter/

http://www.shaplus.com/free-quran-software/quran-mp3-software/QuranReciter/quranreciter-features.htm

An excellent article concerning how to memorize:

http://www.themuslimwoman.com/hertongue/MemorizeQuran.htm

Quran mp3 files:  www.mp3quran.net/eng/

A tip to remember concerning Quran mp3 files: be creative, and mold your digital recordings (particularly Quran) according to your own needs and desires. If you have or use any kind of an mp3 player, whether it is an iPod, iPad, iPhone or perhaps any other kind of a ‘smartphone’ or android phone or android device, you can easily put together specially designed files to help you in your quest for memorization. What I’ve done personally is to first of all, after downloading the whole Quran in mp3 format of the reciter I prefer, then I made in my iTunes account a separate folder of whatever surah I may be working on at the moment in my struggle to memorize or review to refresh my memory. As memorization is concerned, regardless of the topic or material at hand, repetition is a major key to helping one achieve that final goal of memorizing the material. So, I have put in my iTunes library a special folder or ‘playlist’, I call “memo” and then complete the title with the name of the surah I am trying to memorize or review to refresh my memory. For example, I set up a playlist called “memo An-Naba”. Then, I transfer that surah, An-Naba, to that folder, and repeat the action at least ten times. Once I’m finished, I have the playlist of “memo An-Naba” containing 10 (or however many times I repeat the transfer of the surah to this folder) repetitions of the same surah. Then I select this playlist whenever the time is ripe (nothing much else going on around me to distract me, so that I can concentrate on listening to the repetition, and perhaps recite along with the recording as well).

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His Favourite Month – Jamal Orme

I know a brother who once told me, with the same longing with which you might remember one beloved, that Ramadan was his favourite month. I was negotiating my way through a third Ramadan at the time. I smiled politely at his apparent insanity, considering that in all likelihood this was piety in a guise I was not yet fit to recognise. We had met the previous year – also in Ramadan.

The true wisdom of the month is beyond the scope of my understanding, but every year as I cross its path, I appreciate one attribute more than any other: if one is willing to seize it, so Ramadan is, in turn, a safety net like no other. The faltering Muslim stumbles, but as he falls he reaches out for Ramadan and Ramadan catches him, nurturing and nourishing him within that safe enclosure.

Thus it resonates with me, even in my ignorance, that observing the fast of Ramadan should constitute one of the pillars of this deen; meanwhile, my recurrent tribulations are entirely the result of my inability to do justice to this blessed month of opportunity.

I had served my first year of Islam as a kind of correspondence course, fulfilling duties imperfectly and in isolation. The mosque, it seemed to me then, was not a place for one with my complexion and complexities: whiter than white in one sense, and unhappily distant from such purity in another. Nevertheless, the first week of Ramadan that year coincided with a school holiday and I, as a teacher, found myself in my classroom, tinkering with displays and the like, when the time came for the noon prayer. Though I had only visited it once, I was well aware that the nearest mosque was a half-hour’s walk away, and to my surprise it was at that moment I felt Ramadan’s urge compelling me to offer my salah at the masjid.

Had I not been somewhat preoccupied with doomsday forecasts of my reception upon arrival, I may have given more thought to one possible obstacle: I was blissfully ignorant of the congregational prayer times. When I stopped to realise this, the problem merged darkly with the fears I already carried; presently I imagined bursting through the door of the prayer room, somehow nullifying the entire prayer with my disruption, and inviting the wrath of all who had assembled punctually therein.

As it was, with heart pounding enough to distract anyone from their fast, I ascended the steps, turned the door handle, and pulled.

The door tugged defiantly back at me, the latch giving a mechanical ‘tut’ as it clicked into place once more.

What to do now? A half-hour trudge back to school? Had everyone prayed and gone home? What time was it, anyway? (Why had I never thought it important to carry a timepiece?) Why hadn’t I driven here? Whose ridiculous notion was this little expedition anyway, Ramadan or no Ramadan?

I stood for a while. After all, I had walked too far to simply turn on my heels and return to school. Besides, I was tired. Would someone arrive – someone with a key? With what sort of a look would they greet me?

Would they greet me at all?

I was not given long to dramatize this layer of suspense; soon enough, an olive coloured man, wearing dull green garb and a shy looking smile, skipped up the steps.

‘Assalamu alaykum,’ I said, hoping to conform to the expectations of this stranger. I had barely met a Muslim since becoming one myself, and the greeting was certainly not one I was in danger of wearing out.

‘Wa alaykum assalam,’ he replied cheerfully. He pointed to the door and shook his head, raising an eyebrow as he did so.

I quickly drew several conclusions:

Firstly, that he had correctly deduced that the door was locked, or that only a fool would be standing here if it was open. (Unless of course it was raining. Which it wasn’t.) I was thus hopeful that he had not taken me for a fool.

Secondly, that he didn’t speak any English, or much of it anyway. Likewise, whatever language it was that he spoke, he must have been pretty confident we didn’t have it in common. All of which suited me fine; I had done all right until now, I felt, and was perfectly happy not to negate my progress by saying something stupid that he might understand.

He moved stealthily towards the door and I wondered momentarily if he might have a key. This notion was quickly dispelled as he began thumping the door, somehow gently and forcefully at the same time, and calling ‘Assalamu alaykum!’ through the crack.

I presumed all of this was a hopeful gesture on his part, but sure enough, within a minute or so, I heard a click and the door swung open. Greetings were exchanged between those on either side of the threshold, and I found myself looking at a man of average height with a thick, black beard. His eyes were tired and alive all at once, and he smiled warmly at both of us. The two men shared a few words in what I presumed to be Arabic, then the brother with the thick beard turned to me.

‘How are you?’ he asked me, in unmistakeable English but with a definite accent from a place I did not know. ‘I am sorry, I was here by myself, reading Qur’an. Were you waiting long?’

‘Fine, er, no, thank you,’ I replied, unsure of which question to answer first. ‘You? I mean, how are you?’

Alhamdulillah,’ he beamed. ‘What is your name?’

‘Jamal. Yours?’

‘Tawfik. Anyway brother,’ he said hurriedly, ‘Please do not let me keep you from your two rak’at for entering the mosque. Do you need to make wudu?’

I prayed, nerves slightly less frayed after this encounter. Looking back, I realise how Tawfik’s manner was entirely suited for the new Muslim lacking in confidence. In the years that have passed since we met, he has always been quick to advise where needed, but nonetheless always communicating a respect and an apparent assumption that one probably already knows whatever it is he wishes to say. It is a manner that instils confidence in others.

Yet, at this stage, I remained far from settled. After praying I sat for a time, and Tawfik came over to speak to me. I cannot honestly remember what we spoke about, but that I was leaning against a wall. Since I still felt incredibly uncomfortable in these surroundings, I was sweating profusely; when I eventually extricated myself from the wall, my sodden jumper contrived to produce an unpleasant slurping sound as it followed me.

My anxieties were not allayed when Tawfik announced that the brother I had met on the steps (name quite unrepeatable) had expressed a wish for me to break fast at his house the following day. This I could not fathom at all. Why would someone to whom I had only spoken two words, want me as a dinner guest? Now I grew suspicious. Alarm bells began to ring in my head. After all, surely there was no such thing as a free iftar? I agreed, and instantly regretted it. Why could I never say ‘no’ to people? Here I was, ready to be seduced into all kinds of terrorist activities simply because someone had fed me and I didn’t have the strength of character to resist the overtures that would inevitably follow. I beseeched God to make me strong enough to resist the call to jihad, knowing that my mother would not approve.

I nearly didn’t go. The food was delicious and the conversation friendly, just as I had feared. My friend from the mosque steps was an Algerian brother by the name of Abdul Ghani. I spoke at him in High School French and he responded with smiles and patience. I waited for news of my mission over coffee and baklawa.

Finally, Tawfik spoke. He wanted me to try to go for……Fajr. At the masjid.

Well, in many ways, this was a jihad too. At that time I was living in a room in a shared flat. I wasn’t close to my flatmates (except geographically speaking of course) and, to my knowledge, none of them knew I was a Muslim. Rattling around at 5.a.m. wouldn’t make me very popular. Still, I did it, caring that Tawfik had asked me to, and judging the likelihood of his involvement in some sort of sleeper cell diminished with every sleepy prostration at his side. But then he raised the stakes.

‘There is a night,’ he told me after Fajr one morning, ‘the best night of the year to spend in worshipping Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. Only He knows when this night falls, but we know it is in the last ten days of Ramadan. Insha Allah, if you can come, please… try to stay at the mosque next Friday night.’

The Night of Power. Contemplating my attendance the following week, and how I might have spent Friday nights only a few years earlier, I could only reflect that this must be powerful stuff indeed.

Meanwhile, behind my back, Tawfik was plotting. Everything would come together on this night, he hoped, by the permission of Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

And so it did.

“‘There’s someone I want you to meet,’ said Tawfik mysteriously when I met him on  that chilly November night. ‘We’ll find him after the prayer.’

We broke our fast, prayed the Maghrib salah, and it wasn’t long before he introduced me to a brother named Muhammad. A revert like myself, he had married the eldest of three sisters, had three children, and lived about five miles away. Tawfik had implored him to spend the night at our local mosque, though there were several nearer to his home. He hoped that one revert could provide an invaluable crutch for another. We became friends, and formed half of a modest circle of brothers who would meet after Fajr once every weekend.

Please, dear reader, take a moment to reflect on the unlikely nature of the events described  thus far. Consider the rarity of my sorties to the masajid – a handful in twelve months. Ponder the apparent randomness of the first brother to arrive – Abdul Ghani – as I waited outside, and that he was not only able to summon the one person inside the mosque, but was also a close friend of his. Contemplate Tawfik’s acquaintance with brother Muhammad, who ordinarily would not have been at my local mosque on that November night, had it not been for Tawfik and my seemingly chance meeting with him.

Who is Muhammad now? He’s pretty much the same brother he was back then, of course, except that he now has four children. He’s also still the brother-in-law of the lady who is now my wife.

And the brother who loved Ramadan more than any other month? Who is he? Well, who else might you expect to find sitting in the mosque with the noon prayer on the distant horizon – seemingly alone, yet, in reality, surrounded by angels as he recites the Majestic Speech of Allah?

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A Confused Revert’s First Ramadan – Linda D. Delgado

Muslims love to read reversion stories and I have one, but I thought as Ramadan approaches I would share my first Ramadan story instead. Many reverts like me jumped right into Islam without knowing a lot about how to implement Islam into their daily life.  We read about Islamic beliefs and sometimes we attend what I call an Islam 101 course sponsored by a masjid. But this is not always available to every revert. Often there isn’t a resource available to ask practical questions or the revert doesn’t know what questions should be asked to learn the practical aspects of being Muslim.

Once I was working on a team for a writing project and I asked some questions about the family life of Muslims. A brother commented that most reverts learned these practical aspects from their Muslim husbands and extended family members.  He just assumed that females who revert to Islam eventually get married to a Muslim and all those practical matters take care of themselves through the marriage. As an example I was 52 years old when I converted, long past child bearing, and already was married for 26 years to the same man. I did not have a “Muslim” family. I met a sister online who converted after learning about Islam through the Internet and she was the only Muslim living in a small rural town—population 2,500.  Many revert Muslims are actually clueless when they accept Islam as a matter of faith when Allah has shown them the truth.

As my first Ramadan approached I was full of questions. What kind of breakfast to eat before fasting? Did I eat a light meal or a big meal?  I read where Muslims break the fast by eating dates—E-U… I didn’t like dates so could I eat something else? What if I forgot momentarily and took a bite of something or drank a sip of water? Did that mean my fast was broken? I read emails in a sisters’ egroup and a lot of the discussions were about Ramadan recipes and food they would be making during Ramadan. I thought this strange—so much talk about food and dinner parties when I had my mind on not eating and what I thought I should be doing during the fasting hours. I read emails where Muslims talked about doing good deeds and charitable giving. My first question was how much was I supposed to give and who should I give the money to. Then I learned about some Muslims not being able to fast while other Muslims made up missed days of fasting. I read where some Muslims spent time sleeping during the fasting hours if they were not working. I thought this strange as they were missing time reading Quran and doing remembrances of Allah. It was very confusing to me.

Then there was my confusion about Muslims staying overnight at the masjid and praying. Did Muslim women do this or was it just the men? I kept thinking (and hoping) someone would invite me to their house to break the fast. I wasn’t ready yet to invite Muslims to my house as my non-Muslim family was going to be experiencing my first Ramadan and I wasn’t sure of their reaction to all the fasting and praying and whatever else I figured out Muslims did during Ramadan.

I had so many questions… like how does a Muslim family pray together? Is there a special place in their homes set aside just for prayer? Who leads the prayer when the husband/father isn’t home?

Understanding the Night of Power…. That was a real mystery to me and also learning that different days during the month of Ramadan have a different significance such as the days of forgiveness.

I was a tad overwhelmed with everything I was learning. I barely had a handle on the fact that not eating pork would require me to read labels because many food products had pork in them… a fact I had never been aware of as a non-Muslim.

I didn’t get invited to anyone’s home to break the fast but during the last ten days of Ramadan many Muslims in my community met at the masjid where they would break the fast, go to prayer, and then a community dinner was served. I was surprised to learn that on some of the days the brothers did the cooking and serving of the meal. I really enjoyed breaking fast with other Muslims and sharing a meal together.

What I decided was the best part of my first Ramadan was reading all of the Qur’an—one chapter each day and spending quiet time thinking of Allah and praying. I learned that all the other happenings and activities were nice, but the best part of Ramadan was the time I spent with Allah.

Please check within your community and if you have new reverts to Islam make it a point to contact them, invite them to break the fast with you, and ask them if they have any questions about Ramadan and also Eid. Help make their first Ramadan the best it can be.

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Ramadan, Summer & Your Teen – Mahasin D. Shamsid-Deen

Alhumdulillah, Ramadan in summer means your children, tweens and teens have a lot of time on their hands.   What a wonderful time to strengthen family times, enhance friendship and grow in Iman and Mercy.

When dealing with out of school adolescents and teenagers for the month, the key is to have a balance in their lives.  Ramadan is not a month to sleep away, nor is it a month to party away. Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Quran was revealed!  Make the month of Ramadan a Quranic event for your children, tweens and teens!  After all the Holy Quran was first revealed during the summer – thus the ‘burning’ of the month is more than just in our stomachs.

First – Use the table wisely!  During Ramadan, families gather at that table for suhoor iftar and dinner.  This gathering allows for parents to teach and pass values on to their children in a receptive environment.  During the summer months there is more time to prepare for these meal times for working parents, thus there is more time to  – TALK!  Talk to your teens and most importantly let your Teen talk to you!

At the beginning of the month let the Teens or older children tell the story of when revelation was received.  Let them reflect on the story and discuss it.   Resist the urge to cut in with your own story or ‘correct’ them.  If your children don’t know this, then give them access to a book the first day of Ramadan and let them read it – then discuss.

    • Challenge your teens to read a juz of the Holy Quran each day (after all it is broken down into 30 to do so).  Let your younger children learn a new Surah for the week.  Let every step be a Victory.  If your young teen only gets through a part of a juz don’t reprimand, but congratulate that your child is reading Al-Quran.  Encourage them to try to read the Quran for themselves and not just listen to congregational recitation at the Masjid during taraweh prayers.
    • Discuss the Tafsir of the Juz read each day at the table.
    • Discuss the stories of the prophets in the Quran and then let the children discuss how this applies to their own life in modern times.
    • Discuss ‘issues’ that teens may have at this time.  This may include Islamic standards of modesty in dress or behavior, hudood – limits, responsibility and rights of adolescents.  Use the time to actually foster a healthy understanding of their “Muslim” self instead of their ‘cultural identity’.
    • Have a night of Quranic recitation led by the children themselves.  If your night activities are short do the Quranic reading and recitation between Asr and Magrib.
    • Listen to your children’s recitations,   Children learn from parents what to do, not just what we say to them.  Our interest in the Holy Quran as a parent will help increase their interest.

Not all teen are open to ‘talking’ and not all households have fostered an environment where talking at the table is conducive.  However, there are still ways to engage your teen in activities that make the day not only productive, but fun.

  • At the beginning of the month – Talk about what you want to do.  Make a calendar and list of activities for your family.  This may include invitations given or received to iftars, Masjid programs, halaqahs, taleems, masjid potlucks, community activities etc.
  • Take your teen to sight the moon at the beginning and end of the month.
  • TALK to other parents of Teens about their plans.  This is important because Ramadan allows for the increased social interaction between Muslims.  Invite them to be a part of your or ask if your teen can be a part of theirs.
  • Take your teens to taraweh prayers at the masjid – especially during the middle of the week.  If your teen drives then let him/her pick up other teens and take them.  If your work schedule makes mid-week masjid attendance too physically taxing – then car pool with another parent.
  • Encourage your teens to keep a Ramadan journal.   They may even want to save it for future years to see how they feel each year, how they do or even share with their own children.
  • Don’t let your teen sleep the day away.  Instead, if not in school and not working – let the teen volunteer at a homeless shelter, Goodwill, Food Bank, hospital, nursing home or library.  If you can’t find anything formal– have them clean the masjid or the home of a senior citizen or sick Muslim.  If all else fails let them go to a playground or park and pick up trash or recyclable items as a community service.
  • If your teen likes arts and crafts, let them help younger brothers and sisters or children from other families make Eid cards, iftar invitation, decorations for home or masjid.  This can be an afternoon activity one or two days a week throughout the month.
  • Let your teen finish projects around house as a form of sadaqah.  They may also start a project like making a scrap book or cleaning/decorating their room.  The key is to have something that they can do during the day
  • Pair your teen with a senior citizen, ill/handicapped or new Muslim.  Then let your teen be responsible for visiting or having iftar, dinner, reading Quran to them or discussing Al-Islam with this person once a week.  Your teen can prepare and take the food to their house.
  • Let your teenagers not only shop for the foods you will have for iftar and dinners, but prepare them as well.
  • Let the teens plan and have their own iftar and dinner with other teens.  Follow this up with a Youth halaqah or taleem.  The teens can all read/recite a juz of Al-Quran together before breaking fast, then have iftar, their meal and taraweh prayers in congregation.
  • Encourage your teens to make Itikaaf.  In Shari’ah this mean to engage in retreat in the Masjid and stay there with the intention of seeking nearness to Allah.  This is for both the boys and girls as the wives and companions of Rasullah (SAW) observed Itikaaf both in his lifetime and after.  It is a time for spiritual reflection and teens to can engage in worship and study to increase their Iman and understanding.
  • Get input from your teens about what they would like to do to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr.  Some places have community events that are geared towards the young ones, but the teens should have a voice of what interests them.  After doing so – let THEM begin the process of organizing their OWN celebratory activities

Pray – make du’a for your teens.  A Muslim teen with Taqwa is surely a Mercy and Blessing from Allah, The Most High.

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Staying Healthy During Ramadan – Maryam Mahmoodian, MD

 According to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), there are over 2 million Muslims living in the US.  In just my own small state of Nebraska, there are approximately 7,000 of us.  This is a very conservative estimate because many Muslims do not consider themselves to be members of one of the main Islamic Centers in the state or nation, which is where these numbers come from.

One of the five pillars of Islam is the requirement to fast during the entire month of Ramadan (about 30 days on average).  Because the Islamic calendar is a lunar calendar, each month generally starts 10-11 days earlier than it had the year prior.  Therefore, as we all know, Ramadan may at times fall during the cold winter months or at other times during the long months of summer.

During the period of fasting blood draws and injections (of medications) are allowed, but nothing can be taken orally (including pills).  Although in Islam, fasting is a requirement, it is only a requirement for those healthy enough to do so.  It may be excused in those who are ill, elderly, traveling, pregnant, or breastfeeding.  It may be excused for 1-2 days or the entire month, depending on the situation.

One of the biggest challenges that is faced by Muslims in the US is whether or not it is healthy for us to fast during Ramadan.  In Muslim-majority countries where physicians are well-versed in Ramadan and its requirements, it is easy to determine whether a patient should fast or not.  However, in the US and many other nations, especially in more rural areas, Muslims must be proactive and talk to their physicians well in advance to ensure the safest possible outcome.

Diabetics are often asymptomatic and, therefore, may not consider themselves to be “ill“.  Muslim diabetics are no exception and, as a result, you may be reluctant to give up fasting during Ramadan.  However, if you do fast, it is very important that you see your medical provider during the month prior.  This way, several factors can be discussed including the adjustment of diet and medications (either oral or injections) and the recognition of complications such as dehydration and hypoglycemia.  It may also be beneficial for you to see a diabetic educator at that time.  Most physicians in the US are not Muslims, which means that it is up to you as the patient to bring up this topic.

Several studies have shown that in non-insulin dependent diabetics, light to moderate exercise during Ramadan is harmless.  While weight changes may occur during the month, they are usually not significant.  Surprisingly, increases in weight are common, perhaps because diabetics may reduce daily activities due to fear of hypoglycemia and also may not restrict the amount of food eaten at night.  Many of us tend to overindulge during iftar after fasting all day.  Several studies have also emphasized that all of us must maintain our appropriate diets in order to benefit from Ramadan fasting.

In general, non-insulin dependent diabetics may be able to fast with some medication adjustments to avoid complications.  However, only well controlled insulin dependent diabetics should fast.  One specific method that has been suggested for insulin therapy adjustment during Ramadan consists of two doses of short-acting insulin (such as Humalog or Novolog) before suhoor and iftar. Glucose should be checked prior to each meal, so the insulin can be adjusted accordingly (based on your physician’s recommendations).

As patients, home management of diabetes is also vital and should consist of: monitoring blood glucose, familiarizing yourself with the symptoms of dehydration and hypo/hyperglycemia, remembering the importance of breaking your fast if any complications do occur, and paying even closer attention when Ramadan falls during the summer months with the longer daylight hours.

Based on previous studies, fasting is not recommended in the following patients: brittle Type 1 diabetics, poorly controlled Type 1 or 2 diabetics, noncompliant patients (you know who you are!), diabetics with serious complications, those who have a history of ketoacidosis, gestational diabetics, diabetics with acute infections, elderly individuals with diabetes, and those who have had 2 or more episodes of hypoglycemia while fasting.  Fasting can generally be considered safe in well-controlled diabetics who are compliant.  These are just general guidelines; as with everything in medicine, recommendations should be tailored for each individual person which again is why it’s so important to discuss this with your physician.  As far as fasting in adolescents with insulin-dependent diabetes, this is not recommended at all.

For individuals with other chronic medical diseases, there has not been a lot of research on this subject.  In patients with hypertension who are on a diuretic, it is recommended by many Muslim physicians that you be temporarily changed to a different medication.  This would especially be an issue when Ramadan falls during the summer.

Migraine headaches are often triggered by hunger, dehydration, or inadequate rest, all of which are factors during Ramadan.  In individuals who suffer from uncontrolled migraines, it is not recommended that you fast.

Poorly controlled asthmatics are also not advised to fast.  Some Muslims believe that it is okay to use their inhalers, if needed, during the day while others do not.

Few good studies have been done addressing the issue of pregnancy and fasting.  The general consensus among Muslim women is that if we are healthy prior to pregnancy and have had an uncomplicated pregnancy to date, it is okay for us to fast as long as we do not feel that it is compromising our health or the health of our fetus.  However, because of the lack of solid research on this issue, this is not necessarily deemed as good medicine.  Again, it is imperative that if you are pregnant, you talk to your midwife or obstetrician prior to the start of Ramadan. At the minimum, they need to be aware that you are fasting in case you start to develop complications.  Dehydration can trigger preterm contractions.  In many Muslim countries, pregnant women are discouraged from fasting during their first and third trimesters when complications are more likely to occur.

Because there have been such few studies done, each woman must be individualized and fully educated as to the signs of the possible complications (including dehydration and hypoglycemia) while pregnant and the importance of breaking your fast should any of these signs occur.  As a practicing Muslim, I would also recommend that pregnant women who have any complications at all be discouraged from fasting.  These complications include uncontrollable nausea and vomiting, gestational diabetes, hypertension, and twins.

As far as acute medical conditions, each patient needs to be individualized.  There is no reason that a healthy male or female with a routine cold cannot continue to fast.  On the other hand, if it’s Strep throat, we may recover more quickly by not fasting for a day or two.  A patient who requires a specific procedure or surgery can request to put it off until after Ramadan if it is elective (such as a screening colonoscopy) or non-urgent (such as a tonsillectomy). If not, such as with appendicitis, we have no choice but to break our fast.  A patient with acute gastroenteritis should be discouraged from fasting until he or she is able to keep food and liquids down.  If you do get sick with an acute infection, it is imperative that you let your medical provider know you are fasting.  If they give you a prescription for an antibiotic that you must take three times a day, and you don’t take all of the doses because you are fasting, this could adversely affect your health.  It is much easier to be proactive and ask them for a medicine that is only once or twice a day than to run the risk of getting sick again and having to go back and take additional medicine.

General guidelines to follow are to try to discuss fasting with your medical providers at some point, so they are aware that you are Muslim and that you fast during Ramadan.  Even young and healthy Muslims should remember to eat in moderation and to continue to engage in light to moderate physical activity.  All pregnant women or individuals with chronic medical problems should see their medical provider during the month prior to Ramadan, so you can have a complete checkup and get your medications adjusted if needed.  And remember that if your physician tells you not to fast because of your health risks, it is important to listen to them because we only want what’s best for our patients.

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2011 Spring Edition of IWA Magazine

Article Buzz – See IWA Magazine’s Special Section page focusing this edition on Domestic Violence.

2010 Winter Edition of IWA Magazine

 Islam: A True Religion for the Weak © 2010 Abdul Rahman Mojahed

As a matter of fact, man stands in need of religion for guidance and inspiration. No matter how many powerful faculties he may have, he is still deficient and dependent simply because man’s physical power is still inferior to that of most other creatures and his mental power is also still imperfect. Man is not the most ever able-bodied creature, nor is his knowledge thorough or all-embracing. He has a weak structure when compared to other fellow creatures. His mentality is not more than a virtual memory which only stores such information which is entered into it, whether or not it is accurate. Thus, the human intellect only relies on experiences and situations to which man is exposed. Hence, man’s knowledge is nothing but his life experience, with all of its pros and cons.

Therefore, man can depend on neither his physique nor his reason; both are imperfect. Only aware of things that directly come into contact with his mental faculties in the absence of an ideological filter to let in only what is really right, by right of nature, man always seeks for guidance from presumable sources of guidance. Though every community of human beings adopts a different source of guidance, all of them believe that a supernatural power underlies their respective sources of guidance but in different forms. Man admits that he is imperfect so he tries to perfect himself by seeking refuge in a perfect being.

Although the name and identity may differ, such a source of guidance is essentially nothing but Allah as Muslims call Him, God as Christians and Jews call Him or whatever other communities may call Him. It is the Lord in Whom all humanity unquestionably believe, but He has His divine identity varied according to the various human beliefs and cultures.

While every community claims that they adore the true God and follow the right religion, the truth can be sought judging by the religious practice and the way of life inspired by each individual faith.

One of the effective determinants of the judgment that a certain religion is true or false is the way it regulates the relationship between the strong and the weak. This will demonstrate how fair and just a religion may be. Once fairness and justice are proven, a religion is then to be declared true as the Lord must be fair and, in turn, the religion through which He wants us to worship Him must be remarkable for fairness and justice. The Lord cannot be unfair or unjust for there is no good reason for siding with one servant against another though they are supposed to be equal in religiousness. He may favor one servant only for the piety and devotion he may show more than another, a fair standard of preference. The Lord is expected to wish good worldly and otherworldly lives for all of His servants on an equal footing, without any kind of indiscrimination.

In terms of fairness and justice, Islam is to be ranked as number one at the top of all religions, especially when it comes to the relationship between the strong and the weak. We notice that most religions overlook this relationship and do not lay due emphasis on it. A few religions handle such an important relationship, but they would instruct the strong to refrain from harming the weak or, in the best cases, show mercy to them. For example, the Bible states, “Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed.”(Psalms 82:3, the New International Version)

Remarkably characterized by overall fairness and justice, Islam’s approach is quite unique, matchless and unrivaled. We notice that Islam not only commands the strong to abstain from harming the weak or show mercy to them, but also obligates the strong to show extra care to the weak as if the latter were the superior.

Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said: “The weaker is the commander of the caravan.”(Al-Mawsily, Abu Al-Fath, Al-Mathal Al-Sair, 110/2). This prophetic statement shows how concerned Islam is for the weak. It places them in an especially higher rank so that they will not receive even the least harm and get as much advantage from the strong as possible. Islam makes an inferior and a servant of the strong to make sure they will not only desist from harming the weak but also work hard to benefit them and make them happy.

The reason why Islam made the strong seemingly inferior to the weak is that the strong are more fortunate, being armed with strength by which they can get their rights and lead a happy existence. Though they are still weak and dependent as human beings, they have advantage over the weak considering the strength they wield. So they are not as lacking in religion as the weak are; with or without it, they will get advantages. But, were it not for religion, the weak could not have attained any sort of advantages or rights from the strong.

Under Islam, to be strong means to be chivalrous, generous and helpful. Strength is associated with magnanimity, tolerance and mercy in Islam, unlike any other religion or social system. Unfortunately, prior to Islam and even now in non-Islamic environments, strength and power may have such bad connotations of aggression, transgression and injustice. But, this is not the case under Islam.

Islam has an enlightened ideology that underlies the above described approach. The philosophy of strength and weakness in Islam is beyond the scope of this article. But we can summarize it in a few lines to highlight its distinct features.

Not all servants of Allah can be strong, nor can all of them be weak. Allah confers strength on certain servants so that they will utilize it not only to their own benefit but to the benefit of the weak also. Strength is Allah’s and it is He Who favors with it whomever He selects out of the masses of His servants.

Thus, a strong or powerful human being does not really own such strength or power he has, but it belongs to Allah Who assigns it to him so that whereby he will benefit himself and other fellow human beings who are less fortunate and do not have such power or strength. Hence, according to the Islamic philosophy, it is quite safe to say that strength is common property, with some members of the Muslim community entrusted with it to bring advantage to everybody within the Muslim realm.

Under Islam, the strong cannot use the strength Allah blesses them with to harm the weak for, in this case, the weak’s suffering will be a double one given helplessness and harm at the same time. Such a terrible double suffering can in no way be allowed by Islam, the religion of fairness and justice. The weak are deprived of strength so as to avoid a potential conflict among beings with equal strength, not to cause them suffering.

Accordingly, in Islam, the strong are seen as guardians, caretakers and trustees who have to serve and work for the weak, who are viewed as the charges and wards of the strong and who are to show gratitude, respect and appreciation to the strong. Consequently, we observe that the weak benefit from the strength the strong have more than the strong themselves do when it comes to material advantage and physical utilization. The weak get material benefit in return for abstract consideration. But this is Islam and this is the community Islam is keen to establish. It is such a community where the weaker is the commander of the caravan as Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) instructed.

Abdul Rahman Mojahed is a translator, reviser and author. He was born in 1982 in Damietta City, Egypt. He graduated in 2006 from the Islamic Studies Section, English Department, Faculty of Languages & Translation, Al-Azhar University, and Cairo, Egypt. He is the author of Superior Woman, Inferior Man, in Islam as the first in a series of books aimed at unveiling the truly pure nature of Islam. He is also the author of Jihad: Peaceful Strife for Reformation which is still under publication. His future writing plans are to author other works about Islam. abdu_mojahed@yahoo.com

 Living My Destiny as a Muslim Woman in America –

© 2010 Maryam Funmilayo

Seventeen years ago, I was a first year student in a Nigerian university, hoping and praying fervently to join the ranks of those upper-level students who adorned themselves with the white coat over their garments. Assuming someone had told me then, that I would not be a medical doctor in the next ten years to come, I would have detested the person with all my heart. Little did I know that Allaah, the best of all planners, had designed His own plans for me beyond my own very limited knowledge.

Fast forward those years, and here I am, now in America, raising a family, struggling to strike a balance between my ongoing education and family responsibilities, and not excluding the many micro responsibilities that are always there and seem to never disappear.

Though I am not a medical doctor today as I had hoped to become when I was much younger, I am blessed to realize the path that Allaah has chosen for me. I must confess that it took a while before I could embrace my destiny. Though I started with taking pre-med courses, along with my nutrition major, my life changed when I became a mum. With one child, I thought I could handle the rigors of sitting for the MCAT exam, applying to medical schools, going for interviews and so on and so forth. However, when my second child was born, I knew I could not keep up with the stress of being a pre-med student and a mother to a toddler and an infant. I made sincere dua to Allah, performed the prayer for guidance (Salatul Istikharah), and consulted with some of my friends who were also pre-med students and family women. I prayed, prayed, and prayed. Eventually, I gave up my dreams of attending medical school. It was a tough decision. It was a huge sacrifice. Factors such as time commitment to my family, expensive school tuition, lack of scholarships, school loans with interest, and no extended family members to help me out, led to my final decision to quit my long search into the medical profession. Allah in His own mercies directed me to another path that I naturally fell in love with. To me, it is more flexible and family oriented. I finally accepted my qadar – destiny.

Living in America actually changed my outlook toward life. It is here in America that my faith grew with so much understanding and contemplation compared to when I was in Nigeria. It is here that I have come to appreciate the diversity of Muslims, cultures, and languages. It is here in America that I have learned how to braid the African hairstyle which I took for granted in Nigeria. I never learned hair braiding despite my mother’s advice and encouragement. It was here that I learned how to shave my sons’ hair when my husband got busy with work or appointments. It is here in America that I have learned to be very independent compared to my life back home as a totally dependent daughter. Here in America, it is the norm to work and attend school, no big deal, eh? Back home in Nigeria, I could never imagine myself going to school and working at the same time. It is rare in Nigeria. Well, I learned how to cope in America, attend classes, work in the lab, and even raise a family around the clock.

Right now, I am simply living my destiny in America, striving and struggling to uphold my duties to Allah, the Lord of all worlds, and carrying out my responsibilities as a Muslimah in her home and in the community at large. Though I have given up a passion so dear to me for so many years, I am blessed to discover my new passion which I have embraced with all my heart. More so, this new passion is so family friendly in such a way that it creates so many valuable avenues for quality family time.

This is my destiny.

Maryam Funmilayo was born in the state of Massachusetts, USA, and raised in Nigeria. Maryam started writing when she was in elementary school. She was a member of the Muslim Students’ Society Press Club at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria. On moving back to the States eleven years ago, to further her education, she completely suspended her writing as she became a mother and family woman. She is blessed with four kids, and she and her husband home school the two oldest ones. Presently, she is pursuing her graduate studies in Nutrition. She aspires to practice professionally in the fields of dietetics, nutrition, and public health, as well as inspire herself and others through the talent that Allah has blessed her with. Writing and reading are her best hobbies. She also has an aptitude for languages. To her, writing is her innate skill and passion that nurtures her from inside out. She and her family currently reside in Raleigh, North Carolina. Maryam currently (2010) has published works at www.Helium.com  Contact: anamumeenah@yahoo.com.

 Choosing a Career – Why Writing is Bottom of a Muslim’s List

© 2010 Amina Malik

“When I grow up” my niece announced proudly to me when she was three years old, “I want to be a Barbie Girl”. Years later (and potential self-esteem crisis averted), I am pleased to report she is focused on more important goals. But what do Muslim parents say when their child suggests a career that is not traditional?

Within the Muslim community, there are pockets of definite cultural influences that shape the career advice parents give to their children. In the Muslim Asian community for example, the emphasis has always been on attending higher education courses in business, medicine, law and mathematics rather than courses in the arts, journalism or philosophy. So where does that leave Muslim writers?

The earliest memory I have of writing is when I was aged 9, writing short stories. By the time I was 11, and in the fourth year of middle school, my teachers were sending me to the first years to read my stories to them. At 15 I began writing for a newspaper, publishing my first journalism article and I also became editor in chief of the school newspaper. By 18 I was writing my first novel and taking a year out before university to complete an internship with a publisher, working on three magazines.

Given my love for writing, and how I spent my spare time, the natural assumption is that I would become a writer of some sort. But I did not follow a career in creative writing or journalism. I went into law. Why? Because my dear mother (may Allah SWT reward her inshallah), with my best interests at heart, advised me that I would “never make any money in writing”. So I chose law (one of the typical subjects yes, but also one I was interested in). I know mum really did have my best interests at heart so I don’t blame her in the slightest that I did not become the next JK Rowling. Ironically, JK Rowling’s writing has made her more money than the Queen of England, but I can see that mum was right– there is never a guaranteed income when you are starting out. Besides, there is still time to become a best-selling author, and I have continued to write.

WHY PARENTS DO NOT ENCOURAGE WRITING

Where in my case the advice I was given was to think about my financial future, I know that other parents are advising their children against writing because of how a career in writing is perceived. There is no doubt that being ‘a writer’ is seen in some communities as a fluff career – intangible, without structure and without merit, in addition to yielding a low income. Sometimes, the reasons are less about the child and more about parents themselves. We would assume that everyone wants what is best for their children but this does not always happen. The best advice for parents is to consider; if you base your child’s future on cultural traditions, living vicariously through your children, competing with your neighbor and so on, you stand to lose sight of what will really benefit your child not to mention what your child actually wants.

ISLAM AND WRITING

So what does Islam say about writing? The Prophet Muhammad SAAS was reported in a hadith to have said “the ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr.” Whilst I do not compare being an Islamic scholar to being a writer, author or journalist, I do think the hadith inspires gaining accurate Islamic knowledge and teaching it. Writing can be about presenting useful information (on any topic, not just Islam) that will benefit others, helping them to improve themselves and the world. If done correctly, and for the sake of Allah SWT, it can also be an act of faith. If a novel, an article, or a poem inspires, teaches and encourages towards good, then surely being a writer has a greater status than many other professions. As with most things, the intention is extremely important, as long as you also understand that you are responsible for your words.

BENEFITS OF BEING A WRITER

As stated above, the benefits of being a writer may outweigh the benefits of a number of other professions, if you consider the impact words and ideas can have on people. A writer can influence the reader to visualize an event – in the way the writer wants them to see it. A writer can portray a situation in a negative, positive or neutral way. A writer can inspire or educate. A writer actually has more power than people give them credit for.

There are other important benefits to being a writer. Writing is about communication – and Muslims ought be communicating with society as much as other groups; voicing opinions, presenting ideas, and working in areas that may not be traditional but are valid and halal career options.

Media interest in Muslims is greater now than ever before – but the world does not usually see a positive or balanced view, as the religion is usually presented entwined with politics. So where is the Muslim perspective to give the other side of the story? Whilst we continue to encourage the youth to go into more traditional roles, the media is still missing notable Muslim voices. Society needs a cross-section of professions (ideally undertaken by a microcosm of the society so as to achieve the best balance) in order to flourish, and creative writing and journalism have traditionally been under-represented by Muslims.

It is foolish to complain about imbalance or prejudice in the media, which is an often-echoed gripe these days, but to then tell our children “I want you to become a doctor”. How many of us say “I want you to become a writer?”

Not only are Muslims under-represented in the media, but Islamic fiction books are still too few and far between. This means many Muslim children, whilst being able to enjoy mainstream fiction, may never pick up a book and see a character a lot like themselves, perhaps with the same name or the same beliefs. Literature needs to reflect society, making people feel like they belong, and society needs diverse literature to enrich it and promote understanding.

The good news is the new generation seems interested in writing. A new wave of Muslim writers, specializing in Islamic fiction is emerging, with a few novels tentatively breaking into the mainstream. There are also more young people turning to journalism. The interest amongst the new generation is definitely there – but is the support? And how much influence should Muslim parents exert?

TAKE A BALANCED VIEW

It would be wrong of me to say that parents should be encouraging young Muslims to write simply for the sake of balancing the bias that exists. It would be of no benefit to encourage a disinterested person to write simply because there is a shortage, or because there is a need to fill the creative writing void. As with any career, one must consider the pros and cons.

The purpose of this article was simply to point out – writing is a valid career option, even if it is not a traditional role. Whilst it does not suit everyone, it should not be dismissed without any consideration. For those who are able to write a little in their spare time, as well as pursuing other careers, this is still excellent. Whether it is balancing the media portrayal of Muslims, writing children’s books that teach morals and character based on the Sunnah, or writing an article based on an Islamic teaching (checked by a scholar preferably for accuracy), all of this involves Muslim writing. If any work has a purpose which will benefit not only the reader but also their community, then arguably the work has merit.

Ultimately, whatever is best for the child is the path they should be encouraged to follow, remembering to discourage children from harm (unlawful) jobs and to encourage towards the good. But I hope that those who want to pursue careers in writing – literature, poetry, journalism, editing, publishing and more – will not be discouraged from following their dreams without good cause.

For those young people who are unsure of what career to follow if they are presented with writing as a career option, in addition to other careers, clearly more people will choose this career. They cannot choose a career they do not know exists. We do need more young Muslims writing, expressing opinions, having a voice – be that an Islamic issue or more general issue – we need to ensure that society is well represented by Muslims in all areas, as this promotes better understanding for everyone and integration. So, let us remove the stigma and look at the benefits of being a writer. Let us present this as an option and let us encourage those who want to pursue this career.

I also believe we should be careful to safeguard the ‘traditional’ roles – we need scholars, doctors and lawyers (otherwise I would be out of a job!) but we need to remove the strange perception that those Muslims who are writers (journalists, authors and so on) are not contributing to society or do not have ‘real’ careers. I sincerely hope the stigma of writing being a ‘fluff’ career subsides as generations’ progress; I think it is the only way Muslims move forward as a people, and the only way to safeguard the ‘ink’.

Amina Malik holds a law degree and post-graduate qualification in law. She works full time as a legal professional. Writing has always been Amina’s passion and the earliest records of this are short stories written when she was 9 years old. Amina writes freelance in her spare time, writing for newspapers, magazines and online publications. She is working on her first novel and lives in London, England. Her work has been published in: Internet Monthly, The Advertiser Newspaper, Net News Daily, Iqra Newspaper, Fit Muslimah, www.TheTechnoGeeks.co.uk, Screen Jabber, Booklore, The Voice Newspaper, Poetry.com and soon to be published in The Muslim Paper. www.aminamalik.co.uk
August 2010 Edition of IWA Magazine

A Personal Achievementby Maryam Funmilayo

It has been two years now since I wrote a reflection article titled “My Spiritual Disability” for an Islamic magazine. As a general freelance writer, personal reflection is one of my favorite niches. Writing an article on personal reflection allows me – especially in my quiet – to have deep, sober thoughts on my life as a Muslim woman, and how far I have gone to seek knowledge instead of wandering aimlessly in ignorance.

Really, I had a spiritual ailment, one that disabled me although I had no physical disability. That is the way I felt inwardly. Outwardly, I decided to use the power of the pen, and share my personal story with the rest of the world. My goal was to motivate, inspire, and trigger any dormant soul that was like mine, into action.

This spiritual disability was my inability to decipher the meanings of the Arabic language during prayers including Ramadan taraweehs. I do recite the Qur’an in its original Arabic language, alhamdulilah, but I do not have a clue of the meanings except for the surahs that I know by heart. I do not know what this means for other people who are not native Arabic speakers, but for me, I always felt something was missing.

Yes, one of the blessings of Allah is the diversity of our languages. By His grace, I am fluent in Yoruba – which is my mother tongue – and English.  I am also an avid learner of the French language. However, when it comes to the language of the Qur’an, I am at a deficit. I tried several times to tackle this uphill task by asking my Arabic speaking friends to teach me. Many declined because they said they could not teach me the classical Arabic. They were more acquainted with the colloquial ‘slang’ Arabic from their various Middle Eastern and North African countries. Some of my friends recited the Qur’an with excellent articulation. They were more comfortable teaching me tajweed instead of Arabic.

Then, I thought of traveling abroad and learn Arabic through culture immersion. Great idea! But who says I will be alive before then? Is the time span of my soul in my hands?

My biggest excuse came from my own negative thoughts. It was indeed a battle between me and Shaytan. I had the zeal to learn this language but there was always this ugly moment that came up whenever I searched for good Arabic language sites. There are so many out there, yet I could not make up my mind and choose one that suited my schedule. Then, I knew I had a huge stumbling block to overcome.

My personal achievement did not take place until April 2010, almost two years after my article was published. I would never forget my first day in class. I finally did it! This particular online Arabic language program has been working so well for me and the schedules are great. It is also very interactive, hence creating another social network for me to communicate with other Muslim sisters in various cities in the United States. My teacher, who is an Egyptian Muslim woman, lives in Egypt, and while she’s teaching us at 9pm EST, it is almost fajr time in Egypt. A few minutes into the class, I can hear the resonance of the call to prayer in Cairo.

I have spent six weeks now, studying the Arabic language. My writing has greatly improved, and I have begun to speak very simple words with my kids in Arabic. It has indeed sparked more interest in me to know this language that will be of great benefit to us all in this life and the next.

The greatest achievement for me is the sudden realization into the realm of spiritual knowledge that I have been yearning for. It was an epiphany that I experienced; this spiritual flash into the world of the Arabic language has changed my life forever.

© Maryam Funmilayo, 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Teaching Responsibilityby Cordelia Gaffar

Teaching responsibility is not random or finite. And as much as we wish, it is not even tangible. It is the evolution of the building of the character and the guiding of the being that is your child. Perhaps “teaching” is the wrong word to begin with. It starts with that first spark of interest in the toddler mimicking what you do. He or she sees you sweep and wants to do the same…or to wipe the table or to fold the laundry. The child wants to do it because he or she loves you and wants to be more like you. From this viewpoint it is logical that we should then make “chores” a natural progression for the child like learning to walk, talk and hold a spoon. We should not impose our desires on that child because we are overworked and need the house perfect 24 hours a day. It is more logical to say, my child – although 18 months – wants to clean the kitchen floor after I cook; so I will show him how I do that when I cook. My child, although 2 years old, wants to sweep; so I will show him how I do that. In this way when that child is five or six years old and you are a little tired, they will offer, “Mom you don’t have to clean the floor after you cook. I can do that for you.” And they will be so very proud of themselves and you will enjoy a mixture of relief and relaxation.

I have tried charts and rewards but I have found that all the “work” I did encouraging their musings as toddlers and infants is what really shines through. This is my fifth pregnancy and I am neither miserable nor very sick but my two oldest, now seven and nine, recognize that sometimes I need to nap. Daily without coercion, I hear, “Mom, you go rest now while I do the dishes.” Or, “I will watch my little brother so that you can relax.” Or, “Mom, I will make the lunches so we can go to the playground”. My home as a whole is not perfect, but they offer to help and try their best to clean up after themselves and split the responsibility or encourage their five year old sister to help out.

And with that I had an epiphany, you cannot teach responsibility. You have to encourage the sparks of light throughout your child’s existence from their earliest show of interest in “helping out” and continue that tempered and enjoyable expression. You will see it progress as they evolve into their own and it will be natural: in harmony with their character and the flow of your lives together.

Marketing Master of the Jinnby Irving Karchmar

Master of the Jinn has been translated into six languages, Russian, Turkish, Indonesian, German, Croatian and Spanish. It is also soon to be translated and published in Malaysia, and published in India, in English.  The story of how this came about through marketing and promotion is as follows:

Master of the Jinn was self-published in 2004, and the story of its beginnings and the long years of it writing is an article for another time. Now that the book existed, the first thing I needed to sell the self-published book was (since I did  not have the resources and marketing department of a large mainstream publishing company behind me) a website to which I could point potential customers. Fortunately, a friend was in that business and created a very professional website for little cost at http://www.masterofthejinn.com

Any book’s website should contain, as you receive them, Reviews and Readers Comments, and also Excerpts from the book that will make those that click on the website want to read further.  So you need a link to where a customer can Buy the Book, usually Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, etc. A News section is also needed to let readers know what is new with the book, which translations are forthcoming, where book signings will take place, etc, and a Contact button so that literary agents and publishers can find you and offer you contracts with large advances…. hahahaha.  Actually, it turns out to be mostly used to send you spam 🙂

So now you have a website with Excerpts, Reviews, Readers Comments, News, Contact, and Buy the Book buttons. (If you want to save money, you can do the same thing by using a blog as your book’s website for free)

You are all set to start promoting your book. What do you do next?

I began, as most self published authors do, by promoting the book to my family and friends, and a few of them actually bought it. That did not take long, so the next step was to devise an email campaign.  It was not difficult, though greatly labor intensive.

I sent out a form email touting the book’s spiritual theme and the reviews and readers comments, including a link to my website, so they could read the excerpts and hopefully order the book.  Where did I get the email addresses?  From every online source I could think of.  Many spiritual organizations have email addresses of their various members or branches in different cities, And I emailed them all, from other Sufi Orders to Transcendental Meditation groups to Storytelling groups to any groups whose members would possibly buy a spiritual novel. I set a goal of one hundred emails a day, which meant I had to find one hundred email addresses a day, and cut and paste the form letter one hundred times to mail it out. That took many hours, and I did it every day for months, until AOL suspended me for spamming!  Oh well!

The two most important things to remember about promoting a self-published work is to market it every day in every way you can think of, and to not get discouraged. For every one hundred emails sent out, you might sell one book – it is a slow process, but inevitably, inshallah, the book begins to be known and noticed.

I ran out of groups to email after about six months anyway, and then began to add the book’s website link to everyfree directory I could find: Muslim directories, Spiritual directories, New Age directories. Any directory that requests a monthly fee is a rip-off and to be avoided. I also began visiting Sufi and Islamic blogs (and Buddhist and general spiritual blogs) and leaving comments, always with the book’s website as the URL. It began to add up, and my Google ranking began to climb after a couple of years. That’s right, it took two years to make a dent, but it was like working for yourself, and each day a little progress was made, with Allah’s help 🙂

I also joined every Sufi and Islamic Yahoo group I could find, and joined in the conversation, and did such small things as adding a signature to my comments and email of the book’s website url and the blog’s url.  Every little bit helps along the way.

Technology once again caught up with my intention in 2006 and I started my own blog, the Darvish blog, at: http://darvish.wordpress.com

I added a Master of the Jinn page with links to all the excerpts, interviews, and information about the book I could think of, always with links back to the order page on Amazon or the website.

Even though I started it as a marketing tool, the Darvish blog took on a life of its own, and I soon poured my heart and what lessons of the path that had gotten through my thick skull and my nafs into it. It became a way of expressing the best of Islam and spiritual thoughts, as if a reflection of the theme of the book.  I felt I had to live up to the book.

The graphic designer also supplied me with a pdf of the interior of the book, and I used that as an Ebook to give away for various promotions, causes, birthdays, actually any excuse I could to get the book read by as wide an audience and in as many countries as possible.

It was through sending the ebook to the brother and sisters I met through the Yahoo groups and the Darvish blog that the Indonesian, Turkish, German, Croatian, German, (and soon the Malaysian) translations came to be.

And when social networking sites gained in popularity, I joined them all, but after a year eventually quit all except Facebook, which I found to be the easiest and most user friendly, and where I have a Master of the Jinn: A Sufi Novelfan page, with over 1600 fans (and which you can join here http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=93781414679&ref=ts )

That is basically story of my marketing and promotion, and of course I am still working on it. Recently, through a friend I met through the blog, Master of the Jinn will be published in India, in English, by a branch of a major publishing company. Their main office is in the US, and it is their first Sufi themed book, and their first work of fiction. Through it all, I can only say that I have been blessed, and all success is from Allah!

7 Responses to Articles

  1. saara says:

    Salaams:

    I enjoyed reading these articles. They provided a good dose inspiration, enlightenment and practical advice.

  2. Debora says:

    Asalaam alaikum,

    Excellent articles all, masha Allah!

  3. Omolara Aadam says:

    Assalam alaykum,
    lovely and inspiring articles.

  4. Yusra says:

    Salamu alaykum,

    Nice issue al hamdulilaah.

  5. Dreamlife says:

    On Amina Malik’s “Choosing a Career – Why Writing is Bottom of a Muslim’s List”

    JazakAllah for a great article. I agree so much with your points; and I can relate to your experience, somewhat, because I come from the same cultural community, and I also seemed to excel in writing – creative writing – at a very early age (grade 2 or 3).

    But it wasn’t my parents that discouraged me from taking that career path. It was my own self: I rationalised, at the time, that if I was a writer, my livelihood would be dependent on creativity and inspiration (which, to me at that time, were the key elements of writing).

    And I thought that those elements are not guaranteed – they are not things that are solid; not things I can depend on – because they may not appear when I need them. So, to base my career – my income – on that, would be foolish. It seems odd – at the age of 8 or 9 – to have doubts like that – but that’s what happened.

    And that’s why I decided NOT to pursue that path.

    But many years later, I rediscovered writing – and I’ve since written (and continue to write) various things for different websites and publications (though not as much as I would have liked has been published); and my own blog.

    And to me, writing is like this dream job: I’d love it to be my full time job, where I can spend days on an article / piece, research it properly, plan it in detail, fine tune the language, etc – and come out with a professional, well-packaged piece that I’d be proud of.

    But, unfortunately, I can only write ‘on the side’ (i.e. as a hobby). And with everything else going on in life – I barely have time to write anything, let alone give it the attention mentioned above.

    So, it remains a sideline thing – but I hope to keep writing, and insha-Allah someday the doors to it as a career will open up.

    But even if it was a full time career, I have doubts about the consistency of income that would come from it – since, from what I hear, writers generally don’t make much money. (Not that I’m in it for money – but I have a family to support – so I need a decent income).

    I guess that’s why people keep a ‘regular’ job – and do freelance writing on the side…right?

    How do you manage your time between writing versus your legal job (and everything else in your life)?

    Personally, I’d love for my daughter to choose writing as a profession – and perhaps it would be a case of me trying to live vicariously through her.

    But I think writing is much more feasible for a female – a Muslim female – than a Muslim male; because the husband is obliged, by Islam, to provide for the family – whereas the wife is under no such obligation. So, if she works, she doesn’t have the pressure of having to earn a lot – because the family’s income should primarily be based on the husband’s job. (At least, that’s how it’s supposed to be – right?). So the fact that writing generally doesn’t pay very well – is no problem for her.

    By the way, I’ve heard that that “ink of the scholar” hadith is either weak or fabricated – so I’m not sure whether it should be used in advising others. But I get your point, though – and it’s well known that the pursuit of knowledge is a major element of Islam.

  6. Safia says:

    Nancy biddle’s story was Amazing.MashAllah for the love of Ramadan!
    Sis Linda Delgado article was thought provoking really..
    Enjoyed the articles.
    Thanks

  7. Pingback: Choosing a Career – Why Writing is Bottom of a Muslim’s List | The Writer's Parchment & Quill

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