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Oct 10, 2009 - islam op-eds    10 Comments

Muslim Etiquette Guide to Life, Money & Modern Dilemmas

muslimetiquette

Muslim Etiquette Guide

to Life, Money & Modern Dilemmas

 

Living in the West, Muslims have had to create their own culture — mixing the old with the new. This ‘Brave New World’ has brought about a whole host of new modern situations and problems. Sometimes it’s hard to decide how much to spend on a wedding gift, what percent to tip at a Muslim restaurant, or even what to pay for a Mahr! What’s a good gift for a new Muslim? What do you say to someone who says their ‘boyfriend’ is Muslim? The dilemmas are endless!!

 

With no Dear Abby or Heloise to help us with our particular situations, it could be a good idea if we started to collate some ideas. (No one has to follow these but it just seems like we should at least have some type of discussion and reference like this and people can think about these things! :))

 

(Note that this is a draft and work in progress and just some ideas. Please comment if you think something is too high/low or agree/disagree. Also let me know of suggestions of etiquettes to add. If you don’t like the idea of a guide at all… that’s OK too. Note that this is not a Fatwa, just general opinions and ideas. Many people may not agree with any of it. Everyone can do what they like of course. Thanks :))

 

Sickness or Death Etiquette:


There are a lot of beautiful Hadith enjoining the visiting of the sick. If someone is sick either at home or in the hospital call the family to find the best times to visit. Bring flowers or something small to cheer up the one who is sick.

Only stay for a very short time like ½ hour. Keep it short and sweet. Don’t overstay your welcome because it puts a burden on the sick and the family.

Don’t ask for every minute detail about the person’s illness. Don’t ask too many questions. (Whatever you do, don’t ask to see the scar unless you’re the doctor! :))

If someone has passed away in a family, it is important to call or write with condolences and Duas as soon as possible. If living nearby, send a nice dish or tray of food, which was the practice of the Prophet (s).

 

Restaurant Etiquette:


When going out to dinner if there is an out of town guest someone should pay for him/her. (There is a lot of great literature in Islam about our Ihsan, kindness and generosity to guests.)

If it is someone’s birthday, special occasion his/her (birthday person’s) bill should be split by everyone else there.

The ages-old question of splitting the bill evenly or letting everyone pay for themselves should be decided on before-hand. One person might order a salad and another filet mignnon!, so be mindful and as long as everyone agrees beforehand it should be OK.

At any restaurant the tip should be 15%. 20% if you’re feeling generous and really liked the service. 10% if service was really bad. Do not under-tip just because it’s a Muslim restaurant. If you don’t feel like tipping, don’t eat out. :) (Restaurants generally underpay workers expecting that tips will make up for it! Think of it as charity or helping the oppressed!)

 

Rishta Etiquette:


If you are going to a girl’s house for a Rishta (a marriage-potential), bring something for the house. Suggestions: Generic ethnic sweets, flowers for the house (not her), Islamic calligraphy, box of chocolates. Never go empty-handed.

 

Dress up, don’t look like a bum. Wear clean clothes that are ironed. For the girl, don’t wear Shalwar Kameez when you never wear it. Wear the type of clothes you usually wear, but dressed up a little.

 

Facebook Etiquette:


Only add someone if you really know them somehow.

Don’t write personal things on people’s wall. (or things they would not like known) It’s not email, use private message.

Do not assume things based on pictures/wall posts. :p

Create private party events using the private secret setting.

Do not post ugly pictures of your friends. Do not post pictures of people who don’t want their pictures up. Do not tag people who do not want to be tagged. Do not put up pictures of people and then block their access to those albums!

Don’t take a million quizzes, or at least don’t make them public. ;) Your friends don’t really need to know which Disney character you’re like, or do they? (I must be Belle btw :P)

1 event=1 album don’t make 6 parts with 300+ pictures. Pick and choose is better.

If you don’t have anything good to say about someone’s status or post, keep it to yourself.

 

Don’t turn off your wall to people unless they are truly strangers. (It’s like building a high fence to keep the neighbors out, not very friendly.)

Don’t use language you wouldn’t want your Momma to hear. These things have a way of getting back to them!

Textspeak only if you’re under the age of 15.

Wedding Etiquette:


Please return the RSVP card as soon as you get it. Estimate if you are going or not. Usually the answer is known right then. If you change your reply or number of people you can always call the family later to inform them. (This is extremely important for planning the wedding, they need to know for the caterers, the hotel, the cake, the favors. Have you ever seen a clown try to make two ponies out of only half a balloon left. Sad I tell ya. ;))

If you wish to add a certain number of relatives, first cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents, family pets, or any other guests staying with you call the family and ask them if it’s ok for them to attend the wedding as well! (It’s rude to show up with a ton of extra people on the day.)

Never, EVER go to a wedding if you are not invited. Not even as a guest or relative or aunt or best friend or anything.  (Despite reports, the food is not worth the lifelong reputation of being ‘the girl who crashed the Khan wedding’.) (Side note: Weddings are very expensive, the minimumest-ghetto weddings will even cost $30 per person. Every family goes through the agony of trying to cut down their guest list because they cannot afford to invite everyone. And then random people just coming because they want to is really not nice. Think about it please.)

You may attend a sisters-only Mehndi as  a guest of someone who is invited. You may attend a Nikah ceremony taking place in a public Masjid. (Because these are not the wedding and allow for extra people it’s usually OK.)

If you attend a Muslim wedding you should ideally bring a gift of cash of at least $50 ($30 if you can’t afford it), $100 if you are many people or close to the family or $200 if you are a rich doctor uncle! :) (You can add the Desi Witr $1 to each amount if you like. :) Don’t be cheap. It costs a lot more than that to host your family for dinner there. New couples really do need the money. Don’t reduce the amount just because the wedding takes place in a Masjid.)

If the couple has established a registry, you may buy something from the registry of the values mentioned above. (They no doubt wanted to avert the 10 toaster ovens phenomenon! Chaos theorists should look into why this happens. :))

Do not re-gift your old gifts for weddings. Sell them on Ebay or give them to friends. Heck, give them to me, I could use a toaster oven. :) (It is completely tacky and impolite to just regift…especially when the names of the previous couple are still on there in pen. Pppllllllll!!!)

The only time you should go out and buy a gift of your choosing on your own is if you really know the couple and their likes/dislikes. (You’ve looked up their Amazon wishlist.) Also include the gift receipt.

If you are not attending the wedding but were invited by a close friend, please send a small gift. (It is a very nice gesture and hey they might save you a piece of the cake ;))

‘No Kids’ on the invitation means _no kids_. Get a babysitter. Give the grandparents a treat. (I can tell you that I attended a wedding that said ‘no kids’ and a little girl went right up on stage and started screaming and crying at the “Do you take, upon the Quran and Sunnah…” part and the Imam stopped the ceremony. Yeah I now believe parents can get blackballed from weddings, so don’t be one of them!!)

Re: the heated “no boxed gifts” debate. I personally think it’s better to add a polite note indicating you are moving instead or let people know by word of mouth. But I can understand why people don’t want those 14 said toasters or re-gifts.

Gifts should be wrapped or in a bag with a card. (This does not mean a Target bag, but like a real one ;) People have actually received many gifts without having any idea who they were from! Hence, the generic “Thank you for your kind “gift”” on the thank you cards! ;)

BTW ‘thank you cards’ after your wedding, you don’t have to, but it’s a very nice gesture. Kind of brings the whole cards exchange between guests and host to a close.

Unless you’re the king of Saudi writing things like ‘no gifts please only your Duas’ or ‘no boxed gifts, only the pleasure of your company’ (ß mixed messages it’s saying you want money only or nothing??) will not work. This only makes people feel uncomfortable and guilty and they will likely bring something, anything, anyway. Also, asking people to give to a charity instead of gifts?, iffy. (You really trust ppl that much :p) Better to take the money you receive and donate what you wish.

Don’t put the wedding website, email or phone number directly on the invitation card itself. Include an RSVP card. I know people do it, but a card should be classic and timeless. (Kind of like the Imam, no one can pinpoint his exact age in time and the same should be for your card :P)

Dawat Dinner Invitations Etiquette:


If you are invited to someone’s house never go empty handed. Bring something, anything. A little plate of home-made dessert or even a gift for the kids.

Try to be on time to things. Yes we know about the ‘Muslim time’  1 hour late to everything but let’s try to minimize that. If you’re going to be late, call. Conversely, don’t come too early while the host is still running around trying to get ready.

At someone’s house never look in through the windows. Knock and then move to the side or turn around, so that the person inside can look outside and see you without you seeing them. This is the Sunnah (so you avoid seeing something you shouldn’t or spying.)

Don’t ask if the food is Halal or not. Assume it is. Eat what you like, if you don’t like something just leave it.

Don’t heap your guest’s plates with too much food. Insisting on eating more is good but don’t force.

You should say ‘Jazakallah khair’ to the woman of the house who cooked, cleaned and slaved to make the dinner possible. If you are a brother and don’t want to overstep, you can even just say to the husband please thank your ‘family’.

If you are the host, walk your guests to the door and maybe beyond to say goodbye. This is a nice Sunnah as well.

 

Marriage Etiquette:


A good guideline for Mahr can be a minimum of a brother’s 3-month salary. This can include an engagement ring, clothes, and/or jewelry from him. Anything given by the families would be gifts on top of this. It is important that the Mahr not be any extreme amounts but moderate. (The 3 month guideline is a good one. 20K Mahr or a 15 carat diamond might be forever but will your marriage be? Start out with good feelings and within everyone’s means.)

Nikah expenses should be paid by the bride’s family and should take place in her hometown. Walimah should be paid by him (or his family) and take place in his hometown.

Engagement ring should be chosen by her or at least the style.

From her family the groom should be given some nice personal gifts such as a watch and clothes.

Mosque Etiquette:


If it’s Taraweeh and you have kids that you know will disturb everyone, don’t bring them. You can pray at home and you get the same reward and you will not be disturbing 200 women’s prayers. Also try to lobby your Mosque for a ‘mothers with kids’ room.

Turn off your cell phones. Turn off your wack ringtones. Turn off your dings for texts. Turn off your loud vibrate mode. Really isn’t Allah’s call more important?

Don’t stampede like you’ve never seen food before. :D

If you’ve been cooking in the kitchen (with Shaan Masala) change your Jilbab before you come to the Mosque. ;)

Wipe down the sink after you make Wudu, so other people don’t have to clean up after you.

Put your shoes in a proper cubby hole or neatly in the closet instead of thrown all over.

You are responsible for your kids, not everyone else. If you find someone else correcting your child, you should thank them instead of getting upset about it. It is your child’s behavior and you did bring them there! Don’t let them run around wild!

If you come to the Mosque for Iftar, you should stay there for Taraweeh. Why not? Don’t eat too much! It’s really hard to pray when you’re stuffed.

Have quiet stuff for your kids to do if you bring them. Crayons, books. Don’t expect them to behave perfectly with nothing to channel them towards.

For brothers and sisters, wear Islamic clothing. Avoid the skinny jeans, girls and tight short t-shirts, guys! ;) (and everyone — brothers especially please wear clean nice smelling socks :D)

If you are providing food for the Masjid, please remember there are different ethnicities and levels of spice tolerability and ability to eat meats! :)

When Someone Has a Baby Etiquette:


Don’t overstay your welcome at the hospital or the home within the first 2 weeks.

Don’t invite yourself over for dinner.

Don’t use the restroom in the mother’s hospital room, ask where the public restrooms are.

If a mother leaves to breastfeed her baby in another room, don’t follow her!

 

Moral Dilemma Etiquette:

 

How to ask if the meat is Halal/Zabiha at someone’s house?

Islamic etiquette is that you don’t ask. You assume the meat is Halal/Zabiha.

 

What to say when someone says their boyfriend/girlfriend is Muslim?

Just smile and take the opportunity to be polite and make some Dawah. This person is already predisposed to Islam so go for it :)

What’s a good gift for a new Muslim?

NOT asking them their conversion story. ;) Good gifts also include a nice CD set, a pretty scarf, or particularly well-written book on Islam.

What do you do when a think a girl is not properly dressed Islamically?

This is VERY dangerous ground. The best etiquette I suggest is to say nothing. Befriend the sister and encourage her Islamic activities. The rest will work itself out.

How do you correct someone who is doing ‘wrong’?

Sometimes people doing the ‘correcting’ end up doing more ‘wrong’ than right. Your opinion may not always be the only ‘correct’ one. Seriously weigh the consequences before and make sure to do it in private.

What if you just don’t like someone that’s Muslim?

Not every Muslim will be your bff. ;) Everyone has different likes, dislikes, interests, personalities and disposition. Know the person is your sister/brother in Islam and be mature enough to treat them politely.

 

What do you do when you receive a gift?

You should open it in front of the person and appreciate it in front of them.

What do you do if you’re a brother and see a sister carrying a lot of things?

You should help her. Don’t worry she won’t think you want to marry her. This is basic decency. The same if a sister is lost or needs help with something.

How do you greet a couple?

Say a polite Salam and nod to the wife or husband of your friend as well. If s/he doesn’t want to talk to you they’ll leave. It’s impolite to just ignore the spouse or think they’re invisible.

When should you ask if someone is pregnant?

Never ever.

When should you comment that someone has gained weight?

Never ever.

What do you do if you see someone not wearing Hijab who normally does?

Ignore it and treat it as normal.

What do you say to an auntie trying to pump you for gossip?

Run. As far and as fast as you can! ;)

Can you get together with your friend’s ex-Rishta?

Yes, you can but let your friend know first politely. And know that you might be sacrificing your friendship.

 

What language should you speak among multiple people?

If there’s more than one language being spoken, keep everyone in the conversation, don’t speak only one native language that only a few know.

What do you do if you suspect someone is an FBI informant?

Inform all Mosque leaders and let them deal with it. Other than that smile and carry on as usual, the person just might be normally weird. Be careful about being drawn into conversations that could be misconstrued like on America, the war on Terror, Jihad, etc etc.

 

How do you ask people personal questions?

Never ask ‘so when are you getting married’, ‘so when are you having a baby’, ‘so when are you having the next one’ unless you are intimately acquainted with the ppl you’re asking. Just don’t.

Should a bro/sis say Salam to a lone person of the opposite gender?

It’s always good to say Salam. The brothers should take it upon themselves to say Salam and keep on walking. Sisters can return the Salam or nod and just keep going as well.

What should you do when you are doing Dua/reading Quran or something else right before Iftar (or just in the Masjid) and someone is trying to talk to you?

Just smile politely and answer their question/remarks/Salaams and then pointedly but politely say ‘Oh I just have to finish my Quran/Dua… I’ll be right back in a bit’.

Index of some related Hadith


(Look these up in your Hadith software to find authenticities and Tafseers.)

The Prophet Muhammad (s) said:

  • Humility and courtesy are acts of piety.
  • There is not any Muslim who visits another in sickness, in the forenoon, but that seventy thousand angels send blessings upon him till the evening; and there is no one who visits the sick, in the afternoon, but that seventy thousand angels send blessings upon him till daybreak, and there will be a pardon for him in Paradise.
  • Feed the hungry and visit a sick person, and free the captive, if he be unjustly confined. Assist any person oppressed, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.
  • A believer who condoles with his brother on a bereavement will be dressed by Allah in the robes of honor and glory on the Day of Resurrection
  • Make food for Ja’afar’s family as they are distracted by the event. (death)
  • He who believes in one God, and a future life, let him honor his guest.
  • Whoever believes in God and the Hereafter must respect his guest; and whoever believeth in God and the Hereafter must not incommode his neighbors, and a Mumin must speak only good words, otherwise remain silent.
  • It is not right for a guest to stay so long as to incommode his host.
  • God is pure and loves purity and cleanliness.
  • To every young person who honors the old, on account of their age, may god appoint those who shall honor him in his years.
  • Verily, to honor an old man is showing respect to God.
  • It is of my ways that a man shall come out with his guest to the door of his house.
  • To gladden the heart of the weary, to remove the suffering of the afflicted, hath its own reward. In the day of trouble, the memory of the action comes like a rush of the torrent, and takes our burden away.
  • He who helped his fellow-creature in the hour of need, and he who helped the oppressed, him will God help in the Day of Travail.
  • Whoever is kind to His creatures, God is kind to him; therefore be kind to man on earth, whether good or bad; and being kind to the bad, is to withhold him from badness, thus in heaven you will be treated kindly.
  • Verily, a man teaching his child manners is better for him than giving one bushel of grain in alms.
  • Shall I tell you the very worst among you? Those who eat alone, and whip the slaves, and give to nobody.
  • When anyone was sick Muhammad used to rub his hands upon the sick person’s body, saying, ‘O Lord of mankind! Take away this pain, and give health; for Thou art the giver of health: there is no health but You, that health which leaves no sickness.’
  • The best of persons in God’s sight is the best amongst his friends; and the best of neighbors near God is the best person in his own neighborhood.
  • The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, has never found fault with any food. If he liked it, he would eat it, if not he would just leave it.
  • The son of Adam (man) has never filled a vessel worse than his stomach. If there is no way out, let there be a third for his meal, another for his drink and another for his breath.
  • A man invited the Prophet (s) to a meal along with four other people. A man followed the Prophet.. At the door, the Prophet (s)  said to the host: “This man has come with us: If you permit, he will come in; if not he will go back.” The host said: I give him my permission, O Allah’s Messenger.”
  • You will never enter Paradise until you become believers, and you will not become believers until you love each other. Shall I guide you to something that makes you love each other? Spread greetings with peace among you.
  • Quran: When you are greeted with a greeting, reply with a better one or return it..
  • If there are three of you, never should two of them talk without the third until you mix with other people, for this would grieve the third.
  • One man belched in the presence of Allah’s Messenger, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, upon which the Messenger said to him: “stop belching, The biggest eaters in this worldly life will be the hungriest in the Hereafter.”

 

 

Other Good Guides:


Gallantry, Generosity and Gentlemanly Grace- A guide for Muslim brothers. (Bro, I actually wrote my guide before yours in the summer! Great minds think alike~!)

The Urban Etiquette Handbook – A hilarious guide to living in a huge City

P.S. Thanks to all those that contributed to this list and helped write the various sections, including Madina members and particular Facebook friends!

Aug 27, 2009 - islam op-eds    5 Comments

Out of time: Progress and Modernity

Traditionalist versus Modernity

Traditionalist versus Modernity

I recently read this article 100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About which talks about things like dialup modems, dos, letters, library books and numerous other things kids of the next generation will have no idea about and never experience. I felt unaccountably sad reading it. Not old necessarily but no doubt I’ve crossed the mark where I’m now ready to say “back in maaahhh dayyyyyy young whuppersnappers…” !! lol :lol:, but I just feel sad that all this progress and modernity is taking away things that really made us appreciate life and developed our character.

Someone recently called me a traditionalist :o I guess it’s true… ;) I certainly do feel sometimes that I’m living out of time and should have been born in a different era. But then I think I like some things of now, but want to also keep some things of the past. As time rushes forward, let’s look at a few specific examples of how far we’ve come in just the last 20 years in my own lifetime:

From phones to mobile phones. While I agree cell phones are greatly convenient for meeting up with someone at the mall, sending a quick amusing text to someone or emergencies, there’s just so much we have lost by having this ‘always on, always connected’ device. Ever try to pray Taraweeh at the Mosque? Or any prayer for that matter? Or any lecture? Or let’s say TAWAF AROUND THE KABAH. Yes I heard one guy chitchatting to someone in Arabic during Tawaf telling them ‘I’m making Tawaf’. :shock: Oh really!? Hmm. How about eating at a restaurant or just walking around the mall or the grocery store or texting while driving or oh yeah walking down the sidewalk!? People just can’t seem to stop. It’s like it’s become a crutch now. I’ve seen people texting other people at an Islamic retreat in remote mountains!! Uhhh what are you gaining exactly. And what are we losing; the experience, the normalness of life, regular interactions. As a society we’ve never thought about what we were losing by the absolute proliferation and ubiquity of cell phones. Even in remote villages in India the latest rage is to have video/camera cell phones. What are they improving and what are they destroying?

From books to e-books.
Really? I hate e-books and I’ve read plenty. There’s just something in the idea of a book being so totally portable. While we have kindles and ipods it’s just not the same. Can you curl up with an ipod on a rainy day, or read an electronic novel on the beach, or drop your kindle over the side of the bed when you feel sleepy? Just not the same. There’s something too in owning a physical book, having a bookshelf of books, giving them as gifts, passing them on, borrowing them, finding a rare book, having references. I have tons of Arabic references on CDs but I still reach for the shelf. Books were never meant to be long pages of electronic text. Maybe it’s the way we process information, pages at a time in our mind as a story progresses or something, but losing out on traditional books is truly a loss for society. It highlights how we’ve become so information/soundbyte driven. What we do now is type in google, gloss over wikipedia or listen to a youtube clip, never really learning anything in comprehensive/completeness.

From regular TV to 1 billion all the time DVR channels. I know the next generation will have no idea what it meant to anticipate a show or have fewer choices that might make them actually learn something or watch something they wouldn’t have otherwise or maybe watch less, period. When’s the last time kids have watched something with their parents or as a family. Gone the way of VCRs eh. I always see these kids switching from channel to channel to channel and even watching 2 or more things at the same time. And then they complain there’s nothing on TV and we wonder why our kids are so messed up lol! I saw one kid at an Islamic school secretly pull out his illegally downloaded collection of DVDs, of R-rated movie after movie. Yup technology is great. We can watch as much as we want all the time. Luckily there’s been so much written on the effects of TV, mostly negative, and on how it has changed how we process/learn by Western authors that I don’t have to go into it.

From Makkah to new Makkah. If you’ve been unaware, one of the most startling changes to our holy places has been occurring within our own lifetimes. Those who went to Hajj or Umrah just 20 years ago remember colorful souks, seas of diverse humanity, meeting Muslims from all over the world and open access to the special sites of historical significance. Those of today? Remember: Huge megapolis hotel/designer boutique complexes, grand buffets, faceless people covered with surgical masks and being in the Haram numerous times in their lifetime. No doubt it is a blessing that more Muslims can be accommodated but we’ve just lost that once-in-a-lifetime Malcom-x life transforming type of experience Hajj used to be. I remember a time not long ago when someone came back from Hajj and everyone in the community would go to visit and welcome them and ask them about their wonderous experience and stories.

Seeing digital computer animations of what the Haram will look like in a few years is like seeing a modern Jetson city of humongous skyscrapers, hotels and cars. Yes we can build it, we can be modern and shiny and whatever. But why? We have lost something so precious. Our link to the past. The feeling of being in the Holy cities, of following in the prophets-of-old’s footsteps, of any historical significance. It’s just been wiped clean. It’s like a dystopian utopia!! Dubai or Makkah? Will we even know the difference?

futuremakkah1

Future Makkah

Future Makkah

From normal interaction to Facebook, twitter, etc. This is the biggest change I think we will see most of the effects of in the next decade. Social networking was supposed to bring us more together, help us keep in touch and somehow help us in our lives. But it’s designed a new kind of social strata and society that makes normal friends and life look simpleton. Numerous studies show that ‘social networking’ is only making us into anti-social dysfunctional inhumane beings and yet we continue to plug away driven like a nerdy 10th grader by some kind of peer pressure trying to get a date for the prom! :p Ack! We’re not closer, our relationships are not more real and social networking has brought forward a whole host of problems that we now have to deal with.

Do we really need to know what everyone is doing each second? Do we really need to compete over pictures and statuses and how many ‘friends’ we have? Is being witty in 140 characters really progress for humanity? Do we really need to share so much of our lives with high school friends we knew a million years ago or an acquaintance we just met? There seems to be no end to our connectivity even while it is increasing our narcissism, jealousy/envy, passive-aggressive behavior and drama in our lives. Apparently, we didn’t have enough drama in high school and need more! :roll: Why don’t we just implant a chip in our brain that just connects to all the other chips in the collective. Oh wait, I thought we destroyed the borg, not are the borg!! ;)

history

Anyways, just some offhand examples I thought to mention. I’m not saying I don’t like technology. I love technology and I love that with it, some things can become easier and better for us. That some things really have a lot of benefit and have made life so much more interesting in many ways, more than any other time in the past. But why aren’t we aware of the choices we are making and realize that with bigger, better, newer we are losing precious things in the process.

Sometimes living in the US we don’t even understand or know what we have lost (like this next generation will not know what we loved or experienced after us). Living overseas in arguably one of the most preserved societies ever, I came to realize there were so many little things that we should be mourning the loss of. It was like living in a different world there without all these ‘modern conveniences’, low technology, hardly any internet, hardly any telephones for that matter. There were many people there who did not even own phones! People live in simple ways, in small homes, connected to real people and connected to the environment around them. Everything is old and in their own way they try to preserve certain things of importance: historical places, their old Mosques, their good cultural traditions, their societal values of hospitality, generosity, politeness, welcoming of strangers, learning, preserving institutions, giving to the poor. They also just didn’t covet material things like us. They buy what they need and use and no extra. If you exclaim over something they have, they will turn around and give it to you! They reuse and recycle everything because they just don’t see the point of waste. They want to preserve the things around them for their children.

Satellite television and popular culture was at that time slowly making a dent but nothing like the influence it has on the rest of the world; so they were protected. Just walking through the souk and buying something from the person who actually made it or grew it, knowing the cafe owners by name, meeting and sharing with your neighbors. Even some very old traditions such as the closing down of one’s store when a coffin was carried through the souk on its way to burial, the Ramadan suhoor drummer guy, wedding customs, decorating the house of a person who went to Hajj, visiting the sick and the poor. Such beautiful things may soon be lost to ‘modernity’. Living there in the 1100s and living there now is different but somehow they have kept so much of their beautiful culture and traditions, you often wonder if you’re living out of time! Their etiquette and their interaction with other people, guests, store owners, their positive way of life, of family and tradition and religion, ethics, they’re all the same. Somehow they have kept them and they fight to keep them regardless of the encroaching ways of the world.

MosqueandDishesDamascus

Modernity: Mosques and Dishes

In all our progress and modernity, I just feel like we’ve lost so many of the beautiful experiences and traditions of the past. We can never appreciate the simple things. We can’t see the worth in the history, the tradition, the culture. We’re oblivious to the downside of any technology. We never say ‘well maybe we shouldn’t do that’ or ‘maybe this technology doesn’t improve my life’ or ‘what do i need that for when i’m fine right now’ or ‘do i really need to buy ……’ We can’t seem to turn it off, unplug or disconnect!

Again I’m not saying we should go back to living like we were in the 1100s, I like things like washing machines, modern transportation or Islamic lectures via internet but why have we lost our appreciation for having less clothes, horse back riding or learning in a Madrassa? Why can’t we keep and appreciate the good things of the past and adopt or limit the things of the future in a way where we preserve what we value and encourage a healthy and dare i use a buzzword ‘green’ way of life. Are they diametrically opposed?

Maybe we should take some time this Ramadan to unplug, let go of some of our ‘modern’ attachments and try to come back to a natural way of life and reflect on what we have missed living in all our progress and modernity ;-D

Aug 20, 2009 - islam op-eds    4 Comments

What does it mean to be Muslim?

Ayah Aref, too political?

Ayah Aref, too political to be helped?

Ayah Aref on the 5th anniversary of her father’s arrest and detention by the gov’t.

Recently I was trying to publicize an event in our town to protest the injustices going on against Muslims. I described the Muslim response as pathetic and I received replies that people ‘were afraid’ or even that ‘there’s no need to be political in Islam, you can be just as good a Muslim without it’.

Now this is going to sound mean but for people who say that I wonder what they would say if tonight the FBI raids their house and arrests their father and drags him off to jail in the middle of the night, destroying their entire family. Gee it’s OK not to be political right. And then when they become social piranhas to the Muslim community, have no income, have psychological problems and are forced to beg for help from the same government that did this to them I wonder if they would have the same reply?

I really can’t understand where this apathy comes from in our community. It’s honestly disgusting to see. It’s like you watch a man being beat up in the street or a woman raped and you don’t do anything. You close your window and go back to watching American Idol.  Is this what it means to be Muslim? We only care when it happens to me?

What does the Qur’an say about this?

The Qur’an says: “We sent aforetime our messengers with clear Signs and sent down with them the Book and the Balance, that men may stand forth in Justice.” [Al-Hadeed 57:25].

“O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do.” [An-Nisa 4:35]

How can we then sit back and say we are Muslims when we can’t even follow the Quran and stand up for OUR OWN, let alone any injustice to anyone else. When we know that sitting back and doing nothing when there is injustice and need is just not part of Islam. How many places does Islam exhort Muslims to fix the wrongs of society? To give to the poor, to stop taking usury, to look after orphans, to stand up to an unjust ruler, to not be prejudiced, to stop the ills of society, to spread a word of truth, to help those oppressed. All these goals are for social justice amongst ourselves. The Seerah of our Prophet(s) is rife with example after example of how the early Muslims stood up to every injustice and worked to change them.

Yet it seems that we do not care. Our Islam has been relegated to our heart. It’s my own personal faith and belief. No one has a right to “judge me”. Sure no one can judge you, but ask yourself what it means to be a Muslim. Is it all about just prayer and fasting or is there a reason why there is so much exhortation in the Qur’an to truth and justice?

Can a Muslim cut themself off from the entire world and other Muslims and believe it to be fine? Can a Muslim stand by and do nothing while injustice is occurring to others? What is the difference between Islam and other faiths where it is all about belief only? If you believe hard enough you’re saved and that’s all you have to do?

People who refuse to do anything, how can you believe that it is Islamic to act like that towards our Muslim brothers and sisters who are in such difficulties? How can we not want to prevent it happening to others? How can you expect anyone to help you? Do you expect God to help you, when you don’t help others? (after all it might be ‘too political’)?

Now I’m not asking people to run wild through the streets burning flags or whatever, which is usually what people like to think of as ‘political things’ so they have an excuse not to do anything.

Here are some simple things that every Muslim can do in their community.

  • Read articles and news about the different injustices going on just to keep informed.
  • Join the different groups or even just their mailing lists that are working on these things.
  • Make food and send it to the wives and children.
  • Forward and link to articles that talk about these injustices, making other ppl aware of them.
  • Buy Eid presents for the kids.
  • Volunteer to help Muslims in need in your professional capacity, ie as a lawyer, doctor, teacher or psychologist, etc.
  • If in MSA, help organize seminars and lectures discussing these issues.
  • Help the kids buy school supplies or other things they may need for their education.
  • Write to the men in jail or send cards.
  • Help donate money to the funds set up for the families which goes to pay for their rent and food and education.
  • Follow orgs like the ACLU and CAIR when they send out action type items like writing or calling certain people to further a cause.
  • Whenever you see the wives/kids smile and take some time to talk them.
  • Attend the information sessions and seminars on these topics at local Mosques, MSAs or Law schools.
  • Support others who are trying to support the wives and kids, ask what you can do to help them help.
  • Buy new clothes for the kids or mothers and give it to them as gifts.
  • Listen to independent radio stations and shows like Democracy Now and Independent Radio that expose these issues.
  • Volunteer to take the kids to the park or somewhere special.
  • Buy and read the books and autobiographies written by and about these men and the injustices going on.
  • Attend events organized by ppl trying to fight injustices. If you don’t understand the goals or benefits of a particular thing (ie a rally or demonstration) ASK them.
  • Help give rides to the kids to visit the doctor or dentist or to go to Islamic events.
  • Learn more about each specific case and the legal dimensions involved and discuss with others.
  • Visit the wive’s businesses and try to support them by buying.
  • There are a thousand things we can all do within our own capacities.
  • Make Dua for the men in jail and their families.

Now I am going to say the meanest thing I have ever said on my blog: If you personally have never done a single thing on this list or refuse do a single thing on this list, I’m going to ask you if you have a shred of mercy in your heart, and if you don’t have a shred of mercy I’m going to ask you how you think you are Muslim.

Are these things so hard? Why aren’t we doing them? Certainly there are at least one or two things we can do on this list or think up on our own that we could do. Will these things bring down the wrath of the FBI at our door? Very unlikely. Are these things so overtly political that we’ll be branded a ‘freedom fighter’ or worse. NO they’re not.

Even the pagan Quraish, sworn-enemies of Islam, secretly sent food and necessities to the Muslims OUT OF THEIR COMPASSION. Where is our compassion brothers and sisters? Where is our Islam? The Islam of justice for all of humanity, of caring, of uplifting, of ideas for a new and better way of life for the oppressed and downtrodden, of equality, of truth, of fighting evils in the world. Has it become lip-service? Ritualized faith? Are we living at the End-of-Times where we say La ilaha ilaAllah but we don’t even know what it means?

Can you look into Ayah Aref’s eyes and turn your back on her and say she has nothing to do with you?

You’re too busy with your own life right, too busy fasting and praying??? I’ve heard all the arguments and excuses for not doing anything. That people are scared, they don’t have time, they’re barely surviving, they have other priorities, blah blah blah. Frankly, they’re the same things Shaitan whispers to me to prevent me from doing a good deed. Why do we let Shaitan do that to us, instead of doing what’s right?

I know this is a mean blog and a personal one, and perhaps uncomfortable for some people. It’s not personal or directed at any one person. Do not get offended. I’m just a person with a blog after all. Your thoughts and actions are yours and you’ll be responsible on the Day of J. as will I. But I just want each of us to go back to the Qur’an and the teachings of Islam and really think about what it means to be a Muslim. I mean really think about it and then tell me if I’m wrong. Because if I am, I can go back to standing back and doing nothing too.

Wsalaam wrt.

P.S. The pictures from said event.