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Aug 14, 2013 - writings    1 Comment

Ramadan in London

This is the first year I’ve spent Ramadan in London and it’s definitely been an interesting one! The fasts here in London are from about 3am until 9:30pm! Long days and probably the longest I’ve ever fasted. I was a little worried about this, but as long as one eats nutritiously (and very sparingly) and drinks tons of water from Iftar to Suhoor (and takes a nap in the afternoon lol) it’s not so bad!

We visited a number of different kinds of Mosques they have here: wealthy one’s, ghetto one’s, big one’s, smaller one’s, even a brand new one! Each mosque has a different set up for Ramadan. A few distribute Iftar snack bags to the public with Samosas, fruit and water, and one even provided a full little Biryani boxed meal donated by a local restaurant. Some pray 8 rakats and some pray 20. Recitations go from Shaatri-esque loveliness to fast-Desi-qirats. Some have the Imams do little talks before Taraweeh begins. In the last 10 days they also have Qiyaam around 1am and provide Suhoor. The nice thing is that it feels like a carnival in the Middle East sometimes as they set up tents and stalls and sell things during and after Taraweeh, like cakes, ice cream and my favorite: burgers!!

Despite the huge numbers, the Mosques are very organized with a lot of volunteers that are usually clearly marked in every Masjid wearing vests. They help direct people, distribute Iftar, clean up and make the ladies move up and make space and try to make the kids that are running around go back to their Mums! It’s actually really nice to see the amount of people helping and being active here (instead of like the one or two ppl who have to do everything at Mosques in America!)

I’ve had a lot of good experiences (and also some not so good) during Ramadan. I met some very nice people like a sister in a wheelchair whose name is Banaan (fingertips! –like the one’s Allah will resurrect us from on the Day of J.), a friendly Greek convert and an Italian one with two beautiful little girls with blonde hair and blue eyes. I hung out in the last 10 days with an American sister whose husband is here to teach classes during Ramadan. (We went to Halal KFC for fried chicken and Bebzi like true Americans of course and giggled over Britishisms!) One evening at Taraweeh I saw some beautiful deaf Muslims signing away at each other and one translated the talk to the others. It’s really fascinating going to all these Mosques and meeting so many different people and seeing everyone from policemen, to taxi-drivers, to bus drivers still in their uniforms all praying together. London Muslims are really diverse, even for Muslims, and are from every tiny country on the globe and are so numerous and part of society here it’s really fascinating.

One thing to note is that Ramadan is on a big scale here. Mosques are hugely crowded big city affairs. You have to go early and be prepared for crowds and sometimes ugliness. Just going to the Mosque to pray, dealing with the crowds, annoyingness, the weather etc brings to mind memories of Hajj! It’s so similar to what it feels like there. (For the Westeners at Hajj it’s not very difficult for us in terms of accommodation or food, but what’s really difficult is dealing with other people, personal space, the crowds, ignorant ppl etc.) The one thing I feel that is really missing here and does not compliment their huge numbers and organization is Adab; just basic consideration and kindness, having the character of a Muslim. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s a big city or because Muslims are so fractured here, but it’s glaringly lacking, even in Ramadan. Basic things like just saying Saalam, or talking to someone next to you, or not gossiping in a foreign language, sharing one’s food, making room for elderly sisters. And honestly I find myself doing it too! If no one else is doing it, why should i? Then I have to shake myself and remind myself Adab is for Allah and not anyone else!!

I do miss my community back home where everyone knows each other and everyone makes huge efforts to be kind and earn good deeds in Ramadan. Everyone invites each other over for Iftar or hosts open Iftars at the Mosques. Community Iftars are really special and bring everyone together. I remember one community Ramadan Iftar we girls even made a pact for everyone to go sit with someone new and to make at least one new friend! If someone did not have food everyone would immediately give their entire plate to that person! But alas, even though I missed that, alhamdulillah in every place there are good things to take and learn from. I was able to attend many Ramadan seminars in London, Iftar fundraisers and lovely talks and workshops. The sheer amount of money they raise for Muslim causes in London during Ramadan is absolutely incredible, and praying with thousands of Mussaleen has it’s own special qualities.

Here I leave you with a few pics…(sorry abt the quality, it’s all i could surreptitiously get!)

And a Blessed Ramadan to everyone. May Allah accept.

Nov 24, 2012 - writings    Comments Off

The Guest

Recently, I had a sister as a guest at my home. She’s someone I’ve known for a long time, but because we live on opposite ends of the Earth, I haven’t seen her since our college days! I can still remember all our crazy MSA road trips, going to ISNA or an Imam Zaid talk in CT or even just to see the leaves in Vermont. She’s someone who has always loved traveling, especially to better herself Islamically. She’s actually one of the best Muslims I’ve ever known. After she left here I started thinking about her and her pure heart. I really felt honored to host her, and felt like Allah had sent her by arranging a million different factors to all coincide. Somehow I was here, at this time and place in my life for us to meet at this exact moment. And I know Allah does not do random!

Then I wondered if perhaps everything I had right now, home, food, transport was given to me so at this one instance I could be a host for her, a traveller on the path to Fee Sabeelillah. SubhanAllah. It’s truly Allah who gives Rizq. Sometimes what we don’t realize is that the guest has already come with their Rizq. It’s not something that we give; but has already been appointed for them.

I still remember a few instances of just extreme kindness of fellow Muslims when I used to travel for work. I’d end up in some strange place like Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania or DC or Miami and not know anyone and have to go to work the whole day, then eat alone at some restaurant usually at the hotel and going to bed early, I’d flick through the channels to pass the time until I fell asleep.

Luckily, in those days all the active Muslims were networked and knew each other. And sometimes I’d email one of them and say “Oh I’m going to be in Columbus, OH for a few days, do you want to meet up?!”

And the most amazing thing happened: I met so many great Muslims! One day I was in Detroit, Michigan and this huge Buick pulled up and this tall white girl in Hijab came out. She was a recent convert on my website who went by the nickname ‘Angel’. That’s about all I knew about her! But over the next few days while I was there, she took me to Shatila which I discovered for the first time! and showed me around the University and we went to an amazing real authentic Arab student dive place. Not really sure where she is now, but last I heard she had married her Palestinian bf from college and had a baby, but I’ll never forget that memorable trip.

Another time I flew into DC for one day and a brother active in MSA insisted I come visit him and his wife. So I went and had a wonderful lunch and was about to call a taxi to go to the airport and was told NO WAY would I be allowed to! So the brother with his very heavily pregnant wife, drove like the wind all the way to the airport in his tiny dilapidated car. I still remember the back bumber of his car was tied up with a hanger, “but it’s still holding on” he said and “it still took him to all the events he had to speak at”. At the airport he actually parked and made sure I went in and that’s when I found out my flight had been cancelled! They invited me to stay but the next flight was so early and my company would pay for a hotel, so he drove me all the way to my hotel and said Salam. An hour later the front desk called up and said someone was there for me. So I went down and he had dropped off some Halal yummy Afghani food from a place down there so I’d have something to eat for dinner!

I mean… what can you say about people like that. Seriously, again I rethink the past and wonder if the purpose of that job and that traveling was to meet these people and be inspired by them, and not have anything to actually do with the job!

One time I went to Miami and met a sister I barely knew. She insisted I live at her house with her family until I was done working there! So I stayed 3 or 4 days at her house, doing my job and in the evenings we’d go out or they’d have a dinner party for me at her house.

I can’t even talk about the generosity that lives in the hearts of Arabs in Shaam and Egypt for foreigners, who they consider their guests. That is above and beyond even writing about here and has no comparison.

I can’t forget these small kindnesses when I was in a strange town or place, lonely and working. I remember the beginning of the end was when one day late at night I was just sitting in my hotel room watching the snow fall under a street lamp in the parking lot, thinking, realizing how lonely and difficult traveling really was. I had just talked to my family on my “cell phone”(no one had these yet!) It had seemed like such an exciting lifestyle, traveling to a different city each week, getting (very well) paid, having a cool laptop and new cell phone. But I just couldn’t do it any more.

And now all I remember from those years is the loneliness and those small acts of kindness.

Hast thou observed him who belieth religion?
That is he who repelleth the orphan,
And urgeth not the feeding of the needy.
Ah, woe unto worshippers
Who are heedless of their prayer;
Who would be seen (at worship)
Yet refuse small kindnesses!

Quran 107

 

Apr 13, 2012 - writings    3 Comments

Friends

There’s a scene in Dil Chahta Hai where the three protagonists right after their college graduation take a road trip to a resort. They’re overlooking the beautiful ocean in the distance and one says, “We should meet out here every 10 years!”. And the more mature and wiser one of them says (of course what is to be an omen, this is Bollywood u know! :)), “What makes you think we’ll meet even once in the next 10 years or that we’ll still be friends then?”

When we are little we always imagine that we’ll grow up with our close friends, get married and live near each other with our husbands and kids! I still remember us making plans with friends when we were 15 and 16. Sadly that group of friends’ plans fizzled when college started and everyone was flung out all over the US and world even. Somehow over time people lose touch, misunderstandings and miscommunications occur. People change, they get busy, they develop new interests and patterns, the dynamics of the group change, new people come in, jealousy and unnecessary drama, all contribute to the end of what was in its naive innocence a close friendship.

I think close friendships that are positive relationship wise and not predatory (using each other for something) are very rare to find. Perhaps the best example we can find is the friendship between Rasulullah (s) and Abu Bakr (ra). Neither “used” the other for anything but yet were always supportive and there for each other. When Rasulullah (saw) left for the Hijrah, who did he find but Abu Bakr (ra) with a horse and provisions ready to be his companion. When Rasulullah (saw) asked for help for the cause of Allah, Abu Bakr (ra) came with all the money he had to the exasperation of Omar (ra) who said he might as well stop competing now! When asked who he loved the most in the world Rasulullah (saw) said Abu Bakr (ra), and when asked who next he said his (Abu Bakr’s) daughter.

Friendship is definitely a two way street. It’s sad when people stop hanging out or calling each other etc. I know I’ve neglected a lot of friendships because of my own issues and problems. But as I get older, I realize that it’s really important to keep in touch and keep those friendships alive. It seems 20xs harder to make new friends as you get older too! I actually wish I kept more in touch with my old high school and college friends too.

This is a reminder to myself perhaps how precious good friends are and how they are needed on this ‘Road to Jannah’.

 

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