The picture above, unfortunately, is summing up my Ramadan so far.

 

Ramadan began on Friday as the sun set and the first fast was on Saturday. Every year, for one month Muslims fast every day. They do not eat from sun up to sun down. This is the most base level of the fast. Additionally Muslims do not engage in other sinful activities being especially mindful of refraining from hurtful language, lying, backbiting, and a variety of other things.

 

I came into this Ramadan with very high hopes. It seems I may have expended much of my excitement in the lead up and am already somewhat drained. Part of the difficulty of this Ramadan also lies in the very long days. Fasting until 8:30 is a much different story than fasting until 6:30. By the time the fast opens it feels like your whole day has escaped while you had little energy to do much.

 

When I was younger fasting helped me understand how hard it must be for people who don’t have enough resources to attain basic things like food to get out of their desolate situations. While you are fasting you can observe the heightened difficulty in concentrating, in being motivated to push yourself or even just accomplish your basic daily tasks. Through our daily struggles Muslims come to be able to better empathize with the poor, hopefully motivating them to give more in charity and to have more compassion for their brothers and sisters.

 

I will try to write a little bit about Ramadan every few days to help me stay conscience of my personal progress and also to provide some basic information for people who might not know much about Ramadan or understand what some of the Muslims they know are going through this month. I also hope it can be an open forum for discussion or questions that anyone might have. 

book reviews

Book: Dreams From My Father, A Story of Race and Inheritance by Barak Obama
Read: 8/13/2009
Rating: 5.5/10

What a slow and often times painful read!! There were so many points throughout the book that I found myself thinking blah blah blah. The main reason I think I found this book so disappointing is because there was a big gap between my expectation and understanding of Obama now in comparison to the time when he wrote this book. He was still quite young, had just finished his stint as a community organizer in Chicago and the book ends with his journey to Kenya where he tries to reconcile the race he has inherited but never really felt he could claim. His writing is not bad but he weighs down on details and exposes us to some of his inner struggles that at times are not the easiest to sympathize with.
Obama’s mother and father met while they were students in Hawaii. His mother is white and his father black. His parents split up when he was very young with his father eventually returning to Kenya, leaving Obama to be raised by his white mother and grandparents. Obama greatly struggles with his racial identity in this context. In a time where racism was legally validated he had to reconcile what it meant to be a black man who was often degraded by white people with the fact that his own family at home was white.
Before reading this book I always took offense to people saying that Obama was ‘black.’ For all intents and purposes he is half-black and half-white. I have often heard my mixed friends complain that they hate when they are identified as one race or another, feeling as if they are expected to deny their mother or father’s background just because of how they look.
Reading about his experience allowed me to understand why Obama can legitimately “claim” his “blackness.” Despite the fact that he was raised with status and privilege not afforded to most black men in his era, he still faced the challenges, hurdles and racial stereotypes that come with being a black man. For those purposes it didn’t matter at all whether he was half, a quarter or five percent black. As long as society saw him as black, he carried the black man’s burden in at least some ways.
He writes, “To be black was to be the beneficiary of a great inheritance, a special destiny, glorious burdens that only we were strong enough to bear. Burdens we were to carry with style.” But later he also adds, “My identity might begin with the fact of my race, but it didn’t, couldn’t, end there.”
In one of my favorite passages in the books he starts to come to terms with his father, who has been absent and has grown into a mythical creature in his mind. “He had never been present to foil the image, because I hadn’t seen what perhaps most men see at some point in their lives; their father’s body shrinking, their father’s best hopes dashed, their father’s face lined with grief and regret.” As he comes to learn of his father’s faults he recognizes that “all my life I had been wrestling with nothing more than a ghost!”
In his trip to his father’s homeland Obama begins to reconcile his identity and fill the missing pieces of his life. He concludes by realizing, “I saw my life in America- the black life, the white life, the sense of abandonment I’d felt as a boy, the frustration and hope I’d witnessed in Chicago- all of it was connected with this small plot of earth an ocean away, connected by more than the accident of a name or the color of my skin. The pain I felt was my father’s pain. My questions were my brother’s questions. Their struggle, my birthright.”

On that midnight train to Georgia…


Sorry for the recent absence! Feraz and I just got back from a week in Costa Rica where we celebrated our sixth anniversary and followed it up for a night in Hotlanta! We didn’t have our phones or laptops and it was amazing! I was going to do an extensive write up on the trip but fortunately/unfortunately there are several other things I want to write about which are more pressing to me so instead I will give you an album with lengthy captions. (Kind of lame of me to do in a “travel blog,” I know!)

Three trips for Costa Rica travel:

  1. Go to EMS and buy two pairs of active pants that tear away into shorts and are fast drying. Also invest in some of Patagonia’s underwear and socks that don’t require heavy washing.
  2. Make at least somewhat of a plan and pick a home-base from where you will do most of your traveling.
  3. Do every adventure activity you can but be ready to pay the price!!

At the end of our trip I flipped through my passport to notice there are just two empty pages left. I feel so lucky and happy that I have pushed myself to travel and am especially thankful for this most recent adventure. Despite all the mishaps we encountered, Feraz and I made the most of it and had a really great time. This anniversary trip showed me how well Feraz and I have come to know each other, how much we have grown as a couple and how strong our bond has become. I pray that our love always continues to grow and that God always protects our marriage. A while back I wrote about trusting someone so much that with your eyes closed and without thinking you can fall back and know they will catch you. This trip and these last six months have shown me more than ever how Feraz more than anyone in my life has lived up to this high standard of trust. So, I thank you my love and when I say happy anniversary it is most happy for me who has been so blessed to have you in my life!

Finally, I will say that the more I travel, the more people I meet and the more of the world that I see, I only become more firmly resolved to the basic fact that will drive the rest of my life. This is a world worth saving. 

Click Here for Costa Rica Pictures

I don’t understand why hijabis call each other sexy, smoking, etc. I don’t think I can stand to see one more facebook album where one hijabi says to another, “I want to get a piece of that.” I am not trying to be antagonistic. I really don’t understand. I see girls and women who I sincerely believe are wearing the hijab for Islamic reasons. Who are wearing it as a means to submit to God but they still use this language. Are you trying to deconstruct the meaning of those words? Is this a form of reclaiming what beauty means? If so, is it ok to do it within the parameters of an ideology that we should be trying to reject? Both socially and religiously?

 

Is this our way of trying to send the message to young women that cover that they can still be considered beautiful or gorgeous? That they are “hotttt” and need not worry because even if they wear hijab that doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice their objectification in society? In my life I have reconciled a very limited amount of things about hijab and what it means but I think its safe to say that the hijab is in direct opposition to sexual objectification. If so, why do we use this language, why are we creating a culture of degrading women within the context of something that is specifically designed to empower women?

 

I wore hijab for seven years. I love what hijab represents and the greater struggle it symbolizes. I took off my hijab for so many reasons. Among them, I didn’t feel safe or respected as a woman in this society with it on. I felt that there was a wall between me and the average American and perhaps more meaningfully between me and other Muslims. As a member of this society I wanted to fit in. I didn’t want the great burden of always being a Muslim representative. I took off hijab for both superficial and ideological reasons. It took strength to take off hijab but that choice was born of a weakness in me. It was my weakness not to stand up to fight to create a world in which I could comfortably wear hijab. It was my weakness for not being the type of Muslim that could be proud to be representative of her deen. Instead I succumbed and took off hijab because I felt this society demanded it of me and because I didn’t demand better of myself and of it.

 

These comments aren’t to let off people who don’t wear hijab and espouse the same values and express the same sentiments but I find it especially disturbing to see these patterns more commonly emerging within the hijabi community. Perhaps because when someone wears hijab, it is such a conscience choice. That even if wearing it doesn’t mean everything, it has to mean something. Even with that said, I will note that it is not just hijabis who should hold themselves to a higher standard of self-respect. As Muslim men and women we all make a commitment to modesty. The Prophet said, “Every religion has its characteristic, and the characteristic of Islam is modesty.” This means modesty in our appearance and modesty in our actions. It is difficult for me to reconcile this with our most constant praise of each other being how sexy or hot we are. 

While I was wearing hijab, I once spoke to a room of a people discussing the relationship between the feminist movement and the right of a woman to cover. I argued that there was no difference between a woman who stood in front of them wearing a hijab and one who stood in front of them without one on. That a woman’s choice to wear a head scarf did not fundamentally alter or define who she was. Just as feminist used to proclaim that a short skirt is not an invitation for rape, a head scarf is not an invitation for judgment, scorn and pity.

 

At this point in my life, I have to disagree with my younger self. A woman who wears hijab in this country, in these times is not the same as someone who doesn’t. Even if she does not recognize it, she has a great strength inside her. She is brave and courageous for fighting the homogenous image of women that is often thrust upon us in media and society. She is a soldier in a war against women’s bodies and self-esteem.