A quick message to all those who don’t fast or don’t know a lot about it.

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Muslim girl's life experiences

  • We fast for a period of 30 days. We do not starve for 30 days solid, as we only don’t eat from dusk to dawn.
  • It is not inhumane and we will not die and it’s not dangerous. Please don’t feel sorry for us, or feel like you have to hide your cup of tea and biscuits from us. We are adults and can fight the temptation of stealing your custard cream.
  • We know it’s roasting and can feel the heat and see the sun, and yes its not easy not being able to drink, but we are soldiers and will survive and again we will not die of thirst.
  • A happy faster, who wants to let people know that fasting won’t kill or break her…

Photo: Ramadan mubark to everyone #ramadhan #islam

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Single Muslim

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In the Asian culture getting married is a big deal. It’s a bigger deal than getting a first class honours degree or winning the lottery.  ‘But, Asian’s have arranged marriages don’t they? They aren’t allowed to choose their husband or wife. Don’t their parents find someone for them and force them to marry that person? Isn’t all this true?’ I’m not going to lie and say that this does not happen for some people. ‘A girl once asked me if I’d see my husband before I marry him, I told her no, I’d just see him on my wedding night’. This is a true question and I could tell you loads more that would have you in stitches.

Finding a marriage partner is hard work as it is. It’s even harder when you have to narrow your pool to Muslim and Pakistani and for those who are hard-core lovers of the caste system, it’s even narrower. So when does one find a suitable partner? ‘A club, bar, work, friends, interests? Well for Asians finding a lifelong partner in a club or bar is unheard of especially if you’re Muslim as alcohol is forbidden and most people aren’t looking for a drinking partner. So, where else are we left with? How about work? I work in a white dominated environment and don’t encounter any eligible Muslim men. And the white men definitely can not pass for Asian even if they hit the sun bed. Okay, what about friends? Most of my friends are single so looking for me isn’t high on their priority list and I’m not looking for used or second hand gifts from friends. What about online? I’d rather have a real face-to-face meeting as opposed to a cyber-friendship and texting, BB messenger and Whatsapp isn’t my preferred choice of communication. I can see that my options are already dwindling. What about so called networking or speed dating events? I seem to have a tattoo on my forehead that says geeks and men who don’t think before they speak please come and talk to me. I am not a social recluse, but I refuse to engage in conversations to do with how many A stars a person got in their GCSE or what car they are looking to buy next or worse still where in Pakistan I live. What happened to normal conversation? ‘Hi, how are you? So what book are you reading or what do you think of the weather?’ I’d much rather have real conversations than one that consists of pleasantries. God forbid I should have an opinion, be myself, and not try to impress anyone.  So that’s where I am going wrong. Simply opening my mouth and speaking. Damn. My mother always told me not to talk to strangers to, so maybe staying quiet is a good thing.

At weddings and every time, I bump into a relative or family friend I hear the following ‘Wow you’re not married or engaged? Why not? What’s wrong with you? You must be too fussy. There has to be a reason why you’re still single and over 30’. Have any of you heard this before? I’ve lost count the amount of times people have looked horrified and baffled that I, a Muslim Pakistani woman can be over 30, living alone and not married. My parents obviously have no control over me and must worry themselves to sleep every night contemplating my future. These are the thoughts going through people’s head when they hear of my situation. Only a few are bold enough to actually say it out aloud. It goes in one ear and out the other now.Asian bride

Now a little about me. Firstly, there is nothing wrong with me. I am not socially inept or indeed of plastic surgery or a personality make over. I am a normal human being. At least I like to think I am, even though my sense of humour is questionable at times. So, why am I not married you may ask. It’s a simple answer; I have not met the right man. It’s not because I am not girly enough, too westernised or too independent. And I don’t need to change who I am as a person or try to mould myself into the type of man that the majority of Asian men are looking for. Yes, I am getting on a bit and my biological clock is ticking at the speed of light, but that does not mean I need to rush myself up the aisle. I just need to focus on whom I love and myself. Being over 30 and not married shouldn’t be the end of the world. I am not saying I don’t want to get married. If The D&G model asked me tomorrow to marry him, I’d rustle up two people and an imam before you can say Kabul, Kabul Kabul. My question is why do we allow our society to dictate to us what age we should be married by and the type of person we should marry?

I’m fasting, not dieting….

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Every year Muslims around the world will observe fasting, which makes up one of the five pillars of Islam. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic calendar and usually lasts between 29 and 30 days and is based on the visual sighting of the moon. Muslims will abstain from drinking, eating and sexual relations. Please note we do not starve ourselves for 30 days in a row.

The word Ramadan comes from the Arabic root “ramida” or “ar-ramad,” which means scorching heat or dryness.

Chapter 2, Revelation 185 of the Quran states: The month of Ramadan is that in which was revealed the Quran; a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, a number of other days. Allah desires for you ease; He desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.[Quran 2:185]

Ramadan is a time of self-reflection, spirituality and devotion to Allah. Ramadan teaches us self-discipline and allows us to relate to the poor and hungry. I will not suffer in health through fasting and neither will it kill me. In fact it teaches me to become stronger and make me realise just how much junk and crap food I eat in a day.

Typical day of fasting:

I begin my day by waking up for sehri (before dawn) and treat myself to a feast of one banana, glass of water and three cake rusks. If I have time I often have a mango as I love them. A person can eat anything as long as it is halal and before fajr (dawn). I then close my fast by brushing my teeth and saying a prayer. I have to wait a short while before the morning prayers (fajr) start. I perform wudhu (ablution/wash myself), don my abaya and hijab (a Muslim women must be clean and covered before she can pray), find my prayer mat and pray the morning prayers.

Through out the day I try my best to refrain from swearing, back biting, stealing and being horrible. I am only human so at times I may lose my patience and be tempted to yell at the person who stood on my foot on the tube. Muslim’s should pray five times, Fajr (morning), Zuhr (midday), Asr (afternoon), Maghrib (sunset) and Isha (evening) a day and I fit in my prayers where I can and carry a scarf and long cardigan in my bag to help me. In the month of Ramadan I try extra hard to pray five times a day.

I try to break my fast with either water or dates and with a prayer. I prefer to break my fast with others as for me this is what Islam is about, being part of a community. I ventured to Regent Park Mosque as I wanted to see what it was like to open my fast in a mosque. The mosque provided free tea and dates for people fasting. I looked around and saw women from different corners of the world, speaking various languages and dressed differently. I wait for the azaan (call to prayer) and then open my fast with the various women. It is amazing to see young and old women at different stages in their faith coming together to pray and eat.

Eid Ul’fitr:

The muslin holiday Eid U’l Fitr (“festivity of breaking the fast”) marks the end of Ramadan and the beginning of the next lunar month called Shawwal in Arabic. This first day of the following month is declared after another crescent new moon has been sighted or the completion of 30 days of fasting if no visual sighting is possible due to weather conditions.

On Eid Ul’ Fitr I wake up in the morning and realise that I can eat and drink freely. My brothers and dad go to the mosque to read the Eid prayers. Once they return we greet each other with ‘Eid Mubarak/Kareem’ and have a feast.

Zakat:

At the end of Ramadan Muslims are meant to give zakat (the amount of money that every adult, mentally stable, free, and financially able Muslim, male and female, has to pay to support specific categories people). I calculate my zakat which is 2.5% of my savings (money saved for a year) and then donate it to a worthwhile charity.

This category of people is defined in surah at-Taubah (9) verse 60: “The alms are only for the poor and the needy, and those who collect them, and those whose hearts are to be reconciled, and to free the captives and the debtors, and for the cause of Allah, and (for) the wayfarers; a duty imposed by Allah. Allah is knower, Wise.” (The Holy Qur’an 9:60).

The obligatory nature of Zakat is firmly established in the Qur’an, the Sunnah (or hadith), and the consensus of the companions and the Muslim scholars. Allah states in Surah at-Taubah verses 34-35: “O ye who believe! there are indeed many among the priests and anchorites, who in Falsehood devour the substance of men and hinder (them) from the way of Allah. And there are those who bury gold and silver and spend it not in the way of Allah. announce unto them a most grievous penalty – On the Day when heat will be produced out of that (wealth) in the fire of Hell, and with it will be branded their foreheads, their flanks, and their backs, their flanks, and their backs.- “This is the (treasure) which ye buried for yourselves: taste ye, then, the (treasures) ye buried!” (The Holy Qur’an9:34-35).

Fasting is not hard and it is really mind over matter. This year we Ramadhan kareeare not able to eat and drink for about 18 hours. It is hard to explain, but your body gets used to not eating and drinking. I love the month of ramadhan as it’s the one time of year, that I am able to have two meals with my family every day.

I’m an alien; I’m a Muslim in France

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Bonjour, aslamailakun ca va? ka fa hal? Both greetings are the same, hello, how are you? In France, you can often hear a mixture of French and Arabic being spoken.

Are the French islamphobic? Do they fear Muslims? Do they welcome Muslim or ethnic minorities? I cannot answer this question.

France has one of the largest Muslim populations in Western Europe 5- 6 million (8-9%), yet you will struggle to see many Muslim people in senior management positions. Muslims from all over Africa especially Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria come to France with the hope of making a better life for themselves.  I personally did not experience any form of Islamaphobia from French people during my weekend in Paris. But, then I do not wear a hijab and have an English accent. However, the story is different for some Muslims living in France and the subject of racism is a taboo subject.

In London, you can see Muslim women roaming the streets head to toe in black with only their eyes showing. In Paris, I didn’t see one women with an abaya in all the different neighbourhoods I explored. I spotted a few women wearing the hijab and Muslim men wearing traditional attire from their home countries. I am not saying I want to see women wear the niqab or that I support it. However, I am a firm believer that a woman and a man should be able to wear what they want to.What is it about the hijab and niqab that scares some people? I admit speaking to someone whose face I cannot see is NOT a comfortable experience. However, seriously it is not hard to converse with someone who covers his or her head. What is so scary about that? Please tell me as I am struggling to figure it out. Is the hijab such a sore sight and who are we to tell people what to wear? What happened to freedom of expression or the freedom to wear what you want?

In France on January 25 it was announced that the parliamentary committee, having concluded its study, would recommend that a ban on veils covering the face in public locations such as hospitals and schools be enacted, but not in private buildings or on the street. On 22 June 2009, at the Congrès de Versailles, President Nicolas Sarkozy declared that the Islamic burqa is not welcome in France, claiming that the full-length, body-covering gown was a symbol of subservience that suppresses women’s identities and turns them into “prisoners behind a screen.” A parliamentary commission of thirty-two deputies and led by André Gerin (PCF), was formed to study the possibility of banning the public wearing of the burqa or niqab.[35]

As I enjoyed my weekend in Paris, I spoke to various Muslims from Tunisia, Lebanon, Africa, Algeria Senegal and Ivory Coast and they all have the same story to tell, that in France Muslims are feared and the hijab is not allowed in public places.  . In France, the French people will not admit they are racist or do not like Muslims or minorities. However, realistically, who is going to openly admit that they do not like a certain set of people. This is a view shared by the people I encountered and other Muslim or minorities in France may have a different tale to tell.

Islam, niqab, hijab

The problem in France is that it asks children who are born here and grow up here to eat French, sleep French, but they still don’t accept me as French,” said Bigaderne, the son of Moroccan and Algerian immigrants.

“A real Frenchman is white,” he explained, “not black or Arab.”

It saddens me that in 2012 we still discriminate against minorities and cannot fully accept other faiths and people and have to pose restrictions on people and what they can or can’t wear. I hope with the new French President Hollande things for Muslims in France will get better.

Taking a life- One minute you’re here the next you’re gone

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What do you do when someone you thought you know so well suddenly dies? You cry of course and think about all the great times you had? But, what if that person chose to take his or her own life. Do you still feel the same remorse and sadness? “How could they do that”, “They must be weak”. Are these the thoughts running through your head as you read this? Let me tell you something taking your own life is not easy. We cry and wince with pain when we cut ourselves and most of us are afraid of dying. I am afraid of dying, but there have been points in my life where I have said yes I am fed up and don’t want to live. But, I am not able to inflict harm on myself. I faint if I see a needle.

So how do we feel when someone takes his or her own life? Kurt cobain and various other celebrities have done it. They had everything you could want, fame and fortune, what else did they need. But, were they happy? And obviously, they didn’t have everything because they reached a low and a point were they couldn’t cope with life or anything. So, they choose a different option to end their pain and suffering.

Imagine seeing someone you know lying on a hospital bed with drips attached to them and knowing they don’t have a chance in hell of living. What hurts more is knowing that they don’t want to live. The moment comes when the Dr tells you the person is dead. Emotion hits you and you either freeze or break down. People around you are hysterical with screaming and wailing. The friend/relative/partner you loved has gone. You will never ever be able to hear them laugh or cry again. But, you’ll always be able to hear yourself cry, as their memory will always stay with you.

What could you have done differently? Could you have stopped it or been there more for her or him? “Maybe If I had listened more things would have been different”. STOP. There is nothing you could have done. Once someone has made this decision, they are going to see it through and it’s not your fault.

We all want answers when a tragedy like this happens. But, sometimes there is no clear answer and you will never know. Losing a loved one is never easy, but when it happens like this, it is worse. So don’t judge those that have taken their own life, as you don’t know their story or pain. In Islam Suicide is not allowed and I do not agree with it. But, when you see and experience the pain of losing someone to suicide you realise why it is not a good way of dying. But, I will always pray and hope that my angel enters heaven. Miss you…

Revert- choosing a different faith

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Are we born Muslim, Jewish or Christian?

Muslims believe that everyone is born a Muslim so they call people who become Muslims reverts. Why does someone revert or convert to a different religion? What makes someone change his or her beliefs and adopt a new way of life? Do people change religion for: love, greater understanding of another belief, or closeness to god? Whatever reason someone chooses to change his or her religion, we should respect that.

How easy is it to change religions? It is pretty easy to convert to Christianity. To revert to Islam one must pronounce the “Shahada”. The “Shahada” is the first and most important of the five pillars of Islam. It is a much lengthier process to convert to Judaism as conversion is a gradual process and the transition takes time.

How easy is to live your life as Muslim? A Hindu friend of mine converted a few years ago and she said that it was a hard process and she hid it from her family, as they wouldn’t approve. Surely, if you’re going to practice another religion and take that step you should embrace it fully,  you might think. But, this is not always the case for everyone.  So why did she hide it? She knew her parents would not accept and wanted to bide her time before she came out as a Muslim and married a Muslim. She prayed in her room and observed fasts all oblivious to those around her. Gradually her tight clothes were traded for looser fitting clothes and long tops. She has not chosen to wear the hijab. Why not? Some of us identify a revert female as one who adopts the hijab and abaya as part and parcel of converting. So is this girl not classed as a Muslim even though she prays five times a day, believes in Islam, observes her fasts and has performed Umrah? Who are we to judge and decide this? Surely, we should praise those who take a step forward instead of criticising and picking faults. Which one of us is a perfect Muslim, Jew or Christian?

When asked why she converted, she stated that she believed that Islam was the right religion and is happy to be a Muslim. When asked if she would ever wear the hijab, she replied that she is not sure, but she will try to dress more modestly. So do we condemn or praise her?

For me it is all about intention and trying to better yourself as a person. I respect all religions and I think it is very hard to embrace another religion, as people are not always welcoming, so I admire those who are bold enough to take that step.

Fanatical about religion…

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Does the way you dress and look determine your religious belief and identity?

If you see a bearded man or a woman with a hijab on, do you automatically think terrorist or Islamic fanatic? Do you assume the bearded man or covered woman walking down the street is oppressed or uneducated? The amount of types I have heard people say things like ‘”Oh my god, I feel so sorry for her. It’s hot and she is forced to wear that black thing”. “Why does she cover her face or her hair”? You may not do, but some ignorant people in our society do. Having a beard or wearing a hijab is a choice for some Muslims who want to be identified as Muslims and form a closer relationship to Allah. Not all Muslim women wear a hijab out of force. It is their choice as they want to make a statement, form a better relationship with god or don’t want men staring at them. The hijab is about modesty of the body and the mind. The woman in the hijab can look at scantily clad women on a Saturday night and think, “Aren’t these women cold, it’s freezing and they have no clothes on.” “Looking at them is making me feel cold”.

An educated man and woman can make a decision to represent their identity and still have a brain and opinion. The woman with the hijab sat opposite you could be a brain surgeon, speak five different languages fluently, and be a martial arts expert. However, some see her as an oppressed fanatic who needs to inject some colour into her life and try wearing a different colour to black.

The bearded man walking across the street has not forgotten how to shave and is not going for the hippy look. He wants society to identify him as a Muslim or just likes sporting a beard. It is not cool or funny to shout Bin Laden or the Taliban as he walks past. It is immature and ignorant. So even if you think it, don’t say it out aloud as a sarky comment or rude reply back can offend. Do not be cautious of this man or speak very slowly as he can understand what you say and may have a PHD in nuclear physics and likes Cold Play.

I am fed up of society and the media that depict Muslims who choose to sport a beard or wear a hijab as Islamic fanatics. They are not fanatics. Nuns dress modestly and wear all black. Do you see a Nun as an oppressed woman and feel sorry for her because she isn’t wearing the latest mini skirt in summer? Or when you see an Orthodox Jew or Greek, do you see them as fanatics with their beards and skullcaps. Why is it acceptable for them to dress in this way and not be classed as fanatics? Figure out what a person is truly about before making assumptions. The media loves to portray Muslims as fanatic. I am a Muslim educated middle class woman and I don’t wear a hijab, but I pray, fast and believe in my religion. Am I fanatic to?