Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ramadan diversity and spirituality

I am pleased to read this article appearing in Saudi Gazette.... diversity is the foundation for peaceful sustainance of a society. Glad to see this article

Mike Ghouse

Ramadan is truly a month of diversity and spirituality

IN this feature on Muslims celebrating Ramadan in the United States courtesy America.gov, three young Muslim American writers explain what Ramadan means to them. The most compelling aspect of each account is the juxtaposition of established Islamic principles with absolute diversity. All three accounts are based on three very different backgrounds and experiences, with only faith forming the identical foundation of them.

Ramadan in a multi-faith family

Ilana Alazzeh was born in San Francisco to an Israeli mother and Palestinian father. She currently attends Smith College in Massachusetts, where she stays active in community service and interfaith work, regularly speaking on panels regarding Islam and religious pluralism.

Celebrating Ramadan at Smith College has always been difficult. My thoughts always drift back to celebrating with my family, such as heading to the beautiful masjid every weekend for Iftar. Smith’s masjid is less dazzling: It’s a large, bare room. Still, it is a truly blessed place of Salaam, and I try to go whenever I am not too tired from homework.

The community there is small but diverse, and is one of the most sincere I have ever encountered. It’s not only Muslims, but the religious, the curious and the ambiguous all join each other for breakfast. Ironically, this diversity still reminds me of home.

When my Israeli mother celebrates Ramadan, she always incorporates her heritage into the holiday. For example, while my Pakistani step-father is downstairs making pancakes, she will loudly sing Hebrew songs from her childhood to wake us up for Suhoor. Although she has converted to Islam, she still keeps her Jewish customs alive.

Once, my mother’s father came to visit during Ramadan. He is a small, mischievous and comical man, a Palmach war veteran of Israel. Unlike my mother, he refused to celebrate Ramadan. He would begrudgingly come to the masjid with us, and even though he knew Arabic, he only spoke in Hebrew or English.
While we were inside doing our night prayers, he would smoke outside with my step-grandmother: a Southern Baptist African American who converted to Judaism. It certainly wasn’t the traditional picture of Ramadan.
But even though my grandfather did not celebrate with us, he did respect the holiday. I remember him giving my younger brother a clap for teasing me with food when I was fasting. Even though he wasn’t fasting with me, he honored my decision.
I’ll never forget the night during Ramadan that my puzzle of a family and I piled into our van to see the Christmas lights. We sang Jewish, Christmas and Dawud Wharnsby songs. (Watch the YouTube video “We’ve scanned the sky Dawud Wharnsby.”) My family of different cultures and religions were all celebrating together, enjoying each other’s company and acknowledging our diverse faiths. Although our coexistence was rough at times, it was built out of respect and real love.

My celebrations at Smith will never be able to match Ramadan at home, despite its best attempts. Iftar at Smith’s modest masjid are usually a sad but wholehearted attempt at what’s made at home. However, as my mother stresses, “Ramadan isn’t about Iftar.” And she’s right.

Ramadan for me is a time of peace and introspection, which ironically happens the most in congregation. It is when I celebrate with others that I feel closer to God. Community begets personal faith and personal faith begets the community thriving with full spectrum in God’s multi-faith world.

Ramadan: An American-
Egyptian perspective

Mustafa Abdullah is an American-Egyptian Muslim who has lived in Egypt, Spain, and the United States. He currently attends Wake Forest University in North Carolina, and he is involved in several interfaith organizations, both on and off campus.
Across cultures and peoples, the principles of Ramadan are the same: self control and the cleansing of the body and mind. However, my celebration of Ramadan varies, depending upon where I am and the existing culture there.

When I was living in Egypt, I noticed the culture is heavily influenced by an Islamic lifestyle. Every sunrise I heard the adhan which is delivered over a loudspeaker in every mosque. The adhan marks the beginning of the fast. In addition, we Muslims are required to observe rules of the public domain. The obligations are twofold: The society must be managed in accordance with the consent of the Muslim constituency as well as God’s commandments. The Holy Qur’an states: “You who believe? Fasting is prescribed for you, even as it was prescribed for those before you, so perchance you may attain God-consciousness.” (2:183)

In Islam, religion and spirituality are not limited to the private life. The principles that govern the private lives of Muslims are often exhibited publicly through social obligations and rights.

While celebrating Ramadan in Egypt, I saw the structure of the day shift in accordance with Ramadan. The work day and school day is shortened. Some businesses (mostly restaurants and cafes) open early for Suhoor. In Egypt, the majority of people are fasting: The struggle is group oriented.

During Ramadan, we Muslims are obliged to give charity, repent sins, make a strong effort to commit good deeds, read the Holy Qur’an, pray, and offer Iftar to those who fasted. When I lived in Egypt, these public acts of religiosity surrounded me.
Celebrating Ramadan in the United States has been a very different experience. I have a whole other set of challenges in the month-long celebration. It seems the public is not that aware of Ramadan. The work schedule is not adjusted to fit my family’s needs, and since Islam is not the status quo, only a minority of the population is participating in Ramadan.

I think the culture of Ramadan in America is created by Muslims who are most honestly and sincerely interested in completing religious obligations and enhancing spirituality. Unlike Egypt, where the ceremonies happen all around me, in America my family and I have to put forth a strong effort in preparing the celebrations. Ramadan is more of a private matter in America: Our Iftar takes place at home and mosques, and there is no adhan that marks the beginning of the fast.
But it’s still Ramadan, and although the celebrations may be different, we still follow the two principles.

The lessons of Ramadan

Ansaf Kareem, the son of Pakistani parents, was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He is a senior at Stanford University in California, active in the Muslim Student Awareness Network, and is senior class president.

Recalling the Ramadan of my youth, I now realize that this holy month meant little more to me than an excuse to hang out with friends at my mosque, located in Portland, Oregon. Although I should have been more attentive to the spiritual aspects of the ceremonies, my focus was on having fun with a diverse group of friends from various backgrounds.

As young kids, however, our differences didn’t matter to us; we cared about who could throw the ball the farthest and tell the funniest jokes, not who spoke with the thickest accent. But although we were unaware of the important lesson we were learning, many of the elders at the mosque observed our interactions knowingly.
Today, as our mosque celebrates ethnic diversity, many say that it was these early bonds of friendship that helped shape the culture of the mosque.At Stanford, these same pluralistic and tolerant values are reflected in my Ramadan experience. Our Muslim student groups put on breaking of the fast ceremonies every night during Ramadan, attended by students from every corner of the world.

Many of these students state that, despite coming from countries with homogenous religious cultures, their experience of diversity in America has simultaneously challenged their negative perceptions of others and reinforced their own faith in Islam.

Although some aspects of their Ramadan experience are new and different, some remain unchanged. The international students enthusiastically indicated that no matter how far away they felt from home, the familiar sights of communal gathering made them feel welcome. The breaking of the fast, the call to prayer, and the services that followed reminded them of home, enabling them to cherish these fourteen hundred year-old Islamic traditions in a new way.

These examples of pluralism affected others on campus as well. When we held our annual Fastathon, students from all different faiths and backgrounds participated in fasting for a day to promote awareness for poverty. When Yom Kippur fell on a date during Ramadan, we held a joint breaking of the fast ceremony with Jewish students, sharing our traditions and fasting stories with one another.

This year, I will be observing Ramadan in Pakistan. I look forward to the opportunity to compare this experience in a Muslim-majority country to my experience in America. Although some aspects will surely be different, I am sure that many of the practices will be very similar.

This provides a reminder to all Muslims of the powerful tradition we all share. I pray that this reminder of unity and pluralism embodied in the month of Ramadan will extend beyond the walls of mosques, serving as a positive force to overcome prejudice and promote pluralism.


Another Article on Ramadan: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2009/08/ramadans_spiritual_discipline.html


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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797



We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration (www.UnitydayUSA.com) held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.

URL- http://worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com/2013/08/planned-muslim-response-to-quran_18.html

Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.