From apps like Co-Star and The Pattern that tell you about your personality based on the time you were born, to daily horoscopes in your favorite publication that dictate “what Gossip Girl character you are” based on your zodiac sign, astrology seems to be everywhere. And whether or not you believe in the validity of the practice, it can be a lot of fun to take part in.
But oftentimes, Muslims who are even slightly interested in astrology or what their horoscope might be are scolded by older generations for participating in something they deem is completely incompatible with Islam. You might have even heard an elder go as far as to say that it was Shirk. But Kaiser Aslam, the Muslim Chaplain at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in New Jersey, doesn’t completely agree.
He says that one of the first things that needs to be recognized is that in the past, astrology and astronomy were actually the same field.
“We have so many scholars of our past that actually wrote books on astrology, but they were commenting just as much on astronomy as they were on astrology,” Chaplain Aslam tells Muslim. “It’s not until maybe like 400 or 500 years ago that these two fields shift. So almost no one is in disagreement that Islam has a lot to do with astronomy.”
Think about the very core of Islamic traditions and how we determine our holidays and prayer times. “So much of our tradition has to do with looking at the moon, right?” Chaplain Aslam jokingly refers to the “moon wars” Muslims get into every Eid as one of the only setbacks of following a lunar calendar. At its foundation, though, the lunar calendar is unique because it does not require a central government or authority figure. This, in turn, empowers the idea of a local community coming together to make sense of it, as we see happens every Eid. “I think that’s a lot to do with the ideas of astrology … it takes away governmental or human authority figures and places it literally to the universe,” Chaplain Aslam says. “And who’s the one who made the universe? Allah SWT.”
All this to say social upheavals are not new and throughout history people turned to religion, philosophy, and science (including astrology) as intellectual historical frameworks to make sense of it all— Ali A Olomi (@aaolomi) June 6, 2020
Muslim astrologers would probably look at 2020 and say, yup makes sense
Astronomy plays a very important role in Islam and spirituality in general, as it usually meant looking at celestial objects and how amazing they are and relating it to the grandeur of God, Chaplain Aslam explains. “Eventually that started getting into ‘So well, what can we do with them?’ That’s where the big debate is,” he says. “It’s not whether it’s an appropriate field in and of itself [but rather], ‘what are they used to do?’”
This is where astrology comes in and thus, the biggest controversy with the practice.
While some people look at horoscopes as a fun way to see how close your personality traits match up with their zodiac signs, other people attempt to use this as a way of determining their life decisions. But so long as we don’t give too much power to our horoscopes in our decision-making, we should be fine.
“We can appreciate things sometimes without seeing them as sources of guidance, where if you start going, … ‘My friends can only be the same Zodiac sign as me’ or like, ‘It’ll determine whether I say yes or no to having a relationship with someone or marrying someone,’ I think we’ve crossed the boundary.” Chaplain Aslam says. When you start subjugating all of your life’s choices to your star sign, that’s when you get into some really questionable territory. “Because at the end of the day, you’re actually supplanting a basic Islamic principle, which is that the people are based on their character,” he says.
But this doesn’t mean you should denounce astrology completely.
“We’re living in a weird moment within Islamic discourse, it’s a reactionary movement that we see, where things like horoscopes have [come] and we’re like, ‘that’s not Islam in any way, shape or form’,” Chaplain Aslam says. “But when we do that, when we turn the other way completely, we actually take away the nuance [of texts].” Whether people realize it or not, there are many traditions within Islam that play into a similar line of thinking as astrology.
Ilm-al-Nujum, or “science of the stars” is an older Islamic school of thought that encouraged believers to think about signs within nature and the universe as having a higher spiritual purpose. And these beliefs have spilled out into Islamic practices that you don’t even have to check smaller sects to find. Muslims believe Ramadan to be the most virtuous month. This has everything to do with the phases of the moon. When there is an eclipse, Muslims congregate for the Salat-ul-Kusuf prayer, which is essentially an appreciation of an astrological phenomenon. Muslims also look for signs around them for life decisions more often than one might think. The entire basis of the Istikhara is to ask Allah to give you guidance on a decision, and to provide that guidance by providing the Istishara, or the signs that may lead you to the right path. This isn’t far off from people looking to stars for guidance.
“When you do just look up at the stars …they point you towards God,” Chaplain Aslam says. “I think that can be said about astrology in general … because astrology has that … same idea that you’re not as in control as you think you are.” He explains that one of the basic premises of astrology is that there are things that are beyond your control that end up determining things about you like your personality traits. This doesn’t drift far from the “nurture/nature” debate.
Astrology just seems to suggest a very huge nature component. Chaplain Aslam says that we as Muslims can appreciate that there are many aspects of who we are that we didn’t have any way of controlling — but that shouldn’t paralyze us. Instead, it should just make us focus more on the aspects of our personalities we can control.
“I think that’s that balanced approach where we appreciate it up until it rubs up against one of our religious traditions, which is when we start measuring people’s worth based on their astrological sign,” Chaplain Aslam says. “But if we use it to be like, ‘Can I understand myself a little bit better so that I can focus on the things I can and cannot change?’ that might be a positive thing because you’re learning to understand yourself more.”
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With the coronavirus (COVID-19) global death toll reaching high death tolls, the Muslim community has found itself in a dilemma over the Janaza (funeral rights) to be performed on those who have passed away during this time.
Janaza includes bathing the body of the deceased, shrouding them with white cloth as they are not to be buried in their casual clothing, praying Janaza prayer and eventual burial within 24 hours of passing. However, the amount of deaths per day and safety measures to take into consideration have made this ritual difficult to carry out and many Muslims around the world have voiced out their concerns.
Countries like the U.S., who have a record number of most deaths reported daily due to COVID-19, have been given strict guidelines to adhere to with regards to the funeral, including minimal contact with the deceased and limitation for members in a gathering. Families of the deceased have been urged to speak with their community religious leaders concerning alteration to rituals.
While this is a breath of relief for the U.S. Muslim community, certain countries are not given as much freedom to practice this ceremony. For instance, in Sri Lanka, those who have died from COVID-19 are subjected to cremation instead of burial despite the World Health Organization (WHO) releasing a statement that includes guidelines stating burial as a possible means of disposal. The government of Sri Lanka has released a gazette containing guidelines of their own, which state that those who have passed on due to the virus are to be cremated, regardless of religious beliefs. This has upset the Muslim community due to the blatant rigidity with which they have treated their own people and the lack of scientific back-up to their claims. While several community and religious leaders have formed petitions against the violation of rights, it goes to show that not all parts of the world are able to implement the same rituals.
Several fatwas have been issued by various Islamic councils around the world with regards to Janaza during a pandemic as loved ones of those who have passed on have had a difficult time coping with not only the passing but also the guilt of not having fulfilled their rights. Scholars who were asked have mentioned that the Fardh Kifaya (communal obligation) such as washing, shrouding, conducting the funeral prayer and burial can be implemented as long as no safety protocols are violated.
It’s recommended that washing is to be done by an individual wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) who would be willing to self-quarantine afterwards, to ward off any chances of infection. In the case of complications with regard to use of water, Tayammum (dry ablution) can be considered.
As for shrouding, most scholars believe that as the minimum requirement of shrouding is for the awrah (private parts) to be covered, if sealed bags are used, then shrouding can take place before sealing. If sealing has already taken place and cannot be undone, the body is to be shrouded over the bag.
Because those who have died as a result of a plague are considered martyrs in Islam, one view states that it is acceptable for the above rights to not be fulfilled, with regards to heavily infectious cases where both washing and shrouding are not recommended by health professionals.
Due to inability to perform congregational prayers, it is considered valid even if the funeral prayer is performed by a single person away from the graveyard. With regards to broadcasting of the funeral for loved ones who may not be able to attend, it’s allowed as long as decorum in the face of a funeral is retained.
Burial is a way of honoring the dead. Burial in an enclosed box or a body bag is considered acceptable as it is better for the community as a whole. Cremation, however, is where Islam draws the line: it is forbidden for a Muslim to be cremated as it is considered a form of mutilation. However, in the case of the government forcing cremation on the community, the bereaved family is to be assured that they are not sinful, nor is this to be considered a sin on the part of the deceased as our lives have been planned by the Best of Planners. Being patient in times of oppression is considered better for you than to be distraught by the fate presented to you.
The Janaza is followed by a period of mourning where condolences are to be given to the grieving family. Limitations on social gathering and non-essential visits to homes should not restrict you from reaching out, especially not when we live in a time of digital closeness. Give the family a call or drop them a text: let them know that you are thinking of them during these trying times and if possible, extend a helping hand to them. Remember the deceased in your duaas and pray for those who are suffering in silence in the midst of this pandemic.
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The beginning of June marks the start of Pride Month — a celebration of the advancements, perseverance, and even just the existence of the LGBTQ+ community. And while many members of the community take part in the commemoration of this month, for queer Muslims, this time, like any other month of the year, is less celebratory than it is difficult.
It’s no secret that there is a strong stigma against queer people within Muslim communities all around the world. This is due to interpretations of Islamic text that lead people to consider an LGBTQ-identity as incompatible with the religion, thus forcing many Muslims who are not cisgendered or heterosexual to feel alienated in their communities, homes, and even within their faith. The result of this is often a reluctance to claim their queer identities. In a 2019 Institute for Social Policy and Understanding poll, 0% of American Muslims identified as gay or lesbian.
But even though on paper there are none, queer Muslims exist in larger numbers than you may think, both in America and everywhere else.
Though it will take a systemic upheaval of traditional beliefs to create a more understanding space for queer Muslims to come forward and feel comfortable in their identities, this doesn’t mean that they are to be left on their own in the meantime. Although there aren’t as many resources out there for Muslims of the LGBTQ+ community as there should be, there are a few you can look into.
It can be difficult as an individual to support queer Muslim peers who may feel distressed by their dual identities. One way you can help is by sharing or donating to organizations and groups that are dedicated to helping out these communities. If you don’t know where to start, here are five Muslim LGBTQ+ resources that you can share, support, and donate to in honor of Pride Month, and every month after that.
This Pride Month is for all the Queer Muslims who have no community, living double lives, who may be hating or hurting themselves. Whose communities won't recognize their pronouns or lives. Who deserve better from other Muslims. Who are beautifully and wonderfully made— A Whole Nigga with a Shahadah (@KeiyAlexis) June 11, 2020
The Queer Muslim Project
The Queer Muslim Project is an Instagram page that features the stories, art, and photos of queer Muslims around the world. In a “Humans of New York”-esque fashion, the page features testimonies from Muslim members of the LGBTQ community highlighting their struggles and how they have come to love themselves despite community stigmas.
Masjid-Al-Rabia in Chicago, Illinois, is a safe space for prayer for the Muslim LGBTQ community. Since 2016, the masjid has served as a place where all types of Muslims can come without fear or exclusion. In addition to Jummah prayers and a free library of Islamic resources, the masjid also hosts different events for the education and advocacy for queer Muslims.
Reconstructed Magazine is a creative magazine founded by black, Shia, and queer Muslims who aim to break down stigmas that exist against them in mainstream Muslim communities. Through the sharing of resources, Quranic verses, and personal submissions, the magazine helps create a communal space for the Muslims who may not find it elsewhere.
Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD)
Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD) creates a network for LGBTQ+ Muslims so that they can feel better supported and empowered. They challenge common stigmas that queer Muslims face through education and inclusion. Along with providing resources to LGBTQ+ Muslims, the organization also hosts an annual retreat for them, where they can connect with one another and gain support systems through their community. Donations to MASGD will help improve their resources and expand their retreats.
Human Rights Campaign (HRC)
The HRC covers a plethora of human rights issues, including LGBTQ+ people of different faiths coming to terms with their sexualities. The HRC has a series called “Coming Home to Islam and to Self,” which helps Muslims who are on the journey to fully embracing their sexualities understand how to do so effectively — all while feeling supported. You can either share these resources with others or even donate to the HRC to help them continue to provide resources for LGBTQ people in need.
Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV)
Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV) advocates for human rights and equality. While MPV is not solely an LGTBQ+ organization, the queer Muslim community is one of its main focuses, and it has released several lecture series that look at interpretations of the Quran in a way that is accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. The organization also provides other resources for struggling queer Muslims, including lists of informative resources they can look to for guidance. By donating to MPV, you are directly supporting these vital initiatives.
Queer Muslims is a blog that shares different publications, articles, and media that discuss the experience of being part of the LGBTQ+ community and Muslim community all at once. While you cannot donate to the page, you can definitely share it with your friends and social media followers so that whoever may need the resources can know that they’re available to them.
Queer Ummah: A Visibility Project
Because of how often queer Muslims feel pressured to hide their sexuality, projects like Queer Ummah are extremely important. The blog highlights the different experiences of queer Muslims around the world and helps create a sense of community for those individuals who may not have them. By sharing Queer Ummah with those who may need it, you can help provide marginalized Muslims with a place they can connect with others who struggle in similar ways to them.
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Mental health is a widely important topic that is not talked about much in the Muslim community. One of the most common ways that people take care of their mental health is through therapy. I spoke with Fahad Khan, Abdulaziz Syed, Saaudiah Muhammad, and Afshan Mohamedali, four professional psychologists. I asked these psychologists, why is therapy important for Muslims? How should one seek therapy? Can therapy help with issues revolving around gender, age, and toxic cultures?
Afshan Mohamedali, PhD
“Anyone can benefit from therapy given that it’s a safe space for self-reflection and growth.”
Therapy is a place for identifying obstacles and solutions in your life. Muslims are not superheroes they are everyday people who also deal with mental health issues. Mental health issues are just as prevalent to Muslims as they are to the general public. Therapy is a holistic approach to healing.
To begin seeking therapy one must identify what kind of help they need first. When you contact therapists be sure to ask about their different helping methods to help you decide what works best for you. “Feel free to schedule first sessions with a few different providers before choosing one you’re comfortable with and be sure to communicate any concerns you might have about treatment to your therapist.”
“Therapy can absolutely help with issues relating to gender, age, toxic environments, and much more. I find it helpful to explore the ways in which these factors are impactful on mood and anxiety, while also identifying and employing agency in difficult situations. A therapist can help with developing adaptive coping skills, identifying unhelpful behavioral patterns, tolerating uncomfortable emotions, and more.”
Therapy is important for anyone that needs “an impartial and nonjudgmental perspective.” Therapy gives people the opportunity to discuss things that may be harder to discuss with the people closest to you. Therapists do not “fix” clients or tell them how to live their lives. Therapy is a way to get suggestions and different perspectives on difficult issues. However, it is important to remember that therapy is not a replacement for spiritual guidance.
“Our relationship with Allah should be personal and private.”
There are various websites and sources to find therapists. “I have listings in several sites, however, the bulk of my clients find me from my Psychology Today profile.”
Profile pages are comprehensive and can be very detailed. I include on my professional profile pages that I have client focus in faith for Islam so that Muslims in my area can find me if they use filters such as Muslim, Islam or specific gender or ethnicity for instance when searching for therapists. Also, word of mouth is also a viable means to find a therapist. I have gotten many new clients based on referrals from other clients. It is extremely important for clients to feel comfortable in seeking therapy.
Therapy can help with a multitude of issues. Many people fall into the “perfect reality trap” on social media. This leads to people developing low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, etc.
“Areas such as gender, age, and toxic cultures are highlighted in social media in particular.”
Abdulaziz Syed, Therapist Khalil Center
“First, I think it is important to define therapy. While you may get different answers, the American Psychological Association defines it as the following: ‘Psychotherapy is a collaborative treatment based on the relationship between an individual and a psychologist. A psychologist provides a supportive environment that allows you to talk openly with someone who is objective, neutral and nonjudgmental.'”
Modern-day Muslims get so many mixed messages and face several sources of stress from personal to political. So seeking therapy to ensure the wellbeing of their mental health is essential.
The easiest way to seek therapy is to “look online and see someone who you feel would be a good match. You can look online for Muslim therapists if you feel they can understand your situation better”. Khalil Center is one organization out of many more services. Psychology Today is a good place as well. “More and more states are allowing for web therapy so even if you do not have anyone locally, you can find people online.”
Seeking therapy can be difficult when related to “addictions or one’s relationship with parents or seeking a spouse or getting over childhood trauma/neglect or performance anxiety etc.. The list goes on.”
No matter how hard it gets therapists can always help and guide you.
Dr. Fahad Khan
Besides the obvious fact that if you are not okay mentally you should seek help, therapy is essential for Muslims because it allows a person to become more self-aware and gain more insights into their actions and behaviors, which they are required to do as Muslims.”
It is a saying in Islam that whoever becomes aware of themselves can become more aware of their Lord. Knowing yourself is a blessing that everyone should want to gain.
People should go about seeking therapy depending on what works for them, what is more affordable, what or who is more, comfortable for you? You need someone to bring you back to the right path, this could even be a Sheikh. Whatever is most accessible to you, there are even online therapists. There are countless resources for people to gain access to therapy.
Therapy can help with whatever issue in the metaphysical issue. For example if you have a broken leg you would obviously need to seek out physical help such as surgery.
However, you could get therapy to help you deal with the fact that you have a broken leg. Poor family dynamics can definitely be helped with counseling.
Essentially therapy is a basic tool for your mental health. There are countless resources for people to seek out therapy, begin with what you find is comfortable. Issues relating to gender, age, and culture, may not be able to change, however, therapy can help you deal with them. For example, let’s say your culture has disparities between ages or gender – therapy can you help you deal with that.
Therapy is not, or should not, be a luxury. It should be a blessing to ensure that your mental health is in the best quality.
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Has the high worn off yet? The spiritual high of Ramadan that is.
Let me guess, you waited all year for Ramadan to come around so you could get your spirit right, and just like that it was over in a flash. I’m going to also go out on a limb and guess that now you’re trying to promise yourself you’ll keep up all the good work you’ve done, while in the back of your head you know you’ll have to wait until the next Ramadan to do better?
If that’s you, then I know exactly how it feels. At some point in the year, the previous Ramadan and all the promises you made fade away like a dream. That’s part of what makes the holy month so special right?
But the feats we accomplish and the lessons we learn are too precious to turn our backs on. Whatever your experience is during the fasting month, if you’ve felt the light of Ramadan and want to keep it shining, or you want to use this as a benchmark for a better you, here’s how.
Reflecting On Ramadan’s Past
It’s been over a week since Ramadan ended. We may be getting back into our normal routines, but before we get too far along, now is the time to reflect on how the month transpired for you. Not only can this act as a personal send-off for the holy month, but it will also make what you take away more concrete and memorable.
When we reflect on Ramadan’s past, consider these questions:
- What was different during Ramadan?
- What brought me joy?
- What brought me closer to my faith?
- What were the challenges I faced? How did I overcome them?
- How did I prepare for the month?
- What could I have done better?
Using a pen and paper to take notes as you think will help you put words to feelings and even dig up some things you weren’t aware of. Clarity is essential before we can even get into intention or action. Focus on what is important to you. There’s no point in beating yourself up over expectations that don’t align with your needs, circumstances, or goals.
Getting Your Motivation Right
There’s a reason why Ramadan makes it easier to start and maintain healthier habits and mindsets. The expectations are clear ahead of time. You know what’s going to go down, and you have time to prepare. Everyone’s in this together, your family, friends, and Muslims all over the world. Not to mention, everyone is also doing their best to adjust their schedules and lifestyles to accommodate during the month. With that said, does that mean it ends there? It doesn’t have to. Use the motivations of Ramadan to your advantage to keep the spirit of Ramadan alive all year round.
Motivation is a lot simpler than we realize. If we like doing something, if it makes us feel good, then we’ll do it, even if it’s not what’s best for us. If something is easy to do, if it’s convenient, if it doesn’t need much effort, we’re more likely to do it right? You can see how true this is in any aspect of your life, like school, work, entertainment, and even friendships. Understanding how motivation works for you is a must if you want to keep yourself from getting stuck in a rut.
Make things easy for yourself, make them fun. Give yourself the chance to learn about and practice the positive changes you want to make. Give yourself the chance to make them your own!
Set your intentions and then create your game plan. It should be realistic, and it should work with your life! Planning out the steps you need to take means you’re less likely to get overwhelmed by an overbearing feeling of what you “should” be doing.
Be sure to prepare. Whatever you do, you want to be setting yourself up for success. Simple steps, like pre-downloading books, favoriting podcast episodes, or compiling screenshots of dua into a dedicated album, can make a world of difference that your future self will thank you for.
Once you start, check in with yourself on the progress you’ve made. Is your plan working? Are you on the right track? Is there something you want to adjust?
As long as you want to make a change, you’re already half-way there.
The act of fasting is the central focus of Ramadan and it is an act that can put us in a different physical, mental, and spiritual state. Many people consider it a reset. From proven health advantages to mental clarity, to spiritual cleansing, there are many reasons why so many of us cherish the opportunity our faith gives us in prescribing we fast for the duration of a month.
Fasting throughout the year can bring great benefits, if you are able and well enough to do so. If you aren’t able to fast from food, use the spirit of fasting to mentally detox and gain some perspective. Think about the things in your life you assume you can’t live without, whether it’s social media, or spending on things you don’t need, or even vulgar language: challenge yourself to abstain from them and see what you can learn.
If it’s safe enough for you to physically fast, then set your intentions early and make sure to prepare. Do it alone, or do it with friends or family. Decide what it is that you’ll look forward to if you accomplish the fast. Prepare by making sure you’re nourished and hydrated the day before you fast. While you may find it more difficult to fast any other time, just remember that if you can do it during Ramadan, you can do it period. Keep your momentum by building trust and confidence in yourself through accomplishment.
Another way to channel that Ramadan energy is to learn more about intuitive eating. With all the iftar gatherings and incredible food it’s no wonder we got caught up in indulgence once the sun sets. After Ramadan is still a good time to continue being mindful about what we eat and how we eat, and it’s something we can do alongside our everyday routines. Intuitive eating challenges you to learn about your own body’s rhythms and needs, that way you can make lifestyle choices that support you in the best way possible, while considering all the things you don’t need.
Persistence, Not Perfection
Holidays, festivals, and days of observance can be points in the year that inspire an extra surge of energy and passion. You’ll notice that every faith has fasting as a part of their practice. Allowing yourself to be conscious of this reality can keep the inspiration and reflection going.
Don’t forget that you’re not alone in this. Reaching out to others may be a great way to spread goodwill and get farther together. Those friends or family who were isolated, or going through hardships during ramadan, their hardships may not end once Eid hits. Check up on them, plan days to have dinner together, find ways to connect. This is where prioritizing your time comes into play – if you could make time for it during Ramadan, see what you can do throughout the year.
If we were meant to become perfect during Ramadan, we’d only ever experience one Ramadan, but that’s not the case. Human beings forget, and struggle, but we also never stop learning. There’s no such thing as taking steps back, every experience you have is moving you forward in one way or another.
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The tragic string of recently publicized deaths by police brutality have, once again, brought the United States to the brink of a revolution. And whilst sadly not a new issue by any means, the shocking murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have ignited protests across the country, and around the world; most of which have been largely peaceful, and in the context of centuries of violence against black men and women, might even be considered mild.
Many social media users have subsequently taken to their feeds to document official and unofficial police responses to the uprising, with significant numbers of protestors being tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets, and assaulted by police.
As such, it is important now more than ever to stand with the black community, to amplify their voices and struggle. On top of the dangers outlined above, however, the coronavirus pandemic poses new challenges to collective protest. . Here is some advice for anyone wanting to safely and conscientiously join the fight:
1. Wear a mask and bring hand sanitizer. These are necessary precautions against COVID-19, as protests will leave you mostly unable to socially distance. Use sanitizer often and especially if you come into physical contact with others. Your mask may also come in handy if tear gas is deployed. You can even purchase a Black Lives Matter mask here.
2. Wear some form of eye protection. As mentioned earlier, law enforcement have been using rubber bullets and tear gas, which have sadly led to several protestors permanently losing their sight. While the kind of eyewear that will protect you from rubber bullets are on the pricey side, any goggles will help in the event that tear gas or pepper spray is used.
3. Bring plenty of water and snacks. Protests can last for hours and the increasing temperatures accompanied by the physical exhaustion that will come with walking and raising your voice for several hours will leave your body and mind tired. It’s important to keep sustenance nearby to give your body the nutrition it needs to protest to your fullest ability. This is especially important due to the number of stores in and around protest routes that will have been closed due to COVID-19 and/or the protest itself.
4. Bring a list of emergency contact numbers and your ID. Whether you write them down on your arm or on a slip of paper that you can keep in your pocket, make sure you write down your personal emergency contacts (parents, spouse or close friend.) as well as numbers for your local emergency legal counsel, and keep them directly on your person. If you are in a group of protesters that are arrested, you will need these in case you aren’t given access to your belongings.
5. Lastly, wear comfortable clothes and a compact bag to hold your belongings. Carrying a ton of unnecessary things will weigh you down. Therefore, keep it to essentials and pack as light as possible. That being said, do bring protest signs! Use some leftover cardboard from your last online order and get creative to deliver a powerful message.
These are just some of the essentials that will come in handy when out protesting for Black Lives Matter, but experienced protesters have shared tips and advice on their social media that are helpful too. Stay safe and alert and remember to continue sharing resources with your followers for those that aren’t able to protest in person.
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Eid is the time of year when the masses come together to celebrate. The sheer spirit of Eid is visible in the streets – people praying on the pavements because the mosque has reached capacity, swarms of cars parked outside houses indicating a huge family gathering taking place, and so on and so forth. It is always a joyous, interpersonal occasion.
With the coronavirus pandemic however, much of our lives have changed – our routines have been uprooted, ‘normal’ is no longer normal and life is not as carefree. Naturally, as Eid rolled around and we all did our best to stay safe and follow precautionary measures; Eid in quarantine was inevitable.
Truth be told – I was expecting it to be a very difficult day full of sadness and longing, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that wasn’t the case. While I’ve tried to look at this whole pandemic from a positive perspective; I didn’t have to try very hard on Eid – it seemed to work out all on its own.
Eid prayers were held on Zoom and so our living rooms became masjids. Family gatherings still happened, they were just virtual, and you know what? Now that aunt that lives abroad didn’t feel so left out! Instead of taking your Mom’s signature baklava to an Eid party, you shared the recipe with all your friends, and they got to make it for their families in their kitchens!
This Eid, we’ve realized more than ever that it isn’t about food, or parties or even seeing each other; it’s about love and effort. So despite being in the same city as my cousins and not being able to visit them, I felt their love over our late night Zoom calls where we stressed every 20 minutes about losing sleep before having to wake for Eid prayers. Despite my brother being in a different continent, as he cooked up a storm of my mother’s traditional recipes in his LA kitchen, it felt like he was with us at home. And while I couldn’t take any baked goods to Eid parties, I made sure to make a batch anyway and (safely) hand-deliver them to loved ones!
However, while we had the privilege of spending hours on Zoom calls, staying up late with those we share our homes with, enjoying their company – it’s important to remember that not everyone has those opportunities. Many Muslims live alone, some have gotten stuck abroad unexpectedly this year, and others may be in homes where they are not safe or comfortable.
And let us not forget our Muslim healthcare workers who are working tirelessly on the frontlines, and while we may be saddened by our inability to visit extended family and friends, their daily reality is much worse.
Their personal sacrifice, dedication, and commitment to keeping us safe are testament to the values Islam has instilled in us, and on Eid, their service is a reminder of that.
So today, if you’re reading this article from the comfort of your happy, safe and loving home – say a prayer for those who are not, and continue taking precautionary measures and staying safe for them. This year, Eid may have been different, but I am thankful for the experience as it has made me more gracious, self-aware, and humble. Eid Mubarak; may this coming year be filled with prosperity, success, and good health for us all.
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Dear Aunties: Keep your comments about my weight to yourself
Once, I was the chubby, “happy-go-lucky” kid with full cheeks and a rosy glow. I ate unapologetically and wholeheartedly. I drank two Capri-Suns and ate popsicles daily with my friends after school.
But then reality hit.
It was time for middle school and that cute Aero top that once fit like a glove was now a bit too tight in all the wrong places. My grandma would call worried from Pakistan, saying she didn’t want her eldest, “prettiest granddaughter” to be fat.
Dinner parties turned into auntie-commentaries about how I would look “better” if I slimmed down. Familiar faces turned into inspecting eyes, judging me up and down before saying “Salaam!”
Instagram became an agonizing reminder that my frame was societally subpar and that I was practically obese compared to the tan California girls with 10,000 likes and invisible waists.
The weight of my weight never felt heavier.
I became incredibly self-conscious and started researching diets. I learned how to only eat 1,200 calories a day, how to have a cup of coffee for breakfast and be full, how to channel my self-hatred into fuel for my no-pain-no-gain workouts.
When I was 16, my grandma came to visit me from Pakistan and was stunned by how thin I had become: She soon started mixing butter into my rice so that I would gain weight.
The commenting aunties suddenly came up to me asking to give them dieting tips. Some were even worried that I might “go anorexic.”
But overall, they thought I was a success story.
What they didn’t know was that I woke up each and every day with a torturous mental battle to fight.
Getting ready and having to look at my body became an uncomfortably gross intimacy. The whispers of “you should lose more weight” inside my head were louder than the ten alarms I set for school. No amount of lighting, weight loss or filters could fix the million, microscopic errors my eyes could miraculously find.
The weight of never feeling good enough feels the heaviest.
I didn’t know the words for it then, but my ritualistic dieting, fixation on metrics, and obsession with mirrors was not just vanity or wanting to look good.
They were symptoms of Body Dysmorphia.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD) is a mental health disorder in which one obsesses over perceived or minor flaws that are oftentimes not noticeable to others.
As a result, individuals may avoid or feel anxious in social situations and can spiral into depression.
Symptoms include: obsession with appearance, believing that one is ugly or deformed because of the perceived flaw, and frequently seeking reassurance from others.
Older generations accuse us of being “self-obsessed” and that we ought to just grit our teeth and “deal with it.”
“Allah has given you so much and you dare to be ungrateful?” they say. “This is what happens when we miss salah.”
This indifference towards mental health is especially prevalent in South Asian or Arab muslim communities that not only cater to traditional ideals of beauty but also weaponize religion to shame those who struggle mentally.
This is only compounded by the fact that the muslim youth of today live in a society that subsists upon the Eurocentric body imagel, and rewards people based on their looks. It is virtually impossible to not feel bad about oneself.
But how do we combat this issue?
Let me offer you some pragmatic perspective.
We live in a society that profits from insecurity – the cosmetic surgery industry alone accounts for around $20 billion globally. Therefore, it only makes sense that we are bombarded with content that makes us want to look like someone else. People are willing to spend anything to feel loved and accepted.
We ought to step back from ourselves and take a critical look at the media and what it is selling us, why people fat-shame and make the comments that they do. If we can take back our power and understand that beauty is a subjective term that is based on what sells in that particular time, perhaps we might not feel as bad anymore.
There was a point in time when your body was the ideal. Trends do not determine your worth. People will always be afraid of what is different. There will always be someone who is skinnier or has more likes, and even those people aren’t “happy.”
Most of all, we ought to remember to look at the grand scheme of things, beyond the material world’s obsession with unattainable perfection. Even if we perceive our body as a flaw, these are based on human standards, but in the eyes of Allah (swt), we are all equal, regardless of how we might appear.
Remember that our Creator made no mistakes when making you. He has crafted us each with unique imperfections to not only remind us of our humanity, but to teach us where our worth really comes from in this life and the hereafter: the heart inside the body, not the body itself.
Being truly comfortable in one’s body cannot be achieved by joining the crowd, but by authentically embracing our diversity and working on our self-worth from the inside out.
At the age of 19, I no longer use calorie counting apps and workout for the purpose of feeling good. I have gained weight since my unhealthy high school days, and I am grateful for it.
While there are still days when I feel insecure about my body, I remind myself that only I get to decide how I feel about my body, not my family, not oppressive standards, and certainly not the aunties.
To all the aunties who ever had a comment to make about mine or anyone else’s weight: stop. Stop making impressionable kids feel ashamed about their bodies. Keep the generational trauma to yourself because my generation is just trying to love themselves.
JOIN THE TRIBE.
Whether you are Muslim or not, the celebration of Eid-al-Fitr is acknowledged around the world by many of all faiths. Eid is a time for blessings and joys throughout the Muslim community, but because it is a day of charity, it is a day to distribute one’s wealth. In short, it is a time of celebrations worldwide for all Muslims. Let’s elaborate:
What is Eid-al-Fitr?
Eid-al-Fitr is a direct translation of “Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.” Eid-al-Fitr is actually a three day long celebration after the end of Ramadan everyday from dawn to dusk. Determining Eid-al-Fitr all comes down to a moon sighting, just like Ramadan: if the crescent moon isn’t seen, Ramadan will go on for another day. If it is seen, Eid Mubarak!
How does the day begin?
Celebrations begin at a specific Eid prayer, in mosques, surrounded by your families and friends that you typically see during the month of Ramadan. After prayers, everyone congratulates each other for the ending of this blessed month. Usually, next is the visiting of graves for your loved ones after the conclusion of Eid prayers, to clean the gravesites and dawn the graves with fresh flowers.
How do Muslims celebrate?
Muslims wear their newest clothes or their finest clothes. Muslims decorate their homes with Eid decorations, lanterns, and twinkling lights. Everyone makes special foods for when their families and friends are invited over to come celebrate alongside. Muslims visit their relatives’ homes, as a way to celebrate with their loved one.
Hands are covered in henna patterns, from the nights before that were served as preparation for this three-day long period. Gifts are given to children and those in need, which are commonly known as Eidi.
I don’t know what’s better than those post-Eid naps and jumping from house to house with iced coffee in your hands.
What is Eidi? Eid is still a day of charity. Eidi is referred to as the money and gifts given to the children of the family by elders: could be relatives, parents, siblings, anyone at all. Eidi gifts are given as another way of celebrating this joyous day. Children will definitely refer to their Eidi as their favorite part of the day!
How is this year different?
This year, sadly our mosques are closed because of coronavirus (COVID-19). Our Eid prayers this year will have to be done from the comfort of our homes for many. With the health regulations put in place, jumping from house to house will not be allowed. Visiting our families will have to be done at a later time and we will have to be ending this month long of fasting at home.
Nonetheless, many will still be dressed in our new clothes, we will be making all the yummy foods, and we will still be finding small ways to celebrate!
Muslims across the world celebrate in different ways, but one thing is clear – Eid is a time for celebration! Have a blessed Eid from our @muslim family to you and yours!