A Gen Z Muslim On 9/11

A Gen Z American Muslim reflects on the harrowing day of 9/11 and her fear of speaking out on islamophobia.

A Gen Z Muslim On 9/11

A Gen Z American Muslim reflects on the harrowing day of 9/11 and her fear of speaking out on islamophobia.

By

Amirah Ahmed
Photo of Amirah Ahmad, Graphic - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

For American Gen Z Muslims, 9/11 is a most perplexing day filled with mourning and unfounded guilt.

There’s something peculiar about pleading with your parents to let you stay home from school to avoid the inevitable stares of your peers; this experience is an annual occurrence. Every year on the 11th of September, American Gen Z Muslims collectively hold our breath in anticipation of the inevitable glares and stinging remarks. When the pledge of allegiance blares from the intercom that morning, you know the extended moment of silence will follow, with it the thick layer of implication that shrouds the room with every awkward glance from a classmate. 

Marketing your patriotism seems like the only way to survive. Shrink your Muslim identity so that maybe you’ll be spared from the gruesome monster that is Islamophobia. These are just two of the rules in the ‘Guidebook to Being American and Muslim’, an instruction manual Gen Z Muslim Americans have memorized almost as religiously as Surah Fatiha. 

But on September 11th, all rules fly out the window and your guidebook becomes a shield. Walking the tightrope between amplifying your condolences for the victims of the attacks and begging people to understand that ‘American’ and ‘Muslim’ are not mutually exclusive terms.

 

 

Terrified to proclaim your exhaustion from constantly defending your humanity, because what if they call you a terrorist? What if they attempt to invalidate your Americanness because you happen to bow your head in prayer the same way that those men did? 

So instead of standing up for yourself, you blanket yourself in an American flag hijab and look down in remorse when they make the same ‘Allahu Akbar’ joke as they have the past three years.

They seem to forget that I’m the daughter of a veteran. They seem to forget that my grandfather served over 20 years as a firefighter. They seem to forget about my uncle’s service in the police force. They honor them until they read the roster. Why? When they hear the stutters in my Teta’s broken English, they seem to forget that she came here for hope, not to deconstruct. When they see me cry for the lives lost that day, they seem to forget that I am an American too, that I was not yet alive 19 years ago and how could I have anything to do with the devastating loss of life? 

Why do they seem to forget that you can mourn a terrible tragedy without turning those who share the faith of the perpetrators into accomplices? 

I am afraid to speak about Islamophobia on a day like today. I’m afraid of being labeled as insensitive in the face of lost life. But nobody worries about sensitivity when ignoring the thousand upon thousands of civilian Iraqi and Afghani lives lost in the resulting wars. Nobody tiptoes around their Islamophobic remarks while scrolling past the endless hate crimes devastating Muslim American communities. And you definitely don’t censor your hatred even though you’re sitting next to a Muslim American that lost a loved one on 9/11 too. In the words of poet Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan, “If you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human.”

I’m not here to defend the evil, senseless violence of September 11th 2001. I am here to make it clear for what seems like the thousandth time that Muslim Americans lost just as much as you on 9/11. Islam does not condone murder, and blaming an entire demographic based on the skewed actions of a select few is just as ridiculous as blaming all Christians for the actions of the Ku Klux Klan, who also used alleged divine guidance to justify their own violent actions.  

This year, let’s all stand together and mourn the lost lives of our fellow Americans… without displacing your pain on a group that’s hurting just as much as you.

I Tried ‘Halal’ Dating Apps For A Month And Here’s What Happened

For some of us, finding the perfect match comes easy. Other times, it can feel like a roller coaster down a rabbit hole of catfishes and fake profiles.

I Tried ‘Halal’ Dating Apps For A Month And Here’s What Happened

For some of us, finding the perfect match comes easy. Other times, it can feel like a roller coaster down a rabbit hole of catfishes and fake profiles.

By

Ulla Scheik
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

I never thought I’d end up on a “halal” dating app. 

To me, Minder always felt like a knock off version of Tinder and I wasn’t sure how to feel about that, especially considering how unsettling the whole “dating” concept is for me as a somewhat-conservative Muslim woman.

Yet there I was, setting up my profile, trying not to get my hopes up but still hopeful. 

Initially, I loved Minder. There were so many potential guys to choose from – I went from having 0 standards and willing to settle for anyone who would slightly understand my religion and culture, to being picky about what height and “religious flavor” I was willing to match with.

(Spoiler alert: I’m still single and maybe I deserve it for swiping left on all the guys who are 5’4 even though I’m 5’4 myself)

Despite being picky, I still had quite a few matches and at times it got overwhelming having to keep up with all these different conversations, many of which were clearly not going anywhere. 

I also ran into a few surprises, I got catfished, I was told off for using slang, and unmatched with because I picked “Shia” as my religious flavor. 

One of my rules for swiping was that I never swiped right on guys that had shirtless photos on their profiles, it was a turn-off and I couldn’t take them seriously. 

For whatever reason though, I made an exception when it came to this one guy named Mahdi. He was local, owned his own business, and I found him really cute. His bio was a mess but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and still swiped right.

Graphic - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

I messaged him the day after we matched, and right away with each message I began to realize that something was off. 

For someone who supposedly grew up in the states, his English did not sound like it at all. He also had a picture with a car that had a German license plate, which I thought was odd for someone who lived locally (unless it was just a rental, or he’s super-rich and has a house and car abroad *we love that*). 

His profile also mentioned that he spoke several languages, which I found out he couldn’t speak through our conversation, and he also said a lot of narrow-minded and ignorant things that made me end the conversation altogether.

At one point, I think he genuinely must’ve copied and pasted his message straight from google translate without making any changes to it, and it was very obvious. 

I was convinced that something was off so I did a reverse search image (I know so extra of me but I just had to find out).

And look what came up:

Graphic - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

His name is Amin Elkach. He’s a Morrocan athlete/model in Germany.

His real name is not Mahdi, he’s not afghan, he’s not a business owner, he doesn’t live in VA, and he most definitely can’t speak English. 

Unfortunately, he unmatched before I could report him and is still out there cat-fishing. If you run into him tell him he looks like he could be a Morrocan model in Germany!

Another instance I ran into was this excuse of a man who got annoyed because I used slang at one point, and I guess you shouldn’t do that when you’re discussing taxes?

I have so many problems with everything he said in those messages, I wouldn’t even know where to begin, but I’ll leave it at this; it’s him, it’s not me.

Graphic - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

I don’t have screenshots for my next point, but on my profile, I purposely chose to show that my “religious flavor” as Minder likes to phrase it, is Shia. 

Even though I don’t believe in sectarianism, there are others who do and there are a lot of misconceptions and prejudice towards the Shia label. For that reason I chose to disclose it on my profile, in case someone had a problem with my label, they could simply avoid me from the get-go and save us both time.

Yet many of the guys I matched with apparently didn’t bother reading through my profile before matching, so a few of them messaged me afterward to let me know that they’re unmatching because I’m Shia and they’re looking for someone Sunni. 

I was most offended by the guys who matched, proceeded to waste my time with a dry conversation, then realized my profile says that I’m Shia and then unmatched.

And while all these things happened on Minder, I also tried MuzMatch at the time and my overall experience made me feel overwhelmed because I didn’t feel like I could keep up with everyone. I also felt like beyond the basic biodata, the apps didn’t really help much in getting to know the other person. I just felt overall disappointed and like I wasted so much time that I’m never getting back. Not to mention all the creeps I ran into on the app.

While my overall experience was definitely not good, and the apps didn’t really help me find anyone, there are people who find each other this way.

I’m not sure what differentiates those who find success on these platforms from the ones who don’t, but I know that it is possible for some people and that there plenty of nice and genuine guys on the app who don’t lie about who they are.

For me personally, the experience wasn’t worth the time I put into it, only to find myself right back where I started. But if you’re thinking about trying out these dating apps, I’d say definitely give it a shot, but don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t get you the results you want.

Fall Semester’s Online, What Now?

Online classes got you a little stir-crazy? Well, we’re here to help! Here is a guide on how to make the most out of your online classes

Fall Semester’s Online, What Now?

Online classes got you a little stir-crazy? Well, we’re here to help! Here is a guide on how to make the most out of your online classes

By

Zainab Damji
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

None of us need to be reminded of our current situation; this pandemic has taken the world by storm, affecting many far and wide. And while a lot of people have it worse, this can be a frustrating time for college students. 


With classes going online for many of us, we now have to learn how to navigate a virtual university environment while dealing with so many other things that may be going on in our lives. Such collective efforts in curbing the spread of this virus are vital, but that doesn’t mean that our feelings of confusion and disappointment aren’t justified. Even though a lot of things seem like they’re out of our control right now, we can still work towards learning the ropes of managing our stress in these circumstances. Here are some things that worked for me!

1) Make a routine (and stick to it!)

It’s very easy to lose a sense of routine when you’re learning online — especially if your classes are pre-recorded. A routine is very important to maintain a sense of normalcy and create a productive working environment.

 

2) Craft your workspace

All of us learn best in different ways, so it’s only natural for us to have different set-ups that suit our working style. Some of us prefer more screens, while others prefer notebooks. I know I love having a journal and a physical calendar but my friends prefer apps to manage their productivity. Make your workspace a place that naturally puts you into work mode: it could be a corner in your room, your dining table or the outdoors! The bottom line is you know what works best for you, so be sure to craft your workspace accordingly.

 

3) Practice self-care!

From taking regular breaks in between studying to playing video games, netflixing or going all out with a home-spa set up — make sure you’re making time for yourself! Your regular academic course load is challenging enough, coupled with our given circumstances, it’s super important that we take out time from our day to relax and do the things we like!

 

4) Maintain social connections!

Just because you’re social distancing doesn’t mean you can’t be social! Just like you would in school, make sure you’re keeping your social life going. Whether it’s through video calls, online games or virtual movie nights. And if being on your screen all the time gets you tired, look into planning a socially distant picnic with your friends! There’s so many ways to maintain your social relationships!

 

5) Talk to your parents/roommates

Before you start this Fall, try to sit down and have a conversation with your parents, siblings, roommates or anyone that you will be sharing your living space with. You can discuss expectations and draw boundaries to prevent any disagreements or miscommunication in the future. This can include talking through household responsibilities, privacy or setting a quiet time; this is a perfect opportunity to express how they can best support you! While it may seem trivial or irrelevant, I think it could prove really helpful in making your study-from-home life productive and stress-free.

 

READ MORE: Meet Mohamad Zoror, The Macaroni Vine Guy

How One TikToker Is Shutting Down The “Basic Black Kurta” Eid Fit Trend

Black kurtas are a staple for basic Muslim men during Eid. Here's why one TikTok star is tired of being basic.

How One TikToker Is Shutting Down The “Basic Black Kurta” Eid Fit Trend

Black kurtas are a staple for basic Muslim men during Eid. Here’s why one TikTok star is tired of being basic.

By

Mareena Emran
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

Eid is a special time in the Muslim community for a number of different reasons. From the special Eid prayer, down to securing the Eidi bag, this occasion is unlike any other. But even with all of the festivities, there’s one super important piece to making the celebration feel complete: your Eid fit.

With just a quick glance, it’s pretty typical that you’ll find your Instagram and Twitter feeds flooded with black kurtas, but 20-year-old Emad Ahmed changed the game this year.


Ahmed had no hesitation ensuring that he wowed the crowd with his outfit for Eid Al-Adha, sporting a bright pink kurta with a bedazzled seam and collar. He featured his suit in a TikTok video which gained the attention of nearly 30,000 people. His video now has over 3,000 likes, and was even duetted by a number of other Muslim TikTok creators who wanted to follow Ahmed’s footsteps in switching up their outfit choice for the holiday.

“I was kind of afraid of how my friends would react,” Ahmed said. “There’s a big culture around toxic masculinity, but I was just like, ‘you know what, let’s make a statement, I’m just going to go for it,’ and I posted the video.”

Prior to posting his Eid fit video, Ahmed had voiced his concerns through a private TikTok video about the black kurta trend on Eid, explaining how it feeds into the culture of Desi stereotypes and sexualization of men. 

“I personally believe that guys shouldn’t be sexualizing girls, especially on a platform like this (TikTok),” Ahmed said. “There are so many big TikTokers who are just like, ‘Oh my God! When a guy walks into a room with a black kurta he looks so clean, so hot,’ and I think it’s dumb, because you wearing something is not going to define how good looking you are. I think people are missing the entire point with this black kurta stuff.”

Ahmed also went on to talk about the pressure of fitting into modern societal gender norms.

“I know a lot of guys that are so sensitive, in Western society especially, that when girls say something about them, they feel pressured to do exactly that, just like wearing a black kurta,” Ahmed said. “If a girl thinks that black kurtas are hot, boys will feel the need to wear a black kurta (to impress them), when in reality, it should all be about pleasing yourself and spreading positivity around you.”

After posting the private TikTok, Ahmed was approached by another creator, Nabeel Mian, to collaborate via the duets feature on the app, telling Ahmed that he would support by wearing a bright colored kurta as well.

“The morning Emad posted his kurta video, he had actually commented on his video tagging me that he wants to see what I’m wearing for eid, and with this, I had an idea and thought of making a duet with him,” said Mian. “My eyes landed on this new sky blue colored kurta and I thought it would be perfect to wear alongside my buddy Emad.”

Ahmed and Mian’s duetted video paved the way for more duet videos to be made, and also gave the two creators a chance to connect and bond with one another. The video amassed around 8,000 views and around 2,000 likes.

“I found Emad about a month ago around when he first started, I could see he was going to grow very big so I wanted to support him through it,” Mian said. “I did this to hopefully inspire people to join with us and start a chain so we could still do a collaboration. Sure, girls can say they love it all they want over social media, but we all know being unique and different is what truly stands out over anything else. Emad’s video is a perfect example because he was able to attract social media without following the standards it had set out.”

Both Ahmed and Mian hope to continue changing the face of Desi and Muslim TikTok with more collaborations. They both hope to break the chain of toxic masculinity on the platform while also embracing their individuality through their content.

“This generation will be the generation to break stereotypes, and doing so is very important, because our culture in the past has always been worrying about what others would think and say about us,” Mian said. “My question to everyone is whether they would feel better if they were to follow a trend or start a trend. I’m sure it would mean much more to them to start one. If that is the case for them, then that can only be done by embracing a unique fashion sense to truly stand out and be noticed.”

READ MORE: Plant-Based Diet, Islam And Eid: What’s The Deal?

The Stigma Of Menstruation In Muslim Households

We spoke with the chair of the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University, Atiya Aftab, about the stigma of menstruation in Muslim households.

The Stigma Of Menstruation In Muslim Households

We spoke with the chair of the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University, Atiya Aftab, about the stigma of menstruation in Muslim households.

By

Syeda Khaula Saad
Art - Ameena Muhammad

 

There is a lot of shame embedded into the upbringing of Muslim women. Through patriarchal cultural practices that have been passed down and mistaken for “words of Allah,” we are raised to be shrunken. And oftentimes it isn’t until we’re sitting in the midst of our adulthood desperately trying to unlearn the feelings of disgust we feel toward ourselves that we realize how heavy the weight of misogyny has become. And it starts off young. 

We are often taught that the foremost “confirmation” of our womanhood is the first red droplets we see on our underwear at the beginning of puberty — this moment, known as menarche, signals the start of menstruation. At meager ages of 11, 12, 13, we are told “You’re a woman now!” and the first reasoning? Your body has the ability to bear children. But rather than celebrate it, it’s met with secrecy. We are told to disguise cramps as “stomachaches,” to sneak pads into our pockets as we go to restrooms, and to do anything to avoid letting men in our homes become even slightly conscious that we are menstruating. In Muslim households we are drilled with the idea that we are “impure” in the eyes of Allah and that we should steer clear of the men in the house entirely. But Middle Eastern Studies Program and Political Science adjunct professor and chair of the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University Atiya Aftab says these views come from culture, not religion. 

“A menstruating woman is not seen as dirty or lesser due her menstruating status,” Aftab tells Muslim.co. “In Islam, menstruation is not seen in any way as a divine punishment.” She explains that these interpretations have been morphed from religious traditions surrounding the status of a menstruating woman. For example, a woman on her period is exempted from fasting during the month of Ramadan (though she is expected to make up the fasts at a later time) and she is also exempted from the obligatory five daily prayers. While this is often pointed at as a justification to regard menstruating women as “impure” or “dirty,” Aftab feels differently. 

“In the case of fasting, it is a hardship for a menstruating woman to abstain from food and water from dawn to dusk,” she says. “Hydration, nutrition, and possibly medication [is] needed.” Therefore, the same mercy that is given to those who are sick is extended to menstruating women. “With respect to prayer, it is required that a person who is engaged in the daily formal prayer must be in a state of ritual purity (wudu/ghusl),” Aftab explains. “A person who is bleeding — male or female — is not a ritual state of purity.” So, it is not the fact that the blood is coming out from the vagina that makes a woman unable to pray, but the fact that she is bleeding at all. 

So why are menstruating women so taboo in many Muslim households?  Most of the feelings in regard to menstruating women date back to pre-Islamic culture, Aftab explains. “Men would refuse to go near their wives, eat or drink with their wives, or sleep in the same bed when they were menstruating,” she says. And it wasn’t just Muslim households where this was occurring.

Negative feelings toward menstruation exist in Jewish households as well, where followers believed that even those who touched a menstruating woman would be deemed unclean. These same stigmas persist even today in many Asian cultures including in India, Pakistan, Japan, and Indonesia. 

But despite these negative generalizations about menstruation, many of the ones that exist in regard to Islam are more cultural than they are religious. In fact, Aftab says it is reported that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) told his companions that, regarding their wives, husbands should “Do everything with her except for sexual intercourse.” (Muslim; ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari). 

In fact, Aftab recalls a beautiful story regarding the Prophet (PBUH) and his wife, Aisha.

Aisha related that: “The Prophet would recline on my lap while I was menstruating and he would read the Quran.” (Bukhari). And the Prophet and his wife Aisha shared the same drinking vessel while she was menstruating. Aisha stated: “I would drink while menstruating, then pass the vessel to the Prophet. He would place his mouth on the (same) place as my mouth and drink…” 

“The actions of the Prophet demonstrated that a menstruating woman was not impure or dirty and was fully capable of engaging in aspects of normal life in the following tradition,” Aftab says. In the same story, Aisha reported that: “The Messenger of God said to me, ‘Get me the prayer mat from the prayer area.’ I replied, ‘I am menstruating.’ He said, ‘Verily, your menstruation is not in your hand.’” (Muslim). If the wife of the Prophet had no issues expressing that she was menstruating, why do we encourage girls to hide their periods from their fathers, brothers, and eventually husbands?

The Prophet (PBUH) has laid a foundation to regard women with utmost respect — and a state of menstruation does not warrant a change in that. The perpetuation of menstruation stigma is hurting Muslim women in irreversible ways. Years after the fact, feelings of anxiousness and shame surrounding our bodies remain. It is up to both women and men to recognize where they might be perpetuating misogynistic practices surrounding women’s bodies and work to fix these mistakes. Menstruating is one of the most natural things that can happen to a woman. By shunning it and teaching girls to keep it a secret, we are teaching them that there is something biologically wrong with them. The outside world is already bent on bringing down the Muslim woman — there is no need to do the same within their own households. 

“Menarche should not be hidden, but celebrated,” Aftab says. 

Eid al-Adha 101: All You Need To Know About The Muslim Holiday

Here is all you need to know about Eid al-Adha.

Eid al-Adha 101: All You Need To Know About The Muslim Holiday

Here is all you need to know about Eid al-Adha.

By

Mareena Emran
Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

On the night of July 30th, Muslims worldwide will celebrate Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday celebrated in the Islamic calendar. Although the celebration will be a little unconventional this year due to the ongoing pandemic, many still hope to give back to their communities, spend time with loved ones while also devoting their time to commemorating the meaning of the holiday.

The Story Behind Eid al-Adha

Eid al-Adha, or the “Festival of Sacrifice” is an Islamic holiday honoring the story of Ibrahim’s (Abraham) act of obedience to Allah’s command of sacrificing his own son, Ismael. Although Ibrahim was hesitant at first, Ismael reassured his father to obey Allah’s request. 

Shaytan (the Devil) made many attempts to stray Ibrahim away from his task, but Ibrahim stayed on track by pelting stones at Shaytan, an action that was adopted into the holy pilgrimage of Hajj. 

Before Ibrahim had the chance to slaughter his son, Allah replaced the body of Ismael with a sheep, pleased with Ibrahim’s devotion and dedication to following his command. 

What happens leading up to Eid al-Adha?

Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of the last month of the Islamic calendar, Dhul Hijjah. Dhul Hijjah is also the month in which Muslims perform the holy pilgrimage of Hajj.

 

 

Millions of Muslims travel to Mecca to complete specific rituals over the course of three days, which include circumambulating the Kaaba, praying together at Mount Arafat, and stoning pillars that symbolize the devil.

This year, due to the pandemic, the Hajj has been scaled down to only around 1,000 pilgrims, compared to the roughly 2.5 million pilgrims of recent years. Reports from Saudi Arabia also state that, in order to minimise any potential health risks, and alongside stricter hygiene protocols, the decision has been made to prevent pilgrims over the age of 65 and foreign nationals to partake in the Hajj – it is understood that these unprecedented steps would be a first in the Kingdom’s history. 

However, Dhul Hijjah isn’t only significant for the Hajj. The first 10 days of Dhul Hijjah are also said to be the most important days of the entire year, as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) once said, “there are no days on which righteous deeds are more beloved to Allah than on these 10 days.” Muslims who are not performing Hajj are advised to take advantage of this special time by reading and reciting the Quran, performing dhikr, donating to charity, and most importantly, praying all five daily prayers.

 

 

How is Eid al-Adha Celebrated?

Eid al-Adha is celebrated similarly to Eid Al-Fitr, with families attending prayer together, dressing in new clothes and with the giving of gifts – but what differs between the two celebrations is the act of qurbani.

Qurbani is the symbolic act of slaughtering a goat or sheep in commemoration of Ibrahim’s sacrifice. The meat is then divided into three – the first part goes to the needy, the second part is kept for the house, and the third part is given to extended family and close friends.

Due to this year’s social distancing guidelines, many families will be streaming Eid prayers live from their local mosques, but may still have the opportunity to perform qurbani if their area allows.

From the @Muslim family to yours, we wish you a safe and blessed Eid ul-Adha!

Plant-Based Diet, Islam And Eid: What’s The Deal?

What does Islam say about a plant-based diet as a life choice? We explore how Muslims with a plant-based diet navigate Eid celebration.

Plant-Based Diet, Islam And Eid: What’s The Deal?

What does Islam say about a plant-based diet as a life choice? We explore how Muslims with a plant-based diet navigate Eid celebration.

By

Mohamed Alagteaa
Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

Disclaimer: every article expressed in our opinions section is that of the writer.

If there’s a word that could describe the world right now, it might be “conscious.”
We are living through a cultural shift of how we, as humans collectively, aspire to live and be. This means a reexamination of how we work, travel, communicate, eat and all social pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that builds the picture of the society we aspire to live in. 

As usual, driving these winds of change are millennial and Gen-Z Muslims who are pushing towards a more comprehensively sustainable lifestyle – and one that might include a plant-based diet. 

Debates around changing our food habits are intense, but what’s undeniable are the overall benefits that switching to plant-based can have on our health and wellbeing, as well as for planet Earth – a winning combination of some of the most pressing concerns of young people today

Research shows that plant-based diets are cost-effective, may lower blood pressure, decrease cholesterol levels and help treat chronic diseases. These are just some of the reasons that pushed Sara Zayed, a writer and medical assistant, to change her lifestyle after her father passed away.

“My father passed away several years ago of a heart attack, and as a plant-based diet is the only diet that has been shown to reverse heart disease, it’s more important to me than ever to prioritize quality nutrition,” she said. 

Zayed uses Instagram to educate her followers on plant-based nutrition and what she calls “lifestyle medicine.” She also emphasizes how abandoning her old eating behaviors is rooted in upholding her commitment to Allah saying, “ Our bodies are an amanah (trust)… It’s our responsibility to take care of our bodies and treat them with respect so that we can live up to our potential as Muslims. I don’t believe it is Islamic to live a lifestyle that encourages the development of chronic disease.”


 

Islam and a plant-based lifestyle

So, what does Islam say about a plant-based diet as a life choice? Seemingly, nothing.

There are no apparent mentions in the Quran or Sunnah regarding  a solely plant-based lifestyle. According to many scholars, it is neither forbidden nor advised, and since it does not harm you or others, it is your choice.

However, it is one thing to not eat a specific food because of your preferences, or because you disagree with its production practices, and another to believe it is actually unislamic or haraam (forbidden). 

As societies move forward and people become more vigilant about how and what they eat,  the future of food could drastically change, and legislation would need to adapt. There might be a law that prohibits the production and consumption of meat, on health and environmental grounds. Here, a predicament is presented, because the Quran permits the consumption of meat as Surah al-Naḥl, verse 5 suggest:

 

“And cattle has He created for you, in which there is warmth and [other] uses, and whereof you eat.” – Quran 16:5

 

 

Most might imagine the prospect of a legalized ban on the consumption of meat as  impossible, but it opens a space of discussion on nuanced perspectives regarding our way of living as a Muslim society now and in the future.

Some people maybe conflicted with Islam and its permissibility with eating meat knowing that the Quran and Hadiths reveal many examples that paint a picture of mercy and compassion to animals. 

In a Hadith, Abu Umama said that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Anyone who shows mercy, even to an animal meant for slaughtering, will be shown mercy by Allah on the Day of Rising.”

It is important to understand that while meat consumption is allowed in Islam, animal welfare is demanded. There are guidelines that must be followed to consider meat halal, which also tend to inflict minimal pain such as the need for the slaughter to be quick and made in one attempt.  The animal must also be fed, watered and comforted as well.

The meat we find in shops and supermarkets is not produced in such a way. We know of the cruel and inhumane practices the food and beverage industry use to provide the demand for meat and animal related products. So, can we as Muslims consciously eat meat and other products with total disregard to their production methods? 


What about Eid?

These types of discussions also involve one of the holiest occasions Muslims celebrate – Eid al-Adha. Each year, Muslims across the globe commemorate Prophet Ibrahim’s  willingness to sacrifice his son, Prophet Ismael, in obedience to Allah’s command, by sacrificing an animal. Most scholars believe the practice is a Sunnah, a tradition that should be observed by those who are able, while others deem it as obligatory.

Muslim who wish to follow a plant-based or environmentally conscious diet are faced with the challenge of navigateing a special event engraved in the Muslim identity. Some call for abandoning the sacrifice entirely and focusing instead on the festive celebration, giving of charity and spiritual reflection. 

In his essayAn Islamic Perspective Against Animal Sacrifice,” Shahid ‘Ali Muttaqi describes the purpose of Eid as an inner spiritual state that does not involve animal sacrifice, stressing the need to contextualize the event. Muttaqi argues that the sacrifice was not established by Allah but was adopted by Muslims at that time in an attempt to transform the slaughter of animals for food, which was a survival necessity back then, into a spiritual ceremony. 

Muttaqi believes that since meat is not a necessity for survival for most people in our time, neither is the Eid sacrifice. Others, however, call for a different approach to deal with this problem. Zayed, for example, believes we need to determine what an appropriate equivalent would be for the community, and how to implement it, but “this is not to say to abolish the practice,” she affirms.

 

Not Our Culture

Beyond the religious lens, there is also apprehension towards the change presented by the concept of refraining from certain traditional foods, which is the idea that vegetarianism, veganism and plant-based diets are a western construct that must be fought to uphold our cultural identity.  

Shahed Ezaydi, believes there is some truth to that, saying “I do think the vegetarian and vegan lifestyles have definitely been co-opted by the West, so other cultures may be reluctant to buy into it.” 

Ezaydi has been a vegetarian for over a year and didn’t face many difficulties in changing her lifestyle as her friends were supportive of her choice, mainly because of the widely known environmental impact meat production and consumption has on the planet. Just last year, a United Nations report suggested  that adhering to a plant-based diet could help fight global climate change. 

The real challenge for Ezaydi was at home. “My parents straight up laughed at me… I think they thought I was going through some phase.”

Elaf Alsharif,  a 21-year old vegan from Libya, shares a similar experience when facing her family about the decision to remove animal products from her diet. “My mom hated me going vegan, she would tell me every day that I would die of a vitamin deficiency,” she says. The two, however, stayed true to their own convictions and learned to adapt to each other.   When describing her mother’s stance now, Alsharif says, “She’s actually supportive now and has started making vegan meals. She even looks up new recipes and gets excited to try them on me.”

More than ever, our personal choices hold so much power in introducing new ways of living. It is  evident that we are moving towards uncharted territories with unprecedented possibilities. These possibilities demand our examination with new ideas and fresh perspectives, but also with firm beliefs and strong convictions. The balance between the two, and the respect required to have unconventional conversations is the key to exploring new realities where the Muslim identity might reside.

READ MORE: What Celebrating Eid Under Quarantine Looks Like

5 Verses On Justice In The Quran

It’s in troublesome times like these that we must turn back to our main source of comfort, happiness and joy: the Quran.

5 Verses On Justice In The Quran

It’s in troublesome times like these that we must turn back to our main source of comfort, happiness and joy: the Quran.

By

Maryam Zaynah
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

2020 continues to be a year of exposed injustice, racism and heartache, to name a few of the major themes of this year. 

We are now halfway through the year, with 2020 being an absolute world wind of events.

At times it’s hard to feel hopeful for the future when our people suffer so much heartache and pain. The little justice left in the world is quickly slipping away as powerful governments continue to secretly abuse innocents. 

It’s in troublesome times like these that we must turn back to our main source of comfort, happiness and joy: the Quran. After all, isn’t it the solution to everything? Our religion and Prophet teach us to serve justice in the absolute way – behind all of the hashtags, protests and, we must be just in our way of thinking.

 

READ MORE: Here’s What Muslim Therapists Have To Say On Mental Health

 

Here are 5 verses from the Qur’an which clearly condemn unjust acts, and teach us to what justice really means:

O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted. (4:135)

This ayah I find particularly applies to the hidden racism from the older generation towards our Black brothers and sisters within the Muslim community. It’s important to remember that the same way our beloved Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) did not stay quiet when someone was being wronged, we must also raise our voices and follow in his footsteps

Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded. (16:90)

Always keep in mind that whatever injustice is going on today was condemned by our religion first, before all of the laws and movements. The Quran came at a time when injustice was rife in the Arabian society; with daughters being buried alive.

That is for what your hands have put forth and because Allah is not ever unjust to [His] servants. (22:10)

Never forget, while people may be unjust to one another, Allah is never unjust. His plan may not be as you expected, and He may take a different route than you were hoping, but always remember his Divine wisdom supersedes man’s limited perspective. We have a pixel, Allah has the picture.

And among those We created is a community which guides by truth and thereby establishes justice. (7:181)

As the Ummah of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) we are expected to continue his legacy and display his values of putting your brother’s needs before your own. Stand up for those who are being wronged, whether that’s publicly or behind closed doors. 

Indeed, Allah does not do injustice, [even] as much as an atom’s weight; while if there is a good deed, He multiplies it and gives from Himself a great reward. (4:40)

While it’s sometimes difficult to comprehend why there is so much suffering and injustice in this temporary world, know that serving justice isn’t only the right thing to do, but also something you will be rewarded for from your Lord in abundance.

The last bit of inspiration I leave you with is a Hadith from our Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) who said: “O my slaves, I have forbidden injustice for myself and forbade it for you also. So avoid being unjust to one another.’ (Muslim)

What Does Islam Say About Astrology?

Kaiser Aslam, the Muslim Chaplain at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in New Jersey, tells us about astrology in Islam.

What Does Islam Say About Astrology?

Kaiser Aslam, the Muslim Chaplain at Rutgers University–New Brunswick in New Jersey, tells us about astrology in Islam.

By

Syeda Khaula Saad

 

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.”

 

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. 

READ MORE: This Scholar Made A Twitter Thread On Jinn And Muslims Are Shook

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.”

Performing Janaza In The Time Of Coronavirus

The Muslim community has found itself in a dilemma over performing Janaza (funeral rights) during the pandemic.

Performing Janaza In The Time Of Coronavirus

The Muslim community has found itself in a dilemma over performing Janaza (funeral rights) during the pandemic.

By

Najaha Nauf
Photo -

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. 

READ MORE: Here’s How COVID-19 Affects Muslims During Ramadan

 

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.

READ MORE: Here Are Prayers For When You’re Feeling Low On Faith