Hulu’s ‘Ramy’ Tackles Spirituality And Self-Identity In Its Second Season

Hulu's 'Ramy' season two focuses primarily on Ramy Youssef’s lack of self-discipline and his internal struggle with faith.

Hulu’s ‘Ramy’ Tackles Spirituality And Self-Identity In Its Second Season

Hulu’s ‘Ramy’ season two focuses primarily on Ramy Youssef’s lack of self-discipline and his internal struggle with faith.

By

Mareena Emran
Photo from Hulu's 'Ramy'

The highly anticipated sophomore season of smash-hit comedy Ramy hit Hulu’s streaming service on May 29th and, unsurprisingly, was both a critical and commercial success. Jam-packed with hysterical scenes and new characters—including Oscar winner Mahershala Ali as Sheikh Malik, and a cameo appearance from actress Mia Khalifa— Ramy season two brought home an overall critic rating of 94% on Rotten Tomatoes. 

Expanding upon season one’s themes of spirituality and self-identity, season two provides viewers not only with more of Ramy’s struggle with his deen, but more profound exploratory storylines revolving around Ramy’s family members, including the now-iconic Uncle Naseem. 

While season one mainly centered around Ramy’s tumultuous journey of navigating adulthood and identity, season two focuses primarily on Ramy’s lack of self-discipline and his internal struggle with faith. Throughout the series, viewers find that, while Ramy’s lack of introspection gets him into trouble, his fragility and knowledge that he is not the “ideal” Muslim makes him relatable. 

 

After failing to “find himself” while traveling abroad, season two starts with a dejected Ramy returning home from his trip. Defeated and more lost than ever, he spirals into a deep depression. As he isolates from the world and falls back into old habits, he reveals a much darker side to himself, juxtaposed with the more lighthearted and youthful Ramy of season one. 

Queue Sheikh Malik, played by Ali, the leader of the Sufi Center across town. In an effort to redeem himself, Ramy asks the Sheikh to be his spiritual guide. Sheikh Malik, a cool, level-headed man, agrees to teach Ramy the ways of “living halal” and becomes a role-model inspiring Ramy to make an effort to change.

 

Initially, we see a seemingly changed Ramy. However, his spiritual demise begins to unfold as his inability to understand the consequences of his actions takes a toll on his relationship with Sheikh Malik. 

Frustrated by Ramy’s behavior, Sheikh Mailk scolds him on multiple occasions: “discipline, Ramy, it’s a muscle; be the solution to your own problems,” are just two of the first lessons the Sheikh struggles to get through Ramy’s thick skull (and honestly, very thick hair). 

Malik’s brazen, yet charming, personality is perfectly portrayed by Ali, and through urging Ramy to set his path straight, he gives the audience a wake up call of their own. 

But while Sheikh Malik’s character development was well-executed, interestingly enough, Uncle Naseem’s was notable as well. Although one of the more unlikable characters of the show, episode nine of the season is focused on delving into Uncle Naseem’s character and how his seemingly dominant masculinity is actually quite fragile. 

In fact, nearly half of the season focuses outside of Ramy’s story, and instead, concentrates on wider cultural issues, including gender roles, stereotyping, the struggles of being a double minority, and  the challenges of achieving the American dream.

But despite Ramy’s efforts to change and become the Muslim he envisioned he could be, towards the end of the season, we see Ramy right back at square one, letting his actions get in the way of fulfilling his ultimate goal of reconnecting spiritually with himself and Allah. Ramy not only lets down the Sheikh, but ultimately, himself. 

This disheartening realization is amplified in the last episode, in which a narration playing from a radio connects Ramy’s originally comical comment on “washing between the toes” to his continual feeling of emptiness, exhibiting how Ramy himself ironically lets his selfish desires get in the way of his happy ending. 

From raising much needed conversations about spirituality and culture, to exploring profound themes about taboo struggles, all while maintaining the cheekiness of Ramy’s character, Ramy season two is not only binge-worthy, but is sure to leave fans in a state of reflection and awe.

READ MORE: Ramy Youssef: Millennial Muslims’ Favorite Conversation-Starter Is Back

What’s With The Islamophobia In Netflix’s ‘Never Have I Ever’?

"Are you out of your mind? You heard me say he was Muslim."

What’s With The Islamophobia In Netflix’s ‘Never Have I Ever’?

“Are you out of your mind? You heard me say he was Muslim.”

By

Elizabeth Aziz
Screen grab from Netflix

In the words of the great Kelly Clarkson, “Some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this.” This week, I was “people” and “a moment like this” was tuning into Never Have I Ever, a TV show created by Mindy Kaling and Lang Fisher, which premiered at the end of April on Netflix. 

Finally, the teenage dram-rom-com with a brown female lead I have been craving my whole life. And not just *any* brown female lead, but a strong-willed, difficult, grieving, imperfect brown female lead named Devi Vishwakumar (played by the wonderful Maitreyi Ramakrishnan). One with a temper, who smashes glass on the ground at school in front of her whole class when her nemesis scores higher than her on an exam. Not to mention… she has a single mom? AND goes to therapy? Progressive. Unheard of. I’m in. What could possibly go wrong?

Boy, was I in for a ride. I started the show on a Wednesday. I spent the first couple of episodes falling in love with Kamala (played by Richa Moorjani), the seemingly perfect, clueless cousin from back home who lives with Devi and mother Nalini (Poorna Jaganathan) while studying in the US. I instantly felt invested in this all-female South Asian family unit. I related to and cried inside for each one of them for completely unique reasons at various points during the ten episodes which comprise the first season. 

By the time episode four rolled around, I almost forgot that I was yet again watching upper-caste Hindu Indians get to be the official face of South Asians in Hollywood™. I was fully invested by now and wanted to know how this family of strong, independent ladies were going to fare. 

In one episode, we see the ladies at a holiday party, their first since the death of Devi’s father Rohan (Sendhil Ramamurthy) eight months prior. After an unsavory run-in with a swarm of judgmental aunties, Kamala and Nalini search for a place to sit and eat in peace. 

They happen upon a lovely woman dressed in purple (Aarti Mann) sitting at a table alone, who Kamala attempts to approach. Nalini keeps walking, “Come, come,” she insists. The cousin lingers for a moment in the woman’s presence, confused, ultimately following her aunt’s orders. The dialog that ensues next was, let’s just say… a moment.

Kamala: Why could we not sit there?

Nalini: That’s Jaya Kuyavar. She came from Chennai, went to UCLA for her doctorate, parents found her a nice boy back home to marry. Then she ran off with an American man… a Muslim. 

K: *gasps*

N: Parents never spoke to her again.

K: Did they come for the wedding?

N: Are you out of your mind? You heard me say he was a Muslim.

K: I feel bad for her. We should sit with her. 

N: Mm-mm, can’t risk it right now. We’re already borderline outcasts.

 

Pause. “Are you out of your mind? You heard me say he was a Muslim.” 

This line has been playing over and over in my head for days. Hats off to Poorna Jaganathan for tackling that character’s dialog with the hatred of thousands of Islamophobic aunties that came before. When she said that, I felt that. For those of you who haven’t seen the episode, there isn’t even an ounce of jest, let alone compassion in Nalini’s comment about Jaya’s situation. 

One part of me feels like art imitates life. Another part of me wants this entire episode pulled. This line was frankly very distracting from trying to convince myself this show is worth watching, something I didn’t question for a second when I first heard it was coming out but now found myself scrambling to justify watching at all. 

I collected myself. Okay, there are six episodes left. Maybe this topic gets resolved by way of a Muslim friend Devi makes, or some kind of positive encounter to cleanse the palette after this hellish moment. Nothing.

 

The season finale comes and goes, the credits roll, I grab the remote and pause the screen. What did I just spend the last two days watching? A hairy-armed, boy-crazy teen coping with the untimely death of her dad, who happens to have an affirmative-action style social life that includes exactly one person from every major ethnic minority group as per the U.S. Census. Why couldn’t she have a Muslim friend? Why couldn’t she at least have a hijabi lab partner? That seems like an easy place to insert a neutral/positive Muslim character. Maybe a brown boy crush that’s a different religion than her to spice things up? Anything? I could barely spot even a background character who seemed like they could maybe be Muslim.

This feels like a MASSIVE missed opportunity. How much more groundbreaking could this show have been if they weren’t afraid to somehow mess up the bag by including a single Muslim person? How freaking cool would that have been? 

I’m really hoping for some kind of turnaround in season two, if there is one. I would love for this topic to be explored, and for young Muslim girls to see themselves represented in this show that’s supposed to be some kind of watershed moment for South Asians. 

I don’t really feel like this show is a watershed moment for anyone. Not if it had to require putting down Muslims with absolutely no recourse. That doesn’t mean my 12 year old inner child wasn’t extremely psyched to see her own hairy armed, white boy-crazy reflection in the form of Devi, but like… ouch. Either way, she’ll be right here, waiting for season two with an open mind and heart. Can Nalini do the same?

READ MORE: ‘Skam’ Is The Hijabi Representation We Needed

Muslims Celebrated Eid On ‘Animal Crossing’ And It Was Beautiful

Meet the Muslims who spent iftars and celebrated Eid on Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

Muslims Celebrated Eid On ‘Animal Crossing’ And It Was Beautiful

Meet the Muslims who spent iftars and celebrated Eid on Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

By

Lina Qaderi
Art - Noor Ali

Eid is known to be a very social celebration as Muslims traditionally gather together with family and friends and basically enjoy each other’s company while celebrating the end of fasting.  

Obviously due to quarantine, Eid felt a bit off since Muslims couldn’t hang out with their friends and relatives as usual, but some Muslims found a unique and cool way to celebrate while being at home.

The game Animal Crossing: New Horizons has been on the rise due to its modern and lifelike simulation where you get to create your own island and also socialize and communicate with other users virtually. 

These Muslims all came together virtually in the game and celebrated their Iftars and Eid together. 

Rami Ismail (@tha_rami) was one of the Muslims who spent iftars and celebrated Eid on Animal Crossing. According to Ismail, not all of the days were consistently the same for his friends on Animal Crossing. He said, “For suhoors and iftars, it varied per day I organized the gatherings. Some days felt very ‘normal’ – people talking, laughing, and discussing their lives. Some days were more game-like with lots of running around and playing.”

Obviously communicating in a game isn’t the same as social interaction, but in the situations we are in right now this is a good way of keeping in contact with others and making Iftar and Eid feel as real as possible.

Ismail also mentions how he was “disappointed” as he says he had to build everything for the celebration himself –  holidays like Christmas or Easter already have set ups. 

He said, “Animal Crossing is a game that is meant to feel homely and it usually succeeds, but when it comes to culture it is homely to Western, Christian, and Japanese people.” He also described what his first ideas of spending Eid on the game were.

Ismail’s friends that joined him for the Animal Crossing experience were a mix of Muslim and non-Muslims that he met from his travels. He states that he loved explaining to the group of what the meaning of the moon in relation to Eid is, as well as what Ramadan is all about, since he only had one other person fasting with him.

The celebrations were made more interesting considering Animal Crossing stands true to realistic simulation, as the moon in the game is the same phase as the moon in real life.

Another Muslim, Ahmed Ali Akbar (@radbrowndads), decided to take his Eid on Animal Crossing and Zoom. Akbar explained that along with dressing up in the game, he and his cousins who were also playing from all around the country dressed up in real life as well. 

Akbar wasn’t completely by himself as he had his wife, his uncle, and his father in the household with him to celebrate and enjoy the day. 

As if in person, Akbar and his cousins were taking pictures – except they were taking pictures of them in the game as their characters, which was apparently a hassle to do according to Ahmed. Despite the difficulties, it was still one of the most memorable experiences for him.

Both Ismail and Akbar had a beautifully decorated setup for each of their “parties.” Animal Crossing may not exactly have Islamic clothing yet but they have some nice options that could resemble it.

Eid was still able to be celebrated safely, whether it was through other virtual games or even just through video calling, proving that Eid is more than just a lot of people being under one roof.

READ MORE: What Celebrating Eid Under Quarantine Looks Like

Has Rumi’s Poetry Fallen Prey To ‘Spiritual Colonialism’?

A viral Twitter thread addresses the absence of any mention of Islam, the Quran, or anything in Barks’ books. Basically, anything that connects Rumi with his original identity.

Has Rumi’s Poetry Fallen Prey To ‘Spiritual Colonialism’?

A viral Twitter thread addresses the absence of any mention of Islam, the Quran, or anything in Barks’ books. Basically, anything that connects Rumi with his original identity.

By

Hafsa Chughtai
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

In a world where the influence of poetry has diminished to be important for only a small fraction of people, Maulana Rumi’s writings still garner a large number of fans. He is undoubtedly one of the most widely loved and most-read poets in the world at this point. His poetry is used at weddings, in songs, under Instagram pictures, and circulates social media every day. 

A lot of famous people such as Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Madonna, Beyonce, and numerous others shared how Rumi’s poetry helped them in their spiritual journey. Subsequently, his writings also became a significant part of their works. Various motivational speakers incorporate Rumi’s quotes in their speeches for an added impression of inspiration. 

However, do these words belong to the same Rumi the Islamic world is familiar with?

A recent Twitter thread raised voice on the said matter. It led people to doubt every Rumi quote they have come across.

This thread discusses the interpretations of Rumi’s work by Coleman Barks, all of which are big hits in America even in times when not a lot of people pay heed to poetry. Barks is credited for almost every Rumi English quote that we know. He is an American poet who wrote multiple books translating Rumi’s Farsi scriptures. Almost all of them acquired a large readership, and most would agree that he is the reason how the Western world grew to be familiar with Rumi. 

The thread addresses the absence of any mention of Islam, the Quran, or anything in Barks’ books. Basically, anything that connects Rumi with his original identity.

Persian Poetics, in this thread, put a question mark on Barks’ credibility, given that Barks’ knowledge of Persian, Sufism, and Islam is little to none. Barks’ books on the topic seem to eliminate the essence of Islam from Rumi’s writings completely, changing them in their entirety and alienating them from the original author.

Rumi was a well known Islamic scholar in the 13-century-world. He was a devout Muslim and a true follower of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). This is also why his teachings were highly regarded by those around him. 

What we see in Barks’ books is a different Rumi, he is less frequently described as a Muslim at all. Some enlightening comparisons between Barks’ translations and literal translations were also brought forward:

The act of separating Islam from not only Rumi’s poetry started long before Barks came into the picture. In fact, people in the Victorian Era began to disconnect Islam from the writings of various Muslim poets. 

But no one can deny the fact that it was Barks who contributed most to building a readership around his diluted interpretations for Rumi. He has interpreted these poems even when he has never studied Persian and written them in such a way that it catches the contemporary American eye. 

Barks said, “Of course, as I work on these poems, I don’t have the Persian to consult. I literally have nothing to be faithful to, except what the scholars give.” 

There are other comparisons that show the magnitude of difference between the original words and those written by Coleman Barks. The first book of translations that Barks came across was written by A.J. Arberry in which he translated the poem Like This as follows:

“Whoever asks you about the Houris, show (your) face (and say) Like this.” 

In reference to the poem, Houris are often interpreted as beautiful virgins promised to pious Muslims in Paradise. Barks translated this exact verse as:

“If anyone asks you how the perfect satisfaction of all our sexual wanting will look, lift your face and say, Like this.”

We see an absence of the Islamic context in this translation while the mention of Prophets Joseph and Jesus remained somewhat the same in the same poem. When asked about why he did this, Barks stated he does not remember if he did this knowingly. Where Rumi’s poetry is concerned, he sees religion as secondary and a point of controversy. 

This thread reached thousands in a matter of a few days and a lot of mixed reactions surfaced. Some stood in support of Barks saying he brought Rumi to the modern world, making it easier for people to understand his poetry. Others are completely against him for taking this liberty. Most stand with the fact that Rumi was a Muslim and should be portrayed as one.

 

Other translations that are accused of the same misinterpretations are done by Andrew Harvey, Deepak Chopra, Shahram Shiva, and John Moyne. 

While these distortions may be easily identified by some, this situation poses a problem for those who are unable to understand Persian, especially for Muslims who greatly rely on translations: they are reading words that Rumi wrote in a completely different context.

READ MORE: Muslims Can’t Get Enough Of ‘Dirilis: Ertugrul’

Muslims Can’t Get Enough Of ‘Dirilis: Ertugrul’

We put together the all-you-need-to-know guide to the hit Turkish show.

Muslims Can’t Get Enough Of ‘Dirilis: Ertugrul’

We put together the all-you-need-to-know guide to the hit Turkish show.

By

Mareena Emran
Art - Hedzlynn K.

If you’ve been lurking around Muslim Twitter recently, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed tweets circulating around a Turkish show Dirilis: Ertugrul and a warrior named Erutugrul. At first glance, it may seem like another foreign Netflix show. However, among the global Muslim population, this show represents an unprecedented hype. 

As reported by the Daily Sabah, the show has amassed over 21 million viewers while streaming across 70 countries. Countless social media stan accounts, especially from Pakistan, caused the show to become an overnight sensation that exploded during the month of Ramadan. With its recent Urdu-dubbed version on PTV and YouTube, Dirilis: Ertugrul has received record breaking numbers. It took over five years for the Turkish market to see 240 million views of the show whereas in Pakistan, over four million subscribers and 344 million views occurred in the month of May alone.

It was originally produced by Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) in 2014 with three seasons, but was broken down into a total of five seasons for its recent release on Netflix with English subtitles. With around 70-100 episodes per season, there is no shortage of amazing acting, complex storylines, and Islamic content, but certain episodes can seem long at times, so if you like a good binge-watch session, this show is perfect for you.

Many of the Turkish actors are industry leaders of theater, movies, and music who crossed over to create a sensational production that has millions of loyal fans waiting for episodes each week. The plot lines are full of multiple cliff-hangers and unexpected twists that are different than traditionally redundant Turkish, Arab, and Pakistani shows that focus on just marriage, gossip, or evil neighbors. 

The drama is set in 1280 and revolves around the life and history of Ertugrul Ghazi, son of Suleman Shah, and leader of the Kayi Tribe. The Kayi tribe was a Muslim Turkish tribe that fought the Mongols, Templars, and Byzantine empire to create a foundation that ultimately led to the creation of the Ottoman empire. Ertugrul’s son, Osman, would become the first Sultan of the Ottoman empire and his descendants would rule much of Europe, the Middle East, and Asia for over 600 years. 

Ertugrul is played by Engin Altan Düzyatan, who has won over the hearts of millions. The other characters include Halime Sultan, Turgut Alp, Bamsi Bey, Selcan Hatun, Gundogdu Bey, ibn Arabi, and Abdur Rehman. These were not just historical figures who supported Ertugrul on his quests, but they also provided a viewpoint on family struggles, hand to hand combat, and the value of loyalty in the face of overwhelming odds. 

Many Americans have compared the show to Game of Thrones based on the stunning wardrobes, historical conflicts, and deaths of main characters with surprise twists. Others have compared it to a new age in Islamic drama production by focusing on the role of religion and faith in Allah instead of superheroes, technology, and money. 

The popularity of this show has expanded across the globe with fans showing their love and appreciation of Ertugrul with dedicated fans, artwork and events.

After the fifth season of Ertugral, the demand from audiences spilled over and a new series was produced – Kuruluş: Osman. Some of the characters from Ertugral stay in the new series for continuity and provide two more seasons of similar content with new characters, plot lines, and excitement. 

Many of the names and handshakes have become popular among teens and families. Children address their fathers as Bey. Friends greet each other in hallways and playgrounds with chest-fist bumps like the Alps. Countless plastic, wooden and metal swords, shields, and axes have been ordered online by people wanting to be like the Alps or Templar Knights. Kayi flags and symbols are being displayed proudly in offices, cars, and living rooms of people who are not even turkish in a sign of solidarity.

Fans have even made Pinterest boards dedicated to the fashion and style of characters, and some have even gone as far as to convert to Islam entirely:

Those who have not watched the show are definitely missing out. Many fans are urging their friends and family to watch episodes on Netflix, PTV and YouTube.

Has Ertugrul won you over yet? We know you parents are obsessed, so you might as well hop on too!

READ MORE: ‘Skam’ Is The Hijabi Representation We Needed