It’s pretty common to hear Islamic phrases like “Assalamualaikum” and “MashAllah” in your favorite rap hits, but the recent discovery of rapper Nicki Minaj following popular Muslim scholar Mufti Ismail Menk on Twitter has turned the Muslim community on its head, with many speculating about Minaj’s personal religious beliefs. It’s honestly left us all in shock.
Mufti Menk of Zimbabwe is an esteemed Muslim figure on social media who is known for his motivational lectures and large platform following.
Although the entire situation may have confused many of us, Mufti Menk decided to voice his own view on the situation in a short YouTube video, explaining that Minaj following him on social media is something that is nobody’s business except her own.
“SubhanAllah, she happens to be following a lot of people on Twitter and Instagram…in the entertainment industry, and at the same time, for some reason, follows me,” said Mufti Menk. “Now, people are very inquisitive, but trust me, you don’t need to know.”
He also included in his statement about Minaj following him that not everyone who follows him necessarily agrees with him, and that it’s possible that Minaj is perhaps looking at Islam from a new perspective by following his Twitter page.
“Not everyone who follows you agrees with you,” said Mufti Menk. “Some people follow you because they disagree with you and they just want to see what you do. In this particular case, whatever the reason is, big deal?”
Mufti Menk’s follow up video has gained over 420k views as of August 18th, and has also been circulating around Instagram and Twitter, reaching thousands more.
With all the TikToks, Tweets and memes being made about the situation, Mufti Menk hopes that his followers understand the importance of spreading positivity regardless of Minaj’s religious affiliations.
“I’m happy, and I pray, InshAllah, that it’s a means of goodness for everyone, and a means of guidance for one and all,” said Mufti Menk.
So, the question still lingers, is Minaj making plans to go to Izlam? We won’t know until she makes a legitimate statement, but her Plain Jane remix may have spoken for itself.
American-Muslim comedian Hasan Minhaj announced that his political comedy Netflix show, Patriot Act, will not be renewed for another season.
“What a run. @patriotact has come to an end,” wrote Minhaj. “Thank you to @netflix and everyone who watched.”
While some fans are happy to see Minhaj moving on from the show to start other projects, many upset fans believe the show was deliberately cancelled due to the controversial nature of the topics discussed.
From being banned in Saudi Arabia for discussing the alleged corruption of the royal family to delving into the highly polarizing debates on police, marijuana, and the American prison system, Patriot Act dared to cover some of the most polarizing topics in politics today.
Even the title of the show, Patriot Act, showed that Minhaj was not one to shy from controversy. Minhaj’s powerful play on words of the USA Patriot Act, a controversial policy implemented by the Bush administration that has historically been abused to unlawfully criminalize Muslim post-9/11, made a statement that encapsulated not only Minhaj’s willingness push the envelope, but to punch back at beasts like religious injustice.
However fans believe that this fact, along with Minhaj’s Muslim, “POC identity” are the reasons for its cancellation.
“Netflix cancelling Patriot Act is not just an indication of the fact that they don’t want to center voices of color, but instead (I think) an indication of the fact that Hasan Minhaj and [his] team took risks and made people uncomfortable — and that was too much for Netflix,” tweeted a disgruntled fan.
The show premiered on Netflix on October 28, 2018, and within two years, Minhaj produced 39 episodes that covered a wide range of sociopolitical issues presented in an interactive, talk show format. Prior to coronavirus, the show was filmed in New York City in front of a live audience, before switching to the more one-on-one format of the last season.
Ranging from covering topics as serious as the aforementioned ones to overpriced designer products and the slave-like work culture of the video game industry, the show’s content diversity and edu-comedy style allowed Minhaj to reach millions and educate others about critical issues around the globe.
Many fans have even said that the show’s episodes are so informative that they’ve been able to complete assignments and get As on final projects because of Minhaj.
Regardless of the show’s cancellation, Patriot Act
has undoubtedly created waves that nobody was anticipating. Minhaj’s brazenly unabashed and witty commentary combined with his energetic stage presence made Patriot Act not only popular, but an influential force on Gen-Z.
More importantly, Minhaj’s unwillingness to stick to the status quo of making stereotypical “brown jokes” and belittling his ethnicity for the sake of “relatability” has set a new precedent for POC creators to own their identities as a part of their experience, not as the punchline.
Fans took to Twitter to reflect on the show fondly.
“I loved Patriot Act because the show challenged the status quo… they taught their fans to stand up for what’s right, whether or not that was popular. Forever grateful,” tweeted a fan.
I loved Patriot Act because they challenged the status quo. They exposed and fought against oppressive systems. And they taught their fans to stand up for what’s right, whether or not that was popular.
While the show may be cancelled and the next moves of Minhaj are unknown, fans are hopeful that he will deliver. Many of the top comments under Minhaj’s Instagram post are positive, stating that they “can’t wait for what’s next” and believe that this is “just the beginning” for Minhaj. But until then, we are just going to have to watch the reruns (Netflix, at least let us reminisce, it’s the least you can do).
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.”
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 menstruationexist 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 inmany 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.
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.
I have a confession to make. I am a Ramadan Muslim.
Ramadan Muslim [ ram-uh-dahn · muhs-lim] noun
1. A Muslim who doesn’t regularly practice their faith, except for when Ramadan arrives.
Yep, I said it! I am indeed one of those notorious believers that my fellow more “pious” Muslims love to criticize and complain about.
Faith never really came easily for me. Or I guess I should say, the rituals and lifestyle that come with being Muslim never came easily for me.
I’ve always had a strong connection and love for the Almighty, but growing up in a household where daily prayers and visits to the mosque were sporadically enforced left me in a conflicted state of mind when it came to my faith.
Although I fully understood the concept of worshipping one God and embraced the stories of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), I couldn’t grasp why it was necessary or important for me to convey my worship through five routine prayers or memorization of the Quran. I made my way through elementary and middle school only practicing my faith regularly during the month of Ramadan, because that’s what I saw from the people around me.
A “Ramadan Muslim” could end being a better muslim than a “full time muslim” coz that could be his turning point. A muslim is a muslim, we’re not to judge. https://t.co/gk4zsNeM9I
It was in the last semester of my eighth grade year that my relationship with my faith began to change. I went to a national convention for Muslims held by one of the largest Muslim American organizations in the U.S. with my grandmother. It was new territory for me. I attended lectures and discussions exclusively focused towards the youth, and how to be Muslim in America. I’ve never been surrounded by so many people that looked like me and believed like I did, and I never met other youth that were actually practicing Muslims. While my experience didn’t suddenly transform my worship habits, it did begin my ever-evolving journey with Islam.
Four months after that convention, I started wearing hijab. It was a welcome shock for most of my family, none of whom ever expected me to take the leap in my faith since I hadn’t been particularly religious up to that point. The only person in my immediate family that wore one was my grandmother, so while the change was unexpected, my family was proud. There was only one issue: I was still a Ramadan Muslim.
It’s the overwhelming presumption that women that wear the traditional headscarf are steadfast beacons of faith, would never miss a prayer, and have their imaan on point 24/7. I guess that’s what I was hoping I’d become when I decided to wear the hijab, but boy was I mistaken.
The choice had only amplified the ongoing struggle with my faith as I now felt like I was a representative of Islam. Entering high school, I was determined to represent as best as I could, but I was disappointed when I repetitively fell short. I never mastered making my prayers on time, and often didn’t pray at all. It was a rare occurrence for me to pick up the Quran or take the time to talk to Allah (swt). I felt like I was committing spiritual fraud. How could I claim to represent my faith when I didn’t even know what the most basic surahs in the Quran meant? The only times I acknowledged the blessings in my life were when the month of Ramadan came around and fasting forced me into remembrance.
It’s been a long and tumultuous journey to get to where I am now. While I still cannot confidently say that I make every prayer on time or that I know much more Quran than I did when I began this adventure, my relationship with my Creator has exponentially grown stronger and I now turn to Him when I’m facing trouble as well as when I recognize blessings in my life.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the number of times you prostrate and recite specific sayings in a day does not determine your closeness to God or your relationship with your faith. It’s not wrong of you to take advantage of the holy month of Ramadan to try to better yourself, and if that’s a contrast from your usual habits, there’s nothing wrong with that because you’re doing your best to get closer to Allah (swt).
Even if you fall under the label of “Ramadan Muslim” always know that nobody but Allah knows your struggle, so keep doing your best to grow your imaan and don’t pay the naysayers any attention
Sudan is set to criminalize female genital mutilation (FGM) in a historic amendment to the country’s current legislations. The move comes after years of persistent pressure from women campaigners against the brutal practice, which targets girls as young as five years old.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines FGM as all measures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons.
Women activists at all levels are being hailed for this momentous step toward ending all forms of FGM after years at the forefront of campaigns to criminalize it.
The news coming from Muslim majority country had an outpouring positive reaction, yet the Law criminalizing FGM “still needs to be approved by the joint meeting between the Sovereign Council and the Council of Ministers,” said Osman Abufatima, Secretary General of the Government of Sudan’s National Council on Child Welfare.
FGM is a deeply seeded tradition in Sudan, which is the major challenge facing efforts to end it beyond written law.
“We realise that legislation is not enough in changing beliefs and attitudes towards cultural practices” said Naana Otoo-Oyortey, executive director of FORWARD in an email to Muslim.
FORWARD is the leading African women-led organization working to end violence against women and girls.
“It is through the empowerment of men and women in communities and awareness raising activities that we can normalize the conversation which is often taboo,” she added.
Another facet Otoo- Oyortey raised is the need to address FGM from a systematic point of view through education. FORWARD wants to see supplemental steps to ensure the implementation of local policies to adapt to this legislation in addition to educating “young people about the practice in their curriculum”, said Otoo- Oyortey to Muslim.
FGM: A Religious Mandate?
The controversy as to whether FGM is a religious or cultural practice is still ongoing. However, it is widely common in some Muslim majority countries, where it is promoted as a religious procedure.
In Sudan, numerous religious leaders are strong proponents of FGM, and the overall practice is accepted and seen as sanctioned by Islam.
There have been recurrent calls by women campaigners for the government to build meaningful relationships with the local community and to work intensively with the religious leaders who still oppose the elimination of FGM.
These religious leaders need to recognize “the importance of protecting women and girls in their communities in future” said a spokesperson of 28 Too Many in a statement to Muslim.
28 Too Many is a charity established to aid the elimination of FGM in the countries in Africa and across the diaspora worldwide.
The law gives a governmental backing and support to the advocacy work that has been going on for decades. In addition, it highlights the necessity to have “more men and boys into the advocacy work through education and community driven projects,” the spokesperson told Muslim.
According to WHO, more than 200 million girls and women alive today have been cut in 30 countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia where FGM is concentrated. The long and continuous efforts by Sudanese women crowned by this historic legislation sends a clear message that FGM is a crime and is no longer an accepted practice in modern Sudan.
COVID-19 has invited a rollercoaster of emotions into each and every home, somehow everyone has become affected by this – whether it be in little ways or big ways. Someone we know, whether they be in our homes, our friends, our acquaintances – are affected by this. Knowing this, where do Muslims fall amongst the many affected?
Firstly, fighting COVID-19 is tough, but one way to have prevention to this would be our own cleanliness. Personal hygiene matters, now more than ever! Health experts have been repeatedly saying washing our hands for at least 20 seconds will help prevent the virus. However, Islamically we have been taught personal hygiene for centuries. Keep washing your hands!
Being affected however, has become daunting on Muslims, alongside everyone else. One of our biggest blessings of performing Umrah, has been taken away from us and our biggest blessing Allah (SWT) has graced us with, the performance of Hajj has been taken away from us because of the closure of the Kaabah. Saudi Arabia suspended entry of any pilgrims coming to perform Hajj and Umrah, as early as February 27th.
With the closure of every local mosque, the blessing of going to the masjid for daily prayer has been taken away from us. The blessings of Jummah (Friday Prayers) in congregation, have been taken away from us. Yes, we can still get the blessings of congregation by praying at home, but it isn’t the same as hearing the Imam’s beautiful voice and praying amongst those you know and don’t know.
With the arrival of Ramadan, the blessings of praying Taraweeh every night has been taken away from us, abruptly. Ramadan is a time for us to take full advantage of the spiritual benefits, but it has a sense of excitement every year. The community iftars are taken away and if this continues, Laylatul Qadr, which is known as the most powerful night, may not feel the same to us. Spending all night at our local masjid, praying to Allah (SWT) will continue to be stripped away. If this continues, our most joyous occasion of Eid, will be taken away from us because we cannot partake in the performance of Eid namaz in congregation, alongside everyone who participated in the month of Ramadan.
With COVID-19, comes opportunity – opportunity for Muslims to bring the teachings of Islam into their homes because of the closure of masjids. With the blessings of going to the mosques being taken away, we need to find ways – small or big to bring Islam into our lives, now more than ever. Yes COVID-19 has impacted and affected Muslims and the rest of the world in various ways, we have to look at the blessings and opportunities it has brought us also.
Ramadan is here and the countdown has officially begun. Thinking about the early morning suhoor, family iftars, and bonding with our faith excites Muslims across the globe.
My mission for every year is to make sure my Ramadan is better than my last. Seeing the growth from each Ramadan year-by-year shows how significantly closer I am to Allah (swt) – even saying it, gives me the chills. Every year, we should compile a list of goals for Ramadan because it can help keep you grounded and center your objectives. Here is how to make the most out of your Ramadan:
Work on Time Management
This may sound cliche, but we all know everyone has been through those moments where you sit back and say what you want the upcoming Ramadan to be like, but little by little, your end-goal starts drifting away.
The first step is always making plans that you know you will have the time for, or that you will make time for. Small goals, big goals, anything! Writing an itinerary of your daily life can help keep your priorities for the day in check. Making lists is psychologically proven to keep you organized and more grounded!
Building a Stronger Deen
Find a way to incorporate prayer in your everyday life leading up to Ramadan. For instance, reading an extra prayer, everyday, ultimately gets you more into a routine of reading five times a day.
Try to make more duas! Duas, otherwise known as prayers, are our safe haven in times of need, but we should find a way to make that our means of communication between us and Allah (swt) happen on a daily basis.
Start becoming accustomed to using a tasbih (prayer beads), throughout Ramadan before and after your prayer, so the repetition becomes muscle memory for you.
Taking Time out Daily to Read the Qur’an
Read the Qur’an, every single day! Create the goal of finishing an entire Qur’an, during the month – the reaping of the benefits become endless!
Being busy during the Holy Month, it is one of the biggest challenges, but be consistent! By being consistent, you are more likely drawn to reading a little, every single day – plan and organize how you want to do this.
By implementing the Qur’an more on a daily basis, rid yourself of distractions! We occasionally find ourselves filling our free time up with watching TV, listening to music, going on social media, etc. – use this time for reading the Qur’an!
Give Charity, in Some Way, Every Single Day
Ramadan is a month of giving – offering a hand with housework, donating to your local mosque, giving zakat after prayer, are all means of giving charity.
One of my personal targets, every Ramadan, is always volunteering at any local drive that gives packaged meals to the less fortunate, and with this pandemic, a lot of mosques are resorting to donating food to the less fortunate in a safe way.
Real Purification of Intentions
Last, but not least – go into this month with pure intentions. Real intentions are what is valued the most during this month which is why we should not think of this month as an obligation – it is, instead, an opportunity.
Opening your heart during this Holy Month is what will make the most out of any Ramadan you are blessed to take partake in.
Giving your all to Allah (swt) and the people surrounding you is what will allow you to achieve the benefits of a blessed month.
Our hearts should be engulfed every single Ramadan because of the opportunity we are given, to be closer to our Lord. Every year that we participate in this blessed month, we are greeted with another chance and we should take this opportunity and make the most of it.
Ramadan is just as much a period of spiritual growth as it is cultural significance. Muslims across the Ummah engage with their faith through fasting, abstinence from sin, Qu’ran recitation, and other practices while the scents of sambusas, pakoras, and other regional Muslim dishes linger long after the last iftaar meal.
However, this month-long timeframe of individual introspection and communal care tends to be performed in solitude by Muslim converts, who often lack the community at home to sustain their well-being until Eid ul-Fitr. I conversed with Anna and Nabigal-Nayagam, Sinhalese and Tamil Muslim converts, respectively, in an effort to examine how the Ummah as a whole can make sure that converts aren’t left out during Ramadan.
For Anna, this year will mark her first Ramadan since converting to Islam in July of 2019. “I wish I could celebrate [iftaar] with friends or family, or celebrate [Eid] in a larger community.” she recollects.
Convert Muslims arguably experience as much Islamophobia from the outside world as they do from the home, and because of this, my first tip in making sure that converts aren’t left out for Ramadan is simply lending a hand.
From bringing converts home so that they can enjoy a traditional iftaar meal to inviting converts to masjid services so that they can connect more with their local Muslim community, there are numerous easy ways to ensure that the converts in your life know that they’re not alone.
“I think new converts like myself have a lot of questions and confusion about Ramadan when observing it for the first time,” Anna stated. “The lack of feeling like we belong to any one community – Muslim or non-Muslim – makes it hard. There is always the fear of judgment from born Muslims, although most are very welcoming.”
Nabi mentioned that he’s “not a huge mosque-goer, because [he’s trans],” which he mentions is surely self-explanatory. What he believes to be a significant disadvantage during his conversion process, however, is essentially the shaming of converts during Ramadan for not being Muslim enough.
“Converts are often expected to dive headfirst into fasting with no prior experience, while born Muslims were often eased into it from childhood. Many of us also don’t have a sense of community and support from born Muslims, and we frequently are ostracized from the very tight-knit circles we find at the masjid,” Nabi stated.
Nabi became interested in Islam about six years ago, although he didn’t formally convert until 2017 due to physical violence and threats of disownment from family members. “When I was still living with my parents, I couldn’t fast for Ramadan, as this would easily out me as Muslim, which was something my family was already strongly suspecting and vigilant about,” Nabi recalls. “The inability to fast made me feel like I was not a good Muslim, that God wouldn’t love me, and that I was not ready for Islam.”
Anna shared similar remarks: being ethnically Sinhalese, very few of her cultural traditions don’t intersect with Buddhism. She feels guilty celebrating Sinhalese holidays in that their Buddhist iconography entails shirk in Islam, yet her Muslim identity has also come under attack from family: her father threw away books she was gifted from a masjid, forbade her from seeing some Muslim friends, and “considers converting to Islam [the] equivalent [of] joining ISIS.”
Because of this, it’s important to refrain from shaming converts during Ramadan for lack of tradition, religiosity, or even not being able to fast. Although fasting (sawm) is one of the central tenets of Islam and every Muslim is expected to fast, convert Muslims aren’t afforded the privilege of not having to choose between practicing one’s religion and preserving one’s safety.
“If you are an imam at a masjid, please reach out and offer whatever resources you feel are fit for a convert who may be going through Islamophobic abuse at home,” stated Nabi.. “If you can’t do that, then don’t shame [converts] for not being able to fast.”
As it relates to convert experiences during Ramadan, however, the experiences of Black and brown Muslim converts are often overlooked.
“I’ve noticed a lot of white converts get more attention, extra help, and catering-to compared to Muslims of color, who are either not read as converts (brown converts), or are often completely unwelcome ([Black] converts).”
Anti-black racism is ubiquitous in Muslim spaces and especially predominantly-non-Black Muslim spaces, so when reaching out to converts altogether, be sure to prioritize inclusion. While the experiences of white converts do matter, Black and brown converts often experience the brunt of Islamophobia from both family and society-at-large. Developing community with them during Ramadan is essential in ensuring that converts aren’t left out.
Finally, in reflecting on the importance of Ramadan to himself as a Shi’a Muslim convert, Nabi mentioned the futility of striving to be “Muslim enough” in the first place.
“The most important thing about Ramadan to me is that it is a tool for the soul to become acquainted with God,” Nabi stated. “When I am fasting and abstaining from food and drink, I am denying my body a very prominent source of worldly bond and pleasure. This detachment gives me the mindset to forego the temporal, illusory nature of this world and focus on the Permanence of Allah.”