Mufti Menk Talks About How Nicki Minaj Follows Him On Twitter

"Mm-mashallah" – Nicki Minaj on Plain Jane (Remix) with Muslim A$AP Ferg

Mufti Menk Talks About How Nicki Minaj Follows Him On Twitter

“Mm-mashallah” – Nicki Minaj on Plain Jane (Remix) with Muslim A$AP Ferg

By

Mareena Emran
Photo of Mufti Menk shaking hands with a president, but with Nicki Minaj's face over him. / Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

 

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.

The news of Minaj following Mufti Menk has received mixed reviews over the internet, and a lot of young fans have stormed TikTok with videos of their reactions as well.

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.

READ MORE: Netflix Cancels Hasan Minhaj’s ‘Patriot Act’ After Six Seasons

Netflix Cancels Hasan Minhaj’s ‘Patriot Act’ After Six Seasons

American-Muslim comedian Hasan Minhaj announced that his political comedy Netflix show, Patriot Act, will not be renewed for another season.

Netflix Cancels Hasan Minhaj’s ‘Patriot Act’ After Six Seasons

American-Muslim comedian Hasan Minhaj announced that his political comedy Netflix show, Patriot Act, will not be renewed for another season.

By

Rania Rizvi

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.

 

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).

READ MORE: Hasan Minhaj Breaks Down The Yemen Crisis On ‘Patriot Act’

A Drive With RIZ LA VIE: Meet The Lebanese-American Artist Behind The Hit ‘Napkins’

Meet RIZ LA VIE, the Lebanese-American artist that is making everyone in tune with their spirituality.

A Drive With RIZ LA VIE: Meet The Lebanese-American Artist Behind The Hit ‘Napkins’

Meet RIZ LA VIE, the Lebanese-American artist that is making everyone in tune with their spirituality.

By

Ameena Qobrtay
Photo - Felix Francisco / Art - Tasneem Sarkez & Shayma Al-shiri

 

It’s rare that music can seep into every aspect of my life as quickly as RIZ LA VIE’s work did. The last time I was this obsessed with a single artist was when I was 14 and exclusively listened to any song by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys (I mean, come on, how can you listen to “Love Is A Laserquest” without thinking it’s the pinnacle of good music?). 

But after the persistent nags from my best friend, the love I had for LA VIE started with a single song – Saturn– and meandered into a whole ocean of obsession. Yes, maybe there’s still some unshakeable residue from my 2014 I’m-not-like-the-other-girls Arctic Monkeys craze. Or maybe I’m just really picky. But I found myself streaming LA VIE despite my best efforts to listen to literally anything else. Doing the dishes, going on my pensive pandemic-induced bike rides, hanging out with the people I was quarantined with – every activity somehow felt less complete without LA VIE’s coos, shouts, screams, and transient voice accompanying me. 

Riz’s music is addictive because of its undeniable authenticity. Streaming Riz is like listening to a roadmap of his soul, and while the exciting beats and different sounds he explores is one of the reasons many of his fans love to stream his work, it’s his lyrics that truly make him one of the most exciting voices of our time. LA VIE’s words reflect the intimacy with which he sees his world, and he conveys this with a noticeable tenderness. 

Ironically – or perhaps completely by fate, as LA VIE’s outlook might suggest –  the Nitetime in Atlanta singer and I spoke as he was driving to Georgia to create more music and at-home videos with friends.

 

Photo - Felix Francisco

 

In between soft curses due to car-merging incidents and cheers after finally reaching Virginia (“Virginia is for lovers, it says on the sign, that’s beautiful!”) the Lebanese Jersey-native spoke about his latest E.P. “Feed.,” activism, and spirituality.

“Feed.” is LA VIE’s latest project, consisting of five glorious songs that span from melancholy to upbeat to even melancholy-er. The sound, which is entirely different from his previous work, acts as a backdrop for a level of lyricism that Riz hasn’t achieved before. 

His She Said music video eerily predicted the future. Complete with a table and chair, tea set, and bustling street, outside dining couldn’t have been better foreshadowed in the video. But the fortune-telling didn’t actually start there. LA VIE talked about how he has been thinking about undergoing a “personal revolution” for months, and that the COVID-19 pandemic and BLM protests show that he was right to think that this year would be a reset. 

Riz wrote “Feed.” about an “internal revolution” and about changes on the personal level. But he said that he was, “blessed and thankful” to release his music while “the world is also going through a much-needed revolution, to make the changes that it needs to make as it is a living organism.” 

While the “She Said” video may or may not have predicted the future, an overall exciting aspect about LA VIE is his carefully-conducted music videos. When asked about them, he said, “I think music videos in general are a completely superfluous art form. I don’t think they need to exist whatsoever. Because music, as an art form, is whole and complete and often elicits a visual response in your mind. But I do think videos are perfect in their ability to add an entire new layer of art on top of art.” 

LA VIE’s obsession with day-to-day life is intoxicating – he described how earlier that morning, while renting a car for the road trip to Atlanta, the rental man gave him a 5% discount and how that example of impact-per-person makes all the difference in life. 

 

Outside of his art, LA VIE is also an agent for change. In addition to donating to different causes, with proceeds from “Feed.” going to the Loveland Foundation, he also encourages people to “speak out if that’s something they felt they had to do.” LA VIE stressed the importance of doing other things outside of donating if you don’t have the means to do so. In addition to sharing information, as he discussed many young people are doing right now, he also suggested that people should, “Spend 20 minutes (every day) educating yourself. I don’t mean to say this facetiously whatsoever, I mean, seriously, go read a book,” noting the importance and gratification of “tactile reading.” 

LA VIE spoke about the horrific August 4 Beirut explosion in a somber follow-up interview. After speaking about donating and wishing peace for all of those affected, LA VIE said, “Our people in Lebanon come from the Phoenicians and we were called Phoenicians because we rise again and again. For centuries and centuries and centuries we’ve been doing this, and we fall to ashes, again and again but we’re known to rebuild and come back stronger than ever before. I feel like that’s our ethos as Phoenicians and as Lebanese people. And I think that’s what we’ll do. I hope that we build a stronger and a more well-rounded, just society.” 

LA VIE is also concerned about an injustice that is rarely discussed but occurs in many Middle Eastern countries: the mistreatment of migrant workers. He made the connection to how although many are rightfully speaking about police brutality and Black Lives Matter, migrant workers from countries in Africa, South Asia, and the Far East are being exploited in Muslim-majority and Arab countries. He spoke about how atrocities like the Beirut explosion are just one of the ways that migrant workers are made even more vulnerable. 

 

Photo - Felix Francisco

 

But it’s impossible to talk about LA VIE without mentioning his connection to spirituality. He described how from when he was younger, his Mom had always informed him about the moon, chakras, and the importance of acknowledging and caring for the “essence” that exists in everyone. He joked about how when he was younger, his pockets heavy with the stones his mom gave him, he would tell his friends about the law of attraction whenever they would complain about wanting something. 

LA VIE thinks it’s exciting to see the increased popularity of a lot of the things he appreciated when he was younger that have gained popularity now, from hummus to horoscopes. (BTW: I had to ask. He’s a Pisces sun, Aquarius moon, Scorpio rising. After two conversations and binge-listening to his music, I can say with confidence that it definitely shows).

LA VIE’s interview ended with me feeling something entirely unfamiliar: hope. Talking to someone that was so in-tune with life and choosing to spread positivity and love was entirely refreshing. If you want to support an artist that is in pursuit of goodness, start by basking in the poetry that is RIZ LA VIE’s discography, or follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

 

Meet Free Palestine, The Palestinian Ranked Top 100 In Super Smash Bros. Melee

Meet 21-year-old Anees Assaf, the man behind the iconic tag Free Palestine.

Meet Free Palestine, The Palestinian Ranked Top 100 In Super Smash Bros. Melee

Meet 21-year-old Anees Assaf, the man behind the iconic tag Free Palestine.

By

Ameena Qobrtay
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh

There it was, posted online in 2019 for all of the gaming community to see: Gamer Free Palestine ranked 72nd in the world for Super Smash Bros. Melee 

The man behind the controversial tag is Anees Assaf, a 21-year-old geography student at the Ohio State University who doubles as a Smash Bros. global champion. Assaf is more than just some gamer with a few wins – his tag makes him a unique figure in the not-so-political gaming spaces.

Assaf’s video game journey began at a young age, and as the internet age shaped his adolescence, he became more involved in the gaming community. In late 2015, Assaf started playing games competitively, finding a niche in Smash Bros. Melee, an older version of the video game. Assaf described his love for the early 2k video game as stemming from the game being more fast-paced and fun than the game’s newer versions. 

Assaf created his first gaming tag when he was 15, opting for a name that has nothing to do with Palestine: Milhous. 

If you aren’t a history buff or into specifically strange facts, you should know that “Milhous” was the middle name of President Nixon. 

Wondering how a Palestinian activist could possibly ever stan Nixon? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

Assaf laughed when discussing his old tag. “I really dislike Richard Nixon as a president and as a person, I just thought it was funny that (Milhous) was his middle name.” 

About a year later, the self-titled Milhous witnessed a Twitter trend that asked gamers to explain the meaning behind their tag, and Assaf decided to rethink his own. Suddenly the idea of having a joke as a tag didn’t seem very appealing – especially considering the reputation of President Nixon. 

Therefore in some sort of self-correcting Twitter-induced instant rebrand, Free Palestine was born out of the ashes that once was Milhous. Talk about a major switch-up (I’m sure good ol’ Mr. Richard Milhous Nixon is especially pleased about the change).

Tags are ways that gamers see each other digitally and often competitively. As a gamer, you’re somewhat obligated to say other gamers’ tag names, whether you like it or not. Assaf making his tag Free Palestine forces people to confront an issue that’s simply not usually discussed in his community of gamers. People began to quickly notice how badass it was for Assaf to change his tag, which unquestionably forces the situation in Palestine on people’s lips. 

Assaf described his community of fellow competitors as a group willing to listen to why he decided to change his tag to Free Palestine. Although some may have expected that many would be upset, Assaf stressed that his friends and members of his community were there for him. 

“It helps that we’re such a kind of tight-knit and small community that when you go to travel, you can just kind of talk to these people,” Assaf explained.

He highlighted that there’s far more to his tag than just making people uncomfortable, discussing how his tag brought Palestinian struggle to a space where this issue is never discussed.

“… As you can expect, people in the US kind of don’t really understand the overall issue (of Palestine) that well. And especially you know gamers who are like 18 to 25 don’t really have any stake in these issues,” Assaf said. “So they really come from a background of not knowing as much. A lot of times it’s just me explaining a lot of, you know, why I have (the tag) and why it’s needed and why it’s stuff I believe in.” 

It’s also about changing Palestinian representation for Assaf. “Whether for a political purpose or not, it’s just sharing my perspective,” Assaf said. “Which I think is the most important part to  understanding why these issues happen, and why or how I can explain where we’re coming from as Palestinians, so that we’re not painted in a bad light as we normally are.” 

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

But it’s not always acceptance. Assaf described how despite the “overall positive” acceptance and community dialogue, digital players can express annoyance at his tag. 

Assaf spoke about some of the backlash he’s received due to his tag. Some people refuse to say his tag or shorten it, which bothers him – what does “Free Pal” even mean? – but he says that most of the time, people just don’t understand why he chose to make a political statement using his gamer tag. 

Assaf stressed how the people who say things like “keep politics out of video games” can afford to say these things because they’re not in the same position as him or others. 

“People who come from a more privileged background, can separate politics from their regular lives, which a lot of people can’t do,” Assaf said. He explained that often, he responds to people who are offended by his tag by discussing how he doesn’t have the privilege to keep political discourse out of his life. 

“Palestine matters to me a lot more than gaming does,” Assaf said. He detailed his Palestinian heritage, explaining that both of his parents are Palestinian and that he visits the West Bank fairly often to see his family there. 

Assaf detailed how he’s in a kind of “sweet spot”: the game he plays isn’t as competitive as say League of Legends. On such a larger scale, Assaf says his tag would never have been allowed. 

If shows like Ramy are conversation-starters within Muslim communities and beyond, Assaf changing his tag name is a discussion-demander. Changing his tag to a subject that’s as fully-loaded and heated as the question of Palestine makes Assaf demand his gaming community to confront this issue. 

One thing’s for sure about Free Palestine’s story, it’s that small acts of resistance can make impacts in very niche spaces.

Aint Afraid Ain’t Your Average Rap Duo

Meet the twins who are absolutely killing it.

Aint Afraid Ain’t Your Average Rap Duo

Meet the twins who are absolutely killing it.

By

Elizabeth Aziz
Photo self shot by Aint Afraid / Art - Shayma Al-shiri

On a hot, sunny Wednesday morning in Los Angeles, I woke up bright and early at 7:45 a.m. to hit the streets for my signature drink – an oat milk mocha with an extra shot of espresso – ready for my 9 a.m. call with Aint Afraid, a pair of Black hijabi musical artists, that just so happen to be twins. I’d spent the few days before listening to all of their songs and watching a bubbly Q&A they’d just recently dropped. When the time came, I got back in the house, turned the A/C wayyyy up, and got situated. At 9:01 on the dot, I answered my phone to the sound of not one, but two refreshingly enthusiastic voices. 

It was already afternoon for Straingth and Wizdumb, who were already a few hours ahead of me time zone-wise. Their exuberant energy and joyful laughter quickly shook any bit of sleep out of me that might have survived the mocha I’d just downed. Although they prefer to keep personal details private, I had to at LEAST know their sign. “LEO!!” they yelled into the phone simultaneously with the correct amount of pride one would expect from the sign of the lioness. It’s only right.

When asked about their main musical influences, the first person who comes up is their mother, also an artist, who they say taught them the importance of artistic expression, whether musically or visually, from a young age. They pointed out that more than anything, their daily lives and the emotions they experience are the true source of inspiration for their music – but how long it takes to create differs each time.

Aint Afraid recording at the studio. / Photo - Aint Afraid for Muslim

Art has always been all our life, so we don’t have a process, it just kind of happens. A line will come in our heads and boom we’ll start making a piece. Once we get a piece or a line, it just flows, it just falls out, one after the other. Like literally, God is inspiring the piece through us. Most times, it’s not like let me sit down and write something about this. So we’ll have a conversation about something. Let’s say perhaps we’re talking about the Black Panthers, which is a real life example – we’re learning more about the Black Panther movement at the moment. As we have conversations, we’ll say a line or a sentence or something, and it’ll start something in us, and then from that it’s like oooh, this could be a piece. A lot of people are like oh my god you guys come out with something like every week, you’re just so talented, I’m like yo, this is something I’ve been working on for three years or sometimes three minutes. It’s always different.” 


One of the girls’ latest singles, the beautifully powerful anthem “We Will Breathe”, is a perfect example of how their musical influences and artistic process play off of each other. The chorus incorporates the line “by any means necessary,” a nod to the sentiment popularized by Malcolm X and the Black Panthers about Black liberation in the United States.

I asked the duo if there were any specific artists they look up to, to which they replied, “Just good music. Lauryn Hill, Whitney Houston … one of the highlight songs growing up was ‘We Are The World’ (a charity single from 1985 written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie featuring some of the biggest stars of the time).”

 

Having had various artistic personas over the years and performing locally all over the girls were already used to being spotted out by fans in their community. Now with over 125k followers on Instagram, I was curious to find out what it’s been like for them being in the spotlight and sharing it as twin sisters.

The girls said, “Allah has blessed us with a well-known reputation, people know us for the good work that we do, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah. All of our life we’ve kind of shared that. It’s always been that way. It feels like a team. For us, it’s not fame, it’s impact, you know? I don’t ever want to put myself in a place of feeling self-important, I never want to do that. But what I will say is that success is  really good, because I’m reaching so many people with my good messages.”

Despite their wide reach and impact, like so many young Black Muslim women in the United States and around the world, they’ve endured a lifetime of pushback simply for being who they are. Whether it be from members of the Muslim community for being Black, from the Black community for being Muslim, or either one for being women, their layered identities leave them on the fringe of each group: 

“The religion is not anti-Black… Some people choose to be anti-Black, and we’ve lived this all our lives. For me, it’s really hard being a Black Muslim woman, and a Black Muslim person, but especially a Black Muslim woman because all the communities you identify with end up not supporting you totally, or they’re against you in some way and you never find acceptance. Just as a child in elementary school, people were telling us we couldn’t be Muslim because we were Black… or they would ask are we converts. The only reason they would do that is because we were Black. Even the Black community, when they see me, they first see me as a Muslim, they don’t even see me as a Black person. I can keep going… even in the women’s community, they’re like ‘if you’re about women’s rights, take the scarf off!!’”

Photo self shot by Aint Afraid for Muslim / Art - Shayma Al-shiri

Thankfully, the stress of being pressured to fit in a box has not dimmed the light of these incredible young women in the slightest. “We’ve always been pushed out but that has not made us bitter people, as you can see. I love the world. I love the people. Alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, Allah has given us a space, a platform, where now we can educate the world and open people’s minds. There are even people in Africa and other places now that feel represented because of our platform.” 

In fact, Aint Afraid now has an additional connection to Africa that goes beyond having fans in the continent – the twins are spearheading an effort to build a school in Gambia. In collaboration with the SPOT Project, they are currently raising funds between now and September 4, 2020 to build an academy that will provide free education to local girls aged 6-15 years old. This instance of activism is just one of many ways the girls seek to make an impact. Much of their work offline centers around building community, addressing local gentrification, and helping make connections between the arts and political strategy.

What else are the girls up to when they’re not making anthems and learning? Lately, they’ve been trying to cultivate a more sustainable diet. They said, “We were already exposed to corruption in the food industry and whatever ’cause our mother taught us about it growing up, but we decided to take our own journey to understanding more about what’s in our food, and what the human body needs.” Although they’re not totally vegan and don’t say they necessarily want to pressure others to take it on, they spoke about the power of implementing more whole, plant-based foods into one’s diet – especially for vulnerable people. “Just starting from changing our diet in the Black community, our community can thrive,” they said.

 

 

Aint Afraid’s latest release, “When I Praise Him,” honors Allah through carefully crafted raps and beautiful vocals. Between their thoughtful songs and amazing projects, the duo is an unstoppable force.  

It’s so hard to sit and talk to these girls without walking away feeling like, okay, there’s hope. We’ve all encountered people who know exactly what they’re worth and are very sure of themselves and it can be intimidating. The twins, however, are so grounded in their purpose as artists and leaders, you can’t help but think mashallah. The girls of Aint Afraid are very, very impressive and we here at Muslim can’t wait to see what lies in store for them in the coming years.

Aint Afraid’s latest song “When I Praise Him” is available to download and stream on all online music services. Watch their video here, and follow the sisters’ fresh come up on Instagram and Twitter.

Here’s A Guide On What Not To Say To Your Neighborhood Hijabi Athlete

Yes, hijabi athletes do exist.

Here’s A Guide On What Not To Say To Your Neighborhood Hijabi Athlete

Yes, hijabi athletes do exist.

By

Amirah Ahmed
Art - Ameer Al-Khatahtbeh / Photo courtesy of Nike

Hijabi athletes aren’t new. While mainstream media and big sporting leagues are just catching on, hijabis have been kicking butt in sports forever. However, exercising and competing while dressed in full sleeves and scarves comes with some pretty unique experiences. 

We’ve compiled a quick guide for you with do’s, don’ts, and reminders for interacting with your friendly hijabi athlete without sounding ignorant as heck:

 

1. Do not, under any circumstances, ask her if she’s hot. This is the most commonly asked question that hijabi athletes get, and it never gets less annoying. I promise you, 99.8% of the time, the answer is yes. If you feel the urge to ask this question, take a look at your nearest weather forecast. Would that temperature be hot to you? If so, it’s probably the same for your slightly sweaty hijabi friend.

 

 

2. Yes, she can breathe in that. How else could she have kicked your butt in that game or your last race? I think this is the most ridiculous of all the questions hijabi athletes get. It sounds silly, but the amount of times I’ve received this one is incredible. Do people ask you if you can breathe when you wear a scarf in the winter? No! 

 

3. Just because you won’t tell anyone, probably isn’t a good enough reason for her to take it off. No, not even “just for a little bit.” Every time someone makes this suggestion, I am actually astounded by the sheer audacity. This question has the same energy as a friend suggesting you break your fast during Ramadan because they won’t tell anyone. Just a little pointer, this is super rude, never do this.

 

4. Listen, I completely understand how hijabi athletes might seem like superheroes to you if you’ve never exercised in more than shorts and a t-shirt, but your constant exclamations over how amazing it is that we “wear so much clothing” do, in fact, get annoying. It was cute the first time, but you’ve said the same thing every day this season, Sharon. Please stop.

 

5. This one should be pretty straightforward if you have any manners at all, but stop staring. Seriously, stop. If you’re going to insist on gawking, at least introduce yourself or say salaam or something. Otherwise, it’s just creepy.

 

6. We really do appreciate the hype, but turning every single one of our athletic achievements into news stories and articles isn’t helping our case. My personal record is the same as 100 other girls in the region, it’s not some phenomena just because I did it with a hijab on.

 

7. Your little efforts to help a gal out don’t go unnoticed. Becoming a human shield when the sweaty hijab situation needs fixing in public is appreciated. We see you. Thank you. P.S. Always remember to keep your hands to yourself! While your impromptu shield is helpful, we’d prefer that you didn’t try to tuck loose strands of hair into our hijabs yourself!

 

8. Lastly, remember that we’re just fellow athletes. Our choice of attire does not make us an anomaly. We’re all here just trying to be the best at whatever sport we do.

 

Next time a hijabi joins your sports team, or befriends you at the gym, keep these pointers in mind, or else you might just get left on read next time you try to schedule a gym sesh.

Supermodel Halima Aden Makes Second Appearance On Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

In case you missed it, Halima Aden stuns in her second Sports Illustrated swimsuit appearance.

Supermodel Halima Aden Makes Second Appearance On Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

In case you missed it, Halima Aden stuns in her second Sports Illustrated swimsuit appearance.

By

Elizabeth Aziz
Halima Aden photographed by Kate Powers in the Dominican Republic for Sports Illustrated.

Everyone’s favorite supermodel, Halima Aden, made history again when she graced the pages of Sports Illustrated’s illustrious swimsuit issue for a second time last month. Her first feature in the magazine was in April 2019. 

This time, we got over forty-five photos (!) of the 22-year old Somali-American supermodel and UNICEF ambassador wearing modest swimwear by fabulous designers such as Tommy Hilfiger, LYRA Swim, Cynthia Rowley, Krahs, Une Piece, TAVIK, and more. 

 

Aden was shot by photographer Kate Powers in the Dominican Republic this past February, before the pandemic. (Fun fact: Sports Illustrated hosted a photography workshop for local area girls led by Powers during the same trip!)

Recently, Aden has also joined forces with Allure magazine and a company called Anywear that designs headbands and medical caps with buttons for comfortably holding face coverings and medical masks in place. As part of the #BandingTogether initiative, her collection includes a range of options for Muslim women, including matching mask-and-hijab sets and turbans. For each purchase made, Anywear will donate a headband or hijab set to a healthcare worker on the front lines of COVID-19. In an Instagram post, Aden wrote: 

“Having worked in a hospital, even several months into my modeling career, it was important for me to support this project. As many hijab-wearing women are working at health care facilities, I wanted to make sure they have a comfortable option for wearing a mask while keeping their hair covered.”

You can shop Halima’s Anywear collection here to benefit frontline workers and stay safe in style.

If you want to learn more about Halima’s life and trail-blazing career, check out this TED Talk she gave in 2018.

Artists Show Us What It Means To Be Muslim Through Art

This Eid al-Adha, we assigned our graphics team to create work that shows us what being Muslim means to them. The outcome was simply iconic.

Artists Show Us What It Means To Be Muslim Through Art

This Eid al-Adha, we assigned our graphics team to create work that shows us what being Muslim means to them. The outcome was simply iconic.

By

Muslim
Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

This Eid al-Adha, Muslim is celebrating through art. One of the goals of this publication is to create a community of Muslims no matter how you practice. One of the beauties of Islam is that each person has their own path to strengthening their deen. Faith isn’t linear and everyone experiences being muslim differently, so we asked our Graphics team what being Muslim means to them. This showcase is a taste of our loving community – we hope that you enjoy!


Art - Merna Ahmed

My name is Merna Ahmed. I am 20 years old, and a Photography and Design student. In my free time, I like making jewelry and rewatching sitcoms like Parks and Recreation or New Girl!

When I think of being Muslim, I think of the community aspect and how I bond with other Muslims because of our shared experiences. In those moments of bonding, the community feels like a safe and comfortable place, although I think it is important to acknowledge the experiences of my brothers and sisters who experience colorism and racism within our own community. In a religion that is already marginalised and subjected to hate by the masses, we in the Muslim community should not add to that by discriminating and hating amongst ourselves. The main beauty of Islam is that it is not exclusive to one race. Islam does not equal race, which is why it is important we have these conversations about colorism and racism, to be reminded that our community should be a safe and comfortable place for everyone.

IG: @artbymerna

 

Art - Tasneem Sarkez

I’m Tasneem Sarkez and I’m 18. I’m a multimedia artist who will be an incoming student at New York University. 

When thinking about what it means to be Muslim, the first thing I thought about were the family values I was raised with. I think there are ancestral, cultural understandings that are unique to each family, yet all share themes of nurturing a collectivist community in and outside of our family. In this piece I used symbols of strength, weakness, and family photos, to demonstrate how coming to terms with what it means to be family is an up and down process – but eventually you learn the importance of treating everyone, family or not, with respect.

IG: @min3youni/@z3kras

 

My name is Hamza Shahid and I am an incoming Life Sciences student at McMaster University. I love doing calligraphy and taking photos in my spare time!

For this piece, I turned to Islamic art and poetry for inspiration. Islamic art from South Asia frequently employs nature as symbols of paradise. Islamic poetry, in the same way, makes reference to flowers and gardens in connection to Jannat. I chose two lines from the Urdu poem Jawab-e-Shikwa, written by the acclaimed Allama Iqbal (RA), which complements his earlier poem named Shikwa. Jawab-e-Shikwa is written as Allah’s reply in response to the complaints of a disheartened, angry believer (from Shikwa). The lines I chose translate to the following: “The gardener should not be upset seeing the garden’s state. Branches will shine through from amongst the bunches of buds.” I likened the strokes of calligraphy to the branches Iqbal speaks of, the flowers eventually coming into bloom. As a Muslim, Iqbal’s words show me how the beauty and importance of our Imaan make themselves apparent in ways we may not see ourselves. While your proverbial tree may not be laden with flowers yet, there is no tree – nor its flowers, or buds – without its simple, barren branches.

IG: @hamzsha

 

Art - Noor Ali

My name is Noor Ali and I’m a Design Engineering student at Imperial College London.

The beauty of being Muslim is being part of something bigger than yourself. It’s a note passed down from our Creator to our beloved Prophet (saw) that we now pass to each other. The Shahadah is a unifying oath; a perfect fit for every hand that reaches for it, no matter how uniquely formed they may be. When we truly believe this message, sent by Allah (swt), it is not only His warmth and love that surrounds us, but that of the entire Muslim ummah too.

IG: @illustratedbynoor

 

My name is Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman and I’m from Malaysia!! I am a Graphic Communication student at the University of Plymouth, with a lot of love for typography and editorial design.

There are over 1.7 billion Muslims in the world. One cannot simply pin point what being a Muslim is, and I find that beautiful and interesting. I wanted to focus on the fact that being a Muslim isn’t just one thing and it can be defined in many ways, depending on your perspective. I took the prompt literally, and illustrated in a way which defines the word ‘Mmuslim’. At the end of the day, all of us Muslims believe that there is only one god and Muhammad (SAW) is his messenger. 

IG: @hedzlynn.mareesya

Art - Umaima Haseeb

My name is Umaima Haseeb. I am 20 years old and am currently a senior at the University of Central Florida, studying to attend medical school, InshAllah. 

The biggest inspirations for this drawing were simple: yellow, my favorite color, and sunflowers, my favorite flower. But, under the surface, the color yellow reminds me of happiness and tranquility, just as Islam does. It’s also a self portrait and represents my relationship with Islam and the hijab. Although I don’t wear it anymore, I always cherish that time in my life as it brought me closer to my religion.

IG: @umaimmaa / @umaimadraws

 

Art - Shayma Al-Shiri

My name is Shayma and I am a 22 year old digital artist based in New York City. I enjoy film and TV as much as I do illustrating and I hope to continue creating art in Muslim spaces. 

My piece is a visual representation of my relationship with my hijab. I’ve worn the hijab for more than a decade and it’s grown with me and taught me many lessons, like how not be afraid to show what I believe in, what loyalty is, and how to protect myself and my spirit. Over the years, I’ve been asked about a million times, “Why do you wear that?” and I always give the same answer: “When was the last time you loved something so much you dedicated yourself to it every day?” 

IG: @shaymaalshiri

 

Art - Tirzah Khan

Salaam! My name is Tirzah Khan and I’m a senior at University of Maryland, Baltimore County studying information systems and psychology. I’m passionate about activism and passion fruit bubble tea.

This piece, titled “فقير / Beggar,” is an illustration of the room in my family’s house where we pray, and I wanted to portray my deep sense of comfort when entering that room and prostrating on the prayer rug, asking for Allah to grant me whatever will fill my life with good. That’s what being Muslim means to me – trusting that Allah knows what is best for me before I can even begin to ask for it myself, and trusting that whatever is good for me will reach me when He wills it to. And if you’re picking up some Animal Crossing vibes, it was unintentional but absolutely not unwelcome!

IG: @bytirzah

 

Art - Ameena Muhammad

Hi! My name is Ameena Muhammad, and I am a Texan graphic design student/wannabe illustrator studying in Toronto. 

Surface level, being Muslim means community, comfort, and faith. But for my personal meaning, I’m still trying to get a grasp who I am, and my religion comes with that. This piece includes me in three styles of dress; each projecting different ideas of who I may be. Physical change is my most tangible route of making some sense of myself, but oftentimes to others is the sole piece of evidence to evaluate how “Muslim” I really am. To me, being Muslim means that regardless of how I grow and change, there is a part of my inner weaving that will always remain the same. Each person’s experience with Islam is distinct and internal, and not something that can be grasped through biased, external judgement.

IG: @uhhhmeena/@ameena__m

 

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