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Aiman Batool COPY EDITORS Asmaa Elhayek (Chief) Amina Mohamed Hirra Sheikh Marwa Saad Muhammad Bilal Molani Farhana Islam LAYOUT & DESIGN Azizah Arif Mohamad Khodr Zenaira Ali COVER DESIGN Adel Keshavarz Ali Saeed Ifrah Akhter Wasif Ahmed CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Abdullah Shihipar Aisha Raja Amina Mohamed Amjad Tarsin Ibad Cheema Ifrah Akhter Hirra Sheikh Leena Halees Marzia Niamah Omar Shareef Osama Omar Sameer Zaheer Tanzina Zaman Waqas Ullah Khan Zenaira Ali CONNECT WITH US ONLINE SEND US SNAIL MAIL The Muslim Voice c/o Muslim Students’ Association 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 505 Toronto, ON, Canada

Table of Contents


04 11 16 26




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06 13 8 20 7 28

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08 14 SAY WORD








10 15







The Fine Print: The ideas and opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the TMV staff, the Muslim Students’ Association and the University of Toronto Students’ Union.

As’salaamualikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu. May the peace and blessings of Allah be with you.

Want to send a letter to the editor? Follow us? Join Us? Keep up with TMV?

I still remember it like a slow-motion scene from The Matrix. I awoke from deep sleep in the backseat of the car to mama’s repeated “bismillahs”. She struggled to hold my dad back, who was on the shotgun calmly directing my brother, in a night that could have been our last. We were driving to Chicago through a difficult snowstorm. While changing lanes the car spun and got out of control, and made its way in front of a fast truck uphill to the side of the road, getting stuck in a fence. It was as if an army of angels had literally grabbed the car upon Allah’s request, and placed us gently to the side. No scratches, just the small hole the fence had carved as it gripped the trunk of the car. There we sat, facing downhill towards the scene that could

The Space Between Words “Our fingerprints don’t fade from the lives we touch.” – Tyler, Remember Me Being a commuter during my first couple of years at U of T took a toll on my social life. I hopped on the train in the morning, went to class, and then hopped on the train back home, never leaving time for social events or gatherings. It was not until I started my fourth year that I decided enough is enough: I had to start making time to meet new people. So when the opportunity to join the MSA Frosh Week 2012 knocked on my door, I opened it and I can’t say for certain that I would still be a part of TMV if I didn’t. During that week, the MSA took us to Toronto Is4 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | MARCH 2013

have been our departure from this life, silently observing the fresh tracks on the snow. I personally thought the car was going to blow up. But at that moment that didn’t matter. With widened eyes, breath paused, a deafening heartbeat that was pulsing through my ears, I looked around to make sure everyone was alright. That moment was the first time I found myself consciously evaluating my connections. I recognize that I’m a human being, and that entails being entangled in a web of connections-some that I’m aware of, and others that still exist regardless of my acknowledgment. But at the end of the day, which connections I choose to illuminate determines the type of person I will be. The importance I give to my relationship with my Creator, my family, my health, the world and people around me, and all else that encompasses in my own personal matrix will de-

termine my actions, reactions and intentions in this world, and consequentially my place in the Hereafter. The events of that night and the realizations that followed thereafter always help me put my life back into perspective. But it shouldn’t take a near-death experience for us to step back from our lives and reevaluate our state. This issue is compiled with the intent of allowing you to reflect on the different connections in your life through hearing the thoughts and experiences of others. I sincerely hope that as you read through these pages, you are able to reevaluate at least one of your connections, and through that connection may the rest of your web light up as well! Wassalam (with peace), Aiman Batool Editor-in-Chief The Muslim Voice

land. As my new friend and I were sitting together on a picnic table, an MSA girl, whom neither of us knew, approached us. She sat down next to me and began to talk a mile a minute, mostly about White Collar. Her enthusiasm for meeting and talking to new people radiated from within her. I somehow managed to find some space between her sentences to tell her that I had written a short story for TMV last year. She told me she must introduce me to the new Editor-in-Chief for this year. Soon enough, Aiman and I were introduced. I was so nervous— the excited kind of nervous. I had dreamed of being a bigger contributor to TMV.

met at Toronto Island as part of MSA Frosh week?” A bit later, I had 1 new notification. “Yes, this is that Aiman!”

A day or two later, I found Aiman on Facebook—found, not stalked....ok, maybe I stalked her a little, but I played it cool. “Is this the Aiman I

Asmaa Elhayek Editor’s Associate The Muslim Voice

My time at TMV began when Allah (SWT) guided a speed-talker with an open heart towards me. Every now and again you meet someone that is so completely different than you or anyone you know. Just by welcoming me into her life, she changed my own. This is a special ‘thank you’ to the girl who sat down next to me that day. You have shown me what it means to open my heart to others. Thank you. Alhamdulilah for people like you. Never stop being true to who you are.


RABBI JONATHAN SACKS WAS ASKED BY A POLITICIAN, “WHAT IS COMMUNITY?” HE ANSWERED, “WHERE THEY KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHERE THEY MISS YOU WHEN YOU ARE NOT THERE.” We need to ask ourselves: are these the types of communities we are fostering and developing? What is it that we are working towards as members of our community? Are we opening up doors to our community and becoming communities that look outward and not inward? What is the ingredient for that? It is love. We need to foster such communities by dealing with each other with love. This love stems from compassion, sincerity, tenderness, humility and mercy. A community that develops from the seed of love will blossom and people will be attracted towards the virtue of its beautiful fragrance. That seed of love is not any ordinary seed. That seed of love is what we all possess deep within. It is the seed of love that God has planted within our hearts through His own Divine love. Bringing one another together through love is important towards remembering that by working in this manner we are in fact worshipping Him. You are what you love and that manifests itself into how our communities are built and what they reflect. Communities that are built in this way are the strongest and most closeknit. We become a part of many different communities in our lifetime as we grow as individuals. We may even travel and discover new paths in our journey. We pass through these communities and we leave a mark. Communities are not stagnant. They are always growing, developing and moulding in new ways. We all leave a part of ourselves when we give ourselves to our communities. From the community worker who puts in 30 hours a week to the person who attends events, everyone leaves an imprint and consciously or unconsciously shapes the community. If we come to a place where we see attributes of love, like compassion and mercy, manifesting, we will likely stick around and take from that, beginning to inculcate it within ourselves and share it. The question that arises is where does love come from and how do we manifest it? Love comes from good character and good character we learn from the teachings of our beloved (peace and blessings be upon him) who constantly reinforced the importance of being upright through good character and of sincerely loving each other. Becoming people of love, inculcating that within our own selves and then planting that seed in the community will create sustainable and luminous communities where no one feels alone – communities “where they know who you are and miss you when you are not there.” We each have our own small or large communities that make up the larger society. All those communities and people within them have their own set of problems; nothing is perfect, only the Divine is. However, we can work towards achieving that perfect harmony through His Divine inspiration and through the examples He has put forth for us. In that way we will become each others’ strengths and a source of continuous reinforcement for one another.


n a M A amed t N r

e b Ro

Hal a n e


e By L


You need to look within yourself and

take a step back from it all



me You have nothing to lose


looked into his eyes and I saw a broken soul. He smiled at me, revealing the empty spaces in his mouth. It was well below zero, a frigid, bitter morning, and he was wearing a worn-out jacket with a broken zipper, ripped jeans, and a pair of dirty, hole-filled sneakers. In his bare hand, he gripped a cup tightly against his cold body, trying with all of his might to protect the few coins he had received from strangers on the busy streets of Toronto. His name is Robert. It all started when I woke up that Monday morning. I went about the same old routine. I got ready, had breakfast, and rushed around campus, making my way from one class to the next. However, something didn’t feel right. I felt a void in my heart, as though something was missing. It troubled me for some time. I wasn’t sure what it meant or even what it was, for that matter. I prayed five times a day, thanked God for His blessings, and occasionally visited local soup kitchens and gave back to the community. I

ferences. We should smile, make others around us feel at ease and at our level, whether they are homeless or not, for it is Sunnah (prophetic teaching). Thanks to Robert, I now see things in a new light. I needed him more than he needed me. I learned more in those ten minutes than I did in a week from my “educated” professors. I was living “give a little, get a lot.” It was next to impossible ridding my mind of what had happened that day. It wasn’t until I lay down in bed that night that I realized something: that emptiness, that something that I was looking for all along was gone. This little act had a great impact on me. Representing Islam in a positive light is one thing, but improving my connections is another. Since that day, my perspective on the world has completely changed. My connection with God has illuminated like never before. I have a stronger and healthier relationship with Him. I remember Him with every step I take and with every breath I breathe. He is always on the

He replied,

“It could be better, it could be worse.” dedicated myself to figuring it out once and for all. I promised myself that morning I would go out and try something completely out of my comfort zone. That’s when I met Robert. I was walking down Bloor when I spotted him across the street in front of Tim Hortons. I stopped, observed him from afar, and something inside me, like a divine force, allowed me to do something I never thought I would do. I crossed the road and approached him. I was scared, overwhelmed, and did not know what to expect. Before I knew what I was doing, I found myself buying a homeless guy a hot chocolate and carrying on a conversation with him. However, it was what I discovered about this man that caught me off-guard. He was helpless, weak, and had nothing but the clothes on his back. Despite that, when I asked him how he was doing, he replied, “It could be better, it could be worse.” Those words continue to ring in my ears and I don’t think I’ll ever forget them. He possessed an ample amount of gratitude and politeness. I wished Robert the best and continued on with my day’s agenda. As I walked away, I couldn’t help but wipe the tears from my face. They were tears of gratefulness, but they were also a symbol of sadness – a sadness for our community. What have we become? I couldn’t believe this man. He had nothing but the warmest smile you could ever see. Yet, on the other hand, we have everything and more, but we oftentimes forget to count our blessings. Homelessness is an issue that makes people uncomfortable and there is a great stigma attached to it. Regardless, we should not let that get to our heads. We are created equal despite our dif-

tip of my tongue and I feel His mercy within me. I always re-evaluate my intentions. I seek the good within me and I search for the good in others. I have been happier and I am blessed. It is our duty to increase our awareness of our surroundings. Sometimes it is difficult to do that, especially in such a materialistic, time-driven society. You need to look within yourself and take a step back from it all. Trust me. You have nothing to lose. In fact, you will most likely gain a lot. Our purpose is to please God, thus we must be careful. We are accountable for our actions. We, as young Muslims in our community, have a greater responsibility to watch what we do, what we say, and how we say it. That unsettling feeling I was once experiencing not too long ago was the weight of the world’s woes and sorrows on my shoulders. Taking a minute out of my day to give back through a small gesture of kindness brought my heart and mind at ease. My goal is to empower others to do just that. Find something that you are passionate about, something that inspires you, something that you never thought you would ever do. Escape your comfort zone, challenge yourself to take risks, and make a difference in someone’s day. For all you know, it could change their life. Better yet, make them see Islam in its real shades of colour. I know that God gave me life for a reason. Mine is to make the world a better place wherever I go. My hopes are to illuminate my connections with God by spreading the small acts of kindness which Islam teaches. I challenge you to do just the same because we could all learn a thing or two from a man named Robert.



hey say everyone smiles in the same language. But have you ever considered that we all also feel in the same language? Sometimes we are limited to what we perceive as language. We assume that what we feel can somehow be put into words, or at least, into words we know. Sometimes, we simply cannot say it – even though we feel it. That is what makes these words, compiled below, so special.

1. Espirit d’escalier (French):


Usually translated as “staircase wit,” is the act of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late to deliver it. You know when that person you never met before likes to make snarky comments at you at a family dinner party? And most times you are too taken aback and surprised that you are rendered speechless as to why they would put you on the spot like that? But then you think of the perfect, 8 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | MARCH 2013

witty comeback 5 seconds too late and anything you say now will be just plain awkward.

2. Tartle (Scottish): The act of hesitating while introducing someone because you have forgotten their name. This happens often on a big campus. If you met someone once or twice, indirectly, then it may be excusable. However, if that person was in your class for an entire year and sat beside you discussing the weather or the content on the upcoming midterm, hinting at the possibility of forming a study group, it may be slightly embarrassing to forget this person’s name.

3. Litost (Czech):

A state of torment created by the sudden sight of one’s own misery. Such a state is exhibited after every difficult midterm and you feel as though your entire future flashes before your eyes, leaving little to no room for optimism.

4. Pochemuchka (Russian): A person who asks a lot of questions. Yeah, that guy. In every class.

5. Taarradhin (Arabic): Implies a happy solution for everyone.

This can also be described as an “I win – you win” situation. It’s a way of reconciling without anyone losing face. Arabic does not have a word for “compromise,” in the sense of reaching an arrangement in which the two parties are unsatisfied or “agree to disagree.”

6. Meraki (Greek):

Doing something with soul, creativity, or love. It’s when you put something of yourself into what you’re doing.

7. Guanxi (Mandarin): In traditional Chinese society, you would build up good guanxi by giving gifts to people, taking them to dinner, or doing them a favor, but you can also use up your guanxi by asking for a favour to be repaid. 8. Gigil (Filipino):

The urge to pinch or squeeze something that is unbearably cute.

9. Iktsuarpok (Inuit):

You know that feeling of anticipation when you are waiting for someone to show up at your house and you keep going outside to see if they’re there yet? This is the word for that.

10. Kyoikumama (Japanese): A mother who relentlessly pushes her children toward academic achievement.

We find them in all cultures. Behind every academic achievement is a relentless mother. These words should be appreciated for their own sound, origin and uniqueness when we pronounce them – trying to feel the texture and taste the ingredients of the letters that combine to fill the gaps of the English language. We may try to describe the words – in a few other words – attempting to find the perfect synonym or phrase, but the beauty of these words lies in their ability to transcend across peoples and across times – to unite in the constant that is human emotion.

Most of us make high-pitched baby noises which are probably not benefitting the child in any way, but this is exactly what we are all thinking when we make them.



“Sh e is a qui et l i ttl e gir l, liv in g with h er mother and rela tive s in t h e Fa r m H ada di spl aced - p e o p le s ca m p. She may be poor b u t p ay s at t en t ion to sc hool and yo u r h e lp i s m u c h -needed to fund th is little gir l’s aspi rati ons for an ed u ca tio n .”


his was one of the comments made by the social worker who regularly assesses 5-year-old Amina from Afghanistan. After Amina’s father passed away, her young brother was given the responsibility of taking care of the family as their mother was unable to work outside the home. Thanks to her sponsor, Amina was able to continue with her education. However, her brother was not as lucky and had to leave his studies behind to help earn money and support the family. Such stories are not uncommon in the developing world where children are often challenged on a daily basis with innumerable social, political, and economic problems. Coupled with their lack of basic necessities, they are left at an even greater

The OSP team

Amina and her brother

disadvantage. The Orphan Sponsorship Program (OSP) at the University of Toronto has been working to directly connect these orphans in need with Canadian households willing to help. Basic necessities such as food, shelter, and education are the resources the OSP helps provide to orphans in developing countries. OSP assists them in reaching their true potential. Take a moment to imagine an innocent child growing up without the comfort of his/her parents and living under chronic poverty. Knowing that we can help ease their burden by making even a small contribution helps one understand the gravity of their actions or inactions. Although these orphans might be geographically far away from us, we are all still connected to them. For example, if generations of children are left uneducated in a rural South Asian village, the consequences impact the global population as a whole. Conversely, if we choose to help educate them today, they can build better communities in their respective countries for tomorrow. By assisting them, we can build a greater sense of awareness and responsibility as individuals and as Muslims. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) urged us to maintain good relations with others, especially those who are in need. At the OSP we aim to follow his tradition by creating lasting connections with children much like Amina. If you are interested in helping a child like Amina, please contact the Orphan Sponsorship Program at the University of Toronto today!


Mentorship program @ UofT MSA BY SAMEER ZAHEER


n January 2013, the UofT St. George MSA launched its first ever mentorship program. The objectives of such a program are twofold. Firstly, we want to create a network of students and professionals. Such a network would allow students to gain access to knowledge and opportunities that they do not otherwise possess. Secondly, the program is meant to provide Muslim youth with positive Muslim role models. Muslim role models give Muslim youth the inspiration to strive for excellence in their career without compromising their faith.

It is hoped that the positive companionship that arises out of this program will have many benefits. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The example of a good companion is like that of the seller of musk… The seller of musk will either gift you some [musk], or you will buy some [musk] from him, or at the very least you will enjoy a pleasant smell from him.”

“Muslim role models

give Muslim youth the inspiration to strive for excellence in their career without compromising their faith.”

To keep the program viable, it was designed to be simple and decentralized. Students and professionals sign up at www. at any point in time. The Academic Affairs director matches mentors with mentees according to their interests. The MSA also arranges for an initial meeting of the mentors and mentees, where a speaker also discusses the nature of mentorship and gives them tips. After this initial introduction it is up to the mentors and mentees to continue their relationship.



Things I Didn’t Know I Loved BY OSAMA OMAR A Tribute to Md. Faizur Rahman (January, 1932 – October, 2008): A loving grandpa, a great educationist.


hings I didn’t know I loved, His touch of wrinkled skin. There was always a hint of smoothness, Hidden, concealed deep within. I remember, as a child He lovingly brushed my cheeks, Creaseless; unlike his. Last time we touched? I can’t remember; it’s bleak. Things I didn’t know I loved, His calm, composed eyes. The coolness that resided within, Resemblance with the hue His dignified clemency and authority, Emergent with the iridescent blue. The last time I saw the pair of them, They never opened again. Things I didn’t know I loved, His elderly fragrance of musk. Lush and extravagant, Occasionally it resurfaces And still clings onto my nose, that smell. Wait, before I forget, did I mention? It was strongest on Fridays. If I recall, last time I actually smelt it, The time we bade farewell. Things I didn’t know I loved. The countless hours I spent with him, Now I reminisce in the verbatim dreams, Wishing I had illuminated our love further, Much brighter for the World to see. If I recall, the most vivid of all, Was when his soul was released; free. Things I didn’t know I loved. His husky, handsome voice. Commanding – yet, warm and tender it was a delight to my ear, every time it called my name. The last time I heard it – It gurgled. Wish I could hear, that voice, again. THE MUSLIM VOICE | MARCH 2013 | 13


ther n my fa e h w , s d my han held in I “The ll a b wncast. .” d the o e d p p s e o r y e d re gravely, ying the . told me gone.” He said and he was pla ry before. c is ol “Hakim on your scho never seen him ms unstall e e d ’ f s I s es. rld e y bomb ther’s ey ild’s whole wo g time. Brick b a f y m e h r n c e a lo w , a s t rie for Mois parent c en crumbling lpless. e When a b d d would a o he world h ins. And I sto I thought you . u ble. My r d Mahmu fell into ad just brick it nazah is today gentle. s that h w e s n ja a e e w h e t “Th voic ake in go.” His ing to t ome want to d was still try had bec im in k a m H y . M me. iends to oken to come fr and he been br y, after family Hakim a s o t y r e e h Th e a brot ily. s, becam r e voice h my fam t o r ear-old no b y 0 1 y I, with ,m should my ears Wiser than it o t n e . v . e en ”E m ever be , Baba? en n. “When er than it had ave bee o lose light, wh h ld u ld o o c t d it ll a aid sounde . Sadder than t oil afr nd of bombs f f h ig n n id e u o have be ou burn the m night is the so d in the tears y e f k o n a up. ark s so Whe in the d your bread lie men, you grow y b a ll your lu d you, when ountry n f your c hlessly away. u o o r my d a o g lo b in the become d rut e d d p a n a h ip s r h r t a mothe f innocence is nly. De o rance o The veil child in appea d. I was a . And I watche irs. ality s the harsh re id the land wa They sa was ours. it share. We said e could w id a s. s But we ted it was their is s ple? They in s. ch a peo ime heals u s h ir it e T w Only.Th reason h time. uld you things pass wit in. o c w o H s and I pa e aid thes e soothes the ody. My friend el road s r e h t a F . Tim ad b grav ce. The cold, de , he said wounds Hakim’s small, nal resting pla his fi I carry ions to R n a E p T H m o K c I walk. . He AH A are his blurs as er’s words. t e e f BY IFR way I am ge until y e m h h t t r a r e f a d y a w un time of r over m g at this I ponde t grow up in a eady witnessin lr no He did e things I am a s whose h t w rlet bird wn back a a s c r s e e v e k n li have flo eemed in red s et whose souls d now. la c s nd earth y My frie d to the ie t e f dirt. r a st full o fi bodies a . h r c o t reat I clu to the C ds tremble as n. n a ce solem a h f y . My m go in , t to Hakim death will not rs silen The tea rayer to God, r u o Y ap heart, “ to I make y in my ce.” a s I orn and ” , r s first b ngers. a “Brothe ake a differen w ) S my fi ill m dam (A vain. I w t from which A alls gently from The dir ildren return f in Jennah.” is ch there which h will join you I “Then










owadays, it seems as though whenever you turn on the news, a Muslim nation is making headlines for the wrong reasons. Massacres in Aleppo, corruption in Islamabad, interventions in Mali and assassinations in Afghanistan. It is quite disheartening and often leads us to the question, “Why are these things happening to us?” Why is it that the Muslim world seems to be disproportionately affected by problems of extremism, violence and poverty? While undoubtedly part of this is the fault of the popular media – after all, many non-Muslim nations deal with the same issues – it is still nonetheless clear that we as an ummah (community) have a problem. So what is it and how do we deal with it? When the Prophet (SAW) received his first revelation in the cave of Hirra, one of the first words that Angel Gabriel said to the Prophet was “Iqra”. The Arabic word “iqra” can be translated to mean “read” or “recite”. In telling the Prophet to read, God put emphasis on seeking out knowledge by way of literacy. Historically speaking, Muslims have made significant contributions to science, medicine, literature, and the arts among other things. Cities like Baghdad were once hubs of intellectual activity and centers of thought. Sadly, among the list of countries with low literacy rates, it is not difficult to find a Muslim nation. I am shocked by the lack of discussion regarding the connection between literacy and extremism. I remember watching a TV show on an Islamic television network and the sheikh explained that while people in other countries invested more time reading, in the Arab world, people spent on average ten to fifteen minutes a day reading. There is a two-pronged effect literacy has in creating violent and unstable environments. First, illiteracy, and thereby lack of education, inhibits one’s ability to better his/her situation. Multiply this on a national scale and you get the stagnation of development. From this lack of opportunity, comes out haram taken out of desperation: corruption in government, smuggling drugs, stealing, joining a violent militant group,

etc. Second of all, it seriously limits our ability to understand Islam. Learning about Islam is the responsibility of all Muslims; it does not just rest in the hands of the sheikh. If one does not know how to read, obtaining Islamic knowledge becomes an incredibly difficult task. This difficulty may lead to disadvantaged rural dwellers trying to seek knowledge through less conventional means – through militant religious groups and other such misguided paths. Knowledge is power. When access to knowledge is restricted, people have little reason to question the legitimacy of those in power, whether they be dictators, militant groups, etc. Why else would there be any opposition against all-girl schools or free press? If people are given the opportunity to seek knowledge, they enable themselves to challenge the status quo and bring about change. The Muslim world started in 2011 with the Arab Spring and it is time to keep going with the progress. The fact that development and literacy is connected to violence also poses a threat to the imperialist narrative showcased by Islamophobes. By their account, Islam is a backwards religion stuck in the 8th century and this societal stagnation is the cause of the violence that has gripped the Islamic world. However a review of history calls this logic into question. For a while, when Europe was in the dark ages, the Islamic world was rich with peace and development. During the Spanish Inquisition, for example, thousands of Jews fled Spain for the safety of the Ottoman Empire. So what can we do about this? We can start by heeding the commandment of the first revelation: read. A reminder to myself before anyone else, we must seek out knowledge and pursue both our post-secondary and Islamic education. Once we obtain this, we can use our knowledge as saddaqah (charity) and pass on what we know to our brothers and sisters and humanity in general. Remember, knowledge is the key to improving our situation, we just have to choose whether or not we want to use it. C HA ALLIG FE RA EZ PH SH Y / AIK / H




ine c i d e M m i l s u M y b e r i at S A




our college years come with many wonderful and exciting new experiences. For most students, the majority of those experiences lie within a foggy haze of experimental drugs and acute liver damage. But for Muslim students, that sort of thing is kinda haram. So for us, the MSA serves as our “get-away” from the daily stresses of academia and sleeping through bogus graduation-requirement classes. Or so you’d think. Sometimes the stress and frustration that boils up within us is not from our Professor forgetting to e-mail the class that tomorrow’s 8:00 AM lecture has been canceled – it’s from the very MSA that we seek as a safe haven from the trials of student life. And it’s simply a fact of life that everyone who joins the MSA eventually gets entangled in some form of drama during their college careers. If you haven’t yet, don’t worry – just by reading this article, you’re already involving yourself because I know who you like in the MSA, and I’m totally going to gossip about it. Tee heehee! From my own experience as a former MSA President, MSA Drama is part and parcel of the quintessential MSA experience. It’s all about getting in deep and tossing dirt, pulling beards, and stabbing people with hijab pins because that’s the kind of thing that makes college life EXCITING! It’s like the Muslim version of “Downton Abbey,” only we have modern technology, talk in normal English, have brown skin (for the most


part) and MSA brothers who look like Matthew Crawley would be forced to wear niqab because if I were a sister, I would TOTALLY…lower my gaze at him. But for some reason, MSA Drama seems to cause people a great deal of harm. Perhaps because it destroys relationships, erodes trust, forges suspicions, and poisons the unity of the MSA or something like that? You’re probably thinking to yourself, “yeah, that’s absolutely correct – thanks, Captain Obvious.” Well you’re welcome, Lieutenant Sarcasm. But I know that the big question that’s on your mind is how these drama episodes even start in the first place. The other question on your mind is how this article has any relevance whatsoever to the theme of illuminating connections.

And the last question on your mind is how I’m able to read your mind to begin with and figure out what you’re thinking. You see, drama is a lot like a season of Jersey Shore - it starts off on a foundation of practically nothing over an issue that’s pretty much stupid or non-existent, and then blows up into a huge disaster that may last months or years, entangling everyone involved in a spiral of disappointment, shame, and regret. Drama can engulf your life, ruin your happiness, disrupt your GPA, and may even land you in trouble. So it has connections to nearly everything else in your life – it darkens the illuminations of your connections, and deteriorates your remembrance, recognition, and re-routing of said connections. You see how I made that connection? Pretty sweet – if you need essays written for class, I’m available on a commission basis and I charge market-value rates. I don’t speak Canadian though, so please no essay requests about maple syrup, moose, hockey, free-healthcare, and whatever poutine is, eh. Anyways, here’s an example of how MSA drama usually starts. Let’s say Haroon is an upstanding regular MSA guy. He’s kind of handsome, but not like Zayn Malik-handsome – he looks like a Muslim version of Mitt Romney. Since his sophomore year, he’s really liked Jameela, the MSA Treasurer who’s a Mechanical Engineer major, but he’s never really summoned the courage to try and propose to her. Jameela, on the other hand, has always liked Musa – he’s a rather creepy brother with a beard that smells like old goat cheese, but he got forced by his parents to be a pre-med student so he’s well on his way to becoming a doctor. Let’s be honest here: if Musa is going to be a doctor, Haroon doesn’t stand a chance with Jameela’s parents. So Jameela asks her friend Fatima about Musa, and she backbites about his goat cheese-smelling beard, and then spreads that backbitten rumor on her Facebook status (and tags Haroon in it, because Fatima secretly likes Haroon, and wants Haroon to see that she’s helping him so that he trusts her enough to confide in her). Haroon thinks Fatima is a weird sister because she’s a death-metal-nasheed fan, dresses like

Lady Gaga, and she hides samosas in her hijab and sneaks bites in during lecture. Eventually every sister in Canada finds out about Musa’s beard “problem,” and poor misunderstood Musa never wanted to be a doctor, he just wants to be a Halal meat shop butcher. Because Musa’s been publicly defamed, Jameela loses interest in him and starts to inquire about Haroon. This makes Fatima jealous and so she spreads nasty rumors. Suddenly Jameela is ridiculed by all the MSA girls who think she is an ugly girl with pimples who supports Team Edward. So she cries in the prayer room all alone. Haroon and Musa soon become best friends and they eventually marry their respective second-cousins back in Pakistan. Musa winds up being a miserable doctor who longs to cleave lamb and chicken meat. Jameela and Fatima still say salaam to each other with smiles on their faces and give empty compliments to one another, but pretty much any MSA sister can tell you that they hate each other’s guts. And so everyone lives HAPPILY ever after. THE END. It’s pretty obvious what lesson you need to take away from that entire story. The most critical thing needed to prevent MSA drama is for brothers to properly wash and shampoo their beards and for sisters to seriously stop watching and/or reading Twilight. And I guess it helps for MSA members to lower their gazes, pursue interests in a dignified, halal manner as befitting Islamic teachings, to avoid backbiting and gossiping, to protect and preserve one another’s honour, and to be genuine in both actions and intentions. But in all seriousness, sisters, don’t hide food in your hijab. That’s just bizarre. MSA Drama doesn’t need to rule your college life and destroy your happiness and trust in your fellow brothers and sisters. Shaitan doesn’t run your MSA: YOU do. So stop inviting him to your MSA gatherings and hangouts, he’s kind of a jerk. MSA can be one of the most rewarding and beautiful experiences of your college career. So treat your fellow Muslims with respect, quell drama when you see it boiling, soothe tensions and rebuild friendships with kindness and sincerity – and insha’Allah your MSA experience will once again be full of mercy, blessings, and joy.

MSA can be one of the most rewarding and beautiful experiences of your college career.


By Amina Mohamed

Behold a few Muslims whose talents contribute



of a

Contemporary Religion 20 | THE MUSLIM VOICE | MARCH 2013

greatly to the islamic community. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu:


here is this trend in the academic community where Islam is discussed as a religion of the past. Despite its influence in every region, or the fact that it is the largest and fastest growing religion, it seems Islam’s triumphs and successes are still deemed to be hundreds of years in the past. All our major scholars, calligraphers, architects and so on, according to contemporary consensus, are all dead. How depressing. Alhamdullilah that is not the case. It is far too easy to get caught up in these misconceptions. Far worse is the notion that Muslims must always be on the defensive – that we have little, if anything, to offer to the modern world – why we are part and parcel of the world, literally. While we may not live in a time of a vast Islamic empire, it is safe to say Muslims in every corner of the world have been contributing positively to society, as much as some would love to have you believe otherwise.

The Muslim community is as far-reaching and outstanding as ever, as illustrated by the following individuals. It is important to note that there are far more noteworthy Muslims that were not mentioned in this article. They are in every field and in every sport, if one is willing to take the time to find them. The beauty of Islam manifests itself especially when one takes a step back to admire how diverse our Muslim community is – if we may take a hint from the University of Toronto – boundless. Islam is everywhere. Muslims are everywhere. And while we may come from different nations and tribes, disciplines or social groups, we are all bound together under the banner of Islam. The successes in our past are no less amazing, but they belonged to an emerging religion – one that was, for the most part, regional. Today, from Alaska to Timbuktu, one can find a Muslim and a masjid with ease. We are a community one billion strong, and that number grows every day. And yet, by the grace and glory of Allah, we are as tightly knit as we were at the beginning. Perhaps one day you too will join the ranks of those who bring glory to our community. In sha’Allah.

Currently the first democratically elected secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the second largest intergovernmental organisation after the UN. Ihsanoglu is a global authority on Turkish-Arab affairs. He is the author of numerous books, papers and articles on several topics including the relations between the Muslim world and the West, the history of science and Islamic culture. During his tenure as secretary general, Ihsanoglu has taken many steps to bring about a significant shift of paradigm within the OIC. He has initiated the creation of new departments in the General Secretariat such as the humanitarian and family affairs departments, the establishment of new institutions within the OIC system such as the ‘OIC Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission’ (IPHRC), the ‘Science, Technology and Innovation Organization’ (STIO) and the ‘Special Organ for the Development of Women’. Ihsanoglu has gained international recognition for his work in the rapprochement of cultures, particularly between the Muslim world and the West. He is one of the signatories of “A Common World”, an open letter to Christian leaders calling for peace and understanding.

Sarah Joseph:

Ingrid Mattson:

Founder and editor-in-chief of Emel magazine, the UK’s largest Islamic publication; broke barriers surrounding the discussion regarding Muslims in the West.

Former president of ISNA, Mattson was the first female, as well as the first convert to serve as president of the organisation.

Web designers who started Make Me Believe, a successful web designing company with a plethora of prestigious clientele.

From 2001 to 2006 she served as the vice-president, and was promoted a year later.

They are especially well known for their work within the Muslim and Arab community, but also companies including Sony and the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office have noticed the quality of their efforts.

Having reverted to Islam in 1988 at the age of 16, she sought to increase the amount of positive dialogue between cultures and religions in an effort to reconcile her British identity with her new Islamic one. Emel has promoted the development of new perspectives surrounding intercultural dialogue. Describing itself as “vibrant and dynamic,” the exceptional quality of the magazine and its ever-relevant subject matter allow it to live up to the hype. With hardcopies available in over 30 countries and subscribers in more than 60 nations, Emel has worked its way into the heart of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It is currently the only Islamic magazine with a significant non-Muslim readership. Joseph is the recipient of a Sony Gold Award for her radio work in ‘Beyond Belief ’ with Ernie Ray.

She reverted to Islam in her youth and went on to earn her doctorate in Islamic Studies at the University of Chicago. In 1995 she was an advisor to the Afghan delegation at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She founded the Islamic Chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary, the very first Islamic Chaplaincy program in the US, which she continues to run. She currently stands on the ISNA executive council.

Ruh al-Alam and Abdul Hamid:

beauty of Islam manifests itself especially The

when one takes a step back to admire how


our Muslim community is... THE MUSLIM VOICE | MARCH 2013 | 21


was standing in line for a bus and a few feet ahead of me was a university student in crutches. As I stood wondering what caused his broken leg, a small boy of around the age of 4 or 5 went up to him and exclaimed, “What did you do to your leg?” The university student was obviously amused and replied, “I broke it playing baseball.” Satisfied with this answer the small boy nodded and went back to the end of the line to his mother. I was touched by his concern for


ravelling home from university, sitting on the train, I looked out the window as the train stopped at a station. On the opposite platform, I saw a man. He was walking towards the tracks, and for a moment, I thought he’d walk right onto them. My heart jumped at the sight, thinking he was mad. What on earth was he doing? Then, all of a sudden he felt the edge of the platform with the stick he held in his hand and he abruptly stopped. The man was blind. Sitting on that train at the opposite platform, my heart still racing, I thanked Allah for all of those blessings I take for granted. As I looked around the platform where the blind man stood, I noticed numerous people. In fact, there was a group of teenage boys right next to him. They were heedless of the situation that had just played itself out in front of my eyes. They were so consumed by their gadgets – earphones in, swagger on, and no sign of sight. It was then that I realized how blind we’ve become. We’ve become so consumed in the attempt to fill ourselves that we no longer recognize those times when others need us.


the older boy and oh-so-amused at his bold manner of asking. Sometimes it is hard for us as adults to express our concern to strangers in fear of asking something personal. Thank goodness for inquisitive kids! They are at a more innocent phase in their lives and do not trouble themselves with silly concerns regarding proper manners. - Aisha Ahmed

Seeing that blind man today really made me think. Who is it that’s really blind? The blind man recognized his place on the platform and he figured out when he should stop by using his cane. But what about all those standing by his side? Even with the capacity of vision, they remained blind to the assistance that was required of them. There was no concern, no movement, not even a worrisome glance towards the blind man. Those 30 seconds at that subway station may have opened my eyes to one of our greatest and most deeply rooted problem: we’ve become desensitized. No problem in the world is greater than the discomfort of removing our earphones, taking our eyes off our phone, or taking a few steps because we feel utterly lazy. Those are our justifications, completely blind to everything and everyone but ourselves. And so I wondered what it is that I should do more of: be grateful for my ability to physically see or pray for vision that goes beyond just the physical dimension, somewhere far deeper, somewhere profound. – Hirra Skeikh


will forever be amazed by and grateful for the instantaneous friendships that two hijabis (or two Muslims generally) can begin just by giving each other their salaams or by their exchange of smiles as they pass by one another. They simply recognize one another as Muslim, a believer in Allah and His Messenger, and a sister in Islam. I remember one overcast Thursday afternoon in the winter months in particular, getting on my regular Mississauga bus at Islington station on my way home from class for the day. I sat closer to the front of the bus and a woman wearing the hijab got on after me and sat nearby. Customarily, we exchanged greetings and a little while into the ride, I offered her a piece of my favourite chocolate. She accepted happily and shortly after this we began conversing. Her name was Rouba and she was a mother and wife and lived closer to the city centre, much further down the route than I. After this initial meeting, I would see Rouba almost every Thursday morning; we would take the bus and then the subway together. I would be on my way to class and Rouba on her way to volunteer at the museum.

Early on, she had asked me what I was studying in school. I knew by this time she was Arab and a native Arabic speaker, so I was happy to tell her I was taking the beginner Arabic class at the university. Arabic then became one of the common topics of conversation while we travelled. I will never forget one of our trips, when I admitted to Rouba that I had difficulty pronouncing one of the harder letters when I read and spoke Arabic: ‘ayn. The letter ‘ayn, when pronounced, is essentially a noise that comes from the back of the throat and can be


a difficult letter to learn to pronounce for English speakers because the muscles used to pronounce it are rarely used – there is no equivalent in English. It also sounds a little funny when you are first learning it. I’m unable to recall exactly how it started but I can still clearly remember being on the subway with Rouba practicing the proper way to pronounce the letter ‘ayn and the two of us repeating it back and forth. First would be Rouba pronouncing the letter properly and then my failed attempt which probably unintentionally made my pronunciation and the situation even funnier. We repeated this over and over, interrupted only by encouraging exclamations of “better” or “that was good” by Rouba. I remember getting some strange looks as this all took place and understandably people must have thought our exchange of ‘ayn’s had been odd. Nevertheless, the moment has resonated with me as such a humorous occurrence and I treasure it greatly, so much so that I felt the need to share what took place. Like many of us, my commuting experience and my university experience have been two patterns on the same fabric, intertwining insha’Allah to transport me to the next hub in my line of connections. A place where I am certain Muslims will not cease helping one another and the world will not cease being a classroom. – Anela Zlatic

guess it is only through my commute that I realize the terrible misconceptions that people have of Muslims, specifically hijabis, jilbabis and, most of all, niqabis. I have seen people look confused at the sound of my speech. Who knows - perhaps they assumed that I was an illiterate woman with a thick foreign accent. Lo and behold! They get me and you can just see their faces: dumbfounded. I find it quite intriguing sometimes, smirking underneath my niqab.

let me wear it because they find it a safety issue.” I explained to her that some of my friends had to take it off due to the vulnerability of harassment, susceptibility to name-calling and emotional abuse, and parents’ wish to avoid their daughters from experiencing such abuse. She was blown away from this truth. She replied, “Would you believe that! The media lied.” It was a nice conversation. She thanked me for informing her of the truth and went her way.

One time on a crowded subway, a lady asked me why I wear the niqab. I told her that this is a choice I’ve made because this is something I want to do. Confused, she asked me, “But why?” I said, “Why not?” She understood then that it was just a choice I made, so she went back to her spot. Then, unsatisfied, she approached me again and boldly said, “Did your father force you to wear that?” Stunned, amazed, dumbfounded! I told her, “No. In fact, I had to convince my dad and mom to

I enjoyed proving myself through my speech and defying her stereotype. On her way out of the subway, she made a conscious effort to say bye to me before she left. May Allah guide her, Ameen! -Marwa A.


to follow whereby a veiled figure can give us what we search for? In his work titled “The Alchemy of Happiness,” the famous Muslim scholar Al-Ghazzali refers to one’s heart as a mirror. He states that with every misdeed one commits, darkness is deposited on the mirror of the heart. Likewise, with every act of devotion one performs, a light attaches itself to the heart, removes the veil of darkness concealing it, and returns it to clarity and purity. Whether experiencing a struggle or being in a state of happiness, our predecessors would often reflect on their situation, remain patient and consistent in their faith, and be rewarded for the humility they gained. For example, self-reflection has been used to lift one’s spirit during times of trials and tribulations. In the time of the Prophet (PBUH), Abu Jahl was notorious for persecuting those who practised Islam. Yassir and his wife Sumayyah were the unfortunate recipients of his torment and, due to the complex nature of clan alliances at the time, were left to fend for themselves. One day, however, the Prophet (PBUH) yelled out to them, “Be strong, Yassir’s family, our meeting point is in Paradise.” Despite being beaten and left tied under the sun’s heat, they both refused to renounce their faith. By reflecting on the importance of their belief, Yassir and Sumayyah understood that the hardships of this life are momentary while the pleasures of the hereafter are eternal. They were eventually killed by Abu Jahl and became Islam’s first martyrs, but the legacy of their devotion to God (SWT), His Oneness, and the last Revelation remain with us until today. Similarly, in Surah 12, aya 87 Jacob (AS) tells his sons: O my sons! Go ye and enquire about Joseph and his brother and never give up hope of Allah’s Soothing Mercy: truly no one despairs of Allah’s Soothing Mercy except those who have no faith. Again, the notion of remaining hopeful and trusting in God (SWT) during times of difficulty is reinforced. Self-reflection can also be used as a tool to keep one humble during times of joy. For instance, when the Prophet (PBUH) informed Rabiah ibn Kab that he had served him faithfully and wanted to grant him anything he asked for, this poor young man felt overwhelmed with happiness. Although, before he could respond, he asked the Prophet (PBUH) if he could have some time to reflect on his wish, upon which the Prophet (PBUH) agreed. On the one hand, Rabiah ibn Kab thought about his peers and how far they had progressed in life. He knew that with one dua from the Prophet (PBUH), he could become like them: people of wealth, status, and with

children. However, at that moment, another thought seized his mind. He realized that it would be foolish to waste a dua from the Prophet (PBUH) on the material world and so he began to think more wisely. The next day, Rabiah asked the Messenger (PBUH) to pray to God (SWT) for him to be a companion of the Prophet (PBUH) in paradise. The Prophet (PBUH) asked if this was all he wished for and Rabiah approved. The Messenger (PBUH) made the dua and advised Rabiah to remain consistent in his prayer. Through self-reflection Rabiah ibn Kab was able to comprehend the gravity of his situation and instead of allowing the external economic and social pressures influence him, he connected with his heart and asked for the one true reward: to be alongside the Prophet (PBUH) in the hereafter. Introspection is not restrained to spatial or temporal parameters, but can lead you on journeys of enlightenment extending beyond the world behind your walls. For example, after leaving his hometown of Tus in northeastern Iran at the age of 27, Al-Ghazzali arrived in Baghdad where he eventually became a professor at the Nizamiyyah College.

“with every act of devotion one performs, a light attaches itself to the heart, removes the veil of darkness concealing it, and returns it to clarity and purity”

After working for four years, he underwent a spiritual transformation and realized that unless he left his position and was free to search knowledge of the Divine Presence without worldly distractions, he would never acquire it. Thus, he left for Damascus and other known religious centres at the time and only returned to his birthplace when he was forty-eight years of age. The Moroccan Muslim known as ibn Battuta is another famous scholar who is considered by many historians as one of the greatest travellers of all time. At the age of twentyone, he embarked on a quest to perform Hajj. Knowing that anything could happen along his journey by foot, he painfully parted with his friends and parents. It took him roughly sixteen months to reach Mecca, but before returning home he spent another twenty-four years traveling and documenting his adventures through Northern Africa, the Levant, Turkey, the Middle East, Persia, Central Asia, India, Bangladesh, the Maldives Islands, China, Somalia, Tanzania, and numerous other countries and regions. His travels have been recorded in the book titled “A Gift to Those Who Contemplate the Wonders of Cities and the Marvels of Travelling,” also known as

“The Rihla” or “The Journey.” More recently, in 2012, a Bosnian Muslim man by the name of Senad Hadzic walked from his town near the Bosnian capital of Sarajevo to perform Hajj. The 47-year-old traveled across seven countries, two deserts, and roughly 5650 kilometres without money before arriving in Mecca. The only belongings he carried were a copy of the Quran and Bible in his backpack. While crossing through war ravaged Syria he described how no one shot at him and when he was inspected for his passport, he told the rebels and army of President Assad that “I was on the road to God.” His explanation sufficed for both armed groups with some of them even kissing the Quran he carried. Upon reflecting of his journey, he said, “If I didn’t believe that God was with me, that he was protecting me and guiding me, I wouldn’t have even reached Bulgaria, let alone Mecca.” In the Quran, Allah (SWT) says in Surah 51, aya 20-21: On the earth are signs for those of assured Faith,As also in your own selves: Will ye not then see? In Surah 13, aya 11, He (SWT) also says: …Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls)… However, without self-reflection, how will one see these signs or be aware of their condition? Our predecessors whether poor, rich, scholars, students, men, woman, or children maintained their trust and hope in God (SWT), and used their experiences as tools of character refinement by reflecting and obtaining lessons from them. By doing so, the mirrors of their hearts still resonate with light and purity today. Whether you have the spirit of Ibrahim ibn Adham and give up your riches to embark on a spiritual quest to find the true kingdom of Islam in your heart or someone who spends a few minutes each day reflecting in your room, life experiences no longer feel like an empty void. Rather, they become a means to humble oneself and brings one closer in devotion to God (SWT). I cannot swim or dance, nor do I know karate. I think Noam Chomsky and Ron Paul are the equivalent of Batman and Robin (aka “The Dynamic Duo”) of the academic world. I am not Salafi or Sufi, but was born and am Muslim. I know that not everyone who travels arrives and those who sow do not always reap, but I will continue on my path down the Yellow Brick Road to self-betterment with self-reflection in hand. THE MUSLIM VOICE | MARCH 2013 | 25



he primary objective of a corporation is to make profit for its shareholders. That is its legal objective. Any activity in which it engages that is unprofitable or contrary to this objective can be questioned by its members and board of directors. It should come as no surprise then that a corporation will do anything to sell its products. This is all well and good but where do we, the consuming public, come in? We are targeted through marketing. Marketing has become increasingly sophisticated and embedded in our daily lives. It is so well thought-out that unconscious thoughts or desires to consume are not really unconscious. They are most likely a result of clever marketing we encountered sometime in the recent past. Recently there has been a trend in which bigger companies use smart phones as channels to market their products. A recent campaign by Coca Cola in Hong Kong allowed consumers to interact with its ad by capturing bottle caps and earning points using their smart phones (probably ones overpriced and contract-laden) as the ad was playing. This article is meant to present some insights on how to navigate through consumerism consciously. The ultimate win for marketing is to make a consumer purchase something he/


she did not want, need or plan to buy when they stepped into the shop. Creating needs that do not exist is a victory for any marketer. Yet, this is exactly what most of us do. Having a clear idea of what we want to buy before we step into the store can help solve this problem. The more we look at other appealingly displayed and intelligently marketed products we do not need, the more susceptible we are to buy them. If we go in knowing exactly what we want, zero in only on that product and walk out with it, we have achieved victory.

saler who then re-labels the same products with tags of cheaper brands and sells them at much cheaper prices. Why would they do such a thing? Profits. Due to the forces of supply and demand and in order to maximize profits, producers need to sell a certain amount of items. If they start selling more products they will need to sell them at lower prices because supply of products is greater than demand of products. If they change the prices, they will make less money from every sale (because similar items are priced similarly, so the price changes on all items in a batch and not just one item). This means two things. Firstly, their brand prestige wont remain (which will impact future profits) because they will be selling their products for cheaper and consumers equate cheaper prices with cheaper quality (oh the irony of it). And secondly, they won’t be able to make as much profit on each sale. So their optimal profit will decrease. Cool story indeed!

Creating needs that do not exist is a victory for any marketer.

Another clever little gimmick that we all fall for is brand-naming. Here is an interesting story for you. Most high end brands (including fashion brands) produce products often in larger quantities than are sold. The aura around the brand name allows them to charge higher prices. Most of the time, however, they cannot sell all their products and have stocks of unsold items. So what do these companies do with their unsold inventory? They exercise one of two options: destroy the product (gasp, right?) or strip all labels off the product and sell it at a whole-

So the next time you go shopping, it is perfectly fine if you step into the store with that ‘you can’t fool me’ look on your face.

AT A SECOND GLANCE BY HIRRA SHEIKH Growing up watching and reading about readily labeled beauty symbols such as Cinderella and Snow White, we find the definition of ‘perfection’ becoming encrypted. If everyone believed it, it MUST be true. Beauty is to be white. Beauty is to be tall. Beauty is to be thin. The definition is exclusive. Disagree? Sorry: while we were growing up the women who were portrayed living happily ever after never deviated from this definition. These characters created the realities

right shade of pink, and you most certainly do not see the hour-glass shape in your young and fragile body. There begins the obsession to erase, recreate, and improve your entire existence. You just are not good enough. Out comes the concealer, blush, mascara, the curling iron, followed by hours in the gym and guilt-filled food indulgences, all in the subconscious attempt to achieve your childhood fantasy. Then you grow even older, the proposals begin to come in, and you search for perfection. None seem like Prince Charming. And again, you turn to yourself and begin to question: is it my complexion, the circumference of my waist, or maybe the shape of my eyes? Something must be wrong. And there is something very wrong, but it is with the way beauty and values are subconsciously defined within us. Fairytales of fair princesses may make great bedtime stories, but they most definitely do not provide an accurate understanding of self worth. In fact they become the very reason for a seriously skewed understanding of what it means to be beautiful. If beauty quantified or determined our fate, we would see ‘happily ever after’ in the lives of very different people. The woman glaring back at you, as you gaze at the reflection in the mirror, may look nothing like Cinderella, but that’s exactly why that woman is a splendor of her own.


omewhere in the process of growing up – in the pompom ponytails, hours of playing with Lego blocks and Barbie dolls, cycles of fighting, loving, and arguing with your brothers and sisters – you became the woman in the reflection before you today. Taken back into time, the woman that glared back at you was completely unknown and unimagined. Growing up with a beautiful family, living in your innocence, you created an identity. Taking the best of Belle, Cinderella, and Snow White, you formed a fantasy of your own. You’ll grow up to be beautiful one day, intellectually capable, and the soft loved protagonist. Then one day the most handsome and caring Prince Charming would come into your life and just sweep you off your feet. Quite simple and all figured out, right? Not really. But I’m sure if you’re a girl, you know exactly where I’m coming from. As we girls grow older, these Disneydriven fantasies that we only described to ourselves as long awaiting realities become more and more of an experience taunting and haunting more than anything else. From the length of your hair to the colour of your skin to the size of your waist, you realize you’ll never be your childhood fantasy. That’s probably the biggest question I ask myself today: why were these fantasies so universal among all of my friends and cousins? We all wanted to be that perfect princess.





that they only claimed to describe. Emerging out of innocence, you look at yourself one day, critically. You are not fair enough, your lips and cheeks are not the



“Are we going to be the same as that generation? Will w BY ZENAIRA ALI


y the end of most South Asian dinners, steaming hot cups of chai are paired with steaming hot political discussions. Voices rise and fall, victims are sympathized with and criminals are passionately named and shamed. But then as the night comes to an end, it’s finally time to bid the host adieu, and life carries on as it did before. “I’m sitting with the uncles and all they’re talking about is politics or cricket, but politics is dominant. They would discuss it for hours and hours and then what do they do about it? Absolutely nothing,” Ashar Hakim, 24, said. “That drove me nuts. Are we going to be the same as that generation? Will we talk about these things and do nothing about it?” That’s why the financial specialist and a few of his friends created Project Connect: a platform for individuals to socialize and network for a good cause. “We don’t have to stick with one cause at a time,” Hakim said. “We could pick a different cause with every event we do.” Project Connect’s first event was a black tie affair raising funds for FeedME, an initiative that helps feed the less fortunate in the GTA. “We really want to raise awareness about charities, especially locally, because we want

to give back and this is a great avenue for us to give back,” said Hassan Chaudhary, 23, who has assisted Project Connect. Their first event served two purposes. “The objective was to raise awareness about FeedME and allow people to network,” Chaudhary said. Event attendee Sara Hussain, 24, said the fundraiser was “refreshing.” “There were people from all careers and people of all ages,” Hussain said. “There were people there who are working professionals and people who are still in school.” Although she liked the networking part of it, her favourite aspect of the event was fundraising for a social cause. “You’re having a great time and you’re giving back to the community,” Hussain said. Chaudhary agreed that while there were people from different backgrounds at the event, they had a common passion for charity. “If you were in that room, you would’ve met a couple of really charitable people who focus on giving back,” he said. “One girl went to Kenya this past summer to help out with Free The

Child r e n with her company KPMG. Another guy went to Peru with Doctors Without Borders.” Sidra Butt, 24, who also went to Project Connect’s first event, said




Will we talk about these things and do nothing about it?”

it was a “cool idea.” “In the beginning, I didn’t have much of an impression,” Butt said. “When I actually went there, I realized it was a very, very cool cause.” Hakim said the event allowed people to connect productively.

“They showed off more of their creative skills and teambuilding skills,” Hakim said. “That’s what I wanted for the event – that we’re not just sitting there talking.” Director of SeekersWorks Nader Khan, who was a guest speaker at the event, said the initiative was uplifting. “I think it’s a positive development and a step in the right direction,” Khan said. “It was really good to see young professional Muslims come out regardless of how observant they are in an environment that is open to everyone to do something for someone else.” Going ahead, Project Connect wants to continue raising money for different charities. “Last time we did a fundraising dinner but it could be completely different,” Hakim said. “We could have a dance off or a coffee house that allows people to connect for a good cause.” The organization launched their ‘It’s Cood to be Bald!’ campaign in early March, where they raised money for Islamic Relief ’s orphan sponsorship program. Another incentive to donate to the fundraising efforts? Hitting the

$500 target for this specific campaign means the volunteers would shave their heads. “The goal for the year is to raise $10,000 through various events. Certain events are going to be bigger and certain events will be smaller,” Hakim said. “The vision is to continue doing events that connect people for a good cause.” Although Project Connect currently connects individuals to various charities, they want to be more independent in the future. “We want to carry a charity out ourselves. If we’re raising money to build a school in an African country, we want to send six or seven people there to build it,” Hakim said. “That’s the ultimate vision, but we’re four or five years away from that.” In order to get there, they need to make a name for themselves first. “It will come from promoting as much as we can and building a very strong membership base of people who know about Project Connect, getting the name out there and then continuing to do events that add credibility to our organization,” Hakim said. For more information, contact Project Connect at




Profile for The Muslim Voice Magazine

The Muslim Voice - Volume 18: Issue 2  

The Muslim Voice Magazine at University of Toronto Muslim Students' Association releases its second issue for the 2012-2013 year, regarding...

The Muslim Voice - Volume 18: Issue 2  

The Muslim Voice Magazine at University of Toronto Muslim Students' Association releases its second issue for the 2012-2013 year, regarding...

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