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The

muslimVOICE fall 2009 VOLUME XV ISSUE 2

Ramadan a time for thought, action and change

walaikum as-salaam,

mr. president Measuring the response to Obama’s cairo speech

WELCOME TO

UNIVERSITY

Tips on harnessing the true potential of your education


Presently sponsoring over 130 orphans from over 20 countries. Our goal is to continue to sponsor our current orphans and to help even more. Help us fill in the rest of this map this Ramadan.

For more information and queries, please contact us: osp.uoft@yahoo.ca www.ospuoft.wordpress.com 416-946-7788 (voicemail) University of Toronto St. George Campus 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 405, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1J6


THE MUSLIM VOICE FALL2009 _VOLUMEXV_ISSUEII EDITOR-IN-CHIEF 2009-10 RIFA TAHSINA ALI

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m_

CONTENTS_m LETTER FROM THE EDITOR RIFA TAHSINA ALI TAUS SHAH

MEET THE EXECS

MSA EXECS

WELCOME TO UNIVERSITY

2 4 8 10 12 16 17

YOUNG MUSLIMS.CA

THE MUSLIMS OF SRI LANKA SAMEER ZAHEER

WALAIKUM ASSALAAM, MR. PRESIDENT TAUS SHAH PRIORITY

HORIS MANSURI

I AM SO HUNGRY

ASNA KHADIJA AHMAD

18 19 20 22 24 27

AS WE WATCHED MARWA SAAD

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF 2008-2009 TAUS SHAH ASSOCIATE EDITOR EBADUR RAHMAN MARKETING & PROJECT MANAGER NAVEED ISLAM

DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL JENNA EVANS

THE SPOILS OF WAR FARHEEN ANWAR

LAYOUT DESIGN RIFA TAHSINA ALI TAUS SHAH COVER PHOTOGRAPHY ABEER QA’ATY CONTRIBUTING WRITERS ASNA KHADIJA AHMAD ISHRAQ ALIM FARHEEN ANWAR JENNA EVANS TAHA GHAYYUR TAHA GHAZNAVI ANTON KURATNIK HORIS MANSURI MARWA SAAD TAUS SHAH SAMEER ZAHEER

IN SEARCH OF THE JINN ISHRAQ ALIM

SPECIAL THANKS TO ABDALLA MORSHED YOUNGMUSLIMS.CA

THE FASTING OF RAMADAN TAHA GHAYYUR/ TAHA GHAZNAVI

WHAT’S IN A PRAYER?

ANTON KURATNIK

SEND US SNAIL MAIL The Muslim Voice c/o Muslim Students’ Association 21 Sussex Avenue, Suite 505 Toronto, ON, Canada M5S 1J6

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e-mail us: tmv@uoftmsa.com TMV ONLINE: www.tmv.uoftmsa.com FOLLOW US: twitter.com/tmvmagazine

THE FINE PRINT: The ideas and opinions expressed in this magazine do not necessarily reflect those of the TMV staff, the Muslim Students’ Association (MSA) or the University of Toronto Students’ Union (UTSU).


//EDITORIAL

FROM THE EDITOR’s DESK WANT TO WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR? Send us your response to this issue via e-mail at: tmv@uoftmsa.com.

Assalamu Alaikum, May the peace and blessings of God be with you. I want to begin by wishing you and your family Ramadan Mubarak. May this month of mercy be full of moving reflections, spiritual awakening, delicious food and warm hugs. And may God open for you the doors of His mercy, grant you forgiveness and salvation from the hellfire. To all first year students—welcome to UofT! Despite what it may seem halfway into the year, you have been blessed to be able to call yourself a UofT student. This is an amazing campus (something I only now realize), and if you take advantage of all the resources available to you and get involved [esp. with the MSA!] this will be the start of the most memorable years of your life. Going into my fourth [and hopefully last] year, the start of this school year for me means the start of my final lasting memories at UofT-- most of which will revolve around The Muslim Voice (TMV) magazine. Since 1995, our amazing editors and contributors have established the magazine as professional and reliable, and with your help, God-willing, I hope to ensure that it remains as such. My biggest vision for the magazine is to see that its influence reaches the vast majority of students on campus -- when you look back on your University years, I want you to feel a pang of nostalgia as you remember TMV! The magazine has the potential to engage thousands of students, to raise awareness and educate them on the Muslim faith, practice and opinion. However, this potential can only be met with your help. So please grab some copies of the TMV and give it to your friend(s) and/or leave it someplace where you think someone will find it [and benefit from it]. Thank you in advance! Also, if you would like to help out more (because the success of this magazine depends on you) contact me, Rifa, at: tmv@uoftmsa.com. Finally, I pray that you have an amazing 09/10 school year. Things will get tough, but “know that victory comes with patience, relief with affliction, and ease with hardship.” (At-Tirmidhi) and be reassured that in 10 years from now a crappy chemistry exam won’t matter (at least that’s what I keep telling myself ). Take care, Ma Assalam; peace out.

Rifa Tahsina Ali

editor-in-chief 2009-2010

Well, the year-long rollercoaster ride that is the editorship of The Muslim Voice magazine has finally come to an end for me. My mission throughout the year was to improve the magazine in any way I could. In September of 2008, we published our Clubs Day issue to get the frosh excited about our magazine. Then, we launched the TMV website so that our readers could access all of our content online. And finally, our January 2009 issue was the TMV’s first full-colour issue ever! All of it has made being the TMV editor a truly fulfulling experience. Of course, there’s always room for improvement and I have no doubts that the new editor and my good friend, Rifa., will do an outstanding job this year. Although I’ve learned a lot over this past year, the main thing I’ll take away from this experience will be to always be patient. Whether it’s waiting for people to submit their super-late articles or waiting for the publisher to print our magazine, a little patience goes a long way. So, learn to be patient with others. Not only does it save you from getting a heart attack, but other people appreciate you more, too. Finally, I want to thank all the people who I’ve come across this past year in one facet or another as the TMV editor: the previous year’s MSA exec, the TMV staff, and everyone else who made this a wonderful experience. Thank you! Salaam,

Taus Shah

editor-in-chief 2008-2009

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World’s Largest Muslim Lifestyle Community


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Top (left to right): Shahina Shaikh, Zainab Asadullah, Asma Desai, Sadia Iqbal, Sumaiya Marium, Rifa Tahsina Ali, Asma Maryam Ali. Bottom (Left to Right): Horis Mansuri, Ishraq Alim, Anton Kuratnik, Abdullah Al-Rashid, Anas Inqar, Usama Al-Zaturi. Absent: Muhamad Taher Zohaib.

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Anas is in Physical Health and Education which is also commonly known as kinesiology, but, here at U of T we have to do things a little differently. In his program it’s all about benching textbooks not reading them. He has yet to see a lecture hall after one year in the program.

Vice President, Sisters vp.sisters@uoftmsa.com

SHAHINA SHAIKH ISHRAQ ALIM

Anas believes that he is working for you! So, if you have a concern or a suggestion or anything at all to say and don’t contact him then he will be really sad. He believes the MSA can be a place where all people from this huge campus of ours can network, socialize, have fun and make a difference! He also happens to be a board of director for UTSU. This means you can bring up any concerns you may have about campus life in general to him as well. You can find him on the internet at www.keepingithalal. com where he blogs, promotes artwork, involvement and much more! So, apart from his hobby of listening to concerns… He likes to socialize, play sports, study, urr I mean ummm..  free food? Which reminds me! Come volunteer and attend MSA events, your source for free halal food on campus! Salam!!!

Shahina Shaikh is a fourth year student studying Health and Disease and French. She has been an active MSAer ever since her frosh years. Her main goal as V.P. sisters is to make sure that the MSA is easily accessible to everyone so that it can unite all the Muslim students on campus – especially the sisters. More importantly, she hopes to prove to everyone, especially new froshies, that the MSA is actually quite cool and their events are THE place to be at university (when you’re not studying at the library of course). Shahina can be usually seen at ‘sciency’ locations around campus, pretending to study and/or divulging in chocolate :). She encourages everyone to get involved with the MSA and help bring the ummah together, insha’Allah. She hopes she can work with all of you, so if you would like to get in touch, just email her: vp.sisters@uoftmsa. com. She looks forward to meeting you all! Ishraq is your 09/10 MSA Communications Director and has just started his 8th year of university. He has a lot of friends and is exceedingly cool. In his spare time he enjoys being awesome. He enjoys awesome activities such as eating out of the garbage, falling asleep during MSA exec meetings and washing his feet in drinking fountains when the washroom is occupied. In fact, Ishraq is so awesome that he was recently appointed interim Mayor of Awesometown, where he currently resides.   Ishraq thinks his position is important because if you can’t communicate then no one can get your message. Ishraq plans to implement a giant campus wide network of tin-can and string telephones so that we can “stay in touch”. When it comes to direct communication he plans to use something called the “internet” to send something called “emails” to all MSA members, this is state of the art technology currently being employed by the MSA at U of T.  Ishraq plans to one day graduate, retire and spend his money on buying (non-gold) grills. He would also like to give a shout-out to his entourage: his parents, his sisters, his grandmother and his cat.

Secretary secretary@uoftmsa.com

ANAS INGAR

Vice President, Brothers vp.brothers@uoftmsa.com

When Asma’s not on campus, she’s off teaching for the joy of it. She adores kids. You might also find her fighting crime around the city (training in tae kwon do) or zipping around in what she affectionately calls her Bat Car. Don’t lose sight of her though—when left alone to write or philosophize, she’ll travel as far as cottage country or go out of the country for some time alone. On the other hand, you might find her as close as the nearest Tim’s, sipping tea and waiting for a good chat. She can’t wait to meet you, so don’t hesitate to connect!

Communications Director communications@uoftmsa.com

When Asma was completing her B.A. in History and Political Science at U of T, she served the MSA as Outreach Coordinator and Sisters’ Vice President. Asma’s passionate about the MSA because it’s shaped her life significantly and she wants others to benefit from it as much as possible.

ASMA DESAI

President president@uoftmsa.com

Asma Maryam Ali

Asma’s passion is education and development. She’s in the second year of her M.A. in Education at OISE-UT. Asma’s been an eager beaver since her teens, working with youth organizations across the city.

Asma (the secretary, and not the president) is in her third year of industrial engineering. To make the lives of all the MSA members easier and less stressful, she has decided to allow you to call her anything as long as you give her a heads up. Whether it be Asma D, D, secretary, desia, bg, tomatoe, or whatever else you can think of. Asma is very excited to join the MSA this year and would like to warn all of her fellow brothers and sisters that this year the MSA is sure to blow their minds. Not literally I hope. She would like to encourage everyone to join the MSA and plan and participate

FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/5


No Study = Fail + Study = No Fail ________________________ No Study + Study = Fail + No Fail Study (No+1) = Fail (No+1) --> Study = Fail Hence, she clearly believes in committing most of her time, if not all, towards MSA, as she see’s no point in studying. This is clear in the formula stated above, which she actually discovered randomly on Facebook while searching for friends!

abdullah al-rashid

Sadia is going into her second year and hopes to major in Global Health and Cell & Molecular Biology! Throughout her first year at U of T, she discovered a formula during one of the many tedious chem. labs:

together we may strive for success in this world and in the hereafter. So if you have an interest in being part of this awesome endeavour, a.k.a outreach committee, or have questions or suggestions for her, feel free to bombard (oops, bad idea to use such terms in a Muslim magazine…) her with e-mails at outreach@uoftmsa.ca. Religious Accommodations Coordinator religious.accommodations@uoftmsa.com

Sadia iqbal

Treasurer treasurer@uoftmsa.com

in their events. She believes the MSA is for Muslim students made by Muslim students and would like to make sure the voices of all MSA members are heard. Please feel free to email her at secretary@uoftmsa. com because a secretary can do more than just book rooms and take minutes!

Over the years she has been greatly benefitted by the opportunities and initiatives taken by the MSA, alhamdulillah. This year she has finally mustered the courage to attempt to pay it forward. She realizes her position as the outreach coordinator is deeply humbling, and comes with great responsibility. She vows to remain sincere and steadfast, insha’Allah, in spreading the beautiful message of Islam to the Muslim and non-Muslim students alike so that

6/THE MUSLIM VOICE/FALL 2009

zainab asadullah

Sumaiya is a first year master’s student in Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology (that’s right, it currently holds the provincial record for longest departmental title). Her research interest lies in cells lining blood vessels and their genetics…sort of. She successfully survived an undergraduate degree at U of T, and liked it enough to come back for graduate studies (what’s wrong with her??). So if any of you feel stressed, bored, dismayed over school/campus-related issues, holla’ at her and she will summon up her knowledge of numerous on-the-verge-of-nervous-breakdownbut-turned-out-fine experiences to try and help.

Abdullah has tried to put some of his best efforts into planning for his committee. He intends to campaign for better wudu facilities on campus with sinks at shoulder-level, so that every Muslim student may stay fit through regular stretching exercises before salāh. He also plans to ensure that the weekly khutbah offer important insights into String Theory, Ergodic Functions, Stimulated Neurogenesis, Femtosecond Reaction Kinetics, etc., delivered by a stand-up comedian khatīb. Furthermore, he is looking to enhance the MSA’s halaqāt by offering instruction of languages like French, Mandarin, C, C++, Java, etc., besides continuing the ever-important instruction of Arabic. Lastly, he promises to make the MSA more accessible to the members by running an open-doors gaming café in the MSA office during office hours. If any of these ideas seem unreasonable to you, you should let Abdullah know as soon as possible. If not, then you should get in touch sooner, so that he can work with you to make the MSA even better. Email him at religious.accommodations@uoftmsa.com.

Sisters’ Events Coordinator sisters.events@uoftmsa.com

sumaiya marium

Outreach Coordinator outreach@uoftmsa.com

Above all, Sadia loves to laugh and have a good time. She is actually very hardworking with both her studies and her extracurricular activities (including MSA), but she does like the occasional corny math joke (see above). She can be easily reached at treasurer@ uoftmsa.com or can be found during her office hours at Sussex. Sadia looks forward to seeing everyone of you!

Abdullah is in his fourth year of studies in Engineering Physics. Besides studying, he enjoys learning things not related to studies. He likes sports, especially ones he can play and not just watch. Most importantly, he enjoys MSA activities.

Zainab Asadullah is a second year student studying English and Political Science. When she is not studying or working with the M.S.A. she iss busy trying to make friends with her favourite opening line, “Want to be my friend? HUH? HUH? I like unicorns, you know!” Good luck with that. So if you see her on or around campus don’t be afraid to go up and talk to her, she’ll love you loads for it! Her favourite food is apples and frozen yogurt. But not together, because that’s kinda gross. She may seem kind of strange at first, but she promises that she’s very sane and prays five times a day as well as reading her Quran like a good little Muslimah- so really, how crazy can she actually be? Right? In addition to her, ahem, uniqueness she is very passionate about human rights- particularly the plight of children in developing nations. She spends


altogether far too much time on BBC news as well as reading lengthy and rather boring papers on such things as diasporas, Ugandan politics- and for some inexplicable reason, weather patterns of Norway.

jummah – whichever one you find more convenient. All joking aside, though, Anton is very interested in your ideas for the year. If you have any causes or service events on your mind, he wants to hear from you! Do not hesitate to contact him with any other ideas or questions. Email him or find him on campus (as outlined above), and he will be sure to get back to you ASAP, insha’Allah!

anton kuratnik

Community Affairs Coordinator community.affairs@uoftmsa.com

usama Al zatari

Students for World Justice Coordinator swj@uoftmsa.com

Usama is a fourth year student at U of T in the Philosophy and Political Science Specialist program. Besides being Committee Head for Students for World Justice (SWJ), Usama is also an Arsenal fan, and he jumps at the opportunity to engage with both Arsenal fans and non-Arsenal fans to convince people of the importance of supporting the Arsenal. When he is not memorizing a Malcolm X quote or watching the Arsenal, he is thinking of a new major to replace his boring/crazy Philosophy Major. As head of SWJ this year, Usama hopes to be able to introduce people to injustices occurring around the world, while encouraging all to fight injustice. He would be happy to hear your advice and suggestions. He is even willing to consider the advice and suggestions of non-Arsenal fans.

horis mansuri

Mohammad is a second year student in Medical Radiation Sciences. A 3 year program in Radiation Therapy. Hailing from St. John’s, Newfoundland (the most eastern part of North America) Mohammad is always ready for adventure (well that’s why he took this position). He doesn’t just play one sport he plays all of them ( a reason why he is “a good sport”). Mohammad loves food and thinks food and people are the best combination for a great time, a reason why you will find him calling people to go out for food all the time. Mohammed is in Toronto for only one more year before he ventures out to another city or country, so come out and meet this new creature from a far away island in the Atlantic ocean

Academic Affairs Coordinator academic.affairs@uoftmsa.com

mohammad zoheb taher

Brothers’ Events Coordinator brothers.events@uoftmsa.com

She’d also like to remind everyone that if you want to contact her, whether it is a question, concern or just for a chat- please do! Email her at zainab.asadullah@ gmail.com.

Horis has been involved with the MSA since his first year at the University of Toronto. He has participated and volunteered for events such as the MSA Eid Dinner, Sandwich Run for the Homeless, and Ramadan Iftars. He is currently finishing a Human Biology degree specializing in Health and Disease along with a minor in writing and rhetoric. He enjoys working with people and volunteering at the Royal Ontario Museum. Horis is also a very active person and can be spotted playing basketball at the AC or working out at Hart House. As coordinator of Academic affairs this year, he has worked hard and spent a great deal of time to prepare events and opportunities that will, insh’allah, enhance your learning experience here at U of T. UPDATE: Horis has recently resigned due to personal issues. His position will be filled immediately and you will be informed as soon as it does. Thank you, Horis, for your contribution and may God bless your efforts and make things easy for you-- we will miss you!

Aside from being the exec’s token white guy, Anton’s goals for this year are eradicating poverty, curing cancer, and taking over the world. That means that if you want to be anyone significant when he is in power, you better befriend him soon by showing up to his awesome community service events this year. After all, who wouldn’t want to be part of the team that cures cancer anyway? When he is not busy scheming, Anton is simultaneously drawing odd financial graphs and maps of the 16thcentury Middle East, thus truly pursuing both aspects of the “Arts and Sciences” major. He is also a very friendly guy and urges you to stop by and say salaam when you run into him at Robarts at 3 am, or at

FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/7


WELCOME TO UNIVERSITY So you’ve finally made it to the university of your choice! You’ve heard, seen and perhaps even been to all the cool ‘disorientation’ week activities and wild residence parties. You have introduced yourself to all of your floor mates in residence (‘rez’) and figured out all the ‘hot-spots’ on campus. You have checked out the new crowd and are looking forward to spending a ‘lot’ more time at school. And maybe, just maybe, you’ve found your way to your classes and paid a visit to your university bookstore! If any of that sounds familiar, then you have had a taste of the 4-year all-fun-and-games experience known as university life! Needless to say, that statement is completely false, and if you haven’t already figured that out, then you soon will. The freedom of university life comes with great responsibilities. You are no longer under the guidance and supervision of your parents and family, neither in the security and comfort of your home, nor in the

8/THE MUSLIM VOICE/FALL 2009

Z

THIS ARTICLE IS REPRINTED FROM YOUNGMUSLIMS.CA Check out www.youngmuslims.ca for lots more Islamic resources, such as interesting articles, informational brochures and much, much more!

company of loved ones who are willing to cater to your needs. You are in a new environment where not only are you ‘free’ to do as you please without anyone giving you a second look, but in fact ‘encouraged’ to do all it takes to fit in with the crowd. As a Muslim, you know better than that. The people you will meet do not have the same priorities as yourself. In fact, most of them are not sure ‘what’ their priorities are or if they have any to begin with. You will hear the word ‘fun’ a lot, which will be used to justify almost anything imaginable and sometimes beyond! You will face situations where all that is between you and the greatest Fitna (trial & tribulations) is your Muslim identity, selfdignity and conscience. Dear brothers and sisters, be on guard and know your-


A Meurslsiimty Uniuvdent’s St ecklist Ch “You shall certainly be tried and tested in your wealth and properties and in your personal selves, and you shall certainly hear much that will grieve you from those who received the Scripture before you and from those who ascribe partners to Allah, but if you persevere patiently, and become AlMuttaqun (the pious) then verily, that will be a determining factor in all affairs, and that is from the great matters, [which you must hold on with all your efforts]. {The Holy Quran 3:186}

self. Think about why you are at university, for whom are you putting yourself through this, and what do you hope to achieve in the end? As in life, you must be absolutely sure of your ‘purpose’ and ‘direction’, or you will lose yourself in the crowd. Know that you are a Muslim, know that you are His servant, know that you are His Khalifah (vicegerent), and know that you are accountable to Him first and foremost. And what greater sense of purpose than to know that your goal is Allah(swt)! But if you are going to university only to have fun, then know that there are far less expensive ways of doing so. Keeping that in mind, we have provided some tips to make your life at university a more productive, beneficial, stress-free and ultimately more enjoyable LEARNING experience. If you properly utilise this important time of your life, you can harness the true potential of your university education, and insha-Allah leave university not only as a more knowledgeable student, but as a better (and pro-active) Muslim!

* Find your university’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) office: there you can… o locate the daily prayer space and Prayer timings o weekly Juma prayer location o meet and introduce yourself to other fellow Muslim students o find Islamic books, audio and video tapes o stay up-to-date on MSA events and announcements o find Muslims to share a room, apartment, or house with o come to relax between classes and read some Quran in peace! * Attend the MSA orientation week activities: o to find your way around campus and the area around the university o to find Halal food places on and off-campus o to find Muslim brothers/sisters hang-outs o to find off-campus prayer spaces for weekends o to find Muslim residences in case of emergency o to make new friends (and get free food!) * Attend Islamic events organized by your MSA: o weekly Halaqas, normally held on Friday evenings o good way to wind down the week o a great learning experience o access to a Shaikh (a.k.a. your personal councillor!) o strengthens your Iman and identity and prepares you for the next hectic week o participate and volunteer in ‘Islam Awareness Week’ activities * When things go wrong: o do not underestimate the power of prayer and Dua* o in everything, seek Allah’s Help and seek His protection and strength o in times of distress, remember your goal and purpose, remember Allah(subhanahu wa taala), remember your relationship to Him (sometimes that is all you will have to motivate you!) * And finally… o don’t make the university experience any harder than it already is by trying to wing it on your own. You can’t! o we all need help and positive reinforcement, and advice from those who have gone through the same experiences FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/9


the muslims of

sri Lanka

* VOLUME XV ISSUE 2 * SPRING 2009

WRITEr :

The Muslim Voice

In a country dominated by the Sinhalese and Tamil, where do the Muslims fit?

10 THE MUSLIM VOICE/FALL 2009 10/

SAMEER ZAHEER


//GLOBAL Recently, the ethnic tensions of Sri Lanka spilled into the streets of Toronto, resulting in large-scale protests. Most of us are probably familiar with the Tamil minority (18.5% of the population) and the Sinhalese majority (73.8%) in Sri Lankza. But did you know that Sri Lanka has a large Muslim minority, too? The Muslim community of the nation, comprising just 7.6% of the total population, is quite diverse, comprised of three main groups: Indian Muslims, Malays and the “Moors”. The vast majority of Muslims in Sri Lanka are “Moors,” meaning they are descendents of Arab immigrants, who came to the island from the eighth to the fifteenth centuries AD. They make up 93% of the Muslim community. The rest is composed of Muslims from South Asia (also known as the Indian Muslims) and Southeast Asia (the Malays). These latter groups immigrated during the British colonization of India and the Dutch colonization of the East Indies.

History Through the better part of history Muslims have enjoyed religious tolerance. The early Sinhalese kings favored Moor merchant communities due to the commerce and trade they generated. Many Moors married local women, and became integrated within local cultures, but preserved their Islamic heritage. There are even legends that, at certain points in history, Sri Lanka had a Muslim ruler. Beginning in the 16th century, however, Moors faced persecution at the hands of the Portuguese colonizers. Muslims have also suffered during the Sri Lankan conflict. The Sri Lankan Muslim Congress (SLMC), founded in 1981, opposed a separate Tamil state. In 1990, Muslims of the Northern province, which includes the city of Jaffna, were forcibly removed from their homes and resettled elsewhere. Nor were the Muslims immune from massacre. On August 3, 1990, four mosques in the Muslim town of Katthankudi were simultaneously attacked and 147 Muslim men and boys were killed while praying Isha. The condition of Muslims, however, has improved since then. As early as 1993 the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (also known as the Tamil Tiger) wished for the Muslims to return to their homes in the Northern province, and in 2002 the group formally apologized to the Muslim community for the expulsion. Many Muslims have returned, re-opened the Osmaniya college of Jaff-

na and currently two mosques are in operation. Nonetheless, most Muslims have yet to be repatriated to their homeland and extortion of Muslim merchants remains an issue.

Society

Politically, Muslims are represented by two parties. The SLMC currently holds 5 (out of 225) seats in the Sri Lankan parliament. The other party, the Muslim National Unity Alliance, is a left-leaning party that formed a coalition with the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance. Judicially, the Quazi courts administer Muslim family law which was established by the Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act of 1951. Overall, Muslims seems to be a well integrated minority in the nation. One example of this is that until the early 20th century, many Muslims received education, including Qur’anic classes, in Buddhist monasteries. Culturally, Muslims resemble their Tamil and Sinhalese neighbours, while retaining Islamic customs and practices. Some Moors speak a dialect of Tamil that is influenced by Arabic, while other Moors are multilingual. The Malay Muslims speak Malay, whereas the Indian Muslims come mainly from Sindh, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

Them and us

The Muslims of Sri Lanka are both a religious and ethnic minority, much like the Muslims of North America and Europe. Like many of us, they too emigrated from various parts of the Muslim world and they found themselves in a different culture and adopted the local languages and culture. Nevertheless, Sri Lanka is a multi-faith and multi ethnic country—just like Canada—and the Muslims were able to integrate into Sri Lankan life. Unlike us, however, the Sri Lankan Muslims have more than a thousand years of experience living in a land where they are a minority. They have also had to deal with persecution and expulsion, something Muslims in the West are fortunate enough to have never suffered. Perhaps there is a lot we can learn from them.

) s

HAVE ANY QUESTIONS FOR US? If so, then leave a comment on our website at www.tmv.uoftmsa.com, or e-mail us directly at: tmv@uoftmsa.com!

FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/11


walaikum assaLaam, mr. PREsident WRITER :

12/THE MUSLIM VOICE/FALL 2009

TAUS SHAH


//POLITICS MEASURING THE response to OBAMA'S CAIRO SPEECH IN THE MUSLIM WORLD It’s mid-day on a hot June day in the busy city of Cairo, but the streets leading up to Cairo University are unusually quiet. A driving ban is in force and cars are being diverted from the venue where an important speaker is expected. The media has been abuzz with speculations about what will be said and people in the streets have their own ideas about what they will hear. The speech is being broadcast live into every tea shop and many households in Egypt and around the globe. The audience in the Grand Hall of Cairo University, who had to get through throngs of security checks to sit in the elegantly decorated hall, sits nervously in anticipation of what they know will become a topic of global interest to be debated and analyzed for weeks, if not months. They watch senior diplomats enter the hall and take their seats close to the front of the stage when suddenly, a man announces over the hall’s speaker system: “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.” Loud cheers and thunderous applause follows as he emerges from behind the maroon curtains, pausing briefly to lift his hand in appreciation of the adoration that fills the hall. Then, he makes his way to the podium, gesturing back to the crowd whenever he hears their applause get louder. Finally reaching the podium, he is set to deliver the speech everyone came to hear and check off a campaign promise made during his presidential campaign. But first, he thanks the crowd and asks them to be seated. They, of course, reply with more applause and shouts of “We love you Obama!” Without further ado, President Barack Obama begins his now famous speech, appropriately titled “A New Beginning.” He begins by speaking about the timeless city of Cairo and al-Azhar University, the centuries old center of Islamic learning. And, then, he effortlessly greets the audience with the Islamic salutation of “As-salaamu alaikum” (peace be upon you) and the crowd goes wild with cheers. When watching Obama’s speech in Cairo, one feels a calming reassurance that the White House of the last eight years is no more, and that the new American presidency will be different. The crowd is absolutely in love with this new American president and he seems to understand his unique position in history. But does the reception of Obama in the illuminated Grand Hall of Cairo University reflect the

opinion of the average Muslim? From the importance of democracy and women’s rights in the Muslim world, to the legitimacies of each side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the speech did indeed cover many aspects of the issues that concern Muslims globally. But how did Obama’s Muslim audience perceive his speech and did it have the intended effect? Was it successful in reaching out to the Muslims and mending the gap between America and the Muslim world that existed during Bush’s presidency? The answer: it depends. On what? Read on below. The effect of Obama’s speech, being referred to in the media as the “Cairo effect,” has affected the diverse Muslim populations varyingly—differing in opinion across political, ethnic and even sectarian lines. According to the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project, however, a majority of the Muslim nations have more confidence in President Obama in world affairs than they had in former President Bush back in 2008—we all could’ve probably guessed that. The study revealed that some Arab countries, such as Egypt and Jordan, where the view of the United States was already not very favourable, still showed a significant rise in confidence in Obama’s foreign policy judgements—42% of Egyptians and 31% of Jordanians have confidence in the U.S. under Obama in 2009, as opposed to 11% and 7%, respectively, a year ago when Bush was in power. However, the biggest rise in confidence has come from non-Arab states, such as Turkey and Indonesia, where 33% (an increase of 31% since 2008) and 71% (an increase of 48% since 2008) of the populations, respectively, said that they had confidence in Obama. Interestingly, the difference in opinion about President Obama also runs across sectarian lines. In Lebanon, Sunni Muslims were far more confident in Obama (65% of Sunnis) than were either Lebanese Christians (46%) or Shi’a (26%). The reaction in Israel and the Palestinian territories was especially important since Obama had made the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a main point in his speech. Israeli people’s confidence in Barack Obama’s leadership dropped from 60% to 49% after the Cairo speech; contrastingly, the Palestinian view of Obama’s leadership rose, albeit slightly, from 21% to 26%. Even though Obama took some very important steps when talking about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the effect of these steps did not significantly alter the opinion of the two populations—a majority of Israelis (63%) still held a favourable view of America, and an overwhelming majority of Palestinians (80%) still held an unfavourable view of America after Obama’s speech. But,

FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/13


interestingly enough, the percentage of Palestinians who feel that the current president will better consider their interests rose dramatically from 27% to 39% after the Cairo speech. One other aspect of the study should sit very well with most Americans: the Bin Ladens and the al-Zawahiris of the world are becoming increasingly marginalized in the Muslim world when compared to Barack Obama. Last year, the Muslim world, on average, actually had more confidence in the terrorist mastermind Bin Laden than in President George W. Bush. This year, however, almost all Muslim countries surveyed (with the exception of Pakistan and the Palestinian territories) have more confidence in Barack Obama than they have in Osama bin Laden. Hence, at least one underlying goal of the Cairo speech has been achieved: the extremists and terrorists are losing

i

FOR MORE INFORMATION, check out the Pew Global Attitudes Project online at www.pewglobal.org. Research for this article was derived from the July 23, 2009, report entitled “Confidence in Obama Lifts U.S. Image Around the World.”

14/THE MUSLIM VOICE/FALL 2009

their popularity as compared to the young, hip American president. Although the Cairo speech surely marks a break from the Bush presidency, there’s a growing number of Muslims asking President Obama to follow through with his promises of even-handed diplomacy with the Muslim world. On the other hand, critics warn supporters of Obama and those on the fence to not put much weight in Obama’s words until he backs them up with actions. Whatever the case may be, the change in philosophy and tone that Obama has brought to the White House should be reason enough for optimism about the future, if not the widespread Obama-mania in the Muslim world.

U }

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//POETRY

priority WRITEr :

Once Seeking forgiveness I laid my head to the floor I was down But I wasn’t out In my repentance I was sincere In my submission it was clear This was my priority Prostration Since then figuring that I have been figuring life out

16/THE MUSLIM VOICE / FALL 2009

HORIS MANSURI

I let myself get distracted My priority left less enthusiastically enacted Started thinking of myself as self-sufficient but that ain’t even like it that way of thinking was so deficient thought I was the sole commander of my fate but now my soul knows better of its state; How one can easily forget their’s


ost Gracious, Most M erci

ful

en a

I

me

of A

the M , h lla

In th

SO am Hungry

There’s a hunger living in me. Have any food? Sorry, no use. My heart craves and cries For that one Love that never dies. Yes, that’s where my hunger lies.

Will I reach that level so high? Of earning His Love before I die? My actions and deeds Can only reply. Along with the obligatory ones, Voluntary deeds must be done. The path by which His Love is won.

O! I hunger for Your Love, I’m dying to have that place up above. You Alone I seek to please, And You Alone I need. O Almighty! I’m starving for You! Please help us, bring us closer to You! R

Ameen.

OU

ND

IM

AG E

:B

ASNA KHADIJA AHMAD BA CK GR

WRITEr :

ILL YA

LEX

AN

[Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 509]

DE

Allah said, ‘My slave keeps on coming closer to Me through performing Nawafil (praying or doing extra deeds besides what is obligatory) till I love him, so I become his sense of hearing with which he hears, and his sense of sight with which he sees, and his hand with which he grips, and his leg with which he walks; and if he asks Me, I will give him, and if he asks My protection, I will protect him...’

O Tears of my heart! Fill my eyes. Got to win surely The Love of Allah, the Wise!

FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/17


as we as we as we watched watched watched WRITEr :

We watched from a world half away As they slaughtered you day after day We watched your struggle with pain in our eyes As our hearts filled with despise We watched and prayed for you to be saved As they increased their hatred and their wrath, you never caved We watched you bury those whom were gone Doing it with the ritual, as you tried to remain strong We watched as your land became a burial ground They not understanding that the pain would not crush you, and that you would rebound We watched your strength Knowing that you would rebuild no matter the length   We watched the world stop for a couple of days to watch the events unfold But soon they were ready to move on, leaving your struggle mainly untold We watched the rise of the death toll count As the ummah’s (Muslim community’s) grief continued to mount We watched you there, the center of it all Ready to rebuild, not wanting to stall   We watched the political world use your pain Like a game, they tried to jerk your chain We watched as they called your homes before they crushed them with you inside And you quickly trying to scurry away to a friend’s home to hide We watched as you searched for a safe place to stay To escape the massacre that was destined to end your day   We watched as they stopped the war to let in food Only to start again the feud

18/THE MUSLIM VOICE / FALL 2009

MARWA SAAD

We watched as they played their game Pretending to care about you, yet having only one aim We watched as they conjured your loss as an accident of war But we all knew that it was about the score We watched as you implored for our help But your dignity too strong to yelp We watched as no one equal defended your side We hated them for letting you down and trying to hide We watched and continued to pray For the deaths to stop without a delay   We watched you And you made us proud for being true We watched you and wished there was something we could do And so we prayed for Allah to see you through We watched and tears came to our eyes Knowing that our own strength compared to yours was of marginal size We watched you pray Friday prayers today No mosque, yet out you came to their dismay We watched this simple act And saw the solidarity behind it and knew that we were hanging on, intact We watched from far away Yet your struggle, with us it will stay

U }

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daddy’s girl little J WRITEr :

//PERSONAL

JENNA EVANS

A Reflection on my Relationship with my NonMuslim Father

my childhood and adolecence, he in England and I in the United States, I rarely felt his absence. My step-father filled that gap with love, laughter, and genuine concern. Even as our family expanded when my half-sisters and brother were born, I never felt I was any less a member of the family nor did I feel that I had less of a right to call Abdalla, “dad.”

Every now and then I crawl into the storage room of my home and retrieve the dusty, oversized box where I keep my albums. Like always, I cannot help but pause when I come across a photo of my biological father, Mark. With his brown hair, hazel eyes, and European flair, convincing myself that I am indeed his offpsring is a challenge! I study the photos searching for a resemblance and my eyes light up when I realize (again) that we both share that same off-centered smile.

Despite having a loving family, thoughts of my biological father creep into my life from time to time. I harbor mixed emotions towards him. I have many questions for him that even now, as an adult, I shy away from asking. I contemplate whether it is right or fair to call them both “dad.” I feel both bitterness and peace, both regret and hope, and I dream of a day when my relationship with Mark will mirror the fatherdaughter bond I share with my step-father.

I enjoy flipping through my photo collection – reliving memories and piecing together parts of my childhood that I do not recall. When I am done, I return the photos to their dark corner of the storage room until the next time I feel the need to revisit the people, places, and stories of my past. Like the other photos, those of my father are returned to their places within the box. Surprisingly, when I think about or speak of my father, it is not Mark’s image that comes to mind. Instead I see the strong face of my step-father, Abdalla, with his kind brown eyes and cleft chin. After all, I have been calling him “dad” for the past eighteen years. Mark, my biological father, is of Welsh origin and was a convert to Islam at the time of marriage to my mother. They were divorced several years later when Mark left Islam. My mother was soon remarried, and I quickly grew accustomed to calling my step-father, “dad.” I continued to maintain a relationship with my biological father via letters and cards that I would eagerly wait for on special occassions. Even though my father and I were worlds apart throughout

The Quran commands us to treat our parents with kindness: “Worship none but Allah only, and be good to your parents” (Al-Baqarah, 2:83). There is no mention of religion. In fact, in a hadith we are told that the non-Muslim mother of Asma’ bint Abi Bakr came to Madinah to visit her. Asma’ asked the Prophet (peace be upon him) how she should treat her mother, a disbeliever. The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, “Do an act of kindess to her” (Al-Bukhari). Indeed, Islam supports the cultivation of positive relationships between and among relatives, regardless of religious belief or practice. In keeping with these teachings, I have made every effort to be rid of the resentment I felt during my teenage years. I contact my biological father more often now than ever before by utilizing the immediacy of the internet and mustering up the courage for an occassional phone call. I never cease to forget Allah’s (swt) blessing in bestowing upon me the gift of a loving family, no matter how unconventional. I do what I can each day to strengthen the bond I share with both of my fathers. The relationship I have with each of them may be different, but I can still be “Daddy’s Little Girl” to both.

FALL 2009 /THE MUSLIM VOICE/19


//THOUGHTS

THE SPOILS OF

WAR 20/THE MUSLIM VOICE/FALL 2009

WRITEr :

FARHEEN ANWAR


As my mom and I animatedly discussed our short but successful shopping spree on the way back, a slightly elderly man stepped on to the train and sat opposite my mom. We continued to talk, nonchalant of our surroundings until the man settled down, and on sighting our headscarves he exclaimed “As-salaam-u alaikum” (peace be upon you), the Islamic greeting of well-being. We muttered our replies under our breaths, “Wa-laikum as-salaam,” wishing him peace but not wanting to communicate with a stranger.

glued to the floor, a bereaved expression on his face.

I could see his reflection clearly in the glass window next to me. He stared at the empty seat beside him and began to talk, taking breaks sporadically. “You are all my brothers and sisters. I am Iraqi, I am the son of Baghdad!” His voice suddenly raised with patriotism and passion. “I am the son of Baghdad! Baghdad was a city of scientists and geniuses, now look what it has become. I love Baghdad, but I am here. You are all my sisters.” And then, a sudden realization dawned upon him. “I am 58 and I am about to die,” he said in a soft voice, “and I haven’t seen my sister in 27 years!” He repeated this last sentence painfully, over and over, reminiscing the last time he had seen her. And then, with anger and hatred filled in his harsh voice, he continued, “Bush is the enemy of God and humanity. Harper...” He was about to continue when he was interrupted.

I wondered if the people of Hirsoshima and Nagasaki still bore today hatreds deep within their hearts, too. And then I thought closer to home. Every few days, a fallen Canadian soldier is brought back from Afghanistan, from a war that is not ours to fight. We salute the soldier for his bravery and move on, but what of the thousands of men still fighting an endless and meaningless battle and their hopeful families’ mental and emotional states? And that of the poor families living in war-torn regions? And their naive children who have accepted gunfire as their morning alarm and rocket launchers as fire works; who have learned to live with continuously missing family members and amputated limbs? Sadly, this isn’t unique to Afghanistan. What about Iraq? Darfur? Zimbabwe? NorthWestern Pakistan?

“Excuse me sir, we understand you. But, please take a seat or leave the train, yalla,” the driver intervened in a soft voice, practicing the little Arabic he knew. The man quieted down and stood in the corner, offering his spot to a woman who had entered the train with a stroller. I could see in the reflection how sad he looked. His gaze was

These are the real spoils of war. From what I gathered, he only witnessed it second hand, but it affected him deeply. If so deep is the impact on a secondary bearer of the brunt of exaggerated political egos and unreasonable desires to attain power, then I do not even want to imagine the mental state of the innocent children exposed to the inhumane conditions of war.

As I sat there and wondered how many more deaths and how many more familial and proprietal expropriations it would take to quench the political greed of a select few, I could do no more than to share the dismal expression on the stranger’s face.

FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/21


in search of the

jinn WRITEr :

My father and I often have little talks in our car about life, religion, politics and everything else under the sun. During one of our regular discussions my father suggested that there should be more funding for physics research, particularly towards studying the light spectrum. He hypothesized that it could lead to the discovery of angels and jinn (demons). I agreed with him that there is a need for more funding towards physics research although I disagreed that jinns would be found in the light spectrum. I suggested instead that perhaps they existed in an alternate universe. Since neither of us are physicists, our conversation seemed to be based more on science fiction and outlandish

22/THE MUSLIM VOICE/FALL 2009

ISHRAQ ALIM

hypotheses than on solid science, but I still felt it was important to share our ideas. The origin of the jinn is rooted in pre-Islamic Arab societies, even prior to the arrival of Judaism and Christianity in the Arab peninsula. Pagan Arabs would refer to jinn as demon-like creatures, considering them to be lower in ranking than angels, or even lesser deities. The Arabic word jinn, found in classical Arabic Bibles and even in nonChristian and non-Judaic texts, comes from the root J-N-N, which means “concealed or hidden,” similar to the Arabic verb janna meaning “to conceal, hide.” However, the Islamic


On this point Islamic theology differs from Christian theology, since in Islam Iblis or Shaytaan (also known as Lucifer, Satan) was always considered a jinn (not an angel), but one who was allowed to rise to the ranks of angels due to his good deeds, but eventually fell from grace due to his pride. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was reported to further categorize the jinn into three categories: those that have wings; those that are similar to snakes and dogs; and those who travel ceaselessly. This hadith has been described in many ways and has also included other descriptions, such as dragons and vultures. But, for the sake of simplicity, let’s just think of the Islamic categorization of the jinn as: those that fly; those that are land-based; and those who constantly move (perhaps similar to sharks that require constant motion to survive). Borrowing from both the pre-Islamic and Islamic sources, there has been an immense development of the jinn in Islamic mythology. One particularly area of interest is the idea of being “possessed” by a jinn and having it control your body or guide your conscience. Even if it was possible that some may suffer from jinn possession, there is no way to determine who was in fact “possessed.” Hence, unfortunately, due to the lack of knowledge of mental illnesses and other mental health problems, many undereducated communities have diagnosed mentally ill people with jinn possession, even people who suffer from seizures. The jinn have also been blamed for unfortunate events that may occur in one’s life. One of the most popular developments of the jinn mythology in Islamic culture has been from the classic collection of short stories in One Thousand and One Nights. The famous collection One Thousand and One Nights has led to the introduction of the mythology of the jinn into Western pop culture, referring to them as “genies.” Perhaps the most popular genie in the West is Robin William’s character “Genie” from Disney’s animated film, Aladdin. In television shows, genies have been depicted as being anything from a beautiful blonde woman in I Dream of Genie to a rapping Shaquille O’Neal genie in Kazaam. The jinn found in Aladdin, I Dream of Genie or Kazaam portray the idea of the “good jinn”, which is closer to the Islamic belief that the jinn are able to convert from evil to good . Overall, the Western perspective seems to highlight the Islamic belief that the jinn can be good and even help humans.

Borrowing from both the pre-Islamic and Islamic sources, there has been an immense development of the jinn in Islamic mythology.

n

theological basis for the belief in the jinn comes from the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) life and the Qur’an, wherein they are described as beings made of “smokeless fire” and possessing free will (and hence being able to turn away from evil and toward good). Christian and Islamic theology differ on this aspect since in Christian theology, demons are angels who have been thrown out of Heaven, the most famous being Lucifer, and are all almost exclusively evil.

Now, the idea that the jinn could be found by studying the “light spectrum” is interesting to say the least. In our discussion I will expand the “light spectrum” to include the electromagnetic spectrum, which describes the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation from a particular object. My father’s hypothesis would suggest that jinn exist in our universe and give off an thus far undetectable form of radiation. This is certainly within the realm of possibility, but the frequency of this “jinn radiation” would be extremely difficult to discover because in principle the electromagnetic spectrum is infinite and continuous. My hypothesis takes a different approach. -I think there are a set of possible universes (including our own) and the jinn may exist in one of these alternate universes. In the field of physics there has been a lot of discussion about the possible existence of a multiverse, and has been studied in Tegmark’s classifications and the string theory. Unfortunately, physics mostly focuses on the changes in matter found in other universes, while science fiction suggests possible beings in these alternate universes. Since we have classified the jinn in three categories, it is possible that these categories represent three different species in another universe or perhaps three separate sentient species from three separate universes. The major question we need to ask is how and if these jinn can travel to our universe? Interdimensional travel right now is mostly a thing of science fiction. But there isn’t a lot we know about the jinn and what we do know is often exaggerated by stories and myths. Currently we don’t know if further research could discover the jinn, but we could still try. Or perhaps they are meant to always be concealed or hidden away from humanity as the etymology of the Arabic word jinn suggests. All that I know is that my father and I had a very interesting discussion and, insh’Allah (God willing), we will have plenty more in the future.

FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/23


THE FASTING OF

RAMADAN WRITERs :

TAHA GHAYYUR & TAHA GHAZNAVI

FASTING IN RAMADAN DEVELOPS IN A PERSON THE REAL SPIRIT OF SOCIAL BELONGING, OF UNITY AND BROTHERHOOD, AND OF EQUALITY BEFORE GOD. THIS SPIRIT IS THE NATURAL PRODUCT OF THE FACT THAT WHEN PEOPLE FAST THEY FEEL THAT THEY ARE JOINING THE WHOLE MUSLIM SOCIETY (WHICH MAKES UP MORE THAN ONE FIFTH OF WORLD’S POPULATION) IN OBSERVING THE SAME DUTY, IN THE SAME MANNER, AT THE SAME TIME, FOR THE SAME MOTIVES, AND FOR THE SAME END. NO SOCIOLOGIST OR HISTORIAN CAN SAY THAT THERE HAS BEEN AT ANY PERIOD OF HISTORY ANYTHING COMPARABLE TO THIS POWERFUL INSTITUTION OF ISLAM: FASTING IN THE MONTH OF RAMADAN. PEOPLE HAVE BEEN CRYING THROUGHOUT THE AGES FOR ACCEPTABLE, BELONGING, FOR UNITY, FOR BROTHERHOOD, FOR EQUALITY, BUT HOW ECHOLESS THEIR VOICES HAVE BEEN, AND HOW VERY LITTLE SUCCESS THEY HAVE MET. HAMMUDAH ABDALATI (ISLAM IN FOCUS)

24/THE MUSLIM VOICE/FALL 2009

A TIME FOR THOUGHT, ACTION AND CHANGE WHAT IS FASTING? How does the fasting of Muslims in Ramadan differ from the fasting of other faiths? Why should one torture one’s body in the first place? What do you really gain from fasting in the end? These are a few questions that a number of non-Muslim friends and colleagues often ask us, usually out of fascination with this spiritually-uplifting practice of Islamic faith, and at times out of pity and sympathy for us, thinking, why should anyone suffer from hunger and thirst like Muslims? I wouldn’t be surprised if many of us shared the same negative perception of Fasting. It is important to note that Fasting in Arabic is called, Sawm, which literally means to be at rest. Fasting in the month of Ramadan (the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar) is one of the Five Pillars upon which the house of Islam is built. During this month, every able-bodied Muslim is required to fast everyday from dawn until dusk


4

We can easily understand this point when we realize that fasting makes people change the entire course of their daily life. When they make the change, they naturally adapt themselves to a new system and schedule, and move along to satisfy the rules. This, in the long run, develops in them a wise sense of adaptability and self-created power to overcome the unpredictable hardships of life! A person who values constructive adaptability, time-management, and courage will appreciate the effects of Fasting in this respect as well.

12 REASONS TO FAST 1

Fasting is an institution for the improvement of moral and spiritual character of human being. The purpose of the fast is to help develop self-restraint, self-purification, God-consciousness, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing, the love of humanity and the love of God. Fasting is a universal custom and is advocated by all the religions of the world, with more restrictions in some than in others. The Islamic Fast, as opposed to mere starvation or self-denial, is an act of worship and obedience to God, thanksgiving, forgiveness, spiritual training, and self-examination.

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5

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A FASTING PERSON EMPTIES HIS STOMACH OF ALL THE MATERIAL THINGS: TO FILL HIS SOUL WITH PEACE AND BLESSINGS, TO FILL HIS HEART WITH LOVE AND SYMPATHY, TO FILL HIS SPIRIT WITH PIETY AND FAITH, TO FILL HIS MIND WITH WISDOM AND RESOLUTION,

Fasting indoctrinates us in patience, unselfishness, and gratitude.

IT IS THE MONTH WHERE THE FOOD, SUSTENANCE AND THE EARNINGS OF A BELIEVING MUSLIM INCREASES AND THEY ARE BLESSED, SAYS THE FINAL PROPHET OF GOD, MUHAMMAD (PEACE BE UPON HIM), A MAN WHO WAS KNOWN FOR HIS NOBLE HUMANITARIAN CAUSES, FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE, AND FOR BEING THE FIRST TO RESPOND TO OTHER’S NEEDS, DESPITE THE FACT THAT HE HIMSELF LIVED A VERY SIMPLE AND HUMBLE LIFE.

Fasting elevates the human spirit and increases our awareness of God. It strengthens our will-power as we learn to rise above our lower desires. The institution of fasting is both unique and a shared experience in human history. From the very beginning of time, humans have struggled to master their physical and psychological selves: their bodies and their emotions. Hunger is one the most powerful urges that we experience. Many, through over-or under-eating or consumption of unhealthy foods, abuse this urge. Thus, when a person purposefully denies something to their own self that it craves, they are elevating their mind above their body, and their reason and will above their carnal passions.

Ramadan gives us a break and provides us with a rare opportunity to think about our own selves, our future, and our families.

When we fast we feel the pains of deprivation and hunger, and learn how to endure it patiently. The meaning of this powerful experience in a social and humanitarian context is that we are much quicker than anybody else in sympathizing with the oppressed and needy around the world, and responding to their needs. It is the month to visit the poor, the sick, and the needy to share their sorrows.

It cultivates in us the principle of sincere Love, because when we observe Fasting, we do it out of deep love for God. And a person, who loves God, truly is a person who knows what love is and why everyone on this Earth should be loved and treated justly, for the sake of God.

It is a time to give our selves a mental break and to temporarily forget about the hundreds of worries and stresses we are constantly bombarded with. In hectic times, such as ours, and in places like the West, this valuable time to think about our lives, on individual basis, is a luxury and is desperately needed! It is a unique month of self-analysis, and of taking stock of one’s moral and spiritual assets and liabilities.

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Fasting in Ramadan enables us to master the art of mature adaptability and Time-Management.

says H. Abdalati in Islam in Focus. The person who can rule their desires and make them work, as they like, has attained true moral excellence.

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With the clarity of mind and absence of distractions, also comes a greater focus. As students, the period of fasting, especially early during the day, serves as a tool to focus our minds on our academics. In the month of Ramadan, many Muslims try to avoid watching TV, listening to music, and some other leisure activities, which spares them more time and energy to be spent on more productive activities such as academics, intense study of Islam, voluntary prayers, social and humanitarian causes, and a quality time with the family, to name a few. It is a reminder of our duty to God, our purpose and higher values in life,as God Himself describes the purpose of fasting as follows, “O you who Believe! Fasting has been prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop consciousness of God” (Quran 2:183).

FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/25


THE ENTIRE RAMADAN ATMOSPHERE PROVIDES THE DRIVING FORCE FOR ...POSITIVE CHANGE.

has numerous, scientifically proven, 10 Fasting benefits for our physical health and mental well-being.

The time, length and nature of the Islamic Fast all contribute to its overall positive effect. One of the medical benefits is a much-needed rest to the digestive system. The reduced food intake during the day allows the body to concentrate on getting rid of harmful dietary toxins accumulated as natural by-products of food digestion throughout the year. The length of the Islamic Fast itself (around 12-14 hours) is in sync with the ‘transit time’ of food from the mouth to the colon of the large intestine, ensuring that no stimulus reaches the stomach or digestive system while it remains in homeostasis. Therefore, for the vast majority of healthy individuals fasting poses no medical risks but in fact provides many health benefits, such as: an increase in serum Magnesium, essential for cardio-vascular health and prevention of heart complications; improvement in the quality and depth of sleep; improvement in memory and slower skin aging over time; increased production of growth hormone, etc. Also, as a general note, it has been observed that underfed animals live longer than their heavily fed counterparts and suffer fewer illnesses during their lives.

11 It makes us realize the reality of life and death.

Fasting makes us realize how dependant our lives are on things that we often take for granted, such as food and water. It makes us think about our dependence on God and God’s mercy and justice. Moreover, it reminds us of the life after death, which itself has a great impact on our character and our world-view.

12 After the month of Ramadan is over, Muslims celebrate one of the two most important holidays in the Islamic year: EID-UL-FITR, or the Festival of the Fast Breaking.

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The month of Ramadan provides us with a sort of ‘Boot camp’. It is a month of intense moral training. Since we know that Fasting is a special duty prescribed by God, we learn that any sins may spoil our record of fasting with God, so we go through great lengths making sure we are on our best behaviour. Many people, who experience fasting in this month, feel the impact that this intense training has on their habits, and realize the power of this transformative tool designed to make us better human beings- the ultimate goal of any spiritual exercise. The entire Ramadan atmosphere provides the driving force for this positive change.

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Ramadan is a blessed month for a special reason: It is actually the month in which God first revealed His final message and guidance for mankind to our beloved Prophet Muhammad. This message has been perfectly preserved both orally and textually in the form of a Book, called the Quran (The Reading/ Recital). Therefore, Muslims try to do an intense study of the Quran in this month especially, and evaluate their lives according to the standards and guidance contained in it.

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It is a day to thank God for the blessing and training that He provides us with throughout the month of Ramadan. EID-UL-FITR is marked by praying in a huge congregation at an Islamic center or mosque, and by giving a small donation to the poor in the community. The adults give the donation on behalf of their children as well. Dinner parties, family outings, fairs, carnivals, and great joyous celebrations follow the prayer and charity.

IN A NUTSHELL, even though the real purpose of the dynamic institution of Fasting is to discipline our soul and moral behaviour, and to develop sympathy for the less fortunate, it is a multi-functional and a comprehensive tool of change in various spheres of our lives, including: social and economic, intellectual and humanitarian, spiritual and physical, private and public, personal and common, inner and outer — all in one!

Z

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what’s in a

PRAYER? WRITEr :

A MAN SAID, "MESSENGER OF ALLAH, SUCH AND SUCH A WOMAN HAS A REPUTATION FOR ENGAGING TO A GREAT EXTENT IN PRAYER, FASTING AND ALMSGIVING BUT SHE ANNOYS HER NEIGHBOURS WITH HER TONGUE." HE REPLIED, "SHE WILL GO TO HELL." HE SAID, "MESSENGER OF ALLAH, SUCH AND SUCH A WOMAN HAS A REPUTATION FOR ENGAGING TO A SMALL EXTENT IN FASTING, ALMSGIVING AND PRAYER, BUT SHE GIVES PIECES OF CURD AS SADAQAH AND DOES NOT ANNOY HER NEIGHBOURS WITH HER TONGUE." HE REPLIED, "SHE WILL GO TO PARADISE." -AHMAD AND BAYHAQI

I blame it on being new to the faith, but this hadith confused me for quite some time. Of course, I understood its meaning, but it seemed to bring up a question I was unable to answer at first. Back when I was just beginning to learn about Islam, one of the first concepts I came across were the five articles of faith. Indeed, if you ask any Muslim about his faith, you will inevitably hear about the shahada, the praying, the fasting, the pilgrimage, and the zakat. You will also learn that these are the most important aspects of our faith. The “problem” that I saw in the hadith above was that it seemed to say otherwise. In it, the five pillars are no longer of primacy – treating one's neighbours kindly is. How come? Why is it that in this story, the person who focuses on the five pillars is sent to Hell and the person who focuses on something else is sent to Paradise? And what conclusions do we draw from this narration – do

ANTON KURATNIK

we focus on our prayer, or do we focus on how we treat others? The answer is really, really simple. In fact, it's so simple that you will probably be annoyed with me for taking so much time to discuss it. Bear with me, though. I think it holds some very important lessons for all of us. The answer is that if we are performing our worship properly, treating others well and caring for them comes naturally. Now we all probably know this anyway, but have we ever used this as a tool? What we can do now, looking at this answer, is measure our own practice by the state of our heart. Do we treat others kindly? Do we stay away from backbiting? Do we always think well of others or do we always look for faults and ways to criticize? Do we give charity to those who ask (and those who don't)? Do we care for the welfare of fellow Muslims, fellow humans, fellow animals and living things? If we are missing something, if helping and caring for others does not come naturally to us, then we are doing something wrong. Something in our five pillars is missing and that's a big problem. If we learned fiqh, our prayers may be valid – but validity is not acceptance. We might have prayed all five prayers with sunna on top from the day we

IF HELPING AND CARING FOR OTHERS DOES NOT COME NATURALLY TO US, THEN WE ARE DOING SOMETHING WRONG. FALL 2009/THE MUSLIM VOICE/27


could stand, but if our hearts had the wrong attitude, then it is like we have not prayed at all. So take a moment now to reflect on the state of your heart. Think about how you treat others (Muslims and non-Muslims alike), think about the poor, the hungry, the elderly. Every person who I have talked to who survives on charity has said that Toronto is the toughest, most selfish city they know. We Muslims are not perfect, so it is very likely that this hard-heartedness has been rubbing off on us, as well. Now comes the question of how to deal with impure hearts, which we all have. The scholars mention many methods, but the ones that stick in my mind (and thus ones I've found useful) are two. The first one is company. According to our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, we become what our friends are. The easiest way to change one's heart is to find those who can set an example for you. Spending time with pious Muslims with good character will make you want to become like them and set you off on a path to improvement. The second method is what is easily summarized by the phrase, “Fake it 'till you make it.” If your heart does not incline to a particular action, perform the action anyway – over time, your heart will acquire the inclination to perform it. If you want to be a good Muslim, act like a good Muslim does, even if it is a facade. If done with sincerity, you will slowly become what you desire to be.

volunteering. Find a cause, an organization that benefits others, and join it. Even if it's once a week, once a month – find something to do. You will be doing what Allah wants you to do and meet people who do the same while you are at it. Many social workers will tell you that their work often benefits themselves more than the people they serve. That is exactly why: they keep good company and they perform good works. Over time, this has its effects. And while everyone has their tastes and preferences, forgive me a rather shameless plug: here at the MSA, we have a Community Affairs Committee. We are a group of people devoted to helping those in need, on campus and in the GTA. Campus involvement might seem small and inconsequential, but the truth of it is that it is what you make it to be. The Orphan Sponsorship Program started small, but now the person who started is reaping the reward of caring for over 130 orphans. So if you think big and put your trust in Allah, the results will be great, too. So send us a word at community.affairs@uoftmsa.com. Let us know you'd like to get involved, even a little bit. Remember why we are encouraging you to do it, though: because the relationship between your heart and your actions is not a one-way relationship. When one brightens up, so does the other. So brighten up your heart. Get involved. And most importantly, seek Allah Most High's pleasure.

The way that combines both these methods is

PRAYER SPACES HART HOUSE (JUMAH ONLY) 2ND FLOOR, DEBATES ROOM THE MULTI-FAITH CENTRE 2ND FLOOR, MAIN ACTIVITY HALL (DHUHR PRAYER) OR MEDITATION ROOM BAHEN CENTRE IN FRONT OF MEGABITES CAFETERIA INTERNATIONAL STUDENT CENTRE 3RD FLOOR SUSSEX CLUB HOUSE RM 508 OISE/UT 8TH FLOOR, RM 136 EMMANUEL COLLEGE 3RD FLOOR, PRAYER ROOM PHARMACY BUILDING 2ND BASEMENT FLOOR, BETWEEN STUDENT LOUNGE AND AUDITORIUM

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So that you may attain God-consciousness

Taqwa The Quran 002.183

GOD-CONSCIOUSNESS God not only sees our action but also knows what is in our minds. This awareness of God protects us from committing wrong. It keeps us safe from the whispers and temptations of Satan.

Taqwa is linked to the heart Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) pointed to his chest and said, ”Here lies Taqwa.”

Taqwa is guarding oneself against wrong things Umar*, the second Caliph once asked Ubayy ibn Kab* about Taqwa. Ubayy replied: Have you ever walked along a thorny path? Umar replied: Yes. Ubayy then asked: What did you do? Umar replied: I was on my guard. Ubayy said: That is Taqwa [living life in such a away that no wrong deed touches your life] *May the peace and blessings of God be upon them.

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The Muslim Voice - Vol 15 Issue 2  

The Fall 2009 issue of The Muslim Voice.

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