“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” Quran 2:183“
This month of Ramadan 2020 is auspicious for me as it is my 30th year of fasting after I converted to Islam in late 1989. For those who do not know, Ramadan is a month of fasting which Muslims are instructed by God to observe unless sick, pregnant or traveling. We are allowed breakfast before dawn and then no food, drink or sexual intercourse during the daylight hours. Fasting includes your speech; not to lie, argue or backbite.
The fasting hours in my locale this year are from 5 am to 8 pm. The evening meal after the fast is called iftar and is usually a time to gather at the mosque or friends’ houses to eat together. During Ramadan there are extra evening prayers and the whole Quran is recited. Ramadan is based on the lunar calendar, so the date moves up by 11 days each year. At the end of the month we have community prayer, a sermon and a three-day celebration called Eid.
2020 is like no other Ramadan in memory. The irony is not lost on many of us fasting this year that God timed it this way. During the pandemic, quite surprisingly I am more connected than ever. Normally, as a Progressive Muslim the month is a little lonely for me. Usually my girlfriend is supportive, but not to the point of fasting with me. We had a group who met together to read Quran, but we never completed the effort in full measure due to logistics. We would meet for an iftar every year at a member’s home. I may go at least once to break my fast at the traditional mosque. Usually Eid was the celebration we would look forward to, meeting with the whole community for prayer and then out to breakfast wearing our best outfits.
The recent killing of 17 year old Nabra Hassanen is on my mind. Not only was she killed—brutally beaten with a baseball bat—but it is thought that she was raped, too. Twice. During Ramadan. By an undocumented Latino from El Salvador.
It is said to be a case of “road rage.” I am having a difficult time believing this. Maybe this man was drunk. Maybe he was angry at his partner. Maybe it was a hate crime. Maybe we’ll never know the whole truth.
What matters, however, is that Nabra—a young woman, black, and a Muslim—was killed. Do not tell me, or anyone, that these three aspects were not factors in her death. That her death had nothing to do with her being a person of color. Or that her death had nothing to do with her wearing an identifying, religious headscarf. Or that her death had nothing to do with misogyny. Because it did. All of it did. Continue reading “In This Fractured World, I Will Not Remain Silent by Karen Leslie Hernandez”
One thing about the Nation of Islam (NOI) mosques that I have always enjoyed in comparison to mainstream Islamic mosques is that the gender separation is side-by-side rather than front-to-back with the women always in the back on the same level or in the back on a balcony or in a completely separate room in the back.
A few Sundays ago I went to the local NOI Mosque #97 and enjoyed the khutba (sermon) all in English and culturally relevant. I enjoyed it from the same room as the men, with complete access and in reach of the imam. Men were not given the prime seating in the front with women relegated to the back of the room. The front rows and all rows consisted of men and women equally. This is a complete departure from what I am used to in mainstream Islamic mosques I used to frequent. Continue reading “Learning from the Nation by Jameelah X. Medina”
Since my college years studying Spanish mystics and their numerous writings, I have secretly been fascinated by the summer solstice. Years later, my hidden fascination with the winter solstice began. For exactly one year now, I have exclusively been using Nature as my pharmacy. Perhaps, paying more attention to nature has allowed me to relate my experiences with Leylat al-Qadr (Night of Power) and understanding of the story of Jacob wrestling with the “man” all night (Genesis 32:24) to what I felt leading up to and during the winter solstice. While Leylat al-Qadr and Jacob’s night struggle have no direct relation to the winter solstice, I still relate them when I think of my own struggles with my higher and lower self and with my daily goal to be a better me than the day before.
As a Muslim, Leylat al-Qadr is the night I look forward to toward the end of Ramadan. It is filled with blessings and power. Looking for it feels like knowing my sweetest, beloved relative is coming to visit but not knowing her time of arrival. That night is spent in deep reflection and filled with prayers as it is a night the Qur’an tells us is better than one thousand months in which the angels all come down to witness. Then, there is Jacob’s cosmic struggle that lasted until dawn. The Bible and Talmud tell us that he triumphed over divine and men in that long struggle, after which he is renewed by being called “Israel” (he who prevails over the divine) instead of Jacob. Lastly, there is Winter Solstice (Yule). This is a long night welcoming winter but focused on renewal, rebirth, personal power, and setting intentions. Continue reading “Cosmic Struggle and The Longest Nights by Jameelah X. Medina”
The first blog I read about Ramadan this year was full of the usual self-righteous pontification that takes this occasion to remind people to do such and such at this or that level. Who is the target audience for such an approach, I wondered? It seemed to operate on the basic idea that Muslims will NOT do the right thing unless someone tells them to. Mostly, though I noticed the gloom and doom of it and I decided then to make my Ramadan focus on joy.
First a quick reminder about the basics: Throughout the 9th lunar month, Muslims are obliged to abstain from food, drink and sexual intercourse during the day. It goes on like this for 29-30 days. There are also points of difference about some details of the fast, like how we determine which day to start. Either we actually cite the new moon, go by advanced calculations of the new moon, or some combination of these two. This leads to healthy chaos at the beginning because no one knows when the first day will, be but must prepare in order to get in that pre-dawn meal, called suhur. I say, healthy chaos, not only because I’m a bit of an anarchist, but also because I like that no one has complete control about such an important decision. Continue reading “No Ramadan Gloom and Doom by amina wadud”