Ramadan


“So What Are Your Lunch Plans?”

Always around this time of the year when people ask about my lunch plans and I tell them I won’t be eating because I am fasting during the month of Ramadan, they become defensive and apologize for bringing the subject up. I don’t think discussing the topic of eating or drinking has bothered me for as long as I can remember. If anything, it reaffirms my belief and the reasons behind why I fast. Again this year, it has given me the opportunity to tell some people about Ramadan and why Muslims fast – a discussion I will gladly have with anyone who is genuinely curious. It is still pretty amazing to see the looks of people’s faces when they hear the fact that we are not allowed to drink any liquids as well during the course of the day. I suppose the western culture here have adapted the fasting to exclude water should one become thirsty.

Aside from the spiritual benefits, a few clear cut physical and material benefits are pretty easy to see. When you limit the amount of times you can, it has a direct and positive effect on the amount of money you are spending on breakfast or lunch while during the work week. To kill off some time during my lunch hour, I usually head out for a walk around downtown Toronto going to places like Nathan Phillips Square, CBC Tower or just underground to wherever the random paths will take me. That’s a decent amount of walking during the middle of day to change things up although the lack of energy towards the evening does take away from my will to properly exercise or go for a run.

Throughout all this, we are all susceptible to mistakes and can be found complaining, waiting for the sun to go down before we can break our fasts. I am no different on that as some of the people I regularly talk to can attest but most of us have it pretty easy here in the west – especially for the fasts during the summer months. Most of our days we spend in a fully air conditioned work building or at home, staying away from the outside heat as much as possible while those in less fortunate countries in less than reasonable conditions.

I’ll finish with you don’t have to be a Muslim to fast on a regular basis, and you certainly don’t have to do it for a month but why not give it a shot. It not only has personal health and financial benefits but it also serves a greater purpose in opening your eyes and seeing how the other half lives – if only for a day.


Celebrating Eid Around September 11th

This year, Ramadan started on August 11th 2010, and is expected to end either on September 9th or September 10th (29 or 30 days from the day it started depending on the sighting of the moon via several methods) and there are mounting fears that Muslims all around America may suffer a backlash on Eid al-Fitr. It just so happens that this joyous Muslim holiday marking the end of Ramadan coincides with the anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001.

For those who may not know, the Islamic calendar uses the lunar system and that is why it rolls back 11 days each Gregorian year. The average length of a 12-month lunar year is 354.37 days, which is 10.8751 days short of the average length of the solar year (365.2422 days). Most lunar calendars (ie. Hebrew, Chinese, etc.) add a 13th “leap” month every 24 to 36 months. They do so to maintain the synchronization between lunar years and the four seasons. This is not the case with the Islamic Hijri calendar.

Eid al-Fitr, expected to be on either Sept. 9th or 10th 2010, celebrates the completion of the month of Ramadan, in which Muslims fast and increase their spiritual devotions. On this day, Muslims all over the world thank Allah for his blessings upon them and for the gift of fasting.

Although, there is the sense of excitement between Muslims in America about this Eid, there is also a great sense of fear. These fears do not seem unreasonable in the current climate of heightened attention and sensitivity with the media fiasco surrounding Muslims, the “ground zero mosque” and the “National Burn the Quran Day” sponsored by the “Dove World Outreach Center.”

These recent events and the adverse media coverage have left some second generation Muslim Americans feeling like pariahs in their only land. Some of us have come to realize with certainty that there are Americans who are publicly and subliminally promoting the idea that Muslims are outsiders in our own lands and are unwelcome to stay here.

In light of these current events, some leaders of Islamic centers around the nation are worried and many ordinary Muslims fear celebrating our post-Ramadan festival as normal as in every other year. Some have even gone as far as to cancel their annual carnival held the Saturday after Ramadan because it falls on September 11 and they do not want to be seen celebrating on that day. There is a difference between canceling their carnival due to the sensitivity of this event versus canceling it due to fears of violence. One is being considerate of the situation while the other is being terrorized and scared!

Fears of aggressive violence and retaliation against centers and places of worship are rising to new levels given some of the aggressive protests and vandalism that has taken place at various mosques around the country in the past few weeks.

In the face of such terrorizing events, we the Muslims are left with one of two solutions, a) just don’t show up to the Eid prayer and stay home in fear of any aggressive confrontation, or b) disregard those threats and show up and celebrate our Eid as we normally do. It is my opinion that if we don’t show up, we will be declaring our defeat to bigotry and xenophobia. That is why I highly recommend that everyone show up and encourage other Muslims around him/her to make an extra effort to show up this year. As a matter of fact, please invite one or two of your non-Muslim friends or coworkers. Also make sure you bring your camcorder or have the video recording option on your cell phone ready, in case any bigoted event takes place.

Either way, whether peaceful Eid celebrations go on as planned or are interrupted by protesters, please go to the Eid prayer, dress nicely, exchange gifts and take this as an opportunity to educate the majority of our American neighbors that are misinformed about our religion and celebrations.

An excellent post from MuslimMatters.org.


20 Landmarks in 20 (Work) Days

Ever since Ramadan began, it opened up an hour long block during my lunch break. Determined not to sit at my desk and surf or write away, I figured I would set out in the city and find 20 different thing within walking distance of work to view during the next 20 days of my work before my mini vacation begins on September 8th.

Here is the list of places I have been so far:

1.    Hockey Hall of Fame Store
2.    Hockey Night in Canada / CBC Radio Museum
3.    Nathan Phillip’s Square
4.    Porter Airlines Bus (Union Station)

Since August 11th, those have been my four stops and for that last one being yesterday, that is the free bus service from Porter Airlines to the Airport located in Downtown Toronto that I will be taking next month.

I am going to list some more places that I want to see below but I definitely won’t be able to fill all 30 so for those of you reading this, help me out.

Places I want to visit:

1.    Air Canada Centre
2.    Eaton’s Centre
3.    Maple Leaf Square
4.    Rogers Centre
5.    CN Tower
6.    Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts
7.    City Hall
8.    Roy Thompson Hall
9.    Metro Toronto Convention Centre
10.    Art Gallery of Ontario

This puts me at 14 places, leaving 6 more to figure out in the next 15 work days. If you know of a place that you want to recommend, let me know in the comments or reach me any other way you know how.


How To Combine Religion And Science

Once again it is that time of the year again where Muslims all over the world begin fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan. As exciting of a period it is for Muslims, it seems that every year there seem to be some controversy as to when the new month should begin. Even though the past few years had gone well, it is back to business as usual this year with not only Canada and the United States differing on opinion but various states with the US observing it on two different days as well.

Islamic months follow the moon to determine when the new month will begin but it should not be confused or mislabeled as a lunar calendar. The Islamic calendar has months which either have 29 or 30 days and the length of each month vary from year to year. Traditionally, the first day of each month is the day (beginning at sunset) of the first sighting of the new crescent moon (or hilal as it is called) shortly after sunset.

If the hilal is not immediately visible after the 29th day of a month which could be because either the sky was too bright or the night was far too cloudy when the moon sets, then the following day is the 30th month. Whenever such a sighting is claimed, it is usually verified by a couple of reliable eyewitnesses before being generally accepted by the entire community. Determining the most likely day that the hilal could be observed was a motivation for Muslim interest in astronomy, which put Islam in the forefront of that science for many centuries.

There are a few problems that arise with the paragraph above. Since there were no modern technology at the time lunar observation first started in Islamic history, there are some schools of thought that claim that only when the moon is visible by the naked-eye should it be claimed that is a new moon while others on the other hand state that with the development of such technologies, the Muslim community should be able to easily come together and adapt scientific advancements with religious traditions in order to simplify the matter. The problems don’t end there as mass communication was slow during the time of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that local communities only observed the new month once the moon was visible in their locale. However now with instant communication worldwide, there are some who say that since there is only one moon that if it is verified that a moon was visible in South America or Asia, that it should be good enough for all Muslims worldwide to accept it.

Due to modern advancements in science it is very easy to say that Muslims should just begin using lunar calculations in determining the new date of the month but you would be hard pressed to find a unanimous consensus amongst 1.2 billion people around the world. There however should be some sort of compromise available allows all the people of this faith to observe Ramadan or any other start of the month in complete unity in order to better present it to the rest of the world.

Some on the more conspiratorial side claim that it is the local Muslim leaders who refuse to come together and develop a method that could be observed by all in unison. They say it is because they refuse to give up their stake of power in the current setting and by compromising on a method that would make it simple but would require them to give up their decision making powers since almost everything would be determined scientifically.

Hopefully there will be a time soon enough with maybe the upcoming generation where there will be development in terms of having less and less occasions with Muslims observing Ramadan and celebrating Eid on different days but that day can’t come soon enough.


Presidential Message, Ramadan 2008

Got this from Saad at “Chill Yo, Islam Yo” who put it up this morning. A great blog for any Muslims out there or just in general if someone wants to learn more about Islam. Seems quite similar to the “greeting” sent out last year but I guess that is to be expected. Honestly, I didn’t think there was a message sent out annually but I guess you could at least say that he is trying publicly even when 99.9% of the people will see for what this really is – a publicity stunt and not that he ever cared.

Here is Saad’s post by the way:

Salam,

I don’t really blog about news, but this was quite interesting.

Here is a letter from the President of the United States aka George Bush, to all the Muslims around the World. Taken from the official whitehouse.gov website.

Presidential Message, Ramadan 2008

I send greetings to Muslims observing Ramadan in America and around the globe.

The holy month of Ramadan is a special time of prayer, fasting, and service. For Muslims, these days commemorate the revelation of God’s word to the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) in the form of the Qur’an.

I thank the men and women of the Muslim community for their contributions to America. Your love of family, and gratitude to God have strengthened the moral fabric of our country. Our Nation is stronger and more hopeful because of the generosity, talents, and compassion of our Muslim citizens.

Laura and I send our best wishes. Ramadan Mubarak.

GEORGE W. BUSH

May Allah (SWT) swt guide the people and the leaders of this country, Ameen!