Hope you and your families had a wonderful Eid. Our warmest wishes and duas for an inspired post-Ramadan!
Hope you and your families had a wonderful Eid. Our warmest wishes and duas for an inspired post-Ramadan!
O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Quran, Surah al-Hujurat (49:13)
I’m reading an excellent book — Karen Armstrong’s “Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life”. It’s MoverMoms’ current book club selection, and I’m a huge fan of the author. The thesis is that compassion is central to all the world’s major religions, and that we have to work deliberately to cultivate our capacity for compassion. When Armstrong won the TED prize in 2008, she was given one wish that could change the world. Her desire: to make compassion the center of faith and action. So began the “Charter for Compassion”.
If I had one such wish, I think it would involve sharing our stories. For me, personal stories are pretty powerful. They allow us to share emotions that are universal, while describing situations that are unique. They help us see each other beyond generalizations and stereotypes, as human beings — as friends and neighbors with the same aspirations, dreams, frailties and fears. Stories humanize.
I realized the power of a personal story when I wrote my own. It was never meant to be published; I simply wanted to share it with my kids and my parents. But when the Washingtonian published it, I started receiving emails and letters saying that it was wonderful to get to know a Muslim family up close and personal, like you would a neighbor over a cup of tea. To get a glimpse into our lives, to hear our history, and relate to our challenges — and to realize that we share much more in common than not.
I think sharing personal stories is very much linked to Armstrong’s quest to promote compassion. After all, as something I read said, it’s hard to hate someone, whose story you know.
Thank you so much for reading this blog the past 29 days, and allowing me to share some stories. I would love to hear yours — email me at firstname.lastname@example.org — and perhaps we can find a way to continue the conversation we’ve started, about our faith, our families, and all that connects us. Day 29: Deed 29: Sharing our stories.
personal essay: http://www.washingtonian.com/articles/people/10466.html
“Help ye one another unto righteousness and pious duty.” Qur’an, 5:2
The only name they could come up with is the “Interfaith Iguanas” (?!), but they did brainstorm an exciting list of community service activities for the coming year. Jewish, Christian and Muslim teens gathered to break fast together, breaking stereotypes in the process. They sat in a circle, taking a Ramadan quiz, sharing their own fasting traditions, and asking a lot of questions. Parents stood back, smiling; one whispered, they’re learning so much more than they would sitting in a classroom.
We broke fast with dates — and a potpourri of dishes reflecting different families’ cultural traditions, from kugel to samosas to rice and beans (aptly called Moros and Cristianos) to lasagna. The teens discussed their plans — they’d like to participate in the 9/11 Unity Walk, tutor kids at an enrichment program, serve dinner at a shelter, and work with animals on a farm. One teen invited his new friends in faith to a Hannukah celebration, another to his family’s Christmas festivities. Then we prayed. Muslim teens lined up on a white sheet, facing east. The others, watching, listening, respecting.
Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core and the inspiration behind this initiative, is on to something big: bring young people of different faiths together to connect through common values — and start a movement to change the world. Day 28: Deed 28: Connecting in faith, friendship and service.
We kept debating all day whether or not to have our neighborhood iftaar party. Hurricane Irene was bearing down. The main worry was if we lost electricity; cold chicken curry, in the dark, is not too appetizing. But we decided we could brave Irene together, so I lit all the candles, stacked towels by the door, and prayed for the best.
Neighbors arrived, two by two — wet, but excited. Saanya said a few words about the meaning of Ramadan, and read a few entries from our blog; Zayd read a sura and explained it, quite succinctly, and said the azan. We broke bread with dates and samosas and feasted on pulau, chicken curry, cauliflower and potatoes, sikh kebabs, and my special Asian salad. We welcomed our neighbors into the new family room, the construction of which they had weathered for several months. It was a warm and cozy evening, despite the bluster outside.
Prophet Muhammad said we should care for your neighbors, 40 on each side. If we could all commit to that, what a beautiful day in the neighborhood it would be. Day 27: Deed 27: Breaking bread with our neighbors.
“Verily, all actions are but driven by intention and for everyone is what he intended.” Hadith: Bukhari and Muslim
We’ve tried to be good during Ramadan — pray on time, be kind, care for others — but what’s going to happen in a few days when the month is over. In the past, we’ve made resolutions on the eve of Ramadan, to focus on for the upcoming 30 days. This year, we’re making resolutions at the end of the month, to follow for the next 335 days.
I asked the kids for two resolutions — one for themselves, one for the family. Nothing too ambitious; something they feel strongly about and will try their best to keep. For their individual resolution, each committed to praying at least once every day. For the family, we’ve committed to at least one dinner together each week (no easy feat given Arif’s travel). As for me, my resolution — my perennial resolution — is to be more disciplined. It covers a lot of ground — from praying regularly to remembering to take my vitamins. I’m already playing catch up — tomorrow’s Eid and I’m on day 26 of my blog post. But as Prophet Muhammad said it’s the intention that counts, as long as it’s sincere. We’ll keep trying. InshAllah. Day 26: Deed 26: Keeping the spirit of Ramadan all year round.
A man asked Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), ‘Oh Messenger of God, who among the people is the most worthy of my good companionship? The Prophet said: ‘Your mother’. The man said, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: ‘Then your mother.’ The man further asked, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: ‘Then your mother.’ The man asked again, ‘Then who?’ The Prophet said: ‘Then your father.'”
Growing up, during Ramadan, my mom would try and wake me up for suhoor, unsuccessfully; then she’d bring a bowl of cheerios, toast and tea, and a glass of water to my room. Embarrassingly, I would simply have to hoist myself up, chew, say a quick fajr and get back under the covers before sleep wandered off too far. This year, Ammi and Abba are staying with us for Ramadan, which has made the month so special. Thirty years later, Ammi is still the one to wake me up for suhoor, if my alarm fails, or more likely, I fail the alarm. She makes the toast, I make the chai. Sometimes Saanya joins us — three generation of women, together, in the early morning light.
My mother is extraordinary. I don’t tell her that enough. What I am, I am because of her. Her duas are what have sustained me — what have sustained our family. It’s why Arif and I have been together for a happy 22 years; it’s why my back doesn’t hurt as much as it used to; it’s why my life has been so blessed, alhumdulillah. It’s why Saanya made the tennis team this week, even though she lost practically every match during tryouts. There’s no explaining the miracle of a mother’s prayers.
As Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) saying above indicates, mothers are so deeply valued in our faith. Many years ago I told my children another saying of our Prophet: that heaven lies beneath your mother’s feet. You can’t imagine the foot massages I’ve been getting ever since. Day 25: Deed 25: Appreciating mothers, mine and yours.
“And the earth, We have spread it out, and made in it mountains standing firm, and grown in it every thing in balance.” Quran Al-Hijr 15:19-20
Guest blogger: Zayd
Today I went to a recycling plant with Mr. Henk. We took brush, cardboard boxes, and a burn bag full of stuff that can be burned and made into power. The place was HUGE! It had monster machines. It had 4 facilities: the paper place, the plastic place, the glass place, and the main place. In the paper place, over 100 trucks come and go. They drop off the paper and grind it into little squares. Then they mush into a big square and get it ready to ship off. The same thing happens in the plastic place. In the glass section, they have a small purple crane that picks up all the glass bottles and such and drops it and then mushes it. It’s amazing but everything under the sun can be recycled or made into power. There were even old fashion TVs there, the kind with the nobs to change channels, and fancy beds and old computers. The more we recycle, the cleaner our beautiful earth will be. Day 24: Deed 24: Recycling to keep the earth in balance.
“God is the Creator of everything. He is the guardian over everything. Unto Him belong the keys of the heavens and the earth.” (Quran 39:62, 63)
Ramadan was rocked by a 5.8 magnitude earthquake today. Saanya and I were driving; we didn’t feel a thing. My father and Zayd saw the wooden bookcases in our study shudder. Mom heard thundering noises above her — the glass shelves in our bathroom shattering to pieces. Allah ka shukr that was the only damage.
We decided to say Maghrib prayers outside today, on the deck, under the stars — perhaps to feel connected to the earth that shook our confidence. Zayd said the azan, loudly, for all the creatures in the forest to hear. Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. God is Great. God is Great. For so long, we lay on our janamazes looking at the night sky above; listening to the symphony of cicadas, and bats and frogs; marveling at a spider spinning its web; saying duas with Nani and Nunno — prayers of thanks for our safety, prayers of protection for those who may have suffered. Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar. God is Great. God is Great. Only He can make the earth shake. Only He can make the forest sing. Only He can spin a delicate web. Day 23: Deed 23: Marveling at Allah’s might.
“For it is He who has brought into being gardens [both] the cultivated ones and those growing wild — and the date palm, and fields bearing multiform produce, and the olive tree, and the pommegranite: [all] resembling one another and yet so different! Eat of their fruit when it comes to fruition, and give [unto the poor] their due on harvest day. And do not waste [God’s bounties]: Verily, He does not love the wasteful”. Quran 6:142
Tonight, we had a “leftar” — a wonderful concept that I read about in Green Muslims Ramadan tool-kit, where you use your leftovers to make iftaar and dinner. My father revitalized my previous night’s roast chicken, with some coconut milk and spices, and the red pepper and snow peas that were starting to look a bit pale in my fridge. We had the biryani left over from a friend’s iftar party; polished away the various tupperware-filled items occupying shelf space for too long; and tossed the two too-ripe bananas into a milkshake. It all tasted delicious, especially after a day of fasting, and all the more so because it didn’t get wasted.
My father-in-law is the best reminder of how precious each morsel is. He lived through the Bengal famine in 1943. What he saw — people literally dying of hunger on the street — is etched in his heart, and in his habits. He never takes more than he can finish; his plate is always polished; and he has no issue eating leftovers for days. He is one of 10 children; growing up, there was rarely seconds to go around. My kids need to learn these lessons; and so do I. I felt terrible throwing away fresh basil this morning that had turned limp and brown; I had only used a few leaves. InshAllah, I’ll plan my meals better, be more organized when I shop, and learn to make a mean meatlof. Day 22: Deed 22: Trying not to waste.
“If the Day of Judgement erupts while you are planting a new tree, carry on and plant it.” Hadith
I didn’t realize that planting trees is so valued in Islam. As the above saying of Prophet Muhammad makes clear, even if the Day of Judgement arrives when you’re in the middle of planting a tree, continue planting. Another saying of the Prophet says that when an animal or person eats from a tree that you’ve planted, that is an act of charity for you.
Today, Zayd and I made “peace tree” cards. We used the beautiful treeless paper we had bought this summer at a women’s cooperative in Morazan, El Salvador. We stamped each card with a colorful tree and added peace sign stickers as leaves. The card serves as a gift — the gift of ten trees being planted in Kenya. The message on the inside reads: ” To celebrate this occasion, ten trees have been planted in your honor by the Green Belt Movement”, and includes a quote from GBM founder and Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai, “When we plant trees, we plant the seeds of peace and the seeds of hope. And we secure our children’s future.” 100% of the proceeds from selling the cards go directly to GBM. Zayd started making peace tree cards on his ninth birthday. His goal is to help plant 1000 trees by his 10th birthday. So if you’re looking for just the right Eid gift, consider a peace tree card! Day 21: Deed 21: Planting peace.