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Islam Simplified | A Guide to Better Understanding Islam

So you’ve heard these terms so many times, whether on CNN, the latest bill being passed or on the train station- Mozlems this, Muslims that, Islam this, Radical Islamists that. 

Some Muslims don’t drink, others own the bar down the street, some muslim women wear a hijab, some are covered from face, to head to toe, others are tanning in a bikini at the beach. So what’s the deal with these Muslims you might wonder? Who are they and what do they believe? 

This will be the first post of a series of “Islam 101″ blogposts to better explain what Islam is to those who think all we do is set off bombs and yell “Allah Akbar” *eye roll*

In this post specifically I’ll be covering some main ideas that will (hopefully) make the foreign map of Muslim beliefs be more navigable. 

The One Thing–  There are 1.7 billion Muslims in the world and counting. Across the board, from east to west the one absolute thing that all Muslims have in common is their belief in the oneness of God.

Muslims believe that there is only one God. God has no father or mother, no son or daughter, no one shares His throne. None is equal to Him. He is the ultimate Creator, He is the only worthy of worship and surrendering to. 

This is a major point in Islam, Muslims do not worship idols, or their prophet Muhammad (swt) or any of the preceding prophets that they believe in. It’s just God, and God alone who is worth worship to Muslims.

Below are some verses from the Quran that I chose to illustrate this point, this is just one example (you can feel free to skip the quote since it’s kind of long):

“He is God: there is no god other than Him. It is He who knows what is hidden as well as what is in the open, He is the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy. He is God: there is no god other than Him, the Controller, the Holy One, Source of Peace, Granter of Security, Guardian over all, the Almighty, the Compeller, the Truly Great; God is far above anything they consider to be His partner. He is God: the Creator, the Originator, the Shaper. The best names belong to Him. Everything in the heavens and earth glorifies Him: He is the Almighty, the Wise.” [Quran, 59:22-24]

Everything in Islam functions around this basic block of monotheism and God being at the ultimate top of the hierarchy that the religion branches out from.

This brings us to the second most important part of the religion that you need to know in order to understand what Muslims believe and how they function.

The Second Thing- The Holy Quran (Quran/Koran/Coran) is the book of the Muslims.

Muslims believe that the Quran is the word of God as communicated to the prophet Mohammad (swt) by God through the archangel Gabriel. Or Jibreeel if you want to say it the arabic way.

Some things you should know about the Quran, is that it contains the same stories from the Torah and Bible with some changes and additions. Muslims believe that God’s message was altered as time went by in these previous scriptures, and the Quran is the final “revelation”.

In Islam, the Quran is seen as the true word of God, since the Quran has been unchanged since its revelation to the prophet over 1400 years ago. The very first copy of the Quran compared to a Quran printed last week, are identical in text.

So now that we’ve established the second most important aspect of Islam that dictates the actions and belief system of Muslims, let’s put the two together.

Muslims worship God and God alone, Muslims believe that the Quran is the unchanged and unchanging word of God that they follow.

This brings us back to our initial question, if that’s the case, then how come the end result is so different between Muslims and what they believe and what they practice and preach?? What causes these drastic variations between Muslims; like Muslim women who think it’s their mandated religious duty to cover up a certain way, and have a specific ceremony for marriage etc.

There are certain aspects of the religion that for the most part, the majority of Islamic scholars and clerics agree on, and have agreed on for centuries that are integral in the religion and cemented. Such things are the five pillars which are: praying five times a day, fasting the month of Ramadan, giving charity, performing the Hajj pilgrimage (which is basically a visit to Mecca, Saudi Arabia to visit the house of God), and to believe in God and his message as relayed by the prophet Mohammed (swt).

Muslims know they have to do these things, amongst others, the issue arises when it comes down to how they have to these things. How to perform Hajj? How to perform daily prayers? How much charity to give and to whom?

Ultimately it comes down to this; as Muslims we have to follow the words of God as they are presented in the Quran. The problem is, the Quran isn’t very specific. So, for example, when it asks Muslims to meditate/pray five times a day, it mandates that we do so, but it doesn’t explain how we are supposed to do it. And that’s because the prophet Mohammed (swt) explained and taught and showed these things, and we are to do them as he did.

The problem now, and this is where things get messy and funky and all confusing, is that video recording did not exist at the time (obviously), and the actions and sayings of the prophet Mohammad (swt) were relayed from one person to another.

Another example is the modesty part. The Quran commands women and men to dress modestly and guard their private parts. But the definition of dressing modestly varies from person to person and it comes down to the research you do, and the sources you believe in.

Now, if you’ve played a game of telephone, you know how messy this can get real quick. And despite the scrutiny with which certain scholars at the time attempted to collect and filter through the recounted stories of the prophet’s sayings and teachings, there are many Hadith* collections out there and it’s up to the individual to research and decide which is the most authentic for them to follow.

And let’s not even discuss the role that culture plays in this, because that is a whole other non-ending discussion for another time.

I will post the remaining explanations for this “Islam 101” segment sometime next week. Hope to see you then, in the meantime, my friends, hope you learned something from this super-condensed hasty and brief overview of why we crazy mozlems are all so different yet the same 😉


DISCLAIMER: I am not a scholar in Islam, I am writing this as a practicing Muslim person who is fairly knowledgable (or at least believes herself to be fairly knowledgable) about her religion. So, with that in mind if you are reading and see something wrong then: LET ME KNOW! Even if there’s anything I said that might’ve implied something that is wrong. Let me knowww.


Some great resources (that I approve of) to continue your research: To learn more about the oneness of God in Islam click HERE

*Hadith- a collection of traditions containing sayings of the prophet Muhammad which, with accounts of his daily practice (the Sunna), constitute the major source of guidance for Muslims apart from the Koran.


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Blog Post, Spiritual Matters

5 Things To Remember When You Are Losing Faith

There comes a time in every persons life, regardless of what faith they are following, where they stop for a minute and think, what if what I believe is wrong? 

Though this is normal, sometimes too much of this kind of thinking creates gaps in our faith that can grow overtime and create dissatisfaction in our lives. It creates a fog of doubt in our beliefs that clouds our iman, and without iman, religion is nothing but dry worship. Here are some things I like to keep in mind when I’m in doubt. 

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1. Listen to Quran (or the specific scripture you follow)

It’s a shame how much of the beauty of Quran is stripped when it is translated and it’s verses become the output of a humans limited understanding and vocabulary. There is nothing more beautiful than the calming recitations of Quran in arabic, and sometimes that’s all you need to hear to remember why you get up at 5 in the morning to pray and recite the very verses on that very first page on the Quran. 

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2. Sit At A Public Bench

Take 5 to 15 minutes and find a bench to sit somewhere in a busy place. Take a look around and look at how everyone is scurrying, so “busy” running errands and going to work: all things that don’t really have an end and no true everlasting purpose. Everyone running around in circles in their tiny little bubbles, struggling with the same insecurities, harboring similar thoughts, all made up of the same stuff.

Don’t think this is true? Try and make a chart, think it through. Where is everyone going? Work, a friends house? Visiting a loved one at the hospital? Walking their dog? 

Inevitably, we are all headed towards the same final destination regardless of what stop we make on the way. It really is a mad world!

 

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3. Realize That you are a Creation

There is this idea that people often forget about creation and the creator. And it’s this: the creator is the one who makes the details of the creation, and then, releases the creation, independent of any physical connection to it.  

For example, iPhone. Apple designs the iPhone, makes the software and hardware and every little aspect of the iPhone. Yet the iPhone, without the visible logo of Apple, would not know who made it. It can function, but it does not know how it functions, or what its insides entail. Yet when you swipe the lock screen, you get the homepage, when you press call, you get to call. It can function without its maker, the creation is separate from the creator, yet it doesn’t change that relationship. It doesn’t change the fact that its creator knows everything about it, while it, the creation doesn’t.

Just because we can function without our creator controlling us, and we don’t have a logo stamped on us “made by God” doesn’t mean that that relationship doesn’t exist. It exists and you need faith to feel that connection. The Quran is quite literally like a manifesto for how to best take care of yourself from your Creator. 

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 4. Pray! (Salat/Namaz)

I know your feeling of disconnection makes it hard to do this. It might even seem pointless. I’m not asking you to feel spiritual or motivated to pray; I’m asking you to pray so that you can feel spiritual and motivated again. And, I’m also asking you to know ahead of time, that not every prayer you will do will make you feel connected or spiritual. After all, not every grain of rice can tip the scale, it will take a combination of prayer, a consciousness of your Creator and many moments of contemplation before you can rekindle that feeling of connection, peace and purpose again. 

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5. Nature Walks

You don’t have to go to some fancy park for this, but you do need to step outside every once in a while and surround yourself with the lush life of this planet that we’re on. There’s something tranquil and energizing about being outdoors and surrounded by nature, and we definitely don’t get enough of that nowadays. 

Not sure where I read this, but I came across a statistic that stated that the average American spends over 90% of their time indoors. That means only 10% of our day is spent outside. If I’m not mistaken- we lock up suckers indoors as punishment for heinous crimes. And yet somehow, we’ve managed to willingly hold ourselves captive in our own homes tied to our computers and phones and TV’s- and expect to be spiritually connected and happy? Do yourself a favor, take a cup of tea and step outside for a minute- fresh air doesn’t bite. 

I know that for some people our impending mortality as humans may seem like a very dreadful thing to mention, but it’s true, who makes it out of this world alive? No one. 

I know it sounds dreadful, but it really shouldn’t be like that. For millions of years this is the only thing we’ve been promised on this earth- and yet we still don’t know how to deal with it. 

Embrace the fact that you’re not promised tomorrow. You have this moment and that’s all you need, connect with your Lord, let this moment and every moment be one of peace. And know with conviction, that there’s nothing for you to worry about. On earth you’ll have a peaceful existence, and in the after you’ll be amongst your Creator in shaa Allah. 


On that note, do you have any comments on how you like to get spiritually connected when feeling burnt out or lost? I’d love to hear any tips you might have 🙂 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Blog Post, Uncategorized

Muslims Around the World Tour!

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Today I’d like to drag you all on a “Muslims around the World” tour to show you the extensive diversity that makes up the 1.6 billion Muslims around the world!

Often times when the word “Muslim” is uttered, a brown, arab looking male or female comes to mind, usually with a beard if it’s a guy, and a hijab if it’s a woman, but that’s far from the truth! 

1. Chinese Muslims

Eid al-Fitr prayer in Beijing

I was surprised to find that there are around 20 million Chinese Muslims, a number that might seem small at first when compared to the overall population of China, but great if you consider that pre-dominantly Muslims countries such as Iraq for example, also have around 20 million Muslims. The large community of Muslims in China have they’re own culture and traditions whilst holding on to their religion. It’s actually fascinating to see the differences between mosques in Jordan let’s say, and China. To learn more about the history and culture of Chinese Muslims you can visit this excellent blog: Islam in China

***Unfortunately, there are some crazy things going on in China right now. The Xinjiang region or East Turkestan, as it’s known prior to the Chinese invasion, is actually going through some insane changes. The Chinese government plans to eradicate the muslim culture present in the area and reinforce their communistic beliefs. Some really crazy stuff is going on there right now. You can check this video out to get an idea: China Detention Center

2. Israeli Muslims

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There are 1.2 million Muslims in Israel, and they comprise the 2nd largest major religion in Israel after Israeli Jews. 20 percent of those Muslims are believed to have settled in the region during the Ummayad Dynasty in the 8th Century. The remaining are compromised mainly of Palestinian Arabs who have stayed in the region, but who nontheless would still be refferred to as “Israeli Muslims”.

3. North Korea

human-pixels-of-north-korea

Before anything, I’d like to know how on earth those 3,000 Muslims got to North Korea, or any Muslims for that matter. From documentaries I’ve seen about North Korea, they do not have a religion, are not allowed religion, and they are all supposed to worship their leader. Even if they do practice a religion, it would have to be done in secret, so where did those numbers come from? Anyways, I thought I would include this because I think it’s really interesting to think that there are people with Quran’s about to break their fast in North Korea. Also, here’s an interesting article about the “First Mosque in North Korea”

4. Maldives Islands

This fabulous tourist destination was introduced to Islam in the 12th century*, prior to this it was primarily Bhuddist. It’s not very clear how the transition from Bhuddism to Islam happened, but today, it is a muslim majority country. There are plenty of mosques there and halal food is widely available, which makes it even more amazing and is definitely on my “Places I must visit as soon as I stop being broke!”

5. Fiji

That’s right! Did you know there are an estimated 62,000 muslims residing in Fiji (7% of the Fijian population). Workers were brought in in the late 1800’s to work on plantations in Fiji, these people mainly came from India, Pakistan and Baluchian-Afghanistan, bringing their religion along with them. Despite the passing of the years, the Muslim community in Fiji remains strong and intact with their religious beliefs. If you plan on visiting this lovely island, be sure to stop by Suva to enjoy some of the halal cuisine there as well as to visit some of their beautiful mosques!

That concludes our little tour! I hope you learned something new, did any of these especially surprise you? 

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About Your Faith

About Faith

-from an excerpt in Nahjol Balagha

(1) It is a road that is crystal-clear, inundated with light.

(2) Faith leads you to good deeds, and good deeds lead to faith. [rest of excerpt continues at end of post]

Notes on faith. Don’t let it wither, don’t let it dry out. I know how busy everyday life can get, I truly do, but you need to stop for a minute and take a breather. Continue reading

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Blog Post, Spiritual Matters

How could God exist and let such terrible things happen?

“Worship none other than God, for I fear for you the punishment of a momentous day.” – Quran 46:21

I wonder how people can deny the existence of God when there is less evidence to prove that, than the latter.

The physical absence of something does not mean it does not exist. The most meaningful themes in our lives are not physical- in fact- they are the most physically absent. Such as love and happiness and joy and growth. Their physical absence doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Furthermore, it irks me when people claim that “how could a god exist and let such terrible things happen on this earth?”

Which I understand where that argument stems from. There is a lot of pain and suffering on this earth, and there are a lot of unfair things. There are plenty of really messed up twisted unfair things that make you want to scream yourself to death, because it’s just not fair and it’s infuriating that you can’t do anything to change it. I get that, I really do. But at the same time, I don’t think it’s a logical argument to then believe that:

1. God doesn’t exist because terrible things on earth are happening

2. Terrible things continue to happen on earth even though “God” doesn’t exist

If God is out of the picture, and terrible things are still happening— who is to blame then? Who is making these problems? God doesn’t exist. You can’t put the blame on God. You don’t believe he exists. So why are there still problems?

Could it be that maybe there is enough abundance of food and goods for everyone- but that maybe people aren’t distributing it right because of our greed? Could it be that the bloodshed and genocides are fueled and caused and fought by people. Who created the concept of money? Wasn’t it people- who worships money? Isn’t it people? Who kills and steals and lies and belittles and humiliates for money? Isn’t people? People like you and me?

What about hurricanes, natural disasters? As if we don’t have the knowledge and the tools to know what’s coming at us and why. Look at the way we’re dealing with things like global warming. Have you seen those pictures of animals whose throats are wrapped with plastic bags and plastic bottle holders? Who made these? And who ignorantly tossed them into the sea to cause this? Wasn’t it humans? People like you and me. Who do certain behaviors without giving them another thought, without thinking what consequence our actions inch us towards on a personal and global level? Isn’t it people like you and me. Tell me. Am I wrong? Is it something else? Is the world just wrong because this “creator being” designed it to be painful and wrong and messed up? Do you not have a choice? Do you not have power over your actions? Or do you want to blame everyone but yourself?

And let’s go back to that. Let’s go back to the blaming part.

So you’re telling me, you don’t believe that God exists- but you’re going to go ahead and blame everything wrong in the world on God anyway. That’s like blaming your problems on an imaginary friend who you don’t even think exists. How in the world does that even make any logical sense.

You don’t want to believe in God, fine. That’s your call.

But please support it with a better argument than blame.

  • Authors note: This is my personal opinion. Please don’t go off assuming all sorts of things from this one post. I’m simply stating my problem with the logic of this one argument. I don’t believe that blame is a legitimate claim for the disbelief in God that some people have. I don’t have any issues or problems with peoples differing opinions and views on the matter. I wrote it simply for the purposes of having a dialogue on the topic, and not to point any fingers, or judge anyone.

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    Blog Post

    Intimacy in Movies? Do you watch it or skip?

    Salam!
    This topic has been on my mind lately, since I’ve been obsessed with this show called You on Netflix (which btw I just finished binge watching, thanks a lot self control!)

    The problem is, just like many other adult shows now a days, there are some themes we can’t get away from, and a lot of intimacy on all levels throughout the show.

    So I wonder, what’s okay and what’s not okay when watching these shows from a religious perspective? A purely religious perspective.

    I surely don’t have any answers, and I haven’t done any research on the matter either. But I did want to have a dialogue about it, and just sort of ask and see what your personal opinion is.

    Personally, I don’t feel comfortable with it, like it’s fine if there are a lot of make out/sex scenes, for the most part it won’t stop me from watching a show as long as there’s a captivating plot.

    I do however, generally skip or turn a blind eye to these scenes because on some level I feel like it’s not okay to watch. Which I know some people might find a little extra considering that I’m a grown woman, but it’s the truth, I just don’t feel comfortable with it.

    The first reason being that it’s almost like watching people’s PDA, but like on an extra level. Like it’s TMI most of the time, it’s unrealistic, it’s a show- it’s not even real. And beyond the screen, at the end of the day, it’s just two people in front of the camera on a set, where there is an entire crew crowded around them and focused on them for that moment while they make out or have pretend sex or maybe even real sex. Like that just makes it kind of painful for me to watch to be honest. Knowing that it’s so manufactured and like, awkward.

    And then, the expectations it sets you up for, again, it’s not real. Kisses don’t look like that in real life, the same way relationships don’t work the same way that they do on screen than they do offscreen. Not just the actors relationships, I’m talking about real life. I don’t want to create false expectations for myself, and I really do believe that the content we feed our mind, makes us, the same way we are what we eat; we are also the content we consume.

    And my final reason, is that I find this whole thing unnatural. If you rewind time back to before Netflix existed and cellphones and video cameras- the only time you would see these extremely dramatized forms of affection in every way on every level, was never. It simply didn’t exist.

    If you wanted to see people making out, or even kissing, it would generally be on the street, or maybe your parents, or friends or some or other form of that. You did not have access to a zoomed in, nicely formatted display of the experience. There were no front seats to watch this stuff from, you couldn’t replay and gape at what’s going on like you can at your phone or laptop screen. It was like, either you’re experiencing it, or you don’t really get to see it in that much detail. How many of you stop to stare with full intensity at people who are making out?

    And then the sex scenes? You would really have to go out of your way to see people doing it before all this digital stuff came to be. I mean, can you imagine just sitting there staring with full intensity in someones room? Like why. For the purposes of watching my shows, all I need to know is that something happened between the characters, I don’t need that much detail. I really don’t.

    I understand that maybe a group of younger teenagers who are curious, might be interested in seeing every detail of any and all intimate scenes in a movie or show. But to me, it gets to a point where- there’s no point in watching these scenes in every other show I come across. If I know what’s going down, I really don’t need to explicitly see every detail. Or at least, that’s how I feel about it and that’s my personal take on this.

    What do you personally think?

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    Blog Post, Questions, Spiritual Matters

    Your Cultural Practices aren’t Islam

    Somewhere in my spiritual journey a few years ago, I began questioning so many of the things I, and the other muslims around me did. Mistreatment of gays/lesbians, calling certain races superior or inferior to others, not mixing with people of different muslim sects, etc.

    Why, I wondered, did we do all this? Continue reading

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