The Latino Muslim Voice
The July-September 2007 newsletter features:
Quotes of the Month
A Ramadan Poem
By Donna Sibaai
The holy month of Ramadan
The Next Step After Latino Muslim Reversion
By Rebecca Abuqaoud
I am pleased to discuss an interesting phenomenon that is happening in North America. The Latino Muslims as a whole are growing in numbers like never before. Amazingly, Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States, and it is significantly attracting Hispanic people. There are only estimates about the accurate number of how many Latinos have reverted to Islam.
This interesting phenomenon about the growing number of Latinos converting to Islam in the United States is so appealing that recently Latino Muslims are subjects of study by teachers, professors, and universities. Recently, a professor from the Department of Religion at the Texas Christian University came to Chicago to do research on a group of Latino Muslim women. He also traveled to other cities and states across the U.S. not only to continue his research on Latino Muslims but also to collect accurate data on the census of Latino Muslims.
When the professor came to Chicago, his study focused in a focal group conversation about experiences as Latino Muslims in the United States. His study also consisted on how Latino Muslims construct their identity and how they struggle within the community in general. He formulated a couple of questions to build his research. His first question was: Why did you come to Islam? And the second one was: What was the reaction of your family and relatives after you became Muslim?
In this study, a group of seven Latino Muslim women participated by sharing their experiences. I was also there as a subject of his study. This research on Latino Muslims took place this July at the Muslim Community Center (MCC) on Elston Avenue in northern Chicago. What fascinated me about this study was to learn that Latino Muslim women not only share common backgrounds but they also have similarities in experiences about how their family, relatives, and friends react after they become Muslim.
Last year, a teacher who was working on her master's degree approached an Islamic gathering of Latino Muslim women who meet for Islamic classes in Spanish at the MCC. I frequently attend this gathering of Latino Muslims. The teacher approached us to ask if we would participate in a study about Latino Muslim mothers. Four of us participated on her assignment. She interviewed each of us individually. She asked questions on how the culture contributes to parenting and raising young children. It was interesting participating on this study. As mothers, we realize that our children are growing and being raised in a home where now the Islamic culture is enforced.
A few weeks ago, DePaul University also extended an invitation to our Islamic gathering of Latino Muslim women to participate in a research. The purpose of this research among other things was to find out why Latinos choose Islam as their religion and how they build their identity in the community. Definitively, it must be interesting to explore why Latinos are coming to Islam. It is such a great phenomenon in the United States.
Just a week ago, I attended the First Midwest Reverts Conference at the Islamic Center of Illinois. WhyIslam.org, a Dawah project of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), sponsored this program. In this program, there were various discussions, one of them was about issues faced by reverts. I was one of the panelists, and I participated by sharing a series of struggles that reverts go through when they enter into the fold of Islam. One of their struggles is their adjustment to a new Islamic culture. For example, sometimes reverts or new Muslims leave behind relatives and friends; therefore, they are in need of new relatives and new friends in the Muslim community.
I mentioned among other things the importance of establishing programs that follow up on new Muslims in the journey to Islam because they have many questions and need help how in dealing and coping with situations that they face. I also mentioned the importance of helping them to be integrated and to be part of the Islamic community. I mentioned these based on my observation and interaction with other Latino Muslim women that encountered difficulties in their adjustment to their new religion.
It was an incredible experience to participate in that conference because I also have the opportunity to listen to other speakers who shared their various experiences and journeys to Islam. I was very pleased to know that WhyIslam.org maintains a toll free line to answer questions on Islam not only in English but also in the Spanish language. WhyIslam also has a website at whyislam.org/es that provides Islamic information in Spanish.
A few years ago here in Chicago, some Latino Muslim women started to show interest in gathering together with the purpose of learning about Islam and to support each other in their journey to Islam. Thus, six years ago in 2001, a group of Latino Muslim women initiated a program known as The Great Annual Sisterhood Event, which began in a home, but since then has been held annually at the Muslim Community Center. This program started with the purpose of educating women on Islam and to provide special support to new reverts.
I will never forget what happened during our Second Annual Sisterhood Event on September 14, 2002. A lady said, "I don't understand what she is saying. I thought this was supposed to be in Spanish." This comment was made while the speaker was giving her speech in English. Another sister said, "It is time for us to be better prepared and educated." "It is true," someone replied. After this gathering, many sisters showed an interest in gathering regularly. They suggested having Islamic classes once or twice a month. As a result since March 29th of 2003 until today, Islamic classes in Spanish were established at the Muslim Community Center.
Latino Muslim women are taking an active role in educating themselves and their community. Last May of this year, Latino Muslim sisters organized "The Great Sixth Annual Sisterhood Event" sponsored by Chicago Association of Latino American Muslims (CALAM). This event was a Dawah Oriented Program. Sisters were strongly encouraged to invite non-Muslims. In this event, there were discussions about the stereotypes and misconceptions of Muslim women. There was also the presentation of The Virgin Mary in Islam. We thought that these topics were appealing to non-Muslims and Muslim women. There was a great attendance of women of different ethnicities - Americans, Arabs, Pakistanis, Latinos, and others. The program was bilingual English and Spanish.
The Spanish classes for sisters are also a great platform for Dawah or presenting Islam to non-Muslims because on different occasions, non-Muslim women visit and ask questions on Islam. The fruitful result after visiting the Islamic classes was to witness some Shahadas of Latino women. Islamic classes in Spanish for sisters are also taking place at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, IL.
Ramadan and Eid celebrations are very important for bringing Latino Muslim families together. Since the Islamic classes in Spanish were established, the sisters have had iftar together during the month of Ramadan. This gathering brings positive experiences; the sisters bring their children to join this event. By having iftar together, children are learning this beautiful tradition of Muslims. Consequently, Islam is being preserved for the future generations because children are being raised in an Islamic environment.
In recent years, EID Festivals have been carefully organized by the Chicago Association of Latino American Muslims (CALAM). Families and relatives of Latino Muslims are invited. The First Annual Eid Celebration was in November of 2003 and took place at the Muslim Community Center. These events have been successfully well attended not only by Latino Muslims but also by Muslims of different ethnic backgrounds.
This July 2006, Latino Muslim women from the north and south of Chicago organized family picnics. These family events are greatly important and necessary because children also learn to interact with other children who share the same Islamic values. Sister's husbands had the opportunity to meet and interact each other. These sorts of events are important ways for all of us to get to know one another better.
Observation leads you to understand that the majority of Latino Muslim women of the north side of Chicago are young mothers with young children whose relatives are non-Muslim. In the future, the children of Latino Muslims will bloom; therefore, they will be the second generations of Latino Muslims. This will be another phenomenon to be observed in America. It is such a blessing to see Latinos entering the fold of Islam. They face challenges in their journey to Islam but they overcome difficulties with patience and perseverance.
Still, Latino Muslims in America need some plan for education and integration of new Muslims and reverts into the Muslim community at large. We need to visualize our community for the next 10 or 15 years by putting our plans of Dawah in action. Latino Muslims in America should take advantage of the Spanish language and reach out to the Hispanic community and convey the message of Islam in its most beautiful form. Latino Muslims in America need to come together and seek the support.
Latino Muslims need vision, inspiration, optimism, perseverance, generosity, integrity, and to acknowledge that their commitment is to serve Allah SWT. With their determination and deep commitment to Allah SWT and the constant education of Islamic values, they can contribute to achieving balance in faith in family and community.
Every Muslim, every one of us, has a great duty and responsibility to continue the preservation of Islam. Through hard work and meeting challenges with positive vision and strong determination, courage, and commitment to Allah SWT, we can all contribute to achieve our goals that lead us to have fruitful results and can contribute to achieving balance in faith.
Islam balances nourishment for the high morality and values in families, communities, and society. Insha'Allah, we will continue to spread and preserve Islam in the future generations. Ameen!
Note: This was presented at the 2006 ISNA Convention at the Donald E. Stephen Convention Center in Rosemont, IL. The theme of this year's convention was "Achieving Balance In Faith, Family, and Community.'
Moorish Heritage in the Cuisines of Spain and Portugal
By Teresa de Castro
Cuisine in the Iberian Peninsula: Moorish Heritage in the Cuisines of Spain and Portugal
The Iberian Peninsula, in south-western Europe, is occupied by Spain and Portugal. It is separated from the main continent by the Pyrennees and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the northwest and west and the Mediterranean to the south and east.
The characteristics of the Iberian cuisine cannot be understood without the culinary influence of Romans, Arabs, Jews and Christians, and the dietary exchange that followed the colonisation of America and the colonialism in Africa and the Far East. Still, Rome never conquered the Basque Country and the Arabic heritage never reached the north-western fringe of the Peninsula. Moorish influence is particularly important in areas in which Moors and/or Moriscos remained longer, that is, in the southern and eastern regions (Alentejo, Algarve, Andalusia, Aragón, Extremadura, Murcia and Valencia) especially in rural areas.
Moorish cuisine was shaped by the combination of Andalusian, Persian and Maghribian ingredients, and had a selection of basic foodstuffs, condiments, and cooking processes. Expiración García in "La Alimentación", Lucie Bolens in "La cuisine andalouse", and Manuela Marín in "Cuisine D'Orient" have described this cuisine. The expulsion of Moriscos from the Peninsula in the 17th century was the end of the Moorish culinary system in Iberian lands. However, some Moorish elements are still discernible in the Peninsula' cuisine.
The disappearance of the Moorish food system from the Iberian Peninsula occurred gradually, following the path of the Christian conquest of the Muslim territories, that happened in different dates depending on the areas). After the conquest, some Muslims areas were completely resettled with Christians; other times Muslims were set in ghettos inside the cities. The last Muslim Kingdom was conquered in 1492, and in 1501 the Moors were forced to convert to Christianity and, by the pressure of the Inquisition, they also were forced to change their dietary practices. The expulsion of Moriscos of the Peninsula in the 17th century was the end of the Moorish culinary system in Iberian lands. However, some elements of this system are still visible in the Peninsula.
WAYS OF PENETRATION
The foodways of the Moors influenced indirectly Christians' cuisine as a result of the contact that Muslims and Christians had during long periods of time in frontier's lands in peaceful periods, mostly before the 15th century.
Christians' cuisine absorbed Moorish influence, firstly, through the effect that Moors' foodways had on Christian upper classes during the Caliphate and Ta'ifa's periods (10th 12th c.), when al-Andalus (Iberian Muslim Kingdom/s) was a cultural model to imitate. This was the golden age of Al-Andalus, and for the Christian World "Moorish style" meant luxury and exoticism.
A second way of penetration was through the contact that Moors and Christians had during long peaceful periods of time in frontier's lands, especially in the South.
A third way was the result of years of interaction between Moorish and Chistian communities in those cities where, after the Christian conquest, Muslims (Mudéjares) had been set in ghettos inside or outside the urban walls.
A final via was through the neighbourhood that Moriscos had with Christians in the Kingdom of Granada, the last Muslim territory to be conquered (1492). After the failure of the Morisco' rebellion in the Alpujarras region (1568-1570) the Moriscos were expelled from Andalusia and relocated around the Kingdom of Castile, spreading even more their influence. Nevertheless, the resistance of the Moriscos to integrate themselves despite the pressure of the Inquisition- produced a Christians' disgust and hostility with regard to Morisco foodways. Although this anger could not stop the culinary exchange, the action of Christian culture and foodways on Moors' cuisine led to the disappearance, substitution, addition, modification or different combination of ingredients and culinary practices once Moorish. The outcome was a cuisine that contained some Moorish components but was different because had different flavour, smell, colours, and textures.
MOORISH CULINARY CONTRIBUTION
Expiración García in "La Alimentación", Lucie Bolens in "La cuisine andalouse", and Manuela Marín in "Cuisine d'Orient" have described Al-Andalus cuisine. However, contemporary Iberian cuisine has only a few elements of this Al-Andalus cuisine. In the Iberian Peninsula, these culinary features are marked by the prevalence or use of certain ingredients, dishes, methods of cooking, or ways of eating that were once typical of Al Andalus but devoid of any religious meaning. These features having a Moorish heritage are:
A LINK BETWEEN MIGAS AND COUSCOUS
Recipe from "An Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook of the 13th Century".
I Have Seen a Couscous Made with Crumbs of the Finest White Bread.
Bolens, Lucie. "La cuisine andalouse, un art de vivre : XIe - XIIIe siÃ¨cle" (The Andalusian cuisine, an art of living: 11th 13th centuries). Paris, Albin Michel, 1990.
García, Expiración. "La alimentación en la Andalucía Islámica: Estudio histórico y bromatológico." (Food in Islamic Andalusia: an historical and dietetical study) "Andalucía Islámica", 2-3 (1981-1982): 139-177 and 4-5 (1983-1986): 237-278.
Marín, Manuela. "Cuisine d'Orient, cuisine d'Occident." (Eastern Cuisine, Western cuisine) "Médiévales" 33 (1997): 9-21.
Martínez, Manuel. "Historia de la Gastronomía Española" (History of the Gastronomy in Spain). Huesca, La Val de Onsera, 1995.
Short version of - version modificada de: Teresa de Castro, «Iberian Peninsula: Overview», Encyclopaedia of Food and Culture. New York, USA. Scribner and Sons. 2003, vol. 2, pp. 227-22. (La Península Ibérica: Visión General) Teresa de Castro © 2005-2008. This paper is protected by copyright laws.
Interview with Shaykh Yahya Juan Suquillo
By Diana Mariam Santos Garcia
1. Will you tell us more about yourself?
2. Will you tell us a little about your education?
3. How did you get in contact with Islam for the first time?
4. Do you find any similarities between the Latino and Muslim cultures?
5. Based on your experiences, what are some problems facing the Latino Muslim community?
6. How would you respond to critics who suggest that Latino dawah is exclusive?
7. Do you have any interesting experiences, stories, or accomplishments you would like to share?
While going with my family for Hajj in 1999, the customs officer at Jeddah Airport could not find the name of our country, Ecuador, on his computer. "Of course," I said to my wife and children. We were the first Ecuadorian family that ever made Hajj in Ecuadorian history!
I have helped translated over forty pieces of Islamic literature into Spanish including books, pamphlets, and audio. Some books I've translated include "Understanding Islam and Muslims", "Muhammad in the Bible", "Muslim Christian Dialogue", "The Miracles of Quran", and "Human Rights in Islam."
8. What can you tell us about dawah in South America?
9. What are some of your goals? Hopes and fears?
10. Do you wish to share a specific message to Latino Muslims?
11. What about a message to Muslims, in general?
United in obedience to Allah SWT, we can stand. We are all brothers in humanity that need to strengthen peaceful dialogue to understand and to accept each other. The true guidance comes from Allah SWT to whom He wishes. My advice to everyone interested in dawah to Latinos is patience, patience, and patience.
One God, Why not One People?
By Yahsmin M. B. BoBo
In the name of Allah, Most Merciful, Most Kind
"The believers are but a single brotherhood." (Qur'an 49: 10)
When I conjure thoughts of Muslim Unity, I think back to the earliest days in the establishment of Islam. I envision our blessed Nabi, peace be upon him, his family and companions, may Allah be pleased with them. I ponder the persecution, alienation and hardship they endured during their difficult stay in Mecca and during both migrations first to Abyssinia and later to Medina.
Their unity and support of one another was inescapable and indeed, crucial in their survival. This is the greatest reflection of sacrifice and dedication I learned of, and one that has remained unmatched since.
Today, as Muslims, we take these same sentiments for granted and uncaringly concentrate on our petty differences more than focusing on the precious similarities. Why is this? Have we forgotten the essence of Islam- our unity and cooperation? The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) once said, "A believer to another believer is like a building whose different parts enforce each other," while he clasped his hands and interlaced his fingers. Imagine that we are a building, whose structure is dependent on cooperation, tolerance and love for the sake of Allah. If that were so, we'd need a lot more of these characteristics to stand upright.
The first step in a better direction is to embrace our differences and try to understand the nature of our misunderstandings and sometimes even intolerance. This requires active and ongoing communication between the conflicting groups of Believers. Usually, our misunderstandings come from culture, language, and financial backgrounds. While Islamically speaking, our spiritual studies based on Madhab or Fiqh often cause division among the most sincere servants of Allah. Sometimes the media and its misinformation campaign have not only affected the perception of Islam altogether, but have created dissension among the Muslims by affixing sectarian labels and racially compartmentalizing the Ummah.
Granted, some of this may be necessary to mention, however the danger lies in our acceptance of their perception and reliance on the mainstream media as our only means of information.
When all is said and done, most of these things are relatively superficial and have very little importance in the broader picture. Remember that, on the Day of Reckoning, we will not be called to account for the superficialities of speech, money or intellect. Rather, what we will be called to account for is how we used that language to speak kindly to one another, how much of our wealth was used in charitable means, and whether or not we actually implemented our studies of Islam into our character and daily interactions.
"O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honored of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)." (Q: 49.013)
Undoubtedly, we believe that Allah is One (Tawhid). With the same theme of oneness and unity, we should consider ourselves in the same light. We are one people, in spite of our countries of origin, the many different languages we speak, the hues of our skin and the Masjid of which we attend. Our Shahadah, Salat and Sawm are the same. Zakat is the same and finally, our Hajj is performed with the likeness of every other Believer in the Ummah. And this is what the focus must remain on. This is the personal sacrifice and the dedication that we must aim to demonstrate, as the blessed Sahabah once did.
There is a story about when Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) contemplated the disunity that persisted, so he called for Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him) and asked him, "Why should this Ummah be tormented by disagreement when it has the same Prophet, the same qiblah and the same book?" Ibn Abbas answered, "The Qur'an was revealed and we read it and comprehended the reasons for its revelation. But there will come people who will read the Qur'an and fail to understand the occasions and subjects of revelation. As a result they will make different interpretations and will, therefore, disagree." Ibn Abbas added, "Every group of people will have an opinion about the Qur'an, which will lead to disagreement, and then to fighting." (Source: "Islamic Awakening Between Rejection and Extremism" Yusuf Al-Qaradawi)
Obviously any such fighting should be avoided at all costs and there are certainly preventative measures within reach. This invaluable wisdom from the Qur'an is our preventative medicine for any such ills that the Muslim community falls prey to. The second step is enjoying the company of others with every opportunity that Allah provides. When Malcolm X performed his Hajj, he marveled at the diversity and beauty of the Muslims, feeling as though he belonged to something much greater than the nationalism he left behind in the United States. We should marvel in this too and be proud that Allah gave us one another to learn from.
Although we all share the personal goal of performing Hajj, we ought to reap the benefits of this harmony in other settings as well. Salatul Ju'maa, the two `Eid celebrations and Iftaar during the month of Ramadhan are all merriments, however, let's take it above and beyond obligation and seek to incorporate Muslim unity into ordinary events and activities.
I know that I'm not alone in wanting to look around and see my brothers and sisters in faith enjoying the similarities that we share and feeling that strong sense of camaraderie. And now, Insha'Allah, the Bay Area Muslim community is being awarded that perfect opportunity for the Muslim Unity Day at Paramount's Great America on August 11, 2007! Let's pray that we all walk away that evening, after a fun filled day, with the dedication it takes to sustain a community as large and blessed as ours.
Please visit the following website for more details - http://www.muslimunity.us
10 Ideas for Ramadan at your Workplace
By Sound Vision
If work is simply the place you earn your bread and punch in your hours, why not redefine it this Ramadan? Make your workplace the scenario for Dawa, especially in the current tension-filled atmosphere of misunderstandings about Islam and Muslims.
Here are some ideas that can help you share Ramadan with your boss and coworkers this year.
1. Begin informing people about it as soon as possible
Start telling bosses, supervisors and coworkers about Ramadan now. Bring it up in the course of conversation casually.
In terms of when Ramadan starts and ends, just give the projected date (i.e. for Ramadan this year, it's November 6th). Don't get non-Muslims involved in the technicalities of finding out the correct date. Do the same for Eid. You can decide for yourself which date to start and stop fasting on.
2. Post it up
On your office or department bulletin board, put up a factsheet on Ramadan, with a short introduction of yourself and which department you are from. Don't just give the facts, but also include a few sentences about what this blessed month means to you (i.e. spiritual growth, closeness to God, being more generous, etc.).
3. Get an article printed in your local newspaper and circulate copies
This will not only be good Dawa - it may even promote department/company pride (i.e. one of our employees is a writer too!). Post it up with the masthead of the newspaper on top.
4. Negotiate your lunch hour with the boss
This is another task that needs to be done as soon as possible. Explain that you will need a short break for prayer and then you will take lunch break at Iftar time.
5. Talk to the office cafeteria people about your Iftar needs
If you normally buy lunch at the cafeteria, explain to the cafeteria staff that you would like to arrange to have your lunch saved for Iftar time. Ask them to keep one serving of lunch in the fridge so you can pick it up at Iftar time.
6. Create a "Ramadan corner" at your desk
If you have your own desk at work, dedicate a corner of it that is accessible to passersby the "Ramadan corner". Put a basket of dates, sweets, written information on Ramadan and maybe a small frame of eye-catching Islamic calligraphy on it. Post a note inviting coworkers to the free sweets and information.
7. Have a small Iftar gathering at your desk
Invite coworkers to a snack of dates and fresh fruits during Iftar time. At least once, have a more formal meal ready for everyone (check with your boss before you do this).
8. Distribute written material on Ramadan
If you've got a central location in your workplace where people can pick up free newspapers, get permission to stack a factsheet and pamphlets on Ramadan.
You can also leave the sheets on the Ramadan corner of your desk.
9. Get a Ramadan greeting from your boss
Have your boss, commanding officer or head of the department issue a public notification that Ramadan is coming up or is here and they and the company congratulates all Muslim employees on this occasion.
10. Put an article about Ramadan in the office newsletter
If you have a company or department newsletter, write up a personal article about why you are looking forward to Ramadan and what Ramadan is. Then arrange for them to publish it.
Fasting in Different Religions
By Prof. Shahul Hameed
Voluntary abstinence from food has been a spiritual purification rite in many religions. Penitence, purification, mourning, sacrifice and enhancement of knowledge and powers were some of the aims of fasting envisaged by these religions. Even philosophers, scientists and physicians of the past adopted fasting as a healing process needed to recreate health where there was sickness. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Galen, Paracelsus, and Hippocrates all believed in fasting as a form of therapy (Haas).
We find in scriptures such as the Bible, for example, prophets like Moses, Elijah, Daniel and Jesus resorting to fasting for the sake of spiritual purification as a means of communication with God. The Qur'an also indicates that fasting is a religious practice common to the religions of the past:
[O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, in order that you attain piety.] (Al-Baqarah 2:183)
Fasting in Judaism
The Jewish calendar contains comparatively few regular fast-days. Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), is the only fast-day prescribed by the Mosaic Law:
And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all, whether it be one of your own country, or a stranger that sojourneth among you: For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the LORD. It shall be a sabbath of rest unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls, by a statute for ever (Leviticus 16:29-31).
The Jews observe ten days of repentance starting with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and ending with Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). This is a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent.
The Synagogue is also empowered to impose fasting in case of a misfortune befalling the people...
The fast begins with a special evening service known as Kol Nidre (All Vows), and synagogue services last for the whole of the following day until the fast ends.
It is also customary among many Jewish communities to fast on the eve of New Year's Day: Rosh Hashanah.
Besides Yom Kippur, there were four regular fast-days established by Jewish tradition to keep the memory of various sad events that affected the Jewish nation during their captivity. According to some scholars of the Talmud these fasts were obligatory only when the nation was under oppression, but not when there was peace for Israel.
The Synagogue is also empowered to impose fasting in case of a misfortune befalling the people, such as pestilence, famine, or an evil decree enforced by the ruler of the day.
The Jewish fasts normally begin at sunrise and end with the appearance of the first stars of the evening, (with the exception of Yom Kippur, which lasts from sundown to sundown). The giving of charity on a fast-day, specially the distribution of food necessary for the evening meal, is encouraged (Jewish Encyclopedia) .
Fasting in Christianity
From the sermon on the Mount, we know that Jesus instructed his earliest disciples to fast:
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you (Matthew 6:16).
It is obvious that the kind of fast prescribed by Jesus was already familiar to the Jewish community, as there is no record that he taught any change. Therefore, it must have been complete abstinence from food and drink, as the above verses indicate. That is why he spoke of putting oil on the head and washing the face so that the tiredness of fasting may not be obvious to others.
Today, many Christians following the guidelines of the Church do not practice this kind of fasting; they avoid eating meat for a few days; or in some cases eat only one meal a day during the fast. And there is no ban on drinks either. This may be because the New Testament does not give any details as to how to fast.
Lent, which is observed by Roman Catholic, Anglican, and certain other churches, is a forty-day period of fasting and penitence in emulation of Jesus Christ's example in his fast in the wilderness (deserts) of Judea.
The first main component of Lent is the obligation of abstinence which applies to all older than 14. For Roman Catholics, abstinence means not eating meat in any form, but not including fish. But there is also a concept of "partial abstinence", meaning eating meat only once per day.
On three occasions in the Bible, people fasted for forty days. The first occasion was when Moses received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:28). The next occasion was when Elijah encountered God before the anointing of Elisha (I Kings 19:8). The third occasion for such a fast was when Jesus was in the wilderness and tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:2).
There are many reasons given in the Bible for fasting. It is seen as an act of sacrifice that reminds Christians of God and through fasting, while the flesh is denied comfort, the spirit is strengthened.
Fasting in Hinduism
On this day, Hindu devotees fast during the day and keep vigil during the night in prayer and meditation.
Fasting is prescribed on all Ekadasi days. Ekadasi is a Sanskrit word that refers to the 11th day of the lunar fortnight, twice a month (Bowker, 173).
Vedic scriptures strongly recommend observing a complete fast on the day of Ekadasi (without drinking water). Everyone from the age of eight to eighty, irrespective of caste, gender, or any material consideration, is recommended to fast on this day to make spiritual progress.
Those who cannot perform the austerity of complete fasting, can follow Ekadasi by eating once a day at midday, or eating once a day in the evening. However, under no conditions should one eat grains in any form on this day.
On this day, devotees fast during the day and keep vigil during the night in prayer and meditation. Observing Ekadasi, it is believed, would destroy all sins and purify the mind.
Fasting is seen not only as a part of worship; it is also a training of the mind and the body to endure all hardships and to persevere under difficulties and not give up.
Fasting in Islam
The chief objective of fasting in Islam is to develop God-consciousness. ..
[Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur'an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.] (Al-Baqarah 2:185)
The Islamic fast involves a free decision on the part of the believer to renounce the temptations of all appetites and desires of the flesh during the day time for the whole month.
There are other kinds of voluntary fasting like fasting on Mondays and Thursdays of each week, fasting 3 days in the middle of the lunar month, and fasting on the day of `Ashura' and the day of `Arafah.
According to Muslims, fasting means abstaining from food, drink and sexual intercourse from dawn to sunset, Muslims are also supposed to abstain from lying, backbiting and arguing, as the Prophet Muhammad indicated: "Fasting is not merely abstaining from eating and drinking. Rather, it is also abstaining from ignorant and indecent speech. So if anyone abuses you or behaves ignorantly to you, then say: I am fasting, I am fasting" (Al-Hakim).
The chief objective of fasting in Islam is to develop God-consciousness, leading to the blossoming forth of goodness and virtue in life because the kind of self-restraint learnt from fasting is capable of strengthening the will to lead a better and purer life in this world, which in turn will lead to an eternal life of happiness in the next.
Bowker, John. Oxford Concise Dictionary of World Religions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Haas, Elson M. Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 2006.
Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol.5, pg.347-9.
Welsh, John W. "Fasting in Earliest Christianity" . Insights (a publication of FARMS), Vol. 21, No. 9, 2001.
Professor Shahul Hameed is a consultant to the Discover Islam Section in IslamOnline. net. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.
When is Laylat al-Qadr?
By Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
When is Laylat al-Qadr?
The Prophet Muhammad (Allah bless him and give him peace) said, "Whoever prays on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and sincerity, shall have all their past sins forgiven." [Bukhari and Muslim, from Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him)]
The Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) also said, "Seek it in the last ten days, on the odd nights." [Bukhari and Muslim from Abu Sa`id al-Khudri (Allah be pleased with him)]
The scholars affirm that it is the best of nights, [al-Fatawa al-Hindiyya, quoting Mi`raj al-Diraya, 1.216] because of Allah Most High's words,
"Lo! We revealed it on the Night of Power.
Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Night of Power is!
The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.
The angels and the Spirit [Jibril] descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, will all decrees.
(That night is) Peace until the rising of the dawn."
(Qur'an, Surat al-Qadr: 97)
Imam Nawawi and others explain that "The Night of Power is better than a thousand months,' means that it is better than a thousand months without it.
Given the tremendousness of this night, it is recommended to seek this night, and to worship Allah in it, with prayer, supplication (du`a), remembrance (dhikr), and other actions. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, quoting Mi`raj al-Diraya, and Nawawi, al-Majmu`] Because obligatory acts are more beloved to Allah than supererogatory ones, the most important thing for men is to pray both Isha and Fajr at the mosque.
When is it?
There is great difference of opinion about this, because it is of the matters whose certain knowledge has been lifted by Allah Most High from this Ummah, for the wisdom that people strive to seek it:
In general, it is agreed that it is most likely to be in the last ten nights of Ramadan, with the odd nights being more likely. Of the odd nights, the night of the 27th (which is the night before the 27th of Ramadan, for the Islamic day starts with nightfall) is most likely. Imam Shafi`i said that it is most likely to be the 21st, then the 23rd, then the 27th. Imam Nawawi followed the position of Imam Muzani and Imam Ibn Khuzayma that it moves around within the last ten nights. [Nawawi, al-Majmu` Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, 6.488]
However, it could be outside the last ten nights within Ramadan. It may even be outside Ramadan according to both early and late scholars. This has been transmitted from many of the Companions of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), including Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him). It is one of the reported positions of Imam Abu Hanifa, and also of many of the great knowers of Allah, including Ibn Arabi (whose position is quoted by Ibn Abidin with support), Abu'l Hasan al-Shadhili, Sha`rani, and many others.
May Allah give us the success of following in the footsteps of the inheritors of the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace), outwardly and inwardly, and may He make us of those whom He loves.
This is one of the many reasons why one should strive to establish the night vigil prayer (tahajjud), daily.
It has been reported that, "Once the last ten [days of Ramadan] started, the Messenger of Allah (blessings and peace be upon him, his family, and companions) used to spend the nights in worship, wake his family, strive, and tighten his belt." [Bukhari and Muslim] Tighten his belt refers to determination.
The established position of Abu Hanifa and his two main companions, Abu Yusuf and Muhammad ibn al-Hasan (Allah have mercy on them) is that it is specific to Ramadan. Abu Hanifa said that it is not a fixed day but, rather, it moves around in the month. [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar, from al-Bahr and al-Kafi] As for the hadiths about it being the night of the 27th, Ibn Abidin mentions that Abu Hanifa explained them as meaning a particular year.
Ibn Abidin quotes Ibn Nujaym's Bahr al-Ra'iq that this is one transmitted position of Abu Hanifa. Another, mentioned in Qadikhan's Fatawa al-Khaniyya, one of the most important works for fatwa in the school, is that the famous transmission from Imam Abu Hanifa is that it moves around the entire year; it could be in Ramadan, and it could be in another month.
Ibn Abidin said,
"This is supported by what the Master of the Knowers of Allah Sayyidi Muhyi al-Din Ibn Arabi mentioned in his Futuhat al-Makkiyya,
"People differed about Laylat al-Qadr. Some said it moves around the entire year. This is my position, for I have seen it in the month of Sha`ban, and in Rabi`, and in Ramadan. I have seen it most, though, in the month of Ramadan, and, specifically, in the last nights. I saw it once in the second third of Ramadan, on an even night, and once on an odd night. Therefore, I am certain that it moves around the entire year, on both odd and even nights.'
And there are many opinions regarding this, which reach 46 different positions." [Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar]
This is reported to be the position of Ibn Mas`ud (Allah be pleased with him) and other great Companions. [As mentioned by Bututi in his Kashshaf al-Qina`, and others; for the many narrations from the Companions and Followers about Laylat al-Qadr, see Ibn Abi Shayba's Musannaf]
Imam al-Nafrawi al-Maliki mentions in his al-Fawakih al-Dawani fi Sharh Risalat Ibn Abi Zayd al-Qayrawani that the position of Imam Malik, Imam Shafi`i and Imam Ahmad, and the majority of the scholars is that Laylat al-Qadr is not a specific night. Rather, it moves around.
Imam Sarakhsi mentions in his Mabsut, a 30-volume masterpiece of Hanafi legal reasoning, proofs, and comparative fiqh that was mainly authored by dictation to students while unjustly imprisoned in a pot well, that the position of most of the Companions (Allah be pleased with him) was that it is on the night of the 27th. (3.127) This understood, others explain, to mean that its most likely night is the night of the 27th of Ramadan. [As in Ruhaybani's Matalib Uli'n Nuha Sharh Ghayat al-Muntaha 2.225 in Hanbali fiqh]
And Allah alone gives success.
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