Past the Age of Reason and Passion…thoughts

DSCN8453The Age of Reason and Passion, according to Rousseau is between the ages of 15 and 20 years… I admit to being past that age for a couple of years, but have I really reached that point when one is certain of controlling and effectively channeling one´s passions and acting with reason? Not quite, that is my honest answer, I have not yet found a balance within myself… For a long time I refused to grow up, to accept the world around me, I wanted to be free of responsibility, of pain, of pressure; however, that bubble soon pops and the weight of things falls on us whether we want it or not. There is no room for irresponsibility, for hedonism; suffering is part of life as is happiness, joy, euphoria, these are the ups and downs of life. In reality, if we look at things in perspective, what we once thought might be the worst situation, the saddest scenario, the most difficult obstacle, might be close to nothing compared to what others go through in their daily life, we don´t choose when or where we are born, but we shape and mold the life we want… and if what we have is not satisfying enough, it´s a clear sign not of being unsatisfied, but rather a warning that we should strive for more, for life is really an ever constant change, an ascension to something higher, an almost unattainable perfection.

Every so often, I admit to going through phases of negative, pessimistic, fatalistic crisis… days when I can no longer stand the world around me, as if my surroundings were a foggy and unclear obscurity with no solid ground to walk on… how can I make my way back to the light of reason, intellect, and peace? Sometimes all it takes is a shift of thoughts, an evening walk, or sitting up all night thinking, what I´m a doing wrong that makes me feel so terribly disoriented? Salaat, reading the Qur’an helps, but sometimes we have to reach deeper within ourselves, and into our soul, not so much our mind, but that transparent, intangible, and almost magic part of us… and there it may lie, the root of the trouble, the answer, or at least a hint of it…

I write this, for as I was looking through old articles and posts, some from nearly two or more years ago, I realize I rarely talk of myself as a real person, with faults, problems, fears and weaknesses… I tend to only want to see what I like, what pleases me, what fits in my ideal of what I want the world to be, but perhaps it`s a sign of immaturity, therefore, I`d like to propose a goal for what remains of this year and the time to come, to grow up, mature, to no longer be afraid of the truth, for only by accepting it can change be possible….

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Eid al- Fitr: Celebrating the end of Ramadan

Mehndi for Eid...

Mehndi for Eid…

 After a month of fasting, prayer, and recitation, follows Eid… it as an ever festive day, starting with a morning prayer that is usually held outdoors, one must traditionally arrive by foot and reciteTakbeer… Then, after prayer, comes a shower of Eid greetings, hugs, handshakes, and salaams, even those people we might not personally know receive a greeting… Men and women alike wear their best outfits, new clothes in all their shine and luster, children run around in formal clothes, and everybody takes part in the celebration… It is the perfect ending to a month-long holiday like Ramadan, a group celebration that is afterward followed by days of visiting and inviting friends and family to share food and conversation… Whole families go out and celebrate, visiting amusement parks, historic sites, museums, coffeshops, wherever they might choose to spend time together and enjoy of each other´s company… Often the celebration extends into a whole week, and families travel to visit their relatives or close friends.

 I spent this past Eid in California with my parents, first we attended the morning prayer which was curiously held in a baseball stadium, it filled up with covered women, children, and men… We were not familiar with the Muslim community in San Diego, and yet we easily felt ourselves at home, surrounded by other Muslims… We spent the rest of the day wandering through the small city´s downtown district, having lunch at our favorite coffeshop and bookstore, sightseeing, and buying our Eid presents, simple things like books, a pair of shoes, a beautiful scarf… It is easy to enjoy Eid, for it is a simple celebration, yes, we might dress up in elegant and sumptuous clothes if we choose to, we can give presents, but it is not so much about getting or receiving, or showing off what your money can buy; Eid is of a simpler nature, about enjoying each other´s company, for life, family, and friends are truly a blessing we can easily take for granted…


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A Handmade Ramadan

Written by guest author Zoar Melek

Iftar time at home..ramadanIn this part of the world which we come to call the West, to say something is handmade is to say that it was made with love, time, dedication, delicate detail, an unique product and therefore also fine and well appreciated… However, we do not share this concept with the East where that which is handmade is underrated in comparison to things that are mass produced in a totally commercial way, it is under this view of things that the price of the object is equivalent to the appreciation one can have for it and not to its real value.  But what makes this difference? The West has many years of fabricating mass products, depersonalized objects that are accessible to anyone, and after years and years of this unmeasured industrialization it has learned to newly value the quality, love and unique character present  in that which is handmade; while in the East, most things are still handmade  at a small scale, and something that is so common and frequent is undervalued for being traditional and ordinary while that which is mass produced is then viewed as modern, Western, and provides a certain status to whomever consumes it… As a Western Muslim, I have lived through a long struggle to reclaim in our culture that which is handmade as much as the pleasure of making things by hand…. I have spent several years carrying out workshops and classes so the new generations can regain the pleasure of the simple things they can make on their own, and being Ramadan the Islamic year’s most important holiday it is also the perfect moment to enjoy and share the creativity and amusement we get as we sit around the table, ready to make everything from cards and decorations, and small gifts, to sweets and desserts… It is well known that family life is very important in Islamic culture, however when we speak of Muslims in the West it is a very different matter. One of the most magical and surprising customs surrounding this holiday in the East is seeing the household’s women, regardless of age differences, sharing in conversation, all together in the kitchen as they prepare the dishes for Iftar. Kitchens during Ramadan are the meeting place for women, out of them emanates laughter, joy, and enthusiasm mingled with the perfumed aromas of an endless number of elaborate and sophisticated dishes. However, the Muslim family in the West tends to have a different view of things, although mothers still spend the day in the kitchen, the rest of the family no longer partakes in this activity, family time has begun to dilute and habits are starting to change. Ordering food, sweets, and desserts from a caterer, like buying readymade gifts or decorations is often considered by many of these Muslims as something of great elegance and modernity, thus putting an end to an activity that was traditionally a time to share and enjoy and limiting it to whatever time is spent at a mall picking out clothing, presents or decorations… Is it frivolity? Perhaps, I know that neither shopping nor decorations, nor food are the purpose of Ramadan but rather prayer, reflection, and fasting, but as a holiday it is also a time to share with those around us and can be enjoyed in a pleasant and modest manner with the family, without great ostentation nor big expenses, but most importantly without losing the sacred and spiritual sense of this holiday… Something that my daughter and I have always shared and enjoyed is taking some time before the beginning of Ramadan and plan the menu, decorations, assigning out activities and tasks, all done with simplicity but with the great joy that holidays bring into our lives, it is not about competing to see who makes the most impressing or biggest dinner, nor is it to copy ornaments and decorations from Western holidays, but rather to share in making simple things that reflect our culture and enliven those special days in which the family gets together and we share with friends, perhaps we will get an idea and sew a new tablecloth or make some simple paper banners to welcome a part of the family that has been far, or make a card and send it to those who are absent, such simple things made with our hands can enrich our lives together and brighten and strengthen as much family life as the spirit of a holiday….

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Muslims in Mexico, que?

DSCN0110A few weeks ago I was chatting with an old friend of mine, exchanging Ramadan greetings and catching up on our family´s stories… He was telling me about this year’s tarawih and the new reciter, when he asked about tarawih prayers in Mexico… Well, much to his surprise, I told him there are no masjids around here, the closest one is hours away and across the U.S. border in San Diego… He was astonished, and comically commented; you know, your family might actually be the only Muslims observing Ramadan in Mexico. The observation might sound exaggerated but nevertheless very close to the truth. My parents and I alone are the Muslim community in this isolated part of Northern Mexico; so one can easily imagine the invisibility of any Muslim presence around here, and as a result the ignorance about Islam.

In spite of this, one can still find people who make an effort by showing kindness and respect even if they have no idea what a Muslim is whenever you say it. I remember when I first arrived in Mexico two years ago, I was struck by the level of ignorance in regard to Muslims. Curiously so, it´s during Ramadan that people have come to surprise me the most… For instance, I was telling a friend that I was fasting and his girlfriend asked me if I was “in Radaman,” her pronunciation might have been a bit off, but soon afterward she said, “Happy Ramadan,” it was a kind gesture, showing she cared. Another such instance was when some friends invited me out to lunch but I declined because of my fast, and instead they decided to come over to my place for some board games, I served them snacks and we had fun even when I couldn´t eat or drink… It is often strange to live in a country where there is apparently no Muslim population; prayers are performed at home, holidays celebrated and observed in the intimacy of a family of three, and customs often require ample explanations… yet whatever kindness and respect shown by those around us is always warmly welcomed, likewise I am always open to answer any questions or doubts about my religion…


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Ramadan: We Pray for Gaza

pray for peaceThe days of this Ramadan seem endless, infinite, but not because of fasting, of abstaining ourselves from food and water from sunrise to sunset… No, that is not the reason… for twelve of those days, Gaza has been under outright, unmasked, deliberate, and unceased Israeli attacks, bombings, fires… as if the apparently permanent blockade, pestering and humilliation of the Israeli military against civilians, the insecurity and uncertainty of Gaza’s daily life were not more than enough…

Today, many of us find ourselves watching, reading, thinking, of these terrible events… but we are far, many of us safe, living in the commodity of a peaceful country, across oceans, borders, continents… And yet, unjustice and cruelty are just around the corner, for we might be in different countries but we live in the same world, one world, one humanity… we must not be indifferent, unsensitive, for if we are what will the world come to? we must show and spread awareness and strive for justice…. And although we might go through anger, desperation, impotence, and sadness, we must at last reach a state of gratitude for the life we can have today and pray for the lives of those living and dying under injustice, opression, limitation…. We pray for Gaza…. we pray for Humanity.

As a follow up, some good articles to be informed:

need to be human



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Ramadan in Mexico: Day Five

My Bag of Ramadan Dates

My Bag of Ramadan Dates

Five days already, I feel as if the days are passing too fast… During the day I occupy myself with plenty of activity, and after sunset, the night passes all too quickly with prayer and reading Qur’an, some nights are almost sleepless, and although I’m a quick reader strangely so, when I read Qur’an I go rather slowly, so it takes me a long time to read a full surah… However, the night is certainly not wasted away; the few hours of sleep are worth all the good night readings… It’s a bit strange, passing a Ramadan in a country where few people even know what a Muslim truly is… There is no sense of Ummah, community; it’s a bit of a test because there is nobody to remind you that it’s Ramadan, no sign of people fasting… The prayers, the tarawih, the reading, all have to be done individually at home. Yesterday, I read a brief article about Muslims in Mexico, it gave numbers and percentages of its Muslim population in different regions of the country, and I found out Baja California, the state I live in only has about 190 Muslims, while Mexico City has over a thousand Muslim population… most states have a small or zero population, and I thought, no wonder why I haven’t met many Muslims around here, and why the sight of a woman in a veil, hijab, is so surprising to most people, today was one such example…

I set out early this morning; the rain from past days has ceased and left us with warm, moist, and cloudy weather… I wore hijab as I shopped for fruits, vegetables, and more dates for the next weeks of Ramadan. And as I was leaving one of the shops, a vendor with a cart full of vegetables stopped me and said: Excuse me, miss, with all due respect, you look very elegant the way you dress, with your head covered. What is it called? He signaled around his head, indicating the wrapping of a scarf… I smiled, it was certainly not the first time I was asked that question, however the man’s respectful, almost cautious tone showed he had a genuine interest and respect. It made me think how a simple cloth, a scarf worn to cover our hair, could inspire such respect… the scarf, the veil, does not conceal, does not hide, but rather protects… Kindly, I answered it was called hijab, explained it was part of the Islamic faith, and had no relation to nationality or ethnicity, a very common misconception here… The man nodded, smiled, and said, may God bless you and have a beautiful day… It really made my day, Alhamdulillah… In this year, I have had varied experiences on wearing hijab, but this kind, when a total stranger shows such respect is always the most pleasant and surprising…




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Ramadan Day Three: Sewing a Ramadan outfit, using time creatively…

Sewing for Ramadan on my new machine..

Sewing for Ramadan on my new machine..

This year, Ramadan happened to fall during school break, for some of us that means our days are filled with a little bit of leisure time… so, how do we use this free time productively and creatively? No, not watching tv shows or glued to facebook, twitter, or other accounts we may have… why not use that leisure time to relax and create, let our imaginations do the work and invent something from scratch!
Personally, I know I have mentioned this before, I love sewing, although I do like to do all sorts of crafts from origami to papier mache, I even took up knitting a long time ago.. but really, sewing is my preferred relax activity above all… And since it is Ramadan, and I find it to be a special time when we must try to think differently about ourselves, who we are and who we want to be, I thought that making a special Ramadan outfit would be perfect. I have a rough time finding clothes in Mexico that suit the modest muslim style, and since I do like to design and I love sewing, I use my free time to create clothes that are modest, stylish, and that fit just the way I want… Only about four days ago I received a brand new sewing machine from my parents, it was my end of semester and early Eid present… I have used it almost daily since then. Today, I finished sewing my Ramadan outfit, a modest blouse in shimmering bronze colored fabric and a matching turban. The cut was incredibly easy, all one needs is about a meter of the desired fabric, measure the desired width and length of the blouse, and get creative…
Below are some photos of my sketches, blouse, and a few simple directions on how to sew it… it’s simple, easy, and you’ll have fun sewing… and the reward: you made your own clothes to fit a modest dress style and to fit only you… be creative, have fun, and get sewing!


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Filed under A Muslim in Mexico, Living, Living Ramadan, Muslim Living, Muslim Style and Dress: new perspectives