City of Brass

shake shack dubai ramadan by Krista on Flickr

shake shack dubai ramadan by Krista on Flickr

This is a guest post by Taher Suratwala.

Ramadan is here and life is turned upside down. No breakfast, no coffee in the morning, strange and totally different sleep schedule, falling asleep at work, fasting breath, no working out and lots of sitting. It’s as if someone picked up my routine and gave it a vigorous shake.

I love it.

All the changes are to accommodate the fasting and to ultimately get in touch with a more spiritual side.

Eleven months of the year, I’m stuck in my ways and pretty stuck to my routine. If I don’t have coffee in the morning it’s a tough day! But Ramadan comes and I’m reminded I am capable of changing everything to meet some goal. I even quit coffee (for Ramadan) to convince myself I can.

People are capable of so much with the right motivation. Here’s to a good shake up this year!

Taher Suratwala is a husband to his beautiful wife, a father to his two wonderful children, and a son to his wise parents. During the day, he makes use of his math, statistics and economic background as an actuary and occasionally writes on his blog, B Like Water.


The day after the Orlando shooting, my friend Wajahat Ali addressed a crowd of mostly professional, fairly religious Muslim Americans in Houston. Here is a transcript of his remarks, a call to action for the Muslim community. Reprinted with his gracious permission.

So, yes, things are really bad for Muslims right now. But writer Willow Wilson reminded me of a hadith, a saying of the Prophet Muhammad: “Even if the day of judgement is coming, plant the seedling.”

It might seem that a orange skinned man with wavy, interesting hair and a permanent scowl on his face named Trump is one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse and that qiyamat (Judgement Day) is around the corner…

But have faith. Have faith. And have hope. And do good. Continue doing good. Our Creator commands it.

My job, your job, our job is to expand and stretch America to realize its full potential, challenging her to live up to her professed ideals. Pushing the boundaries of the Constitution and our American freedoms as to accommodate all the diverse communities that live within it.

How do we do that? Through service, through living our faith with humble swagger, pride, an open heart and generosity. By bum rushing the show and refusing to be spectators and victims.

And by sharing our story. Because if you aren’t sharing your story, your story will always be told for you by others.

There is tremendous power in the ability to share and tell a story, especially someone else’s story.

And to quote Spider-Man who quotes Uncle Ben who quotes Voltaire – with great power, comes great responsibility.

Each community is tested with challenges. Our father’s generation had their challenges as did our grandparents before them. We are currently facing severe challenges. We are not unique.

Our real test is NOT if we fight for our own freedoms, that’s a given. Our real test is not If we fight against the Islamophobia Industry, that’s a given. Or if we mobilize a Muslim Get out the Vote campaign to make our presence felt in swing states – that’s a given and the least we owe America after we gave the world Bush for 8 years. Thank you Florida and California Muslims — no, I did not vote for him. Yes I am judging you.

Our real test is if we turn around and extend our hand and make sure we uplift those who are marginalized and downtrodden as well.

Earlier today, a 29-year-old man, Omar Mateen, walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, carrying a handgun and assault rifle. At 2 am he opened fire and killed 50 people and wounded at least 53 others.

Law enforcement is saying the shooting was “well planned” and “organized.”

This is the worst mass shooting in US history.

You want your leadership challenge? You want your fork in the road? You want your test? You want your choose your own adventure? HERE IT IS.

What choice will you make?

Will you sit by silent, idle and complacent?

OR will you disrupt the narrative?

Will you empower and uplift our LGBT Muslim brothers and sisters, who often suffer in silence and have been ostracized and demonized by multiple communities in America for their sexuality, religion and ethnicity? People who are at the cultural fault lines – blasted for being both gay and Muslim in an America that often uses them as pawns for an absolutist cultural war.

Will you call out ignorance that creates an atmosphere which tolerates and breeds hate?

Will you sincerely assert our solidarity with the LGBT community, not for sake of politics, talking points and expedient alliances, but around shared values and visions of creating an America where no one is hazed, victimized, brutalized or murdered simply for “being” ?

Will you denounce the draconian and unnecessary anti LGBT legislation that is being introduced in several states around the country just like LGBT members have routinely denounced Trump’s anti Muslim bigotry and anti Sharia legislation for years?

If so, then congratulations, you are writing a new chapter in the evolving rough draft of America. Because that’s what it means to be American.

Remember- disagreement does not become grounds for lack of compassion or lack of humanity or lack of empathy and solidarity.

Pluralism and respect is a two way street. It requires reciprocity. That’s the test. You can’t demand rights and compassion and dignity for Muslims while denying it for other groups. It’s hypocrisy and morally inconsistent.

Let’s develop and reflect our real Islamic ethics of pluralism and DECENCY.

I challenge and invite us to write a new story for American Islam and Muslims.

One that is not isolated, angry, victimized, bitter, miserly, insular, racist, sectarian or homophobic.

One instead that stretches and accommodates America using our Islamic values to ensure that these vast freedoms are enjoyed by all communities, not just our own.

We must be like Musa and throw down our stick. We must be like Muhammad Ali – and dance and float and sting as participants in the ring, no longer as spectators. We have to throw down – and throw down hard. And ball out of control — right now.

These are urgent times, but also moments of opportunity and growth.

So thank you to all of you, especially for investing in service, in hope, in helping our AMERICAN communities, for investing in our religious values and freedoms, for investing in the future of America, for investing in us being the best versions of ourselves, and for planting a seedling, so the next generation can emerge and write a new chapter for our communities where we become the protagonists of the American narrative.

Wajahat Ali is the Creative Director at Affinis Labs.

This is a guest post by Aamer H. Jamali.

Ramadan/Eid Mubarak

Ramadan/Eid Mubarak

You’d think I’d know better by now. I’m not new at this, after all, having observed Ramadan for the past thirty years. And yet every year I fall into the same trap. Shabaan comes around, and it seems every day, every meal, every workout taunts me. A silent (followed by a not so silent) countdown commences. In my mind, Ramadan becomes a big black box, a month erased from my life, a page ripped off of the calendar. The end of the world, for a month anyway; when nothing can be expected to be accomplished.

I anticipate with dread the hunger, the lack of energy, the perpetual “hangry” feeling coupled with the lack of sleep and the expenditure of most of my free time at the masjid. Life takes on a new urgency during Shabaan. I need a new car, I’ve got to shop now, Ramadan is coming! Remodeling the kitchen? Need to choose tile now, Ramadan is coming! Patients to be seen, surgeries to be done…Schedule them now, Ramadan is coming! Taxes need to be prepared (I know, I’m late). Better do it soon, Ramadan is coming!

And then, before I know it, Ramadan is here. And only half of my superhuman to-do list has even been attempted. And yes, I’m hungry (and at times hangry), and tired. And yes, I go to the masjid. But it is always amazing to me–the sun still rises, the sky is still blue, the birds still sing. Life generally goes on, unabated.

Much to my surprise, my work schedule which I had lightened in anticipation of my reduced energy, seems too light as I sit at times with nothing to do. I still find time to meet with my contractor, or go for a test drive. And I always, always seem to find time to procrastinate even further on my taxes. Somehow, this big black box is not actually that. The page was never torn off the calendar, it is just another month in life. It has its own challenges and unique routines, to be sure. But life is able to be lived despite these fasts I was dreading so much.

This year, I choose to reflect on crux of this disconnect. Because despite concrete proof and experience saying otherwise, Ramadan in many ways continues to feel like a black box, like the end of the world for a month. The feeling is not born of dread. Despite the fasts, the lack of sleep, and the busy schedule, I don’t actually dread Ramadan. After all, I observe it of my own volition every year; if I truly dreaded it, I could easily stop and in many ways nobody would be the wiser. I do dread aspects of Ramadan, I would be lying if I said I actually enjoyed fasting. But I also look forward to aspects such as the renewed spirituality and the camaraderie.

Perhaps Ramadan feels like a black box because in many ways it is–just not in the ways I anticipated. It is a month erased from my life and torn off the calendar and given to Allah (SWT). All of these feelings are markers for the importance, the azamat, that I grant Ramadan. I will go test driving during Ramadan, I will talk to my contractor. And I will work. Just not if it interferes with namaaz time. At least for this one month, I will give ibadat the prime priority it deserves, insha-Allah.

Aamer H. Jamali, MD, FACC is a cardiologist in Los Angeles.

The tragedy in Orlando is a harsh return to reality from the fantasy escape of the Muhammad Ali funeral.

CAIR Florida launched a donation page at LaunchGood for the victims’ families:

launchgood orlando

Muslim scholars have expressed sorrow and condemnation – Omar Suleiman:

‪#‎Orlando‬ Senseless. Barbaric. Despicable. As the shouting wars begin on television and social media, don’t forget the grief of the families who woke up to the news that their loved ones were ruthlessly taken away from them. Our thoughts and prayers are with them today. We condemn this unspeakable horror.

We just spent a week honoring a man, well known to us, who was inspired by Islam to spread peace & justice to every corner of this world, touching millions of lives in a beautiful way. I, and Muslims across this country, refuse to be involuntarily represented by some demented murderer unknown to us who ruthlessly took the lives of tens of people in Orlando today.

Abdul Nasir Jangda:

Today I am speechless. Fifty people- fifty human beings- lost their lives in an act of absolutely senseless and barbaric violence and a total disregard for humanity.

The news outlets are saying that the shooter affiliated himself with Islam. Know that Islam does not affiliate itself with him. It needs to be said: there is absolutely, categorically no place for what this man has done in Islam. I do not know of a single sound religious tradition that allows, let alone advocates, for such indiscriminate killing.

Allah says in the Quran, “Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind.”

Today, all of mankind is hurt by this man’s actions. I pray for justice, unity, and for the families who lost loves ones in this mindless tragedy.

Khalid Latif:

Thinking of my brothers and sisters in the LGBTQ community this morning. I can only imagine how the loved ones of those killed in last night’s horrific actions in Orlando are feeling. The only way to make sense of such senseless acts is through living with hope, compassion and love. My thoughts and prayers are with you all. ‪#‎OrlandoShooting‬

In the Qur’an:

مِنْ أَجْلِ ذَٰلِكَ كَتَبْنَا عَلَىٰ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ أَنَّهُ مَن قَتَلَ نَفْسًا بِغَيْرِ نَفْسٍ أَوْ فَسَادٍ فِي الْأَرْضِ فَكَأَنَّمَا قَتَلَ النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا وَمَنْ أَحْيَاهَا فَكَأَنَّمَا أَحْيَا النَّاسَ جَمِيعًا ۚ وَلَقَدْ جَاءَتْهُمْ رُسُلُنَا بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ ثُمَّ إِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنْهُم بَعْدَ ذَٰلِكَ فِي الْأَرْضِ لَمُسْرِفُونَ

We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our messengers with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land. (Qur’an 5:32)

And the most important thing that we can do as a community in response is to heed the wisdom of the Qur’an, and repel evil with that which is better:

وَلَا تَسْتَوِي الْحَسَنَةُ وَلَا السَّيِّئَةُ ۚ ادْفَعْ بِالَّتِي هِيَ أَحْسَنُ فَإِذَا الَّذِي بَيْنَكَ وَبَيْنَهُ عَدَاوَةٌ كَأَنَّهُ وَلِيٌّ حَمِيمٌ

Nor can goodness and Evil be equal. Repel (Evil) with what is better: Then will he between whom and thee was hatred become as it were thy friend and intimate! (Qur’an 41:34)

Let us respond to this tragedy, not by trying to define terrorism, or think about public policy, or politicians, or mental illness, but with simple determination to repel evil with what is better. Start by donating to LaunchGood for the families and victims in Orlando. And then let our duas be amplified by Ramadan accordingly.

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