Posts Tagged ‘ramadan’

Another post about Ramadan — from a Christian in an interfaith family

August 13, 2012

I wrote a lengthy Post about ramadan, but I think DH accidentally deleted it. So now I have to do it all again. That’s frustrating. But, here we go and know that it will probably be twice as long as the original post.
Honestly, my thoughts and plans, rather fantasy, about celebrating Ramadan was very different than reality. I imagined that my husband and I would listen to Quranic messages together. He would get more generous and more understanding and closer to God as Ramadan progressed And I would take the messages that were most like the Biblical messages and remember to apply them. After all, we could all use some reminding of our fundamentals…. and I must admit, my prayer life could be better. Muslims pray five times a day and I probably could increase my prayer life which is always a good idea. There’s nothing saying a Christian can’t pray five times a day. I would pray my prayers when my husband prayed his prayers. At the end of Ramadan I would cook something special. We would have a meaningful holiday and pass this tradition down to our LO(Smile). We would Celebrate Ramadan in our own special way. We would have wonderful Eid traditions that we handed down to our little baby. Everything would be full of meaning and reflection and family connections. That however is not how it is happening.
I seem to be on the peripheral of Ramadan. We don’t share messages together we rarely talk about any message that is given. And I admit that I am readily willing to listen to any scholarly message in English about the Quran or Ramadan. But I want to do it together. I want to listen and discuss. My husband does not like discussing. I suppose my approach might be a bit American in nature it’s kind of like the Bible study approach. But I thought it would have some value.
There’re many reasons I am on the fringes of Ramadan but I’m going to name one here right now. I don’t go to the mosque much. So, I take my responsibility for that one. I should insist on going to the Mosque with DH, if I want a full meaningful experience. This Ramadan my husband has gone to two specific mosques. one mosque is very diverse. This is the mosque that has the aggressive headscarf policewomen. yes I felt as if they were policing my headscarf which by the way never wanted to obey my commands. However we have went one other time to this mosque and I didn’t find the women nearly as aggressive. The only time my headscarf was pulled into submission by some African women who were sitting next to me, was when a man came into the women’s quarters. — twice… but I am ok with that because I saw it as a way to protect my respectability — or something similar. . the other mosque that my husband goes to periodically especially when I don’t go, is an exclusive Desi mosque, AKA “the men’s Mosque.” Of course, women are not exactly forbidden to come but they are certainly not welcomed and there is no place for them to pray. “After all,” DH reminds me, ” it is not mandatory for women to come at all.” What disturbs me most is that my wonderful husband is okay with this logic. he does not see a problem if women want to go to the mosque, He says, ” they can go to at least seven other ones around the city…” … I think there’s more mosques springing up all of the time, now … the Exclusive Desi one was not even listed on the Google Search. . In any case, DH has no problem with the fact that it is all men. And, they have (according to DH) some awesome food. Which probably means that, women are at home, cooking for the men to go to a mosque that they are not even welcome to attend. And… … DH has no problem with this. He won’t even offer an objection, and this is America(the land of opposition and objections), not Pakistan.
obviously and unfortunately, he doesn’t see us celebrating Ramadan together. My participation is not mandatory. and it seems to make no difference to him whether I go to the Mosque or not. now of course it will make a difference with the baby so for that reason he might want me to go but not for my specific support.
So, I ask him to put the question to his mother: Would she attend “Mosque,” if one gave her a space to pray? his mother and father live in Pindi. This is not a village, but mosques still don’t openly welcome women. His mother said that she would certainly go, if there was a place for her to pray. Her daughter, R, (DH’s youngest sister) goes to the mosque in Lahore with her new husband. His mother asked if I would go with her and I gave her a definite “yes.” I understand that attending a mosque is manditory and this is seen as a gift to the women since they have household duties and/or children to care for. But, there are many women who have neither of these responsibilities. Besides, by “not” giving women a space to pray at a mosque (we haven’t even gotten to the equal space argument) aren’t we saying that women’s spirituality is less important than men’s? furthermore, I wonder if this “men’s mosque,” is so conservative about women’s participation, what else are they conservative on? and: why was it even built? Apparently, it was only built two years ago, yet there were many other mosques quite close in proximity already in full swing.
It strikes me that one of the reasons my husband says it’s not a big deal for women to attend the mosque, is because he says women tend to socialize more than they should. He says they are loud and they tend to want to socialize instead of listening to the message. But I have to point out, it wasn’t two days ago that he was saying to me how wonderful it was that he was making some contacts at the mosque. Hello, socialization. It’s just done in a different way. I also pointed out that if they have a imam right in front of them or have the speaker right in front of them, they probably would be more likely to be more quiet.
And there’s a considerable amount of women who are frustrated with those loud social women and who does want to hear the message. I know because when I was at the mosque there were quite a few African women and American women who voiced their stern opposition to those loud talkers.
I talk about “sex discrimination,” which I am sorry to say doesn’t even seem to touch DH. The men are quite friendly, the prayers and messages are dynamic and the food is awesome!
Anyway, we did go to the diverse mosque, once. And actually it was a nice gathering. Now of course I couldn’t follow those prayers. No I don’t speak Arabic but it wasn’t just that. Every time I thought the prayer was over because there was a little interlude where people began to discuss and talk then , it would start back again. I didn’t know whether the prayer had ended or just … … took a little break — for some unknown reason. And yes my obstinant headscarf never tends to stay in place. I wonder if there is an elastic version of this headscarf that just encompasses the entire head like a showercap. Ok, that doesn’t sound very attractive, but it would get the job done. Maybe that would be better for me. It doesn’t help that my little guy loves to yank the headscarves off of myself and any other woman in close proximity. Yes, that is exactly what we got when we went to the mosque. He decided that he would be a bit more social than usual and yank women’s headscarves off their heads. This did not amuse the African woman sitting next to me. I think it was the fact that she was dressed in a very colorful outfit and headscarf and he was fascinated by it. Yet they weren’t amused. They were however enamored by my baby because he was so good we ended up staying until 1230 at night. Know that it certainly did mess up my sleeping schedule for the next two days. But my baby was not cranky at all. He wanted to get down and blow bubbles and crawl around on the floor which by the way I restricted his movement because I didn’t want him wondering off without me. Also we know that he has a fascination with people’s iPhones and there were a few women who plugged in their iPhones to be charged while they were praying. I was somehow surprised that women brought their iPhone chargers and plugged in their iPhones while they were playing. OK, I admit that I was a little bit India’s that I hadn’t thought of it myself. I thought somehow it would have been a bit disrespectful to do so. I don’t know why. I just did.
My little guy was very social. Much more social than I thought he would be. He seemed to be quite comfortable there. I think one of the reasons is because everybody was sitting on the floor. He likes people sitting on the floor. and, most women didn’t try to get him to come to them. they just waited until he was comfortable. he likes people sitting on the floor because They are his height and somehow they seem more personable down there. If they’re standing or sitting in a chair they just don’t seem to be as inviting for him.
I think the women like me more if I have a baby. Strangely enough it was unlike our Pakistani picnic experience. I didn’t really know what to expect when I went to the mosque. One woman actually remembered me and sat down and talk to me all night.
Now here is one of my dilemmas. I was called sister. I have no problem with this. I am, after all, a person of the book, Which means that I believe in the Bible so I am actually a believer in one of the three Abrahamic faiths. So maybe sister is not out of the realm of possibilities for me. However I don’t want them to think that I am Muslim and feel betrayed when they find out I am not. I don’t want to act as if I’m something I’m not. But I don’t want to brandish the big C on my chest and every time someone says something I retort ” did you know I’m a Christian?” I don’t want to make a big deal about it. But there isn’t anything that distinguishes me as a Christian from them as Muslims. I wear my headscarf. I don’t fast because I’m nursing. I sit in a chair instead of getting down on the floor to pray but that could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it doesn’t even matter. I just don’t want the women to think that I have somehow fooled them. That would be counterproductive to what I’m trying to do which is to Forge good relationships between them and myself.
Another thing I did like about Our Mosque experience was the five minute English message that talked about being gentle and kind with your children especially since school is starting and while we certainly want our children to succeed, we also don’t want to make it so difficult that they feel the stress. I thought it was a very good message. And I found out that they’re having a celebration for the children. No my baby will not be able to enjoy the celebration yet. But I think my husband is getting excited just thinking about the time when he will be able to. And I’m glad they’re doing a celebration for eat. And of course we realize that many children won’t get to celebrate Christmas and Easter and that our baby is special in that he will celebrate all the holidays. The be plenty of time to spoil him with gifts and other things. Not that I necessarily want to spoil him but you know what happens. I also remind myself that there are probably a number of children who do celebrate at least Christmas because many families are interfaith now. many times there is a brother or a sister or a cousin or a mother and father who are still Christian after the Muslim converts. Therefore it is likely that they could celebrate Christmas. Maybe. And any case I wanted to give money for the eve celebration. And my husband reflected on how he could be more patient with our baby.
We were invited over to a doctor’s house after E was over to enjoy their hospitality. They also have a son who is about fifteen days older than our baby. Of course I’m certain that there is going to be comparisons made… Etc. But it will be nice to meet another couple. With a baby at the same age. And his wife is from the US, as well. I don’t know if she’s Muslim or not. But I do know she’s from the US.
any case, one thing I have learned this Ramadan, is that if I wanted to be special I have to make it so. My husband is not inclined to make Ramadan a family affair. It just was never done. His mother was just fine with not going to the mosque and hearing the messages. It just was not an option for his mother, so her role was to cook. If I want Ramadan to mean more than just cooking, I need to seek out those meanings for myself. I’m also fully aware that there will come a time, when my baby will not be experiencing Ramadan in the way that I am experiencing Ramadan. He will be with the men and I will be again on my own to experience Ramadan by myself. But hopefully by then I will have lots of women friends.
To top it off, I invited my daughter to the eve celebration. Now I invited her because there’re many Christians to go to eat celebrations. We have an interchurch and interfaith organizations to go to eat celebrations. Not only do they learn about Islam or Ramadan, but, many christians celebrate with Muslim friends. So I didn’t think it was out of the question to invite my daughter, after all her little brother will be experiencing his first eat. However she forcefully declined. She was almost apald that I would invite her to a mosque. Now I understand the fundamentalist Christians who feel very adamant about not stepping foot in the mosque. But this woman in her Christianity will go to a gay karaoke bar, tattoo parlor and redneck tailgating concerts; but, she has a problem with a Muslim place of worship??? So, she is totally comfortable with obssessive drinking, dressing in drag, all types of drama on the stage; but she is not comfortable with a different form of prayer?
Anyway, I am very much disappointed by her close mindedness.
This year it is me and my baby. We will make Ramadan and eid the best we can. And, I’ll have to start early to try to make the next Eid even better for LO.

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Eid mubarak! — and other thoughts about the mosque — all rolled up into one.

August 30, 2011

There are many complex variables to worship. Of course, worship should be a time when you do, say or sing to get closer to God/Allah. But, there is a communal part to worship and somehow, (and I think that most people have this expectation or hope) you also want to develop relationships with those who share your spiritual beliefs and are worshipping along side of you. I’ll admit, I was never one for “collective prayer,” it seemed so conscribed. Yet, I do understand the sense of communal oneness in such an act.
I wonder, did I fool myself or is it a myth somewhere: the thought that Muslims are, somehow, quite close knit in their communities and relationships – almost as close as those Amish. (smile) We have attended two different mosques on a regular basis. I wish that I could tell you that I was openly greeted and embraced. I can’t. Now, I need to admit here that I always feel a bit timid and shy and vulnerable when going to the mosque. Sure, you wonderfully assertive people will tell me to get over it and stop being so emotional. Quit whining, you will say. Bla bla bla: it has went through my mind several times. But, it is really a combination of a few things which makes me feel vulnerable.
1. It is still taking me some time to get use to this male/female segregation worship. It is not that I don’t enjoy the company of women. I am “sisterhood,” all the way! It is that I feel that my guide is leaving me at a crucial moment. In churches, I can take his hand, lean over and whisper something in his ear, ask “Tum Theek ho” to gage his comfort level. All this is missing at the mosque. When we have Muslim taxi drivers, they drop me off at the “women’s entrance,” and DH at the Men’s entrance. So, I have to enter alone.
2. All mosques are a bit different and it is hard as a blind person to understand what is expected of me. Where do my shoes actually go? (If I have not taken them off yet, it is not because I am unaware of the rule, it is just that I am not sure where the shoes are being put); I think that the headscarf knows that I am not Muslim, thus, resists my efforts to keep it on; how conservative is the dress of other women in this mosque; during Ramadan, some people are strict about only eating dates and drinking water between the call to prayer and the actual prayer and some include fruit and snacks; someone has to help me with the food because I don’t know “what” is there or “where” it is (consequently, someone always has to serve me which makes me feel a bit uncomfortable);
3. I am not Muslim. I don’t want the sisters to think that I am “playing Muslim” when I am not. Yet, I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb and/or disrespect anyone in the process. There are some discussions – some acts – that I am precluded from because of my religious affiliation. Yet, I am never quite sure where the line is. And, I wonder, does my Non-muslim-ness make it more difficult for sisters to bond with me? This is not an ethnographic study and I am not an observationist – or at least, I don’t want to be or to be seen that way. There is a certain objectivity that an observationist gives to the experience and I would rather be more participatory than that. Yet, obviously, there is a line to my participation.
4. I have a guide dog. I don’t take him to the mosque, but if the same friends take us places or want to expand our relationship, they have to be comfortable with the dog — — which many are not. Actually, we rarely get that far. But, I know that many are not comfortable with my dog and this causes all of us some discomfort. There is a limit to how much I can leave him at home and honestly, if I leave him at home too much, it kind of defeats the purpose of having one. However, when we have to depend on rides, I have to put their comfort first.
My hope was that we could knit together a community of brothers and sisters (both from the church and the mosque), as well as some work colleagues — maybe — to be like close family. What church, you ask. And, I must agree, because I have not made much headway there, either. While I admit that the mosque is a bit more accepting than most churches that I have attended, there still feels like a disconnect. Sure, men at the mosque are more willing (than men at a church) to drive us to and from the mosque. They do seem to be “more helpful.” But, I was not just looking for “help” I was looking for a community to belong to – a community of interaction and the sharing of ideas and ultimately ourselves.
[side note: I think that is also what my daughter is looking for and one of the reasons (certainly not the only one, because he seems to be a much better guy than the others), that she wants to marry her ex-morman boyfriend who has tons of sibs and cousins]. The “Ex” is on the “mormon” part, not on the “boyfriend” part.
Anyway, at first, We began attending a very small mosque. The Imam would drive us to and from the mosque. Sometimes, I would talk to his wife. I thought that we wre developing a relationship with the couple. The man went off to study Arabic for three months in DC. I called the wife a couple of times to see if she needed anything. I got no response. The imam did not even call us when he returned. We had expressed excitement about his trip and were generally interested in his progress & experiences. Since we were one of the main families who would worship (and I use that term loosely in my case) at the mosque where he gave lectures, I kind of expected a closer relationship with the members. The second mosque is quite a bit larger. The one thing that I do like about this mosque is that there are lots of different nationalities present. We know men from Somalia, Gambia, Senegal, Lebanon, Pakistan, India and some American born&raised Muslims. The men of the mosque are willing to pick up DH and I and return us to our homes. Our Gambian friend has a Christian wife, but she never comes to the Mosque. There is one bright spot. One Auntie, Shaaesta, does sit and talk with me. I realize that she could very well sit and pray/talk with the other Aunties. But, this pashton woman will sit and talk with me every time I see her at the Mosque. Sure, sometimes, she can be opinionated and she usually worries that I will fall down and/or trip over something on the floor. I wonder how much more intense this preoccupation with my falling will become when I have the baby and need to carry him around. ? Yet, she is kind and when we sit and talk, she really listens to what I have to say. I have not seen her outside the Mosque, however. It is a promising start. And, I must understand that *one* person can make a difference.
Now, DH is celebrating Eid with our Gambian friend and his Christian wife. That is where he was invited. And, I am stuck here at work. Dh has many more personal days than I do. When he works over, he gets comp time and he has been working at the company longer. Besides, whenever we have doctor appointments, I have to take off 30mins before my work day ends. He does not because his work starts 30mins before mine does and ends 30mins before mine does. So, He had the time to take off and still get paid. I don’t. and, frankly, I am a bit emotional about not getting to celebrate Eid with him. So, I’ll stop here with the future hope that next year, we all will celebrate Eid together.

My first Ramadan

October 7, 2010

One of my firsts!
September 3, 2010
I have not written in my blog for a while, but I wanted to write about Imran’s visit and the start of Ramadan.
People in MC relationships (Muslim/Christian) [No Christian offense because I put Muslim first, it is not a comment about dominant faith, etc] – [people are so sensitive].
Approach Ramadan differently.
My goal was to respect the fast and not eat because Imran was not eating.
But….
I wondered if I was kind of “thumbing my nose), because I was participating in a fast that was not mine to participate in.
Yet, I did not want to tempt Imran.
So, I ate/eat discretely.
I got up early to prepare a breakfast. I made some pretty flavorful food, but I knew that it was not authentic Pakistani food. When I did buy parathas, I seemed to burn them. My cooking&baking skills are disappearing and who knows why.
Imran came on August 8th and had a job interview on the 13th of August. He actually had one on the 10th of August for a Customer Service position and the one on the 13th was for a script writer/ assistive technology teaching position.
We were hoping for the latter interview to yield a job, but with today’s economy, we would take any job offered.
But, back to Ramadan:
So, I was thrilled that we were invited to one of his friends’ house to break the fast. This was on Saturday, the 14th, so we had already spent three days of Ramadan.
He had forgotten to mention (I think that “avoided the issue” might better describe it, but I am not quibbling on this point) that I have a guide dog. Fallbrook, my guide dog, can not stay at home when no one is there to watch him. It truly is like having a small child. But, we were invited to a traditional Pakistani home and the parents and even Imran’s friend was quite afraid of the dog. I strongly suggested that Imran go without me. I did not want to make anyone uncomfortable, but there was no one to watch Fallbrook. As reluctant as Imran was to bring up the situation, he was even more determined that I accompany him. We decided that I would take the dog: (the family said that it would be ok, as long as we kept him outside). And, I prepared for it. It was a bit hot, but I brought extra water. But, when we got there, it was suggested that we keep the dog inside, but in the entryway: where there was no carpet. It worked out rather well.
The family consisted of a mother and father,(who were visiting) their children, A., B., and C., (A and B are females) and C is a male and married to D. C & D also have a two year old son. D., C.’s wife, is an American. A will be getting married soon and moving out. B is blind and we talked lots about her GRE, Braille skills, etc. She has taught in Pakistan and we talked about some of the differences and resources that she could find here.
I expected to have a large Pakistani dinner. What I had was vegetable rice, biryani, chicken in a spicey sauce and some pita bread that served as Naan. Oh, and D and I ate a bit of fruit before the fast. She said that she was not fasting either. At first, I thought that she may not be Muslim, but, upon later reflection, I think that she is Muslim, just was not fasting that day.
It was wonderful to talk about cultural differences, compare Urdu notes and just enjoy the evening. Imran and I have not had much response in regards to finding people to take him to the mosque, etc. He had one Indian friend, but he went back to India. The last couple of calls to various mosques did not result in any contacts being made and no Mosque attendance.
Imran bragged about my urdu. I wish that he had not because I have not used it in a while and frankly, it is not that good at all! But, he cajoled me into singing one of our favorites, “Tayri Yaad” by Adnan Sami. Of course, he would sing it with me. The problem was that I know the song much better than he does. So, soon enough, his masculine voice ceased to resonate and, of course, I was on my own for a bar or two. They were impressed, I was embarrassed. .

The other intercultural couple sang Pakistan’s national Anthem… … put us to shame. I don’t even know it and could not pick it out.
Does anyone have a link?
No pakoras, no samosas, but the vegetable rice and spicy chicken was quite tasty! The biryani was a bit too spicy for me.
But, we thoroughly enjoyed the meal and the company!
I demonstrated my “I-Bill,” Thanks to Imran, I have a way to recognize currency.
It happened in Dallas. Someone thought that they gave me a $10, but it was really a $1. Now, I am not jumping to conclusions and assuming that there was any malicious intent. In the past, we would have to ask a sighted person the denomination of our currency and then fold it accordingly, so that we would not have to continue to ask all of the time. But, now, there is a small device that will read and speak the denomination. It is quite small. The end of the bill is slid into the device and it will announce the amount of currency. So, Imran bought me an I-bill, after my unfortunate miss hap in Dallas. And, I got to show it off! (smile)

We also visited one of our favorite restaurants “Magoo’s California Pizza,” which is Halal and owned by a Pakistani family.
We broke the fast with dates and a kind of sweet rosewater: … … Rahoofsa????
He had a place to pray and all was good.
We had a good time and went out by ourselves.
There is something “free” about not having to rely on someone else’s time frame.
But, we really did have to rely on the timeframe of public transportation, so we were not as “free” as I pretend.
(smile)
Yet, Ramadan celebrations were great: despite the fact that I could not provide him a “close to Pakistani” experience.

I realized two important things from this wonderful evening with the family.
I tend to give up too easily. Imran always looks for the compromise, he makes every attempt to make things work. For me: A “no” is a “no.” I take things for face value and try to work within that mind frame. Imran is always looking for the compromise. … even with people he barely knows. Many times, people are not as rigid as I might think that they are. And…. Each family has their own way of blending cultures. Some accept extended family into their homes and some do not. Some cook lots of Pakistani food and some do not. Some American counterparts learn Urdu and some do not. Some Pakistanis wear their traditional clothes and some do not. Some take frequent trips to Pakistan and some do not. It is whatever makes the couple and extended family feel comfortable. Certainly, I would not want Imran to lose his culture and/or minimize his customs. But, the specific blend is up to the individual couple. I think that I had been oversensitive to the fact that people might accuse him of “losing his culture,” or “assimilating.” Does a relationship with an American already mean that one is “assimilating into the American culture?” So, I have been trying hard to help him preserve his culture.
I am learning to relax a bit. Just as some enjoy a very strong cup of coffee and others enjoy a bit of coffee with their sugar and cream—
As some enjoy very spicy meals while others have a pallet for the more bland selections –
The blend is up to the family.
I can’t tell you that you are not a “real coffee drinker” just because you like lots less coffee in your cup than I do.
If each party makes every attempt to incorporate different blends, then one partner won’t feel as if their specific culture and traditions are being overlooked. It is important that people do keep certain treasures from their own culture. But, each individual person gets to decide “what” those treasures are and how to incorporate them into their new blended life.
I am not advocating choosing a dominant culture and forgetting another’s culture.
But, I don’t have the right to criticize someone else’s particular blend. If both participants are happy, then, it works for them.
It might not be agreeable to me, but I don’t have to live there and/or with such decisions.

In any case, the “friend finding” is slow. But, we are enjoying our ramadan.
And, I, as a Christian am praying more because I pray when he goes to pray.
I can already hear the opposition ringing in my ear about the differences in prayer, worship and so forth.
But, all I can say is that:
you make your compromises and I will make mine. Our Ramadan was good for a first year and I hope that it will get better and better as the years go by.
I thought that Imran would be disappointed that he did not have large Pakistani celebrations. But, for now, he is ok with it.
He is an eternal optimist and I am learning to appreciate this quality more and more.
(smile)

Oh, and he did get the Assistive Technology job.
It took lots of time to figure out the specifics.
It had to do with immigration, employment, CPT, form i94 (I think that was the number: I am already mixed up about the specific forms — there are so many), fulltime work, etc.
Whenever immigration laws rear their ugly head, some people are quite knowledgeable and others think that they are, but are not.
But, in the end, he works full time at
Bosma Enterprizes.
He teaches blind people how to use the computer and he is also working to make more programs accessible so that more blind people can join the work force.
He likes his work and his colleagues.
He started work on the 1st or 2nd of September.