Monday, June 30, 2014

Fasting is Supposed to be a Challenge

Ramadan 2014 – Fasting Is Supposed to Suck; That’s Why We Do It

This article comes on Day Two of our special Altmuslim/Patheos Muslim Ramadan #30Days30Writers blog project, in which we are showcasing the voices of 30 Muslim leaders, activists, scholars, writers, youth and more (one on each day of Ramadan) as part of our commitment to own our own narratives and show how we are one Ummah, many voices. To demonstrate how our Ramadan experiences are shared yet unique to each of us.
By Amanda Quraishi
I performed my first Ramadan fast when I was 25 years old. I’d embraced Islam, spoke the words of the Shahada and learned my prayers with enthusiasm; but as the holy month drew closer on the calendar, I prepared for it with trepidation. Fasting for 30 days, even with the allowances of eating and drinking during the nighttime hours, was a daunting endeavor.
That first year I lasted for about a week and then gave up the fast in total dismay. It seemed impossible. I live in a country where the majority of people around me are not fasting.  Our work schedules don’t change just because it’s Ramadan. We’re required to stay as sharp and focused as our not-Muslim co-workers during the day. We also do our own domestic chores. Cooking, cleaning and laundry don’t go away just because it’s Ramadan. The discomfort and exhaustion I experienced during those first fasts was completely opposite from the spiritual high I was hoping to achieve during this holiest of months.
Yet, I would look around at other Muslims and see that they were successfully fasting while maintaining a positive attitude.  Rather than inspiring me, seeing other Muslims with a “Ramadan Glow” made me mad. I resented people who seemed to truly be enjoying the experience while I struggled and failed again and again to keep the daily fasts because of hunger, thirst, headaches and exhaustion. Surely they must be faking it, I thought.
Aside from the logistical issues of Ramadan in the U.S., fasting is, in every sense, a spiritual discipline that requires all the things I struggle with: patience, consistency, focus and self-control. Still, in spite of the challenges Ramadan presents, each year for the past 14 years I have made preparations, set my intentions and began the fast, praying that it be pleasing to Allah (SWT).
About three years ago, however, I had a Ramadan Breakthrough. It was a simple revelation that suddenly brought everything into perspective.  You see, fasting sucks.  And it sucks on purpose. It’s supposed to be a challenge. That’s why we do it! I realized that the joy that many of my Muslim friends were experiencing from fasting was like that of a marathon runner who, despite the physical discomfort she experiences, stays bolstered with every mile she completes on the course. As she nears the finish line and her dedication and perseverance pays off it makes the aches and pains, blisters and exhaustion all seem worth it.
If you look at it objectively, it seems almost insane that a person would get up out of bed on a Saturday morning and attempt to run 26 miles; continuing to run even when she is exhausted, near dehydration and in pain. Not-Muslim friends and family often look at our Ramadan fast the same way. Why would you subject yourself to that kind of torture? But any runner will tell you that there is no feeling like crossing the finish line, and any faster will tell you there’s nothing more satisfying than that first sip of water and a date after a long day of abstinence.
These disciplines –physical, mental and spiritual — that we humans engage in cause us to transcend our comfort and, sometimes, even logic. We do these things precisely because they force us out of our comfort zones and challenge us in ways that we inherently understand are important; especially in a culture like that of the U.S., where we are constantly seeking new ways to be comfortable. Every new product or service promises to make our lives easier, more fun and help us feel better.
When we intentionally make our lives harder and allow ourselves to experience discomfort, we gain valuable perspectives and allow our mettle to be tested. The reward is the confirmation that we have the ability to overcome our own weaknesses, which is even more satisfying in the case of Ramadan when we’re doing it for the glory of the One God.
These days, I look forward to Ramadan. I’ve also become a runner. I don’t think these two things have happened coincidentally. They are both a sign that I’ve matured and have learned to appreciate the purpose of self-discipline in different areas of my life.
When I first started running, a friend of mine offered me a great piece of advice. He said, “It’s your race, your pace. Running is a competition against yourself. Pay attention to your unique needs, understand what your body requires to meet your goal, and forget about anyone else.”
Every year, millions of marathon runners sign up to run in races that they know they won’t ‘win.’  Sure, there are a handful of elite runners who are there to try to be first across the finish line, but most marathon runners aren’t competing against anyone but themselves and their last race time. The goal is to simply finish the course and do better than you’ve done before.
In the same way, fasting is not a competition between you and anyone else. It’s a struggle against your own nafs, a challenge that you must meet on your own. Sure, you can ask other Muslims for advice on fasting, but find the way that works best for you. Maybe you need to do unconventional things to be able to manage your schedule or juggle your responsibilities during Ramadan. As long as you are sticking to the basic requirements of the fast, that’s ok. If you fail, just get up the next day and start again.
Islam is not a destination. It’s a path — a ‘straight path’ that requires a lifetime of perseverance and dedication. Ramadan is a blessed part of that journey, and the only way you can ever really “lose” at it is to just stop trying.
Amanda Quraishi is a writer, interfaith activist and technology professional living in Austin, Texas.  She currently works full time for Mobile Loaves & Fishes, a non-profit organization that addresses the issue of homelessness in the U.S.  She also leads a populist-based interfaith initiative at, and blogs about the American Muslim experience at

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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Positive in and out - Social Networks and in general

Just keep this in mind - could be done on much larger scale - so just because the media is negative, doesn't mean the world is going to *ell in a handbasket  - so don't let it infect you.  Put out positivity and take positivity in!  That is worthy goal all the time but especially in the month of Ramadan.  Some people "fast" from FB during this month.  I choose to remain because without it I basically have no Muslim community and I think the community experience is a worthwhile part of the month - but the "lesson" here should be a big caveat that you have to keep it positive - both in and out.

Facebook Scientists Alter Newsfeeds, Find Emotions Are Affected By It

A man poses for photographs in front of the Facebook sign on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, Calif.
A man poses for photographs in front of the Facebook sign on the Facebook campus in Menlo Park, Calif.
Jeff Chiu/AP
For one week back in 2012, Facebook scientists altered what appeared on the newsfeed of more than 600,000 users. One group got mostly positive items; the other got mostly negative items.
Scientists then monitored the posts of those people and found that they were more negative if they received the negative newsfeed and more positive if they received positive items.
As the New Scientist reports, the research means "emotional contagion" can happen online, not just face-to-face. The magazine adds:
"The effect was significant, though modest.
"Ke Xu of Beihang University in Beijing has studied emotional contagion on Chinese social networks. He says [Facebook's Adam] Kramer's work shows that we don't need to interact in person to influence someone's feelings."
If you're wondering: Yes, this kind of experiment is in line with Facebook's terms of use. The Verge reports:
"When users sign up for Facebook, they agree that their information may be used "for internal operations, including troubleshooting, data analysis, testing, research and service improvement." While there's nothing in the policy about altering products like the News Feed, it's unlikely Facebook stepped outside the bounds of the Terms of Use in conducting the experiment. Still, for users confused by the whims of the News Feed, the experiment stands as a reminder: there may be more than just metrics determining which posts make it onto your feed."

Twitter Celebrates Ramadan 2014 With 'Hashflags' And Much More

Twitter Celebrates Ramadan 2014 With 'Hashflags' And Much More

Posted: Updated: 
Print Article
Ramadan 2014 is upon us and Twitter is joining in the celebrations this year with special icons, instant iftar times, and an interactive map.
Ahmad AbouAmmo, Twitter's Head of Media Partnerships for the MENA region, rolled out the new features witha blog post, saying, "Ramadan is an important event around the world — full of celebration, friends and families. We look forward to seeing how many of you come together to share these special moments on Twitter."
So what can we look forward to this year?
1. Special 'Hashflags'
When you hashtag your tweets with #Ramadan or #Eid, a small crescent moon or Eid icon will appear after the words. World Cup fans will recognize this feature, which has places country flags after tweets hashtagged with participating teams.
2. Personalized Iftar Times
Al Arabiya has partnered with Twitter to offer a location-specific service that tells you when you can break your fast each day. By tweeting @AlArabiya with the hashtag #iftar followed by the hashtagged name of your city (ie #London), you will get a reply with the correct iftar time. This also works for the beginning of the fast, with the hashtag #imsak instead of #iftar.
3. Tweet Map
Ramadan will be celebrated by millions of people across the globe, and now you can see exactly where people are talking and tweeting about it with an interactive map made by Simon Rogers. The map also tracks common Ramadan greetings, plans, and feelings. Click below to explore.
4. Special Ramadan TV Content
Some TV shows have been created just for Ramadan, with corresponding Twitter accounts for the characters.
Response to Twitter's holiday gesture has been positive so far.
#RamadanKareem from @HuffPostRelig :) :)

Fasting Times Around the World This Year

How Long Muslims Fast For Ramadan Around The World

Posted: Updated: 
Print Articl14
The holy month of fasting is a challenge for everyone observing Ramadan, but some Muslims have it harder than others.
People fasting typically wake up before the dawn prayer, Fajr, to eat the meal that will have to hold them over for the whole day. They abstain from all food and drinkduring the daylight hours, breaking the fast after the sun has set and the call to Maghrib prayer has gone out.
Twitter has made it easier to find out the exact timings of the beginning and end of the fast each day, which vary according to date and geographical location. By tweeting @AlArabiya with the hashtag #iftar and a hashtagged city, users will receive a reply with the time the fast will end.
HuffPost Religion has created an infographic to show how long the fast will last in cities around the world, by calculating the time between Fajr and Maghrib. Check it out below:

Graphic by Alissa Scheller for The Huffington Post.



Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ramadan dates, links, etc.

As Salam-o-alaikum,

Start of the 9th Islamic Month of Ramazan-ul-Mubarak 1435 AH

Some important events of this month are as follows:

 7th Death of Hazrat Abu Talib(as)  (possible date)

10th Death of Hazrat Khadija(as)

11th Moakhat – Brotherhood between Muhajireen and Ansaar

13th, 14th and 15th – Ayyam-e-Bayz – the bright days

15th Birth of Imam Hasan(as) – the 2nd Holy Imam – (3 AH)

17th Victory at Battle of Badr – (2 AH)

19th Evening – First probable night of Qadr Shab-e-Qadr 

19th Youm-e-Zarbat – Imam Ali(as) got injured from attack during prayers (40 AH) 

20th Conquest of Makkah (8 AH)

21st Evening – Second probable night of Qadr –  Shab-e-Qadr 

21st Shahadat of Imam Ali(as) – (40 AH) 

23rd Evening – Third probable night of Qadr – Shab-e-Qadr

27th Evening – Another probable night of Qadr – Shab-e-Qadr

25th July – Jumatul Wida –  last Friday of Ramazan-ul-Mubarak – International day of Quds

Inshallah separate detail emails will be sent on each occasion during this month.

Please note that some of the dates mentioned above are not definite dates but some traditions suggest these dates for those events.

When is it likely to be the 1st of Ramazan?
According to scientific projections at, the new moon can be sighted easily on Saturday, 28 June 2014 all over the world.Accordingly, the 1st of Ramazan is likely to be the 29th of June 2014 in all parts of the world.


Welcoming the holy month of Ramazan: 

Imām Muhammad  ibn ‘Alī al-Baqir (a.s.) says that the month of Ramazān 
was nearing and three days of Shabaan were left when the Holy Prophet 
(sawaw) told Bilal(r.a.) to call people to him. When people came, then 
Holy Prophet Muhammad al-Mustafa (sawaw) mounted the pulpit and 
praised and glorified Allah . Then he said, 

“The month, which you are going to have now is supreme among all other 
months. There is a night in this month, which is better than a 
thousand months. The doors of Hell are closed in this month and the 
doors of Paradise are opened. One who is not forgiven in this month –
Allāh also distances him. Similarly, a person has parents and is not 
able to get himself forgiven Allah distances him. One who does not 
recite Salawat when my name is mentioned in front of him, his 
salvation is not possible and Allah distances him.” 

[Reference:  Sawaabul A’amaal page 98] 

Special duas during Ramazan
Special duas to be recited during the forthcoming Ramazan have been 

1) Duas on the advent of Ramazan to be recited upon sighting the moon. 

2) Common duas to be recited in each night of Ramazan. 

3) Dua-e-Sahar 

4) Duas after every Wajib prayer during Ramazan. 

5) Duas for each day of Ramazan. 

6) Duas in the last 10 nights of Ramazan. 

7) Aamal of Shab-e-Qadr

Arabic Text, Urdu translation, transliteration, English translation 
and Audio recitation of almost all the above duas are availabe. 

Kindly confirm in your local place the exact date of Shabaan to 
determine the last 3 days. 

Special consideration for fast of Yawm-al-Shak 
 (doubtful if month of Ramazan has begun) 

30th day of Shabaan is called Yamul Shak (doubtful day) if you do not 
receive news about Ramadan,  the  moonsighting on 29th evening or before the end of 30th day. 

It is haram to fast on 30th Shabaan with the intention of 1st of 

It is Mustahab to keep fast on 30th Shabaan but the Niyyat (intention) 
should be either: 
(a) with the Niyyat of Ma fiz-zimma (to discharge my responsibility), 
(b) with the Niyyat of any Qaza fast of previous Ramadan, if any, or 
(c) with the Niyyat of Mustahab Shabaan fast. 

If you do a double Niyyat of fasting (i.e. 30th Shabaan or 1st 
Ramadan), then such a Niyyat is wrong according Ayatullah Khui, but it 
is OK according to Ayatullah Khomeini and Ayatullah Seestani. 

If you are fasting on 30th Shabaan, and if, at any time on that day, 
you get the news of moon sighting of 29th Shabaan, then you must 
immediately change Niyyat to Niyyat of 1st of Ramadan. 

If you have fasted on 30th Shabaan (with any Niyyat), and afterwards 
you come to know that it was 1st of Ramadan, then your fast will 
automatically be counted as fast of 1st of Ramadan. 

If you are not fasting on 30th Shabaan, then following actions are 
necessary on you: 

(a) If you get the news after sunset of 30th Shabaan or later that the 
moon had been actually sighted on evening of 29th Shabaan, then you 
have to keep Qaza of 1st Ramadan after the month of Ramadan. 

(b) If you get the news of moon sighting after Zawal time (Islamic mid- 
day), then it is haram to eat or drink or do anything, which is not 
allowed during fasting from that time onward until Iftar time on that 
day, and you have to do Qaza of 1st of Ramadan later on. 

(c) If you get the news of moon sighting before Zawal time (Islamic 
mid-day), then 
          (i) if you have not eaten or drunk anything or done anything which 
breaks fast, you must immediately do the Niyyat of fasting of Ramadan 
for that day, 
         (ii) if you have eaten or drunk something or have done anything which 
breaks fast, then you have to act as if fasting for the rest of the 
day, and then do Qaza of 1st of Ramadan later on. 

Syed-Rizwan Rizvi

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Ramadan Activities for Children

This resource seems to have quite a bit of options:

I noticed some of the TJ links weren't working - seems they may have been moved to this blog:

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Fasting may help prediabetes

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Fasting reduces cholesterol levels in prediabetic people over extended period of time, new research finds

June 14, 2014
Intermountain Medical Center
For prediabetics, many interventions focus on lifestyle changes and weight loss, but new research on periodic fasting has identified a biological process in the body that converts bad cholesterol in fat cells to energy, thus combating diabetes risk factors.

For prediabetics, many interventions focus on lifestyle changes and weight loss, but new research on periodic fasting has identified a biological process in the body that converts bad cholesterol in fat cells to energy, thus combating diabetes risk factors.
Researchers at the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah, noticed that after 10 to 12 hours of time fasting, the body starts scavenging for other sources of energy throughout the body to sustain itself. The body pulls LDL (bad) cholesterol from the fat cells and uses it as energy.
“Fasting has the potential to become an important diabetes intervention,” says Benjamin Horne, PhD, director of cardiovascular and genetic epidemiology at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute and lead researcher on the study. “Though we’ve studied fasting and it’s health benefits for years, we didn’t know why fasting could provide the health benefits we observed related to the risk of diabetes.”
Researchers will present results of the study at the 2014 American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in San Francisco on Saturday, June 14, 2014, at 10:00AM, PDT.
Prediabetes means the amount of glucose, also called sugar, in the blood is higher than normal but not high enough to be called diabetes.
Prior research done by Dr. Horne and his team in 2011 focused on healthy people during one day of fasting and showed that routine, water-only fasting was associated with lower glucose levels and weight loss.
“When we studied the effects of fasting in apparently healthy people, cholesterol levels increased during the one-time 24-hour fast,” said Dr. Horne. “The changes that were most interesting or unexpected were all related to metabolic health and diabetes risk. Together with our prior studies that showed decades of routine fasting was associated with a lower risk of diabetes and coronary artery disease, this led us to think that fasting is most impactful for reducing the risk of diabetes and related metabolic problems.”
Due to the findings in 2011, Dr. Horne launched this new study to look at the effects of fasting in prediabetics over an extended period of time. The study participants were prediabetics, including men and women between the ages of 30 and 69 with a least three metabolic risk factors. These risk factors include:
  • A large waistline. This also is called abdominal obesity or "having an apple shape."
  • A high triglyceride level. Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood.
  • A low HDL cholesterol level, the "good" cholesterol. A low HDL cholesterol level raises your risk for heart disease.
  • High blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood.
  • High fasting blood sugar. Mildly high blood sugar may be an early sign of diabetes.
In the pool of participants qualifying for the study were people with different weights, some obese and some not. In previous fasting research performed by a few other institutions, those studies have all only examined obese participants and focused on weight loss due to fasting. Though weight loss did occur in the Intermountain Medical Center study, three pounds over six weeks, the main focus of the study was diabetes intervention.
“During actual fasting days, cholesterol went up slightly in this study, as it did in our prior study of healthy people, but we did notice that over a six-week period cholesterol levels decreased by about 12 percent in addition to the weight loss,” said Dr. Horne. “Because we expect that the cholesterol was used for energy during the fasting episodes and likely came from fat cells, this leads us to believe fasting may be an effective diabetes intervention.”
The process of extracting LDL cholesterol from the fat cells for energy should help negate insulin resistance. In insulin resistance, the pancreas produces more and more insulin until it can no longer produce sufficient insulin for the body's demands, then blood sugar rises.
“The fat cells themselves are a major contributor to insulin resistance, which can lead to diabetes,” he said. “Because fasting may help to eliminate and break down fat cells, insulin resistance may be frustrated by fasting.”
Dr. Horne says that more in-depth study is needed, but the findings lay the groundwork for that future study.
“Although fasting may protect against diabetes,” said Dr. Horne. “It’s important to keep in mind that these results were not instantaneous in the studies that we performed. It takes time. How long and how often people should fast for health benefits are additional questions we’re just beginning to examine.”
Other contributors to the study were Jeffrey L. Anderson, MD, J. Brent Muhlestein, MD, and Amy Butler.

Story Source:
The above story is based on materials provided by Intermountain Medical Center.Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Cite This Page:
Intermountain Medical Center. "Fasting reduces cholesterol levels in prediabetic people over extended period of time, new research finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 June 2014. .

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