If I could write in Arabic, It would be like writing with the deepness of the ocean at the tip of the pen, with no barriers to hold back the crashing of the waves,
If I could write in Arabic, I might mention how God’s mercy nourishes the universe like a mother’s womb nourishes her infant, but in many fewer strokes of the paintbrush, because in Arabic, words do not stay imprisoned to one color, they encompass the entire rainbow, and they are free to fly to the horizon and back again,
If I could write in Arabic, I would write God-consciousness, and the word would be like the sun, while the meanings would be like its infinite rays of light: to protect, save, preserve, guard against evil,
If I could write in Arabic, I would write about my hopes and fears, dreams and tears, everything that I hold dear, all the things that to my heart are near, without censure, crystal clear,
If I could write in Arabic, I could truly express, all of the inspiration that I possess, nothing more, nothing less,
And, If in Arabic I could write, I would etch my prayer, onto the endless canvas of the night …

Poem for insomnia 

Je suis prisonnier de mon insomnie, j’ai était pris sans même que on me demande l’avis de mon âme, même la nuit dors mieux que moi,
‎وقد سجن الأرق بلدي لي، دون أن يطلب نفسي، حتى ليلة ينام أفضل مما كنت،
My insomnia has imprisoned me, without even asking my soul, even the night sleeps better than I,
Mina sömnlösa har tagit mig som fånge, utan att ens fråga min själ, även nätterna söver bättre än jag,
माई इन्साम्नीअ हंस इम्प्रिज़ॉंड में. विधाउट ईवेन आस्किंग माई सोल. ईवेन थे नाइट स्लीप्स बेटर धान I

The color of your prayer carpet

The color of your prayer carpet: Insignificant or of the highest importance?

At first glance, you might not think that the color of the prayer mat you are going to be staring at for the next five to ten minutes plays a role in just how well your prayer will go. You might not even have given it any thought.

But now is the time to open your mind to the fact that color indeed does play a key role in just how well your prayer goes, from your concentration to your overall feeling of well being.

It is well known that colors affect us and our moods. White reminds us of the light. Black reminds us of the darkness. When we are angry, we “see” red. When we are sad, we “feel” blue. We talk about “eating” green when thinking of bettering our health.

So here, I will give a list of 2 colors and talk about how these colors can affect the overall quality of our prayer.

Red – Red is an intense color that in this case can perhaps heighten the intensity of our concentration. Use this color if you feel that you are having a problem concentrating.

Blue – Blue is a calming color that has a soothing effect on the soul. This color could be of use to you if you feel that you are coming to your prayer with a lot of stress and need to wind down.

These are my two favorite colors to pray on. So here comes the million dollar question: What are yours?

Hope that this was helpful and may God bless us all with the proper consciousness while we pray, ameen

How to change a love poem

To change a love poem, you do not need to change the words. The only thing that you need to change, is to whom the poem is being adressed. Where does this change occur, you might ask? In your imagination.
Imagine that “You keep my heartbeat alive with only the sweet fragrance of your memory” is intended for a man or a woman that one is in love with. But see how the effect of the words changes once your imagination tells you that these words are intended for God.
When the words are for the creation, they have one effect on the heart once we read them. When they are for the creator, the words create another effect upon our hearts.
This simple way of getting different feelings out of the same love poem only requires us to take a little trip inside of our imaginations.

Ramadan In The Light Of The Qur’an

Salaam Aleykum to all of you 🙂 I wish you all a Ramadan full of happiness, love, and more love 🙂

Yesterday I spent my time reflecting upon one of the few verses that have to do with Ramadan, and then I wrote my own thoughts regarding the verse. Now I will share them with you…….

Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to humanity, 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 you through difficulties, and he desires that you should complete the prescribed period and that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you and that you may give thanks (2:185)

So let us break down the verse here.

The verse starts by saying that “Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an.”

Anything special to note here? Indeed, yes. Knowing that we are currently living in the month during which the Qur’an was sent down gives a very mystical aura to our present state. The book is letting us know when the book was revealed, and I think the reason that it does this is to, once again, make us aware of just how spiritual Ramadan is supposed to be.

“As a guide to humanity” – Here, we learn the purpose of the Qur’an, and its purpose is simple : It is to serve as a guide to all human beings. What can we learn from these five words? There are many things to ponder and reflect upon here. Personally, it is the final word of this short phrase that gets to me. Humanity. The Qur’an itself, our very own holy book, was not intended for us muslims. Rather, it is for all of humanity, seeking to “guide” humanity into the path of “Islam”, peace.
From this, I draw the conclusion that the blessed month of Ramadan is a blessed month for the entire planet earth, and from this conclusion, I say that as Muslims we must guide our fellow human beings during this month, regardless of faith, color, caste, creed, gender, regardless of all barriers. We must guide them to peace, both inner and outer. Reinforce the peace that already exists wherever it is found, and create peace wherever it is not found.

“Also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong)” – Here, we learn that the Qur’an contains signs that are there in order to guide us, and that it also contains the keys that will help us to separate the right from the wrong. Thus, it is up to us to search for these signs and keys. This means that we should make sure to read and try to understand our holy book as much as possible, especially during this month.

“So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting” – Here, the Qur’an tells us that if we are at home during this month, we should spend it in fasting. Pretty straight forward and clear here.

“But if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later” – Here, we get a special set of circumstances. If we are Ill, then we are not required to fast. I believe that this makes sense because it for sure must be quite hard to fast when one is sick. The same goes for travel. If we are on a journey, we are not required to fast either. However, we must make up our fast at a later time, when we have found our health again, and when our journey is over.

“Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you through difficulties” – Here, God says he wants to make things easy for us, and that he does not want to put us through difficulties. This is a manifestation of the mercy of the most merciful. His intention for us is ease, not hardship. When times get hard during your fast, just remember these words in your heart. They will help you make it through.

“And he desires that you should complete the prescribed period” – God’s wish for us is that we complete the fast. The least we can do to please our creator is to hold on, have patience, and make it through all 30 days of our fast? These words tell me that by fasting, we are pleasing Allah.

“And that you should exalt the greatness of Allah for His having guided you” – Here, we are told why we should praise our creator’s greatness. We should praise his greatness because he has guided us. It exemplifies a give and take relationship. Allah has given us guidance, and in return, we should exalt his greatness. This means, whenever we say “Allaho Akbar” (God is great) during Ramadan, we should really mean it, from the depth of our hearts. Why should we mean it? Because of the guidance we have been so fortunate to receive from our maker. We are striving to become better people everyday, and striving to be good human beings that serve others. This is the guidance that we have received, the guidance that leads to peace. God is great, indeed.

“And that you may give thanks” – Here, we learn that we should be thankful to God. Thankful for what? This is up to you to decide. The things that we as people can be thankful for are endless. Just start by being thankful for life, because life, is the biggest blessing of all, and without Allah, life simply would not be.

Similarities Between The Bhagavad Gita And The Qur’an

– Nature Of God –

“I am unborn, everlasting, and I am the lord of all” (Bhagavad Gita 4:6)

“Nor was he born (Qur’an 112:3) Allah, the eternal (112:2) Allah, lord of all the worlds” (1:2)

– Overall Message –

“Those who ever follow my doctrine and who have faith, and have a good will, find through pure work their freedom” (Bhagavad Gita 3:31)

“If any do deeds of righteousness, be they male or female, and have faith, they will enter Heaven, and not the least injustice will be done to them” (Qur’an 4:124)

– Many Paths, One Truth –

“Many are the paths of men, but they all in the end come to Me” (Bhagavad Gita 4:11)

“And those who strive for Us – We will surely guide them to Our paths” (Qur’an 29:69)

– Peace –

“Know him therefore who is above reason, and let his peace give you peace” (Bhagavad Gita 3:43)

“O you who have believed, enter into peacefulness wholeheartedly” (Qur’an 2:208)

– Unselfishness –

“Set your heart upon your work, but never on its reward” (Bhagavad Gita 2:47)

“Do no favour seeking gain” (Qur’an 74:6)

– God, The Final Destination –

“He is the end of their journey” (Bhagavad Gita 5:17)

“To him you will be returned” (Qur’an 2:28)

A Plea For An End To Gender Segregation In Mosques

I am tired of praying in spaces where only men are allowed. I am tired of the fact that women are always either behind us, in a much smaller designated space, or to the side of us, once again in a much smaller designated space and of course, with a barrier separating us. I do not like the fact that I have a much bigger space than the women inside of mosques. I do not like the fact that I have easy access to the Imam once the prayer is finished, and that I can pray directly behind him, just because I am a man. I do not like the fact that I can enjoy the main prayer hall of a mosque, just because I am a man. I do not like the fact that because I am man, I am restricted to only sharing Islam with men. I do not like the fact that the mosque around the corner from my home is only for men. I do not like the fact that because I am a man, I am a prisoner of an imposed “brotherhood”. Brotherhood is cool, but it is time for brotherhood and sisterhood to come together, and create humanhood.

How would I feel If i was denied access to some mosques? How would I feel, If my prayer space was much smaller than the mens? How would I feel, If i had to pray behind a barrier? How would I feel, if i was not allowed to be an Imam? How would I feel, If i was not allowed to call the Adhan, or recite the Qur’an? How would I feel, if i was told that attending the obligatory friday prayer was not obligatory for me? But hey, I don’t have to feel this, because I am man, and being a man comes with certain advantages and privileges. Lets just say that my spiritual experience as a muslim is endless. It has no boundaries, just because I am man. And they want me to believe that this is Divine. These facts have nothing to do with the God that I believe in. The God that I believe in is a just God. The God that I believe in never limited the spirituality of women. The God I believe does not have a preference towards me simply because I am a man.

Every time I am in a mosque to pray, I can never appreciate my prayer as much I wish that I could because I am only praying next to other men. I can never enjoy my mosque experience as much as I should because my mosque experience is only experienced alongside other men. Something deep inside me instinctively tells me that this is wrong.

My feeling is backed up by the Qur’an, which states that all human beings are equals. Why are we so far removed from Qur’an’s message, the message that states that the most honorable people in the eyes of God are those who are the most righteous? Allah does not look at our outer forms, he only looks into our hearts and souls. Yet, we Muslims are looking at each other’s outer forms, and this is causing the separation. We should see each other in the same way that Allah sees us.

Islam gives us so much unity, but we are splitting up ourselves. Humanhood is the key to world peace, and Islam has that key. Imagine a world where women and men prayed side by side, worshipped the one true God side by side, and shared the endless and infinite bond of the soul? Where would the room for the oppression of women come in then? How can you oppress the very same women that you pray next to, that you hope with, that you dream with, that you care for, because they are your sisters in spirit?

Not only that. The exchange of ideas, thoughts, and emotions between sisters and brothers would lead to a human revolution, that would truly put us on the path to a better world.

Solidarity and unity between men and women is the only way forward for this world. And I don’t mean superficial solidarity and unity. No, i mean the deepest kind of unity, and that is the unity of the heart and soul, bound together by belief in Allah.

I have said it before and I will say it again, I would literally live in mosques if they had no gender segregation. They would be the most beautiful places on earth, because in no other place in my lifetime have I personally experienced such a depth of human unity than I have in mosques. Most of my muslim friends are sisters and I love them dearly but when we enter a mosque, then we are forced to go our separate ways.

But my heart will never accept separation based on gender. I have love for every human being, and I want to share this love with all, not just men.

So, I refuse to be a prisoner of my own gender.

The struggle for unity within the Ummah.

This is my Jihad.

Ibn Arabi’s View On Women As Imams

Ibn Arabi ‎(25 July 1165 – 8 November 1240) was an Andalusian Sufi mystic and philosopher. He is renowned by some practitioners of Sufism as “the greatest master” and also as a genuine saint.

Ibn ‘Arabî bestows upon Bilqis (Queen of Sheba) the rank of Faqiha. When she surrendered to Islam, she did not become a follower of Solomon, nor did she submit to his guidance. Rather, she remained free in her belief from following an envoy or an imam, free from intermediaries. She revealed that she possessed direct belief in God, exactly like that of the Envoys, when she said: “I submit with Solomon to Allah, Lord of the universes,” in contrast to the Pharaoh who said: “the Lord of Moses and Aaron”.

By examining Ibn ‘Arabî’s life, we can say that he is a man of knowledge and experience, not a man of theory who speaks about woman as an invisible/hidden being. This means that when he described woman’s aptitude and acknowledged her abilities and her equality to man, he was thinking of those women he knew and not theorizing on the “issue of women”. Ibn ‘Arabî’s statements on women are based on a broad experience of life, in which women revealed to him their powers and aptitudes. As regards equality between the sexes in the field of their competency in knowledge, he held the view that a woman could be imam, leading both men and women in prayer. He says: “There are people who permit women to lead the prayer unconditionally, for both men and women, and I agree with that.”

Why I Love My Prophet (Peace be upon him)

He was sent as a mercy, for you, and for me, and for all of humankind,
His teachings of wisdom were like an endless river, soothing the hearts of all of those who followed behind,

The first to follow him were the women, and the orphans, and the poorest in society,
But they knew that through this man, their dreams of a better life would become a reality,

They knew that they would suffer, while walking by his side,
But as unity was the goal, they went along for the ride,

He taught that they should forgive, even if they were in pain,
To let go of hatred, so that love could remain,

He was the light, and God was the sun,
and he equally gave his compassion, to every single one,

He showed them how to pray, five times a day,
For verily, it is prayer that keeps darkness and evil, far, far away,

He would tell them to say “Assalamu Aleikum”, when they would meet one another,
May peace be upon you, now and forever,

A smile was a charity, he would tell,
So give your smiles to all, so that all may feel well,

Surrender to Allah, and do good to others,
The message of the Koran, simply knew no borders,

So powerful were his teachings, that they are still alive today,
Living within 1.6 Billion hearts, who all follow his way,

Only through the remembrance of Allah, do the hearts find rest,
This is what you have taught us, Oh you who were enlightened and blessed,

Because of your ultimate sacrifice, Islam continues to live,
And because of your shining example, we Muslims will continue to give,

This is why I love, my Prophet Muhammad,
So please join me in saying, may peace be upon him, 

An Interview With Dr. Amina Wadud

This is an interview that Dr. Wadud did during her visit to the Nordic Forum in the Swedish city of Malmö in June 2014. The interview was conducted by “Feministiskt Perspektiv”, a Swedish  magazine. The original interview is in Swedish, and so I translated it to English. 

Amina Wadud became world famous in 2005 when she led both men and women in prayer in New York. She is an Islamic scholar that has produced women and LGBTQ-friendly Qur’anic interpretations. Bella Frank met her during the Nordic Forum in Malmö.

“There is no verse in the Koran that says that men must lead the prayer, there is no verse in the Qur’an that says women cannot lead the prayer.”

The words are Dr. Amina Wadud’s. She is an Islamologist and Islamic feminist and last summer she visited Malmö during the Nordic Forum. 20 years ago, she became the first woman to hold a Muslim sermon, known as a khutbah, for both men and women in South Africa. She is a role model for Muslim feminists and feminists from other faiths who see no contradiction between religion and gender, and she has spent decades producing new readings of the Qur’an and has literally pushed forward the position of women in Islam.

Amina Wadud became known to a wider audience in 2005 when she led both men and women in prayer in New York, which came to be discussed among Muslims and Muslim scholars worldwide. Many called her act anti-Islamic and profane, such as Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. But she was also supported by others as Gamal al-Banna, the younger brother of the Muslim Brotherhood founder, who argued that her act was supported by Islamic texts and sources. And many Muslims see her as a role model, as can be seen in the book A Jihad for Justice – Honoring The Work and Life of Amina Wadud in which 33 writers, academics, activists and others have expressed the importance that her work has had on their lives.

The Koran from a woman’s perspective

Her personal reading of the Koran developed gradually. She became a Muslim in 1972, earned a  doctorate in Arabic and Islamology in the late 1980s and studied at al-Azhar University in Egypt. She then got a post at the International Islamic University of Malaysia and it was there, during meetings with “Sisters In Islam”, that questions were raised about the role of women, especially pertaining to the Islamic rituals : For example, what did Islam say about where women inside a mosque should pray?
The main question in her first book entitled the Qur’an and Woman, which was released in 1992, was simply whether it mattered if the Qur’an was read from women’s perspective.

The conclusion : Yes it does.

“The reason for this is that women and men have different experiences, not least because of patriarchy, ie the privileges of men and men’s way of being and thinking”, she tells me when we meet in the sunny lobby of the Triangle Scandic Malmö hotel. One of the examples she gives is that when the Qur’an speaks of Mary giving birth to Jesus, it is described through Mary’s internal process. But despite the fact that men can not bear children, it has only been men who have interpreted this verse and its meaning and it is thus this lack of experience that becomes problematic.”

“Experience tells us something about what it means to be human, and if the only way we think about what it means to be human is from a man’s perspective, there will be gaps. So I thought that there was a possible gap in how we understand a text which is more than 1400 years old and that is central to the Islamic world view of Islamic law and Islamic cultures, and that in 1300 years we only had reports from a male perspective and thus there were probably some things that we had missed.”

“One of the problems is that for so many centuries, women were absent in the official reading of the Qur’an. In Islam there is a tradition of ijtihad, which means “effort”, that is, the effort to try to understand God’s word, usually undertaken by scholars who find new interpretations of the law based on Islamic principles. The sources are the Qur’an, but also the Prophet Muhammad’s life, which is recorded in the hadith.”

“However, if the principal architects of it happen to be male, it means that the way they interpret texts will include a privileged spirit of their experience of the text, their thoughts and ways of being. To add a gender inclusive reading also means that what we believe is the primary source can no longer be taken for granted – because of human effort to understand it. It is a human effort to understand it, the effort is not divine, yet the conclusions drawn have been given divine sanction,” she says.

Sermon led to long studies

She explains that her driving force behind her Qur’anic studies was her love of the Qur’an, its language, and a willingness to understand. So she therefore studied first “tafsir”, interpretation. So the focus is on understanding the Qur’an and not in the areas that are closely related with Islam, such as law and culture. But Amina Wadud realized that she could not stop at merely reading the Qur’an, and the need to move from interpretation to the application became increasingly clear. However, a step that could have appeared as a logical extension of the thoughts of the application, namely that she as a woman also participate in the rituals that usually have been reserved for learned men, was not a planned decision.

The first time it happened was eleven years before the acclaimed prayer in New York during a lecture tour in South Africa. Just 45 minutes before it was time for the friday prayer, she was asked to speak and to give a so-called khutbah at the Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town. It was an event that led to much debate around the world, but instead of participating in these debates she devoted the next decade to intellectual and spiritual studies, where she contemplated within herself and asked questions about what it meant both for herself but also for Islam and for other Muslims.
“It took eleven years before I would again agree to not only keep preaching but also lead the prayer, and do so a very public way,” says Amina Wadud.

One of the questions she wrestled with is that in Islam, prayers are directly between the believer and God without any intermediaries. So why does it then matter where men and women stand in the mosque? Why is it important that a woman can lead the prayer when she is still able to communicate with God directly? The answer that Amina Wadud arrived at is that an important part of Islam is its collective rituals, and that the leadership roles of these rituals had been wrongly been assigned men. “This has no basis in the Qur’an,” she says.

“There is no textual basis for it. There is no verse in the Qur’an that says that men must lead the prayer, there is no verse in the Qur’an that says women can not lead the prayer, there is no hadith that says women can not lead, nor is there any hadith that says that men must be those leading the prayer.”

Can no longer be ignored

When she led the prayer at the Synod House in New York in 2005, it was to bind together the inner and spiritual aspects with the public and political external aspects. Although it is still very rare for a woman to lead men and women of prayer – it happens, but mostly in the smaller circles of reformist Muslims – something has fundamentally changed.

“Now everyone is talking about it, everyone. Even if they only speak about it to say that they disagree with it. In other words, it can no longer be ignored, and for me it is a very big milestone that one can no longer ignore that it exists and it is great,” she says emphatically.

In the book “Inside the Gender Jihad” in 2006, she writes about her experiences as a black woman and a Muslim working as an academic in universities in the American South, and the experience of growing up as a poor black girl and the struggle for social justice which she inherited by her father who was Methodist pastor. For Amina Wadud, Islam is a fight for social justice and she has described her long work with Islam, justice and gender as being closely linked to her father. It is now more than half a century ago that he took her to what would become a defining moment for her, and for the struggle for social justice. The year was 1963, and the event was Martin Luther King’s march on Washington.

“It was a pivotal moment for me. It was hot and we stood at a monument where there was no shade to shelter us from the sun and people kept coming up on the stage to make speeches, and as a child I did not understand what it was they were talking about.

“In my blood and in my heritage there is a close relationship between faith in God and social justice.”

Allied with the LGBT community

Amina Wadud’s work with a gender inclusive reading of the Qur’an has also inspired other groups of Muslims to initiate readings based on other issues of sexual orientation, such as queer and LGBT. Amongst others we have Scott Siraj al-Haqq Kugle, who has written the books Homosexuality in Islam and Living Out Islam, and groups like the El-Tawhid Juma Circle in Canada.

“We do not need to separate our religious selves from our sexual orientations just because there is a heteronormative. Muslim societies have been predominantly heterosexual but there has always been diversity, it’s just that some have been marginalized and have therefore remained invisible. I am allied with the LGBT community. Humanity is not only limited to heterosexuals, and a Muslim has no priority in their faith over another Muslim exclusively for where they happen to be on the heteronormative scale.”

This implies a questioning of dichotomies previously presented as self-evident and where fundamental choices have been explicit. The choice between being a feminist and a Muslim, the choice between Islam and human rights or the choice between being gay and being Muslim. The alternative to such dichotomies are what she calls radical pluralism and horizontal reciprocity. Radical pluralism is all about praising diversity and equality at the same time, and also about breaking privileges : privileges that have to do with gender, race, class or ethnicity.

“Radical pluralism evens out the playing field and it is uncomfortable because it means that you can not always get the best place, you can not always get the best light, the best air or the best water. Sometimes you have to share it with others, and it can also mean that you get less, or you will not get anything.”

“We must be willing to understand that until the playing field is equalized, those who have privileges must accept that they have them, and then stay away from them,” she says.