Saturday, June 25, 2016

Menstruating During Ramzan

All Muslim women go through the menstruation cycle during Ramzan. And we are exempt from fasting during those days. Some view it as a discrimination like similar practices in other religions. However, in Islam, it is a little different. It isn't exactly prohibition. It is an exemption and allows you to do many forms of worship.

While you're younger, you're embarrassed to discuss these things. But even Prophet Muhammad PBUH discussed these things clearly when women asked him. And hadiths are clear and detailed on lot of aspects pertaining to society and day to day life. So let's be practical. Considering my busy schedule and managing to fast in traveling, working in office and being part of the kitchen during weekends, these 4 days come as a break and rest during Ramzan. I feel weak during 'those' days and get painful cramps too. Women, though biologically little weaker (unless you work out and have strong bodies) end up actually using more stamina than men especially in Asian (including south Asian and middle eastern) cultures, while men enjoy more luxuries. Living and working in non-Muslim society, I usually do not eat or drink on the 4-5 days of my period also when I am in office or outside, as it's difficult to explain to others. I go to office with a heavy breakfast on such days. Not that I hide facts. If someone asks, I tell I am not fasting as unwell. There are only a few handful who know Islam and understand. Else people use the fact to make fun of Muslims, saying that they caught so and so eating during Ramzan, which means all Muslims eat on the sly.

I use these 4-5 days to do my Eid shopping, parlour/ salon work, Eid preparations. And yes, it's not that you cannot pray. Wudu (ablution) will not be valid so cannot offer namaz, but you can recite a number of duas, chants (there are so many forms of ibadat), hear recitation of Holy Quran (dvd or other media). And there is a ruling , which I would not recommend for common women. It's only for women who are very high on cleanliness in person and clothes and understand the depth of these things. And many muslima scholars who teach Quran follow it too. They do touch Quran and read it too, taking a lot of precautions. Though there are two views on this. 

In fact, some rulings say that as soon as your bleeding stops (though your menstrual cycle is not over), you can start fasting, but you cannot offer namaz / salat. What is the difference? There is a distinct way described in hadiths to consider your menstruation is over. Let's not discuss that in detail here.

And it's not that only menstruating women are exempt from fasting. Ill people (men and women), pregnant women, breastfeeding women also join the list. When women have fasted all days except 'those' days and still get all the blessings, it's a mercy from the Lord. Other people (including men and women) who cannot fast due to various medical reasons, can compensate for it by giving Fidya (donation), preferably food or food items. This is over and above Zakat. It is fixed based on local price of 1.5 kg of rice, wheat, barley or similar grain of the region. That multiplied by number of days you missed your fast. Preferably give foodgrain/s itself to the poor around you or known to you or give to orphanages or homes. Or feed the poor with equivalent money or give any other food item with that much money. 

Those who try to criticize that Islam is partial to men, they should remember that just like women are considered unhygienic during menstruation, men are as also considered unhygienic in a certain state. Hence, men have to do a greater abstinence during Ramzan as fasting is not only about not eating/drinking. It's a lot more. Impurity can invalidate your fast. Women are not advised to NOT wear make up during Ramzan, not because lipstick might go into your mouth or skin will absorb make-up. It has a greater philosophy behind it. Thanks. 

Photo by Ian Schneider (

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Hanging for life! Virar Locals

Commuting from far in crowd in Virar locals is a task. Especially from mid stations like Dahisar, Mira Road. Yesterday a lady in desperation to get into train after missing two, somehow tried to push herself into a train (even though there was no scope for more people getting in) and it started moving. Then when she decided to let go, her hand got stuck inside between women inside. I tried to hold her waist and pull her out. But, due to fasting, my energy was limited. And train started moving ahead. Fortunately, a man some steps ahead (where the ladies compartment ends) came to the rescue and pulled her fully out with force and she fell on platform with a thud. Thankfully, it was not inside the gap. Her dupatta got pulled away inside the train as it sped off. And she seemed more worried about that. The man told her, 'dupattey bahut aayenge, jaan wapas nahin aati'. 

Imagine her being dragged like that outside the platform. She would've been bruised first, then killed. She seemed so shocked and dazed, she didn't thank the man and vanished somewhere. Maybe to try another stunt with next train. I never try such 'hanging from train' stunts. If it's too crowded, I don't attempt getting in. For me, life is more important. And if I die, I want to be remembered in a nice and respectful way. Not as the foolish lady who didn't have enough sense.

Pic courtesy

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Indian Muslims Vs Arab Muslims and Advent of Islam in India and South Asia

Recently I was trolled by a non-Muslim Indian for posting a comment on a video of an American YouTuber of Egyptian origin. Most of you might have understood whom we are talking about. Though the comment was for the YouTuber in question, this person started commenting out of context when he realised that I am an Indian. He started telling me that all Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims have Hindu blood in them and it will remain inside us no matter what we do and his other point was - Arabs hate us.

Really? First of all the term 'having someone's blood in us' is a figure of speech. But what was important here was the 'general' nature of the comment. And secondly, why only Arabs (though I do not agree on that), the world hates us, man! But does that unsettle/ disturb us? No. We are so used to that by now. I find it amusing. But those who are not used to being poked at, get hurt at even the slightest comment on them.

Okay, let's come back to the comment and my responses, which I made. I will discuss those points in detail here.

According to this person, Arabs hate Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and the like. First of all, Arabs form 33% of the World's Muslim population. And all Arabs are not Muslims. There are ethnic Arab Jews and Christians as well and their cultural dressing is similar (if not same) to Arab Muslims. Most Indians speak of Arabs from their experience of working in Saudi Arabia. Now, Saudi Arabia is not the only Arab country in the world. Let's take UAE for example. People across the world work here and enjoy the hospitality and accepting culture there. Many women are comfortable working alone also in UAE, as it is considered one of the safest place for women. Okay, for the time being let's consider this man's point about Arabs hating us. But why only Arabs? Everyone seems to be hating Muslims, man. It's part of our existence.

Another point is that some Indians / Pakistanis / Bangladeshi Muslims take education lightly and then go to gulf countries for any kind of job, hoping that while bringing money to their country, they will multiply it due to difference in exchange rates. Sometimes it is better to work hard in your own country and live with respect, than take up any job for some few bucks and act as if you are foreign-returned. Having said that, I also say that people who are well educated, including Engineers (Muslims and non-Muslims), prefer to work in Shipping/ Oil companies in Oman, Muscat, Bahrain etc due to the very high Rupee to local currency difference. And they (now here I am speaking of non Muslims) are happy being there, even if they have to accept few local cultures. My organisation also has a branch in Bahrain, and given a chance for a transfer back, they prefer to stay. Or quit. That's the decision of non-Muslims. So, definitely, Muslims who go and work on higher scales there, stay as long as they can, with their families as they find more similarities in religious cultures. But it's a personal choice. Some can feel at ease in a Mediterranean culture, some in Western, some in Eastern. Some Americans also later settle in Mexico for peace and quietude and to live near the coast, though Mexico is quite backward than US in technology and internal regulations. In some things, even India is several times better than Mexico. Yet some Americans retire to that country.

This person told me that Hinduism is one of the oldest religions on Earth. This, I agree to. Yes, Hinduism is one of the oldest religions. I respect that. But let us not forget that there were many pagan religions in the world prior to Hinduism also, which do not exist now. Even Buddhism and Jainism are very old religions. And they originated in India and co-existed with Hinduism as well. So to say that India is only the land of the Hindus and every inhabitant of India was a Hindu originally would not be totally correct. And let us not forget the Sikhs and the Sindhis. They also form part of the Indus Valley civilisation.  

Yes, Islam is one of the last religions of the world, having been in existence since 1400 years only. From being the latest religions (let us exclude cults here), it has gone on to become, the 2nd / 3rd largest religions in the world. Islam came into existence in 610 AD (7th century AD).

Now let's come back to Muslims. According to this man, every Indian Muslim was forced by the Mughals to accept Islam. Is that true? Did Mughals force Islam on us? Were there no Muslims in India prior to Mughals? Were there no migrant Muslims? And was force the only way to Islam ? Let us discuss this one by one.

Islam first came to the western coast of India with Arab traders as early as the 7th century AD to coastal Malabar and the Gujarat- Konkan coast. As we already discussed, Islam also came into existence in the 7th century itself. Cheramun Juma Masjid in Kerela is thought to be the first mosque in India, built in 629 AD by Malik Ibn Dinar. Who is Malik Ibn Dinar? He is one of the first propagators of Islam to come to India. He was born in Kufa, Iraq. He mostly preached in South India. That's the first advent of Islam in India. By an aulia (wali Allah = friend of Allah) in a peaceful manner. His mazaar (shrine), known as dargah to most, is in Kerela. While on the topic of first advent of Muslims to India, let us also mention the traders from Persian gulf, Kabul and other parts of south Arabia who came to India for business and settled on the Gujarat and Konkan coast. This was initiated by the then governor of Bahrain, who started a trading expedition to Bharuch in 7 AD. So, Islam had already arrived in India on the western coast and south India, much before Mughals came to India. The main spreaders of the Islamic faith/ religion in India were the aulias (also called the Sufi Saints). Around 10th/ 11th century AD, the Sufi saints brought Islam to entire South Asia (including India) from Persia. Malik Ibn Dinar was the first one to do so in southern parts of India much earlier. In the northern parts of India and some parts of Bengal, the sufi saints / wali-Allah become prominent in 10/11th century, during the reign of the Delhi Sultanate. So, Islam came to India and other parts of South Asia with the advent of the Sufi saints. The numerous dargahs (which are shrines of Sufi Saints) in India bear testimony of their love and appeal to the masses even today, as you see even non-Muslims flocking to take their blessings and pay them respect. They showed love, compassion and preached the goodness of Islam to the people. And the people in turn accepted them and their faith. The most well known sufi saint of India is Khwaja Gareeb Nawaz, who shrine is in Ajmer Shareef, and at his shrine people of all faiths from across the world, flock in large numbers.

So who are these Mughals ? When did they come to India ? What was their role in converting Muslims?  Mughal is a corruption of the word Mongol and they came from Central Asia. Babur was the founder of the Mughal Empire and and his kingdom extended from Uzbekistan to Persia and much beyond. Prior to the Mughal rule, Delhi Sultanate was ruled by the Lodhi Dynasty (Afghan origin). Some Indian governer took the help of Babur to fight the Lodhi king. Babur started his conquests through Delhi and slowly his descendants spread their rule much inside India over a period of time. They came to India in the 16th century and their empire lasted till the end of 19th century. Babur was quite brutal and did cause damage. But so were most emperors across the world. I am not denying that few people might have got converted forcibly as well. The later Mughal kings, however lived in harmony with the Hindus. Akbar formed a new harmonious faith and also had a Rajput Hindu wife. His later generations took forward the tradition of harmony with Indians. Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal king also united several Indian rulers under him to fight the British invasion in India. They left a rich heritage behind as well. And before they came, Islam had already arrived in India.

Another point raised by the person in question is that only Arabs are original Muslims and all Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indonesian (yes, he included them as well) Muslims have converted from Hinduism. There is no concept of original and later Muslims in Islam. Any person who believes that there is only one God and that Muhammed is His Messenger and last Prophet, is a Muslim. Quran mentions that there have been more than a lakh prophets since humans existed on this earth. And in this 1.25 lac approx prophets who brought the word of Allah (God) to the people on the earth, Buddha, Mahavir, Ram might have also been included. Quran only mentions some 25 important prophets by name. Quran starts from Adam (first person on Earth) and covers Moses to Noah to Abraham to Mohammed and so on. And some of the verses tally with the Bible and Torah as well. There is no concept of conversion to Islam. It is more of acceptance of concept of One God and Mohammed PBUH as his Messenger.

And ancestors of Indian or Pakistani or Bangladeshi or other people could have originally been anything - Jains, Buddhists, Hindus or some religion which does not exist today. But does that matter?

Pic courtesy :,

Friday, June 17, 2016

Be sensitive to people around you! Muslims are also your countrymen.

I am sick of hearing "Haan, madam. Hamara phone aatey hi aapki aawaz ekdam dheemi ho gayi" during Ramzan. I feel like screaming! But politely explain. Then some laughs at other end if its a joke. I am least amused. More energy wasted. There's no way to explain anything to anyone unless you feel it. There is so much ignorance out there about Muslims.

Though, it's no big deal and God sees you through, sometimes I feel that though there are so many Muslims in India, no one really tries to understand their fellow countrymen. I've wondered since years about it and now I feel is the right time to express.

No iftaar meal packets, special takeaway counters (I had a bad experience last year trying to buy a snack in time for iftaar as I was not carrying anything with me). No sensitivity to people fasting around you. I was breaking my fast in the train a few days back (we have to break at exact time else the fast becomes invalid) and I was saying 'iftaar ki neeyat' and dua, still this lady was shaking me asking where I will get off, knowing well that I am praying (with a dupatta on my head) and a snack box of dates and cut apples which I carry with me during Ramzan. I had asked her to wait, with an eye signal. Yet, she couldn't wait for 1/2 min. I finished my dua and ate a date and with my mouth ful I had to respond to her question. Others who understood were watching the fun and seemed amused. Even in office, some people eat in front of you. Only few respect your fast. Even after requesting some people not to call at specific time, they end up calling you exactly at 7.20 pm (current iftaar time in Mumbai) to ask something. Sadly, some of my new colleagues never knew about rozas until they saw me fast (those who know me, learn). Else no one bothers to know, while other cultures and religions interest me. Some others in India don't even know that Ramzan is going on unless they want to go to Mohammed Ali Road to eat Miyan bhai goodies. All those facilities are enjoyed mostly by non working Muslims. And is mainly crowded by non Muslims, who go to relish the non-veg goodies as well as the sweets. For Muslims, Ramzan is about a lot more than fast and prayers. Its about abstinence, charity, connecting to God.

Neither am I boasting (am not at that stage of my life to do so) nor ranting (could have done it many years back or over the years), but it saddens me that even with a huge population, no one attempts something like a iftaar snack meal with dates (such a cool business idea) for their Muslim countrymen (except in Muslim areas where some people pool some fruits and snacks for travelling rozedaars). In my life, the only non Muslim area/ place where I saw prayer and iftaar arrangements was Asian Hospital at Bandra Kurla Complex, where my Dad underwent a bypass surgery during Ramzan in the year 2009. It has a prayer room for every religion. That's only one hospital I found peaceful, else I dread going to hospitals. They give me the creeps!

When your Muslim colleagues, who are fasting and saving lunch time, tea break time and working non-stop and want to use the saved time to leave that much early to be as closest to their house during iftaar, do not give them an unwanted look. Nor treat is as a favour. There have been times during emergencies, where I've broken fast at my desk and continued working late in the night as well. As I am well aware of my duties. 

Then there are some people who will advise you not to fast, some who will belittle your fast stating that Muslims eat entire night and keep feasting, so a little bit of not eating during the day, didn't matter much. Then there is laughter at a miyanbhai joke cracked. I wonder who these genius people are who can eat and keep awake whole night and then work all day! Definitely not normal adults! Sometimes waking up for 'sehri'/ 'suhoor' (pre dawn meal) is itself a task and eating something then is another task. You cannot compare some kids who skip college and fast by sleeping through the day (or after school) and like to have goodies when breaking the fast and label it to Muslims in general. We do a lot of silly things as kids and expect gifts and goodies when we feel we achieved something we didn't believe we could!

Ask me about Hindu, Christians, Parsis, Jains' festivals and customs, and I will tell you. And so will my family and many educated Muslims. And we respect them and show concern during people's sensitive festivals and times. But about Muslims, no one wants to know anything. Except biryani recipes.

Pic courtesy :