I have been living away from home for the past four years. Post my recent completion of graduate school, broke and jobless, I moved back with my parents (no shame). For the time being, I’m trying my best to shift from my stimulating, fast-paced life in NYC to the hum drum and simple charms of suburbia. Most of my time is now spent catching up on the neighborhood elementary school girl drama via Manal, my 9 year old sister, and indulging on my mom’s much missed Hyderabadi cooking.

To make my adjustment to being back home more interesting, looks like I’ll soon be spending the first Ramadan in years with my family. Complete with ‘Family Ramadan Goals’. My dad convened my three sisters and I for an impromptu meeting this morning and proposed the idea. It was too cute to pass by.

This is what we came up with:

1)      Add khushoo in our prayers (beautify our prayers)

2)      Stop Ghibat (backbiting)

3)      And…make Ramadan fun for Manal

My dad also added that Manal, although typically enthusiastic about getting into her cute pullover hijab and glittery jani namaz to join the family for prayer, could get better about meeting the five dailies.

He then reminisced about his visits to the mosque as a young boy. Early morning, while it was still dark out, my dad would get up to walk down to the mosque for Fajr prayer, but scared silly of stray dogs that could be out (this is India and he was a kid) he would hurry up to walk aside his neighbor ‘booda nana’ (translation from urdu-‘old grandpa’-and, yes, this is how my dad literally references him). To add to it, ‘booda nana’ wasn’t really a friendly guy.

After prayer, my dad would take a trip to the nearby cemetery to visit the graves of his maternal ancestors. He added that one time he stopped by the grave of his mother’s so-and-so but scurried away after being spooked by the corpse in the neighboring grave which had risen enough from the ground to be partly visible. What happened to ‘6 feet under’ I wondered? I can’t explain exactly how, but apparently, the surfacing of the corpses had something to do with the overcrowding of the cemetery and nearby roadside construction.

My dad’s story got me thinking. He mentioned that he was around Manal’s age, or younger, when this happened. So, approximately 7 to 9 years old. I tried to imagine myself going through the same experience with religion that my dad did at such a young age. Fajr trips to the mosque with ‘booda nana’ where I feared for the safety of my life from stray, possibly rabid dogs, followed with trips to the cemetery with sneak peeks of corpses sounded somewhat dramatic. Not to mention, terrifying. Continue reading

“ISNA – Twenty Years: Anticipation for the Future Is Not a Mid-Life Crisis” By Mehrunisa Qayyum

Twenty Years: Anticipation for the Future Is Not a Mid-Life Crisis

Mehrunisa Qayyum

North American culture might view the age of 48 as an impending mid-life crisis.  However, from July 1st-4th the Islamic Society of North America has completed its 48th year as an umbrella organization with its 30,000 plus membership of individuals, community service organizations, community centers, mosques, charity groups, Islamic banking partnerships, and myriads of successful sponsors in Chicago, Illinois.  ISNA’s theme of “Loving God, Loving Neighbor, Living in Harmony” invited the familiar MSA, MYNA, and general programming, expanded its film and art festivals, and introduced the boys basketball tournament.  Convention Program Director, Basharat Saleem, initiated a documentary project to capture the familiar and new faces while asking, “Where do we see ourselves 20 years from now?”  As Imam Mohamed Majid, who hails from the Virginia area, assumes ISNA’s presidential role, panels continue to define our civic and spiritual challenges while looking beyond the Atlantic—for example, the Arab Spring.  North American Muslims excitedly anticipate the convention’s return to the traditional Labor Day weekend—which will insha’allah kick off in Washington, DC in 2012—two months before a presidential election.  As the list of media organizations that cover ISNA grows longer, the forecast into 20 years in the future prompts more questions about what and why global news outlets hope to catch at ISNA.

Inter-faith Is the Focus of Engagement

Where ISNA might be twenty years into ISNA’s future prompted optimism rather than skepticism when veteran speaker Dr. John Esposito stated that, “ISNA will continue to draw more Muslim and non-Muslim participants who want to engage in dialogue.”  Esposito serves as the Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Muslim Christian Understanding and observes how inter-faith efforts operate as the primary mission of ISNA engagement and will continue to expand across other communities.  Esposito alludes to the growing trend of non-Muslim faith partners in initiatives, like “Shoulder to Shoulder” as well as non-Muslim members experiencing the bazaar and purchasing their literature. Continue reading