Sunday, July 22, 2012


As the earth rotates, all along its single longitude over the globe from north to south, second by second, string of Muslims keep their covenant with their faith and break their day-long fast either with a humble piece of date or a small sip of water. The moment of IFTAAR and the mass of humanity that are bound together in brotherhood symbolizes Islam's spiritual hold on humankind. It surpasses all experiences that the material world has unleashed on mankind. Praise be to Allah.


Friday, July 20, 2012

Ramadan day 1 - Carrollton Mosque


Experiencing Ramadan

This is an effort to document and record the Iftaar experience with every Muslim denomination, it is a journal of how each tradition within Islam, and a sub sect within each practices Ramadan. The biggest idea that jumps out is seeing the differences and understanding that they are cultural and not religious.

Much is written in this blog, but the focus will be today’s experience. Over the years, I have been visiting different Mosques for Friday prayers, and today, it was the Frisco Mosque (picture below), a temporary Mosque in down town Frisco, as the construction for the new Mosque is about to start.

First Iftaar of Ramadan at Carrollton Mosque
Carrollton Islamic Center, 1901 Kelly Blvd, Carrollton, TX 75006
Nearly 150 people attended the Iftaar, possibly because of the invitation to witness the ground breaking ceremony to expand the Mosque. 

Click the picture to enlarge 
There is one thing that I have been missing in the mosques; fellowship.

However, it was a beautiful experience tonight at the Carrollton Mosque.  The weather was remarkably pleasant and the fellowship was perfect. Usually people dash in and out, but this evening all of us had an opportunity to sit down and socialize and wait for the sunset.

The Christian Church has a formal structure to encourage fellowship. Almost every Church I speak at, has a follow up gathering in the fellowship hall for visiting with each other. I had always longed for that environment in a Mosque, it is not common, nor is it conducive for Muslims now, as they  have to go back to work after the Friday congregational prayers. However, the original Mosques were  community centers for people to come together. My references is strictly the United States, and India, where I am from. I have no idea how they do in Muslim majority nations where Friday is a holiday for them. I hope someone shares that.

I really enjoyed the Iftaar, everyone got to sit down and chat up with each other, and one Sheikh was asked to give a short talk, he was good, and did give a short talk in the few minutes left to do the Iftaar.  Apparently he is from Morocco.

So when the sun’s last ray disappeared, the Amir  (by the way his name is Aamir, but pronounced differently) announced that it was time to break the fast. Traditionally it starts with a bite  of the Dates * and  in some traditions it is the water.   Can you imagine the consumption of  nearly 5 billion dates tonight across the world to break the fast? 

Each mosque has a little different tradition, for instance, in Madinah Masjid (Carrollton)  the Imam recites the Iftaar prayer, and the group repeats after him before they break the fast, however, it is little different in Shia tradition, and Ahmadiyya tradition is identical with the Sunni tradition. Insha Allah, I will document the differences to understand and respect them as cultural practices rather than religious ones. 
Iftaar was followed by the Maghrib (dusk) prayers, there is very little difference in traditions, but there is some. Thank God, arrogance has no place in my heart to say which one is standard, it is what is in one's heart that matters. 

The next thing was the ground breaking ceremony, each one in the leadership got a shovel and a hard hat, and started filling the hole with the dugged out dirt. It should have been the other way around.  They even got a silver shovel for the Amir - the leader: Dr. Amir Shakil.  Glad to see the women taking their turn and even the kids got to throw up some dirt with excitement.
Dinner was healthy and good, the Arabic puffed up bread was fantastic, one of my favorites.  I just wanted to say to my wife that I ate only half the bread watching my cholesterol.  The beans were excellent! Good choice of food!

It was a pleasure to meet some of the friends after a long time.  I remembered 20+ names but there were several more I could not.  I just cannot get the names out, so I will not list any. I don’t want to hurt the feelings of those few whose name is blocked in my mind.  About ten years ago, I could call on every name in most gatherings, I just cannot do it it now, the mind blanks out. 
Dear God, help me out the names!

It was a beautiful Iftaar and the evening.

Ramadan day 2 - Richardson Mosque

Mosque in Frisco, one of the fastest growing cities in America.
Something to think about

Two years ago, I was intrigued by a tafseer/ exegesis that I read in this Mosque, the book was printed in Madinah, about what idolatry meant. It was a beautiful writing and I wanted to read that again and perhaps copy (iphone pic), but have not found the book again. It had the broadest meaning and would have been perfect to talk about in the interfaith gatherings. Indeed, I had a similar conversation with Michael Wolfe prior to release of his film "The message". I will have to go back and check again where this wonderful book is.

I was early, so I read Sura Baqra- the second chapter in Urdu, the translation was done by Dr. Tahir-ul Qadiri. The flow was much better than some of the other translations.  I did not get to read the whole chapter, but a few verses made me stop and think .

2:212, (Qadiri translation) starts with, "life for the Kafirs was set up for the worldly pleasures."  The word Kafir was used as though there is a community of people out there, who are called Kafirs. Kafir is a generic word for those who hide the truth, deny the truth or pretend the truth to be different, and it is an individual attribute rather than a group label. I will have to study and read Asad’s translation. Although it has the simplest meaning, it has acquired a derogatory status to ridicule other people.

2:222 (Qadiri Translation) - talks about avoiding intimacy with wife until she is pure or clean again. I have severe difficulty with that translation. It gives the impression that a woman is unclean or impure. Instead, if the translation had said, “avoid intimacy with wife until she is through with the menstruation,” it would have meant a natural process. Dr. Qadiris’s translation falls in the same pit as the other ones before.    I will have to check Dr. Laila Bakhtiar’s or Edip Yuskel's translation on that.  

Even the translation of 2:223 does not meet the civility prophet Muhammad taught. Please remember, Quraan is divine and God's word, and it is always about justice, fairness and for goodness of the humanity. The issues we are having are with translations, even the Arabic writers have mis-intepreted it. The burden of finding the truth falls squarely on us, after all, no one but us is responsible for our actions on the Day of Judgment. 

An individual asked me if will be back tomorrow,  and I said probably two weeks from now. As a reason, I explained to him that I visit a mosque a day of different denominations during Ramadan. He jumped the gun and asked if I went to the Shia Mosque, which is an yes. He was too eager to say they were wrong. He told me that the Prophet in his last sermon was clear; he was leaving his Sunna and the book to the people, but they add his family to it. I said, that is correct, those are the two different versions, he said, but they are wrong - I said, they are wrong to you, but not to them.  He was silently staring at me to understand that, which I appreciated.

I continued, "they think the Sunnis are wrong." He held back, and I am glad he did. The best thing is to accept the different interpretations, but not agree as a matter of principle. He countered it is the same Hadith, how can they say otherwise. It took me a while to keep his innocence intact, yet make the point.  I said I have no problem with what they believe; I don’t believe what they believe, and they don’t believe what I believe… I am not superior to them, nor they are superior to me. I am right in my way, as they are right in their ways....I asked him if he can guess where my analogy comes from? He guessed it right and I hope you do too. 

Mike Ghouse is committed to doing his individual share of building cohesive societies  and invites you to the 8th Annual Unity Day USA on Tuesday, September 11, 2012. Details at, its an event that builds bridges and uplifts every American.

Mahesh Bhatt's article about Ramzan, Ramadan

Collective force By MAHESH BHATT
Note: I don’t have the source for this article, but written exceptionally well. Mr. Mahesh Bhatt is a renowned film maker from the Bollywood film industry, he had made some super hit movies. Wiki, “Mahesh Bhatt (born on 20 September 1948), is a prominent Indian film director, producer and screenwriter. Bhatt's early directional career consisted of acclaimed films, such as Arth, Saaransh, Janam, Naam,Sadak and Zakhm.
Mahesh Bhatt was born to Nanabhai Bhatt, a Hindu Brahmin and Shirin Mohammed Ali, a Muslim on 20 September 1948.[1] Nanabhai Bhatt was a film director and producer of Hindi and Gujarati films. Mahesh Bhatt was raised by his mother alone as his parents were not married and his father also had another family. He has five siblings, four sisters and one brother Mukesh Bhatt, who is a film producer.
Collective Force.

Here is the article:

The Famous Film maker and Human Rights activist MAHESH BHATT
observes daily fast (roza) during Ramdan ? Why?

On the 14th day of Ramdan, as I drove back home to break my daily fast (Roza), a deep on my cell phone alerted me to an incoming message. This is what the message said: Hello, Mr. Bhatt, I understand through your utterances and writings that you are not a religious man and you do not believe in the efficacy of prayer. But I have now learned that you maintain Roza in the month of Ramdan. Your actions, Mr. Bhatt, bewilder the Hindus and shock the Muslims as well. May I ask why you keep Roza?
This question from a stranger made me smile but since the query was an innocent one I instinctively punched in my response, which was, Islam is a part of my heritage. I was born to a Brahmin Hindu father and a Shia Dawoodi Bohra Muslim mother.

When I was a child my mother would ensure that I fasted for at least one day in the month of Ramadan. I remember her telling me that during the month of Ramadan the Muslims say that the gates of heaven are open. This is the month when Muhammad received his first revelation. After my mother died six years ago I realized that the only way to keep her alive within me was to fast for every single day in the month of Ramadan.?

That evening when the distant Azaan was heard and the clock announced that the day's fast had come to an end, my parched body welcomed the first sip of water that I had taken in 14 hours like a desert  would welcome rain. As I bit into an overripe date I discovered that at this particular moment I was a part of this collective release which bound me together with millions of people in my country and all over the world with such unnatural force that I experienced a sense of exhilaration like I had never experienced before. And it was then that for the first time I realized what the spirit of Ramadan is really all about. When so many people together wholeheartedly share a common purpose, they are united in a way that one has to experience to truly comprehend. And the exhilaration comes from the fact that it's not about the individual alone but about all of us, together, doing something so completely. And it is perhaps this feeling of brotherhood that makes fasting in Ramadan such a unique and joyous experience.
(Mike’s Note - Two years ago, I wrote that in on any given Iftaar, i.e, breaking of fast at sunset,  at least 5 Billion dates (fruit) will be consumed, and for thirty days, 150 Billion dates - that is a lot of consumption of dates. You can also find some interesting stats. This is a conservative figure, as many a places dates are not available)

In this buy, consume and junk age where one's consciousness is being bombarded by all kinds of pleasure peddlers who market their mouth watering food and drink on the hour by the hour, it is such a relief to shut the door to them and their wares and protect your body from an over dose of pleasure. In the month of Ramadan one takes  a break from the hedonistic way of life. One gets off the treadmill of constant pleasure seeking and lives a life of austerity and simplicity. This rejuvenates the physical organism and fills one with unusual vigour. As days turn into weeks you being to realize that the human organism spends too much energy in trying to process excess food intake. The maxim that man is killed by too much food begins to make sense.

In the first few days of Ramadan, when the pangs of hunger gnaw at your insides leaving you to constantly stare at the clock, you suddenly feel as if there is an invisible umbilical cord connecting you to the sea of otherwise faceless people all over the world that often go for days without a square meal. Your apathy and indifference slowly begin to fade away and your heart begins to wake up to the all-pervasive suffering of your fellow human beings

Another thing that makes this Ramadan even more special for me is that my 13 year old daughter Alia has for some strange and unknown reason spontaneously decided to fast along with me. Like you fast for your mother, I fast for you, she said simply after I asked her what prompted this unexpected decision. No wonder a wise man once said, "What you teach you children, you also teach your grand-children." I wonder whether years ago while my mother was shaking me awake in the hush of the morning light and whispering, "Beta, time for Sehori", she knew she was also awakening her future grand-children. Isn't this at the end of it all what culture is all about?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

HAPPY RAMADAN - What does God really want?


Welcome to Ramadan, this column is about the politics, traditions and the spirit of Ramadan.

Like a mother who wants her children to live well, like a teacher who wants his students to do well, and like a chef who wants his patrons to enjoy his food…. God wants every one of his creation to live in harmony and do well.

No one is deprived of God’s love; he has reached every human through a peace maker, messenger, prophet, reformer or simply a wise man or a good friend that brings sense to living. The creator offers a variety of guidance to the mankind, no matter where you live, the guidance is there, the guidance that leads to live in peace, and without fear of the other.
Religion is one such instrument that God guides us through, and there are many of them, at least 250 traditions including a dozen major ones. Each tradition does well for the believer in bringing peace to oneself.

Today, the one tradition I am talking about is Islam, and one of its beautiful aspects that helps build cohesive societies.

Ramadan Mubarak

Welcome to Ramadan, it begins on Friday the 20th
 of July, 2012. It is the month of fasting, a month of learning about others, connecting with others, developing empathy with fellow beings and above all reaching new heights in piety and spirituality,  Taqwa as it is called. It is to become closer to God and emulate his qualities of unselfishness, forgiveness and love. It is a month of practicing service to fellow beings and developing self discipline to learn to live they way we want, and being conscious of every moment of the day for 30 days.  
I am working on an article on Ramadan, which I stopped, instead to write about Michelle Bachman and her tantrums which shall appear at Huffington post tomorrow.  Meanwhile here are a few things I have written.
The Politics of Ramadan at Washington Post

Politics plays a crucial role in our Temples, Synagogues or Churches, Mosques are no different. A few scientifically-inclined-Muslims have adopted NASA’s calculations believed to be precise. However, four different traditions are operating concurrently; i) Strictly Calendar, ii) NASA and iii) Sighting with bare eyes and iv) sighting by others in the community.

Muslims around the world will begin fasting from Friday, July 20, 2012 and for a whole month thereafter, however, for some of them it will begin (only) if the moon is sighted. The story is same with the Jewish and other traditions that follow lunar calendar. Rosh Hashanah like Ramadan comes 11 or 12 days earlier each successive year.
 Continued at
The Spirit of Ramadan at Huffington Post

The spiritual masters have captured the human gravity towards rituals and have molded it with the art and science of self-discipline in their respective religions. The noble purpose of each one of them was to bring a balance in our lives and a balance with our environment.
Every faith is composed of a set of unique rituals to bring discipline and peace to human life. Fasting is one of the five key rituals that Muslims around the world observe. Rituals signify the milestones of our daily life. Every significant moment of the day is a ritual. It is an unwritten way of measuring our progression, a memory pattern to bring discipline to our actions. Continued
The Traditions of Ramadan at Ramadan Exclusive

its celebration time when Muslims around the world anxiously wait for the first moon of the ninth Lunar month to appear on the sky. The families gather in their backyards, or get on the nearest hillock or climb on the top of their homes and wait for the pencil thin moon to appear on the horizon, and when it does, jubilation begins.
 Continued at:

Welcome to Ramadan at Ramadan Exclusive

Insha’Allah, the first day of Ramadan will begin on Friday, July 20, 2012 and Eid al-Fitr on Sunday, August 19, 2012 per the announcement from ISNA.
 Continued at:
Quraan says, had God willed, he would have made every one of us alike - then he says, he chose to make us into different tribes and nations from the same couple (or the same source). Then he goes on to challenge us to know each other - he knows that our conflicts stem from not knowing each other, and living with misinformation about others,  when we know each other,  conflicts fade and solutions will emerge.

Every religion means peace and Justice and that is acceptable to God. He says, you need not worry who you are, as long as you take care of your neighbor, I will recompense you. Each one of us is responsible for our Karma.

He concludes ( Quraan 49:13) that the best among us is the one who knows each other, learns about each other and respects each other. If we take the time, to learn, every religion is out there to bring goodness to humanity.  

Be good to yourselves and every one around you. Happy Ramadan.

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