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Saturday, August 20, 2011

Day 19 of Ramadan 2011

Day 19 of Ramadan 2011 at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church

Terminology: At the bottom of this write up.

Church: Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, Dallas
Sahri (Pre-dawn meal at home): Cereal with Yogurt
Iftaar (refreshments): Straight Dinner
Iftaar (Dinner): Salad, Rice, Non-spicy stew like lamb, Dolma (Grape leaf rolls stuffed with minced meat and rice) and Baklava for dessert.
Culture: Interfaith Dinner- Christians and mainly Turkish Muslims, perhaps I was the only Subcontinentan there.

PURPOSE: To share and appreciate the diversity within Islam.

THE PLAN: Visit a mosque a day and be with every denomination including: Ahmadiyya, Bohra, Ismaili, Shia, Sufi, Sunni, Warith Deen Muhammad, Wahabbi and others. You are welcome to join me or experience it yourselves, we have to learn to respect the differences and appreciate the uniqueness of each tradition. God says the best among you is the one who knows each other for peaceful co-existence.

......................................... ...
If you think of sharing your own Ramadan experience, time is to start now.

The Dallas Islamic Center, an organization supported by Fateh Gulen, a Turkish Muslim reformer is doing a great job in the Islamic theme of “knowing each other” to create a better world. http://www.dallasislamiccenter.org/

A few pictures at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeghouse/sets/72157627477918142/show/

Hamidullah, Imam Yesil
and Mike Ghouse
Over the years they have done a fabulous job of reaching out to neighbors, conducting interfaith dialogue, dinners and classes on Quraan. I am yet to visit their center in Richardson and now I have the incentive to really be a tiny part of the good work they do. I discovered today that Imam Nihat Yesil and I have met some 4 or 5 years ago, fortunately both of us remembered my effort to connect him with Dr Kavakci, another Turkish Imam whom I brag about.

Now this is a different experience altogether for Muslims.

About 250 people attended the dinner event, mostly the guests were the congregation of the United Methodist Church and some 50 Turkish Muslims and few others including me, perhaps the only one from the subcontinent ethnicity.

Yasin moderated the event, he was amazing when he walked up on the stage and shared the three things Pastor Dr. Copeland had talked about in their meeting originally at the Dallas Islamic Center. (OMG, I had that last night, and I have lost it this morning). I will add back if it comes to the mind.

Hamidullah, a PhD student from Afghanistan opened the evening with Azaan. I wish I had recorded it, it was simply beautiful. It is an art in how you call the prayers in a melodious voice and I loved ever moment of it.

Ok here is a major difference in pronunciation. Much of the world calls the prayer call “Azaan” including Turkey, Iran, the Central Asian Muslims, the Subcontinentian Muslim and elsewhere in Philippines and Indonesia. Whereas the Arabic speaking people call it “Adaan”. The pronunciation of the word “Ramadan” in Arabic is “Ramzaan” in most of the world. All the speakers were toggling from one pronunciation to the other as most Americans respond to the word Ramadan rather than Ramzaan.

Pastor Copeland gave a beautiful sermon relating to the hospitality of Abraham, the fountain head for the three religions. It was that hospitality we are carrying forward, to share a meal with others. He mentioned that most of the congregants may have Google Ramadan before entering the hall and he shared the basics with the friends.

The traditional breaking of the fast followed by Prayers and dinner was modified to suit the audience, or perhaps that is the Turkish tradition. If you know about it please share and I will make an effort to learn about it. I was thrilled to find myself not knowing the tradition, and it made sense for me to know about the others. Indeed, I am driven by working and developing cohesive societies, and the emphasis in Quraan to know each other to create a better world excites me.

Imam Nihat Yesil, like Imam Dr. Kavakci, breaks the stereotyping of Muslims about their appearance. He did not have a beard nor wore a Muslim garb (Juan William, there is no such thing) or the cap. He wore a suit. Muslims are not a monolithic lot, each one is different with different traditions and practices, each costume is beautiful to the person who wears it and we cannot but appreciate the uniqueness. The year 2010 witnessed a dramatic change in Muslim presence in the media. Till them, a typical Muslim who spoke on national TV wore a beard and a cap as it had become a trade mark. 201o changed it all, Bill OReilly brought in Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, Harris Zafar and Sean Hannity pulled me in and you saw Raza Aslan on CNN and ABC, NBC pulled in Irshad Manji, Asra Nomani and whole new breed of Muslims were added to the Muslim spectrum which truly represented the diversity in Islam. We need more of our young men and women to pursue a career in Journalism and add the accentless category to the spectrum.

Imam Nihat Yesil shared Rumi’s story about humility, how he met a pastor in the market place and bowed to him for his knowledge and did not want to lose the humility. I am losing my mind ascribing the following story to either moderator Yasin or Imam Yesil. It’s about the responsibility to reach out to the neighbors. The neighbors were defined by 4o homes around you and one must reach out to them. The other versions are 7 neighbors around you, and then the circle expands to the town, region, and the whole wide world. He was sharing the origins of Adan to call for prayers to reach the neighborhood and the whole town… and added with a chuckle that if KERA radio relays the Adan, the entire listenership would become our neighbors.

I was thrilled when they showed the translation of the Adan on the big screen, something I had always wanted to do and have debated extensively on the content and the meaning of it. The non-Muslims who object to this, really would appreciate if they really know the meaning of it.

Enjoy this beautiful Adan, there are plenty on YouTube, I picked this one as it shows beautiful mosques around the world, it is a delight to watch. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUHDYlJHaOQ&feature=related

Here it is:

الله أكبر
Allahu Akbar = God is Greatest

أشهد أن لا اله إلا الله
Ash-hadu al-la ilaha illa llah = I bear witness that there is no God except the One God3
أشهد أن محمدا رسول الله
Ash-hadu anna Muħammadan rasulullah = I bear witness that Muhammad is God's Messenger
حي على الصلاة
Ħayya 'ala-salah = Come to salat (prayer, worship)
حي على الفلاح
Ħayya 'ala 'l-falaħ = Come to success
الله أكبر
Allāhu akbar = God is Greatest
لا إله إلا الله
La ilaha illallah = There is no god except Allah.

One of the many purposes for me to visit different Mosques and do my Iftaar is to open up myself and share the experience. We have to learn to accept the diversity, no one worships in a weird way, that language needs to be respectfully replaced with … each one of us has our own unique way and each should be respected. To paraphrase what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would have advised “Respect your brother or sister as you respect yourselves”. That is the key to successful communities.

I pray that in this holy month of Ramadan we Muslim shed our biases and believe that God alone can judge what is in one’s heart; and let’s not burden ourselves with misunderstandings and myths about others. Let everyone live their life as they wish and let’s make an effort to live a regret free life in the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad.

Mike Ghouse is a speaker, writer and a thinker nurturing the pluralistic values of Islam. More at:

Coming up – Rituals of Ramadan and Spirit of Ramadan


Sahri - Pre-Dawn meal before early Morning Prayer (fajr).
Iftaar - Sunset Meal as a conclusion of the fast.

Sawm - fasting from sunrise to sunset - No food, no water, no nothing and no intake of any food or water. More critically it is a practice to abstain from ill-will, malice, anger, temptations and human desires. Don't hear, see, speak or act less than goodness.

Rituals - There are several variations in rituals and they vary from place to place. In Bangalore where I am from, the whole family gets up early around 4:00 AM and together cook extensive meals for Sahri /Suhoor, while others choose to cook earlier night and just warm it up and eat in the morning. The Iftaar is done elaborately at mosques, homes or other gatherings where friends from different faiths are invited to break bread and nurture goodwill.

Prayers - The ritual Muslim prayers involve several postures... I will update the details before the end of Ramadan.

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