An outlet for the many voices in my head on being muslim, running and my love affair with jellybabies

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Running in Ramadaan

My previous boss may not have been the poster child for Islamophobiabut she surely never missed an opportunity to remind me she was connected with Salman Rushdie and had desperately tried to ‘bring him to South Africa’. She never missed the chance to tell me how she was profoundly affected by hijabisat Ushaka marine world whose abayas prevented them from going down the foofy slides (okay she had a point there but there’s more to it than just that). Another one of her favourite recollections was to tell me in each Ramadaan how she’d seen kids in the UK who’d been ‘very damaged’by fasting.
At the time, this really wound me up but I’ve recently begun to understand where her views and those of most non-Muslims come from. I hold no grudges or ill feelings towards her because the biggest agents of misinformation are Muslims themselves.
So anyway, I’ve always felt the need to prove her wrong and to prove to people that fasting not only has spiritual and physical benefits but that you really can continue with your normal daily activities. Of course it is a challenge, it is not meant to be easy and how do you gain compassion for hungry people if you yourself do not experience hunger but it is nowhere near being ‘damaging’. One of the things I’ve always tried to do was to maintain my running in Ramadaan. (Okay, don’t let that mislead you into thinking that I’ve been training religiously or anything!) I ran quite a bit after work during my first Ramadaan including squeezing in a ‘long run’ (turns out it was only 15km) as training for Soweto Marathon. Last year was slightly more disastrous but I recall I ran a 2 or 3 races of 10km, but that was my laziness. This year was grand! Although I only ran before maghrib on four occasions (they were short little runs testing my new New Balance Minimus), I ran a race every weekend (except the first weekend of Ramadaan) including running the Centurion Wierie half marathon (I had to run it, it’s in my neighbourhood and I missed it last year, I was not going to miss it again and I just had to run the full half) and the running the Vodacom 10km the day after. If memory serves me right the other runs were a 15km run and a 10km trail run. I’m not saying it was easy – at the Vodacom race for instance I really suffered in the heat, it was a 8o’clock start (there is a lot of partying north of the Jukskei and people don’t get up earlier than that) – at one point ‘the voice’ was telling me to ‘just have satchet of water, just have a coke, no one will know’, but then the other voice said, ‘dude, fasting is about self accountability too you know’…the good voice won and I all I needed to do was slow down to finish in 1:12 which I’m happy with, not thrilled, but happy. At the Centurion race, they had, can you believe it my favourite thing in the whole world: Cream Soda at one of the water tables. They never have Cream Soda at water tables, ever! I actually laughed when I saw that. But I mean that wasn’t like the end of the world.
So really, please, can my fellow Muslims please not give the impression that Ramadaan is ‘damaging’…it is a wonderful blessed time for building character not crashing down like a sack of potatoes.

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disappointing eidgah

Disappointing eidgah

It’s taken me a while to write about this mainly because of the shock and disappointment at my first eidgah. I don’t think I wrote about my two previous ‘attempts’ to attend previous eidkhutbahs but needless to say they both pretty much nearly ended in tears. After my first eid I was still very green and knew very few Muslims so my first Ramadaan was very isolated but I was at least determined to attend the eidkhutbah. Somehow I got the times wrong and of course there was no one to cross-check these things with so I ended up arriving at the masjied literally as people were joyously walking out and hugging and shaking hands doing the typical eid thing. I was crushed! (okay, it wasn’t a complete disaster of a day since I spent the rest of it with some really warm Muslims, but missing the eidgah was devastating). The following year – last year eidulfitr happened to fall on the very last day with my now previous employer and I had so much on my plate that I ended up working that day (one of the reasons I left). The working wasn’t so bad since I was also celebrating my departure. The hardest part was the fact that in the morning I’d dropped off a friend at the airport who was flying off to be with his family and the airport, at 4 in the morning, was abuzz with Muslims (all decked out in their finest kurtas, no less!) excitedly flying off to be with their families and here I was not only having to go to work, but literally having to acknowledge that I will never share eidulfitr with my family. I think I understand why reverts, especially those who don’t come to Islam through marriage, themselves revert back to Christianity or whatever else they came from. Not a lot of people can handle the loneliness that comes with being an ‘outsider’ and if you don’t remind yourself why you came to Islam in the first place, one can crack.
So it is against this background that I was determined not to screw up my eidulfitr arrangements this year. So much so that I must have double checked the dates at least once every hour every day. I did make it for the khutbah and I will admit there were aspects about it which were beautiful. It was a beautiful day and we were fortunate enough to be able to sit outside. Also unlike other groups (like the Durban crowd which is a whoooooooooooooolestory on its own!!), this centre not only ‘allowed’ us womenfolk to attend (see the tongue in cheek?) but allowed us to participate behind the men. I will give credit where it is due and this centre is really in tune with Islam as far as women’s accommodation and participation is concerned.
That said, I was very disappointed by the Sheikh’s khutbah which was so much about feel-good-hippy-stuff and so much about, ‘oh we’ve fasted and it’s like we’ve come into the garden’ and now lets just bask in Allah’s glory and just get happy and joyous. That kind of thinking to me is very very selfish and I will say perhaps even shocking that at a time when there is a famine and humanitarian crisis on this continent, that we emerge from Ramadaan not taking away any lessons on compassion and our responsibilities towards others, eh, particularly those who happen to be dying of starvation in the month of Ramadaan. How can you come away with any conclusion other than one which talks about social responsibilities and justice?
Of course I appreciate that the humanitarian crisis in East Africa has more dimensions than that there is an extreme drought amidst a failed state but those dimensions are themselves a reflection of some moral failure in society at large and in the Muslim ummah in particular – as vicegerents on earth can we say that we are doing okay, we can pat ourselves on the back? Can we say, everything is groovey and we need only preoccupy ourselves with chasing nirvana and feeling good?
To me that’s spiritual materialism and it saddens me to think I didn’t actually miss anything from not going to the eidgah these last two years.

(anti)social networking

im delighted to announce that my divorce with facebook finally came through. i cant believe it took me so long to delete that account but what a relief, i feel like something vile got purged out of me. i love it! and amazingly, i have more time and make effort to make real connections and conversations with real people that i actually like. luckily my addiction was just fb, i know people who sit in meetings and can simultaneously be on email, twitter, fb, bbm and whatever else. really…..shut it down!

inspired

i wrote this clerihew in jest. it doesnt have a title yet. comments and death threats welcome

Esteemed ulema
Commercialising fatwa
Isn’t it fantastic?
To be king of the bombastic!

Mirror mirror on the wall
Who’s the most pious of them all?
How can you go wrong?
When your beard is two fistfuls long!

paradigm shifts

every now again we are fortunate to experience moments which result in paradigm shifts and which will stand out later as an inflexion point from where your actions change forever. these moments come in different forms to different people at different times and i guess for various reasons allah chooses. i consider such moments a complete priviledge. i was recently lucky enough to attend a screening of the documentary film, the imam and i. it was really a profound experience for me. apart from being a pleasant cinematic experience (the documentary was very well put together), the film really made me ask the question, ‘what am i doing to live the message of the quran?’. for me, undoubtedly, that message is one of justice which is rather stating the obvious, but i also think as muslims (myself included) we have forgotten that and allowed ourselves to get caught up in mechanisms of fiqh, shariah law, interpreting the five ‘pillars’ and then even worse things such as sectarianism (my version of islam is better than yours, that sort of thing). firstly, why is justice conveniently ommitted from the five ‘pillars’ when it is the pervasive central message of the quran? something is amiss. conversely, why is sectarianism so pervasive in fabric of the ummah when in fact it goes against every single surah, every ayat of the quran and this goes against the very essence of tawhid. anyway, i digress a little and these two issues are separate posts on their own – but these were some of the things the imam fought against in his time and it is really saddening to learn that he faced enemies both from within islam and outside. he was eventually killed in detention by the apartheid police.

the other theme which really resonated with me was a comment by the late robert sobukwe (there was another massive paradigm shift for me there and i need to do more research on this great man, whose message sadly, but not surprisingly has since been repressed) when asked why under apartheid, the security police felt so threatened by islam. afterall muslims were and continue to be a minority in south africa. robert sobukwe’s response was that muslims had the blueprint to govern the country based on principles of justice, equality and democracy (something to that effect). muslims have the blueprint. again it is stating what should be the obvious but i think with all the nonsense we’ve allowed in we can no longer see the wood for the trees and that is a great great tragedy.

its encouraging to see that the memory of such a great man is being kept alive by various people, but i was also very sad to see how his family was relegated to persona non grata in the wake of his death by people and organisations which are the self-styled ‘representatives’ of muslims and self appointed ‘ulema’ of the masses. i’m sorry, but you do not represent ME. i was also saddened by the fact that the holding cells where he was matyred were at a police station which is literally minutes away from where i grew up. i havent yet figured out why this has such an effect on me but it makes me sad to have not known this earlier, known about the imam’s life earlier – i lived so close to his ‘memory’ but couldnt have been further from it in actions and understanding.

at the end of the film there was an opportunity for discussion and what stuck out for me was the question, ‘what did i do then, what am i doing now, what am i going to do in the future?’…..on the day of judgement i better have some answers!

banff

its almost banff time again – this is undoubtedly my favourite film festival. im so excited!


32Gi

have been taking some of this stuff in the mornings with my cereal and im really really surprised at how okay i feel throughout the day. gosh, it almost feels like im cheating – i bought it to use on my long runs coz i was starting to have crazy spiking episodes with gels and was looking for a more robust alternative.cant wait to try it out when im running again!!!!!!