Posted in General Interest, Islam, Religon, Spiritual, TheBeZine

The Month of Light

Wishing peace and happiness to our Muslim friends and contributors during this holy month of Ramadan. This feature article is by guest contributor Imen Benyoub (Algeria). It is from the February issue (theme: abundance/lack of abundance) of The BeZine. The first illustration is courtesy of American multimedia journalist and novelist (Bagdad Fixer), Ilene Presher. She found it online and shared it on her Facebook page. Ilene hosts a weekly radio show, TLV1Radio, Weekend Edition. The second illustration is courtesy of Russian photographer, Petr Kratochvil, Public Domain Pictures.net. J.D.

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Ramadan is the month of light, the month of reflection, blessings, generosity, devotion, change and sacrifice and a pillar of Islam as Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) said: “Islam is built upon five pillars: testifying that there is no God except Allah and that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah, performing prayer, paying the Zakah (charity), making the pilgrimage to the sacred house and fasting the month of Ramadan.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.  It is called the sacred month because it is observed worldwide by all Muslims as the month of fasting.  It’s twenty-nine or thirty days based on the visual sightings of the crescent moon.

Fasting in Islam means “to abstain.”  When you fast, you completely abstain from food, drinks, smoking and sexual intercourse from the break of dawn until sunset with an intention. This is not, however, all of it.  Real accomplished fasting is when you abstain from every behavior that is considered bad behavior in general.  It is something we share with Christianity and Judaism but with a lot of difference in details.

Who must fast? In general it is obligatory upon every Muslim, male or female, who is adult, sane, not sick or in a journey (traveling more than eighty kilometers). The exceptions to this are women who are in period or post-natal bleeding days, pregnant women and mothers who are beast-feeding.  These women are expected to make up the fast when they are in a condition to do so.  Those who are terribly sick, need constant medications, and those whose illness may be exacerbated by fasting.

When you fast, you will have two essential meals, sahur ( a pre-dawn meal). The Prophet Mohammad talked a lot about the reward and blessing of this meal, preferably left ’till the last half hour before dawn.  This meal will help you resist during the long hours of fasting during the day.  The second meal is iftar or break-fast, you take it immediately after sunset.

Along with exceptions mentioned above, there are a lot of permissible things a person can do that will not invalidate his or her fasting, like swimming in the sea when it’s too hot, with caution of not swallowing water, taking injections, doing blood tests, using toothpaste and eating or drinking unintentionally when someone forgets.

Fasting is a school of wisdom.  It has great spiritual and moral meaning too long to be listed in a few lines.  Beside its health benefits, it teaches patience and utility. It makes us closer to Allah because we are doing it out of love and seeking spiritual reward. It cleanses the soul from grudge and hatred. It teaches self-control and maturity.  Through fasting we learn to be selfless because we feel the pain of the poor and the hungry.

There is a beautiful sense of solidarity and community in Ramadan when everyone is helping, when mosques are filled, when relatives visit each other, when people forgive and start a new page, when a person vows to be good to others and when people stand in one line to pray.

Fasting can truly change a person’s heart when done with utter sincerity. It fills the heart with satisfaction, happiness and light because you’ll be rewarded double fo revery deed of goodness, every charity, every nice word you say, every verse of the Quran you read. When you realize that Allah gave hose who fast a special door in Heaven because of its holiness and significance.

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Every country celebrates Ramadan differently.  Traditions and customs change. The only thing that connects us all together is that magic that everyone feels during the month. The one I truly love is when the family celebrates the fasting of a child, encouraging him and helping him to understand what fasting truly is.  It is like a recharge for the year, a self-nourishing experience and one of the most exquisite a person can have.

Some sayings about Ramadan: on Prophet Mohammad (PBUH):

“When Ramadan enters, the gates of paradise are opened, the gates of hellfire are closed and all the devils are chained.”

“Every action a son of Adam does shall be multiplied; good action is by ten times its value up to 700 times.  Allah says: with the exception of Fasting, which belongs to me, and I reward it accordingly for, one abandons his desire and food or my sake.”

“Whoever observes fasts during the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping to attain Allah’s rewards, then all his past sins will be forgiven.”

– Imen Benyoub

© 2015, feature article, Imen Benyoub, All rights reserved; 2015

Posted in Essay, First Peoples, General Interest, Islam, Judaism, Michael Watson, Peace & Justice

An Old Story

Summer_sunsetWe are a Jewish-Native household and events in the Middle-East have deep resonance for us. For the past two weeks we have watched and thought about the fighting in Gaza, our sadness, and sense of helplessness, growing daily.

Of course, it is impossible to know, with any certainty, the truth of things. Propaganda is unleashed by both sides. Still, there is something terribly familiar about the one-sided nature of the conflict. The history of the U.S., like that of Palestine, is usually told from the view of the dominant power. From our Indian perspective, the story is vastly different from that told in most history books.

We watched as the colonial powers invited landless Europeans to emigrate, and forced criminals and others who were disenfranchised to do so. Thus, they created an ever-growing hunger for land, a tidal wave that would eventually sweep over us.  We were under constant pressure to move West, and to relinquish our ancestral lands. The colonists made promises and gave us land that would be ours “forever”. Then they brought in settlers who lived in enclaves, always encroaching on our land. When our people attempted to defend the land the colonial powers had seeded to us, the colonial government made war against us. They killed our children and elders, and raped and murdered our women. They sought to destroy our cultures by stealing the land, our traditional knowledge and life-ways, and our children. Because we hold this knowledge, many of us remember, and observe remembrance of, the Shoah, the Holocaust, and acknowledge our kinship with those who were the victims of that genocide.

Let us remember that, like the Jews who made their way to the Holy Land, many of those early emigrants to our lands were the dispossessed. The British attempted to depopulate Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. They used war, famine, and desperation to drive people from their traditional lands. They employed “Acts of Enclosure” to force their own people to flee to the cities, hungry and destitute; many families eventually found their way to our lands.  Because they understood colonialism and genocide, because they understood trauma, many of these early immigrants married Native people. But soon, propaganda, hunger, greed, and the rising tide of immigration overwhelmed us.

Although they had killed ninety-nine percent of our people, forcing us to live on tiny reserves, starving and desperate, they continued their attack. They banned hunting, and our drums and our ceremonies, the heart of our cultures. This is not ancient history, it continues, as governments grab what little land we retain and willy-nilly destroy our sacred sites. It continues as Non-Natives rape and murder our women, and jail our young people, in vastly disproportionate numbers. When I see destruction of olive groves in Palestine, and hear reports of the rape of women and the murder of children, I am reminded of this. When I see the Bedouins forced into reservations, their traditional nomadic life forbidden to them, my heart breaks in recognition.

This is an old story. Those with superior numbers and weapons take land from people who have lived in a place for untold centuries. They use resistance to their domination as an excuse to make war on the people. As they do so, they often target children, women, and elders. Too frequently, women are raped and/or killed, children are murdered or traumatized, the land that feeds the stomachs and culture of the people is stolen. Thus the future of the people is threatened. These are acts of genocide. We cannot remain silent when we witness them. Our ancestors lived through this. They remember and whisper their experience in our minds. They are always with us, and they do not forget.

This post was originally shown on Dreaming the World.

– Michael Watson

© 2014, essay and photographs, Michael Watson, All rights reserved

michael drumMICHAEL WATSON, M.A., Ph.D., LCMHC (Dreaming the World) ~ is a contributing editor to Into the Bardo, an essayist and a practitioner of the Shamanic arts, psychotherapist, educator and artist of Native American and European descent. He lives and works in Burlington, Vermont, where he teaches in undergraduate and graduate programs at Burlington College,. He was once Dean of Students there. Recently Michael has been teaching in India and Hong Kong. His experiences are documented on his blog. In childhood he had polio, an event that taught him much about challenge, struggle, isolation, and healing.

Posted in General Interest, Islam

Eid mubaraq

We can think of no better way to extend warmest good wishes to our Moslem friends and writers than a reblog of Sharmishtha Basu’s sweet poem and art.
Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair!

Realm of Empress Musie

7 islam hands that give

May all the blessings of God shower down upon you, your world and loved ones.

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Posted in Bardo News, General Interest, Islam, Paula Kuitenbrouwer, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry, Poets/Writers, Spiritual Practice, Terri Stewart

BARDO NEWS: Blessings on Ramadan; “Begin Again” blog expands its writer base and gets funding; artfully eco-friendly . . ….

Islamic Center of the U.S. in Washington by agnosicpreachers kid under CC BY-SA 3.o license
Islamic Center of the U.S. in Washington by agnosicpreachers kid under CC BY-SA 3.o license

BEST WISHES to our Moslem contributors, readers and friends all over the globe on this: the first day of Ramadan. ~ During this month, 1.6 million Muslims – or 23% of the world population according to Pew Research Religion and Public Life Project – observe a strict fast if they are of an age and healthy enough to do so. The fast extends each day from sunrise to sunset. The month-long fasting ends with a feasting celebration, Eid al-Fitr (the breaking of the fast), which falls on 28 July this year.

Britain’s David Cameron has this to say:

Kul ‘am wa enta bi-khair!

May everyday find you in good health!

Kazim Ali (b. 1971) American poet
Kazim Ali (b. 1971) American poet (c) Kazim Ali

CELEBRATING POET, NOVELIST, ESSAYIST and EDUCATOR, KAZIM ALI ~  who was born in the UK, is from an Indian Islamic household, and was educated at State University of New York (SUNY) and at New York University. Currently he lives in Oregon.

Of his most recent poetry collection, The Fortieth Day, the Library Journal review says that Ali …

“continues his task of creating a rejuvenated language that longs to be liberated from the weight of daily routine and the power of dogmatic usage . . . writing in the tradition of Wallace Stevens, Ali is clearly a poet of ideas and symbols, yet his words remain living entities within the texture of the poem.”


Of his essay collection, Fasting for Ramadan, Notes on Spiritual Practice, Tupelo Press states …

“Kazim Ali’s searching descriptions of the Ramadan sensibility and its arduous but liberating annual rite of communal fasting is sure to be a revelation to many readers — intellectually illuminating and aesthetically exhilarating.

“Fasting for Ramadan is structured as a chronicle of daily meditations, during two cycles of the 30-day rite of daytime abstinence required by Ramadan for purgation and prayer. Estranged in certain ways from his family’s cultural traditions when he was younger, Ali has in recent years re-embraced the Ramadan ritual, and brings to this rediscovery an extraordinary delicacy of reflection, a powerfully inquiring mind, and the linguistic precision and ardor of a superb poet.”

Unknown-8Ali’s poem Ramadan is from his collection, The Fortieth Day.

You wanted to be so hungry, you would break into branches,
and have to choose between the starving month’s

nineteenth, twenty-first, and twenty-third evenings.
The liturgy begins to echo itself and why does it matter?

If the ground-water is too scarce one can stretch nets
into the air and harvest the fog.

Hunger opens you to illiteracy,
thirst makes clear the starving pattern,

the thick night is so quiet, the spinning spider pauses,
the angel stops whispering for a moment—

The secret night could already be over,
you will have to listen very carefully—

You are never going to know which night’s mouth is sacredly reciting
and which night’s recitation is secretly mere wind—

– Kazim Ali
“Ramadan” except from The Fortieth Day. © 2008 by Kazim Ali, posted here under fair use

“Poetry is the smallest way – it is a small, small way, but it is a way indeed – that the individual body can express its own personhood and value in the face of faceless systems.” Kazim Ali

Terri Stewart
Terri Stewart (c) Terri

TERRI STEWART REPORTS on the expansion of Begin Again, the blog she started and hosts ~ “First news, welcome Bruce Chittick to the team of writers! Woot!! He will bring an awesome perspective to Sundays and inspiration. I can’t wait to get to know his writing. I experience him to be a thoughtful, gracious, inclusive kind of guy. His first post went live on the 22nd!

“And, in other exciting news, we got some funding. The United Methodist Church, in an expansive move towards trying new things (although we aren’t exactly NEW) has decided to fund my position at BeguineAgain.com AND all the technology for the next year and a half. This gives me & us time to build a class & subscription base to move towards an independent funding mechanism. This is awesome on so many counts. They know what we have been publishing and are willing to sit in that tension. Amazeballs! And it also lets the pressure off of me regarding all the work I am doing to create alternate funding mechanisms for my own family’s subsistence. Whew. Chaplaincy pays like zero. It is being billed as an online spiritual community. Very vague.

” … I can’t wait to try some of the new technology that will be available now that I can upgrade us to WordPress pro!”

Rose at Dusk (c) Jamie Dedes
Rose at Dusk (c)  Jamie Dedes

ARTFULLY ECO-FRIENDLY

Dutch Nature Artist, PAULA KUITENBROUWER (Mindful Drawing) ~ a long-standing member of The Bardo Group and a contributor to the blog has sent out a call to all of us  – team members, bloggers and friends – to initiate discussions of how and why we are living and working in an eco-conscious ways and how we can use our art and our blogs to encourage environmentally sound practices. Paula shares on her Guilt-Free Art Page …

“My original drawings are drawn on acid free paper. In the process of making acid free paper fewer corrosive chemicals are used, which makes acid free paper significantly environmentally friendlier than normal paper.

“For packing my fine art cards and reproductions, I use biodegradable plastic. I like my art work to be as environmentally friendly as possible and I select my products carefully. My paint-brushes are synthetic without animal hair.”

Other eco-friendly living practices that might be shared would include the ways in which we order our lives to enable no-or-minimal use of cars, mindful shopping (buying only what we need and buying from bulk containers rather than packaged items, buying locally produced food and other products), using biodegradable cleaning products and reusable shopping bags. Yes! All this and how about telling us about your advocacy efforts?

We invite you share your thoughts on this in the comments section here, on your own blogs (then leave us a link under any current post so that we can publicize it in the next Bardo News) or as submissions to The Bardo Group blog this month. (If you are not a core-team member, please email us at  bardogroup@gmail.com.)

Coming up:

… and many more goodies from our Core Team, readers and guests. This month’s guests will include:

Poet K.A. Brace (The Mirror Obscura) and Jewelry-Maker, Writer, Photographer Isadora (Inside the Mind of Isadora)

bardogroup@gmail.com

The Bardo Group Facebook Page

In the spirit of peace, love and community,

THE BARDO GROUP