Creationism vs. Evolution: Where Does Islam Stand?

dinosaur fossil

A few weeks ago the long-fought argument over creationism versus evolution was once again propelled into the spotlight with the live debate between Bill Nye “The Science Guy” and Ken Ham, the Christian founder of the Creation Museum.

I have to admit that I didn’t actually watch the debate, but have only read summaries and reports of the discussion. I don’t really think I needed to watch it. As several journalists have pointed out, such a debate is unlikely to change anyone’s mind. There is no way that either side can definitively prove the origin of humanity. Personally, I know where I stand; and it’s in between the two extremes showcased in that debate.

So rather than use this as an opportunity to argue something that I know I cannot convince certain people of, I thought I’d use this as an opportunity to simply inform people. Many may be wondering, where does Islam stand on the questions of evolution?

Many people may assume there is a pretty simple answer to this question: against evolution, of course! But actually it’s not so clear. On one hand, it is very clear: Muslims believe in a Creator, God, who created the universe. But on the other hand, most Muslim scholars do not throw out the entire theory of evolution, but do clearly discard the well-known piece that claims humans have evolved from apes (or ape-like creatures), as well as ideas that one species can evolve into another.

Before I get into Islamic beliefs on the subject, I do want to comment about Christian beliefs, since as someone who used to be Christian I feel I have something worth saying on the subject. When I was Christian, I remember being told that dinosaurs never really existed, and that the earth was not as old as it seems — that God made the earth to appear old by planting dinosaur fossils. It was so strange for me that honestly, I just kind of pushed it to the back of my mind and tried not to think about such a discord with modern science. As the issue has been brought to the spotlight, I have now realized that this view of creationism is referred to as “young-earth creationism” and is the belief held by Ken Ham. It is not held by all Christians. I believe the primary point of debate among Christians on this subject is whether or not Genesis’ account of God creating the earth in “6 days” literally means 6 24-hour earth days, or refers to 6 eras or time periods (young-earth creationists claiming it is literally 6 earth days).  However, another note is that Ken Ham’s form of young-earth creationism is actually different from what I was taught; his belief is that dinosaurs did in fact once roam the earth, but did so along with Adam, and that the earth is only about 6,000 years old.

So back to Islamic beliefs on the subject, first of all I think Muslims are not often highlighted in this debate because many feel it is unimportant. Unlike Christianity, which has a long history of fighting against the scientific community, and denying scientific claims, Islam has a much friendlier relationship with science. Many in the scientific community believe that religion and science are contradictory– that religion is nonsensical, emotion, and therefore has nothing to do with science. Muslims, however, believe this is far from the truth. Muslims believe that God, as the creator of the ‘laws of nature,’ is the ultimate expert on science. Many scientific facts were in revealed in the Quran, in a time when they were impossible for people to know them. Such revelations encouraged thought and scientific intrigue in the Islamic community at the same time that it was being suppressed by the church in Medieval Europe.

In the Golden Age of Islam, when Christian Europe was in the dark ages, Islam was flourishing in scientific discoveries, the implications of which are still being felt in today’s modern world. Muslims believe that since God created the universe, all of creation points to this fact, including true scientific discoveries. This excludes theories that have not or cannot be proven. So Islam’s place in the scientific world is this: that as long as it does not contradict the Quran or hadith, scientific thought is encouraged and celebrated as humanity’s recognition of the awesome world that our creator has made for us. In fact, throughout the Quran humankind is encouraged to learn about and reflect on the wonders of the universe. Muslim scholars argue that the only ‘science’ that contradicts the Quran is that which has not/ cannot be proven, i.e. that which uses false logic.

So Islam generally does not get involved in the creation debate, except that to say that God created the universe, and that if there are fossils on earth then those animals (i.e. dinosaurs) must have existed in the past. Regarding evolution, there is some variation among Muslims, but most agree that evolution in general is not true since it cannot be proven (missing links), although speciation, at least to some degree, is a reality (the idea that species can evolve within their own species– this does not mean they can evolve into a completely different species i.e. reptiles can evolve into different types of reptiles or to have different features that help them adapt to their environment, but reptiles cannot evolve into birds).

Regarding dinosaurs, Muslims generally believe that if science and fossil records prove that the earth is billions of years old, then it must be true. This is not a contradiction to Islamic belief, because Muslims believe that when God created the universe in “6 days,” this mention of time does not mean 6 earth days. God cannot be restricted to time as we on earth know it. In fact, the Quran specifically states that sometimes God’s “days” does not mean earth days, but can mean other periods of time such as thousands or tens of thousands of years. So we don’t know what actual unit of time it took, but 6 days most likely refers to 6 distinct phases of creation. In this view, it is permissible to believe that the dinosaurs were created along with other animals, and may or may not have gone extinct before humans were created.

To conclude, since certain scientific claims have not yet been proven and are not specified in the Quran or hadith, it is better for Muslims to stay out of debates that will cause us to choose a side that might be wrong. Only God knows the answers to many of the mysteries of the world. There are some who claim, like Ken Ham, that dinosaurs roamed alongside humans. There are others, like Bill Nye, who claim that they lived and went extinct millions of years ago. While Muslims may have a tendency to side with one claim or the other, it is better for us not to, unless that claim is scientifically proven without a shadow of a doubt (some believe there is doubt as to the methods used in dating fossils). In the big scheme of things, does it really matter when dinosaurs roamed the earth? Many feel it is unimportant, as such a question does not hinder belief in Islam or in God.

In the realm of scientific thought, Islam should learn from the lessons of Christianity. The Christian church once refuted and even persecuted scientists who disagreed with their narrow framework of beliefs about the world (i.e. Galileo), only later to realize that they were wrong. So if it does not contradict Islamic truths, who is to say it is not true? Only God knows the real truth, and rather than us debating on things we do not know and cannot really prove, it is better for us to focus on bettering ourselves and strengthening our faith.

For those who are more interested in Islamic perspective on the dinosaurs and creation, I found this short video which is very interesting and puts things very simply, including discussing what ‘days’ means in terms of God’s creation: Islam on Dinosaurs

To read more about what the “young-earth creationism” is, you can visit the website connected to Ken Ham, anwersingenesis.org and to read specifically about their view of dinosaurs, the age of earth, and more see the Get Answers page.

For an Islamic argument against Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, you can read Fethullah Gulen’s article here: Questions & Answers – Darwinism

To watch the debate mentioned here, you can visit NPR: Watch the Creationism vs. Evolution Debate: Ken Ham and Bill Nye

Photo credit: subarcticmike / Foter / CC BY

Please note: Like I said above, I am not trying to start a debate that cannot be won by any side. Therefore I will not be allowing comments trying to start a debate, or comments that are derogatory or rude in nature.

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Dr. Oz Discusses His Turkish and Islamic Heritage

First of all, thanks to Pearls of Islam as I first saw this video on that blog!

I found this video very interesting, not only as a Muslim, but also since my husband is Turkish. Many people are not aware of the political / religious tension in Turkey, and I feel Dr. Oz put it very eloquently as he compared it to his own family. His comments on the difference between religion and spirituality are also well put.

Personally, I feel that the religious structure is very important in allowing the spiritual component to flourish, but I can easily see how many today are turned off by religion due to the politics and corruption of it found in our modern world.

Posted in Islam, Turkey | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Weekly Photo Challenge: Grand

Lake Powell

The first picture I thought of when I heard of this week’s photo challenge was this picture, which I took during a trip to Lake Powell several years ago. The scenery in that trip was very majestic, and I was constantly filled with awe at the natural beauty around me.

That trip to Lake Powell was a very spiritual one for me. It was the last trip I ever took with my church youth group from high school; my last significant spiritual experience as a Christian. It was the summer after my senior year of high school, and I would be off to college in just a few short weeks. That week in Lake Powell was a time to enjoy life and reflect on the wonders around us.

There was one night in particular that I will never forget. I believe it was one of the last nights of the trip. There was a huge thunderstorm; probably the largest I’ve ever seen. We experienced it from the house boat we were staying on. The thunder was so tremendously loud. We all sat together, listening to the thunder, watching the flashes of light, meditating on God’s awesome power. I remember feeling so full of awe at God’s grandness; overcome with love for my creator who had given us such a beautiful world for us to enjoy.

When I see this picture again, it reminds me of that night, and it fills me with peace. It is always a reminder of the natural beauty in this grand world of ours, and makes me feel gratitude toward the God who gave it to us.

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Noah’s Pudding

This past weekend, our local Turkish Center held their annual Noah’s Pudding Festival. The festival commemorates the Islamic holy day of Ashura, which was on November 14 this year.
For many Muslims, the day of Ashura is commemorated as a day on which many important events have happened in the history of Islam. It is a holiday that is also shared with Jews, due to the common tie to the prophet Moses. Muslims who celebrate this holiday do so due at the encouragement of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). According to hadith (sayings and traditions of the prophet that were passed down), while the Prophet was in Madina, he noticed that the Jews were fasting on the 10th of Muharram (Islamic calendar). When he asked why, he was told it was because that was the day that God saved the Israelites from the Pharoah, by opening the Red Sea for them. To thank God, the Prophet Moses fasted on that day. The Prophet therefore encouraged Muslims to fast as well on that day, since Muslims also believe in the Prophethood of Moses.

It is also believed that it was on this day in history that Noah’s Ark landed following the flood. Coincidentally, many traditions hold that it was on Mount Ararat in modern day Turkey that the Ark landed. Many Turks, as well as various other cultures, celebrate this day not only by fasting, but also with a special pudding called Ashure: Noah’s Pudding. It is said that after the Ark landed, Noah wanted to celebrate the event in some way, but they did not have much food left. So they put all the ingredients they had left into a pot and made a pudding. The pudding has become a holiday tradition in Turkey. The dessert generally has Ashure 115 ingredients in it. Ideally, you should use ingredients that you already have in your home, following in the tradition of Noah. But there are basic ingredients that make up this pudding, like bulgur, chickpeas, and dried fruits. Although it doesn’t sound very appetizing, trust me, it is!

At the festival this Saturday, they held a Cooking contest to see who could make the best Ashure, and I was asked to participate. I was a bit hesitant at first, since it was my first time making this pudding, but I decided Ashureto go ahead as it would be a fun experience. I made my pudding on Friday night, and was very pleased with the results. Apparently, I was so pleased with my pudding that I even dreamed that night that I won third place in the contest!

Okay, so as for the results — I did win third place! Funny thing is though, there were actually only four of us who entered. But the fact that my dream came true gave me a pretty good laugh for the rest of the weekend :)

For those who are interested, here’s the recipe I used for my Ashure; there are a lot of variations on how to make it, even in the Turkish culture. Mine turned out a little too thick, especially since it thickened more while it sat in the refrigerator overnight. You can add more water if it looks too thick.

Turkish Ashure (Noah’s Pudding):

Note: This makes a lot of servings! This is double the original recipe.

1 cup bulgur

10 cups water (divided)

4 tbsp rice

1 cup chickpeas (canned or if raw, boil them first so that are soft)

1 cup white beans (I didn’t use these, but I will next time! Again, cook them first)

10 dried apricots – cubed

1 cup golden (yellow) raisins

10 dried figs – cubed (I didn’t have any of these either, but will have to find some for next time)

1 lemon’s zest

1 cup cubed peaches

1.5 tsp vanilla

6-8 cloves (I actually ended up using more like 15-20, as I’ll explain below)

3 cups of sugar

Nutmeg (traditional Ashure doesn’t use this, but I thought it went nicely with the cinnamon)

Topping:

Chopped walnuts

Ground cinnamon

Pomegranate seeds

Pine nuts

Preparation:

Boil the bulgur (wheat) with 4 cups of water until most of the water is absorbed. I then turned off the stove and let it sit and cool while it continued absorbing water. Wrap the cooked bulgur in a cloth and let it sit overnight. Soak dried apricots, raisins, and dried figs in water overnight as well (note: the directions I read said to put them each in separate bowls. I was lazy and put them all in the same bowl, and didn’t see any issue with that.)

The next day, put the wheat in a pot with 6 cups of water and boil (ummm . .  quick note — I just realized that this is where I messed up. I doubled the original recipe, but forgot to double the water, so I only added 3 cups of water here!). Add rice and boil until cooked and soft. Then crush with the blender a little bit and return to pan (or you can use one of those cool handheld blenders and you won’t have to remove it from the pan — wish I had one to use here!). Add drained chickpeas, then add the dried fruits as well as the water they were sitting in. You can also add the lemon zest and peaches at this point. In a different small pot, boil cloves with 1 cup water. Add that water to the pot with wheat  (strain out the cloves). Okay, so it was here that I realized I didn’t have enough water. So I actually ended up boiling another 2-3 cups of water with cloves and adding that to the pot. But if you’ve added the correct amount of water initially, you shouldn’t have to do that! Next, boil on low heat for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Be careful, as it might stick to the bottom of the pan if the heat is up too high. Then add sugar, and boil for another half an hour. You can adjust the amount of sugar depending on how sweet you want it. Best served warm and topped with nuts, pomegranate, and cinnamon.

I combined several recipes that I found online, borrowing ingredients that I liked from different ones. Some versions call for rose water. The primary recipe I used as a guide was the one on this Turkish Cooking Class blog.

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A Return to Blogging

Dear Readers,

My apologies for another long absence from my blog. What started with our trip to Turkey turned into a lot of different things back to back that have made it very difficult for me to get back into the routine of writing here. I know that many of you enjoy reading my stories, experiences, and thoughts, and I regret that I haven’t been able to share anything with you for a while.

I just want to let everyone know, I appreciate your support and following. I do plan to continue writing here, and inshallah (God willing) I will be able to post more frequently now.

On a similar note . . . I know many of you have been curious about my experiences as a new Muslim. Many of you, particularly want to hear about why I became Muslim and why I now wear hijab. I do plan to share on these topics, but it has taken me time to prepare myself for that. The response I received after sharing about becoming a “Hijabi” was very overwhelming. Though many of it was kind, supportive, and encouraging, there were also a lot of hateful, judgmental comments that I wasn’t ready for. It has made hesitate in sharing more about such deeply personal experiences. However, I feel that in the end, my sharing is important and can do a lot of good, so it is worth it. So, in the near future I hope to write posts on both of these topics, in addition to some other that I have in mind.

As usual, I will continue posting on a variety of topics that relate to my life, including Islam, Turkey, random thoughts on life, and, or course, cooking! This December will be my blog’s one year anniversary. It’s been an interesting year; thank you for being with me throughout it!

To get things started, here’s a Fall poem from Emily Dickinson, one of my favorite authors:

The morns are meeker than they were,

The nuts are getting brown;

The berry’s cheek is plumper,

The rose is out of town.

The maple wears a gayer scarf,

The field a scarlet gown.

Lest I should be old-fashioned,

I’ll put a trinket on.

Okay, time for me to get back to making chestnuts now . . . (Seriously – we really are eating chestnuts tonight! :)

Albany in the Autumn -- oh how I miss the Northeast this time of year!

Albany in the Autumn — oh how I miss the Northeast this time of year!

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Diving Into Islamic Swimwear

Since I have begun wearing hijab, I have not yet really felt the necessity to go swimming, and therefore have not needed to look into getting a full-coverage swimsuit. But, being that we have just decided to go to Turkey next week (I know, really crazy to decide at the last minute!), getting a swimsuit has become necessary. Well, necessary as long as I want to enjoy the beautiful Turkish Aegean and Mediterrenean beaches– which I do!

Let me just clarify quickly, that this is my choice and not a necessity due to Turkey being an ‘Islamic’ country. Actually, when I was in Turkey last summer, I got to see that most people actually dress the same on the beach as they do here in the U.S. It is, however, more normal and acceptable to see people dressed in Islamic swimwear in Turkey.

The last time I wore a bathing suit was last year while in Turkey. It caused a lot of anxiety for me, especially leading up to the trip, as I decided what I should wear on the beach. I had not yet started wearing hijab, but I was dressing modestly and was not comfortable with a standard bathing suit, even a one-piece. I had eventually decided to get a cute one-piece skirted swimsuit with high haltered neck, which I wore shorts under. But I was still uncomfortable showing this much skin, so I made sure to cover up quickly when I wasn’t in the water (either with my towel, or I  also had a skirt and a loose swim cover).

At any rate, now it is time to look into getting an actual Islamic swimsuit that will fully cover me, including my head. I’ve been searching online the last few days to see what my options are, including if I can possibly get anything in time for our trip. As I’ve been searching, I’ve also come across a lot of articles about Islamic swimwear, both from Muslims and from media reports on the topic. I had some knowledge on the subject already, though. Some of you might remember my recent post Modern Modesty in which I mentioned controversy surrounding Islamic swimwear, often referred to as a ‘Burkini.’ Yesterday, I found a new article which I wanted to mention and share. It’s a piece in The Guardian about Manal Omar’s unfortunate experience wearing her Islamic swimsuit in a swimming pool in the UK. Although she had worn this swimsuit many times before, in many locations including in the U.S., she never had a bad experience except in the UK.

Swimwear for Islamic women has come a long way, and now includes some great styles, with amazing quality. Most garments are high-end, with specially designed fabric to be lightweight and water repellant. Most are generally made out of the same or similar material as many traditional bathing suits, making them very suitable for swimming. Some are even anti-bacterial! While the prices range from around $50 to $170 depending on the quality, it seems very reasonable to me considering the average standard bathing suit costs around $50, with much less fabric!

Here were some of my favorite styles that I’ve found:

From Al Sharifa - I like everything except the cap -- looks a bit odd to me! But that's normal I guess for these swimsuits.

From Al Sharifa – I like everything except the cap — looks a bit odd to me! But that’s normal I guess for these swimsuits.

Islamic swimwear Amazon green and navy

You can find this one on Amazon!

islamic swimwear primo moda

This one from Primo Moda is cute — I like the style of the vest!

 

 

islamic swimwear madamme bk

From Madamme BK, a French brand. These are definitely my favorite as far as style, though they are pretty expensive at $170.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately for me, however, there is not time for me to order any of these so that they will arrive before we leave to Turkey. But on the up side, Turkey has an amazing Islamic fashion industry and I hope to find a great option there. Plus, it will be better for me to try it on and make sure it’s a good fit. I’ll make sure to update everyone when I come back about my experience wearing an Islamic swimsuit for the first time!

Posted in Fashion, Islam, Turkey | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Ramadan Blessings

happy-ramadan

So it’s almost the end of Ramadan and I’m finally getting around to writing this post . . .

To all of my Muslim sisters and brothers out there, Ramadan Mubarak! For those who don’t know what that means, it’s kind of like saying “Happy Ramadan,” but the literal translation is something like “Have a  blessed Ramadan.”

I want to share some of my thoughts on Ramadan. I hope this will be a help for other Muslims, and a learning experience for those unfamiliar with Ramadan.

Okay so first off, Ramadan is considered the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, which is a lunar calendar. In a lunar calendar, the months are in sync with the moon cycles, so a new moon = a new month (I think this is actually where the word ‘month’ originated from). Ramadan is celebrated as the month in which the Quran was first revealed (it began to be revealed to Prophet Muhammad, pbuh).

There are many ways that Muslims celebrate the month of Ramadan, but the most significant is by the religious obligation to fast from sunrise to sunset every day during this month. It is actually one of the Five Pillars of Faith — a requirement — for Muslims to fast during Ramadan. There are exceptions for people who are ill, weak, old, traveling a long distance, or otherwise physically unable to fast. Children do not need to fast until they reach the age when they become accountable for their actions (in Islam, this is essentially adolescence).

I first heard about Ramadan a few years before I became Muslim. At that time, my only experience with fasting had been the few times I had participated in 30-Hour Famine as a Christian. During those fasts, we could not eat anything, but it was okay for us to drink water, and even juice. So it seemed very strange to me that Muslims were not allowed to eat OR drink anything during their fast. In addition, Muslims to abstaining from food, should also try to be more mindful of their behavior while fasting, and be especially careful not to sin.

The month of Ramadan is meant to be a month of blessings for Muslims. I believe that most things that God requires us of as ‘rules’ are actually good for us. For example, God does need us to fast. But it is required because it is good for us, physically and mentally, and because most of us wouldn’t do it if it were not required. The Quran teaches:

“O you who believe! Prescribed for you is the Fast, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may deserve God’s protection (against the temptations of your carnal soul) and attain piety.” Quran 2:183

Here are a few examples of how fasting is good for our mind, body, and soul:

  • Fasting helps us to learn self-control, patience, and develop will-power
  • It helps our spirit to focus and become closer to Allah, since we are not focusing on food
  • Focusing on being righteous and doing good deeds. Fasting is a constant reminder of who we are, a constant remembrance of Allah
  • Refraining from sins and other unlikeable behavior
  • Focusing on being more charitable to those less fortunate
  • Fasting is a way for us to experience hunger, so we may remember those we are less fortunate than us.
  • We learn not to over-indulge in food; It teaches us to think twice before reaching for snack food or junk food that we do not need to eat
  • We can save money on food during Ramadan, and use this money for better purposes
  • It is a time for Muslims to come together, to feel their unity; Iftar is often eaten with friends
  • Health benefits: weight management, allowing the digestive tract to rest, lowering of blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol, and lowering of systolic blood pressure. There are also recent studies suggesting that lowering your caloric intake may lead to longer life (see this article from the New York Times and this one from Daily Mail)

 

This year was my third whole Ramadan fasting. Although I was very wary the first time I started fasting a few years ago, I have realized that there are many benefits and blessings that come with giving up a little food. It also tends to get easier as the month progresses– your body gets used to fasting, so to speak, so you may not get as hungry. Actually, I think that as long as you do not over-eat in the morning or evening, your stomach should actually shrink. I have realised that the hardest part of fasting for me is not usually the lack of food, but the lack of water. I am always more thirsty than I am hungry.

There are other things that make Ramadan a blessing, including increased focus on God and your own spiritual welfare. This includes spending more time devoted to God, for example in prayer, reading Quran, reflecting on God, and coming together with other Muslims. During Ramadan there is a special, longer prayer that is not made during other parts of the year: the Taraweeh prayer which is in the evening, and usually falls about 1-2 hours after fast is broken.

As Muslims, we believe that God will multiply our blessings for the fasting and good deeds we perform during Ramadan, which includes donating to charity. Another way to take part in the blessings of Ramadan is by hosting Iftar dinners at your home. Iftar means the meal that breaks the fast. The Prophet Muhammad pbuh is reported as having said “Whoever feeds a fasting person will have a reward like that of the fasting person, without any reduction in his reward” (At-Tirmidhi, authenticated by Al-Abani). For this reason, Muslims who are able like to invite friends to their home throughout the month of Ramadan. I especially enjoy this tradition, since it is nice to come together with other Muslims, and gives a sense of togetherness during this special month.

The ending of Ramadan is bittersweet for many Muslims. It is always a relief to feel that the fasting is over, that you were able to accomplish another month of fasting. But it is also sad to see this blessed month come to an end. This year, the end of Ramadan falls on Thursday August 8 (August 7 is the last full day of fasting). This holiday or Eid is marked by many as a day of celebration, coming together with other Muslims in prayer, festivities and meals at their local mosques or community centers. Children usually receive gifts during this time, especially if they participated in fasting or even attempted to fast for a shorter time.

God willing, Ramadan will leave us all feeling more refreshed, disciplined, and closer to our Creator. So although it’s a little early, I want to say to all of all off my fellow Muslims: Eid Mubarak!

Photo credit: Ranoush. / Foter / CC BY-SA

 

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Modern Modesty

Even before I was Muslim, I considered myself to be a ‘modest’ person– at least in terms of how everyone else around me dressed. I didn’t wear low-cut shirts, short shorts or skirts, and I hated to be in public in my bathing suit. And it had nothing to do with body image or low self-esteem; I just didn’t like to draw attention to myself and wasn’t comfortable with people looking at my body.

As a Christian, I had learned the importance of dressing modestly; after all, your body is your ‘temple.’ But I have realized since then that the Christian view of modesty that I grew up with was set against modern times. For example, I remember listening to a youth group leader talking to some of us girls about dressing modestly. Tips included not letting your undergarments show and not wearing a spaghetti-strap shirt if you were well-endowed. (Coincidentally, one of the main purposes we were told of dressing modestly was so that we wouldn’t lead our Christian brothers into temptation and sin –  which sounds very similar to why Muslims dress modestly.)

I have come to the realization lately that the idea of modesty is always changing and evolving, especially in recent times. What some consider as “modest” today would have been scandalous a hundred years ago. And although I’m not a history major and can’t testify to the fact, it seems that for most of human history, most societies have dressed in manners that were much more modest than today. It seems only in the past hundred years or so that we have begun wearing less and less clothing, and bearing more skin has become increasingly acceptable.

In the last few months I’ve been contemplating this issue a lot. Since the weather started warming up, of course you begin to see more and more immodest clothing. Why is it that our culture today believes that when it’s hot outside, you have to wear very little clothing? This was not how people used to feel. I get frustrated sometimes when, as dressing modestly, people ask me, “Aren’t you hot?” It seems such a silly question. Of course I’m hot– but so are you! It’s 100 degrees outside– it doesn’t matter what you wear, you will be hot. I’ve actually realized that as long as I’m wearing breathable, natural fabrics, I’m actually not any worse off than I used to be in the heat. If anything, I feel that it’s better, because the sun isn’t directly hitting and burning my skin.

swimsuit 1855

Sketch of Swimsuit from 1855

It’s interesting to compare today’s modesty with the modesty of former times, and the bathing suit is an easy way to look at it. In their page Swim Wear History, vintagefashionguild.org discusses the changes over time. It seems that, although there were occasional lapses, for most of history, clothing (including the bathing suit) was very modest, covering most of the body. Things started to change around the early 1900s, with bathing suits and dress revealing more and more.

The thing most concerning to me, however, is not the trend towards immodesty, but the trend toward despising modesty. Those who choose to dress modestly — from very conservative Christians to practicing Muslims– are often looked upon with ridicule, and often times shunned. Here are some examples:

  • A few weeks ago I saw a story on Yahoo News, singling out the Duggar family from the reality show 19 Kids and Counting for wearing “Unusual Outfits While Snorkling.”
  • I was shocked to recently learn that France outlawed not only the burqa, but also the burkini (the name for the modest bathing suit for Muslim women). While most reports on the burkini law claim the reasons given for its ban are because it is “unhygienic,” others state that it is because it is considered the same as a burqa. One report I read (which I can’t find again) had a French official quoted as saying it was against France’s values for women to be thus clothed while swimming (huh???).
  • As Turkey has been in the news a lot lately, I thought it fitting to give an example from that country (and it’s not that unrelated to what the protests are actually about): officially on the law books, hijabs are banned in Turkey inside government buildings, including public universities. However, the current administration does not enforce this ban and has tried– unsuccessfully– to strike out the ban.

So, my question after all of this: when did it become a social wrong — and even at time illegal – to do something that you believed was morally right? And why is a modestly dressed woman, who would have been considered decently covered by the standards of past eras, something that is now unacceptable?

Posted in Fashion, Islam | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Book Review: Questions and Answers About Faith Vol. 1 by M. Fethullah Gulen

Questions and Answers About FaithI decided to read this book not only for my own knowledge, but to help myself to better answer the sometimes challenging questions I get on my blog. This book poses a variety of questions that people generally have about Islam, and answers them directly.

The author of this book, Fethullah Gulen, as some may know is a renowned  Turkish Islamic scholar and an activist who calls for global understanding and tolerance. He is a strong proponent of interfaith dialog, and encourages the Muslim community to engage and be a part of the secular world while still maintaining their Islamic values, beliefs, and practices.

I enjoyed reading this book, as it answered some difficult questions elegantly. Overall, I feel that the answers hold a deep understanding of the global environment and modern society, and from this perspective these questions are answered, while still maintaining and explaining the truth of the Quran.

The book is divided into eight different chapters, each discussing a series of related questions: God, Religion, The Qur’an, Prophethood and Prophets, Satan, Destiny and Free Will, and Death. The last chapter discusses a variety of miscellaneous issues.

There were a few subjects in this book that really interested me and which I felt made this book a valuable read. One of these is the discussion in the first chapter of the difference between god, God, and Allah. This issue is something I have heard debated before, so it was nice to hear from a scholarly opinion. Another important subject was the point of worship/ why we worship the way we do — an important questions every Muslim should know the answer to. I personally feel it is very important to not just do something because you are told, but to understand the reasoning behind it (although I realize that with God’s laws, only He can know the reason for certain things, and we are not always informed of the why but just need to listen and trust in Him. But God gave us a brain to use, not to blindly follow others).

Although there were a lot of important points in this book, there were two that were my favorite. The first point was a discussion of the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) wives: why he had multiple wives, why ‘A’Isha was so young, and also a brief summary of why he married each of them. Since many people attempt to use the Prophet’s marriages to argue against his prophethood, it is important for Muslims today to have an understanding of this topic.

The second point was about the Prophets. This book underlines the significance in the fact that– as stated in the Qur’an– prophets have been sent to every people, although we have not been told all of their names. The book makes the suggestion that some ancient scholars and significant historical figures may have been  prophets, for example Socrates, Confucius, and Buddha. I believe that such a perspective is very important in uniting and making connections with others in the world. And of course, it makes sense– if God is the God for the whole world, then wouldn’t he have made himself known to people throughout the world and not just one group or another?  It’s discussions like this that make this an important book for modern Muslims to read, in addition to those who seek a better understanding of Islam.

You can find an online version of this book as well as other books and articles here.

To learn more about Fethullah Gulen and to read more of his works, you can visit his website at fgulen.com.

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Sukhi’s Halal Meals

I have to share a great new find at Costco . . . fresh, halal family meals!

We got a Costco membership last November, and since then I’ve noticed that I always see quite a few Muslims there. This is not surprising, since they seem to carry more halal items than average grocery stores. The first time I saw something there, it was Sukhi’s Chicken Samosas, clearly marked with a halal certification on the package!

suhki's chicken biryani

Suhki’s Chicken Biryani — wish I would have taken a pic of the Tandoori Chicken we ate last night!

Yesterday, I discovered that my local Costco has now begun carrying more Sukhi’s

food items, including pre-prepared family meals. My husband and I love Indian food, so I thought these refrigerated meals would be a great option, especially considering I didn’t know what I was making for dinner that night and didn’t have time to thaw out any meat. I bought the Tandoori Spiced Chicken, Chicken Biryani, and  Lemon Rice.

I checked Sukhi’s website to make sure they were halal, since I didn’t see a halal certification on one of their products– the Chicken Curry. The other meat products did have halal certification. Not sure why this one didn’t– seems strange to me, but they do note on their website which ones are halal. I was disappointed not to be able to get the chicken curry . . .

Last night we enjoyed the Tandoori Spiced Chicken. It took only 3 minutes to heat up in the microwave (you can also heat on the stove), and the rice was also about the same time. There was plenty of food– we are only two people, so there was enough chicken and rice for lunch leftovers for both of us. The rice came in two packages,  and we only opened one for last night’s dinner, so we still have the other for another night.

I have to say, for pre-prepared meals, this was pretty awesome. The chicken was tender and juicy, and the rice was also great quality. The chicken is a little spicy, as was expected (it rates it 2 out of 3 peppers on the box), but I was able to handle it, and I am super sensitive to spicy foods– it wasn’t nearly as spicy as our local Indian restaurant!

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