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Greater Washington, DC Office 2004 Newsletter
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Muslim Women’s Coalition

Greater Washington, DC Area Office Newsletter

Volume 3:1 (2004) This Volume of the 2004 MWC Newsletter is dedicated lovingly to mothers

A mother's Role in Islam

Bismillah Hir Rahman nir Raheem

In the name of God the Most Compassionate and the Most Merciful

SalAllahu Alaika Ya Rasul Allah Wasallam Alaika Ya Habib Allah

 

In the above verse from the Holy Qur’an, which is used by all Muslims when they begin anything, you will notice the word Rahman in Arabic, which in English would translate as the Most Compassionate.  This word Rahman comes from the root word “rahm” which means “womb”.  This is feminine in gender.  God Who is most Compassionate nurtures the world like a fetus in a womb of compassion!  He gives to anyone without measure and without distinction.  In our world the paradigm of compassion is that of a mother.   Moreover, the Qur’an has a whole chapter on Maryam a.s.

 

Reminiscing a few cherished moments as a mother:

2004 seems to have gone by in a twinkle of an eye!  Days, weeks and months have gone by so quickly that it is hard to believe that we are already three months into 2005!  Last summer I had the blessed opportunity to be in Cyprus with my children and in a small village called Lefke.  Lefke is a remote town in comparison to the other thriving touristy areas such as Gerne or Lefkosia in Turkish/Cyprus.  But, nonetheless it is mostly green with lush fruit orchids and an abundance of water.  The private gardens and orchids one finds everywhere are well provided for with small water canal systems.  This small oasis is full of love, warmth and blessings of Allah, His beloved Prophet Mohammed (peace and blessings upon him) and His deputies on earth.  In early spring last year we noticed mother swallows feeding their chicks in nests built inside the wooden beams in verandahs of older houses and the kittens playing joyously around the watchful eyes of their mother in the gardens.  Here there was peace and joy as if time had stood still.  Both my son and daughter took a great liking to the relaxed atmosphere of Lefke Cyprus as compared to their busy lives in college.  They also noticed that Turkish Cypriots had much time for family life.  There was no rush about anything although the signs of avid consumerism seem to be growing each year.   I am very grateful to Allah for providing us the opportunity to be together with my kids last summer. The love an, warmth that was showered on me by the children who are young adults now will forever remain as cherished memories!  InshAllah.

 

What does Holy Qur’an say about Mothers and parents in general?

Qur’an points to the respect and love, which is due to our parents and especially, mothers:

And We have enjoined on the human being in (regard to) his two parents the most beautiful conduct. His mother bore him under duress and brought him forth under duress. And his bearing and his weaning are thirty months. At length, when he reaches the age of forty, he says, "My Lord and Sustainer, grant to me that I am thankful for the graciousness that You have bestowed upon me and upon my parents, and that I may work righteousness pleasing to You, and make my offspring righteous. Surely I turn to You and surely I am of those who submit (to You)." - Surah al-Ahqaf ayah 15

It is a breath of fresh air to see people who take out time from their busy lives and reflect on the many bounties God has bestowed upon them.  Amongst the top most on the list of priorities is the rights of parents and especially mothers.  We can very subtly but surely forget what Allah reminds us again in the following verse/ayat:  To be generous and gentle to them.   This will teach us to develop a “beautiful conduct” towards our aging parents.  We can achieve this by being patient to them especially if they have reached an old age.  Allah teaches us gently and lovingly how to invoke prayers:

Your Lord and Sustainer have decided for you that you do not worship any but Him, and (He has determined) beautiful conduct to the two parents. If one or both of the two of them reaches the greatness of age, so do not say a harsh word to them, but speak to them generously. And lower the wing of humility, out of gentleness, and say, "My Lord and Sustainer, be gentle to them just as they cherished me when I was small." - Surah al-Isra ayat 23-24

Here, God introduces another part of the beautiful conduct which parents are due, which is to take care of them when they are elderly and never to be impatient with them or speak arrogantly to them. It is not a “duty” but a blessing to do so as you are rewarded many times in various ways.  Praying for them has been mentioned again. Also notice that Allah SWT has mentioned beautiful conduct to parents immediately after serving Him alone.  It is part of worship to take care of family and mankind!

To fully comprehend and digest the verses of the Holy Qur’an Muslims try to follow in the footsteps of their beloved Prophet Mohammad (peace and blessings upon him and his blessed family ameen) who became a “walking Qur’an.”  The following Holy Hadith or sayings of our beloved Prophet Mohammad SalaAllahu Alaihi Wasalam is related by Abu Huraira and also by the grandfather of Bahz ibn Hakim:

I asked, "Messenger of Allah, to whom should I be dutiful?" He replied, "Your mother." I asked, "Then whom?" He replied, "Your mother." I asked, "Then whom?" He replied, "Your mother." I asked, "Then whom?" He replied, "Your mother." I asked, "Then to whom should I be dutiful?" He replied, "Your father, and then the next closest relative and then the next."

Jahmah: I said to the Holy Prophet, "O Messenger of Allah, I desire to go on a (military) expedition and I have come to consult you." He asked me if I had a mother, and when I replied that I had, he said, "Stay with her because Paradise lies beneath her feet."

Charity Events
“Service to Mankind is Worship of God”

Dinner with Bethany House of Virginia on Valentine’s Day

On February 13th 2004, MWC’s local office had its first dinner with the clients of Bethany House of Northern Virginia, an abused women’s shelter.   We were looking forward to this event and were very excited.  In a preliminary meeting we decided on the following menu:  baked chicken, veggies, rice, bread, salad, drinks and desserts such as brownies and lots of fruits.   The devotion of our volunteers was remarkable! Even with heavy rain and evening traffic they were on time and ready to meet these families at Bethany House after their work.  Doris Ward, the director and founder of Bethany House met us with her usual smile and red roses at one of the shelters in Fairfax County.  The evening proceeded with setting up dinner table and socializing.   MWC also took some toys for the children in this shelter. 

Spring dinner with TACTS in Arlington County

On March 9th 2004, MWC also had an annual dinner with TACTS, an abused women’s shelter in Arlington County that MWC has been working with since last year.   Asma Gheyoub arranged the menu and motivated the volunteers and friends of MWC to donate the items for the dinner.  The dinner went off with great success at St Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Arlington VA. 

2004 Ramadan Basket Project

During October we were blessed with the holy month of Ramadan, a month that is welcomed in the Muslim world with great respect.  It not only provides Muslims with a 30-day period to get closer to God by obligatory acts of worship and serving mankind, but Ramadan is also in fact a time of uniting families and friends.  In all Muslim countries, or communities living abroad, families come together to have their meals.  The pre-dawn meal is called “Sahoor” while the evening meal to break open the fast is called “ifar.”  Sahoor is usually a very simple and nourishing breakfast to sustain you the whole day.  Iftars” can vary from family to family where delicious dishes are served to friends and family especially on weekends.  Friends exchange recipes and cook meals together.  At the end of the 30-day period is a festival day called “Eid-ul Fitar” when all Muslims come together and offer prayers of thanks and gratitude to God Almighty for providing them with His bounties of health, wealth, family and community.  Everyone wears colorful new clothes and wishes each other “Eid Mubarak” or “Happy-Eid.”

However, the most important component of Ramadan is to take care of those who are less fortunate and to keep to simplicity.  It is only through fasting that one can feel the hunger pangs that remind one of the many people who go hungry without so much as a single meal.  Self reflection throughout the month is necessary as it keeps one humble, pious and sincere.   Many Muslims adopt families during the month of Ramadan so they can provide for the poor and needy during this blessed month.  It is incumbent on Muslims to take out two and a half percent from their wealth each year and distribute it to poor relatives, neighbors, orphans and anyone who is in need in the community.   This is one way to serve the community starting from those who are closer to you.  General good will is also targeted in other areas.

Keeping with the spirit of Ramadan, in 2004 MWC’s local office organized a Ramadan Basket project. The targeted recipients of Ramadan Baskets were the seniors at Masjid Mohammad in DC, teen patients at INOVA Fairfax Hospital and three abused women’s shelters in Northern Virginia:  LAWS in Loudon County, Bethany House of Northern Virginia and TACTS in Arlington County.  Another basket was later donated to a client of Habitat for Humanity in DC

 Uzma Farooq, the regional director for MWC’s local office in the Greater Washington DC Area, formed a Ramadan Committee with three sub-committees who took charge of delegating responsibilities successfully.  A formal letter of appeal with our local MWC brochure and a need-list was provided to the community. The Greater Washington DC Area office of MWC is happy to report that it successfully connected the resources to where the need was.  Over 115 individuals were served this Ramadan! 

MWC’s youth were very involved in collecting, making and delivering the baskets to the teens at INOVA Fairfax Hospital.  I must admit that it was very moving to see the youth getting so enthusiastic about this project.  They got together a weekend before the actual date of delivery during Ramadan.  Each youth had collected the items needed for the baskets.  Some had bought colored pens, cameras, body lotion and personal care sets for girls and handheld games for boys.  Yet others took out time to buy stuff needed and write personal messages for the sick teens to cheer them up.  On the delivery day they came from as far as Leesburg while they were observing their fast to make their final delivery at INOVA Fairfax!   Certificates of acknowledgment were given to the youth who served many community hours with MWC.  MWC tries to encourage their youth to take part in their community.  We hope they will continue with this tradition when they are leading successful lives in the future. 

Interfaith Events

4th Annual Day of Prayers and Talk

On May 16th 2004, the Greater Washington DC, Area office of MWC extended an invitation to all its interfaith friends to come join the Muslim women in a circle of love and compassion.  The event kicked off with Rachida Roberts reciting the verses from the holy Qur’an as a Jewish woman, a Buddhist woman and a Muslim woman lit candles of “hope” “peace” and “love.” 

For the 4th annual interfaith event, the theme was, "If God created this world in love, instilled peace in our hearts, and extended hope in the form of prayers; how would women of different faith traditions implement this in their lives and in their community?” The event was dedicated to mothers because the role of mothers is unique in every culture, race, and religion

 

 Uzma Farooq read a message of hope and love from Dr Tasneem (President of MWC) to the gathering:

“NO MATTER HOW DIFFICULT THE WORLD'S SITUATION APPEARS TO YOU, PLEASE REMEMBER THAT NOTHING IN THE WORLD HAPPENS WITHOUT GOD'S WILL. OUR ONLY WILL SHOULD BE TO SUBMIT OURSELVES TO GOD, AND EACH ONE OF US IN HER OWN WAY SHOULD TRY TO INCREASE THE GOODNESS IN THE UNIVERSE, WITH GOOD DEEDS. EVEN THE SMALLEST STONE IN THE POND MAKES RIPPLES. MAY GOD BLESS YOU ALL, AND HELP YOU IN YOUR ENDEAVOURS.”

Here are some highlights of our program from some of the participants:

         Uzma Farooq proceeded with the program with the prayer of love by Prophet Mohammad SalalAllahu Alaihi Wasalam:  “Oh Allah give me your love, and the love of those whom you love and give me good actions that lead me to your love.” 

         Tasawar Ibraz recited a poem about her mother who is her guiding force.

          Our own Tabassum Sohail wonderfully did “Sharing of thoughts”. 

         Sarah Ismail of Sufi Club at the World Bank recited a poem called ““The Way of Love

         Rose Norman presented “Love, Peace and Hope” from the Native American perspective.

         Lida Saeedain recited “Rumi” in Classical Persian style, which was followed by her translation in English.  Her voice can move souls to another dimension!

         Lisa Cosgove from the Catholic faith tradition was invited to speak on “Compassion:”
"It is not unusual to hear people say that all religions are essentially the same. I get a bit concerned when people make this claim and gloss over the significant differences among religions. It is important to acknowledge the many differences amongst religious traditions – different understandings about the nature of God, the human condition, the means to salvation/enlightenment/wholeness, ritualistic practices, etc. However, beyond beliefs, theological constructs, and rituals, I do think that each religion has a shared core value, and that core value is compassion.

 

Regardless of one’s understanding of who God is, or if God is, or how one is to attain salvation/enlightenment/wholeness, or what the afterlife is like, practitioners of all religions are told to have compassion and put their compassion into action. Nurturing compassion brings us closer to God or enlightenment. As Daya it is one of the three chief virtues of Hinduism. As Karuna it is one of the chief virtues of Buddhism. Jesus quoted the Torah when he said that one of the greatest commandments is to love your neighbor as yourself.

 

In Karen Armstrong’s wonderful chronicle of her spiritual journey, The Spiral Staircase, she talks about compassion as the litmus test for true religious practice. She writes: the religious traditions were in unanimous agreement. The one and only test of a valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience, or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. In The Spiral Staircase Armstrong offers an explanation for the centrality of compassion in different religions:

Compassion has been advocated by all the great faiths because it has been found to be the safest and surest means of attaining enlightenment. It dethrones the ego from the center of our lives and puts others there, breaking down the carapace of selfishness that holds us back from an experience of the sacred. And it gives us ecstasy, broadening our perspectives and giving us a larger, enhanced vision. As a very early Buddhist poem puts it: “May our loving thoughts fill the whole world; above, below, across – without limit; a boundless goodwill toward the whole world, unrestricted, free of hatred and enmity. [Sutta Nipata 118] ” (p. 296)

 

The religions of the world are vastly different in many ways. But their common emphasis on compassion offers us a starting point for interfaith activity. Karen Armstrong claims, “Our task now is to mend our broken world; if religion cannot do that, it is worthless. And what our world needs now is not belief, not certainty, but compassionate action and practically expressed respect for the sacred value of all human beings, even our enemies.” (p. 304)

 

The Dalai Lama echoes that conviction. In an essay in the book For the Love of God, edited by Benjamin Shield and Richard Carlson, the Dalai Lama wrote, “The essence of all religions is love, compassion, and tolerance. Kindness is my true religion…the clear proof of a person’s love of God is if that person genuinely shows love to fellow human beings.” As lovers of God we are called to love one another. This is a common message that sounds forth from the plethora of diverse beliefs and practices found in our many religions.

         Connie Ridgway of the Washington Revels sang, “Lord let me be your instrument…” and taught our eager audience some body movements at the right time when everyone wanted to stretch J

         Patricia Morningstar read Buddhist poems.

         Our dear friend from Morocco, Rachida Roberts, read a humorous article by Billon religions from Washington Post’s Magazine.

 

For pictures and video clips of this event, please visit our website, (http://mwcoalition.org/id30.html).

Networking and Affiliations

White House Faith-Based Initiatives: During the summer MWC President, Dr Tasneem, MWC summer intern, Mehreen Farooq, and Regional Director, Uzma Farooq, were invited to attend the White House Faith Based Initiative Conference.  This conference showcased several workshops for faith-based organizations and who they can apply for federal grants and other local and state assistance. (http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/fbci/)

Sacred Circles at the Washington National Cathedral: Regional director, Uzma Farooq, was invited to become a committee member of Sacred Circles at the National Cathedral.  This position allowed Uzma to take part in the pre-conference (Feb 2005) activities.  (http://www.cathedral.org/cathedral/sacredcircles/index.shtml)

Arlington Interfaith Council: Mr. Gil Terry of Arlington Interfaith Council got in touch with Uzma Farooq to see how MWC could get involved in their program/list of helping hands agency. MWC is very interested as this would be the first time a Muslim women’s organization is included on their list of helping hands agencies.  This is a great opportunity to serve the community by connecting the resources where the need is. 

MWC is also a member of United Religions Initiative and is looking for ways to partner in projects.  We feel it is time Muslim get in the forefront in enhancing forums of peace.  And, who else can do it better than women! J (http://www.uri.org/About_URI.html)

Points of Light Foundation: On November 21, 2004, MWC took part in the Interfaith Leadership Summit/Service Training led by the Points of Light Foundation along with United Religions Initiative D.C., the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington (IFCMW).  This was to officially launch the Washington Metropolitan Area Martin Luther King Day Program and Seasons of Service Initiative. Over 40 participants representing 31 organizations and over 20 diverse faiths assembled at IFCMW in D.C. to share ideas and develop service projects in and around the metro area. (http://www.pointsoflight.org/)

 

 

 

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Muslim Women's Coalition, (MWC) is a 501(c)3 Organization with Business Identification Number 0400-0055-65. Copyright 2011