As a Muslim comic book
geek reader, I’m always on the lookout for a good graphic novel that has awesome pictures, cool characters, and a rockingly awesomely exciting storyline – and you can’t go wrong with X-Men! And it just gets better with the introduction of Sooraya Qadir (code name: Dust), possibly the first practicing Muslimah in the Marvel Comics Universe.
I first came across the munaqqabah mutant when avidly devouring the graphic novel collection of The New X-Men: Hellions. I was stunned and delighted to discover the existence of a character who is not only a strong, intelligent young woman but is a practicing Muslimah to boot – who makes it clear to readers why she chooses to observe correct hijaab.
Here’s a bit more info about my new favourite superhero (Wiki bio):
Dust is an adolescent Sunni Muslim girl who possesses the mutant power to turn herself into a sand-like substance. Born in Afghanistan, Sooraya is kidnapped by a slave-trading ring after she is separated from her mother. While one of her slavers tries to remove her niqāb, she instinctively lashes out with her powers and flays them all alive with her dust form before passing out. She is subsequently discovered and rescued by Wolverine and Fantomex. Wolverine takes her to the X-Corps base in India. Sooraya hides herself from the X-Men stationed there by turning into sand and spreading herself around the complex. Phoenix senses Sooraya’s presence and telepathically convinces her to reveal herself to everyone present. Sooraya reforms and announces her presence by speaking a single word: Turaab (Arabic for dust).
More here at her official Marvel database page.
If you’re as nerdy as I am, then no doubt you find it pretty darn cool… but of course there’s always that doubt that springs up immediately after you get excited about how there’s finally some positive representation of Muslims in the media (as fictional as it may be!) – how long it will be before the desire to make “Dust” more sexy overtakes any desire for editors to keep up with her proper hijab? How long before the commercial need to sell femininity, as is the case with all other female superheroes with exaggerated figures to make them more desiring for teen boys, will cause Dust’s abaaya to be a figure-hugging uniform? In the world of reel-bad Arabs, it may be a small consolation to see at least an attempt to sell the hijab in a positive manner, but how sincere and long-lasting will the effort be?
Some artists depict Sooraya’s abaya incorrectly, having it tightly cinched around her waist and breasts, which questionably disregards the purpose of wearing an abaya.
Self-Revelations: Discovering Your Limits in India | The Motherland: Part II
The “The Motherland” series will go over the benefits and challenges of studying Islam overseas in India, institutions of learning there in, and Nihal Khan’s journey of studying at Nadwatul ‘Ulama in the 2014-2015 academic calendar year. The subsequent articles in this series will detail his experiences and reflections from his travels and studies in India.
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Knowing Your Limits
As soon as I situated myself in Lucknow, I began discovering my physical, emotional, and psychological limits. Experiencing the bitter cold winters of Lucknow and her brutal summers really showed me how my body adjusted without a heater or air conditioner in each season respectively. I also unfortunately encountered the Indian health care system much sooner than I had expected.
Rae Baraily (not to be confused with Baraily): The hometown and resting place of Shaykh Abul Hasan ‘Ali al-Nadwi, the great writer and last rector of Nadwatul ‘Ulama.
In my first three months in Lucknow, I lost between twenty-five to thirty pounds (11-13 kg) from just adjusting to the food, water, and weather. Americans are bound to lose weight simply by the nature of how people eat in India. Portions are smaller, organic food is more abundant. Oh, and not to mention the water. As soon as I settled into Nadwa (the shorter name for Nadwatul ‘Ulama), I started to drink the tap water of India. I had the typical daily (okay, twice) diarrhea for about three weeks, until one morning I woke up and threw up like I have never thrown up in my life. I felt my stomach was going to come out of my throat.
After that I was in bed for a week or so. But finally after recovering, drinking water from the tap became very easy for me–as did eating street food. As one of my friends said, “You now have a stomach of steel.” I knew I was going to be in India for a long time and decided that it would be most convenient to start getting used to living as others do over there. Getting bottled water was just too complicated after seeing ‘cold taps’ available for drinking right next to your hostel.
The food situation was also quite tricky. After several failed attempts at having food delivered to me from outside tiffin services, I gave up and starting eating out for almost every meal. That became taxing as temperatures were increasing and the cost of meals was adding up. I successfully started eating food from the madrasa cafeteria which happened to taste quite pleasant. I received rice, bread, and lentils twice a day with a different curry dish each time. I still go out, usually once a day, to a local cafe just to unwind and get some comfort food. I spend a decent amount of time studying and eating at the Tramp Tree Café in Hazratganj (the Times Square of Lucknow) which is owned by India’s first MasterChef Pankaj Bhadouria.
Mazahir al-Uloom in Saharanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The school where India’s most senior teacher of hadith resides, Shaykh Yunus Saharanpuri.
When you think things cannot get any more ridiculous, leave it to the interactions of an American student with his Indian environment to prove him wrong. The biggest arena where this was tested was in my interactions with administration,and students and teachers alike at Nadwa. The most powerful incident which challenged my status quo was when I needed to get a measly managerial task completed, and instead of someone doing their job and getting done what needed to get done, I was introduced to the rather accepted and overbearing culture of purposeful procrastination. It was one of those things which would make me angry, while also upsetting me to the extent of wanting to shed tears, but I would stop myself as there was absolutely no functional premise for me to do so. Crying would not get me anywhere. This was a big deal as many of these tasks need to be completed in succession to be able to either sit in classes, complete registration, get permission to travel during the school year, etc. When this situation would unfold repeatedly, those intense feelings would not come back as strongly as they did the first time. I realized that my level of patience had gone up at that point. I had collected myself emotionally, and was now able to cognitively begin to analyze the environment that I was living in and its effect upon me. I will end up speaking more about this aspect in regards to interactions with students and teachers in the section below.
The Phrase “It’s Really Hot Today” Redefined
Getting used to the climate in Lucknow was not as easy as I had imagined it to be. From May to August the heat is unbearable. The average temperature just in May was 110 degrees Fahrenheit with a 125 degree real feel. It only gets worse in June through August when the humidity sets in. Though the monsoon season also starts around this time sending cool rains to moisten and cool the air, this year the storms arrived very late.
Things cool down between September to mid-December where it’s between 80-90 degrees usually. Then from mid-December to January the temperature drops to 40 to below freezing for many days. Now though that does not sound too cold, you need to remember that there is no system of heating in most households and motor vehicles–so staying warm can be quite a challenge! Finally, from February to April the temperature is once again mild in the mid 80s during the day.
A goat climbing a car in New Delhi.
What Will You See in the Rest of this Series?
Within this series on MuslimMatters, readers will be shown how life in India is for an American, experiences with health care, law enforcement, locals, Islamic institutions, what students of knowledge should consider before thinking about studying overseas, and lastly reflections and recommendations on the institutions I have visited.
. . .
Check out Part III of this series –> Health Care in India: Scooters, Breaking Bones, and Surgery | The Motherland
The Most Amazing Masjid Complex Built in the Western Hemisphere
By Hena Zuberi
After a 5-year wait, the Diyanet Center of America, also known as the Turkish American Community Center, is ready for worshipers and for visitors of all faiths.
A true majestic wonder- it is something made from a hundred million prayers. May Allah bless this gift to the people of the United States from the Turkish nation.
The photography is by Salam Aref of New Dream Designs, an upcoming architect, artist and designer based in Maryland.
The center of the masjid is designated as the sacred sanctuary
The Mihrab is made of marble and gold leaf technique which was applied by artisans from Turkey. The upper part of the side of the mihrab is decorated with tiles imported from Turkey. On the pediment of the mihrab is a figure of the tree of life which symbolizes the 99 names of God.
The ornate, marble mimbar is used for special occasions such as the Eid salah. It was designed and made in Turkey
The kursi, where the imam gives dars, is composed entirely of wood and was made in Turkey. The kündekari technique of woodworking (the tongue-and-groove paneling of polygons and stars set in a strap work skeleton), which is the traditional art of wood decoration, and inlaid with mother-of-pearl. As the characteristic of kundekari technique, no nails, screws, glue, or fasteners were used in the panels
Over the area of the sanctuary, there is a main dome on each side of which are five small domes. In order to provide light inside the mosque, there are windows around the rim of the main dome. This dome is adorned with Arabic calligraphy, one of the traditional decorative arts of Islam. The large and small domes are supported by arches, in conformity with traditional architecture. Four marble columns were brought in from the Turkish provinces of Istanbul, Eskişehir, Afyonkarahisar, and Tokat, which are famous for marble.
An intricately carved rehal holding a large Quran
The central dome is inscribed with Surah al Ikhlas.
A tree of life motif is centered, complete with the 99 names of Allah.
“The Million Dollar Door”
The door of the main masjid is a brilliant piece of art made with the Kündekâri technique, This woodworking technique was developed in Anatolia during the era of the Seljuks. “Masters involved in the art of kündekâri, known as kündekârs, state that the starting point of this art is patience. They also complain about the lack of patience and interest among the younger generations concerning this traditional art form. In practice, say the masters, if you overlook a deviation even on the order of millimeters, you will lose control and fail to assemble the kündekâri. The technique produces pieces that are known to last for seven to eight centuries easily if not subjected to the negative effects of such things as earthquakes, fire, and excessive humidity.” From AnadoluJet magazine.
The mosque has six wood doors which open to three areas of the sanctuary and three areas of the courtyard.
The central courtyard is anchored by a marble fountain. Copper taps are used keep an old world aesthetic.
The windows in the outdoor courtyard
This is the only masjid in America that has two minarets
The mahfil, the area reserved for women covers about 1300 square feet. The ceiling
of the mahfil is covered with five small-scale domes. The domes are decorated with geometric designs.
Chandeliers in the domes of the main hall of the masjid
A 220-seat auditorium is a part of the multi-purpose cultural center. This includes a conference room equipped with an advanced sound system and simultaneous translation rooms.
Tiles adorning the cultural center at DCA
#Mecca_Live on Snapchat- Showcasing Laylat Al-Qadr on Social Media
by Asad Yazdani
Snapchat – an already popular app – has been gaining a lot more attention and praise lately. An app that allows people to share pictures and videos of what you are currently doing with all your friends, Snapchat (in August of 2014) added a new feature called “Live” to their already existing “Our Story” feature.
With this feature, Snapchat users who are in a certain area or attending a certain event are able to submit their snaps to the event’s Live Snapchat Story, where many photos and videos are picked to be showcased to the rest of the world for a period of twenty-four hours after they are first put up.
Snapchat is taking the world by storm by utilizing this feature across the globe, from LA to Japan, and more recently, from Makkah. Muslims from around the world have gathered to perform Umrah, the voluntary pilgrimage, during an incredibly sacred time in which it is believed that the Quran was revealed – the last ten days of Ramadan. This event, known as “Laylat Al-Qadr,” was broadcast during the Mecca Live Snapchat Story.
Naturally, this has many Muslims around the world and especially on social media very happy and excited:
A common theme being represented by the response is that of the beautiful unity of human beings from all walks of life that is being shown:
The Mecca Live Snapchat Story is also giving many Muslims a chance to educate people of other faiths about Islam:
Beyond just that response, however, many self-proclaimed non-Muslims are weighing in with their opinions also. And, given the recent state of representation of Muslims in the media, we seem to be getting an overall positive response:
Even politicians are weighing in on this Live Snapchat Story:
We are seeing that technology – especially social media – is slowly finding its way into our daily lives. This Mecca Live Snapchat story is truly showing the world the true power of social media as not just a platform for people to share pictures of their lunch or videos of their cats, but rather to show the true nature of a group of people who have been maligned by bad press all over the world, who have had their religion hijacked by extremists– a nature that one does not find by simply going online and doing a search on Google.
May Allah bless those who worked hard to get this story in motion and may He invite us all to this holy city one day.
Asad Yazdani is an American Muslim of Pakistani descent. Currently studying Engineering in San Diego, he hopes to find a way to incorporate his studies into bettering the lives of Muslims and non-Muslims around the world one day, inshAllah.