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Dawah and Interfaith

Bringing In Ramadan with a Chocolate Cake




Link to all Ramadan 2010 posts

I read a tweet from Wisam Sharieff the other day, on how he tried to spread awareness of Ramadan to non-Muslims by way of handing out treats.

This inspired me to do something like this on my own, so I consulted my wife:

“I want to take something to work tomorrow. Do you think I should make brownies?” I asked her, before leaving for tarawih night prayers on the first evening of Ramadan.

“We could. But, how about a cake?”

After a little thought and realizing that she probably knows better than me, I approved it, and the plan went ahead.

The next morning, my wife baked and decorated the cake, while I went to work. I picked it up during my usual trip home for lunch, brought it in to work, and sent out the following email:

Hello everyone,

There’s chocolate cake with strawberries on the back counter behind Jayne’s desk. Please feel free to have some.

My wife baked it as a celebration for today being the first day of Ramadan this year.



While my associates were excited about getting free cake, it opened up a dialogue on Ramadan and Islam, as I had hoped.

Associate #1 asked what Ramadan was. I explained that it is our holy month, in which the Qur’an was revealed, during which we fast daily to come closer to God. She asked what the Koh-ran was, and if we do it for Mohamed. I explained that the Qur’an is what we believe to be the final scripture after the Bible. And, as is the case for everything else, we fast for God. To us, Muhammad is a prophet, just like Jesus, Adam, Moses, and so on. She was blown away! She had no idea that we believed in the other prophets, or in a continuation of scripture; she thought our religion was one dedicated solely to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). She then shared with me her annoyance at the way that Christmas and Easter have been commercialized and paganized, and commended us for keeping our tradition strong.

Associate #2 asked, “So are you fasting? When’s Eid?” Being from India, she probably knew what was going on, from being around Muslims back home.

Associate #3 came and said, “Happy Ramadan! Is that okay to say?”I laughed and replied that of course, it was.

Associate #4 also asked what Ramadan was and, after hearing that it involved fasting, mentioned that she used to fast three times a week for one year, while visiting sick people in the hospital. Amazed, I asked her if she felt spiritually empowered by it, to which she responded that it made her feel that, if she can give up things that she likes, then she can do anything. I explained that this is exactly what we believe we get out of fasting: if we can abstain from what we can have (halal), then we certainly can stay away from sins and what we’re not allowed to have (haram).

Associate #5 approached my cubicle with a very serious face. I asked her why she was so solemn; she said that she was going to ask a personal question, and didn’t want to offend me. When I let her know that she didn’t have to be so formal, she asked what Ramadan was. I explained to her what the month was about. She panicked at the idea of not eating all day, for twelve hours. I told her fifteen. She was shocked.

Associate #6 kicked in, saying that when he played football in college, he had a teammate named Nasir who fasted while continuing to train and lift weights. I mentioned that NFL’s Husain Abdullah of the Minnesota Vikings, and Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon do the same. He said he remembered Abdullah doing so last year, and that he was really impressed that someone could do that for their faith. Props to that brother, Nasir!

Associate #7 chimed in, saying that she read an article in the Tribune the other day, about a woman who homeschools and was trying to focus on patience and self-control while fasting in Ramadan. The article is actually about Olivia Kompier, wife of MuslimMatters’ author Siraaj! I told the associate that she’s a convert who accepted Islam while in high school (may Allah reward the people who helped her find it), opening up the idea that non-Muslims in America find our religion and grab onto it.

So, with a little cake mix, frosting, and strawberries, I got a mix of dialogue that not only began with an explanation of Islamic theology, but ended with an example of someone converting to our faith.

As curious and open as some people are to hearing about our beliefs, a lot of them don\’t know much about them, or have misconceptions that can be easily corrected. It doesn’t hurt to have the information we give them go down with a little chocolaty goodness!

I hope this story inspires you to do something like this with your own co-workers, classmates, and neighbors. If not now, then for Eid. But try to do something!

Thanks to Wisam Sharieff for inspiring me, and thanks to my wife for baking the cake.

There’s a leftover chunk that didn’t get eaten. Iftar dessert after breaking my fast, you ask? Maybe. That, or a 4:30 am suhur… :)

SaqibSaab is an average Desi Muslim guy living in Chicago. He enjoys videography and design as side hobbies, and helps out with AlMaghrib Institute in Chicago, Wasat Studios, and other projects here and there. His go-around vehicle is a 2007 Volkswagen Jetta 5-speed Wolfburg Edition. Originally born in Michigan, he and his wife reside in Chicagoland with his parents who come from Bangalore, India. He blogs personally at



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    August 28, 2010 at 1:11 AM

    A very good story mashAllah! :)

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    August 28, 2010 at 1:23 AM

    Hehe, loved it! Although the sight of that chocolate cake during the fast… =s Just kidding!

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    August 28, 2010 at 1:40 AM

    I did this at work with savouries more because it was expected however they knew it was ramadaan but the amount of thought and respect I get us amazing being the one of the ten Muslims in the company that always wears hijaab

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    August 28, 2010 at 1:43 AM

    very inspirational good read :)

  5. Hena Zuberi

    Hena Zuberi

    August 28, 2010 at 2:28 AM

    Good dawah brother!! we give Lindt chocolate truffles with Happy Ramadan/ Happy Eid cards to my husband’s coworkers and to my kid’s school office- They get so much stuff during the ‘Christmas’ break that is nice for them to get a random gift in the middle of the year.

    I got an ice-cream maker and its so HOT here, I’m thinking home-made organic strawberry ice-cream to the neighbors instead of Ramadan cookies this year, inshaAllah.

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    Umm Reem

    August 28, 2010 at 4:35 AM

    oh that chocolate cake… :)

    my mom passes out candy baskets with a little brochure on islam to her neighbors on eid

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    August 28, 2010 at 8:15 AM

    For almost 12 years, I used to gift 1 lb gift boxes of dates to the Principal, all teachers and office staff in a gift bag with an insert about Ramadan [from CAIR] included. This made many of them ask questions about Ramadan and some others who had dates for the first time in their lives, would come to me and inform that they have now started having dates as “dessert” rather than unhealthy creamy sugary desserts!
    Along with this, I would also make presentations in my child’s class about Ramadan and other teachers would invite me to make presentations in their classes when word got out.
    So yes, as implied in the article, many non-muslims are ignorant about the real Islam and it is our job to let the word out.

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    Haleh Banani

    August 28, 2010 at 3:56 PM

    What an excellent way to open the doors of dawa!
    I love the idea masha’Allah .

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    August 28, 2010 at 4:48 PM

    Pure genius mashallah! #7 was really cool – it’s a small world after all.

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    August 28, 2010 at 4:55 PM

    That is a really great idea- now, if only I had co-workers…

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    August 28, 2010 at 7:52 PM

    a very inspiring article, ma sha’Allah!

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    August 28, 2010 at 9:38 PM

    Associate #7 chimed in, saying that she read an article in the Tribune the other day, about a woman who homeschools and was trying to focus on patience and self-control while fasting in Ramadan. The article is actually about Olivia Kompier! I told the associate that she’s a convert who accepted Islam while in high school (may Allah reward the people who helped her find it), opening up the idea that non-Muslims in America find our religion and grab onto it.

    Masha’Allah, those Muslims who helped me come to Islam during my teen years were and still are AWESOME. after we all split i made dua’ to Allah to bring us back to together in friendship and make them my neighbors here in Chicago.

    and you know what? duas totally answered :)

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    August 28, 2010 at 11:56 PM

    Its a great story Alhamdulillah. But Id like the story more if you helped your wife bake the cake :O

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    August 29, 2010 at 3:43 AM

    WOW! This is excellent Masha’Allah!!! (and the cake looks amazing, masha’Allah! Your wife did a wonderful job)

    It’s funny how sometimes we make things so difficult in order to build bridges of understanding.

    I was slightly curious about one thing. Could that be seen in any way as bringing religion into the workplace in a way that could potentially violate a policy? I just wondered, and if anyone ever had some issues trying to do this.

    Otherwise, masha’Allah, I am really happy to have read this. Inspiring indeed…

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    August 29, 2010 at 4:29 AM

    Masha Allah !
    I appreciate your wisdom ..

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    July 2, 2012 at 1:24 PM

    Alaikom salam Dearest Brother and Sister! Sister, THAT cake…..looks HEAVENLY! I’m getting my “to-do” list today – for our upcoming Ramadan. May you and your family have a blessed Ramadan, and may Ya Rabb accept all our deeds. meen

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Swallowing Your Pride For A Moment Is Harder Than Praying All Night | Imam Omar Suleiman

Imam Omar Suleiman



Iblees was no ordinary worshipper. He worshipped Allah for thousands of years with thousands of prayers. He ascended the ranks until he accompanied the angels with his noteworthy worship. Performing good deeds was no issue for him. He thanked Allah with his prayers, and Allah rewarded him with a lofty station in Paradise. But when Adam was created and given the station that he was, suddenly Iblees was overcome by pride. He couldn’t bear to see this new creation occupy the place that he did. And as he was commanded to prostrate to him, his pride would overcome him and doom him for eternity. Alas, swallowing his pride for one prostration of respect to Adam was more difficult to him than thousands of prostrations of worship to Allah.

In that is a cautionary lesson for us especially in moments of intense worship. When we exert ourselves in worship, we eventually start to enjoy it and seek peace in it. But sometimes we become deluded by that worship. We may define our religiosity exclusively in accordance with it, become self-righteous as a result of it, and abuse people we deem lesser in the name of it. The worst case scenario of this is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) said about one who comes on the day of judgment with all of their prayers, fasting, and charity only to have it all taken away because of an abusive tongue.

But what makes Iblees’s struggle so relevant to ours? The point of worship is to humble you to your Creator and set your affairs right with His creation in accordance with that humility. The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that whoever has an atom’s worth of pride in their heart would not enter paradise. The most obvious manifestation of that pride is rejecting the truth and belittling someone else. But other subtle manifestations of that pride include the refusal to leave off argumentation, abandon grudges, and humble yourself to the creation in pursuit of the pleasure of the Creator.


Hence a person would rather spend several Ramadan’s observing the last 10 nights in intense prayer seeking forgiveness for their sins from Allah, rather then humble themselves for a moment to one of Allah’s servants by seeking forgiveness for their transgressions against him, even if they too have a claim.

Jumah is our weekly Eid, and Monday’s and Thursday’s are our weekly semblances of Ramadan as the Prophet (s) used to fast them since our deeds are presented to Allah on those days. He said about them, “The doors of Heaven are opened every Monday and Thursday, and Allah pardons in these days every individual servant who is not a polytheist, except those who have enmity between them; Allah Says: ‘Delay them until they reconcile with each other”

In Ramadan, the doors of Heaven are opened throughout the month and the deeds ascend to Allah. But imagine if every day as your fasting, Quran recitation, etc. is presented to Allah this month, He responds to the angels to delay your pardon until you reconcile with your brother. Ramadan is the best opportunity to write that email or text message to that lost family member or friend and say “it’s not worth it to lose Allah’s forgiveness over this” and “IM SORRY.”

Compare these two statements:

The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “He who boycotts his brother for more than three days and dies during this period will be from the people of hellfire.”

He also said:

“I guarantee a house in the suburbs of Paradise for one who leaves arguments even if he is right.”

Swallowing your pride is bitter, while prayer is sweet. Your ego is more precious to you than your sleep. But above all, Allah’s pleasure is more precious than it all.

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Dawah and Interfaith

Can I Give My Zakat To An Islamic Educational Cause?

Dr Usaama al-Azami



As Ramadan nears its end, many Muslims are thinking about paying their zakat in the last ten nights. But what is a worthy cause to which we can give our zakat and, in particular, what do the scholars have to say on this issue?

A number of Islamic educational and media institutions in the West have in recent years been highlighting their ‘zakat-eligible’ status. The list of these institutions is quite long. In the US, they include this website, the al-Madina Institute, the Yaqeen Institute, Zaytuna College, and the Ta’leef Collective. In the UK, they include Cambridge Muslim College. Some of these institutions focus on covering the cost of tuition for students who would otherwise be unable to pay, but others are focused on running an institution whose raison d’etre is Islamic education.

But some might wonder how such institutions can receive zakat? A common belief is that zakat is meant only for the poor and destitute and that such institutions would, therefore, be ineligible. This is sometimes reinforced by the way that a minority of scholars, including learned ones, might deal with these issues.

Last year in the UK, a respected scholar stated emphatically that “none of the scholars” in Islamic history until modern times had ever said one can give zakat to causes like supporting institutions that promote Islamic education. He asserted that only modern scholars permitted the spending of zakat on such matters in the name of the fī sabīli-Llāh category (which I will explain below). The same British scholar reiterated a similar view in the past couple of weeks, but this time said that his view was the opinion of the “vast majority of scholars”.

The average Muslim may find such conflicting claims confusing. How is it that some scholars say zakat cannot be given to Islamic educational causes, while a large number of prominent Islamic educational institutions, presumably led by Islamic scholars, are directly soliciting zakat funds?

The main reason for this is the existence of difference of opinion (ikhtilāf) among scholars regarding who or what is deserving of zakat payment. The Qur’an (9:60) sets out eight categories of zakat-eligible recipients. While people today often think of zakat as being due to the poor and needy, they only explicitly form two of these categories.

The basis on which many of the aforementioned scholarly institutions claim zakat-eligible status is the category of fī sabīli-Llāh which translates to “in God’s path.” Historically, the more dominant interpretation of this zakat-eligible category was that it referred to jihād in God’s path, i.e. zakat was to be given to people engaged in military expeditions on behalf of the Islamic community.

However, some medieval scholars, and a remarkably large number of modern scholars, appealing to the fact that the Prophet highlighted that jihād was ultimately for the sake of making God’s word prevail (li-takun kalimat Allāh hiya al-‘ulyā), have argued for a far broader understanding of this zakat-eligible category.

Jihād, as a concept, is of course incredibly broad in Islam. For example, one finds in a sound hadith that the Prophet said: “Engage in jihād against the polytheists with your wealth, your lives, and your tongues.” Additionally, some of the verses in the Qur’an that enjoined jihād were revealed in Mecca where military jihād was not yet permitted.

Because of this, a minority of medieval scholars argued that the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat recipients could entail payments made to support any righteous acts, while others argued that the category was ultimately about upholding and strengthening Islam specifically through da‘wa initiatives that cause God’s word to prevail of which education is one of the most effective tools.

Indeed, giving seekers of sacred knowledge (ṭullāb al-‘ilm) was deemed a legitimate form of zakat payment according to all four schools of law. Clearly, the respected British scholar cited above was inaccurate in his claim that “none of the scholars,” or only a small minority of them, viewed the fī sabīli-Llāh category as referring to anything other than military engagements.

Among modern Arab ulama, the view that the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat recipients can apply to Islamic da‘wa and educational initiatives has perhaps become the dominant position on this issue over the last one hundred years. This is true of all major ideological orientations, whether Salafi, Neo-traditionalist, or Islamist.

Thus, for example, arguably the most important Salafi scholar of his generation, the first Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Shaykh Muḥammad b. Ibrāhīm Āl al-Shaykh argued that the most deserving recipient of the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat was the cause of da‘wa, and responding to sources of doubt about Islam. Reportedly it is also the final opinion of his most important successor, Shaykh ‘Abd al-‘Azīz b. Bāz. Among living Salafis, this is the position of senior scholars outside the Saudi religious establishment as well, such as Shaykh Salmān al-‘Awda and Shaykh Ṣāliḥ al-Munajjid (may Allah liberate them from their unjust imprisonment).

It is also the position of senior scholars of the Azhar and Egypt’s Grand Muftis for many generations from the 20th and 21st centuries. In our own time, this includes Neo-traditionalist scholars like ‘Alī Jum‘a and Abdullāh b. Bayyah. While the latter prefers a more restrictive interpretation for the category, he permits the more expansive interpretation in his fatwas.

Among Islamist (Ikhwān) oriented scholars, one finds Shaykh Yūsuf al-Qaraḍāwī, author of what is perhaps the most comprehensive work to be written on the fiqh of zakat in Islamic history, promoting such an understanding as well. His two volume work, which addresses the major debates surrounding the fī sabīli-Llāh category in great detail, has also been translated into English. Among younger Islamist-leaning scholars, the encyclopaedic Mauritanian scholar and master of the Sharia sciences, Shaykh Muḥammad al-Ḥasan al-Dadaw argues that the fī sabīli-Llāh category may even be used in the establishing of educational endowments.

The above is only a selection of voices among those who are supportive of promoting Islamic educational causes on the basis of the fī sabīli-Llāh category of zakat. With due respect to scholars who would argue otherwise, it is clear that this is not only a legitimate legal opinion on this question but may well be the dominant view of many of the leading scholars of modern times.

Our communities are best served by an Islamic discourse that acknowledges the richness and diversity of our great religious tradition rather than restricts it to a narrow range of opinions. As the Prophet said to the Bedouin who prayed for God to exclusively show mercy to himself and the Prophet, “You have constricted what is vast!” (laqad ḥajjarta wāsi‘an).

Since there are a very large number of scholars who have recognised initiatives that promote the sound understanding of Islam to be eligible for receiving zakat, our community is best served by the accurate portrayal of the valid difference of opinion on such matters in which members of the community may legitimately seek to follow either opinion without claiming that the position adopted by others is illegitimate.

In an era in which the sound understanding of Islam is threatened by Islamophobic forces from without and extremist forces from within, we all recognise the importance of Islamic education as a central concern for contemporary Muslims to prioritise. May we all support this cause, whether through zakat or by some other means.

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#Current Affairs

#UnitedForOmar – Imam Omar Suleiman Smeared by Right-Wing News After Opening Prayer at US House of Representatives

Zeba Khan



Sh. Omar Suleiman delivered the opening prayer in the US House of Representatives yesterday, May, 9th, 2019  at the invitation of Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) of Dallas.

Immediately since, right wing media platforms have begun spreading negative coverage of the Imam Omar Suleiman – calling him anti-semitic, a common tactic used to discredit both Muslim activists as well as criticism of Israel policies.

News outlets citing the criticism have pointed to a post from The Investigative Project on Terrorism or ITP, as the source. The  ITP was founded by and directed by noted Islamophobe Steven Emerson. Emerson’s history of hate speech has been documented for over two decades.

Since then, the story has been carried forward by multiple press outlets.

The immediate consequence of this has been the direction of online hate towards what has been Imam Omar Suleiman’s long history of preaching unity in the US socio-political sphere.

“Since my invocation I’ve been inundated with hate articles, threats, and other tactics of intimidation to silence me over a prayer for unity,” Imam Omar Suleiman says. “These attacks are in bad faith and meant to again send a message to the Muslim community that we are not welcome to assert ourselves in any meaningful space or way.”

MuslimMatters is proud to stand by Imam Omar Suleiman, and we invite our readers to share the evidence that counters the accusations against him of anti-semitism, bigotry, and hate. We would also encourage you to reach out, support, and amplify voices of support like Representative E.B.Johnson, and Representative Colin Allred.

You can help counter the false narrative, simply by sharing evidence of Imam Omar Suleiman’s work. It speaks for itself, and you can share it at the hashtag #UnitedForOmar


A Priest, a Rabbi, and an Imam Walk Into a Church in Dallas

At an interfaith panel discussion, three North Texas religious leaders promoted understanding and dialogue among Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Amid a vexed political and social climate, three religious leaders in North Texas—a priest, an imam, and a rabbi—proved it’s possible to come together in times of division. Source:

Muslim congregation writes letters of support to Dallas Jewish Community

The congregation, led by Imam Omar Suleiman, penned more than 150 cards and letters. source: WFAA News

Historic action: Muslims and Jews for Dreamers

“We must recognize that the white supremacy that threatens the black and Latino communities, is the same white supremacy that spurs Islamophobia and antisemitism,” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Bend The Arc

Through Dialogue, Interfaith Leaders Hope North Texans Will Better Understand Each Other

“When any community is targeted, they need to see a united faith voice — that all communities come together and express complete rejection of anything that would pit our society against one another more than it already is.” -Imam Omar Suleiman

Source: Kera News


Conversations at The Carter Center: Harmonizing Religion and Human Rights 

Source: The Carter Center

Imam: After devastating New Zealand attack, we will not be deterred

My wife and I decided to take our kids to a synagogue in Dallas the night after the massacre at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh to grieve and show solidarity with the Jewish community. My 5-year-old played with kids his age while we mourned inside, resisting hate even unknowingly with his innocence…” Source: CNN


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