Wednesday, December 21, 2011

How To Have A Perfectly Sane Brown Wedding - Part 2

Following on from Part 1.

Rule Number 6
If you have seating arrangements, let it be known. Especially to the parents of the bride and groom.

I have been to weddings where they hired a fancy wedding planner who (claimed to have) made seating arrangements for 600 people. Except no one knew what it was; there was no big printed board informing people of their table number, or people to guide you to your seats. And on top of that, you ask the clueless clearly hassled parents of the bride and groom, and they tell you "Oh, you can sit where you want". Except that when you do, the bridesmaids get their panties in a knot because you committed the grand crime of seating at a "reserved" table.

Here's a corollary - if you invite 600 people (see rules 1 and 2) you don't need a seating plan.

Rule Number 7
Do not have a Quran Recitation in the middle of a disco.

"Alright, let's begin our evening with the obligatory recitation of Surah Rum."

"Now, everybody, on the dance floor! Let's welcome the bride and groom with the biggest, loudest, bhangra, EVER!"

Like, seriously? Not even a filler?

Rule Number 8
Do not discriminate guests by their skin colour.

If you take all the good tables and sit white people there because you know, they are WHITE and need special attention at a brown wedding, even if you have hardly known them as long as your own folk, you are a fob.

Know who your people are (black, white, Asian, brown no matter) and sit close friends and relatives at the good tables. They were there for you when you were trying to hide your boyfriend "good" friend from your father.

Rule Number 9
A gate dhora is an ancient tradition.

Speaking of said white people, do you know what scares them the most? The groom is entering the hall, and then ALL OF A SUDDEN there's this huge mob of people at the gate and they are all shouting! I have seen some of them take out their cellphones and start to video the commotion. Little do they know this is the ancient custom of "gate dhora".

Desis it seems are the best when it comes to this business. The custom of "gate dhora" perfectly combines their inherent skills of mathematics, cheapness, shouting and diplomacy, an all in one. Indians are the masters in this: "This amount is how much you love the bride" or "this amount shows how much you value yourself"! How do you argue against that!

Note to folks arranging the wedding: Always agree beforehand on the amount, and always, ALWAYS, have an adult to supervise the kids. We desis play cricket, so we don't have soccer riots, but we do have gate dhoras.

Rule Number 10
If you say "I am going to keep it short", please mean it.

Really, the only one who is allowed to make a long speech is the father of the bride.

If you invite 600 people, you should know that not everyone is there to listen to your best friend going on, and on, and on, about your road trip in the final year.

There's only so many times you can use "and one more thing" in a speech. The phrase "before I finish" should be uttered exactly BEFORE YOU FINISH. Not before you add "and last but not the least".

Happy Weddings, everyone!

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Gender Segregated Weddings

Have you ever been to a super boring wedding? When you sit apart from your wife, in different halls, and don't know anybody else, so you converse via sms, wait for the food and then leave? Where the only sign that it's a wedding is the one printed on the notice board?

Welcome to your traditional gender segregated wedding.

Now if you ask anyone who prefers a gender segregated wedding, here's what they will say - it's more "Islamic". Is it though?

Remember, Islam DOES discourage free mixing between men and women but ONLY when they are ALONE; Islam does not prohibit ALL interactions between men and women in a public setting.

I find it hypocritical too. To paraphrase Wood Turtle's status, so you can talk to a girl at work or on the street, but you can't talk to her at a wedding without losing all control and giving in to your "impulses"?

Here's the three basic myths about a gender segregated wedding:

1. It's Islamic.

Not it's not. The concept of gender segregation is a Middle Eastern patriarchal practice called Namus which predates Islam. There is no evidence from the Quran or Hadith that enforces segregation of sexes[2].

The Prophet attended a wedding that was NOT gender segregated. It was Abu Usaid As-Saidi's wedding, and his wife served the Prophet (and his Companions) with food, and even brought him his drink[3]. There are plenty of examples from his life where men and women, not related to each other, ate at the same table.

2. A mixed wedding may lead to men and women flirting

There is even the idea that if something bad can happen from a permissible act, then we should prohibit the permissible act, even if there is good in it. This incorrect idea is taken to extremes in Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive lest something bad happens. The ridiculousness of this is proven by a Saudi study that says if women are allowed to drive, there will be a loss of virginity in the kingdom and more homosexuals [4]. Dr Taqir Suwaidan at RIS specifically rebutted this idea. If the idea was true, then the whole incident of "Aisha and the Necklace" would never have happened.

As long as there is no obscenity, touching, secret meetings and any sexual contact, go ahead and maintain healthy social interaction with the opposite gender. It's the Islamic thing to do.[1]

In Bengali circles, it's well known that men and women meet up at weddings. I attended two weddings this year, the second one was of the groom and bride who got to know each other well during the first wedding. And what's wrong with that?

If your society is already so segregated (I am looking at you Saudis) that it's unhealthy and where a woman's eyes now make you crazy[5] then you gotta wonder how on earth will a man and woman meet up. Maybe the driving ban IS the reason you have more homosexuals (something to think about?).

My personal theory is that societies with gender segregated weddings (Pakistanis? Arabs?) have more cousin marriages. I am sure there is a research paper somewhere here, but what is so wrong with a young man and a young woman getting to know each other, and then getting married?

And if you think a gender segregated wedding prevents men and women from flirting, you don't know your young men and women.

3. Women show their hair and dress up all slutty at these mixed weddings

First, why are you looking at these women anyways! Lower your gaze, men! Second, see first.

I am not responsible for what anyone does. I am only responsible for my own actions. At my own wedding, I had a simple additional line in the invite.

"Since this is a Muslim wedding, guests are kindly requested to observe Islamic sensibilities and dress modestly. Your cooperation is this regard will be highly appreciated."

Or something to that affect. It was a mixed wedding. And you know what? Almost everyone complied with the request. My non-Muslim friends even called me up to ask what would be acceptable. That's because in general, people are nice. I find that hardcore so-called religious people treat everyone else as assholes who need to be 'guided', and therefore controlled.

My view is that it's your wedding, so if you want it to be gender segregated it's your choice. My faith compels me to attend a wedding once I get an invitation and have no excuses, so I will attend. But please, don't call it "Islamic". Because it's not, and you do a disservice to all those men and women who get married in a decent mixed wedding ceremony.


1. Sexuality in Islam, referencing Surah Hujarat from the Quran.
2. Segregation of the Sexes.
3. Bukhari, Vol. 7, No. 111
4. Saudi Arabia: Driving a 'threat to virgin brides', The Independent
5. Saudi to ban women with alluring eyes

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Are You More Pious Than The Prophet?

Congratulations, you may now be more pious than the Prophet.

* * *

You will never kiss your wife in public, because after all that is what those infidels do. We are not of loose morals like them! No Public Display of Affection for Muslims! We may beat our wives, because that is in the Quran, supposedly, but we will NEVER kiss them in public.

Congratulations, you are now more pious than the Prophet. He used to kiss his wives in public [1] and never beat them.

* * *

Do you have fun? Astagfirullah! Come on! The duniya (world) is not a place to have fun!

Too bad the Prophet had fun. He used to engage in racing with his wives (sometimes he even let Aisha - a woman - win! *gasp*) [2], and he even carried Umama, his grand-daughter (Zainab's daughter), while praying.

WHILE PRAYING! *double gasp*. He used to put her down gently when he prostrated [3]. We would NEVER let a child interfere with us when we pray, eh? Guess we think we are more pious than him.

Yep. No fun please, we are Muslims.

* * *

You treat Islam seriously. After all, religion is not supposed to be easy, right? I mean, never mind that verse in Surah Taha where Allah is saying "We have not sent down the Qur'an to you to be (an occasion) for your distress" [4] - who cares about that! If it's easy it cannot be pious, we all know if you are truly Islamic you will do it the hard way! In fact, when the going gets tough, you know you are in the right path!

The above is actually the tag and title of a blog that encourages women who are pregnant, to fast. Even if it's a 18 hour fast (like in North America).

Too bad the Prophet recommended the easy way for us. Especially about pregnant women and fasting (a definite no-no) [6]. But come on! We are more pious than that! As the author asks, "Yes, why should I not fast whilst pregnant?" It's all about priorities. Yes, sure the Quran and Hadith may exempt you, but ... Allah will give you strength! Even if, you know, you are disobeying Him and His Prophet!

When Umar told the Prophet after the conquest of Mecca that prayers no longer need be shortened, as there was no more a fear of attack, the Prophet replied, "This is a charity that Allah, the Exalted, has bestowed upon you, so accept His charity!"

And in another place, *gasp* the Prophet even told his Companions, "So be moderate in your religious deeds and do what is within your ability."[5]

But we are more pious than that, are we not?

* * *

Meanwhile, we Muslims have to defend the honour of the Prophet (by behaving dishonourably?). And the honour of ALL Prophets. So someone named a teddy bear after Muhammad (peace be upon him)? Off with her head!

Too bad Muhammad's own wife Aisha used to do the same thing.

And music! Astagfirullah! Isn't there a hadith that says "the love of Quran and the love of music cannot co-exist in the same heart"? Oh wait, there isn't? *surprise* Oh, it's just a quote by some guy named Ibn Masud. Oh well, it's good enough for us. No music at our weddings!

After all, it's only the Prophet's most beloved wife Aisha who narrated that when a woman was married to an Ansari man, the Prophet (peace be on him) said, "Aishah, did they have any entertainment? The Ansar are fond of entertainment." [7]

Once, according to Ibn Abbas, Aisha gave a girl relative of hers in marriage to a man of the Ansar. The Prophet came and asked, "Did you send a singer along with her?"

"No," said 'Aishah. The Messenger of Allah (peace be on him) then said, "The Ansar are a people who love poetry. You should have sent along someone who would sing, 'Here we come, to you we come, greet us as we greet you.'"[8]

But come on now, we are for sure more pious than that! In the name of Islam we will segregate our women and put them behind that curtain. I ask you, did the Prophet allow women to be present in the mosques?

He did? Um... um, ignore that. Times are different now. No longer can we obey the Prophet's sunnah in accepting an invitation to a Jewish lady's house for dinner (you know, without wondering if the cow was facing Mecca when it was slaughtered).

We are way, way more pious now.

1. Abu Dawud and Tirmidhi
2. Ahmad
3. Bukhari
4. Quran 20:2
5. Bukhari, Volume 7, Hadith 577
6. Abu Dawud, 2408; al-Tirmidhi, 715; al-Nasa’i, 2315; and Ibn Majah, 1667
7. Bukhari
8. Ibn Majah

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What did the Android say to the iPhone?

Note: If you don't follow Bollywood, or do not understand Hindi/Urdu, this post is not for you. I apologize.

So, I have an Android, my sister-in-law has an iPhone. Sometime back, I read a joke online, thought it would be a great joke to pass on to her (she follows Bollywood!) and therefore sms-ed her.

What I sms-ed:
What did the mutter say to the paneer?

Tu CHEESE Badi Hai Mast Mast!!

What my sister-in-law received:
Tu CHEESE Badi Hai Mast Mast!!

Needless to say, she was a puzzled girl, and thank goodness it was all clarified as soon as possible, otherwise it would just not have remained an Android vs. iPhone issue!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ramadan Iftar Foods

Ramadan is a time when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, when they break their fast in a meal known as the iftar. This is a time for family and friends, when we visit each other for iftar parties and worship. Here are some of the foods I have eaten for iftar this month.

A fast is usually broken with dates, as per tradition of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

Some sweet drink usually follows, to give you the energy boost you need after a whole day of fasting. In Bengali circles, these drinks are usually mangoe lassi, or some type of sherbet or fruit cocktail. Just because Muslims can't drink does not mean we can't mix drinks!

Porota - shown below - a flat bread-type pancake that is the breakfast of champions in South Asia. However, since it's South Asia, you can't NOT have some unhealthy but extremely delicious snacks!

Above is what we call "shingara" - a type of samosa, but bigger, and below is a dish we call "Beguni" - Egg plant coated in batter and then fried.

The iftar spread at my parents' place

The kids love the spring rolls and noodles are making a big comeback at iftar parties. Gotta love noodles.

Potluck iftar at a friend's place

In South Asia, there's enough time between iftar and Isha (night) prayers, and Isha is quite early in the night (7-9 pm) so one can have dinner later, which is a separate meal by itself. In Canada, due to our compressed timings and longer days, iftar and dinner is usually combined in one meal.

Dinner spread at said friend's place

Salad for the girls

Of course, after a long day of fasting, you want some meat. Above is chicken tandoori, while shown below is a curry chicken breast dish.

Of course dessert has to be taken care of at parties, after meals. Usually people go pray Taraweeh (night prayers) and return, depending on the time.

Mango Lassi and Rooh Afza drinks

Any Bengali party will have sweets

Fruits, usually used to make a dish called 'Fruit Chaat'

Sunday, July 24, 2011

MuslimFest 2011

On Saturday, we headed to Celebration Square, Mississauga for MuslimFest, 2011.

There were various activities throughout the day, but there were two main highlights of the day.

First up ... as the trailer promised, there were camels.

Second, but before we could get to that, it started to rain. And boy, did it come pouring down!

However, the star of the evening, Pakistan's famous Junaid Jamshed, wasn't going to let a little thing like a torrential downpour stop him. Though his popstar days were behind him, the nasheed singer knew how to work the crowd.

Soon, people were singing to "Dil dil Pakistan" with him in the rain.

The rain stopped, and the sun then started to shine brightly on the crowd, which Junaid regaled with stories of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), interspersed with hamds and nasheeds in his praise.

It was great to see a lot of volunteers at this venue, helping run and coordinate a smooth event for the 10,000+ attendees over both days.

Other than the performances (such as comedy, free movies) and attractions (such as Reptile Exhibition), there's also the famous bazaar scene.

Over all, it's a great event, and best of all, this year it was FREE.

So next time you are in town during this time, do check out MuslimFest.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Visit to the Toronto Zoo

The Toronto Zoo is a world class zoo located in the Scarborough area of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. At 710 acres, the zoo (one of the largest in North America) is currently home to over 16,000 animals.

As you can see, admission is not cheap. A family of four can easily spend more than $100 (including parking) for a day's visit.

Here's a tip: the zoo is really, really big. And it involves a lot of walking from one area to another. Therefore, start early, preferably when the zoo opens (after all, morning's the best for photographs). We decided to follow the suggested trail, which leads one through all the different areas of the zoo, starting with the Australasian section.

A tree kangaroo

I was really surprised by the huge diversity of animals that were there in the zoo. From the fishes of the Great Barrier Reef ...

... to the jellyfish from deep in the Pacific Ocean ...

... to the ostriches from the African savannah ...

... the zoo had them all.

Here's another tip: check the feeding times of the animals from the zoo's website. Visiting an animal enclosure during feeding time allows one to see them in full activity, especially on really hot days when all they want to do is sleep.

Clearly the wrist band policy was in effect

Not a sight you want to see if you are just out for a stroll in the jungle

Er ... hi?

At an exhibit - can you spot the creature?

One exhibit I found surprising was "African Penguins" - I did not even know they had penguins in Africa!

The original cast of the 3 Idiots

It was a really hot day, and this bird was cooling off.

Here's another tip: do NOT visit the zoo on a hot day! It was 40 degrees yesterday with humid-ex, and most of the animals were lazing in the water rather than running around being active. I felt really sorry for the polar bear.

Can you read the Hindi script?

The giraffes were at ease with the heat - perhaps it reminded them of home.

The tiger was as majestic as promised (and we will ignore the fact that this was the Sumatran tiger, the Bengal tiger was fast asleep!).

Over all, on a nice cool day, if you have the whole day to spare, visit the Toronto Zoo. It's a bit pricey, but a full day's educational and fun activity rolled into one. You will be surprised at the huge number of animals they have there from all over the world, and for the shutterbug it's a time well spent.