Tag Archives: Canadian Muslims

Interview- In Search of Muslims to Tell Their Stories (Globe and Mail Story- Feb. 2010)

By Amira Elghawaby

Aminata Diallo, the fictional protagonist in Lawrence Hill’s bestselling novel The Book of Negroes, realizes early on that she had better cling to the details of her bondage so that she can later recount what she endures. “See, and remember,” she tells herself as her painful journey into slavery begins.

Years later, she fulfills her vision, becoming a djeji, or storyteller, sharing details of her life with people of myriad backgrounds and persuasions. Her story humanizes her to those who would otherwise view her as either a threat or a victim. Continue reading

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Interview- Tradition or Science: Muslims Debate Official Start of Ramadan (Metro Story- Aug. 2009)

Published on August 20, 2009

It is known as the pre-Ramadan headache. But, for Muslims in Toronto, the ailment has nothing to do with anxiety around fasting from sunrise to sunset in the coming days.

Instead, it is caused by confusion that every year precedes the month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection.

Simply trying to answer the question: When does the month officially start?

“It’s a not an easy question to answer,” said Taha Ghayyur, the coordinator of the Muslim information portal Torontomuslims .com, which attempts to sort out the messy details for community members on its website.

“This year it is pretty much between Friday or Saturday … and for some in Toronto, it could also be Sunday,” he said.

Traditionally, Muslims in Toronto have literally looked to the skies on the eve of Ramadan — the month the Quran was revealed — for signs of the new moon to determine when the holy month begins. A second group, mostly from the Arab world, used global moon sighting, and start fasting when Muslims in Saudi Arabia do.

But in recent years, scholars in North America introduced a new idea to use scientific astronomical calculations to predetermine the first day of Ramadan. When introduced in 2006 by the Fiqh Council of North America, an organization that makes legal opinions on Islam, it was meant to unify the community.
Instead, it ended up doing the opposite.

“It has added to the confusion,” said Ghayyur. “Since most people see all three as Islamically correct, now people have too many options in a way.”

Many in the community say within the issue of moon sighting is a deeper debate. A debate between the those trying to find ways to modernize Islamic traditions within the bounds of Islam, and those struggling to hold fast on to tradition.

Original Story Published on Metro News
Copyright Free Daily News Group Inc.

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Interview- Pray Now or Pray Later (Toronto Star Story- Aug. 2009)

Muslim communities across the GTA are preparing to start the holy month of fasting and prayer. But is it tomorrow, Saturday or Sunday? Well-meaning strides in science have only deepened the gulf between theories on when the lunar month truly begins.

Published On Thu Aug 20 2009
Noor Javed, Staff Reporter

It is known as the pre-Ramadan headache. But for Muslims in Toronto, the ailment has nothing to do with anxiety around fasting from sunrise to sunset in the coming days.

Instead, it is caused by confusion that every year precedes the month of fasting, prayer and self-reflection, which starts this weekend.

It’s from simply trying to answer the question: When does the month officially start?

“It’s a not an easy question to answer,” said Taha Ghayyur, coordinator of the Muslim information portal Torontomuslims.com, which attempts to sort out the details for the community.

“This year, it is pretty much between Friday or Saturday … and for some in Toronto, it could also be Sunday,” he said.

Traditionally, some Muslims in Toronto have literally looked to the skies on the eve of Ramadan – the month the Qur’an was revealed – for signs of the new moon to determine when the holy month begins.

Another group, mostly from the Arab world, used global moon sighting, and start fasting at the same time as Muslims in Saudi Arabia.

But in recent years, scholars in North America introduced a new idea to use scientific astronomical calculations to predetermine the first day of Ramadan. When introduced in 2006 by the Fiqh Council of North America, an organization that forms legal opinions on Islam, it was meant to unify the community.

It ended up doing the opposite.

“It has added to the confusion,” said Ghayyur. “Since most people see all three as Islamically correct, now people have too many options in a way.”

Many in the community say that within the issue of moon sighting is a deeper debate, one between those trying to find ways to modernize Islamic traditions within the bounds of Islam, and those struggling to hold fast to tradition.

The Islamic calendar follows the lunar cycle over a period of 12 months, with each month lasting 29 or 30 days. The length of the month can only be determined when the new moon is born, and according to some, when it is first seen, or when science determines it has appeared.

In 2006, the Fiqh Council and numerous scholars decided that scientific calculations were an Islamically valid method of predicting a moon sighting.

The decision was made with the hope that predetermining the day for Ramadan and for Eid, the holiday marking the end of the month, would make it easier for Muslims to plan ahead, and eventually use the consensus to leverage governments for a statutory holiday.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way.

“I think people have just agreed to disagree,” said Ahmed Kutty, the imam at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, which follows the Fiqh Council decision.

The group calculated weeks ago that Ramadan will begin Saturday.

The strides toward science sparked outrage from groups who felt this new, scientific method was challenging a tradition that had been around for more than 1,400 years.

“We follow the tradition of the Prophet in that we sight the moon to declare the first of the month, this is the way it has always been done,” said Yunus Pandor, a coordinator with the Hilal Committee of Metropolitan Toronto and Vicinity.

The group, made up of more than 75 local mosques, both Sunni and Shia, will gather tomorrow night at a local mosque to determine whether the first day of Ramadan is Saturday or Sunday.

They will look for the moon locally, and also get reports of moon sighting from the local boundaries, stretching west to Chicago, and south to the Caribbean.

Pandor said tomorrow’s local forecast is cloudy.

The group doesn’t completely discount astronomical calculations either, he said. “We use astronomical calculation as a support, but not as a means, to decide.

“We have to see the moon.”

Acceptance of the new method came only after years of internal debates, arguments and theological discussions.

For some, it has even meant division within their family.

“One year, my parents and I started fasting on different days,” said Mississauga resident Yaseen Poonah. “But I realized that it wasn’t the same enjoyment in the month.”

That is how most people end up deciding, said Poonah. They either seek consensus with their family or friends, or go with what their local mosque is doing.

Or they just hope that despite the differing opinions, Ramadan still ends up starting on the same day.

“There is always a chance that the moon will be seen Friday,” said Poonah. “That way almost everyone will start Saturday.”

Original Story Publish on TorontoStar.com
© Copyright Toronto Star

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Interview with a ProductiveMuslim: Br. Taha Ghayyur

Dear Friends and Readers,

I was humbled and honoured to be requested for an interview by ProductiveMuslim.com, which is a great web resource for any Muslim who wants to change their life for the better.

ProductiveMuslim.com

Please listen to this audio interview, share your constructive feedback with me.

Take care
wassalam

Taha Ghayyur
tahag @ rogers.com

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Dale Marcell’s Departure: A Great Loss to the Muslim Art Community

Taha Ghayyur (a MuslimFest Organizer & Sound Vision Director)
Dec. 12, 2008

I write this tribute with a heavy heart.

I can recall his sparkling smile and extraordinary energy in lifting people’s spirits.

He was a performing artist of remarkable calibre. He was the leader of the Fletcher Valve Drummers, who were first introduced to the Muslim community at MuslimFest 2004, in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.

The meaning of his Muslim name, Jamaluddin (“Beauty of the Deen”), did not only reflect in the beauty of his personality, but also in the beautiful art he so passionately shared with the world.

Dale Marcell at MuslimFest 2007

Dale Marcell at MuslimFest 2007

Brother Dale (Jamaluddin) Marcell, who embraced Islam about 3 years ago, passed away at his home in Kitchener, ON, on December 11th, 2008. He was in his mid-50’s.  

Inna Lillahi wa Inna Ilayhi Rajioon (To God we belong and to Him we return). May Allah erase his past mistakes and give him the glad tidings of Paradise, Ameen.

Many of us could recall his public declaration of Shahada (acceptance of Islam) at MuslimFest 2005 as he shared the stage with his drumming companions and Dawud Wharnsby: “I love Islam and I love Muslims!”.

Born and raised on a farm on the St. Lawrence in Iroquois, Ontario, Dale Marcell, who was of Aboriginal descent, always had a special interest in the use of drumming in Aboriginal cultures for emotional and spiritual healing.

The layers of rhythm and energetic percussions of the Fletcher Valve Drummers brought a new dimension to the live Nasheed / Musical stage in the Muslim community.

Dale and his group were the all-time favourites at MuslimFest in Canada and at several major events in the UK, as they shared the stage with renowned Muslim performers, including Dawud Wharnsby Ali, Native Deen, 786, and Ashiqe Rasul.

You may watch two of his live performaces at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F3GKx-IDW6Q

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y8KWexu1pKg 

Hundreds of attendees have been enchanted by and have learned from their drumming circles, drumming workshops, and live concert performances.

His first and only album after he embraced Islam, “A Different Drum”, was produced by Sound Vision. In this album, Dawud Wharnsby Ali joined forces with the Fletcher Valve Drummers for a unique and totally new style of Islamic songs.

Although Dale was at times disillusioned by the growing pains of the Muslim entertainment industry and was disappointed by the lack of appreciation of his art in the Muslim community, he always remained optimistic and focused on his service and talent.

The most inspiring aspect of his work was not known to many in the Muslim community. Dale had a ceaseless schedule of drumming circles and workshops in prisons, seniors homes, and shelters for battered women as well as programs for kids with physical and cognitive disabilities in public schools.

Dale Leading a Drumming Circle

Dale Leading a Drumming Circle

He loved raising the spirits of people who had lost hope. He had his ways of relating to the lonely and less fortunate with his positive spirit that often baffled qualified social workers in the GTA. He had a unique way of doing Dawa to such people.

I remember seeing him in tears once as he narrated his experience with a senior who had not smiled for ten years until he got him to beat the drums.

Several disabled persons began to regain their mobility as they joined these therapeutic drumming circles. Dale’s spirit of love breathed a new life and hope in so many.

He described his mission in a Maclean’s Magazine interview, “I think of myself as a drumming guide — helping people remember the beat they were born with.”

As Dale’s beloved wife Chris and his two dear children, Nate and Kattie, deal with this tragedy, let us make a sincere Dua (prayers) for him, his soul, and his family.

He was always happy about his family’s support for his practice of Islam. 

It’s obvious, despite all the raving fans who surrounded him at the Muslim events, Dale himself was a strong lonely Muslim. Perhaps the Muslim community could have done more to assist him in his difficult times.

May Allah bless Br. Jamaluddin with the highest rank in Jannah (Paradise), Ameen.

May Allah truly reward him for his social work and for lifting the spirits of people around him, Ameen.

May Allah give his family members fortitude to endure this loss, Ameen.

May Allah inspire a new generation of talented Muslim artists and percussionists like Dale to beautify our gatherings and touch the lives of people, Ameen.

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