Islamic New Year 2014 | The Prophet and Kaaba

dubai 2014 new years eve fireworks, photo by robin appleby

dubai 2014 new years eve fireworks, photo by robin appleby

DUBAI, This year, the new Islamic New Year fell on October 24. The date will mark the anniversary of the Prophet Muhammad's journey from Mecca to Medina in year 622. He led his followers over 200 miles across barren desert to escape persecution. At the time, Mecca was a polytheistic city which was viewed by many different religions as a holy center.

The frequent migrations of these many religious practitioners was to visit the Kaaba, which is a sacred stone structure that was once used to house effigies of gods and goddesses and its presence subsequently changed the city into a prosperous trade center.

When the Prophet insisted that there was only one God people were quite resistant to this credence. At that time theKaaba wasfilled with false idols and, furthermore, in the terms of all the Abrahamic religions it is required that a percentage of one's income (if possible) be given to charity. People worried that this new religious edict would harm the economy as well as their pockets.

As the Prophet Muhammad started his life as a merchant and didn't turn to religion until he was in his 30s -- people questioned both his authority to preach and his sincerity in proselytizing these new values. Consequently, he was threatened and began to fear for his life. The Prophet had heard that the city of Medina would be a sanctuary for the new followers of Islam and thus moved to there.  The first groundswell of converts to Islam were rapidly growing, and thus he found Mecca to be more welcoming.

The year of this journey, called the Hijra marked the beginning of the Islamic calendar. While the Prophet's birth and the founding of the Islamic religion are important, it was decided that the show of devotion in the face of adversary that a more powerful symbol representative of Islamic value should be adopted as the first of the calendar year.

Eventually it became safe for the Prophet Muhammad to return to Mecca. This pilgrimage, called the hajj, became required for all Muslims to make at least once in their lifetime during the 12th month of the Islamic calendar.  However, exceptions are made for those unable to travel. As well as being a personal journey, it is also a way to encourage solidarity amongst Muslims and people from all over the world from all backgrounds came and continue to gather together to give allegiance to Allah.

The Muslim calendar is on a lunar cycle versus the Gregorian calendar used by much of the West. Thus, the start of a month is marked by the first sighting of a crescent moon, and each new day begins at sundown on the previous, versus a new day starting at sun up in the West. Because the 12-months of the calendar differ in length from the more widely used Gregorian calendar, Islamic dates and holidays vary in comparison from year-to-year.

The New Year is recognized in relatively quiet way, with prayers and reflections, but as with the other major religions and in honor of their holidays, we wish our Muslim readers Sana sa'eedah!

Ramadan: Airplanes, Athletes, and Reality TV

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ACCRA, Ghana -- Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting and contemplation, began on June 28th.

Until recently, the concept of this religious event was distant to me as there isn't a large Muslim population in my North Carolina home.  However, since coming to work in Accra, the capital and largest city of Ghana, my interactions with Muslim people has increased.

I work next to a lovely Muslim village full of women in brightly colored Hijabs, and have witnessed demonstrations of peaceful coexistence, when in every conference that I attend, the opening prayer is done by a Christian and the closing prayer given by a Muslim.

Under terms of Ramadan, Muslims must fast from sunrise to sunset. This fast means no food and in some cases no water, but it's also a time of restraint for other things, such as personal vices, unkind thoughts, and angry actions.

While I am not partaking of the fast myself, but out of respect me and many non-Muslims choose not to eat in public during Ramadan. Until I restricted my public eating habits, I never realized he availability of food. Vendors in every corner, sales ladies walking through traffic jams balancing baskets of bread or fruit or candy on their heads and selling their wares to people in cars, bicyclers pushing ice-cream carts.... All forbidden during Ramadan.

Even though it clearly requires a great deal of restraint, at least it seems pretty straightforward -- a time of self-sacrifice and re-devotion to Allah, a time to cut out the bad and nurture the good. However, the blessed month can come with some unexpected twists and hurdles.

For instance, while traveling. Technically, the Quran gives a pass to travelers, suggesting they keep up their strength for he journey and make up the missed days later. However, many Muslims continue adhering to as many guidelines as possible.  Timing is important during Ramadan, and a hassle for anyone flying through time zones. There is a time for prayers, a time for fasting, and a time for Suhoor (pre-fasting meal) and Iftar (meal to break the fast.) In places with a heavy Muslim population, there are public announcements or alerts reminding Muslims of the time.

I was caught off guard while watching TV last week when my regularly scheduled programming switched suddenly to play Arabic music and show a passage from the Qur'an. However, those mid-flight have a bit more trouble than those at home watching TV.  Luckily, airlines are usually sympathetic.  Recently, Emirates announced that along with providing traditional Muslim sunrise and sunset meals, with items such as vegetable samosas, dates and baklava, it would also be using a special tool that calculated latitude, longitude and altitude to provide the most accurate possible timing for the ceremonies.

Back on solid ground, athletes may also have problems.  This year, Ramadan coincides with the World Cup, which causes some Muslim players extra difficulties.  On the other hand, the Qur'an does give an exemption to warriors about to go into battle, so perhaps Football is covered in that fine print.  Ramadan's timing may even have affected betting odds on teams, as some suggested teams from Muslim regions might have performance issues.  France, Germany, Belgium, and Algeria all had prominent Muslim players and, in my humble opinion, they all played admirably, fast or no fast.  That may be thanks to a special team of nutritionists FIFA provided to advise the fasting players.

As well as lack of food and hydration fears, disrupted sleep schedules (for nighttime prayers) may result in athletes not being up to par. In the past, some coaches held nighttime practices so the players could be well nourished during practice, so at least the nutrition issue would be solved, if not the disrupted sleep issue. Especially in hotter regions, it isn't uncommon for any Muslim to burn the midnight oil during Ramadan, which unfortunately can lead to an increase in car accidents during the month.

On the other hand, in Brazil sun up to sundown is only 12 hours, so if athletes make sure their sunrise meal is adequate and they start the day hydrated, it shouldn't be a problem.  In the Netherlands, however, Muslims would have to be much hardier, as a day lasts almost 20 hours there this time of year. Australian Muslims have it easiest, with only ten hours of fasting.

Perhaps one of the more bizarre results of the clash of modernity and Ramadan is its recent mingling with Reality TV.  Though not without its share of controversy, as some think the TV personalities don't present the proper air of modesty and good taste representative of the faith.  However, some shows are better than others, and such idiosyncrasies vary from show to show.

For example, one where teens try to recite the longest passage from the Qur'an to win prizes, or shows where gifts of charity are awarded specifically to those less fortunate, to the "ever popular" cooking shows that in this instance, focus on Suhoor and Iftar -- each with the apparent intent of declaring that even the oldest and most sacred traditions can keep pace with changing times.

If you are not partaking in Ramadan, please be considerate to those who are.  Know that employees may need time off and it's not a "holiday" or "vacation" -- it requires dedication, commitment, and adjustment.  Extra attention to charity or one's family life, as well as daily prayers, require a more flexible schedule and understanding colleagues.  If in a Muslim neighborhood or workplace, be discrete in your dress and eating habits. And try to eat an Iftar feast if you get the opportunity.

To our Muslim readers: Ramadan Kareem!

LOVE is........

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Chrycka Harper, Poet & Literary CriticLast Modified: 02:10 a.m. DST, 14 February 2014

What is the Key to my Heart, Photo by Alessio FeciI pray that LOVE is understood by the lover's eternal heart's beloved, no matter the speciality of the lover's craftsmanship.

Everyday, we present to each other locked packages, specialized by their beholders. Mine comes in a medium sized, cold metal box. Gray with swirls of turquoise and lavendar And sugary sprinkles of tangerine; all surrounding the one key hole.

Only a few people in this world have ever touched this box, fewer have gotten the key, and even fewer have understood to use the key to unlock the box to unleash its contents: my LOVE.

Two of those people are my Momma and my little brother- Brown Sugar and my little colored boy.

Brown Sugar! Don't ever lose your flavor. Amateurs always aiming to annihilate your flavorful accent But their heat drives them out of the kitchen... So don't ever leave the kitchen...

And my little colored boy. Hands academically shackled so you can only listen to your muffled potential. Schools teaching you how to type your prison numbers So when do you have the time to draw our freedom?

After the video games... Sleep Eat Repeat... Draw the next best game Draw the sheep that you count Draw the food that starving children should eat Keep going! Your humility and wittiness will carry you.

My routine may not be warm embraces but the contents that surrounded you from the box I presented to you is LOVE

LOVE is the universal, spiritual embrace we all relish in. It is up to the receivers to find the key of understanding: that LOVE also comes in different colors, shapes, and sizes.

I pray that LOVE is understood by the lover's eternal heart's beloved no matter the speciality of the lover's craftsmanship.

P.S. I pray that my audience understands my love for them through this story.

Amen.

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Ethiopian Christmas Jan 7, 2014 | Melkam Gena!

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 20:00 p.m. DST, 04 January 2014

Christianity in PalestineADDIS ABBA, Ethiopia - Towards the end of each year, Jews, Muslims, and Christians begin to prepare for their holiday seasons.

During the last week of November until the beginning of the New Year on the Gregorian calendar, Christian families across the world prepare for cultural, regional, and national holidays that honor the best ideals of who we seek to be as humans.

In America, the end of the year is consumed with activities focused on preparing for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and finally New Year’s Eve, which concludes the annual calendar of major festivals.

Throughout the calendar year, running sometimes in synch, and at other times not close, are the major Muslim and Jewish holidays which are celebrated in accordance with the lunar calendar.

The Ethiopian calendar, also called the Ge'ez calendar, is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and also serves as the liturgical calendar for Christians in Eritrea and Ethiopia belonging to the Orthodox Tewahedo churches, Eastern Catholic Church and Lutheran Orthodox Church.

It is a sidereal calendar based on the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar, which in turn derives from the Egyptian calendar. A seven- to eight-year gap is created by the difference between the calendars results in an alternate calculation of the date of the Annunciation of Jesus. (Source: Wikipedia)

Thus, this year, the Ethiopian Christmas will be celebrated on January 7, 2014 on the Gregorian calendar. The Ethiopian holiday is not known as Christmas, but Lidet. Other names include Gena and Qiddus Bale Wold. As part of the tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus, Ethiopian tradition holds that one of the Wise Men who visited Jesus came from Ethiopia.

Christmas Eve features prominently in Ethiopian celebration, just as it does with all followers of Jesus. One difference is that Ethiopians fast on the day before Christmas, and then at dawn on the morning of Gena, the Ethiopian name for the holiday; people arise and dress in white.

Women wear dresses called Habesha Gemis, while the men complete their attire with a type of shawl called Netela, worn by both men and women. Then the entire family attends the early morning mass that starts at 4.00 a.m and officially commences the days events.

Following the mass, families go home to celebrate the holiday and participate in traditional festivities to break the fast. Similar to the American holiday, the Ethiopian Christmas is filled with happiness, the presence of family, food, and songs. But most of all, it is a time to reflect and thank God for all that He has done for us and will through His beneficent kindness, continue to do for us throughout the coming year.

Melkam Gena!

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President Obama Hosts Ramadan Iftar Dinner

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:22 PM EDT, 10 August 2012

White House Table Setting, Photo by Luigi CrespoTonight President Barak Obama is hosting his fourth Iftar dinner at the White House to honor Muslims celebrating Ramadan. It is a tradition begun under President Bill Clinton and maintained by President George Bush during his eight-year presidency.

The dinner will be presented in the State Dining Room to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar is universally observed by over one billion Muslims who fast from sunup to sundown.

Ramadan is the third "pillar" or religious obligation of Islam. During this holiday adherents learn self-control through fasting which some describe as an emptying of attachments to the physical and thus empowers their spiritual nature to grow closer to God.  In addition to prayer and study, Muslims also engage in giving charity, purifying behavior, and doing good deeds.

According to the White House, the invited guests for the evening “include elected officials, religious and grassroots leaders in the Muslim American community, and leaders of diverse faiths and members of the diplomatic corps.” (Source: CNN)

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Ethiopian Christmas 2012 | Melkam Gena!

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:22 AM EDT, 6 January 2012

ETHIOPIA - At the end of 2011, Jews, Muslims and Christians celebrated major holidays commemorating the end of their religious calendars. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians in the Diaspora celebrate Christmas on the traditional 25th of December. However, all Ethiopians celebrate the holiday on the 7thof January which is the 29th of December on the Ethiopian calendar.

Also known as Liddet, Gena and Qiddus Bale Wold, the holiday actually begins at sundown of the 6th of January with a night long church service. Like Muslims and Jews, the traditional Ethiopian Orthodox Liturgical day always begins at sunrise and ends at sunset of the evening before the calendar date. Lidet is significant from a religious perspective, but does not have the commercial overtones that the festival has in Western countries.

Christmas also signals the end of 40 days of fasting which began on Advent (Sibket, in Amharic) and ends on Christmas Eve with the Feast of Gena. Like Muslims who fast for one month without eating or drinking from sunrise to sundown, Ethiopians also fast, but are allowed to consume vegetarian meals such as lentils, ground split peas, grains, fruit, varieties of vegetable stew accompanied by injera and/or bread. Meat and diary products are only eaten on feasting days i.e. Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and at all other times. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians, Jews and Muslims do not eat pork as it forbidden by their religious beliefs.

The morning of Christmas begins with a spectacular procession. After the mass service, people go home to break the fast by eating chicken, lamb or beef accompanied by Injera and served in beautifully decorated baskets. It is a very festive occasion filled with joy, family, great food and song.  Watch the video below and enjoy!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yu83TJAjfoI]

Happy New Year 2012

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Nahmias Cipher Report: Staff WriterLast Modified: 14:26 PM EDT, 31 December 2011

“One day at a time--this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.”

Bonne Année! Feliz Ano Novo! Feliz año nuevo! 新年快乐! Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku! Boldog új évet! Gelukkig nieuwjaar! La Mulţi Ani! İyi seneler! Gott Nytt År! Buon Anno! Onnellista uutta vuotta! Godt nytt år! Štastný nový rok Sretna Nova godina! Ευτυχισμένος ο καινούργιος χ......ρόνος Godt nytår! Feliĉan novjaron! Srečno novo leto Feliç Any Nou! كل عام وأنتم بخير! Frohes neues Jahr! šťastný nový rok! สวัสดี ปี ใหม่!- नया साल मुबारक हो! yeni yılın kutlu olsun! - שנה טובה! - furahia mwaka mpya! hapus flwyddyn newydd! سال نو مبارک! - あけましておめでとう! с новым годом! hyvää uuttavuotta! срећна нова година! is-sena t-tajba! 새해 복 많이 받으세요!

From all of us at the Nahmias Cipher Report, wishing you increased prosperity, health, peace and happiness in 2012!