Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan for the third year in a row, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author email alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
On our flight over to Houston yesterday, Priya, Madina and I ended up sitting next to a woman who was expecting her first child. I ended up in the middle seat as the two discussed things only an expecting mother could discuss with a mother. At one point we asked if she knew what she was having and she said, "A boy thankfully. I am so relieved." As she went on to explain why, she said having a girl would be a lot more work, especially as the girl got older and into her teens. There would be more rules and different tensions, while with a boy, you can just let them do whatever they want and not worry about it.
It was slightly comforting -- but only slightly -- to see that the pervasive "boys will be boys" mindset that lets boys get away with anything while girls are treated totally differently exists beyond the Muslim community. In reality, though, it's quite problematic. Undeniably we raise our daughters differently from our sons. At times we even raise our daughters as if they were sons. Unfortunately, we lack the wisdom and strength to raise our sons the way we raise our daughters, and what we are left with is many young men who don't know how to be men.
The issue that escapes us is how it's unfair to young boys and men that we don't expect more from them. Automatically our tone and tenor changes to denial or outright refusal when this issue is raised, the result of which is a cycle that perpetuates itself of young men not knowing how to reach their potential or being creative in their own sense of aspiration. Instead, they end up being quite immature, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and lagging behind in their personal emergence of adulthood, especially when compared to their female counterparts.
As a young man myself, I personally don't think that's fair to me. I wish I had more direction and mentorship growing up. I had the blessing of being surrounded by great friends, a father who was generous and hard-working, an older brother that I tried to be like in every way possible, but at the end of the day didn't really have anyone setting me straight on how the world worked and what I was really supposed to be offering to it as a young man. No one taught me about real character, integrity, honor, fidelity or discipline. I didn't have conversations on relationships, how to treat women, or sex and sexuality. My intellect and sense of personal responsibility wer not compelled beyond anything that I compelled them towards. And the worst part was, I didn't even realize it. I was content hanging out until late hours, getting away with things that I knew I wasn't supposed to do but didn't know why not, playing video games and working out, not reading, not writing, and not being informed of the world around me and everything that was taking place in it. I didn't know any better and no one helped me to think otherwise. How is that fair to me?
My female students, community members, friends and relatives are usually steps ahead of their male counterparts. I see such raw potential in the young men who I am blessed to interact with, but their process of socialization and upbringing has been their biggest obstacle in realizing what they can actually be. The ones that usually distinguish themselves are those whose mothers played a key role in their upbringing.
If you are a young man, take steps towards really benefiting from the freedoms you've been afforded. Seek out mentorship and friends that will help you to reach your best. Take the time to step away from what everyone else does and figure out what you think makes the most sense to be doing with your time. Just because the world you live in lets you get away with most thing doesn't make it okay. Anyone can at the end of the day get a girl to go out with them. Anyone can be popular and athletic. Anyone can tell crude jokes or be tough and make fun of those that are weaker than they are. Not everyone steps up to responsibility, though, when the time comes. Not everyone takes on challenges instead of running away from them. Not everyone knows how to honor the rights of those around them. Not everyone knows how to admit they make mistakes and then do right by them. Not everyone knows how to have confidence in themselves and what they have to offer to the world. But at the end of the day anyone can be a boy, not everyone knows how to be a man. If it is in fact, a "Man's World," then at least let's fill it with better men.
While I break my fast with with friends and family, the men and women of Guantanamo will have their fast purposely broken far away from any family -- some being detained now for almost a decade.
The month of Ramadan consists of 30 days of fasting. Each of those days serves uniquely as a potential source of benefit, and none should be undermined in its respective value.
Built into our tradition is a prayer the purpose of which is to help us make decisions through turning to God. The number of people who I have seen who try it and don't really know how it works is quite large.
What's important to realize about Malala is that she isn't standing up just for her own rights, but for the right of others. And even after she was given accommodations for herself, she continues to speak for those who aren't able to have their voices heard.
Ask yourself honestly, when was the last time you reached out to a person that you hadn't seen in a few days or weeks or even last Ramadan but not this one? When we fail to check in on or include each other, we are potentially hurting one another more than we realize.
There is a sense of achievement that should stem from completing a day's fast during the intense heat and long hours of the Summer, but the process and challenge of the fast can yield much more than that.
Everyone knows that giving is good and the helping people out is good, but we rarely emphasize what the etiquette around that might be and how to do it well. Many of us give, but not many of us give to the best of our ability.
It's unfair to young boys and men that we don't expect more from them. They end up being quite immature, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, and lagging behind in their personal emergence of adulthood, especially when compared to their female counterparts.
Abdel Rahim just wants a blanket for his daughter-in-law - let's give him and the rest of people of Syria that and much more.
Being sad is one of the hardest things to deal with. Since Ramadan I've felt sad at various times. I don't think being sad is necessarily an indication of one's faith, especially not a weakness of it.
Not all of us are meant to be the one that leads the prayer or gives the sermon, but are goodness is not associated necessarily with positions or titles like that. Our sense of character is what will open doors for us in our growth.
An expert in any arena started out as a novice, and you and I in our paths towards reaching our full potential are no different. Our respective journeys towards a mastery of our skills and acquisition of our credentials, degrees, licenses, and titles starts always with a step one.
Many of us tend to give more during Ramadan. Be smart about your giving. Look to support those who have sensible ideas, are visionary in their scope, and have the skills to get done what they are telling you they want to do.
Throughout the Qur'an we find verse after verse that tells us to be kind to orphans and to treat with affection, care and dignity. We should all take a moment to reflect on what is keeping us from being of better assistance to those children who have no parents or families.
I am an advocate for creating new spaces in the Muslim community. Spaces that cater to the silent majority and are built off of a model with multiple entry points. Spaces that are not reactive to the existing apparatus, but are well-thought out and proactively built.
At times we don't realize how hard our hearts have become. The pursuit of complacency becomes our goal rather than the pursuit of contentment and we sacrifice things that would bring us everlasting comfort in pursuit of those things that simply give us the facade of comfort.
Huma Abedin is more than just her Islam. The extremely reductionist approach that many journalists and media outlets have comfortably taken when dealing with Islam and Muslims is getting pretty ridiculous at this point.
Instead of waiting until you get married to figure out what marriage means to you, start the conversation now. From other relationships in your life, understand yourself and what makes sense for you.
If you are blessed to be a father, don't let any of it pass you by. Start as soon as you find out you are expecting.
In these last few days of Ramadan, reflect deeply on what you really need and how you can play a role in encouraging a better mindfulness of our treatment of rest of creation.
We have something unique alhamdulillah and it's important for us to grow it. The credentials, resources, and personalities that we find within our community uniquely position us to do a lot. We are poised to build many of the institutions and organizations that our community is in need of.
What's more remarkable to me is that most of those who gave will probably never meet those who they gave to. The motivation wasn't because of kinship rooted in socially constructed value, shared culture or common heritage.
In these last nights of Ramadan, gatherings unlike any other time of the year are taking place. Men and women from all walks of life remove from themselves the shackles of the material and for a moment seek to feed only their spirits.
In a few days Ramadan will be over. It'll be tougher to fast, but you should still fast. It will be harder to eat and pray together with friends, but you still should. It will be more difficult to give to those in need, but your giving should never stop.
Four different women I met during Ramadan asked me to pray for them and to ask others as well. In these last hours of Ramadan, I would ask that you all join me and keep them in your thoughts and prayers as well.
For those celebrating the Eid ul-Fitr holiday, Eid Mubarak. May your day be blessed and full of joy. For those not celebrating, may your day be blessed moreso. It doesn't have to be a holiday to feel uplifted. We don't need always need reasons to be happy, as we usually do to be sad.
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