Monthly Archives: November 2010

Signs, how do I interpret them?

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by Allyne Ferreira

It’s interesting to know that our whole life there are things we come across or come to know. It’s also interesting to know that signs can be interpreted differently according to each and every person. This means that everyone interprets signs in many different ways. When we pray sometimes we ask God to give us a sign to let us know we’re on the right track or to help us determine an answer to something that has been troubling us. Sometimes I wish that God could just call me up on the phone and say “Ally, this is what it means”. Unfortunately no matter how hard I wish and pray for it God won’t verbally speak to me. BUT he will give me signs to let me know I’m on the right or wrong track. Sometimes they can be the subtlest of signs and then other times they can be completely obvious. When I encountered my first break up I asked God, “Please, prove to me that there are ‘real’ men out there, ones that appreciate a women for who she is and treat her well”. It wasn’t me asking for another boyfriend, I just needed to be re-assured that there were actually some decent guys out there. Within the next month I met a bunch of men, who were “real” men, the type of men that were polite, well spoken, and respectful. I looked up and said “Okay, I get it God… they do exist, thanks for the confirmation.”

Over the course of my life I have communicated with God without even knowing it. My best friend once told me that God thinks about us a bazillion times a day, I mean if someone thinks about you that much I’m sure they feel compelled to speak to you! Since he can’t do it verbally he does it through his actions which are sometimes a stronger type of love than words can ever describe.

I also believe that God knows what we need, he is constantly putting us in situations that he knows are difficult but that will teach us to love, or be understanding, or simply to appreciate life for what it is. How many times do we go through life and certain things will happen that will make us marvel at the fact that they happened? These are signs that God puts in front of us for us to realize the true value of them! When things get hard I always tell myself that they will get better because God wouldn’t want me to suffer for too long. Some people are given hardships in their lives which also teach us to appreciate our own and that means, to me, that God is letting us know that we are NEVER alone. He is always there for us and he provides us with people who are also always there for us through thick and thin. The beauty of life is magnificent and we should appreciate the little signs that God throws our way because it is his subtle way of saying, “I love you”.


Lights

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by Niharika R.Bandaru

As most of you might know, Hindus are what I fancy calling, festival junkies. We love celebration, and our culture is an outstanding reflection of it. Around three weeks ago, we celebrated Diwali- the festival of lights. Now when I was back in India, this was a time when the whole country just lit up. Every city, town and village would indulge in the festivity, since this was a time when we would celebrate the victory of good over evil, unity and the start of the New Year.

“Diwali” or “Deepavali” means a row of lamps, or “diyas”. It marks the return of Lord Rama, his wife Sita and brother Laxmana, to their kingdom after a 14-year exile and a victorious war against the demon king Ravana (I suggest reading the Ramayana, for more on this. I promise you it will be a very entertaining and educating read.). It also marks the killing of another demon Narakasura, by Lord Krishna’s wife. Diwali is also considered to be the beginning of the New Year for some cultures in India, when people pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. It has other significances in Jainism, Sikhism and Buddhism.

It is a time when people come together to bring out the best in themselves and others. When broken families unite, and the boundaries between different religions are forgotten; when children feast on savory treats and every household buzzes with the sound of happiness and festivity.

Owing to the million or so tests and assignments that I had to study and prepare for, Diwali was a very small affair for me this year in Windsor. The festivities I missed out on included a delicious dinner at the temple and a grand fireworks show at the Gurudwara. However, the fact that I got to light a few lamps and have some Diwali treats made my day.

Diwali celebrations include family activities, firecracker bursting among a few; but here are a few facts about Diwali that not a lot of people know*:

1.Diwali is celebrated over a period of four days, and each day has its own                 tale, legend and myth to tell. The first day of the festival marks the vanquishing of                 the demon Naraka by Lord Krishna and his wife. The second marks the worship                   of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. This day also tells the story of Lord Vishnu,                       who in his dwarf incarnation vanquished the tyrant Bali, and banished him to hell.                 Bali was allowed to return to earth once a year, to light millions of lamps to dispel                   the darkness and ignorance, and spread the radiance of love and wisdom. It is on                   the third day that Bali steps out of hell and rules the earth according to the boon                   given by Lord Vishnu. On the fourth day sisters invite their brothers to their                         homes.

2.The illumination of homes with lights and the skies with firecrackers is an expression of respect to the heavens for the attainment of health, wealth,                      knowledge, peace and prosperity. According to one belief, the sounds of fire-                          crackers are an indication of the joy of the people living on earth, making the gods                  aware of their abundant state. Still another possible reason has a more                        scientific basis: the fumes produced by the crackers kill a lot of insects and                        mosquitoes, found in plenty after the rains.

3.The tradition of gambling on Diwali also has a legend behind it. It is believed              that on this day, Goddess Parvati played dice with her husband Lord Shiva, and                    she pronounced that whosoever gambled on Diwali night would prosper                                  throughout the subsequent year.

*Source credits :Diwali- Festival of Lights


Introduction

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by Nadia Esmaeil

I thought it would be a good idea to first introduce myself a bit and share my aims for participating in this particular blog. My name is Nadia and I am a second year international student studying finance at the University of Windsor. My religion is Islam and although I was born and raised as a Muslim I have always been interested in researching other religions to try to understand their concepts and also to compare them with my own religion and see what our differences and similarities are. Being a Muslim international student in this country, I have noticed that Islam is still not well known among the people especially teenage students. It is unfortunate that many of them have just recently heard the word Islam. Also, there are a lot of misconceptions regarding Islam due to lack of resources and inaccurate information .Therefore, I thought this blog would be an opportunity  for me to introduce Islam in the simplest way I can ,trying to resolve the common misconceptions , mentioning and explaining them for the blog readers to better understand the logic behind every rule or concept  in my religion.

As an introduction to Islam, I would like to start with the basics. The word Islam is derived from the Arabic word Salam, which means peace or submission to the will of Allah.

Islam is built on five pillars. These are obligatory for every sane Muslim adult to carry out. Some are done daily, monthly, annually, while one is only required once in a lifetime. These acts include:

1) Witnessing-(Shahaada )which means “I bear witness that there is no God other than Allah, and I bear witness that Muhammad is His messenger”,

2) Prayer- (Muslims should pray at least 5 times a day),

3) Charity-(Obligatory charity giving, is an act of worship and spiritual investment).

4) Fasting – (Obligatory fasting is done once a year for the period of the month of Ramadan),

5) Pilgrimage-(It is obligatory to make the pilgrimage to Mecca if an adult is financially and physically fit only, at least once in a lifetime)

In addition to those pillars the basic principles of Islam are based on the six articles of faith which are:

Belief in the Oneness of Allah (Muslims call God as Allah since Quran; our holy book, is in Arabic and so Allah is the Arabic word for god),

Belief in the Angels of God,

Belief in the Revelations (Books) of God,

Belief in the Prophets of God,

Belief in Resurrection after Death and Day of Judgment,

Belief in Predestination or the Supremacy of Allah’s will.

These are the principles that are expected of all Muslims to understand and apply in their lives.

Being a Muslim has always been misunderstood and mislabeled as someone who is confined to an absolute, strict and difficult to live with set of rules. But these are all misconceptions of those who are looking from the outside, a mere observer who has never experienced nor understood what Islam is all about.

I hope I was able to help you as a reader to understand some basic facts about Islam and enjoyed reading my first blog. My aim as mentioned earlier is to introduce, resolve misconceptions with evidence from the holy book or Muslims scholars as well as telling you my experiences with my religion and how it has helped me reach where I am at present.

Why God, Why?

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by Joshua Cadieux

Some people believe that everything happens for a reason. Some people believe that God controls everything and “Gods’ will be done”.  I stand somewhere on a crossroad between the two; I want to believe that there is a God, but sometimes it is hard.

When I was in the 10th grade I had a friend named Ryan. Ryan was a year older than I was but he live in my neighbourhood and he was in my drama class. By no means was he my best friend but we were more than just acquaintances. One day Ryan asked me if I wanted a ride home from school, he had a car and I took the bus. I was excited to not have to sit on the hot bus and walk from my stop to my house. I said yes. Near the end of the day I saw my best friend Cody, Ryan also asked him if he wanted a ride. We were excited about not taking the bus but when we got to the car there was only room for one person. So being best friends we took the bus together.

This is where my test of God begins.

We were driving down the expressway on our way home and traffic was moving slower than usual. We could see a car accident up ahead, and at first we thought nothing of it. As we moved closer we could see that is was Ryan’s car. The car was a wreck and one of our friends had been thrown from the car, but he looked to be alive. One of our friends on the bus got a text message while we were beside the scene and it said that the driver of the car was dead. The driver was Ryan.

How could God take the life of someone who is so young? If there were a God why would he be so greedy? Did God make me stay out of that car so I would remain alive? Or was it a coincidence? These are the problems we face every day. We are tested in our beliefs and sometimes it is very hard to find a reason to believe. It is in these times where we need our faith the most. But is God just something that is made up so we don’t lose our minds at times like these. I guess when my time on earth is done; I will finally know the truth.


“My mind is open wide, and now I’m ready to start.”

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by Alex Petric

My name is Alex, and I was a strange kid. Some people think I’m still strange now (and they’re probably right), but I know I was definitely a strange kid.  Most kids just want to have fun and play outside. They don’t spend New Year’s Eve, 1999, wondering whether we’re all going to die, and how God could let bad things happen to good people (and at the tender age of 8, no less).

Religion, God, and spirituality always seemed to fascinate me. I was born into a practicing Catholic family, and, perhaps not wanting to upset my parents, began practicing Catholicism from a rather young age. I went to church with my parents and prayed before meals, and at school I was the only child (or one of the few) who seemed to do that. At school, it would, at times, be something that separated me from others, who seemed to feel that I knew too much or cared too much about religion.

High school and its impending social awkwardness came soon enough, and I began to question how I really felt about religion. Did God really exist? Was I following the wrong religion? I made friends with a variety of people, from atheists to Protestants to Muslims to Hindus to Catholics (both practicing and non-practicing), who, one way or another, expanded my own knowledge. Whereas I entered high school thinking that Christianity was the only right viewpoint and that others should not even be considered, this idea became less and less believable as time went on and I learned more about life.

University kicked this process into overdrive, as I saw the world as it really was. So far (being in my 2nd year), it’s been an almost unbelievable learning experience. I have met people from all across the world and from many different backgrounds, each with their own viewpoint. Every person I meet and every experience I go through offers a new lesson to me; a new piece of knowledge for me to draw from.

University has also been a time for me to discover who I really am, and who I want to be. Each day forms a continuous quest to grow closer to God, and closer to where I want to be. Having met others who share my faith has also helped me, as I have learned from their experience what has helped them increase their own devotion. Hopefully, this small part of my life, writing for this blog and reading the entries of others, will also reveal new truths to me about the mysteries of life.


My Islam

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by Sarah Mushtaq

Take a second and think about this: When the world ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslim’ is mentioned, what comes to your mind? Images of men with beards threatening to blow up the West? Some kind of wild fanatics?

Or one of your best friends? A student in your class? A contributing member of Canadian society?

My name is Sarah and I was born and raised a Muslim. I’m in second year Arts and Science here at UWindsor. I’ve lived in the West (namely Canada and US) my whole life. Contrary to popular belief, as a young woman, I love being Muslim.

For me, my religion has been an integral part of my life. My parents moved to the States to give us better opportunities educationally – which included religious education. Leaving our religion was not part of the equation – increasing in our good deeds was, which was done by being a productive member of society.

Islam has many similarities to other religions. I always felt people made Muslims look like they were some kind of aliens, practicing this crazy religion which had no place in the 21st century. I feel it definitely is one of the most misunderstood religions.

To understand Islam, one must understand what it is about. Islam based on a simple principle: There is no deity worthy of worship except Allah* and Muhammad is His final Messenger. That simple sentence is our declaration of faith. The whole religion is based simply on that.

With that being said, Islam shares its Prophets (and history) with Christianity and Judaism:  Jesus, Moses, Abraham, Adam, and many others. We worship God. We have similar commandments (the 10 Commandments carry over!). In this time when the media has us focusing on our differences, turning to our similarities gives comfort and ways to a great relationship.

I’m truly honored to be a part of this project because I believe students at university are the most prone to new ideas and actually asking about something they don’t understand. Religion, in general, gets a bad rap and I hope through this blog, we can appreciate each other’s differences and work towards an understanding society.

*Allah is Arabic for God and it is the same word used by Arab Christians as well


Connections

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by Justin Teeuwen

After a great deal of soul-searching, I felt I had developed a great relationship between myself and who I understand God to be.  What I yearned for, however was a connection with others – with whom could I share my relationship?  This was over a year ago, and at the time, I was busy finishing school.  Once I completed my degree however, I set about seeking an answer to this question.  Here’s where I’m at so far:

When we are excited about a relationship with someone new, we want to talk about it: with our friends, family, strangers – anyone who would hear really.  When we’re stressed, though some of us may be more private about it than others, we are eager to share the woes of our relationship with another human being.  Come to think of it, when we’re confused, stressed, joyous, or feel that there is a barrier between ourselves and someone we are close to, we turn to someone to talk our problems through.

So I sat there, feeling that I had this growing, excellent relationship with the Divine but had noone with whom I felt I could share my thoughts.  I turned to friends, or religious leaders, or books for answers to my questions, but felt that I had no consistent community whereby I could discuss God.  Specifically, I felt that I had noone who shared my ideas and beliefs on a level enough that a free-flowing discussion could happen.

Specifically, I yearned to find a way to celebrate, grow in, develop, and share my faith.  It turns out I have been contemplating this for years – even before I felt disconnected from Catholicism.

I was in a discussion with a few priests who live near where I am for the past few months, and one question kept coming to mind – “If I were to develop my own way of worship, my own method, what would it be?”  I did not have an answer.  Not even the formation of an answer – I didn’t know what I wanted.  I just knew I wanted a connection.

In the style of one of my idols, Gandhi, I set about looking first at where I came from – Catholicism.  It turns out, the purpose of church is exactly to accomplish all of the goals I had been missing.  So why then, was church not working for me?

This discussion grew to include other youths, who were also interested in a connection.  We set about investigating the construction of weekly mass celebrations, what we could change, what we couldn’t – essentially, what made church, Church?  The answers we found were surprising.  A great deal of flexibility existed within the construction of the ritual.  The rituals that existed were designed to serve very specific purposes also.

Last night was our test-run.  A Teaching Mass for the congregation was delivered – the first of its kind.  Our goals were simple: teach people what mass is about, and try to develop a stronger community (ie. Develop stronger connections between the members of the church).  I can happily say this was accomplished, at least for me, personally.  The process of learning about church was enlightening, but the most remarkable things happened for me during the mass.

I was sitting next to some fellow church-goers, and during the sermon, we were asked to discuss a few questions.  Immediately I could sense the barriers, the ones that exist in those invisible prison cells we construct while at church, melting away as we discussed our thoughts on the readings of the bible.  The most profound moment happened at the time for us to pray together as a congregation.  We were asked to turn to the person next to us, and if we felt comfortable to lay our hand on the other person, and to ask them to pray for us.

I turned to my neighbour, and I was stunned by the deep, personal prayer this stranger had asked me to pray.  It took me a moment to gather my thoughts as this transpired.  I was shocked because I was not used to having someone completely random share something so personal with me.  What’s more, it felt genuine.  In that moment, I wanted to reach out and share my strength and support, and I in turn shared my own prayer.  The bond between us was very tangible, even tractable.  At that moment, I knew that this was the kind of connection I wanted to have and share with others, that this was the point of coming together.

Almost all religious traditions exercise some form of common faith-worship, and many ideologically based societies that are not religious also gather to further understand their chosen beliefs.  I, and we, are no different.

We spend our lives yearning for a connection – with each other, with ourselves, and with the Divine.  I believe that is why we all search for meaning in our lives, once survival fades as a primary concern.  I am on my way to developing this connection, by challenging the process that I have been given, by working with those around me, and maybe most importantly, by reaching out to the people near me and asking, “Can you help me?  Can I help you?”

Until next time.