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Indian Shalwar, Malaysian Scarf, Arabian Jewellery & a Wedding

Although nikah is the obligatory part and the reception a Sunnah (Prophetic practice, sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), the amount of time and effort (and money) invested is far from balanced.

The preparations start almost a month before the event. The male members travel to all the four directions for inviting near and far (and farthest) relatives and in-laws spread over generations. Wedding cards are printed and given to the guests on their visit. The list is meticulously prepared, with careful consultations with elders so that no one is missed. The actual turnout maybe less or even three times more!

The shed is made of long bamboo sticks and covered by sheets, with strong protection from the monsoon rain. This takes almost a week to complete.

The house is decorated with artistic creations, in this case, colorful flags were tied on the fence of the house. Wishes from family members and verses from the Holy Book are written on charts and pasted on walls of the interior.

Every member of the household, young and old, plays an active role in the preparations for the joyful event. The old ones may sometimes resort to silent supervision, with respect to their wisdom and experience.

The previous night of the wedding also witnesses a festive mood with neighbors and immediate family members pouring to share the joy and anxiety for the next day. Some guests who are unable to attend the wedding day, also make their visit on the previous night.

The crowd remains up to late in the night and gives a helping hand to the household in whatever capacity they can. Chairs and tables are laid in lanes and all the ingredients required for next day’s feast is made available.

The wedding is also a good opportunity to renew existing relationships within the community and establish new ties. In some cases, it becomes a lifetime opportunity to meet far off relatives, who one may not meet later in their life.

The guests start to arrive from around 10 in the morning and continues to 2 o 3 in the afternoon.

Depending on the prevailing custom in certain areas, sometimes a small group of men come from the bride’s house to call upon the groom. He leaves with them, along with the ladies of his household normally led by his sister to bring the bride home.

Before leaving, a dua session takes place, usually by a well-known figure. In this case, it was the Sayyed Sadiq Ali Shihab Thangal, state president of Youth League (a wing of Indian Union Muslim League).

The boy is dressed in bright cream-colored sherwani suit with golden embroidery. Although a costume belonging to the North of India, this has becoming very popular in the south also. Western outfits like the Suit and tie has taken a back seat in the recent times.

It is the men who get to display their prowess in the nikah. But in a wedding it is the ladies who reign supreme. If nikah is all about the singular white fabric and handshakes, then wedding is all about multi-colored costumes designed weeks before the event; jasmine flowers are ordered in bulk and hands are painted red in
henna… celebrations go to the extreme end
of the permitted limits! A day when culture shows off itself over
formal religion.

The boy reaches the girl’s house and is seated in middle of the crowd for everyone to see. A battalion of uncles greet him while the womenfolk crowds the verandah of the house to have a glimpse of the groom.

The sister-in-law (groom’s sister) enters into the house and starts to beautify the bride with cosmetic touches.

The bride is finally brought to sit beside the groom and camera go wild with flash lights. The bride’s parents and grandparents also join the shoot. The bride is dressed in a three-piece Indian shalwar khameez, in a mix of
maroon and golden color with plenty of embroidery, scarf modeled after a
Malaysian design and jewellery of Arabian style . Flowers are also attached.
(Globalization finally completing its reign!)

Thereafter the bride steps into the car which is decorated with flowers and names of the couple. Her feelings of shyness, fear and sadness result in tears which is natural of any typical bride.

The couple reaches the boy’s house accompanied by a huge crowd and they are greeted by a surprise firework show, smartly planned by the groom’s cousins. Everyone is struck and wonders what caused the explosive sound.

The guests are seated and a light entertainment show is organized. Small children play the traditional oppana dance which is typical for weddings only. In the dance, they greet the bride and pray to Almighty for the couple’s happiness.

She is welcomed home by the mother-in law and in she steps with the right-foot (following the practice of Prophet sallallahu alaihi wa sallam). The latter puts for her a gold bangle, for symbolic reasons only.

The guests continue to remain in the home- everyone looking for a chance to converse with the bride and relatives introducing one another.

By almost 10pm, the guests disperse. The feast comes to an end.

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Sayyida Nafisa at-Tahira

Young Nafisa frequented the grave of her grandfather the Prophet (s). The People of Madina loved her deeply. She became renowned for her abstinence and piety, for fasting the day, spending the nights in prayer and for her excessive devotion to worshipping Allah

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A change that veiled the body, but unveiled conscience

[Actress finds peace in the Holy Book by By Bassma Al Jandaly | 18-11-2002]

Beaming a broad, infectious smile, Abeer Al Sherqawi is eager to impart her newfound inner peace and serenity after rediscovering the Holy Quran.

The 32-year-old Egyptian screen siren, who used to wear skimpy outfits in the heyday of her career, recently came to Dubai to attend the sixth Dubai International Holy Quran Award and to deliver lectures about Islam.Abeer Al Sherqawi

It was Abeer’s childhood dream to become an actress. Her father, Galal Al Sherqawi, is one of Cairo’s leading TV and movie producers.

A fixture in Egyptian film circles, Abeer made some scathing remarks about Egyptian media. “The Egyptian media do not accurately reflect ordinary life in Egypt. It glosses over many facts. Some 90 per cent of Egyptian women wear the hijab,” she said.

Abeer’s younger brother, 30-year-old Tamir, studied commerce, but is also gravitating towards show business. “I guess show business is part of our family,” explained Abeer.

“But music and other forms of media affect the new generation too much. The new generation has no role models to follow other than what is being offered by the Internet, and satellite TV – which promote all sorts of undesirable things.”

The result – they waste their lives on trivial things, she said.

“The new media, which is patently Western, have encroached into our culture. The young generation is encouraged to be aimless. They lose touch with reality and they become useless to their country and their families,” she lamented.

The holy month of Ramadan is a period of worship and devotion, but unfortunately, film producers and those working in the Egyptian media bombard the audience with popular movies, TV series and other entertainment programmes, according to Abeer.

“It is a deliberate attempt to draw the attention of people away from the message and essence of the holy month,” she criticised.

About her own career as a film actress, Abeer remarked: “At that time, my work put too much pressure on me. Competition is strong, and it’s done in a vicious way. The strong gobble up the weak. To be an actress and get good roles, you have to use sneaky, underhanded ways, or whatever it takes.”

Abeer believes that the depiction of men and women freely interacting onscreen destroys “part of us, and our religion”.

In the constant tussle between her conscience and the world she was living in, Abeer was driven to the brink of insanity. “I had to consult a psychiatrist. The doctor made things easier for me and made me feel that what I was doing was not wrong,” she recalled.

“I adored him. I think he abused his position of strength over my frail mind. He misused his profession and made me fall in love with him. I married him after a whirlwind romance.”

Abeer later realised the relationship was doomed from the start. Her parents were against it, and problems gradually went from bad to worse.

“After a year, just two months after our baby was born, we filed for divorce,” she said. “After that, I started looking for a peaceful mind and heart. I couldn’t find it. The only place I could find it was in the Holy Quran.”

Abeer read it and tried to understand it.

“Now here I am. I feel whole again. I have given up the kind of life I used to live. It’s as if I were born again, clean and pure. I realised that it’s never too late to change,” she said.

Abeer urges parents to keep an eye on their children. “I have a dream for my son and for all the new generation to get themselves immersed in our religion,” she said.

She and her son now live with her parents, away from the world of make-believe. She plans to spend some time studying the Holy Quran and teach her son Galal.

She finds it a little difficult because her mother prefers to listen to modern Arabic music about romantic love. “That sort of thing affects my son,” she bemoaned.

“After some time, I plan to start looking for a job, maybe as a TV producer. But I have doubts that anyone will accept me, because they avoid women who wear the hijab on Egyptian TV.”

Abeer, however, intends to persevere and find a job suitable for her, perhaps in theatre production for children and women. “I prefer productions that would send the message of Islam,” she said.

“It may be difficult for me to lead this kind of life. But it’s never too late to give it a try.” She admits it was difficult for her to give up the life she led as a movie star. “There were volcanoes in my heart. But the fire inside me has cooled down. It is a new life that I chose.”

Abeer does see a positive trend in Egypt today where young girls are donning the hijab. She stressed that Islamic societies, with their long history, must not succumb to the products of America.

Abeer grew up in such an atmosphere, which affected her outlook, she explained. As a result, she developed a desire to enter the world of show business. She studied acting and theatre at the American University in Cairo.

“If my father had had another job, I don’t think I’d have gone into acting. Children are a product of the atmosphere they grow up in. I have my own son. He is two years old. I try to detach him from TV, music and film. I don’t want him to be spoiled,” she said.

Modern media can penetrate the mind of a child more aggressively than the Holy Quran, she said. She believes it is the responsibility of parents to prevent their children from becoming slaves to pop culture.

Abeer revealed that she is planning to marry again and to have more children. “There is a man who has asked me to marry him and I am thinking over it seriously. If he is suitable, I will go ahead with it.”

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Unique pearls on the shore of Islam

Dr. Allama Iqbal testifies to the above fact in the following words: I went to Italy and came across a gentleman called Prince Caeteni who was fond of Islamic history. I asked him why he was interested in it, he replied “Islam turned women to men” (i.e. – Islamic faith instilled great faith and enthusiasm in the hearts of its womenfolk that they became equal to men).

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A woman should wear what she likes – Giorgio Armani

[Italian Woman’s Veil Stirs More Than Fashion Feud, October 15, 2004, By IAN FISHER] 98840617&ei=1&en=7bb76322b603abda

DREZZO, Italy – The immediate issue is how one woman in one tiny town in northern Italy dresses, so it made a certain kind of sense for Giorgio Armani to weigh in. His opinion? A woman should wear what she likes, even if what she likes is a veil that hides her face completely.

“It’s a question of respect for the convictions and culture of others,” Mr. Armani, the fashion designer, said in a statement released late last month. “We need to live with these ideas.”

He was speaking out in defense of Sabrina Varroni, a Muslim woman from this town near the Swiss border who has been fined 80 euros, about $100, for appearing twice in public wearing a veil that completely covered her face. Her punishment has won cheers from some Italians and has horrified others.

Mr. Armani’s views were just one of the particularly Italian twists to questions facing much of Europe over its uneasy relationship with Islam.

The case of Ms. Varroni is not a simple one about religious freedom. Drezzo, population 1,800, is controlled by the Northern League, a political party in Prime Minister SilvioBerlusconi’s governing coalition that has advocated the secession of northern Italy and strict controls on immigration. The case has been viewed by some as a telling clash of two ideologies: Islam versus Italian xenophobia.

To fuel that view, the mayor here, Cristian Tolettini, fined Ms. Varroni under a 1931 Fascist-era law banning the wearing of masks in public. The Italian press got into the act when a reporter from the Milan newspaper Il Giorno showed up in Drezzo last month completely veiled, and was promptly fined, too.

Ms. Varroni, 34, a mother of four, is not one of the thousands of poor Muslims who have immigrated legally to Italy in recent years to seek a better life, or among the thousands more who have arrived illegally. She is a native Italian who grew up in Drezzo and married a Tunisian more than 10 years ago, converting to Islam. Late last month, she wrote an impassioned letter to the Italian president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, complaining of threats to her and her family and begging for help.

“I’m scared of the violence that this unwanted publicity will seek out,” she wrote. “I’ve never tried to proselytize, or use my veil as a provocation. What harm am I doing? I am not masked. I’m simply wearing a veil that is obligated by my faith.”

Similar arguments have been made by female students in France, Germany and Turkey, which restrict the wearing of a less severe symbol of Islam, the head scarf, in schools. In June, the European Court of Human Rights rejected an appeal by a Turkish student, saying such laws “can be justified” to prevent fundamentalist groups from pressuring women to wear such symbols.

The problem in Drezzo, which has a handful of Muslim immigrants, started two years ago when Ms. Varroni showed up at the town hall, wearing a veil that covered her entire face. In a telephone interview, she said she began wearing the veil, called a nikab, about five years ago.

“I wear the veil because it is a law,” she said. “It is an obligation of my faith.”

The mayor saw it differently.

“I was stupefied,” Mr. Tolettini, then the deputy mayor, recalled. “We have a lot of Muslims who live here, and they don’t dress like that.”

He asked her to show him her face so that he could identify her. She said, according to Mr. Tolettini, that she would reveal her face only to a woman. Mr. Tolettini said he decided to let it go, but warned her that laws prohibited appearing in public with a concealed face.

No problems occurred until July 2004, when she went to the town hall again and Mr. Tolettini, now the mayor, was there.

“My authority and my duty was to have her identified,” he
said. “She clearly refused.”

The laws Mr. Tolettini cited are in dispute. Italy has two such laws, neither of which anticipated the issue of Islamic dress codes: one from 1931, under Mussolini’s Fascist rule, and another, enacted in 1975 when fear of the Red Brigades guerrilla group was high, forbidding disguises that mask a person’s identity.

This summer, Mr. Tolettini drafted a new local law, although a regional judge annulled it last month, saying that Mr. Tolettini did not have the authority to issue local laws that duplicated national ones.

On Sept. 17, Ms. Varroni, veiled, went to pick up her children from school. The town’s sole police officer issued her two fines totaling 40 euros under the old national laws. The next day, she went to the town hall again in her veil, and was fined another 40 euros.

Ms. Varroni’s lawyer, Serena Soffitta, said the fines represented a personal vendetta against her client and were an example of the Northern League’s opposition to foreign immigration.

“She is the only person in that town who wears a veil,” Ms. Soffitta said, adding in a reference to the Northern League, “They only want Italians in Italy.”

Mr. Tolettini denies this, saying he is not part of the party’s more reactionary wing. To him, the matter is both simple and crucial: No one is above the law, he says, and allowing people to hide their identities, even for religious reasons, is a threat to public security, especially at a time of widespread fear of terror attacks.

“I don’t think that she is dangerous at all,” he said. “But the type of clothing that she wears, that is dangerous. It could result in something that we regret very much. It’s a problem of security. It’s a problem of public order.”

For the last few weeks, the case has stirred up Italy, both in favor of Ms. Varroni and against her. Hard-line members of Parliament have supported Mr. Tolettini for upholding of the laws, and Cesarino Monti, a Northern League senator, has proposed an even tougher one: a fine of up to 5,000 euros and up to six months in jail for people who cover their faces in public.

Mr. Monti pointedly excluded events in which Italians often wear some kind of mask, like fans at sporting events and revelers at public festivals like carnival.

The opposition, meantime, has condemned what it says is overzealous application of the law in a way that, its leaders say, sends a message of intolerance toward Islam and foreigners.

“If you let young girls who come into this country dress themselves, to wear what they feel is comfortable, you’ll see that eventually they will change,” said Maria Luisa Campagner, a regional official with the center-left Daisy
Party, a coalition of parties that includes the Italian People’s Party, the successor of Italy’s Christian Democrats. “They may arrive wearing the chador, but they’ll end up wearing blue jeans and new hairstyles.”

Meanwhile, the Association of Muslim Women, a group with about 600 members in Italy, says Islam does not require covering the whole face, and that Ms. Varroni should consider a less extreme veil.

“We don’t want this phenomenon to explode,” said Asmam Dachan, the group’s spokeswoman. “We already contacted her to tell her that Islam doesn’t demand this, and that it is better to meet with the mayor and work something out, especially in this delicate moment.”

So far, Ms. Varroni has refused to pay the fines, and her case has begun working its way up Italy’s legal system. Her lawyer said the case stood as an example of the new challenges Italy is facing with a rising population of Muslims and a test of how well the nation will deal with those challenges.

“For us, this is new,” Ms. Soffitta said. “There is no law that says a burka is legal or illegal. Until now, we haven’t needed one. We’ve let good sense be our guide.”

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