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Ramadan Mubarak from Zawaj.com!

Wael and Salma

Wael and Salma

Ramadan Mubarak, brothers and sisters!

Alhamdulillah, the holy month of Ramadan has arrived. It’s a time when we strive to purify our hearts and renew our intentions in every aspect of our lives, bringing our lives into the service of Allah the Most High.

What are your goals this month?

Mine are:

  • To grow closer to Allah Subhanahu wa Ta’ala.
  • To become more steadfast in my salat.
  • To be more patient with my daughter, especially when she is difficult.
  • To assume good intentions on the part of others. Not to be suspicious or to think the worst of the people I love.

These are some of the issues that I struggle with in life. Ramadan presents me with a special opportunity to work on them, Alhamdulillah.

Please make dua’ for me and for my daughter Salma. She is seven years old and will be eight next month, Insha’Allah. Alhamdulillah she is an intelligent, playful and loving child. But I’m a single parent, and sometimes I feel like it’s a struggle to raise Salma as a good Muslim. I do my best. But it’s hard.

The good part is that I believe in Allah, and I regard Him as a Merciful, Forgiving and Loving God. I believe that Allah wants good for all people. He gives us the tools and abilities we need to make this world beautiful. The rest is up to us.

Ramadan is a gift. It’s a special tool in our toolbag, that allows us to transform the world – for one month at least – into a place of worship and light.

Ramadan Mubarak dear friends.

Wael Abdelgawad
Zawaj.com Founder

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Eid Mubarak 2012 / 1433 – Happy Eid from Zawaj.com!

Eid Mubarak

Eid Mubarak!

As-salamu alaykum,

Tomorrow morning, Insha’Allah, me, my mother and father, and my daughter Salma – who is six years old now – will wake up early and put on our best clothes, Insha’Allah. We’ll get in the car and stop at the donut shop at Shaw and Blackstone, because they have the sweetest, plumpest, shiniest donuts in town. Each one gleams like a seashell in the glass case. I’ll buy a box of a dozen to share with others after Salat al-Eid, and a few extras in a bag for our family, so we don’t have to wait in a mile-long line and elbow people to get ahead.

We’ll go downtown to the Fresno fairgrounds, and sit among a thousand other Muslims. We’ll recite the Takbeerat al-Eid, praising Allah’s greatness. We’ll pray the Eid Salat, then I’ll strain to hear the khutbah as so many people begin chattering right away. My daughter will pester me, saying, “Can we eat the donuts now?”… “Not yet sweetie, when the khutbah is over.”

I know, it all sounds a bit silly, but I’m excited. It’s a wonderful day. I’ll see brothers that I haven’t seen since last year. Everyone will be wearing their best outfits.

But it’s not about the donuts, or the nice clothes. It is this feeling of being connected to every Muslim around the world; a feeling of being part of something great.

When we return home, Salma will open her presents: a new pair of shoes, a toy bed for her dolls, and a game called “Trouble”. My mother will make cookies, and we’ll put some decorations on the walls. Then we will write a letter to Hawa, an orphan in Sierra Leone who we are fostering. She is eleven years old. I want Salma to understand that part of being a Muslim is caring for others, and remembering them always.

I try to make the day special for Salma. It’s difficult. Everywhere we go, we see Halloween decorations and advertisements. When I tell Salma, “Three days left until Eid!”, she counters with, “And nine days until Halloween!” But I try.

I will also talk to Salma about our Muslim brothers and sisters who are struggling all over the world. In Palestine and Syria and Burma they are fighting for their freedom and their very survival. They don’t have pizza and donuts on Eid, or shiny new shoes. Many have no food to eat at all. Most have lost someone: a parent, a child, a sibling or a friend. Some have been utterly devastated.

Yet, they are resolute. They will not stop until they are free.

These are the real heroes of Eid-ul-Adha. I feel small next to them. I weep when I think of their struggles. They are the ones living the spirit of Ibrahim (as). They have made the greatest sacrifices, and are still striving, undaunted. They are living the words of Allah:

Say: ‘Verily, my ṣalāh, my sacrifice, my living, and my dying are all for Allāh, the Lord of the ‘Alameen’ (6:162).

That is what Eid-ul-Adha is all about. May Allah give them security, safety, comfort, victory, and Jannah.

Wael
Zawaj.com Editor
October 25, 2012

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“Muslim” – What it Means to Me

Muslim

"What does the word 'Muslim' mean to you?"

Muslim

What the Word “Muslim” Means to Me

By Wael Abdelgawad, Zawaj.com Editor
March 21, 2010

The word alone triggers such different reactions in different people.

The literal definition of the word Muslim is “one who submits,” meaning one who submits to Allah, believing in Him and obeying His commandments.

More specifically, the word Muslim is the participle of the same Arabic verb of which Islam is the infinitive. The feminine form is Muslimah, though a female Muslim is often referred to as simply a Muslim.

There are many stereotypes about Muslims in the West, or one might say in the non-Muslim world in general, but I will not go into those in this article.

Instead, I’d like to share my thoughts and feelings on hearing the word Muslim and contemplating its meaning. I am using the word in a gender-inclusive sense.

Muslim

Faithful. Allah is his Master, and the Quran is the wellspring of his life. Muhammad (pbuh) is his beloved Messenger, and all the Sahabah * (see glossary at bottom for explanations of many terms) are his guiding stars. Tawheed is his creed, taqwa his rugged garment, imaan his cool summer rain, and ihsaan his aspiration.

Muslim

Harmonized. She has chosen to live the way Allah created us to live, in harmony with everything around us, including nature, other people, and the earth itself. Plugged into the reality of the universe.

Muslim

Peaceful. His manner is gentle. He is not angry or violent. He would never raise his hands except to defend himself, his family, or other innocents.

Malcolm X in prayer

Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz (Malcolm X) in prayer

Muslim

Generous. If I knock on his door, he will invite me in and bring me honey tea and baklawa, ask about my family, and be a believer with me, remembering Allah so that his house remains a place of life. When the salat time arrives he’ll spread the musallas and pray with me.

Muslim

Kind. His eyes are soft and smiling. He shakes my hand firmly, but with a brotherly openness. If I need help, offers it. He is charitable, ready to give his last coin to someone hungry or ill, knowing that it will come back to him seven hundred fold, and that everything is recorded and nothing is lost.

Muslim

My brothers and sisters. Arab, African, Indian, Thai, Filipino, Chinese, European, American, Latino, and everyone around the world who says, “Laa ilaaha il-Allahu, Muhammadan Rasul-ullah” (There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah)… they are my family, my Ummah, my people. If they are free, I breathe easy. If they are fed, I sleep well. If they are mentally aware and spiritually conscious, I am liberated.

Muslim

Feeling each other’s pain. If she is suffering or oppressed, I feel it like the pain in my own body. If she is sad, lonely or confused, I do what I can to guide and help. I can never ignore her agony, any more than I could ignore a sliver in my own eye.

Muslim

Friends, compatriots. When I see him, I feel comfortable and at ease, whether I know him or not. I greet him with “As-salamu alaykum” and I smile. I can engage him in conversation, even if I know nothing about him. I know his language no matter what it is. If he tells me something good I say ma-sha-Allah. If he mentions some blessing or favor in his life, I say Alhamdulillah. If he mentions something he hopes to do, I say Insha’Allah. We understand one another.

Muslim

At home in Allah’s house. He can walk into a masjid anywhere in the world and feel at home. He can perform wudu’, prostrate himself to Allah, read the Quran, stand shoulder to shoulder in prayer with strangers, and feel a sense of rightness and belonging.

Noha Abd Rabo, Muslim female Olympic athlete

Noha Abd Rabo of Egypt reacts after her fight against Sarah Stevenson of Britain in their women's + 68 kg taekwondo bronze medal match during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in Beijing on August 23, 2008.

Muslim

An Islamic worldview. She shares my world view and cultural understanding, no matter her nationality or race. She knows that this life is only a test, a moment of activity between a sleep and a sleep, a flower blooming and wilting in a single afternoon. She knows that the aakhirah is the home that calls; her heart is filled with hope and fear of Judgment.

She steps out of her door and does the right thing, because that is her covenant with Allah, and because she loves to do good. She sees signs of Allah in the miracle of a hummingbird or the majesty of Mt. Everest; in the swirls of her fingertips, and in the knowledge of Allah that exists in her heart.

Muslim

Pursuing excellence. Doctor, lawyer, farmer, engineer, human rights worker, driver, tour guide, seamstress, Olympic athlete. Striving for excellence in all things as a matter of worship and a way of life. Truth-telling, fair, honest in business and in love.

Muslim

Family. Mother, father, giddo (grandpa), nena (grandma), niece, nephew, cousin, wife, daughter, son. Respecting their elders, kind to their youth. Full of love like the sunrise. Embracing like the warm Mediterranean. Laughing like light on the water. Supporting like the granite of the earth.

Muslim

Seeker and guide. Da’iyy, Imam, Quran reciter, submitting in prayer, fasting, performing the Hajj. A voice calling in the darkness. Footsteps to follow in the sand. A bringer of truth. Commanding good and forbidden evil, with the hand, the tongue or the heart.

Muslim

Patient and grateful. Striving her utmost but never trying to force the outcome because that belongs to Allah. Never giving up, patient, strong.

If she has suffered, if she has been beaten or hurt, if she has been hungry or confused or lost in the dunya, she comes through it stronger, knowing that Allah is on her side.

If she has been blessed to live in comfort and ease, to have a loving family, rich food, tailored clothing and quiet cars, then she thanks Allah, knowing that everything she has is a blessing and a trust from Him, and knowing that the way to show thanks is to give and share.

No matter what, she is humble before Allah, never arrogant, never looking down on others.

Chinese Muslim girl from Xinjiang, China

A Chinese Muslim girl from Xinjiang, China. Muslims are found everywhere, but are one Ummah (nation).

Muslim

Standing up. He is angry that the image of his religion has been hijacked by extremists, and by those who practice ignorant cultural traditions. He stands up for human rights, freedom, and the dignity of all human beings. He stands against terrorism in all forms, oppression of those who follow other religions, “honor killings”, racism, female genital mutilation, intolerance, and destruction of churches or monuments of other religions.

Muslim

Suffering. Battered by war. Torn apart by sectarian strife. Oppressed by tyrants and dictators. Invaded by foreign powers. Massacred. His land stolen, his holy places demolished, his leaders arrested, his people driven from their homes.

Starving. Politically imprisoned. Tortured by his own police, tortured by foreign invaders.

Crying out for freedom, struggling valiantly, never giving up, never accepting subjugation, never submitting to anyone except Allah.

Muslim

Submitting to Allah.

What does the word “Muslim” mean to you?

*******

Glossary of Terms:

  • Aakhirah – the eternal life herafter, the life after our worldy death.
  • Alhamdulillah – “Praise be to Allah.” Something Muslims say to thank Allah for any good thing, large or small. Also, what a Muslim says when he sneezes.
  • As-salamu alaykum – “Peace be upon you.” The greeting of Muslims.
  • Baqlawa – a Middle Eastern sweet with honey and nuts.
  • Da’iyy – a caller to Allah. One who works to propagate Islam by preaching and setting a good example.
  • Ihsaan – perfection or excellence. Showing one’s inner faith in action.
  • Imam – a Muslim prayer leader, community leader or scholar. Not to be confused with Iman.
  • Imaan or Iman – faith or belief, a state of being made up of more than 70 parts which consist of all kinds of virtuous behavior.
  • Insha’Allah – “If Allah wills.” Something Muslims say when discussing future actions.
  • Ma-sha-Allah – “What Allah has willed.” Something Muslims say when praising something good, or sometimes just as a way of saying, “That’s just the way it is.”
  • Masjid – a mosque, a Muslim house of worship.
  • Musalla – place of prayer. Also used for small prayer rugs that many Muslims use.
  • Sahabah – the companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
  • Taqwa – consciousness of Allah in all one’s actions.
  • Tawheed – the Oneness of Allah, and belief in that principle.
  • Wudu’ – the ritual ablutions or washing up that a Muslim performs before prayer.
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End of an Era, and a New Beginning

Wael eating a popsicle in 1998

Wael eating a popsicle in 1998

I registered the Zawaj.com domain name twelve years ago, in 1998, right around the time that you see me sitting there eating a Popsicle in the photo, ha ha. The name “Zawaj.com” was unregistered up to that point, and since then has never belonged to anyone but me.

There were only one or two other Muslim matrimonial and Arab matrimonial services in existence at that time. One was Zafaf.com, which shut down some years later, and the other was Muslim Matrimonial Link, which still exists but looks and functions exactly as it did back in the 90’s, down to the dated backgrounds and hyperlinked list of ads.

At the time, I never expected that Zawaj.com would grow the way it has. It was a hobby. I remember that in the beginning, the matchmaking database consisted of simple HTML pages, and I used to hand-code a new HTML page for each new profile. The service was free back then.  I changed it to a paid service in 2002 or so, and then a few years later I changed it back to a free service again. Not “free trial” free, or partially free, but completely, 100% free, with revenue generated by advertisements rather than membership fees.

I liked the idea of offering something for free that everyone else charges money for. I liked the fact that Zawaj.com attracted thousands of people who could not afford a membership fee, including people from North Africa, Egypt, Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia and other nations all over the world.

But the world runs on certain realities, and one of them is that money makes the wheels turn, or at least makes them turn more smoothly. Over time the Zawaj.com programming grew obsolete and buggy, and I did not have the funds to rebuild it. In the meantime the internet witnessed the rise of the huge corporate-run matrimonial websites like Shaadi.com and Qiran.com. These sites work by virtue of sheer size, but in my opinion they lack a personal touch. You get lost without a rudder in a sea of profiles.

You may notice that I have not shied away from mentioning the names of my competitors in this post. That’s because I’m confident that Zawaj.com is now as good as – or better than – anyone of them.

Today marks the end of an era for Zawaj.com and the beginning of a new one. We say goodbye to our years-old program and simple HTML home page, and we introduce a new look, a new content management system, and a new matrimonial database. The new database is easy and fun to use, and you will find it brimming with intelligent, attractive, successful men and women ma-sha-Allah.

Meanwhile we continue the tradition of offering the internet’s best articles and features about Muslim and Arab weddings, marriage advice, family relationships, and much more. Please note that you can find links to our old Zawaj.com website and content on the right side of the page. With literally thousands of pages of unique content, we are much more than a Muslim matrimonial service. And now you can comment on the articles, share them, and even write your own if you wish.

As a way of illustrating the uniqueness of Zawaj.com, in the early years I came across many small websites where people had documented the Muslim wedding customs of certain cultures, complete with detailed descriptions and photos. I sometimes used to reprint those on Zawaj.com with the writer’s permission. Since then many of those websites have shut down, and now Zawaj.com is the only place you will find those unique articles about things like the wedding customs of Muslim Bulgarians, or a photo essay of a Somali wedding, or an insightful article about the role of women in Islam, written by someone who has since disappeared from the scene.

I want to extend a heartfelt thank you to all of Zawaj.com’s loyal readers, members and partners over the years. I am confident that this change will benefit everyone – especially you – and I thank Allah for opening the door to this new and exciting road.

Wael Abdelgawad
Zawaj.com Founder and President

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Wael Abdelgawad, Founder of Zawaj.com

Wael Abdelgawad is the founder, owner, designer, editor, and administrator of Zawaj.com Muslim matrimonial service.

Wael was born and raised in California, USA. He has also lived in Libya, Saudi Arabia, and Panama, and has visited many other nations around the world.

Wael’s parents, who are of Egyptian origin, are highly respected scientists who taught him the importance of scholarship. All through his childhood he read voraciously. When not reading, he played table tennis and chess, boxed and did martial arts, and consumed Mars bars and Pepsis. He began studying Islam at the age of fifteen. He was a counselor at the Muslim Youth Camp at the age of seventeen, served on the Shura Council of Masjid Fresno at nineteen, and was later active in Muslim communities in Arizona, Texas and California. He attended California State University at Fresno, and he has taught Islamic Studies in several Muslim communities.

Wael later studied web design and webmastering with the Software Training Group in San Francisco. He is now a web developer and “domainer” by trade and is the editor of this website and the founder of many other specialized websites and blogs. He is also a writer, poet, and a student of the martial arts of Hapkido, Jujitsu and Kenpo.

Wael is divorced and lives in Fresno, California. He has a beautiful young daughter, ma-sha’Allah. Her name is Salma and she was born in July 2006.

Wael likes marble fudge ice cream, science fiction novels, good Islamic books, windup toys and playing chess; he never goes out without his iPod; he can bench press 300 lbs, and once held his breath for two minutes underwater.

Wael’s most valued personal projects are:

1. AbolishTorture.com, a blog against torture, and the home page of Muslims Against Torture and Political Imprisonment Everywhere. This cause is very important and Wael hopes to establish it as a non-profit organization and to help mobilize Muslims in the worldwide campaign against torture, both in the Muslim and non-Muslim world.

2. IslamicSunrays.com, a blog in which Wael expresses his personal philosophy of Islam as a religion of hope and inspiration.

In Wael’s Own Words:

I am a young 45 and simultaneously old as a mountain, or so it feels at times. Trying to change the world & better myself every day. My joys are my daughter Salma, poetry, martial arts, & my faith of Islam. Oh, and banana splits!

I’ve lived in five different nations and visited many more. I speak three languages, two of them poorly I admit. I guess I’ve had about 30 jobs in my lifetime, but I seem to have found my calling with web design and writing. I care about human rights, disaster relief, environmental issues, hunger and poverty, Palestine / Chechnya / East Turkestan and others. I believe in taking personal responsibility for our lives and problems. I’ve seen some of the worst that people have to offer, but I still believe in the goodness of the human heart. I am strong in many ways, unstoppable even… but I’m afraid of heights. I climbed La India Dormida twice and berated myself for it each time, especially the second time!

I love El Valle de Anton, Panama, San Francisco, and Madinat al-Munawwarah. I once powerlifted 500 pounds in a squat. I teach two martial arts and study two others. I have a love/hate relationship with chess. The best birthday gift I ever got was an iPod. People seem to either love me, or actively dislike me. I’ve been told I look like Jamal from House Party 2, a dance instructor, or the guy who owns the mini-mart on Olive Avenue.

My daughter Salma is my joy and pride ma-sha-Allah. I never understood pure, unconditional love until I had a child.

– Wael

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