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At 2 a.m., the shuttered streets of Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, were mostly deserted. But inside a persimmon-colored cafe on Fourth Avenue, there was the clinking of backgammon and chess. A man came around with hot coals for the bubbling water pipes, whose tobacco sweetened the air with flavors like citrus mist and grape and orange vanilla.

Mohamed Ali, 40, a New York City cabdriver, sat on a carpet-upholstered couch, smoking a water pipe as a television showed an Egyptian soap opera. It was Wednesday, and Mr. Ali was debating whether to stick around until 3:40 a.m. to eat a pre-dawn meal — beans and falafel, cheese, yogurt and bread — or go home and eat with his roommate.

Back home in Cairo, he would be celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with his family. There, the cool nights are festive, with streets strung with lanterns, tapestries and banners.

Late at night in New York, even in Bay Ridge, the heart of Brooklyn’s Arab community, there are few public signs of the holiday, which began July 20 in New York, and which observant Muslims mark by fasting from dawn until sunset.

Yet on the quiet streets, there are pockets of togetherness. Arab-style coffee shops stay open until 4 a.m., each capturing the feel of a different Middle Eastern country. For teenagers, there are stoops and street corners, and a Greek-owned family doughnut shop that opens at 3 a.m., to give them a place to eat just before the fast begins again at dawn.

“I feel Ramadan here,” Mr. Ali said inside Beit Beitak (Your House Cafe), where he sat with several other cabdrivers. “I see the people, I see the shows. It is like my country.”

Staying up through the night during Ramadan has a long history. Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, was said to stay up to pray after his fast, and many Muslims try to follow his example.

There are practical factors, too. Delaying sleep until after the dawn prayer, about 5 a.m., helps Muslims keep the daytime fast — during which no eating, drinking or smoking is permitted — at a manageable length, particularly when Ramadan falls during the 16-hour-long days of a New York summer.

“We are like bats during Ramadan,” Sarah Salem, 17, said after prayers, her hair wrapped in a fashionably tied white scarf. “The whole entire day changes.”

This year, practicing Muslims in New York are breaking their daily Ramadan fast with a festive meal about 8:15 p.m. (the time gets earlier as the month progresses). After a few hours of eating, and in some cases visiting Arabic sweet shops, many attend special nighttime services at which the Koran is read, from 10 to 11:30 p.m.

On Tuesday, the late service at the Islamic Center of Bay Ridge attracted hundreds of men, women and children, and a carpet of prayer rugs was laid out on the sidewalk to accommodate the overflow, which stretched nearly to the marquee of a multiplex next door. After the reading, some people stayed for more prayer, some headed home, and some, mostly men, headed out.

At Beit Haniena, a bare-bones Palestinian social club near the mosque, clusters of men played Conquian, a kind of rummy, keeping score on pads (but not betting, because gambling is forbidden in Islam). “To tell you the truth, it’s better off to stay with your family and go home at night, but sometimes we sneak,” said Mashur Abu Hamda, 72. He planned to drink qamar ed-din, a thick, sweet, apricot concoction that is supposed to stave off thirst, before dawn, and to stay up until about 8 a.m.

The Gulf Cafe, run by a Yemeni businessman, had a more tentlike feel. Sofas and heavy curtains lined the dimly lighted purple room, and young men’s faces reflected the glows of their smartphones. Ramadan greetings flashed on a television screen.

Musalam Alkhras, 23, an English-language student from Saudi Arabia, was relaxing with two friends. Back home, he would be with his relatives, but “without family, it is very hard,” he said. At 3 a.m., the three paid their bill and headed to a takeout restaurant for something heavy to eat before the dawn prayer, “like rice with chicken or lamb,” Mr. Alkhras said.

By 3:15 a.m., as some older men drank coffee outside the cafes, a trickle of young teenagers in T-shirts and track pants began to materialize out of the darkness. Jon Kanatarellis, the morning man at Mike’s Donuts across the street from the mosque, was ready for them.

His family-run shop, around since 1976, normally opens at 4 a.m. but opens an hour early during Ramadan. “Out of respect,” Mr. Kanatarellis, who is not Muslim, said as he laid out the trays of shining doughnuts glazed with chocolate and vanilla icing and decorated with sprinkles. ‘They are kind of like family.”

The teenagers wandered in, chatting about their night as they ordered crullers, bagels and cream cheese. They brought a liter of orange juice and bottles of water — because, they said, it’s the thirst, not the hunger, that is hardest during a fast.

Some had stayed late at the mosque, helping as volunteers. Others had spent the night hanging out on stoops, or playing X-Box or Play Station. There was still about an hour before the mosque would hold its dawn prayer, and then they would sleep. Not bad for a summer night.

“Ramadan is the most excitingest month,” said Mahmoud Fayad, 14, looking to his friends. “Right?”


Because Islam’s “Law of Necessity” fully permits Muslims to find creative ways to adapt when Sharia Law conflicts with practical life, the argument that societies are obliged to make concessions to privilege all the demands of strict Sharia Law is considerably weakened.

Islam Is a flexible religion: religious obligations allow exceptions, subject to circumstances. Muslim religious scholars balance countervailing obligations to determine when exceptions apply. Understanding such balancing of necessities in Islam is not only important for public policy, but also for understanding how an identical set of religious beliefs can be used to justify war or peace, terrorism or peaceful coexistence.
Fasting During a Ramadan Olympics

As the London Olympics are underway, London organizers of the Olympics, according to a report in the New York Times, are supporting the needs of Muslims athletes, “with more than 150 Muslim clerics on hand to assist athletes, as well as fast-breaking packs including dates and other traditional foods.”

As it is also the month of Ramadan, during which Muslims are obligated not to eat or drink, even their own saliva, from sunrise to sunset, spare a thought for the more than 3,500 Muslim competitors, who, if they strictly observed Ramadan, would be abstaining from food and drink from the first prayer of the day (Fajr) at 2.44 am through to the dusk prayer (Maghrib) at 8.53 pm (as at July 29, 2012, see

Optimum sporting performance cannot be expected from athletes who go without food or drink for over 18 hours — a circumstance which would not be fair to them.

Many Muslim Olympians now in London will therefore not be fasting. Some may rely on religious rulings (fatwas) which exempt sportspeople from the Ramadan fast, such as a ruling issued in 2010 by the German Central Council of Muslims, that Muslim professional footballers, because they depend upon football for their living, need not fast during Ramadan.

The United Emirates, using a different approach stated that players may omit the fast as long as they do not stay in one place for more than four days. This is based upon a standard exemption for travelers during Ramadan (Sahih Bukhari, 3:31:167). Another exemption, following advice from imams in Morocco, is being used by English Olympic rower Moe Sbihi, who announced that he will donate 60 meals to poor people in Morocco for each missed fast day. Many Olympic athletes are postponing their fasts until their sporting commitments are completed. However, the Moroccan football team are fasting and trusting that Allah will help them to victory. All Muslims agree that fasting is obligatory during Ramadan; they differ in the exceptions they make.
“Necessity”: Balancing What Is Forbidden with What Is Permitted

There is a powerful principle in Islamic jurisprudence, the “Law of Necessity,” that permits what is forbidden — the end justifying the means. If a goal is obligatory, then the means can also be obligatory, even if otherwise they might be forbidden.

In Islam the universe of possible human deeds is divided into what is obligatory, permitted neutral, disliked, or forbidden. Then there is the need to balance the pros and cons of every act. This is a world of choice which can embrace a necessary evil, or take a pass on a good deed for the sake of a greater good.

Some “Law of Necessity” exceptions go back to Muhammad; they are hard-wired into Islamic law. A case in point is the exemption for travelers during Ramadan, which some athletes rely on. Another exemption for travelers, which also comes straight from Muhammad, allows Muslims to catch up on prayer times later than the correct hour.

Life raises many complex challenges, and the balancing of obligations and prohibitions may require more subtle reasoning, dependent on context. The renowned medieval Muslim scholar al-Ghazali explained how the principle of balancing necessities can be used to make lying permitted or even compulsory, according to the circumstances:

“Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish it through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible … and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory . …” (The Reliance of the Traveller, p.745-46, paragraph r8.2)

Yusuf al-Qaradawy has written extensively about the jurisprudence of “balancing necessities.” He explains that interests and pros and cons of any deed must be balanced, one against each other and weighed carefully.

Al-Qaradawy’s focus was politics, not sport. He cited an example of the support given by the Islamist political leader Maulana Maududi to Fatima Jinnah in the 1965 presidential elections in Pakistan. Previously Maududi had declared that it was not permissible in Islam for a woman to govern (based on the teachings of Muhammad). He came, however, to regard Jinnah as the lesser of two evils, so he commanded his followers to vote for the female candidate, and against General Ayub Khan.

Understanding such balancing of necessities in Islam is important for public policy — to grasp how an identical set of religious beliefs can be used to justify war or peace, terrorism or peaceful coexistence — or any other decision, based solely on the circumstances at the time.
Balancing Necessities and Public Policy

Consider the issue of the timing of the Olympics: Was Juan Cole correct to suggest that the Olympic Games should be rescheduled so they did not fall in Ramadan?

The fact that the “Law of Necessity” allows Muslims to get around restrictions suggests that although it might certainly have been thoughtful or considerate, it would not in any way necessary to reschedule the Olympics for the sake of Muslim religious sensitivities.

The possibility of balancing necessities needs to be taken into account when organizations and governments are faced with demands that they make concessions for the sake of complying with Islamic Sharia Law. Because the Islamic “Law of Necessity” fully permits Muslims to find creative ways to adapt when Sharia law conflicts with practical life, the argument that societies are obliged to make concessions to privilege all the strict demands of Sharia Law is considerably weakened.

Non-Muslims in particular need to take balancing necessities into account. Consider Sheikh Ahmed al-Mahlawi of Egypt who accepts that it is not a sin for Muslim religious scholars to see women in the streets with unveiled faces: the need for Muslim scholars to get around in public places outweighs the prohibition against men seeing women’s unveiled faces. He boasted, all the same, that he had compelled a US consular official to wear the hijab [headscarf] when she met with him. If the U.S. official had been better informed, she might have asked that Sheikh al-Mahlawi take a more moderate, balanced approach. She might have refused to submit to the hijab, pointing out that the Sheikh copes very well with looking at the unveiled faces of women whenever he goes into the street.
Balancing Necessity and Terrorism

Al-Qaradawi concluded that although it is wrong in general for Muslims to participate in non-Islamic governments or to make alliances with non-Muslim nations, compromises may be made when such lesser evils are ‘balanced’ against the greater good of the Muslim cause.

He also made the observation that many of the conflicts between different factions working for the success of Islam exist because of different interpretations about how to “balance” the different necessities and interests in Islam. Of course, Muslims who agree on their fundamental principles of faith can have very different views on how to balance these beliefs in any given situation.

Jihadi [holy war] martyrs make use of theological balancing necessities when they justify their methods for killing enemies. In Islam, for example, it is forbidden to kill oneself, but suicide, if it can be justified in the cause of Allah or furthering Islam, is not only permissible but heroic. Jihadi clerics are more than willing to write fatwas which ensure that a would-be martyr goes to his death with a clear conscience.In Islam, it is forbidden to kill women and children, but “collateral damage” is acceptable if a greater end is in sight. It is also forbidden in Islam to lie, but it is recommended that a pious jihadi using taqiyya [dissimulation] if necessary to achieve, say, a “martyrdom operation.” The Al-Qaeda manual, for instsnce, appeals to the principle that “necessity permits the forbidden” to justify criminal acts; and the Indonesian jihad cleric Abu Bakar Bashir argued that jihadis were entitled to hack foreigner’s bank accounts to obtain funds (see The Crime-Terror Nexus, New York State Office of Homeland Security). (For a bizarre example of the extremes to which jihad fatwas can go, see this report by Raymond Ibrahim.)

The ramifications can be momentous for Muslims and non-Muslims alike: consider the difference in opinion between the Saudi leaders and Usama Bin Ladin concerning the presence of American soldiers in the Kingdom after the invasion of Kuwait. Bin Ladin opposed this infidel ‘occupation’. In his 1996 fatwa declaring war on America he counted the presence of US soldiers as “one of the worst catastrophes to befall the Muslims” since the death of Muhammad.

Saudia Arabia’s Grand Mufti and supreme religious authority Sheikh Ibn Baz, however, allowed American troops into Saudi Arabia, although in another fatwa he had stated that Christian servants could not be employed in Arabia:

 ”It is not allowed to have a non-Muslim maid. It is not allowed to have a non-Muslim male or a non-Muslim female servant, or a worker who is a non-Muslim for anyone living in the Arabian peninsula. This is because the Prophet Muhammad ordered the Jews and Christians to be expelled from that land. He ordered that only Muslims should be left there. He decreed upon his death that all polytheists must be expelled from this Peninsula. (Islamic Fatawa Regarding Women, p. 36 compiled by Abdul Malik Mujahid).

Both Usama Bin Ladin and the Saudi authorities agreed on the principle that infidels could not be permitted to live in Saudi Arabia. What they disagreed on was how to balance this against other requirements, such as the need to safeguard the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This difference was enough to trigger Bin Ladin’s war on America.

What distinguishes a jihadi terrorist from a more peaceful Muslim, therefore, may not be any fundamental difference in belief, but, as in the West, merely in a given instance, how the religious legal principles of his faith should be applied.


Hyderabad: Haleem, like a patent food item of Hyderabad, goes viral during the month of Ramzan. In Hyderabad the dish has become so popularly synonymous with Ramzan that often non-Muslims wait when month of Haleem is going to arrive.

Nearly 6000 plus unorganized Haleem makers do about 1 billion rupees business in the month of Ramzan only in the city of Hyderabad. In the last few years Haleem rates have gone up to nearly 100% but this doesn’t halt people of Hyderabad irrespective of their religion to get in a line near a Bhatti from narrow streets of old city to the Hi tech sprawls of new city to get the taste of the season.

Preparation of Hyderabadi Haleem is no less an art than the Hyderabadi biryani, because of the obvious long history it possess and the plural composite cultural which the dish represents. Haleem originally an Arab and Irani dish landed in Hyderabad during the reign of Nizam-ul-Mulk by the way of Arab diaspora settled in Hyderabad. Yemenis in the Nizam’s Army were in forefront of popularizing this thick paste as source of good nutrition. Through centuries of mutual co-existence and local influence this spicy dish got its own special touch and flavor and Hyderabadi Haleem became a spicy thick south Indian cuisine distinct from any other haleem in the world.

Hyderabad is the only city which provides Haleem in all its forms; during the month of Ramazan one can find Beef, Mutton or chicken haleem in every nook and corner of the city. One more reason this recipe has bounded different religions together is Haleem makers don’t forget their vegetarian customers, as there is vegetarian Haleem made from different fruits and vegetables are available for Veggies who don’t want to be left out in having the taste of the season.

Due to this intense connection of city with Haleem, in 2010 Hyderabadi Haleem was awarded Geographical Indication status by the Indian GI registry office. It became a first non-vegetarian product of India to receive a GI certification. Hyderabadi haleem’s GI tag means that this dish cannot be sold as Hyderabadi haleem unless it meets the standards laid down for a flavored Hyderabadi haleem.

But it is not an easy task for the Haleem makers in the city to meet the rising demand of Haleem, so Haleem joints in the city are booking marriage halls to facilitate making of Haleem. Haleem is cooked on a low flame of firewood for up to 8 hours on hundreds of bhattis (a cauldron covered with a brick and mud kiln). Two men are employed to stir a single Bhatti continuously with ‘Ghotni’( a wooden hand masher is used to muddle meat and wheat while cooking haleem until it becomes a thick paste) throughout its preparation.

After the Iftar devout especially youngsters turn up in huge number for this dish as highly nutritious and must for a ‘Rozerdar’. The essential ingredients of wholesome Hyderabadi Haleem are meat; (either mutton, beef or chicken), pounded wheat, ghee, milk, lentils, ginger and garlic paste, turmeric, spices; (cumin seeds, caraway seeds (shah zeera), cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, saffron, jaggery, natural gum, allspice (kabab cheeni) and dry fruits; (pistachio, cashew, fig and almond). It is served hot topped with ghee based gravy, pieces of lime, chopped coriander, sliced boiled egg and fried onions as garnish. The above constituents make this dish full of proteins, high calorie and nutritious dish which gives instant energy. It is also regarded as anti-ageing and anti-oxidant.

Export of Hyderabadi Haleem
Hyderbadi Haleem due to its flavor and GI certificate is so popular among foreign countries especially in gulf countries that in 2011, about 28% of the Haleem produced in Hyderabad got exported to 50 countries around the world. Every day Haleem joints with different brands export tones of Haleem via airlines to different foreign nations mainly to satisfy the desire of Hyderabadi diaspora throughout the world who want to have the taste of Ramzan even in a foreign land though how much its goanna cost them.

Local Hyderabadis now can also get Haleem at their door steps by way of 24 hours SMS delivery system started by mega Haleem points in the city.

Haleem as job creator
The heritage of Hyderabadi Haleem doesn’t end here; during the month of Ramzan this brand of Hyderabad also take a role of an employment creator. Hundreds of Haleem points employ thousands of youngsters at attractive salaries to manage ever growing number of customers for the whole month of Ramzan. From a chef to the Mushers or even the sales boys everyone is getting rewards which they find difficult to think of in the normal course. A chef in the mega Haleem mart can fetch around Rs 1 lakh for whole month. The workers are paid anywhere between Rs.200 and Rs.300 for a six-hour shift excluding tips. Pista House, the biggest and most popular Haleem brand claims to pay Rs.10,000 to Rs.15,000 to the young seasonal workers. Mostly youngsters or even some college going students opt for this seasonal employment to earn some pocket money before the Eid.

Haleem of Hyderabad takes many shapes and comes in different varieties and forms but one thing it represents at best is the bound of communal harmony between different communities and most of all the celebration of being a Hyderabadi.


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