Less sleep, Disrupted Biological Clock Increases Risk of Diabetes
Too little sleep or sleep patterns that are inconsistent with our body’s “internal biological clock” may lead to increased risk of diabetes and obesity, according to a new U.S. study published online Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) hosted 21 healthy participants in a completely controlled environment for nearly six weeks. The researchers controlled how many hours of sleep participants got, as well as when they slept, and other factors such as activities and diet. Participants started with getting optimal sleep (approximately 10 hours per night). This was followed by three weeks of 5.6 hours of sleep per 24-hour period and with sleep occurring at all times of day and night, thereby simulating the schedule of rotating shift workers.
Thus, during this period, there were many days when participants were trying to sleep at unusual times within their internal circadian cycle — the body’s “internal biological clock” that regulates sleep-wake and many other processes within our bodies. The study closed with the participants having nine nights of recovery sleep at the usual time.
The researchers saw that prolonged sleep restriction with simultaneous circadian disruption decreased the participants’ resting metabolic rate. Moreover, during this period, glucose concentrations in the blood increased after meals, because of poor insulin secretion by the pancreas.
According to the researchers, a decreased resting metabolic rate could translate into a yearly weight gain of over 10 pounds if diet and activity are unchanged. Increased glucose concentration and poor insulin secretion could lead to an increased risk for diabetes.
“We think these results support the findings from studies showing that, in people with a pre-diabetic condition, shift workers who stay awake at night are much more likely to progress to full-on diabetes than day workers,” said Orfeu Buxton, BWH neuroscientist and lead study author. “Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian disruption working at night and insufficient sleep during the day.”
“The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect,” said Buxton.
Real Shia of AliA.S
The Prophet (peace be upon him and his progeny) was asked by Ibn Abbas about the verse of the Holy Qur’an, “And the Foremost Ones are the foremost ones: they are the ones brought near to Allah” (56:10-11), to which he replied, ‘This refers to Ali and his Shia – they will be the foremost to enter Paradise, the ones brought near to Allah through His Magnanimity over them.” (Amali al-Tusi)
What does it mean to be a Shia of Ali?
God has made the love of Imam Ali an incumbent article of faith. Only a believer would love Imam Ali, and only a hypocrite could ever hate him. Imam Ali is the friend of the believer through a natural human inclination towards perfection and lofty morals – attributes possessed by Imam Ali. However, history has recorded many individuals who claim love the Commander of the Faithful while displaying tendencies antagonistic to such love. According to the Prophet, the guardianship of Imam Ali is an obligation all humans will be accountable for on the Day of Judgment: “I swear by the Magnificence and Glory of my Lord that Ali is the door to God that leads to Him. Ali is Allah’s ‘Straight Path’, and it is the guardianship of Ali that Allah will ask about on the Day of Judgment.” ( Amali al-Saduq)
Narrations such as these may give some of us a sense of comfort, because we are led to believe that we are safe both in this life and the hereafter through our love of Imam Ali. However, the conscious believer should recognize that many of us have yet to realize what it truly means to love Imam Ali with both our hearts and our tongues. What does it mean to be a Shia of Ali today, in a world filled with corruption and the promotion of the greatest of sins?
The Shia of Ali are humble and aware
Imam al-Baqir (peace be upon him) explains the need for humility and God-consciousness in anyone claiming to be a Shia of Ali ibn Abi-Talib: “Our Shia are none other than those who are consciously wary of their duty to Allah and obey Him. They are known solely for their humbleness, their humility, their returning promptly whatever is entrusted in their care, and their abundant remembrance of Allah.” (Tuhaf al-Uqool) It is not possible to merely claim one is a Shia while remaining oblivious of one’s duties towards God, the Holy Prophet, and the Purified Household. This awareness of our duties in Islam establishes both humility and a firm foundation of faith and practice.
The Shia of Ali are able to control their speech
Wonder of wonders! How can it be that the same tongue that invokes blessings of Allah on Ali backbites about a fellow believer? Imam al-Sadiq has warned us to be cognizant of the dangers of the tongue and its hindrance on our faith: “O Shia community, be an adornment for us [among people], and not a disgrace to us. Say good words to people, guard your tongues, and restrain yourselves from mindless chatter and offensive speech.” (Amali al-Saduq)
The Shia of Ali are pious and noble
It is not enough to claim one is a Shia through speech and not actions! In fact, the title Shia is not a characterization we are born with, but rather one that is earned by those who are steadfast in their duties to God. Imam al-Baqir advises on our true identity as Shias and those loyal to Imam Ali, “Do you think that it suffices for one to say that he likes Imam Ali and he is his follower, but does not do anything to support his claim? Or he says that he likes the Prophet, who is even better than Imam Ali, but does not take his example and follow his deeds and act according to the Prophet’s tradition? Just having love for the Prophet is of no use for him. Therefore, be conscious of God, and act in such a way as to attain what is near God, since there is no relation of kin between God and anyone. The one most loved by God is the one who is the most God-conscious, and the noblest one is the one who fears God and obeys Him. I swear by God that it is not possible to get close to God unless by His obedience, and we do not hold the key to relief from the Fire of Hell, and no one has any authority over God. Whoever is obedient to God is our friend, and whoever disobeys God is our enemy. No one can attain our friendship unless through God-consciousness and good deeds.” (Tuhaf al-Uqool)
The Shia of Ali are careful about prayers
In his last will and testament, Imam Ali stresses the importance of prayers to his Shia, “Fear Allah in relation to your prayers. It is the pillar of your religion.” Imam al-Sadiq on his deathbed also mentions prayer and states, “Verily our intercession will not avail one who takes his prayer lightly.” (Wasail al-Shia) He has also said, “Test our followers at three occasions: during the prayer times [to see] how much importance they give it; and by our secrets to see how they protect our secrets from our enemies; and with their wealth to see how they help their brothers in faith with it.” (Bihar al-Anwar)
We cannot claim to be a Shia simply because we were born into the sect, or because we claim love Imam Ali. Indeed, the status of the Shia of Imam Ali is great and exalted, and therefore, so are the duties and responsibility in our faith and actions. By claiming to love Imam Ali, we must also love his great qualities and strive to implement them in our daily lives and actions. In many traditions, our Imams state their Shias are those who hold themselves accountable every day for their actions and are those who improve their conduct every day. We ask God to grant us the honor of being among the followers of the Commander of the Faithful in this life and the next.
Get married, live longer
You’ve heard them all, I’m sure; jokes like, “Marriage is an institution in which a man loses his bachelor’s degree and the woman gets her master’s” or “marriage is something that puts one ring on a woman’s finger and two under a man’s eyes.”
There are a million of them, and they all play on the idea that the men who are foolish enough to wave goodbye to their carefree bachelor days and submit to marriage are getting a raw deal.
The jokes are pretty damn funny, but the reality is quite different. In fact, both sexes benefit enormously from the institution of marriage, but men benefit more.
Both men and women gain significant health benefits from being married – they live longer, heal quicker, and have less illness. Married people also tend to earn more money, and to build more wealth than single people. Overall, however, men tend to benefit much more from matrimony than women do.
Let’s take a look at the various ways in which marriage can enhance a person’s quality of life, and see how men in particular benefit from the institution.
1. Married people live longer than single people.
We’ve known about the longevity advantage since the 1850s, when a British epidemiologist called William Farr examined French records and found that the single and the widowed died much younger than their married peers (and the widowed died younger than the single).
However, since then, more sophisticated research has shown that the longevity benefits of marriage are much greater for men. Studies show that single women have a mortality rate that is 50% higher than married women (that is, in a given year, single women will die at a 50% higher rate than married ones), which is pretty significant. Single men, however, have a mortality rate that is 250% higher than married men – a much greater difference.
Put another way, research indicates that nine of ten married men and women who are alive at age 48 are alive at age 65, while only eight of ten single women and six of ten single men make it to that age – a disproportionate benefit goes to married men.
2. Married people experience less depression, stress, and have fewer vices
A large-scale, multinational study involving the World Health Organization found that marriage reduces the risk of most mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, for both sexes; this study echoes findings from many similar, but smaller studies over the years.
Yet again, however, men seem to get more of a benefit. According to researchers, men are less likely to become depressed during their first marriage than women are. Married men are half as likely to commit suicide as single men, and one third as likely as divorced men (the differences are smaller for women).
Men also seem to get more of a de-stressing benefit from marriage than women do; a 2010 study found that married men had smaller spikes in cortisol levels (the hormone that is an indicator of chronic stress problems) than single men after taking part in a competitive game, whereas single and married women had similar cortisol increases. Unsurprisingly, men also tend to benefit more from vice-reduction after marriage – single men drink and smoke more than married men and married and single women, and take more drugs.
3. Married people earn more.
A study in the U.S. showed that overall, married people earn more than single people, but once again men benefit more; married men earn between 10 and 40% more than single men, while married women without kids earn 4 to 10% more than their single childless sisters (after having kids, married women earn less than single women without children).
4. Married people are happier
Many studies have shown that married people report greater levels of happiness and satisfaction with their lives than single people do, but, you guessed it, men once again do better than women. According to a study from Australia, for example, married men are 135% more likely to report a high happiness score than single men, while married women are only 52% happier than their unmarried counterparts. Another study, this one from the U.S., found that 38% of men say it’s easier for a married person to find happiness than a single person, while only 22% of women feel that way.
Overall, then, men benefit much more than women from the trip down the aisle. While both sexes enjoy significant benefits, the gap between single men and married men, in terms of health, wealth, and happiness, is much greater than the gap between single and married women. In the words of Shakespeare’s Benedick, “Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife.”
Health benefits of Honey
“”And your Lord revealed to the bee saying: Make hives in the mountains and in the trees and in what they build: Then eat of all the fruits and walk in the ways of your Lord submissively. There comes forth from within it a beverage of many colours, in which there is healing for men; most surely there is a sign in this for people who reflect.” (The Holy Quran — Surat an-Nahl, verses 68-69)
Honey is a sweet treat. In fact, it is man’s oldest sweetener. It can be a good substitute for sugar in our drinks and food. But it is also good for many other things and treating many other conditions.
Reliance on commercialized medicines which contains too many chemicals can be hazardous to our health. Alhamdullilah(praise to the God), Allah has given us the knowledge that Mother Nature can at least help to ease the pain we are suffering from.
Honey is composed of sugars like glucose and fructose and minerals like magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium chlorine, sulfur, iron and phosphate. It contains vitamins B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3 all of which change according to the qualities of the nectar and pollen.
Besides the above nutrients, copper, iodine, and zinc exist in it in small quantities. Several kinds of hormones are also present in it.
Approximately 50% of the human diet is derived directly or indirectly from crops pollinated by bees.
Today honeybees are an essential part of a healthy agricultural economy. If you have allergies, honey can be beneficial. If you eat honey that is local to your area, it may prevent your seasonal allergies. Bees use the pollen from local plants and eventually it ends up in your honey.
Honey may also be good for your skin. It has the ability to attract water. You can use honey instead of alpha hydroxy masks because of its high content of the acid. It is also safe for sensitive skin.
You can also use it as a moisturizing mask for your skin as well as your hair. To use it as a conditioner, mix the honey with olive oil. Be sure to wash your hair thoroughly before you go outside.
If you have a sore throat, take some honey. Due to its natural anti-inflammatory effect, it will help to heal the wounds more quickly. It also has different phytochemicals–chemicals found in plants and different foods–that kill viruses, bacteria, and fungus making it a good substitute for wound dressings.
The taste may also take your mind off the pain. There is evidence that honey diluted in water will help with your stomachaches and dehydration.
- Germ-fighting properties
Do you have a cut? Honey is a natural antiseptic. Medical journals cite more than 600 cases in which honey was employed to treat wounds. By applying honey to your wounds, you prevent infections.
Honey contains antimicrobial agents, which prevents infections by killing the bacteria in and around your wounds. When using honey it may help to heat it up before putting it on your wound (caution test the heat before you place it on the wound).
Many types of bacteria can’t survive in honey, so wounds heal, swelling eases, and tissue can grow back.
Honey may also be effective in the treatment of your ulcers. In Europe, honey has been used internally to help cure ulcers, particularly stomach ulcers. Burns, too, heal better with honey, studies show.
The advantage of honey is that it not only prevents infections from occurring, it actually accelerates skin healing. Since the sugar in honey absorbs water it helps to trap some of the moisture so that the bacteria and other microbes can’t grow as easily as in other food.
- How does it help in healing wounds?
When honey comes into contact with body moisture, the glucose oxidase enzyme introduced to the honey by the bee slowly releases the antiseptic hydrogen peroxide at a sufficient level to be effective against bacteria but not tissue damaging.
Not only is honey anti-bacterial, it also draws body fluids and nutrients to the area and so assists cell growth and prevents a scar forming by drying out of the wound.
The osmotic action of the honey draws out and provides a film of liquid between the tissues and the dressing, allowing the dressing to be removed painlessly, without tearing of the re-growing cells.
There are reports in medical journals of large bed sores, otherwise needing skin grafts, that have healed without scarring after honey treatment.
In treating diarrhea, honey promotes the rehydration of the body and more quickly clears up the diarrhea and any vomiting and stomach upsets.
The anti-bacterial properties of honey, both the peroxide and non-peroxide, are effective in the laboratory against MRSA strains of bacteria which are notoriously resistant to antibiotics and are sometimes responsible for the closing of hospital wards.
- Other benefits of honey
- Easily digested:
Because sugar molecules in honey can convert into other sugars (e.g. fructose to glucose), honey is easily digested by the most sensitive stomachs, despite its high acid content. It helps kidneys and intestines to function better.
- Good source of antioxidants:
It plays an important role in the prevention of cancer as well as heart disease.
- Has a low calorie level:
Another quality of honey is that, when it is compared with the same amount of sugar, it gives 40% less calories to the body. Although it gives great energy to the body, it does not add weight.
- Rapidly diffuses through the blood:
When accompanied by mild water, honey diffuses into the bloodstream in 7 minutes. Its free sugar molecules make the brain function better since the brain is the largest consumer of sugar, thus, reduces fatigue.
- Supports blood formation:
Honey provides an important part of the energy needed by the body for blood formation. In addition, it helps in cleansing the blood. It has some positive effects in regulating and facilitating blood circulation.
It also functions as a protection against capillary problems and arteriosclerosis.
- Does not accommodate bacteria:
This bactericide (bacteria-killing) property of honey is named “”the inhibition effect”". Experiments conducted on honey show that its bactericide properties increase twofold when diluted with water.
It is very interesting to note that newly born bees in the colony are nourished with diluted honey by the bees responsible for their supervision – as if they know this feature of the honey.
- Royal Jelly:
Royal jelly is a substance produced by worker bees inside the beehive. Inside this nutritious substance are sugar, proteins, fats and many vitamins. It is used in problems caused by tissue deficiency or body weakness.
It is obvious that honey, which is produced in much higher amounts than the requirements of the bees, is made for the benefit of man. And it is also obvious that bees cannot perform such an unbelievable task “”on their own.”"
Quran fasting health tips
All great heavenly religions have their own holy book. Bible is Christians’ holy book and Quran is Muslims’. Health has been mentioned in 37 verses (Ayats) of Holy Quran. The first verse has a clear message on fasting.
Even though Quran is not a scientific book, it includes so many scientific points in various areas. Healthy life and living, healthy diet and foods are considered to be very prominent and of great importance.
Fasting is one of the subjects, which has been studied in different countries’ labs and clinics. In the following verse, fasting has been commanded to be done by all Muslims who are healthy and residing in their home town and not taking a journey.
Al-baqara , chapter 2 verse 184: Fasting for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the prescribed number( should be made up) from later days. For those who can do it (with hardship) is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more of his own free-will—it is better for him and it is better for ye fast, if ye only knew.
Fasting can refresh our mind and body. It enables billions of biochemical interactions inside our cells, specially the cells that form our gastrointestinal system, including; gastrointestinal tract, liver and pancreas.
Liver like a gigantic factory is responsible for changing glucose to glycogen and vise versa, detoxification, cholesterol metabolism and etc.
Fasting is indeed, one of the best and most useful health tips mentioned in Muslims’ holy book. Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW) says: “Soomoo tasehhoo” ,i.e. fast to be healthy.
- Why has Quran considered ill people and travelers as exceptions?
As you know when one is healthy he is balanced, spiritually, psychologically, mentally, emotionally and physically.
Whenever the balanced state is disturbed and untuned, health changes to illness and disease occurs.
What about being on journey? It seems one’s body experiences certain changes during a journey, the least of which is getting exhausted and nervous, diabetic patients experience blood serum rise or some people get constipated.
We can say that journeys unbalance us, as well. So fasting is prohibited for one who is unbalanced during a long trip. Allah is indeed, kinder than moms to their kids
Fasting an effective means of restoring youthfulness and longevity
Fasting has its advantages from Islam’s point of view of health and hygiene. Islam wants a Muslim to be healthy, clean, alert, agile and energetic. “”Fast to be healthy,”" said the Holy Prophet Mohammad (SAW).
Physicians today acknowledge many benefits for fasting that ensure one’s mental and physical health. Some of these positive points have a direct influence on psychology and physique of the fasting individual.
Fasting has been found to be an effective treatment for several psychological and emotional disorders. It helps a person to firm up his will, cultivate and refine his taste and manners, strengthen his conviction of doing good, avoid controversy, petulance and rashness, which all contribute towards a sane and healthy personality.
Besides nurturing resistance and ability to face hardships and endurance, fasting reflects on outward physical appearance by cutting out gluttony and getting rid of excess fat.
The impacts of fasting on health do not stop there but are instrumental in alleviating a number of physical diseases, including those of the digestive systems, such as chronic stomach ache, inflammation of the colon, liver diseases, indigestion, and conditions such as obesity, arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, asthma, diphtheria and many other maladies.
A Swiss physician Dr. Barsilus noted that: The advantages of hunger as a remedy exceed those ingesting medicines several times.
As readers are well aware, several physicians advise patients to skip meals, sometimes for a few days, before prescribing them a controlled diet.
Generally speaking, fasting hastens the destruction of the decaying tissues of the body by means of hunger, and then builds new tissues through proper nutrition.
This is why some scientists suggest that fasting should be regarded as an effective means of restoring youthfulness and longevity. However, Islam exempts the sick and old people whose health is endangered, from fasting.
But fasting should have it’s certain regulations too, and not simply the in orderly skipping meals, that is bound to harm health and stamina, rather than improving them.
Here again Islam provides the answer, and in order to realize the benefits of fasting, it recommends the late midnight meals called ‘Sahar’ (before the formal start of a fast) and the breaking of the fast at the time prescribed. Of course, to ensure good health one should abstain from gluttony after breaking fast.
Breastfeeding is responsible for better behavior of child
The large-scale survey carried out by the universities of Oxford, Essex and York, together with the University College London, revealed that children who were nursed for four months or longer are more likely to show more appropriate behavior.
“Behavioral problems, however, are inappropriate behaviors that occur repeatedly over a period of time, have a negative impact on the child’s development and interfere with the child’s or their family’s everyday life,” they wrote in the study published in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.
Researchers believe the finding that the high amount of essential fatty acids in breast milk improves neurological development or the close interaction with mothers, contributing to the child’s better behavioral outcome.
They also added that “breastfeeding leads to more interaction between the mother and the child, better learning of acceptable behaviors and fewer behavioral problems.”
Researchers, however, stressed that they were not concerned with ordinary childhood misbehavior.
Want to be happy? Have two daughters
The results show of all the variations, two girls make for the most harmonious family life as they are unlikely to fight, will play nicely and are generally a pleasure to be around.
It also emerged two girls rarely annoy their parents, make limited noise, often confide in their parents and are unlikely to wind each other up or ignore each other.
By contrast, doubling the number of daughters is likely to lead to a whole world of pain, the report found.
Mums and dads with four girls turned out to be the least happy with family life overall, with one in four of those admitting they were not 100 percent happy with their lot – and one in three finding it hard to cope on a daily basis.
Parents of four girls also admitted to having to cope with an average of four fights or arguments a day, the study of 2,116 parents of children aged 16 and under revealed.
Faye Mingo, spokeswoman for http://www.bounty.com, said: “The mums and dads we polled obviously dearly love their children, but those with bigger families find it much harder to keep the peace on a daily basis.
The findings were absolutely fascinating – we often assume little girls behave like angels, and if you have two this certainly seems to be the case. But the more girls you have the more of a handful they become – more so than boys in fact.
In fact, going from two to four girls seem to take parents from one extreme to the other – whilst doubling the amount of boys has much less impact. We expected two, three or four boys to come out as the most difficult combination of children to have, purely because of their energetic and boisterous personalities.
The study looked into families with twelve different combinations of children, excluding only children but including everything from a brother and sister to four of the same sex.
Mums and dads were asked to rank their children’s behavior within the family unit based on a string of categories including ease of care, compatibility and overall behavior.
Two girls scored highly in every category. They were ‘easy to reason’ with, ‘helped around the house’ and generally ‘liked each other’.
But parents of four girls ranked them at the lower end of the spectrum in most sectors due in no small measure to the sheer workload managing four youngsters who regularly squabble and know how to wind each other up.
Two thirds of mums and dads of four girls have had to buy a bigger house and car.
They also find it impossible dealing with everyone when they’re ill and spend most of the time encouraging the girls to get on.
In fact, mums and dads with four children of any gender found it harder, the results showed. And meal times, mornings and the bedtime routine emerged as key areas which become difficult with four children. Parents with four children also admitted neglecting one or more of their children on occasion, and find it harder to share their attention equally amongst everyone.
Other difficult combinations of children include two boys and two girls, three girls and one boy, and three boys and one girl – although 62 per cent of parents with this combination would have exactly the same number of children if they had their time again.
After two girls, the second most satisfactory combination of children was one boy and one girl. Eighty six per cent of parents with one of each gender said they would honestly say their children were friends. Parents of one girl and one boy also commented that they rarely argue over toys, belongings and who can have what.
The report found one of each gender can also be reasoned with easily, making it easy for mums and dads to quickly sort out problems. The only downside of having a boy and a girl was a lack of shared interest as they grow up.
The third easiest combination of children was two boys. Parents of two boys revealed they frequently pay each other lots of attention day to day, and are often best of friends throughout their childhood. But while having two boys can be something of a pleasure when the children are little – parents can find the boys rarely confide in them as they grow up.
Faye Mingo added: “Rightly or wrongly, many parents have a set idea about the combination of children that would make up their ideal family unit. But of course nature doesn’t allow us to choose what we actually end up with or even what personalities our children will have. Every child is a blessing and there are lots of things parents can do to ensure family life is as harmonious as possible.
Making sure quality time is spent with all children, reminding them how lucky they are to have siblings and creating family rituals such as eating and playing together can all help everyone to get the most out of family life together.
Best to worst combinations of children:
2.One boy and one girl
7.Two girls and one boy
8.Two boys and one girl
9.Three boys and one girl
10.Three girls and one boy
11.Two boys and two girls
Benefits of having two girls:
1. Rarely noisy
2. Help around the house
3. Very few fights and arguments
4. Quite easy to reason with
5. Play together nicely
6. Rarely ignore each other
7. They confide in you
8. Very well behaved
9. Rarely try to wind each other up
10. Really like each other
Negatives of having four girls:
1. Fight and argue all the time
2. Difficult to reason with
3. Ignore and dislike each other
4. Bedtime routine is a nightmare
5. Create a lot of noise around the house
6. Rarely confide in you
7. Hard to deal with when ill
8. Takes ages getting ready for school
9. Had to buy a bigger house and car
10. Hard to cope with on a daily basis
Fish oil lowers obesity-related diseases
Taking fish oil frequently can prevent from obesity-related diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems, a new US study suggests.
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center researchers analyzed data from 330 Alaska’s Yup’ik Eskimos who consumed due to their traditional diet in average 20 times more omega-3 fats from fish than most of other Americans.
Their findings showed that although 70 percent of the population is overweight or obese, like other Americans, they do not present the same risk factors for heart disease as other Americans. Moreover, they were at a lower risk of developing diabetes.
“Interestingly, we found that obese persons with high blood levels of omega-3 fats had triglyceride and CRP concentrations that did not differ from those of normal-weight persons,” said senior researcher Zeina Makhoul.
“It appeared that high intakes of omega-3-rich seafood protected Yup’ik Eskimos from some of the harmful effects of obesity,” he added.
More interesting was the strong association between obesity and the increased risk of heart disease, measured by triglycerides and C-reactive protein (CRP) — a determinant of overall body inflammation, even in those participants who had low blood levels of these fats.
However, researchers emphasized that more studies would be needed to make specific recommendations on diets or supplements.
“If the results of such a trial were positive, it would strongly suggest that omega-3 fats could help prevent obesity-related diseases such as heart disease and diabetes,” Makhoul noted.
Nowrūz (Persian: نوروز, IPA: [nouˈɾuːz], originally “New Light”) is the name of the New Year inIranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations. Nowruz is also widely referred to as the Persian New Year.
Nowruz is celebrated and observed by Iranic peoples and the related cultural continent and has spread in many other parts of the world, including parts of Central Asia, Caucasus, South Asia,Northwestern China, the Crimea and some groups in the Balkans.
Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday and having significance amongst the Zoroastrian ancestors of modern Iranians, the same time is celebrated in parts of the South Asian sub-continent as the new year. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and Iranian families gather together to observe the rituals.
Originally being a Zoroastrian festival, and the holiest of them all, Nowruz is believed to have been invented by Zoroaster himself, although there is no clear date of origin. Since theAchaemenid era the official year has begun with the New Day when the Sun leaves the zodiac of Pisces and enters the zodiacal sign of Aries, signifying the Spring Equinox.
The Jewish festival of Purim is probably adopted from the Persian New Year. It is also a holy day for Shia ,Sufis, Ismailis, Alawites, Alevis, and adherents of the Bahá’í Faith.
The term Nowruz in writing, first appeared in Persian records in the 2nd century AD, but it was also an important day during the time of the Achaemenids (c. 548-330 BC), where kings from different nations under the Persian empire used to bring gifts to the Emperor, also called King of Kings (Shahanshah), of Persia on Nowruz. The significance of Nowruz in the Achaemenid empire was such that the great Persian king Cambyses II’s appointing as the king of Babylon was legitimized only after his participation in the New Year festival (Nowruz).
The UN’s General Assembly in 2010 recognized the International Day of Nowruz, describing it a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi, Nowrūz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
Nowruz around the world
Nowruz is celebrated in Greater Iran, Caucasus, Central Asia and by Iranians worldwide. It is a public holiday in Iran, Afghanistan,Tajikistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan,Uzbekistan, Kashmir, and Kyrgyzstan. Also the Canadian parliament by unanimous consent, has passed a bill to add Nowruz to the national calendar of Canada, on March 30, 2009.
In Albania Sultan Nevruz is celebrated as a mainly mystical day by the Bektashi sect, and there are special ceremonies in the Tekke led by the clergy and large meals are served there. They celebrate this day as the birthday of Ali. Also all Albanians celebrate a secular version of Nowruz, called Spring Day. Nowruz is also celebrated by Kurds in Iraq and Turkey as well as by Parsis in the Indian subcontinent.
Countries that have Nowruz as a public holiday
- Afghanistan (20 March to 23 March)
- Albania (20 March to 23 March, total of 4 days)
- Azerbaijan (20 March to 26 March, total of 7 days)
- Azeris in Georgia (country), Georgia
- Iran (20 March to 23 March, total of 4 days in general + total of 13 days for schools and universities)
- Iraq (regional only in Iraqi Kurdistan) (21 March)
- Kazakhstan (21 March to 24 March, total of 4 days)
- Kosovo) (21 March)
- Kyrgyzstan (21 March)
- Tajikistan (20 March to 23 March, total of 4 days)
- Turkmenistan (20 March to 23 March, total of 4 days)
- Uzbekistan (21 March)
Nowruz celebration in Iran : Nowruz is the most important holiday in Iran. Preparations for Nowruz begin in the month Esfand (or Espand), the last month of winter in the Persian solar calendar.
Nowruz in the Zoroastrian faith
Zoroastrians worldwide celebrate Nowruz as the first day of the New Year. Parsi Zoroastrians of South Asian origin celebrate it as “Nowroj”, “Navroz”, or “Navroj” on the fixed day of March 21, while Zoroastrians of Iranian background generally celebrate, like other Iranians, on the actual Spring Equinox date. Because different Zoroastrian communities in India/Pakistan and Iran have evolved slightly different calendar systems, there is some variance. Adherents of the Fasli variant of the Zoroastrian calendar celebrate Nowruz in March, but today, most other Zoroastrians also celebrate on this day.
Other variants of the Zoroastrian calendar celebrate the Nowruz twice: once as Jamshedi Nowruz on March 21 as the start of spring, and a second Nowruz, in July/August (see Variations of the Zoroastrian calendar), as either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. That the second Nowruz is celebrated after the last day of the year, known as Pateti, which comes after a Muktad period of days remembering the dead. Many Parsis are confused by this, and mistakenly celebrate Pateti as if it were Nowruz, when in fact Nowruz is the day after. Some attribute this confusion by some as celebrating the last day of the year (contrary to what might be expected from a term that means “new day”), may be due to the fact that in ancient Persia the day began at sunset, while in later Persian belief the day began at sunrise.
Zoroastrians of Iranian origin generally put up a Haft Sin table as do other Iranians. Zoroastrians of Parsi (South Asian) origin do not traditionally use a Haft Sin. They set up a standard “sesh” tray- generally a silver tray, with a container of rose water, a container with betel nut, raw rice, raw sugar, flowers, a picture of Zarathustra the prophet, and either a floating wick in a glass filled with water topped with oil for fuel, or an “afargania”, a silver urn with a small fire nourished by sandalwood and other fragrant resins.
Nowruz in the Twelver Shi’a faith
Along with Ismaili’s, Alawites and Alevis, the Twelver Shi’a also hold the day of Nowruz in high regard. The day upon which Nowruz falls has been recommended as a day of fasting for Twelver Shi’a Muslims by Shi’a scholars, including Abul-Qassim al-Khoei, Imam Khomeini andAli al-Sistani. The day also assumes special significance for Shias as it was on 21 March 656 AD when the first Imam Hazrat Ali assumed the office of Caliphate.
Naw-Rúz in the Bahá’í Faith
Naw-Rúz in the Bahá’í Faith is one of nine holy days for adherents of the Bahá’í Faith worldwide and the first day of the Bahá’í calendaroccurring on the vernal equinox, around March 21.The Bahá’í calendar is composed of 19 months, each of 19 days, and each of the months is named after an attribute of God; similarly each of the nineteen days in the month also are named after an attribute of God. The first day and the first month were given the attribute of Bahá, an Arabic word meaning splendour or glory, and thus the first day of the year was the day of Bahá in the month of Bahá. Bahá’u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith, explained that Naw-Rúz was associated with theMost Great Name of God, and was instituted as a festival for those who observed the Nineteen day fast.
The day is also used to symbolize the renewal of time in each religious dispensation.`Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’u'lláh’s son and successor, explained that significance of Naw-Rúz in terms of spring and the new life it brings. He explained that the equinox is a symbol of themessengers of God and the message that they proclaim is like a spiritual springtime, and that Naw-Rúz is used to commemorate it.
As with all Bahá’í holy days, there are few fixed rules for observing Naw-Rúz, and Bahá’ís all over the world celebrate it as a festive day, according to local custom. Persian Bahá’ís still observe many of the Iranian customs associated with Nowruz such as the Haft Sîn, but American Bahá’í communities, for example, may have a potluck dinner, along with prayers and readings from Bahá’í scripture.
Navroz celebration by Parsis
In the Fasli/Bastani variant of the Zoroastrian calendar, Navroz is always the day of the vernal equinox (nominally falling on March 21). In theShahenshahi and Kadmi calendars, which do not account for leap years, the New Year’s Day has drifted ahead by over 200 days. These latter two variants of the calendar, which are only followed by the Zoroastrians of India, celebrate the spring equinox as Jamshed-i Nouroz, with New Year’s Day then being celebrated in July–August as Pateti “(day) of penitence” (from patet “confession,” hence also repentance and penitence).
Navroz celebration by Kashmiri Pandits
The Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Navroz (or Navreh in Kashmiri) on a date around the vernal equinox. The date, which usually falls between mid-March and mid-April, is determined by the Hindu lunar calendar every year.
Thal Bharun (meaning ‘filling the platter’) is a major Kashmiri Pandit Navroz tradition. It is similar to the Iranian Haft Sin. The items placed on the tray or platter generally include wheat or rice , a sweet pudding made from milk and cereal, fruits, walnuts, rosewater, a coin (sikkeh), a pen, an ink-holder, a mirror (for introspection, purity of thought and honesty), and a lit diya or clay lamp (representing satyaprakasa, the Light of the Truth). Besides, new clothes are worn and presents are exchanged. Some adults, particularly women, fast on this day.
The UN’s General Assembly in 2010 recognized March 21 as the International Day of Nowruz, describing it a spring festival of Persian origin which has been celebrated for over 3,000 years and calling on world countries to draw on the holiday’s rich history to promote peace and goodwill. During the meeting of The Inter-governmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage of the United Nations, held between 28 September – 2 October 2009 in Abu Dhabi, Nowrūz was officially registered on the UNESCO List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. In response to the UN recognition, Iran unveiled a postage stamp. The stamp was made public in the presence of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the first International Nowruz Celebrations in Tehran on Saturday, 27 March 2010. President Ahmadinejad also called for joint efforts to further acquaint the world about the meaningful holiday, adding that it could significantly promote global peace and justice: “Observing Nowruz will not only promote cultural values, but it will also help nations establish relations based on friendship, peace, justice and respect
Obesity ups deadly breast cancer risk
Highly obese women are significantly at a higher risk of developing a less common but more aggressive type of breast cancer, called triple-negative cancers.
The study of more than 155,000 American women found that those with the highest body mass index (BMI) had a 35 percent higher risk of triple-negative breast cancers.
Triple-negative breast cancer is an aggressive form of cancer that affects 10 to 20 percent of cases and lacks 3 receptors of estrogen, progesterone or HER2 receptors needed for most breast cancer drugs to work.
Moreover, these obese women are also in a 39 percent higher risk of developing estrogen-fed breast cancers, Phipps and colleagues reported in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention.
Previous findings have shown that overweight women are at an increased risk of breast cancer, likely because estrogen accumulates in the fat and promotes tumors.
“The fact that we found an association with triple-negative breast cancer is unique because, biologically, this subtype is very different from other breast cancers,” said senior researcher Amanda Phipps from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Philadelphia.
She expressed hope that if further studies confirm her team’s finding, the study may offer women new ways to reduce the risk of triple-negative breast cancers.
10 Steps to Increasing Our Faith ( Emaan )
American scientists suggest Transcendental Meditation not only relieves ones stress but also helps regulate blood pressure levels.
According to the article published in the American Journal of Hypertension, TM is an effective treatment for lowering high blood pressure without the possible side effects of anti-hypertension drugs.
Findings revealed that TM was associated with a 4.7 mm and 3.2 mm reduction in systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
University of Kentucky researchers believe neither forms of relaxation, meditation, biofeedback or stress management have a similar effect on blood pressure.
The study showed TM had an effect similar to adding a second anti-hypertension agent to one’s regimen.
Transcendental Meditation is a simple mental technique of deep relaxation that requires the individual to assume the lotus position for 15-20 minutes, with the eyes closed, in the morning and evening
Prayer helps manage negative emotions
According to the study published in the Social Psychology Quarterly, praying allows the victims of violent relationships with intimate partners to vent their frustration without fear of a brutal reaction.
Another study, similarly, reported that 75 percent of Americans pray on a weekly basis to manage a wide range of negative situations and emotions – illness, sadness, trauma and anger.
“During prayer, victims came to see themselves as they believed God saw them. Since these perceptions were mostly positive, it helped raise their senses of self-worth that counteracted their abuser’s hurtful words,” said Shane Sharp from University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“For some, through prayer they told me they learned to forgive their abusive partners, to let go of their anger and resentment,” she said warning that forgiving abusive partner may be a double-edged sword.
“It’s good for those who are out of that violent relationship to let go of it to a certain extent. But if they’re still in their violent relationship, it may postpone their decision to leave, and that can be bad,” Sharp stressed.
Mut”ah ( Temporary Marriage)
Permanent marriage is the norm which is recommended and encouraged in the Noble Quran and in the traditions of the Prophet and his Ahlul Bayt. Temporary marriage is the exception and should be used as a last resort whenever permanent marriage cannot be afforded or things become extremely difficult to bear (for one who can not get married). This section does not intend to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of such a marriage; but rather, to address its Islamic legality with respect to the Noble Quran and the traditions of the Prophet.
Marriage in Islam is a sacred institution, a commitment, and a pledge by two individuals to respect and uphold each other’s will, dignity, honor, and aspirations. Marriage is of two types: permanent and temporary. Both share the same rules and restrictions and both need a prescribed form of proposal and acceptance, and marriage—even the permanent one—is open to conditions and restrictions. If the marriage is not confined to a period of time, then it would be considered as a permanent one, and if it is conditioned by a period of time, then it is a temporary one.
While disagreeing on the matter of temporary marriage, the scholars of other schools of thought agree that if a man intends to marry a lady for a short period of time without telling her that he will be divorcing her after a period of time and hides his intentions then the marriage is still valid. In such a case, temporary marriage seems more logical since the couple can actually agree on the terms and conditions beforehand with full honesty.
In essence, temporary marriage is a ‘normal marriage’ with a mutual agreement that is conditioned by a period of time. The conditions for this marriage include the following: a proposal and acceptance, a dowry for the woman, both parties have to consent and both have the freedom to accept or decline, both have to be sane, and a virgin woman must have her father’s or guardian’s approval. However, in temporary marriage, there is no obligation for sustenance or inheritance unless it is stated and conditioned in the marriage contract.
Regarding this practice, the Noble Quran says, “So with those whom you have engaged in mut’ah(temporary marriage), give them their dowries as prescribed.” In the tradition of the Prophet, scores of hadiths state the permissibility of temporary marriage. Imam al-Bukhari narrates, “There came to us the declarer of Allah’s Messenger and said, ‘Allah’s Messenger has granted you permission to have temporary marriage,’—that is mut’ah with women.” He also narrates:
We were on an expedition with Allah’s Messenger and we had no women with us. We said, ‘should we not have ourselves castrated?’ He (the Prophet) forbade us to do so. He then granted us permission to contract temporary marriage for a stipulated period giving the women garments; and ‘Abdullah then recited this verse, “O you who believe, do not make unlawful the good things that Allah has made lawful for you, and do not transgress. Allah does not like the transgressors.”
Imam al-Bukhari also narrates:
“We went out with Allah’s Messenger on the expedition to Banu al-Mustaliq. We were suffering from the absence of our wives, so we decided to have temporary marriage with women but by observing ‘azl(outside ejaculation). But we said, ‘We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us – why not ask him?’ So we asked Allah’s Messenger and he said, ‘It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will definitely be born (and nothing can prevent this from occurring).’”
Imam Muslim also narrates instances of temporary marriage being done at the time of the Prophetand gives clear reference that temporary marriage was lawful during the Prophet’s time, the time of the first caliph Abu Bakr, and during part of the time of the second caliph—who was the one who prohibited it. Even after that time, it was still accepted by some Sunni scholars, such as al-Qurtubi who considered it as a lawful form of marriage and that it had been agreed upon by the predecessors and the successors (the salaf and the khalaf).
The leaders of the Ahlul Bayt argue that according to the Noble Quran no one has the authority to make any act lawful or unlawful by his own desire. If there were an interest in banning temporary marriage then Allah, the All-Knowing would have done so through His Prophet.
 Noble Quran, 4:24
 Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 4725; Sahih Muslim, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2494; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 4, 47, 51, and 55
 Noble Quran, 5:87; Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on the Interpretation of the Noble Quran”, Hadith 4249, “Marriage”, Hadith 4683 and 4686; Sahih Muslim, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2493; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 1, 385, 390, 420, 432, and 450
 Sahih al-Bukhari, “Book on Types of Selling”, Hadith 2077, “Setting Free”, Hadith 2356; Sahih Muslim, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2599; al-Tirmidhi, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 1057; al-Nisa’i, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 3275; Abu Dawud, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 1855-1857; Ibn Majah, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 1916; Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 3, 88; Malik, “Book on Divorce”, Hadith 1090, al-Darami, “Book on Marriage”, Hadith 2126 and 2127
 Sahih Muslim, “Book of Marriage”, Ch. 3, Narrations 15-17
 Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Vol. 5, 132; Tafsir al-Tabari
 Sharh al-Tajrid, Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Vol. 1, 49
Imaginary eating helps weight loss
According to a study published in Science, imagining the eating process repeatedly before actually eating something, helps individuals to eat less. Eating more during the imagination session, the lesser of the real food would be consumed afterwards.
“Most people think that imagining a food increases their desire for it and whets their appetite. Our findings show that it is not so simple,” said lead researcher Carey Morewedge.
She stressed that while thinking of a food — its taste, smell, or look — does increase the appetite, performing the mental imagery of actually eating that food decreases ones desire for it.
Carnegie Mellon University researchers believe imagining the eating process would reduce the amount of food consumed through a process known as habituation — a theory suggesting that individuals are less responsive to what they got habituated to.
Experts suggested that imagining food consumption may be a help to individuals trying to reduce weight. Following a healthy, low calorie diet and exercising on a regular basis, however, still remain as the core strategies guaranteeing weight loss.
Miscarriages increases heart attack risk
Having more than two miscarriages increases the heart attack risk by more than fourfold. The risk is reported to be increased by nine folds in women with more than three miscarriages.
There was no significant association between any type of pregnancy loss and stroke, said Elham Kharazmi of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, Germany.
A five-fold increase in the risk, however, does not mean that a woman who suffers multiple miscarriages is very likely to have a heart attack, the study found.
“Recurrent miscarriage and stillbirth are strong gender predictors for [this] and thus should be considered as important indicators for monitoring cardiovascular risk factors and preventive measures,” Kharazmi said.
Further researches are needed to determine the underlying risk factors linked to pregnancy loss and cardiovascular disease, the researchers noted.
Mom’s smoking speeds up girl’s puberty
Scientists reverse aging process in mice
The technique developed by Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researchers can help old mice, physiologically equivalent to 80-year-old humans, to gain certain capacities of young adults.
During the study, published in Nature, researchers genetically manipulated mice to age faster, and then used gene therapy to activate the anti-aging enzyme telomerase to reverse age-related problems.
“We expected to see a slowing or a stabilization of aging. Instead, what we found was a dramatic reversal in aging,” said lead researcher Ronald DePinho, adding that his team is now assessing the effect of the treatment on lifespan and its effects on living a healthier life into old age.
None of the mice developed cancer after the treatment, the study found.
Scientists stressed that the present study is an early step and more researches are needed to assess its potential benefits in normal aging of mice before understanding whether the process might work in humans
‘Arsinoe ruled Egypt before Cleopatra‘
A thesis from Sweden’s University of Gothenburg says Queen Arsinoe II ruled ancient Egypt as a female pharaoh even before the famous Cleopatra was born.
Studying the queen’s unique crown, Maria Nilsson questioned Egypt’s traditional male-dominated royal line, rejecting some researchers’ attempts to minimize Arsinoe’s importance during her lifetime.
“My conclusion instead is that Arsinoe was a female pharaoh and high priestess who was equal to and ruled jointly with her brother and husband, and that she was deified during her actual lifetime,”ScienceDaily quoted Nilsson as saying.
“It was this combination of religion and politics that was behind her long-lived influence.”
Arsinoe’s crown has not been found and is only depicted on Egyptian statues and reliefs. The piece is said to have been created by Egyptian priests as a symbol of the qualities of the queen.
The crown was not only used by Cleopatra, but also by her male descendants who used it as a template when creating a new crown.
It is generally agreed that Queen Arsinoe II was an important figure in ancient Egypt and was respected and honored when her better-known descendant Cleopatra ruled the country 200 years after her death.
The reasons behind Arsinoe’s influence and significant status, however, have been interpreted in many different ways.
Pope Benedict XVI criticises French burqa ban
Why are so many modern British career women converting to Islam?
100,000 Britons have chosen to become Muslim… and average convert is 27-year-old white woman
The report estimated around 5,200 men and women have adopted Islam over the past 12 months, including 1,400 in London. Nearly two-thirds were women, more than 70 per cent were white and the average age at conversion was 27.
She is just one of a growing number of modern British career women to do so. Here, writer EVE AHMED, who was raised as a Muslim before rejecting the faith, explores the reasons why.
The survey, conducted by Kevin Brice from Swansea University, asked converts for their views on the negative aspects of British culture.
They identified alcohol and drunkenness, a ‘lack of morality and sexual permissiveness’, and ‘unrestrained consumerism’.
More than one in four accepted there was a ‘natural conflict’ between being a devout Muslim and living in the UK. Nine out of ten women converts said their change of religion had led to them dressing more conservatively. More than half started wearing a head scarf and 5 per cent had worn the burka.
Much of my childhood was spent trying to escape Islam.
Born in London to an English mother and a Pakistani Muslim father, I was brought up to follow my father’s faith without question.
But, privately, I hated it. The minute I left home for university at the age of 18, I abandoned it altogether.
As far as I was concerned, being a Muslim meant hearing the word ‘No’ over and over again.
Girls from my background were barred from so many of the things my English friends took for granted. Indeed, it seemed to me that almost anything fun was haram, or forbidden, to girls like me.
There were so many random, petty rules. No whistling. No chewing of gum. No riding bikes. No watching Top Of The Pops. No wearing make-up or clothes which revealed the shape of the body.
No eating in the street or putting my hands in my pockets. No cutting my hair or painting my nails. No asking questions or answering back. No keeping dogs as pets, (they were unclean).
And, of course, no sitting next to men, shaking their hands or even making eye contact with them.
These ground rules were imposed by my father and I, therefore, assumed they must be an integral part of being a good Muslim.
Small wonder, then, that as soon as I was old enough to exert my independence, I rejected the whole package and turned my back on Islam. After all, what modern, liberated British woman would choose to live such a life?
Well, quite a lot, it turns out, including Islam’s latest surprise convert, Tony Blair’s sister-in-law Lauren Booth. And after my own break with my past, I’ve followed with fascination the growing trend of Western women choosing to convert to Islam.
Broadcaster and journalist Booth, 43, says she now wears a hijab head covering whenever she leaves home, prays five times a day and visits her local mosque ‘when I can’.
She decided to become a Muslim six weeks ago after visiting the shrine of Fatima al-Masumeh in the city of Qom, and says: ‘It was a Tuesday evening, and I sat down and felt this shot of spiritual morphine, just absolute bliss and joy.’
Before her awakening in Iran, she had been ‘sympathetic’ to Islam and has spent considerable time working in Palestine. ‘I was always impressed with the strength and comfort it gave,’ she says.
How, I wondered, could women be drawn to a religion which I felt had kept me in such a lowly, submissive place? How could their experiences of Islam be so very different to mine?
According to Kevin Brice from Swansea University, who has specialised in studying white conversion to Islam, these women are part of an intriguing trend.
He explains: ‘They seek spirituality, a higher meaning, and tend to be deep thinkers. The other type of women who turn to Islam are what I call “converts of convenience”. They’ll assume the trappings of the religion to please their Muslim husband and his family, but won’t necessarily attend mosque, pray or fast.’
I spoke to a diverse selection of white Western converts in a bid to re-examine the faith I had rejected.
Women like Kristiane Backer, 43, a London-based former MTV presenter who had led the kind of liberal Western-style life that I yearned for as a teenager, yet who turned her back on it and embraced Islam instead. Her reason? The ‘anything goes’ permissive society that I coveted had proved to be a superficial void.
The turning point for Kristiane came when she met and briefly dated the former Pakistani cricketer and Muslim Imran Khan in 1992 during the height of her career. He took her to Pakistan where she says she was immediately touched by spirituality and the warmth of the people.
Kristiane says: ‘Though our relationship didn’t last, I began to study the Muslim faith and eventually converted. Because of the nature of my job, I’d been out interviewing rock stars, travelling all over the world and following every trend, yet I’d felt empty inside. Now, at last, I had contentment because Islam had given me a purpose in life.’
‘In the West, we are stressed for superficial reasons, like what clothes to wear. In Islam, everyone looks to a higher goal. Everything is done to please God. It was a completely different value system.
‘Despite my lifestyle, I felt empty inside and realised how liberating it was to be a Muslim. To follow only one god makes life purer. You are not chasing every fad.
‘I grew up in Germany in a not very religious Protestant family. I drank and I partied, but I realised that we need to behave well now so we have a good after-life. We are responsible for our own actions.’
For a significant amount of women, their first contact with Islam comes from dating a Muslim boyfriend. Lynne Ali, 31, from Dagenham in Essex, freely admits to having been ‘a typical white hard-partying teenager’.
She says: ‘I would go out and get drunk with friends, wear tight and revealing clothing and date boys.
‘I also worked part-time as a DJ, so I was really into the club scene. I used to pray a bit as a Christian, but I used God as a sort of doctor, to fix things in my life. If anyone asked, I would’ve said that, generally, I was happy living life in the fast lane.’
But when she met her boyfriend, Zahid, at university, something dramatic happened.
She says: ‘His sister started talking to me about Islam, and it was as if everything in my life fitted into place. I think, underneath it all, I must have been searching for something, and I wasn’t feeling fulfilled by my hard-drinking party lifestyle.’
Lynne converted aged 19. ‘From that day, I started wearing the hijab,’ she explains, ‘and I now never show my hair in public. At home, I’ll dress in normal Western clothes in front of my husband, but never out of the house.’
With a recent YouGov survey concluding that more than half the British public believe Islam to be a negative influence that encourages extremism, the repression of women and inequality, one might ask why any of them would choose such a direction for themselves.
Yet statistics suggest Islamic conversion is not a mere flash in the pan but a significant development. Islam is, after all, the world’s fastest growing religion, and white adopters are an important part of that story.
‘Evidence suggests that the ratio of Western women converts to male could be as high as 2:1,’ says Kevin Brice.
Moreover, he says, often these female converts are eager to display the visible signs of their faith — in particular the hijab — whereas many Muslim girls brought up in the faith choose not to.
‘Perhaps as a result of these actions, which tend to draw attention, white Muslims often report greater amounts of discrimination against them than do born Muslims,’ adds Brice, which is what happened to Kristiane Backer.
She says: ‘In Germany, there is Islamophobia. I lost my job when I converted. There was a Press campaign against me with insinuations about all Muslims supporting terrorists — I was vilified. Now, I am a presenter on NBC Europe.
‘I call myself a European Muslim, which is different to the ‘born’ Muslim. I was married to one, a Moroccan, but it didn’t work because he placed restrictions on me because of how he’d been brought up. As a European Muslim, I question everything — I don’t accept blindly.
‘But what I love is the hospitality and the warmth of the Muslim community. London is the best place in Europe for Muslims, there is wonderful Islamic culture here and I am very happy.’
For some converts, Islam represents a celebration of old-fashioned family values.
‘Some are drawn to the sense of belonging and of community — values which have eroded in the West,’ says Haifaa Jawad, a senior lecturer at the University of Birmingham, who has studied the white conversion phenomenon.
‘Many people, from all walks of life, mourn the loss in today’s society of traditional respect for the elderly and for women, for example. These are values which are enshrined in the Koran, which Muslims have to live by,’ adds Brice.
It is values like these which drew Camilla Leyland, 32, a yoga teacher who lives in Cornwall, to Islam. A single mother to daughter, Inaya, two, she converted in her mid-20s for ‘intellectual and feminist reasons’.
She explains: ‘I know people will be surprised to hear the words “feminism” and “Islam” in the same breath, but in fact, the teachings of the Koran give equality to women, and at the time the religion was born, the teachings went against the grain of a misogynistic society.
‘The big mistake people make is by confusing culture with religion. Yes, there are Muslim cultures which do not allow women individual freedom, yet when I was growing up, I felt more oppressed by Western society.’
She talks of the pressure on women to act like men by drinking and having casual sex. ‘There was no real meaning to it all. In Islam, if you begin a relationship, that is a commitment of intent.’
Growing up in Southampton — her father was the director of Southampton Institute of Education and her mother a home economics teacher — Camilla’s interest in Islam began at school.
She went to university and later took a Masters degree in Middle East Studies. But it was while living and working in Syria that she had a spiritual epiphany. Reflecting on what she’d read in the Koran, she realised she wanted to convert.
Her decision was met with bemusement by friends and family.
‘People found it so hard to believe that an educated, middle-class white woman would choose to become Muslim,’ she says.
While Camilla’s faith remains strong, she no longer wears the hijab in public. But several of the women I spoke to said strict Islamic dress was something they found empowering and liberating.
Lynne Ali remembers the night this hit home for her. ‘I went to an old friend’s 21st birthday party in a bar,’ she reveals. ‘I walked in, wearing my hijab and modest clothing, and saw how everyone else had so much flesh on display. They were drunk, slurring their words and dancing provocatively.
‘For the first time, I could see my former life with an outsider’s eyes, and I knew I could never go back to that.
‘I am so grateful I found my escape route. This is the real me — I am happy to pray five times a day and take classes at the mosque. I am no longer a slave to a broken society and its expectations.’
Kristiane Backer, who has written a book on her own spiritual journey, called From MTV To Mecca, believes the new breed of modern, independent Muslims can band together to show the world that Islam is not the faith I grew up in — one that stamps on the rights of women.
She says: ‘I know women born Muslims who became disillusioned an d rebelled against it. When you dig deeper, it’s not the faith they turned against, but the culture.
‘Rules like marrying within the same sect or caste and education being less important for girls, as they should get married anyway —– where does it say that in the Koran? It doesn’t.
‘Many young Muslims have abandoned the “fire and brimstone” version they were born into have re-discovered a more spiritual and intellectual approach, that’s free from the cultural dogmas of the older generation. That’s how I intend to spend my life, showing the world the beauty of the true Islam.’
While I don’t agree with their sentiments, I admire and respect the women I interviewed for this piece.
They were all bright and educated, and have thought long and hard before choosing to convert to Islam — and now feel passionately about their adopted religion. Good luck to them. And good luck to Lauren Booth. But it’s that word that sums up the difference between their experience and mine — choice.
Perhaps if I’d felt in control rather than controlled, if I’d felt empowered rather than stifled, I would still be practising the religion I was born into, and would not carry the burden of guilt that I do about rejecting my father’s faith