Saturday, November 04, 2006

9/11 – A view from the other side

On September 11, 2001 a series of events took place that would eventually see 2,973 people die because of a series of terrorist attacks. Within a few hours the world would watched the events unfold as reports of the tragedies flowed freely from every media outlet. Whether it be print, film or internet, we were deluged with vivid imagery and reports that haunted us, we were asked questions that that could not be answered. For 5 years I have read the heroic tales of rescue workers, who risked their lives, and I have seen the stories of the wicked Al-Qaeda conspirators, and I have even seen the victims rise to the level of martyr.

As a Muslim, and American I have witnessed the prejudice, been asked the questions, and suffered innumerable assumptions. Oft forgotten in the post 9/11 Islamophobic tendencies of the media, is that the majority of Muslims condemned the actions that transpired on that day. For the families of several hundred victims the grief and sorrow, anguish and despair has been compounded by constant suspicion, hatred and prejudice. For these families I have written this article.

For the Muslim victims of 9/11 I offer remembrance, and tribute to those who were lost but should never be forgotten. May Allah bless them and have mercy upon them all.

A 23-year-old New York City police cadet who was a part-time ambulance driver, incoming medical student, and devout Muslim disappeared on September 11. Law enforcement officials came to his family, seeking him for questioning in relation to the terrorist attacks. Salman Hamdani’s family never believed he would be involved but were forced to dl with the suspicions for over 6 months, until his remains were finally identified. He was found near the North Tower, with his EMT medical bag beside him, presumably doing everything he could to help those in need

On the morning of September 11, 2001 Mohammad Chowdhury prayed salat-al-fajr with his wife Baraheen Ashrafi who was 9 months pregnant. This was the last time she saw him. Baraheen gave birth just 48 hours later to their son Farqad.

Rahma Salie was 7 months pregnant and traveling to California with her husband Michael Theodoridis (who was also a Muslim) to attend the wedding of a friend. Their story did not end when American Airlines #11 slammed into the North Tower; Rahma's name was initially put on an FBI watch list, because her "Muslim-sounding" name was on the passenger manifest, and her travel patterns were similar to those of the hijackers (she was a computer consultant living in Boston). Although her name was eventually removed from the list, several of her family members were barred from taking flights to her memorial service.

Shabir Ahmed immigrated to America from Bangladesh in hopes of finding a better life. He dreamed of becoming a lawyer, but as a devoted father of 3, he settled for a job as a waiter in the Windows of the World restaurant to provide for his family, ensuring that his kids would continue on to college. He left behind a wife 3 children.

Tariq Amanullah was assistant vice president of computer information technology at Fiduciary Trust Co. International, and a team member of the ICNA website. Known to his family for coming home after long hours of work, and sitting to help his children with their studies, Tariq was also earnestly interested in world affairs, and following the cricket scores back in his native home of Pakistan. He leaves a wife and 2 children.

Touri Bolourchi was a retired nurse born in Tehran, who spoke 6 languages. She moved to the United States with her daughter in 1979 while her husband, Akbar Bolourchi joined them two years later. She had just spent two weeks with her daughter and two grandsons in Boston although her husband said his wife had not been to Boston for two years because she was afraid of airplanes. Touri was not supposed to be aboard Flight 175, but she decided to stay a few extra days in Boston to visit her daughter and two grandchildren while her husband, Abkar, flew home to Los Angeles on the flight she, too, had originally planned to take.

When the 32-year-old Nezam Ahmad Hafiz, who was appointed captain of the American Cricket Society last year, flashed his toothy grin, people took notice. A claims analyst for Marsh & McLennan, he was recruited by the Guyanese national team at 19, and toured Barbados, Jamaica and other islands throughout the West Indies, and the Caribbean. Nezam lived for the moment, “He had a certain strut, a certain bounce." And he never planned for the future saying 'tomorrow would provide for itself.

Khalid Shahid, of Union, N.J., arrived at work unusually early on Tuesday to attend a company meeting at Cantor Fitzgerald, on the 103rd floor of World Trade Center. Son of a Pakistani father and Colombian mother, Shahid, graduated Montclair State College and was a talented tennis player. Life was looking promising for Shahid, he was engaged to be married in November and had just bought a house in Mount Olive, N.J.

Mohammed Shajahan had a home and young family in comfortable Spring Valley, N.Y., and commuted five days a week to a job in lower Manhattan. There, he was an up-and-coming computer administrator for the insurance brokerage Marsh & McLennan on the 96th floor of Tower One at the World Trade Center. He helped two brothers immigrate to New York and constantly was engaged in giving assistance of all kinds to friends, family members -— even people he barely knew —- in his hometown of Asadpur in southeast Bangladesh. Trying to live the ‘American dream’ He operated a convenience store for a time, studied computer science at Pace University, before working his way up to a good-paying job at Marsh & McLennan. Shajahan and wife Mansura were active members of the Mosque of Jerrahi Order in Chestnut Ridge, N.Y. where the mosque operates an ambitious social outreach program, and Shajahan was an enthusiastic volunteer. according to sister-in-law Ruby Zigrino. He left behind a wife and 4 children.

In the end putting a face on victimization is just as easy as putting a face on terrorism. “If any one slew a person… it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.” Al-Maeda 5:32

Partial List of Muslim 9/11 Victims:

Note: This list is as yet incomplete and unconfirmed. It has been compiled from the Islamic Circle of North America, the Newsday victims database, and reports from other major news organizations.

Samad Afridi, Ashraf Ahmad, Shabbir Ahmad, Umar Ahmad, Azam Ahsan, Ahmed Ali, Tariq Amanullah, Touri Bolourchi, Salauddin Ahmad Chaudhury, Abdul K. Chowdhury, Mohammad S. Chowdhury, Jamal Legesse Desantis, Ramzi Attallah Douani, SaleemUllah Farooqi, Syed Fatha, Osman Gani, Mohammad Hamdani, Salman Hamdani, Aisha Harris, Shakila Hoque, Nabid Hossain, Shahzad Hussain, Talat HussainMohammad Shah Jahan, Yasmeen Jamal, Mohammed Jawarta, Arslan Khan Khakwani, Asim Khan, Ataullah Khan, Ayub Khan, Qasim Ali Khan, Sarah Khan, Taimour Khan, Yasmeen Khan, Zahida Khan, Badruddin Lakhani, Omar Malick, Nurul Hoque Miah, Mubarak Mohammad, Boyie Mohammed, Raza Mujtaba, Omar NamoosMujeb Qazi, Tarranum Rahim, Ehtesham U. Raja, Ameenia Rasool, Naveed Rehman, Yusuf Saad, Rahma Salie & unborn child, Michael Theodoridis, Shoman Samad, Asad Samir, Khalid Shahid, Mohammed Shajahan, Naseema Simjee, Jamil Swaati, Sanober Syed, Robert Elias Talhami, W. Wahid

Please forgive me for any names I have missed, understand there are many more people missing, however a truly complete compilation of the Muslim victims has yet to be complete.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Niqab Controversy

The flames of controversy over religious and individual rights continue to burn, the darkened embers of our Ummah providing the fuel for those whishing to stoke the fire.

The latest furor comes from England where certain politicians have taken a stand against the Muslimah’s right to wear niqab. Recent comments by Jack Straw, the MP for Blacburn, caused controversy and conflict when he called on Muslim women to stop wearing veils. Furthermore he said the coverings made “better, positive relations” between communities “more difficult”. He said the practice of concealing features was “a visible statement of separation and of difference”.

A statement of this nature is misinformed, illogical and selectively discriminatory based on ones religious beliefs. Considering that 30% of his constituency is Muslim, one would think Mr. Straw would be more responsible; Straw should realize that his job is to represent the interests of the constituency not to alienate one third of it.

But Jack Straw is not alone, indeed more British politicians feel the need to defend Mr. Straw and his decision to ask women to remove their niqab when the come to him as part of his constituency. Another MP, Harriet Harman recently said “Wearing a full face veil harms women's participation in society and effectively bars them from becoming an MP” and thus women should not wear the niqab. Trevor Phillips, who heads the Commission for Racial Equality was also asked about whether full-face veils should be allowed in the classroom, and went so far as to say "If I were the head teacher in that school, I would probably say that veils should not be worn in the classroom."

I do not know what I should feel more, anger at the arrogance of these people or sadness at the ignorance and misunderstanding that they possess. They defend and justify their positions base on the idea “If you can’t read their face that does provide some separation.” However this statement has no credibility under any scrutiny. Jewish men wear the yamikahs, Catholic nuns where a habbitt, Ethiopian and Indian woman wear forms of head coverings, Hindu men where turbans, all of which are meant to offer a form of separation based on ones own cultural or religious beliefs. Each individual uses their clothing or looks as a means to identify their beliefs it is our ability to see this and understand which allows us to deal appropriately with each person base on our understanding of their customs.

The inability to adapt combined with ineffective communication will set cultural reform back decades if it is not corrected. Let them stop talking about the intolerance of others and take a closer look at their own intolerances. A society which decry’s women for dressing modestly, celebrates women for dressing scantily, and judges people base on their looks rather then their actions is one small step away from the oppression and persecution indicative of the medieval dark ages.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Guantanamo and the Hypocrisy of World Politics

It seems as if the saga of the worlds “Symbol of injustice and Abuse” known as the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center will never end. On September 06, 2006 President Bush announced that fourteen suspected terrorists are to be transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detainment camp and admitted that these suspects have been held in CIA black sites (whose existance had previously been denied). These 14 “high ranking” figures caught mostly between 2002-2003 had not been charged with any crimes until September 11, 2006, the timing of which begs to ask if it was mere coincidence or publicity stunt.

These events have refueled Eutropean critismn of Guantamo and the call for closure of the US dention/interrogation center. The latest critic, British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett called for its closure as well calling it ‘unacceptable’ and claiming that it only fuels Islamic radicalism. To slam the US for its practices seems to be a rising trend in Europe however let us not be fooled into believing the hype of ‘public politics’. Hypocrisy is alive and well. According to documents made public this month in London, officials there recently rejected a U.S. offer to transfer 10 former British residents from Guantanamo to the United Kingdom, arguing that it would be too expensive to keep them under surveillance. Britain has also staved off a legal challenge by the relatives of some prisoners who sued to require the British government to seek their release.

The German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also decried the abuses at Guantanmo calling for its closure while Germany had refused a Turkish citizen who was born and raised in Germany finally permitting him to return from Guantanamo in August 2006, four years after the German government turned down a U.S. proposal to release him.

Virtually all European governments have been vocal in their denouncement of Guantanmo Bay, however almost everyone of them have rebuffed any attempts to transfer or release prisoners/former prisoners to these countries. Over 100 countries refused even those seeking asylum after being cleared and released before Albania (the largest European Muslim country) accepted them.

This is hypocrisy at its best, the US who is the role of modern democracy and freedom is seen for what it is regarding Guantanmo:

“As a lawyer brought up to admire the ideals of American democracy and justice, I would have to say that I regard this a monstrous failure of justice. The military will act as interrogators, prosecutors and defence counsel, judges, and when death sentences are imposed, as executioners. The trials will be held in private. None of the guarantees of a fair trial need be observed.” Lord Steyn prominent former UK Judge

In an effort to ease its public relations nightmare, the US has sought to release several prisoners to their countries of residence, however they have been met with very blunt refusals by their closest allies who see it as “an American problem” – from Germany refusing to accept a legal German resident because he had failed to renew his German residency permit while he was locked up in Guantanamo, to England refusing to accept two residents who had legally immigrated to England in 1984 and 1994, because they did not have citizenship. It is also interesting to note that in this case, the men were seized in 2002 during a business trip to West Africa, taken to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan and later shipped to Cuba, all which occurred because British agents informed the CIA of their whereabouts after the two men had refused to work as informants for MI5 in London.

In the end we have the US and it hypocrisy being bitten by European hypocrisy and what we are left with is over 400 people suffering the abuses of “the gulag of our times”. May Allah protect all of those who suffer abuse and injustice.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

No Appologies Needed

Over the years I have experienced a vast array of different ideologies regarding Islam. There is one particular mentality that I have found primarily in ‘The West’ that is bothersome to me and in this article I hope to bring out this mentality and correct what I believe to be a very sad and potentially detrimental ideology. As to what I am referring to, it is what I call the “Apologist” Muslim mentality.

An apologist Muslim is usually a well intentioned Muslim who feels he must defend Islam against non-believers but usually does so with self-defeating mentality attempting to show how Islamic beliefs are no different or are at least very similar to those of the western world. If we are accused of having totalitarian regimes running our countries, they try to show how democratic Islam is. When confronted about Jihad they try to explain how Muslims were only defending themselves. When told women are treated poorly in Islam, the apologist attempts to rationalize polygamy with restrictions, they offer rationale regarding how kind and gentle Muslims are.

To these well intentioned people I must say one thing “No apology needed” – We as Muslims have the perfect religion which needs no justifications, which needs no defense. Take pride in Islam. The uniqueness of Islam was revealed when Allah said:

"This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favour unto you, and have chosen for you as your religion Islam." Surah Maida 05:03

Completed his favor and Perfected our religion. Where else has Allah said this? To whom else has he said this? Moreover how and why do we need to justify Islam? Simply said, we do not. We need to be proud of our Islamic legacy. Islam is Perfect and free of flaws as evidenced by the following surah:

“This Qur'an is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of (revelations) that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book - wherein there is no doubt - from the Lord of the worlds.” Surah Yunus 10:37

We should not be living to satisfy any other then Allah; we are not here to pacify the sensibilities of those who differ from us; we are here to follow the path that Allah has laid out before us; we are here to please Allah. We need no justification for those who know, we do need comparisons. When confronted about what the Muslims are doing around the world – terrorism, polygamy, and tyranny – I say to them ‘Judge the people by book (al-Quran) not the book by the people’. Most confrontations and following justifications are coming from ignorance; people with an outside perspective judging from what they have heard about Islam. Ask them this before responding ‘What do you know about Islam? Not what have you heard about Islam, but what do you know’ and you will find most do not know much about the topic they are attacking.

“And have patience with what they say, and leave them with noble (dignity).” Surah Al-Muzzammil 73:10

Do not be harsh in your response. It is our responsibility to go forth and educate them about what Islam really is because you can not have an effective dialogue with the uniformed. Islam is not something for the casual observer, it is a way of life, and to understand it in context we must educate ourselves as well. We need not apologize for our beliefs, we need not justify them, all we need is to look towards the perfect revelation, the living miracle known as the Quran and the example for all mankind who was our beloved prophet Muhammad. It is within these boundaries that will find our reason and rationale; it is here we will know the truth and have no doubts. To doubt, or justify Islam, is to doubt or justify Allah whose attributes include Malik Al-Mulk (The Eternal Owner of Sovereignty) so let us take pride in Islam and not hide behind a veil of apologetic assimilation.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Last Words

I see the bombs explode
I watch the blood flow
The smell of death
Fills my nose

I run and fall
As you break through my walls
Tears of pain
Cover my shame

I watch your plan
To steal our land
And with no remorse
You stay your course

How many must die
As we stand and cry
How do we deal with the injustice
As the world watches us

I now will pay the price
For my peoples freedom
With pride and sacrifice
I offer my life

Saturday, June 10, 2006

No Honor in Honor Killings

Honor killings are a time honored tradition that have taken place in all areas of the world from Europe and the Americas, to Africa and the Middle East and almost all places in between. While we have seen many places make strides to abolish this practice, it is still a problem happening across the world.

The countries most notorious for honor killings are Middle Eastern countries or “Muslim” countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine (although India is not an “Arab” or “Muslim” country it too ranks very high in international honor killing statistics). This however leads to the general impressions that honor killings are somehow related to the Islam which feeds into a general xenophobic mentality against Islam and Muslims; and this phenomenon is used by the racists and the religious dogmatist alike as yet another stick with which to beat Muslims, attempting to characterize these murders as condoned by Islam and Muslims.

“Who receiveth guidance, receiveth it for his own benefit: who goeth astray doth so to his own loss: No bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another: nor would We visit with Our Wrath until We had sent an messenger” Surah Al-Isra 17:15

The above mentioned verse clearly demonstrates that in Islam a Muslims understand the basic principle of “No person bears the sins of another” because we know Allah is “Ar-Rahim” the most merciful. If there is no burden or sin to be endured by the family, then their can be no dishonor done to them; surely no dishonor worthy of the death penalty.

“Like all other religions, Islam strictly prohibits murder and killing without legal justification. Allah, Most High, says, “Whoso slayeth a believer of set purpose, his reward is Hell for ever. Allah is wroth against him and He hath cursed him and prepared for him an awful doom.” Surah An-Nisa’: 93
The so-called “honor killing” is based on ignorance and disregard of morals and laws, which cannot be abolished except by disciplinary punishments.
Sheikh `Atiyyah Saqr
former head of Al-Azhar Fatwa Committee

The custom of Honor Killings is purely a cultural tradition that predates Islam; Honor Killings are not even unique to Muslims societies, and are not even indicative of all Muslim countries. The extent of cultures following the 'honor ethic' is more geographical than ideological, comprising the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean regions.

This tradition or custom must stop, there is no reason any civilized person should continue to practice such acts, and moreover it goes against the most fundamental beliefs in Islam. I leave you with this Surah which was brought to my attention by a good friend:

“The Believers, men and women, are protectors one of another: they enjoin what is just, and forbid what is evil: they observe regular prayers, practise regular charity, and obey Allah and His Messenger. On them will Allah pour His mercy: for Allah is Exalted in power, Wise.” Surah At Tawba 9:71

And with this final thought in the mode of socio-linguistics I tell you “Forgive” is mentioned 69 times in the Quran and 111 times in Sahih Bukhari while “Revenge” is mentioned just twice in the Quran and only 12 times in Sahih Bukhari.

Honour killings outside the world of Islam

In India, for example, many such murders are committed by Hindus and Sikhs. For some Hindus, an honor killing may be motivated by a woman marrying across caste boundaries. In 2003, a young couple who fell in love at University and contracted a secret marriage. Her family disapproved of the match due to his low status in the caste system. They were both forced to drink poison with scores of witnesses to their agonizing deaths. Most cases in India occur in Punjab and Haryana (in which two provinces one out of every ten murders is an honor killing) and parts of western Uttar Pradesh. Many of these murders are ordered by an informal judicial system of caste panchayat, which is a self-proclaimed body consisting of village elders, from which women are excluded. Mangal Singh, a Sikh interviewed in Amritsar, claimed that the 17 women and children killed within his family were willing 'martyrs' in the name of family pride.

Honor killing also happens in Christian communities in the Mediterranean and other regions. The culture of Ancient Rome allowed the father to kill his children if he deemed necessary. Honor killing was only abolished as a specific category in Italy in 1981, and murders in the name of honor still occur in the country - In 2006, Bruna Morito was shot six times in the face by her brother for bearing a child outside marriage. In Brazil, men could be acquitted for murdering their wives up until 1991, and there have been 800 recorded such murders in a single year. Even in 1991, a lower court ignored the ruling of the Supreme Court and acquitted Joao Lopes for the double homicide of his wife and her lover. In fact, the opposition of the woman as the vessel of familial honor and the man as its protector was widespread throughout the southern European region, although it is not clear how many murders are committed in the name of honor at the present time.

Even within the Middle East, honor killing is not restricted to Muslims. In Yemen, a Jewish father killed his daughter after a rebuke from the rabbi for her extra-marital pregnancy, and in Palestine, in 2005, Faten Habash was beaten to death with an iron bar, wielded by her Christian father because she wanted to marry her Muslim boyfriend.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Women in Islam

We as an ummah have seen the rights of women steadily erode over the last 1400 years, to a point that cultural and social practices supersede the rights guaranteed to women by Allah, as seen in the Quran and Hadith. The rights that are inherent in Islam are taken for granted by societal misconceptions leading to the degradation of our women.

Allah has given us the guide by which we live our lives, and he has offered the perfect example to model ourselves after. I feel it is imperative that we look closer at the way we treat or allow others to treat women, and judge these actions according to the way of Allah. Let us begin our work in understanding a woman’s role in Islam by going to the source of Allah’s words:

“For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast, for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah's praise, for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.” Holy Quran 33:35

This is one of the most prolific versus in stating the significance of women in Islam because her role is stated unequivocally as that with a man. The term “men and women” associating their actions as the same is repeated not once or twice, but it is mentioned ten times ending in “for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward.”. Men and women, for them, not him and not her, but for them is a great reward.

Is man somehow a more perfect creation then his counterpart? Again let us look to the most definitive source for the answer:

“O mankind! Reverence your Guardian-Lord, who created you from a single person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from this pair scattered (like seeds) countless men and women. Reverence Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights), and reverence the wombs (that bore you); for Allah ever watches over you.” Holy Quran 4:1

“And among His signs is this that He has created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them; and He has put love and mercy between you. Verily in that are signs for those who reflect.” Holy Quran 30:21

In the abovementioned verses it is clear that Allah has created man and woman from a single “person” and of “like nature” and that He has created us to “dwell in tranquility” and he put “love and mercy” between us. If you look at the verses closely you notice that Allah mentions man and woman were created the same, with similar natures and are to live together in peace. It was not revealed with one in a position of superiority over the other.

Marriage gives special importance to women as well as evidenced in the Quran and the Hadith. Women have been given rights in Islam that were not seen elsewhere for hundreds of years. The nature of marriage was revealed in many ways, one of which describes the family unit that comes from wedlock:

“And Allah has made for you your mates of your own nature, and made for you, out of them, sons and daughters and grandchildren, and provided for you sustenance of the best.” Holy Quran 16:72

Describing a man and his wife Allah once again uses a most beautiful metaphor to describe them:

“They (your wives) are your garment and you are a garment for them.” Holy Quran 2:187

This simple statement means so many things if one but looks sincerely. “The garment is the grace, the beauty, the embellishment of the body, so too are wives to their husbands as their husbands are to them." – A garment helps preserve our modesty, just as a husband and wife protect each others modesty; a garment offers comfort and security to ones body just as husband and wife offer security and comfort to each other. Such a simple statement that means so much. The relationship between man and woman is described further ensuring certain protections for her; Allow me to offer a few evidences:

“Live with them in kindness; even if you dislike them, perhaps you dislike something in which Allah has placed much good” Holy Quran 4:19

“Then keep them in all decency or part from them decently. It is not lawful for you to take anything you have given them” Holy Quran 2:229

Narrated Abu Huraira:

The Prophet said, "A matron should not be given in marriage except after consulting her; and a virgin should not be given in marriage except after her permission." The people asked, "O Allah's Apostle! How can we know her permission?" He said, "Her silence (indicates her permission)." Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 67

The afore mentioned versus describe three very important aspects regarding women and marriage; First we find the Quran warns men, not women to live in kindness with his wife because Allah knows what we do not, and surely his wife can have goodness that he will not see until he opens his heart. We then move onto another verse directed to men regarding their wives, and it is a command “keep them in decency” and if that can not be done then to “leave them decently” and this too is something that seems so simplistic today, but when one sees how Allah wanted men to treat women over 1400 years ago, it becomes an amazing change of social and cultural customs that were so prevalent during this period of history. The last verse is in fact a Hadith chosen for the subject that it clarifies. Through social and cultural traditions it had become common then and even today to force ones daughter into a marriage she had no choice in. This hadith clearly demonstrates that women should not be given against their will, and even more important is that it says "Her silence (indicates her permission).” the significance of which is that if her silence is her permission, then it is not only allowing but promoting that a woman actually voice her objection and be heard. This is something not always common even by todays standards.

I will leave off with the most important role of a woman. We have seen the woman as an individual, and as a wife, now let us look at her as a mother. The most important role of a woman is as a mother, so important that the Rasool Allah said:

Narrated Abu Huraira:

A man came to Allah's Apostle and said, "O Allah's Apostle! Who is more entitled to be treated with the best companionship by me?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man said. "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man further said, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your mother." The man asked for the fourth time, "Who is next?" The Prophet said, "Your father." Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 73, Number 2:

I could say so much more about the importance, and significance of women in Islam but for now I will save that for another article. I urge all Muslims to carefully look at the role of women in Islam and take a closer look at some of the most influential women in Islam – Khadija bint Khuwaylid, Aishah bint Abi Bakr, Sumayyah Bint Khabbab, Nasibah bint Ka'b al-Maziniyyah to name but a few of the many Muslimah who helped forge the path of Islam and shape our Ummah in their own ways.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Definition of Occupation

“Nu'man b. Bashir reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” Sahih Muslim Book 032, Number 6258:

When I read this Hadith, my heart fills with sadness because so many of us do not realy feel the importance of it. We do not see the significance of feeling the pain and sorrow of our brothers and sisters around the world. The ummah of the prophet Muhmammed (PBUH) is indeed one body, but perhaps our sickness has gotten so bad it has made us numb to the pain we should be feeling from our hurting limbs. I recently came across this poem written by an 11th grade Palestianian and perhaps the first dose of medicine to heal ourself will come from not forgetting -

The Definition of Occupation

Occupied, terrorized, genocide / while the whole world is hypnotized,

Sixty years, incessant tears / no day passes by without countless fears

For our lives, our wives, our children cry / yet the world turns away, and our spirits die.

For my land, I do stand / but I remain hopeless without a helping hand,

Oppression, suppression, depression / of every aspect of my life, you've taken possession,

Our weapons are stones, to protect our homes / but your bulldozers win and terror roams,

Yours are tanks, helicopters, and military jeeps / to kill the young man, as his mother weeps,

You control our electricity, you control our seas / you control our streets, and uproot our trees,

You close our schools, our children can't learn / you deny the refugees their right to return,

Suffering orphans, under your persecution / when they rise up, they face execution,

Families are separated, and farmers (merely) recall / the land they lost by your Apartheid Wall,

Through your diplomacy and your foreign relations /you attempt to justify and give credence to your occupation,

Palestine is my land, and I won't let you take it /and while you put the world to sleep, I try to wake it.

Abdelnasser Rashid,
April 15, 2006
11th Grade student

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Charity - A Muslim's Obligation

With over 1 billion people in the world living with a consumption level below $1, and nearly 3 billion with consumption levels below $2, poverty has become a global catastrophe. Poverty wears many faces, changing from place to place, and has been described in numerous ways. Poverty is a call to action, a call to change the world so that more people may have enough to eat, have adequate shelter, or access to education and health.

Charity as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary: 1: benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity. 2: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need

Charity as defined by Islam: One of the Five Pillars of Islam. An aspect of our din that is so important it is specifically mentioned in 57 different ayat in al-Quran and 284 sahih hadith from Bukhari and Muslim.

There is Zakat which is obligatory upon every Muslim; however we often forget the rewards of everyday charity. Giving above and beyond what is required of us. In Islam we understand the varying degrees of charity and whom they apply to; One should work and offer of his earnings, if one can not work, then they can volunteer their time and efforts to the poor and needy, if at last the can not do that, then they should encourage others to do good deeds.

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Amr:
A person asked Allah's Apostle "What (sort of) deeds in or (what qualities of) Islam are good?" He replied, "To feed (the poor) and greet those whom you know and those whom you don't know." Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 27

As you can see, the virtue of charity is looked upon with the utmost importance. The often forgotten attribute of our Islamic character, charity is so important that time and time again in the Quran Allah ties prayer and charity together in the same verses.

And be steadfast in prayer; practice regular charity; and bow down your heads with those who bow down (in worship)” Holy Quran 2:43

“But those among them, who are well-grounded in knowledge, and the believers, believe in what hath been revealed to thee and what was revealed before thee: And (especially) those who establish regular prayer and practice regular charity and believe in Allah and in the Last Day: To them shall We soon give a great reward.” Holy Quran 4:162

In the second Surah of the Quran, Al-Baqara, the references to prayer followed by charity is mentioned no less then 5 times. Is this by accident? No, we know that Allah chose for us the most perfect message in Al-Quran and the lessons he repeats throughout are the lessons that are more important then others. Should not we take heed to these words? The command for charity, for support of your family, friends, and community is something fundamental to the Muslim Ummah.

Narrated Anas:
The Prophet said, "None of you will have faith till he wishes for his (Muslim) brother what he likes for himself." Sahih Bukhari Volume 1, Book 2, Number 12

The command for charity is something that is something that is enjoined upon every Muslim, often referring to both men and women, or to “people” in general making his commands universal:

“For those who give in Charity, men and women, and loan to Allah a Beautiful Loan, it shall be increased manifold (to their credit), and they shall have (besides) a liberal reward.” Holy Quran 57:18

Narrated Haritha bin Wahab:
I heard the Prophet saying, "O people! Give in charity as a time will come upon you when a person will wander about with his object of charity and will not find anybody to accept it, and one (who will be requested to take it) will say, "If you had brought it yesterday, would have taken it, but to-day I am not in need of it” Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 24, Number 492

Charity is something best done for no other reward then the pleasure of Allah; No want of reward or expectations should be placed on charity because it is a good deed meant for the heart of the giver and the recipient. Islam asks for and rewards selflessness.

“Those who (in charity) spend of their goods by night and by day, in secret and in public, have their reward with their Lord: on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” Holy Quran 2:274

Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, "Seven people will be shaded by Allah under His shade on the day when there will be no shade except His. They are: …
(6) A person who practices charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given (i.e. nobody knows how much he has given in charity). Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 24, Number 504

The act of charity is something meant for all of mankind to participate in for the benefit of all mankind. Muslims have been commanded by Allah and shown the examples of the Rasool Allah, we can not and should not want, except for wanting Allah; we should not need, except needing Allah; Our duty, our desire; For Allah, for ourselves and for all mankind let us endeavor to put and end to crisis of world poverty.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Unity in Islam

What was it that made the Muslim nation so strong throughout history? What is it that has weakened the Muslim nation today so much? The answer to these questions is the same.

Unity, one word with so many implications. We have been forced apart through internal and external conflicts, and yet we still voluntarily separate ourselves by nationality, race, ethnicity, social and economic differences, even to the extent that we use Islam to separate us from one another. This is how we have fallen so far from the grace of Allah.

Islam has given us the answers we need. Islam is a unifying force throughout the universe, but it is most readily seen in the actions of Muslims. The Prophet taught to believe in Allah, and Allah taught to love one another as brothers.

“The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islamic religion). So take reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.” Noble Quran 49:1

What is the implication of this verse? A singular, clear, and unmistakable proof of how we are to interact with each other. The Muslim, no matter who, no matter where, is a brother unto each other. Allah provides us with many examples for this ideology

“And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah's Favor on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren, and you were on the brink of a pit of Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus Allah makes His Ayat clear to you, that you may be guided.” Noble Quran 3:103

It is time that we the Muslims nation once again unite in the worship of Allah, and watch the family of Islam reclaim its pride and dignity once again. We must come together and recognize the method Allah laid before for success, including the treatment of each other. We can not afford to separate ourselves, we can no longer destroy the Muslim nation with the trivialities. Let us treat each other as Allah planned, look once again to the Quran for this guidance in the first sentence of Surah 48: Al Fath (The Victory), ayat 29

"strong against unbelievers but compassionate amongst each other" Noble Quran 48:29

We should also look into the best example of all mankind, the Prophet Muhammad to see what he said and how he acted, to perpetuate this feeling of brotherhood.

“Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Verily. Allah would say on the Day of Resurrection: Where are those who have mutual love for My Glory's sake? Today I shall shelter them in My shadow when there is no other shadow but the shadow of Mine.” Sahih Muslim Book 032, Number 6225:

Seek refuge in the shelter of Allah’s shadow simply by loving for the sake of Allah, caring for your fellow Muslims for no other reason then the pleasure of Allah. Let us look further into the Hadith for further examples

“Abu Musa reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: A believer is like a brick for another believer, the one supporting the other.” Sahih Muslim Book 032, Number 6257:

“Nu'man b. Bashir reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection, fellow-feeling is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” Sahih Muslim Book 032, Number 6258:

When giving commands regarding the Islamic brotherhood, the Qur’an uses a beautiful style with a profound message. Using a singularity of expression when referring to different words, the Quran imparts a sense of oneness with exceptional fluency. Instead of saying, "greet each other" it says, "greet yourself." Noble Quran 24:61. Instead of saying, "do not defame each other," it says, "do not defame yourself." Noble Quran 49:11. Instead of saying, "The message is clear: Whatever is happening to others in the brotherhood, is actually happening to yourself. It is this sense of self, this inclusive sense of family that will allow us to restore the honor and pride to our nation.

The Living Miracle

From the beginning of time Allah has sent his prophets and messengers, from Adam to Muhammad. Each prophet brought with him the laws of Allah and the highest standard of moral excellence, with their legacies preserved by each following prophet who reinforced the commandments of Allah. This chain eventually ended with the coming of Muhammad, the last and seal of all prophets. Sent as a Messenger for all of mankind, he was sent with a universal message which would be preserved for all times within the Holy Quran.

While the word of God is said to be preserved in the pages of the Tanakh (the Jewish Scriptures) or within the Bible (Christian scriptures), history has shown these efforts have been forced to travel a long and winding road. Without further discourse into why we do not follow these books, I would like to take the time to make mention of the number of books within them. The Tanakh contains 39 books, The Old Testament in Protestant Bibles contains 39 books as well, however Catholic Bibles contains seven more books than are found in the Protestant Bible or the Tanakh (46 compared to 39, respectively). These seven books are called Apocrypha and Catholics know them as the Deuterocanonical books. These seven books are: Tobit, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus (or, Sirach), and Baruch. Also, Catholic Bibles contain an additional six chapters (107 verses) in the book of Esther and another three in the book of Daniel (174 verses). These books and chapters were found in Bible manuscripts in Greek only, and were not part of the Hebrew Canon of the Old Testament.

It is now time not to delve further into why we do not follow the Tanakh or Bible, but instead, why we do follow the Holy Quran. It has been said that the whole of the Quran has a perfect fluency, a superb clarity and soundness, a firm coherence, and a well-established harmony and proportion, and a strong mutual support and interrelation amongst its sentences and their parts, and an elevated correspondence amongst its verses and their purposes. The text of the Holy Quran has remained unchanged over the past 1400 years. The millions of copies of the Quran circulating in the world today are all identical down to a single letter. And this is not strange since God says in the Holy Quran that He Himself will guard this book:

“Verily: It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur'ân) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption).” Noble Quran 15:9

This is the honor bestowed upon mankind, a perfect revelation, preserved for all times. The Quran is divided into 114 Surahs or Chapters and each Chapter consists of individual Ayaat or verses. There are in total 6,348 verses in the Holy Quran. These numbers remain unchanged regardless of time or place. Allah even challenges those who disbelieve to disprove the Quran, while assuring them they will never be able to.

“And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down to Our slave (Muhammad Peace be upon him), then produce a Sûrah of the like thereof and call your witnesses besides Allâh, if you are truthful. But if you do it not, and you can never do it, then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.” Noble Quran 2:23-24

"If the mankind and the jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur'ân, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another." Noble Quran 17:88

The glory of the Quran could fill an infinite number of pages, so I will conclude with this reminder, the reason behind this article. All of mankind should appreciate the beauty of it, but it is we the Muslim Ummah that should be grateful to Allah, for all of his mercy, his greatest mercy was the Holy Quran, miracle of miracles, the living miracle, a mercy that lives through time, and offers hope, inspiration and the path to eternal salvation to all. Embrace it, make it part of us, for we can not have a better part of us, then that which worships, and obeys Allah.

Let him lead our way

What made the Islamic Ummah so great throughout history was the example set by its leaders. We can look at the beautiful simplistic structure that Allah laid down for us, complete in form and flow, and see how he who exhibited the best qualities of mankind became the example and measure of what the Muslim leaders should aspire to be.

Knowing what the Muslims believe of Muhammad I think it is important for the Muslim Ummah to recognize that his character was flawless, and his greatness universal. He is not only an example for us but an example for all mankind. I have selected several examples of what non- Muslims have said of the Prophet Muhammad to help us understand his true greatness of person and example.

"...a mass of detail in the early sources shows that he was an honest and upright man who had gained the respect and loyalty of others who were likewise honest and upright men." Encyclopedia Britannica Vol. 12

"He must be called the Savior of Humanity. I believe that if a man like him were to assume the dictatorship of the modern world, he would succeed in solving its problems in a way that would bring it much needed peace and happiness." The Genuine Islam, George Bernard Shaw Singapore, Vol. 1, No. 8, 1936

"If greatness of purpose, smallness of means and astounding results are the three criteria of human genius, who could dare to compare any great man in modern history with Muhammad? The most famous men created arms, laws and empires only. They founded, if anything at all, no more than material powers which often crumbled away before their eyes. This man moved not only armies, legislation, empires, peoples and dynasties, but millions of men in one-third of the then inhabited world; and more than that, he moved the altars, the gods, the religions, the ideas, the beliefs and souls... his forbearance in victory, his ambition, which was entirely devoted to one idea and in no manner striving for an empire; his endless prayers, his mystic conversations with God, his death and his triumph after death; all these attest not to an imposture but to a firm conviction which gave him the power to restore a dogma. This dogma was two-fold, the unity of God and the immateriality of God; the former telling what God is, the latter telling what God is not; the one overthrowing false gods with the sword, the other starting an idea with the words. Philosopher, orator, apostle, legislator, warrior, conqueror of ideas, restorer of rational dogmas, of a cult without images, the founder of twenty terrestrial empires and of one spiritual empire, that is Muhammad. As regards all the standards by which Human Greatness may be measured, we may well ask, is there any man greater then he?” Alphonse de Lamartine, Historire de la Turquie, Paris, 1854, Vol. II pp. 276-277

“I wanted to know the best of the life of one who holds today an undisputed sway over the hearts of millions of mankind.... I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place for Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet the scrupulous regard for pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and in his own mission. These and not the sword carried everything before them and surmounted every obstacle. When I closed the second volume (of the Prophet's biography), I was sorry there was not more for me to read of that great life.” Mahatma Gandhi, 'Young India,' 1924

"one man single handedly, could weld warring tribes and wandering Bedouins into a most powerful and civilized nation in less than two decades." Thomas Calyle, 'Heroes and Heroworship'

"Muhammad was the soul of kindness, and his influence was felt and never forgotten by those around him" Diwan Chand Sharma, The Prophets of the East, Calcutta, 1935, pp. 12

"The intellectual image of the Deity has never been degraded by any visible idol; the honor of the Prophet has never transgressed the measure of human virtues; and his living precepts have restrained the gratitude of his disciples within the bounds of reason and religion." Edward Gibbon and Simon Ockley, History of the Saracen Empires, London, 1870, p. 54

"It was the first religion that preached and practiced democracy; for, in the mosque, when the call for prayer is sounded and worshippers are gathered together, the democracy of Islam is embodied five times a day when the peasant and king kneel side by side and proclaim: 'God Alone is Great'... I have been struck over and over again by this indivisible unity of Islam that makes man instinctively a brother." Sarojini Naidu, Ideals of Islam, vide Speeches & Writings, Madras, 1918, p. 169

"My choice of Muhammad to lead the list of the world's most influential persons may surprise some readers and may be questioned by others, but he was the only man in history who was supremely successful on both the religious and secular levels." Michael H. Hart, "The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History", New York, 1978, p. 33

"The personality of Muhammad, it is most difficult to get into the whole truth of it. Only a glimpse of it I can catch. What a dramatic succession of picturesque scenes. There is Muhammad the Prophet. There is Muhammad the Warrior; Muhammad the Businessman; Muhammad the Statesman; Muhammad the Orator; Muhammad the Reformer; Muhammad the Refuge of Orphans; Muhammad the Protector of Slaves; Muhammad the Emancipator of Women; Muhammad the Judge; Muhammad the Saint. All in all these magnificent roles, in all these departments of human activities, he is alike a hero." K.S. Ramakrishna Rao, "Muhammad the Prophet of Islam"

If the rest of the world can see what a perfect example our beloved Prophet was is it not time for us, his Ummah to recognize and follow his example?

Muhammad was the best of all men, the most complete example of what mankind could be, spiritual and moral guide, social and political reformer, faithful friend and companion, devoted husband and loving father. All of his striving was for the sole purpose of uniting mankind for the worship of one God on the basis of moral excellence. Muhammad or his followers never at any time claimed that he was a son of God or the God-incarnate instead maintaining that he always was and is a Messenger chosen by God.

Fourteen centuries have past and his standards of excellence still stand as an example to all mankind. A guiding light, his message from Allah is preserved in Al-Quran, his traditions and saying preserved in his sunnah. Let us unite together, putting aside as he did, race and nationality, social or economic status, and become once again the Ummah of the Prophet Muhammad following the way Allah has set before us.