Muslim blogs

Editorial: The Brexit Die Is Cast

The Platform - Wed, 29/06/2016 - 18:24

Britain must gather broken promises left by Brexit campaign and find an inclusive new national politics


In his address to the European Parliament yesterday morning, one sensed Nigel Farage had reached his moment of supreme wizardry – a single man, an idea, ever fighting and finally triumphing over a vast and ruinous treachery. He was determined to mark the new relationship between Britain and Europe with all the subtlety of an exuberant latrine: “you have, by stealth, by deception, without ever telling the truth” lied to the “little people”, the “ordinary people”, the “oppressed”.

In many ways, the speech was a remarkable achievement in capturing the evolving political landscape. Where previously politics was derided as dingy and listless, now it offers humiliation, cruelty and insecurity. With an outgoing prime minister destined to be remembered as seeking to settle internal party disputes by gambling the future of the nation, it fell instead to Farage to clarify a vision of Britain outside of the EU.

By personifying Brussels as the agent of oppression against the voiceless and marginalised, UKIP has successfully offered conspiracy in the place of reality, distrust in the place of unity and exclusion in the place of community. That such conspiracist narratives have been seized by so many as a way of shaping and influencing politics will have grave consequences for years to come. The Farage vision is the one most clearly set out since the horrors of Brexit – and such artless narcissism should concern us immensely.

In particular, the exaggerated and misconstrued narratives of immigration will continue to, in the long term, have a profound impact. At the heart of leaflets telling Polish people to “go back home” or the firebombing of a halal butcher shop in Birmingham, is a belief that the “little people” can only make progress through a rejection of foreign imposed authority – and a cynicism that, through such violence, their aspirations can be recognised. This is the vision of a Little England that Brexit has woefully engineered.

One only had to watch the Leave press conference to realise how insurmountable the Brexit agenda will be, and all the terrible consequences the campaign has engendered. The muted display of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, reminiscent more of a death than a rebirth, revealed complete dismay at a result they did not anticipate. Almost immediately after the result, the façade of Leave slipped as the sheer scale of the campaign’s dishonesty came to light. Within hours, key figures had distanced themselves from the promises of £350 million a week for the NHS, admitted immigration from Europe will not be much changed and, most troublingly, revealed that Leave did not have a Brexit plan. Meanwhile, the economic impact was almost immediate – the world markets went into upheaval, the sterling dropped to a 31-year low and within the day 2 trillion dollars had been wiped off the world market.

Yet, seemingly learning nothing from a brazenly dishonest campaign, the prime ministerial hopeful Boris Johnson set out in an article another long list of empty promises he cannot keep. In a bid to reassure the Remain camp, Johnson promised unity among the four nations of Britain, even as Nicola Sturgeon established a second Scottish referendum is on the table. He promised that Britain remains a part of Europe, intense and intensifying cooperation with the EU will continue, the rights of Britons living on the continent and those seeking to travel and work there will be protected, and that free trade will remain unchanged. Yet none of these promises are now his to make.

Decisions will be made at the mercy of negotiations with the EU, and it is increasingly apparent that they will not favour Britain. Both the president of the European parliament and the president of the European Commission swiftly established that they have no interest in waiting – “this is not an amicable divorce” – while Germany has rejected the notion of early informal talks. “If you want to exist and leave this family, then you cannot expect all the obligations to drop away but privileges to continue to exist,” remarked German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday. Brussels has dismissed Johnson’s aspirations for continued access to the single market as a “pipe dream”. And as for Farage’s involvement, Jean-Claude Juncke’s response to the UKIP leader’s afore-mentioned tirade with a simple “why are you here?” spoke volumes.

Britain is already an outsider, and Europe, snubbed and angered that “a whole continent is taken hostage because of an internal fight in the Tory party” feels it. The sight of MEPs jeering at the chief architect of Brexit in Brussels yesterday speaks volumes about our already diminished status in Europe. Our destiny as an ‘independent’ nation does not fill Europe with envy – a government and opposition in disarray, a rise in hate crime and a Leave campaign without a plan post-Brexit. Rising in parallel to hate crime is the sheer disconnect between a privileged political elite – in fact, a privileged, liberal London class – and those who have been dubbed as the “peripheries”. One can only hope that now the die is cast and the Pandora’s box of populist anger unleashed, our national political approach will have answers to address the rage. This does not feel like a country riding towards an ultimate goal, let alone galloping towards the rest of the world.

It is unclear whether any manoeuvre on the EU referendum result is conceivable, especially in light of the EU’s recent reaction to our folly. Indeed, a sincere acknowledgement of the abuse of democracy and the magnitude of deception from the Leave side of the campaign has yet to surface. Unless it does, we cannot move beyond the political instability we are facing and we will continue to scapegoat communities for political gain. This will, of course, threaten our own social and economic existence. At the same time, political parties and civil society groups must work hard on a post-Brexit plan, identifying the areas which will be most affected and lobbying on policies where it matters.

There is now an appetite for a newly inclusive and connected movement. In the absence of strong leadership and reassurance – while the Tories search for a new prime minister and the Parliamentary Labour Party has betrayed its own leader – a floundering Brexit dream is the most dangerous thing of all.

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Categories: Muslim blogs

Multicultural Sicily: A Gateway of Knowledge and Tolerance

The Platform - Wed, 29/06/2016 - 13:17

The British Museum’s Sicily: culture and conquest exhibition reveals the historic story of a thriving and dynamic province


Syracuse was once described, by Cicero no less, as the greatest and most beautiful of all Greek cities. From Sicilian shores sprung mythology, its straits guarded by Scylla and home to Cyclops and Persephone; Muslim conquerors, here, established a silk trade; and Norman rule brought forth a ruler who was known simultaneously as Antichrist and ‘Wonder of the World’. Dubbed ‘Rome’s Granary’, Sicily became their first province and lay privy to the final battle of the Punic Wars. A distinctive triangular coastline, with a wealth of culture and conquest.

The British Museum has chosen this year to give some screen time to Sicily – to the drama and warfare, the constant change and multiple civilisations that created the Sicily we know today. Or rather, that we don’t know. Seen largely as a mass of tourist clichés off mainland Italy, much of the ethnic and cultural differences emerging in its convoluted history are little known in popular culture.

Set out in winding displays, much of the exhibition focuses on two eras: the period of Greek rule, from 734 BC, and the Norman conquest, from 1091. A comprehensive timeline starts your journey, and it is followed almost chronologically, with focus given to the Phoenician, Islamic, North African, Roman and modern Renaissance Italian reigns bridging and superseding the two main eras. This gives it something of a dynamic element, skipping between conquests and treasures. Although not a large exhibition, it has the feel of exclusive knowledge and forgotten treasures that only cool, darkened corridors of museums can give you. To traverse it is delightful, moving from civilisation to conquest, guided by captions and quotes painted on the walls.

The feel is also that of a miniature treasure island. Exquisite Renaissance artwork has been brought in from Palermo; from Agrigento we have marble figurines and horses, and a wealth of sculptures, Phoenician and Greek, marble and terracotta. Mythology is given centre stage – Ceres, Dionysus, ode to the cult of Demeter and Persephone. The thematic mix of civilisations is pushed through even in the exhibited treasures, including the jewellery on display, which indicates the mesh of cultures within Sicily. Gold pendants containing garnets only readily available in India and Afghanistan show Greek influence in Asia.

Most striking are the sections from Norman thrones and the Byzantine chapel of Roger, set alongside beautifully preserved tapestries and mosaics. Sicily’s reputation as a gateway of knowledge is indicated in forgotten Greek texts by Plato which survived in Arabic, and details on coins depicting hunting dogs and sheaves of wheat are an insight into the preoccupations of everyday Sicilian life. Most enjoyable is the overarching message: that Sicily was a picture of globalisation and multiculturalism.

There’s a gentle realisation as you near the end that you’ve travelled through Greek, Islamic, Roman and Norman rule and seen each build on the previous theme. There’s a realisation that the country was a crossroads of civilisations for over 3000 years, the majority of which, as seen through rose tinted glasses of museum exhibitions, accepted religious and ethnic differences to create an ever-growing multicultural patchwork. You reach the end bathed in love for your neighbour and despondent that this is a system difficult to emulate in a modern day world which professes devotion to multicultural living and illusion of tolerance, amid increasing marginalisation of refugee and migrant communities. Of course, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but despite expected religious tension and less mellow stories of Carthagian bloodshed on Roman soil, ancient Sicily’s unique tolerance and multiculturalism is beautifully encapsulated in the exhibit.

The Renaissance brought with it a reliance on Italian development and great deal of loss of identity for Sicily. There was a gradual loss of cultural distinction as the region increasingly looked to Europe for inspiration. Sicily’s intellectual contribution to Italy has, of course, continued, with many writers in particular originating from there, including Nobel winner Luigi Pirandello. The make-up and diversity of the population today reflects the successive invasions of different cultures and ethnic groups, yet it sadly now remains on the periphery of globalisation.

The exhibition ends with the illuminating rule of Frederick II, whose pursuit of truth based on science and reason rather than superstition was ground-breaking at the time. As his rule ended, so did much of the innovation and significant development of the previous millennia. And so, you are guided into a gift shop crowded with lemon shortbread and orange blossom aftershave, somewhat disappointed to end such a delightful journey through the rise of Sicily with what is once again a mass of tourist clichés.

The British Museum exhibition, Sicily: culture and conquest, continues until 14 August 2016.

Photo Credit: The Bodlein Libraries, University of Oxford

Categories: Muslim blogs

Suicide Murder

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Wed, 29/06/2016 - 06:33

Once again, the filthy scourge of suicide murder has reared it despicable head, this time in Istanbul, Turkey. Innocent people are once the again the target of brainwashed homicidal lunatics, one of whom was captured on film dispatching himself to Hell, the destination our Prophet (peace upon him) has promised anyone who commits suicide.

This hellacious wave of demonic violence has become a pathetic norm in the Muslim world. As I mentioned recently, I will never tire of condemning it. We should, however, also condemn the so-called Ulama who first issued the fatwas allowing this heinous practice, which when it first appeared among the Muslim people, was universally condemned by the scholars.

Suicide is haram and its perpetrator is promised Hell. Murder is haram and it perpetrator is promised Hell. What else can we do, the angry critic of these words will ask? Others will add, they bomb and kill our innocent people. For starters we can pray, learn our religion and follow the prophetic discouragement about becoming angry, La Taghdab! Anger and rage are the product of an ideology. Restraint, forbearance, pardoning, educating and service are the products of a religion. Islam is a religion, not an ideology.

None of those people murdered in Istanbul has ever killed a Muslim. In all likelihood, most of the victims were themselves Muslims. Will the polemicists who attribute these crimes to Islam tweet that these murderers hate Islam? If they were to do so, would be uttering a sad, ironic truth.

Categories: Muslim blogs

EU Ref: Stuck at the Border?

The Platform - Wed, 22/06/2016 - 20:15

Research and reason tell us that even common concerns about the EU’s control are best addressed by remaining


The nation is in shock as the referendum conversation recently turned from vitriolic to tragic. As horrified as all sides are by the murder of Jo Cox, we still have to vote tomorrow, and the latest polls show the leave and remain camps tied at 50-50. Thursday 23rd June will be the moment when we voters have to ask ourselves very deeply – and with a long-term view – about what we believe. In the words of Anthony Hilton, the Brexit question is really a ‘battle of ideas – contrasting visions of the future’. Ultimately, our choice is whether allocating 1-2 per cent of public spending to an international body is to the advantage of the UK as a nation in the future world order.

Some are still unsure about how to vote. They know about the benefits that the EU brings to the economy, security, trade, the environment, human rights and so on. But they still worry that the UK is losing control of its autonomy as a sovereign nation. They want to feel that decisions are being made closer to home, where the citizens’ issues are understood. They want to feel that their communities are stable. So let’s revisit some of these concerns.

“We’re losing more and more power to unelected officials in Brussels.”

The final say in European legislation lies with the unelected Council (although the elected European parliament plays a strong role). There are no independent European elections. But, if the UK is keen to protect its sovereignty, independent European elections are actually the last thing it would want. Independent, international party formation would be a sign of a major shift in global governance models. It would suggest that resources and power are moving toward the international stage with decisions moving ever further away from the nation states.

However, this is simply not the case. Political scientist Michael Zürn recently published some research into the four main posited possible futures of governance. His research looks into developments that are already underway that could lead to these models. His evidence shows that there is no sign of political will-formation at international level. This means that the resources, authority and power will remain largely with nation states for the foreseeable future. The trend of ceding more and more power to the international is a mythical one.

“But we are not the most dominant nation in the EU – we get bullied by Germany.”

Yes: and Germany’s dominance was thrown into painful relief over Greece’s debt. If we voters get grumpy about not wielding the most power in the union, what is the answer? Run to the corner of the playground and hide from the bully? If the UK leaves, post-imperial nostalgia won’t magically elevate us to a status above the effects of Europe. With an even more dominant Germany, the UK will be susceptible to its decisions without having any involvement in them. ‘Sovereignty’ is a nation’s capacity to govern itself, an idea that is intimately connected to a country’s relationships with others. Stepping out of a decision-making role does not enhance sovereignty.

“We want all policy that affects the UK to be crafted in the UK.”

The UK often has to comply with EU policy not made by the British government. Much of this policy is more supportive of the ordinary citizen than the situation we would see without the EU. In 2015, the government was ordered to take action to reduce air pollution by a committee chaired by Mary Creagh, who explained that it would have been impossible to hold the government to account on those targets without the EU having set them. The EU is a counterweight and a supporting buffer, lifting from our backs some part of the heavy responsibility of holding our government to account. The ability of citizens to hold their government to account is a central feature of a strong, lasting democracy: one that self-governs effectively without the need for external help.

“Uncontrolled immigration can affect our communities.”

If you feel unsettled about your community changing, you may feel like you are being unfairly labelled a racist or xenophobe. I’ll take it for granted that you don’t believe that the colour of someone’s skin or their accent affects whether they can share the same values as you. Perhaps you are concerned for values like neighbourliness, respect of privacy, respect of LGBTQ rights, respect of women, respect for secularism and freedom of religion. I’m in full agreement that these values need to be prioritised and enhanced in our society. What could stop this are not individuals from any particular country, but apathy and disempowerment in society overall. Immigration is not the problem in this regard.

To counteract apathy and disempowerment, we need strong local and national institutions and a government that is not unduly influenced by the interests of the corporate elite. If the EU isn’t perfect in its degree of transparency, what about the British government? Is it a beacon of accountability and fairness, made up of individuals who are all highly connected to the average citizen and incorruptible by power? Of course not. This reminds us of the famous question asked of Rupert Murdoch as to why he was so opposed to the European Union. “That’s easy,” he replied. “When I go into Downing Street they do what I say; when I go to Brussels they take no notice.” The EU is what stands between tycoons like Rupert Murdoch and even closer ties with our government.

There is no such thing as a perfect relationship. You stay in a relationship if the benefits are worth the costs. The UK should stay in the EU if its citizens are concerned about its future ability to govern itself, as well as to maintain stronger values and communities.

Image from: Buzzfeed News

Categories: Muslim blogs

Me Before Ableism

The Platform - Tue, 21/06/2016 - 21:08

A bad romance which crosses the line from insensitive to dangerous for a community fatally damaged by such movie events of the summer

WARNING: Contains Spoilers

As many of you know, the movie Me Before You has come out in cinemas, based Jojo Moyes’ novel of the same name. This is being referred to as the “movie event of the summer”, but the film and book are much more harmful than they appear. Me Before You has outraged the disability community, and for good reason.

The trailers promoting the Australian movie are incredibly misleading. Will Traynor (Sam Claflin) is a wealthy man who is injured in a motorcycle accident. His injury leaves him quadriplegic and he wants to desperately end his life. He suffers with pain for two years before his family finally agree to wait six more months, and if he does not find a reason to live during this time, they will assist him in suicide.

During these six months he meets a new caretaker named Louisa Clark (Emilia Clarke) and they fall in love. It begins as a beautiful story, but even though Will has found love, he still goes through with his plan, and after six months, ends his life. He leaves Louisa a large sum of money so she can, in his mind, experience a better life and be happier now that he is gone.

The film and book are sending a horrific message to the disability community. I have my own blog that focuses on staying positive with chronic pain, along with organising a website and running a support group based on my own experiences. After posting comments about the movie, I received a message on my blog from a young girl telling me the movie made her want to end her life. This is not an isolated incident, as I have also seen posts in my support group that express similar thoughts.

Many people with disabilities struggle to pay their medical bills in the United States. This film is sending a message to the disabled community that they could have everything: a mansion, a family, fall in love, but their disability would still make them want to take their own lives.

When I was eight I had a serious accident after attempting a back handspring, and as I had been performing acrobatic manoeuvres my whole life, it was not a big deal to me. That day turned out to be a day I will never forget. My form on the handspring was incorrect, thus landing me straight on my neck, and instantly paralysing my arms and legs. My parents called 911 and I was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance immediately. With absolutely no idea what was going on, I was petrified about what was happening to me. I underwent multiple scans and was put into a brace, with my doctors and parents thinking I would be quadriplegic for the rest of my life, and so did I.

All I can think about when I see the trailer for this movie is a young girl in a hospital bed, terrified of always being quadriplegic and thinking that this movie is a love story with a happy ending, when in reality it becomes quite the opposite. I was lucky – the feeling returned to my arms and legs and the doctors said it was a miracle. However, this was just the beginning of an entirely different journey.

On the day I turned 13 I had another trauma to my neck. Due to the scar tissue that was already built up, the injury resulted in four chronic illnesses. I am disabled with chronic pain and have been for the past four years now. As someone who has been quadriplegic and is currently disabled, I find this movie beyond insulting. The disability community wants rights and equality, not movies that promote the idea that disabled people are an inconvenience to the world. The leading cause of death for those who suffer from my illnesses is, unfortunately, suicide.

Since the film premiered, many have feared that suicide rates will increase in the disability community and some groups have released suicide prevention campaigns. By purchasing this book or paying to watch this movie, you are encouraging the ableism that is already so present in modern society. Make the right choice and do not contribute to a movie that is adding to the hardships of those who are disabled. They already have enough to face.

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Categories: Muslim blogs

Three Hours in Orlando

The Platform - Tue, 21/06/2016 - 13:59

Recalling the Orlando massacre of Sunday 12 June 2016 in verse


When the most beautiful children in the world are brutally murdered inside the walls of their sanctuary

Youth and elders that shape a vulnerable community that enlivens and enriches our capacity for love and pleasure as humans

A community whose sheer existence destabilises the toxic and carceral gender norms that constrain personhood to dead pawns of capital and private property

A community that stands moment by moment a resilient testament to each individual soul’s heartbreaking confrontation with difference

Denigration by and exclusion from reigning political and cultural structures

Such that they are reduced to lives that do not matter, on account of their affirmation of life out of bounds

Such that police and SWAT teams let three fatal hours pass while the hate-formed and hate-filled interloper with an assault rifle continues to murder the suffering crowd inside of their sacred space of kinship and celebration


There is seemingly no sense or beauty enough in the world to make this scene cohere

To give us solace for this brutalising space of sanctioned terror

Cast in and out of relief in the darkness of selective media blackout and whitewashing of the early hours of a Sunday morning

Time in no time
The motion of history asserts itself
The social death that we daily battle and feel is materialised over and over in blood on the dance floor

This space of your inaction in the face of the murder of your unacknowledged kin and the forebears of your future peace and happiness

The murder of those who don’t yet matter to you in the way that the dead pawns of capital which define your confused existence matter to you

Cling to what you know even if it is killing the most beautiful children in the world before your eyes

Protect and serve

An abstract threat to the status quo of your existence is being gunned down in front of you and a part of you is relieved

Make it go away, this bad dream of difference


The ugliness of the world around you made you into a monster
You coveted guns and violence and thrilled at an opportunity to enact the violence you have felt against your queer brown body all of your life; to make an explosion so big and loud that people would have to pay attention; to kill as many other queer brown bodies as possible

Because that is what the culture around you taught you

To blame your actions on Islam because that narrative is so sensational and compelling right now


Without any knowledge of the beauty and limitless light and beauty of Allah and the Silsillah of care that cannot be broken

Sending off our youth into the arms of the Beloved all of them in an embrace that took so much light and heat that the temperature in my city dropped by 20 degrees and clouded over the next three days

So strong the pull that a baby bird I turned to rescue out of the street was in such a hurry to join them that it was run over by an unseeing car before I could reach it


Life extinguished to dead matter on pavement

The movement of history

The rush to heaven

The blood on my sheets

The sweat on my sheets

The tears on my face

The torpor of the days that follow such a rupture in the fabric of life

I won’t eat, I won’t wear make up
I will eat
Everything in sight
I won’t eat
I will forget why I am here
I will forget my wallet
My keys
My sunglasses

I will forget my recovery from past episodes of depression
Crave cigarettes
Crave the feeling of a blade scratching and cutting through the tender skin on the inside of my forearms

Is it better to join the dead ones
Or is it my place to sit here and write through the pain and
Try to help those of us left behind to remember love


The hearts breaking around the world as we cannot make sense

I cling to the faith that is blamed for the killer’s madness and for the deaths of my queer brothers and sisters

The light filled way of seeing the world that I learned from mystical Islam is the only way to make sense of this pain

They say Allah does not give you a burden too heavy for you to bear but sometimes it is so hard to really believe this

In an email on Friday, I learn that my Sheykha has assigned a name of our gunned-down kin to each member of my community in the Tribeca mosque to hold in prayer for the remainder of the month of Ramadan

The fact that a week later I’m crying every day. Especially when one of my Muslim sisters and brothers reaches out to me in love for me as a queer woman

As I try to remember this month of sacred remembrance is a beautiful time to join the spirit world if you must join the spirit world before we thought it was your time

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Categories: Muslim blogs

Should We Apologize?

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Sun, 19/06/2016 - 09:34

In the aftermath of the Orlando murders many Muslims are adamant that they will not apologize for anything. This is a proper stance as our religion does not advocate collective guilt, nor collective punishment. We are informed in the Qur’an, “No bearer of burdens (a sinner) can bear the burdens of another.” No one needs say, “I am sorry” for crimes they did not commit. On the other hand, many are viewing clarifying Muslim teachings, attempting to manage popular perceptions, or condemning criminal actions as unacceptable “apologizing.” Such a view is misguided.

It is fitting, in fact it is imperative, that we announce to the public that acts of vigilante violence, mass murder, wanton mayhem, and targeting innocent people have no place in our religion. This is true if such violence takes place in Muslim majority countries, as happens almost daily in places like Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Yemen, and sporadically elsewhere in the Muslim world. It is especially true for those of us living here in the United States, where there is a propaganda machine in place, which capitalizes on the unique aspects of each massacre to distort basic Islamic teachings, over time with numbing effect. Unfortunately, in my opinion, we do not have the luxury of saying nothing.

Such clarification is especially needed now because nefarious forces are using Omar Mateen’s (and his possible accomplices’) vile actions to further the idea that Islam is a violent, irrational, barbaric religion, and then translate the ensuing fear, hatred and anger into policies, which even now, are having devastating consequences for Muslims all over the world. I have seen firsthand the damage such misperceptions are causing among non-Muslim family, friends, and associates, and I have also seen how welcome clarifying words are.

As for managing perceptions of the religion, ask yourself a couple of questions. Why did the Prophet (peace upon him) announce that a woman walking with him was his wife, Safiyya bint Huyayy? Why did he resume praying for deceased debtors? In the first instance he did not want people to think that the moral character of the Messenger of God (peace upon him) was flawed in any way, as that would have devastating implications for the integrity of the entire religion. In the second instance he did not want people to think that he abandoned his Companions at the time of their deaths. There are numerous incidents of this sort that illustrate the ways in which the Prophet (peace upon him) managed the public perception of himself, his community and his message. Hence, working to ensure that people view Islam in the most positive light is from the prophetic way (Sunnah).

Again, when there is a machine in place that wants to create extremely negative perceptions of Islam and Muslims, we do not have the luxury of remaining silent. A well-known marketing principle states, “Unchallenged perceptions become reality.” We should not even wait until there is some odious, headline-grabbing attack before we begin speaking up to define our reality ourselves. It should be an ongoing process. Hence, far from becoming frustrated and refusing to challenge the memes that are accentuated in the aftermath of attacks such as those in Orlando, Florida, we know what those memes are and we should be relentless in attacking them on a constant, ongoing basis.

As for the condemnation of criminal actions, we are commanded by our Prophet (peace upon him), “Whoever among you sees a vile action, then let him change it with his hand; if unable to do so, then with his tongue (condemn it); if unable to do so then let him hate it in his heart, and that is the lowest level of faith.” What could be viler than a Muslim (nominal or not) committing mass murder of innocent people at a time when this country, in fact the world, is celebrating the life of an American Muslim hero –Muhammad Ali? I do not know who is calling the shots of criminals like Omar Mateen, I serious doubt if they are Muslim, but, God-willing, I will condemn those crimes as long as they continue to occur. May Allah protect us.

Imam Zaid Shakir

Categories: Muslim blogs

A Rejection of Brexit and Relentless Prejudice

The Platform - Fri, 17/06/2016 - 19:36

The demonisation campaign against immigrants, appealing to base prejudice, has not been seen for decades in British politics and must be resoundingly rejected on 23rd June      


In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Count menacingly contemplates his future travels to London, keen to avoid detection: ‘I am content if I am like the rest, so no man stops if he sees me, or pauses in his speaking if he hears my words’. Published during a Jubilee year in 1897, Dracula echoed the crises preoccupying the British ruling class at the turn of the century: the collapse of boundaries underpinning imperial power and a decline in global influence; the loss of overseas markets for British products to rising global actors; and a keen sense of decline – politically, morally and culturally – that threatened immutable notions of Britishness.  

In many ways, the EU referendum debate has mirrored this sense of intersecting crises and populist paranoias. Whether in discussions concerning the health of British sovereignty within the EU, or the transgression of British borders by unstable and decidedly foreign citizens, the debate has revealed a keen sense of dislocation amongst vast sections of British society. Pointedly, it is clear this dislocation is understood through a causal chain where immigration is central, and the power to include and exclude in a larger schema of order and control is threatened. That so much of the EU referendum has descended into a de facto assumption that immigration is at the heart of almost all of the nation’s problems is somewhat inevitable when the foreignisation of domestic difficulties has an elaborate and dangerous history in Europe. The EU referendum has allowed these sentiments to resurface in appalling fashion.

This is not to diminish the numerous and genuine concerns expressed by large sections of a disenfranchised and disenchanted population. Increased competition for ‘working class’ employment has undermined historic patterns in job security and rendered previously tenured labour transient. In addition, the propagation of grotesque and flamboyant foreign capital has fuelled housing price inflation, extrapolating home ownership into the realm of fantasy. For many, these issues are both cause and effect of an immigration open-door policy that has failed to safeguard their interests.

Concerns about national autonomy, corporate privilege and political entitlement, or the erosion of a perceived national culture have all been successfully exploited by an efficient Brexit campaign. These issues are particularly acute for a Labour party whose heartlands have rejected the EU as part of an accumulated discontent against privilege. That ‘working class’ struggles should be channelled in this way should worry the Labour party immensely.

Despite the multitude of concerns, there can be little doubt that the discourses surrounding immigration have been overwhelmingly reactionary. Immigration has become an all-encompassing watchword, rationalised through a lexicon that mimics classical racism. Although it is known that immigration contributes positively to the UK economy and immigrants are far more likely to contribute to the welfare state than claim from it, these arguments are meaningless when the tone of ‘othering’ has established a fertile ground for unabashed jingoism and xenophobia.  

Reiterations that ‘we must control our borders’, threats about an impending hoard of Turkish citizens waiting to expunge ‘our’ national and border security, or suggestions that the white female body might suffer desolation should the ‘other’ make it to our shores, are characteristic. Just when it seemed the Brexit arguments had reached their nadir of sectarianism, a poster depicting desperate migrants fleeing war, persecution and tyranny as a threat to national security has dragged the debate further into territory not seen for decades in Britain.

These arguments rest on assumptions concerning social arrangements and social organisation that reflect embedded notions of racial ordering– the civilised against the vulgar, the normative against the outsider, the homogenous against the different. Often these expressions are explicitly racial, ‘to make Britain British again’, or ‘to take back our country’, reinforcing the exclusionary nature of the vision and the cultural animalisation of those not deemed ‘British’. That these discourses might contribute to the further marginalisation of oppressed groups in society appears to have little traction in the public imagination as far as the EU debate is concerned.

These arguments have not only targeted migrants, but have also sought to delegitimise a political class that seeks to offer an alternative, progressive vision for Britain within the EU. The tragic and calculated death of Labour MP Jo Cox is a frightening reminder that when a glass ceiling of civility has been breached, a cry of “Britain First” is more than an inane reference to an extreme ideology. It has been imagined in, and reflects, a climate of abject hostility and dehumanisation fomented by Brexit.   

Britain’s ethnic minority communities, particularly those on the receiving end of both ongoing and historical racial abuse within the UK, must recoil in horror as the tide turns irrevocably towards victimisation and dogmatism. In place of an EU body that guarantees minority rights and has established numerous multinational legal frameworks and policies to address discrimination, one is asked instead to rely on a campaign of base prejudice to deliver these safeguards.

Legitimate questions about the role of the current British government in public sector cuts, the degradation of social welfare services, or its responsibility to provide answers to chronic issues such as health funding and housing, are not considered pertinent – instead these questions are externalised and immigration called to answer on each account.  

The future of Britain’s place in the EU hangs by a precarious thread. The deshabille bigotry and lobotomised public discourse that has chosen crude generalisation to considered reality must be rebuffed. It reflects both present and historical paranoias about the cultural and political place of the nation within a larger world order. Ultimately, the sense over the past few months is not of a nation with moral courage and judicious foresight. Whether it is the murder of an MP in a climate of aggression or a parliamentary rejection of child refugees from Syria, the overwhelming impression is of a nation in deep crisis.

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Categories: Muslim blogs

Ali’s Torch

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Thu, 16/06/2016 - 03:02

Physically, the last phase of Muhammad Ali’s life was very difficult. The ravages of Parkinson’s Disease had robbed him of his health, vigor and voice. Spiritually, however, Ali was only strengthened as he approached the end of his earthly tenure. His illness could not steal his generous heart and noble spirit. Despite that, his departure was painful and represents a great loss.

For me, that loss has been lessened by being able to witness, up close, the tremendous outpouring of love and support his family has received from all over the world. The healing process was furthered by an amazing memorial service, which I was honored to have been chosen to lead. Many of Ali’s most beloved friends, along with a wide array of faith leaders, were able to gather to reflect on his life and significance.

In the immediate aftermath of that glorious event, we are now confronted with an unprecedented national tragedy, the unconscionable massacre of fifty of our fellow citizens in Orlando, Florida. Although the alleged gunman is dead, the fact that he has a “Muslim” name, will likely unleash a wave of anger, hatred, and possibly acts of violence, against the American Muslim community.

This barbarous act in no way represents the Muslim community that Ali was part of nor does it reflect the Islam that Ali exemplified. The fact that thousands of Muslims traveled from all over the country to attend his funeral indicates that his message of peaceful protest and dissent, love, compassion and humanity is a message that resonates with American Muslims. I firmly believe that it is also a message that will eventually defeat the violence of dehumanized extremists who never miss an opportunity to defame the very religion they perversely claim to be defending.

If Ali’s life taught us anything, it is that love conquers all. Ali’s deep love, compassion and generosity is what helped to make him the towering figure he became. In the aftermath of the awful tragedy in Orlando, we must all tower above our negative impulses and try to find the inner strength needed to heal our wounds and to forge on as a unified nation.

Categories: Muslim blogs

A Joint Muslim Statement On the Carnage in Orlando

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Tue, 14/06/2016 - 22:19

On behalf of the American Muslim community, we, the undersigned, want to extend our deepest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the barbaric assault that occurred early yesterday morning at Pulse, an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando, Florida. We unequivocally say that such an act of hate-fueled violence has no place in any faith, including Islam. As people of faith, we believe that all human beings have the right to safety and security and that each and every human life is inviolable.

We know that, given the tenor of the times, some will associate this tragedy with the religion of the perpetrator. While we may never learn conclusively what motivated this misguided individual, many news sources claim that he was motivated by his faith, which would be a reprehensible distortion of Islam adding the religion to the long list of innocent victims in this callous crime. Any such acts of violence violate every one of our Prophet’s teachings. For Muslims, that this carnage occurred in the blessed month of Ramadan—a month of charity, introspection, and self-purification—only adds to the foulness of this enormity.

Since September 11, 2001, many Muslims have been victims of collective guilt; yet, numerous Americans of good conscience have stood by their fellow citizens, despite differences in faith or lifestyle, including many members of the targeted community. Difference is no justification for violence. While most American Muslims adhere to a strict Abrahamic morality, the Quran is clear that its injunctions apply only to Muslims who choose to follow them: “There is absolutely no compulsion in religion.” In America, individuals are at liberty to pursue happiness as each sees fit; it is our cherished political right. Those of us who live in this country, irrespective of our beliefs, must respect the equality of all Americans under the laws of the land.

We feel compelled to state that it is an egregious offense against the culture and laws of America—as well as Islam’s—to place collective guilt on an entire community for the sins of individuals. “No soul bears the sins of another,” says the Quran.

Three days ago, Americans honored the memory of one of the greatest and most beloved men in American history: Muhammad Ali, who was a devout Muslim. The Islam Muhammad Ali followed is one of love, tolerance, and respect for all. American Muslims everywhere felt that he ended, once and for all, the vacuous claim that one cannot be both Muslim and American.
We, as American Muslims, follow the openhearted and inclusive Islam of Muhammad Ali and completely reject the hatred, provincialism, and intolerance of those who trample upon the rights of others, besmirching and defiling the name of Islam. The criminal who entered into a lawful American business in Orlando and took the lives of dozens of its patrons and injured many others was an aggressor, plain and simple. The Quran says, “Do not be brutal or commit aggression, for surely God does not love brutal aggressors.”

There are extremists in America and abroad who view the world through a Manichean lens: American Manicheans want Americans to see themselves as entirely “good” and all Muslims as entirely “evil.” Muslim Manicheans want Muslims to see themselves as entirely “good” and all Americans as entirely “evil.” This is a catastrophic recipe for unrelenting violence, and it must be rejected: We will not allow the extremists to define us, mold us in their benighted image, or sow the seeds of discord among us. We are one people, so let us all in good conscience and human solidarity reject this extremist narrative and assert our shared humanity and mutual respect for the sanctity of all human life.


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Categories: Muslim blogs

Actors and Royals: Beckett and Shakespeare on Stage in London

The Platform - Thu, 02/06/2016 - 13:13

Notting Hill’s Print Room and Kingston’s Rose Theatre bring two plays and two seasons to life


We’re all aware of the significance of 2016 in the Shakespearean calendar, but it is also a landmark year for Samuel Beckett, a doyenne of Irish literature. And it is with thanks to the bold moves made by two London theatres that the lesser known works by these two icons of English literature are being staged.

The Print Room / Coronet in Notting Hill, a space which has played host to Edward VII and countless contemporary stars when it first opened in 1898, is presently hosting a ‘Beckett in London’ season to mark the 110th anniversary of Beckett’s birth and the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, otherwise known as the Easter Rebellion in Ireland. After being converted into a cinema and fighting off closure threats, the Print Room sees a return to form with an excellent adaptation of The End, an original piece of Beckett’s prose exploring the end of a man’s life (running until 5th June).

In this production, the auditorium was given over to a subtle performance by multi-award winning actor Conor Lovett, whose rendition carries us gracefully through the days of a human being – the “actor” – whose past, present and future remain largely unexplained, even at the end. We gather the actor was in military service and was then discharged from a psychiatric institution, but the audience is otherwise left in the dark. Skilfully steered under the direction of Judy Hegarty, his soliloquy takes us to physical places where he travels, alongside much greater psychological ones. Lovett’s actor looks at himself, from the outside inwards, in inimitable Beckett style, watching his own life pass by and coasting quietly towards the end. Unfazed by the adversities thrown in his path, he continues to remain calm and instead expresses a wry amusement at his lot in life, realising the futility of resistance. In exploring the wit and intricacies of Beckett’s play on words, Lovett’s character expresses himself with a colourful palette of language as the actor depicts his resignation to his life.

This rich use of language continues in Shakespeare’s King John, another lesser known and rarely staged play. The production has been tasked to Kingston’s Rose Theatre (also ends 5th June), which has seen a return of Trevor Nunn to take on this challenging work. Like the Print Room, the Rose Theatre is also enjoying a run of interesting plays. King John is classified as part of an early history genre, but is in fact primarily about political shenanigans, double talk, compromises and short-term gain. Set against the backdrop of an unstable Europe, it is a work about a society divided by the question of who should have legitimate rule, so bestows a more direct relevance to today’s big political questions than many of the Bard’s later works.

That said, the first half of the play left the audience feeling rather deflated with somewhat turgid performances, where even actors on the edge of a scene were standing around rather nonchalantly. What the first half lacked, however, was more than made up for post-interval, when both cast and script were given a new lease of life, resulting in performances which were almost unrecognisably transformed. The use of large television screens throughout both halves was an innovative addition, giving us a view of bloody battles between the French and English without conventional make-believe sword fights on stage.

The suspense intensifies in this latter half, with child Prince Arthur imprisoned under the king’s instructions and nearly blinded by scolding iron to prevent him ever posing a threat as an adult. We let out a collective sigh of relief when the boy’s ingenious appeal to the better side of his captors pays dividends. The weakness of King John, portrayed by Jamie Ballard, as well as his eccentricities, manipulations and playing dumb when confronted with the results of his ineptitude, all come across in various shades in Ballard’s performance, with his oddities symbolised in his costume. In one instance, this causes us to question whether the jeans under his regal frock is an oversight, or an intended accentuation of his eccentricity.

As it ends, the narrative and character shifts remain somewhat unexplained, such as the turn against the French which seems to happen without due introduction or reason. Such gaps, however, must be tolerated – the original text of King John has chunks missing, resulting in unaccounted developments which Nunn has overcome by inserting material from an early anonymous work, The Troublesome Reign of King John, which he believed Shakespeare was commissioned to write. While such anomalies and dead ends in the developments make King John less watchable than most other works in the Bard’s collection, it is an interesting attempt to breathe life into a play that’s usually lost on us. But above all, the courageous decision to tackle relatively unknown works by off-West End theatres deserves a huge round of applause.

Both the ‘Beckett in London’ season and King John are playing until Sunday June 5th June 2016.

Photo Credit: Mark Douet

Categories: Muslim blogs

2014 Year in Review

Imam Suhaib Webb - Thu, 01/01/2015 - 14:00

The following is a list of top 30 articles that were found to resonate most strongly with our readers this past year. It covers a full range of struggles and joys we have faced as a community and regularly bridges orthodox and contemporary Islamic knowledge. Articles covered Glimpses of Marital Bliss, inspired us about the Names of Allah, spoke to the unique struggles of our Black and Hispanic brothers and sisters, and stood up against the siege in Gaza. They discussed the role of women preachers, American holidays, how to overcome addictions and more. See the full list below.

There were many articles of significant impact that are not on the list for brevity’s sake. What was your favorite? Leave a comment to let us know!


IN THE MEDIA Your Facebook Posts, and why The Evil Eye is Real by Ubah

On social media, we are increasingly putting ourselves out there in ways that may promote envious feelings in others. Is it 100% our fault? Of course not. But here are a few important things to keep in mind.

Films Today – and How the Muslims Killed Dracula by Shibli Zaman

We often bemoan the negative portrayal of Muslims in film and television, including a recent movie that gets the story of Dracula wrong. But who is to blame when we have absolutely no presence in popular media?

An Imam’s Review of the Movie Noah by John (Yahya) Ederer

Potential benefits in watching this movie – and why it would be hugely advantageous to Islam and the Muslims if we made high-quality, well-funded, scripturally proper, and well-acted depictions of the prophets and our great history. Also see: Top Documentaries you Should Watch by Junaid Amjad

Know Thyself: Opinion on Hajj Selfies by Suhaib Webb

How to understand rulings on photography, and why Hajj selfies can be a form of remembrance of good: worshiping Allah alone, visiting sacred places, love and fraternity, and acts of worship.


WOMEN Female Scholars and Preachers in Islam by John (Yahya) Ederer

The beauty of Islam among religions is in its universality, its compatibility with science, and its versatile legal tradition which remains relevant across times and cultures. Here’s why the majority of our scholars throughout history have said that there’s nothing wrong with listening to a woman’s speech unless it is flirtatious or provocative.

10 Ways to be a Single and Content Muslimah by Ubah

Tip #2: Let Go of Entitlement. Remember that you are not owed a relationship. Just like the air you breathe or your eyesight and hearing, a decent and compatible spouse is a blessing from Allah (swt).

Is it Allowed for Women to Teach Mixed Gatherings? by John (Yahya) Ederer

A detailed breakdown of why there is nothing in the scripture that would prohibit a modest woman of knowledge and character to preach to the masses.


CULTURE, CUSTOMS, & FIQH Man’s Best Friend?: The Islamic View on Dogs by John (Yahya) Ederer

Reverts may have had a special relationship with their dogs growing up, or still do at the time of reversion. Sadly, the attitude of many Muslims towards dogs often alienates people from Islam. A closer examination of the issue debunks common misunderstandings.

American Customs – What is Permissible? by John (Yahya) Ederer

Understanding which American customs are permissible or not, and why, including birthdays,  anniversaries, halloween, and more. A practical, most highly read article every year it is posted.

Also see: Caught with My Foot in the Sink… Reasons to Be Proud of Wudu by Abdul Sattar Ahmed and Is the West Inherently Un-Islamic? by John Ederer

Can a Non-Muslim Person be in the Masjid? by Suhaib Webb

The stronger opinion on the issue of people of other faiths being refused entry into mosques is Abu Hanifa’s that this only applies for the Hajj and ‘Umra (meaning they are not allowed to make Hajj or Umra). Here’s why.

Is Saying Jummah Mubarak an Innovation? by Suhaib Webb

Custom is so important that it forms one of the five major axioms of Islamic law. Based on this important principle and the large number of general texts that encourage us to speak well and be gentle to others, it is a stretch to say that such a greeting in an innovation.

Can Muslims be Friends with Non-Muslims? by John (Yahya) Ederer

Qur’anic verses should not be mis-understood to prohibit us from making friends with our neighbors, co-workers, or schoolmates. On the topic of Muslim interactions with other faiths including Christians, see also: A Holiday Message from the Life of Omar by Shibli Zaman


PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT Sinners Anonymous: 12 Steps for Overcoming Addictions or Sin by Reehab Ramadan

Remember the phrase “I am only the next 24 hours.” By the time the next 24 hours have been reached, hopefully our strength will have been regained, if not then we push ourselves a little further—24 more hours.

10 Things that Shouldn’t Happen Once you Become a More Practicing Muslim by Ubah

There a few key things that we must all guard against as a result of turning a new leaf or becoming a more practicing (or new) Muslim – such as becoming narrow minded, becoming isolated, or rebelling against family.

Beyond Romantic Love – Here’s What’s Missing by Reehab Ramadan

Beyond romantic or sexualized love, where’s the love that would allow me to go out of my way to buy my brother or sister in humanity a gift to bring a smile to his or her face during times of hardship?

How Two Words Changed this Man’s Life by Maryam Amirebrahimi

He had never prayed two rak`ah (units of prayer) in his adult life. Two words he heard at his first Friday prayer penetrated through his heart and embraced his soul. The true story of a man’s path back to Allah (swt).


QUR’AN & PRAYER Building Habits as Worship: A Year Spent Quantifying Devotion by Alex Arrick (Guest Author)

How to use free apps for the iPhone or Android such as LIFT to make a regular, daily habit for memorizing the Qur’an. Also see: Stay Focused by PRAYing by  by Marwa Abdalla

Is the Qur’an a Violent Text or is Your Reading a Tad Off? by Joe Bradford

A lack of context and qualifications lead to blatant misinterpretation. The shallow misinterpretations of religious and irreligious extremists almost always lead to one thing: the escalation of conflict and the promotion of violence, instead of leading to dialogue and mutual understanding.

Too Busy for Quran? Check these 3 Tips to Get Rolling by Mansoor Ahmed

Start off by making time after Fajr prayer or after `Isha’ (night) prayer, the two times you are most likely to be at home. Once it is a part of your lifestyle, it becomes easy to sustain. Remember, try a little by little, but with consistency!


OVERCOMING HARDSHIP Living with Depression and Islam by Anonymous (Guest Author)

Every morning I wake up and wish I hadn’t.  I want anyone suffering like me to know that there are others that are observant, struggling Muslims and that they feel the way you are feeling. Also see: How to Overcome Sadness and be Happy by Taheerah Alam

With Hardship Comes Ease: Embracing Discomfort by Ismail Shaikh (Guest Author)

A key lesson learned after a very stressful and long job search experience:  there is growth in discomfort, uncertainty and unpredictability. Why and how we should embrace discomfort.

Think You’ve Failed? Think Again by Jinan Bistaki

Some people always bounce back, but others always seem to crash down. Research has shown that the difference is the ability to see that a closed door somewhere means, at the very least, an open window somewhere else.


CURRENT EVENTS Erdoğan, AKP and their victory in the Turkish Municipal Elections by Shibli Zaman

Erdoğan, the world is watching you; but that pales to the fact that, above all, the Lord of the Worlds is watching you even closer. You can be the greatest leader the Muslim world has seen since the Ottomans whom you repeatedly invoke, or you can fall just like them when they lost their way. Which end of their history you resemble is up to you.


KNOWING GOD, THE MOST MERCIFUL When was the Last Time you Witnessed a Miracle? Al-Hayyiy by Jinan Bistaki

Whenever making du`a’ (supplication), have hope. Remember that “Verily your Lord is Generous (Kareem) and Hayyiy. If His servant raises his hands to Him (in supplication) He becomes shy to return them empty,” (Ahmad, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi).

He has Your Back: Al-Wali by Jinan Bistaki

Allah is named Al-Wali, meaning the Protective Friend of all those who believe. It means that He has your back. He could have just been a ‘friend,’ but some friends are flaky. A protective friend will be there for you through hardship and bad times.

Does God Exist? by Salman Khan (Guest Author)

Every person must think for him/herself and find Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala – exalted is He) in his/her own way. Don’t choose a life of unhappiness because you choose to be blind or perform our religion physically without spirituality.

Love is In Giving: Al Wadud by Jinan Bistaki

Allah is named Al-Wadud. When you are able to point out behavior that shows love, this kind of love is not called hubb in Arabic, because hubb is simply having a feeling of love. This kind of love – one that is apparent and shown – is called wud.


LOVE,  RELATIONSHIPS, & GENDER RELATIONS 10 Guidelines for Gender Relations in Islam by Muslema Purmul and Maryam Amirebrahimi

The code of inter-gender relations comes from a noble kind of love. It is generous in giving, while conscious of Allah. It is full of haya.’ Haya’ is sometimes described as ‘shyness’, but misunderstood to mean a desire to hide, to be nervous, overly self-conscious, and unable to communicate.

When you Marry for Four Reasons – Don’t Forget Your Reason by Karim Serageldin (Guest Author)

As a practicing psychologist, I was once consulted by a brother in Turkey in need of immediate relationship advice. In summary, the brother’s “emergency” was that he had met a nice religious girl from a good family but was not attracted to her at all. Here was my advice.

The Goodbye Hug by Maryam Amirebrahimi

Many of us only hear destructive marriage stories within the Muslim community. However, the reality is that there are so many incredible, beautiful, passionate, fulfilling and compassionate love stories in the Muslim community. Here’s one.  A number of the articles from “Glimpses of Marital Bliss” Series were also among the most-read this year. See also: A Love Letter, Will They Say Yes, and He Prayed instead of Fought

Categories: Muslim blogs

Ya Sabr Ayub

Imam Suhaib Webb - Wed, 24/12/2014 - 14:00

Photo: Tom Gill

I have been living in the Arab world now for almost 3 years. There are some really taxing things here, tiring and frustrating to say the least. But there are also some exciting and uplifting things that keep me going throughout the days. And then, there are the hidden gems. The things that can be overlooked without a second thought, yet if they are given a second thought, they require a third and a fourth thought for one to even begin to benefit from their beauty. It is those things that get me time and time again. It is those things that take my breath away and leave me thankful for being placed in the position that I am in, living in a place where I do not always fit in or feel at home. One of those hidden gems can be found in the phrases that are oft repeated, with little thought, on a daily basis. There are many that could be spoken about, like the wishing of “na’eeman” [lit. blessings] when a person takes a shower or cuts their hair. Like the prayer of “kulli sana wanti tayyiba” [“may every year find you well”] on any happy occasion that occurs yearly. But my favorite has to be one that carries behind it a great story of a great man whom I recently read about, and after reading his story in the tafseer [exegesis] of Ibn Ajeeba, the oft repeated phrase “Ya sabr Ayub” [“O patience of Job”] has never been the same again.

It would be best, before diving into the gem-filled story, to give some information on when this phrase, in the Arab culture, is used. It is used mainly in two situations: 1) When a person is going through something very taxing and is wishing for an intense amount of patience to be poured into them, as a prayer and 2) when a person witnesses someone being ever so patient and is impressed by their firmness upon this patience. Naturally, after hearing that, one would assume that this story is about to be really great and I assure you: it is. The key here, however, is that something very important is done while reading this story: don’t just read it as a work of fiction or non-fiction. Read it as if this story is about you. Read this story as if you have temporarily stepped out of your own shoes, and into those of this amazing man, Ayub, and try to actually feel what he must have been feeling. And with that, all that is left is for me to begin:

Ayub, `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him), was a great man and Prophet of the Lord many years ago. He was blessed with many great gifts that surpassed what others around him had been given. He had money in amounts (and some say types!) that surpassed those that were around him. He was given great amounts of land as well as many animals to graze on this land, and these animals varied in types and were of very high quality. He was kind and giving to the poor, he used to care for the widows and the orphans, he would be generous with his guests and accept any traveler into his home. He did all of this as an act of gratitude to God for giving him so much. This is something very unique to note, as for when a person is given such great wealth and great gifts, Satan then tries very hard to get him to be greedy and ungrateful. Satan tries very hard to get the person with such wealth to belittle that which has been given to him, or to become arrogant and not spread the wealth to those who may be in need of it. Satan however, was unsuccessful at whispering into the heart of Ayub (as) with regards to all that he had been given.

It is said that Satan heard the angels in the heaven praising Ayub (as) for all that he had done and was doing. Upon hearing this, Satan felt a twinge of envy (hasad) towards the state of Ayub. Satan, being one who acts upon these twinges of envy immediately, went and pleaded to the Lord of the heavens about his state. He complained to God: “O my Lord, you have blessed your servant Ayub, so he had thanked you. You have removed from him any affliction so he has glorified you. You haven’t allowed any hardship to befall him, but if you did then surely he would be an ungrateful servant.” This was a plea from Satan, and at the same time he was taking a shot at the honor and actual piety of Ayub. He asked God to just give him the ability to afflict Ayub with some hardship, and he told God that He would see the gratefulness of Ayub dwindle away. God then allowed Satan to have control over the wealth of Ayub, and nothing else—allowing him to afflict Ayub. At this Satan was joyous. He called together his troops of jinn and told them the “great” news. One of his troops said that he had been given the power to send storms of fire upon anything, and if Satan gave him permission, he could burn all of the wealth of Ayub by burning his lands. Satan agreed, and sat back and watched his troops burn down the wealth of Ayub. Once this was all over, Satan came in the form of one of the service hands of Ayub, dramatically recalling all that happened to the wealth of this Prophet. Telling him that God had allowed for his wealth to be destroyed. Ayub (as), with complete grace and gratefulness, informed Satan in the form of man, that God was the original giver of this wealth, so God could do as he pleased with this wealth.

Satan now was hit, not only with pangs of envy but also, pangs of despair. He had been sure that had this man who was so blessed, had some of his blessings taken away, he would break. He would not be such a great servant. But Satan, unlike many of us humans, does not give up that easily. When he has a goal, he does everything he possibly can to get to that goal. He went back to his troops for a brainstorming session. One of his troops had another idea. He informed Satan that he had been given the ability to blow harsh winds that would kill any animal that heard this wind. Satan jumped on that idea and sent him to kill all of the living animals that were left on the burnt grounds of Ayub. After all of his glorious animals had been killed, Satan appeared to Ayub as a different man, again telling him of what happened. He informed Ayub that the Lord that he had been worshipping for so long had killed all of his animals. Again, Ayub (as) with pure patience and love for God, replied that God was the one who had given him the animals in the first place, so He could do as He pleased with them.

Satan was hit again with deeper despair, feeling that he was certainly losing his grip on the battle that he had been fighting. Satan returned to God, again with another plea. He argued that God had blessed Ayub with his own health and the health of his children (some say he had 10 children), and this is why Ayub was still holding on, gratefully. Satan assured that if this was removed then Ayub would not remain a grateful servant and that his gratefulness was not based on Love but of contentment with that which had been given. Satan then requested to be given the ability to take away the children of Ayub to prove his point. God granted him this permission. Satan returned to the home of Ayub, and destroyed the home of Ayub, killing all of his children. He then appeared to Ayub as the teacher of his children, limping, as if he too had been hurt in the destruction. He then recalled for Ayub the detailed deaths that his children had faced, making certain to put emphasis on the pain that they may have felt. Ayub was instantly struck with sadness for his children. He fell to the floor and began to pour dirt over his head. Satan rejoiced, finally he had made Ayub be ungrateful. But after an instant, Ayub (as) realized what he was doing and looked up to his Lord, asking for forgiveness and returning to his state of patience. God instantly forgave Him, as He is The All-Forgiving.

Satan was furious. He felt that he had finally won, that finally this man that seemed to be over flowing with patience and gratitude had finally cracked. And before he could even rejoice, Ayub (as) returned to His Lord and His repentance was accepted. His sin was erased. (Take note at the Mercy of God. Take note at the persistence of Satan). Satan went back to God, again despairing and willing to try anything. He told God that the only reason that Ayub was so thankful and so obedient was that he had the most important thing, his health. Satan pleaded with God to allow him to take that away, to prove once and for all that Ayub was not, in his essence, an obedient servant. God allowed him this, but this time with some very important conditions. God allowed him to have rule over his body and health, but he was unable to touch two things: His tongue and his heart.

Satan descended down to Ayub and found him in prostration. He blew through his nose a wind that touched his entire body. It caused him to itch, with no relief. He itched his entire body with his hands, then with tools. The tools were so rough they tore at his skin, but the itch was so strong that he could not stop. His wounds began to fester, to be infected, and to even attract bugs. All of the people in his community who loved him so much began to look down upon him, unable to stand to see his appearance nor smell the stench of infected wounds. They kicked him out, ignoring all the good that he had done for him before. Everyone left him. Everyone. Except for one person, his wife. She cared for him in the trash dump that he had been cast to. She took care of him, and was his companion as much as she could. After much time she began to plead with him to ask God for help. I mean why not, he was a prophet. He in turn asked her how long they had lived in wealth. Her reply was 8 years. He then followed up with asking how long he had lived in sickness; she informed him that it was seven. His reply was that he was too embarrassed to ask God to heal him, if the time of ease overcame the time of hardship.

Satan, in his final attempt, appeared to Ayub’s wife. He told her that he (Satan) was the Lord of the world and that the reason why her husband, Ayub, had been afflicted for so long, was that he turned away from the lord of the earth and looked only towards the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth. He told her that if Ayub were to “simply” make one prostration to Satan, then he could be restored to health and wealth. Ayub’s wife returned to her husband and told him what had happened. Ayub was furious. He knew exactly who she had spoken to, and was angry that his wife had spoken to Satan and that she had tried to act upon his words. She couldn’t take his anger, and she left him as well. Now Ayub was completely alone, with reference to human companions. He turned to God and made the famous du’a that we hear time and time again “Lord hardship has afflicted me, and you are the most Merciful of the merciful.” Ibn Ajeeba here says something interesting. He says that the hardship that Ayub was speaking about was that Satan had conspired against him to get him to prostrate to him (Satan). (Why is this the hardship? Because it is said that if we understood the true essence of sickness, we would know that it is an immense gift from God.) God immediately responded to the plea of Ayub and instructed him to go to the nearest water source and bathe in it. He did so, and was returned to his complete health and beauty. His wife, shortly after, returned looking for her husband. She found a handsome healthy man in his place. She asked him if he has seen a man that was rotting and in pain. He laughed and said, “It is me, I am Ayub.” She wouldn’t have believed him except that she recognized his laugh.

Ayub—not an angel, a man. He (as) went through an immense trial, and looked only at God. A man that God used to lay down a map for us to follow when we too are in pain, in sickness and in distress. Of course we don’t always react this way. Of course it may be harder at times to let go and let God. But what we can do is look to him as an ultimate goal. We can use his name when asking God for patience. We can strive to be as close to Him as God will allow. And whenever we are in hardship, we can know that we have someone to relate to. We have someone who went through pain and anguish, and we can see that even in the worst of situations, God can instantly redeem us and make everything more than perfect. May God grant us the Sabr of Ayub in the smallest of matters and the largest of matters.

“Lord, hardship has afflicted me, and you are the most Merciful of the merciful.”

Categories: Muslim blogs

Our Personal Hells

Imam Suhaib Webb - Tue, 23/12/2014 - 19:20

 “Sins need to be eradicated through the internal fire of regret in this life or the fire of hell in the hereafter.” – Ibn Al-Qayyim

Photo: Pankaj Kaushal

Years ago I came across this quote. I still can’t get over how true it is.

Muslim youth living in all corners of the world face similar struggles in our day-to-day lives. We strive to survive while being surrounded by the societal (and often times, cultural and familial) promotion, acceptance, and idealization of things that contradict the tenants of our faith: pride, lust, greed, extramarital relationships, alcohol/drugs, misogyny – just to name a few.

We are also surrounded by social practices and traditions that can also be pretty un-Islamic: issues such as racism, forced marriages, the withholding of education for females, and tribalism unfortunately exist on grand scales in Muslim societies all over the world.

As Muslim youth, most of us living in the diaspora, we have much to deal with. We struggle to maintain our Muslim identities while at the same time balancing our racial, national, and individual identities as well.

Sometimes it seems that everywhere we look, we are being called to sin. And inevitably, we answer that call.

We fall so many times only to fall again. We try so very hard to create our own, personal spiritual bubbles where Islam is the driving force in our lives, only to have it burst by things like temptation, other Muslims’ biases and discrimination, our own families making it hard for us, stress, our school lives, etc.

And slowly, as our hearts erode, a peculiar type of anxiety eats away at our souls and comes with a little voice in our heads. The voice tells us time and time again that what we are doing is haram (impermissible) or sinful, but we ignore it as we seek to numb the pain—a pain that has surfaced as a result of never being good enough. Never being “Muslim” enough, or “religious” enough, or “Western” enough.

How do we turn our faces from sin when it is everywhere? When it is adulated, respected, and upheld by our very own societies as a noble thing? We become confused – the bad becomes good. We go against our natural instincts. Eventually we become submerged in our own little hells, metaphorical places where internal suffering, sadness, disappointment, and self-loathing manifest. The “internal fire of regret”, as Ibn Al-Qayyim radi allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him) puts it.

This quote teaches me that through one way or another, we will be purified of our sins. It’s up to us whether or not we seek purification in this life (through repentance) or we wait until the next (through the Fire).

I know. We’ve fallen so many times. We’re hurt, sore, and bruised. We are ashamed of our actions, and may even deem ourselves unworthy of seeking repentance. But something must quell that fire in our hearts. Something must quench our desires to be loved and accepted by the One whose love and acceptance is truly the only one that matters at the end of the day.

Say it – Astaghfirullah (I seek forgiveness from God).

I know; it hurts. But it certainly cannot hurt more than what is to come if we let our sins remain in our hearts, our minds, our spirits.

We are more than the sins that we commit. Don’t let the devil fool you. Don’t let those people who are a negative influence in your lives or those who sin openly and proudly fool you either.

We may fall a thousand times, but as long as we try to get back up, there is always hope.

And Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He) knows best.


Categories: Muslim blogs

To Whom Belongs Sovereignty? Al-Qahhar

Imam Suhaib Webb - Mon, 22/12/2014 - 14:00

Names of Allah Series:  Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV | Part V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII | Part XIV | Part XV | Part XVI | Part XVII | Part XVIII | Part XIX | Part XX Part XXI | Part XXII | Part XXIII | Part XXIV | Part XXV | Part XXVI | Part XXVII | Part XXVIII | Part XXIXPart XXX |Part XXXI | Part XXXII | Part XXXIII | Part XXXIV | Part XXXV | Part XXXVI | Part XXXVII | Part XXXVIII

Photo: Joel Tonyan

In this journey through Allah’s Names, we have learned about both His attributes of Beauty and of Majesty. The intention is to inspire fear, hope and, ultimately, love. If we misunderstand Allah subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), we may not see the wisdom behind the things that happen in the world or in our personal lives. We might not understand how Allah (swt) fits into our life. We may also find it difficult to love Him, because how can you love someone – deeply love someone – you do not know?

Thus it is hoped that these Names have increased our knowledge of our Creator, and have made apparent how Allah (swt) is with us in every moment.

Today’s Name should inspire in us ‘khashya’ and ‘hayba’. These words are sometimes both translated as ‘fear’, thus removing the important distinctions between the two words. In the ‘Sweetness of Prayer’ series, we explained the difference between the different types of fear:

‘Khawf’ is to flee from the thing that you fear, and requires no knowledge of that which is feared. You can be afraid, or have ‘khawf’, of the dark. ‘Khashya’, on the other hand, is fear with knowledge. The more a servant has knowledge of his Lord, the more ‘khawf’ turns to ‘khashya’. As Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“Only those fear Allah, from among His servants, who have knowledge” (35:28).

‘Hayba’ is fear associated with respect, awe and glorification. You could, for example, fear fire. But the reason for your fear is that the fire may harm you, so fire earns no ‘hayba’; you do not glorify it. However, you could have a certain ‘hayba’ of your father; you could be afraid to do something wrong in front of him, but that fear is out of respect.

Al-Qahhar: The Dominator

Allah’s Name al-Qahhar comes from the Arabic root qaf-haa-ra (ق-ه-ر). It means ‘to dominate over’ or ‘to subdue from above’. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an in Surat al-An`aam;

“And He is the subjugator (al-qaahiru) over His servants. And He is the Wise (al-Hakeem), the Acquainted [with all] (al-Khabeer). (6:18)

Someone with this attribute might be considered a tyrant, which is why Allah (swt) tells us that this attribute is possessed by the One who is also the Most Wise and the One who is Best Acquainted with everything. This reference is also for the benefit of those who doubt this attribute, and might ask “why has Allah not overpowered the tyrants of today, of whom there are many?” Allah (swt) is reminding us that there is ultimate wisdom in whom He chooses to subdue at any point in time. This is where our understanding of the holistic nature of Allah’s Names should come in: we spoke before about how Allah (swt) is Forbearing and Patient, and He gives people – even tyrants – the opportunity to turn back.

Thus we see in the Qur’an that Allah sends Moses and Aaron `alayhimaa as-salaam (may Allah’s peace be upon them both) to Pharaoh – and calling Pharaoh ‘oppressive’ would be an understatement! – telling them initially to speak to him gently. Pharaoh rejects them. Moses then shows him proof of his prophethood. Pharaoh rejects him again, insisting on enslaving the Children of Israel. Finally, Allah (swt) overpowers him by drowning him, using someone from the very people that Pharaoh was oppressing, who grew up in his own house. Such is the way of al-Qahhar, who manifests His power by subduing tyrants through the objects of their tyranny.

This is why Imam al-Ghazali describes al-Qahhar in this way: “The Dominator is the one who breaks the back of the powerful among His enemies… Indeed there is no existing thing that is not subject to the domination of His power, and powerlessness in His grasp. That is all.”
Therefore, when we look at events today and wonder “where is al-Qahhar?”, we should remember the story of Moses. Remember that Moses prevailed. Remember that Pharaoh was overpowered.

Our role is to strive against this oppression, knowing that ultimately this is what we will be asked about, and everything is subjected to the Will of Allah (swt). Indeed, so many tyrannical powers eventually come crashing down, bowing to the will of al-Qahhar. Unfortunately, we may not attribute it to Him, but as Allah (swt) tells us:

“The Day they come forth nothing concerning them will be concealed from Allah. To whom belongs [all] sovereignty this Day? To Allah, the One, the Prevailing (al-Qahhar).” (40:16)

On that Day, all will be apparent. All those who oppressed, in both seemingly small and big ways, will be before Allah, al-Qahhar. Then, there will be no ambiguity.
Living with these Names

1 – Balance fear and hope

Today’s Name might cause us to be afraid. This is not a subject we like to talk to about, because it is so much more reassuring to focus on those attributes that enable us to relax. But remembering that Allah (swt) has attributes of Majesty should instill in us the ‘khashya’ and ‘hayba’ described earlier. Moreover, Allah’s Names are to be looked at holistically. He is al-Qahhar and He is also al-Lateef (the subtle, the most kind).

2 – Dominate your lower desires
In previous articles, we talked about how we should emulate the attributes of Beauty. But what about attributes of Majesty? How do we apply them? Al-Ghazali counseled: “The dominator amongst men is the one who subdues his enemies. The greatest enemy of man is his soul, which is within him. This soul is more of an enemy to him than Satan, of whose enmity he is wary. Whoever conquers his passions conquers Satan, since Satan lures him to ruin by means of his passions.”

3 – Use that fear to stop at least one sin

To know that Allah is al-Qahhar is to burn the desire for sin in the heart. Because Allah (swt) is the Dominator, we should fear that perhaps al-Qahhar, al-Mumeet (the Life-Taker) might take our soul as we are committing the sin. This should alert us that despite it seeming as though we are being allowed to oppress our souls, we may still face the fate mentioned in this verse:

“So when they forgot that by which they had been reminded, We opened to them the doors of every [good] thing until, when they rejoiced in that which they were given, We seized them suddenly, and they were [then] in despair.” (Qur’an, 6:44)

These people used the gifts of Allah (swt) in the opposite manner to that for which they were intended, and then they were seized. In another chapter, Allah (swt) describes to us the people of the garden, who took an oath that they would reap all of their fruits and leave nothing for the poor. Allah (swt) caused their garden to be completely burned to the ground, but the owners of that garden understood the lesson. They willed something, but Allah (swt) overpowered their will, and so they turned back to Him.

Hence, this fear should not paralyze us from doing good, but it should paralyze us from doing bad. We should try to choose at least one thing – like backbiting or lying – and do our best to use this Name to help us stop it.

4 – Do not oppress others

The surest way to earn the wrath of al-Qahhar is to oppress others. Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an: “So as for the orphan, do not oppress [him] (fa laa taqhar)” (93:9). The word ‘taqhar’ comes from the same root of the name al-Qahhar. We should understand that oppression is not simply for unjust leaders or cruel human traffickers. We may also be oppressing others in more subtle ways, and thus we should be diligent to avoid this.

Categories: Muslim blogs

Lessons from the Prophet Musa

Imam Suhaib Webb - Fri, 19/12/2014 - 14:00

Imam Suhaib Webb talks about lessons from the life of Prophet Moses `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him).

Categories: Muslim blogs

How Muslim Theologians Saved Islamic Science

Imam Suhaib Webb - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 14:00

Photo: Alby Headrick

By Macksood A. Aftab

The conflict between science and religion has posed a serious threat to religious authority in the contemporary era. Many advocates of scientism have used the tremendous success of science in modern times to question the usefulness of religion as a means of seeking the truth. For example, Stephen Hawking recently stated in a Huffington Post article, “Before we understood science, it was natural to believe that God created the universe, but now science offers a more convincing explanation.” More recently the harsh critique of religion based upon various forms of scientism by writers such as Richard Dawkins have escalated the conflict.

Their view assumes that both religion and science have the same purpose, namely of explaining the existence of the universe. Furthermore, the scientific method is considered a more reliable way to achieve this goal. This is primarily so because science deals with physical processes, which can be quantified and measured, whereas religion often resorts to metaphysical references, which cannot be “proven.” Professor Naquib Al-Attas, the celebrated Malaysian Muslim philosopher, summarizes the essential problem. He writes, “A gist of their [those who espouse science as the source for truth] basic assumptions is that science is the sole authentic knowledge; that this [scientific] knowledge pertains only to phenomena.” Excluded from science is anything that does not have a “physical” existence, anything that cannot be empirically studied. Therefore, implicit in a worldview that holds science as the highest authority of knowledge is a denial of God.

As the Nobel laureate Werner Arber, president of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, writes, “The natural sciences are in a steady search for truth, and so is theology.” This naturally creates two apparently competing methodologies of seeking and determining the truth, which inevitably leads to conflict between theology and science. Although the Catholic Church did generally support science, when the conclusions of scientists came in conflict with church dogma, problems arose. This can be seen in the experiences of Copernicus, Galileo, and Darwin.

Islamic history, however, took a different course. Despite the existence of a sustained robust scientific enterprise in the Islamic world, an overt conflict between science and religion did not arise. Professor Walbridge of Indiana University points out that “the Islamic world produced no martyrs for science like Bruno and Galileo.” One of the achievements of Islamic civilization was the creation of a worldview in which both theology and science could be accepted in a comprehensive rational framework.

The Islamic tradition of scholastic theology is known as kalam. The two primary schools of kalam are the Ash`ari and its close cousin the Maturidi schools. Both are based upon a rational understanding of God and the Universe, which also seek to rigorously preserve salient features of the Islamic concept of God. This tradition, along with its larger place in the Islamic worldview, can best be understood through the works of one of its main proponents Imam Abu Hamid Al-Ghazali (d. 1111 CE). Richard Frank, a scholar of Islamic theology, describes Ghazali as, “The most important Sunni theologian at a crucial turning point in the history of orthodox Muslim theology.” During his time Islam was emerging from a period of intellectual schism. Ghazali contributed to the development of a consensus on this issue, which was to largely become the dominant Sunni doctrine. Thus the Ghazali scholar and translator Walter Skellie writes, “With him [Ghazali] the religious philosophy and experience of Islam reaches its zenith.”

Demonstrative Proof (Burhan)

The triumph of Ghazali’s epistemology lies in its successful reconciliation of reason with revelation. One key element of this was the allowance of figurative interpretations of scripture, particularly when it relates to assertions that may conflict with what is known via reason. Ghazali sets the bar very high for a scientific proof to over-ride scripture, something he calls burhan. Burhan is demonstrative knowledge or definitive logical proof. According to Ghazali, it held an even higher epistemic status than even scholastic theology (kalam).

Professor Al-Akiti of Oxford writes, “For al-Ghazali, burhan [definitive logical proof], and not kalam, is what he considered to be scientific knowledge, the ‘gold-standard’ in the art of reasoning – a judgment expounded in his Mi’yar al-’Ilm.” The late professor Marmura, a Ghazali scholar, summarizes Ghazali’s attitude towards definitive logical proof as follows:

“A science whose conclusions are not demonstrably true and which are in conflict with the literal assertions of scripture must be rejected. On the other hand, if what is demonstrably true contradicts the literal sense of scriptural language, then the latter must be interpreted metaphorically.”

Having firmly grounded his worldview in rationality, Ghazali proceeds to point out that physical science does not meet the standards of definitive logical proof unless God is added to the equation. This is because science is based upon a flawed assumption, namely that of natural causation. Causation, Ghazali argues, can only guaranteed if God is there to secure it. And importantly, according to Ghazali, God is there to secure it. Belief in God then becomes a prerequisite to the successful pursuit of science.

Causation, God & Science

Ghazali was able to reconcile the most important principle of science (namely causation) with Islamic theological doctrines (as articulated by the dominant Ash`ari school). Ash`ari theology developed in response to certain heterodox formulations of Islamic doctrine (such as those adopted by the Mutazalites and the Philosophers) which had the effect of diminishing key Divine attributes. Some of these formulations share a belief in necessary causation with modern secular scientists. Therefore Ghazali’s critique of their view is particularly instructive in tackling similar issues in the contemporary era.

Some of the main articles of faith in Ash`ari theology are that God is all powerful, He is all knowing and all events occur due to His express will. The Ash`aris therefore believed that all events are directly caused only by God, and not by anything else. God is not merely the first cause but also the immediate cause of every subsequent minor and major event that occurs in the universe. This appears to run contrary to our contemporary understanding of secular science, which rests on the principle of natural causation. Namely, that things (or events) cause other things (or events). For example, we think fire causes cotton to burn when they are brought near each other.

Ghazali questions the principle of necessary causation adopted by certain philosophers. According to Ghazali, this relationship between cause and effect is not necessary. To use his terminology, there is no definitive logical proof (burhan) that it is the cause that is responsible for the effect. He argues that all we observe is a quick succession of events, cotton being brought close to fire and the cotton burning. But a relationship based simply on proximity in time or space does not imply necessary causation. Ghazali famously states, “The connection between what is habitually believed to be a cause and what is habitually believed to be an effect is not necessary.”

David Hume in the Western tradition made a similar argument against causation. He asked, “Where is the causal glue” holding together the cause and the effect? Unlike Hume who was led to skepticism, however, Ghazali has an answer to this conundrum. For Ghazali, the causal glue is God. It is God who ensures that the relationship between cause and effect always holds. In doing so, Ghazali has made room for orthodox Islamic theology in which God is the direct cause of everything.

On its surface this line of thinking can be misunderstood to in fact undermine science, as several historians and scientists have thought. For example, the historian Tamim Ansary writes, “Take it however you will, the argument against causality undermines the whole scientific enterprise. If nothing actually causes anything else, why bother to observe the natural world in search of meaningful patterns?” Pervez Hoodbhoy, a preeminent Pakistani scientist, expresses a similar concern with the Ash`ari position, stating that in such a world, “even a speeding arrow might not reach its destination.” In other words, if the cause and effect relationship is not necessary then there would be no sure way to rely on our observations, predict natural phenomena or to do scientific experiments.

Conflict Averted, Science Flourished

This criticism, however, implies a dogmatic belief in science which sidesteps the very real problem of causation. Ghazali does not need to (nor does he) deny causation. He is merely denying necessary causation—namely, that there is no conclusive proof that things can influence other things by themselves. For Ghazali, God is required to ensure that the relationship between cause and effect always hold true. As Frank Griffel, a Ghazali scholar at Yale, writes:

“Trust in God (tawakkul) is a major condition for investigating the natural sciences. Such trust requires the certainty to know that God will not change books into horses or disconnect our knowledge from reality. Given that God habitually creates our knowledge to accord with reality, we can rely on our sense and our judgment and confidently pursue the natural sciences.”

According to this view God could suspend the laws of causation, but He never does and never will. So fire will always burn cotton but this is only true because in every instance of its occurrence God ensures that it is so. In effect, Ghazali has created a framework in which science can operate and the principles of Islamic theology (Divine power, knowledge and will) are also preserved.

Furthermore, Ghazali even located miracles – which he calls strange and wondrous phenomena – within the empirical world. Even miracles were then not Divine acts of suspension of the normal workings of the universe; rather they were unusual phenomena of nature due to causes not immediately clear to us at the moment. The possibility of additional causal chains other than those currently physically observed encouraged further exploration of the natural world. Ahmad Dallal, a historian of Islamic science at Georgetown University writes,

“The aspect that had the most influence on the development of science was the concept of multiple possibilities (tajwiz), the notion that specific natural philosophical explanations (or planetary models) are possible but not certain, and that there may exist alternative explanations for the natural phenomena… this idea was grounded in an epistemological criticism of Aristotelian metaphysics.”

After Ghazali, science in the Muslim world experienced a prolonged renaissance as documented by Yale historian George Saliba. His understanding had the effect of legitimizing science. Science was a discipline ensured by God. It also had the effect of effectively separating theology from physical science. Divine attributes are known through revelation, and science plays no significant role in informing us about these metaphysical matters. On the other hand revelation does not interfere with the workings of science; it is left as an independent discipline within the larger Islamic framework. Dallal explains,

“After Al-Ghazali, the need to invoke religion to vindicate science considerably decreased, not because science was not accepted but because it did not need vindication. Excluding final-cause explorations from science did not compromise the providence of God, which was simply assumed without questioning (bila kayf).”

This worldview rests on the premise that God exists and sustains the Universe. God is not the end goal of science, but rather the starting point. This created an organic and interdependent relationship between science and religion, which essentially eliminated the potential of conflict between the two disciplines. In fact, as professor Muzaffar Iqbal, a philosopher of Islamic science, writes:

“No one thought of them [science and religion] as two independent entities which needed to be related via an external mechanism… This relationship emerged naturally and because the scientific tradition was thoroughly rooted in the worldview created by Islam.”

This worldview was rational. It recognized the primacy of reason and in fact accorded burhan the highest epistemic status. Within this framework secular science is critiqued based upon logical fallacies assumed by its proponents. Science is then presented not as a competing force with religion, but rather as a viable enterprise, as part of a comprehensive worldview that encompasses God. In fact, it is grounded in the assumption of God. This delicate balance, which secured both science and theology, is one of the greatest achievements of medieval Muslim theologians.

Dr. Macksood Aftab is a neuroradiologist, and clinical assistant professor at both Michigan State University and Central Michigan University. He holds a Master degree in History of Science, and is an editor for the Journal of Islamic Philosophy. The author can be reached at:

Categories: Muslim blogs

A Victim of Speech

Imam Suhaib Webb - Wed, 17/12/2014 - 14:00

Part I | Part II

In the last article, we explored how Allah (swt) exonerated Aisha radi allahu `anha (may God be please with her) and Prophet Joseph `alayhi as-salaaam (peace be upon him) from unsubstantiated and untrue gossip, and we talked about the victims of slander. Today, it’s about the perpetrators of slander. It is about, quite possibly, you and me.

Sometimes in the name of “enjoining good and forbidding evil” we forget the sanctity of our fellow human beings and especially fellow believers. We spread things that are unsubstantiated in a bid to ‘warn others’ about possible deviancy. We are harsh in our words. We assume the worst. We forget that one of the best traits a Muslim can have is “thinking well of the servant of Allah” and for other Muslims to be “safe from his hands and tongue.”

We forget that the Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) passed by a grave and he warned that the person was suffering in his grave because he would spread gossip. We forget that that person we are talking about may have our good deeds transferred to him simply because he is a victim of our speech.

Scary stuff? It is. The Prophet ﷺ said: “The majority of man’s sins emanate from his tongue.” (Tabarani)

To go back to the examples in our previous article, it was clear that those with power—the minister and the minister’s wife—knew the truth with regards to what was said about the Prophet Joseph (as). But they allowed the rumor to persist and put Prophet Joseph in prison. With Aisha (ra), we have even more details. The people who discussed the rumor were good Muslims. They discussed the scandalous nature of what was said, and in doing so, spread it far and wide. Shaytan created doubt: “Could it actually be true?” Allah admonished the Muslims when He informs us in the Qur’an about what happened:

“Why, when you heard it, did not the believing men and believing women think good of one another and say, ‘This is an obvious falsehood?’” (Qur’an, 24:12)

Now some people might think this example is extreme. We would never spread such a rumor. But rumors and slander and gossip come in all shapes and forms. So if you hear something about someone that is unsubstantiated, do not fuel the fire. We are just as bad as those news networks we criticize, who pick up a story, and whether true or not, run with it.

This is not intended to shut down constructive criticism of public figures. There are ways of bringing people to account. There are ways of disagreeing and critiquing ideas and views, which are beyond the scope of this article. But in the age of the internet, anyone can write a piece and within an hour it is shared and read by many. And it would do us good to reflect on what our role is in this. We must remember that we will be held to account. So let us not put ourselves in a position to be asked about why we were careless in our research, harsh in words, and negative in our basic assumptions about others.

And remember that the Prophet ﷺ taught:

“A person’s eman (faith) is not upright until his heart is upright, and his heart is not upright until his tongue is upright.” (Ahmad)

Categories: Muslim blogs

The Man She Used to Pray For

Imam Suhaib Webb - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 14:00

Glimpses of Marital Bliss: Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IVPart V | Part VI | Part VII | Part VIII | Part IX | Part X | Part XI | Part XII | Part XIII

Many of us pray for the perfect spouse and imagine him or her being a certain way. Sometimes, what we pray for becomes most apparent in difficult times. In this account, a wife talks about the ways in which real life has helped her and her husband grow in their beautiful relationship.

Photo: Danna

“My husband and I are from two different worlds literally and figuratively, and the thing that binds us together the most is Allah (subhanahu wa ta`ala – exalted is He) and our undeniable faith in Him (swt). After looking in America for two years, I decided to marry someone from “back home,” i.e. Pakistan. When we first got married, we realized what a huge adjustment it would be for both of us. We had kids right away when he came. He went to school here and got his degree from here, and I supported him financially all during the time that I was a new mother and the only thing I wanted to do was raise my precious firstborn full-time.

Under such circumstances many marriages rightfully take a back seat and the relationship crumbles. We had many big fights over those first few years. Every time we fought I made du`a’ (supplication) to Allah (swt) to make it better, and He did. Our fights never lasted more than a day, and one of us always ended up saying sorry. We couldn’t go to sleep without making up. Throughout our good times and hard times I discovered that I married a very caring and generous man. I also discovered that I needed to accept him for who he was and that I had many bad qualities that needed to be worked out if I was going to stand in front of my Creator on the Day of Judgment. His love for me is shown in always hiding my faults in front of others, in picking flowers for me on the way home from the masjid, in taking care of the kids and giving me some time off, in cleaning up a messy house and in always sharing with me his day to day dealings at work or with his friends. As time has passed we have gotten closer and now I can’t imagine not having him in my life. The kids have really served to bond us together and it warms my heart when our eldest wants to pray because he sees his father praying. Alhamdullilah (praise be to God)!

My husband is not perfect and has many faults, but I know inside there is a light of goodness that gets dim at times and at times shines brightly, and I am committed to stand by him throughout all the times. I used to make du`a’ to Allah (swt) for a pious, kind, gentle husband and now that Allah (swt) has given me a slave of His to love, I must remain thankful, for if I am thankful He will give me more. We just celebrated our five-year wedding anniversary, and I look forward to spending many more with him insha’ Allah (God-willing).”

Categories: Muslim blogs

The Vikings and Serkland: A Lesson in the Merits of Presentability

Imam Suhaib Webb - Mon, 15/12/2014 - 14:00

The Vikings referred to the Abbasid Empire as Serkland. There are a few theories regarding the origin of this name, but it likely originated from the Norse term serkr, which meant tunic or gown. The term was mentioned in the Ingvar Runestones, specifically in the Gripsholm Runestone (Sö 179). They were raised to commemorate those Vikings who died fighting the Muslims on the Caspian Sea under Yngvarr víðförli, whose Norse name and title meant “Ingvar the Far-traveled”.1 Interestingly related to the word serkr, the English word “berserk”—meaning to go crazy—comes from the Norse word berserkr which was a term for Viking warriors who fought in a trance-like rage. They were given this name because they wore the coats of bears, called ber in Old Norse. Thus, berserkr means “bear coat”.2 So the Vikings, or Rūs, as they were called by the Muslims (from which came the later ethnonym “Russian”), saw the Abbasids wearing their long tunics, cloaks, capes and coats and referred to their realm as “Serkland”, the land of the “Serkir”, those who wear long coats. The dignified appearances of the early Muslims left quite an impression.

The Muslims were known for always dressing impeccably regardless of what social class they came from. There was a dignity and respect in the way they presented themselves, and this was markedly observed by even their adversaries. In the famous French prose “The Song of Roland”, which lauds the heroic deeds of the “Holy Barbarian” King Charlemagne in his battles against the Muslims, the leader of the Muslims is described as strikingly handsome and a noble equal to Charlemagne. The song praises him thus:

“An Emir of Balaguet came in place,

Proud of body, and fair of face;

Since first he sprang on steed to ride,

To wear his harness was all his pride;

For feats of prowess great laud he won;

Were he Christian, nobler baron none!”3

In the end, the only way Charlemagne is said to defeat him is with the help of the Archangel Gabriel.

God says in the Qur’an:

يَا بَنِي آدَمَ خُذُوا زِينَتَكُمْ عِندَ كُلِّ مَسْجِدٍ

“O Children of Adam! Wear your beautiful apparel at every time and place of prayer.”4

Do we care for our appearance, cleanliness and attire when visiting the mosque? Even if not daily, do we at least in our Friday prayers? Sometimes we do. I often see Africans in their brightly colored gowns and hats, the Indonesians and Malays in their perfectly pressed shirts, gilded hats and sarongs, the African-Americans in their best suits, ties and/or bowties. But what I also see alarmingly too often are sweat-pants, t-shirts, tunics which you know alternate as sleepwear, long faces and disheveled hair. Sadly, I fear that may be the majority in too many mosques.

There is a Prophetic saying:

إِذا أَتَاك الله مَالا فَلْيُرَ أثَرُ نِعْمَةِ الله عَلَيْكَ وكَرَامَتِهِ

“If God has given you an income then display signs of His blessings and generosity upon you.”5

So, there is an element of gratitude and acknowledgement of God’s blessings when you take care of your appearance and utilize what He has blessed you with to look your very best. Yet, the Ottoman era scholar al-Munāwī is also careful to qualify this saying:

“‘And His generosity’ – that which He has bestowed upon you. For in attire is an indication of one’s overall condition, self-worth, self-respect, and hygiene. And it is so those in need will know to go to him, but he must be careful with his intentions and avoid all forms of excess.”6

With this, he also relates an interesting story therein about the famous scholar and successor to the Prophet (ﷺ)’s Companions, al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, wearing a shirt costing 400 dirhams. One time he met Farqad al-Sinjī, a known Sufi of the time, which sparked a telling dialog. In the early days of Islam, the Sufis wore coarse wool garments and, for this, some have speculated that the word “Sufi” may originate from the Arabic word for wool, Ṣūf. Farqad said reproachfully to al-Hasan, “O Abū Sa`īd, how soft is your clothing!” To this, al-Ḥasan replied using a lexical diminution7 of Farqad’s name, “O Furayqid! The softness of my clothes does not distance me from God, nor does the coarseness of your clothing make you closer to Him.” Al-Ḥasan then went on to quote the saying of the Prophet ﷺ, “God is beautiful and He loves beauty.” In another narration al-Ḥasan rebuked Farqad’s spiritual arrogance with: “They have piety in their clothing, but they have arrogance in their hearts.”8 Whether relevant or not, Farqad al- Sinjī later became considered a severely defective narrator.

So while we may feel that our theology is sound and we are the people of the true faith, there is something seriously wrong when Christians are in their finest clothes when visiting church on Sunday but we look like we’re running errands when we go for Friday prayers. It reflects our overall attitude, which comes across as clear as day in how we present ourselves and how we allow ourselves to be perceived by those around us. As al-Ḥasan al-Baṣri said, there are those who may dress simply but their hearts are full of conceit. Don’t be content thinking you’re the people of Truth if you don’t even look the part.

A Cornell University psychologist who chaired the conference When to Judge a Book by Its Cover: Timing, Context, and Individual Differences in First Impressions stated, “Despite the well-known idiom to ‘not judge a book by its cover,’ the present research shows that such judgments about the cover are good proxies for judgments about the book — even after reading it.” This research is particularly focused on impressions that are made within mere seconds of seeing someone and the results are that any negative impression garnered within the first few seconds can outlast any and all efforts to dispel them later through explanation or amiable conduct. So we can exhaust every effort in trying to convince our non-Muslim neighbors that we’re good people, but if we don’t look it, they won’t believe it. Fair or not, that is plain science. Would you find it easier to change human psychology or simply pay more attention to how you present yourself?

So, while the Vikings raided our coasts along the Caspian Sea and Charlemagne drove us out of Western France and invaded Muslim Spain, they were so impressed by us that they actually wrote poetry about us. We need to ask ourselves a very serious question: enemies aside, do we even leave that kind of impression upon our non-Muslim friends? Let us answer that honestly in the quiet of our conscience and, if necessary, make changes in our lives accordingly.

  1. Runelore: The Magic, History, and Hidden Codes of the Runes, p. 38, Edred Thorsson
  2. Medieval Scandinavia: An Encyclopedia, p. 38, Phillip Pulsiano, Kirsten Wolf
  3. The Song of Roland, 228:3164, Translated from French by John O’Hagen
  4. The Holy Qur’an, 7:31, Yusuf `Ali translation, 1938
  5. Recorded by Aḥmad, al-Tirmidhī, Abū Dawūd, al-Nasā’ī, and many others
  6. Fayḍ al-Qadīr Sharḥ Jami` al-Ṣaghīr, al-Munāwī
  7. Called Taṣghīr al-Ism in Arabic lexical morphology wherein a word is made diminutive, or to indicate “smallness”, by conforming it to the fu`ayl consonantal skeleton.
  8. Kitāb al-Zuhd of Aḥmad bin Ḥanbal, Fayḍ al-Qadīr of al-Munāwī, Muḥāḍirāt al-Adbā’ of al-Iṣfahāni, and others.
Categories: Muslim blogs
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