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To Whom Belongs Sovereignty? Al-Qahhar

Imam Suhaib Webb - 9 hours 45 min ago

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 - 13:00

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 - 13:00

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: mackaftab@post.harvard.edu.

Categories: Muslim blogs

#IllRideWithYou: Embracing Sydney’s Solidarity

The Platform - Thu, 18/12/2014 - 00:48

The #IllRideWithYou campaign has caused a social media storm reminding the world that Islamophobia is not a thing to be tolerated

 

The ‪#‎IllRideWithYou‬ campaign is a remarkable phenomenon that marks a new stage in our responses to violence and terror. Like the #crimingwhilewhite campaign, it acknowledges and exposes the vulnerability of others, by those who could have just enjoyed their privilege instead of extending their support. The campaign illustrates a moment where the ordinary heroes around us stand up without waiting to be called.

The fact that this gesture has been received by many Muslims with such overwhelming emotion and gratitude tells us a lot about attitudes in our societies; being permitted to share in the pain of a tragedy like the Sydney siege, without being accused of being somehow complicit, feels like a gift.

However frustrating it is for this kind of patronage to even be considered necessary, these are sadly the lows we have reached. When Ben Affleck clumsily argued with Bill Maher that the vast majority of Muslims were peace-loving people, the same as the rest of humanity, it felt like a double, triple blow. It was unthinkable that it needed to be said, and ridiculous that it apparently required an impeccably liberal, all-American, non-Muslim Hollywood celebrity to have any hope of the message being listened to. Worst of all was that the sentiments were completely rejected by the rest of the all-white male panel. It was quite a horrific moment. It seemed like this panel had passed a judgement in mainstream US media: Muslims are inherently extremist (unless they explicitly reject Islam). Don’t trust them.

The word Islamophobia is awkward, but the vulnerability of Muslims to attack and scapegoating is very real – and the visibility of covered Muslim women makes them even more so.

Reading about the incident that sparked the original #IllRideWithYou tweet, I was reminded of a bus ride in Stockport back in 2006 where a young man tried to pull off my headscarf. I wondered about the other passengers and how they would have reacted if it had been something more serious.

Despite living in a multicultural environment where Muslims rightly feel part of the community, almost every person can recall stories of being spat on, called a terrorist or having their scarf pulled off – and that’s just the stories of overt aggression. Nonetheless, the experiences of love, friendship and normality that have always outweighed any abuse.

I recently watched the pacifist documentary We Are Many which examined the anti-war movement that emerged in the wake of 9/11, and the discourse which played out in the western world to figure out how to respond to these terrible attacks. It was emotional recalling how many people across the world united in that call for peace, how hopeful it was, and what price we paid when our governments decided to approach ideologies of violence with violence.

The world now feels more unstable than ever, wherein the jihadists are promoting an uglier, more brutal and nihilistic vision than ever before. The recent CIA torture report gives us a glimpse into how much the guardians of our society were willing to sacrifice our collective humanity.

In 2002 the Not In Our Name organisation stated a pledge against US military action declaring: Not in our name/ will you wage endless war; Another world is possible/ and we pledge to make it real. By 2014, this message had evolved into the #notinmyname campaign, a defensive declaration for Muslims to assert their rejection of ISIS. From feeling a need to apologise and distance themselves from the actions of our governments, western Muslims were now being expected to vocally distance themselves from a psychotic movement that had never represented them in any way. ISIS, unfortunately, does not make subtle distinctions – either you sign up to their terrifying worldview (by force if necessary) or you are the enemy and a legitimate target. On the other hand, the right-wing western media, among others, are all too ready to lump all Muslims with acts of violence and terrorism. The UK press has repeatedly called for poppy headscarves, the union jack and the likes to be draped around the heads of hijab-clad women so that the ignorant can easily distinguish between the goodies and the baddies.

Interestingly, the past week has seen the #notinmyname hashtag being used both by Muslims denouncing the Sydney siege, and by Americans expressing renewed outrage at the horrifying torture perpetrated in the name of national security.

The #IllRideWithYou campaign manages to discard ugly and false stereotypes and attempts to relieve the pressure on Muslims. No apologies or proofs needed, we know you, you are part of us. #IllRideWithYou isn’t about protection. In the end, it is about solidarity.

One last cheer for the Aussies who inspired us – and if there’s anyone out there who’s afraid Muslims are strange, alien and possibly violent creatures, come along, #IllRideWithYou and we can talk.

Image from: Twitter 
Categories: Muslim blogs

A Victim of Speech

Imam Suhaib Webb - Wed, 17/12/2014 - 13:00

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

A Nation of Tricoteuses Awaits the Drop: Bangladesh Prepares for an Execution

The Platform - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 20:41

As Bangladesh awaits the execution of Kamaruzzaman, too few are concerned about the flawed trial that heralded this verdict

 

As the forty-third Victory Day anniversary of Bangladesh is upon us, preparations are being made at the Dhaka Central Jail to execute the 62-year old Muhammad Kamaruzzaman, one of the Assistant Secretary-Generals of Bangladesh’s largest Islamic party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Since his party had opposed independence, the government intended to have Kamaruzzaman hanged before the Victory Day celebrations of December 16. But the judgment which was announced in open court on November 3 is yet to be signed. And much to the chagrin of the Prime Minister and her Law Minister, writing a judgment takes time and the prison authorities were reluctant to execute without a signed order. So the Law Minster, in an attempt to persuade the prison that Kamaruzzaman could be executed on the basis of an oral order, embarked on a marathon of press conferences. However, only days later he was compelled to eat his own words when the jail authorities, not convinced by the soundness of his arguments (and fearful of reprisals by future governments), decided to wait for the signed order instead.

This has come as a rude shock to the supporters of the ruling party and the vast majority of the journalists of this country. They feel cheated out of an execution. A number of online newspapers had already been speculating on who would be leading Kamaruzzaman’s funeral prayers and even on where he would finally be laid to rest. One foreign journalist, in order not to be outdone by his local colleagues, had started a real-time ‘Rolling Blog on Kamaruzzaman Execution.’ There was some activity on the blog for a week but now it has ground to a halt.

No one however, is really interested in examining whether Kamaruzzaman has had a fair trial or not. No one wants to know why Human Rights Watch has described the process as being ‘replete with fair trial concerns,’ or why international law experts such as Lord Carlile QC are calling the trials ‘hopelessly flawed.’ In fact, very few people actually know why Kamaruzzaman is being executed at all.

So why is Kamaruzzaman being executed? Well, on November 3, Bangladesh’s highest court confirmed his death sentence, passed earlier by the country’s controversial war crimes tribunal, on the charge of mass murder in the northern district of Sherpur. From the very beginning it was clear that the prosecution would be seeking a death sentence on this charge as it supported the government’s narrative of mass murder by members of opposition Jamaat-e-Islami during the Liberation War.

However, on October 1 2012 the prosecution case fell flat on its face when only one of the four listed witnesses turned up and even he failed to place Kamaruzzaman at the scene of the crime. What followed was a flurry of activity with investigators and even prosecutors themselves travelling up to the scene of the massacre to identify new witnesses. On October 8 the prosecution filed fresh statements of seven war widows. However, the statements prepared by the investigators revealed that none of the widows had seen Kamaruzzaman at the scene of the crime. But on October 11, when three of the war widows finally took the stand, they identified Kamaruzzaman as being present at the scene of the crime.

On cross examination it transpired that two of the three war widows had not named Kamaruzzaman in their earlier descriptions of the massacre to the author of a book which had been published only months before, in February 2012. Nor was his name mentioned in the statements of 13 other war widows, all of whom had described the massacre to the same author. And moreover, Kamaruzzaman had not been named in any of the pre-trial books on the massacre.

So why did his name come up after 41 years? What has prompted this sudden and simultaneous recollection in the witness box of the same name by the three war widows? According to the defence, this was a clear case of witness tutoring. According to the prosecution, the explanation is to be found in the earlier case of Abdul Quader Molla, where a witness explained her failure to name the accused for over 40 years (even in a book authored by herself on the same event) by saying that she had been saving the truth for the witness box.

So how does one justify this execution? Supporters of the government, when faced with international criticism, gloss over the flaws in the prosecution’s case by describing them as procedural. One journalist even described the abduction of a defence witness as a procedural concern. Can the consistent failure by witnesses to name the accused during the course of over 41 years – including to the investigating officer less than a month before deposing – followed by their sudden blaming upon taking the stand of the then teenaged accused for one of the worst massacres of 1971, be described as procedural concerns? One suspects not. These are substantial issues which lend credence to some of the more serious concerns of human rights organisations and lawyers.

But lack of fair trial standards will be the last thing on the mind of most Bangladeshis this December. Many Bangladeshis, including a section of the younger generation, will just want to revel in the excitement of a hanging in the same obscene and violent manner of a year ago when Kamaruzzaman’s party colleague Abdul Quader Molla was executed. In a country short on entertainment, a hanging provides our modern day tricoteuses with a distraction from the everyday drudgery of their lives. And 24-hour news media with their real-time updates right up to the moment of the drop have made Madame Defarges of us all by providing a front row experience of the gallows.

 

Image from: http://www.thedailystar.net/un-experts-urge-halt-on-kamaruzzaman-execution-49207
Categories: Muslim blogs

The Man She Used to Pray For

Imam Suhaib Webb - Tue, 16/12/2014 - 13:00

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 - 13:00

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

Eric Garner: I Can’t Breathe: Eleven Times

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Sat, 13/12/2014 - 15:41

Like Eric Garner,
I can’t breathe, eleven times…
Maybe because America has stolen my breath,
But how could that be,
America is never guilty of theft.
No stolen labor from chattel slaves,
No stolen land from vanquished braves,
No stolen kingdom called Hawaii…
How could that ever be in the land of the free?
If I can’t breathe it’s not because of anything…
America has done to me.

Like Eric Garner,
I can’t breathe, eleven times…
But my ensuing death is not the ultimate crime,
Because the lack of air has not deprived my spirit of life.
My spirit endures,
And as long as it endures, I have not died,
Guided by the eleven stars that Joseph spied;
Still, I can’t breathe, my body cried…
And there came a reply: the Prophets have not lied.
And beyond the stars, a sun and moon, prostrating unto he,
Who, despite the prison walls, was always free…

Like Eric Garner,
I can’t breathe, eleven times…
And because he was treated like dirt,
Let LeBron, Kobe, and the Georgetown Hoyas…
Wear the shirt,
Let the masses rise in peaceful protest,
Until the source of my unrest is acknowledged by the nation.
Until my haters know why of many liberties I am bereft.
For if America knew she would need no explanation,
She would totally understand…
Why I can’t breathe.

Categories: Muslim blogs

Reflections of a Black Convert – All You Who Are Dreamers

Imam Suhaib Webb - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 13:00

Reflections of a Black Convert: Part I | Part II | Part III – All You Who Are Dreamers

By Anthony Hardy

Photo: Bethan

“I don’t understand,” said a friend of mine who happened to be an agnostic, “if Muslims here are just as racist as the Christians, why the Hell are you still Muslim?”

This question had never been posed to me in all my years of being Muslim. I had given it ample thought. I hadn’t, however, formulated a cogent, verbal response for it in the event someone asked me.

“I mean,” he continued, “if one of the reasons you converted was because of the race thing, you didn’t get very far. Seems like you may have regressed a bit actually. Just seems like you going through a lot of trouble for this Islam stuff.”

I conceded his point. While some phenomenal Muslims, Black and non-Black, had crossed my path along my trek in this great faith, I can say with unwavering certainty the vast majority of my time as a Muslim has been filled with hardship, isolation, and loneliness. Some converts break and fold under the immense pressure to which they are subjected at the hands of the community and their families. Some apostate as a result. I can’t say I blame them. I wasn’t broken – alhamduliLah (praise be to God) – but I was scarred and bent: the human heart is a fickle and fragile morsel of flesh.

There really was nothing on the outside anchoring me to Islam: with the exception of my younger brother, himself a convert, I didn’t have any Muslim relatives; my culture wasn’t enmeshed in Islam; though I have a strong affinity for the Black Muslim community, I didn’t belong to any community in particular; and because of my experiences and the experiences of loved ones, I didn’t even want to belong.

I responded to my friend’s inquiry, “True, in terms of race, I probably did backtrack a bit. Still, there are some existential considerations for which Islam provides sufficient explanations that no other system of thought I’ve come across has the potential to answer. For that reason, I stick around.”

Islam mandates upon those who embrace its inspiration to submit their ego as best as they can manage to a set of transcendent principles and confers nobility upon those individuals who make earnest attempts to uphold those dignifying principles. Unlike in our society, where one’s worth is determined by wealth, lineage, extent of education, occupation, gender, sexual orientation, physical beauty, physical handicap and – yes – even skin color and hair texture, the notion of submission and adherence to a set of divine principles as the ultimate measure of one’s value is largely independent of the circumstances surrounding one’s genesis into the world or current station in the world and thus lends itself to a humble agnosticism concerning the ultimate worth of others: under such an empowering paradigm, even the jettisoned pauper, pygmy, or orphan has the potential to be a prince or princess in the eyes of God by virtue of character, actions, and outlook.

Each soul is granted a story of its own from its Lord related to where and when He chose to author it. The purpose of those different stories is so that we might all learn and grow from them all and hence from one another. We are meant to be mirrors unto one another. I remain Muslim, among other reasons, because Islam dictates by virtue of tauhīd (oneness of God) that my story and the stories and experiences of my people have intrinsic value for humanity at large, even if many in the world, including and especially Muslims, fail to recognize that value for our skin color, class, culture, or whatever. We are lessons to be heeded and learned. As it stands, large segments of Muslims in America deign to perceive themselves as superior to us because of what Allāh, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), has bestowed upon them out of His Mercy and do not wish to educate themselves with our stories or even has us in their company or communities or families, quite possibly out of the very essence of kufr (disbelief of God) itself, for it was Allāh (swt) Himself who created us as we are.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.”

— Qur’ān, (49:13)

Unfortunately, Muslims have done themselves, their families, their children, their communities, and their religion a grave disservice in their folly. Until Muslims begin to realize the source of their honor is with God alone, until Muslims resume their slave status before God and not to the inventions of men, physical or otherwise, my mother will continue to be correct and Black Muslims or other communities who have contributed or have the potential to contribute so much to Islam in America and throughout the world will only always be just “niggers” or “thugs” or “gangsters” or “scary” or “dime a dozen” or “too dark” or ‘abd or zenci or whatever other derogatory term cultures may design. We must muster the courage to strive against the false gods and false regimes of validation that have taken residence in our hearts and minds for the integrity of the community, for our collective existence in this country, and for the integrity and purity of our eternal souls before our Lord.

I pray for a better way forward. I can’t do it without you.

 

To sit and dream, to sit and read,

To sit and learn about the world

Outside our world of here and now –

       our problem world –

To dream of vast horizons of the soul

Through dreams made whole,

Unfettered free – help me!

All you who are dreamers, too,

Help me make our world anew.

I reach out my hands to you.

– Langston Hughes, “To You”

Categories: Muslim blogs

Where Is the End To This Cycle of Tyranny, Terrorism and War?

The Platform - Fri, 12/12/2014 - 01:02

The CIA torture report revealed this week lays bare the dark excesses of the War on Terror and its continuing impact on the Middle East

 

With the publication of the Executive Summary of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program this week, the US Senate Intelligence Committee has acknowledged that the CIA’s actions have been a stain on US history. The UN, human rights groups and legal experts are now asking the Obama administration to prosecute US officials responsible for the torture programme.

This is just one aspect of the story. In many ways the world’s sole super power has lost its moral compass post 9/11. Rather than behaving like a global lion America, in the years immediately after 9/11, behaved like Godzilla and lashed out against an undefined enemy. The irony is that the enemy is mutating and resurfacing in ever-more complex forms.

In the last 13 years the world has hit reverse in terms of respect for the rule of law, human rights and dignity. For much of the globe, deference for America has been replaced by fear. Some critics have described the US as a rogue superpower.

9/11 was unprecedented in terms of ingenious cruelty and the whole world poured out its sympathy. But the neocon-influenced Administration mistook this as its right to unleash unprecedented invasions of two sovereign countries, Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, all as part of a War on Terror. This has left a dangerous legacy of death, destruction and violence of historic proportions in those two ancient lands, legacies that are now affecting our lives almost everywhere. How long this will continue is anybody’s guess.

The vicious circle of terrorism and counter-terrorism, by disparate Muslim nihilists such as al-Qaeda and the ISIL, and by powerful countries with massive military might, has been shaping the early 21st century. This war seems unending and through this the military industrial complex in developed countries has fattened, the torture industry has become more innovative, hawkish think tanks have flourished and narratives on Muslims have spun out of control.

Wars are not cost-free, in terms of human and material resources. The two above wars have cost thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars, not to mention the lives lost by innocent civilians and the chaos that has been left in their wake. The massive drain on the US Treasury might have had an impact on the 2008 collapse of its economy, which then spiralled out across the developed world.

President Obama came to the White House with high expectations and noble promises. But instead he changed the nature of the wars America was fighting and expanded them to such an extent that his presidency will forever be tainted with ‘long war‘. With its particular focus on targeted assassinations worldwide (including of its own citizens), Obama’s administration has truly opened Pandora’s Box.

The emergence of ISIL in Iraq and Syria, a clear by-product of the war on terror, is now tearing apart the already-fractured Middle East. With Syria and Iraq becoming the killing fields, the intractable Palestinian crisis around the corner is all but forgotten. With over 200,000 dead, millions displaced and cities turning into ghost towns, the Syrian tragedy has come to a tipping point. A generation of disaffected, impoverished and angry children is growing up in the Middle East with the frightening potential of turning to nihilism and terrorism.

The dark politics played by the region’s mainly despotic regimes, with sectarian agendas (as well as that played by some military powers in the West) is getting darker. Russia and China are playing their own games here as well. A bloody proxy war and the brutality of ISIL has made US-led military intervention inevitable, again. But this is a cycle and the Middle East will mostly be living with a new phase of mission creep for generations.

For decades the Middle East has been run by tin-pot dictators. The current breed of leaders, in the garb of secularism or nationalism, appeared during the Franco-British colonial era from the ashes of a long Arab stagnation. Far removed from Islam’s egalitarian concept of running public affairs, they resorted to pre-Islamic tribalism. In the absence of an established strong civil society these rulers ran the region like a fiefdom. Some were later replaced by military dictators with the same politics – incompetent, corrupt and repressive – and with similar complicity or downright support from western powers.

Worse than the Soviet-era Communist rulers, these family or military dictators often used the majority religion, Islam, to legitimise their stay in power. At the same time, they promoted themselves as indispensable stooges to their foreign masters. Global powers have been milking these regimes for decades.

Some among Islamic scholars, rather than standing for the people and Islamic values of truth and justice, have sided with these regimes. This has created a dangerous social division in the region, which has exacerbated the rise of hardcore secularists and their nemesis, the Islamists. With a prison-like political environment there is no public space for open debate and discussion.

The result, so far, is the creation of generations of angry and impoverished people with their backs against the wall. With nowhere to go they grabbed the opportunity of the Arab Spring that started in Tunisia at the end of 2010. But this proved too much for the dictators. Some Gulf states poured unlimited money to sabotage these democratic gains, to nip the Arab Spring in the bud. The democratic West, being initially ambivalent, threw its hat in with the old guard for reasons of ‘national interest’. This is the game being played in front of our eyes.

If a drastic change in policy towards the Middle East and the wider War on Terror is not made by America and its allies the world is going to be dragged into deeper and deeper crisis. Post-9/11 world has become more unsafe and we are now at a tipping point of further catastrophe. It is time we build bridges, not create walls of hatred.

Image from: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/09/cia-torture-report-released
Categories: Muslim blogs

Should I Celebrate Christmas with my Non-Muslim Family Members?

Imam Suhaib Webb - Thu, 11/12/2014 - 13:00

Question:

Photo: Ania Mendrek

Each year I let my family know I will not be celebrating Christmas with them. Last year my mother gave us gifts that said they were from Santa Claus. At the time, I was pregnant and it became even more important to me that we distance ourselves from non-Islamic religious holidays. I know growing up how great the time was each year, and I hate making my parents feel so bad. I am not quite sure how to explain it to them anymore. I am stuck between my mother with major anxiety and my husband who doesn’t quite understand why it is so difficult for them. Yet another year is coming, and I now have a little girl, and I have to explain to my mother why I cannot see her at this time of year. I just saw them last month, and my mother already told me she has purchased “Christmas” gifts.   What should I do or say to them that will make it easier?

Answer:

You are having a difficult time reconciling the importance of Christmas for your parents while desiring to raise your daughter adhering to Islamic traditions. It sounds like your husband does not understand the tension you are feeling when disappointing your parents year after year. You and your husband may not have discussed in detail how you would celebrate holidays given that your parents come from a different tradition, before getting married. Since your experience is completely foreign to your husband, he may not understand the significance of the holiday for your parents and the traditions they created with you as a child. It can be very difficult for parents whose children convert to Islam to understand that “family traditions” will no longer be celebrated because of their child’s new beliefs.

You and your husband will need to discuss how you wish to approach holidays with your parents and share this information together with your parents. Every family chooses to manage the holidays differently and these opinions may change as their children grow older. Depending on what you are comfortable with, you may choose to distance yourself from your family all together during the holidays or you may choose to join your parents in their tradition. You and your husband will have to decide together what is the best approach for your family. If you have shared with your parents that you do not celebrate Christmas and they insist on giving you and your children gifts, then you and your husband need to reconcile the idea of accepting gifts from family. Is it a challenge to your faith or an expression of love and generosity from your parents? Emulate the love you have for your parents by understanding where they are coming from and communicating with them your thoughts and views. As your children grow and new traditions develop, your parents may learn to adapt their traditions to what is more comfortable to you and your husband and even join you in your religious traditions as well.

WebbCounselors is a collaborative advice column produced by two WebbAuthors, Amal Killawi, a Clinical Social Worker with a specialization in mental health and marriage education, and Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine, a Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in premarital counseling. Please note that our counselors are not religious scholars and will not issue religious rulings. To read our full disclaimer, please visit our disclaimer page. To submit questions to the WebbCounselors, please email webbcounselors@suhaibwebb.com.

Categories: Muslim blogs

Fröhliche Weihnachten! The UK’s Best German Christmas Markets

The Platform - Thu, 11/12/2014 - 00:13

Britain’s cultural borrowing of Deutsche influence for their festive markets pays off

 

Now comes that time of year, ceremonious and merry: the erection of the tree, the stuffing of the turkey, the hanging up of one’s stockings (on the fireplace that is). The chaos of Black Friday has passed and the unruly new year sales are yet to come. Bargains are sparse, student loans dwindle and gas bills rocket. It’s a traumatic time of year for all, but why need it be when all your Christmas presents are at a stone’s throw away, right here at the annual continental markets in the heart of the UK?

No one does Christmas better than the Germans, where traditional cuisine ranges from suckling pig to ginger spice cookies and stollen, where Christmas remains completely contained in one room of the house until the big day, and where children receive visits from Nikolaus or Knecht Ruprecht and, depending on behaviour, will have their shoes filled with the appropriate treats and troubles.

Over time, it seems that we, the Brits, have become so adept in imitating these customs that we take for granted the alternative culture which we now live to sample during this festive period. In fact, Berlin’s travel website, GoEuro, recently listed the best European Christmas markets, with the UK winning the top two highest ranking spots, above Munich, Frankfurt and Warendorf themselves. Can it be that our own markets now outperform Germany’s time-honoured traditions?

Here are just a few of the best markets that I’ve been lucky enough to experience myself:

 

1. Belfast’s Continental Christmas Market

14th November – 22nd December

Top on GoEuro’s list of must-see European Christmas markets and centrally situated in the gardens of City Hall, Belfast’s world famous Christmas markets boast an array of stalls, selling anything from French wine to Belgian cheese and German sausages. Don’t miss out on Santa’s post-box positioned by the grotto, where you can send off your Christmas wish lists, and are guaranteed to receive a personalised response from the man himself!

Best buys:
– Kangaroo, impala, wild boar or crocodile burgers from the Meats of the World stand
– Bulbs, shrubs, garden ornaments and bird feeders at the Dutch Bulb & Plant Garden

 

2. Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market & Craft Fair

13th November – 22nd December

Celebrating its tenth anniversary, this market, held in Victoria and Chamberlain Square, holds the title of being Europe’s largest, most authentic German market outside of Germany or Austria. While food remains central to its Bavarian theme, a range of potential handmade gifts from local artists, fairground rides and a talking moose are available too!

Best buys:
– German Bratwurst and Brezel (white or red sausage with a bread roll), available at several scattered stalls
– French crêpe filled with hot chocolate spread and chopped banana, also available across numerous market stalls

 

 3. Manchester’s Christmas Market

14th November – 21st December

Thematically dispersed throughout the city centre, Manchester’s Christmas markets range, to name a few, from German-style stalls in St Ann’s Square and French-style stalls in King Street, to a more prominent selection of international arts and crafts at Exchange Street. This is coupled with live Christmas carols from local choirs and brass bands.

Best buys:
– Pulled pork roll with stuffing and apple sauce from the Pig & Barrel
– Warm fruity Gluhwein available from all drinks stalls, served in Manchester’s own Christmas market merchandise mugs

 

4. Christkindelmarkt Leeds

4th November – 20th December

Going as far as introducing live music from Bavarian bands and carousel rides into the scene, Leeds’ bona fide Christmas market, set in the core of the city at Millennium Square, hosts an assortment of classic German food, including Bratwurst sausages, goulash and schnitzels.

Best buys:
– Goulash at the Kuh Stall
– A pint of beer at the Alp Chalet Bavarian eatery

 

 5. Glasgow Christmas Market

14th November – 21st December

Standing prominently before St Enoch shopping centre, Glasgow’s Christmas markets transform the city, immersing their crowds in a festive spirit with the extension of produce as far out as Ecuador, Russia and Lapland.

Best buys:
– Hot cider at the Bavarian Beer House
– Dream catchers from the arts and crafts stall on Argyle Street

 

So save that money you were planning to spend on a quick nip to Europe’s festive hub, and use it instead to treat your loved ones to something that bit more special this year, right here in the UK at our world-famous Deutsche Christmas markets – I cannot recommend them more!

Photo Credits: Louise Farmer
Categories: Muslim blogs

Ferguson Fallout: In the Shadow of Emmett Till

Imam Zaid Shakir Blog - Wed, 10/12/2014 - 16:45

If Emmett Till would be the last to die,
Then why was Michael Brown left to ask why?
Then why was Tamir Rice gunned down so fast?
And why was Omar’s life not one to last?

Darrien Hunt shot six times in the back,
And no cops indicted for that attack.
Ezell Ford said to be of unsound mind,
Shot down by cops, can they be colorblind?

John Crawford sought to buy a BB gun,
Tanesha Anderson too sick to run.
Akai Gurley was walking down the stairs.
Who will be next to stare down the crosshairs.

So listen well to what I have to say.
Speak out against these crimes and please do pray.
And be aware of what is going down.
All of these folks were killed since Michael Brown.

Categories: Muslim blogs

All Praise is to Him: Al-Hameed

Imam Suhaib Webb - Wed, 10/12/2014 - 13:00

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

“Thank you so so much! I really appreciate it,” I wrote to a stranger I had never met. I was so grateful to that man. In my first visit to New York, I had lost my phone in a cab. This phone had all my numbers in it, pictures, saved messages… everything. As silly as it felt to be making du`a’ (supplication) for something seemingly so trivial, I asked Allah, subhanahu wa ta’ala (exalted is He), to return my phone. I tried to have conviction that, because I had said the remembrances that day, I had not lost my phone.

Photo: Lucas ()

Indeed, the next morning, I received an email from the man who had found my phone. A few arrangements were made, and I was reunited with my phone shortly after. As I thanked that man, I turned to Allah (swt) in my heart and said, AlhamduliLah – all praise is due to Allah.

Al-Hameed: the Praiseworthy

It is befitting to learn about Allah’s Name al-Hameed after having studied His Name al-Ghani, as these two Names come together in the Qur’an. Al-Hameed comes from the three-letter root ha-meem-dal (ح-م-د), which is the opposite of the word al-thamm, which means to condemn. Something that is complete and perfect deserves hamd,while something that has faults or is incomplete receives thamm. This praise is accompanied with feelings of adoration, gratitude and submission. Al-Ghazali states:

“God – great and glorious – is the Praised by virtue of His praise for Himself from eternity, and by virtue of His servants’ praise for Him forever. But this comes down to the attributes of majesty, of exaltation, and of perfection, as they are linked to the repetition of those who continually remember Him, for praise involves recalling the attributes of perfection insofar as they are perfect.”

This Name is closely associated with shukr, meaningful thankfulness. But hamd is much more encompassing than shukr. Thankfulness is expressed to someone for a particular deed or favor, whereas hamd is praise and gratitude not simply for overt favors, but for the inherent qualities the praiseworthy possesses. Thus it is said that hamd (praise) is the pinnacle of shukr (thankfulness). Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:

“To Him belongs what is in the heavens and what is on the earth. And indeed, Allah is the Free of need, the Praiseworthy (al Hameed)” (Qur’an, 22:64).

Thus Allah al-Hameed is the One we go to with gratitude and humility, praising Him not just for those favors we feel thankful for, but for His very essence and all His decrees. Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi has said that al-Hameed is the only One deserving of true praise, which is why we repeat in every prayer:

الحمدلله رب العالمين

All-Praise is due to God, the Lord of the Worlds

The importance of this Name is that Allah (swt) teaches us not to be attached simply to His blessings, but to His essence. Yes, He gives us, and we thank and praise Him for what He gives. But when we think of al-Hameed, it ceases to be solely about the blessing. We are reminded of His inherent attributes, of al-Hameed Himself, and thus we praise Him when things are good or seemingly bad, because they all come from Him. When we realize that good came out of the calamity we were facing, or on the Day of Judgment when we see how we are rewarded not only for our gratitude for the good but for our patience with the hardships, do we embody the spirit of praise, and say wholeheartedly: al-hamduliLah!

And thus His Name: the Praiseworthy, the Praised.

The Prophet and Praising Allah
The Prophet ﷺ (peace be upon him) praised Allah throughout his life, whether he was in hardship or receiving many beautiful gifts from Allah. In a famous hadith (narration), Aisha, radi Allahu `anha (may God be pleased with her), saw the Prophet ﷺ praying for so long that his feet became swollen. So she asked him:

“O Messenger of Allah, why do you undergo so much hardship despite the fact that Allah has pardoned for you your earlier and later sins?”

He ﷺ responded: “Afala akuna abdan shakura? – Should I not be a thankful servant?” (Bukhari)

And what did the Prophet ﷺ say as he was praying in the night? Ibn `Abbas relates that the Prophet ﷺ used to say when he stood for the tahajjud (late night) prayer:
“O Allah! Yours is the praise. You are the sustainer of the heavens and the Earth and all that they contain. And Yours is the praise. Yours is the dominion of the heavens and the Earth and all that they contain. And Yours is the praise. You are the light of the heavens and the Earth and all that they contain. And Yours is the praise. You are the king of the heavens and the Earth. And Yours is the praise. You are the Truth. Your promise is true. The meeting with You is true. Your word is true. Paradise is true and the Fire is true. The prophets are true. Muhammad (peace be upon him) is true. The Hour is true…” (Bukhari, Muslim).

The Prophet ﷺ, throughout his hardships, reflected on the nature of this world. And he saw the majesty of Allah’s attributes in all of creation, and in everything that happened. And with awe, humility and gratitude, he makes that du`a’ we see above from all of His heart.

Paired Names
We know that Allah pairs many of His Names and attributes in the Qur’an. One of the reasons is to show us how these Names relate to each other. Al-Hameed is paired with a few Names in the Qur’an: al-Ghani, al-Wali, al-Majeed, and al-Hakeem.

1—Allah says: “O mankind, you are those in need of Allah, while Allah is the Free of need (al-Ghani), the Praiseworthy (al-Hameed),” (Qur’an, 35:15).

If a human being is seen as self-sufficient, that usually causes him to withdraw from people. Since this person does not need people, he may not see any reason to help or to give or to be nice—and he is certainly not perfect in his essence. But truly glory is that Allah (swt) does not need anyone, yet He still gives people, and acts with ultimate wisdom, and is praised.
2—”And it is He who sends down the rain after they had despaired and spreads His mercy. And He is the Protective Friend (al-Wali), the Praiseworthy (al-Hameed),” (Qur’an, 42:48).

You might assign someone to be your lawyer, entrusting him to protect you. But if this lawyer is careless, and loses your case, he would not be praised, neither for his action nor for his essence. But when Allah is your Wali, you cannot help but praise Allah, who defends and protects His intimate friends.
3—”They said, “Are you amazed at the decree of Allah? May the mercy of Allah and His blessings be upon you, people of the house. Indeed, He is Praiseworthy (al-Hameed) and Honorable (al-Majeed),” (Qur’an, 11:73).

Al-Majeed, according to al-Ghazali, is “one who is noble in essence, beautiful in actions, and bountiful in gifts and in favors.” Thus while Allah is the Lord and commands that come from Him do not need to be explained, out of His nobility and bounty He explains many things in the Qur’an. So He is praised for that.
4- “Falsehood cannot approach it from before it or from behind it; [it is] a revelation from a [Lord who is] Wise (Hakeem) and Praiseworthy (Hameed)” (Qur’an, 41:42).

Here Allah (swt) is pointing out to us that if we reflected on His decree, we would praise Him for His wisdom. Because while Allah does as He pleases, He is also the Most-Wise and thus there is always the best wisdom behind His actions.
Connecting to Al-Hameed

  • Praise Allah through the good and the bad

The Prophet ﷺ tells us that “AlhamduliLah fills the scales,” (Muslim). One way of retaining blessings is thanking and praising Allah (swt) for them. And through the bad, we should remember that ultimately whatever occurs is out of Allah’s wisdom, He is both Hakeem (all-Wise) and Hameed (Praiseworthy), and therefore we should remember to humble ourselves and praise Him.

  • Write down Allah’s Name al-Hameed and then write down all of Allah’s blessings upon you

We know the verse in the Qur’an where Allah states: “And if you should count the favor of Allah, you could not enumerate them. Indeed, mankind is [generally] most unjust and ungrateful” (Qur’an, 14:34).

Interestingly, Allah uses the word “favor”—ni`ma—in the singular, as though saying: even trying to enumerate the blessings of one single favor is impossible! To reflect deeply upon just one favor, and to ponder over its impacts, can fill us with so much awe for al-Hameed.

  • Speak well to people

Allah says in the Qur’an, “And they had been guided [in worldly life] to good speech, and they were guided to the path of the Praiseworthy (Al-Hameed)” (Qur’an, 22:24).

In a beautiful reflection, Sheikh Ratib an-Nabulsi says that it is as though the path to Allah al-Hameed is through good speech, as Allah also says: “[…] And speak to people good [words][…]” (Qur’an, 2:83).

A beautiful hadith of the Prophet ﷺ states that: “A person’s faith is not upright until his heart is upright, and his heart will not be upright until his tongue is upright” (Ahmad).

  • Praise Allah by using His gifts in His service

The highest form of praise is to use those gifts He has bestowed upon us in His service and therefore in good. But do not be like those who Allah says about them:

“And whoever exchanges the favor of Allah [for disbelief] after it has come to him – then indeed, Allah is severe in penalty,” (Qur’an, 2:211).

Belief is a blessing, but this can apply to other favors as well. If we use those gifts in ways that are unbecoming, then this is the opposite of hamd. The result is that our favors could be taken away, or perhaps worse, we cannot find the joy or sweetness in those favors. If we look at the story of Qarun in the Qur’an, he was given many blessings. He was from the people of Moses `alayhi as-salaam (peace be upon him). And Allah says, “We gave him of treasures whose keys would burden a band of strong men…” (Qur’an, 28:76). Yet Qarun tyrannized his own people, and had the gall to say, “I was only given it because of knowledge I have.” He did not attribute His gifts to Allah AND he used them for corruption. And what was the result?
“And We caused the earth to swallow him and his home. And there was for him no company to aid him other than Allah, nor was he of those who [could] defend themselves” (Qur’an, 28:81).

May Allah protect us.

“Indeed, those who have believed and done righteous deeds – their Lord will guide them because of their faith. Beneath them rivers will flow in the Gardens of Pleasure. Their call therein will be, ‘Exalted are You, O Allah,’ and their greeting therein will be, ‘Peace.’ And the last of their call will be, ‘Praise to Allah, Lord of the worlds!’” (Qur’an, 10:9-10)

Categories: Muslim blogs

Enfield at War: Honouring Our Local History

The Platform - Wed, 10/12/2014 - 01:39

A new exhibition on Enfield’s contributions during World War I reveals the impact and relevance of local efforts on a global conflict

 

When we envision the two world wars, it is nearly always on a grand scale. And this is understandable, considering that the frontline stretched from Europe all the way to Africa, America and the Far East. One might conjure up images extending from Nazi Germany to the Somme, the deserts of Africa or the port of Pearl Harbour. World War I, in particular, was fought on so many fronts and by so many different peoples that it is easy to overlook the impact that it had on local regions within Britain.

Even when we consider London’s part in it, we rarely think of the suburbs. This is why I was particularly excited to learn of ‘Enfield at War: 1914-1918’, a free exhibition taking place at Enfield’s Dugdale Centre. This centre serves as a theatre, cinema and museum and is an important hub of learning and social interaction for the community. The exhibition looks at the place that Enfield and the surrounding areas played in WW1, as well as the way in which the war affected the local population.

The Enfield Museum staff have worked hard, studying local and national archives, to present a vast array of information in a way that is appealing and accessible to the public. Perhaps the biggest success of the exhibition is that it truly caters for everyone: from the very young, through to the elderly, from those who have studied the period, to those who are just curious.

The exhibition begins by looking at the important part that Enfield played in manufacturing British arms. By the outbreak of WW1 the Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF) in Enfield Lock had been supplying British armed forces for almost a hundred years. During the war, production increased tenfold and the factory’s workforce almost doubled. Included in the weapons displayed is the Lee-Enfield Mark III rifle, produced at the RSAF. The caption reads that, it ‘is still referred to as the finest battle rifle ever produced’. This weapon provides us with solid evidence of this borough’s wartime legacy.

The exhibition goes on to explore the different facets of the area’s munitions industry, from the entry of women into the workforce (1,448 women were employed by the RSAF by June 1917), to working conditions in the factories. There are even two paragraphs detailing public anger towards young male employees who were seen by some to be shirking their duty of armed service: ‘Discharged servicemen held a protest outside the factory, members of nearby tribunals threatened to strike over the issue and local papers received letters from soldiers overseas urging the Government to call-up these able-bodied men.’ It is these lesser-known stories that really make this exhibition so fascinating.

As well as looking at Enfield’s role in arming the British forces, Enfield at War, also explores the way in which the local community looked after those who had been in battle. This includes the many hospitals, schools and church buildings that were used to treat soldiers, as well as to house medical staff. Among them is the North Middlesex Hospital, which is currently one of the largest hospitals serving North London. There are also examples of the many collections and events organised locally in support of British soldiers posted overseas. These include the setting up of a ‘tobacco fund’, and Christmas parties to raise money for the children of Edmonton’s servicemen.

The exhibition also touches on the darker aspects of war-time Enfield. This includes a section on racist attacks on the homes and businesses of suspected German residents of the borough. The First World War gave birth to modern propaganda and the media used a mixture of horror stories about German atrocities and articles on the bravery and morality of the British forces in order to stoke English national pride and ensure support for the war. Emotions in Britain were running high and Enfield was no exception. Local businesses were vandalised, individuals were attacked and even people’s homes were targeted.

These are just a few of the areas that Enfield at War covers. Considering the collection is displayed in such a small space, the scope of the topics covered is very wide. These are presented through a variety of mediums, including film, music and printed text, allowing for an engaging diversity to the exhibition. There is plenty of interactive fun for children to get involved in and enough historical information to keep adults satisfied. One of the great aspects is that it constantly ties the local action into the wider context of the war, giving visitors a sense of both the drama as a whole and the many ways it altered local life. It is fascinating to learn how deeply the war affected Enfield and even more so to learn of the impact that residents had on a vast international conflict being fought on fronts as far away as North Africa. It impresses upon us more than ever, the importance of local stories in a wider narrative.

Enfield at War: 1914 – 1918 will run until 11 January 2015.

Image from: http://www.military-history.org/articles/centenary-season.htm/attachment/world-war-1
Categories: Muslim blogs

10 Ways to Be a Single and Content Muslimah

Imam Suhaib Webb - Tue, 09/12/2014 - 13:00

Photo: Vicki DeLoach

(Note: many points in this article can apply to men as well.)

If you are reading this, chances are that you are searching for some answers to some deeply seated issues you have or have had. Or, you are looking for a resource to share with your fellow single brothers and sisters. Whatever your personal reasons may be, I pray that you benefit from the following.

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  1. Realize That You are Where You’re Meant to Be

It may be hard to do so, especially when it seems that so many individuals around us are in a relationship/seeing someone. However, one of the most sobering ways to change your perspective is recognizing that Allah, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), has written your entire destiny – way before you even came into existence. What has happened in your life was decreed, and what has been decreed and yet to happen will surely come to pass. If you are single right now, it is because you are living out what has already been decreed for you. That’s it. Your destiny lies in the hands of Allah (swt) – your job is not to dwell on it or worry about it, but to carry on with life as you should. If it happens that a husband – or no husband, or multiple ones due to divorce/death – is written as part of your destiny, then have faith that it will surely come to materialize. Feeling anxious over a future you’ve had yet to live will serve you in no way other than to keep you down and even feeling depressed. Wherever you are in your life right now, whether in hardship or ease, know that it is exactly where Allah (swt) intends you to be – and Allah (swt) intends everything for a reason. You have no clue: maybe He knows you are not ready for a relationship, or that a relationship at this particular point in your life may be disastrous for you. Have trust in Allah (swt) and believe with all of your heart that He, the Most Kind, is always looking out for you in your favour!

  1. Let Go of Entitlement

You are not owed a relationship. Just like the air you breathe or a great cup of coffee, a decent and compatible spouse is a blessing from Allah (swt). Think of all of the millions of individuals who perished before ever experiencing a relationship, or those who have been in many relationships but have never experienced true love. Allah (swt) bestows upon people what He wishes – he is Al Wahhab after-all. And so, letting go of the idea that you deserve to be in a relationship or that Allah (swt) has been unfair to you in any way (and we seek refuge in Allah from such thoughts), will free your mind and allow you to be grateful for the multitude of other blessings that He has placed in your life out of His Mercy. Remember – a husband may be the cherry on the cake, but he is not the cake. For me, at least, the cake is my relationship with Allah (swt). Every other piece of decoration on the cake – such as friends, family, a spouse, a career – make up the beautiful blessings that Allah (swt) has surrounded me with.

  1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Other Muslimahs

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

“Comparison is an act of violence against the self.” – Iyanla Vanzant

Often times, we self-sabotage by comparing where we are in our lives to other people. Indeed, if you ever find yourself doing this, refer back to point #1. Once you realize that they are in a different chapter of their life stories than you are, comparison becomes futile. Truly, it turns into comparing apples and oranges.

One of the worst arenas for comparison is social media; when one’s newsfeeds are decorated with happy engagement, wedding, or baby announcements, it can be a quick way for insecurities to develop and take hold. Indeed, if you are already insecure with your “singlehood,” then such images and status updates may be salt added to your emotional wounds. Rather than wallowing in misery or blaming those who choose to share their happiness publicly, it is very important for you to ask yourself why you have reacted in such a way. What triggered your flood of emotions – whether it be sadness, jealousy, or bitterness? Ceasing to compare yourself to others and instead, addressing any emotional voids you may be feeling is a healthy approach for any individual who is feeling insecure with being single. Oh yeah—and get off the computer.

  1. Be Secure with Being Single

What can be worse than being single? Being single and insecure. Since you’ve already established that you are simply living out the destiny Allah (swt) has decreed for you, learn to not only own but LOVE your single status! Admittedly, for a very long time, I held marriage and relationships to a very ideal standard. It wasn’t until I actually hung-out/spoke with married couples, and dealt with children that I realized how blessed I was to be single! I know it sounds odd, but after hearing about the things that couples go through, or the actual difficulties of child-rearing and witnessing first-hand what that entailed, I became very grateful for my current lifestyle. I completely love having free time and scheduling my days the ways that I want. I also love my personal space and not being held accountable to any person (…well except my parents to a certain degree). Once I was able to stop feeling insecure about being single, the quality of my life improved tenfold! Most importantly, I began to think realistically: am I at a place where I even want to be in a relationship now – am I ready? Do I want children before pursuing my own personal life-goals? Am I mature enough to face a relationship? Am I ready to choose someone to spend the rest of my entire life with? Honestly asking yourself such questions, and removing the facade of a perfect husband and children from your mind will help to make you feel more secure with your personal decisions and where you are in your life.

  1. Be Critical of Expectations

One important thing to ask yourself is: Do I want to get married for myself, or because it’s expected of me? As women, we need to acknowledge and challenge the life-scripts that have been doctored for us by society, culture, friends, family, and heck, even ourselves, and realize that we are living within a patriarchal sociopolitical framework which often limits women’s roles. If you want to be in a relationship due to external pressures and not internal decisions, then pause and ask yourself if that’s fair to you – or your future spouse. Unfortunately, young marriages – as great as they can be – have been idealized to such an unhealthy degree in our Muslim communities that it has isolated and ostracized entire cohorts of people including those who are single and in their mid-late twenties/thirties, or those who are divorced with or without children, and/or widowed.

I know plenty of sisters who are absolutely desperate to get married because of social pressures. That is, if they don’t get married, their communities will view them and their families as pariahs. Even worse, assumptions may be made of the single female; e.g. she’s single because she’s infertile, has poor character, is too career driven, or that she may be gay (ignorant, I know). Unfortunately, it is very hard for many individuals to wrap their heads around the fact that a woman may be single because she CHOOSES to be. By not acknowledging a female’s agency to choose whether or not to be in a relationship, many Muslims expose their patriarchal and sometimes even sexist states of minds. Therefore, it is very important for us to recognize the often limited roles that are allotted to women (such as wife or stay-at-home mom), and how that may affect us and the decisions we make in our lives. We are more than our wombs, sexual organs, and ability/inability to carry children. Allah (swt) has honored us far above such things.

  1. Educate Yourself

One of the biggest regrets I’ve heard and read from other women who are married and/or have children is that they no longer have the time for educational pursuits. It is so, so important for us as single Muslimahs to realize that we have time on our side! Seize the opportunity NOW to get a degree, read/memorize/study the Qur’an, learn the deen (religion), or simply pursue new skills or languages. The reality is that if you hope to one day be married and have children, it will be very difficult to do these things therefore, empower yourself with education. It deeply saddens me when I see bright, young Muslimahs expressing such sorrow over not being in a relationship when they have so much more to offer themselves and their communities – their minds.

A great example is Imam An-Nawawi, radi Allahu `anhu (may God be pleased with him), the legendary hadith (narrations) scholar, who chose not to get married because he felt as though his studies would cause him to not fulfill his duties towards his wife. SubhanAllah (Glory be to God)! Now, I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with wanting to get married – of course not! But it is incredible to see how Imam An-Nawawi, a young man when he died, could’ve been so honest with himself and so dedicated to his studies. On top of that, he was able to realize his duties as a Muslim and did what he thought was most pleasing to Allah (swt). What does that say about us barely learned lay-people who are passing up priceless educational opportunities for the sake of getting married? If you are single, my sister, I highly encourage you to learn something new; every piece of knowledge you acquire will, insha’Allah (God willing), be a cornerstone of education and guidance for primarily yourself, and insha’Allah, your future spouse and children. And hey, if you decide to never get married or it’s a lifestyle that doesn’t fit, then you will still be a vesicle of knowledge, spreading your light wherever you go and to whomever you meet. It’s a win-win situation.

  1. Realize that Having Sexual Desires DOES NOT Necessarily Mean that You are Ready for a Relationship

This is a tough one. It would be laughable to deny that one of the greatest motivators for marriage for Muslims is…sex. And yes, for Muslim women too. Indeed, I’ve met sisters who’ve disclosed to me that they were physically ready for a relationship – but failed to display any other type of readiness beyond that. Sexual frustration is very real for Muslims, especially since we are commanded by God to abstain from any premarital sexual relationships. Can you imagine the number of Muslim females and males who are struggling with both their sexual desires and finding a compatible spouse to relieve these desires? This is probably one of the greatest challenges, especially for our brothers, and I’d like to take a moment for anyone reading this to make genuine du`a’ (supplication) for all of our Muslim brothers and sisters in the Ummah who are struggling with such issues. May Allah (swt) grant them a path of sexual expression that He is most pleased with – Ameen.

With that said, the truth is that just because you are physically ready to be intimate with someone, doesn’t mean that you are emotionally or mentally ready. Bluntly stated, wanting to have sex does not in any way mean that you have what it takes to fulfill the duties of a wife in accordance to the Shariah. Point-blank. I have personally met individuals who in no way exhibited any maturity to get married and yet were so desperate to do so in order to fulfill sexual desires. If having sex was the pinnacle of relationships, why is it that non-Muslims or Muslim who don’t practice abstinence are often unable to maintain one sexual partner? Is it not the case that after the haze of passion and lust has faded, what is left are two individuals who actually have to deal with each other? Truly, a relationship built on sexual favors will never last. That’s not love, and that’s not what marriages are made of. Again, why would Muslims who’ve had sexual relations in their marriages ever divorce if that was the case? You see, there’s more to marriage than the physical aspect, and I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to realize that my spouse only wanted to be with me in order to fulfill a carnal, base desire. How dehumanizing is that? It’s also dehumanizing to the brothers when we do it to them, my beloved sisters.

Sexual desires aside, I think what’s more important for single Muslimahs is to educate themselves on their reproductive rights within Islam; we should truly empower ourselves with the knowledge of what things like birth control pills, contraceptives, consent, or marital rape mean to us as Muslim women. We should also educate ourselves on sex within the framework of Islam; e.g. what is haraam (impermissible)? What isn’t? How do we communicate our wants and needs to our spouses without being shamed for having *GASP* sexual desires?

(Disclaimer: the following explicitly discusses sex/sexuality)

In terms of curbing sexual desires, the truth is that avoiding acts such as pornography viewing and/or masturbation is hard for THOUSANDS of Muslims out there! The first thing I’d like to mention in regards to that is: I don’t judge you, and I accept you. The second is a list of things that may help curb our very real sexual appetites (in no particular order):

  1. Keep yourself busy. One of my favorite sayings is: “an idle mind is a playground for the devil.” Don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable to satanic whispering as you are when you’re alone and in private. Go out – hang with friends, chill at the masjid, go to the library, start a new project or hobby, go for a walk, go workout, go do anything!
  2. Limit media intake. There is no doubt that most of what’s on T.V., the internet, music videos, and billboards are soft-core pornographic images. Alhamdullilah (praise be to God), I quit watching T.V. a long time ago, and insha’Allah I will write an article on how I did that one day. I highly recommend limiting the number of stimulating images that you see in a day. It really has an effect on your psyche and such images certainly get stored in your unconscious memory, only to haunt you at your weakest moments.
  3. Search for a spouse. But do so with the awareness that your spouse is more than an outlet for your sexual desires and is an actual human being. Once the sex comes and goes, there’s an actual marriage that must be dealt with for (presumably) the rest of your life. Tread lightly and intentionally.
  4. Speak with a counselor/therapist. It’ll be amazing the resources you may be provided with. And because they are bound by confidentiality and are trained to be non-judgmental, you can speak as openly as you want and get a ton of shame and burden off of your chest.
  5. Try the Prophetic method. And fast. And fast some more – especially since it’s winter and the hours are so short! Also make tons of du`a’ for Allah (swt) to aid you. He is Al-Fattah, The Opener – have no doubt that he’ll find a way out for you!

 

  1. Never Lower Your Standards

Please, please, please, my sisters – set standards for yourself. Have a list of things that you will *never* compromise on when considering someone for a spouse. Now, don’t be unrealistic, but at the same time, exercise your dignity! I will share with you two of my complete deal-breakers: 1. Dishonesty (I cannot deal with liars or cheats) and 2. Smoker (this speaks for itself). These are just two of a number of deal-breakers that I’ve developed based on my personal standards and understanding of Islam. It’s important, however, to realize that you must also be fair. Don’t set your standards so high that you are setting yourself up for rejection and disappointment. At the same time, do not compromise or be afraid to set your foot down if need be. If a man is raising what you see as red flags – address that quickly! Trust yourself and your ability to decipher what you do and do not want for yourself.

Also, sisters, don’t be desperate. Don’t be willing to overhaul your entire life for the first man that comes knocking. Don’t throw those closest to you – your family, friends, etc -under the bus for an individual who knows how to say the right things. For the sake of Allah – be critical! Have standards! Assess the situation! I’m not saying be high-maintenance, sisters, I’m saying be like Khadijah (ra) who had her own set of standards that she measured the Prophet ﷺ up against (such as honesty and integrity) prior to proposing marriage to him! Desperation is obvious, cringe-worthy, and just plain sad. Trust Allah (swt) and never let go of your self-respect for anyone (this means not being afraid to say “NO”).

  1. Re-evaluate the Sources of Your Happiness 

If you believe, dear sis, that your life will only be complete once you are married and have children then please take a moment to re-evaluate the sources of your happiness. The easiest way to do this is to see whether or not you have tied your happiness to internal or external things. If you have tied it to external things such as a man, children, a house, etc. then indeed, know that everything in this life is temporary and that once any of these things disappoint you or disappear, you’ll be left in a deep, deep sadness. Therefore, your happiness should be tied to the internal – specifically, your personal relationship with Allah (swt); your heart and its connection to the One who created it. Never will this internal source of happiness leave you lest you die. And so, being connected to Allah (swt), despite the transient nature of a husband or children, will always leave you feeling happy and content, insha’Allah.

  1. Take Care of Yourself…For You

The final point, dear sister, is recognizing the importance of self-care. Feeling and looking good are things that most people value, and there is nothing wrong with that! However, your focus should be on taking care of yourself for you (or even better, for the sake of Allah (swt)), and not some imaginary husband.

I recently had a dear friend of mine point to her body and indicate that she needed to lose weight prior to getting married. That really made me sad; I’m a firm believer that any type of self-care should be directly for YOU. It’s not being selfish – it’s actually an act of love towards yourself.

Go ahead and take the time to indulge yourself in the things that give you a sense of peace and wholeness: whether that be a cozy bubble bath, a nice cup of coffee, some type of physical activity, hanging out with friends/family, becoming lost in a great book, taking care of your hair or makeup – do whatever you need to wind-down and take care of YOU. Self-care is an important element of life that has wonderful effects on the psyche. For me, one of my greatest self-care activities is writing (surprise!). Spending an hour or so on an article or poem puts me into a complete state of mindfulness and relaxation. I cannot stress enough the importance of self-care my dear sisters – try it!

_______________________________________________________________________

I genuinely hope, from the bottom of my heart, that this article was a source of betterment for you and that it has helped you, dear sisters, to realize the beautiful realities of your existences.

And Allah (swt) knows best.

 

Categories: Muslim blogs

#ICantBreathe

Imam Suhaib Webb - Mon, 08/12/2014 - 13:00

In light of the recent events in Ferguson and New York, Imam Suhaib Webb gives a powerful sermon on justice and our responsibility as American Muslims.

Categories: Muslim blogs

Black Youth as a Lethal Weapon: The Incoherence of the American Justice System

The Platform - Sat, 06/12/2014 - 15:16

The incoherence that pervades the American justice system repeatedly sanctions losses of black lives, activating indignation and pain with a long history

 

Black Youth as a Weapon

It breaks my heart to have to write this follow-up piece in light of the circumstances of the recent grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson in the August 9th murder of Michael Brown. It appears that the dictum “Police Brutality Must be Defended”, the title of my August piece, holds true. This title refers to Michel Foucault’s ironically titled 1975 lecture series “Society Must be Defended,” and here, it is police brutality that comes to stand for “society” – as respectability and culture – which must, apparently, at all costs be defended. At least, this is what “justice” as it is presently being served in the US would have us know. The clichéd performance of a refusal to hold police accountable for the killings of black youth in particular, reiterates a monstrous and seemingly implausible knowledge of the phrase “police brutality must be defended”. The announcement earlier this week of no indictment by a Staten Island grand jury in the chokehold-death of Eric Garner is yet another case in point.

Following this “no justice” type of knowing, police are not held accountable for these murders according to at least two narratives: First, police officers are scared for their lives in the face of black bodies, perceived as lethal weapons in and of themselves, whether the individuals are armed or unarmed; therefore, their killing of black people is justified by their fear. This fear is a racist distortion and, as others have noted, is ultimately a white supremacist perception of a threatened order and power structure. An alternative narrative exculpating police of the loss of black lives is that the killing was unintended – an accident, and therefore not punishable as murder. An accident of what, exactly? Of fatally pulling a trigger upon perceiving danger where there was merely a 12-year-old playing with a BB-gun? Or where a seven-year-old lay sleeping? Or where a young mother and child were present inside their home?

Matter and the “Evidence” of Historical Affect

Listening to the press conference given by Prosecutor Bob McCulloch, after the decision by the grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson for the murder of Michael Brown was released on Monday night, I was struck by McCulloch’s insistence on the justice system’s reliance on concrete evidence. In his preamble, McCulloch referred repeatedly to an alleged mutability of witness statements – where certain facts were inconsistently reported, or changed from story to story. This, he implied, effectively invalidated the prosecutor’s case. Yet, such mutability could be drawn out in any number of questioning techniques in secret proceedings. Also, if indeed the witness accounts were mutable, one might consider that the air in this country is so thick with current and past stories of racist murders that it is haunted, especially in the south – it is thus entirely possible that these stories are clamouring for attention in the collective consciousness and certain facts can become fungible under pressure. In reading subsequent analyses of Wilson’s defence, I was surprised to understand that his defence rested on fear. A feeling. Now is this concrete evidence, or is it a hard fact? A racist feeling with deep historical roots is a hard fact. It is a harder fact when it results in murder. A racist feeling is an especially hard fact when it results in murder that goes unnamed and unpunished.

In the face of this grand jury decision, “#blacklivesmatter” has become a ubiquitous meme and chant in protest gatherings and marches. This enunciation is both affirming and painful – spoken over and over because the system says otherwise. “Black lives matter” is a speech act that is expressed by the amassment of bodies in the streets in protest, mattering forth this concrete fact of embodied life as evidence. A more sinister side of concrete matter and incontrovertible evidence of black lives mattering has been the staged die-ins.

Love and the Language of Fighting Back

“If I love you, I have to make you conscious of the things you do not see.” This James Baldwin quote is highlighted on a protest sign photographed in Washington DC last Tuesday, with “love” underlined three times in red.

Since last Monday, a resurgence of protests and marches have been held across the country and around the world in solidarity with the community in Ferguson, and also to target the larger problem of racist police brutality and killings in the U.S., with protested fatalities quoted to be occurring at a rate of every 28 hours. Other signs, carried by young children and adults alike, read “It is Right to Rebel,” “Darren Wilson Murdered Mike Brown,” “No Justice No Peace,” and “Black Power.” Some quote Martin Luther King Jr.’s statement that “A Riot is the Language of the Unheard.” Much has been made, again (as in August), of so-called looting and rioting in the community. These actions of protest are born of a desire for self-validation and the overhaul of a structurally racist justice system, and it behoves us to examine the racist slur and write-off that the words “looting” and “rioting” carry with them.

“It’s a kind of incoherency that you are constantly negotiating,” says Claudia Rankine, author of Citizen: An American Lyric, regarding the everyday racial aggression that the book documents. Rankine’s book of poetry, published on October 6th, has received praise and attention in its timely emergence, cataloguing and analysing daily moments of racism in its leading sections, and memorialising victims of racist violence in its final section, including one, “In Memory of Trayvon Martin”, which begins:

My brothers are notorious. They have not been to prison. They have been imprisoned. The prison is not a place you enter. It is no place. My brothers are notorious. They do regular things, like wait. On my birthday they say my name. They will never forget that we are named. What is that memory?

The days of our childhood together were steep steps into a collapsing mind. It looked like we rescued ourselves, were rescued. Then there are these days, each day of our adult lives. They will never forget our way through, these brothers, each brother, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

Your hearts are broken. This is not a secret though there are secrets. And as yet I do not understand how my own sorrow has turned into my brothers’ hearts. The hearts of my brothers are broken. If I knew another way to be, I would call up a brother, I would hear myself saying, my brother, dear brother, my dearest brothers, dear heart—

On the tip of a tongue one note following another is another path, another dawn where the pink sky is the bloodshot of struck, of sleepless, of sorry, of senseless, shush. […]

The power of the broken heart lives in the space of the break that is dense with energy, of a desire to heal the irreconcilable parts. The knowledge of this pain is the beginning of the difference between “no justice” and “know justice”. Protest and social action happening around the country and the world right now come from this energy, venturing into the break and coming together as its expression. It is this love that may sometimes erupt in violent expression.

Related Images: http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2014/11/violent-protests-in-ferguson-missouri/100860/
Categories: Muslim blogs

Reflections of a Black Convert – Eating at the Rind

Imam Suhaib Webb - Thu, 04/12/2014 - 13:00

Reflections of a Black Convert: Part I | Part II – Eating at the Rind | Part III

By Anthony Hardy

Photo: Lisa Ouellette

“My father always complains about how Islam has broad acceptance in the African-American community but not in the White American one,” said a Pakistani friend of mine as he handed me a cup of chai. “He doesn’t like how many African-American brothers come to Islam through the prisons and stuff like that. He wished more middle class White Americans were Muslims. He disdains Islam being associate with the lower class in this country.”

I shouted, “Wait? What? Is he serious?”

“I’m afraid so.”

“Hasn’t he read the seerah [biography of the Prophet]? Hasn’t he read the Qur’ān? The people most receptive to the message are the exploited and downtrodden. That’s how it usually works. In America, that means Blacks, Latinos, and women!”

✻✻✻

“It must be nice,” I told a White Muslimah friend of mine, “to have people approach you for marriage so frequently in the masjid. I mean, your beauty is a constantly being reinforced, unlike Black beauty. I’m sure it helps with your self-esteem.”

“Yeah, it was nice,” she admitted.

Was? What do you mean by was?

“Well, it was nice…until I realized why they were asking me. The aunties and Arabs were only approaching me because I was White and because they wanted lily-white children. Once I figured that out, I just stopped entertaining their request. That’s one reason why I stopped going to the masjid altogether. I didn’t want to be put on a pedestal.”

✻✻✻

While shopping for naan and daal in an Indian store with some Pakistani friends, I happened to browse the cosmetic section. I found a package of “Fair & Lovely: MAX Fairness for Men.” I had heard about this cream from my Indian and Pakistani friends, but I didn’t know it was sold in America or even that it could be sold here.

I read the label:

…fight [the] darkening of your skin due to your active lifestyle.”

I laughed aloud. No amount of cream was going to lighten my melanin-enriched skin. My friends joined in my laughter when they saw what I had found. Afterwards I put it back on the shelf.

My laughing spell continued in the car ride home. One of my friends asked me, “What’s so funny man?”

I answered, “Because it’s all so darkly comical: White people here destroy their bodies to look like Brown people and Brown people there destroy their bodies to look like White people. Everyone wants to be something other than what Allāh has made them, and they all make themselves sick in the process.”

✻✻✻

A wise Muslim woman, who happened to be a White convert, once told me that my skin color, despite the hardships attached to it, is actually a blessing in disguise: she described it as a filter which would sift through those individuals who are not serious about their commitment to higher religious or moral principles, whereas she and her family, all of whom are White, will always have to worry about people dissembling their commitment to those principles for her and her family’s Whiteness. She said my dark skin was a test for them, one many of whom are failing miserably.

✻✻✻

“So an auntie was trying to find a wife for me,” a Latino Muslim friend of mine told me, “but when they saw my pictures, they said I looked ‘too Mexican.”

I laughed a little on the outside—died a little on the inside. He is handsome in his own right, a Mexican man with German heritage. The German traits dominate his physical appearance.

I replied, “Just exactly how are you suppose to look?”

“I don’t know bro. ‘Too Mexican’? What does that even mean?”

“It means you’re the right skin color – White or White-looking in your case – but you come from the wrong culture.”

He nodded. “That’s Jahiliyya [ignorance] man.”

I continued, “I know. But cheer up. You’re better off than me: at least you’re on the right side of the color line. I’m both the wrong skin color, and I come from the wrong culture.”

✻✻✻

Midway into my nine-year tenure as a Muslim, I returned to my hometown to visit the religious community of my upbringing. Standing there in the middle of a giant cathedral, gazing at the beautiful stained glass renditions of New Testament scenes, I began to reflect on my experiences as a Black Muslim convert in America. The Muslims I had chanced upon who hailed from abroad or whose parents hailed from abroad were in fact beneficiaries both of the injustices perpetrated against Blacks and of the “universal” franchise that resulted from the struggles against those selfsame injustices; and yet, this stark reality was seldom if ever brought to the fore at conferences, masjids, Muslim Student Associations, or Islamic centers, or what have you: rather, what I saw and heard was a community by and large preoccupied with the preservation of culture – some of which contain elements of anti-Black or anti-dark-skin bias – or obsessed with producing fair-skinned progeny or enamored with prospects of making Islam more palpable to the palates of the White middle class in America – itself a byproduct of anti-Black racism – while at the same time both relegating and denigrating the very community so instrumental in their success and indeed their very existence in America in the first instance.

To employ sacred history, by way of metaphor: the Muhajir (Immigrant), when he arrived in Medina, kicked sand into the eyes of the Ansari (Helper) man; and when the Ansari was doubled over in pain, trying to remove the sand from his eyes, the Muhajir climbed on his back, to elevate himself to a higher plane and then proceeded to disparage him for his state.

This monumental incongruity made me realize many self-proclaimed and perhaps well-intentioned Muslims do in fact worship multiple gods, and one of the modern deities that has caused many others, including myself, so much difficulty within large segments of the Muslim community and around the world happens to be – for lack of a better word – a White god or a god of Whiteness whereby the standards, sensibilities, sensitivities, and suspicions of certain classes of people become not just normalized but something for which to appease and sacrifice. The only difference I could gather that day is that whereas other communities tended to be more open, honest, and straightforward in their personifications and anthropomorphizations of this god, the Prophetic directives in Sunni Islam not to depict God or His Prophets and even the racial, ethnic, and tribal egalitarianism promulgated by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) tended to obscure the historic and contemporary reality of bias against darker bodies and of predilection for fairer ones.

By my estimation, many Muslims are racially agnostic at best: the tragic irony in this racial agnosticism or the unwillingness to deal with the issue is that it perpetuates and exacerbates racism within the community, creating a staggering dissonance of nonsensical proportions. Moreover, the inability to discuss the issue effectively means it does not exist and raises it beyond critique. One can quote the Prophet ﷺ and say “No White man is better than a Black man” or recite the popular platitude “There is no racism in Islam” or appeal to the racially progressive nature of the Prophet’s career or even name his children after prominent Black Companions of the Prophet and yet be rubbing “Fair and Lovely” on her skin to “beautify herself” or requesting “fair” women for marriage in public matrimonial advertisements or telling their children to “avoid too much exposure to the sun lest you become dark and therefore unattractive” or assert something seemingly innocuous as “Blacks are scary” or Black converts are “a dime a dozen.” Very few would be the wiser.

The irony of this glaring dissonance reminded me of Al-Lāt, Al-‘Uzza, and Manat, the mighty triumvirate of the pagan Arabian pantheon, and how the capricious conclusions drawn from idolatry and polytheism are often illogical, inconsistent, and, to be blunt, asinine. Our sacred history informs us the Prophet ﷺ had these stone effigies smashed to smithereens after the conquest of Mecca. I contend, however, these idols were never really destroyed; they merely took more imperceptible, incorporeal forms: instead of sacrificing for a god or goddess fashioned from stone, wood, or date pit, now sacrifices made for modern deities are intended to placate false, arbitrary ideals of what it means to be beautiful, intelligent, pure, civilized, rich, honorable, valuable, successful, wise, and – most of important of all – human; instead of sacrificing for and finding nobility within the aegis of an inviolable set of transcendent principles dictated by Allāh, subhanahu wa ta`ala (exalted is He), Himself and His Prophets, modern Muslims are content to destroy their bodies, their communities, their families, their children, their religion, and maybe even the integrity of their hearts and souls to achieve an empty, ephemeral sense of honor and worth.

“So have you considered al-Lat and al-‘Uzza? And Manat, the third – the other one?” (Qur’ān, 53:19-20)

“Those who take disbelievers as allies instead of the believers. Do they seek with them honor [through power]? But indeed, honor belongs to Allah entirely.” (Qur’ān, 4:139)

Yes Allāh, honor it is they seek in something other than You. I finally understood my mother’s fear of “becoming White”: shirk à la modernity.

✻✻✻

These words are not written with sorrow. I’ve shed far too many tears already for this community, enough to fill a suburban pool thrice over.

Nor are these words are not written with anguish. I’ve spent the better part of my tenure as a Muslim being angry to the point where I resided in such deep and dark nadirs that I existed in a state of oblivion regarding the blessings of my Lord.

Nor are these words written with pain. I’ve become desensitized in many respects to my own pain out of psychological necessity.

Nor are these the words of another Black convert to Islam who has faced insurmountable difficulties within the community for petty, superficial reasons. The Internet is inundated with such tales. Communities are filled with them as well. I therefore see absolutely no need to contribute to this sphere. If Muslims were so inclined to our struggles, they could sadly find those stories with minimal effort. Besides, imitation is the highest form of flattery: if the sacrifices and privations of converts were as inspiring as the community would have us believe then I would expect to see many others attempting to follow in our paths and make the sacrifices we are willing to make for the sake of the faith. Unfortunately, I don’t find this to be the case.

These are the ruminations of a detached wayfarer, one without a home who is just passing through trying to reach his destination: it’s far better not to have a home if having one means residing in the septic tank. The usage of this metaphor is, for me, quite literal, since, as I mentioned, in the wake of Jim Crow and the White Flight, the powers that be in my hometown decided to erect a sewage and water treatment in the Black neighborhood where God Himself chose to place me. This depiction is all too familiar for what awaits many converts after they declare shahadah (the testimony of faith), especially if they happen to be Black, even more so if they happen to be Black women. The way I see it, my ancestors had to endure this relegation for fear of violent reprisal. I, however, do not have to nor will I, especially at the hands of Muslims whose hues are often just as brown, if not darker, as mine own flesh and who are just as much victims of the same oppressive discrimination and just as susceptible to the caustic regimes of thought as I am.

These are the words of a young Muslim man who sincerely suspects many of his fellow co-religionists may be guilty of committing the worst sin in Islam, the only unforgivable one. And what’s worse: they may not even be aware of it.

These are the words of a soul attempting to cut the world asunder and peer at its core in an attempt to see what has gone awry.

I don’t expect my words will be heeded or taken seriously. I find many Muslims lack the sagacity and internal fortitude needed to rise to the occasion and confront the issues plaguing this community, whether it’s racism, colorism, tribalism, sexism or whatever the case may be. And if they are received, I doubt they will be received kindly. In “post-racial, colorblind” America, no one wants to have honest dialogue about race, including many Muslims, who are just as hypersensitive about color privilege and predilection in their own communities as many Whites are about White privilege in America. And even if they are received kindly, I seldom doubt the presence of the necessary courage needed to induce substantive change exists. Muslims excel at paying lip service and empty rhetoric; when it comes to walking-the-walk I find them languid.

Still, the inevitable pushback notwithstanding, I write these words in the spirit of the Prophet who informed us that religion is sound advice and who said that to change something with the tongue or words is the second tier of iman (faith). I am locked into this second tier because what afflicts Muslims and indeed much of the world cannot be changed with actions, the first tier, as the malaise is lodged both in the mind and the heart; and not even the Prophet ﷺ, best example of creation, could modify the hearts of his contemporaries.

I therefore would like to say this to my fellow Muslims who may chance upon what I’ve written here: it is our duty before our Lord to challenge idols of our times with due diligence and vigilance, whatever they may be, wherever they may be. The Prophet’s destruction of the idols in the Ka’bāh is symbolic to what we should be doing for the rest of our lives, for the remainder of time itself. The idolatry of olden times is far too crass to exist within the Muslim community today. Ancient, physical idols have been supplanted with ideological ones; the effects upon society, however, remain the same.

To be clear, what I’m writing about has little to do with White or fair skinned people per se: if anything, the false ideals to which I’m referring have the capacity to be just as damaging to White and fairer-skinned people. I’m sure my words will vibe with those people. I’m talking about a pernicious constellation of ideas that goes unchallenged because of cowardice, because of ignorance, and because of a degree of buy-in on the part of many people, Muslims especially.

I present this to the community with the hopes to commencing serious, heart-felt conversations about what ails us. I realize the gravity of my claims and I do not take them lightly. It is my solemn prayer that those who read this won’t take them lightly either.

 

I am so tired of waiting,

Aren’t you,

For the world to become good

And beautiful and kind?

Let us take a knife

And cut the world in two —

And see what worms are eating

At the rind.

— Langston Hughes, “Tired”

Categories: Muslim blogs
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