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Monday, December 12, 2011

99 percent movement; the handwriting on the wall

Introduction

There has been a great deal of discussion in recent months about the "99%" protest movement, its supporters 'occupying' parks and other public spaces in both major and small cities across the United States. Its members have even engaged in actions such as chanting slogans at speeches of politicians. Commentators across the spectrum have been giving their perspective, oftentimes with sarcasm, expressing the view that the protestors have unrealistic goals, or, perhaps far worse, an incoherent complaint and wish list{ft.1}

Immediate causes of the protest movement

The financial crisis, lack of jobs, and the sense that big government cares little for the poor and middle class, whether or not one agrees with these assertions, it seems that these basic reasons succinctly describe the background, at least of the immediate nature behind the protests, a description that should not be disputed by anyone.

Protest movement a symptom of deeper issues

The Bank Bailouts, while average Americans suffer financially, was perhaps the straw that broke the proverbial camel's back. Inspired by the protest movement that swept the Middle East [popularly called the "Arab Spring"]{ft.2}, the 99% was born!

A greater sense of disillusionment with the way we conduct business, the culture of greed and apathy that seemingly anoint every facet of business, financial and political life.

I think that the frustrations will continue to be expressed, both in positive and negative ways, for a long time to come.

Eventually, it seems to us that an awakening will occur, which will show in the minds of people that the entire system is inherently unjust and exploitative, built upon a position of influencing the baser desires, narcissism, and spiritual bankruptcy!

Does Islam have anything to say on these issues?

Islam sees itself as a completion of God's will and plan for the spiritual and material salvation of mankind. Indeed, it proposes a system of business and politics that places firm moral and ethical principles above that of strategic or financial interest. Islam seeks the reformation of both the person and the group, soul and body, of theology ['Aqeedah] as well as methodology!

As such, we present below a variety of guidelines from the Qur'an, a scripture with information which is relevant for all times, places and contexts.

[1] Overindulgence must be placed under control.

" And give to the near of kin and the needy, and the wayfarers their, dues, and do not squander [your wealth] wastefully. Certainly, the squanderers are like satansand Satan is always ungrateful to his Lord." [Q 17:26-27, Amatul Rahman Omar translation]

[2] Discarding evil, harmful or immoral habits.

One example is that of alcohol, drugs and gambling [ 5:90-91 and also 2:219]. These prohibitions are also to be applied, by analogy [Qiyaas] to that which clearly has harm that outweighs benefits{ft.3].

[3] Strengthening of family and community ties.

A strong family and community feeling will be a source of love, team work, security and fidelity. Indeed, rather than one person buying a house, a group of family or friends, whose responsibility and abilities are proven, should work together to acquire a home, share in its benefits as well as the costs associated with it. In this way, the interest rates associated with bank loans and the like can be limited, if not completely eliminated, even within the framework of the current economic culture!

The strengthening and bonding of peoples, especially in contrast with systems of exploiting the weakest of society members, is a constant mission of all of the Prophets and messengers of God, something that we read throughout scriptures. The Prophet Muhammad, the seal of the Prophets [Q 33:40], established a pattern in which he would almost literally bond two families or individuals, from different tribes and social status, in which they shared everything. This bond became emotional, creating a series of networks based on trust, faith, fidelity and honesty. For more details, please refer to The Life of Muhammad, by Muhammad Husayn Haykal, pp 176-178 [ American Trust publications, 1995 edition, Plainfield, Indiana].

A strategy of communal/family ties protecting the interests of its family members can also be adopted with regards to major transactions such as College tuition. In this way, borrowing from banks and lending institutions can be almost eliminated.

The above guidelines only work in a framework of community, of brotherhood, of patience, commitment and determination.

By thinking differently, we can then act differently, and then have better results. In this way, perhaps more than anything else, we can come to see the systems of Ribaa [Interest and Usury] and Dhulm [Oppression, the usurpation of rights] die natural deaths!

Ribaa has been so thoroughly condemned within the Qur'an! Yet, its elimination must take place in a context of moral, social and spiritual reform. Any other way will lead to more corruption and stagnation, albeit with an "Islamic face"{ft.4]!

"I cite as witness the time. Verily, a person ...is pursuing a losing bargain, different, however, is the case of those who believe and do deeds of righteousness and [who] exhort one another to [accept and preach] the truth and exhort one another to [abide by it with] patience and perseverance." [Q 103:1-3, Amatul Rahman Translation]

"..and [bear in mind] for the one who keeps his duty to Allah, he will provide facility in his affair for him." [Q 65:4]

"O you who believe! Do not practice Usury and interest involving multiple additions, and keep your duty to Allah and take him as a shield so you may prosper." [Q 3:130]

"Allah annuls usury and interest and promotes charity.."[ Q 2:276]


Footnotes

[1] See the following clip from "The Colbert Report", as an example of the perception that the 99% movement is incoherent.

[2] We shared some observations on the "Arab Spring" in its very beginning stages. Please see http://shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com/2011/02/revolutionary-passions-flare-in-middle.html.

[3] Cigarettes and other tobacco products are excellent examples of this. Traditionally, 'Ulamaa have seen these items as Makrooh [Disliked], and not Haraam [Islamically forbidden]. But it is common knowledge that these items cause cancer, a number of other ailments, as well as a financial drain. Thus, we should treat those items as forbidden to us and thus abstain from them!


[4] One example may be that of inheritance rights. The Qur'an admittedly gives smaller amounts of inheritance for women [ see Q 4:11-13], but that is perfectly logical and reasonable when one considers that the Qur'an has placed financial burdens on men [meaning, fathers and husbands] and not women! Thus, recognizing this, it makes sense that since men are imagined in a Quranic worldview to be responsible that they would have more of an assistance in the form of inheriting. It is worth noting that in the Pre-Islamic era in Arabia, women had no rights of inheritance at all. On the responsibility of men, particularly husbands, see here. It should also be noted that traditionally women are given a large dowry upon marriage, a safety net in case of death of divorce!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Qur'an: foundation for education and diversity

Qur’an: a Foundation for Education and Diversity


The first words of revelation bestowed to the Prophet [PBUH] were “Iqraa” [“Read”]. Commentators, activists and educators spend a great deal of time expounding this phrase, as well as the statements following it in Soorah Al-‘Alaq. Our focus here is a bit different from our predecessors, in that we want to get a feeling of how the Qur’an impacted the Prophet.

Muhammad the man was an ummi Prophet. This phrase is generally understood as meaning “illiterate”. While we do accept this traditional understanding (because of the fact that in those days, especially in an Arabian context, very few people could read or write), another way of looking at this designation ummi is that he, Muhammad, was uneducated in religion and philosophy as well as untrained in the sciences and fields of knowledge that would raise a society. Yet, here he is in a cave, commanded to “Read, in the name of Your Lord who has created” [Q 96:1]. This normal man is now in the process of personal elevation, growth beyond his immediate experiences and surroundings. A native of a desert environment that had all but isolated from the rest of the world is now commanded to examine, comprehend and interpret that same world.

Certainly, Muhammad, peace be upon him, was unique. He was Allah’s messenger, and the seal (last) of the Prophets. He was given a scripture over a twenty-three year period. The process of that revelation can provide Muslims with great lessons. Allah wants the believers to become a people who can appreciate diversity, who can be comfortable in all goodly settings, whose knowledge and understanding goes beyond one’s immediate social, economic and class experiences. Basically, to be a people who, as a whole, reach their intellectual and spiritual zenith.

Accepting Islam in its totality includes accepting knowledge/wisdom/guidance from any reliable source. Xenophobia is like a huge boulder which is blocking a cave exit, trapping its inhabitants to a dark, cold and lonely fate. Islam has been given to mankind to broaden perspectives, to create a worldview that can see and even appreciate the diversity in all things, benefitting from that. The Prophet’s audience, the collective Ummiyyeen, had that boulder removed, and went on to become the founders of many civilizations, creating countless blessings for all mankind. Let us do the same.

[Shamsuddin Waheed is Imam at Toledo Masjid Al-Islam, Toledo, Ohio. A writer and lecturer, he can be contacted via email at waheed79@yahoo.com. More of his writings can be found at shamsuddinwaheed.blogspot.com.]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A picture


Salaam, the following picture is from a recent talk at Masjid Saad foundation [Sylvania, Ohio], in which we discussed Soorah Al-Faatihah [Qur'an 1:1-7] and its relation to the Muhammadan universal reach. A more thorough discussion can be found in the CD Al-Faatihah and the Prophets available from Arifin Imports [P.O. Box 70617, Toledo, Ohio, 43607, website is www.arifinimports.com

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Setting the record straight: questions about Toledo Masjid Al-Islam


Introduction

As salaamu 'alaikum, Toledo Masjid Al-Islam, since moving to its current location last year at 722 East Bancroft street [in the heart of downtown Toledo], has experienced tremendous growth as well as the support and generosity, both financial and moral, of the wider Muslim and Non Muslim community alike. For which, we are humbled and grateful. We have, I dare say, had a tremendous impact on the area and on the Muslim community. Many have been introduced and have actually accepted Islam at our location. We have been a source of charity, assistance, and support for the wider community. The religious and cultural needs of the Muslim community also find expression in the Masjid, with Friday prayers, Taraweeh [Ramadan evening prayers], Islamic lectures, seminars and educational conferences. Our congregation is a diverse one in terms of particular orientations within the Islamic tradition, sects, nationalities and educational and economic backgrounds. Despite the above facts, there still remains a variety of misconceptions and accusations directed against the Mosque and individuals associated with it. Therefore, it is our hope to correct some of those notions at this time. We will make sure this information is also posted in the Masjid itself, and pray that it will be sufficient, to put these controversies to rest. Any questions about the Masjid can be directed either to this blog, or, for more privacy, to Toledomasjid@yahoo.com.


FAQs

[1] What ideology does the Masjid follow?

Toledo Masjid Al-Islam is an organization of people who are followers of the Qur'an, the last scripture, as revealed to Muhammad, the Final Prophet, may peace and blessings be upon him. in terms of both leadership and direction, it is the foundation of Islam itself that serves as the platform by which we have operated and intend to operate.

[2] Who owns the building at 722 East Bancroft street?

Toledo Masjid Al-Islam owns this building. We pay the maintenance, engage in the upkeep and all such expenses associated with it. There is a rumor that one or two individuals [such as myself] are the actual owner[s], but this rumor is not true. Any local people wishing to see the documentation, please make an appointment with us, and we will be happy to show it to you. To re-emphasis, NO SINGLE INDIVIDUAL OWNS THE MASJID OR THE MASJID PROPERTY!

[3] What about the scandals?

There are a variety of rumors centered around one individual associated with the Masjid. That individual can speak for himself, if and when he so chooses, but we would like to remind the reader of two things [A] From a Deeni perspective, rumors such as those that are circulating need evidence and witnesses, which leads us to point "b." [B] This is also the requirement from the legal system in our state, nation, and indeed all nations in the world. If there has been no evidence of any wrongdoing, the worst is not to be assumed. A person not prosecuted for a crime should show, at least for our context, that a crime or wrong act has not been committed.

The Qur'an repeatedly speaks of the errors of gossip and back biting! Moreover, the Muslim scholars have rightly coined the phrase Husnudh-Dhann, or positive conjecture. Meaning, assume the best before the worst is assumed.

[4] Agenda of the Masjid

Our main agenda was articulated in the inaugural Friday prayer service ["The Divine Purpose of Life", June 16, 2010, available on DVD, for which email admin@arifinimports.com]. To summarize, it is [A] To be a place where believers are comfortable, wherein worship and social life can be experienced. [B] To be a center from which Islamic ethics, morals and doctrine can be shared within the neighborhood, and by extension the city and world.

As such, we seek to be a welcoming place for the elders and young among us, regardless of nationality, madh-hab or financial status.

Any further questions or concerns in these regards, forward them to us. If there are parties who choose to abstain from supporting the Masjid activities for ideological reasons, at least have a good idea of what exactly is said from the Masjid minbar! Some of the Friday prayer sermons [Khutbah] are available for free at YouTube. Our writings have been widely published, many of which are available on this site. Yet, even with that, readers who disagree with one or another issue are still welcome to the Masjid, to share disagreements and to be a part of the community. We are told in the Qur'an: " All believers are but brethren, hence [whenever they are at odds], make peace between your two brethren, and remain conscious of God, so that you might be graced with his mercy." [Q 49:10-11, Muhammad Asad translation].

We pray that some of the controversies have been put to rest.

Wallaahu Musta'aan.


Sincerely,
Shamsuddin Waheed, Imam

Toledo Masjid Al-Islam

Sunday, June 19, 2011

"News" as a tactic: lessons from "a gay girl in Damascus' blog

" O believers! When a "Faasiq" [an immoral person who breaks the normal rules of behavior] comes with any information, investigate it, lest you bring harm to a people unknowingly and become regretful afterwards." [Al-Qur'an 49:6]


By now, we have all heard the story of Aminah 'Abdullah 'Arraf. Publisher of the "a gay girl in Damascus' blog, which was said to have been run by a Syrian-American [Muslim] Lesbian living in the Syrian capital, recording "her" plight as a lesbian within a Muslim society going through its own political crisis, with condemnations of the Assad regime, even thoughts on Israel.

A sensational account published on the blog stated that the author was arrested by Syrian intelligence [Mukhabaraat], prompting an international campaign for the author's release. The story quickly unfolded when the pictures of the alleged author turned out to be someone else, but even in that, there was still, at least in the minds of Syrian opposition figures and their supporters worldwide, not enough evidence to dismiss the writer all together. See the following BBC link, which also has an interview with a Syrian opposition spokesman as well as with Jelena Lecic, whose pictures were co-opted unknowingly in this deception.

Later investigations revealed that- in fact- the author of the 'a gay girl in Damascus' blog was neither Syrian, Arab, Muslim, or even a Homosexual! Further details on this can be seen at NPR which also has a picture of the author with his wife.

The same source states the author defended his actions, claiming that his accounts reflect the realities on the ground in Syria.

False stories: oldest trick in the books

Using invented tales and false arguments to justify certain positions are noting new. Indeed, as a result of misleading tales out there, many people still believe that the late Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had a hand in 9/11. To go back further, the Vietnam war was started after North Vietnam forces allegedly attacked US vessels in the Tonkin gulf region in August 1964, but as it turns out, this incident never even took place!

Perhaps it's a bit unfair to cite these above examples as comparisons to what Tom MacMaster [author of the blog in question] did. Yet, the point seems valid nonetheless, that such a course of action is nothing new, and represents a tactic to put pressure on the Assad regime, not in the name of democratic rights, but because- in their view- Muslims and Muslim lands are fair game for anything that outsiders may want to impose.

Media is indeed a powerful weapon, and with the advent of the internet, where there does exist almost completely equal access to abilities to publish one's news/views, it can be an even heavier sword in the hands of writers. Indeed, the Qur'anic verse cited at the beginning of this post becomes even more relevant.


Islam and critical thinking

As Muslims, we have to take the commands of the Qur'an and Prophetic model seriously. The Qur'an demands investigation in any claim, especially when such claims can affect the safety and dignity of people.

Within Muslim history, the verse in question has served as a basis upon which the Muhadditheen [scholars, compilers of Prophetic Sunnah] looked at the narrators of reports they [i.e. the Muhadditheen] collected concerning the Prophet. One famous story which is attributed to Imam Al-Bukhari{ft.1} states that he did not even bother meeting with a man who was to share some Prophetic narrations when he saw the man treating a horse in a cruel manner.

We can agree that such character-based judgement of narrators [be it hadeeth narrators or those telling us any story] is imperfect. After all, our judgement may be wrong, based on incomplete information, and even if our decision is correct, there does exist a chance that the narrator may be telling the truth, and it's also possible that those we deem trustworthy have narrated an incomplete, biased, or even false account.

One account which the scholars have generally rejected is the "satanic verses" story. This account alleged that the Prophet received "satanic inspiration" to actually order his followers to prostrate before the pagan deities [al lat, Manat and Al'Uzza] (ft.2}. Such a claim insults the Prophet, the Qur'an, and contradicts known history and common sense. The Prophet, upon whom be peace and blessings, sacrificed much in his mission. Battles, death, enmity of tribes, and yet he never deviated from his mission. to assert that he would- in a moment of weakness or in the name of political expediency- allow his principles to be violated by such an order to his followers is ridiculous!

Fortunately, the Muslims have, in terms of both theological ['Aqeedah] issues and Prophetic history, a source that is reliable and free from error, and that source is the Glorious Qur'an!

A lay man unaware of the complexities of recorded histories, unable to determine on their own what is authentic and what is spurious, can look at the Qur'anic contents and understand what the Prophet was really about. He or she can get a clear picture of the Prophet's actions, intentions, inspiration, and motivation by having a look at the Qur'an. Critics say he was a man obsessed with sex.But how can this be, when the Qur'an tells us that he would spend his nights, half or even a third of it, dedicated to prayer and contemplation? [see Qur'an 73:20].

He was a man who had very little concern for material things, he was a statesman, a religious teacher, when would he have the time for the sort of accusations made against him?

This is just one example, but our over-riding point is that we must be careful. Claims are circulating that both Syrian and Libyan soldiers are using rape against their opponents. Maybe this is true, but we must investigate first. Wecan't assume and then act upon assumptions. This religion has been sent forth for spiritual guidance, and that guidance is to translate practically in daily, political, business and social life!

It should be noted that this post does not seek to defend the governments in Libya, Syria or anywhere else. Nor are we blind to the realities of troubles in Muslim lands. But those problems should be resolved internally, and not made worse by lies and propaganda. The ends do not justify the means!

Here, we only appeal to the use of critical thinking, of investigation and of caution. These appeals are useful in any place or time in life, but are especially important in issues that affect the safety of peoples and societies.


May Allah guide us, forgive us, and allow us to see truth, whereever it is. As his Prophet, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, used to pray, we pray that Allah's light illuminate us, in front and back of us, to our right as well as our left. Ameen![Ft.3]

Footnotes

[1] Imam Al-Bukhari's collection, known as Saheeh Al-Bukhari, is the most popular and trustworthy of sources of information about the Prophet. Indeed, one expression that describes its value is As Sahh al Kutub Ba'da Kitaab Allah, the most authentic of books after the Book of God. It should be noted that Hadeeth is not equal to the Qur'an, and although we give the most attention to Bukhari's collection, he [Bukhari] never saw it as error-free.


[2] The famed historian and Qur'an commentator, Imam Muhammad Jarir At-Tabari [hence referred to as Tabari] is the only commentator who records this story, but even he stated that he only records what was told to him. An examination of his writings show that he, most likely, did not believe this story either, but nonetheless shared what he was told. In any case, even if he[Tabari] did believe it, it makes no difference, for our opinions or understanding of Prophetic teaching and action cannot contradict the position or the teaching given in the Qur'an.


[3] This supplication of the Prophet, as reported in hadeeth sources, can be found in the useful booklet Hisnul Muslim, compiled by Sa'eed ibn 'Ali Wahf Al-Qahtaani, pg 44, Dar al Khair, Jeddah.]

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gender identity: thoughts on a Canadian couple's parenting style

Admittedly, this composition is hard to write, and I have even wondered if it was necessary to even write about this issue. In the end, however, it seems necessary to speak on this. A reader sent me the following link: [url] http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/babiespregnancy/babies/article/995112--parents-keep-child-s-gender-secret[/url]which interviews a Canadian couple who have decided to raise a "genderless baby" named Storm! The reasoning behind such a move is given in the following excerpt from the article

“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’” says Witterick, bouncing Storm, dressed in a red-fleece jumper, on her lap at the kitchen table.

“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” says Stocker.

When Storm was born, the couple sent an email to friends and family: “We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...).”



The article goes on to say that the "liberal" couple's two sons have been raised in a similar fashion, they pick out clothes from both boys and girls sections of the stores, and seem to have been nurtured in such a fashion wherein its acceptable to wear hair styles and colors generally associated with females.

It's certainly true that gender roles and identifying markers are largely subjective, in the sense that cultures have varying norms and styles associated with males and females respectively. In the Middle East, men wear the Jalabiyyah. It's a long [to the feet], one piece tunic. The traditional depictions of Jesus has him wearing a white Jalabiyyah-type cloth. Yet, in an American context, it may be seen by many unfamiliar with other cultures as a woman's dress!

Yet, as the article itself points out, there is no mistaking the genitalia of a person. As a baby grows, their gender will be apparent, and this is certainly true in the onset of puberty.

Rebellion against nature


While we admit that gender identifying clothes/habits/tastes vary according to cultural norm, the whole premise of "not identifying the gender, allowing the child to choose their gender" is a form of rebellion against nature! In the modern world, where we see ourselves as having control over every aspect of life, we have a deficit in terms of our connection with what's real.


What happened to the days when kids loved to play outside? These days, everyone wants to have their children [or more accurately, the children themselves desire] to play video games, music and games on their phone, chatting and using twitter, rather than engaging on a social level. We depend on electronic media and seemingly isolate ourselves from the natural world.

Of course, we have to admit that, from a religious standpoint, this is one of our objections to homosexuality. Procreation cannot take place between two men or between two women, it can only happen in a relationship between a man and a woman. Homosexuality is inherently against nature. Yet, what we are talking about, the complete elimination [or at least marginalization] of gender from identity, especially of a child, is a whole other ballgame. It's worse than simply having a sexual preference that's unnatural! These parents, what are they setting their children, especially the baby named Storm, up for? How will the children themselves have healthy lives when they are living in a situation wherein they are raised with a thought that keeping secret one's gender is a virtue?

It is our hope that the parents will see that their choice to use their children to preach an agenda of gender elimination from society will have devastating emotional and psychological consequences, and correct the situation before its too late. It is also our hope that in general, humankind will return to having natural, healthy relationships, both with each other and with the planet in general.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Some pictures




Salaam, Shalom, Peaceful greetings: I have been asked by many readers to share some pictures, so here are a couple.

These are pictures from our local Mosque, Toledo Masjid Al-Islam [or simply 'Toledo Masjid"]. The main prayer hall is over 2000 square feet, and is decorated with the Al-Faatihah in the Qiblah wall [Al-Faatihah is Quranic chapter #1, central to prayers], while the borders are decorated with the 99 names of God as given within the Islamic tradition. Note that all of these texts are utilizing gold leaf. The sign outside has at the top the Quranic expression "And the remembrance of God is the greatest [source of power and inspiration]" [Q 29:45]. All are welcome. Toledo Masjid is at 722 East Bancroft, Toledo Oh. 419-241-9522, Toledomasjid.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lingering concerns: implications on the death of Osama Bin Laden

The last three days have seen- quite justly-much discussion in the world following the Sunday raid on a compound in Abbotobad, Pakistan [Three hour drive outside of Islamabad, the former has been wrongly described by US officials as a "suburb" of Islamabad] that led to the point blank shooting death of a reportedly unarmed Osama Bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attack on the US.

Governments and organizations worldwide have rushed to offer their congratulations to President Obama for authorizing the mission, at great political risk, these words of felicitation have even come from political foes, such as Sarah Palin.Spontaneous celebrations were seen outside the White House, in New York at the WTC site, and throughout college campuses and public sites all over the nation.


Bin Laden death changes nothing

The whole world has seemingly been captivated by details of the raid, the living arrangements for the fugitive, and his "respectful" burial at sea. Yet, the truth of the matter is, is that Osama Bin Laden was largely irrelevant to the Muslims! He was widely seen as a perpetrator of violence against not only Western targets, but also against Muslims. Indeed, the ideology he believed in essentially makes Takfeer [declaring Muslims as non Muslims, which, in the view of those making the declarations, justifies their deaths and confiscation of property]. Pakistan has suffered THE most at the hands of these type of ideologies.

Moreover, the Arab world has witnessed great changes. The dictators, both the darlings of Western interests [such as Hosni Mubarak and Tunisia's Zain ul'Abideen Ben 'Ali] as well as their traditional foes [i.e. the maverick "Brother leader" Mu'ammar Al-Qadhdhafi] are basically on their way to the wayside. The peoples of the Arab world have finally realized that they CAN be successful at changing their leaders and changing the system that has, for so long, deprived them of political freedoms, economic opportunities, and social justice. This change was in no way inspired by Bin Laden's views or similar ideologies[ft.1].


Part of the appeal that Bin Laden may have had in the past was two fold [A] He was seen as a Robin Hood type figure, a rich man from a wealthy backround [one needs only be in Saudi Arabia for one hour before seeing the family name on one building or another] who abandoned a comfortable life to join in struggles against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. [B] The undeniable fact that the majority of the Muslim world, and especially the Arab world, has suffered setback after setback, not to mention the usurpation of Palestine, at the expense of native [Arab] Palestinians, leading to constant wars, invasions, military attacks, the disruptions of economies, etc.., coming from outside. A situation that people get tired of.


These problems, briefly outlined in Line "B" above, are still largely unresolved. Indeed, the recent decision by Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah to reconcile and form some sort of united government has led to Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu to actually say "You cannot have peace with both Israel and Hamas". Kashmir still exists as a problem, which has been unresolved since partition. Western support for dictatorships that crush local aspirations in the hopes of securing Oil interests still pose a problem. Pakistan, while a US ally, still feels the almost daily drone attacks on villages, and Afghanistan still suffers from conflict.

Rather than celebrating the death of a single man, policy makers have to look beyond that, and address the REALISTIC CAUSES THAT ALLOWED SUCH FIGURES TO COME INTO EXISTENCE IN THE FIRST PLACE. {fT 2}


Killing Bin Laden in such a fashion will prove counter-productive


As of date, government officials have not yet announced whether photos of Bin Laden's corpse will be released. There has already been at least two unofficial pictures I have seen, one of which looks nothing like him. Others have made similar observations, and of course there will be conspiracy theories about what happened for years to come. To avoid all of that, it would have been better to capture him alive and have him stand on trial, for the whole world to witness, or at the very least, for the American public.

To just send in a military group into a house, in Pakistan, without the knowledge or permission of Pakistani authorities, shoot him in the head, shoot some others, and then dump his body in the Ocean, appears just as it is, a vigilante' move, one which leaves the door open for revenge by Bin Laden supporters, for more resentment, even for those unsympathetic to Bin Laden, to the US, leading to more and more problems which, quite frankly, the nation cannot afford.

It has been pointed out that he was never officially indited on charges relating to 9/11 in the first place. Be that as it may, he WAS charged in connection to the attack on the USS COLE, as well as the attacks on the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He could have stood trial for those!


Conclusion


What's done is done! Nothing can change what happened Sunday in the early hours in Abbotobad. It is our hope that, just as Afghan President Hamid Karzai pointed out, this will lead to the ceasing of air attacks on sites in his nation [and Pakistan as well, we may add], and the end to the war in Iraq. The residents of those nations don't need it, neither do US soldiers need it. The wars have placed an incredible burden, both human and financial, on the United States. It is only in the best interests of all concerned that such ventures cease and desist, so we can have a peaceful world.

Footnotes


[1] One of the videos which started the Egypt protests, leading to the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, was that done by a woman, asking viewers to come protest the arrest of some friends and the beating of others. She spoke of "honor" and other such themes, and quoted the Qur'an, urging people to stand up. I have been unable to find this video again, perhaps a reader can find it and post it in the comments section. Regardless, the Takbeer, religious chants and Quranic references were all made at various points by the protesters during the process which ultimately led to the unseating of Mubarak.


[2] While issues surrounding Palestine and other US foreign policy choices are big factors leading to terrorism, other issues include left over resentment of colonialism, local grievances, and- to an great deal, the rise of sectarianism in the Muslim world. The latter is usually blamed on "Wahhabism", being exported by Saudi Arabia to other nations. Heavily focused on theological purity, Neo-Salafis and Pseudo-Salafis have been blamed for much of the problems within Pakistan, wherein Mosques of various sects [Shi'i, Ahmadi and other Sunnis], as well as shrines and religious processions, have suffered both gun and bomb attacks. In the years following the US invasion of 'Iraq, Sunni-Shi'ah warfare was especially tense, although it has died down somewhat in recent times. Many observers have made claims that various Western interests were actually instigating such feuds, and while there may be some truth to this claim, there is no doubt in the mind of this writer that many of these actions were perpetuated by Muslims against other Muslims!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How to form a relationship with Allah [Subhanaahu wa Ta'alaa]

Clip from the lecture with the above title. Special rate is available


[url]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lN7U32iJKo[/url]

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If above links does not work, then go to youtube and search for "Relationship with Allah" "Shamsuddin Waheed".

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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Questions on Islamic law: marriage and divorce




This post is a bit different in style from our usual writings. Here' we are attempting to convey, in a way as concise as possible, the normative rules from the Qur'an and the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, may Allah's peace and blessings be upon him, with regards to both marriage and divorce, as per the Islamic teachings and from the Islamic sources. Any further questions on this article or related subjects can be posted in the "comments" section which appears at the end of this post.


What are the prerequisites for a Muslim marriage?

Obviously, agreement between the two parties. Forced marriages, which does occur sometimes in various communities in the world, is deemed Haraam [not allowed in Islamic law]. There exists many incidents in the days of the Prophet Muhammad wherein ladies would come to him, saying family had forced their hand into marrying, to which the Prophet would reply that choice had to be made.

In addition to the above requirement, we also have [A] Dowry {Mahr}. The dowry is an amount of money or some other valuable item that is to be given to the wife. This assures some level of security for the wife as well as the seriousness of the man. Traditions inform us that the dowry can even be symbolic, as giving clothes or teaching the bride Qur'an. Of course, this issue would have to be hammered out between the parties. [B] Ceremony: actually the most easy part, and already practiced in every human society, in which the Imam will give a sermon basically reminding the parties of their responsibilities, the wife and husband, along with two witnesses, will sign a contract [usually called 'Aqd in Muslim societies] along with witnesses, two being the minimum. The contract will show the agreement of the parties, as well as the dowry information.

What are the responsibilities the parties have to each other?

The most important one-for the man- is that of financial responsibility. The Qur'an places this squarely on the husband in the words Ar Rijaalu Qawwamoona 'alan Nisaa' ["The men are responsible for the maintainance of their ladies.." [Q 4:34].


Responsibilities of mutual support, of fidelity, and emotional security are also required. The Qur'an says " And among His wonders is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind. So that you might incline towards them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you: in this, behold, there are messages indeed for people who think!" [Qur'an 30:21, Muhammad Asad translation]


What about Divorce?

Divorce is seen as permitted in Islam, but there has existed both within the body of Islamic texts as well as practice in tradition the tendency to preserve the marriage. God speaks of the fact that although men may find some qualities they dislike in their wives, there may exist in that very thing something good for the man [Q 4:19]. The Qur'an has also recommended counseling, taking a person from each parties family, to act as arbiters [Q 4:35].

It is well known that the husband has right to pronounce divorce, but what is not all that well known is that the wife has a right as well, especially when the husband has disappeared or has not fulfilled any of the responsibilities, or has abandoned the faith of Islam all together!

In such a case, the religious figure [Shaykh or Imam] can pronounce the marriage dissolved, the only requirement is that- just as in a marriage ceremony- witnesses are present. It's also important to have documentation to this decision, signed by witnesses, the wife, and of course the religious figure.

By no means is this post to be taken as comprehensive or encompassing all aspects of these most delicate issues. Nonetheless, we hope this has been useful.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Ka'bah: a symbol of man's potential



Origins

According to the Qur'an [Q 2:127], the Ka'bah was constructed by Abraham and his son, to be a place where God ONLY would be worshiped. Although the Qur'anic description of its origins may be disputed by various critics of Islam, all hands agree that the ancient site has always been seen as a place of prayer, amnesty and security. It was deemed a respected site even by the polytheists.[Ft.1].


Function as focal point of prayer direction [Qiblah]

It is worth mentioning that the Qiblah for the early followers of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, was not the Ka'bah, rather, it was Jerusalem. We are told that Jerusalem was the first Qiblah for about seventeen months.[ Ft.2]

There are two main reasons for this that should be highlighted. [1] Jerusalem can be said to be a center of monotheism. Many of the prophets and teachers known to the world have a direct or indirect connection to this place of peace. Certainly, Jerusalem has many sites deemed sacred to both Jewish and Christian traditions. [2] Tradition tells us that the Prophet Muhammad embarked upon a spiritual journey from a spot in Jerusalem and onto the heavens. [Ft.3]


As we know, eventually the command came forth informing the Muslims that Makkah, specifically the site of the Ka'bah, should be the Qiblah.

"So, wheresoever you are, turn your faces towards the sacred Mosque [Al-Masjid Al-Haram, the site of the Ka'bah].." [ 2:144].


There is a concept of Qiblah present in Jewish tradition. They face Jerusalem, offering prayers three times daily. The idea behind the main function of Qiblah also finds an eloquent speaker in the writer of the Psalms, who asserts:

But I, by your great mercy, will come into your house, in reverence will I bow down towards your Holy Temple. [Psalms, 5:7, NIV]

For Muslims, to face One direction in prayer, this action serves as a point of unity. The same can be rightfully asserted regarding the prayer format, which is the same across the Muslim community worldwide. [Ft.4]


It should be noted that to Muslims, the Ka'bah, although sacred, does not hold any magical powers. It is merely a symbol. The Qur'an itself tells us "So, worship the Lord of this house" [Q 106:3]. It would be a misreading to assert that the Ka'bah was an idol worshiped by Muslims. Indeed, the black cover [Kiswa] has the above mentioned verse written on it. At Makkah, the visitors are praying, invoking God alone, whom they recognize as the one who has created and maintains the universe.


Hajj-Pilgrimage

The Hajj is considered the last of Islam's five pillars. Its observance is conditional on the person's physical and financial abilities. The pilgrimage re enacts many of the actions of Abraham, the patriarch. It includes invoking God while circling the symbol. During the pilgrimage season, one sees every profession, class rank, nation and color represented. All are made equal by the donning of the white seamless cloth [Ihraam]. It has the potential to serve as an annual conference on world affairs, where the leaders and public alike can mingle and gain better perspective.

Footnotes

[1] In the days of Prophet Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, the Makkan polytheists had corrupted the Hajj practices, and this even extended to the Ka'bah itself. over 300 idols were said to have been placed and venerated at the Masjid Al-Haram.

[2] This is the figure given by Ibn Katheer. See Tafseer Al-Qur'aan al 'Adheem, volume 2, pg 30-33, Aleppo
edition.

[3] The Prophet's journey is known as the Israa'. It is briefly mentioned in the Qur'an [17:1], but a more detailed explanation can be found in the Hadeeth literature. For which see Saheeh Al-Bukhari, 8:1, 228, pg 156. Riyadh edition. Also of interest is a discussion which can be found in Muhammad Asad's Qur'an commentary [The message of the Qur'an, Gibralter, 1980].

[4] Different schools and sects exist among Muslims, but in general the prayer format is the same, showing another example of unity. The prayer format includes selections from the Qur'an, in particular the first chapter.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Revolutionary passions flare in the Middle East


Recent weeks have been undeniably eventful for the Middle East, with implications that will be felt worldwide. The spark was lit in Tunisia, where the deplorable conditions prompted a young man named Mohamed BouAzizi to commit suicide [a taboo in Islam, showing the seriousness of the situation], prompting protests which led to the abdication of long time ruler Zayn ul'Aabideen Ben 'Ali. Following the Tunisian example, protests have followed against autocratic rulers and their policies in Yemen, Jordan, Algeria, even Mauritania to an extent, but the most noteworthy and the place which will have the most affects on the region is certainly Egypt, which has been the cultural center of the Arab world.

What are some lessons to learn from all this?

This question will be the basis for books, position papers, speeches and interviews for years to come, and observers from across every divide and perspective imaginable. In the mind of this writer, the most important lesson is that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.We don't have to sit back, claim helplessness and accept whatever is thrown in our direction.

This is a lesson applicable in any time, place or situation. Here in the USA, especially in Winter time, we complain about the continuing rise in fuel costs, in heating costs. In our personal lives, we accept certain things as unmovable realities. But, as demonstrated first by the Tunisians and now being exemplified by the Egyptians in Tahrir square, Alexandria and other spots, FAITH in God, FAITH in one's own abilities to observe, to make reasonable demands and to strive for change are the tools or the basis needed to generate something better in life.


The Qur'an itself states "Surely, God does not change the condition of a people UNTIL {Hattaa] they change what is in themselves." [Q 13:11]


ANOTHER LESSON

This particular lesson is one that is actually very easy to overlook. That lesson is simply this- everything, even regimes and powerful bodies, have an end. The Qur'an states this as "And to every 'Ummah' [here, meaning power, society, regime, dynasty], a term limit has been granted." [Q 7:34]

While everything does truly have a limited time of existence, even as individuals, God also states in the Qur'an that in the end, real success does not belong to those who are oppressive, exploiters in the earth. [see Qur'an 6:21, 135, 12:23, and 28:37].

May Allah grant mercy and guidance to the people in Egypt, indeed, everywhere in the world where truth is standing against Dhulm and Baatil. May He grant us the ability to recognize that all have their beginnings and their endings, that none is permanent, except of course the noble presence of God. [Q 55:27]

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Divine punishment: Qur'anic teaching




"

Say: Have you considered [Ara-aytaakum], if the punishment of Allah comes to you [In Ataakum 'Adhaabullaah] unexpectedly or manifestly [Jahratan], will any be destroyed, except the wrongdoing people [Hal Yuhlaku illa Qawmidh-dhaalimeen]?" [Q 6:47]


The context in which this ayah appears speaks of God's authority being rejected by those who are misguided, who have engaged consistently in a pattern of abuse and Dhulm in the world. In fact, we are told that Satan [ Q 6:43] makes their actions seem attractive. Repeatedly, God says, these people should have examined and considered the Ayaaat of Allah [ Subhaanahu wa Ta'alaa] [Q 6:46].


Finally, we come to the verse which is the center of this brief article. Allah Ta'alaa says that ONLY the Dhaalimeen are punished, no one else. This verse refutes such ideas that are found in the religious traditions of others such as original sin, or the notion that God punishes 'seven generations" of descendants for the crimes of a particular society!

If such a notion was true- that God punished the descendants of a criminal, then the son of 'Abdullah Ibn Ubayy, the leader of the Madeenan hypocrites, who engaged in many intrigues against the Prophet Muhammad- upon whom be peace and blessings- and the Islamic state- should have been punished by Allah, and indeed by the Prophet himself- who was God's representative on earth. Yet, we know that the son was not punished, and even 'Abdullah ibn Ubayy himself was never tried or punished in this world.


This section of the Qur'an speaks to the important picture, the broad fate of civilizations who have not articulated spiritual values into their conduct or culture.

For those, living both within and outside of a spiritual [or spiritually lacking] environment, who have able to internalize the Divine principles, Allah says:

"... So whoever has Imaan {faith} and reforms, they shall have no fear, and they shall [have no reason to] grieve." { Q 6:48}