Friday, October 31, 2008
People of Faith Not Comfortable Celebrating Halloween
Trick or treating. Halloween parties. Dressing up like ghosts and goblins. Distributing candy to children from sunset to the later part of the night. Collecting bags full of candy and then stuffing yourself for days to come.
Sounds awesome! Who wouldn’t want to participate in such a festival we call Halloween?
The issue is not so easy for many people of faith. Millions of American Christians, Jews and Muslims do not celebrate Halloween and I would like to explain why from a theological and historical perspective.
Halloween as we know it today actually has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival honoring Samhain, the lord of the dead. This was a celebration of the end of the harvest season and beginning of winter. It has been sometimes regarded as the “Celtic New Year”. The Celts believed that the spirits of the dead revisited their homes on that evening.
Historically, in Europe, Halloween preceded the Christian holiday of Hallowmas, All Hallows, or All Saints’ Day. This holiday was inserted by the church to offset Halloween, a day viewed as an evil, pagan celebration. We see clearly in history that Halloween was resisted and found objectionable by practicing Christians.
The superstitions connected with Halloween until this modern day originated among the ancient Druids, who believed that on Halloween night, Samhain called forth evil spirits. The Druids lit fires on Halloween, for the purpose of warding off these spirits. These beliefs are a mix of blatant superstitions and associating partners with Allah.
Many concerned people in the faith community ask, “How can Muslims, Christians or Jews believe there is a lord of the dead, and this lord calls forth spirits on this particular night each year?”
Halloween symbols tend to revolve around death, magic and monsters. Popular characters include ghosts, witches, black cats, goblins, zombies, mummies, skeletons, and demons.
In tradition we find strange beliefs including that single women were told that if they sat in a dark room and looked into a mirror on Halloween night, the image of their future husband would appear in the mirror. However, if they were destined for bad fortune or death before marriage, a skull would appear. This belief and practice has been recorded as late as the 19th century here in the US.
Halloween did not become a holiday in the United States until the 19th century, when there was an influx of Irish immigration. Prior to that Puritan tradition restricted the observance of many holidays and celebrations.
Idris Palmer, an American Muslim, wrote a few years back, “Halloween is a celebration originated by Celtic pagans and traditionally applied to the evening of October 31. It is completely based on rituals involving dead spirits and devil worship. Muslim commemoration of such a day is absolutely forbidden; as it involves the worst elements of disbelief.”
The Prophet Muhammad (s) reportedly has said: “Whosoever resembles a people is from them.” Many Muslims feel, in light of this warning, they must consider that any Muslim who participates in these celebrations, which involve clear disbelief, glorifying sorcery, magic and evil beings — may be asking for the wrath of Allah to descend upon them.
In the Quran Allah says: “And those who do not witness falsehood, and if they pass by some evil play or evil talk, they pass by it with dignity.” [Surah Al-Furqan, 25:72]
Many of the traditional scholars of Quranic exegesis explained that the word “falsehood” used in above verse refers to “the holidays of the pagans.” The scholar of the Quran, Al-Tabari explained: “It is not allowed for Muslims to attend their [the disbelievers'] holidays and festivals because they are a type of evil and falsehood.”
For many Muslims and people of faith celebrations are based on faith and religion. Some may feel that Halloween is a cultural holiday and that Muslims should not have a problem with a fun filled day centered around candy and dressing up.
The problem for Muslims and people of faith, is holidays and celebrations that have theological origins, especially one with wicked and dark beliefs such as Halloween. To this day we will find people from amongst practicing Christians and Jews condemn this holiday and speak against it. There are churches and faith based communities that hold programs in their churches to give youth an alternative to feeling the pressure of joining others in Halloween celebrations.
See this article by J Kerby Anderson’s, from Probe Ministries International, “Ten Reasons Christians Should Not Celebrate Halloween”
Please note that to many Muslims the prohibition of observing Halloween includes greeting people at the door and passing out candy to them. Islam does not prohibit eating or sharing candy! However, this sharing of candy comes as a ritual under the larger umbrella of a holiday that has heretical origins.
Many Muslims equate this to singing Christmas carols, participating in gift exchanges and decorating their houses during Christmas, which according to its theological origins is an celebration of the birth of the son of God, and we seek refuge in doing that.
Some Muslims, parents and children, take tough stances against Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day but view Halloween lightly. One plausible reason is that people are not aware of the origins and realities of this celebration. They fail to make the connect between Halloween and the festival of Samhain
Many Muslims feel that they should be educating their community and engaging in dialogue with other faith based communities about the origins of Halloween, and why it is unacceptable for them to celebrate or participate in related festivities. Muslims can use Halloween as an opportunity to talk about Islam and why Muslims do not participate in Halloween festivities and how we view the purpose of life.
All praise belongs to Allah who revealed to us clear guidance.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
The strategies being used to scare/intimidate voters are ridiculous.
In Atlanta, Georgia:
On October 10, Kyla received a disturbing letter from the Fulton County Department of Registration and Election. The letter stated that they had received notification that Kyla was not a US citizen. This letter, dated October 2, but postmarked October 9, stated Kyla would be removed from the rolls unless she produced proof of citizenship within a week of the letter’s issue date. Since Kyla received the letter on October 10 and its issue date was October 2, she thought it was too late to correct the mistake.
In Temple Hills, Maryland:
Adele had voted at the same precinct for the past 21 years and she went to her usual precinct to vote during this year’s primary. However, after waiting in a long line, Adele was informed that her voting location had been changed. Adele was frustrated as she had not been notified of this change prior to Election Day and that no one at the precinct could explain the reason behind the change. Instead, poll workers gave Adele the name of her new precinct. Adele was faced with the decision to drive to another precinct or go to work.
Friday, October 24, 2008
Anti-madhhabism is an issue that comes up every once in a while, and is especially confusing for those who live in diverse communities with members from several madhahib.
Excerpts from the article below, but I would encourage those interested to read the whole article because it provides some interesting history and examples:
The ummah's greatest achievement over the past millennium has undoubtedly been its internal intellectual cohesion. From the fifth century of the Hijra almost to the present day, and despite the outward drama of the clash of dynasties, the Sunni Muslims have maintained an almost unfailing attitude of religious respect and brotherhood among themselves. It is a striking fact that virtually no religious wars, riots or persecutions divided them during this extended period, so difficult in other ways.
The history of religious movements suggests that this is an unusual outcome. The normal sociological view, as expounded by Max Weber and his disciples, is that religions enjoy an initial period of unity, and then descend into an increasingly bitter factionalism led by rival hierarchies. Christianity has furnished the most obvious example of this; but one could add many others, including secular faiths such as Marxism. On the face of it, Islam's ability to avoid this fate is astonishing, and demands careful analysis.
What happened was this. Sunni Islam, occupying the middle ground between the two extremes of egalitarian Kharijism and hierarchical Shi'ism, had long been preoccupied with disputes over its own concept of authority. For the Sunnis, authority was, by definition, vested in the Quran and Sunnah. But confronted with the enormous body of hadiths, which had been scattered in various forms and narrations throughout the length and breadth of the Islamic world following the migrations of the Companions and Followers, the Sunnah sometimes proved difficult to interpret. Even when the sound hadiths had been sifted out from this great body of material, which totalled several hundred thousand hadith reports, there were some hadiths which appeared to conflict with each other, or even with verses of the Quran. It was obvious that simplistic approaches such as that of the Kharijites, namely, establishing a small corpus of hadiths and deriving doctrines and law from them directly, was not going to work. The internal contradictions were too numerous, and the interpretations placed on them too complex, for the qadis (judges) to be able to dish out judgements simply by opening the Quran and hadith collections to an appropriate page.
The reasons underlying cases of apparent conflict between various revealed texts were scrutinised closely by the early ulama, often amid sustained debate between brilliant minds backed up with the most perfect photographic memories. Much of the science of Islamic jurisprudence (usul al-fiqh) was developed in order to provide consistent mechanisms for resolving such conflicts in a way which ensured fidelity to the basic ethos of Islam.
In a Western-influenced global culture in which people are urged from early childhood to think for themselves and to challenge established authority, it can sometimes be difficult to muster enough humility to recognise ones own limitations. We are all a little like Pharaoh: our egos are by nature resistant to the idea that anyone else might be much more intelligent or learned than ourselves. The belief that ordinary Muslims, even if they know Arabic, are qualified to derive rulings of the Shariah for themselves, is an example of this egotism running wild. To young people proud of their own judgement, and unfamiliar with the complexity of the sources and the brilliance of authentic scholarship, this can be an effective trap, which ends by luring them away from the orthodox path of Islam and into an unintentional agenda of provoking deep divisions among the Muslims. The fact that all the great scholars of the religion, including the hadith experts, themselves belonged to madhhabs, and required their students to belong to madhhabs, seems to have been forgotten. Self-esteem has won a major victory here over common sense and Islamic responsibility.
The Holy Quran commands Muslims to use their minds and reflective capacities; and the issue of following qualified scholarship is an area in which this faculty must be very carefully deployed. The basic point should be appreciated that no categoric difference exists between usul al-fiqh and any other specialised science requiring lengthy training. Shaykh Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti, who has articulated the orthodox response to the anti-Madhhab trend in his book: Non-Madhhabism: The Greatest Bida Threatening the Islamic Shari`a, likes to compare the science of deriving rulings to that of medicine. "If ones child is seriously ill", he asks, "does one look for oneself in the medical textbooks for the proper diagnosis and cure, or should one go to a trained medical practitioner?" Clearly, sanity dictates the latter option. And so it is in matters of religion, which are in reality even more important and potentially hazardous: we would be both foolish and irresponsible to try to look through the sources ourselves, and become our own muftis. Instead, we should recognise that those who have spent their entire lives studying the Sunnah and the principles of law are far less likely to be mistaken than we are.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Like any group of fun loving people out there, Moslems love their video games and it seems the video games industry loves us too.
LittleBigPlanet is a Sony game that got delayed, because Sony didnt want to offend Muslims. Maybe they didnt want the negative spin, since with Muslims it can get nasty- sad, but true, for a game that was, is, meant to be enjoyed by all.
I can imagine Sony not wanting negative attention. As a Muslim I apprieciate their concern. I want them to feel that there is nothing wrong with being senstive to Muslim issues that pertain to religion and practice and beliefs.
There is, however, a difference in what is legitimate concern and what is just outright over caucious paranoia. Here it is paranoia. This is why:
The Arabic, are verses of the Quran, however, they are not in its entiriety, rather just portions of the Quranic verses, and yes they are put to music and to lyrics in a West African song by a West African singer- "Tapha Niang" from the 2006 album Boulevard de l'Independance by Grammy award-winning Malian kora player Toumani Diabaté.
In all other games, like Zack and Wiki, there was a clear in appropriate use of Arabic. If an artist took Surah Fatiha and decided to sing it to an electric guitar, yes I would say that is inappropriate. But a singer using portions of verses that can basically be common day utterences like "everyone will taste death" or "everything in the world will perish" as is the case in the song, then why make a fuss over it?
At slate there is a nice discussion, you can read it here.
What I found of interest was Ahmed Rehab, (disclaimer, I work for CAIR and so does Rehab) and I took the email pasted at slate and inserted it below:
Ahmed M. Rehab, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago), wrote me in an e-mail:
I fished out the song on the internet and heard it. I have no problem with it. I am a fan of Muslim West African music and art. I would have a problem if someone were to sing the lyrics of the Qur'an to some kind of tune, but this was a tasteful citation of a few words from the Qur'an -- not entire verses -- that were chanted in typical West African fashion, not sung to a melody, granted there was music in the background.
Personally, I find the song to be beautiful and touching. But I respect the views of those who have taken offense and I appreciate that Sony has as well. To be fair, I believe Sony is under no obligation to recall the game given that the song was not of their own making, but that of a devout Muslim who allowed them to use it. However, I think they made an admirable decision to respect the sensitivities of their customers who were offended, which is a wise decision from both a marketing and community relations perspective.
Keep in mind though, I reckon there is a huge market for Sony's games in Indonesia, Malaysia, Southwest Asia and the Middle East. It just may be that Sony is at the end of the day concerned about its bottom line, not so much sensitivities.
I think a total recall was not necessary, but kudos for Sony, next time they should consult with world religious organizations to get a better handle on opinions of Muslims rather then just a few concerned gamers. Also enjoy below the song in the game.
So what do women want?
Family friendly social policies:
Reinvesting in public higher education:
Gender equality in male dominated fields:
Saturday, October 18, 2008
By Chris Irvine
A female professor has become the first woman to lead a mixed congregation in Islamic prayer in Britain.
Source. Is this still bothering people? Thoughts?
Professor Amina Wadud gave the sermon at a centre in Oxford in what is being called a "leap forward" for equality in Islam.
The sermon was controversial as tradition holds that Muslim religious leaders, called Imams, must always be men when there are services with both sexes.
Some Muslims also believe it is against Islam for a woman to conduct such services.
Prof Wadud took the service, known as a khutbah, to mark the start of a conference on Islam and feminism at Wolfson College, Oxford.
"There's nothing in the Koran that prohibits it," she said.
"My own theological research into the essence of Islam indicates the necessity for us to be able to move away from the tradition that restricted women from the practice of leading prayer."
The move has angered many Muslims and a small group gathered outside the college to voice their opposition.
Aishah Samah, from Oxford, said: "We're here to uphold the traditions and the values of Islam and uphold the ways of the prophet - peace be upon him."
Fellow protester Maryan Ramzy said: "We have no objections to women being heads of state, or organisation leaders.
"Women are highly-respected in Islam. But in Islamic law, women cannot lead prayer."
Chairman of the Muslim Education Centre Oxford Dr Taj Hargey, said earlier this week he was undeterred by the possible protests, arguing the prayer service is a step in the right direction.
"We believe Islam is a gender-equal religion," he said.
"There is a record that the Prophet Mohammed allowed a woman to lead a mixed-gender congregation, but this precedent has been ignored.
"Women have led prayers in South Africa, Canada and the US and this is a first time here – it is a celebration."
Dr Hargey added: "People thought it was a bad idea to give women the vote.
"When Emmeline Pankhurst chained herself to the railings in protest there was uproar, but things move on.
"This is about theological self-empowerment - women as well as men have the right to determine their own theological destiny."
Prof Wadud has attracted controversy before - in 2005 she led a service in New York City, which had to be held in an Anglican church after mosques refused to host the event.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
In fact, if your looking for that, check out (shameless self-plug here) and Zahra was writing about something innovative here at Muslamics. On this Blog Action Day you have plenty to read about poverty, but I have more to share with you.
Look I spent my life being raised on this notion that we help the needy, feed the poor and assist those we can not through our prayers. Poverty has been an ageless social problem, one that never seems to go away.
In fact with our current social/economic crisis, more people are joining the welfare rolls, seeking housing assistance and cramming the shelters, the statistics are out there- Long Beach, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz have designated RV Parking for people who are living out of their cars because they lost their homes or could not afford the rent hikes.
What made poverty important to me as an American Muslim was not just the religious obligation, but the fact that my parents raised me with this belief that America was the greatest place in the world. To think that America in this day and age, with such great wealth (well had such great wealth not certain about that now given the meltdown) has an estimated 1 million people homeless is inconceivable. What is worse is that an elite education institution like the University of California system employs people at levels of poverty with no health care, wage increase or other benefits is shameful. We have a corporate structure that takes advantage of our federal welfare system and keeps its employees well under the federal poverty level in order to avoid providing health care (Walmart). Going as far as suing a women to get a portion of her settlement from the accident she was disabled in (she went on disability and then won a settlement from the car accident) is not the America of my childhood, or the America my parents spoke to me about.
There is a huge disconnect. But poverty in America is manageable, though unimaginable to me, compared to poverty that is experienced in the rest of the world. I do not want to get into statistics, rather I want to share a trend I read about that was not only disturbing to me, it was also shameful. BBC had an article on "Desperation Behind Pakistan's Kidney Trade" and it reminded me about some of the other stories I read in a course I took at UCSD covering trade and criminal activities.
I am sure things like this were happening before the present time, and like prostitution it is probably a result from a need to survive , however, prostitution and all its other forms- slavery, child sex trade, child jockeys etc- can be greatly minimized by alleviating poverty. What makes me cringe is this idea that poverty has gotten to such great heights with the current market meltdown and the huge spikes of food prices, that people- in a dignified way- are resorting to selling their own organs in order to allow their families to survive is a testament for the failure of "capitalism" to answer the problems faced since the demise of "communism".
A question for me, though I am in no place to judge, is what qualifies "poverty" for a person to contemplate such desperate methods to survive?
Amjad relates how he is desperate, and how his creditor insults him day in day out badgering him for the money he borrowed to help pay for medical expenses during his mothers illness:
"I don't have any other options," he says. "My family can't help me. The government doesn't help me. What can I do?"
Amjad is one of many poverty-stricken Pakistanis driven to desperation by the recent escalation in the prices of food and oil, caused by the global food crisis and the coalition government's inability to provide sufficient state-subsidies.
There is so much that can be said on this point, but what suffices is this, very simply- Muslims, come back to Islam and the answers we need are there. Wishful thinking it is not. I simply do not see any other solution besides this. We can do all the short term food drives, donations, government lobbying, but at the end of it, there needs to be a fundamental shift and change that is massive in nature to readjust how we approach these issues. Humans need to be first, corporations are entities created as a legal "being" and yet they always take precedent over the needs of humanity.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Many of the individuals outlined in Obsession as experts are really the "Dirty Dozen" when it comes to anti-Muslim rhetoric and vitriol. You can check out this wonderful website put together by FAIR (not associated with CAIR in anyway). The website states:
Smearcasting documents the public writings and appearances of Islamophobic activists and pundits who intentionally and regularly spread fear, bigotry and misinformation in the media. Offering a fresh look at Islamophobia and its perpetrators in today’s media, it also provides four snapshots, or case studies, describing how Islamophobes manipulate media in order to paint Muslims with a broad, hateful brush.
and for MSA's facing speakers coming to their campus from the "Dirty Dozen" this is a great resource to plan counter pamphlets, events and information! Enjoy!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
As Jews around the world observe the Jewish New Year, a new Jewish group honors the holiday by denouncing Israel and Zionism. The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) launches this week, with a month of actions and events in over eight countries and the release of its founding charter.
This growing network of Jews, with local network affiliates in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Europe, Israel, India, Morocco, Mexico and Argentina, was formed to join the struggle for justice in Palestine and the Middle East and challenge the Zionist censorship of Palestinian and other resistance to Zionism. IJAN seeks to rekindle a long Jewish tradition of participation in struggles for liberation and against exploitation and oppression.
"We intend to contribute to a growing international voice that challenges Zionism and its claim to speak on behalf of Jews worldwide; Israel and the Zionist ideology upon which it was built does not speak for us, nor does it reflect our vision of a just and safe world," says IJAN organizer Sara Kershnar. "The movement against Zionist apartheid must be as uncompromising as was the movement against South African apartheid. Anti-Zionism is part not only of the movement against racism but also the movement against war. We are convinced that we speak to a great unexpressed, in fact censored sentiment of support for this perspective, including among Jewish people."
More here and here
Friday, October 10, 2008
It irks me that I even have to say this: Being a Muslim woman is a joyful thing.
My first neighbor in Arkansas borrowed my Quran and returned it, saying, "I'm glad I'm not a Muslim woman." Excuse me, but a woman with Saint Paul in her religious heritage has no place feeling superior to a Muslim woman, as far as woman-affirming principles are concerned. Maybe no worse, if I listen to Christian feminists, but certainly no better.
Blessings abound for me as a Muslim woman: The freshness of ablution is mine, and the daily meditation zone of five prayers that involve graceful, yoga-like movements, performed in prayer attire. Prayer scarves are a chapter in themselves, cool and comforting as bedsheets. They lie folded in the velveteen prayer rug when not in use: two lightweight muslin pieces, the long drapey headcover and the roomy gathered skirt. I fling open the top piece, and it billows like summer laundry, a lace-edged meadow. I slip into the bottom piece to cover my legs for prayer time because I am wearing shorts around the house today.
As beautiful as veils are, they are not the best part of being a Muslim woman -- and many Muslim women in Islamic countries don't veil. The central blessing of Islam to women is that it affirms their spiritual equality with men, a principle stated over and over in the Quran, on a plane believers hold to be untouched by the social or legalistic "women in Islam" concerns raised by other parts of the Scripture, in verses parsed endlessly by patriarchal interpreters as well as Muslim feminists and used by Islamophobes to "prove" Islam's sexism. This is how most believing Muslim women experience God: as the Friend who is beyond gender, not as the Father, not as the Son, not inhabiting a male form, or any form.
There are "givens" that I take for granted as a Muslim woman that women of other faiths had to struggle to gain. For example, it took European and American women centuries to catch up to Islamic law on a woman's fully equal right to own property. And it's not an airy abstraction; it's a right Muslim women have practiced, even in Saudi Arabia, where women own businesses, donate land for schools and endow trusts, just as they did in 14th-century Egypt, 9th-century Iraq and anywhere else Islamic law has been in effect.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Monday, October 6, 2008
Friday, October 3, 2008
Baskin Robbins gets in on the fun with two new election season flavors: Straight talk crunch