Saturday, February 28, 2009

Al-Hasan al-Basri

Intro here

Unfortunately, after the passing away of Umar bin Abdul Aziz (may Allah be pleased with him), the Ummayid ruling family returned to it's old ways of lavishness and excessive love of worldly pleasures. However, Allah (swt) blessed the ummah of prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) with pious scholars and people of dawah who stood against this wave of materialism to remind the people of the true essence of their deen.

Of those great scholars of that time, Sheikh Nadwi singled out Imam al-Hasan al-Basri (may Allah be pleased with him).

His early days
He was born 21 A.H. His father Yasar was the servant of Zaid bin Thabit, the companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him). His mother Khayyirah was the servant of Umm Salamah, the wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and it is in her house that al-Hasan grew up and met many of the companions (may Allah be pleased with them) and heard from them, making him of the greatest of the Tabi'een (followerd of the companions).

His knowledge and passion
He had vast knowledge of the Quran and Hadith. Moreover, he was attentive to the details of the society he lived in: its different classes, manners, illnesses and cures. He was also a very articulate and charismatic person, one who captures and moves people with his words. Most importantly, his passion, sincerity and eman were what made his words sink right into the hearts of the people. Al-Ghazali describes him as "one whose words are the closest to the words of the prophets (peace be upon them), and whose guidance is the closest to that of the companions (may Allah be pleased with them)."

His method of dawah
Al-Basri's advise to the people revolved around reminding them of the shortness and treachery of this life, and the ever-lastingness of the Hereafter. He described in his talks the times of the companions and compared it to his time, and how much the faith and manners of the Muslim ummah had deteriorated.

He also displayed courage in facing the rulers with the truth and reminding them of their duties and responsibilities for which they will one day be held accountable by Allah (swt).

Al-Hasan al-Basri was not just another scholar or man of dawah who lectured or gave classes. He combined practical tarbiyah (disciplining/upbringing) with spiritual tazkiyah (purification) and was able to guide many to live the true Islam and taste the sweetness of Iman.

His death
He passed away in 110 A.H. in Damascus. It is narrated that his funeral was after Friday prayers and that all the people were busied by it that day to the extent that 'asr prayer did not take place in the city's masjid that day because there was no one left there to pray.

May Allah (swt) be pleased with him and bless us with some of his sincerity and passion for guiding the Muslim ummah to the straight path, ameen.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The first Revivor: Umar bin Abdul Aziz

Intro here

Sheikh Nadwi mentions several key characteristics that marked the short Ummayid rule of the Muslim world. Those include the return of the tribalism mentality and the idea of the superiority of one race over another (particularly Arabs over non-Arabs), which the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him) had worked hard to eradicate. Also, there was a very dangerous change in the drivers and motivators of people, for many no longer performed good deeds (fighting in battle, generosity to neighbours,...) to get closer to Allah (swt), but rather to be talked about amongst the people.

There was also the unjustness of the rulers who would take from the poor and spend on their lavish lifestyles. Thus came to existance a very pampered 'aristocratic' class of people who were preoccupied by worldly pleasures. Nevertheless, this did not affect the majority of the ummah who still had a great respect for scholars and rightoeous people.

This is the world into which Umar bin Abdul Aziz was born and in which he was raised. It was said that his perfume could be smelt everywhere he went and that he had a particularly elegant walk which some of the women would try to learn. That was before his ascension to the 'throne' of khilafah.

The first thing he did was replace the unjust rulers of the Muslim provinces. He stopped the opressive taxes and was strict about rulers not accepting gifts or bribes, and about them not spending lavishly of the people's wealth.

On a personal level, he returned all the gifts he got to beit al-mal (the treasury of the ummah)and gave of his wealth and his wife's jewlery in charity. His zuhd and aversion of worldly comforts and pleasure was beyond that of any of the worshippers, let alone kings. He was also very conscious about not spending any of the ummah's wealth on himself. He would put off a candle which was fueled by money from the treasury if one busied him asking about himself (Umar's wellbeing).

He opened his doors to the people and announced rewards to those who would bring him news of the true state of society, or would advise him on something of benefit to the ummah.

He was able to embody the role of a true Muslim khalifah, one who takes responsiblity of the administrative and ruling affairs of the state, yet is also responsible for the knowledge and righteousness of the people (a role which had become restricted to the scholars of the time). He would send letters to the rulers of the Muslim provinces reminding them of their duties, guiding them to the straight path, enjoining the good and forbidding the evil.

Afterall, Umar bin Abdul Aziz was a knowledgable scholar of his own right. Mujahid (a famous scholar of the time) had said of him:"we came to him to teach him, but we did not leave until we learnt from him".

One of the greatest favors of this revivor on the Muslim ummah is his attention to the Hadith of the Prophet of Allah (peace be upon him). For although hadith was written as early as the time of the Prophet (peace be upon him), it was Omar bin Abdel Aziz who started the movement of collecting and preserving it by focusing the scholars' attention to it, just as his great grandfather Omar bin Al Khattab had encouraged the first khalifah Abu Baker al-Sideeq to do with the Quran (for more on Hadith collection, check out this post).

The effects
The reforms which Omar bin Abdel Aziz began were not favoured by all, and some worried they would lead to financial crises and losses for the ummah. However, what happened was to the contrary. The Muslim ummah was blessed with prosperity and security to an extent that the rich did not know where to spend their zakat. Yahya ibn Saeed narrates that Umar bin Abdul Aziz sent him to collect zakat from Africa. He did so, but could not find any poor people deserving of the money so he used it to free slaves.

The great khalifah passed away in 101 A.H., only two years and five months from the day he took responsibility of leading the Muslim ummah. May Allah (swt) have mercy on him and reward him for his great deeds.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Seven Modern "Deadly" Sins According to the Catholic Church

  1. Genetic modification
  2. Experiments on the person
  3. Environmental pollution
  4. Taking or selling illegal drugs
  5. Social injustice
  6. Causing poverty 
  7. Financial greed.
Source (and an interesting discussion on the sins of men versus women): BBC News

Monday, February 16, 2009

The [European] Left and Islamic Resistance

A follow up to this post, albeit from a different point of view.

Excerpts below from a speech by Nadine Rosa-Rosso, a Brussels-based independent Marxist, at The Beirut International Forum for Resistance, Anti-Imperialism, Solidarity between Peoples and Alternatives, held from January 16 to 18, 2009 ( full text also here):

The massive demonstrations in European capitals and major cities in support of the people of Gaza highlighted once again the core problem: the vast majority of the Left, including communists, agrees in supporting the people of Gaza against Israeli aggression, but refuses to support its political expressions such as Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The Left not only refuses to support them, but also denounces them and fights against them. Support for the people of Gaza exists only at a humanitarian level but not at the political level.


At all the demonstrations I participated in Brussels, I asked some demonstrators to translate the slogans that were chanted in Arabic, and they did so with pleasure every time. I heard a lot of support for the Palestinian resistance and denunciation of Arab governments (in particular the Egyptian President Mubarak), Israel's crimes, and the deafening silence of the international community or the complicity of the European Union. In my opinion, these were all political slogans quite appropriate to the situation. But surely some people only hear Allah-u-akbar and form their opinion on this basis. The very fact that slogans are shouted in Arabic is sometimes enough to irritate the Left. For example, the organizing committee of the meeting of 11 January was concerned about which languages would be used. But could we not have simply distributed the translations of these slogans? This might be the first step towards mutual understanding. When we demonstrated in 1973 against the pro-American military takeover by Pinochet in Chile, no one would have dared to tell the Latin American demonstrators "Please, chant in French!” In order to lead this fight, we all learnt slogans in Spanish and no one was offended.

If we would agree to stop staring blindly and with prejudice at the religious beliefs of people, we would perhaps "learn to understand" why the Arab and Muslim masses, who today demonstrate for Palestine, are screaming ‘Down with Mubarak’, an Arab and Muslim leader, and why they jubilantly shout the name of Chavez, a Christian-Latin American leader. Doesn’t this make it obvious that the Arab and Muslim masses frame their references not primarily through religion but by the relation of leaders to US and Zionist Imperialism?

And if the Left would formulate the issue in these terms, would they not partly regain the support of the people that formerly gave the Left its strength?

Another cause of paralysis of the Left in the anti-imperialist struggle is the fear of being associated with terrorism.

On the 11th of January 2009, the president of the German Chamber of Representatives, Walter Momper, the head of the parliamentarian group of ‘Die Grüne’ (the German Greens), Franziska Eichstädt-Bohlig, a leader of ‘Die Linke’, Klaus Lederer, and others held a demonstration in Berlin with 3000 participants to support Israel under the slogan ‘stop the terror of Hamas’. One must keep in mind that Die Linke are considered by many in Europe as the new and credible alternative Left, and an example to follow.

The entire history of colonisation and decolonisation is the history of land that has been stolen by military force and has been reclaimed by force. From Algeria to Vietnam, from Cuba to South-Africa, from Congo to Palestine: no colonial power ever renounced to its domination by means of negotiation or political dialogue alone.

Nadine's criticism is powerful because it comes from an athiest, European, leftist who is able to take a step back and point out the racist, islamophobic, and imperialist glasses through which the European 'left' views the world, wether they realize it or not.

This is important to take into consideration when discussing not only global protests and resistance to Zionism/neocolonialism but also the status and 'integration' of Muslims in Europe.

Finally, comments below from a I.K. (thanks for forwarding speech and comments!), in relation to US 'Left':

One additional comment I would add, is that it is important to note that the author is characterizing major trends of the "European Left" specifically "traditional" Marxist/Communist political organizing which has a long history there. There are, however, some elements of "Third Worldist" leftists that view Islamists in a more positive way.

In the USA, this could be seen reflected in the differences between UFPJ (which has its organizing base in the much older Communist Party of the United States (CP USA) and ANSWER (which currently has its organizing base in the Party for Socialism and Liberation; but before the 2004 split, in the Workers World Party).

Traditional Marxists (like many in Europe) do not see beyond "class" as an organizing unit, neglecting the national aspirations of Third World nations that may very well organize beyond "class" including the use of religion.

Friday, February 13, 2009

An inspiring read...

It's called Rijjal al-Fikr wa ad-Da'wah fi al-Islam [Men of Thought and Dawah in Islam]. The book came about when the great Indian Muslim scholar Abu al-Hasan Ali al-Nadawai , may Allah (swt) have mercy on him, was invited to give a series of lectures at the University of Damascus. After much thought he picked the topic of revivors throughout Islamic history. The lectures were a huge success and were eventually turned into a very popular book. I've been trying to get my hands on it for a couple of years now and finally managed to borrow a copy, alhamdulilAllah. (Funny thing with books of knowledge, Allah (swt) sends them at the perfect time.)

The book covers seven giants of Islamic history, may Allah (swt) have mercy upon them and be pleased with them: Omar bin Abd-el-Aziz (62-101 A.H.), al-Hasan al-Basri (21-110 A.H.), Ahmad ibn Hanbal (164-241 A.H.), Abul-Hasan al- Asha'ri (270-324 A.H.), Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (450-505 A.H.), Abdul Qadir al-Jilani(470-561 A.H.), Jalal ad-Deen ar-Roumi (604-672 A.H.).

The power of the book lies in the fact that it is not simply a collection of biographies. Rather than focus on the lives of the great scholars, the author chooses to present their lives and achievements in the context of the larger historical events and the particular challenges facing the dawah movement and the Muslim ummah at the time, be them theological, societal, or political (usually a combination of the three).

Although each reformer had his own personal characteristics and faced unique challenges, there is definitely a consistent theme throughout the book: particular traits that are common in all of the above named scholars.

There are the obvious ones: Their solid knowledge of the deen which they acquired though spending years with great teachers of their time. However, their insatiable quest for knowledge did not distract them from their ibadah (worship) nor their work and worldly duties (ruling, teaching, working,...). This balance was essential.
There was also their unparalleled motivation and sincerity to use their knowledge and abilities to benefit their ummah the best way they can. They all worked tirelessly for the sake of this deen until their very last breath, may Allah (swt) reward them for their efforts.

There was also their zuhd, their complete disregard for the pleasures of this world. Not only did they refuse to sell their knowledge for worldly gains, or be satisfied with high-ranking positions in governmental institutions and universities, they stood against the tyrants of their time and were not afraid to speak out against the injustices committed by Muslim rulers, sometimes in the name of Islam.

However, what really distinguished these inspirational figures was their ability to not only grasp the sacred knowledge and be famous scholars and leaders within academic circles, but to also understand the unique challenges of their times and societies well and be able to bring about a revolution of thought in applying the sacred knowledge to revive the people's faith and fight falsehood, which ever form it may have taken.

Out of the many powerful points made in the introduction of the book, there was one key point which stood out. The Muslim ummah has gone through many turbulent times and been exposed to numerous external and internal threats, yet Islam remains strong and virtually unchanged 1400 years later. Why? First, it the vitality of this religion which Allah (swt) has made to be appropriate for all places and all times. The second is that Allah (swt) has promised to provide this ummah with strong, pious, knowledgable, fearless revivors to ensure the the continuity and regeneration of this deen till the end of time, a blessing which he has not provided to any other religion or group.

The author goes on to point out that history books may only highlight a handful of individuals, thus it may seem that the lineage of revivors is scattered and discontinuous. However, for those who dive deep into the books of history and knowledge, it becomes obvious that the movement of Islamic revival is a continuous one, for there has never been a time which was devoid of righteous groups and individuals striving to call out to the truth, speak out against injustice, challenge tyranny and corruption, and open new windows of thought and reform.

God willing, I hope to be able to post glimpses of the scholars lives from the book in the coming weeks...short stories which I found particularly touching and inspiring (if I get lazy please start nagging).

May Allah (swt) make us of those whom He uses in His Way, ameen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Need more motivation to fast every week?

If 70 years away from hell fire is not enough...

Something about the way Americans eat isn’t working – and hasn’t been for a long time. The number of obese Americans is now greater than the number who are merely overweight, according to government figures released last month. It’s as if once we taste food, we can’t stop until we’ve gorged ourselves. Taking that inclination into account, some people are adopting an unusual solution to overeating. Rather than battling temptation in grocery stores, restaurants and their own kitchens, they simply don’t eat. At least not at certain times of the day or specific days of the week. Called intermittent fasting, this rather stark approach to weight control appears to be supported by science, not to mention various religious and cultural practices around the globe.


“There is something kind of magical about starvation,” says Dr. Marc Hellerstein, a professor of endocrinology, metabolism and nutrition at UC Berkeley, who studies fasting.

Adds Mark P. Mattson, chief of the laboratory of neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging: “In normal health subjects, moderate fasting – maybe one day a week or cutting back on calories a couple of days a week – will have health benefits for most anybody.” Mattson is among the leading researchers on the effects of calorie restriction and the brain.


“We’re brilliant at this,” Hellerstein says, referring to humans’ physical reaction to not eating. “We’re not good at responding to too many calories, but we’re very good at responding to fasting...

Read more here

Hat tip: Yasmin N.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

State of Seige

By Mahmoud Darwish

Tomorrow we will love life.
When tomorrow comes, life will be something to adore
just as it is, ordinary, or tricky
gray, or colourful…stripped of judgement day and
purgatory… and if joy is a necessity
let it be
light on the heart and the back
Once embittered by joy, twice shy

[To a killer:] If you reflected upon the face
of the victim you slew, you would have remembered
your mother in the room full of gas. You would have freed
yourself of the bullet’s wisdom, and changed your mind: ‘I
will never find myself thus.’

[To another killer:] If you left the foetus thirty days
in its mother’s womb, things would have been different.
The occupation would be over and this suckling infant
would forget the time of the siege and grow up a healthy
child reading at school, with one of your daughters
the ancient history of Asia.
They might even fall in love
and give birth to a daughter [she would be Jewish by birth].
What, then, have you done now?
Your daughter is now a widow
and your granddaughter an orphan.
What have you done with your scattered family?
And how have you slain three doves in one story?

Reem is one of 8 US lawyers visiting Gaza as reps of the US National Lawyers Guild...the devastation and horror she is witnessing is not just beyond words, it is beyond tears...but she has managed to share her words (and tears) here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Ha'aretz Took It Down, So We're Posting It

Gaza residents: IDF troops posing as Hamas men

By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent

The testimonies of Gaza Strip residents are revealing new details about the Israel Defense Forces' mode of operation there. In the past two days, Beit Lahia residents forced from their homes said soldiers were posing as members of Hamas' armed wing while advancing on the ground.

The daily pauses in bombing allow Gazans to meet with the displaced - most of whom are housed in an UNRWA school - and hear their stories.

Gaza resident S. told Haaretz he heard several people say they saw armed men wearing the uniforms and symbols of the Iz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, who "called out to each other in Arabic, as if they had caught a collaborator, and then, with the element of surprise, went into the houses."

A Gaza radio station warned that troops posing as locals were driving a vehicle normally used by paramedics. Residents said the radio broadcaster listed the vehicle's license plate number and color.

Haaretz has also learned that one of the army's methods for evacuating a home is to fire a missile toward its upper level. That is how B.'s house in Sajaiyeh was destroyed. It was bombed just a few minutes after a missile struck and 40 shell-shocked family members walked out of the house.

The IDF has also forced at least 40,000 people to leave their homes in agricultural and border areas. In Rafah, most of the 20,000 people removed from their homes were lodging with relatives and not in UNRWA facilities.

Source: Ha'aretz

Monday, February 2, 2009

Aid in one hand bible in the other

Yes, it still happens...

KHARTOUM - A US aid group has been expelled from Sudan's war-hit region of Darfur for having a large stock of Arabic-language bibles, the official SUNA news agency reported on Saturday.

The Texas-based "Thirst No More" humanitarian group's Internet website says its work in Darfur focuses on "bringing clean, safe, and sustainable drinking water," with no reference to Christian missionary work or distribution of bibles in Muslim Darfur.

A Sudanese official said members of the group have admitted possessing 3,400 bibles in Arabic in violation of laws and agreements governing the work of humanitarian organisations in the country.

Continue here

Also, to find out why Save Darfur can't save Darfur, check out this post.