Saturday, March 31, 2007

Self empowerment - Sunnah Style

Feeling lazy or depressed these days? I've got the perfect dua` for you:

Allah's Messenger, sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam, would often pray,"O Allah! I seek your protection from anxiety and grief, from incapacity and laziness, from stinginess and cowardice, and from the burden of debt and the domination of people."

I didn't even have to go look this up; it landed straight in my inbox! Sheikh Muhammad AlSharif (yeah, the AlMaghrib Institute guy) started this project where you can subscribe to a list online and get weekly email tips from the Quran and authentic Sunnah about leading a successful life.

Here's what he has to say about it:

All around us, self-help gurus (not Shaykhs, gurus) and personal development coaches offer us tips on how to be successful. Any Muslim that attends these workshops or listens to this advice can 'sense' that all of this and much more is already a slice of Islam. Yet, not too many Muslims know where to access this success advice and guidance from Islamic sources.

Rejoice Now! The solution is here: I'm SOOO excited to share with you my mass-scale da'wah solution! Every week for one year,I will send you a short but powerful verse or hadith related to success conditioning. I personally selected each one - this is not a copy/paste collection. Some of the hadith you may have read before, but will love being reminded. Others you will be learning for the first time, and will love the depth it brings to your life and loved ones.

"Not another email list!" you say? Trust me, this is different. Go ahead, just try it out! It's free and will only take a minute of your precious time.

Jazakum Allah khairan Sheikh Muhammad AlSharif!

(You can leave your shameless plugs about the next AlMaghrib class in the comments section below.)

Day of the Land - A Lasting Stand for Liberation and Return

(Free Palestine Alliance - USA)

March 30, is Day of the Land ("Yaoum Al-Ard") for the Palestinian people.

In 1976, Palestinian Arab masses within the areas colonized by Zionism in 1948 rose up in the Galilee (Al-Jaleel) in a popular rebellion against land expropriation and Zionization of Palestine. From that day, March 30th has become the embodiment of the oneness of the Palestinian people in the face of exile, destitution, and attempted theft of our national identity. Successive uprisings have since taken place, mostly within 1967 borders, just as they have been all over Palestine since the turn of the 20th century in opposition of consecutive colonial policies.

It is a day to celebrate the relentless resistance of a people facing conspiracies at the hands of a tripartite assault: US imperial designs, the Zionist movement, and despotic Arab functionaries. Only yesterday, functionaries wearing the garbs of national leaders, completed their assembly in Riyadh, the heart of the Arab peninsula (Al-Jazeera Al-Arabiyya), as they convened the Nineteenth Arab Summit for the purpose of reaffirming the so-called "Arab Initiative", which capitulates in total to the demands of Israel and the US State Department. In addition to transforming Arab land into playgrounds for invading armies, another key part of this presumably Arab plan is to open wide the Arab gates for Zionist normalization while simultaneously using linguistic acrobatics and detractions, like "finding a solution of the refugee problem", or "solving the refugee problem in accordance with international law", to terminate the Palestinian Right of Return.

We warn that any language that explicitly avoids supporting the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees to their original homes and property along with payment of all due compensation, is an attempt to maneuver around this non-negotiable and inalienable right. We also warn of language that talks about a Palestinian state within 1967 border and remind all that Palestinian land is not divisible.

These same leaders also had the audacity to speak of Arab unity and to issue a fake criticism of the US ongoing destruction of Iraq. As if we are to forget that it is these very functionaries who either opened Arab gates for the US armed forces to overtake Iraq, or rode in as conquerors of Iraq on US Humvees, and who continue to make Arab lands available for US imperial military bases. They are the ones who watched from the sidelines as Israeli forces swept into Lebanon scorching the land and people, some even cheering the Israelis to finish the job quickly; although to their dismay, Israel instead was dealt a major defeat. They are the ones who bartered Palestine and its people for crumbs at the back doors of the White House, while watching successive policies of strangulation further cripple the besieged Palestinian people. And as they speak of "unity", in reality they are implementing US designs of sectarianism and de-Arabization, pitting even families against each other, as evident in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.

Our Day of the Land is a sustaining challenge to these very political programs. It is a unifying cry that insists on the Arab belonging of Palestine despite the passage of time. It is our people's stance for history to record that we are one and indivisible.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Fajr - The Hidden Treasure

So often, I see timestamps for messages I've been sent or blog posts of young Muslims, and a tinge of sadness stabs my heart. Even now, I'm looking at my computer clock flashing 11:33pm and a voice deep inside of me says, "It's too late...hurry and get some sleep so you can wake up for fajr."

The culture of young people in this country is that of the night. The world of young people comes alive post-10:00pm. Parties, clubs, exam cramming sessions, internet chatting, video's all done way after ishaa prayer, and this culture is interfering with our effectiveness as Muslim youth.

First and foremost, this night life is preventing us from waking up for fajr. And even if we are waking up for fajr, we're so out of it that our prayers are not heartfelt.

Failing to wake up for fajr or failing to pray fajr in any meaningful manner is no small matter. My best friend gave me an analogy to crystalize just how much we lose when we miss fajr prayer. She said, "Imagine that every morning right before fajr time, someone came to your front door and left a bag of $10,000.00 on the porch. What would you do if you knew it was there? Would you lie in bed and keep pressing snooze on the alarm? Or would you fly out and grab that bag of money?"

Of course, I knew my answer. But what was even more disturbing was when I considered if the amount was less, say $100 each morning, $50, $25, $10, $1. One dollar on the porch would be an extra $365 per year. And the only thing I had to do for that extra cash was to get out of bed and go get it.

When I thought about how easily I would get out of bed for $1 each day, I became dismayed at our reticence to wake up for fajr when we know that the reward for each of our fajr prayers far exceed $1 per day or even $10,000.00 per day. And yet, when that alarm goes off at 5:30, throwing off our sheets to grab that prize is the farthest thing from our thoughts. Even if we do get out of bed, it's usually begrudgingly.

What would you do if you knew that, for example, your favorite football player, celebrity, or world leader was going to knock on your door at 5:00am tomorrow? Would you be lying in your bed dreading the alarm? No way! You would be up, in the lounge, getting cleaned up and looking sharp for this opportunity! You would have your house cleaned up and your bed made!

But when Allah (swt), tells us that He is going to come to meet with us each morning, we ignore Him. He's at the front door, knocking. Allah (swt) wants to spend time with you, to listen to you, help you, spend quality time with you. But we're sleeping through this miracle.

And even if we do wake up and go make wudu, we look beat. We're sporting oversized sweat pants with tshirts that don't match. We're wearing crazy looking enormous hijabs wrapped sloppily around our heads, green and red and orange all at once. We throw our hands back, "Allahu Akbar"...yeah right. Think about that. Allahu Akbar. Allah is the greatest and yet we come to a meeting with him looking like we picked out your clothes while blindfolded. Would you open the door for LaDanian Tomlinson or Tiger Woods looking like that? Then why for Allah?

The culture of the night must be purged from our ummah. The stories of the Prophet have wisdom behind them. He accomplished more in twenty years than you or I will ever accomplish, even if we live 120 years. And yet, his sunnah was to sleep soon after ishaa. After the night prayer, he would start settling down, bringing quiet into his household and his community. He slept early and awoke before fajr so as to catch the last 1/3 of the night and use it wisely to gain Allah's blessings.

Fajr wasn't the Prophet's first event of the day. By the time fajr came in, the Prophet (pbuh) had already begun.

It's ok to be different. It's ok to tell people that you can't go out late because you have to sleep and wake up early for prayers. Think of all that will improve if you reject this midnight culture. You will have a better relationship with Allah. You will get your studying done sooner and therefore, you won't be cramming and stressing last minute. You'll also be healthier, more rested and in much better emotional spirits. And you'll be closer to following the Prophet's sunnah, which has innuerable benefits.

As Salatu Khairun min an Naum

Rosie O'Donnell on Iran and Tower 7

If you can get past the poor video quality, you'll love this!

Recommended by Alia Aboul-Nasr

Thursday, March 29, 2007

300: The Review (abridged)

I just saw 300 in the IMAX Theater this past weekend. It is virtually undisputed that this movie looks and sounds amazing. So I will leave that alone. What is in dispute however are the underlying tones of the movie; the representation and significance in light of the world’s political climate, and its potential impact on public audiences and opinions created. The reader will fall under one of the three following theories. (This review assumes the reader has seen the movie)

Theory 1: The roles of the warring parties are clear and distinct.

It takes less brainpower to tell oneself that what they are seeing is obvious. So what do we see? The Spartans represent the western world and the Persians represent the Middle East. Leonidas’ army represents the free-world; small in number at first (similar to the Bush administration being practically alone among Western powers when appealing to invade Iraq), 300 muscular and chiseled 6-pack men, confident, glowing, “the finest soldiers the world has ever known”. Xerxes’ army is an unorganized, rag-tag bunch of hooligans, mostly slaves untrained in the art of combat. They are dark-skinned, funny sounding people. Very funny sounding. It is without doubt that these images create a perception in people’s minds even if they are overly exaggerated. It creates a sense of acceptance that whatever is going on in the Middle East is ok because these people are scary looking and unfamiliar. Add some goat-men, crab-men, prehistorically-looking rhinoceroses, and a crazy zombie giant in the mix to emphasize how unlike us they really are. Bizarre? This tactic was commonly used in the political cartoons of World War II against the Germans and the Japanese.

The last war cry of the film: “This day we rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny, and usher in a future brighter than anything we could imagine!” Sound familiar? Haven’t we heard the Bush administration’s trumpeting on about how they believe as if they should save the world (the Muslim world in particular) with its American brand of democracy? It sounded better in the movie, because back in Ancient Greece practically EVERYONE was an orator. But Mysticism and tyranny? I thought it was the Spartans who consulted a sexy, intoxicated virgin female’s intuition to decide whether to engage in battle. I thought that the Spartans were known to kill off their “weak” and “unfit” offspring. This could all just be a dirty mirror, which brings to theory number 2.

Theory 2: The roles are actually reversed.

It may be a stretch, but it is a more-so-than-not accepted that Zack Snyder and Frank Miller are not without a sense of clever subtlety, that the Persian army actually represents America and the Spartans represent the Middle East. The Persians were bent on spreading their influences to every corner of the world, and the last stop was Sparta. History tells us that over-confidence and cockiness is the common ingredient in the demise of every empire. Although the Persians beat the Spartans, the Persians suffered great loses. Innumerable loses in perspective. Similarly, America under-estimated their invasion of Iraq and now they are stuck in a four year long conflict. After the defeat of the 300, will communities and countries join together against the imperialistic power…bound by an “enough is enough” mentality? Is this message prophetic in any way? Hard to say, because it is more favorable to be associated with the looks of a hero than a scoundrel and therefore, no lesson would be learned from it. One of my favorite lines of the movie: “The Immortals, they failed our king's [Leonidas] test, and a man [Xerxes] who fancies himself a god feels a very human chill run up his spine.” I would like to think that this line illustrates the cockiness of imperialist powers of history and specifically the handling of Iraq by the Bush administration.

This theory is probably the most difficult to see because it takes some Socratic self-questioning and critical thinking. Reserved for the few truly curious people left in the world. The movie would scream to us, we should not be in the Middle East because we really do not have any business there. What business did the Persian Empire have in Ancient Greece? “Land and water”. Valuable resources.

Theory 3: Relax, it is just a movie!

It takes even LESS brainpower to tell oneself that what they are seeing is the obvious, AND it is purely for entertainment. And because it is purely entertainment, perceptions will leave people’s minds as soon as they enter. Believe it or not, this is probably the most unlikely of the three. But it might have been the intention all along. “Very accurate, detailed figures walking around in battle is boring,” Frank Miller said. “The most important thing was to strip them down to helmets and red capes…. Spartans move like lightning. Reality be damned.” (LA Times)

So is this movie any reflection of reality? That depends on you the reader. There are different possibilities and interpretations out there for everything. A little bit of curiosity can go a long way. Ask yourself if you are willing to put in the effort to explore.

In the seven years he worked on the film, Zack Snyder said, “The politics caught up with us. I've had people ask me if Xerxes or Leonidas is George W. Bush. I say, ‘Great. Awesome. If it inspires you to think about the current geopolitical situation, cool.’”


Racist cartoons of WWII

LA Times article

The Battle of Thermopylae (what movie is based on)

US brings democracy to Cuba...yeah right!

Castro seems to be recovering well, but I still thought this cartoon someone forwarded me (originally found here) was worth sharing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Shaykh Mishary Rashid Al `Afasy at IIOC

As many of you know, or don't know, Shaykh Mishary Rashid Al `Afasy is in southern California and has been reciting Qur'an at several events/mosques in Orange County. Here's a live recording of `Isha' Prayer at the Islamic Institute of Orange County/Masjid Omar Farouk. He recites Surat Al Qiyyamah and Surat Al `Ala with tears.

If you want to hear more live audio recordings please check here

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Cab-driving while Muslim

This article in today's LA Times is not the first I come across on the 'controversy' about Muslim cab drivers refusing to take passengers carrying alcohol. In this particular instance, it's Somali cab drivers in Minneapolis (who make up over 70% of licenced cab drivers in that city).

This is the drivers' position:

"Nobody asks you what's in your luggage," said driver Abikar Abdulahi, 24. "But if it's in a box that we can see, we can't take it."

If they ever did knowingly transport alcohol, the drivers say, they would have to answer to God on Judgment Day.

This is how their position is misconstrued:

"[Do] I have to hide my Star of David necklace to get service … do I have to wear a burka?" another asked.

Who said anything about a dress code??


"You call a cab, but he can't give you a ride," he started.

"Because you have alcohol on your breath," Psihos said, finishing his thought.

"I mean, that's why I need the ride!" said Wohlwend, 39. "Because I'm hammered!"

Who said anything about transporting drunk people? And by the way, even if they did refuse (although I don't think they would on religious basis), they're allowed to by law as the article later quotes: "Drivers may legally refuse to carry passengers who appear drunk or dangerous..."

Oh, and check this out:

Spokesmen for two national Muslim organizations said they had not seen similar conflicts anywhere else. The refusal to transport alcohol (and to scan pork products) appears limited to Somalian immigrants in the Twin Cities. Their strict interpretation of the Koran does not have universal support among local Muslims.

Who do you think these "national Muslim organizations" are that are speaking on behalf of the American Muslim community? ISNA? Fiqh Council? CAIR? MPAC? Not even close. The Somali Justice Advocacy Center and the Confederation of Somali Community. Basically, professional, ethnic-based (not faith-based) organizations that are by no means qualified to issue a judgement on this issue.

Personally, I completely understand the Muslim cab driver's position. I am by no means qualified to issue a ruling on this issue, but as an average Muslim Jane the cab drivers' position does not seem to be an overly strict or 'extreme' interpretation of Islamic law.

On the other hand, I'm not so sure about the position of Muslim supermarket cashiers refusing to handle pork items (which the article also mentions). Although both alcohol and pork are prohibited Islamically, the rulings on handling and transporting them are different (to my limited knowledge).

Has anyone done any research on these issues? I would be interested to know what the scholarly opinions are regarding them.

Once that's all figured out, we need to work on sharing the information with the public and clearing up the media distortions. But we have to know what we're talking about first.


Israeli soldiers unleash dog on Palestinian woman

Monday, March 26, 2007

Advice from a MSA Alum and a Young Muslim “Activist”

by Cassie Williams

We’re activists. We are passionate about issues that are close to our hearts – Palestine, dispelling misconceptions about Islam, the war in Iraq, Imam Jameel, etc. Throughout the year, at campuses around the state and country, we see young Muslim students getting riled up about this or that, putting on protests, rallies, lectures, seminars, Fast-a-Thons, and sit-ins to promote these heartfelt issues.

But where is Allah swt in the mix? Where is Islam? Where is our spirituality?

We say that we are speaking out and doing all this for the sake of Allah….but are we?

How many times have we, as Muslim students, prior to an MSA sponsored event, sat down together as a group, in a circle and just made du’aa together and asked Allah swt to put His blessing in the event, to add barakah to our studying for all the effort that we put in to working for His cause, to open the eyes of the ignorant, to open the hearts of our opponents, to open the ears of those who have previously refused to listen?

How many times have we sat down together as an MSA before making a decision on how to handle a controversial situation and asked Allah to guide our decision-making process and lead us down the straight path?

How many times have we openly and sincerely prayed for our adversaries like Daniel Pipes, Paul Wolfowitz and the like?

We don’t do these things because we sometimes lose sight of the legacy of our deen when our hearts are stirring with the fires of passion, anger, and activism. But let us not forget our legacy, especially the legacy that our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) left for us. He left us with myriad stories of how he handled situations very similar to the ones we face on our campuses and communities.

For example, we all know the story of the Prophet’s visit to the people of Taif. He came to bring them the message of peace, the most amazing message ever revealed, that of Islam. He came gently, humbly, respectfully. And what did they do? They ran him out of Taif, throwing stones at him and taunting him until he bled as he fled for safety. And as he left Taif, angels from Allah swt came to the Prophet (pbuh) and said to him,

“O, Prophet of Allah! I am at your service. If you wish, I can cause the mountains overlooking this town on both sides to collide with each other, so that all the people therein would be crushed to death, or you may suggest any other punishment for them."

The Prophet (pbuh) replied with this amazing words that we should remember at all times, “Even if these people do not accept Islam, I do hope from Allah that there will be persons from among their progeny who would worship Allah and serve His cause."

The Prophet (pbuh) faced much more treacherous adversaries, much stronger, bolder, more brazen adversaries than the likes of Daniel Pipes. The story of the Prophet’s journey to Taif is just one in hundreds, if not thousands of stories that we, as students, must contemplate, reflect upon, share with one another, and act upon.

These are not just stories for us to memorize. They are pieces of a complete instruction manual that the Prophet (pbuh) left for our benefit. Each story has its place in our lives. And until we realize that our activism will not be complete without deep reflection, du’aa and purification of the soul, we will continue to waste the legacy of our beloved Messenger and make a lot of clamor without a lot of success.

I hope that this will be an opportunity for us to take some time together to think about the purpose and intentions of the Muslim Student groups on our college and high school campuses. Maybe we can think about how to implement the character of the Prophet, his sunnah, du’aa, and true supplication for Allah’s blessing and guidance in our youth activities.

Our work is futile without the blessing of Allah swt. Therefore, sit together as an entire MSA, go around the group and allow each person to share their du’aa for an upcoming event. Not only will this ensure that you allow Allah swt to take the reigns, it will also bring you closer together as a group, as brothers and sisters for the sake of Allah swt. The joining together of spirituality and activism is an amazing dynamic when practiced regularly.

I pray that Allah swt inspires you to implement this harmonious link in your MSAs. I pray that Allah swt guides you all in your personal activism and in your personal spiritual growth. I pray that Allah swt leads you toward fulfilling the rich, bountiful history left by our Prophet (pbuh) and his followers. I pray that Allah swt gives you success and allows your activities to help open the eyes, ears, and hearts of those you target. And I pray that Allah swt will join us all together, all the young Muslim activists who worked for His cause, on the Day of Judgment and will keep us in His shade and place us on pillars of light reserved for those who loved one another for His sake. Ameen.

'War on Terror': terrorizing Americans into consent

Its about time articles like this one by Zbigniew Brzezinski are published in the mainstream American press.

American Muslims as well as peace activists in the US and around the world have been bringing up the same points against the fear strategy called 'War on Terror' since the the very beginning of the 'War on Terror', but they were accused of being unpatriotic cowards, or worse, of supporting terrorism.

It is only now, over 5 years later, that such arguments are being heard and accepted by the American public.

Below are excerpts from the Brzezinski's article "Terrorized by 'War on Terror'" (emphasis mine):

The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world.

The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream.

To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

Government at every level has stimulated the paranoia. Consider, for example, the electronic billboards over interstate highways urging motorists to "Report Suspicious Activity" (drivers in turbans?). Some mass media have made their own contribution. The cable channels and some print media have found that horror scenarios attract audiences, while terror "experts" as "consultants" provide authenticity for the apocalyptic visions fed to the American public. Hence the proliferation of programs with bearded "terrorists" as the central villains. Their general effect is to reinforce the sense of the unknown but lurking danger that is said to increasingly threaten the lives of all Americans.

The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.

The atmosphere generated by the "war on terror" has encouraged legal and political harassment of Arab Americans (generally loyal Americans) for conduct that has not been unique to them.

The record is even more troubling in the general area of civil rights. The culture of fear has bred intolerance, suspicion of foreigners and the adoption of legal procedures that undermine fundamental notions of justice. Innocent until proven guilty has been diluted if not undone, with some -- even U.S. citizens -- incarcerated for lengthy periods of time without effective and prompt access to due process. There is no known, hard evidence that such excess has prevented significant acts of terrorism, and convictions for would-be terrorists of any kind have been few and far between. Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting intolerance against the few.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

A Trip to Tijuana's "Maquiladoras"

White crosses placed on the Mexican side of the border. Each cross bears the name of one immigrant who died trying to cross the border.

By Guest Blogger Jameel Besada

I recently took a trip down to Tijuana, Mexico to examine the effects of the sweatshops or “maquiladoras” and the living conditions they indirectly create.

My first stop was Otay Industrial Park, a non functioning maquiladora perched upon a hill overlooking a small village. It was here an American entrepreneur once set up a maquiladora for the purposes of disposing the contents of car and marine batteries. These batteries, once filled with toxins such as lead, were then emptied. However, to secure a bigger profit, the American businessman buried the lead in the ground, instead of disposing of it properly, thus allowing it to seep into the soil. During heavy rains, the runoff is saturated with lead as it streams down the hill and into the village below, causing multiple health risks for its inhabitants. The Mexican government tried suing the American businessman, but he eventually fled the country and is now living comfortably in San Diego.

Shanty town in Tijuana: the buildings are made of wood, meant for temporary residence. Also, the town is bisected by this very polluted river which children are forced to play around.

My next stop was visiting a maquiladora workers’ neighborhood. This shanty town is comprised of dozens of 12x8 wooden structures along with a polluted stream running through the middle of the town. Children play in and around the neighborhood without the slightest knowledge that there are hundreds of pollutants in the water. It is also here where the workers live during their temporary employment in the maquiladoras. Due to the nature of these buildings, the workers are unable to secure potable water, electricity, and proper sewage disposal.

This unfortunately is just one of hundreds of scenarios equally as bad or worse. Nonetheless, cases such as these are created by poor American policy and a lack of intervention by the Mexican government.

The implementation of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) on October 1st, 1994 in Mexico, Canada, and the United States was supposed to modernize Mexico by creating a plethora of jobs in the industrial sector. As a result, NAFTA has had only a positive effect for American big business and an almost devastating effect for Mexico and its people.
Free trade along the three North American countries has allowed US businesses to move to Mexico creating sweatshops or “maquiladoras”, where minimum wage laws are nonexistent and worker safety is often overlooked. Therefore, American businesses can overwork and underpay hundreds of Mexican employees, thus causing their profit margins to increase drastically while the laborers are subject to poor working conditions.

Furthermore, NAFTA has allowed the market saturation of cheap American corn into the Mexican agricultural sector, turning thousands of independent Mexican maize farmers into unemployed, impoverished citizens. Forcefully having to choose between working in a maquiladora or facing starvation, many Mexicans opt to succumb to the conditions of the maquilas if it means that their families are able to eat. Consequently, many Mexicans select a third option; emigrating to the United States.

A Border Patrol jeep posts at one section of the fence. The fence and the jeep are results of Operation Gatekeeper.

The US in turn, is directly responsible for the “immigration problem” it is currently facing. However, US foreign policy has been erroneously constructed to cure the symptom and not the illness. Operation Gatekeeper is one such plan, implemented during the Clinton administration calling for the militarization of the border. What used to be a 2-3 hour trek across the border into San Diego before Gatekeeper, has now turned into an 18-72 hour excursion across the deserts of California and Arizona.

NAFTA and Operation Gatekeeper have not created jobs in Mexico nor deterred Mexicans from immigrating to the US. Instead, it has caused two important effects: firstly, the influx of thousands of unemployed Mexican immigrants, risking death to enter the US and hopefully earn enough money to send back to their families and second, shifting the point of entry for immigrants eastward into the desert, causing roughly 500 deaths a year, making lucrative the market for people smuggling.

The US is in fact responsible for these effects, yet it has done nothing. That’s why it is up to us to do something.

Islam and our beloved Prophet Mohammed PBUH have been sent down by Allah as a mercy for mankind, not just for Muslims. Unfortunately today, Islam is portrayed as a religion of self preservation and a hindrance to peace. We live in such a world today that pamphlets and conventional methods of dawah are not as far reaching as we would like them to be. Therefore, we must find new, halal ways of spreading the message of Islam in a clear and positive light. With regards to issues such as immigration, Muslims must find ways to contribute to the solution and in the process, display the true nature and perfection of Islam. We must act on any injustice we or others are confronted with in order to spread the message of Islam and to secure the well being and dignity of every human being; this indeed is the essence of Islam.

The remnants of batteries like these are often left behind. The lead that was taken out was buried into the ground, polluting the soil and water.

Muslims and Marriage Around the Blogosphere

Marriage is most definitely in the air if you're a Muslim in Southern California. It's as though we are being force fed the marriage conversation. At least every other day you hear about a(n):
  • Marriage
  • Divorce
  • Engagement
  • Courtship
And so on . . .

Here are some excerpts from what a few Muslims around the blogosphere have to say about it:

ABCD Law: "I’d like to add that Nadia had her fiancée EXTREMELY whipped. I love how Desi aunties always tell their daughters to rein in their fiancées/husbands yet conversely if another Desi girl is seen doing the same she is a nakhrewali (i.e. high-maintenance shrew) . . . "

Aisha - Perpetually Befuddled: "Dowry violence hurts me for surely I've had a relative or ancestor who felt the pain of dowry abuse. As I'm a reflection of my ancestors who provided me with the building blocks I'm made of I can't help but grieve for the pain they endured."

Queen Jameelah: It's slim pickings for the sisters. Pickings meaning "eligible Muslim brothers who are able willing to step to the plate in seeking the hand of mentally mature women."

Quest: Understanding supply & demand will lead to a better understanding of the marriage game. "It seems that women are much more valuable than men when they are younger. Very few woman want to marry an 18 year old guy. But MANY men want to marry an 18 year old girl."

Raggiungere: "You have never had a more amazing variety of beautiful women who are intent on reviving this ummah."

Reconnected: "I gotta remind myself to be patient, all happens in due time"

This American Muslim: A "critical factor" in blogging is the consideration that it may be a discreet way of ensuring your suitors can locate the information they are seeking about you.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Shayk Abdul-Ghaffar Hasan Rahmaani Returns to Allah, Creator of the Universe

On March 22nd the ummah lost a great scholar of hadeeth. He is Shaykh Abdul-Ghaffar Hasan Rahmaani (Rahimullah). He passed away in the Islamabad, Pakistan May Allah shower
him with His mercy Amen.

Shaykh Abdul-Ghaffar (Rahimullah) has done great work of da'wah for the Ummah. He has taught at Medinah University for some years and produced many students of hadeeth. He is also the father of Shaykh Suhaib Hasan who has written many books including work on Nawawi's collection of Forty Hadith.

Suhaib Hasan Abdul Ghaffar, born in India but brought up and educated in Pakistan. After completing Islamic and Arabic studies (Fadil Arabic, 1960) and English language studies (B.A. 1962), he joined the newly-set-up Islamic University at Madinah, Saudi Arabia for higher studies in the faculty of Sharia. Here he studied under a galaxy of prominent scholars such as Shaykh Abdul Aziz bin Baz, Muhammad Amin al-Shanqiti, Muhammad Nasiruddin al-Albani and later his father Shaykh Abdul Ghaffar Hasan. After graduating in 1966, he began his career as a teacher and worker in Islamic Dawa at Nairobi, Kenya on behalf of Darul Ifta. In 1976, he moved to London where he engaged in Islamic Dawa especially through the forum of Al-Quran Society. Currently he is the chairman of Masjid & Madrasah al-Tawhid Trust and Secretary of the Islamic Sharia Council of Great Britain.

Insha'Allah, I request everyone to make dua for this beautiful Shaykh who has benefited Islam and the Muslims in a time where their is a lack of respect for the scholars and the scholars are few.

May Allah bless Ashabul Hadeeth where ever they are. amen

United States Commission on Civil Rights- Religious Accomadation for Muslim Inmates in California Facilities

Muslims in the Federal, State and Local Prison Facility

By Affad Shaikh

The following is a summary of testimony that was presented on Friday March 23, 2006 to the California State Advisory Committee, by me on the "State of Muslim Inmates Incarcerated in California Prisons". By providing this to you, I hope that it will help in trying to motivate our community to communicate, interact and actively volunteer to help our brothers and sisters who are incarcerated.

Thank you for this opportunity to present the state of affair for Muslim inmates incarcerated in California facilities. I am proud to be presenting this because it allows me to voice concern for the many Muslims inmates who have reported incidents to us.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) is a ...

CAIR's Civil Rights Department counsels, mediates and advocates on behalf of Muslims and others who have experienced religious discrimination, defamation or hate crimes. The department works to protect and defend the constitutional rights of American Muslims, thereby supporting the rights of all Americans.

Each year CAIR publishes a Civil Rights report outlining the status of American Muslims Civil Rights. I took the liberty of pulling some statistics relevant to our discussion today.

Nationally CAIR has seen a 7% increase in the total number of cases reported to our 32 offices across the United States. Prison cases in 2006, represented the 3rd highest reported category. These generally fall under issues involving religious accommodation for inmates, employees as well as visitors.

Our California offices- Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles Area- have similar statistic's of cases reported from California's facilities. It is important to remember that the Federal Bureau of Prisons estimates that there are more then 5% of the prison population is Muslim. The majority of these inmates become Muslim while incarcerated.

CAIR is in the business of handling reports of cases and incidents, as such I am speaking specifically regarding the reports we receive, and this does not preclude that we have not seen or felt that positives steps have been taken at these facilities by prison officials.

Islam and Muslim Practices Pertinent to Incarcerated Muslims- brief overview.

I have to admit that the report that my survey of our four chapter presents a frustrated experience with trying to adjudicate these cases. The following is a conclusion we have received from many facilities we have asked to investigate cases or incidents:

"After conducting a thorough investigation, we reach the conclusion that there was no violation of inmate's rights"
You can imagine, how as community advocates this is a frustrating situation.

Muslim inmates report of being denied access to Muslim chaplains or not being informed of religious services. We have also had reports of Muslims not being allowed to pray Friday Congregational prayers. Muslim chaplains report to us that Muslims in the prisons are constantly trying to establish prayer, and in one persons words- "fighting to pray and don't have time to try to get halaal meals".

Dietary requirements for Muslims are a significant number of cases reported to us. In one instance we were informed that Muslim inmates were being forced to eat Pork because of a lack of dietary choices. In another incident, Muslim inmates report of being fed Pork while being told or seeing labels stating "Turkey". Prisoners complain that kosher meals are often provided, however, their dietary needs are not provided for. We encounter funding as an issue affecting the decision to provide hallal meat. Where there are large Muslim populations, these efforts have been possible but have however, ended with funding problems.

Receiving hard copies of the Quran or packages of soft cover reading material have on numerous occasions been returned to vendors and volunteer community organizations with no explanations. There have been cases of Quran's being found torn as a form of retaliation against Muslim inmates.

In other instances Muslim holidays are not recognized by prison officials- there are two critical holidays. One celebrating the end of Ramadan, the other celebrating the completion of the fifth pillar of Islam, and is celebrated by all Muslims.

Other issues include Muslim women who wear the hijab who are forced to remove the hijab. This includes visitors as well as Muslim women inmates. Increasingly, this is an issue that has arisen with Immigration Detention facilities- where there is also a complete lack of accountability in these facilities to religious accommodation, and these also include "for profit" facilities.

In conclusion, these facilities are difficult environments and we understand the desire and need to have a secure environment maintained by Peace Officers. There is policy that exists an is in place, and we have seen that there is a great deal of commitment to these policies from facility officials. However, from our experience with these cases have proven to be difficult in producing results that balance the security needs and the established Constitutional rights of incarcerated Muslims. I feel that Muslim inmates have religious accommodation as mandated by the policy, however, it is a constant challenge to safeguard and to uphold those practices.

Friday, March 23, 2007


"Hijrah is the exile of the conscience and of the heart from false gods, from alienation of all sorts, from evil and sins. Turning way from the idols of one's time (power, money, the cult of appearances, etc); emigrating from lies and unethical ways of life; liberating oneself, through the experience of breaking away, from all the appearances of freedom paradoxically reinforced by our habits--such is the spiritual requirement of hijrah.

Physical hijrah, the founding act of the first Muslim community and the axis of its experience, is now over and will not happen again, as Aishah forcefully explained to those in Medina who wanted to relive the experience. Umar ibn al-Khattab was later to decide that this unique event would mark the beginning of the Islamic era, which begins in 622.

What remains and is open to everyone through the ages and for eternity, is the experience of spiritual exile, which brings the individual back to him-or herself and frees him or her from illusions of self and of the world. Exile for the sake of God is in essence a series of questions that God asks each individual being: Who are you? What is the meaning of your life? Where are you going? Accepting the risk of such an exile, trusting the One, is to answer: Through You, I return to myself and I am free."

From In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad

Thursday, March 22, 2007

World Water Day

There are just a few minutes left of it, but it is worth noting that today is World Water Day. The theme this year revolved around the need to "cope" with the scarcity of water.

From the Environment News Service:
Water scarcity is a fact of life for 700 million people around the world, a figure that could rise to more than three billion by 2025, according to the United Nations. In a message today marking World Water Day UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for integrated cross-border water management since many of the world's rivers and aquifers are shared among countries.
. . .
Some 425 million of those without enough water are children under 18, said UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, kicking off the Walk for Water Event in New York City today.
. . .
From Geneva, UN World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan noted that over 1.6 million people die every year because they lack access to safe water and sanitation, 90 percent of them among children under five, mostly in developing countries.
Diseases such as cholera, typhoid, malaria and dengue could rise due to climate change, which makes availability of freshwater less predictable because of more frequent flooding and droughts, Chan warned.
"For every child that dies, countless others suffer from poor health, diminished productivity, and missed opportunities for education. Much of this illness and death could be prevented using knowledge that has existed for many years," she said.

From KPBS:
Chunn says simple conservation measures like turning off the faucet when brushing your teeth, shaving or rinsing vegetables can make a difference in our water supply. She also suggests using energy conservation appliances, including low-flush toilets.

Food for thought? Yup, please do think about it the next time you've got the faucet running.

This is Worth taking time to do!

The USC School of Social Work and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) are partnering in a unique media project, an audio storybook on growing up Muslim in the post 9-11 America. Modeled on the successful NPR Series, “This I Believe,” we invite young American Muslims to write in and share their personal credos. We encourage anyone who is interested to contribute, and offer some simple guidelines:

  • Your contribution should be between 350 and 500 words, and take around three minutes to read.
  • Tell us your story. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Be specific, and ground it in the events of your life.
  • Focus on your one core belief; make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy.
  • Be positive. Avoid preaching or editorializing.
  • Speak in the first person.

E-mail your contributions to, by March 30th, 2007 to enter a $100 Amazon gift certificate raffle. Selected contributors will be invited to record their essays as part of an audio storybook, which will be available as a CD and pod cast. For questions or clarifications, contact Laila Karamally, at Tel: (714) 261-1044 or via e-mail at

I will post mine in the following weeks, so you get an idea of what one can write about.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Beginning to understand Iraq (and the Middle East)

When internal fighting and killing first started in Iraq around two years ago I was very distressed and completely confused. The US occupation is illegal, unjust, and inhuman; that's an easy one to figure out. But, what do I say about the "sectarian violence"? Are Muslims really killing each other? Who do I protest against? Will I do more harm than good by speaking against one political party or another?

Since then the chaos has spread to other parts of the region, and has gained more news and media coverage. According to mainstream American media, all the problems in the Middle East seem to boil down to one thing: the Sunni-Shia struggle.

I am still not entirely clear about the situation in Iraq; I don't think anyone can be given the limited and distorted media coverage. Still, there is one thing I know for a fact: the so-called Sunni-Shia sectarian violence only started after the US-led occupation. Iraqis had peacefully coexisted for decades until they were "shocked and awed".

No, I am not in denial. There are definitely ignorant, misled Sunnis and Shias who are perpetrating the daily massacres against innocent Iraqi civilians. However, I refuse to believe that all Iraqi Shias are carrying out an Iranian plot to take over Iraq, or that all Iraqi Sunnis want to avenge Saddam's death by killing as many Shias as possible.

As for speaking out against regional political parties and figures, I will strongly condemn any party that chooses to work closely with foreign powers (US,UK,Israel France,...), against the interest of its own people. If that happens to be "Shia" groups in Iraq and "Sunni" parties in Lebanon then so be it. I trust that people will be mature enough to realize that my political opinions are based on political stances, not religious ones.

In the past week or so, I have come across several excellent articles that offer interesting analyses of the situation in Iraq and the Middle East in general (links and excerpts below). I think they are a must-read for anyone looking to truly understand the situation in the Middle East. These articles all make the point that there is so much more to the situation than Sunnis and Shias.

As far as Muslims go, we cannot afford to be ignorant about the situation. We cannot sit back and watch as our enemies divide us.

Sunnis Will Not Be Persuaded That Iran Is Their Real Enemy
"Despite the US-Shia alliance that brought his rule to an end, sectarianism did not become serious until the US-led occupation replaced Saddam's regime with one based on quotas, a process destined to divide Iraq along sectarian and ethnic lines."

The Shia-Sunni Divide: Myths and Reality
"The consensus in both Sunni and Shia circles appears to be that attempts to emphasise Sunni- Shia rivalries are intended to deflect attention from both the US occupation of Iraq and continuing Israeli aggression. That the US is working to fuel such tensions is almost an article of faith for Muslims on both sides. In its attempt to create an anti-Iran alliance, they say, the US is resorting to a strategy which aims to raise the spectre of sectarianism across the Muslim world."

How Easy It Is To Put Hatred on A Map
"Our guilt in this sectarian game is obvious. We want to divide the "other", "them", our potential enemies, from each other, while we - we civilised Westerners with our refined, unified, multicultural values - are unassailable."

Baghdad New Alliance

"Bush’s new strategy can be described as a policy of escalation and rejection of conceding failure. In addition, it is a plan to take revenge on Baghdad that deprived him from achieving the long-promised victory. By allocating 17,000 additional troops to Baghdad – while knowing that there are no clearly-defined fighting fronts – Bush in fact seeks to cause the biggest amount of damage to its people and buildings."


The following email came my way a little while ago:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this weekend my little niece, Haniya, told me that her friends had called Frito-Lay and found out that Doritos have pork in them. Well, I was shocked and a little skeptical. However, when I called the company, they confirmed that their cheese products were not Halal -- they actually used the term "Halal", which I found impressive even though the disclosure was disconcerting. She said they use enzymes in making the cheese for their Cheetos and Doritos that come from pork. I asked when they started doing this, and she said the last 2 years they became aware of it. I wanted to start a petition requesting them to find alternatives, but she said it would be best for individuals to call, because each call is registered. So, if you are going to miss Cheetos and Doritos as much as I am, please call Frito-Lay at 1-800-352-4477, Monday - Friday, 9:00am-4:30pm. Also, pass on this info. to whomever you know.

Any volunteers to call Frito-Lay and do some research?

Until then, I would strongly recommend: Muslim buyers beware!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Madhhabs & the Sunnah

"Follow (O men!) the revelation given to you from your Lord, and follow not, as friends and protectors, other than Him. Little is it you remember of admonition." (Qur'an 7:3)

Imam al Azam Abu Hanifah Muhammad An Nu`man ibn Thabit Ibn Numan az-Zuta Ibn Maah (rahimahu Allah) - Founder of the Hanafi School of Fiqh

The first of them is Abu Haneefah Nu`maan ibn Thaabit, whose companions have narrated from him various sayings and diverse warnings, all of them leading to one thing: the obligation to accept the Hadeeth, and to give up following the opinions of the imaams which contradict it:

1. "When a hadeeth is found to be saheeh, then that is my madhhab."20

2. "It is not permitted21 for anyone to accept our views if they do not know from where we got them."22

In one narration, "It is prohibited23 for someone who does not know my evidence to give verdicts24 on the basis of my words."

Another narration adds, "... for we are mortals: we say one thing one day, and take it back the next day."

In another narration, "Woe to you, O Ya`qub25! Do not write down everything you hear from me, for it happens that I hold one opinion today and reject it tomorrow, or hold one opinion tomorrow and reject it the day after tomorrow."26

3. "When I say something contradicting the Book of Allah the Exalted or what is narrated from the Messenger (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam), then ignore my saying."27

Imam Malik ibn Anas ibn Malik ibn `Amr al Asbahi (rahimahu Allah) - Founder of the Maliki School of Fiqh

As for Imam Malik ibn Anas, he said:

1. "Truly I am only a mortal: I make mistakes (sometimes) and I am correct (sometimes). Therefore, look into my opinions: all that agrees with the Book and the Sunnah, accept it; and all that does not agree with the Book and the Sunnah, ignore it."28

2. "Everyone after the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) will have his sayings accepted and rejected - not so the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam)."29

3. Ibn Wahb said: "I heard Malik being asked about cleaning between the toes during ablution. He said, 'The people do not have to do that.' I did not approach him until the crowd had lessened, when I said to him, 'We know of a sunnah about that.' He said, 'What is that ?' I said, 'Laith ibn Sa'd, Ibn Lahee'ah and 'Amr ibn al-Haarith narrated to us from Yazeed ibn 'Amr al-Ma'aafiri from Abu 'Abdur-Rahman al-Hubuli from Mustawrid ibn Shaddaad al-Qurashi who said, 'I saw the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) rubbing between his toes with his little finger.' He said, 'This hadeeth is sound; I had not heard of it at all until now.' Afterwards, I heard him being asked about the same thing, on which he ordered cleaning between the toes."30

Imam Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Idrīs al-Shafi`i (rahimahu Allah) - Founder of the Shafi`i School of Fiqh

As for Imam Shafi`i, the quotations from him are most numerous and beautiful31, and his followers were the best in sticking to them:

1. "The sunnahs of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) reach, as well as escape from, every one of us. So whenever I voice my opinion, or formulate a principle, where something contrary to my view exists on the authority of the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam), then the correct view is what the Messenger of Allaah (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) has said, and it is my view."32

2. "The Muslims are unanimously agreed that if a sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) is made clear to someone, it is not permitted33 for him to leave it for the saying of anyone else."34

3. "If you find in my writings something different to the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam), then speak on the basis of the Sunnah of the Messenger of Allah (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam), and leave what I have said."

In one narration: "... then follow it (the Sunnah), and do not look sideways at anyone else's saying."35

4. "When a hadeeth is found to be saheeh, then that is my madhhab."36

5. "You37 are more knowledgeable about Hadeeth than I, so when a hadeeth is saheeh, inform me of it, whether it is from Kufah, Basrah or Syria, so that I may take the view of the hadeeth, as long as it is saheeh."38

6. "In every issue where the people of narration find a report from the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) to be saheeh which is contrary to what I have said, then I take my saying back, whether during my life or after my death."39

7. "If you see me saying something, and contrary to it is authentically-reported from the Prophet (sallallahu 'alaihi wa sallam), then know that my intelligence has departed."40

8. "For everything I say, if there is something authentic from the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) contrary to my saying, then the hadeeth of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) comes first, so do not follow my opinion."41

9. "Every statement on the authority of the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) is also my view, even if you do not hear it from me."42

Imam Ahmad bin Muhammad bin Hanbal Abu `Abd Allah al-Shaybani (rahimahu Allah) - Founder of the Hanbali School of Fiqh

Imaam Ahmad was the foremost among the Imaams in collecting the Sunnah and sticking to it, so much so that he even "disliked that a book consisting of deductions and opinions be written."43 Because of this he said:

1. "Do not follow my opinion; neither follow the opinion of Maalik, nor Shaafi'i, nor Awzaa'i, nor Thawri, but take from where they took."44

In one narration: "Do not copy your Deen from anyone of these, but whatever comes from the Prophet (sallallahu `alaihi wa sallam) and his Companions, take it; next are their Successors, where a man has a choice."

Once he said: "Following45 means that a man follows what comes from the Prophet (sallallaahu 'alaihi wa sallam) and his Companions; after the Successors, he has a choice."46

2. "The opinion of Awzaa'i, the opinion of Maalik, the opinion of Abu Haneefah: all of it is opinion, and it is all equal in my eyes. However, the proof is in the narrations (from the Prophet (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) and his Companions)."47

3. "Whoever rejects a statement of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu `alaihi wa sallam) is on the brink of destruction."48

Taken from The Prophet's Prayer Described by Muhammad Naasir ad-Deen al-Albaani (Translated to English by Usama bin Suhaib Hasan)

We live in a time where nations are divided by every little aspect of their lives. What country you are from, what language you speak and now even different aspects and opinions within our din divide us. This is not to say that these amazing schools of fiqh should be forgotten nor should these scholars be ignored. I am also not implying that if you follow one madhhab or all four madhahib you are wrong or right one way or another. I just find it odd that someone can take one of these madhahib and claim that you can follow it blindly while consider all other madhahib false when all of these scholars advocated using the Qur'an and sunnah in their work. It just shocks me that their followers can take on such an arrogant manner when the scholars themselves were so humble. barak Allahu fihum jami`an.

'Let there arise from amongst you, a group of people, inviting to all that is good, commanding the right and forbidding the wrong, and they are the successful.' (Qur'an 3:104)