Friday, February 29, 2008

Gaza Invasion

Speaking on Israel Army Radio, Mr Vilnai said if Palestinians increased rocket fire, they will bring upon themselves a "shoah".

The BBC's Katya Adler in Jerusalem says many of Mr Vilnai's colleagues have quickly distanced themselves from his comments and also tried to downplay, them saying he did not mean genocide.

"We're getting close to using our full strength. Until now, we've used a small percentage of the army's power because of the nature of the territory," he added.

Please read rest of this article here : BBC News | Israel warns of Invasion of Gaza

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Know your Hadith - Part I

There is a growing trend of lack of trust in hadith (to put it mildly), from within the Muslim community. I have been hearing alarming statements like "don't give me proof from Hadith, give me proof from the Quran", or "I don't believe in Hadith; I follow only the Quran" much more frequently in the past few years, and unfortunately often times those statements are accepted and undisputed. Sadly, it all comes down to gross ignorance within the global Muslim community (including myself) on the fundamentals of what we claim to be our deen (way of life): Islam.

Then, there are articles like this one circulating in the global media which add to the confusion by propagating dangerous misconceptions about the second source of legislation in Islam. I will not go into the details of the article, but I will say that it simply ignores the work of thousands of great scholars who have completely dedicated their life to the collection, authentication, and study of Hadith.

I have recently began studying the topic of Hadith further through a weekly class on the Science of Hadith. In case you're wondering, it is not the weekly class at IIOC (although I wish I could attend that one too!) but a similar one. I went into the class having very minimal knowledge on Hadith and the process of its collection and have since learnt many fascinating details on the topic. I found some stories and aspects particularly striking and awe-inspiring, and I hope to share those glimpses through a series of posts on this blog.

This is the least I can do to stand up for the Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) at a time when it is being viciously attacked; however, the information shared will only be the tip of the iceberg. I greatly encourage every Muslim reading this to study this topic whether by reading a good book on it or preferably attending a class (if available).

For reference, the book I will be quoting from (which is the one I am studying as part of this class) is Usool Al Hadith: its Sciences and Terminologies by Dr. Muhammad Ajaj Al Khatib (Arabic). I will do my best to translate and re-phrase small portions from the book, but I am by no means an expert on Hadith or translation so please do correct me if you find any mistakes. I ask Allah (swt) to help me benefit others with the little knowledge He has blessed me with and to help others benefit from this humble effort.

Since I've already used up half of the post for the introduction, I will start with a very brief set of questions and answers, to make sure we all start on the same page:

- What is the Science of Hadith? it is the science associated with the accurate propagation of the statements, actions, approvals, physical descriptions, and characteristics of Prophet Muhammad(may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) (Science of Hadith - Riwayah), and the science establishing the guidelines and criteria for classifying and authenticating the narrators of hadith and the text of the narrations(Science of Hadith - Dirayah).

Science of Hadith - Dirayah is also refered to as Uloom al-Hadith , Mustalah al-Hadith and Usool al-Hadith.

- What is Sunnah? To the scholars of Hadith, the Sunnah is all that has been known of the statements, actions, approvals, physical descriptions, characteristics, and life-story (seerah) of Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), whether before or after revelation.
In this sense, Sunnah is synonymous to Prophetic Hadith (Hadith Nabawi).

Stay tuned for Part II - Why is Sunnah a source of legislation?

Thank ABC

CAIR today called on American Muslims and other people of conscience to thank ABC "Primetime" for a segment that highlighted both the Islamophobic attitudes present in our society and the support ordinary citizens of all faiths will offer to those targeted by bias.

To test Islamophobic attitudes, ABC outfitted a Texas bakery with hidden cameras and had actors play a female customer wearing an Islamic head scarf, or hijab, and a sales clerk who refused to serve her. The actor playing the clerk also used anti-Muslim slurs. [Primetime's "What Would You Do?" segments seek to find out how ordinary people react when faced with sticky situations.]

SEE A CLIP: Encountering Prejudice (ABC)

ACTION REQUESTED: CONTACT ABC "PRIMETIME" to thank the producers for highlighting both Islamophobia and the kindness of those who will not tolerate anti-Muslim hatred. Click here to post a message on the “Primetime” message board. Send a copy of your message to: CAIR

Saturday, February 23, 2008

"How to Kill a Transperson"

I’ve wanted to write something about this topic for a while, the topic of homosexuality. I’ve been struggling with myself on whether or not to try to tackle the subject within a community who has very black and white opinions on it. Thankfully the article Zahra has sent me below inspired me to bring up the topic.

Thanks Zahra for sending the article my way. I personally have major concerns with the Muslim community when it comes to LGBTQ issues. A part of me knows that it is not my place to ask anyone to question something they hold such a strong conviction about especially because it is within the bounds of their interpretation of Allah’s words. However, I can’t understand how a group of people who claim to stand against oppression and injustice can sit quietly by as every year, in this country and others, LBGTQ people are constantly oppressed, murdered, raped, and unjustly arrested just because of the way they just are. Put aside the issue about whether they were born that way or if it is a matter of choice or whether they have a disease or abnormality, something genetically wrong with them, a mutation that causes them to be that way and therefore require some type of therapy (when I hear people say this I want to punch them). This is about another human who deserves the same rights we are all entitled to. As Irshad Manji says, “I am not asking you to accept gay people, I am just asking you not to hurt them.”

Honestly, inside what I’m thinking is to ask you to stop being such hypocrites because as you protest about Palestine and other injustices you can turn a blind eye to the MANY injustices here in the country you live in. And yes, I am quite aware about the story of Luq thanks. I’d like to remind you that there are different interpretations. I’m not asking anything from anyone. Just for discussion. After reading the article I wonder what does the Muslim community (at least the one that reads this blog) think about this issue?

Not too long ago a couple of Muslims girls and I were having a discussion about this topic. The question came up about our children and what if they were gay. I think that for us, whether we believed homosexuality was wrong or not, we all agreed we wouldn’t want our children to be gay because of the negative social implications that accompany being LBGTQ such as injustice, inequality, oppression and sometimes death. That’s just sad.

Here are some excerpts from the article titled “How to Kill a Transperson by Ceridwen Troy:

“On Saturday, Sanesha Stewart, a transwoman of color living in the Bronx, was murdered in her own apartment. She was 25 years old. Her accused killer, Steve McMillan, had known her for months, yet when he was arrested, he claimed to have been enraged to find out that she was what the media coverage called not really a woman. He stabbed her over and over again in the chest and throat. She tried to fight him off; there were defensive wounds found on her hands.

On Tuesday, eighth-grader Lawrence King was in a classroom in Oxnard, Calif. He was openly gay, and often came to school in gender-bending clothing, makeup, jewelry and shoes. According to another student, it was freaking the guys out. One of them shot Lawrence in the head. He was declared brain-dead on Wednesday.

It is easy to look at cases like this and think, how tragic. How random. How senseless.

But then, you forget how easy it is to kill a transgender person.

You forget that all across this nation, faith leaders of all stripes, men and women who claim to speak for God Himself, call us sinners, call us abominations, call us evil.

You forget that at best the media depicts us as something to be pitied, something that our families must be strong and overcome. At worst, they depict us as abnormal, exploiting our bodies for ratings, exploiting the publics fear of us for shock value.

You forget that on a good day, law enforcement agents are neglectful of us, and that far more frequently they join in our harassment. You forget the transwomen of color who are rounded up on suspicions of prostitution. You forget the beatings that go uninvestigated. You forget the molestation and rape we face when we are arrested.

You forget the medical establishment that drains our wallets for the therapy and hormones and surgeries they tell us we need. You forget the way we are then refused treatment when we are dying, dying of treatable diseases, dying of easily patched wounds.

You forget that, by the law of the land, it is legal in the majority of states to deny us employment, to deny us service, to deny us housing.

You forget the shelters and the rape crisis centers that will not allow us through their doors.

You forget that many of us do not even have family to turn to when we are at our most desperate.

You forget that the leaders of our own community have told us that it is not time for us to have rights, that it is not pragmatic for us to be considered worthy of the same respect as other human beings.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This Black Man Doesn't Die

He lives on, he lives on because he has sparked in us- the activist sort- a flame so full of fury and passion for justice and the virtue of a moral driven life- that one can not imagine the burden he carried which is now carried by thousands.

He was one, now is many. He was a man, now he is man, women and child. He was black, now he is white, yellow, red and all hues of humanity. He was a slave, and those who submit to no one have no fear. He was a martyr and in his martyrdom we learn the redemptive value of faith and how one can develop and be elevated when one sticks to their faith.

He was poor and yet so rich. He was denied an education, and yet he did not allow it to be his prison. He lived the worst of America to see that it lived a future that was best for it. He wanted to tear America apart, and yet, he realized through self growth and faith that there is more to an idea then what we experience.

"I realized racism isn't just a black and white problem. It's brought bloodbaths to about every nation on earth at one time or another. Brother, remember the time that white college girl came into the restaurant — the one who wanted to help the [Black] Muslims and the whites get together — and I told her there wasn't a ghost of a chance and she went away crying? Well, I've lived to regret that incident. In many parts of the African continent I saw white students helping black people. Something like this kills a lot of argument. I did many things as a [Black] Muslim that I'm sorry for now. I was a zombie then — like all [Black] Muslims — I was hypnotized, pointed in a certain direction and told to march. Well, I guess a man's entitled to make a fool of himself if he's ready to pay the cost. It cost me 12 years. That was a bad scene, brother. The sickness and madness of those days — I'm glad to be free of them."

If he were alive today, he would be a ripe age of 83. He, however, was murdered on February 21, 1965.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

For Muslim Students, a Debate on Inclusion

The intense debate over whether organizations for Muslim students should be inclusive or strict is playing out on college campuses across the United States, where there are now more than 200 Muslim Students Association chapters.

Gender issues, specifically the extent to which men and women should mingle, are the most fraught topic as Muslim students wrestle with the yawning gap between American college traditions and those of Islam.

“There is this constant tension between becoming a mainstream student organization versus appealing to students who have a more conservative or stricter interpretation of Islam,” said Hadia Mubarak, the first woman to serve as president of the national association, from 2004 to 2005.
. . .
Members acknowledge that the tone of the Muslim associations often drives away students. Several presidents said that if they thought members were being too lax, guest imams would deliver prayer sermons about the evils of alcohol or premarital sex.
. . .
“There were drunkards in the Prophet Muhammad’s community; there were fornicators and people who committed adultery in his community, and he didn’t reject them,” Mr. Mertaban said. “I think M.S.A.’s are beginning to understand this point that every person has ups and downs.”

Full Story: NY Times

Monday, February 18, 2008

Masdar City

Abu Dabhi is a building a new city called Masdar City that claims to be built using renewable energy resources and uses zero carbons and produce zero waste. Ma sha' Allah that sounds awesome. Only bad part? It will cost $22 billion dollars and 8 years to build.

I don't know why but I still feel kinda weird about the whole ordeal. As far as I know there are still poor starving children living in all corners of the world.. couldn't they just stop being so wasteful, conserve a bit more and donate that $22 billion to Africa or something?

It sounds like a good idea to me, just an odd use of resources and prioritizing.

Source: BBC News: Work starts on Gulf 'green city'

Sunday, February 17, 2008

American apathy - a license to kill

This article is somewhat demotivating, but it's also a good reality check and offers some important insight into the psyche of the 'elite' yet uninformed American. Excerpts below:

You would think that showing maps clearly delineating the truncated, obviously non-viable area available for a possible Palestinian state and showing pictures that define Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories would have some kind of impact on an audience of astute but, on this issue, generally uninformed Americans.

We have shown maps and pictures like these myriad times before, but have never been received with quite such disinterest. Here was a group of mostly retired U.S. government officials, academics, journalists, and business executives, as well as a few still-working professionals -- all ranging in political orientation from center right to center left, the cream of informed, educated America, the exemplar of elite mainstream opinion in the United States.

The first person to comment when our presentation concluded, identifying herself as Jewish, said she had "never heard a more one-sided presentation" and labeled us "beyond anti-Semitic" -- which presumably is somewhat worse than plain-and-simple anti-Semitic.

Our brief conversation with this woman progressed in an interesting fashion. We tried to engage her in a discussion about what exactly was one-sided in our depiction of the situation on the ground and what she would have liked to see to make it "two-sided." She did not answer but indicated that she thought whatever Israel did must be justified by Palestinian actions.

Why is this interesting to anyone but us? Because this in-depth discussion with a small but representative group of intelligent, thinking Americans is indicative of a broad range of U.S. public opinion on foreign policy issues, and their level of disinterest in the consequences of U.S. policies is quite disturbing. The self-absorption evident during this meeting, the general "don't-rock-the-boat" posture, the overwhelming lack of concern for the victims of Israeli and U.S. power amount to a license to kill for the U.S. and its allies.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Much to learn from a 24-year-old Jewish lawmaker

As I was reading through this article about Mr. Jason Bedrick's experience with being the first 'practising' Jew in Legislature(jazaks for forwarding Nida!), I was amazed at the number of statements and situations I could very much identify with.

For example:

"The Jewish faith has outward signs of being Jewish to improve your behavior," Bedrick said. "If I walk in with a beard and yarmulke, I represent something. . . . I need to constantly study to know what I'm talking about, to avoid foul language, gossip, negative talk about people. You have to always be on your best behavior to make sure you're a good and proper representative of your faith."

Switch "Jewish" with "Islamic" and "beard and yarmulke" with "hijab" and you would get a statement which I bet every hijabi (including myself) has used a couple of times.

On the plane ride home [from Israel], Bedrick began to reconsider his intentions to remove the yarmulke and tzitzit. "I thought, 'I'm Jewish in Israel, but not America?' This is my identity." He kept the clothing and became one of two Babson College students to wear a yarmulke, Bleich said.

Again, I know many Muslim women who started seriously considering wearing a scarf (not just in the masjid) after they realized that they didn't want to be two different people.

Bedrick also employs one of my favourite tricks:
The most challenging law during the campaign was that prohibiting contact between unmarried men and women. "You already look weird because it's not common to have beards, then you say I'd like you to vote for me but I can't shake your hand," Bedrick said. He learned to knock on doors with his hands full, and when a woman extended her hand, he handed her a pamphlet.

His opinion on Israel aside, I think many of us 'practising' people can learn a thing or two from Bedrick's story.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Role Models

By Guest Blogger Irtiza Hasan

People often ask, "Who are the Muslim role models"?

This question would receive varying replies from different audiences. For example, growing up in the 1990s, especially in Houston, Texas many Muslim youth would probably have answered "Hakeem Olajuwon". What about outside of Houston? Who would people pick?

In the world we live in, the flavor of the day, or the most popular celebrity is constantly changing. People are always searching for new role models and people they can follow.

People, especially young people, will choose anyone from parents, teachers, older siblings, world leaders, athletes, comic superheroes, music artists and movie stars as role models. But what makes the criterion for who should be a role model?

Charles Barkley once said that he was not a role model and added, "A million guys can dunk a basketball (and they are) in jail; should they be role models?"

For Muslims, we have the greatest role model in the Prophet Muhammad (saw) and then his family and companions, may Allah be pleased with them all. And any person can look to the Seerah and find the greatest example of how to live a productive, happy and meaningful life.

Allah says in the Qur’an, "You have indeed in the Messenger of Allah a great example.” (Surah Al-Ahzab 33: 21)

After that we have the companions of the Prophet (saw) and his family who followed him in righteousness and the truth. The best of them are the four rightly guided caliphs; Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, and Ali. After them the scholars differ in how to group the companions between groups such as the people of Badr, the companions foretold of their admission to Paradise besides the ten, those who attended the Pledge at Al-Hudaybiyah and so on.

The Prophet (saw) himself would encourage the believers to imitate and follow his companions. He (saw) said, "Learn the recitation of the Qur’an from four persons: Abdullah ibn Masud, Salim Mawla Abi Hudhaifa, Ubay' bin Ka'b and Mu'adh bin Jabal." (Sahih Al-Bukhari) So these four companions were the ultimate role models to learn the recitation of the Qur’an!

For any young brother today a great role model from the young companions could be Abdullah ibn Abbas or ibn Al-Zubayr or ibn Umar and many others including the grandsons of the Prophet (saw) about whom he said, "Al-Hasan and Al-Husayn will be the leaders of the youth of Jannah." (Tirmidhi)

For any young sister today a great role model from the young companions could be Rumaysa bint Milhan, or Asma bint Abi Bakr and so many other names. Of course the foremost examples for Muslim women are Khadija bint Khuwaylid, Fatima bint Muhammad and Aisha bint Abi Bakr, may Allah be pleased with them.

Let us consider why we love these people and why we take them as our role models. We know Allah loved these people and gave them success in this worldly life and promised them success in the Hereafter.

In the present day we have no revelation saying who specifically is our role model – which imam or shaykh or Muslim leader or athlete should we imitate?

Our role models, past and present, should have praiseworthy characteristics in public and private. These characteristics and qualities determine whether or not a person deserves to be a role model for us.

Some of these characteristics include: this person is patient during afflictions and trials. This person has complete trust of Allah reflecting on the verse in the Qur’an, which can be approximately translated as, "And whoever puts his trust in Allah, He is enough for him." (Surah Al-Talaq 65:3)

He or she does not have disease of pride and arrogance. He or she is humble and sincere. These people follow the truth and have fear of their Lord.

Allah says in the Qur’an, "The noblest among you in Allah's sight is the most God-fearing of you." (Surah Al-Hujuraat 49:13)

The most important qualities for us to focus on and safeguard after believing in the tawheed of Allah are the following: having good treatment of our parents even if they are non-Muslims; as long as they do not force us to disobey Allah, obey them in everything other than that!

We need to be guarding our prayers, protect our tongues and private parts and support the truth. We must be making the efforts to attend Fajr and Isha prayers in the masjid. If possible, we should try to attend a class or hallaqa at the local masjid. If this is not possible, then try to listen to beneficial audio lectures and be in the company of the righteous.

Muslim role models can be young or old, male or female and talkative or silent. They can be from any race or ethnic background. We should choose and follow role models based on their obedience to Allah.

Remember that any role model, whether it is an Imam or teacher or a brother or sister from the school's MSA, they are subject to having praiseworthy characteristics and having mistakes and sins as well.

And we are not to follow any person, whether it be a scholar of Islam or our relative, in their disobedience of Allah. We recognize their good deeds and status and ask Allah to forgive their sins, but we do not imitate them in their sins. An elder in the community or student of knowledge can be praiseworthy in many areas, but have sins and undesirable qualities in other areas. And guidance and success is only from Allah.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Plight of the Middle Class Muslims

The other day I was contemplating this issue I have seen in the American Muslim community. If you go to Los Angeles county, you go to the Masjids/Islamic Centers, there is a huge contrast between the communities there and how they function from the one's in Orange County, Inland Empire, or out in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

I notice that when families start moving up the ladder of affluence, they also start moving away and out of the communities they once were part of. They take the spirit of professionalism, desire of education, family values, ability/desire of volunteer-ism, and most importantly capital. All of this effects the social capital that holds many of those old communities together.

Look, if we do a survey of Los Angeles, very few centers stand out. There are issues at all. However, what the crises we are faced with as a community is, is that as more and more affluent and able families move out and sever ties to those communities the further into obscurity we as a community become when it comes to dealing with the larger community. We are also faced with the moral dilemmas that many other minority communities are faced with because the social fabric creates this sense of "getting out" rather then "dealing with" and "improving" because its so much easier to just "get out".

I will be the first to admit, I could not live Korea Town, or in Boyle Heights, down by South Central or for that matter even in Culver City. But the issue is, how can we as "Middle Class Muslims" give back and strengthen those communities, make them better and give them the chance that would give them a boost above other communities. How do we make these centers shining lights, beacons on a hill?

That is the dilemma we face. We seem to find it easier to turn our backs and start something new- new centers, new communities, with new money.

With all this new- we also take on the Middle Class mentality- selfish individualism, driven consumerism, the "white inferiority complex", the competitive nature to out do the other.

I am not going to say its all bad. Muslims by far are generous. I believe, according to Islamic Relief, Muslim raised Millions with a week of Hurricane Katrina (please give me a reference to this). Same with Tsunami's and the Kashmir earthquake. Muslims give generously to non-profits, to Masjids, to Islamic Schools, to buy land for burying Muslims, even to Congressional Campaigns (Keith Ellison, some 50k in half an hour on his most recent visit).

What I am trying to point out, is that, we are American Muslims, we face American problems and we need American solutions. We are only as strong as our community can be, when the weakest amongst us is able to be well informed, plugged in, educated and motivated.

That is the point I hope comes across. We need to start looking at ways to help these inner city communities, to build them up, to give them the tools to make their community's better, stronger and larger. To become revitalizer.

The plight of the middle class Muslim, is to figure out how to address this, to figure out a way to re-connect (or even connect for the first time) with these communities. Its our plight because we are told to hold fast to Allah's command and to help our fellow Muslims, to help the oppressed and those unjustly kept down. Its out plight to figure things out, because we will be held accountable, ignorance is not an excuse.

Tear Down The Walls

Ben Franklin said, "God helps those who help themselves." The Palestinians should consider continuing to really help themselves. 60 years from the Nakba and their misery continues to worsen?

Maybe the next step is for the Palestinians to take Norman Finkelstein's most recent advice:

"The Palestinians have to find a way to act on their own, and I think what happened in late January [the destruction of part of the wall separating Gaza from Egypt] is a good sign. That is exactly what they should be doing in the West Bank. One million Palestinians armed with picks and hammers should go to that wall and say 'The International Court of Justice (ICJ) said this wall has to be dismantled. We are implementing the ICJ decision. We are knocking down the wall.'"

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Looking For An Alternative?

It seems you aren't the only one. Ralph Nader's got an exploratory committee out and about, and here's what they are saying:

Maybe we’re wrong.

Maybe the Democrats and Republicans will nominate Presidential candidates this year who will stand up against the war profiteers, the nuclear industry, the credit card industry, the corporate criminals, big oil, and the drug and health insurance industries.

We doubt it.

But hope springs eternal.

In the meantime, take a few minutes and explore with us an idea.

The idea is this—1,000 citizens in every Congressional district.

Each and every one committed to challenging the corporate powers that have a hammerlock on our political and economic systems.

Organized citizen power facing off against corporate power.

In this election year – 2008.

Instead of spending this election year sitting back and watching the corporate candidates spin their vapid mantras – hope, experience, change.

Instead of spending the year complaining about inertia, exhaustion, and apathy.

Let us instead weigh the possibility of pulling together half a million dedicated citizens collectively rising up off our couches and organizing a ground force in every Congressional district in the country.

A ground force of citizens who are informed, committed, tenacious advocates for a just future.

This is what we are contemplating.

Something new.

Something big.

Something bold.

Something that works.

Something that will prod young and old alike.

To join in a mass push back against the corporate powers that are dictating our future.

No one person can get us there.

But one person is ideally suited to lead this grassroots force – if he chooses to do so and runs as the citizens’ candidate for President in 2008.

And that one person is Ralph Nader.
Check them out and get involved HERE.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A beautiful mind

One day my freshman year in high school, my principal, Mr. Pries, called me into his office. I was expecting to be chewed out for something, but instead, he smiled, looked me in the eye and asked me, “Who are you?” I was a little confused and mumbled an answer, an incomplete one. I had never really thought about it, so I didn’t know what to say. “When you can answer that question,” he said, “I’d like you to come back and tell me.”

His question planted a seed in me; not a seed of doubt, but of clarity. It dawned on me that the answer to it was the most important piece of knowledge I would acquire, if I could. The question always returned, despite the considerable distractions of being a teenager. I realized that I would not have been so baffled had I been asked this question just a few years earlier. It struck me then that you can learn your true nature only by retrieving and holding on to who you were as a child.

I learned that being true to one’s self means to believe in God alone and do the right thing, that is, that which is pleasing to Him. We know what that is from the revelation given to the prophets, but this is only a reminder. Before all else, we know what is right because it is inherent in our own souls, though we often fail to follow it, and I am the first to admit my failures and weaknesses. In every moment and aspect of our lives, we find the opportunity to do right with the time and resources apportioned to us. As for me, I feel especially inclined toward two goals: to help those who are oppressed or suffering, and to help end conflict and strife.

These are the words of Br. Ismail Royer writing to the judge presiding in his case. The rest of the letter focuses on Br. Ismail's journey to fulfill his goals and how he saw his actions which he was later prosecuted for. But I would like to stop at the first two paragraphs, because I can really relate to them.

I remember looking at myself in the mirror during my undergrad years and seeing an attractive young lady, but one who I didn't recognize as myself. And it wasn't just the physical aspect. That bothered me, but I couldn't figure out what to do about it. Besides, everyone else seemed to like me so I played along.

I finally found myself and was able to take off the mask I had unknowingly put on when I began caring more about pleasing Allah than pleasing people. A few months after first wearing hijab, I looked in the mirror and finally recognized the person I saw. It was not so much the piece of cloth, but the confidence of returning to my fitrah.

Anyways, back to Br. Ismail. Read the rest of his letter to the judge to find out more about his case. Read his recent letter from prison to get some insight into his thoughts on Islam and Muslims today. Excerpts below which offer some food for thought:

My main theme is that, just as many of Islam’s critics allege, it is true that Islam is incompatible with the modern world. That’s because the modern world is itself incompatible with the human soul, whereas Islam is the natural state of the human soul. Modernity is the product of the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and related development, which were for the most part conscious revolts against God.

It is therefore impossible to coherently be a Muslim and at the same time have a mindset rooted in Enlightenment assumptions-just as it is impossible to be in submission to Allah while being in revolt against Him.

Incidentally, it is the latter position that cures the western Muslim’s soul of the schizophrenia arising from being a Western Muslim, for it is not the fact of being Western in heritage or language or culture that gives him schizophrenia, but it is in trying to synthesize Islam and Enlightenment ideology that does so. We reject the worship of other than Allah alone and what necessarily follows from that, but we do not reject being Western anymore than Bilal rejected being Ethiopian, or Salman rejected being Persian, or the Malay rejected being Malay when they embraced Islam.

In fact Islamic and Western culture overlap to a great extent, so aside from the issue of the recent hedonistic and other harmful elements in Western culture, the matter viewed in this light is no longer very intelligible. And even our rejection of any unjust actions of our people does not change who we are: “O my people! Yours is the kingdom this day!” cautioned the believing Egyptian.

This is not a new topic, actually it's one I am sometimes tired of, but I think Br. Ismail's letters do merit some thought and discussion, at the very least.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Tariq Ramadan on Qur'an

Recently, Imam Hassan al-Banna's grandson, Dr. Tariq Ramadan wrote an article which quickly spun through the online world, and was pusblished in the New York Times. I thought the article was a beautiful expression of what the Qur'an means, and how to understand it in an Islamic light.

"For Muslims the Koran stands as the Text of reference, the source and the essence of the message transmitted to humanity by the creator. It is the last of a lengthy series of revelations addressed to humans down through history. It is the Word of God - but it is not God. The Koran makes known, reveals and guides: it is a light that responds to the quest for meaning. The Koran is remembrance of all previous messages, those of Noah and Abraham, of Moses and Jesus. Like them, it reminds and instructs our consciousness: life has meaning, facts are signs.

It is the Book of all Muslims the world over. But paradoxically, it is not the first book someone seeking to know Islam should read. (A life of the Prophet or any book presenting Islam would be a better introduction.) For it is both extremely simple and deeply complex. The nature of the spiritual, human, historical and social teachings to be drawn from it can be understood at different levels. The Text is one, but its readings are multiple.

For the woman or the man whose heart has made the message of Islam its own, the Koran speaks in a singular way. It is both the Voice and the Path. God speaks to one's innermost being, to his consciousness, to his heart, and guides him onto the path that leads to knowledge of him, to the meeting with him: "This is the Book, about it there can be no doubt; it is a Path for those who are aware of God." More than a mere text, it is a traveling companion to be chanted, to be sung or to be heard."

Read on at Tariq Ramadan's Website.