Peace, one and all…
In a beautiful passage, the Quran speaks of the collection and distribution of the compulsory alms-tax (the zakat):
‘Alms are only for the poor and for the needy and for those employed to collect and for bringing hearts together and for freeing captives and for those in debt and for the cause of God and for the traveler – an obligation [imposed] by God. And God is Knowing and Wise’ (9:60)
This verse has long been understood as being the basis of an organised collection system, by which that alms-tax is collected. Whilst this is certainly true, a closer examination draws out a number of deeper connections.
Although this compulsory alms tax is most often described as zakat (from a root meaning ‘purification’), in this verse a different term is used. If we look a little closer at this verse, we can draw this out more clearly. The word used here is sadaqat, literally meaning ‘charity’. Significantly, this word derives from a root denoting truth and truthfulness. Thus, we can say that charity is a practical means of engaging with truth, of manifesting truth in everyday life. To engage in regular charity is thus a means of visualising and actualising truth. Moreover, given that this verse refers to the compulsory zakat, it forcefully underlines two further points: all that we own comes to us from God, of ourselves we own nothing. Secondly, a just and equitable, organised tax system is a collective means of manifesting this truth. Religion is not merely a matter of private observance, it is also concerned with social justice.
‘Sadaqa is only for … bringing hearts together and for freeing captives and for those in debt and for the cause of God and for the wayfarer…’
Charity is thus a means of bringing peoples together, and for the cause of God, which is here tied to freeing humanity from captivity and debt.
Sadaqa is thus connected with love, with truth, in a spiritual, personal and collective sense. It is therefore an aspect of justice, particularly in the social realm. To give charity to others, in an arranged, socially accepted manner, is to do justice – and to do justice is to manifest the equilibrium of love. Indeed, the more we realise this, the more deeply we are able to access truth, to plumb the depths of sadaqa. Charity is thus a means of approaching Truth.
Charity is a function of our humanity, and is a means of enhancing relationships with others. This is why the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) speaks of sadaqa in terms of its social utility, as in the following examples:
‘Charity given to one’s relatives twice multiplies its reward’ (al-Tabarani)
‘A kind word is charity’ (al-Bukhari and Muslim)
‘God has never dignified anyone due to his ignorance, nor humiliated anyone due to his knowledge. And wealth is never diminished as a result of charity’ (al-Daylami)
‘Two qualities are never coupled in a believer: miserlinenss and immorality’ (al-Bukhari)
This verse also points towards a deeper, existential truth: we are utterly dependent upon God in every aspect of our lives, in each new moment and place. This becomes clear when we look again at this verse:
‘Sadaqat is only for al-fuqara’ and al-masakin…’
Fuqara’ means those who are absolutely poor, without any other means, whilst masakin means those who are destitute, and therefore weak. Elsewhere, the Quran describes this poverty and weakness in interesting terms:
‘O mankind! You are those in need of God (literally, ‘you are the fuqara’), and God is the Free of Need (al-Ghani), the Praiseworthy (al-Hamid)’ 35:15
In other words, poverty and utter dependence are the hallmarks of the human relationship with God. Not only does God give us all that we need, we are also dependent upon God in each new moment. That the verse before us should come in Surah Tawba, or the Chapter of Repentance, is also significant – especially when it is remembered that classical Sufism understood tawba as the first stage of the spiritual journey.
Our poverty and God’s overflowing grace forms a relationship, and our breath is a living moment by moment transcription of this reality. That is, we can experience this now, in our very breath. Mevlevi tradition uses breathing techniques in its formal zikr, especially connected to the testimony of faith (the shahadah) – la ilaha illa Allah. With each exhalaltion, the practice is to breathe la ilaha (‘there is no god…’) as a means of letting go of every limitation, of realising our utter contingency. Each inhalation is accompanied by illa Allah (‘except God’) – in which our chest fills with God-given breath, with an organic awareness of Divine presence. This verse alludes to this process: we acknowledge our dependence on God, we literally breathe it by emptying and we receive a new in-breath, from the Infinite Tresuries of God, al-Ghani al-Hamid.
May God help us become open handed! May God help us realise the truth of our dependence upon Him, in each new new moment and circumstance.
Wa akhiru da`wana an il hamdu lillahi rabbil alameen.
Peace, one and all…
On my way to work this morning, I read with horror the account of a 13 year old boy guilty of the vicious assault and rape of a 20 year old woman. The boy, who is now 14, has received a sentence of three years in a young offender’s institute (source). My first thoughts and prayers go to the victim. May all her wounds be healed. I am also deeply shocked that someone so young could do such a thing. Three years seems such a desultory sentence for such a heinous crime (even though the offender is technically still a minor).
Where do such crimes leave us as a society? What do they say about the state of manhood in 21st century Britain? Where do we go in the face of such horror?
I don’t have the answers….nor am I probably asking all of the right questions. At any rate, as I was thinking about these issues, I caught a line in the qawwali song I happened to be listening to. Just as I was feeling overwhelmed by the awfulness of this crime, and the serious challenges it poses to men and maleness in today’s world, I came to the line ‘tere murshid Ali, Ali‘ (loosely, ‘your guide/teacher is Ali, Ali’). I suddenly realised the truth of this lyric: to respond as a Muslim, I must learn masculinity from someone like Imam Ali (may God ennoble his countenance); injustice must be challenged wherever it is found – internally or externally; strength is only given to men that we might use it in accordance with the highest truth, that we might protect others; the struggle for truth is always ongoing, there can be no easy answers or quick fixes. As I felt this truth wash over me, I felt inspired to write a small poem in response. And so, I share it here. It is not an answer to the awfulness of this boy’s crime. But, for me, it is where new beginnings must emerge from: the ever-present and ever-fresh mercy of God. Huuu….
‘You have closed my mouth,
and poured sorrow upon my head.
That one so young could do such a thing
has left me feeling raw and numb.
And, in the midst of this bitter moment,
healing truth descends like rain upon my aching heart:
Son of the Way, speak truth, do what is right,
listen with opened ears:
Tere murshid Ali, Ali
Did that lion ever fight for anything other than truth?’
Peace, one and all…
As is obvious, I am not an American. Thus, although I had no vote in the election, I too was anxiously watching the results come in last night. Of course, Obama is only human and I do not expect him to right all of the world’s ills with a wave of his hand – that would be foolish. But, I do think his election is important in two key ways: firstly, the election of a Blackamerican is a huge symbolic moment in American history – as many American bloggers have eloquently stated: see Tariq Nelson, Marc Manley, Margari Aziza Hill, H Ahmed, Rickshaw Diaries. See, however, a worthwhile note of caution from al-Kashif al-Saghir. A UK reaction: Shelina Zahra Janmohammad.
Secondly, I hope that Obama’s election marks a change of direction for the world. I hope it marks a move away from what we have all seen during the last few years. I hope it marks an opening up of new possibilities, of as yet unrealised potentials. But, the crucial point here is that this is a moment of potential – as a global community, we all have a role to play in making this a better world for ourselves and those who come after us (God willing).
There are huge issues facing all of us in the coming weeks, months and years. How are we to find a way through this economic catastrophe? How are we to tackle our destructive uses of the earth and its resources? How are we to overcome war, unnecessary death, injustice, prejudice and all of the ills we face? I do not know the answers to these questions. I do know that we all have a role to play in answering them.
My prayers go out to the newly elected President of the USA, Barack Obama. May Allah make his intentions firm, his deeds blessed and his hand guided. May Allah open the doors of His mercy to the whole of humanity. Ya Allah! You know how much we need it!
In closing, here are some useful links, to which I would like to direct my own (and everyone else’s) attention. May Allah make them useful:
- Naeem: Run for Your (Spiritual) Lives
- Nuh Ha Mim Keller: What is Spirit (Ruh)?
- Cambridge Khutbas: Resisting Injustice
- al-Ghurba: Seeking out the People of God
- True & Good Words: The Greatest Form of Seeking Forgiveness
Peace, one and all…
La ilaha illa Allah! I have just seen pictures of the the horrific bombing of a hotel in Islamabad, Pakistan. Follow the links below for further information. Allah! Such destruction beggars belief – and in Ramadan too! Ya Allah!
May Allah ease the terrible burden of those afflicted by this calamity. May the souls of all those who died walk in peace in gardens beneath which rivers flow.
- Baraka: Changing Our Condition
- Haseeb Ahmed: Pakistan in Chaos
- Avari: They Were Martyred, Fasting in Ramadan
Peace, one and all…
I watched last night’s news of the recent profits of Shell and Centrica (the company which owns British Gas) with a growing sense of anger. Anger not so much at the thought of companies making a profit, but rather at the utter piracy of these huge multinationals – these announcements come at the same time that British Gas announce an imminent 35% rise in the price of gas! This smacks of injustice and outright robbery. Whilst more and more people are being driven into poverty, British Gas shareholders have been awarded a $165 million dividend! This adds insult to injury and is widely seen as an outright slap in the face of ordinary people (which, of course, it is).
But, although I am very angry, I do not want this to become a simple rant. The world’s current economic situation is a complex matter and it touches on all sorts of wider issues. I am not an economist, so my understanding is under-developed, but I do have a number of real concerns.
To illustrate my point, let me share a story from my own life with you. This morning, as I walked from the bus station to catch my train, I suddenly felt the urgent need to use the bathroom. Now, as anyone who has visited Merthyr Tydfil will know, the town centre is completely dominated by a huge Tesco Extra store. So, in I went to use the customer toilet. Unfortunately, on this occasion, the toilets were out of order for some reason, so I had to search for an alternative (at no small discomfort to myself, but more on that in a moment). The small out of order sign also carried the following legend: ‘sorry for any inconvenience’, which immediately made me think of the lack of public conveniences in Merthyr (for overseas visitors, this is a polite UK expression for public toilet). What struck me was the stark realisation that the Tesco toilets were performing the function of a public service. Indeed, this is not the only example I can think of: the Tesco car park acts in much the same manner.
As I thought about this, I realised that in many areas of life large multinational corporations are playing an increasingly important role in the provision of public services. The key difference, of course, is that Tesco is not in directly accountable to the public in the same way that the local council is: we could not vote to change Tesco’s corporate strategy unless we were shareholders. I have no problem with companies seeking a profit, through fair and legitimate competition, but the questions I want to ask are these: how much of our public, civic space have we already surrendered to the demands of the ‘free market’? How can these companies be made more directly accountable? Or, more elementally, how are we to regain our hard-won democratic control, whilst still retaining economic growth? Are such things possible, or desirable?
Centrica’s profit announcement is a case in point. How can we really complain that it acts as a profit-making business when it is not tied in any way to state ownership? Most of our former nationalised industries have long been sold off (or ‘privatised’, to use the very revealing euphemism), so now that the ‘family silver’ is gone we should not be surprised at the appearance of mulit-national loan sharks. But, perhaps my understanding of economics is not sufficiently developed to understand all of the implications of re-nationalisation (though I am not sure I am actually advocating such a thing). But, I do think that we are losing many of our public, democratic rights in the face of corporate power – which is finding its way into ever more areas of life.
The UK Higher Education sector is a good example of this trend. Over the last 10 years or so, the UK HE sector has dramatically expanded. The government’s stated target is that 50% of those with A Levels should go on to university. This has forced us to face an important issue: how are we going to pay for this growth? How are we to expand HE whilst simultaneously maintaining educational standards? It has also led to an increasingly corporate identity in UK HE. Fees, student loans and other things have all begun to change the way HE is perceived, especially amongst newer students. I have noticed many students whose attitude seems to be ‘well, I’ve paid to come here, so why aren’t you giving me the grades I want’?
I do not have all (or any) of the answers to these questions. I do know, however, that we must face them. As a society (and a world) we have many pressing questions to answer.
My anger is also fuelled by another, more personal issue. Someone very close to me is in serious financial difficulty. Rising prices have affected us all and have compounded this person’s situation. Although I will say no more, as this is a private matter, I would like to ask those passing by to say a prayer on this person’s behalf. God hears all things and there is no veil between God and the prayer of an oppressed person.
These issues have all made me feel great anger, but what is the spiritual purpose behind such feelings? In other words, what should I do with this anger? How can I use it appropriately and in a spiritually energising manner? This is something I really struggle with. Again, disappointingly perhaps, I have no answers. Here are some of my initial thoughts.
Perhaps the spiritual purpose of anger is to challenge the oppression of others? The following statements of the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) are very instructive in this regard.
‘Mus’ab ibn Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas said, “Sa’d thought that he had preference over those below him and the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘Are you given victory and provision except on account of the weak among you?’”
(Recorded by Imam al-Bukhari, and Imam al-Nawawi, Riyadh al-Salihin no.271)
‘Abu’d-Darda’ ‘Umaymir said, “I heard the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, say, ‘Help me in seeking out the weak. They are supported. You are provided for on account of the weak among you.”
(Recorded by Imam Abu Dawud, and Imam al-Nawawi, Riyadh al-Salihin no.272)
On another occasion, the Messenger of God (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) is reported to have said:
Abu Huraira reported: I heard Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: One is not strong because of one’s wrestling skillfully. They said: Allah’s Messenger, then who is strong? He said: He who controls his anger when he is in a fit of rage’ (Sahih Muslim, Book 32, Number 6314)
Perhaps, then, anger is useful only when it is controlled and chanelled to some useful purpose. Perhaps this lies behind other statements which refer to becoming angry only for the sake of God.
At any rate, for myself, I experience intense anger physically as a tightness of body. This is why, wandering around Merthyr town centre in search of a lavatory, all of these various layers of anger seemed about to boil over. I felt an intense pain in my lower back, that left me almost bent double at the far end of the platform. My only recourse was to ask God for aid. As I was doing this, a sudden thought came to me all unbidden: ‘I will fight for my humanity. I will not allow my anger to change me into something less than human’. And then the train came and my difficulty was swiftly eased. Allah!
Perhaps, then, the purpose of anger is transformation. Anger can be both fuel and catalyst for great inward change it seems. Or, at least, the real potential for such change exists in each moment of anger (if I can but read the signs aright). With God’s help anger can become a means of challenging injustice with the energy of truth (or jihad in other words). But, to be truly transformative anger must be channelled and guided by mercy, as a famous hadith qudsi puts it:
Allah’s Apostle said, “When Allah completed the creation, He wrote in His Book which is with Him on His Throne, “My Mercy overpowers My Anger.” (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 416)
Allah! Help uis in these trying times. Let the anger we feel aid us in our transformation, and lend us Your mighty aid in all things.
Update: searching though the archives, I came across some related posts. So, here they are for your reading enjoyment (well, here they are anyway):
And I end with these sayings of the wise:
And my last prayer is in praise of God, Sustainer of All Being.
Peace, one and all…
There have recently been a spate of posts touching on issues relating to what we might call gender issues and Muslims. Specifically, Sunni Sister and Aaminah have both written recently on the topic of ‘honour’ killings, and what we can do – individually and collectively – to combat such things. That is, rather than just (rightly) condemning such actions as ‘unislamic’ (which of course they are) and leaving it at that, both writers have asked the fundamental question: what can I do?
This is an important question, and one which each and every human being must ask themselves – what have I done to make the world a better place? What have I done to address things I know to be wrong? I don’t have all of the answers. Indeed, I don’t even have many of the right questions. But that does not absolve me from striving to act on what I do know.
So, then, what can I do?
Firstly, it strikes me that before I open my mouth I must open my ears. I must listen.
It is right and proper that, as Muslims and human beings, we struggle to hear each and every voice. Moreover, we must let everyone speak their own truths, without attempting to place our own interpretive frameworks on them. It seems to me that adab/futuwwah is about letting the other speak, as themselves and for themselves. This is where I stand on a whole range of issues. This is my take on gender and race issues, as well as on issues of disability/ableism and the like: let each person express their truth openly and without fear. I may not agree, but I can promise to try as hard as I can to listen and to not force my own understandings upon others. This is the place from which I seek justice for all – without regard to race, colour, creed, status – simply with regard to our common humanity, our common right to free expresson.
Secondly, I must strive to understand and practice the truth that my ‘honour’ as a man has nothing whatsoever to do with how others act, nor with what they say, nor yet with how they are. Honour, it seems to me, is a quality of the soul. It is an inward graciousness that seeks to aid, to listen and where appropriate, to protect. In other words, I must strive to become a fully Muslim man – one who shelters those in his care, who guides and protects where he can, and who asks God for aid where he cannot. I wish to become that man, that I might aid others – and accept aid in my turn.
Thirdly, I can teach my children these truths so that they too can learn to embody them. I must strive to teach my handsome son that his strength has been given to him only so that he might aid those in need. I must strive to teach my two beautiful daughters that are individuals in their own right – they are not responsible for carrying the burden of our family ‘honour’, nor indeed of anyone else’s.
- Mr Moo: The Art and Science of Manliness
- Aaminah: What Will I Do Today?
- Sunni Sister: What Can I Do?
- Yahya Birt: Being a Real Man
- The Fatherhood Institute and al-Nisa Society: ‘In Conversation With Muslim Dads’
- Update: Muslimah Media Watch: Sexuality & Women’s Honour: There Isn’t A Link
Peace, one and all…
In next week’s AS Level Islamic Studies class we will be looking at Islam and Ethics. I’ve asked the group to read the Quran and make notes of any verse they find that has some bearing on the following ethical issues:
Medical Issues: abortion, euthanasia, embryo research, life and death, organ donation, etc
Environmental Issues: pollution, climate change, use of resources, fossil fuels, etc
Inter-personal ethics: how does the Quran ask Muslims to conduct their inter-personal relationships?
General attitudes towards ethical questions and ethical decision-making
It strikes me though that this is something we could perhaps all share together. So, if anyone would like to send in their readings of such verses, please feel free to do so. You can respond in the comments section below.
Peace, one and all…
These thoughts follow on from an earlier post on domestic violence. I had intended to post them earlier, but wasn’t able to get around to it till now.
Where does domestic violence come from? From what kinds of mindset and what kinds of outlooks does it emerge? What are its root causes? And how can we understand this phenomenon more fully, so that we can put an end to it?
I don’t have all the answers. But, such as they are, here are some of my feelings on this matter.
It strikes me that, amongst other things, domestic violence comes from an unchallenged assumption that women are responsible for the world’s troubles (whether on an individual or collective level). That is, it seems to come from an idea that makes women responsible in some way when things don’t go as they should. Or, looking at it another way, it seems to originate in an idea that life’s troubles are somehow external.
This lazy assumption, that makes women responsible for the state of the world, is thus taught to our children (whether passively or actively). Thus, boys often come away with the idea that when you have a problem you can take it out on the nearest female. Children often act instinctively and emotionally, and thus they fight amongst themselves from time to time. But, if children are not taught how to express and manage the more uncomfortable emotions of anger, then they will seek an outlet in other, sometimes violent, ways.
If left unchallenged, such assumptions can lead to all sorts of problems – particularly as a boy grows through his teenage years into young adulthood. A young man with the emotional ability of a young child can be a dangerous thing indeed. Such a man, when married/in a relationship, will sometimes continue to blame his partner for all of life’s ills, and may well turn to violence.
How can we begin challenging such behaviour? Well, this is a long-term issue and relates to the ways in which we raise our children. Within the Islamic tradition (which is often mis-labelled as misogynistic) we have a number of crucial resources at our disposal. That is, in my opinion, the best way to address is twofold: to teach young children (and boys in particular) how to manage and express their emotions in appropriate ways; and, to offer them positive role models to help and guide them.
The Prophet is, of course, the Islamic role model par excellance (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam). This is why I strive to teach my children how the Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) sought to manage anger. When angry, we are instructed to seek refuge with God from the Devil. We are also told that, if necessary, we should sit down; or, even lie down, if necessary. Secondly, Islam seeks to inculcate a deep respect for the first female we all meet: our mothers.
There are numerous prophetic statements regarding the treatment of our mothers. Here is one such example (from Imam Bukhari’s Adab al-Mufrad):
‘…I asked the Messenger of Allah (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam), towards whom should I be dutiful?’ He said, ‘Your mother’. I asked, ‘then towards whom?’ He replied, ‘Your mother’. Again, I asked, ‘Then towards whom?’ He answered, ‘Your mother’. I said, ‘The towards whom should I be dutiful?’ He said, ‘Your father, and then the next nearest relative and then the next nearest’ (no.3)
This is a famous hadith and for me underlines the importance of the mother (again, the first woman a boy meets). It is, therefore, absolutely crucial that this relationship is oriented correctly. There are, of course, many more such traditions; there are also a number of related Quranic verses. At any rate, the point is clear: be mindful of how you express and manage difficult emotions and remember, women are not responsible for the ills of the world.
And my last prayer is in praise of God, Sustainer of All Being.
Related post: Mere Islam: Motherhood and the Ideal of Filial Piety by Gibril Haddad
Image credit: Paivi Hintsanen
Peace, one and all…
The issue of battered Muslim women has made it into the Islamic blogosphere recently. It is a sad reality indeed, and one that needs to be addressed. A good friend of mine has addressed this topic. It has also been addressed recently by Imam Johari Malik.
Our always worthy sister Margari Aziza Hill has written an important and fiery post on this topic of late, whilst our worthy mujahid Tariq Nelson has also writen a number of posts dealing with this issue (here and here again). Umar Lee has written on the possible tragic end results of this phenomenon.
In such august company, let me add my own thoughts. Domestic violence is un-Islamic. It goes against the teachings and practice of our Prophet (alaihi al-salatu wa al-salam) and those who beat their wives should consider that anger is a sign of defeat and repent to Allah.
Allah! I repent to You for all my sins. Guide me always to the door of repentance, which leads to life for the heart and soul (in this world and the next).
Peace, one and all…
A good friend of mine, who has patiently studied sacred knowledge for 8 years or so (both here and abroad, in Syria and Yemen), has recently returned to his native Glasgow. He has produced two very important documents – one on domestic abuse and the other on terrorism. I’ve uploaded them here because I felt they are really important:
These are works of scholarship, from a classically trained `Alim. I think these works are especially important in the current climate. They are important, worthy and most of all, speak powerfully against the idea that Muslims aren’t challenging extremism. We are, where it matters most – the ground level.
May Allah bless Shaykh Amer Jamil and strengthen him in his work.
PS – he has a website, but it doesn’t seem to be up and running yet. Insha Allah, once it is I’ll add a link.
Peace, one and all…
Imam Ali (may God ever ennoble his countenance) said:
‘Allah. the Glorified, has fixed the livelihood of the destitute in the wealth of the rich. Consequently, whenever a destitute remains hungry it is because some rich person has denied him (his share)’
(Nahj al-Balaghah, p.533, saying no. 328)
This is a very interesting saying and one worthy of further reflection, insha Allah.
Peace, one and all…
I’ve read some interesting articles from around the blogosphere recently and so I thought I’d add a few links. Unfortunately, I don’t have time at the moment to add any of my own thoughts, but please do check them out for yourselves.
- Hakim Abdullah: A Muslim Manifesto on Darfur
- Margari Aziza Hill: Ummah or Muslim Social Club?
- Margari Aziza Hill: Diseases of the Heart
- Sunni Sister: White Privilege, White Muslim
- Yursil: Not Everyone is a Great Cook
Peace, one and all…
I just wanted to give a big thumbs up for the recent declaration of the Amman Message. This conference of `ulema, from virtually every major Islamic school of thought, was set up to answer three deceptively simple questions:
- Who is a Muslim?
- Is it permissible to declare someone an apostate (takfir)?
- Who has the right to undertake issuing fatwas (legal rulings)?
In their declaration, the scholars of the Amman Message have declared that the eight major schools of thought within the Islamic tradtion (the 4 Sunni schools – Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki and Hanbali; the Ja`fari and Zaydi schools of the Shi`a; the Ibadi school and the Zahiri school) are all equally orthodox, and more importantly, that it is not possible to declare a follower of one these schools an unbeliever. This has also been applied to followers of different theological schools, as well as to Sufis and Salafis.
I, for one, welcome and endorse this declaration as an extremely positive step. May Allah place baraka in this declaration and may He protect our `ulema.
Peace, one and all…
I just wanted to post something advertising the newly published edition of Muslimahs Speak Up!, a blog carnival by and for Muslim women, maintained by sister Aaminah of Writeous Sister Speaks. This month’s edition is published over at Sunni Sister. There are a range of articles, on all sorts of topics.
So what are you waiting for? Get yourself over there. Go on! Right now! Jaldi Jaloh! Bi’soora’a!
Peace, one and all…
Welcome to Abdur Rahman’s Corner, my very own home in cyberspace!
This month I have the honour to host and present the pestigious Carnival of Islam in the West (maintained by the ever worthy Hakim Abdullah). Before proceeding, I have a small apology to make. There has been a slight delay in publishing this month’s edition. This was entirely due to my own lack of technical skill (and lack of patience with technology, but that’s another story)!
As the name suggests, the carnival explores the Islamic faith in the west, and its interaction with the wider world. It also aims to document the lives, thoughts and experiences of the west’s growing Muslim community. You can find last month’s edition here.
This month’s carnival offers articles exploring everything from business matters to the education of Muslim children, and from theories of science to exploratory spiritual poetry. If nothing else, this carnival reveals both the breadth and the depth of thought of the west’s Muslim community, as well as its intellectual and creative energy. This is a very hopeful sign, as it demonstrates (contrary to the opinions of some) that Muslims can and are balancing the apparent opposites of religion and modern western life. Indeed, in almost every sphere of life, Muslims are making invaluable contributions.
So, without further ado, it gives me great pleasure to present the March 9th 2007 edition of the Carnival of Islam in the West.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. May Allah accept this work from us as sincere worship, and may He make it beneficial to all who pass by.
Business and Career
Education and Life
Aaminah Hernandez presents A Quest for Inspiration posted at Aaminah Hernandez, saying, “Whay am I not as inspired by Islamic reading material as I am by “regular” reading? Working against the nafs to break the barriers in my heart to the beauty of the words of scholars.”
Yahya Birt presents Wisdom and the Universal Library posted at Yahya Birt – Musings on the Britannic Crescent, saying, “Yahya Birt looks at the relationship between bookish learning and wisdom, in the light of past literary and contemporary digital attempts to construct a universal library.”
AnonyMouse presents Exploring Gender Issues in Muslim Communities: Ext… posted at Musings of a Muslim Mouse. Anony Mouse offers some very thoughtful reflections on gender issues, which is perhaps one of the most important topics of the day.
History and Science
Manas Shaikh presents Europe and Islam « Reflections posted at Reflections. In this interesting post, Manas Shaikh takes a closer look at the oft-repeated assertion of Europe’s fundamentally Christian identity.
Baraka presents Muslims & Science posted at Truth & Beauty. Baraka offers some important thoughts on science and religion, something which I personally know little about. An important and worthy post indeed.
Marriage and Family
Nuh ibn Zbigniew Gondek al Kitab presents Nuh ibn Zbigniew Gondek: The Quality of the Family posted at Nuh ibn Zbigniew Gondek al Kitab. The family is the cornerstone of Muslim life. In this noteworthy post, Nuh reflects on how to achieve a happy, stable and Islamic home life.
Hakim Abdullah presents Can We Raise ‘Good Muslim’ Children in the West? posted at Hakim Abdullah. In this next post, Hakim Abdullah looks at one of the most pressing social issues facing Muslims in the western world today, namely that of educating our children.
Religion and Philosophy
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the carnival of islam in the west using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.
Peace, one and all…
Today is International Women’s Day 2007. A day to celebrate the contributions women have and continue to make to this world. Also, a day to set our sights firmly on breaking new ground in helping our mothers, aunts, sisters, wives and daughters to attain their God-given human rights.
I was reading The Independent newspaper on my way into work this morning. It featured a harrowing article on women’s rights in the developing world. A range of figures were quoted, which all go to show just how far we as a species have to go in ensuring equality. I wanted to quote some of them here (source):
- Two-thirds of the world’s 800 million illiterate adults are women as girls are not seen as worth the investment, or are busy collecting water or firewood or doing other domestic chores.
- Two million girls aged from five to 15 join the commercial sex market every year.
- Domestic violence kills and injures more people in the developing world than war, cancer or traffic accidents.
- Seventy per cent of the world’s poorest people are women.
- Violence against women causes more deaths and disabilities among women aged 15 to 44 than cancer, malaria, traffic accidents or war.
- Women produce half the world’s food, but own less than two per cent of the land.
- Of the more than one billion people living in extreme poverty, 70 per cent are women.
- Almost a third of the world’s women are homeless or live in inadequate housing.
- Half of all murdered women are killed by their current or former husbands or partners.
- Every minute a woman dies as a result of pregnancy complications.
- Women work two-thirds of the world’s working hours, yet earn only a tenth of its income.
- One woman in three will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime.
- 43 million girls are not able to go to school.
- Last year, one million HIV-positive women died of AIDS-related illnesses because they could not get the drugs they needed.
- Human Rights Watch, in reports on 15 countries including Afghanistan, Brazil, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, Togo and South Africa, has identified violence against schoolgirls, child domestic workers and those in conflict with the law as on the rise.
- Women across the developing world are the victims of systematic abuse.
I was particularly struck by the pictures of some of the victims of such crimes. One, in particular, struck me. It featured a young Pakistani woman who had been savagely raped for disobeying tribal custom (in a manner similar to Mukhtaran Mai). Her wounded eyes just stared out from the page at me.
Ya Allah! The more I reflect, the more I realise that any spirituality which fails to challenge such wickedness is not deserving of the name! O Beloved! Help us to fight against injustice, wherever we find it.
Peace, one and all…
In a very famous hadith, the Messenger of God (alayhi al-salatu wa al-salam) is reported to have made the following profound statement:
‘Fear Allah wherever you may be; follow up a bad deed with a good one, and it will erase it; and treat people with good character’ (recorded by Tirmidhi, Ahmad and Darami).
When I first heard this hadith, I was struck by its eloquent and profound simplicity. The words of a prophet indeed.
It is, perhaps, a truism to say that, as a Muslim, I should carry the Prophet’s words and example with me wherever I go, but of late, I’ve found myself thinking about these words more and more often.
In particular, I find it comes to mind when I’m surfing the Islamosphere. When doing this, I’m immediately struck by two things. Firstly, the dramatic rise in the number, volume and intensity of Muslim/Islamic blogs, etc. This is a good thing, and insha Allah, a hopeful sign of progress to come.
However, my second observation is that many of our debating practices are found wanting, when judged by the Prophet’s (alayhi al-salatu wa al-salam) standards. As is obvious to all, we are living in important and dramatic times: 9-11, 7-7, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Muslims in Britain, Islamophobia, etc, etc, etc. These issues have rightly grabbed the attention of all concerned Muslims (and non-Muslims). In many ways, the Muslim community is under pressure, as it attempts to find its feet in the 21st century world. We have an important role to play in that world. The real question before us, though, is: how are we going to meet these challenges? That is, how can we utilise the rich, profound, and deeply humane tradition that is Islam, in addressing these issues?
I don’t have the answers to such grand, and urgent questions. I don’t even have all the right questions. I do know one thing, though. We have to answer these questions with Islam. That is, we have to reach down inside ourselves and our faith and use its potential to the full. I’m not offering any slogans, nor am I offering a pie-in-the-sky utopia. Rather, I’m talking about the nuts and bolts of such an approach, built with Islam, from the ground up.
Here, in this specific context, we need to learn how to talk to one another, without falling into the same old tired rhetoric of nifaq (hypocrisy) and kufr (accusations of apostasy). This starts from the ground up in the way that we talk to others. Insha Allah, in the next few reflective posts, I aim to explore Islamic ideas of ethical approaches to dialogue.
The first step is to listen to the words of revelation, and the teachings of our Prophet (alayhi al-salatu wa al-salam). So, I’ll end this first post with the following advice from our beloved Master (alayhi al-salatu wa al-salam):
‘Whoever guards his tongue, Allah will conceal his faults. Whoever restrains his anger, Allah will withhold His punishment from him on the Day of Judgement. And whoever apologises to Allah [beseeching His forgiveness], Allah will accept that apology’ (recorded by Baihaqi)
Peace, one and all…
UK visitors to this site will, perhaps, be aware of the recent murders in Ipswich. For non-UK visitors, in recent weeks a serial killer has murdered 5 women. Their battered bodies have all been discovered in rural areas on the outskirts of this small town. Ipswich is the county town of Suffolk, on the east coast of England (not very far from London).
I was reading about these horrific murders on the train to work this morning and a number of things struck me. Firstly (and most importantly) is the hope and prayer that this man (or men) is caught quickly and that no more women suffer such violent deaths.
Ya Qahhar! Restrain the hand of this shaytan. Ya Allah! Bring the perpetrator to justice swiftly. Ya Rahman! Have mercy on the women of Ipswich! Ya Ghafur! Enfold these women in Your infinite and overflowing mercy and grant them entry into gardens beneath which rivers flow. Amin Ya Rabbi!
My second thought concerns the occupation of these women and the media coverage. These women were, it seems, all working as prostitutes in Ispwich. The media has seemingly highlighted this apparent fact. I was listening to a debate on Radio 4 yesterday, in which one commentator expressed the opinion that this focuses on exactly the wrong point. Such coverage draws attention from the fact that they were victims. The opposing view is that their occupation appears to be the chief linking factor and that, as such, this focus is necessary.
I’m not sure where I stand on this debate, which smacks of semantics to me. Of course, the human tragedy is the most important issue and the speedy capture of the criminal involved, the main concern. However, is ‘sex worker’ really a better term, given the desperate nature of the lives of many of the victims? I really hope that this doesn’t degenerate into navel-gazing, as this is palpably not a theoretical issue.
Thirdly, what should our response as Muslims be? Obviously, any Muslim who has information on this crime is obliged unconditionally to report it to the authorities (as they would be in any crime, viz. terrorism). More broadly, I feel we need to help address the root causes behind such activites: low self-esteem, poor life choices, lack of opportunity, oppression and so on.
The Islamic tradition challenges each of these evils of the modern world in a direct and unrelenting manner. Islam, from my reading, is an ongoing process of relationship with Allah, in which we gradually let go of all that is inappropriate (Ya Allah! Forgive me). Implicit within this is the development of a wholesome self-esteem and sense of self-worth. As for challenging oppression, God says in the Quran:
‘O ye who believe! stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well-acquainted with all that ye do’ (4:135, trans. Yusuf Ali)
The issue here seems to be about protecting the lives of women who are already at the margins of society. Of course, I’m aware of Islam’s prohibition and condemnation of prostitution. The issue here though seems to be more about justice: that is, in catching the man or men responsible.
As ever, I welcome your comments.
Peace, one and all…
As you may be aware, today is World AIDS Day 2006. According to the Independent, some 25 million people have died from HIV/AIDS and some 40 million people are currently living with this horrible disease! Subhan Allah! 40 MILLION!!! That’s two thirds of the UK population! Can you imagine 2 out of every three people in the UK having an ultimately fatal, as yet incurable, disease! Ya Allah!
Remember the horrific image of David Kirby dying from AIDS (photographed for a somewhat pornographic benetton advertising campaign)? I find this image deeply disturbing.
Ya Rabb! Lift this terrible affliction from us! Ya Arham Arahimeen!
Peace, one and all…
The following poem was written in response to the horrors of war, particularly the recent Beit Hanoun massacre. It was inspired by the heartfelt sorrow of our good brother Sadiq (at Mystic Saint). I took the title from a comment by our worthy brother Irving (aka Darvish). May God bless their hearts.
Ya Allah! Save mankind from its selfish evil!
War Most Sad and Miserable
War is a thing most sad and miserable.
A dirty secret which stains our beautiful world
with the horror of its crimson shame.
Amidst these horrors,
our instinct is to throw care-worn hands
over bruised eyes,
in a desperate attempt to veil our souls
from this pain.
We waste God’s blessings
on guns and bombs and tanks:
these dark dreams
are humanity’s guilty disgrace.
And, war’s darkest secret,
and most serious ill,
is its destruction of the human heart,
like a raving wolf
within the gentle sheep’s enclosure.
Vengeance is a dish best served cold.
No! And again, no!
Revenge is mortal poison,
whose accursed touch
only God’s Loving grace can master.
We must face these horrors
and not run:
‘Praise be to God in every condition’,
was the weapon with which the Prophets,
God’s peace be upon them all,
fought against corruption.
And we lesser folk
must strive with might and main
to do the same,
or lose all claim to humanity.
Atrocities must be faced
and justice given to all.
There is no other way
for people of conscience.
Peace, one and all…
I heard on the news yesterday that the date for the execution of Mirza Tahir Hussein has been set (see Under Progress for more information) for the 1st November. Moreover, Tony Blair has made a public statement assuring us that he is lobbying Musharraf for clemency. This prompts several responses. Firstly (and our first call is to Allah), O my Lord! Save our brother from an unjust death! Ya Muqsit! Grant our brother justice, in this world and the next. Secondly, although I don’t wish to disbelieve someone when they say something good, I think that Tony’s credibility within the UK Muslim community probably leaves something to be desired. Perhaps most will comment, ‘we’ll believe it when we see it’. Thirdly, again, I’m struck at the apparently abject failure of the Pakistani legal system. From what I can tell, it seems to have manifestly failed to protect those in its power from injustice. Ya Allah! To You is our only complaint.
For information on what we can do, see my earlier post
Ya Qahhar! None can oppose Your might and none can gainsay Your will. Rescue our brother from his prison!
And our last prayer is in praise of Allah, Lord of all the Worlds
Peace, one and all…
I’ve been away from the blogosphere for a couple of days (just too much to do in Ramadan)!
I was reading the Independent this Wednesday (and Under Progress; if I had a hat I’d be tipping it now) and I read the shocking story of Mirza Tahir Hussain, a young man facing the death penalty in Pakistan for murder. According to Mirza’s own testimony, he was attacked by a taxi driver, who tried to sexually assault him with a gun. In the ensuing struggle, the gun went off and the taxi driver died.
His arrest, trial and subsequent sentence reveal two things: an outrageous tale of corruption, a veritable miscarriage of justice; and, the dire state of ‘hudood’ laws as they are seemingly practiced in Pakistan. After being acquitted by the civil courts, Mirza was found ‘guilty’ by the Shariah court system, despite one of the Shariat trial judges, Abdul Waheed Siddiqui, saying that Hussain was “an innocent, raw youth not knowing the mischief and filth in which the police of this country is engrossed”. He also wrote the following:
“This is a case of blind murder and entire evidence in all the three conflicting, mutually annihilating versions of the prosecution have their basis on the circumstances,” wrote Justice Siddiqui.
“There is no eye-witness of the incident, and thus no direct evidence that it is Tahir alone who has definitely committed the murder of a taxi driver Jamshed Khan.”
Now, it seems, that Mirza is facing execution. Indeed, he is only alive at this moment because of the Ramadan holiday! President Musharraf, who seemingly has the authority to intervene, has not done so (despite promises to act). More galling still is our own government’s utter failure to act. As Justin Huggler (in his Independent article points out), the public reaction has Mirza been white would in all likelihood have been massive.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission has more information on what we can all do to help.
Ya Allah! Ya Muqsit! Grant this man justice and free him from bondage, as You have power over all things.