Dealing with Hypocrites

October 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Karin Friedemann, TMO

In this world, there are many people who do not speak the truth. Even more alarming, there are people who speak in half-truths, using linguistic details to mislead, while not technically lying. Just as the Disbelievers read the Quran looking for corruption within it, certain people make agreements in bad faith, seeking loopholes. Like the Quranic description of Satan, this person makes a promise, but then when you ask him about it, he claims he never promised that thing! Such people can make us want to beat our heads against the wall.

The Prophet (s) said: “Most of man’s mistakes and sins are committed by his tongue, and the worst sin is to lie!”

How can we navigate ourselves safely in a world where things are often not as they are explained? One thing we must do is give less space in our minds to the hypocrites. “Hanging onto resentment is letting someone you despise live rent-free in your head,” as the saying goes. It is important to let go of the fantasy that we can control others. All we can do is control how we react to them, and make sure we don’t fall into their trap.

“Because hypocrisy stinks in the nostrils one is likely to rate it as a more powerful agent for destruction than it is.” wrote Rebecca West in 1928.

Promise-breakers generally have a pattern of behavior. At a certain point, nobody believes what they say. The Quran states in Surat al-Nur:

And of mankind, there are some who say: “We believe in Allah and the Last Day’’ while in fact they do not believe. They try to deceive Allah and those who believe, while they only deceive themselves, and perceive (it) not!

There are some people who are outwardly religious, but you still cannot trust them because they have developed an internal dialogue that justifies their transgressions against other people. A terrible example I can give is an outwardly devout Muslim man who married three wives without clearly explaining his marital status to his brides. When I asked him why he did not inform his third wife of his other two wives, his reply was, “She did not ask!”

In light of this admission I feel obliged to advise those seeking to enter into a marriage with anyone to do three things:

1.    Ask questions! Never trust someone blindly or withhold questions in fear of offending.

2.    Talk to people who know this person and ask very specific questions about their past.

3.    Ask for the person’s credit report

In this day and age where we arrange marriages with near strangers from other parts of the world, it important to check out anyone we plan to marry. A credit report will tell you a lot about a person, in particular: does this person honor his or her agreements? If a bank would not loan money to this person, it would be wise for you not to invest too much trust in this person.

On the authority of Abdullah ibn ‘Amr, the Prophet (s) said: “There are four traits which, whoever possesses them is a hypocrite and whoever possesses some of them has an element of hypocrisy until he leaves it: the one who when he speaks he lies, when he promises he breaks his promise, when he disputes he transgresses and when he makes an agreement he violates it.”

Nobody is perfect. Some innocent people break promises just because they have personal weaknesses, not because they were intending to deceive. A friend of mine who was going to Germany asked me what I wanted as a gift so I asked her to bring me some marzipan. She faithfully bought the marzipan, but during the journey could not control her sweet tooth and ate it all! I was disappointed of course but I did not hate her for this because she did the honorable thing: She admitted she had made the promise, admitted she broke the promise, and felt genuinely sorry.

There is a huge difference between this and those who purposely trick people, who backbite, cheat, or bluff their way through life, and when you confront them they become hostile to avoid further discussion. One woman found out shortly after marriage that her fiance had lied about his ethnic background, his financial status, and even his source of livelihood! When she asked him why, he said, “If I had told you the truth, you would not have married me.”

A true liar lies in order to seek personal gain. It is not just a reflexive action like that of a teenager whose father asked her, “Have you been smoking?” Real hypocrites actually enjoy torturing truthful people with confusion, considering themselves above others.

Imam Ali stated about the hypocrites: “They are jealous of other people’s prosperity, interested in other people’s misery and are a source of hopelessness and stress.”

I have learned as I have grown older to trust others less and myself more. I have learned that my body never lies. If a certain person causes me to have headaches and stomachaches, or causes my heart rate to increase, that person is probably unhealthy for me as company. I should even refrain from arguing with such a person because they only respond with lies to my attempts to appeal to their higher self.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based freelance writer. karinfriedemann.blogspot.com

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My Flag, My Deen, My Life!

July 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Imam Qasim ibn Ali Khan

flag at homeAs I drive down the streets of my neighborhood on any given United States federal holiday, I acknowledge the homes and tree lawns  displaying the American flags, whose owners proudly flaunt their perception of patriotism.   “Old Glory”, they call it…the historical Stars and Stripes… a concept by General George Washington, Colonel Ross, and Robert Morris, who recruited Philadelphia seamstress Mrs. Betsy Ross to apply her talents to stitch.  In the years since that morning in 1777, and stars were added to correspond with the addition of each new state to the union, the sentiment surrounding the flag increased, giving birth to songs, and the nearly sacred Pledge of Allegiance.

During my Christian life as well as deep into my Islamic life, I too enjoyed showing my “American pride” by displaying the American flag on my house, automobile, and clothing.  I would stand, placing my hand over my heart to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, assuming I was making a statement by slightly adjusting the recitation to say, “….and one nation, under Allah….”.  I would use my inherited melodic baritone voice to impress audiences with the National Anthem, accepting all of their compliments with pride.  I recall even once trying to convince boxing promoter Don King to contract me to sing The Star Spangled Banner at a Mike Tyson fight. (By the way, he refused, telling me that I wasn’t famous enough.) Yes, even as a devout Muslim, I was about as typically American as baseball, hot dogs, apple pie, and Chevrolet.

In the meantime, Imam Warith Deen Mohammed, (RA), inspired by his father’s (RA) vision, also designed a flag, originally calling it the “New Flag for the Nation of Islam”, but more importantly, making a statement of devotion to the book that is the epitome of the oneness of Allah and loyalty to His final Messenger (SWS)….The Qur’an Kareem.  It would be an original flag…something the Muslims could truly call their own.  It would be a flag amazingly not stigmatized by the media’s warped portrayal of Islam by a handful of radical Muslims who wave flags bearing the Arabic inscriptions of “No God but Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah”, while contradicting the spirit of Al-Islam with unjustified violence, corruption, and other haraam (forbidden) acts.

For many years after the introduction of the flag designed by Imam Mohammed (RA), I proudly displayed it alongside the American flag, almost as if they were equal.  For many years I considered myself an “American Muslim”, insinuating that I am an American who happens to be a Muslim.  Since then I have arrived to the realization that much more importantly,  I must be a “Muslim American”….that I am a Muslim who happens to be an American, because my Islamicity must come first. 

Only out of sincere respect for what it means to others, do I show respect for the American flag…and stand for the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, however without  saluting or placing my hand on my heart.   I say only out of respect for what it means to others, because to me, the American flag does not represent the good people of America….the good, the honest, the law abiding citizens who fear The Creator of us all.  To me, the American flag does not represent the good people of America who cry at the news of suffering of complete strangers…or the good people of America who wish the bad people would either change or go away…or the good people of America who pray daily for the trillion dollar wars around the world to stop….or the good people of America who are tired of spending billions of dollars annually on security systems for their homes, cars, and businesses….the good people of America who  have to stand by struggling to take care of their families while legislators with almost unlimited expense accounts take our tax dollars to give themselves raises.   No, brothers and sisters, to me, the American flag does not represent the good people of America, instead it seems to represent an unjust and contradictory government that although it is of the people and by the people…it is not for the people.  When I see the American flag, with all the respect that I show it, I don’t think about the American people any more than I think about the people who designed it.

Proudly displayed on the front of my home from dawn until sunset is an Islamic flag, designed by Imam W. D. Mohammed, yet admittedly that display is not a salute to him, nor do I think of him when I look at my flag.  To me, the Islamic flag I display is a salute to the inscription emblazoned in bright gold letters, surrounded by a green silhouette of the Qur’an Kareem, casting a glowing ray onto a crimson background…it is a flag that represents everything that I live and work for…La illaha ilAllah, Muhammadur Rasulullah, There is nothing worthy of worship except Allah, Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah!  Although this is the testimony that was introduced to me by Imam W.D. Mohammed (RA), yet whose interpretation of patriotism I may not completely agree with….when I raise that flag….when I gaze upon its flowing beauty in the wind, gracing the front of my dwelling place that I have made into a place of worship, I only think about Allah t’Ala and His Messenger (SWS).  This wonderful design, that I display, that I salute, that I pledge allegiance to in the same language that is bound upon it, that represents everything that I am about… this Shahada-tain, to this Muslim American patriot, is my flag, my deen, my life.

www.shadesofwhite.us

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Of God and Country

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Kassem Zaid has had a connection to the Zionist Hashomer Hatzair movement for decades, but has meanwhile become a devout Muslim. How does he reconcile such contrasting elements in his personality?

By Alit Karp, Ha’aretz

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Zaid: ‘There is no room for extremism.’

Photo by: Yaron Kaminsky

We met 35 years ago. At the time Kassem Zaid was a correspondent for Al Hamishmar, the newspaper affiliated with the left-wing Hashomer Hatzair youth movement. He was also teaching Arabic at educational institutions affiliated with the movement on its kibbutzim (I attended one such school ) and he had close ties with Israeli leftist circles. He wore jeans and checkered shirts and spoke a poetic Hebrew. A short while before Al Hamishmar closed its doors permanently, in early 1995, Zaid lost his job. Subsequently he made the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and became a devout Muslim.

Before we met about a month ago, I was expecting to see my 74-year-old former teacher bearded and dressed in a galabiya. But he arrived for the interview dressed in a suit and tie, and was clean-shaven. “Islam is a moderate, forgiving religion and it has no ritual clothing,” he explained in Hebrew.

Umm al-Fahm, the city of some 45,000, one of the country’s largest Arab towns, southeast of Haifa, has no sidewalks. Pedestrians, most of whom are youngsters (who wear Western attire, although girls do cover their hair ), walk down the city’s alleys where dumpsters overflow with refuse. Here and there one can see a stream of sewage. Any efforts at gardening are the result of private initiatives by local residents, and can only be seen tucked away in people’s yards.

“Relatively speaking, our situation is not bad,” my host, Zaid, told me, “because [municipal] taxes are collected here. The situation in other communities is much more difficult.” He pointed out that there are many fine Arab physicians and talented high-tech personnel in Israel. “Actually, the lack of equality,” he said, “forces us to excel, but that is a real shame. Discrimination is bad for the country; the human landscape here will never be complete without the Arabs.”

Aren’t some Israeli Jews afraid the Arabs will outnumber them and will drive them out by democratic means?

Zaid: “The Jews have a lot of unjustified fears. As someone who believes in coexistence, I cannot understand this fear. For 63 years, and in five wars, Israeli Arabs displayed loyalty at the highest level. I would like to allay the Jews’ fears: The birth rate among the Arabs has plummeted and there is no apparent danger that the Jews will be outnumbered. That fear would be justified only if the Jews do not return the territories. Then there would be a binational state here and Kassem Zaid would be prime minister.”

What is worrisome is the possibility that Muslim fundamentalists, like Islamic Movement leader Sheikh Ra’ad Salah, will come to power.

“That will never happen. Even in Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood has declared that it will not field any candidate for the premiership or presidency. They are not interested in ruling the country. There is not the slightest chance that an Arab, whether he is Sheikh Ra’ad Salah or Kassem Zaid, will ever be prime minister. That is not at the top of the list of our priorities.”

So what is at the top of the list?

“We want equality. We want the Jews to look us straight in the eye, not look down on us. What is happening here now never happened even in South Africa. [Foreign Minister] Avigdor Lieberman has pushed for a ‘citizenship loyalty’ law, but how can any of us know what another person is thinking or feeling? Even before Lieberman, we were unhappy. We were accused of being responsible for all the ills of Israeli society. There are even some expressions, like ‘Arab work,’ that articulate this feeling of contempt.

“I want Israel to be a ‘state of all its citizens,’” declares Zaid. “Although I also do not like to open up old wounds, I will state here that my family’s lands are located in the place where Moshav Hayogev was established [northeast of Umm al-Fahm]. I am not arguing that the kibbutzim and moshavim founded on those lands should be torn down, but nonetheless, we should receive compensation.”
Don’t you feel you belong in the State of Israel? In the kibbutz dining hall years ago, you looked as if you did.

“I still belong, but the country does not give me that feeling. I belong, despite all those who want to deny me the right to have that feeling. My sense of belonging is a result of my ability to cope with our situation.”

On the night of May 14, 1948, when Israeli independence was declared, you were 11 years old. What do you remember from that period?

“Nothing much happened that night because Israel received the ‘Triangle’ area of Arab villages after the country’s establishment, in accordance with the Rhodes Agreement. Before that agreement, we were Jordanian subjects. The agreement led us to feel that King Abdullah [I of Jordan] had betrayed us. After we came under Israeli administration, the Jews announced, using loudspeakers, that all those who had weapons in their possession must hand them over to the mukhtar [village headman]; the Jews also asked us to ensure that law and order be maintained in our communities.

“People were afraid of change. Obviously, I would have preferred seeing a Palestinian state established; however, people made peace with the new situation and, besides, there are a lot of advantages to living in Israel. On the personal level, Arab individuals can lead their lives in dignity, there is a senior citizens allowance, there is a guaranteed income allowance and no one suffers from abject hunger. My personal dignity is not trampled upon. But man does not live by bread alone. I am concerned about the relationship between Jews and Arabs in this country. Prior to the 1990s, that relationship was better than it is today. It is steadily deteriorating now.”

Who is responsible for this?

“In this struggle, the Jews fired both the first shot and the last one. Although there are some Arabs who undermine Arab-Jewish coexistence in this country, the Jews are the majority and they are the ones who run the government.”

To what extent will recent events in the Middle East have an influence on Israeli Arabs?

“They will have no influence whatsoever. I want to state here categorically that these events will not produce extremism among Israeli Arabs. All of you can relax: These events stem not from pan-Arabism or Islamization, but rather from the fact that the public in those states is fed up with their leaders’ corruption. Muslim circles in the Middle East have no ambitions with regard to seizing control. They want to field candidates in general elections [for parliament], but not for positions of leadership. Even if they had such ambitions, it should be recalled here that those who generated the revolution in Egypt are secular Muslims who use Facebook and Google. They will not allow any party with a religious character to take control of the country in which they live. It is important that leaders in the Middle East remember that people are interested first of all in having their dignity respected and that only afterward are they interested in bread.”

For years, you embraced the State of Israel and maintained close ties with Hashomer Hatzair’s kibbutzim. You were a communist and now you have become someone else, someone who prays five times a day. What happened?

“I was not a communist. I did not turn into someone else and I am still close to Hashomer Hatzair’s kibbutzim.”

The alarm clock rang, reminding Zaid that it was time for prayer, but he rejected our suggestion that we join him in the mosque. “Previously, I observed three of Islam’s commandments,” he explains, referring to accepting the faith of Islam, fasting during Ramadan and giving alms to the needy. “Then I added the commandments of prayer and the hajj.”

How do you resolve the paradox between religion and the aspiration for national equality?

“Islam is a religion that preaches equality between men and women, and God sent the Prophet Muhammad (s) to all humanity. If there is a reason why Islam sees itself as a religion that is preferable to other faiths, it is because Muhammad (s) was the last of the prophets. God sent him in order to complete what is missing in the other religions, not to invalidate them.”

And what about jihad?

“Jihad is not one of Islam’s basic principles. Jihad is the struggle that each person wages against himself or herself, in the metaphoric sense; it is not necessarily an actual war against some external enemy. The great jihad that Muhammad (s) refers to is an ongoing, daily war, not a war against infidels per se. However, even if we agree that jihad is holy war, all the peace agreements that Arab states have signed with Israel are being honored, and if the Palestinians receive their rights, there will no war in this land. The future depends on the intellectuals, not the religious leaders.”

There was a case here of an intellectual who headed an Israeli political party and who, when accused of collaboration with Hezbollah, fled the country in order not to stand trial.

“Azmi Bishara [of the Balad, or National Democratic Alliance, party] is a very intelligent person, but I do not agree with him and his approach. There is no room for extremism and if he did help Hezbollah, I reject him totally. I also call upon [Hezbollah chief] Hassan Nasrallah, who is trying to recruit collaborators among Israeli Arabs, to leave us alone. We have more important tasks to pursue, concerning our citizenship in the State of Israel. Despite the discrimination, I am against the idea of anyone committing treason against this country. We feel that this is a state of all its citizens and that we are among those citizens.”

The term “a state of all its citizens” arouses considerable anxiety in the hearts of many Israeli Jews.

“I am not saying this to irritate the Jews, but this is a fact: Two nations live in this land and I want to be a citizen here with equal rights.”

Did this feeling lead you to seek refuge in Islam?

“I do not consider Islam a refuge. After all, I am a member of one of the oldest Muslim families in the world. My family belongs to the Prophet Muhammad (s)’s dynasty.”

But what happened when you suddenly became a devout Muslim?

“There is no such thing as an atheist Muslim. Anyone who refuses to recognize the Koran and the Prophet Muhammad (s) is simply not a Muslim, but a person who does not observe one of Islam’s commandments is not necessarily severing ties with Islam.”

When did you start praying daily?

“It did not happen on any specific date. I had planned this for a long time. Perhaps I did not have the time to do it, or perhaps I was just lazy, but 20 years ago, I began to pray five times a day. If I have the time, I go to a mosque; if I do not, I pray at home. The prayer lasts less than five minutes and a Muslim can pray anywhere.”

In 2004, Zaid performed the Muslim commandment of the hajj, along with his wife Salwa. As he circled the Kaaba – the most sacred site in Islam, in Mecca – he was deeply moved.
“When I saw millions of people all wearing the same attire, beggars alongside princes and tycoons, all wearing the same robe and praying to the same God, I had a feeling that was simply indescribable. There, and only there,” he said, “I felt that everyone was truly equal.”

Born again

Sociologist Prof. Aziz Haidar is a senior researcher at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute who teaches at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace, says Kassem Zaid is not a unique case, in terms of his acquired religious identity.

“The phenomenon of the newly observant in the Israeli Arab community is a trend that began back in the 1970s, in the wake of the [Arab] defeat in the 1967 war, and due to disillusionment with pan-Arabism. The trend became more prominent in the 1980s and 1990s. One of the factors that contributed to it was the possibility that was provided in the early 1980s for making the hajj to Mecca. Two other factors were the collapse of communism and disenchantment with the Palestinian national movement.

“A prominent aspect of the phenomenon in the ’90s,” Haidar continues, “was the fact that it was not connected to religious extremism. Quite the contrary. And the vast majority of newly observant Muslims today are people with moderate views. In the ’70s, on the other hand, the first wave of newly observant Muslims was characterized by such extremism. Today these pious Muslims accept the ‘other’ and do not necessarily use external symbols such as attire in order to draw attention to their religiosity. It is hard to pick them out in a crowd − and I am referring here to those who have performed the commandment of making the pilgrimage to Mecca: They enjoy the good life, take vacations and engage in sports.

“Most young Muslim women who cover their heads dress like their secular counterparts and sometimes even provocatively. Even women who dress according to the Muslim religious code generally choose colorful attire, rather than the drab shades that one sees in other countries. Some of these young women do not even cover their heads. A relatively new trend is the phenomenon of women praying in the mosques. Prior to the ’90s, Muslim women in Israel did not pray in mosques, but today they do so during the month of Ramadan and on Fridays. There are even those who pray daily. This is modern, or postmodern, Islam, which is quite unlike what was observed in the past.

“One of the results of the national and democratic awakening in Arab states today may be the weakening of the Islamic movements, and even perhaps … newly observant Muslims…   Ha`aretz

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